November 6, 2018
“…but you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.” (Matthew 6:33 J. B. Philips translation)
The message of the entire Bible can be summed up in two words: “God First.” Over and over the bottom-line truth in a Psalm, the life of a Bible character, a parable, a metaphor, and a teaching of Jesus comes down to this simple concept: “God First.”
That is not easy. In fact, it is impossible without the Holy Spirit. (1Corinthians 12:3)
I was blessed to have a godly mother who often said to me: “If Jesus Christ is anything to you, then Jesus Christ is everything to you. Because until Jesus Christ is everything to you, Dick, He isn’t really anything to you.”
As I carefully studied the values of Jesus Christ, I realized that my mother had the Lord’s support when she brought my profession of faith to a verdict in this way.
Matthew 6:33 is the conclusion of a study given by Jesus regarding values. He taught that our hearts are where our treasures are. He also taught us where our treasures and our hearts ought to be by challenging us with questions like: “Where is your heart? What are your treasures? What is your life? What is your body?” and “Who is your master?”
The conclusion to this treatise on values is the declaration to seek God first. Think of a target with a bulls-eye surrounded by ten or twelve circles. According to Jesus, the bulls-eye of our priority target should be that our first value is God. We are to put God first. If we do that we have Christ’s promise that God will bless us with whatever else we need.
When we think about our values these two words should immediately surface in our hearts and minds: “God First.”
Dick Woodward, 09 November 2010
May 29, 2018
“Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
Timothy was probably interested in physical fitness. If he lived in our culture he would be the type to join a gym and work out regularly. Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness was profitable, but he declared that godly fitness was more profitable. Paul reasoned that physical fitness improves the quality of our lives here and now, but godly fitness improves the quality of our eternal lives.
I am intrigued with this question: what is godly exercise?
The word “godly” means “like God.” What is God-like? We are told in the Word that God is Spirit. (John 4:24) To exercise ourselves toward godliness therefore means to submit to disciplines in the spiritual dimension that grow us spiritually.
We also read in the Scripture that God is love. To exercise toward godliness means to commit ourselves to the love that is God. At the heart of the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13), Paul passes the love of God through the prism of Holy Spirit inspiration and it comes out on the other side a cluster of 15 virtues. Godly exercise means intentionally pursuing what the 15 virtues are and what they look like when you apply them in all your relationships.
God is light. Exercise yourself in this dimension of God-likeness by filling your mind, heart, and life with the truth (light) you find in God’s Word. Walking in that Light will profit you in this life and in the life to come.
Do you have a routine for spiritual fitness?
Dick Woodward, 18 October 2013
August 22, 2017
“Exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for…the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1Timothy 4:7-8)
As a young man, Timothy was probably interested in physical fitness. If he lived in our culture he most likely would be the type to join a gym and work out regularly. Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness was profitable; but, Paul declared that godly fitness was more profitable. Paul reasoned that physical fitness improves the quality of our lives here and now, but godly fitness improves the quality of our eternal lives.
I am intrigued with this question: what is godly exercise? The word “godly” means “like God.” What is God- like? We are told in the Word that God is a Spirit (John 4:24.) To exercise ourselves toward godliness therefore means to submit to disciplines in the spiritual dimension that grow us spiritually.
We also read in the Scripture that God is love. To exercise toward godliness means to commit ourselves to the love that is God. At the heart of the love chapter (1Corinthians 13), Paul passes the love of God through the prism of his Holy Spirit inspired intellect and it comes out on the other side a cluster of 15 virtues. Pursue intentionally what the 15 virtues are and what they will look like when you apply them in all your relationships.
God is light. Exercise yourself in this dimension of God likeness by filling your mind, heart and life with the truth (light) you find in God’s Word. Walking in that light will benefit you in this life and in the life to come.
Do you have a routine for spiritual fitness?
Dick Woodward, 18 October 2013
July 18, 2017
“Now we have received… the Spirit who is from God, that we might know…” (1Corinthians 2:12)
The Apostle Paul has given us a masterpiece of spiritual educational methodology in the second chapter of First Corinthians. How do we learn? According to Paul there are several gates of learning through which we must pass if we want to know spiritual truth.
His thesis is that we learn through the eye gate, which involves everything we observe and read. We learn through the ear gate, which involves everything we hear, including lectures and interaction with others, mentors and those who are learning with us.
Then the apostle mentions the heart gate, which pertains to our volition: the desire and willingness to apply what we’re learning. Apprenticeship, a synonym for discipleship, describes learners who are doing what they’re learning and learning what they’re doing. Apprenticeship is the way Jesus trained His disciples. (John 7:17; Matthew 4:19)
The most important gate we must pass through to learn spiritual truth, according to Paul, is the gate of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s intriguingly profound illustration is that no person knows the thoughts of another person except the spirit that is in that other person. In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God but the Spirit of God. Paul is excited about the glorious reality that we have received that Spirit Who knows the very thoughts of Christ and we can therefore know Christ’s thoughts. One translation concludes this inspired chapter of First Corinthians with, “Incredible as it may seem, we actually have the very mind of Christ!”
Prayerfully meditate on this chapter and then find your way to and through these gates of learning.
Dick Woodward, 08 June 2010
January 31, 2014
“…He gives power to the weak…” (Isaiah 40:29)
There are many ways to be powerful. We can be physically powerful, intellectually powerful, or we can be spiritually powerful like the prophet who speaks for God with the energizing anointing of the Holy Spirit upon his words. Often preachers seek out those who preach with great spiritual power trying to discover their secret. Their pursuit of spiritual power is often accompanied by a frantic attempt to strengthen their own spiritual life.
As one of the most spiritually powerful people who ever lived, the Apostle Paul shared the best kept secret of spiritual power when he wrote: “When I am weak then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) He preceded that by claiming God told him:“My strength is made perfect in (your) weakness.” It is in this context that Paul told the Corinthian Church he was with them in great weakness. He also challenged them to take a good look at their church because if they did they would realize: “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty…” (1Corinthians 1:27)
Jesus taught that the first attitude we need to be salt and light is to be poor in spirit. This means among other things that we are in touch with our spiritual weakness. After we realize that we can’t do the work of God in our own power and offer ourselves as a conduit of what God wants to be and do through us, then God gives spiritual power to us in our weakness.
God gives power to the weak. We don’t find spiritual power by trying to make ourselves strong, but by confessing and accepting our weakness.
November 19, 2010
“Now the works of the flesh are…but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control.” (Galatians 5: 19, 22, 23)
One of the most important New Testament passages of Scripture is found in Galatians chapter five where Paul identifies a war that is taking place in the life of every authentic disciple of Jesus Christ: the war between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh is “human nature unaided by God.” According to Paul our human nature unaided by God is a monster and it produces what Paul labels “the works of the flesh.”
In contrast to a list of qualities that are like an immoral “train wreck” in slow motion, Paul gives us nine qualities that are the fruit, or evidence, of the reality that the Holy Spirit of God lives in us.
When we look in, Paul writes that we will find that we have a quality of love coming out of our life. We will also find a quality of joy and a peace we’ve never experienced before.
For a cross section of this love we should consult verses 4-7 of first Corinthians 13. We find it is a love that doesn’t make good sense because it is completely others centered. This joy is a happiness that doesn’t make good sense and the same could be said of our peace because all three are not related to our circumstances.
There is something to believe and Someone to receive. It is only when we receive His Spirit that we can win the war between the flesh and the Spirit.
August 30, 2019
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8)
The mercy of God withholds what we deserve and the grace of God lavishes on us countless blessings we do not deserve. As we appreciate what the mercy of God withholds and the grace God bestows when we believe the Gospel, we should be filled with grateful worship of our gracious and merciful God.
When Jesus gave His Great Commission He instructed the disciples to wait until the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them before they obeyed Him. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:4-5) After that happened to them on the Day of Pentecost, we read: “Great grace was upon them all.” (Acts 4:33) This use of the word “grace” means there is such a thing as the anointing and energizing unction of the Holy Spirit upon us as we serve Christ. I use the word in that sense when I tell people that the grace of Christ outweighs my challenges (especially as a bedfast quadriplegic.)
Paul was declaring this dimension of grace when he wrote: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you so that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) This is the most emphatic verse in the New Testament regarding the anointing and energizing grace of God.
Check out the superlatives Paul uses in this verse: All grace – abounding grace – he repeats all of you – all sufficiency – in all things – abound unto every good work – always! According to Paul we should all be able to make the claim that God’s grace outweighs our challenges.
Do you believe the grace of God can outweigh your challenges today?
Dick Woodward, 31 August 2012
August 20, 2019
“…that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)
God is love. God’s Son, Jesus, is ‘God with skin on.’ Love was the most mesmerizing dynamic of His life on this earth. The people who met Jesus were loved as they had never been loved before.
We are also designed to be ‘God with skin on.’ The Holy Spirit can be described as Love Incarnate: the love of God with skin on, yours and mine. Love is the primary fruit of the Spirit and evidence of the Spirit’s residence in us.
People who are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit are always conduits of the love of Jesus Christ.
Do you know and believe that God loves you? Many people don’t feel worthy of being loved by anybody – not even God. When someone says, “I love you,” a negative tape begins to play that says, “No, you don’t. If you really knew me you wouldn’t!”
The two beautiful Gospel words mercy and grace declare that God does not love us if and when we are worthy, because He loves us even while we are sinners. (Romans 5:6-10)
Jesus prayed that those who make up the Church would live in such a way that this world of hurting people will know and believe God loves them as much as God loves His only begotten Son. If you do not know that God loves you, then we who are part of the Church have failed you.
God loves you! …Because by the grace and mercy of God, I know that God loves me.
Dick Woodward, from Happiness That Doesn’t Make Good Sense