#FAITH & #PATIENCE

May 22, 2020

“They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

We must learn the difference between what we can do and what only God can do. We must have faith to wait on the Lord until He empowers and enables us to do what He desires.

I have summarized waiting on the Lord in Four Spiritual Secrets: I’m not, but He is; I can’t, but He can; I don’t want to, but He want to; and I didn’t, but He did.’ 

These spiritual secrets affirm that it is not a matter of who we are, but Who God is; it’s not a matter of what we can do, but what God can do; it’s not a matter of what we want, but what God wants. If these first three secrets are in place, we will know the joy of one day looking back and affirming it was not a matter of what we did, but what God did through us.

When I first began learning these spiritual secrets, I’d say, “I can’t, but He can.” Then, as a mover and shaker, I’d look at my watch, “I’ll give God five minutes, and if He doesn’t, I will!”

It took 40 years and a bush to teach Moses how to wait on the Lord, and it has taken 40 years for me to learn how to wait on the Lord the way an eagle waits on the wind.

Waiting on the Lord was not my style until my (quadriplegia) illness forced me to learn why an eagle sits on the side of its nest and waits until the wind currents are strong enough to soar over the winds of a storm.

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


#FAITH, GRACE & PERSEVERANCE

March 20, 2020

 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Rejoice in your sufferings, knowing what? In the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul begins by writing that God has given us access, by faith, to grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ in this world and live a life that glorifies God.

Imagine how it must make God feel when He has given us access to all the grace we need to live for Christ in this world – and we never access that grace. According to Paul, suffering enters our lives that we cannot bear without drawing on God’s grace we access by faith.

Paul writes that as we receive the grace to endure our suffering God produces mature Christ-like character in our lives such as perseverance.

When you ask the question, “How does an orange get to be an orange?” The answer is, “By hanging in there.”

That is the essence of perseverance.

When some followers of Christ find themselves suffering, their immediate response is “Lord, deliver me from this, immediately!” He can and sometimes He does.

But He often does not. When Christ does not, it may be His will to grow spiritual character in the life of His follower. When that is what God is doing Paul is telling us we should rejoice in our sufferings, access grace by faith, and then grow spiritually.

Dick Woodward, 19 March 2009


#FAITH: Asking, Seeking, Knocking

March 3, 2020

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The author of Hebrews 11, the faith chapter of the Bible, presents what we might call “The Hall of Faith.” He parades by heroes of faith who show us by the way they lived what faith is. Before exhibiting these walking definitions of faith, the author writes a few introductory thoughts. He writes that without faith it is impossible to please God or come to God.

He adds that if we want to come to God and please God we must believe two things about God: We must believe that God is, and that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.

In two places (Matthew 7 and Luke 11), Jesus taught that we should continuously – and with perseverance – ask, seek, and knock. With this exhortation, Jesus promises that everyone who asks in this way will receive, everyone who seeks in this way will find, and the one who knocks in this way will discover that the door on which they are knocking will open to them.

Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking.

Jesus was not talking about salvation when He gave this exhortation. He was teaching us how to diligently seek God. According to the author of Hebrews, this is a prerequisite to pleasing God and coming to God. Can there be such a thing as an authentic believer who does not want to come to God and please God?

If you want to come to God and please God, find out what it means to diligently seek God.

Dick Woodward, 01 March 2011


God’s #Mercy & Unconditional #Love

February 4, 2020

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

The reality that God loves us unconditionally is often described in the Bible by one word: “mercy.” This word is found 366 times in the Bible. That’s one for every day of the year – and even leap year – because God knows we need His mercy every day. 280 of these references to God’s mercy are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite is the last verse of the 23rd Psalm where David wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the word “follow” can be translated as “pursue.” This means that David believed the unconditional love of God pursued him all the days of his life.

What a dynamic truth. God not only loves us unconditionally, He pursues us with His unconditional love all the days of our lives.

Does that mean our Heavenly Father loves us when He is cutting us back or chastening us? Absolutely! The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that if God did not chasten us we would be like illegitimate children and not His sons and daughters.

Chastening confirms the reality that God loves us.

When we are experiencing one of those cutbacks, rather than thinking that God does not love us anymore – the opposite is true.

God is pursuing us with His unconditional love.

Dick Woodward, 06 February 2009


(Always!) Pray About Everything

January 28, 2020

“…tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6)

It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them? The Apostle Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum when he prescribed: “Pray about everything!”

The Word of God exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate reading in the New Standard version, “God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places.” God delivered Paul from many tight places. We should therefore always pray in a crisis: “When it’s hardest to pray, pray the hardest!”

However, from personal experience Paul knew that God doesn’t always take our problems away. He had a physical condition that he described as a thorn in the flesh.” Three times he asked God to take it away. Paul saw many people miraculously healed as he ministered the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them. Yet, when he asked God to solve his own health problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.”

But God also responded, “My grace is sufficient for you and that is all you need. My strength looks good on weak people.” (2 Corinthians 12) His weakness drove Paul to discover the strength of God. When he did, he not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so the power of God might be showcased in him.

As Paul accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he learned that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul exhorts us from his personal experience that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or prayer may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray.

Always pray about everything!

 Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


God’s Peace: Trusting and Thinking

January 24, 2020

“…think on these things…”  (Philippians 4:8)

Paul and Jesus agree that we should think our way to peace (in addition to fervent prayer.) Jesus challenged us: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23)

Jesus was talking about how we think and look at things – our mindset and outlook.

Paul gives us the same counsel in this condition for peace: we can decide how we are going to think, and how we are not going to think. He challenges us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good news. How much time do we spend thinking about things that are untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, ugly, and bad news?

Isaiah wrote, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) Paul and Isaiah agree that if trust is always, peace is perfect and perpetual. If trust is up and down, peace is up and down. If there is no trust, there is no peace, because we must keep our minds continuously fixed on God, trusting.

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison chained between two soldiers 24/7. Guards changed every 4 hours, which means he never had a moment of privacy. He had to practice this condition for peace continually: “Fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and praiseworthy,” then, “the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”

In the context of our own experiences of terrifying stress, like combat, being violated by a crime, a terrible accident, surgery, prison, the news that we have a malignancy, or the final stages of an illness, this prescription can give us peace.

“Think on these things…”

Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


#FAITH: A Bull’s Eye Focus

January 10, 2020

“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 is 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 the Apostle 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 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 eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

Will knowing God be an eternally focused bull’s eye for our priority target this year? Think of how that priority will dramatically affect the dozen circles that surround it when our lives become expressions of the love of God and the risen living Christ.

Dick Woodward, 13 January 2012


Walking in the Light of God’s Will

January 7, 2020

“Only let us live up to the truth we now have.” (Philippians 3:16)

The Apostle Paul had a life changing experience on the road to Damascus. He shared the details of that experience in the third chapter of his letter to the Church at Philippi. It was as if his accounting books were turned upside down – what had been in the gain column was now in the loss column and vice versa.

After his books had been turned upside down, or we might say right side up, Paul’s ambitions totally changed in the gain column. He wanted to tackle the purposes for which the risen Christ had tackled him. Now he only wanted to know Jesus Christ and the high calling of God to which Christ was leading him.

Paul claims that he has not attained these things in his new gain column, but he has learned a principle about knowing the will of God: if we want to know the will of God we must live up to the Light and truth God has given us at any given time on our faith journey.

From Paul’s experience we can take away a prescription for guidance. If we want to see further ahead into the will of God for our lives, then we should move ahead into the will of God just as far as we can see.

Like driving across country at night when we move ahead into the 100 yards of light our headlights give us – that light can lead us clear across our country.

When we live up to the Light we have, God gives us more Light.

Dick Woodward, 08 January 2011


#FAITH: Steps for Regeneration

November 15, 2019

“This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)

An allegory is a story in which people, places and things have a deeper meaning. In addition to being the record of a supernatural miracle, the story of Jesus turning water into wine is a beautiful allegory that shows us how to be born again.

Carefully and prayerfully read the story. (John 2:1-11)

A first step is expressed in the words of Mary when she tells Jesus: “They have no wine.”  Wine is a symbol of joy in the Bible. This statement of Mary is like a confession. Our first step in being born again is to confess that we have no wine (joy) and we need to be born again.

A second step in this formula is when Jesus tells the servants to fill the huge thirty gallon jars with water. The Scripture is sometimes symbolized by water because of the way it cleanses. A devotional application here could therefore be that our second step toward regeneration would be to fill our human vessel with the Word of God.

A third step is pictured when Mary tells the servants to “do whatever Jesus tells you to do.” While we are filling our vessel with the Word we must do what Jesus tells us to do.

The fourth step is when Jesus tells the servants to draw out what they had just poured into the huge jars and serve it as wine. Precisely, when did the water become wine? I’m convinced it was when the servants had the faith to serve the water as wine. We are born again when we believe Jesus can turn our water into wine and show His glory through us.

Dick Woodward, 14 November 2011


#LOVE: THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD

November 8, 2019

“There are three things that last — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What is the greatest thing in the world? The Apostle Paul sifts his answer down to three things: hope, faith and love. Hope is the conviction that there can be good in life. God plants hope in the hearts of human beings.

Hope gives birth to faith, and faith is one of the greatest things because faith brings us to God. However, when Paul compares these two great concepts with love, without hesitation he concludes that love is the greatest thing in the world.

This is true because love is not something that brings us to something that brings us to God. When we experience the special love Paul describes we are in the Presence of God.

There is a particular quality of love that is God and God is a particular quality of love.

To acquaint us with that specific quality of love, in the middle of this chapter Paul passes love through the “prism” of the Holy Spirit that comes out on the other side as a cluster of 15 virtues. All these virtues of love are others-centered, unselfish ways of expressing unconditional love. If you study these virtues you will find in them a cross section of the love that is God – and is the greatest thing in the world.

Paul presents faith, hope and love as the greatest things because they last. Love is the greatest of the three because one day we will no longer need hope and faith when throughout eternity we will be in the Presence of Love.

Therefore, the greatest thing in the world is Love.

Dick Woodward, 08 November 2013