He Ain’t Heavy; He’s My Brother

I posted this about a year ago, but it was featured on CBN.org today as their daily devotion, so I wanted to play it again on my blog.

Walking along a country road, a little girl struggles under the weight of a heavy load. A passerby stops to see if she needs help, and notices that she’s carrying a rather large baby boy, not much smaller than herself, it seems.

“Don’t you get tired carrying him?”

The little girl matter-of-factly replies, “He’s na heavy; he’s mi brither.”

The story first appeared in Scotland in 1884, in a book on the Parables of Jesus. It showed up in the September 1924 Kiwanis magazine. Then in 1941, Father Edward Flanagan discovered a similar story with a picture in Ideal Magazine, and got permission to use the motto and image at Boys Town, the home for boys he founded.

The movie Boys Town came out in 1938. A 1941 sequel, titled The Men of Boys Town, included the line, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” In 1969, Bob Russell and Bobby Scott wrote a song by the same name. It became popular and was song by dozens of pop singers in the 60s and 70s. In addition, there have been numerous paintings and sculptures on the same theme.

There’s something about the story of the little girl that captivates the imagination and begs to illustrate a key theme in the Bible. In Genesis 4:9, The Lord asks Cain about Abel, and the murderer replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The answer implied in the scripture is simple. “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.” Leviticus 19:18 instructs the people of God to “Love your neighbor as yourself,” which Jesus quotes in Matthew 22:37. The apostle Paul adds in Galatians 6:2 that we are to “Carry one another’s heavy load, and by doing so, fulfill the law of Christ.”

In Victor Hugo’s timeless novel, Les Misérable, Jean Valjean is a former criminal who changes his name and his lifestyle in order to hide his past, eventually becoming the mayor of a town. But the new chief of police is the very same officer who was a guard at the prison, and is looking to re-arrest Valjean for breaking parole. One day, one of the men in town is trapped under the heavy weight of a horse-drawn wagon, and nobody is able to get him out from underneath. Then, while Javert, the police inspector, is watching, the mayor hefts the weight of the wagon, lifting it off the ground high enough for others to pull the man to safety.

The officer remembers a time when a prisoner had done something similar in the prison, and wonders if this is the same man. Knowing what’s at stake, Valjean risks his identity and his freedom in order to help the man.

Carrying one another’s burden is the essence of loving someone in the name of the Lord, loving someone enough to lighten the load, loving someone enough to risk everything in order to offer a helping hand.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke chapter 10 has a similar motif. In this story, several righteous people see the injured man, but they don’t stop to help him. The one who provides the desperately needed assistance is an outsider, a despised Samaritan, someone you’d least expect to offer help. But he does stop, and he does help. In fact, he pays the innkeeper to care for the man until he returns.

After telling the story, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” An expert in the law replies, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus tells him, “Go and do likewise.”

It is this Go and Do Likewise that Jesus asks his followers to put into practice. Are we big enough to see every human being as our neighbor, and every person out there as a brother or sister? To put it into the words of the little Scottish girl, “He’s na heavy; he’s mi brither.”

Brothers

Christmas Present

If you’re wondering what to give someone for Christmas, let me suggest the book Safest Place in Iraq. The emphasis is on the presence of Christ during tough times. And that’s the meaning of Immanuel . . . God is with us.

As one reviewer wrote, “It is very clear that even in the greatest uncertainties of life, God makes a difference for those who turn to Him. Lives touched for Jesus Christ are given the opportunity to be changed for a lifetime.”

Give the gift of faith, hope, and love this year. And if you order it from this website, it’ll get there faster than ordering it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Just click on the Books menu above.

Forgive & Forget?

Lewis Smedes wrote a book about forgiveness in which he discusses some of the psychological, spiritual, and relational dynamics of being hurt and then moving towards healing and forgiveness. He wanted to title the book, Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve, but the publisher insisted on something catchier, something that might spark more interest on the popular level.

So the people at HarperCollins decided to name it Forgive and Forget, a title Smedes hated because as he says, “Forgiving has nothing to do with forgetting. In fact, sometimes the best forgiving happens because we remember.” The negotiated compromise kept the publisher’s preference, of course, and Smedes’s working title became the subtitle. This solution worked. It has sold more than a half million copies.

Of course, the book itself is excellent. It is interesting and helpful. Smedes starts with a European folk tale about a husband and wife who are unhappy. The husband is devastated when he learns that his wife had an affair. But they manage to work through their unhappiness, come to forgiveness, and experience personal growth. Their end state is better, despite the affair.

Of course, Smedes keeps it interesting all the way through with examples, information, and personal experiences of betrayal, pain, struggle, and triumph. Each anecdote in this nonfiction work reengages the reader, pulling her back to the author’s theme, and ways to more effectively handle her own struggle of hurt, hate, healing, and forgiveness. Each page reveals a little more of the complexities and dynamics involved. Each issue is common to every one of us.

Jesus knew how to forgive. He prayed “Father forgive them . . .” And he taught, “Forgive and your sins will be forgiven.”

The Apostle Paul understood forgiveness. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” He himself had been forgiven of some pretty ugly sins.

We’ve all been hurt. We’ve all felt the sting of betrayal in one way or another. But have we all learned how to forgive?

The Chemistry of Love

Experts researching the biology and chemistry of falling in love and falling out of love have discovered there is a 2-year cycle of attraction, that is largely hormonal and chemical. What we call falling in love is the rush of hormones and chemicals that bring an excitement, arousal, happiness, and energy. You feel so good when you’re with the new lover, or even when thinking about him or her. It’s intoxicating.

Then after about two years, that chemical/hormonal cocktail begins to lose its effect. You don’t feel the same, and you wonder what went wrong in the relationship, why you fell out of love. George Strait recorded a song titled I Ain’t Her Cowboy Anymore, about a guy whose lover is leaving, and he has no clue what he did wrong . . . or whether he did anything wrong at all.

The answer? Nothing went wrong. There’s a normal cycle that’s part of developing a mature relationship. Yes, it’s ignited by the passion and the internal chemistry, but then you have to build your marriage on a solid foundation so when the newness wears off, you don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Oh we’re not in love anymore. It’s just not meant to be. Maybe I married the wrong person.” The plan is to fall madly in love, and then take the time and the effort to install the relationship values, skills, and patterns that’ll take you through every phase of married life . . . Happy and together.

Let’s simplify things here. There are two goals in marriage: stay together, and stay happy. Easy to say; tough to do. You need wisdom if you want to reach those goals. Proverbs 24:3-4 says, A house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.

What’s Your Story

As a child, I loved whenever a missionary was guest speaker at our church. I still do! The missionaries always told great stories. You could count on it. I always perked up and paid attention when they started talking about what God did in the past and what He is doing right now: people getting saved, others healed, answers to prayer, the fantastic work of a sovereign God.

I loved those stories because they demonstrated the genuine power of God, portrayed a God who cared about and loved people, and brought to life the people in distant places. Their stories provided evidence of a God who is as active in the world today as he was in the days of the Bible.

Telling stories about what the Lord has done is a central theme of the Bible. In Joshua chapter two, two men are sent to investigate the situation in Jericho. When they returned, they told Joshua everything that had happened to them, and then concluded, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us.”

Many of the Psalms are poems and songs about the goodness of God and what He did in the psalmist’s life. “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth.”

When Jesus encountered the Samaritan woman in John chapter four, her experience with the Lord made such a powerful impact that she left her water jar at the well and hurried back to town to tell her friends and neighbors, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could this be the Messiah?”

And in Luke’s telling of the Christmas story, after the shepherds encountered the angels out in the fields, they went and told people what they had experienced. “All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said.”

Too many Christians think they have nothing to say to their friends and family. A lot of good people never talk to their neighbors or co-workers about the Lord, thinking they’re not qualified, not smart enough, or not eloquent. Others think it’s their job to convince, persuade, or condemn, but it’s not. All they have to do is tell their story. No arguing, no convincing, just tell the story.

There’s an interesting note in the Gospel of Mark: “And so the news about Jesus spread quickly everywhere in the province of Galilee.”

The news spread everywhere not because they had great preachers, widespread media coverage, and several megachurches in the area. No, the reason the news spread so quickly was because ordinary people simply talked about what Jesus had done.

While I was at the local bookstore the other day, one particular book caught my eye. I picked it up and glanced inside. It looked good and had a catchy title, but it was the subtitle that spoke to me: “Never Stop Sharing Stories.”

That’s what the Church needs to do today. Rather than arguing over politics, denominationalism, or theology, what if Christians just told people the story of what God has done in their lives, and what the Lord is doing right now. I think people would perk up and pay attention, just like I did as a kid when I listened to the missionaries tell their stories.

Publisher’s Virtual Book Launch

I am so excited for my publisher’s Virtual Book Launch event for their fall 2020 catalog of new books. The book launch week of November 16-20 will be an incredible celebration of sharing author interviews and conversations with the world!

The event will be hosted on www.MorganJamesBookLaunch.com. Each day of the week, November 16-20, will spotlight a different theme. My book is included in the “Get Lost in a Good Story” category, and will be featured on the website at 3:00PM EST on Tuesday November 17th.

Mandatory Reading

I just finished reading your book and wanted to thank you for taking the time to write it. It brought back many similar memories of my time as a chaplain. When I retired from the Army, I became the endorser for the National Association of Evangelicals. If I was still in that position, I would make your book mandatory reading for any chaplain candidate and junior chaplain. It was excellent. Thanks for being transparent and honest about your own struggles and for showing your willingness to work with and encourage other faith traditions. Job well done! Keep writing and ministering. I wish I had something like it when I was a young chaplain.

Chaplain (Colonel) Paul Vicalvi, was the Commandant of the Army Chaplain Center and School, and then the Chaplain Endorser for the National Association of Evangelicals. After reading my book, Safest Place in Iraq, he sent me this note and gave me permission to share it.

Leadership Podcast Interview

Dr. Richard Blackaby, of Blackaby Ministries International, recently interviewed me for his Leadership Podcast. The conversation is about 35 minutes long, and covers diverse topics such as what it’s like to be at war, responding to temptation, the power of prayer, the importance of unity in marriage, being an effective witness for Christ, why some people consider suicide, and effective leadership and influence. You can listen to the interview by scrolling to the bottom right of this screen.

Richard and I were discussing my new book, Safest Place in Iraq, where, I mention the impact that Dr. Blackaby’s devotional book Experiencing God Day By Day had on me while I was in Iraq, specifically how the Lord used one particular reading on May 8 to prepare me for an amazing encounter with one of our Iraqi interpreters.

You can hear this story by listening to the recorded podcast. And you can read many more stories in the book, Safest Place in Iraq, which is available on this website or at any bookstore.

Safest Place in Iraq is a collection of inspiring stories showing what God was doing in some people’s lives during the war in Iraq. It’s perfect for individual reading, small group, discussion, or even in a classroom setting.

Feel free to contact me through the Connect page above, or by leaving a comment below, and tell me what you think.

Fourth Man in the Fire

This past summer, Randy Zachary of Family Radio interviewed me on his radio show. He then edited it into three audio segments and one video. You can see the video of the interview by scrolling to the bottom right of this screen. The third audio clip is the shortest, and is titled the Fourth Man in the Fire. The focus of this segment is on being true to your faith and to the Lord, because wherever you are and whatever is going on, the Lord will be there with you .

Randy and I were discussing my new book titled Safest Place in Iraq. Towards the end of the book, I mention that Camp Echo was about 73 miles from the old city of Babylon where Daniel was thrown into the pit of lions, and where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were tossed into the flames.

The audio (mp3) is about a minute and thirteen seconds long. Feel free to contact me through the Connect page above, or by leaving a comment below, and tell me what you think.

Counting the Cost

This past summer, Randy Zachary of Family Radio interviewed me on his radio show. He then edited it into three audio segments and one video. You can see the video of the interview by scrolling to the bottom right of this screen. And right under the video is the second audio clip. The focus of this segment is on counting the cost of being a follower of Jesus.

Randy and I were discussing my new book titled Safest Place in Iraq, and one of the stories I wrote about was an encounter I had with an Iraqi gentlemen who served as an interpreter with our Army. When he became a Christian, he knew his life was in danger.

The audio (mp3) is about a minute-and-a-half long. Feel free to contact me through the Connect page above, or by leaving a comment below, and tell me what you think.