Last week I went to my James study. It's a great study and normally there's about 15 people or so. It's definitely flu season because there was only 6!
None of my usual group was present; instead a eclectic group of people. Some I knew, some I'd only really met over the weekend and one that I'd hardly even said hello to.
An odd group to define "community" and yet.... it was a good study. I don't know why this surprises me, but James in many ways parallels much of what I hear about in church Sunday mornings....... probably because it's Scripture. I love that; I love seeing how it interconnects and how clear God's word can be. We looked up verses in both the Old and New Testament about caring for the poor, oppressed, widows and orphans. We looked up several verses that outlined compassion; Christ showing compassion on others through healing the sick. feeding those that were hungry, showing compassion on the helpless..... meeting real, physical needs.
There's a big push these days towards social justice... doing instead of hearing. This is good, yet I have concerns and I was pleasantly happy to hear the speaker at the retreat, as she relayed the proper "order' of things and when one gets weary to go back to the beginning; the beginning is always Scripture. I can't find my notes, but I think it was something like Knowledge, Trust. Obey. Serve... but I distinctly remember that it started with relationship and that relationship was through Scripture. (I really liked this speaker!) if one started to get discouraged in obedience, or find they are lacking in trust, to go back to scripture. Discouraged in serving? Go back to scripture.
I have long held that Scripture is so very important but many I speak to don't believe so; they think that it's about relationship and God is so personal and so relational that one doesn't need scripture to EXPERIENCE Him. I don't agree and was happy to listen to a speaker that truly loved and knew scripture, yet it wasn't merely academic; the relationship and love she had for Jesus was evident in her face, attitude, words and actions.
Back at church, it seems that this speaker has really inspired so many people to study the Bible. I think it exposed a great thirst that we women have; to study Scripture, to apply it. To dig deep and embrace Biblical truth. It's so exciting! I think that even before the retreat there were several that really were excited to study James and I think that our speaker, Julia, fueled that excitement. I spoke with a friend tonight that really would love to do BSF. (Bible Study Fellowship) I mentioned it was an 8 year course to cover all it's curriculum. She was just in awe of Julia's knowledge of both the New and Old Testament; but it all comes from study.
The James study we're doing was complied by a friend of mine. Her objective? To get women to read the Bible and not just read it but apply it. She broke down James into very small chunks; this week we went over 2 verses! We had five days of homework studying 2 verses, but during those five days we cross references things like compassion, what it means to be undefiled by the world, what opportunities exist to for us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers, a warning on not to just set up a "to do" list, examples of faith and what are the marks of true religion? It's a good study, in depth and yet accessible to all.
I'm just excited. For some, this is their first time in a "real" Bible study and they are doing the homework, even enjoying the homework. I think James is such a good, (though difficult to hear) straightforward book! He is clear and concise. No poetry. No ambiguity.
A friend of mine from another church was lamenting the fact that her Bible study isn't a real "study". I agree; it's wonderful to be in a real Bible study She said that her friends don't know much about theology; it's really not taught these days, especially to women. I think that we perhaps know more theology than we realize just by listening to the sermon and reading our Bible daily. Like I stated earlier, It surprises me how this James study coincides with the Sunday message; they tend to complement each other well. That's a good thing!
I think too often we base our faith on feeling and experience. I know that there has to be feelings and experience in faith; if it's devoid of it then it's just an academic study and there's no point in studying scripture if one isn't going to apply it and have it change them, yet I think that anyone who starts to read the Bible will soon find themselves wondering, questioning, and struck by who Christ is and what He has done and the amazing love God has for His creation. It's not just about knowing the right theology; that won't "save" a person; definitely a relationship with Christ is needed, but as we learned this weekend.... we need to know God, spend time in His presence, and that is through prayer and Scripture. The more we KNOW and spend time with God the more we love and trust God; the more we trust then we delight in serving Him. I think that too often we get in out head what we know we should DO or what our pastor says we should DO and we jump into the DOING part without first going through the KNOWING part; sitting at Christ's feet.... being in His presence, but that is where the power comes from. Where we get our endurance, power and grace to do and know His will.
I really thought this speaker was going to be all fluff. I'm so glad she disappointed me in that area! I'm really in awe that I attended the retreat. I'm so against believing that "the women that attended were the ones God chose to attend" (Yet, it's probably true, especially if I believe God is completely in control) But upon even more reflection, I'm very happy that I had this amazing opportunity to attend. I had a fun, relaxing time, learned a lot about myself and community, and really enjoyed the speaker; plus I'm just thrilled that she inspired so many women to read their Bibles, and for me, to really allow to see and embrace a God that loved me; that thinks I'm special. For some reason, I struggle with that. Indeed, I know it but this is one area where it is truly head knowledge.