The Transforming Force of Faith: a Series in the Praise and Worship Style Based on James.

James was the leader of the first Christian church, the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 13:15). His letter is written out of pastoral concern for the spiritual life of Christ's followers. In a very practical way, he addresses the actions and attitudes of Christians. The book of James is a protest against hypocrisy and a call for the transforming force of faith. The apostle's themes closely follow Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.

WEEK 1
James 1

COME INTO HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING

[the opening of worship; the congregation stands for this whole section]

Call to Worship: Psalm 95:1-2; 96:1

"Sacrifice of Praise/Alive, Alive" ]Use piano and guitar.
(Kirk Dearman in Praise and Worship, Vol. 1. Unity Music Ministries: Box 216, Station R, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4G 3Z9)

"Adoration Medley"
(composed of "Father, I Adore You", "Holy, Holy," and "Great is the Lord"; arranged by Tom Fettke in Great Is the lord, Lillenas Publishing Co.: Kansas City, MO.)

[While pianist plays introduction for "Father, I Adore You", song leader says:]

We come into God's presence with praise and rejoicing for what our Lord has done and with great adoration for who our God is. Let us worship and adore the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

["Father, I Adore You" may be sung with sign language if children know it. In "Holy, Holy" the phrase "and we lift our hands before you" may be enacted.]

CONFESSION (from James 1:9-18)

James 1:14 tells us we are tempted when our own evil desires drag us away from God's expectations. Our evil desires conceive, and we give birth to, sin. And sin, when it has fully developed, gives birth to death. "Behold, the wicked… made a pit and dug it out, and has fallen into the ditch which he made. His trouble shall return upon his own head" (The Wesley Bible). We have done ourselves in and are hopeless, indeed.

As we read on, James 1:18 says that God chose "to give us birth through the word of truth." If we are honest, confessing our failures, God does have a plan to rescue us from the misery we create in our lives. What relief!

"I Have Grieved You" [Sung by choir]
(James Ward; Music A.D. Box 7465; Grand Rapids, MI; 49510.)

Because of what the Lord has done for us in sending Jesus to die for our sins, we give thanks. Those who have humbled themselves have a high position in God's sight—the weak are made strong, the poor are rich. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Give thanks!

"Give Thanks" [See p. 30. Sing twice, using trumpet descant on chorus. If this is your first time using this song, have the choir introduce it; the congregation can join on the repeat.]

SERMON SUGGESTIONS: "The Birth of Faith"

Scripture: James 1:17-27

God is performing a work in our lives which causes our faith to grow and be strengthened. God wants us to bring forth fruit in the new life. In order for that to happen, we need to turn away more and more from whatever leads us into temptation and sin. We also need to commit ourselves to being doers of the word. We can and should expect growth in our lives as Christians, and we should be willing to measure that growth according to God's Word.

HYMN SUGGESTIONS

"Seek Ye First the Kingdom"
(PH 333, PsH 209)

"For the Beauty of the Earth" [Think of every good and perfect gift (fames 1:17) as you sing—the wonder of the beauties of earth, the love of friends. Let us truly thank God in our hearts as we raise this hymn of grateful praise.]
(descant from PsH 358 on stanza 4, PH 473, PsH 432, RL 15, TH116)

"All Things Bright and Beautiful" [Focus especially on the stanza that concludes, "How great is God Almighty, who has made all things well."]
(PH 267, PsH 435, RL 15, TH 120)

"All Creatures of Our God and King"
(PH 455, PsH 431, RL 4, TH 115)

INTERCESSORY PRAYER

Preparation for prayer: read James 1:2-6a

"Thy Will Be Done, Lord" [Sung by soloist and choir.]
(Joyce Eilers; The Heritage Music Press: No. H131)

WEEK 2
James 2

COME INTO HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING

Call to Worship: "Come Let Us Worship and Bow Down" [May be done with guitar only. Sing several times, beckoning each other to worship. Section A may be sung by various groups each time it is repeated: phrase one, worship leader, phrase two, congregation; next time through: phrase one, women, phrase two, men; next time: phrase one, left side, phrase two, right side; and so on. Simply explain ahead of time how you will do section A the first time through. For the second and third times through, give the instructions immediately before the group is to sing (e.g., women only; men only) In this way, the leader will not get bogged down with too many instructions ahead of time, and the people will not have time to forget who is supposed to sing when!]
(Dave Doherty; The Hymnal for Worship and Celebration; Word Music: Waco, TX.)

Response: "Holy Is He" [SATB choir with congregation rising and singing "Holy, Holy, Holy" at the end. Arrange for instrumentalists (baritone and trumpet or another combination) to play the congregation's melody from measure 264 to the end. Repeat from the end of measure 280 back to measure 264, repeating the words of the first verse of "Holy, Holy, Holy."]
(David Clydesdale; Royal Tapestry Inc.: DTE33032)

CONFESSION: Read James 2:1-13

Dear God, we know that you want us to obey you perfectly. We do sometimes obey you, but we must admit that we don't always do every single thing you want us to do. Even when we do just one little thing wrong, we are law-breakers. Please forgive us. We rely on Jesus' death on the cross to atone for the things we do wrong. Thank you. Amen.

[Children or Young People may be prepared to sing "This Is My Commandment" (arr. Betty Pulkingham; Sound of Living Waters; Eerd-mans: Grand Rapids, MI). First verse, sing "love one another"; second verse, sing "serve one another."]

SERMON SUGGESTIONS: "Genuine Faith"

Scripture: James 2:1-5, 8-10,14-17

In this chapter, the "apparent" conflict of whether salvation is by faith or by works comes into play. "James's deep concern for the practical outcome of Christian faith may seem to oppose Paul's emphasis on salvation by faith alone. James's position, however, is not an attack on salvation by faith; it is a protest against hypocrisy. He wants the world to know that faith is a transforming force. Salvation by faith results in holy living. This does not contradict Paul's teaching—it complements it. The two emphases are the two facets of a full-orbed Christian faith—redemption and holy living" (The Wesley Bible).

Faith is more than an intellectual belief in God. ("These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" Mark 7:6-8.) Salvation is not for those who merely profess to obey Jesus, calling him Lord (Matt. 7:21-23). Rather, salvation is for those who actually do God's will. Faith and actions must work together. In fact, faith is made complete by actions.

SUGGESTED HYMNS

"You Shall Be Holy" [Repeat first eight measures after measure 16 and again after measure 24.]
(Jimmy Owens; Scripture Praise; Lexicon Music, Inc.: Waco, TX)

"Jesu, Jesu, Fill Us with Your Love"
(PH367,PsH601)

"When We Walk with the Lord" [Sing refrain twice after final stanza.]
(PsH 548, TH 67)

"Go Now in Peace" (Use accompaniment from Sunday Songbook (Natalie Sleeth; Hinshaw Music: HMB-102). Bell parts are the same as in PsH. Sing the chorus once all together, then twice as a three-part round. Skip the last three measures unless the choir has been prepared to finish with this coda.]
(PsH 317)

WEEK 3
James 3

COME INTO HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING

"This Is The Day" [Sing only the first stanza, but sing it through twice. Then move directly into the next hymn.]
(PH 230, PsH 241, RL 128, TH 389)

"Bless His Holy Name" [without introduction]
(PsH 627)

We have just confessed that "He has done great things." Let us continue to bless and praise our mighty God by rehearsing some of those great things he has done.

"Mighty God Medley" [Choir could sing this octavo, or the congregation could sing the melody, with trumpet or choir joining in on the descant at measure 115. Additional handclaps on measure 34, beat 2 and measure 35, beat 1.]
(arr. Steve Potts; Brentwood Music: Brentwood, TN; OT-1098)

God's Greeting

RESTORING OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (from James 3:13-18)

James 3 speaks of the wisdom that God desires of us, wisdom that is revealed through an obedient life. Verses 17-18 reflect some of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God; Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons and daughters of God; Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

But who among us considers himself or herself pure? Clean? We are ragged, tattered, and torn. We can only throw ourselves on the mercy of God, hoping for his compassion.

Prayer of Confession: [Conclude with a Prayer of Commitment that we may make new attempts at being pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, impartial, and sincere. May we raise a harvest of righteousness.]

"O Lord, Your Tenderness" [The introduction to this hymn may start already during the Prayers of Confession and Commitment. Flow right into the chorus only of the next hymn.]
(Graham Kendrick; Songs of Fellowship; Thank You Music: Nashville, TN)

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness" [Transpose to key of C and sing more slowly than usual. Piano accompaniment for this song in Worship Him II (Tempo Music Publishing) lends itself to this style.]
(PH 276, PsH 556, RL 155, TH 32]

SERMON SUGGESTIONS: "The Fruit of Faith"

Scripture: James 3:13-18

The Christian faith transforms a person's outlook on life. In place of rivalry, competition, and jealousy there is sincere love which yields peace, consideration for others, and a willingness to submit to others first of all.

The sincerity of our faith can be measured or tested. If our faith is real, we will experience growth in the grace of the Lord as the fruit of God's Spirit becomes more visible in our lives.

SUGGESTED HYMNS

"Let Your Light So Shine" [Appropriate for a children's choir.]
(Freda Tapp; Worship Him; Tempo Music)

"Shine, Jesus, Shine" [Appropriate for a choir of young people.]
(Graham Kendrick; Songs of Fellowship; Thank You Music: Nashville, TN)

"You Are the Salt of the Earth" [Appropriate for an adult choir.]
(Avery & Marsh/Wilson; Hope Publishing Co.: Carol Stream, IL, 60187; AM 6687)

"My Peace"
(Keith Routledge; Scripture Praise; Lexicon Music, Inc.: Waco, TX.)

"Spirit of the Living God"
(PH 322, PsH 424, TH 726)

"Take My Life That It May Be" [Sing this hymn more slowly than usual so that members of the congregation have time to really think about the words and dedicate their lives to God.]
(PH 391, PsH 288 or 289, RL 475, TH 585 or 586)

"Jesus Put this Song into Our Hearts" [Follow this song with "I Will Celebrate" (Linda Duvall), from the same book.]
(Graham Kendrick; Praise and Worship; Unity Music Ministries: P.O. Box 215, Station A; Mississauga, Ontario; Canada, L5A 2Z7.)

WEEK 4
 James 4 and 5

COME INTO HIS PRESENCE WITH SINGING

Call to Worship

"My Lord, He Is A-Comin' Soon" [Repeat last phrase three times after final refrain. May be sung by unison choir or, if it has been introduced earlier, by the congregation.]
(Jeff Cothran; Cry Hosanna; Hope Publishing Co.; Carol Stream, IL)

"Alabare" [Be sure to sing the refrain in Spanish. Add claves and maracas on the refrain, (clave rhythm) The sermon will immediately follow "Alabare."]
(PsH 234)

SERMON SUGGESTIONS: "Faith That Follows"

Scripture: James 4:13-17 and James 5:7-11,13

James's letter concludes with the hope of the second coming of Christ. Meanwhile, Christians are to continue in prayer, praise, and faithful Christian living.

The Word of God calls believers to patience and endurance. These two qualities of mature believers come when a people are able to focus their attention on God's ultimate victory rather than on their own immediate circumstances. We go to the Lord's Table for nourishment to help us in our Christian living.

SUGGESTED HYMN

"Blessed Assurance" [Repeat refrain at end]
(PH 341, PsH 490, RL 453, TH 693)

CONFESSION OF SINS AND ASSURANCE OF PARDON (from James 4:1-12)

Call to Confession

"Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord" [James 4:10; part of the choir may do the echo.]
(Scripture Praise; Lexicon Music, Inc.: Waco, TX)

Prayer of Confession: Let us come near to God, and God will come near to us.

Father in heaven, we admit that in this past week we have been friends with the world and enemies of God. There were times when we knew the good we ought to do, and we didn't do it. We are displeased with ourselves because of our sins.

Nevertheless, we trust that our sins are pardoned. We believe that our continuing weakness is covered by the death of Christ. We believe that his suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.

Help us, we pray, to strengthen our faith and to lead a better life. For Christ's sake, Amen.

"Rock of Ages"
(Setting by James Ward; TH 500)

THE COMMUNION

[includes excerpts from Our World Belongs to God, a Contemporary Testimony of the Christian Reformed Church]

In the supper, our Lord offers the bread and the cup to believers to guarantee our share in his death and resurrection and to unite us to him and to each other. We take this food gladly, announcing as we eat that Jesus is our life and that he shall come again to call us to the supper of the Lamb.

Whenever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Jesus said , "I am the Bread of Life.If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever."

When we eat the bread and drink the cup, we remember that he is in us and we remain in him. We celebrate that we have eternal life and that Jesus will raise us up on the last day.

[The members pass the elements down the rows or around the circle to each other, each saying to his/her neighbor, "The body of Christ, broken for you;" and, "The blood of Christ, shed for you." Or the members may process to the front and receive the same from the elders. During the communion the congregation may sing continuously:]

SUGGESTED HYMNS

"I Will Sing of the Mercies of the Lord"
(PsH 169)

"You Are the Vine" [Women of the choir sing echo.]
(Danny Daniels; Praise and Worship Collection; Maranatha! Music)

"Behold, What Manner of Love"
(Patricia Van Tine; Praise and Worship Collection; Maranatha! Music)

"God Is So Good" [Transpose to key of C; modulate from "Behold, What Manner" with D7-G-G7-C]
(In The Song Goes On—See p. 32)

"How Great Is the Love of the Father"
(PsH231)

RESPONSE OF PRAISE: (from Rev. 19, 4, 7)

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God and to the Lamb!

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.

Hallelujah!

Amen!

Praise our God, all you his servants, all you who fear him, both small and great!

Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come.

And we, his bride, have made ourselves ready, clothed with righteousness. Hallelujah, Amen!

"Alleluia, He Is Coming"
(Martha Butler; Cry Hosanna; Hope Publishing Co.: Carol Stream, IL)

"You Are Worthy"
(PsH 232)

All song suggestions are from the following hymnals: Presbyterian Hymnal (PH), Psalter Hymnal (PsH), Rejoice in the Lord (RL), and the Trinity Hymnal (TH).

Carla Brouwer is director of music ministries, Calvary Christian Reformed Church, Holland, Michigan.

 

Randy Brouwer was pastor and Carla Brouwer was director of music a Faith Christian Reformed Church in Nashville, Tennessee. They recently moved to Faith Christian Reformed Church in New Brighton, Minnesota.