April 20, 2018
“He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:2)
Most people associate the still waters of David’s Shepherd Psalm with peace. However, if you research sheep you will find when they drink from a stream of water that stream must be as still as a mirror or the water will go up their snouts. An authentic application of this still water metaphor means our great Shepherd leads us to places just suited for us.
In 1979 I resigned as pastor of a large church in a big city and accepted a call to a small church that had just begun in a small town. After being in the small church for a year I went to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota due to the onset of debilitating symptoms. After nearly a month of studies, the doctor who directed my program misread my file. Thinking I was still in the large church, when he gave the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis he told me I needed to go to a small church in a small town. I told him that for a year I had already been in a small church in a small town.
I was to learn to be fulfilled with doing less and doing it better.
As my symptoms persisted and confined me to a wheelchair, a group of friends helped build a house that accommodated my physical challenges. One made a beautiful stained glass window by the entrance with these two words: “Still Waters.” These words have not just been a label for my home the past 26 years but also my ministry – in this location by God’s grace I have accomplished my most fruitful work for the Kingdom, most as a bedfast quadriplegic.
“Still Waters” – can you write these two words across what God is doing in your life right now?
Dick Woodward, 20 April 2012
April 10, 2018
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16)
When Alcoholics Anonymous first started it was called “The Saint James Fellowship” because it was founded on this verse. The founders later changed the name to include people of all faiths and those with no faith. While millions of secular people apply the truths of this Scripture and experience healing, it is a shame that many believers never make these healing applications.
When you meet with another believer, do you keep your sins in the closet? Do you give the impression that you don’t have a problem in the world? Do they do the same? That does not burden you to pray for each other. But if you trust them and share some of your sins with them they will be burdened to pray for you. They would also more than likely have what I call “reality contact” with you by sharing their sins that will burden you to pray for them. The result of these mutual prayers will be mutual healing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote extensively about spiritual community, put it this way: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So they remain alone with their sins, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”
A paraphrase of James 5:16 is that honest prayers explode with power! It is a strategy of the evil one to isolate us into self imposed solitary confinement. Never let the evil one isolate you into being a closet sinner; instead, find healing in confessing your sins and praying for one another.
Dick Woodward, 14 April 2013
February 27, 2018
“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)
All of us have or will experience a time when we are not appreciated. It’s challenging to labor long and hard helping people without a word or gesture of appreciation. The author of Hebrews gives us a beautiful message for unappreciated servants of the Lord: we can know we are always appreciated by God.
Our Lord Jesus instructed us that we are to work our righteous acts in secret. We are to give in such a way that one hand does not know what the other hand is giving. We are to pray and fast in a private closet knowing that our Father in heaven sees and knows everything we pray and do. (Matthew 6)
In the same spirit God said through Moses, “Walk before Me!” (Genesis 17:1) In our daily walks, if we hold on to the perspective that everything we do is done before and as unto our God, Hebrews 6:10 reminds us that we are always appreciated when we look up and walk before God.
At the beginning of my ministry I met a lovely elderly couple who had served as missionaries for 48 years in China. Visiting them in charity housing, in so far as I could tell they had been shown no appreciation whatsoever for their hard work in China. When I asked them how they could bear that their answer was: “You have to know Who you’re doing it for.”
Walk before God as you do your work – and when you need appreciation.
Dick Woodward, 29 February 2012
February 20, 2018
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…” (Philippians 4:6)
Have you ever heard someone confess, “I’m a control freak?” My response to that confession is: “Welcome to the human family!” The truth is sometimes we’re all control freaks. Both Jesus and Paul taught that we should not be anxious. That means don’t worry. They both taught us not to worry about the things we cannot control – like the height of our body or the lives of other people.
Speaking as one control freak to another, the thing that really freaks us out is what we cannot control. In what Alcoholics Anonymous call the “Big Book,” there is an illustration with which all of us control freaks can resonate. We think that life is a stage on which we are directing a play. The people in our lives are characters in that play. As play director we give them their scripts and their cues, but when they don’t respond to our direction, our frustration drives us into a bottle or some other addiction.
When I was a college student I had a mentor who wrote a poem with these lines:
“You can’t control the weather or rainy days, but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you. You can’t control the height your head will be from the sidewalk, but you can control the height of the contents of your head.”
After quite a few of those lines his punch line was:
“Why worry about the things you cannot control? Accept the responsibility for the things that depend on you.”
Follow the advice of Jesus and Paul and don’t worry about what you can’t control. “…but in everything by prayer and supplication…let your requests be made known to God…”
Dick Woodward, 20 February 2011
February 13, 2018
“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 believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.” He then closes his letter with the 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. This is because grace is a 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 just a 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, to the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.
Since grace is always a great need, consider meeting and leaving fellow (& fellowette*) believers with a wish and prayer for grace.
Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012
(*Editor’s discretionary inclusion)
February 9, 2018
“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 thankful for God’s mercy that withholds and God’s grace that bestows. The good news of the gospel is that when Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, everything we deserved that we might have peace with God was laid upon Him. (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 deserved and why. That will grow your appreciation of the mercy of God. Then investigate all that is bestowed upon us by the grace of God. As you search out these two beautiful words in the Bible, you will understand why “the mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows” should be at the top our thanksgiving prayer lists.
Dick Woodward, 26 February 2009
February 6, 2018
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
The reality that God loves us unconditionally is often described in the Bible by one word: mercy. This word is found 366 times in the Bible – that’s one for every day of the year, and it even includes leap year – because God knows we need His mercy every day. 280 of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.
My favorite is the last verse of the 23rd Psalm where David wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the word “follow” can be translated pursue. This means that David believed the unconditional love of God pursued him all the days of his life.
What a dynamic truth. Our Heavenly Father not only loves us unconditionally, He pursues us with His unconditional love all the days of our lives.
Does that mean God loves us when He is cutting us back or chastening us? Absolutely! The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that if God did not chasten us we would be like illegitimate children and not His sons and daughters. Chastening confirms the reality that God loves us.
When we are experiencing one of those cutbacks, rather than thinking that God does not love us anymore – the opposite may be true.
God is pursuing us with His unconditional love.
Dick Woodward, (06 February 2009)