Beside Still Waters

July 22, 2014

The Lord is my Shepherd … He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters.”  (Psalm 23:1-2)

David tells us when we have thrown our hands up and offered an unconditional surrender, the Good Shepherd will then lead us “beside still waters.”  Most people think of peace when they read of still waters; however, the realities of sheep management tell us this relates to the fact that sheep can only drink from waters that are still as glass…

When we confess that the Lord is our Shepherd and we are His sheep, He leads us to a cluster of blessings that are tailor made just for us.

In 1979, after serving as the pastor of a large congregation in a big city for over two decades, I accepted a call of a church with 22 members in a small college town.  I have never been more certain of divine guidance than when I made that decision. At the time I was experiencing weird physical symptoms that my doctors thought were caused by the stress of a large church.

After my first year in the small church in the small town, I went to Mayo clinic for a complete work-up.  The doctors there diagnosed multiple sclerosis.  Because the doctor misread my record, he thought I was still the pastor of a big church in a big city.  He counseled me to move to a small church in a small town and learn to find my fulfillment in writing.  I was able to say to him, “Doctor, I’ve already been there for a year!”

I refer to my experience as ‘still waters’ because the small church gave me the time, and my disability gave me the discipline, to write… which led to an international ministry, now in 31 languages all over the world…

There is a stained glass window at the entrance to my home with a dove hovering over blue water and green pastures. Underneath there is a brass plate with two engraved words: Still Waters.  Those two words are not just the name of my home, but the label I write across more than 30 years in this location…

Can you look back over your life and see divine interventions that led to green pastures and still waters?

Dick Woodward,  Psalm 23 Sheep Talk

 Editor’s Note:  When Papa struggled through his last bout of suffering in the hospital on March 8th, his breathing became very agitated. We began reciting Psalm 23.  As we got to, “He leads me beside still waters,”  his face suddenly lit up with peace & his breathing immediately slowed as he passed on to the Still Waters of Heaven.  When we arrived home, I noticed the stain glass – “Still Waters”- and thought, wow.  God made Daddy lie down (literally) in green pastures, providing still waters in his life & even in his death. 


Caution: Divine Providence at Work

July 18, 2014

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do£?” (Psalm 11: 3)

Greek is a very precise language.  Hebrew is not.  That’s why we frequently find footnotes that suggest alternate readings in the margins of our Bible when we are reading Old Testament Scripture passages.  The NIV translation of Psalm 11:3 has such a footnote.   The alternate reading suggested for this verse is: When the foundations of your life are breaking up, “What is the righteous One doing?”

In a long life I have experienced several periods when it seemed that the foundations of my life were breaking up.  I have found the suggested alternate reading of this verse to be a reliable response that turned many of those crises into very significant spiritual datelines in my journey of faith.

My faith walk began in 1949, and along the way I dropped two words out of my vocabulary: “fortunately” and “coincidentally.”  Because I believe in Divine Providence, I no longer believe in luck.  And I agree with the spiritual “heavyweight” who stated that when a devout believer thinks they have experienced a coincidence that just means God prefers to remain anonymous.

The Chinese characters for “crisis” are the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.”  I believe we should factor into all our crises this knee jerk response: “What is the righteous One doing in my life now?” I find that He is always up to something and ultimately it is always something very good.  It is not primarily for our good but it is what accomplishes His good for His glory.

Dick Woodward, 02 July 2010


As Eagles

July 15, 2014

…they shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

The exceptional longevity of an eagle means an eagle is seldom ill.  When it does get sick, however, it goes to the highest elevation it can find.  It lies on its back and looks directly into the sun.  For this purpose, the eagle has an extra pair of thick eyelids.  When the eagle closes these eyelids, it can look directly into the sun and not suffer any damage.  This sun treatment proves to be therapeutic and often restores the health of the eagle… So that we might look directly into the Son, God has given us the Holy Spirit.

When the ultimate illness comes to an eagle, it climbs to the highest possible elevation and looks into the sun for an entire day.  When the sun goes down that evening, the eagle dies.

Have you ever seen an eagle disciple of Jesus Christ die? The first time I intellectually believed the Gospel was when I watched my mother die.  She died as an eagle follower of Jesus, looking right into the Son. The godly pastor who was with us had seen scores of saints go home, but said he had never seen anything like what he saw that night.

At the age of 49, she left behind six daughters, five sons and a husband.  The last two hours of her life were spent with her family, but she was already in Heaven, talking to Jesus.  She often said she never had any peace.  We had a little house of about 1,300 square feet with 13 people living in it, so you can understand why she had precious little peace or quiet. In those last hours she kept saying, “Oh, this peace, this peace!”

I believed intellectually at her death, but I did not become a disciple of Jesus Christ for several years because I knew believing involved a commitment.  I knew this because my mother had said to me, “If Jesus Christ is anything to you, Dick, He is everything to you. Because, until Jesus Christ is everything to you, He isn’t really anything to you.” My life was changed forever because she lived and died as an eagle disciple of Jesus Christ.

Dick Woodward, As Eagles: How to Be an Eagle Disciple


One Day at a Time

July 12, 2014

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray He gave them a principle that has many applications.  At the end of this chapter in the Gospel of Matthew, which records the central part of His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated that we should not worry about tomorrow.  Many have made that obvious application to this prayer petition.  People with tragic challenges like addictions or overwhelming suffering are only able to get their heads and hearts around the concept of coping one day at a time.

Another application of this principle applies to divine guidance.  In the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote that one way to discern the will of God for our lives is to live up to the light we now have.  He promises that as we do, God will give us more light.  Someone once said, “If you want to see further ahead into the will of God for your life, then move ahead into the will of God just as far as you can see.”

As a college student I drove across the United States several times, mainly at night because there was less traffic.  My headlights only illuminated about 100 yards at a time.  I discovered that if I kept driving into the light the headlights gave me, I eventually traveled from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles.

It is easier for God to steer a moving vehicle than one that is stationary.  As we respond to the light God is giving us He adds more light to our path.  The application of that principle leads us into His will one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, 17 August 2010


Eternal Values: Inner vs. Outer

July 8, 2014

…This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in common earthenware – to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us.”  2Corinthians 4:7 (J.B. Phillips)

Many years ago the famous American statesman, John Quincy Adams, was crossing a street.  Due to his poor health it took him five minutes to reach the other side. A friend passing that way asked, “How is John Quincy Adams this morning?”  He replied, “John Quincy Adams is doing just fine.  The house he lives in is in sad disrepair. In fact, it is so dilapidated, John Quincy Adams may have to move soon, but John Quincy Adams is doing just fine, thank you!”

John Quincy Adams had good theology.  To make a clear distinction between the inward man, (our spiritual man who is eternal), and the outward man, (our body which is temporal), and clearly value the inward man above the outward man, is a vital dimension the Apostle Paul shares with us in II Corinthians chapters 4 and 5.

According to Paul, the outward man does not always know why things happen the way they do. Therefore, the outward, physical man is often perplexed. However, Paul tells us that in our inward man, there is a continuous persuasion because Christ lives in us. Paul writes that the outward man is persecuted and suffers, but in the inward man there is a Person Who is continuously assuring us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

Speaking from his own experiences of suffering, illness and persecution, Paul acknowledges that sometimes our outward man gets knocked flat. Sometimes our little clay pot gets knocked down, but never knocked out. Because there is a Great Treasure living in our clay plot, we always get up and keep going.

Dick Woodward, In Step with Eternal Values


Power and Purpose

July 5, 2014

“For… through Him… are all things…” (Romans 11:36)

The Apostle Paul concludes Romans with a profound benediction that God is the power behind all things.  This claim is preceded by his declaration that God is the Source of all things and it is followed by his announcement that the glory of God is the purpose for all things.

I resonate in a special way with the middle part of his benediction because I have been experiencing chronic fatigue since 1978.  As a bed fast quadriplegic I now have no strength of my own, so it is impossible for me to be involved in the work of God unless God is the Power behind all the work He wants me to do for Him in this world.

It is the plan of God to use the power of God in the people of God to accomplish the purposes of God according to the plan of God. The Bible is filled with stories that illustrate this proposition.  To this end we continuously read that God delights in doing extraordinary things through very ordinary people while He uses His power in them to accomplish His purposes.

Sadly, many people think God cannot use them because they are just ordinary people.  But the more ordinary we are increases the glory God receives when He works through us.  God can anoint our tool kit and our skill set when we surrender our will to His.  He can also add spiritual gifts to our lives we do not have before we bring our ordinariness to Him and lay it at His feet.

Are you willing to do that and prove that God is the power behind all things?

Dick Woodward,  12 October 2010


Prayer Partnering with God

July 1, 2014

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...”  Matthew 6:9-13)

The message of the Bible frequently sifts down to just two words: God first. From Genesis to Revelation, the bottom line interpretation and application of the commandments, character studies, allegories, parables, psalms, sermons, Gospels, Epistles and teachings of Jesus is simply “God first.”  The prayer Jesus taught us begins with that God-first emphasis when He instructs us to begin by asking God that His name, the essence of Who and what He is, might be honored and reverenced…

Prayer is not a matter of us persuading God to do our will. The very essence of prayer is an alignment between our wills and the will of God. Prayer is not a matter of us making God our partner and taking God into our plans.  Prayer is a matter of God making us His partners and taking us into His plans…

We are not to come into our prayer closets, or corporate worship, with a ‘shopping list’ and send God on errands for us.  When we pray, we should come into the presence of God with a blank sheet of paper and ask God to send us on errands for Him.  We should be like soldiers reporting for duty to their Commander in Chief.

Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Prayer

 

 


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