Forgiveness: Debts and Debtors

March 21, 2017

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”  Matthew 6:12

This second personal petition is for forgiveness. The next two petitions are for guidance and deliverance. Forgiveness, guidance and deliverance are spiritual needs we have every day. The principle of that first personal petition for daily bread, one day at a time, should be applied to these spiritual needs. “Give us this day our daily bread, including our need for forgiveness, guidance and deliverance, one day at a time.”

…In Matthew 18, Jesus told the story of a man who owed a great debt. In those days, if you owed a large debt you couldn’t pay, you were sent to prison and your wife and children were sold into slavery until your debt was paid in full. Since you couldn’t generate any income from prison, you likely would die in prison and your family would be slaves the rest of their lives.

Relative to our currency, the debt in this story of Jesus was a multi-million-dollar debt. Summoned to court, the man who owed this great debt begged for mercy. Miraculously, the one to whom he was indebted, out of compassion completely forgave the debt.

On the way home from this extraordinary day in court, this man met a man who owed him twenty dollars and could not pay. He grabbed this poor man by the throat and shouted, “You pay me every cent you owe or I will slam you in prison and sell your family into slavery.”

People who observed both these happenings reported what they witnessed to the man who had forgiven the multi-million-dollar debt. When he heard, he summoned the ungrateful, forgiven man to another court hearing and reversed his compassionate decision.

Having told that story, Jesus pronounced, “Even so my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35)

The essential truth Jesus teaches here it that if we see our salvation and forgiveness as the cancellation of a multi-million-dollar debt, we will be forgiving because we have been forgiven so very much. If we are not forgiving, we do not really believe that we have been forgiven.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer

Sacred Individuality

September 27, 2016

“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 lost son sat down to was the slop he was feeding hogs in a hog pen owned by a Gentile. 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 decisions many people make while they are living in the hog pens of this world.  He decided that he was not a hog.  He may be in a hog pen. He may look, and even smell, like the hogs. He may 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 in a hog pen. 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 house and love where he could be in the process of perceiving, believing and becoming the person his father wanted him to be. He came to his self when he decided to reclaim the unique person his father wanted him to be that would make him distinct from every other living person.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Your Self


Who Is My Neighbor?

June 24, 2016

“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” (Luke 10:36)

 Jesus was the absolute master storyteller of parables – stories that illustrated His teachings.  A lawyer asked Him the question: “Who is my neighbor?” In response Jesus told a parable about a man who was mugged and left half dead on the side of the road.  When a priest saw him he passed by on the other side of the road and did not get involved.  A Levite, or Temple assistant, who traveled that road did the same thing.  Then a traveling Samaritan came down the road.  When he saw the helpless man he gave him all the first aid he could, put the man on his animal and took him to an inn where he paid for his care.  Jesus then asked, “which of these three was neighbor..?

This parable presents three philosophies of life.  The mugger’s philosophy of life was: “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours will be mine as soon as I can take it.”  The religious professionals in the story believed: “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is yours.”  The philosophy of the Samaritan was: “What’s yours is yours, and what’s mine is yours any time you need it.”  That is obviously the philosophy of life Jesus is teaching us through this parable answer to the lawyer’s question.

May I ask you to get real and ask yourself which of these three philosophies of life and neighbor is yours?  Do you believe people are to be exploited for your personal gain?  Do you not want to get involved?  Or are the people who intersect your life an opportunity for service?

Dick Woodward, 14 February 2012

Loving Affliction

May 4, 2013

“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word….  It is good for me that I have been afflicted…I know, O Lord, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” (Psalm 119: 67, 71, 75)

Many believers like me can resonate with these words written above.  Although this is not always the explanation when God’s people are afflicted, it very often is.  I have been living with a chronic illness since 1978 and I have been paralyzed since 1984.  It was my affliction that moved me to do the life’s work God was calling me to do for Him.

God tells us in His Word that He chastens those He loves (Revelation 3:19).  Although the goodness of God can lead us to repentance, for most of us it is the chastening of our Lord, knocking on the door of our life that moves us to open the door and invite Him into the practical areas of our life.  Like Jonah, it is only through divine intervention that our “I will not” is converted to “I will.”

As a “Type A” obsessive-compulsive, workaholic pastor I left before I got there and people could not keep up with my fast walk.  For someone like me to be slammed down in one place, unable to move anything from the neck down, it was an overwhelming intervention.

It took two years to even begin moving toward accepting my limits. When the acceptance came it was a supernatural miracle of inner healing.  It took twenty years, but I eventually reached the point where I could tell the Lord I loved Him for cutting me back and improving the quality and quantity of what He wanted me to do for Him.

Can you resonate with the perspective of this ancient hymn writer?

Microscope or Telescope?

April 23, 2013

“Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 1-5)

According to Jesus relationships are a two way street.  If you look at others under a microscope they will put you under a microscope and you will not like that.  If you look at others through a telescope they will look at you through a telescope and you will be far more comfortable with that arrangement.

When you give to people whatever standard of measurement you use they will use when they give to you.  It is your call.  Will you give with a thimble or by the truckload?

This passage shows that Jesus had a sense of humor.  Imagine a person with a one by six plank sticking out of their eye while they believe they are called to find specks of sawdust in the eyes of others.

Since this passage begins with the two words judge not many believe we’re never to judge others.  Consider this passage carefully and you will understand it is not teaching that at all.

This teaching of Jesus is telling us to judge.  It is telling us to judge ourselves first and as we relate to others decide if it is going to be a microscope or a telescope?

Philosophy of Neighbor

February 12, 2013

“‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?'” (Luke 10:36)

I heard a businessman say, “There are two things to be gained in every business deal: money and experience.  When you do business always get the money and give that other person the experience!”

According to the way the parable of Jesus ended with the verse above, when a devout disciple of Jesus is involved in a business deal, should they always get the money and give the other person the experience?

Jesus taught this parable in response to the question: “Who is my neighbor?” In His answer Jesus presented three philosophies of neighbor.  “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours will be mine just as soon as I can take it.” That was the philosophy of the thieves in this story.  “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” was the philosophy of the religious people Jesus profiled here.  Jesus’ philosophy of neighbor, however, was showcased by the Samaritan in this way: “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is yours any time you need it.”

How should that philosophy of neighbor impact the way we do a business deal as committed followers of Jesus Christ?  The way we answer that question should make us think about our entire philosophy of life and not just our philosophy about how we do business.

What is your vision statement and what are your mission objectives in life?  Is your vision statement to get rich and are your mission objectives all the ways you can think making money?

What is your philosophy of neighbor?  Is your own personal vision statement in alignment with the philosophy of neighbor Jesus taught us?

Why Evil?

December 17, 2012

“The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’ ‘An enemy has done this while men slept!’ the farmer exclaimed. ‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest.”  (Matthew 13: 27-30)

The question “Where did evil come from?” has baffled spiritual and ethical leaders since people began to think and ask questions. In this parable Jesus implies two answers: “An enemy has done this” and “While men slept.” Edmund Burke told us that all we have to do for evil to triumph is to do nothing.  Jesus told us all we have to do is sleep.

Thinking and hurting people in Connecticut are joined with millions who are asking questions like this today.  The Scripture quoted above is as close as Jesus came to addressing these questions.

Isaiah wrote that there is as much difference between the way God thinks and acts and the way we think and do things as the heavens are high above the earth (Isaiah 55).  Moses told us there are secret things that belong to the Lord but the things He wants us to do He has made very clear (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Our thinking is flawed and God has not willed to tell us why He lets the wheat and the weeds grow together.  We must conclude that somehow and in some way it glorifies God to permit that horrible enemy to be here. Ultimately, we must leave these questions with our faith in the character of God.

While men slept” leads us to realize there are some things we can wake up and do to oppose that enemy.