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South Fellowship Church

Reconciliation, is it Possible?

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (II Corinthians 5:18-21 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)

Offering forgiveness or asking for forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Jesus directs us to both ask for forgiveness for our sins and to offer forgiveness for others sins. But reconciliation requires both parties to be willing to set aside the offense, offer forgiveness to the offending party, and to enter into a friendly relationship once again. Reconciliation restores the relationship.

Let’s look at some examples from the Bible. In the book of Genesis, there are two stories of reconciliation between family members who have broken relationships. Genesis 33 tells us the story of Jacob returning to the land of Canaan and meeting his brother Esau for the first time since Jacob had previously stolen his birthright and blessing. Genesis 37 tells of Joseph, his dreams, and his 10 brother’s jealousy. As a result, they sell him into slavery in Egypt. But Genesis 50 gives us the end of this story, where Joseph – now the second person over all of Egypt – tells his brothers, “‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them,” Genesis 50:19-21.

The story of Joseph and his brothers is a beautiful picture of forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and healing of broken relationships. Reconciliation is not possible if either party persists in insisting on revenge, or insists on the need for retribution. Administering justice is God’s job – not ours. “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them. The LORD will vindicate his people,” (Deuteronomy 32:35-36a).

The story of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32 tells us about reconciliation between the father and the younger son. But the end of the story leaves us wondering how the older son will respond. Take time to read this parable over carefully. Look at the seeking of forgiveness and the offering of forgiveness. Notice the reconciliation and the lack of it with the two brothers. Search your heart. Ask God to show you what you need to see in your own relationships. Seek forgiveness, or offer it. Seek reconciliation as He directs.

Reconciliation, is it Possible?2022-02-18T13:04:54-07:00

Struggle For Justice

There is a problem with forgiveness. Sometimes, it isn’t just to forgive. Some evils do not deserve forgiveness. As you read this, you may think I am just trying to grab your attention with a shocking statement, but I am not. Evil demands justice, and if there is no room for justice, there is no room for forgiveness. Before you dismiss me as a heretic, hang with me.

I lived in Rwanda when the 1994 genocide took place. Many people don’t know that the conflict didn’t start that year. Instead, it began several hundred years before when one of the tribes overthrew the other violently. They would chop the leaders off at the knee in front of their families to belittle them. See, height was considered a sign of leadership. Then children of that generation grew up and eventually retaliated against the tribe who had so brutally murdered their parents. It is difficult to imagine such violence, and it simply isn’t okay if we simply forgive.

Child slavery, rape, and the abuse of the helpless are evils that cause us to feel a wave of just anger at those who perform such acts of wickedness. That feeling isn’t wrong; it is a feeling that agrees that this world is broken and it’s not supposed to include such evils. So what do we do with passages that call us to forgive? The answer is we give the weapon of justice to God. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

We are not wise enough to weigh the world’s evils in balance and determine when and where justice should be served. Instead, we give our anger and suffering to God to deal with justly. He then does so perfectly because the death of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate act of justice against evil. When we give God the sword of justice, we are free to forgive fully.

There has been significant healing and forgiveness in Rwanda since 1994, but it was not through an attempt to sweep the injustice under the rug. Instead, the Rwandan church has learned to give God the weapon of justice and trust in his hands. Only then can true forgiveness happen.

Do you have someone who has hurt you? It is not wrong to feel that hurt. Today, take a moment to offer those feelings to God. Feel free to vent your pain to him and ask for his justice. Once you are done, leave the sword of justice in his hand to wield when and if he chooses, even if he already has on the cross for the one who has offended you.

Struggle For Justice2022-02-18T13:02:56-07:00

Not Forgiven

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Forgiveness is no joke in God’s Kingdom. Jesus states several times throughout his ministry that if we hold unforgiveness in our hearts toward others, “our Father will not forgive us” (Matthew 6:15). Ouch. Jesus takes unforgiveness seriously and as followers of Jesus, we cannot ignore this teaching.

What does God’s unforgiveness mean exactly? Does this mean God is an unmerciful God and unwilling to act kindly toward us if we don’t cooperate with him? Or does this mean when we don’t cooperate in the area of forgiveness we, as children of a merciful King, refuse his Kingdom values and therefore, cannot taste it for ourselves? I propose the latter.

Our resentful behavior will be held against us by our Heavenly Father much like a good parent withholds reward from his/her child acting out of character and out of alignment with family values. We are the children hurting when we refuse to forgive. We are the ones jeopardizing our experience of the trust and intimacy with our Heavenly Father when we don’t extend his Kingdom values to the world around us. We are the immature who are missing out on tasting the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus emphasizes forgiveness because our human relationships affect our relationship with God. When we forgive, we draw close to the only God who forgives and when we walk in resentment, we separate ourselves from the source of forgiveness – and with it his life and blessing.

So, let’s take forgiveness seriously today. I’m sure everyone of us has someone to forgive – whether it’s a major trauma or minor infraction. It’s inevitable. We’re human. But let’s first stop to check in with our souls. Do you feel distant from God today? Get honest and tell God where unforgiveness is creating a barrier with him and receive his forgiveness so you can continue extending his forgiveness to those around you.

Not Forgiven2022-02-18T13:08:45-07:00

No Trespassing

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15 ESV)

What comes to mind when you see a warning sign “NO TRESPASSING”? For some, it signals a selfish property owner or an unreasonable government entity. As for the owner or guardian of the property, the sign may be necessary to ensure not only protection for animals, people, or vegetation, but also so that important work is not disturbed. The sign may indicate gaining permission and instruction before safely accessing the property.

We don’t know all the reasons our Heavenly Father put up the following “NO TRESPASSING” sign. But after His warning was violated, everything on earth changed.

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Has someone ignored your personal “NO TRESPASSING” sign? Has that person disturbed or done permanent damage to the Holy Spirit’s work in you or someone close to you? Yes, it matters. Yes it hurts. Yes, you may be entitled to human or even divine justice. But here is an astounding perspective on grace and mercy from the heart of Jesus after he underwent three unjust trials that left him suffering under the most shameful of executions:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34 ESV)

In Robert Frost’s poem, Mending Wall, he presents two neighbors with differing views of the stone boundary wall between them. The first neighbor repeats the sentiment, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall”, suggesting the wall is unnecessary because reasons for the wall have seemingly vanished. But the other neighbor insists, “good fences make good neighbors”.

Has someone likewise contested a personal boundary that should be respected? Are you tempted to cross someone else’s boundary? If a serious boundary violation has already occurred, our Heavenly Father urges us to shift natural desires for unlimited vengeance to His timely and capable judgment. LIkewise, He insists our forgiveness must harmonize with His mercy toward fence jumpers. Are feelings still raw from one of those painful intrusions? Talk over the offense with our Heavenly Father to gain His perspective.

Here’s a less personal exercise (maybe): Observe these two photos below. Was it necessary to put a fence around these invaluable giant trees – some over 3,000 years old? Can you lay aside a desire for vengeance and forgive those who regarded these trees as trophies or lumber? Forgiveness is necessary, but it is impossible without allowing God to change your heart.

No Trespassing2022-02-18T12:59:47-07:00

Formation Guide | Week 8

Forgiveness is a major theme for Jesus in his personal and ministry experience on earth, so it must become important for us, too. Read the verse that follows the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:14 and ponder the process of forgiveness. What might Jesus want you to know about forgiveness?

  1. Get Honest … How difficult is it for you to forgive? Who is it easy to forgive? Who is it difficult?
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to speak into your experience concerning forgiveness.
  3. Walk Anew … What step might Jesus want you to take in response to what he’s shown you?

FORMATION CHALLENGE … Take a next step toward reconciliation

Formation Guide | Week 82022-02-18T12:55:39-07:00

Not Forgiven

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

Forgiveness is no joke in God’s Kingdom. Jesus states several times throughout his ministry that if we hold unforgiveness in our hearts toward others, “our Father will not forgive us” (Matthew 6:15). Ouch. Jesus takes unforgiveness seriously and as followers of Jesus, we cannot ignore this teaching.

What does God’s unforgiveness mean exactly? Does this mean God is an unmerciful God and unwilling to act kindly toward us if we don’t cooperate with him? Or does this mean when we don’t cooperate in the area of forgiveness we, as children of a merciful King, refuse his Kingdom values and therefore, cannot taste it for ourselves? I propose the latter.

Our resentful behavior will be held against us by our Heavenly Father much like a good parent withholds reward from his/her child acting out of character and out of alignment with family values. We are the children hurting when we refuse to forgive. We are the ones jeopardizing our experience of the trust and intimacy with our Heavenly Father when we don’t extend his Kingdom values to the world around us. We are the immature who are missing out on tasting the goodness of God’s Kingdom.

Jesus emphasizes forgiveness because our human relationships affect our relationship with God. When we forgive, we draw close to the only God who forgives and when we walk in resentment, we separate ourselves from the source of forgiveness – and with it his life and blessing.

So, let’s take forgiveness seriously today. I’m sure everyone of us has someone to forgive – whether it’s a major trauma or minor infraction. It’s inevitable. We’re human. But let’s first stop to check in with our souls. Do you feel distant from God today? Get honest and tell God where unforgiveness is creating a barrier with him and receive his forgiveness so you can continue extending his forgiveness to those around you.

Not Forgiven2022-02-18T13:01:25-07:00

Imaginative Reading | Acts 9:1-19

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6

Many have undertaken to draw up an orderly account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. Luke 1:1-4

Who, What, Where, When, Why and How are sometimes called the 5W1H questions to ask when you want to gather information or solve a problem. So, HOW might that help us when we read the Bible. It seems to me that the easiest way I can explain it is to give my own experience reading and studying the Bible this way.

WHO? Me, Carolyn Schmitt.

WHY? I want to learn to know God, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit in their relationship together and with us people.

HOW? By moving around in the scriptures and getting acquainted with the people through their stories. I want to know WHO they are, WHERE they are mentioned, WHEN they lived and WHAT their culture, landscapes, and actions were. Especially, I want to know about their interaction with God.

In our time I have the advantage of the written Word, the internet, and a multiplicity of written, audio and visual helps in the process of using the 5W1H words to find out information. Don’t know a word, a quote, a name? Just Google it and I’ve got it. But… HOW to move from information to life? I have to be willing to slow down; to imagine living in the time and at the walking pace of scripture. Then I need to be creative in using my ordinary day to live in relationship with WHO I’m learning to know.

Soon we will be through Halloween and Thanksgiving and into Advent, Christmas, Lent, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. The majority of these are special times for the church whose one foundation is Jesus Christ. In the process of Advent to Ascension, Jesus’ time on earth is about 6 months. There are clues in the whole Bible about the years Jesus lived before his baptism, especially Matthew 1:18-2:23, Luke 1:26-56 and Luke 2. Also Philippians 2:5-8 and Hebrews 4:14-5:10.

In Matthew 1:1-17 there are the names of 42 generations from Abraham to the Messiah, Jesus. Pick a WHO and learn about them, using the 5W1H questions. Imagine living in their time and culture. Think creatively HOW what you learn relates to the dailiness of your life, relationships and responsibilities.

By Carolyn Schmitt

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Imaginative Reading | Acts 9:1-192021-11-02T12:32:17-06:00

God’s Call | Acts 9:3-5, Gen 22:11, Ex 3:4, I Sam 3:10, Acts 9:15, Gal 1:15

*As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. (Acts 9:3-5)

*But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!

“Here I am,” he replied. (Gen 22:11) 

*God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Ex 3:4) 

*The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (I Sam 3:10)

*…This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. (Acts 9:15)

*…God…set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace… (Gal 1:15)

This first telling of the dramatic call of Jesus on Saul/Paul’s life is familiar to readers of the New Testament…no wonder as it is repeated 2 more times in Acts and another in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Students of the Old Testament have also pointed out Jesus’ repetition of Saul’s name in Acts 9 reflects the same kind of intimacy, intensity and significance of God’s leadership call on three other faith pioneers: Abraham, Moses, and Samuel.

God’s choices for spiritual leadership sometimes seem odd. How could a man so vehemently opposed to God’s redeeming work through His Son Jesus qualify to be the leading representative of that redemption to the world outside first century Judaism?

Galatians 1:13-17 reveals God was at work in Paul’s life from the time he was conceived – not just at the point of his conversion. The repetition of Saul’s name when Jesus calls him from heaven marks Paul as a major leader in establishing God’s Kingdom.

So how did God prepare Paul for this new role? Galatians 1:14 reveals he was blessed with an extraordinarily adept intellect. Other sources inform us he was a student of the top Biblical scholar Gamaliel, one of three scholars of Judaism recognized as most influential to this day. He also was a Roman citizen brought up in a predominantly Gentile city. God could not have picked a better person to search the Old Testament scriptures and communicate the role of Jesus the Messiah to Jew and Gentile alike.

It’s also worth noting he was a “tough customer”. Anyone zealous enough to pursue followers of Jesus to send them to prison and even death was a single minded firebrand – someone who would not wilt under opposition once convinced of his mission.
Here’s my takeaway from these observations: God uses all of a Jesus follower’s life as preparation to further His Kingdom – both the commendable and deplorable elements.

Have you thought that past failures or a tarnished skill set would disqualify you or another Jesus follower from serving God completely? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal at least one way He intends to redeem or has already used those failures or skills to bring others into God’s Kingdom and glory to our Lord Jesus.

By Kathleen Petersen

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God’s Call | Acts 9:3-5, Gen 22:11, Ex 3:4, I Sam 3:10, Acts 9:15, Gal 1:152021-11-02T12:28:55-06:00

Love Your Enemy | Acts 9:10-19

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 9:10-17

In Matthew 5, Jesus challenges us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. At first, this teaching sounds incredibly humble and beautiful. After reading this story of Ananias above, the rubber meets the road. Loving our enemies is easy until you have an enemy. Saul is one of the greatest threats to the church and Ananias is a follower of Jesus. Here we have God challenging him to love Saul tangibly. I want us to think about the question; what do we do with the anxiety that often comes when trying to obey God?

This story is so helpful in answering that question. Ananias brings his doubt and fear to God in prayer. God is gracious and gentle in his dialogue with Ananias in this text. Perhaps that is part of the point of it all. Yes, God wanted to accomplish something through Ananias, but he also seems to use the tension to help Ananias grow and learn to listen to him.

What steps of obedience are on your horizon? Is there fear related to them? Are there questions that you have? Bring them to God today. I suspect that the conversation is one part of what God is after anyway.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Love Your Enemy | Acts 9:10-192021-11-02T12:23:56-06:00

The Role of Prayer | Acts 9:9-16

For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything. In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:9-16 NIV

I need to confess that our passage in Acts 9 convicts me on the topic of prayer. Luke tells us that Saul fasted for 3 days and prayed after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus. Ananias had a vision and a conversation with God about Saul of Tarsus. Ananias clearly expressed to God his reluctance to go talk with Saul who, “was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples,” Acts 9:1. Both the newly converted Saul and the faithful disciple Ananias made prayer a priority, took it seriously, and spent considerable time praying. I confess, for much of my life, prayer has not been a priority. Is prayer a priority for you?

In looking back at the previous passages we have studied in Acts Luke tells us that the believers did take prayer seriously. We are told, “they all joined together constantly in prayer,” Acts 2:14. Often Luke mentions the believers praying as a part of their daily life, (Acts 2:24, 31, 42, 6:4). Many of these situations involved either praying before making an important decision, or during a difficult or dangerous situation. I don’t know about you, but for me, prayer has not always been the first thing I do in a crisis. Yet this is what we observe in both Saul and Ananias.

If we look at key situations in Jesus’ life in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus prayed at his Baptism (Luke 3:21), all night before choosing his disciples (Luke 6:12), at the time of his transfiguration (Luke 9:28-29), and of course in Gethsemane – immediately prior to his arrest and crucifixion (Luke 22:41-45). Jesus, the sinless Son of God, who was fully God and fully man, made prayer a priority. I have to conclude – if Jesus needed regular, and sometimes extended, times of prayer with his Father, while he was here on earth then I must need to do the same. Do you agree?

For me, I had to discover a method and plan for prayer. Walking and praying and using a prayer journal to organize requests has helped me. Spend time praying in a different way this week. Try: walking and praying, designating a prayer room or area, using a journal to organize requests and answers, praying with a friend, or praying scripture for yourself or for another person. Psalms work well or Ephesians 1:17-20 or Ephesians 3:16-21.

By Grace Hunter

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The Role of Prayer | Acts 9:9-162021-10-31T14:22:49-06:00
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