If I Have Not Love

November 3, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Kathi Woodall –

I hugged an endearing little orphan girl tightly and told her, “Good-bye, Benji. I love you.”

She startled and looked up at me, saying with her adorable accent, “Aww, I do not want you to go.”

I spent a week of the early part of January serving at the Haiti Home of Hope orphanage in Pignon, Haiti. I will confess that I do not usually work in children’s ministries. I am more comfortable teaching a class full of women. However, I would have to be lacking a heartbeat if the orphans of Haiti did not pull at my heartstrings. Benji became a favorite for many on my team. Her quick wit, warm smile, and inquisitive nature made her a delight to all who met her.

Mission teams serve at the orphanage on a regular basis and I am sure many people come in and out of Benji’s life, as well as the lives of the other 36 children who call the orphanage home. I am sure many team members have given gifts, played games, and offered snuggles to each of the children. I would think some team members have even expressed love for different children they have built a relationship with during their brief stay. However, Benji’s startled reaction made me wonder if anyone, other than the couple who runs the orphanage, has ever told her that she was loved. Love is not a common emotion in the poverty-stricken country where women offer to marry a man who can provide the best standard of living—a standard often defined as a man who is able to provide enough to keep them alive.

Millions of dollars in aid and support have poured into Haiti in the two years since a catastrophic earthquake claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. As my flight descended into the capitol city of Port-au-Prince, I looked out over the city still scarred by the horrific damage. Thoughts that had been floating around in my brain for weeks came together into a single clear message. Humanitarian aid and relief does little if we do not also offer spiritual hope and love. The hope of another meal is welcomed, but the hope of eternity in heaven makes a true impact. The love of generous people who give their lives to run an orphanage is a blessing, but the love of a Savior who gave His life to redeem ours makes a lasting change.

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3 NIV).

Who’s the Enemy?

September 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Kathi Woodall –

The Civil War was by far the bloodiest conflict our country has ever fought. Not only was the death rate the highest of any of our nation’s struggles, but it exceeded the sum of the deaths of all other American wars from the Revolutionary War through modern times. Although the methods of warfare contributed to the high death rate, one factor stands alone as the greatest cause of the phenomenal loss of life. Every drop of spilled blood was American blood. When the death tolls were counted, the distinction between “them” and “us” faded away. Whether the uniform was gray or blue, whether the flag was Union or Confederate, as brother fought against brother, they were all Americans.

Our family visited the site of the Battle of Fredericksburg in Virginia. I was touched by the story of Richard Kirkland, a nineteen year old Confederate sergeant. The Union army had been defeated, but many soldiers lay wounded on the battlefield. Those who were still alive remained in their battle positions. Sergeant Kirkland could not bear the sound of the wounded as they cried out for aid and relief. Placing his life in danger, he took canteens of water and offered drinks to the hurting men. Union soldiers began firing on him, but the firing ceased as they realized his actions were from a heart of compassion rather than malice.

Are we fighting a civil war within the church? The battle is now believer against believer as arguments are made and people are hurt. People leave churches. Believers lose the passion of serving their Savior. The spiritual death toll grows.

• Contemporary music vs. traditional
• Programs and activities vs. Bible studies and prayer meetings
• Casual dress vs. formal
• He said vs. she said
• It’s always been done this way vs. new and different
• My ministry vs. your ministry

Issues such as these pull us away from the real enemy; “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).

We are all either wounded soldiers lying on a spiritual battlefield or active soldiers fighting in the trenches. Shouldn’t we be offering drinks of water to our fallen brothers rather than firing fatal shots? After all, fellow believers aren’t the real enemy and by firing another verbal blow or spreading another slanderous story we may find ourselves serving within the ranks of the true enemy.
•  Worship
•  Learn
• Attend
• Share
• Do
• Serve

“…Whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward. And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” (Mark 9:40-42 NIV).

What’s New?

July 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Kathi Woodall –

My daughters awoke Christmas morning and ran down the stairs to the living room. Wrapped in shiny paper with ribbons and bows, a new box awaited them that hadn’t been there the night before. Instead of lots of little presents, my husband and I bought one large gift for all four girls. They tore open the paper and found a new flat-screen television for their upstairs viewing pleasure. Their current television had been new once upon a time. Twenty-five years later though, that TV had grown unusable for modern day games and media equipment.

On New Year’s Eve night, friends and family gathered in our kitchen, their eyes fixed on the large clock hanging high on the wall. We waited anxiously as seconds ticked by. The hand reached the ten and we all began counting aloud; 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…Happy New Year! Oddly enough, many of the same family and friends had stood in the same spot the year before, watching the same clock, and yelling the same phrase as we rang in 2011. Now 2011 was gone, 2012 had come, and if the Lord tarries, we will cheer in 2013 in twelve more months.

That’s the way life is; things wear out, times change, and new things are always coming. The new and exciting of today will be the garbage of tomorrow.

However, this isn’t the case for one part of our life. A relationship with our Savior Jesus is full of many new things that will never wear out and never need to be replaced. They are just as sufficient fifty years from now, or a thousand years into eternity, as they are the moment they are first received.

We are given new life when we enter into a relationship with Jesus. Because Jesus rose from the dead, “we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4 NIV). Not only does our new birth give us hope of our own resurrection, but it also gives the promise of an imperishable inheritance awaiting us in heaven (1 Peter 1:3-4).

We are made into a new creation. Our old sinful nature and poor moral character are thrown away and we are created anew in Him. Becoming a new creation is more important than adherence to the law (2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15). Our new self is “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” and is “being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10 NIV, respectively).

We live our lives under a new command. The 613 commands of the Old Testament have been simplified down into loving God and others with your whole being (John 13:34, Matthew 22:36-40).

We await a resurrected life in a new heaven and new earth. This future “home of righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13) is described; “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4 NIV).

All of this is made possible by a new covenant. We are no longer regulated by the sacrifices and requirements of the Old Testament. Jesus mediated a new covenant through His death that we might be eternally forgiven for our sins (Hebrews 8-10).

What better time than a new year to accept His eternal forgiveness for sins and walk in the newness of life with Him?

Thankful for Bananas & Vacations

March 22, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Kathi Woodall –

Last Thanksgiving I was driving in my van with my then four year old daughter. From the back seat her little voice piped up, “Is Thanksgiving the day we thank Jesus for things?”  I smiled and told her it is.

She continued, “Like grass?”

“Yes, like grass,” I answered.

“And trees?”

“Yes, and trees.”

Her list continued, “For apples and pears?”

“Yep, apples and pears.”

“And bananas?”

“Even bananas.” I began wondering how long her list was going to go.

“For houses?”

“Yes,” I answered aloud while silently thinking, “It’s a long car ride; I can keep this game up awhile.”

“And cars?”

“Yes, thankful for cars.”

“And hotels and vacations?”

I burst out laughing as her list suddenly took a turn from the practical and necessary to the fun and fanciful.  I knew she’d crack me up eventually and apparently this was her desired objective as her list came to an end at this point. At that time we had no travel plans for the holiday season and her last hotel and vacation experience had been several months previous. However, the idea of a vacation and the fun of a hotel are always forefront in her little mind.

In the Old Testament, the primary Hebrew word translated as thanksgiving does not denote a mere listing of all the things for which we are thankful.  First and foremost for the Israelites, thanksgiving was preceded by confession. Confession, and the resulting forgiveness, overflowed into praise and thanksgiving to God.

I have much to be thankful for this season.  Like my youngest, I am thankful for creation, food, a home, and even vacations.  I could add more to her list as well. Most of all, though, I am thankful I can come before a loving Heavenly Father in a spirit of confession.  I am thankful that when I do, He turns my tears of repentance into tears of joy.  I am thankful for His Son who died to make that relationship possible and who will return again to establish a kingdom of peace on earth.  Finally, I am thankful for His Spirit who guides and helps me as I walk this earthly journey.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving,
And His courts with praise;
Give thanks to Him and praise His name.
For the Lord is good and His love endures forever;
His faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalm 100:4-5 NIV)

But it’s just a Small Stain!

February 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Kathi Woodall –

Looking so pretty in one of her favorite dresses, my five-year-old daughter was ready for church. I warned her to be careful not to drip any chocolate milk on her dress.

“I’ll be careful, mom.”

She put the cup to her mouth. The next thing we knew and before we could stop it, the damaging drip rolled down the side of her mouth and landed on the front of her dress.

Her daddy told her to go to her room and pick a different dress from her closet. With chocolate still on her mouth, her face wrinkled up into a cry. “But it’s just a small stain!” she cried as the tears started to flow. True to her perseverant nature, or should I say stubborn nature, she continued to cry. Between sobs she would remind us, “But it’s just a small stain!”

As I loaded the dishwasher and watched this play out, her repetition of the phrase, “But it’s just a small stain!” struck something within me. As my five-year-old cried because she wasn’t getting her way, I wondered how many adults cry out those same words to God as the Spirit works to reveal the sin in their life.

The Spirit prompts, “Did you lie to your boss?”

You answer, “But it’s just a small stain!”

“Were you mean to your husband? Were you impatient with your children?”

You cry, “But it’s just a small stain!”

“Did you gossip at church?”

You plead, “But it’s just a small stain!”

We may think we are a good person and those small stains won’t really matter but God does not see it that way. I thought of the verse, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10 NIV). Whether the stain was small or ran all the way down my daughter’s front side didn’t matter. Either way, the dress was still stained and she could no longer wear it to church. Likewise, we all have stains on our souls. Because of those stains, we can no longer have a personal relationship with God. He looks at us and in His sovereignty says, “Although you wash yourself with soda and use an abundance of soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me” (Jeremiah 2:22 NIV). However, He also looks at us with love and compassion stirs within Him. That is why He provided a way for our stains to be removed. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27 NIV).

Have you allowed Jesus to wash away your stains?  Don’t let stubbornness rule as you, like my daughter, keep crying, “But it’s just a small stain.”

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