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


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


12th Condition for Peace: Believe in God’s Goodness

June 13, 2017

“…if you believe in goodness…” (Philippians 4:8)

As a young social worker I visited an elderly couple who had spent 50 years as missionaries in China. They were in poor health and living in indigent welfare housing. As these dear white-haired saints (who were what I consider spiritual nobility), reflected on what they had to show for their time of sacrificial service, they were beginning to doubt the value of all the good they had done for Jesus.

I shared this part of Paul’s peace prescription with them. Paul teaches here that our good works are not always rewarded in this life, but all good works of believers will be rewarded in the eternal state. (ICorinthians 3:11-15)

Paul certainly could have identified with this couple who realized their ‘welcome home’ would be waiting in heaven. From the time of his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul completely dedicated himself to the work of Jesus. What did that get him? Prison after prison, each one worse than the last; most were foul smelling dungeons. And yet, he writes that he experienced peace and joy.

When Paul writes, “If you believe in goodness…,” I am convinced he is focusing on the lifetime of goodness faithful servants have invested for the Lord.

Discouraged servants of God are tempted by the evil one to doubt the worth of good they have done. This part of Paul’s prescription addresses this peace thief. He would spare spiritual servants of Jesus the loss of peace we may suffer if we forget, that even though we may not be rewarded for faithful service in this life, our reward is waiting in the eternal state.

We are to value the approval of God in this life and be certain of His approval in the life to come.

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


4th Condition for Peace: Do the Right Thing!

May 16, 2017

“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”  (Philippians 4:9)

How can we maintain the peace of God in our lives, especially when facing life’s storms? Paul’s fourth condition for the peace of God is simply to do all the right things. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) According to Jesus and Paul, if we put God first, let God show us the right things to do and get on with doing it, God will provide what we need.

Sometimes the “peace thief” robbing us is the hard reality that we are not doing what is right. The author of Psalm 4 cannot sleep because he is struggling with hard choices. He can do the right thing, but if he does, he doesn’t see how he will make it through his crisis. He can do the expedient thing – that is what almost everybody does – and what he decides to do. But that is why he cannot sleep.

In the middle of the night, the Lord makes him know he is to make whatever sacrifices he must to do what is right, trusting God to see him through the consequences. “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 4:5) After resolving the dichotomy over what is expedient and what is right, his insomnia and anxiety are converted into peace because the peace of God and the God of peace are with him.

We often don’t see how we’ll survive if we do the right thing, but Paul and Jesus both say,

“Do the right thing(s)!”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Peace


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

 


Resurrection: A Dragonfly Approach

April 18, 2017

“Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.”   (1Corinthians 15: 49)

Have you ever watched a dragonfly move from one plant to another with its two sets of wings making it possible to hover like a helicopter?  A dragonfly actually spends the first two years of its existence at the bottom of a large body of water. When that phase of its existence comes to an end, it rises to the surface of the water, climbs up on the bank and lets it wings dry in the sun. Then it spreads those magnificent wings and begins the second dimension of its existence as an aeronautical wonder.

Easter reminded us that, like the dragonfly, we are meant to live out our existence in two dimensions. If you did a cross-section of that under-water dragonfly you would see that it has two respiratory systems: one for living under water and one for breathing air in the second dimension of its life.

If you could do a spiritual cross-section of a follower of Jesus Christ, you would find that we are also equipped with two systems. We have an outward person and an inward person. Our outward person is just a little clay pot in which our eternal inward person lives.

We are told in the great Resurrection Chapter (1 Corinthians 15), that we are given a body for living this life and we will be issued another body for living in the eternal state. According to Paul, that new body will be a spiritual body that will equip us for living throughout all eternity.  I don’t know about you, but as a bed fast quadriplegic I’m really looking forward to being issued that new body!

Dick Woodward, 12 April 2012