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!
When I was a boy growing up in my rural church it was not uncommon to hear the saints sing about going to the judgment. The only song I remember hearing my grandmother sing was a song about the judgment—"Judgment Bound.” Pastor McLaughlin would sing “Have You Anytime for Jesus.” The course of the song declared that soon the summons from the portal from that great mansion in the sky may be sounding your departure, you must then take time to die.
Those songs often led to outbreaks of praise and thanksgiving to God for the judgment. The judgment was the place where God would settle all accounts and those who had been marginalized, taken advantage and wronged would be vindicated. The judgment was also a place where those who had taken advantage of others, wronged others, destroyed others would receive their just due.
The parable in this passage is a judgment parable told by Jesus. The focus on the parable is upon just how outlandish the situation was described by Jesus. There is a man who has taken special effort to make a piece of property fruitful. He has planted a vineyard, built a fence to protect it from wild creatures, constructed a winepress nearby to produce wine from the fruit of the vineyard and employed tenants to work the operation. The owner had made every investment necessary to see the operation produce and only expected from the production a percentage of his investment back.
However, what occured is the tenants treated the operation as if it belonged to them. They refused every effort by the owner to collect only a small percentage of what rightly belonged to the owner. The tenants went further to commit murder--even the murder of the owner’s son. Those listening to the story know that there is only one outcome for the tenants and that is they have to be brought to justice, they must give an account for what they have done.
The parable is told to shine light on how God’s grace in Jesus Christ had been rejected by the religious leaders and many of the people. The ways in which our lives bear fruit are determined by our response to Jesus. Without him our lives our fruitless and we are driven by greed and power. This is a lesson in what we should NOT DO because we have time to respond to God’s love toward us in Jesus Christ. If we fail to respond, rest assured the judgment is coming and it will be a day of dread--not a reason to shout.
Published on Friday, September 25, 2020 @ 12:13 PM EDT
The pivotal event in the life of faith for Israel was the crossing of the Red Sea. The Red Sea crossing was not the first time that God had acted on behalf of his chosen but the Red Sea crossing displayed a unique way God acted by fighting for one group and fighting against another group.
The Red Sea crossing was more than liberating Israel from their oppressors. It was God showing Israel He could be counted on in the hard moments of life. God would not leave His people in a place of hopelessness but God would show up with power to turn the tide.
The way God showed up for Israel was by making a way through the barrier that blocked them. God divided the Red Sea and allowed Israel to walk over on dry ground. When the Egyptians attempted to follow Israel, two things happened that spelled their doom.
First the Egyptians were thrown into a panic. They encountered mass confusions on what to do and which way to go. In essence they were leaderless in a crisis moment. The current crisis that engulfs our nation is causing some persons to experience panic. The protests in the streets, the pandemic that is still present and the economic shutdown that has left many struggling to survive cause us to wonder is there anyone that can lead us out of our situation?
The second thing that happened to the Egyptians as they tried to follow Israel through the Red Sea is their chariots got clogged in the mud and turned with difficulty. The very thing that represented the power of the Egyptian army was rendered useless in the mud of the Red Sea. Whenever we count more on the things we have than the God that has made us, a day will come when we will see those things let us down. Things--no matter how powerful--are no substitute for God.
Only the people who trusted God and followed God made it through the crisis safely.
The way we trust in God in a crisis is to follow His word, stay in community and follow proven leadership who are clearly following God. The Red Sea crisis was not Moses’ first crisis and he had proven himself in prior crises that he could be trusted. So, Moses raised his hands and God parted the sea and Israel walked over on dry ground. There is no crisis we cannot survive when we trust God to guide us through it. He is the Great Way Maker.
Published on Saturday, September 19, 2020 @ 12:16 PM EDT
There may be no feeling like the feeling of being all alone. Because we have been created to be both spiritual and social creatures, we thirst for belonging and connection. However, there are times when the choices we make and the stands we take isolate us from others, particularly those who do not share our views.
Israel had come under the influence of a leader that had abandoned all norms. The very nation that was to be an example to others through its faith tradition and commitment to justice had become perverted. A lone prophet challenged the false prophets to a contest and saw his God prevail.
Yet the victory is shorted lived and did not lead to mass repentance but a death warrant. The prophet escaped to a remote desert cave and alone he begins to ponder how he arrived at this place in his life. It seems that all he stood for and all that he tried to do to make his nation live up to their calling has failed. Depression and anxiety have him in survival mode. There are no thoughts of prophetic utterances, no stands against present injustice. He just wants to escape from it all.
But in the mouth of the cave where the prophet feels alone, God shows up. God shows up not in the acts that represent him such as fire, wind and earthquake. God shows up in a small still voice with a question of engagement-- why are you here?
The prophet quickly makes his case about what he has done to stand up to the onslaught of injustice but concedes he is only one person. The implication is that his efforts where not enough and no one else can help because they are all gone. He is the lone survivor. God quickly informs him that his work is not over and that work involves engaging others that God has already prepared to take up his fight.
The pandemic has made all of us feel isolated and alone at moments but we are not alone. There are others that God has prepared that stand ready to service and aid us in this moment of crisis. There are neighbors making calls to check on neighbors. There are churches placing worship services on websites. There are nonprofits providing meals. There are the prayers of the faithful that call your name in prayer.
You may feel alone but you are not alone. There is a God who has promised never to leave us alone and He is faithful to His word.
Published on Saturday, September 19, 2020 @ 11:48 AM EDT
This passage of scripture is most often referred to as the call narrative of Moses by God to liberate Israel from bondage.
The call reflects God’s initiative in the lives of His people. What prompted God to call Moses and use him as an agent of liberation were the cries of the people. God heard the cries, the mourning and groans of His people, and God acted.
Moses is not called by God to the task of liberation because of his gifts or ability. There is nothing in Moses that causes God to be attractive to him. God is moved solely because of His love for His people and His desire to bring them freedom. The witness of leadership begins with the right understanding of the leader to the people, that the leader only has a job because God is in love with His people. The people who are the object of God’s love are far from prefect but they share the bond of covenant promise and unfailing love.
Every leader is made better when he or she understands that the leader is present for the people as a sign of God’s love for them. Moses’ leadership ability evolved and in time the people recognized Moses for his leadership ability even when they were not on the same page. What the people saw in Moses was a leader shaped by God’s call and how God was in love with His people. It is this fundamental fact that guided Moses’ actions and caused him to seek to reflect God’s love for the people.
A day even came when Moses placed himself between the wrath of God and the people’s disobedience to remind God of His unfailing love. We need leaders who will think more about the people and their needs as opposed to the leader’s needs. We need leaders who can grow in their leadership ability but remain fastened to the principal of what it means to be faithful to God through faithful service to the people of God.
Leadership carries both a blessing and a burden. There is the blessing of being used by God to help people realize the plans God has for their lives. There is the burden of balancing strength and humility in ways that ego does not occupy the place in the leader’s heart that is reserved for God. For all leaders work for Him--those who realize it as well as those who do not.
Published on Monday, August 31, 2020 @ 7:40 AM EDT
The epistle of Romans provides what most scholar believe is the Apostle Paul’s greatest theology work.
In Romans we hear the way to salvation if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart you shall be saved. In Romans we hear that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. After Paul tells the community what God has done, he pivots and tells the community what their responsibilities are as believers in Jesus Christ.
Whereas it is true that we are saved by grace through faith, believers are not without responsibilities that reveal how they are to live out their faith. Paul first urges his community to use their bodies as witness to their faith through the choices they make. Christians are called to be living sacrifices where worship is not confined to ritual but reveal a way of life when God is placed at the center of our lives. Our bodies are to bear witness to what we believe. There is much that we can tell the world with our bodies by the choices we make. During the pandemic we have been told the importance of facial coverings and social distance as means of reducing the spread of the virus. But many they have chosen to ignore medical advice under the guise of freedom.
Paul not only urges his community to use their bodies as witness to their faith by the choices they make, Paul tells them to change their thinking as well. Their thinking is not to be informed by the culture but by the Spirit--be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Paul believes that it is possible for change to occur when the thinking of humanity is informed by the Spirit. With right thinking, persons will be able to make choices that honor God, build community and provide a witness of cooperation instead of competition.
Once our thinking is right, we will be able to see our need for one another and how the gifts and abilities of others should not be the things that threaten us but the thing that helps each of us to see our place in the world and the plan of God. Paul believes that God has given gifts to all of us and our gifts are to be used for God’s glory and our good. The recent pandemic has made us aware of how the gifts of God are at work in his people, meeting needs because they have yielded their bodies as living sacrifices.
Published on Monday, August 31, 2020 @ 7:31 AM EDT