February 16, 2018
“I would have despaired, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
The Apostle Paul concludes his great love chapter by profiling three eternal values: faith, hope and love. We know that love is an eternal value because God is love. We can also understand why faith is one of the three eternal values because faith brings us to God. But why is hope one of the three great eternal values?
God plants hope, the conviction that something good exists in this world, in the heart of every human being. When you get into the lives of many people and understand their battles and challenges, you cannot help but wonder how they could believe there is something good in this life.
My college dormitory was located at the end of Hope Street adjacent to the Los Angeles Public Library. The same day I learned in a sociology course that more than 25,000 people committed suicide in 1952 because they lost hope, a man committed suicide by jumping from the top of my dormitory.
A newspaper reporter eloquently wrote: “An unidentified man jumped to his death today from a tall building at the end of Hope Street.”
David knew that he would despair if he ever lost the conviction God put in his heart the Bible labels hope. Hope is an eternal value because it is meant to lead us to faith, and faith leads us to God.
Let hope bring you to faith, and faith to God. And, remember that people around you are despairing for the hope that you have.
Dick Woodward, 24 March 2013
February 13, 2018
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (Romans 1:7; 16:24)
The Apostle Paul begins his letter to believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.” He then closes his letter with the prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.
Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer. At the close of each letter he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace. This is because grace is a dynamic of God that saves us. We can define grace if we turn this five-letter word into an acrostic to spell out:
God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
But grace is not just a way God saves us: the grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.
In Romans 5:2, Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, to the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.
Since grace is always a great need, consider meeting and leaving fellow (& fellowette*) believers with a wish and prayer for grace.
Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012
(*Editor’s discretionary inclusion)
February 9, 2018
“Goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Two of the most beautiful words in the Bible are mercy and grace. The mercy of God, which is the unconditional love of God, withholds from us what we deserve, while the grace of God lavishes on us all kinds of blessings we do not deserve, accomplish, or achieve by our own efforts.
As we thank God for our blessings, at the top of the list we should be thankful for God’s mercy that withholds and God’s grace that bestows. The good news of the gospel is that when Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, everything we deserved that we might have peace with God was laid upon Him. (Isaiah 53: 5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
If you want to grasp the meaning of these two words observe when and why they turn up in the Bible. Try to understand what we deserved and why. That will grow your appreciation of the mercy of God. Then investigate all that is bestowed upon us by the grace of God. As you search out these two beautiful words in the Bible, you will understand why “the mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows” should be at the top our thanksgiving prayer lists.
Dick Woodward, 26 February 2009
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)
January 30, 2018
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…?” (1Corinthians 6:19)
In the Old Testament believers had the Tent of Worship which was followed by the Temple of Solomon where they worshiped the true and living God. However, in the New Testament there is a revolutionary concept that is not fully understood and appreciated by the people of God today: the body of a believer is the Temple of God.
Understanding the Gospel of the New Testament we realize two vital truths: there is something to believe and Someone to receive. We are informed that the risen, living Christ is patiently standing at the doors of our lives, knocking on those doors. We’re promised that if we hear His voice and open our doors, He will come into our lives and have a relationship with us. (Revelation 3:19-20) In First Corinthians, chapter 6, the Apostle Paul tells us when we experience that miracle our body becomes a Temple of God.
This presents a great challenge to all believers who have received the living Christ into their lives in the form of the Holy Spirit. Wherever we go we take that temple with us. We might say that we are “A Temple on Wheels.” Everywhere we go and every time we find ourselves encountering others, the beautiful reality that we are Temples of God should bring a divine presence to all those relationships.
How should the reality that we are Temples of God impact all of our relationships?
Dick Woodward, 31 January 2012
January 26, 2018
“For if I make you sorrowful then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2Corinthians 2:2)
In this verse the Apostle Paul is telling us that relationships are two-way streets. Whatever we send down each relationship street comes back up that street. (Galatians 1:15-20)
Jesus taught this same truth when He used a marketplace metaphor. In the marketplaces Jesus encountered, if a vendor bought produce from you and you suspected his bushel measurement was inaccurate, you could ask him to go get his bushel measurement to use when you sold your produce to him. Jesus taught in this way 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, Paul and Jesus are teaching us that if we make people unhappy in our marriages and families we will find ourselves living with unhappy people made unhappy by us. I knew a wise pastor who did a lot of marriage counseling. He 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 are surrounded 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 streets of our relationships?
Dick Woodward, 27 January 2012
January 23, 2018
“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this while men slept!’ the farmer exclaimed. ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Matthew 13:27-30)
The question “Where did evil come from?” has baffled spiritual and ethical leaders since people began to think and ask questions. People who read the Bible also ask this question – in this parable Jesus implies two answers.
During almost six decades as a pastor people often told me there are hypocrites in the church. They told me this as if they thought it never would have occurred to me, but it was no surprise to me and it would be no surprise to Jesus. In this parable He told us His church would be a mixed bag.
Jesus also instructed us that we are not to weed the garden because we cannot tell the difference between the two. We are to let both grow together until the harvest when He will separate the wheat from the weeds.
His two answers to that old question about where evil came from are: “an enemy has done this” and “while men slept.” Edmund Burke told us that all we have to do for evil to triumph is to do nothing. Jesus told us all we have to do is sleep.
The truly important questions raised by this parable are: “Are we wheat, or are we weeds?” What are we contributing to the harvest? Are we producing more wheat or more weeds? Are we asleep? Are we doing nothing?”
Dick Woodward, 24 January 2012