God’s Peace: Trusting and Thinking

January 24, 2020

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

Paul and Jesus agree that we should think our way to peace (in addition to fervent prayer.) 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 this 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 trust is always, peace is perfect and perpetual. If trust is up and down, 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.

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. 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.”

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”


Spiritual Gentleness and Meekness

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


A New Creation (with Extraordinary Potential!)

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


Are You Ready for a New Thing?

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


A Spiritual New Year’s Wish

December 27, 2019

“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

There is an extremely equitable generosity expressed by God every year. God gives each one of us 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week, and 8,760 hours a year. The thought Moses expressed above is that we should cherish our 24 hour days and pray that we have wisdom about the way we live them.

There are many metaphors about life in the Bible. If you examine them, you will find they tell us life is brief as a smoke-like vapor. Life is uncertain like a thread that is about to be cut by a Seamstress, and we have no control over when that thread will be cut. Life is a transitory experience like a ship that fades out of sight as it passes beyond our horizon.  A life is like a tale that is told and forgotten by the time others have told their tales.

Life is like sleep when we wake up. Only the Bible would call life a sleep and death the waking up. The hard reality that we only have 70 or 80 years of life because we are all going to die should lead all of us to wear watches and cherish our days, one day at a time.

The last days and hours of an old year should therefore be a time of reflection, and the first days and hours of a new year should be a time of revelation and resolution.

In light of the Bible’s message, a spiritual wish for the New Year is:

“May you have a spiritually prosperous and fruitful New Year.”

Dick Woodward, 31 December 2010


A CHRISTMAS THAT IS…

December 24, 2019

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

The risen living Christ sends a letter to a Church in Laodicea, as recorded in Chapter Three of the Revelation. The church has been reading that letter for 2000 years. The risen Christ wishes they were hot, but if they are not going to get hot He would rather they be cold. Because they are neither cold, nor hot, but lukewarm – they make Him want to throw up!

The risen Christ then tells them how to have a Christmas that is and can be all day long, every day of the year. It is as if their life is a house and their heart is the door to that house. He is knocking on that door. He is patiently waiting for them to open that door and invite Him into all the meaningful areas of their life.

Verse 19 makes it clear that His knocking is chastisement which He wants to grow into repentance. His inspired metaphor illustrates repentance. It would seem there is no latch on the outside of the door.

The door must be opened from the inside.

Martin Luther wrote a Christmas carol that uses a similar metaphor: “Holy Jesus, precious Child make Thee a bed soft, undefiled, within my heart that it may be a quiet chamber kept for Thee.”

In our church on Christmas Eve children sing: “Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart.  Somewhere deep inside you that’s where Christmas really starts. So give your heart to Jesus. You’ll discover when you do, that it’s Christmas, really Christmas for you!”

 Dick Woodward, 24 December 2010


Redemption: A Personal Christmas

December 20, 2019

“… and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

If there was anyone in the Christmas story who had the right to an explanation of what was happening, it surely was Joseph. The angel who shared these words with Joseph expressed what Christmas is all about when he told Joseph to call the baby Mary was going to have “Jesus” because He would save His people from their sins.

The word “Jesus” actually means “Savior.” But I would like to call your attention to the reality that the baby was to be given this name because He would save His people from their sins.

Many evangelical believers seem to put a spin on this statement of the angel that was never intended. Our spin is something like “forgive His people for their sins.” However, the hard reality is the angel declared that it was the purpose on the heart of God to save His people from their sins.

In the words of Psalm 107’s redemption hymn, when God redeems us from our chaos it is also God’s plan to deliver us from our chains. That is obviously on the heart of God when the angel pronounced this Christmas Good News.

Redemption means “to buy back and bring back that which was lost.” Rehabilitation in its Latin root means “to invest again with dignity.” Jesus came to forgive us for our sins, but He came to offer us much more than that. Jesus wants to save (and deliver) us from our sins.

This year have a personal Christmas – believe the declaration the angel made to Joseph!

Dick Woodward, 24 December 2009