Thursday, May 29, 2014

Being in The Family

Last Sunday I was at the Harris Family reunion. While away from Hub City, Mike Adler spoke for me. I love Mike. He is a man with character and he is a fantastic speaker. He kicked off our series called The Family. 

His sermon was so good that I wanted to post a transcript of it here. It's worth a few minute of your time. Thanks to Jaimee Holmes for transcribing it for me to post.

The Family—Week One You know, if you’re like me, you probably grew up watching quite a bit of TV, right?  There were certain shows that you loved, certain ones you just couldn’t wait to get up on Saturday morning to watch.  Saturday mornings were perfect for me because I could tell you exactly what time it was simply based on the show that was on.  If the Smurfs were on, it was probably about 8:00 am, and then The Chipmunks was about 9:00 am, and so on and so forth.  I thought I had a secret power.  I thought it was great that I was able to tell time this way.  And some of us still watch quite a bit of TV, don’t we?  And really, it’s because there are certain shows that capture our imagination, right?  They grab our attention and we tune in week after week because we want to know what’s going on.  Now one of the most popular genres of TV shows out there is the family sitcom.  These shows are generally focused on a specific family and the everyday issues that they might face.  Sometimes these shows are really serious, and other times they’re pretty funny.  And we find that we become enamored by these fictitious characters for one reason or another.
 So as we start out this morning, talking about our new series, “The Family,” I thought it would be good to kind of test your TV knowledge.  On the screen behind me we’re going to bring up a couple of slides and I want you to tell me one—who this family is, and then what show they belong to.  Let’s see how smart the Hub City family really is.  Let’s bring up the first slide.
 [shows Cleaver slide] Okay, who is the family? (Cleaver family!) Cleavers.  All right.  What’s the show?
 (Leave It To Beaver!) Leave It To Beaver.  Some of you are too young.  You’ve never seen this show.  Even if you haven’t seen the show, you’ve probably heard of it.  You’ve got Ward and June Cleaver.  You’ve got Beaver.  Don’t ever name your kid Beaver.  Just don’t do it, all right?  But this was one of the most famous families on TV for quite a long time and they still are having an impact on the way that we watch TV today.  All right, very good.  Let’s bring up the next slide.
 [shows Huxtable slide] Who is the family? (The Huxtables!) All right.  What’s the show? (The Cosby Show!) That’s right—The Cosby Show, the Huxtables.  They were one of those families that I would tune in week after week after week.  I think mostly because I just liked pudding.  So that’s who this guy was to me.  He was the one who sold pudding and Jello.  But Dr. Huxtable and his family, dealing with various issues week in and week out—you kind of wanted to go over and have dinner with them.  You thought, “Oh, this would be great.”  All right.  Not bad.  Two out of two.  Let’s see.  This next one is kind of tricky.  Let’s bring it up.
 [shows Simpsons slide] (The Simpsons!) The Simpsons.  What’s the show?
 (The Simpsons!) Yeah, okay.  Kind of a trick question there.  We have… well, what may be the longest running TV show in the history of TV.  Can you believe it?  A cartoon, where Homer, the dad, and Bart, the son, are practically trying to kill each other week in and week out, right?  These are the shows that we’ve grown up with.  And we’ve all grown up with certain images like this of what a family should look like, from the Cleavers to the Huxtables to the Simpsons.  Really, we’ve been given various ideas as to what to expect from families, some, like the Simpsons, quite dysfunctional.  They had a lot of issues.  And others like the Huxtables—boy, you would love to hang out with Bill Cosby, wouldn’t you?  And some of us… what we wanted more than anything else was to be able to belong to families like this, if only to escape our own lives for a brief while.
 I was one of the lucky ones.  I have a mom and a dad, a brother, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers.  And all of them, for the most part, were pretty sane.  They were also pretty funny.  But most of all, they were really wise.  From them I learned what it meant to be a son, friend, a brother, a husband, and then as I’ve seen the men grow and go through various stages of life, I have learned what it means to really be a man.  Now there were certainly times that we wanted to strangle one another.  I mean my brother and I would have some knock down, drag out fights because we engaged in the unpardonable sin of crossing that imaginary line between the hallway and that person’s room.  We’d go, “Oh, I’m in your room…”  “Oh, Mom!  I can’t believe he came in here!”  You know?  And then we’d get into fights over that.  Horrible sin—can’t believe we did that.  But despite any differences that we may have had in temperament and personality, there was always this underlying current—this theme—in my family, and that was unity.  If someone tried to come into the family and try to break it apart, for whatever reason, we would rally around each other.  We would back each other up, and we would fight them to the death if it was needed.  And in truth, I’m really thankful that my parents had the morals and the ethics that they had and that they taught them to my brother and I, because we could have created quite a stir in the area of organized crime.  I even had a relative that worked for Al Capone on his car, so it’s not that farfetched.
 However, I realize that in this particular area of life, I really was blessed.  Many of the people that I grew up with in Hamilton, Michigan, in Grand Rapids, and Indiana, and now down here—they didn’t have the best role models as parents.  In fact, if you were to talk to them regarding their families, the conversation would become pretty tense.  Also, it would go in this downward spiral, and it was hurtful for them because the idea of family only brought up bitterness, anger, disappointment… even pure, unadulterated hatred.  Perhaps this is why, when many people become Christians—followers of Christ—and they join the family of God, there is confusion.  “What is it that a family is supposed to look like?  What should they act like?  And really, what is my role in the family supposed to be?”  And if you’re visiting a church for the first time, you’re looking around at some of the people going, “I don’t know if I can commit to these people.  I mean what if they’re… you know… weird?”  These questions are really pertinent, especially if you’re coming from a family that has had numerous difficulties.
 So as we begin this series this week about “The Family,” the best thing for us to do to figure out what a family is, what some of the characteristics of a family are—we begin in the Word of God.  So today we’re going to look at a passage in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.  So open up your Bibles or your Bible app and the verses will be on the screen as well.  Now the book of 1 Corinthians was written by Paul, who was a disciple of Jesus, and it’s a letter written to a group of people that were really somewhat similar to ourselves.  They lived in a society where there were numerous cultures and religions, and they all kind of mingled together.  And they were new Christians.  They were new followers of Christ that had been plucked from the snares of paganism and false religion.  And they were attempting to live in a way that was really foreign to a lot of people.  Even just worshiping one God was foreign.  If you were Greek, if you were Roman, you didn’t do this.  If you only worshiped one God, you were considered an atheist.  And like most new families, they had arguments.  They had arguments regarding purity laws—“Should I eat this kind of meat or should I stay away from it?”  They had arguments regarding the gifts of the Spirit—“Were certain gifts more desirable than others?”  Even arguments over morality—“Should I do A or should I do B?”  In fact, these arguments started to create some wide divisions and strife in this family.  That’s why Paul had to write to them.  And while the passage we’re going to discuss today and look through really focuses more on gifts of the Spirit, there are important lessons in regard to what a family looks like that’s going to create a foundation for the next few weeks.
 So let’s jump into this passage.  Verse 12, Paul starts out:  12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
 Have you ever thought about where you come from?  And I don’t mean a specific geographical location like Michigan, where I come from, or South Carolina, but more so the culture that you come from.  I mean think about it.  What were some of the values that you were taught growing up?  Maybe “Don’t lie,” “Don’t steal”—things like that.  What sports were most important?  In my hometown it was football and basketball.  Those were the two big sports.  Everything else was pushed to the side.  What kinds of jobs were held in high esteem?  Well, the Corinthian church was a collection of people from all over the world.  They didn’t hold all things in common—how they dressed, how they spoke, what they cherished—all of this was determined by where they had come from originally.  Paul points this out.  He makes it clear.  He says, “Yeah, I know that you’re different.  I know that you don’t have all things in common.”  But he also makes clear that despite these differences those who now called themselves “followers of Christ” or “Christians” were now “one body.”  This in no way eliminated the unique characteristics of the individual, but now these individuals were working together rather than against one another, and all because they had the same Spirit, and now the same God.  And it’s not so much different from us, is it?  I mean many of us here today were not born and raised in South Carolina, such as myself… though I’m able now to use the word “y’all” in a sentence.  Yet when we join the Hub City family—the family of God—the differences were not as important as the fact that we serve the same Jesus.  The Spirit has turned us into more than just individual parts, which are important, but it’s turned into a family of believers.  It has turned us into a body that works together.
 Paul continues in verse 14:  14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot would say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear would say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many members, yet one body.” Did you know if it weren’t for the muscles in your arm you wouldn’t be able to move your fingers?  Kind of strange, isn’t it?  I mean you just think of your fingers as individual parts and yet, they need all of the muscles in your arm in order to move correctly.  Or did you know that if you throw out your back, you can affect your ability to walk, as I did a couple weeks ago?  Man, those rubber bands were heavy.  It’s amazing that though our bodies can be separated into different parts, such as hands, feet, ears, noses, mouths, and so on, they are all connected into one body, and the body is more powerful because of these parts.
 I want you to do something.  Take a moment, and I want you to look to the person to your right.  Just go ahead and look at them.  Don’t make any faces.  Okay, now look to the person to your left.  You can make faces to that person.  Go ahead.  Look to the person in front of you.  If they have a bald spot, please don’t say anything.
 [LAUGHTER] Some of you are laughing.  Sorry.  These same people that you’re looking at—did you know that you can’t be a Christian without them—you can’t be a part of “the family” without these people—even if they irritate you, even if it seems that there is nothing that you have in common with them?  Because these are the same ones that God chose to be in this family today, just as it says in verse 18.  They have strengths and weaknesses that you do not have.  They have personalities that are different.  They have passions that are different than yours.  I want you to lean in because I’m going to tell you something that is mind-blowing.  Come on.  Lean in, just a little bit.  Some of these people… they don’t like Star Wars.
 [LAUGHTER] I know!  Heresy!  Blasphemy!  We will have a counseling session up front at the end for those of you who don’t.  We need to get you back on the right path.  But what we can’t have happen is for people to come into a family like this and start looking around going, “Boy, they seem so much different than I am.  I don’t know if I can belong to a family like this.”  See, the moment that you accept Christ as your Savior, the moment that His Spirit comes upon you, then you belong to the family.  Now it doesn’t mean that you’ve made it—that you’re perfect—but it means that God has now brought you into a situation and given you the people that you need in your life who understand the changes that you’re going through.  I mean imagine for a moment, who better to help you through a time in which God doesn’t seem to answer your prayers than your brothers and sisters here in the family?  Or maybe you’re going through the loss of a family member.  Who is going to better understand that deep yearning, that mourning that you have than your brothers and sisters here?  See, if we were all the same, all having the same experiences and backgrounds—say we were all “ears”—I’m not sure what help, if any, we would be to the people around us; hence the reason that God brings us together in one body.
 But Paul doesn’t end there.  He continues in verse 21.  He says:  21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; 24 whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.”
 You know, when we come into a family like this, something changes.  We can no longer say to our brothers and sisters around us “I don’t need you.  I can do this on my own.”  And I realize in our culture, from a very young age, we are taught to be rugged individuals.  That’s right.  We’ll pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.  We will make things happen.  Paul states that this is foolish.  It’s insane!  I mean can you imagine your head saying to your feet “Hey, feet.  Buddy, listen.  We’ve had a good run.  We’ve had a good relationship.  But listen.  I’m going to go my own way.  I don’t need you anymore.  Thanks, but no thanks,” in which case the feet look up at the head and says, “What are you going to do, roll away?  You can’t go anywhere without me.”  In the same way, some members of our family can appear to be weaker than others, or they don’t seem to contribute in the same visible ways as others do.  And it’s easy for us to try to push them to the side and say, “We don’t need you.”  Yet this passage takes that excuse and it crushes it.  The weaker parts of the family are the most indispensible.  If you don’t think this isn’t true, just imagine when one tiny, itsy-bitsy valve in the heart shuts down.  It can kill the entire body.  So too when we mistreat those that we deem as not worthy of our love—we’re actually killing the body of Christ.  We’re killing the family when we do these types of things, because there are no “weak” members.  They just have different roles.
 Okay, thanks, Paul!  Well, what does this mean for us?  What do we take away from this?  Well, I think this passage gives us four characteristics—four points—that we need to take away from the passage that will allow us to better understand what the family really is, especially the family of God.  So we’ll start.
 The first one:  The family of God may be the most countercultural, revolutionary thing that exists today.  You know, many people, they love to belong, but they like to belong to things that they believe are “different.”  They’ll say, “Well, I’m going to wear all black clothing.  Why?  Because I like black and that’s just the color I’m going to wear.  I don’t like people who don’t.”  Or there may be individuals out there that we would call “anarchists.”  They may be out in the street.  They may have masks on.  They’ve got goggles and they’re protesting capitalism.  Except these same people are always hanging out with the same kinds of people.  They’re not really revolutionizing anything.  But rarely, outside of the church, do you see the same kind of diversity when it comes to experiences, culture, language, even skin color that we can see in the family of God.  We are a unique group.  We’re “peculiar,” as the Bible would say.  People are looking for—they crave—a place in which there are people like this, who are different—that they are living out a truth that is being taught day by day that they can see in action in their lives.  And I think this is true of the Hub City family.  Many people choose to call this “home” because we are different.  As Jason Holden would say, “We are the church of misfit Christians.”  We all come here with our own baggage, our own difficulties and issues, and yet, we have somehow become a family.  And there are revolutionaries sitting next to you today, my friends.  And they’re doing great things for Jesus.  So the family of God—it’s revolutionary; it’s unique.
 Number two:  The family of God has one major thing in common—Jesus Christ.  And even though we may be different—we may be coming from different areas of the world, we may have our own baggage—when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, remember what the Bible says:  “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  You now have a commonality that goes beyond mere genetics.  Listen, when you’re born to your parents, you can’t help that you look like them, right?  You can’t help that you have the nose, the eyes, the hair, maybe even the way that you speak.  You can’t help that.  That’s genetics.  But when you join the family of God, you now have brothers and sisters all over the world that you’ve never met; yet they’re part of the same family as you are.  I mean do you realize, for those of you who follow Christ, that you have relatives in places like Haiti, Germany, Australia, South Africa, even Antarctica (for the scientists that choose to live there)?  They look different.  They sound different.  They may even eat different things than you do.  And yet they have the same Spirit, the same Jesus.  And this trumps anything else that we may have in common.  It’s why when we go to a place like Haiti and we visit Alex’s House, the orphanage that we help support, that we have such a unique bond, because it’s not based on economic status; it’s not based on the kind of car we drive, the kind of house we live in, the sports team that we happen to root for.  It’s all based on us worshiping the same God.  We all have the same Father.  It’s another characteristic of the family of God.
 Number three:  The family of God has various gifts and talents and all are necessary to the health of the body.  All right, quick—I want you to name a superpower that you would like to have.  Come on—name it out; I want to hear it.
 (Invisibility!) Invisibility.  What else?
 (Leech!) Leech?
 (Basically, when you’re near somebody…) You leech their powers.  Okay, what else?
 (Flight!) Flight—flying.  Anything else?
 (Strength!) Strength.  Okay.  Those were easy.  I mean there are certain powers that… gosh, they’re just more desirable, aren’t they?  At least they seem more exciting.  But you know what I didn’t hear?  Nobody said that they wanted the ability—the power—to balance a checkbook.
 [LAUGHTER] Nobody said they wanted the power to hem a pair of pants.  Well, I can tell you that Superman, despite his ability to fly and leap over tall buildings in a single bound—he wasn’t sewing his own tights together.  Right?  And Batman, despite all of his gadgets—guess what?  He’s not balancing his own bank statements.  And Luke Skywalker—did he ever bake a cake in his entire life?  No!  Despite being a Jedi.  Yet these kinds of gifts—what we sometimes refer to as kind of “lesser” gifts—they’re not.  These gifts of organization, of administration, of being able to sew, to bake—these types of things—believe it or not, they actually allow the body, the church, the family to function on a daily basis while others may preach, teach, or serve in various capacities.  I mean just imagine, if you will, that all of you were just like Jonathan.  Let that sink in.
 [LAUGHTER] Exactly.  You’d spend every Sunday giving these great talks while eating chicken wings, while the bills don’t get paid and the kids over in Theater 8 and in the nursery were off running wild, causing massive amounts of destruction and terror, because that’s not your gift.  Your gift isn’t doing those things.  So we need all of the gifts.  We need all of these “powers,” if you will, in order for the body to be healthy.  So there is a role—there is a place—for you, regardless of what your gift may be.
 And the fourth one—perhaps the most important:  The family of God is committed to you.  Have you ever had something great happen?  I mean something fantastic.  Maybe you won a seven-day cruise.  Maybe you got that promotion that you’ve been working toward for years.  You are excited!  You go home, you’re practically kicking open the door, standing there going, “Yeah!  I did something great!  I can’t wait to tell somebody!”  There’s nobody there.  You’re like, “Oh, this is horrible.”  Or maybe you’ve had a crushing loss in your life.  Maybe you lost a loved one.  Maybe the dog that you love was run over.  It was a horrible thing.  You’ve got tears streaming down your face.  But you have nobody—nobody to talk to about these things that you’re going through.  Being part of the family—the family of God—means you’ll never have to be alone again.  It also doesn’t mean they’re going to show up to your doorstep every single day with cookies, but that’s okay.  So whether you’ve experienced a great success or a crushing loss, your brothers and sisters are there for you with arms open wide.  It doesn’t mean that you’re going to like everybody the same.  I mean there are certain family members that I like better than others, just because we have more things in common.  And yet, it does mean that you have people around who are here to help you carry your burdens, just as Galatians 6:2 says, that we are here to carry one another’s burdens.  Sometimes those burdens are losses; sometimes they’re successes.  It also doesn’t mean that the family does everything perfectly, because we’re human.  We sin, don’t we?  We say horrible things to one another.  But what it does mean is when you come into the family, you have people that are committed to helping you shed the mistakes of your past and help you focus on something greater, which is Christ.
 I want you to take a moment.  If you have a bulletin I want you to look at the front page.  Go ahead and take it out, because we miss this every week because it’s on the bulletin every week.  There is a certain phrase that’s on there—and no, not the whole “Don’t make out in the back row.”  There is a phrase that says,  “No one stands alone.”  Because that’s what a family does, right?  You come in and you’re not standing alone.  You’re not alone when you come into the Hub City family.  You’re not alone when you come into the family of God.  You’re not alone to learn what your role is in the family, who you are, how God wants to use you.  You have other people around that are willing to carry you, if necessary, to the next part, and willing to love you when the world may push you to the side; they are willing to care for you when maybe your blots and blemishes seem to be too much.  But they’re not.
 This is just a taste of what it’s like to be a part of the family of God—especially the Hub City family.   You know, in our community, I’m sure that you’ll notice something from each of those four characteristics that we’ve discussed.  And if you’ve been a part of the Hub City family for any length of time, I know that you’ve experienced it firsthand.  My wife, Nikki, has had a hurt foot for a while.  It’s been hard for her to walk.  I’ve had a hurt back.  And it’s been amazing the people who have texted us, emailed us, brought us meals.  We never asked for it, and yet these people stopped and said, “We love you.  We want to help you.  We don’t want you to be alone.”  And that’s been an amazing thing to experience.  But I also know that if you’re here today and you’re coming from a situation in which “family” is just a six-letter word, that it has no real meaning, and you couldn’t even tell me what a family is supposed to be like—I understand.  In fact, if you’d rather just stay away from family if you can help it, then I say… you’re welcome here.  You’re welcome to experience a different kind of family, a different kind of love—all because of a different kind of God.  And you never know—you might just find that you really like it. 

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