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South Fellowship Church

A Foreigner in the Family

Dear Friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles , to abstain from sinful desires , which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2) MSG

I wish I had known as a child that scripture verses like the above would become a comfort and strength to me.

I often felt like a foreigner, an exile, even an alien among the various relatives I lived with during my early childhood. Because of the specialized care both my parents needed for health issues, I was relocated multiple times to live with a variety of relatives – sometimes in different towns or even states – sometimes for a few months – occasionally a few years. Always, there were new rules to learn – houses, neighborhoods and towns/cities to navigate. My sister and I were together part of the time, but mostly I was alone. When I asked why, I was told, “You’ve just got to understand!”

When I was eleven, I was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Denver and I have lived in the Denver metro area ever since. Although my aunt and uncle didn’t go to church, God blessed me with neighbors who took me with them. It was at church that I found family in the Lord.

Recently, after a lifetime, I’ve come to realize that those experiences were a gift from God. The scriptures above are about how we as followers of Jesus are to live in the world among people who do not know or often do not want to know God. How we live and our attitudes and actions, may draw some to want to know God. As I reflect on my past: those experiences of not fitting into my environment have become a help in “living in the now”.

How about you? As you follow Jesus in the world around you, what areas of your life can you look back on as having been a preparation for living in and walking with God “in the now”. Read 1 Peter and Romans. Ask God to show you the way he desires to use the gift of your life today.

A Foreigner in the Family2022-07-16T15:52:43-06:00

Redeeming Travel

Transportation in the scriptures may have included animals, chariots, and boats, but the most common form of travel was by foot. Today, we can get from point A to point B in so many other creative ways like trains, planes, and automobiles. The modern list goes on. We have Segways, scooters, smart wheels, etc.

Humanity continues to master the art of getting places quickly and efficiently. But, Jesus chose to come during a time in history when the main form of travel was slow. What, then, can we learn from Jesus by the way he traveled from place to place?

Matthew 9:35-38 says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ’The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”

  1. Jesus had a lifestyle of travel. “He went through all the towns and villages…” Matthew 9:35a
  2. Jesus lived out his identity and purpose wherever he went. “… teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” Matthew 9:35b
  3. Jesus paid attention to what his Father was revealing. “When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few’.” Matthew 9:36-37
  4. Jesus modeled talking with his Father as he went about his travels. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:38

We don’t have to embrace a lifestyle of geological travel like Jesus, but as we go from point A to point B in our day, we can travel as Jesus did by embracing our God-given identity and looking for God’s revelations.

Imagine yourself in the following experiences: How might you connect with God while driving? While on an airplane? While biking or on another form of transportation?

No matter where we need to travel to and from today, you can connect with the Lord. Just as Ruth pleaded with Naomi to be close to her wherever they would travel next, use her words as a prayer for your travels today. Lord Jesus, “don’t urge me to leave you … Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.” (‭‭Ruth‬ ‭1:16a).

Redeeming Travel2022-07-16T15:45:20-06:00

Protection for the Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage: a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.

In 1977, just one year after the infamous hijacking of Air France flight 139 from Tel Aviv to Paris, I started my two week pilgrimage to Israel aboard an El Al flight from D.C. to Tel Aviv. I stayed with friends in Herzliya and Jerusalem while I explored places of biblical and historical significance. Every part of the country was under perpetual high alert for terrorist attacks but, for some reason, I felt safe.

Israel has always had perilous hotspots. In Jesus’ day one of them was the road going up from Jericho to Jerusalem (parable of the Good Samaritan). In the days of the Temple, all roads going up to Jerusalem had certain dangers. When faithful Jews made pilgrimages through the mountains surrounding Jerusalem for the three required festivals, they would sing the 15 songs of Ascents or Pilgrimage found in Psalms 120 – 135. Jesus would have sung these songs every year as his family traveled from Nazareth to worship in the holy city.

Psalm 121 (CSB) reminded pilgrims that the LORD was their Protector whatever route they took.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.

Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.

The LORD protects you;
the LORD is a shelter right by your side.

The sun will not strike you by day
or the moon by night.

The LORD will protect you from all harm;
he will protect your life.

The LORD will protect your coming and going
both now and forever.

It seems to me the second verse is key when engaging in unfamiliar or dangerous travel.

My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He’s made heaven and earth…if he’s the one who leads me, there’s no place he isn’t sovereign. Furthermore, my ultimate destiny is already settled when I’m trusting him.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

Take a look at the first two minutes of this video showing the road from Jericho to Jerusalem that Jesus walked just prior to his crucifixion on his way to the festival of Passover. Then, envision an unfamiliar place you believe God wants you to visit – or a spiritual destiny where he is leading you. Read Psalm 121 above and trust the LORD to protect you as you travel.

Protection for the Pilgrimage2022-07-21T13:22:08-06:00

On the Road

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 upon 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 NIV

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22 NIV

Summer is the season for travel for many of us. When our 4 children were young, we often went on cross country trips in the summertime. Early on, we homeschooled while traveling. The time in the car – on the road – going to our “destination” was not wasted time. Our children did school work, they listened to music, to “Adventures in Odyssey ” tapes, and later to books on CD. My daughter and I often crocheted, or read books, newspapers, or created things. Our boys would make fantastic configurations out of Legos, played games or slept. Of course, we also looked out the windows, enjoyed the scenery of our beautiful country.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 invites us to talk about our God, how He works, and how we can relate to Him in our everyday lives. Traveling together has given us unique and extended time with our family to engage in these kinds of conversations. Many times, the topic of an “Adventure in Odyssey” tape would spark spiritual conversations among our children, and my husband and I took advantage of these unique teaching opportunities.

Jesus traveled all year round. His ministry was one that took Him all over Galilee, Judea, Samaria and even to Tyre, Sidon and to the area known as the Decapolis. Of course, He traveled to and from Jerusalem several times too. A quick look at the book of Luke reveals that Jesus also took advantage of the unique opportunities travel gave Him. John 4 tells of Jesus stopping to rest awhile on a journey and having a “chance” conversation with a Samaritan woman. This “perhaps unexpected” rest stop resulted in a rich time of teaching for this woman and her village. Luke 8:11 and Luke 13:22 tell us Jesus traveled to many villages and taught there. As He traveled, He often stopped along the way to heal people – a widow’s son (Luke 7:11), 10 men with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19), and a blind beggar (Luke 18:35).

How can you take advantage of your travel time opportunities? Here are a few ideas. Keep a journal while on vacation, and thank God for his creation and the unique time with family and friends. Spend time in prayer while going from one place to the next. Engage in conversations with those around you or with those you meet. Look for opportunities to share the God you know and love with others while you travel.

On the Road2022-07-16T15:03:14-06:00

Are You a Pilgrim?

Pilgrim: a person who journeys to a sacred place for religious reasons.

In the summer of 2015, my husband and I traveled a thousand miles by car in Norway. We started in Bergen and zipped around the fjords, mountains, and through tunnels to end up in Trondheim. While traveling, we stayed in several AirBnBs. The last one was a modern farmhouse 50 miles from Trondheim. We were curious about two extremely weathered buildings on the property and found they were reserved for pilgrims who had walked almost 400 miles on the St. Olav Ways pilgrim trail route from Oslo to Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim.

We conversed with one German pilgrim who confirmed that several wooden churches we had seen on our car trip were part of her journey. Ancient Christian pilgrim routes like St. Olav Ways have recently become more traveled – not just by Christians, but by those looking for some kind of spiritual experience.

Formal pilgrim walking journeys to sacred places are part of ancient European Christian history, but also include well traveled paths to shrines throughout the world. Some examples are the Temple in Jerusalem, the Kaaba in Mecca, Kumano Kodō in Japan, Machu Picchu in the Andes, Mount Kailash in Tibet, or Haridwar along the Ganges. Pilgrimage seems hardwired into human experience.

I’d like to think the following pilgrimage is one Christians should emulate:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1 ESV)

In amazing obedience to God, Abram became a pilgrim from Haran to Shechem and eventually the Negev – walking over 600 miles. Here’s another part of that pilgrimage:

Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you.” (Genesis 13:17 ESV)

The pilgrimage directions given to the prophet Micah and by Peter are not only about who to walk with but what to do and what to abstain from on the way:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8 ESV)

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. (I Peter 2:11 ESV)

And, the writer of Hebrews penned a poignant reminder about the sacred destiny of Christian pilgrims:

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. (Hebrews 13:14 ESV)

Meditate on one of these verses as you go on a walk sometime in the next few days. Ask God to infuse that walk with his presence and give you a new perspective. Ask him to give you a way to make it a sacred journey. Here are perspectives from Arthur Blessitt and Ann Sieben who each have spent substantial years walking thousands of miles through many countries as Christian pilgrims.

Are You a Pilgrim?2022-07-09T16:44:12-06:00

Everyday Walking

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) NKJV

Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors. ( Psalm 119:24) NKJV

And I will walk in liberty for I seek Your precepts.(Psalm 119:45)
And I will delight myself in Your commandments which I love.
(Psalm 119:47) NKJV

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105) NKJV

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5-6) MSG

Most of my walking this week will be close to home as I spend time asking questions and listening for answers from a variety of people about some projects I’m working on. I get in a lot of walking while I wait “in line” on the phone for the next available customer service person. I appreciate my Apple watch, because it records my steps, activity, stairs climbed, oxygen level and heartbeat among other things.

This week, since some of my family are out of town, I am using alone time to practice solitude, silence, scripture meditation and prayer, as I care for some extra details of maintaining the house and yard. All of them include lots of walking, stair climbing and lifting. As I work, I practice listening to God say “Yes, no, and not yet,” especially as it is easy for me to get distracted from the task I’m on by something else I see that needs doing. The above scriptures are ones that encourage my focus on the Lord as I go about my day.

Take some time this week to ask God how you can draw closer to him in the ordinary activities of your life. Meditate on the above scriptures and ask the Lord to show you other verses that encourage you.

Everyday Walking2022-07-09T16:33:37-06:00

WATCH YOUR STEP

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:4-5 NIV

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant Psalm 25:9-10 NIV

Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth. Psalm 26:2-3 NIV

“Watch your step; choose your path carefully; look where you are going”. These are different ways of saying: “make wise choices in how, where, and when you choose to walk”. Imagine a young child who is still unsteady on their feet; the adult with the child may say similar things to guide the young one, to keep the child’s attention on where he or she puts his or her next step.

Our Heavenly Father gives us similar advice. Read Psalm 25 and Psalm 26. As you read, look for words that pertain to walking, sitting, paths to take, and who does the teaching and leading. Pay attention to the verbs in these two psalms and who is described as doing these actions. Did you see that we all have choices to make? Sometimes David describes how he has walked, or sometimes he is asking God to do something for him.

“Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth.” (Psalm 26:2-3) David asked God to look at his innermost character, his motivations, his thoughts, and to determine if David was making right, wise, and godly choices. David’s request reveals he was humble, that he admitted he needed God’s guidance and advice on how, where and when to walk.

Just like a young child, we all can choose to listen to the wise advice given us, or we can run headlong down a bumpy, dangerous, and ill advised route. In these two psalms, I see David asking for God’s guidance, seeking God’s truth, keeping his eyes on God’s faithfulness and love shown to David in his past, in order to enable David to make wise choices in how to walk in the future.

We all make choices in how we walk everyday. We can choose to obey or disobey God: we can choose to walk by our faith in God, or to walk by sight only. We can choose our path by following God’s truth, or by listening to false teaching that others profess. We can choose to walk in righteousness or in wickedness. Take some time today, respond to these psalms in prayer of confession. Admit before God: choices you have made – paths you have taken – that might have been unwise or bad.

WATCH YOUR STEP2022-07-09T16:29:38-06:00

Spiritual Walking

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him,
“I am God Almighty;
Walk before Me, and be blameless. Genesis 17:1

I struggle to think in a straight line. It isn’t only when I’m trying to focus on a task but also when I pray or listen to God. Walking helps me. Walking, I can focus on a single idea for longer than when I sit still. More than that, my body’s motion helps translate ideas into emotions and intentions. This isn’t just my reality; it’s a human reality. Walking creates a bilateral stimulation of the brain. That means we begin to operate in both hemispheres of our brain. This kind of neuro activity strengthens learning and resolve.

I tend to be a cognitive person. I live in my thoughts. The side effect of that is that I struggle with emotions. I have found that my body bridges my thought life and my emotional life. Walking, singing, and dancing help me to move from thought to emotion.

Some of these things may be true for you as well. The scriptures speak of “walking with God.” Perhaps that is a more literal statement than we often think. That is why walking can be such a spiritual activity.

Try taking a walk with God this week. Think of a subject that you want God to speak into. Place that thought before your conscious mind and begin to walk. Ask God about it. What does he think? What does he want you to know? What does he want you to do? Once you are finished, evaluate whether walking helped you engage with God better than if you had prayed while still.

Spiritual Walking2022-07-08T20:29:47-06:00

The God Who Walks

Walking is a strong, repetitive theme through the scriptures, and the first moment we witness walking is in the context of God slowly making his way through his garden.

God walks. We catch a glimpse of him walking in Genesis 3.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8)

Perhaps this verse is too familiar to really note how unusual this sounds. How does God walk? Does God have legs? How would God’s walk sound? What was his experience like that day enjoying the garden during the coolness of the day?

Although we might not be able to answer every question that arises from the various descriptions of God in the scriptures, we can get curious about the importance of God walking.

When we walk…

  1. we have to get up and get moving
  2. we notice more of the world around us
  3. we can process thoughts using both sides of our brain

Walking often slows us down, keeps us healthy, and draws us into the present moment. And, this is what God does too. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s not in a hurry and he’s always present with us moment by moment. In God’s walking, God offers us himself.

“I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God. And you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:11-12)

Today, ask God to go for a walk with you and notice what walking does for your body and your brain.

The God Who Walks2022-07-08T20:18:05-06:00

Participating By Entering In

First this: God created the Heavens and the Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, and inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.(Genesis 1:1-2) MSG

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself of all privileges and rightful dignity, so as to assume the guise of a servant, in that He became like men and was born a human being. (Philippians 2: 5-7) AMP

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when He came up out of the water, at once he saw the heavens torn open and the Holy Spirit like a dove coming down [to enter] into Him; And there came a voice out from within heaven, You are My Beloved Son; in You I am well pleased. Immediately the Holy Spirit [from within] drove Him out into the wilderness (desert). And He stayed in the wilderness (desert) forty days, being tempted [the while] by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him. (Mark 1:9-13) AMP

I enjoy study and the tools I have to make it possible: Along with multiple versions of scripture, I enjoy dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, maps of bible lands, and cultural study bibles. Yes, even Google, and the websites available to my cell phone. A problem for me, though, is how chaotic my study area looks with books piled on books, notes everywhere and, especially, my frustration with websites that intersperse information I want with multiple advertisements between paragraphs of what I need.

As the word study this week is “chaos”, my 1946 dictionary definition: a condition of utter disorder and confusion, as the primordial state of the universe describes (Genesis 1:1-2) And: extreme confusion and disorder, describes my study area and my frustration.

What steadies and encourages me is that God brought order out of the chaos in the beginning, and then, Jesus was willing to enter into participation with us to experience the same confusion and disorder we do. (Philippians 2:5-7) He, too, was tempted like us in the small, daily things. (Hebrews 4:15) Even after Jesus comes up out of the water, and the Holy Spirit, like a dove, (perhaps a reference to Genesis 1:2), comes down and enters him, Jesus is still sent to the wilderness to experience extreme temptation by Satan in the large things that also tempt us.

I love John 13-17 where Jesus shows the disciples how to serve each other, gives them a new commandment to love one another, describes his obedient relationship with his Father, and promises the Holy Spirit who will live inside us to remind us of all Jesus said and more, and to give us the inner power to obey Jesus’s commands, Then Jesus prays for not only the disciples who are present, but for us who come after them. Jesus also tells them honestly that they and we will have trouble in this world. He never promised easy; he only promised “with” (to be with us).

Jesus calls us to participate with him by entering into each other’s lives in the chaos that we all deal with sometimes. We can do it by service, time spent listening and especially faithfully praying for those whom we know are going through a wearying time of any sort of disorder and confusion.

Participating By Entering In2022-07-02T19:56:07-06:00
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