Being the Merciful Love of Jesus

April 13, 2018

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:7-8)

Jesus begins His greatest discourse of the Beattitudes with a “check up from the neck up.” He teaches eight attitudes that can make disciples salt, light and His solution to what is wrong in this crazy world. These eight attitudes come in four pairs, the third of which is to be merciful with a pure heart.

One scholar writes that these blessed attitudes are like climbing a mountain. The first pair takes us halfway up the mountain, the second pair takes us to the top of the mountain, while the third pair takes us half way down the other side.

With profound simplicity Jesus is basically asking: “When disciples are filled with righteousness that takes them to the top of the mountain, what kind of people are they?  Are they Bible experts who throw the book at others?”

No!  They are filled with mercy (which is unconditional love) and while they love in this way they are pure in heart.

To be pure in heart is only understood when we research the Greek word that is used here for pure – the word from which we get ‘to be catheterized.’  It means that as disciples are merciful we have a catharsis through which everything that is not the unconditional love of Christ is removed from our hearts.

If you want to be one of the solutions of Jesus in this world, hunger and thirst for what is right and you will find that love is right and right is love.

Be a conduit of that love – the love of Jesus – and become His salt and light.

Dick Woodward, 13 April 2010


Loving Others

March 20, 2018

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

I challenge you to meditate on these fifteen applications of love every day for a month.  Summarize each one in one or two words on a card you can place on your mirror, in your purse, wallet, or on the sun-visor of your car. Fervently ask God to empower you to be a conduit of His love with this cluster of virtues by Christ, in Christ and for Christ.

Think of one specific person and ask God to love that person in these ways through you. If you are married, begin loving your spouse in these ways. If you have children, apply this love to them. If you are not married, pray for the power to apply this love to your parents, siblings, and those with whom you live and work.

By the grace of God, I have seen this love of Christ change lives. Ask God to give you power to apply this love to the most difficult relationships you have, like your enemies. They will be your best opportunity to prove this love is not coming from you, but from Christ.

Pray that Christ will pass His love through you to address the pain and quiet desperation of the hurting people in your life. As He does, you will affirm where the risen Christ is today, and where you want to be for the rest of your life.

Dick Woodward, (from A Prescription For Love)


Love Compared, Clustered & Continued

February 2, 2018

“Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.” (I Corinthians 13:8)

My epiphany is from one of my favorite chapters, I Corinthians 13. I have presented this chapter as a symphony in three movements: love compared, clustered, and contrasted. The first movement compares love to several highly held Corinthian values like eloquence, knowledge and spiritual gifts like prophecy and tongues. The second movement passes the concept of love through the prism of Paul’s Holy Spirit inspired mind and comes out on the other side as a cluster of 15 virtues.

My epiphany relates to the third movement where Paul contrasts love again. When Paul writes that love never fails, he is really saying love is eternal. He is focusing the reality that love is an eternal value. Prophecy is not eternal. Tongues are not eternal, neither is knowledge. When Jesus Christ returns, all temporal realities will no longer be necessary. We now see reality dimly as if looking in a defective mirror. But when Christ returns we will see reality face to face. Our knowledge is now fragmented, but then we will know as completely as Christ now knows us.

What Paul is essentially saying is that love is the greatest thing in the world, because love continues. His conclusion is that there are three eternal values: hope, faith and love. But, the greatest is love. Hope leads us to faith, and faith leads us to God. But love is God. Love is not something that leads us to something that leads us to God.

GOD IS LOVE.

So, this chapter outline should be: love compared, clustered and continued

Great Gobs of agape to you!

Dick Woodward, (email, 05 December 2002)


PUT LOVE FIRST!

November 17, 2017

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 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 read, and should be read, in every generation of church history. That includes you and me.

Paul’s 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.”  (ICor 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.”

A 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 these 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


Speaking the Truth in Love

September 15, 2017

“but, speaking the truth in love …”  (Ephesians 4:15)

It is possible to devastate people with the truth. One difference between Jesus and the Pharisees: before Jesus applied the law of God to the people of God He passed the law of God through the prism of the love of God. The Pharisees just threw the book at people. Paul called that “the letter of the law” when he wrote that the letter of the law kills but the spirit of the law gives life.

When I first discovered this in my study of the Gospels I had a counseling appointment that same day with a woman who respected me as a pastor. After she shared her complicated life problems I passed the law of God through the prism of the love of God before I applied the law of God to her life. Just before she left she told me, “Pastor, if you had thrown the book at me today I was going to go home and kill myself.”

I have been told by those who mentor pastors that we should counsel with our head and not with our heart. As a veteran pastor I emphatically disagree! Taking Jesus as our supreme Example and Mentor I believe we should preach, teach and counsel in the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.

The bottom line is that we should follow the example of Jesus and not the Pharisees. All the law of God was born in the heart of God’s love. God gave us His law because He loved us so very much He did not want us to suffer the consequences of lawless living.

Never forget what Jesus always remembered.

Dick Woodward, 14 September 2013


God’s Great Faithfulness & Love

July 26, 2017

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

After World War II, a devout woman named Corrie ten Boom told people all over the world how, in a Nazi concentration camp, God revealed this truth to her: “There is no pit so deep but what the love of God is deeper still.”

When the suffering of Job brought him to the bottom of a pit of despair, he received his great Messianic revelation: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25-26)

In the third chapter of his Lamentations, Jeremiah received the same kind of revelation given Corrie ten Boom and Job. God made Jeremiah know this marvelous truth about the love of God when Jeremiah’s weeping bottomed out in his grotto: “I have never stopped loving the people of Judah!”

The unconditional love of God is taught from Genesis to Revelation. It is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance. Meditating on God’s miraculous revelation to Jeremiah, I am deeply inspired that all the horror of the Babylonian conquest and captivity did not mean that God no longer loved the people of Judah.

Millions have affirmed this great truth singing the hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” written by Thomas Obediah Chisholm.

“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.”

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College OT Handbook (p.501)


LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

June 20, 2017

“And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)

In this love chapter of the Bible, John gives us 10 reasons we must love.  His last reason is that we have been given a commandment by Jesus that we are to love one another.  When Jesus was about to leave the apostles by way of His death on the cross, He left the apostles with this New Commandment.

Jesus explained to them later in that same setting that this would only be possible because He was sending them the Holy Spirit. He used a word for the Holy Spirit that means: “One who comes alongside of you and attaches to you for the purpose of assisting you.”

The concept of a commandment is lost for many people in our culture because we are so democratic in our values. The closest we come to understanding this word is in our military training. When my youngest brother was in training the order was given that the smoking lamp was out – which meant no smoking.  In defiance of the order he lighted a cigarette. His Marine drill instructor ordered him to bury that cigarette in a grave six feet deep.

When he reported to the drill instructor all covered with mud and sweat, the instructor asked if he had buried the cigarette pointing north and south or east and west? When my brother wasn’t sure he was told that he had to do it again the next day and make sure it pointed north and south. The next time the no smoking order was given do you think he lighted another cigarette?

Do you get the full weight of these 10 reasons we must love?

Dick Woodward, 06 August 2010