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


Using God’s Love Lenses

January 31, 2017

“…And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13)

How does love fit into the trio of lasting qualities Paul writes of? The Apostle John answered the question for us when he wrote: “God is love and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God dwells in him.” (I John 4;16) When we dwell in the love Paul prescribed (in I Corinthians 13), we dwell in God, and God dwells in us.

By application, this means when we go where the hurting people are, as God’s love is passing through us and addressing their pain, we are touching God and God is touching us.  Since the agape love passing through us is God, we are dwelling in God and God is dwelling in us while God’s love is passing through us.

Jesus gave us love perspective when He exhorted the apostles to look up before they look on the fields that are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35) The Lord was focusing on two perspectives we must master as His authentic disciples. Before we look around and relate to the people who intersect our lives every day, we are to look up, and then look at them. We should see them through the same love lenses God uses when God sees them.  If we do, we will never see anyone we cannot love.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


Temple Maintenance

January 25, 2017

“Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal…”  I Kings 19:18

The great prophet Elijah reached the zenith of his career when he challenged the people of God to stop being spiritual schizophrenics. He asked them to decide if the Lord was God or if the false Baal was God. When that happened on Mount Carmel, they experienced a great revival and committed themselves to serving the true and living God. (I Kings 18)

The very next day we read these words about Elijah: “But he went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die.” (I Kings 19:12)

Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived. The drastic changes we see in him between chapters 18 and 19 are due to many things, but one factor is that Elijah neglected what I call Temple Maintenance. When I was out jogging, I told my children if anyone called to tell them their father was doing temple maintenance. As a pastor that sounded like something official around the church. The Apostle Paul tells us that our bodies are the temple of God. (I Corinthians 3:16-17) Therefore, anything we do to maintain our bodies could be described as temple maintenance. If we neglect our temple maintenance, it can have serious consequences for our health and ministry.

Observe in that dramatic victory Elijah won on Mount Carmel all the physical stress and effort he put out that day. He dug a deep ditch around that altar and filled it with water. Have you ever dug a deep ditch? …At the end of that long day, he ran in front of a chariot for 17 miles. Our hero must have been completely exhausted physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

The physical dimension of our lives directly affects our mental, emotional and even spiritual perspectives. The word neurotic has been defined as ‘thoughts and feelings for which there is no basis in fact.’ Elijah obviously allowed his physical stresses to affect him mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We know all his blubbering about being the only true servant of the Lord was neurotic when God made him know there were 7,000 faithful servants like him, who had not bowed their knees to Baal.

Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p.147-151)

Editor’s Note: My father had bright blue and yellow jogging suits emblazoned with “Temple Maintenance” he wore in the 1970s running up and down the boardwalk in Va. Beach, VA. (My younger brother & I counted his ‘laps’ for him.)  After 30 subsequent years of quadriplegia, we can imagine him now running (or gliding?) around the streets of Heaven with new spiritual legs, engaging in a little celestial Temple Maintenance.


Inauguration of each New Day

January 20, 2017

“…Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

A word that has been on the minds and lips of millions this week is “inauguration.” A synonym for this word is “beginning.” The common usage for inauguration is something like “a celebration of the beginning.”

Every day we live is the first day of the rest of our lives. There is a sense in which we experience an inauguration with every new day, week, month and New Year we live. Our Lord’s advice to us is to celebrate the beginning of every new day and accept it as a gift – a clean slate with no marks on it.

We cannot change the marks we put on the slate of yesterday. God told us not to worry about tomorrow because one day’s trouble is enough for one day. If you think about it, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. God therefore emphasized one day at a time – as in “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I challenge you to celebrate each new day with a private inauguration ceremony and ask God to give you the grace and strength to be all you can be for God’s glory, one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, 23 January 2009