Can You Pray with Me?

May 15, 2018

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings should be made for everyone…”  (1 Timothy 2:1)

In the second chapter of Paul’s first pastoral letter to Timothy when he sorts out priorities of the many activities of the church, the Apostle Paul declares prayer to be an absolute, number-one priority.

Paul’s rationale for making prayer the first priority of the church is that prayers should be made for everyone because God wants everyone to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  I find this to be a challenge. In many years as a pastor, I found it all but impossible to get people to come and pray with me for an hour. As I pleaded with parishioners to attend prayer meetings, I often quoted the question of our Lord Jesus, “Can you not keep watch (& pray) with Me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40)

Over many years I have concluded that God’s people do not pray because the evil one does not want them to pray.

“When it’s hardest to pray, always pray the hardest!”

An old soul shared that prayer insight with my wife and she shared it with me.  We should apply that insight by praying the hardest when we do not feel like praying. We should pray the hardest when we are facing challenges that are not just hard, but impossible apart from God. We should certainly apply that insight when personal problems and disappointments weigh us down with sorrow.

If we pray when it’s hardest, we will discover that prayer can turn a great storm into a great calm.

Can you keep watch and pray with Jesus?

Dick Woodward  (April, 2000 Prayer Letter)

A New Commandment: Love One Another!!

April 16, 2016

“Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.”   (John 13:1)

Jesus was celebrating the Passover with His apostles.  Luke writes that on the way to the upper room where they were to celebrate the Passover the apostles argued about which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom Jesus promised.  What a shock it must have been when Jesus assumed the attire of a slave and washed their feet!

Having washed their feet Jesus asked this question: “Do you know what I have done to you?”  The most dynamic characteristic of the personality of Jesus is love.  He had loved these men for three years in ways they had never been loved before in their entire lives.

He also answered His question by telling them that He had given them an example.  If He as their Lord and Teacher had washed their feet, they should wash each others’ feet. Then He made the connection between feet washing and love by giving them the New Commandment. They were to love one another in the same ways He had loved them. This is the absolute credential that they were His disciples.

A New Commandment directed them to a New Commitment.  Each of them had made a commitment to Jesus but now they were to make a commitment to each other.  This new commitment established a New Community.  We call it the church.  The secular people said of the early church, “Behold how they love one another!”  If they made that charge today about your church or mine would there be enough evidence to convict us?

Oh Lord make it so!

Dick Woodward, 05 April 2012

Commissioned by Jesus

November 11, 2014

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)

“The Great Commission is the charter of the Church. Like any other organization the Church must fulfill the terms of its charter or it should cease and desist.” So wrote a missionary statesman of another generation.

For more than twenty years I was the pastor of a church near a naval base – more than seventy percent of our church members were military. I soon learned that when military personnel received their orders they read them very carefully and obeyed them to the letter. Two thousand years ago Jesus Christ gave us our orders in the Great Commission.

During World War II General George Patton once arrived before dawn at a station in North Africa much earlier than he was expected. Everything was in disarray. He kicked a soldier asleep on the floor. When the lowly GI realized who had kicked him he jumped to his feet, saluted and said “I’m sorry sir. I was just trying to get some sleep!” The general responded, “That’s OK son.” In his profane way, which I will not quote, the general essentially continued, You’re the only one around here who knows what he’s trying to do!

How it must grieve the risen living Christ to realize that so many in His Church today don’t know what they’re trying to do. We not only ignore His clear orders – many have never even heard that He gave us our charter, which is repeated at the end of every Gospel and at the beginning of Acts, the inspired history book of the Church.

Dick Woodward, 25 January 2010

The Furtherance of the Gospel

August 21, 2013

“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel…  ”   (Philippians 1:12)

Paul is in prison as he writes to his favorite church.  While he was free he preached the gospel with passion and great zeal, but when he was put in prison and could not preach other men in the Church at Philippi began preaching.  That rejoiced the heart of the apostle.

In the New Testament when you study the letters of Paul and others you find that the early churches had pastors.  Anytime the word pastor is found it is in the plural unless it is referring to Jesus Christ.  He is the great Shepherd of the sheep; otherwise, churches have pastors.  Strictly speaking you will not find a precedent for “Dr. Pete Bunny the pastor of the First Community Church of Chicago” in the New Testament.

I am convinced that the first churches also had a plurality of preachers.  That’s why the fact that many men in the Church at Philippi were preaching rejoiced the heart of the apostle.   Church is a team sport.  Based on their cluster of spiritual gifts some are called and equipped to preach.  They should preach.  Some should heal, some should teach and some should evangelize.  All of this should result in the furtherance of the gospel.

Our churches would be more effective in furthering the gospel and we would solve so very many problems if we took our blueprints from the New Testament.  We would not need as many retreat centers for burned out pastors if we did.

When will we ever learn that when all else fails we should follow the directions?

A Word for Leaders

August 16, 2013

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.”   (1 Peter 5:6)

Humility is a standard Peter sets for leaders.  He writes that leaders should lead as examples and not as lords over the flock they shepherd.  Humility is a challenging concept.  If we think we are humble we are probably not humble.  You probably heard of the church that gave its pastor a medal for humility but had to take it back because he wore it every Sunday.

In Scotland a young seminary graduate was to give the sermon as a candidate for a church that had an elderly pastor about to retire.  The pulpit was one of those old elevated ones that you had to climb many steps in order to preach.  With a pride that bordered on arrogance the young man climbed up to preach.  He had a disaster of a sermon.  When he came down in tears the old retiring pastor said to him, “Lad if you had gone up the way you came down you would have come down the way you went up!”

The verse quoted describes a covenant with God’s part and our part.  Our part is to humble ourselves.  It is God’s part to exalt us.  C. S. Lewis wrote that pride is the mother of all sins.  “To live above with the saints we have loved Oh that will be glory.  But to live below with those we know that’s another story.”  As a veteran pastor I can tell you that when there is a sharp dispute among two disciples a pastor will often find somebody’s pride at the bottom of the dispute.

Humble yourself.  That’s your business.  Exalting you is God’s business.

Why Diversity?

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.

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.