Dying Grace, Patience… and Peace

October 4, 2016

“Delight yourselves in the Lord. Yes, find your joy in Him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don’t worry over anything whatever, but 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 4:4-7, J.B. Phillips)

When I was ill with an operation on my colon, my pastor, Dr. John Dunlap, came to visit me.  I had an infection. I was in the hospital 21 days just for that one procedure. I said to him, “John, if you’re here to tell me I have a malignancy, I can’t handle that today.”

He laughed and said, “Reverend, you’re not dying. And so you don’t need dying grace. If you needed dying grace, God would give you dying grace.”

A year later my dear pastor John had a malignancy. He said to me right away (I was there the day he found out), “Pray for me.” He was a big guy, but a big baby when it came to toothaches or anything like that. He had one of the worst malignancies the oncologist had ever seen, but all of us, we never saw such an example of dying grace as God gave our dear pastor. Dying grace. God will give you dying grace when you need it.  And dying grace, really, is a supernatural anointing of the Lord that makes it possible for us to accept it.  That’s what it is, really. An acceptance. That’s what Paul means by gentleness.

It’s like saying in another way, “Be patient.”  Patience, when you think vertically, is faith waiting. And there are many times in our walk with God where God gives us the fruit of the Spirit, patience, which is faith waiting.  God’s got to get you out before God can bring you in.  You’ve got to keep on going, so you can get through.  You’ve got to get right, so you can settle down.

… The Apostle Paul says, “Never forget the nearness of the Lord.” Think of what that meant to him in prison. When it became dangerous to be identified with him, he said in his very last letter, “No one stood with me.”  And yet, he adds, “Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me. The Lord is always with me.”

Dick Woodward, (Ben Lippen Retreat, 1979)


A Message for Control Freaks

September 30, 2016

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer …let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Have you ever heard someone confess, “I’m a control freak?” My response is: “Welcome to the human family!” The truth is we’re all control freaks.  Both Jesus and Paul taught that we should not be anxious.  What they meant was don’t worry.  They also taught us not to worry about the things we cannot control – like the height of our body.

Speaking as one control freak to another, the thing that really freaks us out is what we cannot control.  In what Alcoholics Anonymous calls the “Big Book,” there is an illustration with which all of us control freaks can resonate.  We think that life is a stage on which we are directing a play.  The people in our life are characters in that play.  As the play director we give them their scripts and their cues, but when they don’t respond to our direction, our frustration drives us into a bottle or some other addiction.

When I was a student I had a mentor who wrote a poem with these lines: “You can’t control the weather or rainy days, but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you.  You can’t control the height your head will be from the sidewalk, but you can control the height of the contents of your head.”

After quite a few of those his punch line was, “Why worry about the things you cannot control? Accept the responsibility for the things that do depend on you.”

Follow the advice of Jesus and Paul and don’t worry about what you can’t control.

Dick Woodward, 20 February 2011


Prayer Changes Things!!

September 20, 2016

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you rest in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

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

So, here 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 we consider the devastating effects of worry and the miraculous results of answered prayer, we should resolve our two options into one.

When we realize we are anxious and uptight, and we know it is 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 futile worries for powerful prayers.  God may deliver us from those problems or give us the grace to cope with them.  But, in either case, God will give us peace.

Paul writes that God will stand guard over our hearts and minds and give us supernatural peace as we rest in what Christ will do.

Dick Woodward, 29 November 2011


Creation: The Three Missing Links

September 17, 2016

“In the beginning God created…”  (Genesis 1:1)

Most people have heard about the missing link that turns up when comparing the theory of evolution with the Genesis creation account, but there are actually three missing links.  The first missing link is the issue: How did it all begin?  The Bible’s answer is recorded in just two words: “God created.”  It all began with a first act of creation that accounted for the universe, the earth, and all plant life.

The author uses an interesting Hebrew word for created, “barah,” which means “to create something out of nothing.” Since there are no samples that are half plant and half animal there is a second missing link.  The Genesis account again uses “barah” as animal life is created in the water.

There is also no sample that is half animal and half human.  So, for a third time the author of Genesis uses “barah” when God creates mankind.  What is usually considered the missing link is actually this third missing link.  In all three places where the secular scholar struggles for answers, the author of Genesis writes barah: God created.

God began the Bible with the creation account because God knew that one day we would realize that we need an act of creation in our hearts.  We would then also know where to take that need by joining David in the prayer: “Create (barah) in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10 NLT)

We can also go to Jesus, Who taught the new birth, and the apostles, who, agreeing with David, referred to the new birth as a new creation. (John 3:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

Dick Woodward, 19 November 2013


Asking, Seeking, Knocking

September 13, 2016

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

Jesus taught that we are to be God passionate people (Matthew 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-10.) We are to ask, seek and knock.  Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking.  Jesus attached a tremendous promise to this teaching.  He promised that everyone who asks will receive, everyone who seeks will find, and everyone who knocks will find himself or herself standing before an open door.

Jesus was referring to our individual pursuit of God in prayer.  When people take this seriously and pursue God in the context of a sincere prayer life, they often describe their pursuit of God by gesturing upward.  My own personal pursuit of God was greatly helped by a short poem:

“I sought my soul but my soul I could not see.
I sought my God but my God eluded me.
I met my neighbor and I found all three.”

In one of His great discourses Jesus provided a basis for this when He taught that when we describe our pursuit of a deeper relationship with Him, we should not only gesture upward but stretch out our arms horizontally.  We should do this because we find Jesus when we give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, provide clothing to the naked, take in a lonely stranger and visit the sick and those in prison.

When these words of Jesus take on human flesh they look like Mother Teresa.  What would these words look like if they took on your mortal flesh?

Dick Woodward, 03 April 2011


A Challenge for Fathers: Priorities!

June 17, 2016

“…To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children… to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’”  (Luke 1:17)

When the Old Testament prophet Malachi prophesied the birth of John the Baptist, he predicted he would prepare the way of the Messiah by exhorting fathers to prioritize their relationships with their children. The challenging truth by application is that the way of the Lord in the lives of children is prepared when fathers are faithful in their responsibility toward their children.

One example of this reality is when our Lord taught His disciples how to pray, He instructed us to address God as “Our Father.” What images come into our minds when we address God in this way?  Our relationships to our earthly fathers can strongly influence the way we perceive our heavenly Father.

As a pastor I’ve had parishioners say to me in private, “When I address God as my father I experience a spiritual short circuit.” When asked to tell about their earthly father I often heard a story about a very dysfunctional father/child relationship.

Professional Christian clinical psychologists and psychiatrists strongly reinforce the hard reality of the profound influence fathers have in the lives of their children.  The profound truth that was focused when the life and ministry of John the Baptist was profiled is confirmed in millions of lives every day.

As we in America call this Sunday “Father’s Day,” may the vision statement that was prophesied for John the Baptist raise awareness in all of us who are fathers of the solemn mission objective we have been assigned by God when He made us fathers.

Dick Woodward, 20 June 2010


A Vine Looking for Branches

April 29, 2016

“I am the vine, you are the branches.”   (John 15:5)

The apostles had been in awe of the profound words and miraculous works of Jesus.  In their last retreat with Him, Jesus essentially said that the key to His preaching, teaching, and supernatural ministry is that He and the Father are one.  The Word of the Father was spoken on earth and the work of the Father was accomplished on earth through Him because He is one with the Father.   Jesus then taught them that after His death and resurrection, if they would be at one with Him His Word would be spoken and His work would be done on earth through them.

While they were in a garden, He pulled down a vine, which had many branches loaded with fruit, and said: “I am the Vine and you are the branches.”  In this metaphor the fruit does not grow on the vine.  The fruit grows out on the branches because they are properly aligned with the Vine.  The branches can bear no fruit without the Vine and the Vine can bear no fruit without the branches. If the Vine, Jesus, wants to see fruit produced, He must pass His life-giving power through the branches, the apostles.

Jesus wants to see this fruit produced far more than the apostles want to be fruitful.  By this inspired metaphor, He was actually teaching two propositions: “Without Me, you can do nothing” and, “Without you, I will do nothing.”

It is the plan of God to use the power of God in the people of God to accomplish the purposes of God according to the plan of God.  Jesus is a Vine looking for branches.

Are you willing to be one of His branches?

Dick Woodward, 31 July 2012