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.
October 13, 2018
“We have spoken freely to you Corinthians and opened wide our hearts to you… As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
Life so often comes down to relationships, and relationships are all about communication. The Apostle Paul profiled that reality when he wrote to the church in Corinth. He also prescribed a solution. As a summary paraphrase of this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication “flap” on our hearts. As married couples we should be face to face and heart to heart with our communication flaps open. The hard reality is that we are often back to back with our communication flaps closed tight.
The solution Paul models here is that someone must take the initiative and say: “I am heart to heart with you and my flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”
Communication in relationships is a challenge we face every day in our families, work lives, and interactions with people. It’s so important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, to the person with whom they are having a communication conflict: “I am heart to heart with you and my communication flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”
You may be amazed at how taking this stance can melt obstacles between you and a difficult person. Throughout any given day we face relational challenges that can be turned around through constructive and loving communication.
Are you mature enough to let God use you to initiate the solution Paul modeled for us by opening up your heart?
Dick Woodward, 14 October 2011
October 9, 2018
“…for I know that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing… Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:2-4)
As a prophet, one of Jonah’s functions was to remove obstacles that were blocking the work of God in the world. Do you see the obstacle in Jonah’s story? Jonah’s prejudice. As we reflect upon the prejudice of Jonah, we should ask ourselves if prejudice in our hearts is blocking the love God wants to express through us to hurting people in our world.
The real message of Jonah is that God loves people. God loves all people! The love of God is a bottom line truth we find in the inspired Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.
Can you see why I believe the real message of the Book of Jonah has little to do with whales swallowing people? Refuse to get sidetracked. When you come to the book of Jonah looking for truth, you will find at the heart of this book a loving God Who values people and longs to draw all men, women and children to God.
The message of Jonah is that God earnestly desires to express unconditional love and grace through God’s faithful servants. The people of God, like you and me, are designed to be the vehicles of God’s love, grace and salvation. When the people of God are prejudiced, the very people God designed to be the vessels, models and channels of God’s salvation become obstacles that block the love and salvation work of God in this world.
If God loves Ninevites, and the people of God hate Ninevites, how can God express God’s love and salvation for all people if God’s people are hung up on their prejudices?
Dick Woodward, from Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet
October 5, 2018
“…When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
The Apostle Paul opens a biographical window into his life when he tells us about what he calls his “thorn in the flesh.” He explains that he had many supernatural spiritual experiences, but to keep him humble God gave him this “thorn.” Paul asked God three times to take it away. Even though he had an extraordinary ministry that brought healing to many, three times God’s response was essentially: “No! But My grace will be with you, and that is all you need to cope with the challenge of your thorn.”
Although we’re not exactly certain what Paul’s “thorn” was, he wrote to the Galatians that when he first visited his eyes were so hideous it made them want to vomit and say that if they could, they would take the eyes out of their own heads and place them in his. The book of Acts reports that at that time Paul’s physician Luke joined him so he could treat him. This “thorn” was also accompanied with severe weakness. Paul mentions weakness so much in his writings we know that throughout his extraordinary ministry he had to cope with extreme chronic fatigue.
Paul explains that his physical weakness was a showcase in which God could exhibit God’s supernatural strength. In the Living Bible Paraphrase of this chapter God tells Paul, “My strength looks good on weak people.” And Paul confesses, “The less I have the more I depend on Him.” He summarizes all this: “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Will you let your weakness showcase God’s strength and grace today?
Dick Woodward, 04 October 2011
October 2, 2018
“… All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
I find it intriguing to know that in little genes that cannot be seen with the naked eye the genetic heritages of human beings are determined: how high heads will be from the sidewalk, eye color, hair color, the capacity of intellectual gifts, athleticism and even mannerisms are wrapped up in microscopic genes.
In this inspired Psalm, David – a great warrior, king, man after the heart of God and hymn writer – tells us that before we existed as genes God determined the days we will live on this earth. The Living Bible Paraphrase reads that before we existed God has ‘an agenda for every day’ we are to live on this earth.
One day my wife and I woke up and prayed together that if our agenda for that day did not agree with God’s agenda we were willing to be preempted. Having lunch with our pastor son here later that day, I realized I was having a heart attack. While the 911 people were rushing me out the door to the ambulance I said to my wife, “Looks like we’re being preempted big time!”
They were able to turn things around before it became a full blown heart attack; however, that experience gave my wife and me a perspective we will never forget. There is God’s agenda and there is our agenda for every day we live. How should that truth impact the way we plan our agendas each day?
Are we willing to be preempted by God’s agenda?
Dick Woodward, 01 October 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 11, 2018
“…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 New Standard 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. He 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 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