April 25, 2017
“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) 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 Jesus made that observation about being present when two or three gather in His name he was not giving us a consolation for poor attendance at a meeting. Jesus 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.
King Solomon, thought to be the wisest man on earth in his day, also wrote about the value of community. He tells us in Ecclesiastes 4: “two are better than one, for when one falls the other will help him up.” Then, in verse 12: “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 the threefold cord that cannot be easily broken.
Are you in community? If you are not, follow the teaching of our Lord and the wise counsel of Solomon to seek spiritual community. I’m not telling you to just 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.
Dick Woodward, 19 April 2013
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 14, 2013
“but, speaking the truth in love …” (Ephesians 4:15)
It is possible to devastate people with the truth. One difference between Jesus and the Pharisees was that before Jesus applied the law of God to the people of God He passed the law of God through the prism of the love of God. The Pharisees just threw the book at people. Paul called that “the letter of the law” and he wrote that the letter of the law kills but the spirit of the law gives life.
When I first discovered this in my private study of the Gospels a counseling appointment that same day was with a woman who had great respect for me as a pastor. After she shared her complicated life problems I passed the law of God through the prism of the love of God before I applied the law of God to her life. Just before she left she told me, “Pastor, if you had thrown the book at me today I was going to go home and kill myself!”
I have been told by those who mentor pastors that we should counsel with our head and not with our heart. As a veteran pastor I totally and emphatically disagree! Taking Jesus as our supreme Example and Mentor I believe we should preach, teach and counsel in the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.
The bottom line is often that we should follow the example of Jesus and not of the Pharisees. All the law of God was born in the heart of God’s love. God gave us His law because He loved us so very much He did not want us to suffer the consequences of lawless living. Never forget what Jesus always remembered.