In Mark 9:33-35, Jesus has an interesting interaction with His apostles. It says: “And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house, he asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’ But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.’”
There are a few things about this passage that really jumped out at me. First, when Jesus asks his Apostles what they were talking about, they were ashamed to answer. They knew that their discussion, while not inherently wrong or evil, was contrary to Jesus’ will for their life and ministry.
Second, Jesus knew the answer to the question without having to hear it from the apostles.Jesus was always God. He took on a human nature without giving up his fully Divine nature. As such, Jesus was all-knowing when He asked this question.
Finally, Jesus answered the question that they never asked. However, true to His nature, Jesus takes the answer that the world expects, and turns it on its head: those that seek greatness must instead pursue humility.
The big take away I see in all this, is that God doesn’t need us to talk to Him, but he wants us to. Prayer is an amazing gift. The King of the universe allows us to come into His presence and discuss our problems, questions, and needs with Him. He does so without shaming us, and truly cares about our needs. Our God truly is an awesome God!
Devotions with Holly Woodbridge
The Unsquashable Life: A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Do you ever get that squashed feeling? That feeling where you have been squeezed and emptied and no one seems to even notice. You might even take a couple days for a pity party! Then you shift your eyes from the magnifying mirror and put them back where they belong – on Jesus. He shoots some God-size reality at you and truth looks you right in the eyes. You are His. You cannot be squashed! You can grieve, or despair for a time. You may be taken for granted, mocked, persecuted, even killed, BUT you cannot be squashed. How can that be? Well, ponder this truth….
2 Corinthians 4: 7 But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us-is held in a perishable container, that is, in our weak bodies. Everyone can see that the glorious power within must be from God and is not our own.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. 9 We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. 10 These bodies of ours are constantly facing death just as Jesus did; so it is clear to all that it is only the living Christ within who keeps us safe…
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our inner strength in the Lord is growing every day. 17 These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever!
Growing up, when I would get feeling sorry for myself or even angry, my mom would listen to my rant quietly and then say, “Holly, you have 30 minutes to get over it.”
My 95 year-old mom is not able to communicate very much anymore, but I know where she got it from. God says pretty much the same thing. It doesn’t matter what I am feeling as much as what the truth is, and the truth is I am unsquashable. And if I sit with this truth long enough, it changes how I feel. So, if you are feeling a little squashed today, remember it’s a feeling. You are unsquashable. God told me so.
The Lord of the Board
My dear family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy, because you know that, when your faith is put to the test, what comes out is patience. What’s more, you must let patience have its complete effect, so that you may be complete and whole, not falling short in anything. If any one of you falls short in wisdom, they should ask God for it, and it will be given them. God, after all, gives generously and ungrudgingly to all people. But they should ask in faith, with no doubts. A person who doubts is like a wave of the sea which the wind blows and tosses about. Someone like that should not suppose they will receive anything from the Lord, since they are double-minded and unstable in everything they do.
Our congregation has been journeying through the book of James as we have started this year of 2021. When I think of the book of James it always brings my memory back to a guy named Darrin. I was working at PGA (Professional Golf Association) headquarters at the time. Darrin was the son of the Senior Vice-President of the PGA tour. Darrin had been hired and fired five different times from the PGA tour. He just couldn’t seem to get it all together. Darrin’s father found out that I was a person of faith and asked if somehow I could be of help to his son. I wasn’t sure exactly what to do but I asked the Lord to guide me in the process of ministering to Darrin.
I found out that Darrin was a surfer. The Lord whispered in my ear and told me, “Come, I will make you a surfer of men (or something like that). Hey, what can I say, I just write ‘em the way God gives ‘em to me. (Ha! Ha!) Darrin would soon teach me lessons about surfing and in the process I would mirror those lessons back to Darrin about how God desired to help him negotiate the waves of life.
Darrin taught me how I was to approach the waves of the sea. In order to negotiate a wave properly, it required a humble approach. I am not in charge of the wave. The wave is always in control. I am to submissively respond to what the wave is doing not the other way around. Trying to approach it the other way around only led to knots on my head and lungs filled with salt water. As I practiced this mirroring approach to the waves, it led to a patience and a wisdom in regards to the waves that I had never had before. I was able to return the favor to Darrin by using surfing lessons to talk about life with the Lord. When I left that PGA job, I had the blessing of seeing Darrin have a new approach to life and a new walk with the Lord.
James (younger sibling to the Lord) calls from the shores and says to us, “Come see my big brother Jesus in action.” Are you so tired of being tossed about to and fro by the winds and waves of life? Come see a man whom even the winds and the waves obey. If you would but ask him, the Lord of life would give you His wisdom. He can show you what a real faith looks like. It is a faith that is characterized by patience. This kind of faith does not shake its fists in response to the storms of life. Real faith receives waves of trials not as a trespasser but a teacher. Testing is no longer viewed as a punishment, but as a purveyor of truth.
It is hard to imagine anything more unstable than standing on top of a slippery board traveling over a swirling, twirling tunnel of saltwater. My friend Darrin made it look effortless. It gives me a bigger picture of what faith training under trial can bring. The more I give myself over to the tutelage of the teacher, the less hold and sway that comes from the winds and the waves. Most of us seem to have such a small view of faith in these days. The most I can muster is of a Jesus who somehow saves me from drowning. James would call us further up and farther on. Come to Jesus-the Lord of the board-he’ll teach you to walk on water!
Devotions with Pastor Jerry Schmid
MOUNTAIN To valley - valley To MOUNTAIN
Mark 11:22-25 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.”
All life is a journey along a pathway. A pathway that may have been traveled by many others but for you it is for that moment in time, your first. God is still God and never has or will He change, but for you each step, each breath, each sight and sound is new and unique. The sun still rises and sets, each moment ticks by the day, but what is different today, this moment, is you and how you experience God’s creation and His plan for you on the pathway to perfecting you as His Holy creation, to restore and renew your relationship with Him. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Our journey down the pathway of life takes us from valley to mountain top, then mountain top to valley, over and over again while all along the way experiencing each one with new challenges. Some we would rather not have experienced, and others we would love to linger in the blessing. But, once again God has a plan to take all things and manifest them into, you’re becoming one step further down the pathway toward perfection and Holiness than you were the in the steps before.
There will always be another mountain, another valley conquest. As you pass through the valley focus your faith: I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” (Psalm 121:1-3)
God does not change; He loves you and always will, just as you are. Governments, Pandemics, valleys and mountain experiences all come and will go, But God is constant “Have faith in God”. He will see you through. And as you traverse up the mountain remember to look around at the view of the valley God brought you through.
Devotions with Pastor Fran Ruecker
We have lived in our house in Silver Lake for 44 years now. That’s a long time to stay in one spot. Over the years I have accumulated a lot of stuff!! Sometimes I get overwhelmed with all the stuff! I have boxes in my basement that I haven’t opened in at least 15 years! Some are marked with my kid’s names and some are marked keepsakes. Slowly but surely I am beginning to find homes for all those boxes! I have had the feeling of urgency lately to de-clutter my home! The last thing I want is for my kids to have to go through all that stuff and declare, “Man, my mother was a hoarder!”
The trouble is I start to go through some of those boxes and then I start down memory lane and think about all the memories that go into all the things packed neatly away in those boxes. Trinkets from the kid’s childhoods, awards they earned for different events, notes from friends, gifts from children, and then before I know it I have spent the entire day going through just one box! So many happy memories, some unhappy ones, so many thoughts, so many “what if’s” go through my mind! Sometimes as I remember those memories I wish I could turn back the clock and relive those days and then there are times I am so thankful that we got past those days! You haven’t lived until you have experienced having 7 teenagers, ages 13- 18, in your home at one time! I look back at those days and wonder how I did it! Oh the hormones and testosterone! And to top it all off we only had one bathroom! But those were the good days when things were simple, especially when you compare it to today!
Today we have so much clutter in our lives! There are so many things we tend to be anxious over. So many external things that cause anxiety! Back then we had simple things like who was taking the most time in the bathroom, whose turn was it to drive the car, who didn’t start their project until the night before it was due, who got a down slip in the mail and got grounded, who wore someone’s shirt without their permission, who forgot their lunch, etc. Today we worry about masks and sanitizing everything, going to school on line vs in school learning, vaccines or no vaccines, getting Covid-19, taxes going up, gas prices going up, juggling schedules and the list goes on.
The Bible clearly tells us in Philippians that we are not to be anxious about anything, but to trust everything to Jesus! It also goes on to tell us what to think on. We can let our minds dictate how we handle all those things that go on around us. We can determine what to put into our storage boxes (our minds and heart). Philippians 4:8-9 tells us, 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.
So along with continually de-cluttering my house, I also need to continually de-clutter my mind. I need to make sure that I am not anxious about all the things that I really can’t change. Every day is a new day! Every day is a new opportunity and a gift from above. We really do have a lot that is praiseworthy! So think on those things and hand the rest to Jesus to carry for you!
“Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His Word”
1 Cor. 1:30
"But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption." NASB
The mystery of sanctification is that the perfections of Jesus
Christ are imparted to me, not gradually, but instantly when by faith:
It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification,
Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His word?
Sanctification means the impartation of the Holy qualities of Jesus Christ.
It is His patience, His love, His holiness, His faith, His purity, His godliness,
The mystery of sanctification is that all the perfections of Jesus are at my disposal,
I had a conversation with a student the other day who is going through a very difficult time. Her world is swirling around her, seeming to crumble at its core, she wonders where God is in all of this. Does he even care? “I’m thinking of not ever coming back to church again” she told me. Don’t run away from Him, run toward Him I told her.
I ran across this in my personal devotions and thought of her, and some of you who are going through some of the hardest things you’ve faced in life. “Your deepest loves represent the most vulnerable space in your heart. The people and dreams you treasure most, bring both your greatest joys and deepest sorrows. What we love most, we hate most to lose. God our Father knows exactly how to test us for growth and how to save us through grace. When your faith is tested, do you hold tightly to God and loosely to everything else?”
The passage we are studying is Genesis, when God asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his greatest joy, knowing it would bring him his greatest sorrow. Abraham holds tightly to God, loosely to everything else in complete surrender to His will. When your faith is being tested do you throw your hands up and turn away from Him, or stretch your arms out and run to the Father and with reckless abandon do what He has asked? What are you willing to sacrifice for Him?
“...For now I know that you truly fear God…” Genesis 22:12
In His service,
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. (James 1:14)
True confession: I’m never tempted to do the right thing.
I’ve never been tempted to be honest, but I have been tempted to be dishonest. I’ve never been tempted to be generous—but I have been tempted to be greedy. I’ve never been tempted to be faithful or or to remain pure—but I have been tempted to be unfaithful and impure.
You see, the temptation to do the wrong thing always seems to be right there. It’s one of those struggles we all face because of the fallen state of our world. Temptation tries to get us to see the bait, but blind us to the trap. James reminds us that these tempting moments come from our own desires. They can even come from good, godly desires. It’s simply when we fulfill those desires in ungodly ways that we give in and take the wrong path.
You see this especially in Jesus’ temptation. Jesus was tempted to eat because he had been fasting was hungry. So Satan encouraged him to turn stones into bread. This temptation to use power in self-fulfilling ways, however, was a baited trap. Jesus could have fulfilled a natural desire to eat, but it would have been the wrong way. Similarly, there was a desire to prove himself as the Son of God, and to obtain a status of power as ruler of the whole world in the following temptations. But the routes Satan was tempting Jesus to take were the wrong paths to fulfill each of those desires.
Today, I challenge you to look at your areas of temptation. Where are you tempted most? Where have you seen the bait, but been blind to the trap? Jesus was one who stood the test of temptation. He saw the traps for what they were. May God give you the wisdom and the strength to see the traps in your life.
Devotions with Pastor Holmes
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith too often is identified as a "church word". In essence it simply means to have confidence in someone or something.
Stop for a moment and consider your spiritual faith. As you do, ask yourself this question; "What does my faith look like?
The Bible and history gives some ideas of other's faith. Biblical and historical figures such as Stephen, Andrew, Simon Peter and Paul, John Huss, William Tyndall, Rachael Scott, Cassie Bernal, and Stacey Baylan; all who "stood" for their faith.
Now for a difficult question; What can you and your faith stand for? Is it easier to die for your faith or live for your faith? (This is by no means to take away from these above mentioned martyrs and spiritual warriors) Conversely, What do you think is the hardest; to live for your faith or to die for your faith? I think, I think, before you can die for your faith you have to live for your faith. To consistently reject the temptation to back up, slow up, or give up. To daily live as if this were your last day. To surrender yourself to an eternal future unseen and untried, yet to remain confident in the final result.
In one sense, we are all called to die daily for that which spiritually holds us. To be willing to die for HIM, yet also willing to live for HIM. So, live for HIM today as if you were going to die for HIM today. I think if you live this way, you will know just what your faith looks like!
How well do you know someone? I assume that if you have been married for many years you should know your spouse really well. If you have kids you should also know them, if they are grown you should know them even better. How well do you know yourself, do you sometimes do things that even surprise you? What about your family, friends, church family and coworkers, do you know them well. We should know these people well if we have been around them for a time in our lives. I can say that if my wife would call me from a number I did not know that I would recognize her voice immediately. Recently I received a call from a former Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy whom I worked with in the DARE program, as soon as he spoke I knew who it was and I had not talked to him in years. My point is this, how well do we know Jesus?
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? John 14:9
When Jesus asked this question of Philip, he had been with Jesus a while, but yet he still did not know him. I read this verse and I was on my knees crying out to the Father for I realized he was talking to me also. How well do you know Jesus?
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? 2 Corinthians 13:5
Have you taken the time to examine yourself, or is the thought that you are ok and do not need to be examined? We all have our faults and we must know Jesus in order to let go of these issues we may have. Remember we belong to the King and not the world.
Have an amazing day!!!
Devotions with Pastor Bill Ritchey
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we celebrate in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:1-5
This passage holds very precious memories for me. When I was struggling as a new Christian, slowly moving away from a lifestyle of addiction and degeneracy, I was closer to living under a bridge than I ever was in my addictions. I was eating food from the church poor box, and friends who were on food stamps, despite their own challenges, were generously sharing with me. I was beginning to learn humility during some exceedingly difficult circumstances and was also learning to trust in God’s promises. This passage played a critical role in my life during that time and has continued to do so through the years.
Think about the complexity of the promise given, how tribulation produces hope when we walk with our Lord. No wonder we can take joy in tribulations of various sorts (see James 1:2-4 also). How appropriate for the present time and the shadows of what may be coming down the road. One of my favorite posters reminds me that “joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God.
Once again let me encourage you to keep your soul poised on God’s promises in difficult times. Those times will strengthen us, develop character in us and bring about hope that will not disappoint. Hallelujah! To quote the great sage, Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?”
Shalom, Pastor Bill
In Genesis, we read the story of Jacob and Esau. Jacob (who would later become renamed Israel) conned his brother into giving up his birthright, and later stole the blessing away from him. Esau was understandably upset. In the midst of this, their father Isaac gives Esau a blessing of his own, and Gen 27:40, Isaac tells Esau “but when you grow restless you shall break [Jacob’s] yoke from your neck.” When Jacob and Esau are reunited in Genesis 33, he is understandably afraid (following the blessing in 27:40, Esau outlines a plan to kill Jacob after their father dies). He tries to butter Esau up with gifts, but Esau responds by coming to meet him with what appears to be a small army (400 men). However, when the two brothers meet, Esau breaks down sobbing and embraces his brother Jacob, offering forgiveness that was neither earned nor asked for, in a scene that was remarkably similar to Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The importance of what Esau does here cannot be overstated. He let go of his anger, acted like the bigger person, and forgave the one who wronged him without expecting his brother to initiate the process. In doing so, he fulfilled the blessing given, and broke the yoke of anger and fear that bound these two brothers together.
Hundreds of years later, Jesus would do something very similar. He would offer us forgiveness that is unearned and grace that is not deserved. However, unlike Esau, Jesus never had anger towards us, never sought to do us harm. He gave up his own life on the cross to break the yoke of slavery to sin that binds us. That gift is still being offered to anyone who would accept it. We as Christians have the responsibility to take that forgiveness into the world to show them what they’re missing. Find a way to be someone’s image of grace.
Devotions with Holly Woodbridge
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,
Devotions with Pastor Fran Ruecker
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?
Devotions with Pastor Jerry Schmid
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.
Devotions with Pastor Holmes
"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.
Notes from the Staff @The Woods