Forgiveness: Debts and Debtors

March 21, 2017

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

This second personal petition is for forgiveness. The next two petitions are for guidance and deliverance. Forgiveness, guidance and deliverance are spiritual needs we have every day. The principle of that first personal petition for daily bread, one day at a time, should be applied to these spiritual needs. “Give us this day our daily bread, including our need for forgiveness, guidance and deliverance, one day at a time.”

…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 and 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 the 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 it that if we see our salvation and forgiveness as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so very much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe that we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


GOD’S GRACE BE WITH YOU!!!

February 18, 2017

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”   (Romans 1:7; 16:24)

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.”  He then closes his letter with a prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.

Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer. At the close of each letter he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace, because grace is the dynamic of God that saves us. We can define grace if we turn this five-letter word into an acrostic to spell out:

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense.

But grace is not only the way God saves us. The grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.

In Romans 5:2, Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, into the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.

Paul begins this letter and closes all his letters the way he does because he knows it is absolutely critical that we access God’s grace to live our lives for Christ in this world.

Since grace is one of our greatest needs, consider meeting and leaving each other with a wish and a prayer for grace.

Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012


Inauguration of each New Day

January 20, 2017

“…Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

A word that has been on the minds and lips of millions this week is “inauguration.” A synonym for this word is “beginning.” The common usage for inauguration is something like “a celebration of the beginning.”

Every day we live is the first day of the rest of our lives. There is a sense in which we experience an inauguration with every new day, week, month and New Year we live. Our Lord’s advice to us is to celebrate the beginning of every new day and accept it as a gift – a clean slate with no marks on it.

We cannot change the marks we put on the slate of yesterday. God told us not to worry about tomorrow because one day’s trouble is enough for one day. If you think about it, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. God therefore emphasized one day at a time – as in “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I challenge you to celebrate each new day with a private inauguration ceremony and ask God to give you the grace and strength to be all you can be for God’s glory, one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, 23 January 2009


A Blueprint against Burn Out

January 10, 2017

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And He Who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:26-27)

There are times when God’s people are so weak we don’t know how to pray. In effect, Paul teaches that when we are burned out and we don’t know what to ask God, we should pray anyway. The Spirit of God knows the mind and will of God. When we are so weak we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit will make intercession for us according to the will of God. Then, even if we ask for the wrong things, our loving Heavenly Father will give us the right things.

Imagine the stress Moses endured all those years in wilderness wanderings. With more than 600,000 fighting men, plus women and children, meant that Moses led somewhere between two and three million people around in circles in the desert. He was the only legal judge to settle all their squabbles. His frustration reached the level of exasperation. He was so burned out, he actually asked God to kill him. (Numbers 11:11-15)

When Moses asked God to kill him, he was so weak and tired of he did not know what to pray. He prayed anyway. Even though he asked for the wrong things, God knew his heart and gave him the right things. God made Moses know that His work requires a team effort. Serving God is a team sport.

The marketplace can burn you out big time if you have not learned that running a business is a team sport. Other players on your team have gifts and skill sets that you do not have and you have what they do not have. Therefore, it is a good blueprint against burnout to accept the reality of beauty in diversity. Diversity should be celebrated rather than resolved.

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p. 144-146)


Daily Bread in the New Year

January 4, 2017

Give us this day our daily bread…”  (Matthew 6:11)

The Lord is using the symbol of bread here to represent all our needs.  We are a veritable ‘internet” of needs. Our needs are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. This first personal petition should not be limited to our need for food, but for all the needs we have as creatures of God.

Observe that the concept ‘one day at a time’ is repeated twice in this petition of seven words.  Alcoholics and drug addicts with years of sobriety tell me that when they took their first step, they could not even entertain the thought of being sober for more than one day. This prayer of Jesus prescribes that we pray ‘this day’ and ‘daily’ when we present our creature needs to our Heavenly Father. Observe how Jesus concludes His great teaching about values with the same emphasis later in Matthew 6:  “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.”  (Matthew 6:34, Living Bible)

We read in the book of Numbers that when God miraculously provided bread from Heaven in the wilderness, the Israelites were only permitted to collect enough manna for one day. That story, recorded in Numbers 11, is also applicable to the one-day-at-a-time principle Jesus prescribes in the prayer He taught us to pray.

When we apply the story of that great miracle to our daily devotions, we should make the application that we cannot hoard our experience of a word from God, or the blessings of a time in the presence of God. We must have our souls and spirits nourished with heavenly manna every day, one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


God’s Eighteen Wheelers

November 4, 2016

“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”    (Matthew 6:13)

An attractive young lady was returning from a church meeting at a late hour. When she stopped at a traffic light, a large “eighteen-wheeler” truck was in the next lane. As the light changed and she pulled away, the large truck began tailgating her car while blinking its lights and blowing its loud air horn.

Frightened, she increased her speed as she drove out of the city limits toward the farmhouse where she lived with her parents. The huge truck followed her all the way, lights blinking and horn blowing.  She turned into the long dirt road that led to her home. The truck followed her as she drove right up to the porch of the house. When she frantically popped open her door to run for the house, the back door of her car suddenly opened and a man with a large knife bolted for the woods.

When she stopped for that traffic light, the truck driver saw the man crouched behind her front seat with a knife in his hand.  Realizing that she was going to be attacked as soon as she drove into the country, the truck driver wanted to save her from that tragedy.

Sometimes, our suffering and limitations seem like that eighteen-wheeler bearing down on us.  Actually, however, that suffering can be a vehicle of our loving God, purging out of our lives the evil one who is determined to ruin us. This is what our Lord was profiling when He instructed us in the disciple’s prayer to pray that we might be delivered from the evil one.

Can you meet yourself in this story?

Dick Woodward, 22 May 2012


Dying Grace, Patience… and Peace

October 4, 2016

“Delight yourselves in the Lord. Yes, find your joy in Him at all times. Have a reputation for gentleness, and never forget the nearness of your Lord. Don’t worry over anything whatever, but tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer. And the peace of God which transcends human understanding will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:4-7, J.B. Phillips)

When I was ill with an operation on my colon, my pastor, Dr. John Dunlap, came to visit me.  I had an infection. I was in the hospital 21 days just for that one procedure. I said to him, “John, if you’re here to tell me I have a malignancy, I can’t handle that today.”

He laughed and said, “Reverend, you’re not dying. And so you don’t need dying grace. If you needed dying grace, God would give you dying grace.”

A year later my dear pastor John had a malignancy. He said to me right away (I was there the day he found out), “Pray for me.” He was a big guy, but a big baby when it came to toothaches or anything like that. He had one of the worst malignancies the oncologist had ever seen, but all of us, we never saw such an example of dying grace as God gave our dear pastor. Dying grace. God will give you dying grace when you need it.  And dying grace, really, is a supernatural anointing of the Lord that makes it possible for us to accept it.  That’s what it is, really. An acceptance. That’s what Paul means by gentleness.

It’s like saying in another way, “Be patient.”  Patience, when you think vertically, is faith waiting. And there are many times in our walk with God where God gives us the fruit of the Spirit, patience, which is faith waiting.  God’s got to get you out before God can bring you in.  You’ve got to keep on going, so you can get through.  You’ve got to get right, so you can settle down.

… The Apostle Paul says, “Never forget the nearness of the Lord.” Think of what that meant to him in prison. When it became dangerous to be identified with him, he said in his very last letter, “No one stood with me.”  And yet, he adds, “Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me. The Lord is always with me.”

Dick Woodward, (Ben Lippen Retreat, 1979)