Forgiveness: A Second Look

March 24, 2017

“And He said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48)

…Jesus taught this same truth in a similar parable recorded in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 7:36-50)

As Jesus was dining with a Pharisee, a woman who was a sinner and had experienced salvation through Jesus began washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The Pharisee had not washed the feet of Jesus. In that culture, not washing the feet of an invited guest was like refusing to shake hands. To this woman, this mean that the Pharisee had not even extended common hospitality to her Lord and Savior, whom she loved so very much.

While the Pharisee was thinking lurid thoughts about this gesture on the part of the woman, Jesus told him a parable about two men who owed debts to the same wealthy lord. To paraphrase, one owed him $500, and the other $5,000. The wealthy man forgave both debts. After telling this story, Jesus asked the Pharisee which man would have loved their benefactor most? The Pharisee answered, “the one who owed him the greater debt.”

Jesus then asked the Pharisee, “Do you see this woman?” The question was actually, How do you see this woman?” Jesus challenged the Pharisee to think about how he saw the sin of that woman relative to how he saw his own sin. He obviously saw her sin as the great debt and his own as the small debt. Jesus then applied His parable for the Pharisee by announcing, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, the same loves little.”

Jesus then said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.” These words of Jesus clearly affirmed the Gospel reality that she was not saved because she loved much. She loved much because she had saving faith. The real sinner at the luncheon in that Pharisee’s house was not the forgiven sinner who loved much, but the self-righteous Pharisee named Simon.

This parable focuses the reality that we cannot isolate our own forgiveness of sin from our attitude toward the sins of others. That is why Jesus wrapped His petition for the forgiveness of our sins in the same package with our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


Overcoming Prejudice: God’s Agape Love At Work

February 23, 2017

“…The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying, “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.”  (Jonah 3:1)

In the story Jonah tells us, he is not the hero. God is. What does the fact that Jonah wrote this story, which makes him look foolish, tell us about his values and motivations for telling it on himself? A paraphrased summary of Jonah’s truth looks something like this:

‘When I went Nineveh, I was not agape love, but God was. I told the Lord, ‘I can’t love Ninevites, Lord.’ But God said to me, ’I can, Jonah, so let’s go to Nineveh!’  I told the Lord, ‘I don’t want to go and I don’t want to love Ninevites, Lord!’  The Lord said to me, ‘I know that, Jonah. But, you see, I want to love Ninevites, so let’s go to Nineveh!’  When I went to Nineveh and while I was in the city of Nineveh, I did not love Ninevites. When I was in the city of Nineveh, however, God loved the entire population of Nineveh through me.’

Miracle of miracles, God saved the entire population of Nineveh through the preaching of this prophet who hated the people God wanted to save.

…To be “prejudiced” means to “pre-judge.”  Prejudice comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. Is the work of God in this world through you being blocked because of your prejudice? Are there people with whom you do not share the Gospel because you have animosity toward them? Or because they are above or below your level of education, wealth or social status? Do you fear apathy, ridicule, hostility or embarrassment?

When you experience God’s call are you joining Jonah by saying, “I will not?”

When are you going to let the love and power of the Spirit of Christ cut through all your conscious and unconscious prejudice and say to God, “I will?” It’s not a matter of what you can do, but of what God can do.

Faithfulness is your responsibility; fruitfulness is God’s responsibility.

          Dick Woodward,

Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet

 

Editor’s Note: There will be a brief hiatus the next few weeks here @ The Four Spiritual Secrets while the Blog Posting Elf travels (minus her computer.) Blessings to all!


GOD’S GRACE BE WITH YOU!!!

February 18, 2017

“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 the believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.”  He then closes his letter with a 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, because grace is the 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 only the 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, into the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.

Paul begins this letter and closes all his letters the way he does because he knows it is absolutely critical that we access God’s grace to live our lives for Christ in this world.

Since grace is one of our greatest needs, consider meeting and leaving each other with a wish and a prayer for grace.

Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012


Unconditional and Indestructible Love

February 14, 2017

“Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:8)

We all need unconditional love and acceptance. Human love is often based on performance. When we are applying the love languages of Christ, our love is not based on the performance of those we love. That is what makes our love indestructible. The love of Jesus Christ is a tough, indestructible love because it is unconditional.

In wedding ceremonies, many couples make the vow, “…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.” It is a commitment to unconditional love and acceptance. Tragic divorce data tells us that millions of couples have not found the dynamic to keep these vows. The living Christ, empowering the love Paul prescribes here (in 1 Corinthians 13), is that dynamic.

We can also make the application that these ways of love are often irresistible, because they are inspirational. Peter, ultimately, could not resist the positive reinforcement of Jesus calling him a rock. I personally could not resist when my mentors prayed, imagined, dreamed, hoped and believed in my ultimate potential.

If you ask Christ to make your life a conduit of Paul’s love virtues to those you love – your spouse, children, or those who are difficult to love – you will often make the joyful discovery that ultimately, they will find the love of Christ to be irresistible and inspirational. They will begin to believe what you pray, imagine, dream, hope and believe about and for them.

For twenty-eight years, I have experienced the gradual, but relentless onset of paralysis, which has reduced me to a helpless, bedfast quadriplegic. During that time, I have learned much about the love of Christ from my wife, who is the most selfless, others-centered person I have ever known. In all these years she has never taken a day, weekend or vacation from her care of me. There are very few people in this world who know as well as I what it means to be the recipient of the unconditional and indestructible love of Christ.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love

 


God’s Amazing AMAZING Grace

February 7, 2017

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.  (Romans 5:1-5)

In Paul’s letter to Roman believers, he writes that God has given us access, by faith, to a quality of grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Jesus Christ in this world and live our lives to glorify Him. Paul writes that we should rejoice in our tribulation, because it is our suffering that forces us to access the grace God makes available to us.

In another verse about grace from the pen of Apostle Paul, we read: “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2Corinthians 9:8) This is the most emphatic verse in the Bible about the grace God makes available to us.

According to Paul, God is able to make all grace (not just a little bit of grace), abound (not just trickle), toward you (not just Billy Graham, your pastor, missionaries, but toward you), that you (he repeats you for emphasis), always (not just sometimes), having all sufficiency (not just some sufficiency), in all things (not just some things), may abound (not just limp along), unto every good work (not just some good works).

All grace, abounding, always, all of you, I mean all of you, all sufficiency, all things, always abounding in all the good works God wants to do through you!

The New Testament church turned the world right side up because they believed and experienced the truth Paul was proclaiming in this extraordinary proclamation about God’s amazing grace.

Do you believe in the amazing grace of God?

Dick Woodward, 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer (p.21)


Using God’s Love Lenses

January 31, 2017

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

How does love fit into the trio of lasting qualities Paul writes of? The Apostle John answered the question for us when he wrote: “God is love and he who dwells in love dwells in God and God dwells in him.” (I John 4;16) When we dwell in the love Paul prescribed (in I Corinthians 13), we dwell in God, and God dwells in us.

By application, this means when we go where the hurting people are, as God’s love is passing through us and addressing their pain, we are touching God and God is touching us.  Since the agape love passing through us is God, we are dwelling in God and God is dwelling in us while God’s love is passing through us.

Jesus gave us love perspective when He exhorted the apostles to look up before they look on the fields that are ripe for harvest. (John 4:35) The Lord was focusing on two perspectives we must master as His authentic disciples. Before we look around and relate to the people who intersect our lives every day, we are to look up, and then look at them. We should see them through the same love lenses God uses when God sees them.  If we do, we will never see anyone we cannot love.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


Overcoming Prejudice

January 17, 2017

“But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry… ‘Oh Lord, I knew You are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.’  …And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:1-4)

As you reflect upon Jonah’s story and apply the central truth in the Book of Jonah, ask yourself if you are prejudiced. To be prejudiced means to ‘pre-judge.’  Prejudice comes in many sizes, shapes and forms. I was introduced to prejudice as a boy growing up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when I heard Italian Americans called ‘daggos’ and Polish Americans called ‘hunkies.’

When I attended a southern college in the late 1940’s, I was shocked to see ‘white’ and ‘colored’ water fountains and to see African Americans sitting in the back of buses.  I was even more bewildered when I discovered that “colored people” were not welcome in “white” churches…

As a new believer I was disillusioned because I heard professing believers use discriminatory labels.  From what I learned while preparing for the ministry, I expected the followers of Christ and our spiritual communities to be free from prejudice. As a believer for more than 60 years and a pastor for more than five decades, I am still alarmed by the deceitful ways of the evil one when I discover prejudice in my own heart and in the lives of other believers…

I have learned, from personal experience, that prejudice feeds on ignorance. I grew up during the Second World War when intense propaganda presented Japanese as sub-human creatures. In my junior year of college in L.A., my roommate was a devout Japanese disciple of Jesus Christ. He was the most Christ-like and disciplined disciple of Jesus I had met at that point in my life. The experience of knowing him completely erased the cumulative impact of all the war propaganda from my mind. Until I met my roommate, I had never met a Japanese person before. My prejudice was fed by my ignorance.

Most prejudice is fed by ignorance.

… Examine your own heart before God and ask yourself if you have prejudice in your heart that is blocking the love God wants to channel through you to lost and hurting people in this world.

Dick Woodward,  Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet