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Sermon Transcript — December 31, 2006 God's Extraordinary Family by Mr. Lyle Welty Most people seem to enjoy hearing about outstanding and unusual accomplishments by other people. As evidenced of that the Guinness Book of World Records is one of the biggest, hottest best sellers of all times. More then one hundred million copies of this book have been sold around the world. It's been translated into thirty-seven languages. It's pretty amazing. For me personally, outstanding accomplishments are especially interesting when they're inspiring examples of lives that have been lived well and lived productively. Recently I read about an extraordinary family; the Hower family; Chuck and Penny Hower; parents of five children of their own and they read an article in the newspaper about children with severe handicaps who needed homes. Now there was a shortage of families willing to take them in and provide a home for them so the Howers decided to adopt some of the children. In fact they wanted to adopt as many as they possibly could. So over the span of 21 years, they adopted 37 children. All of them were disabled with very serious medical problems. Can you guess what their grocery bill would be each week or each month, we'll start with that? They spend about twenty-five hundred dollars a month on groceries and that's using coupons and buying in bulk. Meals are eaten at a twenty foot long table. Each week the family goes through 24 rolls of toilet paper, 12 boxes of cereal, 14 gallons of milk and 21 loaves of bread. Mrs. Hower typically does 12 loads of laundry every day. Understandably finances have been a real challenge for the family. They do receive SSI assistance but they still struggle to make ends meet and yet when they're asked: "Why did you do this?" Mr. Hower says: "There's no doubt that my life is for these children." Several years ago the Howers were honored in Washington, D.C. for all their work. One of their adopted sons who suffers from Cerebral Palsy who was on medication was presented with a flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor. Another extraordinary family was a subject of a Reader's Digest article a number of years ago; the Arthur Guiton family. Arthur Guiton was a medical doctor. He had been described as a giant in his field of physiology and medicine, a leader among leaders, master teacher and an inspiring role model for people throughout the world. Dr. Guiton and his wife would have been in their eighties at this point but sadly a couple years ago they were killed in an automobile accident. What's so remarkable about the Dr. Guiton family is that he and his wife had ten children. That's not the end of the sentence. That's pretty remarkable in itself though, ten children but every one of the ten children became a remarkable, an outstanding physician like their father. Eight of them graduated from the Harvard Medical School , one from Duke Medical School, one from the University of Miami Medical School after getting a PHD from Harvard. In my mind what makes the Guiton family extraordinary is that all ten of the children were inspired to follow the example in the footsteps of their father and become doctors because of their father's and their mother's example; an example of service and love for other people. The family's been described this way: They're a wonderful family, sharing the values of hard work, dedication, teamwork and excitement of learning and discovery and a deep love for each other. The father, Dr. Arthur Guiton was a brilliant man. In 1951 he was named as one of the ten outstanding men in the nation. He developed one of the world's premier cardiovascular research programs. He wrote more than six hundred papers, forty books and received more than eighty major honors from organizations and universities around the world. He was a master teacher and he personally taught every medical student at the University of Mississippi for over fifty years. Out of respect and love, his students and trainees always referred to him as the Chief; the Chief or Doctor Guiton. No matter how long they knew him, they still showed him that kind of devotion and respect. He was devoted to his teaching and he would never accept an invitation to give a prestigious lecture if it conflicted with his teaching schedule; that he valued extremely high. Doctor Guiton's wife Ruth was a remarkable woman in her own right and her husband praised her this way, quote: "Her magnificent devotion to her family," end quote. My reason for mentioning these two extraordinary families; the Hower family and the Guiton family is because the subject is one that directly applies to us in the church; in that God Himself has created an extraordinary family. We are God's extraordinary family but one that's in the making, it's still being developed and that concept of course is not new to us. We understand that we are ordinary people but we have an extraordinary heavenly Father. We understand that at Christ's return that we will be changed to spirit, we'll live forever as a family on a God plane relationship in existence with God and this God family will be so extraordinary that people today could not fathom or imagine such a plan that God has. I hope that we never loose the awe and inspiration and the inspiration of that purpose and that calling. We could paraphrase one of the scriptures to say that eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has it entered into the heart of man, the extraordinary family that God has planned for those who love Him. The world would be astounded to know what God is doing through His church and how that He is preparing us and planning us and developing us so that we can serve with Jesus Christ when He returns to help rescue and save the world from destroying itself. I hope that the thrill of that concept of being God's extraordinary family is something that we never forget and we never loose, that we never minimize; it's not just a warm fuzzy good feeling. It's not just a sentiment; it's reality that God is creating an extraordinary family. We are that but we're one in the making because that concept is real. The bible uses different analogies to teach us about the church. For example the bible compares us to a body, compares the church to a body with all the various parts all working harmoniously together to accomplish one great work, but we of course as God's people are not literally one giant human body with two arms and two legs and a torso and all the other parts of course. We compare the church to a human body because it helps us understand more about how the church should work, how it should function but we're not a literal human body. In a church God's people are also compared in the bible to a temple and we realize again that there's where God works and God lives in His temple. But all of God's people obviously do not form one literal physical temple with rooms and altar and that sort of thing; it's a figure of speech to help us understand the concept, to understand more fully how the church should function. We understand that. There are many important lessons we can learn from that; though we really are in reality a very real family. That analogy is correct and accurate and very meaningful. Even though we're not blood relatives, most of us; I know some of us are related but most of us are not through blood and in the future we literally will be sons and daughters of God and we will be literally brothers and sisters living and working together forever in God's family. Hearing about the Hower family that adopted all those disabled children and the Guiton family and all that they accomplished, if that isn't inspiring to you as it is to me, how much more inspired should we be to realize what God is doing through us, what God is preparing through us; the special calling to be part of God's literal family? Let's turn to Hebrews chapter 3, verse 6. We'll see here something important about our part in God's family that He's creating. We're going to break into the context but we'll learn our point and move on from there. It says: Hebrews 3:6 But Christ as a Son over His own house, (in other words over His own household or family, Jesus Christ is the one in charge of preparing God's family and He's also our role model for how we should live as a part of God's family) whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. I'd like to read that last sentence of verse 6 from a more modern translation: God's Word for Today. This is what it says: We are His household if we become and continue to have courage and to be proud of the confidence we have. This is telling us that there is a right kind of pride, the right kind of excitement and pride when we understand what God is doing and the family, the extraordinary family that God is developing and producing and I hope that is inspiring to us to realize that's what God is doing, that's why we were born. In the rest of the sermon today, which is my first sermon to you as the new pastor, I'd like to focus a little more on this concept of God's extraordinary family. In the process, let you know that my wife Margie and I really do appreciate the opportunity to become part of the Cincinnati East family of God along with all of you. Let's begin in I Timothy chapter 3, verse 14. Mr. Kilough read part of I Timothy 3 earlier, a very meaningful section. Here we have the apostle Paul writing to Timothy who was a younger minister and who was like a son to Paul. Paul and Timothy had a family relationship. It was a mentoring relationship but it was really like a father/son in many respects. Paul makes it clear from these verses that God's church is God's own family. I Timothy 3:14 These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; Verse 15: but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house (or we would say the household or family of God) of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. Now again, I'd like to reread that section in a more modern translation. This particular translation I think does an incredibly good job. It becomes very meaningful for us because we understand what God's plan is and it's as though it's written clearly for the Church of God . This is what it says in God's Word for Today translation: I hope to visit you soon, however I'm writing this to you in case I'm delayed. I want you to know how people who are members of God's family (notice how clearly that word) must live. God's family is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Very clear, very meaningful. It has such depth of meaning for us. It talks about how that we are members of God's family. How God's family is the church of the living God. Now there are several points in that section of scripture we want to focus on, try to expand and understand even more clearly. Verse 15 talks about the church of the living God. That is kind of interesting; church of the living God. The household or family, it's describing just one household this family has a God and this God is a living God. It's not a picture, it's not a statue, its a living God. The phrase living God I hope helps us see the point even more clearly of how we are an extraordinary family being developed; make it even more real and serious to us to realize that God is the one developing this family so that we can be with Him and serve with Him forever. It's God's project in that sense. I hope it elevates our minds to the point of realizing this is an incredibly important calling that God has for us. He's not just inviting us to become part of His church and we are, that's part of it but it's much more than that because when we become part of God's church the next step is we become part of God's family. This is a precursor to that; it's the first step toward becoming part of God's literal family. I hope that does elevate in our mind the calling and helps us to realize that when we come together on the Sabbath how meaningful it is that we gather together and He wants us like a big family to worship God but also to enjoy the company, the fellowship and the contact with each other. God enjoys that, that's inspiring to Him to see us mesh and mell together as a family. Another thing we can draw from this verse is I think it's clear that the entire Church of God is the household or family of God. But since Timothy was a pastor of a congregation, in this case Ephesus , it also makes a point that a local congregation could also be called the family of God. We could be called here this Cincinnati East, family of God. Later in the letter Paul went on to tell Timothy: "Here's how things ought to be done in the church, the church of the living God." He said: "Timothy you should draw on your experience of what a healthy family is like, treat the older men and women like your dad and mom, like your very own parents. That's the kind of relationship a pastor should have with older members in the congregation, treating you with respect as though you were my father, my mother, my family and treating the younger men as brothers and treating the younger women like my own sisters; in other words interacting with all of us in a warm but also pure way. Although Paul didn't specifically write to Timothy this additional section I think we can honestly and accurately add, certainly using Christ's example in this case we can say: "Be sure and let the children in the congregation realize that they are a very special and important part of God's family as well." To acknowledge them and their value to the church family. Our positive family relationships should serve as a guide as how to interact and get along with each other, how we should view our spiritual brothers and sisters. In my particular family of origin I had two wonderful parents, outstanding. They were called into God's church back in the 60's and I began attending the church of God with my family when I was 17 years old. My father died in the faith in 1976 when he was 60 years old and my mother still lives on the family farm in Indiana even though she just turned 87 but doing well. She's a member of the Fort Wayne, Indiana congregation of the United Church of God as well and she often is able to keep the feast with us which is very meaningful. I never had any brothers growing up I just had four older wonderful sisters. So it explains a little bit why I turned out the way I did. Two of my sisters have since died which is sad and I certainly miss them very much. But what an effective tool, what an important point Paul was making to Timothy. It seems like a very simple concept and yet it's profound to realize that our attitude toward each other, how we connect and relate to each other, really the basic fundamental principal is, getting along with fathers and mothers; getting along with brothers and sisters functioning literally as one big healthy family and that is wonderful. That is what Paul is passing on to Timothy. He was saying: "You're a pastor, you're a young man. I know you don't know how to do this fully but let me give you a bit of wisdom here. This is how to function with your congregation, and it really is profound. Treat the members of your church like you would your own parents and your own siblings and relate to them with a special bond and that should be your pattern for how you behave in the church of God and how you function with your congregation." If you still have your bible open to 1 Timothy 3:15 there's one more thing that I think we should notice as we go through that section and I like the way the Authorized Version, the old King James Version words this, it says: I write so that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the church of God. Behave yourself. I like that wording personally. It has a familiar ring to me. As a kid growing up I heard that a lot. Behave, you need to behave and it brings back a familiar but a healthy reminder that God also has a standard, a standard of what He expects us, how He expects us to relate to each other, to function, to interact, to work, to serve, that we are to behave as though we are God's family and that's how we should treat each other; have a very high standard of values of doing things right when it comes to functioning with each other. William Barkley has some helpful insight into the meaning of this Greek word behave. This is what he says, I'll quote a section: "The word for to behave describes what we might call a man's walk or conversation." (In other words we would say his behavior.) "It describes the whole life and character but it specifically describes him in his relationships with other people. The word in itself lays it down that a church member's personal character must be excellent, that his personal relationships with other people should be a true fellowship. A church congregation is a body of people who are friends; (Interesting) who are friends, friends with God and friends with each other." That is very well put. That's the end of that quote. I'd like to refer back now to the Guiton family for just a minute, the family that had the ten children whose love and respect for their father inspired them all to follow his footsteps and become doctors. When the father, Doctor Arthur Guiton was 27 years old he was in his first year of residency training in Boston, he contracted polio which left him severely physically handicapped. He was paralyzed in his right leg, his left arm and both shoulders and as a result he spent 9 months in a polio treatment center but while he was there recuperating and receiving treatment, not to waste his time, he built the first motorized wheel chair controlled by a joy stick. So just in-between treatments, between times he was resting, he invented an electronic wheel chair that could be controlled with one hand with a joy stick. He also built motorized hoist for lifting patients, special leg braces for those who needed them and other devices to help the handicapped. Much later one of his students said of him: "He taught us much more than physiology, he taught us life, not so much by what he said but by his unspoken courage and dedication to the highest standards. No one who ever worked with Arthur Guiton thought of him as being handicapped. His accomplishments as well as his attitude overshadowed that and they remembered the other parts but the handicapped was something that was minimized by comparison." I found that very interesting. As a father of his family, Doctor Guiton's philosophy of education with his children was to learn by doing; roll up your sleeves, jump in, go to work. In many respects the Guiton kids became their father's hands because of his disability. He couldn't do as many physical things as he would like. For example when the washing machine broke, Doctor Guiton would tell his children to take it apart and fix it. The kids would take it apart and he would help them find where the problem was and then he would give them directions for putting the washing machine back together again. People who knew the Guiton family said they doubted that a repairman ever got inside the Guiton house. Incredible; you can tell they were really outstanding people. Here's some of the things that they learned by doing. I look at this list and I think, my parents taught me a lot but this was just a different kind of family then this one. The Guiton family projects with the ten children helped their father accomplish was; they designed and built their own house and heating system. They designed and built their own swimming pool, tennis courts, sail boats, homemade go carts, electrical cars, gadgets for their home and electrical instruments for their Oxford Instrument Company. There was a lot of learning by doing. There weren't many things that they didn't try, didn't do. But you know, our Father, our heavenly Father is also committed to working with us very directly, very hands on and many things He has us learn by doing. That's really true isn't it? How many times have you been thrown into the deep end of the pool, so to speak in a situation and you had to figure out with God's help a way to be able to do it. Nobody taught you, you didn't know how it was to be done, you were given the assignment and we simply went to God and said: "Please help me." He then walked us through step by step. Just like Doctor Guiton did with his children. God does very much the same thing. The church is full of experiences of learning by doing. That's true in the church; it's true in our individual Christian lives. Now again, that's just not a nice thought. It's a reality; that's how God works with us. He does expand us, he stretches us at times by putting us in situations and giving us challenges to resolve that normally on our own we would have no idea how to approach, but with His guidance, with His help we, as we draw close to Him and ask for help, He guides us through them. It's more than just a nice thought; it's reality. It's an important reality to realize that we are to learn to imitate our Father as well as our older brother, Jesus Christ of course and learning by doing. That's a process God is using to make us, to develop us into this extraordinary family that He is developing. In our case, what we're learning and developing is not how to build a house or a heating system or a swimming pool or a tennis court or a sail boat but God is teaching us how to learn, how to develop Godly character, how to think and function and respond and react the way He does, the way the God family responds. We're learning to live just like Jesus Christ would if He were in our exact situation facing our exact questions and challenges, how would Jesus Christ do this? That's what we're learning day in and day out. That's made possible of course because God's Holy Spirit is in us, working with our minds and leading us and influencing us in the right direction. I'd like to turn to a few scriptures that give us a sampling of what we're supposed to be learning by doing. There's much material that could be covered, obviously we won't have time to cover it all but we'll get started. What we want to accomplish by turning to these scriptures is to see what's important for us is the spiritual development, the character development, learning things on a God level, things that are revealed in the scriptures not just what our dads and moms have taught us but what our spiritual dad and mother is teaching us. Here are some God family values that teach us how to become sons and daughters of God. The first one I want to look at is I John chapter 3, verse 1. This is a familiar scripture. We'll see as we go through a couple of scriptures that follow this, a couple verses that follow, that it's talking about the children of God; that's what we are, that's how God looks at us. We are His children. We're a family in the making. We're in the development stages but ultimately we're going to be part of God's literal family. I John 3, verse 1. I picked just a few of these verses that focus on us being children of God and highlighting the qualities that we should be learning by practicing and doing. I John 3:1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. In other words the world is blind to the reality that God is developing a family by using first fruits and later on He'll work with the rest of humanity to develop an extraordinary family. Let's drop down to verse 10. Verse 10: In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: (Or are obvious) Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. Now this verse is also saying that whoever does do righteousness is of God and also who does love his brother is of God. But we see here two broad areas of responsibility that God's children have. First of all we're responsible to practice righteousness. Part of our calling, part of our responsibility is to live by every word of God; to be obedient to God, to obey His laws but secondly we're to love other people, in fact every other person, there should be no exceptions. This is pretty black and white isn't it? It just kind of draws a line and He says: "O.K., children of God are righteous and they love people. People of the devil don't practice righteousness and there are people they don't love. (Interesting) No gray area, He just draws it black and white. Of course that doesn't mean that there are perfect people; as Mr. Kilough mentioned in the ordination presentation, no perfect people. We're not, we're not pretending to be, we realize we're in the developing stages; God isn't finish with us yet, is He? After all God's in the process of developing His family but at the same time we have to be sincere and wholehearted knowing that we have a responsibility here too; it's not all God. He has His big part but we have our big part to do too. Notice verse 11: Verse 11: For this is the message that we heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Now that sounds nice and it sounds simple but it's not always easy is it? There are some people that are more difficult to love than others. I won't ask you for your short list, but we probably all have those that challenge us at times as far as being able to really genuinely have outgoing concern for them. Jesus Christ is our role model here; he showed us how to do it. The God family as we well know began with two beings but Jesus Christ or the one who became Christ was willing to give up His position, come down to the earth and die for each one of us in order to add more members to the family. That's I think what we can genuinely call outgoing concern for others; that's an example and demonstration of love. Eventually God's extraordinary family will involve billions of people, billions of members because Jesus gave up His position, died for us. He loved us to the point that many more can become part of God's family. Let's go next to Romans, chapter 15, verse 7. We read here about a particular demonstration of Godly love that we find in our church family. You know, as you're turning there, when you pick up stakes and move to a new city, it's quite a change. If you've moved at all recently or can remember your last move I think you can understand; all sorts of new things to get used to. My wife and I lived in Cleveland as Mr. Kilough mentioned and pastored there for 17 years. After that length of time you do find that you put down roots. You get comfortable. You get into certain routines and we just loved the people very much. So we're adjusting, we're adjusting to boxes. I hope that's not a permanent part of our décor but there is a lot of adjusting. But our experience has been very positive. I've been very impressed with not just the community, but even our congregation, how friendly, how warmly you've been to Margie and me. You've received us very warmly. The three people I met before church were very warm. No, I met a lot more than three, but we appreciate that, it means a lot. It is certainly a pleasure to step in to a smooth running congregation. This is a smooth running congregation, right Mr. Pinelli? What's this question mark on your face mean? My contract says. No, I very much appreciate Mr. Pinelli's serving as pastor here for the last 4 years or more and certainly Mrs. Pinelli's involvement in serving and appreciate all the work of the elders in the ministry and the deacons and deaconess's and all of you, each one of you, the contributions you made to help this become a smooth running, healthy, vibrant congregation of God. I appreciate that very much. Romans 15, verse 7, speaking to church members that's telling us how God's family should behave. Notice verse 7. This verse is very simple when we read it. It's easy to just quickly read over it without understanding the depth of what Paul is writing. Romans 15:7 Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Now again, William Barkley's commentary gives us some interesting and keen insight into understanding the word receive. Notice it says: "Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received you." This word receive, Barkley wrote this: "The word receive was used of welcoming a person into one's house or home. When a person is received into the fellowship of the church, he does not enter as a stranger into the midst of strangers; he enters as a member of a family into a family." See how that theme keeps coming back over and over again; how the congregation of God, the church of God as a whole, but even each individual congregation is a family, a family of God. It says each enters as a member of a family into a family. Introductions are needless. There ought to be no strangeness to be bridged. The church is a family, not of strangers who do not know each other, a family. Barkley also noted a little more about this word receive. He said: "When we receive others, we should receive them as God receives them and our welcome to others, there must be all the generosity, the forgiveness, the sheer kindness of God." He added one more bit of information when he said (I found this interesting too) He said: "The Greek word for receive, a classical Greek is used widely and genuinely, of taking someone to oneself as a helper or ally or fellow laborer for the person being received it means that he must enter the Christian fellowship, not with the view of resting back and doing nothing but with the view of bringing all his strength and talents to bear in the Christian campaign." Very well put. That's what the word receive has to do. In other words we have a double responsibility here. One is to receive and welcome each other and new people as God grants that into the church, but two we have a responsibility also to give back, to yield and to use our skills and talents, our gifts in the congregation to help it to flourish, help it to work smoothly, help it to run and do extremely well, involve in serving and of course we begin to ask ourselves the question: "Where can I serve? What can I contribute? What can I do? How do I fit in? What part of the body am I that I can make a small contribution here to help the overall church work even better?" When I learned I was being transferred here to the Cincinnati East congregation, I was talking to a friend of mine, another pastor, about another particular matter and he started talking about the transfer and he said: "You know; I wish you well in your move." I thought he put it so well and he said: "You know you're going to have a whole new group of people to love and to serve." That's exactly right. I though he summarized it exactly right because that's exactly how Margie and I feel about being here, that we're looking forward to getting acquainted with all of you and our goal is to serve you in any way that we can and to the very best of our abilities too. I already know a few of you, it's nice to see some familiar faces, in some cases going back 30 years, that's when I had hair on the top of my hair back then. That's been a long time ago, that's when I pastored the church in the Cincinnati South area as it was called. Many of you I have seen, some of you I don't know yet and certainly we look forward very much to getting to know you and connecting names with faces. I've got a list of the names; I just need a list of faces to go along with those names, but we'll get there I'm sure so please be patient with us if we ask you for the fourteenth time, now what was your name again and where do you live and are you married again and things like that, please bear with us, o.k.? So far we've seen one family trait as far as us learning by doing and that is of course genuine love and concern for other people. There are a few more scriptures we want to look at quickly; the second one is Philippians, chapter 2 verse 13, another family trait. Here's something else that God characterizes that His sons and daughters should have and do; another way that we can say in one sense that we prove our love and our loyalty to God. Verse 13 reminds us that our extraordinary family or rather extraordinary Father is involved in developing and training us to become a part of His family. Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. Verse 14: Do all things without complaining and disputing, (In other words without complaining and arguing among yourselves; that's not always easy to do is it? But what a difference it makes in our personal and individual families as well as our church families when we do that; when we work without complaining and arguing.) Now I'm reminded in the book of Genesis about the story of Joseph. He mentions that as long as Joseph worked for Potiphar in Potiphar's household, because Joseph was obedient to God and had a relationship with God, God blessed Potiphar's household. Potiphar wasn't righteous or obedient because Joseph was there and he was righteous, he was obedient and had this relationship with God, God blessed Potiphar's household as long as he was there. Now with that same principle applying when you look at the family of God, the household of God, the Church of God, our congregation; imagine how much God can bless us spiritually when each one of us has a good healthy relationship with God and gets along well with each other. If God can bless Potiphar's household for one man's obedience, think how God will bless the church of God as a whole when each one of us is doing our part spiritually; growing, learning, developing a relationship with God as well as a healthy relationship with each other. The church can grow tremendously spiritually when we're doing our part individually. Verse 15: that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God (Notice that you may become; once we learn to not argue, not complain, get along, do our part) without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, As God's children, we learn how to conduct ourselves, how to live inside and outside the church. It's a way of living above reproach; not able to be criticized because we're meeting a certain standard that God has established. It's a sobering thought but a very inspiring one to realize that our daily conduct; the way we monitor and govern our attitudes, our actions, what we say and think and do. What a profound effect that can have on a church as a whole when we're all doing that and God is able to bless the church as a result of that. It can have a tremendous impact upon the Church of God as a whole. Another area we want to look at is Matthew chapter 5, verse 44. This is one well worth taking a few moments on. We pick out another responsibility that we have as God's family. Now obviously many of us are not studying to become doctors as the ten Guiton children were, but we're studying to learn how to rule and to teach with Jesus Christ in the world tomorrow so we are students, we are learning, we've a lot to learn. Matthew 5, 44; we've read this but hopefully we can apply it personally too. Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (Why? Why do that? What's the reason? Why?) Verse 45: that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; (You see when you do this, when you love your enemies and you pray for those who persecute you, then He said then you are sons. Why would He say that? What did He say if you do that, then you are sons of your Father in heaven?) for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Why? Because God loves His enemies. He doesn't hate them. Oh He has enemies, but He doesn't hate them. He loves them and He's saying learn that, imitate that, learn to love your enemies.) I realize that many of us might not have enemies, I hope none of us has enemies but there might be one in this room that has an enemy. Some of you just (I will stop there). When I learned about Doctor Arthur Guiton writing 40 books and 600 papers and raising 10 children I was a little imitated, I don't know about you. It occurred to me pretty quickly, it took about a nano second for me to realize that that was more then I could ever achieve, for me that would take a miracle, a big miracle to be able to do something like that. But you know the more I thought about it, the more I began to realize too that learning to love our enemies and to serve our enemies the way Christ and the Father do, learning to do that is also a miracle; that God is changing our thinking to the point that we don't hate them, that we learn to first tolerate them and then we move to liking them and move to loving them and serving them. That's also a miracle, that's pretty amazing, that's something that's humanly extremely difficult to do but something with God's Spirit can be done. When we do that, when we do that it says, then you're like your Father, then you're becoming like God, then you begin to think and function the way God does. I imagine many of us would say, well that's good in theory but I don't have enemies so that scripture doesn't really apply to me. So how would we learn the lesson if we don't have any enemies? I think really the fundamental principle involved there is that in our life, even without enemies, that if we learn to love every person we have contact with in the right way. But that's training and that's fundamentally what's expected of us as far as learning to love and have genuine outgoing concern for every other person including enemies. It's good training, just to learn to love everybody around us. Let's go next to Hebrews chapter 12, verse 5. This again is a familiar section of scripture but I think one it's worth taking a few moments to kind of look at because we're saying: "When we do this, we really are becoming the children of God." This reminds us of another expectation of the family of God and it's not always easy. Hebrews 12:5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to us as to sons: (Or another translation says, you've forgotten the encouraging words God speaks to us as His children. Now that's kind of interesting; encouraging words that God gives to us. Now what encouraging words are those? The verse goes on to say:) "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Eternal, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; (Those are encouraging words) Verse 6: For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." The encouraging part of those words is that God corrects us and when He does correct us, in essence it's like He's putting His arm around us and drawing us close to Him, sitting down with us and saying: "Son (or daughter) I'm working with you in a very special way, there are some things that you need to learn and you're doing very well in these areas and I'm proud of you here but you know this one area, you're not making much progress on and I want to encourage you to do a little better in that area." Encouraging words from God. Verse 7: If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons, for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? This too is part of our developing and development as an extraordinary family of God; enduring and learning from God's correction in our lives. Did you notice verse 5 alerts us to two extremes to avoid? One extreme is to despise the chastening of God; in other words to make light of it or we could say "to bull it off," to not cooperate with what God is doing, not take it seriously; that's one extreme to avoid. The second extreme is to be discouraged when you're rebuked by Him; getting discouraged, dejected, wanting to give up, this is too hard, I can't take it, I'm going to quit, I'm going to throw in the towel, is the other extreme. We need to avoid the two extremes and remember what God is doing. What is God doing? God is developing a family, an extraordinary family to live with Him and work with Him forever and that's what God is doing. We need to keep that in focus. We won't read verse 11 but it tells us there we're being trained by the correction that God sends us each and every time that He does correct us and it's preparation, it's part of our teaching, it's a necessary step to become part of God's extraordinary family. The scriptures we've covered are just a very few examples and designed to help us catch the vision of how the training and the development and the preparation is taking place as God is developing His family, this extraordinary family. To wrap up the sermon, I'd like to reinforce a point by taking a few moments to talk about honey bees. Now you're probably thinking, what do honey bees have to do with the subject of God creating an extraordinary family? Well, bear with me and hopefully we'll see how it connects. Recently my mother-in-law gave us a small jar of raw honey, the real stuff. With it came some information about the product. I imagine most of us don't spend a lot of time reading about honey bees but without honey bees our lives would be very different, dramatically so. For one thing honey bees account for 80% of insect pollination of plants. So if there were no honey bees, the crops of vegetables and fruits would be much smaller than they are. One of their products, bees wax is used in cosmetics, candles and furniture polish and of course honey bees make honey which is a wonderful food when we eat it in moderation. Some people I know like honey and some people dislike honey and that's o.k. because I'm not selling honey, o.k.? I'm not promoting it, I'm not selling it, I'm just talking about honey bees. In the Old Testament you might recall that Saul's son Jonathan used honey as kind of a natural energy bar. He'd been fighting the Philistines, he was weak and tired from fighting, he found some honey, he ate it and the scripture says his countenance brightened. He got his energy back, he felt good like he was energized. Raw unprocessed honey contains enzymes, antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and trace minerals. It's the only food in nature that never spoils. (Interesting) Bacteria and mold cannot grow in honey. Honey has antiseptic properties. It is often used for dressing of wounds and ulcers and burns. So we have this wonderful product of honey made by honey bees. During the summer months a honey bee's life span is about 6 weeks. How much honey would you guess that the average honey bee could make in his life span of 6 weeks? Do you think he could make a cup of honey? How about ½ cup? How about ¼ cup? Would you believe that the average bee within 6 weeks would make 1/12 th of 1 teaspoon of honey, just enough to cover 1 corner of your piece of toast? That is all. Colonies of bees are typically between 50 and 60 thousand. What is it that makes these colonies of bees; what does it take; how much effort do they have to put out to produce a pound of honey? Have you ever seen a small 1 pound jar of honey? Then you know what I'm talking about. I don't know who does this counting. But a colony of bees in order to produce a pound of honey must visit two million flowers and travel 55 thousand miles. Wouldn't you love to clock something like that? I find it fascinating that God designed honey bees to work the way they do in His creation. They're hard working bees, each one making a contribution, doing his thing, doing what he can, adding to the colony, adding to the hive. The cumulative result; the end result of all these bees working together produce an incredible product that we enjoy many times; it's called honey. Isn't God doing something similar in our lives? At times He does work in dramatic ways like Moses. He was a dramatic individual God used powerfully and dramatically. The two witnesses in the future; dramatic and impressive, yes? But for most of us God's product of building godly character for an extraordinary family is built through a lifetime of small, quiet, seemingly unspectacular decisions and actions; little things we do each day. When God's extraordinary family finally comes on the scene to rule the world with Jesus Christ, we'll look back on that family and we'll wonder; how was that family ever prepared? How did they get here? What did they do? It will have to be the sum total of our daily accomplishments that we do every day of our lives; things like fellowshipping on the Sabbath, keeping God's commandments, visiting the sick, forgiving a brother or sister in the church, deciding to turn away from a practice or a habit that's contrary to God and God's way, living up to God's standard, setting a right example, enduring our trials and determine to learn from them and grow from them rather than just struggle and survive, a lifetime of obedience and good works, little things being done properly every day. I think that's important. It's quite an astounding and astonishing thing that God, through His Holy Spirit is able to accomplish in our lives as His children; that God is actually step by step, piece by piece, building His character in us so that we can become part of the family of God. Realizing that should give us meaning and depth of purpose and strength to draw on that even though we have a pretty normal, ordinary, maybe non-spectacular daily routine we go through. It's through the little things that God asks us to do, the extra things that we do that the scripture say to do, that enable us to build that character. We should never underestimate the importance of the small acts of service. For our final scripture let's turn to Romans 8, verse 19. At the end of each calendar year, it's typical for news magazines and news programs to kind of review the major events of the year. This year of course we've seen the aftermath of the quake in Pakistan, we've seen ongoing wars, in our own country some devastating hurricanes. But the good news is that in the future, God's extraordinary family will be there, ready to serve and help and provide solutions to the world's problems. Romans 8:19, I'm going to read this from the new Revised Standard Version, I think it's a little clearer and more meaningful. Romans 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, by the will of the one who subjected it in hope. That the creation itself would be set free from its bondage to decay and would obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. That's what lies ahead for the extraordinary family of God. It's often been said that strong individual families are the building blocks of society in any nation. It's also true that individual congregations of the Church of God are the building blocks of the church as a whole which God calls a spiritual nation; a spiritual nation with a mission and a work to accomplish. I'm looking forward to joining with you and working with you as part of the Cincinnati East congregation and family of God.
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