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South Fellowship Church

How Do You Really Feel?

UGH! HE’S BARELY HUMAN

You’ve saved up for that cruise to the destination of your dreams…the one where everyone but the crew is on holiday, indulging in luxuries and dressed in great outfits. You stroll up the ramp with family and best friends to have the time of your life. The ship arrives at your exotic first stop and you disembark with the rest of the passengers. All of a sudden a disheveled, dirty man rushes at you and your group, screaming, with face contorted and arms gyrating wildly – like an alien from a bad movie. The encounter threatens your utopian experience. Ugh! Later, you’re reminded of this story:

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” (Mark 5:1-8 ESV)

If you’ve been in a situation with a mentally ill, unpredictable person such as the Gerasene man, you wish for the insight and power of Jesus. But what can you do in such a volatile situation? Should you:

  1. Speak calmly to the person and redirect their animosity?
  2. Address the demon directly (assuming you know it’s a demon)?
  3. Call the police?
  4. Find the nearest social worker or psychiatrist?
  5. Distance yourself as much as possible from this weirdness?

My initial emotional reaction in similar situations has too often been disgust and fear of the person who is so terribly disordered. But, if I’m tuned to the Holy Spirit, God has allowed me to see that person as someone created in God’s image…but in distress.

In the Mark 5 incident above, Jesus’ stern rebuke of the demons exhibited true compassion toward the man. Not surprisingly, after the demons had been vanquished, the man responded this way:

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 5:18-20 ESV)

From a modern therapeutic perspective, it’s perplexing that Jesus refused to welcome this man as a disciple so he could fully “fix” him. It appears that Jesus knew the man’s wholeness would include mending of broken relationships that might have played a part in his demonic oppression.

In Luke 11:24-26, Jesus teaches hasty casting out of demons may worsen the condition of a person not ready for such a housecleaning. So our compassion for those who are spiritually and mentally distressed must be combined with Biblical wisdom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

When you’ve been confronted by an unusually perplexing person, have you scrolled through amateur versions of DSM-5TR in search of a tidy, popular diagnosis to distance yourself from that individual rather than being God’s representative? Reflect on ways God has and is preparing you for compassionate, Spirit-led encounters with those who have bewildering appearance and/or behavior.

UGH! HE’S BARELY HUMAN2022-04-08T09:53:01-06:00

Do I Show Contempt?

He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven. Acts 10:11-16 NIV

contempt means the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn

Throughout human history people of low socioeconomic class, people who are ill or disabled, or people who are extremely poor have suffered from others treating them with contempt or with disgust. Examples include lepers in ancient times, untouchables in India, people who are HIV positive, or disabled people in 3rd world countries today.

In Acts 10 and 11 Peter and the church in Jerusalem were taught directly by God through dreams, and a vision of an angel that Gentiles were and are loved by God, and were and are welcome in God’s kingdom. God did not want Gentiles to be treated with contempt or disgust.

The religious leaders of Israel in Jesus’ day were known for showing contempt for Gentiles, sinners, tax collectors and anyone they thought of as being unclean. But Jesus’ attitude toward these same people and his interactions with these types of people was a stark contrast.

In John 8:1-11 the religious leaders set a trap for Jesus using an adulterous woman. Jesus turned the situation around, by suggesting the person who had never sinned should throw the first stone at the woman. Gradually all the teachers of the law realized they all were sinners and left her alone with Jesus. He did not condemn her, but did tell her to sin no more.

Jesus called a tax collector to be his disciple and had dinner with his fellow tax collectors (Matthew 9:9-13), touched lepers in order to heal them (Matthew 8:5), had public conversations with women, even a Samaritan prostitute (John 4). Jesus touched both a man with dropsy to heal him (Luke 14:1-4), and let a woman with hemorrhaging touch his cloak (Luke 8:43-48).

In Peter’s vision about what is clean and unclean God tells him, “The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean,’” Acts 10:15. In the middle ages, when the plague was ravaging the populations, it was people who worshiped God, who took care of the sick and buried the dead.

All people are loved by God. We are all sinners in need of a savior. Examine your heart. Ask, do I have contempt for someone or for a group of people? Ask God to help you know how to pray for that person or that group of people.

Do I Show Contempt?2022-04-08T09:48:44-06:00

The Untouchables

“When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them.””
Matthew 8:1-4 ESV

In reading over this passage, we can make four significant observations.

Though Jesus’ teachings were somewhat unorthodox, he had this allure that attracted many people to follow him.
The leper, weakened and wasting away by a highly contagious disease, unapologetically and humbly kneels before Jesus with utter faith.
The leper was UNTOUCHABLE! Physical contact with a leper might expose a person to this painful, life-wrecking infection. In this case, Jesus MAKES CONTACT with the man by bodily TOUCHING him. He healed the man immediately!

Jesus commands the man to tell no one. This is the first instance Jesus says to “tell no one” of the miracle that had taken place. Instead, to see the priest so that the priest could approve him back into society.

Let’s get some context. Jesus is in a season of demonstrating His authoritative kingdom power. He wants to establish Himself as Messiah by performing many miracles and revealing that the kingdom has arrived. He is showing His strength in healings, discipleship, and overthrowing Satan’s strongholds. Amazingly, Jesus’ one true mission here is to minister specifically to the marginalized, disappointing the messianic expectations of many who followed him.

The Old Testament provides specific guidelines for examining and treating these people with various skin diseases. Not only was leprosy a disease, but it also made the leper and anyone who touched him ceremonially unclean. (See also Leviticus 13:45-46, Numbers 5:2-4, Leviticus 15). Jesus was unaffected, and the man was healed immediately! Jesus wanted this man to show himself to the priest. He commands the man to do what the law required, to return to society even though this miracle would attest to the authenticity of his message concerning the kingdom’s arrival. Jesus didn’t want to draw crowds who simply came for miracles.

Jesus was unaffected or undaunted by this man. If He was DISGUSTED, He did not make it known. According to the Answers in Genesis site, “Leprosy has terrified humanity since ancient times… While people with leprosy traditionally suffered banishment from family and neighbors.”

“If one even so much as came in contact with or touched a leper, they too would be seen as defiled. Thus, people avoided lepers like the plague. What’s more, many believed that leprosy was a divine punishment for the act of slander. Thus, those who had leprosy were not only shunned, but judged by society. We can see how scandalous it was for Jesus to lay hands on and heal a leper. Not only did he risk defiling himself, but he was also showing his power over sin (Life Giving Water Blog).”

This is a compelling topic in a day and age of taking considerable precautions to not infect ourselves or spread infectious diseases. This story of Jesus healing the leper reveals Jesus’ heart. No matter what was afflicting this man before him, He loved him equally to the blind, the sick, the cast out, and the tax collector. He was not “grossed out” or “disgusted,” or thinking, “I might catch what he has.” He treated this man with dignity, respect, and compassion, bringing healing without shunning or judging him. The unseemly act of Jesus touching the untouchable, with the risk of defiling himself, revealed his power over sin and death! What a challenging thought during a pandemic!

Practice or Application: Let’s work to bring the healing power of Jesus Christ to others today, much like Jesus did in this story of the leper. Who do you know who could use a healing touch? Is there someone or a specific group you avoid? What might God be calling you to do in these instances? How can you show love to the sick? Being fully human with emotions, what do you think Jesus did with the feeling of disgust?

Walking in the way of Jesus, with the heart of Jesus!

The Untouchables2022-04-08T09:47:03-06:00

Disgust: As a Warning

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:14-16) NIV

Those whom love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person and they with me. (Revelation 3:19&20) NIV

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1&2) MSG

Although the word disgust is not mentioned in the above scriptures, the physical response to it is. We can feel disgust when we perceive something as distasteful to our sense of taste or smell, and sometimes to our sight, hearing or touch.

The church in Laodicea would have understood well what Jesus was saying to them. The water that flowed into Laodicea came through aqueducts from miles away and arrived lukewarm and tasted unpleasant. The Laodiceans may have gotten used to it, but someone experiencing it for the first time would likely spit it out of their mouth. Cold water refreshes; hot water cleanses. Lukewarm does neither.

The problem in the Laodicean church was that they. as a community and individuals, had tucked their faith into a closet while they succumbed to the culture of wealth and self-sufficiency all around them. They were the only one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3 that were not persecuted for their faith. They may have even looked down on the other six churches with pride in their own advantages.

So Jesus gave them a heads-up warning,”I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” But he also tells them that he loves them, which is why he warns, rebukes and disciplines them. They need to become earnest and repent.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” These words are the most quoted of Jesus’ words and are frequently used to encourage a new believer to come to Christ, but they were originally written to a once thriving community of faith as a reminder of his presence and his desire for a renewed relationship.

As I write this, I’m hearing Jesus say to me that there is a closet door in my heart that he is patiently knocking at.
How about you? Is Jesus knocking at a door in your heart?

For this Holy Week, as we approach Easter, meditate on the above scriptures and ask Jesus how he desires you to respond to his voice.

Disgust: As a Warning2022-04-08T09:44:25-06:00

How Do You Really Feel | Week 7

Disgust is a fascinating emotion. As humans, we feel a physiological visceral response when we encounter anything that smells bad, anything rotting, anything dying. We are repulsed. Our bellies sour. Our instinct is to move away. This can be beneficial for our safety and wise protection, but it also gets easily twisted when it comes to the disgust we feel toward others.

What happens when we feel disgust for others or when they feel it toward us? The Genesis narrative uses this concept “loathe” or “sickening dread” in context of relationship. Groupings of people like the “Gentiles” and “lepers” and “sinners” in the New Testament were also a source of disgust for the Jews.

Yet, Jesus repeatedly moves past disgust toward others. He moves toward the physically, morally, and spiritually compromised. As we walk in his way with his heart, we need to be a little skeptical of our disgust. God’s grace reaches down into our deepest disgusting parts to redeem us, and he invites us to walk in this way too.

  1. Get Honest … What disgusts you? Why do you think these things disgust you? How has your disgust helped you? How has it held you back from living in the way of Jesus? Share this with Jesus now.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants you to know.
  3. Walk Anew … What does Jesus want you to do?
How Do You Really Feel | Week 72022-04-08T09:37:30-06:00

Fear VS. Trust

Major themes unify the story of the bible. These patterns help us learn, but they also appear because humans repeatedly behave in the same ways. One of those patterns is the tension between trusting God’s plan rather than taking matters into our own hands. The characters in the bible struggle to trust what God tells them. If we are honest, we often struggle with the same thing. Why is that? The answer is fear.

You can see this pattern active in the life of Abraham over and over again. God asks him to do something counterintuitive, like leave his family. Sometimes Abraham trusts God and the results are beautiful. Other times he lets his fear act against God’s instructions. God keeps inviting Abraham to live differently than the people around him. Upon first glance, that may sound unfair or unreasonable for God to ask of a person. When you reflect on the horrible evil and suffering that results from people’s natural way of living, you might see why God makes alternative suggestions.

So how does this relate to fear? Fear is the motivating force behind many of humanity’s evil and destructive actions. In an attempt to preserve our safety and comfort, we do things that cause harm to others. When you fill the world with many people living in fear, there is a lot of damage. God seems to invite us to trust him and his design for the world. What if your fears are one of the worst guides for life? What if God is actually in control and can care for you? Would that free you up to live differently?

What threads of fear are in your story? Do you fear being left out? Do you fear not having enough money? Take a moment in prayer and offer those fears to God. Ask him to help you trust that he sees, knows, and can care for you. Now ask yourself, how might I care for someone else if I am no longer afraid of the things I normally am?

Fear VS. Trust2022-04-03T21:00:35-06:00

Men Were Very Much Afraid

Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the south country and dwelt between Kadash and Shur, and lived for a time in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah, his wife, “She is my sister”; and Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and took Sarah into his harem.

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said,”Behold you are a dead man, because of the woman you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” But Abimelech had not come near her; so he said, “Lord, will you slay a people who are just and innocent? Did not the man tell me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of heart and innocence of hands I have done this.”

Then God said to him in the dream,”Yes, I know you did this in the integrity of your heart, for it was I who kept you back and spared you from sinning against me; therefore I did not give you occasion to touch her. So now restore to the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her to him, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”

So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called his servants, and told them all these things; and the men were exceedingly filled with reverence and fear.
Then Abimelech Called Abraham and said to him,”What have you done to us? How have I offended you that you should bring on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me what ought not be done to anyone.”

And Abimelech said to Abraham,”What did you see in us, that justified you in doing such a thing as this?”

And Abraham said,”Because I thought, surely there is no reverence or fear of God in all this place ; and they will slay me because of my wife.” (Genesis 20:1-11 AMP)

As a child, the last family with whom I lived was an aunt and uncle. I would lie out of fear, because if I told the truth I could guarantee that I would get punished somehow. When I came to Jesus as a 13 year old, it got worse. My aunt was down on the church and was determined to “put the fear of God in me” by what she said and did. I equated fear of the person I could see with being afraid of God who I couldn’t see. It took a long time for me to learn that fearing God also meant loving him with all my heart, soul, and mind because he loves me.

So in a way, I can understand why Abraham deceived Abimelech about Sarah. Abraham had gone out in faith in answer to God’s call and he had received an amazing promise, but the road was long, the years passed and there was much to learn in the waiting. Abraham heard God, but couldn’t see him, while the possibility of danger from men was all too visible.

Abimelech was able to hear God in his dream, defend himself to God, recognize how he had been protected from sinning against God, find out Abraham’s motives, and promptly obey God’s order to return Sarah.

It seems to me Abraham and Abimelech needed each other: Abimelech’s reverence for and obedience to God, as a reminder to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience to God in praying for Abimelech.

Right now I’m overwhelmed with all the stories of people in the Bible. I’m hanging on tight to how God searches and knows me, how he knows each of us (Psalm 139), how Jesus prayed for us (John 17), and how Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 5: 9-13). Join me in praying for each other these days before Easter.

Men Were Very Much Afraid2022-04-03T20:59:21-06:00

Fear Is A Liar

So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. (I Kings 19:2-3 NIV)

Elijah’s story in I Kings 17-19 is fascinating. Elijah was miraculously provided for by God, in I Kings 17:1-6, he participated in God’s provision for a widow and her son. Then in I Kings 17: 7-16, he prayed and raised her son from the dead. In I Kings 17:17-24, he participated in and witnessed God’s great triumph over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. And in I Kings 18:19-46, Elijah was at the pinnacle of his ministry, yet when Jezebel threatened to kill him, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life,” (I Kings 19:3a). Why? Elijah had personally witnessed God’s incredible power to save, to provide, and to protect. Why was Elijah afraid? Why are we afraid? Shouldn’t Elijah’s and our past faith, our past witnessing of miracles and God’s past provision for us keep us from being afraid?

Jesus spoke to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). Fear is something we have to deal with while we are on this earth. But Jesus has overcome this world, Jesus has won the war, and we know the ending and where we will spend eternity. We will have difficulties and troubles and storms in this life. But – we can trust Jesus to be with us, to walk beside us, to guide us and to help us to not let fear keep us from doing everything God wants us to do. When we listen to our fear only, we fail to trust God. Fear tells us we are worth nothing, we are having no effect, our ministry is worthless and we might be better dead. Elijah felt this way, too (I Kings 19:4-8). But in I Kings 19:9-18, we look at the end of the story, God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice. God assures Elijah he is valuable, this his ministry is not done, and he is not alone. Fear can prevent us from seeing our storm, ourselves, and our impact on others – from a Godly perspective.

If you struggle with fear, or with believing the lies fear tells you, perhaps this book may be a helpful resource: What Are You Afraid Of? by Dr. David Jeremiah. It has some good insights into how we can overcome fear with faith.

Fear Is A Liar2022-04-03T20:55:04-06:00

No Fear of God in This Place?

Are you afraid the truth of Scripture is respected only by those who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord? Do you believe cultures different from yours, philosophically, geographically, and historically, are alien to God’s influence? Do those fears affect your interactions with those who seem hostile to God?

You’re not the first person of faith to let this kind of fear influence your thoughts and actions. Abraham exhibited fear when he and his wife Sarah traveled in countries where it seemed unlikely the people and their rulers would recognize or respect the God they worshiped. 

Genesis 12:10-20 records Abraham asking his wife to pose as just his sister, because he thought Egyptians had little respect for marriage and might kill him to steal her. When Pharaoh’s servants then claimed her for the royal harem, consequently Pharaoh’s entire household suffered a powerful intervention by the God of the Universe and Abraham saw Pharaoh respond in an unexpected way.

Genesis 20 records Abraham capitulating to the same fear, yet again. This time he and Sarah were in Gerar where Abimelech was king. Again, this king claimed Sarah as his wife. Again, God intervened supernaturally, but this time in Abimelech’s dreams. God saved Sarah twice, not only to preserve her as the mother of the son of God’s Promise but also from being violated.

Here’s a truth of Scripture illustrated by these two narratives: 

He (Jesus) said to them, “Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together.” (Matthew 19:4-6 NLV)

Do you believe Jesus’ words are unshakable truth? Do you believe those who might never acknowledge Jesus as Lord are haunted by this truth and other truths of Scripture? Have you allowed your mind to minimize God’s tremendous power because of fear?

Abraham and Sarah found God was not only King of their tiny, tribal encampment in the midst of hostile environments, but King of all cultures. There is no land or culture where the God of Scripture isn’t sovereign. Practice acknowledging that God reigns over cultural threats you fear as you listen to this song: This is My Father’s World.

No Fear of God in This Place?2022-04-03T20:52:28-06:00

How Do You Really Feel | Week 6

The Abraham story circles around a tension between fear and trust. God invites Abram to take steps of trust, yet Abram wrestles with fear despite saying “yes” to trusting God. We find Abram fearing others, harm, God not coming through for him, loss, and death.

Fear deceives Abram, making him a liar on multiple occasions. Fear lies to us, too. Often, we live out of distrusting fear when are needs are not being met, and we quickly fall captive to fear and function from a false version of ourselves.

It’s not all that easy to rid ourselves of fear. Especially when some fear is necessary. Fear gives us proper respect for authority. Fear can even save us from harm. God gives us a gift in fight or flight response. The trouble is when fear tells us we cannot trust anyone or anything – including God.

Almost every time an angelic being arrives on the scene or when God is about to do something major, God’s response to our fear, is a gentle reminder, “Do not be afraid.” His reminder for us is the same, “You don’t have to fear when God is near.”

Jesus offers us the safety of his presence. The psalmist puts it this way. “Even when I walk in the darkness valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). There is no circumstance where God’s presence cannot find us. Under Jesus’ reign, we have nothing to fear – including death. But we must seek him in our fear.

  1. Get Honest … What are you afraid of? What makes you fear this? Where do you think this reason for fear comes from? Tell Jesus about what’s behind your present fear.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus has to say concerning this fear.
  3. Walk Anew … What invitation does Jesus have for you in your fear?
How Do You Really Feel | Week 62022-04-03T20:48:39-06:00
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