August 16, 2022
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23)
These are some of the most familiar words in the Bible beloved by devout people everywhere. According to this Shepherd Psalm of David, the key to the real blessings 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. That relationship is established in the second verse of Psalm 23 when David writes, “He makes me to lie down.”
However, the spirit in which we recall these words 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 all kinds of problems 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
August 12, 2022
“Jesus said to them, ‘my food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.’” (John 4:34)
When Jesus met a woman at a well in Samaria He sent the apostles into a nearby village to buy food for their lunch. When His disciples returned with the food He refused it and spoke the words quoted above. Jesus obviously wanted to have a private interview with the Samaritan woman.
His interview has been summarized by a riddle: “The SW met a SW at a SW. The SW became a SW and went on to be a great SW.”
The explanation of the riddle is as follows: “The Savior of the World met a Samaritan Woman at a Samaritan Well. The Samaritan Woman became a Saved Woman and went on to be a great Soul Winner.”
When the apostles returned they marveled that Jesus was speaking with a Samaritan woman of questionable reputation. Earlier in this chapter we are told that Jesus was just passing through Samaria. He wanted to reach this woman who would reach all of Samaria for Him after He left. We’re told she did this for Him.
Jesus told the apostles that this was the work of God for Him. And doing the work of God was His food. In the Gospels, the magnificent obsession of Jesus was to do the work of God. Is the work of God a magnificent obsession for you?
Dick Woodward, 14 August 2009
August 9, 2022
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
The applications of the metaphors of Jesus seem endless. One application to the metaphor above is that for our candle to give light it must be consumed. Unlighted candles are not consumed, but the candles that shine are the candles that burn.
There is no shining without burning.
In another great metaphor Jesus told us we are like branches and He is the Vine. As branches, if we are properly intersected with Him, we draw from Him the love force to be fruitful. Jesus promised if we are plugged into Him and are fruitful, we will be cut back and pruned to be made more fruitful.
Cutbacks and pruning can really hurt. They can come in the form of suffering, but they improve the quality and the quantity of our fruit. In light of these teachings we should not be surprised when we find ourselves burning our way through suffering that our brightest light for Christ yields the best fruit.
Like many others I thought I experienced my most fruitful years when I was able bodied and active. But I am joyfully surprised to discover that my most fruitful service for Christ has been as a bedfast quadriplegic. Using voice activated computer software from my bed, 782 Bible studies have been produced and are being heard in 31 languages in 60 countries. Worldwide more than 45,000 small groups are listening to Bible studies on solar powered digital audio players.
Have you discovered there is no shining without burning?
Dick Woodward, 09 August 2013
Editor’s Note: The MBC has now been translated in 63 languages!
August 5, 2022
“And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)
In this chapter of the Bible, John gives us ten reasons we must love. His last reason is that we have been given a commandment by Jesus that we must love one another. When Jesus was about to leave the apostles by way of His death on the cross, He left the apostles with a new commandment:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
In our culture the concept of a commandment is lost for many people because we are so democratic in our values. The closest we come to understanding the meaning of this word is in our military training.
When my youngest brother was in training the order was given that the smoking lamp was out – which meant no smoking. In defiance he lit a cigarette. His Marine drill instructor ordered him to bury that cigarette in a grave six feet deep.
When my brother reported to the drill instructor all covered with mud and sweat, the instructor asked if he had buried the cigarette pointing north and south or east and west? When he wasn’t sure the drill instructor told him he had to do it again the next day and make sure it pointed north and south. The next time the no smoking order was given do you think my brother lit another cigarette?
Do you get the full weight of this commandment that we must love one another?
Dick Woodward, 06 August 2010
August 2, 2022
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1)
One of my favorite Scripture verses is the first verse of Psalm 4. David is in a wringer and he is talking to God about it. Almost parenthetically he drops this thought, “You have enlarged me when I was in distress.” As I reflect upon my wringer years of disability and I think of the growth I have experienced while in the wringer, that little phrase says it for me. Truly God has grown me in my time of distress.
Psalm 46 is also a great psalm that applies to servants of the Lord when they are living on the edge and the whole world seems to be coming unraveled like a cheap sweater.
The opening verse could be interpreted this way, “God is my refuge and strength. God is abundantly available for help in tight places.” It can be applied devotionally to believers who live in difficult contexts. The punch line comes when the Psalmist instructs the believer in the midst of chaos to “Be still and know that I am… and that I will be.”
I hope you have a chance to check out Psalm 143. David cries to God, “Answer me speedily because my spirit fails. Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning. Cause me to know the way in which I should walk.” I like the last part when David prays, “Revive me.” The old King James reads “quicken me.” That word, quicken, means something like “give me a touch from You that will spring to life the work of the Spirit in my heart and life.”
…Recently I heard someone say, “When saying goodbye to a fellow soldier of Jesus Christ, we should never say, “Take it easy.” We should say, “Hang tough and fight the good fight.”
Hang in there!
Dick Woodward, (1997 fax to his daughter overseas)
July 29, 2022
“I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5)
The apostles were in awe of the profound words and miraculous works of Jesus. In their last retreat with Him, Jesus essentially said that the key to His preaching, teaching, and supernatural ministry is that He and the Father are one. The Word of the Father was spoken on earth and the work of the Father was accomplished on earth through Jesus because He is one with the Father.
Jesus taught the disciples that after His death and resurrection, if they would be at one with Him He would do His work on earth through them. While they were in a garden, Jesus pulled down a vine that had many branches loaded with fruit. He said: “I am the Vine and you are the branches.”
In this metaphor the fruit does not grow on the vine. The fruit grows out on the branches because they are properly aligned with the Vine. The branches can bear no fruit without the Vine, and the Vine can bear no fruit without the branches. If the Vine, Jesus, wants to see fruit produced, He must pass His life-giving power through the branches.
Jesus wants to see fruit produced far more than the apostles want to be fruitful. By this inspired metaphor, He was actually teaching two propositions: “Without Me, you can do nothing” and, “Without you, I will do nothing.”
It is the plan of God to use the power of God in the people of God to accomplish the purposes of God according to the plan of God. Jesus is a Vine looking for branches.
Are you one of His fruitful branches?
Dick Woodward, 31 July 2012
July 26, 2022
“I have brought you out that I might lead you in…” (Deuteronomy 6:23)
There are times when God wants to do a new thing in our lives. To do this new thing God faces three challenges. First God has to get us out of the old place. That is not easy because we often love the security of where we are. God therefore has to blast us out of the old. That can happen in many ways. We could be fired, or we may just know in our knower that it is time to make a change. The call of God is often made up of a pull from the front and a boot from the rear.
The second challenge is that God has to keep us going to pull us through the transition time between the old place and the new place to which God is leading us. Transition times can be difficult!
The verse above describes the way God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt to bring them into the Promised Land. Their transition time involved crossing a desert, which should have taken eleven days. They went around in circles for forty years. They circled that desert because they did not have the faith to invade the land of Canaan. When God wants to do a new thing in our lives, do we go around in circles because we do not have enough faith to enter into the new place God is leading us?
The third challenge is that God has to make us right to settle us into the new place God has for us. One translation of 2 Corinthians 6:1 reads that we are “co-operators” with God. When we realize what God is trying to do in our lives, are we ready to give God a little more cooperation?
Dick Woodward, 24 July 2009
July 22, 2022
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly…” (James 4:3)
At the heart of a counseling session, a woman once said, “Don’t confuse me with Scriptures, Pastor. My mind is made up!” Seeking God’s will for our lives is often out of reach because we have our agendas in place when we come before God. If our minds are set like concrete before we converse with God, we are actually asking God to bless our will, our agenda and the way we have decided to go.
James tells us that when we pray, we ask and do not receive because our asking is flawed by our self-willed agendas. To seek and know the will of God we must be completely open to whatever the will of God may be. Our prayer and commitment must be in the spirit of the familiar metaphor, “You are the Sculptor, I am the clay. Mold me and make me according to Your will. I am ready to accept Your will as passively as clay in the hands of a Sculptor.”
There are two reasons to be open and unbiased as you seek to know God’s will. The first we learn from Isaiah 55: the ways and thoughts of God are as different from our ways and thoughts as the heavens are high above the earth. Another is that we become a totally new creation when we are born again.
It is tragically possible to miss the will of God for your life because you do not have the faith to believe that God can make you a new creation in Christ: a new creation with extraordinary potential.
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Guidance
July 19, 2022
“…because as He is, so are we in this world…” (1 John 4:17)
As the Apostle of Love gives us reasons why we must love (in 1 John 4), having told us twice that God is love (verses 8 and 16), he writes that as God is, so are we in this world. He also told us in verse 16 that God lives in us. If God is love and God lives in us, then it follows that as God is (love), so are we (to be love) in this world.
This is yet another reason why we must love.
The perfect example of this is Jesus Christ when He was God in human flesh for 33 years. The greatest dynamic of His personality was love. If you met with Him for a day like Zacchaeus, the Chief of the Publicans (Luke 19), or for an hour like the Samaritan woman (John 4), or briefly like the young man we call the rich young ruler, you would know that you are loved as you have never been loved before.
We are told that Jesus, looking intently at the rich young ruler, loved him. (Mark 10:21)
The Apostle John, the author of the fourth Gospel, lived with Jesus 24/7 for three years. John refers to himself in his Gospel many times with these words: “I am the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Sixty years later, he dedicated the last book of the Bible to Jesus with the words “…unto the faithful Witness Who loved us…”
When people meet with us today do they feel that they have been loved as never before because we are God’s Love with skin on in this world?
Dick Woodward, 16 July 2010
July 15, 2022
“…& mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...” (Psalm 23:6)
Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This word is found 366 times in the Bible. Perhaps God wants us to know we need mercy and unconditional love every day of the year! Many people think we don’t hear about God’s mercy until the Sermon on the Mount; however, we find 280 mercy references in the Old Testament.
King David concludes Psalm 100 with the observation that God’s mercy is everlasting. My favorite Old Testament reference to God’s mercy is found at the end of Psalm 23. One of David’s greatest Psalms ends with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him always.
The Hebrew word David uses for ‘follow’ can also be translated as ‘pursue.’ David brings his profound description of the relationship between God and man to a conclusion by declaring the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. This is true for all who confess, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
There are many ways to fail. When we understand the meaning of God’s mercy, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. No matter what your failures have been, God has sent you a message wrapped in this five letter word “mercy.”
The amazing message is that you did not win God’s love by a positive performance and you do not lose God’s love by a negative performance. God’s love and acceptance of you is unconditional. According to David, the mercy of God is not only there like a rock for you, but God is pursuing you with unconditional love and forgiveness.
Dick Woodward, Happiness that Doesn’t Make Good Sense