January 17, 2017
“But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry… ‘Oh Lord, I knew You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.’ …And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:1-4)
As you reflect upon Jonah’s story and apply the central truth in the Book of Jonah, ask yourself if you are prejudiced. To be prejudiced means to ‘pre-judge.’ Prejudice comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. I was introduced to prejudice as a boy growing up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I heard Italian Americans called ‘daggos’ and Polish Americans called ‘hunkies.’
When I attended a southern college in the late 1940’s, I was shocked to see ‘white’ and ‘colored’ water fountains and to see African Americans sitting in the back of buses. I was even more bewildered when I discovered that “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches…
As a new believer I was disillusioned because I heard professing believers use discriminatory labels. From what I learned while preparing for the ministry, I expected the followers of Christ and our spiritual communities to be free from prejudice. As a believer for more than 60 years and a pastor for more than five decades, I am still alarmed by the deceitful ways of the evil one when I discover prejudice in my own heart and in the lives of other believers…
I have learned, from personal experience, that prejudice feeds on ignorance. I grew up during the Second World War when intense propaganda presented Japanese as sub-human creatures. In my junior year of college in L.A., my roommate was a devout Japanese disciple of Jesus Christ. He was the most Christ-like and disciplined disciple of Jesus I had met at that point in my life. The experience of knowing him completely erased the cumulative impact of all the war propaganda from my mind. Until I met my roommate, I had never met a Japanese person before. My prejudice was fed by my ignorance.
Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.
… Examine your own heart before God and ask yourself if you have prejudice in your heart that is blocking the love God wants to channel through you to lost and hurting people in this world.
Dick Woodward, Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet
January 10, 2017
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He Who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27)
There are times when God’s people are so weak we don’t know how to pray. In effect, Paul teaches that when we are burned out and we don’t know what to ask God, we should pray anyway. The Spirit of God knows the mind and will of God. When we are so weak we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit will make intercession for us according to the will of God. Then, even if we ask for the wrong things, our loving Heavenly Father will give us the right things.
Imagine the stress Moses endured all those years in wilderness wanderings. With more than 600,000 fighting men, plus women and children, meant that Moses led somewhere between two and three million people around in circles in the desert. He was the only legal judge to settle all their squabbles. His frustration reached the level of exasperation. He was so burned out, he actually asked God to kill him. (Numbers 11:11-15)
When Moses asked God to kill him, he was so weak and tired of he did not know what to pray. He prayed anyway. Even though he asked for the wrong things, God knew his heart and gave him the right things. God made Moses know that His work requires a team effort. Serving God is a team sport.
The marketplace can burn you out big time if you have not learned that running a business is a team sport. Other players on your team have gifts and skill sets that you do not have and you have what they do not have. Therefore, it is a good blueprint against burnout to accept the reality of beauty in diversity. Diversity should be celebrated rather than resolved.
Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p. 144-146)
January 6, 2017
“…wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:1-2)
When we begin reading the Old Testament we find ourselves facing the question: “Where are you?” When we begin reading the New Testament we read that wise men asked the question: “Where is He?” The Old Testament shows us where we are. When it does, the New Testament makes sense to us because we are looking for the same Savior those wise men were seeking.
Where is He? If we want to find Him we should look where the love is, because if we live in the love that Jesus is we will live in Him, and He will live in us. As we seek for clues to His reality we are given another answer by the Apostle John:
“God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship…” (1 John 1:5-7).
The aged apostle tells us that God is light and if we want to fellowship with Him He will not come live with us in our darkness. No, we must join Him where He lives in the light. Then we have fellowship with Him and a unique fellowship with all those who are in fellowship with Him.
The light of which John writes is truth – the truth this world saw and heard when the Light became flesh and lived with us full of truth and the grace to live that truth. So, if you want to know where Jesus is, look where the light is. Then become a conduit of that light.
Dick Woodward, 29 September 2011
January 4, 2017
“Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11)
The Lord is using the symbol of bread here to represent all our needs. We are a veritable ‘internet” of needs. Our needs are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This first personal petition should not be limited to our need for food, but for all the needs we have as creatures of God.
Observe that the concept ‘one day at a time’ is repeated twice in this petition of seven words. Alcoholics and drug addicts with years of sobriety tell me that when they took their first step, they could not even 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 creature needs to our Heavenly Father. Observe how Jesus concludes His great 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, Living Bible)
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 great 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
December 23, 2016
“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
When the angels appeared to those frightened shepherds, they gave a wonderful Christmas greeting when they announced that they were bringing good tidings of great joy to all people.
These good tidings were not just for Jewish people, or for good people. They were to bring great joy to ALL people! That means all kinds of people – and all kinds of people everywhere!
Before Jesus ascended, his last words were: “…go be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NLT).
Some people hoard their faith as if the last words of Jesus were: “Now don’t let it get around!” They live out their faith as if the Gospel is a secret to be kept.
Never forget these two beautiful Christmas words: “All people!”
The spiritual community of those who follow Jesus is not to be a secret organization. It is a community of people who exist for the benefit of non-members.
Jesus Christ came to bring good news and great joy to people who are not good. The Bible tells us that all of us have gone astray and turned every one of us to his or her own way. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that God laid the penalty for all of our sins on His Son. (Isaiah 53:6)
Two more great Christmas words are mercy and grace. The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve and His grace lavishes on us all kinds of marvelous things we do not deserve. God’s mercy and grace give us more blessings than we can count if we have the faith to receive them.
Merry Christmas to ALL!!
Dick Woodward, 23 December 2011
December 20, 2016
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked places straight, and the rough places smooth… I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight.” (Isaiah 40:4; 42:16)
The following is from a tribute given by one of Dick Woodward’s granddaughters, Jessey, at his Memorial Celebration…
“I’d like to share an email I got from my grandfather when I was 20:
‘I can’t begin to tell you how much I love you. I’m supposed to be something of a wordsmith, but words fail me as I try to find words that adequately express the love your grandmother and I have for you. How I would love to sit down with you and hear what our Father God is making you know about your future.’
And then his famous closing line: ‘Great Gobs of Agape, Your Granddaddy.’
My whole life he’s been loving me just like that – over the top kind of love that’s for me exactly as I am at that moment. He loved me and it had nothing to do with what I’d done or who I was becoming. He just loved me like crazy.
And with that he had this huge excitement for my future which shined like a light in the dark. That light helped me to climb mountains and do hard things that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve realized – isn’t that just like Jesus? He loves us with great gobs of agape just as we are right now, and He shines in our lives, and with His light we climb God-sized mountains.”
Jessey Woodward Davenport, 15 March 2014
December 13, 2016
“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!” (Luke 2:10)
Tim Hansel lived every day with debilitating, excruciating pain. Yet, in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancing, he wrote: “pain and suffering are inevitable, but misery is optional.” That is true for a Spirit controlled disciple of Jesus. Tim also wrote: “I can choose to be joyful.”
Joy is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit the Apostle Paul described in his letter to the Galatians. (Galatians 5: 22, 23) As evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, joy can be paraphrased “happiness that does not make good sense.” The derivation of the word “happiness” pertains to what happens to us. But this joy, which is the fruit of the Spirit living in us, is not controlled by what happens to us. That is why we say it does not make good sense, especially to secular non-spiritual people. In the very short letter the Apostle Paul wrote from prison to his favorite church, the Philippians, he used the word joy seventeen times!
Appearing to the shepherds, the angels explained why their declaration would bring great joy to all people: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
Great joy came because the One born is the Savior. He is the Christ, which is the Greek way of saying the Messiah. And He is to be our Lord. Joy came because Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who follow Him. This joy is intended for all people, including you and me.
Are you choosing to be joyful, anyway?
Dick Woodward, 20 December 2013