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South Fellowship Church

Embracing the Ancients | Prayer Exercises

The cultural moment we live in can inhibit us from seeing the beauty and benefits of those who have walked before us. Throughout the history of Christianity, there have been a number of practices that have shaped Jesus communities. Some of these ancient prayer exercises might be helpful to you as you seek to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.

  • The sign of the cross: Before the sign of the cross was practiced only by Catholics, it was practiced by all followers of Jesus. In fact, in catechisms of the early church, teaching new followers how to do the sign of the cross was part of their class. According to Alan Kreider in his book, The Patient Ferment of the Church, “The sign of the cross was seen as a breastplate against the devil, and the church would instruct candidates how to make the sign on their forehead and eyes.” Join the early church and try making the sign of the cross as part of your prayer practice.

 

  • The Prayer of Examen: The prayer of Examen was developed by Ignatius of Loyola in 1522. This prayer was practiced by followers of Jesus at the end of each day. It consisted of four movements that together developed a rhythm for interacting with God and learning to hear his voice:
    • Presence: take some time and become aware of God’s presence with you. Remind yourself that God genuinely wants to meet with you.
    • Gratitude: thank God for something that happened that day. Focus on these experiences and encounters, helping your mind and spirit center on the goodness and generosity of God.
    • Review: Ask the Lord to see clearly the spiritual realities of the day. Over-packed lives can rob us of the opportunity to learn from the past, to see how yesterday might inform today. When or where in the past 24 hours were you cooperating most fully with God’s grace in your life? When were you resisting? What habits and life patterns do you notice from the past day?
    • Response: Having spent time remembering, it seems natural to want to respond in some way. You might need to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude, or resolve to make changes and move forward. Allow your observations to guide your responses. Beginning today, how do you want to live your life differently? What patterns do you want to keep living tomorrow?
  • The Jesus Prayer: This prayer is sometimes referred to as the “prayer of the heart.” It began with people simply reciting the name of Jesus and developed into praying, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” People throughout the ages have repeated this prayer as a way to quiet themselves before God and hear from him.

Today, choose one of these practices and see if it helps you connect with God. Maybe try the other ones on subsequent days. So much of spiritual formation is seeing what works for you and the way you’re wired. Experiment and enjoy the journey!

By Ryan Paulson 

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Embracing the Ancients | Prayer Exercises2019-02-09T12:06:14-07:00

Divine and Human| 2 Peter 1:20-21

“And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  2 Peter 1:20-21

A friend in high school asked me once, “How do you know God is real?” I said, “Because he changes lives.” She was surprised by my answer. So, I explained how the God of the universe comes to each of us personally when we ask forgiveness for our rebellion against him. I shared, “When we believe his son conquered death so we could live, and confess we need his help, then the Holy Spirit comes and changes our hearts. It happened to me and to others I know. This is how I know God is real.”

It is a mystery. It is miraculous, how the Divine intervenes in the hearts of men. The Bible is a collection of writings given to men by the Holy Spirit. Each of the 40 writers had their own personalities and style and wrote in their own time and culture. They wrote in the space of over 1,400 years, recording how God acted in peoples’ lives, changed them and showed them how to live (Hebrews 1:1).  It is amazing there is a book with so many authors yet with one message, one story, one unified theme. The revelation to each human author depended on the trustworthiness of God’s divine character (John 16:13). Their inspiration depended on God’s control of the human divine process (Galatians 6:11). This is the Holy Spirit superseding. This is Peter saying, “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

The Bible continues to give us a platform to interact with God. It validates history. It’s his conversation with us and he invites us into it. The Bible still does what it did in generations past. Men are different but God is always the same. We can still be carried along by the Holy Spirit. Pastor Ryan has shared spiritual practices during our Ethos series on how we can put ourselves in places where God can speak to us and through us (solitude, fasting, pray, worship, etc). Choose one of those practices to do today so the Holy Spirit is given opportunity. Let the Divine have his way in your human space.

By Donna Burns  

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Divine and Human| 2 Peter 1:20-212019-02-09T12:06:14-07:00

Illuminating and Inconspicuous | 2 Peter 1:16-21

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21

Have you ever missed something completely but you didn’t realize it? Oftentimes we don’t know that something is missing until it’s gone. Sometimes we don’t notice light when it’s there but we feel its absence when it’s gone, when darkness is all over. The scriptures say that the Word of God is like a light. Psalm 119:105 says “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  It illuminates, it casts out darkness, it guides, it directs, it gives life. And it can be missed. If we don’t pay attention and actively seek God’s truth we could miss it. It’s there and it’s available and it’s trustworthy and reliable. Yet our distractions, our over-filled lives, our busy schedules can cause us to not notice.

A few weeks ago I was walking down a quiet sidewalk pushing an umbrella stroller with my one year old daughter, Elizabeth, in it. Now of course I believe she’s adorable but I’ve also been told so. As a person came in to view and we got closer, almost crossing paths, baby Elizabeth started waving. The cutest thing. I looked up expecting to see a smile or a hello back from the stranger. Instead I saw their eyes riveted on the screen in hand as their legs moved them forward on the pavement. Past us, past my daughter waving emphatically with a big grin on her face. I couldn’t believe it. They had missed it. Because of a phone. What was so important that they couldn’t notice this ball of sunshine for a few seconds and share in her joy?

It made me think of how often I have missed a God-moment, an opportunity to pray, a chance to bless. How often I have missed a moment to read and hear and soak in God’s Word. What’s so important that I miss that? And so I want to notice the light. I want to see it dispelling the darkness. I want to follow it as it lights my path.

How about you? Maybe you do one or both of these exercises today: 1) take a walk and really pay attention to what’s around you (God’s nature and creatures and the crown of His creation – humans) 2) Open your Bible today and really pay attention to what it’s saying to you. Underline, circle, copy down passages. Try to observe it with new eyes. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you not miss the message Jesus has for you today.

By Ellen Rosenberger

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Illuminating and Inconspicuous | 2 Peter 1:16-212019-02-09T12:06:14-07:00

Grounded and Moved | 2 Peter 1:12-15

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

2 Peter 1: 12-15

Watching a ship at anchor can be pretty interesting. Until you actually watch it when there’s strong current, you’d probably think it just sits right above the anchor, like it was resting there. However, when there’s current, it will swing about, turning to face the direction of the current. It will only drift as the chain will allow, but it will move. And, should the current go the other direction, the ship will move about and face that direction. It’s solidly anchored but moves about as needed due to the length of the chain and its flexibility. If it wasn’t anchored like this, it would break free and shipwreck.
Likewise, Christians have an anchor that firmly roots us. The Holy Scriptures provide us a means of being rooted. The words God breathed teach us where our foundation is and how to live, behave, and react. (2 Timothy 3:16-17) Being rooted to the scriptures is a great blessing. But in this rootedness, we can also move in the right direction. Just like the ship swinging about on its anchor to face the current, we can move to face life.

Without being firmly rooted, without our minds being full of the scriptures, we can be misled by ‘winds’ of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) that don’t resonate the right tune. These can divert our thoughts and cause us to forget our roots. When we come upon these ‘doctrines’ that lead us astray, we should do what’s spoken of in 1 John 4:1-3, and ‘try’ or test them against scripture.

More and more, Christians are confronted with misguided teachings. Sometimes we see these false teachings for what they are and push them away. But there are times where we don’t. When this happens, we learn how important it is to be soundly rooted. If there was a time when you’ve been confronted by stray teachings, we’d love to hear the story, especially when you’ve strengthened your rooting in the scriptures. Could another believer ‘add a boulder’ from your life that might strengthen their foundation? Perhaps your testimony would even provide a means to battle through the same thing in their own life?  If you have a story to share, please send it to: [email protected]. Unless you specifically give permission, it won’t be shared.

By Rich Obrecht

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Grounded and Moved | 2 Peter 1:12-152019-02-09T12:06:14-07:00

Seek God | Matthew 6:9-13

The disciples asked Jesus a lot of questions. One of the questions Jesus responded to and answered was their question, “how should we pray?” His provocative, subversive, transformational answer, known as The Lord’s Prayer, is recorded in Matthew 6:9-13. Read Jesus’ prayer slowly. Think about each phrase. Ask the Spirit to bring things to the surface that He wants you to focus on.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

Maybe the most subversive phrase in the prayer is, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” As God’s people, we are called to pray and participate in God’s renewal of his good creation. Take some time today and pray through different spheres of society (using the picture below) asking God to bring about renewal and asking what your part may be.

 

By Ryan Paulson 

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Seek God | Matthew 6:9-132019-02-09T12:06:15-07:00

Choose to Seek God | Jeremiah 29:10-14

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:10-14

 This month, students from all around the country will graduate high school. We celebrate these men and women who have persevered and finished this phase of their journey. As they head off to their next step, we offer advice, encouragement, and love. Often times, Jeremiah 29:11 will come up in letters or speeches to graduates. While this verse does provide encouragement based on a promise from God, it takes on a deeper meaning when we understand the context.

The Lord has promised to bring His people back from captivity. However, this will take 70 years. God will make good on His promises, but His people have responsibility as well. In Jeremiah 29:7, the Lord says, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” In the midst of the trial and difficulty, the people are called to seek the welfare of the city. As they contribute to the common good and as they seek God first and foremost, they will see the hand of God. promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).

These promises hold true for us as well. We may not be in Babylonian captivity, but we all find ourselves in a specific community, neighborhood, and city. We only have to turn on the news for a few minutes to see some of the pain and hardship in our cities. As Christians, we are not called to escape, but rather to invest where we are. Don’t seek to be removed from the city, seek the renewal in the city. We have an opportunity to spread love to others, to offer support to those in need, to contribute to the flourishing of our world. One of our strongest witnesses is the life we live. So as we read Jeremiah 29:11, we may now think of it a little differently in context. God’s promises are certain and we also have responsibility in the way we live.

What part can you play today to make the world a little better? It could be a conversation, an act of kindness, picking up trash along the side of the road. How can you walk in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus in your neighborhood, workplace, school, and city today?

By Billy Berglund 

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Choose to Seek God | Jeremiah 29:10-142021-10-20T11:50:45-06:00

Choose to Flourish, Not Be Frustrated | Jeremiah 29:6-9

6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:6-9

 The first 15 years of my life were spent moving and changing schools. My dad was in the US Navy and he was transferred quite a few times during those years. Since my dad was a ‘lifer,’ not moving wasn’t an option. We had to move. All the places we moved to were unfamiliar to us as a family, but especially to my parents. During all these moves, I never recall them arguing about where we lived, how good or bad it was, or anything like that. There are some things I do remember. The journey to our new home was one of visiting sites along the way. And, when we arrived, we’d find a church home and begin seeing the sites, planting a garden, and making friends. Mom and dad chose to flourish.

The Israelites apparently didn’t do things this way. They had ‘prophets’ telling them a different message than God’s message. They were telling them what they wanted to hear. As I imagine their situation, I can sense their frustration. They’re being told one thing and experiencing another. Then a letter from Jeremiah arrives.

The message from God through his true prophet was one of flourishing. They shouldn’t listen to the ‘prophets’ and their wrong message. They should listen to Jeremiah and his God-given message. God instructed them to sink their roots down, multiplying their numbers through marriage. They were to ‘seek the welfare’ where they were, which is sometimes translated as ‘peace and prosperity.’ If they did what God asked, working for the peace and prosperity of their new home, they’d experience flourishing, too.

We all live somewhere. The places we live have issues and needs and aren’t flourishing as they could. By using your local municipalities website, research the issues being dealt with and pray for them. And, as you are praying for them, ask God how you can be used by him in this renewal of your own city or town. You can use the list below to start your prayer and renewal search.

 

Littleton – https://www.littletongov.org/

Englewood – http://www.englewoodco.gov/

Aurora – https://www.auroragov.org/

Denver – https://www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en.html

Parker – http://www.parkeronline.org/

Castle Rock – https://www.crgov.com/

Centennial – http://www.centennialco.gov/

Highlands Ranch – https://highlandsranch.org/government/

(Since Highlands Ranch isn’t a typical municipality, try https://www.douglas.co.us/)

By Rich Obrecht 

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Choose to Flourish, Not Be Frustrated | Jeremiah 29:6-92019-02-09T12:06:15-07:00

Choose To Work While You Wait | Jeremiah 29:4-5

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.

Jeremiah 29:4-5

I’ve never been in exile. I can’t pretend to know what it would have been like to be one of the members of Israel and to be captured, taken to a foreign land, my home destroyed, my place of worship destroyed. And to then be faced with the long wait of when I’d be able to go back home.

I wonder what Israel’s sentiments were toward their capturing nation. My guess would be this: an attitude of hostility rather than willingness to participate in community and lay down roots. And yet God tells His people to build, to live, to plant, to eat. He tells them to stay. Yes, deliverance will come but right now, in the here and now, He wants them to make the choice to work while they wait.

How easy would it have been for the Israelites to distance themselves from their captors? To live in such a way that screamed to the watching world that “we are only here temporarily so we are not invested in our community”? How much more natural would it have been to just scrape by, pining away for the time to return to their home?

But God instructs them to live there, to invest there, to create there, to put in the hard work and take the long road. Not an easy command to follow. But, contrary to what we often think, God’s instructions are for our best. He doesn’t just make them to boss us around. He knows what’s best for us and for those around us who are watching how we live, how we live in His Kingdom, in His way.

Let’s bring it down to today. You’re probably not living in exile either. But are you in a waiting stage in your life? What season do you find yourself in? And are you thriving in that season or wishing and waiting for the next one to begin? When that perfect job lands in your lap, the perfect mate comes along, the kids are out of the house, etc. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal one way you can start living, truly living today in the current season you are in. Ask Him to show you how you can specifically dig down deep and start working while you are waiting.

By Ellen Rosenberger 

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Choose To Work While You Wait | Jeremiah 29:4-52019-02-09T12:06:15-07:00

In Their Shoes | Imaginative Exercise

Put yourself in their shoes. It’s a common phrase but how often do we actually take the time to do that? This week we are focused on the value of family, specifically our church family. For family to thrive and live with empathy toward each other we must begin understand the challenges that each other face, especially those who are not like us.

If you have no little children at this stage in life, imagine the chaos of a single mother. All you want is for your kids to get their shoes on. You already told them five times and somehow they keep getting distracted. One is yelling at the other for who knows what. Once you finally get the kids in the car you are running late and you are seriously angry. You hope there isn’t a line for children checking and Lord, please let there be a close parking spot. How are you supposed to get ready for worship when it’s as if your kids sole purpose is to cause exactly the opposite?

Or perhaps you are retired. Your kids have moved to other states. You get ready in silence. You drive to church in silence and you walk to the front door alone. You walk in and you see the young families chasing kids and you miss those days so badly. After a few casual hellos you find your seat and you wonder does anyone see me anymore? You never thought you would be the one who longed for the good old days but now you do. You deeply long for those days and then you stand for worship and the song that plays is something you have never heard before. Why is everything that I loved in my youth considered dated now? Doesn’t anything last?

Take a few moments and imagine what it is like to go to church for someone very different than you. This list might prompt your thinking:

A single adult…

A physically challenged person…

A new visitor…

A divorced dad…

A staff member…

A person just diagnosed with cancer…

By Aaron Bjorklund 

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In Their Shoes | Imaginative Exercise2019-02-09T12:06:16-07:00

Unity, Not Uniformity | 1 Corinthians 1:10

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment”.

1 Corinthians 1:10

“Ask dad first. No, ask mom first!” Savvy kids know how to pit parents against each other to get what they want. Many of us have done it as kids and experience this division again when we’re a parent. Division happens anywhere there are people: in families, in the marketplace and in government. Sadly, the great opposer to unity in our churches, Satan, operates continually, pitting members and leaders against one other too.

Unity was threatened in the Corinthian church. Paul addressed the issue frequently (1 Corinthians 1:10, 3:1, 10:17, 12:12-20, 11:18, 12:25,27). In 1 Corinthians 1:10 he says “all” implying inclusivity, and “brother” meaning family commitment. God uniquely created each of us to be in the family of God. We all perceive, experience and share God’s love differently. Paul’s encouragement and admonition are to not let these differences divide us. Our uniqueness is part of the beauty of God’s kingdom. There is unity in the power and grace of the gospel. Let’s all strive to have unity that comes from having the mind of Christ and the love of the Father as we allow the Holy Spirit to do the judging. God plans our journeys and gifts each one of us to fulfill our specific role in the church. We are one body with many parts. We are one family of God with many members.

We have unity, harmony and peace in his love. Paul says, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2) Think of a group or an individual with whom you would like more Christ-like commonality. Explore the reasons you find yourself in disagreement and apply Paul’s encouragement from the verses this week on restoration, comfort, and like-mindedness. Pray this verse over your relationship: “Finally brothers,  rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) And pray the benediction from the end of Paul’s letter: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

By Donna Burns  

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Unity, Not Uniformity | 1 Corinthians 1:102019-02-09T12:06:16-07:00
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