Sharing the Gospel

May 2, 2017

“I want to remind you of the gospel…which you received and on which you have taken your stand… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

Since most evangelism takes place today in the marketplace, it is imperative that we understand how to articulate the Gospel. A first step in that direction is realizing the Holy Spirit is the Evangelist and we are merely conduits through whom the Holy Spirit works…

When Jesus stayed up late with Nicodemus, the first words of Nicodemus were: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do the works that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2) Jesus earned his hearing with Nicodemus by what he had seen Him do. Likewise, we must also earn our hearing with people. This begins with our understanding that what we do demonstrates what we believe. All the rest is just religious talk. People are not interested in our religious talk unless they are impressed by what they see us do and are favorably impacted by what we are. It’s as if Nicodemus was saying he was impressed with what he had seen Jesus do, so he had come to hear the religious talk of Jesus. We are deceiving ourselves if we think it’s not that way with us today.

What I’m calling religious talk is our theological explanation of what we believe and why we believe it. This can be a negative if we overwhelm people with our theology. Many secular people don’t understand the simplest theological terms… Whether positive or negative, people will not be interested if they are not impressed with who and what we are and the things we do.

When we earn our hearing by the grace of God, the Gospel is simply two facts about Jesus Christ: He died for our sins and He rose again from the dead, just as the Old Testament Scriptures said He would and the New Testament Scriptures tell us He did.

There is something to believe and Someone to receive.

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p. 23, 24, 38)


A Prescription for Knowing God

August 7, 2015

“… for he who would come to God must believe that He is…”      ..(Hebrews 11:6)

Do you know God?  I do not mean do you know a lot about God, but do you know God?  Do you want to know God?  In the verse above we find a prescription that can help you know God.

The prescription is that we must believe that He is, and we must believe that He rewards those who diligently seek Him.  My passion to know God led me to confess:  “I believe that He is.”  But what is He and where is He?

A very helpful answer came through a verse in the first letter of the Apostle John where he wrote: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (1 John 4:16).  After studying the quality of love God is, the prescription above led me to ask another question: “If God is this quality of love, where is He likely to be doing His love thing?”

At that time I was a social worker.  Responding to a call in the middle of the night, I prayed something like this:  “God, I have an idea that You are loving where people are hurting.  That’s where I’m going, so when I get there pass the love You are through me and address their pain.”

As the love of God passed through me to them I touched God and He touched me. That night I found out where God is and where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.

If you want to know God, place yourself as a conduit between His love and the pain of hurting people.

Dick Woodward, 22 September 2011


Strategic salt & light: Zacchaeus

June 10, 2014

…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  (Luke 19:10)

In Luke 19, verses 1 – 10, we encounter Jesus interacting with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. The beautiful part of the Zacchaeus story is when Jesus goes to spend His only day in Jericho with this little crook, and all the people are griping about it. It would make a great painting if an artist would paint Jesus who was a big man, according to Josephus, walking home with His arm around small Zacchaeus.

Here we see the strategy of Jesus.  He is passing through Jericho. He obviously wants to reach the man who can impact and reach Jericho for Him after he has passed through and beyond the city limits.  It must have made a big impact upon the city when Zacchaeus started calling in the people he had ‘ripped off.’  Imagine their surprise, joy, and awe when they, thinking he was going to get into their purses even deeper, discovered that he wanted to pay them back 400% because he had met Jesus!  This is an illustration and an application of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) to the effect that the solution, the answer, the salt, the light – is something we are, and that we simply must hear His word and do it.

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.142-143)


The Third Level of Commitment to Christ

October 11, 2013

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ…”  (2 Corinthians 5:20)

The third level of commitment to Christ is identified by the preposition “for Christ.” Paul concludes that when we understand all that we have available to us “by Christ,” and we fully appreciate what it means to be “in Christ,” we are therefore ambassadors “for Christ.”

Paul writes:“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18)  According to Paul, everyone who has been reconciled to God by Christ has been given the message and the ministry of reconciliation.  This means every believer is a minister.  The seventh beatitude “blessed are the peacemakers” is another way of saying the same thing.  As conduits of God we should plead with people to be reconciled to God.

There is another application to this third level of commitment as demonstrated by the legendary missionary David Livingstone. On one very hot day in Africa, he faced a stream he had to cross. Holding his gear over his head he waded through sewer-like water that had a terrible odor.  Covered with decayed plant life up to his chin, when he reached the other side he laid down his gear.  Falling prostrate on his face, David Livingstone cried out, “Father I thank you for the privilege of going through this putrid jungle stream for You!”

I was once asked as a pastor to visit a missionary couple who returned after 48 years in China without any welcome or appreciation.  Although living in tenement housing and in poor health, they were in wonderful spirits.  When I inquired about their attitude they said, “You have to know Who you are doing it for.”

Do you know Who you are doing it for?


Applied Resurrection

March 29, 2013

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV)

A mother of small twin daughters realized her bone marrow transplants were not going to work.  In beautiful handwriting she wrote out The Living Bible Paraphrase of three chapters written by Paul about resurrection.  When she gave them to me she asked me to explain them at her memorial service simply so her daughters would understand them.

The first was the great resurrection chapter of the Bible, the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.  The other two were the fourth and fifth chapters of Second Corinthians.  I call these last two chapters: “Applied Resurrection.”

The first application of the resurrection of Christ is that just as Jesus was buried and raised from the dead, we are buried in the hope of our own resurrection.  If that is not going to happen we should be pitied because we suffered for Christ in this life.

If you want to have a personal Easter I challenge you to read these three chapters slowly and devotionally in a good translation or paraphrase you can understand like The Living Bible Paraphrase or The Message.

C.S. Lewis told us the clergy are people who have been set aside to remind us that we are creatures who are going to live forever.  They are also to teach us that life is a school in which we are to learn eternal values.

Applied Resurrection teaches us that though our outward man is perishing, it is possible for our inward man to be renewed every day while we’re learning to appreciate the difference between the visible and the invisible, the temporal and eternal values.

May your Easter be a time of reflection on eternal resurrection values.


Difficult Relationships

November 6, 2012

“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in meekness correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”   (2Timothy2:24-26)

We might label these words Paul wrote to Timothy: “How to relate to a difficult person.” We all need this teaching because we must all deal with difficult people.

According to Paul the difficult person to whom we are relating has been taken captive by the evil one and we cannot free them.  We can maintain three fruits of the Spirit (gentleness, meekness and patience), which keeps the door open for God.  We then earn our hearing and place before them the Word of truth they need to hear. We must not quarrel because that opens the door for the evil one and closes the door for God.

When they acknowledge the truth of God’s Word they experience repentance, and escape from the captivity of the evil one.  This is not a matter of teaching or preaching.  It is not having the last word or winning the argument.  This is becoming a conduit through which almighty God sets people free who were not free.

To repent means to think again or to have a change of mind, heart, will and direction.  It is a work of God you cannot perform.  Only God can use His Word and you His servant to make this happen.  In an attitude of prayer and in dependence upon God and His Spirit are you willing to be a conduit of this miracle?


A Salty Disciple

March 21, 2012

“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 our word “salary” is made up of the two root words “salt 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 their salt.

This means Jesus was teaching 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 that 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 salt influence is to come out of that saltshaker.

One way our Lord brings us out of the saltshaker is that we must 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.