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Outward – Life With Others | Matthew 5:7-12

Blessed are the merciful,

    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.

10  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,

    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:7-12

“Have it Your Way!” This Burger King slogan we all know so well is just one example of how, in our society today, we emphasize what we want. Whether it is our food, our preferences, or our schedules. With so much inward focus, we can easily forget about the people around us. Our journey to growth can center on what we want, on our terms, at our pace.

As we come to the second half of the Beatitudes, we find five statements which center on our life with others. In contrast to our natural instincts, Jesus shows us the pursuit of care and restoration of others is the pathway to human flourishing. In order for us to truly thrive, we must have a genuine heart for others. We show mercy by compassionately serving others, rather than condemning them. We keep a pure heart through rooting our identity in the Lord, rather than engaging in gossip and slander. We promote peace as we love others into wholeness, rather than competing with them. We embrace the narrow way of following Christ and doing what is right, which may appear foreign to the world around us.

If you’re anything like me, you may have initially read these statements as a difficult to-do list. But, there is a better way to engage these Beatitudes. These acts help us to enter into a deeper experience of blessedness. Through them, we find true flourishing. By God’s grace, we already have a new identity in Him. Following Him brings a new reality and we begin to see the world afresh. Jesus is bringing a new kingdom, which is others-focused, not in opposition to others. Through our actions, we can play a huge part in building people up and bringing restoration to others.

Today, pray for Jesus to shape you into a person who flourishes as you live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. Where are you resisting His instruction to care for others? What action can you take today to compassionately serve others? To promote peace? To make a relationship right?

By Billy Berglund 

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Outward – Life With Others | Matthew 5:7-122019-02-09T12:06:12-07:00

Choose to Seek God | Jeremiah 29:10-14

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:10-14

 This month, students from all around the country will graduate high school. We celebrate these men and women who have persevered and finished this phase of their journey. As they head off to their next step, we offer advice, encouragement, and love. Often times, Jeremiah 29:11 will come up in letters or speeches to graduates. While this verse does provide encouragement based on a promise from God, it takes on a deeper meaning when we understand the context.

The Lord has promised to bring His people back from captivity. However, this will take 70 years. God will make good on His promises, but His people have responsibility as well. In Jeremiah 29:7, the Lord says, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” In the midst of the trial and difficulty, the people are called to seek the welfare of the city. As they contribute to the common good and as they seek God first and foremost, they will see the hand of God. promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).

These promises hold true for us as well. We may not be in Babylonian captivity, but we all find ourselves in a specific community, neighborhood, and city. We only have to turn on the news for a few minutes to see some of the pain and hardship in our cities. As Christians, we are not called to escape, but rather to invest where we are. Don’t seek to be removed from the city, seek the renewal in the city. We have an opportunity to spread love to others, to offer support to those in need, to contribute to the flourishing of our world. One of our strongest witnesses is the life we live. So as we read Jeremiah 29:11, we may now think of it a little differently in context. God’s promises are certain and we also have responsibility in the way we live.

What part can you play today to make the world a little better? It could be a conversation, an act of kindness, picking up trash along the side of the road. How can you walk in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus in your neighborhood, workplace, school, and city today?

By Billy Berglund 

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Choose to Seek God | Jeremiah 29:10-142021-10-20T11:50:45-06:00

True Identity | Ephesians 4:32-5:2

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 4:32-5:2

As a troublemaker growing up, I would cringe when my mom yelled my full name at the top of her lungs. “William David Berglund!!!” When she used my middle name, I knew I was in trouble. I knew I was caught and there would be consequences for my actions. Yet, I clearly remember my parents’ desire to communicate love to me in the midst of discipline. They wanted the best for me. By saying my full name, they were reminding me of who I was, of whose family I was a part of. They wanted me to live into my true identity. who I was.

As an athlete and a border-line perfectionist, I struggled with my identity. I was blessed with a strong family, but I had coaches who were tough on me and I was even harder on myself. As a result, I just figured that God was always disappointed in me. I should know better, I should get my act together. If I did the right things often enough, then God would love and accept me. This often led to feeling inadequate. Spiritual disciplines felt tedious and task-driven. I hoped I read the Bible and prayed “enough” so that I could measure up.

By God’s grace, I’ve had great mentors and friends walk with me over the past ten years. I’ve come to see God in a new way. Through faith in God’s free gift, I belong to His family. I am made new. This new perspective radically changed the way I read Scripture. I had always read it, “Do this and then God will love you.”

But listen to the language in Ephesians 4:32-5:2. We are dearly loved children. That’s who we are. As a result, we are called to walk in love and follow God’s example. We are forgiven by God in Christ. This is the foundation for us to forgive and love others. What we do comes from who we are. The order is not reversed! What a beautiful reality! We find this pattern all the time in Paul’s writing. We live from God’s approval, with our identity rooted in Him, rather than for God’s approval, hoping we measure up. We are saved by grace and then designed for good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Today, reflect on this wonderful truth. How would it change your view of yourself or the way you read Scripture? What would it mean for you to live in grace and approach life knowing you are loved and accepted in Christ?

By Billy Berglund 

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True Identity | Ephesians 4:32-5:22019-02-09T12:06:17-07:00

Practicing His Presence

Take a moment to breathe deeply. This week likely brought a variety of tasks, conversations, and activities. This morning, intentionally press pause. Reflect on the moments that come to mind. Where was God in those conversations? How did He show up in that meeting? What was He up to this week in your life? What new desires has He placed on your heart?

In our fast-paced society, we can get going really fast without reflecting on God’s presence in our lives. In reality, He is with us at all times but we don’t always intentionally practice being in His presence. We may understand this idea conceptually, but it can be challenging to truly be aware of Him. Today and this weekend take part in a few of these exercises (adapted from Dallas Willard’s presentation at a Spiritual Renewal Conference), as you feel led. These are not meant to be legalistic, but rather, life giving as we become more aware of God’s presence each moment.

WAKING IN THE MORNING Arise with praise to God. Seek seclusion to kneel for 5 or 10 minutes and welcome the presence of Jesus, renewing your invitation for Him to be with you each moment. Ask Him to remove all fear and fill you with His love. Specific concerns for the day should be called out. Declare your dependence upon Him, remembering His presence with you.

AS YOU ENGAGE WITH PEOPLE, Will the peace and joy within you to pass from you like living waters to those around you. It is in your body. You will it to enter others. Watch it happen. Sometimes by benediction or “good speaking,” sometimes in complete silence.

EVERY TWO TO THREE HOURS, Take ten minutes to lift a fully concentrated heart and mind to God in thanksgiving and petition, alone if possible. Sometimes you may do this by looking at the beauty of a flower or the sky or listening to beautiful music.

AT THE END OF THE DAY, Take fifteen minutes to review the day. Give thanks for the successes, and try to understand why any failures occurred. Ask Jesus for guidance in continuing the project. (Note: Don’t make this a part of your evening exercises. They are a part of the new day.)

BEGINNING OF THE DAY The biblical day, God’s day, begins in the early evening at sundown. In darkness we gather, we recollect, we praise, and we dream in the security God has given to us. Above all, we rest. Rest is an act of faith, especially today. As you retire, decide to meet with God first thing when you awake, and go over in your mind how that will be. Fall asleep in prayer. Use the simple prayers of childhood or the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm.

No matter what happens today, cling to this truth of Philippians 4:6-7 from the Message Translation:

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

By Billy Berglund 

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Practicing His Presence2019-02-09T12:06:18-07:00

Finished | John 19:30

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

I love to-do lists. In fact, I’m one of those people who will do something, then write it down just so I can cross it off a list. There is great satisfaction in finishing what we set out to accomplish. The feeling escalates when we finish a semester of school, a big work project or a long-term goal. We can finally breathe a sigh of relief and relax a bit. Our work is finished…for now.

While there is great satisfaction in little achievements along the way, there is always a sense of more work to do. The next day or the next semester will bring more work. We will have a new mission with new tasks, new projects, and new things to do. The feeling of finality is only short-lived. Yet when Jesus hangs on the cross at the end of his life, he says, “It is finished.”

This exclamation is unique. This short phrase “It is finished” is one word in the Greek, “Tetelestai.” The word carries with it the idea of completing, fulfilling, and bringing to an end. All of this takes place in this moment. The finished work on the cross changed the course of history.

Jesus completes the work that his Father sent him to accomplish, and in doing so he fulfills Scripture. In dying on the cross, he brings an end to the penalty for sins. Jesus provides a once-for-all sacrifice for our sins. The enemy is defeated and humanity is restored. The completed work of Christ has huge ramifications for us as we go about our lives. Through faith in Christ, we experience new life in Him. As Hebrews 10:10 says, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Today, reflect on the words, “It is finished.” Do you believe these words? Do you try to add anything to what Christ has done, or do you rest in what He has accomplished?

By Billy Berglund

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Finished | John 19:302019-02-09T12:06:21-07:00

Hope of New | Revelation 3:11-13

11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Yesterday, the great evangelist and preacher Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99. Over the course of decades, thousands around the world heard him boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Earlier in his life, he was quoted as saying, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Graham lived in this life with the hope of the next in mind. He also said, “The most thrilling thing about heaven is that Jesus Christ will be there. I will see Him face to face. Jesus Christ will meet us at the end of life’s journey.”

Billy Graham understood the hope of eternal life with Jesus Christ. This invigorated his earthly ministry. While Graham longed to be in the presence of God, he lived with a sense of purpose and urgency. He lived out these words from CS Lewis: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” In our passage in Revelation 3:11-13, we see the hope of the day when all will be made right. This new city, the new Jerusalem, brings great encouragement in the midst of life’s trial and difficulties.

As Christians, we need to be intentional about reflecting on the hope of the new. One day, we too will be in the presence of God. Our pain and difficulties on earth will not last forever. We have the assurance of spending eternity with Jesus. This wonderful truth encourages us and motivates us here and now on earth. We are in Christ and have a hopeful message for a world in need. As we live on earth, we remember that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Today, take a moment to really consider this reality. Have a little fun making a “bucket list” for Heaven and praise God for the gift of salvation and the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

By Billy Berglund  

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Hope of New | Revelation 3:11-132019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Reputation vs. Reality | Revelation 3:1-2

1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.

The snooze button is one of my greatest enemies. My wife has a habit of hitting the button a good three or four times every morning. Perhaps you can relate. The loud beeping goes off every few minutes, just as I am falling off to sleep again. Some days, I just want to throw that alarm clock out the window. Every morning, that alarm goes off, telling us to “Wake up!”

Sometimes, we need a good wake up call in our lives. It is so easy to just go through the motions of our lives, outwardly appearing alive and thriving. However, our inward life may present a very different reality. In this letter to the church to Sardis, Jesus says though John, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” The church at Sardis was in a spiritual coma of sorts. Despite their reputation, they were actually asleep and about to die, in desperate need of being reawakened and made alive!

As you think about your own life, is your reputation different than your reality? If we are honest, reputation management is plain old exhausting. We may try to put on a face, to make ourselves look good on the outside, despite the fact that our inner life doesn’t match. Our reality may be far from the “perfect image” we try to present to others in person and through social media. This has great implications for our relationship with God. If we become consumed with outward acts, perhaps even good deeds, we can still miss the point.

There is a great danger to try and do things for God, and yet be far from Him in reality. As Peter Scazzero writes, “Work for God that is not nourished by a deep interior life with God will eventually be contaminated by other things such as ego, power, needing approval of and from others, and buying into the wrong ideas of success and the mistaken belief that we can’t fail.” Jesus had harsh words for those whose outward reputation did not match their inner reality. He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:27-28).

Thankfully, there is a different way to live. We are called to live with God, abiding and remaining in Him (John 15), finding our identity in His incredible, unconditional love for us in Christ. We are called to be awakened to the reality that our lives have great meaning and purpose. Today, reflect on this call to wake up. Be honest before God, talking with Him about ways that your outer life and inner life may not line up. Ask him for help and thank Him for His steady love and pursuit of us. Reflect on these words from Scazzero, “We cannot give what we do not possess. Doing for God in a way that is proportionate to our being with God is the only pathway to a pure heart and seeing God (Matthew 5:8).”

By Billy Berglund  

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Reputation vs. Reality | Revelation 3:1-22019-02-09T12:06:24-07:00

Be Faithful | Revelation 2:10b

Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

As a young man, I really admire men and women who have been walking with the Lord for many years. For some, it has been decades and decades of steady faithfulness. A few years ago, my grandfather passed away. I will always remember the celebration of his life at his funeral service. For over sixty years, he walked with the Lord, living in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. As a result, he impacted many people’s lives. I remember walking away from that service very moved. As I have been here at South for three years, I have been fortunate to meet many of you who live the same way. So what’s the secret? How do we be faithful?

Here in Revelation 2:10, Jesus writes through John, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This letter to the Church at Smyrna is a letter to hurting people. As Ryan mentioned Sunday in his sermon, Jesus doesn’t always remove the heat, but he does release the pressure. We have looked at how Jesus knows what we are going through and encourages us to not fear. Today, we find the encouragement to be faithful.

We find great hope in our lives when we have the proper perspective. In Christ, we have victory in the end. We can be sure and confident in this. Assurance is the engine for endurance. The reality is, future hope empowers daily faith. It is so easy for me to become consumed with my present situation and lose sight of the ultimate joy and hope I have in Christ. Our faithfulness should not be determined by our circumstances. As author Jon Bloom writes, “If the future joy Jesus promises is real and you believe him, there is no circumstance that can steal your thanksgiving.”

So what does this look like in our everyday lives? I really believe we are not called to just endure this life, but to truly thrive and find joy along the way. As I have met with older and wiser Christians over the years, I greatly admire their consistency. They have shown me that our habits can really change our lives. We are to be faithful through embracing the little things. Over time, we can actually change our mental pathways. In a way, it is like training before war, building habitual muscle memory. We cling to the security and identity we have in Christ as we live faithfully despite pain and difficulty. While this is far easier said than done, it is made possible through relying on the Spirit working in our lives, who helps us each and every moment along the way.

Today, take a few moments to reflect. First, think about all the ways that God has been faithful to you. Counting these blessings can help re-orient our perspective. Then, consider the areas of your life you are living faithfully. Are there any areas you could re-commit to being faithful? Close by bringing these reflections to God and ask Him for strength on the journey.

By Billy Berglund

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Be Faithful | Revelation 2:10b2019-02-09T12:06:26-07:00

Doing vs. Being | Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Growing up as an athlete, I was always focused on performance. My mood and feeling of self-worth was based on whether I could “perform” or “achieve” a certain level of outward success. I struggled with this mentality even into college. Even on days when I felt like a performed well, I felt a bit empty inside. At times, this carried over into my relationship with God. I became focused on “doing the right things,” yet my heart was often not in it. I could go through the motions, yet was missing whole-hearted devotion.

If we aren’t careful, we can become preoccupied with outward actions alone. As a result, our hearts grow cold. As Ryan said Sunday, we may dress the part, but miss the heart. We miss out on a life-giving, thriving relationship with Jesus. Instead, we focus on seeking praise instead of being known. We use performance to protect ourselves from pain or failure. We assume our self-worth is based on our ability to perform and produce. We may “do the right things” as we conform to a process, rather than embrace a relationship with a person.

Today, if you resonate with any of these feelings, as I do, be encouraged by Jesus’ words. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” While religion says perform and produce, Jesus says rest and abide. In Christ, we find true acceptance. We are truly known and fully loved. We can live from approval, rather than constantly seeking to live for approval. Our outward actions now overflow from our hearts. We are living in freedom, not to “appear righteous to others,” or to “win God’s affection,” but rather from a secure place of love. We are no longer duty-driven robots, but passionately loving people who know we are loved.

Over the past few years, God has really been working on my heart in this regard. I can still remember the first time I walked into South Fellowship, in August of 2015. At the end of the message, Pastor Ryan said these words, “God pursues relentlessly, loves always, and refuses to give up on you.” They have stuck with me ever since. Today, no matter where you find yourself, take some time to reflect on these words. God pursues you because you are worth pursuing. Ask God to forgive you of any sins which come to mind, to help you understand your security in Him rather than needing to constantly “perform,” and to rekindle your spiritual fire. 

By Billy Berglund

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Doing vs. Being | Matthew 11:28-302019-02-09T12:06:27-07:00

Fresh Renewal | 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18


16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Transformation is a tricky thing. We all desire it, and yet it is hard to come by. Studies have shown that about 60% of us have made New Year’s Resolutions this year. We love books that promise “Your Best Year Ever!” and TV shows that highlight radical transformation such as home remodeling and weight loss. There is even a show about weight loss for pets! We can’t get enough! And yet, when it comes to our own lives, we often struggle to see real, consistent transformation. Only 9% of people report feeling successful in achieving their resolutions. Why is that?

In Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” This seems pretty straightforward, but what does this look like in our lives practically? I think consistency and intentionality are two keys that Paul is stressing here. We must continually strive to renew our mind. Renewed actions will follow a renewed mind. Transformation is a process that does not happen overnight. We must be willing to put in the hard work, always relying on God’s strength.

In Romans 12:2, Paul sets up the contrast of being conformed to the pattern of the world and being transformed by the renewing our mind. Conforming is easy. When we fail to be intentional, we easily slip into comparing with others, controlling our lives on our own strength, complaining constantly, and more. Instead, Paul calls us to be transformed. We consistently renew our minds when we embrace 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” These seem impossible at first glance, yet they are made possible with the right perspective. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, reflecting on God’s mercies in our lives, we find the ability to live out these three ‘transforming patterns.’ We won’t be perfect, but we find hope in knowing our identity is secure in Christ. What would it look like for you to incorporate the three patterns from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in your everyday life? Could you begin a gratitude or prayer journal? Today, reflect on one pattern you could implement in 2018 to experience a fresh renewal of your mind and real transformation in your life. 

By Billy Berglund  

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Fresh Renewal | 1 Thessalonians 5:16-182019-02-09T12:06:29-07:00
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