Seeking GOD’S Will (vs. our own!)

September 30, 2014

“…You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly…”  (James 4:3)

A consultant told me that much of the time, even though he is paid large fees, his clients do not want his consultation. They simply want him to affirm what they have already decided to do. At the heart of counseling session, a woman once said, “Don’t confuse me with Scriptures, Pastor.  My mind is made up!”  Knowing the will of God is often made difficult by our own wills.  It’s out of reach because we have our agendas in place when we come to God seeking His will.  If our minds are set like concrete before we converse with God regarding His will for our lives, we are not really seeking His will when we pray and open His Word. We are actually asking God to bless our will, our agenda and the way we have decided to go.

James tells us that when we pray, we ask and do not receive because our asking is flawed by our self-willed agendas.  To seek and know the will of God we must be completely open to whatever the will of God may be.  Our prayer and commitment must be in the spirit of the familiar metaphor, “You are the Sculptor, I am the clay. Mold me and make me according to Your will.  I am ready to accept Your will as passively as clay in the hands of a Sculptor.”

There are at least two reasons why you must be open and unbiased as you seek to know God’s will.  One reason we learn from Isaiah: the ways and thoughts of God are as different from our ways and thoughts as the heavens are high above the earth.  Another is that we become a totally new creation when we are born again.

It is tragically possible for you to miss the will of God for your life because you do not have the faith to believe that God can make you a new creation in Christ.  Your extraordinary potential as a new creation is one reason why you must be completely open and unbiased.  Seeking the will of God with your mind already made up could rob you of the will of God for your life… God loves you too much to let you live a life that is only a fragment of the life He has planned for you.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Guidance


God’s Workmanship

September 26, 2014

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The founding elder of the first church I pastored was a home builder. He did excellent work. When a couple wanted him to build their home he took them to a beautiful home he had built and said to them, “By the grace of God this is my workmanship.”  Ephesians 2:20 says to all followers of Christ that our risen living Christ would like to point to each of us and say: “This is My workmanship!”

We are all a work of Christ in progress. In addition to that thought this verse states that when we came to faith and were saved by grace through the faith our Lord gave us, He created us for good works. In fact we’re told that before He saved us He already planned that we would do those works for Him.

I don’t know about you but that truth excites and inspires me greatly! We’re so selfish and self-centered that when we come to faith our focus is often on what trusting Christ to be our Savior will mean to us. Many followers of Christ have the attitude “What have You done for me lately?” The Apostle Paul had the right vision when he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and asked the question, “Lord, what do You want me to do for You?”

As a follower of Christ have you been asking and seeking to know what works your Lord and Savior planned for you to do when He saved you by grace?  Are you asking each day, “Lord, what do You want me to do for You?

Dick Woodward, 08 March 2010


Living in Christ by Faith

September 23, 2014

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Galatians 2:20

Three times in this verse Paul tells us he “lives,” and each time he tells us he lives, he tells us why and how he lives.  If we consider his three explanations for living, we discover a good summary of the book of Romans.

First, Paul says he lives because he is crucified with Christ. When Paul gets to the application in his letter to the Romans he tells us we should surrender ourselves to the Christ Who has done so much for us, and become “living sacrifices” for Him.  He tells us this is our intelligent worship when we understand all that God has done for us, in Christ.

Secondly, Paul tells us he lives because Christ lives in me. That summarizes the second section of his Roman letter where he tells us how the Christ Who saved us from where we are going (which is straight to hell), can save us from what we are doing, and from what we are.  We can be saved and live like saved people because Christ lives in us!

Thirdly, Paul tells us that he lives by faith – by faith in the Son of God Who loves him and gave Himself for him.  That summarizes the first section of Romans, which concludes, “Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

…The proof that we understand and are experiencing Paul’s message to the Romans will be for us to say, because we have really understood him, “I live, I really live! I live by faith, I live because Christ lives in me, and I live because I am crucified with Christ.”

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.284-285)

 


Lord, Save Me!

September 19, 2014

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30)

The Apostle Peter is the only man besides Jesus Christ who ever walked on water.  Yet millions of us only remember that he took his eyes off the Lord and would have drowned if the Lord had not saved him.

We read that his magnificent faith was flawed.  He saw the wind.  Since we cannot see wind this actually means when he saw what the wind was doing, he lost sight of what Jesus was doing and he was afraid.  The remarkable thing here is that when he kept his eyes on Jesus he walked on water!

It was not until he was beginning to sink that he prayed the prayer that is a model for us all.  Jesus taught that our prayers should not be long and we should never think we will generate grace with God by our ‘much speaking.’  If Peter had prayed a longer prayer, the words beyond the third would have been glub, glub glub! When Jesus caught Peter by the hand He gave him the nickname “Little faith” and I believe our Lord was smiling when He did. He literally asked Peter “Why did you think twice?”

Rick Warren took his entire congregation of twenty thousand people through the eight steps of what is called “Celebrate Recovery.”  When asked why, he responded: “Because we are all in recovery.  What do you think the word ‘salvation’ means?” When we truly understand the meaning of “salvation” we will frequently pray this model prayer.

Pray this three word prayer of Peter often and don’t think twice:   Lord, save me!

Dick Woodward, 25 March 2012


Improve Your Serve!!

September 16, 2014

“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 the 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 little 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)  Think of how He 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


Enduring Grace

September 12, 2014

“…we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand..” (Romans 5:2)

Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, to a quality of grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ in this world, and live lives that glorify God. Then he writes that we should rejoice in our suffering, because God sometimes uses our suffering to force us to access that grace.

How must God feel when He sees us struggling in our own strength to live as we should, knowing He has provided us with a way to access all the grace we need? We are to rejoice when God uses suffering to make us an offer we cannot refuse that drives us into His grace.

There are levels and degrees of suffering we simply cannot endure without the grace of God. When our suffering drives us beyond the limits of any human resources we have within ourselves, these times of severe testing become God’s opportunity to provide and prove His grace to us.  A devout hymn writer expressed that truth this way:

“When we come to the end of our store of endurance.
When our strength has failed and the day is half done.
When we have exhausted our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving has only begun.

“His love has no limit. His grace has no measure.
His power has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite wisdom and mercy
He gives and He gives and He gives yet again.”

According to Paul, it is the love of God that sometimes uses our suffering to force us to access the grace he prescribed in Romans 5:2 and in the great verse about grace in 2 Corinthians 9:8.

Are you willing to let the problems you cannot solve and suffering you cannot endure drive you to access the amazing grace of God today?

Dick Woodward, 23 October 2009

Editor’s Note:  If you would like to learn more about the hymn, “He Giveth More Grace,” by Annie Johnson Flint, click here to read her inspiring story.


One Day at a Time

September 9, 2014

Give us this day our daily bread…”  (Matthew 6:11)

The Lord is using the symbol of bread here to represent all our needs.  We are a veritable ‘Internet” of needs.  Our needs are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.  This first personal petition should not be limited to our need for food but for all the needs we have as creatures of God.

Observe that the concept ‘one day at a time’ is repeated twice in this petition of just seven words.  Alcoholics and drug addicts with years of sobriety tell me that when they took their first step, they could not even entertain the thought of being sober for more than one day.  This prayer of Jesus prescribes that we pray ‘this day’ and ‘daily’ when we present our creature needs to our Heavenly Father. This principle of one day at t time is a proven therapy that has made the difference between life and death for some of my closest friends who are celebrating many years of sobriety.  Observe how Jesus concludes His great teaching about values with the same emphasis later in Matthew 6:  “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow.  God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.”  (Matthew 6:34, Living Bible)

We read in the book of Numbers that when God miraculously provided bread from Heaven (manna) in the wilderness, the Israelites were only permitted to collect enough manna for one day. That story, recorded in Numbers 11, is also applicable to the one-day-at-a-time principle Jesus prescribes in the prayer He taught.

When we apply the story of that great miracle to our daily devotions, we should make the application that we cannot hoard our experience of a word from God, or the blessings of a time in the presence of God.  We must have our souls and spirits nourished with heavenly manna every day, one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


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