God’s (more than adequate) Abounding Grace

September 8, 2017

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2Corinthians 9:8)

Owners of expensive Rolls Royce automobiles may not realize how secretive the manufacturer of those extraordinary automobiles has been. One man sent a telegram to the manufacturer asking, “What is the horse power of my Silver Cloud Rolls Royce?” The return telegram in typical British fashion was just one word: “Adequate.”

When the Apostle Paul wrote about God’s grace in 2 Corinthians 9:8, it’s almost as if someone asked the question: “What is the measure of our grace as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ?” The response of the great apostle was much more than the word adequate.

This is the most superlative verse in the New Testament on the subject of grace available to us as we follow Jesus Christ. Mercy is God withholding from us what we deserve, while grace is God lavishing on us all kinds of wonderful blessings we do not deserve. We’re saved by grace but we are also given grace that makes it possible for us to live a life that glorifies God, exalts the risen, living Christ, and holds forth the Word of God to people who desperately need it.

As you contemplate this verse, realize that Paul is talking about all grace, in all things, at all times, all that you need, abounding in every good work – and twice in these few short words, he writes that it is for you.

Has Paul oversold the product, or do we have flawed access into God’s grace?

Dick Woodward, 10 September 2010


Giving & Receiving

August 3, 2017

“… Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

This has been called the ninth beatitude of Jesus. Jesus began His greatest discourse with a check-up from the neck-up by sharing eight beautiful attitudes that can make us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This ninth beatitude can transform and revolutionize our relationships.

If you are in a relationship, like a marriage, for what you can get from that other person, here’s a challenge for you. For one week, instead of thinking of what you are going to get from the person, ask yourself continuously what you can give that person. After giving this assignment to many married couples I’ve seen it revolutionize their marriages.

If you are in a marriage for what you can get from each other, neither of you is receiving anything because neither of you is really giving anything. The relationship is a sterile empty vacuum. But this attitude can transform your marriage or any relationship if one or both people in that relationship will dare to accept this challenge from Jesus.

There is no place in the Gospels where Jesus speaks these exact words. However, in addition to having this quotation of Paul, the spirit of this beatitude characterizes the relationships of Jesus we read about in the first four books of the New Testament.

I exhort you to accept this challenge of Jesus for one week! If you do, you will prove in experience that there is in fact more happiness (which is what the word blessed means), in giving than in getting.

Dick Woodward, 03 August 2009


The Fellowship of the Fig Tree

June 30, 2017

“… before Phillip called you I saw you under the fig tree.”  (John 1:48)

When Jesus was recruiting apostles, he had an interesting exchange with the one who was to become the Apostle Nathaniel. Nathaniel apparently had the regular practice of having times of intimate fellowship with God under a fig tree. When he met Jesus for the first time Jesus affirmed him as a Jew in whom there was no guile. When Nathaniel exclaimed, “How do you know me?” Jesus said in so many words: “I’m the One you’ve been talking to under the fig tree!” That really blew Nathaniel away and he was convinced forever that Jesus was the Son of God and many other things. (The whole story can be found in John 1:47-51).

I find this challenge in the exchange between Jesus and his apostle: do we have a fig tree or a place where we regularly meet with God and have intimate fellowship? You might call this, as I have, “The Fellowship of the Fig Tree.”

Years ago I gave a devotional to several hundred people on this concept. One of them, who became a dear brother, was in the furniture business. He gave me a beautiful artificial fig tree, placing it in my home where I had my quiet times with God every morning. He wanted me to have my intimate times with God under a fig tree. That was nearly 40 years ago. It is still here in our home today.

Do you belong to the Fellowship of the Fig Tree? Do you have a special place where you meet with God every day?

Dick Woodward, 07 July 2009


Paul’s 3rd Condition for Peace: Thinking About?

May 12, 2017

“…think on these things…”  (Philippians 4:8)

Paul and Jesus agree that we should think our way to peace (after praying!) Jesus challenged us: The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.” (Matthew 6:22-23) Jesus was talking about how we think and look at things – our mindset and outlook.

Paul gives us the same counsel in his third condition for peace: we can decide how we are going to think, and how we are not going to think. He challenges us to think about things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and good news. How much time do we spend thinking about things that are untrue, dishonorable, unjust, impure, ugly, and bad news?

Isaiah wrote, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) Paul and Isaiah agree that if the trust is always, the peace is perfect and perpetual. If the trust is up and down, the peace is up and down. If there is no trust, there is no peace, because we must keep our minds continuously fixed on God, trusting.

What does it mean to keep our minds fixed on God? For starters, we should think about Who God really is, and the attributes of God…

When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he was in prison chained between two soldiers 24/7. Guards changed every 4 hours, which means he never had a moment of privacy, (yet through his witness many of those soldiers came to Christ in a “chain reaction.” 🙂 ) He had to practice this condition for peace continually: “Fix your minds on whatever is true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and praiseworthy,” then, “the peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus.” (Just like these soldiers who were guarding Paul.)

In the context of our own experiences of terrifying stress, like combat, being violated by a crime, a terrible accident, surgery, prison, the news that we have a malignancy, or the final stages of an illness, this prescription can give us peace.

“Think on these things…”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace

 


Applied Resurrection

March 29, 2013

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NKJV)

A mother of small twin daughters realized her bone marrow transplants were not going to work.  In beautiful handwriting she wrote out The Living Bible Paraphrase of three chapters written by Paul about resurrection.  When she gave them to me she asked me to explain them at her memorial service simply so her daughters would understand them.

The first was the great resurrection chapter of the Bible, the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians.  The other two were the fourth and fifth chapters of Second Corinthians.  I call these last two chapters: “Applied Resurrection.”

The first application of the resurrection of Christ is that just as Jesus was buried and raised from the dead, we are buried in the hope of our own resurrection.  If that is not going to happen we should be pitied because we suffered for Christ in this life.

If you want to have a personal Easter I challenge you to read these three chapters slowly and devotionally in a good translation or paraphrase you can understand like The Living Bible Paraphrase or The Message.

C.S. Lewis told us the clergy are people who have been set aside to remind us that we are creatures who are going to live forever.  They are also to teach us that life is a school in which we are to learn eternal values.

Applied Resurrection teaches us that though our outward man is perishing, it is possible for our inward man to be renewed every day while we’re learning to appreciate the difference between the visible and the invisible, the temporal and eternal values.

May your Easter be a time of reflection on eternal resurrection values.


Why Are You Here?

March 12, 2013

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”  (1 Kings 19: 9)

I find great meaning in the questions God asks people in the Bible.  On our journeys of faith our loving God sometimes needs to ask us this question He asked Elijah.  Where we place the emphasis in a statement can sometimes completely change its meaning.  For example, we can say, “A woman, without her, man is lost!”  Or we can say, “A woman without her man is lost!  Using the very same words we can communicate two very different meanings.

God’s question to Elijah might have been “What are you doing here Elijah?” Or the question could simply have been “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

A very godly saint was named Bernard.  A dog was named after him and so we usually think of a dog when we hear his name.  He wrote this question on the inside of the door that led from his tiny cell out into the world: “What are you doing here, Bernard?”

It would be a good idea for us to have that thought engraved on the inside of our door so that every time we leave our home we would be confronted with our vision statement.  It would be a good question to have engraved where we would see it as we leave our churches every time we worship or are inspired by great preaching and teaching.

It would also be a good question to ask and answer as we enter our places of business.  Our workplace is where God has strategically placed us to be and have an impact for Christ in this world.  We should, therefore, begin every day there with this question:

“What are you doing here?”


Why Marvel?

January 29, 2013

  “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”  (John 3:7)

When Jesus declared that we should not marvel because He told us we must be born again, He meant that we should not marvel as if the new birth were unnecessary. Jesus explained that flesh gives birth to flesh and only the Spirit gives birth to spiritual people.  When the Bible uses the word, “flesh,” it means “Human nature unaided by God.” History tells us human nature unaided by God is a monster.  So, Jesus said we should marvel not as if the new birth were unnecessary.

Jesus also told us we should not marvel as if the new birth were impossible.  God can work a miracle of creation in the life of a human being.  David prayed: “Create in me a pure heart, O God…” (Psalm 51:10).  The apostles refer to the new birth as if it were the answer to David’s prayer (2 Corinthians 5:17).

We should not marvel as if the new birth were incomprehensible.  We do not see electricity.  But we believe in electricity because we see the effects of electricity.  When we see trees bending and objects flying we say, “Look at that wind!” But we do not see the wind.  We only see the effects of the wind. It is that way with the new birth.  We cannot see the Spirit.  We only see the effects of the Spirit in the life of someone who is being born again.  But as we believe in other things we cannot see – like the wind and electricity – we can believe in the new birth.

And finally, Jesus meant you should not marvel as if the new birth could not happen to you.

Believe Jesus and it will happen to you!