Category Archives: James

Without a Word

I had occasion, during my former career as a sound engineer for concerts, to hang out with rock and roll bands backstage.  One extraordinary incident sticks in my mind but not something you might guess.  It had to do with one man’s silent example.  The musicians (who you might recognize) were sitting around between sets, relaxing, when the conversation turned ugly.  It began with a critical remark about someone they all knew.  Then one person after another piled on, and their insults quickly became more vicious.  Each new jibe was received with raucous laughter and backslapping. But one guy, the bass player in the band, did not join in. He never said a word, but quietly stood up and walked out.  I remember the look of sadness on his face to this day.

I don’t know anything about his beliefs except for what I witnessed that night and on one other occasion when I saw him gently and respectfully refuse an offer by a female fan.  But that guy influenced me with his silent example of kindness.  I suspect he may have been familiar with these words, written by Jesus’ brother, James:

“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12)

When kids slander, they call it bullying and it makes headlines.  When adults do it, it’s business as usual on Facebook.  But God is the only One with enough information and insight to judge.  And He, the only Lawgiver, tells us humans, don’t do it.  It’s one thing to take exception to what someone else does, but it’s not our place to judge or condemn the person.

By the way, when this talks of “judging the law,” that’s Bible-speak for the attitude that says, “I know better than God what is acceptable in this situation, so I’m going to do it my way.”  Not a good policy.

That bass player was one of the stepping stones God laid out for me as I drew close to Jesus.  He probably wouldn’t remember what he did.  But I do and I’m grateful.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

When You’re Ready

My wife and I got mugged in Savannah, not physically but verbally, by a guy holding a sign and yelling Bible verses at us.  He literally followed us down the street, trying to “save” us by forcing Scripture on us.  He probably thought he was earning brownie points from God.  I was annoyed.  More than that, I was frustrated, wondering how many people he had chased away from God’s grace that day.  If you get accosted by someone shoving God or the Bible down your throat, don’t fight back; run away.  Because God doesn’t work that way.

It’s not that God doesn’t care; He really does.  Jesus’ brother, James, wrote of how God intensely yearns for His Spirit to live in us, just as He intended.  (That is my rough and loose paraphrase of James 4:5)  God is passionate that we be restored to the fullness of spiritual life by having His Spirit alive in us.  He wanted that for us so much He paid a terrible price to accomplish it.

BUT HE DOES NOT FORCE HIMSELF ON US!  He waits for us to be ready.  James continued his thought with this:

“But He [God] gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 – my explanation in brackets)

“The proud” in that verse are those who think they have life figured out on their own and who have no use for God.  He waits.  Stuff happens.  Sometimes “the proud” become “the humble.”  In the words of Bob Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone)

You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin’ out
Now you don’t talk so loud
Now you don’t seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal

When “the proud” become “the humble,” when they are ready to receive Him, then God approaches.  With grace.  Not with loud, angry shouting.  He sent His Son to find you and rescue you.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

Jesus invited people to come to Him and find rest, saying He was “gentle and humble in heart.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

I remember seeing a video on Facebook about a guy who rescued an abandoned, starving dog.  The dog was aggressive, unwilling for anyone to approach but the guy just sat there and waited him out.  After a long time, when the dog was ready to receive it, the man gave him “more grace” – care, nourishment, healing and a new life.  There was no yelling involved, no signs, no scolding.  It was very much like my own experience with God, Who waited until I was not so full of myself.  Then, when I was ready to receive His grace, without holding anything against me, He gave me the life of His Son, Jesus.

He waits for you, too.

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Like a Rolling Stone lyrics: http://www.bobdylan.com/us/songs/rolling-stone#ixzz3UwbEdylf

What Corrupts Government

Two words explain the root of what is wrong with our government.  You thought I was going to say Republican and Democrat.  Sorry…   Good guess, but those aren’t the two I was thinking of.  And it’s not just our government.  These two words define the problem with every system of government.  Which two?  Selfish ambition.  The reason governments don’t work well is that those who gravitate to positions of authority over others tend to be people who are ambitious and selfish.  Of course I’m not talking about your favorite leader.  But I am talking about the majority of those who claw their way up into positions of influence and power.  Consider this:

“But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3:14-16)

In the United States, our leaders are supposed to represent and serve the people.  Too often they behave as though the people are supposed to serve them.  But the same root problem exists in repressive dictatorships.  The people who manage to get to the top tend to be self-centered and driven.  That’s not the kind of personality that works best to govern.

Imagine if our governments were filled with people who were described like this:

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. “ (James 3:17-18, NIV)

Next time you start thinking about someone in government, take a moment to pray for her or him.  Ask God to fill them with those qualities which are developed from within by His Spirit, and to protect them from the destructive attitudes of the world.  Then pray, “Thy Kingdom come…”

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

An Important Person

He’s brilliant but has always suffered from mild brain damage.  He reads and retains books on lofty, intellectual subjects far beyond my capacity but works as a busboy in a nursing home.  I bumped into him at the store and he was telling me about one of the patients who has Alzheimer’s.  She helps herself to everyone else’s leftovers while he is bussing the tables.  He stopped and thought deeply for a moment and then said, “You know, she is every bit as important as either of us…”

I love it when God speaks through His people. He reminds us that His ways are not like the ways of the world.  Like this:

” My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Better Bread

When you sink your teeth into good sourdough, the crust fights back a little; it’s chewy and a bit tough.  Making bread has been a hobby of mine for years and I’ve developed methods that work pretty well. But when I spotted a used copy of Peter Reinhart’s “Crust and Crumb” down at Barbwire Books, I snatched it up.  Peter writes about how to make “world class bread,” bread that is “good beyond belief.”  When I read that line, I had to have the book.

I keep “Crust and Crumb” by my easy chair and frequently browse through it, absorbing what he has to say. Peter’s recipes were very much like the ones I had been using.  But he spends most of the book describing specific ways to form and handle the dough.  Some of those methods require several days to make a batch of bread and seemed unnecessarily tedious to me.  So, I modified his methods with a few personal shortcuts here and there. My sourdough was improved somewhat but was not yet “good beyond belief.”  In reflecting on what was wrong, it occurred to me that perhaps I’d get better results if I actually followed Reinharts instructions. (Duh!)  Last time I made sourdough, I followed his methods to the letter.  Oh my goodness…  Not yet good beyond belief but it’s getting there…

It’s very easy to make the same mistake with the Bible – keep it by the easy chair, browse through it and modify what it says to suit what seems doable.  Throw in a personal shortcut here or there.  Here’s what Jesus’ brother Jim said about that:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25, NIV)

Just do it.  Like the bread, you won’t be “good beyond belief” but you’ll be heading in that direction.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Powerful Word

What’s the big deal with the “F word?”  Used to be that people would use adjectives to help us understand what they meant.  They would talk about a melodious bird or a twisted relic, a cantankerous geezer or a dog-eared book.  Their descriptive words would jumpstart our imaginations.  Now, they say, “F’n geezer,” or “F’n bird” and my imagination shrivels. My interest sags.  My daughter says I’m old fashioned and that I have allowed the “F word” to have too much power over me.  Power?  I think not. It’s not powerful, it’s lazy.

Let me tell you about a Word with astonishing power, so much so, there’s no word in English that completely conveys it’s meaning.  The Greek word, Logos, is translated in English as “Word.”  But, as it is commonly used in the New Testament, it’s much more than a combination of letters.  Logos means the mindset and understanding of God, the way God thinks and interacts with the reality He created.  Logos is the Greek root for the word, “logic.”   The apostle, John, called Jesus “The Word,” the “Logos.”   He meant that Jesus was the full essence of God’s Mind.  By this he equates Jesus, “The Word,” with God:

” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

Logos” is a word with power.  God’s plan to restore humans to their full potential and life, as revealed in both the Old and New Testaments, is to plant His “Logos” in their soul, like a seed that will grow.

““… “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33b)

“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezekiel 36:27)

When God’s Logos is planted in us it grows and changes us with power.  His law is put into our minds, His Spirit lives in our soul.  This planting of God’s Logos is made possible as we accept God’s gift of forgiveness and cleansing, paid for by Jesus on the cross.  In Jesus’ words,

“…I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16b-17)

Now, there’s a “Word” with real power, living, growing, transforming power.  Compared to “Logos,” the “F word” has all the power of flattened roadkill.

Now, consider this from Jesus’ brother, James:

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:21)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.