ALWAYS PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

November 20, 2020

“…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? The Apostle Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum when he prescribed: “Pray about everything!”

God’s Word exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate reading, “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!”

Paul knew from personal experience 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 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, Paul 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”


#FAITH – TROPHIES OF GRACE

November 10, 2020

 “… through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2)

In this verse the Apostle Paul identifies additional levels of grace. Having written that we are justified by faith, Paul declares that we also have access by faith to grace that makes it possible for us to stand in a hostile world and live a life that glorifies God.

This access to grace makes it possible for us to enter into living grace and keeping grace.

There was a long poem that described a debate in heaven between two men who died in their nineties. They debated which man was the greatest trophy of grace. One lived a terribly sinful life. On his deathbed he was led to salvation. He, therefore, considered himself a greater trophy of grace than the other man.

The second man had been the son of a pastor. He came to faith as a child and never wavered. He studied to become a pastor. In that role he led many to Christ and was a faithful shepherd for nearly 60 years.

The debate lasted for many years, but when the angels were asked to vote on the matter they decided the pastor’s son was the greater trophy of grace. The first man experienced saving grace but the second man experienced keeping grace and living grace.

We sometimes give young people the impression that it is better to live a sinful life and then experience a dramatic conversion. However, there is nothing good about a life of sin. We are a greater trophy of grace when we do not fall into sin.

Dick Woodward, 10 November 2009


#FAITH – A Bush On Fire!

November 6, 2020

“Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn’t burn up. Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up?” (Exodus 3:2-3)

These verses are taken from a passage that describes the call of Moses. I love this story because it is a great illustration in the Bible of what I call 4 Spiritual Secrets:

I’m not but He is.

I can’t but He can.

I don’t want to but He wants to.

I didn’t but He did.

Applying the 4 Spiritual Secrets to Moses, he was not the deliverer of God’s people from their slavery and suffering in Egypt. God was their Deliverer. Moses could not deliver them but God could. Based on his objections we know Moses did not want to deliver them, God wanted to deliver them. 

When the Red Sea parted and the Israelites marched through on dry ground nobody had to tell Moses: “You didn’t do that.” He knew “God did that!”

The primary detail in this story is often overlooked. God got the attention of Moses when a bush burst into flame and was not consumed! In extreme desert heat this often happens, but a burning bush is usually consumed in about five seconds. The miraculous reality that the bush was not burning up moved Moses to become a vehicle of deliverance.

Epidemic addiction issues exist today that have millions looking for deliverance. There is also epidemic burnout among those who serve the Lord.  As servants of God we need to turn aside with Moses and see how to be a “Bush Aglow” on fire for the Lord, without burning up or burning out, as conduits of God’s love and deliverance.

Dick Woodward, 15 November 2013


#FAITH – GOD’S #MERCY VS. #PREJUDICE

November 3, 2020

“But this was displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry… ‘Oh Lord…I knew You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.’…And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4)

As you apply the central truth in the Book of Jonah, ask yourself if you are prejudiced. To be prejudiced means to “pre-judge.” Prejudice comes in many shapes and sizes. I was introduced to prejudice as a boy growing up near Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) when I heard Italian Americans called “daggos” and Polish Americans called “hunkies.”

During my freshman year at a southern Bible college in the late 1940s, I was shocked to see “white” and “colored” water fountains and African Americans sitting in the back of buses. I was even more bewildered when I discovered “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches.

As a new believer I was disillusioned when I heard professing believers use discriminatory labels. From what I learned preparing for the ministry, I expected followers of Christ and spiritual communities to be free from prejudice. As a believer now for more than 60 years and a pastor for more than five decades, I am still alarmed by the deceitful ways of the evil one when I discover prejudice in my heart and in the lives of other believers.

I learned from personal experience that prejudice feeds on ignorance. I grew up during the Second World War when propaganda presented Japanese as sub-human creatures. In my junior year at a Bible college in L.A., my roommate was a devout Japanese disciple of Jesus Christ. He was the most Christ-like and disciplined disciple of Jesus I had met at that point in my life. The experience of knowing him completely erased the cumulative impact of all that war propaganda from my mind. Until I met my roommate, I had never met a Japanese person before. My prejudice was fed by ignorance.

Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.

Examine your heart before God and ask yourself if you have prejudice that is blocking the love God wants to channel through you to lost and hurting people in this world.

Dick Woodward, Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet


#FAITH – PERSEVERING STICKABILITY

October 30, 2020

 “Let us rejoice in our sufferings because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

If you study these verses in the original language, you will discover Paul is essentially saying this: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces the quality of character that will not run when things get difficult.”

The Greek word Paul used for character conveys a meaning similar to patches military personnel wear that show they have been tested and proven in a specific area. Paul told us suffering produces endurance, and receiving from God the grace to endure our suffering produces proven character.

When you have been tested and proven, the caliber of character that testing produces is often grown in the soil of suffering.

Paul also writes that proven character leads to confidence and hope. When you have developed character that perseveres, you will not be put to flight. I learned that one of the most important abilities missionaries need is stickability. Can you go to a foreign culture, and stay for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years? Can you live out your life there as a fragrance of Christ, an irrefutable statement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ even when people dislike you?

Most missionary work is living Christ until people “see Christ in your mortal flesh,” to borrow the words of one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. (2Corinthians 4:11)

…Perseverance is stickability: the ability to hang in there, and keep hanging in there. That is how an orange gets to be an orange; it just keeps hanging in there until it becomes an orange.

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


FACING SUFFERING WITH #FAITH

October 27, 2020

 “…whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance… If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting.” (James 1:2-6)

Encountering trials in our lives will often bring us to the place where we don’t know what to do. We realize we need more wisdom than we have. When we lack wisdom we must look to God for it. In the Old Testament when the people of God fought against overwhelming numbers, their frantic prayer of faith was: “Nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You!” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

The process of working through our trials will teach us the test of faith, which leads to the trust of faith and brings us to the triumph of faith. I have been in a wheelchair since 1984 and a bedfast quadriplegic since the mid 1990s. I have thought much about the suffering of disciples.

In the Bible we are warned God does not think as we think, nor does God do as we do. (Isaiah 55) If the desire of my heart is to know God’s will and to live my life in alignment with the ways of God, doesn’t it logically follow that I may not expect to always understand the way I am going?

If God gave answers to our why questions, the very essence of faith would be eliminated. God is pleased when we come in our crucibles of suffering and cry, “If you heal me, that’s all right. But, if You don’t heal me, that’s all right too, because YOU are all right!”

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples


#FAITH: Spiritual Fitness

October 23, 2020

 “Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for…the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1Timothy 4:7, 8)

As a young man Timothy was probably interested in physical fitness. If he lived in our culture he would join a gym and work out regularly. Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness was profitable, but he declared that godly fitness was more profitable. 

Paul reasoned that physical fitness improves the quality of our lives here and now, but godly fitness improves the quality of our eternal lives.

I am intrigued with this practical question: what is godly exercise? The word “godly” means “like God.” What is God- like? We are told in the Bible that God is a Spirit. (John 4:24) To exercise ourselves toward godliness therefore means to submit to disciplines in the spiritual dimension that grow us spiritually.

We also read in the Scripture that God is love. To exercise toward godliness means to commit ourselves to the love that is God. At the heart of the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13), Paul passes the love of God through the prism of his Holy Spirit inspired intellect and it comes out on the other side a cluster of 15 virtues. Pursue intentionally those 15 virtues and what they look like when you apply them in all your relationships.

God is light. Exercise yourself in this dimension by filling your mind and heart and life with the truth (light) you find in God’s Word. Walking in that light will help you in this life and in the life to come.

Do you have a routine for spiritual fitness?

Dick Woodward, 18 October 2018


FINDING MY #JOY IN JESUS

October 20, 2020

“…for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:11-13)

In this epistle of joy to the Philippians, Paul exhorts us, “Delight in Jesus. Learn to derive your joy from knowing Him.” He uses the word “joy” again and again. What he’s saying to us by using the word joy in the conditions in which he’s living is simply this:

 “Learn to derive your joy from your relationship to Jesus Christ. Learn to delight in Him.”

What is the source of your happiness? In what do you delight? If you delight in your health, you’re on thin ice. What would you do if you lost your health? If you delight in money, what would you do if a big crash caused you to lose everything? If you delight in your loved ones, and many, many people do, what are you going to do when you lose them?

Because God loves us God tells us things like, “Delight in Me. Learn to derive your joy from knowing Me.” That’s the source of joy. And so that should be our delight.

That’s the reason Paul could have peace even in a dungeon. No matter what the circumstances were, he could say, “I’m ready for anything. I have learned how to live when everything’s good and I have learned how to live when everything’s bad.” Paul’s delight was the Lord, and the Lord was the Source of his happiness.

Not what he had or didn’t have.

Dick Woodward, (Ben Lippen Retreat, 1979)


Adversity vs. Atrophy

October 16, 2020

“… Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress…”  (Psalm 4:1)

Just about every emotional challenge we experience today was faced by the psalmist many years ago. If we observe what he did when he struggled, and receive from God the grace to respond as the hymn writer responded, we can often overcome our emotional challenges.

In Psalm 4 the psalmist faces the emotional challenge of distress. If you drop the first two letters, the word becomes stress. We all have stress. If we do not have stress we atrophy. I have not put stress on my legs for 30 years. Consequently, my legs are the size of your arms. “If you don’t use it you lose it” is the way physical therapists describe atrophy.

Our loving Father God knows that what is true for our bodies is also true in our spiritual lives. God is fiercely committed to the proposition that we are going to grow spiritually. If we have no spiritual stress we will experience spiritual atrophy. God therefore will not only permit, but direct into our lives stress that will grow us as God gives us the grace to cope with that stress.

Many of us trust God for the good things that comfort and sustain us. But do we have the faith and the knowledge of God to seek God in the challenges that make the difference for us between spiritual growth and atrophy?

The Greek compound word hupomone, translated as “perseverance” in our English Bibles, literally means “to abide under.”  To apply hupomone, we should ask God for the grace to abide under stress, grow spiritually, and not atrophy.

Dick Woodward, 15 October 2013


#FAITH: WHERE IS YOUR HEART?

October 13, 2020

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus said we should not lay up treasures on earth where they depreciate and thieves steal them from us. He told us we should lay up treasures in heaven, in the spiritual dimension, where they will not depreciate or be stolen. He added that our hearts will be where our treasures are. 

In other words, Jesus challenged us, “If you really want to know where your heart is, show me your treasures.”

If you really want to know where your heart is, a practical application is to look over your old check stubs and calendars for the past five years. Consider how you are spending your money and time. Then you will know where your treasures are, and where you heart is.

Millions of people are crushed and depressed these days because they have lost all their treasures on Wall Street.  If our hearts are in our treasures on this earth, and laying up more treasures on earth, we need to listen and understand Jesus as He tells us where our hearts should be.

Where is your heart?

Dick Woodward, 15 October 2008*

*The Blog Posting Elf – This was Dick Woodward’s second blog post twelve years ago!