DEVOTIONS @ 205.825.9633
Senior Minister Ricky A. Woods
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Devotional Reflection -- October 10, 2023
If there is a common mistake made in life that tempts everyone, it just might be the willingness to look for alternatives too soon.
Guided by a desire for comfort at best and the least trouble at worst, when people run into difficulty, it is tempting to look for an alternative, for some way around the issue or some way to avoid the problem. Now, no one should ride over a cliff. Yet, there is something to be said about the character, faith, and community that is built when we work together through whatever difficulty life brings our way as opposed to looking for an alternative.
There is no question that Israel was in a difficult position. They were moving a nation through a desert. Resources were limited, the hardships were real, and trust was fragile. Their leader was absent and the people were restless. All of these things help to build a situation that made the people look for an alternative. They had spoken of alternatives in the past about going back to the place of their bondage.
Now, they offered another alternative to build a god they could worship as opposed to the God who made them and called them to be a nation. They took what had value to them and shaped them into an image they claimed as their god and worshipped it. That image became their alternative, and they placed their hopes in their own hands and not in the hands of God.
Far too often we choose alternatives that are powerless to change our condition. Israel discovered that the hard way. The good news is that even though Israel made a bad choice they had a leader who intervened for them, and God changed his mind about the evil he intended to do to them. Israel’s leader not only intervened for them, but he also pointed them back to the God who called them, claimed them, and loved them.
The nation was able to continue the journey to the promised land because of the lesson they learned about worthless alternatives.
Do not be so quick to change and look for alternatives for you just might be in the place God desires for you to demonstrate his faithfulness.
Dr. Ricky A. Woods
Devotional Reflection -- October 3, 2023
Philippians 3: 4-11
There may be nothing more important to a life of stability than knowing your value. Because of confusion about value, some have a false sense of understanding of who they are, and they project that understanding upon others in ways that are harmful. Because of a confusion about their value, some view themselves in ways that lead to a life of self-destructive choices. Because of uncertainty concerning personal values, some have allowed themselves to be treated as objects for the passions of others.
Paul helps us to understand that there was a time when he was confused about his own value. He saw his value in his status, education, and job. Born of the tribe of Benjamin, a student of the law and a religious leader by occupation.
Yet, Paul says he has put all those things behind him counting them as useless in comparison to his life of service to the risen Christ. Knowing Jesus has given him not only a healthy understanding of his value but has given him a life of purpose. Knowing Jesus has brought him into a vibrant relationship with the living Lord. Because he has a healthy understanding of his value, he knows how much God loves him and how much God loves all of humanity.
Armed with a healthy understanding of his value Paul was willing to travel the Roman Empire with the message of the gospel that in Jesus Christ, God was reconciling the world back to himself. Paul was able tell others that there is cleansing from the past, courage for the present, and confidence for the future.
At the heart of knowing your value is to know that God loves you, God has a plan for you, and God is with you. May that knowledge bless you this day and give you peace as you move with purpose because you know your value. Counting all other things as loss is to know Christ and to be found in him.
Dr. Ricky A. Woods
Devotional Reflection -- June 13, 2023
If there is anything unreasonable in life that lacks logic it is hate. Hate does not appear in a vacuum but is fueled by envy, jealousy and prejudice. What makes hate so bad is the way it distracts us from the things that matter and forces us to only focus on what should not matter.
Haman was a man of influence and honor who the king placed in a special position. Haman was a man with power who could use that power to make his community better and the life of his family better. But because of hate he used his power to destroy a man and his people for one reason and one reason only, Mordecai would not bow down to him when he passed by.
Everyone but Mordecai bowed, and Haman was unable to celebrate the honor and respect that others gave him because he was so focused on the man who would not bow. Haman’s hatred for Mordecai grew to the point that he was willing to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom because Mordecai did not bow to him. There was no indication that there were other Jews that refused to bow when Haman passed by, but his hatred was so unreasonable that he sought to kill them all.
Haman was so filled with hatred that he could think of nothing else but a plan to kill all the Jews because a single Jew would not bow down to him as he passed by. Haman’s hatred did to him what hatred always does to a person; his hatred destroyed him because they hung Haman on the same gallows he built for Mordecai.
Today a former president is arraigned for possession of top-secret documents in his personal residence. A case that the country should be able to unite around to protect national security has divided the nation for one simple reason, hate. Because hate was the center piece of the former president’s mode of operating, countless other Americans have joined him on a journey of hate. Hate never wins because God reigns. That is the story from Haman to Hitler, from slavery to freedom. May we rest secure in the reality that our God reigns.
Devotional Reflection -- May 23, 2023
One of the things believers must be continually reminded of is that we do not do the work of ministry alone.
In a world that champions individualism, in a world of growing isolation, in a world of eroded trust, it is so easy to be tempted to live independent of others.
However, as great as Moses was, as an anointed leader of God’s people, he was not permitted to do the work alone. Moses had to be willing to trust others, work with others, see the gifts of God at work in others. God called Moses together along with seventy elders of the congregation and God took some of the spirit that was upon Moses and placed it on them. When the spirit rested upon them, they immediately began to speak about God’s goodness and God’s grace. The spirit gave them a different spirit, a different perspective and a different responsibility.
When the spirit is present empowering others, there can be well intended persons present who want to limit the work of the spirit to a single person.
Joshua was upset that there were others able to do what only Moses used to do. Joshua thought that he was protecting Moses when he was making an idol out of Moses because he would limit what God could do to only working with Moses.
We need to always be open to working with others and open to the spirit moving upon us in a way that we are equipped to do what we have never done before, just as the seventy elders did in this story. It is always the spirit that makes the difference, and the good news is that the spirit can use and often uses persons that are open to the things of God. So always be open because this may be the day that the spirit uses you in a special way.
Devotional Reflection -- May 16, 2023
1 Peter 5:6-11
There are common themes to the Christian faith that are passed down through the centuries. Themes such as joy, love and peace.
However, there are other themes not as celebrated in our times as the forementioned, they are humility, discipline and suffering.
It is the last three themes that Peter emphasizes at the close of his ministry. They are themes of the faith that he struggled to maintain in his youth, but years and maturity has brought him wisdom that humility, discipline and suffering are as important as joy, love and peace.
In fact, one may say that the presence of the later themes makes the other themes possible. Because life is not an even journey, we need a way to interpret suffering and hardship.
Peter informs us that hardship and suffering are normative for the Christian walk. They are not the things that happen to those who fall out of favor with God as Job’s friends suggested. They are things that can happen living in a world infected by sin and with an enemy that is always on the prowl looking for prey.
The good news is that we have one that will support us through our time of suffering. The good news is that suffering at best is always temporal. After you have suffered a little while, the God of grace, mercy and compassion, additional themes of the Christian faith will appear.
When he appears, he will restore, support, strengthen and establish. Peter is particular in the usage of the words of what God will do.
Restore, he will return whatever was lost during the time of suffering.
Support, he will establish a place for you to stand that will be secure no matter what.
Strengthen, he will lend his power in the fights of life to ensure victory.
Establish he will plant you so that the question of security is never in question no matter the season.
Like the flowers that bloom in the spring after being dormant during the winter. Peter’s words were words of hope and encouragement, and just as they encouraged early churches living in a difficult world, they can encourage us as well. Be encouraged for the chief Shepherd of your soul is near.
Devotional Reflection -- May 9, 2023
It is possible to forget that Christians are supposed to possess certain character traits given what we witness in our current culture.
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are not to be driven by selfish interest and personal agendas. We are to be guided by principles that display compassion, humility, kindness and patience. We are to bear with one another, not condemn each other for different views on the world.
Our faith values patience and what God can accomplish through patience as we are all witnesses to God’s patience with us.
The church must rediscover the ability to teach and preach the values of the faith that place sacrifice, service and submission at the center of life.
We are not called to follow a crucified savior for the benefit of our comfort, but to follow so our lives might be changed and in the process the world may change.
We are to be the salt and the light that performs what cannot be done by public policy or political action.
We are called to be the change not just seek the change and the change is in how we conduct ourselves through acts of humility, meekness, compassion and patience.
Let’s show the world how to be different by the ways we are different with each other and allow the light of the gospel to shine bright. As dark as our world is we need the light so let it shine. This little light of mine, I am going let it shine. Let it shine. Let it shine.
Devotional Reflection -- May 2, 2023
There may be no greater need in life than the need for direction. It is the challenge in every stage of life: what am I to do, and which way am I to go?
What makes knowing what to do so difficult is our inability to be able to see. To see sometimes what is clear and obvious, and to see what is sometimes hidden that could cause us to stumble along the way.
The psalmist knows something about this problem and confesses that there have been moments when his way was dark. In those moments, the Lord was his light. He had to lean into the need to discern God’s movement in his life and the world to determine his direction. He had to avoid the temptation to lean solely upon his own understanding or even the counsel of others. He made God’s will a priority in his life, and God has been his guide and light to show him the way through the darkness.
Discernment comes through engagement with God through acts of devotion that include worship, prayer and meditation.
Discernment requires some understanding of the ways of God and his vision for creation.
Discernment requires resisting the temptation to want God to want what we want.
Discernment is all about following the direction he leads even when the way is unsure.
But through discernment we discover the light that lights our lamps on the path that God leads.
The darkness of life cannot be avoided, but we can rest assured in the darkness we have light that makes the path clear. God is the light to all who would chose him and he will lead us safely through every dark moment. It is you Lord who lights my lamp, the Lord my God lights up my darkness.
Romans 8:1- 11
Paul’s letter to the Romans reflects what most scholars believe is his best theology work.
By the time Paul writes the Romans he has years to think through the meaning of being in Christ. Paul by now has spent years establishing churches, developing church leaders and building an infrastructure that allows churches to have a model for ministry that could be duplicated anywhere.
There are two driving points behind Paul’s theology that he does not want the church to forever forget.
The first is that Jesus is a crucified Savior. Jesus died on the cross to pay the sin debt that all of humanity owed. Jesus died in our stead so that we might have life. The cross of Christ is what makes forgiveness possible and grace visible.
The second point Paul wants the church to always remember is the role of the Spirit. It is in Romans 8 that Paul speaks of the role of the Spirit that serves as a bedrock for Christian faith. Paul begins by saying that the Spirit removes all condemnation from us. Paul admits that we still sin and that we still fall short of God’s glory even with our best efforts, but the presence of the Spirit removes all condemnation and we are free from guilt. The Spirit has set us free.
Then Paul declares the Spirit changes our focus. We are no longer concerned with the things in life that simply feed the flesh, but we now want to please God. The Spirit helps us to set our affections on the things that have eternal significance. The Spirit empowers us to live by more than the present moment. Next Paul says the Spirit lives within us. No longer is the Spirit confined to a temporary presence that aids only for a time, but the Spirit is now with us and in us. It is the reality of the Spirit being with us and in us that makes it possible for the Spirit to lead us. This is what makes us the sons and daughters of God, that we have God’s Spirit residing in us.
The role of the Spirit in our lives is what gives peace, no matter the times, for we are certain as to who we belong. We are children of a loving father who has not left us alone and provided a guide, a keeper and a deliverer to be with us always. No pandemic can change that truth because it was settled at Calvary’s cross.
There was once a train that was running down a track out of control. What made matters worse, another train was headed down the same track in the opposite direction. The passengers were all in panic with one exception--a little boy who continued to play with his toys as though nothing was wrong. Finally, the crisis was adverted by a skillful engineer who regained control of the train and switched tracks to safely bypass the impending danger.
A passenger asked the little boy why was he not afraid and how could he continue to play during the crisis? The lad responded, “My father is the engineer and he knows I am on this train. I do not have to see him to know that he is looking out for me.”