Improve Your Serve (for the Kingdom!)

November 30, 2018

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant…”  (Matthew 20:25-26)

The incident recorded in Matthew 20 (verses 20-28) precipitated by Mrs. Zebedee and her two sons, James and John, sets the stage for one the great teachings of Jesus Christ. We can assume these two ‘sons of thunder’ (the nickname the Lord game them), who were partners with Simon Peter in the ‘Zebedee Seafood Corporation,’ were obviously the instigators of their mother’s request that they be seated on the right and left of their Lord when He was crowned King. 

When the other apostles griped about this, Jesus called them together. In so many words, He told them the world plays the game of “over-under.” This is a world of credentials and status symbols that often say, “I am better than you” or “I am over and above you.”

Acknowledging that the secular world is like that, Jesus tells them not to play the world’s games. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “This is not to happen among you. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, you should join the ‘Order of the Towel’ – get a towel and basin, assume the position of a slave, and start washing feet.”  He uses Himself as an example when He says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:28) 

Remember how Jesus spent His last hours before He went to the cross, literally washing the feet of His disciples. There is no place in the church and body of Christ for the “over-under” philosophy of this world.

If you want to be great in the fellowship of Christ, you must improve your serve!

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook, p.86


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


A Word for Leaders: HUMILITY

March 3, 2016

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”   (1 Peter 5:6)

Humility is a standard Peter sets for leaders.  He writes that leaders should lead as examples and not as lords over the flock they shepherd.  Humility is a challenging concept.  If we think we are humble we are probably not humble.  You probably heard of the church that gave their pastor a medal for humility, but had to take it back because he wore it every Sunday.

In Scotland a young seminary graduate was about to give a sermon as candidate for a church that had an elderly pastor about to retire.  The pulpit was one of those old elevated ones where you had to climb many steps in order to preach.  With a pride that bordered on arrogance the young man climbed up to preach.  He had a disaster of a sermon.  When he came down in tears the old retiring pastor said to him, “Lad if you had gone up the way you came down, you would have come down the way you went up!”

I Peter 5:6 describes a covenant with God’s part and our part.  Our part is to humble ourselves.  It is God’s part to exalt us.  C. S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins.  “To live above with the saints we have loved Oh that will be glory.  But to live below with those we know that’s another story.”  As a veteran pastor I can tell you that when there is a sharp dispute among two disciples a pastor will often find somebody’s pride at the bottom of the dispute.

Humble yourself.  That’s your business.  Exalting you is God’s business.

Dick Woodward, 16 August 2013


A Word for Leaders

August 16, 2013

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”   (1 Peter 5:6)

Humility is a standard Peter sets for leaders.  He writes that leaders should lead as examples and not as lords over the flock they shepherd.  Humility is a challenging concept.  If we think we are humble we are probably not humble.  You probably heard of the church that gave its pastor a medal for humility but had to take it back because he wore it every Sunday.

In Scotland a young seminary graduate was to give the sermon as a candidate for a church that had an elderly pastor about to retire.  The pulpit was one of those old elevated ones that you had to climb many steps in order to preach.  With a pride that bordered on arrogance the young man climbed up to preach.  He had a disaster of a sermon.  When he came down in tears the old retiring pastor said to him, “Lad if you had gone up the way you came down you would have come down the way you went up!”

The verse quoted describes a covenant with God’s part and our part.  Our part is to humble ourselves.  It is God’s part to exalt us.  C. S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins.  “To live above with the saints we have loved Oh that will be glory.  But to live below with those we know that’s another story.”  As a veteran pastor I can tell you that when there is a sharp dispute among two disciples a pastor will often find somebody’s pride at the bottom of the dispute.

Humble yourself.  That’s your business.  Exalting you is God’s business.