Lent Week 4 | Hope Fellowship

March 20, 2017

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

In the early church, they discussed the idea of attachments. Attachments are things we are “staked” or “nailed to” in this world. Attachments could be relationships, status, possessions, or achievement - basically anything that consistently takes our heart and mind away from God. Consider it this way - “What are the things that predominantly occupy your thoughts?”.

My attachments in this life are: my reputation, the performance of my children athletically and academically, key possessions, and financial fears about the future. My heart and my mind are “staked” to these things that cause me worry, stress and anxiety.  I want God to have control in these areas yet I can’t seem to let them go.

Read Luke 18:15-30 (this is a tough one). A key point to remember as you read this passage is that inheriting eternal life is synonymous with entering the kingdom of God.

This young man with an attachment to wealth wanted to enter God’s kingdom. Jesus then tested how “staked” he was to his attachment by asking him to give up his attachment. The attachment was too great.

The idea of a camel getting through the eye of a needle is preposterous. I can’t even get a piece of thread through the eye of a needle let alone a massive animal. If you are too attached to the things of this world, it sounds like entering God’s kingdom is nearly impossible. So, like the disciples we ask, “Who can enter the kingdom of God?”.

A couple things about this passage and attachments. First, we have simply got to figure out what our attachments might be. What are things that keep you from surrendering fully to God? Second, we have to realize that we need to bring those things to God and ask for His help in overcoming our attachments - “What is impossible with men is possible with God!”

Ultimately, if we are “staked” or “nailed to” anything other than God we are setting ourselves up for hurt, disappointment, and failure.

Make this your prayer for today:
“God, examine my heart and my mind. Reveal my attachments and help me begin the process of coming to you and loosening my grip on those things so that I can fully enter into your kingdom and find life and peace. With my strength this is all impossible, but you make all things possible. Help me find your way, your life.”

March 21, 2017

“Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - Hebrews 10:24

The people in the early church knew the formula (Acts 2:42), the law of Christ compels us to it (Galatians 6:2), Christ lived it out with his disciples, and the study of humanity testifies to it. If we are not in healthy Christian community then we are missing out on a vital piece of this journey.

However, I totally understand why finding great community is so difficult: horribly busy schedules, lack of tools to build healthy community, lack of people to be in community with, and an overall tiredness that keeps us away from adding anything else.

Yet, if I can push you a little bit, you absolutely need to have something that looks like this:
* A place to communicate transparently and honestly

* A place where you can join with others in searching out God’s truth

* A place where you can be encouraged that you are okay and also a place where you can be challenged when you start to go in a direction that is off your course

* A place where you join together to focus on the needs of others (outside of just your family)

If you don’t have this type of community then you might be stuck. Without it you will most likely:  be controlled by a sin pattern that you want desperately to leave behind, be too hard on yourself, be too lenient on yourself, or ultimately be drifting in a direction that was never in your plans.

It is time to begin your journey to wholeness. Community is at the heart of that journey. This week is your time to start attending Re:Generation, Re|Engage, or join some form of Christian community. Pray for God to give you the direction, the courage, and the strength to jump fully into your journey toward wholeness by finding your community.

What is your next step on your journey toward wholeness?

March 22, 2017

A good idea in studying Scripture is to first focus on the major issues that are repeated again and again. Obviously, these are issues that God has impressed upon the writers of the Bible to communicate / to pass on to future believers.

Without a shadow of doubt, prayer is one of those major issues. Throughout the entirety of the Bible prayers are a major part of those following God (Exodus 32:11-14, Psalm 51, and Luke 22:39-46). We are asked to pray, taught how to pray, implored to pray and even told that prayer is extremely powerful to make change in this world.

Yet, if we are really honest with ourselves, prayer seems to be on the backburner in our lives. A thing we go to when life offers us a struggle or the unknown. Prayer, typically, is not part of the fabric of our consistent and conscious existence. However Jesus taught, modeled, and longed for prayer to drive us, surround us and be a hallmark of who we are as his followers.

Why the disconnect? In this case I am left with only the question and no real answer. Do I really trust what God asks us to do? Do I really believe in his divine intervention? Have I been too disappointed in the past when prayers seemingly weren’t answered? I wish I knew.

But, here we are in the midst of lent, in the midst of a journey toward wholeness, in the midst of my life that desperately needs to be directed by God, I am reminded that God desperately loves and pursues me in spite of my actions. Once again I am reminded that when I talk to him, it truly does make a difference. Once again I am reminded that today is a new day and that change is possible.

Jesus’ teaching on prayer is one of the rare places in the Bible where Jesus simply said, “do it this way.” Read Matthew 6:5-18. Let this passage guide you in how and what to pray. In our journey toward wholeness, may prayer be at the center of it. The goal for us today - be reminded that Jesus’ great love for you caused him to give his life for you, and then talk to him.

March 23, 2017

A couple thousand years ago Jesus told stories. Amazingly, those stories are still being retold and used to teach about the nature of God’s kingdom. My hope is that the stories I tell will be remembered for five minutes, let alone a couple thousand years.

Read Matthew 13:44-46.

“The kingdom of heaven is like. . . .” Whenever Jesus leads with this statement, he is getting ready to tell us about the true nature of his kingdom and our proper response to that kingdom. Firstly, he tells about a man that found a treasure in a field and the field was for sale “as is.” He rushed as quickly as he could to buy this field because he was getting the deal of a lifetime. It was an ancient near middle eastern Black Friday doorbuster. He must have been pretty pumped when he told his family about the greatest purchase of his life.

Next, Jesus tells a story of a pearl merchant. He found the pearl of all pearls. He had to have it. He sold everything and bought it. His dreams of pearl shopping fame were now being realized!

I had to buy a car recently. It seemed too good to be true - a little bit older car with low mileage and some great bells and whistles. In fact, I was even told it was priced too low because they mistakenly priced it as a lower model of upgrade. I had to have this car. If I missed out I would be stuck with something not quite as nice, more mileage, and higher priced. I fell for the salesman’s pitch and sold everything I had (at least it felt like it) and bought this white, like a pearl, beauty of a car.

My emotions overtook me and I was in this euphoric “gotta have it” state of mind. Jesus tells us that this is what “the kingdom of heaven is like. . . .” His kingdom is the deal of all deals: you trade your sin for complete and utter forgiveness, you trade your brokenness for wholeness, you trade your fear and despair for hope and joy, and you trade death for life.

In your search for significance and meaning in this life, you have already found it. You will never find a better offer than what Jesus graciously and lovingly extends to you. This “deal” is worth your life’s pursuit.

March 24, 2017

A little over three years ago I sat in my recliner at the end of a work day feeling so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open and looking at my belly and thinking that this thing is getting much bigger. This had become my pattern - work and then come home and fight lethargy until I could go to bed for the night.

I know my wife was getting frustrated with me, I know my energy to do anything with my kids was evaporating and I know my medical readings were moving in a poor direction. I couldn’t continue to live like this.

With great fear I approached one of my coworkers and said to him, “Is there any way you would want to join a gym with me?” His response, “No, too busy.” In the spirit of all great achievers, I instantly gave up my dream of exercising. A week or two later that same coworker came to me and said, “Alright, I’m in - let’s go to the gym.” We went, and miraculously I have not stopped going since that day we first nervously entered the den of fitness.

Here’s what I’ve discovered about exercise since that fateful day: my energy levels are so much higher, my stress levels are so much lower, my sleep patterns are better, I am becoming a disciplined human being, my anger dissipates so much more quickly, I am doing more stuff with my kids, and the doctor isn’t always on my case. I have even found my spiritual life getting better because I have energy to read, go to a class or a group, and write. My marriage is better because I am cleaning more, attempting to listen better, and being a better man who has some energy to deal with life.

I am now convinced that part of the journey toward wholeness in life is being as whole physically as we are able. As funny as this may sound, I would like to encourage you to do something physically so that you have the energy to do something with God. Exercise seems to set the table for all the things we want to do. Maybe your goal for Lent should be to start or renew your health journey.

At the heart of your journey toward wholeness may be doing something that doesn’t seem that spiritual - exercising.

March 25, 2017

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” - John 6:53

On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
- John 6:60

Read John 6:25-60.

One of the great points of celebration in the history of the Jewish people is the story of how God fed his people in the wilderness by giving them bread from heaven - manna. This bread was sacred and some of it was even stored in the ark of the covenant as a sign of remembrance to God’s great faithfulness. However, this bread was but a shadow of the life giving bread to come in the future. Jesus was the true bread that came down from heaven and gives true life - eternal life. Jesus just didn’t give the bread of life, he was the bread of life. Eating of this bread was much more beneficial than manna could ever be.

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” - John 6:35

Was Jesus advocating cannibalism? I sure hope not. However, all this talk of eating flesh and drinking blood could trend in that direction. Bread, like manna, can give you temporary sustenance but it will go away. You will be hungry again. Water can temporarily quench your thirst, but you will thirst again. Jesus is obviously talking spiritually here and stating that if you believe in Him you will never again have to hunger or thirst for God’s life, God’s eternal life.

As you take communion during this lenten season, be reminded that while you are eating just regular bread and juice, you are also doing something so much more. This bread symbolizes that God will not forsake you and his love doesn’t run out. This bread lasts forever. The juice means that his blood has no limits to your forgiveness. This juice lasts forever.

If you believe in Jesus, you eat of his flesh and drink of his blood.

This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” - John 6:58

March 26, 2017

Rest, Reflect and Worship Day!

Read Psalm 91.