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South Fellowship Church

About Aaron Bjorklund

I am the Creative Arts Pastor here. That means I oversee our worship ministries and our communications team. I also serve on our Directional Leadership Team here. I love this place and I love the team I work with here!

Is Desire Evil?

Many Christians believe that desires are dangerous. After all, it is our desires that lead us into sin. Things like lust and materialism are such everyday struggles in our day. It’s not just Christians that feel this way; the danger of desire is at the core of Buddhism. The question for us is, are desires evil by nature? Did desires exist before humans committed the first sin (fall of man)? The easy answer is, of course, desires existed before the fall of man. If it hadn’t been for desire, Adam and Eve would have never been tempted in the first place. Maybe a more important question is why did God make us with the capacity to desire?

In our western evangelical mind, we often think of the Garden of Eden as being perfect. We believe Adam and Eve didn’t need anything and could have lived there forever if it hadn’t been for their sin. That may be a common thought, but it is not what the Hebrew author of Genesis intended to communicate. To an ancient Hebrew mind, the idea of perfection was different. It might be more accurate to say that the Garden of Eden had perfect potential.

Remember God gave humanity a task to “Be fruitful and Multiply and fill the earth.” God wanted humans to cultivate the world. The Garden of Eden may have been beautiful, but the rest of the world was wild and untamed. So how does all this relate to desire?

Desires move us forward; they get us out of bed and cause us to take action in this world. Bringing God’s goodness to the world requires quite a bit of desire to achieve. God made us in his image, including a deep-seated ability to desire order in chaos, beauty, and goodness. So what does all this mean for us today? Perhaps a quote from C.S. Lewis can help us.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” – C.S. Lewis

Desires are not the problem; it is disordered unexamined desires that are dangerous to us and the world. One way to practice ordering your desires is through spiritual practice – like fasting. Fasting requires your mind and soul to say no to a very base desire to eat. It’s a way to tell your body, “not every desire must be acted upon.” The self-control that fasting strengthens helps you to reorient your desires towards what is your deepest longing.

Is Desire Evil?2022-03-08T21:30:16-07:00

Emotions Are Real

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:8-16)

This story is charged with emotion. Sarah finally gives birth to a miracle child and suddenly becomes jealous that Isaac is being overshadowed by Ishmael. Abraham is deeply saddened by the idea of sending his firstborn son away from him. Finally, Haggar is twice abused, once given to Abraham as a surrogate, only to be sent away with only a bit of water. Her cry finally expresses her despair, “I cannot watch the boy die.”

The scriptures do not deny or diminish emotions. Instead, the feelings of the characters are expressed fully. This alone is comforting. Emotions are real, and God seems very comfortable interacting with the humanity of feelings. Imagine if the scriptures only told stories about emotionally happy perfect people. How could anyone identify with that?

The question for us is, why do we often struggle to deal with our emotions if God doesn’t? Why do we hide, deny, suppress, and avoid the painful feelings of our lives? The operative word in that question is “painful.” It is often difficult to engage our own emotions well because they hurt. Here is the thing, the scriptural authors revealed the characters’ emotions for a reason. When we see a person’s honest emotions, we can begin to identify, learn from, and grow from their example. It’s easier to know how to interpret a life when you have the complete picture of the emotions involved. Don’t you want that same advantage in your life?

Emotions offer us essential information to interpret and live our own stories. If our primary aim is to avoid painful emotions, we inadvertently muddy the waters of decision-making. Today, ask God, “how do I really feel?” Ask him to help you discover, acknowledge, and learn from your own painful emotions. Your story might make more sense if you do.

Emotions Are Real2022-02-25T08:46:01-07:00

Struggle For Justice

There is a problem with forgiveness. Sometimes, it isn’t just to forgive. Some evils do not deserve forgiveness. As you read this, you may think I am just trying to grab your attention with a shocking statement, but I am not. Evil demands justice, and if there is no room for justice, there is no room for forgiveness. Before you dismiss me as a heretic, hang with me.

I lived in Rwanda when the 1994 genocide took place. Many people don’t know that the conflict didn’t start that year. Instead, it began several hundred years before when one of the tribes overthrew the other violently. They would chop the leaders off at the knee in front of their families to belittle them. See, height was considered a sign of leadership. Then children of that generation grew up and eventually retaliated against the tribe who had so brutally murdered their parents. It is difficult to imagine such violence, and it simply isn’t okay if we simply forgive.

Child slavery, rape, and the abuse of the helpless are evils that cause us to feel a wave of just anger at those who perform such acts of wickedness. That feeling isn’t wrong; it is a feeling that agrees that this world is broken and it’s not supposed to include such evils. So what do we do with passages that call us to forgive? The answer is we give the weapon of justice to God. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

We are not wise enough to weigh the world’s evils in balance and determine when and where justice should be served. Instead, we give our anger and suffering to God to deal with justly. He then does so perfectly because the death of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate act of justice against evil. When we give God the sword of justice, we are free to forgive fully.

There has been significant healing and forgiveness in Rwanda since 1994, but it was not through an attempt to sweep the injustice under the rug. Instead, the Rwandan church has learned to give God the weapon of justice and trust in his hands. Only then can true forgiveness happen.

Do you have someone who has hurt you? It is not wrong to feel that hurt. Today, take a moment to offer those feelings to God. Feel free to vent your pain to him and ask for his justice. Once you are done, leave the sword of justice in his hand to wield when and if he chooses, even if he already has on the cross for the one who has offended you.

Struggle For Justice2022-02-18T13:02:56-07:00

From the Evil

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)

Have you ever turned your mind to heaven and whispered a prayer like, “Oh God, please let them be okay” or “God protect them” or “Please heal them?” Whispered prayers like these are prayers I have often prayed with great emotion. If I am honest, my prayers could have been simplified too, “please let no bad things happen to the ones I love or to me.” The line “deliver us from evil” feels similar to the prayers I just described. Not wanting bad things to happen is such a familiar thing to us. Why wouldn’t we want to avoid evil things if possible?

The truth is, sometimes tricky things in life help us to grow. Elsewhere in the scriptures, we learn that God uses challenging and painful things to help us grow. Does this prayer against the evil things prevent us from the growth that might come if we go through them? Perhaps, but the invitation that Jesus gives us is to pray against the evil anyway. Our dislike of evil in the world and our lives is not an unnatural feeling. Instead, it reminds us that the evil in the world is not what God intended for his creation. What about the growth, then? What about those moments when God teaches us through the pain of evil happenings?

When we pray this, we give our desire to a wise father who can figure out how and when to intervene in our lives to either protect or challenge us. We pray for transformation from evil to good. I believe God is wise enough to handle our prayers and know what to do with them for our and the world’s good.

Watch this video and reflect on how God can deliver people from evil things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjLlLPZderk

From the Evil2022-02-14T12:31:17-07:00

Forgiveness is a Calling

This week we are focusing on the beauty and power of forgiveness. We have challenged you to consider the relational impact of withholding forgiveness. On Sunday, Alex helped us think of forgiveness as a tool for maintaining healthy relationships. All these things are accurate and powerful, but what do we do when we forgive, and the other party does not? Another question might be, what do we do if we forgive, but the relationship is dangerous to us? Should we always reconcile with others?

Forgiveness is what Jesus invites us to pray for and extend to others in this prayer. Forgiveness does not always turn into reconciliation. Reconciliation requires both parties to come together in forgiveness. In Romans 12:18, Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The phrase “if it is possible” is essential in this challenge. It implies that it isn’t always possible. There are times when abuse or a lack of forgiveness from the other party prevents reconciliation.

Jesus teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That is an invitation to do everything in our power to reconcile with God and others. The beauty of our request to God is that he extends forgiveness to all who repent. That isn’t always true when there is brokenness between two humans, but forgiveness sets the forgiver free.

Take a moment to do a relationship inventory. How are you doing? Is there anyone you can think of that you have relational tension with? Maybe now is the time to set both you and them free from the thing that separates you. Remember, this may need to happen repeatedly in your heart. Forgiveness is a calling that makes reconciliation possible.

Forgiveness is a Calling2022-02-14T15:37:13-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Thursday

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

This line of the Lord’s Prayer feels the most earthy, doesn’t it? There is something so human about our need for food. I believe that this request for bread is intended to be read with that physical need in mind, but as with every other line in the prayer, there is a deeper meaning.

Jesus uses this idea of bread multiple times in his teaching. Once while teaching, he says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). He also tells his disciples, “‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'” (John 4:32,34).

So what does Jesus have in mind when he teaches us to pray for our daily bread? In addition to our physical need for food, this prayer has a spiritual or heavenly meaning. As physical as we are, we are far more than physical beings. We have bodies, minds, souls, and spirits, and this prayer is a request for bread that feeds all of us. Now, the context of the prayer helps to aim this idea further.

God designed humans for the very purpose of bringing his kingdom to the cosmos. We pray for bread with voices and minds designed to hallow his name and bring his kingdom. If I were to put this into my own words, I might say, “give me the sustenance that I need (spiritual, relational, physical, emotional) to participate in bringing your kingdom.” When we become unhealthy as people, we begin to believe that our desires are the aim of our existence. That is not intended to be a shame-creating statement. Instead, it is an invitation to a life-giving reality that we were made for a purpose, and when we live in that purpose, we find genuine thriving.

As you pray this prayer today, maybe ask God what bread he thinks you need today? What resources, food, energy, healing, or wisdom do I need to live in your kingdom today? Then ask him for that bread.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Thursday2022-02-01T12:44:01-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Wednesday

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

“Kingdom”, it’s not something most Americans understand aside from the movies. We don’t live in a nation with a king. It might be helpful for us to explore what this kingdom is; after all, Jesus teaches us to pray for its coming.

One of the most helpful definitions of the kingdom that I have encountered is from Dallas Willard, Christian philosopher, who said that the kingdom of God is “the range of God’s effective will.” The first time I read that definition I had to stop and think. The kingdom is where God’s will is active. When we pray this prayer, we ask for his authority and rulership to overthrow wherever it isn’t currently.

What would the world look like if God’s kingdom was in full effect? That is what we are asking God to do, and that is what God invites his children to bring into the world. One idea that has helped me to think about God’s kingdom is the idea of culture. I grew up overseas in Africa, and the culture is so different from America. The language, the jokes, the social cues, and the values of Africa are nothing like that of most Americans. The same is true of the Kingdom of God. When we pray this prayer, we want God’s culture to overshadow the world’s culture.

Our passage today is found in one of Jesus’ most famous sermons about the nature of his kingdom. To fully understand what we are asking for when we pray this prayer, we must learn the kingdom’s culture. That can be done by learning the character and teachings of the king. We can start learning the customs, language, and rules of the kingdom of God by listening to and obeying the way of Jesus. Only then can we see the benefits of his Good reign in the world.

Part of our aim as followers of Jesus and the prayers of this prayer is to learn the kingdom’s culture. Only then can we become productive citizens in that kingdom. When you read the scripture, ask yourself about the heart of King Jesus. You can also ask, what are the social cues/rules of the kingdom of God that I see in every scripture passage? For example, some of the strange cultural practices of the kingdom are, the first shall be last, the humble shall be exalted, and there is strength in our weakness. These ideas feel foreign to our world; that is because they are, they are native only to the kingdom of God.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 4 | Wednesday2022-01-22T19:22:34-07:00

Friday Extra

 

 

Here is a conversation between Alex and Aaron about this past Sunday. It’s sort of a bonus devotional.

Friday Extra2022-01-21T11:49:12-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Thursday

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.”

This week we venture into one of the most familiar texts in all scripture. That familiarity may cause us to miss some of the subtleties and tensions. If we take the time to read the scriptures meditatively, we begin to discover all sorts of new things. Questions start to arise; intrigue lives beneath the surface of our reading. Today we will look at the request “hallowed be,” which is ripe with curiosity.

The phrase “hallowed be” is imperative in the Greek language. That means it is a command or petition. When we pray “hallowed be,” we ask God to be hallowed. Is God not already holy? How can the holiest one become more holy, and more importantly, who are we to tell God what to do? What could be missing from God’s holiness other than our understanding of it? In other words, the only thing missing from God’s holiness is that not everyone sees him as holy.

In light of my meditation on this prayer, I will sometimes pray it like this; “our father in heaven, may you be seen and appreciated as holy be me and everyone.” I find it interesting that Jesus challenges us to pray for God’s help in hallowing his name. This is a prayer for God’s reputation as good, beautiful, kind, worthy, and holy.

Have you ever overheard a conversation where someone spoke poorly about someone you love or respect? Defensiveness may swell in your chest for the person you care for. The prayer, “hallowed be,” may come from a similar emotional space. We want others to see and appreciate the goodness of our Father, but we cannot always change their minds, so we ask our Father to make himself hallowed. This can also be a prayer for our hearts to hallow God. When we have doubts or fears about his nature, we might pray that God would make himself hallowed to us.

As with each other phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, this one invites us to be a part of the answer to our prayer. Today, pray what Jesus tells you to pray, “hallowed be your name.” Now ask him, what he might want you to do today to help his name be more hallowed by people you interact with. You may want to pray something like, “Father, how can I make you be seen as good and holy by someone today?”

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Thursday2022-01-20T13:07:45-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Friday

Today’s Daily Devotional is a short video from Alex.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 3 | Friday2022-01-14T10:12:25-07:00
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