#FAITH – The Therapy of Thanksgiving

September 4, 2020

“In everything … with thanksgiving tell God every detail of your needs … And the peace of God which transcends human understanding will stand guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

As I have tried to apply what Paul prescribes in the verses quoted above, I have found this prescription for peace to be one of the most helpful spiritual disciplines. According to Paul, an attitude of gratitude leads to the therapy of thanksgiving as we apply thanksgiving to our stressful circumstances.

Be sure to make the observation that Paul does not prescribe giving thanks for all things. He instructs us to give thanks in all things.

When we do this it automatically moves our mindset from the negative to the positive. The apostle promises that the peace of God will protect and stand guard (like the soldiers chained to Paul as he writes these words) over our hearts and minds as they rest and trust in Christ Jesus.

We cannot always control our circumstances – but we can control the way we respond to them. Paul is telling us to respond with thanksgiving. If we do, we will find this response to be God’s prescription that will bring peace to help us rise above our circumstances.

When a pastor asked one of his members how he was doing, his response was, “Pretty good pastor, under the circumstances.”

The pastor responded “Whatever are you doing there?”

The therapy of thanksgiving leads us out from under our circumstances and into the peace of God.

Dick Woodward, 02 September 2009


#FAITH : Temple Maintenance

September 1, 2020

“But he went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die.” (I Kings 19:12)

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. The drastic changes we see in him between I Kings chapters 18 and 19 are due to many things, but one factor is that Elijah neglected what I call Temple Maintenance.

Before my quadriplegia when I went jogging, I told my children if anyone called to tell them their father was out doing temple maintenance. For a pastor that sounded like something official around the church.

The Apostle Paul tells us that our bodies are the temple of God. (I Corinthians 3:16-17) Therefore, anything we do to maintain our bodies can be described as temple maintenance. If we neglect our temple maintenance, it can have serious consequences for our health and ministry.

Observe in that dramatic victory Elijah won on Mount Carmel all the physical stress and effort he put out. He dug a deep ditch around that altar and filled it with water. Have you ever dug a deep ditch? At the end of that long day, he also ran in front of a chariot for 17 miles.

Our hero must have been completely exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The physical dimension of our lives directly affects our mental, emotional and spiritual perspectives. The word neurotic has been defined as ‘thoughts and feelings for which there is no basis in fact.’ Elijah obviously allowed his physical stresses to affect him mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We know all his blubbering about being the only true servant of the Lord was neurotic when God made him know there were 7,000 faithful servants like him, who had not bowed their knees to Baal.

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples


#FAITH: Yours is the Glory

August 21, 2020

“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…”  (Matthew 6:9-13)

As we face the challenges of life every day, we should be poor in spirit enough to confess that we need the power of God.

When I have entered a challenging day, I have confessed thousands of times in my journey of faith and ministry, “I can’t, but God can.” Jesus prescribes the mandate (in the Disciples’ Prayer) we are to confess to God that the results of our answered prayers are in place because the power of God has worked in answer to our prayers.

We are to conclude our prayers by essentially confessing, “Yours is the glory.”

When we apply this third providential benediction to our prayers, we are simply confessing, “Because I didn’t but God did, all the glory goes to God.” 

Along with our confessions about the kingdom and power of God, Jesus prescribes that we conclude our prayers by making this solemn commitment to God: the glory for everything that happens in my life because You have answered my prayers will always go to You.

The essence of this benediction is: “Because the power will always come from You, the result will always belong to You, and the glory will always go to You.”

“Amen” simply means, “So be it!”

Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Prayer

#prayer #hope #love #Jesus #glory #grace


The Lord is My Shepherd (But?)

August 18, 2020

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23)

These are some of the most familiar words in the Bible beloved by devout people everywhere. According to this Shepherd Psalm of David, the key to the real blessings of this life and the next is a relationship with God.

The green pastures, still waters, table of provision, God’s blessing of anointing oil and cup that runs over all the time are all conditioned on our relationship with God. That relationship is established in the second verse of Psalm 23 when David writes, “He makes me to lie down.”

However, the spirit in which we recall these words is often something like this: “The Lord is my Shepherd — but I have a health problem.” Or, “The Lord is my Shepherd — but I have marriage problems!” Or, “The Lord is my Shepherd — but I cannot control my children.”

When we say, “The Lord is my Shepherd — but” we are putting our “but” in the wrong place. We need to get our “but” in the right place and recall the precious promise of these words this way: “I have a health problem, BUT the Lord is my Shepherd! I have marriage problems, BUT the Lord is my Shepherd! I cannot control my children, BUT the Lord is my Shepherd!”

One way the Lord makes us lie down is to use all kinds of problems to teach us about the relationship with God which is key to all the blessings profiled in Psalm 23.

Will you let the Great Shepherd use whatever challenges you are facing to establish the deeper relationship with God David described so beautifully three thousand years ago?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2008

#Faith #Hope #Love #Prayer #Psalm23 #Inspiration


#FAITH : Setback vs. Cutback?

August 11, 2020

“…every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15:2)

My mentor Ray Stedman loved to tell a story about the famous violinist Paganini. As a brilliant violinist and a superb showman, he liked to attach a sharp razor to his wrist. At the right moment he would cut one of the strings on his violin.

The string would pop and the audience would gasp, but the most famous violinist in the world would keep on playing. Paganini did this repeatedly and dramatically until he only had one string left on his violin.

As a violin virtuoso he would then play the entire concerto on that one string.

Ray’s application was that God sometimes likes to cut back our strings and play the concert of our lives on one string. This brings great glory to God because people can’t believe that as we experience those cutbacks our concerto continues to play with an even more beautiful sound.

My precious wife has lost the use of her left arm and I have lost the use of all four limbs. But the concerto of our lives and ministry continues to be more fruitful than it has ever been, which brings great glory to God who is the One playing the concerto of our lives.

The explanation of Jesus was that He is a Vine and we are branches related to Him. When we are fruitful because of that alignment He cuts us back to make us more fruitful.

Is it possible that events in your life that you consider a setback are actually the cutback of your loving Lord and Savior who wants your life to be fruitful and your reward to be great in heaven?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2012

#hope #inspiration #prayer #trust #joy #Jesus #belief #courage


Balm from The Psalms

August 7, 2020

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1 KJV)

One of my favorite Scripture verses is the first verse of Psalm 4. David is in a wringer and he is talking to God about it. Almost parenthetically he drops this thought, “You have enlarged me when I was in distress.” As I reflect upon my wringer years of disability and I think of the growth I have experienced while in the wringer, that little phrase says it for me.

Truly God has grown me in my time of distress.

Psalm 46 is also a great psalm that applies to servants of the Lord when they are living on the edge and the whole world seems to be coming unraveled like a cheap sweater.

The opening verse could be interpreted this way, “God is my refuge and strength. God is abundantly available for help in tight places.” It can be applied devotionally to believers who live in difficult contexts. The punchline comes when the Psalmist instructs the believer in the midst of chaos to “Be still and know that I am… and that I will be.”

I hope you have a chance to check out Psalm 143. David cries to God, “Answer me speedily because my spirit fails. Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning. Cause me to know the way in which I should walk.”

I like the last part when David prays, “Revive me.” The old King James reads “quicken me.” That word, quicken, means something like “give me a touch from You that will spring to life the work of the Spirit in my heart and life.”

…Recently I heard someone say, “When saying goodbye to a fellow soldier of Jesus Christ, we should never say, “Take it easy.” We should say, “Hang tough and fight the good fight.”

Hang in there!

Dick Woodward, (1997 fax to his daughter)


#FAITH: The Vine & Fruitful Branches

July 31, 2020

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”   (John 15:5)

The apostles had been in awe of the profound words and miraculous works of Jesus. In their last retreat with Him, Jesus essentially said that the key to His preaching, teaching, and supernatural ministry is that He and the Father are one.

The Word of the Father was spoken on earth and the work of the Father was accomplished on earth through Jesus because He is one with the Father. Jesus taught the disciples that after His death and resurrection, if they would be at one with Him He would do His work on earth through them.

While they were in a garden, Jesus pulled down a vine that had many branches loaded with fruit. He said: “I am the Vine and you are the branches.

In this metaphor the fruit does not grow on the vine. The fruit grows out on the branches because they are properly aligned with the Vine. The branches can bear no fruit without the Vine, and the Vine can bear no fruit without the branches.

If the Vine, Jesus, wants to see fruit produced, He must pass His life-giving power through the branches.

Jesus wants to see fruit produced far more than the apostles want to be fruitful. By this inspired metaphor, He was actually teaching two propositions: “Without Me, you can do nothing” and, “Without you, I will do nothing.”

It is the plan of God to use the power of God in the people of God to accomplish the purposes of God according to the plan of God. Jesus is a Vine looking for branches.

Are you one of His fruitful branches?

Dick Woodward, 31 July 2012


#FAITH & OPENNESS TO NEW THINGS

July 28, 2020

“I have brought you out that I might lead you in…” (Deuteronomy 6:23)

There are times when God wants to do a new thing in our lives. To do this new thing God faces three challenges. First God has to get us out of the old place. That is not easy because we often love the security of where we are. God therefore has to blast us out of the old. That can happen in many ways. We could be fired, or we may just know in our knower that it is time to make a change.

The call of God is often made up of a pull from the front and a boot from the rear.

The second challenge is that God has to keep us going to pull us through the transition time between the old place and the new place to which God is leading us. Transition times can be difficult!

The verse above describes the way God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land. Their transition time involved crossing a desert, which should have taken eleven days. They went around in circles for forty years.

They circled that desert because they did not have the faith to invade the land of Canaan. When God wants to do a new thing in our lives, do we go around in circles because we do not have enough faith to enter into the new place God is leading us?

The third challenge is that God has to make us right to settle us into the new place God has for us. One translation of 2 Corinthians 6:1 reads that we are “co-operators” with God.

When we realize what God is trying to do in our lives, are we ready to give God a little more cooperation?

Dick Woodward, 24 July 2009


STICKABILITY: #Faith + #Perseverance

July 24, 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 the original language in which these verses were written, you will discover that the Apostle Paul is essentially saying: “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 various patches military people wear that show they have been tested and proven. Paul told us suffering produces endurance, and receiving from the Lord the grace to endure our suffering produces proven character.

When you have been tested and proved, 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. Years ago visiting missionaries in challenging places overseas, I learned one of the most important abilities of faith is stickability.

Can we live out our lives as a fragrance of Christ, an irrefutable statement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are hostile toward Jesus and His followers?

Our faith is living Christ until people we desire to reach “see Christ in our mortal flesh,” to borrow words from 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, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


#FAITH +The Seminary of Suffering+

July 21, 2020

“…as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness… through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report… beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing… having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:3-10)

Paul tells us suffering is like a seminary in which God trains qualified ministers of the Gospel. There is a sense in which this seminary never ends.

By passing through this seminary of suffering, we become ministers of God. When Paul uses “minister,” he does not mean a clergy-person; he means the minister every believer is designed, created, and recreated by God to be. Everyone who has experienced the miracle of reconciliation to God through Christ has been commissioned to carry out the ministry of Christ.

How do we prove ourselves to be ministers? Paul writes, “In afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…”

I call these adversities “wringers.” When we find ourselves in a wringer, the important thing is our response to that wringer. In 2 Corinthians 6:6, Paul shows us how to respond: “By pureness, knowledge, patience, kindness.”

In verses 6 and 7 of this passage, Paul tells us where to find the spiritual resources to respond: “By the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, by the Word of Truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”

Loving Heavenly Father, use our suffering to make us faithful ministers for You in this world, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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