TEAM FAMILY SERMON SERIES
APRIL 26, 1998
Earlier this week, several of us were trying to figure out a way to communicate today’s topic. After making a few phone calls and doing some last minute planning, a few of us made a road trip early Wednesday morning. I think that the side screens will explain.
AUDIO FROM A VIDEO.
This weekend we are continuing our series called TEAM FAMILY where we have been paralleling aspects of sports with the family. We have talked about basketball. We have talked about football. Today, we are talking about baseball. We have flown from Dallas/Ft. Worth all the way to sunny south Florida. That’s right, I am in Miami Beach a couple of hours before the world series champion Florida Marlins take on the Colorado Rockies.
One of the Rockies coaches goes to our church. His name is Jackie Moore. We have tracked him down. We are here to talk about baseball, eat some Cuban food and fly home tonight. I hope you enjoy what is in store for you because it is going to be a great day. We are talking about the great game, baseball. But more importantly than that, we are talking about how to build the blended family.
Come on, follow me. You never know, Jackie, when we are going to show up and follow somebody around. Let’s welcome Jackie Moore.
- Jackie, what is it like being in baseball for forty years.
JACKIE. Well it is great. And this proves to me that you can’t hide from the Lord.
- It is just a few hours before game time here. You can see the guys warming up. It is kind of scary. That ball travels about 100 miles an hour right by my head. I am going back into the dugout. This is Dante Beshet. He is an outfielder with the Colorado Rockies and I hear he is one of the best power hitters in baseball. Dante, I am clueless about baseball, but I do know this. What are you thinking about when you are up facing pitcher after pitcher, night after night.
DANTE. But you don’t think about the pitcher. If you think about the pitcher, sometimes you get psyched out because they throw some pretty impressive names out there. You just have got to think about the baseball. Focus on the release point, what pitch you are looking for. You have got to know in your mind what the ball is going to do because you have seen the guy before. You just try to hit through the ball, put the good wood on the ball.
- How many home runs did you hit last year?
DANTE. I hit 26 or 27, I think.
- That is pretty strong. And you are how tall? How much do you weigh?
DANTE. I am about 6’21/2” and 245 pounds.
- That’s all. (Laughter)
(Moving to another location.)
- How about the spit zone here, Jackie? Do you have to watch out as far as the tobacco, sunflower seeds, etc.?
JACKIE. That has improved. We are starting to realize in baseball that tobacco is bad for you. So we have come a long ways in this area.
- Did you used to chew?
- I never have either.
- Is this cool? An official first base at a big league ball park. The goal of every hitter is to get to first base. If you don’t get to this base, you can forget about second, third and home. So first base is where it is at. And then after first, you go to second. That feels good on my Doc Martins. Those are great shoes that you have on too, Jackie. Do you have those polished every game?
JACKIE. Yes, every day.
- Aren’t those sharp looking? Every guy on the team? Wow, those are beautiful. Jackie, tell me about second base. What is it like to get to second and what are you thinking about? Let’s just talk about second base.
JACKIE. Well, Ed, once you get to second base you realize that you can score on a single. You are half way home. Obviously, first base is so important. Second base puts you in a position to score a run on a single or an error. This is where most of the production comes from offensively in baseball.
- OK, when you are going from second to third, in your mind, you are saying that it is scoring time.
JACKIE. In your mind, you are scoring until your third base coach holds you up. Once you leave second base you have the idea that you are going to score. Now if the third base coach gives you the stop sign, obviously you stop and come back. But you have to think home plate all the way.
- So Jackie, when you are here at third can you hear what the third base coach says or do you watch his signals?
JACKIE. Well, both. Obviously, you watch the third base coach but also he can communicate with you verbally and this happens a lot. But he does have a lot of signs. Everything that happens, the strategy throughout the game, comes from the manager to the third base coach. That is why you see a third base coach going through all the signs.
- Show us some signs. Now I don’t want to give away any of your strategy, but show us a few signs.
JACKIE. Well a lot of fans or people watch a game and see the third base coach always moving or touching parts of his body. Most of the time that is just a decoy. You do this because the other club is trying to steal all of your signs. They want to know when you are going to bunt. They want to know when you hit and run. In our case, the bunt might be the face, the hit and run, the chest. And, of course, the steal is the leg. But the signs work off an indicator and that might be your nose. So you see a third base coach go to his nose, go to his face, the bunt is on. Now, also, we have a takeoff sign. Now, Ed, pay attention cause I will ask you a question here. Remember, indicator, bunt, hit and run and steal. And to be able to cap this, the take off. So I am going through the signs. Nothing. Nothing. Then I go through the indicator. Put the bunt on. So what sign do we have.
JACKIE. That’s right.
- Great! I can play in the major leagues.
JACKIE. The only problem is that I took it off when I went to my cap.
- Oh, oh. See, that is the story of my sporting career right there. Jackie, that is good. That is very good. Do you know of a good Cuban restaurant here in Miami?
JACKIE. Yes, I do. There is one in Miami about 15 to 20 minutes from here and I have the address written down.
(Video moves to restaurant.)
- You can’t really come to Miami Beach, Florida without sampling some of the great Cuban food at Casa Romeo, and also a little bit of Cuban coffee. This stuff is so potent, you have to serve it in these little tiny cups. It will make Starbucks seem weak. Wow. I am ready to preach right now. Back to the service.
You know, I want to thank Jackie Moore’s wife, JoAnne who flew us down Wednesday morning and flew us back Wednesday night. She was so very kind and generous to do that. We had a wonderful time in Miami, Florida.
Statistics on the blended family are staggering. Did you know that 40% of all marriages are remarriages for one of the two parties? Did you know that over half of the United States populous will spend some time in a blended family situation over their life span? Did you know that one out of six children under the age of eighteen is a stepchild? The statistics are, indeed, staggering. It is against the backdrop of all this data, research and changing American family unit that we have the church. And, sadly, the church has been strangely silent concerning the blended family. But, God is not silent. And because God is not silent, we at Fellowship are not silent. So today I want to talk to you in this session about the “bases” of the blended family. I want to specify the “bases” that every blended family team member needs to touch, in order to score, in order to get to home plate.
Let’s talk about first base because that is the goal of every hitter, to get to first base. First base, we have got to recognize the reality of remarriage. Let’s say you are considering doing the blended family thing. You have got to recognize the reality of remarriage. Relational experts tell us that it takes 24 months for a person to get over the death of a spouse or divorce. They say that it takes at least two years for everyone to get their emotional equilibrium.
And let me interject something right up front. I know in a crowd this size that we have dozens of marriages right now hanging by a thread. Maybe your marriage is on the brink but a lot of people don’t realize it. No matter how high the cost of working your marriage out, the cost of divorce is always higher. No matter how high the cost of working through your marital sticking points, the price of divorce is always higher. The Bible says that God hates divorce. It is a sin. However, it is not the unpardonable sin. It is forgivable. And we serve a God of a second, third, fourth and fifth change.
After you have waited for about 24 months, after you have gone through the trauma of the death of a spouse or divorce, God says if He leads you, He will prompt you and energize you to walk up again to the marital plate and begin to hit and to look for His pitch. But the challenge is, a lot of us go to the marital plate prematurely. We don’t wait for 24 months. And because the evil one wants to throw us out, the evil one says, “Hey, it has been a couple of months, walk to the marital plate again. I will throw you some pitches. I’ll send some people your way. Just start swinging. Swing for the fences.” The evil one wants you to focus on your loneliness as opposed to the Lord. When you focus on loneliness, after awhile you get desperate and you will just start swinging at anything that comes by. When you do that you hook up with the wrong person. You begin to date the wrong person. And when you begin to date the wrong person out of loneliness and desperation, you usually have premarital sex. As I have said before, premarital sex is a sin before God. God is the author of sex. He invented it. He thought it up. But when you are involved in premarital sex, it blinds your discernment. It blinds your reasoning power. You don’t know even how to swing or what to swing at if you are involved in premarital sex. And when you are involved in premarital sex, here is what usually happens. It will usher you down the wedding runner with the wrong person. Then it is just a matter of time before the umpire says, “You’re out.”
And the evil one laughs because another one has taken his bait, another one has hit his pitch. On the one hand, the evil one wants to throw you out. On the other hand, God wants you to find the right person. And if you are patient, if you have waited at least 24 months, waited for God’s pitch, He will tell you when to swing. When you do see a likely candidate who knows Christ personally, make sure that it takes you about a year to swing, a year to date the person. You need to take a year to scout the other potential blended family team members. Twelve months. And then after that time period, if you feel God prompting you to walk down the wedding runner into the wedding chapel, then do it. God can take a blended family team and put them together and give them unity and focus and they can run the bases and score.
There are many great and wonderful and God-honoring blended family teams right here in the Fellowship Church. But remember. The stakes are sky high.
Do you realize that the percentages are higher for divorce for a second marriage than for a first marriage? They are higher due to the fact that child-rearing is so challenging. You see, in a nuclear family, it is a couple of parents and 2.3 kids. Now in the blended family thing, things get complicated. You have blended children and natural children and ex-grandparents and blended grandparents and uncles and aunts. People are coming at you from every direction. Usually if the blended family is not based on God and His principles, it will fall apart at the seams.
Yet our Lord says, “Walk up to the marital plate, it is another chance for you to achieve God’s ideal.” Hopefully you have learned from your mistakes and prayed it through. Then you can be about blending this family unit. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing the blended family with the nuclear family. That is like comparing baseball with figure skating. It doesn’t work. It is more difficult to manage the blended family team than the nuclear family. It is more challenging, yet it can be done. And God wants it to be done.
I kind of laugh at how the world portrays the blended family. You watch a typical sitcom where you have a stepfamily situation and they never have a problem that can’t be solved within a 30 minute time segment, interspersed with commercials and canned laugher. Finally, at the end the music will swell, the credits will roll and you will walk away from the television set saying that it is so effortless and easy to do the blended family thing. It is not.
Psalm 27:14. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Now I wonder what is the purpose of this verse. Wait. When in doubt, wait. Be patient. Did you hear big Dante? He is a patient hitter. He waits for his pitch. Potential blended parents and family members, wait. Be patient. When Christ says swing, swing. You will connect and great things will happen.
Let’s say that you are on first base. Let’s say that you have recognized the reality of remarriage, you are blending everyone together. God doesn’t want you to stay there. He wants you to progress. He wants you to move from first to second. So as we move from first to second, we have got to talk about something else. Second base represents the children. We have got to connect with the core of the kids.
Next to your relationship with Christ and your relationship with your spouse, comes your relationship with your kids.
Ephesians 6:4. Fathers… (or we could say parents, blended parents)…do not exasperate your children.
I want to share with you four “do nots”, blended parents. First, do not use your children as bats or scouts. Amazingly, blended parents will pick up their children, take a couple of practice swings with them and then they will wait for their ex to throw a pitch. And amazingly, they will use their children to connect with the pitches and try to swing for the upper deck. The problem with this it, it will splinter, bruise and batter your children. It is tempting because we have got anger going on, animosity. We have got a lot of things fueling and firing up these engines, but don’t pick up your children and use them as bats. Don’t use them as scouts either. Let’s say that you child has spend the weekend with Dad. The child comes back and you say, “Hey, does Daddy have a girl friend?” Or maybe the child spends the summer with Mom and you say, “Mom is driving a new Jaguar. Tell me about it. What is your stepdad like?” Do not do that.
Second. Do not keep the ball of guilt in the glove. Guilt will come flying at you on a rope, out of the sky, on the ground. You have got to field it, to resist that urge to keep the ball of guilt in the glove. Too many blended parents say, “Oh, it is my fault. I have ruined the lives of my children. I have ruined my life and everything is horrible.” We will keep guilt in the glove, autograph it, look at it and say, “It’s my fault.” Also, do not give this ball of guilt to your children. It is easy to begin to cater to their every whim and moan and groan. And you slowly begin to let your children run over you. You treat them like peers and one day they are managing the team. Field the guilt. Deal with it. Confess it. Turn from it and throw it away. Do not keep guilt in the glove. Do you have some guilt in your glove right now, parents? Are you giving it to your children? Could it be displayed in their room like a trophy? Get rid of it. That is what it means to come clean and confess our sin and to turn from them.
Third. Do not downplay discipline. They need desperately to have those baselines chalked and marked and, blended parents, you need to stay true to the lines, to the boundaries. They want you to discipline them. This also means that you have got to work with your ex and come up with some baselines. Now some of you are saying, “Ed, you don’t know my ex. My ex has a totally different moral base than I do. My ex does some things around my children that I don’t like. And I have to tell my children that.” Don’t even think about it. Don’t berate your ex in front of your children. Don’t bring them into it. If you have a problem with your ex, deal with your ex. But you make sure, like we talked about in one of our earlier sessions here, to be like Joshua. Say, “As for me and my house, we are going to serve the Lord. I know everything else is up in the air but here are the baselines. We are going to fit into God’s rules for the blended family game. The absolutes that we operate on will be from the Bible itself.” Do not downplay discipline.
Fourth. This is kind of odd but during my research, I discovered how important it really is. Do not tyrannize tradition. You know, baseball is a game of tradition. A player would not think about defaming the Hall of Fame. Traditions are important. They matter. Traditions matter to your blended child. You see, if they look back at the past, the past might be better for them then the present. In the past, Mom and Dad were together in the house with the white picket fence, in the neighborhood, going to the same schools. Everything was just rocking and rolling. And now, they are in a blended family situation, a step situation. They have traditions that they remember, that they hold onto. Wise blended parents do not take away from these traditions. They do not belittle them or explain them away or trivialize them. They add to them. They start their own. And they value them in the lives of their children. I am talking about five year olds, fifteen year olds and even twenty-five year olds. Start your own traditions and do not take away from the past traditions.
Do not, do not, do not, do not. Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Yet the verse continues. “….Instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” When I hung out with the Colorado Rockies, and, you know that I am clueless about baseball as I said, I talked to some of the coaches and the players and they were always talking about different stages. A coach might say, “See that pitcher there, Ed? One day he will make three or four million a year but right now he is making a measly quarter of a million dollars a year. But he will make the big money. But he is in this stage. He just came in from the minors and we have got to get him out of this stage to the next stage. And see this guy here? He is in a stage right before he breaks out and becomes a perennial all-star.” They were always talking about stages of their players, of their team. If we are going to bring our children up as the verse says in the training and instruction of the Lord, we had better recognize their stages and especially in the blended family unit. Parents, we had better study our children and know what stages they are in. It is a process.
The first stage that a blended child goes through is what I call the “field of dreams stage”. It is a very painful stage. You see the field of dreams stage occurs when there is a remarriage. Do you realize that a remarriage is more difficult on a child than the divorce? You know why? Because it ends up ruining the child’s field of dreams. It ends up ruining their thoughts of Mom and Dad reconciling. So their field of dreams becomes a field of pipe dreams. They become down and despondent and it is tough. Wise blended parents see this and recognize this as a stage that needs to be gone through.
The next stage is the stage I call the “whatever stage”. Over the years of my youth work and by talking to scores of blended families and ex-spouses, I have discovered the whatever stage is a real stage. That is when the blended parent comes into the scene and begins to manage things. The blended child takes it as an infringement on his territory, on his team. Often they misinterpret what the parent is trying to do and become indifferent. You ask them, “Hey, how do you like the blended family?” And they will answer, “Whatever.” Kind of noncommittal.
The third stage is the “we’re cool stage”. You talk to the children and they say, “We’re cool.” They are beginning to accept the blended parent but they are doing it very cautiously and with great apprehension. They are still testing the waters, testing the chemistry of the team. They want to see if the blended family marriage is strong enough to take them through this season, the next season, the next season into retirement. There may be a friendship thing going on but that is about it. That’s the we’re cool stage.
The fourth stage is the best stage. It is the stage that if you hang in there, take the initiative, pray like crazy and expose your blended family to the things of Christ, you will discover. It is the “high five stage.” High five. The high five stage is when the blended child has accepted and received the blended parent as a full-fledged family team member. There is community going on. There is communication. There is intimacy. Everything is going well. And that is the goal. That is the process that you want to take your children through. They have gone to first and now the blended family team is on second.
And when you are on second, you are in scoring position. You are ready to think about going home. But to get to home, you have got to go to third base. Any great base runner is going to have his or her eyes peeled on the third base coach. And the third base coach giving us the singles happens to be Christ Himself.
Let’s walk over to third now and touch third. Third base. We have got to watch for the signs of the Savior. You saw Jackie demonstrating all the signs. Christ has a number of signs. His first sign is His outstretched arms. They represent the cross. Because He loved you and loved me so much He spilled His blood on Calvary for all of our sins and He rose again. We have an option as we are running the bases and looking at Him. We can either receive what He did for us on the cross or not. We can either say, “Jesus, I have my eyes fixed on you” or not. And we know that any great blended family unit will have their eyes on Christ.
Hebrews 12:2. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus on whom our faith depends from start to finish.
That means from first to home. We fix our eyes on Him. We see His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection. We see the amazing grace that He is extending to us. Sometimes we see His sign to slow down. Sometimes He waves us on home. We are watching His every clue. The third base coach sees the entire field. They see the implications of life. They know what is going on. Are you doing that? Do you have your eyes on Christ?
Educator Patricia Paperneau says that it takes the blended family from four to seven years to truly become a unit, to run the bases. And then she adds that tragically most remarriages end after three years.
That hurts my heart. We throw in the towel. We leave the field. We hand the cleats up right before the breakthrough. It takes time. It is not some easy deal. It is not just skipping around the bases. It takes work. It takes prayer. It takes wisdom, thought and discernment to run the bases of the blended family for the glory of God. We have got to see the signals of the Savior.
Well, how do we do that? How do we see His signals? We follow Him. We live by His playbook. We do what He wants us to do. Also we revolve the blended family team unit around the church. We have got to make church and the cause of Christ the most important thing we are about. It has got to become our ultimate base.
Let me give you a hypothetical situation. What if I said, “You know I love baseball but I hate hats and bats and ballparks and uniforms and baseball games. But I love baseball. I really do.” You would say to yourself that I have had too much Cuban coffee. If I love baseball, I am going to love everything about it. Yet I meet blended families who tell me, “I love Jesus. I love God. I love the church.” Then I ask if they are members of a local church. “We kind of go from here to there.” Are you active in a ministry? “We kind of sit on the sidelines or in the dugout.” Blended families, listen to me. You have got to make church your base. And one of the biggest hurdles that you will face is the fact that it is tough to have consistency with your kids in our children’s programs and in our youth programs. Oftentimes the children may be with you during the week and with the ex on the weekend or vice versa. And that is a struggle.
Let me give you some help here. As much as possible, have your blended family team here regularly, intentionally, firmly and lovingly. Challenge your ex, if your ex lives in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to become a part of this church too. One of the reasons we have two services on two different days, and believe me it would have been much easier on me and everyone else involved to have just a couple of services on Sundayis to assist the blended family team. We challenge you, blended family members, ex-spouses, go when you can. I think that it is that important to provide consistency for the blended family team. Make sure that you revolve your family team around this base.
A blended parent friend of mine told me this. “Ed, when I discipline my blended child, it is like I am under a microscope. It is like there is always a third party looking over my shoulder. It is tough. When I discipline my natural child, is it easier. It is like a one on one type scenario.” But then he concluded by saying, “God has given me the grace and the love to do a great job. I have made mistakes but my family reflects our relationship with Christ.” And this family I am describing is very involved, one of the key families in our entire church. So the blended family team can and will work. God wants it to work. Christ right now is on third base saying to advance around the bases. For some He is saying, hold it at first or hold it at second. For others He is giving some the steal sign. But for many He is saying score.
You see I want the Fellowship Church to assist blended family teams in running the bases. We want to assist blended family team members, to help them, collectively, place their cleats on home plate to score the winning run.