When You Are Too Weak To Pray

September 17, 2021

“Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven.’”  (Mark 2: 4, 5)

When my wife was critically ill after the birth of our first child she reached a crisis on a Friday morning at ten o’clock. Her eyes were moving back into her head and we thought we were losing her. While doctors did a spinal tap to relieve pressure on her brain two precious sisters in the Lord had been burdened to pray for her that morning at ten o’clock – not knowing anything about her crisis. 

My wife pulled through the crisis and her life was saved.

While having her quiet time after returning from the hospital, she read the verses quoted above. It moved her to tears to realize that when she was too weak to pray for herself her sisters in the Lord were praying for her, and when the Lord Jesus saw their faith He ministered healing to her.

In our life span there are sure to be times when we will be too weak to pray for ourselves. That’s one reason it is wise to be in spiritual community with other believers who know the Lord and love Him and who know you and love you. 

If you have an accident or a sudden illness do you have anyone who can pray for you when you are too weak to pray for yourself?

Two are better than one, because… if one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4: 10, 11 NIV)

Dick Woodward, 18 September 2012


#FAITH: The Order of the Towel

September 10, 2021

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant…”  Matthew 20:25-26

The incident recorded in Matthew 20 (verses 20-28) precipitated by Mrs. Zebedee and her two sons, James and John, sets the stage for one the great teachings of Jesus Christ. 

We can assume these two “Sons of Thunder” (the nickname the Lord game them) who were partners with Simon Peter in the Zebedee Seafood Corporation, were obviously the instigators of their mother’s request that they be seated on the right and left of Jesus when He was crowned King. 

When the other apostles griped about this, Jesus called them together. In so many words, He told them the world plays the game of “Over-Under!” This is a world of credentials and status symbols that often say, “I am better than you,” or “I am over and above you.”

Acknowledging that the secular world is like that, Jesus tells them not to play the world’s games. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “This is not to happen among you. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, you should join the Order of the Towel – get a towel and basin, assume the status of a slave, and start washing feet.”  

Jesus uses Himself as an example when He says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)  Remember how Jesus spent His last hours before He went to the cross, literally washing the feet of His disciples.

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook, p.86


THE THERAPY OF THANKSGIVING

September 3, 2021

“In everything … with thanksgiving tell God every detail of your needs … And the peace of God which transcends human understanding will stand guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7)

As I have tried to apply what Paul prescribes in the verses quoted above, I have found this prescription for peace to be one of the most helpful spiritual disciplines. According to Paul, an attitude of gratitude leads to the therapy of thanksgiving as we apply thanksgiving to our stressful circumstances.

Be sure to make the observation that Paul does not prescribe giving thanks for all things. He instructs us to give thanks in all things. When we do this it automatically moves our mindset from the negative to the positive. The apostle promises that the peace of God will protect and stand guard (like the soldiers chained to Paul as he writes these words) over our hearts and minds as they rest and trust in Christ Jesus.

Our circumstances are not always determined by God but may be caused by evil people who are persecuting us. We cannot always control our circumstances – but we can control the way we respond to them. Paul is telling us to respond with thanksgiving, because if we do, we will find this response to be God’s prescription that will bring the peace that can contribute to victory over our circumstances.

When a pastor asked one of his church members how they were doing, their response was “Pretty good pastor, under the circumstances.” The pastor responded “Whatever are you doing there?”

The therapy of thanksgiving can lead us out from under our circumstances and into the peace of God. Have you tried it?

Dick Woodward, 02 September 2009


#FAITH: “Why?” and “Oh!”

August 24, 2021

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

One of the words we use most often in this life is, “Why?” But I think the word we will use most in the next world will be, “Oh!”  The Providence of God is like a Hebrew word, we have to read it backwards. By the Providence of God I mean the events of our lives have meaning.

Sometimes it’s like we are on the inside of a woven basket. All the threads that come up on the inside of the basket represent the way we see the things that happen to us, which seem to have no meaning or pattern at all.  If we get out of that basket, on the outside we will see beautiful woven patterns.

Job is the biblical example of a man who tried to sort out, by looking inside the basket, what appeared to be the tragic meaninglessness of his life. It was not until he looked up and saw all his tragic circumstances from God’s perspective that he was moved from asking, “Why?” to exclaiming, “Oh!” (Job 35: 1-7; 40-42)

In Psalm 11:3, the Psalmist asks a question: “If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?” One version suggests this alternate reading: “When the foundations of your life are breaking up, what is the Righteous One doing?”

My wife and I have made that question a knee jerk reaction to the events of our lives as they happen.  As a result, although we’re not on the other side yet we are already saying, “Oh!”

Will you confront the challenges you encounter daily with that same question?

Dick Woodward, 25 August 2012

Editor’s Note: I’m certain Dick and Ginny Woodward have been saying “Oh” lots and lots on the other side!


UNCONDITIONAL GRACE

August 3, 2021

“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!

July 23, 2021

“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20)

Tradition tells us that the Apostle John escaped from the Isle of Patmos by swimming out to a ship that was bound for the city of Ephesus where he lived to a very old age and was buried. With white hair and a long white beard he was so feeble they had to carry him to the meetings. While at the meetings he would bless those who attended and would cry:

“Little children, love one another, little children, love one another!”

As we see in chapter four of First John, John gives us ten reasons why we must love one another. One reason is that God is love and if we plug into the love God is we make contact with God. As we become a conduit of God’s love, God makes contact with us. John gives us a second reason that if we say we love God and we hate our brother, we are liars.

Because if we do not love the person we can see how can we love God Whom we cannot see?

His point is that it’s not easy to love God, because we cannot hug a Spirit. There is an inseparable vertical and horizontal dimension of this love that God is.

These two dimensions form a cross.                                            

We cannot say we love God if we do not love one another.

Dick Woodward, 09 July 2010


FINDING PEACE IN CHRIST JESUS

July 16, 2021

The peace of God…will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, 12-13)

According to Paul, to attain and maintain the peace of God we must rest in Christ Jesus.

What does it mean to rest in Christ Jesus? What does it mean to be in Christ? Describing the relationship we have with the risen Christ, the authors of the New Testament say it’s to be “in Christ.”  Paul uses this description ninety-seven times in his writings.

According to Jesus, the expression means that we are in union with Him, as a branch is in union with a vine. If we are involved in the work of Jesus, then all day long we are going to be faced with the impossible – things we cannot do – because it’s His work. We can only be vehicles through which Jesus does His work. 

If we think it all depends on us, we lose our peace, big time!

Perhaps the greatest “peace thief” devout disciples of Jesus experience is doing the work of Christ in our own strength. What I call “Four Spiritual Secrets” is the solution to that problem. These Four Secrets are my way of expressing what it means to “rest in Christ Jesus.”

I’m not, but He is.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.
I can’t, but He can.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.
I don’t want to, but He wants to.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I didn’t, but He did.
Because I was in Him and He was in me.

Dick Woodward, 01 July 2009


RELATIONSHIPS: A TWO-WAY STREET

June 29, 2021

“For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2 Corinthians 2:2)

You can’t control the weather or rainy days but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you. There is a principle of relationships that tells us communication is a two-way street. Whatever you send down that street comes back up that street and into your relationship with another person.

That is the essence of what the Apostle Paul is teaching: “If I say things that get you down who is going to build me up and pull me up?” The reality is that you are probably going to pull me down because misery loves company. 

This is a negative way of stating the positive truth that if I say things to you that build you up, I have equipped you to build me up.

In another place Paul wrote:Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

In every relationship you have – with your spouse, children, parents, those you work with, those you work for, and those who work for you – make the commitment to say and do things that build them up and minister the grace of God to them. You will be surprised by joy to discover what you send down that communication street will come back up that street and into your relationship with that person.

Jesus gave an unstable man named Simon the nickname Peter, which meant stable like a rock. After calling Peter a rock for three years Peter became a rock. Try that in your relationships.

Dick Woodward, 29 June 2010


#FAITH: A PRESCRIPTION FOR DEPRESSION

June 15, 2021

“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart…” (1 John 3:20)

In the Bible the heart is often referring to our emotions. The Apostle John uses the heart in that sense in the verse above. What he is essentially writing is that if the way we feel condemns us, God is greater than the way we feel.

Before the Apostle John writes these words, he was challenging us to love in action and not merely in words. He follows the insight that God is greater than the way we feel with the prescription to keep the two great commandments of Jesus: to love God, and love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40)

We are to love when we look up, when we look around, and when we look in. John was teaching that we are to love God completely, love others unconditionally, and love ourselves correctly. 

Loving ourselves does not mean when we pass a mirror we should stop and have our devotions. Jesus taught that we should say the same thing about ourselves that God says about us: God loves us.

The prescription for depression the Apostle of Love gives devout disciples is that when our hearts condemn us, we should realize that our faith is not based on something as fickle as our feelings. Our faith should be based on the reality that we believe and apply the commandment to love.

The last thing we should do when our heart condemns us is isolate ourselves into a pity party. We should get with people and love them.

Dick Woodward, 13 June 2011


#FAITH: GATES OF LEARNING

June 8, 2021

“Now we have received… the Spirit who is from God, that we might know…” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

The Apostle Paul has given us a masterpiece of what we might consider spiritual educational psychology. How do we learn? According to Paul there are several gates of learning through which we must pass if we want to know spiritual truth.

Paul’s thesis is that we learn through the eye gate, which involves everything we observe and read. We learn through the ear gate, which involves everything we hear, including lectures and interaction with others, mentors, and those who are learning with us. 

Then the apostle mentions the heart gate, which has to do with volition and the willingness to apply what we’re learning. Apprenticeship, a synonym for discipleship, describes a learner who is doing what they’re learning and learning what they’re doing. This is how Jesus trained His disciples. (John 7:17; Matthew 4:19)

According to Paul the most important gate we must pass through to learn spiritual truth is the Holy Spirit. Paul’s illustration is that no person knows the thoughts of another person except the spirit that is in that other person. In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God but the Spirit of God. Paul is excited about the glorious reality that we have received the Spirit Who knows the very thoughts of God. We can therefore also know the thoughts of God. One translation concludes the Second Chapter of 1 Corinthians with “Incredible as it may seem, we actually have the very mind of Christ!”

Prayerfully meditate on this chapter, then find your way through these gates of learning.

Dick Woodward, 08 June 2010