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The LORD’s Response | Habakkuk 1:5-11

“Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed.

For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe,

even if you were told”.  Habakkuk 1:5

There’s no question of if God will answer your prayers. He always does. Habakkuk, disturbed by the evil surrounding him, asked God, “How long will I call for help and you don’t seem to hear?” (1:1). God gave him an answer. But it wasn’t the answer he was expecting (1:5). The all-wise God has the task of answering our prayers in a finite, human way our brains can understand. We have this great example of Habakkuk wrestling with God (that’s what his name means), distressed, disturbed, doubting, but also embracing faith in God and trusting in his sovereign, just character.

We have the task of asking (God listens to us, He is more than able and desiring to hear from us) and listening. We need to posture our hearts, minds, and bodies to hear from him, humbly waiting and keenly observing in likely and unlikely places. There are no limits to how he answers, and he will answer. That alone is enough to cause us to wonder, be astonished, amazed, and marvel at him and his ways. The fact is, as he answered Habakkuk, he is doing something, and he would not believe it if he were told. Habakkuk didn’t like the answer but it was for the good of Israel, fit into God’s plan, and was consistent with God’s character. Just because we don’t see the answer we want doesn’t mean God isn’t working. Just because we don’t like the answer we see doesn’t mean he isn’t working for the good. We might not believe it because God can do the unbelievable.

Habakkuk had struggles and questions. God wants you to come to him with every care and concern. He’s greater than them all. How are you at listening for his answers? Practice listening this week by pausing for a few minutes in God’s presence with a posture of receiving after you have shared with him your concern. Perhaps hold your hands open to the sky above. May God reveal himself to you just as he did to Habakkuk, and assure you he has everything under control.

Psalm 10:17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.

Psalm 66:19 But God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.

Proverbs 1:5 Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.

Proverbs 8:3 Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it.

By Donna Burns

The LORD’s Response | Habakkuk 1:5-112020-07-30T12:06:53-06:00

Peace in the Land | Judges 8:22-35

Thus Midian was subdued before the Israelites and did not raise its head again. During Gideon’s lifetime, the land had peace forty years.  Judges 8:28

The word forty is mentioned 146 times in the Bible. It represents a time of testing or trial. Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all fasted in the wilderness 40 days. In the book of Judges, 40 years of peace came after Othniel (3:11), Deborah (5:31), Gideon (8:28), and 80 years after Ehud. There is also a pattern. Israel forgot God’s goodness to them, they sinned and cried out to him in their distress “save us”. God sent a judge, they returned to God and lived in peace. When the judge died, they forgot God, sinned and cried out to God again. This happened over and over until the twelfth and final judge Samson, blinded and humbled, destroyed the Philistines and their temple by pushing apart the stone columns with them in it. Then God gave Israel the kings they wanted, first Saul, David, and Solomon and each reigned 40 years.

As we have soaked in the Old Testament narratives of Gideon this week, several points are worth making note of. There are more chapters and narrative about Gideon than any other judge. He is also the only judge to whom an angel speaks. The people sought to make him king and he lived like a king (8:26–27, 30, 32). In verse 23 he says the right things, but his actions show something different. His words give glory to God but his actions claim glory for himself. We are all like him in this respect. We claim for ourselves that which only God can give.

The judges delivered Israel from the consequences of their sin, but not the cause of it. God planned for them to live in peace in the Promise Land, but they were distracted, forgot and followed other passions they thought would satisfy. Isn’t that like individuals today, trying to find peace in so many other people, things and systems but they don’t deliver. There is only one source of true peace, it is in the person of Jesus. A person must receive the gift of forgiveness to restore a right relationship between their heart and God’s. Pray for the peace that only He can give through his son and only he can put in your heart. Pray for many to come to know the real peace in Jesus in our world today. Tell someone about the peace he brings you.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 16:20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

By Donna Burns

Peace in the Land | Judges 8:22-352020-07-23T16:15:31-06:00

Intelligent, Not Foolish | 1 Samuel 25:1-3

Now Samuel died. And all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him in his house at Ramah.  Then David rose and went down to the wilderness of Paran.  And there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel. The man was very rich; he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. He was shearing his sheep in Carmel.  Now the name of the man was Nabal, and the name of his wife Abigail. The woman was discerning and beautiful, but the man was harsh and badly behaved; he was a Calebite. 1 Samuel 25:1-3

What is a Calebite? Is that an important detail? What sort of application do we take from a character study from the Old Testament Bible? If we look at the Hebrew narrative style, we have some clues. We can notice how the writer characterizes them by the meaning of their name, actions rather than description, and roles they take. We can also listen to their dialogue. The amount of dialogue compared to the narration is insightful. The contrast between Abigail’s wise appeal, Nabal’s foolish talk and David’s vengeance-taking anger have aspects to which we can all relate.

David means “God’s beloved”. Abigail means “the Father’s (Abba) joy (Gail)”. Nabal’s name means “foolish”. The contrasts between this husband and wife’s actions and words are many. Abigail recognized God’s hand upon David as the future King of Israel, her husband Nabal saw himself as the master of all he owned. Abigail showed respect to God’s anointed king, Nabal insulted him. Abigail showed wisdom in her circumstances, Nabal ignored common courtesy and kindnesses. Abigail graciously gave gifts, Nabal indulged himself. Abigail acted respectfully, Nabal behaved badly. See if you can find more.

A Calebite was a descendant of Caleb who followed God wholeheartedly and whose name translates the same. Nabal acted in opposition to God and the King and serves as an opposite example of his namesake. Abigail was the Father’s joy. She brought him with her wherever she went. You can do the same. He wants you to see his hand at work in the world and join him in reaching it. How do you respond to the King Jesus and the plan he has for you? How do you show him respect? Impart his wisdom? Share his gifts? Abigail’s life has a great lesson for us. She was willing for God to work through her. She wisely saw the kingdom of God. She walked in the ways of God with a heart for God.

Here is a project on contrasts. The wise verses the foolish is a major theme in Scripture. Almost twice as many verses about the foolish are in the book of Proverbs than the entire New Testament. Take one chapter of Proverbs each day for a month (31) and keep a list of the verses on the wise and a list of the verses on the foolish. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

By Donna Burns

Intelligent, Not Foolish | 1 Samuel 25:1-32020-07-16T12:03:28-06:00

Midwives Named | Exodus 1:15

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah…  Exodus 1:15

“Beautiful”. If you were to make a quick pencil sketch of “beautiful” you would need some more description or details. In our character study for this week the meaning of the midwife Shiphrah’s name is “beautiful”, but there is no description of her beauty, just what she did. That’s the way Hebrew narrative is written, with lots of detailed actions. Physical descriptions are very brief or non-existent but the actions tell of a person’s character, place in society, and circumstances. Every detail is given for a reason.

The names of the midwives Shiphrah (beautiful) and Puah (brilliant) are mentioned in Exodus 1 among the names of the Patriarchs and the 12 tribes of Israel. They are important, history-making women in a male-led and dominated culture. Their courageous acts (they didn’t do as the King of Egypt commanded, v. 17), compassion (they let the boys live, v. 17) and righteous actions (they valued human life) preserved the covenant and priestly heritage of the nation. Their brave behavior resulted in the nation flourishing by multiplying and becoming very mighty. It would be easy to overlook them, marginalize or make them insignificant. But there is power in the mentioning of their names in the narrative and describing their conduct as God-fearing (v. 17, 21), making a critical difference in Israel’s history (v. 20) and being worthy of honor and blessing (v. 21). What they did was beautiful.

Names are important. Try one or both of these suggestions. If you like drawing, make a quick sketch of your name and what it means. If you like words, write a paragraph of yourself describing your actions walking in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. Just set a timer for ten minutes and stop when it rings. Perhaps meditating on this verse as you draw or write will inspire, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” Romans 10:15 AMP.

By Donna Burns

Midwives Named | Exodus 1:152020-07-09T11:07:11-06:00

Significance of Names | 2 Samuel 9:1-5

And David said, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”  Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David. And the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “I am your servant.”  And the king said, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.”  The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar.”  Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, at Lo-debar. 2 Samuel 9:1-5

Names. What does yours mean? Why was it given to you? In our Bible character series this summer we will find names were very significant in ancient times, both for people and places. They could reflect a personality trait/virtue, a circumstance, or form a pun or create irony. Some examples: Barnabas, son of encouragement, Isaac (laughter, Sarah his mom laughed at the idea of becoming pregnant), Joseph naming his firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” And naming the second son, Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction”, Genesis 41:51-52. Also, name changes were very significant: Abram to Abraham, Jacob the deceiver renamed Israel, and Saul the persecutor became Paul the church planter. Mentions of a name reflect the Creator God and his story in people’s lives.

Mephibosheth’s name is long, filled with meaning, and so is the story of his life. The meanings of names are in parentheses as you read. As a result of a revolution, Mephibosheth (dispeller of shame) was taken as a child from Jerusalem to live in Lo Debar (a desolate, forgotten place). It turns out his name was prophetic because when David (beloved one) became King he kept his promise to Jonathan (the Lord has given) and showed kindness to Jonathan’s descendants. He went from the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel (my kinsman is God) in a barren place back to the palace in the city of Jerusalem (foundation of peace), from where he came. He received unmerited grace. He went from obscurity to prominence, from being discarded to purposefulness. His story could be any of ours. The Father God‘s heart is for all to have a story of receiving his mercy, leaving the fallen place, and being adopted as his children, a story going from helpless shame to righteousness and honor.

God has a plan, a journey, and a story for each of us. Do some research on your name. What characteristics of God does your name embody? How does it relate with the journey God has you on? Someday Jesus will give you a new name: To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it (Revelation 2:17). What do you think it will be? How will this new name reflect your relationship with Jesus?

By Donna Burns

Significance of Names | 2 Samuel 9:1-52020-07-02T10:21:49-06:00

Activity Post | 1 Peter 2:9-11

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:9-11

Where do you begin to relate to those whose religion is not like yours? To relate well, we need information, how much do you know about other peoples’ religions? And we need vision, Jesus himself showed us how to get out of a religion and into a relationship with God. Here are some suggested activities to do individually, as a family or life group.

1. Put an up-to-date world map or globe in your living space to see daily,
or use a global geography learning game regularly.
2. Use a prayer guide like OPERATION WORLD by Patrick Johnstone which will
help you to pray for every country in the world systematically over the year.
3. Do a research study on a particular country, people group, religion or culture. Let God lead your choice and help you to grow in compassion for it. Ask God to show you those of other religions he’s already put in your life..
4. View a movie or video about another part of the world, people, religion or culture.
5. Use the international articles in a newspaper or missions’ magazine for prayer prompts.
6. Read a missionary biography from an area of interest or about building friendships. The more you know about.another’s culture/religion, the more you can relate in friendship with sensitivity and respect. Learn from those who have gone before.
7. Investigate opportunities to reach out to immigrants and international students in your city. Find the pockets of other nationalities in your area to reach out to. Seek out ways to build friendships, show hospitality, and care by praying for them. Give them the opportunity to see God in your life. How many international people have been in your living room or your patio? How many of their homes have you been in? They want to meet Americans.
8. Attend a Missions Advocacy Team (MAT) meeting. There is one for a different part of the world every Sunday at South Fellowship.

Our heart is to be like God’s heart, to desire the experience of the glorious time when people from every nation, tribe, people and language will be worshiping before his throne (Revelation 7:9). Look at different YouTube videos of Christian worship services around the world. Try the largest Christian church in Seoul, Korea; Ghana, Africa; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Kerala, India. It is inspiring and beautiful to see international Christians worshiping like we will all be doing together someday.

By Donna Burns

Activity Post | 1 Peter 2:9-112020-06-25T14:15:45-06:00

Activity Practice | Psalm 102:25-28

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,

    and the heavens are the work of your hands.

 They will perish, but you will remain;

    they will all wear out like a garment.

You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,

     but you are the same, and your years have no end.

The children of your servants shall dwell secure;

    their offspring shall be established before you.  Psalm 102:25-28

Long straight black hair, every kind and color of bracelet covering both her arms from wrist bone to elbow, and symbolic necklaces adorn this young adult cash register attendant. It’s like she wants you to know exactly where she stands and what she stands for. I know she is not like me. Every time I go to the store, I look for her, greet her by her name and ask the Lord to lead me in a conversation with her. Over the years I have found out lots of tidbits about her and keep praying for her, and have asked others to pray for her.

A friend of mine frequents his favorite fast food restaurant and has for years. He spends time in his Bible there regularly and God has led him to conversations about Jesus with many. Contact with those not like us abound if you make the effort to seek them out. Those not like us could be younger, older, of different ethnicity, religion, politics and perspectives. If you have read the Not Like Me book by Eric Bryant, he shares a story about a gas station attendant that he talked to regularly when he fueled his car. The Lord used Eric to bring this man a Bible and more.

So, your activity for this week is to pick a place you frequent or a person that you often see somewhere and be intentional about asking God to lead you. The last couple weeks we’ve made prayer cards to help you keep praying about those not like you, prayer walked and observed in your neighborhood, and now this week look for a business or an event to frequent with your presence in your neighborhood. You could do this yourself, as a family or with other Christ followers. Early in my discipleship I learned that only people and God’s word last for eternity. Through ministry I learned gaining people’s trust earns the privilege of sharing the lifesaving news of Jesus with them. God has given you a story and he has people he wants you to share that story with. Jesus said “go” (Matthew 28:19-20), we are his hands and feet. There is a whole world of people waiting to hear.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:8

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

By Donna Burns

Activity Practice | Psalm 102:25-282020-06-18T13:31:11-06:00

Activity Practice | Digging Deeper

Every day she walked by in her floppy hat and giant sunglasses. She had a stick in one hand and a small dog’s leash in the other. Every day I was out in front of the house doing yard work. After several days of exchanging niceties, I asked her about the dog and if she lived in the neighborhood. She was dog-sitting and told me her address a couple blocks away. When I drove by her house, she had a very unkempt yard. I stopped and knocked on her door and offered to mow the lawn, she declined saying someone was coming to mow it. She invited me in when I gave her my phone number and offer to help with grocery shopping, she was 96 and partially blind and showed me her magnifying machine to help her read.

God puts us where he wants us, in geography and history. God wants us to love the people where we live regardless of age, politics, ethnicity, religion or offenses. Last week’s activities were about praying for these people around us in our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. This week let’s take some “steps” towards loving our neighbors.

Take a prayer walk.

  • Pray for opportunities to meet your neighbors. Ask God to help you “see” and make observations.
  • Walk so your neighbors can see you. Take the time to stop and talk with them.
  • Ask questions, be curious, show interest, listen.
  • Interact. If God or faith come up, ask if they have a spiritual background and if it was a good experience. Be ready in return to share where you’re at with God right now.
  • If you can’t go for a walk, be available to your neighbors by hanging around in your garage, front yard or porch. And remember, walk over to talk to them, don’t just wave!

My elderly neighbor’s lawn never got mowed. No one answered the notes I put on her door. Soon after a FOR SALE sign went up and the house now has new owners and a new look. More opportunities are here in our neighborhood with people moving in and out. More doors to open to share the way of Jesus. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. 1 Timothy 2:1

By Donna Burns

Activity Practice | Digging Deeper2020-06-12T10:12:11-06:00

Activity in Prayer | Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4 (NIV)

Covered. Enveloped. Enclosed. Does a letter come to mind? You got mail! Getting an actual envelope with a special message or card inside is a big deal these days. Opening an email on a device isn’t quite the same, but there is still the element of anticipating something that’s covered inside until it is opened. Envelopes are meant to cover their contents safely and securely.

Psalm 91 reveals a person covered with God’s care and in close communion with him. This intimate relationship brings eternal protection and peace of mind. Talking to God gives him an opportunity to envelop us in his Spirit so that we are one with him in thought and mind. Every time you pray you are enfolded into the very heart of God. He created us for this! It should please us. He calls us to talk to him and commune with him for his name’s sake and for his Kingdom, this pleases him.

The series Not Like Me has brought up a lot of people and issues we can cover in prayer. Pray as you write each person/issue on a separate 3 x 5 card. The process of slowing down to write a name or draw a picture (kids and adults alike) or to doodle on the card prompts prayer.

Make cards for:

  1. Our church. Think of the names of staff, elders, friends, and new pastor transition.
  2. Those with whom you constantly are in conflict and disagreement.
  3. Neighbors.
  4. Someone who is not like you in the area of politics. Pray for them and the election.
  5. Someone who is not like you in the area of sexuality.
  6. People of other ethnicities in your life.

When you are done, put all the cards in an envelope. It symbolizes God’s covering on them through your prayers. Take the cards out of the envelope each day and pray for the South church family and other requests. You can write the date or more prayers or draw some more on the cards. You could even share them with someone else and pray together. Then put them back in the envelope and thank God for his covering on them. Keep the envelope on a windowsill, desk, nightstand or car seat, where you can see it as a visual reminder throughout the day of his constant covering of the people and problems inside. He is a God who hears, who cares and who answers. He will keep you safe within, his holy overshadowing. Listen to this song as you write your cards and envelope them.

By Donna Burns

Activity in Prayer | Psalm 91:42020-06-08T13:29:31-06:00

Love Like Jesus | John 8:1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst  they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”  John 8:1-11

John, one of the closest disciples to Jesus and the longest living, shares this incredible story of his Savior. It is generally attributed to him, unique to his Gospel and found nowhere else. He shares rich details of Jesus’ character, compassion and response to this woman in contrast to those of the religious leaders, the Pharisees. They stood in pride, judgement and disrespect. Jesus knelt in humility, grace and love.

The Pharisees used this woman as an accusatory trap for Jesus to choose between breaking Roman Law or the Mosaic law. Jesus in great wisdom asks them to follow the Mosaic law to determine if they should throw the first stone. As the Judge, with ultimate authority he persuades the human judges to disqualify themselves. Jesus respectfully reminds them of the law using a finger to write in the sand, like God wrote the Ten Commandments. He kneels with dignity before these important men on the woman’s level and humbly reminds them all mankind came from the dust and are sinful. It is the only time ever mentioned that Jesus wrote and no one knows exactly what he wrote. But it caused each Pharisee to leave the scene quietly beginning with the oldest, an important detail, perhaps regarding rabbinical traditions, but definitely implicating themselves.

We want to follow Jesus’ example here and love like Jesus loves. He meets us where we are at and doesn’t look down on us. We need to meet others where they are at and be like Jesus neither condemning or condoning, but extending the love of the Father. Jesus showed tough love to the Pharisees and a tender love to the woman. He didn’t flaunt who he was but he made his convictions known. Jesus’ love and forgiveness impacts everyone in the incident and us the reader. Isn’t that the way God wants us to be? Impacted by his love and then impacting others with it. Extending the love that’s been extended to us. We can have a holy influence with a heart made new by Jesus’ forgiveness. Let him help you drop the stones in your hand and fill your open hands with love to extend to others.

By Donna Burns

Love Like Jesus | John 8:1-112020-05-27T12:13:07-06:00
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