DEVOTIONS @ 205.825.9633
Senior Minister Ricky A. Woods
@ 8:15am & 7:15pm
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!
The idea to send out spies to perform reconnaissance in the Land of Promise comes from God to Moses. The plan calls for the selection of leaders from the twelve tribes, persons who have demonstrated responsibility and who the community would respect.
When the selection is made, no one selected pulled back from the dangerous assignment given and the length of time it would take to complete. These men accepted the responsibility to perform an important task but a task also filled with danger.
They should be admired for their courage and their willingness to complete an assignment that took them forty days. At the end of the forty days they came and gave their report of what they found. The spies admitted that God had not lied about the land he was leading the people to inherit. The land indeed flowed with milk and honey, the land was fruitful but the land also was occupied with persons who appeared like giants.
The spies--with the exception of Caleb and Joshua--gave an unfavorable report and caused the congregation to focus on their fears more than God’s promises. The spies were void of sacred memory that could recall what God had already done and allow that truth to serve as faith in what God could do in the present moment.
There are times when nothing is more powerful to help keep us moving forward than sacred memory.
When we are able to look back over our life experience and see what God has brought us through, it gives us the confidence to believe that God will do it again no matter what we face. Caleb spoke out against the report of the majority and called the people to arms by saying we are able to overcome them because he remembered what God had already done at the Red Sea.
Last week our nation participated in sacred memory as we remembered the attacks of 9/11. We remembered the best of our nation in the worst time as firefighters climbed the stairs of a building they knew they would not leave in order to save others. We remembered how a nation came together to support, comfort, aid and defend.
We have now been attacked by a virus that has become so political it has chipped away at the values that helped to make our nation a beacon of light. Now is the time for us to engage in sacred memory that remembers not just the actions of a nation but the actions of God. For we will be able to overcome this, too, if God be with us.
Go with God for He has promised to be with you always.
There may be no need greater at this moment than the need for patience.
The pandemic has lasted longer than any of us could have expected and despite the presence of a vaccine, infection rates continue to climb. Whereas the desire to return to our normal life’s pre-pandemic is great, we should not have a return to the normal at the cost of public health and the greater good.
Patience is more than a call to wait, to pause, to stand still. Patience is a distinguished Christian value. Patience asks of us to wait upon God to act as opposed to acting ourselves. Patience asks of us to think about the impact of our action upon others and not be hurried into unpruned responses to life situations. We often associate patience with a sign of maturity and indication that persons have learned lessons in life that equip them to better respond to their current reality.
When patience is mentioned in this text, it is spoken in relationship to believers having to endure some difficulty. In this case some form of suffering. In a world that is pain adverse, we can miss the benefit that struggle brings and what it means to have to wait upon God.
There are limits in our humanity and we cannot always do all the things we want to do as soon as we would like to do them. There are some things in life that can only be known through the experience of patience whether it is a farmer waiting on the rain or the world waiting for a pandemic to past.
During the season of waiting, if we wait patiently God will strengthen our hearts and give us what we need to endure until the end. Remember that even while we wait, we do not wait alone for God has promised to be with us no matter the hardship or difficulty. Never alone tells us whatever He brings us to He will bring us through.
The pandemic may be our Red Sea moment when we see God act in ways that can only be known when we are patient.
The prophet speaks of what will be in contrast to what is. Exile and difficulty may be the current reality but another reality is certain and it is a reality filled with hope.
A highway--not a path nor a road--is the metaphor used to describe what will be. The highway is what makes room for many. It is a broad way that leads to a particular place of an expected blessing when one arrives.
Already the prophet is speaking words of hope that engages those who hear them to anticipate even more what God will make possible. However, the highway comes with conditions and restrictions. It is reserved for the holy, those who have been set apart for God by God. It is a restrictive passage that requires something of the traveler. But at the same time God guides and keeps those who travel it so that not even a fool is lost.
The highway is free from danger of the things or people that could threaten the traveler. The safety and security of the highway make singing possible and the travelers are filled with joy. This is what will be, says the prophet, and it will come to pass not by our efforts but because of a way that God will make. How God will do it, the prophet does not tell the community. He only tells them that God will do it. The Lord will make a way somehow.
I do not know how long the pandemic will cause us to re-order our lives in ways that are strange. I miss public worship. I miss the sights, sounds and surroundings of a community in worship. Virtual worship has been different and doing ministry in a pandemic is a challenge.
But I know this--there is a highway called the holy way. The unclean shall not travel on it but it shall be for God’s people. Let us keep marching up the king’s highway.
There are some decisions in life that are born out of struggle. They are the decisions that did not come easy and often involved some level of hurt. Not every decision in life is easy. Not every decision is based upon logic, information nor popular acceptance.
In our verses, Joshua has fulfilled his mission. He has brought Israel into the land of promise. He has put down all enemies and ushered in the long-awaited day of peace and security. He is one of only a few that left Egypt for the Promised Land and has seen from beginning to end what it took to gain possession of the Promised Land. The mantel of leadership had passed from Moses the lawgiver to him and now he provides his parting words to the people.
Joshua recalls for them the journey they have been on, and the mistakes made along the way. He does not deny the frequent inability of the people to remain loyal to God despite all that the Lord had done. He makes one final plea to them to remain faithful to God, to put away the influence of idolatry that had been a part of their past. Neither were they to give in to the influence of new temptations toward idolatry in the present because of the influence of those near them.
Then he made a bold declaration that is part of a decision he had personally made when he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Joshua was committed to being a leader who would provide an example of faithfulness to God. Joshua used his position and influence not to serve himself but to serve God. He served not only as an example to the community what it means to serve God, he also mirrored it for his family as well. He taught his family what it meant to serve God.
We need examples in the moments we live to see what it means to serve God and remain faithful to him in the midst the pressures of life.
As young people prepare to return to school, too many leaders are using a public health crisis to garner political points. Wearing masks to prevent the spread of a virus that has killed millions should not have to be debated. Police reform does not mean eliminating the police. A new stadium should not have to come at the expense of affordable housing for those who live with no shelter.
If we are to be a nation that takes the demands of Christian faith seriously, we will have to make a decision about who we will serve and what interest will we serve--God’s or some other?
This particular psalm is classified as a royal psalm. It is a psalm offered by the king on behalf of the nation. There is an unspoken difficulty that the nation is encountering and the king offers this psalm as a means of both appealing to God and reminding the people of their faith.
Trouble may be the current state but the Lord answers in the day of trouble. God does not abandon us when trouble comes our way. God does not ignore the trouble that threatens us. God will show up for us in the day of trouble.
To remind the people of this truth, the psalmist makes reference to the patriarch Jacob. Of all the patriarchs the psalmist could have mentioned, he mentions the one known for his deception. He mentions the one who has to flee from home with nothing. He mentions the one who is a victim of deception. He mentions the one who is concerned about his brothers pledge to take out his vengeance on him if he gets the chance.
If there was ever a person who needed protection it was Jacob. God protected Jacob, provided for Jacob and blessed Jacob in the midst of his trouble. The same God that protected Jacob would protect Israel.
The psalm goes on to indicate how God will protect in the day of trouble.
He will send help from the sanctuary. God’s help is connected to the people’s worship of God. The help that comes from the sanctuary demonstrates what worship can make possible. When we worship God, we acknowledge our trust of him and our willingness to follow in the ways he leads.
God will give support from Zion.
Zion is an elevated place and the support that God will provide comes from above. God will remember all offerings and sacrifices. What has been offered prior to the moment of trouble will not be forgotten when trouble arises. Finally, God knows what you desire and is able to fulfill all your plans. We may make plans but we are dependent upon the help of God to see them come to past.
Our nation is clearly in a time of trouble and we need God to answer us in this moment. As the pandemic rages, Afghanistan collapses and the political divide grows wider, the church cannot be concerned about only individual needs. We need a sense of community that seeks God’s guidance for all of us.
Now is the time for us to look beyond our own affairs and to see how God might use us in this moment to be a part of the answer that comes when the church is salt and light. Our world needs both.