Great Gobs of Agape

December 20, 2016

“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked places straight, and the rough places smooth… I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight.”    (Isaiah 40:4; 42:16)

The following is from a tribute given by one of Dick Woodward’s granddaughters, Jessey, at his Memorial Celebration…

“I’d like to share an email I got from my grandfather when I was 20:

‘I can’t begin to tell you how much I love you. I’m supposed to be something of a wordsmith, but words fail me as I try to find words that adequately express the love your grandmother and I have for you. How I would love to sit down with you and hear what our Father God is making you know about your future.’

And then his famous closing line: ‘Great Gobs of Agape, Your Granddaddy.’

My whole life he’s been loving me just like that – over the top kind of love that’s for me exactly as I am at that moment. He loved me and it had nothing to do with what I’d done or who I was becoming. He just loved me like crazy.

And with that he had this huge excitement for my future which shined like a light in the dark. That light helped me to climb mountains and do hard things that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.

As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve realized – isn’t that just like Jesus? He loves us with great gobs of agape just as we are right now, and He shines in our lives, and with His light we climb God-sized mountains.”

Jessey Woodward Davenport, 15 March 2014


Two people in a pew, which one are you?

November 29, 2016

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

The book of Numbers records the death of an entire generation. Twelve spies were sent to do reconnaissance in the land of Canaan. Ten of the spies gave a report focusing on the giants. Only two spoke of the greatness of the land and exhorted the Israelites to invade Canaan. While Joshua and Caleb were men of great faith, the other ten were experts in Giantology.

The entire generation who listened to the ten perished in the wilderness; only two people survived the most tragic judgment of God recorded in the Bible. An old spiritual put it this way: “Others saw the giants. Caleb (and Joshua) saw the Lord!” We read that they followed the Lord because they believed God well able to conquer those giants.

I have spent 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 expert giantologists.

We all have “giants” in our lives. As a bed-fast 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 talking about 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 with conquering-the-giants faith, or are you getting your Ph.D. in Giantology?

Dick Woodward, 27 November 2013


God’s Good

October 25, 2016

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

As I look back over my life since I was born in 1930, and born again in 1949, this verse sums up my entire walk of faith and ministry.  According to the J. B. Philips translation, God fits into a pattern for good everything that happens to those who love God and are called according to His plan.  I like this because by implication there may not be anything good about many of the things that happen to us.  But if we meet two prerequisites – if we love God, and are called according to His plan – our loving God will fit into a pattern for good all the events of our lives.

Before we personally apply the great promise of this verse we must meet these two prerequisites.  The first is that we love God.  It isn’t easy to love God.  The Apostle John asked us how we can love the God we cannot see (1 John 4).  We can’t hug a Spirit.  Jesus told us that if we love Him we must keep His commandments.  According to the writings of the Apostle Paul quoted above, we can show we love God by being called according to His plan.

We are so self-centered we are quick to assume that the good into which God fits all the events of our lives means our good.  However, when we understand what it means to love God the only good that will interest us will be God’s good.

Dick Woodward, 05 November 2010

Editor’s Note: Today, October 25th, is my father’s birthday. This year he would have turned 86. We are so grateful to God for the gift of his life and the way he pursued “God’s good” even when the circumstances of a debilitating disease pushed him into a wheelchair and eventually the confines of a hospital bed. The doctors were amazed when he made his 65th birthday as a quadriplegic. The fact that he was 83 when he died as a bedfast quadriplegic in 2014 is miraculous. But all who knew Dick Woodward can still hear his voice saying, “I can’t, but He can… I didn’t but He did.” (In other words, when Papa couldn’t do anything but nod his head, God did – the miraculous – in and through him.)  Last I heard, the MBC is now in something like 40 languages (!)


Sacred Individuality

September 27, 2016

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father…”  (Luke 16:17-18)

The dictionary defines self as “the uniqueness, the individuality of any given person, which makes them distinct from every other living person.” In all its forms “self” emphasizes the sacred individuality God intended for every human being.

Robert Lewis Stephenson wrote: “Soon or late, every person must sit down to a banquet of consequences.” In the parable of the prodigal son, the banquet of consequences the lost son sat down to was the slop he was feeding hogs in a hog pen owned by a Gentile. That was just about as low as a Jewish boy could sink in this life. (Luke 15:11-24)

In the hog pen the prodigal son made the decisions many people make while they are living in the hog pens of this world.  He decided that he was not a hog.  He may be in a hog pen. He may look, and even smell, like the hogs. He may wish he could eat the slop he was feeding the hogs. But he was not a hog. He was a son and he did not belong in a hog pen. He belonged in his father’s house. He therefore made the deliberate decision to leave the hog pen and return to his father’s house and his father’s love.

Jesus described the decision of the prodigal son this way: “when he came to himself…” He came back to his self when he decided to return to his father’s house and love where he could be in the process of perceiving, believing and becoming the person his father wanted him to be. He came to his self when he decided to reclaim the unique person his father wanted him to be that would make him distinct from every other living person.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Your Self

 


Walking by Faith

August 30, 2016

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? (Proverbs 20:24, NIV)

When God spoke through the prophet Isaiah God told us there is as much difference between the way God thinks and does things and the way we think and do things as the heavens are high above the earth.  Building on that revelation the wisest man who ever lived proposed a logical question: if God is directing the steps of a person how can that person always expect to understand the way they are going?

As a God-passionate person, doing your best to follow the guidance of the Lord, have you ever found yourself completely baffled and blown away by inexplicable happenings like the sudden death of a loved one, or other tragedies?  When we put the two Scriptures quoted above side by side we should expect there to be times when we simply do not understand what God is up to.

Moses explained what he called the “secret things” belong to the Lord but the things God wants us to do God makes very clear (Deuteronomy 29:29).  That means there are secret things God is keeping secret.  If God is keeping those things secret nobody can explain them.

All these verses considered together are telling us that while we walk with God we should not expect to understand everything.  We walk by faith.

Dick Woodward, 19 October 2010


Priorities Target Bull’s Eye

August 13, 2016

“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me…” (Philippians 3:13-14)

Picture your priorities as a target with a bull’s eye surrounded by a dozen circles.  As you think and pray about your priorities, what would you call the bull’s eye of your priority target?  Once you have determined that, how would you label the dozen circles that surround your bull’s eye?

Great men of God like Paul could reduce their priorities down to one thing.  Paul’s one thing was to forget what is behind and strain forward to win the prize at the end of the race.  That prize was what God was calling him to do.

Can we reduce the forty eleven things that are spreading us thin down to one thing?  If we were to do so what would that one thing be?  Sometimes there is great wisdom in forgetting the things that are behind.  Then there are times when there is even greater wisdom in determining our one thing type of goal for the future.  How do we do that?

One way is to consider what we might call “eternal values.”   None of the things we are going to leave behind when God calls us home are worth living for while we are here.  Jesus told us: “This is… life, that they may know You … and Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3).

Is knowing God and Christ an eternally focused bull’s eye for our priority target?  Think of how that priority focus will dramatically affect the dozen circles that surround it when our life becomes an expression of the life of God and the risen living Christ.

Dick Woodward, 13 January 2012


Spiritual Compass: Trust and Obey

July 12, 2016

“…the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32)

The purpose of a compass is not just to give us knowledge about where we are when we are lost but to also guide us into the way we need to go.  If you think about it – a compass is worthless if we do not comply with what our compass shows us.

In the Gospels Jesus introduces the apostles to the Holy Spirit.  He tells them (& us) that the Holy Spirit will guide them into all truth.  He calls the Holy Spirit the “Paraclete.”  This word means: “One who comes along side us and attaches to us for the purpose of assisting us.”

Jesus tells us that if we love Him and keep His commandments He will ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit (John 14: 15, 16).  So many believers miss this.  The operative word when it comes to implementing salvation is “believe.” But the operative word when it comes to knowing God through the Holy Spirit is “obey.”

In profound simplicity the hymn writer expressed it this way: “But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay.  For the favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for them who will trust and obey.  Trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

Jesus said it even more simply and profoundly when He offered this invitation: “Follow Me and I will make you.” (Matthew 4:19)

Are you willing to comply with what your spiritual compass shows you?

Dick Woodward, 06 October 2012