#LOVE: SANCTIFIED UNSELFISHNESS

January 15, 2021

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; loves does not parade itself, is not puffed up. Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own…” (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

I have heard people say, “I don’t get mad, I get even!” When God’s love is being expressed through us, we don’t get mad or even. The Greek words for “love suffers long” are often translated as patience, but they actually prescribe a merciful, unconditional love – a love that does not avenge itself, even when it has the right and opportunity to do so.

As we examine “love is kind,” we realize this love refuses to play the game of getting even. The Greek word for kindness means “love is easy – easy to approach, easy to live with, sweet, good and does good things.” Then we read: “Love does not envy.” The Greek words Paul used here prescribe “an unselfish and unconditional commitment to another’s well-being.” In other words: sanctified unselfishness.

The one who is applying this love is not only concerned about the welfare of the one they love, but they have made a deliberate and unconditional commitment to their happiness. 

Their love commitment is not “I love me and I need you,” or “You love me and so do I.” They are saying by their love actions, “I am fiercely committed to your well-being and happiness. My love for you is not based on, controlled, or even influenced by the ways you do, or do not, love me.” Think of how this quality of love is needed when a spouse has Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, accident or illness that seriously limits them…

The one who is a conduit of this love is others-centered, not self-centered.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


#Faith: Originals & Champions for Christ

January 12, 2021

All our steps are ordered by the Lord; how then can we understand our own ways?” (Proverbs 20:24)

Solomon poses a wise question in Proverbs 20:24: “If we are going the way God wants us to go, how can we expect to always understand the way we are going?” I believe it is obvious that God is making you an original in an original way. 

There isn’t anybody like you and there isn’t supposed to be.

My thoughts turn to six powerful Bible verses: the last four verses of Romans 11 and the first two verses of Romans 12. They tie in with Isaiah 55 and the reality we do not know what God is doing. The profound truth focused is that God is the source of, the power behind, and His glory is the purpose for everything He is doing. 

The application in Romans 12 is that you should worship by surrendering your body as a living sacrifice (not a dead one.) Ask God to transform your mind so you think as He does. Then, having met these prerequisites, prove one day at a time that His will for you is good and moves toward spiritual maturity.  (This passage is especially good in the Phillips.*)

God is shaping you to be a champion for Christ in dimensions that are far beyond anything you could imagine or even think to imagine! Whatever spiritual help it takes you must master this problem or it will master you. Every time God wants to do a great work like what He is doing in your life, the evil one is there trying to defeat it. 

Put on the whole armor of God to defeat what the evil one is trying to do.

Dick Woodward (email, 20 January 2007)

(*J.B. Phillips translation of The New Testament in Modern English)


#FAITH: LETTING GO!

January 5, 2021

“… but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

As we move into a new year many of us can say, “These forty-eleven things I dabble in” as we consider our priorities. Spiritual heavyweights like Paul write “One thing I do.” They can write that they have their priorities sifted down to one thing because they forget those things that are behind.

We all have things we need to let go of so we can press toward the goal of what God wants us to do now and in the future.

The story is told of a man who fell over a cliff but managed to grab hold of a small bush about forty feet from the top. He frantically shouted “Help!” several times but his voice simply echoed back to him. 

Desperately he yelled, “Anybody up there?”  A subterranean voice answered, “Yes!” He then yelled again “Help!” Then the voice said. “Let go!” After a brief pause the man shouted, “Anybody else up there?”

Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to let go. It may be that we need to let go of things that we cannot do and only God can do. It may be we need to let go of things we cannot control. And, sometimes we need to let go of hurts people have inflicted on us that we have not forgiven and let go.

Do you need to let go of what is behind so you can unload baggage and move forward with God?

Dick Woodward, 11 January 2013


#FAITH: A New Year’s Perspective

January 1, 2021

“… as He is, so are we in this world.”  (1 John 4:17)

This year has come and gone. Economy prophets are now referring to our lingering economic downturn as “A Great Recession.” What security do we have as we begin the New Year?

“…as He is, so are we in this world.”

In nine words John, the aged Apostle of Love, gives us a marvelous perspective on our security. There are several ways we can interpret and apply these words. We can say it is only because Jesus is that we can be as we should be in this world. We can say that our security rests in the proposition that He is and He will equip us to be what He wants us to be in this world.

We can also say these words mean Jesus lives in us and through us. For 33 years He had a physical body of His own. For 2000 years now His followers have been the only body Jesus has. This presents the challenge that the only Christ people in this world know is the Christ they see revealed in and through you and me.

As you meditate on the portraits of Jesus Christ the New Testament presents by those who knew Him, realize these portraits are precisely the way He wants to be revealed to this world through your life and mine today.

The overwhelming personality trait of Jesus Christ is love

Love is as He was and as He is today.

Our purpose is not to be secure in this world but to let the love of Jesus pass to others through our lives.

Dick Woodward, 27 December 2011


A New Year’s Question

December 29, 2020

“Where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8)

The last days of the year are a good time for reflection and making resolutions. Have you ever had a year that was so bad you could not live with the idea of another year of the same? Are you there now? If you are, you could be ready to hear the question that God likes to ask from time to time:

“Where have you come from, and where are you going?”

This is the consummate question of direction. It implies if we do not have a crisis that changes things, we are going to end up with more of the same.

Sometimes we are what needs to change. Jeremiah actually mocks us for trying to change ourselves: “Why do you gad about so much to change your ways? …Can the Ethiopian change the color of his skin or the leopard its spots?” (Jeremiah 2:36)

There is a big difference between trying to change ourselves and being changed by God. Unless we are changed by God and God changes what only God can change, we are trapped in a cycle of going where we have come from.

With great spiritual discernment David asked God to create in him a new heart. God answered that prayer for him. (Psalm 51:10) God can also do that for us today. We are not doomed to that cycle of going where we have come from.  We can be changed. God can change the things that must change in us so next year we will not end up back where we have come from.

Confess that you can’t change yourself or your circumstances, but believe God can as you enter the New Year… then watch at God work.

Dick Woodward, 30 December 2011


#FAITH – THE CHRISTMAS THAT IS

December 22, 2020

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

The risen living Christ sends a letter to a Church in Laodicea, as recorded in Chapter Three of the Revelation. The risen Christ wishes they were hot, but if they are not going to get hot He would rather they be cold. Because they are neither cold, nor hot, but lukewarm – they make Him want to throw up!

The risen Christ then tells them how to have a Christmas that is and can be all day long, every day of the year. It is as if their lives are houses and their hearts are doors to their houses. Jesus is knocking on that door. He is patiently waiting for them to open that door and invite Him into all the meaningful areas of their lives.

Verse 19 makes it clear that His knocking is chastisement which He wants to grow into repentance. His inspired metaphor illustrates repentance. It would seem there is no latch on the outside of the door.

The door must be opened from the inside.

Martin Luther wrote a Christmas carol that uses a similar metaphor: “Holy Jesus, precious Child make Thee a bed soft, undefiled, within my heart that it may be a quiet chamber kept for Thee.”

In our church on Christmas Eve children sing: “Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart. Somewhere deep inside you that’s where Christmas really starts. So give your heart to Jesus.

You’ll discover when you do, that it’s Christmas, really Christmas for you!”

 Dick Woodward, 24 December 2010


#FAITH – THE CHRISTMAS THAT SHALL BE

December 15, 2020

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.” (Matthew 25:31)

More than 300 times in the New Testament God tells us God is going to affect another intervention in human history. Read Scriptures like Matthew 24 and 25, I Corinthians 15, II Peter 3 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18. You will also find this Good News in the Old Testament, especially in the prophets.

You will discover these Scriptures proclaim the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which is the blessed hope of followers of Jesus and hope for this world. Almighty God is coming to earth again! This time God is not just telling a few chosen people such as a priest, a peasant girl, a carpenter, a few wise men and some shepherds. 

God is telling anyone who reads the Bible.

The famous oratorio by Handel entitled, “The Messiah,” compiles the Scriptures in the Old and New Testament that describe the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be

As you reflect on this beautiful music and the Christmas that is yet to be, if you do not believe the 300+ New Testament Scriptures, or the many Old Testament prophetic Scriptures concerning the future Christmas, then, like Zacharias in the first chapter of Luke, your mouth is shut by your unbelief. 

Sharing the Good News about the Christmas that shall be can give hope to your sphere of acquaintances who are living without hope. Do you know, or do you remember, what it is like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope?

Dick Woodward, “A Christmas Prescription”


#FAITH – LOOK AND LIVE!!

December 4, 2020

“… Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9)

When the children of Israel complained and griped about Moses God demonstrated how He felt about the gripers. He sent snakes to bite them. (Some pastors may wish they could do the same.) Then God in His mercy directed Moses to erect a pole at the center of the camp with a bronze serpent on top of it. 

The good news was proclaimed: If any of the snake-bitten gripers would get to the center of the camp and look at the bronze serpent, they would be healed of their snakebites.

Some of them said that defied what they knew so they died of their snakebites. Others said it didn’t make sense but it was the only hope they had. With help they somehow got to the center of the camp and looked at the bronze serpent on the pole. 

When they looked, they were healed and lived!

This story takes on much greater meaning when Jesus makes His dogmatic declaration: He is God’s only Son, God’s only Solution, and God’s only Savior. (John 3: 1-21) As He told a Rabbi named Nicodemus about Moses lifting that serpent in the wilderness, it is a picture of what Jesus will do. If we look to Jesus on His cross with faith we will be healed of our sins.

Jesus made it simple. Just look and live. When you want to solve problems that demand a supernatural solution, look and live. Have you ever done that? Why not do it now?

Dick Woodward, 10 December 2013


GIDEON: FAITH AND TEAMWORK

December 1, 2020

“And every man stood in his place all around the camp (of the Midianites); and the whole army (of Midian) ran and cried out and fled.” (Judges 7:21)

One of the greatest victories described in the Old Testament is the victory of Gideon over the army of the Midianites. There were several hundred thousand Midianites. Gideon only had 300 soldiers. In the middle of the night, in pitch darkness, Gideon placed his 300 committed warriors in three strategic locations around the sleeping enemy army.

On signal from Gideon each group of 100 soldiers exposed 100 torches, blew 100 bugles, and then 100 men shouted: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” This gave their enemy the impression they were surrounded by a powerful army. They completely panicked. In the darkness they began fighting each other and were soon conquered.

Although a great miracle, this was a miracle that required a total commitment on the part of Gideon’s 300. That’s why he reduced his army down to less than one percent of what he started with. He had to know that his army was a one hundred percent committed minority rather than an apathetic majority.

This victory also teaches the critically important concept of teamwork. The work of God is a team sport and requires a team effort. Judges 7:21 summarizes the key to this great victory. We read that each one of the 300 “stood in his place.” If even a tiny percentage had been too frightened to execute the plan the attack would have been disastrous.

Are you willing to stand with committed faith in your place so that together we might defeat the powers of hell?

Dick Woodward, 12 December 2012


#FAITH vs. GIANTOLOGY

November 24, 2020

There we saw the giants … and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight.”  (Numbers 13: 33)

The Old Testament book of Numbers records the death of an entire generation. Twelve spies were sent to do reconnaissance in the land of Canaan. Ten spies gave the report quoted above. Only two shared how great the land was and exhorted an invasion. Joshua and Caleb were men of great faith, but the other ten men were experts in “Giantology.

The entire generation who listened to the ten perished in the wilderness. Only two people survived one of the most tragic judgments of God recorded in the Bible. An old spiritual puts it this way: “Others saw the giants. Caleb (and Joshua) saw the Lord!” We read that they followed the Lord because they believed Him more than able to conquer the giants.

Spending most of my adult life as a pastor, I cannot help but allow the thought that the twelve spies resemble a board of Elders, a Session, a Vestry, or a board of Stewards. Sometimes when a church is facing a huge challenge two will have the faith of Caleb and Joshua, and ten will be giantologists.

We all have “giants” in our lives. As a bedfast quadriplegic with a wife in a wheelchair I certainly have mine. I’m sure you have yours. 

We also have choices. We can choose to see the giants and spend much time dwelling on how big they are. Or we can choose to see the Lord conquering our giants. We might call this: “Two people in a pew — which one are you?”

Are you a Caleb and Joshua with a conquering-the-giants faith, or are you getting your Ph.D. in Giantology?

Dick Woodward, 27 November 2013