Distress-driven Balm from the Psalms

August 28, 2015

“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 KJV)

One of my favorite Scripture verses is the first verse of Psalm 4 in the old King James translation. 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.  In His providence, I believe God always has that agenda when He is growing His children…

As I mentioned on the phone, Psalm 46 is 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. An NASB footnote says the opening verse could be interpreted this way, “God is my refuge and strength.  He is abundantly available for help in tight places.” This psalm inspired Martin Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It can be applied devotionally to believers who live in contexts like where you are.  The Living Bible paraphrases the Psalm, “Even if the earth blows up and the mountains are thrown into the sea, the believer can say, “the Lord of hosts is with me, the God of Jacob is my fortress.”  The punchline 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.  As I meditate on this one, having memorized it, the Lord brings you to mind.  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 he prays, “Revive me.”  The old King James reads “quicken me.”  That word, quicken, means something like, “touch me to life – give me a touch from You that will spring to life the work of the Spirit in my heart and life.”

… Well, as your ‘ole daddy and pastor I just wanted to unload some of these Scriptures that mean so much to me.  You may be down in the well, but we are holding the ropes. Recently I heard somebody say, “When saying goodbye to a fellow soldier of Christ, we should never say, ‘take it easy.’ We should say, ‘Hang tough, and fight the good fight.'”

Gobs and gobs of agape….

Dick Woodward, 01 April 1997 (fax to his overseas daughter)

Editor’s Note: Found this fax while sorting dusty boxes this week. Although much longer (many more Psalms, all typed out!) thought it might bless someone out there like it did Papa’s kid, again, after 18 years.  Kinda long, but since The Editor has averaged only 1 post per week the last 2 months, this can make up for two.   Bi-weekly posting grooves will hopefully be back on track soon.


Nourishing the Spirit

July 21, 2015

“If any man wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the teaching whether it is from God…” (John 7:17)

Jesus gave us a principle that shows us how we can know His teaching is the teaching of God. The principle is this: If any man wills to do, he will know.  For millennia those who approach the proposition of faith intellectually have said, “When I know, then I will do.”  Their premise has been and remains: “the knowing leads to the doing.”  Pointing to their temples they say, “Reach me here.” Then, pointing to their heart, they say, “Then I will follow through here.”  They are essentially saying, “Reach me intellectually and then I will commit volitionally.”

Jesus cut through that when He proclaimed this principle:  the knowing does not lead to the doing.  The doing leads to the knowing.  When you commit your will to doing what Jesus teaches then the intellectual affirmation will follow.  It is only then that you will know the teaching of Jesus is the Word of God and not just the ideas of another Rabbi coming down the pike.

When people followed Jesus on His terms He called them ‘disciples.’  A synonym for that word is “apprentice.”  An apprentice and a disciple are learning what they’re doing and doing what they’re learning.

As Jesus apprenticed His disciples they discovered that the doing leads to the knowing.  Are we applying this principle to our faith as followers of Jesus Christ?

Dick Woodward, Lackey Free Clinic Health Beat, Summer 2009


Oneness ‘in Christ’

April 28, 2015

“Is Christ divided?”   (1 Corinthians 1:13)

In the great prayer our Lord prayed for His Church in the Gospel of John, Chapter 17, Jesus asked His Father five times that we all might be one.  In light of this great prayer priority of our Lord, is it not evidence of the work of the evil one when we consider all the “sects and insects and isms and spasms” claiming to be His true Church today?

The risen, living Christ can be known by His followers.  The authors of the New Testament identify authentic followers of Jesus when they refer to them as being “in Christ.”  When the church in Corinth was hopelessly divided the Apostle Paul asked a very appropriate question: “Is Christ divided?”

If thinking people really track with the authors of the New Testament would they not think it strange if people who profess to be in Christ cannot agree on anything?  There is, however, a supernatural oneness and agreement among people who are truly in Christ today.

Decades ago when African American believers petitioned white churches in the southern part of our country to integrate I discovered that it didn’t matter whether the people in my church were born in the northern or southern United States.  What mattered in my congregation was whether or not they were born again.  Christ does not feel more than one way about civil rights.  Neither will we if we are born again and in Christ.

Paul concludes the second chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians by claiming that we have the mind of Christ.  If we in fact do have the mind of Christ we will agree.

Dick Woodward, 25 April 2012


Pushing & Prayer

March 27, 2015

“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”  (I Corinthians 4:2)

Paul declared that one of the greatest virtues of a servant of the Lord is faithfulness.

There’s a story about a man told by God to push against a huge rock as the primary work for his lifetime.  For many years the man did that. Exhausted, burned out and discouraged he told the Lord that the rock had not moved a centimeter.  The Lord responded that He had not told the man to move the rock, but to push against it.  He made the observation that pushing against the rock had given him a strong healthy and muscular body. God knew all along that only He could move that rock.

This leads to an acrostic based on the word push:

P- Pray

U– Until

S– Something

H– Happens

I am now living in my 82nd year.  One of the observations I’ve made in my long life is that God is our Mentor.  He is always teaching us and is fiercely committed to the proposition that we are going to grow spiritually and in every other way.  He deliberately assigns us tasks that are not only difficult, but impossible, knowing that those tasks will grow and mature us into faithful servants He can use to do through us what only He can do in this world.

Another observation without which I could not function as a human being, especially as a pastor, is what I call Four Spiritual Secrets.  Concisely put: I’m not, I can’t, I don’t even want to — but He is, He can, He wants to, and He does.

Trusting God push and pray, so God can do His work in and through you.

Dick Woodward, 20 June 2012


Grace & Perseverance …

March 6, 2015

“…rejoice in your sufferings knowing…” (Romans 5:3 NIV)

Rejoice in your sufferings, knowing what? In the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul begins by writing that God has given us access, by faith, into grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ in this world and live a life that glorifies God.

Imagine how it must make God feel when He has given us access to all the grace we need to live for Christ in this world and we never access that grace. According to Paul, because God loves us He permits suffering to enter our lives that we cannot bear without drawing on the grace we have access to by faith.

Paul writes that as we receive the grace to endure our suffering God produces mature Christ-like character in our lives such as perseverance. When you ask the question, “How does an orange get to be an orange?” The answer is “By hanging in there.”  That is the essence of the meaning of this character trait called perseverance.

When some followers of Christ find themselves suffering, their immediate response is: “Lord, deliver me from this, immediately!” He can, and sometimes He does, deliver us. But He often does not. When He does not it may be because it is His will to grow spiritual character in the life of His follower. When that is what God is doing Paul is telling us we should rejoice in our sufferings, access grace by faith, and then grow spiritually.

Dick Woodward, 19 March 2009


Jonah: God’s mercy vs. prejudice

March 3, 2015

“But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry… ‘Oh Lord.. I knew You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.’  …And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:1-4)

As you reflect upon Jonah’s story and apply the central truth in the Book of Jonah, ask yourself if you are prejudiced.  To be ‘prejudiced’ means to ‘pre-judge.’  Prejudice comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. I was introduced to prejudice as a boy growing up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I heard Italian Americans called ‘daggos’ and Polish Americans called ‘hunkies.’

When I attended a southern college in the late 1940’s, I was shocked to see ‘white’ and ‘colored’ water fountains and to see African Americans sitting in the back of buses.  I was even more bewildered when I discovered that “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches…

As a new believer I was disillusioned because I heard professing believers use discriminatory labels.  From what I learned while preparing for the ministry, I expected the followers of Christ and our spiritual communities to be free from prejudice.  As a believer now for more than 60 years and a pastor for more than five decades, I am still alarmed by the deceitful ways of the evil one when I discover prejudice in my own heart and in the lives of other believers…

I have learned, from personal experience, that prejudice feeds on ignorance.  I grew up during the Second World War when intense propaganda presented Japanese as sub-human creatures.  In my junior year of college in L.A., my roommate was a devout Japanese disciple of Jesus Christ.  He was the most Christ-like and disciplined disciple of Jesus I had met at that point in my life.  The experience of knowing him completely erased the cumulative impact of all the war propaganda from my mind.  Until I met my roommate, I had never met a Japanese person before.  My prejudice was fed by my ignorance.

Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.

… Examine your own heart before God and ask yourself if you have prejudice in your heart that is blocking the love God wants to channel through you to lost and hurting people in this world.

Dick Woodward,  Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet

 


A Prescription for Burnout

January 30, 2015

“This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory.  And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)

Jesus goes to a wedding and when they run out of wine, He creates more wine. In addition to the record of a miracle, this story is a formula for regeneration and a prescription for renewal.  There is tired and there is tired of.  Disciples of Jesus not only get tired – they get tired of.  We call this “burnout.”

I’m convinced this first miracle presents a prescription for burnout.  If you are experiencing the need of renewal consider this prescription.  Mary tells Jesus they have no wine.  Since wine is a symbol of joy in the Bible let this represent your confession that you need renewal because you are tired of, dry, and burned out.

Then block out some time to fill your human vessel with the Word of God as symbolized by the vessels being filled with water.  While you are filling up on the Word of God do whatever the Holy Spirit tells you to do.  Then realize that your renewal is not just to give you an experience, it is for the benefit of those God wants to touch and bless using you as His channel.

Let these four principles we learn from this miracle that first brought glory to Jesus and faith to His disciples bring renewal to you as you serve Jesus.  Our Lord often invited His apostles to come apart and rest awhile.  If you don’t come apart to rest at times and take this prescription of Jesus for your burnout – you will come apart.

Let Jesus turn your water into wine. 

Dick Woodward, 16 November 2011


Critical Importance of Vision (personalized)

January 27, 2015

“So he said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’” (Acts 9:6 NKJV)

Two Men named Marx and Engels authored The Communist Manifesto. For years after their book was written the membership in the Communist Party was meager. Then a man named Lenin appeared on the scene and wrote a very short pamphlet entitled: “What Is to Be Done?” His thesis was that if you read the book authored by Marx and Engels and then look at the world, what do you think should be done by those who truly believe what they wrote? Until the collapse of the “Iron Curtain” there were a billion people under the control of the Communist Party.

During the height of The Cold War, I was obsessed with this question: As a devout follower of Jesus Christ why not write a short booklet entitled ‘What Is to Be Done?’ by those who read and believe the Bible and then look at the world?  After asking many of the spiritual heavyweights I met this question, the best answer came from a man I highly respected. He told me that no one person could write that booklet for everyone. Each individual disciple of Jesus needs to write his own booklet by asking the question the Apostle Paul asked the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

“Lord, what do you want me to do?”

The way we each receive the answers to that question from the Lord can become our personal vision and marching orders for what we are to do. Sadly, so many followers of Jesus do not have a vision of what Christ wants them to do.

I challenge you to ask the risen Christ, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Dick Woodward, 24 January 2010


Becoming Champions (for Christ!)

January 20, 2015

All our steps are ordered by the Lord; how then can we understand our own ways?”  Proverbs 20:24

God doesn’t think or act as we do so Solomon has the wise question in Proverbs 20:24: “If we are going the way God wants us to go, how can we expect to always understand the way we are going?”  That’s the revised Woodward translation.  I believe it is obvious that God is making an original and He always does that in an original way.  There ain’t nobody like you and there ain’t supposed to be.

Today my thoughts turned to six of the most powerful verses in the Bible:  the last four verses of Romans 11 and the first two verses of chapter 12.  They tie in with Isaiah 55 and the reality that we do not know what God is doing but the profound truth focused is that He is the source of, the power behind, and His glory is the purpose of everything He is doing.  The application in Chapter 12 is that we should express intelligent worship by surrendering our bodies as a living sacrifice (not a dead one), be sure we are not getting our signals from the secular culture, ask God to transform our mind so we can think as He does, and then, having met these prerequisites, prove one day at a time that His will for us is good, meets all His demands, and moves toward spiritual maturity.  (This passage is especially good in the Phillips.*)

You are such a magnificent person and God is shaping you to be a champion for Christ in dimensions that are far beyond anything we could imagine or even think to imagine! Whatever help it takes you must master this problem or it will master you.  Every time God wants to do a great work like what He is doing in your life, the evil one is there trying to defeat the work of God.  Don’t let him have the victory.  Put on the whole armor of God to defeat what the evil one is trying to do.

Dick Woodward, (email, 20 January 2007)

(*J.B. Phillips translation of The New Testament in Modern English)


The Race vs. GRACE

November 4, 2014

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

This verse is not teaching the random chaos of life. This verse instead parallels a truth emphasized in the Bible and expressed by the word ‘grace.’  The truly significant events in the life of a believer are the result of grace and not the results of self effort.  The charisma of God upon the work of your hands will make the difference between your life having eternal significance and your life’s work amounting to wood, hay and stubble in the eternal state (I Corinthians 3:12-15; Psalm 90:17).

The writings of the Apostle Paul are filled with an emphasis upon the concept of grace.  The word grace means ‘unmerited favor.’

The blessing of God upon His people is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance. The grace of God and the love of God are unconditional. When you understand the meaning of the word grace which is found in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, it follows that the race is not to the swift or strong or wise or skilled…

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created  in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”   Ephesians 2:8-10

Dick Woodward, MBC Old Testament Handbook, p.428