Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Positive New Year

“A Positive New Year”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”

This time of year is big for many people to think about the past twelve months and all that has happened.  Many of us think about what we have done for the past year and what has affected our lives.  We tend to think about the good things we’ve done and regret the bad things.  Who wouldn’t regret the bad things? 

None of us want to remember or reminisce about negative things that have happened.  However, these are the very things we tend to dwell on and we get so caught up in the negative at times that we forget all the great things God has done for us, through us and in us.  Paul is very adamant to the church in Philippi that they focus their thoughts on anything that is positive and encouraging and praiseworthy.  Who wouldn’t want to focus on positive things? 

As this year comes to a close and we look into a new year, what positive things can you focus on and encourage others to be better about?  What new attitude could you have toward people and situations that maybe you didn’t react to very well this past year?  It’s wonderful when we can learn from our past so that we make better choices and have better attitudes toward things in the future.  God can use past mistakes to help us learn to make better choices as we move along in our lives each day. 

We definitely need to focus our attention to being more positive and praiseworthy, especially in the hard times when we are tempted to do nothing but complain.  I encourage all of us to make it a goal, as we begin a new year, to start each day in thanksgiving to God for all that He’s done and continues to do.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

True Christmas Celebration

“True Christmas Celebration”
By Zach Wood
Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

As I write this today, I am looking out my office window and watching the beautiful snow fall to the ground.  There’s always been something fascinating to me about watching snow fall since I was a child.  It’s not only fascinating, but it’s beautiful as well.  The same goes for a clear night when I can look up at the beautiful sky and see all the stars.  What beauty to behold!  And one of my favorite sights to see is a sunrise or a sunset.  That is truly breathtaking!  The vast array of colors that comes through on the horizon is just awesome!

These are all creations of a wonderful and mighty God!  We are reminded every single day, through His Creation, of how wonderful and awesome He truly is!  While these are wonderful and beautiful, they are just a reminder of the greatness of God Himself.  The greatest thing that has ever happened to us is that Christ came into this world, lived a perfect life and gave His life so that we would have eternal life and choose to follow Him.

As we gather together for this Christmas season, let us never ever forget the true reason we have life and why we even celebrate.  We would have nothing if we didn’t have Jesus Christ.  Mary gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, but not just any boy.  That boy would grow up to teach others and give His life so that we could experience a truly beautiful life that only He can give. 

While there are many beautiful sights to behold throughout our days through His Creation, the most beautiful sight is the life that was born into this world and was given up so that we could have life.  There is nothing greater or more beautiful that Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God.  He is truly the reason we should celebrate, not only as Christmas, but every day throughout the year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A True Desire To Seek

“A True Desire To Seek”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 119:10
I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.” 

We all know things we are supposed to do in life.  There are rules to keep us in line and obedient.  Growing up, we became accustomed to hearing rules set by our parents.  We knew we needed to clean our room.  We knew we needed to take out the trash.  We knew we needed to take our turn washing the dishes.  If we didn’t obey, there would be consequences and we would get punished in some way. 

I’m guessing most of us didn’t grow up with an enthusiastic attitude toward doing these chores and possibly many others we were asked to do.  As years grow on us, we hopefully come to grasp the idea of being a servant and doing things with a glad and sincere heart.  Maybe we grow with more of a desire to do these things not only for our parents, but for others out of an attitude of service. 

There’s a difference between doing something out of obligation and doing something because you want to.  This passage describes someone who sets out to seek God with their heart.  Hopefully this passage describes you in that you desire God and seek Him with all your heart.  When we truly seek Him and desire to follow Him completely, our lives will stray less and less.

The more we read, the more we put into practice in our daily walk with Christ, the more we grow in His image.  This desire grows inside of us and we seek to do nothing more than follow Him and be obedient.  This doesn’t come from an obligation, but from a sincere desire in the relationship we have with Him.  When you really want to do something, you show strong desire.  When we have a sincere desire to follow Christ, that desire will shine and be visible to others. 

Do we find ourselves asking this question from childhood into our relationship with God, “Do I have to??”  Or do we find ourselves going from “having to” to “wanting to” with following God?  Our relationship with Him must be a sincere desire to follow, otherwise it’s merely obligation and no true desire.    

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Time To Listen

“Time To Listen”
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 18:13 (NLT)
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.”

I’ve read this passage so many times from the NIV, but the other day I read it from the NLT in a devo book that I recently purchased.  This translation just struck me in a way it hasn’t before.  I’m not even going to ask how many of us have struggled with speaking before listening.  Why?  Because every single one of us have done this and later really regretted not listening first. 

I so much wish I could go back in time and first listen before speaking to so many people that I either misunderstood or hurt because I was so foolish not to first listen.  Even if I didn’t agree with what the person was saying, I still should have listened to at least show that I respected how the person felt.  I cannot go back and change those times, but what I can do is learn and remember for the future when I do get into a conversation that I need to listen completely before responding.

Christ calls us to love and to be compassionate toward others, no matter how we are treated.  There are many people we come in contact with that say things we don’t agree with and share advice with us that we don’t like.  What I have learned, and am still learning, that when I’m talking to someone who is offering their opinion, no matter how much I disagree, that I need to fully listen to every word before I respond. 

I’ve learned that sometimes this shows so much more respect and love for others than trying to tell them about Christ.  Showing His love through our actions.  Showing His love as we listen to people, respect their perspective and talking with them.  It’s okay if we don’t always agree.  That’s just not going to happen!  We won’t always agree.  However, as we learn from this proverb, we must work harder in our lives to stop and listen to what others are sharing with us and hear them out fully before we even attempt to respond. 

It’s truly amazing what we come to learn when we actually take the time to listen to people, learn the facts, understand how they feel and where they are coming from before we even attempt to give any response.  God can do some amazing work in our hearts and minds when we take the time to listen closely.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

God's Perfect Faithfulness

“God’s Perfect Faithfulness”
By Zach Wood
Isaiah 25:1
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.”

It’s always an inspiration to read Scriptures that specifically address God’s faithfulness.  The key word here is “perfect”.  Who on earth could ever be perfect in faithfulness?  There is no one who can promise us this and remain faithful to that promise.  God’s faithfulness is never ending.  It’s always been there and will always be.

From the time you get up in the morning to the time you lay your head to rest, you can count on God’s faithfulness to lead you through the day and to be there always.  He is faithful.  There is no doubt about it.  While everyone else in the world fails us because they are imperfect, we have an awesome God to rely on that is always there and is always perfect in every way.

Isaiah sends this amazing prayer up to the heavens declaring the greatness of our faithful God.  He not only has faithfulness, but perfect faithfulness.  We can rely on Him no matter what we experience.  No matter how deep our pain and strife may become, there is no greater source of faithfulness than what God provides.  He has done marvelous things, continues to do so even today and He will be that way forever.  Isn’t that a great promise?

Maybe you’ve always known that God is faithful and perfect, but the reminder today is something you desperately need as so many around you have failed in their faithfulness.  Maybe today you’re struggling and you just need little reminders that God is always there and watching over you. 

Isaiah’s words here should echo into our lives each day as we seek to serve and praise our awesome Father.  He is the only source of perfect faithfulness we have to rely on.  Every day, all day, in every way.  There is none greater and none more powerful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Nothing Else Compares

“Nothing Else Compares”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 3:7-9
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God is by faith.”

These words of Paul have really inspired me this week and want to share with you all as we look this week more about what we’re thankful for.  While Thanksgiving time should be all year around, we really need to take time to be reminded what we have and all that we should be thankful for.  While it’s wonderful to have such great families, friends and things in our lives, we need to be reminded that God has given us everything we need.

Paul looks at all he has accomplished in his life and all that he has, but then he clearly shares that all these great things in life are nothing compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ personally and following Him.  Paul came to a point where nothing in the world meant anything more than what Christ had become to him.  He found contentment through Christ and that everything else in his life was considered a loss if Christ was not his priority.

What will it take for us to feel the way Paul did?  When will we come to a realization that nothing in the world matters more than Jesus?  We easily say He is number one priority, but so often our lives say the exact opposite.  This is a daily battle and challenge.  We must surrender our lives to Him every day and hold onto Him more than we hold on to the relationships and things we hold so dear. 

Is Jesus our treasure chest?  Do we seek Him more than anything else we desire?  When we think of all our accomplishments, our relationships, our inheritances, or whatever else we have in our lives that we’ve accumulated, how do they compare to how much Christ means to us?  Are they more or is He the ultimate longing for us?

May Christ alone be the treasure chest we solely desire to seek.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Joy Through Contentment

“Joy Through Contentment”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 4:11-13
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

I can’t tell you how many times throughout my life that I have read through these verses and not really given them any deeper thought other than thinking that Jesus gives me strength to do whatever it is I need to do.  While that’s true, there’s something far deeper here than that.

Paul is one of the most powerful and influential people we find in Scripture, especially the New Testament.  He goes from the extreme of murdering Christians to boldly proclaiming the name of Christ everywhere he went.  Talk about a life change!  What I find most appealing about Paul is how strength didn’t just come naturally to him.

One word here really sums this whole passage up, “learned”.  As strong and bold as Paul was, there was so much learning he had to do before he became content.  That’s a big word for us these days, “content”.  Who is content?  Are you?  You may quickly mutter “yes”, but I would caution you before doing so.  Look at your life and what you have and what you don’t have.  Are you satisfied and happy with what God has given you even if there are some things you’d like to have, but don’t have now?

Paul really learned how to be content, whether he had much or very little.  But that didn’t come easy.  He had to learn through some very rough times.  It’s all a part of learning and growing.  None of us are perfect about it.  However, if we continue to learn and grow and base our joy and strength on God and not what the world offers, we will truly learn how the Lord becomes our only source of joy and strength.

We all certainly need to learn how to be content, no matter the circumstances.  I know I do!  Being content is a daily struggle for me and I’m sure it’s for you all as well.  For Paul, the joy of the Lord certainly became his strength.  He was content, but it was only after years of growing through good and difficult times.  We must learn and grow to be content with whatever we have or whatever we don’t have.  The joy of the Lord should be our strength and we should be content with what He’s given to us.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Appreciation For Freedom

“Appreciation For Freedom”
By Zach Wood
1 John 2:2
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

As we’ve just celebrated Veteran’s Day, we take time to remember the men and women who have so faithfully served our country and the ones who have given their lives so that we can have freedom in this country.  This past week, I was reminded not only what so many men and women have done to give me this incredible freedom, but also the freedom that has been given to me through Christ.

I find myself so guilty, when these days of tribute come around each year, that I don’t express my gratitude for the wonderful freedom I have been given in this country.  But I also find myself feeling guilty that I don’t express my appreciation and take so much for granted the freedom that Jesus Christ has given to me by paying the price with His life.  Just as these faithful men and women have given freedom by serving and many have died doing so, Jesus Christ has been faithful to come and serve and give up His life so that we would have life.

I am guilty of taking the freedom of this country and the freedom that Christ gives to me for granted.  We are all so guilty of this and it’s important for us to be thankful each day, most importantly for what Jesus Christ gave to give us life.  While these men and women of this country give up so much to give us freedom, the greatest sacrifice ever given was through the death of Jesus on the cross. 

Do we really understand and appreciate what He did to bring us life?  Has Jesus’ death on the cross just become commonplace to us?  Do we sincerely, every day, feel a deep appreciation and sense of true gratitude for what He did? 

I’ve heard the phrase “Freedom is never free” so often through my life.  And, you know what, it’s true!  Freedom always comes with a price that someone has paid.  Faithful men and women have paid that price for us in this country.  Jesus Christ ultimately paid the greatest price by serving and giving His life for us for true freedom.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Choose To Follow Daily

“Choose To Follow Daily”
By Zach Wood
Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’”

The Apostle Peter makes a confession that Jesus Christ is the true Son of God.  Right after, Jesus challenges each of the disciples and says that following Him is going to be challenging and difficult.  The one word that stands out to me in this passage is “daily”.  The choice to completely follow Christ is a decision each of us makes every single day as soon as we begin our day.

We tend to wake up in the mornings with many things on our minds.  We have so many things to tend to and places to go.  We have our jobs, families to take care of and various activities to get around to.  Our daily lives are filled to the max these days.  No wonder we get so consumed with what we need to get done and that our daily lives with Christ often get tucked back into the corner of the day as it begins.

If we are really sincere and committed to a life of living for Christ, we must completely surrender everything to Him and pick up our cross to follow.  We must surrender to Him and allow Him to be in control of the day, leading and guiding us.  However, most often, our schedules lead and guide us.  We take care of what we need to do and often consult Christ’s guidance when we get into a situation that’s problematic or dealing with people who are frustrating us.

If we are going to fully follow Christ, we must be committed to a life daily lived through Him.  This is a life that should begin from the time we awake to the time we lay our heads down to the pillow at night.  It’s a choice we make every single day.  Are we going to follow Him?  Are we going to obey Him?  Are we going to let Him completely lead? 

To truly follow Christ means we completely deny ourselves of what we want to do and let Christ lead us to what He wants us to do.  He must be in the lead and we must carry our cross.  Too often we are comfortable and barely carrying any cross because that’s the life that is most comfortable.  If we are to claim a life lived in and through Christ, we must count the cost of truly following Him and be willing to deny ourselves each day.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Life Is Better In The Light

“Life Is Better In The Light”
By Zach Wood
1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

Does anyone out there enjoy walking through a dark house at night?  Whether it be a bedroom, living room or basement, none of us enjoys walking through a dark place with no light to guide the way.  Why is that?  Because we might trip over something or bang into something and cause some serious injury from what we cannot see.  Whether that light is coming from the ceiling fixture, a flashlight or a match, we prefer to have a light to guide our way.

Not only do we not want to walk in a dark place because we might hit something, it can also be just downright spooky at times.  If we’re blindfolded to do some sort of “faith-led” obstacle as we might do in a youth group or a church camp to teach us to rely on the person who is guiding us, we get a little nervous.  If we cannot physically see what is in front of us, we get nervous and a bit shaky. 

Why in the world would we not want to walk in the light?  We want to see our way.  We want to know where we can step and where we shouldn’t.  One wrong move and we can be in serious pain or even lose our life.  The light is so vital for us to see.  Not only is physical light vital for us each day to be guided in what we do, the spiritual light we have each day from God is important as well. 

Again, why would we not want to walk in the light, especially the light God gives to us?  Each day, we have the choice whether to walk with God in the beautiful light of life He shines or we can choose to walk in the terrible darkness that the enemy wants us to wander off into.  Not only does this affect our lives, but it also affects the witness we can be to others who also need to see God’s light.

When we choose to walk in God’s light, there are so many blessings and abundance of life to enjoy, especially in fellowship with others who also walk in His light.  Then, we can take that light and shine it for others to see who don’t know God.  Let us walk in that light so that we can live fully for Him and shine His light for others to see.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trusting & Resting In God Alone

“Trusting & Resting In God Alone”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 62:1-2
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

We often say to others that we trust fully in God.  We often share that we are placing our lives in God’s hands and that He’s in control.  We often proclaim to others that we are fully trusting in God’s provisions and know that He will carry us through.  However, honestly, how often are we really sincere in these things we share about trusting in Him?  Are we truly and fully trusting in Him?

Lately, I have noticed in my own life that it’s so much easier to say this and quite another thing to actually live this out.  As a minister, I often encourage others to trust God and to put their faith in Him to guide them.  Sometimes, it almost seems hypocritical because I look at my own life and I don’t find myself resting in God alone.  I am encouraging others to do this, but I am struggling to do it myself.

It’s in these times God reminds me that I am human and no different than anyone else who lives in this world.  When people share with me that it’s hard to trust in God, I nod my head in total agreement and share how so often I find myself saying I trust Him, but not fully living that way.  I am learning more each day that life is a continual process of trusting in God and learning to trust more. 

As we have experienced some health issues in our family recently, it’s been convicting to me that I am not putting my full trust in God alone as I should.  I find myself often focused on everything else but God’s provisions.  He has reminded me through His Word, through my family and through friends that I need to constantly be trusting in Him. 

This passage is so refreshing in that my soul needs to find rest in God and Him alone.  No other is going to give me the peace and rest I need.  My salvation is in Him alone, not in anything or anyone else.  He alone needs to be my Rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer.  I cannot depend on anyone else to be the support He needs to be for me.  He alone must be my source of true strength. 

I hope and pray that each of us finds true peace, trust and strength in God alone.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

His Love Never Fails

“His Love Never Fails”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 73:26
My flesh and my heart my fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Fail.  That is a word none of us likes to hear.  It’s not a positive word by any means.  I don’t know how anyone could see that word and get filled with warm fuzzies.  That just doesn’t happen. We don’t like to fail.  When we fail, we feel completely defeated and useless.  When we fail, Satan hits us with one of his greatest tools, discouragement. 

When we have a relationship with God, we know we should rely on His strength and not our own.  However, saying and doing it are two different things.  We know what we should do, but doing it requires effort.  As humans, we try to rely on ourselves so much.  We think we know the answers.  We think we know the best way to get something done.  We think we know what we ought to say to someone.  We rely on our own wisdom and our own strength. 

Thankfully, we have a wonderful and awesome God who gives us another chance to rely on Him when we try on our own and……fail.  Failure can do terrible things in us.  We become very negative at time and feel we have no hope anymore.  That’s a lie from Satan.  There is hope and it’s solely found in God.  In our flesh, we make so many mistakes.  We have human flesh and human hearts.  We fail, but God never does.  And when we fail him, He offers forgiveness and a new start if we come to Him and ask. 

Nobody likes to be reminded of their past failures.  That is one of the worst things that can happen to us when we do fail.  We become reminded of the awful past, whatever that may consist of for each person.  Failure can drag us down quickly.  In these times, God wants to restore us so much.  His heart breaks for us to experience restoration so that we can continue to experience His love and the reminder that He still loves us.

Our heart and flesh may fail, but God is the ultimate strength in and through our lives. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

From Obligation To Desire

“From Obligation To Desire”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 19:8
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.  The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

This is a very encouraging passage from David.  Remember back to when you were a child.  You had chores, you had homework and other duties you probably didn’t really look forward to doing.  Not many kids I knew when I was that age or even the ones I know now like doing those things.  They are things we are told we need to do.  What kid likes taking out the trash?  I’ve yet to find a kid that does.  Okay, maybe I’ve met a few that don’t mind. 

We do many things, as we grow up through childhood and adolescence, out of obligation.  We have to take care of certain things we don’t enjoy doing.  Sadly, many times, this can spill into our relationship with God.  He has rules and guidelines for us to live by, but these are not for us to feel obligated to follow.  His instructions and commands are given so that we can experience the fullness of life He is offering. 

When we obey God out of a desire to serve Him and glorify Him, we experience a joy and light that is not of this world.  His instructions and commands do not jive with this world at all and at times we want to do another way instead of His way, but then we soon find out there is no joy or light in following those ways.

King David sure experienced a lot in his relationship with God.  He came to have a pure desire to follow and to obey God’s commands.  This desire was so far from feeling obligated or that he had to obey.  He knew following and obeying God was where true joy and true light of life was really found.  I hope that you and I today and every day forward will desire the same as David did.  Experiencing joy like no other and light like no other in our walk with God.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Always Loving & Faithful

“Always Loving & Faithful”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 117
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.  For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord.”

One thing I always like about reading the book of Psalms is that I am encouraged and lifted up.  It seems no matter what chapter or verses I read, I am always inspired by the words that come through.  We all need inspiration.  We all need to remember that God is awesome and that life is truly precious.

This past weekend, I was reminded how precious life is.  I’ve had some heart conditions in the past year and it resurfaced again this past Saturday, sending me to the ER to get my heart shocked/cardioverted back to regular rhythm.  The whole morning I just couldn’t believe what was happening and that I was now a patient.  I’m usually the one going to visit people. 

While the procedure went well, there was still risk and I was reminded of how precious life is that God gives to us all.  His love is great and amazing to us and His faithfulness is always present.  He brings us through hard times and strengthens us.  Hopefully through these times, we also grow wiser and change whatever issues in our lifestyle that may be causing us problems.

God’s great love and faithfulness is present, no matter what we are going through.  We don’t always understand why we experience some of the things we do, but that never changes the fact that He is Lord and that His love endures forever.  We are to praise Him always.  He is always loving and always faithful.  

I hope we are all thankful for God’s great and amazing love and faithfulness today.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Leaving The Past Behind

“Leaving The Past Behind”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

These are amazing and encouraging words as Paul gives a pep talk to the church in Philippi about pressing on and forgetting the past.  How many of us have a hard time struggling with our past and dwelling on it?  Yeah, c’mon, let me see all those hands!  Every single one of us has had this struggle and we often continue to struggle with the past.  The enemy loves to keep bringing up our painful past of hurt, sorrow and mistakes.  He wants nothing more than to make us fall in our walk with Christ and keep us from pressing on.

All of us deal with our past and the many things we have regretted.  There’s not a one of us that doesn’t deal with this pain.  It doesn’t take much to bring back memories of past failures and disappointments.  Our enemy is very good at bringing all that junk back into our radar so that we deal with it all over again.  However, Christ tells us we are special and that He has made us new and that we can press on and focus on the prize He has promised to us for following Him.  He has forgiven our sins and washed us clean, so we can focus on all that God has waiting for us.

For myself, I deal with my past often. And, when I do, I get down on myself pretty hard.  It’s a weakness I have and I work through it usually daily.  I have to be reminded that God loves me and is rooting for me, unlike the enemy, who wants nothing more than for me to be defeated.  I have to be reminded that my past does not define me, Jesus Christ does!  He makes me who I am.  I am a new creation in Him and that’s awesome!  And, so are YOU! 

I have heard this phrase many times through my life and want to share with you, “The next time Satan reminds you of your past, you remind him of his future!”  Let us press on and continue to strain toward what is ahead.  Forget the past and focus on all He has in store for you.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Need To Slow Down

“The Need To Slow Down”
By Zach Wood
Matthew 11:28
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

It’s no surprise we have so many people in the world today who are tired.  They are tired from many things: work, family, friends, extracurricular activities, church functions, etc.  The list could go on and on with how incredibly busy some people have become.  This past Sunday we had a sermon talking about how we need to slow our lives down more and take the time to relax. 

So many of us these days are in a rush mode and we don’t stop.  It’s not that we don’t want to, but we have such busy lives that we feel we just need to keep going and going, just like the energizer bunny.  But you know what?  Even the battery in that bunny will soon lose its power and need a new one.  We all need replenishing and a constant, busy lifestyle is not helping. 

It’s hard to know the balance of when to be busy and when to rest.  Often, we feel guilty if we do rest.  We don’t feel productive just sitting around, but it’s something our bodies desperately need to become recharged.  We’re in a society that focuses so much on consuming more caffeine, pills and other things to keep our bodies going.  What our bodies need is real rest.  We were not meant to be on the go every waking moment, but often we are.

I would like to encourage all of us, in this fast-paced world, to take Jesus’ words to heart.  He is serious about us coming to Him, laying our lives before Him and getting the rest we need from the weary lives we often have.   Sometimes the most productive thing we can do is to take a time of rest, whenever that is.  Daily would be good.  It’s not healthy to run, run, run all day long and get very little sleep.  We just burn ourselves out.  Where’s the balance?  Hard question. 

We need to take notice each day of Jesus’ invitation to get the rest our bodies need so that we can be replenished.  He invites us to come to Him and rest.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Obedience Without Logic

“Obedience Without Logic”
By Zach Wood
Joshua 6:2-5
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.  March around the city once with all the armed men.  Do this for six days.  Have seven priest carry trumpets or rams’ horns in front of the ark.  On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.  When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”

Every time I read the story of Joshua and the wall of Jericho, I’m amazed at the fact that this wall came tumbling down from a set of instructions that had nothing to do with wall at all.  This story completely focuses on, not a wall, but on being obedient to God.  God wanted to see if the Israelites would be obedient to Him as He gave Joshua orders for them to march around the city. 

Doesn’t this seem crazy?  Why in the world would you march around a city for six days and then on the seventh day follow another strange set of orders that still had nothing to do with physically bringing down the wall?  God simply wanted them to obey Him.  He didn’t ask them to understand the logic.  He didn’t ask them to consider how crazy the idea was.  He simply commanded them to carry through with the orders.

For those of you who remember Veggie Tales and this story illustrated, I think of the silly song the French peas sang while the men were marching around the city.  “Keep walking, but you won’t knock down our wall.  Keep walking, but she isn’t gonna fall.  It’s plain to see that your brains are very small, to think walking will be knocking down our wall.”  While that’s funny, it really does show an important message in that God’s orders a lot of times make no sense to us at the time. 

How often have you found yourself shaking your head at what God asks you to do?  Not so much that you disagree with Him, but just the fact that what He’s asking you to do seems so far from being logical and you just laugh and say, “Yeah right, God!”  However, He wants us to be obedient just as He expected the Israelites to be.  God’s ways are usually never our ways and His thoughts are far beyond ours.  God commands us to be obedient even when we don’t understand what He’s doing.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Impossible To Please

“Impossible To Please”
By Zach Wood
Hebrews 11:6
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

I believe that each one of us would agree that we desire to please God in everything we do.  I can’t imagine any of you shaking your head and saying otherwise.  It’s our desire to please God in everything that we do.  We want Him to be glorified in what we do, words we say and in the attitude we have toward other people. 

I think a lot of times how life would be without God and I cannot imagine that.  I could not imagine not having any hope or eternity to look forward to in the future.  That would seem unimaginable.  How could I live this life and not look forward to an eternity with God?  But then I think not only about life without God, but then living a life for God, but with no faith.  When I consider that, it doesn’t make any sense to me.  I think if I try to live a life for Him without faith, then my walk will grow stagnant and the fire inside will die. 

Now, no one wants the fire to die within, but we have to admit that often in our walk with God, we lose faith.  As a minister, I preach every week and teach others the importance of keeping faith strong and trusting in God, but then I find myself not even taking my own advice and counsel when certain situations arise with my work or at home with my family. 

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who deals with this problem.  We know we should have strong faith.  We know we need to trust in God, but sometimes it’s just downright hard to do!  Having faith is believing in what we do not see in front of us.  When we can’t physically see proof, it’s hard.  Trusting in God can sometimes be one of the most challenging things we’re told to do.  The words used in this passage are strong, “and without faith it is impossible…”  Think about those words.  It’s absolutely impossible to please God without faith.  That’s a strong truth.

Are you claiming to live a life that is committed to God, but failing to have strong faith?  We simply cannot have an effective life with Christ if we are not growing in faith and do not have strong faith.  We need to grow, trust in Him and have faith.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Don't Let It Fade

“Don’t Let It Fade”
By Zach Wood
1 John 3:1
How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”
We tend to get used to a lot of things in life, do we not?  When something new comes along, we get really excited and am all pumped up about it, but then after a while the excitement seems to fade away.  Newness has a strong tendency to wear off after a period of time and things feel “normal” so to speak. 

When we moved to Eagle Lake, we were so ecstatic to be living so close to Mankato because we had lived at least 30 minutes away from any shopping places for so many years.  However, after a period of time last year, that excitement wore off.  It’s still very nice and convenient to have so many shopping choices so close, but the initial hype of it wore off. 

When we recently vacationed in Duluth, I was really excited about all the scenery and beauty of Lake Superior and the North Shore.  However, I got to thinking about all the people who live up there and are probably somewhat used to all that scenery and possibly doesn’t affect them like it did me.  Initial excitement tends to fade away. 

This same excitement tends to filter into our relationship and excitement for living for God.  There are certainly times we get really excited, but then the routine of daily life gets in the way and brings that excitement down for whatever reason.  We have excitement about something new we discover for a while, and then it fades away.  I don’t think there’s a single human being in this world who hasn’t experienced this “fade”. 

As we read in 1 John, we remember how very great is the love our Father God has for us.  He has lavished love upon us, greater than any love we could ever imagine.  We are His children!  Isn’t that great??  What could be better than being called Children of God?  However, the way we live our lives sometimes doesn’t show much excitement.  We seem to get used to the life we have in Christ and the excitement fades away.  This should not be and we need to learn how to revive our daily excitement and amazement for all God has done for us. 

I hope we can all be encouraged today and the days after to not let our excitement for living for Christ fade.  Let it be rich, exciting and reviving each new day!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

See The Beauty

“See The Beauty”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 57:10-11
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.  Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

As my family vacationed in Duluth this past weekend, we had the opportunity to travel the North Shore.  As we traveled, we couldn’t help but to keep stopping, taking pictures and taking in the amazing beauty all around Lake Superior.  As I stood there, gazing over the waters and the shores, I just kept thinking about God’s beauty and how awesome He is!  I’ve always been one to enjoy and be mesmerized by landscapes and scenery.  It’s one thing I enjoy most about traveling. 

After enjoying this trip and all the beauty surrounding Lake Superior, I had to think about how often in my daily life that I forget to take in the beauty of all that God puts around me.  I don’t have to take a long trip just to stop and take in the awesome beauty of what God has created.  I should be able to do that wherever I am.  You don’t have to travel to the mountains or to the ocean or to a big lake to see God’s beauty.  His beauty is all around us each and every day.  The problem is we are just too busy and caught up in our own lives to actually stop and see it. 

God’s love, faithfulness and beauty are all over the earth.  It’s amazing to think about all that He has created around us.  However, it’s sad to think we miss so much being so consumed with everything in our daily lives. 

I want to encourage all of us to take the time to stop and see the beauty each and every day that God has put around us.  We need to take time to see and take in that beauty and be thankful to Him for His creation.  I think it’s easy for us to take in the beauty when we’re on a trip for vacation because we’re seeing new places we’ve never been to.  We need to remember to take in the beauty each and every day.  His beauty, love and faithfulness are all around us.  Are we taking time to notice?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

God Is Limitless!

“God Is Limitless!”
By Zach Wood
Ephesians 3:20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.”

Anytime I come across this passage, whether it be for a personal devotional reading, preparing for a sermon or teaching in a small group study, I am always reminded how often I limit God.  I certainly teach and encourage others that God can work in amazing and mysterious ways, but often I fail to believe that myself.  Sometimes, it’s much easier encouraging others than actually living it out myself.  I’m reminded that I need to also believe that God can and will do things in life that are beyond our comprehension.

Don’t we so often limit what God can do?  We often say, “Oh, that will never happen”.  God is never bound by limitations.  He is so far beyond us and far greater than anything we could ever think of.  Look at the words, “immeasurably more”.  Our God is an awesome God who is capable of so much more than we could ever possibly understand.  He works in mysterious ways that we most often never see and didn’t think would happen. 

I’m encouraged by Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus about how God works in amazing ways and beyond our understanding.  I hope you are encouraged by his words as well.  Not only can God do amazing things beyond our imagination, but He also works amazing ways within us.  He does great things all around us as well as working through our lives and changing us in ways we never thought possible. 

I have to admit that I’m ashamed sometimes at how I limit what God can do in my life.  I often doubt and see things only from a certain perspective and forget that God is above my thoughts and ideas.  I have to constantly remember that God is not bound by limitations that we sometimes want to put on Him.  He is beyond us and is greater than we could ever imagine.  I hope we are all thankful to serve a Heavenly Father Who is so great, awesome and beyond our understanding!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

We Can Press On!

“We Can Press On!”
By Zach Wood
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

This past week, I had the privilege of serving at our church camp for 4th grade week of camp.  I led the music and one of the songs was “Trading My Sorrows”.  Each time we sang this song, when we came to the part where Paul talks about struggles and pain to the church in Corinth, those words just really stuck out to me. 

In life, it’s no surprise that we tend to get knocked down a lot from different things that happen to us and around us.  We are affected by a lot of negative things, whether they happen to people around us and stir us up emotionally or if we are directly affected and we get hurt both physically and emotionally.  I am encouraged by Paul as he describes how we get discouraged and broken down, but that we are not completely hopeless or destroyed.  We have strength in the Lord to get up and keep on going.

Maybe you are reading this devotional and this is hitting home with you.  Perhaps you are tired and frustrated from your daily life and all the struggles going on around you and you don’t feel you have the strength to carry on.  We all get very discouraged throughout our lives.  What’s important is to remember we are never, ever alone.  Many others have gone through frustrations and have worked through them.

It would be wise for us to hold onto these important words from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth that when we are shaken up and beaten down by the world, we are not destroyed.  Christ will pick us up if we reach out to Him and allow Him to get us back up on our feet to continue our walk in the faith.  It’s often hard to get back up and have the confidence and stamina to continue, but with Christ, we can do it.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Seek Him With All Your Heart

“Seek Him With All Your Heart”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 119:1-2
Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.  Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.”

My favorite part of this passage is the last phrase “seek him with all their heart”.  When I consider that phrase, I think about how God desires for us to serve Him, from the time we awake in the morning to the time we lay our head to the pillow at night.  The question I need to ask myself and that we all need to ask ourselves is this, “Is the first thought on my mind when I awake to serve Him?” 

We may be quick to nod our head that this is the way we begin our day, but is it really?  Do we awake with an immediate sense of joy of serving our Lord for another day?  Or, do we really awake with stress and tension and the worries of the day on our minds and hearts?  I’ll admit that the latter is what I really wake up with on my mind and heart each day.  I don’t want it that way, but often times I do awake with many thoughts, ideas and worries of the day.  I think of all I need to get done and many times I am careless to not ask God to give me strength for the day.

How can we expect to live our everyday lives in a Godly way, but fail to even spend time asking God to guide our day as we begin?  It seems easy for us to expect wonderful things from God each day, but then not seek Him with all our heart.  We simply cannot expect our hearts to grow closer to Him if we’re not willing to make the effort to spend time with Him.  It just doesn’t work that way.  To grow with Him and in our faith each day, it’s imperative that our heart’s desire to be commune with Him as we begin our day and to continue that throughout the day. 

Blessed we truly will be when we seek Him with all our heart and follow His ways only.  By keeping our eyes on the prize and striving for what He has in store for us, then we will experience a fulfilling life.  Our lives will certainly not be void of problems or frustrations, but we have hope then knowing we are focused on the eternal rewards.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Staying Alert

“Staying Alert!”
By Zach Wood
1 Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Here we have a simple passage from the Apostle Peter regarding the importance of staying alert to what is going on around us.  It’s an important warning for us as we seek to live our daily lives for Christ and avoid evil. 

Anytime we are out somewhere with our daughters and are crossing a street, my wife and I will constantly remind them, “Look both ways before you cross!”  Often this is not the case and they start sprinting to the car or across the road in excitement to get somewhere and we have to remind them that it’s not safe to just cross the road.  This is something we have to teach kids over and over again because it’s easy for them to forget.  As adults, we also don’t always remember to look when we cross the road. 

Why is crossing the road so dangerous if you’re not looking?  Because who knows what vehicle is out of our sight before we cross?  There can be bushes, trees, vehicles or other things blocking our vision of what’s coming.  It’s important as we teach our kids to stop and look both ways in order to avoid a terrible tragic event.  We don’t want to get hit and we don’t want our kids or others to get hit either. 

Just as crossing the road is dangerous without looking, also living our daily lives without being on the alert is very dangerous as well.  Why would we attempt living each day without being on the lookout for the sly, sneaky, and deceiving enemy?  If we don’t remain alert to what’s going on around us, he will easily slip in and pull us away.  When we get pulled away and lose control, bad things happen.  We’re not to live our lives each day being paranoid of what the enemy might do, but we must remain alert and know that he is sneaky and deceiving in so many ways and we need to constantly be aware.

We can become better self-controlled and alert by reading His Word, praying and being more aware of our surroundings.  The enemy attacks when we least expect him to, so we certainly need to be aware and on the alert at all times.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Are Our Words Reckless Or Wise?

“Are Our Words Reckless Or Wise?”
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 12:18
Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

In our weekly small group, we are studying the book of James and we just covered chapter 3 where James talks about taming the tongue.  It’s a great and powerful passage encouraging us that words have such an impact in our lives.  This passage in Proverbs is one we looked at that also talks about how powerful words can be. 

We use words every day and all through the day many times.  Some of us have jobs where we are talking to people all day long and others have jobs where communication is a little more limited, depending on where you are and what you do.  Regardless, we all use many words each day, whether we are talking to family, friends, co-workers or even strangers. 

I have to wonder how conscious we are all being when we talk to others.  Do we really think about what we are going to say before it escapes our lips?  Are we being wise in what we say and how we say things to others?  James is very clear that our words can be like a forest fire if we use them in negative ways.  Those fires can spread fast!  Of course we don’t want that to happen, but when emotions run high, it’s amazing what comes from us. 

This passage in Proverbs says a lot about the things we say to others and how the words can affect, either negatively or positively.  We are all different in many ways and we take things differently depending on who is talking to us and how the person is using their voice.  Many factors go into each conversation and the intentions behind the words.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to be encouraging and benefiting those who listen to us as Paul told the church in Ephesus.  We should be imitators of the Almighty God Whom we serve. 

No matter what our circumstances, we should be striving to be positive and encouraging through all our conversations with others.  I want to be that way more and I hope that you all do as well.  It’s tough when we experience difficult discussions with others where we disagree, but we must always remember to do our best to be encouraging.  Reckless words can emotionally scar people for life.  Are we thinking before we speak?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Are You ALIVE?

“Are You ALIVE?”
By Zach Wood
Ephesians 2:1-2
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

When I read this passage, two key phrases grab my attention: “you were” and “you used to”.  These are both past tense phrases that Paul uses as he talks to the church in Ephesus about the lives they used to live without Christ.  Paul is encouraging these people and saying to them that they used to live without hope, but not any longer.  They were dead in sin and they used to live by the world, but not anymore.

As Paul told the church in Ephesus, the message is the same for us who are in Christ.  If you have life in Jesus Christ, then you have a past that He has forgiven and redeemed you from.  You “were” dead in sin and you “used to” live apart from the ways of God, but now you have a new life that is completely different that Christ gave to you.  Are you living that life?

When I think about my past and the ways I used to live, I remember the desires which did not bring praise or pleasure to God at all.  They were moments of temporary pleasure and I never found satisfaction through those moments.  They were fun for the time being, but when I discovered new life in Christ, I realized a whole new life I should live that would be pleasing to Him.  Not only would this life be pleasing to Him, but it would also show people around me a life they should be living as well.

Often I find the past trying to haunt me and pull me back to the old life I once lived.  Sometimes, it’s easy to get off-course from the life Christ has called us to because the old life comes back to invite us for one more round of fun.  We would be very wise to not give in to those desires, but to hold onto Christ and trust that He will help us through and turn away from those desires once again.  We are made ALIVE in Christ!  Do we truly believe that and are we living a life that shows it? 

It is my hope and prayer that we would all really desires, deep down, to live this new life with great joy every single day.  The desire we should have, from the time we get up to the time we lay our heads to rest, is to serve Christ and live a life that is ALIVE through Him!  Are you ALIVE?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bring It Back!

“Bring It Back!”
By Zach Wood
1 Chronicles 16:8-11
Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.”

My favorite part of this passage is the last sentence where we are encouraged to look to the Lord and His strength and to seek Him always.  “Always” is a hard thing to do.  We know we are to always follow Him and let Him lead our lives, but it’s often hard to stay focused.  We have the best intentions to do what He commands for us to do and we desire to serve Him, but it’s often hard to follow through and always be obedient. 

We deal with so many distractions in life and things that grab our attention away from where we should be.  Ever heard this phrase, “Bring it back!”?  I’ve heard this phrase used in various situations, usually a trainer or someone else in charge trying to get the attention of an individual or group of people.  It’s easy for most people to start out strong in whatever task they take on.  What’s really hard is to stay focused and diligent with what’s at hand. 

There’s no human being on this planet that hasn’t dealt with distractions in life.  If you haven’t, sorry but you’re not human.  We all struggle with keeping our attention and mind set on goals.  We try, but often we become distracted.  We often do this in our walk with God.  Maybe some days or weeks we start out strong and are determined to stay focused and not get off track.  However, somehow, we lose our focus and steer off the course from where God wants us.  We’re giving Him praises and we’re sharing His love with others, but then other things take our attention away from that and from Him and we get really sidetracked. 

We must remember the enemy, Satan, is very good at distracting us.  In fact, he’s a pro at it!  When we become distracted and start following the ways of this world instead of Him, we must bring it back!  We’ve got to bring our focus back to looking at Him.  When we stay determined to seek His face, we keep our focus on Him.  When we get off course, we must bring it back!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our Main Pursuit

“Our Main Pursuit”
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 21:21
He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.”

We tend to pursue a lot of things in life, don’t we?  We pursue a job that we long to have and perhaps further our education in order to be considered for the job.  We long for a house that will be perfect for our family and we look and then pursue a plan in order to get the house.  Our hearts long for someone to share life with and we start the dating process to pursue a relationship that will hopefully both bring a companion into our lives and bring glory to God. 

The list could go on and on, depending on what all we choose to pursue in life.  We choose to pursue many things throughout our years.  Some of those things we end up finding out aren’t a great choice after we pursue them.  It’s a learning process.  Sometimes we have a wonderful adventure while other times we experience much pain from the pursuit.  This is the journey of life. 

It’s no surprise to any of us that our ultimate pursuit should be in following a life that is dedicated and committed to Jesus Christ.  He is our ultimate pursuit.  We should desire, above all other desires, to pursue a life of righteousness and love.  When we pursue that kind of life, nothing can prepare us for the wonderful blessings and adventures God has in store! 

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of pursuing earthly desires more than pursuing a committed life to Christ.  It’s not that we don’t love Him or want to follow, but the things of this world seem better and more promising and we lose our main focus.  After a matter of time, we come to find out that Jesus Christ truly needs to be our ultimate pursuit of life.  There is no greater life to pursue than the life we have in Christ.  No life is more promising.  He promises a crown that cannot be obtained by following the desires of this world.

May our ultimate pursuit in life be to attain a life more like Jesus Christ each and every day. There is no greater pursuit!  

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

His Many, Marvelous Wonders

“His Many, Marvelous Wonders”
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, the would be too many to declare.”

I always feel so inspired after reading from the book of Psalms.  This is a powerful passage explaining how marvelous and wonderful the wonders God has done all around us!  It’s so easy for us to become bogged down and overwhelmed by everything going on in our lives that we often forget and neglect the little and big things God is doing all around us and all that He has already done. 

We easily become so focused on things we need to do, plans that need to be made and all the responsibilities we have that we neglect to take the time to see what is all around us that God has given and the many wonderful things He has done.  I know I become so consumed with my daily routines that often I just pass right by a marvelous wonder God wants to show me.  Sometimes, I just stop and take a quick look and go back about my routine and I don’t really take the time to soak up the moment and let it sink into my mind and heart. 

I believe so often God is trying to get our attention, amidst our busy days, and redirect our focus to the wonderful wonders all around us that we seem to be missing.  It’s not that we purposely are trying to ignore what He wants to show us, but we are so wrapped up and consumed with our agendas that we simply forget to just stop for a while and take a look around at what’s happening.  Possibly a beautiful sunrise or sunset that will soon fade or something happening with one of our kids that we might miss and not be able to cherish if we just continue on our way. 

I encourage all of us not only today, but every day, to take the time to look around and just stop what we’re doing and take it God’s wonders that are all around us.  Are we paying attention to all the marvelous wonders He has done?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

May Our Love Truly Abound

“May Our Love Truly Abound”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 1:9-11
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

What an amazing prayer that Paul had for the church in Philippi.  I think back to the 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul talks so highly of love.  Love is important as we seek to shine Christ’s light everywhere we go and in all we say and do.  Paul’s prayer here is that the church abound more and more in love.  When we love others sincerely, we really take the time to get to know them, pray for their needs and see what we can do to encourage them.

When we practice loving others as Christ loves us and gave Himself for us, we develop a stronger love and a more dedicated love through servanthood.  Our hesitation and reservation to help and love others becomes less because we become more dedicated and committed to serving.  This is a journey and a process we grow through as we come closer to God.  How could we possibly live a life of servanthood and devotion to Christ and not be a dedicated follower? 

As our love grows stronger for God and for others, we develop a desire to seek out needs and how we can encourage others more.  As our love continues in depth and insight, the desire in us should grow even stronger to do all we can to shine His light and spread that love He gave us.  It wouldn’t make sense that our love for God grow, but not for others.  It doesn’t work that way.  When we come to understand more of His love and how we need to show that love to others, the desire should naturally grow as well to love those who don’t know Him and share that love and light with them. 

The prayer that Paul has for the church in Philippi applies to us just the same.  God desires for our love for others to grow so that we can discern what is best and be pure and blameless as we continue to grow and shine for Him.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Desire To Encourage

“The Desire To Encourage”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

One book of the Bible I always enjoy reading through is the book of Psalms.  The pages are filled with inspiration and encouragement.  These words from David are no doubt amazing.  How often you do you find yourself going through your day and asking God for your words to be pleasing and encouraging to others?  Do you start your day asking God to give you strength and guide your tongue through the day so that you will share encouraging words with others?

We’ve recently looked at this idea of how we need to be positive and not negative toward others in our relationships each day.  Why would we have any other desire than to be encouraging, uplifting and beneficial in what we say?  I don’t’ believe our intent is ever to discourage others or tear them down.  However, we have an enemy that knows where our weaknesses are and how to shoot us down so that we become negative and begin using discouraging words.

I really believe it’s important to start out the day with prayer asking God to give us strength, perseverance and loving words to share through the day with others.  We need Him to guide our day and to help us live our day to be pleasing to Him.  It sounds simple, yet very hard to actually live out. 

Go back and read this passage again.  Will you choose to make this a prayer from your heart each day with sincere desire to do everything you can to please God by encouraging others?  May the words we use each day and the thoughts and attitude of our hearts be pleasing and glorifying to Him.  We surely want the Lord to be pleased with all we do, right? 

Be intentional to start your day with the desire to please God by encouraging others and a positive attitude in your heart.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Negative Challenge

“The Negative Challenge”
By Zach Wood
Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Paul talks to the church in Ephesus and encourages them to be careful in what comes from their mouth when they speak.  Paul is clear that nothing discouraging or negative should come from them and it’s an encouragement for us as well. 

Here is the two-fold challenge to think, pray about and put into action everyday.  The first part of the challenge is: Be negative-free for at least one whole day.  For one day, don’t say anything negative to anyone or about anyone or anything.  This is a difficult challenge for us because we’ve become accustomed to this so often in our lives each day. 

The second part of the challenge is: Encourage others often.  It seems so easy for us to go through our days and not be encouraging to other people.  We often get so focused on things we don’t like and people who annoy us that we forget that people need encouraged.  When we are treated wrong by someone, it’s very hard to be nice back to them because we feel wronged.  We feel they don’t deserve to be treated nice in return. 

This is a challenge I feel so many of us need in our lives.  Often times, we get so negative and it becomes something we do without thinking too much about it.  We complain and talk discouraging toward others without realizing how much we are doing so.  If we want to be Christ-like to others and share His love with a lost world, we must be more aware of how we talk toward others and focus on being uplifting with our words. 

This challenge is “The Negative Challenge”.  Being negative-free and encouraging others often.  Are you up for it?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Our Real & Genuine Love To Others

“Our Real & Genuine Love To Others”
By Zach Wood
1 John 4:11-12
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God: but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Last week, I shared the couple verses prior about how the love of Jesus is real and genuine and not filled with “catches” or “gimmicks”.  As He showed us this love by dying on the Cross for us, we also need to imitate this love to others.  We need to strive to be the best representation of His love to others. 

His love is real and genuine, but is our love to others just as real and genuine?  Do we look at other people in our daily lives and desire to love them as Christ called us to love them?  Or, do we show resentment for things they do toward us instead?  We must learn to be very careful in how we respond and react to what others do to us.  No matter what they do, they still need to see the love of Jesus Christ shining through us whatever our response is toward them.  Yes, we can feel angry or frustrated at what they have done, but in our response and how we deal with what they have done, we still are called to love. 

When I think of how hard it is to love someone else who is treating me wrong, I need to remember Jesus going all the way to the Cross for me and the real and genuine love He showed for me.  He was treated far worse than I have ever been in my whole life.  His response to others was of love and compassion. 

So, as we go through our daily lives, we need to examine ourselves and ask if we are being real and genuine toward others.  Are we determined to show God’s love, no matter how hard that may be at times?  Loving one another is often hard to do because we are all so different from each other.  We get on each other’s nerves and we rub people the wrong way.  This is called life.  However, we are always called to show His real and genuine love in all we do. 

Whether we are trying to work out a conflict with someone or just doing our best to show God’s love to people around us, our love needs to always be real and genuine, just like Jesus.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

His Proof Of Real & Genuine Love

“His Proof Of Real & Genuine 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.”

In a world where there are so many scams, con artists, gimmicks and “catches”, we want to see something that is genuine and real.  It seems everywhere we go, there’s someone or some program promising us a sweet deal on something, but then to find out it’s not real or genuine.  It’s just a way for someone or a group of people to get our money.  We get burned and we get hurt from those things and it makes us very cautious about believing people who try to convince us that they are being genuine.

We live in a world where people want proof that something is real and genuine.  Why would we not want proof?  We don’t have time for people or groups to waste our time trying to get us to buy into something that is just going to waste our time or rob us of something that is special to us.  We can’t stand that.  No one enjoys that.  If we see something advertised or someone tries to explain how wonderful of a deal we can get, we want proof it’s real and genuine.  We’re hesitant to buy into whatever it might be until we know for sure it’s a “real deal”. 

It’s often very hard sometimes to really tell whether we’re getting something real and genuine or getting ripped off of our time and money.  When I consider all the things that this world tries to pass by us and the “catch” so many tie to what they offer, I am so thankful that God gave us a gift and proved He did love us.  Unlike the world and what it tries to offer us, we have the greatest and most real and genuine offer ever presented. 

God truly presented His love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is a real offer of true life.  It’s not a gimmick.  It’s not a “catch”.  There’s no hidden agenda behind it.  It’s not about what we have done or could do.  It’s all about what He did for us and how very much He loved us.  God sent us a gift that we might choose to accept and then live fully for Him.  Jesus Christ is the most precious gift anyone could ever have.  He offers hope.  He offers real life.  He offers unconditional love. 

You want real proof that He loves you?  Just look at what He did on the Cross.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Search Me & Change Me

“Search Me & Change Me”
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.”

What a powerful passage and psalm from David!  This is a deep cry out to God and a longing that he expresses to his Father to know him and turn him away from any way that does that please the Father.  As I read this verse, I thought about the sermon a couple weeks ago regarding our motives for the things we do and say to others.  Sometimes, our motives are hidden and we can fool many people.  But, we can never fool God.  He knows us and wants us to be led in His way.  He knows we are human and we will chase after what our flesh desires.  However, we must realize that our flesh desires will not bring any eternal peace.

What’s your motive? If God searched your heart and your thoughts, would He find selfish motives or would He find a servant’s attitude and desire in all that you do?  I’m often fighting selfish desires within.  I find myself knowing I need to be a good minister for my congregation, a good husband to my wife and a good father to my children.  However, so often, my motives aren’t pure and right.  I want what I want and that’s how it is!  In these times, I desperately need to ask God to cleanse me from these ways and thoughts and seek him in all I do.  My desire should be to serve Him by serving others and being the role model He has called me to be.

We would most likely all agree that we desire for God to change us and make us more like Him, but the actual change sometimes is a great challenge for us to accept.  The change is usually never easy, but the growth it brings to our lives is wonderful.

Have you asked God to search your mind and heart lately?  Have you asked Him to show you what ways you need to change to follow Him more passionately?  If we pray that way, we need to be ready and willing to change to follow Him with more commitment.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Action, Action, Action!

“Action, Action, Action!”
By Zach Wood
1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 

As we begin this last day of April and look ahead to the month of May, I hope that each of you are encouraged that each day is a gift from God.  So many of our days it’s easy to be focused on the things we need to get done and our agendas for our jobs.  May we always remember that God is calling us to minister to those around us and to take advantage of opportunities that come our way unexpectedly. 

With that being said, we need to remember that not only are the words we share with others important, but also the way we live our lives to prove those words.  If our actions are not representing our words and enforcing them, we have gone wrong. 

It’s so easy for us to use words that sound great and promise commitment, but if we do not follow through and live those words out in our actions, we frustrate and confuse those around us.  It’s a constant lesson for us all to learn.  We may say we mean to do this or to do that or we say we mean this in a certain way, but if our motives are not where they should be, people will see right through us. 

As a husband, I want to make sure my words and actions align when I express how much I love and appreciate my wife.  As a father, I want to make sure that my kids know I love them through my actions and not just with the words I tell them everyday.  They hear daddy tell them he loves them, but if I don’t show it through my actions, then I need to change.  As a servant of the Kingdom, I can tell others that I’m committed to my walk with Christ, but if my actions don’t match my words, then they are just meaningless words. 

Words are great to express and share with others.  However, if those words are not followed through with actions that align and prove those words, then they are meaningless and others don’t see the truth lived out in us. 

May the words you and I share today, tomorrow and every day after with others prove to be true through our actions as well.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Call To Persevere

“The Call To Persevere”
By Zach Wood
James 1:4
Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Here’s a word I’d like to put in our minds for this week.  The word is “perseverance”. 

When we see that word, we know it doesn’t mean anything that comes easy.  When someone has perseverance, they put effort into what they do.  People who persevere usually don’t give up quickly.  They try and try and try with determination and exhaust every option possible before going another route.  For many of us, perseverance is something we would like to obtain, but is often hard because it requires much more than we’re willing to give. 

This passage in James is encouraging and challenging for us in that it takes great effort often to last through the trying times of life.  Sometimes we give up too easily and expect others to help.  Sometimes we just don’t want to put forth the effort needed and we procrastinate what needs to be done.  All of us fall victim to this.  It is through perseverance that we learn and gain wisdom and experience so that we become stronger for future challenges that come our way. 

James is clear that we must have perseverance.  But, it doesn’t come through our own effort.  Jesus Christ gives us the strength we need to do the things we need to accomplish.  We simply cannot do it on our own.  We need perseverance, but we also must realize we need Jesus Christ to be our guide so that we can persevere.

Perseverance builds strength and character into our walk with God.  If we cannot persevere, we have little hope.  We give easily.  We don’t put in the effort needed to grow stronger.  It’s in the times of perseverance that we seem to grow the most and learn more than we ever have before.  God alone gives us the strength we need to persevere through all the situations life throws at us.  We all need perseverance.