AM & PM DEVOTIONS
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No matter how your schedule changes, you can now pick from AM or PM Devotions with our senior pastor Dr. Ricky A. Woods. Early birds can join at 8:15am and night owls can take advantage of our new evening devotion at 7:15pm. Either way, dial the SAME number -- (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!
The birth narrative of Jesus is only recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Each place its focus on the birth of Jesus differently. Luke tells the story from Mary’s view. It is Matthew that tells us the story from the eyes of Joseph.
Each has plans that have been altered by the presence of an angel. An angel appeared unto Joseph and repeated the words that the angel had said a lot during this season of the year… do not be afraid. The presence of an angel was often thought to be a sign of pending judgment but it is not judgment that God has in mind.
It is good news.
It is news of how God is reaching out to humanity in the gift of a child who was also the savior of the world. It is news of God choosing to enter into divine and human partnership to redeem creation.
Just as Mary has a role to play, Joseph has a role to play. Mary will give the child birth but Joseph must give him his name. The naming of a child in Jewish culture was a religious ritual that included the community. When the father gave the child his/her name, it was the act of the father that gave the child standing in the community and told the community this child belongs to us. Joseph had the responsibility to give Jesus his name, to tell the community and the world who he was.
Although Joseph had other plans, when he woke from his dream he did what the angel told him. Joseph took Mary as his wife and he named her first born son Jesus. Joseph accepted the responsibility thrusted upon him and by his example invites us to look to ways we may accept the responsibility that God places upon us. For in doing so we make the Christmas story come alive not because of gifts but because of deeds that are life altering that can only happen when you are not afraid.
Fear not do not be afraid for God may be reaching out to you to make a fresh witness of grace possible in our world.
Published on Sunday, December 20, 2020 @ 5:56 PM EDT
If there is a single question that comes to every believer in every generation it just might be: Is serving the Lord worth it?
So often as believers we encounter the difficulties of living in our world that does not honor our God or recognize his presence among us. So often the forces that work against unity, harmony and peace seem to win the day. So often we are called upon to defend the faith we confess to those who do not see its values. So often it appears that those who pervert justice and deny the claims of God upon his creation are the ones who prosper and escape accountability.
When that question comes to mind it is important to remember that we are not alone. God has placed us in a community of fellow believers that we call the church. Within the confines of the church we find the support of others as well as God’s promise to be with us always. God will not forget about us nor our efforts to bear witness for him.
God remembers because there is a book of remembrance of the faithful. God keeps record not of just our failures but also every act of faithfulness as well, even when being faithful is hard. God remembers and from that memory promises a day of redemption and reward. So much of what the Bible has to say to us are reminders that God remembers.
Because God remembers promises made long ago, a child is promised to an elderly priest and his wife. Because God remembers, a prophet comes to prepare the way of the Lord. Because God remembers, unjust and oppressive empires do not last always. The act of God remembering comes to assure a day when every wrong will be made right, every crook place made straight and the glory of the Lord will reign forever and ever.
Advent is the season that calls us into anticipation of what God may do when he remembers. May we live in anticipation filled with hope and kept be love. For there is a difference between the righteous and the wicked. Between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. One living in anticipation of God remembering ,the other hoping God will forget. I am trusting that God will remember.
Published on Saturday, December 5, 2020 @ 8:32 PM EDT
The passage today is the first gospel reading for the season of Advent, that season of anticipation and expectation. The way God communicates in this season is not through a grand miracle but through a simple man. John the Baptist is sent by God to preach the word of God to the people of God. John came preaching a particular message and it was one of repentance.
J.B. Phillips asked a question in his book “Whatever Happened to Sin?” Has sin ceased to exist and is sin no longer a concern for the church? John makes it clear there are things that we are prone to do that are against the will of God and put us at odds with our Maker. Each time we defraud someone. Each time we oppress someone. Each time we use privilege as a weapon against the disadvantaged, we wound the heart of God.
The blessing of God in the preaching of John did not come without repentance and our willingness to change and place our interest behind the interest of God.
Repentance is always hard because it forces us to be honest with ourselves, not about what we see but agree with what God says about us. Repentance is hard because it is not the work of reclamation that we do by sheer determination to change. Repentance is the work of the Holy Spirit that convicts us and causes us to see what we cannot see without the Spirit’s aid. The preaching of repentance as preparation for the coming of the Messiah was crucial for without repentance the message of Jesus would be missed and the kingdom of God would be manufactured in the image of me--not the master.
Before the babe in the manger, before wise men and shepherds, before angels singing, there is a lone voice of a single man send by God with a particular word--repent. May the Holy Spirit fall on us in this season of Advent and bring us to repentance and thereby make us ready to receive the gift of God coming our way.
Published on Saturday, December 5, 2020 @ 8:29 PM EDT
We are a week past the election, and we have a new president-elect in Joe Biden. If the current electoral college map holds up as most think it will, President-Elect Biden will have the same number of electoral college votes as President Trump did when he defeated Hillard Clinton four years ago.
When it became clear that Secretary Clinton would not win the presidency, she did what others before her have done. She acknowledged the will of the voters and wished the president the best because he would lead the whole nation, not just parts of it. Whereas a concession speech and best wishes for the president-elect are not required by the Constitution, our nation has come to expect it and as result it has always helped to heal the partisan divide that elections can bring.
Expectations flow from past experiences that define what is normal in a society. Expectations provide a sense of hope of what can be and what should be in a world that does not always get things right. Expectations are what the world has of the church even for those who do not claim allegiance to it.
So, a man brings his sick son to the disciples of Jesus with an expectation they would be able to help him. The disciples were seen as those who shared company with Jesus and from their proximity to him are expected to have some of the power Jesus possessed. The disciples are perfectly willing to accept both the expectation that the man had of them and the responsibility to do something about the son’s condition.
The disciples put forward the effort. The disciples do the best they can. But the disciples fail in the expectation that others had in them.
Their failure may alter future expectations that persons have about the church. Their failure could cause others to see the church as powerless to deal with the hurt and pain of our present age. But the day is saved because Jesus showed up. When Jesus appeared, the father conveyed his disappointment with the disciples. He brought his son to them for them to heal him, but they could not.
However, Jesus did not disappoint the father. Jesus healed his son and reminded the disciples that whereas there may be limits to the church’s power, there is no limit to God’s power. Our hope is not in institutions that sometimes let us down. Our hope is in a person who loves us and desires the best for us. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
Published on Saturday, December 5, 2020 @ 8:17 PM EDT
Today is election day and many are feeling uneasy about what the day may possibly hold.
We have watched as the democratic norms that guide our democracy have been shredded. We have witnessed new forms of voter suppression as well as old tried-and-true forms targeted at minority communities that make us wonder if we have entered a time warp.
In spite of all that makes us uneasy, we are encouraged by the record vote turn out in early voting that tells us persons are overcoming whatever barriers are placed before them to vote. Young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural are all casting their ballot. Yet this is the first national election where we question if there will be a peaceful transfer of power.
The psalmist has a word for us in these uneasy moments. He was a person who knew something about the fragile nature of governments. Although not denying his civic responsibility, he tells us of the importance of a higher hope than that provided by politicians.
He says “I have seen your power in the place of worship.” What the psalmist is saying is that he recognizes the power of God to regulate and to make right. He knows something about the power of God to fix what is broken and to mend what is ruptured. “I have seen your power in the place of worship and I know that your power is not confined to places of worship alone.” God’s power can transcend any barrier or limitation and make its presence known. “I have seen your power in the place of worship” is what gives the psalmist confidence in the present moment in spite of the uneasiness in the atmosphere.
The psalmist’s response to what he sees leads him to praise. “You Lord mean more than life to me and I will praise you.” The psalmist puts his focus not upon what makes him uneasy, but on the God who means so much to him. This is not the mindless praise that ignores certain realities and tries to wish them away. This is the praise that says God means more than the condition that I am in and I will choose to praise him even if my condition does not change. Praise is the opportunity for the faithful to respond to God through faith. Praise is the way trust in God is lived out in the choices we make.
Finally, the psalmist says “I will pray to you.” There is a recognition of just how little in life is in our control. Whereas we should do what we can do by voting and advocating for what we believe is right, we should never forget to pray. Our right to vote only came after years of struggle and prayer.
When we pray we garner God’s attention. When we pray we open ourselves to receive something from above. Sometimes it takes something from above to move things below. May it be so this day as we pray… because we have seen His power.
Published on Tuesday, November 3, 2020 @ 2:12 PM EDT