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)


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