Overcoming Prejudice: God’s Agape Love At Work

February 23, 2017

“…The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”  (Jonah 3:1)

In the story Jonah tells us, he is not the hero. God is. What does the fact that Jonah wrote this story, which makes him look foolish, tell us about his values and motivations for telling it on himself? A paraphrased summary of Jonah’s truth looks something like this:

‘When I went Nineveh, I was not agape love, but God was. I told the Lord, ‘I can’t love Ninevites, Lord.’ But God said to me, ’I can, Jonah, so let’s go to Nineveh!’  I told the Lord, ‘I don’t want to go and I don’t want to love Ninevites, Lord!’  The Lord said to me, ‘I know that, Jonah. But, you see, I want to love Ninevites, so let’s go to Nineveh!’  When I went to Nineveh and while I was in the city of Nineveh, I did not love Ninevites. When I was in the city of Nineveh, however, God loved the entire population of Nineveh through me.’

Miracle of miracles, God saved the entire population of Nineveh through the preaching of this prophet who hated the people God wanted to save.

…To be “prejudiced” means to “pre-judge.”  Prejudice comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. Is the work of God in this world through you being blocked because of your prejudice? Are there people with whom you do not share the Gospel because you have animosity toward them? Or because they are above or below your level of education, wealth or social status? Do you fear apathy, ridicule, hostility or embarrassment?

When you experience God’s call are you joining Jonah by saying, “I will not?”

When are you going to let the love and power of the Spirit of Christ cut through all your conscious and unconscious prejudice and say to God, “I will?” It’s not a matter of what you can do, but of what God can do.

Faithfulness is your responsibility; fruitfulness is God’s responsibility.

          Dick Woodward,

Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet

 

Editor’s Note: There will be a brief hiatus the next few weeks here @ The Four Spiritual Secrets while the Blog Posting Elf travels (minus her computer.) Blessings to all!


Relational Two-Way Streets

February 21, 2017

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

In this verse the Apostle Paul is telling us that relationships are a two-way street. Whatever we send down the street comes back up that street.

Jesus taught this same truth using a marketplace metaphor of His times. In that marketplace, if another vendor bought goods from you and you suspected his bushel measurement was inaccurate, you could ask him to go get his bushel measurement when you sold to him. In this way, Jesus taught that whatever measure we use in giving to people they will use that same standard in giving back to us (Matthew 7:1-5).

By application, what Paul and Jesus taught relates to our marriages and families: if we make people unhappy, we will find ourselves living with unhappy people who were made unhappy by us. A wise pastor who did a lot of marriage counseling wrote a little poem that had this line in it: “You can’t control the weather or rainy days, but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you.”

If you surround yourself with unhappy people because you make them unhappy, consider how much better it would be if you made those same people happy. Another wise pastor said that with Jesus the main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things.

The bottom line is: do we want to be surrounded by happy or unhappy people?  What are we sending down the two-way street of our relationships?

Dick Woodward, 27 January 2012


GOD’S GRACE BE WITH YOU!!!

February 18, 2017

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”   (Romans 1:7; 16:24)

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.”  He then closes his letter with a prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.

Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer. At the close of each letter he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace, because grace is the dynamic of God that saves us. We can define grace if we turn this five-letter word into an acrostic to spell out:

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense.

But grace is not only the way God saves us. The grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.

In Romans 5:2, Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, into the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.

Paul begins this letter and closes all his letters the way he does because he knows it is absolutely critical that we access God’s grace to live our lives for Christ in this world.

Since grace is one of our greatest needs, consider meeting and leaving each other with a wish and a prayer for grace.

Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012


Unconditional and Indestructible Love

February 14, 2017

“Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:8)

We all need unconditional love and acceptance. Human love is often based on performance. When we are applying the love languages of Christ, our love is not based on the performance of those we love. That is what makes our love indestructible. The love of Jesus Christ is a tough, indestructible love because it is unconditional.

In wedding ceremonies, many couples make the vow, “…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.” It is a commitment to unconditional love and acceptance. Tragic divorce data tells us that millions of couples have not found the dynamic to keep these vows. The living Christ, empowering the love Paul prescribes here (in 1 Corinthians 13), is that dynamic.

We can also make the application that these ways of love are often irresistible, because they are inspirational. Peter, ultimately, could not resist the positive reinforcement of Jesus calling him a rock. I personally could not resist when my mentors prayed, imagined, dreamed, hoped and believed in my ultimate potential.

If you ask Christ to make your life a conduit of Paul’s love virtues to those you love – your spouse, children, or those who are difficult to love – you will often make the joyful discovery that ultimately, they will find the love of Christ to be irresistible and inspirational. They will begin to believe what you pray, imagine, dream, hope and believe about and for them.

For twenty-eight years, I have experienced the gradual, but relentless onset of paralysis, which has reduced me to a helpless, bedfast quadriplegic. During that time, I have learned much about the love of Christ from my wife, who is the most selfless, others-centered person I have ever known. In all these years she has never taken a day, weekend or vacation from her care of me. There are very few people in this world who know as well as I what it means to be the recipient of the unconditional and indestructible love of Christ.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love

 


Sowing in Tears

February 10, 2017

“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”  (Psalm 126:5-6)

The ancient inspired hymn writer is describing a father who is sowing seeds his family desperately needs because they are hungry.  As a provider he knows that if he does not plant these seeds, there will be no food for them and they will starve to death.  He therefore sows these precious seeds with tears streaming down his face.

The Holy Spirit leads the author to a beautiful application after he paints this solemn picture for us: sometimes when we are suffering to the point of tears, those tears are precious seeds our heavenly Father is sowing in the soil of our suffering.  When that is the case, we will doubtless come again rejoicing, bringing the fruitful results of our suffering with us.

This is a truth that is often shared in the Bible.  Sometimes suffering is not the setback it appears to be.  It is rather the cutback of our Heavenly Father who is like a divine vineyard keeper.  He cuts us back to increase the quality and the quantity of the fruit our life is yielding for Him.

I sometimes think God is more real and works more effectively in the lives of people in waiting rooms outside the operating theaters of our hospitals than He does in the sanctuaries of our churches.  God does not waste our sorrows and we should not waste them either.

Listen to the wisdom of the hymn writer when he tells us our tears are precious seeds that will ultimately rejoice our hearts.

Dick Woodward, 15 February 2013


God’s Amazing AMAZING Grace

February 7, 2017

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5)

In Paul’s letter to Roman believers, he writes that God has given us access, by faith, to a quality of grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Jesus Christ in this world and live our lives to glorify Him. Paul writes that we should rejoice in our tribulation, because it is our suffering that forces us to access the grace God makes available to us.

In another verse about grace from the pen of Apostle Paul, we read: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2Corinthians 9:8) This is the most emphatic verse in the Bible about the grace God makes available to us.

According to Paul, God is able to make all grace (not just a little bit of grace), abound (not just trickle), toward you (not just Billy Graham, your pastor, missionaries, but toward you), that you (he repeats you for emphasis), always (not just sometimes), having all sufficiency (not just some sufficiency), in all things (not just some things), may abound (not just limp along), unto every good work (not just some good works).

All grace, abounding, always, all of you, I mean all of you, all sufficiency, all things, always abounding in all the good works God wants to do through you!

The New Testament church turned the world right side up because they believed and experienced the truth Paul was proclaiming in this extraordinary proclamation about God’s amazing grace.

Do you believe in the amazing grace of God?

Dick Woodward, 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer (p.21)


Unforgiveness vs. Inner Healing

February 4, 2017

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  (Matthew 6:12)

The greatest obstacle to inner healing is unforgiveness. Those who work in ministries of healing claim that the lack of forgiveness on the part of a victim can retard their own inner healing.

Can you see why Jesus instructed His disciples to pray every day: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?”  The original language has it, “As we have already forgiven our debtors.” Do you think Jesus knew how important it is to our inner healing that we should forgive those who sin against us?

Some are bothered by the way Jesus offers commentary on this petition in the Disciple’s Prayer.  He commented that if we do not forgive we are not forgiven. It almost sounds as if we are forgiven because we forgive. He defuses their confusion with a parable that is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18.  A man is forgiven a very large debt in the millions of dollars, saving him from debtor’s prison and having his family sold into slavery.

But on the way home he meets a man who owes him twenty dollars. He grabs him by the throat and orders him to pay him every cent or he will have him put into debtor’s prison. Both events are observed and shared with the one who forgave him the large debt. He is recalled and his forgiveness is revoked. Jesus comments on that story, that if we from our hearts do not forgive, we are not forgiven.

The point is that if we are a forgiven person we will be a forgiving person.  If we are not a forgiving person we are not really a forgiven person.

Dick Woodward, 09 January 2013