Pray and Sing


Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22

Psalm 124

James 5:13-20

Mark 9:38-50


When reading this passage in James, it is important to remember that until at least the nineteenth-century people believed sin caused illness. The belief lingers even today.

For most of us, it is hard to understand how a little olive oil could bring healing. 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 LordESV While James does not state it; the elders would also give the proper herbs for the specific illness. People in the most ancient days learned about the healing power of plants. The Church continued to use them as well.

Why olive oil? The olive tree was an important symbol of life in Judaism. It was also an important food item for everyone in the Mediterranean region. Most cultures in the area believed olive oil had healing powers. It was both rubbed on and consumed. It still has healing powers, though we now have new, improved products to replace it.

The Church quickly added the practice of using oil to mark a cross on the forehead of the newly baptized to symbolize the presence of Christ in the new life. It was also a part of the anointing James encouraged us to practice. If I asked the elders to visit because of pain in my hands, they would first place the oil/cross on my forehead and then rub oil into my pained hands. That act of rubbing would help, but the penetrating oil would also help.

Today, we would call that arthritis and take a pill for it, but without that knowledge, people had to rely on what they had. Mostly what they had was the assurance that God would take care of them. Thus, the cross. But don’t discount the importance of the visit by fellow Christ-followers. Caring about/for others is our mission.

The church father Bede, from what is now England, in the early eighth century wrote, In order to prevent the foolishness of complaining, [James] told the injured person to pray and sing, and now he tells the person who is sick, either in body or in faith, to call the elders in proportion to the gravity of the illness which he is enduringACCS There is wisdom in the proportion idea. Some people ask for help with everything and eventually wear out the patience of the elders. Even Christian elders are human. For most things, we need to pray and sing; let the patience of God carry us.

About a century earlier, another Church father, Braulio of Saragossa, modern Spain, wrote, Since it would be a long and unpleasant task to reveal my sinful ways to you and to tell you everything in detail, it must suffice for me to reveal to your most holy mind that I am not what you believe, though I beg you to pray to God that he might make me what you believeACCS

We each carry a mask. We know who lives behind the mask and we have some level of fear that others will see the real person. Unlike masks we wear on Halloween or the Day of the Dead, my mask is intended to put you at ease; to let you see only the more pleasant me. True, my wife and children have had more glimpses behind the mask than they want, and at times I allow the mask to slip in public.

We generally take Genesis 3:7 literally, but we should also think of the masks that hide our true personages. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were nakedNIV Many, if not most, of us dream about being naked in public. It is generally unpleasant, and I think that stems more from wanting to hide our personalities than from hiding our bodies. We hide both in much the same way.

On the average, we Americans spend nearly $2,000 on clothing per family each year. That is mostly designed to hide our imperfections and accentuate our positives. Of course, there is only so much hiding that can be done with some problems. My pot belly always shows.

Our personal masks are just like clothes, they are not perfect, and people get glimpses of the real me from time to time. My memory will not erase my most humiliating exposures of my temper and my fear of being wrong.

There is only one solution. Grace.

Pray and sing.


Read my earlier comments on this theme here.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Who is Wise?


Proverbs 31:10-31

Psalm 1

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Mark 9:30-37


What would it have been like to grow up with your older brother being Yeshua?  He had to be Mom’s favorite, right? Dad always made time for him and answered his every question. Next, to him the rest of us were so … blah.

No wonder Jesus’ brothers were reluctant to become followers, even as their mother did. My big brother, the superstar. Let him wander around the country; we have real work to do.

Have you wondered what Jesus did for 15 years before he started his ministry? Most often, we paint the picture of Jesus working in the shop to help feed a struggling family, especially after Joseph died.

A carpenter, even today, is a skilled labor position. The income is middle class, then and now. What most people overlook is that for most of Jesus’ 30 years at home, the Roman city of Sepphoris was under construction just five miles away. Just like skilled labor today, Joseph would have gone where there was work. A five-mile walk was not even part of the consideration. It was nothing. [Richard A. Batey, Jesus & the Forgotten City]

The point is that James and the other siblings would have grown up hearing Jesus say things that stunned adults, but as children would have thought he was just showing off.

Now James is sixty-plus years old, the head of the Jerusalem church—really the head of all Christianity—and he writes, Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that countsMSG Preach with your feet. James came to understand what Jesus was all about. It may have taken the cross to stun him, but he became the equal of Peter and Paul.

It is not enough to graduate from Liberty U and talk the talk. What have you done for the poor, the suffering, the downtrodden, the conflicted, the misunderstood, the OTHER? Have you built yourself a palace or have you helped people make their way in this world just a little easier? Do you give a regular amount to famine relief, thinking you have done your duty? Have you given less for famine relief than for music downloads?

As my Dove candy wrapper has it, Throw kindness around like confetti! Molly B. Kansas

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.


Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence