Last week we reflected on the notion that the church should be a safe place where people can work through their struggles. Those who stand in need of safety cry out, “Accept me!” Acceptance is the first step in the journey of life transformation. However, it is not the only step. Acceptance alone does not lead to transformation.
In addition to being a place of safety, the church should be a place of vision. Spiritual vision centers on the gospel truth that God is at work in the life of a believer. Vision is the realization of who you can be. Vision is the response to the heart’s cry, “Believe in me!”
The church accepts people where they are, yet believes that people can be who God desires them to be. The church is a safe place to be real because God has a vision for our lives. The goal is for us to be presented complete in Christ (Colossians 1:28). The vision is that the followers of Christ look like Christ. Church members should not strive to make others disciples of themselves. The goal is for people to be Disciples of Christ.
Many people have never had people express a belief in them. They may feel that everyone is against them. In fact, we may live with a chip on our shoulder, constantly feeling the need to prove ourselves and show others that we are worthy. But the church should be the place where you are encouraged and cheered. It is not a competition. We are all on the same team striving towards the same goal. We share a common vision.
The reality of the gospel and treasures that Christ has placed in us provide the bases for shaping the vision of who we can be. Our belief in ourselves and in others is not rooted in confidence in our ability. It is rooted in the power of God to shape us. We believe in others because we know that God is at work in them just as He is at work in us.
Imagine the impact that the church can have when we embrace God’s vision for our lives. Imagine the strength of our faith community when we believe that God can change us. We accept others so that they will feel welcomed in the place where transformation takes place. We believe in them because we know that the God who has been at work in us can work mightily in them.
Jesus came to the world so that we might have life and have it to the fullest (John 10:10). He has entrusted His life giving mission to His church. The church is not an institution or a building. It is a people. Not just any people. We are the people of God. The church is a people that welcomes all people to come and experience the life that Christ has to give.
In Matthew 9:12-13, Jesus says, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,' for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Christ calls sinners to safety in Him. When a person is saved, God places them in a safe place, the church. God did not design the church to be a place of hurt. He designed the church to be THE place where the hurt can receive healing.
Those who stand in need of safety cry out, “Accept me!” Many have been rejected by their family and by society. They are searching for a place where they belong. They are looking for a place to call home. The church is to receive those that Jesus calls to Him. We must remember that we were once on the outside looking for a safe place where people would accept us.
Acceptance is the first step in the journey of life transformation. For too long we have confused secrecy with safety. Accepting others removed that secrecy and allows people to share their struggles, fears and failures in the safety of a loving community of believers. People must know that we are for them if there is any hope of us leading them closer to Christ.
The church should be a safe place where people can work through their struggles and not be judged by their struggles. Acceptance does not mean ignoring sin. Acceptance lets the person in sin know that the church is a safe place to share our struggles and celebrate successes. Luke 5:31-32 reminds us that Jesus calls sinners to repentance. The church is not a place where sick people come to stay sick. It is a place where sick people come to be made whole by the Great Physician.
The death of our brother Botham Jean has impacted the world. He was an outstanding and upstanding Christian man who loved all and was loved by all. He dedicated his life to the God who gave him life and shined his light so that others could see Jesus, the light of the world. And all of us a sudden, while in his own home, his life was taken from him by one sworn to protect lives.
There are far too many incidents of officers shooting unarmed African-American males. But this time is different. Botham was not doing anything suspicious. It was not a traffic stop gone awry. Brother Botham Jean was shot because he was at home. A police officer, off duty but still in uniform, kills a man who was simply living his life in the comfort of his own home. Botham’s death has left millions trying to make sense of the senseless.
How do you make sense of the senseless? In Psalm 27, David writes about his struggle to make sense of the senseless. His world was not much different from ours. There are evildoers and adversaries. There are foes and fears. There are even false witnesses. In verses 13-14 David concludes with words that encourage us in times like these. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (NKJV)
It is a belief that we will experience the goodness of God on this side of eternity that helps us make sense of the senseless. The truth is that some things will never make sense. We may never have all of the answers or be able to fill in all of the missing pieces. Yet we do not despair because we will see the goodness of God. When life doesn’t make sense, look for the glory of God to shine brightly. God does not just have better awaiting in the by and by. There is blessing in the here and now. When situations are senseless, look for God to show forth His goodness both in this life and in the life to come.
Hope in God is not wishful thinking or a pipe dream. Hope is a confident expectation of a better tomorrow. It is that hope that strengthens our hearts. When we are experiencing the pains of life we should expect God’s comfort. Knowing the Lord, allows us to speak confidently because we have come to trust His promises. Even when dealing with sorrow, we believe the promise of Jesus, “Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
Blended families are nothing new. In fact, Jesus was a part of a blended family. Blended families are a reality in America and in the church. Approximately 12 million children in the US are living in a blended family, having a biological parent who is married to someone who is not that child’s biological parent. Over 65 percent of Americans are a stepparent, a stepchild, a stepsibling or a step-grandparent.
There are challenging dynamics in blended families that do not exist in biological families. Our culture often stigmatizes blended families. In the media, step-mothers are seen as wicked. Step-fathers are depicted as mean or abusive. Step-children are portrayed as defiant and rebellious. However, the stereotype doesn’t have to be your reality. Blended families can be victorious!
As families blend together, it is all about making adjustments and being flexible. The age of the children can affect the ease in which a family blends. Generally speaking, the younger the children, the easier the blending of the family.
A blended family typically requires more communication, consultation and coordination than a traditional family. Communicate when you are treated in a way that makes you feel loved and a part of the family. Communicate when feelings are hurt, and expectations are not met. Communicate when people in the family are doing the right thing. Express when you see growth and progress. Additionally, communicate boundaries and family expectations.
If you want to be a victorious blended family, make God the heartbeat of your family. Pray together. Pray for one another privately. Pray for the child’s other biological parent. Worship and serve the Lord together. Study the Word at home together.
The blessing comes when blended families live in the empowerment of God. Through Jesus, your family can be victorious!
Minister Ross' creativity, wisdom, and insight have inspired community, church and corporate audiences throughout the United States.