January 19, 2018
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… for your fellowship in the gospel…” (Philippians 1:3-5)
As Paul begins his letter to the Philippians, he uses a beautiful word when he writes: “your fellowship in the gospel.” The basic meaning of fellowship is partnership, but Sam Shoemaker paraphrased it as: “two fellows in the same ship.”
I once met with a man on the threshold of coming to faith. He had many, many problems. So, I said to him, “There is a word you’re going learn soon: fellowship. It means ‘two fellows in the same ship.’ I want you to know, Charlie, I am in the ship with you!” As he took a long drag on his cigarette, with tears in his eyes he said, “Well row, *bleep* it!”
Charlie was saying that he did not fully understand this new word, but he wanted to know what difference it was going to make. Was I just going to take up room and rock the boat, or was I going to grab an oar and row?
I have often said to others what I said to Charlie, but he added to my paraphrase of this word. After Charlie, when I said these words about fellowship I found myself asking, “What will it look like if I get in this person’s ship with them and row?”
When Jesus got in Peter’s little ship He made a difference. He filled Peter’s ship and his partner’s ship with fish. (Luke 5:1-11)
What difference does it make to others when you get in their ship with them? Think of the difference it could make because you bring Christ with you into their ship.
Dick Woodward, 22 January 2013
September 22, 2017
“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him… a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote that we were not meant to fight our battles alone. We need community. Jesus told us that He is present where two or three of us get together in His name. (Matthew 18:20) Jesus was not consoling us for poor attendance at a prayer meeting. He was giving us a prescription for an intentional dynamic we call a small group.
For nearly the first 300 years of Church history it was illegal to be a Christian. That forced the Church to meet in small house churches. In large mega churches today, often the only way to have meaningful interaction with other believers is to meet in small groups. All over the world the Church is again meeting in small house churches as in the beginning 2,000 years ago.
Perhaps this is what Solomon meant when he wrote that a threefold cord is not easily broken. A cord of three strands is not only strong – when cord number one is you, cord number two is another believer, and cord number three is God – you have a cord that is not quickly broken.
The Old Testament calls this “Hesed.” The New Testament calls this concept of community “fellowship” and “koinonia.” When you are part of that threefold cord you are “wrapped in a bundle of life with the Lord your God.” (I Samuel 25:29 Berkeley)
Have you personally discovered one of the greatest dynamics in the Bible? Or do you believe you don’t need anybody because you can handle anything that comes your way alone?
Dick Woodward, 22 September 2012
June 30, 2017
“… before Phillip called you I saw you under the fig tree.” (John 1:48)
When Jesus was recruiting apostles, he had an interesting exchange with the one who was to become the Apostle Nathaniel. Nathaniel apparently had the regular practice of having times of intimate fellowship with God under a fig tree. When he met Jesus for the first time Jesus affirmed him as a Jew in whom there was no guile. When Nathaniel exclaimed, “How do you know me?” Jesus said in so many words: “I’m the One you’ve been talking to under the fig tree!” That really blew Nathaniel away and he was convinced forever that Jesus was the Son of God and many other things. (The whole story can be found in John 1:47-51).
I find this challenge in the exchange between Jesus and his apostle: do we have a fig tree or a place where we regularly meet with God and have intimate fellowship? You might call this, as I have, “The Fellowship of the Fig Tree.”
Years ago I gave a devotional to several hundred people on this concept. One of them, who became a dear brother, was in the furniture business. He gave me a beautiful artificial fig tree, placing it in my home where I had my quiet times with God every morning. He wanted me to have my intimate times with God under a fig tree. That was nearly 40 years ago. It is still here in our home today.
Do you belong to the Fellowship of the Fig Tree? Do you have a special place where you meet with God every day?
Dick Woodward, 07 July 2009
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.
January 22, 2013
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… for your fellowship in the gospel…” (Philippians 1: 3, 5)
As Paul begins this letter he uses a beautiful word when he writes: “… your fellowship in the gospel.” The basic meaning of the word is partnership, but Sam Shoemaker paraphrased it as: “two fellows in the same ship.”
I met with a man who was on the threshold of coming to faith. He had many, many problems. So, I said to him, “There is a word you’re going to be learning soon: “fellowship.” It means “two fellows in the same ship.” I want you to know, Charlie, I am in the ship with you!” As he took a long drag on his cigarette, with tears in his eyes he blew smoke in my face and said, “Well row, *bleep* it!”
Charlie was saying to me that he did not fully understand this new word but he wanted to know what difference it was going to make. Was I just going to take up room, or rock the boat or was I going to grab an oar and row?
I often said to others what I said to Charlie. But Charlie added to my paraphrase of this word. After Charlie, when I said those words I found myself asking, “What would it look like if I got in this person’s ship with them and rowed?”
When Jesus got in Peter’s little ship He surely made a difference. He filled Peter’s ship and his partner’s ship with fish (Luke 5: 1-11).
What difference does it make to others when you get in their ship with them? Think of the difference it could make because you are bringing Christ with you into their ship.