January 22, 2019
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… for your fellowship in the gospel…” (Philippians 1:3-5)
As Paul begins his letter to the Philippians he uses a beautiful word when he writes: “your fellowship in the gospel.” The basic meaning of fellowship is partnership, but Sam Shoemaker once paraphrased it as: “two fellows in the same ship.”
Years ago I met with a man on the threshold of coming to faith. He had many, many problems. I said to him, “There is a word you’re going to learn soon: ‘fellowship.’ It means ‘two fellows in the same ship.’
I want you to know that I am in the ship with you, Charlie!”
Taking a long drag on his cigarette, with tears in his eyes Charlie blew smoke in my face and said, “Well row, *bleep* it!”
Charlie was saying to me that he did not fully understand this new word but he wanted to know what difference it was going to make. Was I just going to take up room and rock the boat, or was I going to grab an oar and row with him?
I often said to others what I said to Charlie, but Charlie added to my understanding of this word. After Charlie, when I said these words I found myself asking, “What would it look like if I got in this person’s ship with them and rowed?”
When Jesus got in Peter’s little ship He surely made a difference. He filled Peter’s ship and his partner’s ship with fish. (Luke 5:1-11)
What difference does it make to others when you get in their ship with them? Think of the difference it could make because you are bringing Christ with you into their ship.
Dick Woodward, 22 January 2013
January 18, 2019
“I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will add to your days fifteen years.” (Isaiah 38:5)
Early in my ministry as a pastor I made a discovery about prayer. I came to the conclusion that we are praying even when we do not close our eyes, fold our hands, and bow our heads.
I discovered that prayer is the sincere desire of our souls no matter how we express it.
The sigh of a believer can be a prayer. When we come to the end of our hoarded resources and throw ourselves across a bed and sigh, or cry – that is also a prayer.
God sent the Prophet Isaiah to tell a sick King Hezekiah that he was going to die. Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and cried. When God saw the tears of King Hezekiah, God sent Isaiah back to him with the message: “I have heard your prayer. I have seen your tears.”
And God added 15 years to King Hezekiah’s life.
When we express the sincere desires of our souls, which are often too deep for words, in tears and sighs of despair – that is prayer God hears and answers. God has as much interaction with people in the waiting rooms of hospitals as God has in the sanctuaries of our churches.
Realizing your tears and sighs of despair are prescriptions for prayer, will you offer them to God as the prayers of your heart?
God will hear you.
Dick Woodward, 18 January 2011
January 15, 2019
“… but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
As we move further into a new year many of us can say, “These forty-eleven things I dabble in” as we consider our priorities, whereas spiritual heavyweights like Paul write: “One thing I do.” Deeply spiritual people can write they have their priorities sifted down to one thing because they forget those things that are behind.
We all have things we need to let go of so we can press toward the goal of what God wants us to do now and in the future.
The story is told of a man who fell over a cliff but managed to grab hold of a little bush about forty feet from the top. He frantically shouted “Help!” several times but his voice simply echoed back to him. Desperately he yelled, “Anybody up there? A subterranean voice answered, “Yes!” He again yelled, “Help!” Then the voice said, “Let go!”
After a brief pause the man shouted, “Anybody else up there?”
Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to let go. It may be that we need to let go of things that we cannot do and only God can do. It may be we need to let go of things we cannot control. And, sometimes we need to let go of hurts that people have inflicted on us and we cannot forgive them and just let it go.
Do you need to let go and let God so you can unload baggage and move forward with God this year?
Dick Woodward, 11 January 2013
January 11, 2019
“Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11)
Jesus is using the symbol of bread here to represent all our needs. We are a veritable ‘Internet’ of needs: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This first personal petition should not be limited to our need for food, but all our needs.
Observe the concept ‘one day at a time’ is repeated twice in this petition of just seven words. Alcoholics and drug addicts with years of sobriety tell me that when they took their first step, they could not entertain the thought of being sober for more than one day.
This prayer of Jesus prescribes that we pray ‘this day’ and ‘daily’ when we present our needs to our Heavenly Father. This principle of one day at a time is a proven therapy that has made the difference between life and death for some of my closest friends who are celebrating many years of sobriety.
Observe how Jesus concludes His teaching about values with the same emphasis later in Matthew 6: “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” (Matthew 6:34)
We read in the book of Numbers that when God miraculously provided bread from Heaven in the wilderness, the Israelites were only permitted to collect enough manna for one day. That story, recorded in Numbers 11, is also applicable to the one-day-at-a-time principle Jesus prescribes in the prayer He taught us to pray.
When we apply the story of that manna miracle to our daily devotions, we should make the application that we cannot hoard our experience of a word from God or the blessings of a time in the presence of God.
We must have our souls and spirits nourished with heavenly manna every day, one day at a time.
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer
January 8, 2019
“Only let us live up to the truth we now have.” (Philippians 3:16)
Paul had an experience on the road to Damascus. He often shared the details of that experience as he did in the third chapter of his letter to the Church at Philippi. It was as if his accounting books were turned upside down – what had been in the gain column of his life was now in the loss column and vice versa.
After his accounting books had been turned upside down, or we might say right side up, his ambitions totally changed in the gain column. He wanted to tackle the purposes for which the risen Christ had tackled him. Now he only wanted to know Christ and the high calling of God to which Christ was leading him.
Paul claims that he has not attained these things in his new gain column, but he has learned a principle about knowing the will of God:
If we want to know the will of God we must live up to the light and the truth God has given us at any given time on our faith journey.
We can take away from this a prescription for guidance. If we want to see further ahead into the will of God for our lives, we should move ahead into the will of God just as far as we can see. Like driving across country at night we can move ahead into the 100 yards of light our headlights give us – and that can lead us clear across our vast country.
When we live up to the light we have, God gives us more light.
Dick Woodward, 08 January 2011
January 4, 2019
“…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 1:6)
In this first week of the New Year a friend informed me that he no longer makes New Year’s resolutions. When I asked him why he said, “My willpower is nearly always out of power.”
The Apostle Paul’s favorite Church was the one he planted at Philippi. Having brought scores of people to faith in Christ in that city, he finds himself in prison and unable to have physical contact with them. As their pastor he cannot use his powers of reason and persuasion or his spiritual gifts of wisdom, preaching and teaching. Yet he has unwavering confidence that they will continue in their faith in Jesus Christ.
This confidence is not based on them or on himself. He has his upbeat perspective about them because he knows that the One Who began a miraculous work in them will complete what He started.
The word ‘perspective’ means “to look through to the end.” At the starting gate of a New Year it’s important to have healthy perspective. I’m not thinking about willpower driven resolutions but spiritual goals that only the risen, living Christ can make doable.
I’m talking about what you would like to see Jesus Christ do in your life this year.
This year I have a new challenge for setting goals – to make them big and audacious. As we set goals for this New Year, be sure to make them big enough to let Christ in. Then watch Christ work because we have set big and audacious goals that only He can accomplish!
Dick Woodward, 04 January 2011
December 28, 2018
“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.
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. He 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 He wants to do a new thing in your life. If we trust God’s character we should cooperate with Him when He 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