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


GOD’S GRACE BE WITH YOU!!!

February 18, 2017

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”   (Romans 1:7; 16:24)

The Apostle Paul begins his letter to the believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.”  He then closes his letter with a prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.

Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer. At the close of each letter he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace, because grace is the dynamic of God that saves us. We can define grace if we turn this five-letter word into an acrostic to spell out:

God’s

Riches

At

Christ’s

Expense.

But grace is not only the way God saves us. The grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.

In Romans 5:2, Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, into the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.

Paul begins this letter and closes all his letters the way he does because he knows it is absolutely critical that we access God’s grace to live our lives for Christ in this world.

Since grace is one of our greatest needs, consider meeting and leaving each other with a wish and a prayer for grace.

Dick Woodward, 24 February 2012


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

 


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


Being Jesus in the New Year

December 27, 2016

“… as He is, so are we in this world.”  (1 John 4:17)

Christmas has a twin holiday that slips into many Christmas cards. Millions include a letter – complete with family pictures – that gives an update on how the year has come and gone.

With lingering economic downturns, what security do we have as we begin the new year?

In nine words the aged Apostle of Love gives us a marvelous perspective on security. There are several ways we can interpret and apply these beautiful words. We can say it is only because Jesus is that we can be as we should be in this world. We can say that our security rests in the proposition that Jesus is and He will equip us to be as He wants us to be in this world.

We can say these words mean Jesus lives in us and through us.  For 33 years Jesus had a physical body of His own.  For over 2000 years His followers have been the only body He has. This presents the challenge that the only Christ the people in this world know is the Christ they see revealed in, and through, you and me.

As you meditate on the memorial portraits of Christ in the New Testament presented by those who knew Him, realize these portraits are precisely the way He wants to be revealed to this world through your life and mine today.

The overwhelming personality trait of Jesus Christ is love.

Love is as He was and as He is today.

Our purpose is not to be secure, but to let the love of Jesus pass to others through our lives.

Dick Woodward, 27 December 2011


Christmas Deliverance

December 16, 2016

“… and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

If anyone in the Christmas story had the right to an explanation of what was happening, it surely was Joseph. The angel who shared these words expressed what Christmas is all about when he told Joseph to call Mary’s baby Jesus, because He would save His people from their sins.

The word, Jesus, means “Savior.” But I would like to call your attention to the reality that the baby was to be given this name because He would save His people from their sins.

Many believers seem to put a spin on the angel’s statement that was never intended. Our spin is something like “forgive people for their sins.” However, the hard reality is the angel declared that it was the purpose on the heart of God to save people from their sins.

In the words of the redemption hymn, when God redeems us from our chaos it is also God’s plan to deliver us from our chains. (Psalm 107)  That was obviously on the heart of God when the angel pronounced this Christmas Good News.

Redemption means “to buy back and bring back that which was lost.” Rehabilitation in its Latin root means “to invest again with dignity.”  Jesus came to forgive us for our sins, but He came to offer us much more than that. He wants to save and deliver us from our sins.

This year have a personal Christmas – believe the declaration the angel made to Joseph!

Dick Woodward, 24 December 2009


Joy, Joy, Joy !

December 13, 2016

“I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all people!” (Luke 2:10)

Tim Hansel lived every day with debilitating, excruciating pain. Yet, in his book, You Gotta Keep Dancing, he wrote: “pain and suffering are inevitable, but misery is optional.” That is true for a Spirit controlled disciple of Jesus. Tim also wrote: “I can choose to be joyful.”

Joy is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit the Apostle Paul described in his letter to the Galatians. (Galatians 5: 22, 23)  As evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, joy can be paraphrased “happiness that does not make good sense.” The derivation of the word “happiness” pertains to what happens to us. But this joy, which is the fruit of the Spirit living in us, is not controlled by what happens to us. That is why we say it does not make good sense, especially to secular non-spiritual people. In the very short letter the Apostle Paul wrote from prison to his favorite church, the Philippians, he used the word joy seventeen times!

Appearing to the shepherds, the angels explained why their declaration would bring great joy to all people: “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

Great joy came because the One born is the Savior.  He is the Christ, which is the Greek way of saying the Messiah. And He is to be our Lord. Joy came because Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to those who follow Him. This joy is intended for all people, including you and me.

Are you choosing to be joyful, anyway?

Dick Woodward, 20 December 2013