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South Fellowship Church

Week 03

Now is the Time for Spiritual Growth

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Leaders who are appointed by God, are anointed, given the mandate to lead Yahweh’s people to Him by teaching His true spiritual doctrine, in a manner that builds up the Kingdom of God. As the Apostle Paul was disheartened by the church of Corinth, today’s spiritual leaders are often frustrated by their members’ debauchery (indulgence in sensual pleasures), licentiousness (promiscuous and unprincipled sexual matters), arguing over peripheral issues (sweating the small stuff – Richard Carlson), and favoritism – any of which would contribute to members’ lack of spiritual growth. Consequently, the believer is distracted from important spiritual development pertinent to winning souls to Christ such as salvation, purity, worshiping and discipleship; prayer, and fasting.

Still, the greatest proof of the new birth in Jesus Christ is a recognizable changed life. The outward expression of the children of God’s love for Christ is demonstrated by our obedience to Him, our faith in Him, and our thirst for righteousness. We must be intentional in actively acknowledging that we know what the Lord is requiring of us, starting with the 10 commandments. Accordingly, Christians should not glory in leadership to the detriment of the unity of the church. “The ministers of the gospel are for the faithful, not the faithful for them” (Jerome Biblical Commentary).

Thus, understand the Lord God loves you and wants you to grow in Him. Be not deceived, Satan does not want you to grow in Christ. Therefore, my friends, there are no shortcuts on our journey towards spiritual maturity. We must depend on the Holy Spirit to grow us as we surrender 100% to the following:

  • Love Jesus. 1 John 5:1-2
  • Repent from our sins and learn from our mistakes.
  • Read the Bible and Pray every day – build an intimate relationship with Yahweh. The Holy Spirit will teach you God’s word.
  • Worship the Lord in spirit and truth. Ephesians 5:19
  • Love each other. 2 Corinthians 5:14, 1 John 4:7-8
  • Love our enemies. Matthew 5:43-45 (This is not easy but we must try)
  • Love righteousness not sin. 1 John 2:15-17 (If, the Bible says it’s wrong – don’t do it)

We must care about the type of person we are becoming and strive to live a life centered on God. As a result, we will discover that we are becoming more like Him, in the way we think, seeing people from His lens, and responding to the mundane issues of life. Therefore, we are not the same person that we used to be.

Today, take the time to read Psalms 119.

Now is the Time for Spiritual Growth2022-09-23T22:10:36-06:00

My Cup Overflows

…you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5 (ESV)

Do you sometimes read a familiar passage and glimpse something new? Here’s a short video I saw recently: her cup overflows.

What did you see: a sticky stain and a horrible mess to clean up – a waste of an expensive beverage – a patient parent unafraid to allow a child to learn? Maybe all of these?

Psalm 23:5 not only speaks of God’s ability and intention to provide everything we need but of his patience and grace toward us when we either don’t do it right the first (or tenth) time or we mess up entirely and have to start over. He’s got an overflow of patience to see us through.

Discovering ways God speaks to us through our daily quest for nourishment is a rich biblical topic. Here’s how God provided for the prophet Elijah, a Sidonian widow, and her son during a time of extreme drought and famine.

‘Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said.’ …She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.
I Kings 17:13a & 15 (NIV)

How rich are those words, “Don’t be afraid.” Do you envision future material shortages and allow yourself to fear that God is unable or unwilling to provide for you?

Here’s yet another example in a servant’s description of the kind of wine Jesus provided when the wine supply ran out at a wedding.

Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now. John 2:10 (ESV)

What do you say to God’s impractical abundance? Are you his child? Are you his servant? How does he provide for his servants to succeed?

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

As a way of reminding yourself that God wants to pour you an overflowing cup, ask him to show you how to go “over the top” with a meal this weekend. Yes, you may include honored guests!

My Cup Overflows2022-07-20T17:27:15-06:00

Tension at the Feast

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalms 23:5

Have you ever wondered why in this text God doesn’t destroy or just get us far away from the enemy? Instead, he throws a feast “in the presence of my enemies.” The promise of God is not to remove us from every danger and difficulty; it is to be with us through them all. I think this verse is an invitation to complete trust. It isn’t normal to feast while in danger.

When your mind senses danger, your sympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. We know this body response as “fight or flight.” Heart rate, digestion, breathing, and many more body functions are inhibited to allow you to escape or defend yourself from danger. The enemy’s presence near this feast might be a justification for sympathetic nervous system response. How are we supposed to digest this feast when a threat looms in front of us?

The opposite of the fight or flight response is the parasympathetic response. Your body releases endorphins, and the brain lights up in your prefrontal cortex. When someone is in parasympathetic mode, they are at peace, joy, and rest. This Psalm describes a person in danger at peace and rest. It speaks of the tremendous safety we can find in the presence of God. Imagine being able to joyfully digest a feast in the middle of a war zone. That would require a host who is so strong and comforting that you can be at rest despite the circumstances.

Do you feel at peace right now? Do you feel joy and rest? If you do, take a moment to thank God that you can feast in the presence of your enemies; if you don’t feel that now, perhaps you can turn your meals into a spiritual practice this week. Ask God to give you peace as you eat. Ask him to help your body experience the parasympathetic joy of trust each time you eat. Perhaps, if life is tough right now, find a way to create a special meal to celebrate God’s trustworthiness through every season.

Tension at the Feast2022-07-20T17:18:25-06:00

Comfort Food

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NIV

Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law; Psalm 94:12 NIV

Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:17 NIV

Comfort. This is a lovely word. It conjures visions of mashed potatoes slathered with butter, a huge vanilla ice cream cone, a soft, cozy down comforter, an incredibly soft pillow, or the embrace of a loved one when I feel sad or am mourning. What comforts you? Take a moment and picture that thing, person, or experience.

David composed Psalm 23, and he is uniquely qualified to use these beautiful words to describe how God comforts us. David was a shepherd as a boy and as a teenager. Later he was Israel’s anointed king. David describes God as our personal shepherd. In John 10:11 Jesus says, [He is] “the good shepherd.” He goes on to say, “[He] lays down [His] life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15).

David describes walking through the valley of death, not being left there, but walking through it – with his shepherd, his God, by his side. Then he tells us that the shepherd’s tools are a comfort to him – David, the sheep. David tells us the shepherd has a rod and a staff with him. My NIV study Bible says that the rod was used as an instrument of authority, for protection from predators and danger, for counting, guiding and rescuing the sheep. The staff was used for support, and for effectively bringing wandering sheep back into the fold. How are these tools a comfort?

1. The shepherd is WITH the sheep; sheep can’t be left alone; they must be under a shepherd’s care at all times or they can’t find food, protect themselves from danger, or find their way – as they tend to wander. God is WITH me.
2. The rod was used for discipline – to teach wayward sheep to come back, and to protect them – to keep robbers, and wild animals from carrying the sheep off for food. God CORRECTS and PROTECTS me.
3. The staff is there for support, to hold up, to help when the road is rocky, and it is a sign of authority. God SUPPORTS me, and has authority over me – HE is SOVEREIGN and in control.

Comfort. Remember what or what person represents a picture of comfort? Now, picture God as your comforter, as your protector, as your teacher, as your shepherd, as your parent – holding you close, guiding you, correcting you, holding you up, and walking with you. God is all of this and more.

Comfort Food2022-07-20T17:14:39-06:00

He Feeds and Restores My Soul

The Lord is my Shepherd {to feed, guide and shield me}, I shall not lack.
He lets me lie down in {fresh, tender} green pastures. He Leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my soul (life).
(Psalm 23:1-3a) Amplified

And He humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you recognize and personally know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
(Deuteronomy 8:3) Amplified.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. (Psalm 37:3) NKJV

I wait {patiently} for the Lord, my soul {expectantly} waits,
And in His word do I hope. (Psalm 130:6) Amplified

Certain words in the above scriptures bring, in some cases, new perspectives, and in others, vivid memories. This is why I like to use different versions of the bible. In the the verses from Psalm 23, “He lets me lie down,” has a different feel to me than “He makes me lie down,” and the addition of “fresh, tender,” to “green pastures” calls up a memory of walking barefoot in dew wet grass in the early morning.

The Deuteronomy passage reminds me of times in my childhood when money was scarce and food was simple and repetitive. We lived for a time on a dry land farm where we didn’t have much in the way of vegetables or fruit. Because we had chickens and cows, we had eggs and milk, cream and butter. Most breakfasts included oatmeal, and our bread was often biscuits. Sandwiches would be cold biscuits with whatever was available to put between them.

Psalm 37 encourages me to trust and be nourished by memories of how God has been faithful in providing for my physical needs, and especially needs that I’ve had when grieving loss.

Psalm 130:6 points out that growing in the Lord takes time, and that scripture is rich with his words of hope and restoration for my soul.

How about you? Do you have favorite scriptures that are “green pastures” and “still, restful waters for your soul”? There are so many scriptures that can draw us closer to our Father in Heaven, our Good Shepherd, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit living inside us – to bring to our memory help in times of need. Listen to the song, You Restore My Soul.

He Feeds and Restores My Soul2022-07-20T15:30:17-06:00

Dinner in the Desert

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.
Psalm 23:1-3a

Psalm 23 drops us into a desert scene. The desert is not a place of abundance. It’s a place of great need and a place of just enough. In this desert, we meet a shepherd and a poet. The shepherd leads his sheep with compassionate care through the difficult terrain. The poet likens himself to a helpless sheep yielding to the shepherd’s guidance during a season of great need.

When we enter poetry like Psalm 23, we find ourselves caught up in this imagery as well. We, like this poet, long to have our needs met, especially in seasons when provision is scarce. We yearn for our deep hunger to be cared for by someone who dearly loves us, who can see beyond our immediate needs, and who can lead us to a healthy future.

During desert times, we learn to trust the one who leads us. We learn to trust in the provision of the good shepherd. The one who guides us to places where we can graze, even if they are only tufts of grass. The one who guides us to a place of refreshment, even if they are only muddy pools of water from last month’s rain.

Jesus wants to eat with us in times of abundance and in times of scarcity. He wants to provide for our needs no matter which season we find ourselves in. Today, spend time in gratitude looking back at when God has provided for you in abundance and in scarcity.

Dinner in the Desert2022-07-20T15:21:34-06:00

Carrying Fellowship Into Your Community

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath Day’s walk from the city. When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphas and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about 120) (Acts 1: 12-15a)

When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place.
They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. (Acts 2:1 and 3-7)

They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching:

Although Peter and John are two most mentioned, there were, including Matthias who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot, 10 other apostles who had traveled with Jesus and had been taught by him. They had experienced Jesus among them after his resurrection; they had received the Holy Spirit and were each enabled to speak a language not their own that could minister to groups of people in the crowd of new believers. I can imagine them scattered among the various groups of people mentioned in Acts 2:9-11, teaching them about Jesus and thereby preparing them for the time those new believers would return to their own nations.

And they devoted themselves to the fellowship:

That leaves 108 disciples who were not designated as apostles, who also received the Holy Spirit and were enabled to speak in a language not their own. I can imagine those 108 scattered among the new believers, welcoming them, encouraging them, maybe even weeping with them, being with them in the wonder of this totally new way of life. This experience of fellowship, those new believers would also carry back to their own nations.

As part of our church, we have those who preach, teach, lead us in worship and lead in a variety of other capacities. In addition, with them, we have many people who welcome, encourage, sometimes weep with and for each other, and who are devoted to the fellowship of other believers who are desiring to grow in the way of Jesus with his heart. We also are being prepared to carry what we learn and the fellowship we experience out into our community.

My community context includes: family, neighbors, grocery stores I frequent, restaurants where the people have become family, my auto mechanic and post office, hardware store, coffee shop and fabric store. Carrying fellowship out into my community means getting to know the people, their names, sometimes their concerns, families, and ways I can pray for them. Also, I can receive, with gratitude, the service and encouragement the people in my community give me. I can as well, ask them to pray for me.

This week make a list of people you would consider as your community that you do, or can fellowship with. Ask the Holy Spirit for enabling grace as you carry fellowship out into your community.

Carrying Fellowship Into Your Community2022-06-17T14:33:23-06:00

Sacrificial Hospitality In Desolate Places

I spent my childhood longing to explore the world outside my small, farming community in Nebraska. I tried to “play it safe” before attempting new ventures. Careful planning was a key element in any foray. Here are a few examples: I attended a large university where I knew no one; I traveled four weeks in Europe by myself; I tried to be a productive artist (painter) in isolation; and I moved to Washington, D.C. where I knew only one person. By that time I was 23, and after my planning had taken several wrong turns, I was depressed and ready for significant change. That change was following Jesus.

God immediately blessed me by connecting me to hospitable Christians who were not “playing it safe”. Their hospitality challenged me, helping me grow.

Like my hospitable Christian friends, these early Christians sound reckless.

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:44-46 ESV)

What prepared these early believers for this largesse? Maybe experiences like this:

And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 15:33-38 ESV)

I imagine Jesus’ disciples…ready to “play it safe”… guarding their stash of bread and fish, thinking it wasn’t relevant to providing a meal for that huge crowd. Their protective instincts were heightened by the fact the crowd was overwhelmingly large and composed mostly of Gentiles. Holy Spirit hospitality wasn’t yet embedded into their radar. But this event and others factored into their perspective when the events of Acts 2 rolled around.

Let me relate their changed mindset to my experience.

Early in my walk with Christ, I was encouraged by the invitation of a particularly hospitable Christian couple who made me part of their family. I lived with them, they employed me, and we did ministry together. They not only welcomed me (the normal person who paid rent) but many others while I was with them. Some had strange faith, some had weird behavior, and some only offered need.

Sometimes I wanted to guard my “stash” and gain a sense of normalcy with a cozy circle of predictable Christians. But Jesus was calling me to sacrificial hospitality – not so I could get special kudos – but because others were in “such a desolate place”.

This kind of hospitality is sacrificial because it can’t be repaid. In Matthew 15 Jesus asked his disciples to relinquish all they had to eat. They then saw this generosity multiplied, not for personal benefit, but to further God’s kingdom.

Are we holding back our stash and playing it safe from those in desolate places? Let us allow the Holy Spirit to continue calling us into the partnership of his generous, sacrificial hospitality.

Sacrificial Hospitality In Desolate Places2022-06-17T13:23:00-06:00

Washed Out Picnic

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13 NIV

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV

In July 2018 my daughter spent a day preparing food for a young singles group outdoor picnic. It was scheduled to be dinner at Clement Park. In typical Colorado fashion, we loaded all the food in our car and got about 10 minutes from our house when the skies opened up with one of the worst gully washer rain and hail storms I have ever experienced. After pulling over to the side of the road, because I could not see to drive, and several phone calls between us and the leader of the group, we decided to turn around, go home, and invite all the young people to an evening of worship, sharing and dinner at our home.

As I navigated Littleton Boulevard, which was more of a river than a street at the time, my mind raced. I was thinking of how we could get our home ready for 20 or more young people with about 10-15 minutes notice. I imagine Martha may have had similar thoughts. I was thinking “where are the chairs?”, “should we set up outside?” Then I panicked thinking that my house was NOT company ready. Perhaps you have felt this way? But – then a calm set in, because I realized, the young people just wanted somewhere to gather. The food was already prepared, we simply needed to set up some chairs and tables outside, and everything would be fine.

The purpose of the gathering at Martha’s home was to see Jesus, hear his teaching, and be in His presence. Similarly, at our impromptu picnic, the rain stopped, the young people shared a meal, sang worship songs together, and enjoyed fellowship with each other. About 30 people gathered at our home that evening, including Joel, whose wheelchair my husband and his mom managed to get into our backyard so he could join everyone else. Our son Joshua was watching Clifford on his TV, and the young Rosenberger children joined him – it was a sweet time of children being entertained together.

As we gather this summer – let’s take advantage of these opportunities. Ask Jesus – what is your purpose in this gathering? What do you want me to focus on and what might not be so important? Who would you want me to invite? True hospitality needn’t be planned to the last detail. Be available, be willing, be welcoming, be hospitable.

Washed Out Picnic2022-06-17T13:00:42-06:00

The Battle Between

Paul says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

If the battle is not against human beings, why is there so much conflict between us? Why is it so difficult to connect – especially here in Denver?

We have an enemy who dwells in between.

From the beginning, the enemy has caused enmity between God’s beautiful creations (Genesis 4). His questions prompted suspicion. His lies provoked fear. His accusations produced shame. Peter warns faith communities,

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

We have the same enemy in Littleton today.

Specifically in the Denver Metro area, the enemy maximizes on the independent pioneering spirit of the air. We live in the Wild West and just like those pioneers sought after personal riches through challenging adventure and thrill of the unknown, so many flock to this city to independently find their best life now.

This causes major divisions between people. Subconsciously, we constantly evaluate and feel evaluated based on whether others are going to help us on this journey or if they’ll just weigh us down.

The enemy has put so much fear between us that overcoming the battle between us and flourishing community requires dying to pieces of ourselves we 100% believe are helpful and protective.

If we want to join together to overcome the enemy between us, we must kill every voice within that says:

  • “I am my own and responsible to no one”
  • “I got this. I don’t need people”
  • “Everything in my life depends on me, but I don’t have what it takes to do it all”

Friends, these are lies from the pit of hell. If you’re living as if this is true, you are siding with your enemy. Take a few minutes now to get honest about what you’re truly believing about your independence.

If we want to join together to overcome the enemy between us, we must fuel the voice of truth:

  • “I am responsible for the common good of all those around me”
  • “ I need people who are different from me to make me a better human”
  • “Others love me and want the best for my life so I don’t have to do it on my own”

Take a few minutes to imagine your life depending on a beautiful array of friends for community, support, and joy for living.

The Battle Between2022-06-17T12:28:01-06:00
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