The Pastor's Desk Archive

Welcome to the archives of Pastor Vince Woolsey's Pastor's Desk.   May you be blessed as you read these weekly devotional thoughts shared here.

 

                                                           God’s Special Treasure                                 April 9, 2021

     My wife and I enjoy landscaping (as a hobby only!). When we moved into our home in Cottonwood, AZ we began planting flowers, a couple peach trees, hauled in some flagstone, and cut down a couple trees that had died. The big project this past winter was taking out a shrub that had lived past its prime. Our goal is to replace the shrub with some Crape Myrtles and roses. I was taking my time doing a little cutting at a time when I had time. A few weeks ago, we decided to jump in and get it out before planting season passed us by.

    I was finishing up the major cutting and my wife came out to see what it would take to clean up the area so we can plant. Now, you have to understand my wife. She hates a mess! So, as she’s evaluating the magnitude of the job, she grabbed a garbage bag and started cleaning up the stray needles and twigs. While she was cleaning, she noticed something shiny poking up out of the ground. She started digging around it and finally brought this clear, glass looking, pillar thing to me. Our 4-year-old son passed it off as ice and no big deal. My wife and I were a little more excited.

    We cleaned it up and googled “quartz.” It matched the pictures online. Of course, a quartz this size, MUST have a little value to it right? As it turns out, something like this is probably worth a couple bucks. Evidently, they must be pretty common and this particular one is flawed.

    We live in a world that places some sort of monetary value on everything. In fact, we live in a world that has found a way to profit off the human body. Setting aside illegal activities such as selling organs and human trafficking, if you were to add up the value of the elements that the human body is comprised of: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, etc. you might be able to get about $5…give or take. That isn’t much value to someone looking to make a profit.

     However, the prophet Malachi wrote, “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him” Mal. 3:17.

     God said this in the context of the book of remembrance being brought out in the judgment. It is interesting to note that even though all humans have flaws, in the day of judgment God looks at those who have a loving relationship with Him as a parent with children, those who “serve” Him faithfully as a child listens to their parent, those are the ones He considered to be precious jewels, or treasures that He finds on this earth. Those “jewels” are the ones he plucks up from this earth before He burns it all up and recreates it new. Those “jewels” are the ones He will spend eternity with on that new earth. Are you one of God’s precious jewels? The choice is yours. Enter into a loving relationship with Him today. Begin following Him, and you will find yourself sparkling in the light of His glory for eternity.

     May God bless you this week!

                                                      What's in your Hands                                    April 2, 2021 

      Last week when I got another late start to walking the dog. It was good walking weather though, and it was peaceful in the neighborhood with no traffic and most lights were off in the homes we went past. Sometimes, those are the best times to talk to God, when there are no distractions and my mind can relax and enjoy just spending the time with Him.

     We were on our way back toward the house. I shine my flashlight back and forth across the street keeping my eyes peeled for that skunk we ran into last year. This particular night I saw some shadowy shapes crossing the street in front of me. I trained my light on them, but they were just on the edge of the darkness. However, I could still see the shiny, gold reflection of eyes staring back at me. I watched as the figures parted, one group going to the left side of me, and the other going to the right. In a matter of seconds, Lana and I were surrounded. The sets of eyes started closing in. As they came into the dim light, I could see they were Javalinas. Usually, Lana would be quick to charge in to defend her “person.” This night, she glanced back and forth between the figures and she pressed herself tight against the side of my leg. She was on alert, but even she saw that we were outnumbered.

     My mind raced as to how we would get out of this one. I offered a quick prayer for help. Then I was reminded of that little aluminum walking stick that I’d started using some time ago. I raised it up quickly and smacked it down on the ground resulting in this weird, tinny kind of sound. My first thought was “well…that didn’t have the effect I was hoping for.” But the Javalinas stopped and slowly turned around and left. Lana and I continued on toward home keeping a watchful eye behind to make sure we weren’t followed.

     As Moses argued all the reasons anyone EXCEPT him should go to Egypt to lead Israel out of captivity, God asked him, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2). When God told Moses to throw his rod to the ground, He turned it into a snake. When Moses picked it back up, it returned to being a rod.

     Moses had a history of relying on himself. In fact, the reason he’d left Egypt is because he got it in his head that he could deliver Israel under his own strength. Sadly, Moses left Egypt with his proverbial tail between his legs. 40 years later, Moses was still under the impression that when God calls a person to do something, that He calls them based on their strengths, gifts, and other qualifications. When        Moses let go of the rod in his hands, God used something ordinary to do something extraordinary. When Moses took a hold of it again, the extraordinary became ordinary again. Even though we may be just ordinary people without any outstanding qualifications, God can do some extraordinary things! As long as we try to maintain control of our lives, we remain ordinary. When we let God have control, we become miracles!

     May God bless you this week!
         Pastor Vince Woolsey

                                                                  Unhurried                                         Mar 26, 2021
   George was picking up his sister Betsy to go to church. Betsy was bustling through the house trying to make sure everything was ready. They had a special guest speaker and she wanted to arrive early. She was ready 20 minutes early and waiting by the curb for George to pick her up. Betsy began pacing back and forth on the sidewalk.
    Where was George? George, of course was running at the last minute. He’d always been late for everything since she could remember. It was infuriating! To make it worse, he never seemed to be concerned that he was running late. He just whistled that same ole tune that he always did. She didn’t even think it had a name; he was just whistling. George pulled up and started to get out to open the door for her. She opened it herself and nearly yelled at him, “Oh, never mind that! There’s no time. We’re running late!”
    “Late? We’re right on time!” he chuckled. “Why are you in such a hurry?”
    “I want to get there early and see if he’ll sign my book, that’s why!”
     “Oh!” George said with a smile. “Okay, let’s get going then.” George pulled away from the curb and headed toward the highway. They lived in another town and it took about 30 minutes to get to church. George looked at his watch. They had exactly 34 minutes until church started…plenty of time!
    “Would you hurry up?” Betsy exclaimed.
    “I’m doing the speed limit Sis. Don’t worry, we’ll get there on time.”

    Just then, they rounded a corner and saw a car broke down on the side of the road. “Don’t you dare!” George just smiled and eased the car in behind the other. “George! We’re gonna be late. You don’t have to stop for EVERY car that has trouble.”
    George quietly got out and approached the driver. Sure enough, George stuck his head under the hood. George was quite good at fixing cars, but there was a time and a place for that. On the way to church was NOT it!
    Finally, George closed the hood. She heard the driver start his car. George stood there and talked for a couple more minutes before getting back in. “See!” Betsy said. “Now we’re late. And look at your hands! How can I take you to meet the guest speaker looking like that?”
    George eased the car back on the road. They arrived at church and walked in just as the music started playing for the opening hymn. George stopped in the bathroom to clean up before going in. As he sat down beside his sister, they heard someone hurry in through the front door. It was the man who was broke down on the road! He walked right up front and sat in the front pew! When it came time for the sermon, the man from the broken-down car got up and went to the pulpit. As he gathered his notes, he smiled and said, “I almost didn’t make it here today. My car broke down on the way here. If it wasn’t for a good Samaritan who stopped to help I might still be sitting on the side of the road!” Betsy turned and smiled at George. For once she was happy that George didn’t get in a hurry.
    In Mt. 6:25-34, Jesus advises us to not worry about things. In fact, He points it out 5 times in that passage. Sometimes we get caught up in our own schedules that we miss God’s appointments. Take some time this week to slow down, unhurry your life, and pay attention to what God wants you to see. You might just find an unexpected blessing!   May God bless you this week!       
                                                          Pastor Vince

The Fallen Star 

                                                                                                                                  Mar 19, 2021

      After running into packs of Javelina a couple times recently, I was hoping to get our dog, Lana out before dark for her walk on Thursday night. Of course, you know what they say about the best laid plans right? Needless to say, it was well after sunset when we embarked on our nightly journey.

     It was a fairly uneventful walk for the most part. It wasn’t until we were on the last leg when all of a sudden I saw a meteor falling out of the sky. It was interesting for a couple reasons. 1) it was falling rather slow compared to other meteors I’ve seen shooting across the sky. 2) as it entered the atmosphere, it gave off a greenish glow before blinking out of sight to the west indicating that it may have had some sort of metallic matter to it.

    No matter what it was made of, it reminded of a passage in the Bible. It’s found in Isaiah 14:12, “How you are fallen from heaven O Lucifer, son of the morning!” Lucifer means “star of the morning” or “shining one” in the Hebrew language. The Bible says that Lucifer, or Satan was fallen from heaven…like a falling star, or meteor.

    The question is, why was Satan fallen? The passage goes on to explain how Satan was trying to walk up the downward path. Walking up the downward path is trying to exalt oneself higher in a prideful effort to obtain power. When you follow this path, the end result is falling from the top down to the bottom.

    In contrast, Jesus, who is also referred to as the Morning Star in Rev. 22:16. Interestingly, Jesus never exalted Himself. Instead, we see in Phil. 2:5-7 that Jesus lowered Himself. He exemplified this model of leadership in many ways. However, perhaps the most pronounced is found in John 13 when Jesus stooped down to wash His disciples’ feet as if He were a servant. This model was more than an example for humanity, but in reality, is a way of life in the kingdom of Heaven.

    This begs the question of “how does Jesus wind up being the Morning Star if He lowered Himself all the time?” It is because the Father highly exalted Christ (Phil. 2:9). Notice Jesus doesn’t exalt Himself. In fact, even when He ascended into Heaven in the presence of the disciples, He was carried up by the angels, not of His own power. In other words, by lowering Himself and allowing God to exalt Him, Jesus walked down the upward path.

    There is a lesson for us in this. By climbing and trying to raise ourselves up, we are positioning ourselves for a great fall. However, if we take the same attitude as Christ and seek to serve, God will take us up into Heaven on that great day when Jesus comes again! My question for you is: Which path are you walking; up the downward path, or down the upward path?

    May God bless you this week!

                                         Back to the Basics                                           Mar 12, 2021

Scott’s family owned a small chain of convenience stores back in Midwest. They were well known in the community, partly for their lifestyle; partly for their good-humored personalities. One day Scott showed up at the warehouse where Josh worked in sales. Josh asked him what he was doing there at 3 a.m. He said his family got out of the convenience store business, and he needed a job to help pay the bills. Scott had a big house, 5 cars, and his wife was used to a certain lifestyle.

The supervisor showed up moments later and informed Josh that he would be the one to train him. “No problem” he thought. Josh trained many of the people who came in and this guy already knew something about wholesale and retail, suppliers, and business in general. He should pick this up pretty quick.

It didn’t take long to see Scott’s attitude wasn’t exactly the epitome of someone who needed to pay bills and support a family. Josh reasoned that he was probably used to being the guy who called all the shots, and was probably bitter about having to go back to an entry level position where he was the one being told what to do. He just knew if he was just patient with Scott, he would straighten out, regain that attitude that made him so popular in the community, and hopefully become a good salesman.

The sun hadn’t even risen when Josh began to lose hope in seeing that wish fulfilled. They went in to serve a convenience store. Josh introduced Scott to the store manager and they got busy. On their way out, Scott grabbed a cup of coffee. Josh noticed that Scott didn’t pay for it. He just walked right past the counter, waved at the store manager and got in the truck. The store manager, not known for being pleasant shot a look at Josh. Not wanting the situation to escalate, he just went and paid for Scott’s coffee.

Josh wrestled with whether or not to bring it up to him as they drove to their next stop. Figuring, Scott needed to know, he gently reminded him to pay for his coffee before leaving a store. Scott laughed sarcastically, “Are you kidding? All the drivers get free coffee at these convenience stores! I’m not paying for any coffee! Man, you have a lot to learn about this business. I should be training you!”

 

Their next stop was a large grocery store. Josh told him, “Well, maybe in your store, but that guy doesn’t give ANYTHING away for free. Oh! And in this store, they don’t give anything away for free either. If you get coffee, make sure to pay for it.” Scott just shook his head and chuckled. “I can tell you’re from the working class. My family’s been rubbing elbows with people like this my whole life. They won’t charge ME for coffee!”

 

2 hours later, Josh was outside preparing the order for their next customer when he heard loud voices coming from the front of the store. He turned to see Scott standing at the corner holding his large cup of coffee in his hand and the store owner standing in front of him yelling, “I don’t care WHO you are! Everyone pays for their coffee in this place. You get back inside and pay or I’m calling the police!” Scott tried handing the owner some money and turned toward the truck. The owner jumped back in front of him, “I’M not going to pay for your coffee! YOU go inside and go through the check out lane and pay for your OWN coffee! And if I catch you pulling a stunt like this again, I’ll kick you out of my store!”

 

Scott was quiet for most of the rest of that day. He didn’t show up the next day and Josh never saw him again. Josh later learned that Scott’s family business had went bankrupt and they lost everything. He’d taken a job with the sales company trying to pull the pieces together. In his extravagant lifestyle of breaking the rules to be cool, Scott had either forgotten or never really known the basics of business. That lack of knowledge cost him a great deal.

 

Joshua 1:8 says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

 

Sometimes in life we get comfortable that we’re in the right church, or we’re connected to the right people. Sometimes we get so comfortable with our relationship with God that we forget the basics of being God’s people. Sometimes we get so concerned our lives on this earth that we forget there’s an eternity on a new earth waiting for us in the future.

 

Sometimes, we just need to get back to the basics and let God worry about the rest! All the basics we need can be learned from the pages of God’s Word. When we read and apply those Words to our life, the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts until we begin to walk, talk, and act like Jesus. Then one day, He’ll come back and take us to that future where we’ll spend eternity in His presence. That’s God’s vision of success.May God bless you this week!

 

Pastor Vince

March 5, 2021

A Thief in the Night!

Johnny woke in the middle of the night to a weird feeling that something wasn’t right. He felt a strange twinge of fear grip him as he sensed the presence of someone walking in his room at the foot of his bed. He slowly opened his eyes trying to see in the darkness of night. As his eyes focused, he saw the dim shape of a large man standing at the foot of his bed staring right back at him. Obviously, they both were startled because the dark shape of the large man suddenly ran through the door, through the living room, and out the front door.

Johnny got up and quickly went to close and lock the front door. He called the police and filed a report, but they warned him that without a good description it would be very difficult to track down “a dark shape of a large man.”

“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:39).

Though we physically need sleep, spiritually, we must always remain alert. We are to always be watching and waiting, ready for Jesus to come. We say this a lot, but what does it mean to be ready?

Some teach that to be ready we must know when He is coming. Acts 1:7 says, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” Besides, knowing the day and hour of His coming doesn’t help you get ready. It would only tell you when you need to be ready.

Some suggest that we must eliminate all sin from our lives to vindicate God and to be able to enter into heaven. The problem I see with that is that if >I< have to eliminate sin from >MY< life…I’ve taken all the responsibility of salvation onto myself. This, of course, is impossible. Acts 4:12 says that there is no one else who can save except Jesus. Which is good news. That takes all the responsibility off me for my salvation.

So, what does it mean to be ready for Him to come? How do we “be ready?” In a book titled, The Desire of Ages, Ellen White writes that people may not even know about theology or the Bible, “but they have cherished His principles” (DA, 636). These people are a blessing to the people around them. They may live in a society that never heard of Jesus, yet in their characters they reflect His loving spirit.

The signs are happening around us; prophecies are being fulfilled. We may not know the exact day or hour that He is coming, but we can be ready!

May God bless you this week!

 

Pastor Vince

                                                       A Rough Landing!                                          Feb 26, 2020

      Travis was excited. Just the day before he’d received a bike for his birthday. He loved riding bikes. It was exactly what he wanted. Mom had told him that he was only allowed to ride it on sidewalks, roads where they had bike lanes, and in the church’s driveway when no cars were there. But this bike was rugged and could handle rough terrain. It was even designed for jumping and off road racing!

     In fact, the night before as he was thinking about where he would ride his bike next, he realized that their driveway was fairly steep. At the bottom of the drive was a 3-foot-tall concrete retaining wall (to prevent the driveway from sliding down to the neighbor’s yard every time it rained!) That retaining wall with the gravel all pushed up against it made the idea ramp. The drop off on the other side was downhill. So, if he could get up enough speed, he could jump quite a way!

     The next morning, he hurried through breakfast and chores. Then some ladies from the church stopped by to visit. He tried to sit politely while they visited, but in reality he just sat there and fidgeted. Finally Mom told him to go outside and play. His fidgeting was interrupting their conversation and quite frankly, it was an adult conversation anyway.

     He leapt at the opportunity and went outside and grabbed his bike. He rode it up to the top of the driveway and got in position. The ladies’ car was parked a little off to the side, so he had plenty of room to ride on past it, jump off the wall and set a new Guinness record! He took a deep breath and pushed off. Ducking his head down, he pedaled as hard and as fast as he could. In order to jump as high as possible, he crouched and then pushed down on the pedals using his momentum to pull the bike up into the air. It was phenomenal. He got great lift. This was going to be a huge jump!

     That’s when he remembered the clothesline…a thin, rusty, metal wire clothesline. He had no way to avoid it, though he tried. As he saw the wires coming at him at the speed of light, he tried leaning back, hoping to glide underneath. It almost worked. Almost meant the wire caught him right under the nose, ripped him off his bike and then dropped him to the ground on his back. He lay there for a moment blinking and wondering how he could have forgotten about those wires!  He got up, went inside, washed up and lay down in his room nursing his pride as much as a sore nose.

     His mother came in to check on him because he’d only went out to play for a short time. It was summer and he was usually out all day and she had to call him back. She saw the redness of his face and asked what’d happened. Travis had no choice but to tell her. He was grounded from his bike for one week. But, she then fixed his favorite lunch and tended to the scrapes on his face.

     In the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat the fruit of the tree God had told her not to eat from because the results would be disastrous. The Bible says that she took the fruit and ate it, then gave to Adam and he ate of it too. Both of them had been captured in the vision of soaring to the lofty heights of God and wanting to be His equals.

    The experience with knowing good…and evil was not exactly what they expected. Not only were they destined to die, but all of humanity was cast into the fate with them. They watched the first animals die. They experienced the premature death of their son Abel, and suffered the loss of Cain to living life as a vagabond (Gen. 3-4). In the midst of their hard landing, In Gen. 3:15, God soothed their wounds with a promise that one day Someone was coming to break the power of sin. Someone was coming to take away the one who had tripped them up and left them on their backs reeling in sorrow and pain. Someone was coming to break the curse of death. That someone was Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” John 3:16. My prayer is that you accept Him in your life today!

     May God bless you this week!


                                                       Spiritual Hygiene                                        Feb 19, 2021

    Dr. Ignaz Semmelwise, a Hungarian physician at Vienna General Hospital in the mid-1800s. At this period of time the mortality rate for the maternity ward led by doctors was 3 times higher than the ward led by midwifes. He observed that the doctors began their daily rounds by performing autopsies first, and then would transition to the maternity ward next. Trying to understand the difference, he finally came to the conclusion that the doctors were carrying “cadaveric matter” from the corpses to pregnant women after his colleague passed from developing and infection after cutting his finger with a scalpel during and autopsy.

    At that time, doctors rarely washed hands between procedures. Dr. Semmelwise ordered that all physicians in Vienna General wash their hands with chlorinated lime after performing autopsies. Over the next 10 years, he realized a reduction in mortality equal to that of the midwife ward. With this information, Dr. Semmelwise petitioned other doctors begin practicing handwashing as well. His gruff approach (he claimed the doctors were directly responsible for the deaths of their patients) was not well received. In exasperation he exclaimed “I’m not asking anything earth shattering. I’m just asking you to wash your hands!” Still there was strong resistance. Eventually, Dr. Semmelwise was forced into a psychiatric hospital where he stayed for the remainder of his life. On the bright side, eventually handwashing became a well-known practice for reducing germs and saving lives and has become a common practice.

    Sin affects us the same as the germs that cause infection. If we don’t get cleaned up it will eventually spread through us and cause us to die. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s as simple as that. God isn’t asking us to do anything earth shattering. He wants us to be honest with ourselves, that we make mistakes and get ourselves into trouble. He wants us to come to Him. When we come to Him with a humble heart and show Him where we got dirty, He is sure to clean us up and make us right again! May God bless you this week!  


                                                                      Lost and Found                                                Feb 12

    Derrick and Lisa were the power couple on campus. They both looked like they could model for a top magazine. They both carried a GPA (grade point average) that exceeded 3.5. They had been dating each other for years. Rarely was one seen without the other. They were always arm in arm and smiling. It was a match made in heaven. Well…until it wasn’t.

    The boyish grin that usually lit Derrick’s face and hearty laughter that graced his lips faded into a solemn, serious, pained silence. People stopped seeing Derrick and Lisa together. Rumors spread until it was finally confirmed. Derrick got dumped! All the girls mourned his pain and quietly criticized Lisa’s cruelty to such a wonderful guy. All the guys stood back pitying someone who lost such a prized gal like Lisa. The phrase that now labelled Derrick compared him to a poor lost puppy dog that had been dropped down some country road.

    Valentine’s Day is this weekend. It’s a time where people’s attention tends to focus on human romantic love. For some it’s a time of great joy, for others it brings back painful memories, or a time of quiet loneliness. Unfortunately, human love is fragile. Without God, it’s faulty and can bring disappointment when it doesn’t live up to expectations.

    There is a love that never fails though. That love comes from God. From the beginning He has loved us and always will. In Joshua 1:5, God promises, “I will not leave you nor forsake you.” We never have to worry about God “dumping” us. It’s not in His nature. And even when we “dump” God, He is still there. Listen to what He says in Jeremiah 31:3, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with lovingkindness I have drawn you.”

    Though humanity left God when they chose to follow Satan in the Garden of Eden, God has been actively pursuing each person ever since! His love for us will accept no less from Him. He cannot bear in His heart to lose any one of us.

    This Valentine’s Day, no matter where you stand in human relationships, always remember God is by your side. He will never “dump” you; He will never leave you to go through this life on your own. He wants a relationship with you. Won’t you accept His invitation today?   
                                                                                                                                              Feb 5

Effective, Fervent Prayer

     James emphasizes the importance of passionate prayer when he writes, “…The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.” (James 5:16-18).

     Alex and his wife Rachel received a call from neighbors, John and Lisa who lived in an apartment building down the street. They invited Alex and Rachel over for lunch. After lunch as they sat in the living room talking, John started talking about an elderly lady that he was taking care of. She was in the hospital and not doing well. John asked Alex if he would pray for her because he knew Alex was a devout Christian and believed him to be a man of God.

     Alex was happy to pray. They all knelt down in the living room and Alex poured out his heart in prayer to God. After the prayer, they went home. It was the next afternoon when Rachel received a call from John. “It’s a miracle!” he said. “Not only is she awake, but she’s out of bed and up walking around!”

     We live in a world that needs to be woken up! Fears are heightened. Tempers are rising. Proverbial walls are being erected. Division is everywhere. Hate is becoming the norm. We shouldn’t be surprised. The Bible teaches that “Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold” Mt. 24:12 (NLT). We live in a society that is fulfilling this prediction

 As bad as society seems to be getting, where evil, heartache, destruction, and hatred surrounds us, we still have a God who listens. We still have prayer! We need to be praying for our communities, for our country, for our world. We need to be praying in the same spirit as James said Elijah prayed, effectively and fervently. James writes that these prayers avail much, or as the New Living Translation says, “has great power and produces wonderful results.” Our world needs us to use the power that God gave us, prayer. Our world needs wonderful results!

The beauty of it is that you don’t have to be a great prophet who stands in the 
  face of kings and calls down miraculous fire from heaven to prove He is the true God. You only need to pray earnestly, sincerely. God will hear and He WILL answer!
Why
not try it today?

January 29, 2021

Unpayable Debt

Jeanne went to the grocery store and took her son Tyler with her. Tyler was 5 and too big for mom to lift him up to sit in the basket’s seat. Instead, he stood on the end of the cart holding onto the edge of the basket so he didn’t fall down. There were 2 problems with this arrangement. 1) Tyler’s weight on the very end made it difficult to turn the cart. 2) Even though it helped to keep Tyler in close proximity to mom, he was a 5-year-old boy. It only took something shiny or with wheels in the toy section to draw his attention away and off he went ready to play with all the toys. So, she strictly told him to stay on the cart and not to wander off. She was afraid that he might break something or worse, get hurt!

This particular shopping trip, Tyler was doing rather well. He clung to the end of the cart and sang songs from his kindergarten class. Jeanne was reading the labels and adding up prices as they went trying to keep within a budget. She saw a display of canned peaches that were on sale that week. Dad loved canned peaches and she thought putting them on top of vanilla ice cream would make a nice treat for the whole family. She reached over and picked up a can to look at the label.

That was about the time she heard a loud crash to her left. Sure enough, while she had her attention turned to the peach display, Tyler had spied another display of glass treasure chest shaped banks. There was nothing quite so neat as a treasure chest to keep his coins in. It would be MUCH better than the old tin cigar can he’d been saving his coins in. He reached up as high as he could and pulled one of the banks from the display. Sadly, as high as he could reach was only part way up the display. The ENTIRE display came crashing down!

Jeanne was horrified! There was no way she could afford to pay for all those banks and still buy groceries! She scolded Tyler for not listening and told him to get back on the cart and to stay there. As the tears began streaming down her cheeks, she started picking up the broken glass from the floor. She winced as one of those shards cut her finger. Blood ran down her hand and started dripping on the floor.

Just then an older bearded gentleman came around the corner with a cardboard box and a broom. He had heard the noise, looked down the aisle and quickly assessed the problem and came up with a practical solution. As Jeanne began apologizing and promising to pay for the damages even if it would take her a couple weeks to get all the money, the gentleman smiled with a tender look in his eyes. He shook his head and explained that it wasn’t necessary. He knew it was a mistake. He would take care of the cost. Then he looked at Tyler and asked him, “If I pay for all these banks, will you promise me to listen to your mother and stay close to her so you don’t get into trouble?” Tyler shyly nodded his head and, in his mind, he decided he would NEVER disobey mom again.

When Moses asked to see God, God passed by him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty…” (Ex. 34:6-7).

Sin is a debt that none of us can pay back to God. It requires out lives. Jesus, seeing that we couldn’t afford to pay that kind of debt, in His infinite grace and mercy, chose to die in our place so that we might live. He forgave our debt by paying it for us. As we go through this week, may we remember what God has done for us, and may we share that grace and mercy with others!

                                                                Do-Gooder                                      Jan 22

      Years ago, in a small church in the Midwest, the bulk of the church body decided to go on a nature walk after potluck lunch. They chose a trail that stretched from one end of the state to the other which often paralleled a river. This particular stretch went alongside a small mountain. They met at an agreed upon place along a gravel road, parked, and began their walk.

    It was a beautiful Spring day. Birds were singing, butterflies were flitting, flowers were blooming, and the group was joyfully taking in all of God’s wonderful creation. Conversations ranged from the sermon of the day to Bible study questions, to catching up on the happenings in each other’s lives.

    Suddenly, a blue pickup truck drove by on the nearby gravel road. Their music was blaring out the open windows and they were driving quite fast and kicking up all kinds of dust. The wind just happened to be blowing toward the hikers. They sputtered and waved their hands in front of their faces to little avail. They continued on around the corner and went out of sight.

    Several of the walkers complained about the dust, some about the music. In general, it was a disruption from the peace and joy of a Sabbath afternoon walk they were most upset about.   Finally, they got back to their conversations and continued down the trail.

    As they rounded the corner, much to their chagrin, there was that blue pickup truck pulled over on the side of the road. Couldn’t they have just kept on going? They didn’t want any more invasion of their peace! Then, they noticed the driver and passenger were standing outside the truck staring down at a flat tire.

    As the Sabbath walkers neared, a church elder called out, “Do you need help changing your tire?” Several gasps echoed through the group. Did he just offer to WORK on the SABBATH? And for THOSE guys? One who was walking closest to the elder leaned over and asked him, “John, what are you doing?? Why would you even ask that? They just covered us in dust and completely interrupted our walk!”

     After the guys declined any need for assistance, John smiled with a twinkle in his eye. He answered by sharing the story of Jesus healing the man with a withered hand in Matthew 12. He highlighted verse 12 where Jesus said, “…Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

    Jesus, by His words and example showed us the Sabbath is about healing, relieving burdens, and restoring people into a relationship with God. I pray this Sabbath that Jesus brings you healing, relief, and restoration. If you receive that from Him, why not spend some time sharing them with others by “doing good” so they can experience the grace of God too.

                                                         A Warehouse of Gold                                        Jan 15, 2021

     Henry was a salesman. Each day, he picked up his products from the warehouse. It was loaded onto his truck for him, so all he had to do in the morning was come in, get his computer and paperwork, get in the company truck and go.

    Henry noticed after a period of time that his loads were getting more and more disorganized. It was continually harder to find what he needed for each customer on the truck. Then, he wasn’t receiving all the product he’d ordered. So, he was running out before serving all his customers. When he got back to the office at the end of the day, he mentioned it to another salesman who happened to be finishing up at the same time. The other salesman started swearing and complaining. Apparently, he was having the same experience. He blamed it on the loader doing it intentionally.

    One night, Henry was working late finishing up his paperwork. He heard loud noises like metal racks banging against each other and swearing. He poked his head through the door and saw the loader, James, who was very angry pushing the racks into each other and cursing about the salesmen not doing their jobs and leaving a mess for him to cleanup every night.

    Henry realized he was caught in a cycle of retaliation between the loader and the salesmen. He prayed about it, and remembered what Jesus said in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”  He decided to try an experiment. He started working late and waiting until all the salesmen had left the warehouse. Then, he would go and clean up all the racks, and other things that were scattered all over the floor before the loader came in.

    It took over a month, but Henry started noticing his loads were starting to get accurate and organized again. He was relieved and said a prayer of thanks to God. So, Henry made it a point to befriend James. It was casual, but he took the time to greet him at the office when he saw him. He would send a text message on holidays. Most importantly, he kept praying for him.

    Henry never told James or the salesmen about cleaning up the warehouse. But, he did notice that everyone’s attitudes seemed more pleasant and everyone started treating each other better.  He kept praying for both James and the salesmen. Though none of them went to church with him, several of them started talking to Henry about God and what it meant to be a Christian.

    How we talk, act, and live around others makes a difference. We may not see immediate results, but when Jesus is in our hearts and guiding our words and actions, people take notice and it has a profound effect on them. Sometimes, they even get to know Christ through their experience. My challenge this week, is to find someone and start praying for them. Include yourself in the prayer. Ask God what you can do to help them see Him better! May God bless you on your prayer journey!

                                                           Do NOT Go to Sleep!                                          Jan 8

       “Therefore, let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”
               1 Thes. 5:6             

       Back when I was in sales at the bakery, I worked with a guy we’ll call John (for anonymity sake). John lived close to where I did and sometimes we would car pool together. We would get to work long before the sun rose; usually at least by 4 a.m. John had a habit of staying out late on work nights though. He was addicted to alcohol and gambling.

      One morning, (we didn’t travel to work together because he’d been out all night the night before at the casino and he was still asleep when I left for work). When I got back to the office, our district supervisor was there. John’s car was already gone. As late as he’d been getting to work, I was worried that he’d gotten fired. Instead the supervisor handed me a stack of pictures. I flipped through about 30 pictures of a demolished bread truck with the roof and sides ripped off and lying on the side of the road, thousands of loaves of bread scattered on the interstate and piled up in the median. One picture showed about 30 of the steel runners which held the bread trays piercing the trailer of a semi. One of those runners was still embedded in the backrest of the driver’s seat of the bread truck.

      John, who was still somewhat under the effects of alcohol had fallen sleep behind the wheel and rear-ended the semi who was merging onto the interstate. The damage in the pictures was the culmination of that accident. God was watching out for John because when he collided with the semi, the truck tore apart immediately and the bread thrown out before John was ejected. So, he didn’t go through the glass windshield. John was ejected immediately before the steel runners speared through his seat and the front of the truck into the semi. Somehow he missed the semi he’d rear-ended, flew over the pavement, and landed on a pile of bread in the median. He suffered a cut on his forehead and several days of soreness. Otherwise, he was fine.      

      The Bible warns us to not fall asleep, but to watch and stay sober. 2021 isn’t starting off any better than 2020 ended. In fact, it seems to be getting worse before it gets better. The Good News is that God has provided a way to get through this life and on to the better life He’s promised us. Until then, this isn’t the time to fall asleep. We aren’t there yet (as pastor Jac says, “already, but not yet!). We need to keep our minds sharp and closely tuned in to God. Keep your Bibles open; your eyes on Jesus; and your hand in His. May God bless you this week and keep you in the palm of His hand!      


Mistaken Identity                          Dec 31

“Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” John 8:36
  
Mark’s fingers gripped the steering wheel with whitened knuckles as he stared at the flashing lights in his rear view mirror. As he waited for the officer to get out and approach his car, he retraced his steps in his mind. He’d just gotten off work at 6 a.m. It was still dark outside. There’d been a scheduling mistake. He was scheduled to work Saturday night from 6 – Midnight one week, and the following week was scheduled Midnight – 6 a.m. Mark needed the money. So, he didn’t argue; he just worked the schedule. He was tired and had a long drive home so he’d been speeding about 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. They usually didn’t pull over people for that though.
The police officer’s door shutting brought him back to the present. He took a deep breath as he prepared to explain why he was in a hurry to get home. Hopefully the officer would have mercy and let him go. As the officer arrived next to his door, Mark turned his head and opened his mouth to try to explain. His jaw hung open as his eyes were staring down the barrel of a .357. Really?!? For going 5 mph over the speed limit???

  “Keep your hands where I can see them!” the officer barked.  
Mark stuttered, “Y-y-yes sir.”

“Do you have any weapons I should know about?”“N-n-no sir.”

“License and registration"
“It’s in the glovebox sir.”

“Slowly reach over and open it up for me, then return your hand to the steering wheel.” The officer flashlight followed Mark’s hand to the glove compartment and back to the steering wheel. Then he shined the light back and looked inside. Seeing only papers he gave Mark permission to get the necessary paperwork. “Wait here.”

   Mark trembled as he nodded. As the officer went back to the car, he noticed another officer positioned at the rear of his car also with his gun drawn and staring intently in Mark’s car. His heart was pounding as he wondered what in the world was so bad about driving 5 miles per hour over the limit! Finally after what seemed like hours, the officer came back and handed him his paperwork. His gun was holstered and he leaned in the window. He seemed much more relaxed than he’d been before. “I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t scare you too bad. The reason I had my gun out was because your license plate is a duplicate of another. The other belongs to a guy who’s wanted for murdering 5 people last week.” Mark nearly fainted when he realized how bad this situation could have gotten. “I guess the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) made a mistake when they issued your plate. I put a note in the computer system in case any other officers see you so they don’t mistake you for the other guy. Drive safe!”

 

Unfortunately, we all are guilty of sin. At some point in our lives, we’ve fallen to temptation and done something wrong. This put each one of us in the position to succumb to death. However, Jesus made a choice to come down and live on this earth as one of us and die on a cross for each of us. When we accept Him and His sacrifice, Jesus puts a special note on our account so we no longer need to be identified with the guilty, but instead are counted among the innocent, the free. As 2020 fades into memory and we begin a new year who do you identify with? Are you living life on the run, or have you been set free by God’s grace? If you haven’t identified with Christ, isn’t it about time to?

December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas!

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:15.

When this was written, messages were sent through a runner or carrier. If a battle was going on, they would bring news of the war to the king or people. People were always appreciative to know how the battle fared. It gave them a sense of hope, joy, and peace when the news was good, that their army…which was manned by many of their family members…was winning the war!

Today there is a war going on in our world. It’s far greater than the war on COVID, or the war on drugs, or the war on terrorism, or any other war you can think of. It’s a war between good and evil, between Christ and Satan. When Jesus arrived on this earth, it was a sure sign that the battle had turned in God’s favor. When Christ died on the cross, it sealed the victory, the war is won!

Yet, even with the outcome of the war already decided, the battle wages on. It continues in the hearts of each person living on this planet. Even though Satan has lost, he desperately tried to take everyone down with him that he can. What hope do we have in a COVID ravaged world to tip the scales in people’s lives?

With church closed down to Live Stream Only services…we can share those services with others, and they do make an impact on people’s lives. But for some, online lacks the personal touch that so many need to form a connection with Christ.

This week a couple songbirds decided to accept the challenge and get creative with sharing our blessed hope. Armed with musical instruments, a songbook and music stand, and their gift of music, they parked outside, distanced themselves in the driveway and sang Christmas Carols toward our house. While directed at our family (and we were blessed), the neighbors were able to hear and share in the blessing!

How beautiful are the feet of those who can get creative, think “outside the box,” and battle the darkness of this world by sharing the light of Christ’s love! God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

                                                                     Water of Life                                  December 18
       As many of you know, I’ve been working on redecorating the pastor’s office at the church. It’s been a process and I’m not sure exactly when I’ll decide I’m finished. Maybe I should say when my wife says I’m finished? She has been a wonderful voice in this process making suggestions when decorating is not necessarily my forte. One of the suggestions was a nice plant (that I’m afraid I don’t even know the name of! It’s big, green, and leafy!). Well, I set it next to my desk with the intention to repot it this spring with a nice pot that we have at the house. I greatly enjoyed the addition of color and life in the office.
     With COVID numbers on the rise, and to keep my family safe, I’ve taken the additional precaution of working primarily from home the past few weeks. I stop in the office for short periods of time randomly throughout the week to take care of necessary things when working from home won’t accomplish it.
     Sadly, I came into the office earlier this week only to find my plant not so green and not so flourishing! Instead it was starting to look rather brownish black and bowing down like the sheaves in Joseph’s dream (Gen. 37:5-8). Along with the temperature dropping at night, I had forgotten to stop by and water my plant regularly! I was rather discouraged and afraid I was going to have to dispose of my new plant.
    Jesus said, “…But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Life is ironic in that we tend to get so busy living our lives, that too often we don’t have enough time to spend with the One who gives us life. It Cottonwood SDA Church starts just once in a while. However, the more excuses we use to miss our time with Him, the more time we spend away from Him, the easier it gets to continue down that path.
    Sadly, the longer we go without the living waters that Jesus promises us, the smaller that fountain of life is in us. In spiritual terms, we start drooping and the next thing we know, we’re on the ground, lifeless. The good news is that Jesus also said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38-39). We can come to Christ at ANY time and ask, and He will quench our thirst. He will revive us and bring new life into our hearts. We have only to ask it.
    Instead of throwing my plant out, I made it a point to stop in at different times this week even if it was just to water my plant. I came into the office this morning to work on this edition of Anticipate! and I looked at my plant and just felt like maybe I wasn’t doing any good with my revival plan. It just appeared to be dying. But, I caught a glimpse of green and looked closer. My plant was coming back to life. It wasn’t evident in the big branches. I had to look closer to the heart of the plant to see it, but it is reviving! (May be hard to see in this picture.)
    Are you thirsty? Do you need His living water in your life? Isn’t it time to ask Him today? He promises to give it to you, and the best part? It’s free! (Is. 55:1). May God bless you today and quench your thirst!                                         

           


                                                      Home for the Holidays                                  Dec 11, 2020

      Dad came out of the house and took a look around the yard. “Wow son, this is really looking good.” Billy had been busy all morning mowing the grass, picking up trash, and just trying to clean up the property. He took a break from clearing the weeds that had grown up in the ditch by the driveway. “Thanks Dad! I’m actually surprised at how fast this is getting done. And I feel good. I still have lots of energy!”

     Dad laughed, “I’m not! You’re just excited because your brother’s on his way here for Thanksgiving. And...just like the rest of us, you want the place to look nice for when he gets here.” It was true, Billy was excited. Billy’s brother, Jim lived out of state and hadn’t been back for a visit for years. This was back before the days of internet, Zoom meeting, and video chat. So, aside for the occasional phone call, they hadn’t spoken for a long time. Billy was ready to hang out with his brother again.

    The Bible tells us that Jesus is coming again! He’s been gone for many years, but He is coming! He isn’t just coming for the holidays either. John 14:3 says, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” On that great day when He comes back, it’s only for a moment, because He is taking all of us back to heaven to be with him for eternity. No longer will we have to be apart from our big Brother. May that day come soon!
                                                            Walking With the Lord                        November 27

     Taking my dog Lana for walks is always an adventure. It always seems as if she’s discovering or rediscovering something every time we go. This of course, means she anchors herself so she can sniff a blade of grass incessantly, or stare off into an empty field as if a mountain lion might attack from behind a bush (which really makes me nervous after dark when I can’t see that well!)

    This morning, like many other mornings, she tends to wander around when she sees someone that she thinks wants to pet her, or another dog that she might want to play with. Our path was filled with such occasions this morning being a holiday weekend and all. After 30 minutes of bolting to the left, or straining to the right, or trying to drag me forward with all her might, she suddenly decided she wanted to go back the way we came. Oftentimes, I’ll let her wander a little ways back if she desires.

    However, when I looked back this morning, I noticed the reason she wanted to go back was because there were two dogs coming up the side street that we had just passed. She’s had brief encounters with these dogs before. The owner is just as nice as she can be, but she struggles to be able to hold both her dogs and for some reason Lana and these 2 don’t see eye to eye (apparently). Wanting to avoid a barking match and risk her losing grip of one or more leashes, I told Lana to “Come on!” and started pulling her down the road. Let me tell you, if dogs could lay black marks the way cars do, she would have left several as she dug in her paws trying to pull me back with her. Even after we got a ways down the road, she kept looking back and I’d have to pull her leash up short to keep her moving forward.

     Proverbs 4:25-27 says, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what les before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil” (NLT).

      As we enter full-fledged into the holiday season, there are many things that can take our eyes off our Savior. It can be just about anything: the latest fashions or technology, entertainment, individuals, politics, the news, even when we focus more on the works of the church. Anything that pulls our attention away from following Him can lead to problems in our walk with Him.

     The question is: How do I keep my eyes forward and my feet from evil? “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worth of praise” Philippians 4:8 (NLT). As I ponder that, the first thing that comes to mind that fits each one of those descriptions...is Jesus. As the hymn says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

                                                             Do You Trust Me?                                      November 2o

    Tyler worked long hours. He was in sales and on a commission rate. While he had a start time, he technically didn’t have a quitting time except to be done before the next shipment came in and the loader needed to load his truck 16 hours after he started work. He and his loader got to know each other pretty well (if that tells you how long Tyler’s days were).
   In spite of working the long hours, he seldom had much money. He was a good salesman, but divorce, child support, and a high cost of living spent his paycheck rather quickly. Sometimes his check on Friday was gone before church on Saturday morning.
   This particular morning as he walked from his car toward the church, he opened his wallet and looked down inside with a sigh. Two $5s and One $10 was all he had to last him until the following Friday. Almost sarcastically he prayed, “Well Lord, how much do you want me to give this week? Five or Ten?”
   His heart skipped a beat when a thought entered his mind, “All of it.” He frowned, “This is all I have until payday next week? I won’t have any money to eat on!”

    “Do you trust Me?” came the next thought. Tyler shook his head thinking this was crazy. It had to be just his imagination. “Do you trust Me?” The thought came again.
    When the offering plate came around partway through church, Tyler found himself with his wallet open and remembering his “imagined” conversation earlier. He shook his head and put all the money from his wallet into the plate. His wallet was empty, but for some reason, he wasn’t concerned. It was a good time to lose some weight anyway.
    As he went through his work week, he found that every time it was time to eat, he just happened to be selling product at a restaurant. Each time it was time to eat, the restaurant manager always Cottonwood SDA Church handed him food. When Tyler said he didn’t order it, the manager would say, “It was a mistake order,” or “We have extra,” or “This is a new menu item, tell me what you think!” Instead of losing weight that week, Tyler gained weight.
    It was when he was walking up to church the following week that he remembered the crazy conversation he’d had in his mind the previous week.
   27. “Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?”
   29. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters of father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:27 & 29).
    It’s easy to read this and fall into a belief of a prosperity gospel. However, Tyler never got rich from giving to God by earthly standards. The wealth he gained was cannot be measured in money or property, but instead by learning that he can trust God to take care of all his needs and that’s what eternal life is all about. Every day Jesus is asking each one of us, “Do you trust Me?” How will you answer?

                                                          Who Will You Run To?                                Nov  13, 2020

    Sometimes toddlers have it rough. Put away your toys! No, you’re not allowed to eat ice cream for breakfast! Stop playing the piano while daddy’s on the phone! Don’t pull the cat’s tail! Quit jumping on the bed! Don’t eat that! And don’t feed bananas to the dog! You get the picture. After a full day of curtailed fun and adventures, and sometimes being scolded more than a little tyke can take, they can get discouraged. In fact, after rereading the above scenario, it’s tempting to quote Colossians 3:21, “Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged” (NLT).
    Instead, I would turn your attention to another verse, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Ps. 55:22, NIV). I know a young boy who has days like the one above. Sometimes it’s because he gets into mischief. Sometimes, he doesn’t feel good. Sometimes he’s trying to do something that he just can’t get the hang of. Whatever it is, I’ve noticed something about him. When he gets discouraged he always comes running to mommy or daddy. He runs to us, because he’ll reach up until we pick him up and set him in our lap and hold him until he’s feeling better. He can run to us because we know what it’s like to be discouraged by a bad day and we love him, so we want to do what we can to support and encourage him.
    Adults tend to get discouraged over different things than children. Some things that adversely affect us are poor health, loss of abilities, broken relationships, loss of life, finances, etc. All these and more can bring us down even to the point of grieving. Isaiah 53:3 says that Jesus, the Messiah was a man of sorrows, Someone who was acquainted with grief. I would suggest that Jesus experienced discouragement in His life on this earth. I would also suggest that when He did, He turned to His Father in heaven and received encouragement. When He prayed in the Garden of Eden, the Bible says that He was sorrowful, so sorrowful “even unto death”
(Mt. 26:38). He turned to the Father and prayed and placed everything into the Father’s hands, “Not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Interestingly, Luke makes note of something in the next verse that Matthew and Mark did not. When Jesus turned to the Father the Bible says, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him” (Luke 22:43 NKJV).
    When life gets you down, who will you run to? My prayer is that you run to Jesus. Jesus understands what it’s like to have a bad day. He knows what it’s like to have the weight of the world on your shoulders. More importantly, Jesus loves you. He wants to support you. He wants to encourage you. Take it to the Lord in prayer!

November 6, 2020

Light of the World

            Food was being put away. Dishes were being washed. Tables and chairs were being wiped down. Someone was running a vacuum over the floor. None of that mattered to Mark and Travis, 2 6th graders at the church school. Church was great. Potluck lunches were fantastic. But the afternoon hikes were the best. All their friends always went. This week they were going to hike up to a cave on the side of a cliff that overlooked the river.

            It was a 45 minute drive to the location, but the wait just added to the excited energy of the kids. Once they arrived and parked, the kids all jumped out and started jogging down the road. It was a short distance to the switch-back trail that led up the cliff to the cave. The kids all climbed up and ran into the mouth of the cave. The adults immediately plopped down on some large rocks to rest and let the kids explore.

            Mark and Travis spent time walking around the large open room. There was a small pool of water in the center. But, it didn’t take long before they’d seen everything there was to see. That is...until they spied a small opening in the wall of the cave. They called the other kids over and immediately the dares to see who would be first to go through the opening started filling the cave. The school teacher came over and settled the argument. He would be the first to go through so he could see if it was safe or not.

            Most of the kids spent their time wandering through the cave, or looking over the edge at the river below. Mark and Travis stayed close to that opening though. They wanted to be the first ones to explore.

            After what seemed like hours, they finally heard the teacher’s voice calling out to them. Though they looked all around, they couldn’t see him in the dim light. They all walked around trying to solve this mystery as the teachers laugh teased them. It was Mark that finally spotted him. Their teacher had followed the tunnel all the way through to the ceiling of the cave. All the kids ran over to the opening in a hurry to get up there too. Travis was a little bigger and slower than the rest. So, he wound up being the last one to squeeze through that dark opening.

            Going through that rocky tunnel wasn’t as easy as the teacher had made it sound. There were many tight places. Travis had to turn his body this way and that, suck in his gut and sometimes walk sideways. The kids in front of him were smaller and faster. The further they went, the further Travis fell behind until he couldn’t hear their voices any more. It was dark. The kid with the flashlight was way far ahead. Travis was thinking about turning around, but he wanted to see what it was like at the top of that cave. So, he pushed forward. That’s when the passageway suddenly narrowed. He just knew he could make it if he just squeezed through. He pushed and he twisted. He let out all the breath in his lungs.

            Nothing worked. He would just have to turn around and go back and wait for everyone else. Except...he couldn’t. He couldn’t go forward or backward! He was stuck! He called out, but there was no answer in return. He started to get scared. He was worried that everyone would forget him and go home.

            He started to pray. As he said “amen” he noticed a flickering light. The light got brighter and brighter. That light brought the warm feeling of hope. That’s when he heard his friend Mark’s voice. They had all went through and then as they were getting ready to leave, Mark realized Travis wasn’t with them. So, he grabbed a flashlight and came to get him. With Mark’s help, he was able to get unstuck and back out of the cave safely.

            In Matthew 5:14 Jesus said, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus lived down on this earth for 3 decades. He knows how dark it is. He knows that there are people stuck in their sins; stuck in despair, and living with no hope. He chose us to be His lights to bring hope into their darkness because He IS coming soon! He’s coming to get us and to take us home with Him. “Let your light so shine” so everyone knows that Jesus is coming again!

Walking Wisely

                             October 30

          Last week I was walking my dog Lana. It was after an evening meeting and the moon lit our path just enough that I considered turning off the flashlight in certain places to save the battery. However, experience has taught me that there are things walking around with us in the dark that my eyes don’t always catch without the aid of the light. This night was no different.

            As we came around the last turn that leads to our house, I noticed Lana started pulling harder on her leash. At first I thought she was in a hurry to get home (until I remembered she’s NEVER in a hurry to get home, always stopping to sniff every blade of grass and rock), when I noticed her ears perked up and her eyes locked on something. I could hear that low growl deep within her chest. I heard something running through the brush in the field next to the road. Now, I’d just scared up a bobcat a few nights before about a block away and was concerned that we’d just crossed it’s path again. I quickly shined my light into that field and saw a shadowy 4-legged creature just at the edge of where the light met the dark. It was walking toward us!  Lana was doing her best to meet this dark adversary for a direct confrontation. I was more hesitant. It was too small to be a bobcat, but something told me it was best to stay back until I had a better idea of what it was coming our way.

            That’s when it emerged into the light. A big fat skunk waddled its way into the ditch about 10 feet away from us, but it kept coming in our direction. Lana was about to lose her mind! She was pulling so hard at that leash her front paws were in the air and her bark echoed through the neighborhood. As much as she wanted to attack, I wanted to retreat! We started backing up (as quick as you can dragging a 70 pound dog determined to save the day in the opposite direction). Thankfully, this skunk chose to duck into the culvert and we were able to make it home smelling like a bed of roses....well...better than the alternative anyway.

            Ephesians 5:15 cautions us to “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.” That word circumspectly means to be careful, or in the context of walking - step gingerly, not in a hurry until you know what you are walking into. There are undesirable influences abounding in this dark world. The best way to avoid coming out smelling like a skunk is to not rush in (like a certain dog I know), take a step back, and shine the light of God’s Word on it. In doing so, you will be walking wisely!  

 

                                                     The Invitation pt. 3
                                                                 October 23


    Not long ago, we planned a family trip up to Bearizona in Williams, AZ. It’s a neat place that has all kinds of wildlife ranging from deer to wolves to Bison to bears. AS we were getting ready to go, my youngest decided that he just didn’t want to go with us. He wanted to stay home and play instead. No matter how much we tried to explain how much more fun it would be to go up there, he refused to believe. Fortunately, he’s at an age where dad can still overrule his decisions and we brought him with us. He was NOT happy that he couldn’t bring all his toys, but he wound up having an amazing day looking at all the animals and experienced so much excitement that he exhausted himself and fell asleep in the car! Needless to say, it was worth the trip! In previous weeks, we’ve looked at invitations to us from Jesus: “Come to Me;” and “Follow Me.” This week we’ll look at an extension to those invitations. In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” There’s a story in Matthew’s Gospel that tells of a rich, young ruler who came to Jesus asking what it takes to have eternal life. The young man sounded ready to follow Jesus, but when Jesus advised him to sell what he had and follow Him, the young ruler walked away sorrowful. The Bible explains that he had great possessions. Following Jesus involves sacrifice. That’s what He meant when He said to “take up your cross.” Sometimes it’s like that rich, young ruler in the Bible. Jesus explained to His disciples how difficult it is for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven. However, it doesn’t have to be wealth or possessions that prevent us from following Jesus. Sometimes, it’s another person. Sometimes, it’s an ideal. Sometimes it’s time. Sometimes it’s my will. Whatever it might be, it’s ALWAYS something that comes between our relationship with Jesus. Is there something you’re holding onto that comes between you and Jesus? Is there something you’re holding onto that prevents you from following Jesus into eternity with Him? It’s time to put it down and pick up your cross and follow Him. Believe me…it’s well worth the trip!

                                                       The Image of God
                                                                  October 16


      Gen. 1:26-27 says that we were created in the Image of God. After sin came into the humanity, humanity lost sight of that image. Our vision became skewed. We saw/see God in a different light than before. It’s a vision that we today are unable to imagine. That’s one reason why Jesus came to this earth, to give us an opportunity, to make available the image of God back into our sight. John 17 (and other places) says that God the Father are one, that they are unified. They uplift one another. They support one another. John 16 includes the Holy Spirit in that picture of God. 1 John 4:8 says that God is love. The fact is that Their unity is a marvelous example of Their love. No matter what needs to be done. No matter what happens around them. They face everything together. Interestingly, in John 17, Jesus prays for us to have that same togetherness, both with Them and all believers. His prayer is that Their relationship with be reflected in ours. To place an exclamation mark on what the image of God looks like, Jesus carried all our sins, our ugliness, our dirtiness to the cross and died a horrible death there. That’s the love that God has for us. That’s the love we were created with, to love so deeply, so fully, that we would be willing to sacrifice everything for the good of those around us...for the good of God. As we look around the world, it’s hard to see the image of God. Many can’t see it. However, 1 Corinthians 12:27 states that WE are the body of Christ, meaning we are to be the image of God on this earth so that those who do not believe can see Him clearly again. We can only do that if we allow the Holy Spirit in our hearts and to restore that image in us as individuals. Only then will we reflect Christ’s character in the darkness of this world. May we see the answer to Jesus prayer (John 17) in us today!

 

                                                         Get Out of There!
                                                          October 9, 2020

 

       Denise and her brother were on their way to the park. It was a hot summer day in August and school hadn’t started. There was a creek that ran through the park that was spring fed and promised to cool them off. When they arrived, they didn’t even bother to play on the swing or slide; they immediately went to the creek and waded out into the cool water. It was so hot, they didn’t even swim or play in the water, they just plopped down on the gravely bottom with the water up to their chests and relaxed. After a few moments, Denise started giggling. Tyler, her brother looked over and asked, “What’s so funny?” “Oh nothing. I can feel minnows nibbling at my legs and it tickles.” Tyler felt them too. They both laughed and giggled until Tyler got bored. He got up out of the water and walked over to the slide that was under the shade of a big Oak tree just a little ways from the side of the creek. Mom always reminded him to keep a close eye on his little sister. He climbed up the slide and took a look over at Denise. His jaw dropped in horror as he realized that those weren’t minnows tickling her legs. They were baby Cottonmouths! Cottonmouths are a semi-aquatic poisonous snake that is native to North America. There were what looked like hundreds of them. They hadn’t been able to see them for the sun glaring off the surface of the water.

        Tyler yelled at Denise, “Hey! Get out of there!” Denise didn’t want to. She liked sitting in the water. Tyler quickly slid down the slide and hit the ground running. He was waving his arms and yelling “Snakes! Get out of the water!” “Yeah right! Snakes! You never get tired of trying to trick me do you?” She looked a little nervous though. She saw the panic in Tyler’s eyes. It was about the time he said, “Please! Get out of there!” that she slowly got up and started walking toward the edge. He pointed down into the water and Denise looked in shock at all the baby snakes whose mouths weren’t big enough to actually bite their legs. Revelation 18:4 issues a similar warning when speaking of fallen Babylon it says, “Come out of her, my people...” God sees the dangers of this world. He knows there are those out there that would poison God’s people with temptations and sinful living. God is crying out to us to get out of there! It’s not safe. My prayer is that you listen to and answer God’s plea by getting up and getting out of the dangers of the world and into the safety of God’s love and grace!

 

                                                      Children Need Rescue
                                                                  October 2

                         What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. (Psalm 56:3)

      Holding onto the rope that divided the shallow water from the deeper part of the lake, my feet abruptly swooshed out from under me. Water swirled over my face. Panic screamed in my head: Hold fast! Don't let go or you will drown! Daddy had planned his summer vacation to include the annual church retreat at Lake Nelson in New Jersey. My brothers looked forward to showing off their new swimming skills. I couldn't swim, but jumped into the car with the bouncy energy of a typical five-year-old. It would be fun to live in a tent for a whole week. Each morning, a huge bell on a pole in the middle of the camp grounds sounded the call to meetings. On the last morning of camp, I dawdled over breakfast. Mother scolded, “Hurry, or you’ll be late!” Finally, I scampered up the hill to the children’s tent and sat alone at the edge of the long, wooden bench already crowded with boys and girls singing Jesus Loves Me. The teacher invited us to stand and stretch while she handed out bells to jingle as we sang the Good Morning song. After the Bible story, we sang a song about angels. When class was over, the teacher said “Let’s thank Jesus for sending angels to watch over us.” After prayer, she gave each of us a sticker to put on our lesson paper. Back at the tent, an older brother took a pail to get water from a nearby pump. After washing up, we ate the sandwiches, chips and carrot sticks Mother had set out. Then we lay down for a while. In the stifling heat, the boys soon grew restless and groaned, “We’re steamy hot! Can we go swimming? Please?” Daddy finally said, “Okay. Let’s get swimsuits on and we’ll head to the lake. Mother agreed. Hobbling barefoot along the path, we talked and laughed with other campers who also wanted to cool off. Daddy raced the older boys to the water. Mother and baby brother stayed on the bank.

      Mother told me, “You can play in the wading area, but don’t go into the deep water.” I felt safe holding onto the rope that marked the boundary. It was fun to see Daddy swimming on his back. Suddenly, my feet flew up and I was on my back, under the water. Still clutching the rope, I held on for dear life. I didn’t dare let go. Frantically, I thrashed my feet—they didn’t even scrape the bottom. I couldn’t raise my head out of the water. I couldn’t breathe without gulping water. I couldn’t even call for help. My arms ached. My hopes sank; I wanted to give up. Suddenly, the rope shook hard and got tight. Immediately, I was on my feet! My stiff fingers were barely able to release the rope. When I looked around to see who had grabbed the rope, no one was anywhere near. Puzzled, I stumbled back to shore sputtering, coughing and wiping water from my eyes. My brothers were laughing—I must have looked pretty funny, No one seemed to realize what had happened, so I just slumped down on the grass and waited until Daddy came and we trudged back to the tent. While resting on my cot, I wondered, what made the rope tighten? Did an angel help me? Then, I remembered something the kindergarten teacher had said: “Jesus can save us no matter where we are, no matter what danger threatens.” On the trip back home, I fell asleep thinking, Jesus must have sent an angel to rescue me! When I woke up, that idea hugged me all the way home. His care that day still warms my heart. The terrifying dunk in the lake troubled me until I got older and understood that the rope was strong, but not taut. Holding onto it didn’t help; it couldn’t save me. But Jesus delivered me. Seeing my plight He lifted me up from the overflowing water. He is mighty to save! Such great love inspires great faith, trust and gratitude. I’m thankful this experience helped me learn how vital it is for us to hold onto Jesus through all of our struggles. Jesus still sends guardian angels to our rescue. The Bible gives good advice: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
         Jeanne B. Woolsey   

                                                                     Chosen!

                                                                September 25

     All throughout history God has “chosen” people. Adam and Eve were created in His image. Noah found grace in the sight of God and was chosen to “restart” the human race on earth. Abram was chosen to be a blessing to the world. Isaac was chosen to be the son of promise. Jacob was chosen to prevail with God and humankind. Joseph was chosen to preserve a nation in the midst of a famine. Moses was chosen to lead Israel out of slavery into the Promised Land. Isaiah 43:10 says, “You are My witnesses, says the Lord, ‘and My servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me.” Israel was chosen to be witnesses to the world that God exists and who He really is. 1 Peter 2:9-10 informs us that we are a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are not the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” Interestingly, Peter follows that up with how we proclaim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. He sums it up in how we live in the world. Our conduct, how we live our lives are tremendous testimonies for Christ and for what He’s done in our lives. What has God done in your life? Are you living in such a way that people can see it? Are you a living, breathing, walking testimony for Jesus?

 

                                                 On a Day Almost Like Today

                                                       September 22, 2020

                                    (by Edwin Woolsey and Tommi Woolsey)

                                                                Brady's Story
                                                   On a Day Almost Like Today
     Brady started his journey on February 15, 1995, on a day almost like today. He was a little red-headed boy, full of life. Genuinely good, he loved hunting with his Dad, fishing with his Pap-paw, and working cement at their side.
He lived for Rolla football and baseball. He loved wrestling with his little brother! In fact, his little brother was so special to him that he got a tattoo of the boy's name to keep him ever close.
But, as Brady grew up, he was involved with friends who did drugs. He knew a storm was coming in his life, as did everyone who loved him... but all they could do was pray. Brady had previously done drugs with his girlfriend who died the year before of Fentanyl poisoning. So, he knew it was time to get help. The young man joined a year-long recovery program and stayed clean all the way through. Brady started going to church and gave his life to Christ, and his mom traveled with his little brother from Phelps County to Branson to attend services with her son. She supported his progress in every way she could and was very proud of his success. Brady wanted to make a difference by building something enduring. So, he went back to work using the same skills that Dad and Pap-paw taught him.
Briefly, the clouds parted and revealed God's Son, but that was all the time Brady needed for a second start… a new chance in life. While he fought a good fight against overwhelming odds, there were others who struggled on their journey too, side by side with him in the gloom. He stopped along the way to help them by sharing the story of his recovery. Having accepted Christ, he told everyone that they could too!
With the tempest finally behind him, Brady's future looked amazingly bright! But there were circumstances in the world beyond his ability to control. Covid-19 happened... and the church doors closed. His main source of spiritual support was gone. Consequently, the boy gradually returned to some of his previous friends. He tried one more Fentanyl trip, and it was the last trip he would ever make. God had graciously given Brady so much potential and the boy was loved by so many, but sadly he fell through the cracks… on a day almost like today.
It was a day almost like today that Brady’s mother remembered!
On a day almost like today, you were born as God’s gift to me. Bubba, from the very first breath... we were bound together in your brave struggle for life. I cried when you stumbled, but immediately celebrated your determination to rise. Although you might not know, yet my only prayer was to see you thrive… to bask in the soft kindness of your eyes… to revel in the subtle curve of your gentle smile.
And now, I struggle with the sudden awareness that your arrival and your departure are akin, in that both days brought me pain, the first in body… the last in spirit. But regardless, you will always remain the living embodiment of my love. I have watched you grow and am so incredibly proud. You lived every day to the fullest, and my heart took wings at your accomplishments.
It’s hard to imagine that twenty-five years have passed in so short of a span. Oh, what I would give to relive each and every moment of that time, from the first painful day ‘til the last… with struggles and uncertainties included. For I realize in this moment, that it was not the destination that mattered most, but instead… the journey, with your hand held in mine.
Your fight was my fight, and it will always be so. Regardless of what made you leave, you go as you came, God’s special gift to me... on a day almost like today.

 

                                            Christ’s Letter to the World

                                                       September 18, 2020

       Earlier this spring, Seth and I took our dog Lana out for a walk. She’s a Great Pyrenees mix and that furry curled up tail whips back and forth because she’s so excited! Then we get going and she stops every 10 feet to sniff the rocks or grass or whatever catches her attention. She gets distracted so easily! While she’s busy sniffing the asphalt, So, I was pushing Seth in his stroller (as his unofficial chauffer service) and I heard a noise, but there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood. So, I didn’t think much of it. Then I heard the growl. I turned around and coming full steam ahead from a neighbor’s house was this dog. It was a Border Collie with its eyes were wide open, ears laid back...and most importantly, its tail was not wagging. This dog was on a mission. My instincts demanded I protect Seth and Lana both…I’m the man of the house right? Well, Lana had a different plan. She immediately jumped between us and the oncoming dog. She tripped over the leash and barely got there…just in time for the other dog to get its teeth around her neck. Lana didn’t let it phase her. She popped out of her collar and just started pushing and shoving the other dog right back into its yard. Once it was there and its owners got it under control, Lana came skipping back to us with her tail wagging and looking up at me as if to say, “See? You never had anything to worry about!” A verse that has come up a lot since COVID-19 started is 1 Pet. 5:7 reminding us to cast all our cares upon Jesus.” However, the next verse says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” When a lion roars it strikes fear in the hearts of their prey. Sheep especially would scatter and run. They are no match for a lion. They don’t stand a chance on their own. They need the protection of their Shepherd. Satan tries to do the same thing. He tries to scare us into a panic so it will easier for him to trip us up. Praise God we have a Good Shepherd that doesn’t run! Praise God we have a Good Shepherd who is capable of protecting us from the tactics of the devil!! The Bible says to be vigilant, to be sober. In other words, keep a clear head. When you see the devil attacking, trust in your Shepherd Jesus Christ and let Him fight your battles

 

                        September 11    

           Christ’s Letter to the World

        Adriene drove slowly down a country road. She noticed a nice-looking church with a lot of cars parked outside. She wondered what was going on because it was Saturday. It must be a special event because churches are usually open on Sundays. Curious, she turned in and parked. She walked in and sat down. That’s when she realized that she’d just walked into a church, a place she never felt comfortable being. Her lifestyle just didn’t coincide with church goers and she’d always been made to feel inferior. She was about to get up and walk out when someone caught her attention. It was a young girl sitting in a wheel chair. Her heart went out to this young lady. So, she sat back down. She wanted to do something to help the mother who was spending more time attending to the girl than to the scheduled programs. All she could do is watch. The mother’s love for her daughter showed not only in the glow of her face, but in every caring touch and act. Adriene’s heart was touched. She came back week after week, drawn by the weekly scenes of compassion played out in the seats just a few rows in front of her. Finally, as church was letting out, she couldn’t resist the urge to approach the girl in the wheel chair. She walked up to her, gently touched her hand and shared a quiet smile with the mother and daughter. Eventually, she got to know them, and through that connection she began listening to the message of a Savior Who loved a helpless human race and sacrificed everything to save them. She understood and believed; she accepted Jesus and became baptized. Adriene is not only comfortable around Christians; she found a home with that church family having attended it regularly for over 15 years. The Apostle Paul writes, “clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living god, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3). When God transforms your heart, it shows in the way you live your life. My prayer is that when people turn to your page in God’s book, they can see His message of love written with His own finger on your heart.  May God richly bless you this week!

     Pastor Vince

                                                                                              

                 September 5, 2020

                The Invitation pt. 2

    When I was 6 years old, I lived for going fishing with my dad. He set me up with my own rod and reel. While most kids touted their Mickey Mouse gear, I had a Zebco 202. I was proud that I fished with a “grown up” rod and reel. He would always wait to go fishing until I got home from school and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I loved and lived for fishing with my dad. One afternoon he took me fishing at the Big Tavern Creek. It was one of our favorite places to go. He would always remind me to follow him and we would wade our way through the creek to the best fishing holes. This particular afternoon, we were quietly making our way upstream. The water kept getting deeper and deeper. It was climbing its way up my chest, up my neck, and finally to the base of my lips as I tilted my head back and walked on my tip toes…still casting and reeling in my line. I wasn’t afraid at all. I trusted my dad implicitly! If anything were to happen, I was right behind him, following step for step. After a time, the water started getting shallower. We continued until we reached what Dad described as “the best fishing hole in all of Missouri.” We stopped there and caught huge bass all afternoon. If I’d gotten scared and turned back, or decided to not follow him exactly where he led, I would have missed out on one of the best fishing trips I’ve ever experienced. I was exhausted when I got home, but my mom made sure I came home to a warm bed where I rested well all night. In Mark 1:16, Jesus offers another invitation. The first invitation is to come to Him. This invitation is to “follow Him.” Following Jesus can sometimes feel overwhelming like the world will overcome us. He didn’t promise us that it would all be easy. He simply promised to make us “fishers of men.” Imagine the fishing trips God has planned for you! And when it’s all over, He’s prepared a place where we can enter into the best rest you’ve ever experienced!

                 August 28, 2020
              God’s Invitation pt. 1

Many of you know I have a 3 and a half year old son. Quite a few have seen or met him already. While I try not to tell too many stories about him, especially as he gets older, God has truly taught me many things through my experiences raising him. One of the cuter things he does...and usually right when I’m busiest...is to reach up with his little arms and say, “I want to come.” You have to understand that when he says that, holding his hand as we walk isn’t good enough. Just letting his stand next to me as I sit in my chair doesn’t satisfy. I simply MUST pick him up and either hold him, carry him, or let him sit on my lap. Nothing else will quiet him, get him to put his arms down, or erase that pleading look in his eyes that I can’t resist. And BELIEVE me, all those attributes are multiplied when he’s tired and ready to sleep. Cottonwood SDA Church In Matthew 11:28, Jesus makes an appeal to us. “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Come to Me, all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” This is a heartfelt, pleading appeal from Jesus for us to come to Him. He’s not asking for us to pick Him up and carry Him, or to let Him sit on our lap. It’s quite the opposite. It’s what He is offering to do for us. He wants to pick us up and carry us when we’re tired. He wants to relieve the burdens we can’t carry. He wants to spend the quality time with us without any of those distractions. When’s the last time you accepted God’s offer with the simple love and dependency of a child? When’s the last time you were excited to come to Jesus and just be with Him? Whether it’s been a short while, a long while, or just since last week, this Sabbath is a wonderful time to reconnect with Him, let Him take away the concerns and burdens you’ve carried all week and just spend time with God. Just in case, I’ll save you a place!

 

August 21, 2020

 

The Contract
 

      Years ago, before becoming a pastor, I was entrenched in a sales career. It was a good time in my life that God used to teach me many lessons about Him and who He is. The company I worked for at that time was the leading baking corporation in the U.S. They expanded rapidly by buying out smaller or struggling companies. Most of these companies were unionized. Once a company was purchased, the employees were given the option to opt into our existing union contract or keep their own. The goal was to reduce the amount of time and expense that was involved in negotiating several contracts. I recall speaking with some individuals who were purchased and offered the opportunity to join our contract. Our contract included 100% free medical benefits with no payroll deduction, sales commission of 8%, and a pension up to $3,000 per month. Their contract included a maximum of 80% medical coverage with a payroll deduction of $20 per week, a sales commission of 6%, and a pension that maxed out at $2,500 per month. The choice seemed obvious to me. Evidently, it was not so evident to these individuals. After the decision was made, they were bragging to me that they almost got swindled into taking our contract. They KNEW that our contract was impossible. NO ONE could possibly receive those benefits and there was NO WAY they were going to get tricked into taking a worse contract than they already had. I’ll spare you the details, but one nearly choked on his tears when I affirmed the authenticity of our contract and verified it by showing him my pay stub which itemized some of those benefits. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” I don’t mean to call any of those men “perishing” to any degree. However, it illustrates perfectly how some look at the truth of our risen Savior and the plan of Salvation. How many needlessly pass the offer of eternity with Christ simply because they think it foolishness? My prayer is that you, and others will receive this incredible offer from God and partake in the blessedness of His salvation!

 

 

 

Aug 14, 2020

 

One Another!

 

          Did you know that there are 100 “one another” statements in the New Testament? Also, did you know that over half of those statements are used in the “Imperative Verb” form in the Koine Greek language the New Testament was written in. What is an “Imperative Verb?” Imperative verbs are most generally commands. Think back to when you were a child and your mother said to “CLEAN YOUR ROOM!” You knew you had a choice, but it was in your best interest to go and clean your room! That’s the way we read these statements using imperative verbs. The Bible uses these to instruct us on how we should relate with one another as followers of Christ.

Galatians 6:2 is one of those verses. It states, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” I was encouraged to see a group of church members Tuesday morning bearing the burdens of one of our sisters who needed to move. It was a small group, but they worked exuberantly, efficiently, and effectively, even though there were a couple spills and a couple things got broken. Everything got moved in about an hour, and then a prayer of blessing on the new apartment was shared with the group.

Technically, Galatians 6:2 is speaking of bearing the burdens of sins for one another in the context of someone being a slave to sin. Imagine being someone caught in the chains of iniquity, struggling alone to break free. Ultimately, we know that Christ came to this Earth, died and was resurrected to us free from our sins. However, God has directed us, the body of Christ to imitate Him and bear our brother’s and sister’s burdens. Instead of gossiping about someone’s wrong doings, instead of casting judgment upon someone for their mistakes...what if the church body banded together in love, provided encouragement, and helped carry their burdens from their hearts to the cross where Jesus will break their chains?
 

Aug 1, 2020
 

Welcome!

Welcome to the end of another week in beautiful Cottonwood, AZ! We hope you’re surviving the heat wave. This heat brings to mind Revelation chapter 7 where John saw the 144,000. Later in the chapter, he describes these people as “they will never again be hungry or thirsty; they will never be scorched by the heat of the sun” (Rev. 7:16). The temptation is to look at the physical blessing of being counted in that number. However, I would suggest we need to raise our eyes to a loftier prize.

Jesus claimed to be the “Bread of Life” and the “Water of Life,” and that all who came to Him would never hunger and those who believed would never thirst (John 6:35). Interestingly, in Matthew 13 Jesus taught a parable of the sower. In the midst of the parable (verse 5 & 6), Jesus mentions seeds that were scattered on stony ground, grew quickly, and then when the sun came out they were scorched in its heat. Later, Jesus explains that people who receive the Word with joy, but have no roots, the same wither away when trials and persecutions come (20-21).

When Rev. 7:16 includes all three qualities in the description of the 144,000, we should notice that these people abide in the presence and the shelter of the Lamb. As we experience the trials associated with following Him, we can take comfort that as long as we remain connected with Him, we’ll never hunger for the Word of God, or thirst for everlasting life, or lack in our relationship with Him because He is with us and provides all our needs. If you haven’t yet, I recommend connecting with Jesus today and forever!

 

 

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Cottonwood Seventh-day Adventist Church Welcomes New Pastor

   The Cottonwood SDA Church welcomes Pastor Vincent Woolsey and family to our church.   Pastor Woolsey was officially installed as Pastor of the Cottonwood SDA Church by Jorge Ramirez and Reggie Leach of the Arizona Conference of Seventh-day Adventists on July 4th, 2020.  Pastor Woolsey will be serving both the Cottonwood and Sedona SDA churches.

   Born and raised in the Midwest, Vince left his career in sales and moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 2012 to follow God's call to Literature Evangelism. It was during that time that God led Vince to pursue a degree in Theology from Southwestern Adventist University. God even paid for the degree. A passion for sharing God's love and supporting others in their spiritual growth led him to practice ministry full time. Other passions include family, hiking, photography, baseball, and traveling, especially when they can be done at the same time. Vince and his family are happy to call Cottonwood their home and are looking forward to being a part of this church family."

  The church is excited to have Pastor Woolsey join our church family.  He replaces Pastor Lawson who left in January to accept a call in Tennessee.  The church has been nurtured by Dennis Canther, head elder and associate elders in the interim.  The church office is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 1:00 to 4:30 pm.  Church Phone:  928 634 2821.  The public is invited to join us Saturday mornings for 9:30 am Bible Study and 11 am Worship and to meet our new pastor.  The church is located on the corner of Mingus and Willard in Cottonwood.  More information about our church may be found on our website at https://cottonwoodaz.adventistchurch.org