A New Commandment: Love One Another!!

April 16, 2016

“Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.”   (John 13:1)

Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His apostles.  Luke writes that on the way to the upper room where they were to celebrate the Passover the apostles argued about which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom Jesus promised.  What a shock it must have been when Jesus assumed the attire of a slave and washed their feet!

Having washed their feet Jesus asked this question: “Do you know what I have done to you?”  The most dynamic characteristic of the personality of Jesus is love.  He had loved these men for three years in ways they had never been loved before in their entire lives.

He also answered His question by telling them that He had given them an example.  If He as their Lord and Teacher had washed their feet, they should wash each others’ feet. Then He made the connection between feet washing and love by giving them the New Commandment. They were to love one another in the same ways He had loved them. This is the absolute credential that they were His disciples.

A New Commandment directed them to a New Commitment.  Each of them had made a commitment to Jesus but now they were to make a commitment to each other.  This new commitment established a New Community.  We call it the church.  The secular people said of the early church, “Behold how they love one another!”  If they made that charge today about your church or mine would there be enough evidence to convict us?

Oh Lord make it so!

Dick Woodward, 05 April 2012


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


Enduring Grace

September 12, 2014

“…we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand..” (Romans 5:2)

Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, to a quality of grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ in this world, and live lives that glorify God. Then he writes that we should rejoice in our suffering, because God sometimes uses our suffering to force us to access that grace.

How must God feel when He sees us struggling in our own strength to live as we should, knowing He has provided us with a way to access all the grace we need? We are to rejoice when God uses suffering to make us an offer we cannot refuse that drives us into His grace.

There are levels and degrees of suffering we simply cannot endure without the grace of God. When our suffering drives us beyond the limits of any human resources we have within ourselves, these times of severe testing become God’s opportunity to provide and prove His grace to us.  A devout hymn writer expressed that truth this way:

“When we come to the end of our store of endurance.
When our strength has failed and the day is half done.
When we have exhausted our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving has only begun.

“His love has no limit. His grace has no measure.
His power has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite wisdom and mercy
He gives and He gives and He gives yet again.”

According to Paul, it is the love of God that sometimes uses our suffering to force us to access the grace he prescribed in Romans 5:2 and in the great verse about grace in 2 Corinthians 9:8.

Are you willing to let the problems you cannot solve and suffering you cannot endure drive you to access the amazing grace of God today?

Dick Woodward, 23 October 2009

Editor’s Note:  If you would like to learn more about the hymn, “He Giveth More Grace,” by Annie Johnson Flint, click here to read her inspiring story.


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


Keys to Oneness

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.


A Prescription for Depression

February 8, 2013

“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.”   (1 John 3: 20)

The apostle of love gives spiritual people a beautiful definition of depression.  In the Bible the heart is related to our emotions and feelings.  When we feel condemned John tells us some very good news: God is greater than our feelings.  Our faith is not based on something as fickle as how we feel. He goes on in this passage to tell us that our faith is based on the fact that we keep our Lord’s commandment that we should love one another.

Throughout the history of the Church of Jesus Christ devout people have struggled with bouts of depression.  Some extraordinary spiritual leaders have battled depression. This battle frequently takes place in isolation because it is thought to be inconsistent with faith.  People of faith are ashamed of their depression.

While medical professionals are often pharmacologists who medicate depression rather than determine its cause, the Apostle John gives some devotional and practical counsel to a depressed believer.  As a busy pastor when I had feelings that condemned me I went on a people binge.  I often found that when I became a conduit of the love of Christ for others I affirmed this wise counsel of John.

The Holy Spirit lives in believing people.  Although your depression wants you to isolate yourself, when you love other believers the Spirit passes back and forth between you with a healing effect on both of you.  That’s why James prescribed that we confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed (James 5:16).

John is prescribing something very similar when he tells us to treat our depression with loving one another.


Appreciation

February 29, 2012

“God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.”  (Hebrews 6:10)

All of us have or we will experience not being appreciated.  It’s challenging to labor long and hard helping people without a word or gesture of appreciation.  The author above gives us a beautiful word that we can share with unappreciated servants of the Lord.  That word is simply that we can know we are always appreciated.

Our Lord instructed us that we are to work our righteous acts in secret.  We are to give in such a way that one hand does not know what the other hand is giving.  We are to pray and fast in a closet or in private knowing that our Father in heaven sees and knows everything we pray and do (Matthew 6).

In the same spirit through Moses God said “Walk before Me!” (Genesis 17:1) It can bring spiritually profitable perspective into our daily walk if we will hold on to the perspective that everything we do is done before and as unto our God.  The author quoted above is reminding us we are always appreciated when we look up and walk before our God.

When I was in my early twenties and beginning my ministry I met a lovely elderly couple who had spent 48 years in China.  As I visited them in charity housing, in so far as I could tell they had been shown no appreciation whatsoever for their wonderful work in China.  When I asked them how they could bear that their answer was: “You have to know Who you’re doing it for.”

Walk before God as you do your work – and when you need some appreciation.