Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Goal is Not Control, But Empowerment

"Has the community served to make individuals free, strong, and mature, or has it made them insecure and dependent? Has it taken them by the hand for a while so that they would learn again to walk by themselves, or has it made them anxious and unsure? This is one of the toughest and most serious questions that can be put to any form of everyday Christian life in community." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

I just read Bonhoeffer's book Life Together as a Church History assignment last week, and I love how this quote coincides with my own personal Scripture study. I'm working through Colossians right now, taking notes in my journal. This isn't a formal study of a passage, as I would do for my seminary classes. It's more of the Read + Reflect + Respond approach that I've used for about 40 years. I sometimes cover only a very short section each day. 

Today I pondered Colossians 2:2-3.

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

This is the apostle Paul describing his strenuous and sacrificial labors as a single man traveling in the ancient world, preaching the gospel, establishing churches, and writing letters of instruction and encouragement that we still read today. 

Here is what struck me as I sought to make application to my own life and ministry as a home school mom, grandma, seminary student, crisis hotline worker, friend, and social media user. What is the best way to help people grow in life? How will they be affected by my influence? How have I been affected by the influence of others on my spiritual life?

Many of the people in my own circle, both those I've met personally and my connections on social media, have experienced a significant amount of spiritual / emotional / physical abuse in the context of the church / family / organization. They are understandably wary of any kind of God-talk because religion has been used to control and coerce them. But that is not what God has in mind!

Read the verses again with me as I offer a little informal commentary along the way...

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart...

  • Goal: purpose, motivation, desired result
  • Encouraged: filled up, nourished, flourishing, refreshed, motivated, empowered, strengthened
  • Heart: inner being, spiritual center, core of who they are as an individual

Two questions: Is this your goal as you influence others? Is this the goal of those who are influencing you? An abuser or dysfunctional dominant leader may claim they want to lead others in the righteous ways of God, but what is the fruit? Are those in their "care" being filled up or drained out, nourished or famished, flourishing or withering, refreshed or parched, liberated or enslaved, healed or wounded, motivated or demoralized, empowered or hindered, strengthened or weakened?

...and united in love...

I see "united in love" as a healthy and healing bond. There is mutual strength, a synergy (working better together than apart) that enables greater fruitfulness. This is not a suffocating or constricting relationship. Some people think that an abusive relationship is disconnected, and in one sense it is because there is no sense of mutual partnership. However, there is a toxic bondage that throws others aside like trash but won't let them leave. Things may improve for a while, just enough to give hope that things will change. But then it escalates again, over and over. That's called the cycle of abuse, and it's why people stay instead of escaping! It's a "unity of control" but only unity in the sense that there is one person setting the agenda. That's not even true unity. It is just unilateral. 

But Colossians 2:2-3 offers a powerful contrast: wholesome bonding, being truly united in LOVE. Don't accept a counterfeit to that. that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden the treasures of wisdom and understanding.

So being encouraged in heart and united in love is a means to further goal, which is knowing and experiencing the abundance of a spiritual life in Jesus Christ. This is a growth and enlightenment process that starts in the heart, that core of who you are. It's walking with Jesus through grace and faith, leaning into who he is and what he wants. It's not a system of pointless rules, or of conforming to the selfish expectations of others. It's an authentic transformation. An abuser communicates, "All you need to know is what I tell you." Abusers want to control the narrative. If others are under their "leadership" they don't want them to explore the Bible for themselves, seek out more education that might contradict what they are being told, have their own opinions, know enough to contradict them or hold them accountable, or be emotionally strong enough to challenge or leave them. They paralyze others through confusion, deceit, accusations, threats, trauma bonding, and religious manipulation. They communicate either overtly (in direct words) or covertly (by implication): "You are being rebellious. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft. I am your God-given leader. God wants you to obey me. You will never succeed unless you listen to me. God will punish you. I just want what's best for you. You are sowing discord. You are just bitter. You never want to be accountable to anyone. You are usurping my authority. You are out of line. Why don't you just let me lead? Look at me! I'm the important one here!" 

To a lesser extent, this dynamic of control can also occur inadvertently with leaders who aren't even trying to be selfish. They may think that  demanding compliance to their commands is what they are supposed to be doing as bold leaders, but this still leads to disillusioned, disempowered followers. I have often found myself slipping into this dynamic as a mother, usually as an overflow of the emotions of fear and shame. ("If I don't make them obey, I'll be a failure as a mother.")

I encourage you to evaluate your own family, friendships, churches, organizations and other your spiritually-based relationships, no matter which role you play. Does this relationship or community display the riches of God? Is this true wisdom that leads to abundant spiritual understanding? Are we growing together in our core relationships with Jesus and one another? Are we seeing Jesus as both the source and goal? Is this a treasure or a theft?

My goal is to be spiritually empowered so that I can empower others. I don't want to control or be controlled. I want to have a full life in Jesus Christ and inspire others to do the same. How about you?

Grace and peace,

P.S. Lots of links to extend these thoughts!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

All the Way My Savior Leads Me (Strength in Hymn)

"All the Way My Savior Leads Me"
Fanny Crosby

All the way my Savior leads me,
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my Guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living Bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the Rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Savior leads me,
Oh, the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.

About This Hymn:

This hymn was written by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), who became blind when she was six weeks old due to a doctor's error. She wrote this hymn as a response of a curious incident of God’s providence. You can read more here: Fanny Crosby and the Story Behind the Song “All the Way My Savior Leads Me”. Fanny wrote several thousand hymns, many under pseudonyms. I remember reading her biography many years ago. She didn’t have an easy life. You can read more about her here:

Why I Chose This Hymn:

I had been musing lately on how God has led me through the nearly 43 years I have been a Christian believer. I have so many stories tucked away in my memory of odd little circumstances which set into motion long reaching ripple effects leading to huge changes in my direction. (More on that later.) So I muse and I’m amused.

Anyway, the title to this hymn came to mind during my ponderings, which is unusual since I didn’t even recognize the lyrics nor the melody when I looked it up on YouTube. (The video is at the bottom of this post.)

Reading the words “Jesus doeth all things well” at the end of the first stanza reminds me of the famous words, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well” written by Julian of Norwich in her book Revelations of Divine Love. Julian was a medieval anchoress, a woman who chose to withdraw from public life to consecrate herself to a solitary life of prayer and devotion. She literally lived in a cell attached to a church, St. Julian’s, from which she took her name. I’m not planning to follow her footsteps in that, I assure you. However, I am preparing for some sort of ministry, the form of which I do not yet know. To that end, I am currently a student at Asbury Theological Seminary’s Orlando campus, and last semester I wrote a Primary Source Analysis (PSA) paper on Julian’s work for my Church History 1 class. You can read it here: Revelations of Divine Love.

The story of how I ended up at seminary is one example of God’s curious way of leading me. It involved:

  • a lifelong desire to be educated for ministry
  • a conversation with my mother about grad school several years ago before she passed away
  • a journal entry specifically mentioning Asbury Seminary even though I could not attend then
  • assorted family crises
  • ministry among other women in crisis
  • a lot of blogging about church abuse issues
  • the resulting FB friendship with a woman who blogs about the same topics on the opposite side of the country
  • that new friend’s Facebook post about the Christians for Biblical Equality conference she was attending in my city
  • a mutual FB friend (whom I had also not yet met in person) offering a scholarship so I could attend that conference
  • meeting several Methodist women at the CBE conference
  • my grandson’s rescheduled birthday party (the Sunday-morning-several-weeks-late timing of which caused me to visit a Methodist church’s early service since it was my late mother’s birthday and she had been born into a Methodist family and I had admired the Methodist women I had met at the CBE conference)
  • running into an old friend at that Methodist church (whom I had met when we worked for the same school years ago)
  • attending her Lectio Divina Bible study, and hearing her talk about her Inductive Bible Study class at seminary (a conversation which made me drool)
  • my 2018 "one word" Focus
  • and several key shifts in my own family circumstances.

And that’s just a tiny sample of the story. There is much more to it, but I don’t want to write a book here.  And all the way my Savior leads me. That much I know, even though I don’t always know what’s next on the agenda. Life is quite an adventure. I can trust God to be with me every step of the way. And then I look back and laugh.

Related links? Sure thing!

The Photos in this Post: 

The photos in this post are from my visit to the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in Washington, D.C. last fall. I had wanted to go back to the National Cathedral the last time I visited family in Maryland. (See my poem God of Joy, I See Thee for photos of my first visit in 2017.) My nephew Doug also loves the cathedral and offered to take me. When we were driving home, I found out he had plotted a surprise detour to see the monastery too. He knew I would enjoy it, and I certainly did! I love this kind of adventure. You can see more about that here: My Birthday Weekend in Maryland

Oh, all that for one hymn post! You never know what you're going to get when you read my blogs!


Revelations of Divine Love by Julian of Norwich (Primary Source Analysis for Asbury Seminary)

Revelations of Divine Love

by Julian of Norwich 

This is one of my Church History assignments from last semester at Asbury Theological Seminary. For a Primary Source Analysis (PSA), a student must read the historical document, and then follow a series of writing prompts. Last semester, we had several options to choose as subjects for our two PSA projects, and I chose Athanasius's work On the Incarnation for my first, and Julian's Revelations of Divine Love for my second. This semester, for Church History 2, I am likely to choose Women’s Speaking Justified (1666) by Margaret Fell and Enquiry into the Obligation of Christians (1792) by William Carey.

Primary Source Analysis:
Revelations of Divine Love 
by Julian of Norwich 


Revelations of Divine Love is Julian of Norwich’s expression of a series of 16 visions she received while she was deathly ill for several days at the age of 30. In the introduction, she explains her purpose in writing and the circumstances of her infirmity and complete healing, then briefly recaps the theological themes of each of her visions. These are mostly related to the Passion of Christ, the great love of God, and the spiritual bliss and peace experienced when believers are “grounded” and “oned” with God.

Julian first wrote a short version of her Revelations, but expanded it with additional meditations about 20 years later. There are no extant manuscripts for the earlier version, and the only complete ones for the later one date from the 17th century. Her longer book has 85 chapters, which are not evenly split between the 16 visions, as some were much more descriptive than others. The complete form of Revelations of Divine Love is considered one of the great Christian classics, and was the first female-authored English-language book still in print.

Historical/Theological Context

Julian of Norwich, born in 1342 in England, was a medieval anchoress, a woman who chose to withdraw from public life to consecrate herself to a solitary life of prayer and devotion. We don’t know her actual name, but St. Julian is name of the church where she lived as a recluse for most of her life. She was also known as Juliana. According to The Book of Margery Kempe, Julian was sought out as a spiritual counselor by those who visited her in her cell. Very little is known of Julian apart from what she has written in this book.

Julian was not the only female medieval mystic in Europe. Hildegard von Bingen of Germany, who preceded her by over a century, and Catherine of Siena, Italy, who lived at about the same time as Julian, also recorded extensive divine visions which have survived to modern times.

In English theology, Julian was a contemporary of reformer John Wycliffe. It is notable that he did not begin his English translation efforts until 1380, which would have been after Julian’s visions. Thus, she would not have had access to English Scripture, and would have had to have either known Latin or relied on the teachings of other clerics for her knowledge of the Bible.

Author’s Intention

Julian’s intention for recording her Shewings (as she called them) was to share her experience so that others could better understand divine love and thus draw closer to God in intimate communion. It does not appear that she had any interest in promoting herself by writing; her humility prevented her from overshadowing the glorious visions which magnified the God she loved so much. She refers to herself merely as “a simple creature unlettered.” She aimed to promote reverence and hope, as well as wholehearted devotion.

Central Themes

The passion of Christ: Julian vividly described her impressions of Jesus during the days surrounding his crucifixion, with special attention paid to physiological aspects such as sweating blood, shedding blood, becoming dehydrated, his skin changing color, and his side being riven open. This seems similar to the fascination that the Moravians later had with the physical wounds of Christ.
Of the brownness and blackness, the ruefulness and wastedness of this Image many marvel how it might be, since that He portrayed it with His blessed Face who is the fairness of heaven, flower of earth, and the fruit of the Maiden's womb. Then how might this Image be so darkening in colour and so far from fair?--I desire to tell like as I have understood by the grace of God.
Being “grounded” and “oned” with God: This concept is repeated throughout the book. “Grounded” refers to God being our foundation and source, while “oned” is being united in intimate communion with God.
For our Soul is so deep-grounded in God, and so endlessly treasured, that we may not come to the knowing thereof till we have first knowing of God, which is the Maker, to whom it is oned.
Spiritual bliss: The theme of bliss appears throughout the book. Julian assures her readers that this is what God wants for us, rather than living in shame or despair.
GLAD and joyous and sweet is the Blissful lovely Cheer of our Lord to our souls. For He [be]holdeth us ever, living in love-longing: and He willeth that our soul be in glad cheer to Him, to give Him His meed. And thus, I hope, with His grace He hath [drawn], and more shall draw, the Outer Cheer to the Inner Cheer, and make us all one with Him, and each of us with other, in true lasting joy that is Jesus.
Peace and Hope: Julian was confident that God would bring good out of every situation in life, because he is good, wise, and able. The last passage listed below contains the words for which Julian is most known, here italicized.
Thus saw I that God is our very Peace, and He is our sure Keeper when we are ourselves in unpeace, and He continually worketh to bring us into endless peace.
Behold and see! For by the same Might, Wisdom, and Goodness that I have done all this, by the same Might, Wisdom, and Goodness I shall make well all that is not well; and thou shalt see it.
And for the tender love that our good Lord hath to all that shall be saved, He comforteth readily and sweetly, signifying thus: It is sooth that sin is cause of all this pain; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner [of] thing shall be well.
On questioning about this, Julian is told that if God can bring about salvation after the sin of Adam, the worst that has ever happened, he can make all other things well, too.

The Motherhood of Both the Virgin Mary and Jesus: The entire Eleventh revelation is about Jesus showing his mother to Julian three times. She is also mentioned often in the other revelations. But then she also characterizes Jesus as a heavenly Mother in her extended comments after the first fourteen Revelations.
And in this sweet word [it was] as if He had said: I wot well that thou wouldst see my blessed Mother: for, after myself, she is the highest joy that I might shew thee, and most pleasance and worship to me; and most she is desired to be seen of my blessed creatures.
The Mother may lay the child tenderly to her breast, but our tender Mother, Jesus, He may homely lead us into His blessed breast, by His sweet open side, and shew therein part of the Godhead and the joys of Heaven, with spiritual sureness of endless bliss.
The all-encompassing love of God: As indicated by the books title, Divine Love is the main theme of the Revelations, and accordingly it appears throughout the book. It is fitting then, that Julian ends her final Revelation with these words:
And I saw full surely that ere God made us He loved us; which love was never slacked, nor ever shall be. And in this love He hath done all His works; and in this love He hath made all things profitable to us; and in this love our life is everlasting. In our making we had beginning; but the love wherein He made us was in Him from without beginning: in which love we have our beginning. And all this shall we see in God, without end.
Positive and Negative Features

I admire both Julian’s perception and her devotion to God, which are quite challenging to me in much different circumstances. I am most charmed by her tender (and often archaic) vocabulary, such as dearworthy, full lovely, mirth, bliss, weal, solace, love-longing, courteously, All-Wisdom, and Benedicite Domine. I love the metaphors and analogies she uses, such as being wrapped in God like clothing, or that “All-Thing” (everything) created is as insignificant as a hazelnut yet still deeply loved by its Creator. Her writing is both detailed and imaginative, which might have been enhanced as a result of her expansion of the manuscript in later years.

The main negative aspect I perceived is that her understanding of the doctrine of atonement seems to not align with the more classical views that I hold. Even her viewpoint on this resonates with me, though. She also believed in Purgatory, a doctrine I believe to be without Biblical merit. Some of her descriptions make me uncomfortable as well, but that is not necessarily a detriment.

Modern Application for the Church

Revelations of Divine Love has several applications for the modern church to consider, with various aspects most needed according to theological emphases of different movements.

The book’s theme of God’s love, as opposed to his wrath, might initially appeal to those in the church who prefer to focus on the more pleasant and positive aspects of the faith, especially those related to emotional fulfillment. To these believers, Julian’s treatises on the Passion of Christ, as well as her own lifestyle, would also be both instructive and corrective toward a more rigorous reverence, consecration, and service. Those who tend to be self-absorbed and consumed with grand success would do well to think on her ideas of the smallness of humankind in relation to their All-Being Creator.

On the other hand, that same rapturous description of the generous and warm love of God toward his creation might also serve to temper the legalistic tendencies of those in the modern church who see God only as wrathful and exacting. It is the compassion of Christ which enraptured and captured Julian’s heart, not a regimented checklist of doctrines and behaviors.

Related to that, but also distinct, is that many of Julian’s meditations feminize God’s characteristics. That, combined with her own medieval womanhood, could be quite refreshing to those who have experienced the more patriarchal edge of the modern church, where modern women still have no voice and where promoting masculinity and male privilege seem to be the operative priority.

It is interesting that Julian expanded her writing much later on. That is an indication that Christians can benefit from revisiting what God has shown them earlier, evaluating the central message, exploring the ideas further, and using that as a springboard for later ministry. This is perhaps part of what has made her work so enduring for well over 600 years.

To believers in every time period, Julian’s exhortations about being “grounded” and “oned” with God serve as a call to a much deeper and more beautiful communion between believers and their Creator. The 21st century church seems to be sadly lacking in authentic and transformative faith, settling instead for shallow caricatures of who Jesus is and what he wants to do in the life of his saints. May God grant revival to his people even now.


That assignment was for Church History 1.
Here is one I did for my Inductive Bible Study course.

Inductive Bible Study on Discipleship in Matthew 8-9 (Seminary Notes)

You may also like my post:

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Inductive Bible Study on Discipleship in Matthew 8-9 (Seminary Notes)

"Le Christ Bennissant" by Bernardino Luini
Louvre, Paris
Dear friends,

I thoroughly enjoyed my first semester at Asbury Theological Seminary (Orlando campus) this past fall, and I'm looking forward to three new classes starting in a few weeks.

One of the classes I took - and the one which drew me to seminary in the first place - was Inductive Bible Study (IBS) on Matthew. The whole goal is to be able to do an in-depth study of the text and glean directly from it. We learned how to survey passages of Scripture, break them down into units and sub-units, find major structures (recurrence of themes, cause and effect, generalization & specification, introduction to climax, etc.), make observations, and ask/answer interpretive questions. We also did word studies from Greek, as well as consulting commentaries after we had finished all of our own studies. The application phase is reserved for a more advanced IBS class. Unfortunately we did not have time to study every passage in Matthew. The weekly assignments were already quite time-consuming, taking anywhere from about 7 to 18 hours each. Now we know how to pick apart a passage and squeeze more insight out of it than we ever though possible.

A Facebook friend recently invited me to join an FB group to read through the four gospels this year. I thought that sounded like a good way to keep going, so I hit the button and now we're on Matthew 8. I recognized it as one of the passages I had studied during an Observation and Interpretation assignment. Since we had been invited to share our findings with the group, I figured I would dust off this assignment and post it to this blog.

Note that the study here is only part of a much larger process. I haven't done a structural analysis, nor an in-depth word study section. The Observation & Interpretation section is broken into three smaller sections, according to the three questions (ex. How Does One Become a Disciple?) posed by my professor, Dr. Brian Russell. The questions underneath them in parentheses (ex. What Are a Disciple’s Initial Experiences with Jesus?) are my paraphrases of Dr. Russell's questions. If I had not limited myself to these three assigned questions, I would have made many additional observations and interpretations, and I would have done the verses in order rather than by section. I'll try to post another study later on which has other features to it.

Far from being just an academic exercise, this assignment made me think deeply about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. I hope that this blog post will spark that discovery in you as well.

Matthew 8:1-9:35
Observation and Interpretation
Theme: Discipleship

How Does One Become a Disciple?
(What Are a Disciple’s Initial Experiences with Jesus?)
The crowds followed Jesus when he came down from the mountain after his sermon.
Discipleship starts with the simple act of following, which may be within the context of a group of other interested people who don’t end up becoming disciples in the fullest sense. There are social factors in discipleship. In this case, it started first with hearing about Jesus (which prompted the gathering on the mount) and then hearing Jesus himself speak to the crowd.
The leper came individually and knelt before Jesus, calling him Lord and asking him for cleansing.
Following Jesus and becoming his disciple is not just as one of the crowd, but coming personally and reverently, expressing dependence and submission.
The Gentile centurion came to Jesus with a humble and reverent request, recognizing the power and authority of Jesus as Lord. He also related his own experiences with authority.
A disciple recognizes the power and authority of Jesus to change situations. A disciple naturally brings his/her own personal experiences that shape his/her perception of who Jesus is. Disciples each have their own way of relating to Jesus.
Jesus commended the Gentile centurion for his faith and declared that many would come from east and west to his banquet table, but  many who assumed they were of the kingdom would be thrown out.
Becoming a disciple also starts with faith in who Jesus is and what he can do. It is not based on being a member of the religious elite. It is available for all, no matter their national or ethnic background.
Jesus saw Matthew at the tax booth and commanded him to follow, which Matthew immediately did.
Becoming a disciple starts with responding to his call, preferably promptly. This also often means leaving other pursuits behind, which is evidence of placing Jesus as the top priority.
When questioned, Jesus said he came to call the sinners, not the righteous.
A disciple of Jesus does not start out as a righteous person, but as a sinner. Becoming a disciple is not based on already being a devout person. It only takes a sinner who knows his/her need for Jesus.

A key word in some of these verses is “follow.”
Following isn’t just about physically walking (or driving) behind someone. It is about heeding their instruction and example, and doing the things they do.

What Are the Requirements of Being a Disciple?
(What Does a Disciple Need to Be and Do?)
When Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.
Jesus gives orders, and disciples must obey them. Discipleship often means pulling away from the big crowd to walk with Jesus. That doesn’t mean living as a solitary hermit though; the disciples were all with him, and each other, in the boat.
The scribe promised to follow Jesus wherever he went, but Jesus replied that the Son of Man had no place of his own, even to sleep.
A disciple must be willing to travel continually to places where he/she may not “belong” - and where there are few comforts. A disciple must be willing to not even have a settled home.
Another disciple said he wanted to go bury his father first, but Jesus told him to let the dead bury their own dead.
A disciple must be willing to leave behind family and its obligations, as necessary, to demonstrate the priority of following Jesus. I think I have read before that this verse doesn’t necessarily mean the father was already dead, but that the man wanted to wait until his father was dead and buried.
The disciples of John asked why the disciples of Jesus were not fasting. Jesus replied that they were like attendants celebrating with the bridegroom while he was with them, but that they would fast in mourning later when he wasn’t with them.
Sometimes disciples fast, and sometimes they don’t. This is not a rigid requirement. What is required is to be sensitive to the demands of the current situation, as when Ecclesiastes 3:4-5 says there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

A key feature in some of these verses is immediate and unconditional obedience to the call and commands of Jesus.
A disciple is required to obey Jesus without excuse or delay.

What Does It Mean to Be a Disciple?
(What Kind of Experiences Can a Disciple Expect While Following Jesus?)
Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and many other people (including those afflicted by demons and spirits) fulfilling the Isaiah prophecy: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.”
Being a disciple means knowing that Jesus cares about the disciple’s family members, but that this practical compassion goes way beyond circle into in the larger community. Being a disciple means being placed in the context of the prophetic tradition, and recognizing how Jesus fulfills predictions made about him as the Messiah.
When Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.
Being a disciple means spending time with Jesus. Jesus was with his disciples in the boat, wanting to get away from the crowds. One might presume that this is because he wished to spend more intimate and in-depth time in fellowship with his committed disciples.
The disciples were distressed while they were in a boat in a storm while Jesus was asleep.
Being a disciple of Jesus means that he/she is sometimes put in uncomfortable situations where he/she doesn’t really know what is going on, but still needs to trust God and ask for help.
The disciples were amazed at the power which Jesus exercised over the wind and the waves.
Being of a disciple of Jesus often means feeling astonished to freshly discover who he is and what he can do.
The disciples watched two demoniacs confront Jesus. They witnessed him sending the demons into a herd of pigs who rushed into the lake to their death. They heard the horrified townspeople beg Jesus to leave.
Being a disciple of Jesus can mean encountering evil powers and watching Jesus overcome them. It means dealing with people who don’t understand or appreciate the work of God, and who place higher priority on material goods than the well-being of other people.

The disciples were with Jesus when he had dinner in a home with many tax collectors and sinners sitting with them.
Being a disciple of Jesus means being ready to meet and befriend people who live on the margins of society.
The Pharisees questioned the disciples about why Jesus would eat with tax collectors and sinners.
Being a disciple of Jesus means having to answer questions about Jesus from people who may be hostile and incredulous.
The disciples of John questioned Jesus about why his disciples were not fasting like them.
Being a disciple of Jesus means people asking questions, sometimes accusatory, about the nature of discipleship. The actions of disciples in following Jesus may not always measure up to the expectations of others who sincerely follow the same God from a different perspective.
Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast when he was with them, whereas they would mourn and fast later when he wasn’t with them.
Being a disciple of Jesus means that there are times for normal living and joy, and times for fasting and mourning. There is a lot of adjusting to situations.
When questioned about why his disciples did not fast, Jesus gave analogies about not sewing an unshrunk patch on an old cloak, and not pouring new wine into old wine skins.
Being a disciple has something to do with old and new. I believe there is an implication that being a disciple means that Jesus makes a fundamental change in the heart, and that what fit in with the disciple’s life before knowing Jesus won’t fit in any longer after becoming his disciple.
Jesus followed the synagogue ruler to his daughter, and the disciples went with him.
Being a disciple of Jesus means following him when he responsively and compassionately “follows” someone else. A disciple might have to go to (and with) others instead of expecting to stay in his/her own place.
Jesus traveled, taught, preached, and healed.
Being a disciple means participating in what Jesus is doing to minister to others.

Commentary Findings
Using the Strong’s Concordance, entry G3101, at Blue Letter Bible, I found that the word for disciple in Matthew 8-9 is mathētēs, which they define as “a learner, pupil, disciple.”  According to the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels,“... mathētēs ... designated adherents or followers who were committed to a recognized leader, teacher or movement.”
In reference to the two men who claimed to want to follow Jesus, R.T. France notes:In these two tantalizing scenes, therefore, we are reminded of the grey area which existed between the uncommitted “crowd” (cf. 5:1; 7:28–29) and the fully-committed Twelve, an area which will be further delineated in the range of responses set out in the parable of the sower (13:3–8, 18–23).”
Both R. T. France and Anna Case-Winters addressed the issue of whether the would-be disciple’s father was dead yet. France acknowledges that it was a possibility, but also countered that “If the father had just died, the son could hardly be out at the roadside with Jesus; his place was to be keeping vigil and preparing for the funeral. Rather, to “bury one’s father” is standard idiom for fulfilling one’s filial responsibilities responsibilities for the remainder of the father’s lifetime, with no prospect of his imminent death.”
Case-Winters, on the other hand, is more prepared to accept the man’s words at face value: “Left to stand as it is, the story lays bare the radical demands of discipleship… One must be willing to give up ‘home and security and family obligations’ to leave it all behind and cross over to the other side.” She also comments on discipleship in reference to the boat story: “This perilous crossing is a harbinger of things to come. The way will be stormy, but Jesus will be with them. The promise of Jesus’ presence and authority over storms was a needed word.” Finally, she also notes: “Tax collectors were assumed to be thieves as well as collaborators, collecting more than was required and profiting from the power of their positions… Yet here is Jesus calling Matthew the tax-collector to follow him. Jesus is calling sinners to be disciples (9:13).”
Commentary References:
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series) (p. 203). InterVarsity Press.
France, R. T.. The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) (p. 324-330). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Case-Winters, Anna. Matthew (Belief: a Theological Commentary on the Bible) (p.149-152), Westminster John Knox Press.

Becoming a disciple is a matter of believing and following Jesus, recognizing his deity, his power, and his authority. It does not require that a person be righteous to come to him, as he says he came for sinners. He proved that by calling Matthew, a despised tax collector, as well as commending the faith of the Gentile centurion over against many who would claim to be sons of the kingdom. The requirements of discipleship are acknowledging the priority of Jesus over all other claims, and obeying him fully and promptly. A disciple’s life may involve uncomfortable, awkward, and risky situations. They will at times have to lay aside other priorities, including family, in obedience to Christ. They will be mocked and interrogated. They will encounter evil powers. They will learn to embrace marginalized people. They will have to adjust their actions and demeanor based on circumstances. Most of all disciples can expect to be continually astonished by the compassion, the healing presence, and the power and authority of Jesus.