Showing posts with label James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label James. Show all posts

Sunday, February 04, 2024

Semi-Random Musings (33)

Mark’s list of the twelve apostles includes the names of two fathers: Zebedee and Alphaeus. Matthew includes the same two fathers, and Luke includes Alphaeus.

If you wonder why, look no further than their sons, both of whom are called James. To distinguish between them, the gospel writers use the names of their fathers as what are called disambiguators, phrases that clarify the author’s intended meaning.

Good thing too, or the New Testament could get pretty confusing.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Mouth Almighty

Mouth almighty, that is what I’ve got,
 Mouth almighty, telling you
    what’s what.
 Mouth almighty.
 I wish I’d never opened my mouth
    almighty …

— Elvis Costello (1983)

Some years ago, I was working at a Christian summer camp.

By all evidence, it had been an excellent year — many children’s lives touched, many young people growing in knowing God, good friendships formed, spiritual growth on every side, and a safe and successful physical program.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Flyover Country: James

Paul wrote the majority of New Testament letters. These almost exclusively take the form of one or more persuasive theological arguments buttressed by proofs of various sorts, usually sandwiched between greetings and salutations. Peter’s first epistle follows a similar pattern, as does Hebrews. Others, like Jude and 2 and 3 John, were written with a single evident concern or focus.

James, not so much. He is all over the map.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

The Commentariat Speaks (28)

Over at Blog & Mablog, Justin has a question about a difficult passage at the end of James:

“What is the purpose of anointing with oil [James 5:14]? Does it make our prayers extra powerful? Is that for us in this day and age?

I am genuinely curious due to the fact that in our church there is a sister that has just been diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. We do pray and have been praying for her, her husband, and their children.

This past Sunday during our announcements after the service our pastor stated that he and another elder were going to fulfill the James 5 principle and personally go and anoint her head with oil for healing.”

Oddly enough, we just discussed this passage in our weekly Bible study.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Faith’s Got Legs

It’s been a good winter for walking.

There’s hardly been any ice on the sidewalks, for one thing. For another, you could go out in February and march about in a thin jacket.

My little terrier has been ecstatic, actually. He loves a good walk. Dogs need a couple every day; and unlike in other winters, there have been plenty of smells around for him to get into. He stops everywhere, and he finds everything delightful. My dog trainer would never approve, but I can’t resist indulging him a little bit, and so our peregrinations contain frequent pauses to let him sniff about. Sometimes I actually think we walk his nose more than we walk my legs. But who could begrudge him a winter like this?

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Acting Christian

“If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Most of the time I enjoy writing these posts.

Sometimes, not so much.

Like today.

Today, I feel the truth of what I heard a preacher say once: “When you point your finger at somebody else, there’s always three pointing back at you.” Or, as the scriptures would put it, “Not many of you should become teachers ... for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Hyperbole and Analogy


Say what you like about James, he knew how to get a reader’s attention.

And people have said a fair bit about James over the years, not least Martin Luther, who famously called his letter an “epistle of straw”. There’s no getting around the fact that there are aspects to the missive that are theologically difficult, a tone about it that is markedly different from Paul, Peter, John and even Jude, and a strong Jewish flavor to it that can confuse Christian readers.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Curing Instability

“… a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

“Among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women …”

“… that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Weakness of will. Instability. Confusion. None of these qualities have been traditionally considered admirable in Christian circles, and with good reason. Indecisive people make poor signposts. Our role models rarely include those who fail to exhibit self-control. Erratic individuals are not likely to have your back in times of crisis.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

A Nature Like Mine

James says a remarkable and encouraging thing about one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament: a man who had conversations with God; a man who stood for God at a time when the nation of Israel had given up the worship of Jehovah for the worship of Baal and was in a state of moral decrepitude, ruled over by a king who was just about as wicked as they come; a man who ascended to heaven in a chariot rather than dying like the rest of us; and a man who would later appear and talk with the Lord Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.

What he says is this: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours.”

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Inbox: To the Youth Group

Last week, a youth leader we know sent the following email to the young people in his local church. I thought it made a great point, and he was kind enough to allow us to share it here.

Good morning everyone,

Students, your March Break 2020 is drawing to a close. I wonder: if someone had asked you on Saturday, March 7th how you would describe your March Break today on Saturday, March 21st, would your description have been anywhere close to how it actually unfolded?

The dramatic shifts in just two weeks get me thinking that there is probably something in the Bible that can provide some wisdom for us to shape our lives to. Of course there is, so the tricky part is to limit ourselves to just two selections for now.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mouth Almighty

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Faith’s Got Legs

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Less Different Than We Think

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”

“Rich” and “poor” are relative terms. Welfare recipients in Western society are not poor by the standards of East Africa. Likewise, many Africans would consider our Western middle classes incredibly rich, and yet hundreds of thousands around us are much better off than we are.

When James speaks of rich and poor, he specifies the sort of thing he means. The contrast between these two types of men is not merely a matter of degree; their lives are so different they might as well be different species. The very least of it is in how they present to the world. The poor man wears shabby clothing, and not because he didn’t bother to pick up a decent used Arrow shirt from the local Goodwill. He simply has nothing better. There are no welfare cheques in his future. The rich man across the way is decked out in fine garments and sports an ostentatious gold ring. He probably dressed down for the occasion.

That paints the picture for us just fine.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Acting Christian

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Calling a Spade a Spade

Popular science fiction author China Miéville is troubled by how the media refers to the … er … troubled.

When asked about the 2011 riots in London, England, his primary concern seems to be the language used to describe those who assaulted pensioners, burned people out of their homes and threw bricks at responding firefighters:

“For a long time I’ve been struck and horrified by the incredible cultural spite we’ve got in the UK towards young people. The constant use, for example, of the term ‘feral’ to describe troubled children should be a matter of utter shame: that our culture has normalised that adjective is an expression of our culture’s moral degradation, far more than children’s.”

In Miéville’s view, the moral degradation of modern British culture is epitomized in its failure to speak kindly of its most debased element.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Anonymous Asks (6)

“How do you reconcile Ephesians 2:8-9 with James 2:24?”

Well, let’s take a crack at that. First, the apostle Paul in Ephesians:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Then James:

“You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

I’m going to assume the bone of contention here is the two phrases “saved through FAITH” (i.e., not as a result of works) and “justified by WORKS”. These statements appear to be contradictory.

But are they?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Sentiment Without Content

I am reliably informed that in the days of my youth, when I was apparently even more attractive, a sweet young thing from church had a serious crush on me.

The day I got married, or so I hear, she mourned in tears — at the loss of ‘what might have been’, I suppose.

I am supposing because I don’t know. To the best of my recollection, over a period of almost two years, the girl had never said more than ten words to me, nor I to her.

Do you find that odd? I sure do.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


Have you see that short form online? Know what it signifies? Your kids do, guaranteed.

“TLDR”, “tl;dr” and other variants simply mean “Too Long, Didn’t Read”. They are an admission of intellectual laziness delivered with trademark millennial bravado; a backhanded shot in the chops to a writer who probably labored over words about to be summarily ignored. They are also almost invariably accompanied by a disparaging comment about the thing not-quite-read.

Farhad Manjoo over at Slate has a fascinating piece about how people read online. The upshot: they don’t. Well, not very well at least.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

All That Remains

Ear wax is a good thing.

(No, Microsoft Word’s autocorrect function is not playing havoc with my posts again; this is precisely how I intended to start this one, though I quite understand if you’re confused.)

Ear wax really is a good thing. We are unbelievably well designed, and everything that happens naturally in our bodies is in service of one purpose or another. Cerumen, as it is more formally known, is about 50% fat and serves to moisten the ear canal, fight off infection and help keep dust, dirt and debris from getting deep inside your ear.

Mind you, it IS possible too have too much of a good thing.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Study of Plate Tectonics (or What Do I Do Next?)

Which way do I go? How do I respond to THAT? Should I wait, or should I act now?

The answers to such questions are not merely of academic interest to the Christian. From time to time, one choice or another gives rise to significant consequences, either good or bad. Other times nothing we choose to do or say matters in the slightest; what happens would have happened anyway.

But of course we don’t know that when we’re choosing, do we? So we find ourselves asking God for wisdom.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Mouth Almighty

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Faith’s Got Legs

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Threatened by Intelligence

A series of studies done at University of Buffalo, California Lutheran U. and the University of Texas, Austin, appear to show that while many men say they would like a partner who is smarter than they are when the question is purely hypothetical, when confronted with the reality they really … don’t.

“Six studies revealed that when evaluating psychologically distant targets, men showed greater attraction toward women who displayed more (vs. less) intelligence than themselves. In contrast, when targets were psychologically near, men showed less attraction toward women who outsmarted them.”

This is surprising? Seriously?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Weights and Mirrors

In two previous posts, I’ve tried to distinguish between: (1) historical narrative in scripture, and (2) the commands of God — basically, between description and prescription.

Why? Well, because people frequently crack open “holy books” in search of answers to questions that are very personal, and reading historical narrative as if it is God’s direction for your life can lead to considerable confusion — like the atheist who thinks the Bible says ritual castration will get you into heaven. I suspect the Lord would prefer that we not experience that sort of muddled thinking. My advice is to read commands as commands, and history as history.

But let me play devil’s advocate for a moment and point out a fly in my own ointment, if you will.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Not To Be Forgiven

Forgiveness is the great equalizer.

In extending Christian forgiveness, we acknowledge our own ongoing sins and failures and accept back those who have sinned against us in the knowledge that we, too, will fail them tomorrow and will go on failing them until the Lord returns.

Forgiveness makes every person my equal and everyone my brother or sister in the only sense that equality can ever be attained on earth and in the only sense that, from a human perspective, really matters.

But some people will not be forgiven.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Sincerest Form

Imitation ... or caricature?
My uncle, having lived in England all his life, has an accent. It is strong and distinctive.

On occasion, my brother deliberately imitates him to humorous effect. You might think his version of my uncle exaggerated until you hear the real thing, when it becomes clear my brother’s homage may well not go far enough. Other times, in conversation with my uncle, one or another of his Canadian relatives finds himself unconsciously picking up and mimicking my uncle’s speech patterns.

Imitation may be conscious or unconscious, but it is always an action (as opposed to a state of mind). It is something you have to DO. Thinking about imitating someone is not imitation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cognitive Dissonance

In my neighbourhood it has become trendy to post a blue sign on your front lawn, one that reads, “Leave fossil fuels IN THE GROUND”. I walk by several of these each morning.

These messages adorn the snow-covered lawns of $800,000+ homes with their natural gas furnaces blasting away in the face of our Canadian winter, their driveways filled with SUVs and other premium fossil fuel-consuming vehicles.

Such cries for change are eminently dismissable, their transparent virtue-signaling drowning in cognitive dissonance and unintended irony.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Quote of the Day (3)

James Bartholomew of The Spectator on the subject of modern virtue:           

“No one actually has to do anything. Virtue comes from mere words or even from silently held beliefs. There was a time in the distant past when people thought you could only be virtuous by doing things: by helping the blind man across the road; looking after your elderly parents instead of dumping them in a home; staying in a not-wholly-perfect marriage for the sake of the children. These things involve effort and self-sacrifice. That sounds hard! Much more convenient to achieve virtue by expressing hatred of those who think the health service could be improved by introducing competition.”

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Not To Be Forgiven

A more current version of this post is available here.

Forgiveness is the great equalizer. In extending Christian forgiveness, we acknowledge our own ongoing sins and failures and accept back those who have sinned against us in the knowledge that we, too, will fail them tomorrow and will go on failing them until the Lord returns.

Forgiveness makes every person my equal and everyone my brother or sister in the only sense that equality can ever be attained on earth and in the only sense that, from a human perspective, really matters.

But some people will not be forgiven.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Calling a Spade a Spade

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Nature Like Ours

The most recent version of this post is available here.