Tag Archives: discipleship

Ex. 18; Luke 21; Job 36; 2 Cor. 6

Job’s friend wants to paint a rosy picture for God followers–if you aren’t prosperous and your life isn’t pleasant, you must be doing it wrong. But today’s readings all point out that following God is no cake walk. Moses had a long, hard journey leading people out of slavery. Job, who was titled as God fearing and blameless, experienced heartache and loss magnified. Paul lists his hardships one after the other. And Jesus tells this,

“But before all this occurs, there will be a time of great persecution. You will be dragged into synagogues and prisons, and you will stand trial before kings and governors because you are my followers. 13 But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me. 14 So don’t worry in advance about how to answer the charges against you, 15 for I will give you the right words and such wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to reply or refute you! 16 Even those closest to you—your parents, brothers, relatives, and friends—will betray you. They will even kill some of you. 17 And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.” Luke 21:12-17 NLT, emphasis mine.

Job’s friend credits himself as knowledgeable. His observations reach for truth, but fall short. And this is something everyone is capable of. Well-meaning friends, however smart and sincere, can mix the truth into false concoctions. Who hasn’t thought their own advice sounded good and true?

I turn to the Bible.

I sit around the table with Moses’ father-in-law, Paul and Jesus. I write down what they say.

  • Lead by example: teach God’s decrees, give His instructions, show (them) how to conduct (their) lives.
  • We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. 6 We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. 10 Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything. 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 NLT, emphasis mine.
  • 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” … 34 “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, 35 like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. 36 Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:28, 34-36 NLT, emphasis mine.

Thank you, God, for words I can trust. I pray for grace and strength “to live in such a way”, “in everything (I) do”, to serve you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 2 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Job, Luke, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament

Ex.11,12:21; Luke 14; Job 29; I Cor. 15

I see death in every chapter. Death in Exodus to those without the mark of blood upon their doorway. Death to self in Luke for those who would be a disciple of Christ. Death in Job of everything he knew, his words a reminiscent and sorrowful, “I thought, surely …” And death itself in 1 Corinthians 15.

But there is also life: life for God’s chosen; life at the feast for the poor, crippled, blind and lame; new life beyond what we know now; and resurrection through Christ.

42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies. 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 NLT.

I think hard on the cost of discipleship, of the things I hold onto, even to the excuses I might give to decline God’s call: am I so busy that I do not attend the banquet he has prepared? This feast woven through chapters: of passover, the parable of the banquet–do I hold onto the comfortable and the dear like Job (even to things past?), or do I reach out and forward to earth and soil–a yes to transformation?

God speaks into my life and says, “Go!” and what is my reply? Am I making excuses? Am I waiting for someone else to do it? Has the salt lost its flavor? Lord, I want to make the days count–to be marked by you and your grace. Help me to work enthusiastically for you.

Paul says: But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 1 Corinthians 15:10 NLT.

Lord, I don’t want my life to be marked by complacency. I don’t want to look back and see your invitation buried underneath a list of excuse. Help me to align my thoughts and my days to your will. (I know you will! I know you are!)

58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Exodus, Job, Luke, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament

Gen. 7; Matthew 7; Ezra 7; Acts 7

Matthew 7v15-20  “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.”

When I read the analogy of the tree bearing good or bad fruit in Matthew 7, it stood out to me as the strand that runs right through all the other passages.  What characterizes Ezra, Noah, and Stephen? Simply put, according to Matthew 7 it is their fruit.  In Genesis 7 Noah is following the Lord’s command to every last detail as he loads the ark.

Genesis 7v5 And Noah did all that the Lord commanded him.

In fact all over the Old Testament that refrain is echoed about various leaders, did they do al that the Lord commanded them or not? Which makes me ask the question of myself, do I do all the Lord commands me? If Jesus were to follow me around for a day, would he say that I bear good fruit, or bad?

Ezra 7:10 Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the law of the Lord, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes and judgments in Israel.

When I look at Ezra I ask myself, am I really dedicated to studying the word? Or sometimes is it just something I do out of some false sense of obligation.  Do I delight in the law of the Lord? Meditate on it day and night as the Psalmist says in Psalm 1?

Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

In Acts 7 Stephen stands up against the Jewish leaders (whom Jesus was referring to as wolves in sheep’s clothing) and calls them out for never listening to the prophets of the Lord.  Stephen is described a chapter before as ‘full of grace and power.’

Would someone ever describe me that way? I doubt it.

Men and women of God in the scriptures and today that I look up to humble me. I aspire to live a life full of God’s grace and power, but am I taking the small daily steps towards God that they did? The tree that bears good fruit grows slowly, am I patient?

Sam (gueston66books)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Ezra, Genesis, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament

Micah 1,2,3; Acts 21:1-17

Prophetic imagery woven through scripture. Words that paint striking pictures, howling barefoot and naked. But nothing halts me like Paul. Several people prophesy about his journey to Jerusalem and warn him not to go.

But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13 NLT.

I recently participated in an online survey about my home church’s health, leadership and my own personal spiritual growth and engagement. I felt like some of my responses were a disappointing, personal failure. But nothing disturbed me as much as the question: Are you willing to give up everything for Jesus? I’m quite sure I hesitated. Not for lack of love, not for lack of conviction, but because I wondered, in real-life trenches, what would I be called to abandon? This question sparked days of deep thought and preoccupation, well after I selected my response.

On a good day, the answer comes easier. But having just walked through several years of pretty bad days, the wounding is still fresh–even if I don’t burst into tears as quickly. When the Lord put into our hearts the goal of a move, I expected a happy journey. What I got was a spiraling trial. The losses were deep, and the lessons life-changing. I had to abandon my expectations and my debilitating need for another’s approval. The Lord challenged me to look at my own heart and motivation. He showed me that He is all I really have (Father, provider, protector, friend), and ultimately the source of my joy (and rest). When friendships and dreams were the casualties of a spiritual battlefield, I finally see a death to self among the corpses.

Paul speaks of literal death, and that’s certainly one possibility of following Jesus. When I thought of that survey question, I think my first thought was of relationships and things–not so much myself and my desires.

What does it mean to give up everything for Jesus? What does it mean to you?

Father, your prompting on my heart was more than a relocation–it was a redirection of my life. It was a painful walk, but in hindsight, Lord, I’m so grateful. Your grace and love sustained me on days I had little strength. In so many ways, you saved me. You make everything new. Thank you.

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Micah, New Testament, Old Testament

Joshua 8, Psalm 139, Jeremiah 2, Matthew 16

 Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God  and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty. Jeremiah 2:19

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23-24

  • Do I deny myself and follow Christ and his purposes or forfeit my soul by embracing the gods of mere human concerns that satiate the senses – shiny red stilettos, mouthwatering chocolate chip cookies, the quest for the approval of men?
  • Do I expect God to rescue me from the consequences and disgrace of seasons of sin?
  • Do I turn the salvation message into pharisaical yeast by using the blood of Christ as a license to sin and feign innocence?
  • Do I really think God doesn’t know exactly what is going on with me?

I weep with shame when I think about how foolishly I have behaved over the last several years. It’s like I have forgotten everything I learned over the last twenty years about who God is. In a quest to regain my lost youth, I have gotten lost in dissipation. None of this, of course has escaped God’s attention. There is no place I can hide from Him. He knows my every thought. I can’t plan anything that he doesn’t know already.

Life really is like the battles that Joshua and the Israelites fought. Without God’s constant direction and support, we will lose every time.

Lord, I am so sorry I attempted to live so schizophrenically, behaving like the world while claiming to be your disciple. Keeping my feet in two places at once is bound to tear me apart. Please forgive me. I am so like a sheep constantly going astray. Restore my life in Christ.

yicareggie

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Filed under Matthew, Psalms

Ex. 29; John 8; Prov. 5; Gal. 4

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”.”  (John 8:31-32 NIV)

We all come to Christ in various states of brokenness carrying with us emotional baggage that has enslaved us most of our lives. We come to Christ and find that He offers forgiveness and eternal life, a perfect life that lasts forever in harmonious fellowship with him and others. One day in the future, we will be set free from all the junk that presently enslaves us.

But if that is all Jesus came to bring us, I have a problem. I want to be free now. I don’t want to carry this baggage the rest of my life. It’s too heavy! It’s hurting me and those I love. How much longer can I survive weighed down by my relationally toxic emotional baggage?

When Jesus introduced his public ministry by saying, ‘I have come to set the captives free..’ He meant much more than eternal life when we die. He meant freedom from slavery now, He intended for us to begin discovering that eternal kind of life… in this present life.

And this is how:

If you hold to my teaching…” Jesus does not expect perfection. He does expect me to “sit at His feet”, to listen, to learn and to apply the things He is teaching me. As I walk with Christ through all of life’s experiences, He expects me to increase in knowledge, understanding and application in every aspect of my life.

“…you are really my disciples.” The essence of discipleship is found in being an eager and willing student. Life does not start and stop like the seasons. Lessons come when we least expect them. I don’t advise taking any semesters off from the Teacher. Turning back and doing life on my own is not only foolish, it’s dangerous and potentially damaging to myself and those I love.

“Then you will know the truth..” The complexity of humankind never ceases to amaze me. Just when I think I have something or someone figured out, another layer of reality seems to get peeled away revealing something previously unseen. I scratch my head and thank God for showing me more… more Truth. Truth I may never have seen on my own.

“…and the truth will set you free.” I’m a spiritual hedonist. I want the pleasures that only peace, joy and freedom can bring. I know He came to set me free, so it’s freedom I want. Why would I settle for anything less? It seems to me that settling for anything less than the fullness of His offer would minimize the price paid to deliver it.

Coming to Jesus with empty hands and open hearts takes humility, something many of his listeners lacked.

Holding to His teaching takes courage.

Discipleship is a lifelong commitment to emotional growth and personal change.

The kind of truth that sets us free, is not learned in books. It’s learned experientially in the classroom of life with Christ as our Teacher.

Jesus is the way, the Truth and the Life, and He came to set all of us Free!

Paul

(This post originally published March 18, 2010.)

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Filed under 66 Books, John, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan

Genesis 8; Matthew 8; Ezra 8; Acts 8

 The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”  He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water.  Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matthew 8: 31-34 NIV)

Wait, what? Jesus goes from place to place, heals a leper, heals the centurion’s servant from afar, heals Peter’s mother-in-law, calms the storm, drives out demons. Then “The whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they…” They what? I expect to see something like “praise him”, or “thank him for all he has done” or “congratulate him on his accomplishment” or “beg him never to leave”… but no! they pleaded with him to leave! Huh??

Earlier in the chapter Jesus prepares us for this. When some people say they want to follow Him he warns them that there’s a cost. The people of Gadarenes lost their livestock, and to them that was more important than the freeing of two men from the violent demons that possessed them. It makes me stop and think of how many times I’ve been just like those people in that town. How often am I too concerned about my own personal welfare or comfort to really absorb and appreciate the awesome power of Jesus around me? When am I more concerned about my pigs then the human beings around me that need freedom from their demons? Do I chase Jesus away because He seems to be causing trouble in my little so-called-paradise? The very Jesus that can heal, calm, and set free from bondage? Sometimes, maybe so….

Help me, Lord, to have the strength and insight to know in my heart that following you is well worth the cost. Don’t let me be blinded to your power and goodness with preoccupation with the things in life that are fleeting and temporary. Give me faith like the centurion!

Sue

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