Psalm 23: Love Everlasting

June 5, 2018

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

What is the basis of the unquenchable faith of King David? What gives him the assurance that all the blessings he has described (in Psalm 23) will be experienced all the days of his life and forever?

The word Selah, found frequently in the psalms of David, can be interpreted: “Pause and calmly think about that.” If we pause and calmly think about it, we realize that all through Psalm 23 David presents his Shepherd as the great Initiator of their relationship.

It is the Shepherd Who gets David’s attention and makes him lie down saying, “baa,” confessing that he is a sheep and the Lord is his Shepherd. It is his Shepherd Who makes David lie down where there are green pastures and leads him beside still waters. It is David’s Shepherd Who uses His staff when David strays from Him, and drives him into the paths of righteousness that restore his soul.

It is God, the Good Shepherd, Who initiates these interventions in David’s life.

As David walks through the valley of the shadow of death, his confidence is not in his own extraordinary ability as a warrior to see himself through that valley. His confidence is clearly in his Shepherd. As David walks through this dark and scary valley, he is looking to God for protection and provision. He knows his Shepherd will personally anoint him with oil and keep that cup running over within him.

The source of David’s confident faith is clearly seen in the way he ends his psalm:

“Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.”

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


A Prescription for Depression

June 1, 2018

“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart…” (1John 3:20)

In the Bible heart often refers to our emotions. The Apostle John is using heart in that sense in I John 3:20. What he is essentially writing is that if the way we feel condemns us, God is greater than the way we feel.

Before John writes these words, he challenged his readers to love in actions and not merely in words. He follows his insight that God is greater than the way we feel with the prescription that we should keep the two great commandments of Jesus: to love God and to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22: 35-40)  Jesus claimed these two commandments would fulfill all the commandments in the Bible.

We are to love when we look up, when we look around, and when we look in. Jesus teaches that we are to love God completely, love others unconditionally, and love ourselves correctly.  Loving ourselves does not mean when we pass a mirror we should stop and have our devotions.  Jesus taught we should say the same thing about ourselves that God says about us – that God loves us.

The prescription for depression the Apostle of Love gives devout disciples is that when our heart condemns us, we should realize that our faith is not to be based on something as fickle as our feelings.

Our faith is based on the reality that we believe and apply the commandment to love.

The last thing we should do when our heart condemns us is isolate ourselves into a pity party. We need to get with people and love them.

Dick Woodward, 13 June 2011


Spiritual Fitness

May 29, 2018

“Exercise yourself toward godliness.  For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”  (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Timothy was probably interested in physical fitness. If he lived in our culture he would be the type to join a gym and work out regularly. Paul agreed with Timothy that physical fitness was profitable, but he declared that godly fitness was more profitable. Paul reasoned that physical fitness improves the quality of our lives here and now, but godly fitness improves the quality of our eternal lives.

I am intrigued with this question: what is godly exercise? 

The word “godly” means “like God.”  What is God-like?  We are told in the Word that God is Spirit. (John 4:24)  To exercise ourselves toward godliness therefore means to submit to disciplines in the spiritual dimension that grow us spiritually.

We also read in the Scripture that God is love.  To exercise toward godliness means to commit ourselves to the love that is God.  At the heart of the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13), Paul passes the love of God through the prism of Holy Spirit inspiration and it comes out on the other side a cluster of 15 virtues. Godly exercise means intentionally pursuing what the 15 virtues are and what they look like when you apply them in all your relationships.

God is light.  Exercise yourself in this dimension of God-likeness by filling your mind, heart, and life with the truth (light) you find in God’s Word. Walking in that Light will profit you in this life and in the life to come.

Do you have a routine for spiritual fitness?

Dick Woodward, 18 October 2013


The Powerful Priority of Love

May 22, 2018

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. 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 our lives, we’ll find one of our most important priorities will be those we love, and those who love us. But we should not wait to focus our priorities. The Apostle Paul declared the agape love of God to be the number one priority of spiritual people: “…and the greatest of these is love.”

A 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


God’s Relentless Mercy

April 24, 2018

…and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...”  (Psalm 23:6)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This word is found 366 times in the Bible. Perhaps God wants us to know we need mercy and unconditional love every day of the year – and leap year! Many people think we don’t hear about God’s mercy until the Sermon on the Mount; however, we find 280 mercy references in the Old Testament.

King David concludes Psalm 100 with the observation that God’s mercy is everlasting. My favorite Old Testament reference to God’s mercy is found at the end of Psalm 23. David’s greatest Psalm ends with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him always.

The Hebrew word he uses for ‘follow’ can also be translated as ‘pursue.’ David brings his profound description of the relationship between God and man to a conclusion by declaring the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. By application this is true for all who confess “the Lord is my Shepherd.”

There are many ways to fail. When we understand the meaning of God’s mercy we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. No matter what our failures have been, God has sent us a message wrapped in this five letter word mercy.

The amazing message is that we did not win God’s love by a positive performance and we do not lose God’s love by a negative performance. God’s love and acceptance of each one of us is unconditional. According to David, the mercy of God is there like a rock for us as God relentlessly pursues us with unconditional love and forgiveness.

Dick Woodward, from Happiness that Doesn’t Make Good Sense


Being the Merciful Love of Jesus

April 13, 2018

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:7-8)

Jesus begins His greatest discourse of the Beattitudes with a “check up from the neck up.” He teaches eight attitudes that can make disciples salt, light and His solution to what is wrong in this crazy world. These eight attitudes come in four pairs, the third of which is to be merciful with a pure heart.

One scholar writes that these blessed attitudes are like climbing a mountain. The first pair takes us halfway up the mountain, the second pair takes us to the top of the mountain, while the third pair takes us half way down the other side.

With profound simplicity Jesus is basically asking: “When disciples are filled with righteousness that takes them to the top of the mountain, what kind of people are they?  Are they Bible experts who throw the book at others?”

No!  They are filled with mercy (which is unconditional love) and while they love in this way they are pure in heart.

To be pure in heart is only understood when we research the Greek word that is used here for pure – the word from which we get ‘to be catheterized.’  It means that as disciples are merciful we have a catharsis through which everything that is not the unconditional love of Christ is removed from our hearts.

If you want to be one of the solutions of Jesus in this world, hunger and thirst for what is right and you will find that love is right and right is love.

Be a conduit of that love – the love of Jesus – and become His salt and light.

Dick Woodward, 13 April 2010


Loving Others

March 20, 2018

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:4-7)

I challenge you to meditate on these fifteen applications of love every day for a month.  Summarize each one in one or two words on a card you can place on your mirror, in your purse, wallet, or on the sun-visor of your car. Fervently ask God to empower you to be a conduit of His love with this cluster of virtues by Christ, in Christ and for Christ.

Think of one specific person and ask God to love that person in these ways through you. If you are married, begin loving your spouse in these ways. If you have children, apply this love to them. If you are not married, pray for the power to apply this love to your parents, siblings, and those with whom you live and work.

By the grace of God, I have seen this love of Christ change lives. Ask God to give you power to apply this love to the most difficult relationships you have, like your enemies. They will be your best opportunity to prove this love is not coming from you, but from Christ.

Pray that Christ will pass His love through you to address the pain and quiet desperation of the hurting people in your life. As He does, you will affirm where the risen Christ is today, and where you want to be for the rest of your life.

Dick Woodward, (from A Prescription For Love)