Forgiveness: A Second Look

March 24, 2017

“And He said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:48)

…Jesus taught this same truth in a similar parable recorded in the Gospel of Luke. (Luke 7:36-50)

As Jesus was dining with a Pharisee, a woman who was a sinner and had experienced salvation through Jesus began washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. The Pharisee had not washed the feet of Jesus. In that culture, not washing the feet of an invited guest was like refusing to shake hands. To this woman, this mean that the Pharisee had not even extended common hospitality to her Lord and Savior, whom she loved so very much.

While the Pharisee was thinking lurid thoughts about this gesture on the part of the woman, Jesus told him a parable about two men who owed debts to the same wealthy lord. To paraphrase, one owed him $500, and the other $5,000. The wealthy man forgave both debts. After telling this story, Jesus asked the Pharisee which man would have loved their benefactor most? The Pharisee answered, “the one who owed him the greater debt.”

Jesus then asked the Pharisee, “Do you see this woman?” The question was actually, How do you see this woman?” Jesus challenged the Pharisee to think about how he saw the sin of that woman relative to how he saw his own sin. He obviously saw her sin as the great debt and his own as the small debt. Jesus then applied His parable for the Pharisee by announcing, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, the same loves little.”

Jesus then said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you.” These words of Jesus clearly affirmed the Gospel reality that she was not saved because she loved much. She loved much because she had saving faith. The real sinner at the luncheon in that Pharisee’s house was not the forgiven sinner who loved much, but the self-righteous Pharisee named Simon.

This parable focuses the reality that we cannot isolate our own forgiveness of sin from our attitude toward the sins of others. That is why Jesus wrapped His petition for the forgiveness of our sins in the same package with our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


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


Inauguration of each New Day

January 20, 2017

“…Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

A word that has been on the minds and lips of millions this week is “inauguration.” A synonym for this word is “beginning.” The common usage for inauguration is something like “a celebration of the beginning.”

Every day we live is the first day of the rest of our lives. There is a sense in which we experience an inauguration with every new day, week, month and New Year we live. Our Lord’s advice to us is to celebrate the beginning of every new day and accept it as a gift – a clean slate with no marks on it.

We cannot change the marks we put on the slate of yesterday. God told us not to worry about tomorrow because one day’s trouble is enough for one day. If you think about it, today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. God therefore emphasized one day at a time – as in “Give us this day our daily bread.”

I challenge you to celebrate each new day with a private inauguration ceremony and ask God to give you the grace and strength to be all you can be for God’s glory, one day at a time.

Dick Woodward, 23 January 2009


The Word of God & God’s Purpose

May 26, 2015

My Word… will achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

In a marvelous chapter taken from the prophesy of the one called “The prince of the prophets,” Isaiah tells us why he preached the Word of God.  Earlier in this chapter he proclaimed that there is as much difference between the way we think and act and how God thinks and acts as the heavens are high above the earth.  He tells us he preached the Word of God because God’s Word can bring about an alignment between the way God thinks and acts and the way people think and act.

There is a strong emphasis in Scriptures on the importance of our will being in alignment with the will of God.  Jesus made his greatest prayer when He sweat drops of blood and prayed, “Not My will but Your will be done.” He taught His disciples and us to pray, “Your will be done in earth (or in their earthen vessels), as it is in heaven.”

The Word of God frequently describes the struggle between God and men like Moses, Job, Jonah, and many others who finally submit their will to the will of God  – and the will of God is done in and through them on earth as it is in heaven.  When God declares through Isaiah that His Word will not return to Him without accomplishing the purpose for which He sent it, I am convinced that this is the purpose God had in mind.

When you read, study and hear the Word of God proclaimed, will you let God accomplish this purpose for the Word of God?  Will you let the Word of God bring about an alignment between your will and the will of God?

Dick Woodward, 28 September 2010


Providential Benedictions

April 21, 2015

…For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”  (Matthew 6:13)

[In the “Our Father” Disciples Prayer]  Our Lord teaches us to begin our prayers with a God first mindset and conclude our prayers with that same focus.  We begin our prayers looking through the grid: “Your name be reverenced, Your Kingdom come,” and “Your will be done (in earth and) on earth, just as it is willed and done in heaven.”  We are to conclude our prayers the same way.

Jesus wants us to conclude our prayers by making this commitment to our Heavenly Father: “Yours is the Kingdom.”  By this confession, He means for us to pledge to God that the results of our Heavenly Father’s continuously answering our prayers will always belong to Him.

As we face challenges of life every day, we should be poor in spirit enough to confess that we need the power of God: “Yours is the power.”  When I have entered into a challenging day, I have confessed this thousands of times in my journey of faith and ministry by saying, “I can’t, but He can.”

Finally, we are to conclude our prayers by confessing: “Yours is the glory.”  When we apply this third providential benediction, we are simply confessing, “Because I didn’t but He did, all the glory goes to Him.” Jesus prescribes that we conclude our prayers every time we pray by making this solemn commitment to God:  The glory for everything that happens in my life because You have answered my prayer(s), will always go to You.”

The essence of this benediction is:  “Because the power always comes from You, the result will always belong to You, and the glory will always go to You.”

“Amen” simply means, “So be it.”

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Prayer


Prayer Partnering with God

July 1, 2014

Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...”  Matthew 6:9-13)

The message of the Bible frequently sifts down to just two words: God first. From Genesis to Revelation, the bottom line interpretation and application of the commandments, character studies, allegories, parables, psalms, sermons, Gospels, Epistles and teachings of Jesus is simply “God first.”  The prayer Jesus taught us begins with that God-first emphasis when He instructs us to begin by asking God that His name, the essence of Who and what He is, might be honored and reverenced…

Prayer is not a matter of us persuading God to do our will. The very essence of prayer is an alignment between our wills and the will of God. Prayer is not a matter of us making God our partner and taking God into our plans.  Prayer is a matter of God making us His partners and taking us into His plans…

We are not to come into our prayer closets, or corporate worship, with a ‘shopping list’ and send God on errands for us.  When we pray, we should come into the presence of God with a blank sheet of paper and ask God to send us on errands for Him.  We should be like soldiers reporting for duty to their Commander in Chief.

Dick Woodward, A Prescription for Prayer

 

 


Inner Healing

July 27, 2013

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  (Matthew 6:12)

Years ago I heard an Anglican Canon from Australia coin a new word when he said, “The greatest obstacle to inner healing is unforgiveness.  We may be experiencing unforgiveness because we lack the assurance of God’s forgiveness, or the forgiveness of people against whom we have sinned.  The source of our unforgiveness may also be that we will not forgive people who have sinned against us.”

Canon Glennon then gave many examples of people who had been brutally abused and told how their rage and hunger for revenge had retarded their own inner healing.  Consider the perfect wisdom of our Lord Who prescribed that we should pray, as some translations have it, “Forgive us our sins as we have already forgiven those who sin against us.”

Forgiveness declares a fifth eternal value: Inner healing is a greater value than physical healing.

When we confess our sins we need to forget what God forgets and remember what God remembers.  God forgives and God forgets our sins.  We have God’s Word for that.  In the New Testament we are promised that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  In the Old Testament, God clearly tells us, “Their sins I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).  However, God remembers that we are sinners.  We forget we are sinners.  (That is at least one reason why we fall into sin again and again.)

When we confess our sins but keep remembering them after God has forgiven us, our guilt baggage shows that our faith is flawed after God has long forgotten our sins.


The Priority of Prayer

May 23, 2013

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Luke 11:1)

When the disciple’s asked Jesus this request they were not just asking Him the ‘how to’ of prayer.  They were amazed at the large amounts of time Jesus prioritized for prayer.  They were asking something like ‘teach us what you know about prayer that we obviously do not know that causes You to spend so very much time in prayer.’

STEP NUMBER THREE:     Spend much time in prayer.

When you must know the will of another human being, what is the first step you take?  Our first thought is usually that we must meet with that person and have a conversation with them.  When a man is in love and decides he wants to marry a woman, his first thought is that he must meet with her and have a conversation with her.

When we seek to know the will of God, our first thought should be that we must meet with God and have a conversation with Him.  Prayer is a conversation with God.  If you do not know how to pray, think of prayer as simply meeting with and having a personal conversation with God.

Jesus responded to the apostles with a prayer that was not as much a prayer as it was an instruction about how to pray.  When you are alone, use that prayer as an outline for your conversation with God.  You will find yourself applying the second and third steps I have shared with you for knowing the will of God when Jesus instructs you to pray:

“Your kingdom come; Your will be done.”


A Kingdom Benediction

January 15, 2013

“Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the glory forever, Amen.”   (Matthew 6: 13)

Jesus taught us to begin our prayers with a providential or God-first perspective.  He also taught us to end our prayers with the same kind of Kingdom benediction.  In this prayer/prescription after we get our priorities straight we are to close our prayers in a way that is consistent with the way we begin our prayers.

In essence, we are to end our prayers by telling God that since the power to answer our prayers will always come from Him the glory will always go to Him and the result will always belong to Him.  That is what “Your’s is the Kingdom” is really all about.

When you pray are you taking God into your plans or are you asking Him to take you into His plans?  I have had the privilege of being involved in the founding of two churches.  After many years serving those churches I then had to drop out and let others pastor them.  That was when I learned what it means to pray: “Your’s is the Kingdom.”

Jesus taught me to pray that since the power to answer my prayers over many years as the pastor of those churches had come from Him the glory should now go to Him and the result (the churches) should belong to Him.

James tells us we ask and do not receive because we ask amiss (James 4:3).  A teenager asked me if James was telling us we can pray a hit as well as a miss.  If you want to pray a hit every time allow Jesus to show you how to begin and end your prayers.

 


A Perspective on Prayer

January 5, 2013

“In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power
And the glory forever.  Amen.”      (Matthew 6: 8-13)

Make the observation with the help of the bold type that this disciple’s prayer/instruction teaches that we should begin our prayers with what we might call a ‘providential perspective.’

This is expressed in three petitions: Your name, Your kingdom and Your will.  Before we get to “Give us” we are to bring into our perspective Who God is, as He is revealed in all His names.  Then we are to focus on the fact that He is our King and we are His subjects.

When we understand that He is our King, we know His will must be done on earth through us even as it is done perfectly in heaven, all day long every day.

Many think prayer is coming into the presence of God with a shopping list and sending God on errands for us.  But here Jesus is teaching that prayer is reporting for duty to our King that He might give us our orders for the day.

We are to end our prayers with a providential benediction. The essence of the providential benediction is that since the power to answer our prayers will always come from God, the glory and the result (the Kingdom) will always belong to God.  James tells us we sometimes “pray amiss.” The difference between praying amiss and praying a hit can be this perspective on prayer.