The Anatomy of a Sin (Pizza, Pizza!)

June 25, 2019

“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” (James 1:15)

In this verse James gives us what we might call the anatomy of a sin.

One day more than twenty years ago, my wife had to be gone for six or seven hours. As I watched sports television in the evening, every thirty minutes or so there was an advertisement promoting pizza.

I truly love pizza but I’m not supposed to have it because I am a diabetic. Each time the commercial was shown I developed a stronger desire for a pizza.

I had a telephone next to me and some money, so eventually I called and ordered a pizza. I told them I was in a wheelchair so please walk in. When the delivery man arrived, I told him to place the pizza on the blanket in my lap and take the box with him (to leave no evidence.)

When my wife returned, however, as she picked up the blanket to fold it a small pizza crust dropped to the floor. The consequences were disastrous!

According to James sin involves a lure, a look, a strong desire, and eventually temptation – then sin and death, which means “the pits.” It is as if the lure is a piece of metal and our strong desire is a powerful magnet. If we don’t do something to break up the magnetic field between our desire and that lure, we will sin.

I didn’t do that, so the pizza landed in my lap.

James shared this with us so we would understand the importance of breaking up that magnetic sequence of sin.

Are you willing to do that?

Dick Woodward, 24 June 2011


Zacchaeus: Strategic Encounters of Salt & Light

June 21, 2019

…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 that Jesus spends 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 tall man, according to Josephus, walking home with His arm around small and short Zacchaeus.

Here we see the strategy of Jesus.

Jesus 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) 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)


Following Jesus: A Prescription for Fullness

June 18, 2019

“This is how we know we are in Him: whoever claims to live in Him must walk even as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:5-6)

In the first sixteen verses of his short letter, the Apostle John tells us about a prescription for fullness. His prescription comes in seven parts: facts, faith, forgiveness, fellowship, follow-ship, fruitfulness, and then fullness.

John’s facts are the death and resurrection of Jesus. When we have faith to believe the first fact we have forgiveness. When we believe the second the result is fellowship with the risen Christ.

By changing one letter in the word “fellowship” to “follow-ship,” I have come up with the key to John’s prescription for fullness: You will know that you know when you walk as Jesus walked.

This word follow-ship is also a key to the fullness emphasized by Jesus. His covenant with the apostles was “Follow Me and I will make you.” (Matthew 4:19) The most important part of the Great Commission occurred when Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples. (Matthew 28: 18-20)

A synonym for discipleship is apprenticeship. Jesus apprenticed the apostles and He commissioned them to apprentice disciples.

The Gospel of John Chapter 7 records a great claim of Jesus when He declared that His teaching is the teaching of God.  Jesus also proclaimed we prove that when we do what He teaches. (John 7:17)

According to Jesus the doing leads to the knowing. Intellectuals have claimed for millenniums that the knowing will lead to the doing, but Jesus said “When you do you will know.”

Are you willing to do that you might know the the Word of God?

Dick Woodward, 18 June 2011


A Message for Fathers: Faithfulness

June 14, 2019

“…To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  (Luke 1:17)

When the birth of one of the greatest prophets ever born of woman was prophesied, it was predicted that as he prepared the way for the Messiah to come into this world he would do so by exhorting fathers to prioritize their relationship with their children. By application the challenging truth is that the way of the Lord in the lives of children is prepared when fathers are faithful in their responsibility toward them.

One example of this reality is when our Lord taught His disciples how to pray, He instructed us to address God as “Our Father.” What images come into the minds of people when we address God in this way? Our relationships to our earthly fathers can strongly influence the way we perceive our heavenly Father.

As a pastor I have had parishioners say to me in private, “When I address God as my father I experience a spiritual short circuit.” When I asked them to tell me about their earthly father I often heard a story about a very dysfunctional father/child relationship.

Professional Christian clinical psychologists and psychiatrists strongly reinforce the hard reality of the influence fathers have on the lives of their children. This profound truth from the life and ministry of John the Baptist is confirmed in millions of lives every day.

As we in America celebrate “Father’s Day” this Sunday, may the vision statement that was prophesied for John the Baptist raise awareness in all of us who are fathers of the solemn mission objective we have been assigned by God when He made us fathers.

Dick Woodward, 20 June 2010


A Prayer for Comfort

June 11, 2019

“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Suffering can drive us to God in such a way that we make this great discovery:

God is here and God can comfort us.

There is supernatural quality of comfort that can be found in simply knowing God. When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can experience in this lifetime.

Many of us have known people we love very much who are depressed and oppressed. They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want any of the caring people in their lives to be with them.

Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in self-imposed solitary confinement.

If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this discovery: God is here, and God can comfort you.

Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort. 

Comfort me in my pain.

When I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are here, You are real, and You can comfort me. 

I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


PENTECOST POWER: SOARING AS EAGLES

June 7, 2019

“He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increases strength… But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

When the power of Pentecost came upon the apostles, there was a noise like a mighty rushing wind. As we read how the apostles received the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and then began implementing the Great Commission of Jesus against great persecution, we should think of the eagle leaping off its nest directly into adverse winds to rise and soar above the storm enveloping its nest.

As you see in your mind’s eye the eagle sitting on the side of its nest, waiting for the velocity of the wind to become strong, you have a metaphor that allegorizes an important expression found many times in the Old Testament:

Wait on the Lord.”

It means we are not to go charging ahead without clear direction from the Lord. We are to wait on the Lord. We are exhorted to follow the example of an eagle by waiting until the wind of the Holy Spirit is there to direct, support and empower us.

Then we should follow the eagle’s example and take the leap of faith off our nests directly into the adversity that is challenging us. As the power of the Holy Spirit drives us with a great thrust into the strong winds of a storm, the energizing unction of the Holy Spirit will give us the spiritual aerodynamics we need to lift up and soar.

Dick Woodward, from As Eagles: How to be an Eagle Disciple


God’s Faithfulness (amidst our Lamentations)

June 3, 2019

“He has filled me with bitterness…my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3: 15, 16, 22-23)

When Jeremiah gets to his darkest hour, he receives a revelation of hope and salvation. Just like Job when suffering brought him to the bottom of despair’s pit and he received this Messianic revelation:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last upon the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God!”  (Job 19:25-26)

In the third chapter of his Lamentations, Jeremiah received the same kind of revelation given to Job. After World War II, Corrie ten Boom told people all over the world how, in a Nazi concentration camp, God revealed this truth to her:

“There is no pit so deep but what the love of God is deeper still.” 

This is the same truth God revealed to Jeremiah. God made Jeremiah know the truth about His unconditional love that is taught from Genesis to Revelation: God’s love is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance.

Reading the Lamentations, I am deeply touched and inspired meditating upon God’s revelation to Jeremiah, that all the horror of the Babylonian conquest and captivity did not mean that God no longer loved the people of Judah…

Another awesome possibility is that as Jeremiah received his revelation weeping in his grotto on that hill of Golgotha, he could have been sitting on the very spot God was going to pour out His love on the whole world.

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Old Testament Handbook, (pp. 500-501)

Editor’s Note: After the horrendous shooting last Friday in Virginia Beach, my prayers & love are with all those touched by this senseless violence. My father served as a pastor in Virginia Beach for over 20 years. In times like these, I know he would reiterate Corrie ten Boom’s sentiment: God’s love is deeper than the darkest times we encounter.