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Monday, December 30, 2013

"The Greatest of these"

So these three things continue: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love. 
1 Corinthians 13:13 ERV

1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter. Paul ends this section of his letter to the church at Corinth with this statement. Three things continue: faith , hope and love. Some versions say that these three things abide. I like the simplicity of the easy to read version, these three things continue. We as disciples of Christ must continue in these three things, love being the greatest of all.

The greatest is love! Earlier in his letter he explains what love is and what it is not. Obviously Paul wants his readers to know the importance love in the Lord’s body. Paul also said that love never ends. If it never ends that means we must continue to practice love. Love for one another and love the world.

Love is what reaches people and sustains them. All that we do and say, must come from love. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t serve God’s purpose. If God so loved the world that he gave his son to die for our sins. It goes to show us how important love is to God and his interaction with the world.

So today, let’s let love guide us in our interactions with the world around us. Let us approach every personal interaction with the love of Christ. In doing this we will be sharing the great “gift” there is.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Monday, December 23, 2013

"HE wants everyone to stop sinning"

The Lord is not being slow in doing what he promised—the way some people understand slowness. But God is being patient with you. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. He wants everyone to change their ways and stop sinning. 2 Peter 3:9 ERV

Every day that passes and Jesus doesn’t return, is God showing his patience with humanity. Every day is a chance for every living person to repent and begin to follow Jesus.

As the verse says God wants “EVERYONE” to change their ways and to stop sinning. Everyone includes those that are his and those that are not. Everyone of us is need of repentance. Not one of us is perfect and without sin. We all need to come into conformity with Christ.

God doesn’t want anyone to be lost, he wants us all to come to repentance. If we don’t repent of our sins and turn in his direction we will be lost and will bring others with us.

So today, let’s all repent and follow in the steps of Jesus and teach others to do the same. Let’s ask forgiveness where it's needed, grant forgiveness where it’s needed and God will do the same for us. Let’s thank God for his patience with us and show patience for others.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Friday, December 20, 2013

"The unrighteous will not inherit heaven"

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV

This passage is a mere statement of fact. The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Only the righteous can dwell in the Kingdom of God. Recently I’ve heard this passage referred to as hate speech, because what it says makes people feel bad about who they are and what they do. It has even be said that these words should not be uttered publicly for this reason.

These words are not hate speech, quite the contrary. They are love speech. Paul loved the people at Corinth enough to remind them of something they may have forgotten. The reminder is that in Jesus their unrighteousness has been done away with. Because they had realized their unrighteousness and turned to Jesus and had their sins washed away they were now sanctified and justified and righteous in God’s sight. They now can inherit the Kingdom of God.

What Paul is saying is that you used to indulge in these behaviors, but now you don’t. He is reminding them that in order to maintain their inheritance they can no longer live as they once did. He is telling them that if they go back into these behaviors as a lifestyle, they will lose their inheritance. He’s not talking about stumbling and getting back up, he is talking about continuing in spiritually unhealthy behaviors.

God’s word, the Bible is the greatest love letter ever written. It was written by the one that created us in His own image. He wants us to have all the best. He proved it by sending Jesus to die for our sins. God hates sin, but he loves sinners.

So today, let’s help others to see that God loves them. Let’s help them to see that spiritually unhealthy behavior needs to be changed just like physically unhealthy behavior needs to changed in order for one to have the best life possible.

© 2013 leo J. Woodman

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"We have no control"

Lord, I know that our lives do not belong to us.
   We have no control over what happens.
Jeremiah 10:23 ERV

I love the simple phrasing of the “easy to read version” of the Bible. It cuts right to the chase. This verse from Jeremiah really is eye opening. We in our arrogance tend to think that we are independent and self-assured, but really we aren’t our own. Our lives truly don’t belong to us, they belong to whomever we give ourselves to. Really there are only two that we give ourselves to, God or the god of this world. The only true control we exert over our lives is whom we serve. This is the one place we really do have control.

The world goes on around us and events come and go whether we are cognizant of it or not. Every day we make the choice of who will be our master. Who our lives will belong to. If we choose wisely, we serve God. But if choose foolishly, we serve satan. So either way our lives do not belong to us. We have to choose the one that we will give control of our lives over to.

Faithfully following the master we choose has its rewards. Eternal life if we follow God or eternal condemnation if we follow satan. Think about it, we only have two choices and yet we are hard pressed to choose at times. Many things color and cloud our decision making. We have a tendency to be reactive to life’s circumstances, but we need to learn to be proactive in our defense in all circumstances.

Daily we must strike preemptively against  bad choices. We must choose everyday to follow the one that offers hope and freedom, not follow the one that offers slavery and death. We must choose whom we will serve.  “But maybe you don’t want to serve the Lord. You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve.  “But maybe you don’t want to serve the Lord.” “You must choose for yourselves today. Today you must decide who you will serve.” Joshua 24:15a,c ERV

Choose carefully.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Like a tree"

So they grow strong,  like a tree planted by a stream—a tree that produces fruit when it should and has leaves that never fall. Everything they do is successful. 
Psalm 1:3 ERV

Why does a tree grow strong by a stream? It grows strong because it has all the nutrients it needs to be healthy and produce fruit. Proper nutrition is important to all living things. Without it strength fails, life eventually ebbs away. A tree planted where water is plentiful will grow tall and strong. Dig it up and move to arid place and it will soon die.

Jesus said; “But anyone who drinks the water I give will never be thirsty again. The water I give people will be like a spring flowing inside them. It will bring them eternal life.” John 4:14 ERV In order to have that life giving water one must come to Jesus and live in him. They need to be planted by that stream that provides eternal nourishment, Jesus.

How can one find this everlasting stream if are they wander about rather than obediently following Jesus? Jesus has called us to be like him, to follow his example. In order to do that we must honor the Father. Honoring the Father means worshipping the Father. How can we worship if we don’t attend worship with the saints, the children of God? We are to gather weekly to worship our Father. Yet many find many other places to be and many other things to do. The Hebrew writer wrote; “We should think about each other to see how we can encourage each other to show love and do good works. We must not quit meeting together, as some are doing. No, we need to keep on encouraging each other. This becomes more and more important as you see the Day getting closer.” Hebrews 10:24,25 ERV When we meet together we encourage one another and strengthen one another. We cannot do that for one another if we are not together.

When we cease to meet and worship with our brothers and sisters we cease to think about them and the encouragement they need. When we don’t gather with the church on the Lord’s day we are not thinking about others, we are being self centered. We don’t worship God as we should and ignore his family. When we’re not in worship we are in an arid place and we will begin to wither and die. The body we should be with will be weaker because of our absence.

Today, let’s consider how we can encourage others and grow stronger together. Let’s purpose in our hearts to gather with the saints this coming Sunday. Let’s encourage and be encouraged by one another before our Father.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Friday, December 13, 2013

"Steadfast love"

Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
Psalm 119:76 ESV

Comforted by and in God’s love, what peaceful and freeing thought. God’s steadfast love, his never-ending, always enduring love. He loves those that serve him and do his will. God’s promises stand forever. They have no end, they never fail.

Love in the human heart can be a fleeting thing. It can be a wavering thing, but God’s love is always there. Only we walk away from it. He doesn’t withdraw it or withhold it. He gives his love freely. So freely that he gave Jesus to die for our sins so we could be re-claimed as his.

What a love this is. We that are in Christ are blessed with love beyond comprehension. A love the gives us a peace that surpasses all understanding.  A love that affords reconciliation. Because of his love we have been brought back into relationship with him. He wants to comfort us, let's ask him to.

Let this verse be our prayer today.
“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your
promise to your servant.”

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Got sense?"

Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.
Proverbs 19:8 ESV

Great verse. The ESV uses the word sense, other version use wisdom. Either way, if we care for our own spiritual well being we will get some sense. When we get it we need to hold onto it. The only way to find what is good is through wisdom or sense, without it we are lost and wondering.

Where do we find sense? In the scriptures of course. It only makes sense. God’s word is the source of all the we need  for goodness in this life. If you own a bible, you have the greatest wisdom in the world at your finger tips. Yet, if the pages remain closed you remain cut off from the best resource available to mankind.

The Bible is full of uncommon sense for the common good. We must avail ourselves of this great volume and get some sense. There are those that say “I have already read through the Bible, I don’t need to keep reading it.” That’s a sad commentary, Because, if one ceases to read God’s word on a regular basis they will not keep their understanding. We make many excuses as to why we don’t read God’s word. Some that I have heard and probably used myself in the past are; “I don’t have the time” or “Why read the Old Testament, we live under the New Testament?” These excuse will not suffice when we stand before the Lord in judgement.

Paul said this in his second letter to Timothy; “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (ESV) Paul knew that for Timothy to be all that he could be he needed to know the word of God. He encouraged him to handle the word of God rightly. We too must do the same. In order to do that we need to be in God’s word, every bit of it in order to be approved.

So today, get some sense. Get into God’s word and when you do, hold on to the understanding it gives you.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Monday, December 2, 2013

"The fullness of Joy"

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalm 16:11 ESV

The path of life, fulness of joy and eternal pleasure are only found in God. If we look elsewhere for those things we are misguided and lost. At best whatever we find will be temporary and fleeting. Only in God can we find these to their fullest.

The Psalmist understood where all the best was found. He looked to God for the path that would lead him in the right direction. He wanted to be where God was to experience the fullest joy. He wanted to experience everlasting pleasure.

This verse gives us a threefold picture of all that is best for us. Life with God affords all of this, but life outside of a relationship with God leaves us floundering and searching for that which we cannot grasp.

When we look back at our lives outside of a relationship with God we will see how fruitless our attempts to walk a right path really were. We will see that joy came and went. We will see that our pleasures were self-serving and illusive.

So today if we are in Christ and enjoying all of the things the Psalmist praised God for, let’s stay there and bask in the beauty and wonder of God’s presence in our lives. Let’s not seek other paths, temporary joys and pleasures. Let’s seek his will for us and follow his leading and have everything to the fullest.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Friday, November 29, 2013

"So they might accuse him""

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him.
The Gospel According to Matthew (ESV)

The Pharisees were always looking for a way to trap Jesus. This time they wanted to see if they could accuse him of wrongdoing, by healing a man on the Sabbath. What a mindset these spiritual leaders had. Everyone is gathered at the synagogue for the Sabbath and yet these men are not focused on why they are gathered. They are focused on what they can do to get rid of Jesus. They are so wrapped up in legalities and how they can be used to their advantage they are blind to the purpose of their gathering. What a sad commentary, the Lord’s people are gathered to honor him and yet they are focused on ridiculing and accusing one who is modeling the very word of God. They are so wrapped up in being religiously right they don’t see the words they live by being lived out in their presence.

Ultimately the Pharisees, Sadducees and the religious leaders of Jesus day lost their place. The law they had distorted and misused so badly was done away with under the New Covenant in Jesus blood. The temple was destroyed, the genealogical records were destroyed and their rule ended.

Woe to those of us that behave this way today. Because, there are times when we too are blinded by jealousy and self righteousness. We too sometimes gather to worship with a critical eye on those around us. Looking to find fault in others rather than giving praise to the one due them. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16 (ESV) The Lord knows our hearts. We must know them as well.

The Pharisees knew the law, but they didn’t know God. They wanted to hold others to a list of rules and regulations without concern for the individual. Think about the man with  the withered hand. He probably had been praying for healing for a long time and had suffered with loss of the use of his hand. He stood to benefit greatly from Jesus responding to him on the Sabbath. The Pharisees didn’t see the man, they saw an opportunity.

So today, let’s mind our hearts and the intentions of our hearts. Let’s not criticize those that do good. Let’s look for where good is needed and act on it. Let’s encourage good works in others. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” Hebrews (ESV) Let’s be servant hearted not hard hearted.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"But the Pharisees said..."

As they were going away, behold, a demon-oppressed man who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
The Gospel According to Matthew (ESV)

No jealousy here. As the scene unfolds we see the people awed by the things Jesus does, yet the religious leaders only find fault. When they see Jesus cast out a demon, they give satan credit. It obvious that this is out of jealousy, because the statement makes absolutely no sense.  “He cast demons out by the prince of demons”. If that isn’t a knee jerk reaction to a situation, I don’t what is.

The problem the Pharisees had was they were afraid of evil. Rather than confront it they ran from it. But, in all their running, they ran right into it. The people that witnessed this man begin to speak they said; “Never was anything like this seen in Israel”. That’s because they were seeing God at work in their presence. The Pharisees were so wrapped up in religious behavior and the pretense of the lack of evil they did not see what God was doing before their eyes. Jesus was confronting evil and improving a man’s life. They had gotten so far off track that they are calling good evil and evil good. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah ESV) The Pharisees are losing their power over the masses to God and are outraged by it. They want to be the authority in Israel and God is reclaiming it through Jesus.

The lesson we can take away from this is that we must relinquish all power and authority to Jesus as our Lord and Master. Jesus sees evil and confronts it. He drives it out. Eventually that included the Pharisees themselves. God doesn’t want manmade religion. He wants obedient servants. Jesus was that and set the example for us in what we are to do as his disciples. Let’s see that example and follow it. Let’s confront evil in our lives and let him take care of it and follow him.

Today, let’s see what God is doing in us and praise him for it. Through Jesus lives are changed, sins are forgiven and evil is put in its place. Let’s preach Jesus to the world. Let the healing begin!

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Monday, November 25, 2013

"I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."

But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The Gospel According to Matthew (ESV)

                                          photo  ©2013  Chris Parker, Flickr

Jesus deals with the Pharisees concerning mercy in this passage. They had been criticizing Jesus for eating with sinners. In other words Jesus was eating with those that the Pharisees looked down on. They thought themselves to be righteous and all others to be sinners. When Jesus tells them he came for the sinners, not the righteous he let’s them know they perceive themselves as righteous, so they see no need for his services.

They are quick to criticize Jesus for working with those they have no use for. They believe they have distanced themselves from sin and everyone associated with it. Yet, they don’t see that they too are in need of the Great Physician. They are counting on their religion and outward piety to convince themselves and everyone else they are not sin sick.

The shame of the situation is that they are in more need of Jesus attention than those they despise. The reason the tax collectors and sinners gather around Jesus is because they know that they need him. They seek the mercy that Jesus offers them. Its sad to see that the Pharisees show no mercy to others, because they so desperately need mercy themselves.

We that are in Christ must learn to show mercy to those that are not. We have received mercy, we must now give it. May we never look down on those we see still suffering in their sin sickness and leave them in it. Let’s be like Jesus and go to them and offer them the cure. Let’s seek them out like Jesus did and call them to something better.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Friday, November 22, 2013

"Why do you think evil in your hearts"

And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.
The Gospel According to Matthew (ESV)

Jesus let’s the scribes know that he knows what is in their hearts when he asks; why do you think evil in your hearts. Here we have very religious men that in their hearts aren’t all they should be and Jesus calls them on it. They had evil thoughts in their hearts. They witness God in the flesh forgive sins and call it blaspheming.

What’s interesting about about their calling Jesus a blasphemer is that in so doing they are blaspheming in their hearts. To blaspheme is to speak irreverently about God. So as they think to themselves that Jesus is a blasphemer, they are really the ones that are speaking irreverently against God.

One of the biggest obstacles for the Scribes and Pharisees was that they didn’t notice God at work before their very eyes. They saw and heard things that Jesus was doing yet they did not have eyes to see and ears to hear. As leaders of God’s people they were blind guides. The way, the truth and the life stood before them and yet, they did not follow him.

Unless we want to fall into the same ditch as those blind guides did we must really pay attention to the word of God and the work of God. Everything we need to know about Jesus and his teachings is right there in our Bibles. All we have to do is become true students of the WORD. When we do we will see the work that God is doing all around us and we will want to participate in it.

So today let’s not stand back and criticize the work that God is doing in and through the lives of those around us. Let’s be thankful for it and praise him for it. Its too easy to have evil thoughts about those that are doing God’s work, when we don’t see it for what it is. Let’s open our eyes to God and his work.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Pleasing to God"

I tell you that you must do better than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. If you are not more pleasing to God than they are, you will never enter God’s kingdom.
The Gospel according to Matthew (ERV)

There are many that want to be pleasing to God. The Scribes and Pharisees wanted to be pleasing to God. They thought that by being ultra conservative they were doing what was pleasing to God. In this passage from Matthew we see Jesus telling his listeners that if they want to be pleasing to God they have to do a better job in God’s eyes than what the scribes and Pharisees are doing.

Imagine how this must have taken his audience aback. Jesus saying that the Scribes and Pharisees weren’t pleasing God in all their religiousness. Many must have thought; how can we be even more religious than them? The Scribes and Pharisees knew the law and strove to follow it to the letter, yet Jesus said that those that wish to enter the Kingdom of God would have to be more pleasing. How perplexing this must have been.

I think its the same for a lot of us today. We think if we are ultra conservative religious examples to others, we will be pleasing in God’s sight. Jesus taught something different than that. He taught that pleasing God comes from the heart not from the outward appearance of religious ultra conservatism.

Jesus was not a religious leader, he didn’t belong to a particular sect he just came to do his Father’s will. In so doing he taught us what the Father’s will is. Entry into the Kingdom of God is not granted by the right religious practices or appearances, but by obedience to Christ teachings and those of his Apostles. So if we want to gain entry into the Kingdom of God we must learn from Jesus and his Apostles what is necessary for us to obey.

So it is up to us to study the scriptures and glean from them all that God has for us. Then we must make up our minds to follow those teachings and apply them to our lives.

© 2013 Leo J. Woodman

Monday, November 18, 2013

"Go in peace"

And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The Gospel According to Luke (ESV)

Jesus is recorded as saying “go in peace” several times in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. In all the instances he says this to someone, it is in response to their faith in him to heal them or forgive their sins. This speaks to what happens in a persons life when they have been relieved of their burdens by Jesus. Whether it be sin sickness or physical ailment, they are told to go in peace.

When one comes in contact with the healing touch of Jesus they find a new sense of peace. They have peace knowing that body and soul have been healed by the great physician. He says “go in peace”, that implies action. He tells them; from here on out go forward in peace, knowing your burden has been lifted. And What a peace that is.

When we have come to Jesus and we have begun anew because of his forgiveness, we go in peace. We must go forward and teach others that they too can enjoy this peace that we have.

Today share your peace with someone else.

© 2013