#Grace: The Gift of God

August 25, 2020

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

This verse is not teaching the random chaos of life. This verse instead parallels a truth emphasized in the Bible and expressed by the word grace. The truly significant events in the life of a believer are the result of grace and not the results of self effort.

The charisma of God upon the work of your hands will make the difference between your life having eternal significance and your life’s work amounting to wood, hay and stubble in the eternal state. (1Corinthians 3:12-15; Psalm 90:17)

The writings of the Apostle Paul are filled with emphasis upon the concept of grace. The word grace means “unmerited favor.”

The blessing of God upon us is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance. The grace of God and the love of God are unconditional.

When you understand the meaning of the word grace which is found in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, it follows that the race is not to the swift or strong or wise or skilled…

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Dick Woodward, MBC Old Testament Handbook, p.428

#faith #hope #love #grace #belief #inspiration


The Lord is My Shepherd (But?)

August 18, 2020

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

These are some of the most familiar words in the Bible beloved by devout people everywhere. According to this Shepherd Psalm of David, the key to the real blessings 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. That relationship is established in the second verse of Psalm 23 when David writes, “He makes me to lie down.”

However, the spirit in which we recall these words 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 all kinds of problems 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

#Faith #Hope #Love #Prayer #Psalm23 #Inspiration


#Faith & Sacred Individuality

August 14, 2020

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father…” (Luke 16:17-18)

The dictionary defines self as “the uniqueness, the individuality of any given person, which makes them distinct from every other living person.” In all its forms “self” emphasizes the sacred individuality God intended for every human being.

Robert Lewis Stephenson wrote: “Soon or late, every person must sit down to a banquet of consequences.” In the parable of the prodigal son, the banquet of consequences the son sat down to was the slop he was feeding hogs in a hog pen. That was just about as low as a Jewish boy could sink in this life. (Luke 15:11-24)

In the hog pen the prodigal son made the decision many people make while they are living in the hog pens of this world. He decided that he was not a hog. He might look, and even smell, like the hogs. He might wish he could eat the slop he was feeding the hogs. But he was not a hog.

He was a son and he did not belong there, he belonged in his father’s house. He therefore made the deliberate decision to leave the hog pen and return to his father’s house and his father’s love.

Jesus described the decision of the prodigal son this way: “when he came to himself…” He came back to his self when he decided to return to his father’s love where he could be in the process of perceiving, believing and becoming the unique person his father wanted him to be.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Your Self

#hope #love #grace #mercy #Jesus #inspiration


#FAITH : Setback vs. Cutback?

August 11, 2020

“…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15:2)

My mentor Ray Stedman loved to tell a story about the famous violinist Paganini. As a brilliant violinist and a 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.

The string would pop and the audience would gasp, but the most famous violinist in the world would keep on playing. Paganini did this repeatedly and dramatically until he only had one string left on his violin.

As a violin virtuoso he would then play the entire concerto on that one string.

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

My precious wife has lost the use of her left arm and I have 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 playing the concerto of our lives.

The explanation of Jesus was 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 that events in your life that you consider a setback are actually the cutback of your loving Lord and Savior who wants your life to be fruitful and your reward to be great in heaven?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2012

#hope #inspiration #prayer #trust #joy #Jesus #belief #courage


Balm from The Psalms

August 7, 2020

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1 KJV)

One of my favorite Scripture verses is the first verse of Psalm 4. David is in a wringer and he is talking to God about it. Almost parenthetically he drops this thought, “You have enlarged me when I was in distress.” As I reflect upon my wringer years of disability and I think of the growth I have experienced while in the wringer, that little phrase says it for me.

Truly God has grown me in my time of distress.

Psalm 46 is also a great psalm that applies to servants of the Lord when they are living on the edge and the whole world seems to be coming unraveled like a cheap sweater.

The opening verse could be interpreted this way, “God is my refuge and strength. God is abundantly available for help in tight places.” It can be applied devotionally to believers who live in difficult contexts. The punchline comes when the Psalmist instructs the believer in the midst of chaos to “Be still and know that I am… and that I will be.”

I hope you have a chance to check out Psalm 143. David cries to God, “Answer me speedily because my spirit fails. Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning. Cause me to know the way in which I should walk.”

I like the last part when David prays, “Revive me.” The old King James reads “quicken me.” That word, quicken, means something like “give me a touch from You that will spring to life the work of the Spirit in my heart and life.”

…Recently I heard someone say, “When saying goodbye to a fellow soldier of Jesus Christ, we should never say, “Take it easy.” We should say, “Hang tough and fight the good fight.”

Hang in there!

Dick Woodward, (1997 fax to his daughter)


#FAITH: GIVING VS. GETTING

August 4, 2020

“… 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.” Jesus began His greatest discourse with a check-up from the neck-up. He shared eight Beatitudes that can make us salt of the earth and light of the world. (Matthew 5)

The “Ninth Beatitude” of Jesus can transform and revolutionize our relationships.

If you are in a relationship, like a marriage, for what you can get from that other person, here’s a challenge for you. For one week, instead of thinking of what you are going to get, ask yourself continuously what you can give to that person.

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 vacuum. But this attitude can transform a relationship if one or both of the people in that relationship will dare to accept this challenge.

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

I exhort you to accept this challenge for one week. If you do, the impact it will have on your relationships will convince you that this is inspired by the Word of God. 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

#hope  #love  #Jesus  #Beatitudes  #relationships  #happiness


#FAITH: The Vine & Fruitful Branches

July 31, 2020

“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 with Him, Jesus essentially said that the key to His preaching, teaching, and supernatural ministry is that He and the Father are one.

The Word of the Father was spoken on earth and the work of the Father was 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 He would do His work on earth through them.

While they were in a garden, Jesus pulled down a vine that had many branches loaded with fruit. He 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.

Jesus wants to see fruit produced far more than the apostles want to be fruitful. By this inspired metaphor, He 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 fruitful branches?

Dick Woodward, 31 July 2012


#FAITH & OPENNESS TO NEW THINGS

July 28, 2020

“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. First God has to get us out of the old place. That is not easy because we often love the security of where we are. God therefore has to blast us out of the old. 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 is that God has to keep us going to pull us through the transition time between the old place and the new place to which God is leading us. Transition times can be difficult!

The verse above 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 eleven days. 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 enough faith to enter into the new place God is leading us?

The third challenge is that God has to make us right to settle us into the new place God has for us. One translation of 2 Corinthians 6:1 reads that we are “co-operators” with God.

When we realize what God is trying to do in our lives, are we ready to give God a little more cooperation?

Dick Woodward, 24 July 2009


STICKABILITY: #Faith + #Perseverance

July 24, 2020

“Let us rejoice in our sufferings because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

If you study the original language in which these verses were written, you will discover that the Apostle Paul is essentially saying: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces the quality of character that will not run when things get difficult.”

The Greek word Paul used for character conveys a meaning similar to various patches military people wear that show they have been tested and proven. Paul told us suffering produces endurance, and receiving from the Lord the grace to endure our suffering produces proven character.

When you have been tested and proved, the caliber of character that testing produces is often grown in the soil of suffering.

Paul also writes that proven character leads to confidence and hope. When you have developed character that perseveres, you will not be put to flight. Years ago visiting missionaries in challenging places overseas, I learned one of the most important abilities of faith is stickability.

Can we live out our lives as a fragrance of Christ, an irrefutable statement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are hostile toward Jesus and His followers?

Our faith is living Christ until people we desire to reach “see Christ in our mortal flesh,” to borrow words from one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. (2Corinthians 4:11)

Perseverance is stickability: the ability to hang in there, and keep hanging in there. That is how an orange gets to be an orange; it just keeps hanging in there until it becomes an orange.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


A Message of #LOVE

July 17, 2020

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

The Apostle John points to Jesus dying on the cross and writes: “This is love… that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10) He follows that with the words quoted above: if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Hours before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus challenged the men He had been apprenticing 24/7 for three years to love one another as He had loved them. He then prophesied that by this the whole world would know they were His disciples.

Peter wrote that by His death on the cross Jesus has given us an example and a calling that we should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

The Apostle John is in alignment with Jesus and Peter when he gives us yet another reason we are to love one another. In principle Jesus was instructing the apostles that the best way to reach out is to reach in.

Essentially, Jesus was saying that we have a message of love to communicate to the world. The best way to do that is to love one another and show the world a community of love.

If our churches were the colonies of love Jesus desires them to be, the love-starved people of this world would be beating our doors down to be part of our spiritual communities. Everyone has a need to be loved and to belong. The love John is profiling is the greatest evangelistic tool our Lord has given His Church.

Are you willing to reach in that you might reach out for His glory?

Dick Woodward, 20 July 2010