DEVOTIONS @ 205.825.9633
Senior Minister Ricky A. Woods
@ 8:15am & 7:15pm
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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.
The reading this week provides us the location where Jesus will celebrate the Passover for the last time with his disciples. Again, unnamed disciples are dispatched to a location without the benefit of address, only that they will find a man carrying a jar of water. Ask him where is the room where my master may eat Passover with his disciples? True to the words of Jesus, the disciples find just such a person and he shows them a larger Upper Room and the disciples finish the work of preparation there for the Passover.
The Upper Room is a key place in Christian history and theology. It is a particular location of Jesus choosing to do what he would do the last time with those who had left everything to follow him. In the Upper Room they are made aware that their time together as they have known it over the last three years was coming to an end. There is sadness in the room as well as uncertainty. What will it mean for them to have to go on without the master? How would they make it? They still have not grasped the meaning of sacrifice nor understood they were walking in the shadow of the cross. The church does a disservice if it does not remind us that we walk in the shadow of the cross. Every day is not a high day of celebration but there are days that are solemn and call for thoughtful contemplation.
There is hurt in the room because they hear that one of their own will betray the master. There seemed to always be those who lurked close by that wanted to use Jesus for their purposes. Jesus requires of us hard commitment that often stands in the way of aspirations. There are those that believe Jesus is not enough and that one has to hedge their bets for the unknown. There are always those that are willing to buy from us what God has given through grace and gifts. In those moments we need to declare "not for sale." Our integrity, character, witness, hope and affection are not for sale.
There is anger in the room. The leader of the group, Peter ,is told in front of his peers that he would deny Jesus three times. This is a smack in the face of the one who felt that he had proved himself to Jesus. Surely Jesus' words about Peter in the Upper Room lead the other disciples to have conversations about Peter and may have lowered his standing as the leader of the group. Peter seeks to rescue his honor by declaring that he is better than everyone else--"Even through all will desert you, I will not." When Jesus pushes the point, Peter pushes back that if necessary "I will die with you before I deny you." This back and forth reveals a man whose emotions are becoming frail.
In spite of the sadness, hurt and anger in the Upper Room, it is space that is transformed because Jesus is present. It is the presence of Jesus that makes the difference even in our sadness, hurt and anger. The presence of Jesus is enough to hold us together in certain as well uncertain times. May he hold you in the space that you are in now because he is present. For in times like these we need an anchor.