Monthly Archives: August 2019

Genealogies and Legacies

“Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah… and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matthew 1:2-6, 15-16; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

My wife and I with my son, daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren. We are apparently NOT related to Darth Vader, who lived a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

Denis was the father of Denis, and Denis was the father of Michael, and Michael was the father of Dennis, and Dennis was the father of Michael. The story continues on as I begat my son, who has become the father of my three grandchildren.

Genealogies can be fascinating. Apparently, God thinks they are important. The Bible lists Jesus’ genealogy twice (Matthew 1:2-16; Luke 3:23-38) and includes several other genealogies (Genesis 5; 1 Chronicles 1-9) tracing the connections between the people God revealed Himself to.

Over the last few months, my wife has patiently endured my latest obsession: tracing my own genealogy. Perhaps some of you have jumped on the ancestry.com bandwagon. For me, it has been a labor of love, blood, sweat, tears, and fascination. Over the years, I have heard stories about my grandparents and great-grandparents. Some of these I have verified. Other stories may have some imagination mixed with a kernel of truth. Other stories I have not verified. I always heard that my great-grandmother, whose maiden name was Wilhelmina “Minnie” von Dannowitz, was related to a Prussian baron. Unfortunately, I keep hitting dead ends while tracing my mother’s family tree. This is partially because numerous babies named Wilhelmina (von) Dannowitz (or similar spellings) were born around the same time as her, but the birth dates do not match exactly. My research has found that there was a Baron von Dennewitz (similar spelling) who played a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo. I have found some evidence that he is my great-grandmother’s ancestor, but have not been able to connect all of the pieces. (I have confirmed that Germans had an annoying habit of changing the spelling of their surnames around that time!)

Regular readers of this blog know most posts focus on what God says through His Word. However, sometimes He speaks to us through our everyday activities. Here are a few lessons I have learned while studying my family tree.

Lesson #1: Be kind to everyone you meet. They are your cousins. I read somewhere that the average Irishman has 14,000 cousins (if you count eighth cousins and closer). I believe that, especially when I find ancestors who had 10 or more children who grew to adulthood.

A sample genealogy of Noah’s family, including some nonbiblical conjecture. Image by Drnhawkins via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.

When looking at my DNA matches on ancestry.com, I find connections to many names that I never associated with my family. A few days after getting my DNA results from ancestry.com, I was tracing my paternal grandmother’s line and reviewed some of the “leaf” hints on my great-grandmother’s name. One hint led to a “Prior” family tree. I thought, “Who’s Prior and why am I here?” After a couple minutes, I found the answer: I have a great-great grandmother whose maiden name was Margaret Prior. I never heard of any relatives by that name nor do I remember ever seeing it spelled like that before. Nevertheless, there it was: apparently, I am part Prior, along with a few other names I never heard before and other familiar Irish names I never associated with my family.

Some DNA matches led to other discoveries. Apparently, I have fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth cousins who share only a small part of my Irish/German/Eastern European heritage, with most of their ancestry coming from Africa or Asia. So, I repeat that lesson: Be kind to everyone you meet; they are related to you at some point. If you have “issues” with certain racial, ethnic, or religious groups, remember: That Arab, Asian, or Latin American is your distant relative, no matter how northern European you may look.

Remember that the Bible teaches us that all humans today are descendants of Noah. Some evolutionary scientists, while not believing in the Bible, will still say that all living humans are descended from one ancient female ancestor. At some point, your family tree will converge with everybody else’s. We might be cousins through Shem, Ham, and Japheth, but we are cousins just the same.

Lesson #2: Accidents of history conspired to keep you from being born; nevertheless, you made it! I discovered a few moments in my family tree when my family line could have been wiped out. I have always heard that my great-grandfather was the only child from a large family to grow to adulthood and have children. What if he had died young like his siblings? I would not be here (at least with my current DNA and ancestry).

I have a four-times great-grandfather who was sentenced to be executed for his role in an Irish rebellion against Britain, the Rebellion of 1798. The night before his execution, his fiancee helped him escape from prison, and he fled to Canada. He was later able to return to Ireland, marry the young lady who helped save his life, and eventually move back to Nova Scotia. Without her heroism, I would not be here.

Genealogy of Jesus mosaic from Chora. Photo by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, via Wikimedia Commons, posted under a Creative Commons 3.0 License.

Another great-grandfather was married three times, with his first two wives dying during or shortly after childbirth; it is humbling to think that, if either of those women had lived, Denis Lynch would not have married Katie Deen, who bore my grandfather, Michael Lynch.

You can choose to think of yourself as a random accident of evolution and history, or you can see the hand of God orchestrating history to ensure your arrival. I choose the latter. With that perspective in mind, what will you do with the remarkable gift of life God has given you? How will your time on Earth contribute to the lives and legacies of future generations?

Lesson #3: Your past begins your journey. Your choices guide your journey. God offers us a destiny. We are not slaves of our family’s past. Earlier, I mentioned my four-times great-grandfather who escaped a death sentence in Ireland. He was a farmer who eventually moved to Nova Scotia to work the land. However, not all of his descendants continued in agriculture. I found an article about him that listed about 16 Catholic priests and several nuns descended from him (the author apparently did not know about a Pentecostal minister from Long Island!), as well as several medical doctors and at least one Canadian member of Parliament.

However, a more impressive heritage awaits those who supplement their earthly ancestry with a heavenly Fatherhood. Although we are all related physically, a special connection is available to those who accept adoption as children of God (Galatians 4:4-5; Roman 8:14-17). We have a bond and legacy that lasts beyond this life, tying us to a perfect heavenly Father, uniting us with His only begotten Son Jesus, filling us with His Holy Spirit, and binding us with all who call upon Him for salvation.

I may not be a farmer, fisherman, police officer, bricklayer, baron, or military hero like some of my ancestors. But, I have a heavenly inheritance awaiting me. Whether prince or pauper, baron or bricklayer, senator or sanitation worker, evangelist or editor, anybody who comes to Christ becomes part of a spiritual lineage that will last forever.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Milking Spiritual Authority: II. Growing Outward

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1–3; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Image by Dimitri Wittmann from Pixabay

In Mark 7, we read an episode where the religious leaders challenged Jesus because His disciples did not wash their hands according to rabbinic rules before eating.

“And {Jesus} said, ‘What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person’” (Mark 7:20–23).

This follows a popular verse. One verse earlier (verse 19), Jesus declared all foods clean. (Yes! You, O child of God, may freely eat BACON!) However, we overlook Jesus’ main point: The evil thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors He listed are the things that really corrupt us, not food. We keep filling our minds and thoughts with garbage, and we spew garbage from our hearts, minds, and mouths through sin. As long as we keep spewing spiritual uncleanness, we cannot think of ourselves as spiritually mature. No bacon double cheeseburger can compensate for that.

Instead of these impurities, our hearts and lives should flow with the true marks of a mature follower of Christ:

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23).

As I shared previously, a maturing faith should have an outward focus. Newborn infants need to be fed. Before long, the parents can place food in front of the baby and let him try to feed himself. Eventually, a school-aged child may go to the kitchen and grab his own food. Teenagers might go to a convenience store and buy their own soda and snacks. Eventually, an adult may have children of his or her own and have to feed them. If an adult still needs to be fed, something is wrong.

As Christians, we follow a similar journey. The newborn believer needs to be taught the basics of the faith. Eventually, a growing Christian will read the Bible during private devotions; we do not stop going to church or Bible study, but we “spiritually feed” ourselves. As we grow in Christ, we should eventually feed others spiritually. This may not necessarily be teaching or preaching, but in some way, we should impart God’s blessings to others. Instead of merely sucking in everything others have, we share the strength and hope God gives us with others.

Let us grow up spiritually. Our faith should mature as we spend time with the Lord. The old inner sinful attitudes should decrease and disappear. The fruit of the Spirit should grow. We should move from selfishness to self-giving.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:11–13).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Milking Spiritual Maturity: I. All or Nothing

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:1–3; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

What does spiritual maturity look like? This term appears frequently in some corners of the church, and this blog has occasionally addressed it. A search on this site’s homepage currently lists 11 articles, including this, this, and this.

Spiritual maturity can be easily misunderstood. Some think a spiritually mature person attends church often, reads the Bible every day, prays a lot, and listens to Christian music. However, Peter associates maturity—“growing up into salvation”—with a lack of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. It is related with what flows from your heart and mind, radiating the love of God, not religious activity.

Peter told his readers to long for pure spiritual milk. Picture a baby at its mother’s breast. For the first few months of his or her life, a baby will live on nothing but milk, which provided complete nutrition until the baby is old enough to eat and drink more complex things. Eventually, the baby can eat soft foods, then meat, and so on.

Elsewhere in Scripture, we read that the milk is the word of God:

“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12–14; emphasis added).

The pure spiritual milk Peter speaks of is the basic principles of the oracles of God, the essentials of salvation. Peter does not trivialize this, and neither should we: He addresses his instruction to all of his readers, drawing no distinction between church leaders and the people who were baptized one week earlier. All of us should drink the pure spiritual milk every now and then.

However, our faith should look different after 10 or 20 years of walking with Christ. As we abide in Christ and His Word, we grow to maturity. After a while, we should look different. We should train our powers of discernment to distinguish good from evil. We should move beyond spiritual milk to spiritual meat, solid food, the word of righteousness.

However, many of us are eager to master the “deeper truths” without first allowing the Word of God to master our hearts. We want to become experts in Bible trivia, biblical studies, and systematic theology without having purified hearts. We think right doctrine or Scripture memorization are the marks of a mature Christian. Yet, as we see above, this is not the case.

Christian maturity is revealed by the nature of Christ in our lives and a thorough renewal of the mind that rejects sins of the heart. Peter tells us to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.” He says all several times. What part of “all” do we not understand?

Put away all malice. This includes people from the opposing political party, Muslims, illegal immigrants, or homosexuals. We may disagree with them. We may think they are wrong, deceived, or misguided. But we should put away all malice—even against “those people.”

Put away all slander. For some reason, many Christians think God does not see or care about the internet or social media. We see a meme or link to an online article that justifies our opinion and accuses our “enemies” or horrible things, so we share it. We do not check to see if it is true. (I am not endorsing Snopes; most of us do not even do a simple web search to see if the post can be verified by independent, trustworthy, at-least-partially-fair-and-balanced sources.) Many people do not care whether an online post is true or false. If we want it to be true, we share it. We are willing to justify our hatred, malice, gossip, slander, deceit, etc., in the name of a religious, political, or social agenda. In this regard, many Christians are as guilty (or even more so) than non-believers.

Since Scripture says that we should put away “all” such sin, the presence or absence of such sins of the heart and mind are the true indications of our degree of spiritual maturity or immaturity. Sinful attitudes are destructive to our souls.

As long as any sinful attitudes remain, let us continue to seek spiritual growth. Let us not become satisfied with a little sin, a little righteousness, and a little bit of God’s presence in our lives.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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