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South Fellowship Church

The Father Interrupts | Luke 15:17-24

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17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 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. 21 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.’ 22 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. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

Culturally speaking, what the younger son has done is tragic. His demand for his portion of his father’s estate was treating his father as if he were already dead. Asking for his inheritance and then leaving him created a gulf between them that would be hard to cross. This gulf is what would cause the son to pursue being a hired hand for his father, because he couldn’t see a way for his father to forgive him, bridge the gulf, and pull him back into the family. And yet, despite this understanding, the son returns. But the son wasn’t considering the love his father had for him.

As parents, we are given an incredible gift from God in our children. This gift from God is really a great, years-long learning experience. It’s the ultimate in continuing education. Perhaps the hardest lesson to learn is that of letting your children go their way, whether or not where they’re headed is where we believe they should go. Our love of them is intense, enough to thrust them into the air and watch them fly, gathering their own life-joys and life-bruises along the way.

If this young son is like us, he’s practiced what he’s going to say all the way back to his father’s house, his words and actions tuned to fit the gravity of the situation. As he comes into view of his destination, his father sees him and runs to him, setting aside all manner of cultural norms, to grip his son in his arms. As the son tries to implement his ‘plan’, his father interrupts him, and in a few short words, draws the gulf closed and brings his son back to him and his family. The son has indeed returned home.

Does this remind you of anyone in your life? Is there someone that you could be the ‘father’ to? If there is, be like this young son’s father and run to them, grip them in your arms, and say the meaningful words to bring them ‘home’ again! [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Rich Obrecht  

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The Father Interrupts | Luke 15:17-242017-10-06T05:00:14-06:00

The Father Embraces | 1 John 3:1

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[1] See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

(1 John 3:1)

He sheepishly walked off the bus, avoiding eye-contact with all the adults in the vicinity. From there he proceeded to run to the trash can, throwing away the note from his teacher. When Kelly and I asked him what he was doing, Ethan (my oldest son) denied it all. He lied. It was the first time we’d caught him in the act. He was trying to avoid the punishment that was going to come from getting in trouble at school. I knew exactly what he was doing, I knew because I’d done the same things on a number of occasions to my parents. As a father, I had two choices. I could forgive him, or I could hold the offense against him. It was an easy decision – one that I made based on the way I felt about my son, not one based on how I felt about what he’d done. As a father, I forgave my son the moment I knew he was lying to me because I love him. I forgave him before he asked for forgiveness. I forgave him because I love him, not so that I could love him.

One of the reasons the Scriptures use the imagery of a ‘father’ when describing God, is so that we can understand the extent and passion of his love. In the same way that earthly fathers are called to love their kids, God loves his kids. The story Jesus tells in Luke 15 coincides with the heart of the father we see all throughout the scriptures. When he sees his son coming home, he runs to him and embraces him before he can get his full confession out of his mouth (Luke 15:20). This is the nature of our God. This nature was most clearly on display while Jesus hung on the cross. Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus was not asking the father to do something that was contrary to his character – he was asking him to act consistently with who he is and with his heart for his creation. God offers forgiveness even to people who have no clue what their offense is – even to those who are crucifying him. These people didn’t confess, they didn’t ask for forgiveness, and Jesus asked his father to forgive them. He forgave the people who are killing him; not so that he could love them, but because he did love them.

One of the hardest truths in the universe to come to terms with is that we are loved by the King of the cosmos. 1 John 3:1 states this truth clearly, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” God doesn’t just love us, he ‘lavishes’ love down on us. It’s a jealous, passionate, life-giving love. It’s because of that love that he embraces us and kisses us – even in the midst of our mess, and our lies, and our rebellion. And just like I did with my son, and my dad did with me, and the father did with the people crucifying his son – he embraces us and forgives us. Think for a moment today: who are the people who have embraced you when you were at your lowest point? Maybe it was a friend or a parent or a mentor. Reach out to them and let them know how big of a difference that made in your life [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Ryan Paulson

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The Father Embraces | 1 John 3:12017-10-05T05:00:29-06:00

The Father Runs | Romans 5:6-8

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“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

-Romans 5:6-8

As Jesus tells in the story of the prodigal son, the father sees the returning son from far away and he runs to him. Packed in the image of the father running is an idea we mustn’t miss if we are to understand what God is up to in our lives. In that culture, it would’ve been very dishonorable for an older man to run like the father did. To add insult to injury, he ran to a culturally dishonorable and shameful son. The father was shaming himself with each hurried step. By the time he arrives in front of his son, his perspiration and honor both stink a little bit. He meets his shame- filled son by condescending down into his shame.

The story Jesus tells pales in comparison to what God does towards shameful humanity, towards shameful you and I. Theologians call it incarnation. When God became a man in the birth of Jesus, he did so before our repentance speech. Romans 5 says it so beautifully, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus left glory to ender the world to save sinners before they even repented. He died a thief’s death to save his enemies. That is what God is like. God takes on our shame in order to meet us where we are. Elsewhere, Paul tells us that God made Jesus to be sin so that we might be made righteous.

If you think that God is up in heaven waiting for you to craft a perfect confession speech, you have missed the Gospel. God is not up in heaven waiting; he has already entered history through Jesus. He runs towards you. He takes on your shame and meets you in the midst of your mess in order to lighten your burden of shame. God is definitely not a germaphobe or maybe better put, he is NOT a sinaphobe. He is ready to meet you WHEREVER you are. Watch and listen to the video here and open your heart to the unmerited grace of your good Father. [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Aaron Bjorklund  

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The Father Runs | Romans 5:6-82017-10-04T05:00:27-06:00

The Father Feels Compassion | Ephesians 2:1-10

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Ephesians 2:8-10:

“1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Dejected, lonely, desperate. Longing to eat the pig slop. This was rock bottom. As the younger son turns to his father, his self-esteem couldn’t get much lower. With a prepared speech and a heavy heart, he sets out on the journey home envisioning the look of pain and discouragement that would meet him. We’ve all been there. If we’re honest, we’ve all felt this on some level. Perhaps we haven’t squandered everything and hit rock bottom like the younger son, but we’ve messed up, needed forgiveness, and feared looking on the face of the person we’ve hurt. Some of us have even imagined our Heavenly Father looking down with great discouragement in his eyes.

In these moments, often our focus centers on what we can do to earn our way into favor again. In this sense, forgiveness becomes transactional. Take the younger son’s planned speech, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-19). Yet, the story takes a twist because the Father sees his son. He’s been looking for him, waiting expectantly – not awaiting his confession but his presence. When the father sees the son off in the distance, he’s overwhelmed with love and compassion. Where the son expected disappointment, he was greeted with joy because the father’s perspective was entirely different. You see, the father had already forgiven his son. He wasn’t looking for his son to make things right, just for his son to come home. He was looking for life, and he was ready to celebrate his return. For the father, forgiveness is relational. He was overjoyed at a relationship restored.

As we consider our own lives, this parable shakes our notions of our Heavenly Father. He loves us, he feels compassion for us, and he pursues us. He doesn’t give up on us, but instead extends transforming grace. We were once far away and dead in our sins, but God, in his great mercy and love, “made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5). We’re saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). God doesn’t stand in heaven shaking his head, but rather passionately pursues us. We may know this in our heads, but when we humbly “come home,” we experience this in our hearts. Do you believe that your Heavenly Father feels compassion for you? He sees us as we truly are and loves us the same. Today, take some time to make some observations about Rembrandt’s painting called “The Return of the Prodigal Son.” Especially examine the face and tender gestures of the father toward the humbled prodigal son as you consider the incredible love and compassion of our Heavenly Father for you.

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By Billy Berglund  

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The Father Feels Compassion | Ephesians 2:1-102017-10-03T05:00:34-06:00

The Father Sees | Matthew 9:35-36

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And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36

Loneliness and social isolation are becoming leading health hazards in our world today. American Psychological Association states that in the US almost 42.6 million adults over age 45 are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness. It’s sad that broken family structures, over-saturation with technology, and cultural pressure from both individualistic and humanistic thought have contributed to a vast number of creatures fashioned in the image of God missing out on genuine life-giving connection. But, it’s also becoming clear that people trying to find the answers within themselves and the resources on their touch-screens is not working. It’s not only negatively affecting their bodies, it’s affecting their souls.

So, if Jesus were to walk around our neighborhoods today, you know what he’d see – a bunch of lonely people. And, his response would be the same. Just like in Jesus’ ministry and in the story of the prodigal, his heart would bubble over with compassion (Luke 15:20). Jesus saw the diseased and afflicted. Jesus saw the harassed and helpless. Jesus saw the sheep without a shepherd. And, the father saw his son burdened by filth and shame.

Thankfully, God’s character is the same with us. God sees. He sees everything about us – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Psalm 139 says there’s nothing we could do that is out of his sight and nowhere we can go to escape him. Depending on your view of God, this may scare you. Because when God sees there’s a deep sense of knowing. But this knowing is the deep sense of connection we’re all looking for – whether we’re scared of it or not. We want someone to see, to know and to love us no matter what. And the good news is that there’s nothing in us that God doesn’t already see and know and love no matter what.

Give yourself a few minutes to contemplate God as the God who sees, and thank God for the things in your life you’re glad he sees – the good, the bad, and the ugly. [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Yvonne Biel  

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The Father Sees | Matthew 9:35-362017-10-02T05:00:27-06:00

(Re)Turn | Luke 15:18-20a

18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father.

Perhaps we’ve found ourselves in a place like this. We’re moving along in life, we see an opportunity to improve things, whatever they might be, or to enjoy new experiences, and we grab it and run. Soon, however, we’re at the end of that road and find it goes nowhere. We’ve run out of energy and can’t see a way to make things better other than to retrace our steps to where we started. To make matters worse, the simple fact of the retracing leads to what we know will be a huge, humiliating experience. I’m certain, if you’re like me, you’re thinking about one of them right now. At these times, we play in our mind how the conversations will go, hoping for a reaction that leads to restoration.

The younger son’s idea of restoration was to be a hired hand. The Greek word used for ‘hired servants’ is similar to someone we might see standing around Home Depot, waiting to be hired for the day. Quite a far cry from being the actual son with an inheritance. And yet, despite this imagined dire consequence, the son stands up and beings the journey home. He’s turned from ‘sowing his wild oats’ and is headed back to his father, willing to put up with any shame or humility he might face as a consequence.

The biggest hurdle with this sort of life experience isn’t the humility we face, real or imagined. It’s to rise up and turn away from where we’re at or what we’re doing. We make the decision to (re)turn. We’re not alone in these times of being at the end of our rope. Multitudes of people have been there before, and many have made the turn. But, the turn can’t be made without coming to the conclusion that it’s what needs to be done. That sounds painfully obvious, but sometimes, the obvious needs to be said.

Music is a wonderful gift we’ve been given from God to help us in and through tough times in life. As you listen to this rendition of ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness,’ take a few moments where you are and become quiet to yourself. If you recognize a turn is needed, be like the younger son and ‘rise and (re)turn.’

By Rich Obrecht  

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(Re)Turn | Luke 15:18-20a2019-02-16T18:21:25-07:00

Risk | Luke 15:18-20a

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18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. 

Finally taking ownership of your life can be risky. Admittedly, taking responsibility for your decisions is a vulnerable position – you can feel defenseless and exposed. No longer can you say you’re in control, that you have it all together, that you’re doing okay. Instead, taking ownership is agreeing with God about your situation, accepting the indictment upon yourself, and walking into the throne room of God – naked and ashamed. That’s just plain risky.

Well, it’s one thing to confess your sin before God, but it’s an entirely different experience to confess your sin before others. While God is known for his grace, humans are known for their judgment. What will they think? How will they respond? So, instead of taking James’ advice to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” we like to keep the secret between us and God (James 5:16). We don’t want to face the humiliation of exposing our imperfection to the world. We’d rather save face and be freed of our pain. But, that’s just plain cowardly.

When the prodigal son chooses to turn to his father, he moves toward home knowing full well his entire family will see his dishonor. He turns – willing to walk the road of shame, willing to endure the humiliation, willing to take that risk. That’s just plain courageous. Because when this son chooses humility, he’s able to come to the end of himself, and turn toward freedom. He openly exposes his sin and moves toward his Father in the presence of others. And in the end, he finds out this courage is just plain worth it. Today, take the step toward freedom by confessing your sin with a trusted friend. Don’t leave your sin in the dark. [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Yvonne Biel  

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Risk | Luke 15:18-20a2017-09-28T05:00:35-06:00

Admittance | Luke 15:19

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[19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. (Luke 15:19)

Waiting in the room for my parents to come pick me up was the loneliest feeling in the world. I was replaying my offense, feeling shame, and imagining the punishment that was certainly going to come my way. Earlier that day, I walked into Target and attempted to steal 7 CDs. Not my brightest moment and definitely not something that I’m proud of. Facing my parents was the hardest part. I didn’t know how they were going to react, I only knew they weren’t going to be happy with me. When I heard my dad say, “I’m so disappointed in you” the weight of my stupidity hit me like a ton of bricks. I had let my family down. I had failed. It was no one else’s fault, it was all me.

When the younger son claimed, “I’m no longer worthy to be called your son,” he expressed something many of us can relate to. We’ve made decisions asserting our own dominance and rebellion. We’ve lived contrary to the overtures of Divine love. The younger son’s assertion comes from a place of regret, shame, and realization. He’s coming to terms with what he’s done. But, is he correct? Is he no longer worthy to be called a son? Yes and no. How do we become a son or a daughter? Well, we are born into a family. There’s nothing we do. We’re just born. The son is still a son. An estranged one, but a son nonetheless. What he’s expressing is that he has forfeited the rights and blessing of being a son by wishing his father dead. In that sense, he is unworthy. He didn’t hold up his end of the familial covenant – but he’s still a son.

For most of us, the question is where do we go when we recognize, “I’ve sinned against heaven and against you, and I’m no longer worthy to be called your son”? That truth has the potential to lead us to one of two places. Like Judas, it can lead us to the place of despair. That realization took him to such a dark place that he took his own life (Matthew 27:1-10). The apostle Peter came to a similar place after denying Jesus three times on the night of his betrayal. However, in the midst of his brokenness, he encountered Jesus and found grace (John 21:15-19). Despair or grace. Those are the two possible pathways after we come to terms with who we are and what we’ve done.

When the apostle John wrote of the mission of Jesus in John 1:12-13, he stated, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” The mission of Jesus was a familial mission. He was, by grace, giving humanity the ability to once again become the sons and daughters of God. We are unworthy, but still have great worth in the Father’s eyes. We have such great worth, that he would send his own son – to redeem us as his sons and daughters. Jesus knows that adoption into the family of God lies at the pinnacle of humanity’s hierarchy of needs. There is no greater longing, no greater power, and no greater blessing than to be welcomed back into the family of God. The message of the gospel is that the unworthy prodigals still have great worth, and they, by faith, are welcomed back into the Father’s family. We can therefore admit our brokenness and then be ushered into his grace. Take some time today and confess your sin to God. Sit in it. Admit it. Hear his heart and his love. [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Ryan Paulson  

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Admittance | Luke 15:192017-09-27T05:00:15-06:00

Day 2 | Honesty

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Luke 15:17-18: “But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my Father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger. I will arise and go to my Father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you”.

If we’re honest, things aren’t always as they seem, or as we’d hoped they would be. It’s easy to deceive ourselves and deny truth to a certain point, but reality is honest. When the prodigal son took a survey of his circumstance and looked at his surroundings, reality wrapped itself around him in stinking muddy pig pens, ragged clothes and hunger pangs. He was no longer deceived about his status, he was literally wallowing at the bottom of the pit. What it took to bring him to his senses, and it took a lot, was reality and raw honesty. Money gone, comforts gone, food gone, he was helpless.

Healing begins with honesty. The physical reality check was compounded by the feelings inside weighing down his heavy heart. He sat in a pigsty puddle overwhelmed with shame and guilt. His self-respect was gone, aspirations halted. Most despairing of all, though, was the feeling of being cut off from the relationship with his father. The son had wished him dead, taken his money and broken ties. The prodigal’s fair-weather friends were gone. He was at the end of his emotional rope, he was hurting, hopeless, and humiliated huddling in the mire.

The prodigal son decided to meet the reality of his situation with a truthful assessment of himself. Honest about his place and honest about his pride changed him. Coming to the end of his resources and the end of his relationships began a transformation. Of all these facts he was telling himself about his squandered wealth, his dashed dreams, and helplessness, the most devastating was the broken relationship with his good, giving and protective Father. Honesty told him everything needed to be different and it made him come to a decision. It brought him to a healing, restorative place and gave him the boldness and motivation to act upon his new awareness and insight. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,” he concludes. Pastor Ryan asked us to assess where we were at with this question in last Sunday’s message. What have you done with your shares, your shame, and what scares you? Where does the insight and awareness of being honest with your heart and your circumstances lead you? In honesty, there is hidden blessing, delight to be discovered, and new beginnings to be found. List the benefits being honest will bring you. [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Donna Burns  

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Day 2 | Honesty2017-09-26T05:00:54-06:00

Day 1 | Excuses

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Luke 15:11-17a: “11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. 17 “But when he came to himself…”

Starting at a young age, I was frequently getting in trouble. As the younger brother with two older sisters, it seemed like I always got caught when I was doing what I wasn’t supposed to. In my mind, I was the model child and couldn’t possibly be the culprit. At least that’s what I wanted my folks to believe. I attempted to make a variety excuses and consistently blame others. Unfortunately, my parents could see right through most of my efforts to not have to deal with my disobedience. One time I strongly argued that I hadn’t eaten any cookies before dinner while chocolate was smeared across my face. (Not sure how they saw through that one!)

The older I get, the more I realize that the instinct to avoid owning our sin does not just go away. If we are honest with ourselves, we all make excuses on a regular basis. Instead of dealing with our sin, we turn to other responses. Perhaps we deny it: “There’s no problem here. I didn’t do it.” Or we blame others: “If they had just acted differently, then I wouldn’t be in this scenario. It’s really their fault!” Maybe we compare ourselves to others and rationalize our actions: “What I did wasn’t that bad. I mean, what they did was way worse! I would never do that!” In each of these scenarios, we are avoiding being honest with ourselves. We have gotten ourselves into a predicament that we must address.

In this story, the younger son wanted his father’s stuff more than he wanted a relationship with his father. The son goes off to a far off land and squanders all that he has. He reaches an all-time low, where “he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate” (v. 16). It was only when we came to the end of his rope, void of all available resources, that “he came to himself” (v. 17). This was the beginning of his taking ownership for his actions. As we consider our lives, what is hindering our honesty? Are we making excuses and running from our predicaments? Perhaps we are stuck in a cycle of blaming or denying or rationalizing our actions when we know that we have sinned. Today, identify what gets in the way of your being honest. What are your roadblocks to reality? This is the first step in ownership as we begin to recognize our sin and move toward healing. [/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Billy Berglund  

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Day 1 | Excuses2017-09-25T05:00:04-06:00
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