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Psalm 2

Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. Joshua 9:15 NIV

Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us? You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.” They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the LORD your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.” So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the LORD at the place the LORD would choose. And that is what they are to this day. Joshua 9:22-26 NIV

Kiss his son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. Psalm 2:12 NIV

Psalm 1 and 2 are both introductory to the whole book of Psalms. Psalm 1 compares the righteous man to the wicked man. Psalm 2 shows the contrast between the ungodly world and the righteous Son of God. In Psalm 2:1-3 the nations and rulers of our world rebel against God, and refuse to follow his rules. Sound familiar? This has been happening since the time of the tower of Babel and continues today. In verses 4-6 God assures the nations and those of us who follow him that he has everything under control. He sits, he is not concerned, he even laughs at the world trying to rebel against his authority and then he rebukes those who plot against him for their insolence.

In verses 7-9 of Psalm 2 the author tells us how the Messiah – the Anointed One – Jesus, the only begotten Son of God – will rule and reign over ALL the nations. His inheritance is the entire earth! This brings peace, security and comfort to my soul. How about you? Verses 10-12 culminate in God warning the nations. He assures them of their destruction if they do not submit to the Son of God – to his authority – to his right to rule. The last sentence is the key to the whole psalm, and in many ways, to the whole book of Psalms. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him,” Psalm 2:12b.

In the story of Joshua and the Gibeonites in Joshua chapter 9, it seems the Gibeonites heeded the message of Psalm 2. Even though they tricked Joshua into signing a treaty with them, they were not killed – instead they were put to work serving the Lord and his temple. The Gibeonites feared the Lord who had protected the Israelites in the wilderness and had brought down the walls of Jericho. As a result,they were blessed – they took refuge in the Lord. An entire tribe of people were saved and lived among God’s people. God promised Abraham that he would bless all the nations of the world through his descendants. God wants us to be a partner in bringing this blessing to others around us. He wants us to share with others how to find refuge and security in knowing Jesus the Son of God. Be creative, find a way to be a blessing to someone this week.

By Grace Hunter

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Psalm 22020-11-19T13:53:45-07:00

Great Witness | Acts 8:26-40; Ephesians 2:14

Please read Acts 8:26-40 

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, Ephesians 2:14 

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11

Witness: To have knowledge of (an event or change) from personal observation or experience.

I’ve grown-up in church all my life. To tell you the truth, I can’t really remember much about life before I began attending at the tender age of 5. In my time and experience within the walls of the church and Christian school, I have heard countless sermons and talks about witnessing. For a long time, I was really confused about my role in evangelism and witnessing, and if I am honest the notion terrified me. I often panicked and worried about saying the wrong thing or doing something silly that would drive someone away from Jesus instead of toward Him.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I realized that God never commanded us to save people. He only asked us to share what we have witnessed—to share the story of what Christ has done in and through us. This thought has made all the difference in the world. I don’t need complicated words or theories, I just need to share how Jesus has personally worked in me to change me. Like the farmer in Matthew 13, we go out and sow seed. Where it falls and the responses of the soil are not for us to worry about. As 2 Timothy 2:4 encourages us, we need only to be ready in season and out of season to share what God has done in us.

This sharing can come in many forms. We can speak to crowds, but for most of us Christ is shared in the office, over coffee, as we parent, going through the drive-through, or standing in line at the grocery store. It begins with praying for those around us to have hearts that are stirred and prepared to hear the Good News. I guess St. Francis of Assisi was right when he said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary use words.”

We all have a story to share and our own creative ways in which to share it. Remember, witnessing is just sharing what you have seen and personally experienced. It is seen in the everyday mundane ways we live our lives and it is spoken in boldness. How can you be a great witness to those around you today? Maybe it is in a meaningful conversation, or maybe it is as simple as holding the door or leaving an encouraging note. Get creative, share your story, and shine your light.

By Sheila Rennau

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Great Witness | Acts 8:26-40; Ephesians 2:142020-11-19T13:48:26-07:00

Permeating Presence | Acts 1:8; Joshua 1:3

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. Joshua 1:3

Life is such a journey. It can be full of splendor and wonder or full of choking dust and scorching heat. As much as we like to think differently, stepping out of our house in the morning and driving our cars is a journey that’s pretty much out of our control. These are things I consider when I drive. Looking around, you’re surrounded by creations that mostly think for themselves and can be completely random at the strangest, and potentially most dangerous, times. Life isn’t about control, really. It’s about faith. More about that later.

These passages are both about presence. Acts 1:8 speaks about being Jesus’ global witnesses with the presence of the Holy Spirit. And while this particular verse in Joshua doesn’t speak of the presence of God with Joshua, it does speak to the journey itself, until verse nine. Then the presence of God with Joshua is made evident. God promises presence with Joshua and Jesus promises the Holy Spirit’s presence with the disciples as they both journeyed in the world God set before them, and it hasn’t changed. God in his Triune presence is with us yet today.

God’s presence isn’t necessarily felt. Granted, there are times when we can feel the Holy Spirit joining us. It’s palpable, almost as if you can reach out and actually touch Him. But as many times as we feel this way, there are perhaps more times where we don’t feel the presence of God. This is where God’s F-word comes to into play: Faith. Our faith, made abundant through Christ, helps us push through those times where we feel alone and we’re walking where we’ve never been, much like the Hebrews and Jesus’ disciples (1 Timothy 1:4).

Part of my morning prayer time has been praying for God’s presence with people. My family, my brothers and sisters from the search committee, friends, elders, and church staff are all called before God, asking his presence with them. Two benefits for me have come from this practice. The first is pretty selfish: it helps me memorize their names! Second, however, it teaches me I’m not alone – God’s gift of a rich panoply of soul-journers palpably demonstrates God’s presence to me. As you journey through life, feeling alone, perhaps missing the presence of God, speak to a friend. God’s only a whisper away.

By Rich Obrecht

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Permeating Presence | Acts 1:8; Joshua 1:32020-11-19T13:44:45-07:00

Good Lie | Joshua 9

However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.” Joshua 9:3-6

The God of the Old Testament gets a bad rap. Have you ever thought that the God of the Old Testament seems different than Jesus? If you haven’t thought that yourself, maybe you have heard others express the sentiment. Full disclosure, this seeming discrepancy has been a source of much doubt and confusion for me over the years. It has caused me to question, doubt, and ultimately study the scriptures more closely. Through that study I have come to believe that the discrepancy has more to do with my lack of knowledge about the ancient world rather than any actual divine multiple personality disorder. If you look closer at the Old Testament, there is so much grace residue that covers the accounts of God and his interaction with the world.

Joshua 9 is one prime example. In this story the Gibeonites lie to the Israelites in order to save themselves from being destroyed by Israel. The story is filled with fascinating lessons, which I’ll let you explore or read about in other Daily posts this week. What I want to point out is how God honors their lie. What we find in this story is a group of people who see God’s power and they fear it. Even though they are not the people of God, they acknowledge that the God of Israel is far superior than their gods. They want to find some way to make a peace treaty with these people and their God. They way they do it is deceitful but God meets them halfway. Not only is this deceitful treaty honored, the Gibeonites end up close to the temple. It’s as if their acknowledgment of God’s supremacy is honored with closer proximity. God does not strike them down for their lies because God is driven by a desire for relationship more than he is by rules to be followed. That sounds pretty gracious to me. These kinds of stories saturate both Old and New Testaments.

What about us? Would you be so understanding to others? Can we look past the rules and meet people where they are? Take a moment to pray for God’s eyes for others. Ask him to help you prioritize people over fairness, rules, or any other standard.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Good Lie | Joshua 92020-11-19T13:40:31-07:00

Who Are We for Others? | Joshua 9:3-7

But when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, they on their part acted with cunning and went and made ready provisions and took worn-out sacks for their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, with worn-out, patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes. And all their provisions were dry and crumbly. And they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” But the men of Israel said to the Hivites, “Perhaps you live among us; then how can we make a covenant with you? Joshua 9:3–7

The Israelites are back in Gilgal – the place where they renewed their covenant with God after crossing the Jordan. And now they have another nation coming to them to covenant. Although this nation uses deception to get it, the Gibeonites recognize that to be with the Israelites would be much better than to be against them.

How do we interact with those outside or new to our community?

No matter how others come to us at South Fellowship Church, we can either push them away or draw them in. Just as we have been welcomed by God and chosen to be in covenant with him, we can offer the same for others – whether or not they know their need.

Consider these questions:

1. Is your heart ready to welcome others in? If not, what could you do to ready your heart to receive a new relationship?
2. Who might God be laying on your heart to pray for their salvation? How could you show that person God’s welcoming love today?

By Yvonne Biel

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Who Are We for Others? | Joshua 9:3-72020-11-19T13:37:01-07:00

Meditation on Psalm 139

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit 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. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:1-13 NIV 

To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. Deuteronomy 10:14-16 NIV

In the Old Testament, circumcision was God’s appointed outward sign of his covenant with the Israelites. But Moses, David, Jeremiah, Stephen and Paul also talk of circumcision in terms of the heart. In the Bible our emotions, thoughts, motivations and our very souls live in our hearts.

In Psalm 139:23-24 David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” When we pray these verses for ourselves, or for South Fellowship Church, we are inviting God to examine our motivations, our anxious thoughts, our fears to reveal any sin, any offensive attitude toward God or toward others. Jeremiah said “Their ears are closed (uncircumcised in the Hebrew) so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it,” Jeremiah 6:10b. He was describing the people of Judah before the exile as not having listened to nor even hearing God’s word. In Acts 7:51 Stephen uses similar words to describe the Sanhedrin in his speech immediately before he was stoned to death.

Jeremiah pleads with Judah to, “circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem or my wrath will break out and burn like fire,” Jeremiah 4:4. Consecrating ourselves to God and to his purposes involves first hearing God’s message. Then it involves preparation, confession of sin, cleansing, examination of our motivations, eliminating harmful habits, and includes time for healing.

Moses records in Deuteronomy 10:12-13, “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” Next Moses described everything God created and how he specifically loves and chose the Hebrew people. Because of this – Moses asked the Hebrews to, “circumcise your hearts therefore and do not be stiff-necked any longer,” Deuteronomy 10:16.

Compare David’s Psalm 139 and Moses’ plea in Deuteronomy 10:12-22. Notice how the creator has expressed his love for us and how he knows us intimately, and how he wants us to hear and know him.

By Grace Hunter

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Meditation on Psalm 1392020-11-12T14:27:52-07:00

Now Wait | Joshua 5:8

And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed. Joshua 5:8

I think waiting just might be one of the most painful things we do as humans. Prone to impatience, waiting is not only difficult for us, it’s seemingly unnatural. When the time period of waiting is elongated, patience begins to wane. We all just want to get to the “good part,” be it in a story or in life. I am sure this is just as true for you as I know it is for me. It is a frustrating prospect to be still, especially when forward motion is once again halted.

I can only imagine that the nation of Israel must have been thoroughly frustrated at finally crossing the Jordan, only to have to stop and have yet another delay. But, God’s timing is always perfect, and His plans are always sure. Even in the waiting, He can be trusted. Israel needed to learn this lesson, and so do we. The delay was not a punishment or some power-trip God was playing. God had called the nation of Israel to separate themselves from the other nations through the process of circumcision.

This process is painful enough for infants in our day, but even more so for the grown men in Israel’s. Before Abraham’s descendants could enter fully into the promise, claiming all God had in store for them, they needed to be set apart and distinct from other nations. This was painful, but they also needed the gracious gift of time to heal and rest, physically, before they charged into battle. Waiting was part of the process.

All of us have gone through a season of pain, be it physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Our Western view says to suck it up, get back to work, and to rush the process, but a healthier alternative is to take the gift of time given to us and to wait, rest, and heal. Processes that are rushed often end in disaster. But when we allow Time to do the work God has given it to do, we can be the very best version of who God designed us to be.

Is there a difficult conversation that you need to have, or possibly a difficult task that you need to do? I would encourage you to take it to God in prayer, then to take the first step toward real healing and lovingly bring up that subject or courageously begin that task.

By Sheila Rennau

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Now Wait | Joshua 5:82020-11-12T14:25:23-07:00

Wait, What? | Joshua 5:2-7

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth. Now this is why he did so: All those who came out of Egypt—all the men of military age—died in the wilderness on the way after leaving Egypt. All the people that came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not. The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. Joshua 5:2-7

Today we land on an unusual passage. The miracle has taken place and a nation passes over the river (Joshua 4:1). Can you imagine seeing between half a million and two million people crossing a river? What a terrifying experience for the other nations! These people seem so strong and so powerful, and their God works wonders for them! I expect the Israelites felt pretty good about the situation too! And then the plot twists.

God tells them that they need to return to an old practice, one that they haven’t done for many years, one that has become neglected. They need to circumcise every male. This act of obedience must have taken a chunk of time and it makes all the fighting men weak! There is battle in front of them, a river cuts off their retreat. If the other nations know that the fighting men are unable to give battle, the Israelites are in terrible trouble. God’s command puts them in a place of weakness. But the people choose obedience.

I have only led worship once. It was a terrible experience. I was pastoring a team that could be dysfunctional at times. There was infighting, insecurity, moaning, and a great deal of hurting. I felt God leading me to pick up the guitar and lead them in singing “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” an old song inviting people to do exactly what its title describes, and I did! I was off key, I stumbled through the words and I missed chords. But God was there and met with his people. It was a life giving experience and one I was completely unable to create myself!

At times God seems more interested in our weakness than our strength. This doesn’t mean he didn’t give us our strength and that it isn’t valuable, but it does mean that we must learn not to rely on ourselves. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says it like this “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s desire is to be strong but in this instance he is made weak and comes to see that as a good thing. Those occasional moments where we are called to a place of weakness keep us relying on God. That is a good place to be!

By Alex Walton

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Wait, What? | Joshua 5:2-72020-11-12T14:22:56-07:00

In the Promised Land | Joshua 5:10-11

While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. Joshua 5:10-12

I imagine after 40 years of wandering in the desert, with all the emotional ups and downs, and their time of slavery in Egypt, many of the people may have placed their hope in a new life in the Promised Land. How could you not? Hearing phrases like ‘flowing with milk and honey’ and ‘you will be my people and I will be your God’ couldn’t help but cause them to believe in a bright future. Plenty of food and a personal God? Hard to imagine a better time and place for them.

While stepping into new lives in the Promised Land would certainly mean life change for everyone, I believe it’s important to consider the changes they’d already experienced. In Egypt. In a short period of time, they went from deep and harsh oppression to freedom. I’m certain they had a sense of euphoria, at least until they looked over their collective shoulders and saw Pharaoh and his army bearing down on them. The terror they probably felt was replaced once again by joy as the waters closed up over their pursuers. God saved them from certain destruction. And, change would be the name of the game in the desert. Things like living in tents, eating Manna, their worship, it all changed. These changes sometimes prompted serious arguments with Moses, Aaron, and ultimately, God. And, these arguments were sometimes deadly.

Like the Hebrews’ world, our world is experiencing change. Covid-19, the violence in some cities, and forest fires have led to big changes for many. Somehow, we’ve come to believe life shouldn’t change. Like the Hebrews in the desert, we complain about how life isn’t what it used to be. These changes can help us lean more on Christ, less on self, and reflect his grace and mercy to those around us. This change can bring us to the place where God’s Kingdom can flourish and God’s glory can abound. Surrendering ourselves to Christ is paramount.

South Fellowship has experienced quite a bit of change over the last year or so. We now have new leadership in place, most likely leading to more change. This would be a great time to reflect on where we’ve come from and where we’re at. As we move into this new era at South, we should embrace change, grieve loss, and continue to present ourselves to others as reflections of God and his Kingdom.

By Rich Obrecht

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In the Promised Land | Joshua 5:10-112020-11-12T14:20:48-07:00

How Are We Set Apart? | Joshua 5:1

When all the kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan to the west and all the kings of the Canaanites by the sea heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan for the Israelites until they had crossed over their hearts melted, and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the Israelites. Joshua 5:1

Rumors about the Israelites spread around the kingdom and the other nations started freaking out. Interestingly enough, if these nations really knew who this group of wanderers included, they likely wouldn’t have been so afraid. Most of Israel’s strong warriors had died in the wilderness.

Israel’s reputation rested not in who they were at that very moment in history but whose they were. The other nations didn’t fear Israel, they found themselves fearing Israel’s God.

South Fellowship serves the same God of the Israelites! And we are made distinguishable from others when we walk in his way and learn his heart.

What adjectives would you use to describe South Fellowship Church as a community? In what ways have you seen the reputation of our God on display?

By Yvonne Biel

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How Are We Set Apart? | Joshua 5:12020-11-12T14:18:25-07:00
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