Redeemed Out of Chaos

December 14, 2018

 “They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.” (Psalm 107:4-6)

This excerpt from the first stanza of Psalm 107’s great hymn of redemption describes how God redeemed His people when they were wanderers in a wilderness. Their way was desolate. They were hungry and thirsty to the point that their souls fainted in them. Then they cried to the LORD and He delivered them from their distresses.

Deliverance is a synonym for salvation, and salvation is a synonym for redemption. This first stanza of Psalm 107 describes how God redeems the Israelites from their CHAOS.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read several times when Jesus saw the multitudes He wept for them because they were like lost sheep that had no shepherd. They did not know their right hand from their left. In the Gospel of Luke the entire fifteenth chapter is called “The Parable of the Lost Things” because it describes the loving heart of Jesus for those who are lost. A key verse of Luke tells us that Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10)

From Genesis to Revelation we are told of the great loving heart of God for those who need to be redeemed from being lost. After eloquently describing this first level of redemption, the theme of this psalm is repeated: that those who have been redeemed from their chaos should step up and thank the Lord.

Can you resonate with this first level God’s redemption, and then step up and say so?

Dick Woodward, 14 December 2009


Seeking Jesus: Where is He?

December 11, 2018

“… Wise men came saying, “Where is he?” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Many Christmas cards tell us that wise men still seek Him. Wise men (& women) still find Him. Wise men (& women) still worship Him and give gifts to Him. We can add this observation: wise men (& women) still ask the question, “Where is He?”

If we want to know where Jesus is today we should look where Love is. Paul writes that Jesus is a specific quality of love. (1Corinthians 13:4-7) If we tap into that quality of love we will find ourselves connecting with God and discover that God is connecting with us. (1 John 4:16)

The great Christmas word is “incarnation,” meaning literally “in flesh.” (John 1:14) The Bible tells us that incarnation also means relocation. God wants to express the quality of love God is where people are hurting.  If we intentionally place ourselves where people are hurting, as we become conduits of Christ’s love that addresses their pain we will discover where Jesus is.

We must also look where the Light is. We can place ourselves where there’s spiritual darkness and ask God to pass Christ’s light through us to address the darkness.

And we should look where the Life is. The Apostle John writes that God has given us a quality of life John labels “eternal life.” (1John 5: 11-12)  We can experience this quality of life ourselves, and we can become conduits of that Life for others.

As conduits of Jesus when we go (and are) where the hurting are, there is darkness, and the quality of life is lacking – we discover by experience where He is.

Dick Woodward, 13 December 2011


Having (& sharing) Hope @ the Holidays

December 7, 2018

“And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13)

Do you know, or can you remember what it’s like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope? In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us three lasting eternal values in life are faith, hope and love. 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 three great values because hope brings us to the faith that brings us to God.

In the heart of every human being, God plants hope, the conviction that something good exists in this life and someday that good will intersect our lives. That is what the author of Hebrews means when he tells us that faith gives substance to the things for which we have been hoping. (Hebrews 11:1)

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have Good News that can give hope to the hopeless. We must not let unbelief silence us. If we never share the Good News of the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be, we should ask ourselves, “do we really believe the Gospel of Christmas?”

Because if we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share that Good News with the people Jesus told us He came to seek and to save. (Luke 19:10) We show that we 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, then worship Him and give the gift of our lives to Him. Then, like those shepherds, we should tell everybody the Good News that Christmas has come – and Christmas is coming again to our world.

Dick Woodward, from A Christmas Prescription


Living By Faith

December 4, 2018

“So do not throw away your faith; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised… For he that is righteous shall live by faith.” (Hebrews 10:35-38)

As the author of the book of Hebrews gives doubting disciples reasons why they should not throw away their faith, he tells them in the verses above they should not throw away their faith because they need their faith for living.  Authentic disciples know they are saved by faith, but the disciples to whom he was writing did not know or had forgotten that they are also called to live by faith.

He quotes a key verse of prophecy written by Habakkuk to suffering people.  When we are suffering we especially need to be reminded that God has given us faith to persevere and do the will of God in our crisis. Until we receive what God has given us, the faith to believe will ultimately happen according to God’s promises.

I have observed a direct correlation between spiritual growth and suffering.  The Greek word translated “persevere” in these verses is a quality God grows in those who are living by faith while they are suffering. (Romans 5: 3-5)

The immediate response of many authentic disciples when we find ourselves in a difficult situation is “Lord, get me out of here!” When that doesn’t happen we are sometimes tempted to throw away our faith.

The message conveyed by these verses is “Don’t throw away your faith.  You need your faith to live through your crisis.”

Is this a message you need to hear today?

Dick Woodward, 03 December 2010


Improve Your Serve (for the Kingdom!)

November 30, 2018

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant…”  (Matthew 20:25-26)

The incident recorded in Matthew 20 (verses 20-28) precipitated by Mrs. Zebedee and her two sons, James and John, sets the stage for one the great teachings of Jesus Christ. We can assume these two ‘sons of thunder’ (the nickname the Lord game them), who were partners with Simon Peter in the ‘Zebedee Seafood Corporation,’ were obviously the instigators of their mother’s request that they be seated on the right and left of their Lord when He was crowned King. 

When the other apostles griped about this, Jesus called them together. In so many words, He told them the world plays the game of “over-under.” This is a world of credentials and status symbols that often say, “I am better than you” or “I am over and above you.”

Acknowledging that the secular world is like that, Jesus tells them not to play the world’s games. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “This is not to happen among you. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, you should join the ‘Order of the Towel’ – get a towel and basin, assume the position of a slave, and start washing feet.”  He uses Himself as an example when He says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:28) 

Remember how Jesus spent His last hours before He went to the cross, literally washing the feet of His disciples. There is no place in the church and body of Christ for the “over-under” philosophy of this world.

If you want to be great in the fellowship of Christ, you must improve your serve!

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook, p.86


Prayer: Worriers or Warriors?

November 27, 2018

“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

In these two verses the Apostle Paul challenges us with two options: when we are facing challenging problems we can worry about them or we can turn our challenges into prayer requests. Paul writes that we are not to worry because worry is counterproductive. He therefore prescribes that if we are overwhelmed with problems, we should let our mountain of challenges turn us into prayer warriors.

We have two options. We can be worriers, or we can be warriors. Prayer changes things! Worry, on the other hand does not change anything except for the severe negative consequences it can have on our body, soul and spirit. When you consider the devastating effects of worry and the miraculous results of answered prayers, that no-brainer should resolve our two options into one.

If we realize that we are anxious and uptight because we are choosing to be worriers, we should ask God to convert us into prayer warriors. We should hold our problems up before the Lord and trade our worries for powerful prayers.

God may deliver us from our problems or give us the grace to cope with them. But, in either case, God will give us supernatural peace as we rest in what Christ will do.

Are you a worrier or a warrior?

Dick Woodward, 29 November 2011


Facing Trials: God’s Wisdom & (our) Understanding

November 24, 2018

“…whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance… If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. But ask in faith, never doubting.”   (James 1:2-6)

When you encounter a storm in your life, that trial will often bring you to the place where you don’t know what to do and you realize you need more wisdom than you have. James writes when we lack wisdom, we must ask God, Who will be delighted to share wisdom with us. In the Old Testament when the people of God were fighting against overwhelming numbers, their frantic prayer of faith was, “nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You!” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

The process of working through our trials will teach us the test of faith, which leads to the trust of faith and brings us to the triumph of faith. I have been in a wheelchair since 1984 and a bedfast quadriplegic since the mid 1990s. I have, therefore, thought much about the suffering of disciples.

In the Bible we are warned that God does not think as we think, nor does God do as we do. (Isaiah 55) If the desire of my heart is to know God’s will and to live my life in alignment with the will and ways of God, wouldn’t it logically follow that I should not always expect to understand the way I’m going?

Obviously, that includes our suffering.

God is pleased when we come in our crucibles of suffering and cry, “if you heal me, that’s all right. But, if You don’t heal me, that’s all right too, because YOU are all right!”

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p.278-281)