October 16, 2018
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Who was the greatest prophet who ever lived? According to Jesus the answer is John the Baptist. (Luke 7:28, Matthew 11:11) After studying the Scripture for six decades I find that answer intriguing because very little space in the Bible records John the Baptist’s life and ministry.
Meditating on the Scriptures that describe him, I have come to the conclusion that at least one key to his greatness is that he accepted the limits of his limitations and the responsibility for his abilities.
As we attempt to discover who we are and what God wants to do through our lives it is a good rule of thumb to accept the limits of our limitations and the responsibility for our abilities. When a degenerative disease of the spinal cord took away my physical abilities (26 years ago), it was vital for me to accept my increasing limitations and continue to be responsible for my abilities.
After the first two years of crippling illness when acceptance came, it was so profound it felt like a form of inner healing. Using speech recognition software on my computer I received the grace to write about ten thousand pages of what we call The Mini Bible College. These 782 studies of the Bible have been translated into 28 languages in 60 countries.*
It fills me with grateful worship to realize that the formula for greatness I learned from John the Baptist guided me to the most important work I have done for Jesus Christ.
Are you willing to accept the limits of your limitations and the responsibility for your abilities?
Dick Woodward, 16 October 2012
*Editor’s Note: As of October 2018, the Mini Bible College has been translated into 48 languages (with 12 more in production) impacting 84 countries. Thanks be to God and the ongoing work of International Cooperating Ministries.
October 5, 2018
“…When I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)
The Apostle Paul opens a biographical window into his life when he tells us about what he calls his “thorn in the flesh.” He explains that he had many supernatural spiritual experiences, but to keep him humble God gave him this “thorn.” Paul asked God three times to take it away. Even though he had an extraordinary ministry that brought healing to many, three times God’s response was essentially: “No! But My grace will be with you, and that is all you need to cope with the challenge of your thorn.”
Although we’re not exactly certain what Paul’s “thorn” was, he wrote to the Galatians that when he first visited his eyes were so hideous it made them want to vomit and say that if they could, they would take the eyes out of their own heads and place them in his. The book of Acts reports that at that time Paul’s physician Luke joined him so he could treat him. This “thorn” was also accompanied with severe weakness. Paul mentions weakness so much in his writings we know that throughout his extraordinary ministry he had to cope with extreme chronic fatigue.
Paul explains that his physical weakness was a showcase in which God could exhibit God’s supernatural strength. In the Living Bible Paraphrase of this chapter God tells Paul, “My strength looks good on weak people.” And Paul confesses, “The less I have the more I depend on Him.” He summarizes all this: “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Will you let your weakness showcase God’s strength and grace today?
Dick Woodward, 04 October 2011
October 2, 2018
“… All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
I find it intriguing to know that in little genes that cannot be seen with the naked eye the genetic heritages of human beings are determined: how high heads will be from the sidewalk, eye color, hair color, the capacity of intellectual gifts, athleticism and even mannerisms are wrapped up in microscopic genes.
In this inspired Psalm, David – a great warrior, king, man after the heart of God and hymn writer – tells us that before we existed as genes God determined the days we will live on this earth. The Living Bible Paraphrase reads that before we existed God has ‘an agenda for every day’ we are to live on this earth.
One day my wife and I woke up and prayed together that if our agenda for that day did not agree with God’s agenda we were willing to be preempted. Having lunch with our pastor son here later that day, I realized I was having a heart attack. While the 911 people were rushing me out the door to the ambulance I said to my wife, “Looks like we’re being preempted big time!”
They were able to turn things around before it became a full blown heart attack; however, that experience gave my wife and me a perspective we will never forget. There is God’s agenda and there is our agenda for every day we live. How should that truth impact the way we plan our agendas each day?
Are we willing to be preempted by God’s agenda?
Dick Woodward, 01 October 2010
September 28, 2018
“My Word… will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
In this marvelous chapter taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, he tells us why he preached the Word of God. Earlier in this chapter Isaiah proclaimed that there is as much difference between the way we think and act, and how God thinks and acts, as the heavens are high above the earth. He tells us he preached the Word of God because God’s Word can bring about an alignment between the way God thinks and acts and the way we think and act.
There is a strong emphasis in the Scripture on the importance of our will being in alignment with the will of God. Jesus made one of His greatest prayers when He sweat great drops of blood and prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.” He taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done on earth (and in their earthen vessels) as it is in Heaven.”
The Word of God describes the struggle between God and men like Moses, Job, Jonah, and many others who finally submit their wills to the will of God – and the will of God is done in and through them on earth as it is in heaven. When God declares through Isaiah that His Word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it, I am convinced that this is one of the purposes God had in mind.
When you read and hear the Word of God proclaimed, will you let God accomplish this purpose for the Word of God?
Will you let the Word of God bring about an alignment between your will and the will of God?
Dick Woodward, 28 September 2010
September 25, 2018
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
In all the communication that flows between a husband and wife (and in close relationships we have with others), there are ten critical words that often must be spoken. These ten words have saved marriages and the lack of them has dissolved marriages into divorce.
These ten words are: “I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”
These words need this ten-word response: “You were wrong. I was hurt. But I forgive you.”
Some people will never say the words: “I was wrong.” They will never say: “I am sorry.” And they certainly would never ask for forgiveness. They would rather live alone for the rest of their lives than say these ten critical words. It may be their pride that prevents them, or perhaps they are driven by the myth of their own perfection. But these words can make the difference between marriage and living alone.
It is hard to imagine an unforgiving authentic disciple of Jesus Christ when He instructs us in the Disciple’s Prayer to forgive as we have been forgiven – or we invalidate our own forgiveness. (Matthew 6: 8-15) According to the translation from which I have quoted, the prayer actually asks our Lord to forgive us as we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us.
“Forgive, as we have been forgiven…”
Dick Woodward, 25 September 2012
September 11, 2018
“…tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer…” (Philippians 4:6)
It’s easy to say, “Don’t worry,” but what are we going to do about our problems if we don’t worry about them? The Apostle Paul doesn’t leave us in a vacuum when he prescribed: “Pray about everything!”
God’s Word exhorts us to pray when we are in crisis situations. Psalm 46:1 has an alternate New Standard reading, “God is our refuge and strength, abundantly available for help in tight places.” God delivered Paul from many tight places. We should therefore always pray in a crisis: “When it’s hardest to pray, pray the hardest!”
Paul knew from personal experience that God doesn’t always take our problems away. He had a physical condition he described as a “thorn in the flesh.” Three times he asked God to take it away. Paul saw many people miraculously healed as he ministered the healing power of the Holy Spirit to them. Yet, when he asked God to solve his own problem, three times God said, “No. No. No.”
But God also responded, “My grace is sufficient for you and that is all you need. My strength looks good on weak people.” (2 Corinthians 12) Paul’s weakness drove him to discover the strength of God. When he did, Paul not only accepted his condition but eventually thanked God in it so God’s power might be showcased in him.
As Paul accepted the will of God regarding his thorn, he learned that the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot keep us. Paul exhorts us from his personal experience that prayer may deliver us from our problems, or prayer may give us the grace to cope with them. But, in any case, pray.
Always pray about everything!
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace
August 31, 2018
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)
The mercy of God withholds what we deserve and the grace of God lavishes on us countless blessings we do not deserve. As we appreciate what the mercy of God withholds and the grace God bestows when we believe the Gospel, we should be filled with grateful worship of our gracious and merciful God.
When Jesus gave His Great Commission He instructed the disciples to wait until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1: 4, 5) After that happened to the disciples on Pentecost, we read: “Great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33) This use of the word “grace” means there is such a thing as the anointing and energizing unction of the Holy Spirit upon us as we serve Jesus Christ. I am using the word in that sense when I tell people that the grace of Jesus outweighs my challenges (especially as a bedfast quadriplegic.)
Paul declared this dimension of grace when he wrote: “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) This is the most emphatic verse in the New Testament regarding the anointing and energizing grace of God.
Check out the superlatives the Apostle Paul uses in this verse: All grace – abounding – each and every one of you – having all sufficiency – in all things – abounding unto every good work – always! According to Paul we should all be able to make the claim that His grace outweighs our challenges.
Do you believe the grace of God outweighs your challenges today?
Dick Woodward, 31 August 2012