#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)


#Jesus: A Friend of Sinners

April 30, 2019

“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” He said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”  (Luke 19:5)

When Jesus came face to face with the greatest sinner in Jericho, He knew him and called him by name. He then invited himself to spend the entire day in the house of His sinner friend. This chapter tells us elsewhere that Jesus was only passing through Jericho. He was extremely popular at this time and His walk through Jericho was like a parade with the sides of the street crowded with people wanting to get a glimpse of the famous Rabbi from Galilee.

We might imagine that the religious leaders would like to have entertained Jesus for lunch. To everyone’s shock and amazement Jesus declares that He will spend His one day in Jericho with the greatest sinner there. Publicans were hated in that day because they collected taxes for the Romans from their fellow Jews.

Zacchaeus as chief of the publicans had become very wealthy in that position.

We are told nothing of what Jesus and Zacchaeus discussed that day, but at the end of the day as they come out of the house this sinner announces that he will give half of his money to the poor. And with the other half he will restore 400% of everything he has taken from people unjustly.

One scholar put an interesting spin on this story when he suggested that Zacchaeus was the publican in the previous chapter of Luke who prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

Do you know any sinners by name?  Are you a friend of sinners?

Dick Woodward, 01 May 2011


Faith: The Good News of Forgiveness

April 9, 2019

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 Good News of the Gospel 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.

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

A Catholic monsignor in Paris was told about a nun who talked to Jesus every night. Summoning the nun to meet him, the monsignor asked, “The next time you talk with Jesus, ask Him this question: What sins did I commit in Paris before I became a priest?” He instructed the nun to report back after she asked Jesus his question.

Several days later the nun requested an appointment with the monsignor. He asked her, “Did you speak with Jesus again, my child?” She replied, “Yes, Reverend Monsignor.” He then asked, “Did you ask Jesus my question?” The nun said 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 forgiveness that is the answer we should expect to hear. 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


Letting Go (& Letting God)

January 15, 2019

 “… 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 further into a new year many of us can say, “These forty-eleven things I dabble in” as we consider our priorities, whereas spiritual heavyweights like Paul write: “One thing I do.” Deeply spiritual people can write 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 little 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 again yelled, “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 that people have inflicted on us and we cannot forgive them and just let it go.

Do you need to let go and let God so you can unload baggage and move forward with God this year?

Dick Woodward, 11 January 2013