Setbacks or Cutbacks?

August 7, 2018

“… every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  (John 15:2)

My mentor Ray Stedman loved to tell the story about the famous violinist Paganini. As a brilliant violinist and superb showman, he liked to attach a sharp razor to his wrist. At the right moment he would cut one of the strings on his violin. As the string popped the audience would gasp, but the most famous violinist in the world would keep playing. Paganini did this dramatically until he only had one string left on his violin. He would then play the entire concerto on that one string as a violin virtuoso.

Ray’s application was that God sometimes likes to cut back our strings and play the concertos of our lives on one string. This brings great glory to God because people can’t believe that as we experience cutbacks our concertos continue to play with even more beautiful sounds.

My precious wife has lost the use of her left arm and years ago I lost the use of all four limbs. But the concerto of our lives and ministry continues to be more fruitful than it has ever been which brings great glory to God who is the One orchestrating the concerto of our lives.

The explanation of Jesus is that He is a Vine and we are branches related to Him. When we are fruitful because of that alignment He cuts us back to make us more fruitful.

Is it possible events in your life that you consider setbacks are actually cutbacks of your loving Lord and Savior who wants your life to be fruitful in the heavenly dimension?

Dick Woodward, 14 August 2012


God’s Revelations to (& through) Us

April 27, 2018

“The heavens declare the glory of God… The Law of the Lord is perfect… May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight…” (Psalm 19: 1, 7, 14)

In Psalm 19 David writes that every day and every night God is preaching a sermon through the heavenly bodies. The text of that sermon is the glory of God. The firmament, the space in which those bodies exist, is also preaching a sermon.

Space preaches to us about the infinite size of God.

David’s thoughts then turn to the special revelations of God. That’s what theologians call the Word of God and David calls the Law of God. David is impressed and impresses us with what the Word of God can do: convert the soul, enlighten the eyes, and make wise the simple. God’s Word can rejoice the heart and it will endure forever. So, too, will the one whose soul has been converted by the Word. As David meditates on what the Word can do, he claims that the Word is more to be desired than pure gold.

Having reflected on what we might call “Natural Revelation” and “Biblical Revelation,” he next guides us to consider “Personal Revelation.”  His thought is that God’s revelation through nature is magnificent and beautiful. God’s revelation through Scripture is miraculous and perfect.

But what about God’s revelation through people like you and me?

Another thing Scripture does is warn us about willful sins that mar the revelation of God through us.

Are we willing to track with David through these three ways God speaks and then pray that God’s revelation through us will be acceptable in God’s sight?

Dick Woodward, 26 April 2010


The Dragonfly: An Easter Reminder

April 3, 2018

 “And just as we have borne the image of the one made from dust, so also shall we bear the image of the One from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:49)

Have you ever watched a dragonfly move from one plant to another with its two sets of wings hovering like a helicopter? A dragonfly actually spends the first two years of its existence at the bottom of a body of water. When that phase of its existence comes to an end, it rises to the surface of the water, climbs up on the bank and lets it wings dry in the sun. Then it spreads its wings and begins the second dimension of its existence, becoming an aeronautical wonder.

Easter reminded us that like the dragonfly we are meant to live out our existence in two dimensions. If you did a cross-section of the under-water dragonfly you would see it has two respiratory systems: one for living under water and one for breathing air in the second dimension of its life.

If you could do a spiritual cross-section of a believer you would find that we are also equipped with two systems. We have an outward person and an inward being. Our outward person is just a little clay pot in which our eternal inward being lives.

We are told in the great Resurrection Chapter (1 Corinthians 15) that we are given a body for living this life and we will be issued another body for living in the eternal state. According to Paul, that new body will be a spiritual one for living through all eternity.  I don’t know about you, but as a bed fast quadriplegic I’m really looking forward to being issued that new spiritual body!

Dick Woodward, 12 April 2012


Saving Faith: Never Ever Alone

December 12, 2017

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

If this happy and joyful holiday season finds you unhappy because you are mourning the loss of a loved one, in my previous post I suggested you should ask the right questions. My second suggestion is to listen to God’s answers to the right questions. For example, listen to the answer of the One Who was God in the flesh and gave us the second beatitude that promised comfort when we are mourning.

Jesus gave this answer (John 11:25-26) to Martha who had lost her brother, Lazarus, whom she and Jesus loved deeply. To paraphrase, Jesus told Martha that if a man like her brother believed in Him, even though he died he would live. Jesus then opened this great reality to all of us with the declaration that whoever believes and lives his or her life in fellowship with Him will never die.

Make the observation when the Lord appears to be redundant He is not merely repeating Himself. The second time Jesus makes this declaration He opens the reality of everlasting life to whoever meets two prerequisites: if we believe in Him and if we live our lives in Him, we will never die.

Faith alone can save but the faith that saves is never alone.

When Jesus focuses the validating faith of living in Him, He uses an expression that is found nearly 200 times in the New Testament. It means to be in relationship with Him the way a branch is in relationship with a vine.

Dick Woodward, 14 December 2010


Keeping Our Eyes On Jesus

October 13, 2017

 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

When the ultimate terminal illness comes to an eagle, it climbs to the highest possible elevation and looks into the sun for an entire day. When the sun goes down that evening, the eagle dies.

Have you ever seen an eagle disciple of Jesus Christ die? I first started believing the Gospel when I watched my mother die. She died looking right into the Son. Our godly pastor, who had seen scores of saintly ones go home, said he never had seen anything like what he witnessed with us that night.

At the age of 49, my mother left behind six daughters, five sons and a husband. She spent the last two hours of her life with us, but she was already in heaven. She was talking to Jesus. She often said she never had any peace. We had a little house of thirteen hundred square feet with 13 people living in it, so you can understand why she had precious little peace and quiet. In those last hours she kept saying, “Oh, this peace, this peace!” Several times she started to share something but said, “I can’t tell you about that.”

The Apostle Paul described something similar in 2 Corinthians 12, when he tells us he was caught up into the third heaven, saw many things, but said essentially, “I can’t tell you about that.”

I believed intellectually at my mother’s death when I was 14, but I did not become a disciple of Jesus Christ for several years. I delayed my decision because I knew believing involved commitment. I knew this because my mother had said to me:

“If Jesus Christ is anything to you, Dick, He is everything to you. Because, until Jesus is everything to you, He isn’t really anything to you.”

My life changed forever because she lived and died as an eagle disciple of Jesus Christ. Those closest to us may also become believers as they see us live and die with our eyes on Jesus Christ.

Dick Woodward, As Eagles: How to Be an Eagle Disciple


12th Condition for Peace: Believe in God’s Goodness

June 13, 2017

“…if you believe in goodness…” (Philippians 4:8)

As a young social worker I visited an elderly couple who had spent 50 years as missionaries in China. They were in poor health and living in indigent welfare housing. As these dear white-haired saints (who were what I consider spiritual nobility), reflected on what they had to show for their time of sacrificial service, they were beginning to doubt the value of all the good they had done for Jesus.

I shared this part of Paul’s peace prescription with them. Paul teaches here that our good works are not always rewarded in this life, but all good works of believers will be rewarded in the eternal state. (ICorinthians 3:11-15)

Paul certainly could have identified with this couple who realized their ‘welcome home’ would be waiting in heaven. From the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul completely dedicated himself to the work of Jesus. What did that get him? Prison after prison, each one worse than the last; most were foul smelling dungeons. And yet, he writes that he experienced peace and joy.

When Paul writes, “If you believe in goodness…,” I am convinced he is focusing on the lifetime of goodness faithful servants have invested for the Lord.

Discouraged servants of God are tempted by the evil one to doubt the worth of good they have done. This part of Paul’s prescription addresses this peace thief. He would spare spiritual servants of Jesus the loss of peace we may suffer if we forget, that even though we may not be rewarded for faithful service in this life, our reward is waiting in the eternal state.

We are to value the approval of God in this life and be certain of His approval in the life to come.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


Praying in the Valleys

July 22, 2016

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”   (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:  “As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me.  Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me.  I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of all the life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your individualized, personalized and attentive care.  I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help me in my time of need.  You will also pursue me like a ‘Hound of Heaven’ with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust God to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship forever in Heaven; to the green pastures that never turn brown, the still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk