Wednesday, December 28, 2016

As Scrupulous As Shepherds

The first people chosen to spread the Gospel, the good news about the birth of Jesus, were the Shepherds. You are probably familiar with Luke 2:8-20 which records the Angelic visit paid to those Shepherds, living in the fields outside of Bethlehem with their flocks. The Shepherd's listened to every word and then quickly and carefully followed the Angel's instructions to go and find the newborn Jesus lying in a manger. Afterwards, they faithfully and excitedly reported all that they had seen and heard, making the Good News widely known. Years later, Jesus would ask Peter to feed His sheep, His people. In fact, poimen, the word for Pastor comes from the Greek word for a Shepherd. I believe that the Shepherd's were chosen for a reason and there are some things we can learn from the diligent life of a Shepherd.

Bethlehem is just 6 miles from Jerusalem. The fields in between them would have been home to the flocks from which the passover lambs came. With the entire nation celebrating passover in Jerusalem, they would have needed tremendous numbers of lambs, these flocks must have been huge. Exodus 12:5 lists the requirements for the Passover lambs: 

Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats.

Deuteronomy 15:21 further explains that an animal offered to the Lord could not have any blemish, defect or flaw, that they could not be lame or blind. Leviticus 22:20 reads:

Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you.

Bethlehem shepherds had a very important job. The text tells us that they were WATCHING over their flocks by night. They were awake and watching. They lived out in the fields with their flocks. Some people might have brought their own sacrifices, but many would have needed to aquire a lamb when they got to Jerusalem. If an animal got injured, or blinded, hurt its leg or had any flaw, it could not be offered. They had to protect the animals, watch over them, prevent unauthorized breeding so that bad blood lines could not be proliferated and they had to make sure that no sheep wandered away.

For years, I have watched my Dad care for his cattle. He counts them morning and night, faithfully observes and treats any injuries, gives them medication when necessary, takes them to the veterinarian if needed. He observes each cow to know when she has been with the bull so that he knows when to expect a calf and then keeps an eye on them when they go into labor to make sure it goes smoothly. He keeps accurate records to have fall and spring calves, to avoid births during freezing winters and hot summers. He and Mom carefully choose and measure their feed, even watching them eat to make sure everyone gets some. He is a diligent grass farmer. Not only has he limed and seeded the land, but he has been seeking and choosing good hay sources for years, carefully moving the hay feeders to spread the good seed (and the naturally fertilizing manure) around. He wisely chooses good bulls and painstakingly selects the best cows to keep to improve the herd, breeding to promote the best characteristics. 

In the same way, Shepherds had to be diligent about their business. This is, perhaps, why they were considered trustworthy to be diligent in sharing the Gospel. 1 Peter 5:2 tells us: 

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.

Here are some lessons we can learn from the Shepherds.

1. Feed The Sheep
In the same way that Shepherds carefully feed the sheep, taking them to green pastures and leading them beside still waters, Pastors must carefully feed their people the word of God and discern what they need for growth. Dad always says that cattlemen are grass farmers. The "pasture," is a good metaphor for the atmosphere of a church. A faithful Shepherd of God's people must cultivate the ground, providing a healthy, thriving environment for them to learn, grow and teach in. In the same way that a cattleman seeds the land, Paul taught us that Christians sow the seeds of the Gospel, water them (bringing them to the Living Water) and patiently wait for God to give the growth. 


2. Keep Watch
In the same way that Shepherds diligently keep watch over their flocks to protect them from harm, injury and predators, Pastors must diligently keep watch over their flocks to protect them from false teachers and temptations. Pastors watch over their flock to guide them away from temptation and to protect them from those who would expoit them, lead them astray or feed them poison, as the Bible calls them wolves in sheeps clothing

3. Nurse them to Health
In the same way that a Shepherd tends a sick or injured sheep, a Pastor tends to both the physical and spiritual needs of people. As a church, we show people how much we care for their soul by taking care of physical needs such as food, clothing, medical help and offering various types of assistance and work when needed. In the same way that a cattleman takes a sick animal to the veterinarian, we take people who are physically sick, and much more importantly, those who are spiritually sick to the Great Physician, Jesus who heals. 

4. Remember Whose Sheep These Are
Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. When Peter replied "Yes." Jesus said Feed my lambs....Shepherd my sheep...Feed my sheep. While the tasks of a Shepherd symbolically show us the tasks of a Pastor, what happened in this story is very literal. The Shepherds faithfully and enthusiastically shared the Good News, the Whole story, with everyone they encountered. The whole story is all about Jesus. The Angel told the Shepherds that JESUS was the promised Messiah. He was the one the one that had been prophesied. He was the saviour. A multitude of angels praised God and declared what an incredible act of peace and goodwill this was on His part. The Shepherds immediately went to see Jesus and then told everyone about Him. 

The Cycle of Faith
Ultimately, Jesus was sacrificed as our perfect Passover lamb, without spot and with blemish. He is also referred to as The Good Shepherd. All of these symbols point to one reality. We are Jesus' flock and He cares for us. There is a beautiful picture of the Great Commission given to the Shepherds and fulfilled by the Shepherds. In the same way that the Shepherds Heard the Good News, came to meet Jesus and then told others about him, we too are to share the good news so that others can meet Jesus and go on to tell even more people. I attend a service sometimes where the theme is "Hear, Believe and Obey." While the term is used to describe the life of a Believer, this is actually a great way to describe the 3 step process of the cycle of faith:

1. HEAR: We tell the good news of Jesus, just like someone told us 

2. BELIEVE: They believe the word and accept Jesus as their Christ, their Messiah, their Savior 

3. OBEY: They obey Jesus instructions at the Great Commission by going on to tell others and the cycle repeats. 

The plan for spreading the Gospel is introduced in this passage from Luke 2. The good news of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and the Gospel is the only way for a person to become a member of God's flock. The word SCRUPULOUS means to be diligent, meticulous and careful. We should all be as Scrupulous as Shepherds when it comes to the things of God. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

3 Simple Words

In Vancouver over the weekend we came upon a young, pregnant woman begging for money at a stoplight, holding a sign that said she was hungry. We happened to have a $50 Visa gift card in the car, brought along for just such an occassion. The interaction didn't leave time for much conversation, just 3 simple, yet profound words: "Jesus Loves You." 

It is unfortunate that there are some Christians who would hesitate to say those 3 important words because of certain theological belief systems. In this post I will answer 4 key questions: Does Jesus love her? Did Jesus die for her? Does God want her to be saved? How do We know for sure?

Does Jesus love her?
This question is simple to answer and the answer is a resounding YES! 

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. -John 3:16

Most of us can quote this verse by heart. I learned it from the old King James version. But notice a couple of things. Firstly, the word "world," or kosmos refers to the whole earth and everyone in it. It comes from a root word that describes belonging and ownership. God did not disown his creation. Jesus poured out His love on the cross for a world that did not deserve it. When God had every right to destroy us, He chose to love. Secondly, it says that "whoever," believes in Him will not perish. This word, pas, in Greek, means ALL. It means that anyone who believes can be saved.

Did Jesus die for her?
Again, the answer is a confident and resounding YES!

Jesus Christ, the righteous one. He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. -1 John 2:1-2

The word "propitiation," means "atoning sacrifice." Many versions of the Bible even translate it that way. Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice to pay the price of our sin. He stepped in as our substitute in our place to suffer what we deserved. In this letter being read among Christians, John points out that Jesus did not only die for us, but he also died for the whole world. Jesus already paid the price for the sins of that woman on the street corner. He died so that she could be saved. In fact, Jesus' sacrifice is sufficient to save all who are willing to be saved, but 2 Peter 2:1-2 warns about those who teach falsely and follow their own desires even denying the Master who bought them. Jesus has paid the price for sin, paid the ransom for all people, but each person must make the choice to follow Him. As Christians, we can confidently look into the eyes of any person and tell them that Jesus died so their sins can be forgiven and they can be put into a restored relationship with God. 

Does God want her to be saved?
YES!

In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul writes: I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving be offered in behalf of ALL people.  Verse 2 exhorts us to pray for leaders, Verses 3-4 tell us that This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 

God desires all people to be saved. In translation to English, the idea of the Father's delight is not as evident as it is in the original language. The word "good," describes these prayers as being beautiful in God's sight and very precious to Him. When I pray for that poor soul begging on the street corner, my heavenly Father is pleased. God gladly receives and accepts such prayers. Because of Jesus sacrifice, God is overjoyed when we operate according to the New Covenant. Jesus already died for their sins. God wants us to pray on their behalf. This passage reveals the Father's delight in the deal He has made with us. He was a co-planner with Christ in our salvation and when it says he "desires," all to be saved. This means that He is willing for this to happen and earnestly wants all people to accept His covenant of salvation.

How do we know for sure?

2 Peter 3 speaks about Jesus coming back to fulfill His promises to us and about heaven. It also speaks about God's ultimate judgement coming on the earth when those who refuse His offer of salvation will be destroyed, along with Satan and all evil. But look at why He delays this event:

The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. -2 Peter 3:9

God is being patient. He is not "wishing," or not "willing" that any should perish. Jesus wants to save that pregnant woman on the street corner, just as He wants to save any person that we come across. We can boldly look any person in the eye and tell them God wants you to be saved. Jesus died for you. JESUS LOVES YOU. 





Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Top 10 Ways To Pray For Our New President

It can be really hard to pray for people that we don't like or disagree with. I am sorry to admit that I rarely prayed for President Obama. But, regardless of feelings, the Bible is clear, we must all pray for our leaders. 

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a peaceful and tranquil life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Here are 10 ways that we can pray for our new President:

1. Pray for them to have wisdom and understanding. 
         -Ephesians 4:17-18 warns about people becoming futile in their thinking and darkened in their understanding because of sin and refusing God. 
              -Romans 1:20-25 also warns about people becoming futile in their thinking, having their hearts be darkened, professing to be wise but becoming foolish and exchanging the truth of God for a lie. 
              -Daniel 2:21 He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding.

2.  Pray for them to have clarity of thinking, discernment and good decision-making ability
       -In addition to the references above, The Bible also warns about people becoming spiritually blind and deaf who refuse God. This is a dangerous position for a President. We need to pray for our leader tho think clearly and make wise decisions.

3. Protection from Deception and a Desire for the Truth
        -John 8:44 tells us that Satan is the father of all lies. Jesus is the Truth.  John 14:17 tells us that The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. 

4. Humility

5. Compassion

6. Safety, Protection and a Heart for Peace
        -Safety is a basic human need. If a President lives under constant fear and in danger, their decisionmaking ability and productivity can be compromised, but more importantly, our President needs to stay away from the warfare spirit. Vengeance belongs to God. Our President must not seek vengeance but must to seek to provide peace, safety and protection for our nation. 

7. Moral Integrity and a Love of Justice
        -By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice -Proverbs 8:15
        
8. Wise Advisors
        -Proverbs 11;14 informs us that Where there is no guidance, a people/nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety and victory (deliverance) 
        
9. A Sense of Purpose
        -1 Peter 2:14 tells us that those who govern are to punish evildoers and praise those who do good
            -Romans 13:3-4 describe just rulers: For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; For government is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For government is God's servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. 
            -Pray that our new President will govern fairly and fulfill the godly purpose of leadership
10. Salvation
        The best case scenario we could hope for is to have a President that has a heart full of God's love and the wisdom that comes from above. Isaiah 11:2 tells us that the Holy Spirit is the The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us power, love and sophronismos, which means to have a sound mind, self-discipline, sound judgement, a calling and the ability to hold to ones duty. To pray for our leader's heart to be softened by Jesus is, above all else, what we need to pray over our leader. 

While it is our duty to stand up for truth and serve God first, suffering the consequences of necessary, in every way that we can, we should cooperate and work together with authority. This does not mean compromising on issues, but it does mean being good citizens and bright shining lights in this world. 

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. -Romans 13:1-2

It is not our place to rebel, secede, stir up trouble, say ugly things or smear the name of our new President. It is our place to pray for our new leader, remember that God loves them and desires them to be saved, and to cooperate with leadership in all ways where we are morally able to do so. 

I ask that you join together with me to pray for our new leader, in the hope of a peaceful and tranquil life where our dignity is preserved and we remain free to live godly lives and to share the good news of Jesus Christ openly without fear of persecution. 


        
         

Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Passion To Serve

I originally submitted this article in response to a request from Gateway Life magazine that was sent to choir members for articles about "Passion." While, mine was not selected to be published, I thought my friends might like to read it: 

A Passion To Serve, by Jerry Schultz

Our passions, talents and abilities are gifts from God that give us purpose and a place of service. When we devote our time and dedicate our gifts to serving, we can experience a special kind of joy and connection to other believers.
For many years, I developed my skills and pursued excellence in my career as a music teacher, but did not use my gifts in the church. I didn’t intend for that to happen, but after graduating from college, moving around for my career and trying to find a new church home, it did. I went from being highly involved with church and campus ministries, leading worship and teaching Sunday School, to being an attender who didn’t serve at all. I had gone with friends to every revival, event or Christian concert I could. Now I sat through one service per week, often by myself, with few meaningful relationships in the church. Eventually, I stopped going. Gathering together with God’s people had been my favorite thing. Now I felt disconnected and alone. I had forgotten the importance of fellowship and I suffered because of it. Hebrews 10:25 prompts: Let us consider how to spur each other on to love and good works, not giving up meeting together…but encouraging on another.
Interestingly, it was an invitation to serve that brought me back. After an orchestra gig one weekend, a fellow musician asked if I would come play for the Easter services at his church. I received a warm, friendly welcome and instant comradery. I hoped he would invite me back and when the invitation was extended, I gladly accepted and soon joined the church. Within a year, I began planning a move to Texas to attend Seminary.
I am so grateful to have found the choir here at Gateway. (and the orchestra at NRH Baptist Church) It has been a place where I have received healing and ministered to others. I have grown, strengthened my craft, developed friendships and really connected to the Body of Christ. It’s fitting that our volunteer ministry is called “Serve,” because serving is the key to unlocking relationships in the church. I encourage everyone to find a place to plug in, serve others and connect.

It is important to be good receivers of God’s gifts. When we are willing vessels, dedicated to His purposes, God pours into us so that we can pour into the lives of others. Colossians 3:23 exhorts: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord. We should passionately endeavor to steward our gifts by developing them to their fullest potential and using them to glorify God and strengthen the church. Don’t make the mistake I made. Don’t give up. Keep meeting together. Keep Serving. When we enthusiastically devote ourselves to finding and fulfilling our purpose, we can truly enjoy our role in the Body of Christ. Remember the encouragement of 1 Peter 4:10: Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s varied grace. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Making Mud Bricks and Pharoah's Hardened Heart

Have you ever mixed cement at home? You put the powdery mix in a bucket, pour in some water to make mud and stir it up. When you stop stirring, it slowly hardens. Whether you're setting a tether-ball pole or a fence post, or fixing a sidewalk, when you stop stirring, the cement mud hardens into concrete. This is why cement mixers constantly turn over and over, to keep it from hardening. What does this have to do with the Bible? This process is very similar to the process the Hebrew slaves used when making bricks and it is critical to understanding the story found in the text of Exodus 6:28 to 12:42 and Exodus 14:

One of the most difficult and misinterpreted incidents in Scripture occurs in this passage from Exodus and centers around Pharoah's hard headedness and hard heartedness in refusing to let God's people go. Let's start by understanding the context of this story. It is 1440 B.C. and if you are a Hebrew slave, your job is to make bricks. You make bricks by stirring up a mud mixture together with straw. The first time Moses and Aaron went to Pharoah to ask him to allow God's people go, so they could worship Him in the wilderness, he took away their straw, making it impossible to make bricks and then all of his men yelled at them for not getting the work done and accused them of being lazy. Sometimes a bad boss doesn't know what an appropriate amount of work is, but this was different. This was deliberate. Pharoah forced the people to fail and then blamed them for it. Pharoah is a cruel, power hungry sociopath who has no morals or conscience. The people then began gathering stubble, the chaff left over from harvest instead of straw. 

I. Pharoah's Choice
When Moses and Aaron went back to deliver God's command to let His people go, Pharoah consorted with all sorts of sorcerors. Exodus 7:13 reports: And Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them.  Then the 1st plague happened and he consorted with magicians and enchanters and yet again, Pharaoh's heart grew hard, and he did not heed them. Verse 23 reports that his heart, his emotions, were not affected at all. God sent 3 more plagues and 3 more times Pharoah hardened his own heart, verse 8:32 reports Pharoah hardened his heart again... He participated in witchcraft, consulting with Satan's priests, opening himself up to demonic influence and corruption and hardened his heart toward God. He made a clear choice. 

II. Clear As Mud
Now, we get to the hard part. After the 6th plague, verse 9:12 reports, The Lord hardened the heart of Pharoah. I have come across people who teach this as if God supernaturally reached down from heaven, took away Pharoah's free will, forced him to do evil, used him like a puppet and then punished him for it. This is utterly and completely ridiculous. Would God really order Pharoah to let His people go and then force him NOT to let them go? Of course not. This is exactly the type of unjust action Pharoah committed against God's people, but God is not like that. Psalm 89:14 says "Righteousness and Justice are the foundation of Your throne." God does not act unjustly. Here's the rest of the story:

The term "hardened" would have been clearly and easily understood by the original audience of this story. Pharoah's heart was like MUD. Every single Hebrew alive in that day upon hearing the word "hardened," would have IMMEDIATELY thought about the process of making bricks, which is what their days consisted of. This is precisely the reference that was intended for the original audience. They would have understood that if God "hardened," Pharoah's heart, it meant that he STOPPED STIRRING it and allowed it to turn hard. Pharoah had resisted God's words and His commands to the point that he no longer had a conscience and no longer heard God's voice. He was entirely responsible and accountable for his own actions and decisions. 

III. The Brick Oven
But there is even more to this story. Five more times, Pharoah's heart is hardened in response to a plague and this action is attributed to God. This is Pharoah's fiery trial. This summer I was fortunate to see "Moses" at the Sight and Sound Theater in Branson. I had never really thought about the brick making process before, but large brick ovens were a prominent feature of the set. When the bricks were baked in the oven, they became permanently and irrevocably hardened. These mud bricks were hardened and the chaff that had been mixed in became a permanent part of them. Chaff is used in the Bible as a metaphor for unbelievers who will ultimately be destroyed in unquenchable fire. (Luke 3:17) Pharoah's trial foreshadows the ultimate judgement. He could not pass his trial because his heart was full of chaff, full of evil. God's efforts to reach him only caused him to become harder and harder the more he resisted. Each time God applied the fire of judgement, Pharoah proved himself unworthy, refused to repent and became even more set in his ways, more hardened. 

This should remind us of some other boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into a fiery furnace and came out unscathed. Many places in Scripture refer to believers as being refined through the fire. The term fire is used metaphorically in the Old Testament to refer to trials (Psalm 66:10-12, Zechariah 13:9). It is also used in the New Testament to refer to the Holy Spirit who refines us (Matthew 3:11) and it refers to a literal fire that only the righteous will pass through (Isaiah 43:2, 2 Peter 3:10). Here is the simple application for today. When believers go through a fiery trial, we come out more like Jesus. God takes us through them and is with us every step of the way. Jesus has already been tested for us, we are pure because of Him. But Satan will often test us to try to break us. When this happens, we are honored and trusted to share in the sufferings of Christ. We can either allow our trials to harden us in our wrong ways, or we can allow God to build our faith through them. We are meant to become like silver or gold that has been melted by the fire to have the impurities removed and can be molded into something beautiful. It's all about the softening. 

IV. The Choice
Pharoah wasn't the only one on trial. Moses went through a trial also, yet he came out with a special relationship with God and a face shining radiantly. Israel, as a nation was going through a fiery trial. Deuteronomy 4:20 records But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt to be the people of His inheritance, as you are today. The sojourn in Egypt was a refining process for Israel. We have it easy compared to them. The major part of our refining comes directly through the Holy Spirit's counsel and renewing work in our lives. Jesus can fix a broken, hardened heart, but it all begins by making a choice. John 16:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgement. He stirs our hearts, calling us into a restored relationship with God. The question is, will you listen? Hebrews 3:15 calls us to the choice. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion. The choice is simple. Will you harden your heart to God? Or will you open your heart to Him?


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Escaping Polygamy: An Open Letter To The Courageous Cast

To the Courageous Cast of "Escaping Polygamy,"

I want to thank-you and to tell you how much I respect your bravery and appreciate the work you are doing in helping others to escape from polygamist religious groups. I can't even begin to imagine how you feel or what you have gone through and part of the reason I can't imagine it is because my maternal grandfather and his mother got out, or were thrown out. While the Latter Day Saints (LDS) group his family was a part of had stopped publicly sanctioning and performing plural marriages about 40 years before he was born, they were very pushy and aggressive toward him and they still tried to control their members with the fear that if they left the group they would be condemned or could never enter heaven. The night before my grandmother's funeral, my aunt pulled a book off the shelf and a letter fell out. It was an excommunication letter from the LDS church, which I believed to be meant for my grandmother, though I learned much later, it was probably sent to my great grandmother. It was sickening to find something like that in a moment of grief, even though I knew it was full of lies. That night, I learned that my late grandfather had received a similar letter when he chose to attend a Methodist church. I can't remember if my aunt allowed me to see the letter, but I have read similar letters and they tell people they will never enter the Celestial Kingdom unless they return to their group. They were considered apostate. It's heartbreaking to know that a church could be so callous and a leader so cruel as to send a letter like that to someone. I can not even fathom what it must be like to receive such a letter or to feel like you were risking hell by leaving such a group. I am so grateful that they never went back. I admire your bravery and your integrity. The decision you have made will benefit and protect your family for generations to come and you are rescuing people from situations that are far worse, much more traumatic and more frightening than what my relatives faced. I have three reasons for writing this letter. The first is to encourage you and give you peace of mind. The second is to give you powerful, Scriptural ammunition to use to bring the enemy down and set people free. The third is to raise awareness and prevent others from being deceived by similar leaders and their teachings. 

Anytime we see a powerful, controlling and manipulative leader with such frightening sway and influence, there is a dark spiritual force at work and the most powerful tool we have in our belt is the Bible. It can be difficult for a person who has been brainwashed to understand logic or listen to reason, especially when their faith has been used against them to keep them under control by fear. It's time to turn the tables on these pharisaical frauds. I sincerely believe that if you show people in the Bible exactly where their leaders have lied to them, you will be able to set more of them free. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that: 

The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing right through to a division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 

This means that God's word can separate people from harmful spiritual influences and can break the chains of fear and uncertainty that keep them bound up and afraid to leave. The truth found in the pages of the Bible will reveal phony prophets, lying leaders and corrupt clergymen. Scripture can shatter deceptive doctrines, expose misleading interpretations and set people free from brainwashing. Below, I have addressed some of the issues I have watched you deal with on your show. I hope you will find this information helpful in your fight to free your friends and family. 

I. POLYGAMY

A. What the Old Testament Teaches:
2 Samuel 5:13 records that King David took multiple wives and concubines. 1 Kings 11:3 records that his son, King Solomon was much worse, taking 700 wives and 300 concubines. There are many situations in the Old Testament where the Bible is DEscriptive, not PREscriptive. It accurately reports the historical actions of certain persons, which are often sinful and wrong and should not be imitated. These are two such situations. It would be easy for someone to take these verses out of context and claim that polygamy is acceptable and even encouraged by the Bible and I have witnessed people try to do this, BUT Deuteronomy 17 contains a list of instructions for the Kings of Israel. Look what verse 17 says: He shall not multiply wives for himself. God's covenant with Israel FORBID their leaders from practicing polygamy!!! David and Solomon broke God's covenant and sinned by taking multiple wives. 

B. What the New Testament Teaches:
In 1 Peter 2:9, Christians are called a Royal Priesthood. Romans 8:17 tells us that we are Heirs with Christ. Revelation 5:10 and 1:6 say that  He has made us Kings and Priests to God. The instruction from the Old Testament for the Kings of God's people not to take multiple wives now applies to every Christian and even more so to those in positions of leadership. 1 Timothy 3:2 says of the church's leaders that: 

An overseer must be above reproach, the husband of ONE wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable and able to teach.  

According to this verse, a man who practices polygamy is not eligible to hold any position of leadership in the church. He is disqualified from leading God's people. 

Speaking on marriage, Jesus quoted Genesis 2 when He said: 

From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his WIFE and the TWO will become ONE flesh, so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate. (Mark 10:6-8) 

From the very beginning, the Biblical view of marriage has been a couple, two people only, one man and one woman in a loving relationship. 1 Thessalonians 4:5 teaches that no one should ever defraud, manipulate, coerce, force, pressure or otherwise trick a person into any type of sexual relationship. Marriage is about love. Jesus said a man shall cleave to his WIFE, singular, not wiveS, plural. He says the two shall become one. There is no room in this description for any more wives. The word "cleave" means to be glued together, to cling to each other. When a husband takes another wife, he has abandoned his first wife and committed adultery. He has broken his marriage covenant. Abuse and neglect are also violations of the sacred bond of marriage. In a Hebrew marriage, a husband was never allowed to reduce or withold provision such as food or clothing from his wife, nor was he to deny her marital rights. The marriage covenant and the betrothal process were meant to protect women from fraudulent men who aren't what they seem to be. These men who take multiple wives, show favoritism, neglect, abuse, ignore and lie to their families are openly defying God by mocking the institute of marriage. They are not preachers, prophets or pastors at all. They are phonies, fakes and frauds and God's word exposes them for the wolves that they are by revealing the evil intentions of their darkend hearts. 

II. SISTER WIVES

A. What the Old Testament Teaches:
Genesis 28-31 records the story of how Jacob was tricked by Laban into marrying Leah instead of Rachel and how he ended up with two sisters as wives who became bitter rivals to each other, competing to give him more children and to receive his affection. It is obvious that the men in the Kingston group and other such groups show favoritism to wives that please them, while neglecting or punishing others. Such behavior is highly manipulative and really twisted. The rivalry between these two sister-wives had a terrible effect on their children and this is not something God desires. To prevent their descendants from continuing such behavior, the Old Covenant in Leviticus 18:18 instructs: 

You are not to marry a woman as a rival to her sister and have sexual intercourse with her during her sister's lifetime. 

God's covenant with His chosen people, FORBID them from taking sister wives.

B. What the New Testament Teaches:
Under the New Covenant, Christians are considered brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1). In the same way that it was and is wrong to marry a woman's biological sister as a rival to her, it is equally wrong to marry a woman's sister in Christ as a plural wife and a rival to her. 

III. INCEST

A. What the Old Testament Teaches:
Leviticus 18 forbids sexual relationships between parents and their children and step-children. It forbids sex between aunts and uncles and their nieces and nephews. It forbids grandparents from having sex with grandchildren or step-grandchildren. It forbids sex between full blood siblings and also between half brothers and sisters and it forbids sex with your daughter-in-law, brother-in-law or sister-in-law. Any man who promotes and practices these things is not a man of God. I want to communicate very clearly, that a person who has been the victim of incest is not at fault, is not to be blamed and even for those who have participated willingly, there is unconditional forgiveness for anyone who has been manipulated, deceived or otherwise tricked by their deceptive leaders into participating in it if they will repent and get out of it. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) It is also really important to remember that any child who is the product of incest is still a precious child of God, created in His image and worthy of dignity, honor, compassion and respect. Only God can create a human soul. The Bible says that children are a gift from the Lord, and they are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14, 127:3)

B. What the New Testament Teaches:
Under the New Covenant, Christians are the sons and daughters of God (2 Corinthians 6:18). It is nonsense to teach that people need to maintain some sort of "pure" bloodline through incest in order to be God's chosen people. Galatians 3:7 declares that those who have faith are the children of Abraham. Romans 4:16 also teaches that those who have placed their faith in God are the true children of Abraham regardless of ethnicity, family background or the color of their skin. Galatians 3:28 teaches that There is neither Jew nor Gentile...you are all one in Christ Jesus. Colossians 3:10-12 describes those who turned away from their sinful ways placed their faith in Jesus as being God's chosen people. 

You have taken off the old self with its practices and put on the new self which is being renewed in the knowledge and image of of its Creator. Here there is no Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free but Christ is all and is in all. Therefore as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 

Being God's chosen people is based on faith, not genetics because there is only one race, the human race. The only blood that matters is the blood that Jesus shed for us, as Revelation 5:9 praises: 

And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God, persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. 

Purity is based on our relationship with Jesus, not our ethnic background or family lineage. Believers are grafted into Abraham's family tree through faith. (Romans 11:17) We are all part of God's family. 

IV. SECURITY OF SALVATION AND HEAVEN
Our salvation is not based on church membership, a perfect understanding of theology, or following the arbitrary rules of a certain religious leader or sect. It is based entirely on our relationship with Jesus Christ. 

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2;8-9)

Once, I was speaking about Jesus with a friend who had been disfellowshipped from an LDS church. Despite his best and most sincere efforts, the leaders of that church refused to restore him, though Galatians 6:1 clearly requires them to do so. He told me that he believed Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for MY sins and that I would go to heaven. He then explained that he believed Jesus did not die for his sins, that he was something called "reprobate," or "apostate," and could never enter the "Celestial Kingdom," his version of heaven. This heretical belief, that Jesus did not die for the sins of the whole world is a big problem in various evangelical denominations as well. Fortunately, 1 John 2:2 contradicts this lie by teaching this about Jesus: 

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the sins of the whole world. 

2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not wanting anyone to perish but all to come to repentance. 1 Timothy 2:4 describes God as He who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 

Unquestionably, God wants all people to be saved, but it is also true that He gives us a choice. He does not force us into a relationship. Hebrews 3:15 says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion. Men like Paul and Daniel Kingston and Warren and Lyle Jeffs have hardened their hearts against God's voice and have chosen to lead others astray. 

Our salvation is a matter of choice. 1 John 1:9 gives us the assurance that: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God will forgive us and restore us even if others will not. Our righteousness, our right standing with God, is a gift that we receive through faith because of what Jesus has done. Righteousness is not something we earn or accomplish through our own efforts. We receive it by faith and are brought into a right relationship with God in spite of what we have done. Then the Holy Spirit works in us to produce fruit: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22) God empowers us through His Spirit. The words "patience," and "faithfulness" also describe perserverance, the type of strength and determination that you have shown to keep fighting the good fight to open people's eyes to the Truth. As Luke 4:18 says: 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed. 

Here is the truth that sets people free. Romans 10:9 promises: If you declare with your mouth "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you WILL be saved. 

Ephesians 3:16-17 teaches us that when we place our faith in Jesus, His Spirit comes to live in our hearts. That is why we ask Jesus to come in and restore, renew and heal our broken hearts. 

John 3:16 declares: For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have EVERLASTING LIFE. 

Jesus is God's one and only Son. Anyone who places their trust and faith in Jesus will live in heaven forever. No person, church or entity can deny us salvation or separate us from God's love. 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) 

Absolutely no one and nothing can separate us from God's love once we place our trust in Him. Our salvation is not based on what we do, it is based on who we are as God's children. It is based on faith. The good works we do are not to earn salvation, they are the response of a grateful heart to what God has already done for us. In John 28, God's word promises: 

I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 

Our relationship with God and our place in heaven are absolutely assured once we put our trust in Jesus. No authority figure or religious institution can take our salvation away from us. I assure you that every person can have absolute confidence, peace and security in their salvation and future with God. 

LIES
It is very clear that these polygamist leaders are liars who are attempting to build an empire through deceit, fear, coercion and manipulation. The Bible proves that they are liars. Here is what the Bible says about them: 

You are of your father, the devil and you want to carry out your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

THE TRUTH
The true children of God are those who walk in the truth. Jesus said: 

I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) 

You chose the truth over lies. You were right to leave and to help others. You havn't abandoned your family, you are protecting them and shining a bright beacon of hope to lead them out. We live in a day where the federal government has attempted to change God's definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman. Shows such as "Sister Wives," are already trying to make polygamy seem acceptable and even desirable to our society. Your work in bringing the truth into the light is tremendously important. You are changing the way people think inside and outside of polygamy and your impact is much further and deeper than you can imagine. I don't know where each of you stands with your faith and your relationship to Jesus right now, especially after all you have been put through, but you are doing good work, God's work. I feel that these words from 3 John 1 read like a love letter from a Father to His children and they are important for you to hear. I've taken the liberty of translating "Beloved," as "Dearly Loved Ones," because that is what the word means. It comes from the Greek word agapetos. It describes someone who God is well pleased with, someone who is is dear to Him and truly loved, highly thought of, esteemed, favored and worthy of love. 

Dearly Loved Ones, 

I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, even as it goes well with your soul. It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the TRUTH, telling how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the TRUTH. Dearly Loved Ones, you are showing faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers and sisters, especially when they are strangers.

Please feel welcome to contact me if I can answer any questions or be of any help. I wish you the very best and may God bless your efforts.

Sincerely, 

Jerry Schultz
jdsecure@hotmail.com

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Director's Covenant: 4 Promises We Make Our Students

1. I will always respect you

Respect the special quality of each individual’s God-given singing voice and musical expression.  Respect the value and dignity of every human soul. Respect the priesthood of every believer: Recognize the anointing each person has and help them step into their calling. Be a servant leader.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. -1 Peter 4:10

2. I will never embarrass you

Always prepare the group well and avoid putting them in situations to feel unprepared, uncomfortable or awkward. Put people in a position to be successful. Set them up to thrive.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another. –Romans 12:10

I think about the way that Jesus set his disciples up for success the first time he sent them out and they came back victorious and excited. I think about the way we are told to correct people for their sins in private before confronting them publicly. (Luke 10:1-24; Matthew 18:15-17)

3. I will say Please, Thank-you, You’re Welcome and My Pleasure

Remember what an incredible privilege, honor and sacred trust it is to teach and lead this amazing group of people.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. -Colossians 4:6
       
4. I will always take care of you

This includes developing and caring for each individual’s vocal health and musical development as well as their spiritual development.

Make my joy complete be being of one mind, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves. Each of you should look, no only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. -Philippians 2:3


Special thanks to Jeanette Cowherd who always promised to never embarrass us and who took respect to a higher lever by loving her students and genuinely caring about us. I would also like to show appreciation to Anthony Maiello who articulated these promises so well at the Texas Bandmasters Conference last week, showing that they could be unconditional commitments. I have added commentary and Scripture references to show how these promises can be applied in a Christian setting. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Response to Dr. Henry Cloud's Sermon at Gateway Church (July 9)

Last weekend, Gateway Church, which I love, hosted psychologist and controversial author Dr. Henry Cloud as a guest speaker for our weekend services. There was a very enthusiastic reaction when it was announced that he was coming. This week Pastor Robert endorsed his sermon as being "Phenomenal!" I can offer no such promotion. As a matter of fact, I have been deeply concerned and saddened by some of the things that Mr. Cloud said. I have allowed the past week as a sort of cooling off period to contemplate how I should respond to certain claims he made and shenanigans he pulled. For one, he had the chutzpah, the unmitagated gall, to say that God is "INCAPABLE" of healing us without working through other people. This adds to my concern, as I have noticed a disturbing trend in some charismatic circles to accept secular, worldly craftiness and acumen as "prophetic." There is an unhealthy infatuation with celebrity and a lack of discernment that leaves them vulnerable to incorrect and unbiblical teaching. We need to take our cue from the Berean Jews and start carefully checking the word of God. That is what I did when I got home from church last Saturday night.

Now the Bereans were more noble-minded than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if these teachings were true. -Acts 17:11

In context, it was the teaching of Silas and the Apostle Paul that they were checking against scripture, and they were commended for it. 

In his sermon, Dr. Cloud, whose degree is in Psychology, not Theology, told 7 lengthy stories and used 10 shorter illustrations, none of which came from Scripture. I've never kept statistics like that during a sermon before, but for some reason, that night I did. I'm sure his speech coach would be very proud, as this is precisely what celebrity speakers are trained to do. He inserted only 2 Bible verses into his slick presentation and when I looked them up I discovered that he had manufactured a false context for one of them to tailor it to his cleverly written script. He superimposed only a few passing references to God into what was an otherwise godless, secular speech. One of these allusions was to a made up passage of Scripture from Ephesians 4 that does not exist, claiming that God only heals us in groups. Ironically, when I read it, I found out that very chapter actually warns us against false teaching. It is so obvious, I must confess that I actually wondered whether he might have put the false reference in there on purpose just to see if anyone would bother to look it up and call him out on it, to see if he could get away with it. Only God knows. I can only report what I found: 

"We are no longer to be like children, tossed around by the waves and blown all over by every wind of teaching, by the trickery of men with cunning in deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all ways into Messiah, who is the Head"  

While it is true that God works through people, it was wildly inappropriate, and possibly even heretical to claim that God is "incapable," that "God cannot heal you in isolation," that "God only heals in groups" or to place other limitations on God that push people toward psychological counseling, or impress upon them a need to buy the speakers book. God chooses to work through people and often does so to foster relationships, but when Elijah fled from Jezebel, He helped him when he was all alone, When Daniel fasted for 3 weeks, God healed him all alone, He met with Moses alone at the burning bush. He dealt with Jonah's selfish heart in complete isolation. He redeemed Paul one on one on the road, though he left his eyes unhealed so that Paul would immediately be accepted in relationship as he received ministry from other believers--but that was for physical healing. God, Himself, healed all the heart stuff. Can the Holy Spirit work through other believers to bring healing to our hearts and minds? Absolutely. Is He incapable of doing so without human help? No. It is true that God works powerfully through His church full of born-again believers, who are filled with the Holy Spirit. But the starting point is salvation through Jesus Christ. His Spirit is the glue that holds us together, unites us and allows us to help each other. It's all about Him. There is no healing of hearts without Jesus. We can grow together, but the work of salvation--which is the healing, renewing and restoring of our souls, that belongs to Christ alone. We can preach the gospel and guide others to it, but ultimately it is a one on one decision. 

It seems very arrogant and disrespectful of God's word to me, that in a sermon series on Prayer, this man did not speak about prayer at all, except for his made up reference to "remember the time" Paul was struggling and praying for help and God sent Titus. God did send Titus to encourage Paul, but the Bible does not record the rest of what Dr. Cloud said. Worse, he even said that spiritual disciplines such as prayer, bible reading and attending church or a bible study were good but that they empty us out. On the contrary, the Bible teaches that spiritual disciplines are ways that God fills us up and helps us grow. He recommended therapy to fill us up, indicating that spiritual disciplines are incapable or insufficient to accomplish this. Let that marinate for a second. I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. The astonishing hubris this man displayed by promoting psychology over Scripture is unacceptable. You can reference my blog post "Living Water," to read about how God pours into us through spiritual disciplines: http://thetrustworthyword.blogspot.com/2016/03/living-water.html

I listened hopefully, on the edge of my seat, as he began speaking at length about the human heart and our need for healing. Sadly, instead of preaching the good news of salvation through Jesus, who comes into our hearts to renew, restore and heal, he promoted psychology through therapy, counseling and support groups. It was like the whole sermon built up to the solution to our problems being to receive Jesus into our hearts and then at the last minute, he pulled Jesus away and presented Psychology as the hero of the story. 

Now, there is nothing wrong with receiving wise counsel and help, we should do that. Praise God for Christians who give wise counsel. But it is wrong to idolize those things while trivializing Jesus' completed work on the cross and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He promotes the secular, needy, dependant-on-therapy dynamic that is the hallmark of secular psychological practice, designed for the purpose of keeping people writing checks and coming back for more.

Mr. Cloud works as an author and a Life-Coach to Hollywood celebrities and to Fortune 500 Executives. His entire presentation last weekend came from HIS book, "The Power of the Other," instead of from the Bible. Based on his presentation, I feel this book is founded more in secular humanism, than anchored in a Biblical worldview. 

I'm tired of hearing sermons from a guest speaker's newest book instead of the Bible. To me, it feels like some churches are pimping out their pulpits to popular pastors, prominent psychologists and prosperity preachers who seem more interested in promoting their publications, padding their pocketbooks and publicizing their brand names, than in Jesus name (a name which, according to my recollection, failed to receive even a single mention in last weekend's pontification). As the people of God we must be more perspicacious (discerning) about the teachings we accept and allow to permeate the church. 

Dr. Cloud's teaching about the power of the other flips the Biblical point of view upside down by focusing on what others can do for us, instead of focusing on what we can do for others. Here is a great link to a list of verses on one-anothering: http://overviewbible.com/one-another-infographic/ 

The fatal flaw of secular psychology is that it is entirely inward-focused. It's all about self. If Satan can keep us focused on our own selves, on our own problems, circumstances and trials, then he handicaps us from spreading the good news of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus heals our hearts and minds, completely forgives us and puts us in a right standing with the Father so that we can focus on helping others. The key is to put others first, to die to self and live a life of one-anothering. God can heal and help us in many different ways. One of the fastest ways to receive healing in your own life is to focus on helping others. 
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Addendum: Please don't misunderstand this as a wholesale attack on Psychology and certainly not as a commentary on Christian counseling. I took 6 Psychology courses as an undergraduate and then completed 9 credit hours of Seminary graduate studies in which we carefully weighed and measured various Psychological theories against what the Bible says. I found Child Development and Adolescent Psychology to be very helpful in being patient and understanding with students. In Classroom Management, a class based entirely upon Psychological theories, we studied Maslow's hierarchy of needs and Kohlberg's levels of moral reasoning and others. There were appropriate outbursts of indignation at the comparison of the teaching of children to the training of Pavlov's dogs. In Seminary, in Theology and Philosophy for Christian Education, we took a careful look at 30 educational theories to see how they hold up when scrutinized by God's word, and none of them measured up. Biblical Anthropology and Pedagogy took a detailed survey of human growth and development from a Scriptural point of view and presentations were given analyzing the Biblical fidelity/infidelity of the work of 4 prominent behavioral theorists. Principles of Biblical Counseling, which is the counseling training course for pastors, challenged secular ways of thinking, confronted us with the truth of Scripture and fostered a Biblical worldview. Sometimes secular Psychology stumbles upon a principle that lines up with Scripture, but sometimes it does not. One of the pioneers in the field, Carl Junge, stated that Psychology was becoming a religion for people who could accept no other and that people were coming to them seeking help that only a priest could give. The Bible trumps Psychology and must be the standard by which all other teaching is judged. 




Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Ministry of Discernment


From the moment I picked up a trombone, back in 1985, I have been taught to listen critically and to think analytically. As an Educator, I've sat through many professional development sessions about teaching students to use higher order thinking skills such as critical thinking and analysis, though we already do this every day in Band. It is sad that in some Christian circles, people who think this way are viewed as "Troublemakers," accused of being "Divisive" or "Unsubmitted," or even said to have a "Critical Spirit." The Bible refers to such people as DISCERNING. "Cheneniah, Chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing. He was to direct the music because he was skillful." (1 Chronicles 15:22) This word skillful is the word biyn in Hebrew. It means to be discerning, insightful and prudent, to have understanding, to be attentive, to diligently consider matters and to be able to teach. We teach students this skill through music so that they can apply it to every aspect of their lives. This ability is highly prized in the field of education. It is however, a skill that can be misused and even futile without the Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding that comes from God.... 

If speaking in tongues is the most controversial spiritual gift, then I believe discernment is the most neglected and misunderstood. From watchbloggers who confuse discernment with cynicism and harsh criticism, to those who have been hurt by the church and post from a position of bitterness and broken trust, to pastors who dismiss this vital gift, we can discern that this in an important issue which needs to be addressed. I believe discernment is an essential ministry which is worth a few minutes of our time. Proverbs 4:7 tells us:

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. 

 These words, wisdom and understanding appear together repeatedly in Scripture. Wisdom and understanding work hand in hand. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, or macaroni and cheese. The Hebrew words for understanding are biyn or biynah which means to be discerning, to carefully consider matters, to be diligent and to gain knowledge. The term that keeps coming up as a synonym for understanding is DiscerningI would define discernment as the skillful and diligent application of wisdom. This is the very thing Solomon asked God for: 

So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? Now it pleased the Lord that Solomon had requested this. So God said to him, "Because you have requested this and did not ask for long life or riches for yourself, or the death of your enemies, but you asked discernment for yourself to understand justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart (mind ESV), so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.
1 Kings 3:9-12


Solomon asked God for this gift and it was very pleasing to the Lord. He knew that God was the source of wisdom and discernment.


"Who has put wisdom in the innermost being or given understanding to the mind? -Job 38:36 

Solomon knew that God had given this gift before:

You are to instruct all the skilled craftsmen, whom I have filled with a spirit of wisdom...I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, Exodus 28:3,31:3

The Spirit of knowledge and understanding, or discernment, is the Holy Spirit:

But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding. Job 32:8

The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him-- a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. Isaiah 11:2

It is through God's Spirit that He gives us discernment and He desires for us to have this.

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Psalm 51:6

Paul prayed for us to have this gift:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  Ephesians 1:17

Wisdom from the Holy Spirit is a gift for all believers, so how do we apply this gift? What are its uses? 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 gives insight into these questions:

To one is given a message of wisdom through the Spirit, to another, a message of knowledge by the same Spirit, to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit, To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits...

God gives us wisdom and knowledge through His Spirit. He also helps us to determine whether a teaching, interpretation or a prophetic word comes from the Holy Spirit or whether it comes from some other source. So what is the right way to use this gift? We need to be diligent to apply wisdom. We should test every book, sermon, prophetic word, song, teaching and teacher against the word of God. As important as it is to be discerning and watch out for false or incorrect teaching, it is perhaps even more important to watch out for wonderful teaching. We should be equally diligent to follow the instruction of Philippians 4:8 to look for things that are true, pure, lovely, noble, right, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise and to highlight those things that are of GOOD report. Because, bitterness, envy, anger and unforgiveness can taint our perspectives, I often observe a waiting period before posting on an issue where I am deeply emotionally invested. Even just a few days can help, when we take the time to search the Scriptures, and then pray and consider God's purposes, placing His desires above our own. If we put aside our personal agenda and place God's will, the Gospel and the proper teaching of His word first, we can think more clearly and be good stewards of the gift of discernment.