A Prayer for the Dark Valleys

October 21, 2014

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”   (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:  “As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me.  Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me.  I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of all the life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your individualized, personalized and attentive care.  I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help me in my time of need.  You will also pursue me like a ‘Hound of Heaven’ with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust Him to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship with Him forever in Heaven; to the green pastures that never turn brown, the still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


‘Stinkin Thinkin’ vs. Beatitude-based Attitudes

October 17, 2014

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.”  (Matthew 6:22-23)

 The way we see things can be the difference between a life filled with light and happiness, and a life filled with darkness, unhappiness and depression. Jesus and the entire Word of God will consistently challenge our mindset and show us how we should see things.

Have you as a believer ever found yourself in a funk and realized that you needed to have an attitude adjustment?  I certainly have.  I have learned there are times when an attitude adjustment can pull me out of what I label a “pit fit.”  The two letters “AA” represent many things, but let them remind you to make regular Attitude Adjustments when needed.

There are times when the best defense is a good offense.  That is especially true when it comes to attitudes.  Instead of erecting strong defensive attitudes, the better part of wisdom is to put in place a strong offense of God ordained attitudes that will raise us above the devastating effects of “stinkin thinkin.”

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught us that if we want to be part of His solution as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we must begin by having eight attitude adjustments.  In your Bible turn to Chapter Five of the Gospel of Matthew and study closely what we call the eight blessed attitudes known as the beatitudes of Jesus.

When you understand and apply them they will make your life the light of the world!

Dick Woodward, 25 August 2011


Indwelling Love = Outpouring Love

October 14, 2014

“…And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (ICorinthians 13:13)

How does love fit into this trio of lasting qualities Paul writes of? The Apostle John answered that question for us when he wrote:  “God is love and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God dwells in him.”  (I John 4;16)  When we dwell in the love Paul prescribed (in I Corinthians 13), we dwell in God, and He dwells in us.

By application, this means when we go where the hurting people are, as His love is passing through us and addressing their pain, we are touching God and He is touching us.  Since the agape love passing through us is God, we are dwelling in God and He is dwelling in us while His love is passing through us.

Jesus gave us love perspective when He exhorted the apostles to look up before they look on the fields that are over ripe for harvest. (John 4:35)  The Lord was focusing on two perspectives we must master as His authentic disciples.  Before we look around and relate to the people who intersect our lives every day, we are to look up and then look at them. We should see them through the same “love lenses” God uses when He sees them.  If we do, we will never see anyone we cannot love.

Jesus also taught that all the commandments of the Scriptures are fulfilled when we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40) His parable of the Good Samaritan answered the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?’ by stating any hurting person who intersects my life and needs my help is my neighbor.  (Luke 10:29-37)

I was seeking a relationship with God when I first discovered these profound teachings.  As a social worker in a large city, I volunteered to be on night call every night for an entire year.  That year I discovered  it is possible to touch God and be touched by God while being a conduit of His love.

I learned that seeking God is not an either/or, but a both/and proposition.  We are liars if we say we love God, Whom we cannot see, and do not love the people we can see.  Each time I was called out at night to be with hurting people, I asked God to pass His love through me and address their pain.   My experience can be described this way:  “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God but my God eluded me. I met my neighbor and I found all three.” 

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


100% Total Commitment

October 10, 2014

“And every man stood in his place all around the camp (of the Midianites); and the whole army (of Midian) ran and cried out and fled.” (Judges 7:21)

One of the greatest victories described in the Old Testament is the victory of Gideon over the army of the Midianites.  There were several hundred thousand Midianites and Gideon only had 300 soldiers.  In the middle of the night, in pitch darkness, Gideon placed his 300 committed warriors in three strategic locations around the sleeping enemy army.

On signal from Gideon each group of 100 soldiers exposed 100 torches, blew 100 bugles, and then 100 men shouted: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” This gave their enemy the impression they were surrounded by a powerful army.  The Midianites completely panicked.  In the darkness they began fighting each other and were soon conquered.

Although this was a great miracle it was a miracle that required a total commitment on the part of Gideon’s 300.  That’s why he reduced his army down to less than one percent of what he started with.  He had to know that his men were a one hundred percent committed minority rather than an apathetic majority.

This victory also teaches the critically important concept of teamwork.  The work of God is a team sport and requires a team effort.  The verse quoted above summarizes the key to this great victory.  We read that every man of the 300 ‘stood in his place.’  If even a few had been too frightened to execute this plan the event would have been a disaster.

Are you willing to find and stand in your place that together we might defeat all the powers of hell?

Dick Woodward,  12 December 2012


Prescription for a Panic Attack

October 7, 2014

“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!  Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’”  (Psalm 3: 1, 2)

As David writes this psalm he is facing the greatest crisis of his life.  His son has turned the entire nation against him and driven him out of Jerusalem into the wilderness where he once hid from King Saul when he was a young fugitive.  His situation is so desperate that many people said even God could not help him.  But in this psalm David explains how he knows God will be there for him – he is not having a panic attack so he gives us a prescription for one.

Observe the way David uses three tenses as he lays out his prescription that keeps him from panicking.  He recalls that in the past there were many times when he cried out to God and the Lord heard him.  When he laid down to sleep not knowing if the enemy would slit his throat while he was sleeping, he awoke alive because the Lord sustained him.  He then declared that he will not be afraid of the thousands of people who wanted to see him dead.  He then declares in the present tense that God is with him and His present blessing is upon him.

When you are in crisis think back to times in the past when God met you and brought you through a crisis.  Then let those past answered prayers inspire you to trust God for the present and the future crises in your life.

Look back.  With faith, look forward.  Then look around at your present circumstances, not with panic but with faith and peace.

Dick Woodward, 18 March 2012


God’s Beautiful Concertos (on one string!)

October 3, 2014

“… every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15: 2)

 My mentor Ray Stedman loved to tell the story about the famous violinist Paganini.  As a brilliant violinist and a superb showman, he would attach a sharp razor to his wrist.  At the right moment he would cut one of the strings on his violin.  The string would pop and the audience would gasp, but the most famous violinist in the world would keep playing.  He did this repeatedly and dramatically until he only had one string left on his violin.  With genius he would then play the entire concerto on that one string.

Ray’s application was that God sometimes likes to cut back our strings and play the concert of our life on one string.  This brings great glory to Him because people can’t believe that as we are experiencing those cutbacks our concerto continues to play with an even more beautiful sound.

My precious wife lost the use of her left arm and I lost the use of all four limbs.  But the concerto of our lives and ministry continues to be more fruitful than it has ever been which brings great glory to God who is the One playing the concerto of our lives.

The explanation of Jesus was that He is a Vine and we are branches related to Him.  When we are fruitful because of that alignment He cuts us back to make us more fruitful.  Is it possible that events in your life that you have considered a setback are actually the cutback of your loving Lord and Savior who wants your life to be fruitful and your reward to be great in heaven?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2012


Seeking GOD’S Will (vs. our own!)

September 30, 2014

“…You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly…”  (James 4:3)

A consultant told me that much of the time, even though he is paid large fees, his clients do not want his consultation. They simply want him to affirm what they have already decided to do. At the heart of counseling session, a woman once said, “Don’t confuse me with Scriptures, Pastor.  My mind is made up!”  Knowing the will of God is often made difficult by our own wills.  It’s out of reach because we have our agendas in place when we come to God seeking His will.  If our minds are set like concrete before we converse with God regarding His will for our lives, we are not really seeking His will when we pray and open His Word. We are actually asking God to bless our will, our agenda and the way we have decided to go.

James tells us that when we pray, we ask and do not receive because our asking is flawed by our self-willed agendas.  To seek and know the will of God we must be completely open to whatever the will of God may be.  Our prayer and commitment must be in the spirit of the familiar metaphor, “You are the Sculptor, I am the clay. Mold me and make me according to Your will.  I am ready to accept Your will as passively as clay in the hands of a Sculptor.”

There are at least two reasons why you must be open and unbiased as you seek to know God’s will.  One reason we learn from Isaiah: the ways and thoughts of God are as different from our ways and thoughts as the heavens are high above the earth.  Another is that we become a totally new creation when we are born again.

It is tragically possible for you to miss the will of God for your life because you do not have the faith to believe that God can make you a new creation in Christ.  Your extraordinary potential as a new creation is one reason why you must be completely open and unbiased.  Seeking the will of God with your mind already made up could rob you of the will of God for your life… God loves you too much to let you live a life that is only a fragment of the life He has planned for you.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Guidance


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