Saturday, December 31, 2011

Don't Miss It!

"Don't Miss It!"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 40:5
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.

The past few days, as I have read this passage, I have been thinking about the past year and all the things that I have possibly missed that God has done in my life and around me.  Of course, I cannot recall all the things God has done throughout the whole year, but I do remember many things.  I am sure many of you would also admit that you have missed important opportunities and have regretted them.

This time of year, we tend to reflect on the past and make choices that will better our lives and get us started possibly in a new direction.  To be honest, I do not really make New Year's resolutions.  I think about a lot of things I need to do better in my walk with Christ, but I do not necessarily write out a list of resolutions.  I have done that in the past, but as many people do, I tend to forget about the list and go on about my daily life.  I began just asking God to open my eyes to new opportunities and ways to be a better husband, father and servant.  Please understand I am not saying that making resolutions are in any way wrong or bad.  It is just my personal preference.

I miss a lot of things.  I really wish I could remember more things.  I do not have a great memory.  My wife is the one who keeps up with the calendar events.  If it was up to me to put events down on calendar, we would miss things all the time.  I am glad she takes care of that.  I miss things all the time it seems.  I become so forgetful.  I get so busy do my own things and have my own agenda that I forget what is really important. 

I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit's presence in my life to convict me and remind me that I need to take time to remember the many wonders God has done and continues to do in my life.  When I read this passage last week, it really stuck with me and I felt led to use it in this devotional as an end of year encouragement for remembrance. 

God is such a Mighty God and His ways are so great and awesome that no one can fully understand them.  I am so thankful for all that God has done in and through my life this past year.  He has taught me a lot and has broken me down many times to help me grow the right ways. 

I so much do not want to miss things God has in store for me.  I want to be in tune to what He wants to show me and teach me.  It is so easy for me to become distracted and miss so much.  Those opportunities come and go sometimes so fast that I do not even notice they were before me just waiting for me to notice.  That is sad.  But, I do serve a God who gives me more chances to see things He wants me to notice and act upon. 

I encourage you, as you end this year and begin a new one, simply ask God to show you what is truly important in your life.  Do not worry about making an exhaustive list if you are into making lists.  Keep it simple and add to it if you feel the need to list more.  I encourage you to do this to keep your priorities in check as you focus on your walk with Christ each day.  Don't miss what God has in store for you to see as you walk with Him each day.  Many are the wonders He has done and continues to do in and through you. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Are You There Yet?

"Are You There Yet?"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 15
Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  Who may live on your holy hill?  He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.  He who does these things will never be shaken.

I was reading this passage the other day for my devotional time and when I finished reading it, I said, "Lord, I have so far to go to have a really close relationship with You."  This psalm of David is powerful.  I questioned my motives and the pureness of my heart.  I started reading again through this psalm and saw so many areas of my life that have fallen far from a close relationship with God my Creator.

This psalm is quite a mouthfull. I would encourage you, not just now, but maybe for the next few days or week, read through this and just ask God to examine your heart and reveal to you what you might need to change so that you can dwell in His sanctuary with a pure heart. 

As the title suggests, are you there yet?  In your heart, do you feel you are able to dwell in His Sanctuary with a pure heart?  Are there things in your life that are keeping you from being completely open and honest with God and growing closer to Him?  Are you at odds with so many others in your life that you just cannot seem to focus on what is real? 

When we come to Him with an open and honest heart and truly desire to dwell in His Sanctuary and follow Him, wonderful things happen in our lives.  We desire to have peace in our relationships with others and treat others with love and respect.  When we have Jesus Christ in focus, then the other areas will follow.  It will not be easy, but with Christ at our side and walking with us, it will be better than living a life of chaos. 

Are you there yet?  If not, what are you doing about it?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Security And Rest In The Almighty

"Security And Rest In The Almighty"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 91:1-2
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

There was a song written many years ago by the Christian rock band Skillet called "Rest".  I would like to share the words of the chorus with you:

And I rest in the shelter of Your love
And I rest in the wonder of Your Grace
And I rest in the shelter of Your love
And I rest in the wonder of You

When I listen to this song, it reminds me of the peace and security I can find in my Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is one of their slow songs and is a great worship song.  I would encourage you to look up the song online and listen to it.  I am sure it will be a blessing to you as well.

When we come to the shelter of the Most High, He promises to give us a place of rest.  When we are resting in the shadow of His Wings, He will protect us and give us rest.  The words in this passage are so very powerful in describing the ultimate security, peace and rest we find when we abide in Christ and walk with Him.  There is no greater source of comfort and strength.  When we are weary, He invites us to come to Him and find peace and rest.  He is truly our refuge and fortress. 

If you need rest for your weary soul, then please take the time to come before your Savior and just rest in His presence and Holiness.  Just take the time to bask in the wonder of His Love.  He loves when we come to Him and take in all what He offers.  There is no other place where we can find eternal security.  He is our true source of rest, security and shelter. 

Rest in the shelter of His Love and the wonder of His Grace.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nothing Compares

"Nothing Compares"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 86:8-10
Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.  All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.  For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

Each of us have times when we discover something that becomes a favorite to us.  Each of us has a favorite pizza.  Each of us has a favorite flavor of ice cream.  Each of us has a favorite place to go and shop for clothes.  Each of us has a favorite place to vacation.  Each of us has a favorite restaurant we enjoy making repeated visits to.  Each of us has a favorite CD we like to listen to.  Each of us has a favorite beverage.  

These things are special to us.  We remember them.  No matter what other pizza, ice cream, CD or store we go to, nothing seems to compare to what our favorite is.  There is just nothing like our favorite.

When I read this passage in Psalm, I cannot help but think how there is no other god except the true Living God Who gives us the best life we could ever hope to live.  Many of us have tried so many different ways of living.  We try to live this way or that way and we just want to live a life that is like no other.  We try following people and how they live, but the truth is, once we discover Who God is and learn of His marvelous deeds, nothing quite compares to anyone else.  There are no other gods we could live for and experience what we do when we follow and live for the One True God. 

There is only One True God.  Nothing can compare to Him.  I am so thankful that I can worship a God Who loves me unconditionally, Who gives me another chance when I mess up again and again, Who comforts me when I am falling apart in my life.  This is a God Whom I want to serve.  I do not desire to serve anyone else.  There is no other god who could love me, guide me and direct me.  Bottom line, there is no other true and living God.  There is only One who came to die on a Cross and is real and living.  I am so thankful I serve a God who is the Real Thing. 

Nothing compares to the One True Living God. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Will, Lord, I Will

"I Will, Lord, I Will"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 9:1-2
I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.  I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

I remember as a child being told to clean my room, take out the garbage and wash dishes.  These were the main chores among others I had to do.  I did not really enjoy my chores and would have rather done many other things.  What kid really enjoys chores and wants to do them?  We want to play as kids and do not feel like doing things we consider hard work.  Most of the time I did my chores with a "have to do this" attitude thinking "just want to get this over with and done".  I know my parents are reading this devotional and can remember those times when I did my chores. 

There are many things we do in life that we do not enjoy.  Things at work, at home and at church.  That is a part of life.  We are not going to like every single thing we are asked to do.  Sometimes in our minds we are thinking, "If I just hurry and get this done, I can do the other things I REALLY want to do".  It happens to all of us.  It is normal to like some things we do and not like some things we are asked to do and need to do. 

I cannot help but think we treat our relationship with God in this way at time.  God desires us to praise His name, tell of His wonders and rejoice in Him.  But so many times the way we live our lives does not show any desire in glorifying Him or exalting Him.  We must make the choice in our hearts to desire Him and and live for Him.  If our hearts are truly desiring Him and we want to live for Him, then this passage in Psalms will come to life in us!  If we are sold out and dedicated in our lives to worship Him, we will praise Him.  We will rejoice in Him!  We will sing His praises! 

Do you find yourself living to praise Him?  Do you find yourself hungry and desiring Him above anything else?  Is He your priority?  Will you stop at nothing to glorify His name?  These are questions to take to heart and pray about.

Monday, October 3, 2011

He Is

"He Is"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 18:1-2
I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

There are some things in life that we wish were for sure and guaranteed.  We wish our health was guaranteed good for as long as we live.  We wish people could all get along all the time.  We wish our finances would always remain constant and cover the bills each month.  So many things we wish could be constant and for sure.  However, that is just not the way life is. 

When I think of all the things in this life that are not guaranteed or are guaranteed, but bring major disappointment, I am reminded that I can look to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for constant, unchanging love and protection.  This verse is powerful and should be on our hearts each day.  HE IS our strength.  HE IS our rock.  HI IS our fortress.  HE IS our deliverer.  HE IS the rock in whom we take refuge.  HE IS our shield and salvation and our stronghold.  Those statements ring with proclamation! 

The question is, do we truly believe God is our everything?  Do we truly believe He is our ultimate source of strength?  Do we truly love Him and trust in Him enough to follow Him and give Him all we are and are not and let Him direct us? 

Could you imagine if this verse read, "The Lord might be our rock, could be our fortress and deliverer.  He might be someone in whom we could take refuge and possibly be our stronghold"?  If we read that, we would completely fall apart!  There would be no trusting totally in God for what He could do.  Aren't you glad you don't serve a God who "might" be there for us and who "possibly" can save and protect us? 

HE IS the only One we can fully rely on!  HE IS the only risen Son of Man!  HE IS the only begotten Son of God!  Wow!  Aren't you thankful HE IS our sufficiency??? 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Growth Can Be Painful

"Growth Can Be Painful"
By Zach Wood
John 15:1-2
"I am the true vine and my father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."

Most of us would probably agree that we enjoying our growth in our relationship with God.  Not a one of us would say that we do not enjoy our growth in our Christian walk.  We could not imagine life without growing in God.  We truly do live for the experiences that bring us closer to God.  We enjoy going to conferences and conventions where we are challenged.  We invite opportunities where there is potential to grow our faith in Jesus Christ.  We thrive on these experiences that bring excitement and a new perspective of our Lord and Savior.  These things are good and are meant for us to be encouraged and grow. 

There are also times of growth that we do not look forward to, however, we know that through these times we sometimes learn the most and grow more in God than we ever have before.  We grow when we make a mistake and learn we cannot do things that way.  The pain is real and the consequences are very real, but we have learned and will move on.  We grow when we have a disagreement with someone and we have said something we never should have said.  No, we can never take those words back, but we can ask God for strength to mend that relationship and learn how to use our words in more loving ways. 

God wants us to grow.  He enjoys seeing us grow and learn.  The growing is not always a great feeling at the time.  He is the gardener.  He looks into our lives and sees areas that need growth and maturing.  When He sees things in our lives that will not bring any fruit to the Kingdom, He needs to cut those things off.  Ouch!  Those branch cracks are painful indeed.  At the time, we may wonder why He is breaking us and keeping us away from certain things, but later on, we can look back and see the beauty from the work he performed. 

This passage in John 15 is one of my most favorite Scriptures in the Bible.  It speaks about how God is the true vine.  If we hang on and do not let go, He will help us through tough times.  No matter how painful the experiences in life, if we just hang onto Him, He will carry us through.  There are times when we feel all alone and feel like letting go because it just seems too hard.  However, when we completely put our trust in Him, no matter how much pruning and cutting He does to us as branches, we will start to see the growth that comes from the pain. 

Every time I read this passage, it reminds of an old Whiteheart song called "The Vine".  I would encourage you to look up that song on-line and read the lyrics.  It speaks about this passage so well and illustrates how we many times in life feel so alone and like we have to take on this world alone.  I remember when I was in college and Whiteheart was at a concert and one of the band members said things, "Sometimes, you just feel like you're hanging on by only a thread in life and feel like you're going to fall, but if you just trust in Him and at least hang onto that one little thread, He will see you through."

Growth can be painful, but we do learn and He guides us.  If we want to be more fruitful in our lives, we must allow our Gardener to prune and cut us as needed.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Now Hiring

“Now Hiring”
By Zach Wood
Matthew 9:36-38
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

We see these signs many places, “Now Hiring”.  We see them in the paper, on bulletin boards, on job listing websites, and many other places.  Businesses are looking for people to fill job vacancies.  However, most places are not looking for just any person to come and fill the spot.  Businesses go through interviews and find people who have the job skills, attitude, and commitment essential to get the work done. 

These places do not want to hire people who will come and do just enough work to get the paycheck.  They want committed people who have a positive attitude and will do their best to get the job done. 

Jesus Christ is very strong in His job announcement for those who have given their lives to Him.  He commands us to go out and work the harvest field.  There are so many lost people who are dying with the love of Christ and need Him so desperately.  He has called you and I, the workers, to go out and spread the Gospel so that they may hear the Good News. 

He desires to have workers who are committed, loyal, devoted, determined and dedicated to seeing lives changed for the Kingdom.  There are lost sheep out there in this world who are wandering helplessly and hopelessly for something to fill the void in their lives.  The question is, "What am I doing about that?"  Each of us must ask ourselves that question everyday and look for opportunities to just simply be kind and courteous to others. 

One thing I would highly encourage you to do is to not bombard people with in-your-face evangelism.  Yes, some of us are bolder than others and have the personality to just be blunt and direct with people.  But, for the most part, many of us are just not that way and cannot imagine approaching someone that way.  Especially "lost sheep" that need Him.  Jesus Christ built relationships with people and shared with them in the process.  I truly believe this is how we build successful evangelism opportunities.  It just comes in natural conversations with others.  But there are also times when we hear things and we may choose to resopnd and give our input.  In these times, people may be more open to our input and knowledge of God and our relationship with Him. 

Please understand, I am not in any way trying to tell any of you how to do evangelism, but simply encouraging to go about it in a non-forceful way.  There are so many people today turned off to Christianity and the last thing they probably need is someone to get in their face.  Build the relationships and then share with people.  Building the relationships is a sure way to get a foot in with sharing with someone who is lost. 

"Now Hiring"  Are you up for the job?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Unhealthy Comparisons

“Unhealthy Comparisons”
By Zach Wood
Luke 18:9-14

If I have done it once, I have done it probably a hundred times or even more.  I am sure you have probably done it as well.  I compare myself to people.  I know you do the same.  We all do.  We are human.  We seem to feel better when we justify what we are doing by comparing ourselves to someone else and say, “Well, at least I’m not like that person!” 

To be honest, that phrase becomes like a disease that seems to permeate through our relationships with other people.  We separate ourselves from those people who seem worse off than we are.  We like to think we are better than those who do really bad things.  The problem is we have come up with the rationalization that what we are doing is ok and what those people do is terrible. 

Sad thing here is, Jesus Christ sees sin as sin.  We can rationalize, justify, and convince ourselves that are better than “those people” who do really bad things.  We try to do good things, so we strive to many times separate ourselves when good and bad people are categorized. 

Jesus Christ is showing us in this parable that our comparison problem stems from when we compare ourselves within our reasoning and understanding and feel we are better than those who are doing really bad things in our eyes.  We are not comparing ourselves to who Christ wants us to be, but rather what we personally think is better.  His standard is so higher than ours and we many times fail to see the way He wants us to see.  The harsh truth is when we think this way in comparing ourselves to others, we are just as bad as those who we think are doing worse things. 

Jesus Christ calls us to be humble and repentant.  We should not think of ourselves in any other way than humble and responsive to what He commands.  He compares us to what He asks of us.  It is extremely unhealthy when we compare ourselves to others and feel we are better.  We become like the Pharisees.  We show off and try to explain how we are better.  We are no better. 

When I read this parable, I want to be more like the tax collector who admits his inadequacies to God and becomes humble before the Lord.  The last part of verse 14 is so powerful.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and the one who humbles himself will be exalted. 

Which one are you right now?  The Pharisee or the Tax Collector?  Be humbled and let go of your rationalizations, justifications and comparisons you’ve made. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Work Dedication

"Work Dedication"
By Zach Wood
Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

I am amazed at the people I see each day that are totally dedicated to their work.  You have seen them.  They always seem to have a smile on their face.  You very rarely ever hear them complain.  They are always willing to help someone else out if a need arises.  They are encouraging to others and uplifting to be around.  I see people like this every single day and I admire their attitude.  Then, I look inward at the condition of my heart and I question my dedication.  I question whether I am dedicated to the work I do each day. 

To be honest, I find myself complaining so often about what I am doing.  I may say voice the complaint in a way that is trying to be humorous, but underneath, I am really trying to complain and get my frustration out.  I have been convicted of this so many times no matter where I am at or what I am doing.  This does not just apply to my current day job, it applies to any work I do at home, helping others out, and even volunteering at church.  I find myself sometimes thinking of what I would rather be doing.  There are times when the dedication is just not there and I want to be somewhere else.  I believe we all struggle with this.

The other night when I was reading this passage, I became very convicted and heart broken.  God really challenged my thinking and convicted me that no matter what I am doing or where I am, I need to be doing what I am doing with all my heart as working for the Lord.  My mind and heart need to be focused on doing the absolute best I possibly can do with the task(s) in front of me.  As I continued to think about this, I realized that my attitude is going to speak volumes to people.  People will either see someone who is dedicated to the work or someone who just feels like complaining whenever approached.  I surely do not want to be that kind of person, especially if I am trying to be a witness for Christ. 

I want to encourage all of us to be better dedicated workers wherever we are and whatever we are doing.  No matter what we have been asked to do, we need to be positive and do the best job we can do.  If our attitude becomes sour, people will be affected and our witness weakened.  If we strive to do the best we can with whatever work we are doing and give our best effort, that will spread like wildfire to the people around us and they will see a dedicated worker.  That draws people's attention! 

Christ calls us to be our best wherever we are, no matter what we are doing.  Is it hard?  Sometimes yes.  Is it impossible?  Well....yes.....that is, without God!  With God, it is totally possible! 

How is your work dedication?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Faithfulness Through Testing

"Faithfulness Through Testing"
By Zach Wood
Genesis 22:1-18

Are you a person who always gets(or got) the highest or one of the highest scores on tests in school?  Well, I was not one of them.  Except for vocabulary words in my high school English class, I did not make exceptional grades, either with homework or on tests.  While is felt great to sometimes receive a B+ or A, I was content many times with a B- or C.  I didn't look on D's or D-'s very well, but if I did get them, at least I passed.  I must admit many times throughout my school years, I was happy to receive a passing grade so that I would not "flunk" out.  Not all classes were hard, but many were and they really challenged my learning abilities. 

What if each of the tests you received in school were either an A or F?  Nothing in between.  You either get everything right or you fail.  That would probably raise the pressure and the amount of stress.  Talk about sweating!  Think about the pressures and the challenges you face in life.  God brings tests into our lives to test our faithfulness to Him. 

Picture Abraham when God told him to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  What an amazing story of testing and faithfulness!  Abraham didn't hold the knife back and wait for God to stop him.  He obeyed God and was bringing the knife down to sacrifice his son when God stopped him.  It was not until Abraham was in the act of the sacrifice that God stopped him.  God was testing Abraham's faithfulness.  God wanted to know if He was the single most important thing to Abraham.

If we are true followers of Jesus Christ and not just "lip service" people, we will follow God no matter what the circumstances.  When He gives us a test, it's either A or F.  We either obey Him all the way, or we fail completely.  I don't even like the sound of "failing completely", do you?  We have all been there.  There are times when God has called us to something great, but we fail to pass tests that He puts in our lives to see if we're ready for the next level of the journey of life.  If we don't pass, we take the test again. 

God’s testing will challenge our faithfulness.  What grade are you getting?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Always Praising

"Always Praising"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 34:1-3
I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.  My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.  Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

Most of us probably find it easier to praise God when times are going good.  When things are going good, we feel so joyful and jubilant.  Our hearts are happy and we feel so full of energy to rejoice and praise!  However, when times get tough and bad things happen, it is often hard to praise God.  It's not that we do not believe in Him or think He is not good anymore, but our hearts become crushed and we feel the pain of life set in and we lose much of that joy and feel overwhelmed by sorrow.  It is often very hard to find the strength to praise God when situations arise and cause us to become angry and doubtful. 

When you find out unexpectedly today is your last day of is hard to praise.

When you find out that your spouse has been is hard to praise.

When you find out that your house will go into is hard to praise.

When you find out that your newborn baby will not live through the is hard to praise.

When you find out that job you interviewed for and desperately wanted fell is hard to praise.

When you are diagnosed with life-threatening is hard to praise.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there are times in life when things just really hit us hard.  They hit us so hard that the pain is so real and so intense that we feel we cannot praise Him.  Have you found yourself in one of these situations above or possibly another one that hurts so much you feel you cannot praise Him?  Sometimes, it is just downright hard to find a reason to praise God.  Life stinks and you try to find some way. 

May I remind you that Jesus Christ is there.  He has never left you and will never forsake you.  It is in these times when Christ helps us up and urges us to carry on with life.  I have found that when hard times come, this is when I grow the most.  My character becomes stronger if I focus on Him.  Yes, it is hard.  Yes, it require a lot of strength.  But it is only strength that I can draw from a close walk with Him.

We are called to praise God in all situations of life.  We are not expected to thank God for taking a loved one away from us.  We are not called to thank Him for bringing a hurtful situation or horrible tragedy into our lives.  But....we are called to proclaim that He is Lord no matter what happens to us.  We cannot explain life many times.  God knows what is going on and knows far more than we'll ever know.  He calls us to praise Him always because of Who He is.  He is and will always be the provider.  He is and will always be the One who sustains when we feel weak.

I urge you, to persevere when life seems to stink.  Always give praise to God for Who He is.  Thank Him for watching over you and providing for you even in the midst of your heartache and sorrow.  These are truly the times when the lost of the world will see our strength in the Lord and wonder what keeps us going.  Keep the faith and stay strong.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just Praise His Great Name

"Just Praise His Great Name"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 93

I would like to ask you a question.  How often do you find yourself alone with God in prayer and, instead of bringing Him requests and concerns, just giving Him praise?  I found myself sitting down the other night and really convicted of this thought.  I had earlier that evening listened to Natalie Grant's new song "Your Great Name" and the words just stuck with me all evening.  If you have a chance, please take a few moments and listen to the song on-line.  It is a powerful song with beautiful lyrics praising our God. 

I shared with my wife how often, as Christians, we bring so many requests and petitions to God, but how seldom we seem to do nothing but just bring praise and adoration into prayer time to Jesus Christ for Who He is.  Have you done this lately?  I am in no way saying our prayers, concerns and petitions for things going on in our lives and other people's lives is not important.  What I am saying is that we tend to be so focused on things we need and how we desire God to answer our prayers that I believe we fail to just spend time doing nothing but praising Him for being God.  Just taking time to give Him praise and thanking Him for being the Alpha and Omega. 

Read through this Psalm and just let the words remind you of His Greatness and Mighty Strength.  He is a powerful God and deserves our praise.  I encourage each one of us to not only take time to bring our concerns before Him, but also just have some time dedicated to do nothing but praise Him and adore Him for being our Lord and Savior.  How often we get so focused on the concerns and forget to just simply praise Him.  Yes, He very much desires to hear our prayers and petitions, but I also believe He desires to hear us just giving Him praise solely for Who He is.  I am sharing this devotional because I felt strongly in my heart about it and wanted to share it with you all. 

May God be praised and adored in your prayer life.  I encourage you to just simply make some time to do nothing but lift up praise and glory to Him for being God.   

Saturday, May 14, 2011

When We Do Not Understand

"When We Do Not Understand"
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

There are times in life when we simply cannot understand things.  There are situations that come up in which we have no clue how to deal with.  There are times when people say things to us and we have no idea how to reply or respond.  There are circumstances we find ourselves in that can suddenly change in an instant and we are left feeling completely hopeless and wonder what will come next.

We do not understand when a spouse suddenly says he or she is leaving and calling it quits.

We do not understand when our job is suddenly terminated without notice and or any indication of problems.

We do not understand when our child or teenager expresses their hate toward us as parents.

We do not understand when the house we have waited to buy for so long suddenly goes off the market or the deal falls through.

We do not understand when a close friend or family member takes their own life and so many questions flood our minds and hearts.

We do not understand when a child dies of some sickness or disease and we are left questioning our faith.

We do not understand when a possible job placement we have worked hard to get suddenly falls through.

"Lord, there are so many things in life I just cannot understand.  There are situations and circumstances that truly leave me speechless and challenge my faith in You.  I know You are real and that You are Lord of Lords and King of Kings, no matter what happens.  I must admit Lord that I am weak and You are strong.  I do not know the future or what You have planned, but I do know that You are in control.  Help me Lord to trust You in all things, no matter how challenging, confusing, frustrating and heart-breaking.  Without You, I am nothing."

There is a lot in life we do not understand.  There are times when our hearts break and we are in so much pain and we feel we can no longer go through life with strength.  Sometimes, we just hit the bottom and feel there is no way back to the top to breathe and have life again.  However, there is a way and His Name is Jesus Christ.  He is the Light and He knows the way.  We must trust, we must believe and we must hold on even when we do not understand. 

My prayer is that whatever you may be going through today, this week or this month, that you would completely trust in Him with all your heart and lean on Him.  His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  I encourage you to not lean on your own understanding.  Trust in Him.  You will make it through and He will provide strength. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Where Is Your Treasure?

"Where Is Your Treasure?"
By Zach Wood
Matthew 6:19-21
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If there is one thing I struggle with more than anything, it is the priority I put on things that are not important and the lack of importance I put on what matters most.  I ask myself often, "What do I spend most of my leisure time doing?"  When I am not at work or at a scheduled activity during the week, what am I spending my time doing?  Am I devoting that time to my family and personal growth in the Lord?  Sadly, I have to admit I am not as much as I should be.   

Where are you putting most of your time and attention?  Is your priority going out and getting the latest and greatest gadgets on the market?  Is your priority becoming a workaholic so you can make more money to spend on leisure things?  Is your priority on spending every single bit of free time in the yard just to have the best looking lawn in town?  Now, please do not misunderstand what I am saying  There is nothing wrong with having high tech gadgets, making good money at work, or working in the yard with your free time.  However, when we are putting more time on those things and less time with family and building a growing relationship with them and in our personal relationship with Christ, then we have a problem.

What is most important to you?  Where is your treasure?  This is a question we must ask ourselves each and every day.  What are spending most of our free time doing?  Hobbies are good in moderation, but we cannot use those hobbies in excess and sacrifice precious time with our spouse, children, friends and our personal walk in Christ. 

These things we spend time doing in life are only temporary.  If we are so focused on these things and less interested in the time we invest with our families and our relationship with God, our treasures will rot, mold, rust and decay.  There is no solid value to be put on the things of this world.  They are only temporary.  We must put importance and priority on the treasures that will last for an eternity.  Our relationships with family, friends and others who we witness to will last. 

I pray that each of us will seriously consider and re-evaluate where our treasures are and what they really should be.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Search My Heart O Lord

"Search My Heart O Lord"
By Zach Wood
Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

If a stranger were to come up to you and tell you that you needed to change your life and get your priorities correct, you probably not only would be shocked, but feel a bit violated.  First of all, that person does not know you.  Second, that person has just crossed a line that should not be crossed unless he or she really knows you.  Each of us have had people, at some point in our lives, come up to us and tell us that we need to change our attitude, our priorities or get something else correct in our lives. 

Now if a good friend or family member were to approach you and challenge you with some things, you might react and respond differently.  This person probably knows you better and has more of an idea of what to say to encourage and challenge you.  Granted, it is different for each person and for each situation someone is in.  But we would probably all agree that only a few people in our lives really "know us" and can make those comments to us without setting us off. 

You might feel violated if someone at your work place would come into your cubicle or office and start cleaning without your permission.  You might feel violated if some stranger came to your house and started going through your personal things.  Kids might feel violated if a parent suddenly walks into their room and starts rummaging through things.  These are all instances where our privacy becomes violated.  None of us like this.  We like to keep certain things to ourselves and keep it that way. 

When I think about how we lives our daily lives, I believe this is how we sometimes treat God in our relationship with Him.  We live our lives the way we want to and only invite Him into certain areas that we feel safe for Him to be part of.  Other areas of our lives, we do not want Him part of. 

These past couple of weeks, I have been listening a lot to Hillsong United song "Search My Heart".  This song has ministered to me so much and I began reading over and over through Psalm 139.  Especially the last two verses where David talks about how he wants God to search his heart and remove any offensive ways in him.  How powerful of a prayer is that??  I began feeling that toward God and asking Him to seriously come in and find offensive ways in me. 

When we allow God to search our hearts and find offensive things in us, it can be scary.  We may feel violated at first, just like we would feel if someone we did not know challenged our priorities.  We get set in many ways and we do not want to change.  However, God is not intending to violate us, but simply desires to change who we are and what we have allowed ourselves to become from worldly influences and our own desires to chase after things that do not please Him. 

Truth is, God has every right to come in and remove what is nasty and filthy in our hearts.  That is truly the only way He can fully cleanse us and restore us.  We must be willing to let Him in and "clean house". 

I would encourage you to go online and listen to that song "Search My Heart" by Hillsong United.  It is a wonderful and powerful song of worship that will challenge and inspire you to allow God to mold you and restore you.  It has been a blessing to me and has really ministered to me the past couple of weeks.

Will you allow Him to search your heart and restore you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Do We Truly Want To Be Filled?

"Do We Truly Want To Be Filled?"
By Zach Wood
Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Do you enjoy eating good food?  If you say no to that, you are probably in no way human!  Each one of us enjoys good food.  Why would any one of us even think of eating food that tastes disgusting?  Whether it is a home-cooked meal, going out to fine dining or to a fast food place, I enjoy it.  There are some meals that are planned that I might think about for hours or even days.  Just the thought makes my taste buds dance!  We all enjoy good meals.  We long for them to fill us and give us nutrition.

We also thirst for good beverages. We need to be hydrated.  Our bodies need this stuff to stay healthy.  We must also make good choices in what we choose to drink.  Keeping ourselves hydrated is healthy and we must be conscious about it. 

When I think of food and drink, however, I cannot help but think of my desire to be filled with God's Word.  Physical food and drink is vital to being nourished, but spiritual food and drink is even more vital to keep living the life I desire in God.

I was reading this passage recently in the Beatitudes and it really shook me.  I honestly asked myself if I was truly hungering and thirsting for Him.  Do I find myself seeking Him and being more and more hungry to receive what He has to offer me?  Do I find myself thirsting for His Living Water?

If we hunger and thirst for the world, we will constantly be filled with unhealthy things.  We will never receive the nourishment we need to be strong in our faith.  No matter where we look, the world simply will never fulfill that longing and desire for true nourishment.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for something more in life.  We are blessed when we seek to hunger and thirst for the spiritual nourishment only God can provide. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Choosing To Love

"Choosing To Love"
By Zach Wood
1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.

The last devotional I shared with you talked about God's crazy love for us through His son Jesus Christ.  I still cannot help but think about how God loves us so much, yet, many choose not to love Him back.  Am I saying some of us choose not to love Him?  Well....possibly.  Do we not all have times when we fail to show God love?  Do we not have times when we completely go our own ways and refuse to show Him love and love others as well?

This passage I have shared is very short, but proves a powerful point.  As Christians, we are called to love God for what He has done for us, but also are called to love others.  If we fail to show love to others, we cannot love God in the way we are called to love.  He desires for us to show love to Him and to others.  Failing to do either of these acts of love is choosing not to love.  You may think this is pretty elementary thinking, but if you take a moment to apply it to your life and your actions, do you really find yourself loving God and loving others?  

Why in the world would we choose to love God, but then choose not to love other people as He has called us to do?  Because people are all different and it becomes very challenging when personalities do not mesh and differences set in.  You may have co-workers you cannot get a long with because of personality differences.  You may not get along with your kids because you have different ideas of what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.  You may not get along with your spouse because you do have hold the same values and are constantly bickering because you cannot agree.  You may not work well with another volunteer at church because you have different ideas how a program should be run.  There are so many different situations and scenarios in which we do not get along with others.  That is just part of learning to love others and get along with them.  God never gave us permission to blow someone else off just because they do not agree with how we do things. 

As I write this, I am even convicted in my own life how I do not love others as I need to.  At work, at church and even in my own family, I tend to show more love to some than others just because of how my personality and differences work out in the various relationships.  God calls me to love because He gave His own life to show me love. 

If we claim to love God, we must show love to others.  If we are to be effective witnesses for the Kingdom, we have no choice but to show God's love to others.  Why would we not choose to love Him in return for all that He has done and continues to do for us? 

I pray that your choice would willingly be to love God and love others as He has called us to do.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

This Is Crazy Love

"This Is Crazy Love"
By Zach Wood
1 John 4:9-10
This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love:  not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Usually when you hear of people doing crazy things, it involves jaw-dropping and eye-opening actions that bring high risk and some type of endangerment to their lives.  I have seen many crazy things in life and have heard people say some crazy things.  This world is full of surprises when it comes to crazy acts and crazy things that are said.  

I have honestly never though about God when I hear the word "crazy".  I have never really associated that word with anything God has done.  It just has never come to mind.  However, after recently having picked up the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan, I have thought about that word in a whole different way.  And since I have been reading the above passage, God's Love has a new perspective in my mind and heart now.  

How do you feel that God, the Creator of the Heavens and the Universe, came to this earth as a human being and gave His life on a Cross for you?  Do you really take the time to stop and just ponder this act of Love?  The more I ponder it, the more it does not make sense to me now.  This is an act of Love I cannot wrap my mind around.  I cannot comprehend its full meaning.  I cannot make sense of it at all.  I cannot analyze it.  It it not logical.  It is unexplainable.

Can you make sense of it?  Can you fully comprehend what He did for you?  If not, then good!  This is all a part of His Crazy Love!  This is an insane act of Love that the Creator of this world did for you and for me.  We are so imperfect and so selfish.  However, God loved us so very much that He paved a way for us to come back to Him through Jesus Christ.  That is Crazy Love alright!  He chose to die for us, even though many refuse to follow Him.  

Love is not about us loving Him, it is truly about what He did for us.  Read the passage again.  Love is not that we loved Him, but that He came here to earth and gave up His life so that you and I would not have to pay the punishment for our sins.  For the first time in a long time, it blows me away that my Lord and Savior did that for me?  

I pray that this devotional makes you just stop and think about His awesome sacrifice.  I hope that you will see His Love in a whole new way.  I encourage you to read the book I suggested.  It will show you just how crazy God's Love is for us.  With a love this crazy being given to us, wouldn't we want to give that kind of love back to Him?  Shouldn't we be totally sold out for Him no matter what comes our way?  I think so.  God stopped at nothing to give us life through Christ.  We should stop at nothing to love Him and serve Him in return.  

This is Crazy Love.  Not that we loved Him, but that He loved us enough to come and die for us. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We Must Love With Our Actions

"We Must Love With Our Actions"
By Zach Wood
1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Each day I live, I try to fulfill several constant roles.  I strive to be a devoted servant, husband, and father.  I try hard to be a devoted servant in the areas of ministry service I am committed to.  I strive to be a devoted husband to my beautiful wife to show her I love and appreciate her.  I strive to be a devoted father to my two girls and show them I love them and want to spend time with them.

However, what if.......I never showed up to any ministry activities?  What if.....I never gave my wife a hug or kiss or spent any time with her and expected her to feel appreciated and loved?  What if......I never told my girls I am proud of them, love them or spent any time with them?  If I failed to do any of these things, I would not be thought of very highly by others, my wife or my kids.  I need to tell and show those around me that they are important and prove that to them by doing things that would show my devotion.  I cannot just say that I am devoted without following through with actions.

As I have pondered this thought the past few days, I am constantly thinking of my relationship with God and whether or not I truly show the gratitude and appreciation back to Him that He deserves.  I can say that I love Him and tell others I am devoted to Him, but if my actions do not back those words up, those words are useless and worthless.  If I love those around me and am devoted, I will do my best to show actions that prove my love.  Without these actions, I am showing nothing. 

Am I devoted to sharing what I have and helping those around me who are in need?  Am I showing the Love of Christ by meeting the needs of those who are in need?  Am I loving others the way God has commanded me to?  Am I sacrificing what I have in order to bless someone whose need is greater than mine? 

Verse 16 is powerful.  We know what love is when we look at Jesus Christ.  That is a Love that is beyond comprehension.  We can never fully understand His Love.  We can never wrap our minds around His Love.  That is truly Love: Jesus Christ laying down His life for us.  Wow!  That is powerful!  How can we possibly look at the sacrificial Love Jesus Christ had and has for us and not have the desire to love and meet the needs of others? 

If we are to truly show God's Love, we must have actions that prove and show our love.  Whether that is love shown to our friends, love shown to our spouses, love shown to our kids, love shown to our parents, love shown to our church family or love shown to those who do not know Christ. 

When loving with your actions seems too difficult, just remember the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for you and for me. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Wanna Be In The Light

"I Wanna Be In The Light"
By Zach Wood
1 John 2:3-6
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.  The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him.  This is how we known we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

Many of you probably remember when DC Talk's "Jesus Freak" album came out in 1995.  They had a song called "In The Light".  In that song, they sang about wanting to be in the light of Christ and shine for Him.  This past week, as I have been reading this passage about walking in the light of God, I could not help but think of that song.  They sing about how they want to be in the light as Christ is in the light.  Jesus Christ is the Light of the world. 

Now, who of us would even consider saying that we do not want to be living in the light of Christ?  None of us would, of course!  However, if you are anything like me, you find yourself failing every single day in some way or ways in trying to shine the light of Christ to others.  We desire to obey Him.  We want to live like Him.  We want to say things to glorify Him.  We want to do things for others that show His Love.  Every one of us wants and desires these things if we are in Christ.  We have a desire to shine His Light. 

Look at that passage and see where it talks about the man who says that he knows Christ but then does not do what Christ commands.  How can we possibly expect to shine the Light of Christ if we do not even do what He commands?  If we are not obeying His commands, we are not walking in the Truth.  Plain and simple.  If we are living the way we want to live in our own little world, people will not see the Truth through us.  It is just that simple. 

When we turn from our wicked ways and follow Him, His Love is made complete in us and our witness grows stronger.  If we claim to live in Him, we absolutely must walk as He did.  We cannot claim to live in Him and live our own way.  The world will look at us and want nothing to do with what we say we offer.  It just drives people further and further away from desiring to know more about Him. 

If we love Him, we will obey Him.  If we want to be in the Light as He is in the Light, we must choose to walk with Him and live for Him.  Otherwise, we will not be in the Light.  I want to encourage each of us to consider seriously whether we are really, truly living in the Light of Christ.  We may say we do, but we must really examine our lives to see if we are truly living. 

If we wanna be in the Light as He is in the Light, we must walk in the Light.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Speak Wisely

"Speak Wisely"
By Zach Wood
1 Peter 3:15-16
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 

For the past six years, I have been working in a secular work environment.  I went from working in a full-time vocational ministry setting to working around people who are, obviously, not dedicated to ministry.  This is the "real world" as some may call it.  I think no matter where you are, you are in the real world.  Being in the secular work environment has taught me so many things.  God has allowed me to see so much more, honestly, than I ever saw working in a church position.  This is not saying that people who work in a church position do not see what is going on in the world.  Please do not get me wrong here.  I am saying that having the experience of being around ordinary work force people has been a different world for me and has taught me what is it like beyond the church ministry walls. 

From this experience, God has taught me that speaking wisely around these workers is so vital to my witness.  Each day I wake up, I pray that God will give me a heart that is pure and holy.  I ask Him to guide my words and actions to glorify Him.  Do I mess up at my job and do things I should not and not glorify Him?  Absolutely.  I am not perfect by any means.  I realize how very human I really am and what things really push my buttons.  People who work with me know I am a Christian, but they also know I am human.  I do dumb things and say dumb things.  In a way, it is really nice to be able to be "real" with people and not try like I have everything together all the time. 

Through these years, I have asked God to give me witnessing opportunities.  Does this mean I have time each day to sit down with people and talk about Jesus Christ?  Not in the way I thought at first.  What God does through me is He uses my reactions and responses to show others who I am.  I am a Child of God, but I am also a sinner who falls and stumbles.  He picks me up and I go back at it again.  It has been amazing to see how God has used my witness at this job.  Not in ways I would have thought.  Honestly, almost every day I do not know how God uses a person like me to be His witness.  I mess up so many ways and say so many things that do not glorify Him.  But.....He still uses me in spite of my weaknesses.  It shows people how human I really am. 

I use this personal account in this devotional to share with you that it is so vital to speak wisely and carefully when others around are listening closely.  There is a very, very lost world out there.  They need God more than ever.  I really believe all God asks of us is to be REAL.  He does not want His children acting like they have it all together.  He wants His children to just be real and honest.  However, this is where the caution comes in.  When we share Christ with others in a conversation somehow, we need to remember to do this with gentleness and respect.  Does this mean we "water down" our message?  Absolutely not!  What it means is that we treat the situation with the person with respect.  We give the reason for the hope we have, but we do it with a gentleness that does not sound like we are trying to be holy or better than them.  Nor does it mean we shove it down their throat.

God wants to use each opportunity that we have to each others as well as teach ourselves.  We can share with others the love of God, but we can also learn each time how we approach people and conversations.  It does not mean you have to sit down somewhere and talk for a long time.  Each situation is different.  Just take advantage of each opportunity God gives.  Pray about it.  Think about it.  Led Him lead. 

Speak wisely, for they are all watching.....and listening.