Speaking the Truth in Love

September 15, 2017

“but, speaking the truth in love …”  (Ephesians 4:15)

It is possible to devastate people with the truth. One difference between Jesus and the Pharisees: before Jesus applied the law of God to the people of God He passed the law of God through the prism of the love of God. The Pharisees just threw the book at people. Paul called that “the letter of the law” when he wrote that the letter of the law kills but the spirit of the law gives life.

When I first discovered this in my study of the Gospels I had a counseling appointment that same day with a woman who respected me as a pastor. After she shared her complicated life problems I passed the law of God through the prism of the love of God before I applied the law of God to her life. Just before she left she told me, “Pastor, if you had thrown the book at me today I was going to go home and kill myself.”

I have been told by those who mentor pastors that we should counsel with our head and not with our heart. As a veteran pastor I emphatically disagree! Taking Jesus as our supreme Example and Mentor I believe we should preach, teach and counsel in the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.

The bottom line is that we should follow the example of Jesus and not the Pharisees. All the law of God was born in the heart of God’s love. God gave us His law because He loved us so very much He did not want us to suffer the consequences of lawless living.

Never forget what Jesus always remembered.

Dick Woodward, 14 September 2013


GOD’S MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY!

August 25, 2017

“Surely Your goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This beautiful word is found three hundred and sixty-six times in the Bible. Perhaps God wants us to know we need unconditional love, every day of the year (even Leap Year!) Many people think we don’t hear about the mercy of God in the Bible until we get to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. However, two hundred and eighty references to God’s mercy are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite Old Testament mercy reference is found in the last verse of the Twenty-third Psalm. David ends his greatest Psalm with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him all the days of his life. The Hebrew word he uses here for “follow” is a word that can also be translated “pursue.”  David brings the most profound and eloquent description of the relationship between God and man to a conclusion by making the declaration that the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. By application, this is true for any of us who confess our sins.

There are so many ways to fail. When we understand the meaning of the mercy of God, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. As I place my failures on a scale, I like to place all those times mercy is used in the Bible on the scale opposite my failures. I invite you to do the same thing, no matter how horrible you think your sins are.

Dick Woodward, 28 August 2012


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


Forgiveness: Debts and Debtors

March 21, 2017

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

This second personal petition is for forgiveness. The next two petitions are for guidance and deliverance. Forgiveness, guidance and deliverance are spiritual needs we have every day. The principle of that first personal petition for daily bread, one day at a time, should be applied to these spiritual needs. “Give us this day our daily bread, including our need for forgiveness, guidance and deliverance, one day at a time.”

…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 and 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 the 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 it that if we see our salvation and forgiveness as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so very much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe that we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


Unforgiveness vs. Inner Healing

February 4, 2017

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

The greatest obstacle to inner healing is unforgiveness. Those who work in ministries of healing claim that the lack of forgiveness on the part of a victim 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 knew 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 the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 18.  A man is forgiven a very large debt in the millions of dollars, saving him from debtor’s prison and having his 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 shared with 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


Confession and the Blessings of Salvation

October 29, 2016

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   (1John 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 God says and how He feels about what you have done.

Your confession is to agree with Him. Our responsibility is to agree with Him.  God does all the rest.

God knows when we are lost.  Because God loves us He very much wants us to agree with Him that He might recover us and lead us into green pastures and still waters that flow to a table of provision and a full cup that never empties.  That’s why God wants us to confess our sins and start climbing in the right direction spiritually.

God 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 salvation.

Dick Woodward, 02 October 2012


Forgetting What God Forgets

February 24, 2015

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, which is 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.  In the New Testament 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)

However, God remembers that we are sinners.  We forget we are sinners. (That is one reason we fall into sin again & again.)  After we confess our sins, we show 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 the nun was 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?”  He instructed the nun to report back after she asked Jesus his question.

Several days later when the nun requested an appointment 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.”

If we believe what the Bible teaches about the forgiveness of our sins, that is the answer we should expect to hear.

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

Dick Woodward, from In Step with Eternal Values