March 6, 2017
This week’s devotional content written by Broc Jahnke, Lead Care & Support Pastor
Read Matthew 5:38-42 (emphasis on verse 39).
Jesus is often called the Master Teacher. His teachings were so simple that anyone could understand him, but at the same time they were so complex that even the wisest rulers could not always live them out.
This passage contains one of Jesus’ most difficult teachings - turning the other cheek. In earlier times vengeance was a major part of tribal interaction. If someone from your tribe was hurt by someone from another tribe, your tribe could retaliate against everyone in that other tribe. Thus, a tribal feud was formed.
In the Old Testament (see verse 38 of this passage), God changed that code to an exact vengeance. If someone took your eye, then you had the right to take their eye. This seemed very reasonable so that no one would be taken advantage of, right?
Now, Jesus comes along and takes vengeance to a different level. He asks his followers to do something that was the opposite of the law, the opposite of human nature, and the opposite of every instinct inside of them. Jesus said don’t retaliate at all. Don’t get them back in any way, shape or form.
Jesus might say, “Let it go. Forgive them. Give up the right to be repaid. It’s okay if you come out as the lesser in this situation.” The art of turning away from violence, retaliation, and winning in the face of adversity and conflict, this is the way of Christ.
The point here is that Jesus is asking us to trust his ways (even though they may be extremely difficult) and let go of doing things our way. Our way to respond often looks like try to win, gossip, and hurt others when we are attacked. Where has that way got us? A trail of hurt, strained relationships, isolation, and disappointment. What if you just let it go? What if you just turned to God’s ways and didn’t respond?
As you focus on the ways of Jesus during this Lenten season, how does this verse speak to your current situation? When you get into conflict do you always have to win or be right? How do you need to turn the other cheek at home, at work, or at your kid’s activities? What can you do to turn to God’s ways and not your own?
March 7, 2017
My question for you today is not “Do you have pain?”, because I know that you have pain from your past. I know that you have current inner turmoils. I know that you have sin that you struggle with. I know that you struggle about work, family and as I like to call them - your inner demons that infiltrate your thoughts.
Instead, my question for you today is, “What is your pain?” As you reflect on your past, what haunts you? What sin has its grasp upon you? What are your inner demons whispering to you?
What if I told you that you could be healed? What if I told you that the very Spirit of God himself is illuminating a path before you - a path of freedom, forgiveness, and a way of living which is much more consistent with the life you and God desire?
After years of searching for the answer to my struggles, I have a legitimate solution full of freedom, love and grace. The thing that bothers me is that the answer has been in front of me for all these years, yet I chose to ignore it or not realize its power.
Hope Fellowship is founded on the idea that God longs for you. He has a plan specifically for you. That plan involves salvation, healing and wholeness. His plan (the solution) of wholeness starts with these simple concepts, “The heart that’s well, is the heart that tells” and “We are as sick as our secrets”.
The Bible has taught us this - James 5:16, Proverbs 28:13, and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. Take a moment and read these passages to see what I mean. The path to our healing, our peace, our life is so clear. And the amazing things is that this path is true, it works.
Here’s what’s so clear: the Holy Spirit of God is guiding you toward healing, healing is found in an honest and vulnerable community of others, and pretending and hiding your struggles is the devil’s playground to keep you stuck and struggling.
Today, make a change. Today, trust God’s plan. Today, go to something like re:generation, re|engage, or to a counselor and follow the path of healing that God has put before you. What is your action plan? Vulnerability seems so scary, but it is so worth it.
March 8, 2017
In both of these stories a similar prayer is uttered, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” One man who says the prayer is a tax collector and the other a blind beggar. Both of these people at that time would have been considered the outcasts, the corrupt or the bothersome, or people to be ignored for their lack of understanding of the Jewish faith.
Yet, with an ironic twist of fate, Jesus proclaims them the heroes of his stories. To even make matters worse, the religious leader (the pride of the Jewish faith) is made out to be the one who got it all wrong. Why this twist?
Mercy is a beautiful biblical term and its most basic essence means, “to be treated with kindness and forgiveness even though you have done nothing to deserve it.” Jesus is making the point that the religious leader felt like he deserved this mercy because of all he had done for God’s kingdom. And I quote, “I thank you, that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers, (blind beggars), - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” This religious leader was proud of his accomplishments. The tax collector and the blind beggar had nothing to boast about. All they possessed was shame and despair and a need for Jesus.
In God’s kingdom, the opposite of modern thought often takes place. God rewards humility and opposes pride. “The problem is not God’s willingness to have mercy, but our forgetting that we need it. We keep lapsing into ideas of self-sufficiency, or get impressed with our niceness, and so we lose our humility. Asking for mercy reminds us that we are poor and needy, and fall short of the glory of God” (Frederica Matthews-Green).
Some Christians along the way have taken this idea / this prayer and wrote it out as a prayer that we too should often pray, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Through this prayer, we recognize that Jesus is way more than a moral teacher - he is the son of God, he is God. We recognized that God is alive and active and not an ancient idea. Finally, we recognize our need for mercy. We recognize our sinfulness.
Make this your prayer today.
March 9, 2017
I remember the day she was born. My beautiful daughter. Instantly my love for her was overpowering. Instantly I would sacrifice anything for her, even my own life if needed. Little did I know, but her birth was the beginning of my re-birth into love.
Love is a massive biblical theme. In fact, loving God and loving others is intricately tied together. It seems like one without the other is impossible when it comes to Christian virtue. (Read Matthew 22:34-40 and 1 John 4:19-21). From the moment we say yes to following Jesus, we embark on a journey of experiencing his love and at the same time learning to love other human beings.
The problem with me is / was that I am spoiled and selfish. I expected love from everyone around me. I knew that God loved me, I knew that my mom loved me, and I knew that people in my world loved me. Well, maybe I should put it this way - I maybe didn’t know the full extent of how much God loved me, but I sure did expect others to love me.
The day my daughter was born, I knew I had no idea how to love other human beings the way God intended. Since then, it has been a God-initiated journey of realizing that real love is a sacrificial love and a selfless commitment. The needs of others are first, always being right is forfeited, forgiveness is readily available, serving is constantly the goal and patience is paramount. That kind of love is exactly what God intended.
In God’s way of doing things, we show love and we keep showing love. He rewards us and even gives us the very strength to love. And the beautiful part is that he initiates this whole process by first showing us love.
God deeply loves you. God invites you on a journey of love - a journey where you learn how to love others the way he has loved you. You need God’s help - he is right there with you to teach you and show you the path of love.
How do you express love to others? Why is it difficult for you to love others the way Christ loves you? Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Which of these qualities of love do you struggle with the most?
March 10, 2017
We held a Men’s Conference at Hope a couple years back and the theme was, avoid the drift. It was based on a sailing idea that you can have your vessel pointed in the right direction at the start, but because of wind, waves, faulty navigation, or simple neglect, you can find yourself (because of the drift) moving toward a completely different destination than you ever intended.
It is only through diligence and constant course correction that you can get to the intended target. So these questions were posed: How have you drifted? What is your desired destination? What are things / course correctors that can help you avoid the drift?
One of the major drift causers in our current world is simply our focus and our intake - basically the often stated concept of garbage in, garbage out. Our thoughts are constantly barraged with selfish advertisement, selfish entertainment, self-promotion, self-absorption, earthly agendas, lustful images, and concerns that have little to do with the kingdom of God. Our brains then think about these things and we drift in that direction.
Our brains can so easily lose focus. We drift so quickly. One of the keys to avoiding the drift is to keep our minds focused not only on our desired destination but the steps to get there. We have to have health when it comes to our mental side and one of the best ways to avoid the drift mentally is to never stop learning.
Christian people that are healthy mentally listen to podcasts, read or listen to books (one a month), read the Bible, or take classes.
Often times I can get into performance mode and think I have to earn God’s love, but while reading the book “Go” by Preston Sprinkle I avoided that drift - “God doesn’t delight in our sin. But he delights in us even though we sin. God’s love isn’t based on what we do or don’t do. It’s based on who God is and what Christ has done for us. His love doesn’t fluctuate when we perform well or not so well. Growing in Christ is a process of paying more and more attention to God’s righteousness and less and less attention to our own.”
What is your destination? What are you doing to be healthy mentally?
March 11, 2017
Here are a few observations I have made about people who live in a fast paced society like North Texas:
- We are extremely busy with demanding jobs, commutes, and kid’s activities.
- We know the right things to do but because of our busyness we seldom get to the right things. It’s like Morpheus said in “The Matrix” - “There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” We are knowers more than walkers.
- We eat out (mostly junk) a ton because our busyness gets in the way.
- Moms are the worst at taking care of themselves - they put everyone else first.
In his book, “The Power of Habit” Charles Duhigg calls exercise and taking care of our bodies a keystone behavior. In other words, if the keystone of exercise is in place then everything else seems to flow from there. Often times we don’t read, pray, get involved in true community and take time for ourselves because we are simply worn out and exhausted from the fast pace of life. Our keystone is weak.
I know it seems strange to read about exercise and eating better in the midst of a Lenten journal but I am becoming convinced that we can’t get to all of the spiritual things we long to do because our bodies are rebelling against our busyness. If you want to be the person you desire to be, you need to take care of your body and you need to re-evaluate your schedule. To take it a step further, over busyness and ignoring your body are enemies of the righteous path.
What activity or thing do you need to quit to regain some margin in your life? When it comes to exercise and eating better, what do you need to do differently? Let those questions sink in because they are massively spiritual questions.
Be really spiritual today and put on some headphones and go for a walk, eat something a little lighter, join a gym, ask someone to exercise with you, quit some committee, say no to another kid’s activity, go to bed earlier, ask your family to help more around the house, and above all ask God for strength to change.
March 12, 2017
Rest, Reflect and Worship Day!
Read Psalm 46.
Check out a new worship album by Shane & Shane entitled “Psalms Live.” A great source for your reflection and worship (it is available on Spotify).