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


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


Communicating Heart to Heart

November 15, 2016

“We have spoken freely to you Corinthians and opened wide our hearts to you… As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11, 13)

Life so often comes down to relationships, and relationships are all about communication. The Apostle Paul profiled that reality when he wrote these words. He also prescribed a solution. As a summary paraphrase of this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication “flap” on our hearts. As married couples we should be face to face and heart to heart with our communication flaps open. But, the hard reality is that we are often back to back with our communication flaps closed tight. The solution Paul models here is that someone must take the initiative and say, “I am heart to heart with you and my flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

Communication in relationships is a challenge we can face all day long every day in our families, work lives, and our interactions with people. It’s so very important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, to the person with whom they are having a communication conflict: “I am heart to heart with you and my communication flap is open.  Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

You may be totally amazed at how taking this stance can melt down the obstacles between you and a difficult person. Throughout any given day we face relational challenges that can be turned around through good and loving communication. God has to begin with the person who is mature enough to initiate the solution Paul is modeling for us.

Dick Woodward, 14 October 2011


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


Sacred Individuality

September 27, 2016

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father…”  (Luke 16:17-18)

The dictionary defines self as “the uniqueness, the individuality of any given person, which makes them distinct from every other living person.” In all its forms “self” emphasizes the sacred individuality God intended for every human being.

Robert Lewis Stephenson wrote: “Soon or late, every person must sit down to a banquet of consequences.” In the parable of the prodigal son, the banquet of consequences the lost son sat down to was the slop he was feeding hogs in a hog pen owned by a Gentile. That was just about as low as a Jewish boy could sink in this life. (Luke 15:11-24)

In the hog pen the prodigal son made the decisions many people make while they are living in the hog pens of this world.  He decided that he was not a hog.  He may be in a hog pen. He may look, and even smell, like the hogs. He may wish he could eat the slop he was feeding the hogs. But he was not a hog. He was a son and he did not belong in a hog pen. He belonged in his father’s house. He therefore made the deliberate decision to leave the hog pen and return to his father’s house and his father’s love.

Jesus described the decision of the prodigal son this way: “when he came to himself…” He came back to his self when he decided to return to his father’s house and love where he could be in the process of perceiving, believing and becoming the person his father wanted him to be. He came to his self when he decided to reclaim the unique person his father wanted him to be that would make him distinct from every other living person.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Your Self

 


Jonah: Prejudice vs. God’s Love

September 6, 2016

“…for I know that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing… Then the Lord said, “is it right for you to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:2-4)

As a prophet, one of Jonah’s functions was to remove obstacles that were blocking the work of God in the world. Do you see the obstacle in Jonah’s story? Jonah’s prejudice.  As we reflect upon the prejudice of Jonah, we should ask ourselves if we have prejudice in our hearts that is blocking the love God wants to express through us to the hurting people of our world.

The real message of Jonah is that God loves people. God loves all people! The love of God is a bottom line truth you find in the inspired Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.

Can you see why I believe the real message of the Book of Jonah has little to do with whales swallowing people or people swallowing whales? Refuse to get sidetracked. Come to the book of Jonah looking for truth. When you find that truth, you will find at the heart of this book, and in the heart of this prophet, a loving God Who values people and longs to draw all men, women and children to God.

The message of Jonah is that God earnestly desires to express unconditional love and grace through God’s faithful servants.  The people of God, like you and me, are designed to be the vehicles of God’s love, grace and salvation.  When the people of God are prejudiced, the very people God designed to be the vessels, models and channels of God’s salvation become obstacles that block the love and salvation work of God in this world.  If God loves Ninevites, and the people of God hate Ninevites, how can God express God’s love and salvation for all people if God’s own people are hung up on their prejudices?

Did you observe Jonah did not answer God’s last question? To put the best possible spin on this, I would like to think Jonah’s silence this time was because, when Jonah finally saw the truth of God’s love and compassion for even wicked people, he was humbled to silence.  That is how the profound truth of the pure and unconditional love and grace of God, when it comes to you directly from God, can impact your life.  When your mind and spirit experience a personal revelation of the love and grace of God, which are not won by a positive performance or lost by a negative performance from us, you will be humbled into a submissive silence.

Dick Woodward,

from Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet