Mercy, Mercy, Mercy & Unconditional Love

February 6, 2018

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

The reality that God loves us unconditionally is often described in the Bible by one word: mercy. This word is found 366 times in the Bible – that’s one for every day of the year, and it even includes leap year – because God knows we need His mercy every day. 280 of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite is the last verse of the 23rd Psalm where David wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the word “follow” can be translated pursue. This means that David believed the unconditional love of God pursued him all the days of his life.

What a dynamic truth. Our Heavenly Father not only loves us unconditionally, He pursues us with His unconditional love all the days of our lives.

Does that mean God loves us when He is cutting us back or chastening us? Absolutely! The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that if God did not chasten us we would be like illegitimate children and not His sons and daughters. Chastening confirms the reality that God loves us.

When we are experiencing one of those cutbacks, rather than thinking that God does not love us anymore – the opposite may be true.

God is pursuing us with His unconditional love.

Dick Woodward, (06 February 2009)


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)


Fellowship: Making A Difference

January 19, 2018

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… for your fellowship in the gospel…” (Philippians 1:3-5)

As Paul begins his letter to the Philippians, he uses a beautiful word when he writes: “your fellowship in the gospel.” The basic meaning of fellowship is partnership, but Sam Shoemaker paraphrased it as: “two fellows in the same ship.”

I once met with a man on the threshold of coming to faith. He had many, many problems. So, I said to him, “There is a word you’re going learn soon: fellowship. It means ‘two fellows in the same ship.’ I want you to know, Charlie, I am in the ship with you!” As he took a long drag on his cigarette, with tears in his eyes he said, “Well row, *bleep* it!”

Charlie was saying that he did not fully understand this new word, but he wanted to know what difference it was going to make. Was I just going to take up room and rock the boat, or was I going to grab an oar and row?

I have often said to others what I said to Charlie, but he added to my paraphrase of this word. After Charlie, when I said these words about fellowship I found myself asking, “What will it look like if I get in this person’s ship with them and row?”

When Jesus got in Peter’s little ship He made a difference. He filled Peter’s ship and his partner’s ship with fish. (Luke 5:1-11)

What difference does it make to others when you get in their ship with them?  Think of the difference it could make because you bring Christ with you into their ship.

Dick Woodward, 22 January 2013


Lord, Save Me!

January 12, 2018

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:30)

The Apostle Peter is the only man besides Jesus Christ who ever walked on water. Yet millions only remember that he took his eyes off the Lord and would have drowned if the Lord had not saved him.

We read that Peter’s magnificent faith was flawed. He saw the wind. Since we cannot see wind this means when he saw what the wind was doing, he lost sight of what Jesus was doing and became afraid. The remarkable thing here is that when Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water!

It was not until he was beginning to sink that Peter cried out this prayer. Two thousand years later, this remains a go-to prayer for us all through the many storms of life. Jesus taught that our prayers should not be long and that we don’t generate grace with God by our many words. If Peter had prayed a longer prayer, the words beyond the third would have been glub, glub glub! When Jesus caught Peter by the hand He gave him the nickname, “Little Faith.” (I believe our Lord was smiling when He did.) He literally asked Peter: “Why did you think twice?”

While very ill the past two weeks many people have been recruited to pray for me. Yesterday it occurred to me that I had not prayed for myself. I then fervently pleaded this prayer that the Lord always answers:  Lord, save me!

In your spiritual walk, don’t think twice and don’t be a “Little Faith.”  Instead, learn to plead this prayer. Soon you will find your way through life’s stormy waves walking on water.

Dick Woodward, 28 January 2014


Transformed Wine: A Prescription for Renewal

November 14, 2017

“This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:11)

When Jesus goes to a wedding and they run out of wine, He creates more wine. In addition to the record of a miracle, this story is also a prescription for renewal. There is tired and there is tired of.  Disciples of Jesus not only get tired – we often get tired of.  When this happens, we call it “burnout.”

I’m convinced this first miracle of Jesus presents a prescription for burnout. If you are experiencing the need for renewal, consider the miracle in this context. Mary tells Jesus “they have no wine.” Since wine is a symbol of joy in the Bible let this represent your confession that you need renewal because you are tired of, dry, and burned out.

Then block out time to fill your human vessel with the Word of God as symbolized by the vessels being filled with water. While you are filling up on the Word of God do whatever the Holy Spirit tells you to doThen realize that your renewal is not just to give you an experience, it is for the benefit of those God wants to touch and bless using you as His channel.

Let these four principles from this miracle that brought glory to Jesus and faith to His disciples bring renewal to you as you serve Jesus. Our Lord often invited His apostles to come apart and rest awhile. If you don’t come apart at times and take this prescription of Jesus for your burnout – you will come apart.

Let Jesus turn your water into wine. That will bring glory to Jesus and make a restored believer out of you!

Dick Woodward, 16 November 2011


A Prayer for Our Valleys

October 27, 2017

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”  (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:

“As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me. Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me. I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your personalized, attentive care. I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help in my time of need. You will also pursue me with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust Him to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship with Him forever in Heaven: to the green pastures that never turn brown, the still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


Valuing Our Days (& Years!)

October 25, 2017

“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years… Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:10-12)

When I was 25 years old I attended a conference for pastors. Our speaker was a famous pastor who had snowy white hair. I felt sorry for him because he was so very old. As he started to speak his first words to us were: “I’m old. I’m gloriously old, but I wouldn’t be as young and ignorant as you are for anything in the world!” I was feeling sorry for him because he was so very old, while he was feeling sorry for me because I was so young.

In many cultures age is considered a plus because wisdom comes with age. Psalm 90 makes the statement we reach 80 years of age “by reason of strength.” I have had a debilitating disease since 1978. By God’s grace, I have found the strength which comes from the Lord and is exhibited in the showcase of my own physical weakness.

I was born eighty years ago today (25 Oct), so these verses resonate with me in a personal way. Two of the ways Moses exhorts us to apply this psalm is to number and value our days to gain a heart of wisdom about how we should spend them.

He then concludes his psalm asking God to show us the work He wants us to do for Him, so that His glory might appear to our children. His last words invite God to anoint the work He reveals to us.

Dick Woodward, 25 October 2010

Editor’s Note: Today is Papa’s birthday! This year he would have turned 87. We thank God for the miraculous gift of Papa’s life, that even through 28 years of quadriplegia (the last 12 completely bedfast) Jesus showcased His strength through Papa’s weakness (“I can’t but He can”… and all that.) 🙂  It’s been 3 years since Papa’s passing – oh, how we miss him – but the legacy of God’s love in and through him continues in our hearts. (While he feasts on Heavenly morsels of Divine Truth, Joy and Love, we’re plotting pizza today in his honor!)