February 13, 2015
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…” (1John 4:11)
The Apostle John points to Jesus dying on the cross and writes: “This is love… that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10). He follows that with the words quoted above – that if God SO loved us we ought also to love one another.
Hours before He was arrested and crucified, Jesus challenged the men He apprenticed 24/7 for three years to love one another as He had loved them. He then prophesied that by this the whole world would know they were His disciples. Peter wrote that by His death on the cross He gave us an example and a calling that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21).
The Apostle John is in alignment with Jesus and Peter when he gives us yet another reason we are to love one another. In principle Jesus was instructing the apostles that the best way to reach out is to reach in. Essentially, Jesus was saying that we have a message of love to communicate to the world. The best way to do that is to love one another and show the world a community of love.
If our churches were the colonies of love Jesus desires them to be, the love-starved people of this world would beat our doors down to be part of our spiritual communities because everyone has a need to be loved and to belong. The love John is profiling is the greatest evangelistic tool our Lord has given to His Church.
Are you willing to reach in that you might reach out for His glory?
Dick Woodward, 20 July 2010
November 1, 2013
“… fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love… being of one accord of one mind. In lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out… for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 2-4)
As Paul writes to his favorite church he is burdened that they experience oneness. He wants them to be “like minded…of one accord” and “of one mind.” To that end he gives them two keys to oneness.
One key is humility, what Paul calls “lowliness of mind.” He instructs and challenges the Philippians to esteem others better than themselves. C. S. Lewis told us that pride is the mother of all sins. As a pastor I learned that when there is a dispute among two disciples you will often find somebody’s pride at the bottom of it. Humility is an antidote that resolves disputes and restores oneness.
The other critical key is love. When Paul writes of “the same love,” I believe he means the love of Christ in us. At least one application of that love is when we “look out for the interests of others.” We might call this love “other centeredness.” We must realize and remember that this love is the fruit and evidence of the Holy Spirit living in us. It is not natural. It is supernatural. We can’t do it. Only He can.
So, Paul’s keys for being like minded are humility and love. By application you will find his keys bringing oneness to your marriage, family, church, ministry and any relationship.
Our greatest challenges are relationships. I challenge you to insert these keys into your most challenging relationships and watch God bring oneness.
September 24, 2013
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men… ” (Romans 1:18)
‘The wrath of God’ is the most unpopular phrase in the Bible. The best definition of this concept I’ve ever heard is: “The wrath of God is the annihilating reaction of a loving God toward that which is destroying His love objects.” Sin and unrighteousness destroys God’s love objects. God therefore hates sin because sin will destroy us.
If you are into history you know that many nations have tried to destroy the Jews. Modern nations like Nazi Germany applied a horrible genocide holocaust against the Jewish people. Nazi Germany was destroyed. I’m proud to be a citizen in a country that was one of many which were the vehicle of the wrath of God that destroyed Nazi Germany.
Throughout history nations that tried to destroy the love objects of God were themselves destroyed and the Jewish people are still here with us. Some ask if it is not inconsistent with the love of God for Him to express His wrath.
As a social worker one night I saw a loving father express great wrath toward a man who had raped and murdered his seven year old daughter. When that perverted rapist was brought into the police station it took every policeman in the station to hold that loving father down and keep him from trying to destroy the man who had destroyed his love object. You see, great love gives us the capacity for great wrath.
The original language tells us that God is love but He can cross over from love and express His wrath until He has completely destroyed what is destroying His love objects.
September 14, 2013
“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 was that 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” and he wrote that the letter of the law kills but the spirit of the law gives life.
When I first discovered this in my private study of the Gospels a counseling appointment that same day was with a woman who had great respect for 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 totally and 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 often that we should follow the example of Jesus and not of 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.
March 24, 2013
“I would have despaired, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27:13)
The Apostle Paul concludes his great love chapter by profiling three eternal values: faith, hope and love. We know that love is an eternal value because God is love. We can also understand why faith is one of the three eternal values because faith brings us to God. But why is hope one of the three great eternal values?
God plants hope, or the conviction that something good exists in this world, in the heart of every human being. When you get into the lives of many people and understand their battles and challenges you cannot help but wonder how they could believe there is something good in this life.
When I was in college my dormitory was located at the end of Hope Street in Los Angeles adjacent to the Los Angeles Public Library. The same day I learned in a course that more than 25,000 people committed suicide in 1952 because they lost hope, a man committed suicide by jumping from the top of my dormitory.
The newspaper reporter who recorded the story was more eloquent than he knew when he wrote: “An unidentified man jumped to his death today from a tall building at the end of Hope Street.”
David knew that he would despair if he ever lost that conviction God put in his heart the Bible labels hope. Hope is an eternal value because it is meant to lead us to faith, and faith is to lead us to God.
Let your hope bring you to faith and your faith to God. And remember that people around you are despairing without that hope you have.
February 23, 2013
“Let the one who is wise consider these things and see in them the loving kindness of the Lord.” (Psalm 107:43).
Psalm 107 is a great hymn of redemption. In each of the five stanzas this inspired hymn writer profiles a different dimension of redemption the people of God experience. Each description ends with the hymn writer exhorting the redeemed of the Lord to thank the Lord for His goodness to them and His wonderful works in their lives. He demands that if they are redeemed, the people of the Lord should step up and say so!
An extraordinary ministry to high school young people brings their year to a conclusion with a wonderful week of camp meetings in the summer. They bring that week to a verdict with what they call a “say so” meeting when they encourage young people who have come to faith to step up and say so!
In each of the five stanzas in Psalm 107 the hymn writer profiles how the Lord has redeemed His people from their chaos, their chains, their foolish choices, their crises, and their complacency. Then he writes a profound summary of the various vehicles God uses to make these things happen:
He turns rivers into deserts and deserts into flowing springs. They have very fruitful harvests. Then He diminishes them and they are brought low. At that point He blesses them. Their numbers greatly increase and God does not let their herds diminish.
He writes that spiritually wise people will observe these events and see in them what the love of God sometimes looks like.
When these “ups and downs” happen to you, are you spiritually wise enough to see in them what the love of God can sometimes look like for you?
November 6, 2012
“And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in meekness correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (2Timothy2:24-26)
We might label these words Paul wrote to Timothy: “How to relate to a difficult person.” We all need this teaching because we must all deal with difficult people.
According to Paul the difficult person to whom we are relating has been taken captive by the evil one and we cannot free them. We can maintain three fruits of the Spirit (gentleness, meekness and patience), which keeps the door open for God. We then earn our hearing and place before them the Word of truth they need to hear. We must not quarrel because that opens the door for the evil one and closes the door for God.
When they acknowledge the truth of God’s Word they experience repentance, and escape from the captivity of the evil one. This is not a matter of teaching or preaching. It is not having the last word or winning the argument. This is becoming a conduit through which almighty God sets people free who were not free.
To repent means to think again or to have a change of mind, heart, will and direction. It is a work of God you cannot perform. Only God can use His Word and you His servant to make this happen. In an attitude of prayer and in dependence upon God and His Spirit are you willing to be a conduit of this miracle?
December 13, 2011
“… Wise men came saying, “Where is he?” (Matthew 2: 1, 2)
The Christmas cards tell us that wise men still seek Him. Wise men still find Him. Wise men still worship Him and give gifts to Him. We can add this observation: wise men still ask the question, “Where is He?”
If we want to know where He is today we should look where the Love is. Paul writes that He is a specific quality of love (1Corinthians 13: 4-7). If we will tap into that quality of love we will find ourselves connecting with God and discover that God is connecting with us (1 John 4: 16).
The great Christmas word is “incarnation” (“in flesh” John 1:14). The Bible tells us that incarnation also means relocation. God wants to express the quality of love He is where people are hurting. If we will intentionally place ourselves where people are hurting, as we become conduits of His love that address their pain we will discover where He is and where we want to be for the rest of our life.
We must also look where the Light is. We can deliberately place ourselves where the spiritual darkness is and ask God to pass His light through us and address their darkness.
And we should look where the Life is. The Apostle John writes that God has given us a quality of life he labels “eternal life” (1John 5: 11, 12). We can experience this quality of life ourselves and we can become conduits of that Life for others.
We can go or God may place us where the hurting, the darkness and the low quality of life are. Then we can be conduits of God. That’s when we discover by experience where He is.