Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sow-Sow Living: The Word and the World - Mark 4:1-20

Sow-Sow Living: The Word and the World
Mark 4:1-20
Introduction:  "...Of making many books there is no end,.." (Eccl. 12:12). A lot of ink has been put to paper discussing the mission of the church. Why are we here? What does the Lord expect us to do? It is great to come together for worship and fellowship as we do on Sunday mornings. Times of more intimate fellowship and learning as in Sunday School or small groups are also good and encouraging. Is that the heart of it? Those are certainly good and necessary things, and we’ll enjoy being together forever and more fully in God’s presence one day. But what are we called to do now that we won’t be able to do in heaven? We are called to "Sow-Sow Living." I am not saying we are called to mediocrity! Rather, we're called to share the Good News, the Gospel of God’s amazing grace, with the people we come in contact with! Remember Mark 1:14,15, after John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee,
“…preaching the gospel of God,  15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel..."
That in a nutshell, from our post-resurrection perspective, is our mission: calling people to repentance and faith, and urging them to follow the Lord Jesus.
       Jesus was a master teacher, and a part of what He did was use stories from everyday life to communicate truth.  It is striking that Jesus taught the multitudes, He interacted with the religious leaders, but even though His words were backed up by the signs he did, relatively few believed.  Remember, the Gospels were written years after the cross and the resurrection. The writers are telling us not only what happened then and there, but also selecting and adapting material to encourage and equip their readers (including us!).  Remember Mark is presenting his gospel to believers who are suffering for their faith.  He is offering hope by answering three questions: 1) Who is Jesus? 2) Why did He come? 3) What does it mean to follow Him?  Here Jesus uses a parable to tell his followers what they will need to do.  Rather than spending our time in the details of the parable, we might do more of that on Wednesday night, I’d like to focus on the “Maine* Idea.”
       Warren Wiersbe said “…when it comes to sowing the seed of God's Word we are not instructed to find fertile ground... We are only instructed to sow the seed as well as to nurture and water those that take root in good ground…” Wiersbe is suggesting that since we don’t know the condition of the ground, we should faithfully “sow the seed” of the Word widely, knowing that in some it will take root and multiply. That points us to…
The Maine* Idea: God’s Word is Truth. We don’t judge the Word, the Word judges us! How we respond reveals the condition of our heart.
I. The Purpose of Parables: They were intended to sift the wheat from the chaff… (11,12; cf. Isa 6:9,10). His sheep hear His voice. Others will not believe.
9 And he said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."  10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables.  11 And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,  12 so that "they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven."
       I want to start in the middle of the passage, between the parable and the explanation Jesus gives where Jesus talks about “why” He taught in parables. The problematic part of the passage is especially verse 12, and the phrases introduced by “so that” and “lest” (highlighted above). On a first reading, the passage seems to call for understanding (by those with “ears to hear”) when He speaks the parable (v.9), and then say that the secret of the kingdom was opened to the twelve, but that the parables were spoken to hide the truth from others. That can’t be it… can it?  For background, let’s look at Isaiah 55:9-11… 
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.  10 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;  11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
God is Sovereign. His Word will go out, and it will accomplish His purpose. Now, in the light of that passage, consider the verses from chapter 6 of Isaiah that Jesus is quoting. The scene is right after Isaiah’s vision of the Temple and the throne of God, surrounded by the Seraphim worshipping the Lord, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts…” One of the angels takes a coal from the altar and touches Isaiah’s lips as he is commissioned to bring God’s message to the people. What would that message be? We read in Isaiah 6:8-10…
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."  9 And he said, "Go, and say to this people: "'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.'  10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."
That is unexpected! Notice a couple of things. The prophet just a couple of verses earlier felt, unworthy, his sinfulness laid bare before the holy God of the universe (6:5). However, once he had experienced cleansing and been assured of forgiveness (6:6,7) he responds immediately with readiness to do the will of His Sovereign King. Who will go? “Here am I, send me!He is ready to do God’s bidding even before God tells him exactly what that would be! That is faith. I remember when I first got saved I wanted to be available to God. But I did pray, “Lord, send me anywhere, but not to Africa please, not to the foreign mission field, and ideally within a 50-mile radius of home!  I had a lot to learn about trusting God! “Trust and obey, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!” Isaiah was ready, “I’ll go where you want me to go dear Lord, I’ll be what you want me to be!” But notice the predicted results of Isaiah’s preaching: hardened hearts,
“…‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’  10 Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes…”
Why such hard language? Well the first five chapters of Isaiah were an indictment against Judah and Jerusalem for their unbelief and unfaithfulness to the covenant. The nation, and subsequent generations would learn through the painful experience of the exile that God is holy, that He is a jealous God, that He requires the faithfulness of His people. Isaiah would preach, exposing the unbelief of the nation. There are also hints in the early chapters, and especially later in the book, of a future restoration from the exile. Jesus applies this passage to his preaching ministry before the Jews of His day. Why?  It was God’s plan to work through the hard hearts of the leaders and the incomplete messianic expectations of the people, to accomplish His purpose.  The rejection of His message would lead to the His being rejected and to the cross, and the cross would lead to his exaltation and the accomplishment of His purposes. Isaiah asked, “How long O Lord?” Paul answers that question for the nation of His day and beyond: “…a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fulness of the gentiles comes in…” (Rom 11:25b).
       God’s Word, and specifically Jesus’ teaching in parables, will sift the wheat from the chaff, it will separate the sheep from the Goats. Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me… God’s Word is Truth. We don’t judge the Word, the Word judges us! How we respond reveals the condition of our heart.
II. Prepare your heart to receive the Word: the issue is the condition of the soil, not the delivery of the seed… With this parable, as with all of the parables, it is probably good to first turn the parable on ourselves and be sensitive to the conviction it might bring. One writer said, “I know the hard heart.  I know the shallow heart. I know the selfish heart. I am working on the humble heart- With God’s help.” Can you relate? I can.
       Jeremiah 4:3 says, “Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns.” Those are commands, imperatives. Hosea uses similar language when he says in 10:12 “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” Jesus may have had these passages, along with others, in mind as He told the story of the Sower and the soils. Two of the four “soils” are mentioned, the packed hard ground that the seed falls on and fails to take root, soon to be carried away by the birds (the devil).  And also the risk of sowing among thorns (cares) which could grow up and choke out the new life.   It makes sense to ask ourselves if we are consciously preparing our heart to receive the Word. 
       Let me ask you a couple of questions. 1) What is Sunday morning like in your house?  If you are single, are you up early on Sunday morning, taking some time to pray and prepare your heart for worship? Do you come expecting to hear from God?  If you are married, or have children at home, is it a happy, expectant time, looking forward as a family not to the afternoon plans, but to being with God’s people and worshipping Him together? What is Sunday morning like for you?  The second question is: What is Monday morning like in your house?  Everyday is important to God, and it should be to us!
        The attitude that describes a heart prepared to receive the seed, the Word of God, is described in Colossians 3:16… Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. There is intentionality that implies preparation, a longing to receive and submit to the truth of God’s Word.  It may be that if you come to church and listen with openness and expectation, and at the end feel, “I just didn’t hear God’s word!” that the fault is poor preaching.  Sometimes the problem might be that we failed to prepare our heart, we didn’t come listening, longing for the Word of Life.  The attitude God blesses, that expresses fertile soil, waiting for the truth, is found in the opening on the Book of Psalms, in the first verses of Psalm 1,
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;  2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night
These verses affirm the attitude of an authentic Christ follower: seeking and submitting to the truth of God’s Word.  That is good soil, it produces fruit. It gives life and it multiplies. That’s God’s desire for us. His Word is Truth. We don’t judge the Word, the Word judges us! How we respond reveals the condition of our heart.
III. Persevere! Keep obediently sowing the Word of Life knowing that some will respond (v.8;20)! It may be that this is the primary emphasis of Jesus in this context as He spoke this parable. Remember, He had just chosen the twelve that He might “…send them out to preach…” (3:14) and soon, after more teaching and miracles, He would soon do exactly that (6:7). Not all the sowing would be successful, in fact, in the parable, three out of four of the seeds fall on inadequately prepared soil and don’t bear lasting fruit. Could that reflect the truth Jesus expresses when He says,
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few…” (Mt 7:13,14).
       When it comes to sowing the seed of God's Word we are not instructed to find fertile ground before we sow the seed. Why?  Man's heart is the soil, and we cannot know the inner condition of man's heart, God alone knows that. We sow the seed, and then we nurture and water those that take root in good ground. That is the process of “making disciples” that the Great Commission refers to (Matt 28:18-20).  When I say that we are called to “Sow-Sow Living,” I don’t mean that we are called to mediocrity! We are called to be ready always, with gentleness and respect, to give a reason for the hope that is in us. We are called to keep sowing! William Carey, the father of the modern missionary movement, arrived in India in 1793 with a burden to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who had never heard His name. For seven years he proclaimed the gospel message faithfully week after week, month after month, with not a single native of India converted to Christ. Through years of struggle and doubt, Carey was often discouraged but never defeated. To his sisters back home in England he wrote:
“I feel as a farmer does about his crop: sometimes I think the seed is springing, and thus I hope; a little blasts all, and my hopes are gone like a cloud. They were only weeds which appeared; or if a little corn sprung up, it quickly dies, being either chocked with weeds, or parched up by the sun of persecution. Yet I still hope in God, and will go forth in his strength, and make mention of his righteousness, even of his only.”
Do you feel discouraged? Keep sowing! Be sensitive to opportunities to guide the conversations in your day to day life to spiritual things. And listen for clues that the “soil” is receptive!  It also means that we “sow” broadly, not knowing the condition of the heart. Think about the visitors and the seasonal workers that we encounter day to day, at the Y or at Hannaford, walking downtown or at the events on the Common. Share invitation cards, give a tract or a pamphlet. Remember, God’s Word is Truth. We don’t judge the Word, the Word judges us! How we respond reveals the condition of our heart.
IV. Pray for hearts to be prepared to receive the Word of Life.  I don’t want to go beyond the intention of the parable, but could it be that some of the “pre-evangelism” work that we have been talking about is something that God might use to prepare the hearts of the people in our sphere of influence to receive the Word at the proper time?  Most foundational is the importance of prayer.
       We’ve been emphasizing the idea that we can naturally focus on the field that is statistically most responsive: 95% of those who believe and eventually are connected with the church come primarily through the witness or invitation of someone they know. The preacher might give a gospel invitation to which they respond, but the ground has been prepared through an ongoing relationship, the seed has been sown, and even watered, and God gives life, He causes the growth. We’ve talked about praying for those 8-15 people in your close sphere of influence on a daily basis. Could it be, that God who works through prayers would graciously “break up the fallow ground” so that the seed of the Word would take root?
What is God saying to me in this passage? God’s Word is Truth. We don’t judge the Word, the Word judges us! How we respond reveals the condition of our heart.
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? It seems to me that this parable invites two primary areas of application. The first is, like the original hearers of Jesus, we should ask “what kind of soil best represents my heart?” Do we “…long for the pure milk of the Word that we might grow from it…”? The psalms open with the description of the righteous man, who “…delights in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night…” Do we delight in God’s Word? Are we hungry for it? Or are we more interested in being entertained?

       Secondly, are we committed to “Sow-Sow Living,” sharing the Word with those who so desperately need to hear? Be encouraged, some will respond!     AMEN.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Family of God - Mark 3:31-35

The Family of God
Mark 3:31-35
Introduction: We had a great time visiting our family in NJ… The 50th anniversary celebration for Mary Ann’s sister and her husband was kind of a “family reunion” for Mary Ann’s side… It was a little awkward seeing relatives my age and even younger, and not recognizing them and thinking, “They have really aged!” And then I look in the mirror and think who is that old guy! We stayed for the week with our daughter and family, and, as always, it was hard to say good-bye. The night before we left Mary Ann told our granddaughter, age 4½, that we would be leaving early the next morning. She gave Mary Ann a big hug and said sadly. “But WHY do you have to go?” (It was so touching when we prayed with her that night, she wanted to pray for us, and prayed that we would have a safe trip back to Maine!). Those good-byes are hard! Even so, what did we say on our return? “It is good to be home!” We are part of a family here as well.  The sermon title today is “The Family of God.” God has designed the church, the local community of faith that gathers together for worship, Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. We encourage and equip each other for reaching our world with the Gospel. God would use us to bring those in our “sphere of influence” into His forever family. [Remember: 95% of those who believe come to faith primarily through an existing relationship.] That is God’s plan. As I think you heard last week, “There is no plan ‘b’”!  In today’s passage, we see Jesus’ “birth family” come to see him, and we hear Jesus teach about “The Family of God.”
       A note about the context. Remember back in Mark 3:21 we read, “And when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’” Your translation may say “His family” instead of “His own people.” That translation is really an interpretation based on today’s passage.  I don’t think we can make that jump. Read Mary’s prayer, and the faith and understanding it expresses in the early part of Luke’s gospel. She believed! She didn’t know the details of how this story would unfold, but there could be no question that she knew that Jesus was the Christ. His younger [half] brothers were another story, they didn’t “believe” it seems until after the resurrection (John 7:5; cf. Acts 1:14).  Even so, I don’t think we can jump from v.21 to v.31 and assume this was a “family intervention.” All we can say for certain is that it was a family visit. And Jesus uses the occasion to teach his disciples, and us, about the family of God.
The Maine* Idea: Trusting and obeying God shows that by God’s grace we have been born into His “forever family.”
I. A wrong assumption: Christianity isn’t a birthright! Our relationship with God is not inherited from our birthparents, but is attained through the new birth (31,32). It has been rightly said that “God has no grandchildren, only children!” Take a look at our passage in Mark 3:31…
31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.  32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." 
        We have different realities and ideas about “family” relationships among us. I was talking with someone this week who expressed his thankfulness that his children and grandchildren are all right here in the Boothbay region. Others are spread out… Paul and Miriam B. don’t exactly live around the corner… Nor does Dan C. Jr. and Mika… For now the Roberts have everyone close by… the Becks have to take trips to California and New Jersey… the Conn’s kids are spread out from California to Kuala Lumpur!  You get the idea! A few of your families go back a long way right here on the peninsula. It was very common in the biblical world for extended families to stay for generations in the same town.  Not surprising since God gave the land to the tribes of Israel as an inheritance, and it was passed down from generation to generation. Families were big, and they were close.
      “Family” was important to life in Israel…  and family is an integral aspect of God’s design for humans… Much of the teaching in the Bible points to our responsibility to respect God’s design for the family: husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church; wives are to respect and follow the leadership of their husband in the Lord, parents are to protect and teach their children the way of the Lord. Children are to honor their mother and father.  I am giving that background to make the point that this visit from Jesus “family” would not have been unexpected… It’s what families do! We don’t know how long it had been since they had been together, and the twenty-mile trip from Nazareth to Capernaum would not have been a big obstacle—they were family after all.
       It is also true that God had chosen the Jews to have a special place in His program – and that God still has a future plan for Israel (the extended family of Abraham!): a blindness in part has come upon Israel until the fullness of the gentiles comes in.  What does that word “until” imply? There will be a future turning of Israel to Messiah Jesus. At the same time, John the Baptist warned the leaders not to presume that their lineage guarantees their standing with God…
 And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham…” (Matthew 3:9).
The Jews could not presume on there physical descent from Abraham to put them in good standing with God. They needed to believe! The same is true in our context. Our church has a long history—208 years? Some of you have a long history in this local body—generations. But our physical birth into a believing family doesn’t guarantee our eternity. We must be born again, personally trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. That new birth makes us a part of the family of God!
       In speaking to the importance of our spiritual family in the Lord, the local church, we should not assume that the Lord is implying that we should not value the family that we were born into or in which we grew up. Even at the end of His life, Jesus made sure His mother was cared for… As he hung on the cross, He spoke to the beloved disciple and to Mary his mother, “Behold your son …behold your mother” (John 19:26,27). Clearly family is important to the Lord, so much so that when he gave the ten commandments, one of them was the suggestion that we “put up with our parents” right? No, it was the commandment to honor our father and mother!  We have an enlightening scene that is recorded only in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus was twelve years old. The family had traveled to Jerusalem for Passover which was their custom. As the caravan of the extended family packed up to return to Nazareth we pick up the story in Luke 2:43-49…
And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it,  44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances,  45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him.  46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.  48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress."  49 And he said to them, "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house? … 51…and He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
Jesus was not disrespecting his earthly family. But he realized that His relationship with His Heavenly Father had to be His top priority. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. God created the family. He used family relationships like husband and wife, like parents and children, to illustrate His love and care for the church. He talks about how a believing spouse can “sanctify” their unbelieving mate… They have a live-in missionary after all! If God so highly values families what is Jesus saying here?
       As important as “family” is, when you are “born again” you become part of something even more important: a spiritual family, you join the “forever family” of God…  Some need to make a choice when they believe in Jesus. In certain cultures, and in certain places, to identify yourself as a Christ follower may mean being rejected and disowned by your family. Jesus says you become part of another family when you believe…
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,  30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life…” (Mark 10:29,30).
We are part of a new family, a spiritual family, when we put our trust in Jesus.  Family is important, it is God’s design. But, even more important is trusting and obeying God. It shows that by God’s grace we have been born into His “forever family.”
II. In Christ, we belong to God’s “Forever Family” (33-35).
33 And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"  34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!  35 Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."
       A key question: “Who are my mother and brothers?” Typical of His rabbinical style Jesus seizes the opportunity to teach His followers on the occasion of His family’s visit.  Also, typical for a first century rabbi, he introduces His teaching with a question designed to engage the attention of His listeners. Remember the context: first century Judaism. Family was foundational. Jesus intentionally is using a shocking “question” to make a point about the new spiritual reality that He was calling His followers to embrace. “My mother and brothers are here? Who are my mother and brothers?” Jesus is not denying His family, but he intentionally uses a surprising question to rivet the attention of those around Him.  Sometimes we can use language that can hurt or offend unintentionally. Most of you know that our daughter is adopted (if you have not met her, the fact that she is Asian might give that away!). Through the years we’ve had people ask, “Do you know anything about her real parents?” I l know there is no malice in that question, but a better term would be “birth parents.” We are her real parents. If you have trusted Christ you’ve been both born (John 3:3-5) and adopted (Gal 4:5,6) into God’s “forever family.” God is really our Father. We are really brothers and sisters. In fact, it is eternal, and that is about as real as it gets.  Jesus said that He must come before our biological family…
34 "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  36 And a person's enemies will be those of his own household.  37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me… (Matthew 10:34-37).
How did your family react when you first believed? If they were believers they surely rejoiced. But if they were not, they might have thought you were losing your mind, or had been lured into a cult! If you came from an orthodox Jewish family or an Islamic family they might have even disowned you. In some contexts in Iran or Afganistan or Pakistan it could be much worse. In that same context Jesus says that to follow Him we must be willing to take up our cross. We Americans don’t quite get that in the same way as believers in some other parts of the world.
       A Shocking statement: Here is my family! As precious are our family ties are to us, they don’t take priority over our commitment to God and His family (our spiritual family). Jesus clearly loved his family. We see that in the care He takes for Mary even as He hangs on the cross. But now He looks at those sitting around him, his followers, and He calls them His family.  Do you think about church that way?  Do you come here not to sit among strangers (or even acquaintances and friends!) but to be with your family?  
       A Vital Truth: Obedience to God rather than physical relationship is the mark of family relationship. Look back at verse 35, “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother." Obedience demonstrates we are in his family.  Charles Spurgeon said,   I will ever maintain that by grace we are saved, and not by ourselves; but equally must I testify, that where the grace of God is, it will produce fitting deeds.” Isn’t that exactly what Paul wrote in Ephesian 2:8-10?
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
We can’t boast, because “…of Him we are in Christ Jesus…” (I Cor 1:30a). It is all grace—God’s unmerited favor. But God didn’t immediately take us into His presence… He left us in the world… He saved us on purpose, for a purpose. “Obedience” demonstrates our faith, it is an aspect of the “good works” for which we were created. And it is a visible testimony to the world that God has done a work in us, and we belong to Him. John wrote, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments…” (I John 5:2).
What is God saying to me in this passage? God designed the family. It is a key aspect of His plan for humans, it’s is something we are right to cherish. But don’t miss what Jesus is saying here: Trusting and obeying God shows that by God’s grace we have been born into His “forever family.”
What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Remember the old song, “Trust and obey, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.” That is what we were created for, and it tells the world we are His. You may not have an extended “biological family” that is very present and active in your life. It may simply be geography, it may be that they haven’t yet believed and so a certain “distance” has developed. If you know Christ, you are already part of God’s family. You are surrounded by brothers and sisters. Let’s live like the family we are: caring, loving, forgiving, fellowshipping, united in our love for our Father, choosing to love one another. What does that look like?

       One thing we can do is choose to be together… In the early church, they broke bread from house to house, taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart. Hospitality is a great way to get to know one another better, to share in each other’s lives. We can also meet together, prioritizing times like Sunday School, or through the summer joining in our “Church on the Go” meetings (on Wednesday nights at 6:30).  These are great opportunities to come together for singing and fellowship, the Word and prayer. The format may vary a little week to week, but the important thing is that we come together for “family time,” and together spend time with Father. And remember the 12-year-old Jesus in the temple… we too need to be obediently engaged in the “family business,” bringing the Gospel of Christ to the people around us! What a privilege it is to pray that God would open the hearts of our family and friends, and by His kindness lead them to repentance and faith!  It may be that God would use you to reach them!            AMEN.