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Sunday, September 22, 2019

In the beginning, God created family! God saw that is was not good for man to be alone and create woman—knowing that unity and communion with others was vital.

Family is what helps us in our weaknesses, in our troubles, and in low places of our life. Family speaks to who we’re suppose to be and excepts us for who are today.


GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH HE GAVE YOU FAMILY!

I will never forget the day I was at St. Vincent’s Home for Children, listening to students give speeches. One by one, they each talked about the dream they had of family. They spoke of dreams of being in a family with a dad and a mom… dreams of their dad getting out of prison… dreams of someday having a house and a family of their own. They had dreams of everything being normal… being loved… being celebrated, not tolerated. I suppose what stood out to me is that they kept getting up again. They hadn’t given up hope. This was part of what won my heart in support of St. Vincent’s; I watched the staff look at kids that had been knocked down in life, and they continually encouraged them to keep getting back up. 

Doesn’t everyone need that? We all need a good coach that will tell us that the game isn’t over yet. 

We all need a family. 

We learned last week that God designed family. A father, mother, and children were God’s idea. And when He made the first family, everything was perfect… until… sin entered and everything got messed up.  

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen? Why is there hatred, abuse? Why is that people that are supposed to love us sometimes end up being the people that hurt us the most? The Apostle Paul said you can find the root of all the ugliness in the world summed up in one word:  SIN.  (See Romans 5.)

 

But God loves you so much He gave you family. He invites you into the family of God!

To see the depths of how bad family can be and how good family can be, let’s look at Acts 14:

Paul and Barnabas went to a town called Lystra. Paul saw a guy who was crippled from birth (the man had never walked before), but he was listening intently to Paul. Paul noticed this man had faith to be made well, so he looked him in the eyes and said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet!” And the guy jumped to his feet and started walking! WOW… when the people realized what had happened, they said, “The gods have come down to us.” They thought that Barnabas was Zues, that they were gods and wanted to start sacrificing to them and worshiping them. STOP!!!!!  No… they were regular people just like everyone else… they were bringing them the good news about Jesus! So the people calmed down.

“But some Jews came from Antioch and they changed the minds of the crowds. 

They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” –Acts 14:19

Paul was pelted with stones until he was knocked to the ground and stopped moving. He was then dragged out of the city, not kicking and screaming, but limp and lifeless. They supposed he was dead and left him there. How could the crowd who was just worshiping Paul now turn on him? Worse yet, it was the Jews who did this. These were Paul’s people, the Jewish family, his Jewish family that hunted him down and inflicted such pain on this man. How could anyone do this to their own family? 

Sadly, too often it’s on the inside of family, the perfect family that God created, that people get hurt. 

Our words, and perhaps even more so, our actions, can leave the people we love the most broken-hearted, battered, feeling tolerated instead of celebrated. How many people in marriage have been hurt to the core? How many children have had wounds inflicted in the depths of their heart? Too many that I know. 

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” 

I’ve since come to find out that while words can’t break my bones, they can break my heart. Words can easily go into a person’s heart like a hook with barbs – it goes in easy, and then it gets stuck there. The very tone of a person’s voice and be life giving or suck the life out of a person. 

When sin entered the human family, the human family began to erode. The GOOD NEWS is that 

Through Jesus what has been broken – a heart, a relationship, a marriage can be healed. God can restore a family the same way he restored Shane and Tammy’s family. 

Your biological family might be fractured right now, it’s possible that the person who you though was going to be your knight in shining armor has become a nightmare. I want you to know that you are invited to family… you are invited into God’s family. 

God loves you so much he gave you family.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.” 

– Ephesians 1:5

Adoption means you are wanted, chosen, valuable, desirable… it means you have family! To be adopted means you have the privilege of being loved and the responsibility of loving. You have the joy of being known, and the joy of knowing others. 

If the thought, “How could God love me?” has ever entered your mind, the Lord has a word for you: 

“Before I made the world I was thinking about you… I was intent on you being in my family. I was intent on you receiving all the good that comes from being in my family. I was and am intent on you lavishly receiving my love, kindness, goodness, favor… my grace!”

“So now you are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. 

You are members of God’s family.” – Ephesians 2:19

I grew up singing a song at Mount Hope Church:  “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God! I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by his blood. Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod. I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. Now you may notice we say brothers and sisters ‘round here. Well that’s because we’re a family and these folks are so dear. If one has a heartache we all share the tears. I’m so glad we’re apart of the family of God.” 

If you didn’t grow up being deeply loved like this, or feel you never really had family… I say, Welcome to the family of God! It’s time for you to be lavishly loved by the Lord and your brothers and sisters in Christ! 

The fact is we all get knocked down and need family to help us get back up again.     

There was Paul laying on the ground, dead or not dead? We may not be sure, but we know he wasn’t moving a muscle. I can only imagine he was in immense pain… a pain caused by his own family, the Jewish people.  

“But as the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into town!” – Acts 14:20

When it seems like all hell has broken loose against you, when one minute things are fine and the next your world has fallen apart, when you have been betrayed, when those you thought loved you have hurt you the most, when you have been knocked down, what you need is not revenge or pity. You need the supernatural power of a community of believers in Jesus Christ to circle around you. You need the family of God to pray for you, to fill you with courage, to love on you, to prophesy to you, to listen. Your ability to get back up and face life again when you’ve taken a hit is linked to who is gathered around you!

I love my family… by that I mean my wife, daughter, son-in-law, grandkids, my mother, brothers.. and you—the family of God. Why?

FAMILY SHOWS UP IN THE DARK.

When Paul was knocked down, pummeled with stones, physically dragged and dumped like he garbage, he was not alone. The family of God showed up in the dark. When everyone else abandoned Paul, the family of God did not! 

What about your dark moments? Have you experienced the family of God showing up in your dark moments? 

It’s interesting to me how the Lord often speaks to us in a dark place. It seems that it’s in the darkest of moments we face that we really need to hear the voice of God. If you have found yourself in the darkness of delayed promises, in that moment, you need to hear the voice of God. If you have found yourself hearing what you never thought you would hear—words like divorce or cancer—more than ever, you need to hear the voice of God.

 

The Apostle Paul had been stuck on a ship in a terrible storm, they had not seen light for 14 days, things got so bad that all hope was gone. But that night an angel from God came and stood next to Paul in the darkness of the moment and spoke, “You’re going to be okay, Paul. You are going to get out of this, the ship will be broken apart… but the Lord will hold you together” (see Acts 27).

A father heard the worst news of all that his daughter was dead. He was told there was no need to bother Jesus, it was too late. Jairus heard Jesus say, “Do not fear, only believe” (see Mark 5).

“The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.” – Psalm 29:4

“For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.” – Psalm 33:9

It’s the sound of God’s voice!

At the sound of His voice, blind eyes had to see, crippled people walked, life came back into dead bodies.

When Joshua heard a word from the Lord, fear had to run out of the room. Gideon heard a word from the Lord and was transformed from weak to warrior. Peter heard a word from the Lord and he walked on water. 

And God wants you use you to speak His words to somebody else! 

For people to surround Paul, he had to first show himself friendly. If you build more windows than walls, you have more friends. Paul had family because he took time to be around family, to love on family. He was generous. He lived out “you reap what you sow.” 

FAMILY IS WHERE INVISIBLE LOVE BECOMES VISIBLE. 

The invisible love of God in the heart of those believers, that family of God, became visible when they surrounded Paul in the midst of his darkness. Will you do the same for somebody else?

 

Your love for God becomes visible when you love people.

“God will not forget how hard you have worked for him, and how you have shown your love to him 

by caring for other believers. Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts… 

then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent.” – Hebrews 6:11-12

Isn’t it great that God chooses to forget the sins you confess and repent of? He casts them as far as the east is from the west, but He chooses to remember the way you love people! Love is something you do! It’s the times you took a meal to someone… when you took people into your home when their world was falling apart… the times you listened when someone needed an ear or a shoulder to cry on. Keep on loving! This is God’s great desire for you!

Then you won’ t become spiritually dull. Did you catch that? If you and I don’t take time and show our love for God by loving others, we will become spiritually dull. 

Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? When we were steeped in sin, separated from God, belonging to a kingdom of darkness, love showed up—the invisible love of God became visible in the life of Jesus—the cross, burial, and resurrection. LOVE FOUND ME! LOVE RESCUED ME!  

FAMILY GIVES YOU STRENGTH FOR THE JOURNEY.

Paul got up and went back to the city, then the next day he left for a different city, but, “When he had finished preaching the gospel in that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples” (Acts 14:20-22).

 

This would not be Paul’s last trial, his last beatdown, his last difficulty. There would be more moments when it looked like all hope was gone. See Acts 27… the ship, the snake… but everywhere Paul went, the believers (the family of God) strengthened him and he strengthened them. 

When he finally got to Rome, the brothers heard and came from all over the place to see Paul. 

“On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” – Acts 28:15

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, 

especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25

When I see you—the family of God—in action, you give me strength for the journey. I thank God and take courage! 

Mount Hope Church, you are the best!

I encourage you to make time for family – join a Life Group; refuse to stay disconnected from the family. When your life hits dark moments, you’ll need the family. When others hit dark moments, they will need you to be family. 

If you, like the Jewish family that hurt Paul, have hurt or broken the heart of those you love, will you drop to your knees today? Will you look somebody in the eyes and ask that they forgive you? Love will cover over you!

GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH HE GAVE YOU FAMILY!