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South Fellowship Church

Phone Down Christmas

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Phone Down Christmas

by Ryan Paulson

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I can remember the day like it was yesterday. I had just walked in the door from work and I got an email from someone. It was an email that I had been waiting for, so I really needed to reply (I thought right away). So, I hopped on my phone and started to compose a message. As I wrote the message, my son Ethan started to climb all over me – like only boys can! He started to get frustrated because I didn’t engage with him in our normal wrestling banter. After trying to get my attention for a few minutes, he gave up. As he was walking away, he said to me,

“I WISH YOU’D PUT YOU PHONE DOWN DADDY”

Those words cut straight to my heart like a knife! See, my son had experienced something that many of us know, but it’s something that we have a tendency to forget. 

It’s possible to be present physically, but absent in every way that matters.

I don’t think I’m the only one who struggles with this. In fact, I think there are many who very rarely enter into the lives of the people around them in a way that matters. We have a tendency to substitute physically occupying space for being present.

I’ve noticed that for me, this struggle continues to escalate as my phone gains more and more features. I have more ways to be somewhere else. I have more people that I can talk to. I have more options. And when I have more options, there is more of a pull to be somewhere other than where I am.

Many of us use the excuse that we are trying hard to provide for our families. I get it, we are, but I’ve been reminded of a key truth lately:

PEOPLE DON’T USUALLY REMEMBER PRESENTS, BUT THAT ALWAYS REMEMBER PRESENCE.

We all have a choice every single day: Will we choose to be present, or will will simply occupy space. Maybe this Christmas season you choose to turn the phone off when you get home. Maybe you choose to log out of Facebook and instead of interacting with people through cyber space you interact with the people right in front of you.

I’m thankful for the reminder from my son… I’m hopeful that I won’t need it again any time soon.

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Phone Down Christmas2014-12-24T00:00:00-07:00

Inner Revolution

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Inner Revolution

by Oswald Chamber (from My Utmost for His Highest)

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Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ’God with us’ —Matthew 1:23

His Birth in History. “. . . that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of— He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate— God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and the holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord’s birth was an advent— the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me. “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you . . .” (Galatians 4:19). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a “Bethlehem” for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. “You must be born again” (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of the new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that “Christ is formed” in me. And once “Christ is formed” in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh. This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.

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Inner Revolution2014-12-24T00:00:00-07:00

Christmas Chaos

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Christmas Chaos

by Ryan Paulson

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Well, we are in the throws of Christmas insanity… and I’m sure you are well aware of that if you tried to go to the mall this weekend. If you did, may God help you! If you just sit back and watch all the activity (people spending an exorbitant amount of money, rushing around, etc.), you could come to the conclusion that we are all a little bit insane. And we bring it upon ourselves.

As I’ve gone back through the Christmas story there is only one place where we see the giving of gifts. It in Matthew 2:1-12. It reads,

[2:1] Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, [2] saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” [3] When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; [4] and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. [5] They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

[6] “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

[7] Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. [8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” [9] After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. [10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [11] And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. [12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (Matthew 2:1-12)

Please Note: The only gifts given in the Biblical Christmas story are TO JESUS and they are given IN WORSHIP.

I wonder how Christmas would change for us if we were willing to embrace this was a principle that we let guide us. I’m not saying that we stop giving gifts to other people. I think that’s a good thing! What I am saying is that I think the season might take on a little bit of a different flavor if we gave some gifts back to the King. It might pretty radically change things!

What might you offer this King this year?

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Christmas Chaos2014-12-22T00:00:00-07:00

Advent Art – 4

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Advent Art – 4

by Dolores Barela

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Advent Art – 42014-12-21T00:00:00-07:00

The Perfect Gift

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The Perfect Gift

by Kelly Paulson

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“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” – Matthew 13:44

One of the greatest things about the holiday season is giving that perfect gift to someone that you love.  My sister lives in Panama City, Panama and married a man from there.  A few years ago they were married, and our good friends took pictures at the wedding.  I spent hours creating a wedding album for them with the pictures and gave it to them last Christmas.  It was one of the greatest feelings to show my love for them through this gift.  I had given them a gift that no one else could give them; a gift that they valued and a gift that brought them a great amount of joy.

Every year God gives us that perfect gift, his son. While it is easy to get caught up in all of the stocking stuffers and gifts, He wants us to focus on His gift this year.  He wants to see our joy as we open the most valuable gift that has ever been given. It is a gift that no one else could give us.  It is a gift that should floor us every time we open it.  It is the only gift that we will ever really need, and the most important gift that we can share with others.

God has spent so lavishly on this gift, let’s follow Him in spending our time and money on the gifts that have true value.  The gift of God’s son is like the treasure in the field, and we should give all we have for that field.  As we spend this holiday season, think about spending less on the trivial things and more on what will last forever. The best part about giving someone that perfect gift is watching them open it.  Show God your joy as you open up the gift of His son once again this year.

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The Perfect Gift2014-12-20T00:00:00-07:00

Advent Art – 3

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Advent Art -3

by Dolores Barela

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Advent Art – 32014-12-18T00:00:00-07:00

Two Kinds of Opposition to Jesus

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Two Kinds of Opposition to Jesus

by John Piper
found in Good News of Great Joy Daily Readings for Advent

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When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled,
and all Jerusalem with him. —Matthew 2:3

Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him, and he brings out opposition for those who do. This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is inescapable as the story goes on.

In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus, the Messiah.

The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented by the chief priests and scribes. Verse 4: “Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Well, they told him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening.

And notice, verse 3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of chief priests is staggering—why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They do not want to worship the true God.

The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who is deeply threatened by him. That is Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.

So today these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers: indifference and hostility. Are you in one of those groups?

Let this Christmas be the time when you reconsider the Messiah and ponder what it is to worship him.[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”20px” size=”custom”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Two Kinds of Opposition to Jesus2014-12-18T00:00:00-07:00

Campaigning for the Throne

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Campaigning for the Throne

by Ryan Paulson

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Praise be to GOD that there won’t be another election for two years! I don’t think I could have handled one more political add. In the last presidential election there was over $2,000,000,000 spent on the two campaigns combined.

That’s a whole lot of money spent with the explicit intent to get people to like what you say!

When you think about it, both candidates were trying to convince you of their ideas and their ideals, they were trying to sell you on their vision for the future of the US, and they were trying to win your vote. The irony of all of the money spent is two-fold. One, there was no change in office. So, we spent $2,000,000,000 to end up exactly where we were! Second, in a matter of years people will most likely remember very little about either of the men on whom the money was spent. Sure, we might remember president Obama, but his influence will begin fade the day he leaves office.

I think many who follow Christ would rather he show up on the scene with the large campaign budget and with the intent to win the approval of the masses. However, Jesus shows up on the scene with no campaign budget, unimpressive pedigree, and a ludicrous plan to ascend the throne.

Luke 2 presents us with a picture of contrasting campaigns. Listen to the way the gospel writer invites us into the tension:

[2:1] In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (Luke 2:1)

in contrast he writes about Jesus…

[4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, [5] to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. [6] And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. [7] And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-7)

So, we have Caesar Augustus. He has the big army, the massive budget, and all the worldly influence the world could ever want. He didn’t spend 2 billion dollars on a campaign, but he didn’t need to. He just killed the people that attempted to remove him from the throne. He had all the worldly accolades anyone could hope for.

In contrast you have Jesus. He is born in what today would probably be a garage and was immediately laid in a manger; a feeding trough for animals. His parents were poor and by all accounts unimportant.

His rise to the throne would not be on the back of campaign dollars, but on the influence of love.

Let me ask you a very simple question: these days, do you hear more about Caesar Augustus of Jesus Christ? This is the irony to end all ironies. The only time we talk about Caesar Augustus is when we read the story of Jesus’ birth. Ha! The fact that we even know Jesus’ name is a impressive, but the fact that billions of people around the globe worship him as Savior and Lord is nothing short of a miracle.

The truth of the matter is that we worship a king in a manger rather than a dictator on a throne.

But, truth be told, I think many of us would be more comfortable with worshiping the dictator on the throne. The ruler that would take over with power – with the big campaign budget, the army, and the plan for rapid expansion. 

But this Jesus had a different plan. Jesus was going to acend the throne by giving his life for the very people who hated him. He was going to gain power by giving everything up for the sake of others. He wasn’t going to kill his enemies, he was going to die for them. Because of this unreal act of love, one day EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

This Christmas let’s be reminded of the fact that we worship a king in a manger, not a dictator on the throne. And as we bow in the dirt and dust at his bedside, may we be reminded of power of love. Is has the unique ability to change the world.

There’s a little story about a man named Jesus that proves it’s true.

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Campaigning for the Throne2014-12-16T00:00:00-07:00

Christmas Expectations

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Christmas Expectations

by Carolyn Schmitt

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For years I struggled with the Christmas “Season”. Many of my childhood memories of “The Season” were colored by loss of family, friends , the bitterness and anger of the people raising me and the unfulfilled hope that somehow, this year, it would be different.

Then there were the expectations: Give the right gift. Be kinder. Be more obedient. And, after I became a Christian, a whole new list of expectations from those who wanted nothing to do with Christ, but knew how a Christian should behave, especially at Christmas.

About 20 years ago I was asked to be one of several speakers at a women’s Christmas one day retreat. The subject was Christmas Hospitality. I told the friend who asked me that I couldn’t do it because I didn’t like Christmas and told her why. She was silent. Then she said, “I think it would be helpful for many of us if you would share about the difficulties we all may have with Christmas. I did. I was stunned by the response from so many there who also struggled with the expectations that have grown up around the “Christmas Season”. What WAS unexpected was the feeling of release I experienced after sharing my struggles with those women.

This year I am pondering again the prophecies regarding the Messiah, specifically Isaiah 7;14-17 and 9;6.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7;14-17) NIV

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) NIV

For centuries these words were read, wondered at and the event hoped for. Young women hoped they might be the one to bear the child, perhaps never thinking what could be the consequences of being found to be with child before marriage.

And the child! What would be the expectations placed on a child believed to be Immanuel? Wonderful Counselor! Mighty God! Everlasting Father! Prince of Peace!

From the 1950’s through the 1990’s a news broadcaster named, Paul Harvey, had as part of his program a segment called, THE REST OF THE STORY, which delighted many of us with it’s little tidbits of information about someone who became or did some- thing unexpected. He would relate part of the story, there would be a station break, then he would tell us “the rest of the story”.

Those of us who have been around the “rest of the story” of the earthly life and actions of the child born in Bethlehem don’t have to wonder about what people reading those prophesies speculated on for years. The story is repeated at Christmas each year, so we know what was promised happened, but not in the way expected. Nothing about the child met our expectations, but still we have them.

I wonder about what I expect from him as I ponder this Christmas all that surrounds our celebration of his birth.

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Christmas Expectations2014-12-15T00:00:00-07:00

Advent Art – 2

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Advent Art

by Ben Hunter

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Advent Art – 22014-12-14T00:00:00-07:00
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