Thursday, September 8, 2011

James read-along, Chapter 1

Let me first make a confession: I really, really struggle with cracking open my Bible on a consistent basis.

Do I believe it's God's Word, His story of love and redemption? Yes. Do I believe it has immediate, important, practical application in my life? Yes. Do I believe that His love for me is splashed throughout the pages? Absolutely. And yet, I still struggle.

Praise Him for His abundant grace. 

Anywhoo, by that same grace I had a desire to break open my old Bible last week, and was casting around for ideas about what I should read. And what do I stumble upon? Marla's blog post about a read-along about the book of James. Basically, it's a group of people connected via the internet, all reading and discussing the same book of the Bible. One chapter per week.

Marla posted her thoughts yesterday.  Great insights.

Here are some thoughts/insights/challenges that struck me as I was reading James 1 this past week. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1: 2-3

Really, pure joy? I've read this verse before, but the sheer audacity of it is startling to me this time around. And, the reality of just how much I fall short. Would I consider it pure joy if we lost our jobs and our house was foreclosed upon? Probably not. Or if Caroline got really sick? Sigh... no. Heck, I get grouchy sometimes because the Diet Coke I just bought at McDonalds is flat. But true joy is different from happiness, from comfort, from security. It's rooted in trusting God for His provision, His goodness and His blessing.

I also appreciate that in this verse it's obvious that trials aren't a sign of God's displeasure. Rather, they're simply inevitable. And they come in a variety of forms. Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds. That's comforting.

Also, the ideas of "trials" and "temptations" are linked in the first part of James 1. Ordinarily I think of those as separate concepts. But as I pondered those verses, I realized that embedded in each trial is a temptation. Perhaps a temptation to think more highly of myself than of someone else. Perhaps to harbor anger in my heart. Or - most importantly - to doubt God and His plan for my life.

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19b
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. James 1:26.

If those two verses don't punch a double-whammy against a loose tongue, I don't know what does. Very, very convicting.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

I don't know many orphans or widows, and certainly don't actively care for them very often.  My heart is still for adoption someday, and this verse comes to mind when I think of it.  But a potential future adoption doesn't check this verse off of my to-do list.

And then that second part... polluted by the world...  

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22

If i find it difficult to study my Bible, that difficulty is multiplied many times over when it comes to personal, real-life, gritty and un-fun application.

Yes, I actually need to be caring for widows and orphans.  Not just talking about it.  Yes, I need to be slow to anger and keep a tighter hold on my tongue.  I can't just read this, check my "Bible time for the day" box, and then go about life as usual.  I think I'd miss the whole point about why diving into the words of the Bible is so important.

All in all, it's a bit of a breath of fresh air to dig back into the text.  There's zero chance of me perfectly executing each one of these lessons into my life.  But isn't that the point?  I strive a little more after God, realize how far short I fall of His high standard, and are left with open hands, ready to receive his steady stream of grace.  A grace that's that much more meaningful.

And here are my answers to the posted questions:
1. If you could remove one verse from James 1 and never have to deal with it again, which one would it be, and why?
That one about doing what the Bible says.  
2. What one verse would you like (or feel compelled) to focus on/live out in the coming weeks, and how do you envision it playing out in your life?
"Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." This is one that I'd like to make a conscious effort toward... and I plan to start in my own house with my own husband.  
3. If you could ask James for clarification on one verse/topic, what would you ask him and why?
How to I keep from being polluted from the world? I'd like a 5 step program, if possible.


Marla Taviano said...

Oh goodness, I like you. And I like how you ooze transparency. AND how you aren't content to just say, "I suck, so why try?" It's HARD stuff (totally blew it with Gabe this morning--my blasted tongue), but God is bigger.

I'm asking God today to help me crave his word above everything else I'm dying to read. And I need to believe he'll answer in the affirmative.

You've blessed me today, friend.

Paulina said...

That's really neat! I also appreciate the transparency - good for you Jessica.

Brooke said...

you're definitely not the only one who struggles with being slow to speak when it comes to the good ole hub-sand. definitely have to work on that, but i know full well its going to be baby steps!

Nancy said...

You're a great writer! Oh,a 5-step program on how to keep from being polluted from the world would be awesome! And how to be unpolluted without becoming judgmental. I feel like I'm always walking on a tightrope ready to fall one way or the other. And of course that tongue thing...who doesn't struggle with that?

Ali said...

I'm with ya on the flat DC. I get so bent out of shape when my order is wrong, but let's face it, what is wrong with me?!

I'm so thankful to be reading - really really reading - James. It's only five chapters but it's full of butt-kicking verses.

Which is a good thing. I need a major butt-kicking.

Krysten said...

Love your thoughts and I'm thankful you're doing the read-along so I was able to read them! Thank you for sharing your heart. And oh yeah, if you find that 5-step anti-pollution program you're talking about, please let me know!
: )
Praying with you today!