Saturday, December 31, 2016

OUR DYSFUNCTIONAL SPIRITUAL HERITAGE

 
   Dysfunctional family is a pretty common term.  Unfortunately, dysfunction is almost the new normal.  I had the blessing of growing up in a well functioning family where everyone knew they were loved and cared for.  Many cannot say this.  When I look back on my spiritual heritage, I realize just how dysfunctional our forefathers (and mothers) were.  Dysfunction is born of selfishness. From the very beginning, the first couple blew it in the biggest way possible.  Adam stood by and watched his wife as she was deceived by the serpent.  Adam had one job as a husband, to protect his wife and keep her holy.  Adam, having no sin nature, chose self over others, in his case, Eve and God.  Jesus is the ultimate example of selfless giving leading to blessing, not only for self, but others as well.  Our ultimate choice is to live in Adam and serve self or live in Christ and serve others.  Living in Adam will promote more dysfunction, negatively impacting the lives of those we love. Living in Christ will break the cycle, leading to a fulfilled life, while protecting others from the collateral damage of our selfish choices. 

SELFISHNESS BEGETS DYSFUNCTION

    As noted earlier, Adam was created sans a sin nature, yet he selfishly chose to see what would happen if his wife at the forbidden fruit, eventually joining her in her great folly.  Genesis 3:6  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.  We get a pretty clear picture from this passage, Adam was there with her.  Adam stood and watched as the serpent seduced his wife with forbidden fruit and then, when he saw that she did not immediately drop dead after eating, ate himself.  A very interesting commentary in realizing the first dysfunctional family was the first family ever.  Eve was selfish and chose to obey the serpent rather than God and her husband, in order to gain knowledge and power.  Adam was selfish as he was willing to stand by and watch his wife die as she ate the forbidden fruit, and Adam was selfish when he chose to partake for knowledge and power, as well.  Selfishness begets dysfunction.

DYSFUNCTION BEGETS DYSFUNCTION

     Adam and Eve had many children, but the first we are introduced to are Cain and Abel.  We all know the story, Cain killed Abel in a fit of rage. Cain was unable to measure up to the standard of obedience exhibited by Abel, so he killed him.  (I dissected this story in a post you can read HERE)  Rather than conform to God's standard, he attempted to destroy the evidence of his disobedience. Genesis 3 reveals the selfishness of Adam and Eve which led to the fall of man.  Adam and Eve passed their newly acquired sin nature on to their children (and us!) and apparently their selfish impulsiveness to Cain.  The same selfish dysfunction found in Adam and Eve was found in their offspring.  

  DYSFUNCTION CAN LEAD TO GENERATIONAL CURSES

     When we examine the account of Noah, we find he is called righteous in all his generations:  Genesis 6:9  These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. I am convinced that this passage is referring to more than Noah's obedience to God, but the purity of his bloodline. (for a discussion on this topic click HERE)  Yet, with all of Noah's righteousness and purity, he quickly sinned after disembarking the Ark, to disastrous results for one of his sons.  Genesis 9:19-25  These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.  And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:   And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.  And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.  And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.  Ham acted shamefully, but Noah got drunk and inadvertently placed his son in a precarious position.  Any child who has grown up with a drunken parent can certainly relate to this story. While each person is responsible for poor behavior, parents bear some responsibility for situations their sin creates for their children.

DYSFUNCTION LEADS TO BROKEN FAMILIES

David, the most beloved king in Israel's history failed miserably as a parent.  When his son Ammon raped half sister Tamar, David failed to respond.  In David's failure, Tamar's full blooded brother, Absalom, killed Ammon.  David's handling of this vengeance killing was lacking, to say the least, and led to a violent attempted coup by his disgruntled son Absalom.  The coup ended in Absalom's death.  David's dysfunctional parenting led directly to the death of two of his sons.  Selfish and lazy behavior is not without ripples that go out and effect the people closest to us.  

DYSFUNCTION CAN END AT THE CROSS

Though many lives are negatively impacted by the dysfunction of  parents, spouses and those who are entrusted with the best interests of others, the chain reaction of dysfunction begetting dysfunction can be broken by the power of God's Spirit, through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11  Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,   Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.   And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.  This is a pretty good list of dysfunctional and destructive behavior.  The good news is in the last part of the passage: And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.  The cycle of sin and selfishness is broken by the power of Christ.  Not only is the destructive behavior of believers changed by the power of the Spirit, but the negative impact of behaviors, exhibited by others, can also be reversed by the power of Jesus' blood.  

We are not the sum total of our experiences or behavior.  Some reading this are victims of the dysfunction of others, there is hope, love and acceptance for you in Christ.  Some reading this are perpetrators of dysfunction that has impacted others, there is forgiveness and hope for you in Christ.  Some reading this are victims of dysfunction who have found themselves perpetrating the same dysfunctional behavior on others, there is hope, love, acceptance, forgiveness and the power to break the cycle of destructive behavior for you.  

For those, like myself, who have had the blessing of a loving and nurturing home, our responsibility is to love others through things we have not endured.  We are to model love and nurture as part of discipleship.  This also becomes the role of those who have overcome dysfunction and abuse through the power of Christ.  

God is good, His design is for us to be cared for by those He has entrusted us to.  Sin, selfishness and God's gift of free often opposes God's design, causing people to suffer, sometimes unimaginable abuse.  This suffering does not negate God's love, it demonstrates the very need for it.  




Thursday, December 22, 2016

JOSEPH'S UNMET EXPECTATIONS OF A MANGER IN BETHLEHEM

    This is Christmas.  A time of hope, a time of joy and a time of peace on earth and good will toward men.  We cannot help but think about Jesus this time of year and for many, this is the only time He comes to mind.  Everyone loves a baby for a baby is not intimidating nor judgmental. A baby is meek and mild and bears no resemblance to the God of hell fire and brimstone preached in many churches throughout the year.  How do we reconcile the babe in a manger with the picture of Christ we see in Revelation, returning with a vengeance to destroy the enemies of God?  When we see baby Jesus meek and mild, what do we expect from Him?

    As we look upon the baby, we have to remember the cross.  This child of hope brought redemption as promised, however, He brought redemption by nails  driven through His hands and feet, He brought it under a crown of thorns, not a crown of gold.  The people He came to save expected a revolution, not an execution.  

     I ponder Joseph, the man chosen by God to raise Jesus as his own son.  Joseph was told, by an angel, to marry his betrothed, Mary and to name her child Yashua, meaning God saves.  Joseph knew he would be parenting the Son of God, the savior of the world.  I am sure Joseph had certain expectations about what that birth would be like and under what conditions that birth would take place.  I imagine Joseph's expectations to be quite different than actual events.  Joseph, apparently well known in Nazareth, as the townspeople referenced him in the local synagogue when Jesus returned home to announce His mission.  Being a home town boy, Joseph undoubtedly expected to celebrate the birth of his son among family and friends in the comfort and safety of his own home.  Joseph undoubtedly expected to welcome the birth of his son with great fanfare and excitement, since God Himself was being brought forth into the world as a man child.

     Amidst anticipation of welcoming his baby, Joseph is blindsided by a decree from the detested ruler of the Roman Empire, Caesar Augustus.  Joseph and his new family are forced from their home and directed to travel to Bethlehem in order to be counted in a census.  Sent 69 miles from home with a very pregnant wife was no mean task.  Chances are good the journey took longer as Joseph, an Israelite, would have chosen to travel around Samaria rather than through it.  A difficult journey under the best of circumstances, made all the more arduous by the fact of Mary's advanced pregnancy.  Imagine the concern and anxiety Joseph must have felt as he traveled with Mary over many miles and the resentment he must have felt toward Caesar.  Imagine, also the confusion he must have been experiencing toward God.  

     To make matters worse, Joseph was unable to secure shelter for his first night in Bethlehem.  Joseph and Mary would have arrived later than most, due to the challenges cause by Mary's condition.  Mary is having contractions, the small town is filled beyond capacity and Joseph fails to find a suitable place to lodge and now the baby is coming.  Being directed to a stable, Joseph makes due with the situation as best he can.  I know my mindset would not have been good at that moment.  I would be seriously wondering where God is and how He could let His son be born under such terrible conditions.  I would be feeling like a complete failure as a husband and new father as my wife gave birth in the most unsanitary and unsuitable conditions.  I may have felt abandoned by God.  We romanticize the stable after 2000 years of nativity scenes but think about what this was like for a man who desired to care for his wife and soon to be born son.  As Joseph laid his newly born son in an animal trough filled with straw, the mixed feelings of joy and bewilderment must have been overwhelming.  

     We know the story works out, Jesus grew up to be a healthy, bright child, Joseph and Mary go on to have more children together and Jesus fulfills His mission to save mankind at the cross.  Joseph did not have the benefit of reading the Gospel according to Luke, he did not know what would happen, he was forced to trust and exercise faith.  Joseph's faith is rewarded as shepherds arrive and worship the new born King.  Joseph's faith is rewarded further in the Temple 8 days later when both Simeon and Anna attest to the Lordship of Jesus.  Joseph did not expect shepherds to worship his son, and he did not expect the reception he received at the Temple, and later, he did not expect the Magi from the east to show up at his home to worship and present gifts to Jesus.  

     Life often goes differently than we expect.  Sometimes, what we believe is the worst case scenario becomes reality.  God gives us His promise to never leave nor forsake us, if we are in Christ.  We cannot anticipate the future or always understand why life takes certain turns, what we do have is a savior who understands us and understands what it means to live a life filled with joy, wonder, victories and unmet expectations.  We have a savior who knows us intricately and cares for us with an abounding love.  We can and must remain faithful to our Father in heaven under any and all circumstances, trusting He has everything planned and worked out.  It is during these times we have the opportunity to see God's power in us and around us.  

     God loves you, this love is attested to everywhere we look this week as Nativity scenes are common this time of year.  The baby laying on the straw is the man who rose from the tomb with you on His mind.  The baby born in a stable is the God who will return for you, His beloved one day.  The baby who had no suitable place to be born will one day rule the world and you will rule and reign along side Him. The baby who slept in a manger on His first night will one day light up the world with the radiance of His glory and you will share in that glory, being glorified with Him, according to 1 John.

Be blessed this Christmas season, look ahead to a new year to serve and adore the risen King.  Watch God work in and through your life.  Stay faithful and expect faithfulness.

     Please take the time to listen to the words of the following  video, I am sure it will be a blessing to you and a reminder that you are loved by God and He has all the circumstances you face.  


Sunday, December 18, 2016

THE MIRACULOUS POWER OF GOD IN US


   
Believers in Christ have the same capacity to perform miracles as Jesus Christ, in His earthly incarnation.  The biggest lie ever told to man was in the Garden of Eden - "you can be as God..."  The serpent told Eve, eating the forbidden fruit would give her the same knowledge as God, and of course, we know that with knowledge, comes power.  6000 years later, mankind still believes the same lie - we can be as or become like God, or at least a god.  While we do not have the power or ability to become God or even like God, we do have the power of God dwelling within us, if we are believers in Christ. Christians have access to the same power Jesus had as He ministered.

     1 John 4:17  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.   Notice the last part of this passage - as he is so also are we in the world - this is a brief little passage that does not attract much attention but should be life changing. Much attention is given to the deity of Christ, and rightfully so, however, we must remember, when Jesus walked the earth, He was 100% man and limited to all the limitations of a man. Philippians 2:5-8  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,   who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

What we find in the above passage is Jesus, though God in the flesh, came as a man and limited Himself to all the limitations of a regular man.  All of His miracles, all of His supernatural manifestations, all that He did beyond the ability of a regular man was done through Him by the Father by the power of the Spirit.  Remember, Christ's first miracle, performed at the wedding feast, was done after the Spirit came upon Him at His baptism.  The believer today has that same Spirit dwelling within.  

    Jesus told us that we would do greater things than He: John 14:12  "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Jesus left us with a Great Commission to make disciples and He did not leave us powerless to accomplish this task, He gave us His Holy Spirit to teach us and empower us.  

The caveat we must keep in mind is, we do not dictate to God.  We do not take it upon ourselves to go out and perform miracles.  This power is available to us at the prompting and leading of God alone.  Unless we are actively serving God and doing His will, we will never see this kind of power in our lives.  

Jesus spent great amounts of time dedicated to prayer, seeking the will of the Father, this is where we need to start.  If we do not know His purpose for us, we cannot begin to fulfill it.  Before we can know God's purpose and plan, it is imperative we spend time in prayer and study of the Word.  I will be committing to prayer regarding this matter and I encourage you to do the same.  See if God does not manifest Himself in a mighty way as we seek His will for our lives - I believe He will because I believe He desires this for us.  

Please feel free to comment below and share what happens as well 

 Blessings

Thursday, December 1, 2016

GOD'S WORD IN US, A PRESCRIPTION FOR LIFE

   
As believers, we make much of "being in the Word."  Being in the Word is important, but unless the Word is in us, being in the word is an exercise in futility. As Christians, we go to church, and are around the Word. We hear scripture read, we see it on social media posts, we may even read a bit for ourselves, so we are in the Word.  The most important question every believer must ask: "Is the Word in me?"  

A man went to the doctor with a life threatening illness. The doctor explained the illness to the man and prescribed the medicine needed to cure the illness.  The man was very excited about the cure and listened intently as the doctor described how the medicine would eradicate illness.  The man, then went to the pharmacy and filled the prescription given him by the doctor and listened as the pharmacist explained the proper way to use the medicine. The man went home, read all the material on the medicine he could find.  The man carried the medicine around with him everywhere he went and excitedly told people he came in contact with about the medicine.  One day, the man died from the illness, in his pocket, an unopened bottle of medicine...  The man was around the medicine, he was well versed in the medicine, but, sadly, the medicine was not in him.  The medicine had no effect because it was not put into practice.

     How many followers of Christ go through life learning about and proclaiming the greatness of scripture but never implement or put into practice the teachings of scripture?  Is there a difference between knowing and believing?  Is the 12 inches between the brain and the heart really the distance between heaven and hell?  I believe it is.   James, the half brother of Jesus tells us as much: James 1:22  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. I encourage you to let the Word in and transform you by the power of the Holy Spirit.  How sad it is for the man who possessed life saving medicine, yet never used it.  How much sadder for those who possess the very words of God the Creator and never put them into practice.