Our Motivation

All my recent musings about works and faith has led me to think about the various ways individual faith is evidenced. (Trust me, I’ll get back to the Letter of James soon. I just can’t pass up a good digression!)

As Cory mentioned during our Bible Study, Paul speaks highly of Timothy and especially Epaphroditus who risked his life to maintain communication between Paul and the Philippian church. And James – who so often takes a beating over his stance on works – reminds readers that Abraham’s willingness to outwardly act on his faith serves as a testimony to the completeness of his faith.

Isaiah, on the other hand, describes a negative example of what faithful actions can become when we lose sight of why we act. In Isaiah’s vision, the Lord has lost all patience with the Israelites and their empty rituals. What good are animal sacrifices and incense burning when the only reason you do it is so God will bless you?

Doing those things that God loves isn’t about self-benefit. Rather, it’s about being so filled with holy love our “cup runneth over.” Sometimes, our cup overflowing looks like silent praise to God during private prayer. Sometimes, our cup overflows to hospitals, to those in poverty, or to friends undergoing hardship. Our cup can also overflow to those celebrating a marriage or welcoming a new child.

Our cups overflow in a myriad of ways, and in multiple directions. We spend a good deal of our time trying to identify the way that fits us and our particular talents the best. What’s my purpose? How do I reflect the love of Christ? The answer is different for everyone. For instance, I’m not going to sing, produce, and publish a Christian album because singing is definitely not my spiritual gift. (You’ll just have to take my word on that!) On the other hand, researching and writing a blog… that speaks a bit more to my strengths!

No matter what we choose to do, the point is to continually remind ourselves of our motivation for doing it. The Israelites forgot their primary motivation, and good things turned into empty things. I don’t read the Bible and write about it because I expect something in return.  I do it because God fills my cup so full… it overflows. God does that. I’m just guiding the overflow in this direction!

Think about how God fills your cup… and how you can best share the excess. And in all those things, to God be the glory.


Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

Intro to James

Hey everyone! Today I’m going to hit a few major points regarding the Letter of James by way of a very brief, and very broad, introduction. I’ll also direct you to additional resources in case you’re interested in doing more research on your own. As I alluded to yesterday, there’s much more to James than you might think!

Authorship – The vast majority of scholars believe evidence points to James, the brother of Jesus, as the author of this letter. There are six other Jameses in the Bible, but only one has received serious consideration beyond the one already mentioned:  James, the son of Zebedee. However, his early date of death in AD 44 makes him questionable since the letter appears to have been written around that same time.

On the other hand, James, the brother of Jesus, was a leader in the early church and was martyred in AD 62. If you’re interested in the various discussions regarding authorship, the three commentaries listed below are a good place to start. For my study purposes, I’m going with James, the brother of Jesus, as the assumed author.

Audience – Almost as much discussion has evolved around James’ audience as authorship! It seems pretty obvious.  James comes right out in verse 1 and says he’s writing “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” BUT… does he mean to limit the twelve tribes to the messianic Jews who are direct descendants of the Old Testament, or does he mean to include gentiles in this greeting lending a more multiracial, New Testament audience?

As we’ll see later in this study, James appears to be highly devoted to Jewish scripture and faith, while believing in Jesus as the Messiah. After reading the different arguments, I tend to lean toward an audience of messianic Jews. I believe James says exactly what he means: He’s writing to the twelve tribes of the diaspora.

Themes – James’ audience also has “issues” to deal with:  divisiveness, intolerance, and favoritism in the church, as well as individual desire for wealth and status over everything else – including God. They’ve been influenced by false teachers and have turned the church into a social club.

In addressing all these problems, James will write about suffering, sin, righteousness, and holy wisdom. His letter is brief, but he gives just enough details that we’ll also get a glimpse of his theology regarding the Trinity, eschatology, the Torah, ethics of Christian life, and – of course – faith, works, and justification.

It’s hard to believe all that gets packed into this short letter, but as we learned from Ephesians (and are now seeing in Philippians), it pays to read all scripture – short or long – slowly, closely, thoughtfully, and prayerfully.

I believe we come into a time of communion with the Father, Son, and Spirit when we meditate on scripture in this way, becoming a participating member of the Body of Christ in relationship to the Trinity. Other than the Eucharist, I can’t think of any other time when I feel as close to God as when I ‘listen’ to scripture speak.

Resources – I recommend that you watch The Bible Project video on James. Excellent resource from them, as always. I’m also relying on three different commentaries for my personal study.  (Just to clarify… I always read scripture first, at least three times over, before I ever consult anything written about scripture. Always keep the primary thing primary!) These are all available in print or on Kindle, if you’re looking to build your library. Or you can just keep following along here — I’ll be sharing a LOT of their information!

  • The Letter of James, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, by Scot McKnight
  • The Letter of James, Pillar New Testament Commentary Series, by Douglas Moo
  • James: The NIV Application Commentary, by David Nystrom

So there you have it: a super short intro to the Letter of James. Between this and The Bible Project video, you should have a good idea of what to expect. Take the next day or so and read James through two or three times – preferably at least once out loud. Underline, star, highlight, or write down anything that really catches your attention. You never know where the Spirit is leading you. Meet you here again later in the week. Take care!

REMINDERS: 

  • Philippians Bible Study with Cory on Facebook, Wednesday at 6:30.
  • Pray, pray, pray.  Build your friendship with God, and love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Quarantining? Stay connected. Going out? Be a blessing.

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Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated to you; and then use us, we pray, as you will, always to your glory and the welfare of your people. Through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

Morning Prayer

From the Book of Common Prayer:

Psalm 51

Open my lips, O Lord,
    and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence
    and take not your holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again
    and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
    as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen. 

A Reading

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)

The Collect

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: Preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
    Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
    to the voice of my supplications!

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
    so that you may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
    and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
    more than those who watch for the morning,
    more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
    For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
    and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
    from all its iniquities.

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)

Immanuel

God is with us.

I ask that you meditate on that one thought today. Take refuge in it. No matter where you are or what your circumstance, God is present. You are not alone.

“To recognize that the Psalms call us to pray and sing at the intersections of the times — of our time and God’s time, of the then, and the now, and the not yet — is to understand how those emotions are to be held within the rhythm of a life lived in God’s presence.” (N.T. Wright, The Case For The Psalms)

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
     he leads me beside still waters;
  he restores my soul.
   He leads me in right paths
     for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
     I fear no evil;
  for you are with me;
     your rod and your staff—
     they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
     in the presence of my enemies;
   you anoint my head with oil;
     my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
     all the days of my life,
   and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
     my whole life long.

 

prayinghands-300x209Our heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being: We humbly pray thee so to guide and govern us by thy Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget thee, but may remember that we are ever walking in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.  (Book of Common Prayer)

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)

 

All Together

While we may not be worshiping together in person this morning, we are most definitely worshiping together through the Holy Spirit. God is with his church and, as the body of Christ, we are with God.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95:1-3 ESV)

To our heavenly Father we pray:

“O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”   (Book of Common Prayer)

The following articles contain excellent recommendations for worshiping at home:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)

Finally, because I love each and every one of you…

Below are some important resources to help you stay up-to-date with accurate information regarding COVID-19 in Kentucky.  I also recommend that you watch the Governor’s daily press conferences. They are filled with information!

Today, March 15, he will be speaking at approximately 4:00 p.m.  During the week, he has been holding press conferences twice daily, typically early morning (times have varied) as well as at 5:00 p.m. when he presents updated numbers.

These press conferences have been excellent sources of information. You can typically find them on youtube (just search for the Governor’s page), on WDRB.com, and other local television news programs including KET.

KY COVID-19 Hotline:  (800) 722-5725

Official KY website:  kycovid19.ky.gov

People at Higher Risk for COVID-19 Complications: Adults over 60 and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung, or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 illness.

If you are at increased risk for COVID-19, it is especially important for you to take the following actions to reduce your risk of exposure:

Stay at home as much as possible. Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time. When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact (6 feet away) and wash your hands often. Avoid crowds. (Information provided by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services)

God bless you, keep praying, and don’t forget to wash your hands 🙂