Sharing the Gospel

May 2, 2017

“I want to remind you of the gospel…which you received and on which you have taken your stand… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)

Since most evangelism takes place today in the marketplace, it is imperative that we understand how to articulate the Gospel. A first step in that direction is realizing the Holy Spirit is the Evangelist and we are merely conduits through whom the Holy Spirit works…

When Jesus stayed up late with Nicodemus, the first words of Nicodemus were: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do the works that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2) Jesus earned his hearing with Nicodemus by what he had seen Him do. Likewise, we must also earn our hearing with people. This begins with our understanding that what we do demonstrates what we believe. All the rest is just religious talk. People are not interested in our religious talk unless they are impressed by what they see us do and are favorably impacted by what we are. It’s as if Nicodemus was saying he was impressed with what he had seen Jesus do, so he had come to hear the religious talk of Jesus. We are deceiving ourselves if we think it’s not that way with us today.

What I’m calling religious talk is our theological explanation of what we believe and why we believe it. This can be a negative if we overwhelm people with our theology. Many secular people don’t understand the simplest theological terms… Whether positive or negative, people will not be interested if they are not impressed with who and what we are and the things we do.

When we earn our hearing by the grace of God, the Gospel is simply two facts about Jesus Christ: He died for our sins and He rose again from the dead, just as the Old Testament Scriptures said He would and the New Testament Scriptures tell us He did.

There is something to believe and Someone to receive.

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p. 23, 24, 38)


Who will show us something good?

April 28, 2017

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 4:5)

In this Psalm King David has insomnia because he is doing the expedient thing rather than what is right. He’s doing this because if he does the right thing he cannot see how he can possibly survive. Since he is a man of deep spiritual integrity this keeps him awake all night. In the middle of the night, he resolves in his heart that he is going to make whatever sacrifices he must make to do what is right and then trust the Lord for his survival. This decision changes his emotional anxiety and insomnia to peace and peaceful sleep.

His motivation is the many people asking: “Who will show us something good?” In other words, these people are looking for someone who will do what is right even if it costs everything they have to do right.

Psalm 4 begins with a prayer that is addressed to the God Who relieves us when we are in distress. If you want to know what distress is just drop the first two letters of the word and you know that this Psalm is all about being relieved from our (di)-stress.

If you are a spiritually oriented person and you’re not doing what is right because you cannot see how you can survive if you do, are you willing to resolve making whatever sacrifices you must to do what is right – and then trust God for the outcome?

Dick Woodward, 23 April 2010


Spiritual Community: A Threefold Cord

April 25, 2017

“But woe to him who is alone when he falls.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

Have you observed how much Jesus valued community? He taught: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) He also gave a great teaching regarding prayer community: “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.” (Matthew 18:19, The Message)

When Jesus made that observation about being present when two or three gather in His name he was not giving us a consolation for poor attendance at a meeting. Jesus was being descriptive and prescriptive about the reality that His risen presence is among us in a special way when just two or three of us come together in His name.

King Solomon, thought to be the wisest man on earth in his day, also wrote about the value of community.  He tells us in Ecclesiastes 4: “two are better than one, for when one falls the other will help him up.” Then, in verse 12: “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  This could mean that when two or three are in community, the presence of God among them forms the threefold cord that cannot be easily broken.

Are you in community? If you are not, follow the teaching of our Lord and the wise counsel of Solomon to seek spiritual community. I’m not telling you to just go to church. I am writing about that special relationship with two or three people where you have accountability and deep sharing of life and faith. If you cannot find one, start one.

It only takes you and one other person.

Dick Woodward, 19 April 2013


Two Words God Speaks through Nature

April 22, 2017

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.”  (Psalm 19:1-2)

When summer ends we encounter the explosion of beautiful fall colors. While we enjoy the colors, consider a word God speaks to us through nature every fall: death. Since those beautiful colors are produced by the death of leaves, God is speaking to many of us that death can be beautiful. In many ways, the most beautiful reality you and I encounter in our three or four score years on earth is the death of our Lord Jesus Christ that makes it possible for us to experience salvation and enter heaven.

Paul tells us the Gospel is that Christ died so we might live – and now it is our turn. We must die to ourselves so Christ might live through us. (Galatians 2:20)  That means death to our selfish ways can be beautiful.

Every spring God speaks another word through nature to us: resurrection. That is seen all around us as black trunks and bare branches of trees we thought were dead sprout to life and bloom.

The Latin root meaning of rehabilitation is “to invest again with dignity.”  Do we have faith to believe God can bring to life that which we thought was dead?  Can we apply that thought to our lives, to the lives of our children, and to all the people we know?

Dick Woodward, 04 September 2012


Resurrection: A Dragonfly Approach

April 18, 2017

“Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.”   (1Corinthians 15: 49)

Have you ever watched a dragonfly move from one plant to another with its two sets of wings making it possible to hover like a helicopter?  A dragonfly actually spends the first two years of its existence at the bottom of a large body of water. When that phase of its existence comes to an end, it rises to the surface of the water, climbs up on the bank and lets it wings dry in the sun. Then it spreads those magnificent wings and begins the second dimension of its existence as an aeronautical wonder.

Easter reminded us that, like the dragonfly, we are meant to live out our existence in two dimensions. If you did a cross-section of that under-water dragonfly you would see that it has two respiratory systems: one for living under water and one for breathing air in the second dimension of its life.

If you could do a spiritual cross-section of a follower of Jesus Christ, you would find that we are also equipped with two systems. We have an outward person and an inward person. Our outward person is just a little clay pot in which our eternal inward person lives.

We are told in the great Resurrection Chapter (1 Corinthians 15), that we are given a body for living this life and we will be issued another body for living in the eternal state. According to Paul, that new body will be a spiritual body that will equip us for living throughout all eternity.  I don’t know about you, but as a bed fast quadriplegic I’m really looking forward to being issued that new body!

Dick Woodward, 12 April 2012

 


Psalm 23: Unquenchable Faith, Love Everlasting

April 4, 2017

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (Psalm 23:6)

What is the basis of the unquenchable faith of David? What gives him the assurance that all the blessings he has described (in Psalm 23) will be experienced all the days of his life and forever?

The word Selah, found frequently in the Psalms of David, can be interpreted: “Pause and calmly think about that.” If we pause and calmly think about it, we realize that all through Psalm 23, David presents his Shepherd as the great Initiator of their relationship.

It is the Shepherd Who gets David’s attention, then makes him lie down and say, “baa,” confessing that he is a sheep and the Lord is his Shepherd. It is his Shepherd Who makes David lie down where the green pastures are and then leads him beside still waters. It is David’s Shepherd Who uses His staff when David strays from Him, and drives him into the paths of righteousness that restore his soul. It is God, the Good Shepherd Who initiates these interventions in David’s life.

As David walks through the valley of the shadow of death, his confidence is not in his own extraordinary ability as a warrior to see himself through that valley. His confidence is clearly in his Shepherd. As David walks through this dark and scary valley, he is looking to God for protection and provision. He knows his Shepherd will personally anoint him with oil and keep that cup running over within him.

The source of David’s confident faith is clearly seen in the way the New Jerusalem Bible translates this verse: “Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.” It is also expressed in these words from the hymn, “I Sought the Lord,” written by George McDonald.

            “I find, I walk, I love, but Oh the whole of love

            Is but my answer, Lord to Thee.

            For You were long beforehand with my soul.

            Always, you have loved me.”

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


Forgiveness: A Second Look

March 24, 2017

“And He said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48)

…Jesus taught this same truth in a similar parable recorded in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 7:36-50)

As Jesus was dining with a Pharisee, a woman who was a sinner and had experienced salvation through Jesus began washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The Pharisee had not washed the feet of Jesus. In that culture, not washing the feet of an invited guest was like refusing to shake hands. To this woman, this mean that the Pharisee had not even extended common hospitality to her Lord and Savior, whom she loved so very much.

While the Pharisee was thinking lurid thoughts about this gesture on the part of the woman, Jesus told him a parable about two men who owed debts to the same wealthy lord. To paraphrase, one owed him $500, and the other $5,000. The wealthy man forgave both debts. After telling this story, Jesus asked the Pharisee which man would have loved their benefactor most? The Pharisee answered, “the one who owed him the greater debt.”

Jesus then asked the Pharisee, “Do you see this woman?” The question was actually, How do you see this woman?” Jesus challenged the Pharisee to think about how he saw the sin of that woman relative to how he saw his own sin. He obviously saw her sin as the great debt and his own as the small debt. Jesus then applied His parable for the Pharisee by announcing, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, the same loves little.”

Jesus then said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.” These words of Jesus clearly affirmed the Gospel reality that she was not saved because she loved much. She loved much because she had saving faith. The real sinner at the luncheon in that Pharisee’s house was not the forgiven sinner who loved much, but the self-righteous Pharisee named Simon.

This parable focuses the reality that we cannot isolate our own forgiveness of sin from our attitude toward the sins of others. That is why Jesus wrapped His petition for the forgiveness of our sins in the same package with our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer