October 13, 2018
“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 to the church in Corinth. 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. 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 face every day in our families, work lives, and interactions with people. It’s so 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 amazed at how taking this stance can melt obstacles between you and a difficult person. Throughout any given day we face relational challenges that can be turned around through constructive and loving communication.
Are you mature enough to let God use you to initiate the solution Paul modeled for us by opening up your heart?
Dick Woodward, 14 October 2011
October 9, 2018
“…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 prejudice in our hearts is blocking the love God wants to express through us to hurting people in 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 we 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? Refuse to get sidetracked. When you come to the book of Jonah looking for truth, you will find at the heart of this book 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 people are hung up on their prejudices?
Dick Woodward, from Jonah Coming & Going: True Confessions of a Prophet
September 25, 2018
“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
In all the communication that flows between a husband and wife (and in close relationships we have with others), there are ten critical words that often must be spoken. These ten words have saved marriages and the lack of them has dissolved marriages into divorce.
These ten words are: “I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”
These words need this ten-word response: “You were wrong. I was hurt. But I forgive you.”
Some people will never say the words: “I was wrong.” They will never say: “I am sorry.” And they certainly would never ask for forgiveness. They would rather live alone for the rest of their lives than say these ten critical words. It may be their pride that prevents them, or perhaps they are driven by the myth of their own perfection. But these words can make the difference between marriage and living alone.
It is hard to imagine an unforgiving authentic disciple of Jesus Christ when He instructs us in the Disciple’s Prayer to forgive as we have been forgiven – or we invalidate our own forgiveness. (Matthew 6: 8-15) According to the translation from which I have quoted, the prayer actually asks our Lord to forgive us as we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us.
“Forgive, as we have been forgiven…”
Dick Woodward, 25 September 2012
September 21, 2018
“… for he who would come to God must believe that He is…” (Hebrews 11:6)
Do you know God? I do not mean do you know a lot about God, but do you know God? Do you want to know God? In the fragment of the verse quoted above we find a prescription that can help us know God.
The prescription is that we must believe that God is, and we must believe that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. My passion to know God led me to confess: “I believe that God is.”
But what is God and where is God?
A helpful answer came through a verse in the first letter of John where he wrote: “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:16) After studying the quality of love God is, this belief prescription led me to ask another question: “If God is this quality of love, where is God likely to be doing His love thing?”
At that time I was a social worker (in Norfolk, VA.) Responding to a call in the middle of the night, I prayed something like this: “God, I have an idea that You are love where people are hurting. That’s where I’m going, so when I get there please pass this love You are through me to address their pain.”
As the love of God passed through me to them I touched God and God touched me. That night I found out where God is and where I wanted to be for the rest of my life.
If you want to know God, place yourself as a conduit between God’s love and the pain of hurting people.
Dick Woodward, 22 September 2011
August 28, 2018
“Surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)
Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This beautiful word is found 366 times in the Bible. (Perhaps God wants us to know we need His unconditional love, every day of the year – and even Leap Year!) Many people think we don’t hear about the mercy of God in the Bible until we get to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. However, 280 of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.
My favorite Old Testament reference to the mercy of God is found in the last verse of Psalm 23. David ends one of his greatest psalms with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him all the days of his life. The Hebrew word he uses here for “follow” is a word that can also be translated “pursue.” David brings his profound and eloquent description of the relationship between God and man to a conclusion by making the declaration that the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. By application, this is true for any of us who confess our sins.
There are so many ways to fail. When we understand the meaning of the mercy of God, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. As I place my failures on a scale, I like to place all the times the Bible uses the word mercy on the scale opposite my failures. I invite you to do the same thing no matter how bad you think your failures and sins are.
Dick Woodward, 28 August 2012
August 3, 2018
“… Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)
This has been called the ninth beatitude of Jesus. When Jesus began His greatest discourse with a check-up from the neck-up, He shared eight beautiful attitudes that will make us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This ninth beatitude can transform and revolutionize our relationships.
If you are in a relationship, like a marriage, for what you can get from that other person, Jesus has a challenge for you. For one week, instead of thinking of what you are going to get from the person, ask yourself continuously what you can give to that person. After giving this assignment to many married couples I have seen this challenge revolutionize their marriages.
You see, if you are in a marriage for what you can get from each other, neither of you is receiving anything because neither of you is giving anything. The relationship is a sterile empty vacuum. But this one attitude can completely transform your marriage (and any relationship) if one or both of the people in that relationship will dare to accept this challenge from Jesus.
There is no place in the Gospels where Jesus speaks these exact words. However, in addition to having this quotation in the book of Acts, the spirit of this beatitude characterizes the relationships of Jesus we read about all through the first four books of the New Testament.
I exhort you to accept this challenge of Jesus for one week! If you do, you will also prove in experience that there is in fact more happiness (which is what the word blessed means) in giving than in getting.
Dick Woodward, 03 August 2009
July 10, 2018
“If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20)
Tradition tells us that the Apostle John escaped from the Isle of Patmos by swimming out to a ship that was bound for the city of Ephesus where he lived to a very old age and was buried. With white hair and a long white beard he was so feeble they had to carry him to the meetings. While at the meetings he would bless those who attended and would cry:
“Little children, love one another, little children, love one another!”
As we see in chapter four of First John, John gives us ten reasons why we must love one another. One reason is that God is love and if we plug into the love God is we make contact with God. As we become a conduit of God’s love, God makes contact with us. John gives us a second reason that if we say we love God and we hate our brother, we are liars.
Because if we do not love the brother we can see how can we love God Whom we cannot see?
His point is that it’s not easy to love God, because we cannot hug a Spirit. There is an inseparable vertical and horizontal dimension of this love that God is.
These two dimensions form a cross.
We cannot say we love God if we do not love one another.
Dick Woodward, 09 July 2010