Family

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: , , , | 2 Comments

Modern-Day Elijahs IX: Fathers and Families

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:56, ESV).

Elijah

By 18 century icon painter (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah ascended into heaven, but his legacy remains. Few biblical prophets share his prominence. Although he did not write any of the books of the Bible, he is considered one of the greatest prophets in Judaism. Only Moses holds higher esteem. When Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him (Matthew 17:1–8).

Part of the reason I called this series “Modern-Day Elijahs” is because God is still seeking men and women to share the “Elijah spirit.” As we will see in the last two articles in this series, the Elijah spirit would reappear in John the Baptist. Yet, all Christians can share the Elijah spirit; James 5:17 shows that all Christians can share Elijah’s prayer power, since he was a “man with a nature like ours.”

Many students of end-time prophecy believe Elijah will return during the great tribulation before Christ returns. They believe he and Moses are the two witnesses in Revelation 11, mainly because the miraculous powers listed in that chapter are similar to theirs. The fact that they have power to shut the sky to prohibit rain (Revelation 11:6) points to some connection with Elijah.

So, do we need the Elijah spirit today? Yes! Malachi 4:56 points out a major area where restoration is needed. This especially relates to Christianity in America.

“He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”

We continue to see a radical breakdown of the biblical pattern for family, and Christians are often as guilty as the rest of society. Here are a few examples of this trend:

Let me emphasize that the final point refers to a general trend: Most single parents are doing the best they can. Many do a great job raising their children, and in some cases the children benefit (especially if one parent was abusive). Also, some people who grew up in seemingly healthy two-parent households end up making bad choices leading to addiction, crime, etc. Nevertheless, the statistics point to some disturbing cultural trends. A restoration of a biblical emphasis on family is necessary.

It is no accident that the Old Testament ends with a promise that Elijah will restore the relationship of fathers and children. Our society needs this restoration: Churches should empower fathers to take a more active role in raising their children. When a father is not present in the home, mature men of God can assume a greater role as mentors and role models. The decline of the family will affect society for generations to follow. Strong men of God should do their part to restore the family as the basic foundation of society.

In his time, Elijah stood up against the greatest sin in his culture: idolatry, from which numerous other evils sprang forth. The modern-day Elijah will have to stand against the modern-day idol of selfishness, which lies at the root of much of the family breakdown. It will require the moral courage of an Elijah, willing to stand even when he feels alone in the world; bold to defy the dominion of darkness that speaks through the voices of politicians, media, entertainment, etc. Without bold men and women of God, though, the future of the nation and society can be very grim.

Copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, Current events, Family, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Marriage Becoming Obsolete?

There has been a lot of media attention this week to a recent survey, by the Pew Research Center, which indicates that nearly four in ten adults think marriage is becoming obsolete.

Such numbers can be disheartening to people, like me, who have a strong desire to stand up for traditional Judeo-Christian values. Marriage is perhaps the most foundational of all social structures. According to the Bible, it predates government, cities, or any other social grouping known to humanity. Eliminating the family would be, for human relationships, almost as drastic as eliminating air from our atmosphere.

A summary of the survey’s findings can be found on Yahoo! News. Those who really want to dig into the numbers can go directly to the Pew Research Center’s website. While the numbers do not suggest a positive view of marriage by society, they may not be the death knell some people have claimed they are.

It is true that 39% of the respondents said marriage is becoming obsolete; however, 28% said the same thing in 1978. Yes, this is a sad increase. However, it is not as if an entire generation woke up one morning and, out of nowhere, decided that marriage is dead. Clearly, the attitude has been present for a while. The PRG’s study does not introduce a radical new trend; it merely shows that a steady decline in the social stature of marriage, which began in the 1960s, has continued relatively unabated. Having children out-of-wedlock continues to become more socially acceptable. Living together before marriage (or with no intention of marrying) continues to become more popular. Couples continue to marry later in life. Survey results have shown these trends growing for decades.

So, is marriage becoming obsolete? No! A careful reading of the study will show that this is not the sort of bombshell some media outlets are claiming. It is a continuing social trend, but all hope is not lost.

As long as there are people who believe in the value of marriage, it will survive. Those of us who cherish the traditional values on which our society is based should not be discouraged. Neither the Pew Research Group, nor Barack Obama, nor any state agency, creates marriage. God creates it. He instills within us the desire to bond. Yes, there will always be people who will seek to build relationships on their own foundations, rather than His.

Those of us who cherish the things God loves will continue to teach our children the value of seeking a life-long mate, and making every effort to build a relationship that will last. As long as the parents instill godly values in their children, and religious organizations take a firm stand for marriage, it will survive.

The church (and synagogue, and other houses of worship or religious institutions) have a job to do. We need to promote a biblical view of marriage. Sadly, many churches do little more than tell people what the Bible says about divorce. Perhaps they should focus on emphasizing what the Bible says about building a successful marriage.

For my Christian brothers and sisters who are actually worried about this study, I will close with this observation from Scripture. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about His second coming, He listed a number of signs. Among them was this one:

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37-38, NASB).

Marriage will survive. Jesus told us so. I will always trust Him before I trust any pollster with a political agenda.

Categories: Current events, Family | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Looking Ahead: New Article

I just posted a new article on this site, entitled “Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Looking Ahead.

This is the text of the sermon that I preached this morning at Half Hollow Community Church in Dix Hills, NY. The nondenominational church was celebrating its 134th anniversary, and I was asked to fill the pulpit. The minister, Rev. Juanita Hilsenbeck (my former pastor from People’s Church, Long Beach) was on vacation. A former pastor of Half Hollows, Rev. Garfield Brown, was originally supposed to fill in, but was unable to make it after his wife was injured. (She is recovering from a fall and apparently coming along just fine; thank God.) It is mostly an elderly congregation.

During the past couple years, I have thought a lot about the importance of leaving a legacy behind. I felt this particular church anniversary, coupled with St. Paul’s words of encouragement in 2 Timothy 1: 3, 5 and 3:14-15, was a good opportunity to look at how a church can make an impact on future generations.

Read the article and let me know what you think of this subject.

Categories: Bible meditations, Family, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Passion and Passivity

Over the next few months, readers of this blog should get used to commentary about rejecting passivity. I will be working on a project with my comrades in the Brotherhood of St. Joseph. We will create a men’s study guide on five general principles of character development that our church’s men’s ministry emphasizes. Those five principles are:

  • reject passivity
  • accept responsibility
  • lead with courage
  • stay with it
  • seek an eternal reward.

These principles can be thought of as “Five Steps for Becoming a Man of God.” [Four of the five principles are borrowed from a book by Robert Lewis, Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997). “Stay with it” does not appear in the book, but is implied therein.]

(Note to any women reading this: Feel free to continue reading. Although men are my primary target audience here, women can gain something from these principles too. By the way, that “something” is not “ammunition with which to nag your husband.)

So, since rejecting passivity is the first step to becoming a true man of God, I will be reflecting on it a lot in the coming months.

It occurred to me today that “passivity” starts with the same five letters as does “passion.” Yet, these words are virtual opposites. Someone who is passionate cannot be passive at the same time, about the same thing.

Think of the passionate sports fan. A guy who loves football will plan his weekend around the schedule of games on television. He will schedule his other activities to make certain they do not coincide with the “important” games. He may invite his buddies over, and he will be certain the appropriate refreshments are handy before the opening kickoff.  Chips, salsa, and beverages should be right in front of him at game time; he will not have time to move from the couch after that. If, heaven forbid, somebody else forces him to do something that they deem important, at the same time as the “big game,” Mr. Football Fanatic will be certain to set his TiVo, DVR, or whatever other recording device he has available, so that he does not miss it.

My friends know I am not a passionate fan of American football. I will occasionally find myself watching a game, but it is not something I plan. I admit, I am much more passive about football.

In fact, there are really only two sports I am passionate about: soccer and hockey. I will schedule my weekend around a soccer or hockey game. In the case of most other sports, my attitude runs from passive to apathetic. I will watch baseball if I have nothing else to do; I enjoy it, but I can live without it.

Most men are passionate about something. Our problem, though, is that we can get passionate about the wrong things. I have known a few too many Christians who skip church throughout the NFL season. They say they love God, but they are rather passive about their relationship with Him. Their true passion is football, not Jesus.

If you want to know what you are passionate about, just think: What sort of things do you pursue? What do you go out of your way to obtain? There is a huge difference between the things you are passionate about (the things you pursue) and the things you just casually accept (the things you are passive about).

Sadly, many marriages can see this difference in action. How often do young lovers passionately pursue each other? Every waking minute can be a countdown until the moment they will see each other again. When they cannot get together in person, they may spend hours on the phone, talking about the most trivial details of their days as if they were headline news events. When they were together, their eyes were glued to their beloved’s face.

A few years into marriage, and the wife might sit on the husband’s lap, and he will say, “Hey, you’re in the way! I cannot see the TV!” Passion gives way to passivity. He will get around to her when he cannot find anything on TV. Other passions have taken her place in his heart.

So, perhaps rejecting passivity is not really as hard it may sound. Perhaps the key is to develop a passion for the things that matter to God. What are some of the things that matter to Him?

  • My relationship with God (including prayer and Bible study)
  • My relationship with my wife
  • My relationship with other family (son, grandson, etc.)
  • The ministries He has called me to serve in
  • My job, particularly as a means to serve others in His name

It is not wrong to have other passions. However, the man of God must develop a passion, first and foremost, for the things that matter to the Lord. When a man lacks passion in any of these important areas, it might mean he has invested passion in something that does not matter.

Once you find a passion, you need to hold onto it. Humans can be incredibly passionate, but we can also be fickle. We stay passionate about something for as long as it is new, exciting, unusual, or for as long as there are new things to learn about it. Once it becomes comfortable, familiar and reliable, passion gives way to passivity.

So, take a look at yourself: Do you have a passion for God? Do you have a passion for the people God wants you to be passionate about? Are there areas where you should have more passion? If so, what can you do to develop a passion in those areas? These are the questions I will be asking myself in the coming months. I hope you ask yourself the same questions, and ask God to show you the truth about yourself. Then, may He ignite a fire in your heart for the things He is passionate about.

Categories: Bible meditations, Family, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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