The Joy of Trials: James Part 2

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “pure joy”? A little kid with a giant ice cream cone? A puppy running through autumn leaves? The first dance at a wedding?

I posed this question during a double date the other night and our friend immediately said his wife’s name- it was almost as sweet as the lemon raspberry cheesecake I had just ordered. But you know what probably isn’t top of mind for us when we think about joy?

Trials of various kinds.

And I would hazard that the original recipients of James’ letter didn’t see it that way either- which could be why the Holy Spirit inspired James to write as he did.

“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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

There’s so very much that I’m learning from James as I ponder it throughout the week and review it aloud each Saturday. What I want to focus in on here are the lacking areas, sins, tests, and trials addressed in this letter and the Spirit’s counsel regarding these issues.

He has told us how we should respond to these so that we truly may be mature, complete, and full of abundant life in Christ.

Our Lack: Wisdom. You don’t know what to do, where to go, what to say. If you were gonna say anything, it’d probably be that you.just.can’t.even.

The Spirit’s counsel: Ask our generous God for wisdom – in faith, with no doubting! Every good and perfect gift is from Him, and He has made us His own.

Some of the most hard hitting conviction I’ve ever felt comes from this passage. The reality is that rarely (if ever) want God’s wisdom in and of myself. Why? Because in my old self I don’t love Jesus, in Whom all God’s wisdom and knowledge are hidden (Col. 2:3). I’m afraid His wisdom will guide me to give up my idols and self-reliance. Ergo I need this reminder often. He gives wisdom without reproach to humble and sincere kids and is faithful to produce single-mindedness in us!

Our sin and the test of life: James digs deep into how we interact with other people in our speech and what we do with our stuff and time, etc.

The Spirit’s insights: As sinful humans we’re just the worst. We show favoritism, we pay lip service to sharing but send people away hungry, we curse fellow image-bearers, we fight, we judge each other…James doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of the situation.

But he swiftly points his believing readers to the law of liberty. He writes about God Who brought us forth by the Word of truth and calls us to respond to that great love by treating each other equally. He exhorts us to be generous with our stuff and to speak to one another out of purified hearts. He reminds us to trust that God is the One true Judge. We don’t have to be. That frees us to show mercy and love without limit.

Living this way is truly possible by God’s Spirit Who lives in us. And every believer who stands the test will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. Keep going!

Suffering & trials: What they sounds like…and never fun.

The Spirit’s encouragement: “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.”

James 5:10-11

The prophets were people with natures like ours. God enabled their steadfastness. Job experienced dreadful loss on earth, yet gained Christ for eternity. Our God is compassionate and merciful. We can trust Him. And because of the certainty of His love, I can write this previously bizarre sentence with confidence:

As you walk through your own trials, may you consider it pure joy to do so. ❤️

But seriously…that chocolate ice cream face is pretty close to pure joy 😊

Grace to the Humble: James Part 1

“The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.” – T.S. Eliot, “East Coker”

Most of us have probably had this happen before: someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer. You fabricate one in your head, cross your fingers, blurt it out, and try to change the subject as quickly as possible. For me this has been a habit since childhood. I’m especially guilty when it comes to feigning awareness about political and cultural topics I haven’t researched. I want to start admitting how much I don’t know. Humility really is endless!

After I finished Colossians in early 2015, I picked James as my next book. I remember my Mom and sisters memorizing it when I was five. I would lay under the schoolroom table and listen to them review it. The imagery of a man wearing a gold ring, a large ship being steered by a small rudder, and a small spark devouring an entire forest caught my attention, but I was quickly distracted by the serious task of finding the right crayon color for my coloring page. Throughout grade school and college I heard sermons on James and participated in Bible studies on it. However, I continued to be distracted by other things, like finding the right color for my hair. (Spoilers: “radiant raspberry” wasn’t it 😛 )

At 22 I was striving to live in a godly way, but my efforts were often fueled by pride and the desire to win favor with God and others. I had caught glimpses of the reality that I couldn’t drum up holiness from inside of myself, but I was desperate need of an intent look into the perfect law of liberty. In His gracious way, the Counselor led me straight to the epistle of James.

Before I memorize something, I listen to it in several different translations. Practically, it helps me decide which one to use. Since I’m an auditory learner, it also impresses the overall shape of the text into my mind and heart.

I remember thinking as I listened through it, “So much of this is gonna be so helpful for Drew and Jude and my friends and family and people I haven’t even met yet. Man, they really need to pay attention to this.”

And then, as I learned and repeated each verse day by day and began reviewing it weekly, the Spirit began and continues to show me the reality of the situation. The one who really needs to hear and respond to James’ exhortations, rebukes, and calls to persevere is me.

By God’s mercy, this stunning realization hasn’t crushed me. He has kept His promise: He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). God knows everything. By the Spirit’s power, I’m free to walk daily in humility, receiving all that I need in Christ from my generous heavenly Father.

Next week I’ll share more about the incredible things I’m learning from the epistle of James! You can listen to to the Streetlights Bible recording here

Be blessed!

The Kingdom of the Son He Loves: Colossians Part 2

Thanks to encouragement from several of you as well as to my new favorite productivity app (check it out here) we are at post #3!

Last week I shared background of how I started memorizing Colossians. This week I’ll share about the riches of Christ found in this letter. Please do me a favor and be sure to read or listen to Colossians before and/or after reading this to enjoy it for yourself! I really love this audio version as well as the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation 🙂

Background & Introduction:

Did you know that Paul hadn’t seen the Colossian believers in person when he wrote them this letter? (2:1) I had somehow missed that until I memorized it. Yet from prison he took the time to write a packed out letter to them to ensure they continued in the truth of the gospel.

He starts the letter with confident joy- declaring their status as faithful brothers and assuring them that their love in Christ is noticed! He also shares the specifics of how they are being prayed for by their long-distance family in Christ:

“For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.” (1:9-12)

This is a fitting prayer, as he’s about to pen some weighty revelations about God’s nature and His will followed by a call to holy living.

Eternal Love

In 1:13 Paul reveals the mystery of the love that saves us:

“He [the Father] has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.

The divine love within God Himself is at the root of our salvation and the Source of our love for Him and for other people. I’m still marveling as I write: from forever and for all time the Father loves the Son perfectly and the Son loves the Father purely (John 5:20, 14:31, 17:5)

The next five verses are an incredible explanation of Christ’s preeminence, and is only more marvelous in light of the love of the threefold God within Himself. We can’t plumb the depths of Who He is…we must simply join heaven and earth in worshipping Him. And praise God, Paul gets right to telling us how we can best do that very thing!

Joyful Obedience

As we’ve seen, the first part of the letter extols God’s great salvation of and kindness towards those who believe. The latter part then tells us how to live in response to God’s calling.

It’s still all too easy for me to just focus on the commands given in chapter three and not dwell on the promises God has made and the freedom and righteousness that is mine in Christ because of what He has done.

That’s why it helps me so much to say this aloud every week before I get to the application verses:

“He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross.”‬ ‭(2:14‬ )

When we are filled with the knowledge of His will and strengthened with all of God’s power according to His glorious might (as Paul prayed!) we can take the “therefore…” commands and obey from our hearts, overflowing with gratitude to our incredible Savior!

When I reorganized my review schedule two years ago, I decided to review Colossians every Sunday. Saying it aloud before the rush to get to church or in the brief calm of naptime always helps me remember the point of Lord’s day – my Lord Jesus. He is before all things and by Him all things hold together.

The reality that He is so powerful and yet humbled Himself to the cross enables me to forgive and accept anyone I have complaints against. His example of submissiveness to the Father makes submissiveness to my husband a joy. Dwelling on God’s patience with me fills up my patience supply towards my children. I am spurred to work wholeheartedly and with enthusiasm in service to my King. Social media scrolling and TV time is pushed aside to dedicate free time to praying for open doors for missionaries.

And by His Spirit, I am learning to all things in the name of Christ, giving thanks to the Father through Him. His storehouses of blessings are inexhaustible!

To close I’ll just copy Paul’s valediction –

[Grace be with you.]

He is Before all Things: Colossians Part 1

Time for a second post! This is the first of two posts focusing on the book of Colossians. This week I’ll share the story of where I was in life when I committed it to memory and recall God’s great kindness to me! Next week I’ll delve into the rich content of the book and ways I’m continuing to learn from it as I review. Admittedly my writing skills are about as rusty as a tricycle left out during a hurricane, so please bear with my rambling style! (And my cheesy similes).

As I shared in my first post, I began consistently practicing the discipline of Scripture memory and review just days after my son Jude was born. Rewinding a bit (yes, I’m a former Blockbuster member and I miss VHS tapes!) I was greatly influenced by my Mom and Dad in this area. All throughout my time at home we memorized verses, chapters, and epistles together. During that time I was very rebellious towards Christ and His truth. I participated, but my effort was minimal and I didn’t meditate on what we memorized. Despite my unreceptiveness at that time, it’s so heartening to look back and see how God used my parent’s faithful commitment to this discipline to prepare me for what was ahead.

Fast forward to late 2014: Drew and I were newly married and had just welcomed a new baby in our family! When I felt spurred by the Spirit to memorize a book, I flipped my Bible open and chose Colossians. The truths within it were ones I wanted to dwell on more and it was a reasonably short book.

I recall how unnaturally difficult it was to set aside even ten minutes a day to add a phrase from Colossians and go over what I had already memorized. It felt like war – because it was.

In that period of postpartum depression, I was in desperate need of gospel truths to lift my eyes off of my circumstances and ever-changing feelings. I also can firmly attest that the Holy Spirit began demolishing many idols in my heart. To name a few: entertainment, comfort, self-sufficiency, and arrogance.

As He did so I began to hunger and thirst for more of the Word of truth. It was an immature desire that still had many weeds of pride and self-focus growing alongside it. But His divine pruning wasn’t hindered by my sin.

If you are in Christ, that is true of you as well. Don’t give up in your pursuit of abiding in Him – you are secure in His love for you!

Here are some practical resources for memorization I discovered early on in my journey:

This great article –

http://andynaselli.com/why-and-how-to-memorize-an-entire-book-of-the-bible

This app (for iPhone- if you have Android just search the App Store for a memory aid to find what works for you!)

Memorize Anything by Bendy Tree, LLC https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/memorize-anything/id430219093?mt=8

By far the biggest thing to keep in mind is to ask in faith for God to help you love Him more. Guilt and self-driven effort will only get you so far…but divine, Spirit-given love will enable you to do many great things for the Kingdom of God!

The Day of Small Things

Hello! My name is Emma. I’ll go ahead and jump right in! This blog will be about Bible memorization and review. God has used this discipline to completely transform my life and I’m really looking forward to sharing what He’s teaching me and encouraging others to pursue Christ all the more!

As an introduction post, here’s the video and transcript of the testimony I recently shared at my church.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kfcsSLTFyae8wXVH3h8RUIecI6Fezyyw/view?usp=drivesdk

The day after my son Jude was born, I prayed for him to love the Bible. At that moment, I realized I wanted to love God’s Word more as well and could definitely devote more time than I had been to meditating on it. As a result, I started daily memorizing and review of Scripture. Since then I’ve memorized several books and passages: Colossians, James, Revelation, Job 38-42:2, John, Genesis 1-4, Psalms 9, 19, 103, 1 & 2 Timothy, and am currently working on the book of Nehemiah.

I’ve established a daily review schedule that enables me to keep these books and passages fresh on my heart and mind. It seemed like an impossible task when I first resolved to do it, and I initially almost gave up several times, but by setting some time aside each day (or just reviewing and memorizing while multitasking- just part of the mom of toddlers lifestyle!) by the Spirit’s power it’s become an essential part of my daily life. God uses dwelling on His living and active Word to make me flee sin and repent of it swiftly- it’s pretty humbling to be saying a verse about “not exasperating your children” and then yell at them for climbing on the dishwasher! He also uses having it in my mind to encourage other believers, to evangelize more clearly, and to teach my kids about Jesus.

The circumstances of my day to day vary greatly – some days are good and joyful – especially when all of my kids nap simultaneously! – and some days are full of irritating and sometimes very hard things- from broken appliances, difficulty communicating with others, rejection from people I love because of Christ and the offense of the cross, seeing dearly loved friends suffer greatly, loved ones dying, and doubting God’s goodness in my weak flesh. Yet He is good and always reminds me of His truth. One particularly sweet way He’s been doing that has been in enabling my kids to remember and share things they hear in my review of Scripture. Just a few weeks ago after a hard day praying and witnessing to people at the abortion clinic I was crying during the singing here at church and my son Jude started wiping away my tears and said, “Mommy, God is going to wipe away every last tear in heaven.” Amen!

What’s also incredible is that I’ve seen how obeying God’s leading in this way has spilled over into other areas of my life. Where I formerly had a pretty hard time staying on top of housework and other tasks, He’s made me more diligent in these areas as I strive to follow Paul’s encouragement to young women in 1 Timothy 5:14 to “manage [my] household and give the adversary no occasion for slander.” I see our faithful God making me a doer of the Word – He has begun this work in me and will bring it to completion!

Thanks for reading! My aim will be a weekly post sharing lessons and reflections on a book or passage that I’ve memorized. I’m looking forward to it!


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