Good Friday: “it is finished…”

April 14, 2017

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished!’”
(John 19:30)

These last words of Jesus actually are one word in the original language: “Tetelesti.”  This word was written over the record of a prisoner after completing his or her sentence in a Roman prison. “Tetelesti” was also written above the cross of a prisoner crucified by Rome. What a providential irony that Jesus chose this word at the end of His suffering for your sins and mine.

What Jesus meant is that He paid in full a debt He did not owe because we owe a debt we cannot pay. Theologians refer to this as the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. One thought is that we cannot possibly add anything to what He finished for us there on that cross. A more profound thought is that we must put our faith in what He did for us there.

Still another thought is if we could add anything to what He did, or be forgiven on the basis of our own good works, then Christ did all that suffering for nothing. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat great drops of blood as He pleaded with the Father to let this cup pass from Him.

The Father’s response was that there was no other way, so Jesus had to go to and through the suffering of the cross. To think that we could save ourselves by our works is like saying to the Father and to our Savior: “You really didn’t have to go through all that suffering because I can save myself by the good works I am doing.”

We must believe in what Jesus finished on the cross: “It is finished.”

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2009


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


Triumphant Faith

October 14, 2016

“…whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance… If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting.”   James 1:2-6

When you encounter a storm in your life, that trial will often bring you to the place where you just don’t know what to do.  You realize you need more wisdom than you have.  James writes that we must let the test of faith lead us to the trust of faith.  When we lack wisdom, we must ask God, Who will be delighted to share God’s wisdom with us.  In the Old Testament when the people of God were fighting against overwhelming numbers, their frantic prayer of faith was, “nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You!” (2 Chronicles 20:12)  Ask God for the wisdom we do not have, and believe our loving Heavenly Father wants to give us that wisdom.

The J.B. Phillips translation writes that we should not treat our trials as intruders but welcome them as friends. The process of working through our trials will teach us the test of faith, which leads to the trust of faith, and brings us to the triumph of faith.  I have been in a wheelchair since 1984 and a bedfast quadriplegic since the late 1990’s.  I have, therefore, thought much about the suffering of disciples.  God is not in denial about the hard reality His people suffer.

In the Bible we are warned that God does not think as we think, nor does God do as we do. (Isaiah 55)  If the desire of my heart is to know God’s will and to live my life in alignment with the will and ways of God, wouldn’t it logically follow that I should not always expect to understand the way I’m going?  Obviously, that includes our suffering.

…Where did we ever get the idea we should expect to understand everything that happens to us? If God gave us an explanation for everything and the answers to all of our why questions, the very essence of faith, the need for faith, would be eliminated.

Almighty God has willed that without faith, we cannot please Him or come to Him (Hebrews 1:6.)  God is pleased when we come to Him in our crucibles of suffering and cry, “if you heal me, that’s all right.  But, if You don’t heal me, that’s all right too, because YOU are all right!”

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p.278-281)


Creation: The Three Missing Links

September 17, 2016

“In the beginning God created…”  (Genesis 1:1)

Most people have heard about the missing link that turns up when comparing the theory of evolution with the Genesis creation account, but there are actually three missing links.  The first missing link is the issue: How did it all begin?  The Bible’s answer is recorded in just two words: “God created.”  It all began with a first act of creation that accounted for the universe, the earth, and all plant life.

The author uses an interesting Hebrew word for created, “barah,” which means “to create something out of nothing.” Since there are no samples that are half plant and half animal there is a second missing link.  The Genesis account again uses “barah” as animal life is created in the water.

There is also no sample that is half animal and half human.  So, for a third time the author of Genesis uses “barah” when God creates mankind.  What is usually considered the missing link is actually this third missing link.  In all three places where the secular scholar struggles for answers, the author of Genesis writes barah: God created.

God began the Bible with the creation account because God knew that one day we would realize that we need an act of creation in our hearts.  We would then also know where to take that need by joining David in the prayer: “Create (barah) in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NLT)

We can also go to Jesus, Who taught the new birth, and the apostles, who, agreeing with David, referred to the new birth as a new creation. (John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Dick Woodward, 19 November 2013


Walking by Faith

August 30, 2016

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? (Proverbs 20:24, NIV)

When God spoke through the prophet Isaiah God told us there is as much difference between the way God thinks and does things and the way we think and do things as the heavens are high above the earth.  Building on that revelation the wisest man who ever lived proposed a logical question: if God is directing the steps of a person how can that person always expect to understand the way they are going?

As a God-passionate person, doing your best to follow the guidance of the Lord, have you ever found yourself completely baffled and blown away by inexplicable happenings like the sudden death of a loved one, or other tragedies?  When we put the two Scriptures quoted above side by side we should expect there to be times when we simply do not understand what God is up to.

Moses explained what he called the “secret things” belong to the Lord but the things God wants us to do God makes very clear (Deuteronomy 29:29).  That means there are secret things God is keeping secret.  If God is keeping those things secret nobody can explain them.

All these verses considered together are telling us that while we walk with God we should not expect to understand everything.  We walk by faith.

Dick Woodward, 19 October 2010


Priorities Target Bull’s Eye

August 13, 2016

“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Picture your priorities as a target with a bull’s eye surrounded by a dozen circles.  As you think and pray about your priorities, what would you call the bull’s eye of your priority target?  Once you have determined that, how would you label the dozen circles that surround your bull’s eye?

Great men of God like Paul could reduce their priorities down to one thing.  Paul’s one thing was to forget what is behind and strain forward to win the prize at the end of the race.  That prize was what God was calling him to do.

Can we reduce the forty eleven things that are spreading us thin down to one thing?  If we were to do so what would that one thing be?  Sometimes there is great wisdom in forgetting the things that are behind.  Then there are times when there is even greater wisdom in determining our one thing type of goal for the future.  How do we do that?

One way is to consider what we might call “eternal values.”   None of the things we are going to leave behind when God calls us home are worth living for while we are here.  Jesus told us: “This is… life, that they may know You … and Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3).

Is knowing God and Christ an eternally focused bull’s eye for our priority target?  Think of how that priority focus will dramatically affect the dozen circles that surround it when our life becomes an expression of the life of God and the risen living Christ.

Dick Woodward, 13 January 2012


The Christmas That Shall Be (Part 1)

December 18, 2015

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”  (Matthew 25:31)

More than 300 times in the New Testament God tells us He is going to affect another intervention in human history.  Read Scriptures like Matthew 24 and 25, I Corinthians 15, II Peter 3 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18.  You will also find this Good News in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets.

You will discover that all these Scriptures proclaim the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which is the blessed hope of authentic followers of Jesus Christ and hope for this world.  Almighty God is coming to earth again!  This time He is not just telling a few chosen people such as a priest, a peasant girl, a carpenter, a few wise men and some shepherds.  God is telling anyone who reads the Bible.

The famous oratorio by Handel, which is sung every Christmas, compiles the Scriptures in the Old and News Testaments that describe the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be.  This magnificent sacred music is simply called, “The Messiah.”

As you reflect on this beautiful music and the Christmas that is yet to be, if you do not believe the 318 New Testament Scriptures, or the many Old Testament prophetic Scriptures concerning the future Christmas, then, like Zacharias in the first chapter of Luke, your mouth is shut by your unbelief.  You know the Good News that could give hope to hopeless people all around you, but your unbelief silences you.

Knowing about the Christmas that shall be would give hope to your sphere of acquaintances who are living without hope.  Do you know, or do you remember, what it is like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope?

Dick Woodward, A Christmas Prescription