#FAITH: Ability and Availability

December 3, 2021

“There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9)

There is a myth many of God’s people believe today.  It goes something like this: “God uses super-duper people to do super-duper things because they are super-duper people.” The truth is the exact opposite. Throughout Scriptures we are told God loves to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things because they are available.

As a pastor I have often observed that people who are long on ability are often short on availability, while people who are short on ability are very often long on availability. The exhortation in Scripture comes down to this: whether we are long or short on ability, the important thing is availability.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, we find the miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 men and their families. An important part of this miracle has to do with where Jesus got the bread and fish that He blessed and multiplied.  Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, discovered a little boy who was willing to give up his lunch that was probably five little biscuits and two sardines. 

What are they among so many?” It’s a profound question. The answer is, “in the hands of Jesus they are enough to feed 5,000+ hungry people.”

The application is that little is much when God is in it, and little is much when placed in the hands of Jesus.  Many of us say we would give to the cause of Christ or serve Him if we had much to give or great abilities to serve.  We must see, however, that our stewardship is not based upon what we do not have, but upon what we can put in the hands of Jesus…

The greatest ability is therefore availability.

Dick Woodward, (Fall, 1993)


#FAITH: Worriers or Warriors?

November 30, 2021

 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you rest in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

In these two verses the Apostle Paul is challenging us with two options: when we are facing problems we can worry about them, or we can turn our challenging problems into prayer requests. Paul writes that we are not to worry because worry is counterproductive. He therefore prescribes that if we are overwhelmed with problems, we should let our mountain of problems turn us into prayer warriors.

So we have two options. We can be worriers, or we can be warriors.

Prayer changes things! Worry, on the other hand does not change anything except for the severe negative consequences it can have on our body, soul and spirit. When we consider the devastating effects of worry and the miraculous results of answered prayer that should resolve these two options into one.

When we realize we are anxious and uptight and we are choosing to be worriers, we should ask God to convert us into prayer warriors. We should hold our problems up before the Lord and trade our futile worries for powerful prayers.  God may deliver us from our problems or give us the grace to cope with them.  

But, in either case, God will give us peace.

Paul writes that God will stand guard like a soldier over our hearts and minds and give us supernatural peace as they rest in what Christ will do.

Dick Woodward, 29 November 2011


THE RACE VS. GRACE

November 19, 2021

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

This verse is not teaching the random chaos of life. This verse instead parallels a truth emphasized in the Bible and expressed by the word grace. The truly significant events in the life of a believer are the result of grace and not the results of self effort.  The charisma of God upon the work of your hands will make the difference between your life having eternal significance and your life’s work amounting to wood, hay and stubble in the eternal state. (I Corinthians 3:12-15; Psalm 90:17)

The writings of the Apostle Paul are filled with an emphasis upon the concept of grace.  The word grace means ‘unmerited favor.’

The blessing of God upon His people is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance. The grace of God and the love of God are unconditional. When you understand the meaning of the word grace which is found in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, it follows that the race is not to the swift or strong or wise or skilled…

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created  in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”   Ephesians 2:8-10

Dick Woodward, MBC Old Testament Handbook


PRIORITY: LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!

November 12, 2021

“Let love be your highest goal…” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

What are your priorities? The Apostle Paul challenges us to let love be our highest priority at the end of his inspired love chapter. We should follow after love, make love our greatest pursuit, and love should be our highest goal, depending on how the verse is translated in your Bible.

A practical way to make love our greatest goal is to take the 15 virtues in the middle of the love chapter and apply them in our relationships. It will not take long to realize we cannot love in these ways on our own. These are the ways God loves. The miracle is He can love in these 15 ways through us!

The love virtues are all others-centered, unselfish ways of showing unconditional love. They are not natural, but unnatural for us, because they are supernatural. They are the fruit and evidence that God lives in us and is expressing the essence of His character through us. The dynamic effect of His love upon those we love in these ways will convince us this love is God and deserves to be our highest goal.

I have been loved in these ways and by the grace of God I have loved in these ways. I am committed to making this love my first priority. I resonate with Joyce Kilmer who summarized the essence of the lives of the fallen who lie beneath poppies in French military graveyards when he wrote: “Loved and were loved, but now they lie in Flanders Fields.”

Paul prescribed these love virtues believing they could solve the problems in the worst relationships in his worst church. I believe they can solve the problems in all our relationships if we will graciously apply them, through Christ.

Dick Woodward, 12 November 2013


A Recipe for REST

November 5, 2021

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus loves to give invitations. He addresses this one to people who are loaded with problems and are working themselves to exhaustion trying to solve their problems. 

Jesus promises that if we come to Him He will give us rest. If you look closely at this invitation, Jesus is inviting us to come to Him and learn about His heart, His burden and His yoke. It is what we learn that will lead us to the rest He promises.

Jesus wants burdened people to learn that His burden is light, His heart is humble and His yoke is easy. There is a sense in which Jesus had the weight of the world on His shoulders and yet He claimed that His burden was light. 

His burden was light because He let His Father carry the load.

The most important part of His recipe for rest is what Jesus wants us to learn about His yoke. A yoke is not a burden. It is an instrument that makes it possible to bear a burden.When a cart is piled high with cargo it is the yoke that makes it possible for an ox to pull a great load with ease. It is the yoke of Jesus that shows us how to pull our heavy burdens of life.

The yoke of Jesus is that He let His Father carry the burdens.We take His yoke upon us when we let the Holy Spirit carry our load.

Dick Woodward, 05 November 2013


Grotto of God’s Unconditional Love

October 29, 2021

“Yet this I call to mind… Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed… His compassions never fail… They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 21-24)

After writing his prophecy which has moved many scholars to label him “The Weeping Prophet” Jeremiah adds a short postscript to his fifty-two chapters of weeping. That postscript is called “Lamentations” which means “Weepings.”

You simply have to know why Jeremiah is weeping to understand and appreciate his writings. He is weeping about the Babylonian massacre and captivity of God’s chosen people! For years he warned the people of God that unless they repented this awful tragedy would happen. As he writes his Lamentations he has been permitted to remain in the land of Judah. Sitting in his Grotto he laments all the tragic things that have now happened.

In the midst of his deepest expressions of sorrow and sadness he suddenly breaks forth with the verses quoted above. These verses have been translated and paraphrased to tell us more clearly that what God revealed to Jeremiah in his darkest hour was that God had never stopped loving God’s chosen people.

A providential wonder of prophecy is that Jeremiah’s Grotto where he was seated as he wrote these Lamentations was on top of a hill called “Golgatha.” This means that God gave Jeremiah this wonderful prophecy of God’s unconditional love during the tragedy Jeremiah was lamenting on the very spot where centuries later God would pour out unconditional love for the whole world.

Dick Woodward, 28 October 2009


God’s Good

October 26, 2021

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

As I look back over my life since I was born in 1930, and born again in 1949, this verse sums up my entire walk of faith and ministry.  According to the J. B. Philips translation, God fits into a pattern for good everything that happens to those who love God and are called according to God’s plan. I like this because by implication there may not be anything good about many of the things that happen to us. 

But if we meet two prerequisites – if we love God, and are called according to God’s plan – our loving God will fit into a pattern for good all the events of our lives.

Before we personally apply the great promise of this verse we must meet two prerequisites. The first is that we love God.  It isn’t easy to love God. The Apostle John asked us how we can love the God we cannot see. (1 John 4) We can’t hug a Spirit. Jesus told us that if we love Him we must keep His commandments. According to the writings of the Apostle Paul quoted above, we can show we love God by being called according to God’s plan.

We are so self-centered we are quick to assume that the good into which God fits all the events of our lives means our good.  However, when we understand what it means to love God the only good that will interest us will be God’s good.

Dick Woodward, 05 November 2010

Editor’s Note: Yesterday (October 25th) was Dick Woodward’s 91st birthday. Here’s to celestial celebrations up in Heaven as we miss him here on earth!


Finding Joy (no matter what!)

October 22, 2021

“…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 and again. And what he’s really saying to us 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? Now again, if you delight in your health, well, you’re on thin ice. What would you do if you lost your health? If you delight in money, what would you do if you lost everything? If you delight in your loved ones, and many, many people do, what are you going to do when you lose them?

It’s because God loves us that God tells us things like this, “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, even when he was in prison, no matter what the circumstances were. The reason 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.” 

Here is one of the big keys: Paul’s delight was in Jesus, and the Jesus was the Source of his happiness. Not what he had or didn’t have.

Dick Woodward, (Ben Lippen, 1979)


SPIRITUAL FITNESS

October 19, 2021

“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.”  (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

As a young man Timothy was probably interested in physical fitness. If he lived in our culture he would be the type to join a gym and work out regularly. Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness is profitable. But, he declared that godly fitness is 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 life.

How real and practical is our faith in the life to come? I am intrigued with this question: what is godly exercise? The word “godly” means “like God.”  What is God- like?  We are told in the Scriptures that God is 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 a study of 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 the Holy Spirit and it comes out on the other side a cluster of 15 virtues. Pursue intentionally what the 15 virtues are and what they look like when you apply them in all your relationships.

God is light. Exercise yourself in this dimension of God-likeness 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 2013


 Faith: Acceptance, Responsibility & Ability  

October 15, 2021

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)

Who was the greatest prophet who ever lived?  Who was the greatest man who ever lived? According to Jesus the answer is John the Baptist. (Luke 7:28; Matthew 11:11) Having studied the Scripture for six decades I find that answer to be intriguing because very little space is given in the Bible to record his life and ministry.

As I meditate on the Scriptures that describe John the Baptist I have come to a conclusion about his greatness. One key was that he accepted the limits of his limitations and the responsibility for his ability.

As we attempt to discover who we are and what God wants to do, it is a good rule of thumb to accept the limits of our limitations and the responsibility for our ability

When a degenerative disease of the spinal cord took away my physical abilities, it was critical for me to accept my increasing limitations and continue to be responsible for my abilities. After two years of illness when the acceptance came, it was so profound I decided it was a form of inner healing.  Using speech recognition software on my computer I received the grace to write about ten thousand pages of what I call a Mini Bible College.  These 782 studies of the Bible have been translated into twenty eight languages in sixty countries.*

It fills me with grateful worship to realize that the formula for greatness I learned from John the Baptist has guided me to the most important work I have done for God and Christ.

Are you willing to accept the limits of your limitations and the responsibility for your ability?

Dick Woodward, 16 October 2012