Unconditional and Indestructible Love

February 14, 2017

“Love never fails.” (I Corinthians 13:8)

We all need unconditional love and acceptance. Human love is often based on performance. When we are applying the love languages of Christ, our love is not based on the performance of those we love. That is what makes our love indestructible. The love of Jesus Christ is a tough, indestructible love because it is unconditional.

In wedding ceremonies, many couples make the vow, “…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part.” It is a commitment to unconditional love and acceptance. Tragic divorce data tells us that millions of couples have not found the dynamic to keep these vows. The living Christ, empowering the love Paul prescribes here (in 1 Corinthians 13), is that dynamic.

We can also make the application that these ways of love are often irresistible, because they are inspirational. Peter, ultimately, could not resist the positive reinforcement of Jesus calling him a rock. I personally could not resist when my mentors prayed, imagined, dreamed, hoped and believed in my ultimate potential.

If you ask Christ to make your life a conduit of Paul’s love virtues to those you love – your spouse, children, or those who are difficult to love – you will often make the joyful discovery that ultimately, they will find the love of Christ to be irresistible and inspirational. They will begin to believe what you pray, imagine, dream, hope and believe about and for them.

For twenty-eight years, I have experienced the gradual, but relentless onset of paralysis, which has reduced me to a helpless, bedfast quadriplegic. During that time, I have learned much about the love of Christ from my wife, who is the most selfless, others-centered person I have ever known. In all these years she has never taken a day, weekend or vacation from her care of me. There are very few people in this world who know as well as I what it means to be the recipient of the unconditional and indestructible love of Christ.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love

 


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


Put Love First!!

November 12, 2016

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

After a devastating battle during the first World War, Canadian army surgeon John McCrae composed one of the greatest war poems ever written. In it he gave voice to thousands of soldiers who lay dead, summing up their lives on earth with one line: “Loved and were loved, but now we lie in Flanders Fields.”

When we come to the end of this life, we’ll find that one of our most important priorities will be those we love, and those who love us. But we should not wait until this dimension of life is ending to focus our priorities. The question we should all answer is: “What is our number one priority right now?”

The Apostle Paul composed an inspired poem 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.

Paul’s teaching about spiritual gifts concludes with: “Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I will show you a more excellent way.” (I Corinthians 12:31)  Paul continues with his prescription: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or, “Put love first.” (LB, NEB)

A SUMMARY PARAPHRASE APPLICATION:

If we speak with great eloquence and even in tongues, but 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 prophets, and enough faith to move mountains, unless we love as we do all these things, we are nothing. If we give all our money to feed the poor, and our bodies to be burned at the stake as martyrs, 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


Applying the Love of God

May 26, 2016

“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 (I Corinthians 13) 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 God 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 God’s character through us. The dynamic effect of God’s 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 WWI 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.

Dick Woodward, 12 November 2013


The Christmas That Shall Be (Part II)

December 23, 2015

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  (Psalm 27:13)

The Old Testament people of God lived their lives believing it was possible to ‘see the Good.’  In Psalm 34 King David challenges hopeless fugitives to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good,’ and the Lord is the Good they have been seeking all their lives.

In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us the three lasting, eternal values in life are faith, hope, and love (I Cor. 13:13).  Love is the greatest of these eternal values because God is Love.  Faith is an eternal value because faith brings us to God.  Hope is also one of the three great eternal values because hope brings us to the faith that brings us to God.  In the heart of every human being, God plants hope – the conviction that something good exists in this life and someday that good is going to intersect our lives.  That is what the author of Hebrews means when he tells us that faith gives substance to the things for which we have been hoping. (Hebrews 11:1)

Every year, approximately 30,000 people commit suicide.  Research by sociologists, psychiatrists, and psychologists tells us they commit suicide because they lose hope.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have the Good News that can give hope to the hopeless.  Because we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share it with the people Jesus came to seek and to save.  (Luke 19:10).  We show that we really believe in the Christmas that shall be when we tell hopeless people that God is going to give us another Christmas.

Like the wise men we should ask the question, “Where is He?,” seek Him until we find Him, worship Him, and give the gift of our lives to Him.  Then, like the shepherds, we should tell everybody the very Good News that Christmas has come and Christmas is coming again to this otherwise hopeless world!

Dick Woodward, A Christmas Prescription


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


Hope-filled “Hupomone” Love

May 19, 2015

Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”  (I Corinthians 13:7-8, J.B. Phillips)

We read in the book of Hebrews:  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.”  The inspired author of the great faith chapter means that the object of faith is always unseen, and faith gives substance to our hope that the object of our faith exists.  In other words, faith puts a foundation under our hope.  We hope until faith gives us reason to believe. (Hebrews 11:1)

When faith cannot place a foundation under our hope for the ones we love, all we can do is hope for them.  According to the love hymn of Paul, the one applying the love of Christ will hope for them. Love joyfully awaits for the fulfillment of what it prayerfully desires, imagines, dreams and hopes concerning the potential of the ones we love.

When Paul writes, “Love endures all things,” he means love perseveres while it awaits the fulfillment of what it hopes and believes to see in the lives of the ones being loved.  The Greek word translated as ‘endurance’ is ‘hupomone.”  It is a combination of two Greek words, to ‘abide‘ and ‘under,‘ whatever is required to love someone.

This is especially important when we love a person who is not responding to our loving, positive reinforcement.  This quality of loving perseverance equips believers to love and pray loved ones through their addictions to alcohol, chemical substances, pornography, gambling, eating disorders and the seemingly endless list of compulsive habits.

These ‘chains’ of the evil one can only be broken with supernatural assistance from God, often using, as conduits, those who love with this love that hopes, believes, and endures all things.  By their actions they make this statement to those they love:  “Nothing you do or say can make me stop loving you because I’m loving you with the love of Christ.  The love of Christ is tough love.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love