Spiritual Fitness: Godly Exercise(s)

August 22, 2017

“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 most likely would be the type to join a gym and work out regularly. Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness was profitable; but, Paul 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 question: what is godly exercise? The word “godly” means “like God.”  What is God- like?  We are told in the Word 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 (1Corinthians 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 what the 15 virtues are and what they will look like when you apply them in all your relationships.

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

Do you have a routine for spiritual fitness?

Dick Woodward, 18 October 2013


Overcoming Prejudice

January 17, 2017

“But this was very 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 reflect upon Jonah’s story and 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 sizes, shapes and forms. 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.’

When I attended a southern college in the late 1940’s, I was shocked to see ‘white’ and ‘colored’ water fountains and to see African Americans sitting in the back of buses.  I was even more bewildered when I discovered that “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches…

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

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

Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.

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


Seeking Jesus

December 10, 2016

“…Wise men came saying, “Where is he?” (Matthew 2: 1, 2)

Christmas cards tell us that wise men still seek Him. Wise men still find Him. Wise men still worship Him and give gifts to Him. We can add this observation: wise men (and women) still ask the question: “Where is He?”

If we want to know where Jesus is today, we should look where the Love is. Paul writes that He is a specific quality of love. (1Corinthians 13:4-7)  If we tap into that quality of love we will find ourselves connecting with God, and discover that God is connecting with us. (1 John 4:16)

The great Christmas word,“incarnation,” literally means “in flesh.” (John 1:14)  The Bible tells us that incarnation also means relocation. God wants to express the quality of love God is where people are hurting. If we will intentionally place ourselves where people are hurting, as we become conduits of God’s love that addresses their pain we will discover where God is and where we want to be for the rest of our lives.

We must also look where the Light is.  Then, we can deliberately place ourselves where others live in spiritual darkness and ask God to pass the Light of Christ through us to address their darkness.

And we should look where the Life is. The Apostle John writes that God has given us a quality of life God labels “eternal life.” (1John 5: 11, 12) We can experience this quality of life ourselves, and we can become conduits of that Life for others.

We can go, or God may place us with the hurting, those living in darkness, and those suffering from a low quality of life. As we become God’s conduits, that’s when we discover by experience where Jesus is.

Dick Woodward, 13 December 2011


Finding Joy (no matter what!)

October 18, 2016

“…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, the epistle 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 and again. And what he’s really saying to us when he uses 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? Now again, if you delight in your health, well, you’re on thin ice. What would you do if you lost your health? If you delight in money, what would you do if you had a big crash and you lost everything? If you delight in your loved ones, and many, many people do, what are you going to do when you lose them?

It’s because God loves us that God tells us things like this, “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 the dungeon, even when he was in prison, no matter what the circumstances were, the reason he could say, “I’m ready for anything. I have learned how to live when everything’s good, I have learned how to live when everything’s bad.”  Here is one of the big keys: 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)


Jonah: Prejudice vs. God’s Love

September 6, 2016

“…for I know that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing… Then the Lord said, “is it right for you to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:2-4)

As a prophet, one of Jonah’s functions was to remove obstacles that were blocking the work of God in the world. Do you see the obstacle in Jonah’s story? Jonah’s prejudice.  As we reflect upon the prejudice of Jonah, we should ask ourselves if we have prejudice in our hearts that is blocking the love God wants to express through us to the hurting people of our world.

The real message of Jonah is that God loves people. God loves all people! The love of God is a bottom line truth you find in the inspired Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.

Can you see why I believe the real message of the Book of Jonah has little to do with whales swallowing people or people swallowing whales? Refuse to get sidetracked. Come to the book of Jonah looking for truth. When you find that truth, you will find at the heart of this book, and in the heart of this prophet, a loving God Who values people and longs to draw all men, women and children to God.

The message of Jonah is that God earnestly desires to express unconditional love and grace through God’s faithful servants.  The people of God, like you and me, are designed to be the vehicles of God’s love, grace and salvation.  When the people of God are prejudiced, the very people God designed to be the vessels, models and channels of God’s salvation become obstacles that block the love and salvation work of God in this world.  If God loves Ninevites, and the people of God hate Ninevites, how can God express God’s love and salvation for all people if God’s own people are hung up on their prejudices?

Did you observe Jonah did not answer God’s last question? To put the best possible spin on this, I would like to think Jonah’s silence this time was because, when Jonah finally saw the truth of God’s love and compassion for even wicked people, he was humbled to silence.  That is how the profound truth of the pure and unconditional love and grace of God, when it comes to you directly from God, can impact your life.  When your mind and spirit experience a personal revelation of the love and grace of God, which are not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance from us, you will be humbled into a submissive silence.

Dick Woodward,

from Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet


Unconditional Grace

August 9, 2016

“The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

This verse is not teaching the random chaos of life. This verse instead parallels a truth emphasized in the Bible and expressed by the word ‘grace.’  The truly significant events in the life of a believer are the result of grace and not the results of self effort.  The charisma of God upon the work of your hands will make the difference between your life having eternal significance and your life’s work amounting to wood, hay and stubble in the eternal state (1Corinthians 3:12-15; Psalm 90:17).

The writings of the Apostle Paul are filled with an emphasis upon the concept of grace.  The word grace means ‘unmerited favor.’

The blessing of God upon us is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance. The grace of God and the love of God are unconditional. When you understand the meaning of the word grace which is found in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, it follows that the race is not to the swift or strong or wise or skilled…

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created  in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”   Ephesians 2:8-10

Dick Woodward, MBC Old Testament Handbook, p.428


LOVE ONE ANOTHER!!!!!

August 2, 2016

“And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1John 4:21)

In this love chapter of the Bible, John gives us 10 reasons we must love.  His last reason is that we have been given a commandment by Jesus that we are to love one another.  When Jesus was about to leave the apostles by way of His death on the cross, He gave the apostles this New Commandment.

Jesus explained in that same setting that this would only be possible because He was sending the Holy Spirit.  He used a word for the Holy Spirit that means: “One who comes alongside of you and attaches Himself to you for the purpose of assisting you.”

In our culture the concept of a commandment is lost for many people because we are so democratic in our values.  The closest we come to understanding the meaning of this word is in our military training.  When my youngest brother was in training for the Marines the order was given that the smoking lamp was out – which meant no smoking.  In defiance he lighted a cigarette.  His Marine drill instructor ordered him to bury that cigarette in a grave six feet deep.

When he reported to the drill instructor all covered with mud and sweat, the instructor asked if he had buried the cigarette pointing north and south or east and west?  When he wasn’t sure he was told that he had to do it again the next day and make sure it pointed north and south.  The next time the no smoking order was given do you think he lighted another cigarette?

Do you get the full weight of the commandment that we must love one another?

Dick Woodward, 06 August 2010