The Lord is My Shepherd… BUT?

August 10, 2018

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23:1)

These are some of the most familiar words in the Bible beloved by devout people everywhere. According to this psalm of David, the key to the real blessing of this life and the next is a relationship with God. The green pastures, still waters, table of provision, God’s blessing of anointing oil and cup that runs over all the time are all conditioned on our relationship with God as our Good Shepherd.

The spirit in which we recall these words, however, is often something like this: “The Lord is my Shepherd — but I have a health problem.” Or, “the Lord is my Shepherd — but I have marriage problems!” Or, “The Lord is my Shepherd — but I cannot control my children.”

When we say “The Lord is my Shepherd — but,” we are putting our “but” in the wrong place. We need to get our “but” in the right place and recall the precious promise of these words this way: “I have a health problem, but THE LORD is my Shepherd! I have marriage problems, but THE LORD is my Shepherd! I cannot control my children, but THE LORD is my Shepherd!”

One way the Lord makes us lie down is to use health problems, marriage problems, problems with our children, finances, careers, and other kinds of challenges to teach us about the relationship with God which is key to all the blessings profiled in Psalm 23.

Will you let the Great Shepherd use whatever challenges you are facing to establish the deeper relationship with God David described so beautifully three thousand years ago?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2008


Setbacks or Cutbacks?

August 7, 2018

“… 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 superb showman, he liked to attach a sharp razor to his wrist. At the right moment he would cut one of the strings on his violin. As the string popped the audience would gasp, but the most famous violinist in the world would keep playing. Paganini did this dramatically until he only had one string left on his violin. He would then play the entire concerto on that one string as a violin virtuoso.

Ray’s application was that God sometimes likes to cut back our strings and play the concertos of our lives on one string. This brings great glory to God because people can’t believe that as we experience cutbacks our concertos continue to play with even more beautiful sounds.

My precious wife has lost the use of her left arm and years ago 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 orchestrating the concerto of our lives.

The explanation of Jesus is 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 events in your life that you consider setbacks are actually cutbacks of your loving Lord and Savior who wants your life to be fruitful in the heavenly dimension?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2012


Giving vs. Getting

August 3, 2018

“… Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

This has been called the ninth beatitude of Jesus.  When Jesus began His greatest discourse with a check-up from the neck-up, He shared eight beautiful attitudes that will make us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This ninth beatitude can transform and revolutionize our relationships.

If you are in a relationship, like a marriage, for what you can get from that other person, Jesus has a challenge for you. For one week, instead of thinking of what you are going to get from the person, ask yourself continuously what you can give to that person. After giving this assignment to many married couples I have seen this challenge revolutionize their marriages.

You see, if you are in a marriage for what you can get from each other, neither of you is receiving anything because neither of you is giving anything. The relationship is a sterile empty vacuum. But this one attitude can completely transform your marriage (and any relationship) if one or both of the people in that relationship will dare to accept this challenge from Jesus.

There is no place in the Gospels where Jesus speaks these exact words. However, in addition to having this quotation in the book of Acts, the spirit of this beatitude characterizes the relationships of Jesus we read about all through the first four books of the New Testament.

I exhort you to accept this challenge of Jesus for one week! If you do, you will also prove in experience that there is in fact more happiness (which is what the word blessed means) in giving than in getting.

Dick Woodward, 03 August 2009


The Vine Looking For Branches

July 31, 2018

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”  (John 15:5)

The apostles had been in awe of the profound words and miraculous works of Jesus. In their last retreat, Jesus essentially said that the key to His preaching, teaching, and supernatural ministry is that He and the Father are one.  The Word and work of our Heavenly Father was spoken and accomplished on earth through Jesus because He is one with the Father.  Jesus taught the disciples that after His death and resurrection, if they would be at one with Him His Word would be spoken and His work would be done on earth through them.

While the disciples were in a garden, Jesus pulled down a vine which had many branches loaded with fruit and said: “I am the Vine and you are the branches.”  In this metaphor the fruit does not grow on the vine. The fruit grows out on the branches because they are properly aligned with the Vine.

The branches can bear no fruit without the Vine and the Vine can bear no fruit without the branches. If the Vine, Jesus, wants to see fruit produced, He must pass His life-giving power through the branches, the apostles and now us.

By this inspired metaphor, Jesus was actually teaching two propositions: “Without Me, you can do nothing” and “Without you, I will do nothing.”

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.  Jesus is a Vine looking for branches.

Are you one of His branches?

Dick Woodward, 31 July 2012


One Step at a Time

July 27, 2018

“… I being in the way the Lord led me…”  (Genesis 24:27 KJV)

When we discover the context of these words of Scripture we realize they are teaching us a principle of how God often works in the lives of God’s people. It is easier to steer a moving vehicle than one that is stationary. God can sometimes steer us more easily when we are moving. That’s why we often will find that one step frequently leads to the next step when we have faith to be led by the Holy Spirit.

The words above were spoken by Abraham’s servant who was commissioned by Abraham to travel to the land of his people to find a wife for his son Isaac. As Abraham’s servant journals the events of his search he writes that while he was in the way the Lord led him he encountered the family of Rebekah. When he met her he knew that his search had ended.

Committed followers of Christ were commissioned two thousand years ago to go to all nations and make disciples for Jesus Christ. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Like the servant of Abraham, as we embark on the adventure of obeying our great commission, we should expect that each step will lead to the next step.

We don’t always have to know where the road leads as long as we know it is the right road. While we are in the way our Lord has commissioned us to go we must have the faith to take that first step and then, one step at a time, expect our Lord to show us His will about the next step.

Dick Woodward, 28 July 2009


Watching & Listening (by Faith)

July 24, 2018

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds’ feet, he makes me tread upon my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

The Old Testament and New Testament history of the people of God has identified an undeniable reality: good and evil exist side by side. The names and faces of good and evil keep changing, but good and evil have always had a presence in this world. Although forces of evil have tried for thousands of years to destroy the people of God, God’s people still have a presence in this world, by faith.

The devotional application of Habakkuk’s prophesy is that we should build spiritual watchtowers today. When facing overwhelming problems, especially Job-like tragedies that nobody understands, watch and listen in your spiritual watchtower. While watching and listening, Habakkuk wants you to know God welcomes your questions.

While everyone else was looking and listening for the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, Habakkuk watched and listened for God. If we watch and listen for God today the way Habakkuk did, we will discover God is still speaking through men and women of faith.

When Habakkuk looked at his problems and circumstances, he sighed and despaired. When Habakkuk turned to God with his doubts and asked God questions, watching and listening for God’s answers, Habakkuk sang.

When you are overwhelmed with Babylon and Job-type challenges, go up in your spiritual watchtower so that you might:

  • Watch until you see God working in your life.
  • Listen until you hear God working in your life.
  • See, hear, and worship God Who is working in your life.

Like Habakkuk, ask God your questions. In God’s time and God’s own way, God will answer your questions – if you are listening!

Dick Woodward, MBC Old Testament Handbook (p.630-632)


When It’s Time for a Change

July 20, 2018

“I have brought you out that I might lead you in…”
(Deuteronomy 6:23)

There are times when God wants to do a new thing in our lives. To do this new thing God faces three challenges. God has to get us out of the old place and that is not easy because we love the security of where we are. God therefore has to blast us out of the old place. That can happen in many ways. We could be fired, or we may just know in our knower that it is time to make a change. The call of God is often made up of a pull from the front and a boot from the rear.

The second challenge God faces is to keep us going to pull us through the transition time between the old place and the new place where God is leading us. Transition times can be difficult! Deuteronomy 6:23 describes the way God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land. Their transition time involved crossing a desert, which should have taken a few weeks. They went around in circles for forty years!

They circled that desert because they did not have the faith to invade the land of Canaan. When God wants to do a new thing in our lives do we go around in circles because we do not have the faith to enter into the new place to which God is leading us?

The third challenge God faces is that God has to make us right so God can settle us into the new place. One translation of 2 Corinthians 6:1 reads that we are ‘co-operaters’ with God. When we realize something of what God is trying to do in our lives it would help us (& God) if we would give God a little more cooperation.

Dick Woodward, 24 July 2009