South Fellowship Church

Week 05

A Word On Singing At South

Today isn’t exactly a Devotional, I am sorry. Instead, we wanted to publish an episode from our Midweek Podcast about this week’s subject. In this video, I share many of the reasons why we choose to sing the way we sing at South Fellowship Church. I know it’s much longer than the content you usually read here. On top of that, This particular Podcast episode is longer than usual. I apologize for that but I thought it was content that could help you understand why we do things the way we do them.

If you like these kinds of conversations, you can subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast service or find the video version on Youtube each week. We talk about the previous weekend’s sermon every week.

A Word On Singing At South2022-08-19T10:20:48-06:00

Invitation to Rest With Jesus

Are you listening to me? Really listening? “How can I account for this generation? The people have been like spoiled children whining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope, and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk, but you were always too busy.’ John came fasting and they called him crazy. I came feasting and they called me a boozer, a friend of the misfits. Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” (Matthew 11:16-19) MSG

Next Jesus unleashed on the cities where he had worked the hardest, but whose people had responded the least, shrugging their shoulders and going their own way. “Doom to you, Chorazin! Doom Bethsaida! If Tyre and Sidon had seen half the powerful miracles you have seen, they would have been on their knees in a minute. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you. And Capernaum! With all your peacock strutting, you are going to end up in the abyss. If the people of Sodom had had your chances, the city would still be around. At Judgment Day they’ll get off easy compared to you.” (Matthew 11:20-24) MSG

Abruptly Jesus broke into prayer: “Thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth. You’ve concealed your ways from sophisticates and know-it-alls, but spelled them out clearly to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that’s the way you like to work. (Matthew 11:25-26) MSG

I have also learned from Matthew, chapters 4-10, the context for what Jesus was talking about in Matthew, chapter 11, that led to his invitation in 11:28-30. All that Jesus did and taught, and the increasing resentment of the religious leaders, helps me understand and welcome Jesus’s invitation to be, “yoked” together WITH him, learning the, “unforced rhythms of grace” in my everyday life.

Jesus resumed talking to the people, but now tenderly. “The Father has given me all these things to do and say. The is a unique Father-Son operation, coming out of the Father and Son intimacies and knowledge. No one knows the Son the way the Father does, nor the Father the way the Son does. But I’m not keeping it to myself; I’m ready to go over it line by line with anyone willing to listen. (Matthew 11:27) MSG

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30) MSG

In April 2005, I had the privilege of being the main speaker for our South Fellowship Women’s retreat, and I spoke on Matthew 11:28-30, using the more familiar “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 of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)

As the term “yoke” is unfamiliar to most of us, I researched and learned:

  1. Yokes are intended to hold a pair of animals side by side in order to make it easier to pull something than it is possible for one animal to do.
  2. As each side of the yoke is custom made for the animal that wears it, the yoke cannot be worn by any other animal without causing pain to that animal.
  3. Young calves are paired and trained to work together as they grow. By the time they are full grown, they will have had up to 15 custom made yokes created for them.

I am still learning, sometimes through the consequences of trying to overload my days, or by making decisions without waiting to hear Jesus say to me, ‘Yes’ ‘no’ or ‘not yet’ before he and I move together. Sometimes he simply tells me to “stop, sit and listen” to him conversing with his Father in Matthew 11:25-26, and John 17, and to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-17. These are some of the scriptures that I take rest in.

Take some time to read for yourself Matthew 25-30. Sit and listen as Jesus tells you tenderly that he longs to live “the unforced rhythms of grace” in your everyday life WITH him.

Invitation to Rest With Jesus2022-08-02T13:09:24-06:00

Sabbath and Rest

“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” Deuteronomy 5:12-15 NIV

I am challenged by this week’s topic – Sabbath and rest. I watched a video by Walter Brueggmann on keeping Sabbath. He would define keeping Sabbath as – setting aside one day a week in which we do not focus on productivity, where we stop “work”, where we rest, slow down, listen – so that we can receive from God. I find this difficult to do (as I imagine many of you do too), and I was challenged to see if it might be possible for me to change my schedule, my habits, and strive to do this for myself.

I found many passages in the Bible that talk about the benefits we can enjoy if we set aside a Sabbath day.

” ‘If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.’ The mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:3-4) NIV

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) NIV

These passages speak of delighting ourselves in God, in his word, in keeping a day of rest. The Jewish people were told to keep Sabbath as a sign to the world that they were God’s people: it was a defiant act; it declared to the world that God would provide; the Jewish nation did not need to work 7 days a week. We have the same God; He will provide for us as well.

Read Isaiah 55. Look at what God asks us to do and what He promises to do for us. Use this chapter to read, slow down, listen and receive what God is saying to you about how you keep Sabbath.

Sabbath and Rest2022-07-30T11:24:19-06:00

The Challenge of Stopping

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord . Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.'” – Exodus 31:12-17

If you had to choose one spiritual struggle Americans have more than any other, it might be that of the Sabbath (rest). Capitalism has driven many a person into workaholism. Why is it so difficult for us to rest? Many people struggle not finding their identity in what they accomplish. “We live to work rather than work to live.”

The text above outlines God’s command to his people to observe the Sabbath. In his ministry, Jesus would later explain that “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. (Mark 2:27). This day of rest was God’s gift to humanity. It was intended to remind us that life isn’t only about what we produce. It was designed to help us remember that we don’t make the world spin. These truths are a massive gift to the soul.

I have struggled to observe any kind of Sabbath for much of my life. I always thought my hobby was working. I enjoy working. I love the work God has given me. If I’m honest, some of the reasons I enjoy working are that I get affirmation from people for my work. I feel more valuable in the world because of my work. This strategy for life is sustainable until one can’t keep up anymore because of burnout or a mistake made, or because someone better at this job shows up. If your whole identity is wrapped up in your ability to outperform everyone, every day, forever, your soul is in a precarious position.

Sabbath is a gift from God to humanity to remind us that the world’s weight is on his shoulders, not ours. It’s a reminder that he loves us even when we produce nothing. If you take a day off, the world keeps spinning, you keep breathing, and God sustains it all.

One way I have learned to practice the Sabbath is to play disc golf. I realized that working wasn’t a good hobby, so I decided to embrace this simple sport as a real hobby. Disc golf isn’t productive. No one cares if I am good or bad at it. I will not make a career out of it; ultimately, it’s a waste of time. It is for these reasons that it is valuable to me. When I play a round, I enjoy the physical exercise, God’s creation, and the reality that God loves me even when I’m not in the office doing something.

Try wasting some time this week. Let God speak to you through the process. “Perhaps” your shoulders are not strong enough to hold up the world; let sabbath remind you of that.

The Challenge of Stopping2022-07-30T11:00:23-06:00

Entering the Presence of God

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” – Psalm 4:8

God loves to offer his children rest and peaceful sleep. It’s a repeated theme throughout the scriptures (Psalm 95:7-11, Matthew 11:28, Hebrews 4:1). This kind of peaceful rest comes by entering the presence of God, because God’s rest is an extension of himself.

It is in God’s presence where we feel and deeply know God’s unconditional love. When we enter God’s rest, he eases our anxieties, he illuminates what’s true, and he welcomes us with belonging and identity. In God’s presence, we can hear God more clearly and we can sleep more peacefully. This is wonderfully good news!

Here’s the bad news. The writer of Hebrews discusses the theme of rest in the negative sense. Based on the resistance and rebellion in the Israelites, the author concludes, “we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Interestingly enough, this author is suggesting we can know who is not walking by faith because they have failed to enter a state of rest.

Many who call themselves Christians have heard the good news of salvation. Many have accepted the truth that they are sinners in need of extravagant grace and believed in their heart that God’s grace is sufficient to redeem their wrongdoings. Unfortunately, many still fail to enter God’s rest. They fail to enter God’s presence to receive the fullness of his loving kindness.

If you make your faith a transactional gift of eternal life, but fail to enter God’s presence of unconditional love, you may need to heed Hebrews warning and return to God’s presence today. Use this liturgy for resting to begin your return journey today.

Lead me to your rest, dear Lord. Lead me to your rest.
Lead me into being and becoming, laying down my urgent tasks.
For even you rested on the Sabbath.
Lead me away to quiet places, leaving the company of friends and family.
For even you withdrew to solitary places.
Lead me to be still and know you are God, loving you more than created things.
For with you, I lie down in safety, my weary soul can breathe.
Lead me to your rest, dear Lord. Lead me to your rest.

Entering the Presence of God2022-08-06T10:02:41-06:00

Our Universal Condition

About 15 years ago one of our family members accompanied a coworker from another country to receive treatment at Denver’s National Jewish Health Sleep Center. The coworker hadn’t been able to sleep for over a year. As a result, he had developed severe disorientation leading to mental health issues. Besides the insomnia this man experienced, the Sleep Center treats at least six other major sleep conditions (including ones such as narcolepsy/sudden sleep) that have negative impact on health.

Researchers have determined that 7 to 9 hours of daily sleep is required for all adult humans. How each one of us gets that sleep varies. (I take naps when my night gets cut short.) Some of you have first hand experience with sleep disorders that have caused chaos or diminished energy either in your life or the lives of loved ones. Regular sleep and proper rest are a blessing from God.

Here’s the first mention of sleep in scripture:

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib. (Genesis 2:21-22)

God’s work while Adam was in this unconscious state made Adam’s life complete. What a benefit! Here’s another insight from Solomon elaborating on God’s purpose in hard wiring humans to need sleep:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
(Psalm 127:1-2)

The ability to sleep peacefully comes from deep trust and dependence upon the One True God who genuinely cares for us. After we have done what He has called us to do – no more and no less – we can, like every other human who has ever lived, relinquish control as he manages the world in our absence.
So tonight (maybe sooner) just before you drift off, thank the Lord for his gift of sleep. Then consciously leave your cares with him for that 7 to 9 hours.

Our Universal Condition2022-07-27T12:40:47-06:00


Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved (John) following them…When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:18-22 ESV

In the past, when I’ve thought about this exchange Jesus had with Peter and John, Jesus’ words haven’t seemed like prophecy…but now I see they were. In contrast, Old Testament prophecies most often addressed entire nations rather than individuals. Jacob’s prophecies in Genesis 49 about the character qualities of each of his sons (who had already become tribes) may have been a notable exception.

Those of us brought up in Western cultures heavily influenced by Christianity, have come to value Jesus’ inclination toward an individual calling as illustrated in John 21. However, human ideas of individual calling sometimes lead to thoughts of self determination that lead us astray. Some popular phrases that reflect those ideas are:

“The sky’s the limit!”
“You control your own destiny.”
“Follow your dreams.”
“My Bucket List” (my list of exciting things to cram in before I kick the bucket)

Such slogans are the lingua franca of those at the pinnacle of worldly success and notoriety. Formulas for replicating their temporal bliss abound in books, motivational seminars, blogs, tours involving activities promising an adrenaline high, etc. But Jesus’ words to Peter, and indirectly to John, hone in on another perspective:

“You follow me!”

…and Jesus emphasized that following Him entails individual pathways to glorify God.

(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) John 21:19a ESV

Does this mean Jesus’ calling to each of us is so individualized we should never listen to others, even another Jesus follower? Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul said to the believers in Corinth:

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31b)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (I Corinthians 11:1)

We know Paul suffered immense persecution in his individual calling, but also brought incredible notoriety (or glory) to the name of Jesus. Peter and John also suffered a great deal of persecution in bringing glory to the name of Jesus. There’s a pattern here.


Follow and Feed

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered. “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time,”Do you love me.” He said,”Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you’” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!” (John 21:15-17, and 19b

It grabs me that Simon Peter is not only being reminded of his first call from Jesus to follow him, (Matthew 4:19), he is being given a new occupation. Peter has been a fisherman all his life, and Jesus is now telling him that he is to follow Jesus by becoming a caregiver of sheep. What’s more, Peter is going to be caring for Jesus’s own sheep.

Peter would have known from Jesus’s frequent references to sheep and shepherds, including his calling himself, “The Good Shepherd,” exactly what Jesus was talking about. Peter’s call was to follow Jesus in caring for people the same way Jesus had and the only way he could do it would be to stick close,continue to lean on, and learn from Jesus.

Because we have access to the events coming up for Jesus and the disciples, we can turn over a few pages to Acts 2 and know that the Holy Spirit descends and empowers the followers with persevering power to enable them to do what they could not do on their own.

Something else that grabs me about, “feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep,” is that it means in all stages of growth from first believing in and putting our faith in Jesus, through the long process of growing to maturity in Christ, to preparing for home going in Christ. Peter was called to continue to teach, influence and prepare those Jesus told him to care for.

What about us? Each of us is called by Jesus to follow him in the way we relate to and influence people with and for him. I have been soaking in 1st and 2nd Peter as a reminder of how Peter carried on with his following and his caregiving. Those letters are just as fresh and refreshing for us right now as they were when first written.

Join me in reading them this week. They aren’t long, but they are beautifully rich in what we need to encourage us in growing and persevering.

Follow and Feed2022-05-24T21:00:41-06:00

Do you love me?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17 NIV

These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. 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 on 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 6:1-9 NIV

John adds an interesting epilogue to his book in chapter 21. He tells us his purpose in John 20:30-31, “Jesus performed many other 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 Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” It would seem his book is finished, but in Chapter 21, John gives us another intimate glimpse into an encounter Jesus had with his disciples in Galilee.

In this conversation with Peter – Jesus asked 3 times, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” John 21: 15, 16, 17. In the Hebrew mind – loving God involved hearing God, and obeying God. Every Jewish man would begin his day by reciting the Shema, “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.” God goes on to say, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on 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.

Peter responded to Jesus 3 times that he did love him, and then Jesus gave him a command to follow. Later in this chapter Peter was told 2 times, “You must follow me,” John 21:22b. My son in law, who has studied Hebrew, helped me to understand that in the Hebrew mind – loving God meant the same thing as hearing God and obeying His commands. Jesus was asking Peter to show, display, and fulfill his love for Jesus by feeding His lambs, taking care of the sheep, and feeding the sheep.

If we love Jesus, we are also called to take care of and feed the believers that we are called to teach, love, and come alongside in our everyday lives. Is there someone you can pray for or pray with? Is there someone you are being called to disciple? Ask Jesus to show you how he wants you to respond to His specific call to you, “Follow me!” John 21:19b.

Do you love me?2022-05-24T20:58:40-06:00

Shame Undone

“When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.””
‭‭John‬ ‭21:9-17 ‭NIV‬‬

The Apostle John notes more interesting details of Jesus’ appearance to Peter. We notice Jesus’ invitation to breakfast, the mention of a charcoal fire, distribution of fish and bread, as well as a poetic display of grace through Jesus’ intentional questions.

All in all, we notice Jesus bringing about reconciliation with Peter without directly addressing the elephant in the room.

Jesus never condemns Peter for returning to fish or for denying him. Jesus simply makes breakfast and invites Peter for a conversation over food. Obviously, Peter knows the elephant in the room, he even smells his shame as the fragrance of charcoal reminds him of the night he was asked if he knew Jesus while warming himself by a similar fire (Luke 22:55-57).

Jesus doesn’t have to bring up the incident to heal Peter’s shame. Instead, he undoes the shame by replacing it with love. Jesus loves Peter profoundly in this moment with his thought actions, kind words, quality time, and intentional questions.

Perhaps we, too, can offer love in place of shame as Jesus did. Is there someone Jesus is inviting you to reconcile with by serving them with love rather than bringing up their shame of wrongdoing? Or perhaps the person you need to reconcile with is Jesus himself. If so, listen to this song (https://youtu.be/BoZd7ZXh9yY) receiving Jesus’ presence where there is no shame, only love.

Shame Undone2022-05-24T20:48:55-06:00
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