January 21, 2020
“Don’t worry over anything whatever; tell God every detail of your needs in earnest and thankful prayer, and the peace of God which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Observe that the Apostle Paul prescribed “earnest and thankful prayer.” Do you know what thankful prayer is? My definition of thankful prayer is grateful worship.
I have found an effective peace therapy in a litany of thanksgiving that has evolved in my devotional life over the last thirty years of praying through Paul’s peace prescription while accepting the hard reality of my limitations.
When we are thankful, we automatically move our minds from the negative to the positive issues in our lives. When suffering from a condition or illness that is causing us to lose our faculties one by one, we have two choices: we can continuously think about what we have lost, or are losing, or we can think about what we still have and be thankful.
As I experienced the loss of my physical ability, I found that I get more mileage out of this condition for peace than any of Paul’s other conditions. I have so many blessings for which to be thankful. I discover regularly that when I begin to focus on my blessings, the peace of God is in place.
As I think of all the problems I have because nothing works from my neck down, mentally I put those challenges on one side of a scale, while on the other side I place my blessings. I always find that the good stuff far outweighs my bad stuff – and the peace of God returns.
I highly recommend this thanksgiving therapy, which is a vital part of Paul’s prescription for peace.
Dick Woodward, from “A Prescription for Peace”
January 17, 2020
“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances may be.” (Philippians 4:11)
Paul includes patience as part of his prescription for peace. Throughout the history of the church, patience has been considered a great virtue by spiritual heavyweights like Augustine, Thomas à Kempis and Francis of Assisi. Why is patience such an important virtue? For starters, patience is one of the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit profiled in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Throughout the Bible we are continuously exhorted to “wait on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) In our relationship with God we might call patience faith-waiting. Nothing will test and grow our faith like waiting on the Lord. When we are praying for something and receiving no answer, God may be teaching us that there are times when faith waits.
In our relationships with people, patience can be called love-waiting. I had no idea how selfish I am until I got married. I had no idea how impatient I am until I became a father waiting for teenage children to grow up. I find the Lord wants to grow two dimensions of patience in us: vertical patience, by teaching us to have a faith that waits on God, and horizontal patience, by teaching us that in relationships, love waits. Love is the primary virtue through which the Holy Spirit wants to express the life of God through us.
While impatience is a peace thief, vertical and horizontal patience are supernatural fruit of the Holy Spirit that give us the grace to accept the things we cannot control. Patience is the virtue God plants and grows in our lives while teaching us to wait on God and trust God to do what only God can do about the things we cannot control.
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace
January 14, 2020
“…have a reputation for gentleness…” (Philippians 4:5)
When the Apostle Paul writes of gentleness, he does not mean milquetoast weakness. The Greek word for gentleness used here actually means meekness. Meekness is not weakness. Biblical meekness is closer in meaning to tameness. When a powerful stallion finally takes the bit and yields to the control of bridle and rider, it is not weak. That powerful animal can be described as “strength under control.” That is what biblical meekness means.
Gentleness is also listed as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Another way of describing this concept is acceptance and unconditional surrender. The well-known serenity prayer then becomes an expression of this condition for God’s peace:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
In Romans 8:28, Paul is not suggesting that everything that happens to those who love God is good. There may be nothing good at all about many things that happen to us. His claim simply is that God can fit everything into a pattern of good, if we love God and are called according to God’s purposes.
Paul teaches us by example that we must accept the will of God until we are so meek we experience gentleness. He says, “I am ready for anything through the strength of the One Who lives within me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Paul learned that it is safe to surrender unconditionally to our loving God. Therefore, gentleness and meekness prescribe acceptance to the will of God, one circumstance at a time.
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace
January 10, 2020
“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 is 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 the Apostle 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 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 eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)
Will knowing God be an eternally focused bull’s eye for our priority target this year? Think of how that priority will dramatically affect the dozen circles that surround it when our lives become expressions of the love of God and the risen living Christ.
Dick Woodward, 13 January 2012
January 7, 2020
“Only let us live up to the truth we now have.” (Philippians 3:16)
The Apostle Paul had a life changing experience on the road to Damascus. He shared the details of that experience in the third chapter of his letter to the Church at Philippi. It was as if his accounting books were turned upside down – what had been in the gain column was now in the loss column and vice versa.
After his books had been turned upside down, or we might say right side up, Paul’s ambitions totally changed in the gain column. He wanted to tackle the purposes for which the risen Christ had tackled him. Now he only wanted to know Jesus Christ and the high calling of God to which Christ was leading him.
Paul claims that he has not attained these things in his new gain column, but he has learned a principle about knowing the will of God: if we want to know the will of God we must live up to the Light and truth God has given us at any given time on our faith journey.
From Paul’s experience we can take away a prescription for guidance. If we want to see further ahead into the will of God for our lives, then we should move ahead into the will of God just as far as we can see.
Like driving across country at night when we move ahead into the 100 yards of light our headlights give us – that light can lead us clear across our country.
When we live up to the Light we have, God gives us more Light.
Dick Woodward, 08 January 2011
January 3, 2020
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly…” (James 4:3)
At the heart of a counseling session, a woman once said, “Don’t confuse me with Scriptures, Pastor. My mind is made up!” Seeking God’s will for our lives is often out of reach because we have our agendas in place when we come before God. If our minds are set like concrete before we converse with God, 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 and 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 two reasons to be open and unbiased as you seek to know God’s will. The first we learn from Isaiah 55: 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 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: a new creation with extraordinary potential.
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Guidance
December 31, 2019
“Then He brought us out that He might bring us in…” (Deuteronomy 6:23)
Are you ready for a new thing? God often wants to do a new thing in our lives but He has three challenges.
Often when God wants to bring us out of the old and into a new place He cannot get us out of the old because we are insecure and want to hold on to the old place. God then has to blast us out of the old. That’s why a call of God is often made up of a pull from the front and a boot from the rear.
God’s second challenge is that He has to pull us through the transition between the old place and the new. Transitions can last for years and they can be very painful, but God promises He can pull us through the worst of them.
God’s third challenge is to get us right so He can settle us into the new place. We should no more resist that work of God than a baby should resist being born and coming out into life.
Don’t give God a hard time when God wants to do a new thing in your life. If we trust God’s character we should cooperate with God when God wants to make changes and do new things in us and for us. A rut is a grave with both ends knocked out. Our loving Heavenly Father does not want to see His children in the living death of a rut.
Instead of giving God a hard time, make it easy for Him as He brings you out of the old place and leads you into the new places He has for you in the New Year.
Dick Woodward, 28 December 2012