South Fellowship Church

The Daily

Now is the Time for Spiritual Growth

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Leaders who are appointed by God, are anointed, given the mandate to lead Yahweh’s people to Him by teaching His true spiritual doctrine, in a manner that builds up the Kingdom of God. As the Apostle Paul was disheartened by the church of Corinth, today’s spiritual leaders are often frustrated by their members’ debauchery (indulgence in sensual pleasures), licentiousness (promiscuous and unprincipled sexual matters), arguing over peripheral issues (sweating the small stuff – Richard Carlson), and favoritism – any of which would contribute to members’ lack of spiritual growth. Consequently, the believer is distracted from important spiritual development pertinent to winning souls to Christ such as salvation, purity, worshiping and discipleship; prayer, and fasting.

Still, the greatest proof of the new birth in Jesus Christ is a recognizable changed life. The outward expression of the children of God’s love for Christ is demonstrated by our obedience to Him, our faith in Him, and our thirst for righteousness. We must be intentional in actively acknowledging that we know what the Lord is requiring of us, starting with the 10 commandments. Accordingly, Christians should not glory in leadership to the detriment of the unity of the church. “The ministers of the gospel are for the faithful, not the faithful for them” (Jerome Biblical Commentary).

Thus, understand the Lord God loves you and wants you to grow in Him. Be not deceived, Satan does not want you to grow in Christ. Therefore, my friends, there are no shortcuts on our journey towards spiritual maturity. We must depend on the Holy Spirit to grow us as we surrender 100% to the following:

  • Love Jesus. 1 John 5:1-2
  • Repent from our sins and learn from our mistakes.
  • Read the Bible and Pray every day – build an intimate relationship with Yahweh. The Holy Spirit will teach you God’s word.
  • Worship the Lord in spirit and truth. Ephesians 5:19
  • Love each other. 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 John 4:7-8
  • Love our enemies. Matthew 5:43-45 (This is not easy but we must try)
  • Love righteousness not sin. 1 John 2:15-17 (If, the Bible says it’s wrong – don’t do it)

We must care about the type of person we are becoming and strive to live a life centered on God. As a result, we will discover that we are becoming more like Him, in the way we think, seeing people from His lens, and responding to the mundane issues of life. Therefore, we are not the same person that we used to be.

Today, take the time to read Psalms 119.

Now is the Time for Spiritual Growth2022-09-23T22:10:36-06:00

Why Is Faith Important?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

To the non-believer, having faith in God is foolishness. However, to God, it is impossible to please Him without it. The author of Hebrews states, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). If you can’t see it but believe it will happen – that’s faith. Let’s say, you’re hungry and want to make a hamburger. All you must do is prepare it or order it. You don’t need faith to receive it. However, if you don’t have food or money, then you need faith to believe that your need will be met.

The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of faith. We can learn from these biblical ancestors. For those who believed in God were rewarded, and we see their faith in action.

Like them, we can keep the faith.
When we see no way out of a bad situation – Keep the Faith.
When we see no help – Keep the Faith.
For God is working things out for our good.
Supernatural help is on the way!

Yet, you may feel like the Corinthian Jews who needed a sign or like the Greeks who thought faith was not wise (1 Corinthians 1:22). The Apostle Paul explained how some cannot understand the concept of faith because it must be spiritually discerned. Faith comes through the power of the Holy Spirit so that Christian faith is connected to God’s power not man’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:4). It is the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes so we can discover God. Paul goes on to say, “It is because of [what God has done] that [we] are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

So then, how much faith does it take to please God? The KJV puts it this way, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, ‘Remove hence to yonder place’, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’” (Matthew 17:20 KJV). Every believer at some point will struggle with faith, but full faith as small as a mustard seed is all we need.

Today, purchase a small container of mustard seeds to remind yourself how faith pleases God. Write on an index card “Matthew 17:20”. Tape three mustard seeds on the index card (be careful not to lose them, they’re small) and ask the Lord to increase your faith.

Why Is Faith Important?2022-09-16T15:14:09-06:00

Could God Be Foolish For Using His Spirit?

My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.  1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NET Bible

God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:10 -15 NET Bible

As Paul began this argument against placing our faith in worldly wisdom and reasoning, he made a solid case for the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in the enlivened spirits of the Corinthian believers. He reminded them that their faith was launched, not by an elaborate mental computation, but by the Holy Spirit’s unseen power.

In the Western world, we have long favored the ways of Greek philosophers – placing high value on reason and stacking up facts – to inform ourselves before going forward with important life decisions. Before I gave my life to Jesus, I had a Sunday School amount of knowledge about who Jesus was. I also spent considerable time trying to read the Bible – especially portions of the Old Testament – but found my attempts to understand the text to resemble a bicycle ride through deep mud.

About this time, my Washington D.C. landlady invited a Holy Spirit filled evangelist into her home. He was sent by God to cut through my intellectual morass. After an hour of conversation and questions about the evangelist’s life, he got up to leave the house. Before he walked out the door he suggested I ask Jesus into my life. He then invited me to kneel and repeat a prayer after him.

When we got to the words of the prayer where I was to confess that I was a sinner and acknowledge that Jesus died for those sins, I recall distinctly objecting to those words. But I repeated them anyway. Then, without really understanding what was involved, I asked Jesus to come into my life and be my Lord. At that moment an image of Jesus on the cross flashed into my mind. My second impression was that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was still alive. Thirdly, I sensed Jesus was tangibly with me in that room.

As I opened my Bible the next day, the deep mud had vanished and the scriptures became amazingly clear.

My answer to the question “Could God be foolish for using His Spirit?” is an obvious “NO!” I could have spent decades trying to understand the amazing work of Jesus on the cross – misinterpreting his act as one of martyrdom – slogging through scripture with my limited intellect and ultimately casting the Bible aside as useless. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit’s power cut through my intellectual objections in an instant.

As Western Christians we are constantly offered ‘self help’ and ‘you can be anything you want to be’ philosophies. Keeping our default setting on the power of the Holy Spirit in order to “live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus” is a challenge. Are you starting today with a long list of ways to figure out your next steps? Stop and ask the Holy Spirit to recalibrate your heart and guide you through today’s decisions.

Could God Be Foolish For Using His Spirit?2022-09-21T05:57:45-06:00

God is Faithful: Is God Foolish for Saving Us by Faith

But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin], so then as it is written [in Scripture] “He who boasts and glories, let him boast and glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) The Amplified Bible

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from
yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. ( Ephesians 2:8-10) NIV [Emphasis added.]

I am curious about what the reception of Paul’s letter may have been by the quarreling, competitive groups in the Corinthian church.

I can imagine how well they received the gracious beginning and the reminder of all that had been given to them by God in Christ Jesus. And the reminder that God is faithful in his calling of the Corinthians into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

But when Paul addresses the first of the failings of the community, I can imagine tension rising in the hearers as each faction heard about their attitude toward God, toward what and who God considers of importance and of value – how they claimed rights based on which apostle they were following. And, I can imagine that the leaders of the factions were looking around to see who from Chloe’s household had sent the report to Paul.

What would the Roman contingent think about the cross? For them, the word power meant “aggression and conquest” – that what they thought foolish, actually was “the power of God to [those] who [were] being saved”. Or the Greeks, who thought that their intelligence was supreme proof of their acceptance by God? Or the Jews, who were still bolstering the idea that the coming Messiah must not be crucified, or that gentiles should be excluded from the community?

For our communities in Christ, let’s pray Psalm 139 like this:

“Investigate [our lives], O God, find out everything about [us];
Cross-examine and test [us], get a clear picture of what [we’re] about;
See for yourself whether [we’ve] done anything wrong—then guide [us] on the road to eternal life.”
(Psalm 139:23-24) The Message Bible

God is Faithful: Is God Foolish for Saving Us by Faith2022-09-16T12:33:48-06:00

Not Foolish, Not Weak, But Sacrificial Love

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Isaiah 29:13-14

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” I Corinthians 1:18-19

Paul’s point in this passage is that God’s wisdom – God’s plan – to save the world through Jesus’ sacrifice made by dying on the cross for the sins of the world, was foolishness to unbelievers of the gentiles, and was unbelievable by Jewish Scholars. The Jewish teachers of the law were searching for and hoping for a triumphant king who would establish an earthly kingdom similar to King David’s. The Romans and Greeks believed anyone who was crucified was the most despised criminal and not able to save anyone. Paul says,

“but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength,” I Corinthians 1:23-25.

If you look at the crucifixion accounts in Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29-32, and Luke 23:35-36 you will find that passersby (together with soldiers and Jewish priests) all taunted Jesus to come down off the cross and save himself, if he truly was the Messiah. Yet, Isaiah told us of the suffering servant:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6.

Jesus’ ministry was one of healing – He healed lepers, the blind, the deaf, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the demon possessed. He taught and ministered to the ordinary people, to the ill, to prostitutes, to criminals, to Samaritans, and to tax collectors. When Jesus encountered the Jewish scholars, they spent their time questioning Jesus’ motives, his methodology, his genealogy, and his choice of disciples. His time on earth culminated in His sacrifice – dying on the cross,

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord,” I Corinthians 1:27-31, Jeremiah 9:24.

How has God used someone the world might consider foolish, weak, ill, or less fortunate in your life to teach you about how much God loves everyone and desires all to know, love and serve Him? Thank God today that He welcomes everyone – children, fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and every sort of sinner to follow him, to confess their need for a savior, and to give him their heart and be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Not Foolish, Not Weak, But Sacrificial Love2022-09-16T11:44:30-06:00

Is God a Fool for Dying?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 24-25

In today’s world, it may not be an utterly foreign idea for a hero to sacrifice their life for others. You may have even encountered such self-sacrifice in movies and books. In the first century, on the other hand, it was a ludicrous idea. One might even call it foolish. In the first century and prior, power and strength were the only heroic virtues. In light of that, the cross of Jesus was a foolish method for God to save humanity. The fact that God even wanted to save humankind was strange. The fact that a self-sacrificial hero isn’t foreign to us shows how the Gospel has entirely shaped Western civilization.

Paul uses the word foolish to shock us. The idea of God acting foolish sounds blasphemous, just as shocking as the idea that God would die for people. Paul then tells us that God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. What a humbling thought. My most ingenious ideas about how life should work would never have come up with the Gospel. The Gospel is so shocking that it seems too good to be true and yet, is simultaneously shocking, good and true. No human mind would come up with it.

Take a moment to meditate on the beauty of the Gospel. It may help you to meditate on another letter that Paul wrote.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Is God a Fool for Dying?2022-09-16T11:01:14-06:00

Called to Follow-Who and How

But I urge you, believers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in full agreement in what you say that there be no divisions or factions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your thinking and in your opinions and judgment [about matters of faith].

For I have been informed about you, my brothers and sisters, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are quarrels and factions among you. Now I mean this, that one of you says, “I am [a disciple] of Paul,” or “I am a [disciple] of Apollos,” or I am a [disciple] of Cephas (Peter),” or “I am a [disciple] of Christ.” Has Christ been divided [into different parts]?
( 1 Corinthians 1:10-13a) The Amplified Bible

For some historical and cultural context, I narrowed my research to: “Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians” by Kenneth E. Bailey, a professor of theology in the Middle East for 40 years.

I learned that Corinth had been a Greek City that had been destroyed by the Romans in 146 B.C. and then rebuilt by the Romans to become a trade city in 44 B.C. In Corinth, a thriving commercial town in the first century, there were various ethnic communities, three of which would have the dominated the young Christian community. In order of importance: Romans were the top, Greeks were next, then the Jews, (who were considered powerless foreigners).

As Paul was a Roman citizen, Apollos was Greek, and Cephas was a Jew from Galilee, it is not surprising that each of the ethnic groups would have leaned toward a leader that was of their group, but it was causing serious strife and division in the whole community.

It also was evident that there were leaders in the church community who were inciting the conflict. Partly to protect Chloe’s household from reprisal, Paul used his, Apollos’ and Cephas’ names to identify the problem without pointing fingers at the most likely trouble makers.

Then there was the group who “claimed” to be real “Disciples of Christ” as pointing to the rest as not really “true believers”. Their attitude of superiority would have caused a great deal of division in the community, too.

The question Paul asked of them, “Has Christ been divided?” [into different parts?], can still be asked of his church today. Comparison, competition and one-up-man-ship still exists in church communities around the world.

To remind myself of the community I’m in as well as the whole church of Christ, I have paraphrased 1 Corinthians 1:2 from the Amplified Bible.

To the church of God at South Fellowship in Littleton, to those who are sanctified (set apart, made holy) in Christ Jesus, who are selected and called as saints (God’s people), together with all those who in every place call on and honor the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

This week, think about our community called “South Fellowship”. Look at what is in bold white letters on the fellowship area wall and think about what it means that Jesus is undivided both in heart and in the way he calls us to live in community with each other.

Called to Follow-Who and How2022-09-09T19:36:59-06:00

Misplaced Loyalty Displaces Unity

In the 50+ years I’ve been a Jesus follower, a variety of English speaking Christian influencers have held prominence, attracting reverence and a following among evangelicals and charismatics: Billy and Franklin Graham, Benny Hinn, James Dobson, Henry Nouwen, Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Bill and Vonette Bright, Beth Moore, N.T. Wright, Richard Foster, Jim Wallis, Steven Furtick – just snippets from a long list. Loyalties to the vision and teaching of these influencers can be just as strong as those described by the apostle Paul in the first century:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? (I Corinthians 1:10-13a ESV)

This 2,000 year gap between Jesus’ advent and the Christian luminaries named above illustrates our human tendency to pledge allegiance to and sometimes slavishly follow tangible, charismatic leaders – or we ascend to superior-spirituality and boast we follow “Jesus only”. Why do we tend to pick a favorite leader, and why could this be a problem?

The “why” is simple. As humans we crave, even need, tangible leaders of impeccable character. The problem is that all human leaders have weaknesses that tarnish character. Therefore caution is required to guard against giving human leaders the kind of trust reserved for God alone.

So what is the solution for Jesus’ followers, so we can move toward the unity Paul encouraged in the Corinthian church? I suggest our first caution is to be reluctant to burden church leaders with inordinate responsibility and power. Therefore we each must cultivate the willingness to discover and operate within our own individual gifts the Holy Spirit has granted us as members of the Body of Christ.

Think about this admonition found in a later chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (I Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV)

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul again elaborates on church unity:

And he {God, the Holy Spirit} gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity…we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16 ESV)

Jesus is real, he’s alive, he’s the head of his body – exalted over his church for all time – worthy of our deepest loyalty. Paul’s Ephesian outline,:describing committed, faithful Christian leaders with the mature body of Christ operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, promises the unity Paul envisioned. This is true for churches throughout all time.

Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal whether you’ve drifted into unfruitful or excessive loyalty to gifted Christian leaders/influencers not operating within your church body. If this isn’t a problem for you, keep focused on Jesus, serving the Lord and his church with the gifts he’s given you. If an unfruitful loyalty surfaces, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal how that unadjusted allegiance hinders fully serving Jesus within your local body while giving proper honor to the leaders who care for your soul. Hebrews 13:17. 1 Thessalonians 5:12.

Misplaced Loyalty Displaces Unity2022-09-15T14:14:22-06:00

Holy People, Enriched in Every Way

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you.”
(1 Corinthians 1:4–6 NIV)

Corinth was a melting pot of potential. All the big players of culture were there; Greeks, Romans, and Jews. The people who called themselves Christ followers were small and insignificant in the influence landscape. They were “enriched… with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge”. Paul’s words to this church affirm all the potential that they had.

Paul often opened his letters with a prayer for his reader or an explanation of what he prays for them. Some scholars believe you can find Paul’s thesis in his opening prayers. It’s that Paul sees something in these congregations and asks the lord to draw that unrealized potential out. Before he jumps into correction and teaching, he gives them a window into his prayer closet. They get to hear his longing for them through his prayer.

Paul’s words are not his alone. They are gratitude prayers, empowered by the Spirit’s heart for this Corinthian Church. This kind of attitude reflects the way God thinks about us as well. God isn’t blind to the many ways we fall short, but he can see past our weaknesses into our most genuine potential. He longs for what we can become even when we find ourselves far from that place today.

How might you partner with God’s Spirit in seeing someone’s potential this week? Ask the Spirit to use your prayers and words of encouragement to call out the potential in someone this week. Perhaps write a note to someone explaining the grateful prayer you pray for them.

Holy People, Enriched in Every Way2022-09-15T14:13:24-06:00

Grounded In Grace

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (I Corinthians 1:1-4) NIV

Paul begins and ends every letter he wrote with this or a very similar phrase, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus.” (I Corinthians 1:3). Paul’s letters to Timothy include, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.” (I Timothy 1:2). Why did Paul use these and similar phrases to begin and end all of his letters to churches and to individuals? What purpose does repetition accomplish?

Let’s look at another phrase repeated often in the Old Testament writings, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,” (Exodus 34:6). Moses is the first one to write these words, but David repeats them in the Psalms, Jonah quotes them back to God and they are in other places as well. Repetition of a thought or concept helps to cement that concept in our minds, hearts and souls. We often need this type of reminder.

Paul begins and ends his letters with the concept of grace – given to us by God, because it is extremely important that we remember daily, even hourly – the cost Jesus paid on the cross for our sins. God has extended grace to us – as believers – in Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Paul wants the church at Corinth to remember that they are grounded in grace as believers in Jesus as their Lord and savior. Before he says anything else to them, he sets the ground rules, he states the foundation of their faith, and then he goes on, “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus,” (I Corinthians 1:4).

The beginning of the letter to the Corinthian church reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son we just studied last week. In that story, both sons are offered grace by a compassionate, loving, patient, forgiving and gracious father. The father in the parable is a picture of how God does the same for you and me.

How might you demonstrate grace to someone this week? Perhaps the next time you are in a conflict conversation, you might try beginning the conversation with extending grace to the other person. Pray about who you need to show grace to in your relationships.

Grounded In Grace2022-09-15T14:11:25-06:00
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