Sunday, December 17, 2017

Nothing Without Him

“Nothing Without Him”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 16:1-2 NIV
Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

Imagine if we did not have electricity or batteries in our modern day living today.  I can also imagine how crazy it would be if we tried turning our devices on with no battery power or having them plugged in.  They simply wouldn’t work.  What if we reached for a flashlight and there were no batteries inside?  We could buy all the different brands of bulbs we wanted to or even buy the most stylish looking flashlight.  However, without batteries, we are wasting our time and going nowhere.  We must have batteries.

What if we tried turning on our TV’s without them being plugged in?  We can get the best, state-of-the-art, all-in-one technology remote on the market, but if the TV isn’t plugged into the source, we have no way of watching it.

How about if we wanted to go on a long trip a vehicle?  What if we bought the most expensive and most popular vehicle on the market, but had no fuel to go anywhere?  That would be pointless!  Who in the world would be able to drive a vehicle without any fuel (or drive a vehicle without any power for electric vehicles)?  We wouldn’t imagine being able to go anywhere without the fuel or charge.  It’s simply not going to happen no matter what we try to do if we aren’t going to fuel or charge it up.

While we all would completely nod our heads in 100% agreement on all these scenarios, we unfortunately live this way in our lives with Christ so often.  Jesus mentions back in John 15 that apart from being connected to Him/The Vine, we cannot do anything.  We read also in this Psalm that apart from God, there is no good thing. 

God wants us to take refuge in Him and rely on Him for everything.  If we are not plugged into Him, then no matter what we go after in life, there will be no fulfillment.  Nothing we do on earth apart from Him will have any lasting value.  I don’t know what it will take for us to get this into our heads and understand.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  I fight the feeling every single day with wanting and chasing after the things of this world a little bit at a time, only to discover, I’m trying to power up my own life and not connect to Him.  God is so patient with me! 

Let us take this powerful lesson from this passage in Psalm that apart from God, there is no life worth living.  To have a fulfilled life to the MAX, we gotta be totally plugged in and powered through God!  Period.

Are you plugged in?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Enemy's Sole Purpose

“The Enemy’s Sole Purpose”
By Zach Wood
John 10:10 NLT
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Everything in life has a purpose in some way or another.  All products you buy in a store have a purpose.  Some products have multi-purposes and can do many things.  When you pay to have a service rendered, whether it’s a repair or some special service you’ve subscribed to, it has a purpose.  Eating places have a purpose.  Gas stations have a purpose.  The list could go on and on. 

Every single thing we see each and every day has a purpose.  Sometimes, the purpose is good.  Other times, the purpose can be bad.  Some things have multiple bad purposes to them.  But in general, they are just bad.  So, some things are good and some things are bad.  We have to be wise to know what to watch out for, right?  We all have had bad experiences and we try to tell others when we have those so they don’t have the same experience. 

Experiences are just a part of life and we learn what to avoid and what is good for us.  If something has a bad purpose and we know it, we shouldn’t even go near it, whatever it may be.  If the purpose is to harm us or lead us astray in some way, better to just stay away completely.  However, the enemy knows just how to sugar-coat things and disguise things to make them look good initially, but in the end, they hurt us.  Sometimes, we get hurt really bad.

In this passage, Jesus is very clear that Satan’s purpose is solely to take our joy away.  His purpose is nothing good, ever.  His purpose is to do anything he can to lead us astray and turn us away from God as much as possible.  No matter how good Satan makes something look at first, there is absolutely no purpose he has except to hurt us and draw us away from God.  Period!  His purpose is never positive.  He wants to steal, kill and destroy in any way he can. 

Jesus has a purpose and it is to give us the most wonderful life that we could ever possibly imagine.  100% opposite anything Satan can offer us.  Jesus came to give us the fullest and most rewarding life we could have.  We can know that Jesus has a purpose to love us and nurture us and that He will never lead us astray.  His purpose is to give us a rich and satisfying life.  When we follow Him, the joy never ends and He continues to show us the purpose He has for our lives. 

Every time we are tempted to give in to Satan and his ways, we must remember that the purpose is always to hurt us, lead us astray and to steal every bit of joy that God wants for us.  We must be strong in God and turn away from the lures of Satan.  At first, the lures always seem initially good and rewarding in some way, but they all have the same purpose.  To kill, steal and destroy.  Let us follow the ways of Jesus and His sole purpose to give us true life!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Make 'em Wonder What You've Got

“Make ‘em Wonder What You’ve Got”
By Zach Wood
Colossians 4:5-6 NLT
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.  Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Back in 1994, Newsboys released the hit song “Shine”.  In the chorus, they sing “Shine. Make ‘em wonder what you got.  Make ‘em wish that they were not, on the outside looking bored.”

This was one of my favorite songs from the band for many years.  It was catchy and just plain fun to sing and dance to.  But most importantly, it had a great message.  The song was about how we need to shine as Christians and show the world what they are missing by not having the awesome life of Christ. 

The Apostle Paul, in this passage from the NLT, says to let our conversations be gracious and attractive.  We often do things in life to make ourselves look good, don’t we?  When we go to a wedding or a funeral, we usually wear something formal because we want to look nice for the occasion.  When we go to an interview, we dress up to make a good impression.  When we go on a special date with a girlfriend/boyfriend, fiancĂ©, or spouse, we often dress up because we want to look good for them. 

Often times, we put in a lot of time and attention to make ourselves look good because it’s a special event.  I can’t help but to think about how we prepare ourselves everyday for the special occasions for when we get into conversations with others.  So often, we put so much attention on our job duties and other things, but we spend little time tending to our attitudes and the words we say to others. 

Paul has told us to live wisely among those who don’t believe and make the most of every opportunity.  As we live our daily lives, are we living in such a way that makes people around us wonder what we’ve got?  Do we make them wish they were not out the outside looking bored as the Newboys sing about?  Do we shine for others to see? 

Everything we do every day should catch the attention of others and make them wonder why we do what we do.  The words we say.  The way we do things.  Why we don’t say words most others are saying.  The way we won’t go along with others who are telling off-color jokes. 

Are we making them wonder what we’ve really got?  Are our words and actions “attractive” to them, making them “itch” to find out why we are so different?  I hope so.  Shine!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Stop & Think Before We Ruin

“Stop & Think Before We Ruin”
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 13:13 NLT
Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.

There is not a single one of us reading this that doesn’t desire to have a long, fulfilling life, right?  We all want to live a very fulfilling life, making the most of all opportunities that come along.  We don’t want to do something or say something in our lives each day that messes things up.  However, this is exactly what many of us do without thinking often times.

There are many Scriptures that refer to us making wise choices in the words we use and how we say things to others.  Jesus taught us many things about how we use words and so did the Apostle Paul.  There were also others who mentioned how important it is for us to use words cautiously. 

I don’t think we realize sometimes enough how important it is for us to carefully choose the words we say to others.  We have all been hurt by some else’s words, but we have also hurt others by using words of our own as well.  Have you ever walked into a room or called someone on the phone only to say something you wish you’d never said?  Who hasn’t??? 

This is a powerful passage encouraging us to use our words wisely.  The second part of this passage should echo in our hearts and minds every single day as a warning for us to stop and think before we ruin a conversation or seriously hurt someone’s feelings.  So much can happen when we don’t think about what we say before the words come out. 

Every day, as I begin my day, I pray that God will use me to show His love to others I work with and anyone I come into contact with.  I pray that God will use my words to encourage.  However, I so often mess things up and don’t think before I speak.  How so often I find myself saying things that ruin a situation or make things awkward.  I try not to, but it happens.  And, I’m sure most of you do the same things as well. 

We all need to be wiser with our words, especially when we find ourselves in a heated situation and get frustrated.  It’s so easy to let words fly that we don’t mean and say things we will very soon regret. 

My prayer is that we will all stop and think before we ruin someone’s day or seriously hurt someone’s feelings.  Instead, let us stop and think and then do our best to encourage.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Willingness Without Hesitation

“Willingness Without Hesitation”
By Zach Wood
Isaiah 6:6-8 NIV
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Last week I shared about Isaiah’s experience coming into the very presence of God and how reacted to that encounter.  That was the first part of what happened and this week, I would like to continue with what happened after that.  Not only did Isaiah become completely humbled and realize how unclean he was in the presence of Almighty God, but what happened next is even better.

After Isaiah realized and confessed how wretched he was before a Holy God, his sin was atoned for and he was forgiven.  That is so cool that he was forgiven and became clean before God.  And then, what happens next is astounding when God asks him, “Whom shall I sent?  And who will go for us?

How does Isaiah respond to this?  He says what every single one of us should always say without hesitation when God asks us and calls us to do something.  Isaiah says, “Here am I.  Send me!”  Isn’t that incredible?  Isaiah doesn’t seem to hesitate in his response, at least from what we see here.  Many of us, if not most, would most likely give excuses back to God. 

I don’t know God, let me think a day or two on this and I’ll get back to you!”
“Why don’t you pick someone else who is better qualified to take this on?”
“I got a lot going on right now, God.  Maybe in the next week or month?”

We seem to always make excuses when God calls us to do something, especially something that makes us uncomfortable.  I heard a phrase many years ago and I don’t recall who I heard it from, but I remember hearing someone in ministry say, “Our response to God should always be ‘First God, my answer is yes.  Second, where do You want me to go and what do You want me to do?”

Could you imagine how life would be if we all told God that?  Wow!  I can only imagine how much more adventurous our lives would become if we would just completely surrender everything to God and hold nothing back and tell God, like Isaiah did, that we will go and do.  If we would only be willing to go and do whatever God leads us to.  Life would be so different! 

My hope and prayer is that we all consider our willingness to say yes to God no matter where He leads.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

I Can Only Imagine

“I Can Only Imagine”
By Zach Wood
Isaiah 6:1-5 NIV
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying.  And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.  “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

A couple of weeks ago our pastor mentioned this passage in his sermon and as he talked about Isaiah’s experience, it got me thinking about how I would react and how I would feel if I were in his shoes.  What would I saw and how would I handle this kind of encounter? 

I think about all the times when I come before God in my quiet times and how I address Him and what all I say as I pray.  Do I make my prayer times all about what I want and what I think I need or am I totally focused on the greatness of God and realize what I am without Him?

Isaiah came before God and he was brought to his knees and realized how very unclean he was.  Does that happen to us when we come before God?  Are we so focused on Him that we realize more and more how unworthy we are without Him in our lives?  Do we see the filth that is in our lives and that we desperately daily need His blood to wash us clean? 

Do we come before Him so flippantly and not even consider all His greatness?  Do we just throw our requests at Him and expect Him to move mountains in our time and in our way of thinking?  If we’re honest, we really do.

Remember “I Can Only Imagine”?  MercyMe became a very popular group, both in Christian music and in mainstream music, with this song.  It really made people, and still does, stop and think about what they would do if they were face to face with God.  What would we do?  How would we react?  What would we say?  Would we stand?  Would we fall to our knees?  Could we speak at all? 

I hope that this week and beyond we will all consider the greatness of coming before our God Who is so Almighty and being in total awe of Who He is.  I pray also that His greatness would cause us to see how unclean we are and how desperately we truly need Him, every moment of every day.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It Was Very Personal

“It Was Very Personal”
By Zach Wood
1 Peter 2:24 NLT
He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.  By his wounds you are healed.

There’s nothing like the feeling of someone doing something personally for you.  Whatever the situation was, we have all had people in our lives that took the time to do something specific for us, whether it was a favor asked of us or something that was done as a surprise.  When someone does something specifically for us, we feel very important and special. 

Maybe a friend or family member drove hundreds of miles to be with you for a special day or event?  Perhaps someone you hadn’t seen for many years came to visit you in the hospital because they heard you had surgery or were sick?  Or someone took the time to help you when you had car problems?  There are endless scenarios we could bring up where someone did something for someone else and it wasn’t expected. 

Whether someone does something for you, coming to make a visit or making something specifically for you, there is no describing how that makes you feel.  It’s a feeling of appreciation and can make us very emotional just being overwhelmed by the love and care of that person.  These are wonderful moments each of us have appreciated and never forget. 

We all love when things are done on our behalf.  We don’t necessarily feel special when we received a mass mailing in our mailbox or when we receive a mass e-mail list.  If someone takes the time to send us a message, or make a phone call or send us a text personally, we feel so much more important.

Let’s consider what Jesus Christ did for each one of us.  I really like how the New Living Translation expresses this passage.  Jesus “personally” carried our sins to the cross.  By His wounds we are healed.  Do we even understand what He did for us?  It was the most special act of love anyone could ever do for us.  He died for you and for me.  We were on His mind.  He knew we needed Him and He was willing to give up everything so that we could have Him.

He did the most personal thing anyone could and will ever do.  As great as it is to have people we care about and love do unexpected things for us personally, nothing could ever be greater than the personal sacrifice that Jesus made for us. 

Nothing in all the world could be more personal than what God did for us on the Cross.  Amazing!