THIS IS US: It’s A Family Thing      Ephesians 2:11-22 & Hebrews 10:24-25

It was one of those conversations that he walked away from on his way home, trying to rush to get their in time for dinner.  The conversation just spun around in his head.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had a conversation like that — it just turns everything upside down.  You open your eyes up after hearing it and the entire world just looks a little bit different.  He had a chance to sit in on a teaching of Jesus.  This teaching of Jesus was very different than the other teachings Jesus did.  He’d certainly talked about the Kingdom of God as was his normal method.  He’d talked about his pending death and resurrection.  Then he said something that just struck this man to his very core.  As he walked along, he knew it would definitively change the rest of his life.  Jesus, as was his custom, was teaching and his mom and his brother were outside.  They sent a messenger in saying, “We just need a word with my son,” Mary said.  The runner with the message came in and said to Jesus, “Jesus, your mom wants to talk to you.”  Everybody saw it happen and everybody heard the words.  Jesus’s response is what captured this man’s mind.  What Jesus said was:  Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?   A little bit rude, if you can hear what he’s saying.  He’s saying, “Certainly she’s important, but she’s no more important than the rest of these people?”  He goes on to say:  And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  (Matthew 12:48-50)

You have to understand for a moment that this man had grown up in the “church.”  He’d grown up going to temple.  He’d grown up worshiping Yahweh, the One True God.  Every single time he went into the temple, he’d walk passed a little plaque on the wall that said:  If any Gentiles, non-Jews, enter pass this point, they take their own life into their hands.  Their death is only to be blamed on them.  That’s a pretty strict way of operating socially as a community of faith, is it not?  {We don’t have the same plaque on our door!}  He went in and he would go to his side every time and his wife would go to the other side (with the other females).  When Jesus says, “Listen, who are my brothers.  Who is my mother?” the entire community of faith is now not just a community of faith, but they’re actually a family???  These are my brothers, these are my…..not just fellow believers, but these people are my family.  If you were in THAT crowd, at THAT point, and heard THAT teaching, it would have turned your world upside down.  So I’m going to put all my cards on the table today.  My hope is that we would hear the same teaching with the same weight.  That maybe, just maybe, we would walk out of this space today, allowing the King of kings and the Lord of lords to redefine for us what it means to gather as a “church.”

There are a number of different ways to view church.  There are a number of different ways to view what we do together on a Sunday morning.  Some people view church as an organization.  It has a certain hierarchical structure — there’s leadership.  Certainly, church has leadership structure, that’s a good thing, that’s a biblical thing, that’s a necessary thing.  Some people view church as a business.  They own property, they have assets — church functions as business or a corporation.  Or maybe church is primarily an event.  It’s something you come to on a Sunday morning.  But when Jesus looks at this crowd and says, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers and who is my sister? the answer is WHOEVER.  Whoever is by faith in relationship with God….whoever lives in the way of Jesus….THESE are my brothers and my sisters.  Jesus EXPLODES every single category for church that we’ve ever created!  And he paints a more beautiful, more compelling picture of what it means to be church.  Here’s how we’ll say it this morning:  God calls us out of the world to call us to a family of faith.

The word that we translate in our English translations of the Bible “church” is a Greek word “ecclesia.”  It’s two words put together (compound word).  One is “ek” or “out of.”  The other is a derivative of the word that means “to call.”  So, to call out of.  The beautiful thing is that Jesus doesn’t call you out of the world to create an organization out of you.  He doesn’t call you out of the world to go to an event.  Let’s be honest for a second — If church was ONLY about Sunday morning, if being a follower of Jesus was only about what we do on a Sunday morning, that would be pretty lame.  Right?  No, he doesn’t call you out of the world to say you should go to an event, he calls you out of the world to say you’re part of something much bigger, much grander, far more beautiful than you can ever imagine….you are now part of a FAMILY of faith.  Paul would echo this in our main text today; turn to Ephesians 2:19.  Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus; this church in this multi-cultural melting pot area right on the coast, filled with both Jews and Gentiles.  He says this: So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.  He’s painting a far different picture.

When he says “household,” he’s inviting you to say this is my family and in my family I find protection.  In my family I find security.  In my family I find love.  In my family I find hope.  The truth of the matter is, friends, if we are “adopted” by the same Father then we are now family.  For generations, followers of Jesus had this term of endearment — they called each other brother and sister.  That’s been all throughout the ages of Christianity — brother and sister.  Why?  Because when we stepped into faith, we stepped into family.  New birth = New family.  That’s what God is doing as he calls you out of the world and living in the way of the world.  He calls you out of that and into His family.  NT Wright, the great New Testament scholar, said it like this:  “The fact of widespread persecution is powerful evidence of the sort of thing Christianity was, and was perceived to be.  It was a new family, a third ‘race,’ neither Jew nor Gentile but ‘in Christ.’  From baptism onwards, one’s basic family consisted of one’s fellow-Christians.”

We struggle with that don’t we?  In a culture where there’s a lot of different options “church.”  There’s a number of churches within walking distance of THIS church.  When that happens when that’s our culture—and I’m not bashing that, necessarily.  I think that’s a great thing; I think we need more churches.  What can start to happen to US is we start to view church as something we consume rather than something we become a part of.  You see this in the reasons people sometimes give for leaving a church.  A pastor compiled a number of different reasons that he’d gotten over the years or that he’d heard from other pastors, of reasons people left churches.  Here’s a few of them:  1) Pastor, we’re leaving the church because we need, and you don’t have, a small group for cat lovers.  I’d love to start a small group for cat lovers.  You know what that’s called?  Our next church plant. Gather them together and send them out!  We are praying for you….    2) Pastor, we’re leaving because we don’t like the sound of your voice.  3) Pastor, we’re leaving because we’re starting to serve too expensive of coffee and it’s attracting too many hipsters.  4) Pastor, we’re leaving because your socks are distracting.  5) Pastor, we’re leaving because preachers who don’t wear suits and ties aren’t saved.  It’s in the Bible.  Which as a pastor makes you question what you’ve been teaching the entire time.  6) Pastor, we’re leaving because you make people leave the youth group after they graduate from high school.  Which is basically a terminology issue, isn’t it, because if we don’t make them leave don’t we just call this youth group and everybody’s happy, right?  7) Pastor, we’re leaving because we need to start attracting more normal people at this church.  If you say that to me as pastor, I’ll probably say back to you that your departure will probably help us in that. 8) Pastor, I’ve developed cancer because you don’t preach from the King James Version of the Bible.  That’s a real one!  I didn’t know there were carcinogens in the NIV or ESV but evidently there are.  9) Pastor, we’re leaving because you don’t preach on Tim Tebow.  WHAT??!!   We view it as consumer and product, don’t we, oftentimes? The fact that the Scriptures say we are a household of faith, that we are a family together, is something that we struggle with, and if we admit it at the onset, I think it will actually help us engage this topic with more honesty and more fortitude.  What God wants to do in our midst today, I think, is paint a different, more compelling, more beautiful picture of what it means to gather together and be a church.  You don’t COME to church, you ARE the church.

In this series we’ve been exploring what it means to be human.  The title of the series is “This is Us,” and we’ve started off by looking at us as individuals.  We zoomed out and said how do we function as human beings in relationship with other human beings.  Last week, we said that one of God’s unique designs for human beings is that they would operate and thrive in family units.  What I want to do today is zoom out one more level and say that part of God’s design for you and for me is that He would call us out of the world and to each other to live as a family of faith together.  I want to answer two questions:  1) How do we become family together?  2) What do we do as family together?

Ephesians 2:13-17.  Paul’s writing to the church at Ephesus.  It’s a multi-cultural melting-pot church where there’s people from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, different languages, different skin colors, and they’re all gathering together in households declaring that Jesus is Lord, in light of being in the empire of Caesar.  This was a death threat for many of them.  Here’s what the Apostle Paul writes back to this church that he loves, that he planted, that he helped start.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.  {That’s very illustrative language.  It’s meant to have a visceral effect on us as we read it—that he KILLED hostility.}  And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 

BUT NOW, church….  There’s something different that’s gone on amongst all of us.  Mainly, the blood of Christ has been shed.  What a beautiful truth.  Did you know that the church is the most inclusive, exclusive group you can be a part of?  It’s inclusive in that it is for whoever.  Whoever will come.  Whoever wants to come is invited to the table.  Whoever wants to come can come, but they only come by one way.  We only come, all of us, by his blood.  We only come because he said I’m giving my life you, as a sacrifice for you, that you might be called OUT of the world and into my family.  We have that in common.  We have this peace in common.  Peace with God.  Certainly.  By his blood he’s made peace.  Did you know that if you’re a follower of Jesus, God has zero animosity towards you.  If there’s a disconnect between you and God, I want to assure you this morning, it’s on your part not God’s.  He’s good with you, because He sees Christ’s righteousness all over you.  And he (Paul) says this:  He reconciled, he called all of us together by His goodness and by His grace.

What makes us family?  The first thing that makes us family according to this passage of Scripture is that we have been united together by Jesus’s blood shed for us.  That’s our anthem, that’s our song.  All throughout eternity, our anthem will be: Why should I gain from his reward, I do not have an answer / But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom.  We’ll never get tired of singing it.  The truth of the matter is, friends, we’re united by his blood.  The blood that Christ shed for us is as significant as the blood that flows through us.  Friends, the blood that runs through our veins makes human.  The blood that flows from Calvary’s hill makes us Christian.  And it is the most significant, the most true, most beautiful thing about us.

As followers of Jesus in the first century, they would have entered into a home where they would gather for worship.  It would have been definitively different from gathering in a synagogue or in a temple for worship, or even in a pagan temple, it would have been very different.  Why?  Because the ground was level in the community of faith in Jesus Christ.  Neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male or female, all were one in Jesus.  Why?  Because they gathered around the truth that His blood shed for them was as significant as the blood that flowed through them.  It completely redefined the way that they looked at life and at faith.  He, by His death on the cross, KILLED hostility between believers.  Praise the Lord!  But we know it’s not that easy, right? {It’s not rainbows and gumdrops and wonderful all the time.}  There’s times where we need to, because of the blood of Jesus over us, choose to forgive the people that wrong us.  And we do so because we sense the beautiful weight of the fact that we stand before the throne holy, spotless, pure, and blameless.

Anyone is welcome, but there’s only one way you enter and it’s through His blood.  Paul goes on and here’s what he says:  For through him we both {Jews and Gentiles} have access {Just a quick timeout.  That word in the Greek is this picture of a road; we’re walking the same road together.} in one Spirit to the Father.  The first thing that makes us family is the blood that was shed for us.  The second thing that makes us family is the Spirit that dwells within us.  The same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, if you’re a follower of Jesus, lives in you AND in the person who’s sitting right next to you and is also a follower of Jesus.  The same Spirit lives inside of you.  So we’ll say it like this this morning:  The Spirit that dwells within us is greater than the sin that seeks to divide us.  Certainly there is some sin that seeks to divide us, is there not?  There always will be.  It’s true in marriages.  It’s true in families.  It’s true in churches.

As we talked about last week, family carries with it this magnificent weight—that none of us leave unaffected by our family.  It either shapes us for beautiful things, or it’s one of the deeper wounds or pains that we end up carrying throughout our life.  The same is true of church, friends.  Did you know you will never find the perfect church?  If you do, don’t go to it, you’ll ruin it!  If you think this is the perfect church, welcome, we’re glad you’re here.  You must be new with us.  We’ll pop that bubble for you; we’ll let you down.  It’s not intentional, I promise you.  We want to serve you wholeheartedly with everything we have, but we are imperfect people….every single one of us.  What the Spirit inside of us does is it reminds us, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer so eloquently put in his book Life Together, that true community actually begins when the ideal community dies! We really start living life together when we let each other down and choose to stick together instead of separating.  That we really start to realize what it means to be part of a community when we completely fail one another and grace, or love, covers the multitude of sins.  That’s actually when real community begins.

What Paul says is that we are not only covered by a mutual shedding of His blood, but we are connected by the Spirit that indwells us.  Let me give you a picture of what that Spirit in you is doing right now!  As you think about what it’s doing in you, would you imagine Him doing this in every follower of Jesus?  He is right now confirming that you are a son or daughter of the Most High God.  He is right now calling you out of rhythms of fear that you have embraced into courage of living in the sonship of the Father by faith. (Rom 8:15-16)  The Spirit is inside of you, right now, confirming that you are lavished with the love of your Father.  He is right now advocating for you, and the person sitting next to you, before the throne of God; pointing at Jesus, your chief defender, who says, “My blood covers their sin, their wrong, their guilt, their shame.  They’re with me.”  (John 14:16)  The Spirit’s inside of you, right now the Scriptures say, teaching you, revealing Jesus to you, and being a comfort for you.  The same Spirit who’s doing that in you is doing that in every follower of Jesus across the globe!  That’s epic!  That’s amazing!  That’s really good news!  Shared intimacy with God should always lead us to a mutual love for other believers.

Paul says listen, we have the same Spirit.  It’s part of what makes us family.  We have the same blood that was shed for us.  It’s part of what makes us family.  Finally he says this: We’re built on the same foundation.  This is where we all stand.  As followers of Jesus the Messiah:  …built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Eph. 2:20-22)  This truth that the foundation of our lives is not only the God who created us and spoke us into existence, but our foundation is the teaching of the apostles and the prophets.  It’s their way of talking about the sacred Scriptures, that from the get-go, followers of Jesus were saying listen, we don’t worship the Bible, but we worship the God who is revealed in the Bible.  It’s our guide, and it’s our light, and it’s our plumb-line. In an ever-changing culture and a milieu of different options, this will be the thing we stand on and the thing that we say, even with all the things that we may disagree on, we will agree on what the words of Jesus invite us to build our life on—His death, his life, his resurrection, his kingdom, his call to love God, to love others, and to go and make disciples…teaching people how to love God and live in His way.  So we’ll say it like this this morning:  That we are not only united by His blood, connected by His Spirit, but we’re built on this mutual foundation and the foundation we stand upon is greater than any of the issues that seek to divide us.

Building a new skyscraper in Manhattan Island — If you see a skyscraper that’s 100-stories tall, if you scanned beneath the surface of the earth, you would see 25 stories worth of what they call “piles” that they drive deep down into the center of the earth.  Why?  Because they know that if this structure is going to stand, it’s foundation must be firm.  What the Scriptures tell us is that the “piles” that God has driven into our soul, as a community of faith, as a family of faith, the foundation that we stand on, are the Scriptures that He’s graciously given.  The teaching that has been passed down from age to age to age.  It’s centered around that Jesus is the cornerstone.  What the Scriptures are saying is that if you were to take him out of the equation, this whole thing would crumble and fall.  Praise the Lord!

That’s how we grow:  We are growing numerically, in maturity, in faith, as we grow together not independently of one another.  It says:  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Look up at me for just a moment.  If you want to experience the Spirit of God, you must give your life to God’s church.  It’s where His Spirit dwells.  It’s where His Spirit finds its home.  It’s where it’s manifest and where it grows into fruition.  We are a dwelling place for God, in a unique way, giving glory to His name.

So that’s how we’re family.  United by His blood.  Connected by His Spirit.  Built on His mutual foundation.  You may be saying to me, Paulson, that’s wonderful and that’s great, but what do we do as a family together?  Thank you for asking.  Before we go there, here’s what I want you to do:  I want you to think about going to a restaurant on Valentine’s Day.  When you go to a restaurant, there’s a number of things that you do.  You probably make a reservation.   When you call and make a reservation, you talk to somebody on the phone and set up a time.  You try to arrive a little before the reservation time.  THEN they say to you, “It’s going to be about ten minutes before we’re able to get you seated.”  I decide I’ll hold off on my Yelp review at this point, and base it on what the service looks like and how good the food is.  If you’re at a restaurant, when you sit down you’re paying attention to the waiter or waitress that comes to your table and offers you some water and takes your order.  When the food comes, you’re looking at your food.  If you’re anything like me, you’re sizing up your food — sort of a cost/benefit ratio that you have working in your head.  You’re figuring out if you’re going to return based on how quick the service was, how good the food was, how inexpensive it was.  You eat your food and then afterwards you decide, listen, that was a pretty good meal.  It tasted good.  The service was good.  I think I might come back, and I’ll hold off on posting that Yelp review.

Now, if you go over to a family’s house for dinner, my guess is your approach is very different.  If it’s not, you may not have been invited over to your family’s house in a while.  When you go over to a family’s house, here’s what you typically do.  You ask if you can bring anything.  When you walk in the door, you ask if there’s anything that still needs help.  Is there anything that needs to be sliced or diced?  My guess is you don’t sit down at the table waiting for somebody to bring you a glass of water and taking notes on whether they’re smiling when they do.  Going to a family’s house is a lot different than going to a restaurant for dinner, is it not? So, is going to church, coming to church, is it more like coming to enjoy a family meal or is it more like going to a restaurant? I’d like to propose that it’s far more akin to going to a family’s house for dinner than to a restaurant.  When you go to a family’s house for dinner, the goal is relationship, not the product of the meal. My guess is you’ve never walked away from a family dinner going, “Listen, unless the steak was really rare, that could have been a little bit better.”  My guess is you walk away either celebrating or lamenting the fact that you were together as family.

So here’s my proposal then I want to unpack it:  Being a part of a family of faith DEMANDS that we move beyond observation and into participation.  It DEMANDS that we move beyond consumption to a place of contribution. It DEMANDS that we move beyond criticism to a place of construction. Here’s how it looks in the Scriptures — Hebrews 10:24-25.  We’re going to say, really practically, what it means to be part of a family of faith.  If God calls out of the world to create a new family, what does it look like to live as family?  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  Here’s the first thing:  If we’re going to live as a family of faith together, we’ve got to be committed to meeting together.  That we would gather together consistently.  That’s part of the ethos of people who live with church as family.

I’m going to put all my cards on the table — I get it! It’s hard!  It’s hard to say, “We’re going to make Sunday morning a priority.  There’s nothing else that gets on our calendar from 9 AM to 12 PM.”  I get it, it’s hard to say that.  We’re facing, as our kids get older and older, the reality that sports are going to start to happen on a Sunday and we’re going to have some choices to make.  Here’s what I’ll say to you:  That if we don’t prioritize the gathering together as a community of faith, we’ll never realize the beauty of being a part of a family.  My goal, in ZERO way, shape or form, is to induce guilt.  I just want to push on you gently to ask you to pray whether this is a priority, whether it’s a big rock in your life, or whether you do this if you have additional time. You make the time for the things that are important.  Here’s my goal as your pastor:  I never want coming to church to feel like duty.  I want you to feel, when you walk in these doors, like we’ve thought about you.  That as a staff, we’ve prayed for you.  That we have pored blood, sweat, and tears into preparing something that would feed your soul, and that when you walk out of this place, you go, “Alright, Jesus, I see you differently.  I see you fresh.  I see you new and I’m ready, with the community of faith, to walk with you.”  That’s our goal. We don’t want it to just be duty.  In fact, Joseph Hellerman in his book, When the Church Was a Family, says: “The idea of salvation cannot be reduced to a personal relationship with Jesus.  God’s plan is much more encompassing.  God intends for salvation to be a community-creating event.”   It’s true.  That’s beautiful.

So practically, what does that look like?  Let me just give you a few ideas.  Come early.  I get it, I know!  It’s not easy.  Come early, stay late.  Hang out in the lobby.  Talk with people.  Pursue people.  If you are a young couple in this church, I want to plead with you to be on the lookout for couples who have walked the journey of life and faith, who have raised kids and have done it in a godly way, who you look up to, that you will tap on the shoulder and say, “I need you to walk with us.”  For the young moms, I would say the same thing; for moms wondering if you’re going to survive life, you need to do the same thing.  Be on the lookout for people who you can say, “I want you to walk with me,” and then pursue them.  Invite people to go out to lunch with you after church.  Invite people to come over to your house.  Take the initiative.  If everyone of us took the initiative to do the things we wish other people did for us, this church would transform the world!  Let’s pursue each other. Hang out at the table.  Drink coffee to the glory of God.  Become a greeter.  Become one of our people that welcomes other people at the door.  Become an usher.  Serve in kids’ ministry—one of the greatest ways to get connected to other people is to serve alongside of them.  Hang out afterwards.  I get it, you have places to go. My family was always the last family to leave any church we were ever a part of.  Ironically, it was God’s way of preparing me for the life He had in store.  Outside of Sunday — Join a life group.  This is family and there’s some gifts that you have that can’t be used on a Sunday morning.  Does that mean they’re not important? Absolutely not!  Because the gathering, or the event, of Sunday morning is not the only time we live together as family.

If I were you, I’d be asking, “Okay, so we gather together.  What should we be doing when we are together?” Great question.  Hebrews 10:24 — Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds.   This word “consider” in the Greek literally means “gives head space to,” “think about intentionally,” “fix your thoughts on,” or even “obsess about a little bit.”  So, put that in the context — Give head space to, fix your thoughts on, obsess about how you can spur or stir or jab, in the original, other people towards love and good deeds.  When you walk through these doors on a Sunday morning, when you interact with people from your church family throughout the week, is your desire to say to them, “God has more in store for you than you’re currently tasting?”  Is your desire to speak a word over their life about their gifting and the way that God might use them for their joy and for his glory in his world?  Are you thinking about, dreaming about, praying about words you can speak into other people’s lives that will spur them on, stir them up, and call them forth?

In Galatians 6:10 it says:  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  One of the ways we operate in this way, one of the ways we live this out corporately is by our benevolence offering we take on the very first Sunday of every month.  I love the fact that there’s a number of you that give to that.  This month, you’ve helped people with their rent.  You’ve helped people with their utility bill, that may not have been able to keep the lights on without the gifts that you gave. You’ve helped people by paying for their utilities.  You’ve helped people who are broken, hurting, and in pain get into counseling to become healed and whole.  I love that.  Let’s spur one another on towards love and good deeds.  Let’s create a culture that empowers each other to say, “God has a way he wants to use your life, for your joy and for His glory.”  Will you speak that into somebody’s life this week?  You never know, there may be somebody who you encounter that really desperately needs it.

Encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. What do we do as church family? Well, we gather together.  We think about each other and how we can spur each other on to love Jesus and the people around us.  Then we encourage one another.  I love the way Dale Carnegie is his great book How to Win Friends and Influence People put it:  “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interest in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”  If you’re having trouble connecting with people; if you feel disconnected and don’t feel like anyone knows you — which is a reality in a church our size — can I give you some really practical advice?  Encourage people.  Build into people.  Notice things in people.  Compliment them.  Admire them.  To encourage is to “call alongside of.”  If you do that with people, I can guarantee you that you will find yourself a part of a beautiful community that Jesus is a center of.

Encourage others regularly.  Practically, what does this mean?  It means you pray for people.  If you’re not a part of our weekly prayer email that gets sent out and want to be, will you send our office an email this week? I will get you on that email.  I would love for you to pray for the people in your church body, in your aisle, who are hurting.  Pray for one another.  Send a text, send a note, send an email when people are hurting or sick. Reach out.  Pursue.  If somebody’s sick, or has a baby, or loses a loved one, volunteer to bring a meal.  If we don’t have a meal train set up, please set one up.  Other people would love to get involved; sometimes we just need someone to take the initiative who knows what’s going on.  But encourage one another.  Mentor — I’ve already talked about that a little bit.  Extend yourself to be a mentor for other people.  This isn’t an organization, this isn’t an event, this isn’t a corporation, this isn’t a business….this is FAMILY.  It’s who we are and we need you to take initiative.

Finally, that we would encourage one another, and all the more as we see the Day approaching.  Part of what we get the chance to do as family is to remember that we have a good Father.  And to remember that our Messiah, Jesus, says He’s coming back.  So we gather together, we inspire each other, we encourage each other, and we anticipate eternity on a regular basis.  We get the chance to say to each other, “I get it!  I get it!  But “these light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!” (2 Cor. 4:16)  Friends, before His throne, every tribe, every tongue, every nation…that is the destiny of people who follow the way of Jesus.  Worshipping and declaring that there is none above and none beside Him, but He is King of it all.  What we get to do on a weekly basis and throughout the week is remind each other of the deepest realities….He reigns! He’s coming back! He’s good and He loves us!

Will you stand with me and we’re going to close our time together in a little bit of a different way.  I’m going to ask you to hold hands with the person right next to you.  I want us to end our time by reminding ourselves that in the end, this is our posture.  That we’re gathered together around the throne of God declaring the praise of God, remembering that it’s only by His blood.  Remembering that we’re bound together by His Spirit.  And remembering that we stand together on the foundation that He laid before the foundation of the world.  And we will gather and in one voice declare the one name that stands above it all.  So, as you hold that hand of that person next to you, remember, they’re part of not just your church, but they’re part of your family.  God has a great, beautiful design for His church.  Not as an event.  Not as a corporation.  Not as an organization.  Not as a business.  But as a family.  So Jesus, together we come to posture ourselves before you and say, “In so many ways we don’t know how to do this, but we want you to teach us.”  Teach us how to live together as family. Teach us how to stir one another up.  Teach us how to encourage each other.  Teach us how to dream together and anticipate together.  Teach us how to be family together.  We pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It’s in his name that we pray.  Amen.