Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Associating With Sinners: Lost Sheep


“Associating With Sinners: Lost Sheep”
By Zach Wood
Luke 15:1-2 NLT
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach.  This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

One of the things I most admire about Jesus was His ability to associate with the people who would be considered lowest on the totem pole.  Jesus was never into a popularity contest.  He did not spend time with people who only looked a certain way, smelled a certain way or dressed a certain way. 

Much of His mission was to associate with people who were close to hitting rock bottom or were already there.  I guess you could say he attracted people who were living in sin. 

The religious leaders did not like and could not believe that Jesus would do such a thing as to associate with the lowliest people.  Here was perfect Jesus associating with others that most would not associate with.  That is just how Jesus was.  He reached to people and places where most of us would never go.  He does not have barriers.  He does not have a checklist of things that keep Him away from others.  His love was real, genuine and reached out to those who needed Him most. 

I have to wonder about us today.  How many of us have a “checklist” of those we only associate with?  Who do we only allow ourselves to associate with?  We all have favorites and we choose to pay attention to those we choose to be around.  We do not like being around people who make us feel uneasy and uncomfortable.  And, we certainly do not like being around people who are completely different from us.  We often disagree and find it challenging to find common ground.

Jesus did not let barriers like this stop Him from reaching out.  He reached out to people we would avoid.  He touched people we stay far away from.  He had compassion on people that we would probably judge.  He reached out and He loved.  He associated with sinners and He loved lost sheep. 

The next few verses talk about how Jesus goes after lost sheep because they matter.  He would leave the 99 to find the 1 because that 1 totally matters.

I find it absolutely amazing that people who were lost and in sin were attracted to Jesus.  They were amazed that He took time to reach out to them. 

Do we associate with sinners?  Jesus associates with us, and we are sinners.  He calls us to associate with others without barriers.  That is challenging and tough, but that is our mission. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

He IS Peace


“He IS Peace”
By Zach Wood
John 14:27 NLT
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be trouble or afraid. 

After reading this passage the other day for my morning devotional time, I thought about all the worries, concerns and things I have been anxious about lately in my life.  As I pondered this passage, I prayed to God for peace. 

Perhaps I’m not alone with this feeling?  Do some of you need peace in your life right now because of all the worries, concerns and anxious thoughts?  I think it is safe to say that most of us have lives full of challenges, whatever they may be.  We seem to find ourselves consumed every day with so many concerns, worries and anxious thoughts. 

I have to admit that I have always been one to worry and be anxious about things that haven’t even happened.  I struggle often with the “What if?” questions.  I really wish I was a person who didn’t worry and become anxious, but we all have bad habits that we wish didn’t consume us.

This passage was a great reminder to me that I need His peace more than ever.  I not only need His peace, but I need to learn to let go of trying to control life with my worry and anxious thoughts and just rest in Him.  I wrestle often with worries and concerns about being a Godly husband, father and servant as well as health and financial concerns. 

I am so thankful that I read this passage because I really needed it!  I’m wondering if many of you are also feeling chaos in life because you are weighted down by the worries and concerns of life?  The more we worry and become anxious, the more we become stressed out.  We all know that feeling and it is not fun. 

I would like to share a prayer with you as I end.  I hope it brings comfort to you and some ideas of how you can continue to pray and lift worries and concerns to Him. 

God, I need Your peace right now to calm my fears, worries, concerns and anxious thoughts.  You not only give peace, but You are peace.  Only You can give me the peace I need to get through the challenges I am experiencing in life.  God, please fill me with a peace that the world cannot give me.  Let me be totally consumed with Your peace that can calm my soul.  I don’t want to worry, be afraid, be concerned or be overwhelmed with anxiety.  Through Your Son, Jesus Christ, please give me a peace of mind and heart so that I can learn to better submit to You and surrender everything so that I am not holding on to these things.  Help me to rest in Your peace. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Love In A Land Of Confusion


“Love In A Land Of Confusion
By Zach Wood
1 John 4:9-12 NLT
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.  This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

In 1986, Genesis came out with the song “Land Of Confusion”.  There are many songs Phil Collins sings that I enjoy listening to and I can thank my brother for getting me into the sound of his music.

Here is the chorus of this song:

There's too many men
Too many people
Making too many problems
And not much love to go round
Can't you see this is a land of confusion.
This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we're given
Use them and let's start trying
To make it a place worth living in.

Great words here and Genesis band said it well!  This explains well what this world needs.  We live in a land of confusion for sure!  So many people need to know the love of Christ and we, as the church, need to share this love with them.  God has given us gifts, talents and abilities to go out and do something about this confusion.  People are confused by what they see in life and they desperately need and want to see something real. 

The world needs to see real love lived out in people who are being real in Christ.  Friends, we need to show this real love in our lives for people who are living in a land of confusion.  Too often, we have become the problem causing confusion with our fighting and self-centered ways.  If we are truly going to be the church that God wants us to be, we need to work together to do our best to make this a place worth living in. 

We not only need to show this love to the lost, but also toward each other in the body of Christ.  The world needs to see us loving one another as well as sharing that love with them. 

This world needs to see God’s love in a land of confusion.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Show Me Lord, Please


“Show Me Lord, Please”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 25:4-5 NLT
Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.  Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.  All day long I put my hope in you.

I remember when I was growing up and would ask questions to my mom, dad, brother, grandparents and others how to do things.  I would try on my own several times, but then realize that I needed direction.  After a few times of failure, I knew that I needed someone to show me how a task was done who had actual experience doing it. 

It makes sense, doesn’t it?  If you don’t know how to do something, you find someone with the experience who knows how to go about doing the task you are trying to complete.  You wouldn’t ask someone who doesn’t know.  You seek out someone with wisdom and knowledge to do the task you desire.  We know we need to seek out someone who understands the task at hand and will know how to guide you through it. 

When we seek out the person, we often approach them and say, “Can you show me how to do this, please?”  This is usually after we give up on trying on our own and bring in someone who knows what to do.  After we have suffered so many failures trying to figure it out, we consult someone and trust the person to help us. 

The very same goes in our relationship with God.  So often, we desperately try to do things on our own without His help.  We try so hard to do life on our own and with our own understanding.  I couldn’t even tell you the number of times I have tried things on my own through my life and have failed.  I failed because I didn’t ask for help.  I should have asked.  I am reminded so often now that God wants me to seek Him out and simply ask, “Show me Lord, please”. 

I think God truly desires us to come to a point where we just throw our hands up, surrender and just ask Him to take over.  He is waiting for us to stop relying on our strength and, instead, to rely on Him alone. 

We need to let go of our pride and realize our desperate need for Him and come to Him.  He won’t ever treat us like we’re dumb or stupid for not figuring it out.  He won’t give us a hard time.  He will love us, open His arms to us and welcome our desire to have Him show us the way. 

We simply need to say, “Show me Lord, please”. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

I'll Be The Branch, You Be The Vine


“I’ll Be The Branch, You Be the Vine”
By Zach Wood
John 15:5-8 NIV
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

This chapter of John has been one of my favorite passages of Scripture for many years.  I have always appreciated and cherished the example Jesus gives of how we are the branches and He is the vine of life.  The imagery of this Scripture is amazing and every time I think of the words, I am truly reminded how vital it is to remain attached to Him.

Back in 1997, White Heart released their album “Redemption” with the song “The Vine”.  Here are some of the lyrics:

I'll be the branch, you be the vine, 'cause I've been withering away for some time,
Now I feel your healing flowing to my mind, I'll be the branch and you be the vine.
I feel so free when you are my Lord and I am just me.”

I honestly don’t know why I try so hard so often each day to live life all on my own.  I am reminded so often that it never works out right when I try to live life on my terms and not God’s terms.  I need to hang on to the vine and I will live strong.  Apart from holding on, I will not survive. 

All God wants each of us to be is just “me”.  That’s it!  He just wants us to be who we are.  He will take care of leading us and directing us.  Our job is to hold on and trust in Him for the ride.  We are the branch, He is the vine.  We are not to be in the control tower or the driver’s seat.  However, so many days this is exactly how our lives look. 

I want to encourage all of us today and every day from here on out, to let God be God and for us to just be who we are.  We will feel so free when He is our Lord and we are just who we need to be.  Only God provides the nourishment we need and we need to stay connected. 

We are the branches, He is the vine.  We need to stay connected or else we will just wither away.  We need His healing.  Are we abiding in Him?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Just Sit Back And Soak It In

“Just Sit Back And Soak It In”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 27:1 NIV
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

There are a lot of times in life where we like to kick back, put up our feet, and just soak in the environment around us.  Sometimes, we even like to close our eyes as well.  When we’re at the movies, at the beach, on our porch or back deck, sitting on our couch or recliner at home or sitting at the park somewhere.  These and other places we have all found ourselves and enjoyed the time of just sitting back, being still and soaking in the sun and the sounds around us or the music we’re listening to.

There is just something about chilling out, being still and taking in the beauty of the moment God has given to us.  We all enjoy these moments, but all too often we get so busy with life that we don’t have these moments as often as we’d like.  Some of my favorite times at home is when I sit back on the couch, recline and just relax.  I try to let go of the concerns and worries of life and just enjoy being still.  When I can actually relax, it feels so good and I don’t want to move or get up. 

There’s something about this passage that just relaxes me.  Perhaps because it reminds me of a song by Eden’s Bridge.  Look it up when you get a chance.  Very soothing and inspiring!  Sometimes, we just need a scenery, a nice breeze, or a perfect song that helps us to soak in the life and surroundings around us.  It can remind us of how amazing God is and the peace He brings.

I want to encourage all of us to sit back, relax and just let the words of this passage soothe us and remind us that God is our light and our salvation.  Most importantly, there is absolutely nothing to fear because He is the stronghold of our lives.  Isn’t that simply amazing? 

Sometimes, we just need to turn off the noise and chaos of the world around us and take Him all in.  God loves it when we take the time to just do nothing in His presence but to enjoy Him and His creation all around us.  For those of you who like being in the wilderness or camping, you know the peace of hearing birds and insects make their noise and the calming of being in that environment.  Something about nature can just bring peace and calming to us.  God’s precious Creation can soothe us. 

Find a time and place this week, wherever it might be, and just sit back, relax and take Him in however you can.  Let Him soothe your soul by remembering that He is your light, salvation and stronghold.   

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Nothing Else Satisfies


“Nothing Else Satisfies”
By Zach Wood
John 14:27 NLT
I am leaving you with a gift—a peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give.  So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Almost everywhere I look these days, I am seeing an advertisement for some product that is either brand-new or it is an updated product that has been reformulated to help make my life so much better.  Whether it is a commercial on TV, ad in the paper, ad on social media, pop-up notification from a store app on my phone, store ad in the newspaper, or a billboard, I get flooded with different ways to consider how I could “easily” make my life better and be happier!

I have to admit, many of the ads are very enticing and I honestly think to myself, “That really would make my life just a little better.  It really would!”  Or, I’ll say to my wife, “Honey, I think we should get that and try it!”  No matter what, there always seems to be some marketing ploy or tactic that really catches my attention and leads me to believe all my problems will be solved if I invest in this one product.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find any product that will make my life complete and totally satisfying.  It just won’t happen.  And I know this, I really do, but I just get tempted to often believe products will satisfy some void I have in life.  Over and over again, God continues to remind me that I will not find any contentment, happiness, joy or fulfillment in the things offered by this world.  No matter how hard I try to look or what I buy into, nothing is going to make me happier or bring more joy as the ads claim.

These words from Jesus are so vital for our lives today.  They are as vital today as when Jesus first spoke them so long ago.  We need peace today in our heart and mind.  We need a peace that transcends anything the world can offer.  We need a peace that can be felt in the midst of a chaotic world that we live in.  We need more than the latest product which promises to make our live happier. 

What we all need to consider is what we are chasing after in this world to make us happy?  What are we buying into these days?  Are we looking for peace of mind and heart in all the wrong places?  Are we thinking it will be the next high-tech gadget?  Are we thinking it will be the next diet plan commercial we see?  Are we thinking it will be the next kitchen appliance ad we see on TV that will make life easier?

May I encourage all of us today and the days to come that all we truly need is the peace of mind and heart that Jesus gives?  Peace knowing that He will satisfy our every longing and always provide what we need.  Peace and provision that the world cannot and never will be able to offer.  Absolutely nothing else can or will satisfy.