Tuesday, September 17, 2019


Who in your community is understanding and wise?  Let her example, which is marked by wisdom and gentleness, blaze a trail for others...The wisdom of this world should never be mistaken for heavenly wisdom, for it originates in earthly realms and is earthly, unspiritual and even demonic...Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits untainted by hypocrisy.  It results in a harvest of righteousness which is sown in peace by those who make peace.  James 3:13-18 (selections)

I need to look for the wise in my community and not be fooled by the world's definition of wisdom, which is easy to note by its jealousy and selfishisness and the resulting chaos and evil.  

A pursuit of righteousness follows the path of wisdom.  The Greek for "righteousness" includes the thought that a person would "be as one ought to be."  To finally be right.  Yes, ultimately, to be right with God and to be the wise, sincere, peace-seeking person God intended.

I have had so many other pursuits! To be "as I should" seems to be a quest of identity or, at least, of character:  a sincere reflection of God-character in me, as he made me to be.  Because of the other-focus of this section of James, it seems to involve a sincere effort to pursue peace and plant peace so that others can be as they should, too.

The steps to that rightness is through purity, peace, gentleness, deference to others (remember not selfish ambition) and mercy.  I feel God drawing me into those definitions; his measures for these qualities come from him.  As he draws me to those qualities, other worldly measures for wisdom no longer apply.  I can be free.  To be me.  (Wasn't there a book title?)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019


Good deeds must accompany faith, otherwise it is not faith at all.  It's just a good idea.

"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Will that kind of faith save him?  Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works."  James 2:14-19

Faith is demonstrated by our actions.  Jesus tells the same truth about the good apple which can only come from a good tree.  It sounds simple, yet, what are "good" deeds which result from faith and NOT FROM SELF-SATISFACTION OR SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS?

How does my faith determine my deeds?  Do my good deeds "feel" good? Or do I engage in deeds which require me to be uncomfortable because they are from God.  In fact, when I operate out of "my" gifts, I may tend to take credit for the deeds.  Excess turns all gifts into curses, says Richard Rohr.  What should be used for God's good is used to help me feel purposed, useful or more gifted.    

My deeds must originate from who God is, not who I am.  If God means to draw all men to him or for his people to be unified or to be love itself, which deeds honor his character/his truth?  Jesus said it simply, as you treat the least (by whatever definition that is for you), that is how I treat him.  Am I patronizing? Am I empowering?  Am I meeting their needs or my own?

What is "good" is determined by God and points to his goodness (not mine).  Knowing God guides me to understand how he sees people and what he wants for them.  I want to bridge cultural divides so more can have access to material goods and spiritual good because Jesus often talks about meeting the needs of the poor, both physical and spiritual.  

I also have to confront systems which oppress.  Isaiah 58 uses strong language of a true fast:  loosen the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of the yoke which oppresses and to break every yoke.  These are action-centered efforts, which often cause me to be uncomfortable.

It is  the Lord's good when I march for change, when I write my representatives, when I advocate for changed legislation, when I empower others to vote.  I stay uncomfortable so that others can be set free.  Not as fun as teaching a class - not as succinct nor with immediate feedback - but for the cause of Christ in the world, I do this unlikely "good."

The Perfect Psalm

Psalm 19:7-10

God's law is perfect, turning lives around.
His words are reliable and true,
instilling wisdom to open minds.
The Eternal One's directions are correct,
giving satisfaction to the heart.
God's commandments are clear,
lending clarity to the eyes.
The awe of The Eternal One is pure,
sustaining for all of eternity.
The Eternal One's decisions are sound;
they are right through and through.
They are worth more than gold -
even more than abundant, pure gold.
They are sweeter than honey
or the drippings of the honeycomb.