December 31, 2019
“Then He brought us out that He might bring us in…” (Deuteronomy 6:23)
Are you ready for a new thing? God often wants to do a new thing in our lives but He has three challenges.
Often when God wants to bring us out of the old and into a new place He cannot get us out of the old because we are insecure and want to hold on to the old place. God then has to blast us out of the old. That’s why a call of God is often made up of a pull from the front and a boot from the rear.
God’s second challenge is that He has to pull us through the transition between the old place and the new. Transitions can last for years and they can be very painful, but God promises He can pull us through the worst of them.
God’s third challenge is to get us right so He can settle us into the new place. We should no more resist that work of God than a baby should resist being born and coming out into life.
Don’t give God a hard time when God wants to do a new thing in your life. If we trust God’s character we should cooperate with God when God wants to make changes and do new things in us and for us. A rut is a grave with both ends knocked out. Our loving Heavenly Father does not want to see His children in the living death of a rut.
Instead of giving God a hard time, make it easy for Him as He brings you out of the old place and leads you into the new places He has for you in the New Year.
Dick Woodward, 28 December 2012
December 27, 2019
“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
There is an extremely equitable generosity expressed by God every year. God gives each one of us 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week, and 8,760 hours a year. The thought Moses expressed above is that we should cherish our 24 hour days and pray that we have wisdom about the way we live them.
There are many metaphors about life in the Bible. If you examine them, you will find they tell us life is brief as a smoke-like vapor. Life is uncertain like a thread that is about to be cut by a Seamstress, and we have no control over when that thread will be cut. Life is a transitory experience like a ship that fades out of sight as it passes beyond our horizon. A life is like a tale that is told and forgotten by the time others have told their tales.
Life is like sleep when we wake up. Only the Bible would call life a sleep and death the waking up. The hard reality that we only have 70 or 80 years of life because we are all going to die should lead all of us to wear watches and cherish our days, one day at a time.
The last days and hours of an old year should therefore be a time of reflection, and the first days and hours of a new year should be a time of revelation and resolution.
In light of the Bible’s message, a spiritual wish for the New Year is:
“May you have a spiritually prosperous and fruitful New Year.”
Dick Woodward, 31 December 2010
December 24, 2019
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)
The risen living Christ sends a letter to a Church in Laodicea, as recorded in Chapter Three of the Revelation. The church has been reading that letter for 2000 years. The risen Christ wishes they were hot, but if they are not going to get hot He would rather they be cold. Because they are neither cold, nor hot, but lukewarm – they make Him want to throw up!
The risen Christ then tells them how to have a Christmas that is and can be all day long, every day of the year. It is as if their life is a house and their heart is the door to that house. He is knocking on that door. He is patiently waiting for them to open that door and invite Him into all the meaningful areas of their life.
Verse 19 makes it clear that His knocking is chastisement which He wants to grow into repentance. His inspired metaphor illustrates repentance. It would seem there is no latch on the outside of the door.
The door must be opened from the inside.
Martin Luther wrote a Christmas carol that uses a similar metaphor: “Holy Jesus, precious Child make Thee a bed soft, undefiled, within my heart that it may be a quiet chamber kept for Thee.”
In our church on Christmas Eve children sing: “Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart. Somewhere deep inside you that’s where Christmas really starts. So give your heart to Jesus. You’ll discover when you do, that it’s Christmas, really Christmas for you!”
Dick Woodward, 24 December 2010
December 20, 2019
“… and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
If there was anyone in the Christmas story who had the right to an explanation of what was happening, it surely was Joseph. The angel who shared these words with Joseph expressed what Christmas is all about when he told Joseph to call the baby Mary was going to have “Jesus” because He would save His people from their sins.
The word “Jesus” actually means “Savior.” But I would like to call your attention to the reality that the baby was to be given this name because He would save His people from their sins.
Many evangelical believers seem to put a spin on this statement of the angel that was never intended. Our spin is something like “forgive His people for their sins.” However, the hard reality is the angel declared that it was the purpose on the heart of God to save His people from their sins.
In the words of Psalm 107’s redemption hymn, when God redeems us from our chaos it is also God’s plan to deliver us from our chains. That is obviously on the heart of God when the angel pronounced this Christmas Good News.
Redemption means “to buy back and bring back that which was lost.” Rehabilitation in its Latin root means “to invest again with dignity.” Jesus came to forgive us for our sins, but He came to offer us much more than that. Jesus wants to save (and deliver) us from our sins.
This year have a personal Christmas – believe the declaration the angel made to Joseph!
Dick Woodward, 24 December 2009
December 17, 2019
“Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
The essence of Christmas can be described by the word “incarnation.” The biblical word ‘carne’ is the Greek word for ‘flesh.” When we consider the Christmas that was, we find ourselves face to face with the incarnation – the miracle that God decided to make human flesh His official residence for 33 years. We date time from the first Christmas because human flesh became God’s address when Christ was born in Bethlehem.
Asked who Jesus is, a little boy answered, “God with skin on.” That’s good theology! One of the names of Jesus is “Emmanuel,” which means God with us.
The Bible also frequently uses the word flesh to mean “human nature, unaided by God.” God knew that our human nature desperately needed supernatural aid. The essence of incarnation demonstrates the reality that we need God to do something for us that we cannot possibly do for ourselves. On that first Christmas Eve God intersected human history with what we might call “The Great Intervention,” that we may experience salvation.
If you carefully read the first chapter of Luke, you will discover that God told a priest what He was going to do and the priest did not believe Him. God responded by shutting the priest’s mouth. Zacharias had the greatest sermon to preach, but lost the opportunity because unbelief shut his mouth…
“Oh Holy Child of Bethlehem descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today…” (Phillips Brooks, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”)
Dick Woodward, A Christmas Prescription
December 13, 2019
“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”(Luke 2:10)
When the angels appeared to those frightened shepherds, they gave a wonderful Christmas greeting. They announced that they were bringing good tidings of great joy to all people.
These good tidings were not just for Jewish people or for good people.They are to bring great joy to ALL people! That means all kinds of people, and all kinds of people everywhere!
Before He ascended, the last words of Jesus were: “… be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere… to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Some people enjoy their faith as if the last words of Jesus were “Now don’t let it get around!” They live out their faith as if the Gospel is a secret to be kept.
Never forget those two beautiful Christmas words, “All people!”
The spiritual community of those who believe and follow Jesus is not to be a secret organization. It is a community of people who exist for the benefit of their non-members.
Jesus Christ came to bring good news and great joy to people who are not good. The Bible tells us that all of us have gone astray and turned every one of us to his or her own way. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that God laid the penalty for all of our sins on His Son. (Isaiah 53:6)
Two more great Christmas words are “mercy” and “grace.” The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve and God’s grace lavishes on us all kinds of marvelous things we do not deserve. God’s mercy and grace give us more blessings than we can count if we have the faith to receive them.
Dick Woodward, 23 December 2011
December 10, 2019
“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
After the Angel Gabriel visited the priest Zechariah he went to the village of Nazareth to a peasant girl named Mary. When Angel Gabriel told Mary she was going to be the mother of God she responded in several ways. The Scripture states very clearly that she believed and praised God. (Luke 1:45-55)
As we might well imagine, we read that she was so filled with awe the first person to question the virgin birth was the Virgin. Mary showed us that honest inquiry is not the sign of a weak faith. The verse above tells us that she kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.
When the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles tell us about the Christmas that shall be when Jesus Christ comes back again, they tell us that His coming is the hope of the world and the blessed hope of the church.
Hope is the conviction that something good exists in this world and we are going to experience it. Close to 30,000 people in America take their life every year because they no longer believe in something good. In other words, they end their lives when they lose hope.
Some believers are so awed by the miracle of the Second Coming they ask questions and experience a “paralysis of analysis” which is followed by much pondering in their hearts.
When we realize that we have a message of hope to tell people without hope about the Christmas that shall be, we simply must share that good news. It is Christmas negligence to have this hope and not share it with people who have no hope.
Dick Woodward, 06 December 2011