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
November 15, 2019
“This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)
An allegory is a story in which people, places and things have a deeper meaning. In addition to being the record of a supernatural miracle, the story of Jesus turning water into wine is a beautiful allegory that shows us how to be born again.
Carefully and prayerfully read the story. (John 2:1-11)
A first step is expressed in the words of Mary when she tells Jesus: “They have no wine.” Wine is a symbol of joy in the Bible. This statement of Mary is like a confession. Our first step in being born again is to confess that we have no wine (joy) and we need to be born again.
A second step in this formula is when Jesus tells the servants to fill the huge thirty gallon jars with water. The Scripture is sometimes symbolized by water because of the way it cleanses. A devotional application here could therefore be that our second step toward regeneration would be to fill our human vessel with the Word of God.
A third step is pictured when Mary tells the servants to “do whatever Jesus tells you to do.” While we are filling our vessel with the Word we must do what Jesus tells us to do.
The fourth step is when Jesus tells the servants to draw out what they had just poured into the huge jars and serve it as wine. Precisely, when did the water become wine? I’m convinced it was when the servants had the faith to serve the water as wine. We are born again when we believe Jesus can turn our water into wine and show His glory through us.
Dick Woodward, 14 November 2011
November 8, 2019
“There are three things that last — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
What is the greatest thing in the world? The Apostle Paul sifts his answer down to three things: hope, faith and love. Hope is the conviction that there can be good in life. God plants hope in the hearts of human beings.
Hope gives birth to faith, and faith is one of the greatest things because faith brings us to God. However, when Paul compares these two great concepts with love, without hesitation he concludes that love is the greatest thing in the world.
This is true because love is not something that brings us to something that brings us to God. When we experience the special love Paul describes we are in the Presence of God.
There is a particular quality of love that is God and God is a particular quality of love.
To acquaint us with that specific quality of love, in the middle of this chapter Paul passes love through the “prism” of the Holy Spirit that comes out on the other side as a cluster of 15 virtues. All these virtues of love are others-centered, unselfish ways of expressing unconditional love. If you study these virtues you will find in them a cross section of the love that is God – and is the greatest thing in the world.
Paul presents faith, hope and love as the greatest things because they last. Love is the greatest of the three because one day we will no longer need hope and faith when throughout eternity we will be in the Presence of Love.
Therefore, the greatest thing in the world is Love.
Dick Woodward, 08 November 2013
October 4, 2019
“… Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ… for it is God at work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 1:6; 2:13)
As he wrote these words to his favorite church the Apostle Paul was in prison chained between two Roman soldiers without any privacy. He was not able to shepherd and teach the Philippian believers he loved so very much. Is he stressed out because he fears that they will fall away from their faith? No, he has confidence that they will continue in their faith until the day Christ returns.
The source of Paul’s confidence is found in two realities: he knows that the risen, living Christ has begun the miracle of regeneration in them and he is completely convinced that Christ will continue the miracle work of salvation He begins. His confidence is not in the fact that he has led these people to Christ. His confidence is in Christ!
Paul adds that his confidence is in God Who is at work in them giving them the will and the power to do according to that which pleases Him.
Where is your confidence that you will continue in what Christ has begun in your life? Where is your confidence that those you love will continue in what Christ has begun in their lives? Is your hope in them? Is it in your ability to shepherd and mentor them?
Or is your hope in Christ Who began that miracle and in God Who can give them the will and the power to do what pleases Him?
Dick Woodward, 09 October 2009
September 20, 2019
“… for anyone who comes to God must believe that He is…” (Hebrews 11:6)
Do you know God? I do not mean do you know a lot about God, but do you know God? Do you want to know God? In the verse quoted above we find a prescription that can help us know God.
The prescription is that we must believe that God is, and we must believe that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. My passion to know God led me to confess: “I believe that God is.”
But what is God and where is God?
A helpful answer came through a verse in the first letter of the Apostle John: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16)
After studying the quality of love God is, the prescription above led me to ask another question: “If God is this quality of love, where is God likely to be doing His love thing?”
At that time I was a social worker. Responding to a call in the middle of the night, I prayed something like this: “God, I have an idea that You are love where people are hurting. That’s where I’m going, so when I get there please pass this love You are through me and address their pain.”
As the love of God passed through me to them I touched God and God touched me. That night I found out where God is and where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.
If you want to know God, place yourself as a conduit between God’s love and the pain of hurting people.
Dick Woodward, 22 September 2011
July 2, 2019
“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
Greek is a very precise language; Hebrew is not. That’s why we frequently find footnotes that suggest alternate readings in the margins of our Bibles when we read Old Testament passages of Scripture. The NIV translation’s footnote for Psalm 11:3 is: “When the foundations of your life are breaking up, what is the righteous One doing?”
In my life I have experienced several periods when it seemed that the foundations of my life were breaking up. I found the alternate reading of this verse to be a reliable response that turned many of those crises into significant spiritual datelines in my journey of faith.
My faith walk began in 1949 and along the way I dropped two words out of my vocabulary: “fortunately” and “coincidentally.” Because I believe in Divine Providence, I no longer believe in luck. I also agree with the spiritual heavyweight who said when devout believers think they have experienced a coincidence it just means God prefers to remain anonymous.
The Chinese word for “crisis” combines the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” I believe we should factor into all our crises this knee jerk response: “What is the righteous One doing in my life now?”
I find that God is always up to something and ultimately it is always something good. It is not primarily for our good, but what accomplishes God’s good for God’s glory.
If you are in a time of crisis right now, or when you find yourself in one, consider “What is the righteous One doing?”
Dick Woodward, 02 July 2010