#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


ALWAYS PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

November 20, 2020

“…tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6)

It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them? The Apostle Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum when he prescribed: “Pray about everything!”

God’s Word exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate reading, “God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places.” God delivered Paul from many tight places. We should therefore always pray in a crisis.

“When it’s hardest to pray, pray the hardest!”

Paul knew from personal experience that God doesn’t always take our problems away. Paul had a physical condition he described as a “thorn in the flesh.” Three times he asked God to take it away. Paul saw many people miraculously healed as he ministered the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them. Yet, when he asked God to solve his problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.”

But God also responded, “My grace is sufficient for you and that is all you need. My strength looks good on weak people.” (2 Corinthians 12) Paul’s weakness drove him to discover the strength of God. When he did, Paul not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so God’s power might be showcased in him.

As Paul accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he learned that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul exhorts us from his personal experience that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or prayer may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray.

Always pray about everything!

 Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”


#FAITH – PUT LOVE FIRST!

November 17, 2020

 “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

In the middle of the first century, the Apostle Paul declared that the agape love of God should be the number one priority of spiritual people. He wrote that love is greater than knowledge and more important than faith. His inspired words about love have been read, and should be read, in every generation of church history. That includes you and me.

Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts in the previous chapter concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.”  (ICor 12:31) Paul begins the next chapter with his prescription for that most excellent way: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or “Put love first.”

A PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence or in tongues without love, we’re just a lot of noise. If we have all knowledge to understand all the Greek mysteries, the gift to speak as a prophet and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all these things, we are nothing. If we give all our money to feed the poor and our body to be burned at the stake as a martyr, if we give and die without love, it profits us nothing.

Nothing we are, nothing we ever become, nothing we have, and nothing we ever will have in the way of natural and spiritual gifts should ever move ahead of love as our first priority. Nothing we do, or ever will do as an expression of our faith, our gifts, our knowledge, or our generous, charitable, unconditionally-surrendered heart is worthy of comparison, or can replace love as we live out our personal priorities in this world.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


#FAITH – A Prescription for Burnout

November 13, 2020

 “This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)

Jesus goes to a wedding. When they run out of wine, He creates more wine. In addition to the record of a miracle, this story is a formula for regeneration and a prescription for renewal. There is tired and there is tired of.  Disciples of Jesus not only get tired – we get tired of. We call this “burnout.”

I’m convinced this first miracle of Jesus presents a prescription for burnout. If you are experiencing the need for renewal consider this prescription. Mary tells Jesus they have no wine. Since wine is a symbol of joy in the Bible, let this represent your confession that you need renewal because you are tired of, dry, and burned out.

Then block out some time to fill your human vessel with the Word of God as symbolized by the vessels being filled with water. While you are filling up on the Word of God do whatever the Holy Spirit tells you to do. Then realize your renewal is not just to give you an experience, it is for the benefit of those God wants to touch and bless using you as God’s channel.

Let these four principles we can learn from this first miracle of Jesus bring renewal as you serve Jesus. Our Lord often invited His disciples to come apart and rest awhile. If you don’t come apart at times and take this prescription of Jesus for your burnout – you will come apart. 

Let Jesus turn your water into wine. That brings glory to Jesus and will make a restored believer out of you!

Dick Woodward, 16 November 2011


#FAITH – TROPHIES OF GRACE

November 10, 2020

 “… through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2)

In this verse the Apostle Paul identifies additional levels of grace. Having written that we are justified by faith, Paul declares that we also have access by faith to grace that makes it possible for us to stand in a hostile world and live a life that glorifies God.

This access to grace makes it possible for us to enter into living grace and keeping grace.

There was a long poem that described a debate in heaven between two men who died in their nineties. They debated which man was the greatest trophy of grace. One lived a terribly sinful life. On his deathbed he was led to salvation. He, therefore, considered himself a greater trophy of grace than the other man.

The second man had been the son of a pastor. He came to faith as a child and never wavered. He studied to become a pastor. In that role he led many to Christ and was a faithful shepherd for nearly 60 years.

The debate lasted for many years, but when the angels were asked to vote on the matter they decided the pastor’s son was the greater trophy of grace. The first man experienced saving grace but the second man experienced keeping grace and living grace.

We sometimes give young people the impression that it is better to live a sinful life and then experience a dramatic conversion. However, there is nothing good about a life of sin. We are a greater trophy of grace when we do not fall into sin.

Dick Woodward, 10 November 2009


#FAITH – A Bush On Fire!

November 6, 2020

“Moses was amazed because the bush was engulfed in flames, but it didn’t burn up. Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up?” (Exodus 3:2-3)

These verses are taken from a passage that describes the call of Moses. I love this story because it is a great illustration in the Bible of what I call 4 Spiritual Secrets:

I’m not but He is.

I can’t but He can.

I don’t want to but He wants to.

I didn’t but He did.

Applying the 4 Spiritual Secrets to Moses, he was not the deliverer of God’s people from their slavery and suffering in Egypt. God was their Deliverer. Moses could not deliver them but God could. Based on his objections we know Moses did not want to deliver them, God wanted to deliver them. 

When the Red Sea parted and the Israelites marched through on dry ground nobody had to tell Moses: “You didn’t do that.” He knew “God did that!”

The primary detail in this story is often overlooked. God got the attention of Moses when a bush burst into flame and was not consumed! In extreme desert heat this often happens, but a burning bush is usually consumed in about five seconds. The miraculous reality that the bush was not burning up moved Moses to become a vehicle of deliverance.

Epidemic addiction issues exist today that have millions looking for deliverance. There is also epidemic burnout among those who serve the Lord.  As servants of God we need to turn aside with Moses and see how to be a “Bush Aglow” on fire for the Lord, without burning up or burning out, as conduits of God’s love and deliverance.

Dick Woodward, 15 November 2013


#FAITH – GOD’S #MERCY VS. #PREJUDICE

November 3, 2020

“But this was 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 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 shapes and sizes. 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.”

During my freshman year at a southern Bible college in the late 1940s, I was shocked to see “white” and “colored” water fountains and African Americans sitting in the back of buses. I was even more bewildered when I discovered “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches.

As a new believer I was disillusioned when I heard professing believers use discriminatory labels. From what I learned preparing for the ministry, I expected followers of Christ and spiritual communities to be free from prejudice. As a believer now 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 heart and in the lives of other believers.

I learned from personal experience that prejudice feeds on ignorance. I grew up during the Second World War when propaganda presented Japanese as sub-human creatures. In my junior year at a Bible 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 that war propaganda from my mind. Until I met my roommate, I had never met a Japanese person before. My prejudice was fed by ignorance.

Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.

Examine your heart before God and ask yourself if you have prejudice 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


#FAITH – PERSEVERING STICKABILITY

October 30, 2020

 “Let us rejoice in our sufferings because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

If you study these verses in the original language, you will discover Paul is essentially saying this: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces the quality of character that will not run when things get difficult.”

The Greek word Paul used for character conveys a meaning similar to patches military personnel wear that show they have been tested and proven in a specific area. Paul told us suffering produces endurance, and receiving from God the grace to endure our suffering produces proven character.

When you have been tested and proven, the caliber of character that testing produces is often grown in the soil of suffering.

Paul also writes that proven character leads to confidence and hope. When you have developed character that perseveres, you will not be put to flight. I learned that one of the most important abilities missionaries need is stickability. Can you go to a foreign culture, and stay for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years? Can you live out your life there as a fragrance of Christ, an irrefutable statement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ even when people dislike you?

Most missionary work is living Christ until people “see Christ in your mortal flesh,” to borrow the words of one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. (2Corinthians 4:11)

…Perseverance is stickability: the ability to hang in there, and keep hanging in there. That is how an orange gets to be an orange; it just keeps hanging in there until it becomes an orange.

Dick Woodward, 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


FACING SUFFERING WITH #FAITH

October 27, 2020

 “…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)

Encountering trials in our lives will often bring us to the place where we don’t know what to do. We realize we need more wisdom than we have. When we lack wisdom we must look to God for it. In the Old Testament when the people of God fought 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 thought much about the suffering of disciples.

In the Bible we are warned 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 ways of God, doesn’t it logically follow that I may not expect to always understand the way I am going?

If God gave answers to our why questions, the very essence of faith would be eliminated. 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


#FAITH: Spiritual Fitness

October 23, 2020

 “Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for…the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1Timothy 4:7, 8)

As a young man Timothy was probably interested in physical fitness. If he lived in our culture he would join a gym and work out regularly. Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness was profitable, but he declared that godly fitness was more profitable. 

Paul reasoned that physical fitness improves the quality of our lives here and now, but godly fitness improves the quality of our eternal lives.

I am intrigued with this practical question: what is godly exercise? The word “godly” means “like God.” What is God- like? We are told in the Bible that God is a Spirit. (John 4:24) To exercise ourselves toward godliness therefore means to submit to disciplines in the spiritual dimension that grow us spiritually.

We also read in the Scripture that God is love. To exercise toward godliness means to commit ourselves to the love that is God. At the heart of the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13), Paul passes the love of God through the prism of his Holy Spirit inspired intellect and it comes out on the other side a cluster of 15 virtues. Pursue intentionally those 15 virtues and what they look like when you apply them in all your relationships.

God is light. Exercise yourself in this dimension by filling your mind and heart and life with the truth (light) you find in God’s Word. Walking in that light will help you in this life and in the life to come.

Do you have a routine for spiritual fitness?

Dick Woodward, 18 October 2018