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South Fellowship Church

Called to Follow-Who and How

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Misplaced Loyalty Displaces Unity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy People, Enriched in Every Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grounded In Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Need to Receive Correction. Who Me? Yes, You

1 Corinthians 1:1-6, 15:1-58

Let’s set the scene. Apostle Paul was running for his life out of Macedonia (Northern Greece), but then had to run for his life to the province of Achaia (Southern Greece). While journeying, some scholars say he was directed to Corinth by the Holy Spirit. The city of Corinth was the most prosperous city in all of Greece. It was the center of trading in the region where merchants came from every direction. It was a breeding ground for the rich and the poor and slaves – “The Haves and the Have Nots”.

While visiting for a year and a half, Paul shared the gospel of Jesus Christ and established a church. The church of Corinth was a mirror of the culture and diverse backgrounds of the city population, which consisted of Greeks, Jews, and slaves. Keep in mind, slavery in “the biblical days 1st Century, wasn’t based on ethnic backgrounds but on outstanding debts, plunder of war, being destitute, ‘voluntarily’ selling oneself, being sold as a child by destitute parents, a conviction of a crime, or kidnapping and piracy.” (Holman Bible Dictionary).

Approximately three years after Paul left Corinth, he received word about the problems in the Corinthian church from two sources: some Corinthians leaders, and the Chloe household. His first letter is about how the church should treat Christians living immoral lives (see 1 Cor. 5:9); this letter cannot be found. Paul evidently hears of more problems in the Corinthian church, so he sent Timothy to remind them of their apostolic life and teaching (1 Cor. 4:17). The Corinthians continued to live a corrupted life which prompted Paul to write the letter we call 1 Corinthians.

Now, we must ask the question; Why is it important for Christian believers to receive correction?

  1. Without corrections, the church body will be the same as the world of non-believers. (2 Corinthians 6:17 KJV)

    Paul is a fearless Apostle with a pastoral heart to address a variety of immoral acts, conflict within the congregation and with spiritual leaders (1 Cor. 1:10), adaptions of hedonistic values of Greco-Roman society, unworthily partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34), cultural compromise: incest (1 Cor. 5:1-13), sexual immorality, eating in pagan temples (1 Cor. 8 -11:1), and denial of resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-58). Holiness is vital to the Christian lifestyle. God chastises those whom he loves. (Hebrews 12:6-11 NKJV

  2. It is necessary to produce spiritual growth and development.

    When Biblical correction is done prayerfully and lovingly, we must have the posture of humility to receive correction. Correction is important to hold believers accountable to the true Gospel. Correction and accountability go hand and hand. In the Corinthian letters, Paul has given us a blueprint on how to handle a congregation that has lost its way from righteousness. Paul did not turn a blind eye to the problems within the Corinthian church, nor can we ignore the immoral conduct within the church today.

Receiving corrections is not easy no matter how gently it is given to us. When our sinful ways are exposed, we can feel a sense of shame and guilt. Our response to correction should be one of gratitude and repentance. For God loves, forgives, and saves people through His son Jesus Christ; we have an atonement for our sins. (John 3:16 KJV)

Now, it’s your turn. Take 15 minutes and think about how you respond when someone tells you of the error of your ways. If you responded unrighteously, repent, accept God’s forgiveness, and apologize to that person.

We Need to Receive Correction. Who Me? Yes, You2022-09-15T14:10:59-06:00

Are You a Pilgrim?

Pilgrim: a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.

In the summer of 2015, my husband and I traveled a thousand miles by car in Norway. We started in Bergen and zipped around the fjords, mountains, and through tunnels to end up in Trondheim. While traveling, we stayed in several AirBnBs. The last one was a modern farmhouse 50 miles from Trondheim. We were curious about two extremely weathered buildings on the property and found they were reserved for pilgrims who had walked almost 400 miles on the St. Olav Ways pilgrim trail route from Oslo to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

We conversed with one German pilgrim who confirmed that several wooden churches we had seen on our car trip were part of her journey. Ancient Christian pilgrim routes like St. Olav Ways have recently become more traveled – not just by Christians, but by those looking for some kind of spiritual experience.

Formal pilgrim walking journeys to sacred places are part of ancient European Christian history, but also include well traveled paths to shrines throughout the world. Some examples are the Temple in Jerusalem, the Kaaba in Mecca, Kumano Kodō in Japan, Machu Picchu in the Andes, Mount Kailash in Tibet, or Haridwar along the Ganges. Pilgrimage seems hardwired into human experience.

I’d like to think the following pilgrimage is one Christians should emulate:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1 ESV)

In amazing obedience to God, Abram became a pilgrim from Haran to Shechem and eventually the Negev – walking over 600 miles. Here’s another part of that pilgrimage:

Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17 ESV)

The pilgrimage directions given to the prophet Micah and by Peter are not only about who to walk with but what to do and what to abstain from on the way:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (I Peter 2:11 ESV)

And, the writer of Hebrews penned a poignant reminder about the sacred destiny of Christian pilgrims:

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

Meditate on one of these verses as you go on a walk sometime in the next few days. Ask God to infuse that walk with his presence and give you a new perspective. Ask him to give you a way to make it a sacred journey. Here are perspectives from Arthur Blessitt and Ann Sieben who each have spent substantial years walking thousands of miles through many countries as Christian pilgrims.

Are You a Pilgrim?2022-07-09T16:44:12-06:00

Everyday Walking

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) NKJV

Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors. ( Psalm 119:24) NKJV

And I will walk in liberty for I seek Your precepts.(Psalm 119:45)
And I will delight myself in Your commandments which I love.
(Psalm 119:47) NKJV

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105) NKJV

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5-6) MSG

Most of my walking this week will be close to home as I spend time asking questions and listening for answers from a variety of people about some projects I’m working on. I get in a lot of walking while I wait “in line” on the phone for the next available customer service person. I appreciate my Apple watch, because it records my steps, activity, stairs climbed, oxygen level and heartbeat among other things.

This week, since some of my family are out of town, I am using alone time to practice solitude, silence, scripture meditation and prayer, as I care for some extra details of maintaining the house and yard. All of them include lots of walking, stair climbing and lifting. As I work, I practice listening to God say “Yes, no, and not yet,” especially as it is easy for me to get distracted from the task I’m on by something else I see that needs doing. The above scriptures are ones that encourage my focus on the Lord as I go about my day.

Take some time this week to ask God how you can draw closer to him in the ordinary activities of your life. Meditate on the above scriptures and ask the Lord to show you other verses that encourage you.

Everyday Walking2022-07-09T16:33:37-06:00

WATCH YOUR STEP

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5 NIV

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant Psalm 25:9-10 NIV

Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. Psalm 26:2-3 NIV

“Watch your step; choose your path carefully; look where you are going”. These are different ways of saying: “make wise choices in how, where, and when you choose to walk”. Imagine a young child who is still unsteady on their feet; the adult with the child may say similar things to guide the young one, to keep the child’s attention on where he or she puts his or her next step.

Our Heavenly Father gives us similar advice. Read Psalm 25 and Psalm 26. As you read, look for words that pertain to walking, sitting, paths to take, and who does the teaching and leading. Pay attention to the verbs in these two psalms and who is described as doing these actions. Did you see that we all have choices to make? Sometimes David describes how he has walked, or sometimes he is asking God to do something for him.

“Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” (Psalm 26:2-3) David asked God to look at his innermost character, his motivations, his thoughts, and to determine if David was making right, wise, and godly choices. David’s request reveals he was humble, that he admitted he needed God’s guidance and advice on how, where and when to walk.

Just like a young child, we all can choose to listen to the wise advice given us, or we can run headlong down a bumpy, dangerous, and ill advised route. In these two psalms, I see David asking for God’s guidance, seeking God’s truth, keeping his eyes on God’s faithfulness and love shown to David in his past, in order to enable David to make wise choices in how to walk in the future.

We all make choices in how we walk everyday. We can choose to obey or disobey God: we can choose to walk by our faith in God, or to walk by sight only. We can choose our path by following God’s truth, or by listening to false teaching that others profess. We can choose to walk in righteousness or in wickedness. Take some time today, respond to these psalms in prayer of confession. Admit before God: choices you have made – paths you have taken – that might have been unwise or bad.

WATCH YOUR STEP2022-07-09T16:29:38-06:00

Spiritual Walking

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless. Genesis 17:1

I struggle to think in a straight line. It isn’t only when I’m trying to focus on a task but also when I pray or listen to God. Walking helps me. Walking, I can focus on a single idea for longer than when I sit still. More than that, my body’s motion helps translate ideas into emotions and intentions. This isn’t just my reality; it’s a human reality. Walking creates a bilateral stimulation of the brain. That means we begin to operate in both hemispheres of our brain. This kind of neuro activity strengthens learning and resolve.

I tend to be a cognitive person. I live in my thoughts. The side effect of that is that I struggle with emotions. I have found that my body bridges my thought life and my emotional life. Walking, singing, and dancing help me to move from thought to emotion.

Some of these things may be true for you as well. The scriptures speak of “walking with God.” Perhaps that is a more literal statement than we often think. That is why walking can be such a spiritual activity.

Try taking a walk with God this week. Think of a subject that you want God to speak into. Place that thought before your conscious mind and begin to walk. Ask God about it. What does he think? What does he want you to know? What does he want you to do? Once you are finished, evaluate whether walking helped you engage with God better than if you had prayed while still.

Spiritual Walking2022-07-08T20:29:47-06:00

The God Who Walks

Walking is a strong, repetitive theme through the scriptures, and the first moment we witness walking is in the context of God slowly making his way through his garden.

God walks. We catch a glimpse of him walking in Genesis 3.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8)

Perhaps this verse is too familiar to really note how unusual this sounds. How does God walk? Does God have legs? How would God’s walk sound? What was his experience like that day enjoying the garden during the coolness of the day?

Although we might not be able to answer every question that arises from the various descriptions of God in the scriptures, we can get curious about the importance of God walking.

When we walk…

  1. we have to get up and get moving
  2. we notice more of the world around us
  3. we can process thoughts using both sides of our brain

Walking often slows us down, keeps us healthy, and draws us into the present moment. And, this is what God does too. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s not in a hurry and he’s always present with us moment by moment. In God’s walking, God offers us himself.

“I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God. And you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:11-12)

Today, ask God to go for a walk with you and notice what walking does for your body and your brain.

The God Who Walks2022-07-08T20:18:05-06:00
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