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


Good Friday: “it is finished…”

April 14, 2017

“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished!’”
(John 19:30)

These last words of Jesus actually are one word in the original language: “Tetelesti.”  This word was written over the record of a prisoner after completing his or her sentence in a Roman prison. “Tetelesti” was also written above the cross of a prisoner crucified by Rome. What a providential irony that Jesus chose this word at the end of His suffering for your sins and mine.

What Jesus meant is that He paid in full a debt He did not owe because we owe a debt we cannot pay. Theologians refer to this as the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. One thought is that we cannot possibly add anything to what He finished for us there on that cross. A more profound thought is that we must put our faith in what He did for us there.

Still another thought is if we could add anything to what He did, or be forgiven on the basis of our own good works, then Christ did all that suffering for nothing. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat great drops of blood as He pleaded with the Father to let this cup pass from Him.

The Father’s response was that there was no other way, so Jesus had to go to and through the suffering of the cross. To think that we could save ourselves by our works is like saying to the Father and to our Savior: “You really didn’t have to go through all that suffering because I can save myself by the good works I am doing.”

We must believe in what Jesus finished on the cross: “It is finished.”

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2009


Mercy & Love, Salt & Light

April 7, 2017

“Blessed are the merciful …  Blessed are the pure in heart…” (Matthew5:7&8)

Jesus begins His greatest discourse with a “check up from the neck up.” He teaches eight attitudes that can make us salt and light, and one of His solutions to what is wrong with this crazy world. These eight attitudes come in pairs. The third pair 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 and the second pair takes us to the top of the mountain. The third pair takes us half way down the other side of the mountain.

The profound simplicity of Jesus is asking the question: “When we are filled with righteousness that takes us to the top of the mountain what kind of people are we? Are we Bible experts who throw the book at people?” No! True disciples are filled with mercy (which is unconditional love.) As we love in this way we are pure in heart.

To be pure in heart is only understood when we research the Greek word used here for pure. It is the word from which we get our word to be catheterized. This means that as we 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. Being a conduit of the love and mercy of Jesus will make you His salt and light.

Dick Woodward, 13 April 2010


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