LOVE: OUR FIRST PRIORITY

February 12, 2019

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

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.

Paul’s 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 Corinthians 12:31)  Paul begins his great love chapter with his prescription for that most excellent way: “Let love be your greatest aim,” or “Put love first.”

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


Enduring Love: Sanctified Unselfishness

January 29, 2019

“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)

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. The Greek word for kindness means love is easy – easy to approach, easy to live with, sweet, good and does good things.

Love 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.

Those applying this love are 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; 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 illness.

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 in our hearts that as conduits of the love of Christ:

Love does not seek its own (way.)” 

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


A New Perspective (for a New Year)

December 26, 2018

“… 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 of us include in our Christmas cards a letter – complete with family pictures – that gives an update on how our year has come and gone.

What security do we have as we begin a new year?

In nine words the aged Apostle of Love gives a marvelous perspective on security: “…as He is, so are we in this world.”

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 He 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 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 the New Testament presents to us 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


Redeemed Out of Chaos

December 14, 2018

 “They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.” (Psalm 107:4-6)

This excerpt from the first stanza of Psalm 107’s great hymn of redemption describes how God redeemed His people when they were wanderers in a wilderness. Their way was desolate. They were hungry and thirsty to the point that their souls fainted in them. Then they cried to the LORD and He delivered them from their distresses.

Deliverance is a synonym for salvation, and salvation is a synonym for redemption. This first stanza of Psalm 107 describes how God redeems the Israelites from their CHAOS.

In the Gospel of Matthew we read several times when Jesus saw the multitudes He wept for them because they were like lost sheep that had no shepherd. They did not know their right hand from their left. In the Gospel of Luke the entire fifteenth chapter is called “The Parable of the Lost Things” because it describes the loving heart of Jesus for those who are lost. A key verse of Luke tells us that Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost. (Luke 19:10)

From Genesis to Revelation we are told of the great loving heart of God for those who need to be redeemed from being lost. After eloquently describing this first level of redemption, the theme of this psalm is repeated: that those who have been redeemed from their chaos should step up and thank the Lord.

Can you resonate with this first level God’s redemption, and then step up and say so?

Dick Woodward, 14 December 2009


Seeking Jesus: Where is He?

December 11, 2018

“… Wise men came saying, “Where is he?” (Matthew 2:1-2)

Many Christmas cards tell us that wise men still seek Him. Wise men (& women) still find Him. Wise men (& women) still worship Him and give gifts to Him. We can add this observation: wise men (& women) still ask the question, “Where is He?”

If we want to know where Jesus is today we should look where Love is. Paul writes that Jesus is a specific quality of love. (1Corinthians 13:4-7) If we 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,” meaning literally “in flesh.” (John 1:14) The Bible tells us that incarnation also means relocation. God wants to express the quality of love God is where people are hurting.  If we intentionally place ourselves where people are hurting, as we become conduits of Christ’s love that addresses their pain we will discover where Jesus is.

We must also look where the Light is. We can place ourselves where there’s spiritual darkness and ask God to pass Christ’s light through us to address the darkness.

And we should look where the Life is. The Apostle John writes that God has given us a quality of life John 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.

As conduits of Jesus when we go (and are) where the hurting are, there is darkness, and the quality of life is lacking – we discover by experience where He is.

Dick Woodward, 13 December 2011


Having (& sharing) Hope @ the Holidays

December 7, 2018

“And now abides faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13)

Do you know, or can you remember what it’s like to live your life, day in and day out, without hope? In the great love chapter of the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us three lasting eternal values in life are faith, hope and love. Love is the greatest of these values because God is love. Faith is an eternal value because faith brings us to God.  Hope is also one of the three great 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 will 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)

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must realize that we have Good News that can give hope to the hopeless. We must not let unbelief silence us. If we never share the Good News of the Christmas that was and the Christmas that shall be, we should ask ourselves, “do we really believe the Gospel of Christmas?”

Because if we really believe in the Christmas that was, we should share that Good News with the people Jesus told us He came to seek and to save. (Luke 19:10) We show that we 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, then worship Him and give the gift of our lives to Him. Then, like those shepherds, we should tell everybody the Good News that Christmas has come – and Christmas is coming again to our world.

Dick Woodward, from A Christmas Prescription


Improve Your Serve (for the Kingdom!)

November 30, 2018

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant…”  (Matthew 20:25-26)

The incident recorded in Matthew 20 (verses 20-28) precipitated by Mrs. Zebedee and her two sons, James and John, sets the stage for one the great teachings of Jesus Christ. We can assume these two ‘sons of thunder’ (the nickname the Lord game them), who were partners with Simon Peter in the ‘Zebedee Seafood Corporation,’ were obviously the instigators of their mother’s request that they be seated on the right and left of their Lord when He was crowned King. 

When the other apostles griped about this, Jesus called them together. In so many words, He told them the world plays the game of “over-under.” This is a world of credentials and status symbols that often say, “I am better than you” or “I am over and above you.”

Acknowledging that the secular world is like that, Jesus tells them not to play the world’s games. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “This is not to happen among you. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, you should join the ‘Order of the Towel’ – get a towel and basin, assume the position of a slave, and start washing feet.”  He uses Himself as an example when He says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  (Matthew 20:28) 

Remember how Jesus spent His last hours before He went to the cross, literally washing the feet of His disciples. There is no place in the church and body of Christ for the “over-under” philosophy of this world.

If you want to be great in the fellowship of Christ, you must improve your serve!

Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook, p.86