1 John 2: 15 – 17 says: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
God has called His people, the Church, to be a people unique and set apart from the rest of the world. In Galatians 5, we find a list of what a Christian’s attitude should look like, described as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While many people are quick to reference the fruit of the Spirit, we don’t speak as often about how this fruit is set in opposition to the fruit of the Flesh (or the sinful lifestyle). Galatians 5:19 – 20 says: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Compare this idea with what is said in 1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. We were called out of darkness, the same darkness that the world calls light. We cannot be salt and light (Matthew 5:13 – 16) if we are still doing the works of the flesh.
Consider the command in 1 John 2 with the validation in 1 Peter 2. Do not gratify the desires of the flesh, and take up your mantle of the Royal Priesthood!
To pray or not to pray - A Pondering by Holly Woodbridge
I was given a short but powerful bit of godly wisdom from one of our church youth a couple weeks ago:
“You can’t just NOT pray and expect something to happen.” – Caleb Franke, age 12
This is great advice. It echoes the very WORD of God:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing,
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
There is much to pray for in these days. So, go ahead do it. Take Caleb’s words and apply them to your life because “You can’t just NOT pray and expect something to happen.”
“Whisper a prayer in the morning
Whisper a prayer at noon.
Whisper a prayer in the evening
To keep your Heart in tune”
Pray Twice, Vote Once
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Feelings of worry and anxiety will inevitably pop up as you travel the path of life. This seems to be particularly true during election season. I have heard many a person these days say they are getting off of social media or just plain taking a break from the news. They are on anxiety overload!
The Apostle Paul diagnoses the symptoms and presents a healthy prescription to all our anxiety maladies. Dr. Paul reminds us that we don’t have to live there. The answer is to make our way to God as soon as we sense a worry. Don’t delay! Pray immediately and ask for His strength even as we mentally make our way over the next weeks to the voting booth. Here is an anonymous prayer we can pray as we move through these days.
Our Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being with us and for sending the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to guide us. Lord, right now it feels like there is so much at stake, and there is a lot of anxiety about the upcoming election. People are worried. Your Word says to be anxious for nothing, but in everything to come to You; I ask that you provide peace and comfort to the worried hearts of this country right now. Relieve their anxiety by helping them to focus on You and your will. Help those who feel anxious to instead feel Your presence. Please diffuse the spirit of anxiety across the nation, bringing understanding between all people. Reign over us, O Lord, instead of fear.
In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
Have you ever heard of Gumbo; not the soup but a type of clay soil that is often too wet or too dry. When wet, it sticks to everything and when dry, it’s like concrete, hard to break up and cracks wide open.
The most undesirable piece of ground on our entire farm was the approximate 20-yard square patch of gumbo soil right in the middle of a particular field. If it was wet, you knew to avoid it, but when it dried, it dried on the surface only. You guessed it, every so often I was tempted to go through it, only to completely plug up the plow or disk, getting stuck in the middle of it. Further aggravating the dilemma by cleaning the impacted mud out of the implement with only a large tractor lug wrench to use as a shovel. Then getting so upset over the ordeal, to throw the wrench at the implement only to have it bounce right back usually striking me in the shin. Even on my wedding day, I charged through the same spot, sinking an 18-foot disk in the gumbo, requiring a long chain to eventually pull it back out.
You might say, lesson learned, well easier said than done, for over the years it seemed to re-occur.
We all have those gumbo-like spots in our lives that even though we knew not to go there, we go through them again. They may seem fine on the surface, but Satan often covers things over to deceive us, only to find out that deep within they catch us in their sticky grasp or block us from breaking free.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.Psalm 40:2
A man gave his son a job to do; son there’s a stone in the field go move it. The son tried and tried to no avail. He goes to his father worn out and says I tried but I can’t move it. The father reply’s there’s a prying bar against the shed. Yes, father I tried that, I’ve tried everything, it won’t budge. The father responded by saying my son you haven’t tried everything; You have not asked me your father!
Lord, rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper! Psalm 69:14
God in his faithfulness reminds us of where we once were, and that no matter what the circumstance or gumbo spot, he is always there to see us through, forgive us, and help us once again, and again, and again, 70 x 7 and beyond.
Peter’s failure was not his defining moment, for Jesus paid for them all, Peters, yours and mine; all on the cross.
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25
What about you? Let go of whatever is holding you back, bogging you down, grab hold of Jesus, believe in Him and allow Him to set you free.
Love the People God Gives You!
Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to follow my laws.
Have you ever noticed that the older we get the faster time flies by? Seems like only yesterday I had a house full of small kids, then a house full of teenagers, then one by one they went off to college and then on to marriage and now my house is empty except for one temperamental calico cat. Time has become a precious commodity. It’s been five years now since Arnie went home to be with Jesus. Seems like just yesterday! My grandkids are now getting married and having kids of their own. My youngest daughter just turned 30 and has two children of her own. Seems like just yesterday I came to Wanamaker and it’s been 18 years. Wow, where does the time go?
Time leaves you with just the memories, those cherished memories that sometimes are so vivid that it seems like just yesterday. The memories of the day my first child was born and the day our first adoption happened when I realized just how much God loved me and would entrust me to raise a child for Him. I remember so vividly the day I was sanctified, filled with the Spirit, and totally transformed as I gave my whole life and everything I had to Him. When I think back to that memorable day, I can still see in my mind the yellow sunflower wallpaper on the wall and still feel that tingling sensation I felt that day from my head to my feet. That day will forever be etched into my memory! That was 45 years ago! God gave me the verses in Ezekiel 36:25-27 and they are still my favorite verses today!
Little did I know what God had in store for me that life-changing day; that He would call me to raise 14 kids for Him, that He would call me into full-time ministry, that I would live such a great full life with Him, that I would finish my life out as a widow trusting Him and Him alone for my every need! And I am reminded once again that our memories are what we are left with.
The older I get the more precious the years I have left become. Mondays so quickly turn into Fridays. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and months into years! Here it is almost the end of another year! When I try to envision where I will be in five years it can be very frightening. Whatever time God has left for me, I really want to take the time to enjoy the ones God has entrusted into my life. I want to say the things that need to be said and to live my life as a witness to those who need to see Jesus.
There is a new song out by the Bowling Family. The words say it all.
I got a call this morning
I can’t believe he’s gone
Thought he’d be here forever
But one more time, time proved me wrong.
Thought I should call to say hello
But I’m reminded once again
That life’s a vapor in the wind.
Love the people that God gives you
They’re a gift that heaven sent
Live and laugh and make some memories
Cherish every moment spent
‘Cause none of us are here forever
That’s a proven fact
Love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back
Each day the mirror tells the story
I wonder where the time has gone
Children laughing round the table
That now have children of their own
There may be things you need to say
So while today is still today
You have the chance to hold them close
One more chance to let them know
Love the people that God gives you
They’re a gift that heaven sent
Live and laugh and make some memories
Cherish every moment spent
‘Cause none of us are here forever
That’s a proven fact
Love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back
Oh and the list keeps getting longer
Friends and family that I miss
But when I think of what matters most
It all comes down to this
None of us are here forever
And that’s a proven fact
Just love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back
Love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back.
God’s Purpose or Mine?
“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.”
We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success.
We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us.
What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end,
Whatever it may be,
God’s purpose is to enable me to see that
However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
One of my first and favorite memories of my mission experience in East Timor happened the first night I was there. I was invited to a small group in one of the pastors’ homes. I arrived, sat down on the tile floor. I had no idea what any of the ladies were saying and just sat back and observed. A young woman came in and fell to the floor sobbing. She just started laying it all out there. I sat beside the pastor who knew English, so she translated. The lady and her husband had just gotten into a huge fight over laundry. She had said some choice words to him and he to her. She was mad at him and also herself for the way she reacted.
I marveled at her transparency and then I watched as the women in the group gathered around her physically, married, single, young and old and they told her it was going to be ok, they’d get through this together, they were here for her. They offered her a few words of advice and encouragement and then they laid hands on her and prayed with her. And oh how they prayed, EVERYONE, out LOUD, fervently lifting this woman and her husband to the Lord.
How awesome was it that she found a place where she could share something like this and know that it would be received with love and trust.
It’s why we think small groups and being a part of a community of faith are so important. We all need a place to belong, to be loved and to trust. A place to come together, to talk about the hard things of life and faith, to seek God’s council, to grow in self and together learn more about how to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. A place to be surrounded by people who love you and want God’s best for you.
I hope that you find a place to have this sort of experience. And I hope in turn that you are able to be honest about the things that are going on in your life. It’s important for us to be there for one another, especially in these days. And so important to be honest, not just to those around us, but to Him, who knows our everything.
I was reminded of this the other day when I heard this song on the radio.
It’s called “Truth Be Told” by Matthew West. Here’s a link if you’d like to check it out. Below the link are some of the lyrics….
“Lie number one you're supposed to have it all together.
And when they ask how you're doing
Just smile and tell them, "Never better".
Lie number two everybody's life is perfect except yours.
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed doors.
Truth be told, the truth is rarely told.
Now I say I'm fine, yeah I'm fine oh I'm fine, hey I'm fine,
But I'm not, I'm broken.
And when it's out of control, I say it's under control but it's not.
And you know it.
I don't know why it's so hard to admit it,
When being honest is the only way to fix it.
There's no failure, no fall
There's no sin you don't already know.
So let the truth be told.
There's a sign on the door, says, "Come as you are" but I doubt it.
'Cause if we lived like it was true, every Sunday morning pew would be crowded.
But didn't you say the church should look more like a hospital
A safe place for the sick, the sinner and the scarred and the prodigals
Well truth be told
The truth is rarely told….”
Recently Jolene and I completed a 4,400-mile round trip of the southwestern states. One day we visited the place where the Lincoln County War was fought in New Mexico.
The Lincoln County War was an old west range war fought between rival factions in 1878. The feud became famous because of the participation of a number of notable figures of the old west, including Billy the Kid, Sheriffs William Brady and Pat Garrett, cattle ranchers John Chisum, Alexander MacSween and Laurence Murphy, among others. Broken down into its simplest reality it was a war for political power and economic dominance.
It is interesting to note one of the first questions posed to Jesus after His resurrection was a political one. “And so, when they had come together, they were asking Him saying, Lord is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom of Israel?” Acts 1:6
With our political season in full swing it is well to remember, Jesus was not then, nor is He now a politician! In fact, His answer to their question was a spiritual rebuke (Acts1:7). The apostles wanted to turn their political concerns into a cause which would have a human remedy.
We who are Christ followers should remember that the only answer to the chaos and bitterness assailing our world today is not found in a political party, but rather in a spiritual revival!
So, lets look to the only One who can put our humpty dumpty world back together again. Jesus is His name. Salvation, peace, and grace is His proclamation!
John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
In our postmodern age many people, including some who identify themselves as Christians, challenge the reality of Jesus Christ as the way. The concept of truth is strongly debated as well. It appears that the popular notion is that truth is what an individual thinks it is, not what GOD and His Word say it is.
Which side of this debate are you on? If you believe John 14:6 and accept GOD’s Word as the complete truth, then you fall within what theologians call the scandal of particularity, which is the belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven. The Christian faith doesn’t put forth a general philosophy of religious truth statements or a set of propositions. It tells a story and that story invites questions such as the one which prompted the above response from Jesus. Why is Jesus Christ the only way? Why has GOD chosen to use a particular way to choose particular people for His particular purposes? This is an offense to many modern sensibilities, and I believe their questions deserve a Biblical answer.
I want to encourage you (all) to read GOD’s Word. Ask questions, but be ready to answer questions as well when the challenges come.
Do you ever worry? Do you ever find yourself with a heaviness upon you? Recently I have found myself in this state and don’t understand why. I believe in my heart that I have fully committed my life to the Lord and that all that I have and all that I will do is in Gods hands. So why do I find myself with a heavy heart?
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
My heart aches for this nation I love and to see the division is unsettling at times. Where do we put our faith in this situation? We have an election coming up that is the focus of the nation, we have been through the trials of Covid-19. Yet we still have our King Jesus on the throne, and this is where our peace should come from. We allow Jesus to wrap his arms around us and we do not live in fear.
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
There is nothing on the face of this planet that can bring us down when we hope in the Lord. Our lives should always be soaked in the word of God and who we are should be what tells others who we follow.
Who we are as Christians should be enough for an unbeliever to doubt their unbelief! Deitrich Bonhoeffer
We must remember that God has promised to “ never leave us nor forsake us “ do we believe in his promises always, or only when we feel we need him.
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17
Have an amazing day!
“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.”
This is how the Gospel according to John begins. John is unique among the Gospels. Matthew and Luke begin with the story of the Birth of Jesus, and Mark begins with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But John chooses to begin by addressing Jesus’ fundamental nature. We know the identity of the Word from the 14th verse of the same Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The power of what John accomplishes here cannot be understated. By emphasizing Jesus’ nature of God, John sets the tone for the rest of his Gospel: one of power, one of love, and one of hope. Hope that there is redemption, and hope that no matter how dark the world appears, the Light shall continue to shine, and the darkness shall not overpower Him!
Lamps and Commitment: A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Psalm 119:97-112, (actually if you read the whole Psalm instead of this devotional, it’s way better than anything I can write.)
Psalm 119:105 ESV
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Many believe David is the author of Psalm 119, this very lengthy psalm. There is even a tradition that he used this Psalm to teach young Solomon the alphabet, but not just for writing, the spiritual alphabet for living. What we do know for sure is that this writer knew pain and trouble, and that he also knew God and had a deep faith in God’s love, truth, and compassion.
All through this Psalm you see a first-person conversation with God. He is not talking about God. He is talking to God. And as he communes with His Almighty God, he speaks with such devotion and commitment throughout this psalm. In this particular passage, you see phrases like “how I love, I meditate, I have, I obey, I have kept, I have not, I gain, I have taken, I have suffered, I will not forget, I have not strayed, My heart is set.”
It would be a great exercise to walk through this psalm with a highlighter or pen and mark these first-person commitments.
What is even more impressive is that these commitments are made from a man who has suffered as well as sinned, has groaned as well as gained, a man who has wept as well as won. In the very realness of life, he made a choice to commit his way to the Lord.
That one verse, 105, “Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take,” helps us get a sneak peek into this devotion to God. He has been “in the Word,” as we say.
And what a great image, a lamp. No matter how dark the world around us, our God lights our path. His Word is that light. So, if the darkness around you starts getting to you “Be in the Word!” It will light up your night.
Two Ears, One Mouth
1 Samuel 3:(8-10)
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
There is a gentleman named Bernie Krause. He records nature sounds for film and television. He relates that in 1968 in order to get one hour of natural, undisturbed sound (no cars, airplanes, etc…) it would take him about fifteen hours of recording time. Today, in order to get that same amount of quality sound, it takes him two-thousand hours of recording time. In a world of such distractions, it can be extremely difficult to hear anything clearly. Testing 1,2,3….testing 1,2,3…
Samuel grew up in a very different kind of a world. He wasn’t assaulted with a steady stream of cell phone recordings, voice-mails, and text messages. His eyes weren’t assailed with the visual clutter of billboard and media mania. The challenges of the human condition, however, were still the same in principle. Hearing and listening are two very different things. Samuel didn’t understand that what he was hearing was the voice of God. He needed Eli to teach him how to listen. When he learned how to listen, he would begin to understand what he was hearing.
Jesus promised us in John chapter 10 that his sheep would learn how to hear His voice. If we are willing to come under the discipline of the shepherd, he will be faithful to lead us onward to green pastures. Am I conducting my life in such a way that shows that I am longing to hear His voice? When was the last time I spent any significant time in solitude and silence to nurture my relationship with Him. James, the brother of Jesus, beckons to us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. I guess there was a reason that God gave us two ears and one mouth.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ASKED THE QUESTION, “SO, WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND”?
Think about that for a moment and I’ll get back to you for your answer.
When Jesus was on the cross, you were on His mind! You are more valuable than the sparrows. He has given you dominion over all sheep, oxen and all beasts of the field and birds of the heavens and fish of the sea. Likewise, you are the glory and honor of all His creations.
For God so loved you that He gave His one and only, precious Son, that those who believe in Him will never perish but have everlasting life. In Gods eyes you are a new creation, nothing old, nothing borrowed or blue, only new and alive to Christ.
Just as Christ looked past the agony of the cross seeing you, enduring it all, so that by Him conquering death and the grave, He could be the author and perfector of your faith. As you keep your eyes on Him, believing in Him, He is in your Spirit and you in Him. It is a relationship by which to live; is to live as Christ and to die is to gain eternal life and the riches of His Kingdom in Heaven.
Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1).
You are no longer darkness, but light in my Son. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).
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. (Jeremiah 29:11)
So, now, back to the question; what is on your mind and how will you respond to Christ who loves you, calls to you and has set you apart, even giving up his own life for you that by him you may be saved.
WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
A Call to Persevere
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-26
I guess one could say I am a routine type person. I like structure and I like to plan out what my day, week or even month is going to look like. I have a certain routine every morning and every evening. I do pretty much the same routine every day at work. I pay my bills on certain days or times each month. However; I can be flexible. If my routine has to change today or this week because something else came up I can adapt and I don’t stress out over it. But I really like routines and consistency.
I don’t know if that is necessarily good or bad but I do know that there are some things that I won’t change like my relationship with Jesus, going to church regularly every Sunday, my moral stance on marriage, abortion, or important issues like that.
Covid-19 has truly caused change in a lot of things that use to be so routine and so consistent. When I was working from home my routine was totally turned upside down. But we made it through it all. The way we educate our children and the way we do school has changed drastically. Going shopping has even changed now. Many people are ordering in now instead of shopping in person. Take home from restaurants is a popular thing now. The favorite saying now is “Things are a changin'!”
Having church in the church building has certainly changed from the way we use to do things. Sunday was always a day of worship. Going to church was something we did on a regular basis. it was part of our weekly routine. Today, more and more are electing to stay at home and watch in via the different media venues available instead of meeting in person. Don’t get me wrong I am thankful for the advancement of technology. But sometimes I wonder if maybe we haven’t enabled our people to be complacent in the fact that we have provided so adequately the means to stay home and do church via the airways instead of gathering in person. For me I need the in person contact with my fellow believers. I need to come into the Holy Most Place and worship in person. To hear the live music and be able to lift my hands in worship. I need church!!
I know a lot of people live in a state of fear and the media has done a great job of instilling that into the public. But in Hebrews it tells us to “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
I know for me I will keep meeting together in person and keep trusting Him to keep me well. Won’t you join me?
Hope to see you soon!
The Discipline of the Lord
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by
Do not resist His discipline when He says to you, in effect,
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
I was talking to one of our eighth graders the other day who was blowing my mind. She was talking about how she’s learning to code, something I haven’t the first clue about. As she’s telling me some of the things she’s able to do with that, my eyes and mouth were getting wider and wider. For instance, she was learning how to send a text message that when opened could hack into someone’s phone and grab every piece of information on it. Can you imagine carrying that sort of responsibility at the age of 14? To always do the right thing...knowing you could basically destroy someone else’s life with the touch of a screen and the information you knew.
It got me thinking about our responsibility as Christian people, especially today, in this world we are living in.
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10 ) We have a responsibility to serve one another, not just our Christian brothers and sisters, but it is in our service that all will see God's grace in action as we demonstrate our faith.
We have a Christian responsibility to encourage one another. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up." It is easy in this world to become discouraged because of work, relationships, finances, what we see in the news, school, the list goes on. So, it is our Christian duty to help others believe, overcome and stay faithful in a discouraging world.
We have the responsibility to help carry one another’s burdens. Galatians 6:2"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Nobody needs to walk alone in the valley. We need to walk with each other and lighten the load many carry on their shoulders. Jesus removed our greatest burden at the cross. So, we need to help our brothers and sisters who are lost in the valley.
James 5:16 says,"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." We need to pray for one another. We must intercede for our brothers and sisters and pray on their behalf. Powerful and effective prayer will make all the difference.
To whom much is given, much is required. As Christians, we have a responsibility toward others. It is not a choice, it is required.
We also have a responsibility to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.” Mathew 28:16-20
As I told my Middle Schoolers the other day, it might not be the popular thing to do, they may not like what we have to say, and what we have to say may even clash with what is “legal”. But what is legal is not always right. We have a responsibility, people need to hear about Christ and know his commands. It’s a great responsibility. Those who see us not doing these things may never know, they be turned off by us and that may keep them away and we may not see them in glory. Now that’s a huge responsibility.
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (Matthew 12:23)
This past year my family and I had our best year with our garden. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. The smell of the dirt as it is tilled in the spring, the first sight of new plants emerging in the spring, and the last of freshly picked produce—the whole thing is something I really enjoy.
However, a garden requires regular, almost daily, attention. Leaving the garden unattended for one week can be disastrous. Between tiling and harvest, there is planting, watering, pruning, keeping an eye out for pests, and worst of all—weeding. I despise weeding.
The effort it takes to grow a crop is great. But weeds… somehow they just happen. They are the first to sprout and the last to die. They need no nurturing to flourish and seem to be able to survive in the worst of conditions. These products of the curse take up valuable nutrients which ultimately hurts the plants we want and diminish crop yield.
You know life is a lot like this—in particular discipleship. Growing in our relationship with Christ takes deliberate effort, constant attention and time. Yet somehow, like weeds, bad habits and attitudes quickly creep in. They just appear and before we know it, they choke the joy of the Lord right out us. They distract us from our fruit-bearing purpose.
Today, I simply want to remind you to tend to your relationship with God. If there are some bad habit or attitudes that have crept in, they need to be removed. Eventually, as we tend to our relationship with God, there will be a great harvest when we are rewarded for our diligence with some delicious, life-giving fruit.
Be Encouraged by God's Word
As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
“Where is your God?” . . .
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
- Psalm 42: 1-3, 5, NIV
In Isaiah 26, the prophet speaks of the perfect peace that is available to GOD’s people. Isaiah tells us how GOD planned to discipline His people while still listening to their prayers. In the first part of verse 9 he says, “My soul yearns for you [the LORD] in the night…” I understand that yearning for light. Darkness and night often represent sin and evil in Scripture. We are in a period of time where both appear to be increasing exponentially. This can become overwhelming.
When I was in the Navy I frequently stood guard on a missile launcher and its warheads. Because of the nuclear capability of these missiles, we had to maintain a watch 24 hours a day, all year round, even at sea. More than a few times I stood watch from 4:00 to 8:00 AM, and sometimes the darkness was deep. On nights when the sky was overcast, we didn’t even have starlight. I can tell you it’s scary, even when you’re carrying a loaded gun, because you are essentially blind. Your mind can imagine things that aren’t really there. Real sounds can be difficult to comprehend properly. And the darkest part of those nights is just before dawn. When dawn does arrive, there is a special joy and a sense of relief. I experienced this more than a few times.
Spiritual darkness is increasing, and I expect this will continue until the Lord returns. Ephesians 6:12 speaks clearly to us about what is going on, “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.” But please keep in mind the promise given in 2 Peter 1:19, “And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” How awesome to know that joy, relief and peace that passes understanding are available for us.
Good morning to all, as we prepare to head into the fall season - what is your heart longing for? As for me I am always hoping to capture the Big Buck to harvest which most years turns into a doe, but we hunt for food and not for trophies. As a Dad I enjoy watching my daughter Jalee harvest her deer and not worry about getting one myself. What season does God have you in your lives.
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
A wise Pastor once told me that we will have those times (seasons ) when we may feel like God is nowhere to be found. It may seem as though he has forgotten us and our troubles in life. In those times that we feel we do not hear the voice of God do we still listen, or do we move on? Recently I had gone through such a time and I talked to God about what I was feeling at the time. Not long after that I had a message from a young man in Florida who told me that God wanted me to come back to my first love? WOW talk about timing, and a wakeup call to deepen my heart into the things of God.
The eyes of all look expectantly to YOU, And You give them their food in due season.
A wise pastor also told me that God is always near and to expect him to move in our lives when we are seeking him through all that we go through. Fall is also the time for harvest here in Kansas, many farmers are relying on good harvest to carry them through the winter.
Then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Leviticus 26:4
Whatever season you may be in remember that God is with you and loves all of us.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart to all generations.
Have an amazing day!
Read Mark 4:1-20, the parable of the Sower.
It can be easy to get discouraged when we are witnessing to someone and the Spirit does not seem to be working. Earlier this week, I had an encounter that restored some of my faith in the way the Holy Spirit moves in people. I have a certain co-worker that I have been “planting seeds” with. We were hired around the same time, got promoted to complimentary positions at the same time, and have worked together very closely for the last three years. This co-worker was raised Catholic but does not practice any sort of faith as an adult. Because my faith is important to me, aspects of it come through in our conversation, and I’ve invited her and her family to church several times, but I never saw any change starting in her life. One day this week, she and I were talking and our conversation randomly turned to Alexander the Great. She started doing some research into Alexander, and asked me “It says he was born in July 356 B.C. What does that mean?” I explained that means that he was born roughly 356 years before the birth of Christ, and she seemed confused by that. A short time later, she comes to me after looking up some other information and says “Okay: God, Jesus, and Christ. Who are they, and how are they connected to each other?” What followed was a one-hour discussion about God, the Trinity, Jesus as God come into the world, and his role as the Messiah. When the conversation was over, she left work with plans to read the Gospel of John when she got home.
All this happened after three years of me talking about my faith with her in general everyday conversation. As I was praising God for finally moving in her heart, I was convicted on two points. First, I have a very limited view of the world. God, who is eternal and outside of our concept of time, did not “finally” start to move in her life. He loves her enough to send His only begotten Son for her (John 3:16). He has been lovingly guiding her towards Himself longer than the three years I have known her. Second, I’m merely a seed sower. I cannot force the seed to sprout. Now that the sprout has started to grow, I have a responsibility to foster healthy growth. But I had no room or authority to get frustrated with God for not moving as quickly as I would have liked. We cannot see the way the seed develops once it has been sown, we need only have faith that the true Gardner loves those he has created.
Allow me to wrap up with Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
What to do with A New Day- A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Psalm 31:15 My life is in your hands. Save me …
James 4:14 You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Your life is like a fog. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away.
Psalm 90:12 Teach us how short our lives are so that we can become wise.
Colossians 4:5 Be wise in the way you act with those who are not believers. Use your time in the best way you can.
Ephesians 5:15-17 So be very careful how you live. Live wisely, not like fools. 16 I mean that you should use every opportunity you have for doing good, because these are evil times. 17 So don’t be foolish with your lives, but learn what the Lord wants you to do.
The following quote hangs in my laundry closet. It both challenges me and haunts me.
“This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is very important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that I have left behind...let it be something good." – Heartsill Wilson mostly
We don’t have a whole lot of control over time and little control over circumstances. What we do have control over is our choices with the time we have and the circumstances we are in. We often hear that question: what would I do if this were my last day on earth. It probably isn’t your last, but it is a day, and when you pile one day onto the next you eventually end up with a lifetime. So, I challenge you as you begin a new day to pause, to sit in stillness, to ponder, “What shall I exchange this day of my life for today?” And then let God whisper some good ideas into your soul.
Song by Kathy Troccoli – My Life is in Your Hands Life can be so good/ Life can be so hard
Never knowing what each day/ Will bring to where You are
Sometimes I forget/ And sometimes I can't see
That whatever comes my way/ You will be with me
My life is in Your hands/ My heart is in Your keeping
I'm never without hope/ Not when my future is with You
My life is in Your hands/ And though I may not see clearly
I will lift my voice and sing/ Cause Your love does amazing things
Lord, I know, my life is in Your hands
Empty Cupboards/Full Hearts
1st Kings 17:12-16
She said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, but only a handful of meal in a barrel and a little oil in a jar. I am gathering two sticks, that I can go in and make it for me and my son, so we may eat it and die.” Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make a little cake for me first, and bring it to me, and afterward, make some for your son and you, for thus says the Lord God of Israel: The barrel of meal will not run out, nor will the jar of oil empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.” She went and did what Elijah told her to do, and she, he, and her household ate many days. The barrel of meal did not run out, nor did the jar of oil empty, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by Elijah.
There once was a meeting in the middle between a prophet and a widow. They both come together in the sharing of their strengths. They both come together in the shared vulnerability of their needs. The robe of this holy prophet has nothing but holey pockets. He is empty of material resources. Do not underestimate him though, for he carries with him the promise of his God.
The widow’s cupboard is too bare of meals to share. Do not underestimate her though, for she carries with her a mustard seed of faith enough to risk obedience. The widow places her trust in the word of the Lord from the lips of a stranger. They meet each other in the midst of their shared vulnerability like the broken bread of the sacrament. In the middle of this sacred moment……. God provides!
It is a beautiful foreshadowing picture of what the church of Jesus Christ will become. Each week we come and meet each other in the midst of both our strengths and our weaknesses. Out of our strengths we help to bear each other’s burdens. In confession of our weaknesses we peel the social distancing masks from our hearts. In the bearing and the sharing, God provides.
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Genesis 2:7
I have often wondered why boys especially; have such an affection to dirt and mud. They can be clean and spotless one minute then the next, look like the Charlie Brown character Pig Pen.
I grew up on a farm in Nebraska where some of my fondest memories always involved dirt. Playing in the garden with my toys, walking barefoot through the mud and most of all the day I spent with my old red wagon fastened by a rope; pulled behind the tractor in the corn field as my father cultivated it for the last time of the growing season. The corn stocks were over four feet tall, towering above me sitting in that wagon, with the leaves slapping me in the face as we sped through the corn field. The dust was so thick I could barely see the back of the tractor and ever so frequently at the end of the rows I would have to pick up the wagon, empty out all the dirt and quickly carry it around to the next row, set it down and jump back in. This went on hour after hour. By the end of the day you could not tell the difference between a lump of dirt or me, unless I opened my eyes or mouth to show a little white mixed with the dirt.
It was one of the happiest times of my life, being pulled in my wagon, playing in the dirt, and more importantly being with my father.
It could best be expressed as a relational attraction: 1 Corinthians 15:48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. We are related to the man made from dust and more importantly to the one who created the dust, breathed His Holy breath into it creating us, setting us apart from all other creations, made into the very likeness of the heavenly man.
Romans 9:20-21O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay
What an honor to be the dust that was used by the Creator to form the clay into you and I, into a precious vessel of His image. And yet no two vessels are exactly alike, rather each created for God’s perfect purpose. All that is required of us is to yield to the purpose, allowing God to do all the rest.
So, to answer the question why do I like dirt? Because God created it, formed it, shaped it into you and I and called us His own, with His Holy Spirit breathed into us.
May He pour out His Grace and Love upon you and give you Peace, both here and in the not yet.
And Oh, by the way, take time to pick up a handful of dirt, and say hello to God’s creation, for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.