The Definition of Discernment

The beginning of discernment is separating out a truth from a lie.

Jesus gives us a good bit of truth to that, but not an answer for every situation. Jesus goes on saying God grants us wisdom and has sent the Holy Spirit to be with us everyday as a counselor.

Ultimately, we want to know what is truth in life, but there are circumstances where the truth isn’t clear, and that’s where wisdom and asking for guidance comes into play.

Christians: Don’t Judge, Do Discern

It’s important for believers to discern the truth about how to live righteously. But using that truth to judge others can do more harm than good in trying to lead others to Jesus.

Figure out what lost people can discern of God and only share information that will invite them to investigate matters of faith further.

Shining your light to the world means leading with love. What people need most is the love of God, not the laws of God.

An Overview of The Sermon On The Mount

The Sermon on the Mount is one the most intense points of scripture. It’s lengthy.

What is it? It is what life would look like if you had perfect faith in God. The standards laid out in the sermon are not attainable by anyone on their own. However, anyone can, with the help of God. It describes the kind of people reborn Christians are, or should be.

The context of the Sermon on the Mount is to describe the saved, not declare a path to salvation.

It’s broken into 3 sections:

  • True Righteousness – Matthew 5:1-20
  • True Intentions – Matthew 5:22; 6
  • Hinderances To Righteousness – Matthew 7

Jesus is trying to move us from religion to relationship. He moves us from law to love and from behavior to belief.

Complacent Spirit

When you come to faith in God through Jesus, you are transformed in the moment, but you’ll never fully “arrive.” You have a lifetime of pursuing God ahead. You will spend the rest of your days “in flight.”

Don’t settle for a complacent spirit that tells you you’ve arrived with God. Keep chasing Him and striving to be more like Him every day.

 

We (The Church) Have Not Arrived and That’s Okay

You can’t help someone else if you have unaddressed unrighteousness in your life. Only once you’ve learned to live above the bar yourself, can you help someone else over the bar.

None of us in the church have arrived. We are all incomplete and very much a work in progress in our walk with God. The church should be the safest place to be “in flight.” Invite others to join you and make the church a safe, welcoming place.

 

Relationships in Flight Require Effort

Are you “in flight” with a relationship that has not yet arrived? You’re probably doing everything you can to keep building it. But often people believe that when they get married they’ve “arrived” and they don’t need to give as much effort.

Building any relationship requires effort. Don’t give up.

Blind to Yourself, Deaf to God

A critical spirit will kill any relationship. When you judge others, it’s likely because you’ve become blind to yourself and deaf to God. This means you dismiss what you’re doing wrong and then you magnify the faults of others.

Pray and ask God to help you see things more clearly and tell Him you long to hear from Him. Then, silence the critical spirit inside you.

 

Jesus Lifts Us Over the Bar

Perhaps the church should be more loving to people and tell them, “We’re not above you. We’re actually just like you. We’re only made righteous because of Jesus.”

None of us can leap over the bar of righteousness on our own. Jesus lifts us over the bar with his righteousness.

The Role of the Church Is Not to Judge People

The Pharisees were prideful and judged others harshly. But the Bible teaches us that God opposes the proud, and gives grace to the humble.

The role of the church is not to judge the world, but to introduce it to Jesus. We must unlearn religious judgement and relearn what it means to love.

Theory: Everyone Has A Signature Sin

Dr. Wayne Schmidt believes most of us has a “signature” sin; an area where we have a spiritual “Achilles Heel”.

If we know what ours is and it’s persistent in our lives, we have to put it to “death” daily:

Every dream passes through the cross. Every dream takes you to where you let go of everything and everyone, every agenda and expectation, and then it is only as the Lord resurrects you and your dream that you can go on.

We spend much of our time and energy trying to avoid that place. We want just enough of Jesus to make us happy, just enough to give us peace, and just enough to make things go our way to fulfill our dreams and our agenda.

Meanwhile, He wants to take us to the cross, where our selfish dreams, egos, and plans for “great accomplishments” have to die. The cross brings you to a place of total and absolute surrender of all you have and all your are.

– Chip Ingram, “Good to Great in God’s Eyes”

 

What is Sin?

Our sin nature dates all the way back to Adam and the original sin. To make things even tougher, each of us may have a spiritual “Signature” sin that keeps recurring throughout our lives. Examples of these sins are insecurity and jealousy; hate and anger, lust, addiction – the list goes on (Galatians 5:19-21).

The good news is we do have hope! Examining your life, turning away from your sin, and living under the grace that comes through Jesus’ death on the cross will set you free.

What is Theology, Anyway?

This weekend, we kicked off a new series called “30-Minute Theology.” PK invited Dr. Wayne Schmidt, the General Superintendent of The Wesleyan Church (the denomination to which 12Stone belongs), to come and unpack what the church believes about sin.

Before we look at this specific topic discussed in this 30 minute session, many of us need to back up to see a little more of the big picture. We need to start with the question, “What is theology, anyway?”

Break It Down for Me

In its simplest form, theology comes from the Greek words “theos” (meaning god) and ology (meaning study of). So, theology means “the study of God.” In most modern academic contexts, theology is the study of gods and religion, with a heavy emphasis on the religion part.

But theology isn’t just an academic field of study. For every person who takes their religious faith seriously, theology is how we think and how we live. It’s the foundation of our lives.

No religious system operates without a set of beliefs. Those beliefs comprise the essence of that religion’s teaching. Whether a person follows Muhammad, Buddha, or Jesus Christ, each religion has a set of claims that it makes about life and how it works. Those claims are what make up a religion’s theology.

When 12Stone talks about theology, we are referring specifically to Christian theology, or the study of the Christian religion and the Triune God (triune being a fancy way of saying God is one God expressed in three persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). Christian theology is rooted in the Bible and in the historical evidence for the faith.

As a Wesleyan church, 12Stone believes and adheres to the Wesleyan Articles of Religion. These are the core beliefs of our church and they guide how we live out our faith in real life. But there are other Christian statements of belief beyond our own; each denomination will have its own theological statements of belief. In many cases, our beliefs and theirs align, but there are distinctions, some major and some minor.

How Do I Do Theology?

Now that we’ve set a very basic understanding of what theology is, the next question is how do we, as regular people, do theology? It’s one thing for trained professors and professionals to tackle heavy topics, but it’s another thing altogether for someone like us to give it a try.

To begin with, our first understanding of theology should come from the Bible. We need to read the Bible for ourselves, and learn to wrestle it through. No book of Christian theology will make a lick of sense to us until we at least understand the source of it all.

Once we have an understanding of what the Bible teaches, we can begin to move outward and look for other resources to help aid our comprehension. Now, before you flip over to Amazon and start searching away, a quick word of warning: very few books on theology are “consumer friendly.” In fact, most books of theology are academic and therefore difficult to tackle.

If you’re going to read a theological work, keep the following in mind:

  • Theology by its nature is precise and dense. Every word in a theological writing is specifically chosen and packed with meaning, which means you’ll have to take time to unpack them for full understanding.
  • Theology is often broken into specific areas of study. You will find theological books on everything from prayer to the Second Coming of Jesus, each written as if it were the definitive book on the subject.
  • Theology requires careful reading. If you’re going to read a theological work, go ahead and purchase it outright. You will need to read with your eyes, highlighter, and pen if you want to get the most out of the work. Don’t be afraid to underline, highlight, and flat out Google things that stand out to you or don’t make sense. Digging in and engaging with the text is the best way to develop a genuine understanding.
  • Theology is addictive. Few things in the Christian faith are as satisfying and rewarding as wrestling with a key concept and unlocking a deeper, more intimate knowledge.
  • Theology has rock stars, too. Believe it or not, even among nerdy academic writers, some folks have a popular style. You will find that some authors have more titles to their credit than others, but don’t mistake frequency of publication with greater authority.

Some Books You Should Read

Now that you have a general understanding of what theology is and how you can best begin exploring the subject, here are four basic theology books that offer a scaled-back version of systematic theology (a study of how theology ties together across all its subjects).

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Lewis is best known for his Narnia books, but the Oxford University don was also a popular theologian during his time. After being converted to Christianity out of atheism, Lewis became a public theologian who wrote and spoke about the faith in ways the average person could easily understand. Mere Christianity is a collection of radio addresses that Lewis gave over BBC radio during World War II, and it summarizes what Lewis called the essential (or “mere”) beliefs all Christians share. Though the book is intended for a popular audience, it still requires a careful reading, as Lewis packs a lot into its pages.

Theology: The Basics by Alister E. McGrath. Like C.S. Lewis, Alister McGrath is an Oxford University don with a deft British wit and a keen insight into making theology accessible to the average reader. Theology: The Basics takes McGrath’s substantive academic work, Christian Theology: An Introduction and condenses it into a smaller, more popular book. McGrath is a renowned speaker and thinker who brings his intelligence and insight to the page to make the subject matter accessible.

Basic Christianity by John Stott. A classic work by well-known pastor John Stott, Basic Christianity is a primer on the basic claims of the Christian faith. With insight and wisdom, Stott explains the person and work of Jesus, the need of all humanity to be saved from sin, and how Christ’s death and resurrection deals with that need.

Practicing Christian Doctrine by Beth Felker Jones. This introductory book walks readers through the concept and practice of Christian theology. Focusing on ten essential doctrines of the faith, including how to know God and the hope of the Resurrection, the book offers a straightforward look into the historical Christian faith.

What’s one good way to solve inequality?

From the beginning, God has given us a clear view of equality in the Bible. There is no superior race; we are all one in Jesus Christ.

Revelations 7:9 tells us that, in heaven, people of every race will worship God as one throughout eternity.

While we can’t solve all the world’s problems with inequality, we can each do our part to address it wherever we have influence. Change begins at home. Talk to your kids about equality.

Treat everyone with God-given dignity and respect.

What’s one good way to lead from obscurity?

Most of us aren’t celebrities or high-profile people who live in the public eye. Most of us lead quiet lives, and many people even struggle with feelings of unimportance.

Colossians 3:23 reminds us to work as if we’re working for the Lord. Be encouraged! You are known by God, and the very biggest audience of all – the Creator of the Universe – is cheering for you to succeed.

 

Influence From Obscurity – Hidden Figures Recap

While many of us don’t aspire to life in the limelight, we can probably all agree that it would be nice to at least be recognized for our achievements and treated the same as everyone else. But what do you do when you find yourself working in relative obscurity regardless of your talents and not being afforded the perks and access that you rightfully deserve? Katherine Jackson’s story, as told in the movie Hidden Figures, is one such story.

A brilliant mathematics prodigy, Katherine started high school at age ten and finished college at the age of 18. As talented as she was, there were few job options available for educated African American women at the time, other than teaching. She eventually found full-time work at NASA in the mid-1950s as a human computer, one of a pool of women doing mathematical calculations for the engineers. Her extraordinary abilities soon landed her a more prominent role with the Space Task Group, whose mission was to get a man into space ahead of the Russians. A widow and single mother, Katherine not only had to prove her worth in an all-male environment and for unequal pay; as a woman of color she also had to traverse the minefield of segregation. Undaunted by the odds, Katherine led the way in calculating the launch and landing trajectories that enabled NASA to put a man in orbit, bring him safely home, and eventually put a man on the moon.

Leading Out of Obscurity

As with all the movies in this series, there is something to learned here of living life the way God would have us live it. So what can we learn from the story of Katherine’s influential, yet relatively obscure life? How did she do it? What’s one good way to lead from obscurity?

The Apostle Paul would tell us that no one is as obscure as we feel; God sees our work, so we work for him:

 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…” (Colossians 3:23, NIV)

He would also encourage us to endure hardship as you solve more problems. Work at it with all your heart. This is what Katherine did. She continued to work the math with everything she had despite blatant snubs from her male peers and the humiliation of being singled out because of her skin color. And as she solved more problems for the sake of the mission, she found herself becoming less obscure and being given even more responsibility.

Taking on Responsibility

This brings us to another life lesson: What’s one good way to get more in life? Take on more responsibility. Not only did Katherine live out this principle; she instilled it in her daughters as well. Upon coming home and finding her two younger girls fighting the older one for the privilege of not having to share a bed, Katherine promptly informed them that the perk came with the added responsibility of doing all Joylette’s chores. They declined. But Katherine did not shirk the added responsibility of extra work and long hours on the job. She followed the Apostle Paul’s example just as he tells us in II Thessalonians 3:6-13:

“For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.”

II Thessalonians 3:6-13

Fight for the mission more than yourself

Again and again we see Katherine accepting the challenges life threw her way. If we were to look to her for advice on one good way to rise to the occasion, she might answer, Fight for the mission more than yourself. Rather than her story being about her treatment as a woman in a man’s world and as a person of color in the 1960s, it’s about her efforts to do everything she possibly could to help the space mission succeed. The Apostle Paul was also on a mission, sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father (Galatians 1:1, NIV)—on a mission to serve others and spread the gospel. His attitude was that of a servant:

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (I Corinthians 9:19, NIV)

We, too, our called to be on mission for Christ, living not for ourselves, but as servants for the sake of others. We, too, are called to rise to the occasion by being on mission for God’s Kingdom:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, NIV)

Addressing Inequality Where You Have Influence

While taking on the posture of a servant feels like a backwards slip into obscurity, as we learned from Katherine’s story, fighting the tide of obscurity and inequality does not mean that we are without influence. In fact, her hyper-focus on the mission’s need to succeed and her ensuing push to be included in all aspects of her job were instrumental in bringing about change in how women and people of color were viewed and treated in her workplace. So while she couldn’t solve the problem of inequality in the whole south, she could address it where she had influence.

And so it is with us. Paul reminds us in Galatians 3:26-29 that in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. And in Revelations 7:9, we see a picture of the social landscape of heaven:

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” (Revelation 7:9 NIV)

Change can seem daunting and hopeless. But if we focus on addressing inequality wherever we have influence, we CAN make a difference. Both Katherine and the Apostle Paul did just that. They endured hardship, took on responsibility, focused on the mission at hand rather than themselves, and became a force for change in their circles of influence, one person at a time.

What’s one good way to get more in life?

Many of us get caught in the Comparison Trap. We see what others have and become envious. After all, isn’t it only fair that everyone should get the same good things in life?

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 that we were created to earn our own way. He warns against slacking off and encourages us to work hard to get what we want.

Are you just sitting back and expecting more, or are you doing what it takes to earn more?

 

God Made the Way to Heaven

There’s a sin gap between where we are and where we long to be. No matter how much we try, we can’t earn our place in heaven.

Thankfully, God made a way – and He made it clear in the Bible. Through Jesus’s death on the cross, we can find forgiveness for our sins and restore our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

 

 

Don’t Just Care, Connect

God created us to connect in community, and through Christ’s work on the cross, we are one church family united as brothers and sisters with one Heavenly Father.

Practice the values of living in community and serving others. Connect with God and one another – because real heroes restore relationships.

 

You Can’t Be a Hero if You Only Care About Yourself.

Romans 12 teaches us to “be devoted to one another in love and honor one another above ourselves…” because we all make up the body of Christ, and each person is equally important.

Do you serve your church, family, and community – or do you wait to see whether they’re serving you? Resist the urge to compare your contribution against everyone else’s and invest yourself in others.

 

Life Doesn’t Work When You Work Alone!

When you’ve been hurt by others, it’s tempting to withdraw as a means of protecting yourself. But there’s no real safety in solitude. It’s only through authentic relationships that we prosper through life’s difficulties.

God didn’t intend for you to live emotionally isolated and disconnected from others. Be courageous and dive into community!

 

From self-absorbed to self-sacrificing

What does it take to save a galaxy? You might think of mighty heroes with outrageous powers, or genius warriors with superior weapons. But chances are you wouldn’t think about a group of selfish miscreants made up of an orphan, a murderer, a raccoon, and a talking tree. Yet that’s exactly what Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy gives us. A ragtag group filled with flaws responsible for stopping a wickedly powerful enemy.

Now, like every movie in our At the Movies series, Guardians has a message that echoes the Bible. We see in the New Testament another group of ragtag misfits brought together by Jesus. We call them the Disciples, and they were very much like the Guardians. A mix of people from different backgrounds, brought together for a purpose greater than themselves. And like the Guardians, we see the disciples take a very specific journey.

Read more