August 14, 2020
“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father…” (Luke 16:17-18)
The dictionary defines self as “the uniqueness, the individuality of any given person, which makes them distinct from every other living person.” In all its forms “self” emphasizes the sacred individuality God intended for every human being.
Robert Lewis Stephenson wrote: “Soon or late, every person must sit down to a banquet of consequences.” In the parable of the prodigal son, the banquet of consequences the son sat down to was the slop he was feeding hogs in a hog pen. That was just about as low as a Jewish boy could sink in this life. (Luke 15:11-24)
In the hog pen the prodigal son made the decision many people make while they are living in the hog pens of this world. He decided that he was not a hog. He might look, and even smell, like the hogs. He might wish he could eat the slop he was feeding the hogs. But he was not a hog.
He was a son and he did not belong there, he belonged in his father’s house. He therefore made the deliberate decision to leave the hog pen and return to his father’s house and his father’s love.
Jesus described the decision of the prodigal son this way: “when he came to himself…” He came back to his self when he decided to return to his father’s love where he could be in the process of perceiving, believing and becoming the unique person his father wanted him to be.
Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Your Self
#hope #love #grace #mercy #Jesus #inspiration
June 19, 2020
“Thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He is our Father and the source of all mercy and comfort. For He gives us comfort in our trials…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
Suffering can drive us to God in such a way that we make this discovery: God is here and God can comfort us.
When you undergo a life-threatening surgery and you, completely alone, are being placed under the bright lights, remember that God is the ultimate source of the greatest comfort you can experience in this lifetime.
As a pastor I have frequently heard believers say that God met them in a supernatural and intimate way while they were going through a medical crisis.
Many of us have known people we loved very much who are depressed and oppressed. They are nearly always alone and their pain is so intensely private they do not want any of the caring people in their lives to be with them.
Others believe their suffering is so personal they must place themselves in self-imposed solitary confinement. If that happens to you, I challenge you to make this great discovery: God is here, and God can comfort you.
Father of all mercy and comfort, make me know personally that You are the source of all comfort. Comfort me in my pain. When I feel alone and depressed, may I discover that You are here, You are real, and You can comfort me.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Dick Woodward, from 30 Biblical Reasons Why God’s People Suffer
February 4, 2020
“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 even leap year – because God knows we need His mercy every day. 280 of these references to God’s mercy 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 as “pursue.” This means that David believed the unconditional love of God pursued him all the days of his life.
What a dynamic truth. God not only loves us unconditionally, He pursues us with His unconditional love all the days of our lives.
Does that mean our Heavenly Father 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 is true.
God is pursuing us with His unconditional love.
Dick Woodward, 06 February 2009
October 29, 2019
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” (Lamentations 3:21-24)
After writing his prophecy that moved scholars to label him “The Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah adds a short postscript to fifty-two chapters of weeping. That postscript is called “Lamentations,” which means “Weepings.”
You need to know why Jeremiah is weeping to appreciate his writings. He is weeping about the Babylonian massacre and captivity of God’s chosen people. For years he warned the people of God that unless they repented this awful tragedy would happen. As he writes Lamentations he has been permitted to remain in the land of Judah.
Sitting in his grotto he laments all the tragic things that have now happened.
In the midst of his deepest expressions of sorrow and sadness he suddenly breaks forth with the verses quoted above. These verses tell us clearly that what God revealed to Jeremiah in his darkest hour was that God never stopped loving His chosen people.
A providential wonder of prophecy is that Jeremiah’s grotto where he wrote these Lamentations was on top of a hill called “Golgatha.” This means that God gave Jeremiah this wonderful prophecy of God’s unconditional love for God’s chosen people throughout the tragedy Jeremiah was lamenting on the very spot where centuries later God would pour out God’s unconditional love for the whole world.
Dick Woodward, 28 October 2009
August 20, 2019
“…that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)
God is love. God’s Son, Jesus, is ‘God with skin on.’ Love was the most mesmerizing dynamic of His life on this earth. The people who met Jesus were loved as they had never been loved before.
We are also designed to be ‘God with skin on.’ The Holy Spirit can be described as Love Incarnate: the love of God with skin on, yours and mine. Love is the primary fruit of the Spirit and evidence of the Spirit’s residence in us.
People who are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit are always conduits of the love of Jesus Christ.
Do you know and believe that God loves you? Many people don’t feel worthy of being loved by anybody – not even God. When someone says, “I love you,” a negative tape begins to play that says, “No, you don’t. If you really knew me you wouldn’t!”
The two beautiful Gospel words mercy and grace declare that God does not love us if and when we are worthy, because He loves us even while we are sinners. (Romans 5:6-10)
Jesus prayed that those who make up the Church would live in such a way that this world of hurting people will know and believe God loves them as much as God loves His only begotten Son. If you do not know that God loves you, then we who are part of the Church have failed you.
God loves you! …Because by the grace and mercy of God, I know that God loves me.
Dick Woodward, from Happiness That Doesn’t Make Good Sense
July 16, 2019
“…& 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 God even covers 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.
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, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail God’s mercy. No matter what your failures have been, God has sent you a message wrapped in this five letter word “mercy.”
The amazing message is that you did not win God’s love by a positive performance and you do not lose God’s love by a negative performance. God’s love and acceptance of you is unconditional. According to David, the mercy of God is not only there like a rock for you, but God is pursuing you with unconditional love and forgiveness.
Dick Woodward, Happiness that Doesn’t Make Good Sense
April 30, 2019
“When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” He said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” (Luke 19:5)
When Jesus came face to face with the greatest sinner in Jericho, He knew him and called him by name. He then invited himself to spend the entire day in the house of His sinner friend. This chapter tells us elsewhere that Jesus was only passing through Jericho. He was extremely popular at this time and His walk through Jericho was like a parade with the sides of the street crowded with people wanting to get a glimpse of the famous Rabbi from Galilee.
We might imagine that the religious leaders would like to have entertained Jesus for lunch. To everyone’s shock and amazement Jesus declares that He will spend His one day in Jericho with the greatest sinner there. Publicans were hated in that day because they collected taxes for the Romans from their fellow Jews.
Zacchaeus as chief of the publicans had become very wealthy in that position.
We are told nothing of what Jesus and Zacchaeus discussed that day, but at the end of the day as they come out of the house this sinner announces that he will give half of his money to the poor. And with the other half he will restore 400% of everything he has taken from people unjustly.
One scholar put an interesting spin on this story when he suggested that Zacchaeus was the publican in the previous chapter of Luke who prayed, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Do you know any sinners by name? Are you a friend of sinners?
Dick Woodward, 01 May 2011
April 12, 2019
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13)
When I was a struggling college student I saw a sign in a window that read “Shirts Done 20¢.” I gathered up a pile of dirty shirts and took them into the store. To my utter disappointment I was told, “We don’t do shirts. This is a sign shop. We just paint signs!”
A preacher told the story of how a cat crawled into a model house in an empty new real estate development when it was many degrees below zero. The cat curled up in front of a fake fireplace and froze to death. He then preached that people often do that when they come into our churches. Looking for warmth, love and Gospel truths that can set them free from their sins, they “curl up and freeze to death.”
Jesus was even more honest and realistic than this preacher. He called the spiritual leaders of His day “hypocrites.” This was a negative word used in that day for people who wore false faces and masks.
Rather than decide that you are the true disciple and be judgmental of those who are not, ask yourself some questions: Are you, and the spiritual community of which you are a member, false or true? Are you authentic disciples of Jesus, or are you hypocrites?
Are you out there getting your hands sudsy cleaning shirts with the love of Jesus or are you just painting signs?
Are you seeing God’s grace and love changing lives?
Dick Woodward, 17 April 2009
March 19, 2019
“…And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
The prophet Micah asked an important question. In effect, his question is what are the divine requirements of God? What does God expect, require, demand, and command from me? Micah presents us with three answers to his question.
His first answer is that we should do justly. In other words, we should be a conduit of justice. We should stand up against injustice anytime and anywhere we see it. Since we live in a world that is filled with injustice this can be dangerous. Jesus Christ did this and it got Him crucified.
Micah’s second answer is that we should love mercy. Mercy is unconditional love. This is the chief characteristic of the love of God. King David believed that the mercy and unconditional love of God pursues us all the days of our lives. (Psalm 23)
Micah’s final answer to his profound question is that we are to walk humbly with our God. Humility has consistently been a characteristic of the great spiritual souls we have known in this life. C.S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins and we read in the Proverbs that God hates pride. We can see why God hates pride because God hates sin.
Are you willing to be the person of faith Micah profiled? There is a sense in which we cannot become a just, merciful and humble person on our own, but these three answers do give us a profile of the person God wants us to be.
Are you willing to let God give you the grace to be that person?
Dick Woodward, 20 March 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