AM DEVOTIONS @ 205.825.9633
Senior Minister Ricky A. Woods
at 8:15am on Tuesdays for
Dial (205) 825-9633 a few minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.
P.S. REMEMBER, DON'T ANNOUNCE YOURSELF AFTER THE START TIME AND PLEASE PUT YOUR PHONE ON MUTE!
2 Samuel 6:1-11
The world we live in is a far different world than the world of our parents. Technological advances have improved our quality of life and modern tech genuises are making electric cars, solar energy and tiny houses a current reality, not just a futurist hope.
I, for one, am glad that I no longer have to spend my hot summer days in search of a cool breeze because of air conditioning. I do not worry how warm the summer heat may become. However, there are places in our lives outside the reach of technology that require us to do things the old fashioned way of spending time and doing hard work to get it done.
When David attempted to move the Ark of God to Jerusalem, he used the technology of his day--a cart pulled by oxen. It was a lot faster and more efficient to transport the Ark by cart but it was not the way that God had determined.
God had determined the Ark was to be transported by particular persons carried on special poles. When the ox stumbled and the Ark began to move, a person reached out to keep it from falling off the cart. A good thing but because a person touched the Ark that was not supposed to be touched, he was struck dead. The transport of the Ark was placed on hold for months until David could get the right people to carry the Ark the right way.
As much as we can benefit from change and technological advances, we should never jettison the things that take time and the things that sustained generations before us. Things such as prayer, fellowship, worship and hard work.
The pandemic has opened us to technology in ways that kept us connected and working while the world was on pause. Yet, technology is not a substitute for a life of faith that expects us to do God’s work God’s way. A way that still requires people, time, energy, patience, love and faith.
There is no rapid way to develop a prayer life or a life of faith--it takes time. We have to be willing to make ourselves available to the Spirit and wait on him to act
A common word that is a part of the Christian vocabulary is the word wait. As believers we spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for a word from the Lord, waiting on direction, waiting on an answer.
Waiting is not wasted time but waiting is a counter witness to those who would have us to believe that we must always be busy doing something. Waiting is bearing witness to the belief that we are not the masters of our faith or the captain of our soul. Waiting expresses our dependence upon a power outside of us that will aid us if we are willing to wait.
Waiting also gives us the opportunity to rest, to relax and to replenish.
The prophet Isaiah writing to a nation living in exile informs them that deliverance will come but there will be a season of waiting. It is important that they wait not in anger over their condition but in trust that God will act.
Thus, the prophet tells his community that while they are waiting on the Lord they will be renewed and find strength to thrive in every situation. The community’s ability to thrive will be the sign of God’s presence and power in their midst. Persons will be able to do more than they could have imagined possible because God is with them. However, to experience the power they will have to wait.
We have been doing a lot of waiting during the pandemic. Our waiting has taught us valuable lessons about partnerships, new possibilities and the role of faith.
Our waiting has made us more sensitive to the things of the spirit and more grateful for the things we often took for granted. Our waiting has reshaped us and reshaped our world.
The wait seems to be almost over as the nation reopens and plots a course to the new normal. Now may we come out of a season of waiting with the witness of power that God has promised to those they wait on him.
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
There may be no single thing that believers struggle with more than the things God puts upon us, places before us, inflicts us with to teach us humility and dependence upon him.
Our high-achiever world values performance, measurable outcomes and signs of success. We are always aware of how well we are faring based upon our comparisons to others.
There was no one that struggled with this more than the apostle Paul. If there was ever a person driven to succeed in whatever he set out to do, it was Paul. He was born into the loyal tribe of Israel as a son of Benjamin who provided Israel’s first king. He studied at the feet of the leading religious scholars of his day and quickly moved up the ranks as a person of influence. He became one of the select few that met the requirements to become a Pharisee.
When Paul was converted to Christianity he was just as driven and determined to succeed. However, what he learned was that the old standards of success could not be used. God would use his weakness--not his strength.
Therefore, God placed some affliction upon Paul to keep him humble. It was not an affliction that Paul was willing to easily accept so three different times he prayed and asked God to move it but God never did. Paul had to learn to live with it and in the living with it discover deeper depths of God’s grace. Paul learned that God’s grace could and would help him handle what he could not handle alone. Paul discovered the power of weakness that comes from reliance upon God.
We all encounter from time to time things we have to live with that we would rather not have to do. Covid-19 is something we have been living with for more than a year. Many of us are anxious to move on and get back to normal, but our new normal just might be learning to live with the things that will not go away and yet not lose heart.
Let’s commit ourselves to seeking deeper witness of God’s grace in this moment to find our strength through weakness. For his grace is sufficient in all times and in all places for all persons.
Today we are marking the 100-year anniversary of the worst racial massacre in American history. On May 31 and June 1,1901, a white mob descended on a prosperous African-American community in Tulsa, OK, and killed hundreds of innocent people and destroyed black-owned businesses and homes.
The only structure that survived was the basement of the Vernon AME Church that had just been built two years earlier. On June 2nd, a group of survivors met in the basement to pray and pick up the pieces of their lives.
The Bible is filled with stories of hardship and how a people’s faith was their sole sustaining possession. Israel was overthrown by its enemies, Jerusalem burned, homes destroyed, places of worship torn down.
Many of the people were even shipped into exile and forced to live in a strange land. Their captors knew about the stories of their faith and the music they sang as a result of their faith. Thus, their captors mocked them and told them to use their faith to entertain them, sing to them one of the songs of Zion.
The exiles did not stoop to using personal faith as a means of entertaining others. How could they sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land? There were things that not even captivity could force them to do.
They would not sing but they would remember. They would remember Jerusalem and the places that taught them faith in God. They would remember that God is the ultimate equalizer in life. Just because they were in exile did not mean that a day wouldn’t come when they would return home.
Human power is always fragile and the ground under us is always shifting. Those who are captors one day may find themselves held hostage on another day.
The exiles refused to let their faith die and chose to remember--to remember God.
As we remember all that was lost 100 years ago today, may we also remember God. When we remember Him, we find the power to press on and bear witness to a faith that refuses to die.
This Sunday marks what the church refers to as Ascension Sunday. It is the day Jesus returned to heaven and took his seat on the throne by the side of God.
For 40 days since the resurrection, Jesus had been spending time with the disciples, popping up in unexpected moments and in unusual ways. His time with them had made clear that the power of death had been defeated. His time with them reinforced his love for them. His time with them made clear there was work he was leaving to their hands that must be done.
Now the time had come for his departure.
Jesus left the disciples on a cloud while they were watching. It was difficult for them to let go knowing it would be some time before they would see him again. They still had so many questions. Questions about how long they would have to wait to see Israel restored to its former glory and all oppressors driven out. Questions about how long they would have to wait before the promise of power would come and how would they know when they had it.
But their questions would receive no answers. They would have to trust that in time that Jesus would fulfill his promises and answer all questions.
While they were watching as Jesus ascended into heaven, they were reminded that the time of waiting required work to be done. There was no more time for gazing, thinking about the past. This was the time to focus on the present and the future. The present would be a moment for returning to the promised place of power and the future would be a time to bear witness for Christ.
An angel told the disciples that Jesus would return the same way he departed. He was coming back but, in the meantime, there was work to be done. So they needed to get busy.
The challenge for the church in every generation is to not waste time waiting for Jesus to return. It is the church’s role to bear witness for Christ in the present moment.
There are countless ways we can bear witness from worship to service. Every believer is to use the gifts and opportunities that God provides them with as a means of bearing witness to their faith in Jesus Christ.
So, let us not waste time focused on the wrong things when there is ample opportunity to focus on those things that allow our lights to shine for Christ. Let your light shine so persons may give glory to God the father.