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South Fellowship Church

Dream Big or… Not

As a young woman who finished college in the late 1960s, my big dreams were marriage to the guy I was dating and a storied career churning out marvelous paintings that would enrapture sophisticated patrons. After my relationship with that guy unexpectedly ended and I became entrenched in a creative impasse, I found myself entertaining suicidal thoughts every other day. I hated my life.

I hung onto whatever hope I could for at least two years as I made my way from one unsatisfying job after another. I should also note my sadness was due to more disappointments than the failure of two dreams. 

But I’m alive today and I want to explain why the suicidal ideation I experienced failed to take me down. An unconventional evangelist (who carried his 100 pound cross across the U.S and later into every country of the world) led me in a prayer to ask Jesus into my life. Observing his life made me aware that following Jesus could be amazing. 

I started devouring scripture as it suddenly became alive to me. I also must credit further rootedness and spiritual growth to many dedicated, mature Christians – some who invited me to live in their homes, some who made me part of the fabric and leadership of several parachurch ministries, and many in traditional church settings who encouraged me to thrive.  

Before my commitment to Jesus, I had not come to the point of a suicide attempt. After my conversion, suicidal ideation didn’t instantly disappear. The best way to describe my condition is that two years of intense depression and sadness formed deep grooves in my mind. Moving out of that state took not only time, but acceptance from those I admired. Also, critical to recovery was finding meaning in helping others who needed what the Holy Spirit had empowered me to give.

I haven’t been bothered by suicidal ideation for many years now. But I can remember the last time Satan zipped one of those thoughts into my mind. What countered it was my awareness that ending my life would negatively impact my then 13 year old niece in Kansas.

Before my conversion, I tried to slog through the book of Job and saw his massive losses at the hand of Satan. Almost worse than the losses was the counsel of those who normally supported him. Job and his wife (who suffered the same losses) had this exchange:

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 29-10 ESV) 

Job’s faith seemed strong as he wrestled with their insurmountable devastation. But for some of us, sadness and depression leads to despairing, even suicidal thoughts. Are you or someone you know experiencing such attacks from Satan? In my case, God provided many resources through other Christian brothers and sisters. One of South Fellowship’s Life Groups, Support Groups or Serving Opportunities could be a good start. If the need is immediate, here is the national site for urgent cases and mental health resources https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

 

Dream Big or… Not2022-03-29T07:53:18-06:00

A God Who Grieves

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved at heart.

So the Lord said, “I will destroy, blot out and wipe away mankind from the face of the ground; not only man, but the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for it grieves and makes Me regretful that I have made them.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his (evil) generation; Noah walked in habitual fellowship with God. (Genesis 6;5-9b Amplified)

There is no record of how long it was between Genesis 1:31 when God saw everything he made and it was very good and Genesis 6;5, but a lot of changes went on in the lives of Adam’s “family line”. (Genesis 5;1-32) People lived a long time and “had many sons and daughters”.

Genesis 6-9 gives the account of Noah, his family, the ark, the flood and its aftermath. It is beyond imagining that God would not grieve at the death of so many people and so much of what he had created and declared good. His desire was for a relationship with mankind and a shared joy in all of his creation. Over and over God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness had been rejected. ( Psalm 78) is a recap of the Exodus for the next generation with the intent that they would not be like their stubborn and rebellious ancestors who had grieved the Lord God in the wilderness.

What the Lord really desires is expressed in (Ezekiel 33;10-11) Son of man say to the Israelites,’ This is what YOU are saying: “Our offenses and sins are weighing us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?’ “Say to them, As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways ! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

Right now I’m tired. I’ve looked at so many scriptures trying to decide on one to both admonish and encourage us in our walk with our Lord Jesus. I believe (1 John) is the one I am to read, ponder and share with you. It gently, but firmly reminds me to be honest with God and be aware of what can distract me from loving and living in Jesus. Join me in reading this love letter from John. And let us pray for each other as we read.

A God Who Grieves2022-03-29T07:50:07-06:00

What Is Grief

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NIV)

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:19-23 NIV)

What is grief? At its core, it is a sense of loss of something or someone we either possessed or hoped to possess. We feel loss and grief when a loved one or friend dies. We also feel loss when a relationship ends, or we lose a job, or we move far from home, or a dream dies. Someone else’s loss, or someone else’s suffering causes grief too – like the stories we see unfolding in Ukraine and Afghanistan right now.

What do we do with these feelings? Jeremiah experienced incredible grief and wrote, “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city,” (Lamentations 2:11). Jerusalem was under siege, people were starving and the city was being destroyed and then its people were exiled for 70 years. Jeremiah told us he was pouring out his heart. When we feel grief, we need to express it, we need to lament, we need to cry, we need to pour out our heart and soul to God and express our pain.

What do I do when it feels like I am all alone and I can’t feel God’s presence? Imagine going into an interior room in the basement, with the light off. All you can see is darkness. The sun is shining outside, but where you are – you can’t see it or feel it. Award-winning author, Pastor Paul David Tripp says, “Grief blocks our ability to see God, but I should not conclude that means He is absent.”. When we can’t feel God’s presence, because of loss, Psalm 143:7-8 tells us what to d,. “Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” In our loss, we trust that God is still there, we pray – telling Him all of our emotions, and we read His word and remind ourselves of His love, of His presence, of His continued working in our lives.

If you are in a season of grief and loss, spend time reading and praying in Psalms. Also, South is offering a support group called GriefShare starting April 11, 2022.

What Is Grief2022-03-29T07:51:25-06:00

Sadness, Grief, and Depression

How is that for a title? After seeing that title, I commend you if you are still reading this devotional. The emotions listed are charged for many people. For some, these emotions are familiar friends. For others, they are emotions that you have managed to avoid, at least consciously so. Today, I aim to offer some context for the rest of the week, followed by a word of encouragement.

Sadness, grief, and depression are all cousin emotions, but they are not the same thing. Sadness may be the emotion that the majority of us can name easily. It tends to be a short season of feeling down or blue. Difficult life situations can cause these feelings. Depression, on the other hand, tends to be a long season of sadness that begins to threaten one’s identity. It can cause you to isolate, lose interest in things you used to love, feel hopeless, and feel disoriented about why you are so down. It is often difficult to name a single source of depression.

Grief is often associated with the emotions you feel after losing a loved one, but it goes beyond that. Grief, more precisely, is a deep feeling of loss. It can come with losing a person, friendship, job situation, or even a future dream. The causes of grief mean that some measure of it can live with someone for a lifetime. It shares many similarities with sadness and depression, and its presence may linger in the background for seasons, but it tends to return occasionally.

If you have lived enough life, you have felt these things. It is part of being a human in this broken world. The good news is that God understands.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

God is an endless source of compassion for you. We worship a God who empathizes with our weakness and hurt. Genuine empathy is one balm that can comfort those feeling such things. If you are feeling any of these emotions, take a moment to tell him about it. I’m not talking about a bit of prayer; I suggest you tell him all of it. It often helps me to journal my prayers about such feelings. I complain, vent, and tell God why I don’t think things are fair, and then I receive the comfort of a God who understands all those emotions.

Sadness, Grief, and Depression2022-03-29T07:07:38-06:00

Formation Guide | Week 5

​​The story of the very first family has a ripple effect of sadness. In the story of Genesis 4, Cain’s sadness turns into an outburst of angry violence and death. We turn to the next chapter and find a long list of people whose existence on earth is cut short. Then, in chapter 6, we even find God himself grieved.

Sin brought about sadness in all of us. There’s no way around it.

Whether we’re sad because of bad things that have happened to us or good things that have never come to be, we’re all familiar with loss and any loss hurts our heart. It’s that pain we feel inside that makes us emote – even physically, we feel weighed down, we may well-up with tears, and sleep takes the better of us.

God also knows grief, and he willingly accompanies us in our grief. If we let him.

In Psalm 56:8, the psalmist finds comfort as he imagines God holding his tears. He tells God, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” This image offers such a beautiful picture of God’s care for us in our sorrows and grief. God honors our pain and is present to collect our tears.

1.  Get Honest … What are you sad about today? Why do you feel sad? In what way do you feel hurt? Tell Jesus about your hurt.
2.  Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus has to say concerning this hurt.
3.  Walk Anew … What invitation does Jesus have for you in your hurt?

Formation Guide | Week 52022-03-29T07:09:03-06:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Friday

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:9-11 NIV)

Then Jesus took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to Heaven, thanked God, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. (Mark 6:41 Phillips)

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,”Take and eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26 NIV)

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:28-31 NIV)

In my Google search on Jesus praying as recorded in scripture, the estimate is between 25 and 36 times. And about half of those prayers were when he was touching and giving thanks for food, specifically bread. Bread was necessary for the nourishment of people, but it was also symbolic of God’s loving provision for daily physical needs as well as for mental and spiritual ones, which includes being thankful.

What might we be thankful for as we consider God’s provision of food for our bodies? It might be gratitude for the intricate internal system that makes it possible for what we eat to be broken down into nutrients that get moved by the bloodstream to our brain, heart, lungs and extremities. Thank the Lord God, that we are …fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14b).

We can be thankful for God’s provision for our mental and spiritual needs, too, through the scriptures that correct and encourage us.

Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—-his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

Do not be anxious about anything, but by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

The picture hangs on the wall above my kitchen sink. It is a gentle reminder of
“Give us this day our daily bread.” As you look at it, think of the ways God provides for your various needs. Thank God for each one.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Friday2022-02-04T11:25:54-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Thursday

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

This line of the Lord’s Prayer feels the most earthy, doesn’t it? There is something so human about our need for food. I believe that this request for bread is intended to be read with that physical need in mind, but as with every other line in the prayer, there is a deeper meaning.

Jesus uses this idea of bread multiple times in his teaching. Once while teaching, he says, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:35). He also tells his disciples, “‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about.’ My food,’ said Jesus, ‘is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'” (John 4:32,34).

So what does Jesus have in mind when he teaches us to pray for our daily bread? In addition to our physical need for food, this prayer has a spiritual or heavenly meaning. As physical as we are, we are far more than physical beings. We have bodies, minds, souls, and spirits, and this prayer is a request for bread that feeds all of us. Now, the context of the prayer helps to aim this idea further.

God designed humans for the very purpose of bringing his kingdom to the cosmos. We pray for bread with voices and minds designed to hallow his name and bring his kingdom. If I were to put this into my own words, I might say, “give me the sustenance that I need (spiritual, relational, physical, emotional) to participate in bringing your kingdom.” When we become unhealthy as people, we begin to believe that our desires are the aim of our existence. That is not intended to be a shame-creating statement. Instead, it is an invitation to a life-giving reality that we were made for a purpose, and when we live in that purpose, we find genuine thriving.

As you pray this prayer today, maybe ask God what bread he thinks you need today? What resources, food, energy, healing, or wisdom do I need to live in your kingdom today? Then ask him for that bread.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Thursday2022-02-01T12:44:01-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Wednesday

“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11 NASB)

What I realize about this part of Jesus’ prayer is how easy it is for me to disconnect with the need expressed here. During my almost 75 years I haven’t had serious concerns about enough to eat or adequate shelter. Instead, I struggle with wanting and accumulating stuff. The cartoon says it all.

The perpetual problem with an oversupply of possessions is the temptation to become what I term a “junkherd” – a person who spends an inordinate amount of time rearranging inventory.

But wait a minute…I remember Jesus talking about this very subject in Luke 12:13-34. He leads with a parable about a man whose focus is on an abundance of earthly things. Please meditate on this rich passage as you explore “Give us this day our daily bread.” This verse may be the central idea:

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things are what the nations of the world eagerly seek; and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father has chosen to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:29-32)

Jesus liberates us from engaging with the world system’s lures, fears, and anxieties by encouraging us to depend on and treasure our heavenly Father. Think about “Give us this day our daily bread” as freedom to limit your management of earthly possessions in order to join His kingdom plans with all your heart.

A strong focus on Our Father’s kingdom is a daily adjustment. Tell someone close to you what this means to you today.

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Wednesday2022-02-01T12:41:27-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Tuesday

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The LORD is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does. The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. (Psalm 145:15-18 NIV)

“Give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11 NIV)

It can be difficult for us to focus on now, today. Either we regret our past or we long to be in the future. But today, right now – is what we have. This week’s verse, “Give us today our daily bread” has the proper perspective. Actually, we live in today, right now. This prayer, asking for our bread, our needs, our necessary resources for right now – today, is how we are to live.

Matthew 6:31-34 tells us, So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Jesus also said, “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). God already knows our needs, but we need to realize our need for God and for all of his provision is not a weekly, monthly or yearly need – but rather is an everyday need. If we remember this, if we pray daily for the food we need – then we can function at our best, do our work well and serve others cheerfully. If we rely on God for his daily provision of – housing, clothing, transportation, relationships, work, food, water – then we can daily experience his love for us as he provides us with our necessities.

When Jesus was hungry after fasting 40 days and was tempted by Satan, Jesus said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). We have physical needs for food and water, for shelter, for health and for clothing. But we also have the need to hear, know, and understand God’s word, and to have a daily relationship with God. We live in the here and now, each and every day we need to bring our needs – physical, emotional, spiritual to God and ask Him to provide us with what we need. 

God cares about our needs. Write down a need, pray about it, make a note of how God answers your prayer, and thank him for His provision.

 

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Tuesday2022-02-01T08:06:00-07:00

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Monday

Of all the things he could ask his Father in heaven for, he chooses a daily necessity. Read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and sit with the phrase, “Give us today daily bread”. What stands out to you?

  1. Get Honest … What do you typically pray for? Make a list of things you regularly talk with God about or ask him to do for you.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to say to you about your prayer life.
  3. Walk Anew … What step might Jesus want you to take in response to what he’s shown you?

FORMATION CHALLENGE … Fast from something intentionally to physically feel your essential needs

What To Say When You Pray | Week 5 | Monday2022-01-31T11:59:43-07:00
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