Sunday, December 24, 2017

Lead Them Wisely

“Lead Them Wisely”
By Zach Wood
Proverbs 22:6 NLT
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.

There’s a scene toward the end of the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) appears to have fallen off a cliff and plunge to his death below.  His father, Henry Jones (Sean Connery) goes to the end of the cliff and yells for his son.  After a few moments, he thinks Indiana Jones is dead and he pauses and says to his friend that is with them, “I’ve lost him, and I never taught him anything.  I just wasn’t ready.  5 minutes would have been enough.”

Lately I’ve been thinking about that scene and the words spoken there.  How often so much of us parents feel like we haven’t taught our children what we need to teach them.  We spend so many years doing things with them and the time goes by so fast.  I’m often wondering if I’m actually helping and teaching my kids Godly values and what it means to follow Him.  I’ve spent so many moments of being a father praying that I’m teaching my kids things that will help them become lovers of their Heavenly Father and the desire to follow Him. 

There are many moments I question whether or not I have been a good influence on them and given them precious teachable moments from how I live my life, through mistakes and right things done.  I have to admit I feel emotional even writing about this.  My girls are 11 and 9 and the years go by so very fast.  I never believed that when parents told me that before I was a parent.  But now, I realize the years just fly by.  I want to take advantage of every teaching opportunity God gives me to be an example for them to follow.  And, hopefully they will carry that walk of faith in making their own decision to follow Christ.

I want to direct my children in the right path.  I want them to develop a love for God that is greater than anything in their life.  I want them to have a relationship with Christ that fills them with joy and guides them.  All I can do is pray for them and that God will give my wife and I the direction we need to be the best examples of Christ we can be.  I don’t want to feel like Henry Jones in that I didn’t teach my girls anything because I didn’t take the time to do it.  I don’t want to feel like I’m not ready, but to be ready at any given moment to teach them and help lead them.  So often I do feel like this, but I am reminded that God is using me in many ways to teach them.

If you are reading this and you are a parent, I pray that you would take advantage of every opportunity to teach your child or children about God’s love for them.  Do your best and then trust in God to lead them for many years to come.  I’m learning to trust that He will use me to help guide them and that they will make wise decisions as they continue to live through future years.    

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Nothing Without Him

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you plugged in?

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Enemy's Sole Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Make 'em Wonder What You've Got

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Stop & Think Before We Ruin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Willingness Without Hesitation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 6, 2017

I Can Only Imagine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 29, 2017

It Was Very Personal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Daily Recharge/Refuel

“Daily Recharge/Refuel”
By Zach Wood
Luke 6:12 NIV
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.

Here is one passage among so many we find in the New Testament where Jesus goes away to plug in to recharge his batteries, so to speak.  He always makes it a point to recharge with His Father, daily.

The past few weeks, I have been thinking about how we spend so much time and attention recharging our electronic devices so that we stay recharged and informed.  We live in a world now where using mobile devices is constant for many of us.  Whether it’s our smartphones, tablets, smart watches or apple watches, we want to make sure they are fully charged for us to stay connected. 

I have always been a geek for these devices and enjoy using them, probably too much sometimes.  If my smartphone gets low on battery, I want to make sure I’m close to a way to recharge it, whether the wall charger or car charger.  If it’s the tablet, I want to make sure I get it charged to use it on full strength. 

How about our vehicles?  We have to keep fuel in them to keep them going, don’t we?  Do you think we would go very far if we just let our tanks run on empty for days?  It wouldn’t happen!  We would run out of gas!  We would have to refuel in order to keep the vehicle going.  Same thing with our devices.  If the battery dies, we have to charge it to keep using it.  None of us would even think of letting our batteries or fuel tanks go uncharged or go empty.  That would be absurd!

I cannot help but think of how we so often focus so much attention on making sure we keep our vehicles fueled and our devices charged, but then we go so long without filling up our spiritual charge with God.  Jesus went away so much to recharge and refuel with His Father because He knew He needed to reconnect.  How sad so often we don’t even think twice about a day or a week or even a month or more and barely crack open our Bible or even pray much.  We are all so guilty of this. 

Friends, we MUST recharge and refuel daily with God in order to keep our lives going.  How in the world do we expect our walk of faith to grow if we don’t stay recharged and refueled?  It won’t happen!  I’m so guilty of not taking the time I need to fully recharge and refuel with my Father.  I could always take time to pray more and seek Him more.  I need Him more and so do all of you. 

We all need a daily recharge and refuel time with God.  We simply cannot expect to let our spiritual tanks run dry and grow in our faith.  We must connect with Him more.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How Often We Forget

“How Often We Forget”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 119:89-94 NLT
Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven.  Your faithfulness extends to every generation, as enduring as the earth you created.  Your regulations remain true to this day, for everything serves your plans.  If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.  I will never forget your commandments, for by them you give me life.  I am yours; rescue me!  For I have worked hard at obeying your commandments.

We often forget how powerful things are in life.  When we mess with wiring in the wrong way, we often forget how powerful electricity is.  When we are caught in or watching a thunderstorm, we often forget how powerful a bolt of lightning and crash of thunder can be.  When we are standing in the ocean and are suddenly taken underwater by a wave that crested behind us, we forget how powerful a surge of water can be. 

We so often tend to forget the power of some things in life until it is too late.  There are powerful things that can hurt us and if we forget to handle those things in a certain way, it could be disastrous.  We just need to realize the power of things and how they can affect us.

In the same way, we so often forget the importance of the great powerful of Almighty God.  We so often tend to take for granted how amazing He is.  The power of God is greater and more impacting than anything on earth we could ever imagine. 

I don’t know how many of you watch the Weather Channel, but it’s one of my favorite channels to watch.  The shows of severe weather and the crazy stories of weather caught on camera around the world is so intriguing to me!  I just can’t get enough of it!  I really enjoy those shows because of the powerful impact weather can have on things around us.  However, no matter how powerful a storm seems to be, there is no greater power that could ever be displayed than God’s power. 

Nothing in the world compares to His mighty power and all that He can do.  By God’s very power, He gives us life and He asks us to obey His commands. However, how often we forget how wonderful and powerful He is and we live our lives the way we want to.  We must not take for granted His amazing power and faithfulness to us.  He is greater than any power this world can ever behold.  Let us never forget!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Will You Still Praise Him?

“Will You Still Praise Him?”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 62:5-8 NIV
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.  Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  My salvation and my honor depend on God he is my mighty rock, my refuge.  Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the 2006 movie of “Facing The Giants”?  In the movie, a football coach of a Christian school is faced with many challenges, one of which is he and his wife cannot have children.  They are considerably hurt and frustrated over this, but they choose to trust in God no matter what He brings to their lives.  In one scene, the husband says, “If you don’t want me to have children, so be it.  I will still trust in You”.  Then, toward the end of the movie, the wife goes for one more pregnancy test at the clinic and says, “I will still trust in You”. 

In both situations, the husband and wife both put their trust completely in God even if things don’t come out the way they hope and pray for them to.  I’ve been thinking about that scene lately and just how things happen in life.  When things go good and prayers are answered in ways that please us, we’re happy.  However, when God doesn’t move in certain ways or keeps us from certain things that end up confusing us, the question is will we still trust in Him? 

God is our refuge and our strength no matter what is happening in our lives, good or bad.  He often does things we don’t understand and we must learn to totally trust Him even when life just doesn’t make any sense.  And, often times, it won’t. 

The times that I have found to be most frustrating is when it feels like nothing at all is moving forward and it seems God is not leading or opening any doors of opportunity.  Even thought we know we should trust Him, it’s often very hard to do and we get angry with Him.  It’s in these times that we must hold firm to the faith we have and believe with all our hearts that He is still working even if we cannot feel it.  He is always working and He will lead and guide.

What’s most important is for us to keep our minds and hearts open at all times to His leading.  He knows exactly what He’s doing and we just have to be still and trust.  I want to encourage each of you who are experiencing frustrating right now to hold on and trust always.  He is always on the move and working and most likely in ways you don’t see and don’t understand. 

Trust and continue to praise Him. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Putting It All On The Line

“Putting It All On The Line”
By Zach Wood
1 John 3:16 NLT
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

This morning on the way to work, I was listening to the local Christian station about the concerns of people who lost their lives in the Las Vegas shooting.  One thing they said today really struck me.  They mentioned not only how horrific it was what had happened, but then they talked about how incredible it was the people in law enforcement that ran to try to help protect others in the line of fire. 

I thought about that and all the people who, day after day, put their life on the line for other people.  It’s their job to protect people every single day.  Police, fire fighters, those serving in the armed forces, etc.  There are people whose careers are dedicated to helping others in times of great despair.  Sometimes these people actually have to decide about putting their life on the line for others.  Sometimes these people make decisions to save those who serve under them and risk their lives to save others.  I can’t imagine being in that position.  I am so appreciative and thankful we have people who protect us like that.

After thinking about all of this, I feel ashamed for how selfish I become so often in life and only thinking of myself and what’s best for me and not what I can do for others.  What if I was in a situation that meant my life might be in the line of fire to save someone else?  Would I do it?  Would I risk losing my life for someone else? 

As I consider this, I cannot help but think of the absolute ultimate sacrifice that was made over two thousand years ago on the Cross.  Jesus Christ put His life on the line for us.  He gave it all and did all He could to save ours.  He held nothing back and gave it all.  Man that makes me feel so ashamed of my selfishness.  I become so focused on myself and I forget what was done to give me life. 

I’m not only thankful for what Christ did for me, but I am also thankful as I think about all the people who are daily putting their life on the line so that I can enjoy my freedom.  It’s really something I should be thankful and grateful to God for each day. 

Jesus Christ showed us ultimate love by putting it all on the line for us.  He also calls us to be willing to lay down our lives for others as well.  Are we willing to?  Are we ready to?  He calls us to always be ready, willing and able.  Are we?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Real Love

“Real Love”
By Zach Wood
1 John 4:10-12 NLT
This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.  Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.  No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

We sure are bombarded every single day with sources claiming to show us “real love”.  From TV, movies, social media, books, magazines, etc. Everywhere we look we see some sort of message conveying what love should look like or how it should be.  Or, more than that, how it should feel.

We get a better picture when we consider the love that comes from family, friends and other loved ones.  People who are close to us often try hard to show us genuine love.  Not always, but they try. 

No matter how hard other people try to show us love, there is no greater display of “real love” than what God did for us on the Cross through Jesus Christ.  There is absolutely nothing greater, nothing.  You can search the world and the universe and find no greater display of affection and love than God Himself.  I’ve never personally known a greater love than Him.

I’ve trusted other sources of love in the past and been burned by many.  I turn one way and I think that will show me love then….burn.  I turn another way thinking I had finally found some sort of display of true love and then again….burn. 

We have all turned to many sources expecting something real with love.  We have all been burned.  Some of us have really been burned very badly.  Sometimes, we get burned so bad that we really don’t believe that true love actually exists anymore. 

Friends, God loved us so much that He showed us a form of love that had never been shown before and never will again.  God’s display of real love goes beyond anything we can ever imagine.  God’s display of love through Jesus Christ is the most real and genuine form of love we can ever possibly experience.

He not only gives His love, but then He also asks us to also show others as He has shown us.  It is a love that is truly hard to show others at times, but He asks us to do it unconditionally because He Himself has shown us that love unconditionally as well.  God’s love is true and genuine and full of life!  It is a love that He has shown to us and then commands us to pour out to others, as hard as that may be at times. 

God is truly real, authentic and genuine love to the core.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Not A Solo Battle

“Not A Solo Battle
By Zach Wood
Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

Most of us want to feel confident in doing things by ourselves and on our own.  It’s a great feeling when we can conquer things in life by ourselves.  When we learn to do things on our own and be independent in making decisions without first having to consult someone else before hand, it can make us feel pretty good.  This is where we can gain advances in our jobs and in certain situations where people come to trust us more to make good decisions. 

Now, while it’s great to accomplish things on our own, we bleed this mentality right into our lives in Christ.  We read His Word and build up our faith for a while and then, for some reason, we get the idea that we can do this battle on our own.  We get a little full of ourselves and think, “I got this!”  Only then we usually find ourselves falling flat on our face in various ways because we stopped consulting God before going gung-ho on our plans.

While it is absolutely wonderful that we can accomplish some things on our own, we must also remember that God gives us the abilities to do these things and He brings us into situations where He waits to see if we will still consult Him or take on the challenges all alone.  From personal experience, and I’m sure from yours as well, we come to find out often the hard way that we should have consulted God instead of plugging away all by ourselves. 

It’s like we’re telling God, “I got this, Lord.  I mean, I know You are God and my Savior and all, but really I can do this on my own.”  Why in the world do we think we can handle life’s challenges all alone sometimes?  We are in a spiritual battle every day and we simply cannot fight the battles alone.  We will suffer and we will eventually lose.  We think we can do it on our own, but we simply cannot.  

When we get full of ourselves and think we don’t need God, the enemy has a sly and nasty way of coming at us full force and landing us right on our face or back.  He beats us down and laughs at us. If we would have just put the armor of God on and let Him fight for us and with us, things would have turned out differently.

In what ways in my life am I battling alone?  In what ways in your life are you battling all by yourself?  Consider this during the week and days that follow.  This is a battle you definitely want and need God with you through.  

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Spotlight On Him

“Spotlight On Him”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 115:1 NIV
Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.

For so many of us, we have enjoyed time after time the instances where the spotlight went to us for various reasons.  Perhaps you won first place in a sporting event in school and you got to stand on the #1 podium.  Maybe you won the grand prize for a drawing you entered.  Whatever the case may be, there was most likely a time and place where you won first and the spotlight was on you for period of time.  Who doesn’t like those times, really?  I think we would all admit we sometimes like the attention put on us for one reason or another.  We want to feel important for whatever reason. 

As I think through all of the years the various times I’ve had the spotlight turned on me, I can remember the hype and excitement that ran through me.  It didn’t last too terribly long, but I know that I have told about those times at gatherings and parties.  I’m sure you have as well.  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these moments for a time, but sometimes we sure can get carried away and continue to bring the spotlight back on ourselves too much.  After a while, people get really tired of others who always want the spotlight.

This passage rings true in my life and I’m sure it does for you as well.  Too often we want the credit and the spotlight in our lives and we fail to give credit to the One who really gave us the ability to even do what we did to get in the spotlight.  I have admired, through the years, the people on TV who get interviewed and then turn the spotlight completely upon Jesus Christ.  They have no problem giving Him all the credit for their abilities.  Wow!  What a great testimony!

I am ashamed to think of all the times that I have taken credit and the spotlight when I should have solely given God all the glory.  It’s so tempting at times to consider the great things we have done and forget Who gave us the ability to do those things. 

Not to us, but to God alone.  We don’t deserve the glory, but He does.  His love and faithfulness should shine through all we do.  In the times when we are put in the spotlight for whatever reason(s), He is waiting to see if we will turn the attention all to Him and not take the credit ourselves.  It’s in these times that people will really see Who we are living for.  It is ourselves and our own efforts or will we direct others to the amazing God who gave us life? 

“Lord, I’m sorry for so often taking the credit and spotlight when You should be the One who ALWAYS gets all the glory.  Forgive me, Lord.  May You always get the praise and glory, not me.”  

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Not Just Any Other Name

“Not Just Any Other Name”
By Zach Wood
Acts 4:12 NIV
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

This morning to end our church service we sang “What A Beautiful Name” by Hillsong.  As we were singing about how beautiful, wonderful and powerful the name of Jesus is, I couldn’t help but think of all that we consider beautiful, wonderful and powerful in this world. 

We sometimes are able to meet people in person that are a celebrity or popular in some other way.  When we meet them, we’ll tell everyone we know about the experience and post a picture on social media sites.  When some event comes up that is really cool and blows our minds, we do the same.  We will tell everyone about it and rave about the experience online.  We tend to think many things in life are beautiful, wonderful and powerful.  Granted, there are some pretty cool things that go on around us and in our lives.

No matter how much we rave about how great someone is or about how wonderful an event was, there is absolutely nothing more beautiful, wonderful or more powerful than Jesus Christ alone.  And sadly, often we don’t speak with as great intensity what He has done for us and how truly awesome He is.  I am so guilty of this.  I often find myself getting so excited about what other people have done or other things going on and I find myself less ecstatic about God.  I don’t do it purposely, but somehow I find things of this earth often so much more exciting.  That shouldn’t be.

Just like the song says, what a beautiful name it is, what a wonderful name it is, and what a powerful name it is.  Is that true in your life?  Is that true in my life?  Is the name of Jesus truly more beautiful, wonderful and powerful than anything else?  Greater than any other name. 

In this passage, Peter proclaims a powerful statement!  There is no other name anywhere by which we must be saved.  Salvation is found in no one else and there is no greater name, period. 

Nothing in the entire world can compare to this!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Let Us Consider & Encourage

“Let Us Consider & Encourage”
By Zach Wood
Hebrews 10:24 NIV
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

A few weeks ago at church, this verse was read and it really got me thinking.  Sadly, I couldn’t help but to think about how terrible we’ve become today with encouraging one another.  We live in a culture and society where the focus is always on me, me, me.  Everything focuses on how we need to improve ourselves and better who we are.  We’ve sadly become trained to think of ourselves more than we think of others so often.  I’m super guilty with this and I often cringe when I think of how focused on myself I’ve become.

Throughout Scripture, we find so many references to how God wants us to reach out and help encourage others.  We know we should, but we get so wrapped up and busy with our own lives that we often just neglect the calling God has given us each and every day to invest in other’s lives.  And really, it doesn’t always have to be in really big ways.  Big ways are good to help out for sure!   However, God also wants us to help others in small ways.  Simple compliments.  Noticing things about others that most people don’t.  Words of encouragement in so many little ways can make a huge difference.

“Let us consider”.  Think about those words.  How often do we really stop and consider how we can encourage other people?  Do we really consider how we can help others become closer to God?  Are we focused on being the light of Christ to others all through our day?  Are we making it a point to spread the Good News?

“Let us consider”.  Think about these words in a different light now.  How about we consider all the opportunities we are passing up by being absorbed in our own lives.  Ouch!  That makes me cringe.  How often are we so wrapped up in our destinations and all that we have to do that we completely neglect opportunities right in front of us?  All too often!

We should even take this a step further.   How about we not only consider, but we actually……DO!  So often we say we’ll thinking about that or think about this with very little intention of actually doing it.  Let us consider how we may encourage others around us.

Let us make it a point and put forth more effort to consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds as God has commanded us to.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

What About You?

“What About You?”
By Zach Wood
Matthew 16:13-16 NIV
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Recently our pastor at church brought this passage up in his sermon and it just got me thinking a lot.  It got me thinking about how I view God.  What are my feelings about Him?  What do I think of Him?  Who is He to me?  What value is He in my life?  Who do I say He is?

When we are young, we learn from our parent’s faith a lot and kind of live faith through them.  We rely on them for a lot of things and trust that they will help us make good decisions.  However, there comes a time when we have to start thinking for ourselves and make decisions that we feel are best for our walk with Christ.  There comes a time when we have to decide how we are going to look at God and figure some things out on our own.  It’s not easy to do, but God wants us to do this.

Jesus asked this question first about what others thought about Him.  Then He turns the question to them about who they think He is.  He doesn’t want them to think only about what others say He is, but He wants them to think for themselves.

It is important that each of us considers who Jesus is.  Don’t go along with the crowd.  Don’t just go with someone’s answer because it sounds cool.  Think about who God is to you.  Who is He personally to you?  What does He mean to you?  Don’t spend your live living your faith through other people.  You must have your own faith and belief in who He says He is.  Have your own quiet time with Him.  Pray to Him.  Seek Him.  Ask Him to reveal Himself more and more to you.

“What About You?”  That’s a very important question.  Think about it every day. Who is Jesus to you?  Who do you say He is?  Do you believe He is who He says He is?  Talk to Him.  Be honest with Him.  And, when you’re presented with a situation where someone asks you about the faith you have, you can answer confidently that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. 

I remember making this confession of faith before a crowd of people when I gave my life to Christ and was baptized.  I confessed before a crowd that I wanted to make Him Lord of my life.  Every day, I need to continue to ask myself what He means to me.  Who do I say He is today?  Who do you say He is today?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

God Be Greater, Stronger & Louder

“God Be Greater, Stronger & Louder”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 18:30-32 NIV
As for God, his way is perfect:  The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.  For who is God besides the Lord?  And who is the Rock except our God?  It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.

One of my favorite Christian bands is We Are Messengers and they have a song called “Magnify”.  I have come to really enjoy this song and appreciate the lyrics.  I want to share part of those lyrics with you.

God be greater than the worries in my life, be stronger than the weakness in my mind, be louder let Your glory come alive, be magnified.”

I have thought about these words in this song the past couple of weeks and they’ve made a huge impact on how I feel each day. I want to share this devotion as a prayer through each of these lines I’ve shared with you.

God, be greater than the worries in my life:
Father, I ask that You and You alone with greater than all the worries I have in my life.  God, You know me better than anyone in the world and You know how I’m so consumed with the worries of life and I need to not be.  I worry about things going on, things not yet to be and if I will continue to be the servant, husband and father You have created me to be.  God, be greater than any worry in my life and help me to not worry, but let Your way be perfect and reflected in my life.  I pray that Your flawless Word would be evident in the way I live my daily life.  Help others to see that You alone are my strength and Whom I take refuge in.

God, be stronger than the weakness in my mind:
Lord, my mind is so weak so often.  I allow negative thoughts to invade my mind and sin creeps in to take over.  God, help me to be stronger in my mind and allow Your Word to take control and push those negative thoughts out.  Lord, I am weak, but You are strong.  I pray that Your mighty power would invade my mind and take over crushing the weakness in my mind to remind me that I am strong through You. 

God, be louder let your glory come alive, be magnified:

God, I want Your voice to be louder than any other voices trying to get my attention.  There are so many things trying get my attention in the world every day around me.  It’s hard to know what to listen to and what to avoid.  Father, I need Your voice louder than all of those so that I can follow and obey and magnify Your Name.  So many days Lord I try to follow all other voices and do my own thing.  God, forgive me when I ignore Your voice and become distracted from what You want me to do.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Let's Do This Together

“Let’s Do This Together”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 34:1-3 NLT
I will praise the Lord at all times.  I will constantly speak his praises.  I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart.  Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.

One of the greatest things a parent can do for their child is to say, “Let’s do this together”.  As a dad, I find myself wanting to take care of things for my kids all too often when what I really need to do is show them and then offer for us to both do it together.  That way, they learn better and I don’t take care of it every time.

It is great when we can do other things together with someone as well.  There are many times when we want to do things in our own and at times it is great when we can do things solo.  However, there are also times when it’s so much better to work together as a team with someone else or a group of people. 

When we work with someone or a group of people, it’s so important that we strive to work hard to accomplish a common goal.  If we work with co-workers, we know that we need to collaborate and strive to help each other to a better job individually and as a whole group.  It’s important that helping each other is a priority so that everyone is encouraged. 

It is obvious that we are all different and work in many different ways to do our jobs.  Even with this challenge, it’s important that we strive to do what we can to ensure that we work together as a team with others whatever the situation may be.  Whether it be at a job, with siblings in a certain situation, or volunteering somewhere. 

No matter what we are doing, it’s important that we work together to achieve a common goal.  We absolutely must apply to the Kingdom work as we work together in the church to achieve a common goal and that is encouraging each other to grow closer to the Lord and to win people to the Lord.

The last line of this passage is vital.  We absolutely need to strive to work together in the church to exalt His name.  Our desire and passion should be ultimately to bring glory to His name and not promote our own agenda.  When I read this passage the other day, it just really hit me that we need to do a better job in the church today to strive to encourage one another as we seek to exalt His name. 

God calls us to seek Him and to tell of His greatness.  We need to do this together as the family of God.  However, we cannot be stuck in our own selfish ways and desire to promote our own plan or agenda.  We must work together and serve together to exalt Him.  Instead of “Let me do this”, we need to say, “Let’s do this together!” 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

I Know, I Know, I Know

“I Know, I Know, I Know”
By Zach Wood
James 1:22-25 NLT
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

“I know, I know, I know”  The phrase that so many parents hear all too often from their children.  After being a parent for almost 11 years now, I have heard this phrase so many times.  And, as you can imagine, it becomes quite frustrating at times when my kids don’t listen or act like they aren’t listening.  My wife and I will tell them something over and over and over again, but still yet to see them go off and do what we just told them not to do. 

My parents dealt with me on this more times that I can ever imagine!  I’m sure they are reading this and probably getting a good chuckle or rolling their eyes just thinking back to those times.  What kid does not deal with this? 

There is not a parent in this world that has not experienced this with their kid or kids.  However, I can’t come down too hard on them, because I flip that situation around and I see myself acting this very same way toward God.  I have His Word available to me each and every day to read and learn and… OBEY.  But…do I?  Many times I don’t.  I tell God, “I know, I know, I know” and I go on my merry little way like it’s no big deal.  I tell God I’ll try harder next time.  I tell Him I’ll listen more next time.  I tell Him I’ll be better about things later.  I put them off and I fail to work on them….NOW.

God is not happy when we choose to obey Him in our own time frame.  He commands obedience now, not later.  Could you imagine if we treated our jobs this way? What if we said to our bosses and supervisors “I know, I know, I know”, but kept on doing the wrong things?  Do you think we’d have a job much longer?  No!  Why would they keep an employee who doesn’t listen? 

It’s so easy for us to hear what God tells us to do and to listen to it, but it’s a whole different ballgame to actually put action to what we’ve heard.  We must do the other part and actually make a change and live it out.  James is very direct about how we need to live our lives by intently listening to God and obeying Him.  And, just like a child to a parent, if the child doesn’t listen, there are consequences.  We have consequences when we don’t listen to God.  Sometimes, they can be drastic.  Other times, we can get off with a warning when we come close to a problem and stop it before it happens and learn from that. 

I hope and pray that each one of us heeds God’s commands and that we don’t just fool ourselves thinking we’ve done something grand when we’ve just merely listened and done nothing more.  That’s like listening to a sermon every week and telling the minister “Good message” and doing nothing about that message we’ve heard.  What will we do about it?

So, we need to change our “I know, I know, I know” to “I will, I will, I will”.  That comes through being willing to surrender and submit.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Challenging Love

“Challenging Love”
By Zach Wood
Romans 12:9-10 NLT
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

While I was at work today, a convicting thought came to mind.  I thought about the different people we come into contact with each day.  First, there are those we get along with really well and enjoy being around and talking to.  Second, there are those we may know and have some casual conversation or small talk when we pass by them.  Third, there are those people whom we don’t really get along with for one reason or another and try to avoid.

The more I thought about this, I was convicted mostly by the idea of those whom I try to avoid perhaps because I don’t get along with them or things just feel awkward anytime I try to talk to them.  We have all done it.  We see someone we’d rather not talk to and we think quickly how we can “look” distracted to avoid talking to them.  Or perhaps we try to find another way to walk so that we don’t have to pass by them.  We all have to admit there are those people in our lives that we just don’t want to communicate or come into contact with.

As much as it pains me to think about talking to some people that I just cannot get along with, Christ has commanded that I do my best to show love to everyone.  He does not give me the permission to avoid others just because they are tough to love.  And…you know what?  I’m tough for some people to love as well!  Ever think about that?  When you find yourself thinking about how hard it is to love some people, remember that others probably find it hard to love you as well. 

This passage is vital to our daily walk with Christ.  Don’t just pretend to love others.  Really show genuine to them.  No matter how difficult it might be, hold tightly to doing what is right and what is good.  Put others before yourself.  Yes, it’s hard, but Christ never called us to what is easy.  Loving others is hard.  Just think about what Christ went through and He never stopped loving. 

I hope and pray that we all will be convicted of this no matter where we are or who we’re around.  God has called us to be real and genuine with everyone.  As hard as that may be sometimes, we need to strive to do our best to love others the best we can.  Don’t try to avoid people.  Instead, do the best you can to show love to them in any way possible.  That’s what Christ would do.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Complete Submission

“Complete Submission”
By Zach Wood
James 4:7 NIV
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

This time of year, many people have made resolutions of things they want to change in their lives.  They may list many different things they would like to change or be better at in life.  So many people make these decisions and try to follow through on them.

As the New Year approached, there was really one though on my mind and heart.  I was thinking about how I can get closer to God and what I need to flee in my life in order to accomplish this.  I’m not a person who makes long lists for resolutions.  I’m not into making a huge list of things I want to change.  What I do like to do is think of one or two things that I really want to see change in my life and pray about God helping me to do this.

What if we all made it our prayer this year to work on complete and full submission to God each and every day?  What does that look like?  What does it mean for each of us to fully surrender our lives each day?  James tells us to submit our lives entirely to God and by doing that we resist the devil and he flees from us. 

I really want to make it a point in my every day walk this year to strive better in making God my priority.  I want to grow closer to Him so that I can resist what Satan throws at me each day, throughout the day.  It is downright hard some days to keep my focus on Jesus because I have so many selfish thoughts and other thoughts that keep me from thinking of Him.  I have to be very intentional many times through my day to focus on Christ and not let my mind wander.

So what does it look like for you to completely submit as you continue in this New Year?  What does it look like in your life to be completely devoted to Him?  Let this be a main question that dictates how you life your every day life.  What decisions are you making that glorify Him or are you turning from Him in what you decide?  What words are you saying and what ways are you living that either glorify Him or turn away from Him?

I want to resist the devil every day.  I want to turn away from him when he throws impure thoughts at me and tempts me to be unfaithful in so many ways.  I want to be strong in the Lord and stand up to the enemy and resist his flaming arrows.  I want to be in complete and full submission to Him.  But you know what?  It’s going to take a lot of work and daily commitment.  It’s going to be hard and will require much effort. 

I hope that we each will make this our prayer to be in complete and full submission to Him every moment of every day.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Help Me To Listen, Lord

“Help Me To Listen, Lord’
By Zach Wood
John 10:27-28 NIV
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

There are many challenges to being a parent.  One of the greatest is talking to my kids and giving them instructions to follow, whether that is asking them to clean up something in their room or another room in the apartment, or asking them to go get something or take care of something quick.  So often I find myself saying to them, “What is so hard about the concept of cleaning up?”  My hands go up in the air in front of them and I repeatedly say that they need to listen to instructions and follow. 

If you are a parent reading this, you are probably shaking your head in agreement and thinking through how your kids act as well.  I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling at all.  When our kids don’t do what we ask them to do, it is frustrating and we often find ourselves thinking about how we were when we were their age.  Sometimes we do forget how much we struggled with doing what our parents asked us to do.

Our kids so often “hear” our voice, but they choose to do what they want to do instead.  Or, they actually “listen”, but still don’t feel like carrying out what we ask them to do.  Often I’ve literally asked them “Why aren’t you listening to me and doing what I ask you to do?”  Sometimes I get a few responses or I get a shrug of the shoulders.  That leaves me speechless often not knowing what to say next. 

As much I find myself getting frustrated at times when they don’t listen, I cannot help to think how God feels when I don’t listen to Him.  How does God feel when He instructs me to do something or not do something and I simply avoid following His voice and instruction.  If I really cared enough and truly wanted to follow Him and obey, I would listen to His voice and be obedient, but often I do not. 

John tells us that if we listen to His voice and focus on Him, then we truly know His voice and allow Him to penetrate our hearts instead of the voices of the world.  It’s often so easy to let voices of the world dictate what we do instead of letting God’s voice dictate what we do.  We follow the ways and voices of the world way too often.  I know I do all too often. 

I’m not into making a bunch of New Year’s resolutions, but one thing I really want to do be better at this year is paying attention more to His voice and knowing Him more.  I hope and pray that is your prayer this year as well.  Let us all make an effort to listen to Him more and let Him guide us more in all things.  It’s a simple concept, but very hard often times to follow through on. 

God bless you all and Happy New Year!