February 16, 2018
“I would have despaired, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
The Apostle Paul concludes his great love chapter by profiling three eternal values: faith, hope and love. We know that love is an eternal value because God is love. We can also understand why faith is one of the three eternal values because faith brings us to God. But why is hope one of the three great eternal values?
God plants hope, the conviction that something good exists in this world, in the heart of every human being. When you get into the lives of many people and understand their battles and challenges, you cannot help but wonder how they could believe there is something good in this life.
My college dormitory was located at the end of Hope Street adjacent to the Los Angeles Public Library. The same day I learned in a sociology course that more than 25,000 people committed suicide in 1952 because they lost hope, a man committed suicide by jumping from the top of my dormitory.
A newspaper reporter eloquently wrote: “An unidentified man jumped to his death today from a tall building at the end of Hope Street.”
David knew that he would despair if he ever lost the conviction God put in his heart the Bible labels hope. Hope is an eternal value because it is meant to lead us to faith, and faith leads us to God.
Let hope bring you to faith, and faith to God. And, remember that people around you are despairing for the hope that you have.
Dick Woodward, 24 March 2013
February 13, 2018
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (Romans 1:7; 16:24)
The Apostle Paul begins his letter to believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.” He then closes his letter with the prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.
Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer. At the close of each letter he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace. This is because grace is a dynamic of God that saves us. We can define grace if we turn this five-letter word into an acrostic to spell out:
God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
But grace is not just a way God saves us: the grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.
In Romans 5:2, Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, to the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.
Since grace is always a great need, consider meeting and leaving fellow (& fellowette*) believers with a wish and prayer for grace.
Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012
(*Editor’s discretionary inclusion)
February 6, 2018
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
The reality that God loves us unconditionally is often described in the Bible by one word: mercy. This word is found 366 times in the Bible – that’s one for every day of the year, and it even includes leap year – because God knows we need His mercy every day. 280 of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.
My favorite is the last verse of the 23rd Psalm where David wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the word “follow” can be translated pursue. This means that David believed the unconditional love of God pursued him all the days of his life.
What a dynamic truth. Our Heavenly Father not only loves us unconditionally, He pursues us with His unconditional love all the days of our lives.
Does that mean God loves us when He is cutting us back or chastening us? Absolutely! The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that if God did not chasten us we would be like illegitimate children and not His sons and daughters. Chastening confirms the reality that God loves us.
When we are experiencing one of those cutbacks, rather than thinking that God does not love us anymore – the opposite may be true.
God is pursuing us with His unconditional love.
Dick Woodward, (06 February 2009)
January 23, 2018
“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this while men slept!’ the farmer exclaimed. ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Matthew 13:27-30)
The question “Where did evil come from?” has baffled spiritual and ethical leaders since people began to think and ask questions. People who read the Bible also ask this question – in this parable Jesus implies two answers.
During almost six decades as a pastor people often told me there are hypocrites in the church. They told me this as if they thought it never would have occurred to me, but it was no surprise to me and it would be no surprise to Jesus. In this parable He told us His church would be a mixed bag.
Jesus also instructed us that we are not to weed the garden because we cannot tell the difference between the two. We are to let both grow together until the harvest when He will separate the wheat from the weeds.
His two answers to that old question about where evil came from are: “an enemy has done this” and “while men slept.” Edmund Burke told us that all we have to do for evil to triumph is to do nothing. Jesus told us all we have to do is sleep.
The truly important questions raised by this parable are: “Are we wheat, or are we weeds?” What are we contributing to the harvest? Are we producing more wheat or more weeds? Are we asleep? Are we doing nothing?”
Dick Woodward, 24 January 2012
January 12, 2018
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30)
The Apostle Peter is the only man besides Jesus Christ who ever walked on water. Yet millions only remember that he took his eyes off the Lord and would have drowned if the Lord had not saved him.
We read that Peter’s magnificent faith was flawed. He saw the wind. Since we cannot see wind this means when he saw what the wind was doing, he lost sight of what Jesus was doing and became afraid. The remarkable thing here is that when Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water!
It was not until he was beginning to sink that Peter cried out this prayer. Two thousand years later, this remains a go-to prayer for us all through the many storms of life. Jesus taught that our prayers should not be long and that we don’t generate grace with God by our many words. If Peter had prayed a longer prayer, the words beyond the third would have been glub, glub glub! When Jesus caught Peter by the hand He gave him the nickname, “Little Faith.” (I believe our Lord was smiling when He did.) He literally asked Peter: “Why did you think twice?”
While very ill the past two weeks many people have been recruited to pray for me. Yesterday it occurred to me that I had not prayed for myself. I then fervently pleaded this prayer that the Lord always answers: Lord, save me!
In your spiritual walk, don’t think twice and don’t be a “Little Faith.” Instead, learn to plead this prayer. Soon you will find your way through life’s stormy waves walking on water.
Dick Woodward, 28 January 2014
January 9, 2018
“Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36)
Many people refer to the Disciple’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as “The Lord’s Prayer.” However, the verse quoted above should be called “The Lord’s Prayer.” The Disciple’s Prayer was given with this instruction: “When you pray, you pray after this manner.” Jesus never prayed that prayer. For example, He would not have asked God to forgive His debts or trespasses.
But Jesus did pray the prayer in Mark 14:26 that should be a model prayer for every believer. God will often call us to do things that are difficult, or even impossible. God will call us to do things we do not want to do. When that happens, we should pray this model prayer our Lord Jesus has given us.
This prayer of Jesus forms the basis for one of the Four Spiritual Secrets through which I view my faith journey: “I don’t want to, but He wants to.” Implementing the answer to this prayer is possible because: “I’m in Him and He is in me.”
If you are facing a crisis today that involves doing God’s will, and not your own, I strongly encourage you to pray this “Prayer that Never Fails.” Realizing and believing that God can do anything God wills to do, you have the right and a responsibility to ask God to take this cup from you, but then you must finish the prayer by surrendering to the prayer that never fails.
Pray that the important thing is not what you want, but what God wants.
Dick Woodward, 28 January 2011
January 5, 2018
“… but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
As we move into a new year many of us review “these forty-eleven things I dabble in” as we consider our priorities. Spiritual heavyweights like Paul write: “One thing I do.” They can write that they have their priorities sifted down to one thing, because they forget those things that are behind.
We all have things we need to let go of to press toward the goal of what God wants us to do now and in the future.
The story is told of a man who fell over a cliff but managed to grab hold of a little bush about forty feet from the top. He frantically shouted “Help!” several times but his voice simply echoed back to him. Desperately he yelled, “Anybody up there?” A subterranean voice answered, “Yes!” He then yelled again “Help!” Then the voice said,“Let go!” After a brief pause the man shouted, “Anybody else up there?”
Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to let go. It may be that we need to let go of things that we cannot do and only God can do. We may need to let go of things we cannot control. And, sometimes we need to let go of hurts that people have inflicted on us that we cannot forgive and just let it go.
Do you need to let go and let God, so you can unload baggage and move forward with God?
Dick Woodward, 11 January 2013