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South Fellowship Church

Postcards from the Edge

Commitment to Discipleship | 2 Kings 2:6

Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 2 Kings 2:6

As Elijah’s life draws to a close, I wonder how his commitment to discipleship can remain so strong. He was confident in his destination, yet he was committed to the earthly partnership God had placed in his path. Elijah, the one who had gone from mountaintops to valleys, is steady to the end. The once depressed prophet, pouring out his wisdom and instruction until his last day.

What a contrast to the time in Elijah’s life when he chose to go it alone. When he left his servant and went into a cave. Into despair. Now he can’t get Elisha to leave him. And it’s for the better. The prophet apprentice lends strength to the aging man of God and reminds him that the sovereign Lord’s purposes do not depend upon one man alone.

Elisha’s commitment to discipleship amazes me as well. His attitude reminds me of Ruth’s when she refuses to leave her mother-in-law, Naomi’s side. No one would blame her. In fact, both Naomi and Elijah attempt to dissuade their younger companions. To no end. What a beautiful picture of commitment on their part as well. This fierce conviction said “I’m not going to be anywhere but by your side.” To learn from you, grow with you, partner with you until the end.

I’m not sure I would have the courage or energy to stay committed to discipleship as long as Elijah did. As he saw the day draw near when he would be in the presence of his Lord, I can’t help but think how easy it would have been for him to focus solely on his destination, not on the ones he would leave behind. And I don’t know that I would have the tenacity to stick with an older mentor so faithfully as Elisha did. If you were Elijah or Elisha, how do you think you would respond to these circumstances? Today, determine to reach out with a word of encouragement to a former or current mentor of yours. If you don’t have a mentor, make it a goal to pray daily for someone to come alongside you and speak wisdom into your life.

By Ellen Rosenberger 

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Commitment to Discipleship | 2 Kings 2:62019-07-22T16:35:34-06:00

Imaginative Exercise on Revelation 3:19-20

We started with an imaginative practice for the first postcard, now let’s end with one of an oft-quoted verse from the Revelation, six letters later. It’s easy to use our imagination on the very word picture Jesus himself gives us. Our goal today is to connect with Jesus and hear what he has to say personally to us.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:19-20

Revelation 3:14-22, is an important context for his statement. Jesus is talking to the most affluent, industrious and self-sufficient city of all the seven letters. Imagine the tone of his voice telling you this message and feel the words. He is motivated by love.

Imagine you are standing in a wealthy, industrious, self-sufficient city with myriads of doors of opportunity. One of the doors is your life and Jesus is standing on the other side. He is always standing there ready, waiting for you to respond, to take the initiative to open the door. It could be for the first time or hundredth time, because he desires a continual, vital relationship with you. If there is something stopping you from opening the door, ask him to help you. Imagine what your first moments of meeting might be like.

You have opened the door and Jesus has come in to dine with you.   Relax and embrace the closeness you have with Jesus. Share with him the feast of your dreams. Imagine your conversation and what he has to tell you over dinner. Take time to listen to everything he has to say to you.

The seven letters from Jesus are unlike any other part of the Bible. In this letter, the door is a symbol of access, and Jesus is giving it to you. He wants you to know his Father God like he does and enjoy life eternal with him. What is Jesus saying to you in this letter? How about the other letters we’ve studied together?

By Donna Burns  

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Imaginative Exercise on Revelation 3:19-202019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Here I Am | Revelation 3:19-20

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 

If I’m honest, my marriage was struggling. The most frustrating part about it was that both my wife and I wanted so bad to make things better. But try as we might, we couldn’t seem to connect. It was extremely painful, we didn’t know how long we could go on like that. We got some counseling, which was wonderful for us and nothing to be ashamed of, but that is a different story. One night, I was laying in bed at my wits end crying out to God, asking him why this was so hard if we both wanted His way so badly. I came to Hebrews 12, which is a twin text to the passage we find in Revelation 3:19-20. My outlook on struggles will never be the same.

I noticed in Hebrews 12:3 that Jesus endured extreme amounts of pain in his life. I had come to believe that pain was the equivalent of a cosmic spanking. I believed that if I was in pain, it was always a direct result of my sin and God was out to punish me. As I looked at Hebrews, I knew I had to be wrong because Jesus experienced pain and had no sin. The passage goes on, just like ours in Revelation, to say that God disciplines those he loves. My interest was sparked and I went on to study the idea of God’s discipline and began to think of it less like a cosmic spanking and more like the strong words of a good coach. Just like an athlete is trained by a coach who pushes them beyond their comfort, so our Good father disciplines and trains, or coaches, us for our good. In Revelation 3, Jesus speaks harshly to Laodicea because he wants what is better for them.

Hebrews 12:7 is translated helpfully by the NIV. It says this, “Endure hardship as discipline.” It does not say hardship IS discipline. If you choose to look to your good father to teach you something from hardship, then you have endured it AS discipline. The difference is all in your perspective on those hardships. What tensions, struggles, or pains do you have in your life that you might need to look at differently? What does your good father (coach) want to teach you through them? Could it be that there is growth lurking behind the pain? Ask God to take those hardships and struggles and transform them into growth.

By Aaron Bjorklund  

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Here I Am | Revelation 3:19-202019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Buy from Me | Revelation 3:18

Out of all the letters to the churches in Revelation, this one seems incredibly harsh. Right after God describes the Laodicean Church as useless, he insults them by saying he’s ready to spit them out of his mouth. If that’s not bad enough, he goes on to list a whole bunch of terrible things that he says describes them. He calls them wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. This doesn’t sound pleasant. On first read, God doesn’t appear very kind here. Perhaps you’re slightly confused by what God’s really getting at. And, it only seems to get more confusing.

You’ll notice in the next section, God turns toward words of counsel and he invites the Laodiceans to go… shopping. That’s right. Shopping.

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

He flat out instructs this church to buy three things: gold, garments, and salve. Have you ever considered how God directly encourages consumption here? Interestingly enough, this is not the first-time God’s used consumer language in the Scriptures. In Isaiah 55:1, he invites his people to “come to the waters; He who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” God even describes that it’s possible to consume the right things without having money to exchange.

It’s clear God assumes the Laodiceans are going to consume. It’s not only in their culture, it’s in their design. In fact, God created all of us this way. When “God formed the man… and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for “living creature” is “nephesh” which has been translated “living appetite.” All of us have been created as “living appetites,” hungry for something the world’s gold, garments, and salve simply cannot satisfy.

When God invites the Laodiceans to buy from him, God’s offering something that truly satisfies. They shop for gold to remain self-sufficient, safe, and secure, but God’s inviting them to find true sufficiency, safety, and security from his grace. They shop for black wool to cover their shame and to hide the fact that they don’t have it altogether, but God’s inviting them to admit they need him so he can clothe them in forgiveness. They shop for salve to find clear vision, but God’s inviting them into a heavenly perspective and wisdom for all of life.

God’s not trying to be mean here, he’s simply showing this church he’s got something way better in store. If only they could realize that the products they’re currently buying are only numbing them to the truth and keeping them from the limitless satisfaction found when God becomes their permanent vendor.

Sit with the idea of being created as a “nephesh” or “living appetite” and God as your permanent vendor as you listen to Hungry by Kathryn Scott.

By Yvonne Biel

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Buy from Me | Revelation 3:182019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Lukewarm | Revelation 3:15-17

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

The American culture is historically one of independence. It’s been that way for over 240 years where we’ve done what was necessary when necessary, not waiting or depending on others. Perhaps pushing the frontier west is the illustration most used for our independence streak. It seems there’s a mindset where we personally don’t think we need help. This attitude of ‘we’ll do it ourselves’ seems to bleed into our faith, diminishing our sense of dependence on the Lord. This sometimes manifests itself in our working hard to make ourselves acceptable to God.

In Colorado, if you really think about it, we have a culture all our own. Most polls about healthy places to live put Colorado in the top ten, and it’s easy to see why. The majestic vistas greeting us every morning and blazing their departure every evening draw us out of our homes, even in winter. All hours of the day bring runners and bicyclists out, sometimes in droves. The hard-core venture out in the worst of weather. All these wonderful, beautiful things we enjoy in our surroundings sometimes begin to cloud the vision of our soul to where we are more interested in these things than serving our Lord in all that we do.

Could this be what Jesus was referring to when he told the Laodicean church they were lukewarm, worthy only of being thrown out? Had all the trade coursing through Laodicea, along with all the differing races, cultures and practices, led them to believe they needed no one? Was God some ornamental fixture to be worshipped when convenience dictated? Does this sound familiar?

As the day passes, perhaps it would do us well to consider the following. What if a very dear, trusted friend came to you and spoke verse 17 to you in a personal way? What would your reaction be, defensive or repentant? As might be expected, there are Old Testament examples to learn from. Read about Saul’s defensive reaction in 1 Samuel 13:8-14, and David’s repentant reaction in 2 Samuel 12:1-13, and consider your own reaction.

By Rich Obrecht  

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Lukewarm | Revelation 3:15-172019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Letter to the Church in Laodicea | Start Revelation 3:14-22

This week we are studying Revelation 3:14-22. This video will help you understand the passage better and it will give you an idea how we decided what to teach in the sermon.

As you watch this video, it might be helpful to have your Bible out so you can follow along. We hope you’re encouraged and challenged as you watch.

By Ryan Paulson

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Letter to the Church in Laodicea | Start Revelation 3:14-222019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Imagine the New City | Revelation 21

In Jesus’ message to the Church in Philadelphia, he says to “the one who conquers” … “I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem…” (Revelation 3:12-13). This is hope for weary souls. A renewed city is coming. A city ruled in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. A promise of complete freedom from the dominion of darkness. And one day, we’ll join our brothers and sisters from Philadelphia to party in the new Jerusalem.

The beautiful thing about this promise is that John not only caught a glimpse of the new Jerusalem, he describes it in detail to share with so many others who follow Jesus and need hope during weary times. Spend the next few minutes imagining the esthetics and ethos of this city as John describes it in Revelation 21. Begin to savor the uniqueness of this promised future experience as you imagine hearing John describing a real city designed for you to enjoy. Allow anticipation to build in your heart.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:

Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things
have passed away.

Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son. But the cowards, unbelievers, vile, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Then one of the seven angels, who had held the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues, came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, 11 arrayed with God’s glory. Her radiance was like a very precious stone, like a jasper stone, bright as crystal. 12 The city had a massive high wall, with 12 gates. Twelve angels were at the gates; the names of the 12 tribes of Israel’s sons were inscribed on the gates. 13 There were three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west.14 The city wall had 12 foundations, and the 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles were on the foundations.

15 The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. 16 The city is laid out in a square; its length and width are the same. He measured the city with the rod at 12,000 stadia. Its length, width, and height are equal. 17 Then he measured its wall, 144 cubits according to human measurement, which the angel used. 18 The building material of its wall was jasper, and the city was pure gold like clear glass.

19 The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone:

the first foundation jasper,
the second sapphire,
the third chalcedony,
the fourth emerald,
20 the fifth sardonyx,
the sixth carnelian,
the seventh chrysolite,
the eighth beryl,
the ninth topaz,
the tenth chrysoprase,
the eleventh jacinth,
the twelfth amethyst.

21 The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each individual gate was made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.

22 I did not see a sanctuary in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its sanctuary. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 Each day its gates will never close because it will never be night there. 26 They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. 27 Nothing profane will ever enter it: no one who does what is vile or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.

– Revelation 21 HCSV

 

By Yvonne Biel  

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Imagine the New City | Revelation 212019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Hope of New | Revelation 3:11-13

11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Yesterday, the great evangelist and preacher Billy Graham passed away at the age of 99. Over the course of decades, thousands around the world heard him boldly proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. Earlier in his life, he was quoted as saying, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Graham lived in this life with the hope of the next in mind. He also said, “The most thrilling thing about heaven is that Jesus Christ will be there. I will see Him face to face. Jesus Christ will meet us at the end of life’s journey.”

Billy Graham understood the hope of eternal life with Jesus Christ. This invigorated his earthly ministry. While Graham longed to be in the presence of God, he lived with a sense of purpose and urgency. He lived out these words from CS Lewis: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” In our passage in Revelation 3:11-13, we see the hope of the day when all will be made right. This new city, the new Jerusalem, brings great encouragement in the midst of life’s trial and difficulties.

As Christians, we need to be intentional about reflecting on the hope of the new. One day, we too will be in the presence of God. Our pain and difficulties on earth will not last forever. We have the assurance of spending eternity with Jesus. This wonderful truth encourages us and motivates us here and now on earth. We are in Christ and have a hopeful message for a world in need. As we live on earth, we remember that “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Today, take a moment to really consider this reality. Have a little fun making a “bucket list” for Heaven and praise God for the gift of salvation and the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

By Billy Berglund  

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Hope of New | Revelation 3:11-132019-02-09T12:06:23-07:00

Holding the Promises | Revelation 3:7-13

7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8 “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

“Promises, promises,” some people say. Sometimes they say this because they’re trying to be funny, and sometimes, I’m sure, these words are recounted from history. Promises made but not kept can leave lasting memories for us. Even those things we promise that are so simple, that we don’t keep, mark time for some. But God isn’t that way. His promises are true and unfailing. Even when we feel starkly visible and unaccompanied, his promises ring true.

Jesus is making promises to the church at Philadelphia. Take a moment, before continuing, and find them, as many as you can, perhaps even writing them down.

Those true promises are yours, too. There is a door propped open by God, impervious to anyone closing it. Those that make your life difficult will, through lies or other means, see, in the end, that God loved you. Your patient endurance in Christ will bring the presence of Jesus during hard times. The Philadelphians received promises because of their powerless stand for Jesus, and their heavenly reward is everlasting. While Jesus spoke these words to the Christians of Philadelphia, they’re written so you can realize these promises, too. But, these aren’t the only promises made to you by the triune God.

Some say, for a variety of reasons, Isaiah is hard to read. But I’ve come to sincerely cherish its words. Before Isaiah proclaims God’s words, the people of Israel had been wandering from God for a long time, worshiping crafts of their own making, and slipping into the motions of worship, but without heart-felt conviction. But, despite all the judgments God was outlining for the Israelites, his words were laced repeatedly with wonderful, and for me, tearful, promises. If you want to (re)discover the beautiful, awe-full promises of God, read these few referenced here, using the Bible version of your choice.

Isaiah 41:10

Isaiah 41:13 – Personal Favorite

Isaiah 54:10

Isaiah 54:17

Certainly, God is speaking these promises to the nation of Israel, but that same God loves you just as much.

There are several promises outlined here. Some you may have already known about, and some, perhaps, are new. Take them to heart! Memorize a couple, or all of them. They are spoken to you for a reason – you are loved, known, and cherished. The magnitude of love demonstrated by Jesus in his death, God in sending Jesus to earth, and the heart-healing balm of the Holy Spirit eclipses that of anyone in your past who has done you right or wrong. Hold these things in your heart.

By Rich Obrecht  

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Holding the Promises | Revelation 3:7-132019-02-09T12:06:24-07:00

He Holds the Keys | Revelation 3:7-8

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

“Here’s the keys to the car.” These words are exhilarating to every teenager just getting their driver’s license. It meant control and freedom, but if you weren’t responsible, they were taken away. Keys give access. In the Bible, keys are symbolic of God’s complete authority and sovereignty. God is in control of everything.

Jesus encourages the believers in Philadelphia with the fact that he’s in charge of where they lived and what’s happening to them. Even though they might feel weak, weary, and worn out, they still have total access to God.  He has opened doors of opportunity for them that no one else could. He has given them the access to God by his shed blood on the cross and the resurrection power to keep his word and obey in their difficult circumstances. And through these, he has given them open doors to share the way of Jesus with others.

Jesus knows our works also, how we have kept his word and not denied his name. You can lament your weariness and circumstances to our compassionate Father God and loving Savior. But you also can rest in his complete sovereignty over the world and your life personally. Because of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross, you have complete access to everything you need to live a transformed life (Philippians 4:19). He opens the doors for you to live in the way of Jesus and share the good news of Jesus with the heart of Jesus. Look at your past week and this week coming for the doors he has opened for you. We have great security knowing he holds the keys.

By Donna Burns  

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He Holds the Keys | Revelation 3:7-82019-02-09T12:06:24-07:00
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