Serve HIM Only: A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
As we continue to trek through the beginnings of 2021 with 2 weeks under our feet already, we have become aware that the rosy dream of a shiny new year has not exactly come to pass. There is still turmoil in our nation and sickness among our friends. I have had several conversations with folks who are fearful or discouraged or confused about the news they hear. So what do we do? Hide? Complain? Shout? Raise our fist? Grumble? NO, we do what we have been called to do. We serve our King!
As I have moved through the Word of God and the journey of the often-complaining Israelites, I keep coming across the same message: SERVE HIM ONLY.
When the Israelites were doing well, just ready to cross into the Promised Land, they are told, “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only.” Deuteronomy 6:13
After they have taken the land, during Samuel’s time, they are told, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” Samuel 12:24
But it was not just a message particular to the Israelites. This same message is written to the churches of the New Testament, some of which were in very difficult circumstances. “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13
And this message is not just for the New Testament churches it is for us. This is what we hear Jesus, our model, say “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
When Jesus faced Satan in the desert, we hear it again. “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’[a]” Luke 4:8
So, my Wanamaker Woods Peeps, What are you gonna do? Don’t serve your fear! Don’t serve your anger! Don’t serve your comfort! Get busy serving HIM ONLY! You might get so busy having fun in the Kingdom that you won’t have time to even worry about the rest!
Ms. Holly- wife of the dapper Donny Woodbridge
P.S. If you need some serving opportunities, come see me! I have some kids that would LOVE to see Jesus lived out in YOU!
He is No Fool
Besides the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, scarcely any folks have had such an influence in so brief a time as Jim Elliot. Six and a half decades ago, being just 29 years of age, he lost his life for the sake of the gospel. Jim Elliot and four other partners in the gospel had set out to an isolated and infamously brutal Huaorani tribe in Ecuador to share their faith. These men were soon murdered by those to whom they came to minister. Several years after the death of the men, the widow of Jim Elliot, Elisabeth, returned to Ecuador to live among the Huaorani. This eventually led to the conversion of many, including some of those involved in the killing. Elisabeth would later publish his journal, and its words of passion and commitment to Jesus have inspired many to pursue the great commission, whatever the price tag of cost or commitment.
Jim Elliot famously wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim was a talented young gentleman who surely could have pursued many things with his life, and yet he took the road less travelled that many would consider foolish. It calls me to question, when was the last time I was called a fool for sharing my faith in Jesus?
Here is another powerful but less known quote from Jim Eliot. “The world cannot hate us; we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!” To make an accurate assessment of myself, I am not too high up on the dangerous scale. My wife would say the only time I am dangerous is when I exercise my culinary skills in the kitchen. I love the quote from the former Anglican Bishop and theologian N.T. Wright. He says, “Wherever St. Paul went, there was a riot. Wherever I go, they serve tea.” As we ponder Jim Elliot’s passion for Jesus and willingness to abandon everything, I think about the year ahead. What am I willing to venture to share Jesus with my sphere of influence? I close with this prayer from Jim Elliot.
“Father, make of me a crisis man.
Bring those I contact to decision.
Let me not be a milepost on a single road;
make me a fork, that men must turn
one way or another on facing Christ in me.”
In His Steps,
Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
As I look around at our world today, I am again reminded that I can fret and worry about what is going to happen in the near future or I can totally trust God to take care of me no matter what happens I am also realizing that even though our world is in great turmoil and full of anger, I don’t have to be. I have so much to be thankful for in my own personal world! I can still get up in the morning and start my day. Praise God for my health! I still get up every morning and get ready and go to work. Praise God for my Job! I still have an abundance of food in my house and I still have my coffee. Praise God for meeting my everyday needs! (I don’t know that I really need the coffee!) I still have money in the bank to pay my bills and a roof over my head. Praise God that He takes care of my financial needs! My daily routine hasn’t really changed during this pandemic or this political unrest and there is so much in my life to be thankful for! I encourage you to begin, if you haven’t already, to find things to be thankful for! (You shouldn’t have to look very hard!)
I personally hate what this pandemic has done to some folks around me. There are some that haven’t left their homes since this all started back in March of 2020. Some have elected to stay home from their workplace and work strictly from home and never venture out. Some have elected to not have any family gatherings or some have not been able to visit family because of restrictions and some have suffered deep depression because of it. Some have made these choices out of fear, while some out of cautionary health needs. I personally have chosen not to let this pandemic, turmoil and worldly unrest control my life. God sees the big picture of all of this. All I can see is just what is in front of me for I can only look at things through my human eyes. So I am left with the choices to either trust my Heavenly Father through all of this or jump onto the bandwagon of fear and doubt. I choose to trust Him! And today I choose to praise Him!
I’m not in any way saying that I don’t think this pandemic is real. I have seen too much evidence to the contrary, but I believe if I take all the precautionary steps needed to stay safe and still serve the Lord in my calling, He will protect me and take care of me. And I will continue to stand on Psalm 91 and will continue to stand on Philippians 4:5 -7, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
The devil is having a heyday with all the fear and turmoil he is creating! We as Christ followers need to fervently pray for our people, for America, for our leaders and for our families! Today I choose to trust! Today I choose to Praise Him! Today I choose to pray! How about you?
THE OLD COUNTRY FENCE POST
I am reminded of an old country fence post, riddled with pieces of barbed wire, fence staples, nails and the scares of the ages. And yet it stands, holding firm to the fencing, guarding against things which come against it while holding fast to protect what it holds secure within. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Our lives can often be the very image of that old fence post, with the baggage of life which impales us with its scars and stapled wounds, but by God’s Grace and the strength of the Holy Spirit we can stand strong in our faith to ward off Satan’s attacks and all that the world tries to invade or scar us with. Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life…. Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.(1 Peter 3:13-15, 18)
Through God we can overcome, stand strong, hiding within our heart God’s Word and even to serve as the gate opening support; allowing entrance into the sheep fold for others to find Christ, thus entering into the fold and strengthening the body of Jesus Christ’s church; you and I. Stand firm, stand strong, no matter what has scared and marred you from the past, for Jesus loves you just as you are. He sees in you no scars and mars of life, but rather what He has created you to be; loved, cherished and with whom He desires a relationship by which you can be infilled with His Grace, love, peace and hope; now and for all eternity in heaven with Him. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ (Luke 15:6)
Now may the image in your minds eye focus on that old rugged, weathered and scared fence post; the one on the hill of calvary “Golgotha” with the nails and bindings which held Christ, stained with His blood, the one upon which He became the gateway of forgiveness and cleansing for you and I that we can hear His heart calling “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”.
So today, just as you are, may God Bless you by His Grace and Love; giving you His peace and rest.
Yours in Christ,
Rev Jerry Schmid
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” 1 Cor. 15:10
The way we continually talk about our own inability is an insult to the Creator. The deploring of our own incompetence is a slander against God for having overlooked us.
Get into the habit of examining - in the sight of God - the things that sound humble before men. You will be amazed at how staggeringly impertinent they are.
“Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears.” Hebrews 12:14-17 (The message)
In High school I had an incredible group of friends. There were about 7 of us in our group. We were close from about 6th grade up to graduation. Slumber parties, lunches at my place (thanks mom!) so many stories, bike rides, car rides, hide and seek on Main street (with our cars) sledding…you name it. We knew how to have good, clean fun. What was incredible is that within our group we had a Nancy Nazarene (me), a Baptist, three Mormons, a Charismatic and a Catholic. We were all over the map in so many of our beliefs. We had many a discussion around the cafeteria table, but it was always respectful sometimes “agree to disagree” and move on. Never once were our discussions heated. It was so nice to see such a broad view; I had only known “Nazarenedom”. I'm a third generation Nazarene from both sides. Getting some different perspectives was refreshing not dividing.
I just look around at social media or the news these days and wonder where the “work at getting along with one another and with GOD” part went. I pray this week you will work at getting along with those around you and take an extra moment to talk to God each day and work even harder at getting along with Him. May He find us faithful in all we do, say and write.
"He who walks with wise men will be wise"(Proverbs 13:20)
In ll Kings 2:1-7 we find a story of loyalty and wisdom.
It was Elijah's last day one this earth. Together with Elisha, the one selected to take his place, they take a tour through the school of the prophets. In the beginning of the journey, and at each stop Elijah invites (almost pleads with) Elisha to stay and not continue on with him. Elisha's answer was the same each time. "As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you."
Their journey ends on the banks of the Jordan river. At this point Elijah has completed his earthly ministry and was ready to depart. Elijah says to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken away from you." And Elisha said, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me".
Every time I read this passage I am always struck with some questions: What if Elisha had not followed through in following his teacher? What if he had not been consistent in "staying the course?" Loyalty is a wonderful thing, but it does not come, or is it given without a cost. When I reflect on the story of Elijah and Elisha, I am struck with the realization that when you couple loyalty and consistency, you always seem to find wisdom. But, make note, wisdom follows loyalty and consistency, not the other way around!
Today, consider pursuing spiritual loyalty and consistency. History seems to teach if we incorporate these two character traits into life's journey, we find ourselves also acquiring wisdom.
I recently heard a radio host talking about the capture of the Ark of the Covenant and the death of Eli. He said that many of the Israelites looked to the Ark as if it were a lucky charm that would protect them. They had forgotten that the Ark was the symbol of God’s presence with them. Unfortunately, their faith was in the Ark, not in God.
Today, many appear to be afraid of what may be happening financially, politically, culturally, spiritually, and religiously. I must admit I have a few concerns myself. Consequently, I recognize that I must work at keeping my focus on the LORD and not just on what is going on around me.
The LORD is on His throne. His Son is at His right side. His Spirit is active in the world. His promises have yet to be broken, although we may tend to forget them. Throughout the Bible, God promises to care for His people. In Isaiah 41:10, He speaks to His people as He is in the midst of correcting themfor their sins of idolatry: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
In the New Testament, Paul writes to the church in Philippians 4:6-7 , “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God has promised to take care of us. Our part is to make sure our faith is in the right place, in the Creator, not that which has been created.
Shalom, Pastor Bill
As we continue to journey through the uncertainty of our nation and witness the unfolding of things we have never seen before, it is so easy to get caught up in all the chaos. What do we do when it seems like we are in between the walls of hopelessness and despair that are closing in tighter and tighter as we continue to struggle to survive. In the Bible the term “ fear not “is used 365 times! If that is correct that is once a day for the year!
Fear not, O land;
Be glad and rejoice,
For the Lord has done marvelous things! Joel 2:21
John Kennedy once said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself. “ What we have gone through has not been pleasant. For some this has been heartbreaking and it is possible it could get worse. Who do we turn to in our times of trial and tribulation? We turn to the Lord God almighty and seek his strength and his wisdom.
As it was when Elijah called upon the Lord to defeat the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, or when King David ran for his very life and he relied upon the Lord to carry him through as we read in in the book of Psalms. We cannot get through this life on our own strength it will be the Lord who calms the storm.
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Mark 4:35-41
It is with great peace and joy that we can be certain that no matter who the President is or what may be going on around us God is on his throne and we can be certain He will have the last word.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10
Have an amazing day! Pastor Marty
Philippians 3:14 is a phenomenal verse! In it, Paul says “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Just this verse alone can be very encouraging, however, as with all Scripture, it should not be looked at by itself and must be kept in context. In Philippians 3, Paul is warning this church to not be caught off guard by evil and deceitful people. Paul outlines his qualifications for being a good person, having kept the Law his entire life and being trained as a Pharisee, then immediately turns it around by saying “But whatever things were gain to me, these things I have counted as loss because of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7) Then, we get to
3:12 - 16: “Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect, but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I do not regard myself as having taken hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching for what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, all who are mature, let’s have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that to you as well; however, let’s keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.”
We’re in a new year, full of new opportunities. It’s a time where people are making resolutions and trying to make positive changes in their lives (myself included). But let’s never forget that we don’t have to tie positive change to a certain date of the calendar, and our “success” as a Christian looks nothing like success to the world. TODAY you can begin and continue to press on towards the goal that Christ has set before us!
The God of “New” – A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV
22 The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
As I walked onto our porch with our pups early in the morning on New Years day, a fresh blanket of snow covering the yard, I was reminded of the quote Pastor Donny shared with us last Sunday morning.
“Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it... yet.”
―L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
It was as if God’s creation was whispering: Here is a whole new year with no mistakes in it... yet. Well, it’s Monday and sadly, I have already made mistakes, bypassed the “yet.” I have let selfishness take charge on more than one occasion, sin we call it around here.
BUT, this verse in Lamentations reminds me, that God is not just God of the New Year, but God of the new day, God of the new moment, God of the new path, God of the new dream, God of the new chance for a broken relationship, because He is God of the
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
So, today, as you run into whatever seems old, hopeless, stale, difficult, challenging, broken, pause and look up: Our God is the God of “NEW!” He is the God of a new YOU!
As we start this new year of 2021, I love to think about this quote from C.S. Lewis. “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” There is something about living life from the perspective of the gospel that makes life clean. When I know that His mercies are new every morning, I am free to live life free. I am not talking about a freedom to pursue every whim of selfish indulgence. I am free to live for God. I am free to live a life of love towards my neighbor. I am free to live a life that crafts a better self than I was the day before.
Imagine if you were a baseball player and every time you stepped up to the plate there were no strikes held against you. Your posture would be loose as you stood up to the plate. Your breathing would be deep and evenly paced. Your grip wouldn’t be so tight that you were actually cutting off the circulation of your fingers. You would be free to swing for the fences if need be. You are free because you serve the God who makes all things new.
The New Year is the time of the year when we think about time. Usually we view time as something to which we are enslaved. I’m all outta time. I am running behind my time. There is never enough time in the day. The gospel gives us a whole new perspective of freedom in regards to time. There is forgiveness from the past. There is empowerment for the present. There is hope for the future. The apostle John describes God as “the one who is, and who was, and who is to come.” He is the God who is there…has been there…will be there. So swing for the fences in 2021 Wanamaker Woods. You serve the God who makes all things new!
Happy New Year,
"Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. He was a sacrificial offering that smelled sweet to God.” Ephesians 5:2
You will never out-love Jesus.
That may seem like an obvious statement. But when it’s put next to the people we’re called to love, even when it’s difficult, it changes the meaning of it. So many times we excuse our call to love others because of something they did to us or said to us. Or they’re just too different from us. We may even justify our attitudes towards some because, well… we don't hate them. It’s not like we wish misfortune on them. We just don’t want to see them or talk to them if we can avoid them.
But let’s be honest, our actions or attitudes towards some, while it may not be hateful, it certainly isn’t loving either. Too easily we find ways to disqualify others from the obligation to love.
That is why Paul's words to the Ephesian church are so crucial. Following Christ’s example of love is a pretty high standard. Christ love the whole world AND gave his life for it. Think about that. The people who tortured him—he loved and died for. The men who hung him on a cross, he loved and gave himself for. Christ’s love for people was much bigger than you and I can really fathom. Yet it’s that kind of love that we’re called to imitate.
So with a new year in full view, I invite you into a new challenge—one that causes you to look a little more at yourself before you look at the other person and what they did to you. The challenge is to begin by asking, “Am I loving like Christ?” Am I following Christ’s kind of love? Am I willing to examine myself before I examine the person before me? Will I love people like Jesus did? These are tough questions, but necessary for those who want to follow Christ more faithfully.
Remember, you’ll never out-love Jesus.
A New Year – A New Beginning
2021 NEW DAY RESOLUTION
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
There is an old familiar song by Merle Haggard 'One Day At A Time' with the chorus lyrics of:
One day at a time sweet Jesus, that's all I'm asking from you,
Give me the strength to do every day what I have to do.
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine,
So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time.
That sounds like a great way to start a new year, setting a resolution for a day rather than a year, which we often push to the side as time goes by, never seeing them come to fruition. It’s like setting a resolution for the year to change a habit which can seem to be an insurmountable task over time. But what if you set a micro goal, to change for a day, then re-evaluate each day as they come, one day at a time. We cannot reverse time to alter the past nor can we step into the future to control it before it comes, but we can walk step by step in God’s light and direction for today.
God gives you a new day, each day. There is no carry over from yesterday and no borrowing from tomorrows time. Time does not eb and flow it merely ticks away in God’s perfect timing. The Bible tells us do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2). Thus, we are encouraged to make sacred and wise use of our time and each opportunity we are given. It is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
What if our goal is to live in the day, today, offering to God the very things He has given us; our finances, time and our talents making each moment of the day count for the Kingdom of God. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Look on the positive side of your life each day, not searching for old flaws but to find new potential. Then ask yourself this question: What’s one small change I can make that will help me today?
Here is my “DAILY” NEW YEAR’S PRAYER for you:
Lord, help me face today with faith and hope in my heart.
May I experience the Holy Spirit reborn a new in me today,
that I may find new potential to live in Your Word and will.
Lord re-kindle in me a mighty flame of the Holy Spirit that,
I may be an extension of Your Grace to the world around me,
that they may see and experience Your glorious wonders.
And may I live each day praising Your glorious name. Amen
May God richly Bless and Keep you in His Love and Grace, each day of this New Year.
Sincerely Yours in Christ, Rev. Jerry Schmid
A New Year – A New Beginning
Now that Christmas is behind us and all the presents given and received, now what? How does one go about looking ahead to a new year following such a heart breaking past year? So many families, including my own, have been hit hard with Covid-19 or at least complications that may or may not stem from Covid-19. There have been those who have lost loved ones to sudden heart attacks, cancer, complications from diabetes, car accidents, violence, and the list goes on. Heartache so great you wonder how you can take the next step necessary to continue on with life. I have come to realize that it all part of this living experience we call life. Nothing is promised to us, none of us are exempt from the pain of losing a loved one. But there is one sure promise and that is God’s promise of eternal life because of His Son’s cruel death on the cross! The promise of heaven and the promise that we will be able to spend eternity with those loved ones that belonged to Him and have gone on before us!
I’ve been reminded of Mary this Christmas season with the loss of my precious daughter. I think I know now the anguish and heartache that Mary felt as she had to watch her beloved precious son die a horrible death on the cross for all mankind. I think Mary knew from the beginning in that little stable so long ago, that Jesus wasn’t given to her just for her own enjoyment but that he was sent as the coming Messiah to save mankind from their sins! That he would eventually be the sacrificial lamb. But knowing that in your head and knowing that in your heart of hearts are two totally different things. And when the time comes for death to knock on life’s door I don’t think your heart is ever totally ready for what is to come. God had a purpose for Mary and for Jesus and God had a purpose for Tamorah. I can’t see the purpose clearly right now any more than I am sure Mary didn’t see the purpose clearly the day Jesus was born and even more so the day Jesus died. But one thing I am certain of is that God is still in control even when I can’t see the purpose. So I can’t do anything but trust Him and hold tightly to His hand as we journey through this tough time together.
As for the New Year? I really don’t know what this New Year will look like but I do know this. I want to love a whole lot more and a whole lot deeper. I want to say the things that need to be said. I want to spend a whole lot more time making memories and leaving a strong legacy. I want to spend this year giving hugs and kisses to my precious children and grandchildren and making every moment count!
I want to serve Him with more fervor and conviction than ever before by sharing my story of Jesus with those who don’t have any hope for the future. I can’t do anything to change the past (oh, how I wish I could) but I can do something about the here and now and this coming year! Will this year be easy? I don’t think so but I can do all things through Him who gives me the strength to do what He would have me to do.
So when I don’t know what else to do, I will reach up and take His hand we will silently journey together.
“I am sending you to them to open their eyes……that they may receive forgiveness of sins……” (Acts 26:17-18)
This verse is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament.
God’s first sovereign work of grace is summed up in the words,
“…that they may receive forgiveness of sins….”
When a person fails in his personal Christian life, it is usually because
Their eyes are open,
“…a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me….”
In sanctification, the one who has been born again, deliberately gives up his right to himself to Jesus Christ,
Looking Ahead and Looking Behind
Have you ever driven away from something and looked in the rear view mirror and saw what was behind while simultaneously seeing what was ahead, knowing this was a pivotal moment in your life, after this nothing would be the same but assured God has used what was behind to prepare you for what’s next?
I’m reminded of that every time I think about the story of Moses and the Israelites. We think 2020 was bad… imagine looking in a rear view mirror and seeing Pharaoh and his army coming after you and looking before you at the sea, Moses getting ready to lift his rod, trusting that the Lord will get them to the other side safely.
“And Moses said to the people. ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today you will see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you will hold your peace.’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel will go on dry ground through the midst of the sea…” Exodus 14:13-16
I’m looking back on 2020 and looking forward to 2021 with the same feeling in my heart as I have when I read about Moses and the Israelites. I hope 2020 has taught you something. I hope looking ahead at the year to come you are looking forward to a fresh start, ways to be more intentional with your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and the lost. I hope that you are looking forward and able to rest on the fact that God has prepared you for whatever is coming next. I can’t tell you what 2021 will hold, just as Moses and the Israelites had no idea what was next…but I can assure you God is looking out for His people. It may not be easy, and it may, who knows, but no matter what, He will be right there with us, always at the ready.
Think back for a moment to a high school science or biology class. Can you recall learning about the differences between voluntary and involuntary muscles? A voluntary muscle is one you choose to exercise, like an arm or a leg. An involuntary muscle is one that moves without your consent, like an eyelid or a heart.
As you’ve grown in Christ you have probably discovered some behavioral tendencies that tend to flare up repeatedly. You always respond angrily to certain events. You talk harshly about certain people. Like the apostle Paul you want to do the right thing but you seem to invariably do the wrong thing. What should be voluntary, controlled responses turn into involuntary unmanageable reactions.
Make the choice today to defeat the power of sin through the power of the Spirit. Ask Him to govern your words, thoughts, and deeds. In time, you will notice that the Holy Spirit will supplant your established negative habits of the flesh with fresh, triumphant habits of the spirit. It’s your choice and His pleasure!
He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor. Proverbs 21:21
Things! We all have them. We all want them and we all tend to chase unerringly after them.
Coincidentally we never seem to find lasting satisfaction with our things. All the big houses, newer cars, finer clothes, the latest gadgets and gismos always seem to eventually lose their allure.
Think for a moment of the person or persons who have the things you are pursuing. Are they actually happier? Has the latest or greatest finally fulfilled their relentless pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and satisfaction or just worked as a spring board for more accumulation?
For the record, God is not opposed to you pursuing and having things. In fact, many times the things we are accumulating are an extension of God’s blessing upon our lives.
But, here is the rub for all of us. The real motivator of our core being is our spirit and the spirit is never satisfied with things! Most of us realize the things that bring real pleasure and lasting satisfaction are internal and not external. Things like faith, love of family and hope are all internally based and form the greatest foundation for a life of satisfaction and fulfillment.
As a new year beginning to dawn, lets pursue the things that matter eternally.
Merry Christmas everyone! I pray that there is as much joy in your home this festive morning as there is in the Ritchey household. May all your preparations for this special day bear the best fruit possible.
I want to go back to when Mary was informed by the angel Gabriel that she would become pregnant with a son whose name was to be Jesus. This child would be a great King who would be given the throne of David and to whose kingdom there would be no end (Luke 1:26-33). According to that passage this happened in the 6th month.
According to the Torah, the 6thmonth on the Jewish calendar is Elul. I think our perspective of GOD is one of the Father sitting on His throne. The significance of Elul for the Jews is that in this month only the King leaves His throne to be in the field. Just ponder that image for a moment, please.
We celebrate the birth of the King of kings, the Lord of lords for good reason. He is Emmanuel, GOD with us. The message came to Mary during the month of Elul; the King was coming to His field. We are that field. Rejoice and be thankful, the King is with us now as He was when He left His throne and entered His field through Mary’s womb.
Luke 2:10-11 still applies to us today. As an angel of the Lord said to the shepherds in the fields, “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 the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, …” (John 1:14a).
Our GOD and King is in the field with us. Celebrate His entry into our field; be grateful, rejoice and be glad!
Shalom, Pastor Bill
It is Christmas Eve 2020, this is a time for us to come together as a family and celebrate the birth of a king. It is a time for rest and celebration. For some it will be difficult as this year has taken quite a bit from us and left us with memories. For some it has been a time of trials and tribulation. Through it all we have the one who carries us through all this, who brings us peace in the middle of the storm
Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:32-33
As we celebrate this season of Christmas may we be continually seeking a deeper relationship with the Father, may we allow him to work in and through us so that we may be a comfort to those who have suffered. May our focus be on Christ and not the world.
"To have a single eye is to be free from the greed that stores up treasure on earth; its treasures are in heaven. To have a single eye is the opposite of attempting to serve two masters." -William Greathouse, Wholeness in Christ
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Let us seek this child and may the seed of Christ grow in us.
Have a Merry and blessed Christmas
We Three Kings is one of my favorite Christmas songs, largely because it helps to explain the meaning of one of my favorite parts of the nativity story, from Matthew 2:1-12. The gifts of the Wise Men are fascinating to me. The wise men brought three gifts with them: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. As the verses of this song so beautifully explain, each gift has a symbolic meaning: Gold to pay tribute to a King, Frankincense to worship God, and Myrrh (a strong-smelling perfume) to anoint a body before burial.
How did these non-Jewish wise men know that this baby was not just a King, but also God and Sacrifice? Well, some scholars believe that these Wise Men may have been students from a school that was founded by the Old Testament Prophet Daniel during his exile in Babylon. However they got their information, they were honoring Jesus for who He truly was and would always be: the promised Savior and perfect Light of the world!
Teaching Moments from Unlikely Sources –
A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
There is a t-shirt around that I have been wanting to buy for the Christmas season. It says: Dance like Frosty, Shine like Rudolph, Give Like Santa, and Love like Jesus. It’s really cute. And believe it or not, there is truth in it.
Dance Like Frosty - In Psalm 30:11, the psalmist says, “You turned my wailing into dancing.” Psalm 149:3 encourages, “Let them praise his name with dancing!” Psalm 150:4 then urges, “Praise him with tambourine and dancing!”
This Christmas, let loose with praise, folks. We have great reason to celebrate, Immanuel- GOD with US! This is Dance-worthy NEWS! And if you get stuck, just picture Frosty.
Shine like Rudolph - You know, like “This little light of mine.” Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
This Christmas, let’s be like Rudolph and be people who shine the way to Jesus for our fellow travelers on this rock, called earth. It’s pretty dark out there - so go ahead and SHINE!!!!
Give Like Santa- 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Acts 20:35 “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
This Christmas, let’s be cheerful givers, that is what we are called to be, givers of time, givers of encouragement, givers of resources, givers of talents. Go ahead let go - give freely, give joyfully, you know, like Santa.
Love like Jesus - John 15:9-17 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
This Christmas, in the dazzle and the frenzy all around us, let’s make a deliberate choice to love like Jesus, with everything, you know like the Birthday Boy, our Savior, our Lord. Because as The Grinch Story concluded “Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”
P.S. Keep unwrapping this Great Gift that has been given. And guess what? You don’t have to quit at Christmas. The gift of life with Jesus can be unwrapped ALL YEAR LONG.
Come let us celebrate the Christ of Christmas
Let us kneel and bow and venture somehow
To credit the wonders, he has wrought
Let our babbling language find it’s tongue
Amidst hoarded hopes fed through prophecies rung
Billowing gospel news by angels sung
And so Wanamaker Woods will say the big nouns:
Joy, Glory, Peace
And live the best verbs:
Love, Forgive, Save
because of the gift He gave
For the vast maker of earth, cosmic in His grace
Locked Himself within a little space
Whimpering weakly in a world He made in strength
He could not walk who strode the galaxies
His hands light years’ wide
Now tiny and chubby-fingered, then at His side
For the dying world weeping in the night
He let not languish without the light
You sluggish quasars cease cosmic flight
Awake, oh you galaxies
Polaris and Betelgeuse bow your heads
For the Child has come and the plague has fled
Hope has dawned and death is dead
RE-TUNING ATTITUDE INTO GRATITUDE
Remember when there was such a thing as a TV antenna on your roof or antenna rabbit ears on your TV? To get better reception it was often necessary to re-point the antenna in just the right direction to improve the picture. Even in college we would tape aluminum foil across the windows and touch the rabbit ear antenna on it to improve the picture reception.
Well, life is not much different when it comes to our own attitude. Frequently it needs to be re-tuned and re-adjusted to bring us back into an attitude of gratitude to God. Gratitude is not just something we are born with or can acquire by use of a sophisticated phone app. Gratitude is like a tiny seed that must be planted, watered and cultivated within the Christian heart and by faith is sustained and nurtured by God’s grace.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.
WOW, Ok, that strikes as a big attitudinal adjustment. Maybe not as big as it seems when you understand that God is not requiring you to give thanks for everything; like hitting my finger with the hammer (wrong nail), or the miserable day at the office, or the devastation of loosing a loved one. We are not asked to give thanks for the difficulties, but rather re-adjust our attitude that even in these things we focus on gratitude to God with a heart of faith that He is BIGGER than any difficulty, and through it the Holy Spirit is at work for our good and His Glory.
Even David in verse 4 of the 23rd Psalm wrote: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me”. We can offer our gratitude that God is with us no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the trial, whether the lowest valley or highest mountain top experience, He has never and will never leave your side.
Not knowing why things happen or how we can ever get through hard times challenges our faith. We have little control over what happens to us, but we control the attitude of our response to either trust in God or just be in need of another attitudinal adjustment. But praise God He gives us the hope we need: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)
I leave you with these precious words of this poem to ponder and reflect on; written by the daughter of a very dear friend, Minister and Missionary. May God Bless you as you live out a new attitude of Gratitude.
Gratitude - a reflection on God's love and grace.
By Thandi Nelson
The human heart - how it longs to be known
To be loved and accepted - not all alone
The human mind - how it longs to share
To create and think - not left empty and bare
But worldly expectations - how heavily they weigh
Cramming us all into a box - things we ought to do every day
And worldly standards - how harshly they tear
Shutting us down and shaming us - saying we don’t fit here or there
But acceptance - how gently it opens closed off walls
Allowing for freedom - permitting both victories and falls
And love - how kind and needed it is for our crushed hearts
Binding up wounds - putting back together all the fragmented parts
Gratitude - how can one put it into words or possibly repay
The feeling of indebtedness - acceptance and love in one’s memory will always stay
Loyal love - the one that says “you kept me in this world and now I make a choice
To love like you have loved - speak up for the wounded and those with no voice”