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South Fellowship Church

Riptide

TRUE REWARD

Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James… (I Corinthians 15:6-7 ESV)

This week we’ve been looking at the life of James, one of the brothers of Jesus, leader of the early church in Jerusalem, and author of the book of James. We’ve explored what his relationship with Jesus might have been at various times in his life. Here’s a synopsis of Hegesippus, Historia 5, a record of how James died:

During the festival of Passover in 62 AD some of the priestly class, eager to deter the Christian sect from spreading, crowded around James and urged him to denounce Jesus while standing on the parapet of the temple. Instead of denouncing Jesus, James said with a loud voice “Why do you ask me about the Son of Man? He is sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Great Power and He will come on the clouds of heaven.” As a result of this testimony, some onlookers rejoiced and others placed their faith in Jesus. Seeing their mistake, the priests shoved James to the ground below. When James fell he was still alive, so some stoned him, but the final death blow was administered with a club.

Why did the priests think James might denounce Jesus? It likely was because the priestly class regarded him as a righteous, honest man who would respect their authority. Here are some of James’ urgings to us:

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing….Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:22-27 ESV)

How did James have a winsome way with those priests even though they viewed Christianity as a dangerous heresy? Again, James wrote:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 ESV)

The account of James’ earthly end reminds me that Jesus followers who are kind listeners, gentle helpers and above reproach are not assured protection from persecution by virtue of those character qualities. In fact, just the opposite can occur.

Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. (Luke 6:22-23 ESV)

Maybe it’s the Sunday School exhortations and rewards some of us received as children that make us think we’ll get lots of automatic “likes” for godly behavior. At any rate, it’s false hope to think the world around us is eager to give us kudos for obeying Jesus and giving Him the glory for it.

Take a minute to remind yourself – when you please Jesus with your actions (especially if it seems no one else notices) – rejoice that your reward is great in heaven.

TRUE REWARD2022-05-29T21:17:49-06:00

James’ Ministry

When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Acts 15:13

He hears the sounds of Jerusalem waking up. As the city awakes, it beckons his eyes to open. His mind begins the acknowledge the new day. Thoughts of what the day holds begin to meander through his mind. Then all of a sudden, the magic of his life and calling begins to hit him. His day would be filled with teaching, encouraging, and fanning the flame of this fledgling movement of Jesus followers. To think, not long ago, he wouldn’t have been caught dead associating with this movement. Now, he was part of the leadership of it. Everything had changed since he had seen his brother resurrected.

This week in our daily writings, we have explored the character of James, the brother of Jesus. We saw his childhood, rejection of Jesus’ ministry, and conspicuous absence at his brother’s crucifixion. If you fast forward to the book of Acts, you find James standing up and leading the Jerusalem church. It’s somewhat jarring to observe James’s massive change of heart. His entire life is spent advocating for the reality that his brother is God and savior.

This is the power of resurrection. If the resurrection is real, it can change everything. It didn’t just win James over; it caused him to rise as a leader in the church.

Do you have someone you have given up on, someone you have prayed for but rejected your faith? Don’t give up hope. James was an unlikely character to become a leader in the early church. Yet, he becomes a leader in the movement he had rejected before seeing his dead brother rise again. Don’t give up hope on your loved ones. If God can raise the dead, he can also change everything for those around you. Ask God to make his resurrected presence real. When people encounter God alive, they can’t help it; they will be changed.

James’ Ministry2022-05-29T21:15:03-06:00

BECOMING A DISCIPLE

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. I Corinthians 15:3-8 NIV

When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. Acts 1:13-14 NIV

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10 NIV

Today we are looking at the 50 days between Jesus’ crucifixion and the day of Pentecost in James – Jesus’ brother’s life. But to fully appreciate it, a little background is needed. James is listed as Jesus’ brother in Mark 6:1-3, and was not yet a disciple of Jesus when he, his mother Mary and his brothers came to Jesus, “they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind,’” Mark 3:21. So – as Jesus’ ministry progressed – James was not a member of Jesus’ disciples. It is also notable that the only family members mentioned at the crucifixion were Mary – Jesus’ mother and her sister.

After the crucifixion, on the first day of the week, the resurrection occurred and the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus began. The gospels tell us of 9 of these different occasions when Jesus appeared in his resurrected body to one or more people. I Corinthians 15 tells us of 2 occasions not mentioned elsewhere. One of these was to James, Jesus’ brother. “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,” I Corinthians 15:7. Paul was writing a letter to the church at Corinth, and was emphasizing the importance of Jesus’ resurrection and the proof of his resurrection by listing many of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances in I Corinthians 15.

The next mention of James is in Acts 1:14. “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” Jesus ascended to Heaven 40 days after His resurrection and he told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. What changed? James and his brothers are now listed as being a part of the group of disciples in the upper room, praying and awaiting the coming Holy Spirit. Why do you think James and his brothers are now listed as believers? Could it be that James now understood, believed, and was now committed to following his brother – Jesus – the Messiah?

Paul told us James saw the resurrected Jesus with his own eyes. The presence of Jesus made the difference in James’ life.
How about you? Can you think of a time when the presence of Jesus, an answer to prayer, a time of worship has made an impact on your life? Thank Jesus for His presence in your life.

BECOMING A DISCIPLE2022-06-01T11:58:35-06:00

TENSION WITHIN THE FAMILY

“Jesus left [the region of Galilee] and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.”
‭‭- Mark‬ ‭6:1-5‬ ‭NIV

Jesus could not do miracles in his hometown. Does this surprise you? Perhaps you’ve heard this story, but have you considered how Jesus would have felt as the authority of God’s Kingdom is limited in his own backyard? Jesus’ authority is limited not by lack of power, but by lack of belief. And notice WHO are the ones lacking in belief – Jesus’ closest friends and family.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we catch glimpses of his family dynamics. At one point Jesus’ family thinks he’s out of his mind, not taking care of himself, and they go find him in hopes of straightening him out (Mark 3:20-21). Another time we see his mother and brothers unable to get to Jesus because of the crowds. And Jesus flat out says, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put them into practice” – as if to say, “though my mothers and brothers are related to me, they do not necessarily hear God’s words and put them into practice” (‭‭Luke‬ ‭8:19-21). Ouch.

Limiting God’s authority by lack of faith must have been a major disappointment for Jesus and created some tension within his family dynamics. But, imagine how it would feel to be on a journey of discovering your God-given identity and not be fully supported by your mother and brothers. That’s painful.

If you follow Jesus, I’d imagine you can relate. Sometimes the things Jesus calls us to do create tension in relationships, perhaps even rejection. In what ways has your choice to follow Jesus brought about tension in your closest relationships? Tell Jesus about how this makes you feel and let him sit with you in empathy.

TENSION WITHIN THE FAMILY2022-05-29T21:08:34-06:00

To See Jesus More Clearly

As soon as Jesus was baptized he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:16-17)

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” (John 1:32-34)

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “Isn’t this the Carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
( Mark 6:1-3)

Some forty years ago, because of the above scriptures, I went on a hunt for clues to the thirty years of Jesus’s ordinary life before he was baptized, traveled all over Galilee and Judea teaching and healing, was crucified, resurrected, and ascended into heaven. I wanted to get to know Jesus as not only my Lord and Savior, but also as a companion in the dailiness of my life.

Matthew 2:13-23 records Joseph and Mary traveling with Jesus to and later from Egypt. Luke 2:2-39 tells about Jesus at 8 days being presented at the temple in Jerusalem and their return to Nazareth. Luke 2:40 says, “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him”. Luke 2:41-51 is the story of Jesus at age 12 staying behind in the temple and his parents searching for him. Jesus asked, “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” but his parents didn’t understand. Then Jesus went back to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents.
Luke 2:52 says “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

Philippians 2:5-8 describes the humility of Jesus during his whole life on earth.
Hebrews 5:8 says that “although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered”. and Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are—yet was without sin”.

So what does this mean to me? As a child,I heard from adults,“When you get out into the REAL world”! As adults, we forget the “real world” of our childhood.

For thirty hidden years, from birth to adulthood, Jesus experienced our “real world” with and for us. He knows about learning to walk, talk, go to school, live in a family with siblings and in a community as an apprentice carpenter, then as a businessman. It helps me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live more in the way of Jesus with his heart.

Take some time to meditate on the scriptures above. Ask Jesus to show you what he knows about everyday living that can help you in what you experience. Thank him for what he shows you. Get to know Jesus as your daily companion as well as your Lord and Savior.

To See Jesus More Clearly2022-05-29T21:05:55-06:00

SKY, DESTINY, DREAMS, BUCKETS, SUFFERING

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved (John) following them…When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:18-22 ESV

In the past, when I’ve thought about this exchange Jesus had with Peter and John, Jesus’ words haven’t seemed like prophecy…but now I see they were. In contrast, Old Testament prophecies most often addressed entire nations rather than individuals. Jacob’s prophecies in Genesis 49 about the character qualities of each of his sons (who had already become tribes) may have been a notable exception.

Those of us brought up in Western cultures heavily influenced by Christianity, have come to value Jesus’ inclination toward an individual calling as illustrated in John 21. However, human ideas of individual calling sometimes lead to thoughts of self determination that lead us astray. Some popular phrases that reflect those ideas are:

“The sky’s the limit!”
“You control your own destiny.”
“Follow your dreams.”
“My Bucket List” (my list of exciting things to cram in before I kick the bucket)

Such slogans are the lingua franca of those at the pinnacle of worldly success and notoriety. Formulas for replicating their temporal bliss abound in books, motivational seminars, blogs, tours involving activities promising an adrenaline high, etc. But Jesus’ words to Peter, and indirectly to John, hone in on another perspective:

“You follow me!”

…and Jesus emphasized that following Him entails individual pathways to glorify God.

(This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) John 21:19a ESV

Does this mean Jesus’ calling to each of us is so individualized we should never listen to others, even another Jesus follower? Let’s look at what the Apostle Paul said to the believers in Corinth:

…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (I Corinthians 10:31b)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (I Corinthians 11:1)

We know Paul suffered immense persecution in his individual calling, but also brought incredible notoriety (or glory) to the name of Jesus. Peter and John also suffered a great deal of persecution in bringing glory to the name of Jesus. There’s a pattern here.

SKY, DESTINY, DREAMS, BUCKETS, SUFFERING2022-05-24T21:03:26-06:00

Follow and Feed

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered. “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him a third time,”Do you love me.” He said,”Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you’” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!” (John 21:15-17, and 19b

It grabs me that Simon Peter is not only being reminded of his first call from Jesus to follow him, (Matthew 4:19), he is being given a new occupation. Peter has been a fisherman all his life, and Jesus is now telling him that he is to follow Jesus by becoming a caregiver of sheep. What’s more, Peter is going to be caring for Jesus’s own sheep.

Peter would have known from Jesus’s frequent references to sheep and shepherds, including his calling himself, “The Good Shepherd,” exactly what Jesus was talking about. Peter’s call was to follow Jesus in caring for people the same way Jesus had and the only way he could do it would be to stick close,continue to lean on, and learn from Jesus.

Because we have access to the events coming up for Jesus and the disciples, we can turn over a few pages to Acts 2 and know that the Holy Spirit descends and empowers the followers with persevering power to enable them to do what they could not do on their own.

Something else that grabs me about, “feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, feed my sheep,” is that it means in all stages of growth from first believing in and putting our faith in Jesus, through the long process of growing to maturity in Christ, to preparing for home going in Christ. Peter was called to continue to teach, influence and prepare those Jesus told him to care for.

What about us? Each of us is called by Jesus to follow him in the way we relate to and influence people with and for him. I have been soaking in 1st and 2nd Peter as a reminder of how Peter carried on with his following and his caregiving. Those letters are just as fresh and refreshing for us right now as they were when first written.

Join me in reading them this week. They aren’t long, but they are beautifully rich in what we need to encourage us in growing and persevering.

Follow and Feed2022-05-24T21:00:41-06:00

Do you love me?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:15-17 NIV

These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:1-9 NIV

John adds an interesting epilogue to his book in chapter 21. He tells us his purpose in John 20:30-31, “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” It would seem his book is finished, but in Chapter 21, John gives us another intimate glimpse into an encounter Jesus had with his disciples in Galilee.

In this conversation with Peter – Jesus asked 3 times, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” John 21: 15, 16, 17. In the Hebrew mind – loving God involved hearing God, and obeying God. Every Jewish man would begin his day by reciting the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” God goes on to say, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates,” Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Peter responded to Jesus 3 times that he did love him, and then Jesus gave him a command to follow. Later in this chapter Peter was told 2 times, “You must follow me,” John 21:22b. My son in law, who has studied Hebrew, helped me to understand that in the Hebrew mind – loving God meant the same thing as hearing God and obeying His commands. Jesus was asking Peter to show, display, and fulfill his love for Jesus by feeding His lambs, taking care of the sheep, and feeding the sheep.

If we love Jesus, we are also called to take care of and feed the believers that we are called to teach, love, and come alongside in our everyday lives. Is there someone you can pray for or pray with? Is there someone you are being called to disciple? Ask Jesus to show you how he wants you to respond to His specific call to you, “Follow me!” John 21:19b.

Do you love me?2022-05-24T20:58:40-06:00

Shame Undone

“When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.””
‭‭John‬ ‭21:9-17 ‭NIV‬‬

The Apostle John notes more interesting details of Jesus’ appearance to Peter. We notice Jesus’ invitation to breakfast, the mention of a charcoal fire, distribution of fish and bread, as well as a poetic display of grace through Jesus’ intentional questions.

All in all, we notice Jesus bringing about reconciliation with Peter without directly addressing the elephant in the room.

Jesus never condemns Peter for returning to fish or for denying him. Jesus simply makes breakfast and invites Peter for a conversation over food. Obviously, Peter knows the elephant in the room, he even smells his shame as the fragrance of charcoal reminds him of the night he was asked if he knew Jesus while warming himself by a similar fire (Luke 22:55-57).

Jesus doesn’t have to bring up the incident to heal Peter’s shame. Instead, he undoes the shame by replacing it with love. Jesus loves Peter profoundly in this moment with his thought actions, kind words, quality time, and intentional questions.

Perhaps we, too, can offer love in place of shame as Jesus did. Is there someone Jesus is inviting you to reconcile with by serving them with love rather than bringing up their shame of wrongdoing? Or perhaps the person you need to reconcile with is Jesus himself. If so, listen to this song (https://youtu.be/BoZd7ZXh9yY) receiving Jesus’ presence where there is no shame, only love.

Shame Undone2022-05-24T20:48:55-06:00

Now That is Funny

Does this sound like the punch line of a joke?

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” – John 21:22

It may not be a joke directly, but I still laughed aloud when I reread this verse this week. In fact, our Daily Devotional Team laughed quite a bit as we read this chapter in the book of John. We decided to point out the subtle humor in this chapter and acknowledge the value of humor in the scriptures.

The scriptures are masterfully written. The longer you spend studying them, the more nuanced, delighting, challenging, and even humor you notice in them. As you learn about ancient Jewish culture, figures of speech in Greek and Hebrew, and the various characters found in the text, you also begin to appreciate the depth of these texts.

I challenge you to make the scriptures a part of your lifelong study program. Thank God for giving us such a beautiful gift to begin to learn who he is and how humans are. With that said, I’ll point out a few funny observations we notice in John 21

The punch line of the text I quoted above is that Jesus keeps asking Peter to “Follow Me.” Then the text tells us that there is a disciple following Jesus even as he and Peter are trying to have a conversation. The moral of the story is that Peter should be doing what this disciple is modeling. The punch line is that John is the one both writing this text and offering himself as an example that Peter should follow. The humor is increased because John makes editorial notes throughout his gospel.

We also enjoyed John’s commentary that he noticed Jesus before all the other disciples. We appreciated John’s closing lines in the chapter. It is as if John’s hand is cramping, so he casually tells us that Jesus did and taught lots of things.

Again, these slightly comical observations are subtle, sometimes tertiary to the point of the passage, but they also bring us joy. It’s a blessing to have such masterfully crafted scriptures with life’s natural humor, and character quirks included. This is just an invitation to continue to learn and enjoy these texts.

Now That is Funny2022-05-22T20:56:09-06:00
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