Monday, August 26
Theme for the week:
Disciples Love by Making
Disciples of Neighbors 

Jesus told His original disciples to make more disciples as they were going out into the world. The power (and authority) behind their going is that of Jesus Himself, to whom all power and authority has been given. Exercising of that power is to ALWAYS be accompanied by love – love of each other as fellow Christians and love for our neighbor, whether Christian or not.

Philemon 1:6

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we share in Christ.
~Apostle Paul 

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Pondering Point

The above translation of Philemon 1:6 comes from the 1984 NIV, and it highlights Philemon in a role of discipling others. Philemon was a church leader, further enhancing the impact of his actions as a follower of Jesus. He was being challenged by Paul to accept a runaway slave as a now-free brother in Christ.

That slave, Onesimus, had run away from Philemon, the man to whom he was indebted. Talk about being challenged to put your faith where your life is!?! What would Philemon do? Eyes are on this disciple of Jesus. But Onesimus returning to Philemon was also a huge exercising of faith and trust. Eyes are on this disciple as well. It seems the Apostle Paul expected both disciples of Jesus to put their faith and love into action.

Every decision we make reflects the influence of our faith in God. Your actions are indicative of either a transformative faith or an inconsequential one. All we do impacts those around us as we live as disciples of Jesus. Are you impacting those around you with faith-in-action or faithless-action?

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Prayer

Father God, I need Your Spirit to help me to express my faith in action as a disciple of Jesus. Help me love my neighbors well as an act of faith, as a faithful act. Amen.

• In Christ, I am a disciple Jesus, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and being taught to obey everything Jesus commanded the original disciples. I rejoice that He is with me always – to the very end of the age.

Tuesday, August 27
God’s Mission

Matthew 28:16-20

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and
teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
~ Jesus

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Pondering Point

Read Matthew 28:16-20. The command here is not so much about “going,” but about “making disciples of all nations” as you go. But one cannot wiggle out from under the “go”.

It “goes” toward intent. What is your aim as you live? When you go about life, what are you trying to accomplish with your time and effort? If you are not going for Jesus, then you are not going to accomplish His task of making disciples.

This situation calls for a spiritual submission to Jesus’ disciple-making command – and a willingness to put it into practice. So let’s get real. As you see it, does Jesus have authority over you? Does He have authority to tell you to “go and make disciples of all nations?”

You don’t have to reach the whole world personally; there are plenty of love-your-neighbor discipleship opportunities right near you.

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Prayer

Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that You have all authority in heaven and on earth – and authority over me. I submit to Your authority and pray that You have Your Holy Spirit teach me how to “go” and “make disciples” of whatever part of the nations I and my church can help You reach. Grant all we need by Your power and Spirit. In Your name I pray. Amen.

How are you reacting to acknowledging Jesus’ authority over your life? How does it feel?
What does it make you think?
Write it down or talk to a friend about it.

Wednesday, August 28
Biblical Teachings on Prayer

1 Corinthians 13:1

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
~ Paul

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Pondering Point

Here’s a lesson: A person may be fluent in multiple languages, even prayerful in multiple languages. Words and communication may be a forte. But if that person does not have love, these awesome communication abilities are equated to meaningless noise – meaningless noise. To put it another way, these awesome communication abilities only find their true purpose when utilized in love.

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Prayer

Father God, teach me how to have love present in all that I do. Help me have love inform what I do and how I do it. Let my God-given gifts and time-developed capacities serve You and my neighbors in love. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

Thursday, August 29
Prayerfully Re-Center Around God

1 Thessalonians 3:11-13

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
~Apostle Paul

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Pondering Point

Today’s prayer includes this week’s thematic blessing from Scripture (found on Sunday). The Apostle Paul knew that any return to visit their fellow disciples in Thessalonica would be up to the Lord. But regardless of their ability to visit face-to-face, Paul lifted up this prayer of blessing for them.

By way of our review, repent and return to prayerfully re-center on God, let’s lift up prayers of blessing to those we love but whom we cannot visit face-to-face.

Review the week

Who enters you mind that you wish you could visit with face-to-face? Individuals, families, groups? Pray for that person, family or group.

Repent (if necessary)

Rather than you repenting, pray that each of the listed individuals has a clear conscience with God, having sought God’s face and repented of sinful attitudes and actions.

Return (as necessary)

“Return” to the words from the Apostle Paul and present those you have listed to the Lord for a blessing:

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A Blessing Prayer

Lord God, I bring to mind _______ and ask that You enable them to be part of Your family where love increases and overflows for one another. May You strengthen their hearts so that they will be blameless and holy in Your presence,  Father God, when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.
In His Name I pray. Amen.

Friday, August  30
Discipleship Point and Prayer

Humility in discipling: First, we need to remind ourselves whose disciples they are. Second, we must disciple from a position of openness. Third, we must show willingness to take input from those we lead.

p. 87,88, Prideful Soul’s Guide to Humility, Fontenot
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Humility Prayer

Lord Jesus, when I practice loving and discipling other people, help me keep in mind that these are Your disciples (or soon-to-be disciples hopefully). May I treat them as such, displaying an open heart, open ears, and willing spirit to learn from them as well as be a blessing to them as Your servant. Amen.

Discipleship Point about Being a Witness

How does the world come to know the love and justice of Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ has entrusted to His followers the message of the Gospel, which contains the power of God unto salvation. The authority to share the good news comes through the Holy Spirit, who makes us witnesses. A witness is one who declares on the basis of personal experience what he or she knows to be true about Christ
~ Discipleship Essentials, Ogden, p. 166
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Discipleship Prayer

Father God, help me to develop my testimony as a witness of the Christian faith – as a witness to the love You have for me (and the whole world!). Give me words to speak of this great love You share through the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Saturday, August 31
Scripture's Story for the Week

John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

When this story takes place, Jesus has yet to commission his disciples to go and make disciples of the nations (Matthew 28:19). But the witnessing had already begun.

The women witnessed about the resurrection to the original "Twelve" at the request of Jesus (they are of course no longer twelve since Judas sadly hanged himself).

Today's story continues the resurrection witnessing, this time from “The Twelve.” Who are they witnessing to? One of their own. Thomas happened to be absent when Jesus appeared behind locked doors the night of his resurrection.

The Twelve find themselves struggling to convince Thomas of the legitimacy of this resurrection. It would be the presence and testimony of Jesus that finally wins Thomas over. May His presence in us do the same.

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Prayer for the Day

Lord Jesus, may Your Holy Spirit help me with my testimony as I go with You and make disciples. May Your presence in me and my testimony of You be winsome to those I encounter. Amen.

Sunday, September 1
Call to Gather, Pray and Worship God

God Bless You

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 

Increased love from God ==> Increased love to each other
Increased love from God ==> Increased love for everyone else

After the call for increased blessings of love, Paul refers to strengthening hearts, as if love for others is tied to remaining blameless. John would seem to agree (see in 1 John 3:11-24).

1 John 3:11-24

More on Love and Hatred
11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

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