Pastor Charlie Woodward writes a daily devotion for the days of the pandemic, until things are back to “normal,” whenever that may be. This is an opportunity to stay connected, to be together. Each devotion will include a Bible verse, a brief reflection and prayer.  
 
This devotion has undergone a name change to One in the Spirit. Learn more here.
 
Access each day’s devotion below, or sign up here to receive the devotions to your inbox every morning. Choose the “Devotions” distribution list.

The Future is Always Open

Matthew 21:23-32
 
23When [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” 27So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.
 
28“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. 30The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”
 
Jesus offers a parable to which we can all relate:
 
The family’s at breakfast and dividing up the chores for the day. “Right, it’s your turn to work in the vineyard.”
 
Then comes the explosion. “No way, I hate that vineyard, I hate grapes, I want to do what I want to do with my friends. I won’t go.”

Read more...

What Authority?

Mark 11:27-33

 
Jesus’ Authority Is Questioned
 
27 Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28 and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them? 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” 31 They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
 
Those whom Jesus questions have answers, but they also are concerned on how their answers will be heard, so they give no answer. How often do we answer questions focusing more on how those who hear our words will respond than saying clearly what needs to be said?

Read more...

Finding a Way to Be Fed

Numbers 20:1-13
 
The Israelites, the whole congregation, came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh. Miriam died there, and was buried there.
 
Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and against Aaron. The people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had died when our kindred died before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to bring us to this wretched place? It is no place for grain, or figs, or vines, or pomegranates; and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went away from the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting; they fell on their faces, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and command the rock before their eyes to yield its water. Thus you shall bring water out of the rock for them; thus you shall provide drink for the congregation and their livestock.
 
So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he had commanded him. 10 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Listen, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me, to show my holiness before the eyes of the Israelites, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 13 These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and by which he showed his holiness.
 
Here are a few things for today: a commercial, a word of encouragement, and a short reflection.

Read more...

A Song Brings Back Memories

Psalm 25:1-9

 

Prayer for Guidance and for Deliverance

Of David.

 

1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

O my God, in you I trust;

    do not let me be put to shame;

    do not let my enemies exult over me.

Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame;

    let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;

    teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth, and teach me,

    for you are the God of my salvation;

    for you I wait all day long.

6 Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love,

    for they have been from of old.

Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions;

    according to your steadfast love remember me,

    for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!

 Good and upright is the Lord;

    therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He leads the humble in what is right,

    and teaches the humble his way.
 

Read more...

Humble Like a Child

Matthew 18:1-5
 
True Greatness
 
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
 
Jesus embraced a small child and said, “Whoever receives one such child receives me and the one who sent me.” Children? We love children, yes?  Babies and toddlers are cute and loveable. We support our kids at school, and watch them at concerts, and cheer them on the sports field. So why is Jesus making such a fuss about a child as an example of how we should serve one another?


Read more...

An Image I’ll Never Forget

Romans 16:17-20

 

Final Instructions

17 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. 18 For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. 19 For while your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, I want you to be wise in what is good and guileless in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will shortly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. 
 
The first church I had the privilege of serving is St. Paul’s Lutheran in Massillon, Ohio. The sanctuary was built in 1928-29, if I remember right.

Read more...

The Very Best

Exodus 16:31-35
 
31 The house of Israel called it manna; it was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey. 32 Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Let an omer of it be kept throughout your generations, in order that they may see the food with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt.’” 33 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar, and put an omer of manna in it, and place it before the Lord, to be kept throughout your generations.” 34 As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron placed it before the covenant, for safekeeping. 35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a habitable land; they ate manna, until they came to the border of the land of Canaan.
 
It was called “More” in our house growing up. Macaroni, tomato sauce, hamburger and spices (and on a bad day, some peas may have been slipped in – yuck!). Maybe it was called “Goulash” or something else in your home, but in in our house, it was called “More.” What’s for dinner? More. If there are leftovers, you can have more. Do you want more?

Read more...

No Insiders or Outsiders Here

Matthew 20:1-16
 

The Laborers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven islike a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10 Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11 And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14 Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
 
I apologize for the LONG devotion today, but this is my favorite parable, and the story below by Robert Capon is one I have used several times in preaching on this.

Read more...

But for God All Things are Possible

Matthew 19:23-30

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
 
27 Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
 
Back in 2003, my Tigers won an incredible 43 games, and lost an even more incredible 119! 
 

Read more...

Self-Reflection

2 Corinthians 13:5-10

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless, indeed, you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed. But we pray to God that you may not do anything wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak and you are strong. This is what we pray for, that you may become perfect. 10 So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.
 
These final words from St. Paul to the Corinthians is a challenge to the church – are you living in the faith? How would you answer that for yourself? Your church? Your family? What are the test questions you need to answer to determine that?
 
Living in the faith. I would suggest that living in the faith would mean that the one in whom we have faith has some say in how we live our lives. Does the one in whom we have faith have any say in how we spend our time, our money, our abilities? Does the one in whom we have faith factor in to how we treat each other in our family, our circle of friends, our neighbors? Does the one in whom we have faith guide us in what we say and how we respond to people we disagree with, or what we don’t say?

Read more...