A Beautiful Word: MERCY

August 28, 2018

“Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This beautiful word is found 366 times in the Bible. (Perhaps God wants us to know we need His unconditional love, every day of the year – and even Leap Year!)  Many people think we don’t hear about the mercy of God in the Bible until we get to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. However, 280 of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite Old Testament reference to the mercy of God is found in the last verse of Psalm 23.  David ends one of his greatest psalms with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him all the days of his life. The Hebrew word he uses here for “follow” is a word that can also be translated “pursue.”  David brings his profound and eloquent description of the relationship between God and man to a conclusion by making the declaration that the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life.  By application, this is true for any of us who confess our sins.

There are so many ways to fail. When we understand the meaning of the mercy of God, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. As I place my failures on a scale, I like to place all the times the Bible uses the word mercy on the scale opposite my failures. I invite you to do the same thing no matter how bad you think your failures and sins are.

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2012


Beattitude Attitude Adjustments

August 24, 2018

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23)

 The way we see things can be the difference between a life filled with light and happiness or a life filled with darkness and unhappy depression. Jesus and the entire Word of God consistently challenge our mindsets and show us how we should see things.

Have you as a believer ever found yourself in a funk and realized that you needed an attitude adjustment?  I certainly have and I have learned there are times when an attitude adjustment can pull me out of what I label a “pit fit.”  The two letters “AA” represent many things, but let them remind you to make regular Attitude Adjustments when you need to make them.

There are times when the best defense is a good offense. That rings especially true when it comes to attitudes. Instead of erecting a strong defense of attitude adjustments, the better part of wisdom is to put in place a strong offense of God ordained attitudes that will raise us above the devastating effects of “stinkin thinkin.”

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught that if we want to be part of His solution as the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we must begin by having eight attitude adjustments.  Read Chapter Five of the Gospel of Matthew and study closely the eight blessed attitude- beatitudes of Jesus.

When you understand and apply them they will make your life into the light and salt of the world!

Dick Woodward, 25 August 2011


A Great Storm & A Great Calm

August 21, 2018

“And a great windstorm arose…but He said to them, ‘How is it that you have no faith?’…and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:35-40)

If you read this story recorded in the Gospel of Mark (referenced above) you will see that Jesus directed the apostles to get into their boat and cross over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. On this sea crossing a great storm fell upon them. The apostles woke Jesus with the question: “Don’t you care that we are all going to drown?” After turning the great storm into a great calm He asked them a great question:

“How is it that you have no faith?”

Jesus had been teaching them that He is the King of the Kingdom of God and they are subjects in that Kingdom. Did they really think all of this was going to come to an end at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee? One translation renders His great question: “Do you not even yet believe in me?” Another puts it: “When are you going to get some faith?”

Before we are too hard on the apostles, let’s apply the essential truth of this story personally.  Jesus has promised that He will take us from this side of life to the next dimension called heaven. While we are on this journey, if a great storm falls upon us do we believe that storm declares all His promises to be null and void? Or do we have a quality of faith that can turn a great storm into a great calm?

Like the apostles, are we willing to let Jesus turn the storms in our lives into classrooms in which God can strengthen, grow and authenticate our faith?

Dick Woodward, 20 August 2010

Editor’s Note: The blog posting elf didn’t catch it until yesterday, but August 14th marked 10 years in the blogosphere for this 4 Spiritual Secrets blog. Many thanks (again) to M.K. Sizemore for setting up the graphics and helping the elf initially figure out WordPress. Dick Woodward (the elf’s bedfast quadriplegic papa) painstakingly wrote over 400 blog posts using voice-activated software before he passed in 2014. We had a grand time editing each post with emails back & forth, then sitting together in front of Papa’s big computer screen with final changes before the elf posted them online for all to read. He is now resting in the Everlasting Arms of God’s love, but his words of wisdom & faith remain to help us find calm amidst our (at times stormy) life journeys. 


Divine Guidance: One Day at a Time

August 17, 2018

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray He gave us a daily principle with multiple applications.  At the end of this chapter (Matthew 6) that records the central part of His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states that we should not worry about tomorrow. Many have made that obvious application to this prayer petition. People with challenges like addictions and overwhelming suffering are often only able to get their heads and hearts around the concept of a solution one day at a time.

Another legitimate application of this principle for living is to apply it to divine guidance. In the third chapter of his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul wrote that one way to discern the will of God for our life is to live up to the light we have now. He promises that as we do, God will give us more light.

One of my teachers once said: “If you want to see further ahead into the will of God for your life, then move ahead into the will of God just as far as you can see.”

As a college student I drove across the United States several times, mostly at night because there was less traffic. My headlights only illuminated about 100 yards at a time, but I discovered that if I kept driving into the light the headlights gave me, I eventually made it all the way from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles.

It is easier for God to steer a moving vehicle than one that is stationary.  As we respond to the light God is giving us, God adds more light to our path. The application of this principle leads us into God’s will one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, 17 August 2010


Patience, Patience, Patience!!

August 14, 2018

“…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…” (Philippians 4:11-12)

Throughout the history of the church, patience has always been considered a great virtue by spiritual heavyweights like Augustine, Thomas à Kempis and Francis of Assisi. Why is patience such an important virtue?

For starters, patience is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23)

In our relationship with God, we might call patience “faith-waiting.” In the Bible we are exhorted to “wait on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) It takes faith to wait when life situations challenge our walk with God. There are few spiritual disciplines that will focus our faith like those times when all we can do is wait on the Lord. When we are praying for something and receiving no answer, God may be teaching us that there are times when faith waits.

In our relationships with people, patience could be called “love-waiting.”  I had no idea how selfish I was until I got married. I had no idea how impatient I was until I became a father and found myself waiting for teenage children to grow up. The Lord wants to grow two dimensions of patience in my life: vertical patience by teaching me to have a faith that waits on Him, and horizontal patience by teaching me that in relationships, love waits.

We all eventually find ourselves facing circumstances that are beyond our control. Imagine Paul chained in that awful prison in Rome. Would he find and maintain the peace of God if his formula for peace was to rattle his chains?

Patience is the supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit that gives us the grace to accept the things we cannot control.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


The Lord is My Shepherd… BUT?

August 10, 2018

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23:1)

These are some of the most familiar words in the Bible beloved by devout people everywhere. According to this psalm of David, the key to the real blessing 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 as our Good Shepherd.

The spirit in which we recall these words, however, 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 health problems, marriage problems, problems with our children, finances, careers, and other kinds of challenges 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


Watching & Listening (by Faith)

July 24, 2018

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds’ feet, he makes me tread upon my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

The Old Testament and New Testament history of the people of God has identified an undeniable reality: good and evil exist side by side. The names and faces of good and evil keep changing, but good and evil have always had a presence in this world. Although forces of evil have tried for thousands of years to destroy the people of God, God’s people still have a presence in this world, by faith.

The devotional application of Habakkuk’s prophesy is that we should build spiritual watchtowers today. When facing overwhelming problems, especially Job-like tragedies that nobody understands, watch and listen in your spiritual watchtower. While watching and listening, Habakkuk wants you to know God welcomes your questions.

While everyone else was looking and listening for the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, Habakkuk watched and listened for God. If we watch and listen for God today the way Habakkuk did, we will discover God is still speaking through men and women of faith.

When Habakkuk looked at his problems and circumstances, he sighed and despaired. When Habakkuk turned to God with his doubts and asked God questions, watching and listening for God’s answers, Habakkuk sang.

When you are overwhelmed with Babylon and Job-type challenges, go up in your spiritual watchtower so that you might:

  • Watch until you see God working in your life.
  • Listen until you hear God working in your life.
  • See, hear, and worship God Who is working in your life.

Like Habakkuk, ask God your questions. In God’s time and God’s own way, God will answer your questions – if you are listening!

Dick Woodward, MBC Old Testament Handbook (p.630-632)


Temporal vs. Eternal Values

July 17, 2018

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  (John 17:3)

To appreciate eternal values we must define these two words: eternal and temporal.  Eternal literally means “that which was, that which is, and that which always shall be.” Temporal relates to “that which is temporary.”

Jesus made it clear that we have eternal life because we are related to the true God and believe in the One Whom God sent. Jesus and God are eternal and we have eternal life because we believe and are related to them. We must also make the observation that eternal life is referring to a quality of life as well as a quantity of life.

The word value also needs to be defined. The dictionary tells us “a value is that quality of any certain thing by which it is determined by us to be more or less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable.”

When we bring these concepts together (eternal, temporal and value) we should realize we are discussing what is more and less important, useful, profitable and therefore desirable in this life and in the life to come.

An eternal value is that the eternal is a greater value than the temporal.

The Apostle Paul wrote: “Truly, if our hope in Christ were limited to this life only we should, of all mankind be the most to be pitied!” (1Corinthians 15:19 J.B.Phillips)

Paul so highly valued the eternal he sacrificed his life here for what he was sure awaited him in eternity.

Do you value the eternal more than the temporal?

Dick Woodward, 16 July 2013


Prejudice vs. Faithfulness & Love

July 13, 2018

“…The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”  (Jonah 3:1)

In the story Jonah tells us, he is not the hero. God is. What does the fact that Jonah wrote this story, which makes him look foolish, tell us about his values and motivations? A paraphrased summary of Jonah’s truth might look something like this:

When I went Nineveh, I was not agape love, but God was. I told the Lord, “I can’t love Ninevites, Lord!” But God said to me, “I can, Jonah, so let’s go to Nineveh!”  I told the Lord, “I don’t want to go and I don’t want to love Ninevites, Lord!”  The Lord said to me, “I know that, Jonah. But, you see, I want to love Ninevites, so let’s go to Nineveh!” When I went to Nineveh, I did not love Ninevites. When I was in the city of Nineveh, however, God loved the entire population of Nineveh through me. Miracle of miracles, God saved the entire population of Nineveh through the preaching of this prophet who hated the people God wanted to save.

To be prejudiced means to “pre-judge.”  Prejudice comes in many shapes and forms. Is the work of God through you being blocked because of your prejudice? Are there people with whom you do not share the Gospel because you have animosity toward them? Or because they are above or below your level of education, wealth or social status?

Do you fear apathy, ridicule, hostility or embarrassment? Experiencing God’s call are you joining Jonah by saying, “I will not?”  When are you going to let the love and power of the Spirit of Christ cut through all your conscious and unconscious prejudice and say to God, “I will?” Remember, it’s not a matter of what you can do, but of what God can do.

Faithfulness is your responsibility; fruitfulness is God’s responsibility.

Dick Woodward,

Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet


Fellowship of the Fig Tree

July 6, 2018

“… before Phillip called you I saw you under the fig tree.”  (John 1:48)

As Jesus recruited apostles he had an interesting exchange with the one who was to become the Apostle Nathaniel. Nathaniel apparently had the regular practice of having times of intimate fellowship with God under a fig tree. When he met Jesus for the first time Jesus affirmed him as a Jew in whom there was no guile.

When Nathaniel exclaimed, “How do you know me?” Jesus said in so many words, “I’m the One you’ve been talking to under the fig tree!” That blew Nathaniel away and he was convinced forever that Jesus was the Son of God and many other things. (The whole story can be found in John 1:47-51.)

I find a challenge in this exchange between Jesus and this apostle. The challenge is simply this: do we have a fig tree place and time where we regularly meet with God and have intimate fellowship? You might call this, as I have, “The Fellowship of the Fig Tree.”

Years ago I gave a devotional at a businessmen’s breakfast on this concept. One of the attendees who became a dear brother was in the furniture business. He gave me a beautiful artificial fig tree, placing it in my home where I had my quiet times with God every morning. He wanted me to have my intimate times with God under a fig tree. That was nearly 40 years ago. It is still here in our home today.

Do you belong to the Fellowship of the Fig Tree? Do you have a place where you meet with God every day?

Dick Woodward, 07 July 2009