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South Fellowship Church

Imaginative Practice | Luke 15:1-32

As you begin today, take a deep breath. I want to invite us into this story as if we were actually there, hearing these parables from Jesus for the first time. Try to imagine what you might be seeing and feeling. What thoughts would be running through your head? How would you respond? As we enter into this imaginative practice, ask God to show you how these words could speak to you today.

The crowds gather around Jesus. Swarms of people follow him everywhere he goes. I have heard of him, but I am skeptical. Is he really as great as people say? What makes him different? As a tax collector, I am used to being ridiculed, and overlooked. It’s true I haven’t always lived a moral and upright life. I’ve made many mistakes along the way and have been dishonest at times. As an outcast of society, I often feel like I am always being rejected. I wonder, will it always be this way?

Then this Jesus guy came along. Some of my buddies, fellow tax collectors and outcasts, seem attracted to him. They draw near to him everywhere he goes, even sharing meals with him. On this particular day, I decide to see what all the fuss is about. As I get closer, I see the crowds around him. There is tension in the air, as the religious leaders are also present. I hear grumbling and one of them mutters, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” And then Jesus starts to speak. He speaks in these stories, but I quickly realize they have deeper meaning. The message he begins to share seems too good to be true. The shepherd pursues the lost sheep? The woman pursues the lost coin? Could Jesus actually be pursuing me? Do I matter to him? He says there is great rejoicing over even one sinner who repents.

Then he launches into his third story. That’s when it hits me. He talks about this younger son who has messed up and squandered his money. He has made some wrong turns along the way and finds himself at a really low point of his life. I can relate to that feeling, not knowing where to turn next. But this younger son comes to his senses. He realizes the gravity of his decisions and he decides to go home. Surely his father could never accept him, right? Perhaps as a hired servant, but never as a son. Maybe for a meal, but not ever as a member of the family. And then Jesus’ words stop me in my tracks. As the son was still a ways off from home, the father runs to him. He feels compassion, he embraces him, he welcomes him back into the family. Not as a slave, but as a fully established son. Before the son can finish his prepared speech, the father calls for a great celebration. Tears come to my eyes. Perhaps there is hope for me? Perhaps I too can experience this grace from Jesus? Maybe he will welcome me into his family? For the first time, I will belong. I will be home.

By Billy Berglund

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Imaginative Practice | Luke 15:1-322019-07-22T16:35:08-06:00

God Welcomes Us – We Welcome Others | Luke 15:20-24

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15:20-24

Invitations are precious things. They get you access to an event. They mean you get to join a party. They make you feel seen, known, and valued. Receiving an invitation in the mail can brighten anyone’s day!

The father in this story offers both of his sons an invitation: come celebrate with me. Be part of my family. Experience all that it means to be a son. In telling us this story, Jesus is offering a similar invitation. We too can be part of Jesus’ family, part of his community. But we have to realize, this invitation into Jesus’ kingdom community isn’t for us to hide away and protect only for ourselves. Once we have been invited we have the opportunity and the instruction to invite others too. Part of what it means to be welcomed in to community and kingdom is to bring others with us.

Don’t run away from community this week. Instead, invite others to join with you. At church this Sunday be on the lookout for new people or people who are sitting alone and engage them in conversation. Or, if you’re interested in having conversations with people who are asking questions about faith, become an Alpha leader this fall. Email Pastor Yvonne if you’re interested.

By Jessica Rust

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God Welcomes Us – We Welcome Others | Luke 15:20-242019-07-22T16:35:08-06:00

God Forgives Us- We Forgive Others | Luke 15:11-32

“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:25-32

In reading the parable of the Prodigal Son, we find forgiveness in ample supply given by the father. The younger son piles one insult upon another as he burns through his inheritance. His return home is met with love and forgiveness from the father. The oldest son behaves selfishly and with anger, and his behaviour is met with love and forgiveness from the father. While not actually saying, “I forgive your horrible behavior,” the father shows his love to his sons in an amazingly tangible way. The two brothers don’t deserve the love and forgiveness given by their father. Neither do we.

Despite some messages out there about how we may deserve the love and forgiveness of God, the bottom line is we don’t. There’s nothing we’ve done or can do to deserve it. It’s a wholly free gift from God, which makes the depths of his love, demonstrated through the giving of Jesus for us when we were unwilling, all the more humbling (Romans 5:8).

With this in mind, how can we not forgive others? We’ve been forgiven by God, as demonstrated by his love, and still desire in our hearts to ‘hold out on’ forgiving others? May it never be so! It’s true, there are times in life when forgiveness will be difficult to give to those who have done very damaging, injurious things to us. Jesus, having already been pinned with spikes to the cross and lifted up with the ultimate goal being his death, forgave those responsible (Luke 23:33-34a). Surely we can follow his example and forgive those who meant us harm.

As you finish reading this today, place yourself in a posture of prayer. In silence, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you those in need of your forgiveness, remembering the forgiveness you’ve been given. When images or names come to mind, forgive them before the Lord. Perhaps praying through the prayer below will help you.

Lord,
hear my prayer.
Just as you have forgiven me,
I am compelled to forgive others.
There are those in my life whom,
purposely, I have not forgiven.
Lord,
give me the strength to forgive them.
There are those in my life whom,
unknowingly, I have not forgiven.
Lord,
reveal them to me that I may forgive them.
Lord,
help me to always be quick to forgive.
Lord,
thank you for your forgiveness to me.
Amen.

By Rich Obrecht

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God Forgives Us- We Forgive Others | Luke 15:11-322019-07-22T16:35:08-06:00

God’s Compassion on Us | Luke 15:20

‘…I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:18-20 NIV

God is in the business of reconciliation. In this week’s text Jesus uses a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son to illustrate God’s desire to reconcile, to bring back, to restore, to save, to heal, and to redeem us. God’s compassion toward his people is a major theme all throughout Scripture. In Luke 15:18 the lost son acknowledges his sin to God, and plans to ask his father for forgiveness as well. The psalmist similarly declares, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,” Psalm 103:3-4.

In Mark 6:34, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.” In other places Jesus showed compassion through healing. “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick,” Matthew 14:14. In the Bible the word “saved” often can be translated as “healed.” Jesus is interested in our spiritual health as well as our physical health. In Luke 19: 10 Jesus states this as his purpose, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” God longs to show me compassion, but if I need to confess my sin, as the lost son needed to, then I first need to make myself right before God, and then I will be able to experience his unfailing love.

The father in Luke 15 is quick to forgive, to show compassion, and to value both of his sons. God is the same. I know I often need to be reminded that God values me, forgives me and has compassion on me. It is comforting to me to know that if I am honest with God, confess my sin, he will forgive me and welcome me back into fellowship with him. Isaiah 54:10 is very reassuring, “ ‘…Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Are you in need of God’s restoring compassion today?

By Grace Hunter

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God’s Compassion on Us | Luke 15:202019-07-22T16:35:08-06:00

God Sees Us- We See Others | Ephesians 5:1-2

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

“I spy!” In this favorite children’s game, everyone loves to find. Clues given by whoever is ”it” lead you closer to the answer. Karen Mains, in her book, The God Hunt, turns this game into a lifelong treasure seeking tool. She writes, “the rules insist that participants take initiative to seek after the Almighty, that we humans exercise intention and looking for him in the everyday, that we choose to seek him in the commonplace.” She elaborates on four easy ways to do this: obvious answers to prayer, any unexpected evidence of his care, any help to do God’s work in the world, or an unusual linkage or timing. I’ve kept a journal of these “sightings”, these “I spy you God” moments over the years. I’ve noticed them in my life and I’ve tried to notice them in the lives of others. Then, I am able to share with that person and we can both rejoice in God’s presence and intervention in our lives.

In the parables for this week there is a lot of “I spy” happening. The Prodigal Son story reads, “but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15). ‘But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion” (Luke 10). When Jesus raised the widow’s son to life again, “he saw her, and had compassion on her” (Luke 7). By the seashore “he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things” (Mark 6). Jesus sees us and feels compassion. For us to live in the way of Jesus is to see others the way God does, feel his compassion for them and move toward them in love.

How can you begin to notice more? Start by studying an object around you. Then take out a piece of paper and with your eyes closed, draw it with as many details as you can remember. You could take a photography or nature course; they train you to look. I started taking pictures of flowers close up. Use Karen Mains’ suggestions and start looking for signs of God at work in your life and in others. He is there every day and in many, many ways, waiting for you to discover him. Pray about picking two people today, and carefully observe them for awhile and then comment on what you notice about them: “I notice ____________about you.”

By Donna Burns

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God Sees Us- We See Others | Ephesians 5:1-22019-07-22T16:35:09-06:00

Multiply Your Talents | Matthew 25:20-21

And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:20-21

I don’t think, when anyone reads this parable, they really want to end up like the final servant: chastised by their master and cast out into outer darkness (v. 30). If you are a follower of Jesus you really do want to hear “well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” But despite our desire to hear those words, we aren’t always sure how to get there.

Like the servants of the parable, you have been given something to invest. Maybe it’s the time you have available to you. It might be the talents and skills you’ve developed. It could be that you have a burning passion for justice or evangelism. Maybe it’s monetary resources, like in the parable. It could even be the people God has put in your life (family, friends, or neighbors) to influence and pour into. What you have been given may be little, it may be a lot, but it’s yours for a purpose. What have you been given to invest?

Pick one area where Jesus might be inviting you to invest what you’ve been given. How do you imagine this multiplying? Take some time to dream and seek God’s input. Now, what is one next step you can take to make that dream a reality and invest what you have been given? Make a plan to act on that step this week.

By Jessica Rust

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Multiply Your Talents | Matthew 25:20-212019-07-22T16:35:09-06:00

Master of Abundance | Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Heb. 12:1-3 NIV

My spiritual mom, Lita Holsteen went home to be with the Lord In January of 2017. She lived her life as a loving mother and wife, a faithful Sunday School teacher, a talented piano teacher, a dedicated Good News club teacher, a prayer warrior, and a faithful servant of her Lord and savior Jesus Christ. At her memorial service I was compelled to stand and tell everyone there, what I was sure Jesus told her when she entered his presence, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little, I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,” Matt. 25:21. She suffered from cancer and in the final months of her life she expressed doubts about having done all that God wanted her to do. I reassured her that she had been faithful, she had skillfully told hundreds of children and adults the story of the gospel, often using a flannelgraph board to illustrate the story of Jesus. She had given her time, her gifts, her finances, and her life to share the gospel to those she met and to enable others to share it around the world.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews tells us of many patriarchs in the Old Testament who were given promises by God. Many did not see the fulfillment of his promises to them in their lifetimes. In Chapter 12 of Hebrews, the author encourages his readers to remember the goal, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart,” Heb.12:2-3. Sometimes we all, like Lita, need to be reminded that Jesus’ kingdom of heaven is here now, but also it is not fully here yet. And the race we are running to enter into it fully, is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Sometimes we need encouragement to keep running the race, to keep seeking ways to use our time, our finances, our gifts, and our abilities to tell others about Jesus and his finished work on the cross. Is there someone in your life you can share Jesus with this week?

By Grace Hunter

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Master of Abundance | Hebrews 12:1-32019-07-22T16:35:09-06:00

From the Eyes of the Fearful | Matthew 25:24-30

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:24-30

I think sometimes the “worthless” servant gets a bad rap. We tend to simplify the story too much and think, “Well, come on, how hard would it have been for the servant to just invest the money instead of hiding it?” But when we take a closer look, we realize that it took a lot of guts to do what the faithful servants did. It was a risk to invest the talents. No wonder the servant who hid his talent acted as he did. He was afraid of losing it! But in attempting to protect the master’s property he ended up not only losing it but being condemned. He acted in fear and in false understanding of who his master was. That fear drove his actions rather than allowing trust to drive his actions as the faithful servants had.

The story reminds me of something that Jesus said earlier in Matthew (16:25), “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Investing our time, our talents, our lives, our very souls will cost us something and it will demand trust in a good Master. However, hiding it in an attempt to keep it will only cause us to lose it. What a paradox. Jesus’ Kingdom seems so upside down sometimes, doesn’t it? Yet, his Kingdom is good and he is the Good Master whose rule does not instill fear. Fear of losing is a lie. Joy in gaining because of trust is what Jesus’ followers can experience.

How have you typically viewed the “worthless” servant? Can you identify with his fear? Or his false narrative of the Master? Today, reflect on the truth of the Good Master’s invitation to his Kingdom and pray against any propensity you have to live and act in fear. A great song to lead you in this is Fear Is a Liar by Zach Williams.

By Ellen Rosenberger

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From the Eyes of the Fearful | Matthew 25:24-302019-07-22T16:35:09-06:00

From the Eyes of the Faithful | Matthew 25:14-23

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:14-23

Have you ever had someone tell you they believe in you? If you haven’t, I suspect just the questions elicit some emotion of sadness or longing. If you have, you know how powerful an affirming word from a respected leader can be. We all want to be seen as valuable or good. In this parable we have a leader doing just that for three different people. The sum of money that each one was given was large. It was a huge investment on the part of the master. There are two responses to this offering of trust and responsibility. The faithful men see this as the voice of a respected leader telling them that he believes in them. The unfaithful man sees the responsibility as a burden. Today I want to focus on the perspective of the faithful servants.

What we believe about God (our master) will significantly shape how we experience his commands. If it is difficult for you to see the invitation to goodness in scripture then you may need to evaluate your perspective on what God is like. Look at what the two faithful servants do. They receive a massive sum of money from their master. They each invest the money so as to return more than they were entrusted. In our day, that sounds like a wise use of the money. In the days that Jesus told this story it would have been more advisable to do what the unfaithful servant did. That means the two heroes in our story were risk takers. Do you trust the goodness of God enough to take risks? Jesus affirms their risk. Isn’t that interesting? The economy of Jesus is not one of fear or hesitation. It is an economy of trust and it’s an environment of love where risking failure is allowed.

What resources has God entrusted you with? Is it your health? Is it your skill at a specific trade or some leadership ability? Are you naturally wired to be hospitable and welcoming to others? Do you have extra time to offer? Each one of these is an investment on God’s part in you. It isn’t a burden. It’s a statement that God believes in you. He thinks that you have what it takes to participate in bringing his goodness more and more into the world. Take a moment to thank God for the various investments he has made in you. Ask him to show you what those investments are. Now, remember, God isn’t up in heaven waiting for you to fail so he can punish you for your foolishness. He is for you, he believes in you and that is why he gave you gifts to use for his kingdom. Let’s step into the space of trust and risk a little with his investment.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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From the Eyes of the Faithful | Matthew 25:14-232019-07-22T16:35:09-06:00

How You View the Master | Matthew 25:14-30

 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. … He who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’– Matthew 25:14-15, 24-25

In this week’s parable, Jesus sets the scene with a man going on a journey and leaving his financial property to his servants. The story begs the question: Why would one servant hide what his master entrusted to him? As the story unfolds, it appears this servant hid the money out of his fear and false narrative of the master. The text says, he was afraid and he believed his master to be a harsh manipulative man – always getting what he wants even when he doesn’t do anything directly to get it.

Underlying fear causes the servant to choose passivity and to blame-shift. Just look at his actions. He does nothing until his master returns and then passive-aggressively puts the responsibility on his master when he says, “Here, you have what is yours.” Fear causes us to do strange things too. When we experience fear, we automatically try to protect ourselves. Although our defense mechanisms are a gift from God to help us discern the difference between good or bad, fight or flight, sometimes our defenses get off-base and all too we quickly react to an assumption that the situation will cause great pain or intense shame.

Fear is an emotional response because there is some thing we are fearing. There is always a story we are hearing. You see, false narratives are under almost every one of our fears. For the servant in the parable, he was listening to an internal story about his mean master. Whether we realize it or not, we carry a narrative about our master too. We may fear his response, his judgment, or even his love. We may believe him to be a harsh judge, a legalistic father, or a soft leader. Whatever the story may be, how we view Jesus affects how we interact with Jesus and what we do with his investment in us. Take the next few minutes to sit with the following question. Based on my actions around Jesus, what story am I telling myself about him? Note: Be honest with yourself and refuse the “right” answer or what you think you “should believe.”

By Yvonne Biel

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How You View the Master | Matthew 25:14-302019-07-22T16:35:09-06:00
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