"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.

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. 
 


Excellent!

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 

 

The Lord is gracious and merciful,

    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

The Lord is good to all,

    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

 

14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,

    and raises up all who are bowed down.

15 The eyes of all look to you,

    and you give them their food in due season.

16 You open your hand,

    satisfying the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is just in all his ways,

    and kind in all his doings.

18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

    to all who call on him in truth.

19 He fulfills the desire of all who fear him;

    he also hears their cry, and saves them.

20 The Lord watches over all who love him,

    but all the wicked he will destroy.

 

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,

    and all flesh will bless his holy name forever and ever.
 

 

Like yesterday, I offer another illustration from the golf course.
 
Fred and his wife moved from Texas to Ohio to be close to kids and grand-kids. Fred was newly retired and looking for some new hobbies to fill his time. It had been several years since he had been on the golf course, but he had loved the game and decided to make the investment of new golf clubs.
 
Fred came and joined our church group, “A Swing and A Prayer.” Back at my previous church in Westerville, the group got together on Wednesday mornings for breakfast at a local restaurant. We read the Gospel for the coming Sunday, discussed it, and then prayed together. Afterwards, those who wanted to continue on to the golf course for a round of golf headed to the links.
 
Fred’s son and his family were members of my congregation. Fred and his wife quickly joined in the activities at the church, including A Swing and A Prayer. The first week he joined us, Fred brought his grandson, Scott, to come along. Scott was about 14 years old at the time. He was going to serve as Fred’s caddy for the day.
 
Scott had never been on a golf course in his life. So Fred gave him some rules to follow. He told Scott, “There are three rules that you need to know as a caddy. Number one, always stand behind the person hitting the ball. Number two, do not talk or move when someone is hitting the ball. And number three, always compliment the person you are caddying for on his shots.”
 
Scott did as he was told. He carried his grandfather’s bag and followed closely behind. He stopped talking and moving when any of the golfers were hitting the ball. And, he made sure to compliment Grandpa on his game.
 
That was all well and good, until we got to the third hole. Three times, Fred tried to hit the ball over the pond and on to the green. Three times, Fred hit his ball into the water instead. And three times, after each shot, Scott said, “Excellent shot, sir!”
 
The words of the psalmist are filled with words of praise of the Lord, proclaiming the wonders of the Lord’s steadfast love and compassion. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down. The Lord provides food in due season. My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord! Excellent work, Lord!
 
But there are times when we are hungry, bowed down, broken and wonder where God is when the words of Psalm 22 are instead on our lips: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22). How can we sing praises to the Lord when there seems to be only darkness and no light, brokenness and no healing, hatred and no love?
 
It is the image of the cross that gives us hope. Martin Luther speaks of the theology of the cross, that it is there at the cross where God meets us. Jesus is beaten, bruised and broken, alone and alienated. Psalm 22 is on HIS lips as he suffers and dies. God stoops down to the lowest of the low to be WITH us.
 
For God is with us on the mountaintops and in the valleys. God is with us in the joys and the sorrows. God is with us when the shot is on the green and even when we put another one in the water. God is with us.
 

Excellent, Lord. You are excellent!

 

Let us Pray: 

Dear God, thank you for your promises and presence. May we never fail to sing your praises. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.