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South Fellowship Church

My Helper | Psalm 121:2

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My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Yesterday, we explored the importance of asking the question, where does my help come from? Today, in verse two, we find the beautiful answer. Our support comes from something far more majestic than mountains. Our help comes from the maker of the mountains.

However, there’s an underlying concern in verse one. Is God sufficient to offer the help we need? And the answer in verse two, is a resounding, yes! When biblical writers describe God as the maker of heaven and earth, they’re referring to God’s complete power and authority. Not only is God the creator of the mountains, he also formed the valleys, the rivers, the feet we walk on, and the heat of the sun that warms our skin. He made it all. Therefore, he is the one we put our hope in.

When we place our hope in the “maker of heaven and earth,” our hope rests in the one who can sustain the weight of all our needs. When we turn to the maker of all resources, we have every resource at our disposal. When we worship the Creator and interact with his world as He intends, we access his goodness – which he deposited for our benefit.

The only concern left is whether God actually wants to offer His help. Then, we turn to Romans 5:8. Paul says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Not only does our God have access to all because he created it, he offers it freely to us from a place of love. If we doubt his love, we can see it in his actions toward us. Jesus, who came to die on our behalf while we were “still sinners” is reason enough to claim God as our sufficient Help. When we chose God, we gain everything. Today, rewrite this psalm as a personal prayer asking God for the specific help you need. Recognize he has all the resources and love he needs to meet your need.[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text 0=””]

By Aaron Bjorklund

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My Helper | Psalm 121:22017-07-25T05:00:09-06:00

The Hill | Psalm 121:1

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I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?

Psalm 121 is a sort of a self-inflicted intervention. It’s as if the Israelites, on their journey to worship, pause and ask themselves what they’re actually doing. In verse one, they ask themselves a simple question, “Does my help come from mountains?”

To understand why they would ask this question it’s helpful for us to remember the context. The people of God sang these Psalms as they ascended to worship God on the hill in Jerusalem. Hills were not only a place where Jews worshiped, but also where other idolatrous nations worshiped. As they hiked up to Jerusalem, they would pass other hills with altars to other gods. By asking this question, they were posing several other questions, “Are we just like the nations who walk the hill toward their altars? Does our help, like the other nations, come from walking the hill?”

If we’re honest, we’ve all had moments when we’ve posed similar questions about religious activities. What makes our religious activity different from the next person’s? Every person, regardless of what he or she believes about God, needs somewhere to place hope. Wherever that person hopes becomes the object of their worship.  No, we don’t find many people on hills burning sacrifices to gods of the sun or moon these days, but we do find people before altars of career, appearances, and entertainment. In fact, on many days we find ourselves at those same altars.

Ironically, the answer to the question is no; Jerusalem was no better in and of itself. Help doesn’t come from the mountains, not even Jerusalem – just like our help doesn’t come from church attendance, giving to charity, or even reading the Bible. Our hope is deeper then those things. Today, use Psalm 121 as a self-inflicted intervention. Ask yourself the same type of question, “Where does my help come from?” or “Where do I typically turn for help?” Perhaps you turn to Netflix, work, addictions, friends, or exercise to help you bare the stress of life. The way you answer this question may be indicative of the hills you’ve been worshiping on. Simply be honest before God with your answer.[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Aaron Bjorklund

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The Hill | Psalm 121:12017-07-24T05:00:36-06:00

Life | Psalm 133:3

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The Lord commands blessing because he desires to share his life with us.

 

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“for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.”

Past the mountains, through the desert, the Israelites pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This song of ascent reminds the sojourners their fellowship is pleasant as they walk the dusty road to a very special place. As they sing, they remember how God called them in togetherness – to be a holy nation by God’s great covenant blessing. They recall God’s blessing when he says, “Choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Deuteronomy 30:19b-20).

The pilgrims make their way to Jerusalem happy to sing God’s praises for he promised long life and blessing for those who listen to his voice. Blessing came as they were together and blessing came because of corporate remembrance of the feasts God gave them. The ascent, full of devotion – not duty – inspired them to continue. The exuberant gathering on Mount Zion celebrated a highlight of their year. No doubt there was a skip in their step, a joy and lightness in their heart as they returned home.

The Psalmist begins his psalm with “How good and how pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Psalm 133:1) and ends with God’s desire to bless. The Lord commands blessing because he desires to share his life with us. As the covenant community of faith was there with God, enjoying his presence together, the earth experienced the blessing of life. Worshiping God as a community on Mount Zion was a touch of heaven. The Bible says heaven has no sin, no tears, no pain, no wanting. Heaven is just pure satisfaction and delight with and in the presence of the Lord, enjoying his blessings of unity and life forevermore. Consider your community today and praise God for ways you’ve experienced unity and life within the family of God. South Fellowship’s LifeGroups are a great way to experience life-giving community at South. If you’re not already a part of one, email Dan Elliot at [email protected] to join a group this September.

 

When Moses finished reciting all these words
to all Israel, he said to them,
“Take to heart all the words
I have solemnly declared to you this day,
so that you may command your children
to obey carefully all the words of this law.
They are not just idle words for you
– THEY ARE YOUR LIFE.
By them you will live long in the land
you are crossing the Jordan to possess”.
-Deuteronomy 32:45-47

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By Donna Burns

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Life | Psalm 133:32016-09-03T05:00:42-06:00

Dew | Psalm 133:2

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Unity is both the process and the goal

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“It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion!”

 

When you wake up at the first peek of sunrise from camping on a mountainside, everything is covered with dew. Everything. The dew on Mt. Hermon in Israel appears just the same. Every morning, moisture covers everything around, giving nourishment to the dry thirsty desert. Desert seeds are just waiting to be soaked and softened by the life-giving moisture. Then, because the dew falls, it feeds and sustains life in the driest of regions.

Like dew, unity brings life to the community of God. As dew gives nourishment to life in the dessert, so unity gives nourishment to life within our community. Unity is unbroken completeness, yet unity is both the process and the goal – sanctifying God’s people along the way. The family of God is continually in the process of restoring fellowship with God and becoming one in Christ. This unity always builds up family, the church, and the Kingdom of God. Unity’s purpose brings mission, unity’s heart bring encouragement, and unity’s single-mindedness gives the community fellowship.

Just as the dew falls every morning, God’s mercies fall unceasingly. When the family of God devotes themselves to the unification process they allow the Spirit of the Living God to fall fresh on their community each day. We can let God’s Spirit empower us to accept one another, serve one another and bear one another’s burdens. Every Christ follower can honor one another, be devoted to one another, and encourage one another all the time.  Read through this list of “One Another” commands throughout the New Testament. Choose one to do for someone in your life today.[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Donna Burns

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Dew | Psalm 133:22016-09-02T05:00:56-06:00

Kingdom Preparation | Psalm 133

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Unity is a platform of kingdom advancement

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Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.

 

Anything in life worthwhile takes a massive amount of effort and preparation. Some of us watched Michael Phelps continue to make history this year in the pool. He had already made history as the most decorated Olympian in history. That legacy didn’t come easily to Phelps. Phelps swims a minimum of 80,000 meters a week, which is nearly 50 miles. That preparation enables him to achieve extraordinary feats in the pool. Preparation isn’t only necessary for success in athletics. If you want to be good at anything weather its relational (parenting, friendship, marriage), vocational (job, leadership), or recreation, it takes preparation. Preparation is absolutely essential to success in every facet of life.

Psalm 133:2 uses the idea of anointing oil in attempt to illustrate how unity functions as preparation. In addition to having a wonderful fragrance that marked the activities surrounding sacrifice and forgiveness, anointing oil was a sign of holy preparation. Aaron, the high priest, would cleanse himself thoroughly, be anointed with oil, and make sacrifice for his own sin. This ritual was given by God to prepare him for ministry as priest. Unity is like that. It’s a lot of work, but it’s necessary preparation. It’s worth the effort because unity benefits more than those in the united group. Unity is a platform of kingdom advancement. Aaron didn’t simply get really clean and smell good for his own benefit. No. His anointing allowed him to be a bridge between Israel and their holy God.

Our unity is that same bridge. When the church is united under the banner of God’s grace, we become a powerful conduit of the good news. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are a people united, because we are together forgiven, filled with the same Spirit, fully equipped to do the ministry of a priest, and the ministry of reconciliation. Take a moment to send a note of encouragement to someone today. Select a person you want to grow in unity with. This may take some effort on your part, but unity is worth it – for both you and the world.

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By Aaron Bjorklund

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Kingdom Preparation | Psalm 1332016-09-01T05:00:42-06:00

Fragrance | Psalm 133:2

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Christian love carries the “aroma of Christ”

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2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!

 

Psalm 133 starts with a statement about unity, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” The remainder of the Psalm attempts to illustrate and support the pleasantness of unity. His first illustration is that of fragrant anointing oil. He says, unity is good like the oil that anointed Aaron’s head that would drizzle down his beard and onto his clothes. You may wonder, how is oil related to the goodness of unity?

First, it might help to understand the role oil played in the life of these Psalm singers. The anointing oil the Psalmist references would have been placed on the high priest to prepare him to make burnt sacrifices for the people’s sins. You see, forgiveness had a smell and it smelled like sweet oils. Perhaps like the scent of barbecue for me. I love grilling. It’s one of the things I love about summer. It’s not just the charcoal cooked food that makes me happy, it’s the experience. Cooking outdoors, talking with friends, and the smell of the fire. Every time I smell a grill it gives me nostalgic feelings of relaxation, good food, and friendship. Memories are strongly connected to smells and for me the grill holds lots of good memories.

The scent of anointing oil would have etched into the memories of God’s people as the smell of God’s forgiveness. They not only smelled forgiveness they would leave smelling forgiven.

The Psalmist tells us that unity among God’s people has a smell. It’s a sweet smell like the oils of holiness and forgiveness. That fragrance doesn’t only benefit those who have been saturated in the oils of unity; the benefit wafts through the air surrounding people who belong to healthy and unified communities. Christian unity has an attractive scent. Scripture teaches us that one of the most attractive things about Christianity is the love we have for each other (Ephesians 4, John 17, 2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Perhaps you’ve observed someone who is a part of a tight knit team, staff, life group, or church and noticed how the group genuinely cared for each other and accomplished great things together. This is attractive and almost everyone wants to be a part of a group like that. It’s because Christian love carries the “aroma of Christ.”. Today, read 2 Corinthians 2:14-15 and take a few moments to make a list of people who you notice carrying the, “aroma of Christ.”[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Fragrance | Psalm 133:22016-08-30T05:00:43-06:00

Unity | Psalm 133:1

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Christ came to re-unite us to God and to one another.

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“Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

 

Our world shows us so many examples of the power of one: in nature, in team sports, in relationships, in politics. There is value in unity. It benefits the person, the community and the world. When unity is found around a common thing, it offers purpose. Unity can be found in an idea, a place, or a cause, but there is no better example of unity in all of life than the Trinity – One God, in three persons, perfect in power, love and purpose.

God made humans in his own image, which means our image reflects the Trinity. Even more, our life is not only designed to reflect some resemblance of the Godhead, but to live out the unity, love and service as demonstrated within the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God desires we unite with him because we have been created for unity and likeness. It’s in our design. Our character is to be like God’s character and our love is to be like God’s love.

Unfortunately, God’s grand design for humanity was marred by sin. Relationship with Him severed and perfect unity broken. The Biblical scope of the Father’s story is the restoration of fellowship between humans and God and among each other. Christ came to re-unite us to God and to one another. He did this by shedding his blood on the cross and this is good news. We are made ONE in His spirit so the world will know we are Christians by His love. The world in its fallen state may think it has unity, but there is a hole in every person’s heart designed to be filled in union and our communion with the oneness of the Godhead. Christ has made it possible for us to experience the goodness and pleasure of uniting with the one true God, maker of heaven and earth. Sing along with the familiar hymn Holy, Holy, Holy as you reflect on uniting with God’s holiness.[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Donna Burns

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Unity | Psalm 133:12016-08-29T05:00:45-06:00

Forgiven | Psalms 130:3-4

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Without the forgiveness of God, we can’t stand.

 

 

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If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

 

Have you ever done something really fun at the time, but it turned out to be terrible?

There once was a young boy, barely in first grade, who followed the lead of their friend and helped absolutely destroy this friends’ dads’ collector car.  Faded memory leaves it uncertain exactly what sort of car it was, except to say it was worthy of the dad’s hard work and money.  Throwing rocks through the windows, hammering the doors and fenders, and playing ‘hopscotch’ across the roof seemed like such fun.  That is until the dad arrived home.  Seeing the face of the young friend gave a clear view into the ‘storm’ that would soon come.

Soon I staring into the face of my dad, feeling much shorter and imagining that pulling my lower lip over the back of my head might actually be an appealing alternative.  But dad, knowing my fear, spoke calmly about what I did and the consequences.  Today’s verses pose a thought very similar to the one running through my mind during this conversation, “I can’t handle what I deserve.”  While I still had to face the consequence of my actions, which were in the end, bearable, I experienced forgiveness.  This is precisely what the psalmist implies. Without the forgiveness of God, we can’t stand.

That day, my dad epitomized God’s forgiveness toward me because he knew of his heavenly father’s forgiveness – bought with the shedding of blood by God’s only Son.  Hebrews 9:21-22 relates the importance of bloodshed for purifying things of worship, and how it brings forgiveness.  Since this is God’s gift through His Son, there’s not a thing we can do to earn it, and we don’t deserve it.  Consider those things in your own life where you have received unwarranted and undeserved forgiveness while listening to   Amazing Grace My Chains Are Gone.  Perhaps God will reveal someone you might need to forgive in light of the grace you’ve received.

 

21 And in the same way he sprinkled
with the blood both the tent
and all the vessels used in worship.
22 Indeed, under the law almost everything
is purified with blood,
and without the shedding of blood
there is no forgiveness of sins.
-Hebrews 9:21-22

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By Rich Obrecht

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Forgiven | Psalms 130:3-42016-08-24T05:00:21-06:00

Cry | Psalm 130:1-2

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God is the safest person to cry with.

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Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

 

I often lie to myself. I’ve learned self-deception from attempting to control my emotions. I can talk myself out of what I’m feeling so others won’t see how shaken I really am. As a result, I struggle to identify how I feel – let alone be honest about it. But, bottling up emotions is never a good thing. In fact, it’s not healthy at all. Emotions are disguised if not dealt with. That’s why handling emotions in a healthy way is one of life’s most important skills, because what we do with those feelings distinguishes a healthy person form an unhealthy one.

The writer of Psalm 130 cries, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!”. Look how he handles of his emotions. He doesn’t just have damp eyes; he cries out with a shout to God. I suppose this is the Bible’s way of recommending a “good cry.” In 2011, the Journal of Research in Personality explored the benefits of crying. Why you cry and whomever witnesses your tears actually makes a significant difference in whether your crying helps or hurts your emotional state. The study reveals having a supportive person present can significantly increase the benefits of crying. The inverse is also true. Crying in the presence of someone or a group of people who are not supportive can make the situation worse.

The cries of Psalm 130 are more than physical tears, they are deep emotions shed before a sympathetic God. In fact, the entire collection of the Psalms reveal God as the safest person to cry with. We don’t have a distant and unsympathetic God. Instead. we have Jesus who became a man, felt the pain of betrayal, false accusation, physical attack, fierce mockery, harsh abuse, and even death. Hebrews 4:15 tells us we can approach God boldly with our deepest cries because he understands. Jesus is not afraid or emotionally removed from our cries. Even he cried bitterly before he went to the cross for our sin. So cry out to God. He is not only understanding, he is capable of comforting and powerful enough to change our circumstances. Crying to God with raw honesty is the healthiest expression of emotion. Today, ask yourself, “What holds me back from being honest about my emotions before God?”

I Cry

Like floods rise swell my cries

From my deepest me

I fling them up unto the skies

To my God I plea

 

Do you hear me God of mine?

Do you understand?

Will these tears find your time?

Well they on your heart land?

 

And if they do find seed in you

What fruit will they produce

Will they be pesky weeds to you

Or will they be sweet fruit?

 

What blossoms can my sorrows bring

With you they can grow peace

For you alone when gardening

Can harvest hope from grief

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By Aaron Bjorklund

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Cry | Psalm 130:1-22016-08-23T05:00:57-06:00

Waiting | Psalms 130

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Waiting deeply penetrates the soul.

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Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
2Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

 

The ability to wait is becoming a thing of the past.  Now, cell phones have more computing power than the computers in the Apollo program, and waiting has become ‘old school.’  Within a few minutes, we can order a new widget off the Internet, with delivery by the next day.  This notion of not waiting has been spilling over into our faith.

In Psalm 130, we find the psalmist waiting on the Lord.  He describes how a watchman feels while waiting for the sunrise after a long, cold night of standing post. This waiting deeply penetrates to his soul.  Pay close attention to the repetition here.  Repeated lines are the author’s way of adding emphasis on important aspects of their message.  The idea of waiting on the Lord is repeated and points to a very important reality in our lives as Christians!

When I was a young boy growing up, my parents didn’t have a lot of money.  Nevertheless, I received an allowance for my chores.  It wasn’t much, so if there was some interesting toy or model airplane I wanted, waiting was the name of the game.  It wasn’t easy, especially if I had to receive a couple allowances to get it.  While this example of a child’s experience is very simple, we, as followers of Christ, are to have the faith of a child, and much of that involves waiting.  We’ve all had to wait on the Lord, sometimes over long periods of time and sometimes in His silence, not knowing why or how much longer we can hold out. Reflect on your times of waiting and rejoice in the memories where waiting was blessed by the Lord’s answer as you listen to the song ‘The Waiting.'[/vc_column_text][us_separator height=”25px” size=”custom”][vc_column_text]

By Rich Obrecht

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Waiting | Psalms 1302016-08-22T05:00:01-06:00
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