April 2018

You Are Never Alone
By Mike Woolley

My wife and I each got a Google Home Mini for Christmas. Not to be confused with the Amazon Echo Dot, the Home Mini is about the size of a hockey puck, but with a more rounded top. It’s a pretty remarkable little thing. You can put it anywhere in the house, and my wife says, “Hey Google, play Chris Stapleton radio,” and in seconds the room is filled with country music.

We can be sitting on the couch and think of a question and ask, “Hey Google, what is the weather going to be in Moorpark tomorrow?” And a very intelligent female voice will tell us that it will be partly cloudy and a high of 70 degrees.

Google is very handy. But the other day I heard a report on these “electronic home assistants” and began to wonder if Google was eavesdropping on us. She must be since she has to respond every time we mention her name. She is always on. We can unplug her but then she doesn’t respond to anything.

If I decided to talk about ski boats in her presence would I start to see advertisements for ski boats showing up on my internet sites? Maybe not, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t listening. She may be smarter than we think. It’s a little creepy.

At any rate, I have realized with Google in the room we are never alone. She sits there and is pretty much invisible until we say her name, but as soon as we say her name we realize she has been there the whole time… listening. If we are going to have Google at all, we have to deal with both parts of having her. If we want her to respond when we call out to her, we have to be okay with her being on all the time.

The Google Home Mini is as close to the characteristic we call the omnipresence of God as we can get. We love the idea of God being around us so at any time we can call out to Him when we need Him. But if God is going to be there for us when we cry out to Him, it means He is always there…listening. There is nothing He doesn’t hear. There is no time when He is unplugged.

There are many Home Mini users that have decided with Google that the good outweighs the bad. They’d rather have her when they need her then not have her there at all.

I decided the same thing about God a long time ago. I love being able to cry out to Him at any time day or night. I just need to remember sometimes that means I am never alone. And neither are you.
A Living Hope
By Taylor Roche

“Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
1 Peter 1:3

The second weekend in March the college group and I continued our spring tradition of travelling up to Hume Lake CA for their college and young adult winter camp. It’s always a fantastic time and I truly look forward to it every year. The verse above from 1 Peter was the theme verse, which guided our meeting times for the weekend. Our speaker did a fantastic job reminding us that as followers of Jesus we have been born into, through the death and resurrection of Jesus, a new hope in God. A hope that is unlike anything else in this world, a hope that shines brightest in the darkest times of our lives, and gives us a reason to seek something beyond this world.
I can’t help but think how well this message fits with Easter. It is precisely through the death and resurrection of Jesus that you and I find ourselves born into this new hope. I recently read through Luke and Acts and was reminded first hand of the fear of the disciples when Jesus was arrested and crucified. Down to a man they scattered, terrified, denying they ever knew him, and hid for fear of the Jewish leaders. And that’s pretty much how the gospel of Luke ends. At least for the disciples. But by Acts 2, we see the disciples we knew in Luke have gone through a top to bottom transformation. The greatest of these is Peter, who goes from swearing he’s never met Jesus to standing before the same people that crucified Christ and defying them. The transformation is undeniable. This is not the same Peter. This Peter has a hope, and hope that is based firmly on the resurrection of Jesus.

It’s my prayer for you and I this Easter that we would experience, like Peter and the rest of the disciples did, the hope that Jesus’ resurrection provides. That we might know the great mercy of God, who caused us to be born into a living hope through the resurrection of his Son.  He has risen!
The Hound and Hare
By Brenda Woolley

Have you ever known someone that you thought was unreachable?   You may have said in your heart, “They’ll never come to love Christ.”  I have a red journal that I have kept for years and in it I would write down family and friends and people I knew who did not know Christ.  I would pray for them often.  In this list of people there are some that I hate to say but I thought it would be a miracle if they someday would love God.  Well, years have passed and in that list I have crossed off name after name and written next to their names “loves Jesus now”…people I had thought were unreachable, God had chased down and found.    
In college I read a poem called, “The Hound of Heaven”, by Francis Thompson.  The poem was written in 1890.  (Find it and read it!) I have never forgotten it.  I recently pulled it out of my box of “long ago papers” that I keep in my Hope Chest.  It is a story about a Hound, which represents God and the Hare, which represents all of us.  The hare tries to flee the relentless pursuit of the Hound…always feeling his presence behind him, chasing and chasing him.  There is not nearly enough space to share all that is in this poem, but I will condense a bit of it.
The hare desires to flee from the presence of the Hound, the Almighty. He tries everything to fill his soul’s desires, but in the end to only self- destruct.  He runs away from the very source of life in search of happiness.  He desires to flee the lover of his soul, for worldly satisfactions.  After many ways in which the hare tries to find satisfaction in pleasures, in his own mind, in nature, in people, he finally surrenders to the might of the approaching hound for he knows and acknowledges the supremacy of the hound and his helpless state. He surrenders his soul after the hound has him in his grip and could easily end his life.  Instead, he is spared by the hound.
 The writer in this poem expresses his unworthiness and his sins to discourage the hound, God, from pursuing him but the hound pursues him with “Unhurrying chase and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy.”  He finally knows that he is unworthy of the grace-filled love of Christ and that he has done nothing to merit it. As the hare knows he is unworthy of being shredded by the hound, we too know we are unworthy and yet he still chooses to pour out His mercy and love upon us.
I was once the hare.  Those that I have been praying for year after year, night after night and moment by moment are being pursued by God.  He will keep chasing because His grace is endless, and His mercies are vast. I praise God for His love, for His constant pursuit and have hope because of who God is.  That’s it, not if the person will decide or not, but the fact that God is who He says He is. The Hound of Heaven will chase us down and never let us go.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there!  If I made my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are you works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:7-14

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