Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Ultimate Desire

“The Ultimate Desire”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 27:4 NIV
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

For the past couple of months, our pastor has been going through various passages in Ecclesiastes and it has been opening my eyes to the fact that so many things I chase after in life are completely meaningless in themselves.  In the past many years of my life, I have found myself chasing one thing after another, hoping to find true meaning.  Solomon chased after so much and finally concluded that apart from God, any other longing or chasing is absolutely meaningless. 

As I have continued to think about this over and over again, I am realizing how desperately more I really need God to lead me and to rescue me from my attempts to so often follow my own desires.  I truly want my desire to be nothing but seeking God every day and doing the best I can to surrender and submit to His ways and His plan for my life. 

I guess I sort of feel like Solomon in that I have chased after so many different things in life and just always come up dry.  I think this or that will satisfy, but as David says, he wants to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.  And, as Solomon found out, everything else apart from chasing God, is utterly meaningless. 

Through the various personal journeys I have been on in the past years, I’m discovering more and more that God is teaching me to draw near and close to Him.  He allows me to realize the ways I go on my own leave me out of breath and gasping for Him.  Only He can truly satisfy me.  I’ve found myself in the valleys and on the mountaintops at times.  But I can truly say that I learn the most when I’m in the valleys and that’s where I find myself longing more and more for Him.  My ultimate desire for Him grows and I just want more!

What is your ultimate desire?  What do you find yourself chasing after so much?  We all have to admit that we chase after a lot other than God in our lives.  We find ourselves chasing after marketing promises of different things that promise to satisfy, but then only leave us so very thirsty for more. 

I want to share with you all that my ultimate desire is to do nothing but chase after Him and gaze up on Him.  I know only He will satisfy and provide ultimate fulfillment.  Like David and Solomon, they both came to realize that nothing else is meaningful except being fulfilled by God and Him alone.  I want God to create within me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Everything in life, apart from God, is absolutely meaningless.   

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Don't Buy Into The Lie

“Don’t Buy Into The Lie”
By Zach Wood
Genesis 3:4-6 NLT
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.  “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”  The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.

We have all bought into gimmicks in our lives, haven’t we?  Whether it’s an infomercial that we stumbled onto as we clicked through channels, an advertisement that came through our e-mail or a very persuasive sales person who knew how to get you to agree, we have all bought into something like this at one time or another.  We became persuaded when we thought we never would.  Somehow, something that doesn’t look good at first slowly starts to grab our attention and desire if we focus on it long enough.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we have all bought into lies in our lives at one time or another.  Perhaps some of us have found ourselves buying into one lie after another, not realizing that we were being tricked.  There are certain people who really know how to win us over with their sly persuasion.  They know the words to say to get us to sign on the dotted line. 

Consider the scenario that started the first gimmick.  We might read this story again after having read it who knows how many times in Sunday School and wonder why Eve allowed herself to get worked over mentally and emotionally by Satan.  We might look at her with a raised eyebrow and think, “How could you Eve?  What were you thinking?” 

However, before we even consider picking up that stone to cast her way, we need to think about our lives and how so very often we also buy into the lies of the enemy.  Every single one of us is guilty of this scenario.  Probably multiple times throughout our lives.  Unfortunate as it is, it happens all too often.  We get tricked and the enemy knows how to win us over and sugar coat things to entice us.  Before we know it, WHAM!  He’s got us!  Ouch, that hurt!  We feel the pain later as we realize we bought into yet another lie.

I want to encourage all of us to think through situations in the future as we come to decisions where we choose whether to buy into a lie or walk away.  It isn’t easy to walk away when we’re enticed.  We must learn to listen to the Spirit and His leading when these times come.  Take a few extra moments and really consider the outcome.  Pray and ask God to give you wisdom. 

Don’t buy into the enemy’s lies.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Worry About Nothing, Pray About Everything

“Worry About Nothing, Pray About Everything”
By Zach Wood
Philippians 4:6 NLT
Don’t worry about anything, instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Confession time!  I have a little trouble with the first part of this passage.  Okay, okay, I struggle a lot with it!  If this passage actually was written to describe me, it would probably read, “Pray about a few things, but worry about everything”.  Yeah, you heard it right!  I often find myself not praying as much as I should and I tend to worry about almost everything.  Doesn’t everyone know that if I don’t worry about something all of the time, then life just isn’t going to be right??? 

That’s crazy talk, isn’t it?  But how many of us are actually living this day to day, but we don’t want to admit it?  Paul tells us to pray about everything, but not to worry about anything.  And, I’m so guilty of messing this passage all up.  I do tell God what I need, but then I go right back to worrying about everything again.  Ahhhhhhhh!  Make it stop!!! 

It’s hard to not worry.  We spend so many days of our lives worrying about things that probably won’t even happen or probably aren’t even true.  Sometimes we worry ourselves sick.  It’s a good idea when we start to worry, to pray and ask God to bring us peace.  Just having that communication with God and asking Him to give you peace during your time of worrying can really help you to feel better. 

I want to encourage all of us to come to God every day, give Him our needs, thank Him for all He has done and stop worrying about so much.  Yes, so much easier said than done, I know!  Sometimes, we might literally stop praying about anything and worry about everything.  I think we’d all have to admit that often times we do fall prey to even this.  There are honestly times when I stop to think if I’ve even prayed through the day at all when I’m worrying about so much.  I’m ashamed of that, but God helps to remind me that I need Him and I need to stop and take the time to pray and connect with Him.

Not only are we to pray about everything, but we need to take time to thank Him for all He has done and all He continues to do.  It’s so important!  I challenge and encourage all of you to make it a point to connect with God to begin your day and ask Him to help you not worry, but to pray about everything.  Maybe just little prayers throughout your day.  A few words here and a few words there as you go through your day.  Or perhaps you might have more time to bring a few sentences or paragraph prayer to Him.  Whatever it might be, bring it before God and ask Him to give you peace and guide you. 

Worry about nothing, pray about everything.  Good challenge from Paul!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Continuous Longing

“Continuous Longing”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 42:1 NLT
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.

The past few weeks, our pastor has been preaching on the book of Ecclesiastes.  It has been such a blessing to hear these sermons and to learn more about how Solomon longed for so many things, had and experienced all he wanted, but was still dry and longed for satisfaction and fulfillment more than ever.  As I have continued to think about this, this passage came to mind one morning as I drove to work.  I was overcome with emotion and immediately told God that I was so sorry for longing after things of this world continuously and always being left dry. 

I thought about how I so often chase after fulfillment in the world, when what I should be doing is chasing after God alone and allowing Him to be my only source of fulfillment and satisfaction.  I find myself becoming so desperate and certain the next things will bring fulfillment and a quench of my thirst for satisfaction.  However, I continue to feel dry and left dry.  God nudges me as if to say, “Zach, why do you keep chasing after the things of this world when you know I am the only One Who can quench your thirst for more?” 

As I continued to think about this verse through the day and the rest of the week, I just had a desire to long for God and to think more about how I try to chase after fulfillment in this world instead of Him.  Why do I keep chasing and chasing and chasing?  All I do is wear myself out and become more and more and more dry from the world.  I keep thinking about Solomon and all his experiences and how we came to realize nothing he experienced in the world gave him satisfaction or fulfillment.  We have a lot to learn from him!

My question for all of us this week and on is why do we keep chasing after the world when we know that God is the only One Who truly satisfies?  Why do we not long for Him more and more and more each day?  As we continue to chase after Him, He fulfills us and satisfies us.  However, something extraordinary happens when He does this!  We continue to long and yearn for even more and more.  We can never get enough of Him and we just continue to long for more!  That’s an amazing journey!  I want that!  Don’t you?

Do you want a continuous longing for things of this world and continue to be left dry and unfulfilled?  Or, do you want to long for a wonderful and amazing God who leaves us not only truly fulfilled and satisfied, but also leaves us with a desire for even more of Him?  I want that!!!!!  Do you? I hope so!

As the deer longs for streams of water, my prayer is that we will also long continuously for the Living Water!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Be Excellent At Good-Be Innocent Of Evil

“Be Excellent At Good-Be Innocent Of Evil”
By Zach Wood
Romans 16:19 NIV
Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

Through many years of my experience in church services, youth group, church camps and youth conferences, I’ve enjoyed the song “Romans 16:19”.  I’m sure many, if not most, of you know this song.  “Be excellent at what is good, be innocent of evil.  And the God of peace will soon crush Satan.  God will crush him  underneath your feet.

What a great song this is and I’ve had so much fun singing it at the various services I’ve attended.  Not only is it a great song to do motions to, but it’s got a fantastic message.  The Apostle Paul is very clear in this passage to encourage us to be wise and excellent at what is good.  We need to focus on those things which please God and bring Him glory.  He also says to be innocent of evil.  Stay away from it.  Don’t go near it!  Don’t play with it!  Don’t mess around near it!  Don’t “poke the bear”! 

We often find ourselves in situations where we end up doing just the opposite.  We become weak at doing good and we become more guilty of evil.  We all fall victim to this.  Satan knows the buttons to push!  It is so very important that we stay focused on growing in God’s Word so that when the times of testing and trial come, we can be strong and stay excellent at doing what is good and steer clear and be excellent of evil.  We don’t need to be curious of what the evil is and go anywhere near it.  As my dad used to tell me when I was growing up and I’d mess around with thoughts of doing bad things or get tempted to do them, he’d say “Just leave it alone”.  Good advice dad! 

There are times in life when we just need to leave things alone and that includes evil.  Don’t go near the edge of the cliff.  Stay as far away from it as possible.  Be excellent at the good things and smart about the traps of evil.  The only way we can grow in this way is to stay strong in His guiding Word of wisdom and to grow in our faith. 

When we do these things, we can definitely relate with these words, “And the God of peace will soon crush Satan.  God will crush him underneath your feet.”  God will work in our lives do exactly as He has told us He will do.  God is on our side and will defend us.  We need to do our part and stay strong so that we can be wise in His Word to avoid the evil traps. 

Be excellent at what is good, be innocent of evil.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Making The Cut

“Making The Cut”
By Zach Wood
Ephesians 2:10 NLT
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

We have all been through painful experiences in our past where we didn’t “make the cut”.  I remember in grade school, at recess, when we’d pick teams and the cool people were always picked first and the least favorite were always picked last.  Even though those who were picked last still made the team, it didn’t feel as if they were “wanted”.  It’s not a good feeling.

Think about when a player tries out for sports team.  He or she plays so hard and gives their best to try to “make the cut”.  However, there comes a time when the results come in and you know someone or some people won’t make the team. 

How about if you’ve applied for a certain college and you really want to get in?  They won’t let just anyone have admission.  You must fill out a form and give references and put a lot of hard work into proving to the college why you deserve to attend.  Some people will be receiving an admission letter inviting them to become part of the student body.  Others, they will receive the rejection letter no one wants to receive. 

None of us likes to be given a rejection letter or told we didn’t “make the cut”.  It’s a terrible feeling.  It’s not always necessarily meaning that we weren’t good enough, but then other times, that’s exactly what it means.  It leave us with a horrible, sick feeling at times knowing we weren’t good enough to make the list of people who apparently had what they were looking for.  We end up not feeling good enough. 

Whatever your situation was, every person experiences some kind of experience where you don’t “make the cut”.  It can be heartbreaking.  You wish they’d just accept you for who you are and not what they want you to be.  As I was thinking about this the other day, and all the experiences in my life where I didn’t “make the cut”, I thought about how God doesn’t work like that at all.  God loves each and every one of us and in us, He has created a beautiful masterpiece.  He doesn’t sit with a checklist when we give our lives to Him and say, “Nope, sorry!  You weren’t good enough!  Maybe next time!” 

God accepts us for who we are and is never exclusive.  We are a beautiful masterpiece and we don’t have to change ourselves or try to be someone better for Him to accept us.  With God we always “make the cut”!  Isn’t that a great feeling?  He accepts us regardless of what we are and what we are not.  He then takes us and continues love on us and mold us more into who He wants us to be. 

Aren’t you grateful to have “made the cut”?   

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Reality Of Putting Him First

“The Reality Of Putting Him First”
By Zach Wood
Matthew 6:33-34 NIV
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In the sermon this past Sunday at church, this passage was shared and then Lauren Daigle’s song, “First” was played to close out the service.  It was the perfect ending to a great and challenging message.  As I sat there and listened to how we so often make excuses for not putting God first in our lives, I felt so guilty and my heart sank thinking of all the times in my life I have done and still do this.  I am so good at making other things a priority, but then putting His Word on the back burner and saying I’ll get to reading more later.

The clincher of the message was when our pastor challenged us about how so many people say that they are close to God in their own way, but hardly ever read His Word.  He illustrated how other relationships in our lives would be affected if we never actually talked to the person or spent long periods of time away from them.  If we greatly lacked in our communication with our spouse, kids, fiancĂ©, boyfriend, girlfriend, aunt, uncle, best friend, etc., how in the world could we possibly believe we are getting to know them better?  How could we possibly claim to know the person better if our communication with them is little to nothing?

As I sat there and soaked all of this in and listened to the closing song, this question echoed in my mind and heart, “What does putting Him first look like in your life and mine?”  This question has haunted me, so to speak, since yesterday morning.  What would our lives truly look like if we really and sincerely put God first in every part of our lives?  What would the deep down truth of this look like in our lives?

I know in my life, it would look so different than how I am living.  You all have been a part of my writing life for so many years and you know that I try to be very transparent in what I write so that I can try to relate to others who read these writings.  I want to be as transparent as possible so that you all know I am doing my best to be genuine.  I am servant of Christ, a husband and a father.  I try so hard each day to be successful at all 3 of those areas.  But so many days, I feel like I’m doing my own thing and trying to be good enough without actually putting too much effort into it. 

What would it look like for you to put Him first?  Think about that and take some time to let that question sink in.  What would it really and truly look like in your life right now to actually make Him priority over everything else?  Making Him first over every decision you make? 

Do we really seek Him first?  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Pleasing Aroma

“A Pleasing Aroma”
By Zach Wood
Psalm 19:14 NLT
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

We have all walked into restaurants, bakeries and houses where something was cooking and completely overwhelmed our senses.  Just imagine the last time you walked into someone’s home and they just baked cookies.  Or, one of my personal favorites, walk by or into a restaurant where steaks are cooking.  (I’m salivating as I write this!)  How about walking into a store were fragrances are sold or candles and the aroma just brings a smile to your face. 

We all like walking into places and smelling these aromas.  There is nothing quite like it.  Each of us has a specific aroma that we enjoy smelling and we know where to go to get that experience.  The smell can really “take you away” and leave you stunned at times.  We all like great aromas.  Who wouldn’t? 

Aromas attract us.  They bring us closer and closer to whatever is giving off the great scent or whatever is cooking that smells irresistible.  Now, consider the words we say each day and whether or not those words become an aroma for others to be attracted to?  Most importantly, are the words an aroma that would be pleasing to God?  Just like people can’t resist a great scented candle burning, a steakhouse nearby or fresh cookies from the oven, the words we use each day should be used to help people come to not resist knowing God. 

The way we live, the words we use, the thoughts of our heart should all be a pleasing aroma to God and to those around us.  He is the One we live for and the One Whom our hearts should long for.  We should be living to please Him and Him alone.  The way we live and the words we use should be an irresistible aroma for others to help bring them into an understanding of God and our relationship with Him. In doing that, help people come to understand better there is a very loving and compassionate God Who loves them. 

As we continue into this New Year, I want to challenge all of us to consider whether our lives each day, with the words we use and our actions, give off a pleasing aroma not only to others, but most importantly to God.  How am I living my life each day to please Him?  How am I living my life each day to attract others to Him?  I have to admit that most days I feel like I’m giving off a stench instead of an aroma.  My life often becomes a stench because I’m in my own world and doing my own thing, when I should be focused on living solely for Him and being an example of Him to others. 

Are you living as a pleasing aroma?

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

He Deserves All Glory

“He Deserves All Glory”
By Zach Wood
Revelation 4:11 NIV
You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.

All too often in life we tend to focus attention on ourselves with things we have done.  We all like being in the spotlight at certain times in our lives.  Even if we’re not outgoing people, we still have that deep down feeling of desired attention.  There’s not a human being in the world that doesn’t, as some point in life, like having attention on them. 

There is nothing wrong with desiring some attention at times in life.  However, it depends on the situation and how we deal with it.  Again, so often we take credit for things that we have done, when in reality, God has done them through us.  Our desire in life may be to serve God, but we get tempted so much, for different reasons, to turn the spotlight on ourselves when it should be on God. 

I remember attending a concert back when I was in Bible college in Tennessee. A friend of mine and I went to a Rebecca St. James concert and her stage presence hit me and I’ve never forgotten it.  After some of the songs, when people clapped and whistled and hollered, she simply stepped back and motioned upwards with her hands.  She wanted all of the praise to go to God and not to her.  It was really impressive and I’ve never forgotten that.

As we approach and begin this New Year, let us make a genuine effort to do the same thing.  Let us lift our hands in praise to God and step back, so to speak, when the spotlight turns on us and give Him praise.  Let us show the world around us that we don’t deserve the praise and glory, but He does!

One of my favorite songs from the group Unspoken is “Higher”.  Some of the lyrics say, “I may never get money, I may never have fame.  But if I'm ever in the spotlight, I'll point it back Your way'Cause standing at the top was never-ever my goal. But if You put me on a mountain then I'll tell the whole worldSinging hallelujah 'til I hit the dirt.

Let us have an attitude this year to always point the spotlight to God when we are in a situation where we get attention and recognition.  He is our Creator and our goal, as the song says, should never be to be at the top.  Our goal should be to lift Him high above all and shine His light for all to see. 

The title of this devotion pretty much sounds clichĂ©, but when will we truly learn to live out that He deserves all glory?  We deserve nothing.  He deserves all. 

Give Him all glory!