Mercy, Mercy, Mercy & Unconditional Love

February 6, 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

The reality that God loves us unconditionally is often described in the Bible by one word: mercy. This word is found 366 times in the Bible – that’s one for every day of the year, and it even includes leap year – because God knows we need His mercy every day. 280 of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite is the last verse of the 23rd Psalm where David wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the word “follow” can be translated pursue. This means that David believed the unconditional love of God pursued him all the days of his life.

What a dynamic truth. Our Heavenly Father not only loves us unconditionally, He pursues us with His unconditional love all the days of our lives.

Does that mean God loves us when He is cutting us back or chastening us? Absolutely! The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that if God did not chasten us we would be like illegitimate children and not His sons and daughters. Chastening confirms the reality that God loves us.

When we are experiencing one of those cutbacks, rather than thinking that God does not love us anymore – the opposite may be true.

God is pursuing us with His unconditional love.

Dick Woodward, (06 February 2009)


Relational Two-Way Streets

January 26, 2018

“For if I make you sorrowful then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2Corinthians 2:2)

In this verse the Apostle Paul is telling us that relationships are two-way streets. Whatever we send down each relationship street comes back up that street. (Galatians 1:15-20)

Jesus taught this same truth when He used a marketplace metaphor. In the marketplaces Jesus encountered, if a vendor bought produce from you and you suspected his bushel measurement was inaccurate, you could ask him to go get his bushel measurement to use when you sold your produce to him. Jesus taught in this way that whatever measure we use in giving to people, they will use that same standard in giving back to us. (Matthew 7:1-5)

By application, Paul and Jesus are teaching us that if we make people unhappy in our marriages and families we will find ourselves living with unhappy people made unhappy by us. I knew a wise pastor who did a lot of marriage counseling. He wrote a little poem that had this line in it: “You can’t control the weather or rainy days, but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you.”

If you are surrounded with unhappy people because you make them unhappy, consider how much better it would be if you made those same people happy. Another wise pastor said that with Jesus the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.

The bottom line is do we want to be surrounded by happy or unhappy people? What are we sending down the two-way streets of our relationships?

Dick Woodward, 27 January 2012


Sanctified Unselfish Love

January 16, 2018

“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.

Examining “love is kind,” 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.’ “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 applying this love is not only concerned about the welfare of the one they love, but they have made a deliberate, unconditional commitment to their happiness. They are saying by their love actions, “I am fiercely committed to your well-being 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.

The key to the love that is not touchy is that the one loving is not demanding his or her way. The one who is a conduit of Christ’s love is others-centered, not self-centered.

The biggest problem in relationships can be summed up in one word: selfishness.  The greatest cure for relational problems can also be summarized in one word: unselfishness. This love virtue of unselfishness is listed between good manners and being unflappable, because Paul wants to underscore in our hearts: “Love does not seek its own (way.)”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Love


A New Year Perspective: Love Is!

December 26, 2017

“… as He is, so are we in this world.”  (1 John 4:17)

Christmas has a twin holiday that slips into many of our Christmas cards along with letters – complete with family pictures –that give updates 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 us a marvelous perspective on security. “…as He is, so are we in this world.” We can interpret and apply these beautiful words several ways. 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 He 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 2,000 years His followers have been the only body Jesus 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 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


PUT LOVE FIRST!

November 17, 2017

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 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 read, and should be read, in every generation of church history. That includes you and me.

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.”  (ICor 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.”

A 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 these 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


Forgiveness: 10 Critical Words

September 29, 2017

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  (Matthew 6:12)

In the communication that flows between a husband and wife there are ten critical words that often must be spoken. These ten words have saved marriages and the lack of them has dissolved marriages.

The ten words are: “I was wrong.  I am sorry.  Will you forgive me?” And they critically 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 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 the Disciple’s Prayer instructs us to forgive as we have been forgiven or we invalidate our own forgiveness. (Matthew 6:8-15) According to most translations of the Disciple’s Prayer, we are actually asking our Lord to forgive us as we have already forgiven those who have sinned against us.

Can you say these ten critical words?

“I was wrong. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?”

Dick Woodward, 25 September 2012

Editor’s Note: Singletons out there are not off the hook, as this teaching can also be applied to family and friendships – maintaining healthy relationships all around vs. being alone in ‘perfect’ aloneness.


Reaching Out with the Love of Jesus

July 7, 2017

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  (1John 4:11)

The Apostle John points to Jesus dying on the cross and writes: “This is love… that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10) John follows that with the words quoted above: that if God SO loved us we ought also to love one another.

Hours before Jesus was arrested and crucified, He challenged the men He had been apprenticing three years 24/7 to love one another as He loved them. He then prophesied that by this the whole world would know they were His disciples. Peter wrote that by Christ’s death on the cross He gave us an example and a calling that we should follow in His steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

The Apostle John is in alignment with Jesus and Peter when he gives us another reason we are to love one another. In principle Jesus was instructing the apostles that the best way to reach out is to reach in. Essentially, Jesus was saying that we have a message of love to communicate to the world. The best way to do that is to love one another and show the world a community of love.

If our churches were the colonies of love Jesus desires them to be, the love-starved people of this world would be beating our doors down to be part of our spiritual communities. The love John is profiling is the greatest evangelistic tool our Lord has given His Church.

Are you willing to reach in that you might reach out for God’s glory?

Dick Woodward, 20 July 2010