#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 – 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


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


FINDING MY #JOY IN JESUS

October 20, 2020

“…for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.”  (Philippians 4:11-13)

In this epistle of joy to the Philippians, Paul exhorts us, “Delight in Jesus. Learn to derive your joy from knowing Him.” He uses the word “joy” again and again. What he’s saying to us by using the word joy in the conditions in which he’s living is simply this:

 “Learn to derive your joy from your relationship to Jesus Christ. Learn to delight in Him.”

What is the source of your happiness? In what do you delight? If you delight in your health, you’re on thin ice. What would you do if you lost your health? If you delight in money, what would you do if a big crash caused you to lose everything? If you delight in your loved ones, and many, many people do, what are you going to do when you lose them?

Because God loves us God tells us things like, “Delight in Me. Learn to derive your joy from knowing Me.” That’s the source of joy. And so that should be our delight.

That’s the reason Paul could have peace even in a dungeon. No matter what the circumstances were, he could say, “I’m ready for anything. I have learned how to live when everything’s good and I have learned how to live when everything’s bad.” Paul’s delight was the Lord, and the Lord was the Source of his happiness.

Not what he had or didn’t have.

Dick Woodward, (Ben Lippen Retreat, 1979)


#FAITH: WHERE IS YOUR HEART?

October 13, 2020

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

Jesus said we should not lay up treasures on earth where they depreciate and thieves steal them from us. He told us we should lay up treasures in heaven, in the spiritual dimension, where they will not depreciate or be stolen. He added that our hearts will be where our treasures are. 

In other words, Jesus challenged us, “If you really want to know where your heart is, show me your treasures.”

If you really want to know where your heart is, a practical application is to look over your old check stubs and calendars for the past five years. Consider how you are spending your money and time. Then you will know where your treasures are, and where you heart is.

Millions of people are crushed and depressed these days because they have lost all their treasures on Wall Street.  If our hearts are in our treasures on this earth, and laying up more treasures on earth, we need to listen and understand Jesus as He tells us where our hearts should be.

Where is your heart?

Dick Woodward, 15 October 2008*

*The Blog Posting Elf – This was Dick Woodward’s second blog post twelve years ago!


Alignment: Our Will and God’s Will

September 29, 2020

My Word… will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

In this chapter (Isaiah 55) the great prophet Isaiah tells us why he preaches the Word of God. Earlier in this chapter he proclaimed that there is as much difference between the way we think and how God thinks as the heavens are high above the earth.

Isaiah tells us he preaches the Word of God because God’s Word can bring about an alignment between the way God thinks and acts and the way we think and act.

There is a strong emphasis in the Scripture on the importance of our will being in alignment with the will of God. Jesus made His greatest prayer when He sweat drops of blood and prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.” He taught His disciples and us to pray, “Your will be done in earth (and in our earthen vessels) as it is in heaven.”

The Bible frequently describes the struggle between God and men like Moses, Job, Jonah, and others who finally submit their will to the will of God – and the will of God is done in and through them on earth as it is in heaven. When God declares through Isaiah that His Word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it, I am convinced that this is the purpose God had in mind.

When you read and hear the Word of God proclaimed, will you let God accomplish His purpose for you?  Will you let the Word of God bring about an alignment between your will and God’s will?

Dick Woodward, 28 September 2010


Living IN CHRIST

September 25, 2020

“Wrapped in a bundle of life with God…” (I Samuel 25:29)

These words of Scripture are often found inscribed on the gravestones of children who died at an early age. This is especially true in a Jewish cemetery, because many Jewish mothers believe these words express the inexpressible feelings in their hearts as they lay their children to rest.

As Christians we can also inscribe these words on the gravestones of our children and adult loved ones. “Wrapped in a bundle of life with God” should bring comfort and consolation as we think of those we have lost through sickness and death.

However, if we will think about it, these words can also be applied to our loved ones while they are living. The most exciting truth in the New Testament is presented in just two words: “In Christ” (or “In Him.”)

Jesus told the apostles that after His death and resurrection He would give them the divine presence of the Holy Spirit. They would then be “in Him” the way a branch is in a vine.

That means all of us can be wrapped in a bundle of life with Christ as we live our lives in this world. What an exciting concept! Jesus told the apostles, and you and me, all about this in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of John.

He even told us how to abide in Him and experience the miracle of Him abiding in us. Jesus told us we can abide in Him and He will abide in us if we abide in His Word.

I challenge you that if you abide in His Word today, you will find yourself wrapped in a bundle of life with God!

Dick Woodward, 23 September 2010