Tag Archives: James

Veil of Tears 95: Double-minded

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But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” James 1:6-8 NIV

When I was younger, I used to get frustrated by the wishy-washy prayers I would hear in church, in prayer meetings, or prayed over the sick or the suffering. Something in me would balk, not at gentleness or acceptance, but at the sheer lack of expectation. I haven’t been well enough to be a regular church goer for some years again now, but I get frustrated still if I hear the same lacklustre attitude coming out of my own mouth, and fight to set it back on a course of faith.

It is not that I think fervour will cause a prayer to be answered more quickly, nor that flowery words or long speeches or lots of amens or proclamations (these rile me most of all) will be of any use, as though God were withholding something and just needed his arm twisted a bit. But what matters in prayer are not so much the words we use, but the heart we are believing and meaning them with.

If I am asking for healing, but actually deep down I believe God to be a rather strict and heartless person, then I come with low expectations of an answer, if any. That’s not going to stop God acting, but it will affect how often and with what perseverance and faith I pray. Likewise, if I believe myself to be unworthy of any answered prayer, God will still act, but it does stop me asking. All we need to come to God with is faith the size of a mustard seed. Far worse than either of these scenarios is the heart that doubts because it is saying words it does not mean at all, because all is for show. Honesty in prayer (as in all life) is the best policy.

One of the most heartless prayers in my view is the one that is all about the person praying, and not about God or the person they are praying for. It is the one that is self-centred in intercession. It is the prayer that says look at me, I am being holy now. I am so close to God, I’ve got this. I know exactly what God wants in this situation, in this person’s life, and I’m going to proclaim the reality of it over them until it manifests. If it doesn’t work, (as though prayer were an electric circuit and they the qualified electrician) it’s not my fault. We have authority given us through Christ, but it is to be exercised in wonder, flowing from him, not dispensed by us. This prayer comes from the heart that will never say, I don’t know, rarely if ever say, I bow to your will, and does not understand the value of waiting, gentleness, or grace and cannot accept no as an answer.

But the most double-minded, literally (dipsychos in the Greek!) is that prayer which cannot decide which kingdom takes precedence. It is as though the person praying it has one foot in each camp, of faith and doubt, of heaven and earth, and shifts their weight unceasingly from one to the other. It is not always obvious to someone else listening, but God hears the whole. It will go something like this….

Out loud: ”We know Lord that you can heal us.”

Inner voice: We do? Do we? What about Dave, he didn’t heal Dave that time he had a bad leg.

Out loud: “so we ask for you to heal so-and-so’s leg.”

Inner voice: Well, you know, it’s worth a try.

Out loud: “But if you don’t/ if you choose not to heal, we ask for the strength to bear it for so-and-so”

Inner voice: That’s better, then I won’t look a nitwit when nothing happens. And I can smile at so-and-so and go home.

Basically, the type of prayer James is warning us about is the one that cannot make up its mind. No-one has certainty one hundred percent of the time in their faith. But to be so unsure in the faithfulness and goodness and generosity of God , although still a better prayer than nothing, is not likely to move heaven or earth. And let’s face it, we have all prayed like this at some time or another, and we all hear these kinds of prayers a lot more than we’d care to admit. The trouble is such tepid and wavering faith tends to have a weakening effect on those around it. So let us guard our hearts and minds against feeling split in two, and ask in faith for heaven always to have the stronger voice in our prayers!


©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay


Veil of Tears 94: Harsh Words

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With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.” James 3:9 NIV

Don’t you just hate that saying, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but names will never hurt me,”? It is the most ridiculous lie to instil into children. Name-calling and vicious words wound us just as much as if they did physical harm, and the injuries can take far longer to heal. In addition, the wrong word spoken to us, if we take it on board, can turn our course as surely as the rudder in James’ analogy can turn a whole ship.

Harsh words about my painting from a teacher when I was six stopped me investigating art or the possibility of my own creativity being at all worthwhile. It took nearly forty years to undo that particular sentence’s power over me. A few words are all it takes to break a relationship irretrievably, or to hurt someone so badly that they will never recover. It is also all it takes to hurt ourselves, for once words are spoken or written (and read) they cannot be unsaid or rolled back into our mouths.

In ancient times people spoke words as spells or incantations, believing words to have power. In the Bible we see people and God speaking blessings and curses over others. It is a solemn and precious thing to be able to have an effect on people’s lives by pronouncing truths and promises on their heads. We can say it is all mumbo jumbo, but whatever we hear about ourselves will mark us in some way, especially if it is said by people we love, or who profess to love us. Harsh words, ridicule, insults from a parent or grandparent, or (perhaps inevitably) siblings, are most likely to cause us real pain and form a barrier not only in those relationships but between ourselves and our own sense of self-worth or belonging. Gossip, lies, slander and the tabloid press are also power tools for hurt, causing swathes of untold damage.

Unkind words hurt us right at our very core. They unbalance our confidence, make us doubt ourselves and our value, push us into thinking we are somehow less than others or that we are unsightly or blemished, either outside or in. And because the wounds are invisible, they often go unnoticed and therefore unhealed. Half the time we accept them as truth so deep down (especially if they tap into similar lies told us as children) that we don’t even know that we are swallowing more lies. These untruths are like knots that we need help to untie.

As God’s people, we must pour out gentle words, affirmations and blessings and encouragements, where there have been nasty or vitriolic or untrue things said. This is part of our kingdom work, to heal the world with our tongues. To be the difference, to sing the praise of our fellows in their likeness to their heavenly father. To help each one of us make that connection, so that we can see that we too are lovely. To reteach one another our loveliness as poet Galway Kinnell has it.

When God speaks his love over us of course, we may rely on it, for God’s word always accomplishes what it sets out to do (Isaiah 55:11) and so we can also depend upon his promises, his character and his goodness. For God’s words are always truth and always working for love. Likewise, our speech should be tempered wherever possible with gentleness and grace. There is no more important time to ask ourselves “What would Jesus do?” than when we are about to open our mouths.

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from Pixabay

52: Stumbling

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Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.” Daniel 11:35 NIV

Failure can be humiliating, difficult and, for those used to success, uncomfortable to the point of distressing. Being wise is clearly no safeguard against falling down. It can happen to the best of us. We all make mistakes. But perhaps surprisingly to our achievement driven capitalism, getting it wrong now and again can be very valuable, and that applies in a worldly sense as well as a spiritual one.

James Dyson went bankrupt a number of times before finally convincing the world that his vacuum cleaners were the best they could buy. Estee Lauder, Walt Disney and Henry Ford all had several massive failures before hitting the big time, even though now they are touted as proof of the American Dream. This isn’t an aim of ours as Christians of course, but we can take the lesson from this that failure is a great teacher. Making mistakes is the best way of learning. I’ve found it’s the same with discovering who we are in Christ. We often need to find out who we are not, before it becomes very clear who we are.

Experiencing time face down in the dust gives us the gift of true humility, which is really just being earthed in the truth. We know our limits, our potential, our true worth, our giftings without polishing them with a false shine or dulling them with false modesty.

In truth, it is only when we have fallen so far down and tasted mud, and eaten husks meant for pigs, that we can truly also know and savour the taste of grace. Trials purify us, for they are the birthplace not only of humility, but of faith, and as James also tells us, of perseverance and therefore character. In short, troubles, failures, difficulties, stumbling and falling down are the pitstops on the road to becoming our true selves. Without them we might be wise, but understand nothing of the journey we are all on.


© Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photograph public domain

39: Witless

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But the witless can no more become wise than a wild donkey’s colt can be born human.” Job 11:12 NIV

Here is a verse that seems rather hopeless. Change is not possible, then, nor education? But we need to look at who is speaking here, for it is not God. Time and time again we see the habit of prooftexting, a tool of the witless if ever there was one, when, solely in order to prove their point, a person lifts a verse out of context without thought or consideration. The Bible is a collection of holy books, alive by the working of the Holy Spirit, and yes, it is in many ways the Word of God. But it is also the history of humanity’s relationship with the Lord and so also contains our own falseness, stupidity and wickedness. This particular verse is spoken by Zophar, one of Job’s annoying, self-righteous friends.

More on the folly of his speech tomorrow. Zophar so good (sorry couldn’t resist that one). For now we are focussing on this verse which tells us that a leopard cannot change its spots, and a fool must always remain so. We might be tempted to say that under the Old Testament and its set in stone legalism, this was most likely believed. But how then did Solomon become more and more wise if we are born with such traits? And is a fool always a fool? And in any case, isn’t there a difference between intelligence and wisdom?

James tells us in his letter that if we don’t have wisdom it is because we haven’t asked for it. Solomon was asked by God what gift he wanted, and he chose wisdom, proving perhaps that it was something he already had. And as the rules of God’s kingdom go, when you have the capacity already for a spiritual richness, more and more can be given to you, if your motives are right and your heart belongs to the Lord. But we can also ask for and be granted things which we do not have at all in the earthly. And brainpower is rather different from understanding, if you ask me, as often the most intelligent people are the most likely to refute the existence of God. (More about my thoughts on this can be found on my Golden Apples blog, here )

Zophar would have us all predestined to our fates, unable to change or learn, and yet then goes on to proclaim the changes God could make in Job’s life if only he will repent. Seeing God work, we know that transformation is possible in everything. It can take a very long time. It can be painful. Did you know that a caterpillar in a cocoon or chrysalis has to totally dissolve in order to become a butterfly or moth, apart from its wings, which are already waiting inside? Sometimes it feels like God is turning us inside out. I can testify to that! But if we have given over ourselves in prayer, even our foolishness can be turned into wisdom. Prayer, relationship with God, is always the catalyst for change. We have already seen on this year’s blogging journey, that a drowning prophet can be rescued and in turn rescue a whole city, that a zealous religious persecutor can end up dying for the very church he wanted to destroy, and that the Lord delights in turning things upside down. We should rule nothing out with our small thinking. Any leopard who gives her spots to the Lord as part of her living sacrifice, may well end up stripy!

©Keren Dibbens-Wyatt

Photo from morguefile.com