Posts Tagged With: relationships

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

Imitating the Father

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1–2, NASB).

be_imitatorsThe traditional church calendar usually schedules its feast days with little or no consideration for secular holidays. Christian holy days sometimes clash with secular celebrations (like when Pentecost Sunday falls during Memorial Day weekend), while sometimes a secular holiday never seems to coincide with a particularly appropriate religious celebration. So, I was pleased that Fathers’ Day fell one week after Trinity Sunday this year. Having commemorated Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, and then acknowledging the Holy Spirit and the Trinity, it seems appropriate to consider the Fatherhood of God.

As with last Sunday’s post about the Trinity, this will not be an in-depth analysis of God the Father. In this case, I would like to focus on how we can be imitators of the Father.

Most men imitate their fathers, sometimes without realizing it. Sometimes, I will notice one of my brothers saying things, or making gestures, that reminded me of our father. Even more peculiar was the time that I saw my son giving his son “the look” my dad would give mewhen he was angry. My father died when my son was very young, so he does not have such specific memories of his grandfather. Did he learn that expression from me (was I imitating Dad without realizing it), or is it genetic? We may find ourselves imitating positive or negative traits we learned from our parents.

This site’s tagline (just below the Darkened Glass Reflections title at the top of the page) is “Living today with an eye on eternity.” One way to do that is by imitating God, as Ephesians 5:1 urges. But, how do we do that? After all, we cannot see Him.

God the Father gave us His best self-portrait when He sent His Son to show us who He is and what He is like:

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power…” (Hebrews 1:1–3).

God could reveal Himself, at least partially, through the preaching of the prophets or through the Old Testament law. However, it was an incomplete image. This could reduce God to a mere concept or idea, instead of a personal Being. Such an impersonal revelation gives a distorted view of God and dysfunctional form of faith. Take the law alone as your image of God, and you get legalism. Rely on the prophets alone, and you can become judgemental, too focused on circumstances, etc. The same dangers arise if we read the New Testament as a set of rules or dogmas, without recognizing that it is a revelation about a person, Jesus. We can discard fellowship with Christ and replace it with a list of rules to obey, doctrines to comprehend, and intellectual concepts to defend. Jesus Himself can be easily forgotten. Hebrews begins by telling us that Jesus is the ultimate revelation about who God is; near the end it reminds us to fix our eyes upon Him (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus emphasized that He imitated His Father. After healing on the Sabbath, He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19). Why did Jesus heal? Because that is what the Father would do. Why did He do it on the Sabbath? Again, this is what His Father would do. Later, He would add, “I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28). Every time He spoke or acted, He imitated His Father, showing us what God would do in human circumstances.

So, as we face the challenges of life, we can look to Scripture to see how Jesus responded to people and situations. He has given us His example. He has also given us the example of people who knew Him. The Bible tells us their stories so that we can learn from them. St. Paul wrote, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Furthermore, we can learn from mature believers that we know how best to imitate God. This is part of the reason why we should be active in and committed to a local church. Do you want to improve your prayer habits? Find a disciplined prayer warrior and imitate his or her habits. Do you want to be a better Bible student? Study with a knowledgeable Bible student and find out how he or she reads and studies. Do you want to learn evangelism? Find someone who shares the Gospel frequently, follow them, and learn their techniques. Do you want to break free from a life-controlling sinful habit? Find someone who has found freedom in Christ in that area and find out how they win their battle against this particular sin.

There is a saying that imitation is the highest form of flattery. It can also be one of the most effective tools for spiritual growth. Our Father wants us to be like Him: “like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Character and Values, Christian Life, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Honesty and Unity—Ephesians 4:25–27

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:25–27).

ephesians-4-26-27.jpgIn December, I posted an article entitled “Renewed Mind and New Self—Ephesians 4:17–24.” This article follows up on that post, in part because the verses cited above immediately follow those. Furthermore, having your mind renewed by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God will not only empower you to live like the “new man” God says you are when you come to Christ: This leads to a transformation in your relationships with others.

Our relationships with other Christians should especially be affected. Jesus commands us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This should especially occur in our relationships with other Christians. Paul says each of us should “speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Whether we like it or not, we are united with other Christians, and this should affect how we live. Paul writes that we should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

This spiritual unity should guide our entire Christian walk. We do not go to church: We are the church. We are members of the body of Christ and, as such, members of one another. If I attack or abuse my brother or sister in Christ, I attack or abuse Jesus and, in the process, I abuse myself.

Many evangelical Christians speak of having “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” However, while the relationship is personal, it is not individualistic. It is a familial relationship. My relationship with Christ unites me with other people who are part of the family of God, the same way other family relationships unite us with others.

This relationship with Christ demands us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as much as we love ourselves, because God is love. It also calls us to live honestly and truthfully with other Christians, because Jesus is the Truth.

This does not mean we must admit every sin and struggle to every other person in the church. Unfortunately, none of us is perfect, and some believers can be terribly critical or judgmental, and may be horrible gossips. However, we should be honest with ourselves, with God, and with others: Particularly, we should not deceive anybody, and we should find those mature brothers and sisters with whom we can be completely honest. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

james-5-16

In some churches, you may be able to go to a member of the clergy for sacramental confession. The priest or minister is required to hear your confession, remind you of Christ’s forgiveness, and never mention your sin again. They should model forgiveness, so that you may be empowered to live a holy life.

If your church does not have sacramental confession, find a mature believer whom you can trust: Someone who will listen to you without demeaning or judging you, who will remind you that you are forgiven, and who will guard your darkest secrets as if they are his own.

We should be honest about our emotions and our conflicts as well. “Be angry and do not sin” does not mean we should look for opportunities to get ticked off. Rather, it means we will get angry eventually. People will say or do things that hurt our feelings. However, that does not mean we should act out sinfully to resolve a situation. We should not bottle up our feelings. However, when we express our anger, we should do it in such a way that we work toward restoration of the relationship as quickly as we can. Do not give the devil an opportunity to inspired bitterness, grudges, hostility, or conflict within the church, the family, or the social circle. Speak up, speak honestly, speak the truth in love, and allow the God of truth to work in your life and heart.

Christian unity is not based on our feelings. It is a supernatural result of our unity with Christ. Because we are members of His body, we are united with other believers. Because of this, love and sincerity should characterize our relationships one with another.

This post copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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