All Part of One Dysfunctional Family

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John 1:12

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Ephesians 2:19-22 

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” 

I confess that I used to dread reading through geneologies, but now I cherish reading them, one name at a time.  I know, it must not take much to entertain me, right?  But behind each name is a story, and often one of dysfunction.  Why does this comfort me, you may ask?  Because these names that are a part of the line that lead to our Emmanuel were not perfect families which were a part of God’s background.  The Son of God chose sinful man to be a part of His lineage.

A prostitute, adulterers, murderers, foreigners, deceivers, in-laws, non-biological parents, idol worshipers, and the list goes on and on.  I love when I see families who leave a godly heritage, generation after generation, with no divorce.  I wish that could have been my story, and yet I don’t.  We can still leave a godly heritage to our children when our story has not been perfect.  It is in the scars, in the hurt, in the reality of not being perfect that I was able to be embraced by my Savior, my Kinsman Redeemer, Who makes all things new.  This fallen world and any labels people want to affix to people who are broken by sin’s stain, has no hold on me.  I am a part of God’s family, too.

As a little girl I recall feeling strange as a child of divorce.  Moving multiple times between homes was my newly accepted norm.  When I came to know Jesus in college, I was excited about being in a Christian marriage one day and teaching my children about Jesus’ loving salvation.  I married a Christian man and raised my children in the LORD.  Little did I know the secret my now former husband had, which would break up my “perfect” family.  How could this happen?  How could God receive glory from such sin?  And yet the hand of God guided me and led me to remarry a man who also had his heart broken.  The Brady Bunch, indeed.  So now, where did our family fit in?  With God.

It still amazes me.  Why did God choose us?  To show His great mercy.  To lavish His love upon His children.  To heal.  Whenever we begin to look at ourselves and compare to someone else, we need to remember that we cannot always see someone else’s struggle, and ultimately we are all the same in God’s eyes – all a part of His cherished family.  Whatever you have been through, You belong to Him, and that is all that matters.  The church is the family of God and is full of dysfunctional people, too.  That is why we need a Savior.  If you are a new believer, welcome to the family – love you!  We are not perfect, but we are being made into His image, day by day.

Lord, heal hearts and families today that need to know they are accepted in Your sight.  May You be glorified in our families and our churches.

Passing the Baton of Righteousness

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Jeremiah 32:17-19

17 ‘Oh, Lord God, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you! 18 You show unfailing love to thousands. But you also punish children for the sins of their parents. You are the great and powerful God who is known as the Lord who rules over all. 19 You plan great things and you do mighty deeds. You see everything people do. You reward each of them for the way they live and for the things they do.’

Jeremiah 34: 14b-15a, 18a

‘But your ancestors did not obey me or pay any attention to me. 15 Recently, however, you yourselves showed a change of heart and did what is pleasing to me.’  18 I will punish those people who have violated their covenant with me.’

Ezekiel 18:20

‘The person who sins is the one who will die. A son will not suffer for his father’s iniquity, and a father will not suffer for his son’s iniquity; the righteous person will be judged according to his righteousness, and the wicked person according to his wickedness.’

Exodus 20:5-6 (also Dt. 5:9)

‘I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.’

Deuteronomy 24:16

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.’

Ezekiel 18:20

‘The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.’

Generational sin.  Like a prison cell you are confined in and cannot escape – or can you?  A child is born into a household in which the father is abusive.  Is the child at fault?  Will he suffer for his father’s sins?  Will he be just like his dad?  It breaks my heart when children are told that it is seemingly impossible for them to escape the sin handed down in their families, as if they were destined for them by a wicked legacy they cannot escape.  The righteous requirements of God’s law require that God punish evil. When evil is unpunished, it begins to grow and thrive.  But what is meant by the Scripture which says children are punished for the sins of their parents?

Taking all Scripture together and knowing God’s character that has been revealed to us, we know God would not be so unjust as to punish one who is innocent of sin.  But what is meant by the Scripture above which says God “punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”?  Certainly if one is born into an ungodly environment it will affect him adversely.  He will also bear consequences if he does not recognize the sin all around him and chooses to live a similar lifestyle.  We have possibly all witnessed the effects of sin in a family which continue generation after generation, whether for righteousness or evil.  But is a child at fault if that is all he knew?

I was once in darkness, until one day when God opened my eyes.  The Holy Spirit revealed sin in my heart and my need for salvation.  No matter what had happened to me or what I was surrounded by, God in His justice and mercy convicted me of my sin nature.  The Holy Spirit convicts all of sin and righteousness (John 16:8).  We are all without excuse.  Innately we all have different struggles in the flesh that we must master, before sin masters us.  We cannot blame our predecessors for our weakness, but admittedly the influence of sin can have a profound affect on us.

No words exist to adequately convey the gratitude I have that the LORD revealed the sins of my family and in my own heart.  Apart from this revelation, I could easily have continued in the sins before me and would not been saved.  The blame for our own sins lies within each one of us.  We are also not culpable for other people’s sin, but if we cause someone to sin, we will bear judgment from God (Matthew 18:6).  But what a difference choosing to walk in obedience to God can make for your life, your children’s lives and their children’s lives.  To a thousand generations.  Wow.  Notice that the judgment from God is only a few generations for those who hate God.  But a thousand generations for those who love God and keep His commandments.  God is merciful.  He is kind.  He reaches down into the individual steeped in sin and offers forgiveness and enlightenment to live a different way.  Your past does not define you, nor your upbringing!  You can CHOOSE this day whom you will serve.  Amen!

Thank You, God, that you are just, kind, merciful and forgiving!  Praise You that You reveal our sins to us.  Help us to walk blamelessly before you that we might pass on a legacy of righteousness and hope to those who come behind us.  May we be found faithful, testifying to Your great salvation.

Breaking the Chains

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Psalm 78:5b-8
“He commanded our ancestors to make his deeds known to their descendants, so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them. Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey His commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors, who were a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that was not committed and faithful to God.”

Day by day, year by year, link by link, mankind passes down one of two inheritances: blessing or curse, obedience or rebellion, faithful or unfaithful. Each link is added when one person in your line chooses, willingly or unknowingly, to be trapped by that familiar sin that former generations all bowed their knee to . . . or not.

Yielding to that generational sin or family pattern seems so natural – it is all around you – you scarcely recognize it, save the grace of God. We can feel compelled to stay stuck in the box around us, or ask God to help us recognize what it is that is impeding us. Chances are, most of us do not even see that we are still in chains of some sort!

But breaking free from those chains is difficult. It seems impossible – at least the deceiver tries to convince our souls of that. It is, in fact, hard. But not impossible. God chose Abraham because He was desiring godly offspring. (Genesis 18:19). Abraham was raised in a polytheistic home, worshiping many gods, but Abraham was the first to worship the one true God. Abraham had his faults, too, but God knew he would pass down a heritage of life and faithfulness to those who followed him.

So, who bears the responsibility for our chains? Parents can be diligent to remove former chains and impress God’s word into their children’s lives, but the children also must carry the torch and choose to walk in the freedom that God provides. We break the chains when we ask God to help us see our chains and then resist following the pattern. When we apply the word of God to our lives and purposefully raise our children to love and know God.

Chains form easily – we must be on the watch, for worldliness creeps in subtly. We each bear different chains – some were placed upon us by others and some we made all on our own – shame, guilt, sin, rejection, hurt, depression, inferiority, insecurity, pride, the list goes on. What is binding you today? Jesus not only paid for every link in those chains, He severed them and set us free! Walk in the liberty of Christ – lay down the chains at His feet and He will grant you the strength to rise victorious! He who the Son sets free is free indeed!

Lord, You came and paid the highest price to set us free, and yet we often remain chained and enslaved. Deliver us, God, and enable us to help deliver others, also! Thank you for loving us and setting us free!