Spiritual Wars

September 15, 2015

“Now the works of the flesh are…but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness and self-control.” (Galatians 5: 19, 22, 23)

One of the most important New Testament passages of Scripture is found in Galatians chapter five where Paul identifies a war that is taking place in the life of every authentic disciple of Jesus Christ: the war between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh is “human nature unaided by God.”  According to Paul our human nature unaided by God is a monster and it produces what Paul labels “the works of the flesh.”

In contrast to a list of qualities that are like an immoral “train wreck” in slow motion, Paul gives us nine qualities that are the fruit and evidence of the reality that the Holy Spirit of God lives in us.

When we look in, Paul writes that we will find that we have a quality of love coming out of our life.  We will also find a quality of joy and a peace we’ve never experienced before.

For a cross section of this love we should consult verses 4-7 of First Corinthians 13.  We find it is a love that doesn’t make good sense because it is completely others-centered.  Our joy is a happiness that doesn’t make good sense and the same could be said of our peace because all three are not related to our circumstances.

There is something to believe and Someone to receive.  It is only when we receive God’s Holy Spirit that we can win the war between the flesh and the Spirit.

Dick Woodward, 19 November 2010


God’s Great Faithfulness & Love

June 2, 2015

“He has filled me with bitterness…my soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3: 15, 16, 22-23)

When Jeremiah gets to his darkest hour, he receives a revelation of hope and salvation. Just like Job, when suffering brought him to the bottom of despair’s pit, he received his Messianic revelation:  “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last upon the earth.  And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God!”  (Job 19:25-26)

In the third chapter of his Lamentations, Jeremiah received the same kind of revelation given to Job.  After World War II, Corrie ten Boom told people all over the world how, in a Nazi concentration camp, God revealed this truth to her:  “There is no pit so deep but what the love of God is deeper still.”  This is the same truth God revealed to Jeremiah.  It’s intriguing to realize Job received his Messianic revelation when he ‘bottomed out” through weeping and suffering. God made Jeremiah know the marvelous truth about His unconditional love that is taught from Genesis to Revelation: God’s love is not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance.

Reading the Lamentations, I am deeply touched and inspired meditating upon God’s miraculous revelation to Jeremiah, that all the horror of the Babylonian conquest and captivity did not mean that God no longer loved the people of Judah… Another awesome possible miracle, however, is that as Jeremiah received his revelation weeping in his grotto on the hill of Golgotha, he could have been sitting on the very spot God was going to pour out His love on the whole world.

Dick Woodward, Mini Bible College Old Testament Handbook, (pp. 500-501)


Sanctified Unselfishness

January 13, 2015

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; loves does not parade itself, is not puffed up.  Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own…”  I Corinthians 13:4-7

I have heard people say, “I don’t get mad, I get even!”  When God’s love is being expressed through us, we don’t get mad or even.  The Greek words for “love suffers long” are often translated patience, but they actually prescribe a merciful, unconditional love – a love that does not avenge itself, even when it has the right and opportunity to do so.

As we examine “love is kind,” we realize this love refuses to play the game of getting even.  The Greek word for kindness means, ‘love is easy – easy to approach, easy to live with, sweet, good and does good things.’  Then we read: “Loves does not envy.”  The Greek words Paul used here prescribe, ‘an unselfish and unconditional commitment to another’s well-being.”  In other words, sanctified unselfishness.

The one who is applying this love is not only concerned about the welfare of the one they love, but they have made a deliberate and unconditional commitment to their happiness.  Their love commitment is not, ‘I love me and I need you,” or, “You love me and so do I.”  They are saying by their love actions, “I am fiercely committed to your well-being and happiness and my love for you is not based on, controlled, or even influenced by the ways you do, or do not, love me.”  Think of how critically this quality of love is needed when a spouse has Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke, accident or an illness that seriously limits them…

The key to the love that behaves properly and is not touchy is that the one loving is not demanding his or her way.  The one who is a conduit of this love is others-centered, not self-centered.

The biggest problem in relationships can be summed up in one word: selfishness.  Therefore, the greatest cure for relational problems can also be summarized in one word: unselfishness. This love virtue of unselfishness is repeated for emphasis, and listed between good manners and being unflappable, because Paul wants to underscore this in our hearts:  “Love does not seek its own (way.)”  It may be the most basic and important of all these expressions of love is that the one who is a conduit of the love of Christ is not seeking his or her own way.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


Grand-daughter Discipleship (via email!)

October 28, 2014

At Dick’s Memorial Celebration his grand-daughter shared a moving tribute. Be blessed and challenged today by Morgan’s words & ‘inbox discipleship.’

“Granddaddy was, and still is, my hero. He was so compassionate… He was always there for me – loving me so well, exactly where I was, providing endless affirmation.  When I was 18 and wrestling with my faith, Granddad was there to disciple me. I may have gone to a ‘missionary school,’ but the true discipleship in my life took place in my e-mail inbox.  I would ask the most difficult theological questions you can imagine and he would take the time to answer them in full.  One of my favorite responses he gave is this:

Precious Granddaughter, do not judge too quickly about the context in which you find yourself.  It is easier to move to a consistent and problem-free extreme than to remain at the center of tension on any biblical issue; but the truth is found at the center.  One of the greatest things you will learn in this adventure out there is that God can use you.  That truth is on a need to know basis.  When we place ourselves between the love of Christ and the pain of hurting people, we discover that He loves to turn us into conduits of His love (I John 4:16.)  When that happens we find out where He is and where we want to be for the rest of our lives.  You know my four spiritual secrets.  We learn them best when we are in over our heads and He is using us to do what only He can do.  The miracle is that He does work through us.  Looking back, standing on the finish line, I see clearly that His plan for me was perfect and wonderful!  What He gave me or did not give me shaped me into the person, the unique person He wanted me to be for His glory, not my own. He is doing the same thing in your life, precious granddaughter.

“…And the Lord is doing that for us all.  Let us all pick up the baton today and follow Granddad’s legacy as we lean in to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – that we may all be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Morgan Perry  (15 March 2014)


Indwelling Love = Outpouring Love

October 14, 2014

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

How does love fit into this trio of lasting qualities Paul writes of? The Apostle John answered that 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 He dwells in us.

By application, this means when we go where the hurting people are, as His love is passing through us and addressing their pain, we are touching God and He is touching us.  Since the agape love passing through us is God, we are dwelling in God and He is dwelling in us while His 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 over 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 He sees them.  If we do, we will never see anyone we cannot love.

Jesus also taught that all the commandments of the Scriptures are fulfilled when we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:35-40) His parable of the Good Samaritan answered the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?’ by stating any hurting person who intersects my life and needs my help is my neighbor.  (Luke 10:29-37)

I was seeking a relationship with God when I first discovered these profound teachings.  As a social worker in a large city, I volunteered to be on night call every night for an entire year.  That year I discovered  it is possible to touch God and be touched by God while being a conduit of His love.

I learned that seeking God is not an either/or, but a both/and proposition.  We are liars if we say we love God, Whom we cannot see, and do not love the people we can see.  Each time I was called out at night to be with hurting people, I asked God to pass His love through me and address their pain.   My experience can be described this way:  “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God but my God eluded me. I met my neighbor and I found all three.” 

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


Love First

August 19, 2014

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love… I am nothing.”  (I Corinthians 13:1-3)

In the middle of the first century, the Apostle Paul composed an inspired poem of love in which he declared that the agape love of God should be the number one priority of spiritual people. He wrote that love is greater than knowledge and more important than faith. His inspired words about love have been, and should be read in every generation of church history.  That includes you and me.

His teaching about spiritual gifts in the previous chapter concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.”  (I Cor 12:31)  Paul begins the next chapter with his prescription for that most excellent way: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or “Put love first.” (LB, NEB)

A SUMMARY PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence or in tongues without love, we’re just a lot of noise.  If we have all knowledge to understand all the Greek mysteries, the gift to speak as a prophet and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all those things, we are nothing.  If we give all our money to feed the poor and our body to be burned at the stake as a martyr, if we give and die without love, it profits us nothing.

Nothing we are, nothing we ever become, nothing we have and nothing we ever will have in the way of natural and spiritual gifts should ever move ahead of love as our first priority. Nothing we do, or ever will do as an expression of our faith, our gifts, our knowledge, or our generous, charitable, unconditionally-surrendered heart is worthy of comparison, or can replace love as we live out our personal priorities in this world.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


God’s Mercy vs. our Failures

July 29, 2014

…& 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 His mercy & unconditional love every day of the year – & He 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.  But 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 the most profound description of the relationship between God & man to a conclusion by declaring the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. By application this is true for all who confess, “the Lord is my Shepherd.”

There are many ways to fail. However, when we understand the meaning of God’s mercy we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail His 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 His love by a positive performance and you do not lose His 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 like a hound of Heaven God is pursuing you with His unconditional love and forgiveness.

Dick Woodward, Happiness that Doesn’t Make Good Sense

 


A Kinsman Redeemer

January 10, 2014

“And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’”  (Deuteronomy 25:10)

One Law of Moses stated that if a man died and had no son his widow could go to one of his relatives and ask him to marry her.  If he refused to marry her she could subpoena him to court.  If he affirmed that he was not willing to marry her, they had a ceremony: before the court she spit in his face and removed his sandal. He was then disgraced and boycotted in business.  The man who obeyed this law, however, was called “a kinsman redeemer.”

This law is the background for one of the most beautiful love stories in all of inspired and secular literature: the book of Ruth.  As a widow Ruth has the right to ask a man named Boaz to marry her.  Although they meet and he shows her he loves her and would love to redeem her, she has to ask him to be her redeemer.

When we understand the ways this story relates to our redemption we will realize that we must personally ask the risen, living Christ to be our Kinsman Redeemer. To redeem Ruth, Boaz pays off all her debts and marries her.  Our Redeemer pays all our sin debt through His death on the cross.  Then, through His resurrection He enters into a relationship with us the New Testament describes as a marriage to Him.

We also read in the New Testament that He is standing at the door of our life showing us, like Boaz, that He loves us and would love to redeem us.  Like Ruth we must have a “romance in reverse” individually proposing to Him, asking Him to be our personal Redeemer.

Have you ever done that?


The Bulls Eye of your Priority Target

November 12, 2013

“Let love be your highest goal…”  (1 Corinthians 14:1)

What are your priorities?  Paul challenges us to let love be our highest priority at the end of his inspired love chapter.  We should follow after love, make love our greatest pursuit, and love should be our highest goal, depending on how the verse is translated in your Bible.

A practical way to make love our greatest goal is to take the 15 virtues in the middle of the love chapter and apply them in our relationships. It will not take long to realize we cannot love in these ways on our own.  These are the ways God loves.  The miracle is He can love in these 15 ways through us!

The love virtues are all others-centered, unselfish ways of showing unconditional love.  They are not natural, but unnatural for us, because they are supernatural.  They are the fruit and evidence that God lives in us and is expressing the essence of His character through us. The dynamic effect of His love upon those we love in these ways will convince us this love is God and deserves to be our highest goal.

I have been loved in these ways and by the grace of God I have loved in these ways.  I am committed to making this love my first priority.  I resonate with Joyce Kilmer who summarized the essence of the lives of the fallen who lie beneath poppies in French military graveyards when he wrote: “Loved and were loved, but now they lie in Flanders Fields.”

Paul prescribed these love virtues believing they could solve the problems in the worst relationships in his worst church.  I believe they can solve the problems in all our relationships if we will graciously apply them, through Christ.


The Greatest Thing in the World

November 8, 2013

“There are three things that last — faith, hope, and love — and the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What is the greatest thing in the world?  The Apostle Paul sifts his answer down to three things:  hope, faith and love.  Hope is the conviction that there can be good in life.  God plants hope in the hearts of human beings. People sometimes commit suicide because they lose that conviction.

On the positive side, hope gives birth to faith, and faith is one of the greatest things because faith brings us to God.  However, when Paul compares these two great concepts with love, without hesitation he concludes that love is the greatest thing in the world.  This is true because love is not something that brings us to something that brings us to God.  When we experience the special love Paul describes we are in the Presence of God.  There is a particular quality of love that is God and God is a particular quality of love.

To acquaint us with that specific quality of love, in the middle of this chapter he passes this quality of love through the “prism” of his Holy Spirit inspired intellect.  It comes out on the other side as a cluster of 15 virtues. All these virtues of love are others-centered, unselfish ways of expressing unconditional love. If you study these virtues you will find in them a cross section of the love that is God–and is the greatest thing in the world.

One reason Paul presents these three concepts as the greatest things is that they are the things that last.  Love is the greatest of the three because one day we will no longer need hope and faith when throughout all eternity we will love.

Therefore, pursue the greatest thing in the world – love.