June 20, 2017
“And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:21)
In this love chapter of the Bible, John gives us 10 reasons we must love. His last reason is that we have been given a commandment by Jesus that we are to love one another. When Jesus was about to leave the apostles by way of His death on the cross, He left the apostles with this New Commandment.
Jesus explained to them later in that same setting that this would only be possible because He was sending them the Holy Spirit. He used a word for the Holy Spirit that means: “One who comes alongside of you and attaches to you for the purpose of assisting you.”
The concept of a commandment is lost for many people in our culture because we are so democratic in our values. The closest we come to understanding this word is in our military training. When my youngest brother was in training the order was given that the smoking lamp was out – which meant no smoking. In defiance of the order he lighted a cigarette. His Marine drill instructor ordered him to bury that cigarette in a grave six feet deep.
When he reported to the drill instructor all covered with mud and sweat, the instructor asked if he had buried the cigarette pointing north and south or east and west? When my brother wasn’t sure he was told that he had to do it again the next day and make sure it pointed north and south. The next time the no smoking order was given do you think he lighted another cigarette?
Do you get the full weight of these 10 reasons we must love?
Dick Woodward, 06 August 2010
May 2, 2017
“I want to remind you of the gospel…which you received and on which you have taken your stand… that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)
Since most evangelism takes place today in the marketplace, it is imperative that we understand how to articulate the Gospel. A first step in that direction is realizing the Holy Spirit is the Evangelist and we are merely conduits through whom the Holy Spirit works…
When Jesus stayed up late with Nicodemus, the first words of Nicodemus were: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do the works that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2) Jesus earned his hearing with Nicodemus by what he had seen Him do. Likewise, we must also earn our hearing with people. This begins with our understanding that what we do demonstrates what we believe. All the rest is just religious talk. People are not interested in our religious talk unless they are impressed by what they see us do and are favorably impacted by what we are. It’s as if Nicodemus was saying he was impressed with what he had seen Jesus do, so he had come to hear the religious talk of Jesus. We are deceiving ourselves if we think it’s not that way with us today.
What I’m calling religious talk is our theological explanation of what we believe and why we believe it. This can be a negative if we overwhelm people with our theology. Many secular people don’t understand the simplest theological terms… Whether positive or negative, people will not be interested if they are not impressed with who and what we are and the things we do.
When we earn our hearing by the grace of God, the Gospel is simply two facts about Jesus Christ: He died for our sins and He rose again from the dead, just as the Old Testament Scriptures said He would and the New Testament Scriptures tell us He did.
There is something to believe and Someone to receive.
Dick Woodward, Marketplace Disciples (p. 23, 24, 38)
April 22, 2017
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)
When summer ends we encounter the explosion of beautiful fall colors. While we enjoy the colors, consider a word God speaks to us through nature every fall: death. Since those beautiful colors are produced by the death of leaves, God is speaking to many of us that death can be beautiful. In many ways, the most beautiful reality you and I encounter in our three or four score years on earth is the death of our Lord Jesus Christ that makes it possible for us to experience salvation and enter heaven.
Paul tells us the Gospel is that Christ died so we might live – and now it is our turn. We must die to ourselves so Christ might live through us. (Galatians 2:20) That means death to our selfish ways can be beautiful.
Every spring God speaks another word through nature to us: resurrection. That is seen all around us as black trunks and bare branches of trees we thought were dead sprout to life and bloom.
The Latin root meaning of rehabilitation is “to invest again with dignity.” Do we have faith to believe God can bring to life that which we thought was dead? Can we apply that thought to our lives, to the lives of our children, and to all the people we know?
Dick Woodward, 04 September 2012
April 14, 2017
“When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished!’”
These last words of Jesus actually are one word in the original language: “Tetelesti.” This word was written over the record of a prisoner after completing his or her sentence in a Roman prison. “Tetelesti” was also written above the cross of a prisoner crucified by Rome. What a providential irony that Jesus chose this word at the end of His suffering for your sins and mine.
What Jesus meant is that He paid in full a debt He did not owe because we owe a debt we cannot pay. Theologians refer to this as the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. One thought is that we cannot possibly add anything to what He finished for us there on that cross. A more profound thought is that we must put our faith in what He did for us there.
Still another thought is if we could add anything to what He did, or be forgiven on the basis of our own good works, then Christ did all that suffering for nothing. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus sweat great drops of blood as He pleaded with the Father to let this cup pass from Him.
The Father’s response was that there was no other way, so Jesus had to go to and through the suffering of the cross. To think that we could save ourselves by our works is like saying to the Father and to our Savior: “You really didn’t have to go through all that suffering because I can save myself by the good works I am doing.”
We must believe in what Jesus finished on the cross: “It is finished.”
Dick Woodward, 28 August 2009
April 11, 2017
“Goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life.”
“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 thank Him for the mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows. The good news of the Gospel is that when Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for our sins, everything we deserved was laid upon Him that we might have peace with God. (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 find these two beautiful words throughout the Bible, you will understand why I challenge you to pray with thanksgiving for:
“The mercy that withholds and the grace that bestows.”
Dick Woodward, 26 February 2009