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The Church At Its Best
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let
him sing praises.  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders
of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the
name of the Lord;  and the prayer offered in faith will restore the
one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed
sins, they will be forgiven him.  Therefore, confess your sins to one
another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective
prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.  Elijah was a man with
a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain; and
it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.  And he
prayed again, and the sky poured rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns
him back,  let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of
his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
I don't know if you've figured it out yet, but I'm madly in love with
the Church. Certainly, I mean this church. I'm having the time of my life
being your pastor, but in a broader sense, I'm madly in love with the church
in general. Verses 13 to 16 of James 5, in my opinion, shows the church
as its best-ministering and caring for one another in diverse circumstances.
Some of them are suffering, others are cheerful and others are sick.
James includes them all in these few verses. The suffering are to pray
and beseech the mercy of God on their life, the cheerful are to sing praises
and the sick are to ask the elders of the church to pray for them, believing
in faith that God can heal them.
It isn't that they are to ignore medical attention, that's why verse
14 mentions anointing with oil. The anointing was not exclusively a religious
ceremony, it was medical treatment. Remember in the story of the Good Samaritan
that he used oil as a part of his first aid treatment he gave the wounded
man. Luke 10:34 (NIV) says, "He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring
on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an
inn and took care of him."
Yes we are not to ignore medical attention, but neither are we to fail
to ask the Great Physician for his healing. Referring to Elijah's prayer,
James promises us that our prayers matter.
What I want you to notice about these verses isn't the individual teachings,
but the entire thrust of the text. James is telling us to be real, and
not put on airs. There will be some among us that are suffering, some that
are cheerful and some that are sick. There is a place for all of those
people in the church at the same time.
This is an appropriate place for deep, agonizing prayer. It is a place
for joyful laughter and exuberant praise. It is a place for gut-wrenching
conviction and honest confession. You don't have to fake it-you can be
who you are at the time.
Chris Kratzer, pastor of Quest 419 in Tampa Bay, Florida recently told
me, "You don't have to void yourself of the clothes you like to wear or
your sense of humor to come to church." We can be who we are, certainly,
we can have our own style and flair, our moods are OK and so are our circumstances.
But our sinfulness isn't. I don't mean sinners aren't welcome, but I do
mean that we need to do something about it.
Authenticity cannot become an excuse for not learning or growing. It
is important to admit faults, but not to learn to live with them in the
name of authenticity. Authenticity can never become an excuse to remain
in a sinful pattern. Instead it will lead genuine believers to confess
King David's sin with Bathsheba became a defining moment in his life.
It is too bad that he didn't finish his reign as strong as he started.
He could defeat countless Philistines in battle, but was overcome by the
seduction of a solitary woman.
When Nathan confronted David over his sin, he didn't cover it up. He
brought it out in the open. He didn't say, "Hey, I'm in process, you've
got to cut me some slack here, besides, I may have gotten her pregnant,
and killed her husband, but I'm going to do what is right by her, I'm going
to bring her into the palace." Instead he dealt with his sin and straightened
out his life.
Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Fellowship in Seattle, Washington
recently told me, "Being real and authentic when you are depraved is not
noble. It may be who you are, but who you are may need to change."
A few years ago, I made a crude remark about a speaker to a person sitting
next to me. It was the kind of comment that helped me bond with my buddies
in the locker room when I was in Junior High, and when I made it, I had
that same kind of feeling of empowerment. You know, "I'm a preacher but
I'm still a regular guy and I can still relate to the common man."
Mark Tabb, the person I made the remark to, took me aside later in the
afternoon and said, "In the short time I've known you, I've come to know
your heart and I think of you as a godly man, but I've noticed sometimes
you use language that I wouldn't expect to come from a man of God, and
I think you should consider removing that language from your vocabulary,
it doesn't become you."
Initially, I was defensive and downplayed the incident. But when I got
by myself, God convicted me of my sin, and I've changed. Years have passed,
and a couple thousand miles separate us, but Mark and I continue to be
in weekly contact. He has become a close friend because he loved me enough
to tell me the truth. And the truth was, I had some growing up to do. Sometimes,
confrontation facilitates true confession of sin. James wrote,  My
brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back,
 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way
will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
Game 7 of this year's World Series was a classic match-up. Twenty game
winner, "The Rocket," Roger Clemens took the hill for the World Champion
New York Yankees against twenty-two game winner, Curt Schilling, the Arizona
Diamondback's ace. It's not the first time they squared off, they'd done
so a decade before in a weight room.
In the winter of 1991, Clemens noticed Schilling working out in an adjacent
weight room at the Astrodome. The twenty-eight year old Clemens asked the
younger, twenty-four year old Schilling if they could talk.
Schilling thought it would be cool to talk some baseball with Clemens,
but he had no idea what Clemens had on his mind. Clemens got in Schilling's
face, telling him he wasn't taking advantage of the gifts God had given
him, he wasn't respecting himself, his teammates or the game. According
to Clemens, the conversation got heated.
And it had an impact on Schilling.
"I walked away saying to myself, 'You know, No. 1, why would he care
as much as he did? And, No. 2, if he did care, there must be something
there.'" Schilling said. "I began to turn a corner at that point in my
career, both on and off the field."
(Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Who was the winning pitcher of Game 7? Neither of them, Randy Johnson
got the "W" in relief of Schilling, but that doesn't really matter, they
both pitched well, and showed respect for themselves, their teammates and
I don't know for sure, but I'm almost positive that game 7 was a proud
day for Clemens. First, because he pitched well, but second because someone
he cared enough for to confront ten years earlier, pitched just as well.
Proverbs 27:17 NIV "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."
We need to confront one another because what's at stake is greater than
Game 7 of any World Series, our testimony and our effectiveness as a minister
is at stake.
Are you willing to be real with yourself, with God and with us? Are
you willing to confess your sins to God, and to one another so you can
have people praying for you? Are you willing to confront others when they
If you are, then you will help your church be the best it can be.