"Pastor Charlie Woodward", "Charlie Woodward"Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the pandemic days until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. As the title states, we are in the wilderness alone, but we are still together. We may feel isolated and on our own. But we are in this together. I want to make sure we have an opportunity to stay connected. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  

Find a link to each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the Devotions distribution list.

This is an opportunity for us to be present with each other in the days to come. You can be present by sharing your comments, insights, prayers and pictures in response to what Pastor Charlie shares in the coming days. For we are in this together. And where two or three are gathered in God’s name, God is present, too.

Happy Fourth!

Psalm 118:21-24

21 I thank you that you have answered me

    and have become my salvation.

22 The stone that the builders rejected

    has become the chief cornerstone.

23 This is the Lord’s doing;

    it is marvelous in our eyes.

24 This is the day that the Lord has made;

    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 

John 8:31-33

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

 

Galatians 5:1a

For freedom Christ has set us free.
 

Happy Fourth of July! I picked readings for today for the holiday, and the promises of God we receive to live free. Free to worship God without fear. Free to live as God’s beloved. Free to experience the blessings God gives us. Free to enjoy the wonder of God’s creation.

For me, freedom and joy seem to go hand in hand.

A day that sums that up best for me is the day Lisa and I asked our good friends, Ingrid and Chip, to be the maid of honor and best man for our wedding.

Chip, Lisa and I drove up from Mount Pleasant (home of THE Central Michigan University) to Big Rapids, where Ingrid was going to school at the time. We planned a day of tubing down the Muskegon River. We picked up Ingrid and her car and drove to the church where Ingrid attended – they had inner tubes for people to borrow for the day.

We had a problem to solve. There were four of us, plus four tubes and two cars – a Pinto hatchback and a Chevy Chevette. Two VERY SMALL cars. How to make this work?

We needed to take the two cars, four tubes and four people to the starting point. Two people and four tubes were dropped off. Two people then drove the two cars to the end of the river and dropped off a car and returned to the starting point. We got in the tubes, floated down the river and had the most relaxing, enjoyable day.

Half way down the river, we decided to do it again.

So when we got to the end of the run, we got out of the river, and two people got in the one car, went back to the beginning of the river and picked up the second car, brought it back to the end of the river and picked up the four tubes and two people and then headed back to square one.

Oh my!

Yes, Ingrid and Chip accepted our invitation to be our maid of honor and best man. We give thanks to God for their friendship and support.

That day back in 1983 is a day I will never forget. We were free to enjoy the wonder of God’s creation with good friends and a lot of great memories.

It was a day the Lord had made, and we DID rejoice in it.

What are the days of freedom and joy that you cherish?

Thank God for them!

Let us Pray: 

Thank you for your blessings on us, and on our nation. May we never take the freedom you give us for granted. Thank you for today! In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen


We Cannot Free Ourselves

Romans 7:7-20 

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10 and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.

13 Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
 

Elaine shared a story with me about a time she went to visit her parents for a few days. The retired couple were set in their ways and happy to live at home. Elaine was visiting to check up on them, because she lived some 10 hours from them and didn’t get a chance to visit very often.

The first morning she was back in the home in which she was raised, Elaine was awakened by the sound of the smoke detector going off downstairs. Fearing the worst, she quickly jumped out of bed. Had she arrived just in time to save her parents from a dangerous fire? Were Mom and Dad able to care for themselves in the old house, or was this early morning warning a sure sign that something needed to be done?

Elaine made her way downstairs toward the sound of the blaring alarm. It was coming from the kitchen.

As she entered, Elaine found her dad, oblivious to the alarm’s dire warning, seated at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. Behind him, she saw her mom waving a towel in the direction of the smoke detector. She greeted her daughter with a smile.

“Mom, what’s going on?” Elaine asked in a panic. “Is there a fire?”

“No,” her mother replied, “this happens every day. The toast in the toaster sets off the alarm, and I have to wave it off.”

Elaine noticed the toaster located directly below the smoke detector. She asked, “This happens every morning? Why is the toaster right below the smoke detector? Why not move the toaster?”

Elaine’s dad put down the newspaper and looked over his reading glasses and said, “Elaine, how else will we know when the toast is done?”

St. Paul says to the church in Rome, “I do the very things I know I should not do.”

I do something wrong, and I know the alarms are going off, and I know it’s not right, but I do it anyway.

I shouldn’t do it. I can change. I can stop it, but I do the very things I know I should not do.

Paul’s words are not to be seen as an “Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter” get-out-of-jail-free card. Instead, it is a reminder of our sinful nature.

We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. 

Did you hear that? We cannot free ourselves.

It is only when we confess the reality that “I cannot,” that we can free ourselves to hear God say, “I can.”

If we could save ourselves, we wouldn’t need a savior.

If sin and death didn’t have a hold on me, Jesus wouldn’t need to take the sins of the world (including yours and mine) and put them to death on the cross.

In the very next chapter of Romans, Paul will share with the church some powerful news. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Nothing.

Never forget.

Let us Pray: 

Almighty God, forgive us of the foolish things we do, and the excuses we give for them. Forgive us our sin, and save us from all that we do that harm ourselves, others and you. Thank you for your love and your forgiveness, that come to us in and through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.