Monthly Archives: March 2017

He Came to Give Us Eternal Life

Peninsula Community Church

He Came to Give Us Eternal Life

December 15, 2013

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him

I love Christmas decorations. While in New York, one of the things we used to do after our Christmas Eve service was to load the family in the van and head off to look at homes that had decorated their homes to the point that the International Space Station could see the light emitted from the home. I would often think about the time it took to place each of those lights in the exact location so that they would achieve the intended purpose.

After seeing those light displays, I would turn to the task of placing the lights on our Christmas tree. How could they do what they do when it always seems so complicated to simply get the lights onto our tree. I am not sure if you have had this problem before but you take out all of the ornaments and the lights out of the storage container and as you are placing the lights on the tree you find they are tangled to the degree that it becomes a frustrating nightmare. And then finally, you get them untangled and placed on the tree only to find out that one of the bulbs is blown so that now the whole strand of lights is out. Of course finding the one light that is causing the problem is like finding a needle in a haystack. Things like this can complicate the season. It can put a dampener on the way we feel and the way we look at Christmas.

The fact is Christmas can be complicated in so many ways. There are so many events to attend. There are presents to buy. There are family members that will visit that we do not like but we have to play nice with them because it is Christmas. We buy gifts for people we don’t like with money we don’t have. Then we have to try to buy a gift that you know someone really wants but you have to buy it and and then wrap in such a way that it will be a surprise for the one opening it. And then, there are the gifts we get that we are not sure what they are about or what use they serve. For a while the singing fish was popular. What do you with a singing fish? Even if it sings “Sweet Home Alabama” what do you do with it?

While Christmas can be complicated, the message of the Gospel does not have to be. While the Christmas story is really a simple story about the good news, somehow, we have complicated the story and the message that Christ came to give. Too often, we blame those outside the church or we criticize those who have not accepted Christ for not accepting the message when the problem comes down to the fact that we have complicated the message to the point that it fails to bring the joy and the answers to life that it was intended to bring. We, therefore, cannot blame them for our own failures and our ability to complicate the message.

So how do we simplify the message? How do we stop complicating the gospel?

The first thing we need to do is realize that Christ came to bring good news. In reading the Christmas story in Luke’s account of the Gospel, we find that the Angel proclaimed that Good News was coming to earth. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you:you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10-12).

The second thing we need to do is to realize that the Good News is that Christ came to bring us eternal life. If we return to our text, we see the Good News is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to give us eternal life. Look at this with me. He, God, loved. He, God, gave. We believe. We receive. It is that simple.

We have complicated the message because although we say eternal life is freely received, we can intentionally or unintentionally set so many parameters and rules that must be met before we can receive the gift He has given, that it complicates the decision of the unsaved. One of the first parameters we set is that you must straighten up and fly right before you can accept this gift. Rather than coming to Christ with all of our failures and short comings we can lead people to believe that they must change or be at a certain place in their life to be accepted by Christ. The fact is, we come to him just as we are but we also come to Him with an understanding that He will not allow us to stay where we are. He will bring the change in us and through us that God must do. Look at who Jesus ministered to in the bible: the hungry, the prostitute who was used and abused, the leper who was rejected by the religious leaders and society, the tax man who was one that people wanted to have a relationship with, the lame, the cripple, the religious leaders, the fisherman who were simple minded men, and many more. He never asked them to change before He touched them or called them into service. He came to them in their fallen state and ministered to them right where they were in the moment. That should bless our heart and encourage us. It should spur us on to service in and to him.

Second, the good news is not about joining the church. In fact, it is not about what we would consider the church at all. Too often, we have complicated the message by inferring that salvation and church membership or at least church attendance are on equal terms with salvation. This is an inaccurate statement and belief. Salvation and church attendance are not the same. Salvation is not contingent on our attendance at church. You can attend church and never be saved. But, I will say that when you are genuinely saved, you will have a desire to be with God’s people.

Third, we can present salvation as the rite of being born into the right Christian family. The fact is we are not Christians by physical birth but only by way of spiritual birth. Once again we can receive eternal life and be a part of a pagan family or we can be a part of a Christian family and never come to fully understand eternal life. We come to Christ by accepting his gift and then we begin to follow his plan as noted in the word.

The third thing that we need to understand is that eternal life is less about a destination as it is about a relationship. We have looked at what the good news is not, now let us look at what it is. In our passage today, John states that the gift of God is eternal life but what does that mean to us? I have to be honest with you. This has been one of those theological areas that has baffled me in many ways. What is eternal life? We say the believer will have eternal life but doesn’t every one really experience some form of eternal life? There is a heaven and there is a hell. That is a fact.

So if everyone experiences some form of eternal life, then what does it mean when we say that we will have eternal life? To answer this question let us look at another passage. In John 17:1-3, John includes the following words of Christ in his writings. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

If we understand this correctly, we see that eternal life is less about where we will live when we die but how how we live before we die. It is all about having a relationship with God the Father and God the son. Look at what Christ Himself says. This is eternal life…. that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent. Eternal life therefore is not a destination, it is a relationship. It is a relationship with the one and only God.

Finally, we need to understand that to receive eternal life we must not just believe in but we must also believe on Christ. How is this relationship established? To understand this let us return to John 3:16 for a moment. Here, Jesus says that whosoever believes in Him should have eternal life. It is interesting to note however that the Greek used here does not say “believe in” Him. The Greek uses a prepositional phrase that means to “believe on” or “believe toward.” It carries the idea of trust.

The fact is we can believe in many things. We can believe in Santa Claus. We can believe in the Easter Bunny. You see we can believe in something but never have a relationship with that something or that someone. We can believe those things exist but they may never have an impact on our lives. The idea that is given in the verbiage of the Greek is that to have eternal life we must believe on or believe toward Christ. The idea expressed here is the idea of trusting. Do we trust Him with our lives? Do we trust Him with our bank account? Do we trust Him with our relationships? Do we trust Him with our future? Do we trust Him with the unknown?

You see I can believe this stool will hold me but I must exercise a measure of faith and place my self on the chair to understand whether or not this stool will sustain my weight. I can believe in the stool but I must exercise my faith by believing on the stool and acting out my faith by sitting on the stool. I give this stool all of my weight, with a believe that it will hold me and will not fall a part under my weight.

That is what it means to believe in Christ. We begin a relationship with him through accepting him. We grow in the relationship by reading His word which is His letter to us. We also grow by finding people who love God with all of their heart and then hang out with them.

So today, if you do not know Christ begin this morning by realizing that finding Christ does not have to be complicated. Secondly, understand that receiving the Good News is about eternal life and eternal life is about having a relationship with Christ. It is believing on Christ and trusting Him to do what He said He would do.

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March 27, 2017 · 5:20 pm

The Impossible Made Possible

Peninsula Community Church

The Impossible Made Possible 

March 26, 2017

Nehemiah 6:15-16 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

When I was a younger, one of my favorite shows on TV was “Mission Impossible.” The basis of the show was that an elite covert operations unit carries out highly sensitive missions subject to official denial in the event of failure, death or capture. Remember the famous line. This tape will self destruct in 5 seconds.

Another memory I have is the song “to Dream the Impossible Dream.” For Joe Darion, the author of the song, being a one-hit wonder might be enough if your single stroke of genius turns out to be one of the most enduring, often recorded songs in the history of popular music. The song made its debut in the 1965 Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. The song has been sung by the Temptations, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and many more. Listen to the words. To dream the impossible dream. To fight the unbeatable foe. To bear with unbearable sorrow.  And to run where the brave dare not go. To right the unwritable wrong and to love pure and chaste from afar. To try when your arms are too weary to reach the unreachable star. This is my quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far. To fight for the right without question or pause. To be willing to march, march into hell for that heavenly cause. And I know if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest. And the world will be better for this that one man, scorned and covered with scars, still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable, the unreachable, the unreachable star. And I’ll always dream the impossible dream. Yes, and I’ll reach the unreachable star. 

When we first encountered Nehemiah and experienced his call to return to Jerusalem, those around him would have believed that rebuilding the wall would have been almost impossible. The city was in ruins, the people were discouraged, and the rulers were abusing and using those in Jerusalem through unfair trade practices. Rather than being encouraged toward a future hope and destiny, they were being held back and pushed down. The task seemed to be too big and beyond human capacity to accomplish or at least accomplish much that would make a difference. But Nehemiah was of a different mind set and a different heart. Rather than being discouraged or doubtful, he stepped up to the plate to lead the task of rebuilding the wall. How could he do this you might ask? He did so because he had a confidence and trust in God’s ability and power to do the impossible.

When we look at the passage before us we find a remarkable story. First of all, we see that the wall only took approximately fifty-two days to rebuild. What seemed impossible was made possible. How amazing is that? The walls that were in shambles and torn apart were rebuilt in less than two months. What is even more amazing is that this was accomplished without power tools or advanced equipment to assist them. They did this all by hand and with the animals that were at their disposal.

Even with the jeering, ridicule, false accusation, and the mocking hurled at them, they were able to do the impossible because they kept their eyes on God and trusted in His undeniable and unwavering ability to accomplish what He said He would. Together, they overcame the worst of difficulties to do the impossible and rebuild the wall.

It is also amazing when you look at the span of wall that we are talking about. It has been estimated that the wall in Nehemiah’s day would have been approximately 2.5 miles long. To put that in perspective our house is almost exactly one mile from the Maryland state line. So the wall would be more than two times that distance. The wall was also forty feet tall and in many places was more than twelve feet wide. Some have tried to minimize the miracle of this by suggesting that they did not have to rebuild the entire wall but just part of it. Even if that were so, it was  still amazing that in fifty-two days they cleared the rubble, dealt with the stoppage of work when they were discouraged, and were able to rebuild the wall.

Do you think God had anything to do with that? I am sure He did. In fact, even the enemies of Judah recognized that God had intervened. One of the lessons we learn from this miracle of God is that although the miracle is for us, it is not just for us. It serves to glorify God and to make His name know upon the earth. I suggest to you that Paul understood this when he proclaimed Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). When we are comforted and when God does the impossible it is not just for us but is to be shared so that the world knows God’s power. You might easily replace the word miracle for the word comfort.

I am also reminded of Jesus’ words at the tomb of Lazarus. When those around Him became excited about the fact that He did not seem to be responding fast enough, He made the following statements. “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Luke 11:4). What seemed like a delay was actual in God’s design so that He could get the glory. Much of what God does is so that His name is glorified and we just happen to receive the benefits of His actions.

The second statement in the passage is Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him (Luke 11:14-16). When God does the impossible it is so that our faith in Him is strengthened. By way of the miracles of God we are encouraged and challenged to move forward.

In this, we recognize that when God does the impossible it is often outside our time table. It is beyond what we think should happen most of the time. I am amazed in the book of Mark at how many times the term “immediately” is used. There are times when God moves in ways that seems so slow and then there are times where He moves so quickly that we are amazed when it happens. Too often, when we have to wait for the immediacy of God it can feel like His has forgotten us. But know this, God is at work in you and in your circumstances no matter the speed of His answers.

In reading this passage, it is noteworthy that the people who were against the building of the walls and those who were the enemies of Judah were afraid and their self esteem was impacted. After all, they had been in the city and had power, rulership, and authority which was now being tested and in fact they were losing their power. Here is a fact. Not everyone will receive the impossibilities of God in the same way. Even in the best of circumstances fear can be the result.

The Bible is replete with the stories of the impossible situations that God intervened in and the impossible became possible. In each case, God did what He did so that He could get all of the glory and the honor. Imagine the surprise of Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary who were all promised miraculous births. Sarah and Elizabeth were too old and Mary in essence was too young, but God did the impossible in them. He opened the barren womb and brought life to that which was dead. I do not think these miracles were a mistake in the Bible because they teach us that God can bring life out of that which is dead. God can bring hope when things seem hopeless.

Both of these ladies desired nothing more than to have children. Sarah was given a promise and without a son that promise could not be fulfilled. While she thought God had forgotten her, He did not. Elizabeth was left with the scar of barrenness which was a thing of disgrace in her day. The hope of every Jewish woman was to give birth because their son might be the Messiah. In both cases, in the natural things seemed hopeless but God intervened and brought forth life out of that which was dead. In Genesis 18:4, God asked a question that He already knew the answer to but He needs our reply. “Is there anything too hard for God?” The answer He deserves and the answer He wants is there is nothing too hard for Him.

When the angel Gabriel approached Mary, Elizabeth was already pregnant. This was a testimony to what God could do. It also provided the backdrop of Mary’s miracle. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:36-37). The angel was saying “If God can touch a barren womb that has already passed its prime I can do a miracle in you.”  Chuck Swindoll said “Elizabeth’s barrenness and advanced age was a double symbol of  hopelessness which became the means by which God would announce to the world that nothing  is impossible for Him.”

Remember the old song we used sing. “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see and He will make a way for me.” This morning I believe that God wants you to know that there is nothing impossible with God. Whether it is a wall that needs to be built (Jerusalem) or one that needs to be torn down (Jericho) God can do it. Whether there is a need to quicken a womb that is deadened by age and barrenness (Elizabeth and Sarah) or it is one that is young with hope and life (Mary), God can do the impossible. Whether it is to bring forth life or to raise the dead (Lazarus), God can do the impossible. It is not a question of whether He will, but whether we will position ourselves for a miracle.

Nehemiah trusted God in the midst of incredible odds. Sarah laughed but she trusted God. Mary realized that God was about to do something bigger than herself and proclaimed “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” May we like Mary proclaim I am your servant and let the miracle be according to your word. 

Here is the bottom line. Trust God. Surrender to His will. Be patient. Do not lose hope. If He  made a promise He will fulfill His purpose in us. I found this statement by Robert G Ingersoll, in his book “The Ghosts and Other Lectures.” “Take from the church the miraculous, the supernatural, the incomprehensible, the unreasonable, the impossible, the unknowable, the absurd, and nothing but a vacuum remains.” What is noteworthy about Ingersoll was that he was known as the Great Agnostic. He was agnostic in his belief which meant that he simple did not know or want to know, therefore did not believe but what a profound and powerfully truthful statement by a nonbeliever.

Remove the miraculous and all you have is a void that will be filled by something but if we reach out to God for the miraculous He will come and He will touch our lives. Edwin Cole once commented that “Expectancy is the atmosphere for miracles.” So do we expect God to do the impossible? Do we expect God to show up? He does the impossible to touch the expectant heart. Today what impossible task do you need God to handle? He is ready. Call to Him. Trust Him. He will work and He will do what only He can do. The impossible can be made possible by God. To God be the glory.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Rebuilding the Broken Places of Our Life

Peninsula Community Church

Rebuilding the Broken Places of Our Life

March 19, 2017

Nehemiah 4:10-14 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

As you take your journey through life have you ever found yourself being strong and making great head way in overcoming problems and rebuilding that which is broken, only to find yourself in a weakened state at other times. It happens to all of us at some point in time. Life can be an ongoing process of ups and downs. It is an ebb and flow. You know how it is, you start to make great head way and then there is some event or circumstance that sends you spiraling downward.

What are the broken places in our lives? I would suggest a few here this morning. I am sure that you can add many others. Misplaced theology can cause a broken place in our life. We end up with a false view of God which causes a false view of ourselves. We are broken when our faith is tested beyond measure and we feel there is no hope. We are broken when the relationships we are in are broken. We are broken by false expectations of life. We are broken by misplaced desires and lust that over takes us. We are broken by illnesses that catch us by surprise. We are broken by our addictions which seem to control our every move. We are broken by emotional and psychological weaknesses that deter us from living the destiny that we were given by God.

We have all been broken in some way, at some time. It is for that reason that we will deal with the question of how to deal with the broken places of our life. In this study, we will look at just a couple of tools at our disposal. Before we look at the solutions we will look at three of the tools often used by the enemy to discourage the rebuilding process. These tactics are used to defeat us and keep us from rebuilding the broken places of our lives.

To begin with, we must recognize that the enemy does not want us to rebuild the broken places in our lives. He knows that when we do this, his access to our life will be cut off or at least minimized. Therefore, he will do everything in his power to stop and distract us from doing what is necessary to rebuild the broken places. You see the enemy knows that if you rebuild the broken places in your life, you will be an effective power house for God and he cannot stand for that or even the possibility of your success. He knows that he is defeated every time we rebuild  a broken place in our life. He is afraid of a healthy, healed believer in Christ.

So what does the enemy do? One of the tools the enemy uses is the tool of ridicule and mockery.  Sanballat resorts to this tactic to stop the rebuilding of the wall by distracting them from their purpose. It is noteworthy that Sanballat had nothing to add to the process so he resorts to mockery and ridicule. Mockery and ridicule can become the dripping faucet of discouragement. His goal in ridiculing and mocking is to bring hopelessness and to cause the builders to give up on the task before them.

Notice that Sanballat did not directly stop the work of building the wall, he simply offered discouragement and confusion. He knew that he did not have to stop the work if he could discourage them. Here is a fact that we need to know. The enemy of our soul cannot touch us unless we give him the authority and give him room to do so. We give him access by allowing sin to go unconfessed. We give his access by believing the lies spoken against us. We give him access by failing to recognize our destiny in God.

Peter understood this spiritual dynamic when he penned these words. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:8).

In getting to know Christ, we come to terms with the ploys of the enemy to discourage and cause us to become disconnected from God’s grace, His mercy, and His love. By resisting the devil and turning to Christ, He will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. Right now the way may seem rocky and may feel like you are on the ride of your life, but hold on because you are His child and He loves you more than you will ever know.

A second ploy used by the enemy is to cause confusion. When ridicule and mockery does not work the enemy then tries to engage with tactics that create confusion, doubt, and regret. When we walk in confusion, it is hard to know what to do and what the answers really are. Paul dealt with this issue when he stated that God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). The underlying motive of all that God does is peace. It is the foundation and the basis of everything He is and does. The truth is, while the world can be falling apart around us we can still walk in peace.

You see the enemy loves to rob us of our peace by causing confusion which leads to doubt and desperation. On the other hand, God came to give us peace and not confusion. My guess today is  that if you are walking through a season of confusion then we need to identify the root cause and it is not God. Is there an unconfessed sin in your life, or is the enemy using confusion to distract and deter you from God’s purposes?

A third ploy used is to get our attention upon how much rubble there is. Sometimes when we are confronted with issues in life we can become overwhelmed with all that we are dealing with. The rubble around us relates to the health issues we face, the people we have to deal with, the financial struggles we face, or the unknown of the future. If we are not careful, the problems can mount up and we can be overwhelmed by all of the problems we are facing. The result is that we lose sight of the promise of God and we begin to believe that there is no hope for a better day.

The rubble we face becomes greater than the faith we have in God or in ourselves for that matter. To make this practical, we begin to believe that we are too messed up and that we have too many problems for our walls to be rebuilt. We get focused on what is left to be done rather than on what He has already done.

So how did Nehemiah deal with these things? First, Nehemiah encouraged and challenged Judah to continue to move forward. He knew that if they became stagnate that the work would never get done and they would never get the wall rebuilt which was paramount to their success and protection. So, they returned to work. They continued to move forward. They did not give up or give in. They continued to fight the battle. It is here that I am reminded of the words of God in 2 Chronicles 20. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s (2 Chronicles 20:15). We can rest in and be assured that He will fight the battle, if we allow Him to.

Here is an interesting note, however, even though they knew the battle was the Lord’s and they had a confidence in Him, they also knew they needed to be prepared for battle, if necessary. That is why Nehemiah gives the order to be armed for battle but they were not to stop working. Therefore, they worked with a sword in one hand and a brick in the other. The understanding here is that whatever we are engaged in there will be a spiritual battle. We never stop focusing on Christ and His power to redeem us. The fact is, we can become so focused on the task that we forget that we are in a spiritual battle or we can be so focused on the spiritual battle that we never get anything accomplished. Nehemiah knew there was a healthy balance between the two.

Listen to the words of Paul in Ephesians 6. Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:10-15).

Notice too that while each one was responsible for their part of the wall and they were responsible for their own protection, they did not work alone. They recognized they were a part of a bigger project and plan. They worked together. They knew that it was a team effort. They worked side-by-side with the same goal and aspirations. They were not divided or disconnected. Their mission was to rebuild the wall so that they could come to live in a new normal. What Nehemiah did was pretty amazing. When anyone needed help or they were being overrun by the enemy they were to sound an alarm by blowing a trumpet. This meant that everyone was to rally to that point so as to protect that part of the building.

How does this apply to us? The fact is there are times where we need help to rebuild the broken places of our lives. The easy thing for us to do is to isolate and think we can do this on our own, but God has placed us in a body of believers for a reason. When we are going through a difficult time, there is a need to rally those around us that will support us and help us through the battle. We need people of faith to rally along side of us and help us through the battle. The problem too often is that we want to isolate and separate ourselves but we need one another. That is not to say that we do not need time along with God but when we isolate ourselves too often that is where we begin to live and that causes us to be defeated before we get started. That is where we can give room for the enemy to control our lives.

I love the Scripture that is on the front of our bulletin today. Don’t panic I’m with you. There’s no need to fear, for I am your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady and keep a firm grip  on you (Isaiah 41:10). Know this, God wants you to rebuild the broken places of your lives. He wants to bring you healing, restoration, and power. He is there to get you through the storm. He will help you rebuild. He will guide the restoration of your life. Give Him your worries and your cares. He will make a difference. In the final analysis, we need to recognize that the battle has already been won for us. We are redeemed and set free by God. Remember that all of our sins and past failures are under the blood.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Ephesians – Redeemed and Forgiven

Peninsula Community Church

Ephesians Finding Our Identity


August 3, 2014

Ephesians 1:3-10Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of  his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The last time we were together we began looking at the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. We saw that God chose us before the foundation of the world and that He has predestined us to be adopted as sons. Because of this, God has set in motion His plan for redemption long before we could even consider the prospects of salvation. We were reminded that the Bible is in essence God’s plan of redemption that is laid out for us. In our discussion, we also looked at the balance between the sovereignty of God and man’s free will. This is not an either/or but both. God is sovereign but He created us with free will.

This morning we will continue to look at the blessings that God has given us and what He has bestowed upon us by way of redemption and forgiveness. It is noteworthy that as we look at this portion of scripture that there are a couple of notable things. First, there is a Godly design in all of this. He chose to create and form man with the ability to choose right from wrong. Just because God created man with the ability to choose right from wrong does not mean that God created sin. This is because it is beyond His ability to do so. A holy God could not and would provide the mechanism of sin. God cannot sin, not because He lacks the free will to do so, but because it would be inconsistent with His character and His Divine nature.

Then why do we sin? To understand this we must realize that a large part of sin is the rejection of all that is holy and good in God. It is the opposite of God’s intent. It is like light and darkness. The absence of light is darkness and so the absence of good is evil. God created man with free moral agency with a desire that he would choose right from wrong. God wanted a people who would freely choose Him for their own and not be forced to accept His will. That is grace and mercy. God is not a control freak because He in fact allows you to make the mistakes you make because of free will. As everything created by God, free will was pure but once man sinned free will was distorted and convoluted at best.

The second aspect of this is that in God’s ability to foreknow all things, he also knew that man would reject His plan and would fall into sin and disobedience. This concept of the foreknowledge of God is one of those Biblical principles that can blow our minds as we try to wrap our minds and intellect around the fact that God has no beginning or end. Because of this truth, God does not view time as we do. He has no watch to measure time as there is no need for a timeline. The fact is, God is in the ever-present moment of time. David understood this when he stated that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

We see this concept as well when Moses asked God about who Moses was to say was sending him to the Israelites. God’s reply was that he was to say that “I AM” has sent you. In that “I am” statement is this concept of an ever-present existence of God. Norman Geisler, Theologian and apologist, has said that since God created time, He sees all events in time equally vividly. Think about the implications of that for a moment. God who is all knowing, sees all things, and knows everything about you. He knows the beginning of your life, He knows the end of your life, and He knows everything that is in between. He knows what is best for us even though we may choose other avenues.

This brings us to a third point here. Too often we blame the wrong person for our sin and our faults. Too often, we blame God for our choices. It is true that God guides us and He speaks to our hearts about the issues of our life but in the end it is the choices we make that cause us to sin. Secondly, we can blame the devil and his demons for our faults and wrongs. A number of years ago Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine popularized the saying “The Devil Made Me Do It.” When Geraldine would do anything wrong she would blame the devil and would proclaim “The devil made me do it.” Now certainly the enemy of our souls can tempt us, distort truth, discourage, and distract us but he cannot force us to sin, that is our choice.

We are to blame for our decisions and thus we come to the second set of blessings; redemption and forgiveness. Listen again to what Paul said in this passage. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of  his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Let’s define these words.The first word here is the word “redemption.” The word redemption is one of those words that must be interpreted in light of its usage in the original Greek language. In particular, the term was used of the setting free of slaves after a payment was made. The literal meaning of the word is “to release on the payment of a ransom.” It carries a two-fold sense of “payment’ and “freedom.” Notice in this verse we see how the payment was transacted for those who follow Christ. It was transacted through the blood of Christ. By way of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross the payment for our slavery to sin was made. In so doing we were set free.

The second blessing established here is that we have forgiveness. Forgiveness is the result of redemption. It is the immediate response to accepting the payment of sin upon the cross. Forgiveness comes by way of the payment for sin being made. Forgiveness is a legal term which means one is released from a legal charge or one is released from prison. The word for sin here is the word “misstep” or “a failure to rich a goal.” It is the term “trespass.” It is the idea of crossing over a boundary established by God.

As we look at this, we must understand three aspects of forgiveness. There is a past, present, and future to forgiveness. In the past by way of the cross, we have been given forgiveness. The provision of forgiveness has already been accomplished. We are already forgiven because of what Christ has accomplished on our behalf. We do not have to debate or discuss the work of the cross. We are forgiven.

There is also a future sense to the work of forgiveness. There will be a day that all sin will be dealt with and we will no longer battle with the sin nature or sin any more. The sin nature will be forever destroyed once and for all. We will be set free eternally.

But then we reside in this world where the sin nature has not been eradicated. The flesh is real and therefore we need to understand present forgiveness. There is the initial act of forgiveness obtained through repentance upon accepting Christ. And then there is the daily act of forgiveness as we are aware of the sin or sins we may commit. This is in keeping with Christ’s model prayer where He stated that we should request that God forgive our debts as we forgive the debts of others. It is also in keeping with I John 1:9, when John by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit stated that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

It is critical to note how these blessings come to us. Our redemption is a legal work that is taken care of by His blood. His blood, his death has brought our redemption. On the other hand our forgiveness comes as a work of grace. This grace is the unmerited and undeserved favor of God. Notice Paul does not just say grace but we have forgiveness because of the riches of His grace. The idea here is that there is no end to his riches therefore there is no end to His grace. The visual here is that his wealth is full or filled to overflowing. What Paul is saying is that it took the wealth of God’s grace to pay for the sin of humankind. He did so gladly. He did so freely. The good thing is there is no end to the riches he has to pay the debt of sin.

One of my favorite movies is one called “the Ultimate Gift”. It is a story of a rich tycoon who died and wanted to leave his money and assets to his grandson who had been spoiled by the riches of his family. His was angry at the world and at both his dad and his grandfather. After preserving through several tests of character and endurance he met one last time with the grandfathers lawyer who announced that he just inherited the grandfathers estate worth over 2billion. The idea here is that his wealth was limitless. So it is with God, his grace is available to all without fear of running out.

If these are the blessings of God, then we must live as one that is redeemed and one that is forgiven. Life is too short to hold onto personal unconfessed sin and unresolved issues with people. To refuse to do so is to reject the work of God fulfilled on our behalf. These blessings are freely given and they are to be freely received. The purpose is to unite us as one body to accomplish the work of the kingdom. As we get deeper into Ephesians, we will find that God’s desire is for us to walk in unity. This act and lifestyle cannot be accomplished without God’s act of redemption and forgiveness.

So as we close have you accepted his payment of redemption. Do you live as one redeemed or one still under slavery? How about forgiveness? Are walking in the forgiveness given to us by Christ? Notice something here. The grace that provided forgiveness is still available for today. Every sin committed is covered but we must walk in forgiveness.

Copyright © All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What Motivates You?

Peninsula Community Church

What Motivates You?

March 12, 2017

Nehemiah 2:9-12 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.

This week I shared a story with someone about our son who was known for sleeping to the very last minute. Not only would he sleep to the last minute but he would also sleep so soundly that it would take a bulldozer to get him out of bed. This was an ongoing battle with him. But one Saturday morning I heard a rustling noise downstairs, so I got up and when I got downstairs I was surprised to find my son sitting at the kitchen table, dressed, and eating a bowl of cereal. Now mind you this was at 5:30 in the morning. I stood in front of him with my mouth and jaw on the ground because I could not believe that this was my son.

Why was he up this early? Why was he dressed and eating breakfast? He was motivated to do so. You see he was headed to an amusement park with his girlfriend and her family. Because he was motivated, he did not require much in the way of persuasion to get up and get dressed. It was easy for him. The motivation of his heart drove him to do what was necessary to get ready on time.

The truth of the matter is that we are all motivated by something or someone. The things that  motivate us aid in formulating our reaction to God’s will and His purpose in our life. In our story today, we see the comparison of two motivations. The motivation of Sanballat and Tobiah stand juxtaposed against the motivation of Nehemiah. As we look at Sanballat, we find that his motivation was based in selfishness, jealously, and fear. On the other hand, we find that Nehemiah’s motivation was based in an unshakable faith in God and the trust that God was in control of everything.

As you remember in our previous messages, Nehemiah had returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He was in the center of God’s will and yet he encountered resistance from those who had been in the city and who were its rulers. He could have given up hope but because he was motivated by a higher calling and a deeper commitment to God, he did not give up nor did he give in to the pressures of life even though he would have been justified in doing so. Because of his faith, he was able to endure the testing of his heart.

On the other hand, we have two men who were antagonistic toward the rebuilding of the city. The reason for this was that they had a vested interest in the failure of the city. They did not want the city to succeed. It is noteworthy that Sanballat’s name means “bramble brush – enemy in secret.” It is also important to note, in his day, his name was most often used for a girl’s name. So you can imagine the life he had. He lived with a girl’s name which meant enemy in hiding. How many close friends do you think he had? Tobiah on the other hand had a very spiritual name. His name meant “God is good.” Here is the problem though. Rather than believe in the destiny that had been given him, his life was lived in opposition to what he had been called to. The problem was that he allowed people like Sanballat to distort and destroy His vision of God and of himself.

The enemy of our soul loves nothing more than to force us to live outside the destiny in which we have been called. He is good at getting us to believe the lies and the things spoken to us by others. How sad was the commentary of Tobiah’s life. Rather than living out his destiny he was falling short of and in fact was working hard to impact the work of God negatively. But why is this so? You see I believe it is because his motivation was misplaced. He lived in fear and had placed his trust in Sanballat who was being motivated more by fear rather than trust in God.

Notice the language of our text. We find three things that point to the motivation of Sanballat’s heart. We find that he was displeased with the fact that someone was taking a interest in the condition of the city and the walls around Jerusalem. Here is the clincher, he had been living there and had no concern for its condition until someone else came along to care for the city. His motivation was wrong because his heart was in the wrong place. Listen to Nehemiah’s words and how he described their heart. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king? (Nehemiah 2:19). Do you see Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s heart here?

They despised what Nehemiah and Israel was doing. He jeered at them while they were building the walls. You see to jeer is “to taunt, mock, scoff at, ridicule, sneer at, deride, insult, abuse, or heckle.” He made fun of Nehemiah and the work to be done. They were also using false accusation. He accused them of wanting to rebel against the king which was far from the truth. In fact, Nehemiah had sought the king’s blessing before he arrived so his desire was far from  rebellion. You see when someone’s heart is wrong or their motivation is misplaced they will resort to tactics that wound and hurt rather than build up. They will seek to destroy others in their path so that they feel better about themselves. So you see the motivation of their heart was disconnected from the truth.

Before we close we must also look at Nehemiah whose motivation and heart was in the right place. He trusted God and we find this in his words. Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20). The motivation of Nehemiah’s heart was his trust in God. He knew that God would cause them to be successful. His motivation was founded in the fact that God was faithful and that He would keep his promises. Remember Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. It was at this moment that the reality of this promise was about to be fulfilled. God was going to keep His word and that is what motivated Nehemiah’s heart. Nehemiah also believed that God would empower them to fulfill His purposes. God did not lead them to this point in time without seeing the work all of the way through. Nehemiah was motivated by the promise and hope of God.

So what motivates you today? When our heart is not on God we will focus on the wrong things. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21 that where our treasure is there our heart will be. Will we focus on that which is eternal or will we focus on that which is disposable and will be destroyed in the end? The things in this world will be destroyed but that which is eternal will last forever.

The fact is there is much emotion that can serve to motivate us. First of all, we can be motivated by anger. Anger is a poor motivator as anger is often based in hurts and disappointments that come from failed circumstances, broken promises, and wounded spirits. When we are motivated by anger the tendency is that we externalize the anger which results in treating the world and others as our enemy. In our anger, we often become self-righteous and blind to the truth.

We can also be motivated by fear. When we are motivated by fear we tend to lose our ability to think for ourselves. Fear unfortunately begins to drive our decisions and actions. Sometimes fear comes because we have tried and failed before and thus there is a fear in us that prevents us from trying anything again. Someone has said that we are born with two fears. One is the fear of falling and the other is a fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned or developed which means they can be unlearned. Uncontrolled fear binds us and keeps us from ever moving forward in the things of God. Paul reminded Timothy that we have not been given a spirit of fear but love power and a sound mind. Hear his words. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:6-9).

We can also be motivated by passion and lust. The problem with passion and lust is that we desire what we cannot have.We want to consume things for ourselves. James reminds us that the reason there is so much turmoil in life is that the passions within us are at war (James 4:1). We want and cannot have so we murder and fight and quarrel. The result is division and more hurt and pain.

We are also motivated by guilt. Guilt is not nor has it been a good motivator for our actions. Guilt and fear are cousins. When we are motivated by guilt we do not know how to say no. We will do things not because we believe the are the right things to do but because we do not want to upset someone and or we fear rejection. We are fearful of failure so out of guilt we do the things that we do.

Finally, Paul reminds us that the love should compel us to obedience. We should be motivated by love. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The motivation of our heart will determine our success. When we are motivated by God and His truth nothing can stop us and nothing can hold us back.

The problem with being motivated by love is that we forget or we can struggle to believe that God loves us regardless of what we have done or for that matter not done. We can believe that because we have committed a particular sin that we are no longer loved or accepted by God. You see when we are motivated by fear, guilt, passion, lust, or anger it is hard to have a right perspective of God’s love and therefore it is hard to believe that God loves us. I am reminded of one of the stories that Kyle Idleman shared in his book “Not a Fan.” Let me read the story from the book. Some of you today may be asking that same question of God. Do you still love me? You ask that question because you believe that the stain of your life is too great and can’d be cleaned but if you listen you will hear the emphatic cry of God’s heart. He loves us, Oh how He loves us.

As we focus our attention upon power of Christ to forgive and on the power of His love to redeem us watch this video which features Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village in Texas and John Piper, pastor emeritus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the song Oh How He loves Me by the Crowder band. Use this as a time for spiritual inspection. Ask God to show you today what is your key motivating factor in living life. Is it guilt, fear, passion, or anger. Or do you truly love God and desire His love to be manifested in  your life.

For an audio of this message go to

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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