Last Words: A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Matthew 28:16-20 (Jesus Talks to His Followers)
16 The 11 followers went to Galilee. They went to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. 17 On the mountain they saw Jesus and worshiped him. But some of them did not believe that it was really Jesus. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All power in heaven and on earth is given to me. 19 So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach them to obey everything that I have told you. You can be sure that I will be with you always. I will continue with you until the end of the world.”
Last words are important. When we know our time with someone we care about is coming to an end, we speak words of love, instruction, or encouragement. We don’t waste time with the rising and falling of the stock market or what we are planning to make for dinner when we get home. Our final words before a good bye are usually very important words, words they can hold onto until we meet again.
Well, Jesus last words were like that: He reminds his followers that
So, how are you doing with your assignment? It is not an option, you know!
Tonight a man is somewhere proclaiming the good news
Winning families to Jesus all around his neighborhood
He tells them that God is able to make their house a home
He wants to win his world for Christ, but he can't do it alone
But each one can reach one
As we follow after Christ we all can lead one
We can lead one to the Savior
And together we can tell the world that Jesus is the way (Babbie Mason)
Dry Bones in the Closet
37 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
Halloween time always brings back memories from my childhood. When I was just a little tike, I wanted to stay up late and watch the Halloween monster movies like so many of my friends. My parents didn’t allow me to do so, therefore, one Halloween night I snuck down to watch TV after everyone else had gone to sleep. My eyeballs were bloodshot and popping out with suspense from witnessing the monstrous smorgasbord of mummies, vampires, and werewolves on the TV screen. I was getting a bit sleepy, so I thought it might help to grab a late night snack from the kitchen.
When I returned to the couch, I noticed there were some strange creaking and knocking sounds coming from the closet. Was my imagination playing tricks on me or were there really skeletons in the closet? I was deathly afraid to look in the closet, but even more afraid not to look. I just had to get it over with, so I gradually began turning the closet doorknob when suddenly my two sneaking brothers opened the door and yelled BOO!!!! at the top of their lungs. I ran up the stairs to my room as fast as my little legs could take me. If I hadn’t have had a birthday coming up two days later, I don’t know when I would have made my way out of my room ever again.
The people of Israel had had their own share of skeletons in the national closet. Their spiritual rebellion had led to exile, which led to not only literal death but also the death of their covenant relationship with God. Ezekiel described them like bones. Dry…dead…separate. There was not a bit of sinewy collagen to connect anyone to anything…anywhere.
The prophet gets addressed with a very practical question. Can these bones live? The normal answer to this question is……of course not! Dead bones have the tendency to stay dead, unless you happen to be watching Zombie movies on Halloween. This question, however, is posed by the God of creation. That which he creates he can re-create. He breathes into dust and out pops a living soul. He takes a man too old to have children and makes for himself a Father of a nation. He takes a boy too small to fit into Saul’s armor and slays a nine foot plus giant. When he needs a mother for the Messiah (the king of the Jews), he breathes his life into a peasant woman named Mary. The same Spirit that hovered over creation is now hovering over the skeletal remains of a nation. The Father begins to sing the song of creation over a dry, dead people.
Your leg bone connected to your knee bone
Your knee bone connected to your thigh bone
Your thigh bone connected to your hip bone
Your hip bone connected to your back bone
Your back bone connected to your shoulder bone
Your shoulder bone connected to your neck bone
Your neck bone connected to your head bone
Now hear the word of the Lord!
It’s true! Only the God of creation and resurrection can breathe life back into the dead. But guess what? You have a part to play in all of this. Today, He invites us to be the ones who call it forth. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” God says, “prophecy to the breath”. Speak to the Spirit! Speak life! In a nation littered with dead bones, we speak life! We speak blessing into the curse. We speak hope out of despair! We speak healing into a world beyond human repair. All of this is made possible because we know, love, and serve the God who raises the dead.
“We call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive!”
Choices, Choices, Choices!
Choices! Life is full of choices. Every day we make choices. Some are made without much thought. To get up in the morning, have a cup of coffee, make our bed etc. There are choices we make every day that are very tiresome, like what to make for dinner tonight! Sometimes we have to really ponder and pray and search before making choices, especially choices that could be life changing. Sometimes I think it would have been easier if God wouldn’t have given us so much leeway when it comes to choices. But then I don’t think I would like to be a robot that couldn’t make my own choices.
As a parent when our children are young we can help them make safe choices, smart choices, and sometimes difficult choices. Then as they get older and start making their own choices we wonder what they were thinking when they make some of the foolish choices they make. We wonder if we went wrong somewhere that would lead them to make such a choice and sometimes, at least I have and still do, wonder if I could have stopped them from making some of the life choices they have made that seem so indifferent to what they were taught. Did I not teach them enough? Did I not set a good enough example? Did I not punish severely enough when they were young for some of their wrong choices? Did I not verbalize my disapproval loud enough? I know most of us want the very best for our children and when we see them make some of the “dumb” choices they make it breaks our heart because we know what the consequences could be. Sometimes there are lifelong consequences that alter their whole lives and ours as well.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
Deuteronomy 6:6 tells us, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on your doorpost of your houses and on your gates”
We as parents are to train our children in our homes when they are young. We are to give them the foundation to stand on when life gets tough. We are to instruct and live our lives before them as an example to follow. Raising children has to be one of the most rewarding, worthwhile, frustrating, exasperating, tiring jobs I have ever done! And it is never ending! Just because a child turns 18 doesn’t release us from the job of parenting! I will always be a parent! I may not have the control over the choices they make, good or bad, as I did when they were young, but nonetheless they still turn to me for advice and instruction. They don’t always take my advice and they sometimes seem to have forgotten all the teaching they were given when they were young. But I have had to come to the realization I can’t be responsible for the choices they make and I know in my heart I raised them in the way God would have me raise them. All of my children were raised in the same home, same environment, same rules, same consequences for their actions, same unconditional love, same structure and consistency. Have they all made good choices or the choices I would have made for them? Probably not. Some have wandered off the path and have made some choices that have altered the outcome of what God’s first choice for them would have been. But through prayer and unconditional love for them as a person they know the way home. They all have that firm foundation on which to stand and they have all come back at one time or another to their teachings as a child.
If you are a parent today that is struggling with the choices you see your child making, take heart! If you have given them the godly foundation on which to stand, His Word promises they will return to those teachings. If you didn’t know the Lord when your children were young but are serving Him now, take heart! He knows and loves them more than you do! Consistent living and setting Christ’s example before them and consistently praying for your children are the key!
I pray for all you parents out there that are trying to juggle school schedules, work or lack of work, finances, child care, and consistent parenting. I know your plates are overflowing! One good thing in all of this could be that you have more time with your children now than before and more time to instruct them in the ways of the Lord! Take the opportunity and spend time listening to the hearts of your children. Give them biblical answers to the things they struggle with. Take them to the scriptures and let them see what God has to say about some of the choices they are struggling with. You will not regret it down the road, especially if you have given them that firm foundation and path to find their way back if they should stray. Our children are a gift from God to raise for Him!
My greatest desire is to know that when I stand before Jesus someday and He asks what I did with all the children He entrusted into my care, I can proudly say, I raised them to know Him. And I want Him to be able to say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant!”
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. John 9:39
Our spiritual blindness is an act of our own will, centered around the things we desire which in reality own us, causing our desire for darkness to be stronger than our desire for the light. To say it another way, it is our personal moral preferences.
Jesus said: “This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been wrought by God.” John 3:19-31
God reveals His light in all His creation of nature, through His Holy Word, and through the very life and testimony of His Son Jesus Christ; thereby giving us and abundance of light. However, our preferences can lure us away into the spiritual blindness of sin.
We are very cautious about our normal vision and the potential which disease and aging can have upon our vision. But we often fail to recognize the effect of spiritual blindness and the greater tole it takes upon us; distorting our view of life, beliefs and our desire for things that blind us from the spiritual light. But there is yet hope for “I, the LORD, invite you to come and talk it over. Your sins are scarlet red, but they will be whiter than snow” Isaiah 1:18. God calls us into the light and the blessings of obedience as well as forgiveness from the penalty of sin.
Satan, the author of sin and darkness blinds the minds of those who do not believe in the glorious gospel of Christ who is the image of God and author of light.
Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Here are five suggestions to help you develop your personal Spiritual Wellness Plan:
1. Examine your spiritual wellbeing. Are you spending more time walking in spiritual darkness of the world than in the spiritual light of Jesus Christ? What are your personal moral preferences?
2. Evaluate those individuals with whom you are in contact with the most. Are they drawing you into the light or away from it?
3. Spiritual blindness is an infection of sin. How are your treating yours? Jesus is the cure.
4. How is your daily spiritual diet? What are you taking into your heart and mind? Remember, what you take into your mind, you can never remove. But there is hope; Jesus can.
5. Schedule regular appointments with the Great Spiritual Physician to meet with Him in prayer daily. Jesus is open for appointments 24/7.
Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Out of Overwhelming Challenges, I Rise
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Romans 8:35
God does not keep His child immune from trouble; He promises,
And he said we are “super-victors”in the midst of them,
Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver, having deceived even Paul, or else some extraordinary thing happens to someone who holds on to the love of God when the odds are totally against him.
I used to be a monkey bar pro. I spent more time on the monkey bars (and the tetherball) on the playground than anything, and I had the callouses to prove it. I was trying to teach my son how to go from one bar to the other at the park a while back. He was terrified to let go of the one bar in order to grab onto the next.
In our family ministries this month we have been talking about ways we can grow and stretch in our faith. Last night we talked about how sometimes in order to stretch our faith we have to let go of something (sin) and cling to something else, much like the monkey bars, if you don’t let go, you can’t get to the next rung.
We challenged our students to look at some of their bad habits, particularly those that pull us away from God. The Bible uses the word "sin" to talk about the bad habits that harm us spiritually, and it reminds us that we're all prone to mistakes and failures. We all have room to grow and growth, or transformation is the goal of Christianity. It’s not just a prayer we pray once, it doesn’t stop there. Stretching our faith goes hand in hand with transformation.
Check out Romans 12:16-21 Paul gives a list of “don’ts” or things we need to let go of in order to grow; being proud, being “know-it-alls”, holding grudges, looking for revenge, letting sin control us. He in turn challenges us to cling to; humility, compassion, integrity, peacemaking and goodness.
You can stretch your faith by letting something go. What is it for you? What do you need to let go of? What are you holding onto that’s pulling you down or holding you back from moving forward in your relationship with Christ? What is it that you need to cling to instead?
“This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13
The other morning I went for a jog. Now, I’m not an avid runner. I do so because I know that exercise is good for me. It gets me moving, my heart pumping, and I feel much better afterwards. One lesson I’ve discovered about exercise though—it’s results are much greater when it is consistent. Exercising sporadically is OK, but it will not have the lasting results our bodies need.
The same principle at play in exercise is true in many other areas of our lives as well. For instance, love has a greater impact when it is demonstrated consistently. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “Love is spelled T-I-M-E.” Sporadic displays of love are wonderful, but our lives and those around us will benefit more when it is a steady part of who we are. We cannot expect others to know our true feelings without regularly communicating, and more importantly, showing our love. Love modeled through commitment is what motivates us to get out of bed in the middle of the night to comfort a child, take a meal to a neighbor, or provide free childcare for a single mom so that she can run errands. The principle of consistency is that, over time, it adds up.
Jesus was an expert at this. His words and actions constantly revealed his love for the world. Time and again, Jesus acted out of love. He cared more for those around him than he did for his own needs every time. Then, in a way that punctuated it all, he laid down his life. Jesus was a consistent demonstration of love.
Let me ask you, would those around you say you regularly demonstrate love? What steps can you take to establish more consistency in this area?
America is a nation in crisis. The intensity of the rhetoric often mirrors the hearts of far too many. Let us never forget that words have consequences.
As we attempt to view things without personal agendas and bias, we see some startling realities. We do not have an equality problem or a gender or race problem; although all these do exist in some form or another.
What we do have in America and our world today is a heart problem. All too often we have allowed ourselves to be lulled into a negative counterproductive group think! We, at times, have followed gurus of group think and allowed ourselves to be identified with values, attitudes and actions which we privately abhor.
The answer to the national crisis is both simple and profoundly difficult.
If we are to survive as a nation and thrive as Christ followers, we must return to God’s Holy Word as our guide and chief value. Prayer must once again become vital, grace freely given and received and peace with God and His greatest creation paramount.
When this occurs, God will be honored, peace will prevail and our nation healed.
The responsibility for this lies within the values, attitudes and actions of all those who claim Christ as Savior and Lord! America and the world need godly people to be and reflect God’s heart and values. Let us do and become what our Father has raised us to become!
I Chronicles 7:14: And 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 will forgive their sins and will heal their land.
Scripture speaks clearly about the brevity of our lives and the need to allow the Holy Spirit to bring guidance and empowerment into them. James 4:14-15 is one of my personal favorites.
“. . . yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’”
When we lived in Southern California, we visited my sister in the Redwood country of Northern California. Her home was surrounded by fairly young Redwood trees, maybe a couple hundred years old. The trees were pretty tall, but still very slender as Redwoods go. Redwoods are interesting in that too much water will kill them. They thrive better in areas that have little rain, but frequent foggy conditions, and they also help produce the fog that nurtures and nourishes them.
As I was enjoying the sunrise on the deck of my sister’s house, I noticed a wisp of fog in the upper branches of a nearby Redwood. As I watched, the wisp actually increased in size and began to rise higher as the day was warming. When the wisp reached the top of the tree and was exposed directly to the sun, it just disappeared.
Please understand that the whole experience I witnessed took less time to happen than it has taken for me to tell you about it. The Holy Spirit brings this back to my mind periodically for different reasons but most often to remind me how truly brief our lives are. As we are reminded in Ephesians 4:16, we must “…make the most of every opportunity…”
1 John 2: 15 – 17 says: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
God has called His people, the Church, to be a people unique and set apart from the rest of the world. In Galatians 5, we find a list of what a Christian’s attitude should look like, described as the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. While many people are quick to reference the fruit of the Spirit, we don’t speak as often about how this fruit is set in opposition to the fruit of the Flesh (or the sinful lifestyle). Galatians 5:19 – 20 says: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Compare this idea with what is said in 1 Peter 2:9: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. We were called out of darkness, the same darkness that the world calls light. We cannot be salt and light (Matthew 5:13 – 16) if we are still doing the works of the flesh.
Consider the command in 1 John 2 with the validation in 1 Peter 2. Do not gratify the desires of the flesh, and take up your mantle of the Royal Priesthood!
To pray or not to pray - A Pondering by Holly Woodbridge
I was given a short but powerful bit of godly wisdom from one of our church youth a couple weeks ago:
“You can’t just NOT pray and expect something to happen.” – Caleb Franke, age 12
This is great advice. It echoes the very WORD of God:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray without ceasing,
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
There is much to pray for in these days. So, go ahead do it. Take Caleb’s words and apply them to your life because “You can’t just NOT pray and expect something to happen.”
“Whisper a prayer in the morning
Whisper a prayer at noon.
Whisper a prayer in the evening
To keep your Heart in tune”
Pray Twice, Vote Once
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Feelings of worry and anxiety will inevitably pop up as you travel the path of life. This seems to be particularly true during election season. I have heard many a person these days say they are getting off of social media or just plain taking a break from the news. They are on anxiety overload!
The Apostle Paul diagnoses the symptoms and presents a healthy prescription to all our anxiety maladies. Dr. Paul reminds us that we don’t have to live there. The answer is to make our way to God as soon as we sense a worry. Don’t delay! Pray immediately and ask for His strength even as we mentally make our way over the next weeks to the voting booth. Here is an anonymous prayer we can pray as we move through these days.
Our Heavenly Father,
Thank you for being with us and for sending the Holy Spirit to comfort us and to guide us. Lord, right now it feels like there is so much at stake, and there is a lot of anxiety about the upcoming election. People are worried. Your Word says to be anxious for nothing, but in everything to come to You; I ask that you provide peace and comfort to the worried hearts of this country right now. Relieve their anxiety by helping them to focus on You and your will. Help those who feel anxious to instead feel Your presence. Please diffuse the spirit of anxiety across the nation, bringing understanding between all people. Reign over us, O Lord, instead of fear.
In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
Have you ever heard of Gumbo; not the soup but a type of clay soil that is often too wet or too dry. When wet, it sticks to everything and when dry, it’s like concrete, hard to break up and cracks wide open.
The most undesirable piece of ground on our entire farm was the approximate 20-yard square patch of gumbo soil right in the middle of a particular field. If it was wet, you knew to avoid it, but when it dried, it dried on the surface only. You guessed it, every so often I was tempted to go through it, only to completely plug up the plow or disk, getting stuck in the middle of it. Further aggravating the dilemma by cleaning the impacted mud out of the implement with only a large tractor lug wrench to use as a shovel. Then getting so upset over the ordeal, to throw the wrench at the implement only to have it bounce right back usually striking me in the shin. Even on my wedding day, I charged through the same spot, sinking an 18-foot disk in the gumbo, requiring a long chain to eventually pull it back out.
You might say, lesson learned, well easier said than done, for over the years it seemed to re-occur.
We all have those gumbo-like spots in our lives that even though we knew not to go there, we go through them again. They may seem fine on the surface, but Satan often covers things over to deceive us, only to find out that deep within they catch us in their sticky grasp or block us from breaking free.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.Psalm 40:2
A man gave his son a job to do; son there’s a stone in the field go move it. The son tried and tried to no avail. He goes to his father worn out and says I tried but I can’t move it. The father reply’s there’s a prying bar against the shed. Yes, father I tried that, I’ve tried everything, it won’t budge. The father responded by saying my son you haven’t tried everything; You have not asked me your father!
Lord, rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper! Psalm 69:14
God in his faithfulness reminds us of where we once were, and that no matter what the circumstance or gumbo spot, he is always there to see us through, forgive us, and help us once again, and again, and again, 70 x 7 and beyond.
Peter’s failure was not his defining moment, for Jesus paid for them all, Peters, yours and mine; all on the cross.
O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:24-25
What about you? Let go of whatever is holding you back, bogging you down, grab hold of Jesus, believe in Him and allow Him to set you free.
Love the People God Gives You!
Ezekiel 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to follow my laws.
Have you ever noticed that the older we get the faster time flies by? Seems like only yesterday I had a house full of small kids, then a house full of teenagers, then one by one they went off to college and then on to marriage and now my house is empty except for one temperamental calico cat. Time has become a precious commodity. It’s been five years now since Arnie went home to be with Jesus. Seems like just yesterday! My grandkids are now getting married and having kids of their own. My youngest daughter just turned 30 and has two children of her own. Seems like just yesterday I came to Wanamaker and it’s been 18 years. Wow, where does the time go?
Time leaves you with just the memories, those cherished memories that sometimes are so vivid that it seems like just yesterday. The memories of the day my first child was born and the day our first adoption happened when I realized just how much God loved me and would entrust me to raise a child for Him. I remember so vividly the day I was sanctified, filled with the Spirit, and totally transformed as I gave my whole life and everything I had to Him. When I think back to that memorable day, I can still see in my mind the yellow sunflower wallpaper on the wall and still feel that tingling sensation I felt that day from my head to my feet. That day will forever be etched into my memory! That was 45 years ago! God gave me the verses in Ezekiel 36:25-27 and they are still my favorite verses today!
Little did I know what God had in store for me that life-changing day; that He would call me to raise 14 kids for Him, that He would call me into full-time ministry, that I would live such a great full life with Him, that I would finish my life out as a widow trusting Him and Him alone for my every need! And I am reminded once again that our memories are what we are left with.
The older I get the more precious the years I have left become. Mondays so quickly turn into Fridays. Days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months and months into years! Here it is almost the end of another year! When I try to envision where I will be in five years it can be very frightening. Whatever time God has left for me, I really want to take the time to enjoy the ones God has entrusted into my life. I want to say the things that need to be said and to live my life as a witness to those who need to see Jesus.
There is a new song out by the Bowling Family. The words say it all.
I got a call this morning
I can’t believe he’s gone
Thought he’d be here forever
But one more time, time proved me wrong.
Thought I should call to say hello
But I’m reminded once again
That life’s a vapor in the wind.
Love the people that God gives you
They’re a gift that heaven sent
Live and laugh and make some memories
Cherish every moment spent
‘Cause none of us are here forever
That’s a proven fact
Love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back
Each day the mirror tells the story
I wonder where the time has gone
Children laughing round the table
That now have children of their own
There may be things you need to say
So while today is still today
You have the chance to hold them close
One more chance to let them know
Love the people that God gives you
They’re a gift that heaven sent
Live and laugh and make some memories
Cherish every moment spent
‘Cause none of us are here forever
That’s a proven fact
Love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back
Oh and the list keeps getting longer
Friends and family that I miss
But when I think of what matters most
It all comes down to this
None of us are here forever
And that’s a proven fact
Just love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back
Love the people that God gives you
‘Cause one day you’ll want them back.
God’s Purpose or Mine?
“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.”
We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success.
We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us.
What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end,
Whatever it may be,
God’s purpose is to enable me to see that
However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
One of my first and favorite memories of my mission experience in East Timor happened the first night I was there. I was invited to a small group in one of the pastors’ homes. I arrived, sat down on the tile floor. I had no idea what any of the ladies were saying and just sat back and observed. A young woman came in and fell to the floor sobbing. She just started laying it all out there. I sat beside the pastor who knew English, so she translated. The lady and her husband had just gotten into a huge fight over laundry. She had said some choice words to him and he to her. She was mad at him and also herself for the way she reacted.
I marveled at her transparency and then I watched as the women in the group gathered around her physically, married, single, young and old and they told her it was going to be ok, they’d get through this together, they were here for her. They offered her a few words of advice and encouragement and then they laid hands on her and prayed with her. And oh how they prayed, EVERYONE, out LOUD, fervently lifting this woman and her husband to the Lord.
How awesome was it that she found a place where she could share something like this and know that it would be received with love and trust.
It’s why we think small groups and being a part of a community of faith are so important. We all need a place to belong, to be loved and to trust. A place to come together, to talk about the hard things of life and faith, to seek God’s council, to grow in self and together learn more about how to have a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. A place to be surrounded by people who love you and want God’s best for you.
I hope that you find a place to have this sort of experience. And I hope in turn that you are able to be honest about the things that are going on in your life. It’s important for us to be there for one another, especially in these days. And so important to be honest, not just to those around us, but to Him, who knows our everything.
I was reminded of this the other day when I heard this song on the radio.
It’s called “Truth Be Told” by Matthew West. Here’s a link if you’d like to check it out. Below the link are some of the lyrics….
“Lie number one you're supposed to have it all together.
And when they ask how you're doing
Just smile and tell them, "Never better".
Lie number two everybody's life is perfect except yours.
So keep your messes and your wounds
And your secrets safe with you behind closed doors.
Truth be told, the truth is rarely told.
Now I say I'm fine, yeah I'm fine oh I'm fine, hey I'm fine,
But I'm not, I'm broken.
And when it's out of control, I say it's under control but it's not.
And you know it.
I don't know why it's so hard to admit it,
When being honest is the only way to fix it.
There's no failure, no fall
There's no sin you don't already know.
So let the truth be told.
There's a sign on the door, says, "Come as you are" but I doubt it.
'Cause if we lived like it was true, every Sunday morning pew would be crowded.
But didn't you say the church should look more like a hospital
A safe place for the sick, the sinner and the scarred and the prodigals
Well truth be told
The truth is rarely told….”
Recently Jolene and I completed a 4,400-mile round trip of the southwestern states. One day we visited the place where the Lincoln County War was fought in New Mexico.
The Lincoln County War was an old west range war fought between rival factions in 1878. The feud became famous because of the participation of a number of notable figures of the old west, including Billy the Kid, Sheriffs William Brady and Pat Garrett, cattle ranchers John Chisum, Alexander MacSween and Laurence Murphy, among others. Broken down into its simplest reality it was a war for political power and economic dominance.
It is interesting to note one of the first questions posed to Jesus after His resurrection was a political one. “And so, when they had come together, they were asking Him saying, Lord is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom of Israel?” Acts 1:6
With our political season in full swing it is well to remember, Jesus was not then, nor is He now a politician! In fact, His answer to their question was a spiritual rebuke (Acts1:7). The apostles wanted to turn their political concerns into a cause which would have a human remedy.
We who are Christ followers should remember that the only answer to the chaos and bitterness assailing our world today is not found in a political party, but rather in a spiritual revival!
So, lets look to the only One who can put our humpty dumpty world back together again. Jesus is His name. Salvation, peace, and grace is His proclamation!
John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
In our postmodern age many people, including some who identify themselves as Christians, challenge the reality of Jesus Christ as the way. The concept of truth is strongly debated as well. It appears that the popular notion is that truth is what an individual thinks it is, not what GOD and His Word say it is.
Which side of this debate are you on? If you believe John 14:6 and accept GOD’s Word as the complete truth, then you fall within what theologians call the scandal of particularity, which is the belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven. The Christian faith doesn’t put forth a general philosophy of religious truth statements or a set of propositions. It tells a story and that story invites questions such as the one which prompted the above response from Jesus. Why is Jesus Christ the only way? Why has GOD chosen to use a particular way to choose particular people for His particular purposes? This is an offense to many modern sensibilities, and I believe their questions deserve a Biblical answer.
I want to encourage you (all) to read GOD’s Word. Ask questions, but be ready to answer questions as well when the challenges come.
Do you ever worry? Do you ever find yourself with a heaviness upon you? Recently I have found myself in this state and don’t understand why. I believe in my heart that I have fully committed my life to the Lord and that all that I have and all that I will do is in Gods hands. So why do I find myself with a heavy heart?
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
My heart aches for this nation I love and to see the division is unsettling at times. Where do we put our faith in this situation? We have an election coming up that is the focus of the nation, we have been through the trials of Covid-19. Yet we still have our King Jesus on the throne, and this is where our peace should come from. We allow Jesus to wrap his arms around us and we do not live in fear.
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
There is nothing on the face of this planet that can bring us down when we hope in the Lord. Our lives should always be soaked in the word of God and who we are should be what tells others who we follow.
Who we are as Christians should be enough for an unbeliever to doubt their unbelief! Deitrich Bonhoeffer
We must remember that God has promised to “ never leave us nor forsake us “ do we believe in his promises always, or only when we feel we need him.
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord. Isaiah 54:17
Have an amazing day!
“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and apart from Him nothing was made that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.”
This is how the Gospel according to John begins. John is unique among the Gospels. Matthew and Luke begin with the story of the Birth of Jesus, and Mark begins with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But John chooses to begin by addressing Jesus’ fundamental nature. We know the identity of the Word from the 14th verse of the same Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The power of what John accomplishes here cannot be understated. By emphasizing Jesus’ nature of God, John sets the tone for the rest of his Gospel: one of power, one of love, and one of hope. Hope that there is redemption, and hope that no matter how dark the world appears, the Light shall continue to shine, and the darkness shall not overpower Him!
Lamps and Commitment: A pondering by Holly Woodbridge
Psalm 119:97-112, (actually if you read the whole Psalm instead of this devotional, it’s way better than anything I can write.)
Psalm 119:105 ESV
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
Many believe David is the author of Psalm 119, this very lengthy psalm. There is even a tradition that he used this Psalm to teach young Solomon the alphabet, but not just for writing, the spiritual alphabet for living. What we do know for sure is that this writer knew pain and trouble, and that he also knew God and had a deep faith in God’s love, truth, and compassion.
All through this Psalm you see a first-person conversation with God. He is not talking about God. He is talking to God. And as he communes with His Almighty God, he speaks with such devotion and commitment throughout this psalm. In this particular passage, you see phrases like “how I love, I meditate, I have, I obey, I have kept, I have not, I gain, I have taken, I have suffered, I will not forget, I have not strayed, My heart is set.”
It would be a great exercise to walk through this psalm with a highlighter or pen and mark these first-person commitments.
What is even more impressive is that these commitments are made from a man who has suffered as well as sinned, has groaned as well as gained, a man who has wept as well as won. In the very realness of life, he made a choice to commit his way to the Lord.
That one verse, 105, “Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps, a light that shows the path I should take,” helps us get a sneak peek into this devotion to God. He has been “in the Word,” as we say.
And what a great image, a lamp. No matter how dark the world around us, our God lights our path. His Word is that light. So, if the darkness around you starts getting to you “Be in the Word!” It will light up your night.
Two Ears, One Mouth
1 Samuel 3:(8-10)
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”
There is a gentleman named Bernie Krause. He records nature sounds for film and television. He relates that in 1968 in order to get one hour of natural, undisturbed sound (no cars, airplanes, etc…) it would take him about fifteen hours of recording time. Today, in order to get that same amount of quality sound, it takes him two-thousand hours of recording time. In a world of such distractions, it can be extremely difficult to hear anything clearly. Testing 1,2,3….testing 1,2,3…
Samuel grew up in a very different kind of a world. He wasn’t assaulted with a steady stream of cell phone recordings, voice-mails, and text messages. His eyes weren’t assailed with the visual clutter of billboard and media mania. The challenges of the human condition, however, were still the same in principle. Hearing and listening are two very different things. Samuel didn’t understand that what he was hearing was the voice of God. He needed Eli to teach him how to listen. When he learned how to listen, he would begin to understand what he was hearing.
Jesus promised us in John chapter 10 that his sheep would learn how to hear His voice. If we are willing to come under the discipline of the shepherd, he will be faithful to lead us onward to green pastures. Am I conducting my life in such a way that shows that I am longing to hear His voice? When was the last time I spent any significant time in solitude and silence to nurture my relationship with Him. James, the brother of Jesus, beckons to us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. I guess there was a reason that God gave us two ears and one mouth.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN ASKED THE QUESTION, “SO, WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND”?
Think about that for a moment and I’ll get back to you for your answer.
When Jesus was on the cross, you were on His mind! You are more valuable than the sparrows. He has given you dominion over all sheep, oxen and all beasts of the field and birds of the heavens and fish of the sea. Likewise, you are the glory and honor of all His creations.
For God so loved you that He gave His one and only, precious Son, that those who believe in Him will never perish but have everlasting life. In Gods eyes you are a new creation, nothing old, nothing borrowed or blue, only new and alive to Christ.
Just as Christ looked past the agony of the cross seeing you, enduring it all, so that by Him conquering death and the grave, He could be the author and perfector of your faith. As you keep your eyes on Him, believing in Him, He is in your Spirit and you in Him. It is a relationship by which to live; is to live as Christ and to die is to gain eternal life and the riches of His Kingdom in Heaven.
Therefore, walk in a manner worthy of your calling (Ephesians 4:1).
You are no longer darkness, but light in my Son. Walk as children of light (Ephesians 5:8).
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
So, now, back to the question; what is on your mind and how will you respond to Christ who loves you, calls to you and has set you apart, even giving up his own life for you that by him you may be saved.
WHAT IS YOUR ANSWER?
A Call to Persevere
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-26
I guess one could say I am a routine type person. I like structure and I like to plan out what my day, week or even month is going to look like. I have a certain routine every morning and every evening. I do pretty much the same routine every day at work. I pay my bills on certain days or times each month. However; I can be flexible. If my routine has to change today or this week because something else came up I can adapt and I don’t stress out over it. But I really like routines and consistency.
I don’t know if that is necessarily good or bad but I do know that there are some things that I won’t change like my relationship with Jesus, going to church regularly every Sunday, my moral stance on marriage, abortion, or important issues like that.
Covid-19 has truly caused change in a lot of things that use to be so routine and so consistent. When I was working from home my routine was totally turned upside down. But we made it through it all. The way we educate our children and the way we do school has changed drastically. Going shopping has even changed now. Many people are ordering in now instead of shopping in person. Take home from restaurants is a popular thing now. The favorite saying now is “Things are a changin'!”
Having church in the church building has certainly changed from the way we use to do things. Sunday was always a day of worship. Going to church was something we did on a regular basis. it was part of our weekly routine. Today, more and more are electing to stay at home and watch in via the different media venues available instead of meeting in person. Don’t get me wrong I am thankful for the advancement of technology. But sometimes I wonder if maybe we haven’t enabled our people to be complacent in the fact that we have provided so adequately the means to stay home and do church via the airways instead of gathering in person. For me I need the in person contact with my fellow believers. I need to come into the Holy Most Place and worship in person. To hear the live music and be able to lift my hands in worship. I need church!!
I know a lot of people live in a state of fear and the media has done a great job of instilling that into the public. But in Hebrews it tells us to “hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
I know for me I will keep meeting together in person and keep trusting Him to keep me well. Won’t you join me?
Hope to see you soon!
The Discipline of the Lord
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
It is very easy to grieve the Spirit of God; we do it by
Do not resist His discipline when He says to you, in effect,
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24