#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


The Importance of Holy Week

March 30, 2021

“The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.” (John 12:23)

Approximately half the chapters in the Gospel of John record the first thirty-three years of the life of Jesus and the other half record the last week of His life. The solemn words quoted above announce that His time had come. This is where the Apostle John divides his writings and begins to tell us about the last week of Jesus’ life.

If you add the number of chapters in all four of the Gospels you come up with the eighty-nine. Four of those chapters cover the birth and the first thirty years Jesus lived on earth.  Eighty-five cover the three years of His public ministry and twenty-eight cover that last week of His life. This means His last week is seven times more important than His birth and the first thirty years He lived according to those who wrote the Gospels.

The authors of the Gospels tell us by the way they have prioritized the last week in the life of Jesus that what we call “Holy Week” is the most important week in His life.  Why? During that week that Jesus suffered, died, and was raised from the dead for our salvation. Traditionally we make much ado over Christmas, but the four Gospel writers make much of Easter. As committed followers of Christ should not this week that was so important to Jesus be the most important week of our Church year?

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  (John 13:1)

Dick Woodward, 31 March 2010


#FAITH: FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING

March 26, 2021

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  Matthew 6:12

In Matthew 18, Jesus told the story of a man who owed a great debt. In those days, if you owed a large debt you couldn’t pay, you were sent to prison. Your wife and children were sold into slavery until your debt was paid in full. Since you couldn’t generate any income from prison, you likely would die in prison and your family would be slaves the rest of their lives.

Relative to our currency, the debt in this story of Jesus was a multi-million-dollar debt. Summoned to court, the man who owed this great debt begged for mercy. Miraculously, the one to whom he was indebted out of compassion completely forgave his debt.

On the way home from this extraordinary day in court, this man met a man who owed him twenty dollars and could not pay. He grabbed this poor man by the throat and shouted, “You pay me every cent you owe or I will slam you in prison and sell your family into slavery.”

People who observed both these happenings reported what they witnessed to the man who had forgiven the multi-million-dollar debt. When he heard, he summoned the ungrateful, forgiven man to another court hearing and reversed his compassionate decision.

Having told that story, Jesus pronounced, “Even so my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)

The essential truth Jesus teaches here is that if we see our salvation as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


LORD JESUS, SAVE ME!

March 23, 2021

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30)

The Apostle Peter is the only man besides Jesus Christ who ever walked on water. Yet millions only remember the fact that he took his eyes off Jesus and would have drowned if the Lord had not saved him.

We read his magnificent faith was flawed. He saw the wind. Since we cannot see wind this actually means when he saw what the wind was doing, he lost sight of what Jesus was doing and he was afraid. 

The remarkable thing here is when he kept his eyes on Jesus he walked on water!

It was not until he was beginning to sink that he prayed this prayer that is a model prayer for all of us. Jesus taught that our prayers should not be long and we should never think we will generate grace with God with many words. If Peter had prayed any longer, his words would have been glub, glub glub!

When Jesus caught Peter by the hand He gave him the nickname “Little Faith.” I believe our Lord was smiling when He did. He literally asked Peter “Why did you think twice?”

Rick Warren took his entire congregation of twenty thousand people through the eight steps of what is called “Celebrate Recovery.” When asked why, his response was: “Because we are all in recovery. What do you think the word salvation means?” When we truly understand the meaning of the word salvation, we will frequently pray this prayer.

Lord Jesus, save me!

Dick Woodward, 25 March 2012


What Does God Ask of Us?

March 9, 2021

“…And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

The prophet Micah asked an important question. In effect his question is: what are the divine requirements of God? What does God expect, require, demand, and command from me? Micah gives us three answers to this question.

His first answer is that we should do justly. In other words, we should be a conduit of justice. We should stand up against injustice anytime and anywhere we see injustice. Since we live in a world that is filled with injustice this could be dangerous. Jesus Christ did this and it got Him crucified.

Micah’s second answer is that we should love mercy. Mercy is unconditional love. This is the chief characteristic of the love of God. David believed that the mercy and unconditional love of God would pursue him all the days of his life.

Micah’s final answer to his question is that we are to walk humbly with our God. Humility has consistently been a characteristic of the great old souls we have known in this life. C.S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins and we read in the Proverbs that God hates pride. We can see why God would hate pride because God hates sin.

Are you willing to be the person Micah profiled? There is a sense in which we cannot become a just, merciful and humble person through our own efforts. But these three answers give us a profile of the person God wants us to be. 

Are you willing to let God give you the grace to be that person?

Dick Woodward, 20 March 2011


God’s Strength in Our Weakness

February 26, 2021

“When I am weak then I am strong…” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

In these eight words the Apostle Paul gives us a formula for strength. When we are having a serious operation, instead of counting to 10 as the anesthesiologist administers the medicine that knocks us out, I suggest we say these eight words. 

While most of us like to be in control, after experiencing the full effects of anesthesia we give up control. But, as believers when we give up control, we find ourselves underneath the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27) 

This makes us stronger than we have ever been.

Paul, quoting Isaiah, writes the key to spiritual strength: God gives strength to the weary and power to the weak. One translation reads that God’s strength looks good on weak people. The key to spiritual strength is therefore not found in our strength but in our weakness. These eight words therefore form the formula for our strength. 

They will give you great spiritual strength in your time of absolute weakness. Discover with the Apostle Paul that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness, not in trying to make ourselves strong. We find our greatest strength in the Everlasting Arms that are there underneath us.

Prove what Isaiah and Paul teach us.The everlasting arms give us more strength than we have ever known as healthy active people. The next time you experience weakness on any level of life remember to pray these eight words:“When I am weak then I am strong.”

You will soon find yourself saying, “I’m not but He is; I can’t, but He can;” and then, “I didn’t but He did” when you let God perfect His strength in your weakness.

Dick Woodward, 26 February 2014


Two Beautiful Words: Mercy & Grace

February 23, 2021

“Goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)

“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Two of the most beautiful words in the Bible are “mercy” and “grace.” The mercy of God, which is the unconditional love of God, withholds from us what we deserve, while the grace of God lavishes on us all kinds of blessings we do not deserve, accomplish, or achieve by our own efforts.

As we thank God for our blessings, at the top of the list we should be grateful for the mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows. The good news of the gospel is that when Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins, everything we deserved that we might have peace with God was laid upon Christ. (Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21)

If you want to grasp the meaning of these two words observe when and why they turn up in the Bible. Try to understand what we deserve and why. That will grow your appreciation for the mercy of God. Then investigate all that is bestowed upon us by the grace of God.

As you find these two beautiful words in the Bible you will understand why I have written that when you pray you should put at the top of your thanksgiving list:  

The mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows.”

Dick Woodward, 26 February 2009


At the Feet of Jesus

February 19, 2021

“… but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better…” (Luke 10:42)

Every time we meet Mary, the sister of Martha, she is at the feet of Jesus.The verse above describes her at the feet of Jesus hearing His Word. Martha is frustrated because Mary is attending Bible study while she is doing all the serving. Jesus sides with Mary because she has chosen the number one priority that day.

In the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John the brother of these two sisters has died. When Jesus arrives too late to save their brother both sisters greet Him with the same words:“Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” 

However, when Mary spoke those words we read she prostrated herself at his feet showing that she accepted His will.

In the next chapter of the Gospel of John a banquet is described at which their resurrected brother is the guest of honor. Mary was there again worshiping Jesus at His feet. She anointed His feet with perfume worth a year’s wages. What would it mean if you worshiped Jesus with your annual income?

Mary is a great example for us as she is at the feet of Jesus hearing His Word, accepting His will, and worshiping Him. If we will not merely read our Bibles but hear His personal word to us at His feet when we do, we will find His will for our lives. If we continue to follow Mary’s example we will be at the feet of Jesus accepting His will.

And those who follow the example of Mary will find themselves worshiping Him forever with costly worship at His feet.

Dick Woodward, 19 February 2013


ENDURING #LOVE (Part II)

February 12, 2021

“Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”  (I Corinthians 13:7-8, J.B. Phillips)

When Paul writes, “Love endures all things,” he means love perseveres while it awaits the fulfillment of what it hopes and believes to see in the lives of the ones being loved. The Greek word translated as “endurance” is “hupomone.” It is a combination of two Greek words “to abide” and “under” whatever is required to love someone.

This is especially important when we love someone who is not responding to our loving, positive reinforcement. This quality of loving perseverance equips believers to love and pray for loved ones in their addictions to alcohol, chemical substances, pornography, gambling, eating disorders and the seemingly endless list of compulsive habits.

These chains of the evil one can only be broken with supernatural assistance from God, often using, as conduits, those who love with the love of Christ that hopes, believes, and endures all things.

By our actions we can make this statement to the ones we love: “Nothing you can do or say can make me stop loving you, because I love you with the love of Jesus Christ. The love of Christ is tough love. It can handle anything you do and say.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love