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

 


At the Feet of Jesus

February 27, 2015

“… but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better…”  (Luke 10:42)

Every time we meet Mary, the sister of Martha, she is at the feet of Jesus.  The verse above describes her at the feet of Jesus hearing His Word.  Martha is frustrated because Mary is attending the Bible study while she herself is doing all the serving.  Jesus sides with Mary because she has chosen the number one priority that day.

In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, the brother of these two sisters has died.  When the Lord arrives too late to save Lazarus both these sisters greet Him with the same words: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  However, when Mary spoke those words we read that she prostrated herself at his feet showing that she accepted His will.

In the next chapter a banquet is described at which their resurrected brother is the guest of honor.  We see Mary there worshiping Jesus at His feet.  She anointed His feet with perfume worth a year’s wages.  What would it mean if you worshiped Jesus with your annual income?

This Mary is a great example for all of us when she is at the feet of Jesus hearing His Word, accepting His will, and worshiping Him.  If we prostrate ourselves at His feet as we read our Bibles, we will hear His personal word to us and find His will for our lives.  If we continue to follow Mary’s example we will be at His feet accepting His will for our lives. And those who follow the example of Mary will find themselves forever offering costly worship at the feet of Jesus.

Dick Woodward, 19 February 2013


Forgetting What God Forgets

February 24, 2015

For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sins I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:34)

When we sin, we need to look up and believe the first fact of the Gospel, which is the Good News that God forgives our sins because Jesus died for our sins. Then we need to look around, forgive those who have sinned against us and seek forgiveness of those against whom we’ve sinned.  We also need to look in and forgive ourselves.

When we place our trust in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, we need to forget what God forgets and remember what God remembers.  In the New Testament we are promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

However, God remembers that we are sinners.  We forget we are sinners. (That is one reason we fall into sin again & again.)  After we confess our sins, we show our faith in God’s promise is flawed when we remember our sins as guilt baggage long after God has forgiven and forgotten our sins.

A Catholic Monsignor in Paris was told about a nun who talked to Jesus every night. When the nun was summoned to meet the Monsignor, he asked her, “The next time you talk with Jesus, ask Him this question:  What sins did the Monsignor commit in Paris before he became a priest?”  He instructed the nun to report back after she asked Jesus his question.

Several days later when the nun requested an appointment with the Monsignor, he asked her, “Did you speak with Jesus again, my child?”  She replied, “Yes, your Reverence.” He then asked, “Did you ask Jesus my question?”  The nun said that she had indeed asked Jesus his question. “And what did Jesus say?”  The nun replied, “Jesus told me to tell you He doesn’t remember.”

If we believe what the Bible teaches about the forgiveness of our sins, that is the answer we should expect to hear.

As we receive by faith the inner healing of salvation, we simply must discipline ourselves to remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets.

Dick Woodward, from In Step with Eternal Values


Shouting “That Means Me!”

February 20, 2015

I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.  Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains…”  (Isaiah 44: 22, 23)

When one of the greatest men of God who ever lived committed the sins of adultery and murder, filled with remorse and contrition (which means being exceedingly sorry for sin), he prayed a great model prayer for forgiveness.  If you have sinned and you don’t know how to confess your sin read Psalm 51.  Make it your own prayer and you will do a great job of confessing your sin.

In the original Hebrew David actually asked God to un-sin his sin.  Any devout believer who has really sinned will resonate with this prayer petition of David.  The spirit of the prayer petition is: “Oh God! If You could only make it as if it had never happened!”

That introduces us to one of the most beautiful words in the Bible: “justified.” This word means “just as if I’d never sinned” and it means “to be declared righteous.” David uses this word in his prayer of repentance.

Sunday school children are taught a song that summarizes these Scripture verses:  “God has blotted them out, I’m happy as I can be. God has blotted them out, I’ll turn to Isaiah and see. Chapter forty-four, twenty-two and three.  He’s blotted them out and I can just shout! For that means me!”

They may be merely singing words when they’re children but when they grow up and become people who sin they may shout with tears when they read these verses and remember that song.

When you sin can you shout, “That means me?

Dick Woodward, 01 May 2013


Faith vs. Giantology

February 17, 2015

“There we saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight…”  (Numbers 13:33)

The book of Numbers records the death of an entire generation.  Twelve spies were sent to do reconnaissance in the land of Canaan.  Ten of the spies gave the “giant” report.  Only two told how great the land was and exhorted the people to invade Canaan.  While Joshua and Caleb were men of great faith, the other ten were experts in “Giantology.

The entire generation who listened to the ten perished in the wilderness; only two people survived the most tragic judgment of God recorded in the Bible.  An old spiritual puts it this way: “Others saw the giants.  Caleb (and Joshua) saw the Lord!” We read that they wholly followed the Lord because they believed Him well able to conquer those giants.

I have spent most of my adult life as a pastor.  I cannot help but allow the thought that the twelve spies resemble a board of Elders, a Session, a Vestry, or a board of Stewards.  Sometimes when a church is facing a huge challenge two will have the faith of Caleb and Joshua and ten will be giantologists.

We all have “giants” in our lives.  As a bedfast quadriplegic with a wife in a wheelchair I certainly have mine.  I’m sure you have yours.  We also have choices.  We can choose to see the giants and spend much time talking about how big they are.  Or we can choose to see the Lord conquering our giants.  We might call this: “Two people in a pew — which one are you?”

Are you a Caleb with a conquering-the-giants faith, or are you getting your Ph.D. in Giantology?

Dick Woodward, 27 November 2013


Love and Loving

February 13, 2015

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…” (1John 4:11)

The Apostle John points to Jesus dying on the cross and writes: “This is love… that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10).  He follows that with the words quoted above – that if God SO loved us we ought also to love one another.

Hours before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus challenged the men He apprenticed 24/7 for three years to love one another as He had loved them.  He then prophesied that by this the whole world would know they were His disciples.  Peter wrote that by His death on the cross He gave us an example and a calling that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).

The Apostle John is in alignment with Jesus and Peter when he gives us yet another reason we are to love one another.  In principle Jesus was instructing the apostles that the best way to reach out is to reach in. Essentially, Jesus was saying that we have a message of love to communicate to the world.  The best way to do that is to love one another and show the world a community of love.

If our churches were the colonies of love Jesus desires them to be, the love-starved people of this world would beat our doors down to be part of our spiritual communities because everyone has a need to be loved and to belong.  The love John is profiling is the greatest evangelistic tool our Lord has given to His Church.

Are you willing to reach in that you might reach out for His glory?

Dick Woodward, 20 July 2010


A Prayer for Marriage & Home

February 10, 2015

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  (Ephesians 5:2)

In the epistles of Peter and Paul, the model for marriage is Christ and the Church.  It is meant to be a total communion of two whole personalities, and that is pictured in the communion between Christ and His Bride, the Church.  It is a spiritual intimacy.  While physical unity involves mutual, unconditional commitment, there must also be a spiritual quality in the relationship:  unselfish, others-centered love of the risen, living Christ as it is being expressed through both the husband and the wife.

If you sincerely desire a Christ-centered marriage and home, earnestly pray this prayer:

“O loving Heavenly Father, bless this house.  Bless this house with the light of Your presence.  Energize with the love of Your Spirit the relationships that make this house a home.

May the light, the life, and the love of the risen, Living Christ so empower and control us that we will be Christ’s representatives when we come in, when we go out, and especially as we live together under this roof and within these walls.

Heal us as persons, that we might have a wholesome partnership, ad be wise and loving parents.  Show us how to access Your grace all day long, every day.  We pray that everything we do here in this house will be done by Christ, in Christ, and for Christ.

Make this home a symbol of hope that will point to the One Who put this home together in His Word, Who brought it together through His Spirit and Who alone can keep it together by His grace.

In the glorious and victorious name of Jesus Christ.

Amen.”

Dick Woodward, God’s Prescription for Marriage & Family


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