Dear Amos

I like to write letters to dead people.

I can say anything I want without the risk of miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Writing a letter forces me to articulate some thoughts I didn’t know I was thinking.

Recently, I wrote a letter to James, the half-brother of Jesus.

A while ago, I had Mary and Martha write letters to each other. Putting myself in their shoes helped me see things with fresh insight.

Several years ago, I wrote a missive to Amos, the Old Testament prophet.

Dear old Amos was tending his sheep and trimming his sycamore trees one day when God called him to deliver some scathing words of judgment to the nations.

I grew up around lots of good farm folks, so in my imagination I see Amos as an older man in bib overalls. He doesn’t have a seminary degree, but he’s a faithful member of the church in town. Amos is a salt-of-the-earth citizen who loves God, his neighbors and the land. He obeys God’s call and goes out to announce judgment on Israel’s elites. He has to say some tough things to people who don’t appreciate it. They refuse to heed his warnings, but Amos the farmer warns them anyway.

After reading his book, I wrote him a letter.

Dear Amos,

Were you anxious to get back to the farm after all that prophesying? You delivered so many words full of condemnation and lament and warning. Did it take a toll on you? After all, shepherds are used to long and lonely days of quiet out on the range with no one to talk to but sheep. Was it a hard task, to be obedient to the call of God to speak His words to rebellious nations? But you did it, without arguing or procrastinating. You just did it. I bet you were oh-so glad to complete the task and get back to the farm.

I have marked many favorite lines from your book. I especially like that you ended with some hopeful words, much needed after the litany of doom and gloom. I’m sure it was a relief for you to sign off on a good note, using words like “raise up”, “repair”, and “restore”.

I guess it’s goodbye for now, Amos. I probably won’t be back for a while. You are an Old Testament minor prophet, and you know what that means — not the most popular of devotional readings. Thank you, dear sir, for being faithful to the Lord and obedient to His call. I admire you for standing up in a God-less culture and not backing off when they tried to shut you down. You spoke in your own gritty way on the Lord’s behalf. You said what had to be said, plain and simple, with no apology.

I hope you were able to return to your farm in peace. Blessings to you, brave trimmer of trees and courageous keeper of sheep.


To James With Love

I spent the first three months of this year on a long, leisurely stroll through the book of James. I have to say, he wore me out a little bit. There are 54 commands in 108 verses. James gave me a lot to think about. And a lot to put into practice. As the Bible Project video puts it, “The goal of James isn’t to teach theology. It’s to get in your business and challenge how you live.” Ouch!

I found that James also had his own unique way of putting things among the Bible writers. He used 54 words in his letter that aren’t used anywhere else in scripture. (Yes, I looked up all 1745 Greek words in James. I’m a nerd.)

I couldn’t help but wonder if James finished his letter with a hint of an autobiographical sketch. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, little brother James had wandered from the truth, not believing in Jesus as the Messiah. The end of his letter seems abrupt, perhaps because the words were so close to his heart.

“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner away from his error will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20

James’ “someone” was Jesus Himself, appearing to James after the resurrection. Jesus brought James back and he would always remember the day that he, a sinner, was turned away from his error. James would never forget the day he was saved from death and his multitude of sins was covered over by the blood of his brother, his Savior, Jesus.

As I close my notebook on James, I thought I’d end with a short note of thanks.

Dear James,
Thank you for your letter, full of practical guidance. I appreciate your spirit of humility which comes from wisdom. You could have made yourself into a bit of a celebrity, having lived with Jesus all those years. You could have written a “tell-all” best seller about what He was really like. But instead, you kept the spotlight on Jesus and gave us instructions on how to live in order to give Him the most glory. You loved the church – that poor church in Jerusalem that struggled so much. You never quit, even in the face of persecution from the power-center in the Jerusalem temple. Well done.
Good-bye for now, but your words will continue to take root and hopefully produce good fruit. I have hidden many of your words in my heart and will continue to meditate on them.
I’m looking forward to meeting you one day, James.
With Love,

M and M

A Month with Mary and Martha – Day 15

It’s time to wrap up our month with Mary and Martha. I have a feeling I could go on and on, but I don’t want to beat the story to death. God’s Word has many layers and just when you think you’ve dug out all the treasures, up pops something new. I love that. So “shalom” to our girlfriends from Bethany. For now, anyway.

Dear Martha,

I just want to say I’m sorry for the other day. I knew you needed help in the kitchen, but I couldn’t pull myself away from Jesus. Forgive me for leaving you with all the work. Sometimes it probably seems to you that I’m not pulling my weight around here. I’ll try to do better. I’ve always admired you for being so good at organizing everything and knowing so much about cooking and entertaining. Even though I’ll never measure up to you, I want you to know that I think you are amazing. I’m so glad you are my sister. I love you so much.

Your loving sister, Mary

Dear Mary,

Thanks for your note. I’m afraid I came on a little strong the other day and I’m sorry if I embarrassed you in front of everyone. Please forgive me for getting upset with you. I was really just stressed out with all those people to feed. I’ll try hard to be more patient. Secretly, I have always wished that I had your sweet, sensitive spirit and your ability to stay calm. Hopefully some of that will rub off on me someday. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister and I’m so thankful to have you in my life.

Love you, my dear sister, Martha