Lent Week 5 | Hope Fellowship

March 27, 2017

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

Start by reading Matthew 5:14-16

Here at the opening of Jesus’ most famous message, known as the Sermon on the Mount, he takes a moment to compliment you. I know you and I may not have been present that day, but Matthew 5:1-2 and Mark 3:7-13 set a scene of a crowd gathering that is so great Jesus fears he will be crushed. This is significant because the words Jesus spoke in this message were not directed merely to his 12 closest followers, they were for all of his followers, and should still direct us who follow him today.

Theologian William Barclay remarked, “It may well be said that this is the greatest compliment that was ever paid to the individual Christian, for in it Jesus commands the Christian to be what He himself claimed to be. Jesus said, ‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’ (John 9:5).

Jesus called you and I the light of the world. Now, those listening in the 1st century would understand the complexity of this illustration more than us today as we have taken the flick of the switch, matches and lighters for granted. In Jesus’ time, lighting a lamp was no easy task, and it would be understood that the type of light we shine does not simply come from within us, it has to be created from a different source. Fire had to be started and transferred to that lamp.

You and I have been given the ability to shine, or reflect the very glory of God to the world around us. Often, though, we hide that light as soon as we leave our comfortable weekend worship experience. Like placing it under a basket, we pretend that light is not in us when pressures from the darkness come our way. Since lighting a lamp was difficult in Jesus’ day, often the dark Palestinian homes would leave their lamps burning even if they left the house, so for safety reasons they would cover their lamp with a basket.

I wonder how often I myself play it safe with the fire God has put within me. Christian, we are called to burn bright with our good deeds. Jesus believes we can actually be like him, allowing the good we do to shine, direct, guide and warn the dark world all around us.

March 28, 2017

Start by reading Hebrews 5:8-9

Today was a beautifully heavy day. Weeks ago I had scheduled to have ramen with Henry. Henry is part of our church and volunteers as an usher and helped co-teach a grief recovery class we recently offered. Henry has become one of my favorite people to talk to because he has walked through the loss of his son and his wife over the last couple years...and yet, in the midst of all of the pain, he has found deep strength from a relational God; the God who has felt our pain.

I call today beautifully heavy because, while talking with Henry always inspires me and encourages my faith, today was his son’s birthday and this weekend will be his wife’s. These days serve as reminders on the calendar of the pain, and also serve as opportunities to celebrate the blessing of the their lives. Henry always tells me how grateful he was to have known his wife and his son...and how he thanks God for the time they did share together. It is in talking with him that you quickly realize just how significant our relationships are...every moment lived with those we love is a gracious gift from God.

In the Hebrews passage above, we are reminded that Jesus was obedient to God in his suffering, and that suffering is what qualified him to be our High Priest...to be the one who stands between us and a righteous God, ministering at the altar on our behalf.

Suffering has an amazing way of qualifying us...and I have often learned that God will use our scars to help serve those around us. In this way, we get to build new relationships as we see Jesus support, love, and serve others through us. Often our brokenness and pain can be used for God’s glory as we lean into relationship and realize that obedience in suffering qualifies us to serve others. This has become Henry’s goal in life, to use his experience to serve others who are walking through loss.

Take a moment today and ask God to reveal to you how you can be obedient to him in your suffering by serving someone around you. Maybe someone needs to hear your story, your support, to hear that you understand what they are going through and that you are praying for them.

March 29, 2017

Start by reading Matthew 6:5-13

Much could be said on The Lord’s Prayer, but to me it’s structure shows Jesus’ simple brilliance in teaching.

There are 6 petitions (or requests):

  • Let your name be holy
  • Let your Kingdom come
  • Let your will be done
  • Give us our daily bread
  • Forgive us and help us forgive
  • Lead us away from temptation and evil

We can view the structure of Jesus’ prayer as two groups, the first three petitions all being focused on who God is and asking for his glory to be revealed in our midst. The second three then turn the focus to our needs. It is important to see that order...according to Jesus the will of the Father is what we should seek Him above all else (see Matthew 6:33), and only after we make God the primary focus of our lives do we then turn to our requests and needs.

It is so easy for us to run to prayer when we are desperate, when we have some great need or when we want him to move a mountain...no question he is capable of such tasks, but Jesus calls us to a prayer life focused on God’s will and the establishment of his kingdom, his rule here on earth. We need to allow our prayer life to turn our focus from what is natural (ourselves) towards what is supernatural, a God-focus.

Then, after God is in his proper place, the prayer turns to what we need. These final three petitions focus on what we need for today (daily bread), what we need from the past (forgiveness) and what we need in the future (leading). Our past, our present and our future. Interestingly enough, Scripture teaches us that God in his three persons is the provider (God the Father), the forgiver (God the Son) and the leader (God the Spirit). So essentially Jesus calls us to bring all of ourselves; our past hurts, our current needs, our worries for the future; to all of God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Today, take a moment and pray the Lord’s Prayer, seeking God to be first in your life. Once God is in his rightful seat on the throne of your heart, then turn your focus to what you need, past, present and future, trusting him to meet your needs in accordance to his will on earth.

March 30, 2017

Have you ever experienced the shock of getting hit unexpectedly? Maybe it was from playing sports in your youth, or maybe you were in a car accident or just walked into something in your dark home at night...but the feeling of being completely caught off guard by a blow is never a pleasant one. To me, it is the surprise that causes the sting. It is the unexpected that is so often harder to cope with.

I grew up as a pastor’s kid. My dad led the church and my mom served as the music director...so it’s safe to say my brother and I literally grew up in church. We were always there, always serving, always involved. And to this happy-go-lucky boy life couldn’t have been better.

That is until I turned 11 and my dad began sleeping on the pull out bed in my room...and then my parents sat us down that December and told us things were going to be a little different after Christmas because they were getting divorced. The hit came unexpectedly.

In the years that would follow, I would watch my dad fill the pain by jumping from relationship to relationship. Work moved him away, and each time I went to go visit him I would meet his new wife or live-in girlfriend...I occasionally met complete strangers who had become my new step-siblings. That wasn’t the most comfortable social experiment, but I was outgoing and joked my way through it. The real difficulty, for me, was in not being able to go through my teenage years with my dad involved in my life. I missed the man I looked up to and saw as my superhero, and those visits a few times a year didn’t make up for the lost time.

This last year I finally hit a point where I realized I had been holding the hurt of his early departure from my daily life way too tightly...and it was time for me to let go of that hurt. I needed to hand that hurt over to God and trust that only he can heal. So last summer, during a visit to my dad’s house in Florida, I told my dad I forgive him for not being around, and that I love him and the impact he made in my life.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “...be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” I have realized forgiveness is not just something that helps the person who receives it...it helps the giver heal as well. Forgiveness is one of the healthiest things we can do. You and I weren’t meant to carry the burdens of life, and God knew that...which is why he calls us to forgive. And when we do, we follow in the most Christ-like act the world has ever known. We can forgive others because Jesus forgave us.

Take a moment today and ask God to search your heart for any unforgiveness...and ask him for the opportunity to have the conversation with someone you might need to forgive. Hand the hurt over to Christ, and trust that only he can heal.

March 31, 2017

I currently have the Frisco West staff walking through Crawford Loritts’ book, “Leadership as an Identity” and I couldn’t recommend it enough. I love this book because it isn’t just another leadership book filled with tired cliches and man-made accomplishments. Instead, it is a call back to the heart of the humble position of Jesus’ leadership through four distinct traits: brokenness, uncommon communion, servanthood, and radical and immediate obedience.

In the opening chapter he maps out the runway from which his book will take off when he says:
“As leaders we want to get things done; we want results. And we should! This gives us a bent toward the pragmatic. However, we need to make sure that the truths and approaches we import and adopt are not contaminated. They should be consistent with what the Scriptures teach. The Word of God should be the rule, the standard for everything we are and do. What we believe, how we think, and how we act should be governed by our biblical framework.”

Obviously, the implications of this quote go far beyond the realms of leadership...far past the walls of any office or outside any team and into every corner of our entire lives. Simply put, Scripture should be our standard in all things.

Often the 66 books that make up our Bible are referred to as the Canon, which comes from a Greek word that means “rule” or “measuring stick.” The imagery behind this description of our Bible is that it should be used to measure every decision we make in life...It should be our rule, our standard. As 2 Timothy 3:16-17 puts it, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

The Lent season is a great time to turn our focus to God and allow him to draw out the things that need to develop in our lives. Maybe this is the perfect time to turn to the Scriptures as our ultimate authority and source as God’s voice in our hectic lives. May the Bible become your standard as you seek to grow in your understanding of God.

April 1, 2017

Start by reading 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

All throughout the Old Testament, God’s people (Israel) had a sacred place to worship God. In the early years that took place in a traveling tent called the Tabernacle. Each of the 12 tribes had a specific role and task when it came to transporting portions of the ornately fabricated Tabernacle...thousands and thousands of people would fall in line with their piece in hand and march to the location that God would show them. That is until Israel finally took the land God had promised where they built a permanent Temple in Jerusalem under the leadership of King Solomon.

Generations later, after Israel had abandoned their God for the idols of foreign lands, the Assyrian and Babylonian empires conquered the then split Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, destroying God’s holy Temple in the process and exiling his people to foreign lands. Some time later, God used a man named Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of the holy city, which allowed Ezra to lead the way to Spiritual reform as Israel found their way back home, and a second Temple would be built on the site of the original.

From the Tabernacle to both the first and second Temple, there was an inner room called the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could enter. Inside were several items, most significantly the Ark of the Covenant which was a box that contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments, as well as an altar where the priest would make a yearly Atonement sacrifice to cover all Israel’s sins.

The purpose of this brief history lesson is to point out that when Paul (the author of 1 Corinthians) uses the term “Temple” we have to realize there is more than 1500 years of holy history and weight in the word. And Paul, a Jewish Pharisee of the strictest order, would not throw around this word lightly. So when he tells you and I that our bodies are to be as holy as the Temple, we should pause and question the way we treat our bodies. Do we live as if the literal presence of God dwells within us?

While this passage focuses specifically on sexual sin, to live a life worthy of the indwelling of God’s presence goes far beyond what we should avoid...this mindset should impact everything we are and do.

April 2, 2017

Rest, Reflect and Worship Day!

Read Psalm 23.