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.

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.

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.

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.

Forming Meaningful Connections in Life

In the movies, we often see heroes who outwardly seem to have it all – success, fame and fortune. But what is really going on beneath the surface? Are these people really happy and fulfilled by all their material things?

In Lego Batman, we see a hero who outwardly appears to have it all together and be at the top of his game. But Batman is about to discover the real fight—the one that happens when we take off our mask and look in the mirror. Sometimes, the greatest villain we face is the one looking back at us from the mirror. We live in isolation and loneliness and wonder why even life’s major milestones seem to lack true meaning for us.fa

God gives us wisdom on the topic of connecting in Ecclesiastes, which says, in part, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:7-10)

Having meaningful relationships, living in authentic community is better than being isolated. So maybe instead of being celebrated, Batman should be pitied. He finds himself celebrating alone and even laughter is no fun when there’s no one to share it with.

PK identifies two powerful life lessons for us all in Lego Batman:

1) Life doesn’t work when you work alone!

Batman doesn’t do “ships” – as in relationships – because he thinks he prefers to work alone. But we see that what really matters in life is having authentic relationships with roots. Otherwise, when you stumble in life (and we all stumble), you’ll be on your own. As Batman discovered, when you work alone, you wear a mask even with the people you know. We fear rejection if we are our authentic selves, so it seems easier to remain isolated.

When you work alone, you lack self-awareness. You become BLIND to yourself, therefore you can’t see yourself or how you treat others. Your blindness often becomes your weakness, and your weakness can cause you to stumble and fall.

2) You can’t be a Hero if you only care about yourself.

You can’t be relationally or emotionally connected if you only care about yourself. The isolation we create leads to loneliness, and what good are celebrations and struggles if you have no one to share them with? Isolation and selfishness were never a part of God’s plan for our lives!

In Romans 12, we see God’s direction to us for building strong connections. We read that we are all part of the same body of Christ, although we have different functions and gifts. In verses 9-10, we are told to love sincerely and be devoted to one another in brotherly love. We are to honor one another by offering support, help and hospitality with those in need.

Pastor Kevin points out the proper application:

“I AM the church, I CARE ABOUT OTHERS. This is not telling others to be about me; this is teaching me to be about others. I don’t show up to church for me to be served; I show up for God and to serve others.”

This biblical guideline hits home for Batman when he painfully becomes aware of the reality of his isolation. Batman connects with others in order to do ‘ships’ – as in relationships – when he joins team with Gotham to beat the bad guys. And for the first time, Batman finds himself caring about people other than himself.

Connections that Last

In caring for others, Batman is no longer alone. He’s becoming a true hero. But it’s not enough that he cares. He has to go one step further and really connect. Batman finally allows these relationships to carry over into his personal life as well, no longer living in isolation, but becoming a true friend and being part of a family.

God created us to connect in community. And while sin has pulled apart our world of healthy relationships, Jesus makes it possible for us to re-connect to one another with him as the head of the church. This is why we are called a church family! Are there areas of your life where you can better connect with others?

So Lego Batman is not just a movie fantasy, it’s the reality of what Jesus accomplished when he died on the cross, rose to new life, and restores us to our created purpose. Life works best when we live in community with Him and with others. Through connection, we live out our life’s purpose and have an opportunity to grow. Real heroes restore relationships and community.

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.

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Guarding the Interests of Others

Under pressure, half-selfish always defaults to selfish. Instead of being half-selfish, guard the interests of others. Do as the Bible instructs and put other’s interests before your own. Serve people selflessly and lovingly. Find inspiration from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3-11.

To become selfless, seek God’s help and tap into the power of the Holy Spirit. Walk the path of “dying to self.”

Half-Selfish

“Half-selfish” is when we’re all about getting what we want and fulfilling our own selfish desires, but we need someone else’s help to make things happen. It’s selfishness wrapped up in a pretty package to make it appear as though it’s something else. We might want to be about others, but we’re still all about ourselves. Jesus’ disciples understood this tension all too well.

 

We Can’t See Our Own Selfishness

The Bible teaches us in Matthew 20:28 that “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We admire that kind of selflessness in Jesus and the people around us. We just don’t want to live that way ourselves! The truth is we want others to live selflessly so we can continue to live selfishly.

Often, we can’t even see our own selfishness because we’re so blinded by the wounds inflicted upon us by someone else’s selfishness.

 

How Do We Pursue a Calling and Marriage Simultaneously?

Before Christians should get married, they should talk all about their respective callings. Our callings are primary before marriage, but once we are married, our marriage becomes primary. If two people with strong callings don’t discuss their callings before getting married, there will be challenges. Figuring out how two callings work together requires compromise, prayer, and a commitment to one another above everything else.

How Should Christians Build Relationships With Non-Believers?

Being in the world, but not of it, does not mean that we as Christ followers should isolate ourselves from people who don’t share our beliefs. Jesus spent an enormous amount of time relating to non-Jews, much to the consternation of the religious leaders of his time.

Engaging with non-believers can give us opportunities to demonstrate with our actions and our lifestyles how following Christ can make a difference in how one does life. This does not mean, however, that we engage in activities that are not Christ-honoring in order to reach out to the lost, rather, we invite them into our world and into our lives and into our church and make them a part of who we are.

The church should be a place of insulation and refuge for the lost, not a place of isolation and refuge from the lost.

How Should We Share Our Faith Without Being Preachy?

The desire to share Christ with unchurched friends can be outweighed by a fear of coming across as being too pushy or preachy. It is said that actions speak louder than words, so the life we live and the love we share can be the most effective means of opening the door to conversation.

When our relationship with Christ is evident in how we relate to others, how we date, how we handle money and disappointment, and how we do our work, others will want to know what makes us different. As we answer their questions and share the difference Christ has made in our lives, the next natural step is to invite them into a relationship with Christ as well.

Why Is There a Generational Shift in Authority and Opinion?

Young people have constant access to their friends and acquaintances through smart phones and social media. This leads to less interaction with adults.

Then, when it’s time to make a decision, there are multiple voices competing for attention, and each begins to have equal weight – regardless of whether the advice is helpful and wise.

Embrace the positive aspects of constant communication with friends, but take time to learn from generations who’ve gone before you. They have a wealth of wisdom and experience to share.

Should We Submit to Poor Leadership and Authority?

The Bible gives us many examples of people who had to follow unstable leaders (e.g. David, Joseph, and Daniel).

Because people are imperfect, you’ll always follow imperfect leaders. Focusing on the value they do add to your life is key.

Remember, your relationship with authority tends to say more about you than it does about your leader.

How Do We Practice Emotional Restraint When Dating?

Miles says it’s important to limit how fast the emotional intimacy grows in a dating relationship. Many couples play “pretend marriage” in their dating relationship, but dating should be special. Miles suggested seeing each other a couple times a week, texting a couple times a week, and leaving things at that. Miles advises not to think too far ahead when dating, which creates a “fake” intimacy where commitment doesn’t match up.

We often used the word “love” too quickly; marriage is the ultimate expression of love and because love is more than merely an emotional commitment, using the word love in a relationship should mean that a commitment of marriage is eminent.

How Should We Date and Save Sex For Marriage?

There are two paths we can choose: the path of promiscuity, or the path of purity. The path of promiscuity begins with desperation, where we are alone and feel the aloneness deeply. This need leads to infatuation, which assigns characteristics to the other person that will fulfill our desperation. From there we move to isolation, and all we want to do is be alone with them, and that leads to unhealthy level of consumption, where we exclude everything else from our lives. Then we get to the point of concession where we decide either to just go ahead and get married, or break it off and begin alone again. This is an unhealthy cycle.

The path of purity begins with dependence – trusting God to fulfill your life. Then you move to interest, which is getting to know the other person. From interest, you lead to invitation; in this phase you are not leaving your life, but rather inviting that partner to speak into your life. Contribution means that the other person inspires and challenges you to be all you can in Christ. The final stage is creation, where the relationship you created – which may or may not lead to marriage – stands on its own.

Why No Sex Before Marriage?

There are two big relational principles in the Bible that we can bring into dating: one is commitment, and the other is intimacy.

It makes sense that God would reserve the deepest level of intimacy (sex) for the highest level of commitment (marriage). Until marriage, any other commitment can be described as “we’re exclusive, for now.” But as we know, that can change. So when you add the deepest level of intimacy to the mix, it does not line up with the level of commitment you experience, leading to heart break.

Is Trauma Necessary For Our Kids to Know God Intimately?

Satan will use the trouble and trauma from your past to create fear in you for your children. As your children mature, share with them appropriate information from your past. Tell them about the difficulties you endured and how God was there to comfort you and restore you. Show them how God redeemed the situation. Doing this will transfer some of your intimacy with the Lord to your children. Life is never easy. Your kids will need that foundation when their own troubles arise.