Good morning, Hope!
In response to the senseless violence and evil that was on full display in Las Vegas earlier this week, news that shook our nation's soul, I've written the following devotional...
A large crowd gathered along the hillside that surrounds the Sea of Galilee's north shore. They came from everywhere to see Jesus, the healer. Only on this day, the healer sat on the side of the hill to preach his most famous sermon ...
Blessed are the poor in spirit ... those who mourn ... the meek ... those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... the merciful ... the pure in heart ... the peacemakers ... the persecuted ... for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3-10)
With this shocking introduction, Jesus presented a stunning alternative - a better way - for a world that measures success by wealth, health, wins, power, popularity and fame. Turns out, we were made for more than selfish pursuits and shallow victories. We were made to love our friends, but also (another big shocker from our Lord) ...
Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:44)
Let that soak in. Ponder it sincerely. Pray over it. Let it permeate your heart and soul, and inspire change, because love (for friends
and enemies) is precisely what the world (desperately) needs. Right now. This is the revival, and it's a big one...
Let your light shine. (Matthew 5:16)
More than ten thousand people gather at Hope's campuses every weekend, with a bunch more joining us online. There are over 2.2 billion Christians on planet Earth. We are a sleeping giant. Imagine the positive change in this community, and this world, if Christians woke up from our spiritual slumber to live out our identity and call, following our Lord's lead to let our lights shine.
It starts with love. Not just love for our friends, and those who share our political worldview or life experience, but real and genuine love for those who see things differently.
Of course, our (sinful) nature prefers to hate, dismiss and demonize the opposition. Knowing this, Jesus gives us a practical (and, again, rather shocking!) next step in this same famous sermon...
Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Try it. Stop reading and say a prayer for the well-being of an enemy. It's not easy. Our (sinful) nature prefers to verbally destroy enemies. At first, that provides a rush, and we feel temporarily vindicated. But the after-taste of hate (even in the form of revenge) is sour, and our souls hunger for something more satisfying.
God provides! Prayer gives us a new view. We ask God to fix the problem ("them"), and God answers by starting somewhere else ("us"), changing our hearts to reflect his grace. The only thing strong enough to overcome darkness is light, not more darkness.
Please don't misunderstand. In the ridiculous debate regarding the proper Christian response to mass murder in Las Vegas - prayer (spiritual) or action (social/political/legal) - the clear biblical answer is
yes! Do both, following God's lead...
Seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)
The time has come for the (sleeping giant) church to wake up, realize our call and identity, and offer a Spirit-led, grace-based, counter-cultural alternative - a way better way - for a lost world desperately seeking direction.
This is how revival happens. It starts with a healer sitting on a hillside, telling the world there's more to life than this, reminding us who we are, and inspiring us to live it out. If we answer our Savior's call, it will change us ... and the world around us, for the better, light by light, until the darkness fades.
Let your light shine, Hope!
PS- This weekend at Hope, our
Here We Stand
sermon series continues, celebrating the
500th Anniversary of the Reformation
(a huge revival that continues to bless the world in multiple ways)! We will preach on the blessing and gift of the Bible (if it's in the Bible, it's Lutheran!), and what happens when millions of people suddenly get access to it, for the first time! It's a cool story, and it has everything to do with us! Bring a Bible (or we'll give a free one) and your friends! Come and see!