Prejudice vs. Faithfulness & Love

July 13, 2018

“…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? A paraphrased summary of Jonah’s truth might look 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, 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 shapes and forms. Is the work of God 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? Experiencing 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?” Remember, 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


The Powerful Priority of Love

May 22, 2018

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

After a devastating battle during the First World War, Canadian army surgeon John McCrae composed one of the greatest war poems. In it he gave voice to thousands of soldiers who lay dead, summing up their lives on earth with one line:

“Loved and were loved, but now we lie in Flanders Fields.”

When we come to the end of our lives, we’ll find one of our most important priorities will be those we love, and those who love us. But we should not wait to focus our priorities. The Apostle Paul declared the agape love of God to be the number one priority of spiritual people: “…and the greatest of these is love.”

A PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence and even in tongues, but 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 prophets, 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 bodies to be burned at the stake as martyrs, 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


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