Stories of Hope: Hope for the Non-Religious
Sunday, September 24, 2017
God accepts us when we come to him empty-handed.
God accepts us when we come to him empty-handed.
Our world could always use a little more hope, don’t you think? This Sunday we will begin a new series, Stories of Hope. Throughout September and October, we will be taking a look at Seven Stories of Hope from the life of Christ. I hope your family is able to be part of this study with us.
I’m excited about Stories of Hope. There are the stories our workers around the world are using to teach the hope of Christ. I will be praying throughout this series that God would be working to help you see the people around you he is causing to have an interest in spiritual things. As we make our way through these stories, be listening for spiritual questions from friends and neighbors God has put in your life. Also, pay attention to people God may be bringing to your mind each week.
This Sunday we will begin our series with the first of the Seven Stories of Hope. In Luke 7 Jesus goes to dinner at the home of a religious leader. There he encounters a “sinful woman.” If you have ever had a moment when you felt unworthy to come to Jesus, this story is for you. If you know someone who is afraid they might be too big a sinner, invite them to come find hope in this story of Christ’s compassion and acceptance.
As I was working yesterday, I took some time to reflect on the significance of the day. It occurred to me that today, September 12, 2017, there are sixteen-year-olds taking their driving tests who did not live through the day that changed everything. They cannot remember a day when our nation was not at war. They have never experienced an all-out victory over another nation that was followed by a time of relative peace. I can’t imagine growing up in a world like that.
This will show my age, but I remember growing up in a time when there was an underlying fear that at any moment we or the Soviet Union could bring life as e know it to an end. Then, I remember sitting in first-year German class watching the Berlin wall come down and with it the imminent threat of nuclear war. (At least in our minds we had won.) Of course, there was terrorism. But, back then terrorism was something over there. That changed to some extent when the Murrah building was bombed in Oklahoma City. But that was still an isolated incident that the authorities quickly dealt with. Everything seems different now.
So we have isolated ourselves. We are afraid of our own neighbors. Most of us have fences. Some of us surround our homes with walls because fences aren’t enough. We can’t let our children ride their bikes to school or even walk to the bus stop without wondering if they will be OK. We don’t trust the authorities. We feel like everyone from police officers to pastors to the president has a hidden agenda or an axe to grind. What worse is that we may be right.
So, what do you want to do about it?
Add a few more locks and security cameras? Figure out how to implant GPS in our children? Take war farther over there, so they can’t get over here?
I recently listened to a podcast with a rocket scientist and a historian. They were answering questions from a live audience. A listener asked the historian if he could go back and change one thing in history, what would he change? He thought for a few seconds and said he would want to go back in time and be Hitler’s friend. The other host was dumbfounded. The historian said that he has heard people over and over again answer that question with a plot to go back and kill Hitler. He said, “But what if instead I could befriend middle -school Hitler and help him overcome the bullying that made him hateful and bitter? What if I could have helped him give Germany a vision for being a nation of love and generosity rather than hate and oppression?”
Whether the Cold War or the War on Terror or one of the other countless conflicts in our history, the world has always been a dark place. Today, let’s decide to disrupt the darkness for someone with the light of Christ’s love. Who can you love today who might not expect it? It won’t end the war, but it might help one person decide to be a good guy.
Floods. Gas shortages. What a week for the Lone Star State! What do we do when things go bad like this?
First, we pray. Despite the cynical quips of the media about our prayers, they change things. Our God delights in the requests of his children. Then, we act. It’s important that we don’t let our prayers be the end. We need to take action. I have a family member who has served on a disaster relief team. His team volunteered in New Orleans after Katrina. They were also one of the first groups on the ground to clean up in Joplin, Missouri, after the devastating tornado in 2011. His experience was that they had all the volunteers and water bottles they could mobilize. People came from all over Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and other states. People also sent all kinds of supplies. Often, though, they didn’t have exactly the supplies they needed. Many of the volunteers simply did not have the skills they needed. (I’m sure I would have fallen into that group had I arrived to volunteer.) He said the best way for the rest of us to serve people in a disaster is to give. Sometimes money seems a little impersonal, but it can be used by the experts to do the best things for everyone involved.
So, this morning we will do good for Houston by praying together for the people facing hardship. We will be praying that God would protect them, give them peace and meet their physical and emotional needs. We will pray that believers in Christ will be a valuable part of this work. That God would help our trained, mobilized brothers and sisters to serve tirelessly and offer God’s gift of eternal life along with meeting other needs. We will pray that people will truly feel God’s love through their hard work and their loving words. Then, we will give. There is a link below to an organization that is giving churches the opportunity to partner nationally to help our neighbors affected by Harvey. Your prayers and giving truly make a difference in this disaster and in eternity.