#FAITH: FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING

March 26, 2021

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  Matthew 6:12

In Matthew 18, Jesus told the story of a man who owed a great debt. In those days, if you owed a large debt you couldn’t pay, you were sent to prison. Your wife and children were sold into slavery until your debt was paid in full. Since you couldn’t generate any income from prison, you likely would die in prison and your family would be slaves the rest of their lives.

Relative to our currency, the debt in this story of Jesus was a multi-million-dollar debt. Summoned to court, the man who owed this great debt begged for mercy. Miraculously, the one to whom he was indebted out of compassion completely forgave his debt.

On the way home from this extraordinary day in court, this man met a man who owed him twenty dollars and could not pay. He grabbed this poor man by the throat and shouted, “You pay me every cent you owe or I will slam you in prison and sell your family into slavery.”

People who observed both these happenings reported what they witnessed to the man who had forgiven the multi-million-dollar debt. When he heard, he summoned the ungrateful, forgiven man to another court hearing and reversed his compassionate decision.

Having told that story, Jesus pronounced, “Even so my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)

The essential truth Jesus teaches here is that if we see our salvation as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


#FAITH: FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING

January 8, 2021

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

The greatest obstacle to inner healing is un-forgiveness. Those who work in ministries of healing claim that the lack of forgiveness on the part of victims who have been terribly hurt can retard their own inner healing.

Can you see why Jesus instructed His disciples to pray every day: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?” The original language has it, “As we have already forgiven our debtors.” Do you think Jesus knows how important it is to our inner healing that we should forgive those who sin against us?

Some are bothered by the way Jesus offers commentary on this petition in the Disciple’s Prayer. He commented that if we do not forgive we are not forgiven. It almost sounds as if we are forgiven because we forgive. He defuses their confusion with a parable that is recorded in Matthew 18. A man is forgiven a large debt in the millions of dollars. He does not have to go into debtor’s prison and see his wife and family sold into slavery.

But on the way home he meets a man who owes him twenty dollars. He grabs him by the throat and orders him to pay him every cent or he will have him put into debtor’s prison. Both events are observed and told to the one who forgave him the large debt. He is recalled and his forgiveness is revoked. Jesus comments on that story that if we from our hearts do not forgive, we are not forgiven.

The point is that if we are a forgiven person we will be a forgiving person. If we are not a forgiving person we are not really a forgiven person.

Dick Woodward, 09 January 2013


#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 – What does It Mean to Confess?

October 2, 2020

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (1 John 1:9)

In the original Greek language, what we translate as confess is a compound Greek word: to say and the word for sameness.  It literally means to say the same thing God says, or to agree with God.

If you know the Word of God and are in the Spirit enough to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, you can know what Jesus says and how He feels about what you have done. Your confession is to agree with Him. Our responsibility is to agree with Him. He does all the rest.

Jesus knows when we are lost. Because He loves us He very much wants us to agree with Him that He might recover us and lead us to green pastures, still waters, His table of provision and a full cup that never empties.

That’s why He wants us to confess our sins and start climbing in the right direction spiritually.

He is not a divine policeman with a huge club just waiting to crack us over the head when we step out of line. The ministry of Jesus is summed up in the Gospel of Luke this way: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

That Gospel shows us in beautiful ways the blessings that come into the lives of lost people because Jesus finds them and leads them to the blessings of His Love and salvation.

Dick Woodward, 12 October 2012


#Forgiveness: Forgetting What God Forgets

February 28, 2020

For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sins I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

When we sin, we need to look up and believe the first fact of the Gospel – the Good News that God forgives our sins because Jesus died for our sins. Then we need to look around, forgive those who have sinned against us and seek forgiveness of those against whom we’ve sinned.

We also need to look in and forgive ourselves.

When we place our trust in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, we need to forget what God forgets and remember what God remembers. We are promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9)

After we confess our sins, our faith in God’s promise is flawed when we remember our sins as guilt baggage long after God has forgiven and forgotten our sins.

A Catholic Monsignor in Paris was told about a nun who talked to Jesus every night. When summoned to meet the Monsignor, he asked her, “The next time you talk with Jesus, ask Him this question: What sins did the Monsignor commit in Paris before he became a priest?”

Several days later the nun met again with the Monsignor. He asked her, “Did you speak with Jesus again, my child?” She replied, “Yes, your Reverence.” He then asked, “Did you ask Jesus my question?” The nun said that she had indeed asked Jesus his question. “And what did Jesus say?”  The nun replied, “Jesus told me to tell you He doesn’t remember.”

As we receive by faith the inner healing of salvation, we must discipline ourselves to remember what God remembers and forget what God forgets.

Dick Woodward, from In Step with Eternal Values


#FAITH: A Principle of Deliverance

November 22, 2019

“And it came to pass… that the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:51)

The words “salvation” and “deliverance” are synonyms. The deliverance of the children of Israel as described in the book of Exodus is therefore also an allegory of salvation that demonstrates what we might call “A Principle of Deliverance” when God delivers people from addictions and sin today. Modeled on the dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh, Moses represents Christ and Pharaoh is the evil one.

For example, observe what Pharaoh says after Moses demanded the release of God’s people when God sent the first plagues: “You can go but do not leave Egypt.” (Exodus 8:25)

After a few more plagues, Pharaoh again agrees to release the people but he says: “Well, you can go, but do not go very far.” (Exodus 8:28) More plagues and Pharaoh says: “All right, you can go, but… leave your children in Egypt.” (Exodus 10:8-10) More persuasive plagues and Pharaoh says, “You can go, but leave your flocks and herds in Egypt.” (Exodus 10:24)

When people come to faith today the evil one will tempt them to practice their faith “in Egypt” as a worldly believer practicing the values of the secular culture. Then he will tempt them with, “You have come to faith but don’t go very far with your faith.” Then the temptation is to not let your faith pass on to your children.

A final attempt at keeping a person addicted to the slavery of sin is to “Leave your flocks and herds in Egypt,” or don’t let your faith affect your pocketbook.

The principle of deliverance illustrated in the book of Exodus is: Never, never, never compromise with evil and remain enslaved and addicted in your “Egypt.

Dick Woodward, 23 November 2013


#FAITH: Three Dimensions of Forgiveness

August 27, 2019

 “…if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins…” (Matthew 6:14-15)

We need forgiveness in three dimensions: when we look up, when we look around, and when we look in.

Believing the Good News of the Gospel, the first dimension is a given. The great biblical word for that is “justified.” It literally means to ‘un-sin’ our sin. You can break up the word this way: just-as-if-I’d-never-sinned. In Luke 18, Jesus pronounced that anyone who prays, “God be merciful to me – a sinner,” is justified.

The second dimension is more complicated. You need a special measure of grace to forgive those who have harmed you. And you can’t control whether or not those you have hurt will forgive you. But Jesus mandated that we have forgiveness in this second dimension. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He literally told them to say, “Forgive us our sins as we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us.”

At the end of His teaching His disciples how to pray Jesus added a solemn commentary: “If you do not forgive those who have sinned against you, then My Father in heaven will not forgive you your sins.” In other words, if you don’t have forgiveness in this second dimension you lose your forgiveness in the first dimension.

Those who have sinned grievously will tell you that the third dimension of forgiveness is the toughest one. Falling into sin, it is often difficult to forgive ourselves.

Ask God for forgiveness in these three dimensions, because the greatest obstacle to inner healing is un-forgiveness.

Dick Woodward, 17 January 2009


Our Failures vs. God’s Mercy & Unconditional Love

July 16, 2019

…& mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...”  (Psalm 23:6)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This word is found 366 times in the Bible. (Perhaps God wants us to know we need mercy and unconditional love every day of the year – and God even covers Leap Year.)  Many people think we don’t hear about God’s mercy until the Sermon on the Mount; however, we find 280 mercy references in the Old Testament.

King David concludes Psalm 100 with the observation that God’s mercy is everlasting.

My favorite Old Testament reference to God’s mercy is found at the end of Psalm 23. David’s greatest Psalm ends with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him always.

The Hebrew word he uses for ‘follow’ can also be translated as ‘pursue.’  David brings his profound description of the relationship between God and man to a conclusion by declaring the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life.

This is true for all who confess, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

There are many ways to fail. When we understand the meaning of God’s mercy, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. No matter what your failures have been, God has sent you a message wrapped in this five letter word “mercy.”

The amazing message is that you did not win God’s love by a positive performance and you do not lose God’s love by a negative performance. God’s love and acceptance of you is unconditional.  According to David, the mercy of God is not only there like a rock for you, but God is pursuing you with unconditional love and forgiveness.

Dick Woodward, Happiness that Doesn’t Make Good Sense


Heart to Heart Communication

July 12, 2019

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you… As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)

To paraphrase this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication “flap” on our heart. In our relationships we should be face-to-face and heart-to-heart with our communication flaps open. The hard reality is that we are often back-to-back with our communication flaps down and tightly closed.

Paul’s solution is that someone must say, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open. Be heart-to-heart with me and open your communication flap.”

We face communication challenges every day in our family, places of work, and interactions with people. When there is a communication problem it is important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

You may be totally amazed at how taking that stance can melt the obstacles between you and the person with whom you are having a challenging relationship. This can be a communication circuit breaker that restores communication in a relationship.

Bacteria multiply in the dark but cannot live in the light. If we do not have good communication in a relationship misunderstandings multiply like bacteria, but when communication is restored it’s like we have turned the light on in our relationship.

Most bacteria will die and we can address what’s left in the light of our restored communication.

Dick Woodward, 12 July 2012


Zacchaeus: Strategic Encounters of Salt & Light

June 21, 2019

…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

In Luke 19, verses 1–10, we encounter Jesus interacting with the tax collector, Zacchaeus. The beautiful part of the Zacchaeus story is that Jesus spends His only day in Jericho with this little crook, and all the people are griping about it.

It would make a great painting if an artist would paint Jesus who was a tall man, according to Josephus, walking home with His arm around small and short Zacchaeus.

Here we see the strategy of Jesus.

Jesus is passing through Jericho. He obviously wants to reach the man who can impact and reach Jericho for Him after he has passed through and beyond the city limits.

It must have made a big impact upon the city when Zacchaeus started calling in the people he had ‘ripped off.’ Imagine their surprise, joy, and awe when they, thinking he was going to get into their purses even deeper, discovered that he wanted to pay them back 400% because he had met Jesus!

This is an illustration and an application of what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that the solution, the answer, the salt, the light – is something we are, and that we simply must hear His word and do it.

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook (p.142-143)