#FAITH +The Seminary of Suffering+

July 21, 2020

“…as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness… through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report… beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing… having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:3-10)

Paul tells us suffering is like a seminary in which God trains qualified ministers of the Gospel. There is a sense in which this seminary never ends.

By passing through this seminary of suffering, we become ministers of God. When Paul uses “minister,” he does not mean a clergy-person; he means the minister every believer is designed, created, and recreated by God to be. Everyone who has experienced the miracle of reconciliation to God through Christ has been commissioned to carry out the ministry of Christ.

How do we prove ourselves to be ministers? Paul writes, “In afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…”

I call these adversities “wringers.” When we find ourselves in a wringer, the important thing is our response to that wringer. In 2 Corinthians 6:6, Paul shows us how to respond: “By pureness, knowledge, patience, kindness.”

In verses 6 and 7 of this passage, Paul tells us where to find the spiritual resources to respond: “By the Holy Spirit, by love unfeigned, by the Word of Truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”

Loving Heavenly Father, use our suffering to make us faithful ministers for You in this world, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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


A Message of #LOVE

July 17, 2020

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)

The Apostle John points to Jesus dying on the cross and writes: “This is love… that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10) He follows that with the words quoted above: if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

Hours before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus challenged the men He had been apprenticing 24/7 for three years to love one another as He had loved them. He then prophesied that by this the whole world would know they were His disciples.

Peter wrote that by His death on the cross Jesus has given us an example and a calling that we should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

The Apostle John is in alignment with Jesus and Peter when he gives us yet another reason we are to love one another. In principle Jesus was instructing the apostles that the best way to reach out is to reach in.

Essentially, Jesus was saying that we have a message of love to communicate to the world. The best way to do that is to love one another and show the world a community of love.

If our churches were the colonies of love Jesus desires them to be, the love-starved people of this world would be beating our doors down to be part of our spiritual communities. Everyone has a need to be loved and to belong. The love John is profiling is the greatest evangelistic tool our Lord has given His Church.

Are you willing to reach in that you might reach out for His glory?

Dick Woodward, 20 July 2010


God’s Mandate for #LOVE

July 14, 2020

 “…because as He is, so are we in this world…” (1 John 4:17)

As the Apostle of Love continues to give us reasons why we must love (in 1 John 4), having told us twice that God is love (verses 8 and 16), he writes that as God is, so are we in this world. He also told us in verse 16 that God lives in us. If God is love and God lives in us, then it follows that as God is (love), so are we (to be love) in this world.

This is yet another reason why we must love.

The perfect example of this is Jesus Christ when He was God in human flesh for 33 years. The greatest dynamic of His personality was love. If you met with Him for a day like Zacchaeus, the Chief of the Publicans (Luke 19), or for an hour like the Samaritan woman (John 4), or briefly like the young man we call the rich young ruler, you would know that you are loved as you have never been loved before.

We are told that Jesus, looking intently at the rich young ruler, loved him. (Mark 10:21)

The Apostle John, the author of the fourth Gospel, lived with Jesus 24/7 for three years. John refers to himself in his Gospel many times with these words: “I am the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Sixty years later, he dedicated the last book of the Bible to Jesus with the words “…unto the faithful Witness Who loved us…”

When people meet with us today do they feel that they have been loved as never before because we are God’s Love with skin on in this world?

Dick Woodward, 16 July 2010


#LOVE ONE ANOTHER!!

July 10, 2020

“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 cry:

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

As we have seen in this chapter, 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, and 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 brother 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


Conduits of God’s #Love

July 7, 2020

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.” (1John 4:16)

In the epistle of First John, the apostle of Love is giving us ten reasons why we must love one another. Among those ten reasons is the one expressed above.

We must love one another because God is love and the person who loves in this way is living in God and God is living in that person.

One application of what he is writing is that when we plug into the love that God is, we live in God and God lives in us. In the 1950s I made a great discovery. As a social worker while responding to a night call at 3:00AM, I prayed a prayer like this:

“God, You say You are a special quality of love. I believe You are doing Your love thing where people are hurting. I’m now going to where hurting people are. When I get there please pass the love You are through me and address their pain.”

There were times when I prayed that prayer I thought I was being electrocuted with the love of God. I challenge you to accept the challenge of the Apostle John.

Go where the hurting people are with that prayer on your heart. When you become a conduit of God’s love, you will never be satisfied with anything less than having that experience again and again.

This is because as a conduit of the love of God you will experience Who, What and Where God is – and where you want to be for the rest of your life!

Dick Woodward, 06 July 2010


A Prayer for Peace (in times of crisis)

June 30, 2020

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

When I was in a very difficult situation, the prayer of Saint Francis had great meaning for me. I memorized it and prayed it every night for several months. I know you are very familiar with it but in case you don’t have a copy there, here it is:

 “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Dick Woodward (email to his daughter, 2005)


#FAITH: Let the Redeemed SAY SO!

June 26, 2020

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy…” (Psalm 107:1-2)

Redemption means to get something back that has been lost. It is similar in meaning to the word “rehabilitation” which essentially means “to invest again with dignity.” The first words of Psalm 107’s marvelous hymn of redemption are quoted above. At the end of each of the five stanzas in this psalm, we are told that those who have been redeemed by the Lord should step up and say so.

Levels and dimensions of redemption are profiled in this psalm. Each description ends with the charge that we thank the Lord for His goodness in redeeming us in this way.

God redeems us from our chaos when He finds us. God then redeems us from our chains when He sets us free from our sins.

This is followed by the way God redeems us from our foolish and sinful choices. The psalmist emphasizes our responsibility for bringing on the consequences of our sins.

The psalmist then describes the way God redeems us from our complacency by meeting us in our crises from which He redeems us when we are at our wits end and don’t know what to do.

As you meditate on all these levels of redemption, ask God to continuously redeem you in all these ways. As you reflect on each individual dimension of redemption, step up and join the redeemed of the Lord in grateful worship.

And say so!

Dick Woodward, 27 June 2012


A Prayer for Comfort

June 19, 2020

“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)

Suffering can drive us to God in such a way that we make this discovery: God is here 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 believers say that God met them in a supernatural and intimate way while they were going through a medical crisis.

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

Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in self-imposed solitary confinement. If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this great discovery: God is here, 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. When I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are here, You are real, and You can comfort me. 

I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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


Misery vs. Peace & Joy

June 12, 2020

“Delight yourselves in the Lord; yes, find your joy in him at all times.” (Philippians 4:4)

“While pain and suffering are inevitable, misery is optional.” These are the words of a man who lives every day with excruciating pain.

How can misery be optional for someone in agonizing pain? How do we explain Paul mentioning joy seventeen times in the short letter he wrote from prison to the Philippians?

Paul explains that for those who experience a relationship with the risen, living Christ there is peace and joy that are not controlled by our circumstances. The peace and joy Paul experienced could be called, “Peace that doesn’t make good sense” and “Happiness that doesn’t make good sense.”

According to Paul, the foundation of our peace and joy should be Jesus Himself. He therefore prescribed that we are to delight ourselves in Jesus and find our peace and joy in Him at all times.

What is your foundation for serenity and joy? If your foundation is the relationship with a loved one, do you realize there is no relationship with people here in this life that cannot be removed?

If your foundation is your health, youth, or athleticism, many thousands of people who had those foundations before age, illness, or injury destroyed them, will join me in warning you that they are fragile foundations for the peace and joy Paul is describing.

“…for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

Dick Woodward, 23 June 2009


Holy Spirit PATIENCE!!

June 9, 2020

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances may be.” (Philippians 4:11)

Patience is part of Paul’s prescription for peace in Philippians. Throughout the history of the church, patience has always been considered a great virtue by spiritual heavyweights.

Why is patience such an important virtue?

For starters, patience is one of the nine fruit of the Spirit we find listed in the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. When the Holy Spirit lives in us, one of the ways the Spirit manifests in us is through a supernatural quality of patience.

In the Bible we are continuously exhorted to “Wait on the Lord.” In our relationship with God we might call patience “faith waiting.” Nothing will test and grow our faith like waiting. When we think God is not responding to our prayers, it may be that what God is doing in us while we are waiting – like growing the virtue of patience in us – is more important than that for which we are waiting.

In our relationships with people, patience can be called “love waiting.” I have found that the Lord wants to grow two dimensions of patience in us. He wants to grow “vertical patience” in us by teaching us to have a faith that waits. And He is growing “horizontal patience” in us by teaching us that in relationships, love waits.

Love is the first and primary virtue through which the Holy Spirit wants to express the life of Jesus Christ in us.

While impatience is a “peace thief,” vertical and horizontal patience are supernatural, God-given virtues that maintain the peace of God in our lives.

Dick Woodward, 09 June 2009