South Fellowship Church

As We Forgive Our Debtors

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:9a-10,12)

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You won’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matthew 6:14-15 MSG)

When I go to Our Father in heaven to ask him to forgive my debts, some of them are specific to my relationship with him. These may include not obeying a direct command to do something or not do something.

Sometimes it is my debt to my family, friends, or neighbor for something I did or said that caused them pain. I need to go and ask their forgiveness before coming to Our Father to ask him to forgive me (Matthew 5:23-24).

Forgiving is hard when someone has done something to wound me, my family, or someone else I love. Especially when there is no desire on their part to acknowledge what they did. All too often the pain becomes resentment and bitterness which ultimately affects more than just that relationship.

My aunt (my father’s sister) who raised me after my parents died, had a lifetime of bitter resentment against her father which caused issues within the family and had consequences with her physical health. In my adulthood, the last conversation I had with her, she mentioned that the next day would be the 21st anniversary of her father’s death and how she still couldn’t think of him without bitterness. I said, “Aunt, you are too grand of a woman to continue letting this poison you! It’s time to let it go!” We ended our conversation at about 7:30 p.m. At 4:00 a.m. the phone rang and my husband answered. He told him she was having a heart spell and the ambulance was at the door to take her to the hospital. He said we’d come as soon as we could. At 6:00 a.m. the hospital called to say she had died.

My husband said that when he hung up the phone with her that he had never heard her sound so good. The hope that hugs my heart is, maybe between the time we talked and when she died, she released it all and herself into our Father’s hands.

When I am tempted to hang on to a grievance, there are several ways I provide a visual for releasing the person or situation into Our Father’s hands: Sometimes I draw a cross and a prayer to remind me of what Jesus has done for us all (Isaiah 53) and I have also pulled up a weed from my garden and pinned it on my kitchen bulletin board to watch it shrivel and die as a reminder to not let bitterness take root in my mind and heart.

What might you use as a creative visual to encourage forgiveness for someone in your life?

As We Forgive Our Debtors2022-02-05T11:11:42-07:00

Forgiveness is a Calling

This week we are focusing on the beauty and power of forgiveness. We have challenged you to consider the relational impact of withholding forgiveness. On Sunday, Alex helped us think of forgiveness as a tool for maintaining healthy relationships. All these things are accurate and powerful, but what do we do when we forgive, and the other party does not? Another question might be, what do we do if we forgive, but the relationship is dangerous to us? Should we always reconcile with others?

Forgiveness is what Jesus invites us to pray for and extend to others in this prayer. Forgiveness does not always turn into reconciliation. Reconciliation requires both parties to come together in forgiveness. In Romans 12:18, Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The phrase “if it is possible” is essential in this challenge. It implies that it isn’t always possible. There are times when abuse or a lack of forgiveness from the other party prevents reconciliation.

Jesus teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That is an invitation to do everything in our power to reconcile with God and others. The beauty of our request to God is that he extends forgiveness to all who repent. That isn’t always true when there is brokenness between two humans, but forgiveness sets the forgiver free.

Take a moment to do a relationship inventory. How are you doing? Is there anyone you can think of that you have relational tension with? Maybe now is the time to set both you and them free from the thing that separates you. Remember, this may need to happen repeatedly in your heart. Forgiveness is a calling that makes reconciliation possible.

Forgiveness is a Calling2022-02-14T15:37:13-07:00

Forgiveness is not a Feeling

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19 NIV)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 NIV)

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)

Forgiving someone who has hurt you can be a difficult thing to do. But God commands us to forgive one another, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” (Colossians 3:13). Focusing on all God has done for us, all he has forgiven us, and the price Jesus has already paid for all of our sins is an important first step in being able to forgive another person. Remember John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross so that my sins and everyone’s sins could be forgiven.

Psalm 103:8-12 says, The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

We may have difficulty forgiving someone who has hurt us, or has hurt our loved ones, because we may not “feel” like forgiving that person. Or perhaps we have forgiven someone, yet later we discover we need to forgive that person again, or God reveals to us that we did not fully forgive that person. Forgiving someone is an act of our will, an act of obedience to God’s word and to God’s desire for our lives. It involves us asking for forgiveness from God, and from other people, but it does not depend on our feelings. Sometimes it is ourselves we need to forgive. Forgiving yourself and others may involve a process over time, but it does not depend on a “feeling of forgiveness”.

A helpful exercise might be to write out the offense that you need to forgive, pray about it, ask God to forgive you, and then burn the paper, or shred the paper, and leave the matter in God’s hands.

This article, Guideposts Classics: Corrie ten Boom on Forgiveness, is about Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust concentration camp survivor, who illustrates forgiving her captor, as an act of obedience to God.

Forgiveness is not a Feeling2022-02-14T15:37:45-07:00

Live Debt-Free

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 ESV)

During my college years a former roommate asked me to lend her the equivalent of $750. She had just married and seemed desperate, so I made the loan. I haven’t seen her since. A few years later I told this story to a Christian friend who laughed and said, “Loaning money like that often ends a friendship.”

After that experience, and a couple others where the personal loan I made was actually repaid, I decided to eliminate complications and instead, as God directs, simply give to meet the need without creating an obligation. I have avoided so much agony by making that decision. (An aside: I won’t address dealings with financial institutions here.)

Intentional creation of interpersonal financial or emotional debt is unwise. Those entanglements arise frequently enough without making them happen on purpose. Here’s what Jesus said about being proactive in living our lives as debt-free as possible:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:27-38 ESV)

Maybe you’ve always thought of debt-free as never assuming debt upon yourself. These verses address thoughts and actions that keep us free from making others indebted to us. The bonus is that we are promised an abundant reward as we pursue this lifestyle.

Are you in a situation where someone “owes you”? Ask God what steps you can take to forgive that debt. If necessary, seek wise counsel.

Live Debt-Free2022-02-04T11:32:10-07:00

Formation Guide | Week 6

Jesus emphasizes forgiveness in this short prayer, both on behalf of receiving forgiveness from God and on extending forgiveness to others. Read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and ponder how often Jesus had to pray this to his heavenly Father. Imagine the scenes from Jesus’ life where he needed to lean into this part of the prayer. What might Jesus want you to know from his personal experience with forgiveness?

  1. Get Honest … How would you rate yourself by asking for forgiveness? How about receiving forgiveness? How about extending forgiveness? Share with Jesus reasons each one feels particularly challenging for you.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to speak into your heart after becoming so honest with him.
  3. Walk Anew … What step might Jesus want you to take in response to what he’s shown you?

FORMATION CHALLENGE … Take a rock to a body of water, while holding the rock agree with God about your sin and cast it into the water to let it go.

Formation Guide | Week 62022-02-04T11:27:45-07:00

When the Scriptures Confound | Acts 5:1-11

God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. I Timothy 6:15-16 NIV

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:31-32

Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. Acts 5:1-11 NIV

Joshua 7 tells us that Achan, all his family and livestock were stoned to death after he chose to disobey God and keep plunder from Jericho. Exodus 32 tells us about God’s and Moses’ righteous anger when the people of Israel decided to forget about worshipping God and made Aaron fashion a golden calf so they could worship it instead. Many people died as a result. Here in Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira are punished with death for lying to the apostles and to the Holy Spirit about a gift of money. These are difficult passages to read and understand.

When I first read the story about Achan I was quite shocked that his children were killed along with the man who had actually taken the forbidden plunder. I can remember asking my youth leader questions about Achan. Asking questions can be good. It means we are trying to understand. In each of these passages, punishment is given to the point of death for a sin that must be nipped in the bud at the beginning of something new that God was doing in and amongst His people. In Exodus 32 the people needed to understand the seriousness of how to properly worship God and not idols.

In Joshua 7 the people were being taught to rely on God to fight their battles, but He would not do that if they were not totally devoted to worshipping God. In Acts 5 the Holy Spirit has been given to every believer, but the church was just beginning to learn of the power of the Holy Spirit. The church was a new entity, perhaps only a few months old. The believers were learning how to be a community, how to worship, and what God required of them in terms of purity.

What do we do with these types of passages? First – ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us what we need to know and understand. Second – we need to understand that God is Holy, just, loving, sovereign, compassionate, and omniscient. “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts,’” Isaiah 55:8-9. Third – realize some passages in scripture may not be fully explained in our lifetimes. God is God and I am not.

By Grace Hunter

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When the Scriptures Confound | Acts 5:1-112021-10-14T12:40:58-06:00

Are We At Risk? | Acts 5:3-4

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” Acts 5:3-4

Sometimes, when we read accounts in Scripture of a dramatic event it can be easy to distance ourselves from what is happening, I would guess most, if not all, of us have never witnessed someone being struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit- let alone two people! And yet, these are accounts of real events that happened to real people, not so different from us.

At the very end of Acts 4, we learn that “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (4:36-37). Presumably, the kudos given to Barnabas for a generous, selfless act played a part in Ananias and Sapphira’s decisions because immediately afterwards we are told that they, too, sold property and put some- but not all- of the proceeds at the feet of the apostles. There are many motivations we can see here: greed, perhaps? A longing for acclamation and importance among this community? Pride? All of these motivations are so commonplace aren’t they? And who among us can claim to have never been tempted by, or acted upon, these same motivations?

Experiencing these same temptations of pride, greed, and a desire for recognition and importance doesn’t mean that God will necessarily strike you down publicly. There are many people throughout the pages of Scripture who sin and don’t die a dramatic death. But we do need to remember that if we leave our sin as it is, undealt with and unconfessed, we are not far off from Ananias and Sapphira.

Pray through Psalm 51 today. Confess whatever you need to confess and ask God to “create in [you] a pure heart” (Ps. 51:10).

By Jessica Rust

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Are We At Risk? | Acts 5:3-42021-10-14T12:38:10-06:00

Joyful Generosity | Acts 4:36-37, 2 Cor 9:6-7, Luke 6:38 NIV, Matthew 6:1, 3-4 NET Bible

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36-37)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.  Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor 9:6-7)

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

“Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people…But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. (Matt 6:1, 3-4)

The generosity of new converts to the Church in Acts 4 is impressive; so much so that some have suggested serious Christians should relinquish all worldly assets to a communal system. However, if we focus on the gift of Joseph/Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37, we see another picture.

Joseph’s gift is described as proceeds from the sale of a field he owned – not the sale of his family home, relinquishment of his livelihood, or pledge of all future personal energy. The highlighting of his nickname Barnabas or “son of encouragement” suggests he gave cheerfully what he had decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion. The first verses in Acts 5 feature Ananias and Sapphira, a couple whose giving appeared motivated more to impress others than by generosity.

If the examples of Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira are paired with Jesus’ teaching on giving in Luke and Matthew above, we have further insight into how to cultivate a heart of generosity.

Our first consideration is the generosity of our Father in Heaven who gives to us so we can give generously. An equally important consideration is our motivation. If our giving can be motivated by the desire to be seen by others, Jesus says giving should be in secret.

Barnabas’ joyful gift shows secret giving isn’t the only way for Christians to give in a godly way, but secrecy can temper the impulse to parade our generosity.

Recall when you have given joyfully and generously toward building the kingdom of God. Journal one or two of these memories and thank God for His generous provision for you as well as how He used your resources in the lives of others.

By Kathleen Petersen

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Joyful Generosity | Acts 4:36-37, 2 Cor 9:6-7, Luke 6:38 NIV, Matthew 6:1, 3-4 NET Bible2021-10-14T12:36:10-06:00

Temple vs. Temple | Acts 4:32-35

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Acts 4:32-35

This text sounds like a utopia, and there is something beautiful about human beings living like this fledgling church. Luke includes this story for multiple reasons. The apparent historical reason is easy to see; it’s an account of how God moved in the church when it started. The less obvious reason requires a deeper understanding of the entire scriptural narrative, a deeper understanding that Luke’s readers would have.

What the early church is doing is not a strange new idea. God’s desire for his people had always been that they would be a “kingdom of priests” (Ex. 19:6). In other words, the Israelites were supposed to broker relationships between God and all of the world’s nations. Here in Acts, we find all the nations descending on Jerusalem and encountering the presence of God in and through the early church. The church was doing what the physical temple had failed to do. Luke is pitting the physical temple of Jerusalem against the spiritual temple of the church. Which temple is most accurately fulfilling God’s heart for the world?

The leaders over the physical temple were attempting to get the leaders of the spiritual temple to stop doing miracles and teaching in the name of Jesus. They were opposing the renewal that God intended the temple to bring.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a member of God’s church. You are a spiritual temple of God. Just like this early church, we are invited to be the place where people encounter the living God. We carry God’s presence in us, and that presence is meant to be shared; it is not a private shrine where we alone can worship. Take a moment to listen to this song. Maybe you can pray the lyrics of the chorus. Ask God to make himself known through you.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Temple vs. Temple | Acts 4:32-352021-10-14T12:33:19-06:00

Immanence and Eminence | Acts 5:3-4

This is what the high and exalted One says — he who lives  forever and whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the spirit of the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestor raised Jesus from the dead –whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.  God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witness of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those who obey him.” Acts 5:29-32

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13

In a recent conversation about God being high and lifted up as well as close and all around us, the words, eminence and immanence came up. When I don’t know a word, I head for a dictionary or, these days, I Google it. Frankly, I’m not sure I really get it, but the closest I came was from a 1912 dictionary that describes someone who is eminent as high and lofty and there is no one above them. Whereas, immanent means to remain in or near.

As I read about the attitude of the important people, including Annas and Caiaphas the high priests who had questioned Jesus before his crucifixion, and others high up in the religious community of Jerusalem, it’s not surprising that they would get concerned and ultimately jealous because of what was happening as the apostles taught the good news of Jesus to the the crowd in the temple. Especially as the signs and wonders that the Holy Spirit was performing through the apostles among the people were drawing more of them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

It is also not surprising that they would get furious when confronted with the truth of their complicity in Jesus’ death, since they believed in worshiping God via an elaborate system of measurable rules that required intensive training. They resented the risk that would change things by the close relationship with Jesus and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

As I pondered- indeed, wrestled with- this portion of Acts, I realized how hard it is to take small bits of the riches of the written word of God and try to relate to a time when the people in the early church didn’t have it to refer to. The disciples at the time had to become attentive ”hearers of the Word” in order to become faithful “doers of the Word.”

In addition to reading the Bible, listening to the Bible is truly helpful. I have the You Version Holy Bible app, which has both visual and audio included for each of a variety of translations. Also, Audible and various other single translation versions are available online. Another practice may be reading the scriptures out loud alone or with someone. Try reading or listening to the Bible in a different way than you usually do this week and see how you receive the Word in a fresh way.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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Immanence and Eminence | Acts 5:3-42021-10-14T12:31:07-06:00
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