Zacchaeus: Strategic Encounters of Salt & Light

June 21, 2019

…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

In Luke 19, verses 1–10, we encounter Jesus interacting with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. The beautiful part of the Zacchaeus story is that Jesus spends His only day in Jericho with this little crook, and all the people are griping about it.

It would make a great painting if an artist would paint Jesus who was a tall man, according to Josephus, walking home with His arm around small and short Zacchaeus.

Here we see the strategy of Jesus.

Jesus is passing through Jericho. He obviously wants to reach the man who can impact and reach Jericho for Him after he has passed through and beyond the city limits.

It must have made a big impact upon the city when Zacchaeus started calling in the people he had ‘ripped off.’ Imagine their surprise, joy, and awe when they, thinking he was going to get into their purses even deeper, discovered that he wanted to pay them back 400% because he had met Jesus!

This is an illustration and an application of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that the solution, the answer, the salt, the light – is something we are, and that we simply must hear His word and do it.

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.142-143)


Following Jesus: A Prescription for Fullness

June 18, 2019

“This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to live in Him must walk even as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:5-6)

In the first sixteen verses of his short letter, the Apostle John tells us about a prescription for fullness. His prescription comes in seven parts: facts, faith, forgiveness, fellowship, follow-ship, fruitfulness, and then fullness.

John’s facts are the death and resurrection of Jesus. When we have faith to believe the first fact we have forgiveness. When we believe the second the result is fellowship with the risen Christ.

By changing one letter in the word “fellowship” to “follow-ship,” I have come up with the key to John’s prescription for fullness: You will know that you know when you walk as Jesus walked.

This word follow-ship is also a key to the fullness emphasized by Jesus. His covenant with the apostles was “Follow Me and I will make you.” (Matthew 4:19) The most important part of the Great Commission occurred when Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples. (Matthew 28: 18-20)

A synonym for discipleship is apprenticeship. Jesus apprenticed the apostles and He commissioned them to apprentice disciples.

The Gospel of John Chapter 7 records a great claim of Jesus when He declared that His teaching is the teaching of God.  Jesus also proclaimed we prove that when we do what He teaches. (John 7:17)

According to Jesus the doing leads to the knowing. Intellectuals have claimed for millenniums that the knowing will lead to the doing, but Jesus said “When you do you will know.”

Are you willing to do that you might know the the Word of God?

Dick Woodward, 18 June 2011


PENTECOST POWER: SOARING AS EAGLES

June 7, 2019

“He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increases strength… But 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)

When the power of Pentecost came upon the apostles, there was a noise like a mighty rushing wind. As we read how the apostles received the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and then began implementing the Great Commission of Jesus against great persecution, we should think of the eagle leaping off its nest directly into adverse winds to rise and soar above the storm enveloping its nest.

As you see in your mind’s eye the eagle sitting on the side of its nest, waiting for the velocity of the wind to become strong, you have a metaphor that allegorizes an important expression found many times in the Old Testament:

Wait on the Lord.”

It means we are not to go charging ahead without clear direction from the Lord. We are to wait on the Lord. We are exhorted to follow the example of an eagle by waiting until the wind of the Holy Spirit is there to direct, support and empower us.

Then we should follow the eagle’s example and take the leap of faith off our nests directly into the adversity that is challenging us. As the power of the Holy Spirit drives us with a great thrust into the strong winds of a storm, the energizing unction of the Holy Spirit will give us the spiritual aerodynamics we need to lift up and soar.

Dick Woodward, from As Eagles: How to be an Eagle Disciple


God’s Faithfulness (amidst our Lamentations)

June 3, 2019

“He has filled me with bitterness…my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3: 15, 16, 22-23)

When Jeremiah gets to his darkest hour, he receives a revelation of hope and salvation. Just like Job when suffering brought him to the bottom of despair’s pit and he received this Messianic revelation:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last upon the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God!”  (Job 19:25-26)

In the third chapter of his Lamentations, Jeremiah received the same kind of revelation given to Job. After World War II, Corrie ten Boom told people all over the world how, in a Nazi concentration camp, God revealed this truth to her:

“There is no pit so deep but what the love of God is deeper still.” 

This is the same truth God revealed to Jeremiah. God made Jeremiah know the truth about His unconditional love that is taught from Genesis to Revelation: God’s love is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance.

Reading the Lamentations, I am deeply touched and inspired meditating upon God’s revelation to Jeremiah, that all the horror of the Babylonian conquest and captivity did not mean that God no longer loved the people of Judah…

Another awesome possibility is that as Jeremiah received his revelation weeping in his grotto on that hill of Golgotha, he could have been sitting on the very spot God was going to pour out His love on the whole world.

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Old Testament Handbook, (pp. 500-501)

Editor’s Note: After the horrendous shooting last Friday in Virginia Beach, my prayers & love are with all those touched by this senseless violence. My father served as a pastor in Virginia Beach for over 20 years. In times like these, I know he would reiterate Corrie ten Boom’s sentiment: God’s love is deeper than the darkest times we encounter.


(Always) Pray About Everything

May 31, 2019

“…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? 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) Paul’s weakness drove him to discover the strength of God. When he did, he not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so God’s power 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


Spiritual Memorials (on Memorial Day!)

May 27, 2019

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…”  (Philippians 1:3)

It is fitting that we in the United States of America set aside one day each year to memorialize our fallen warriors. In the Old Testament God regularly commanded the Israelites to erect memorials so they would never forget certain events on their journey of faith.

When we study those memorials we realize that God wanted them to remember miracles He performed for them. God never wanted them to forget significant spiritual datelines. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we therefore continuously hear the exhortation to remember!

Memorials are closely linked with the attitude of gratitude and the awful sin of ingratitude. On Memorial Day are you thankful for “The Greatest Generation,” who in the first half of the 1940s saved us from an unthinkable future without freedom and throughout decades of the Cold War from more of the same? Does your memorial gratitude continue through those who fell in Korea, Vietnam and now in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Do you have spiritual memorial datelines for which you are grateful as you remember them before God? Do you have a dateline of when you came to faith in what Christ did for you on the cross?

Do you have spiritual datelines beyond that point of beginning your faith journey, when the risen Christ proved Himself to you in miraculous ways? Do you have a dateline when He made you know what He wants you to do for Him?

In the fulfillment of that vision has He brought significant people into your life to help you bring that vision into reality?

Then have a spiritual Memorial Day and be filled with grateful worship!

Dick Woodward, 31 May 2010


#Faith (as Eagles): Preening in the Morning

May 24, 2019

“Let me hear of Your steadfast love in the morning, for in You I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul.” (Psalm 143:8)

Early every morning the eagle preens its feathers for more than an hour. Sitting on the side of its nest, the eagle passes each feather through its mouth, something like steam cleaning while depositing a liquid that makes its feathers water repellent.

This is important because eagles fish by diving under water. The fluid deposited on their feathers also locks them together to improve their aerodynamics. Whether an eagle is planning to fish or not, every morning for an hour they sit on the side of their nest and preen.

They are not primping, they are preening – a very prudent preparation.

Like you and me, eagles never know what challenges they may face on any given day. Therefore, they preen in preparation for every possible challenge each day may hold.

Do you wake up holy in the morning? Before you’ve had your coffee?

It’s possible for spiritual people to wake up holy, but if we’re honest we will concede that most of the time we don’t wake up that way.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “With your first waking moment learn to fling the door wide back and invite God in. Then pray in private to your Father, Who is in the secret place, and every public thing will be stamped with the presence of God.”

It is very important to make a good beginning each day. When we consider the eagle’s daily practice of early morning preening preparation, we are challenged to begin every day of our lives with spiritual preparation.

Have you preened your spirit with God’s help this morning?

Dick Woodward, (from As Eagles: How to be an Eagle Disciple)