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South Fellowship Church

Dream Big or… Not

As a young woman who finished college in the late 1960s, my big dreams were marriage to the guy I was dating and a storied career churning out marvelous paintings that would enrapture sophisticated patrons. After my relationship with that guy unexpectedly ended and I became entrenched in a creative impasse, I found myself entertaining suicidal thoughts every other day. I hated my life.

I hung onto whatever hope I could for at least two years as I made my way from one unsatisfying job after another. I should also note my sadness was due to more disappointments than the failure of two dreams. 

But I’m alive today and I want to explain why the suicidal ideation I experienced failed to take me down. An unconventional evangelist (who carried his 100 pound cross across the U.S and later into every country of the world) led me in a prayer to ask Jesus into my life. Observing his life made me aware that following Jesus could be amazing. 

I started devouring scripture as it suddenly became alive to me. I also must credit further rootedness and spiritual growth to many dedicated, mature Christians – some who invited me to live in their homes, some who made me part of the fabric and leadership of several parachurch ministries, and many in traditional church settings who encouraged me to thrive.  

Before my commitment to Jesus, I had not come to the point of a suicide attempt. After my conversion, suicidal ideation didn’t instantly disappear. The best way to describe my condition is that two years of intense depression and sadness formed deep grooves in my mind. Moving out of that state took not only time, but acceptance from those I admired. Also, critical to recovery was finding meaning in helping others who needed what the Holy Spirit had empowered me to give.

I haven’t been bothered by suicidal ideation for many years now. But I can remember the last time Satan zipped one of those thoughts into my mind. What countered it was my awareness that ending my life would negatively impact my then 13 year old niece in Kansas.

Before my conversion, I tried to slog through the book of Job and saw his massive losses at the hand of Satan. Almost worse than the losses was the counsel of those who normally supported him. Job and his wife (who suffered the same losses) had this exchange:

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 29-10 ESV) 

Job’s faith seemed strong as he wrestled with their insurmountable devastation. But for some of us, sadness and depression leads to despairing, even suicidal thoughts. Are you or someone you know experiencing such attacks from Satan? In my case, God provided many resources through other Christian brothers and sisters. One of South Fellowship’s Life Groups, Support Groups or Serving Opportunities could be a good start. If the need is immediate, here is the national site for urgent cases and mental health resources https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

 

Dream Big or… Not2022-03-29T07:53:18-06:00

A God Who Grieves

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination and intention of all human thinking was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth and He was grieved at heart.

So the Lord said, “I will destroy, blot out and wipe away mankind from the face of the ground; not only man, but the beasts and the creeping things and the birds of the air, for it grieves and makes Me regretful that I have made them.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his (evil) generation; Noah walked in habitual fellowship with God. (Genesis 6;5-9b Amplified)

There is no record of how long it was between Genesis 1:31 when God saw everything he made and it was very good and Genesis 6;5, but a lot of changes went on in the lives of Adam’s “family line”. (Genesis 5;1-32) People lived a long time and “had many sons and daughters”.

Genesis 6-9 gives the account of Noah, his family, the ark, the flood and its aftermath. It is beyond imagining that God would not grieve at the death of so many people and so much of what he had created and declared good. His desire was for a relationship with mankind and a shared joy in all of his creation. Over and over God’s love, mercy, and faithfulness had been rejected. ( Psalm 78) is a recap of the Exodus for the next generation with the intent that they would not be like their stubborn and rebellious ancestors who had grieved the Lord God in the wilderness.

What the Lord really desires is expressed in (Ezekiel 33;10-11) Son of man say to the Israelites,’ This is what YOU are saying: “Our offenses and sins are weighing us down, and we are wasting away because of them. How then can we live?’ “Say to them, As surely as I live, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways ! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

Right now I’m tired. I’ve looked at so many scriptures trying to decide on one to both admonish and encourage us in our walk with our Lord Jesus. I believe (1 John) is the one I am to read, ponder and share with you. It gently, but firmly reminds me to be honest with God and be aware of what can distract me from loving and living in Jesus. Join me in reading this love letter from John. And let us pray for each other as we read.

A God Who Grieves2022-03-29T07:50:07-06:00

What Is Grief

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NIV)

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:19-23 NIV)

What is grief? At its core, it is a sense of loss of something or someone we either possessed or hoped to possess. We feel loss and grief when a loved one or friend dies. We also feel loss when a relationship ends, or we lose a job, or we move far from home, or a dream dies. Someone else’s loss, or someone else’s suffering causes grief too – like the stories we see unfolding in Ukraine and Afghanistan right now.

What do we do with these feelings? Jeremiah experienced incredible grief and wrote, “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city,” (Lamentations 2:11). Jerusalem was under siege, people were starving and the city was being destroyed and then its people were exiled for 70 years. Jeremiah told us he was pouring out his heart. When we feel grief, we need to express it, we need to lament, we need to cry, we need to pour out our heart and soul to God and express our pain.

What do I do when it feels like I am all alone and I can’t feel God’s presence? Imagine going into an interior room in the basement, with the light off. All you can see is darkness. The sun is shining outside, but where you are – you can’t see it or feel it. Award-winning author, Pastor Paul David Tripp says, “Grief blocks our ability to see God, but I should not conclude that means He is absent.”. When we can’t feel God’s presence, because of loss, Psalm 143:7-8 tells us what to d,. “Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” In our loss, we trust that God is still there, we pray – telling Him all of our emotions, and we read His word and remind ourselves of His love, of His presence, of His continued working in our lives.

If you are in a season of grief and loss, spend time reading and praying in Psalms. Also, South is offering a support group called GriefShare starting April 11, 2022.

What Is Grief2022-03-29T07:51:25-06:00

Sadness, Grief, and Depression

How is that for a title? After seeing that title, I commend you if you are still reading this devotional. The emotions listed are charged for many people. For some, these emotions are familiar friends. For others, they are emotions that you have managed to avoid, at least consciously so. Today, I aim to offer some context for the rest of the week, followed by a word of encouragement.

Sadness, grief, and depression are all cousin emotions, but they are not the same thing. Sadness may be the emotion that the majority of us can name easily. It tends to be a short season of feeling down or blue. Difficult life situations can cause these feelings. Depression, on the other hand, tends to be a long season of sadness that begins to threaten one’s identity. It can cause you to isolate, lose interest in things you used to love, feel hopeless, and feel disoriented about why you are so down. It is often difficult to name a single source of depression.

Grief is often associated with the emotions you feel after losing a loved one, but it goes beyond that. Grief, more precisely, is a deep feeling of loss. It can come with losing a person, friendship, job situation, or even a future dream. The causes of grief mean that some measure of it can live with someone for a lifetime. It shares many similarities with sadness and depression, and its presence may linger in the background for seasons, but it tends to return occasionally.

If you have lived enough life, you have felt these things. It is part of being a human in this broken world. The good news is that God understands.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

God is an endless source of compassion for you. We worship a God who empathizes with our weakness and hurt. Genuine empathy is one balm that can comfort those feeling such things. If you are feeling any of these emotions, take a moment to tell him about it. I’m not talking about a bit of prayer; I suggest you tell him all of it. It often helps me to journal my prayers about such feelings. I complain, vent, and tell God why I don’t think things are fair, and then I receive the comfort of a God who understands all those emotions.

Sadness, Grief, and Depression2022-03-29T07:07:38-06:00

Formation Guide | Week 5

​​The story of the very first family has a ripple effect of sadness. In the story of Genesis 4, Cain’s sadness turns into an outburst of angry violence and death. We turn to the next chapter and find a long list of people whose existence on earth is cut short. Then, in chapter 6, we even find God himself grieved.

Sin brought about sadness in all of us. There’s no way around it.

Whether we’re sad because of bad things that have happened to us or good things that have never come to be, we’re all familiar with loss and any loss hurts our heart. It’s that pain we feel inside that makes us emote – even physically, we feel weighed down, we may well-up with tears, and sleep takes the better of us.

God also knows grief, and he willingly accompanies us in our grief. If we let him.

In Psalm 56:8, the psalmist finds comfort as he imagines God holding his tears. He tells God, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” This image offers such a beautiful picture of God’s care for us in our sorrows and grief. God honors our pain and is present to collect our tears.

1.  Get Honest … What are you sad about today? Why do you feel sad? In what way do you feel hurt? Tell Jesus about your hurt.
2.  Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus has to say concerning this hurt.
3.  Walk Anew … What invitation does Jesus have for you in your hurt?

Formation Guide | Week 52022-03-29T07:09:03-06:00

Anger From A Pure Heart

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17 NIV)

The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:29 NIV)

Some find it unbelievable that the Son of God expressed anger. Is it legitimate to think that Jesus, because he had a truly pure heart that always pleased his Heavenly Father, lacked that unpleasant, but valuable core emotion?

It helps to know anger can give energy for action while fear and anxiety most often compel retreat. Of course, immediate action isn’t always advisable and retreat may be the best path under certain circumstances. Here are the words of David: Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. (Psalm 4:4 ESV)

John’s gospel records a really scary, seemingly impromptu expression of anger by Jesus. This event happens very close to the beginning of his public ministry.

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:13-17)

Jesus replicates this action three years later – again at Passover – just prior to his trial and crucifixion.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. (Mark 11:15-18 – also see Matthew 21 & Luke 19).

Jesus celebrated the Passover for many years prior to that first incident. It’s not hard to imagine him becoming angry, pondering, and repeatedly asking his Father why the esteemed priestly class had turned the Court of the Gentiles in the magnificent Temple into a dirty marketplace. He must have had a righteous aching to challenge these officials and clear the space for its intended purpose. But he waited for his Father’s approval for action.

Several things are worth more thought. In both cases, Jesus acted alone rather than seeking support. Also, teaching regarding his body being the true Temple accompanied both actions. Here’s what Jesus taught after the first episode.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. (John 2:18-21 ESV)

Also reflect that Jesus cleansed the Temple a second time two or three Passovers later. So why didn’t he address the problem yearly? On one of those intervening Passovers it appears he remained in Galilee highlighting his teaching about the true manna from heaven rather than further irritating religious leaders in Jerusalem. Did his heavenly Father anticipate Jesus would jeopardize further ministry by escalating an already volatile situation?

There are no ten step formulas outlining how our Father wants us to process anger from a pure heart. The phrase “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (Psalm 69:9 ESV) seems to place anger in a realistic setting. Reflect on the surrounding emotions of the Psalmist as you read Psalm 69 and his appeal to the Lord to act on his behalf.

Anger From A Pure Heart2022-03-21T07:49:42-06:00

Anger Can Breed Contempt

But on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Genesis 4:5 NIV)

But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “Isn’t this what I said, LORD, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:1-3 NIV)

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. (Psalm 4:4 NIV)

One of the first “difficult” emotions mentioned in Genesis is anger. In Genesis 4 Cain was angry because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice. Cain thought his offering of some fruit would be good enough. But when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice of the best of his flock and rejected Cain’s offhand sacrifice, Cain became angry. He plotted and murdered his brother Abel.

Another story on this theme of anger: In the book of Jonah, first the prophet ran away from God, then was swallowed by a big fish, next he was spat up onto the land, and finally, reluctantly, obeyed God’s command. He went to Nineveh and told the people that God was about to destroy them in 40 days. Afterwards, he went outside the city, sat on a hill, and hoped to watch the city’s destruction. But, when the people of Nineveh heard his message, they fasted, prayed to God, and they repented. God saw their repentance and relented; he didn’t destroy them.

Jonah became angry, sitting on his hill, because he believed the people of Nineveh didn’t deserve God’s mercy and compassion. Both Cain and Jonah thought they knew what God wanted, and both were mistaken in their understanding of God. Neither understood God’s compassion, nor God’s desire for worship by men who were motivated by a heart that was right with God.

Look at the 4th chapter of Jonah, note how many times God questions Jonah about his right to even be angry. Jonah’s whole world view is being challenged. Both Cain and Jonah were selfish, self-centered, angry men. Neither had compassion for other people. These men flew into a rage because someone else was being accepted by God, or wished to die simply because a vine had provided shade for only one day.

If anger in a person’s life is nurtured, instead of being acknowledged and rooted out, it can produce contempt for other people. Cain and Jonah are good examples of how anger can produce sin in a person. But Jonah himself says of God, “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity,” (Jonah 4:2).

Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 in Ephesians 4:26 and then expounds on it. “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent,” (Psalm 4:4). Wise advice – when we are angry – stop – ponder – examine our hearts – let God tell us if we have a right to be angry – then listen to His answer.

Anger Can Breed Contempt2022-03-21T07:46:44-06:00

I’m Just Jealous

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said. (Genesis 37:8)

Anger is a funny emotion. Even though it tends to be one of the most powerful emotions, it is almost always a secondary emotion. What do I mean by that? I mean, anger wells up in us because we feel another emotion. In other words, anger is a byproduct of another feeling. The story of Joseph and his brothers is an excellent example of this. The hatred and anger that wells up in Joseph’s brothers is a byproduct of jealousy. Other emotions that manifest themselves as anger may include fear, imperilment, and depression.

Joseph’s story exemplifies how jealousy becomes unchecked and when it is undealt with, it results in the act of extreme anger. If you go and read the results of this act of rage, you will see how damaging it is to Joseph. There is evidence that Joseph harbored anger towards his brothers, but eventually, he learned to forgive them.

So what about us? How does this information help us with our anger? Generally, anger carries with it a powerful physical and emotional feeling. If we learn that those sensations are a byproduct, they can function as a warning bell in our lives. If you can learn to listen to the emotion of anger, it can help you discover and deal with the actual feeling that is causing that anger. The next time you feel the sensations of anger, ask yourself, where is this coming from? Are you afraid? Are you jealous? Are you immersed? I have found it to be helpful to ask God these questions in prayer. Once you find the emotions behind your anger, you are one step closer to being able to diffuse your anger.

Take a moment to reflect on what anger feels like to you. Do you clench your fists? Do you grit your teeth? Knowing these responses can help you catch yourself more quickly and may help you reflect before you act out your anger.

I’m Just Jealous2022-03-21T07:44:42-06:00

Dealing With Anger Intelligently

Abel was a herdsman and Cain was a farmer. Time passed. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering did not get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk. God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.” Cain had words with his brother. They were out in the field; Cain came at his brother and killed him. God said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain said, “How should I know? Am I his babysitter?” God said, “What have you done! The voice of your brother’s blood is calling me from the ground. From now on you’ll get nothing but curses from this ground; you’ll be driven from this ground that has opened its arms to receive the blood of your murdered brother. (Genesis 2b-11 MSG)

This is a heartbreaking story about the results of the first biblical family’s broken relationship with God and the resultant broken relationships with each other. There are so many “firsts” in this story: Adam and Eve became the first to wait for the birth of a child. Eve was the first to experience the pain of childbirth and the wonder of a new life in the baby, Cain. Adam and Eve became the first parents of one child, then of two when Abel was born. And Cain and Abel became the first siblings.

What we don’t get to know is the daily interactions of this first family. Given all that went on in Genesis 3, what might have Adam and Eve’s attitude been toward each other, toward God and toward their children? Might there have been bickering? Perhaps favoritism shown, or competition between the boys that led to hidden anger in Cain? What kind of relationship to God was mirrored in the parents? There’s no way to know.

Both young men brought an offering to God. Cain brought some produce from his farm, and Abel brought choice cuts of meat from the first-born of his herd. Resentment and anger hardened Cain’s heart toward Abel and, in spite of God’s warning, he commits the first murder by killing Abel. Although he carries the consequences of his actions, God puts a mark on him to protect him from being killed.

As I read these first four chapters in Genesis and continue on through scriptural history and world history, I grieve. As I see what is happening in our world right now, I grieve. I don’t think I am alone, I think many of us grieve together.
During this time of Lent, in preparation for the events of Easter, I need to look deeply into myself and ask our Lord God if I’m harboring any resentment, anger or bitterness toward him or anyone. Join me in reading Psalm 51, Psalm 139 and John 3:16-21 during this time. Offer yourself and each other in prayer to God.

Dealing With Anger Intelligently2022-03-21T07:43:10-06:00

How Do You Really Feel | Week 4

After the Fall, we meet second-generation humans and watch as they, too, wrestle with the weight of their shame (Genesis 4). Cain’s perception of his unworthiness before God, in comparison with his brother, proves only to nurture intense anger within him.

Cain and Abel find out quickly how explosive anger damages not only their brotherhood but has the potential to remove the very breath of life within them.

Anger is perhaps the most accessible emotion because it affects us physiologically. Our body temperature rises. We fill with energetic drive. Whether we tend to suppress or explode, we’re forced to do something with it.

However, anger is a surface emotion. Gifted counselors can usually trace anger down to places where we feel hurt or afraid. Then, they can trace our hurts and fears down to unmet needs or expectations – oftentimes rooted in shame.

This week, take some time to trace your anger down to its root and see what God wants to reveal to you about your unmet needs.

  1. Get Honest … What are you mad about? If your anger stems from a hurt, what has hurt you? If your anger stems from a fear, what are you afraid of? What need was unmet creating this hurt or fear? Share with Jesus your thoughts and feelings about this unmet need.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus has to say about your unmet need.
  3. Walk Anew … What invitation does Jesus have for you in this instance?
How Do You Really Feel | Week 42022-03-20T21:41:17-06:00
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