Lent Week 3 | Hope Fellowship

March 13, 2017

This week’s devotional content written by Gavin Papit, Frisco West Campus Pastor

To begin, read Mark 4:35-41

Have you ever come close to drowning? If you have, the feeling is both helpless and frantic. I once got caught under a rip current when I was surfing, and was so violently thrashed around I didn’t know which way was up towards the oxygen and which way would take me down toward the sea floor. I held my breath so long, in this spin cycle, that my lungs began to burn and I seriously wondered if they would pop. It was terrifying. While breathing is such a natural exercise we hardly notice it, going just a few seconds without this rhythm sends us into a panic.

The disciples were in panic mode in the above passage. In fact, as the boat began to take on water, they shouted to Jesus, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” They were both helpless and frantic.

It is fascinating that the disciples shouted at Jesus like this because it shows just how deep their fear was. From what we know of these men, at least five of them were fishermen before Jesus called them to be his disciples. These men have spent many nights out on the water, and had likely faced many similar storms in the past. And yet the skills that had once defined them were now failing them.

Today you may find yourself moments away from drowning in any number of things: financial ruin, an overwhelmed schedule or the loss of a loved one. And it is here, in these near drowning moments, that we often cry out to Jesus in our desperation. And what we discover is that Jesus has been with us all along...in fact he is peacefully resting in the back of the very same boat we believe is taking us down. He is unafraid, and simply calling us into deeper faith; that he is with us in the midst of our storm.

Today, take a few minutes and ask God to give you the same perspective Jesus had with the disciples that evening on the boat. Take a deep breath and remember the same God who created the very air you breathe offers peace in the midst of life’s storms.

March 14, 2017

A few months ago, on a beautiful fall afternoon, I decided I needed to spend some one-on-one time with our youngest and thought it was the perfect day to get outside and do something fun with him. So I asked Jude, our three-year-old, “Do you want to go to the trails?” You may not know it, but here on the West side of Frisco, just north of Lone Star High School, there are mountain bike and hiking trails. Jude did not know this, but as toddlers often do when they hear the excitement in your voice, he faked it and shouted, “Yeah, let’s go to the trails!”

As a boy who grew up on a mountain bike, I was incredibly excited to find a hobby that could be uniquely ours...nevermind the fact that I no longer have a bike. So I grabbed my wife’s powder blue Schwinn with a baby seat on the back of it, loaded my little man up and we set off to go ride the trails.

We had a blast that day as we tackled the easiest, outer loop trail called “Ranger”. Jude bumped along behind me on the baby seat, talking my ear off the entire time about the grasshoppers that jumped by, or Coyote poop, or the clouds, or whatever popped into his mind. It was his time to have my full attention, which he commanded while I peddled along. And, while there was nothing magical about that afternoon, Jude has never forgotten it and to this day, nearly every week on my day off Jude will shout, “Dad, want to go to the trails?” It has become our thing...our time to connect.

God created us for connection with others...it’s the fingerprint of his beautiful design. When we share in deep relationship with others God is glorified, and something deep within our soul is stirred. It doesn’t matter if you are introverted or extroverted, we are all wired for relationship. There is something meaningful that happens as we live life well with others. From our spouse and kids, to our parents and relatives, to our friends, neighbors and coworkers...to even Jesus himself; the most important things in life are those we love.

Let today be a time to thank God for the people in your life and pray for them.

March 15, 2017

To begin, read Matthew 22:34-40

From ancient times in the Old Testament, to this very day, a prayer has stood the test of time for the people of Israel known as the Shema Yisrael, or just the Shema for short. Named after the opening words in the prayer “Shema” in Hebrew means “hear.” The prayer reads, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

To this day, Jews often recite this prayer before meals, before bed, during the Saturday evening Sabbath service, and even on holy festivals and holidays. There is beauty in it’s simplicity and power, as well as in it’s endurance through the years.

In the Matthew passage above, a few religious leaders try to trap Jesus with what would seem to be an unanswerable question, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Anyone standing by would have gasped at the audacity of the question. This was no simple, “pick your favorite of the ten commandments” type question. No, this was rabbis and scholars challenging Jesus’ intellect and his authority by asking him, of all the 613 commands given by God in the Torah, which one is the most important. And Jesus’ responds with the Shema...a prayer that would have been the equivalent of “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” to his audience.

To say the least, they were stunned by his simple brilliance. All of the law, and all of the commands come down to a simple prayer of loving God with everything you are. And then, as his grand finally, Jesus further challenges them to love their neighbors as much as themselves.

While the religious leaders of his day would have certainly been convicted, we today have a lot to learn about the simplicity and depth of a love that fulfills all of the commands of God.

Take a few moments and turn the Shema into your prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), and thank Jesus for being the total fulfilment of the law for you. Thank him for extending his love to you, and ask him for the strength to love him with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself.

March 16, 2017

Today, as I write this, I find myself in a familiar place that has served as a mile marker on my journey. It is a crisp, cool morning, probably the last of the season as green grass (or weeds) begins to shoot up all around the cement park bench on which I sit. The scene is honestly something out of a Bob Ross painting on channel 3, it is too picturesque for my description and too beautiful to believe it is here in DFW.

The bench that serves as my prayer and writing post for the morning is on the edge of my wife’s parent’s property in Celina. The eastern side of their couple-acre lot slopes quickly into a pond that is surrounded by 60-70 foot tall trees that are home to many singing birds. It's a little slice of the country, and somehow this morning it is all mine as my kids retreated from the cold inside to watch a show.

Have you ever been back to a place that brings a myriad of memories rushing to your mind? Sitting here I find myself looking back and thanking God for his faithfulness. Because it was here, on this bench, exactly 5 years ago this month, that I found myself angrily licking my wounds while crying out to God, “How could you let the church we tried to start fail?! Didn't you call us to go? Didn't you want to do more...reach more people...change more lives?!”At that time, we had just moved back to Texas, broke and with our second child having just been born...we moved in with family as we awaited our next assignment. And I felt like a complete failure.

It was here, just a couple months later, I repented of my frustration and control, and thanked God for his provision as I had just accepted a position at a church named Hope Fellowship.

This bench, and this pond are sacred to me. I have enjoyed brief seasons of prayer and retreat here, and have seen God’s faithful hand reminding me that he makes no mistakes and is incredibly good.

Maybe it's time you found your bench, look back and remember the good he has done. Thank God for his faithfulness, which can be shown through the simple act of sitting with him over time.

March 17, 2017

Have you ever had the overwhelming satisfaction of finishing a long and difficult task? Whether it’s a project around the house, the end of a grueling schedule, or a challenging season at work; we have all had those moments where we take a deep breath, look back over the mountain we just climbed and enjoy the growth that comes at the end of a job well done.

A couple years ago, I remember clicking “submit” on my final seminary paper and having a flood of emotions come over me as the four year expedition came to an end. Life’s challenges have an amazing way of stretching and growing us like nothing else.

Earlier in this devotional journey you read that our goal was really about all of us moving towards wholeness this Lent season. Wholeness means we are taking steps to grow healthy in a holistic way: spiritually, mentally, relationally, physically. Like finishing a difficult task, if we would learn to challenge ourselves in these areas we will find ourselves growing as a result.

Recently, I began reading “Go: Returning Discipleship to the Front Lines of Faith” by Preston Sprinkle. In the book, Sprinkle sorts through the data collected from a massive study that Barna Group undertook on discipleship in American churches today. The study has uncovered some troubling trends about stagnant growth, but also offers much hope. Sprinkle challenges his readers with a statement that caught my attention, “Discipleship without learning is not biblical discipleship.”

If this phrase stings a little bit, it’s okay...none of us are perfect. After finishing seminary I remember being so burnt out on reading and writing that I got complacent and went months without learning anything new. But, as we have all experienced, if we aren’t challenging ourselves we likely aren’t growing...so that begs the question: Have you learned anything new in your faith journey recently? When was the last time you studied your Bible deeply? Maybe it’s time to dig in and learn something new. While Hope will have another Bible study semester launching this summer, why not jump in now by going through a study on RightNow Media and invite someone on the journey with you. CLICK HERE for more on RightNow Media and the more than 10,000 Bible Studies available to you there.

Take a moment and ask God to reveal himself to you as you challenge yourself to grow mentally.

March 18, 2017

Start by reading 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

It seems like there are two different types of people in the world: those who love to workout and keep their body in top shape, and those who know it’s probably a good idea but dread actually putting in the work. I am definitely in the latter group. Don’t get me wrong, I love adventure and competition; I love being active and playing sports...but put me in a weight room for 5 minutes and I want fake an ankle injury and walk out.

That is until one Sunday morning a few years ago. As the worship set was coming to a close, I was backstage grabbing my mic when the room began to spin violently and I fell over. Thankfully someone else grabbed the mic and went out to do announcements in my place, but I had to lay there experiencing vertigo until my wife could come pick me up. After a trip to the ER and a couple visits to an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist I learned that I have something called Meniere’s Disease. Basically this was an imbalance in the equilibrium fluid in one of my ears that leads to hearing loss and vertigo...but there is one way to try and control it, a low sodium diet and lots of exercise where I sweat out excess sodium.

So now I label myself as a begrudging runner who has actually found joy in waking up early a few mornings a week and having some quiet prayer time on my jog. The above passage has taken on all new meaning to me now as I have discovered what many of us have already discovered in life, our bodies are weak and will break down. Paul knew this, and for this reason he committed to “discipline” his body...he committed to challenge and push his body so it would always be ready to run the race he was called to in life. And what was that race for him…? Preaching to Gospel.

We all want to make an impact in this world, and that impact will have eternal consequences if we point people to Jesus. Like Paul, we should do everything we can to discipline our bodies to do the good work set before us. The eternity of other’s may be hanging in the balance, so run to win the prize.

March 19, 2017

Rest, Reflect and Worship Day!

Read Psalm 8.