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.


Giving & Receiving

August 3, 2017

“… Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35)

This has been called the ninth beatitude of Jesus. Jesus began His greatest discourse with a check-up from the neck-up by sharing eight beautiful attitudes that can make us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This ninth beatitude can transform and revolutionize our relationships.

If you are in a relationship, like a marriage, for what you can get from that other person, here’s a challenge for you. For one week, instead of thinking of what you are going to get from the person, ask yourself continuously what you can give that person. After giving this assignment to many married couples I’ve seen it revolutionize their marriages.

If you are in a marriage for what you can get from each other, neither of you is receiving anything because neither of you is really giving anything. The relationship is a sterile empty vacuum. But this attitude can transform your marriage or any relationship if one or both people in that relationship will dare to accept this challenge from Jesus.

There is no place in the Gospels where Jesus speaks these exact words. However, in addition to having this quotation of Paul, the spirit of this beatitude characterizes the relationships of Jesus we read about in the first four books of the New Testament.

I exhort you to accept this challenge of Jesus for one week! If you do, you will prove in experience that there is in fact more happiness (which is what the word blessed means), in giving than in getting.

Dick Woodward, 03 August 2009


Communicating Heart to Heart

July 22, 2017

“We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you…As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-13)

To paraphrase this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication flap on our heart.  We should be face-to-face and heart-to-heart with our communication flaps open. But, the hard reality is that we are often back-to-back with our communication flaps down and tightly closed.  The solution Paul prescribes here is that someone must say, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open. Be heart-to-heart with me and open your communication flap.”

We face communication challenges every day in our family, work life, and in our interactions with people. When there is a communication challenge it is important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, to the person with whom they are having a communication conflict, “I am heart-to-heart with you, and my communication flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

You may be totally amazed at how taking that stance can melt the obstacles between you and that person with whom you are having a difficult and challenging relationship. This can be a communication “circuit breaker” that restores communication in a relationship.

Bacteria multiply in the dark but cannot live in the light. If we do not have good communication in a relationship misunderstandings multiply like bacteria, but when communication is restored it’s like we have turned the light on our relationship. Most of the bacteria will die and we can address that which doesn’t die with the light of our restored communication.

Dick Woodward, 12 July 2012


Communicating Heart to Heart

November 15, 2016

“We have spoken freely to you Corinthians and opened wide our hearts to you… As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also.” (2 Corinthians 6:11, 13)

Life so often comes down to relationships, and relationships are all about communication. The Apostle Paul profiled that reality when he wrote these words. He also prescribed a solution. As a summary paraphrase of this passage, Paul is suggesting that each of us has a communication “flap” on our hearts. As married couples we should be face to face and heart to heart with our communication flaps open. But, the hard reality is that we are often back to back with our communication flaps closed tight. The solution Paul models here is that someone must take the initiative and say, “I am heart to heart with you and my flap is open. Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

Communication in relationships is a challenge we can face all day long every day in our families, work lives, and our interactions with people. It’s so very important to realize that someone has to initiate a solution by saying, in spirit and in principle, to the person with whom they are having a communication conflict: “I am heart to heart with you and my communication flap is open.  Be heart to heart with me and open your communication flap.”

You may be totally amazed at how taking this stance can melt down the obstacles between you and a difficult person. Throughout any given day we face relational challenges that can be turned around through good and loving communication. God has to begin with the person who is mature enough to initiate the solution Paul is modeling for us.

Dick Woodward, 14 October 2011


Applying the Love of God

May 26, 2016

“Let love be your highest goal…”  (1 Corinthians 14:1)

What are your priorities?  Paul challenges us to let love be our highest priority at the end of his inspired love chapter.  We should follow after love, make love our greatest pursuit, and love should be our highest goal, depending on how the verse is translated in your Bible.

A practical way to make love our greatest goal is to take the 15 virtues in the middle of the love chapter (I Corinthians 13) and apply them in our relationships. It will not take long to realize we cannot love in these ways on our own.  These are the ways God loves.  The miracle is God can love in these 15 ways through us!

The love virtues are all others-centered, unselfish ways of showing unconditional love.  They are not natural, but unnatural for us, because they are supernatural.  They are the fruit and evidence that God lives in us and is expressing the essence of God’s character through us. The dynamic effect of God’s love upon those we love in these ways will convince us this love is God and deserves to be our highest goal.

I have been loved in these ways and by the grace of God I have loved in these ways.  I am committed to making this love my first priority.  I resonate with Joyce Kilmer who summarized the essence of the lives of the fallen who lie beneath poppies in French WWI military graveyards when he wrote: “Loved and were loved, but now they lie in Flanders Fields.”

Paul prescribed these love virtues believing they could solve the problems in the worst relationships in his worst church.  I believe they can solve the problems in all our relationships if we will graciously apply them, through Christ.

Dick Woodward, 12 November 2013


Prescription for Looking Around

February 6, 2015

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)

According to the Apostle Paul, if the Holy Spirit of God lives in us, when we look in we will find unique qualities of love, joy, and peace coming out of our life.  When we look up we will discover a faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that will equip us to walk with God as we should.  Then when we look around we will find unique qualities of patience, kindness and goodness equipping us to have the kind of relationships our God wants us to have with people.

In our relationship with God patience could be described as “faith waiting.” In our relationships with people – especially our children or spiritual children – patience could be described as “love waiting.” The patience that is the fruit and evidence God’s Spirit living in us is a supernatural quality and does not come from our genetic heritage.  We do not have this patience because we inherited a ‘laid back, easy does it’ disposition from one or both of our parents.  It must be emphasized that this patience is a supernatural expression of the Spirit of God living in us.

The same can be said for a quality of kindness and goodness we discover when we relate to people with whom we are in relationships.  Kindness means that we treat people with whom we interact as if they were our kin.  Goodness means that we do good things and react in good ways in our relationships.

If the Holy Spirit of God lives in you, are you willing to find in these three supernatural qualities of the Holy Spirit a prescription that will govern your life when you look around?

Dick Woodward, 23 November 2010