"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.

What a Gift

Isaiah 55:1-5 

An Invitation to Abundant Life

Ho, everyone who thirsts,

    come to the waters;

and you that have no money,

    come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

    without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,

    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

    and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

    listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

    my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples,

    a leader and commander for the peoples.

See, you shall call nations that you do not know,

    and nations that do not know you shall run to you,

because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel,

    for he has glorified you.
I love this passage from Isaiah for two reasons. The first, it begins with “Ho!” It is the cry of the merchant in the marketplace inviting the shoppers to his store. Come in and see the things I have for sale!
The second is that which is offered – the very best – the gift of God given without price.
Back in August of 2001, just three weeks before 9/11, our family went on vacation to New York City. While there, our family met up with an old friend. His name is Bobby. We have known Bobby for many years. He was in High School when we were on internship down in Fort Worth, Texas. Bobby was active in the youth group, and we have kept in touch over the years.
After high school, Bobby attended culinary arts school, became a chef, and then manager of the steakhouse at the Marriott Marquis, which is right on Time Square. Bobby made reservations for us, picked his favorite waitress to wait on us, and treated us like royalty. 
The waitress asked us what kinds of food we liked, what we didn’t like, and then gave us some tips on what to order. The prices on the menu were scary, let me tell you. We could do a month at McDonald’s with the money we could spend on one meal at this steakhouse.
We were given a sampler of a few appetizers, including salads, shrimp the size of your hand, and steak tartare, and other foods I can’t even pronounce. 
While we ate, we looked out the eighth floor window at Time Square, with all of its lights and all the people. We tried to imagine what it must look like on New Year’s Eve.
Then, for the main course, the kids had steaks, and Lisa had the pork chop with apple-butter glaze. I had chicken smothered in Parmesan cheese. Just like the appetizers, we had a sampler of the side dishes, which were wonderful. It was one of the most delicious and most enjoyable meals I have ever had. 
The table was cleared, and it was time to go. The waitress thanked us and said, “I hope you enjoyed your meal. The bill has been taken care of, and you are free to go when you are ready.”
What a gift. What a treat. It wasn’t because of our status, or importance in the company, or that New York had to get out of the way because the Woodwards are in town. No, it was a gift. I share this with you not to boast or brag. Rather, I share this with you because I was so moved by this gift. In a way, I was reminded of God’s love for us, and the greatest gift in love he gives for us.
Through Jesus Christ, we are given a gift of love, a place at the table, a meal that is beyond belief. Jesus is the host. We are the guests. The price has been paid. Through Jesus Christ, we are promised the best God can give. What else do we need? 

Let us pray:

Thank you, God, for your amazing grace! We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Got Questions?

Matthew 7:7-11 

Ask, Search, Knock

Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
What questions do you have? What is it that you hope to find? What is the door that you want to have opened?
More important than the questions, I believe, is the One of whom we are asking, seeking, knocking to permit our entry. God is not simply the great Google in the sky who is there to answer our questions, or the Amazon Prime dispenser of all we desire. God is so much more. God Is the One who desires to be in a loving relationship with you and me.
This is a relationship in which we can share the questions or concerns or worries or uncertainty that trouble our hearts and fill our minds. God wants to be included in the conversation. God wants to be with us in the questions and the answers.
The Message translation by Eugene Peterson phrases the verses this way: Jesus said, “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?”
So I ask you again – what questions do you have? What is it that you hope to find? What is the door that you want to have opened?

Let us pray:

Almighty God, Loving Father, hear my questions. Walk with me in seeking the answers. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.