September 28, 2018
“My Word… will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)
In this marvelous chapter taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, he tells us why he preached the Word of God. Earlier in this chapter Isaiah proclaimed that there is as much difference between the way we think and act, and how God thinks and acts, as the heavens are high above the earth. He tells us he preached the Word of God because God’s Word can bring about an alignment between the way God thinks and acts and the way we think and act.
There is a strong emphasis in the Scripture on the importance of our will being in alignment with the will of God. Jesus made one of His greatest prayers when He sweat great drops of blood and prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.” He taught His disciples to pray, “Your will be done on earth (and in their earthen vessels) as it is in Heaven.”
The Word of God describes the struggle between God and men like Moses, Job, Jonah, and many others who finally submit their wills to the will of God – and the will of God is done in and through them on earth as it is in heaven. When God declares through Isaiah that His Word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it, I am convinced that this is one of the purposes God had in mind.
When you read and hear the Word of God proclaimed, will you let God accomplish this purpose for the Word of God?
Will you let the Word of God bring about an alignment between your will and the will of God?
Dick Woodward, 28 September 2010
September 18, 2018
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1Timothy 4:16)
Although it seems contradictory to the ethical teachings of the Old and New Testaments, the Apostle Paul is coaching Timothy to join what we may call the “Me First Club.” While we are trying to understand humility as taught in the Bible and learning to love our neighbors as ourselves, the very sound of a “Me First Club” seems to generate loud screeching discord.
If we think about it, however, there are places where we are instructed by our Lord Jesus to put ourselves first. For example, in the opening verses of Chapter 7 of the Gospel of Matthew Jesus teaches us that when it comes to judging we should join the “Me First Club.” Showing a great sense of humor Jesus taught that we should not be looking for tiny specks of sawdust in the eyes of others when we have plank-sized logs in our own eyes. His priority was that we are to first get the logs out of our own eyes, and then we will see clearly to help others with the tiny specks in their eyes.
Paul instructs Timothy that before he challenges others to apply the Word of God to their lives that they might experience salvation, he is to first apply the Word of God to his own life and experience salvation himself.
In areas like salvation and judging are you willing to say “Me First?”
Dick Woodward, 15 September 2010
September 18, 2013
“We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” (2Chronicles 20:12 NLT)
Have you ever faced problems that confronted you with the intolerable, the undeniable, the unthinkable and the impossible? Throughout Hebrew and church history the people of God have often been confronted with these overwhelming realities. Scripture supports the thought that God sometimes not only permits but creates these circumstances (Isaiah 45: 7). According to Isaiah He does this because He wants us to learn that He is our only hope and our only help as we live for Him in this world.
The Word of God teaches that God is our Mentor and He does His most effective mentoring when we are coping with calamities and trials of every possible description. The confession quoted above is proclaiming that the people of God have two problems. They do not know what to do and they do not have the power to do it when they know it.
Scripture tells us God will give us all the wisdom we need when we confess that we do not know what to do (James 1:5). And Scripture teaches that God will give us the power to do what He wants us to do because He is God and He always completes what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6; 2:13).
There are times when it is wrong for us to put God to the test. Then there are times when God invites us to prove Him. God wants to give us the gift of faith. He also wants to give us immeasurable degrees of the grace to overcome the greatest possible obstacles. That’s why He permits and designs calamities or trials that force us to access His all sufficient grace.
September 12, 2013
“He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness…” (Psalm 23: 3)
What is considered by some to be the greatest chapter in the Bible is the best description ever written of what the relationship of a human being with God can be. I call this psalm “Sheep Talk” because it’s like a sheep is telling us what a great Shepherd he has. The opening statement of the sheep is the key to the relationship. When the Lord is his Shepherd he has multiple blessings. According to the second verse this relationship is established when his Shepherd makes him lie down. When he gets up again he loses those blessings.
He is telling us this has happened and he needs a spiritual comeback. The prescription for his comeback is that his Shepherd leads him in the paths of righteousness. This is the second time he uses the word “leads.” His Shepherd not only leads him beside still waters but when he needs restoration he is led in the paths of righteousness. The second time he uses this word it is a Hebrew word for “drives me” into what is right.
By application, when we need a comeback we should not seek a cheap one. We should cooperate with our Shepherd as He drives us into the paths of what is right, perhaps for several years, until He restores our soul. I personally experienced this kind of comeback in the early eighties that lasted nearly a decade.
Rick Warren said “We’re all in recovery. What do you think the word ‘salvation’ means?” Do you need a spiritual comeback? Don’t look for a cheap one. Ask God to show you the paths of righteousness that will restore your soul.
September 7, 2013
“My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, and I will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)
In one sentence in this beautiful psalm David twice emphasizes the reality that he will pray to his God in the morning. There are three directions of life we must master. We must learn to look up. We must learn to look in until our Lord shows us things we need to know about ourselves. Only then are we prepared to look around in all our relationships.
Anytime we are having difficulty in our relationships with spouses, children, parents or those who are outside the home we should always ask ourselves if we have looked up and looked in sincerely. Knowing ourselves as God wants us to know ourselves is crucial preparation for relating to others.
Smart people are very often right and so they sometimes think they are always right. It is very difficult to live with those who think they are always right. In the same way it is difficult to relate to those who think they never sin. When God helps us look in and see ourselves as He sees us it gives us a humility that is a tool we need to face our relationships.
What would you think of a concert violinist who plays a beautiful concerto solo and then instead of an encore comes out and tunes her violin? In the same way we should not play the concert of our day and then tune the instrument of our lives.
We should begin ‘in the morning’ tuning our lives through our prayers to God as the Psalmist directs us, so that we can look up, look in and then look around.
August 19, 2013
“There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.” (Mark 7:15)
When I was in college the popular thinking in academic circles was that until a child was born it was all about heredity and after a child was born all that mattered was environment. The political philosophy of people like Lynden Baines Johnson and his Great Society was that if we improve the environment of a person we will solve their problems.
As a social worker that didn’t work for me. For example, I once found a marvelous foster home for a 12 year old boy from the ghetto of a large city. An older couple had a very large farm and they wanted to share it with an adopted son. All the way to the farm I explained to him what an opportunity this was for him. By the time I arrived back to my office I had a message from the perspective foster mother telling me to pick up “this little thief.” He had stolen from the purses of ladies who had come to play bridge with her.
Changing the young man’s environment did not change him from the inside out or in his heart. In the passage from which the verse above is taken Jesus went on to explain that the issues of life that determine the character of a human being are not a matter of outside in influences. Rather they are the inside out influences of the heart.
That is why the prayers of discerning hearts are: “Search me Oh God and know my heart.” And “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (Psalm 139: 23; Psalm 51: 10)
August 9, 2013
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
The applications of our Lord’s metaphors are almost endless. One application to the metaphor above is that for our candle to give light it must be consumed. Unlighted candles are not consumed, but the candles that shine are the candles that burn. There is no shining without burning.
In another great metaphor Jesus told us there is no such thing as a fruitless disciple of His. We are like branches and He is the Vine. As branches, if we are properly intersected with Him, we can draw from Him the life force to be fruitful. He promised if we are plugged into Him and are fruitful we will be cut back and pruned to be made more fruitful. Cutbacks and pruning can really hurt. They can come in the form of suffering but they improve the quality and the quantity of our fruit.
In light of these very clear teachings we should not be surprised when we find ourselves burning through suffering that our brightest light for Christ yields the best fruit.
Like many others I thought my most fruitful years were when I was able bodied and active. But I have been joyfully surprised to discover that my most fruitful service for Christ has been as a bed fast quadriplegic. Using voice activated computer software from my bed, 782 Bible studies have been produced and are being heard in 31 languages in 60 countries. Worldwide more than 45,000 small groups are listening to our studies on solar powered digital audio players I call “God pods.”
Have you discovered there is no shining without burning?
July 19, 2013
“It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:44)
Have you ever seen a dragonfly with its double wings moving like a helicopter from one flower to another? This amazing creature actually begins its life under water. For about two years it exists as a shellfish with a long narrow body like a knitting needle.
If you did a cross section on that shellfish you would find that it has two respiratory capacities. With one it can absorb oxygen from passing water through its body like other shellfish; however, it has another respiratory system that will one day breathe air.
When the two years of its underwater life have ended it rises to the surface of the water, moves to where land begins, dries its magnificent wings in the sun and then begins the second dimension of its existence.
The Apostle Paul writes that we are also designed to live our life in two dimensions and God has provided a body for us to live in each place. He has given us a body so we can live on earth and a body so we can live in heaven. Paul labels our earthly body “a natural body” and our heavenly body “a spiritual body.” He then identifies a third spiritual value: A spiritual body is a greater value than a natural body.
Since I have spent several decades trapped in a quadriplegic body I really resonate with Paul when he declares that a spiritual body is prepared for me. How I look forward to that spiritual body that will not have the limitations of my present body. With great joy I anticipate the spiritual body God has prepared and Christ has made possible for me.
Do you value your spiritual body?
June 28, 2013
Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him! Then he will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.” (Hosea 6:3 NLT)
When I first came to faith and for the first few years as a pastor I struggled with the concept of knowing God personally. I struggled until several spiritual heavyweights mentored me in this dimension of my faith journey. They helped me by shaking everything down to three simple propositions that were basic, yet absolute.
The three propositions are: God is there, God is real, and God is personal.
I have not struggled with the proposition that God is there. My mentors challenged me to think about all the ways God responds to our many prayers to Him. As proclaimed by Hosea I found that when I related myself to God He responded by relating Himself to me. That inspired me to believe that He is not only there but He is very real when I relate to Him and make contact with Him there.
Over time as I shared the intimate dimensions of my personal, private and even secret life with Him I affirmed the glorious reality that God is personal and I should believe Him when He tells me He knows the number of hairs on my head at any given moment. I should also believe Him when He tells me He has a plan for my life that when followed will make me an original person distinct from every other living person.
Are you pressing on to know the Lord? If you are, I offer you these three propositions that can help us all know the Lord when we believe them.
June 8, 2013
“A person’s steps are confirmed by the Lord.” (Psalm 37:23 Berkeley)
THE NINTH STEP: Look for confirmation as you seek God’s will.
At times on our journeys of faith when we come to a fork in the road there is no verse of Scripture that tells us to go to the right or to the left and we have no prompting or leading of the Spirit. We do our best to make the proper choice, while acknowledging the hard reality that we simply do not know which direction is the will of the Lord. Having done everything we can to discern the will of God, we journey down one side or the other of that road.
The verse quoted above means we should sometimes move forward into what we perceive to be the will of God, praying and looking for a confirmation. That confirmation may be positive or negative. If everything works out and the direction we have chosen obviously has God’s stamp of approval on it, we can say God has given us a confirmation of His will. We have the conviction of God saying to us, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21) We see evidence of the reality Jesus described, that when He calls His sheep to follow Him, He goes before them. (John 10:1-4) After we commit to a direction, we see evidence that the Living Christ has gone before us and prepared the way for us.
Sometimes, the confirmation is negative and the results are the opposite of those just described. When that happens, we should be humble enough to go back to that fork in the road and choose the other direction. We see an example of this in Acts chapter 16 when Paul wanted to go into Asia and was directed instead by illness into Philippi.