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Hope for All

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If you’ve spent much time in California during the past few years, you know how desperate we’ve been for rain. Thankfully, the long-awaited downpour we’ve had this winter seems to have quenched our state’s five-year dry spell. We needed the rain because our land is dry and thirsty. This is true spiritually for our state—and our entire nation as well.

We are a dry and thirsty land spiritually. We have the highest percentage of people who do not believe in God in this country than we’ve ever had before. More people are atheist or agnostic than ever before, which means there are more people who have no understanding of the presence of God in one’s life. Many of our institutions mock God. We have people whose needs go unmet every single day because of apathy and greed. Pornography and abortion are like a plague in this country. Religious liberties continue to be stripped away from people of faith. And instead of “In God we trust,” it has become “In man we trust, or “In self we trust.”

We have lost our way politically—as we can clearly see from the unprecedented vitriol and ugliness of this past election, on both sides equally. Moreover, I’ve never seen our nation so divided racially. Just look at the comments section of most news articles on social media and you’ll see how quickly people begin to spew hateful prejudices against one another. It must grieve the very heart of God who has made us all in His image (Genesis 1:27). He has called us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31) and to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

We’ve lost our way economically and morally; we are a bankrupt nation. Our federal government is close to 20 trillion dollars in debt. That’s $170,000 per tax payer. But we are not just bankrupt economically; we are bankrupt morally. There is the breakdown of the family unit, which causes us to be relationally challenged. We have more people who are being engulfed and enslaved by addiction to drugs, alcohol, and pornography. And we are living in times of terrorism. There seems to be a tragic attack just about every week somewhere in the world or on American soil.

Because there is so much discouragement around us, God put it in my heart that “Hope for All” would be our theme this year at Shepherd Church. Last year, our theme was “Love God, Love People.” This year is about offering hope to a broken world. The year 2017 at Shepherd is for people who are lonely, lost, confused, broken, disenfranchised, discouraged, afraid, or empty. It’s for people who are addicted and hopeless, desperate and searching. I want people know that they are loved. I want people to know that they are valued and important—that they matter; that they are respected, cared for, wanted.

The parables in Luke 15 demonstrate how much God cares for those who are lost and without hope. A shepherd loses a sheep. A woman loses a valuable coin. A father loses his son. Each of these people did whatever they could to find that which was lost, and they serve as pictures of Jesus Christ’s love and compassion for the lost. In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. In Matthew 9:35-36, Jesus went through the towns and villages and—

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Our Lord has great compassion for those who are sick, hungry, thirsty, naked, and oppressed. We see throughout the Gospels that everywhere Jesus went, He offered hope to the hurting. He came to this earth to love and forgive; heal and redeem; restore and save. We need to model Christ’s example.

I want people to look at our church and say, “There’s a church that cares for people. There’s a church that doesn’t throw aside someone who is addicted, but helps them. There’s a church that’s willing to sacrifice for others. There’s a church that has the best volunteers in America—they serve and they welcome everyone. They hold no prejudices. They see others as better than themselves. There’s a church that offers hope to all people. There’s a church that strives to love like Jesus.” If you would like to learn more about the hope that is found in Jesus, please join us at Shepherd Church.

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