Monday School: November 30, 2015, Coping with Christmas 1 of 3, Matthew 20:20-28

This is an overview of our discussion and not a text for success.  This is not just a Holiday thing either.  We are sharing stories and principles for coping with life and not just Christmas.  This is not a discussion of right and wrong behaviors but of healthier and unhealthier.  This is not a discussion of living stress free wither-only dead people are stress free. The trick is living in heathy stress and not constant distress. There are no quick fixes but this story gives us a framework for discussion.

Read our story from the Gospel of Matthew and follow along as we ask the text some questions:  Click here for Matthew 20:20-28

Our discussion of the text:  James and John show up to see Jesus with their mom.  She asks them to make these two the number two and three people in His messianic kingdom.  She misunderstood the kingdom to be an earthly-political one while Jesus was teaching that it would be one in heaven.  While she only had her community model to understand a kingdom, she knew Jesus, recognized  and she had faith that He could make her request happen.

Jesus gave them all a question as an answer and used Holy Communion language to teach them.  He is asking, “do you really know what you are getting in to.  They said sure and then Jesus said, “You’ve got it!”  BUT the three seats of leadership are not His to give nor theirs to receive-they are for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Later, Jesus would gather them together, with all of the grumbling, and explain that their mission was not to set up another human led, lord and master government system.  The Kingdom of God would be spiritual and focused on serving others rather than being the big dog in charge and being served.  Jesus did not die the make them power people but to be their ransom-payment-redemption, freeing them for a rich life that changes the world.

After this rather lively discussion of the text, we turned the worksheet over and asked these question.

  1. Who brought whom to Jesus? Did mom bring the boys? Or did the boys bring mom to fade the heat?  Who brings their mom to something like this!  Perhaps mom was that strong willed and didn’t trust her kids to stand up for themselves.  Maybe the sons brought mom to take the heat and passively do their talking to Jesus for them.  It makes a difference in our family dynamics.  Who is the strong willed in your family and who waits to be brought along.  Neither is more right or more wrong but you need to understand how that works to understand how a group of people come together and operate in a healthy way.
  2. Why did anyone have to bring anyone? The short answer is anxiety.  one or another was worried more than the other and pushed this action to relieve the anxiety.  Mom worried about sons, or sons worried about what Jesus would think or all of them just wanted to make sure they got to the front of the line.  Some things to consider
*The anxiety of each person in any group or family effects the anxiety of others.
*Some handle stress and anxiety better than others but everyone is two people; how they are normally and how they are when anxious.
*Self identity effects how we see God and hence how we see everything.  “Know thyself!”
*When unhealthy living is all you know, that’s how you go about living and will strive to make that happen.  Likewise when your family is healthy you will strive to maintain healthy living.
  1. First from verse 22: He calmly refocused the question in a spiritual way  in a calm place in a focused way.  When our family is in crisis we can begin by getting focused around facts and not emotion.
  2. Second from verse 23:
  3. And third from verse 25     How did this effect the group dynamic?  I made the other 10 “indignant”!  It caused stress and acting out.  He and gathered this family of disciples.  Being together in a familiar place is powerful but has to be mutually respectful  to be healthy
  4. What happens in football when you have 12 players on the field.. “Too many players on the field” gets a flag and the loss of control.  When an outsider or one unhealthy voice gets control the play has to change directions!  This is hard and usually goes against long standing patterns.  Jesus didn’t let the two define the mission that was to be their lives.
  5. What happens when one (or more) try define a group members identity.  anger with yelling?  anger with silence, isolating?  or….calmly sharing the cause and asking God to lead rather than the emotion of the moment.  Prayer is amazing when we do it at first instead of as a last resort.  Following Jesus’ calm yet firm persona.  He did not yell back and taught then retaught the role they would have and the one they would follow.  Consistency and discernment is a key.  Seeing God clearly through the fog of anxiety is key to getting started.  Knowing whose you are is key to knowing who you are and living in the healthy light of faith.
  6. What correction did Jesus offer?  Seek to serve and not be served.  Seek to follow God in spirit and truth rather than lead from your own limited vision and strength.  His witness and example would lead and guide all of those who follow.  It was suggested that this confrontation by James and John’s mom was embarrassing!  They probably knew the answer but pushed the point any way.
  7. Fusion versus differentiation:  Sometimes we are “Fused” as a group to the point that we lose all individuality-this is called fusion.  Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves that we don’t need anyone else-this is called differentiation.  The truth is that we float around somewhere in the middle.  We must know ourselves well enough to go to Jesus without mom making our case for us.  We also have to take on our life’s role with or without Mom’s approval and be ok.  We must be connected to our group but not to the point we have no identity-that describes a cult.  To lack any need for our family makes us empty shells and narcissists.
  8. Ideally, who should we “fuse” with?  The only perfect person that ever walked was Jesus.  He is the one who gives us an identity that gives us a life of significance here and life eternal hereafter.

 

 

 

 

 

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Monday School: 1-16-15 Our “Spiritual Underwear” Final Week

The goal of this short study is two-fold:  first to understand more of our BASIC Methodist beliefs, and second, how to better express our beliefs to others.  We used the foundation of the Articles of Religion and the General Rules as a framework for our study.  Just as Underwear is the foundation of our clothing, usually unseen, intimate, different preferences on different people and keeps the rest of our ensemble together, so are our theological doctrines .

You can read the one-page General Rules with us by clicking here.

You can read the 2- pages of the Articles of Religion with us by clicking here.

Let me begin with my thanks to our group.  I rarely get to discuss theology at any depth and have never had as much fun as I have with YOU GUYS! 

Methodists begin by teaching the method to growing into our theological understanding.  we start with Scripture, use our God given brains to reason, reflect that with our Christian tradition and then translate into our living experience.  Add to that the fact that we are wonderfully mad as Biological, Psychological, Social and Spiritual and we look for balance in all things as we discern and discuss the words about God that we use.

THE THEOLOGICAL BALANCING ACT

We discussed our assumptions, or better our deepest beliefs, and how they color our understanding of God.  I shared mine, which are varied and admittedly overanalyzed.  Things like my role as a pastor to a community and not a congregation, the Bible as a touchstone, connection to God and people, the sacraments as a source of amazing comfort , on an on.  We encouraged to know our assumptions, non-negotiables and grow a willingness to be both “Critical and Constructive”.  See page 78-89 of the Book of Discipline.

The articles give us a language of faith but it is up to us to make them personal.   They are precisely written and intentionally placed in an order of importance.  Everything flows from God, trinitarian in our understanding, but ONE GOD.  We spent most of our time speaking of the sacraments.

The sacraments, specifically, Baptism and Holy Communion ( or the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist as you choose), are also a language of faith.  They are a doing of the story of God as Creator, Jesus as prophet, priest, King and redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the real worker in these powerful acts of faith.  It is amazing how common touchable elements such as water, juice and bread can reach to the invisible part of ourselves and awaken our relationship with Christ.

We also discussed the five sacramental acts of worship that other Christians count as sacraments, namely-confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction.  They aren’t bad, just don’t carry the weight that the Baptism and Communion do.

Each of us had stories of a time where the sacraments helped us to make sense out of something or met a spiritual need.  We had an “All Saint’s Sunday” a few weeks ago that was particularly powerful to me.  Each of us had a different take of what name we use for God when we pray.  Ultimately, the goal of any sacramental experience is to form our lives  into a living Holy Communion.

The question was asked, “how do you do that”.  This study must become more than words.  The short answer is to “attend to the ordinances of the church”, whether that is worship, study, prayer or service, in such a way that God is made real to us personally.  If God is that real to us personally then it will leak out into the lives of others.

I will not outline the 125 articles here but will point you to the link above and invite anyone of any denomination to look through them and discover your stance on the individual parts.  Please don’t stop there though.  Look at the whole of who God is and how overwhelming his love and grace is for you.  Studying these different pieces is not meant to just tickle your ears but to open your heart to a deeper working and practical walk with Jesus!

All of this and we never discussed the organizational structure once.  We will get to that on our next installment sometime after New Year’s

Next week we will take a November 23, 2015 off for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Our new study will be announced soon.   All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00.   Everyone is welcome to add with a comment on the doctrinal statements below.

Click here to check out our main website!

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Thank you Captain Underpants for adding a little humor to a serious subject. 

Monday School: Our Theological Underwear as United Methodist; First of Two Weeks

Underwear is the foundation of our clothing.  It is usually unseen, intimate, different preferences on different people and keeps the rest of our ensemble together.  Our theological doctrines do the same thing.  They hold us together and serve as  the foundation of the ways that we speak of God.  They are usually unseen, intimate and  more assumed than taught.  Now and then a disciple needs to get down to the basics.  This week our group will put our core teachings right out in the open and studied them together.  In our United Methodist context, these are found in the General Rules and the Articles of Religion.   The goal is two-fold:  first to understand more of our BASIC Methodist beliefs, and second, how to better express our beliefs to others

You can read the one-page General Rules with us by clicking here.

You can read the 2- pages of the Articles of Religion with us by clicking here.

Our small group meets for 90 minutes each Monday at 6:00 we began by discussing how we “do” theology.  Methodists teach that there is a process to growing into our theological understanding.  we start with Scripture, use our God given brains to reason, reflect that with our Christian tradition and then translate into our living experience.

We discussed at length the three General Rules to Do no harm, do good and attend to the spiritual practices that lead us to God.  Many stories of how God had gotten our attention were shared from our diverse group.  We discovered that while these rules are Methodist and Wesleyan they are basic to any Christian of any background because they come directly from the Gospel .  Everything starts with grace.

I shared two things that boil my blood when people feel obligated to tell me what a Methodist is.  The first is when they tell me that we don’t believe in the Bible and don’t actually have any doctrine.  Second that we are about salvation by good works.  Teaching, learning and witnessing to our theological heritage is the antidote to this whenever, “Two or more are gathered.”

The question was asked if these two statements were meant to replace Bible study.  A great question but our answer was a definite NO!  The doctrinal statements flow from scripture but cannot replace scriptures role in the life of piety.  Searching the Scripture is central to the method of Methodism.  We are seeking God’s perspective.  One of our number shared that it was through prayer and Bible study that they were able to give a difficult thing up to God.  This led to the discover that “God, turns out, could do much better with things than I could anyway.”

We read through the first 5 of the Articles and will probably finish next week.  They are precisely written and intentionally placed in an order of importance.  Everything flows from God, trinitarian in our understanding, but ONE GOD.  Before we could subdivide the doctrines we must be in complete agreement of one God who is the source of forgiveness and gives us the living resurrection in Jesus Christ.  We also discussed the sufficiency of Scripture and what that means to our salvation.  While scripture does not directly speak to every single thing, it contains our sufficient road map to being and living as saved Christian disciples.

Wonderful things happen when we study our own doctrine and discover a solid place to find ourselves in Christ.  Our discussion was definitely Weslayan and United Methodist in scope, however, these things are so basic and scripturally driven that they can be applied to most any thoughtful Christian.

Next week we continue with the articles of religion.  You are welcome to join in or read along from where you are.  We will read them one at a time and find the thread of Jesus’ grace and the Holy Spirit that ties them all together.    All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00.   Everyone is welcome to add with a comment on the doctrinal statements below.

Click here to check out our main website!

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Thank you Captain Underpants for adding a little humor to a serious subject. 

Monday School-A Precept Study of James Chapter 4, One more chapter to go!

The Adults Get to Color too...
The Adults Get to Color too…

It may sound silly but we employed three powerful spiritual tools for our study this week; God’s word, popcorn and crayons.    We ate popcorn as we pulled out three categories out of chapter 4:  What does God want us to DO, DON’T and what are His answers WHY? This was done randomly as we spoke the chapter out loud.  Ok, this not the usual outlining and discussion but the popcorn was good and the conversation was great.  I appreciate the group indulging me.

In Monday School, It is as important to know HOW to study as it is to know the information. We are not seeking simple intellectual knowledge but God’s wisdom.  To do this we will hone three skills:  Observation-spiritual reading, Interpretation-spiritual seeking, and Application-putting truth into practice.

Please take a moment and read the text before you read our note.  CLICK HERE FOR JAMES CHAPTER 4

We made our observations as the chapter was read and each person found their own voice in these powerful words.  We noticed that when you boil the do’s and don’ts, it came to two central points-Be Humble and draw near to God.  If you do those two things you are setting yourself up for spiritual success.  By this our plans become God’s Plans and not merely our own, our Prayers become God’s prayers and not just our words,  our Lives become God’s and hence devil free, our growth become spiritual growth and not just self-help, Our minds become focused through God and not random and scattered, and our misery turns to joy.  How often do we leave God out of our daily living.  It seems that the more stress we are under or the more important the issues the easier it is to forget the one with the direction and wisdom that we need.  As one of our group said, Obedience pays off.

Next week Chapter 5, the Final Chapter:  All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00.   Group members and anyone with an observation on the text are welcome to add a comment

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MONDAY SCHOOL-A Precept Study of James Chaper 3

We have such a thoughtful group.  Small group studies are supposed to be for the benefit of the students but I feel that give me more to think about than I give them.  James is a valuable and usable book of the Bible and I do love to teach it!

In Monday School, It is as important to know HOW to study as it is to know the information. We are not seeking simple intellectual knowledge but God’s wisdom.  To do this we will hone three skills:  Observation-spiritual reading, Interpretation-spiritual seeking, and Application-putting truth into practice.

It will make more sense if you take a moment and read the text before you read our note.  CLICK HERE FOR JAMES CHAPTER 3

If you look at the whole of this chapter, “Taming the tongue” and wisdom are intimately tied together.  These two things are essential to spiritual grown and a healthy witness to Jesus Christ.

We all agreed that this was hard and all of us have had “foot in mouth” disease at some point or another.  To be and become a mature, the literal meaning of “Perfect”, is centered on keeping your tongue in check.  It seems like such a small thing but it is amazing how a good word can change the world but a bad word from the same person can destroy it.  We bless and curse from the same face but cannot grow in Christ until we become a  fountain of fresh blessing.  Basically, James tells us that the tongue cannot be tamed yet it MUST be tamed.

Why, because it is wisdom that we are designed for and not merely well crafted words.  James presents two types of wisdom.  One wisdom is the “restless evil of earthly, demonic and natural wisdom.  This makes sense only if Christ is absent from our life.  And the peaceable, gentle, reasonable and merciful wisdom of Christ that is proven through our works, or fruit, of righteousness. We will choose one of these with our words and our works.  There is no “Both/And” it is “Either/Or”.

This is where this chapter meets the daily life in Christ; When word and deed meet in God’s wisdom and “Sown in Peace by those who make peace”, our lives flourish and those around us prosper as much as we do.

Next week Chapter 4:  The process of growth and the role of suffering.  All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00.   Group members and others are welcome to add a comment

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“Monday School”: A precept study of James-Week 1

Tonight we had a small group with a BIG discussion! We have set aside Monday Evenings at 6:00 for Adult Bible Study  This is an Inductive study where we look at the whole to see where God’s direction comes from.

In Monday School, It is as important to know HOW to study as it is to know the information. We are not seeking simple intellectual knowledge but God’s wisdom.  To do this we will hone three skills:  Observation-spiritual reading, Interpretation-spiritual seeking, and Application-putting truth into practice.

Tonight was James, Chapter 1: CLICK HERE  for the full text:  Hey the book in only 5 pages!

What we observed:

  • It was written by a powerhouse guy, but a real person who really knew Jesus.  He had a solid grasp of a mixed Christian culture and Jewish wisdom literature.  This is the New Testament book of proverbs.
  • People of faith have problems. Seeking God uses them to build us up, strengthen us, to stay standing and motivate us to DO faith instead of folding when times get tough. We shared stories about carrying on.  Tough times build a Faith that stands when the heat is on and an untested faith is no faith at all.
  • One likened to simply hearing as reading a novel, when tired, looking away, and looking back to forget what we read.  Faith leads to Wisdom which moves us from a forgetful hearer to an effectual doer.  Talk+love= action.
  • Wisdom that builds faith listens, then speaks and doesn’t get mad.  Mad takes our mind off of God.
  • Finally wisdom is shown by keeping our mouths under control and our moral decision inline with God’s word.  This is hard BUT we have everything we need to observe, interpret and they bravely apply. We don’t have to feel inferior to ANYONE but carry on.

Next week Chapter 2:  How is a growing faith lived out with others.  Excellent Group! Group members and others are welcome to add a comment

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