Applying the Love of God

May 26, 2016

“Let love be your highest goal…”  (1 Corinthians 14:1)

What are your priorities?  Paul challenges us to let love be our highest priority at the end of his inspired love chapter.  We should follow after love, make love our greatest pursuit, and love should be our highest goal, depending on how the verse is translated in your Bible.

A practical way to make love our greatest goal is to take the 15 virtues in the middle of the love chapter (I Corinthians 13) and apply them in our relationships. It will not take long to realize we cannot love in these ways on our own.  These are the ways God loves.  The miracle is God can love in these 15 ways through us!

The love virtues are all others-centered, unselfish ways of showing unconditional love.  They are not natural, but unnatural for us, because they are supernatural.  They are the fruit and evidence that God lives in us and is expressing the essence of God’s character through us. The dynamic effect of God’s love upon those we love in these ways will convince us this love is God and deserves to be our highest goal.

I have been loved in these ways and by the grace of God I have loved in these ways.  I am committed to making this love my first priority.  I resonate with Joyce Kilmer who summarized the essence of the lives of the fallen who lie beneath poppies in French WWI military graveyards when he wrote: “Loved and were loved, but now they lie in Flanders Fields.”

Paul prescribed these love virtues believing they could solve the problems in the worst relationships in his worst church.  I believe they can solve the problems in all our relationships if we will graciously apply them, through Christ.

Dick Woodward, 12 November 2013


Maintaining the Peace of God

August 21, 2015

“…never forget the nearness of your Lord.”  (Philippians 4:5)

When the Apostle Paul experienced his last horrible Roman imprisonment, visiting him was very dangerous. If you came to see him, the Romans might chain you next to him. And nobody did. He writes: “They all forsook me. May God not lay it to their charge.” But he also wrote: “Nevertheless the Lord stood by me and ministered to me.” (2 Timothy 4:16, 17)  That is what he means when he prescribes: “Never forget the nearness of your Lord.”

This is why I am continuously emphasizing the ground rule that a personal relationship with the Lord is an absolute if you are serious about applying Paul’s prescription for maintaining the peace of God. If you would like to have a relationship with Christ, follow His directions. Our Lord prescribed:

“Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For every one who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened.” (Luke 11:9, 10 Amplified Bible)

Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking. If you cannot understand the concept of “the nearness of your Lord,” give yourself to the pursuit of God as described by Jesus in the passage above to find and maintain the peace of God.

Dick Woodward, 19 June 2009


Unity and Diversity

April 17, 2015

“For in fact the body is not one member but many.”   (1Corinthians 12:14)

Chapter 12 of First Corinthians is the greatest Scripture in the New Testament about the way a church is to function.  After the Apostle Paul uses the words diversity and oneness several times, he brings these two opposite concepts together in his inspired metaphor that the Church is to function as a body.

He writes that it is not either/or but both/and: diversity should be celebrated rather than resolved.  As diverse members of the body of Christ come together to have a ministry there are different types of people: let it happen people, make it happen people, don’t know what’s happening people, and don’t know anything is supposed to be happening people.

Let it happen people desperately need make it happen people.  And the other two kinds of people obviously need these first two kinds of people.  The truth is they all need each other to function as a team, a body, and a Church. There are Mary and Martha kinds of people who both need each other.  Often, Marthas do not appreciate Marys because they think they are unorganized. But Marys need Marthas and Marthas need to realize that if it were not for Marys there would not be anything to organize.

Are you fitting in with those kinds of people who have what you do not have and sharing with them what you have that they do not have?

When we experience unity while celebrating diversity we do not have uniformity but a supernatural community that is in reality the body of our risen and living Lord Jesus Christ.

Dick Woodward, 25 June 2013


Grace & Perseverance …

March 6, 2015

“…rejoice in your sufferings knowing…” (Romans 5:3 NIV)

Rejoice in your sufferings, knowing what? In the fifth chapter of his letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul begins by writing that God has given us access, by faith, into grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ in this world and live a life that glorifies God.

Imagine how it must make God feel when He has given us access to all the grace we need to live for Christ in this world and we never access that grace. According to Paul, because God loves us He permits suffering to enter our lives that we cannot bear without drawing on the grace we have access to by faith.

Paul writes that as we receive the grace to endure our suffering God produces mature Christ-like character in our lives such as perseverance. When you ask the question, “How does an orange get to be an orange?” The answer is “By hanging in there.”  That is the essence of the meaning of this character trait called perseverance.

When some followers of Christ find themselves suffering, their immediate response is: “Lord, deliver me from this, immediately!” He can, and sometimes He does, deliver us. But He often does not. When He does not it may be because it is His will to grow spiritual character in the life of His follower. When that is what God is doing Paul is telling us we should rejoice in our sufferings, access grace by faith, and then grow spiritually.

Dick Woodward, 19 March 2009


Sharing Hope @ Christmas

December 16, 2014

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

Do you know, or do you remember what it is like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope? In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us the three lasting, eternal values in life are faith, hope and love.  Love is the greatest of these eternal values because God is love.  Faith is an eternal value because faith brings us to God.  Hope is also one of the three great eternal values because hope brings us to the faith that brings us to God.  In the heart of every human being, God plants hope, the conviction that something good exists in this life and someday that good will intersect our lives.  That is what the author of the Book of Hebrews means when he tells us that faith gives substance to the things for which we have been hoping. (Hebrews 11:1).

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have Good News that can give hope to the hopeless, and we must not let unbelief silence us.  If we never share the Good News of the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be, we should ask ourselves if we really believe the essence of the Gospel of Christmas.  Because we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share that Good News with the people Jesus told us He came to seek and to save (Luke 19:10).  We show that we really do believe in the Christmas that shall be, when we tell hopeless people that God is going to give us another Christmas.

Like the wise men, we should ask the question, “Where is He?,” seek Him until we find Him, and then worship Him and give the gift of our lives to Him.  Then, like those shepherds, we should tell everybody the Good News that Christmas has come and Christmas is coming again to this otherwise hopeless world.

Dick Woodward, from A Christmas Prescription

 


God’s Workmanship

September 26, 2014

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The founding elder of the first church I pastored was a home builder. He did excellent work. When a couple wanted him to build their home he took them to a beautiful home he had built and said to them, “By the grace of God this is my workmanship.”  Ephesians 2:20 says to all followers of Christ that our risen living Christ would like to point to each of us and say: “This is My workmanship!”

We are all a work of Christ in progress. In addition to that thought this verse states that when we came to faith and were saved by grace through the faith our Lord gave us, He created us for good works. In fact we’re told that before He saved us He already planned that we would do those works for Him.

I don’t know about you but that truth excites and inspires me greatly! We’re so selfish and self-centered that when we come to faith our focus is often on what trusting Christ to be our Savior will mean to us. Many followers of Christ have the attitude “What have You done for me lately?” The Apostle Paul had the right vision when he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and asked the question, “Lord, what do You want me to do for You?”

As a follower of Christ have you been asking and seeking to know what works your Lord and Savior planned for you to do when He saved you by grace?  Are you asking each day, “Lord, what do You want me to do for You?

Dick Woodward, 08 March 2010


Spiritual Secrets & Glorious Realities

August 22, 2014

“…  And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” (Colossians 1:27 NLT)

The most important teaching in the New Testament is that Jesus Christ died for our sins.  The most dynamic teaching in the New Testament is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and He lives in us.  According to the Apostle Paul, the glorious reality that the risen Christ lives in us gives us the assurance that we can glorify God.

To glorify God means to do that which pleases God.  At the end of His perfect life Jesus made the statement, “I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work You gave me to do.” (John 17:4)  In one of His most profound metaphors, Jesus taught that it is possible for us to be at one with Him the way a branch is at one with a Vine.  (John 15:1-16)

It is only because I am in Him and He is in me, like a branch is in a Vine, that I can hope and pray to come to the end of my life exclaiming, “I have glorified You on the earth.  I have finished the work You gave me to do.”

This means the Risen Christ is a Vine looking for branches today.  Are you willing to be one of those branches?  When you become one, or if you already are a branch, are you finding and finishing the work He wants you to do for Him that glorifies His Father God?

Dick Woodward, 24 May 2010