May 1, 2018
“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. Jesus then invited himself to spend the entire day in the house of His sinner friend. The chapter tells us elsewhere that Jesus was only passing through Jericho. Extremely popular at this time, His walk through Jericho was like a parade with streets crowded with people who wanted to get a glimpse of the famous Rabbi from Galilee.
We might well imagine that the religious leaders would like to have entertained Jesus for lunch. To everyone’s amazement Jesus declares that He will spend His one day in Jericho with the greatness sinner there. Publicans were hated in that day because they collected taxes for the Romans from their fellow Jews. This chief of the publicans, Zacchaeus, had become very wealthy in that position.
We are told nothing of what Jesus and the publican discussed that day, but at the end of the day as they come out of the house the sinner announces he will give half his money to the poor. And with the other half he will restore 400% of everything he has unjustly taken from people.
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 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
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
March 23, 2018
“…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 great 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 gives us three answers.
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 injustice. Since we live in a world that is filled with injustice this can be dangerous. Jesus Christ did this perfectly 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. David believed that the mercy and unconditional love of God will follow and pursue us all the days of our lives.
Micah’s final answer is that we are to walk humbly with our God. Humility has consistently been a characteristic of the great old souls we have known in this life. C.S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins, and we read in Proverbs that God hates pride. If Lewis is right we can see why God hates pride because God hates sin.
Are you willing to be the person Micah profiled? There is a sense in which we cannot become that just, merciful and humble person through our own efforts. But these three answers 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
February 9, 2018
“Goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23:6)
“God is able to make all grace abound toward you, so that you, always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Two of the most beautiful words in the Bible are mercy and grace. The mercy of God, which is the unconditional love of God, withholds from us what we deserve, while the grace of God lavishes on us all kinds of blessings we do not deserve, accomplish, or achieve by our own efforts.
As we thank God for our blessings, at the top of the list we should be thankful for God’s mercy that withholds and God’s grace that bestows. The good news of the gospel is that when Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, everything we deserved that we might have peace with God was laid upon Him. (Isaiah 53: 5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
If you want to grasp the meaning of these two words observe when and why they turn up in the Bible. Try to understand what we deserved and why. That will grow your appreciation of the mercy of God. Then investigate all that is bestowed upon us by the grace of God. As you search out these two beautiful words in the Bible, you will understand why “the mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows” should be at the top our thanksgiving prayer lists.
Dick Woodward, 26 February 2009
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)
December 22, 2017
“I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.” (Luke 2:10)
When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they announced they were bringing good tidings of great joy to all people – a wonderful Christmas greeting! Good tidings not just for good people, but to bring great joy to ALL people. That means all kinds of people, and all kinds of people everywhere.
Before He ascended, the last words of Jesus were: “… be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NLT)
Some Christians live their faith as if the last words of Jesus were: “Now don’t let it get around.” They live as if the Gospel is a secret to be kept.
Never forget these two beautiful Christmas words: “All people!”
The spiritual community of those who believe and follow Jesus is not to be a secret organization. It should be a community of people who exist for the benefit of non-members.
Jesus Christ came to bring good news and great joy to people who are not good. The Bible tells us that all of us have gone astray and turned every one of us to his or her own way. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that God laid the penalty for all of our sins on His Son, Jesus. (Isaiah 53:6)
Two more great Christmas words are “mercy” and “grace.” The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve, and God’s grace lavishes on us all kinds of marvelous things we do not deserve. God’s mercy and grace give us more blessings than we can count if we have the faith to receive them.
Dick Woodward, 23 December 2011