April 19, 2019
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”(Isaiah 53:6)
If you want to know what is good about Good Friday the verse from Isaiah quoted above will tell you. This verse describes with great clarity the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross when it begins and ends with the same word.
That word is “all.”
The verse begins with what we may call “the bad news.” Isaiah tells us that all of us are like little sheep and have gone astray. We have turned every single one of us to our own way. If you want to know the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, agree that you are included in that first ‘all.’
The ‘all’ with which this verse concludes is what we can call “the good news.” Isaiah tells us that the penalty for all the things we have done after turning to our own ways has been laid on Him (meaning Jesus.)
I don’t know about you, but for me that is very, very good news! If you and I confess we are included in the first and the last ‘all’ in this great verse, then we know what we need to know and we have done what we need to do to turn our bad news into good news.
And we know what is good about Good Friday.
If you want to make this Friday of Holy Week a Good Friday, believe what Isaiah has written:
“The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Dick Woodward, 02 April 2010
April 12, 2019
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)
When I was a struggling college student I saw a sign in a window that read “Shirts Done 20¢.” I gathered up a pile of dirty shirts and took them into the store. To my utter disappointment I was told, “We don’t do shirts. This is a sign shop. We just paint signs!”
A preacher told the story of how a cat crawled into a model house in an empty new real estate development when it was many degrees below zero. The cat curled up in front of a fake fireplace and froze to death. He then preached that people often do that when they come into our churches. Looking for warmth, love and Gospel truths that can set them free from their sins, they “curl up and freeze to death.”
Jesus was even more honest and realistic than this preacher. He called the spiritual leaders of His day “hypocrites.” This was a negative word used in that day for people who wore false faces and masks.
Rather than decide that you are the true disciple and be judgmental of those who are not, ask yourself some questions: Are you, and the spiritual community of which you are a member, false or true? Are you authentic disciples of Jesus, or are you hypocrites?
Are you out there getting your hands sudsy cleaning shirts with the love of Jesus or are you just painting signs?
Are you seeing God’s grace and love changing lives?
Dick Woodward, 17 April 2009
April 2, 2019
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me…You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. 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 23:4-6)
The most important relationship we have in our lives is our relationship with God. The greatest description of that relationship is given by David in his Shepherd Psalm. After explaining in Psalm 23 how this relationship is established, David tells us how this relationship works as God leads us through the deep dark valleys of our lives.
David tells us that God is with him, goes before him and prepares a table of provision for him in the presence of his enemies. He tells us that God is like a cup running over within him and oil being poured upon him. David ends his psalm by telling us the goodness and mercy of God will follow him all the days of his life.
This Hebrew word for follow can be translated as “pursue.” So David is actually telling us that God not only goes before us, but pursues behind us with God’s mercy (unconditional love) and goodness all the days of our lives.
By application, this means that when you are going through deep dark valleys you can believe that God is with you, goes before you, pursues behind you, will provide for you in the presence of all your enemies and problems, God is within you, and God’s anointing is upon you as long as you can say with authentic faith:
“The Lord Is My Shepherd.”
Dick Woodward, 03 April 2009
March 29, 2019
“He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23:3)
Failure is one of the most feared and dreaded experiences in life. The fear of failure drives millions of people all day long, every day. There are many ways to fail. We can fail in our work, in our marriage or as parents. We can fail personally by feeling we’re not living up to our expectations or our potential. We can fail morally.
When we fail what do we do about it?
The third verse of Psalm 23 gives us a prescription for failure. David knew what it was to fail. When he needed restoration he tells us how his Shepherd God restored him when he wrote: “He leads me in the paths of righteousness.” He had already written that his Shepherd leads him to still waters.
When David uses the word “lead” for the second time he uses a Hebrew word that means God “drives” us into the paths of righteousness.
What David is telling us here is that when we need restoration we should not seek a cheap one or an easy one. Rehabilitation means “to invest again with dignity.” He was implying that his restoration was a matter of being driven into the paths of righteousness for some time – perhaps even for years. God used those paths of righteousness to restore David’s soul and give him an opportunity to invest again with dignity.
By application, when you fail and need restoration don’t seek a cheap one or an easy one. Let our great Shepherd-God lead you into the paths of righteousness that will truly restore your soul.
Dick Woodward, 28 March 2009
March 22, 2019
“Who is the man who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see the good?” (Psalm 34:12)
When David was a fugitive from King Saul many other fugitives joined him hiding out in caves. About 400 who were in debt, in distress and discontent joined David. (1 Samuel 22:2) Psalm 34 gives us little summaries of sermons David preached to those fugitives and failures that eventually turned them into his mighty men.
David began by challenging them with questions like: “How many of you want to live? How long do you want to live? Do you want to live so you may see the good?”
When we are asked how long we want to live we almost never give a precise answer with a specific number of years, months, weeks and days. We just answer, “Many!”
In that culture “seeing the good” was an expression that meant a person was convinced there was something good in this life and they were going to find it. David preached that the Lord was the good thing they were seeking.
After telling them about the most humiliating and frightening experience of his life, David’s great battle cry to them was: “Magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!” (v. 3)
David identified with the weakness of these fugitive failures. He then preached that the greater their weakness the more they exalted the name of the God when God used them. Finding the strength of God in their weakness made them the mighty men of David God used in mighty ways.
Have you learned how to find God’s strength in your weakness? Have you discovered how the greater your weaknesses – the more you can magnify the Lord?
Dick Woodward, 21 March 2013
March 19, 2019
“…And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
The prophet Micah asked an important question. In effect, his question is what are the divine requirements of God? What does God expect, require, demand, and command from me? Micah presents us with three answers to his question.
His first answer is that we should do justly. In other words, we should be a conduit of justice. We should stand up against injustice anytime and anywhere we see it. Since we live in a world that is filled with injustice this can be dangerous. Jesus Christ did this and it got Him crucified.
Micah’s second answer is that we should love mercy. Mercy is unconditional love. This is the chief characteristic of the love of God. King David believed that the mercy and unconditional love of God pursues us all the days of our lives. (Psalm 23)
Micah’s final answer to his profound question is that we are to walk humbly with our God. Humility has consistently been a characteristic of the great spiritual souls we have known in this life. C.S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins and we read in the Proverbs that God hates pride. We can see why God hates pride because God hates sin.
Are you willing to be the person of faith Micah profiled? There is a sense in which we cannot become a just, merciful and humble person on our own, but these three answers do give us a profile of the person God wants us to be.
Are you willing to let God give you the grace to be that person?
Dick Woodward, 20 March 2011
March 12, 2019
“Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...” (Matthew 6:9-13)
The verb form of the word ‘to pray’ literally means “to ask.” Prayer is more than just asking, but asking God for something is often the heart of a prayer.
The message of the Bible frequently sifts down to just two words: God first. From Genesis to Revelation, the bottom line interpretation and application of the commandments, character studies, allegories, parables, psalms, sermons, Gospels, Epistles and teachings of Jesus is simply “God first.”
The prayer Jesus taught us begins with that God-first emphasis when Jesus instructs us to begin by asking God that His name, the essence of Who and what He is, might be honored and reverenced because we are offering our prayer(s) to our heavenly Father God…
Prayer is not a matter of us persuading God to do our will. The very essence of prayer is an alignment between our wills and the will of God. Prayer is not a matter of us making God our partner and taking God into our plans. Prayer is a matter of God making us His partners and taking us into His plans…
We are not to come into our prayer closets or into our corporate worship prayers with a ‘shopping list’ and send God on errands for us. When we pray, we should come into the presence of God with a blank sheet of paper and ask God to send us on errands for Him.
Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Prayer