The Christmas That Shall Be (Part 1)

December 18, 2015

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.”  (Matthew 25:31)

More than 300 times in the New Testament God tells us He is going to affect another intervention in human history.  Read Scriptures like Matthew 24 and 25, I Corinthians 15, II Peter 3 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18.  You will also find this Good News in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets.

You will discover that all these Scriptures proclaim the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which is the blessed hope of authentic followers of Jesus Christ and hope for this world.  Almighty God is coming to earth again!  This time He is not just telling a few chosen people such as a priest, a peasant girl, a carpenter, a few wise men and some shepherds.  God is telling anyone who reads the Bible.

The famous oratorio by Handel, which is sung every Christmas, compiles the Scriptures in the Old and News Testaments that describe the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be.  This magnificent sacred music is simply called, “The Messiah.”

As you reflect on this beautiful music and the Christmas that is yet to be, if you do not believe the 318 New Testament Scriptures, or the many Old Testament prophetic Scriptures concerning the future Christmas, then, like Zacharias in the first chapter of Luke, your mouth is shut by your unbelief.  You know the Good News that could give hope to hopeless people all around you, but your unbelief silences you.

Knowing about the Christmas that shall be would give hope to your sphere of acquaintances who are living without hope.  Do you know, or do you remember, what it is like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope?

Dick Woodward, A Christmas Prescription


Salty Disciples

May 12, 2015

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness… It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”  (Matthew 5:13 NIV/NLT)

When Jesus told His disciples that they were the salt of the earth there are several ways to interpret and apply this metaphor.  We find a clue to my favorite interpretation when we realize that the word “salary” is made up of two root words: “salt” and “money.”

Twenty centuries ago the Roman Empire wanted to control the population of the world.  They knew that no human being can live without salt. So, they controlled the salt of the world. They actually paid their slaves in cubes of salt.  This is where we get the expression that a person is ‘not worth his or her salt.’

This means Jesus taught that secular people do not have life.  His disciples have life and they are the way the secular people of this world can find that life.

Years ago a missionary statesman said when missionaries live in a compound in a foreign country with a fortress mentality they are like manure: they stink!  It’s only when God spreads them around that they do a little good.  Similarly, when the followers of Jesus meet together they are like salt in a saltshaker.  The only way they can have a salty influence is to come out of the saltshaker.

One way our Lord brings us out of the saltshaker is where we make a living.  Be challenged by the reality that your workplace can be God’s way of placing you next to secular people who need life.  Realize that you are not only there to make a living…

You are there because they need the salty impact of your life.   

Dick Woodward, (21 March 2012)


Commissioned by Jesus

November 11, 2014

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

“The Great Commission is the charter of the Church. Like any other organization the Church must fulfill the terms of its charter or it should cease and desist.” So wrote a missionary statesman of another generation.

For more than twenty years I was the pastor of a church near a naval base – more than seventy percent of our church members were military. I soon learned that when military personnel received their orders they read them very carefully and obeyed them to the letter. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ gave us our orders in the Great Commission.

During World War II General George Patton once arrived before dawn at a station in North Africa much earlier than he was expected. Everything was in disarray. He kicked a soldier asleep on the floor. When the lowly GI realized who had kicked him he jumped to his feet, saluted and said “I’m sorry sir. I was just trying to get some sleep!” The general responded, “That’s OK son.” In his profane way, which I will not quote, the general essentially continued, You’re the only one around here who knows what he’s trying to do!

How it must grieve the risen living Christ to realize that so many in His Church today don’t know what they’re trying to do. We not only ignore His clear orders – many have never even heard that He gave us our charter, which is repeated at the end of every Gospel and at the beginning of Acts, the inspired history book of the Church.

Dick Woodward, 25 January 2010


Prejudice vs. faithfulness

June 24, 2014

“…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 for telling it on himself? A paraphrased summary of Jonah’s truth looks 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 and while I was in the city of 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 sizes, shapes and forms. Is the work of God in this world 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?

When you experience God’s call are you joining Jonah and 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?” …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

 


A Revelation of Reality

July 10, 2013

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And earth has nothing I desire besides You.”   (Psalm 73: 25)

The author of Psalm 73 has a problem.  He envies the wicked because they always seem to prosper while God is forever chastening him and putting him through hard times that grow his character.  The Psalmist becomes a great model for us as he takes his problem into the sanctuary where the Lord shows him the end of the wicked.  That changes his attitude toward the wicked from envy to pity and compassion.

How would it affect your outlook on life if God permitted you to spend five minutes in hell — or in heaven?  Both experiences would probably make you an evangelist.

The Psalmist goes on to write:  “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength (reality) of my heart and my portion forever.”  By this he means that God is the great Reality in this life.  Jesus said the same thing when He prayed: “This is eternal life that they might know You the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

When we have a revelation of eternal reality we will realize that the things we leave when the Lord calls us home are not worth living for while we are here.  As Peter considered the great Day of the Lord in which every material thing will be dissolved he asked the question, “Since everything will be dissolved in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” (2 Peter 3:11)

The answer to Peter’s question is that we should be people who know God and make Him known in every nation.  This is how we hasten the coming of that great Day of the Lord.


If You Continue

April 11, 2013

“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, you are My disciples indeed.’” (John 8: 31 KJV)

One of the most important words in the New Testament is the word “continue.” From the horrible Mamertine prison in Rome Paul dictated his last words to Timothy, his beloved son in the faith.  He fervently exhorted Timothy to continue in the things he had learned.

International Cooperating Ministries has built more than 4,000 churches in 65 countries.  One of the greatest challenges we face is attrition.  This is both in individuals who profess faith in Christ and churches that are started by professing believers.  We have found that churches are 91% more likely to continue and build daughter churches it they get into our four year curriculum of Bible study we call “The Mini Bible College.”

Our Lord was intensely realistic.  He knew all about the hard reality of attrition.  In His Parable of the Sower He taught that nothing happens 75% of the time the Word of God is proclaimed or taught.  That’s why when people professed to believe in Him, His challenge to them was to continue in His Word and be His disciples indeed.

His Great Commission to His disciples was to make disciples (Matthew 28: 18-20).  There were three participles in that commission: going, baptizing and teaching.  But there was only one commanding imperative: to make disciples.

Apply this word “continue” to your own personal commitment to follow Jesus and remember this concept when you share the Gospel with others.  It is critically important that we, and they, not only profess to believe but make the commitment to continue and become disciples indeed of our glorious and victorious Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.