Sigh, my heart is full! Yesterday morning I got up, made a pot of coffee, opened Zoom and there was Lynn along with a screen full of other SUM faces. Most were from America, one from England, and another from New Zealand.
When I see the SUM community in person like that I want to reach through the screen, pull you into my living room, and say a big hello. There's a lot of love here for you.
Most enjoyably, we sat with the Word of God for 40 minutes, then broke off into discussion groups.
My friends, if you want to join in next week or any of the following weeks, for as much or little as you can, please do. Email me at email@example.com. I might even be able to send you a recording of this last session (we're still working that out). I can certainly send you the Zoom link for upcoming sessions. 3pm Pacific, Wednesdays.
The Word of God. Isn't it wonderful! Since we're in the Book of James, can I encourage you to read it, even if you're not able to join on Zoom? I also will write the odd post about James on the blog as we focus on that book. Today, I want to do that, so here's a little introductory thought:
This week, a long-time friend of our community, Jim Edwards, sent me some writing that he had done about the Book of James. He wrote a book called Living and Breathing Hebrews to Jude (2008), and it's a paraphrase of the New Testament's epistles. I read the James segment and absolutely loved it. (Man, how I love the creative things God births through people in our community!) From that, here's something Jim wrote --
"James is full of one-liners: some seriously tough sound-bites. As sound-bites they can easily be misunderstood, and easily produce condemnation—beware! Each chapter has at least one. I’ve highlighted them in the notes, but you are likely to hardly notice them in my translation.
Most, however, are wonderful, direct, hard-hitting promises, where direct simple language helps the memory and adds power to the simple statement."
I'd never thought of the Book of James like that, but it's true. As you read it, you do get pummeled by the occasional 'oomph' verse that makes you gulp.
So I wanted to share the first one of those today, right from chapter 1:2. Are you ready? Here we go:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials (James 1:2, NKJV).
The verse continues:
.. knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing
My friends, what are the trials you've been through as part of your faith walk? How hard have they been? For me, certain trials have been almost unbearable; others not quite so stark, but still trials. Today I wrote in the margin five key trials I've been through since being a Christian. One of those is the SUM. At points in my SUM I have thought "Nothing could be as hard as this." There's something about the SUM walk that is so very difficult because it involves deeply spiritual issues.
Another trial I faced was a nine-month period of illness last year - Illness that was mysterious to the doctors, and for which there was no apparent solution. That was no light thing to walk through either. Almost every day during those nine months I had a little cry to myself. It was a different kind of battle to the SUM.
Count it joy? That I can do when I'm through the battle. It's harder to do when in the battle. But I can certainly engage with the concept and think about what it means.
Here's something intriguing Lynn said today on Zoom. She said (I'm paraphrasing): "Trials show you what lies you've been believing, and help you break those lies." Not that God brings us our trials, but he uses them mightily.
So, here's a discussion question: Think back on a trial you have faced. What lies did it bring to light?
Wow, that's a deep question. I might need some time to think on that myself. I'll leave you with it, and here's to us enjoying the Book of James these next few weeks. If you want to post your answer to the question in the comments, please do!
Love you all,