One day he came to see me at the church and said, "Ray, do you know what the word hell-hole means? That's what the world is like out there beyond these four walls. You wouldn't believe the stuff that goes on-the lying, the violence, the dishonesty, the misrepresentation, the abuse of power, the profanity, stuff you can't even imagine."

And then he said, "I live six days a week so I can come to church on Sunday. When I cross the street, I say to myself, ‘Ahh, I've made it.'"

To do this rightly - to both rejoice and to weep - requires that we not keep the world at arm's length.  

That's what the world desperately needs and can't seem to find . . . an oasis in a spiritual desert . .  . a place where they can find relief . . . a group of people who truly love each other . . . a place where they can connect with God and with people who will help them on their journey . . . a place of healing and hope and real change.

Here is God's dream for every church. That through preaching the gospel men and women everywhere can experience the life-changing power of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And to be the kind of place where, no matter what kind of week you've had, you can come in and say, "Ahh, I've made it."

Where should we begin? Since we are the church, the answer always starts with us. I remind you of the prayer of a Chinese Christian, "Oh Lord, change the world. Begin, I pray, with me."

Our Father, thank you for calling us out of the world and into your family.

Teach us what it means to truly love each other. We pray that your love might unite us and that your Spirit might break down the barriers that separate us.

May we be a people with a loving purpose-

            -Quick to give to those in need,
            -Eager to reach out to strangers,
            -Ready to bless our enemies,
            -Rejoicing with those who rejoice,
            -Weeping with those who weep.

Fill us to overflowing with your love so that the world may see Jesus in us.

We pray this in his name, Amen.