Monday, August 11, 2014


Don't Shoot the Wounded: Our Role in Accountability (Galatians 6:1-10)

About 4 years ago I was leading an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church.  Some of the members of that group wanted to start accountability relationships, so I presented the following lesson to them.  I think the material here is relevant to many of us today.  How do we respond to others?  How do we keep each other accountable?  Paul discusses these issues within the context of the church in Galatia with whom he was familiar.  He offers this material to a group of people dealing with a variety of issues in their fellowship.  In a nutshell, he says that relationship is prior to accountability.  Without relationship, accountability will most likely not happen.  At any rate, the outline follows the passage (quoted from the Holman Christian Standard):

Galatians 6:1-10 "Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you won't be tempted also.  Carry one another's burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he is deceiving himself.  But each person should examine his own work, and then he will have a reason for boasting in himself alone, and not in respect to someone else.  For each person will have to carry his own load.  The one who is taught the message must share his goods with the teacher.  Don't be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up.  Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith."

Don’t Shoot the Wounded
Our Role in Accountability

Galatians 6:1-10

False accusations and a wounding
Loss of fellowship and misunderstanding

The Story of Chuck Girard
a. Conversion
b. Contemporary Christian musician
c. Late 70s
d. Leaving the music business
e. A bout with alcoholism
The Song: "Don’t Shoot the Wounded"

Galatians 6:1-5, 9-10
Our role in accountability
1. Passionate involvement
2. Radical hospitality
3. Extravagant Generosity
4. Intentional Discipleship
5. Risk-Taking Service

Galatians 6:1
1. Accountability is being Passionately Involved in each other’s lives

Caught in a Trap (James 5:19-20)
a. Note that this is a “brother”—accountability works best where relationship exists
b. We are family
c. Note that this sibling is “caught”
This is not a perceived sin
There are no “gotchas” in the body of Christ
Don't Shoot the Wounded: develop a relationship with them to restore them 

2. Accountability requires us to practice a Radical Hospitality

Spirit of Gentleness (Ephesians 4:25-32)
a. Accountability works best where love exists
b. This restoration should not be done with a harsh attitude
c. Accountability requires a level of trust and grace

Watch Out! (2 Cor. 2:7-8; 2 Thess. 3:14-15)
a. Accountability works best when we are paying as much attention to our own failures as to those of others, we must have an intentional discipleship for ourselves
b. Remember that you are most likely to see problems where you struggle the most

Don’t Shoot the Wounded
They need healing and help: Accountability should lead to restoration
Someday you may be one

Galatians 6:2
3. Accountability requires an Extravagant Generosity

Bearing Burdens and the Law of Christ (Romans 15:1-2; John 13:34-35; 15:12-14)
a. Accountability works best when we build up instead of tear down (Hebrews 12:12-16): We must be ready to strengthen others and to help them in their weakness instead of looking for opportunities to make ourselves look better in light of the failures of others
b. Bearing burdens requires effort on our part. We may actually have to lift and carry. It is not passive.

What is the Law of Christ?
a. The Law of Christ is Life (Romans 8:2)
b. The Law of Christ is Love (John 13:34-35; 15:12-14)
c. Accountability works best when love is present (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Love is patient, transparent, does not try to belittle another
Love is willing to be wronged rather than to do harm

Don’t Shoot the Wounded
Love Requires that we deal with the problem and not ignore it
Accountability should lead to restoration, not death

Galatians 6:3-5
4. Accountability requires an Intentional Discipleship in our own lives

Humility or Pride? (James 1:25; Phil. 2:3-4)
a. Accountability works best when we operate with a realization of our own sinfulness instead of a perception of our own superiority
b. We must learn to put the sincere needs of others ahead of our own needs
c. We must not presume sin, but neither should we ignore it
d. If sin is clear in our hearts, we must confess
e. If sin is clear in others, we must confront BUT with love

Bearing Burdens, Part 2
a. Accountability works best when we are brutally honest about ourselves and to ourselves
b. Before Christ we are responsible primarily for our own actions, not the actions of others
c. I am responsible to God for what I do, not for what others do (Speck and log)

Don’t Shoot the Wounded
Seek to offer the help you want when you are injured

Galatians 6:9-10
5. Accountability involves a Risk-Taking Attitude of Service

Don’t Lose Heart, Don’t Grow Weary, Don’t Give in
a. Perseverance counts in helping others
b. The end result is worth the effort (Hebrews 12:12-16): Sanctification
c. Satan doesn’t give up, neither should we!

Do Good, Not harm

Take advantage of opportunities
a. Do not go looking for “bad situations,” but look for a chance to do good
b. Keep an eye out for things you can do to bless others

Don’t shoot the wounded
Do no harm
Do as God has done for you

Now What?
What does accountability look like?
First, choose partners wisely
Pray and wait
Don’t rush into this relationship
Keep the group small, no more than 3 or 4

Second, meet regularly
Set a date and keep it

Third, practice transparency
Tell the truth about your own struggles
Be honest

Fourth, keep confidences

Fifth, practice hospitality and acceptance

Don’t shoot the wounded, love them back to health

Thanks for reading!

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Happy Birthday USA! A Fourth of July Repost

I posted most of this a couple of years ago.  I decided to add some things, but I thought this was a nice way to celebrate July 4. I hope you enjoy it!

Well, the USA is celebrating yet another birthday, and although some people think that the brightness has worn off this "city on a hill," I'm not ready to read her obituary yet. I went back into the archives to find some quotes for you today. The first one comes from John Wayne.  In the movie "The Alamo," Duke plays Davey Crockett, leader to the Tennessee volunteers. At one point in the movie he gives a speech about the USA and the idea of a "republic." Here is the excerpt I liked the best:

"Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat - the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words."

Finally, I wanted to share some song lyrics with you all.  Johnny Cash was a singer/songwriter whose music I heard a lot growing up.  I think my dad had every Cash album ever made!  At any rate, Johnny Cash has a song that I think is appropriate for this day.  It is entitled "Ragged Old Flag," and here are the words:

I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it."

He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag.

"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing 'Oh Say Can You See.'
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams.

"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag.

"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II.
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.

"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she's been abused--
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused.

"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before,
And I believe she can take a whole lot more.

"So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I do like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."

I close these verses with a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "A Nation's Strength." 

What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
On this fourth of July, as you give thanks for the freedoms and opportunities God has given you in this land, please remember to pray for those who defend our way of life and for the families of those whose loved ones paid the ultimate price so that we can enjoy our great republic. Remember, it may be a cliche, but it is still true:  "Freedom isn't free."

Happy Birthday, USA!

Thanks for reading!

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, June 13, 2014


My Annual Fathers' Day Post in Honor of my Dad

With Fathers' Day coming up Sunday, I couldn't think of any better way to honor my Dad than to repost something I wrote some years ago.  You see, my Dad passed away in 2004, just before I had the privilege of coming to work for Liberty University.  You see, it was always my Dad's dream that I would get to go to Liberty, but you would not believe how excited he was to know that I would be teaching there!

My Dad was quite a man, and almost everyone who ever met him loved him.  He could tell some of the funniest stories, but most of all he kept us connected to the history of his family.  To be honest, I miss him, and I would love an opportunity just to hear his stories all over again. Some of you never knew him, and I am genuinely sorry. He enriched the lives of so many with his infectious smile and easy generosity. I feel so much poorer without him, but I know heaven is richer. I love you, Dad.

I first wrote this in 2005, but it speaks volumes about my memories of my dad, Bobbie Eugene Percer, Sr. My dad was a hero to me in many ways, and I am terribly sorry that I never told him that to his face. At his funeral in 2004, literally hundreds of people stood in line for hours to tell us of the way my dad had blessed them. I heard stories of dad witnessing to people and leading them to the Lord, stories of dad giving money or clothes or time or work in order to help someone else find a better path in life, stories of my dad going out of his way to help others, etc. It humbled me. I had no idea how "big" a man my father was, how much of a blessing he was to many people. My dad left some mighty big shoes, and I hope I can be half the man he was. With that in mind, here is the first thing I wrote about my dad way back in 2005.

With Father's day coming up this weekend, I wanted to share some thoughts about my Father. You see, my father passed away in August 2004, and for many reasons thoughts of him have been central in my mind recently. I’m afraid I’m losing him.

Let me explain.

My dad wasn’t very active the last few years of life. Due to his own lack of proper care for his physical body and a host of problems with illness, the primary memory my children have of their grandfather is dad sitting in a big lounger watching TV and occasionally waking up long enough to tease them.

My children did not get to know my dad. Oh, my dad was never the most active guy in the world (I think I know where my own lack of activity comes from!), but he didn’t sit around a lot as I remember it. Dad coached baseball, football, basketball, if it had “ball” in the title, he learned it, played it, and probably coached it. My dad cared about folks that no one else wanted. He loved kids, especially his own. I once saw my dad kick a field goal from the 45 yard line (that’s a 55 yard kick, if you didn’t know!). I was in high school then, so dad was probably in his mid-40s. He could kick the ball further than the place kicker on our team.

I remember looking for dad’s vehicle to pull up at the football practice field. I don’t know if he knew that I saw him, but I looked for him to show up so I could perform for him. Dad didn’t get real excited about sports (that was mom’s job!), but you could tell when he was enjoying something. He had this infectious grin and mischievous smile that would literally light up his face. I heard that for almost 10 years after my younger brother graduated high school, dad would make his way to the practice field and sit in his car and watch the players go through their paces. For me, his watching was a comforting presence that reminded me that he was there if I needed him. Oh, I’ll admit that I didn’t “need” him as much as he would like, but it made me feel real good to know dad was there.

I miss him.

Sometimes in my work here, I think that dad is sitting in heaven, in his heavenly lounger, watching his boy perform. Oh, I’m not blindsiding running backs and quarterbacks any more, but I can’t help but think that dad is silently cheering for me. He sits there, intently studying me as I pace a classroom or teach a class or grade a paper. When I make a particularly brilliant play, he smiles that smile. Even when I don’t do so well, dad looks approvingly on his boy. I can see him, sitting there, a big glass of sweet tea on the table, a smile in his eyes, and joy in his heart. I want to make him proud, and I think he knows that.

My last words to my dad face-to-face were spoken around Easter of 2004. I don’t remember everything we discussed, but I remember putting my arm around his shoulders and looking into that face. His eyes were a bit dimmed by old age and strokes. But somewhere in those eyes I saw the place kicker kicking a field goal from the 45 yard line. I remember saying this to him, “Dad, I love you. I’ll see you later.” At his funeral in August 2004, the pastor asked me to pray at the grave site (actually, my mother asked me to do it). As I walked away from dad’s coffin, I touched the lid and said, “I love you, dad, see you later.”

I miss him, but thank God I will see him later. If your father is alive, call him up. Tell him you appreciate him and love him. Memories are great, but I’d love to have my dad here to hug again. He’s much better off, but I need his smile. Dad, I love you. See you later!

Thanks for reading!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


The Great American Novel: A Song by Larry Norman

Tonight as I have been hanging out with my family, I have had a song running through my head.  The song is by Larry Norman, something of a pioneer in Christian music.  Norman wasn't afraid to take on controversial topics in his songs, and in many ways he was a bold man.  I dearly loved his music, and I own several of his albums on actual vinyl records.  In some ways Larry Norman (along with DeGarmo and Key, Petra, Keith Green, Randy Stonehill, and others) wrote the background music to my Christian life as a young man.  Nonetheless, there was one song that sticks with me.  That song is entitled "The Great American Novel."  Here are the lyrics:

i was born and raised an orphan
in a land that once was free
in a land that poured its love out on the moon
and i grew up in the shadows
of your silos filled with grain
but you never helped to fill my empty spoon

and when i was ten you murdered law
with courtroom politics
and you learned to make a lie sound just like truth
but i know you better now
and i don't fall for all your tricks
and you've lost the one advantage of my youth

you kill a black man at midnight
just for talking to your daughter
then you make his wife your mistress
and you leave her without water
and the sheet you wear upon your face
is the sheet your children sleep on
at every meal you say a prayer
you don't believe but still you keep on

and your money says in God we trust
but it's against the law to pray in school
you say we beat the russians to the moon
and i say you starved your children to do it

you are far across the ocean
but the war is not your own
and while you're winning theirs
you're gonna lose the one at home
do you really think the only way
to bring about the peace
is to sacrifice your children
and kill all your enemies

the politicians all make speeches
while the news men all take note
and they exaggerate the issues
as they shove them down our throats
is it really up to them
whether this country sinks or floats
well i wonder who would lead us
if none of us would vote

well my phone is tapped and my lips are chapped
from whispering through the fence
you know every move i make
or is that just coincidence
well you try to make my way of life
a little less like jail
if i promise to make tapes and slides
and send them through the mail

and your money says in God we trust
but it's against the law to pray in school
you say we beat the russians to the moon
and i say you starved your children to do it
you say all men are equal all men are brothers
then why are the rich more equal than others
don't ask me for the answer i've only got one
that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son
Although the issues he addresses in this song are predominantly issues of the 60s and 70s, the song still has a lot of relevance for today.  How often do we (as Christians, or even as Americans) think of our own needs first, putting our needs before the needs and suffering of others?  As Norman sings, our silos are full of grain, but we don't make a move to fill another person's empty spoon.  As Christians, we are called to feed the hungry, and yet so often we fail to do so (or we write a check or expect the government to do it because "we pay taxes").  Love for others should require us to consider the concerns of others as more important than our own (see Philippians 3). 

And that is only ONE issue Norman addresses.  He addresses corrupt politics, racism, war, and a multitude of other issues, many of which still linger in our society. 

I can almost see him, looking a bit prophetic in his long hair and faded jeans, singing his words of truth into my soul.  I remember seeing him in concert, and I remember wondering how he was able to read my heart and address my concerns so clearly.

I was young, I was idealistic.  And Larry Norman fed my soul things it needed to hear.  I needed to be reminded that the kingdom of God is more important than presidential elections.  I needed to be reminded that how I treat my neighbor says a lot more about my faith in God than how often I read my Bible.  I needed to be reminded that how I spend my money shows my real concerns and my true convictions.  I needed to be reminded that what I think of God often says more about me than it does about God. 

I needed someone like Larry Norman to remind me--Christianity isn't necessarily a panacea for the world's problems.  It is a relationship with a living Lord who invades our lives with His amazing kindness and expects us to spread that love to others.  Christianity should be an ongoing journey into the Light, into the Truth, and a continuous connection and growing into the image of the One who made me and who laid down His life to save mine. 

I needed to be reminded that Christianity isn't simply about creeds, belief systems, or doctrinal statements.  It is action.  God loved, and He acted.  How can we who follow Him expect to do anything less?  If we love as He loves, we will (indeed, we MUST) act. 

Larry Norman wasn't perfect, but he was a good reminder for me at just the right time.  God used Norman to shore up my conscience, to remind me that in all my gaining of knowledge I needed to also gain wisdom to live life as God intended.  In some of his music, Norman shared that wisdom.

As he reminds us in the song above:  "you say all men are equal all men are brothers/then why are the rich more equal than others/don't ask me for the answer i've only got one/that a man leaves his darkness when he follows the Son." 

How are we doing?  Are we walking out of darkness into God's great Light?  Are we moving in God's direction?  Where else can we go, Jesus alone holds the Words of Life . . .

Thanks, Larry Norman, for sticking in my head.  May your tribe increase!

Thanks for reading! 

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 23, 2014


Memorial Day, by Edgar Guest: My Annual Post

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day here in the United States.  It is a day we take time to remember those who have given their lives in defense of our country.  It is also a day when we take time to thank those who currently serve in our military.  Some time back I began a tradition of honoring this day with a poem by Edgar Guest. Let me know what you think!

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day,
Is not a rose wreath, white and red,
In memory of the blood they shed;
It is to stand beside each mound,
Each couch of consecrated ground,
And pledge ourselves as warriors true
Unto the work they died to do.

Into God's valleys where they lie
At rest, beneath the open sky,
Triumphant now o'er every foe,
As living tributes let us go.
No wreath of rose or immortelles
Or spoken word or tolling bells
Will do to-day, unless we give
Our pledge that liberty shall live.

Our hearts must be the roses red
We place above our hero dead;
To-day beside their graves we must
Renew allegiance to their trust;
Must bare our heads and humbly say
We hold the Flag as dear as they,
And stand, as once they stood, to die
To keep the Stars and Stripes on high.

The finest tribute we can pay
Unto our hero dead to-day
Is not of speech or roses red,
But living, throbbing hearts instead,
That shall renew the pledge they sealed
With death upon the battlefield:
That freedom's flag shall bear no stain
And free men wear no tyrant's chain.

Thanks for reading! And thanks to all military who served or currently serve to protect our freedoms! May God bless you and your families.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


A Note to Graduates: What will be your Legacy?

A few days ago I had the privilege of participating in the graduating ceremonies for the latest graduates from Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary.  As I watched them walk the stage, I couldn't help but think of the things they will do and the people they will influence.  Two verses come to mind as I pray for these new graduates:

Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.

Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.

I attended Liberty's graduation, in which I watched several students and good friends walk across the stage to receive their degrees and launch into their ministries. This momentous occasion reminded me of beginnings and endings, but more importantly it made me think of the idea of "legacy" and the kind of impact an individual life might have on people. In the next few paragraphs I'll try to explain.

I'm not sure how much we think of the impact of our lives. As I watched the proud graduates walk the stage, I couldn't help but think about what I may hear about these people in the future. Some of them have already made an impact, some of them have a future impact to make. Most of them have no idea what the end of their lives will be, they only have dreams and hopes and (perhaps) plans.

Some of the seminary students who walked across the stage Saturday have already begun their legacy. Many of them left homes and nice jobs to pursue a degree at the seminary. They said "no" to "success" as the world measures it so that they would have the opportunity to labor for God. Some will labor in obscurity, some will never have "the largest church in America," some will never make the "big money," or write the most impressive "how to" book for other pastors. I know their lives, their hearts, and I know that their legacy will be greater than any can imagine.

The other day I posted a note about "James the Less," and his figure seems fitting here. He was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus, but even church history and tradition have trouble determining who he was. Yet, he was one of the original twelve disciples, one of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Not as famous as James the son of Zebedee, this James nonetheless left enough of an imprint on history to be regarded as one of those individuals who "turned the world upside down" with his life and preaching.

We no doubt graduated a lot of these individuals on Saturday--folks we may have a hard time identifying who will nonetheless make a great impression on many they will bring to Christ or love in God's name. "Less" may describe the knowledge of them, but it will not define their impact on those to whom they minister. I bet there were people in the first century who didn't think of James as "the Less" because of what God did through him. Nonetheless, James built a legacy, and like him, many of these graduating seminary students are building a legacy.  We may not know their names, but God does.  And with his help they are building quite a legacy.

Let me offer a moment of transparency here:  I pray for my students.  Some semesters I pray a LOT!  One of the most frequent prayers I offer on their behalf runs something like this:  "Lord, help these students run further and accomplish more than any of their professors.  May their spiritual progress move the church closer to her beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, and may their growth go beyond what I have experienced."

I pray it, but I wonder if I really mean it sometimes.  I look at students who graduated and who have definitely progressed down the road of godliness in ways I did not imagine.  I see their accomplishments, and I must admit that I am sometimes envious.  Some of my students are accomplishing the very things for which I prayed.  I am proud of them, and sometimes I envy them.  I remember my own seminary graduation well--the dean mispronounced my name, my family was there to support me, and I knew that I was going to be used by God to "set the world on fire" for Jesus.  I promptly went to work in a bookstore.

Yes, a bookstore . . .

Granted, it WAS a Christian bookstore, but I digress.

All those dreams and plans of becoming this pastor or that professor suddenly took a back seat to paying the bills.  My legacy wasn't quite what I expected.

Nonetheless, I wouldn't trade that experience.  Now I pray for students who head out to fulfill God's call on their lives.  I wonder what stories I'll hear in the future.  No doubt there will be stories of churches served, more degrees earned, books written, mountains claimed, families started, etc.  No doubt there will be stories about changes made in the lives of others because of the love of Christ poured out in the lives of these men and women.  I want to tell you all a secret--some of you are heroes to me.  I see what you have already accomplished, I see the potential, and I have so much hope and joy for you.

Yes, I know things don't reflect that at the moment.  In fact, for some of you it is simply time to take a break and take a breather.  Others are already launching into the next adventure.  I can't wait to hear the stories, but I want to leave you with some final questions to ask as you pursue these things.

What kind of legacy are you leaving? Where will your footprints lead others if they follow you closely? Like Paul, can you encourage others to imitate you as you imitate Christ?  Will your love for Christ be obvious? Is your love for others real and clear?

God has blessed me to walk with giants (and some giants in training), and I have to admit that I am often overwhelmed by their collective witness. I am reminded of a conversation I had with Dr. William L. Lane. I admitted to him that I didn't think I could live up to his example of a godly life and scholarship, and he said to me, "Never covet another person's gift, and never despise your own." He went on to remind me that God had not called me to be identical to Dr. Lane or to anyone else. God had called me to use my unique gifts and abilities for his glory. I do not have to live up to the stories of these giants, I simply need to live the legacy God has given me.

No matter how obscure or unrecognized or inconsequential a life may seem, if it is lived for God it will have a legacy. What kind of legacy are we leaving the next generation?  I have no doubt that many of you will leave a legacy that will cause your professor to be a bit envious . . . and I look forward to hearing every marvelous part of those stories!  I am so proud of you all, and I will keep praying. 

Thanks to all of the men and women who left their footprints in my heart and life!

Thank you for reading!

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, May 05, 2014


Some Ramblings about James the Less

I've been staring at a blank page for some time trying to think of something to write.  I made a commitment to write on my blog at least 3 times a month, and I seem to keep finding excuses not to do it.  So, I'm tired of staring at a blank page, and I'm writing something.

The other day I offered some advice to one of my PhD students.  I said that one way to "jumpstart" the dissertation process is to make a commitment to sit and write some every day.  Even if it is just a "stream of consciousness" kind of typing, just sit and type. 

So, here I sit, and here I type.

Some things that have passed through my mind lately:  Did you ever notice how many "James" there were in Jesus' circle?  There was James (the brother of John) who was part of the inner circle.  There was also a James the son of Alphaeus.  There was Jesus' own brother named James.  There was even one disciple who was a son of a James.  But the one person named "James" who stands out for me is "James the Less."  Some people think that "James the Less" and "James the son of Alphaeus" are the same.  Church tradition tells us that he lived in Galilee.  He apparently preached in Palestine and Egypt and was crucified in Egypt.  Some scholars think he was a brother of Matthew.  Tradition tells us that he was cut into pieces after he was martyred.  The primary mention of this fellow is in Mark 15:40.

I don't know where this particular James got his nickname "the Less."  The Greek word used can mean either "small" or even "little" as in size or quantity.  It can also mean "young" in age, or even "short" with regards to time.  So, this particular follower of Christ was called "the Less" or "the Youth" or even "Shorty." 

Let that sink in for a minute.  This particular James was known either for his stature (he was short), or for his age (he was young).  Little is known about him (pardon the pun), and his life is overshadowed by James the brother of John and James the brother of Jesus.  We remember him as "the least" or "the youth," and details of his life and ministry are lost to us for the most part.

I don't know why this disciple keeps coming to mind.  It may simply be that something in me identifies with him.  Sometimes I feel like I live in the shadow of others (probably a result of being the middle child), and other times I feel almost invisible.  That isn't a cry for recognition, it is just an honest admission.

You know what I mean, don't you?  You spend a good portion of your life expecting to be or do something great, but when it is all said and done things don't seem to be what was expected. 

Now, I'm not saying this to get your support or sympathy, I'm simply trying to explain how I think James the Less must have felt.  He grew up with great expectations.  He was going to be or to accomplish something great.  He became a disciple-student of an itinerant rabbi named Jesus.  This rabbi hailed from Nazareth and had an unorthodox style about him.  He didn't have the credentials and the papers of the Pharisees, but he spoke with authority and did some amazing feats.

James tied himself to the school of this rabbi Jesus.  Shortly (ha) after joining, he found out he wasn't the only James following Jesus.  Since they had to distinguish, they called him "the Less" due to his youth or stature. 

James the Less . . .

He didn't lead the church in Jerusalem.  He didn't compete with John to sit at the right hand of Jesus.  He didn't get to go to the mount of Transfiguration or to the depths of the Garden when Jesus prayed.

Yet this James, "the Less," loved Jesus nonetheless.  He would die a martyr's death out of love for Christ.  He would give his life serving others. 

Even though he was never known as one of the better known or more popular disciples. 

Even though he was called "Shorty" or "Kid."

Even though he would always be "that other James."

He gave his life as a love offering to Jesus.

I'm humbled just to type the words.  How often do I compare myself to my friends, my colleagues, my brothers and sisters in Christ?  How often do I think I deserve more attention than I think I am receiving?

How unlike James the Less I am! 

I'm not real sure where I wanted to go with this short meditation.  I just know that this fellow haunts my mind.  I dreamed of him once.  I never saw his face, just saw him from the back.  He had no distinguishing features.  He didn't stand out.  He was "the less."

All I know is this--I have a long way to go to learn to walk in the humility of those early disciples.  I sometimes seem to be a long way off.

My Lord, show me how to love as James the Less loved.  Teach me to serve without expectation of recognition.

Okay, I'm done.  In fact, I'm undone.   I need to put this one on the shelf.  I thank God for the many people who have ministered to me who may well have been a "James the Less."  They were not recognized, and they may not even be known to me.

But God knows.  Just like Jesus knows James the Less.

He knows, and he loves them.  Their humble service blesses him as they imitate him.

May the humility of Christ be my goal and my guide as well.

Thanks for reading! 

Labels: , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?