ABC Study Series - Discernment
A man was walking down the street when he spied in the front of a shop a weight and fortune telling machine. The sign on the machine read: “Your weight and fortune told for only $5.00.” The man stopped and decided to put his money in the slot. In an instant, a slip of paper was spat out of the machine. The paper read, “Because you have such great abilities and talents, you will go far and will always be successful at everything you do.”
The man was thrilled with the news and he shared it with his wife. She listened without comment and then asked if she could see the piece of paper. She read it and handing it back she said, “Just as I thought. It got your weight wrong, too!”
There is a great interest in knowing the future and many will spend a fortune to get an answer about what they should do in a particular situation.
This book is not of the ‘penny in the slot’ variety but it is a guide book as you take responsibility and grapple with the hard questions. Instead of being a quick fix manual, this book recommends that readers, especially those at life’s crossroads, take forty days to engage in a journey of discernment.
Forty Days of Discernment
There is nothing magical about forty days but in the Bible the number ‘forty’ suggests a significant period. Jesus spent forty days in a desert before commencing his public ministry (Matthew 4: 2-11). It may not be possible or advisable for you to take forty days out of your schedule to be full time on the work of discernment but it would be good to think of how you might carve out a special forty days so that within this period you invest considerable time in walking this journey. As Jesus gave up eating and drinking to devote himself to this task, what might you give up to clear the decks and the diary for action?
Grand Final Faith
Personal and Small Group Study Notes
These notes are intended for personal study and small group discussion. They accompany the sermon preached by Geoff Pound at ABC on 2 October 2016 entitled, ‘Grand Final Faith’.
Scripture Reading: Luke 17:5-10
(N.B. The sermon and study relate only to the first two verses of this reading).
17:5 The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
17:6 The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.
17:7 "Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, 'Come here at once and take your place at the table'?
17:8 Would you not rather say to him, 'Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink'?
17:9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?
17:10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, 'We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!'"
Questions for Personal Study and Group Discussion
1. Share a situation recently where you felt like crying out to Jesus using the words of the disciples: “Increase our faith!” (17:5)
2. How do you describe and interpret the tone of Jesus’ response? (17:6)
3. What is Jesus saying about the type of faith we are to express? (17:6)
4. Someone asks you, “What does it mean to have faith or to exercise faith?” And your reply?
5. If you don’t want faith ‘to uproot a mulberry tree and plant it in the sea’ (17:6), what do you want faith for?
6. If our faith is like a muscle, how does your faith rate at the moment on the Firm—Flabby scale and on the Supple—Stiff scale?
7. Where are you currently being challenged to exercise the ‘muscle’ of your faith?
8. How can we collectively help to foster and support faith in one another?
ABC as a Growing Theological Community
On 16 October at 11.30am (after worship) we are holding a discussion for all interested in the growth of the Ashburton Baptist Church and WellSpring as a theological community. The Dean of Whitley, Rev. Dr Gary Heard, will be in attendance.
By way of preparation, we are encouraging people to read the chapter (below) by Rev. Dr Frank Rees in the new book published in honour of Rev. Dr Ken Manley, entitled Baptist Identity into the 21st Century (get your copy via this link).
We are grateful to the book’s editor, Frank Rees, for allowing us to post his chapter, below. The first few pages may not make complete sense if you haven’t read the essay in the book by Paul Fiddes, ‘Baptists and Theological Education’, about which Frank gives a response. The chapter has special reference to Whitley College and serves as a tribute to the contribution of Ken Manley. Stick with it as Frank Rees goes on to paint a colourful and promising vision for the role of the local church in theological education.
Some questions are listed at the end of the chapter to stimulate our thinking and serve as a focus and flexible guide for our discussion.
Why has no-one ever told me about this?
I will never forget the moment: it was a class in Systematic Theology and the class discussion was both lively and challenging. A vision of the life of the church as a local community participating in God’s presence and purposes in the world was being discussed. One student was visibly excited. She stood in her place and said: “I’m 47 years old. I’ve been around churches all my life. Why has no-one ever told me about this?” Her question has not only guided my own work as a theological educator but shapes my response to Paul Fiddes’ superb essay, ‘Baptists and Theological Education: A vision for the twenty-first century’. Why indeed are the ‘goodies’ of theological education so often unknown to people in the local churches?
ABC Study Series: ‘People of the Way’
Even before the followers of Jesus were called ‘Christians’, they were known as people of ‘the Way’ (Acts 9:2, 19:9; 19:23; 24:14; 24:22).
In Luke’s Gospel, the Way is also a dominant theme. Jesus is introduced with the call to ‘prepare the way of the Lord’ (Luke 3: 4-6). He is usually seen on the road, connecting with people on the way and ministering to them as he makes his way to the cross.
The followers of Jesus are called to be ‘People of the Way’, motivated by God’s Spirit and experiencing Christ working through them as they encounter others.
Notes for Personal and Group Study
In the next few weeks our sermon series at ABC will focus around the stories and the teachings in Luke’s Gospel. Study notes will be posted on the ABC website for individuals and small groups that wish to delve deeper and discover more resources for being ‘People of the Way’.
Geoff Pound, July 2016