The Power of Hope

By Pastor Wes Poole

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:23

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – HELEN KELLER

It’s always something, to know you’ve done the most you could. But, don’t leave off hoping, or it’s of no use doing anything. Hope, hope to the last! – CHARLES DICKENS

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.- MARTIN LUTHER KING JR

Hope itself is like a star — not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. – CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON

Hope is in high demand these days. Frustration is stressing folks past their limits, and we’re seeing some of the results. Violence and discord, always the enemies of hope and harmony, just seem to come into higher relief when times are hard. Right now, it is admittedly difficult. Even with some reopening happening, many of us are still uncertain how much returning to normalcy is even warranted. Should we even venture out at all? Churches particularly are faced with quite the quandary of how to reopen safely, and what worship will look and sound like when we do. These are good questions, and we’ll figure out the answers eventually. For now, as I heard it put so beautifully recently, “God doesn’t need us open church buildings, He needs us to BE the church, right where we are!” I happen to agree..So we’ll continue to live in hope; taking care of each other. God has an infinite amount of hope for us to draw upon. God will lead us through this, and we will be OK.

Let us pray…
God of Hope, during times of trouble, it’s easy to forget who and whose we are. Help us to remember that our hope is founded in nothing less than your love for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus showed us how to live with one another in community. May we always use Christ as our right and example; that we might live through good times and bad with compassion, generosity, and peace. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe, my friends. Hope abounds!!

Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

Patience: A mid-week devotion

And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. – 2 Peter 1:5-7

Patience is one of those virtues that we claim we want to possess, But we can’t really learn it from a book or a lesson. Most of us, I’m betting, would consider the cultivation of patience in oneself as a VERY difficult prospect. It takes massive persistence, endurance, and extensive practice! NOTE TO EVERYONE: My own practice of patience is still a work in process. Ask my wife, she’ll tell you! 😉
Patience particularly seems to be at a premium these days. Tempers are flaring. Financial stressors are through the roof, and many of us are getting stir crazy from being hemmed in either alone or with a few people. We want get back to our work and our lives. We’re tired, and scared, and little bored. It’s OK to admit it. Patience easily can slip to impatience in a instant. Quite the quandary…
Higher sources were needed, so I went straight to Webster! Old habits die hard, and I like to have a term as defined as possible before we discuss it.
The dictionary offers this definition of patient:
1: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2: manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3: not hasty or impetuous
4: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity

When I asked it to define patience, it gave me this: “the capacity, habit, or fact of being patient”.
OK, I’ll grant you, that one’s no shocker, but when I looked again, I paid more attention to the word “habit”. The habit of patience. Is this implying that we can act and show patience even we may not feel like it?? You mean we can CHOOSE to practice patience, and to possibly even get better at it?! The answer, is a resounding yes!
Again, not to spend too much time on the difficulties we’re struggling with right now, but now more than ever the notion of developing a habit of patience could go a long way to keeping us safe and sane…and in hope that a vaccine is forthcoming.
We’re still living blessed lives, as we are and always will be beloved Children of God. Our hope, as a great old hymn reminds us, “Is built on nothing less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness.” May we focus on what we do have and moreover, how we can share our blessings.
For now, we will continue to meet digitally and virtually when we can. I saw a picture of a church sign that read: “God does not need us to open church buildings, He wants us to BE the Church wherever we are.” To that, I will add a heartfelt, “Amen!”
Let us pray:
God of all goodness and virtue, the are times that are trying the patience of many of us. You know our needs better than we do, but today we humbly ask for ability to keep cultivating the good habit of patience. We know that as we live, work, and have our being, you have commanded us to share our bounty with others and always work to upbuild one another. With patience and kindness always in our hearts and actions, we promise to keep working towards those goals. With you, all things are possible! We ask all of this in the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Be well, be kind, and be safe everyone! I continue to pray for the time we can meet again in person. Live in hope!
Blessings Aways,
Pastor Wes Poole †

Weekly Devotional May 20

By Pastor Wes Poole

Genesis 7:12 
And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 16:35 
The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land. They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 9:9
When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.

40 days, 40 nights, 40 years…we see the number 40 often in the Bible. The above examples are only three of many. Generally, “40” is not considered to be a literal number, but rather a symbol or metaphor for a “long time”. Furthermore, that “long time” is often associated to difficult or challenging times. For another example, Satan is said to have tested Jesus, as he was fasting in the desert for…right…40 days!

Most of us have now been sheltering in place and keeping social distance for a lot more than forty days. For many of us, it might seem more like forty years!! It struck me though, that I think we’re better able to comprehend the biblical concept of a “long time” better now than in recent memory. Did you know that the word quarantine comes to us through Latin and Italian and means, literally…wait for it…40 days! There is no denying that are many difficulties and challenges facing us and our entire culture right now. We live in hope though that God’s Will always prevails, and that hard times will give way to wholeness and healing.

In pretty much all of the biblical accounts of trying or long times of challenge, one thing invariably remained the same…God…Never…Forgets…His people! That is such a comforting reality to ponder as our own 40 days’ are dragging on. Even during the dark times, even when we may lose sight of who and whose we are, God never returns that in kind. God is with us…always has been…always will be! As we continue to struggle to keep each other safe and healthy, let us strive to remember that God is walking with us. Hope in Christ is never in vain. There is always a Promised Land waiting after wandering in the wilderness! Like the Israelites of old, may we stick together, trusting in God and caring for each other.

Let us pray…
God of all our times, as we navigate difficult waters, help us remember that you never leave our side. Regardless of what the world may throw at us, we know that hope is ever present in you. As we continue to work hard to keep each other well, make us ever mindful that we can always see your face in that of our neighbor’s. May we serve you and each other in the way your son taught us, for we pray these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe my friends!

Blessings Always,
Pastor Wes †

The Widow’s Offering

By Pastor Wes Poole

Mark 12:41-44

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Let’s ponder for a moment this image; Jesus, sitting opposite the place where the offerings were put, observing the people make their donations as they come into the temple. He is not alone. Seated with him are the leaders—the Sadducees. It is startling to think of Jesus sitting with those whom he had scorned for their hypocrisy. Remember that as they watch there is no paper money, so all of the offerings make a terrible noise as they roll down this long horn shaped object and fall into the pool of coins. And here comes this little old lady. She has two small coins worth practically nothing and drops them in. They barely make a noise. You can almost see the Temple leaders as they roll their eyes and hope for better results with the next person who walks in the door. Jesus then calls his Disciples over and says, “This poor widow has put more in to the treasury than all the others.” To the Sadducees this woman is a waste of time, but to Jesus she is the stuff by which Kingdoms are erected. Thus, at its heart, the story of the widow’s mite is a strong reminder to the kingdoms of this world that money and power are not everything, they are not ends in themselves and they do not make you greater, wiser, or set you above anyone else.

I selected this passage this week not because I wanted to make a point about money and possessions. We can talk about that some other time. It spoke to me as I was reflecting on how little it seems we can do right now. Movement is restricted. Travel is curtailed. Shopping for groceries has specific rules for safety. Finances are, admittedly, tight for some. Many of us aren’t comfortable going out of our houses at all, and even if we want to, some of us can’t go to work. So it’s stressful, that’s a given. When we find ourselves hemmed in and our options limited, fear, panic, and anger can take hold. At these times, the widow in the above story can teach us again about the value of little things. Jesus said her two small coins were more valuable by far than the large amounts put into the coffer by richer and more privileged people.

Perhaps during a time of crisis like we’re facing now, when we may feel so powerless, we can start to re-appreciate the value of small things. A simple prayer, lifted up to God from the heart. A walk outside in the sunshine. A meal cobbled together from whatever we could find in the fridge, but shared with loved ones. A good book. A song that lifts our spirits. These are our real valuables! Of course, it doesn’t stop there. The smallest act of kindness or generosity is wonderful any time, but it is utterly priceless right now! Remember, we are never alone and we never act alone. God takes our offerings, both the great and the meager, and multiplies them over and over. Like everything else in this life, dark times will eventually give way to the light. No earthly difficulty will last forever. For now, let’s cling to the hope we all share in Christ Jesus, and savor the small things that we have and can do.

Let us pray…
Lord Jesus, you have showed us that God values even the smallest acts of kindness we can manage, and has blessed us in a myriad different ways, both small and great. Give us the peace, the patience, and the clarity of thought to regard and give great thanks for these “small” blessings. You will always be with us; leading us through the storms of life. Help us to be more like you, mindful even of the smallest good we can do in the world, and in the lives of our sisters and brothers everywhere. We pray this in your most holy name. Amen.

As always, my friends, be well, be kind, and be safe. I look forward to seeing you all again in person!

Blessings,
Pastor Wes †

God’s Love in Christ Jesus

Posted on behalf of Pastor Wes

Romans 8: 31-38 NRSV

God’s Love in Christ Jesus

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.[a] Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Who, or what stands against us?
What stands in our way?
How do we overcome obstacles in our life?
These are questions that all people ask themselves everyday…these days, probably more than ever!
None of us can truly say that any day is trouble free.
Most of us would like to say this, but we know it’s not true.
Some days we feel like nothing can go right and everything and everyone is against us.
Unfortunately, this is, all too often, exactly what happens.
We live in a world that is not perfect.
Sometimes it’s painful.
Sometimes it’s scary.
Sometimes it’s just not fair.
Sometimes it’s might feel simply awful and unbearable.
We wonder if there is anyone or anything that could possibly make any difference.
Maybe even if just one little thing would go right or if just one person would tell us that we were OK, maybe…just maybe things would start to turn out better.
When we’re faced with times like this, we can remember one very important thing.
There is someone who cares.
There is someone who loves us totally and completely…no matter who we are… no matter how bad it gets… no matter how bad we think we are.
It’s God who stands for us…all of the time.

In this passage from Romans, which is easily in my top 5 favorites from scripture, St. Paul testifies to us about how much God really loves us.
Paul tells us that nothing or no one has the power to condemn us.
Nothing or no one can come between us and the love that God showed us in Jesus.
Even though sometimes we are faced with more crises and catastrophes than we can believe…
Even though we still sin and fall short…we still forget about and even ignore our special relationship with God.
Even though we may feel like we absolutely do not deserve such love.
Even though we sometimes find it hard to even believe in such a love!
Well…too bad!!!
God still cherishes and values each and every man, woman, and child in the entire world…you and I…everyone!!!!
And because of this, God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to prove to us, once and for all, that we are his beloved children.
That’s not to say that we won’t still hurt from time to time. Again, right now this is more evident than ever.
Everything still won’t always go our way.
We’ll still get angry and frustrated at the way life seems to treat us.
But just think…those frightening and frustrating things NEVER have the final say!
Jesus Christ died for us and rose again to be our link…our very lifeline that connects us to Almighty God.
Christ has given us the power to overcome all of the difficulties of life.
It’s not always easy…but Jesus is with us all of the time.
St. Paul tells us that Christ has made us conquerors.
We are conquerors who cannot be separated from our relationship to God, and cannot be defeated by the troubles of the world and our lives.
Nothing, not one single, solitary thing in the vastness of Creation can change that relationship.
All that is hurtful or painful has ultimately been conquered through Jesus.
So during these trying times, when we’re undoubtedly feeling afraid and helpless, we can go about our lives in the confidence that God is for us…nothing else in creation can stand against us, because God is with us…every step of the way.
As we face life’s pains and setbacks, we know that they are never equal to the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Let us pray…

Lord Jesus, strengthen our faith and resolve in this time of difficulty, that we might continue to place our ultimate trust in you. We know that you conquered sin and death for our sakes, and that nothing can ever change that. Help us to reflect that love around us; that all people may come to know you and the healing power of your love. Amen.

Waiting for Divine Redemption

Posted on behalf of Pastor Wes

Psalm 130
A Song of Ascents

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.
NRSV

“I wait for the Lord…” Psalm 130 was my late grandmother’s favorite passage from Scripture. She was born in 1919, and during her 96 years witnessed some significant historical events. Depression, World War, Korea, Vietnam, Civil Rights, Watergate, the Gulf Wars, and 911, just to name a few. She knew what it meant to be in need, and she knew the importance of helping others. She had been the one crying to God from the depths and she could recognize it in others. She clung to her faith through all of her life’s challenges and carried it with her until God finally called her home. Did all of the above teach her patience? Sure, maybe some, but I think even more than patience it taught her to trust God, and find hope in acknowledging that God would be with her through it all.

The writer of my Grandma’s favorite psalm also understood this. We don’t know why exactly he was crying out to God in pain, but all we have to do is read on to get to the heart of the matter. Does he ask God for anything in particular? No. “I wait for the LORD”…”hope is in the LORD.” He trusted that God’s will would be done, and that was enough. The outcome would be of God’s choosing, but hope founded in God’s Promises would never be in vain. God’s grace is sufficient.

Six weeks of sheltering-at-home and social distancing is taking its toll on many of us. Maybe it’s loneliness, or the constant fear of getting sick, or the legitimate and ever present concern for the most vulnerable among us. Doubtless, many of us are also feeling the financial burden that not being able to work is causing. Regardless of the reason, fear has become our constant companion. Fear is a powerful force. It can drive us to despair or inspire us to be safe. In either case though, fear does not have the final word, God does! Our hope is always founded in the promises of Almighty God. With the psalmist, we cry out to God, and take hope in the sure knowledge that He hears us, and will

always act in our behalf. In the meantime, like my grandma, we cling to our faith and commit ourselves to helping one another through this trying time. God is with us! That will never change! With that Good News always in mind, we will get through this. Remember, the Face of God is never any further away than the face of our neighbor. Trusting in Him, let us recommit ourselves to serving God by serving each other.

We will, eventually, be able to gather together again in worship and praise of Our God. Until then, let us continue to lift one another up in prayer, as we continue to hope in the LORD.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!

Blessings Always,
Pastor Wes †