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

Playing Games vs. Following Jesus Christ

June 27, 2014

“To what can I compare the people of this generation? How can I describe them? They are like children playing games in the marketplace. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you didn’t dance, so we played funeral songs, and you didn’t weep.’” (Luke 7: 31, 32)

Jesus said some very hard things.  For most of His three years of public ministry, He had an ongoing hostile dialogue with the religious leaders of His day.  Jesus spoke these metaphors in the context of the religious establishment’s criticism of John the Baptist and Himself.  They criticized John the Baptist because he was too austere and disciplined.  They criticized Jesus that He was too happy and presented the image of the happy man.

In that culture, children played games in the busy marketplace.  Since they had observed weddings and funeral processions they imitated those proceedings in their play.  They would stop busy merchants and say “We are playing funeral today.  Stop and weep with us!” Or, “We’re playing wedding today and we’re playing flutes.  Dance with us!”  Of course, busy merchants had no time for children’s games.

Jesus turned this metaphor into one of His hard sayings when He applied this to their critical attitudes toward John the Baptist and Himself.  To paraphrase the application, Jesus was saying ‘John and I have not come to play your silly little religious games.  We know our vision and our mission objectives.  We have come to revolutionize the Jewish religion.’

Today many members of our religious and secular culture continue playing games that keep us from spreading and being the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others.  We need to have clear vision and mission objectives to overcome the distractions and temptation of playing religious games vs. encountering and following Jesus Christ.

Dick Woodward, 29 May 2011

A Gift Inventory

June 3, 2013

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.” (John 1:23)

THE SEVENTH STEP: Evaluate and surrender your natural and spiritual gifts.

Once you get a good evaluation of your gift inventory, a principle application to the will of God for your life is to accept the limits of your limitations and the responsibility for your abilities.  John the Baptist is a good example of a man who implemented this application.  John knew who he was and he knew who he was not.  He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness… ” That was who, what, and where John was to be.  He knew it was foolish to try to be more than he was called to be.  He also knew that life was too precious to be anything less than that voice crying in the wilderness.

I have known parishioners who experienced needless pain because they would not accept the limits of their limitations.  However, when we are evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ, most of us will suffer agonizing shortfall because we did not accept the responsibility for our abilities.  Like the unprofitable servant in The Parable of the Talents, some of us believe we are not gifted and we bury our talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

Your natural gifts are the result of your genetic heritage.  Your spiritual gifts come with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12).  How are you utilizing them for God’s Kingdom?

A Prescription for Greatness

October 16, 2012

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (John 3:30)

Who was the greatest prophet who ever lived?  Who was the greatest man who ever lived?  According to Jesus the answer is John the Baptist (Luke 7:28; Matthew 11:11).  Having studied the Scripture for six decades I find that answer to be intriguing because very little space is given in the Bible to record this man’s life and ministry.

As I meditate on the Scriptures that describe him I have come to a conclusion about his greatness.  At least one key to his greatness was that he accepted the limits of his limitations and the responsibility for his ability.

As we attempt to discover who we are and what God wants to do through our life it is a good rule of thumb to accept the limits of our limitations and the responsibility for our ability.  When a degenerative disease of the spinal cord took away my physical abilities, it was critical for me to accept my increasing limitations and continue to be responsible for my abilities.

After about two years of illness when the acceptance came, it was so profound I decided it was a form of inner healing.  Using speech recognition software on my computer I received the grace to write about ten thousand pages of what I call a Mini Bible College.  These 782 studies of the Bible have been translated into twenty eight languages in sixty countries.

It fills me with grateful worship to realize that the formula for greatness I have learned from John the Baptist has guided me to the most important work I have done for God and Christ.

Are you willing to accept the limits of your limitations and the responsibility for your ability?

Who Are You?

January 9, 2012

“…  The Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?”  He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.” “Well then, who are you?” they asked. “We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”   (John 1: 19-22 NLT)

According to the Bible there is somebody God wants us to be, there is some place we are to be, and there is something we are to be.  We will therefore never be fulfilled or happy until we have the right answers to questions like “Who are you?  What are you?”  and “Where are you?”

God confronts us with these questions because He loves us and wants us to be fulfilled and happy.  The priests and religious leaders asked John: “What do you have to say about yourself?” Perhaps a better way to ask the question would be to ask you what God has to say about yourself.  Then that question should be followed by the question: “Do you and God agree on what you say about yourself?”

It would be foolish to want and try to be more than God wants us to be.  But, life is too precious to be less than who and what and where God wants and has equipped us to be. Jesus said John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of woman.  I’m convinced that was because John the Baptist had the right answers to these questions.

You can also have the right answers to these great questions.  I challenge you to pursue God until He finds you and shows you who and what and where He wants you to be.  This the best way to have a truly happy New Year.

Unbelief That Shuts Our Mouth

December 2, 2011

“But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born.” (Luke 1:20)

A teenager once asked me this thoughtful question about Christmas:  “Since there was so much hype about the birth of Jesus Christ, why is it that thirty years later nobody seemed to believe in Him?  You would think everyone would have just been waiting for Him to begin His ministry!”

Actually, there were only a handful of people who knew about that first Christmas.  The first one to know was a priest named Zechariah.  He and his wife Elizabeth were godly people, very advanced in years.  They had no children and the angel Gabriel told Zechariah that he and his wife were going to have a child who would be the last of the prophets to tell us about the coming of the Messiah.  Their son, whom they were to call John, would actually point at Christ and introduce Him to this world.

Zechariah did not believe the angel.  He was therefore told that everything he had heard was going to happen, but he would be smitten mute and not be able to tell anyone until his child was born.  This priest had the greatest sermon to preach that any priest ever had.  God was going to intersect human history!  But he could not preach it because of his unbelief.

Before you are too hard on Zechariah, let me ask you a question.  The New Testament tells us more than three hundred times that God is going to intersect human history a second time when Jesus Christ comes back again.  Have you ever told anybody about that Christmas to be?

 Or does your unbelief shut your mouth?

Who Are You?

October 19, 2011

“…  Who are you? What do you say about yourself?”  (John 1:22)

 John the Baptist was the greatest man and the greatest prophet ever born of woman according to Jesus, yet there’s very little space given to him in the Gospels.  His greatness as a man and as a prophet seems to be attributed to the way he answered this question a delegation from Jerusalem was commissioned to ask him.

At first he did not want to answer the question because he did not want to talk about himself.  He just wanted to talk about Jesus Christ.  But when they told him they had to take an answer back to Jerusalem, he finally gave the answer that he was a voice crying in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord.  That was who he was, that was what he was, and that was where he was.

We might summarize John’s answer by saying that he accepted the limits of his limitations and the responsibility for his ability.  We bear a lot of needless pain because we do not accept the limits of our limitations.  But at the judgment most of us are not going to come up short because we did not accept our limits.  We will fall short because we did not accept the responsibility for our ability.

Therefore, we should have a realistic, objective evaluation of who we are, what we are, and where we are to be as we live out our three score and ten, or four score years of life in this world.  Who are you?  What do you say about yourself?  When you meet the Lord, are you going to be able to say that you were who, what, and where He willed you to be?