Joy is Better Than Happiness
The terms joy and happiness are often viewed as synonyms. I think this happens because we view both as a positive emotion that makes you feel good.
The book of Philippians Chapter 1 seems to indicate something quite different for those two terms. Happiness as a feeling is not necessarily based on something being good for you! I love chocolate. Eating it really does create a sense of enjoyment and happiness. I also have a physical reaction to chocolate that when I do partake I also get a terrible headache. In that sense joy supersedes happiness when I refuse the chocolate and do not suffer the headache.
I think where happiness tends to find itself through self-satisfaction, joy reveals itself through self-discipline.
The Hebrew writer says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards is yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:11
Happiness tends to be fleeting. Remember that new car – house – or the latest technical marvel you purchased?
In contrast joy positions the heart for steadfastness. It builds upon itself and does not shrink with time or challenge.
Cherish the happy times but realize they will eventually pass. Allow joy to pave the way to a fruitful and steadfast life!
In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus gave these commands:
In these difficult times, that passage may be easier for us to stomach than the following one:
Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
We are blessed to live in a time of trial and tribulation. Yes, I did say blessed! In this time of pandemic-enforced isolation, violence, rioting, businesses failing daily, and more; we must look for ways to truly love our neighbors – and our enemies. What an opportunity we have to live out these guidelines that Jesus gave his disciples. Guidelines about how to model the Christian walk before unbelievers in this desperate and fallen world.
I believe this truly is a time of trial and testing for God’s people. We are being tested according to His principles. When we look back with 20/20 hindsight, will we be seen as being loving?
Pastor Bill Ritchey
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5
In March of 1997 I found myself in a very dark place, mentally and spiritually. For many years before that I had lived a life completely void of God, although I pretended to be a man of God.
On the morning I speak of I woke up in complete darkness, it was then that the light began to shine under the door. At the time I did not realize that light was the light of Christ coming into my life. Life certainly has changed since that day, and so we look at our lives today we find ourselves surrounded by darkness. It is as though our voices are not to be heard as we continue to hold onto our faith and not hold onto the world.
In John 8:12 Jesus says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”
Do we shine the light of Christ to those around us, even in these times when it is really easy to give way to moments of fear and worry? Do we reach out to those around us and love them like Jesus loved? We must be the light of life in this crazy world as Jesus said in Matthew 5:15-16
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way; let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
I am reminded of the children’s song we have heard many times before,
“This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine”
Darkness cannot exist where there is light.
Have an amazing day!
How do we find our place in the history of the church? We can look back to heroes of the faith such as the apostles, St. Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, and countless others. When we see these giants, it can be easy to feel insignificant. But look at what Jesus has to say in John 14:12 – 13:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
The truth is that you are not insignificant. You are the very image of God (Genesis 1:26), and you bear His name (Christian). You are not insignificant, you are a son or daughter of the Father (John 1:12)!
Let’s Consider Kingdom Praying-
Matthew 6: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
1)What are we suppose to seek first?
God’s Kingdom and Righteousness. The word “kingdom would make no sense if there was no King.” So, we are seeking for God to be in charge.
2) I thought God was in charge?
He is, but He has given us free choice. We choose to submit to His leadership, His Kingship. The Bible tells us that someday every knee will bow and there will not be a choice anymore. But now we have a choice and as His followers we are to choose for God to be in charge.
3) What does this have to do with prayer?
Jesus showed us to pray this way in Matthew 6:9-10
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Kingdom praying is praying for God to be in charge. So, when we converse with God, we can’t seek first His kingdom by always asking Him to do what we want.
4) What about being real in prayer?
Real is good, but it can become me-centered, like- asking for good weather, a new job, someone getting well, etc. These are good things and they are real, and God wants us to bring these needs before Him, but as we spend time with Jesus and understand His love for us, as we recognize our need of Him, as we obey Him, we start wanting His way more and more even in our own difficulties. We seek first His kingdom and when we pray, we pray first for His way to happen in us, and around us, even if it doesn’t fix our problems, or give us what we want.
5) So, what does it mean to seek first His kingdom or pray for His way?
Kingdom praying is about getting my way out of the way and wanting God’s way first. We don’t get to be in control in His Kingdom. It means we confess our our selfishness as we remember it is all about God, not about me. It means we love, serve, forgive. It means we stand for truth and do the hard work of peace making. It means we pray for our world to know God, to choose Him and His way, to worship Him with their whole hearts. It means we ask God to use our lives, our voices, our talents, our resources, and even our problems and hurts to bring glory to His name.
So, what are you waiting for? Here’s a line to get you started…
Our Father in Heaven, Holy is your name. Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done.
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
In this passage Jesus is teaching His disciples about the fundamentals of prayer. Jesus is aware of how they have been influenced by others in their prayer lives. He realizes that not all of these influences have been healthy ones. He encourages them to go back to the basics in prayer. He encourages them to keep it simple.
In his book How to Pray, Pete Greig says, “God invites you to pray simply, directly and truthfully in the full and wonderful weirdness of the way he’s actually made you. Take a walk in the rain. Write prayers on the soles of your shoes. Sing the Blues. Rap. Write Petrarchan Sonnets. Sit in silence in a forest. Go for a run until you sense God’s smile.”
I encourage you to find some time with God to just be in the quiet. Think about how God has both weirdly and wonderfully made you. What is your own unique way of communicating with God? Ask Him to remove the external trappings of religiosity and show you how to express your true self in prayer today.
Never Lose Sight of the Cross
Hebrews 12:2-3 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
Do not lose sight of the Cross, for Christ’s love and grace are there for you; which are the center of Jesus life and our faith, leading us in our pursuit of worshiping God. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. John 3:16
When our sight begins to wain from the Cross and Christ it veers toward a world of sin and depravity. Our focus then becomes a mirror image of ourselves reflecting our selfish desires rather than seeing the love which Christ perished for as He looked past the Cross to see a joy which you and I could share in His resurrection unto everlasting life.
When we lose sight of the Cross we miss our opportunity to be Christ’s representative, taking His message as ambassadors into the world. For “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves”
When you can’t see the forest for the trees, remember this, there is only one tree that’s important; the tree of Life, the Cross, upon which your Savior died for you that you might have eternal life, and abundant life both in the now and the not yet (Heaven).
In order to get to where you want to go, you need to let go of where you are. For no matter where you are, no matter what you have or have not done, you cannot erase God’s love for you.
So stop looking at what you’ve been doing and begin to see what Christ is calling you to. If you find yourself lost in the wilderness of life, stop and re-focus on the Cross. Be silent and listen for that small loving voice of the Holy Spirit calling you to “Come” to the Cross of Jesus.
Only there will you see what you have never seen, hear what you have been longing to hear, experience the love, forgiveness and regeneration through God’s abundant Grace reserved for you. God loved you yesterday, He loves you today and He will still love you all of your tomorrows.
Look to the Cross!
As I faced my Maker at the last Judgment, I knelt before the Lord along with the other souls. Before each of us laid our lives, like the squares of a quilt, in many piles.
An Angel sat before each of us sewing our quilt squares together into a tapestry that was our life.
But as my Angel took each piece of cloth off the pile, I noticed how ragged and empty each of my squares were. They were filled with giant holes! Each square was labeled with a part of my life that had been difficult, the challenges and temptations I was faced with in everyday life. I saw hardships that I had endured, (which were the largest holes of all).
I glanced around me. Nobody else had such squares. Others had a tiny hole here and there, other tapestries were filled with rich color and the bright hues of worldly fortune.
I gazed upon my own life and was disheartened. My Angel was sewing the ragged pieces of cloth together, threadbare and empty, like binding air. Finally, the time came when each life was to be displayed, held up to the light and the scrutiny of truth. The others rose each in turn, holding up their tapestries. So filled their lives had been.
My Angel looked upon me and nodded for me to rise. My gaze dropped to the ground in shame. I hadn't had all the earthly fortunes. I had love in my life and laughter. But there had also been trials of illness, death, and false accusations that took from me my world as I knew it. I had to start over many times. I often struggled with the temptation to quit, only to somehow muster the strength to pick up and begin again. I had spent many nights on my knees in prayer, asking for help and guidance in my life. I had often been held up to ridicule, which I endured painfully; each time offering it up to the Father, in hopes that I would not melt within my skin beneath the judgmental gaze of those who unfairly judged me. And now, I had to face the truth. My life was what it was, and I had to accept it for what it had been.
I rose and slowly lifted the combined squares of my life to the light. An awe-filled gasp filled the air. I gazed around at the others who stared at me with eyes wide. Then, I looked upon the tapestry before me. Light flooded through the many holes, creating an image.
The face of Christ.
Then our Lord stood before me, with warmth and love in His eyes. He said,
"Every time you gave over your life to Me, it became My life, My hardships, and My struggles. Each point of light in your life is when you stepped aside and let Me shine through, until there was more of Me than there was of you...Welcome Home My Child"
I don’t know who wrote this but I could certainly relate so I thought I would share it with all of you. That is my prayer, that my life will be so full of Christ that those around me will see Christ instead of me. And when He reveals the tapestry of my life He will say, Welcome Home My Child!
As you weave your tapestry of life may the face of Christ be what He sees as He holds your work up to the light!
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God
has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
Of all the Israelites, perhaps no one pressed harder to please God than Saul of Tarsus.
Every area of his life conformed strictly to the Law. No one could accuse this respected
Pharisee of lacking zeal. He was a man with a mission --- a mission to please and serve
But on the road to Damascus, Saul’s life changed entirely.
From now on --- he would no longer try to please God himself.
Instead --- he would press on with the goal of knowing Christ.
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8.
Saul (now called Paul) had a new mission --- a mission that remained constant amid ever-changing circumstances. It didn’t matter whether he was preaching to a crowd or sitting in a damp prison. Paul now had one goal before which everything in his life bowed. Paul wanted to know his Lord.
How about you?
Is knowing Christ --- fellowshipping, trusting, and depending on Him --- the
goal toward which you’re striving?
Ask God to help you press on to know Him today.
We took dinner to a family one night and I was horrible...it was not homemade sweetness this time, I had to pick up to go. We were in the drive through line waiting to pick the food up and Riko was asking for things. As I tried to explain to him that this time we are giving not getting he said “Why?” (Famous last words of a three year old.)
I actually love when he asks questions. Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but it’s almost always a chance for me to point him to Jesus. This was a chance. He said “well we’re going to get and then give, right?”
Quite a while back there was a movie out called “Pay it Forward” where a teacher gives an assignment to think of an idea to change the world for the better, then put it into action. One student creates a plan for "paying forward" favors. In return, he not only affects the life of his struggling single mother, but he sets in motion a wave of kindness that blossoms into a national phenomenon.
In one of his best teaching moments, Jesus laid out for his disciples the “Beatitudes”, told of sorrows to come, speaks about loving our enemies, talks about judging others, etc. check out Luke 6 such a GREAT chapter! Nestled in there is a verse (38) “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. ”
In my speech I told my son we give because God has given us so much. Not because we want something in return. We hope that if we were in the same position we would be helped out also, but that’s not why we give. We give because our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude for the way God has provided to us. We give and love because he first loved us and because he gives and blesses us so much!
Andy and I try to serve as an example of that where ever we go, just the other day a lady was struggling with a giant box that she needed to take into the store to return. Andy didn’t hesitate, he said “can I help?”, and really didn’t give her the chance to answer (he knows our culture so well) he took the box all the way through the parking lot and all the way through the store for her. It’s little things like that. The meal we were taking wasn’t much, but for someone struggling with a health issue it meant something, carrying a box isn’t much but there was no way this lady would have made it all the way back there, the kindness meant something.
I don’t think Jesus was talking only about throwing money at things in this verse. Sometimes that’s the easiest, but I think sometimes it costs more when we need to put our time or effort into something. It also means much more to the recipient. Where can you “pay it forward” today or this week? Where has God blessed you abundantly? Where can you give back out of the overflow in your heart? Helping a neighbor going through a rough time by mowing their yard, taking them dinner, picking up their groceries? Serving in a ministry at church? Coaching a child’s ball team? Becoming a small group leader? Pray about it, how would God like for you to give back.
If there’s one theme that seems to be hitting me again and again it’s this: God does not waste a moment. So over the past several weeks I’ve been reflecting more and more on what it is that God is trying to teach me. As I’ve been patiently waiting and listening to God, there are few things that have risen to the surface. They are convictions of sorts—firmly held beliefs that inform decisions and actions. I share these with you in hopes that you may see some ways in which God has been using these moments to teach you.
The first one is I need Jesus to be number one in my life. If you’re like me, clutter has appeared in various places. I’m not talking just about your counters, car, or desk. Things have filled your life to the brim so that some of the most important things have been pushed aside—things like family, rest, and being present with God. The past few weeks have allowed some of the clutter to be cleared so that Jesus can be central. I’ve learned what Martha learned. Martha was so busy preparing to make everything perfect for Jesus, that she missed what was important and necessary. (See Luke 10:38-42) I have found myself spending more time reflecting on God’s truths and promises. As we re-emerge and start things back, I want to keep my walk with Jesus a priority.
The second is related, but slightly different: I need to master my time. Over the past few weeks, I've noticed how quickly time seems to vanish. And at the end of the day the things I really needed to get done, for some reason didn’t. Time just disappeared. Since the safe at home orders and moving forward, I’ve viewed my time a little differently. David prays that God would teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12) Every time I say “yes” to something, I say “no” to something else. A wise heart recognizes that time is limited and always counting. Therefore, I need to make the time I have count. These moments have become the perfect opportunity to reset and protect the the most important things, so I can glorify God in every area of life: family, work, and school.
There are other things I believe God is trying to teach me. Again, God never wastes a moment. What has God been teaching you? I’d love to hear from you!
God Always Provides A Way!
I am directionally challenged! One of the greatest inventions of my generation has been the GPS!
If I make a wrong turn my GPS will tell me to “proceed to the route.” If I am traveling too fast it will remind me to slow down and best of all it works regardless of the weather! (Most of the time!)
Isaiah reminds us that there is a highway we can find without a GPS. For God’s people this highway is well lighted and traveled by fellow believers. It is called the Highway of Holiness. Everyone on it has been deemed worthy! No one found on the road is in any danger of getting lost, or being subjected to road rage! This highway leads to the place called Zion, the mountain where Yahweh dwells.
Even though the journey may seem difficult and fraught with great challenge, remember you are not traveling alone. The One who built the highway is traveling with you! He is your guide and protector. And when you arrive you will find “Gladness and joy and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Enjoy the journey; the destination will soon come into sight!
n John 15:13 (ESV) Jesus told his disciples: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” I am truly grateful that Jesus laid down his life so that we may attain salvation. I’m reminded that the price he paid at Calvary was sufficient to cover the sins of the whole world. However, it is only effective for those who accept, in saving faith, the price he paid.
Speaking just for myself, I have to remember that I can be friendly toward others but if it is not returned in kind (at least to some extent) there is no relationship. I believe for a relationship to exist it must be on a two-way street with both parties giving and receiving. In verse 14 Jesus goes on to say, “You are my friends if you do what I command you (emphasis added). That’s a big if. I know Jesus is my friend and that our relationship is perfect from his side. I desire to be the best friend to him that I can be and yet I recognize how badly I fall short at times. Recognizing that I can’t do this on my own, I thank Jesus Christ in all his goodness for sending his Holy Spirit to guide, direct and empower me to become more like him. Although many days are better than others, this is a process yet to be completed, a process of continuing in GOD’s word and surrendering to his will.
Lord Jesus, I surrender to your will and to your way. Holy Spirit, help me in my lack of surrendering.
Where are you in your personal walk? Jesus is your friend. Are you his?
Shalom in Christ Jesus,
Today is the beginning of a new chapter in my life, I have taken a position with Washburn Tech teaching carpentry at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Facility in Topeka. I will be teaching young men 16-20 who have been incarcerated for various offenses.
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:7-8
Only God opens the doors for us that we walk through and we can be certain that he is walking with us. With all that is going on and all that has gone on in our lives in 2020 rest assured that God is with us. He has already made the arrangements for our lives. I am looking forward to speaking life into these young men and hopefully lives will be changed and all glory given to God.
Have an amazing Day!
In the Church of the Nazarene’s Articles of Faith, Article VII speaks of Prevenient Grace (also called Preceding Grace). This doctrine teaches that there is a measure of God’s grace made available to all people, even before we have the desire to serve Him. Think about that for a minute. Before you had your first thought about God, before you first considered turning your life over to Him, God was showing you grace. As Romans 5:6-11 says:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (ESV)
Remember that as we go through this time of discord and unrest that we were loved by God while still in our life of sin, and we are called to show love in the same way love was shown to us.
Photo by Samuel McGarrigle on Unsplash
What to do with a sermon outline…. Holly Woodbridge
So, there is the sermon outline, NOW GO PREACH IT WITH YOUR LIFE! (I will too.)
Many of us are familiar with the story of a young boy who was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When he came to each starfish, he would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched him with amusement.
He had been doing this for some time when a man approached him and said, “Little boy, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The boy seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, he bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference for that one!”
Oftentimes in the church we think of this story in terms of evangelism. I was thinking at this time in our world that it would also be a great story in regards to our calling as peacemakers. Jesus said, “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” I look at the fractured world around me. I scratch my head. It would easy to look at the complexities of this world’s present and past divisions and simply say, “It is beyond me.”
Guess What? It is beyond me. Guess What? It is beyond you. Guess What? You know where this is going, don’t you? That’s right! It is not beyond the God that you love and serve. We’ve sung the song so many times. He’s got the whole world in His hands. God also has a plan for this whole world that He carries in His holy hands. It is called the New Jerusalem. It is the city of Shalom. It is God’s city of peace. “They shall neither harm nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”
Is this just pie in the sky religion, Pastor Donny? Let’s all just wait around and let Jesus sort this thing out in the end, huh? Nope. You and I have a part to play in all this. I can’t fix the whole world. I can-by God’s grace-make peace with this one…and this one…and this one…. I will leave you with a prayer by a great Christ follower named Francis.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Photo by Ninno JackJr on Unsplash
Dear Church Family:
One of my not so fond remembrances was the opportunity to dig out an old rock lined well which over the years had filled up with dirt. With each scoop of dirt that went into the bucket to be pulled up out of the well I sank lower and lower, down and down into a hole which could have collapsed. The lower it went the darker and colder it became until I was twenty foot deep and the cold water began to run in faster than it could be removed. It impressed upon me the feeling of being Joseph as his brothers plotted to kill him but instead they toss him into a well that was way out in the wilderness.
When our old sinful nature controls our life, it also seems like each occurrence lowers us deeper and deeper into the well of despair with little hope of getting out. But God has long arms, can reach down into our well of desperation and lift us out. And unlike the water that rushed in around me in that old well, God offers us a cleansing cool drink from the well of life that “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life (John 4:14)”
Had Joseph never had the hardship of his well experience he never would have tapped into the gift that God had in store for his future (Genesis 37).
Like Joseph, our lives can be filled with what seems to be setbacks on the surface, but are really situations that mature us, test us, and ultimately set us in motion for God’s plan to come to fruition in and through us.
Here are some of the benefits to deepening your spiritual well in Christ:
Dear Church Family:
As I watched all the riots and unrest in our country I couldn’t help but wonder how much of this anger stems from everyone being fearful about the future of America as we once knew it because of Covid -19. People have lost their jobs, have been made to stay at home, been forced or enabled to work from home, homeschool their children, wear masks, and disinfect everything constantly. We have been made to stop eating at restaurants, stop going to the gym, stop seeing their families members, stop being able to be with sick family members, stop being able to attend loved one’s funerals, stop graduates from being able to enjoy graduation services with family and friends, stop going to church by closing church doors and the list goes on. It has caused many to change their entire lifestyles.
Although Covid-19 has caused a lot of good changes in lifestyles such as having more time for families, slowing down and reflecting on the things we just take for granted and even has made more people get into God’s Word; there is a an underlying feeling of unrest.
I’m sure many wonder the same things as I do…when is this all going to end? Is this really for real? What is the real truth? Is this the end times? Is the rapture going to happen? Is this really just a political stunt? Or is God trying to get our attention because the end is coming like a thief in the night?
When I think that it could be the coming of the end or close to the rapture I think of the Left Behind Series and it terrifies me to think what it will be like for those who are left behind. It makes me more determined to live my life in such a way that I will be a strong influence on those I come in contact with. That I will develop a stronger prayer life so that I can have a new boldness that will enable me to warn my family members and friends and acquaintances that they need to get their lives straightened out with Jesus before it’s too late! That He is the only way, the truth and the life! That NO ONE comes to the Father but through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
This whole Covid-19 has certainly caused a lot of unrest and anger which is being played out across America. Our country has been and still is becoming very wicked and evil. We have pushed God out of so many things in our country. We took God out of our schools and out of our court systems. Wrong has become right. Lies have become truth. Babies are being slaughtered by the thousands every day because it has been deemed an essential business. Government officials are more corrupt than ever. It seems as though we are experiencing what the Apostle Paul talked about in Romans 1:18-32.
God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity – Romans 1:18-32
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Doesn’t that describe our world today?
BUT praise God there is hope!
In 2 Chronicles 7:14 God give us a promise.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
We as Followers of Christ need to humble ourselves and get on our knees and pray for our country. Pray for our president and pray for our government officials. Pray for our police officers and our law enforcement. Pray for God to open hearts and for people to turn from their wicked ways and pray for God to heal our land! If America ever needed the prayers of God’s people, it’s now. Will you join me in making it a top priority to pray for America and for the lost and dying world we are living in?
Dear Church Family:
Something Has to Go
It was simple for Paul. He loved being with Jesus.
“To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Knowing Christ deeply consumed him.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8)
There is literally nothing more important you could do today than to spend meaningful time alone with God.
There is no substitute for being alone with God. If you don’t have time, you need to quit something to make room. Skip a meal. Cancel a meeting. End some regular commitment.
There is literally nothing more important you could do today.
God literally determines whether or not you take another breath.
“He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).
Could anything be more important than meeting with the One who decides if you live through this day? Could anything be better? How can we not make time to be with the Maker of time?
What plans do you have today that you think so important that you would race past the Creator to get to them?
Dear Church Family:
Standing at the top of the slide my son was singing it, really it was hollering at the very top of his lungs, but in song, to his own tune, “God is always with meeeeeeeee!”
I almost shushed him. Until I heard the words. He’s hit a frightful stage. Haven’t we all? Covid, riots, racism, natural disasters, media, politics, finances, food shortages...
When Riko’s fearful I always tell him “God is always with you. There’s nothing to be afraid of, the Bible says ‘if God is for us then who can be against us.’ If you’re scared, pray and ask God to help remind you he’s always there.”
It sounds so simple doesn’t it? But so hard to actually practice. Maybe if we keep saying it soon we will believe it. Maybe if we remind ourselves each time that ugly anxiety begins to creep it’s head. Maybe we should write it on our door posts or foreheads? Maybe you should sing it at the very top of your lungs like Riko, shout it from the mountain tops. However you can remember it today, just rest in knowing that God is always with you. He’s got your back. He loves you more than imaginable. The creator of the galaxies knows your name and has numbered the very hairs on your head. And if He is for you, what can there be to be afraid of.
Missing your faces,
Dear Church Family:
If you remember the story of Joseph, there were several moments when he could have spent most of his days asking, “Why me? Why is this happening now? What did I do?” These are normal questions, and I think we all ask them from time to time. Think about Joseph—sold into slavery by his brothers, falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, thrown into prison, forgotten and left behind. If ever there was a person in history who deserved to ask those questions, it was Joseph. Not only that, but in Genesis 40, Joseph sees an opportunity that could only have come from God, to get out of prison. A cupbearer who would be restored to his position, as predicted by Joseph, could be his ticket out. Joseph probably saw this as his moment from God for freedom. But we’re told it took two years before anything finally took place.
Let me ask you, when you’re waiting on God to move, what do you typically do? Joseph reveals something that I want more of in my own life—the ability to keenly understand that God does not waste a single moment—especially our hurt and pain. Instead, God wants to use them to alter our perspective, allowing us to see what only God can see. Does it take away the pain? No. Does it heal the hurt? No. It simply positions us to be used for God’s purpose. So, the next time you’re waiting on God, I want to challenge you to remember Joseph. His story just might help you in what you’re facing today.
Dear Church Family,
Update From WWCN For June 4th:
As you know, The Lord’s Supper plays a central role on in our church. This Sunday we will partake of the Lord’s Supper together in house and on line. Towards the end of our time together as we partake of communion, just follow the prompts in the service if you are watching on line.
If you want to use the traditional elements, you may pick them up from the Church office via a drive thru station located in front of the church office Thursday - Saturday from 8:30 a/m To 5:00 p/m. You will find pre-packaged elements in baskets for easy pickup. Just take as many as you need for your family. If you so desire, you can use bread and juice from your home which you may already have on hand.
May God bless you and see you soon!
Pastor Holmes and Pastoral Staff
Dear Church Family:
A Word for Troubled Times
Words are powerful communication tools. They have the power to affirm or convict, cause a smile or a frown, create peace or chaos and even to transmit hope or shame.
The one word in our communication tool box which seems to transcend almost all others is Hope!
The world sees hope as “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)
For those of us traveling the Highway of Holiness it is a deep settled confidence that God will keep His promises!
Isaiah 43:2 says, When you pass through the water, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overflow you; when you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.
We can embrace a deep settled confidence that God will see us through difficult times. We can claim a deep settled confidence that God will keep His promises to never leave us nor forsake us.
We can live in and through a deep settled confidence that God will not leave us to struggle through difficult days fruitlessly, but will come to us.
Declare hope in your life today. Embrace hope as the answer to difficult times and yes live in hope of better days!
Dear Church Family:
A New Normal?
According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, normal is defined as “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.”
A quick look at Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance verified that the word normal is not listed. Hmmm.
As the pandemic panic begins to ease there seems to be a lot of discussion about what the new normal may or must be. As our local congregation of believers considers this, it seems some new norms must apply if we are to stay within newly-formed legal or semi-legal rules for various activities. However, as Christians we adhere to a higher calling - a call to holiness.
In Matthew 5:48 Jesus Christ says, You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In I Peter 1:14-16 the apostle Paul tells us, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
I Corinthians 11:1 calls us to be imitators of Christ. This I believe is the normal we are to strive for. In Hebrews 4:12 we are instructed to: Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Please remember we are sojourners in a land that is not our true home. We are just passing through. We need to also remember whose we are, not just who we are. Practicing the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit will see us through.
Notes from the Staff @The Woods