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South Fellowship Church

Remain Expectant | Psalm 30:11-12

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12

The long-awaited Messiah had come to earth. The nation of Israel had expectantly waited for so long yet when he arrived, they had difficulty receiving him. The people clung to old traditions and old ways instead of being open to the new covenant. Jesus came to fulfill the law not abolish it. He said the Kingdom of God had come, yet they weren’t willing to accept it.

Jesus didn’t come as an “add-on” to people’s lives, or a patch for a torn life. He came to bring us into a radically new life. He forgave our sins so we can be completely new creations. When we die to our old sinful self, we have fellowship with God. The new wine of the Holy Spirit can’t live in an old, dead container. Our new life in Christ needs us to recognize God at work and grow with Him instead of becoming stubborn and inflexible because we won’t yield to his Lordship.

We don’t want to miss God at work in our lives. So, we must remain expectant, open and willing to receive. Are you having difficulty receiving the new life of Christ? Is there an expectation or desire that needs to die so you can enter into what God has for you? Talk to Jesus about how you feel. Ask him to show you what he has for you. Accept his gifts. He bestows on us a robe of righteousness and causes life to spring from within. His Kingdom is here, he is present now, you can joyfully celebrate life in Him. Meditate on the prophecy about Jesus himself and what he will do for you in Isaiah 61, and join the Psalmist in praise.

By Donna Burns

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Remain Expectant | Psalm 30:11-122019-08-15T11:50:59-06:00

Don’t Stay A Grape | Matthew 9:17

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. Matthew 9:17

When I read this at a younger age, I didn’t understand why the wineskins would expand. Only later did I realize the process of crushing grapes exposes them to naturally occurring yeasts. Yeast consumes the sugars in the juice, with the products being alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide gas is what caused old skins to burst. In the simple process of crushing the grapes to extract the juice, yeast mixes with the juice, causing fermentation.

This sure sounds a lot like the life of a Jesus follower. Every Jesus follower has within them the ability to serve God’s Kingdom in a way no one else can. Just like the juice in the grape, these abilities are sometimes not opened up to their potential service for the Kingdom. Perhaps fear, pride, or any number of things are causing these talents to remain unused. Unlike the grapes, which have no choice as to whether they’re crushed or not, we do. We make the decision to open ourselves up to service, or remaining closed off. Just like an uncrushed grape, keeping our abilities to ourselves and not serving others causes us to be dry like a raisin.

Making the choice to avoid using our abilities might give the impression that life is easier with little or no danger involved. But, as the quote “A ship in harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for” aptly puts, our serving the Kingdom is what we’re for, not remaining closed and ‘safe.’ Will this exposed life of service be safe and sound, with little to no pain? No, of course not. It will be rife with struggles and pain. But, just as our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world have found, we can be full of joy in the midst of suffering.

The challenge is making the first move to serve the Kingdom. Step out and see that God is good, and he’ll be your refuge when the struggles come (Psalm 34:8)! Stepping into serving God and his Kingdom can bring joy unspeakable. If those first steps are in your past, praise God! If the first step experience is yet to be yours, take Psalm 34:8 to heart, and start stepping!

By Rich Obrecht

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Don’t Stay A Grape | Matthew 9:172019-08-15T11:48:18-06:00

Receive the New Garment | Matthew 9:16

No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Matthew 9:16

Imagine showing up to a wedding wearing an old outfit you quickly tried to patch up before the big day. When you get there, you lean over for a group photo and rrrr-ip. With only a little added pressure, the weak spot in your wardrobe tears. You can feel your face warming as embarrassment starts to spread all throughout your body. That’s because garments are meant to cover.

When the disciples of John come to Jesus with a question about fasting, Jesus gives them a picture of an old, ripping garment. Here, he’s inviting them to see how they are using old methods in a new world, and how their old methods are not going to stand the test of time. What they really need is new methods in their new world. The use of the Old Testament law was good for a time, but Jesus is inviting his disciples to take on something brand new.

Just as garments have always been designed to cover, Jesus is inviting us to receive new garments of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10). What was once covered with the sacrifice of animals, is now covered with the blood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:13-14). We must come to him open to receiving something brand new to put on his robes of righteousness. If we wear the old garments we’ve tried to fix or patch to cover us, we’re going to end up embarrassed. But, if we enter the Kingdom of Heaven clothed in garments of Jesus’ righteousness, our shame will be covered and our joy will abound.

As you enter your day, posture your hands open to receive Jesus’ covering of righteousness and then move your hands to your chest praying Jesus’ righteous as a breastplate around you. This simple practice can open you to receiving Jesus’ fresh grace for today.

By Yvonne Biel

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Receive the New Garment | Matthew 9:162019-08-15T11:10:54-06:00

Party with the Groom | Matthew 9:14-15

Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Matthew 9:14-15 NIV

My daughter is getting married this week. We have planned, attended and celebrated with many parties over the last few months. My daughter has had bridal showers and her bridegroom will have a celebration with his friends and groomsmen this week. After the wedding ceremony, we will have a reception – a wonderful party to celebrate my daughter and her bridegroom’s marriage and the beginning of their lives together as a couple. Weddings are full of celebration, food, drink, gifts and happiness that the bride and groom share with their family and friends.

John’s disciples asked Jesus why his disciples do not fast. He answers them using a wedding metaphor. While Jesus is present with his own disciples on earth it is like a bridegroom’s friends being with the bridegroom and partying before and after the wedding. Jesus says there is a time and a place for fasting, but a wedding isn’t it. In the time of the Bible, fasting was a way to express mourning or loss. Fasting and praying was used by the early church as a means of seeking an answer or a direction from God. Jesus says fasting is appropriate during mourning, not during celebration. Devout Pharisees boasted about fasting twice a week, but Jesus instructs his followers, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matthew 6:16-18. Jesus goes on to say when the bridegroom is taken from them, – then it will be time to fast.

Jesus tells his followers to value and cultivate an intimate, private, real, and conversational relationship with God. He tells us God wants us to be in relationship with him, not seeking outward approval of men. The bridegroom values his friendships, so they rejoice together. God values our time spent with him, so look for a way to celebrate with God this week, with prayer, singing, or serving.

By Grace Hunter

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Party with the Groom | Matthew 9:14-152019-08-15T11:08:47-06:00

Remain Curious | Matthew 9:14-17

Then John’s disciples came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast? ” Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one patches an old garment with unshrunk cloth, because the patch pulls away from the garment and makes the tear worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved. Matthew 9:14-17

Change is hard. People who lead change struggle with it just as much as the rest of us, they simply get to decide the direction of change. As human beings we are wired for consistency. Our brains are constantly looking for patterns that we can predict. When those patterns change our minds literally have to work harder until they find new pattern. It’s part of being human.

We are not the only people in history to struggle with change. In this passage, John’s disciples are wrestling with it tooThey see Jesus’ disciples doing things that seem different than what they were taught. Their approach to Jesus is filled with curiosity and wonder. I think that is why Jesus’ response to them has a very different tone than when Jesus interacts with the religious leaders. Notice how Jesus brilliantly and gently reminds them that change can be a good and beautiful thing. He doesn’t tell them to suck it up and deal with the change. Instead he gives them examples of how old things and new things are both good but can’t coexist. Old ways of thinking are old for a reason. They cannot carry us into the future even if they served us well in the past.

There is a truth embedded in this story that we can all learn from. Yes, change is hard but it is in the face of change that we should become curious. When our beliefs about God don’t seem to align with what we are used to, it is the time to ask questions, not to bury our heads in the sand. I think Jesus loves their question and gently gives them perspective. That is the way God tends to deal with our genuine longings to understand.

This is actually a principle for reading the scriptures. Usually some of the most profound insights into God’s heart can be found in passages that bother us or confuse us. If we are willing to linger and keep asking questions, we are positioned to see beautiful things come alive before our eyes. So the next time you are faced with an uncomfortable change, stop and ask God, “what are you up to?” He can handle your questions. Keep asking him until you begin to learn.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Remain Curious | Matthew 9:14-172019-08-15T11:02:54-06:00

The Attraction of the Kingdom | Luke 12:27-31

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Luke 12:27-31

Our desire for money and possessions can be strong. As we have explored this week, money claims to offer us security, freedom, and recognition. The only problem is money and possessions alone cannot guarantee these things. Money cannot guarantee you won’t get cancer. Money cannot prevent relationships from breaking. In fact the pursuit of it often hurts relationships.

Our deep desire for security, freedom, and value are not bad desires in and of themselves. So we must ask, is there a way to guarantee the freedoms we long for? Yes, but as with many things in the Kingdom of God, we must follow a path less traveled to attain our desires. In order to see this path I want to take you on a contemplative journey.

Find a moment where you can focus your mind. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Now I want you to imagine some of your great fears in life. It could be that you lose your job or that your spouse leaves you. Now begin to stack your fears upon each other. For me it looks something like this; I imagine that I make a terrible decision that disqualifies me from ministry and I lose the respect of my faith community. I then imagine that my wife and kids come to despise me because of this choice. I then imagine that I cannot acquire work because of my foolishness and therefore lose all my possessions and end up on the street.This may sound like a morbid practice but every time I encounter deep fear in my life this practice has helped me.

Now, imagine that as a result of all these tragedies your heart becomes so open to God that you begin to sense his love and acceptance more than ever. Imagine that your broken life leads you to an open heart towards God and that you begin to hear him speak to you. Now I ask you, who can take that away from you? If you die you get to be with the God who loves you in spite of your failings. You are now free to be yourself completely knowing that there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.

This entire practice can be summarized by the words of Jim Elliot who died at the hands of a violent tribe while trying to share the love of Jesus with them. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” This is a life rich towards god. It is an untouchable soul a life that can face the greatest tragedies without being crushed. This is the kind of life I long for. Now every earthly blessing becomes a cherry on top of an already deeply satisfied soul.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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The Attraction of the Kingdom | Luke 12:27-312019-08-08T11:41:47-06:00

The Attraction of Affirmation| Luke 12:15

And [Jesus] said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15

Do you ever look around and find yourself wanting what someone has? Of course. We all do. The new car. The newer gadget. The bigger house. The better vacation. The list goes on. We’re all prone to comparisons. And now with everyday social media engagement we’ve turned life into a big competitive game of “whose life is best” as friends and strangers appear to have the bigger, better, and best of fill-in-the-blank. Most people would say coveting is a normal human response and everyone does it. But, for those of us who want to live in Jesus’ way with Jesus’ heart, we hear him say, “be on your guard against all covetousness.”Jesus clearly instructs us to watch out for coveting or earnestly desiring what others have. Ouch. With all this comparison going around, what are we to do?

In Jesus’ next line, he says, “for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” We must understand coveting comes from an underlying belief and misplaced value system. Jesus knows we rank ourselves based on what we have or don’t have. And the underlying belief is that if we had more, we would be held in greater esteem by those around us.

The best practice to nip coveting in the bud is gratitude. The more we thank the Lord for what we do have, beyond physical stuff, the more our hearts and minds begin to value the things that truly make us rich. Coveting will rob us of joy but the greatest gifts in life actually amplify joy. We can buy a new pair of shoes and they won’t look at us back with joy. Only interactions with human beings who respond to us in love begin to increase our experience of joy. So, let’s put a reminder on our phones to spend every hour today thanking the Lord for who he’s placed in our life rather than the what. This will remind our hearts of what makes us truly rich and will certainly amplify joy.

By Yvonne Biel

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The Attraction of Affirmation| Luke 12:152019-08-08T11:38:55-06:00

The Attraction of Freedom | Luke 12:15

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”. Luke 12:15

What is motivating this man to interrupt Jesus while he is teaching? He’s demanding his inheritance from his brother and shouts at Jesus to intervene. We could speculate several motivations: comfort, power, prestige, freedom. All of them reveal the interrupter’s attitude toward wealth and even life itself. Whatever this man’s motivation might have been, Jesus answers it with a word of caution.

The man is given a pointed warning: “take care and be on your guard against all covetousness (greed)”, and then a word of wisdom: “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” In the original Greek language this passage was written in Jesus uses the word ‘zoe’ which means “essence of life’ instead of ‘bios’ which means “life.” The interrupter has life, but his attitude about his way of life is exposed. The essence of his life is that he wants more money, perhaps allowing him more freedom from his family. Maybe he’s attracted to the freedom to do what he wants, when he wants, with the inheritance. This man isn’t the only one who might feel this way. How many of us have thought a little more money would open some doors to the good life? Jesus has strong words for a man with his attitude. Foolish is the one who thinks he owns treasure for himself and is not thinking about God.

Are you experiencing freedom holding your possessions or are your possessions holding you? Jesus’s warning says take care and be on your guard against ALL greed. Do you regard everything you have as yours or on loan from the Lord? Take inventory of your “stuff.” What’s keeping you from following Jesus and living for the Kingdom with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? What would Jesus say to you about your attitude towards possessions? True riches and true freedom are right relationships with God, ourselves, others and our possessions. Let God show you the adjustments you need to make. “Take care”.

By Donna Burns

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The Attraction of Freedom | Luke 12:152019-08-08T11:36:29-06:00

The Attraction of Security | Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Ecclesiastes 5:10-11

I think it’s human nature to seek and desire being secure. Whether this is physical security by keeping safe from bad things, spiritual, or financial security, it seems to be our pursuit. When we see people ‘hang it all out there,’ doing something that goes against any sense of security, we think them foolish. But is this how it’s supposed to be?

Joseph came from a very wealthy family. He had all the security he needed, or wanted. Life for him was safe and secure. But, when running an errand for his father, his brothers weren’t excited to see him. It seemed Joseph told them his dreams, leading them to believe he was very arrogant. His revelations placed them in positions of servitude to him. Their father felt the same after hearing the stories. Because of this, the brothers plotted his demise, and ultimately sold him into slavery where all thoughts of security were stripped away. His only security would be found in God. While his security seemed to lapse in Egypt, ultimately, God proved faithful in providing what he needed. So, too, can it be with us today!

Wealth and its facade of security can, and often does, depart rapidly, seeming to disappear as quickly as it came. But the security found in Christ is eternal and doesn’t diminish! Despite our perception of all the bad things going on, and feeling ‘alone’ as we go through them the reality is that Christ is present with us. With Christ, we can’t lose (Philippians 1:21).

As we grapple with life day-to-day, as ‘stuff’ comes along either seeming to provide self-determined security, or threatens us in ways unforeseen, think about what Jesus has done. Consider his continual presence in all we see and do. Everything that comes along seems to direct us along one of two paths: either the impression of self-security or security in Christ through surrender. Choose death to self and surrender and find truth in the words ‘To live, we must die; to be free, we must surrender’ (Matthew 16:24-25). Perhaps as you go through your day, and thoughts of inducing your own security by whatever means come along, pray a surrender prayer, something like what is below.

Surrender
Lord, hear my prayer!
You have blessed me with another day on this,
your creation.
Thank you.
I would ask that you bring
to my mind today people and things
I need to pray for.
Things like mercy towards
others,
grace towards
others.
Since I am yours, help me to
surrender
today in all its duration and events
to you.
I love you, Lord!
Amen.

By Rich Obrecht

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The Attraction of Security | Ecclesiastes 5:10-112019-08-08T11:33:33-06:00

Rich in Stuff vs. Rich in God | Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:13-21

The questioner in this parable is only looking out for himself. In the parable that follows Jesus’ warning about greed, the rich man is only interested in storing up more wealth for himself, and spending it on himself. Similarly, in America many think we need to accumulate money and things to feel secure. Jesus warns us to guard against greed and looking for security in wealth here in Luke.

My husband is an engineer for an aerospace firm, and when we were dating I did feel a sense of security because I knew he made a good income and that we would not struggle financially, as long as he stayed employed by this company. But, this company has a reputation for laying off their employees at a moment’s notice. Early in our marriage there were times I felt secure in his income, and other times I worried about him losing his job suddenly because then we might not be able to pay our bills. As the years passed, we both learned how to find our security in God, not in money.

Paul addresses this issue in I Timothy 6:17-19, “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to be good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” We have been married 30 years, God has been faithful to us to provide for our needs, and we have been able to be give to missionaries locally and around the globe, because of the income God has given us.

I believe the context of this parable is also important. Luke 12:1-12, has warnings and advice that the young man in todays’ parable did not seem to hear or comprehend. Also, Luke 12:22-34, Jesus gives us some practical advice on how to not worry about money, and instead, to build up treasure in heaven. Today, read Luke 12:1-34, listen to what God tells you about yourself, find a way to be generous this week with your time, talent or treasure.

By Grace Hunter

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Rich in Stuff vs. Rich in God | Luke 12:13-212019-08-08T11:31:06-06:00
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