Day ONE: Feb 9-16

Make a spot in your calendar and arrange for 15 minutes of quiet. 

Today, we are going to meditate on trusting God. 

First, quiet your heart by closing your eyes and take a few deep breaths. If you’re rushing your breath, start over. If you don’t have enough time to finish this first exercise, then be kind to yourself and reschedule this devotion for a time when you can relax your body and mind. 

He loves you. And he’s here now. Present.

Now, whisper, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are with me.” As your day ahead or the day you’re completing flashes through your mind, remind yourself that God has been with you and will be with you. Bring your focus back to this moment.

Whisper “you are with me” a few times in order to center yourself on God’s endless love for you. 

————

The beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) are Jesus’ vision of trusting God. He says that we will flourish when we are poor in spirit. Jesus does not mean that our sadness can magically make us happy or that we should misinterpret sad feelings. Not at all. Rather, “poor in spirit” means that we are to live in the acute awareness of our lack and profound need for God. 

Eugene Peterson paraphrases this first beatitude (The Message):

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

Matthew 5:3 (The Message)

Each day we are given opportunities to choose to trust God or to trust ourselves. One of the best opportunities to renew our trust in God is when we’re “at the end of our rope.” In your mind’s eye, consider the people or circumstances today that could take you to “the end of your rope.” Consider that it is a blessing to be put in a circumstance that shows you that you are (as we all are) “poor in spirit”. From that posture, we become acutely aware of our need for God and then specifically aware that he has promised to give us his Spirit.

Read out loud the words of Jesus:

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.

John 14:16–18 (NLT)

When we find ourselves “poor in spirit”, we will flourish if we invite the Holy Spirit to fill our lack, to meet our needs and to lead us to truth.

Prayer

Write out a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you and comfort you today.

Day TWO: Feb 9-16

I am going to ask you to do something a bit strange: consider some sort of sadness that is in your life. Perhaps there is acute pain or grief and it isn’t hard at all for you to think of something difficult. Or, your life may be full of positivity and ease right now. That is great. But that can  also be a useful time to consider some challenges. In either case, bring a current sadness to mind. 

Why?

It is common in our culture to think that sad thoughts or feelings are to be avoided or covered up. Sadness is something to simply endure until something else can distract us from these feelings. 

But, Jesus says that mourning can lead us towards a flourishing life. 

Read the 2nd beatitude out loud:

4 Flourishing are the mourners because they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

Hmmm. Most of us don’t associate mourning with flourishing. What could Jesus possibly be getting at?

This last week, I decided to take Jesus at his word. I was feeling quite sad because some people had made a decision that hurt me and others who are close to me. My sadness was turning into anger. I found that I wanted to expel my sadness through anger, but then I recalled verse 4—that I can flourish when I mourn. How? By receiving comfort (they WILL be comforted). I paused. I invited Jesus into my pain and asked for him to bring comfort. 

And, he did. Mysteriously, the anger in me settled. I didn’t ignore or cover up my sadness, but I invited Jesus right into the middle of it. And, I felt comfort. 

More than that, I felt empowered to be able to move beyond the hurt and disappointment I was feeling. In other words, Jesus didn’t just neutralize my emotion, but he built resilience and grit in me. 

Don’t you need some of that?

Today or this week, a sadness may seek to overwhelm you. I encourage you: don’t ignore it. Don’t numb it with more Netflix or food or alcohol. Instead, welcome Jesus into it and ask him to carry it. 

In doing so, you’re learning the Jesus Way of trusting him with our burdens. 

Prayer

Write a prayer that invites the Holy Spirit to help you to recall our devotion today when you experience sadness, anxiety or anger.

Day THREE: Feb 9-16

Ava sprained her wrist this week. At first, it looked as if it might be a broken wrist, but of course, we couldn’t see inside the wrist to know what was going on. We needed experts.

We had to trust others with the diagnosis and the prognosis. As Donia went through the Urgent Care rigamarole, she was thrust before techs, nurses and doctors who each had power over her and Ava because of their advanced training.

I can’t speak to what Donia experienced in those moments, but I know what I feel when I am powerless to control my situation because I MUST trust the expert: I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. As I have wandered around stores looking for items and not asking a sales rep for help, have become impatient with nurses recording my weight (when I obviously had strep throat and just needed antibiotics) or when I have felt my hackles rising when being “bossed around” by a parking attendant, I have  experienced the root of all sin: pride.

Ick. I don’t like to admit it. I’d much rather write a devotional like yesterday’s—reporting how I figured something out. But, alas, it would be disingenuous for me to write as an expert when I too am but a novice apprentice seeking to follow Jesus. 

And Jesus says, 

5 Flourishing are the humble because they will inherit the world.

Matthew 5:5

We will flourish when we are humble. Our world says the opposite. Loud voices clamor for attention and for their way to be known and heard. Put together, smart people are celebrated while the meek, the mild, and the unimpressive are overlooked at best and despised at worst. 

Humility is the posture of those who are obviously under-informed (think of Donia with techs, doctors and nurses), but clear that they are to follow the expert. For us, as Jesus followers, our growth in humility will be exponential when we 1) recall that we know very little (relative to God’s Word and the wisdom of the Church) and 2) are resolved to quickly obey even if we don’t understand. 

This is how we flourish: trust and obey—for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to TRUST and OBEY . 

Prayer

Write out a prayer confessing to God the areas of pride or stubbornness in your life.

Day FOUR: Feb 9-16

Deep breath in. And out. Again. And then read out loud:

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28–30 (NLT)

A couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to be a driver for our youth snow day. It felt good to take time away from my normal work to provide transportation for our students. I did all of the “adult” things in preparation: fueled up, made arrangements for my regular responsibilities and of course,  got my own children out the door with adequate clothing to have fun in the cold!

It is a serious thing to take responsibility and to be an adult chaperone. Little did I know the childish day that was ahead of me. Upon arriving at Hoodoo with dozens of students, our youth pastor Trish Bliss made sure I had a tubing ticket. Adult Isaac walked some students over to the tubing area to take some pictures and to encourage the kids to have fun. Then I trudged up the hill. My son asked me if I was going to go down the hill. I answered soberly, “Owen, I am not a young man anymore. I will enjoy watching the rest of you.”

I should probably do something adult-like—check the oil or check my email…

Even to serious-minded-adult Isaac, the joy on everyone’s faces was contagious. As rider after rider squealed with delight careening down the hill, my adult-ish mindset wore off.

I grabbed a tube. No oil to check. No plan other than GO.

And I zipped down the hill!

I popped up grinning and skipped the line for the rope tow to the top. Almost running up the hill, I was in an instant a child again. Head first, feet first, racing others, 23 times I ascended the hill with no rope tow for those few seconds of child-like Bliss. (Thank you Trish!)

Isaac playing like a child!

By my count, I went up and down that hill more than anyone else. I played. I enjoyed. I delighted. I was de-adulted for a day.

Towards the end of the message on Sunday, I mused a bit about Jesus’ invitation to be like a child to inherit his Kingdom:

2 Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them.
3
Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 18:2–4 (NLT)

I am thinking about this scene. While the adults would have been a bit ruffled, a  child would’ve easily adjusted to this new normal. It has been said that children are resilient. Children do not have the capacity to evaluate or reason with the world. They simply experience what is given to them. It is only later with adult brains that children begin to differentiate their childhood experiences from the experiences of those around them. 

Young adults then critique their childhood—utilizing newly formed brain power to more objectively evaluate and analyze their experiences. This is why many college students return home with big opinions about their family of origin. Children, on the other hand,  generally accept their lives and thrive with how it is.

In many ways, it feels so good to become an adult—more responsibility, more autonomy and more ability to control our lives. 

But, the trade off is significant. A child growing in a healthy environment has responsibility, but isn’t “in charge”. Complex or sophisticated problems are handled by parents. Upon becoming an adult, however, the “ex-child” now wears the weight of responsibility and control. 

Maybe we aren’t created to be in charge? Maybe becoming child-like is the yoke that Jesus is inviting to wear?

Back to the scene: Jesus takes this child and says to the serious adults, “turn from your sins” and “become like the child”. To which sins is he referring? Perhaps he is pointing out the sin of “being in charge” of our own lives. Perhaps it is the sin of having opinions about what life owes us or what rights we have. Perhaps it is the sin of not enjoying the moments we have because we’re too busy getting ready for the next moment.

Today, consider your attitude. Do you accept life like a child or are you overly-concerned with being the ‘person in charge’? 

Prayer

Write out a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to lead you towards being child-like again.

Day FIVE: Feb 9-16

You heard the story of Owen’s stolen bike being recovered. Yay! But, the woman who owned it (righteously) was also the victim of injustice. Bummer

In this world, there will not be perfect justice. You’ve probably experienced that reality. Something has been unfair. The world seems rigged at times. 

Jesus says,

6 Flourishing are the ones hungering and thirsting for righteousness because they will be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6

Hunger means there is a lack. Jesus followers regularly experience hunger for what isn’t yet. We contend for justice and right-ness knowing that in the end, God is redeeming all things and will bring perfect justice. We will be filled. 

But, we can flourish when we hunger and thirst. 

Have you ever filled your stomach with cheap food? Of course you have—you live in the day and age of cheap food! Your stomach may be full. Hunger is gone. But, a stomach full of processed sugar and starch is not healthy in the long term.

If we stop hungering and thirsting for righteousness (right-ness) and justice, it means that we have allowed ourselves to be filled with a cheap alternative. We’ve settled. We’ve become numb to the brokenness of the world around us. 

Stan the Liar will take advantage of our hunger. If not centered on the revealed Word of God and Jesus, the Son of God, human attempts at justice are short-sighted and far too shallow. 

Jesus is inviting us to have large imaginations for justice and right-ness. As we go further and further into the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is going to stretch us. We’re going to be challenged. We might squirm. But, we’ll flourish as we hunger and thirst for His Way—which leads to life.

Prayer

Write out a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to expand your heart for right-ness.

Week 2—Feb 9-16

Group Discussion (40 minutes)

  1. Read this version of Matthew 5:3-12 out loud.

3 Flourishing are the poor in spirit because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

4 Flourishing are the mourners because they will be comforted.

5 Flourishing are the humble because they will inherit the world.

6 Flourishing are the ones hungering and thirsting for righteousness because they will be satisfied.

7 Flourishing are the merciful because they will be given mercy.

8 Flourishing are the pure in heart because they will see God.

9 Flourishing are the peacemakers because they will be called the children of God.

10 Flourishing are the ones persecuted on account of righteousness because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 Flourishing are you whenever people revile and slander and speak all kinds of evil things against you on account of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven. In this same way people slandered the prophets who came before you.

Matthew 5:3-12
  1. We prefer to control outcomes. Why?
  2. Think of a situation in your life that you’d like to control. Tell your group about it—and tell God that you cannot be in control. Tell him again.
  3. What does a flourishing life look like? 
  4. Compare your thoughts on a flourishing life with some people in the NT. How do your thoughts about flourishing compare with Jesus’ followers and their lives?
  5. On your own and then as a group—Take 5 minutes of total quiet. With your group or triad, talk about what you felt and thought during that quiet.

TRIADS at New Hope

We have come to understand that our teaching must be accompanied by opportunities for all of us to engage beyond listening. Triads are a way in which we can grow in our understanding, as well as our sense of community. Email Chris Bowlby (Associate Pastor) to get set up with a TRIAD: cbowlby@inewhope.org

Here are a few questions you might have:

WHAT IS A TRIAD?

Triads is a small group of people that gather weekly primarily around four things:

EAT (30 minutes):

Sharing a meal or a coffee with others is a powerful form of Community.  Each week participants share food/drink.  This is a great time to catch people up on your week (Highs and Lows). 

STORY (15 minutes):

Everyone has a story.  Each week someone will share their story of how they have experience Jesus in their life so far in life.

DISCUSS (30 minutes):

Each week participants will take time to discuss the questions from our Sunday Morning teaching. (TIP: Use a timer to make sure everyone has the opportunity to share!)

PRAY (15 minutes):

Each week participants will spend time praying for one another with the following prompts:

  • How can the group pray for you and your apprenticeship to Jesus today?
  • How can we pray for those connected with you (sickness, employment, hardship, etc.)?

WHO IS A TRIAD FOR?

Triads are for people that are not in a Community Group yet but want to still participate with a group where they can discuss the content of Sunday Morning.

WHAT ABOUT A COMMUNITY GROUP?

While Triads are great for connecting over content and getting to know others, Community Groups are the long term destination at New Hope for Spiritual Formation. Each quarter we will have opportunities to transition from a Triad to a Community Group!

Week 1—Feb 2-8

Group Discussion (40 minutes)

  1. Think of some ways our culture ‘passes the time’ when bored in line.
  2. What are your hopes for your Community Group? Fears?
  3. When you look back over your life, think of some times that you gave up on something hard. Could you have grown if you stayed? Talk about this experience with your group.
  4. Jesus encourages us to “let our yes be yes…” What are you saying yes to right now? 
  5. Brainstorm ideas for helping each other stay connected through “The Rough Patch”.
  6. Have a few volunteers, read Matthew 5-7 out loud in one sitting (~20 min)

Day ONE: Feb 2-8

Make a spot in your calendar and arrange for 15 minutes of quiet. 

Stephen Covey in his great book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says that we need to “start with the end in mind.” Today, we will take a few minutes to envision what God might do as we trust Him through a process that is bigger than any one of us. 

Read out loud: 

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.”

Jesus in John 10:10–11 (NLT)

Read it again and replace “them” in verse 10 with your name. Do the same with the phrase “the sheep” in verse 11. 

You’re here in this space giving room for the Holy Spirit to connect with you. You’ve stepped out. You aren’t sure what to expect as you grow in your relationship with Jesus, but you can be certain of what Jesus’s intent is for you: a rich and satisfying life. Now, don’t be confused, Jesus’ way is different ‘riches’ and a deeper ’satisfaction’ than what the world offers. We will continue to learn about what we are truly satisfied with. 

Read out loud:

“But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

Jesus in John 4:14 (NLT)

Is it true? Can Jesus really satisfy? Is he true to his word? 

This is his promise to us: a rich and satisfying life in which the true longings of our heart are met. We have much to learn as we journey together, but as we begin, let’s simply reflect on his intent for each human.

Take a few minutes and write out a prayer to God that expresses what you think about his intentions towards you. I encourage you to be honest in your prayers.

Day TWO: Feb 2-8

Again, be sure you have scheduled about 15 minutes of quiet for our devotions today.

On Sunday, I (Isaac) encouraged us to be ready for the whole journey with community groups. We are being honest up front that any time we create groups of humans there will be interpersonal challenges that arise. This may all be totally new for you or you might have experiences with groups before. In either case, this current group will be an unique experience. Today, we are going to read a several verses from Philippians that can help us be ready with the right attitude towards the people in our group.

Read out loud:

1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 

2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 

4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 

6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 

7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 

8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. 

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1–11 (NLT)

Take a few minutes and look back through these verses. From the verses write out a few words or phrases that stick out to you. What is the Holy Spirit directing you to focus on as you meditate on his scriptures? Write down how these verses might apply to you. 

Next, read back through these verses and imagine the rest of your group acting in the way that these verses instruct us. What would it be like if others were this way towards you? What would you think about them? What might you feel about them? Write down what comes to mind. 

Finally, write a prayer asking God to help you be a “Philippians 2” person to your community group and our church.