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.

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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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