South Fellowship Church

The Daily

Comfort Food

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4 NIV

Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD, the man you teach from your law; Psalm 94:12 NIV

Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me. Psalm 86:17 NIV

Comfort. This is a lovely word. It conjures visions of mashed potatoes slathered with butter, a huge vanilla ice cream cone, a soft, cozy down comforter, an incredibly soft pillow, or the embrace of a loved one when I feel sad or am mourning. What comforts you? Take a moment and picture that thing, person, or experience.

David composed Psalm 23, and he is uniquely qualified to use these beautiful words to describe how God comforts us. David was a shepherd as a boy and as a teenager. Later he was Israel’s anointed king. David describes God as our personal shepherd. In John 10:11 Jesus says, [He is] “the good shepherd.” He goes on to say, “[He] lays down [His] life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15).

David describes walking through the valley of death, not being left there, but walking through it – with his shepherd, his God, by his side. Then he tells us that the shepherd’s tools are a comfort to him – David, the sheep. David tells us the shepherd has a rod and a staff with him. My NIV study Bible says that the rod was used as an instrument of authority, for protection from predators and danger, for counting, guiding and rescuing the sheep. The staff was used for support, and for effectively bringing wandering sheep back into the fold. How are these tools a comfort?

1. The shepherd is WITH the sheep; sheep can’t be left alone; they must be under a shepherd’s care at all times or they can’t find food, protect themselves from danger, or find their way – as they tend to wander. God is WITH me.
2. The rod was used for discipline – to teach wayward sheep to come back, and to protect them – to keep robbers, and wild animals from carrying the sheep off for food. God CORRECTS and PROTECTS me.
3. The staff is there for support, to hold up, to help when the road is rocky, and it is a sign of authority. God SUPPORTS me, and has authority over me – HE is SOVEREIGN and in control.

Comfort. Remember what or what person represents a picture of comfort? Now, picture God as your comforter, as your protector, as your teacher, as your shepherd, as your parent – holding you close, guiding you, correcting you, holding you up, and walking with you. God is all of this and more.

Comfort Food2022-07-20T17:14:39-06:00

He Feeds and Restores My Soul

The Lord is my Shepherd {to feed, guide and shield me}, I shall not lack.
He lets me lie down in {fresh, tender} green pastures. He Leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my soul (life).
(Psalm 23:1-3a) Amplified

And He humbled you and allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you recognize and personally know that man does not live by bread only, but man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
(Deuteronomy 8:3) Amplified.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. (Psalm 37:3) NKJV

I wait {patiently} for the Lord, my soul {expectantly} waits,
And in His word do I hope. (Psalm 130:6) Amplified

Certain words in the above scriptures bring, in some cases, new perspectives, and in others, vivid memories. This is why I like to use different versions of the bible. In the the verses from Psalm 23, “He lets me lie down,” has a different feel to me than “He makes me lie down,” and the addition of “fresh, tender,” to “green pastures” calls up a memory of walking barefoot in dew wet grass in the early morning.

The Deuteronomy passage reminds me of times in my childhood when money was scarce and food was simple and repetitive. We lived for a time on a dry land farm where we didn’t have much in the way of vegetables or fruit. Because we had chickens and cows, we had eggs and milk, cream and butter. Most breakfasts included oatmeal, and our bread was often biscuits. Sandwiches would be cold biscuits with whatever was available to put between them.

Psalm 37 encourages me to trust and be nourished by memories of how God has been faithful in providing for my physical needs, and especially needs that I’ve had when grieving loss.

Psalm 130:6 points out that growing in the Lord takes time, and that scripture is rich with his words of hope and restoration for my soul.

How about you? Do you have favorite scriptures that are “green pastures” and “still, restful waters for your soul”? There are so many scriptures that can draw us closer to our Father in Heaven, our Good Shepherd, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit living inside us – to bring to our memory help in times of need. Listen to the song, You Restore My Soul.

He Feeds and Restores My Soul2022-07-20T15:30:17-06:00

Dinner in the Desert

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.
Psalm 23:1-3a

Psalm 23 drops us into a desert scene. The desert is not a place of abundance. It’s a place of great need and a place of just enough. In this desert, we meet a shepherd and a poet. The shepherd leads his sheep with compassionate care through the difficult terrain. The poet likens himself to a helpless sheep yielding to the shepherd’s guidance during a season of great need.

When we enter poetry like Psalm 23, we find ourselves caught up in this imagery as well. We, like this poet, long to have our needs met, especially in seasons when provision is scarce. We yearn for our deep hunger to be cared for by someone who dearly loves us, who can see beyond our immediate needs, and who can lead us to a healthy future.

During desert times, we learn to trust the one who leads us. We learn to trust in the provision of the good shepherd. The one who guides us to places where we can graze, even if they are only tufts of grass. The one who guides us to a place of refreshment, even if they are only muddy pools of water from last month’s rain.

Jesus wants to eat with us in times of abundance and in times of scarcity. He wants to provide for our needs no matter which season we find ourselves in. Today, spend time in gratitude looking back at when God has provided for you in abundance and in scarcity.

Dinner in the Desert2022-07-20T15:21:34-06:00

Returning Home

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Even for an adventurous soul, there is something special about returning home. “Home is where the heart is (Gaius Plinius Secundus).” This well-known saying captures something about the emotions we feel about home. The idea of home is a place of rest. Jesus’ invitation to the weary and burdened feels like an invitation to a spiritual home.

What is it about a home that allows us to rest? May I suggest that one of the reasons home brings us peace is owed to the fact that it is familiar? It is a place where you know the rules of engagement. It is a place where you can find things.

When I worked for an international mission agency, we had a counselor who would train our new missionaries as they prepared to move overseas. She taught us about what she called automobility. Automobility is your brain’s ability to automate various tasks in your life. Your brain is a calorie-saving machine. It is constantly trying to automate repeated activities so that you have more mental capacity to think about other things. If you have ever driven to work and suddenly realized that you don’t consciously remember going the familiar route, then you have experienced automobility.

Have you ever gone on vacation and returned home more tired than you started? There are physiological reasons for that. You eliminate many of your brain’s automated functions when you leave home. Things like locating the bathroom, finding your clothes, and getting to the grocery store are automated at home. Traveling demands more energy for your brain to process performing those same tasks. It requires a shocking amount of calorie burn to process such simple tasks. When you return from a vacation, you are likely more tired because of all that extra work.

So what does that mean for our spiritual lives? First, it may help you plan your travel more wisely. Plan for space to rest; you will need it. Give your travel companions extra grace; their brain is working on overload, which can be taxing on energy and emotions. One final thought I can offer is to learn to leverage your brain’s ability to automate tasks. Your brain’s ability to automate life is actually why spiritual practices work. When you arrange your life with repeated activities that point you to Jesus (spiritual practices), you are becoming more habitually righteous. Walking in the way of Jesus becomes increasingly a matter of habit rather than overcoming a weak will.

Read this quote from Henri Nouwen and take a moment to ask yourself what practices you can put into your life to help your soul be at home with God, even when traveling physically?

Home is the center of my being where I can hear the voice that says: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests’ – the same voice that gave life to the first Adam and spoke to Jesus, the second Adam; the same voice that speaks to all the children of God and sets them free to live in the midst of a dark world while remaining in the light. – Henri Nouwen

Returning Home2022-07-16T16:01:34-06:00

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
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