#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


GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS!

June 4, 2021

“He has filled me with bitterness…my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:15-16, 22-23)

When Jeremiah gets to his darkest hour, he receives a revelation of hope and salvation. Just like suffering brought Job to the bottom of despair’s pit and he received his Messianic revelation.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last upon the earth. And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God!” (Job 19:25-26)

After World War II, Corrie ten Boom told people all over the world how, in a Nazi concentration camp, God revealed this truth to her: 

“There is no pit so deep but what the love of God is deeper still.” 

This is the same truth God revealed to Jeremiah. 

Job received his Messianic revelation when he “bottomed out” through suffering. God also made Jeremiah know the truth about God’s unconditional love that is taught from Genesis to Revelation: God’s love is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance.

Reading the Lamentations, I am inspired meditating upon God’s miraculous revelation to Jeremiah, that all the horror of the Babylonian conquest and captivity did not mean that God no longer loved the people of Judah…

Another possible miracle, however, is that as Jeremiah received his revelation weeping in his grotto on the hill of Golgotha, he could have been sitting on the very spot God was going to pour out God’s Love on the whole world.

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Old Testament Handbook


God Comforts Us (in times of suffering!)

June 1, 2021

“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, J. B. Phillips)

Suffering can drive us to God in such a way we make this discovery: God is there and God can comfort us. When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can experience in this lifetime.

As a pastor I have frequently heard people say that God met them in a supernatural and intimate way while they were going through a medical crisis.Two weeks ago a man for whom I’ve been praying for twenty years wrote from another part of the country to say he has come to faith. God gave him that absolute assurance while he was undergoing a critical life-threatening surgery.

Many of us have known people we loved who are depressed and oppressed.They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want the caring people in their lives to be with them.

Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in a self-imposed solitary confinement. If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this discovery: God is there, and God can comfort you!

Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort. Comfort me in my pain, and when I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are there, You are real, and You can comfort me. I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!

May 28, 2021

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

After a devastating battle during World War I, Canadian army surgeon John McCrae composed one of the greatest war poems ever written. In it he gave voice to thousands of soldiers who lay dead, summing up their lives on earth with this line: “Loved and were loved, but now we lie in Flanders Fields.”

When we come to the end of our lives, one of our most important priorities will be those we love, and those who love us. But we should not wait to focus our priorities.

The Apostle Paul declared the agape love of God to be the number one priority of spiritual people: “…and the greatest of these is love.”

A PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence and even in tongues, but 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 prophets, 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 bodies to be burned at the stake as martyrs, 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


SHARING THE GOSPEL!

May 14, 2021

“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)

It is imperative 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. Nicodemus was impressed with what he saw Jesus do, so he went to hear Jesus talk. We deceive ourselves if we think it’s not that way today.

What I call religious talk is our lengthy theological explanations of what we believe. Many secular people don’t understand the simplest theological terms. They 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


Jesus: A Friend to Everyone!

May 4, 2021

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”  (Luke 19:5)

When Jesus came face to face with the greatest sinner in Jericho, He knew him and called him by name. He then invited Himself to spend the entire day in the house of His sinner friend. The chapter tells us elsewhere that Jesus was only passing through Jericho. Extremely popular at this time, His walk through Jericho was like a parade amidst crowds of people who wanted to get a glimpse of the famous Rabbi from Galilee.

We might imagine that religious leaders would like to have entertained Him for lunch. To everyone’s shock and amazement Jesus declares He will spend His one day in Jericho with the greatness sinner there. Publicans were hated in that day because they collected taxes for the Romans from their fellow Jews. And Zacchaeus was the chief of the publicans who had become very wealthy in that position.

We are told nothing of what Jesus and the publican discussed that day, but at the end of the day as they came out of the house Zacchaeus announces he will give half of his money to the poor. And with the other half he will restore 400% of everything he has taken from people unjustly.

One scholar put an interesting spin on this story when he suggested that Zacchaeus was the publican in the previous chapter of Luke who prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

Do you know any sinners by name?  Are you a friend of sinners? 

Dick Woodward, 01 May 2011


#FAITH: A Checkup from the Neck Up!

April 16, 2021

“….Blessed are the merciful … Blessed are the pure in heart …” (Matthew5:7&8)

Jesus begins His greatest discourse with a “checkup from the neck up.” He teaches eight beattitudes that can make His disciples salt and light and His answer to what is wrong with this crazy world. These eight attitudes come in pairs. The third pair is to be merciful with a pure heart.

One scholar writes these blessed attitudes are like climbing a mountain. The first pair takes us halfway up the mountain and the second pair takes us to the top of the mountain. The third pair takes us half way down the other side of the mountain.

The profound simplicity of Jesus is asking the questions “When people are filled with righteousness that takes them to the top of the mountain what kind of people are they?  Are they Bible experts who throw the book at people?”  No! They are filled with mercy (which is unconditional love) and while they love in this way they are pure in heart.

To be pure in heart is only understood when we research the Greek word used here for pure. It is the word from which we get our word to be catheterized.  It means that as disciples are merciful they have a catharsis through which everything that is not the unconditional love of Christ is removed from their hearts.

If you want to be one of the solutions of Jesus in this world hunger and thirst for what is right and you will find that love is right and right is love. Be a conduit of God’s love and you will become the salt and light of Jesus.

Dick Woodward, 13 April 2010


#FAITH: The Gospel in Reverse

April 6, 2021

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20)

This past weekend many heard the Good News that Jesus died and rose again for our sins that we might live forever in resurrection power with Him. Have you ever heard of the Gospel in reverse? The verse I quoted above sounds like a funeral dirge because it begins with Paul’s announcement that he is crucified with Christ.

But, in this verse Paul exclaims three times that he lives! He lives by faith in the Son of God. He lives because Christ lives in him, and he lives because he is crucified with Christ. To summarize and paraphrase, Paul is declaring the Good News that Christ died so he might live and now it’s his turn. Paul must die so Christ might live His life through Paul.

When our holidays roll around we hear that it should be Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter every day of the year. If you want to have a perpetual Easter, realize that what was true of the Apostle Paul can be true for you and me.

Jesus consistently challenged His followers to take up their cross daily and follow Him. (Luke 9: 23) In addition to the literal meaning this could have had in that culture, by application to take up your cross daily means to “crucify” all the personal hopes, ambitions and plans you had for your life asking Him to have His will for your life.

Christ died that you might live. Now it’s your turn.

Dick Woodward, 02 April 2013


Good Friday: “It is finished!”

April 2, 2021

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished!’” (John 19:30)

These last words of Jesus on the cross actually are one word in the original language: “Tetelesti.” In those days this word was written over the record of a prisoner after completing his or her sentence in a Roman prison. “Tetelesti” was also written above the cross of a prisoner crucified by Rome. Jesus chose this word at the end of His suffering for your sins and mine.

What Jesus meant is that He paid in full a debt He did not owe because we owe a debt we cannot pay. Theologians refer to this as the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. One thought is that we cannot possibly add anything to what He finished for us on the cross. A more profound thought is that we must put our faith in what He did for us there.

Still another thought is if we could add anything to what He did or be forgiven on the basis of our own good works, then Christ did all that suffering for nothing.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat great drops of blood as He pleaded with the Father to let this cup pass from Him.

The Father’s response was that there was no other way, so Jesus had to go to and through the suffering of the cross. To think we can save ourselves by our works is like saying to our Heavenly Father and to our Savior: “You really didn’t have to go through all that suffering because I can save myself by the good works I am doing.”

Do you believe in what Jesus finished on the cross? “It is finished.”

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2009