A Prayer for the Valleys

July 30, 2021

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”  (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:

“As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me. Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me. I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your personalized, attentive care. I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help in my time of need. You will also pursue me with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust Him to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship with Him forever in Heaven: to green pastures that never turn brown, still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


#FAITH: WATCHING AND LISTENING

July 20, 2021

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength…” Habakkuk 3:17-19

The Old Testament and New Testament history has identified an undeniable reality: good and evil exist side by side. The names and faces of good and evil keep changing, but good and evil have always had a presence in this world. Although forces of evil have tried for thousands of years to destroy the people of God, God’s people still have a presence in this world, by faith.

The devotional application of Habakkuk’s prophesy is that we should build spiritual watchtowers. When facing overwhelming problems, especially Job-like tragedies that nobody understands, watch and listen in your spiritual watchtower. While watching and listening, Habakkuk wants you to know God welcomes your questions.

While everyone else was looking and listening for the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, Habakkuk watched and listened for God. If we watch and listen for God today the way Habakkuk did, we will discover God is still speaking through men and women of faith.

When Habakkuk looked at his problems and circumstances, he sighed and despaired. When Habakkuk turned to God with his doubts and asked God questions, watching and listening for God’s answers, Habakkuk sang.

When you are overwhelmed with Babylon and Job-type challenges, go up in your spiritual watchtower so that you might:

Watch until you see God working in your life.

Listen until you hear God working in your life.

See, hear, and worship God Who is working in your life.

Like Habakkuk, ask God your questions. In God’s time and God’s own way, God will answer your questions – if you are listening!

Dick Woodward, MBC Old Testament Handbook (p.630-632)


A PRAYER FOR GOD’S PEACE

July 2, 2021

Heavenly Father, You tell us in Your Word that You can keep us in a state of perfect peace if we meet Your conditions for that state of peace. Because I seek Your peace in my life, give me the wisdom to worry about nothing, and the faith to pray about everything. May I receive from You the mental discipline to think about all the good things and the integrity to do the right things.

May I always have that incurable optimism that believes in goodness, and give me such an insight into what You have been doing and what You are now doing in my life and in my world that I will give thanks always and in all things. May I never try to push You or run before You, but always wait on You, experiencing and expressing the gentleness and patience that are the evidence of Your Spirit living in me.

As I sort out my priorities, may I always value Your approval of who and what I am and what I do, and not walk before others to be seen by them or to please them. Never let me forget how near You are to me as I draw near to You, worshiping and enjoying You each day and forever.

And finally, Heavenly Father, realizing that it is not who I am, but who You are that is important; acknowledging that it is not what I can do, but what You can do that really matters; agreeing that it should never be what I want, but always what You want; and remembering that in the final analysis it will not be what I did, but what You did that will have lasting eternal results, give me that absolute trust in You and total dependence on You that will truly rest my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

Enable me to meet these conditions for peace in the name of Jesus Christ, for my peace and for Your glory. Amen.

Dick Woodward, 3 July 2009


GOD’S STEWARDS

June 11, 2021

“Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful… And what do you have that you did not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4: 2, 7)

The biblical word “steward” is not fully understood or appreciated. It is actually one of the most important words in the New Testament. A synonym for this word is “manager.” Many people believe this word primarily relates to a person’s money, but that application falls far short of the essential meaning of this word.

When Paul asks the probing question: “And what do you have that you did not receive?” he is telling us that our stewardship applies to everything we receive from God. This means our time, energy, gifts and talents, our health, and all the things that make up the essence of our very life including all of our money and possessions.

At the age of 65 one of my friends had what he refers to as a “halftime” experience when he came to fully appreciate the word “steward.” His regular custom was to draw a line down the middle of a legal pad page. On the left side he wrote “My business” while on the right side he wrote “God’s business.” When he fully appreciated the word “steward” he erased that line because, as a very successful wealthy businessman, he realized it was all God’s business.

Remember, the important thing about a steward is that we are found to be faithful. Do you realize there is nothing in your life you did not receive from God? Do you know that you are to faithfully manage everything you have received from God? Are you willing to have a halftime experience and erase the line between what is yours and what is God’s?

Dick Woodward, 10 June 2010


#FAITH: GATES OF LEARNING

June 8, 2021

“Now we have received… the Spirit who is from God, that we might know…” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

The Apostle Paul has given us a masterpiece of what we might consider spiritual educational psychology. How do we learn? According to Paul there are several gates of learning through which we must pass if we want to know spiritual truth.

Paul’s thesis is that we learn through the eye gate, which involves everything we observe and read. We learn through the ear gate, which involves everything we hear, including lectures and interaction with others, mentors, and those who are learning with us. 

Then the apostle mentions the heart gate, which has to do with volition and the willingness to apply what we’re learning. Apprenticeship, a synonym for discipleship, describes a learner who is doing what they’re learning and learning what they’re doing. This is how Jesus trained His disciples. (John 7:17; Matthew 4:19)

According to Paul the most important gate we must pass through to learn spiritual truth is the Holy Spirit. Paul’s illustration is that no person knows the thoughts of another person except the spirit that is in that other person. In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God but the Spirit of God. Paul is excited about the glorious reality that we have received the Spirit Who knows the very thoughts of God. We can therefore also know the thoughts of God. One translation concludes the Second Chapter of 1 Corinthians with “Incredible as it may seem, we actually have the very mind of Christ!”

Prayerfully meditate on this chapter, then find your way through these gates of learning.

Dick Woodward, 08 June 2010


GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!

June 4, 2021

“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 suffering brought Job to the bottom of despair’s pit and he received his 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)

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. 

Job received his Messianic revelation when he “bottomed out” through suffering. God also made Jeremiah know the truth about God’s 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 inspired meditating upon God’s miraculous 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 possible miracle, however, is that as Jeremiah received his revelation weeping in his grotto on the hill of Golgotha, he could have been sitting on the very spot God was going to pour out God’s Love on the whole world.

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Old Testament Handbook


God Comforts Us (in times of suffering!)

June 1, 2021

“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, J. B. Phillips)

Suffering can drive us to God in such a way we make this discovery: God is there and God can comfort us. When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can experience in this lifetime.

As a pastor I have frequently heard people say that God met them in a supernatural and intimate way while they were going through a medical crisis.Two weeks ago a man for whom I’ve been praying for twenty years wrote from another part of the country to say he has come to faith. God gave him that absolute assurance while he was undergoing a critical life-threatening surgery.

Many of us have known people we loved who are depressed and oppressed.They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want the caring people in their lives to be with them.

Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in a self-imposed solitary confinement. If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this discovery: God is there, and God can comfort you!

Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort. Comfort me in my pain, and when I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are there, You are real, and You can comfort me. I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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


LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

May 28, 2021

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

After a devastating battle during World War I, Canadian army surgeon John McCrae composed one of the greatest war poems ever written. In it he gave voice to thousands of soldiers who lay dead, summing up their lives on earth with this line: “Loved and were loved, but now we lie in Flanders Fields.”

When we come to the end of our lives, one of our most important priorities will be those we love, and those who love us. But we should not wait to focus our priorities.

The Apostle Paul declared the agape love of God to be the number one priority of spiritual people: “…and the greatest of these is love.”

A PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence and even in tongues, but without love, we’re just a lot of noise. If we have all knowledge to understand all the Greek mysteries, the gift to speak as prophets, and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all these things we are nothing. If we give all our money to feed the poor and our bodies to be burned at the stake as martyrs, if we give and die without love it profits us nothing.

Nothing we are, nothing we ever become, nothing we have, and nothing we ever will have in the way of natural and spiritual gifts should ever move ahead of love as our first priority.

Nothing we do, or ever will do as an expression of our faith, our gifts, our knowledge, or our generous, charitable, unconditionally-surrendered heart is worthy of comparison, or can replace love as we live out our personal priorities in this world.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

May 25, 2021

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

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.”

The Apostle Paul also challenges us to pray: “tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6) 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. Paul had a physical condition 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


God’s Will and God’s Word

May 21, 2021

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Isaiah tells us there is as much difference between the thoughts and ways of God and the way we think and do things as the heavens are high above the earth. He then goes on to describe one of the supernatural functions of the Word of God: it establishes an alignment between our thoughts, ways and wills, and the thoughts, ways and will of God.

I once heard Billy Graham tell of boarding a plane before he was famous. He spoke to an old pastor friend who was sitting in an aisle seat reading his Bible who completely ignored him. When they had been in flight for an hour, the pastor came back to where Billy was seated and greeted him enthusiastically. 

He apologized for ignoring Billy earlier. He said, “When I pray, I am talking to God, but when I open God’s Word, He talks to me. He was talking to me when you spoke to me and I could not interrupt God just to talk to Billy Graham.”

Thomas à Kempis opened his Bible every morning with this prayer: “Let all the voices be stopped. Speak to me Lord, Thou alone.” If we sincerely want to know the will of God, we must be in relationship and in conversation with God. 

To seek the will of God, we should speak to our loving Heavenly Father in prayer and expect God to speak to us as we open the Word of God.

Dick Woodward, 25 May 2013