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South Fellowship Church

LOOKING FOR THE CATACLYSMIC?

Haven’t you sometimes wished, hoped, and prayed God would do something unmistakably earth-shaking to bring people to Himself…especially loved ones who seem so deaf to His voice? Let’s look here:

Now from noon until three, darkness came over all the land. At about three o’clock Jesus shouted with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. But the rest said, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if Elijah will come to save him.” Then Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and gave up his spirit. Just then the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks were split apart. And tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had died were raised. (They came out of the tombs after his resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.) Now when the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were extremely terrified and said, “Truly this one was God’s Son!” (Matthew 27:45-54 NET)

Let’s unpack this passage. Total darkness covered the whole land for three hours, there were two loud cries by Jesus who was in the last stages of crucifixion (crucifixion suffocated the entire body), an earthquake shook the entire region including the temple (earthquakes happen around Jerusalem about once in 125 years), rocks split apart and the thick temple curtain was torn in two…as the religious leaders watched, tombs opened, and, after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus’ followers who had died appeared fully alive and talking with friends who knew they had been dead. Even the Roman centurion and his soldiers were shaken to the core. Those are just a few mind blowing details that emerged around this scene…the hor d’oeuvres and main course of the world Christian movement.

So why wouldn’t everyone who witnessed these events simply fall on their knees to worship Jesus? Further insight comes from a future and even more imposing scene that Jesus showed to the Apostle John.

And I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the eminent people, and the commanders and the wealthy and the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the sight of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17)

These people will have hardened their hearts to God. Even though they will have front row seats, they won’t want anything to do with Him. Not even catastrophic convulsions will push them into His loving, protective arms. If you know Jesus, this is hard to fathom. But Jesus is honest with us – not everyone wants to cozy up to Him.

Let’s return to the three event focus of the Church’s yearly calendar; the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. This disarmingly simple depiction of humanity’s salvation is surrounded by a rich setting of cataclysmic events. Those who cannot be impressed by the sheer weight of amazing happenings God orchestrated around this central juncture of human history show a hardened heart.

Allow Jesus to keep your heart soft as you imagine yourself in Jerusalem experiencing the overwhelming events around His death, burial and resurrection – signs He’s provided to draw our attention to His sacrifice for us. Soak in those signs of His powerful love.

LOOKING FOR THE CATACLYSMIC?2022-04-17T20:32:17-06:00

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus by night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about 75 pounds . Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.
(John 19 38-42)

I have long wondered about these two men who cared for Jesus’ body and gave it a princely burial. Joseph and Nicodemus each had “back story”. It seems like they were trusted friends.

According to Matthew 20;57-60, Joseph was a rich man from Arimathea who used his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. According to Mark; 15;43, he was “a prominent member of the Council, was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, but went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” Luke describes him as a,”good and upright man who had not consented to the Council’s decision and action. Luke;23;50b.

John 3;1-2 describes Nicodemus as a Pharisee, a member of the Jewish ruling council, who came by night and engaged in a lengthy conversation with Jesus. He believed that Jesus was a teacher who came from God because of the signs he performed. In John 7;51, he speaks out in the Council, reminding them that their Law doesn’t condemn a man without first finding out directly from that man about what he is doing.

I’ve tried to imagine Joseph and Nicodemus overcoming their fear of the Jewish rulers out of their belief in and grieving love for Jesus. Even overcoming their natural repugnance at receiving, carrying and wrapping up Jesus’ beaten, bloody and crucified body. And then, after laying Jesus’ body in the tomb, rolling the stone in front of it, leaving to participate in the Passover Sabbath.

But now they have an insurmountable problem; Jewish Law says that a person who has anything to do with a dead human body becomes unclean and is prohibited from associating with other people. They would have to quarantine for 7 days, then go through a certain purifying process before they can be accepted again into their family and community. What these two disciples of Jesus have done will not remain secret, because now they can’t participate in the Passover meal with their families.

I wonder if Joseph and Nicodemus had any idea that they held in their arms the true,” Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”, and makes them truly clean?

We have the advantage of holding in our hands the scriptures that tell us what are, for those people, first time happenings. We can say, “It’s Friday, but Easter Sunday’s coming”, but they hadn’t experienced that when they walked away from the tomb and left Jesus’ body there. We don’t get to know the rest of Joseph’s and Nicodemus’s stories . We can imagine, but we don’t know.

I have a story, you have a story, we, as part of Jesus’ church, have a community story. We live in a resurrected Jesus, with an indwelling Holy Spirit and a Father in heaven. What am I, what are you, what are we willing to risk in loving and doing with our Lord. Read John 17 as a reminder of Jesus praying for us. Read 1 Corinthians 13 as a reminder of what faith, hope and love are.

Faith, Hope, Love, & Risk2022-04-17T20:30:22-06:00

First-hand Witness

“Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ” -Mark 15:40-16:8

Notice how women are mentioned all over Mark’s account of the resurrection. Women have been caring for Jesus for years. And now, Mark notes how it was women who cared for his dead body and women who discovered the empty tomb.

Mark was getting most of his data from first-hand accounts and recording them to spread the news within the first century. If you were telling a story you wanted people to believe in this era, you would not have included women. Their testimony was suspect. However, Mark seems to go out of his way to fill up his second-hand account with first-hand female characters.

Why do you think this detail matters?

We live in a culture where women have more value than they once did. Yet, there are still ways women and others are treated as lesser. This story of resurrection re-humanizes women as Jesus honors them for their nurturing servitude and partnership in spreading the gospel.

Just as Mark emphasized the worthiness of women’s partnership in the gospel, we too, can uphold others as being worthy of resurrection life.

Who do we see as unworthy of receiving the good news of resurrection? Take a moment to confess this before God and ask him to open your heart to reawaken your compassion for this person or peoples.

First-hand Witness2022-04-17T20:29:02-06:00

The Other Side of the Story

This week we are doing this daily devotional a little differently. First, I am going to ask each of you to read a part of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection story in each of the gospels for yourself. The Easter sermon used the Mark passage but it is helpful to look at all of them. So, first read Matthew 27:50-28:8, Mark 15:40-16:8, Luke 23:49-24:11 and John 19:38-20:2.

As you read these accounts, what stands out to you? Did you see something in this reading you had not noticed before? Are there words or phrases that you notice were used in multiple accounts? Does one of the accounts have information that is not in any of the others? Do you have questions that are not answered? Do you have a feeling of wanting to read farther? If so, is it because where I asked you to stop reading, does it give you an unsatisfying, hopeless ending to the story? Think about how the women and the disciples were feeling, thinking and processing everything they had observed and experienced in the days we read about. Pray about what you have observed, and ask God to reveal to you what He wants you to know about these scripture passages.

The Other Side of the Story2022-04-17T20:27:08-06:00

Not The End

If you attended one of our easter services you may have learned that resurrection isn’t the end of the story, it’s the beginning. The pursuit of eternal life has been the subject of Hollywood productions as well as wealthy individuals. We are all drawn to the idea of living long productive lives. That longing may be embedded into God’s design for us. We were meant to be eternal creatures and resurrection is the promise of that.

This year, rather than celebrating Easter and moving on with regular life, we want to let Easter be an invitation to a deeper journey. We will be starting a new series called eastertide this coming sunday. In this series we will explore Jesus’ as he encounters people after his resurrection. We will see all the ways that he invites us to live in this new world where death is defeated.

Take a moment to pray. Ask God to stir in you a longing for the life that resurrection brings. Ask him to help you grow in that life more in this spring.

Not The End2022-04-17T20:25:28-06:00

The World is Peripheral to the Church | Ephesians 1:22-23, Hebrews 2:8

At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. Ephesians 1:22-23

“All this” refers to the incredible spiritual riches and blessings we believers have in Christ outlined in Ephesians 1:3-14. This week we have been concentrating on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers in vv 15-23. and the above verses are the capstone of that prayer.

The first two chapters of the book of Hebrews also emphasize that Jesus is exalted above all and in control of all creation: “For when he put all things under his control, he left nothing outside of his control. At present we do not yet see all things under his control…” Heb 2:8

Far too often the events of the world around us and the casualties of our personal and everyday lives cause us to wonder…is Jesus really in charge here? As Hebrews 1:8 expresses, At present we do not yet see all things under his control. So we anticipate the reality of his control, even though we don’t yet experience it in all its fullness and glory.

So how do we get a realistic and truthful grip on the eternal Big Picture of Jesus as head of the church and director of All Things? How do we envision the world as peripheral to the church?

Our first challenge is to set aside the notion that attaining this vision is strictly individual…we are in this together. However, as individual church members we need a strong, daily drink of truth about the eternal reality of our King and Redeemer so Christ can speak and act through us to “fill everything with his presence”.

What if we start each day by figuratively drinking an eternal, supercharged smoothie of scripture such as Ephesians 1:3-14 or Hebrews 1 and 2 (there are numerous others) into the center of our being? Taking this daily nutrition prior to encountering the world around us can change our perspective from victim of the world to “the world is peripheral to the church” when we understand Jesus is creator and ruler of all things.

By Kathleen Petersen

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The World is Peripheral to the Church | Ephesians 1:22-23, Hebrews 2:82021-09-02T14:26:16-06:00

The Power of Jesus | Ephesians 1:19-23

  “…oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength!

 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.” Ephesians 1:19-22a  (The Message)

We sat on the grass watching the sun slowly set over the mountains. The sky had those brilliant outlines of orange against the clouds. The sun’s brightness radiated… a big glowing ball as it settled behind the horizon. It’s nice to have a front row seat to these Colorado evening spectacles. As we walked home, we chatted with neighbors who were taking in the same sight.

When we got home, I grabbed a book to update myself on some of our sun’s amazingly powerful characteristics. So here’s what I read first – “Our sun is rated a star of only the fifth magnitude. It shines with a mild, yellow light and is 100,000 times less luminous than its brightest neighbor.” WHAT?! Are you talking about the same sun that’s burning up patches of my lawn?

But I kept on reading and soon was swimming in a sea of big facts. Our sun is 864,000 miles in diameter. It consists of some 335 quadrillion cubic miles of violent hot gases. It weighs more than 2 octillion tons. (How do you write out an octillion!?) And while we orbit around the sun once a year, the sun orbits around the center of our galaxy (the Milky Way) once every 200 million years! (Who’s counting this stuff!?)

Here’s another quick fact. The Milky Way contains 100 billion orbiting stars, just like our sun. That’s hard to wrap my mind around. One last mind boggler – Edwin Hubble, the astronomer, calculates that there are as many galaxies outside the Milky Way as there are stars in it.

Take another look at today’s verses. Just think and ponder… our savior, Jesus, was raised from the dead with and by a power that’s greater than all this. He rules with that power over all things – from “galaxies to governments”. And guess what… He lives within us, going with us wherever we may go. That very same power is available to help us daily in whatever we face.

Next time you feel overwhelmed, take some time out to view a sunset… and keep Ephesians 1 nearby just in case you need to get perspective.

By Dan Elliott

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The Power of Jesus | Ephesians 1:19-232021-09-02T14:24:23-06:00

Eyes of Your Heart May Be Enlightened | Ephesians 1:18

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. II Corinthians 4:6 NIV

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, Ephesians 1:17-18 NIV

This unique phrase Paul used in Ephesians 1:18, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” means that he wanted the members of the churches in Asia to grow in their spiritual and moral understanding. Paul prayed that they would rely on the Holy Spirit to do the teaching and that they would listen, learn and act on the understanding of God the Holy Spirit gave them. Paul told the Church at Corinth, “what we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words,” I Corinthians 2:13.

In Ezekiel God expressed His desire for his people to have undivided, pliable, teachable hearts and that He wanted to give them a new spirit, (Ezekiel 11:19). God wants to transform our hearts morally and spiritually. Paul recorded a similar prayer in Colossians 1:9-10, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” Paul prayed for all the believers to be filled with wisdom and understanding given by the Holy Spirit.

Paul prayed these verses found in Ephesians 1:15-23 for the members of the Asian churches near Ephesus in the first century. But this is a prayer I encourage you to pray for yourself, for your loved ones, for your fellow church members and friends. Paul prayed, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” Ephesians 1:17-18. This is a powerful prayer to pray – that we all need frequently – all of our lives.

By Grace Hunter

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Eyes of Your Heart May Be Enlightened | Ephesians 1:182021-09-02T14:21:52-06:00

Gratitude for Our Hope | Ephesians 1:17-18

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. Ephesians 1:18-19a

Hope is a powerful thing. Hal Lindsay said it well when he penned, “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air…but only for one second without hope.” It seems hope is a necessity to both survive and thrive. In his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul erupts into a hopeful prayer. The verses above are part of that prayer.

Paul feels the need to pray that they will be enlightened to know their hope. Have you ever felt hopeless? Perhaps you need this same heart-enlightenment that Paul prays the Ephesians to have.

The question is, how does one go about getting the eyes of their hearts open to see hope? The rest of this text gives us some clues. I wish I could point out every clue here, but instead, I will focus on one clue that He leaves us.

Paul says that this hope has something to do with “the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Relationships with other followers of Jesus are part of the content of our hope. Wait, our relationships often cause us to feel most disheartened, yet Pauls thinks they are rich with hope? Imagine for a moment a community of people who all begin to behave like Jesus. It may not be easy to imagine at first, but if you can, it is one of the most hopeful images I can think of. Take a moment to imagine a community of people who all genuinely behave like Jesus. Now ask Jesus to give you one way to act like a person who fits that image. Step out and do that thing.

By Aaron Bjorklund

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Gratitude for Our Hope | Ephesians 1:17-182021-09-02T14:19:43-06:00

Gratitude for One Another | Ephesians 1:15-16

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. Ephesians 1:15-16

Take a look at Ephesians 1, Philippians 1, and Colossians 1. All three chapters have a section, sometimes a lengthy one, where Paul gives thanks for the believers in the church he is writing to. True, a thanksgiving section was typical for letters at this time, but Paul also genuinely seems to mean it. He really loves the people he is writing to and wants their best. He enjoys and treasures the time that they spent together and their memory really does fill him with joy and thanksgiving.

Do you resonate with Paul’s love for his fellow believers? Sometimes this can be hard to do. Every church community will fall short and fail one another- sometimes in serious ways. For those of us dealing with hurtful or even abusive interactions with other Christians it can be extremely difficult to summon a glimmer of thankfulness in the midst of the pain and frustration. Even if our frustrations are fairly low stakes, disappointment can cloud our view of our church body.

It can take work to find reasons to be thankful for our brothers and sisters in Christ, but there are reasons to be thankful. Thankful for the volunteers who help our church run. Thankful for those who gather to study Scripture and pray together week after week. Thankful for the kids who run around the building. Thankful for friends and strangers who gather together to worship our God. Thankful that we do not walk the path of faith alone.

Who are you thankful for? Write a thank you note (or thank you email) to someone in our church body. Don’t stop there. Pray Paul’s prayer for them as well. And if you find yourself struggling to be thankful for anyone or anything in the church right now, ask God to bring someone to mind.

By Jessica Rust

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Gratitude for One Another | Ephesians 1:15-162021-09-02T14:17:34-06:00
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