April 24, 2015
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.” (James 5:16 NLT)
When Alcoholics Anonymous started it was called “The Saint James Fellowship” because it was founded on this verse. The founders later changed the name to include people of all faiths and those with no faith. While millions of secular people in AA apply the truths of this Scripture and experience healing, it is a shame that many believers never make these healing applications.
When you meet with another believer do you keep your sins in the closet? Do you give the impression that you don’t have a problem in the world? Do they do the same? That does not burden you to pray for each other. But if you can trust them and share some of your sins with them they would be burdened to pray for you. They would also more than likely have what I call “reality contact” with you by sharing their sins and that would burden you to pray for them. The result of these mutual prayers would be mutual healing.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who wrote extensively about spiritual community, put it this way: “Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So they remain alone with their sins, living in lies and hypocrisy… He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”
A paraphrase of James 5:16 is that honest prayers explode with power! It is a strategy of the evil one to isolate us into self imposed solitary confinement. Never let him isolate you into being a closet sinner; instead, find healing in confessing your sins and praying for one another.
Dick Woodward, 14 April 2013
September 16, 2014
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant…” Matthew 20: 25-26
The incident recorded in Matthew 20 (verses 20-28), precipitated by Mrs. Zebedee and her two sons, James and John, sets the stage for one the great teachings of Jesus Christ. We can assume these two ‘sons of thunder’ (the nickname the Lord game them), who were partners with Simon Peter in the ‘Zebedee Seafood Corporation,’ were obviously the instigators of their mother’s request that they be seated on the right and the left of their Lord when He was crowned King. When the other apostles griped about this, Jesus called them together. In so many words, He told them the world plays the game of “Over-Under!” This is a world of credentials and status symbols that often say, “I am better than you,” or “I am over and above you.”
Acknowledging that the secular world is like that, Jesus tells them not to play the world’s little games. To paraphrase, Jesus says, “this is not to happen among you. If you want to be great in the Kingdom of God, you should join the ‘Order of the Towel’ – get a towel and basin, assume the position of a slave, and start washing feet.” He uses Himself as an example when He says, “Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) Think of how He spent His last hours before He went to the cross, literally washing the feet of His disciples. There is no place in the church and body of Christ for the “Over-Under” philosophy of this world.
If you want to be great in the fellowship of Christ, you must improve your serve!
Dick Woodward, MBC New Testament Handbook, p.86
April 19, 2013
“But woe to him who is alone when he falls.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
Have you observed how much Jesus valued community? He taught: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV) He also gave a great teaching regarding prayer community: “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action.” (Matthew 18:19, The Message)
When He made that observation about being present when two or three gather in His name he was not giving us a consolation for a poor attendance at a meeting. He was being descriptive and prescriptive about the reality that His risen presence is among us in a special way when just two or three of us come together in His name.
The man who was thought to be the wisest man on earth in his day also wrote about the value of community. Before he wrote the words quoted above he told us that two are better than one for when one falls the other will help him up and “a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” This could mean that when two or three are in community the presence of God among them forms that threefold cord that cannot be quickly broken.
Are you in community? If you are not then follow the teaching of our Lord and the wise counsel of Solomon and seek the spiritual community you need. I’m not telling you to go to church. I am writing about that special relationship with two or three people where you have accountability and deep sharing of life and faith. If you cannot find one, start one. It only takes you and one other person.
February 5, 2013
“If the whole body were an eye where would the sense of hearing be?” (1Corinthians 12:17)
The story is told of a doctor who came out of the delivery room and told an expectant father, “I have some grave news for you my son. Your wife has given birth to a 7-pound eyeball. And that’s not all. It’s blind!” If you came home one night in the dark and found a 185 pound eyeball in the corner of your front porch, would that give you a rush of anxiety?
In this verse from the writings of the Apostle Paul he is using an illustration as grotesque as the illustrations I have just used. He does this in his inspired letter to the Corinthians because he wants to make a point: his point is the beauty of diversity.
One of the fingerprints of the Church of Jesus Christ is that in the Church we celebrate diversity. Diversity in the body of Christ is to be celebrated rather than resolved. If two of us are exactly alike one of us is unnecessary. Some of the members of the First Church of Corinth were telling others they were not authentically spiritual unless they had the same spiritual gifts that they had.
The remedy of Paul for that kind of thinking was the hideous metaphor of a body being just one member and not a body with the beauty of many diverse parts. Other members of the body of Christ have what you do not have and you have what they do not have. That means you need them and they need you.
The body of Christ is a team sport. Are you willing to be a team player?
Step up and play your part.
May 4, 2012
“… your fellowship in the Gospel…” (Philippians 1:5)
When you read the first words of Paul’s letter to his favorite church they show you the passion of Paul and the heart of this church he loved. The bonds that made them so remarkably one in heart are expressed in the repetition of one word: “Gospel.” Paul writes that the things he has experienced have fallen out to the furtherance of the Gospel. And that he has them in his heart because in the defense and confirmation of the Gospel they all are partakers of God’s grace.
As Paul continues to repeat the word “Gospel” he expresses his heart’s passion when he describes what he calls “the faith of the Gospel.” He precedes that with the concept of behavior that becomes the Gospel. Paul is describing the purpose and function of a church when he calls their church “a fellowship of the Gospel.” The context in which the Gospel is to be believed is that fellowship of the Gospel.
Paul is in prison when he writes these words and he doesn’t know if he will be released. In verse 27 he writes his ideal for his ideal church. His great Gospel prescription is: “I want to hear that every member of your church is a Christian; every Christian is Christian and Christians are Christian together in a way that results in other people believing the Gospel!”
Paul’s plan for filling this prescription for his ideal spiritual community is to “Stand fast in one Spirit with one mind, striving together for the faith of the Gospel!” (1:27) That Church in Philippi is to act as if they have one mind among them because in fact because they do.
It is the mind of Christ.