Elijah: Temple Maintenance

January 19, 2021

Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal…”  I Kings 19:18

The great prophet Elijah reached the zenith of his career on Mt. Carmel when he challenged the people of God to stop being spiritual schizophrenics. When they committed themselves to serving the living God, they experienced a great revival. (I Kings 18) The next day we read Elijah “went a day’s journey into the wilderness and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die.” (I Kings 19:12)

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. The drastic change we see in him is due to many things, but one factor is that he neglected what I call Temple Maintenance. The Apostle Paul said our bodies are the temple of God. (I Corinthians 3:16-17) Therefore, anything we do to maintain our bodies is temple maintenance. Neglecting our temple maintenance can have serious consequences on our health and ministry.

Observe in that dramatic victory for Elijah on Mount Carmel all the physical stress and effort he put out. He dug a deep ditch around that altar and filled it with water. Have you ever dug a deep ditch? …At the end of that long day, he ran in front of a chariot for 17 miles. Elijah must have been exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The physical dimension of our lives directly affects our mental, emotional and even spiritual perspectives. Elijah obviously allowed his physical stresses to affect him. We know all his blubbering about being the only true servant of the Lord was neurotic when God made him know there were 7,000 faithful servants like him, who had not bowed their knees to Baal.

Take an example from one of the greatest prophets and don’t forget your temple maintenance!

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples


#LOVE: SANCTIFIED UNSELFISHNESS

January 15, 2021

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; loves does not parade itself, is not puffed up. Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own…” (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

I have heard people say, “I don’t get mad, I get even!” When God’s love is being expressed through us, we don’t get mad or even. The Greek words for “love suffers long” are often translated as patience, but they actually prescribe a merciful, unconditional love – a love that does not avenge itself, even when it has the right and opportunity to do so.

As we examine “love is kind,” we realize this love refuses to play the game of getting even. The Greek word for kindness means “love is easy – easy to approach, easy to live with, sweet, good and does good things.” Then we read: “Love does not envy.” The Greek words Paul used here prescribe “an unselfish and unconditional commitment to another’s well-being.” In other words: sanctified unselfishness.

The one who is applying this love is not only concerned about the welfare of the one they love, but they have made a deliberate and unconditional commitment to their happiness. 

Their love commitment is not “I love me and I need you,” or “You love me and so do I.” They are saying by their love actions, “I am fiercely committed to your well-being and happiness. My love for you is not based on, controlled, or even influenced by the ways you do, or do not, love me.” Think of how this quality of love is needed when a spouse has Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, accident or illness that seriously limits them…

The one who is a conduit of this love is others-centered, not self-centered.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


#Faith: Originals & Champions for Christ

January 12, 2021

All our steps are ordered by the Lord; how then can we understand our own ways?” (Proverbs 20:24)

Solomon poses a wise question in Proverbs 20:24: “If we are going the way God wants us to go, how can we expect to always understand the way we are going?” I believe it is obvious that God is making you an original in an original way. 

There isn’t anybody like you and there isn’t supposed to be.

My thoughts turn to six powerful Bible verses: the last four verses of Romans 11 and the first two verses of Romans 12. They tie in with Isaiah 55 and the reality we do not know what God is doing. The profound truth focused is that God is the source of, the power behind, and His glory is the purpose for everything He is doing. 

The application in Romans 12 is that you should worship by surrendering your body as a living sacrifice (not a dead one.) Ask God to transform your mind so you think as He does. Then, having met these prerequisites, prove one day at a time that His will for you is good and moves toward spiritual maturity.  (This passage is especially good in the Phillips.*)

God is shaping you to be a champion for Christ in dimensions that are far beyond anything you could imagine or even think to imagine! Whatever spiritual help it takes you must master this problem or it will master you. Every time God wants to do a great work like what He is doing in your life, the evil one is there trying to defeat it. 

Put on the whole armor of God to defeat what the evil one is trying to do.

Dick Woodward (email, 20 January 2007)

(*J.B. Phillips translation of The New Testament in Modern English)


#FAITH: FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING

January 8, 2021

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

The greatest obstacle to inner healing is un-forgiveness. Those who work in ministries of healing claim that the lack of forgiveness on the part of victims who have been terribly hurt can retard their own inner healing.

Can you see why Jesus instructed His disciples to pray every day: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?” The original language has it, “As we have already forgiven our debtors.” Do you think Jesus knows how important it is to our inner healing that we should forgive those who sin against us?

Some are bothered by the way Jesus offers commentary on this petition in the Disciple’s Prayer. He commented that if we do not forgive we are not forgiven. It almost sounds as if we are forgiven because we forgive. He defuses their confusion with a parable that is recorded in Matthew 18. A man is forgiven a large debt in the millions of dollars. He does not have to go into debtor’s prison and see his wife and family sold into slavery.

But on the way home he meets a man who owes him twenty dollars. He grabs him by the throat and orders him to pay him every cent or he will have him put into debtor’s prison. Both events are observed and told to the one who forgave him the large debt. He is recalled and his forgiveness is revoked. Jesus comments on that story that if we from our hearts do not forgive, we are not forgiven.

The point is that if we are a forgiven person we will be a forgiving person. If we are not a forgiving person we are not really a forgiven person.

Dick Woodward, 09 January 2013


A New Year’s Question

December 29, 2020

“Where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8)

The last days of the year are a good time for reflection and making resolutions. Have you ever had a year that was so bad you could not live with the idea of another year of the same? Are you there now? If you are, you could be ready to hear the question that God likes to ask from time to time:

“Where have you come from, and where are you going?”

This is the consummate question of direction. It implies if we do not have a crisis that changes things, we are going to end up with more of the same.

Sometimes we are what needs to change. Jeremiah actually mocks us for trying to change ourselves: “Why do you gad about so much to change your ways? …Can the Ethiopian change the color of his skin or the leopard its spots?” (Jeremiah 2:36)

There is a big difference between trying to change ourselves and being changed by God. Unless we are changed by God and God changes what only God can change, we are trapped in a cycle of going where we have come from.

With great spiritual discernment David asked God to create in him a new heart. God answered that prayer for him. (Psalm 51:10) God can also do that for us today. We are not doomed to that cycle of going where we have come from.  We can be changed. God can change the things that must change in us so next year we will not end up back where we have come from.

Confess that you can’t change yourself or your circumstances, but believe God can as you enter the New Year… then watch at God work.

Dick Woodward, 30 December 2011


A PSALM OF THANKSGIVING

November 26, 2020

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100)

In this profound thanksgiving psalm David tells us that coming into the presence of God is like having an audience with a great King. That audience begins with the gates of thanksgiving followed by the courts of praise.

In a corporate worship service or in your worship closet, always try to begin your approach to God at the gates of thanksgiving followed by the courts of praise.

I personally know of no other worship aids that mean more to me than to begin my approach to our Heavenly Father with thanksgiving. When I begin thanking Him and praising Him I soon find myself coming before His presence with singing.

In His presence I know that He is God. I know that He is my Shepherd and I am His sheep. I know that He is good and His mercy is everlasting. I know He wants me to share the truth of His Word in all the lands of this world because He wants people in all the lands of this world and in every generation to know what it is to make a joyful shout of worship in His presence.

Today let this worship psalm of David show you how to…

Have a joyful Thanksgiving Day!

Dick Woodward, 23 November 2011


#FAITH vs. GIANTOLOGY

November 24, 2020

There we saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight.”  (Numbers 13: 33)

The Old Testament book of Numbers records the death of an entire generation. Twelve spies were sent to do reconnaissance in the land of Canaan. Ten spies gave the report quoted above. Only two shared how great the land was and exhorted an invasion. Joshua and Caleb were men of great faith, but the other ten men were experts in “Giantology.

The entire generation who listened to the ten perished in the wilderness. Only two people survived one of the most tragic judgments of God recorded in the Bible. An old spiritual puts it this way: “Others saw the giants. Caleb (and Joshua) saw the Lord!” We read that they followed the Lord because they believed Him more than able to conquer the giants.

Spending most of my adult life as a pastor, I cannot help but allow the thought that the twelve spies resemble a board of Elders, a Session, a Vestry, or a board of Stewards. Sometimes when a church is facing a huge challenge two will have the faith of Caleb and Joshua, and ten will be giantologists.

We all have “giants” in our lives. As a bedfast quadriplegic with a wife in a wheelchair I certainly have mine. I’m sure you have yours. 

We also have choices. We can choose to see the giants and spend much time dwelling on how big they are. Or we can choose to see the Lord conquering our giants. We might call this: “Two people in a pew — which one are you?”

Are you a Caleb and Joshua with a conquering-the-giants faith, or are you getting your Ph.D. in Giantology?

Dick Woodward, 27 November 2013


ALWAYS PRAY! PRAY! PRAY!

November 20, 2020

“…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 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. Paul 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 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”


#FAITH – PUT LOVE FIRST!

November 17, 2020

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

In the middle of the first century, the Apostle Paul declared that the agape love of God should be the number one priority of spiritual people. He wrote that love is greater than knowledge and more important than faith. His inspired words about love have been read, and should be read, in every generation of church history. That includes you and me.

Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts in the previous chapter concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.”  (ICor 12:31) Paul begins the next chapter with his prescription for that most excellent way: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or “Put love first.”

A PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence or in tongues 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 a prophet 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 body to be burned at the stake as a martyr, 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


#FAITH – PERSEVERING STICKABILITY

October 30, 2020

 “Let us rejoice in our sufferings because we know that our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

If you study these verses in the original language, you will discover Paul is essentially saying this: “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces the quality of character that will not run when things get difficult.”

The Greek word Paul used for character conveys a meaning similar to patches military personnel wear that show they have been tested and proven in a specific area. Paul told us suffering produces endurance, and receiving from God the grace to endure our suffering produces proven character.

When you have been tested and proven, the caliber of character that testing produces is often grown in the soil of suffering.

Paul also writes that proven character leads to confidence and hope. When you have developed character that perseveres, you will not be put to flight. I learned that one of the most important abilities missionaries need is stickability. Can you go to a foreign culture, and stay for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years? Can you live out your life there as a fragrance of Christ, an irrefutable statement of the Gospel of Jesus Christ even when people dislike you?

Most missionary work is living Christ until people “see Christ in your mortal flesh,” to borrow the words of one of the greatest missionaries in the history of the Church. (2Corinthians 4:11)

…Perseverance is stickability: the ability to hang in there, and keep hanging in there. That is how an orange gets to be an orange; it just keeps hanging in there until it becomes an orange.

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