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Thursday, March 30, 2017


Matthew 16:16-19 "Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God". Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father who is in Heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven."
As the son of a pastor, Matthew Barnett grew up in and around church. When he was 16 years old, Matthew was sitting on the hood of his car and God gave him a vision of one day going to inner-city Los Angeles and starting a church that would be open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year—a church that never sleeps. That sparked a burning desire in Matthew to bring a message of hope to the hopeless by serving both the physical and spiritual needs of those who lived in the inner city, but he figured it probably wouldn’t happen until he was at least 40 years old. Little did he know just how quickly God would move.
Just four years later, his father came to him and asked if he’d be interested in going to L.A. for a year to pastor a small church in the inner city. His dad had tried asking 10 other pastors, but they had all turned down the opportunity. It wasn’t an ideal situation—the church only had 18 people and was meeting in a tiny building far off the beaten path—but Matthew eagerly accepted the position.
Having grown up in Phoenix, Matthew’s first encounter with inner-city L.A. was a total culture shock. The first thing he noticed was that he was the only white kid in the neighborhood. But as he began to really look around, the people immediately captured his heart. He saw kids who didn’t have anything or anyone—no fathers, no mentors, no hope. They spent all their time on the streets because there was nowhere else for them to go. God spoke to him in that moment and told him, “If you reach the people that nobody wants, then I’ll send you the people that everybody wants.
With all the gangs, violence and brokenness surrounding them, Matthew and his dad decided the first thing they needed to do before the church could grow was to get busy helping the people rebuild their lives. They began reaching out to the community by providing food and clothing. They also bought 16 old houses in the neighborhood and turned them into recovery homes. Within one year, they were reaching almost 500 people each week. Their little church building couldn’t accommodate that many people, so they needed to find a larger facility right away.
One day as Matthew was driving down the freeway, he saw the old Queen of Angels Hospital. It had been vacant for over six years and was now for sale. The entire campus covered 360,000 square feet with a total of nine buildings and over 1,000 rooms. Located on 8.8 acres directly in the heart of L.A., the property was prime real estate. The Franciscan Sisters who used to run the hospital had already received numerous offers from people interested in purchasing it including Paramount Studios who wanted to use it as a location to shoot movies. Matthew and his dad sat down with the Franciscan Sisters and told them, “Look, we don’t have a whole lot of money, but we have a dream. And that dream is to have a 24-hour church that will be a place of refuge and rehabilitation for runaways, prostitutes, street kids, homeless people and drug addicts. When the sisters heard this, they got really excited and said, “Now that’s the kind of legacy we want to leave behind! Why don’t you go ahead and make us an offer?” So Matthew offered them 3.9 million dollars, and they accepted his offer even though they had another offer on the table for 16 million dollars.
They only had 18 months to raise the 3.9 million dollars. Although they didn’t have any money in the bank, they believed in their hearts that God had opened the door to purchase the hospital and He would be faithful to provide the finances. Sure enough, donations began pouring in from churches and individuals located all across the United States, and soon the Dream Center opened its doors.
In the first four years of the Dream Center’s existence, prostitution and gang violence in inner-city L.A. dropped 73%, the homicide rate dropped 28% and rape dropped 53%. Today, the Dream Center reaches more than 35,000 people each week through 40 weekly services and 273 ministries and outreaches. There are about 600 people actually living on the campus who have been rescued off the streets from prostitution and homelessness, and half of those are currently going through drug and alcohol rehab. What began as a God-given dream in a young 16-year-old boy’s heart has grown into a truly miraculous reality. The Dream Center is a church that’s reaching thousands of hurting people and offering them hope … 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s a church that never sleeps.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus asked His disciples one of the most pivotal questions in history: “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered Him saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.” Not too long after Jesus made that declaration, the church was born on the Day of Pentecost.
The church is not a building. We are the church. We are called to be the living and dynamic Body of Christ to a world lost and dying in darkness. We are Christ’s hands and feet in the world. He lives in us and acts through us. Jesus’ work on earth didn’t end when He ascended into heaven. It continues today in the lives of those who believe in Him, those whom He has entrusted and empowered. And the best way to demonstrate His presence in a broken world is through our deeds rather than our words. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another. The only hope for us to win people to Him is by going outside the four walls of our church buildings, living out His love and being a church that shines light in the night—a church that never sleeps.

Gateway Church "Let's Go" Devotional PDF

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Let's Go! Day 9

God’s People



“Then the good people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food, or thirsty 
and give you something to drink? When did we see you alone and away from home and invite you into our house? 
When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison 
and care for you?’ 
Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for even the least of my people here, you also did 
for me.’” Matthew 25:37–40 (NCV)
Ron Hall grew up in Haltom City, just outside of Fort Worth, Texas. After serving a brief two-year stint in the army, marrying his college sweetheart Deborah and earning his MBA, Ron went on to become a wealthy international art dealer who traveled the world buying and selling million dollar Picassos and Van Goghs. Ron and Deborah were living the American Dream. One day Deborah spied an article in the newspaper about homelessness and it mentioned the Union Gospel Mission, a place in Fort Worth that ministers to homeless men, women and children. As Deborah read about the mission, she immediately knew God was calling her to get involved.
Deborah, dragging her husband, Ron, along with her, set out to volunteer at the mission by serving dinner to the homeless for about three to four hours every Tuesday night. Driving home after their first visit to the mission, Deborah told Ron that although society tended to look at those who were homeless as victims of their own foolishness and laziness, she felt like there was so much more to them below the surface just waiting to be discovered. That night, she dreamt about the mission, and in her dream she saw the face of a wise man from the mission who would change the city. The dream reminded her of a verse she had once read in Ecclesiastes 9:15 that said: “Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.” When she told Ron about the dream, he didn’t question it; Deborah was one of the godliest people he knew. She was constantly spending time with the Lord in prayer and seeking His will for her life.
For the next two weeks, Deborah and her husband volunteered on Tuesday nights at the Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth. With a perpetual smile on her face, everyone could tell that she truly enjoyed serving at the mission. When she looked at the faces of the people she was serving, Deborah didn’t see their homelessness; she only saw Jesus. She made an effort to get to know each person, calling them by their first name, and always insisted on referring to everyone who came to the mission as “God’s people.”
On their third Tuesday serving at the mission, a huge, 60-something-year-old black man dressed in rags came storming in yelling and threatening to kill whoever had stolen his shoes. Deborah leaned over to Ron and whispered, “That’s him! That’s the man I saw in my dream … the one who changes the city.” Ron looked at her in disbelief as she went on to say, “And I really think God’s telling me that you need reach out to him.”
After asking around, the Halls discovered the man’s name was Denver and that he came to the mission every Tuesday. Each time Deborah served him, she would look him in the eye and say, “Denver, God has a calling on your life.” When Denver warned her not to mess with him because he was a mean man, Deborah replied, “You are not a mean man, and I don’t ever want to hear you say that!” Wanting to be left alone, Denver started to avoid her. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t seem to get Deborah to stop talking to him.
After a few months of volunteering, Deborah began wanting to do more than just feed the homeless. She wanted to see lives changed and broken hearts healed. Racking her brain to figure out how she could bring some joy into these people’s lives, she decided to have a Beauty Shop Night where she and some other volunteers could pamper the homeless women with manicures, pedicures, facials and makeovers. That led to movie nights and then birthday nights. All the while, Denver was watching the Halls’ actions. And over time, he came to the conclusion that they were a genuinely nice couple who was serious about helping people.
At Deborah’s urging, Ron invited Denver out for breakfast, and to his surprise, Denver accepted. As the two men ate breakfast, Denver came out and bluntly asked Ron, “What do you want from me?” Ron was taken aback for a second, but then deciding to be equally forthright, he answered: “I just want to be your friend.” Denver was silent for a moment, but then he finally said, “Let me think about it.”
It wasn’t immediate, but eventually a true, lasting friendship began to blossom between Ron, Deborah and Denver. They started to hang out and spend time together. The Halls even helped Denver get his driver’s license. Moving in both mysterious and miraculous ways, God used the friendship between Denver and the Halls to draw each of them closer to Him and to work in and through their lives to reach countless others. Because of their story and a series of God-ordained circumstances, over five hundred thousand dollars were raised for a new mission facility called “New Beginnings,” and Deborah’s dream of how God would use a man from the mission to change the city was fulfilled.
The Bible is clear that whenever we go beyond the scope of our selfish nature and reach out to those in need, Jesus considers our actions as if we are doing it for Him. Deborah Hall truly grasped this concept, and although he was a little reluctant at first, her husband Ron did too. They stepped out of their comfort zones to go reach out to individuals the world had given up on—the hungry, thirsty, homeless, sick and lonely … those whom Jesus referred to as “the least of these.” They allowed their hearts to be broken by the needs around them, and they chose to view each person they encountered as a child of God.
Will you ask God to help you see those around you with His eyes?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Let's Go - Day 8 - Who is Your Neighbor

“So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” 
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, 
“Go and do likewise.”
One day, a lawyer came up to Jesus asking, “Teacher, what do I have to do to get eternal life?” Jesus looked at him, and instead of answering, He asked the lawyer a question of His own: “You’re an expert at the law. You tell me. What does God’s law say, and how do you interpret it?” Without hesitation, the lawyer rattled off: “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. And love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
After commending the lawyer for his answer, Jesus told him he should go and do exactly that if he truly wanted eternal life. The lawyer had no problem with loving God, but he wanted clarification. So he continued to press Jesus further and asked: “And who is my neighbor?” In other words, he was saying: Tell me who I have to love and who I don’t have to love. Who do I have to accept, and who can I reject? Who do I have to reach out to, and who can I just ignore? Aren’t there some people deserving of love and others who aren’t?
Jesus refused to answer the man’s question yet again. Instead, He launched into a story. The scenario was almost comical: The lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus responded with: “There once was a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho ….” Can you imagine the lawyer’s frustration? All he wanted was a simple answer, and Jesus started telling a story about some man who set out on a journey from Jerusalem to Jericho. But it was much more than just a story. There was purpose, depth and detail in this story that Jesus specifically included in order to expose all of the excuses we use to keep from loving and connecting with the people around us.
Everyone listening to Jesus that day knew the road from Jerusalem to Jericho wound 18 miles through the mountains and descended about 3,300 feet. And it definitely wasn’t a path you wanted to take after dark, because it was a notoriously popular hideout for bandits.
Sure enough, the man was attacked by robbers, stripped naked, beaten unconscious and thrown into a ditch to die. Eventually, a priest came riding by. During this time in history, priests held the wealthiest, most powerful and most respected positions in all of Israel. As both political and spiritual leaders, they were the pinnacle of Jewish society. When this priest saw the man covered in dust and blood lying by the side of the road, he angled across to the other side of the road to avoid him and passed on by. The priest was followed by a Levite—another spiritual leader. Seeing that the man had been beaten up by bandits and fearing for his own life, he hurried by as quickly as possible.
Now this is where Jesus did something that was absolutely gutsy: He introduced a Samaritan as the hero of the story. And here’s why it was so revolutionary: The Jews didn’t just dislike the Samaritans; they despised them. There was such deep hatred towards Samaritans that the Jews actually sang songs in their synagogues about how stupid they were. There’s even evidence that some of the prayers prayed in synagogues during the first century included requests to God to make sure the Samaritans wouldn’t be allowed to partake in eternal life! Can you imagine their prayers? “God, I pray for my wife, my kids, my parents. Oh, and could You please not let any of the Samaritans into heaven? Thank You. Amen.”
Well-aware of the Jews’ deep-seated hatred for the Samaritans, Jesus’ purpose behind making a Samaritan the hero of His story was both deliberate and significant. When the Samaritan came upon the wounded man, he was moved with compassion. He cleaned the man’s wounds and gave him first aid. Then placing him on his own donkey, the Samaritan took the man into the next town (which was most likely a Jewish town) where he booked him a room at an inn and paid for it.
Wrapping up His story, Jesus turned to the lawyer and asked: “Who do you think was a neighbor to the man who got beaten up?” Looking down at the ground, the lawyer couldn’t even bring himself to say, “The Samaritan.” Instead, he mumbled, “The guy who showed mercy.” “That’s right,” Jesus replied. “Now go and do the same.”
So what’s the major difference between the priest, the Levite and the Samaritan? It all comes down to one word … compassion. When he saw the wounded man, the Samaritan didn’t say that the man “should have known better,” that anyone who was foolish enough to flirt with danger by traveling down the rugged path from Jerusalem to Jericho deserved to reap the consequences of their own poor choices. No, he picked him up and brought him to a place of healing.
Ask yourself today, “Who’s my neighbor?” It’s those who’ve been robbed by the thugs and bandits of the world—fear, despair, grief, pain, poverty, disease, hate, hopelessness, misery—then beaten up and left for dead. They’re around every corner we turn—from all walks of life. No one is exempt. No one is left untouched.
Do we keep our distance? Do we pretend not to see their pain and hurry on with our lives? Do we think to ourselves, “I’ll just pray for them” and then go on our way? Or will we allow our hearts to be moved with compassion? Will we stop what we’re doing—even if it’s something good, something spiritual—and kneel beside those who are hurting … those who are lost and alone … put our arms around them and carry them to a place where they can find life, hope and healing?
Ask God to soften your heart to those around you—towards your neighbors, your co-workers, those you come in contact with. Ask Him to stir up a love and compassion within you for them and their needs. Ask Him to give you the courage and wisdom to walk with them and offer them hope and life.
Compassion is the ability to see past the arrogance of sinful men and women and into the broken soul of human beings … into the heart that is desperately in need of the grace of God.
Matt Chandler