South Fellowship Church

Week 02

Why Is Faith Important?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

To the non-believer, having faith in God is foolishness. However, to God, it is impossible to please Him without it. The author of Hebrews states, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). If you can’t see it but believe it will happen – that’s faith. Let’s say, you’re hungry and want to make a hamburger. All you must do is prepare it or order it. You don’t need faith to receive it. However, if you don’t have food or money, then you need faith to believe that your need will be met.

The entire chapter of Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of faith. We can learn from these biblical ancestors. For those who believed in God were rewarded, and we see their faith in action.

Like them, we can keep the faith.
When we see no way out of a bad situation – Keep the Faith.
When we see no help – Keep the Faith.
For God is working things out for our good.
Supernatural help is on the way!

Yet, you may feel like the Corinthian Jews who needed a sign or like the Greeks who thought faith was not wise (1 Corinthians 1:22). The Apostle Paul explained how some cannot understand the concept of faith because it must be spiritually discerned. Faith comes through the power of the Holy Spirit so that Christian faith is connected to God’s power not man’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:4). It is the Holy Spirit who opens our eyes so we can discover God. Paul goes on to say, “It is because of [what God has done] that [we] are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

So then, how much faith does it take to please God? The KJV puts it this way, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, ‘Remove hence to yonder place’, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible unto you.’” (Matthew 17:20 KJV). Every believer at some point will struggle with faith, but full faith as small as a mustard seed is all we need.

Today, purchase a small container of mustard seeds to remind yourself how faith pleases God. Write on an index card “Matthew 17:20”. Tape three mustard seeds on the index card (be careful not to lose them, they’re small) and ask the Lord to increase your faith.

Why Is Faith Important?2022-09-16T15:14:09-06:00

Could God Be Foolish For Using His Spirit?

My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.  1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NET Bible

God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man except the man’s spirit within him? So too, no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but with those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. The unbeliever does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. And he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The one who is spiritual discerns all things, yet he himself is understood by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:10 -15 NET Bible

As Paul began this argument against placing our faith in worldly wisdom and reasoning, he made a solid case for the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit in the enlivened spirits of the Corinthian believers. He reminded them that their faith was launched, not by an elaborate mental computation, but by the Holy Spirit’s unseen power.

In the Western world, we have long favored the ways of Greek philosophers – placing high value on reason and stacking up facts – to inform ourselves before going forward with important life decisions. Before I gave my life to Jesus, I had a Sunday School amount of knowledge about who Jesus was. I also spent considerable time trying to read the Bible – especially portions of the Old Testament – but found my attempts to understand the text to resemble a bicycle ride through deep mud.

About this time, my Washington D.C. landlady invited a Holy Spirit filled evangelist into her home. He was sent by God to cut through my intellectual morass. After an hour of conversation and questions about the evangelist’s life, he got up to leave the house. Before he walked out the door he suggested I ask Jesus into my life. He then invited me to kneel and repeat a prayer after him.

When we got to the words of the prayer where I was to confess that I was a sinner and acknowledge that Jesus died for those sins, I recall distinctly objecting to those words. But I repeated them anyway. Then, without really understanding what was involved, I asked Jesus to come into my life and be my Lord. At that moment an image of Jesus on the cross flashed into my mind. My second impression was that Jesus had been raised from the dead and was still alive. Thirdly, I sensed Jesus was tangibly with me in that room.

As I opened my Bible the next day, the deep mud had vanished and the scriptures became amazingly clear.

My answer to the question “Could God be foolish for using His Spirit?” is an obvious “NO!” I could have spent decades trying to understand the amazing work of Jesus on the cross – misinterpreting his act as one of martyrdom – slogging through scripture with my limited intellect and ultimately casting the Bible aside as useless. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit’s power cut through my intellectual objections in an instant.

As Western Christians we are constantly offered ‘self help’ and ‘you can be anything you want to be’ philosophies. Keeping our default setting on the power of the Holy Spirit in order to “live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus” is a challenge. Are you starting today with a long list of ways to figure out your next steps? Stop and ask the Holy Spirit to recalibrate your heart and guide you through today’s decisions.

Could God Be Foolish For Using His Spirit?2022-09-21T05:57:45-06:00

God is Faithful: Is God Foolish for Saving Us by Faith

But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin], so then as it is written [in Scripture] “He who boasts and glories, let him boast and glory in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31) The Amplified Bible

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from
yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. ( Ephesians 2:8-10) NIV [Emphasis added.]

I am curious about what the reception of Paul’s letter may have been by the quarreling, competitive groups in the Corinthian church.

I can imagine how well they received the gracious beginning and the reminder of all that had been given to them by God in Christ Jesus. And the reminder that God is faithful in his calling of the Corinthians into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

But when Paul addresses the first of the failings of the community, I can imagine tension rising in the hearers as each faction heard about their attitude toward God, toward what and who God considers of importance and of value – how they claimed rights based on which apostle they were following. And, I can imagine that the leaders of the factions were looking around to see who from Chloe’s household had sent the report to Paul.

What would the Roman contingent think about the cross? For them, the word power meant “aggression and conquest” – that what they thought foolish, actually was “the power of God to [those] who [were] being saved”. Or the Greeks, who thought that their intelligence was supreme proof of their acceptance by God? Or the Jews, who were still bolstering the idea that the coming Messiah must not be crucified, or that gentiles should be excluded from the community?

For our communities in Christ, let’s pray Psalm 139 like this:

“Investigate [our lives], O God, find out everything about [us];
Cross-examine and test [us], get a clear picture of what [we’re] about;
See for yourself whether [we’ve] done anything wrong—then guide [us] on the road to eternal life.”
(Psalm 139:23-24) The Message Bible

God is Faithful: Is God Foolish for Saving Us by Faith2022-09-16T12:33:48-06:00

Not Foolish, Not Weak, But Sacrificial Love

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Isaiah 29:13-14

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” I Corinthians 1:18-19

Paul’s point in this passage is that God’s wisdom – God’s plan – to save the world through Jesus’ sacrifice made by dying on the cross for the sins of the world, was foolishness to unbelievers of the gentiles, and was unbelievable by Jewish Scholars. The Jewish teachers of the law were searching for and hoping for a triumphant king who would establish an earthly kingdom similar to King David’s. The Romans and Greeks believed anyone who was crucified was the most despised criminal and not able to save anyone. Paul says,

“but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength,” I Corinthians 1:23-25.

If you look at the crucifixion accounts in Matthew 27:39-44, Mark 15:29-32, and Luke 23:35-36 you will find that passersby (together with soldiers and Jewish priests) all taunted Jesus to come down off the cross and save himself, if he truly was the Messiah. Yet, Isaiah told us of the suffering servant:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6.

Jesus’ ministry was one of healing – He healed lepers, the blind, the deaf, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the demon possessed. He taught and ministered to the ordinary people, to the ill, to prostitutes, to criminals, to Samaritans, and to tax collectors. When Jesus encountered the Jewish scholars, they spent their time questioning Jesus’ motives, his methodology, his genealogy, and his choice of disciples. His time on earth culminated in His sacrifice – dying on the cross,

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord,” I Corinthians 1:27-31, Jeremiah 9:24.

How has God used someone the world might consider foolish, weak, ill, or less fortunate in your life to teach you about how much God loves everyone and desires all to know, love and serve Him? Thank God today that He welcomes everyone – children, fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and every sort of sinner to follow him, to confess their need for a savior, and to give him their heart and be a part of the Kingdom of God.

Not Foolish, Not Weak, But Sacrificial Love2022-09-16T11:44:30-06:00

Is God a Fool for Dying?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18, 24-25

In today’s world, it may not be an utterly foreign idea for a hero to sacrifice their life for others. You may have even encountered such self-sacrifice in movies and books. In the first century, on the other hand, it was a ludicrous idea. One might even call it foolish. In the first century and prior, power and strength were the only heroic virtues. In light of that, the cross of Jesus was a foolish method for God to save humanity. The fact that God even wanted to save humankind was strange. The fact that a self-sacrificial hero isn’t foreign to us shows how the Gospel has entirely shaped Western civilization.

Paul uses the word foolish to shock us. The idea of God acting foolish sounds blasphemous, just as shocking as the idea that God would die for people. Paul then tells us that God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. What a humbling thought. My most ingenious ideas about how life should work would never have come up with the Gospel. The Gospel is so shocking that it seems too good to be true and yet, is simultaneously shocking, good and true. No human mind would come up with it.

Take a moment to meditate on the beauty of the Gospel. It may help you to meditate on another letter that Paul wrote.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

Is God a Fool for Dying?2022-09-16T11:01:14-06:00

Returning Home

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Even for an adventurous soul, there is something special about returning home. “Home is where the heart is (Gaius Plinius Secundus).” This well-known saying captures something about the emotions we feel about home. The idea of home is a place of rest. Jesus’ invitation to the weary and burdened feels like an invitation to a spiritual home.

What is it about a home that allows us to rest? May I suggest that one of the reasons home brings us peace is owed to the fact that it is familiar? It is a place where you know the rules of engagement. It is a place where you can find things.

When I worked for an international mission agency, we had a counselor who would train our new missionaries as they prepared to move overseas. She taught us about what she called automobility. Automobility is your brain’s ability to automate various tasks in your life. Your brain is a calorie-saving machine. It is constantly trying to automate repeated activities so that you have more mental capacity to think about other things. If you have ever driven to work and suddenly realized that you don’t consciously remember going the familiar route, then you have experienced automobility.

Have you ever gone on vacation and returned home more tired than you started? There are physiological reasons for that. You eliminate many of your brain’s automated functions when you leave home. Things like locating the bathroom, finding your clothes, and getting to the grocery store are automated at home. Traveling demands more energy for your brain to process performing those same tasks. It requires a shocking amount of calorie burn to process such simple tasks. When you return from a vacation, you are likely more tired because of all that extra work.

So what does that mean for our spiritual lives? First, it may help you plan your travel more wisely. Plan for space to rest; you will need it. Give your travel companions extra grace; their brain is working on overload, which can be taxing on energy and emotions. One final thought I can offer is to learn to leverage your brain’s ability to automate tasks. Your brain’s ability to automate life is actually why spiritual practices work. When you arrange your life with repeated activities that point you to Jesus (spiritual practices), you are becoming more habitually righteous. Walking in the way of Jesus becomes increasingly a matter of habit rather than overcoming a weak will.

Read this quote from Henri Nouwen and take a moment to ask yourself what practices you can put into your life to help your soul be at home with God, even when traveling physically?

Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests’ – the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light. – Henri Nouwen

Returning Home2022-07-16T16:01:34-06:00

A Foreigner in the Family

Dear Friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles , to abstain from sinful desires , which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2) MSG

I wish I had known as a child that scripture verses like the above would become a comfort and strength to me.

I often felt like a foreigner, an exile, even an alien among the various relatives I lived with during my early childhood. Because of the specialized care both my parents needed for health issues, I was relocated multiple times to live with a variety of relatives – sometimes in different towns or even states – sometimes for a few months – occasionally a few years. Always, there were new rules to learn – houses, neighborhoods and towns/cities to navigate. My sister and I were together part of the time, but mostly I was alone. When I asked why, I was told, “You’ve just got to understand!”

When I was eleven, I was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Denver and I have lived in the Denver metro area ever since. Although my aunt and uncle didn’t go to church, God blessed me with neighbors who took me with them. It was at church that I found family in the Lord.

Recently, after a lifetime, I’ve come to realize that those experiences were a gift from God. The scriptures above are about how we as followers of Jesus are to live in the world among people who do not know or often do not want to know God. How we live and our attitudes and actions, may draw some to want to know God. As I reflect on my past: those experiences of not fitting into my environment have become a help in “living in the now”.

How about you? As you follow Jesus in the world around you, what areas of your life can you look back on as having been a preparation for living in and walking with God “in the now”. Read 1 Peter and Romans. Ask God to show you the way he desires to use the gift of your life today.

A Foreigner in the Family2022-07-16T15:52:43-06:00

Redeeming Travel

Transportation in the scriptures may have included animals, chariots, and boats, but the most common form of travel was by foot. Today, we can get from point A to point B in so many other creative ways like trains, planes, and automobiles. The modern list goes on. We have Segways, scooters, smart wheels, etc.

Humanity continues to master the art of getting places quickly and efficiently. But, Jesus chose to come during a time in history when the main form of travel was slow. What, then, can we learn from Jesus by the way he traveled from place to place?

Matthew 9:35-38 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ’The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

  1. Jesus had a lifestyle of travel. “He went through all the towns and villages…” Matthew 9:35a
  2. Jesus lived out his identity and purpose wherever he went. “… teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Matthew 9:35b
  3. Jesus paid attention to what his Father was revealing. “When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’.” Matthew 9:36-37
  4. Jesus modeled talking with his Father as he went about his travels. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:38

We don’t have to embrace a lifestyle of geological travel like Jesus, but as we go from point A to point B in our day, we can travel as Jesus did by embracing our God-given identity and looking for God’s revelations.

Imagine yourself in the following experiences: How might you connect with God while driving? While on an airplane? While biking or on another form of transportation?

No matter where we need to travel to and from today, you can connect with the Lord. Just as Ruth pleaded with Naomi to be close to her wherever they would travel next, use her words as a prayer for your travels today. Lord Jesus, “don’t urge me to leave you … Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.” (‭‭Ruth‬ ‭1:16a).

Redeeming Travel2022-07-16T15:45:20-06:00

Protection for the Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage: a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.

In 1977, just one year after the infamous hijacking of Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris, I started my two week pilgrimage to Israel aboard an El Al flight from D.C. to Tel Aviv. I stayed with friends in Herzliya and Jerusalem while I explored places of biblical and historical significance. Every part of the country was under perpetual high alert for terrorist attacks but, for some reason, I felt safe.

Israel has always had perilous hotspots. In Jesus’ day one of them was the road going up from Jericho to Jerusalem (parable of the Good Samaritan). In the days of the Temple, all roads going up to Jerusalem had certain dangers. When faithful Jews made pilgrimages through the mountains surrounding Jerusalem for the three required festivals, they would sing the 15 songs of Ascents or Pilgrimage found in Psalms 120 – 135. Jesus would have sung these songs every year as his family traveled from Nazareth to worship in the holy city.

Psalm 121 (CSB) reminded pilgrims that the LORD was their Protector whatever route they took.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.

Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.

The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.

The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.

The LORD will protect you from all harm;
he will protect your life.

The LORD will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.

It seems to me the second verse is key when engaging in unfamiliar or dangerous travel.

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He’s made heaven and earth…if he’s the one who leads me, there’s no place he isn’t sovereign. Furthermore, my ultimate destiny is already settled when I’m trusting him.

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

Take a look at the first two minutes of this video showing the road from Jericho to Jerusalem that Jesus walked just prior to his crucifixion on his way to the festival of Passover. Then, envision an unfamiliar place you believe God wants you to visit – or a spiritual destiny where he is leading you. Read Psalm 121 above and trust the LORD to protect you as you travel.

Protection for the Pilgrimage2022-07-21T13:22:08-06:00

On the Road

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22 NIV

Summer is the season for travel for many of us. When our 4 children were young, we often went on cross country trips in the summertime. Early on, we homeschooled while traveling. The time in the car – on the road – going to our “destination” was not wasted time. Our children did school work, they listened to music, to “Adventures in Odyssey ” tapes, and later to books on CD. My daughter and I often crocheted, or read books, newspapers, or created things. Our boys would make fantastic configurations out of Legos, played games or slept. Of course, we also looked out the windows, enjoyed the scenery of our beautiful country.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 invites us to talk about our God, how He works, and how we can relate to Him in our everyday lives. Traveling together has given us unique and extended time with our family to engage in these kinds of conversations. Many times, the topic of an “Adventure in Odyssey” tape would spark spiritual conversations among our children, and my husband and I took advantage of these unique teaching opportunities.

Jesus traveled all year round. His ministry was one that took Him all over Galilee, Judea, Samaria and even to Tyre, Sidon and to the area known as the Decapolis. Of course, He traveled to and from Jerusalem several times too. A quick look at the book of Luke reveals that Jesus also took advantage of the unique opportunities travel gave Him. John 4 tells of Jesus stopping to rest awhile on a journey and having a “chance” conversation with a Samaritan woman. This “perhaps unexpected” rest stop resulted in a rich time of teaching for this woman and her village. Luke 8:11 and Luke 13:22 tell us Jesus traveled to many villages and taught there. As He traveled, He often stopped along the way to heal people – a widow’s son (Luke 7:11), 10 men with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19), and a blind beggar (Luke 18:35).

How can you take advantage of your travel time opportunities? Here are a few ideas. Keep a journal while on vacation, and thank God for his creation and the unique time with family and friends. Spend time in prayer while going from one place to the next. Engage in conversations with those around you or with those you meet. Look for opportunities to share the God you know and love with others while you travel.

On the Road2022-07-16T15:03:14-06:00
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