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South Fellowship Church

UGH! HE’S BARELY HUMAN

You’ve saved up for that cruise to the destination of your dreams…the one where everyone but the crew is on holiday, indulging in luxuries and dressed in great outfits. You stroll up the ramp with family and best friends to have the time of your life. The ship arrives at your exotic first stop and you disembark with the rest of the passengers. All of a sudden a disheveled, dirty man rushes at you and your group, screaming, with face contorted and arms gyrating wildly – like an alien from a bad movie. The encounter threatens your utopian experience. Ugh! Later, you’re reminded of this story:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” (Mark 5:1-8 ESV)

If you’ve been in a situation with a mentally ill, unpredictable person such as the Gerasene man, you wish for the insight and power of Jesus. But what can you do in such a volatile situation? Should you:

  1. Speak calmly to the person and redirect their animosity?
  2. Address the demon directly (assuming you know it’s a demon)?
  3. Call the police?
  4. Find the nearest social worker or psychiatrist?
  5. Distance yourself as much as possible from this weirdness?

My initial emotional reaction in similar situations has too often been disgust and fear of the person who is so terribly disordered. But, if I’m tuned to the Holy Spirit, God has allowed me to see that person as someone created in God’s image…but in distress.

In the Mark 5 incident above, Jesus’ stern rebuke of the demons exhibited true compassion toward the man. Not surprisingly, after the demons had been vanquished, the man responded this way:

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:18-20 ESV)

From a modern therapeutic perspective, it’s perplexing that Jesus refused to welcome this man as a disciple so he could fully “fix” him. It appears that Jesus knew the man’s wholeness would include mending of broken relationships that might have played a part in his demonic oppression.

In Luke 11:24-26, Jesus teaches hasty casting out of demons may worsen the condition of a person not ready for such a housecleaning. So our compassion for those who are spiritually and mentally distressed must be combined with Biblical wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

When you’ve been confronted by an unusually perplexing person, have you scrolled through amateur versions of DSM-5TR in search of a tidy, popular diagnosis to distance yourself from that individual rather than being God’s representative? Reflect on ways God has and is preparing you for compassionate, Spirit-led encounters with those who have bewildering appearance and/or behavior.

UGH! HE’S BARELY HUMAN2022-04-08T09:53:01-06:00

Do I Show Contempt?

He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. Acts 10:11-16 NIV

contempt means the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn

Throughout human history people of low socioeconomic class, people who are ill or disabled, or people who are extremely poor have suffered from others treating them with contempt or with disgust. Examples include lepers in ancient times, untouchables in India, people who are HIV positive, or disabled people in 3rd world countries today.

In Acts 10 and 11 Peter and the church in Jerusalem were taught directly by God through dreams, and a vision of an angel that Gentiles were and are loved by God, and were and are welcome in God’s kingdom. God did not want Gentiles to be treated with contempt or disgust.

The religious leaders of Israel in Jesus’ day were known for showing contempt for Gentiles, sinners, tax collectors and anyone they thought of as being unclean. But Jesus’ attitude toward these same people and his interactions with these types of people was a stark contrast.

In John 8:1-11 the religious leaders set a trap for Jesus using an adulterous woman. Jesus turned the situation around, by suggesting the person who had never sinned should throw the first stone at the woman. Gradually all the teachers of the law realized they all were sinners and left her alone with Jesus. He did not condemn her, but did tell her to sin no more.

Jesus called a tax collector to be his disciple and had dinner with his fellow tax collectors (Matthew 9:9-13), touched lepers in order to heal them (Matthew 8:5), had public conversations with women, even a Samaritan prostitute (John 4). Jesus touched both a man with dropsy to heal him (Luke 14:1-4), and let a woman with hemorrhaging touch his cloak (Luke 8:43-48).

In Peter’s vision about what is clean and unclean God tells him, “The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,’” Acts 10:15. In the middle ages, when the plague was ravaging the populations, it was people who worshiped God, who took care of the sick and buried the dead.

All people are loved by God. We are all sinners in need of a savior. Examine your heart. Ask, do I have contempt for someone or for a group of people? Ask God to help you know how to pray for that person or that group of people.

Do I Show Contempt?2022-04-08T09:48:44-06:00

The Untouchables

“When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.””
Matthew 8:1-4 ESV

In reading over this passage, we can make four significant observations.

Though Jesus’ teachings were somewhat unorthodox, he had this allure that attracted many people to follow him.
The leper, weakened and wasting away by a highly contagious disease, unapologetically and humbly kneels before Jesus with utter faith.
The leper was UNTOUCHABLE! Physical contact with a leper might expose a person to this painful, life-wrecking infection. In this case, Jesus MAKES CONTACT with the man by bodily TOUCHING him. He healed the man immediately!

Jesus commands the man to tell no one. This is the first instance Jesus says to “tell no one” of the miracle that had taken place. Instead, to see the priest so that the priest could approve him back into society.

Let’s get some context. Jesus is in a season of demonstrating His authoritative kingdom power. He wants to establish Himself as Messiah by performing many miracles and revealing that the kingdom has arrived. He is showing His strength in healings, discipleship, and overthrowing Satan’s strongholds. Amazingly, Jesus’ one true mission here is to minister specifically to the marginalized, disappointing the messianic expectations of many who followed him.

The Old Testament provides specific guidelines for examining and treating these people with various skin diseases. Not only was leprosy a disease, but it also made the leper and anyone who touched him ceremonially unclean. (See also Leviticus 13:45-46, Numbers 5:2-4, Leviticus 15). Jesus was unaffected, and the man was healed immediately! Jesus wanted this man to show himself to the priest. He commands the man to do what the law required, to return to society even though this miracle would attest to the authenticity of his message concerning the kingdom’s arrival. Jesus didn’t want to draw crowds who simply came for miracles.

Jesus was unaffected or undaunted by this man. If He was DISGUSTED, He did not make it known. According to the Answers in Genesis site, “Leprosy has terrified humanity since ancient times… While people with leprosy traditionally suffered banishment from family and neighbors.”

“If one even so much as came in contact with or touched a leper, they too would be seen as defiled. Thus, people avoided lepers like the plague. What’s more, many believed that leprosy was a divine punishment for the act of slander. Thus, those who had leprosy were not only shunned, but judged by society. We can see how scandalous it was for Jesus to lay hands on and heal a leper. Not only did he risk defiling himself, but he was also showing his power over sin (Life Giving Water Blog).”

This is a compelling topic in a day and age of taking considerable precautions to not infect ourselves or spread infectious diseases. This story of Jesus healing the leper reveals Jesus’ heart. No matter what was afflicting this man before him, He loved him equally to the blind, the sick, the cast out, and the tax collector. He was not “grossed out” or “disgusted,” or thinking, “I might catch what he has.” He treated this man with dignity, respect, and compassion, bringing healing without shunning or judging him. The unseemly act of Jesus touching the untouchable, with the risk of defiling himself, revealed his power over sin and death! What a challenging thought during a pandemic!

Practice or Application: Let’s work to bring the healing power of Jesus Christ to others today, much like Jesus did in this story of the leper. Who do you know who could use a healing touch? Is there someone or a specific group you avoid? What might God be calling you to do in these instances? How can you show love to the sick? Being fully human with emotions, what do you think Jesus did with the feeling of disgust?

Walking in the way of Jesus, with the heart of Jesus!

The Untouchables2022-04-08T09:47:03-06:00

Disgust: As a Warning

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16) NIV

Those whom love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me. (Revelation 3:19&20) NIV

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1&2) MSG

Although the word disgust is not mentioned in the above scriptures, the physical response to it is. We can feel disgust when we perceive something as distasteful to our sense of taste or smell, and sometimes to our sight, hearing or touch.

The church in Laodicea would have understood well what Jesus was saying to them. The water that flowed into Laodicea came through aqueducts from miles away and arrived lukewarm and tasted unpleasant. The Laodiceans may have gotten used to it, but someone experiencing it for the first time would likely spit it out of their mouth. Cold water refreshes; hot water cleanses. Lukewarm does neither.

The problem in the Laodicean church was that they. as a community and individuals, had tucked their faith into a closet while they succumbed to the culture of wealth and self-sufficiency all around them. They were the only one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3 that were not persecuted for their faith. They may have even looked down on the other six churches with pride in their own advantages.

So Jesus gave them a heads-up warning,”I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” But he also tells them that he loves them, which is why he warns, rebukes and disciplines them. They need to become earnest and repent.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” These words are the most quoted of Jesus’ words and are frequently used to encourage a new believer to come to Christ, but they were originally written to a once thriving community of faith as a reminder of his presence and his desire for a renewed relationship.

As I write this, I’m hearing Jesus say to me that there is a closet door in my heart that he is patiently knocking at.
How about you? Is Jesus knocking at a door in your heart?

For this Holy Week, as we approach Easter, meditate on the above scriptures and ask Jesus how he desires you to respond to his voice.

Disgust: As a Warning2022-04-08T09:44:25-06:00

How Do You Really Feel | Week 7

Disgust is a fascinating emotion. As humans, we feel a physiological visceral response when we encounter anything that smells bad, anything rotting, anything dying. We are repulsed. Our bellies sour. Our instinct is to move away. This can be beneficial for our safety and wise protection, but it also gets easily twisted when it comes to the disgust we feel toward others.

What happens when we feel disgust for others or when they feel it toward us? The Genesis narrative uses this concept “loathe” or “sickening dread” in context of relationship. Groupings of people like the “Gentiles” and “lepers” and “sinners” in the New Testament were also a source of disgust for the Jews.

Yet, Jesus repeatedly moves past disgust toward others. He moves toward the physically, morally, and spiritually compromised. As we walk in his way with his heart, we need to be a little skeptical of our disgust. God’s grace reaches down into our deepest disgusting parts to redeem us, and he invites us to walk in this way too.

  1. Get Honest … What disgusts you? Why do you think these things disgust you? How has your disgust helped you? How has it held you back from living in the way of Jesus? Share this with Jesus now.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants you to know.
  3. Walk Anew … What does Jesus want you to do?
How Do You Really Feel | Week 72022-04-08T09:37:30-06:00

From the Evil

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:13)

Have you ever turned your mind to heaven and whispered a prayer like, “Oh God, please let them be okay” or “God protect them” or “Please heal them?” Whispered prayers like these are prayers I have often prayed with great emotion. If I am honest, my prayers could have been simplified too, “please let no bad things happen to the ones I love or to me.” The line “deliver us from evil” feels similar to the prayers I just described. Not wanting bad things to happen is such a familiar thing to us. Why wouldn’t we want to avoid evil things if possible?

The truth is, sometimes tricky things in life help us to grow. Elsewhere in the scriptures, we learn that God uses challenging and painful things to help us grow. Does this prayer against the evil things prevent us from the growth that might come if we go through them? Perhaps, but the invitation that Jesus gives us is to pray against the evil anyway. Our dislike of evil in the world and our lives is not an unnatural feeling. Instead, it reminds us that the evil in the world is not what God intended for his creation. What about the growth, then? What about those moments when God teaches us through the pain of evil happenings?

When we pray this, we give our desire to a wise father who can figure out how and when to intervene in our lives to either protect or challenge us. We pray for transformation from evil to good. I believe God is wise enough to handle our prayers and know what to do with them for our and the world’s good.

Watch this video and reflect on how God can deliver people from evil things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjLlLPZderk

From the Evil2022-02-14T12:31:17-07:00

Deliver Us

“This, then, is how you should pray: 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. And forgive us our debts as we forgive have also forgiven us our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6: 9-15 NIV)

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you to be strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no weekend war that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. (Ephesians 6:10-12 MSG)

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an ‘indispensable’ weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. (Ephesians 6:13-18 MSG)

Over many years of studying and pondering The Lord’s Prayer and Ephesians 6:10-18, I’ve realized something that can happen when we become accustomed to a particular way of viewing them: The Lord’s Prayer is so familiar and is said on such a variety of occasions that it is easy to lose sight of how much it covers in our relationship with God, his otherness, and his knowledge and care for us and our needs.

Ephesians 6:10-18 is many times called the “Armor of God”. It is easy to assume that it is something we can put on from the outside in order to stand strong in the Lord. Armor was part of the culture during the time Paul wrote that description, but progressively I have come to see each “piece” as a description of Jesus, himself, and to believe that it is nurtured from within us, where the Holy Spirit of truth, whom the Father sent to live in us (John14:15-17), and The Father and Jesus (John 14:23-27) makes their home with us.

In John 17:14-15, Jesus is praying for his disciples and he says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they aren’t of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Ephesians 6:10-12 reminds us that we are on a battlefield and that the weapons we need are the ones God gives us in Jesus. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation (the word “salvation” means “deliverance”). Most especially they are the Word, both the written word and the Living Word, Jesus.

Set aside some time each day this week to think about how God delivers you from the evil one by supplying the “weapons” he has given you to strengthen you in him from the inside (heart, mind, and soul) to the outside in your relationships and actions in the world.

Deliver Us2022-02-14T13:38:33-07:00

Lead Us Not

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matthew 6:14)

What is Jesus saying here? It seems he is asking his Father in Heaven to “not” lead him down this path. Interestingly enough, his request contradicts the very thing the Spirit of God led him to do only two chapters earlier. Matthew tells us Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan for forty days (Matthew 4:1-11).

Looking further back in scriptural history, we know God allowed Job to experience testing and trial from the evil one (Job 1:6-9). Israel was led into the wilderness for a time of testing (Hebrews 3:7-9). And this type of suffering is to be an expected theme in the lives of God-fearers – everywhere from the Garden of Eden to Christ’s return (Genesis 3, James 5:7-11). So, what is Jesus really getting at here when we know God does, in fact, lead his people into seasons of testing?

To answer this, let’s start by asking a different question. What is Jesus modeling for us? Yes, we know God sometimes does lead his people into seasons of hardship. Jesus just experienced this, yet we hear Jesus pleading his father to never do that again. Jesus continued to model this when he pleaded with his Father to relieve him of the unbearable suffering at the cross (Matthew 26:42).

Jesus models a childlike plea. He’s not afraid to ask his father to remove hardships in the form of temptation and testing. He models for us that it’s okay to beg God to remove the hardship. It’s good to be like a child in our requests before him and to ask even for things we assume he will deny.

Today, sit with Jesus at a table and imagine him sipping tea or coffee with you. What do you want to ask him to do for you? How does he respond to your request?

Lead Us Not2022-02-14T12:26:36-07:00

What is Temptation?

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (I Corinthians 10:12-13 NIV)

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13 NIV)

Jesus taught this prayer to his disciples in the common everyday language of the Jewish people – Aramaic. The word that is translated as “temptation” in most English Bibles actually means “wrong thinking or testing”, according to Chaim Bentorah who is a lifelong Hebrew scholar. I understand this phrase in Matthew to mean – Father, don’t let my own wrong or flawed thinking influence me to sin, or don’t let the trials and tests I am going through cause me to succumb to sin.

James teaches us, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created,” (James 1:12-18).

God can not tempt us – it would be against His nature. He will not, He can not do anything that is not in keeping with His nature. But He does allow us to be tested. Jesus himself, “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil,” (Matthew 4:1). The author of Hebrews says, “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,” (Hebrew 4:15). The author of Hebrew also encourages us by explaining Jesus’ temptation in this way, “because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted,” (Hebrews 2:18).

We will have times of testing and trials. In those times – pray to God, read His word, use God’s truth to help us decide how to respond to our testing and to our trials, so we do not sin.

What is Temptation?2022-02-14T12:25:08-07:00

Formation Guide | Week 7

On earth, Jesus needs the Father’s guidance and his deliverance. So do we. Read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and ponder Jesus’ personal need for guidance and deliverance from evil while he was on the earth. What might Jesus want you to know about his struggle with the enemy?

  1. Get Honest … How often do you feel misled or under attack from dark or evil forces? Share with Jesus how this struggle makes you feel and what beliefs consequently arise in you.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to speak into your experience concerning the enemy.
  3. Walk Anew … What step might Jesus want you to take in response to what he’s shown you?

FORMATION CHALLENGE … Find someone trustworthy and share your struggle

Formation Guide | Week 72022-02-13T22:10:33-07:00
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