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South Fellowship Church

It’s Hard To Believe

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. Luke 18:31-34 NIV

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27 NIV

These two men had some significant evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead – as he had promised he would. The women had gone to the tomb, they had seen at least one angel, Mary Magdalene had actually had a conversation with the risen Jesus. The women had witnessed first hand that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, just the burial cloth was there and the stone had been already rolled away when they had arrived at dawn.

Yet, these men on the road to Emmaus do not yet believe Jesus has risen from the dead. In fact, Luke tells us, “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him,” Luke 24:15-16. Cleopas and his companion did not recognize Jesus even as he walked and taught them along the road.

What sort of conclusion do you draw from this? It was true in Israel at this time, a woman’s testimony would be suspect. But Peter and John also saw that the body was not in the tomb. The concept of resurrection from the dead IS a difficult one to believe. Perhaps, it is even impossible to believe unless God – Himself – is involved personally in the process of believing.

Perhaps the only way for these men to believe Jesus has risen from the dead was to first be taught by Jesus from the Old Testament scriptures, and, “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” Luke 24:31-32.

These two men had a personal encounter with the risen Messiah, Jesus, their teacher and Lord. I think this is actually what happens with each of us. We have a personal experience with the risen Lord Jesus, who then enables our belief in the resurrection and in the truth that there is forgiveness for our sins. These men desired more time with Jesus, their hearts burned as he taught them. Do you? Do you desire to spend more time with Jesus, with His Word, praising Him, talking to Him, learning about Him and His desires for you and your life? Examine your heart and desires. Seek the resurrected Jesus today – He wants to spend time with you.

It’s Hard To Believe2022-05-02T10:12:22-06:00

IRREPLACEABLE?

Have you ever felt you can’t quit because no one else can replace you? If you’re a key leader, you may not be wrong. Historical records prove that removal or death of a dominating, charismatic leader often severely damages or snuffs out a movement or an empire.

Consider this disheartened reply given by two disciples of Jesus to a stranger who asked what they were discussing as they walked from Jerusalem to Emmaus after the crushing death of their leader:

“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. (Luke 24:19-21 NIV)

As we read the full narrative of this encounter, Jesus reveals himself – not as a stranger, but the Immortal, Irreplaceable One who has always been the center of all Scripture.

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

After they recognized Jesus was the stranger, what was their response when they realized their irreplaceable, powerful leader was still alive?

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”…They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)

Even though evening had fallen, they hurried the seven miles back to Jerusalem to join Jesus’ other disciples and discovered the resurrected Jesus had begun to appear to more and more of them.

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4-8)

How about me, how about you? Do our hearts burn within us so we, in a sense, “travel back to Jerusalem at night, along dangerous roads” to gather with other disciples after being strengthened by the risen Jesus? Are we convinced the Holy Spirit inside us is enough to change lives as we proclaim His message?

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (I Corinthians 15:17-19 NIV)

We are not to be pitied. It’s been two millennia since the risen, irreplaceable Jesus outlined His glorious redemption plan for mankind. Here’s a time lapse map showing what He’s accomplished through seemingly weak, but somehow irreplaceable, Jesus followers like us:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jwp7oDLEFf8

Today, an amazing 30% of the world’s population identify as followers of Christ. (Yes, some are “nominal” or “suspect” Christians, but He’s in charge of sorting that out.) Marvel at the amazing progress of the Gospel. Notice how Chrisitian fervor seems to morph over time.

Then consider that presently 40% of the world has never heard of Him…the need to advance His message of redemption remains. Ask the Irreplaceable One to give you today’s assignment (however small) along with today’s power to further His kingdom.

IRREPLACEABLE?2022-05-02T10:10:13-06:00

Didn’t our Hearts Burn?

They had given up hope. They had been a part of what they thought was a movement. Not only that, they had personally known the head of the movement. He would change the world, but then it had all fallen apart—his arrest, trial, and death on a Roman cross. This wasn’t how the story was supposed to end. Now what?

The characters found in Luke 24 were trying to move on with life after Jesus’ death. They were literally on the road, walking away from it all. They didn’t know what else to do. It’s on that hopeless road that Jesus shows up and begins to trickle hope back into their souls. They didn’t recognize him, but his words started to pull together their shattered dreams. When Jesus finally reveals himself to them, it’s just for a moment before he vanishes. Then, they express what they had been feeling along the road.

‘They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” ‘Luke 24:32

Their hearts were burning as Jesus taught them because the stories he told them meant that the dream wasn’t dead. Instead, the story was just beginning.

You were made for a grand story too. Did you know that? We all want to be a part of something significant. That isn’t a selfish desire; it is a God-designed desire because he did make us for something meaningful. He made us to partner with him; bring his goodness to the world. That story is the only big enough and true enough story to feed every human desire. That is the story that makes your heart burn. You may not know it yet, but your heart awakens when it hears the story that God is writing.

This story is an invitation to hope again. Have you given up on living a grand story? Have you given up on being a part of something genuinely significant? This story is about two characters finding out that hope isn’t dead; it’s alive. There is hope for us too.

Take a moment to ask yourself what hopes you have let die. God may not be reviving your dream the way you wish or imagined. Instead, he may be telling you that an even better hope is alive and well. Does your heart burn for that?

Didn’t our Hearts Burn?2022-05-02T10:07:15-06:00

Best Bible Study Ever!

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27 NIV)

Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him. (Luke 24:27 The Message)

Then beginning with Moses and (throughout) all the prophets, He went on explaining and interpreting to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning and referring to Himself. (Luke 24;27 The Amplified Bible)

Each time I read the Luke 24;13-31 about Cleopas and the other disciple, I try to imagine what it might have been like to hear Jesus, even though they didn’t recognize him, open the Scriptures to their minds and hearts as they walked along together.

I love reading the scriptures in various versions, because each version helps me see and understand something as if in a different voice. But I particularly like listening to audio scriptures because I can be read to – while I’m actively doing something else: sewing, walking, gardening, painting walls. There are things that stick with me when I hear the words better than when I see them. And I feel companioned by Jesus as I do ordinary tasks during my day.

For this devotional I found help on Google when I wanted to know some of what Jesus was teaching to those two disciples. I found 55 Old Testament Prophesies about Jesus, put out by the Jesus Film Project (A CRU Ministry). It covers 4 specific areas. Jesus’s birth, Jesus’s ministry, Jesus’s death and resurrection, and Jesus’s role in the church. With each of the prophesies cited, there is also the scripture that tells the fulfillment of that particular prophesy.

For audio Bible versions, I have the You Version, which along with a LARGE number of versions, also has many different languages for a variety of reader/listeners. Each version listed shows whether it is also in audio or only in print.

I also have the NIV, read by David Suchet, on my Apple Books site.

As you go about your day, think about what it would be like for you to have concentrated time being taught by Jesus, your creator, redeemer, teacher and friend, as he opens the scriptures to your heart and mind. Savor time with Jesus and his word.

Best Bible Study Ever!2022-05-02T09:50:56-06:00

Imagine For A Moment

We are going to do our Daily devotional differently this time. First, pray and ask God to show you what He wants you to see and understand today. Next read Luke 24:13-35 here in the NIV. It might be helpful to read it in a few other versions as well. Here are NASB, ESV, AMP and the NKJV. If you would like to read it in another version, please do.

What do you notice? Are there words that are the same in all the different versions? One that is the same in all of these versions is the word Christ. It is the Greek word for anointed. In Hebrew the word is Messiah. Notice Jesus’ teaching style, how is it similar to the way he taught before his crucifixion? In what way? As you read this passage in different translations, what do you notice that perhaps you have not noticed before? What surprises you? There are several miraculous occurrences in this passage, what are they? The women told their fellow Jesus followers what they saw and heard at the tomb, why do you think they were not believed? Would you have found it difficult to believe the women? Which passages from the Old Testament do you think Jesus might have used to explain about how the Messiah had to suffer and die for the forgiveness of sins? In each of these translations the men describe their hearts as “burning” while Jesus taught them from the OT scriptures. Have you experienced this while reading and studying God’s word or perhaps in a time of prayer?

Thank God that we have his Word in a printed form that we can read, study, pray over and learn from as often as we want. Pray for those in the world who do not yet have a copy of the Bible in their own language – that God will reveal Himself to them, and provide them with Bibles.

Imagine For A Moment2022-05-02T07:55:11-06:00

Holy Discontent

Discontent is a feeling of not being satisfied or a desire for something else (Webster’s Dictionary). It seems worth exploring ‘Holy Discontent’ – discontent from a Biblical perspective.

Those centered on pleasing Jesus would likely say Holy Discontent is well expressed in Scripture. Holy Discontent falls into several categories. First, the deterioration of the earth really bugs everybody, but especially those who know why it happened and God’s solution:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:18-21 NIV)

The rest of this passage in Romans explains another category: we are ready to get out of this mess and get a new body – the one that will never be injured, get sick, get old or die (can you tell I’m tired of going to physical therapy?).

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:22-25 NIV)

From the very beginning, disobedient humans profoundly irritated God, and since those who belong to Jesus have His heart, it gets under our skin as well:

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” (Genesis 5:5-7)

As we read on in Genesis, we know God left a few who listened to Him and left some animals as well. He is long suffering with those who incline their hearts to Him.

Jumping to the New Testament, another aspect of Holy Discontent is voiced. Though the Apostle Paul expresses his desire to stick around and build Christ’s kingdom, he also expresses discontent with remaining on this damaged planet:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (Philippians 1:21-24 NIV)

That’s not everything that stirred up Holy Discontent in Paul. He expressed frustration with continued childish immaturity of those he had guided into the Kingdom:

Oh, my dear children, I feel the pangs of childbirth all over again till Christ be formed within you, and how I long to be with you now! Perhaps I could then alter my tone to suit your mood. As it is, I honestly don’t know how to deal with you. (Galatians 4:19-20 Phillips)

What is an antidote for this Holy Discontent? Here’s what those who love the God of the Bible have relied upon for centuries:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. (Hebrews 11:1-2 NIV)

We can also refresh our outlook by enjoying remnants of beauty that emanate from a now fractured world created by our magnificent God. When you watch this scene from the movie “Shawshank Redemption”, marvel how the uncanny power of a beautiful operatic performance even loosens the hardness of prisoners enveloped by malfunctioning humanity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azWVPWGUE1M

Holy Discontent2022-03-08T21:35:18-07:00

Learning To Be Content

…I have learned how to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances. I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need. I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose – I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.] (Philippians 4:11b-13 The Amplified Bible)

Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

Paul’s words, “I have learned to be content” had locked themselves in my mind 40 years ago. As I’ve pondered his words and read lists of the different circumstances that he lived through before he wrote the letter to the Philippians, I am in awe that he could say that. Especially, since in Acts 9:15 Jesus tells Ananias that, “I will show him, Saul (Paul) how much he must suffer for my name.” So Paul not only experienced suffering as it came; he was shown beforehand what to expect.

While “I have learned” appears as a past tense and gives the impression that he has mastered , “contentment/sufficiency in Christ”, what I see is that for him it is: I have, I am, and I will be continuing to learn to be content as I am strengthened in Christ.

So, how about me? How can I learn to be content in the needs, desires, and circumstances of my life? I find encouragement in Apostle Paul’s message, “Not that I’ve already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Philippians 3:12). Jesus’ call on my life is simply to follow him!

For a long time, one of my favorite scriptures has been Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself also in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”. Over the years I have come to realize that if I am delighting in the Lord, the Lord IS the desire of my heart! Then I begin to learn and live into the desires of his heart.

Each morning, along with the Lord’s prayer, I sing a little prayer that came from Richard of Chichester in the thirteenth century. “Day by day, day by day, O, dear Lord three things I pray: To see thee more clearly; Love thee more dearly; Follow thee more nearly, Day by day,

What about you? What can you do to learn to be content in Christ’s sufficiency in your daily life? Take some time and read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Write down what you see as encouragement from Paul’s life to yours in learning how to be content.

Learning To Be Content2022-03-08T21:32:24-07:00

Is Desire Evil?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desire and Anticipation

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:4 NIV)

Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs 14:29-30 NIV)

He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:14-15 NIV)

The story of Adam and Eve, and the serpent in Genesis 3:1-6, and the story of David and Bathsheba in II Samuel 11:1-17 are clear examples of how emotions can lead us down a destructive path. With Adam and Eve, it started with them listening to the crafty lies of the serpent, then seeing the fruit, anticipating how it might taste, and desiring the wisdom and the power it might give them. In David’s story, he is not with his army as a king should be, he is not with the Ark of the covenant, but instead he is home, at leisure, on his rooftop and sees a beautiful woman. Next, David sends servants to learn about her, and once he knows she is the wife of Uriah – a member of his elite guard – he then sends for her to come to him and commits adultery with her, resulting in her pregnancy.

In both stories, Adam and Eve, David and Bathsheba did not sin immediately. Instead, the scriptures show us a progression that can start with the emotion of desire or anticipation – after seeing something we would like to possess for ourselves that either belongs to another, or that we have been forbidden to have. James 1:13-15 says, “when tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Desire and anticipation are not evil or bad emotions, but we can anticipate and desire money, people, clothing, cars, food, or relationships that belong to other people – this is envy. James talks of a progression that starts with desire or anticipation. Last week Alex talked about a way to find a proper perspective when our emotions are strong or overwhelming. That phrase was “to find perspective, practice the pause and in the pause to pray”.

If Adam and Eve had paused and prayed the outcome might have been different. If David had paused and prayed perhaps he could have prevented much of the family discord among his children in the future. Read Psalm 4 and pause, contemplate, pray over what you read each time you see the word Selah. This week see if you can pause and pray to gain perspective.

Desire and Anticipation2022-03-08T10:40:29-07:00

How Do You Really Feel | Week 2

Humans are born with desire. The reason we all carry strong feelings of wanting or wishing is because of another word – need. We all know the feeling of desire and longing because we all have real needs. As infants, we wake up in a world filled with need – we cry out for nourishment, safety, security, affection, the list goes on.

If desire is a seed, emotion is its fruit.

Looking at the fruit of our emotions, we can trace every emotion down to its seed of desire – whether satisfied or unsatisfied. The trouble is that both desire and emotion can deceive us. Just like in the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were deceived by their misguided desire, we, too, are deceived by seeds of misguided desires and end up wallowing in shadowed and undesired emotional fruit.

This week, we’re diving into the Genesis 3 narrative to see how needs, desires, and emotions show off their ‘shadow’ side when sin enters the story. Now, we live in a world where we have God-given needs, yet even desire deceives.

Therefore, as followers of Jesus learning to walk in his way, we must find safe spaces to process our emotion and be able to re-ground ourselves in truth.

  1. Get Honest … Where is your safe space to process your emotions? Are you able to process emotions or do you tend to explode or suppress? What helps you come back to truth?
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to say to you about how to process your emotion.
  3. Walk Anew … What step might help you move toward processing your emotions instead of exploding or suppressing?

If you’re looking to take the next step toward finding a safe space to process your emotions or life challenges, use this link and fill out the form online to meet with someone from our pastoral care team.

How Do You Really Feel | Week 22022-03-08T21:35:43-07:00
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