Oct 04 thru Nov 15 - "Life on the Rope"

Discipleship series

Life on the Rope Oct. 04 
Life on the Rope Oct. 11 
Life on the Rope Oct. 18 
Life on the Rope Oct. 25 (Reformation Sunday)  
Life on the Rope Nov. 01 (All Saints' Day) 
Life on the Rope Nov. 08 
Life on the Rope Nov. 15 


Sep 27 - "Faith Works" (Reach Out; A Community of Prayer and Reconciliation)

Sep 27 — Week 4 – Faith Last (Reach Out; A Community of Prayer and Reconciliation)

Main Reading: James 5:13–20
Other Readings: Numbers 11:4–6, 10–16, 24–29; Mark 9:38–50

The fourth part of our James series takes us into the fifth chapter. Backing up to the beginning of James 5 allows a fuller picture of discipleship that James is painting, one which makes a difference not only in the community, but by extension to the world. James portrays the life of a disciple as being: confident in the justice of God (5:1-7), patient in suffering (5:7-11), trustworthy in speech (5:12), prayerful in sorrow (5:13-18), and loving toward sinners (5:19-20).

Preaching Week 4: The preacher has a lot to work with in these verses but the two main themes involve prayer for others and reconciliation of those in the body of Christ who have strayed from Jesus. Consider including the three themes that precede 5:13-20 to create a fuller picture of a community, as well as individual disciples, putting faith into action. From this the link to missional living is not difficult but also not the main thrust of the reading. 


Sep 20 - "Faith Works" (Reach Up; A Community Draws Near to God)

Sep 20 — Week 3 – Faith Submits (Reach Up; A Community Draws Near to God)

Main Reading: James 4:1-10
Other Readings: Jeremiah 11:18–20; Mark 9:30–37

In chapter 4, James turns his attention to the community of disciples and their relationship with the world and with God. 4:1-5 focuses on the world and James sees the world quite negatively. He uses the word “friendship” and it has the connotation of intimacy in relationship. To be intimate with the world was, to James, to align with evil and adultery (4:4). 

In contrast, James exhorts the hearer to “come near to God and he will come near to you… humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (4:8, 10) The community, according to James, would receive more grace from the Lord, the One to whom they were to submit to. 

Preaching Week 3: The preacher will want to contrast the intimacy that comes from a relationship with the Lord with that of the sinful, evil world. Be careful in preaching about the world, spending time unpacking how James is using “world.” Daily word and weekly worship are crucial for drawing near to God, for receiving his grace, and engaging the world appropriately. In fact, reaching up in week 3 impacts our reaching in and out.


Sep 13 - "Faith Works" (Reach In; Power of the Tongue in Community)

Sep 13 — Week 2 – Faith Speaks (Reach In; Power of the Tongue in Community)

Main Reading: James 3:1–12
Other Readings: Isaiah 50:4–10; Mark 9:14–29

James 3:1-12 is about our responsibility to recognize the power of words in relationship and community. The section begins with an exhortation for those who teach God’s word to recognize their great responsibility. Teaching the Word rightly is serious business and the words of a teacher of the Word can cause people to be led astray. 

James follows by asking the reader to recognize the great potential of sinning in what he/she says. (3:2) He moves to painting pictures of the great power of the tongue: A bridled horse, a ship with a small rudder that turns a ship in great wind, and a small fire that ignites a whole forest. (3:3-5) James shows the evil that the tongue is capable of in 3:6.

Finally, James brings his point home in the body of Christ by pointing out that the same tongue that praises the Lord turns around and curses a brother in Christ. “My brothers and sisters, this should not be.” (3:10) Indeed! 

Preaching Week 2: The preacher will explore the power of words and the tongue on both trusted relationships and joyful service in the body of Christ. Our words can speak life or death, blessing or curse and have a profound impact on the body of believers. Leading toward the October small group emphasis this week is crucial. Nothing is quite as deadly to a small group relationship than an unbridled, unrestrained tongue. On the other hand, the power of the tongue to bless in that same relational setting is limitless. The preacher will want to grab onto the life giving words of Jesus, even when our tongues are instruments of curse. 


Sep 06 - "Faith Works" (Looking back to move forward)

Sep 6 — Week 1 – Faith Works (Looking back to move forward)

Main Reading: James 2:14–18
Others Readings: John 15:1-8 

There is great importance to the order of words in the title, “Faith Works.” Faith comes first and produces works but the two cannot be separated. Works are a necessary fruit of faith. Good works/acts of mercy are not means to salvation. And yet, good works/acts of mercy are necessary evidence of salvation.

Preaching Week 1: The preacher will want to set the context for weeks 2-4 with the first sermon. A tie back to the six marks of discipleship would be helpful, expressing that each mark is a fruit of faith but one necessary and inevitable because it flows from faith. Images like kayaker in whitewater come to mind. The community of faith is an active community but it did not create itself. James wants Christ’s disciples to be so much more than just hearers of the Word. We are doers of the Word because the Word did His work in us! 


Sep 06 - Sep 27 "James"

(lead notes - mh) 
Faith Works
The Letter of James
Series Title: Faith Works
The series title plays off of James 2:17 (faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead). 

Author: James, the brother of Jesus
There have been questions regarding the authorship of James through the centuries with some scholars concluding that James was a follower of Jesus who lived after the brother of Jesus and who drew from the teachings of Paul and Peter. There are several verses or parts of verses that are very similar to those penned by Paul or Peter. Luther used this to suggest that the writer of James as not the brother of Jesus but someone using their writings. The argument can be turned around to suggest that Paul and Peter may have used the early writings of James for some of their material. Modern scholars, while not in complete unanimity, have leaned toward an early date (~AD 50) for the letter of James and authorship by the brother of Jesus. James was martyred in AD 62, 13 years after the Jerusalem Council.

Why study James?
David Platt, in his commentary on James (Christ Centered Exposition Series), says that there are two main reasons for studying James. First, studying James allows us “to examine the relationship between faith and works.” (4) Second, it allows us to explore “how faith impacts not only the details of our lives but also the lives of people around us – both locally and globally.” (5)

Major Themes:

  • The Relationship between faith and works

The struggle in reading James for followers of Jesus centers on the relationship between faith and works. James exhorts his hearers to “be doers of the word and not hearers only…” (1:22) Again in chapter 2 James states famously, “faith apart from works is dead.” (2:26) Later in chapter 2 James, while using Abraham as an example states what seems to contradict the Pauline doctrine of Sola Fide (Justification by Faith Alone) when he says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (2:24)

“Faith” is used in James 14 different times while there are 59 commands out of 108 verses in James. Clearly faith is important to James and responding to faith is necessary for James. Both legalism (law at the expense of faith) and antinomianism (faith at the expense of the law) are two ends of the spectrum of understanding the relationship between faith and works. Neither extreme has a place in the life of the church and her teaching. 

The truth of James is that faith comes first as a gift of grace and it leads to works which are necessary fruit that show a person’s faith in Jesus. 

  • Grace in James

While James’ focus is good works it is not a crass denial of God’s grace in Jesus. In fact, James points to the reality that “every good and perfect is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (1:17) He continues to show that this same Father “of his own free will brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (1:18) James exhorts his hearers to “receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (1:21b) The implanted word comes from outside a person and is able to save because it is God’s work through Christ. 

It is true that James does not explicitly mention the death and resurrection of Jesus as the way to salvation and the means of God’s grace for sin. However, James’ focus is on how the grace of God, won for us by Jesus’s atonement on the cross, is lived out as a response.

  • The Christian life in action matters in the body of Christ

James is inherently practical in its content. The author touches on a wide range of topics of Christian living (temptation, taming the tongue, judging brothers and sisters in Christ by appearance, wealth or status, wisdom from above, quarreling/fighting in the body of Christ, boasting, warnings for rich disciples, patience in suffering, prayer, etc.). All of these are in the context of the body of Christ. As James is applied to St. Luke’s “reach” language, reaching up and reaching out are certainly areas of focus in James but they pale in comparison to James’ focus on reaching in. Life together, in the body of Jesus, is of first importance of the author.

Preaching James in September (follows the lectionary reading of James) 
As we preach through James for four weeks we will tie the themes of each unit from James with one of our core discipleship areas (reach up, in, and out). We will also refer back to the Moving the Needle gages from our recent series.