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Paul: A Life of Redemption and Transformation

How much junk mail do you receive? What do you do with it?


What happens when you receive a letter from a beloved friend that you haven’t seen in a while? It’s interesting in our digital age how a hand written letter or card in the mail box grabs our attention. When you know the sender, even more when you know the authors heart mail increases in value.


To know the value of the letter from Paul to the Church family in Corinth maybe it would be helpful to know Paul a little more. One great way to do that is the the Faithlife Study Bible. I like because it’s free, it’s very smart without being over our heads, and it connects the dot’s in Scripture. Here is a sample of the simple yet helpful insight from the Faithlife Study Bible.


Paul: A Life of Redemption and Transformation


Paul’s life demonstrates God’s amazing ability to redeem and transform. Paul once lived as an enemy of the Christian faith. He sought to destroy everything that Christ achieved through His death and resurrection. Yet God did not simply stop Paul; in His grace He utterly transformed Paul. He even took Paul’s strengths as a Pharisee—his knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, his education in the Greek and Roman system, and his overwhelming zeal—and used it to help spread the gospel.


In the New Testament we learn that Paul, who was first known as “Saul,” was born in Tarsus, a Hellenistic city in the Roman province of Cilicia in modern Turkey (Acts 22:3). According to the book of Acts, Paul was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28). In his letters Paul traces his Jewish ancestry back to the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1; Phil 3:5).


Like other young Jewish boys, Paul would have learned a trade. In Paul’s case, the skills he learned as a tentmaker would later support him during his missionary journey (e.g., Acts 18:3). While he was still young, Paul went to Jerusalem and studied under the well-known Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Following such tutelage, Paul eventually became a Pharisee himself (Acts 26:5; Phil 3:5)


Paul first appears in the book of Acts at the stoning of Stephen. This account paints Paul in a terrible, even shocking light. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a man full of the Spirit who remained faithful even in the face of death (Acts 7:55). As Stephen was stoned, Paul silently stood witness, approving of the killing (Acts 8:1; 22:20). Following this horrific act, Paul committed himself to destroying the Church (Acts 22:4–5; Gal 1:13). He even received authority from the high priest to pursue Christians outside of Jerusalem to bring them back as prisoners (Acts 9:1–2; 26:9–10). Paul passionately and zealously pursued those whom he believed to be blasphemers of God. His quest to eradicate the Church created widespread fear among early Christian believers (Acts 9:13).


During this period of his life, while on the road to Damascus, he had a supernatural and life-changing encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9:1–9). The man known and feared throughout the Christian world by the Hebrew name Saul was renamed and reborn. He turned his zealous, unstoppable passion to persecute the Church into an obsessive obedience to the risen Christ (Phil 3:7–11). In his new Christian life, he never forgot where he came from, how he persecuted the Church, or his God-given calling (1 Cor 15:9).


As an apostle called by God, Paul devoted himself to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, the very message he once vehemently opposed. The work God accomplished through Paul was nothing short of miraculous. In his many years of ministry, he preached the gospel in many cities, established many new churches, and gathered a collection of financial support among the Gentiles for the poor in Jerusalem.


"Paul’s life bears testimony to God’s amazing power and to His ability to take our past rebellion and transform it and use it for His glory, His Church, and the world. Through God’s work in Paul’s life, we glimpse the miraculous beauty and possibilities of God.

Jason J. Bowman"


https://ref.ly/o/fsb/8379507?length=276

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Sermon Recap

As you probably heard on Sunday, my time on staff with South is coming to an end, and in the new year I will transition mentally to living full time in Johnson City, TN. It has been such a pleasure to work with leaders who value discipleship and learning, thank you for encouraging me in my writings and making my work so fun, it has truly been an honor and a privilege.


Although it is the week of Christmas and everyone is very busy I did want to leave a simple thought that you are welcome to pass along to your community and group members, reminding one another of the incredible Messiah we are blessed to know and serve.


John 10:3 says, "The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out."


In the time of Jesus's birth and life, multiple shepherds kept their sheep in one huge pen together. Walls were built as a fence to keep them in, but in the place where the walls converged, instead of a door locking the pin up tight, there was simply a gap. The "gatekeeper" stood in this space, only allowing the legitimate shepherds who owned flocks within the gate to enter. Anyone else who had to climb over the gate was bad news. When the gatekeeper needed to sleep, they would lay across the entrance, using their very body to protect the flocks from harm. The gatekeeper lay in the gap between safety and wilderness. Sound familiar? This is why Jesus refers to himself in an additional metaphor as "the door to the sheep."


Here's where it gets even better. Since multiple flocks were kept in a single pen, to get a particular flock out, all the shepherd had to do was call. The sheep, having been raised and cared for by that single person, would respond. Members of other flocks would not come in response to that voice. How well do you know His voice? Do you hear Him when He calls, or are you having trouble discerning Him from all of the other sounds in your life right now? Tune your ears to Him today, and follow where He is leading you!


Although He is our gatekeeper, with all power and authority rightfully His, He also assumed a humble position, as a spotless lamb. He lived among us, served us, taught us, and eventually died for us, laying in the gap so that we might be redeemed in Him. 


What a God we serve! King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Gatekeeper, Ruler, Prince of Peace, and our Spotless Lamb. 


Do you hear His voice? He's calling to you!

 

Thank you again for sharing your time with me throughout this season, I have learned so much through this opportunity! It brings me great joy to say that although I may be living somewhere new, South will always be home. 


Together in Christ,

Emily

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Sermon Recap and Small Group Discussion Questions

We are three weeks into this Advent series and have discussed what it looks like to have a higher perspective of God's hope, love and most recently, joy. 


We tend to think of joy as circumstantial, or contingent upon what is happening around us. As Pastor Chad pointed out to us through the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel, joy is a posture we can choose to hold.


Consequently, as we are talking about posture, I have been learning this week about the effect that tilting our heads has on the rest of our body. When we lean our heads down at an angle, such as when we are looking down at our smartphone, it puts an enormous amount of pressure on our cervical spine. If you bend your neck at a sixty degree angle, that is like holding 60 lbs of extra weight around your neck. If you are having trouble imagining that, think of holding an 8-year old child around your neck for several hours a day. Not surprisingly, the physical ramification for that kind of constant pressure are severe. 


Our emotional posture is no different. We must be cognizant of how we are carrying ourselves, and where our eyes are fixed. Are we hunched over, trying to protect ourselves from the onslaught of pain around us? Or are we standing tall and confident, choosing to walk in steadfast joy no matter what crosses our path?


Despite the fact that Hannah is tormented by people around her who want her to believe that she is less than enough, she continues seeking God's will and worshipping Him in the midst of her grief. 


We too must take up a joyful posture. We are not victims of our circumstances, but are able to take the gold out of each situation and make something beautiful with it. So stand up to the voices around you trying to deceive you into thinking you are a failure! Bow down to the God before you who promises to make beauty from ashes! Finally, rest in the assurance that joy comes from trusting who is to come, not in the circumstances at hand.


Sermon Bulletin: Click here.


Sermon Discussion Questions:

1. What small change can you make in your daily routine that sets the tone for your day to be a joyful one?

2. What is your atmosphere like? Do you have a lot of negativity around you? Do you have people that give you encouragement? 

3. Think of three changes you want to make internally (emotionally, mentally) and externally (people, routine) to ensure you are living in an environment that is joyful.

 

Journeying together,

Emily

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Sermon Recap and Small Group Discussion Questions

We are moving on now in our journey South to Bethlehem!


Mary and Joseph have been on their journey for a couple of days and the trail is becoming harder. They have begun the steep climb of the Hills of Ephraim and it is a sharp incline without any downhill breaks. They have blisters on their feet and aches in their muscles.


As Mary and Joseph enter into Samaritan territory, they might have questioned once again whether they should take the long way around to avoid the area and any trouble they could run into. They might have asked God, would you really send us through the land of our enemy, a land that causes us discomfort, tension and even fear? I believe that their route was very specific and purposeful. Would God send this new couple down an arduous path to discover a greater understanding of His love? It certainly sounds like something He would do, doesn't it?!


They might have come into contact with some of the people alongside the road as they traveled through the land. There might have been conversations, or simply sightings that stayed in the minds of Mary and Joseph long after they had passed by. I believe that they learned a lot on their journey to Bethlehem, like how to better love God and others.


We are also on a journey to discovering how to do this well. On Sunday, Pastor Chad explained that loving God is loving others, you cannot separate the two. So, if you are not loving others, YOU ARE NOT LOVING GOD. It is that straight-forward. 


Sermon Bulletin: click here.


Sermon Discussion Questions:

1. Loving God transforms our hearts so that we love others the way He does. How do you believe God has changed your heart so that you can love others better?

2. We are called to love others willingly, intentionally and sacrificially. Which of these three is the hardest for you to do? Which is the easiest?

3. If you could pinpoint the "tension" you often feel when trying to love others intentionally, what would it be?

4. How can you "B.L.E.S.S." someone else this Christmas season? Who has gone set on your heart to be his expression of love?

 

Journeying together, 

Emily

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How To Bless Your Neighbor This Christmas!

We want to empower you to B.L.E.S.S. your network and neighborhoods this Christmas! Use these simple ideas to spark conversations with friends, family, neighbors, social media connections and people you encounter throughout your day. If we all BLESS someone this Christmas, more people than ever before can experience the good news of Jesus!


THE B.L.E.S.S. TOOL


B- Begin with prayer: Ask God for an Opportunity to Share Your Story.

  • Who has God presented opportunities with. 
  • Who do I already have chemistry with? 
  • Who do I see regularly?
  • Who likes me?
  • Who listens to me?
  • Who opens up to me?


L- Listen: Lead with a question. Seek to understand, before being understood.

  • Questions create trust currency.
  • Questions communicate care.
  • Possible questions to ask:
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where did you buy that shirt?
  • What do you do?
  • What is giving you trouble in life?
  • What is bringing you joy in life?
  • Where do you hang out?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Tell me more about that?


E- Eat: Enjoying a meal with someone is one of the most spiritual things you could do. Jesus did this often.

  • Good friends + good food = great conversations
  • Possible places to take people:
  • Your home
  • Katherine’s Christian Bookstore: coffee or ice cream
  • Coco Cake Studio: baked treats 
  • Taco Riendo: 
  • Frostbite: All American Food
  • Fanboys: Barbecue 
  • The Ranch: Sandwiches
  • Melanie's Seafood Company
  • Sizzling Grill 
  • L'Incontro Italian Restaurant


S- Serve: Would our city, neighborhood, and neighbors miss us if we weren’t here?

  • Potential needs to look for:
  • Babysitting
  • Food
  • Cleaning & household needs.
  • Company
  • Clothes
  • Car pooling
  • Debt


S-Story: Everyone of us has a story to share

  • Let God write your story
  • My life before I met Jesus.
  • Compose your story
  • How I met Jesus.
  • Did a friend invite you to church?
  • Did a family member introduce you to Jesus?
  • Did you go through a hard time in life that led you to God?
  • Did an experience inspire you to get serious about committing your life to him?


IDEAS FOR SHARING CHRISTMAS

  • Send Christmas Cards with a note of encouragement
  • Leave a Christmas greeting note at your front door for delivery people
  • Share baked goods with a neighbor
  • Organize an outdoor neighborhood Christmas block Party
  • Share South’s Christmas posts on social media and use the hashtag #ChristmasEveAtSouth
  • Do an act of service for a neighbor (rake their yard, take in their trash cans, wash their car, etc.)
  • Send a text with Christmas Eve services times and an invitation to watch if they cannot join you. 
  • December 24 5pm


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Sermon Recap and Small Group Discussion Questions

As Pastor Chad reminded us on Sunday, Advent is NOT Christmas but the journey to Christmas. It is the preparation for the arrival of Jesus, the knowledge that our present circumstances are not where the story ends, there is an eternal hope waiting for us at the final destination!


One thing that is constantly attempting to destroy our hope is anxiety. Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18.1% of the population every year? That is almost 1 in every 5 people suffering with a clinical diagnosis, not to mention the immeasurable more who experience general feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease about an imminent event or uncertain outcome. Anxiety is a very real threat attempting to steal the hope we have in Jesus. 


Thankfully, in addition to medication for those suffering from clinical anxiety disorders, we have also been given many spiritual tools to navigate these struggles in the day to day circumstances we face. Take note of these three simple yet powerful ways we can combat our feelings of anxiety!


  1. Take a walk with and toward hope. Let walking slow down your pace and enjoy the change of scenery and stimulation.
  2. Proclaim God's attributes to deliver hope into your heart. Remind yourself of who God is and what He has promised to do! 
  3. Examine the anxiety you feel with God and hope will follow. Why do you feel the way you do? What is the fear or lie behind your anxiety? Identify it and ask God to speak truth into your heart.


We have also been gifted community to give us hope in the midst of feeling hopeless. Lean on one another, be a beacon of hope to your community and remember to reach out to someone you trust and ask for prayer when you are feeling as though you are defeated. This is another wonderful tool God has given us, each other!


There is an awesome sermon outline and a thorough small group guide on our online bulletin. Click here for insight on leading your group members and community to finding the true meaning of hope in their lives!


Journeying together,

Emily

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Sermon Recap and Small Group Discussion Questions

This past weekend we finished up our sermon series, Map Makers. This final sermon encompassed all of the nine traits of what it looks like to be a wholly devoted follower for us to emulate. 


Pastor Chad organized these nine traits into three phases, ME, US and THEM. In the first phase (ME) we have realized our brokenness and have committed to being a follower of Jesus and living our lives as a worshipper. In the second phase (US) we begin seeing the people around us differently and should desire to show them abundant grace, truth and love.


As we move through these first two phases we enter into the next level of becoming a wholly devoted follower of Jesus, (THEM). We are called out of the holy community we have been given to serve the greater world around us. To do this well we MUST be people defined by GIVING, SERVING, and WITNESSING.


So how are you giving to those around you with a generous heart?


How are you serving the least of these?


Who are you witnessing to each day? 


Pray about where you are in this journey to becoming a wholly devoted follower. Continue pushing yourself on the trail that leads to Him and find a higher perspective than you have ever seen before. 


Sermon Summary Video: Click here. 

Sermon Outline: Click here. 

 

Journeying together,

Emily

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Sermon Recap and Small Group Discussion Questions

For three weeks we are discussing what it looks like to be a wholly devoted follower of Jesus. The first three markings reflect our heart as we begin to understand better the destitution God has saved us from and give Him the glory for this. We (1) admit our brokenness and need of Jesus, we (2) commit to being a follower of His word and we (3) worship Him with our lives.


After that we begin a transition from our moment of salvation into a process of sanctification. Our transformation begins to overflow from internal work into external work as we move from freeing ourselves to freeing other people. This includes three more markings which are (4) giving others grace, (5) telling truths, and becoming (6) people lovers.


Many Christians become stagnant after salvation, basking in their own freedom and happiness. What would it look like if the church today was filled with people who overwhelmed this world with God's ceaseless grace, truth and love?

Get together with your community and discuss what it would require to take your commitment to follow Jesus the next step further.


Sermon Notes: Click here.

Summary Video: Click here.


Discussion Questions: 

1. Who do you know that gives grace, tells truth and loves people really well? Give an example of what you see them do that reflects Jesus.

2. Remember your moment of salvation when you realized your own personal need for Jesus. What was that like? Share with someone.

3. Consider how you can give grace, tell truth and love people better. What is one thing you can practice in order to improve this outward reflection of your inward salvation?

 

Journeying together

Emily

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Sermon Recap and Small Group Discussion Questions

As we talked about on Sunday, worshippers are a mark of a wholly devoted follower of Jesus. True worship understands the destitution that we cannot escape on our own and the life-changing grace that Christ offers us as a free gift. 


The kind of worship God really cares about is not just on Sundays, but includes Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. When you think about how your week is going, would you say you have used all of the days this week to honor God and give Him glory? Where do you see room for improvement?

If from the moment you wake to the time you go to sleep at night, your day is filled with opportunities to worship, how do you want to approach your time differently?


Confess to Jesus where you feel you are falling short. Accept His never ending grace and ask Him for the wisdom on how to do better!


Sermon Summary Video: Click here.

Sermon Notes: Click here.


Sermon Discussion Questions: 

1. Why do you think you have trouble including time with God in every day of the week, instead of just on Sundays? 

2. What can you do differently from now on to approach each day with a heart of worship?

3. What can the church as a whole do better to live as an example of daily worship to the world around us?

 

Journeying together,

Emily


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohsc2i3i9Ss

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Sermon Recap and Small Group Discussion Questions

Have you ever experienced a time when you became lost while walking along a trail out in the woods? Maybe the trail was longer than you expected or you took a wrong turn, but either way you are beginning to feel anxious. Put yourself there in that moment. You can't see anything over the tall trees and there is no one else in sight. You ate the granola bar you packed thirty minutes ago, and you are running out of water. 


Becoming panicked, you are frantically looking for the next sign or trail blaze to show you that you are going in the right direction. You try to calm yourself down by breathing deeply and telling yourself not to assume the worst. What are some other thoughts racing through your head? Have you quickened your pace? What exactly are you feeling?


Suddenly you see a sign!! You might feel instantaneous relief when it signifies that you are continuing down the correct path, or you may feel confusion when you see it directing you further in the direction of the dense trees. Maybe you feel disappointment that you aren't at all where you thought you were. These trail markers are extremely important to the journey and hold a great influence over the hikers trying to find their way down the path.  


If Christians are meant to be like "trail blazes" pointing the way for others to follow, what do you think people feel when they see you? What does your countenance put off? Do they feel comfort, or angst? Do they feel safety or uncertainty? Clarity or confusion? Take some time to pray with the Lord and make an honest assessment of the blaze you represent to others who are lost on the trail. Ask the Lord to shape you into showing less of you and more of His holy character.


Sermon Notes: Click here.

Sermon Summary Video: Click here.


Discussion Questions: 

1. Why does God give us the Great Commandment, before the Great Commission? Why is the order important?

2. If we are called to be like "trail blazers", where do you think your blaze is pointing to according to what you spend the majority of your time and resources on?

3. In the acronym B.L.E.S.S. (begin with prayer, listen, eat with others, serve, and stories) which is the hardest for you to do? What can you change to do this practice better?

4. Which of the three trailheads (family, community, nations) is the hardest for you to bless? Why do you think that is?

 

Journeying together,

Emily

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