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


Willing To Do God’s Will

May 18, 2021

“Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether My teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17)

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He taught them to say, “Your will be done.” When Jesus modeled this, He sweat drops of blood as He prayed, “Not My will, but Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10; 26:39; Luke 22:42-44) 

Jesus gives us a principle that shows us how we can know His teaching is the teaching of God. This also applies when we are seeking to know the will of God.

The principle is simply this: If anyone wills to do, he or she will know.

Psalm 139:16 states that God had every day of David’s life scheduled before David existed. David writes that God is with him in such a way that it is impossible for David to escape God’s personal interest in every move he makes.This intimacy with God is obviously not only the experience of David, but can be the experience of every child of God.

According to Jesus and Paul, knowing the will of God for our lives does not have to be complex. God does not deliberately obscure God’s will. The complexity is not in the will of God, but in your will and my will. 

As Paul tells us how to know “the good, acceptable and perfect will of God,” he begins his prescription by telling us to throw up our hands and offer an unconditional surrender of our wills to the will of God. (Romans 12:1-2) Our unconditional surrender to God significantly un-complicates our quest to know the will of God.

Dick Woodward, 20 May 2023


SHARING THE GOSPEL!

May 14, 2021

“I want to remind you of the gospel…which you received and on which you have taken your stand… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

It is imperative we understand how to articulate the Gospel. A first step in that direction is realizing the Holy Spirit is the Evangelist and we are merely conduits through whom the Holy Spirit works…

When Jesus stayed up late with Nicodemus, the first words of Nicodemus were: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do the works that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)

Jesus earned His hearing with Nicodemus by what he had seen Him do. Likewise, we must also earn our hearing with people. This begins with our understanding that what we do demonstrates what we believe. All the rest is just religious talk.

People are not interested in our religious talk unless they are impressed by what they see us do. Nicodemus was impressed with what he saw Jesus do, so he went to hear Jesus talk. We deceive ourselves if we think it’s not that way today.

What I call religious talk is our lengthy theological explanations of what we believe. Many secular people don’t understand the simplest theological terms. They will not be interested if they are not impressed with who and what we are and the things we do.

When we earn our hearing by the grace of God, the Gospel is simply two facts about Jesus Christ: He died for our sins and He rose again from the dead, just as the Old Testament Scriptures said He would and the New Testament Scriptures tell us He did.

There is something to believe and Someone to receive.

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples


#FAITH: WRESTLING WITH GOD

May 11, 2021

“And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Genesis 32:28)

When we read in the Bible about great people of God we find they all seem to have deep experiences with God. The details of their experiences vary greatly but the results are similar.

Jacob wrestled all night with an angel. The angel forced Jacob to look up and wrestle his way to God. Then the angel forced Jacob to look in and confess that he was a rascal who lived up to his name. 

The name “Jacob” meant “Grabber.” Jacob was a mover, shaker, doer kind of man who was always running and would not stand still long enough for God to place a blessing upon him.

God could not get Jacob to wait on his Lord. God had to cripple him so God might crown him with God’s blessing. We might call it: “The cripple crown blessing of God.”  When a person is crippled what else can he or she do but wait?

When God won the wrestling match God pronounced a blessing upon Jacob – the one quoted above. By changing his name to “Israel” God declared that Jacob was a fighter. He had fought his way to God and confessed to what he saw when he looked in. Jacob was then ready to look around and deal with his relationships with people.

Are you a spiritual fighter? Have you fought your way to look up to God?  Have you won the battle when you look in? Are you winning the battle when you look around and work out all your relationships?

Dick Woodward, 13 May 2013


Faith, Miracles & Mission Impossible(s)

May 7, 2021

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.”  (Matthew 14:19)

Just before Jesus fed five thousand hungry families, He challenged the apostles with an impossible mission. When the apostles urged Him to send that hungry multitude away, Jesus said to the apostles, “You feed them!  How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”

The apostles must have been overwhelmed by that challenge. How were they going to find enough food in that deserted place to feed that big crowd of people?

The only food the apostles could find was a basket of five biscuits and two little sardines. They placed that food in the hands of the Lord saying, “All we have is this food a small boy brought with him, but what is this among so many hungry people?” The Lord blessed what the apostles gave Him and then passed that little boy’s lunch through the hands of the apostles to the mouths of more than five thousand people.

That day the apostles learned that whatever we have is adequate when we place our inadequacy in the Lord’s hands.

Through the miracles we are experiencing in ministry, we are learning that our Lord likes to assign us a mission impossible. Then, when the impossibility of our mission makes us turn to Him and say, “This is all we have,” He takes it in His hands, blesses it, and then feeds millions with the Living Bread from heaven.

Dick Woodward (ICM Networking, 2000)


Jesus: A Friend to Everyone!

May 4, 2021

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”  (Luke 19:5)

When Jesus came face to face with the greatest sinner in Jericho, He knew him and called him by name. He then invited Himself to spend the entire day in the house of His sinner friend. The chapter tells us elsewhere that Jesus was only passing through Jericho. Extremely popular at this time, His walk through Jericho was like a parade amidst crowds of people who wanted to get a glimpse of the famous Rabbi from Galilee.

We might imagine that religious leaders would like to have entertained Him for lunch. To everyone’s shock and amazement Jesus declares He will spend His one day in Jericho with the greatness sinner there. Publicans were hated in that day because they collected taxes for the Romans from their fellow Jews. And Zacchaeus was the chief of the publicans who had become very wealthy in that position.

We are told nothing of what Jesus and the publican discussed that day, but at the end of the day as they came out of the house Zacchaeus announces he will give half of his money to the poor. And with the other half he will restore 400% of everything he has taken from people unjustly.

One scholar put an interesting spin on this story when he suggested that Zacchaeus was the publican in the previous chapter of Luke who prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

Do you know any sinners by name?  Are you a friend of sinners? 

Dick Woodward, 01 May 2011


HOW DO YOU SEE THINGS?

April 30, 2021

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  (Matthew 6:22-23)

Jesus showed us the importance of our perspective when He told us our lives can be filled with joy or with sadness. Those two awesome opposites are determined by what Jesus calls “our eye.” By our eye Jesus means how we see things.

One of the most important questions we will answer is: “How do you see things?”

According to Jesus, if the way you see things is healthy and whole, your life will be filled with joy and light. If your mindset and perspective are not healthy, your life will be filled with darkness, unhappiness, sadness and depression.

God liked to ask the prophets: What do you see, Elijah? What do you see, Ezekiel? What do you see, Jeremiah? The Old Testament is filled with stories of godly people who distinguished themselves in the halls of faith.

When God asked them that question, they saw what God wanted them to see.

Solomon wrote, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18) A discerning spiritual leader added these words: “Where there is no plan, the vision perishes.” As the eagle has binocular and monocular vision, we must have a vision which continuously holds in perspective the long view of what God wants to do through us. 

We must also have a plan that keeps our vision from perishing as we move forward.

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


THE GLORY OF GOD!

April 27, 2021

“The heavens declare the glory of God…The Law of the Lord is perfect…the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart…” (Psalm 19: 1, 7, 14)

In Psalm 19 David writes that every day and every night God is preaching a sermon through the heavenly bodies. The text of that sermon is the glory of God. The “firmament” in which those bodies exist is also preaching a sermon about the infinite size of God.

David’s thoughts then turn to the Special Revelation of God. That’s what theologians call the Word of God and David calls the “Law of God.” David impresses us with what the Word of God can do: convert the soul, enlighten the eyes, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart, and since the Word is true and righteous altogether it will endure forever. So will the one whose soul has been converted by the Word of God.

As David meditates on what the Word can do, he claims that the Word is more to be desired than pure gold.

Having reflected on what we might call “Natural Revelation” and “Biblical Revelation” David guides us to consider “Personal Revelation.” His thought is that God’s revelation through nature is magnificent and beautiful. God’s revelation through Scripture is miraculous and perfect

But what about God’s revelation through God’s people like you and me?

Are we willing to track with David through these three ways God speaks and then pray that God’s revelation through us will be acceptable in God’s sight?

Dick Woodward, 26 April 2010


#FAITH: Possess Your Spiritual Possessions

April 23, 2021

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ Who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ.”(Ephesians 1:3)

There is a sense in which the letter of Paul to the Ephesians is the “Joshua” of the New Testament because the theme is the same: possess your possessions. In Joshua 1:3, the possessions were one square foot of the Promised Land of Canaan at a time. In Ephesians, the blessings are spiritual blessings not to be found in a land like Canaan but “in heavenly places, in Christ.”

By “heavenly places” Paul means the spiritual dimension of life. He uses that expression six times in this letter. He uses the expression “in Christ” nearly 100 times in his letters. By this second expression he means that it’s possible for us to be in a relationship with the risen Christ the way a branch is in relationship to a vine from which it draws its sustenance and nourishment.

“In heavenly places in Christ” there are all kinds of wonderful spiritual blessings God wants to give us. But we have to come into that spiritual dimension and into relationship with Christ to get those blessings. In other words, “heavenly places in Christ” is the location of our spiritual Promised Land.

Make a list of all the spiritual blessings you think Paul is referring to in this verse like prayer, the Scriptures, worship and fellowship with other believers. Then apply them and possess your spiritual possessions!

Dick Woodward, 01 May 2009