Good Friday: “it is finished…”

April 14, 2017

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished!’”
(John 19:30)

These last words of Jesus actually are one word in the original language: “Tetelesti.”  This word was written over the record of a prisoner after completing his or her sentence in a Roman prison. “Tetelesti” was also written above the cross of a prisoner crucified by Rome. What a providential irony that Jesus chose this word at the end of His suffering for your sins and mine.

What Jesus meant is that He paid in full a debt He did not owe because we owe a debt we cannot pay. Theologians refer to this as the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. One thought is that we cannot possibly add anything to what He finished for us there on that cross. A more profound thought is that we must put our faith in what He did for us there.

Still another thought is if we could add anything to what He did, or be forgiven on the basis of our own good works, then Christ did all that suffering for nothing. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat great drops of blood as He pleaded with the Father to let this cup pass from Him.

The Father’s response was that there was no other way, so Jesus had to go to and through the suffering of the cross. To think that we could save ourselves by our works is like saying to the Father and to our Savior: “You really didn’t have to go through all that suffering because I can save myself by the good works I am doing.”

We must believe in what Jesus finished on the cross: “It is finished.”

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2009


The Cross of Christ: Mercy & Grace

April 11, 2017

“Goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.”
(Psalm 23:6)

“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Two of the most beautiful words in the Bible are mercy and grace. The mercy of God, which is the unconditional love of God, withholds from us what we deserve, while the grace of God lavishes on us all kinds of blessings we do not deserve, accomplish, or achieve by our own efforts.

As we thank God for our blessings, at the top of the list we should thank Him for the mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows. The good news of the Gospel is that when Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, everything we deserved was laid upon Him that we might have peace with God. (Isaiah 53: 5, 6; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

If you want to grasp the meaning of these two words observe when and why they turn up in the Bible. Try to understand what we deserved and why. That will grow your appreciation of the mercy of God. Then investigate all that is bestowed upon us by the grace of God. As you find these two beautiful words throughout the Bible, you will understand why I challenge you to pray with thanksgiving for:

The mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows.

Dick Woodward, 26 February 2009


Mercy & Love, Salt & Light

April 7, 2017

“Blessed are the merciful …  Blessed are the pure in heart…” (Matthew5:7&8)

Jesus begins His greatest discourse with a “check up from the neck up.” He teaches eight attitudes that can make us salt and light, and one of His solutions to what is wrong with this crazy world. These eight attitudes come in pairs. The third pair is to be merciful with a pure heart.

One scholar writes that these blessed attitudes are like climbing a mountain. The first pair takes us halfway up the mountain and the second pair takes us to the top of the mountain. The third pair takes us half way down the other side of the mountain.

The profound simplicity of Jesus is asking the question: “When we are filled with righteousness that takes us to the top of the mountain what kind of people are we? Are we Bible experts who throw the book at people?” No! True disciples are filled with mercy (which is unconditional love.) As we love in this way we are pure in heart.

To be pure in heart is only understood when we research the Greek word used here for pure. It is the word from which we get our word to be catheterized. This means that as we are merciful we have a catharsis through which everything that is not the unconditional love of Christ is removed from our hearts.

If you want to be one of the solutions of Jesus in this world, hunger and thirst for what is right and you will find that love is right and right is love. Being a conduit of the love and mercy of Jesus will make you His salt and light.

Dick Woodward, 13 April 2010


A Key to Spiritual Greatness

March 31, 2017

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)

Who was the greatest prophet who ever lived? According to Jesus the answer is John the Baptist (Luke 7:28; Matthew 11:11). After studying the Scriptures for six decades, I find that answer intriguing because there’s very little space in the Bible recording John the Baptist’s life and ministry.

As I meditate on the Scriptures that describe him, I have come to a conclusion that at least one key to John the Baptist’s greatness was that he accepted the limits of his limitations and the responsibility for his ability.

“…Jesus must increase, and I must decrease…”

As we attempt to discover who we are and what God wants to do through our lives, it is a good rule of thumb to accept the limits of our limitations and the responsibility for our abilities. When a degenerative disease of the spinal cord took away my physical abilities, it was critical for me to accept my increasing limitations and yet continue to be responsible for my abilities.

After two years of illness when acceptance came, it was so profound I decided it was a form of inner healing. Using speech recognition software on my computer I received God’s grace to write about ten thousand pages of the Mini Bible College. These 782 studies of the Bible have been translated into 28 languages* and are used in sixty countries.

It fills me with grateful worship to realize that the formula for greatness I learned from John the Baptist has guided me to the most important work I have done for the Kingdom.

Are you willing to accept the limits of your limitations and the responsibility for your abilities?

Dick Woodward, 16 October 2012

*Editor’s Note: At last check with International Cooperating Ministries, the Mini Bible College has now been translated in 41 languages… with nine more (& counting) in translation process!


God’s Guidance: Light for the Journey

March 28, 2017

“Only let us live up to the truth we now have.” (Philippians 3:16 LB)

The Apostle Paul had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus. He often shared the details of that experience as we find 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 his gain column was now in his 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 he has not attained all 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 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 at night across country we can move ahead into the 100 yards of light our headlights give us, that leads us from coast to coast one mile at a time.

When we live up to the light we have, God gives us more light.

Dick Woodward, 08 January 2011


Forgiveness: Debts and Debtors

March 21, 2017

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  Matthew 6:12

This second personal petition is for forgiveness. The next two petitions are for guidance and deliverance. Forgiveness, guidance and deliverance are spiritual needs we have every day. The principle of that first personal petition for daily bread, one day at a time, should be applied to these spiritual needs. “Give us this day our daily bread, including our need for forgiveness, guidance and deliverance, one day at a time.”

…In Matthew 18, Jesus told the story of a man who owed a great debt. In those days, if you owed a large debt you couldn’t pay, you were sent to prison and your wife and children were sold into slavery until your debt was paid in full. Since you couldn’t generate any income from prison, you likely would die in prison and your family would be slaves the rest of their lives.

Relative to our currency, the debt in this story of Jesus was a multi-million-dollar debt. Summoned to court, the man who owed this great debt begged for mercy. Miraculously, the one to whom he was indebted, out of compassion completely forgave the debt.

On the way home from this extraordinary day in court, this man met a man who owed him twenty dollars and could not pay. He grabbed this poor man by the throat and shouted, “You pay me every cent you owe or I will slam you in prison and sell your family into slavery.”

People who observed both these happenings reported what they witnessed to the man who had forgiven the multi-million-dollar debt. When he heard, he summoned the ungrateful, forgiven man to another court hearing and reversed his compassionate decision.

Having told that story, Jesus pronounced, “Even so my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)

The essential truth Jesus teaches here it that if we see our salvation and forgiveness as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so very much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe that we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


GOD’S GRACE BE WITH YOU!!!

February 18, 2017

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”   (Romans 1:7; 16:24)

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.”  He then closes his letter with a prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.

Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer. At the close of each letter he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace, because grace is the dynamic of God that saves us. We can define grace if we turn this five-letter word into an acrostic to spell out:

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense.

But grace is not only the way God saves us. The grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.

In Romans 5:2, Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, into the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.

Paul begins this letter and closes all his letters the way he does because he knows it is absolutely critical that we access God’s grace to live our lives for Christ in this world.

Since grace is one of our greatest needs, consider meeting and leaving each other with a wish and a prayer for grace.

Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012