Romans 8:28 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Ephesians 2:19-22 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
So, I am asking for participation in a different way this morning. Any time I say, “Isn’t that awesome?” during this message I would like you to say, “Amen!” Yes, I am soliciting your support ahead of time, even if the message stinks!
It is the Year of the Family here at TVCOG, and it is has been a while since I commented on the topic of family. This morning our focus isn’t on our family of origin, but on God’s family. I love the Family of God. I can’t begin to think about where my life would be today without the influence of the church and God’s people. I remember Pastor BG Dale who would stand at the door and hand out a stick of gum to every kid who came each week. I remember the passion of Pastor Latham as he preached with fire and clapped his hands enthusiastically when we would sing a chorus called, “The Horse and the Rider”. I loved the way he quoted James chapter 5 every time it was time for prayer. I remember the Sunday School teachers I had as a kid who taught me the Bible stories of the Christian faith and how sometimes it would also involve ice cream. I remember my youth ministers and how they took an interest in me. The camps and trips we went on were life-changing. I remember being affirmed as a young believer when I would get up to sing a solo or play my violin (I guess I just let that cat out of the bag now didn’t I?). I recall being given opportunities to lead music for children’s church once I got into middle school, and how much that prepared me for ministry.
I remember with fondness the other adults who took a special interest in me. One was a lady named Lynn Fensler. She came alongside me when I was a fifth grader and lovingly asked if I would like to join her a Weight Watchers each week. I know, right? Something you think could be crushing or offensive became an encouraging relationship that really helped me out tremendously. Another was a lady named Bertha Strand, better known as Blue Dress Bertha. She wore the same blue dress every Sunday. I assumed she couldn’t afford anything else. Bertha always had a hug and a smile for me. She always made sure to see me each week and let me know I was loved. Blue Dress Bertha gave me a check for 1,000.00 when I graduated from high school. It touched me deeply as I expect it was a great sacrifice for her. I had four different church families growing up, and every one of them was a special, loving experience. I had the kind of experience people are supposed to have as part of God’s forever family.
Think about the people who have nurtured your faith, encouraged your walk with Christ, and help you up in difficult moments. Whether they are part of this particular fellowship or not, they are part of the Family of God and have been created by God to play a strategic role in your life. Can you be thankful for the Church this morning?
Church member Christina Carr told me that having a church family was the greatest gift her parents ever gave her, and it is a gift she is committed to passing on to her children. Isn’t that awesome? I love the testimony I received from church member, Craig Holder, about his experience with the Family of God at TVCOG. He said: The kids are so full of God’s love and positive and involved. I can also see the encouragement they give each other. I can’t wait to see what is in store for our kids. It truly feels like everyone is family, and if you stumble or fall someone would always have your back and be there to help. I really feel that I have grown a lot as a person and grown so much closer to God since the first time we walked in the door. I have felt God’s presence many times, and I am so thankful and proud that we are a part of this amazing church that I am proud to say I am a member of when someone asks me where I go to church. Isn’t that awesome?
You see, Romans 8 helps us understand that we have been adopted by God, and in and through that adoption process we have become brothers and sisters in Christ. The establishment of this family, the creation of the church, was so precious to God that Jesus paid for it with His own blood. We are joined together in Christ and are being built together, Ephesians 2:22 into a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit. Isn’t that awesome?
I said on Wednesday night that the Family of God is a real thing. It is a game-changer, a life-changer for people. It is a huge piece of that abundant life impact that knowing Jesus makes. It isn’t just that God is with us, but when we risk connecting on a deep level and we risk being known by one another, God AND His church are with us and for us! Through the Body of Christ we gain a support network that the devil and all the demons of hell cannot penetrate. For Jesus said, “I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Now, of course Jesus was speaking about the mission of the church to win souls. Satan will not thwart the mission of the church, but in a very real sense, the church, God’s people, become a protective covering for all of its members that provide extra security against the attempts of the devil to take out God’s people. Maybe we could think of it as a spiritual mafia, but in the best possible sense! ? Ok, bad example, but you get my drift! The Church of the Living God is a family whose togetherness in Christ is a great protective covering for one another.
I want to share five characteristics of God’s Forever Family with you this morning. These are characteristics that God desires us to possess and reflect. Whether you have experienced all five, the challenge is to make sure that your life reflects these characteristics so that you can be led by God’s Spirit and used by God to make the kind of impact on others in the Body of Christ that God desires for you to make.
The Family of God is like a healthy earthly family. What is mine is yours and what is yours is mine. When I need to borrow something, when you need something I have, there is a freedom to go to one another and ask for something. There is also a spirit of generosity that just flows between us when we are allowing God’s Spirit to lead us. Remember our main text from Ephesians 2:22. God’s Spirit puts us together, and God’s Holy Spirit prompts us to share with one another.
Look at Acts 2:42-47 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
And verse 47b: And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It was in this context of generosity that the Holy Spirit had tremendous freedom to work in people’s lives and many were saved. Being part of God’s family means that we become un-stingy and allow the Holy Spirit to use us to bless each other. It might not even cost someone something to bless someone. It might just be the loaning of a lawnmower, but when we are too possessive of our “stuff” we can stifle what the Spirit wants to do in the church as we care for each other.
There is a whole lot of flawed theology and practice, in my opinion, in the Amish community, but I’ll tell you something they get right—It is the sharing of resources and help for one another. Why do you think they continue to persist and grow in some areas? It is because of the intense family feel they have as they share life together.
After I said, “The Family of God is a real thing” on Wednesday night, one of our church members went to get into her car only to find an envelope with thirty dollars in cash in it. Here’s the backstory. The person had given God thanks for a free coffee that had come their way on Monday, especially since pay day wasn’t until Friday and they were stretching the end of their money a little thin. What began as a praise by one of our church members about how God supplies even in small ways, went on to become an act of sharing and generosity by another Family of God member here on Wednesday night. Isn’t that awesome? A little money that was given to a church family member helped pay day not to seem so far away.
When I started my Tutor’s Bible study this past Spring, someone from church just came up to me, handed me a significant amount of money and said, “Buy breakfast for everyone who comes.” Isn’t that awesome?
Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV) 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, ESPECIALLY to those who belong to the family of believers.
I could tell you story after story of groceries that were purchased, lawns that have been mowed, young people who have been taken shopping, camp scholarships that were given, clothing that has been made available, ramps that have been built, rails that have been installed, condos that have been shared, tutoring time that has been given and all kinds of ways that people in this fellowship have shared freely with one another in times of difficulty and need. It is what we do! And isn’t it awesome?
It is through Biblical teaching and interactions with the Body of Christ where we become trained to know and do the will of God. We learn about loving. We learn about serving. We learn how to grow in our Christian walk. We learn how to treat our spouses and children and how to glorify God in the workplace by watching the example of godly leaders. We learn about faith and how to trust God for the big things as well as the little things. When one of the Body of Christ stands to testify to the goodness of God and to His miraculous power, we are impacted. Our faith grows taller.
I love the shaping power of the church. I reached out to one of our young members who for years has made it to church on her own because she lives in walking distance of the church. I asked her about the impact of the church on her life, and this is what she said: “Tvcog has helped me become the person I am today. While participating in great opportunities I have gained relationships that are unbreakable. Helping with the Revved Up Kidz and being a youth student leader has helped me grow spiritually and mentally. I’m glad that TVCOG is like a second home and that I have an amazing church family to help me through anything.” Did you hear the intensity? Can you comprehend the enormity of the impact? TVCOG is her second home! What a shaping influence in this young lady’s life!
Proverbs 27:17 17 As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
God uses the members of His church to do His defining and refining work in the rest of the body. There is mutual benefit in the rubbing of two iron blades together; the edges become sharper, making the knives more efficient in their task to cut and slice. When you and I rub shoulders with each other with the truth of God’s word and a consistent Christian lifestyle, we help each other become more spiritually sharp. You and I are to be shaping one another. That is why we have to continue to reach out to each other, to know each other and to make ourselves known. Church, I urge you to not just come and sit, but to come and shape! Bring your spiritual gifts to the table! Enter into the discussion. Let the Body know what God has done for you. Others will benefit from your vulnerability, your wisdom, and your spiritual insight.
There are ways of being you will learn in the world. The more time you spend with the people of the world doing the things of the world, the more you will become like the world. I’m not saying we shouldn’t spend time with unbelievers because that is absolutely part of our mission, but when it comes to who and what we will be shaped by, we need to look for ways to be influenced primarily by people who are seeking to live a God-honoring life. Are there hypocrites in the church? Yep. And from time to time, I am sure I am one of them. But my heart’s desire, my life’s goal, is truly to look like Jesus. Therefore, I value other people who have the same goals and desires and those are the kinds of people I want to be influenced by.
I was shaped by the church from the time I was a young person. I learned that people are more valuable than things and it has stayed with me into my adulthood. Part of who I am is that I care about others. I learned that you can’t “outgive” God, so giving tithes and offerings and sharing with others is part of my spiritual DNA that I am happy about. I learned that the truth could be spoken in love, received in love and that God could use those who were willing to do both. I learned that when God speaks and you listen, He uses you to do miraculous things. I learned that living for eternity is far more important than living in the moment. Isn’t that awesome? These are guiding principles that have become part of my spiritual identity and they find expression in practical ways through my life.
The world may call it “brainwashing!” I call it the instilling of the truth that leads to abundant life! I call it “training up a child in the way he should go” Proverbs 22:6. It is wonderful to be shaped by a faith community that is centered in the person of Jesus Christ.
Having a church family to lean on during difficult times is so helpful. It may be the number one fringe benefit. To have others pray for you, to Christ-like people who will listen to your concerns, to have people who will go the extra mile when you need an extra hand, to have people who will weep with you—These are intangibles that are life-giving, life-changing benefits.
1 Corinthians 12:26 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.
God knew we would need people with skin on to enter into our times of suffering with us. Isn’t that awesome?
Galatians 6:2: 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Scripture commands us to be there for one another when life is overwhelming. Whose burden in the Body of Christ are you helping to bear? Who are you looking after? Who are you offering support to? How are you expressing care and concern for those who are grieving, those who are looking for work, those whose kids are headed down the wrong road, those whose marriage has ended in divorce, or whatever life difficulty they may be enduring?
I heard a story this week from a church member about how they were drawn to someone sitting in their section who was shedding some tears during the service. They felt prompted by the Spirit to share some money and to minister to them beyond that moment as well. Isn’t that awesome? That is God at work in the Body, folks! When we see one of our brothers or sisters in distress and we include them in our prayers and we reach out with words of encouragement God takes those acts and transforms them into spiritual power to keep going, spiritual power to release what they don’t need to carry, and they serve as a reminder that God sees what they are going through and cares about it!
What does a shepherd do? A shepherd looks after the sheep. A shepherd helps care for the sheep. A shepherd makes sure each sheep is securely in the pen each night. There are times, due to the pressures of life, that people, even Christians, start to stray. They miss a Sunday, and one Sunday becomes two, and before you know it they miss a month and then an entire season. We have a responsibility to help each other stay in the fold. We are accountable to one another.
Hebrews 10:25 tells us that being in church is super important. You can’t benefit from a group of people if you aren’t with them. You can’t benefit from a Holy Spirit environment if you aren’t present. I do have someone who helps me watch our attendance. Once people are missing for about three weeks, I get some help knowing who they are. Often, I am aware of it on my own and reach out before I get the report, but as you can imagine, in a church this size, it is easy for people to go missing and me miss it. I need your help! I do see many of you reaching out on social media when you miss someone, and that is awesome. We all need to care for one another and encourage each other to stay faithful to our worship gatherings.
I used to be more tentative about tracking folks down than I am now. I didn’t want people to feel hounded or like I was bugging them, but I will say this, “I would rather someone think I was on their back about being here than think I didn’t care if they made it or not.” You all matter to God, so you all matter to me. If God says it is important that we all meet, then I need to do my best to make sure that those who come up missing know they are missed.
Romans 12:15 says we should rejoice with those who rejoice! One of our members recently got promoted to a managerial position. It was a big deal, worthy of celebration, and I rejoiced. One of our members just got her license this week. That is a huge accomplishment, worthy of celebrated, and I rejoiced. One of our students received a 4.5 GPA this semester which is totally awesome and worthy of a whoop and a holler!
I have been posting stuff about the groundbreaking and all that has been happening on the hill on my social media, and I love it when y’all post celebration comments back. We ought to be each other’s greatest cheerleaders! A win for you is a win for me! That is the way I see it.
Tyler McGough has been selected to be in the top ten of New Life Radio’s Talent Search contest to be held on Sunday night, June 25th at Southridge Church of God. I will be there with a sign that says, “Go, Tyler, go!” I will be shouting for Tyler!
Here’s the thing: The church needs to be the place that is so full of love, help, support, compassion, generosity and joy that is the place that becomes irresistible to the world. If you haven’t experienced any of the five characteristics I have described here at TVCOG perhaps you should make it your goal to make sure no one else misses out on them either.
What can you add to this family? What investment can you make in the lives of others who worship here? Who can you help draw to this family? May God, through the leading of His Spirit and our faithful obedience help us to continue to grow this family one child of God at a time.