Book 3

Introduction

This third book takes up the story in the chapters after the Sermon on the Mount[1] where Jesus, having delivered his vision of the Kingdom. Just goes and does it! One of the real traps of studying discipleship is precisely that – we study it and no more. The challenge of these chapters is to put it into practice. We stated that in the early verses of chapter eight where last week I chose to focus on the people Jesus healed as the marginalised insider, the outsider, and the forgotten. But in a throw away remark on Wednesday of last week, I said ‘By the way he also healed them – and so can he through us!’ And that is the very point I want to make in this book – we can and we do. Discipleship is doing as well as learning – actually, it is more learning by doing. You can know that as Jesus’ disciple you can pray for the sick – but until you do, it is knowledge not discipling. That is until you stop saying ‘I’m sorry you are not well!’ rather than saying ‘Can I pray for you?’

The message of the month is that discipleship is stepping out of your comfort zone – risking misunderstanding, but potentially seeing God act through you. Read and Do!

[1] It continues to be the topic on Sunday evenings – see the readings for Thursday and Friday each week.

Week 9

Monday 14 November

Read Matthew 8:18-22

God has to be the first priority! Some of the requests seem reasonable enough! (though there is no indication that the father has already died but family responsibility is surely important) and some of the demands are a bit much (you would have thought he would have had the accommodation sorted before he recruited his interns). But the point is this – God is not one priority on a list – he is not prepared to be so – he will not share his glory with another – you can have no other gods before him or even beside him. Family responsibilities have their place as well as the need to provide shelter and food for those for whom we are responsible – but they are not on the same list as God with each having to be fitted in. Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness – put God first and all the other things will be sorted in their proper place.

The first action is GOD! Toward him first and all else will be in perspective.


Tuesday 15 November

Read Matthew 8:23-27

To understand this passage, you need to re-read verse 18. He told them they were going over to the other side. They failed to grasp that if Jesus said they were going to the other side, then they were going to the other side no matter what happened on the way there. He was not upset that they were frightened by the storm (it must have been really bad to frighten a bunch of fishermen) but that they did not trust what he said. The second action has to be ‘TRUST!’ It should not surprise us that God means what he says – the promises of scripture are exactly that promises that will be kept.

‘If our love were but more simple, We should take Him at His word; And our lives would all be sunshine, In the sweetness of our Lord.’[1]

Jesus confounds the disciples with a demonstration of his power – trusting another person has its risks, trusting the Lord of all the earth whom even the winds and waves obey ought to be much, much easier. But perhaps we are reluctant since we are out of control.

[1] From the Hymn ‘Souls of men, why will ye scatter’ by Frederick William Faber. The sentiment is correct but, perhaps, this verse gives a false impression of the whole hymn which is well aware of the difficulties that arise in following Jesus. See tomorrow’s reading.

Wednesday 16 November

DISCIPLESHIP FORUM

Tonight at 8pm, there is an opportunity to engage with Derek and others who have contributed to the programme in a discussion and question and answer session about the topics we have discussed over the weeks so far. Tea and coffee will be available in the Hub from 7.45pm. I look forward to the chance to converse together.

Read Matthew 8:28-9:1

The third action is ‘Be ready for trouble!’ Even the hymn quoted yesterday has the danger of mis- selling Christian faith. ‘Come to Jesus and all will be sunshine’ [1] is the caricature – the truth is that if you commit or re-commit yourself into active living discipleship, you can expect the Devil to throw everything he has got at you. After the successful crossing of the lake, the Devil throws a wild demoniac at him – and Jesus deals with it without a flinch. We are more likely to be distracted by the fate of the pigs[2] than to see the real message of the passage – evil is real and opposed to all who would be disciples of Jesus. Put on your armour and get going.

[1] The first time I typed this I found I had typed ‘sinshine’, which is actually much nearer the truth; since, apart from the external opposition we encounter, of which the notes above speak, there is also the sin that we continue to commit and which discourages and debilitates our trust and our action, if we don’t keep close to the God who forgives and restores.
[2] It is difficult to know whether their owners were Jews or not – if they were, why were they keeping pigs? The point however is, that there is a spiritual world of evil opposed to all that is of God. And its purpose is to ‘kill and steal and destroy’ John 10:10

Thursday 17 November

Read Matthew 5:10-12

Fascinating, is it not, that at this point there is an exact correlation between the passage for Sunday morning’s service and these, the last of the Beatitudes. In the upside-down world of the Kingdom, you are blessed if you are being ‘persecuted for righteousness’ sake’. It is a sort of backhanded compliment from the Devil. If you were not being effective for God there would be no opposition, no attack. But there is a need for common sense and discernment. Some problems we encounter – indeed many – are because we have messed up, offended, been stupid and unthinking. These should be our first thoughts when we encounter difficulty. But when there seems no reason, or when the timing is spot on to cause maximum difficulty when you are stepping out for God, it may well be ‘spiritual attack.’

Knowing it for what it is, is the first step. The second is remembering that we ‘do not fight against enemies of flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places’.[1] We need to be careful to use the spiritual weapons of prayer and truth and not make personal attacks on the person or people who may be the (unwitting) agents of the attack.

[1] Ephesians 6:12

Friday 18 November

Read John 15:18-27

This passage from the Upper Room Discourse in some sense seems to say the same as yesterday’s Beatitudes but it goes further. It gives the reason – they hate Jesus, for when he speaks, he convicts them of sin. When God’s power is shown through him, their shallow religiosity is exposed for what it is. The world does not like to be shown in its true colours – and the presence of the Spirit of Christ does just that.

Mother Teresa did not have to speak to expose the false value that the world puts on one human life over another. Our task is so to welcome the indwelling of the Spirit that is given to us that our lives, not just our words, testify to the presence, the love and the power of Jesus at work in us and through us. Like St Francis, we should show Christ at all times, and if absolutely necessary, use words.

And then watch out! The world does not like being exposed and the presence of Christ in his people does just that.


Saturday 19 November

A day for rest and reflection or catching up on reading missed earlier in the week. You may want to reflect on these questions along with the weekly reading:

  1. What promises has Christ given me that I am not taking seriously?
  2. What are the fears that keep me from full faith?
  3. Am I aware of Spiritual Warfare? How have I seen it and been affected by it?
  4. What form does persecution take in 21st century UK?
  5. Do our lives ‘testify’ to the presence of Christ by his Spirit? And as such do they expose the true agendas of the world by their existence rather than their words?

For Children:

Talk about the people that upset them – the people that cause them difficulty.

Are they or anyone else at school bullied? Why do they think people do these things? How should they react? What do they do when they are upset?

Do they answer back in the same way or is there a different way? What would it look like?

Talk of the way Jesus acted and reacted. Pray with them about the things you have discussed.


Sunday 20 November

11.00am Praise and Worship Service – Rev Corrina Heron (Dunmurry)
Matthew 8:18-34
Believing when you don’t understand!

7.00pm Evening service- Julie Greenlee 
Matthew 5:10-12
Who are you trying to impress anyway?

Continue to Week 10