July 22, 2017
“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you…As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)
To paraphrase this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication flap on our heart. We should be face-to-face and heart-to-heart with our communication flaps open. But, the hard reality is that we are often back-to-back with our communication flaps down and tightly closed. The solution Paul prescribes here is that someone must say, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open. Be heart-to-heart with me and open your communication flap.”
We face communication challenges every day in our family, work life, and in our interactions with people. When there is a communication challenge it is important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, to the person with whom they are having a communication conflict, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”
You may be totally amazed at how taking that stance can melt the obstacles between you and that person with whom you are having a difficult and challenging relationship. This can be a communication “circuit breaker” that restores communication in a relationship.
Bacteria multiply in the dark but cannot live in the light. If we do not have good communication in a relationship misunderstandings multiply like bacteria, but when communication is restored it’s like we have turned the light on our relationship. Most of the bacteria will die and we can address that which doesn’t die with the light of our restored communication.
Dick Woodward, 12 July 2012
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
July 14, 2017
“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, J. B. Phillips)
Suffering can drive us to God in such a way that we make this discovery: God is there and God can comfort us.
There is a supernatural quality of comfort that can be found in knowing God. God does not want us to go through life and never discover that God is there for us and will comfort us. When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can possibly experience in this life.
Many of us have known people we loved who are depressed and oppressed. They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want any of the caring people in their lives to be with them.
Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in a self-imposed solitary confinement. If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this great discovery: God is there, and God can comfort you!
Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort. Comfort me in my pain. When I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are there, You are real, and You can comfort me. I pray in the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer
July 11, 2017
“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, 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
July 7, 2017
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1John 4:11)
The Apostle John points to Jesus dying on the cross and writes: “This is love… that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10) John follows that with the words quoted above: that if God SO loved us we ought also to love one another.
Hours before Jesus was arrested and crucified, He challenged the men He had been apprenticing three years 24/7 to love one another as He loved them. He then prophesied that by this the whole world would know they were His disciples. Peter wrote that by Christ’s death on the cross He gave us an example and a calling that we should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)
The Apostle John is in alignment with Jesus and Peter when he gives us another reason we are to love one another. In principle Jesus was instructing the apostles that the best way to reach out is to reach in. Essentially, Jesus was saying that we have a message of love to communicate to the world. The best way to do that is to love one another and show the world a community of love.
If our churches were the colonies of love Jesus desires them to be, the love-starved people of this world would be beating our doors down to be part of our spiritual communities. The love John is profiling is the greatest evangelistic tool our Lord has given His Church.
Are you willing to reach in that you might reach out for God’s glory?
Dick Woodward, 20 July 2010
July 5, 2017
“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 suggesting alternate readings in the margins of our Bibles when we read Old Testament Scripture passages. The NIV translation of Psalm 11:3 has such a footnote. The alternate reading suggested for this verse is: When the foundations of your life are breaking up, “What is the righteous One doing?”
Over the years I experienced several periods when it seemed that the foundations of my life were breaking up. I have 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. 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 fully agree with the spiritual heavyweight who stated, “when a devout believer thinks they have experienced a coincidence, that just means God prefers to remain anonymous.”
The Chinese characters for “crisis” are 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 very good. It is not primarily for our good but it is what accomplishes God’s good for God’s glory.
Dick Woodward, 02 July 2010
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