For Christmas, my husband and kids got me a beautiful leather journal entirely handmade by a family in the United States. The stitching on the binding is stunning and the pages really look like pages from an old book. It wasn’t hard to decide that this would be my new Scripture writing journal. 🙂
In my desire to write out the letters of the Bible, I began this journal with the letter from James. It is, perhaps, my favorite book in the Bible because it is so direct in its instructions and encouragement to us as believers.
About once a week, I would sit down and write a chapter at a time (or filled one page of the journal). I wasn’t in a rush to get it done. It actually took a bit longer than expected with the holidays and with some sickness that hit our house. But all in all, it probably took me about 2.5 hours. You can tell your hands aren’t used to writing anymore when they cramp so easily. 😀 We’re so spoiled!
But I don’t want to just mindlessly copy the words from the letter… I want to dive into James’ world a bit and see how it translates to my own.
Growing Up with Jesus
Did you know this letter was written by James, the brother of Jesus? Imagine that for a minute…
“As brothers, they played together, were schooled together, and learned carpentry together. Along with their siblings, they probably spent more than twenty years sharing everyday life in the small town of Nazareth. Surely James knew Jesus as a living, breathing person as well as anyone on earth ever knew him” (Life with God Bible study notes).
Ironic, though, that James didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah until Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. And that changed everything. After Jesus ascended, James began to teach and became a leader in the church, particularly the church in Jerusalem.
Winding Road of Topics
The number of issues that James wrote about can seem overwhelming. He jumps from one topic to the next. As I copied his words, I wondered if it seemed that way to the original readers, as well, or if that was the way they were used to writing letters. It took me a good 2.5 hours to copy; perhaps James set it aside at times and kept coming back to it? That could explain why it appears so disjointed.
But if I look at the overall picture, James is teaching us, very specifically, how to live the Christian life. He helps us remember those tidbits of wisdom and teaching that we so desperately need in daily living.
- Wisdom–God will generously give us wisdom when we ask for it. And we’ll know it’s from Him because it is pure, peace loving, gentle, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds, shows no favoritism, and is always sincere.
- Words–We should be slow to speak and careful in what we say and teach. We should not speak judgment or evil against one another or grumble about each other. We should not boast or take oaths, but instead confess our sins, sing praises, and pray for one another. Our words will reveal what is really going on in our hearts.
- Troubles–When we face troubles or suffering, we can look at it as an opportunity to grow in our faith and endurance, just like those of old who were patient in their suffering and remained steadfast in their faith, trusting God through it all. God will bless those who patiently endure.
- Equality–Don’t show favoritism to others. We are all created in the image of God and He does not want us to favor some people over others. Doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor (or fill in the blank), we are to show mercy and love.
Plus, there are so many power-packed truths that we need to remind ourselves of:
- God gives wisdom generously to those who ask.
- God never tempts us.
- God never changes.
- God gives us good gifts.
- We are God’s prized possession.
- God gives grace generously.
- God will come close to us if we come close to Him.
- God alone is Judge and He alone has the power to save or to destroy.
- The Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.
How would I have felt receiving this letter from James? How many times would I have read it? If your pastor, small group leader, mentor, or spiritual director wrote you a personal letter, what would it mean to you?
Living like Jesus, Living with Jesus
But notice this, my friends: everything James writes about describes Jesus.
“James must have recalled the way Jesus had handled family and personal trials and the trial that ended in crucifixion. He recalled how Jesus had endured temptation and been slow to anger, how Jesus had cared for all people, rich and poor, and how Jesus had controlled his tongue. He remembered Jesus’ gentleness and willingness to yield, his friendship with God, his humility. James remembered Jesus’ patience and perseverance. And he recalled how Jesus prayed in faith and healed the sick, how he gave his followers the power to go from town to town doing the same. He remembered how Jesus forgave sins and how he cared desperately for finding the lone, lost sheep” (Life with God Bible study notes).
James helps us understand what day-to-day life looks like as a Christ-follower. I don’t know about you, but I need this! I need someone to tell me “do this” or “don’t do that.” Not in a legalistic sort of way, but a “this is what following Christ looks like” kind of way. It is discipleship in the truest sense of the word.
“But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says.”James 1:22
Letter Writing Today
And so, as I think about how this specific Scripture writing experience can encourage me in my own note and letter writing, this is what I wonder:
- If I were to write a discipleship letter like this to someone today, what topics would I address?
- If someone were to write me a discipleship letter like this, what topics would they need to address in my life that need some encouragement or correction?
- What truths do I/we need to be reminded of? And could we dare to speak them out loud or in writing to one another?
Read the following passages for more on James:
- 1 Corinthians 15:7
- Acts 12:17
- Acts 15:13-21
- Galatians 2:9
Check out my earlier post about Hand-Copying Scripture here.