Family on Mission

Gary Kinnaman
Series: Generational Blessing

Video (Betsy Butler):

I guess God’s timing is never our timing. I would have healed me way back there But he let it go on, and maybe I needed that. God knows what we need better than we do. My Name is Betsy Butler. I’m 81 years old. As I look back, I can see so many good things God has done in my life. 

The very first, really good thing he did for me was he gave me godly parents. I have very fond, very early memories of my father. On Sunday morning, we would sit on the front porch in a big, old chair and he would read me the funny papers. When we finished the funny papers he would arrange me on his left knee, and on his right knee he would lay out a big, black Bible. He would go from the funny papers to going over and fine-tuning the Sunday school lesson that he would teach to the men and women in our church that morning. 

That was the beginning of my learning about God, learning to know who God is, to love him, and especially to love his Scripture. See, God knew that that little girl, three or four years old, sitting on her daddy’s knee, would be teaching that same word of God when she is eighty-one years old. 

When I was eleven years old, my father died. I was so mad at God. And out of that anger came rebellion, sadness and loneliness. But life went on and the next really big good thing God did for me was to give me a wonderful husband. And God knew I needed it.

Four years and two babies later into our marriage, we were living what we considered a really good life. We went to church on Sunday, but we were not serious about God. We gave him very little time during the week. So God allowed a reality check to come into our life. I was about twenty-five or twenty-six and I became very sick. I had a sudden, severe onset of rheumatoid arthritis. All of life became a struggle. 

My husband, who will forever be my hero, sold everything we had, took his little family to Arizona for a hot, dry climate. When we got here, we found hot and dry, but we found what we really needed, and that was God. God plunked us down into a Spirit-filled Episcopal church that believed strongly in the healing power of God. They prayed for us. They helped us. They did everything they could to encourage our faith. And we began to grow. 

In the next few years, we began to study the Bible intensely, as if we thought it might be snatched out of our hands any minute. All the time we were believing that God would heal me and we read scriptures about Jesus healing people over and over. And we thought, why not heal me?

What I was doing became more important than the healing. And so I made a promise to God that no matter whether he healed me or not, I was going to love him, I was going to serve him every day of my life. Down the road, God did heal me through miraculous, divine appointments. I am cured of an incurable disease. 

Now, when I look back at my life and I look at those hard years that we went through, I know that Satan was trying to destroy us and to destroy what we had, because that’s what he does best. But the goodness of God is greater than all the evil schemes of Satan. 

God is faithful when we are unfaithful. God is good when we’re not so good. He can be depended on.

Ryan Romeo:

Isn’t that great? I love that. It’s funny. I oversee Communications, so I’m always telling the Communications people we’ve got to get things short—you know, we’re in a society where we don’t have much attention span. This is one of those that’s like, “Okay. Just take it easy. Just breathe a little bit. Let’s hear some stories.”

And if you were here last week, we had Jim Watkins. He did the same thing. A flyover of his life and some major points in it. And that really is the heart behind this sermon series Generational Blessing, that we would have cross-generational blessing. For those of us who are a little bit younger in years, that we could glean from those who have been around a lot longer than us. 

And that’s our heart, to really honor and love each other in the series. Our prayer really is that Psalm 133, when it says, where unity is God commands a blessing, our prayer really is that God would command that blessing as we unify, not just with a group of people that we connect with, but cross-generationally. That we would really connect with generations that are different from us. That out of that unity we really believe that God’s going to command a blessing on our church.

That’s the series we’re in right now. Generational Blessing. And now it’s my pleasure to introduce our speaker, Gary Kinnaman. Gary started a little church called Word of Grace that eventually became a little church called Hillsong Phoenix here in Phoenix. He’s also been a real great friend to us. He’s an author who’s written a lot of books that are really great. But he’s known Mark Buckley a long time—back when Mark showed up here in Phoenix. So please join me in welcoming Gary Kinnamam. 

Gary Kinnaman:

Good morning. So, I’m the old guy, you know. Yep. I’ve been in ministry here for decades. That’s pretty much it. How many of you have family, or you come from a family? That’s great. I want to make sure this is a relevant message. 

How many of you have people in your family you just love them to death? How many of you have people in your family you do not love them to death—you pray for them to die? You love them, but you don’t like them. Is that another way to say it? All right. “I love them, but I don’t like them.”

My wife is here. She’s actually sitting through two services, so we’re going to take a special offering for her after this service. She’s right there. My wife, Marilyn. So, I have a family that brought me into the world, and I have a family that I brought into the world. Marilyn and I have been married forty-eight years. We have three children. You can figure out how old I really am. The oldest son turns forty-six in the fall. We have a daughter, forty-three. My oldest son has a full-time ministry in Southern California, in Ventura, and he has three children.  You can do some adding here. And then our daughter’s in Denver. She has four children. What was she thinking? And then we have a son who’s thirty-six and he’s got two children. He’s in the Navy, serving God and country in the United States Navy. He’s got a really tough job. He plays the trumpet in the Navy band. What do you think of that?

So let’s pray:

Heavenly Father, thank you for this day, for your presence here in this church. I thank you, Lord, for the friendships that I’ve had here in this place, Mark and Kristina, and so many of the people who have served ministry here and we’ve encouraged each other, we’ve comforted each other. I thank you for David Stockton and the marvelous transition that this church has been experiencing. And it’s growing and people are giving their lives to Jesus. And I pray that, as we talk about family this morning, you will be present with us and show us how amazing, how transcendent family really is for us in all the best times and in all the worst times. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How many of you have seen this book or read this book? This is for older people. The Purpose Driven Life. Rick Warren—this was his best-selling book. He had a book preceding this called The Purpose Driven Church and now he did this book and this book sold so many copies that he paid back the church for the salary they had given him for twenty-three years. I did some math. I’m a writer and my books haven’t done quite that well. But anyway, I did some calculations and in fact, he made that much money on his book in like three months, ninety days. It’s unbelievable. But they give away an extraordinary amount of money. I think they give away like seventy, eighty, ninety percent of their income. He really is a great Christian leader.

So anyway, I especially like the subtitle. Everybody knows The Purpose Driven Life. Do you know what the subtitle is? What on Earth Am I Doing Here? Why don’t we say that together? What on earth am I doing here? You’ve never asked that question, right? And maybe I love even more the first sentence in the book. What’s the first sentence? “It’s not about you.” I want you to just look at the person next to you and tell them, “It’s not about you.”  Some of you have been wanting to say that to your spouse for years. So tell them again, if it felt good. Just say it again. "It’s not about you.” I have a hunch before the day’s over you’re going to say that again. Not for fun. 

I’ve come to believe that there are two principle themes in the Bible. We’re addressing one of those themes, but I want you to see it in context. To me, there are two major themes in Scripture that tie everything together. The first theme is community. Family. Or community. Relationships. Where we learn to live with differences. Where we’re loved. Where we love. But where we’re also placed with people that we don’t love. We don’t like them. Community. That’s what develops us as people. 

But the community has a purpose and this is the second theme that’s all the way through Scripture. It’s the kingdom. Jesus prayed, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And he begins by saying, “Our Father.” That was novel. That was revolutionary to begin a prayer by saying, “Our Father.” So, it’s about family. But it’s about family with a purpose. And God has a purpose for your family, in your life, and you have a purpose for your family and all the people that are around you. 

These are the two major themes. The better witness we are, the more effective we are in expanding the kingdom. God doesn’t just want us to preach at people, he wants us to live out the life that he’s given us. How do we learn life? We learn life in family, for good or for evil.

I’ve done countless weddings. I have forced the couple to say, “For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness or in health, until one of us dies. Until death do us part.” But that’s about how life in family is terribly difficult at times, but it teaches us how to become more like Jesus. Or we can become more like the devil. Both happen. 

There are two main themes: community and kingdom. Here’s my message today in a nutshell: You and your extended family—past and present—have a mission. It’s about your family, your extended family, all the people in your family. You know, the immediate family is kind of a myth, because it takes more than two adults to raise one child. We need help. We need the extended family. 

My brothers were part of our family growing up. We helped each other with our kids. And right now, my son, David, is in Denver because he wants to spend a lot of time with his brother-in-law, my daughter’s husband. They have two boys who are in their early teens. And they want to spend time with them and nurture them. And sometimes an uncle can do more for a teenager than dad.

There’s this myth that we can just do it alone. But we are a community of people and we need each other. The extended family, past and present, are very powerful. So let’s see how this unfolds in Scripture. I have a bit of my personal theology about the family. Let’s begin in Genesis 2, talking about the creation. This is the creation.

And God said, and I’ve got to pause there and say the Hebrew word for God is Elohim. And that word, oddly, is plural, it really means Gods, and yet the Hebrews were the only ancient people that were monotheistic. The great statement of faith of the Hebrew people is “Hear O Israel for the Lord thy God is one God.” “Hear O Israel for the Lord (Yahweh), thy Elohim (Gods) is one Elohim (Gods).”

And from a Christian perspective we say, “Well, this is telling us about the trinity.” So we look at Genesis 1:26-28

26 Then God [Elohim] said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, 

God makes us in his image, in eternal community. God is community and he makes us a community.

so that they may rule…

There’s the kingdom. So there’s family, community…”so that they may rule.” They need each other to rule because life is difficult.

 over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

And I kind of think that implies the serpent. There’s natural domion. There’s also spiritual dominion. 

27  So God [Elohim – the Gods] created mankind in his own image,in the image of God [Elohim] he created them; male and female he created them.

He started with two people—very different, and the world’s been a fun place ever since. He didn’t just make Adam. He made Adam and Eve in this creation account. And why? Because that’s essential community. He brings people together who are not the same, but are very different.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; 

That would be family and community.  

fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

In the old King James it uses the word kingdom. And we use it in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.” And a kingdom is a king’s dominion. The dom comes from dominion. That’s what a kingdom is.

So there’s the creation account. We see this idea of community and kingdom doing things, serving God, representing God together. Then there’s the call of Abram. That was his name before God came to him and renamed him Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-3 
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; 

So there’s this extenderd community.

I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

We are children of Abraham. What does it say? “And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

It’s not about you. It’s about what God wants to do through you. And family is about getting you to that place where you are really trusting God. You understand that life is wonderful. Life is also complicated and sometimes painful and difficult. But you learn about God and his provision and you get into his presence, and then you have something to offer to the people around you.

This is incredible. It’s the promise in the ancient book Genesis that initiates the narrative of human history, especially spiritual history. It’s God’s holy family with a lot of unholy people who become the bearer of his purposes to redeem a fallen world.

Isreal was God’s chosen people, his children, his family chosen for mission. I don’t have any more fear. We sang it over and over. Because I’m a child of God. So God becomes a part of our family. That was always his intention. It’s why Jesus says, “You must be born again.” Because, where you are, your family is dysfunctional and you need some new genes. I call it “re-gene-eration.” You know regeneration. It really means you get new genes. You get the nature of Christ.

I have a number of things to say about this next point. This is my third and main point. I want to talk about the spiritual power of the family and I want to start by talking about this odd little phrase in Exodus: a lamb for a house. Exodus chapter 12.

So now you’ve got Israel and through the story in Genesis, there’s been a famine. And Joseph is in Egypt, and his brothers come to Egypt for food and he’s reunited with his family. They end up there and they become enslaved. So God raises up Moses to lead them out of slavery, through the Red Sea. He parts the sea and we go into the desert. There’s sort of a process of life before we can enter into everything that God has for us. So there’s a wilderness and then we get into the Promised Land. That’s not heaven. That’s finding God in life.

It says this: While the people of Israel are in Egypt, God institutes a very permanent religious ceremony and event. 

Exodus 12:3-4
Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor,

What’s the lamb? It’s a symbol of Jesus. And they’re going to execute the lamb and they’re going to take the blood and paint it on the lintel, the top of the door, the panels on the side, because the angel of death is going to go through Egypt—the angel of condemnation and judgment. And when the angel sees the blood, he passes over the house. (That’s why it’s called the Passover.) He doesn’t look inside to see if the family is praying together. Because, you know, “the family that prays together stays together.” They just look for the blood. And, for all we know, there were family arguments going on. But, because they’re under the blood, there was no condemnation. 

And it’s a lamb for a house. This is a very powerful image. It’s not individual. Sometimes I grieve the way we do communion. It’s very individual. It’s not really family-oriented. It’s not around a table. Sometimes worship centers have a sign on the door: No food or drink in the auditorium. Well, how do you do communion? Originally, communion was a table. It was a family event. Jesus was with twelve people and he broke the bread and he said, “This is my body.” And then they had dinner together. And after the dinner, he took the cup.

So the Passover is a lamb for a house. Jesus was celebrating the Passover with his disciples. And that weekend he was becoming the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. It’s all so powerful. It gives me chills. I’ve been doing this stuff for years and I still get chills when I talk about this. (Some people would say, “It’s neurological and you need to see a doctor.”)

Anyway—it’s a lamb for a house. And they must share with their neighbors. If the lamb is too much for the house, get a few more people in there. 

The spiritual power of family is so clearly stated in the Ten Commandments. For those of you who need a review of the Ten Commandments, I have a list. 

The first commandment: No other Gods.

The second commandment: No idols

The third commandment: Don’t take God’s name in vain

The fourth: Sabbath

This is something very few people really know or understand. You have three commandments about God. You have the Sabbath, which takes God to us. And the next six commandments are about our whole life. The Sabbath is about how we have to bring the God that we love and serve and submit to into all of these different areas of life—from family to possessions to shopping. There’s a commandment about shopping. It’s the last one: Thou shalt not covet. And that’s what you do when you go to the mall. You don’t buy anything You just go to see what you might want. Just to ruin your day.

The fifth: Family

That’s the first one because everything starts in family: good, bad, wonder, evil, abuse. It all starts in family. So you’ve got to first bring God into that part of your life. What does this say? 

Exodus 20:12
Honor your father and your mother as the Lord your God has commanded you,
[This is the only commandment with a promise.] so that you may live long and so that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

This is awesome. It’s the first commandment. It’s about family. If you don’t get it right there, you’re going to take all that crap—excuse me, I’m only here maybe once in every two years—you’ve got to take that into all your other relationships: what happens in your family, and how you deal with it. 

God says that, “If you honor your father and your mother, you’re going to live long and I’m going to bless you.”

I’m sure there are many people in here who have no interest whatsoever in honoring their father and their mother. Because their father was abusive, or their mother was abusive, or they got divorced. Or maybe you don’t even know who your father is.—you never met your father. Or maybe you were adopted and there’s always that shadow: “Who am I, really?” 

It’s okay to ask those questions, because family is such an important part of the plan of God. I call it transcendent. It’s not just about human stuff that they can figure out with a theory of evolution. It’s a transcendence. You feel it when you go to a wedding. When two people get married you feel the presence of God. It’s human, but it’s not just human. There’s something spiritual happening here. 

I’ve got a friend who does pre-marriage counseling in the Catholic Church, he and his wife. I had breakfast with him a a few days ago and he was talking about how this works out. He said, “You know, people come and want to be married in the church, even though they have no relationship with God. And maybe they have some history of being Catholic, and they bring their boyfriend or their girlfriend and they want to be married in the church.” Why? Because marriage is about God.

So, the Ten Commandments. “Honor your father and your mother.” It doesn’t say “like them,” or “spend time with them until you need to see a therapist and take medication.” You honor them because you wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t sort of got together, if you know what I mean. You wouldn’t be here. And so, you have to see the origin of your life as something that’s planned by God. 

I’m going to go into this pretty deeply when I talk about my family tree and Jesus’ family tree. Look what it says: So you honor your father and your mother and the power of family—families are for the lonely. So God’s plan is to place people into families when they don’t have a family. That’s what the church is about. The church is the family of God. So the writer says:

Psalm 68:5-6
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

I like the way it’s translated in the Message. Not quite as religious. 

Psalm 68:5-6 (MSG)
Father of orphans, champion of widows, is God in his holy house. God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom, but leaves rebels to rot in hell.

Nobody said “Amen.” Some of you wanted people in your life to rot in hell, okay? Because they’ve put you through hell. Let’s get realistic here. This isn’t just about punishing bad people and getting even. The fact is, rebels rot in hell because hell is the absence of God. The more you do life on your own, as a rebel, the more you will have hell in your life. You need God and you need your family, all the people you love and the ones you don’t like. You have to see the plan of God in that.

When Paul talks about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians, he talks about members of the body need each other. The eye can’t say to the ear, “I don’t need you.” How many of you have said that about some other person in your life? “I don’t need that person in my life!” But Paul says “God has placed all the members of the body right where he wanted them to be.”

And that’s about relationships. Paul’s talking about relationships. So I can say the same thing about family. My son in-law discovered this. When you get married, you don’t just marry your spouse, you marry her family—all of them. The good ones. The dysfunctional ones. It’s not an accident. Human life isn’t random.

The next reason why families are so spiritually powerful—I don’t know totally what this means, so I’m just going to let David explain this when he gets home. You show him this verse and say, “Would you explain this? Because Pastor Gary just read it and didn’t explain it.”

The spiritual power of families is crazy-amazing. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14:

If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, [if she’s willing to put up with his religion] he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him.

But look at this. This is so transcendent. I can’t fully explain it, but I know it’s a lamb for a house.

For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

It’s a lamb for a house, even if people in that house are not believers. But if you are the only believer in the house, you are the hope of that home. This is incredible. The children are made holy, the unbelieving partner is made holy. It’s incredible. I can’t explain it. I’m going to let David Stockton explain how that works. You say, “You mean, they’re all going to heaven?” I don’t know. I just know what the Bible says here. 

The family is a church in miniature. Paul says “the man will leave his father and mother,” he quotes Genesis, “and cleave to his wife and the two will become one flesh.”

And he says right after that, “I’m speaking about Christ and the Church.” That a marriage is a symbol of Jesus and his bride, the Church. This, to me, is why weddings are so holy. I always talk about this at weddings. “If you feel religious right now, or spiritual, it’s because this beautiful, perfect couple is the best they’re going to look in their whole life.” It’s a picture of God in us. 

I want to read something to you. This is going to blow you away, some of you:

The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church. It is a community of faith, hope and charity. It assumes singular importance in the church, as is evident in the New Testament. The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. [We talked about that from Genesis, right?] In the procreation and education of children, it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake in the prayer and sacrifices of Christ. Daily prayer and the wording of the word of God strengthen it in charity. [This is where we learn how to live out the fruit of the Spirit.] The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task. —Catechism of the Catholic Church

This statement is from the Catholic catechism. It couldn’t be worded more powerfully. 

So, this from my catechism—I wrote one, too.

The family and the church family are places that God has created where we learn to live with differences. Learn love and grace in conflict. We find our future together. The church becomes our family when we’re born again. It’s a place where we learn to love one another and the world around us, and are nurtured to serve one another and advance the kingdom of God.

Now I want to talk about beyond the immediate family: genealogy. Where you come from will determine who you are. If you’re adopted, if you don’t know who your parents are, if you are perfect (which is never the case), it helps you find your future. I want to show you a picture here. This is a picture of the stairway of my daughter’s house. When you walk in to the house, there’s a living room to the right and dining room behind the living room. There’s a stairway to the second floor. I gave her most of these pictures, but she collected some of them as well. At the very bottom is a picture of my mother and dad getting married. As you make a turn on the landing is a picture of my wife and me getting married. And a picture of her husband’s dad and mom getting married. It all culminates in these two couples who end up bringing Jeff and Sherry together in marriage, who now have four children.

The next slide is just my family. The bottom picture is my mom and dad getting married and my grandfather is doing the wedding. Then there’s a picture of my grandfather and his wife, Theodore and Dorothea. It goes all the way up there. I have the marriage certificate from my great-grandfather Kinnaman. They were married in the late 1800’s. And I have a love letter that he wrote to my great-grandmother (neither of whom I ever knew).

I look at those pictures and I never am at Sherry’s house without standing in front of those pictures. And I think to myself, all these people fell in love and they had sex. And here I am. It’s like God had to do a lot of work to get to me. And those people weren’t thinking about me, the next generation. They weren’t thinking about me sharing God’s word with you. But God was thinking about that. I’m not an accident. 

A lot of things have happened in my family. Terrible, bad, they appear to be accidents; but nothing is an accident in God’s plan. This tells me two things. God is in control. Is he in control when bad things happen? “Well, I don’t know.” If that really troubles you, I have a Bible verse for you:

Romans 8:28 (ESV) And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

If you think your life is random, or it’s just an accident—people did stupid things and you’re just a victim: All things work together for good for those who love God. So whatever happens, somehow God fixes it.

While I’m freaking you all out—how does the New Testament begin? It begins with a chapter on the genealogy of Jesus. It is a happy, dysfunctional genealogy. There are all kinds of famous people in there, but it doesn’t pull any punches. One thing is that there are four women in the genealogy and nobody ever did that at that time. Gals, sorry to say that. Women were never mentioned. But it’s not just four women, it’s four women who have unique stories. 

The first woman that is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew Chapter 1 is Rahab. Does anyone know what her profession was? She was a gentile and she was a prostitute. And she was in the genealogy of Jesus.

And then the next woman that is mentioned is Tamar.  Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah. That sounds really regal and awesome. Jesus—he’s the lion in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He’s the Lion of Judah. So Judah begat Perez (he’s the first hispanic in the Bible). Judah begat Perez by Tamar. Tamar wasn’t his wife. Tamar was his daughter-in-law. It was incest. I won’t tell you the whole story. I wish I had time, but I’ve ruined so much of your day already. Judah had Perez. (Twins. I can’t remember the other name, I think it was an Irish name.) Anyway—by Tamar, who was his daughter-in-law. And that’s in the genealogy of Jesus. 

Then it says David begat Solomon and it doesn’t mention Bathseba’s name. It says, “David begat Solomon by the wife of Uriah.” That’s how it’s in the genealogy. 

And the last woman was Ruth, who was a Moabite. She was a lovely, holy woman. But she was a Moabite. She was a gentile. And so, they’re telling the whole world that Jesus had gentile blood. 

Who is in your genealogy? What kind of nasty, evil, weird, wonderful people are in your genealogy? It took God a lot of work to get to you. How did God get to His Son, who was promised in the Garden of Eden? He went through a whole series of human relationships, who didn’t know that they were in this chain of life that was going to lead to the birth of the Messiah. 

Of course, God corrected some of that when it was the Holy Ghost who came on Mary. He gave Jesus the nature of God himself. He ended up with two genealogies.

But this is so powerful. I’ll say it again: God is in control. When you think he isn’t, at least you have the promise: All things work together for good. 

When terrible things happen to us and we start saying we’re a victim, we’re really denying that God’s in control. Or we’re denying that, whatever happens to us, there are some things that God can’t fix. You’re a miracle! 

My fifth point here is the Communion of the Saints. It’s in the Apostles Creed. It doesn’t mean what you think it means, that the communion of the saints is that we’re in church together. Let me explain what it means. The Communion of the Saints in the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day, he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, where he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church and the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

What is the communion of the saints? In Latin, it’s communio sanctorum. It refers to persons. It is the spiritual union of the members of the Christian church, living and dead. It’s not just living people gathering together, it is the fact that everybody in your genealogy is still alive. They’re just not alive here. I’ve said a lot of stuff to put you into a tumble. This is really freaky. They’re here with us. They’re what the Bible calls the “great cloud of witnesses.” Catholics pray to the saints, It’s not my thing. I’m not Catholic. I’ve mentioned them a couple of times. They pray to the saints. They acknowledge the saints. They have a sense that the saints are living with them.  And they’re much better about keeping this “great cloud of witnesses” in their faith and reality and practice.

Look at Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, [that would be all the amazing faith people in Hebrews 11, or in your genealogy] let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

I have family in heaven. I wish I had time to tell you how they still impact my life. My mother. My grandfather, who was a pastor. My great-grandfather, who was a pastor, came to America as a missionary, a German immigrant. They still speak to me. I don’t know. Are they watching? If I played football, I know they’d be watching me play football. It’s what they do. 

I want to wrap this up with a story. I want to show you a picture here of family. This is my wife’s sister, Annette and her husband, Jeff. They’ve been married fifteen years. She’s never had children. He had a daughter from a first marriage, who committed suicide. They’ve had a lot of pain in their life. They live down in Saddlebrook near Tucson. But for most of their life, they lived in Escondido, where my wife was born. My mother-in-law adopted Annette. She was an RN who worked at a little clinic in Escondido. A nineteen-year-old woman came in. She didn’t have an abortion, she had the baby. And Marilyn’s family adopted that baby, and that’s Annette.

Annette has always wondered where she really came from. She’s had 23 and Me, but she had not been able to find her real family. She didn’t know if wanted to. She felt rejection. “My mother didn’t want me. Why should I be interested in knowing about her?” She’s 63 years old and she still brings it up. So her husband, who’s sort of compulsive, and I call him a sleuth. Last weekend he went online for about three hours and he found her mother! Next picture: The woman in the middle is my wife’s adopted sister’s birth mother. And that’s her husband on the other side. And that’s her son-in-law, and that’s Marilyn’s sister’s birth sister. They have the same father! She got pregnant out of wedlock, and this is the way it was in the early 50’s. They sent her to California to have the baby. She came back and nine months later they got married. And they had three more daughters.

My sister-in-law, Annette, has been on the phone all week, every day, talking to this sister in Michigan. And they’re laughing and they’re crying. What’s up with that? It’s family! It is the power of family! I can’t explain it. I say to young women who are expecting, I say two things (I love to say this): “Right now, you love that baby. You can’t wait for it to be born. But when you’ve had that baby in your arms, you will not be able to describe how much you love that child.”

You hold a child and there’s a bonding that takes place. In fact, Annette’s birth mother was not allowed to hold the child. She had the child and the child was taken out of the room.  

There’s a bonding. How do you explain that? How many of you love your children? How many of you love your children more than you love the neighbor’s children? How many of you love your children more than you love the neighbor’s children, even though the neighbors have better children? What’s up with that? This is transcendent.

There are two things I say to young women. “You’ve not going to believe how much you love that child. You’re also not going to believe how difficult it is to raise that child from the colic to hormones.”

I said this to my daughter-in-law, and you can tell I’m kind of sideways. And she had her first baby, and she’s nursing little Oliver. They thought it was going to be a girl. She had all girl stuff. Some mistake with the ultrasound. She had a boy. We were outside the delivery room. There was screaming and yelling, they were saying, “Oh my God!” And they didn’t have a name for him for about three days. The hospital said, “We can’t let you go home unless you name this child.”

So she’s nursing little Oliver. And I said to her, “Do you hear that sucking sound? It’s going to last at least twenty years! You have no idea how much work this child’s going to be. And this child will not appreciate you until this child has children.”

Which has led me to believe that this is a promise in God’s word for grandparents: 

Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay.

Could you lift your hands to the Lord? And could you say this prayer with me?

Heavenly Father, you had to do a lot of work to get to me, but you gave me life through my mother and father, and I’m grateful. I’m a miracle! And I believe, Lord, that you are in control. I belong to you. I’m not only a child of my mother and father, but I’m one of your children, and I say, ‘Hallelujah and Amen.’”

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