November 8, 2019
“There are three things that last — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
What is the greatest thing in the world? The Apostle Paul sifts his answer down to three things: hope, faith and love. Hope is the conviction that there can be good in life. God plants hope in the hearts of human beings.
Hope gives birth to faith, and faith is one of the greatest things because faith brings us to God. However, when Paul compares these two great concepts with love, without hesitation he concludes that love is the greatest thing in the world.
This is true because love is not something that brings us to something that brings us to God. When we experience the special love Paul describes we are in the Presence of God.
There is a particular quality of love that is God and God is a particular quality of love.
To acquaint us with that specific quality of love, in the middle of this chapter Paul passes love through the “prism” of the Holy Spirit that comes out on the other side as a cluster of 15 virtues. All these virtues of love are others-centered, unselfish ways of expressing unconditional love. If you study these virtues you will find in them a cross section of the love that is God – and is the greatest thing in the world.
Paul presents faith, hope and love as the greatest things because they last. Love is the greatest of the three because one day we will no longer need hope and faith when throughout eternity we will be in the Presence of Love.
Therefore, the greatest thing in the world is Love.
Dick Woodward, 08 November 2013
October 4, 2019
“… Being confident of this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ… for it is God at work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure.” (Philippians 1:6; 2:13)
As he wrote these words to his favorite church the Apostle Paul was in prison chained between two Roman soldiers without any privacy. He was not able to shepherd and teach the Philippian believers he loved so very much. Is he stressed out because he fears that they will fall away from their faith? No, he has confidence that they will continue in their faith until the day Christ returns.
The source of Paul’s confidence is found in two realities: he knows that the risen, living Christ has begun the miracle of regeneration in them and he is completely convinced that Christ will continue the miracle work of salvation He begins. His confidence is not in the fact that he has led these people to Christ. His confidence is in Christ!
Paul adds that his confidence is in God Who is at work in them giving them the will and the power to do according to that which pleases Him.
Where is your confidence that you will continue in what Christ has begun in your life? Where is your confidence that those you love will continue in what Christ has begun in their lives? Is your hope in them? Is it in your ability to shepherd and mentor them?
Or is your hope in Christ Who began that miracle and in God Who can give them the will and the power to do what pleases Him?
Dick Woodward, 09 October 2009
September 20, 2019
“… for anyone who comes to God must believe that He is…” (Hebrews 11:6)
Do you know God? I do not mean do you know a lot about God, but do you know God? Do you want to know God? In the verse quoted above we find a prescription that can help us know God.
The prescription is that we must believe that God is, and we must believe that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. My passion to know God led me to confess: “I believe that God is.”
But what is God and where is God?
A helpful answer came through a verse in the first letter of the Apostle John: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16)
After studying the quality of love God is, the prescription above led me to ask another question: “If God is this quality of love, where is God likely to be doing His love thing?”
At that time I was a social worker. Responding to a call in the middle of the night, I prayed something like this: “God, I have an idea that You are love where people are hurting. That’s where I’m going, so when I get there please pass this love You are through me and address their pain.”
As the love of God passed through me to them I touched God and God touched me. That night I found out where God is and where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.
If you want to know God, place yourself as a conduit between God’s love and the pain of hurting people.
Dick Woodward, 22 September 2011
July 2, 2019
“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)
Greek is a very precise language; Hebrew is not. That’s why we frequently find footnotes that suggest alternate readings in the margins of our Bibles when we read Old Testament passages of Scripture. The NIV translation’s footnote for Psalm 11:3 is: “When the foundations of your life are breaking up, what is the righteous One doing?”
In my life I have experienced several periods when it seemed that the foundations of my life were breaking up. I found the alternate reading of this verse to be a reliable response that turned many of those crises into significant spiritual datelines in my journey of faith.
My faith walk began in 1949 and along the way I dropped two words out of my vocabulary: “fortunately” and “coincidentally.” Because I believe in Divine Providence, I no longer believe in luck. I also agree with the spiritual heavyweight who said when devout believers think they have experienced a coincidence it just means God prefers to remain anonymous.
The Chinese word for “crisis” combines the characters for “danger” and “opportunity.” I believe we should factor into all our crises this knee jerk response: “What is the righteous One doing in my life now?”
I find that God is always up to something and ultimately it is always something good. It is not primarily for our good, but what accomplishes God’s good for God’s glory.
If you are in a time of crisis right now, or when you find yourself in one, consider “What is the righteous One doing?”
Dick Woodward, 02 July 2010
June 21, 2019
“…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
In Luke 19, verses 1–10, we encounter Jesus interacting with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. The beautiful part of the Zacchaeus story is that Jesus spends His only day in Jericho with this little crook, and all the people are griping about it.
It would make a great painting if an artist would paint Jesus who was a tall man, according to Josephus, walking home with His arm around small and short Zacchaeus.
Here we see the strategy of Jesus.
Jesus is passing through Jericho. He obviously wants to reach the man who can impact and reach Jericho for Him after he has passed through and beyond the city limits.
It must have made a big impact upon the city when Zacchaeus started calling in the people he had ‘ripped off.’ Imagine their surprise, joy, and awe when they, thinking he was going to get into their purses even deeper, discovered that he wanted to pay them back 400% because he had met Jesus!
This is an illustration and an application of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that the solution, the answer, the salt, the light – is something we are, and that we simply must hear His word and do it.
Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.142-143)
May 7, 2019
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
This teaching of Jesus quoted from Luke’s Gospel is also repeated in the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus challenges us in these two places to ask, to seek and to knock.
Seeking is intense asking and knocking is intense seeking. The context shows that Jesus was not speaking of the forgiveness of sins, He was speaking of knowing God in a real and personal way.
Revised translations show that asking, seeking and knocking are to be continuous and done with great perseverance. This is what theologians call “Importunate prayer.”
This exhortation is followed by the promise that everyone who asks will receive, everyone who seeks will find, and everyone who is willing to knock on the door of knowing God will find that door opening. If your personal pursuit of God isn’t working in this way you have two choices: you can question the integrity of the One who made these promises, or you can consider the possibility that your pursuit of God may be flawed.
If this is a new thought I challenge you to take Jesus up on His challenge. The context of this teaching is that Jesus was a Man of intense prayer and His disciples were not. This was His response to their request to teach them what He knew about prayer that they obviously did not know.
I challenge you to prioritize your time to intentionally pursue God in prayer. Your pursuit of God could be the greatest pursuit of your life!
Dick Woodward, 07 May 2010
May 3, 2019
“… He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas (which is translated ‘Peter.’) (John 1:42)
When Jesus first met Peter, his name was Simon and his life was characterized by instability. Yet Jesus gave him the nickname “Peter,” which means “rock” and “stability.”
In Matthew 16 we have an intriguing interview between Jesus and Peter. Jesus had done the “who are you?” question in reverse. He asked the apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter came up with the right answer. The Lord then said in so many words, “You’re not that smart Peter. That answer really didn’t come from you. It came from My Father.”
In this interview Jesus was telling Peter who and what Peter was, and what he was being called to be. In the Gospels Peter’s life is recorded like an unstable spiritual roller coaster. But after Jesus called Peter a ‘rock’ for three years and after Peter experienced Pentecost, we read in Acts that this unstable man became the rock-like, stable leader of the New Testament Church.
When you read the Gospels and Acts, you realize Jesus was convincing Peter of what he could become because he had come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Do you hear the voice of the Christ Who lives in your heart trying to give you His answer to this question, “What are you?”
Is Jesus making you know what you can become and do for Him since He has made you a new creation? Is Jesus making you know what He can equip you to become as He is calling you and revealing what He wants you to be and do for him?
Dick Woodward, A Spiritual Compass (p. 71-72)