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Episode 13 of Kindavangelical just released! Patriarchal Regrets

You Belong
9-DAY READING

Do you ever feel as if you don’t belong in God’s family? Like you’re a misfit? Or like you’ve done something to disqualify yourself from being a part of the family? In this 9-day reading plan, Pete Briscoe explores what it means to be a member of God’s family and how you can know with confidence that you belong.

Day 1

What It Means to be Part of God’s Family

It was Sunday morning, and all hell had cut loose that weekend. Literally. The one they called Jesus had been beaten, bloodied, and hung in the Middle Eastern sun to die humiliated. And with Him died the dreams of the masses who had followed Him as their Lord. That morning, Mary Magdalene discovered through her tears that even His body had been stolen. When all hope was lost, a man who Mary thought was the gardener turned and said to her,

“Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:16-17)

The nuances of His words were lost, I am sure, in the light of what had just been revealed: …my brothers… my Father and your Father… to my God and your God… It was a power-packed morning, with enough blatant impact to last an eternity. But in between the lines, Jesus also affirmed what He had been displaying His whole earthly life: That He was a son, dependent on the Father, and that the ragtag collection of men and women who followed Him were sons and daughters of the Father too… making them (and us) siblings of the firstborn Son of God.

For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29)

God’s purpose in redemption is to give Jesus brothers and sisters. How cool is that? God wants a big family! He wants you and me to be in it, children of the perfect Father, siblings of the ultimate big Brother.

Our Father, Your Word says that if we receive Christ, You give us the right to be called children of God. Lord, I want to be a part of that family. I want to live as Your child; I want to be a sibling of Your Son. I want to learn dependence on You as I learn to live by grace with my other brothers and sisters in Christ. Thank You for Your mercy. Thank You for Your love. Amen.

Day 2

How You Can Live Differently

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. —Desmond Tutu

Our church supports a missionary family in India, a family that displays perfectly the family of God—not because they are perfect (Ha!) but because they aren’t perfect, yet they have been assembled perfectly, just as God has assembled us.

It all started one day when they came out of their home and found a naked, one-day-old girl lying on their front step. Alone, abandoned, dying. They picked her up, bundled her up warmly, and held her to their chest. She lived, and they kept her as their own. They began to hear about others who had been thrown out like trash (literally) on the side of the road. One by one, these newborn girls have been brought into the missionary’s home. At last count, there are more than twenty of them who are growing in Christ in this crazy family. It’s messy and loud, but it’s real. Really real. When the mother was asked what she was going to do with all these girls, she replied, “I’m going to give them my name!” And in a sea of nameless orphans, that’s a huge, life-changing gift. With a name, they belong.

Another picture of what God has done for each of us—and a challenge to live differently in the family of those who are saved.

The Church takes orphans, the Church takes deserted people, the Church takes abandoned people and pulls them in, and He gives them His Name, and He gives them a family.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

Father, by Your love and strength, may it be so. Amen.

Day 3

Your Place In the Family of God

A father is someone who carries pictures in his wallet where his money used to be. —Unknown

There is just something about this adoption thing. Something about the way a child is chosen and accepted by choice, not by reluctant obligation, but out of pure joy—often at great expense. If God carried a wallet, your picture would be in it, and you would know that it cost Him everything to put it there—an eternal love that paid the ultimate price so we might become one with Him and His family. That’s a special kind of love—a love that goes in search of someone to receive and then chooses to do so.

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. (Ephesians 1:4-5)

Yes, our adoption is by the Father’s choice and desire. Pulling us into a family where Christ calls us brothers and sisters. But, like all families, dynamics change. For a time, Jesus walked with our siblings in physical person, but He knew that things were going to change, and so He prayed a most remarkable prayer to our Father. May our prayers echo His prayer:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I also pray for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23) Amen.

Day 4

Being Fully Free in Christ

Freely you have received, freely give. —Jesus, Matthew 10:8

Back in Paul’s day, the Macedonians were dirt poor. In a devastated, drought-stricken land, many of them would have been sleeping in the gutters, except that they didn’t have any gutters. Yeah, it was the kind of “poor” that many of us rarely, if ever, see—let alone experience. Those Macedonians have something to teach us today about the family of God:

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)

Sharing resources is part of what it means to be a family. It’s a huge blessing, and not just for those who freely receive, but also for those who freely give. What a strange mixture of words shows up in this passage! Very severe trial… Overflowing joy… Extreme poverty… Rich generosity… As Paul helps define our identity as brothers and sisters, isn’t it possible that he’s teaching us an even deeper lesson about what it means to be truly free in Christ? Consider these words from J. G. Whittier:

Nothing before, nothing behind:

The steps of faith

Fall on this seeming void, and find

The Rock beneath.

Jehovah Jira, Heavenly Father, even Your Old Testament name declares that You are “God my Provider.” You are the Father, and I am Your child. As You have freely given to me, I ask that You would freely give through me. Strengthen my faith that I might discover You as “The Rock beneath” so that I can be free indeed. Amen.

Day 5

Seeing Others as God Does

Families are like fudge—mostly sweet with a few nuts. —Author Unknown

If you don’t believe in ghosts, you’ve never been to a family reunion. —Ashleigh Brilliant

Leave it to brothers and sisters to bring on plenty of embarrassment. When our daughter Annika was in middle school, her older brother would yell out of the van shortly after she was dropped off at school, “I love you, Annika, and Jesus does too!” He was trying to embarrass her, and each morning, it worked.

God’s family is no different—partly because we are all so different, partly because we really pull some swift ones sometimes… legit mess-ups that give plenty of reason to hang our heads and walk away in shame. Yeah, families can be embarrassing, but only if we look at each other from an earthly perspective. When we see ourselves and each other from God’s perspective, it’s totally different.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. (Hebrews 2:10-11)

Jesus calls us brothers and sisters, and never for an instant is He embarrassed by us.

Is that an act of God’s grace or what? No doubt about it: Every family has its share of nuts and its share of ghosts. God’s family is no different—and God never hid that fact throughout Scripture. The requirement for belonging has never been our performance. We have been perfected through His suffering; we are holy because of who we are in Him.

Oh God, check my heart on this one. Am I embarrassed by my brothers and sisters? Have I done things to embarrass them? Lord, by Your grace and the power of Your Spirit in my spirit, give me the willingness and ability to boldly embrace my siblings in Christ, calling them “brothers and sisters” (no matter how many ghosts they have). And thanks for forgiving me of those times when I’m the “nut” who does the embarrassing stuff around my family. Amen.

Day 6

Your Role In God’s Family

The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out of the common thread that bound us all together. —Erma Bombeck

That kind of sums up the family of God, too, doesn’t it? “Sharing… hiding… locking each other out… inflicting,” etc. As brothers and sisters in Christ, the same longings and desires drive us toward what we could be; meanwhile, experiencing what we are and aren’t: “A strange little band of characters trudging through life… trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.”

The “common thread” is there, however, written clearly in the lines of the Bible—it’s something deeper than the random victories and defeats we experience together, something stronger than the “good times” when we seem to meet each other’s needs as we stand shoulder to shoulder for a common cause:

…In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:4-5,11-12)

God has a plan for His family; we are that plan. Destined and adopted we are living in harmony with His pleasure, His will, to His glory.

Father, Give me eyes that can see through the mess of life in Your family. Flawed as we are, give me a heart of faith that can accept myself and my brothers and sisters around me as part of Your perfect plan. I surrender in “conformity to Your will” that my life might be lived “for the praise of Your glory.” Amen.

Day 7

Why He is Closer Than a Brother To You

Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops. —Cary Grant

On a hill deep in the dusty Jordan country, Jesus taught the most famous of all sermons: the Sermon on the Mount. Powerful words, stunning words… words that defied conventional wisdom. Two of these words are as life-changing as any words ever spoken:

“Our Father…” (Matthew 6:9)

Jesus was showing us a way to pray. For thousands of years since, this “Our Father…” salutation has been, perhaps, the most common (and, unfortunately, probably the most brainlessly repeated) prayer introduction ever. Let’s fix that.

“Our.” Jesus’ prayer started with the plural-possessive pronoun. That means that whatever is to follow is something that is shared by us. In this case, that “something” is amazingly important: “Father.”

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

“Abba” is Aramaic for “Daddy.” It’s the word little kids used in Jesus’ neighborhood. And this is the name that Jesus used to call on the Heavenly Father. He got in a lot of trouble with the religious leaders for it. It was so informal, familiar, so un-religious… and it’s the word, “Daddy,” that we’re encouraged to use too when we pray when we talk with Him.

Our Father, I want to know You more, to see You as You are so that I can see who I am in You—who WE are in You. You are my DADDY, and You are OUR Daddy. We are family. Brothers and sisters with Jesus, in Jesus, dependent on You. By Your Word and the counsel of Your Holy Spirit within me, show me the Truth, and set me free. Thanks, Dad. Amen.

Day 8

God As Your Father

I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. —2 Corinthians 6:18

I love my dad. My dad loves me. That’s important. For one thing, it makes it a lot easier to believe that our heavenly Dad loves me too. Psychologists and counselors tend to agree that our view of our earthly father really shapes our concept of our Father in heaven—both good and bad.

On the downside, my dad was gone a lot when we were kids. Mom was always there to fill in the gaps, but Dad’s ministry often left an empty chair at the dinner table and an empty seat in the bleachers. During those formative years of faith, it wouldn’t have been difficult for me to view God the Father in the same way.

  • What good attributes of your earthly father coincide with the truth about our heavenly Father? (Forgiving, generous, stable, intimate, understanding, etc.)
  • What negative attributes of your earthly father have infiltrated your thoughts about our heavenly Father? (Distant, critical, abusive, condemning, unsatisfied, absent, etc.)

The truth is that our Abba Father is our perfect Daddy, the One who is all knows all and works all things for our good—even when our earthly fathers drop the ball… or worse.

Our Father, We need You desperately to show us where our fathers have influenced our perceptions of You. We need You desperately to empower us to forgive where we have been neglected and abused. We need You to replace lies with truth about who You are so that we can be free to be all You have created us to be in Christ. Thank You, Daddy, for doing this. Amen.

Day 9

God Always Has Time For You

I just received the following wire from my generous Daddy —“Dear Jack, Don’t buy a single vote more than is necessary. I’ll be *&$% if I’m going to pay for a landslide.” —John F. Kennedy

It’s one of the most famous photos in America: A picture of a little boy playing under his father’s desk while the father goes about his work. Sure, it’s “cute,” but “cute” doesn’t make a picture famous—yet this photo has endured (and endeared) for more than four decades. Why? Because of who the father is and where the child is. It’s JFK Jr. in the Oval Office.

Complete access to the most important people in our lives is one of the most important things. My dad continues to travel the world, and I’m one of the few with his personal cell phone number. He will pick up any time he can. No, I’ve never called him in the White House, but I always have access to him.

The same goes for our Abba Father.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, our Father has left open the door of the Oval Office of the universe, allowing us unhindered access because we are in Christ. The heavy veil that symbolically separated sinful humanity from the holy presence of God was torn the day Jesus died:

Sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body… (Hebrews 10:18-20)

The Son promised that He would be with us always (Matthew 28:20). He promised the Holy Spirit would always be in us (John 14:17). With His life, He gave us complete access to the office of the Father. That’s a pretty good family to be a part of, I’d say.

Our Father, I praise You and thank You that You have given us uninhibited, 24/7 access to You through Christ. I praise You that You are never too busy for us, that You are never distracted by other things, and that we can experience Your intimate attention and full affection any time and all the time. Amazing. Amen.

Reflection:

  1. Do you believe you belong in the family of God and that you’re fully accepted by Him?
  2. Are you willing to be used by God to expand His family?

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