Will the real sinner please stand up?

August 26, 2014

…When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”  (Luke 7:42)

It is true that some of the greatest Christians were once the greatest sinners. As we read the seventh chapter of Luke (verses 36-50), we cannot help but think of The Confessions of Saint Augustine.  It is not necessary to sin much to love God – we should be careful not to give that impression.  There is really nothing good about sin… It it true, however, that the truly repentant contrite sinner can love much because he (or she) has been forgiven much.  This was a driving force in the lives of King David, the Apostle Paul and Saint Augustine.

At issue here are the condescending thoughts of this Pharisee toward the woman (who is washing Jesus’ feet.)  As he compares himself, the Pharisee is self-righteous.  Like his colleague in Luke 18, he is looking upon this woman with an attitude, “I thank God I am not as other people are – sinners!”  The question of Jesus focuses this for him and for us.  The Pharisee was the man who had been forgiven the smaller debt, which means he saw his sin as a very small thing. This teaching also focuses that the way we perceive ourselves has a profound effect upon how we perceive others.  Positively and negatively our self-image is a strong force in our horizontal, interpersonal relationships.

The subtle message of Jesus to this Pharisee is that the real sinner at that luncheon was not the woman whose sin was obvious and known to everybody.  His message to her was the good news, that, because of her faith, her sins were forgiven.  When the real sinner stood up at that luncheon, however, he was a sinner named, “Simon, the Pharisee.”

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.137)

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us sinners.”


Spiritual Secrets & Glorious Realities

August 22, 2014

“…  And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” (Colossians 1:27 NLT)

The most important teaching in the New Testament is that Jesus Christ died for our sins.  The most dynamic teaching in the New Testament is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and He lives in us.  According to the Apostle Paul, the glorious reality that the risen Christ lives in us gives us the assurance that we can glorify God.

To glorify God means to do that which pleases God.  At the end of His perfect life Jesus made the statement, “I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work You gave me to do.” (John 17:4)  In one of His most profound metaphors, Jesus taught that it is possible for us to be at one with Him the way a branch is at one with a Vine.  (John 15:1-16)

It is only because I am in Him and He is in me, like a branch is in a Vine, that I can hope and pray to come to the end of my life exclaiming, “I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work You gave me to do.”

This means the Risen Christ is a Vine looking for branches today.  Are you willing to be one of those branches?  When you become one, or if you already are a branch, are you finding and finishing the work He wants you to do for Him that glorifies His Father God?

Dick Woodward, 24 May 2010


Love First

August 19, 2014

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

In the middle of the first century, the Apostle Paul composed an inspired poem of love in which he declared that the agape love of God should be the number one priority of spiritual people. He wrote that love is greater than knowledge and more important than faith. His inspired words about love have been, and should be read in every generation of church history.  That includes you and me.

His teaching about spiritual gifts in the previous chapter concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.”  (I Cor 12:31)  Paul begins the next chapter with his prescription for that most excellent way: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or “Put love first.” (LB, NEB)

A SUMMARY PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence or in tongues without love, we’re just a lot of noise.  If we have all knowledge to understand all the Greek mysteries, the gift to speak as a prophet and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all those things, we are nothing.  If we give all our money to feed the poor and our body to be burned at the stake as a martyr, if we give and die without love, it profits us nothing.

Nothing we are, nothing we ever become, nothing we have and nothing we ever will have in the way of natural and spiritual gifts should ever move ahead of love as our first priority. Nothing we do, or ever will do as an expression of our faith, our gifts, our knowledge, or our generous, charitable, unconditionally-surrendered heart is worthy of comparison, or can replace love as we live out our personal priorities in this world.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


Misery Loves Company

August 15, 2014

“For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2Corinthians 2:2)

You can’t control the weather or rainy days but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you. There is a principle in a relationship that tells us communication is a two-way street.  Whatever you send down that street comes back up that street and into your relationship with another person.

That is what the Apostle Paul is teaching when he essentially writes “If I say things that get you down who is going to build me up or pull me up?”  The reality is that you are probably going to pull me down because misery loves company.  This is a negative way of stating a positive truth.  That truth is if I say things to you that build you up, I have equipped you to build me up.

In another place Paul wrote:Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29)

In every relationship you have, with your spouse, your children, your parents, those you work with, those you work for, and those who work for you  – make the commitment to say and do things that build them up and minister the grace of God to them.  You will be surprised by joy to discover that what you send down that street will come back up that street and into your relationship with that person.

Jesus gave an unstable man named Simon the nickname Peter, which meant stable like a rock.  After calling Peter ‘a rock’ for three years Peter was like a rock. Try that in your relationships and see what happens.

Dick Woodward, 29 June 2010


In Sickness & in Death

August 12, 2014

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live…”  (John 11:25)

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 11, we read that Jesus loved Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha.  As Jesus ministered in the area of Jordan, He received word that Lazarus was sick. Jesus deliberately stayed where He was for two days. When Jesus finally arrived in Bethany, what He really wanted from these two sisters was their response to life’s two most unsolvable problems – sickness and death.

The two sisters are very different. Martha runs out to meet Jesus and says, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died!” We don’t know the inflection in Martha’s voice, but it seems like she was saying, “Where were You?”

Mary is not like Martha. She waits until Jesus sends for her. When she has her personal time with Jesus, she says the exact same words. However, we read that she ‘fell at His feet.’  Mary is mentioned several times in the Gospels and she is always at the feet of Jesus. The first time is when she and Martha were entertaining Jesus. Mary was at His feet, hearing His Word… In this story Mary is at the feet of Jesus accepting His will.  In the next chapter (John 12) she is at His feet worshiping Him.

When sickness and death enter our lives, as they surely will, what God wants from you and me is the right response, which is an intimate relationship to the risen Christ Who lives in our hearts.  If we are at His feet hearing His Word and accepting His will, then, like Mary, we will also respond to these two unavoidable and inescapable problems by by showing our acceptance of them, at His feet, worshiping our Lord.

Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer


Anger Management 101

August 8, 2014

“So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? If you do right, will you not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:7-8)

This is the familiar biblical story of the first two brothers on the face of the earth.  We might call Abel “Mr. Acceptable” and his brother Cain “Mr. Unacceptable” for good reason.  They had both presented offerings to God.  Because Abel was in a right relationship with God, his offering was acceptable.  Because Cain was not, his offering was unacceptable.

In response to this Cain was angry; in fact, he was so angry he beat his brother to death.  In this context, God asked Cain the question,“Why are you angry?” He also asked Cain essentially, “If you get your stuff together will you not be acceptable?”  God was offering Cain a choice.  He could get right and be acceptable  to God or he could go through life beating Abels to death – one Abel after another.

When we are angry we should always ask, “Who is the source, and the true object of my anger?” I personally believe Cain was angry with Cain because he was not in a right relationship with God.  He was transferring his self anger to his brother.  Have you ever done that?  Are you doing that now?

Jesus provided a commentary on this story when He told hypercritical people they were like those who look for specks of sawdust in the eyes of others while they have logs sticking out of their eyes (Matthew 7: 1-5).  If you are the angry person, listen carefully to God as He questions Cain or to Jesus in these verses.  Get right and be acceptable.  Get the log out of your eye.  Don’t go through life magnifying specks and beating up Abels.

Dick Woodward, 11 May 2011


DivineGuidance @ Crossroads

August 5, 2014

A person’s steps are confirmed by the Lord.”  (Psalm 37:23)

There are times on our journeys of faith when we come to a fork in the road and we simply do not know the will of God. There certainly are no verses of Scripture that tell us to go to the right or to the left. We have no prompting or leading of Spirit.  We do our best to make the proper choice, while acknowledging the hard reality that we simply do not know which direction is the will of the Lord.  Having done everything we can to discern the will of God, we journey down one side or the other of that road.

Psalm 37:23 offers insight when we find ourselves at this kind of crossroad.  As a person’s steps are confirmed by the Lord, this means we should sometimes move forward into what we perceive to be the will of God, praying and looking for confirmation.

That confirmation may be positive or negative.  If everything works out and the direction we have chosen obviously has God’s stamp of approval on it, we can say that God has given us a confirmation of His will.  We have the conviction that God is saying to us, “This is the way, walk in it.”  (Isaiah 30:21) We see evidence of the reality Jesus described in the Gospel of John, chapter 10, that when He calls His sheep to follow Him, He goes before them.  After we commit to a direction, we see evidence that the Living Christ has gone before us and prepared the way for us.

Sometimes, the confirmation is negative and the results are the opposite.  When that happens, we should be humble enough to go back to that fork in the road and choose the other direction.

Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Guidance


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