December 4, 2020
“… Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9)
When the children of Israel complained and griped about Moses God demonstrated how He felt about the gripers. He sent snakes to bite them. (Some pastors may wish they could do the same.) Then God in His mercy directed Moses to erect a pole at the center of the camp with a bronze serpent on top of it.
The good news was proclaimed: If any of the snake-bitten gripers would get to the center of the camp and look at the bronze serpent, they would be healed of their snakebites.
Some of them said that defied what they knew so they died of their snakebites. Others said it didn’t make sense but it was the only hope they had. With help they somehow got to the center of the camp and looked at the bronze serpent on the pole.
When they looked, they were healed and lived!
This story takes on much greater meaning when Jesus makes His dogmatic declaration: He is God’s only Son, God’s only Solution, and God’s only Savior. (John 3: 1-21) As He told a Rabbi named Nicodemus about Moses lifting that serpent in the wilderness, it is a picture of what Jesus will do. If we look to Jesus on His cross with faith we will be healed of our sins.
Jesus made it simple. Just look and live. When you want to solve problems that demand a supernatural solution, look and live. Have you ever done that? Why not do it now?
Dick Woodward, 10 December 2013
December 1, 2020
“And every man stood in his place all around the camp (of the Midianites); and the whole army (of Midian) ran and cried out and fled.” (Judges 7:21)
One of the greatest victories described in the Old Testament is the victory of Gideon over the army of the Midianites. There were several hundred thousand Midianites. Gideon only had 300 soldiers. In the middle of the night, in pitch darkness, Gideon placed his 300 committed warriors in three strategic locations around the sleeping enemy army.
On signal from Gideon each group of 100 soldiers exposed 100 torches, blew 100 bugles, and then 100 men shouted: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” This gave their enemy the impression they were surrounded by a powerful army. They completely panicked. In the darkness they began fighting each other and were soon conquered.
Although a great miracle, this was a miracle that required a total commitment on the part of Gideon’s 300. That’s why he reduced his army down to less than one percent of what he started with. He had to know that his army was a one hundred percent committed minority rather than an apathetic majority.
This victory also teaches the critically important concept of teamwork. The work of God is a team sport and requires a team effort. Judges 7:21 summarizes the key to this great victory. We read that each one of the 300 “stood in his place.” If even a tiny percentage had been too frightened to execute the plan the attack would have been disastrous.
Are you willing to stand with committed faith in your place so that together we might defeat the powers of hell?
Dick Woodward, 12 December 2012
November 13, 2020
“This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)
Jesus goes to a wedding. When they run out of wine, He creates more wine. In addition to the record of a miracle, this story is a formula for regeneration and a prescription for renewal. There is tired and there is tired of. Disciples of Jesus not only get tired – we get tired of. We call this “burnout.”
I’m convinced this first miracle of Jesus presents a prescription for burnout. If you are experiencing the need for renewal consider this prescription. Mary tells Jesus they have no wine. Since wine is a symbol of joy in the Bible, let this represent your confession that you need renewal because you are tired of, dry, and burned out.
Then block out some time to fill your human vessel with the Word of God as symbolized by the vessels being filled with water. While you are filling up on the Word of God do whatever the Holy Spirit tells you to do. Then realize your renewal is not just to give you an experience, it is for the benefit of those God wants to touch and bless using you as God’s channel.
Let these four principles we can learn from this first miracle of Jesus bring renewal as you serve Jesus. Our Lord often invited His disciples to come apart and rest awhile. If you don’t come apart at times and take this prescription of Jesus for your burnout – you will come apart.
Let Jesus turn your water into wine. That brings glory to Jesus and will make a restored believer out of you!
Dick Woodward, 16 November 2011
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
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
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
October 2, 2020
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
In the original Greek language, what we translate as confess is a compound Greek word: to say and the word for sameness. It literally means to say the same thing God says, or to agree with God.
If you know the Word of God and are in the Spirit enough to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, you can know what Jesus says and how He feels about what you have done. Your confession is to agree with Him. Our responsibility is to agree with Him. He does all the rest.
Jesus knows when we are lost. Because He loves us He very much wants us to agree with Him that He might recover us and lead us to green pastures, still waters, His table of provision and a full cup that never empties.
That’s why He wants us to confess our sins and start climbing in the right direction spiritually.
He is not a divine policeman with a huge club just waiting to crack us over the head when we step out of line. The ministry of Jesus is summed up in the Gospel of Luke this way: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
That Gospel shows us in beautiful ways the blessings that come into the lives of lost people because Jesus finds them and leads them to the blessings of His Love and salvation.
Dick Woodward, 12 October 2012
September 29, 2020
“My Word… will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
In this chapter (Isaiah 55) the great prophet Isaiah tells us why he preaches the Word of God. Earlier in this chapter he proclaimed that there is as much difference between the way we think and how God thinks as the heavens are high above the earth.
Isaiah tells us he preaches the Word of God because God’s Word can bring about an alignment between the way God thinks and acts and the way we think and act.
There is a strong emphasis in the Scripture on the importance of our will being in alignment with the will of God. Jesus made His greatest prayer when He sweat drops of blood and prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.” He taught His disciples and us to pray, “Your will be done in earth (and in our earthen vessels) as it is in heaven.”
The Bible frequently describes the struggle between God and men like Moses, Job, Jonah, and others who finally submit their will to the will of God – and the will of God is done in and through them on earth as it is in heaven. When God declares through Isaiah that His Word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it, I am convinced that this is the purpose God had in mind.
When you read and hear the Word of God proclaimed, will you let God accomplish His purpose for you? Will you let the Word of God bring about an alignment between your will and God’s will?
Dick Woodward, 28 September 2010
September 25, 2020
“Wrapped in a bundle of life with God…” (I Samuel 25:29)
These words of Scripture are often found inscribed on the gravestones of children who died at an early age. This is especially true in a Jewish cemetery, because many Jewish mothers believe these words express the inexpressible feelings in their hearts as they lay their children to rest.
As Christians we can also inscribe these words on the gravestones of our children and adult loved ones. “Wrapped in a bundle of life with God” should bring comfort and consolation as we think of those we have lost through sickness and death.
However, if we will think about it, these words can also be applied to our loved ones while they are living. The most exciting truth in the New Testament is presented in just two words: “In Christ” (or “In Him.”)
Jesus told the apostles that after His death and resurrection He would give them the divine presence of the Holy Spirit. They would then be “in Him” the way a branch is in a vine.
That means all of us can be wrapped in a bundle of life with Christ as we live our lives in this world. What an exciting concept! Jesus told the apostles, and you and me, all about this in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John.
He even told us how to abide in Him and experience the miracle of Him abiding in us. Jesus told us we can abide in Him and He will abide in us if we abide in His Word.
I challenge you that if you abide in His Word today, you will find yourself wrapped in a bundle of life with God!
Dick Woodward, 23 September 2010
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