October 16, 2018
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Who was the greatest prophet who ever lived? According to Jesus the answer is John the Baptist. (Luke 7:28, Matthew 11:11) After studying the Scripture for six decades I find that answer intriguing because very little space in the Bible records John the Baptist’s life and ministry.
Meditating on the Scriptures that describe him, I have come to the conclusion that at least one key to his greatness is that he accepted the limits of his limitations and the responsibility for his abilities.
As we attempt to discover who we are and what God wants to do through our lives it is a good rule of thumb to accept the limits of our limitations and the responsibility for our abilities. When a degenerative disease of the spinal cord took away my physical abilities (26 years ago), it was vital for me to accept my increasing limitations and continue to be responsible for my abilities.
After the first two years of crippling illness when acceptance came, it was so profound it felt like a form of inner healing. Using speech recognition software on my computer I received the grace to write about ten thousand pages of what we call The Mini Bible College. These 782 studies of the Bible have been translated into 28 languages in 60 countries.*
It fills me with grateful worship to realize that the formula for greatness I learned from John the Baptist guided me to the most important work I have done for Jesus Christ.
Are you willing to accept the limits of your limitations and the responsibility for your abilities?
Dick Woodward, 16 October 2012
*Editor’s Note: As of October 2018, the Mini Bible College has been translated into 48 languages (with 12 more in production) impacting 84 countries. Thanks be to God and the ongoing work of International Cooperating Ministries.
September 28, 2018
“My Word… will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
In this marvelous chapter taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, he tells us why he preached the Word of God. Earlier in this chapter Isaiah proclaimed that there is as much difference between the way we think and act, and how God thinks and acts, as the heavens are high above the earth. He tells us he preached the Word of God because God’s Word can bring about an alignment between the way God thinks and acts and the way we think and act.
There is a strong emphasis in the Scripture on the importance of our will being in alignment with the will of God. Jesus made one of His greatest prayers when He sweat great drops of blood and prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.” He taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done on earth (and in their earthen vessels) as it is in Heaven.”
The Word of God describes the struggle between God and men like Moses, Job, Jonah, and many others who finally submit their wills to the will of God – and the will of God is done in and through them on earth as it is in heaven. When God declares through Isaiah that His Word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it, I am convinced that this is one of the purposes God had in mind.
When you read and hear the Word of God proclaimed, will you let God accomplish this purpose for the Word of God?
Will you let the Word of God bring about an alignment between your will and the will of God?
Dick Woodward, 28 September 2010
September 18, 2018
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1Timothy 4:16)
Although it seems contradictory to the ethical teachings of the Old and New Testaments, the Apostle Paul is coaching Timothy to join what we may call the “Me First Club.” While we are trying to understand humility as taught in the Bible and learning to love our neighbors as ourselves, the very sound of a “Me First Club” seems to generate loud screeching discord.
If we think about it, however, there are places where we are instructed by our Lord Jesus to put ourselves first. For example, in the opening verses of Chapter 7 of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus teaches us that when it comes to judging we should join the “Me First Club.” Showing a great sense of humor Jesus taught that we should not be looking for tiny specks of sawdust in the eyes of others when we have plank-sized logs in our own eyes. His priority was that we are to first get the logs out of our own eyes, and then we will see clearly to help others with the tiny specks in their eyes.
Paul instructs Timothy that before he challenges others to apply the Word of God to their lives that they might experience salvation, he is to first apply the Word of God to his own life and experience salvation himself.
In areas like salvation and judging are you willing to say “Me First?”
Dick Woodward, 15 September 2010
September 7, 2018
“… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
According to the Bible there is a time to remember and a time to forget. In the Old Testament God frequently instructs the Israelites to erect a monument to remember a great miracle that God did for them. In the New Testament Paul wrote a letter to the Church at Ephesus. Since he taught them more thoroughly and longer than any church he founded, in his letter he frequently exhorts them to remember what he taught them. When he wrote to the Church in Philippi, he exhorts them to forget the things that are behind and reach forward to the things that shall be.
This principle of remembering and forgetting is nowhere more important than when we apply it to our sins. God clearly wants us to remember that we are sinners. When God forgives our sins, however, God forgets them and wants us to do the same. Regarding our sins, we therefore need to remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets.
As a pastor for more than 50 years I have been amazed in my own life and in the lives of those who call me pastor at how prone we are as believers to forget that we are sinners. That’s at least one reason why we sin again and again. It has also amazed me to realize how often we confess our sins and believe God has forgiven us, but then carry our guilt baggage with us for the better part of a lifetime.
One way to win the battle against sin is to remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets.
Dick Woodward, 07 September 2010
August 21, 2018
“And a great windstorm arose…but He said to them, ‘How is it that you have no faith?’…and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:35-40)
If you read this story recorded in the Gospel of Mark (referenced above) you will see that Jesus directed the apostles to get into their boat and cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. On this sea crossing a great storm fell upon them. The apostles woke Jesus with the question: “Don’t you care that we are all going to drown?” After turning the great storm into a great calm He asked them a great question:
“How is it that you have no faith?”
Jesus had been teaching them that He is the King of the Kingdom of God and they are subjects in that Kingdom. Did they really think all of this was going to come to an end at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee? One translation renders His great question: “Do you not even yet believe in me?” Another puts it: “When are you going to get some faith?”
Before we are too hard on the apostles, let’s apply the essential truth of this story personally. Jesus has promised that He will take us from this side of life to the next dimension called heaven. While we are on this journey, if a great storm falls upon us do we believe that storm declares all His promises to be null and void? Or do we have a quality of faith that can turn a great storm into a great calm?
Like the apostles, are we willing to let Jesus turn the storms in our lives into classrooms in which God can strengthen, grow and authenticate our faith?
Dick Woodward, 20 August 2010
Editor’s Note: The blog posting elf didn’t catch it until yesterday, but August 14th marked 10 years in the blogosphere for this 4 Spiritual Secrets blog. Many thanks (again) to M.K. Sizemore for setting up the graphics and helping the elf initially figure out WordPress. Dick Woodward (the elf’s bedfast quadriplegic papa) painstakingly wrote over 400 blog posts using voice-activated software before he passed in 2014. We had a grand time editing each post with emails back & forth, then sitting together in front of Papa’s big computer screen with final changes before the elf posted them online for all to read. He is now resting in the Everlasting Arms of God’s love, but his words of wisdom & faith remain to help us find calm amidst our (at times stormy) life journeys.
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
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