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South Fellowship Church

Trust Your Heart (Redefine Trust) | Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

In an interview conducted by Walter Isaacson, Woody Allen famously quipped “the heart wants what the heart wants.“ It’s a famous saying that is often repeated, but very rarely do people understand what Allen was referring to. Allen was discussing his romance and love affair with his adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn. In Allen’s case, what the heart wanted was something that many would argue was horribly inappropriate and completely wrong. This is one situation that highlights the potential danger of following your heart.

Should we follow our heart? That’s a complex question. The answer is: it depends. It depends on your heart. The prophets were clear that the promise of the New Covenant was a new heart. A heart that wanted to follow God; having the law written on it and the Spirit dwelling in it (Ezekiel 36:26-27). The early followers of Jesus never imagined that this new heart would mean we wouldn’t struggle with sin. In fact, it was this new heart that would help us engage the battle. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” (Gal. 5:17) The new heart and the power of the Spirit allow us to fight the battle of life and faith victoriously.

Over the past two days we’ve walked through a way to approach discerning the internal rhythms of our heart through testing the heart and training the heart. When our heart has been made new through the Spirit and we have tested and trained it, we can trust our heart. The reality is we are heart-driven affectionate-guided people – whether we want to be or not. We always make decisions in line with what we want. Jesus didn’t come to eliminate desires, he came to transform them. As a follower of Jesus, trust the Spirit is at work in you. Surrender your wants and desires to his leading and his work, and then follow your heart. When it comes to making decisions, our heart and surrendered affections may be one of our greatest guiding lights.

Spend some time today thinking about what you really want. Peel the layers back and dig as deep as you can. What do you find? Is it in line with the kingdom of God?

By Ryan Paulson

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Trust Your Heart (Redefine Trust) | Philippians 2:12-132019-07-22T16:35:24-06:00

Train Your Heart (Work it Out) | Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13

How do you train your heart to want what pleases God? Becoming a man or woman after God’s own heart is an age-old question. Saint Ignatius developed a plan in the fifteenth century. He wrote about a life’s orientation/direction asking if your life is taking you towards God (consolation) or away from God (desolation)?  Desolation means the loss of a sense of God’s presence, aloneness, turmoil, confusion and maybe even rebellion. Consolation describes the interior movement of the heart that gives us a deep sense of life-giving connection with God, others and ourselves.

Ruth Barton, a contemporary spiritual formation author, has a chapter on Receiving Guidance in her book, Introduction to Solitude and Silence. She says the essence of “ the discernment process is the ability to pay attention not only to the obvious- circumstances, the clear meaning of pertinent Scriptures, the advice of friends who are wise in the Lord, the wisdom contained in our faith tradition – but also to the inner dynamics that give us clues as to whether the step we are considering will nurture life in us, the life of Christ lived in and through our most authentic self.” We have a new self, we are a new creature, and have a new heart made by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

How can we become more aware of the inner movements of the Holy Spirit in our hearts? We need to look for them and reflect on them (2 Timothy 2:6-7). We train our hearts by making it a habit to notice the inner movements of the Holy Spirit, and making choices to turn our mind and our feet toward God’s life – giving ways. We must read his word, pray, listen and obey. Adding up the many smaller awarenesses will inform our larger decisions. This working process aligns our hearts with the way of Jesus, bringing life to ourselves, to others, and God’s work in the world. Today begin the adventure of feeling the Holy Spirit move uniquely in your regenerated heart and hearing his voice. It takes practice. To start, read your name in these verses from Peter’s advice to those standing in Christ Jesus (2 Peter 1: 3-8).

His divine power has granted to __________ all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called _____________ to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to _______________ his precious and very great promises, so that through them ________________may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement _________’s faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are  ______________’s and are increasing, they keep ______________from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

By Donna Burns

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Train Your Heart (Work it Out) | Philippians 2:12-132019-07-22T16:35:24-06:00

Test Your Heart (Obey) | Matthew 22:34-40

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:34-40

How do we test our hearts? God tests hearts in story after story in the Bible, Abraham, Job, Peter, the rich young lawyer, the woman with a demonized daughter.. God made our heart and what is in it is important to him. He made us with feelings for a reason. St. Ignatius of Loyola was like a pioneer in spiritual direction. He encouraged people to be open to their emotions and to learn how to attend to them and understand what they meant. He believed that God often communicates with us through the deepest desires of our hearts.

Vinita Wright has practiced Ignatian spirituality and written about it for a decade. To test your heart, she suggests stepping back to get more objective emotional views, gather more information, share them in a trusted community, seek wise counsel, and get quiet and still enough to listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in your heart. Our emotions are real and powerful tools in our spiritual life. They are our perceptions and tell what’s going on inside our heart. We must hold our emotions up to Scripture to see if they align with how God designed us, what he made us to do. If we can accept our emotions as gifts of the human experience, we can begin to work with them in spiritually healthy ways.

How do you interact with your emotions? Do you deal with them or ditch them? Most of us live with a combination of engagement and avoidance. God gave people pattern-seeking and meaning-making tendencies. Take some time to notice the patterns in how you deal with your heart and emotions. When do you listen to your heart? When do you avoid it? Much of what the men and women in the Bible learned and gained was through a testing itself, in addition to the outcome.  Test yours and see.

By Donna Burns

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Test Your Heart (Obey) | Matthew 22:34-402019-07-22T16:35:24-06:00

Practice from Dallas Willard

One of my favorite paragraphs in Dallas Willard’s Hearing God is as follows:

Personally I find it works best if after I ask for God to speak to me in this way, I devote the next hour or so to some kind of activity that neither engrosses my attention with other things nor allows me to be intensely focused on the matter in question. Housework, gardening, driving about on errands or paying bills will generally do. I have learned not to worry about whether or not this is going to work. I know that it does not have to work, but I am sure that it will work if God has something he really wants me to know or do. This is ultimately because I am sure of how great and good he is.

Dallas Willard. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God (Kindle Locations 2457-2461). Kindle Edition.

Have you ever approached prayer like this? Try it. Think of a decision you have to make and ask God for guidance. This isn’t a formula. Instead, it is a tip from a man who walked closely with him. Pay attention to your thoughts; often God speaks through a good idea or a solution to a problem that comes to your mind.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Practice from Dallas Willard2019-07-22T16:35:25-06:00

Clear Open Doors | Acts 16:11-12

So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. Acts 16:11-12

At this point in their missionary journey, Paul and his companions have encountered a few closed doors. Some disappointing “no”s which were beyond their control and perhaps against their desires. Here we see the missionally-driven group continue on their way. They progress along in obedience rather than remain stuck in frustration or confusion. They move toward the open doors.

Finding the open door requires obedience. And it won’t necessarily be an easy road. In Paul’s case, the next open door involved both encouragement and trial. When they arrived in Philippi they must have been inspired by the faith of the women there and one in particular, Lydia. However, they were also met with a challenge: a demon-possessed slave girl who began to follow them. A merciful and miraculous healing of the oppressed girl turned into a great disturbance by her owners, which soon landed Paul and Silas in prison. How’s that for an open door?

Not all open doors are cakewalks, but they are pathways to spreading the good news of Jesus which is exactly what happened in that jail cell. The Philippian jailer and his whole household were baptized because of Paul and Silas’ witness! What joy and excitement must have filled Paul and his crew at the birth of the church in this influential city.

Open doors for the gospel and God’s work can go hand in hand with adversity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16:8-9, “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” However, like Paul, as we walk in obedience we can experience the constant companionship and comfort of the Holy Spirit.

What open doors are you looking at in your life today? What emotions arise as you consider walking the path of obedience? Pray a prayer of surrender today, asking the Holy Spirit to empower you to say “yes” to open doors, even ones which may lead to adversity. Thank him for going before you and being your ever-present help in times of trouble.

By Ellen Rosenberger

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Clear Open Doors | Acts 16:11-122019-07-22T16:35:25-06:00

Do I Stay or Do I Go? | Acts 16:6-10

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to run into closed doors. The odd house door, be it glass or wood, has been the undeserving recipient of my vertical face plant. Not fun, and quite embarrassing, especially in your own home! Sometimes in our walk with Christ, we experience  ‘vertical face plants’ pursuing what we feel is the Lord’s will for us. Similar to real life, it can hurt and leave marks. I will say that one big difference between running into doors physically and spiritually is that rarely do we back up and try again with the physical doors we can’t open.

So, rather than repeatedly trying to flatten our noses on these spiritual doors, why not back up and consider whether it’s the way for us to go? Persistence is a wonderful thing, but when God closes a door, perhaps it’s time to move on and trust God. Unlike our physical escapades with doors, it’s sometimes really hard to know if we should move on. And, when we’re between these encounters, we need to be faithful in the things we’re doing for the Kingdom on a day-to-day basis. Good stewardship of our time is a wonderful way to be a blessing to God and those around us.

The most difficult part is in the knowing. When do we know we’re supposed to move on? When do we know when to persist? God speaks to us individually in ways that are most beneficial to us. What works for one person won’t work for another. Whether or not we hear from God, when we are bumping against a closed door, try another. Visiting these doors provide a progression towards our spiritual life path. Still, the bumps, bruises and sadness of closed doors remain. It’s okay to grieve these things! Perhaps now’s a good time to write a lament for the closed doors you’ve experienced?

By Rich Obrecht

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Do I Stay or Do I Go? | Acts 16:6-102019-07-22T16:35:25-06:00

Go Til You Get A No | Acts 16:6-10

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. Acts 16:6-7

In 2013, Google bought Waze for $966,000,000. Waze is an app that works on smartphones and tells you the quickest driving routes to get where you’re going. The price was so high because there is a huge market for helping people avoid traffic and detours. As human beings we hate being delayed, we despise setbacks, and we want smooth sailing. So, it makes sense that an app that can help us avoid roadblocks is extremely popular.

I wonder if the Apostle Paul wished he had Waze. Two times he gets to a place where he can go no further. The scriptures say that he was “forbidden from going to speak the word in Asia” and that they attempted to go to Bithynia, but “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” Those two detours cost Paul many miles of walking and more time on the road. Do you think Paul was frustrated? Do you think he was confused? He had a plan and it was falling apart beneath him.

Paul was an Apostle and he was unsure of God’s plan. I love that because I think his experience is one many of us can relate to. How many of us have come to the end of the road and been unsure of our next step? However, there’s something more going on in this passage that we shouldn’t miss. Hitting the roadblock was the way God directed. Paul didn’t wait too leave until he heard the whole plan from God; he started to move and trusted God would direct and redirect as necessary. I think Paul’s philosophy could be summarized: Go until you get a no.

You don’t need to wait to move until you know God’s full plan. You will probably never fully know his will, but it will be revealed as you walk with him. Assuming you don’t know his full plan, what’s one step in the direction of love that you can take today? Take it.

By Ryan Paulson

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Go Til You Get A No | Acts 16:6-102019-07-22T16:35:26-06:00

What Jesus Does With Crumbs | Matthew 15:32-38

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew 15:32-38

He had done it again. The teacher had not only spoken to the woman, he had done what she had asked. It shouldn’t have been that surprising since this kind of compassion was beginning to be a pattern. She had asked for crumbs of grace and those crumbs had turned into everything she asked for.

With that interaction fresh in their memories they went to Galilee where crowds of other needy people bombarded them. Jesus began to heal their sick. Imagine the disciples watching their teacher touching and healing the sick. Then Jesus turns to them and asks them to get in the game.

Take some time to read Matthew 15:32-38, the passage that follows our text this week. As you read, ask yourself a few questions. How limited do you think the disciples felt to fulfill Jesus’ request? What do you see Jesus do with crumbs in the story before this and what is he doing with crumbs now? Ask yourself what crumbs you have and how valuable they can be in Jesus’ hands. Finally, based on the story of the concerned mother and the story of the feeding of the 4000, to what kind of people does Jesus give these powerful crumbs?

By Aaron Bjorklund

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What Jesus Does With Crumbs | Matthew 15:32-382019-07-22T16:35:26-06:00

Crumbs | Matthew 15:21-28

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.  Matthew 15:21-28

This Canaanite woman was an outsider, socially, politically, religiously. She knew it, Jesus knew it. Have you ever felt like an outsider? This unusual story has a message for us. Jesus responds in silence, with apparent rejection and insult. Yet ultimately she is given everything she asked Jesus for and commended for great faith. This was her faith building journey, he has a personal one for each of us. Through each exchange the woman’s faith grows stronger, as she holds on to Jesus more tenaciously refusing to leave. It’s like she’s clinging to him in faith, saying “I won’t let you go until you bless me.”

She humbly acknowledges the rejection and the insult, kneeling before Jesus. She pleads with Jesus to give her crumbs, because he is her Master, he has the food. He is God, the source, and she’d take whatever he gives. He couldn’t give less than an earthly master, could he? She was persistent, hopeful, devoted. With all she had, she asked for all of him. She bowed her heart, her soul, her spirit, her body before him in desperation to help her and her daughter.

Jesus is the object of our faith. He is our Master and has all the “crumbs” we need. Our faith will mature when we give all our affections to all of him. How amazing  that Jesus felt the things this woman did. He was an outsider, insulted, rejected by people and experienced silence on the cross when he took all our sins upon his sinless self. In this story we have an example from the woman of a maturing faith, and the example of Jesus. We are all outsiders, full of sin, before our holy God. Kneel your heart before him in humble gratitude for all the ways he is maturing your faith. Consider writing down the “crumbs” from your Lord and Master as way of tracking your walk of growing faith in thankfulness. Share them with someone.

By Donna Burns

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Crumbs | Matthew 15:21-282019-07-22T16:35:26-06:00

Cries | Matthew 15:22-23

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And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” Matthew 15:22-23

It was not unusual for Jesus to be met with requests and cries for help in his ministry. Everywhere he went, people were asking him questions or begging him for healing. This journey into Tyre and Sidon is no different. Jesus is faced with two requests: “Send her away!” and “Help me!” The disciples’ request is pretty straightforward: “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” She is only a Canaanite woman, from a region that has consistently stood against God. In their minds Jesus, the Messiah sent to deliver Israel, would have every right to ignore her cries.

The woman’s request is much more desperate than the disciples’: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” She must have known how big of a risk she was taking by asking a Jewish rabbi, the Messiah, to heal her child. Good Jewish men don’t talk to gentile women, but even with the odds stacked against her she dares to cry out. How many times have you come to Jesus like this woman? She’s in a position of need and dependency, even desperation. And at first, Jesus says nothing.

What are you crying out for that Jesus hasn’t responded to? Are you willing to stick around and wait? If you are feeling like the Canaanite woman today, crying out to Jesus and waiting for him to respond, take time to listen to “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle. May it be an encouragement to you as you anticipate an answer.

By Jessica Rust

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Cries | Matthew 15:22-232019-07-22T16:35:26-06:00
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