Opening Our Agendas to God’s Agenda (daily!)

October 10, 2017

“… All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

I find it intriguing to know that in little genes that cannot be seen with the naked eye the genetic heritage of a human being is determined: how high heads will be from the sidewalk, eye color, hair color, the capacity for intellectual gifts, athleticism, and even mannerisms are all wrapped up in microscopic genes.

David – a great warrior, king, man after the heart of God and hymn writer –  tells us in Psalm 139 that before we existed as genes God determined the days we will live on this planet. The Living Bible Paraphrase reads that “before we existed God had an agenda for every day we are to live on this earth.”

A few years ago my wife and I woke up one morning and prayed together that if our agenda for the day did not agree with God’s agenda, we were willing to be preempted. Later that day while having lunch with our pastor son, I realized I was having a heart attack. As the paramedics rolled me on a stretcher out our back door to the ambulance, I said to my wife, “Looks like we’re being preempted big time!”

Thankfully, the doctors turned things around before it became a full-blown heart attack. However, that experience gave my wife and me a perspective we will never forget. There is God’s agenda and there is our agenda for every day we live. How should this truth impact the way we plan our agendas each day?

Are we willing to be preempted by God’s agenda every day?

Dick Woodward, 01 October 2010


Jonah: God’s mercy vs. prejudice

March 3, 2015

“But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry… ‘Oh Lord.. I knew You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.’  …And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:1-4)

As you reflect upon Jonah’s story and apply the central truth in the Book of Jonah, ask yourself if you are prejudiced.  To be ‘prejudiced’ means to ‘pre-judge.’  Prejudice comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. I was introduced to prejudice as a boy growing up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I heard Italian Americans called ‘daggos’ and Polish Americans called ‘hunkies.’

When I attended a southern college in the late 1940’s, I was shocked to see ‘white’ and ‘colored’ water fountains and to see African Americans sitting in the back of buses.  I was even more bewildered when I discovered that “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches…

As a new believer I was disillusioned because I heard professing believers use discriminatory labels.  From what I learned while preparing for the ministry, I expected the followers of Christ and our spiritual communities to be free from prejudice.  As a believer now for more than 60 years and a pastor for more than five decades, I am still alarmed by the deceitful ways of the evil one when I discover prejudice in my own heart and in the lives of other believers…

I have learned, from personal experience, that prejudice feeds on ignorance.  I grew up during the Second World War when intense propaganda presented Japanese as sub-human creatures.  In my junior year of college in L.A., my roommate was a devout Japanese disciple of Jesus Christ.  He was the most Christ-like and disciplined disciple of Jesus I had met at that point in my life.  The experience of knowing him completely erased the cumulative impact of all the war propaganda from my mind.  Until I met my roommate, I had never met a Japanese person before.  My prejudice was fed by my ignorance.

Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.

… Examine your own heart before God and ask yourself if you have prejudice in your heart that is blocking the love God wants to channel through you to lost and hurting people in this world.

Dick Woodward,  Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet

 


Examining our Hearts

September 2, 2014

Search me, Oh God, and know my heart.  Try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23-24)

David showed great spiritual wisdom when he prayed this prayer.  He asked God to take the lid off his mind and show him the thoughts that should not be there.  He then asked God to take the lid off his heart because he wanted to see the motives that should not be in his heart.  He prayed this prayer of self-examination because he wanted to walk in the everlasting way.  Another way of saying the same thing is that David wanted God to purify his thoughts and  motives because he wanted to be the man God created and re-created him to be…

Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthians with a verse that has a cluster of challenges regarding how they are to think of themselves. If you compare several translations of this verse (2 Corinthians 13:5), you will realize that these challenges can be summarized and paraphrased into just three:  “EXAMINE yourself, whether you are in the faith; PROVE yourself that you are an authentic disciple of Christ.  And KNOW yourself, how that Jesus Christ is in you.” …

Paul wrote to the Colossians that God called him to share a spiritual secret with the Church: Christ in our hearts is our only hope of bringing glory to God.  (Colossians 1:24-29)  In this great passage he writes that sharing this secret is his life’s work and is worthy of all his life’s energies.   “Christ in you the hope of glory.”  He exhorts us to know by experience that Christ is in us and we are in Christ.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Your Self


A Spiritual Cardiogram

January 14, 2014

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  (Psalm 139: 23, 24 NLT)

Jeremiah wrote that our heart is “… deceitful above all things…”  He asked: “Who can know it?” Then he answered his own question by writing that only the Lord knows our heart.  (Jeremiah 17: 9, 10)

Jesus described serious heart pathology when He taught: “For from within, out of a person’s heart come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness …”  He then declared that all these evil things and more come from within our heart and not from outside influences. (Mark 7: 21, 22) Jesus agreed with the Proverb: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

The Apostle Paul wrote: “When the Lord comes, He will … reveal our private motives.” Then we will receive praise, or the opposite. (1Corinthians 4: 3-5)

Consider the amazing wisdom of David when he prayed his Psalm 139 prayer that I label A Spiritual Cardiogram.  To paraphrase and summarize, David was asking God to take the lid off his mind and show Him the thoughts that should not be there.  Then he asked God to take the lid off his heart and show him the motives that should not be there because he wanted to walk, looking up, with eternity in his perspective.

We should not wait until judgment to have a spiritual cardiogram any more than we would wait for a heart attack before having a medical cardiogram.  We should ask God to take the lid off our thoughts and motives now while we can address the challenges we find there.


Outside In or Inside Out

August 19, 2013

“There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.”  (Mark 7:15)

When I was in college the popular thinking in academic circles was that until a child was born it was all about heredity and after a child was born all that mattered was environment.  The political philosophy of people like Lynden Baines Johnson and his Great Society was that if we improve the environment of a person we will solve their problems.

As a social worker that didn’t work for me.  For example, I once found a marvelous foster home for a 12 year old boy from the ghetto of a large city.  An older couple had a very large farm and they wanted to share it with an adopted son.  All the way to the farm I explained to him what an opportunity this was for him.  By the time I arrived back to my office I had a message from the perspective foster mother telling me to pick up “this little thief.”  He had stolen from the purses of ladies who had come to play bridge with her.

Changing the young man’s environment did not change him from the inside out or in his heart.  In the passage from which the verse above is taken Jesus went on to explain that the issues of life that determine the character of a human being are not a matter of outside in influences.  Rather they are the inside out influences of the heart.

That is why the prayers of discerning hearts are: “Search me Oh God and know my heart.” And “Create in me a clean heart, O God.” (Psalm 139: 23; Psalm 51: 10)


Motive Judgment

May 31, 2013

“When the Lord comes, He will bring our deepest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. And then God will give to everyone whatever praise is due.” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NLT)

According to the Apostle Paul, before all our works are evaluated God is going to reveal the private and secret motives of our heart.  Since that is an ultimate and certain reality it would be the better part of wisdom for us to pray about the motives of our heart on a regular basis.  We should also touch this issue of motives as we consider the will of God for our life.

THE SIXTH STEP:  Examine the motives of your heart as you seek to know the will of God.

Why do you want to know the will of God for your life?  That is an important question.  We are incredibly egocentric and self-centered creatures.  We naturally come to every situation with the inherent question in our hearts, what is in this for me?

The Word of God associates our motives with our hearts and the Bible tells us that above all things our hearts are deceitful.  Jeremiah tells us our hearts are so deceitful only God can know them (Jeremiah 17:9-10).  Do you want to know the will of God for the glory of God, or for your own glory and personal gain?  Your answer to that question will be very important to God and to you when your works are evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ.  The motives of your heart should therefore be very important to you today and every day that you live.

We should all pray with David:  “Search me, oh God, and know my heart… and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)


Doing Leads to Knowing

May 20, 2013

“If any man wills to do, he will know.”  (John 7:17)

STEP NUMBER TWO:  Be willing to do the will of God. 

When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He taught them to say, “Your will be done.”   When Jesus modeled this, He sweat drops of blood as He prayed, “Not My will, but Your will be done.” (Matthew 6:10; 26:39; Luke 22:42-44) Jesus gives us a principle that shows us how we can know His teaching is the teaching of God.  This principle also applies when we are seeking to know the will of God in the marketplace.

The principle is simply this: If any man wills to do, he will know.

The Living Bible paraphrases Psalm 139: 16 to say God had every day of David’s life scheduled before David existed.  David writes there that God is with him in such a way that it is impossible for David to escape God’s personal interest in every move he makes.  This intimacy with God is obviously not only the experience of David, but can and should be the experience of every child of God.

According to Jesus and Paul, knowing the will of God for our lives does not have to be complex.  God does not deliberately obscure His will.  The complexity is not in the will of God, but in your will and my will.  As Paul tells us how we can know “the good, acceptable and perfect will of God,” he begins his prescription for knowing God’s will by telling us to throw up our hands and offer an unconditional surrender of our wills to the will of God (Romans 12: 1-2). Our unconditional surrender to God will significantly un-complicate our quest to know the will of God.