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South Fellowship Church

Hindsight is 2020

Practical Ways to Rest

Truly my soul finds rest in God;

    my salvation comes from him.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation;

    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62:1-2

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest…

Hebrews 4:11a

Finding rest in God is key to soul care. Rest is at the very core of God’s design and it’s been his desire for you from the very beginning. However, caring for your soul cannot be limited to going to church, reading scripture, and praying regularly when you’ve been given a body, a mind, and a spirit.

God created you as a holistic human being which means every part of your life contributes to the health and flourishing of your soul.

What does your body, mind, and spirit need to keep your soul healthy in 2021? Here are a few suggestions to try incorporating in your weekly rhythm to find deeper soul rest this year.

  1. Exercise (move your body) to release stress/tension as a spiritual practice but then come down to a resting heart rate.
  2. Listen to music at 70 beats per minute.
  3. Take a relaxing bath.
  4. Savor your favorite drink.
  5. Breathe in truth (who God says you are).
  6. Use a Scripture Meditation App or Google Scripture Meditations on YouTube like this one.

How might practices like these help you find deeper soul rest? Before you finish today, write out a prayer asking God to help you find soul rest this year and listen for what he might suggest you include.

By Yvonne Biel

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Practical Ways to Rest2021-01-28T09:30:13-07:00

In the Presence of Anxiety | Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

When I think of a Psalm that provides an antidote to my anxiety I think of Psalm 23. It is a Psalm of God’s presence. A joyful recognition that God is present in the midst of all experiences. When we are experiencing joy and the goodness of ‘green pastures’ and ‘still waters’ we find ourselves present with this good shepherd. When we find ourselves deep in anxious moments this Psalm teaches us that God is present there, too.

There are a couple of verses that just jump out at me when I consider how this Psalm deals with my anxious experiences. In verse 3 the phrase ‘He restores my soul’ might find a literal translation somewhere close to ‘he returns me to my breathing!’ Have you noticed when you feel anxious your heart rate increases and you feel it’s harder to breathe? At least that is my experience. God promises to return us to our breathing! He brings back the calmness of our steady normal rhythm of inhaling and exhaling. When I’m stressed or anxious I find that listening to music at 70 beats per minute (the normal heart rate) and deep breathing helps me feel calm. They are practical ways through which I sense God restore my soul.

Finally, the wonderful verse 5 tells us that God ‘prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies’! When I feel anxious I lose all desire to eat. My appetite disappears. With God as our shepherd we are invited to a banquet even when ‘enemies’ like anxiety feel close by!

He is a wonderful shepherd!

By Alex Walton

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In the Presence of Anxiety | Psalm 232021-01-22T13:43:23-07:00

Power of Practice | Philippians 4:8-9

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7 NIV

An Anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25 NIV 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9 NIV

In the fall of 2018, my husband and I grieved because our beloved son Joshua was taken home to be with Jesus. We became intimate with the various normal responses to grief. A common one is replaying a loved one’s final weeks, days, hours, moments before and immediately after death. A grieving person can get caught up in a cycle of thoughts that continue in our minds on a loop it seems, at the time, difficult to stop. This is a normal reaction to grief, but it is not healthy to stay there forever in our minds for weeks, months or even years.

When I was in high school I experienced this to a lesser degree – often while lying in bed – thinking and worrying about everything in my life. Over time I learned that for me by talking about my problems with another person, or simply writing down those thoughts, they were no longer so enormous and unsolvable as they had seemed lying in bed at night.

If we are honest with ourselves we would all admit to having many anxious thoughts over the past year. But I believe Peter, Solomon, the Psalmist and Paul have advice that can help us with our anxious thoughts. First, we need to rejoice and praise our God – for he is near to us and he is good. Second, we need to pray, and to continually give our anxious thoughts to God, he wants us to share EVERYTHING with him in all circumstances. Third, when we find ourselves thinking those anxious thoughts over and over again, STOP – take a step back, make a conscious effort to think about, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is praiseworthy – think about such things,” Philippians 4:8. We need to put our trust in God’s unfailing love, he will help us. But we have a part to play, we do have control over our thoughts and what we choose to spend time thinking, praying, meditating on. If you are grieving over a loved one, make a choice to spend time remembering the positive memories you have of that person. If you lost something else, focus on something positive from 2020. Perhaps listening to music, reading an uplifting book, or looking at pictures or beautiful art may help refocus your thoughts.

By Grace Hunter

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Power of Practice | Philippians 4:8-92021-01-22T13:40:56-07:00

Enemy of Rest | Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

“Don’t be anxious” is much easier said than done. And yet, that’s not the full picture of what Paul is saying in this verse. Instead of just making a command to feel better or think better out of our own will power, he tells us to seek the peace and rest of God. Anxiety and worry are opposites of rest. When we are ruminating on what may go wrong or running through checklists and scenarios in our minds, we cannot rest in God at the same time.

Let me note, there is a difference between worry, which everyone experiences, and Anxiety as a diagnosable condition, which not everyone experiences. If Anxiety is something you have dealt with you may have had this verse shared with you by well-meaning people. Or been given similar advice of “just don’t worry about it, or pray more, and you’ll be fine!” If this is your experience please don’t dismiss this verse out of hand. This passage, and Scripture as a whole, still has something to say to you.

We are holistic beings, created with a body, a mind, and a soul. What happens to us physically can affect us mentally or spiritually, and vice-versa. Even if the Anxiety or worry you are experiencing has mental and physical roots, the spiritual- presenting your requests to God by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving- does have an impact on how you weather the Anxiety or worry even if it isn’t taken away completely. And whatever you are wrestling with, the peace of God is something we all long for in these turbulent times.

Try practicing what these verses say this week. When you feel worry or Anxiety creeping in, pray. Surrender the fear and concern to Jesus. Reflect on what is going well and a source of gratitude and give thanks for it. Seek the peace of God and see how God responds.

By Jessica Rust

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Enemy of Rest | Philippians 4:6-72021-01-22T13:38:33-07:00

Hindsight is Rest | Philippians 4:4-5

 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; Philippians 4:4-5 (ESV)

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Philippians 4:4-5 (NLT)

After the experiences of last year, tilting one’s head at this verse in curious thought wouldn’t be unimaginable. Paul writes to the Philippians that they should practice always being full of joy and rejoicing, and Paul repeats it for added emphasis. It sounds like a phrase that would be easy to say and hard to do. What subjects this thought to further scrutiny is the fact that, while 2020 was hard, I believe most (if not all) of us haven’t experienced life with the same struggles Paul experienced. To add background to his experiences, here’s a list in his own words:

Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? 2 Corinthians 11:24-29 (ESV)

If Paul, having experienced these things, can set an example of the fullness of joy and rejoicing for the Philippians, following Paul’s lead and letting the Lord fill us with joy and rejoicing, even in these difficult times, sounds a practice worth emulating.

As 2021 continues and difficulties arise, reflect on Philippians 4:4-5 and seek the Lord in joy and rejoicing! Will it be difficult? Of course! Our heritage of belief is full of those who have faced what we’ve just been through (and continue to experience), and much worse, and still found and expressed the joy only Jesus can bring, rejoicing along the way. As the struggles of life greet you, tap into our heritage and let the true joy of the Lord fill you and rejoice in him! Perhaps, without even knowing it, you’ll be a shining example to those around you!

By Rich Obrecht

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Hindsight is Rest | Philippians 4:4-52021-01-22T13:36:40-07:00

Not Perfect, But Pursuing | Philippians 3:12-16

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:12-16

Many companies are using the phrase ‘pursuing perfection’ as their product by-line. From car manufacturers to prepared foods and electronics, producing the perfect consumable seems to be the goal. In their pursuit of perfection, we can be sure there are the occasional failures. Imperfect beings can’t produce a perfect anything. We can only get close.

Paul admits as much in our passage. He describes pushing forward in his pursuit and leaving behind him past efforts, ostensibly good or bad. This passage almost seems to have a sporting motif, using words like ‘press on’ or ‘straining forward.’ It brings images of track events where athletes are running hard for the tape, concentrating on the goal of finishing and hoping for victory. Mistakes made previously are forgotten in the pursuit of victory. Focusing on past events, good or bad, can distract them.

As Jesus followers, we experience our spiritual journey with successes and failures. We slip up and make mistakes. We also have bright shining moments when the journey moves forward by leaps and bounds. But, like the athletes running hard for the goal, we try to keep our eyes on the goal, keeping it in view, and leaving past experiences behind. But sometimes the past distracts us from our pursuit.

Some of us are perfectionists, never fully happy with what we’re doing. What we’re doing never feels or seems good enough. But, in our spiritual journey, despite our imperfection, we have the perfect one, Jesus, present with us. When the ‘track’ we’re running on seems to reach up and pull us down, we have someone to help us get up and begin running once again. In all the exuberance brought by great strides forward and the frustration by the stumbling, we continue to persevere.

We’ve all watched track events where the athletes participate in their event with little evident struggle. Technique on the track is only perfected in practice and failure. So, too, is our journey. As mentioned before, successes and failures come along. If distraction or failure comes along, perhaps reading what Teilhard de Chardin has written will help in understanding that we’re not alone, and the strong hands of Jesus will lift us up in our rough times.

Prayer of Teilhard de Chardin

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

By Rich Obrecht

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Not Perfect, But Pursuing | Philippians 3:12-162021-01-14T10:30:45-07:00

Death, That I Might Live | Philippians 3:10-11

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Philippians 3:10-11

Christianity is the most upside-down religion imaginable. That is one of the reasons that so few people truly learn to live as Jesus taught us to live. The title of this devotional goes against the instincts woven into our bodies. We are wired for survival, yet Jesus modeled for us a way of living that is concerned with things more important than survival. Paul, in this text, speaks similarly when he says that he longs to fellowship in Jesus’ suffering. That statement sounds insane! So what is going on here?

So much of human existence is in bondage to instincts. We fight for self preservation, comfort, procreation, and safety. These things are not evil but they are a sort of servitude to lower drives. The way of Jesus frees us to think beyond ourselves and explore what it means to be more than animals, to be like our creator. The way of Jesus frees us from even the fear of death. In the scriptures it’s called image bearing. When Paul speaks as he does in this passage, he speaks as a man who is no longer enslaved.

What about you? Do you feel free from the fear of death itself? Are you free from the feeling that you MUST satisfy every animalistic craving that you have? There is a way of living that can be beyond those lesser cravings. Take a listen to this song and contemplate these questions.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Death, That I Might Live | Philippians 3:10-112021-01-14T10:28:14-07:00

Lost, That I Might Be Found | Philippians 3:7-11

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11 NIV

March 13, 2020 marked the day that South had to do church differently, because of the COVID 19 virus. We as a community could no longer meet in person in large groups and only with much care in small groups for many months. We in the Western world forget that many other parts of the world worship and fellowship in different ways than we do. God’s presence has never been limited by a building. If we believe in his Son Jesus and have received the Holy Spirit, then God lives in us and we can worship, fellowship, and serve wherever we happen to be.

March 15, 2020 South started showing our services on our website, on Facebook, and now we live stream them. Many people from all over the country and in other countries are able to attend, some join in the live chat and some connected with others in the Zoom Room after the service when we offered it. Our community via Zoom looked different but was effective in connecting people, sharing prayer requests, and providing opportunities to worship with others.

Many of our small groups met via Zoom as well. Our choir could not sing together as a group in person, but we made phone calls and emailed each other. We used technology to share prayer requests and supported each other. The ladies’ Bible study met only via Zoom for 6 months. Many of us got to know ladies we had not known before, and we were able to support each other in prayer, encouraging each other weekly. Several people who were homebound were able to attend our Bible studies because we were meeting via Zoom. It looked different, but some people were able to be a part of our South community in a new way because we found a way to connect online.

Sometimes we have to let go of our ideas of worshiping in community. “And let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching,” Hebrews 10:24-25. Challenge yourself to be in community. It may require time and a phone call, or an hour to write a letter to a friend, or a computer and a Zoom meeting to join other believers in prayer. Being in a Jesus-led faith community looks different in 2021, but it is no less meaningful.

By Grace Hunter

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Lost, That I Might Be Found | Philippians 3:7-112021-01-14T10:26:02-07:00

Risking, That I Might Grow | Philippians 3:3-9

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. Philippians 3:3-9

When I was a 4th and 5th grade teacher, my school always took part in the Ameritowne curriculum. It was a wonderful way to teach students a little financial and economic savvy, culminating in a visit to Ameritowne, where students had jobs, ran the town, and created or sold goods and services. It was a blast, to say the least!

As part of the curriculum, my students had to take a “Risk Analysis” to discover if they were low, moderate, or high risk takers. Many of them discovered that it was one thing to talk a good game, and something else entirely when they had to put those words into motion.

There is no such thing as a risk-free life. I think God made this a reality intentionally. There needs to be some risk, some tension in life to move us from point A to point B. Risk is the vessel by which we grow both personally and spiritually. Some risks are relatively easy, while others are much harder, and feel more like a death to desire.

Spiritual growth is not a passive activity. It takes intentionality and risk. The potential for making a mistake is real, but even in those mistakes we grow. Risk itself is inescapable. To choose not to risk is to actually choose to risk an atrophy of the soul.

Paul, in this chapter, has a pretty cushy resume. In some ways, Paul really did have it all. He was born to the right family, had the right job, and did all the right things. Yet, when God got a hold of Paul, he had to make a choice. Stay in his comfort zone, or risk all he knew to have more of Christ?
Paul’s choice is ours. While we may not have to give up everything we have, we are asked to choose between constantly playing it safe, or risking what we have for what is even better. Will we just talk a good game, or will we put our money where our mouth is?

For 2021, what are you willing to risk in order to grow spiritually? Perhaps you need to stretch yourself and give more. Maybe you need to spend more time serving, reading or in prayer. Maybe the risk is to not have so much on your plate. Think and pray over what you can risk this week in order to grow.

By Sheila Rennau

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Risking, That I Might Grow | Philippians 3:3-92021-01-14T10:24:18-07:00

Hindsight is Investing in Personal Growth

I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Philippians 3:12

For many, 2020 felt like a season of pressing on through growing hardship and difficulty. Just because we refreshed our calendars doesn’t mean this season is over. Our spiritual journey continues and we need to keep up our endurance.

Unlike Paul, we are not locked up or imprisoned for our faith, yet we may feel stuck in other ways. Like Paul, we hold onto Jesus and his joyous promise of grace and peace – no matter where we find ourselves this year. We don’t know what’s ahead, but perhaps our hearts will be more prepared for whatever the Lord allows, in part because we endured 2020.

As Paul sits in lockdown, he reflects on the good and successful things he’s attained in life and concludes… they’ve been useless. “Garbage” he calls him (Philippians 3:8). He also reflects on the difficulties he’s endured and concludes… they’ve served to experience the nearness of Christ. Paul’s hindsight in prison has refreshed his perspective on becoming like Christ. He’s found himself participating in suffering with Jesus. By enduring the hard stuff, he’s gotten to experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection as well.

We, too, carry resurrection hope and power with us into 2021. Jesus conquered evil and death so he might hold us through our suffering and carry us into resurrection with him. Therefore, we let go of anything we’ve been grasping onto in this life so we might hold onto Jesus for dear life. What might you need to let go of this year to hold fast to Jesus in 2021?

By Yvonne Biel

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Hindsight is Investing in Personal Growth2021-01-14T10:22:09-07:00
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