Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Obey Or Disboey

“Obey Or Disobey”
By Zach Wood
Jonah 1:1-3

As I have been reading this book recently, Jonah’s story has intrigued me once again.  I’m especially amazed how this book begins.  God directs Jonah to do something and Jonah does not hesitate to just run the opposite way God commands.

Instead of obeying, Jonah just takes off and goes his own route.  He does a complete 180 and turns away from where God wants him to go.  We all know this wasn’t a good idea for Jonah.  We look and think, “What were you thinking, man?  Why are you running from where God is sending you?  That’s crazy!  Don’t do that!” 

As I would be one to think that way as well, I can’t help but to think how many of us have done the same exact thing Jonah did?  There are only two choices when God gives us a command and tells us to do something.  We either go or we run away.  There is no in-between.  Either we obey or we disobey.  If we choose to wait and think about it, we have chosen to disobey.  Granted, there are times when God gives us something to think about and consider, yes.  However, there are also times when God gives us a command and He wants us to go without hesitation. 

Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh.  He refused to go……at first.  I have found myself acting like Jonah so often in my life.  God tells me to do something and I seem to argue, rationalize and find any possible way to explain that it’s not something I really should do.  Sometimes I’m actually able to convince myself it’s not something I should do.  At least for a short time I’m able to do that.  Until the conviction sets in.

When calls you to action to do something, will you obey or will you disobey?  It’s totally up to you, but we soon find out that when we disobey, we really come to regret it later. 

When God instructs, will you obey or disobey?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Led By His Word

“Led By His Word”
By Zach Wood
1 Corinthians 2:1-2

So often we get caught up in the trap of thinking we need more wisdom to share with others.  We come to feel often that we need more training to share God’s love with other people in the right ways.  Yes, we do need wisdom and education in many ways, but when we are sharing God with others through our loving and kind words, God works through that and uses us in ways we would never expect.  As long as we are keeping our passion alive in knowing God and sharing Him with others, the Holy Spirit will work through us to impact people’s lives. 

Many times, it’s not even our words that impact, as much as our actions do.  When we walk that talk, then people really see Christ through us.  Words are good, but as I’ve learned so much through ministry, it’s often the times that I’m not speaking that really shows the most love.  God wants to use us in ways that words will never satisfy.

As much appreciation that I have for my college education, I have learned so much more just by going through and experiencing life as it happens and learning as I continue to grow in walk with Christ.  That education is more than I think I would have ever learned through a textbook of any kind.  My greatest education continues and should always continue to be from reading God’s Word and following what He tells me to do.

When we are around other people, the greatest thing we can do is share God’s love with them, whether by our actions or through conversations of encouragement.    

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Love For Forever

“A Love For Forever”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 136:1

Many of you may be familiar with the song by Chris Tomlin called “Forever”.  The words talk about this psalm and how no matter what is going on in life, that God is good and is working through all things in life.  His love endures forever, no matter what situations we may find ourselves dealing with. 

I am daily reminded of God’s faithfulness and how very much He loves me.  I hope that you all as well are reminded daily of His great love.  As we come closer to Thanksgiving season, I am also reminded that I not only need to thank Him for what He has given me this time of year, but to be thankful every single day of my life. 

It brings me so much peace to know that God’s love will endure forever.  He cares about me and wants the best for my life.  When the world tosses me around and leaves me hurting, God is always there to promise His unending love.  I hope and pray that you feel the same in your relationship with Him as well.

Give thanks to Him, for He is so good.  And…His love definitely endures forever!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

First And Foremost

“First And Foremost”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 63:1

For the past six weeks, we have been doing the sermon series “gods at war”, by Kyle Idleman, at our church.  It has been one of the best series I’ve ever gone through and it has been very challenging and convicting. 

Today, as we closed with the last sermon, I shared this passage as David has a psalm of prayer sharing his deepest desire to seek God first and foremost.  So, what does that look like to seek God first and foremost?  What does it require?  What changes would that mean in your life?

What we have been looking at in this series is how we need to get rid of the gods and idols that have taken over the throne of our heart and turn that back over to God Almighty to be there instead. 

To long and thirst for God means to be intentional each and every day in our journey to be a devoted servant.  It requires much effort and making a daily choice to choose to serve Him over the false gods that try to wage war in our heart. 

I am very encouraged by David’s sincere prayer of crying out to God. David wants to seek Him and he longs to thirst for Him instead of longing for and thirsting for what the world offers.  You and I would have to admit that we do really enjoy chasing after the fleshly desires of this world.  They are tempting and look wonderful many times to us. They promise fulfillment, but then only to leave us wanting more and desiring more. There’s never fulfillment from what the world offers.  Temporary fulfillment?  Yes.  Eternal fulfillment?  No. 

Just as Jesus encountered the Samaritan women at the well and offered her living water that the world could not supply, Jesus also offers us fulfillment only found in Him.  True peace, joy, and comfort found in nothing else but Him.

As David did, do you earnestly seek Him?  Does your soul thirst for Him?  Does your body long for Him?  Are you ready for true fulfillment?

If we seek Him, first and foremost, we will then find true fulfillment.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Different "Want" List

“A Different ‘Want’ List”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 4:11-13

Like any human being in this world, I have things that I want. It’s been hard through the years to determine sometimes what should be a want and what should be considered a true need.

I’d like to share with you a different type of “want” list.  These are true desires from my heart and I would like to show the list to you.

I want…to be a better servant devoted to God.

I want…to be a better, devoted husband to my wife.

I want…to be a better, Godly father to my kids.

I want…to be more devoted to reading God’s Word.

I want…to be more disciplined in my prayer life.

I want...to be a better leader everyday in my ministry.

I share this with you to say that it’s good when we focus on wanting to be better about things in our relationships with other people and our ultimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  We want so many things in life and when we talk about “wants” it’s usually in the negative sense as in wanting earthly things.

The Apostle Paul was a human being, just like we are.  He had to learn to be content and see what needs he truly had from his wants.  He did truly become a man who desired and “wanted” to be, more than anything else, a man dedicated to the work of God’s Kingdom. 

I encourage you to create your own “want” list and ask God to help you to grow in those areas in which you “want” to be a better servant.  Our ultimate desire should always be to further God’s Kingdom and not our own.

How can we “want” Godly traits more than anything?  When we allow Him to work in us and through us to truly meet our needs and when our desires line up in serving Him.

What are you going to put on your “want” list?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Learning to Be Content

“Learning To Be Content”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 4:11-12
I really appreciate what the Apostle Paul shares here from his heart.  The key word here is “learned”.  It’s obvious that being content is not something natural for us.  We have to indeed learn to be content.  We all deal with many situations in which we must choose to be content or to be in want.  Now, wanting things is not necessarily wrong, but when we become so focused on the wants, it’s quite easy to forget and neglect the needs that God has given to us and has blessed us with. 
Every time I come across this passage, it reminds me how I need to be thankful and appreciative for all that God has given to me.  Many times I try to make my wants become needs.  I’m sure many of you probably have struggled with that in your life as well.
The Apostle Paul really did learn what it means to be content.  He went through a lot of struggles and hardships.  He went through more than most of us would probably ever endure.  I’m always amazed to read his life experiences and about how he learned to be strong in the Lord and become content with what God gave him.  It’s truly a lesson for all of us to learn and to keep learning each day of our lives.  Let us never stop learning and strive to be content with what we have.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Only His Way

“Only His Way”
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 16:25

As I’ve studied some of the Proverbs for my sermons and also for personal devotional times, this passage has always stuck out to me.  Why?  Because I see myself practicing this problem daily.  It’s not that I intentionally try to go my own way.  I don’t start my prayer time with God each day and say, “Okay Lord, I’m gonna do my own thing, so step out of the way, please!” 

We would probably think that ridiculous to pray like that and tell God we’re gonna live life the way we want to.  I think we would all truly desire to live the way God wants us to live.  However, we are human flesh and we fall to temptations every single day.  I know my day is full of temptations.  I have temptations to divert my attention away from work that needs to be done each day. I have temptations to focus my attention on things other than family when they need me.

There’s not one of us who doesn’t struggle each day with being distracted.  If we didn’t deal with distractions and temptations, we wouldn’t be human. 

I think my problem is that I have ideas and ways that I think will go well and, many times, I don’t ask God for His direction and I just go about my merry little way.  I look at something or a situation and ideas start running through my mind.  Sometimes, I don’t see things in a clear way and I just think I do.  I want to do my own thing and go my own way as I see fit.  In a way, I’m telling God, “Alright, Lord, I got this one!  I’ll consult You on the next round!” 

We would be very wise to heed God’s direction in everything we do. This proverb is important for us to take notice of.  There is a way that seems right to us, but we must be wise and go to God and allow Him to lead our way, even if our way seems right.  We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We desperately need His way to be shown to us, not our own way. 

Only through His way will we really succeed.  Through our own ways and understanding, we could very well eventually be led to our own death.  We would be wise to heed His direction.  A lot of ways “seem” right to us, but God sees the bigger picture.     

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No Degree Required

“No Degree Required”
By Zach Wood
Acts 4:13

So often, we are told we need certain certifications in order to do a job.  Granted, you do need this and would be a great idea to have the proper certifications in order to do certain jobs that you apply for.  You definitely wouldn’t want me working on an aircraft because I don’t have that training.  And, you wouldn’t want me working underneath your car because I don’t have ASE certification either. 

It makes sense that in order to do certain jobs that we could apply for, we would need the proper schooling, education and training.  It just makes sense in order to do the job right.  Sometimes, this happens in our thought process when we are sharing the love of Christ and the Gospel to others.  We think we just need more education, more training and more preparation before we can really share His Word with others. 

This is not to say that bible college and seminary education is wrong by any means, but sometimes we rely way too much on book knowledge and don’t just ask God to give us the words and direction we need when sharing with others.  If we have Christ in our lives, we have the Holy Spirit and He will guide us and lead us in the way we need to go.  I really like here how Peter and John were both unschooled and very ordinary men who were on fire and passionate about spreading the Good News.  They didn’t have a college or seminary degree, they just had a love and passion for Jesus Christ.  Wow, how simplified that is!

Be assured that if you love Jesus Christ and are passionate about telling others about Him, the Holy Spirit will guide and lead you.  Rely always on His guidance, realizing that we not always need the proper training as we would in a normal job setting.  Let God use you and the Holy Spirit move through you.

To serve God and share the Gospel, there is no degree required, just a willingness to be used by Him.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Truly WEiRD

“Truly WEiRD”
By Zach Wood
John 14:6

This passage seems a bit narrow-minded to a lost world around us.  Jesus doesn’t say He is a way, a truth and a life that could be considered living.  He is very specific and firm in making this statement.  If anyone is to follow the true path of life, they must follow Him.  No tolerance for following another religion or any other god.  He is the only way, truth and life.  Period.

If you want to live a set apart life, then we must live in a “WEiRD” way apart from the world flow.  From the book by Craig Groeschel titled “WEiRD”, he talks about being set apart and different from the world and it’s flow.  This passage explains that following Jesus is going to definitely set us apart from the pattern of this world.  Many people probably aren’t going to be receptive when we first explain to them that Jesus is the only true way in life.  That is very narrow-minded and not tolerant.

It is easy for us to follow the wide gate that leads to destruction, but harder to follow the true way of life of Jesus and enter the narrow gate, which is much less popular and the cause of much ridicule, mockery and possibly persecution.

It’s time for us to be WEiRD and show the world there is a different way to live and it’s the only true way.  He is the ONLY Way, the ONLY Truth, and the ONLY Life.  That is truly WEiRD!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Keep It Going

“Keep It Going”
By Zach Wood
Galatians 6:9-10

When I read this passage on my YouVersion Bible app yesterday morning, it really hit home with me.  I don’t think there is any one of us who has not been affected by what this passage talks about.  We try to be consistent in our efforts to do our best to be good and Godly servants to others.  I think most of us would nod and agree there.  However, it can become frustrating and discouraging, after a period of time, when things don’t seem to change or progress at all in our opportunities of trying to help others and do good things to improve the life around us.

Being consistent can be very hard, especially when you feel worn out from doing good and you don’t see any progress.  This is our human perspective and thinking.  In these times, which most of us regularly have, we must put our faith in God and leave these situations in His hands and trust that He is working, even when we cannot see.  Paul says here that at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 

When we feel like giving up, it’s those times that we really must put our trust and faith in God and be strengthened through Him to continue on.  Our perspective is so limited, but He sees the whole picture.  Let us not become weary in doing good.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Is He Your True Desire?

“Is He Your True Desire?”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 73:25-26

Every one of us would agree about how our desire should be for God and not for the things of this world.  However, if we honestly took a daily look at our lives from a distance, we would most likely see a difference from what we desire and how we really live. 

It is truly my desire each day to make God number one and to serve Him with all my heart in whatever the day may bring.  Even though my honest desire is to seek Him, there are many different distractions that seem to catch my attention as I go about my day.  I find it difficult to keep my attention often on growing with God.  It is easy for me to get caught up in daily preparations that I completely miss out on just stopping for a while to see something God wants me to focus on and meditate on. 

We all experience challenges all through our day.  I hope and pray that this passage will encourage you to be strong in your daily desire to seek God with all your heart.  We are bombarded with needs and demands at work, at home and other various things we are involved with.  We must remember that our number one desire, above all other things, should be to make God priority and our heart’s desire to serve.  If anything else is more important than desiring Him, then a priority check is in order.

From the time we get up in the morning to the time we lay our head on the pillow at night, Satan is working hard to pull you away from your desire and focus in serving God in any possible way he can.  He will not stop or rest in getting you to forsake that desire.  He wants to put anything possible in your way to lure you and entice you to fall from walking with God.  However, the more we desire Him and the stronger we become in our relationship with Him, the less impact Satan has on us. 

Honestly ask yourself the question again, "Is He your true desire?"

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

From Desire To Intentional

“From Desire To Intentional”
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 2:1-5

I try to be intentional about a lot of things.  I want to be intentional about being a positive role model to my kids.  I want to be intentional about being a supportive and loving husband for my wife.  I want to be intentional about connecting with my family and staying in contact with them.  I also desire to be intentional about my ministry job as a pastor in that I help guide and encourage people in their walk with the Lord.  I desire to be intentional.  It is something I’m working harder and harder to be better about.

When I read this passage in Proverbs, I am encouraged and reminded that if I want to be strong in my walk with God, then I need to be intentional about spending time in His Word and gaining knowledge.  My desire is to grow in wisdom from His Word and to follow Him by being a fully, committed follower of Jesus Christ.  I desire to call out to Him for insight and to search for that as for hidden treasure. 

My desire should drive me to be intentional in my effort of growth.  Many times, that does not happen.  I have the desire, but something distracts me and I lose focus completely.  With all that is going on in my daily life, it is often very easy to forget that I need to be intentional about a lot of things, but first and foremost, I need to be strong in my walk with God. 

Do you want to be intentional about your walk with God?  Do you really and truly desire to grow in Him and to search for wisdom in His Word as you would search for hidden treasure? I hope that to be true of your heart.  I do have the desire, but it’s often tripped up by some distraction or one more thing I want to complete before I actually sit down and take the time to read.  I need to be stronger.  I am sure you feel the same as I do.  I hope you feel the desire to be more intentional in your desire and effort to be in the Word and to grow with Him. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Don't Let The Past Define You

“Don’t Let The Past Define You”
By Zach Wood
Mark 14:27-31, 66-72

Life is not void of mistakes and failures.  We are imperfect and we will make mistakes and fail at things sometimes.  We will be lured by temptations in the world to follow a path that takes us into sin.  We will also have things that happen to us that we cannot control, but still make us feel ashamed and unworthy of true love. 

We must remember that our past does not define who we are.  Our past may contain consequences of mistakes we have made or pain from things that have happened to us, but that does not mean that we are failures.  We have made mistakes and we have failed, but we are not considered failures in the eyes of God Who created us so beautifully! 

In this passage, we read about Jesus predicting Peter’s denial.  Peter insists that he will never turn away from Jesus or deny Him.  But then later we read about how Peter moved on.  Peter was human and he messed up.  He was crushed after he heard the rooster crow three times.  I can’t imagine the immediate heartache that hit him when he heard the tragic alarm reminder of what Jesus had predicted.  Peter wept bitterly.  He was heartbroken.  But Jesus forgave him and then in Acts, Peter preaches a powerful sermon on the Day of Pentecost to start the early church.  Wow! 

All of us can relate to Peter in some way.  And perhaps maybe someone reading this has made more mistakes in your life that you can count and you think all you have done defines who you are and that you don’t deserve redemption.  It is so easy to let the past failures of our life define who we are, but Christ wants us to know that He gives hope that no one else can give.  We can break through the shackles of shame from our past hurts and mistakes.

Don’t let the past define you, let Christ define you! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Leaving The Shackles Of Shame

“Leaving The Shackles Of Shame”
By Zach Wood
2 Corinthians 5:17

This week, I have been thinking so much about people who are buried in a past of shame, whatever that shame may be.  There are people hurting from past mistakes and also from past things that happened to them and have not gotten past those hurts and allowed Christ to renew them and restore them. 

As a new pastor, I hear a lot of conversations about people and their past hurts and shame.  It saddens me that so many people live in this shame and never find hope from it.  I am so thankful that Jesus Christ offers hope and restoration that nothing in this world can compare to or offer. 

Paul says in this passage that if we are in Christ, we are a New Creation!  We aren’t shackled anymore by the past that tries to haunt us.  We have a new life in Him.  But many people shy away from letting Christ heal that pain and help them move on.  They’ve done too many things to receive forgiveness and it’s not possible for them to come back and recover.  But that couldn’t be any further from the truth. 

Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and the chance to be restored and renewed.  Whatever your past may be and however you may be hurting, Jesus Christ can and will make you a New Creation!  You don’t have to live in the shackles of shame anymore.  He will remove those shackles, but you must let Him. 

Many people say they don’t deserve to be released or forgiven.  And the truth is no one does.  But Jesus gives us what we don’t deserve and offers that real hope and healing from the shackles of shame.

My prayer is that anyone who reads this will be reminded that God offers a true life of restoration and healing.  Maybe it’s a past addiction or some hurt that you experienced that you cannot move on from or heal from.  Are you willing to receive that healing from the past?

Allow Jesus Christ to break through and remove your shackles of shame.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Only True Guide

“The Only True Guide”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 119:105

This past Sunday morning, we used the song “Thy Word” in our worship time.  This song holds a very special place in my heart and in my life, from childhood to now.  This was a song we sang at my church camp for many years and in various youth groups I have attended. 

God’s Word should be, without a doubt, the only guide for us in our lives.  It is easy to say that is the way it should be.  However, many times, we end up trying to guide ourselves and break away from the path God wants us on.  It is so easy to become distracted and become lost.  Being lost is no fun at all.  When I am lost, it drives me crazy and I want to find the path I need to be on again. 

When we do not allow God’s Word to guide us and we decide to do our own thing and go our own way, life seems to become derailed.  Somehow, things just don’t work out well.  The great news here is that no matter how far we drift away, God is waiting for us and longing for us to return to Him while His arms are open wide.  He wants us to stay on this true path where He leads. 

We need to ask ourselves if His Word is truly a lamp for our feet and a light for our path?  Do we truly desire to walk with Him?  Are we completely focused each day on staying on the narrow path?  Again, it is easy to say we do, but living that out is a difficult thing to do.

It is my prayer that we strive each day to follow God’s Word and the path He is leading us on.  If we are not in tune to His way and His Word, then we will go our own way and drift.  Let His Word be our only way of life. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Extreme Church: The Way It Was Meant To Be

Extreme Church: The Way It Was Meant To Be”
By Zach Wood
Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47

It is very clear that Jesus gave a command for his group of men to go out and make a difference in the lives of all people.  He gave the Great Commission for them to go out and make disciples and to grow the Kingdom.  He also calls us to do the same.

I once heard someone say, Jesus gave The Great Commission, NOT the great suggestion.  Jesus was clear of the mission that needed to be accomplished.  There is nothing more important than going out, meeting people, helping them and showing them the love of God and bringing them to the Kingdom to know Him.  We should be all about building the Kingdom.

There are so many opportunities we have to go out and be the church.  I really started understanding this more the past 8 years that I was working in the secular work environment.  I worked in a warehouse for that time and my whole perspective on people and lives completely changed.  I saw people who were very real and not trying to be what they are not.  I met many hurting and confused people.  Did I take advantage of every opportunity?  No.  I missed many.  Many times, I found myself not really knowing how to relate to those people. 

What I did discover along the way was that people did notice something different in me.  I learned I needed to be that example and God was calling me to be the church to them.  I needed to be real and genuine and not shove religion down their throat, but to be a model of God’s Love to them.

There are so many broken people in this world today.  People who are in need of  Christ’s Love.  I honestly don’t know of any greater command or mission to be part of than to get to know people and to try my best to show them God’s Love.

My philosophy about ministry is simply this in only one word, “Relationships”.  Jesus built relationships with other people.  He was real and genuine and that’s the only way I want to be.  I am not about getting to know people to get them into a church building.  I want to help build the Kingdom by getting to know people and showing them I care about them.  I don’t want to be fake and trick them into anything. 

The church and the world are full of broken people who need Jesus Christ.  We have people come here and need His Love.  God wants to use you and I to bring people to Him.  Will we choose to let Him use us and send us out to show His Love to others?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Challenging Exercise

“A Challenging Exercise”
By Zach Wood
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

For the past few months in our small group bible studies here at church, we’ve been going through Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  It has been amazing to talk about God’s crazy love by sending Jesus Christ to die for us and how, in response to that, our love by to Him should be just as crazy back. 

I remember one week talking about this passage and how we see a wonderful picture of what love should be.  This chapter is a powerful chapter written by Paul to the church in Corinth.  None of us completely understand what love really is, especially the love Jesus Christ had for us when He went to the Cross.

Talking about this passage, it reminds me of one chapel session back at bible college one Friday morning in our small group gathering.  The professor in our group mentioned this passage to us.  He then proceeded to tell us that we should try putting our own name where “love” shows up.  He then asked us to read the passage and see how far we get. 

This was a challenge I have never forgotten about.  Every time I see that passage, I am reminded of his challenge to us.  Needless to say, I didn’t get past the first part of the passage.  When I read, “Zach is patient” to myself, I just stopped.  I was already done!  I have never been a patient person.  It’s one quality about myself that I would do anything to change, even with a magic wand!!!  However, I do not have a magic wand, so I must ask God each day to give me strength and guidance to think through situations and do my best to practice patience.  Patience really shows love. 

As I read through this passage, I truly see qualities I want to have.  I want to be patient and kind.  I don’t want to be envious, boastful, or proud.  I don’t want to be rude, self-seeking, or easily angered.  I don’t want to be known for keeping a record of wrongs.  I don’t want to delight in evil, but in truth. 

So, how do I do these things?  How do we accomplish these qualities?  It’s a simple answer, but requires a lot of work.  These things come from a daily, close relationship with God.  Reading His Word and being devoted and committed to being a disciple.  It is a daily journey for all of us. 

I ask you to try going through that passage and putting your name in and see how far you get and then ask God for strength, guidance and wisdom to attain these qualities.  It is a challenging exercise and only possible with God’s work daily through you and I. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

To Start The Day

“To Start The Day”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 63:1

There are four words that stand out to me from this passage more than the others.  They are “earnestly I seek You”.  First of all, when I think of these words, I strongly believe this is what God desires of my heart each day that I live.  Second, I strongly believe that this should be my prayer each day as I wake up and go into my day.

I really do like to start each day by having quiet time with God.  I just don’t like starting my day any other way.  It doesn’t seem to go well when I don’t.  However, I do find myself going through the motions many days just praying the same prayer and not really thinking about what I’m praying. 

If I am really serious and earnest about following God and doing what He says, I will strive to think about Him all through my day.  He is my God and I want to earnestly seek Him and follow Him.  In every single thing I do and say, I want God’s love to show through.  I want people to feel Him when they are around me and to know He is Lord and Savior of my life.  There are some days, though, when He does not show through me very well because I am so unfocused and not earnestly seeking Him because I’m distracted by so many other things.

I hope and pray that this passage will be a sincere prayer from your heart to God each day that you wake up and get going.  If you do not have a personal quiet time with God to start your day, I highly recommend it.  It seems like such a great way to start the day and getting focused on Him and asking Him to guide and direct the day.  This is just a very conscious way to start the day and it can really help us focus on Him throughout the day. 

I encourage all of us to start our day asking God to help us focus on Him and go through our day earnestly seeking Him.      

Friday, April 19, 2013

Be Bold & Confident

“Be Bold & Confident”
By: Zach Wood
Acts 7:54-56

Not only does God tell us not to worry, but He wants us to be bold and confident.  That is downright hard for many of us.  When we initially think of being bold and confident for God it can frighten us many times.  Depending on our personalities and where we are in our journey and faith in God, we react differently. 

In the book of Acts, we see a man named Stephen who was full of the Holy Spirit and filled with God’s power and stood before the Sanhedrin giving them a powerful speech.  At the end of that, not too many people were thrilled and they dragged him out of the city and stoned him. 

When I read this passage, I often wonder if I could be so bold?  What is sometimes keeping me from the willingness to do anything for God?  By sharing this passage, I’m not trying to say God is going to call you to lose your life for Him in this kind of situation, but if the situation presented itself, would you be bold and confident and proud to lose your life for Him? 

Often, when I get into situations where I am encountering people with questions, I fear and worry that I won’t know the answers to their questions.  I’m scared many times that I won’t know the right words to share.  Maybe some of you deal with the same problem. 

There are many times that sins we have in our life keep us from following God, but also times when it’s our lack of confidence and boldness.  We become afraid of the unknown and don’t want to step forward in complete faith. 

So I want to ask you these important questions.  What keeps you from following God?  What is holding you back?  What keeps you from being completely and totally devoted?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

We Have Real Hope

"We Have Real Hope"
By Zach Wood
Romans 5:1-5

In life, we all have times when we feel hopeless. Maybe someone gave you the cold shoulder in a desperate time of need.Maybe you lost your job right in the middle of a serious financial crisis at home. Or perhaps everyone at work threw more responsibilities on you when it was the only week you had planned to focus on other tasks that needed to get done.

It’s so easy sometimes to lose hope.Satan is a master of finding ways to discourage us and take our feeling of hope away.Most of us have experienced this at one time or another.However, if you continue to fall into this rut and stay in it, then something needs to change.

For a Christian, there is no situation in which hope can’t be found.You may feel that way initially, but after you work more through the situation with God’s direction, you find there really is hope.Many times we tend to give up and not look for or believe in hope. Jesus Christ gives us every reason to have hope because of what He has done for us.He promises to be by our side when we hard times pull us down.

Many people have a hope, but it’s not based on anything real or spiritual.These people just hope something will turn out or they hope for the best.It’s not a hope found in Christ.Many people hope the stock market will hold up.Some hope in a salary that will take care of all their financial needs.Others hope for a nice job in which they’ll enjoy what they do.And still some hope to have a good family of their own one day.

It’s not wrong to hope for these things.However, if these things are all we ever hope for, then we’re not properly focused and we’re in for a major disappointment!

My prayer is that we will find joy and the attitude to rejoice in the hope of Jesus Christ even when we experience the trials of life. Our hope should be found solely in Jesus Christ and not in the things of this world.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Press On: Go For The Prize!

"Press On: Go For The Prize!"
By Zach Wood
Matthew 7:13-14

(As you begin, I encourage you to go to You Tube and watch the Balance Beam illustration from Francis Chan and then continue.)

We all want to achieve things, but we won’t get very far if we choose to straddle the balance beam of life.  We get scared to press on and choose sometimes to live the safest life possible.  We often choose not to take the path less traveled.  We choose many times to follow the ways of this world because it’s easier and safer than going against the flow. 

Jesus shares some very important words from the Sermon on the Mount in this passage about pressing on and going against the flow as we set our eyes on the prize.

So many people will live life and enter through the wide gate because it’s easy and it’s what so many other people are doing.  But we must remember that Jesus has called us to live a life that is unlike the rest of the world.  If we are to achieve a prize that is heavenly and not of this world, we must go against the flow and go for the only prize that will last. 

I think of the words Francis Chan shared through this balance beam illustration.  He said that this safe life is the way so many Christians are headed for.  That is scary.  We cannot expect to life a safe life, keep our faith to ourselves and not do anything crazy for God and then expect God to say to us one day, “Well done” and do our dismount off the balance beam of life.  We simply cannot expect Him to be congratulating us for that kind of life.

All my life I have been intrigued and amazed when I watch the gymnastics segment of the summer Olympics.  Watching these Olympians perform is absolutely mind boggling.  To see their strength and dedication is inspiring.  But remember they didn’t start out being that good.  They had to practice and focus on putting a lot of invested time into doing that to be where they are now. 

When we walk the balance beam of life, we are going to have struggles, frustrations and times when we just want to give up and life a safe life because we’re afraid to go on.  However, just as the Olympians do, we need to keep going and keep striving for the goal.  Keep going and remember that Christ is cheering us on and telling us that we can do it!  When we fall, with His help and guidance, we can get back up and keep pressing on!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Renewed Each Morning

“Renewed Each Morning”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 51:10

I am sure there are many people who choose to start their day off with quiet time with God.  I hope this would be the case for most of us, but not saying morning time has to be everyone’s decision.  For me, personally, I cannot imagine starting my day without having quiet time first. 

There is just something special and unique about starting the day off with communicating with God and asking for His guidance and strength through my day.  It helps me so much to connect.  I read this passage this morning during my quiet time with God and it really spoke to me.  I have read it many times before and every time I do, I am reminded of the song “Create In Me A Pure Heart”. 

I find it so encouraging and so vital, at least for me, to start my day asking God to create in me a pure heart and to help block out the pressures that may arise throughout my day.  I ask Him to help me focus on His plan and direction for my day.  I want to be focused and have His Spirit renewed through me to teach me and guide me.

This is a powerful prayer coming from David.  He is earnestly seeking God and asking God to create a pure heart within him.  In this world today, I honestly cannot think of a better prayer to start out the day.  With all the temptations we face, how can we not start our day asking God to create in us and help us keep a clean heart?  I believe it is of utmost importance to start the day asking God to give us a clear mind and heart. 

David messed up big time, but he was repentant and asked God to give him a pure heart and to renew a steadfast spirit in him.  What a heart-felt prayer!  Shouldn’t we follow and echo that same prayer in our lives to start the day?  We have all messed up and we turn away from God and do our own thing.  How can we not start our day asking Him to fill us, guide us, and create in us a pure heart?

I hope and pray that each of us seeks and desires to be renewed each morning.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Choose To Rejoice

“Choose To Rejoice”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 118:24

It seems each day I am faced with different things that challenge my attitude and outlook.  As you all do, I have hard days and good days.  This is part of being a human being.  Some days we feel great and are loving life.  Then other days it seems we are just trying to hang on and survive.  It seems every time we turn around, something falls apart or seems to go wrong somehow. 

Now please understand, I am not trying to put a damper on your mood right now or depress you, but I am simply stating that life gets tough many times. 

I was just thinking about this passage the other day and how we are told to rejoice in each day that God has made.  Yes, we mentally know God has made each day and that He wants us to rejoice in that He made it.  However, that is often hard to do when so many things pull us down and overwhelm us.

We could probably acknowledge the first half of this passage and agree it is the day the Lord has made, but when we come to the second half, sometimes we honestly say, “But don’t ask me to rejoice in the day!  This day stinks!”  That’s many times our attitude. 

I want to encourage you that if you are having one of those  bad days or maybe several bad days, just to remember that our circumstances should not determine whether we are glad or not.  I’m not telling you to be happy about the problems you may be facing, but to say that we should rejoice in the fact that God is awesome and that He will take care of us.  God is good whether you are having a good day or a bad day.  That doesn’t change the fact that He made the day and gave it to us to make a difference in someone’s life. 

I want to challenge you each day to rejoice in the day God has made.  Even if things are tough, there are still many things you can rejoice in that He has done for you.  Sometimes, we just have to stop, think and remember all of His blessings even in the midst of the frustrations and heartaches. 

I hope today that you will choose to rejoice regardless of what happens to you.  This is the day He made.  Rejoice and praise Him for all He’s done.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sold-Out Love: From Fan To Follower

“Sold-Out Love: From Fan To Follower”
By Zach Wood
Dueteronomy 6:5

For the past six weeks, I went through a sermon series with my church from “Not A Fan” by Kyle Idleman.  Let me tell you first, these were some of the most challenging and convicting sermons I’ve ever given.  When I consider my heart and my devotion to God and whether or not I’m totally devoted and committed, I think of my love for God. 

Most of us would say that we are completely and totally sold out for God and love Him with our whole being.  However, if we looked closely and really examined our lives, we would probably see otherwise if we’re really honest.  I know that by looking in my life, I saw that I have failed a lot and need some much improvement and need to be more devoted and committed.

As you read this passage, consider if you really love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  As yourself if you really believe this and ask God to search your heart, as David asked God to do, and see whether or not you are truly committed to living a life that is putting God first and foremost.

For many of us, we say we are completely devoted to God and whatever He calls us to, but when we examine where are hearts are, we probably will see otherwise.  This is a constant, daily struggle for me.  I just put God first and commit to loving Him completely without any reservation.  If I am not totally devoted to Him, then I am choosing to follow some of my own ways and the ways of this world. 

I ask you today as I’ve been asking myself, “Are you totally sold-out for Him?”

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Hard Command To Follow

“A Hard Command To Follow”
By Zach Wood
John 15:12

I wanted to share a passage with you that I was reading the other day during my devotional time and it really spoke to me.

When I read that passage, I thought of all the excuses I so often use toward God about not loving certain people who have treated me wrong.  But when I read this, I realize how much love God gave to me by coming to die for me and how little He asks for us to reach out and love others. 

Loving others may seem like a very hard task, but when I consider what Jesus went through to show His love for me, I shouldn’t complain about His command to love others.  This is not to say loving others is not difficult sometimes.  But we must remember what was done for us through Christ’s death and sacrifice to show us love when we have a hard time loving others.

I find myself giving so many excuses when God tells me to love on someone who has wronged me or has done something to lose my respect.  When people wrong us, hurt and/or do something that causes us to lose respect for them, we have a right to feel angry and frustrated.  However, God never told us we have the right to hold a grudge or to avoid them and not show love. 

I know there are so many different situations we can bring up and discuss where people argue of their reasoning to not to show to someone who has deeply hurt them or done something horrific in their family.  I myself have felt and would probably feel the same way toward those who have done that, but I know that God tells me I need to show love as He has shown love to me. 

Maybe there is someone you know right now that you have not shown any love toward because of what he or she has done.  Would you pray that God would work in your heart and give you the ability and desire to show them love?  I know that’s probably asking a lot, but just give that a try.  It’s not a change that will happen overnight, but God will give us, through consistent prayer, the understanding and ability to love those who are hard to love.

Remember Jesus’ words, “Love each other as I have loved you.” 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How Foolish Of Me

“How Foolish Of Me”
By Zach Wood
1 Corinthians 1:18

I don’t know about you, but I know that I have done many, many foolish things in my life.  After 36 years of being alive on this earth, I have done some things that I am not proud of at all.  I have made bad decisions.  I have said bad things to other people.  I have had very bad thoughts that I would be embarrassed to share with others.  I have not done things that I should have done to help others.  I have sat back and watched things happen to people that I should have stopped.  I see so many times that I should have been bolder in my faith.  I have said things to my children that I regret.  I have said things to my wife that have hurt her and brought sorrow. 

As I think of some of the really dumb and foolish things I have said and done and things that I have not done that I should have done, I feel very foolish and many times like a failure in my walk with Christ. 

Usually when we hear of the word “foolish”, we immediately think of things we have done and things others have done to us that have been done without proper though and planning.  We have all been there, done that.  There is not a single one of us who have not said or done something foolish to someone else.  You would not be human if you haven’t. 

I would never think or consider foolish to be a word to describe my actions in a good way, but there is one way we can be foolish in a positive way.  It’s a way that the world does not understand and, as committed followers of Christ, we need to realize it’s the way God has called us to live.  The Apostle Paul makes it every clear that the message of the cross is foolishness to the world.  The world sees the way we live and thinks we’re crazy.  The world thinks we are foolish to follow such a life, but it’s that life that will truly save us. 

Please consider carefully the way you are living each day of your life.  Are you living a foolish life for God and following the message of the cross or are you choosing the life of this world and turning away from the true message of the cross?

I want to have a smile on my face when I share with others, “How foolish of me to live this kind of life for God.”  I guess I don’t mind being a fool for Christ.    

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Always There

“Always There”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 139:7-10

The past couple of days I have been reading this passage from the book of Psalm.  This prayer from David’s heart to God in this close, deep and personal encounter is beautiful.  It clearly expresses how close God wants to be to us and how close He desires for us to be with Him. 

I find it amazing how God knows every single thing about us.  There is nothing we can hide from Him.  He knows all.  Even if you don’t tell Him, He still knows it. 

Sometimes it’s hard when we go talk to someone about issues we are having and troubles that we are facing.  Many people can try to comfort us and can understand some of the issues, but only God truly knows exactly how we are feeling and what we are going through.  When no one else can clearly understand the exact, intimate details of our lives, He does.  To me, that is a comforting thought. 

When you go to Him in prayer and are just hurting and don’t know what to pray, He knows that hurt and will provide the comfort you need.  Sometimes we don’t even need words.  We just need to bask in His presence and let ourselves be filled with His presence. 

I pray today and from this day forward that you will feel the presence of God in your life and working through you and in you to give you what you need.  There is no place you can go to where God will not be.  He is always with you, hearing every prayer and He is faithful and true.  Kind of sounds like an old favorite Hymn, doesn’t it?  Reach out to Jesus, He’s reaching out to you.

I hope and pray that each day, you will feel this closeness in your relationship with God.  He knows you from the inside out.  He will understand when others cannot.  He will hear the cries of your heart when you don’t have the words to express them. 

Do you feel that closeness and comfort today?  I hope so.  He’s always there. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Why Are You There?

"Why Are You There?"
By Zach Wood
John 6:1-2

I think sometimes in our walk with Christ, we must really take some time to ask ourselves “why do I go to church”?  Ask yourself “why am I there on Sundays”?  This is not a question to bring any guilt to you at all.  Many times through the Gospels, Jesus asks questions to separate the fans from the followers.

Here Jesus is in the height of His ministry and we read that large crowds were following Jesus because He was very popular and was working miracles. In John 6, He was providing a feast for this crowd from just five loaves of bread and a couple fish. In verse 2 it just says they were coming “because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.” The main reason the crowds were showing up was because of the spectacle. They didn’t care as much about the teaching and the life changing lesson. They were there for the show.

So, why do you go to church?  What is your “because”? Is it because you think the seats are comfortable, or you really like the music? Is it because you like the chit-chat and the friends your kids make? These things are great for awhile, but at some point the relationship must be defined. Why are you there?

Take a look at John 6:66.  Jesus is talking about being the bread of life and what it means to follow Him.  Many went away because Jesus says, “Let’s define what we’ve got here,” and what He offered isn’t what they wanted.

He wants there to be a point where you define the relationship. Why are you there? Because …? For Jesus, his because is that He wants to have a deep relationship with you.

This past Sunday, I started a new sermon series with my congregation called "Not A Fan" where it challenges us to ask ourselves if we are just fans of Christ and admirers or if we are truly committed followers.

So, this Sunday, when you walk into the doors of your church, ask yourself the challenging question, "Why am I here?  Am I just a fan or am I a follower?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lose The Gavel

"Lose The Gavel"
By Zach Wood
James 1:19-20
I know this sounds like a silly question, but how many of us would walk into a store and ask to buy only part of a picture frame?  Or how many of us would buy a painting and ask to only have half or just part of it?  No, we want to buy the whole thing and see the whole picture.  We don’t just break off half of it or part of it.  We want the whole picture to look at.  If we only buy half or part of it, then we can’t look at the whole thing.  Makes perfect sense, right? 

We do this in the way we view others and their situations.  In a sense, we’re only seeing part of the picture and not the whole picture.  Many pieces of the picture are not there and we just choose to react quickly and not see it.  This is where most of us get into trouble.

We judge people before we even know who they are and what their situation is.  We really do not take the time to listen before we get angry.  This sadly tends to happen in churches today as well.  People get immediately judged when they walk into a church building for worship.  They are feeling very insecure and nervous already and then they end up dealing with people who glare at them right after they walk into the sanctuary. 

One way we are judgmental, at least I know I am, is when someone is tailing me in traffic.  As soon as this happens, boy do the assumptions and thoughts starting flying through my head!  Why are they riding my tail so hard?  Why can’t they just slow down? 

How quickly we seem to judge people and get in our own world and forget what other people may be dealing with.  We think what we want to think and do not give people the benefit of the doubt.  We easily look at others and we fail to just stop and think that maybe they are having a horrible day or something bad has just happened to them or they may be dealing with multiple things and they are just ancy to get to their destination.  We really have no idea what they are dealing with. 

This is a powerful passage from James in reminding us that we need to become much better at listening to other people and their situations before we jump to conclusions and become angry.  Listening is something we need to become much better at doing.  If we take the time to listen and understand the whole situation and see the whole picture, we can learn to understand better.

Remember the next time you are tempted to judge someone quickly, lose the gavel and take the time to understand.