Reflections for the Week of Sunday August 7, 2016 Twelfth after Pentecost

Gospel: Luke 12.32-40. In these verses Jesus gives His disciples some basic instructions about the importance of spiritual things compared to money and to be ready at all times for the coming of the Lord. He has been carefully training them for three years to become mature followers  of Him so that they can continue His role of teaching and exemplifying the gospel when He is gone. This is what church, the body of Christ, was created to do for its members, and the best means of doing it is to have small groups of men and women meeting weekly as disciples to grow in their lives as Christians. Such meetings go beyond mere Bible studies. Most of us in these times have grown up failing to learn about the basics of Christian living and maybe even the basics of becoming mature adults in our relationships. Regular weekly small groups can help us grow into knowledgeable Christians and mature adults who can share their lives in community.

A Greek word for community is koinonia and it also means ‘interaction’. Dr Henry Cloud has written a book entitled Changes That Heal that is about the importance of relationship and the barriers that exist to our real relationships with God, others, and ourselves.This is what our small groups should be about because relationship is the essence of Christian living. God sent His Son to restore our relationship with God, with others and ourselves. In order to learn how to live the Christian life, to put Biblical principles into practice, we need a small group of Christians of the same gender committed to mutual growth. We need to be open to the leading of the Spirit, recognizing our need for God, willing to be honest, transparent, and supportive, while being willing to give and take constructive suggestions about life issues. We should be open to applying Biblical principals to our lives and willing to listen to the experiences and opinions of others. A basic truth about human beings is that we were made for relationship and these small groups can afford opportunities for growth in relationship. Another truth is that we are all born selfish which impairs relationships. A discipleship group should be a place of safety and support where everyone is committed to growth in empathy, accountability, affirmation, and speaking the truth to one another in love in order to grow up in all things into Him who is the Head–Christ (Eph 4.15). The underlying principle is that progress in our spiritual walk requires community. “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov 27.17). People need to have a place safe enough to confess their faults, mistakes, and short comings to one another where there is confidentially and a spirit of love, acceptance, and encouragement. Real spiritual community means that there will be conflict. When relations are superficial, people will be congenial, cooperative, un-engaged, and agreeable. When intimacy and honesty develop, there will be disagreements as in marriage. Resolving these is a basic lesson in community. It is not easy, but it is worth it. The Holy Spirit has promised to be present if invited, and it is the Spirit of Jesus Himself who will be the Discipler. When we realize that life is too much for us to handle alone, we are broken.To be broken means to see others with compassion, as brothers growing in Christ, who need help as we do. If we are not yet broken, we will look down on others, see their failings rather than their potential, criticize them rather than love them. People need to come to this realization to be in true spiritual community. Our empty hearts will be filled; our hard hearts will be softened; our closed hearts will be opened. God’s plan of our lives will be fulfilled.

Memory Verse: Greater love has no man than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15.13).

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