IPC MNBS Bible Study Guide

James, The Call to Christian Perfection: A Bible Study Guide

IPC Women's Monday Night Bible Study, Spring 2008

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.
James 1: 4 (ESV)

Welcome to IPC Women's Monday Night Bible Study! This is a short guide to our spring 2008 study of The Letter of James, New Testament, Bible.

Session Dates: Mondays, 14 April - 19 May, 2008 (6 sessions); Time: 7:00 - 8:30 pm
Location: Jack Davis room (14 April); Fellowship Hall/Fireside Alcove (21 April - 19 May)
Cost: $15.00, scholarships are available upon request

Abstract: The letter of James is often viewed variously as a set of disjointed instructions to individuals, a call to "faith perfected through works," an impetus for social action. It may even be misunderstood as an embarrassment to Paul's "justification by faith" doctrine. Martin Luther, for example, called it an “epistle of straw.” Today, scholars recognize James as a “witness to the beauty and diversity of the early Christian movement.” In this six-week study we will explore the major themes in James, rich and poor, faith and works, speech and the tongue, enduring testing and wisdom. James is a warning against human “double-mindedness” and a call to Christian “perfection,” a spirituality of perfection in Jesus Christ. Exegesis and Lectio Divina will be used to illuminate the letter's direction for us living in twenty-first century Christian communities.

Invitation: Our usual attendees are working women and women for whom evenings are convenient. Jesus Christ is only mentioned twice in James but numerous parallels with his Sermon on the Mount make James wisdom literature of the Near/Middle East at its best that teaches us to be a “friend of God.” The life lessons in James also resonate with our post-modern consciousness and celebration of diversity. It is thus an excellent study to introduce Christ to new believers and people of other faiths/traditions. Bring your lady friends, neighbors, and family, to join our study.


1. IPC Bible Study Guidelines
2. Monday Night Bible Study: Covenant Groups in Celebration, Gratitude and Discipleship
3. Components of Healthy Groups & Sample Covenant
4. WORKSHEET: Bible Study Goals
5. Syllabus
6. Weekly Schedule
7. Group Discussion Questions
8. How To Do Lectio Divina
9. How To Do Basic Exegesis
10. Prayers
11. References
12. Leadership Team

IPC Bible Study Guidelines

Welcome to Women's Monday Night Bible Study, a Women's Ministries program of Irvine Presbyterian Church.

We have a few simple guidelines and these are as follows.

1) Show up! That is the most important thing – being here! Come as you are.

2) Come prepared by having done your lesson. At minimum, read the scripture for the week. If you cannot do that, refer back to item #1.

3) No one will ever be asked to read or share or pray out loud. All participation is voluntary.

4) However, we do encourage you to be willing to participate in the discussion. If you are someone who likes to talk a lot, try to listen more. If you are someone who tends to be quiet, try to talk a bit more.

5) Everything in your small group is CONFIDENTIAL! Nothing that is shared in the group will be discussed outside the group unless specific permission is given.

6) We will have an opportunity to pray for each other. In light of the time constraints, please keep your prayer requests brief and concise. Although we are also concerned about your Aunt Suzy’s nephew’s neighbor’s issues, we are more concerned about you and how we can pray for you.

7) We are not here to give advice. We want to provide a safe place for everyone to share openly their concerns without the pressure of giving or receiving advice. This is not the place to solve problems, but to present them to the Lord in prayer with the fellowship and discipleship of the small group.

8) We are committed to starting and stopping on time.

9) We encourage you to make a commitment to attend Bible study regularly. The regular study of God's Word in the fellowship of other women will not only benefit you, it will also help those who plan the study.

10) Currently, we do not offer nursery care. If you need childcare, please let us know and we will try to arrange it.

Introduction to Women's Monday Night Bible Study:
Covenant Groups in Celebration, Gratitude and Discipleship

Guiding Principles:

1) The goal of Monday night Bible study is to provide a safe environment for women, especially working professionals, to delight in God's Word.
2) The Bible study is open to all women in our community – non believers, new believers, and mature followers of Jesus. Our Bible study will try to meet the needs of all these audiences through a variety of ways such as small group discussions, expository teaching, and intercessory prayer.
3) We are open to the Holy Spirit's guidance and leadership.

2007/2008 Focus on the Spiritual Disciplines:

The church has linked the desire to know God with many intentional practices, relationships, and experiences. Known as spiritual disciplines, the practice of these help us form a natural rhythm to our spiritual life. In 2007/2008, Women's Monday Night Bible Study, began exploring the spiritual disciplines and this handout explains some of the key disciplines – Bible Study, Celebration, Covenant Group, Gratitude, Discipleship, and Contemplative Prayer/Bible Reading (Lectio Divina) - we are using to help us grow closer to God, and become more like Jesus Christ, individually and as a community. As Foster (1988) writes, “God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace.” (p. 7). “The Spiritual Disciplines are intended for our good. They are meant to bring the abundance of God into our lives.” (p. 9)


DESIRE – to know what the Bible says and how it intersects with my life
DEFINITION - Bible study involves engaging the mind and focusing attention on Scripture in an attempt to understand and apply truth to every part of my life.
SCRIPTURE - I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119: 11
PRACTICE INCLUDES - Reading not to master Scripture but to be mastered by it
GOD-GIVEN FRUIT - Having Scripture shape and form my thinking and lifestyle so they are increasingly redemptive and life giving


DESIRE - to take joyful, passionate pleasure in God and the radically glorious nature of God’s people, Word, world and purposes
DEFINITION - Celebration is a way of engaging in actions that orient the spirit towards worship, praise and thanksgiving.
SCRIPTURE - The Lord your God is in your midst; a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with his gladness, he will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3: 17
PRACTICE INCLUDES - Identifying and pursuing those things that bring the heart deep gladness and reveling in them before the Lord
GOD-GIVEN FRUIT - Freedom from the addictions of criticism and negativity


DESIRE - to enter into authentic, confidential, healing relationships with a committed group of fellow pilgrims
DEFINITION - A covenant group is composed of people who commit themselves to helping and encouraging one another, as each prayerfully seeks to live out God’s will in their lives.
SCRIPTURE - Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day of Christ approaching. Hebrews 10: 25
PRACTICE INCLUDES - Practicing Scripture in the context of a committed community
GOD-GIVEN FRUIT - Journeying with others in transparent and authentic ways that lead deeply into the reality of being God’s family.


DESIRE - to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to live with a grateful heart, aware of God’s work in my life and my abundant resources
DEFINITION - Gratitude is a loving and thankful response toward God for his presence with us and within this world.
SCRIPTURE - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4: 6
PRACTICE INCLUDES - Keeping a gratitude journal of the many gifts God has brought us
GOD-GIVEN FRUIT - Seeing what I have as quickly as I see what I don’t have


DESIRE – to be in a relationship where I am encouraged or where I encourage another to become an apprentice of Jesus
DEFINITION - Discipleship is the process of equipping, training, and encouraging another in his or her apprenticeship to Jesus.
SCRIPTURE - Jesus...said to his disciples, How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!... With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. Mark 10:23, 27
PRACTICE INCLUDES – meeting to study the Bible, modeling Christian virtues and disciplines
GOD-GIVEN FRUIT – keeping company with Jesus as we fulfill his command to make disciples


DESIRE - to prayerfully encounter and surrender to the living God through Scripture
DEFINITION – Devotional reading or hearing of Scripture, Lectio Divina, requires an open, reflective, listening posture alert to the voice of God. It is aimed at developing a relationship with God as opposed to just gathering information about God.
SCRIPTURE – Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111
PRACTICE INCLUDES – listening deeply for God's personal word to you from Scripture
GOD-GIVEN FRUIT – keeping company with Jesus, responding to God's Word with your heart and spirit, having Scripture guide your dialog with God

Source: Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Components of Small Groups

A healthy small group should do more than study the Bible. There are four components as you structure your time together.

Nurture. Being a part of a small group should be a nurturing and edifying experience. You should grow in your knowledge and love of God and each other. If we are to properly love God we must know and keep his commandments (John 14:15). This is why Bible study should be a foundational part of your small group. But you can be nurtured by other things as well. You can memorize Scripture, read and discuss a book, or occasionally listen to a tape of a good speaker.

Community. Most people have a need for close friendships. Your small group can be an excellent place to cultivate such relationships. Allow time for informal interaction before and after the study. Have a time of sharing during the meeting. Do fun things together as a group, such as a potluck supper or a picnic. Have someone bring refreshments to the meeting. Be creative!

Worship. A portion of your time together can be spent in worship and prayer. Praise God together for who he is. Thank him for what he had done and is doing in your lives and in the world. Pray for each other's needs. Ask God to help you to apply what you have learned. Sing hymns together.

Mission: Many small groups decide to work together in some form of outreach. This can be a practical way of applying what you have learned. You can host a series of evangelistic discussions for your friends or neighbors. You can visit people at a home for the elderly. Help a widow with cleaning or repair jobs around her home. Such projects can have a transforming influence on your group.

Extracted from: Andrew T. Lepeau and Phyllis J. Lepeau. James: Faith That Works: 9 Studies for Individuals or Groups (Lifeguide Bible Studies). InterVarsity Press, 1987, 1999. p. 45.

Sample Covenant

Attendance: I agree to be at the meeting each week, unless a genuine emergency arises.
Preparation: I will practice the lectio during the week and share with the group as I am able
Participation: I will participate in the group experiences willingly and enthusiastically
Prayer: I will pray for the members of my small group and for our group, and Bible study
Confidentiality: I will not share with anyone outside of the group what is said in the group session
Honesty: I will be honest and forthright in what I say
Openness: I will be candid in appropriate ways and give others the freedom to be similarly so
Respect: I will not judge others, give advise, or criticize
Care: I will be open to the needs of the Bible study and of each person in appropriate ways

Signed: ________________________________________ Date: _____________________________

Adapted from Richard Peace. Contemplative Bible Reading: Experiencing God Through Scripture. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1996, 1998. p. 9-10

WORKSHEET: Bible Study Goals

As you begin this Bible study of The Letter Of James, what are some of the goals you would like to work on? Check one or two from the list below:

To get to know God in a more personal way
To understand what I believe as a Christian and where I stand on issues
To develop my skills in Bible study and personal devotions
To belong to a small group that will support me in my growth
To think through my values and priorities in light of God's will
To wrestle with the next step in my spiritual journey with others who care

What are you willing to commit to in the way of the disciplines during the next six weeks?

To complete the Bible study homework before the group meets
To attend the group meetings except in cases of emergency
To share in leading the group - taking my turn in rotation
To keep confidential anything that is shared in the group
To reach out to others who are not in a group and invite them in
To take my turn to be hospitable - bring a light refreshment one week
To pray for others in my group and for the Women's Bible studies

Adapted from: Lyman Coleman and Richard Peace. James: Mastering the Basics: Personal Excellence through Bible Study. London, Serendipity Foundation: 1986. p. 13

O God,
you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you;
for in returning and rest we shall be saved;
in quietness and trust shall be our strength.
Isaiah 26:3; 30:15

Spring 2008 – Syllabus (subject to change as led by the Holy Spirit)

Session 1 Week 1 April 14 Part 1: Christian Perfection: An Introduction to the Letter of James, N.T., Bible. Part 2: Bible Study Tools & Methods (Exegesis, Hermeneutics & Lectio Divina)
Optional Homework (do one or two or both):
1) Read James and jot down questions as they come to mind
2) Daily Lectio (passage of your choice from James or use James 1:12)

Session 2 Week 2 April 21 The Call to Perfection
Group 1: Testing of Your Faith, James 1: 1-18
Group 2: Hearing and Doing the Word, James 1: 19 - 27
Optional Homework: Daily Lectio on James 1 (select a passage or use James 1:4)

Session 3 Week 3 April 28 The Call to Action – James 2
Optional Homework: Daily Lectio at home on James 2(select verse of your choice or one used in class)

Session 4 Week 4 May 5 The Call to Wisdom
Group 1: Taming the Tongue, James 3: 1-12
Group 2: Wisdom from Above, James 3: 13 - 18
Optional Homework: Daily Lectio at home on James 3
(select verse of your choice or one used in class)

Session 5 Week 5 May 12 Christian Citizenship
Group 1: Warning Against Worldliness, James 4: 1-12
Group 2: Boasting About Tomorrow, James 4: 13 - 17
Optional Homework: Daily Lectio at home on James 4
(select verse of your choice or one used in class)

Session 6 Week 6 May 19 The Prayer of Discipleship +
Closing Lecture on The Prayer of Faith, James 5: 13 - 20
Group 1: Warning to the Rich, James 5: 1-6
Group 2: Patience in Suffering, James 5: 7 - 12
Optional Homework: Daily Lectio at home on James 5
(select verse of your choice or one used in class)

Weekly Schedule

7:00 - 7:15 – Participants' arrive, make their name badges, etc.

7:15 - 7:45 – Small groups of four
1) Read the passage aloud at least twice
2) Discuss questions on the passage as per syllabus,
3) Group lectio divina
4) Close with intercessory prayer

7:45 - 7:55 - Break

7:55 - 8:00 – Announcements

8:00 – 8:20 – Lecture

8:20 – 8:30 – Questions and Answers

Group Discussion Questions

Session 1: Background To The Letter of James (James 1:1)

Here's how James introduces himself:

James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

1. Think back to the first time you met your husband or a very good friend. What did you say to them about yourself that you think might have helped you become close later?

2. Imagine that you are making first contact with an alien species. How would you introduce yourself?

3. Now imagine that you have arrived in heaven and are asked to describe how you loved and glorified God on earth. What would you say?

Session 2: The Call To Perfection (James 1)

1. What is your definition of perfection. Do you think you're perfect? If yes, why? If no, why not?

2. How does James describe perfection?

3. Define deception.

4. What is the pattern of deception about which James warns?

Session 3: The Call to Action (James 2)

1. Do you want to change the world? Why? How? (What?)

2. Do you think you're helping bring God's kingdom on earth? How? If no, why not?

Session 4: The Call to Wisdom (James 3)

1. Our tongue – the words we speak – reveals our spiritual maturity and Godly wisdom. Do you agree or disagree? What are the dangers and pitfalls?

2. What does James say about the tongue? About wisdom?

Session 5: Christian Citizenship (James 4)

1. Name the labels you give yourself (if possible use your answers from session 1). What do they reveal about you? Is friendship with God a core value of your identity?

Session 6: The Prayer of Discipleship (James 5)

1. Define “covenant.” Name the covenant relationships in your life.

2. Write your own new covenant with God based on what you've learned and heard during our study of James.


Lectio Divina can be done in a group or individually. Whether done in a group or individually, set aside 15 – 30 minutes and withdraw to a quiet place. Steps include:

1. Prepare (invite Holy Spirit; use a centering prayer; visualize) – 3–5 minutes
2. Read/Listen: Read passage aloud – 1-2 minutes
3. Listen for word or phrase that touches you – 1-2 minutes
4. Meditate: how is my life is touched by this word; what are the connections between this word and my life – 3 – 5 minutes
5. Pray: Offer these thoughts to God. Respond to God. Ask yourself: Am I being invited to respond? Am I being encouraged to do something? - 2 – 3 minutes
6. Contemplate: Sit in silence. “Be still”; “Rest” in God – 3 – 5 minutes
7. Repeat: Every time your mind starts wandering, read the passage and start the process anew.
8. Pray: Offer thanks and praise to God. - 2 – 3 minutes

The following provides more details of the steps and is from p.33 of Peace:

Prepare - Take 3-5 minutes

Sit in silence with your eyes closed. Let your body relax.

Listen (read 2x) to the word of God, for a word or phrase that touches you:

After one minute silence: Offer the word or phrase to God. Repeat the word or phrase. Meditate on God's word.

Read Scripture passage aloud:

After two minutes silence meditate on: How is my life touched by this word?

Read Scripture passage aloud:

After two minutes silence meditate on: Am I being invited to respond?

Read Scripture passage aloud:

After two minutes of contemplation, close in prayer. You can use a prayer by one of the Church fathers such as this Prayer by Anselm:

Grant, O our God, that we may know you, love you, and rejoice in you; and if in this life we cannot do those things fully, grant that we may at the very least progress in them from day to day, for Christ's sake. Amen.

Exegesis is the “critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, esp. of the Bible.” The word critical is used in the sense of analysis. Those who practice exegesis are called exegetes.


Repeatedly read the passage and the entire chapter BEFORE you read a commentary or any other writing on it. Write down all the questions that come to mind. These questions will help you do your research.

Read your passage in at least three modern translations . Do you notice any differences? Are they significant differences or just differences in wording?

Try to identify the passage's literary form. Is it poetry, prose, allegory, apocalyptic, letter (epistle), etc.? The type (form) of material is important to interpretation.
Examine introductory issues: authorship, date, audience

What appears to be the primary message of the passage within its literary context?

What are the major themes?

What is the immediate context of the passage. Focus on the passage before and also explore how the verse or passage fits into the broader section of the document in which it is located.

Analysis of passage (verse by verse)

Identify significant words or phrases (example: sin, salvation, righteousness of God, etc.)

Identify cultural practices or norms

What does it say about God, ourselves, and our relationship to Him?

APPLY: After you have attempted to understand the original meaning of the passage, consider how the passage might apply to modern life issues and parallels and what we can learn from it.

Source: Author unknown (ask me for details)


Excerpted from Kirk Winslow. Heart Knowledge: Spiritual Discipline and the Experience of God. Louisville, Congregational Ministries Publishing: 2004.

Prayer by Anselm:

Grant, O our God, that we may know you, love you, and rejoice in you; and if in this life we cannot do those things fully, grant that we may at the very least progress in them from day to day, for Christ's sake. Amen.

Prayer by an early church father, Clement of Rome:

Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, establish and confirm us in your truth by your Holy Spirit. Reveal to us what we do not know; perfect in us what is lacking; strengthen us in what we know; and keep us faultless in your service, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer by fourth-century bishop Ambrose of Milan (pronouns have been made plural):

Lord, teach us to seek you, and reveal yourself to us when we seek you. For we cannot seek you unless you first teach us, nor find you unless you first reveal yourself to us. Amen.

Sixteenth century prayer, Anima Christi, often associated with St. Ignatius of Loyola:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
O good Jesus, hear me
Within Thy wounds, hide me
Separated from Thee, let me never be
From the evil one, protect me
At the hour of my death, call me
and close to Thee, bid me
That with Thy Angels and with Thy saints,
I may be Praising Thee forever and ever, Amen.


Douglas J. Moo. The Letter of James. (The Pillar New Testament Commentary) Grand Rapids, Michigan: Williams B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.

John Barton & John Muddiman, Editors. Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Patrick J. Hartin. A Spirituality of Perfection: Faith in Action in the Letter of James. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1999.

General References (Tools for Christian discipleship):
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. Downer’s Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Ricard J. Foster. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1988.

Fee & Stuart. How to Read the Bible for all it's Worth.
This is a primer on exegesis and hermeneutics for the Christian layperson.

Richard Peace. Contemplative Bible Reading: Experiencing God Through Scripture. Colorado Springs: Navpress: 1996, 1998.
This is a good introduction on the practice of contemplative bible reading (group and individual lectio divina).

Study Bibles (Tools for Christian Discipleship):
Three different and popular versions of the Bible that combine devotional and study bible functions and available today are the New Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, and the New American Standard Bible.

Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible (NRSV). Edited by Richard Foster. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2005.

Zondervan's NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Zondervan: 1995, 2002.

New American Study Bible. (Zondervan publishes several editions)

Oremus Bible Browser. http://bible.oremus.org/

Precept Austin's James Commentaries. http://www.preceptaustin.org/james_commentaries.htm

Bible Gateway.com's James Commentaries. http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/

The Spring 2008 Women's Monday Night Bible Study Leadership Team:

Pastor: Rev. Barbara Buck, Parish Associate, IPC


Registrations Leader:

Hospitality Leader:

Announcements –

Acknowledgments: Thanks for serving as small group leaders in 2007/2008.

Invitation: We are always looking for people to join the leadership team. If you discern God's call to serve on the Monday night Bible study team, please let us know.

Women's Ministries Steering Committee Chair and Co-Chair:


Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1: 12 (NIV)

But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does. James 1: 25 (NIV)

As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. James 5: 11 (NIV)