Being the Merciful Love of Jesus

April 13, 2018

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:7-8)

Jesus begins His greatest discourse of the Beattitudes with a “check up from the neck up.” He teaches eight attitudes that can make disciples salt, light and His solution to what is wrong in this crazy world. These eight attitudes come in four pairs, the third of which is to be merciful with a pure heart.

One scholar writes that these blessed attitudes are like climbing a mountain. The first pair takes us halfway up the mountain, the second pair takes us to the top of the mountain, while the third pair takes us half way down the other side.

With profound simplicity Jesus is basically asking: “When disciples are filled with righteousness that takes them to the top of the mountain, what kind of people are they?  Are they Bible experts who throw the book at others?”

No!  They are filled with mercy (which is unconditional love) and while they love in this way they are pure in heart.

To be pure in heart is only understood when we research the Greek word that is used here for pure – the word from which we get ‘to be catheterized.’  It means that as disciples are merciful we have a catharsis through which everything that is not the unconditional love of Christ is removed from our hearts.

If you want to be one of the solutions of Jesus in this world, hunger and thirst for what is right and you will find that love is right and right is love.

Be a conduit of that love – the love of Jesus – and become His salt and light.

Dick Woodward, 13 April 2010


How Are You, REALLY?

October 31, 2017

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16)

A long time ago when I lunched with a friend on Mondays, I always asked him, “How are you, Skip?”

“Great, wonderful, marvelous and tremendous!” he’d answer.  Always.

Many Mondays I’d not had a good weekend and life was not great, wonderful, marvelous, and tremendous for me. But this guy was always emphatically optimistic. After this pattern continued for some time, one Monday I asked him, “Tell me something. If everything wasn’t great, wonderful, marvelous, and tremendous, how would you answer my question?”

“Oh, I’d probably lie to you,” he responded.

I decided to rephrase my question. I asked, “How are you, really, Skip?”

He worked with a group of people who emphasized Scripture memory and they all memorized a verse each week.  “Frankly, if you really want to know,” he said, “My verse of the week is, ‘Hang it on your beak, freak!’” We then had some honest conversation, what I call reality contact.

This is what James had in mind – if we are honest with each other we will be burdened to pray for each other. If we’re not honest when we meet together, we will not pray for each other honestly. One translation reads that our honest prayers will explode with power!

We should have this kind of reality contact with a believer we trust.

How are you, really?

Dick Woodward, 01 November 2011


The Fellowship of the Fig Tree

June 30, 2017

“… before Phillip called you I saw you under the fig tree.”  (John 1:48)

When Jesus was recruiting apostles, he had an interesting exchange with the one who was to become the Apostle Nathaniel. Nathaniel apparently had the regular practice of having times of intimate fellowship with God under a fig tree. When he met Jesus for the first time Jesus affirmed him as a Jew in whom there was no guile. When Nathaniel exclaimed, “How do you know me?” Jesus said in so many words: “I’m the One you’ve been talking to under the fig tree!” That really blew Nathaniel away and he was convinced forever that Jesus was the Son of God and many other things. (The whole story can be found in John 1:47-51).

I find this challenge in the exchange between Jesus and his apostle: do we have a fig tree or a place where we regularly meet with God and have intimate fellowship? You might call this, as I have, “The Fellowship of the Fig Tree.”

Years ago I gave a devotional to several hundred people on this concept. One of them, who became a dear brother, was in the furniture business. He gave me a beautiful artificial fig tree, placing it in my home where I had my quiet times with God every morning. He wanted me to have my intimate times with God under a fig tree. That was nearly 40 years ago. It is still here in our home today.

Do you belong to the Fellowship of the Fig Tree? Do you have a special place where you meet with God every day?

Dick Woodward, 07 July 2009


LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

June 20, 2017

“And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)

In this love chapter of the Bible, John gives us 10 reasons we must love.  His last reason is that we have been given a commandment by Jesus that we are to love one another.  When Jesus was about to leave the apostles by way of His death on the cross, He left the apostles with this New Commandment.

Jesus explained to them later in that same setting that this would only be possible because He was sending them the Holy Spirit. He used a word for the Holy Spirit that means: “One who comes alongside of you and attaches to you for the purpose of assisting you.”

The concept of a commandment is lost for many people in our culture because we are so democratic in our values. The closest we come to understanding this word is in our military training. When my youngest brother was in training the order was given that the smoking lamp was out – which meant no smoking.  In defiance of the order he lighted a cigarette. His Marine drill instructor ordered him to bury that cigarette in a grave six feet deep.

When he reported to the drill instructor all covered with mud and sweat, the instructor asked if he had buried the cigarette pointing north and south or east and west? When my brother wasn’t sure he was told that he had to do it again the next day and make sure it pointed north and south. The next time the no smoking order was given do you think he lighted another cigarette?

Do you get the full weight of these 10 reasons we must love?

Dick Woodward, 06 August 2010


Spiritual Community: A Threefold Cord

April 25, 2017

“But woe to him who is alone when he falls.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

Have you observed how much Jesus valued community? He taught: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20) He also gave a great teaching regarding prayer community: “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.” (Matthew 18:19, The Message)

When Jesus made that observation about being present when two or three gather in His name he was not giving us a consolation for poor attendance at a meeting. Jesus was being descriptive and prescriptive about the reality that His risen presence is among us in a special way when just two or three of us come together in His name.

King Solomon, thought to be the wisest man on earth in his day, also wrote about the value of community.  He tells us in Ecclesiastes 4: “two are better than one, for when one falls the other will help him up.” Then, in verse 12: “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  This could mean that when two or three are in community, the presence of God among them forms the threefold cord that cannot be easily broken.

Are you in community? If you are not, follow the teaching of our Lord and the wise counsel of Solomon to seek spiritual community. I’m not telling you to just go to church. I am writing about that special relationship with two or three people where you have accountability and deep sharing of life and faith. If you cannot find one, start one.

It only takes you and one other person.

Dick Woodward, 19 April 2013


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