MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

December 25, 2020

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

This verse begins and ends with one of the most beautiful Christmas words in the Bible: the word “all.” The first time the word is used in this verse it gives us the bad news. It tells us all of us have gone astray and turned – every one of us – to our own way. The prophet Isaiah repeats himself for emphasis when he tells us that every one of us has turned to his or her own way.

Do you believe you are included in the first “all” of this verse?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a verse of Scripture to convince me that I’m included in the first “all.” Only Santa Claus brings good things to good people on Christmas Day. According to Isaiah, Christmas is when good things happen to people who have strayed from God.

The good news of this Christmas word is the way Isaiah concludes his verse. We are not ready for the good news until we are convinced of the bad news. He tells us the good news that God has laid on His Son the iniquity and sins of us all! Do you believe you are included in the last “all” of this verse?

If you will meet yourself in the two “alls” of Isaiah you receive, by faith, your greatest Christmas gift. Paul described it this way:

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2Corinthians 5:21)

Merry Christmas to ALL!!

Dick Woodward, 25 December 2011


#FAITH – THE CHRISTMAS THAT IS

December 22, 2020

“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 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 lives are houses and their hearts are doors to their houses. Jesus 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 lives.

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


#FAITH, LOVE +CHRISTMAS HOPE

December 18, 2020

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  (Psalm 27:13)

The Old Testament people of God lived their lives believing it was possible to “see the Good.” In Psalm 34 King David challenges hopeless fugitives to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and the Lord is the Good they have been seeking all their lives.

In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us three eternal values in life are faith, hope, and love. (I Corinthians 13:13) Love is the greatest of these values because God is Love. Faith is an eternal value because faith brings us to God. Hope is also one of the great eternal values because hope brings us to the faith that brings us to God. 

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have the Good News that can give hope to the hopeless.  Because we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share it with the people Jesus came to seek and to save.  (Luke 19:10)

We show that we really believe in the Christmas that shall be when we tell hopeless people that God is going to give us another Christmas.

Like the wise men we should ask the question, “Where is He?,” seek Him until we find Him, worship Him, and give the gift of our lives to Him. 

Then, like the shepherds, we should tell everybody the very Good News that Christmas has come and Christmas is coming again to this otherwise hopeless world!

Dick Woodward, “A Christmas Prescription”


#FAITH – THE CHRISTMAS THAT SHALL BE

December 15, 2020

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” (Matthew 25:31)

More than 300 times in the New Testament God tells us God is going to affect another intervention in human history. Read Scriptures like Matthew 24 and 25, I Corinthians 15, II Peter 3 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. You will also find this Good News in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets.

You will discover these Scriptures proclaim the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which is the blessed hope of followers of Jesus and hope for this world. Almighty God is coming to earth again! This time God is not just telling a few chosen people such as a priest, a peasant girl, a carpenter, a few wise men and some shepherds. 

God is telling anyone who reads the Bible.

The famous oratorio by Handel entitled, “The Messiah,” compiles the Scriptures in the Old and New Testament that describe the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be

As you reflect on this beautiful music and the Christmas that is yet to be, if you do not believe the 300+ New Testament Scriptures, or the many Old Testament prophetic Scriptures concerning the future Christmas, then, like Zacharias in the first chapter of Luke, your mouth is shut by your unbelief. 

Sharing the Good News about the Christmas that shall be can give hope to your sphere of acquaintances who are living without hope. Do you know, or do you remember, what it is like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope?

Dick Woodward, “A Christmas Prescription”


#FAITH – THE CHRISTMAS THAT WAS

December 11, 2020

“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 the Christmas that was 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! When Jesus was born, one of His names was “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 when applied to the Christmas that was, demonstrates the reality that we need God to do something for us that we could not possibly do for ourselves. 

On that first Christmas Eve God intersected human history with what we might call “The Great Intervention,” that we might 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 of his life to preach, but lost the opportunity because unbelief shut his mouth.

Has unbelief shut your mouth?

Dick Woodward, “A Christmas Prescription


#FAITH – A CHRISTMAS PRESCRIPTION

December 8, 2020

“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

The holidays are the most family-oriented weeks of the year.  Yet for many – those who have no family, singles, widows and widowers, the divorced among us, and those with painful and negative family experiences – the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year. 

As a pastor, every year I had parishioners who asked me in early November to pray for them to make it through the holidays. The hard reality is that lonely, depressed, and anxious people are lonelier, more depressed, and more anxious during the “jolliest season” than at any other time of the year.

At the same time, the last four weeks of the year are filled with joy and happiness for millions of people and their families. Whether the holiday season is your favorite time or your most difficult time of the year, I want to share a Christmas prescription that can bring the true meaning of Christmas to your holidays and to every day of your new year.

To begin, try to block out the advertising blitz of commercial Christmas we have today. Carefully read the Christmas scriptures in the first two chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, and then read the first 18 verses of the Gospel of John.

God told a devout peasant girl what He was going to do. Mary believed God, but she asked God questions and pondered these things in her heart.

Dick Woodward, “A Christmas Prescription

Editor’s Note: During the rest of December, the blog posting elf will share excerpts from one of Papa’s booklets, “A Christmas Prescription.” Be blessed as we ponder the Christmas that was, the Christmas that shall be, and the Christmas that is.


#FAITH – LOOK AND LIVE!!

December 4, 2020

“… Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9)

When the children of Israel complained and griped about Moses God demonstrated how He felt about the gripers. He sent snakes to bite them. (Some pastors may wish they could do the same.) Then God in His mercy directed Moses to erect a pole at the center of the camp with a bronze serpent on top of it. 

The good news was proclaimed: If any of the snake-bitten gripers would get to the center of the camp and look at the bronze serpent, they would be healed of their snakebites.

Some of them said that defied what they knew so they died of their snakebites. Others said it didn’t make sense but it was the only hope they had. With help they somehow got to the center of the camp and looked at the bronze serpent on the pole. 

When they looked, they were healed and lived!

This story takes on much greater meaning when Jesus makes His dogmatic declaration: He is God’s only Son, God’s only Solution, and God’s only Savior. (John 3: 1-21) As He told a Rabbi named Nicodemus about Moses lifting that serpent in the wilderness, it is a picture of what Jesus will do. If we look to Jesus on His cross with faith we will be healed of our sins.

Jesus made it simple. Just look and live. When you want to solve problems that demand a supernatural solution, look and live. Have you ever done that? Why not do it now?

Dick Woodward, 10 December 2013


GIDEON: FAITH AND TEAMWORK

December 1, 2020

“And every man stood in his place all around the camp (of the Midianites); and the whole army (of Midian) ran and cried out and fled.” (Judges 7:21)

One of the greatest victories described in the Old Testament is the victory of Gideon over the army of the Midianites. There were several hundred thousand Midianites. Gideon only had 300 soldiers. In the middle of the night, in pitch darkness, Gideon placed his 300 committed warriors in three strategic locations around the sleeping enemy army.

On signal from Gideon each group of 100 soldiers exposed 100 torches, blew 100 bugles, and then 100 men shouted: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” This gave their enemy the impression they were surrounded by a powerful army. They completely panicked. In the darkness they began fighting each other and were soon conquered.

Although a great miracle, this was a miracle that required a total commitment on the part of Gideon’s 300. That’s why he reduced his army down to less than one percent of what he started with. He had to know that his army was a one hundred percent committed minority rather than an apathetic majority.

This victory also teaches the critically important concept of teamwork. The work of God is a team sport and requires a team effort. Judges 7:21 summarizes the key to this great victory. We read that each one of the 300 “stood in his place.” If even a tiny percentage had been too frightened to execute the plan the attack would have been disastrous.

Are you willing to stand with committed faith in your place so that together we might defeat the powers of hell?

Dick Woodward, 12 December 2012


A PSALM OF THANKSGIVING

November 26, 2020

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100)

In this profound thanksgiving psalm David tells us that coming into the presence of God is like having an audience with a great King. That audience begins with the gates of thanksgiving followed by the courts of praise.

In a corporate worship service or in your worship closet, always try to begin your approach to God at the gates of thanksgiving followed by the courts of praise.

I personally know of no other worship aids that mean more to me than to begin my approach to our Heavenly Father with thanksgiving. When I begin thanking Him and praising Him I soon find myself coming before His presence with singing.

In His presence I know that He is God. I know that He is my Shepherd and I am His sheep. I know that He is good and His mercy is everlasting. I know He wants me to share the truth of His Word in all the lands of this world because He wants people in all the lands of this world and in every generation to know what it is to make a joyful shout of worship in His presence.

Today let this worship psalm of David show you how to…

Have a joyful Thanksgiving Day!

Dick Woodward, 23 November 2011


#FAITH vs. GIANTOLOGY

November 24, 2020

There we saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight.”  (Numbers 13: 33)

The Old Testament book of Numbers records the death of an entire generation. Twelve spies were sent to do reconnaissance in the land of Canaan. Ten spies gave the report quoted above. Only two shared how great the land was and exhorted an invasion. Joshua and Caleb were men of great faith, but the other ten men were experts in “Giantology.

The entire generation who listened to the ten perished in the wilderness. Only two people survived one of the most tragic judgments of God recorded in the Bible. An old spiritual puts it this way: “Others saw the giants. Caleb (and Joshua) saw the Lord!” We read that they followed the Lord because they believed Him more than able to conquer the giants.

Spending most of my adult life as a pastor, I cannot help but allow the thought that the twelve spies resemble a board of Elders, a Session, a Vestry, or a board of Stewards. Sometimes when a church is facing a huge challenge two will have the faith of Caleb and Joshua, and ten will be giantologists.

We all have “giants” in our lives. As a bedfast quadriplegic with a wife in a wheelchair I certainly have mine. I’m sure you have yours. 

We also have choices. We can choose to see the giants and spend much time dwelling on how big they are. Or we can choose to see the Lord conquering our giants. We might call this: “Two people in a pew — which one are you?”

Are you a Caleb and Joshua with a conquering-the-giants faith, or are you getting your Ph.D. in Giantology?

Dick Woodward, 27 November 2013