Zechariah & The Unbelief Conundrum

December 2, 2016

“But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.” (Luke 1:20)

A teenager once asked me this thoughtful question about Christmas: “Since there was so much hype about the birth of Jesus Christ, why is it that thirty years later nobody seemed to believe in Him?  You would think everyone would have just been waiting for Him to begin His ministry!”

Actually, there were only a handful of people who knew about that first Christmas. The first one was a priest named Zechariah. He and his wife Elizabeth were a godly couple, very advanced in years. They had no children, but the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that they were going to have a child who would be the last of the prophets to tell us about the coming of the Messiah. Their son, whom they were to call John, would point at Jesus Christ and introduce Him to this world.

Zechariah did not believe the angel. He was therefore told that everything he had heard was going to happen, but he would be mute and unable to tell anyone until his child was born. This priest had the greatest sermon to preach: God was going to intersect human history!  But, he could not preach it because of his unbelief.

Before you are too hard on Zechariah, let me ask you a question. The New Testament tells us more than three hundred times that God is going to intersect human history a second time when Jesus Christ comes back again. Have you ever told anyone about the Christmas to be?

 Or does your unbelief shut your mouth?

Dick Woodward, 02 December 2011


Two people in a pew, which one are you?

November 29, 2016

“There we saw the giants… and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight.”  (Numbers 13:33)

The book of Numbers records the death of an entire generation. Twelve spies were sent to do reconnaissance in the land of Canaan. Ten of the spies gave a report focusing on the giants. Only two spoke of the greatness of the land and exhorted the Israelites to invade Canaan. While Joshua and Caleb were men of great faith, the other ten were experts in Giantology.

The entire generation who listened to the ten perished in the wilderness; only two people survived the most tragic judgment of God recorded in the Bible. An old spiritual put it this way: “Others saw the giants. Caleb (and Joshua) saw the Lord!” We read that they followed the Lord because they believed God well able to conquer those giants.

I have spent most of my adult life as a pastor. I cannot help but allow the thought that the twelve spies resemble a board of Elders, a Session, a Vestry, or a board of Stewards. Sometimes when a church is facing a huge challenge two will have the faith of Caleb and Joshua and ten will be expert giantologists.

We all have “giants” in our lives. As a bed-fast quadriplegic with a wife in a wheelchair, I certainly have mine. I’m sure you have yours. We also have choices. We can choose to see the giants and spend much time talking about how big they are. Or we can choose to see the Lord conquering our giants. We might call this: “Two people in a pew — which one are you?”

Are you a Caleb with conquering-the-giants faith, or are you getting your Ph.D. in Giantology?

Dick Woodward, 27 November 2013


Therapy for Thanksliving

November 22, 2016

“In everything … with thanksgiving tell God every detail of your needs … And the peace of God which transcends human understanding will stand guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”   (Philippians 4:6, 7)

As I have applied what Paul prescribes in these verses (in the NIV and J.B. Phillips), I have found this prescription for peace to be one of the most helpful spiritual disciplines. According to Paul, an attitude of gratitude leads to the therapy of thanksgiving as we give thanks in stressful circumstances.

Be sure to make the observation that Paul does not prescribe giving thanks for all things. He instructs us to give thanks in all things. When we do this it automatically moves our mindset from the negative to the positive. The apostle promises that the peace of God will protect and stand guard, (like the soldiers chained to Paul as he wrote these words), over our hearts and minds as they rest and trust in Christ Jesus.

Our circumstances are not always determined by God but may be caused by evil people who are persecuting us. We cannot always control our circumstances – but we can control the way we respond to them. Paul is telling us to respond with thanksgiving, because if we do, we will find this response to be God’s prescription that will bring peace that can contribute to our overcoming those circumstances.

When a pastor asked a church member how she was doing, she responded, “Pretty good pastor, under the circumstances.” The pastor responded, “Whatever are you doing under there?”

The therapy of thanksgiving can lead us out from under our circumstances and into the Presence and peace of God.

Dick Woodward, 02 September 2009

Editor’s Note: A blessed Thanksliving type of Thanksgiving to all!! : )


Communicating Heart to Heart

November 15, 2016

“We have spoken freely to you Corinthians and opened wide our hearts to you… As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11, 13)

Life so often comes down to relationships, and relationships are all about communication. The Apostle Paul profiled that reality when he wrote these words. He also prescribed a solution. As a summary paraphrase of this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication “flap” on our hearts. As married couples we should be face to face and heart to heart with our communication flaps open. But, the hard reality is that we are often back to back with our communication flaps closed tight. The solution Paul models here is that someone must take the initiative and say, “I am heart to heart with you and my flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

Communication in relationships is a challenge we can face all day long every day in our families, work lives, and our interactions with people. It’s so very important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, to the person with whom they are having a communication conflict: “I am heart to heart with you and my communication flap is open.  Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

You may be totally amazed at how taking this stance can melt down the obstacles between you and a difficult person. Throughout any given day we face relational challenges that can be turned around through good and loving communication. God has to begin with the person who is mature enough to initiate the solution Paul is modeling for us.

Dick Woodward, 14 October 2011


Put Love First!!

November 12, 2016

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

After a devastating battle during the first World War, Canadian army surgeon John McCrae composed one of the greatest war poems ever written. In it he gave voice to thousands of soldiers who lay dead, summing up their lives on earth with one line: “Loved and were loved, but now we lie in Flanders Fields.”

When we come to the end of this life, we’ll find that one of our most important priorities will be those we love, and those who love us. But we should not wait until this dimension of life is ending to focus our priorities. The question we should all answer is: “What is our number one priority right now?”

The Apostle Paul composed an inspired poem in which he declared that the agape love of God should be the number one priority of spiritual people. He wrote that love is greater than knowledge and more important than faith. His inspired words about love have been, and should be, read in every generation of church history. That includes you and me.

Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:31)  Paul continues with his prescription: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or, “Put love first.” (LB, NEB)

A SUMMARY PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence and even in tongues, but without love, we’re just a lot of noise. If we have all knowledge to understand all the Greek mysteries, the gift to speak as prophets, and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all these things, we are nothing. If we give all our money to feed the poor, and our bodies to be burned at the stake as martyrs, if we give and die without love, it profits us nothing.

Nothing we are, nothing we ever become, nothing we have, and nothing we ever will have in the way of natural and spiritual gifts should ever move ahead of love as our first priority. Nothing we do, or ever will do as an expression of our faith, our gifts, our knowledge, or our generous, charitable, unconditionally-surrendered heart is worthy of comparison, or can replace love as we live out our personal priorities in this world.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


MINE, MINE, MINE vs. GOD’S

November 8, 2016

“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful… And what do you have that you did not receive? (1Corinthians 4: 2, 7)

The biblical word “steward” is not fully understood or appreciated.  It is actually one of the most important words in the New Testament.  A synonym for this word is “manager.” Many people believe this word primarily relates to a person’s money, but that application falls far short of the essential meaning of this word.

Paul asks the probing question: “And what do you have that you did not receive?”  He is telling us that our stewardship applies to everything we have received from God. This means our time, energy, gifts and talents, our health and all the things that make up the essence of our very life, including all of our money and possessions.

At the age of 65 my best friend, a very successful businessman, had what he refers to as a “halftime” experience when he came to fully appreciate this word steward. His regular custom was to draw a line down the middle of the top page of a legal pad. On the left side of that line he wrote, “My Business,” while on the right side of the line he wrote, “God’s Business.” When he fully appreciated this word, steward, he erased that line because he realized it was all God’s business.

Remember, the important thing about stewardship is that we be found faithful.  Do you realize there is nothing in your life you did not receive from God?  Do you know that you are to faithfully manage everything you have received from God?  Are you willing to have a halftime experience and erase the line between what is yours and what is God’s?

Dick Woodward, 10 June 2010


God’s Eighteen Wheelers

November 4, 2016

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”    (Matthew 6:13)

An attractive young lady was returning from a church meeting at a late hour. When she stopped at a traffic light, a large “eighteen-wheeler” truck was in the next lane. As the light changed and she pulled away, the large truck began tailgating her car while blinking its lights and blowing its loud air horn.

Frightened, she increased her speed as she drove out of the city limits toward the farmhouse where she lived with her parents. The huge truck followed her all the way, lights blinking and horn blowing.  She turned into the long dirt road that led to her home. The truck followed her as she drove right up to the porch of the house. When she frantically popped open her door to run for the house, the back door of her car suddenly opened and a man with a large knife bolted for the woods.

When she stopped for that traffic light, the truck driver saw the man crouched behind her front seat with a knife in his hand.  Realizing that she was going to be attacked as soon as she drove into the country, the truck driver wanted to save her from that tragedy.

Sometimes, our suffering and limitations seem like that eighteen-wheeler bearing down on us.  Actually, however, that suffering can be a vehicle of our loving God, purging out of our lives the evil one who is determined to ruin us. This is what our Lord was profiling when He instructed us in the disciple’s prayer to pray that we might be delivered from the evil one.

Can you meet yourself in this story?

Dick Woodward, 22 May 2012