Spiritual Learning Gates: Eyes, Ears & Heart

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


Seeking God’s Will: Open Minds & Hearts

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


A Doxology Standard: God’s Power & God’s Glory

June 28, 2017

“For of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things, to Him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36)

The Apostle Paul closes the doctrinal section of his greatest masterpiece with these words in Romans. In his writings, Paul uses the expression “all things” frequently but never casually or without great thought and inspiration. In this context, he is probably referring to all the glorious truths he has written in his letter to the Church in Rome.

To paraphrase these words, I believe Paul is writing that God is the source of all things, God is the power behind all things, and God’s glory is the purpose for all things. The Apostle Paul suffered from health challenges every day of his ministry. Suffering chronic fatigue from quadriplegia the past 30 years, I have become very discriminating about how I spend my energy and strength. I use this doxology as my criteria for deciding whether or not I get involved in a project.

I do not want to be part of anything unless I can say that God is the source of it, God is the power behind it, and God’s glory is the purpose of the project. My life and strength are in such short supply I do not want to spend it on anything unless I know God is the source of it. God must be the power behind it, because I have no strength of my own. Since everything we do should be for the glory of God I want to be certain that God’s glory is the purpose of any work I attempt to do in this life.

Are you using this standard in your life?

Dick Woodward, 10 July 2009


DIVINE GUIDANCE: ONE STEP AT A TIME

June 23, 2017

“… I being in the way the Lord led me…” (Genesis 24: 27)

When we discover the context of these words of Scripture we realize they teach us a principle of how God often works in our lives. It is easier to steer a moving vehicle than one that is stationary. God can sometimes steer us more easily when we are moving. That’s why we often find that one step frequently leads to the next step when we have faith to be led by the Holy Spirit.

The words above from Genesis were spoken by Abraham’s servant who was commissioned to travel to the land of Abraham’s people to find a wife for Isaac. As he journals the events of his search he writes that while he was in the way the Lord led him he encountered the family of Rebekah. When he met her, he knew that his search had ended.

We who are committed followers of Christ were commissioned two thousand years ago to go to all nations and make disciples for Jesus Christ. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Like the servant of Abraham, as we embark on the adventure of obeying our great commission, we should expect that each step will lead to the next step.

We don’t always have to know where the road leads as long as we know it is the right road. While we are in the way our Lord has commissioned us to go we must have the faith to take that first step, and then, one step at a time, expect our Lord to show us His will about the next step.

Dick Woodward, 28 July 2009


9th Condition for Peace: Gentleness

June 2, 2017

“…have a reputation for gentleness…”  (Philippians 4:5)

When 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 could be described as “strength under control.” That is what biblical meekness means.

When Saul of Tarsus met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Jesus asked him “Why are you persecuting Me? It is so hard for you.” The original language actually means, “It is hard for you to pull against the bit. It is tearing up your mouth.” When Paul asked his great question, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” he took the bit of Christ and became meek.

Gentleness is also listed as one of the fruit 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 peace condition:

“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 His 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


6th Condition for Peace: Rest in Christ

May 23, 2017

“The peace of God, which transcends human understanding, will keep constant guard over your hearts and minds as they rest in Christ Jesus… I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:7&13)

What does it mean to rest in Christ Jesus? It means we are so in union with Christ, as a branch is in union with a vine, that we draw from Him, the Vine, all the life-giving spiritual power we need for everything we do for Him, with Him and through Him, as we rest in Him. It means resting in His power to do the things He calls us to do, all day long.

As a bedfast quadriplegic & pastor, my way of expressing it is the Four Spiritual Secrets:

I’m not, but He is.
And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I can’t, but He can.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I don’t want to, but He wants to.

And I am in Him, and He is in me.

I didn’t, but He did.
Because I was in Him and He was in me.

So much anxiety, and perhaps the greatest peace thief disciples of Jesus experience, comes from thinking we must do the work of Christ in our own strength. If we are in the will of God, then often we are going to be faced with things we cannot do on our own, but, as vehicles through which Christ does His work, can be done. If we think it all depends on us, we lose our peace!

Overwhelming physical and emotional problems that are crushing the life out of us – terminal or chronic illness, difficult relationships and the challenges of everyday living – will only be manageable when we realize that facing them is not a matter of who and what we are, or what we can or cannot do. They are simply an opportunity to prove and demonstrate Who and what Jesus is and what He can do.

We must acknowledge that we can’t but Jesus can, as we rest our hearts and minds in Christ and in only what He can do.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


5th Condition for Peace: Value God’s Approval

May 19, 2017

“May the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)

When Paul prescribes that we should address our peace vacuum by doing the right things we have been taught, he is challenging us to value the approval of God. God approves of right thinking and God approves when we do what is right. When we wrestle with the dichotomy of doing what is right and what is expedient, we should be motivated to offer the sacrifices of righteousness to God, and trust God because we value the approval of God.

God told Abraham: “Walk before Me.” (Genesis 17:1) How many of us do that? Do we really walk before God, all day long, every day? Have we ever actually moved through a 24-hour day holding in focus how God feels about who we are, what we are, and all the things we are doing – or not doing?

In the Gospel of John, Jesus asked the religious leaders a profound question: “How can you believe since you look to one another for approval and are not concerned with the approval that comes from God?” (John 5:44)

There are times in this life when we simply cannot have the approval of God and others at the same time. Sometimes we may not be able to explain to others what is going on in our lives. When those times come, if our peace depends on the approval of people, we will discover that the foundation of our peace is fragile.

One day when we face the certainty of judgement, the way we live our lives in God’s sight will be the only thing that matters.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace