Psalm 23: Pause & Be Calm!

April 13, 2021

“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)

What is the basis of the unquenchable faith of David? What gives him the assurance that all the blessings he described in Psalm 23 will be experienced all the days of his life?

The word Selah, found frequently in the Psalms of David, can be interpreted: “Pause and calmly think about that.” If we pause and calmly think about it, we realize that all through Psalm 23 David presents his Shepherd as the great Initiator of their relationship.

It is the Shepherd Who gets David’s attention then makes him lie down and say, “baa,” confessing he is a sheep and the Lord is his Shepherd. It is the Shepherd Who makes David lie down where green pastures are and then leads him beside still waters. It is the Shepherd Who uses His staff when David strays from Him, and drives him into paths of righteousness that restore his soul.

As David walks through the valley of the shadow of death, his confidence is not in his own ability as a warrior to see himself through that valley. His confidence is clearly in his Shepherd. David is looking to God for his protection and provision.

The source of David’s confident faith is clearly seen in the way the New Jerusalem Bible translates this verse: “Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.” It is also expressed in the words of the hymn, “I Sought the Lord,” written by George McDonald.

            “I find, I walk, I love, but Oh the whole of love

            Is but my answer, Lord to Thee.

            For You were long beforehand with my soul.

            Always, you have loved me.”

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


The Saint James 5:16 Fellowship

April 9, 2021

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16)

When Alcoholics Anonymous first started it was called “The Saint James Fellowship” because it was founded on this verse. The founders later changed the name to include people of all faiths and those with no faith. While millions of secular people apply the truths of this Scripture and experience healing, it is a shame many believers never make these healing applications.

When you meet with another believer, do you keep your sins in the closet?  Do you give the impression that you don’t have a problem in the world? Do they do the same?  That does not burden you to pray for each other.  But if you trust them and share some of your challenges with them they will be burdened to pray for you. They would also more than likely have what I call “reality contact” with you by sharing their challenges that will burden you to pray for them. The result of these mutual prayers will be mutual healing.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote extensively about spiritual community, put it this way: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So they remain alone with their sins, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”

A paraphrase of James 5:16 is that honest prayers explode with power!  It is a strategy of the evil one to isolate us into self imposed solitary confinement. Never let the evil one isolate you into being a closet sinner; instead, find healing in confessing your sins and praying for one another.

Dick Woodward, 14 April 2013


#FAITH: The Gospel in Reverse

April 6, 2021

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

This past weekend many heard the Good News that Jesus died and rose again for our sins that we might live forever in resurrection power with Him. Have you ever heard of the Gospel in reverse? The verse I quoted above sounds like a funeral dirge because it begins with Paul’s announcement that he is crucified with Christ.

But, in this verse Paul exclaims three times that he lives! He lives by faith in the Son of God. He lives because Christ lives in him, and he lives because he is crucified with Christ. To summarize and paraphrase, Paul is declaring the Good News that Christ died so he might live and now it’s his turn. Paul must die so Christ might live His life through Paul.

When our holidays roll around we hear that it should be Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter every day of the year. If you want to have a perpetual Easter, realize that what was true of the Apostle Paul can be true for you and me.

Jesus consistently challenged His followers to take up their cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9: 23) In addition to the literal meaning this could have had in that culture, by application to take up your cross daily means to “crucify” all the personal hopes, ambitions and plans you had for your life asking Him to have His will for your life.

Christ died that you might live. Now it’s your turn.

Dick Woodward, 02 April 2013


Good Friday: “It is finished!”

April 2, 2021

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

These last words of Jesus on the cross actually are one word in the original language: “Tetelesti.” In those days 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. 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 on the 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 we can save ourselves by our works is like saying to our Heavenly 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.”

Do you believe in what Jesus finished on the cross? “It is finished.”

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2009


#FAITH: FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING

March 26, 2021

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  Matthew 6:12

In Matthew 18, Jesus told the story of a man who owed a great debt. In those days, if you owed a large debt you couldn’t pay, you were sent to prison. Your wife and children were sold into slavery until your debt was paid in full. Since you couldn’t generate any income from prison, you likely would die in prison and your family would be slaves the rest of their lives.

Relative to our currency, the debt in this story of Jesus was a multi-million-dollar debt. Summoned to court, the man who owed this great debt begged for mercy. Miraculously, the one to whom he was indebted out of compassion completely forgave his debt.

On the way home from this extraordinary day in court, this man met a man who owed him twenty dollars and could not pay. He grabbed this poor man by the throat and shouted, “You pay me every cent you owe or I will slam you in prison and sell your family into slavery.”

People who observed both these happenings reported what they witnessed to the man who had forgiven the multi-million-dollar debt. When he heard, he summoned the ungrateful, forgiven man to another court hearing and reversed his compassionate decision.

Having told that story, Jesus pronounced, “Even so my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)

The essential truth Jesus teaches here is that if we see our salvation as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


LORD JESUS, SAVE ME!

March 23, 2021

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30)

The Apostle Peter is the only man besides Jesus Christ who ever walked on water. Yet millions only remember the fact that he took his eyes off Jesus and would have drowned if the Lord had not saved him.

We read his magnificent faith was flawed. He saw the wind. Since we cannot see wind this actually means when he saw what the wind was doing, he lost sight of what Jesus was doing and he was afraid. 

The remarkable thing here is when he kept his eyes on Jesus he walked on water!

It was not until he was beginning to sink that he prayed this prayer that is a model prayer for all of us. Jesus taught that our prayers should not be long and we should never think we will generate grace with God with many words. If Peter had prayed any longer, his words would have been glub, glub glub!

When Jesus caught Peter by the hand He gave him the nickname “Little Faith.” I believe our Lord was smiling when He did. He literally asked Peter “Why did you think twice?”

Rick Warren took his entire congregation of twenty thousand people through the eight steps of what is called “Celebrate Recovery.” When asked why, his response was: “Because we are all in recovery. What do you think the word salvation means?” When we truly understand the meaning of the word salvation, we will frequently pray this prayer.

Lord Jesus, save me!

Dick Woodward, 25 March 2012


Finding God’s Strength in our Weakness

March 19, 2021

“Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?” (Psalm 34:12)

When King Saul pursued David, over 400 fugitives joined him hiding out in caves. (I Samuel 22) They were in debt, in distress and discontent. Psalm 34 gives us little summaries of sermons David preached to the fugitives (viewed as failures in their times) that turned them into his mighty men.

He began by challenging them with questions like: “How many of you want to live? How long do you want to live? Do you want to live so you may see the good?” When asked how long we want to live we almost never give a specific number of years, months, weeks and days. We just answer, “Many!”

In that culture “seeing the good” was an expression that meant a person was convinced there was something good in this life and they were going to find it. David preached that God is the good thing to seek.

After telling them about the most humiliating and frightening experience of his life, his great battle cry to them was: “Magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt God’s name together!” (v. 3)

David identified with the weaknesses of these failures. He preached that the greater their weakness the more they exalted the name of God when God used them. Finding the strength of God in their weakness made them the mighty men of David God used in mighty ways.

Have you learned how to find God’s strength in your weakness?  Have you discovered how the greater your weaknesses – the more you can magnify God?

Dick Woodward, 21 March 2013


DON’T PANIC!

March 16, 2021

“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’”  (Psalm 3:1-2)

As David writes the third Psalm he is facing the greatest crisis of his life. His son has turned the entire nation against him and has driven him out of Jerusalem into the wilderness where he hid from King Saul when he was a young fugitive. His situation is so desperate many people said that even God could not help him. 

But in this psalm David explains how he knows God will be there for him. He is not having a panic attack so he gives us a prescription for one.

Observe the way David uses three tenses as he lays out his prescription that kept him from panicking. He recalls that in the past there were many times when he cried out to God and God heard him. When he lay down to sleep not knowing if the enemy would slit his throat while he was sleeping, he awoke alive because God sustained him. 

He then declared he will not be afraid of the thousands of people who want to see him dead. He goes on in the present tense that God is with him and His present blessing is upon him.

When you are in crisis think back to times in the past when God met you and brought you through a crisis. Then let those past answered prayers inspire you to trust God for the present and future crises in your life.

Look back. With faith, look forward. Then look around at your present circumstances, not with panic but with faith and peace.

Dick Woodward, 18 March 2012


GOD’S AMAZING GRACE

March 12, 2021

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand…but we also boast 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…”  (Romans 5:1-5)

In Paul’s letter to Roman believers, he writes God has given us access by faith to a quality of grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Jesus Christ in this world. Paul writes we should rejoice in tribulation, because it is suffering that forces us to access the grace God makes available to us.

In another verse about grace from the Apostle Paul, we read:“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

According to Paul, God is able to make all grace (not just a little bit of grace), abound (not just trickle), toward you (not just your pastor and missionaries, but toward you), that you (he repeats you for emphasis), always (not just sometimes), having all sufficiency (not just some sufficiency), in all things (not just some things), may abound (not just limp along), unto every good work (not just some good works).

All grace, abounding, always, all of you, I mean all of you, all sufficiency, all things, always abounding in all the good works God wants to do through you!

Do you believe in the amazing grace of God?

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


#FAITH – PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

March 5, 2021

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  Philippians 4:6

It is easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them? Paul does not leave us in a vacuum here. He goes on to prescribe: “Pray about everything!”

Psalm 46:1 states: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” An alternate reading states that God is “abundantly available for help in tight places.” As a result of our prayers, God can deliver us from tight places.

Someone once said, “When it is hardest to pray, pray the hardest!” Paul was delivered from many tight places. He knew from personal experience, however, that God does not always take our problems away. Paul had a physical “thorn in the flesh” he asked God three times to take away. 

Paul saw many people healed as he ministered with the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, when he asked God to solve his health problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.” Instead God essentially said, “I’m going to give you the grace to cope.”  (II Corinthians 12)

When God gave Paul grace to cope, he discovered the power of Christ was upon him in a mighty way. Paul learned that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul later shares his weakness became a showcase in which the strength of God was exhibited.

Paul learned that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or it may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray.  Always pray about everything.

Tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer.” 

Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Peace