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South Fellowship Church

Jesus Prepares for Us

Then Jesus told him,(Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many more miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name. (John 20:29-31) NIV

Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.” Jesus provided far more God revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it.
(John 20:29-31) The Message

I do not believe Jesus was condemning Thomas when he said that those who believe without having seen the resurrected Jesus would be blessed. Jesus was telling him and the other disciples that their witness and the message they carry will be how other people would come to believe and trust in Jesus.

Jesus came to them and said, ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age,”
(Matthew 28:18-20). NIV

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,(John 17:20a).

Because of the riches of the written scriptures available to us and a multitude of study and informational tools available, it is hard to imagine when all the words we read, the disciples heard directly from Jesus. They saw his facial expression, the look in his eyes, and heard the tone of his voice. They had his presence in the room with them.

I have to ask myself what would I have heard, what would I grasp, what would I remember? Would I have known Jesus as “My Lord and my God”?

I am grateful that Jesus prepared a way for those of us who would come to believe in him even though we have not seen him. I am grateful for the disciples whose living witness and gospel message went out and ultimately provided written testimony for us to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, believe in Jesus.

Join me in thanking Jesus, the Living Word of God, for providing for all of us who come to believe in him through the witness of those disciples and for the scriptures that are available to strengthen and delight us.

Jesus Prepares for Us2022-05-08T20:26:50-06:00

Questioning God

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-29 NIV

Thomas had questions that he wanted answered. He was not able to believe his beloved Lord and Rabbi was alive – simply based on another’s eyewitness testimony. Thomas did not understand events of the preceding week – the triumphal entry, the Last Supper, the arrest, the trial, the crucifixion of Jesus, and then the burial of His body. Even though Jesus had told his disciples that He came to suffer, to die and would rise again, Thomas still had questions.

Let’s look at another person who had questions. Job was a wise, wealthy, respected and righteous man who suddenly and without warning lost all his material possessions and all his children in one day. Then he was plagued by painful boils all over his body. Job had questions. He did not understand. Throughout the book of Job asked God what he had done to deserve the punishment he was enduring

“If I have sinned, what have I done to you, you who see everything we do? Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?” Job 7:20.

Job is unique – in that we as readers have the eternal perspective throughout the book. Job, on the other hand, did not. At the end of the book, God spoke to Job and gave him a better understanding of God’s sovereignty over everything. Job said it this way, 

I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you,” Job 42:2-3,5.

Job was never given a direct answer to his “why” questions, BUT he WAS given a better understanding of God, how he works and who He is.

Thomas was granted the answers he sought; he was given the exact proof he asked for. Do you ask God questions? When you do – know that God often answers us in different ways than we asked, or than we expected. But rest assured, know that if we continue to ask God our questions, HE WILL ANSWER. God will give us the answers WE NEED but not necessarily the answers we want.

Questioning God2022-05-08T20:25:08-06:00

FoMO & Facts

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

…Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you! ”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (Mark 20:19-27 NIV)

When reading this passage it’s easy to miss this detail: Thomas, who is often called “Doubting Thomas”, apparently was the only one of the remainder of the Twelve who missed seeing Jesus when He first passed through a locked door to give His disciples encouragement and instruction. 

How could our sovereign leader (Jesus) not make sure everyone in his intimate circle was present when He made His first appearance to the group? Wasn’t FoMO (Fear of Missing Out) a thing – even then? No wonder Thomas declared: 

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  (Mark 20:25 NIV)

After all, hadn’t Jesus already done this for the remainder of the Twelve?

So I’m inclined to wonder if Jesus had a special reason for appearing to ten of the Twelve when Thomas was elsewhere. What did Thomas need to wrestle with as he waited a week for Jesus to grant him the vital experience of being an eyewitness to the resurrection?

This deep need to have a legitimate question answered along with a valid personal experience with the Living God isn’t limited to Thomas. We like to say “I have a personal relationship with Jesus”. We often say “Christianity isn’t just a religion”. So doesn’t it follow that we need something besides Christian ancestors, our imagination, or the testimony of our friends to believe that Jesus has risen from the dead?

I may be wrong, but Thomas may have been one of those personalities who needed straightforward, no nonsense facts to move forward in his faith. As Sergeant Joe Friday of the 1950s TV series Dragnet always said when interviewing a female witness, “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.”

In any event, Jesus generously and graciously accommodated Thomas’ genuine need to see and touch the evidence of His resurrection: 

Stop doubting and believe.”

Reflect on times Jesus has made you wait for confirmation of His presence or His direction, but later accommodated and met you in the way you needed.

FoMO & Facts2022-05-08T20:23:07-06:00

Present and Eternal Scars

But [Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” – John 20:25

[Jesus] said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” – John 20:27

Too often, we give Thomas a hard time for asking to see Jesus’ scars, but this request brings out an intriguing thought: Jesus would be eternally marked by his suffering.

Wounds remind us of what a person’s suffered and since Jesus’ glorified body carries these markers, Jesus’ body forever illustrates his victorious testimony.

Do you envision Jesus as a scarred human forever? Perhaps you assume his humanness ceased to exist when he ascended to Heaven or simply because he’s divine. But, Jesus is and always will be the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15-19).

In this post resurrection moment, Jesus lovingly shows Thomas evidence of his human suffering. Perhaps because Jesus is eager to testify of his triumphant story. As he lets Thomas put hands on his wounds, it’s as if he’s saying, “Evil has left its mark but everyone who overcomes lives to tell the story.”

When Jesus returns, he will show us the same marks of his selfless, sacrificial story. As he establishes his kingdom, his scars will eternally remind us of his humanness.

Consider the reality of Jesus showing you his human scars one day – whether that be when you reach glory at the end of your life or when glory returns to us. What significance are Jesus’ eternal scars to you?

Present and Eternal Scars2022-05-08T20:19:31-06:00

It Hurts to Hope

“So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ Now Thomas (also known as Didymus ), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.” John 20:24-25

He wasn’t in it for the money. He wasn’t even in it for the recognition. He actually believed that the world could be different. Thomas had found a leader worth following, and he was so committed to him that he was ready to die with him.

“Then Thomas (also known as Didymus ) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’” John 11:16

I think Thomas gets a bad rap for his doubt. His name even makes its way into a euphemism when we call someone a doubting Thomas. The evidence in the book of John is that Thomas was deeply committed to Jesus. He was willing to risk his own life to follow Jesus. So the question is, why does he doubt now?

Perhaps, you know why he doubts now. It is emotionally taxing to hope sometimes, isn’t it? You have a dream, a longing deep down in your heart, and it doesn’t come true. It’s almost less painful to stop hoping for things if our hopes are just going to be dashed repeatedly.

I think Thomas is in that place. He watched a dream be crushed before his eyes. Thomas saw his master, Jesus, brutally crucified. All his hope was wrapped up in the person of Jesus, and now he was dead. The idea that Jesus had risen from the dead meant that he could hope again, but his heart was too crushed to try.

Here is the reality – being in a relationship with God doesn’t mean that your every desire will be realized. It does mean that you are in a relationship with the one who can make dead things alive again. It feels risky to hope, but hope is also what keeps us alive. I’d like to learn to risk my hope on Jesus, wouldn’t you?

Take a moment to tell Jesus some of the hopes that you have let die. Ask him if any of them need to be resurrected. Ask him to give you a heart that hopes again.

It Hurts to Hope2022-05-08T20:17:40-06:00

Antidote To Shame

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8

This week we have focused on the emotion of shame. We discovered that shame is one of the most destructive emotions. It’s not as simple as guilt because it has to do with our identity as persons. So the question is, what do we do with the shame we feel? The answer is simple and complicated at the same time. We must find a way to be in the presence of love. Love is the antidote to shame.

Why is that so difficult? There is a prerequisite to being truly loved, and it requires a bravery that many people never discover. That prerequisite is vulnerability. You cannot be loved with a healing kind of love if you have not first been vulnerable. If you are not vulnerable, you will never know if the other person loves you for who you indeed are. Do they love you, or do they love the masks you wear? The only way to know is to take off the mask. That, too, is difficult because it requires enough self-awareness to realize you are in hiding. Vulnerability is a prerequisite to being loved with a healing kind of love.

Today, set aside a few minutes to watch this helpful Ted Talk about vulnerability. Ask yourself, am I allowing others to love me for who I am? Finally, remember that once you are embraced with true love, you can begin to heal your shame.

Antidote To Shame2022-03-14T08:29:39-06:00

SHAME OR GUILT?

You’re driving home after midnight and the light at a major intersection is interminable. You look around to see no police car or camera and run the red light. You boast on Facebook about making healthy food choices but keep a stash of Peeps for emergencies. More seriously, if you committed a high impact misdeed such as taking financial advantage of a vulnerable person, would you feel shame for your behavior, or would you feel guilt?

If you were a psychopath you’d feel neither — you’d have a cauterized conscience (I Timothy 4:1-2). But for the rest of us, guilt stems from what we have or haven’t done, while shame penetrates who we are. Guilt is the result of action or neglect that is more easily isolated. Shame worms its way into our very existence.

As we studied the Lord’s Prayer, we also observed Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant and found it absurd we could pay back debts owed to God (Matthew 18:21-35). So claiming forgiveness that Jesus has provided on the cross relieves us not only from the wrongdoings or omissions He rightly brings to our attention, but also from digging around for endless minutiae.

Shame goes deeper. Shame invades the essence of our core identity, irrespective of our actions. Shame can also be produced from evil another has perpetrated. One Biblical example, 2 Samuel 13, is the excruciating account of the rape of Tamar, the gorgeous daughter of King David, by her stepbrother Amnon. After he raped her, Amnon (a possible psychopath?) rejected her:

And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other (the rape) that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” (2 Samuel 13:15-17 ESV)

The narrative continues:

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has Amnon your brother been with you? Sister, be quiet; he is your brother; do not take the matter to heart!’ Tamar, however, went back to her brother Absalom’s house inconsolable. When King David heard the whole story, he was very angry; but he had no wish to harm his son Amnon, whom he loved because he was his first-born. Absalom, however, would not so much as speak to Amnon, since he hated Amnon for having raped his sister Tamar.” (2 Samuel 13:20-22 NJB)

The mark of shame on the once desirable Tamar became indelible. Her condition in verse 20 has been translated several ways – inconsolable (NJB), desolate (ESV), isolated (NASB), and secluded (AMP). Shame drove Tamar to hide herself – committing a suicide of sorts – wandering like a ghost in Absolom’s home until the end of her life.

As the story progresses through 2 Samuel Chapters 13-18, A “royal mess” ensued. Tamar’s male family members did nothing to help her retrieve wholeness but instead spent their energies on vengeance-murder, deportation, usurpation, humiliation, and mourning what might have been.

Addressing the emotion of shame should be high on our list of spiritual priorities. The devil is primed to take advantage of untended wounds such as Tamar’s. Our enemy can thwart God’s desire to heal and generate ever expanding messes.

Has shame been festering in your life or in the life of someone close? Take a step this week to tackle or continue to address the cause of that shame. To help your thought process, here’s a short perspective on the subject. 10 Things You Should Know about Shame | Crossway Articles

SHAME OR GUILT?2022-03-14T08:27:56-06:00

Naked and Unashamed

Then God said,”Let us make man in our own image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

But for Adam, no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, he took one of his ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:20b-25)

Although verse 25 speaks particularly about their physical appearance, I believe it also refers to their relationship with the Lord God and with each other. There is no need to hide their thoughts or be careful of their words because there was nothing that had to be kept secret -– complete transparency.

I wish I didn’t have to drop down half of an inch in my bible from verse 25 to chapter 3, because it would be so grand to believe that Genesis 1 and 2 lasted, but the events in chapter 3 happened and the fallout continues.

I was raised by various relatives, on both sides of my family, who had been brought up under the weight of shame. Not anything specifically bad, but the shame of not measuring up to expectations. Some of it came from parents, some from siblings, and some, sad to say, from their churches. Duty and rules were the measurements of value and approval. I may have missed it, but I don’t remember actually hearing “I love you” from any of those who were directly involved with me.

About 40 years ago, two things happened that helped me get over the “shame” of seeking help to deal with my own fallout from my raising. First, I received some God-inspired wise words from my 13 year old daughter, “Mom, we want to become what you want us to, but it will come from the inside of us or not at all. And you get certain expressions on your face and tones in your voice and we shut you out!” The second was the movie, “ET”, in which I saw myself as that little, abandoned creature who tried so hard to belong. I cried through the whole movie. The next day I scheduled a counseling appointment with one of our pastors. After I told my story, crying most of the way through, the pastor said to me, “Carolyn, what I’m hearing is that to get any kind of love at all, you’ve had to perform more than adequately, and when you got close to succeeding, they changed the bar.” And then he said what I had said to others, but never heard for myself—“You need to remember, Carolyn, that God loves you because he does, no performance required.” That was the start of my healing.”

How about you? Does some part of my story relate in any way with yours? Do you need to hear for yourself that God loves you, no performance required? There is help for you individually and in support groups. Read and soak in 1 John 4:7-21.

Naked and Unashamed2022-03-14T08:25:17-06:00

Playing Hide and Seek

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. (Psalm 139:7-12 NIV)

Playing hide and seek is one of my granddaughter’s favorite games. She laughs and runs, and is thrilled when she finds me. Her joy is in finding me. After eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve covered themselves and hid from God. Genesis 3:9-10 says, but the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” This was no child’s game; they were actually hiding from God. Why? They felt fear and shame because of their nakedness, and guilt for their disobedience.

In I Kings 19, Elijah had just witnessed an incredible victory by God over the prophets of Baal, yet what did he do next?

So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (I Kings 19:2-4)

Why is Elijah hiding? The text tells us Elijah is afraid.

Let’s look at one more story:

The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. (Jonah 1:1-3)

What do these stories have in common? Hiding from God. Have you ever done that? Are you hiding something from a friend, a spouse, a parent? Could you be hiding something from God right now? Take a close look at Psalm 139. It states in beautiful poetry that running from God is futile because he already knows everything about us. Use Psalm 139 to review with God if you are hiding and need to be found by your loving creator.

Playing Hide and Seek2022-03-14T08:23:10-06:00

How Do You Really Feel | Week 3

Continuing in the Genesis narrative, we uncover the powerful emotion of shame. An emotion that brings about death in ourselves and in our relationships. In Genesis 2:25, we find a young couple standing in the presence of God vulnerable and completely secure – surrounded by love. Only one chapter later, we find this same couple overwhelmed by their vulnerability – terrified and covered up.

According to Dr. Brené Brown, “shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

The result of the Fall brings about the voice of shame whispering inside of all of us, “I’m bad and cannot stand to be in the presence of a holy God.”

But God goes out of his way to remind us, “My name is Love.” He shows up on the scene extending safety in his presence even with his parental consequences for sin.

Only in the presence of a loving God, can shame be healed. Even scientists today prove love mends shame. With Christ, we learn the voice of true love and belonging. We can bask in his love. Tuning in to hear his voice will be key to changing our inner emotional narratives and healing deeply rooted shame.

  1. Get Honest … When in your life have you felt vulnerable and ashamed? What messages did you hear? How did you return to the voice of love?
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to say about your experience of shame.
  3. Walk Anew … What invitation does Jesus have for you when it comes to shame?

Emotionally Healthy Relationship Class — Sunday, March 20 at 10:30am
Ready to take the next step? Add a few new communication skills to your toolbox by attending this 8-week class. Register online to let us know you’re coming and pick up books on Sunday morning. A donation of $20 to cover the books is appreciated.

How Do You Really Feel | Week 32022-03-14T03:27:59-06:00
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