Love One Another

I am an only child, but I have brothers.

Some brothers are born by blood, but others are born of a different bond. The Bible says that this type of bonded brother is a special relationship. Proverbs 18:24 says that you can have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

How does that happen? It happens when we “love one another.”

Love is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture. Our culture understands love to be emotion and sexual expression. In the Bible love is not sexual expression, it is covenant commitment. Scripturally, love is not an emotion you feel. It is a command you obey.

In 1 John 3:11-18 the Bible tells us to “love one another. The passage then gives us a negative example and a positive exhortation. The negative example is the tragic story of two brothers, Cain and Abel. The positive exhortation articulates the familial bond that love creates. And in these 8 verses, the Bible uses the word “brother” in reference to “love one another”, 7 times. If we love one another we can become more than friends. We can be like family. If we love one another a group of players can become more than a team. They can become a band of brothers.

If we love one another we can be more than friends. We can be family.

But why? Why be brothers? Why do what it takes to love one another? I want to share three reasons from 1 John 3:11-18.

Basic Need (1 John 3:11)

For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”

1 John 3:11

“That you have heard from the beginning.” Love is something the Bible stresses as early as Genesis. The phrase appears 12 times in the New Testament. Love one another is one of the most basic themes in Scripture. It is one of the most shared messages of the church. You have been told to love one another since kindergarten.

But the reason “love one another” is so often repeated is not because it is an elementary theme, but because it is a basic need. In the same way that your body needs food, air, and water, love is vital to every human relationship.

We are in week 4 of the season, game 3. Counting this week’s game we are assured of 8 more regular-season games. We do not want to regress over those 8 weeks. We are committed to progress. We have determined to get better and better together.

But what will make the biggest difference? The weight room is critical. Guys will continue to work at getting bigger, stronger, faster. But in 8-9 weeks, you will not make the same massive gains that you made in the offseason. it isn’t realistic to expect that we will be exponentially stronger and faster by November than we are right now.

In the same way that your body needs food, air, and water, love is vital to every human relationship.

We will continue to practice. The coaches will make adjustments. You as players will feel more and more confident in the schemes. We will get better at playing “our game” but it is unrealistic to think that we will become exponentially better than we are right now at running our offense or defense. There is no way you will advance in the execution of our gameplan in the next 8 weeks than you did over the spring and summer.

But there is something that can make an exponential difference. What is it? Love. A greater commitment to one another will make an exponential difference in the advancement of our team. The plays are important. Strength and speed are critical. But the relationships you have with one another are vital. “Love one another” means that you have not just committed to play together. “Love one another” means that you are committed to each other.

Love means that no one is left on the outside. It means everyone becomes an insider. Love means acceptance, a sense of belonging, loyalty. Where there is love, there is accountability, forgiveness, and justice. Love means that you will defend one another, fight for one another, and make sure you are together. Love means there are no selfies. There are no stragglers. There are no standouts. There are no holdouts.

Learning to love one another will serve you for your 4 years on this team, but it will serve you for the next 40 as well.

You can’t be a team without love. You won’t get married without love. You can’t stay married without love. You can’t raise children without love. You can’t work for someone or with someone without love.

Love is a basic need in every human relationship.

Bad Alternative (1 John 3:12)

1 John 3 recalls a tragic story of two brothers where love was lacking. Cain murdered his brother Abel and John uses this tragedy to offer us a warning.

We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.

1 John 3:12

When people lack love, things go bad.

I have been a part of some bad teams. I’ve seen enough of them. I am not interested in being on another one. Talent is not what makes the difference on a team; love does. You can have plenty of talented people on a team, but if there is no commitment to one another, the team goes toxic.

Antonio Brown asks to be released by the Oakland Raiders.

The most talked about man in sports last week was NFL wide receiver, Antonio Brown. At one time Antonio Brown was the highest paid receiver in the NFL. Since signing that deal he has asked to be released from two teams. The most recent was the Oakland Raiders for whom Antonio never played a meaningful down of football. And then after joining the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown faces sexual assault charges in his first week on the job. Antonio Brown has loads of talent, but Antonio Brown is toxic.

Antonio Brown has plenty of money. He’s the most talked about man in the NFL, but he is probably also the loneliest man in the world. Why? Antonio Brown lacks love.

When you lack love the Bible says that people devour one another, grumble against one another, and lie to one another. When people lack love they tell lies and speak evil of one another. Before joining the Patriots, Antonio Brown left a toxic trail of criticism, deceit, inexplicable behavior, and constant complaining.

And then comes the ironic voice of reason, Randy Moss. Randy Moss is a former NFL great who also had quite a history before joining the Patriots at the end of his career. When asked about Antonio Brown, Moss said,

Whenever Antonio Brown shows up on my phone it has nothing to do with football. The next time I see Antonio Brown on my phone, it’s got to be touchdowns. Football from here on out.

Randy Moss, Washinton Post

People who lack love become 1 story people. Anytime you’re around them it’s “the same old thing.”

For people like Cain and Antonio Brown life is never fair. There are problems wherever they go. The situation is never “right enough” for them. Eventually, they end up wanderers headed nowhere.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who have loads of talent, but lack love. Those people end up toxic to a team. They don’t help anyone. They will not help anyone get better. They can’t relate to anyone. Toxic people are an encouragement to no one. With them, its the “same old thing.”

We need to love one another like brothers. Otherwise, there is a bad alternative.

Special Bond (1 John 13, 16-18)

After telling the story of Cain and Abel John says, “Don’t be surprised brothers, that the world hates you.” In this life, no one is immune from hate and hardship. When we go through those experiences, we need brothers. And when people pull together to love one another through hate and hardship, it creates a special bond.

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little chilren, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.

1 John 3:16-18

Anyone can love. We all need to love. But to experience and express love in the fullest sense, we need to experience the love of Jesus Christ. There is no greater example of someone loving us through hardship and hatred than that of the Son of God laying down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. If you truly want to love one another, first realize that you are loved by God. Turn to Christ in repentance and faith and experience brotherly love like never before!

And if we experience that love, we then can lay down our lives for our friends. We can walk into their desperate needs and be sacrificial for them.

At the outset, I said that I’m an only child, but I have brothers. There are countless men in my life that I know I could call on in times of hardship. There are men in my life that I know will rally around me in difficulty. They love me and I love them. We are brothers.

Last week was the anniversary of 9/11. I spent some time that day watching videos and reliving the story. There was a video shared on social media that retold a story of that day I had never heard. It was the story of the harbor pilots who brought their watercraft to the island to rescue people.

For me, one of the most powerful images in the video is at about the 6-minute mark when it shows the white water trails of dozens of boats coming on the horizon in response to the all call. If you lived through that day you remember that it was a day of terror and confusion. No one knew exactly what was happening or what was going to happen next. And for those boat captains to come charging into a cloud of smoldering death to rescue people – that’s the essence of brotherly love.

When you have brothers. People will come to your rescue.

If we are to be a team that loves one another we will not see people sitting alone. We will not see people standing alone. We will have no standouts and no holdouts. A team of people who becomes brothers for a season will be brothers for the rest of their lives. When you go through hatred and hardship, and you will, there will always be people on the horizon coming for you.

Brothers, love one another.


This post is the manuscript of a chapel talk given before game 3 of the 2019 Christian Heritage Lions Football season.

Pulse by Brian Branam

Check out Pulse, a book developed from chapel talks from the 2016 CHS Lions season.

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3D Parenting – D1 Develop

Dogs and cats reach maturity in about one year. Most species of songbirds leave the nest in 3 weeks. A lion is considered to be a fully-grown adult at age 3.

If you have children, you’ve probably figured out by now, this may take awhile!

And it should take a while to raise a human. While animal maturity is generally measured by height or sexual capability, there is a lot more involved in teaching a person how to be an image of God. While the lioness teaches her cub how to find food, your job as a parent should involve a little more than finding a burger for Bubba. God has entrusted you to not just tell your child about sex, but to teach them sexuality. You are not just trying to see how tall your son will be as a man, but you are to teach him how to be a godly man. Your objective as a parent should be to just find your kid a scholarship but to release them into the world as a mature image of God.

The Bible has a lot to say about parenting. This is no surprise since raising a mature image of God is such a critical responsibility. There’s a million ways to slice this, and most will do it much better than I, but when it comes to the basics of Biblical parenting, think 3D!

  1. Develop
  2. Discipline
  3. Demonstrate

Develop

The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6,

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

At the outset I need to say about this verse, this is a Proverb, not a promise. A Proverb is a general observation about life. It does not guarantee a result, but it gives you guidance toward wise ways of dealing with things. The formula for a proverb is this is what works, but there are exceptions. In this case, the exception is seen in a passage like Deuteronomy 2118-21. The indication there is that this child departed when he got older. The fact that his parents did train him in the way he should go is what makes the Deuteronomy 21 scenario so tragic. This is not a child brought up in neglect or abuse. This child is a rebel.

Rebellion is a tragic possibility in the parent/child relationship, but this does not negate the parental responsibility to “train the child in the way he should go.” What does that mean? Two things are critical for development. Train = an environment of reinforcement. In the way he should go = content. As a parent, develop means that your home is going to be one of consistent content.

Train Up a Child – An Environment of Reinforcement

The idea of training in this passage is the idea of reinforcement. Training is the environment of the home. It is an intentional, nurtured culture that offers a consistent pattern of opportunity to help the child grow in maturity.

A child is not just told to mind, a child must be trained to obey. A child cannot simply be told to share, they must be trained to be generous.

Much like a trainer at a gym sets goals for the athletes he trains, the parents have in mind the values and core beliefs that will be reinforced in the home. The trainer sets up his gym so that his athletes can make consistent gains through repetition. Is your home set up for consistent gains?

Have you taken time as a parent to think through the core values and beliefs of your home? If you were asked by someone to list them, could you? If you can list them, could you give examples of how those core values and beliefs are being reinforced with your children?

As they say, you inspect what you expect. Parenting is takes intentionality and kids need reinforcement. If you tell your child, “I’m only going to tell you this once” then it must NOT be important!

Revisit your values. Reinforce them over and over. Be consistent as a parent. Be willing to say it over and over again, each time training your child how to behave and why good behavior is a blessing.

In the Way He Should Go – Content

Training involves content. What is the content of your home? The primary content that is being reinforced in your home, does it come from television, social media, or video games; or does it come from conversation and interaction with you as a parent? As a parent, you can’t farm out content. You are the gatekeeper of the content of the home.

I recently listened to a podcast that told the story of a young girl who kept asking her father questions. Being a busy man, he told his daughter to write down her questions and he would answer them later. At 9 years old, the girl returned to her father 50 deep, meaningful questions like, “What is love?”, “Is there life after death?”, “What is the purpose of life?” Heavy stuff for a third grader! Three years later, dad is STILL trying to answer her questions!

As the podcast continues, you find out that the little girl wasn’t as concerned about having her questions answered, as she was about getting her father’s attention. Her father was always on his computer. The reason she wrote down so many questions was because she wanted conversation, interaction – CONTENT.

Parental Advisory, Don’t Over-Parent

In our culture we have not only a propensity to “under-parent” by putting a device in our kid’s hand and sending them off to fend for themselves, but also to “over-parent.” By “over-parent” I mean that the reinforced expectations of training are too much, they are overbearing, they are impossible.

The word “train” that is translated here in the Bible implies that you do not raise the child to be what you want them to become, but that you raise the child to be what God wants them to become. In this instance, train means that you are paying attention to your child’s giftedness, talent, and interests. You see their inclinations and you adjust your training accordingly. Parenting is not cloning, it is development.

I work with a high school football team as chaplain. From time to time I stop by practice through the week to connect with the players and encourage them during the tough grind of game preparation. As a pastor, I always enjoy watching the coaches as I am interested in how they lead, motivate, and develop student athletes.

Most of the men on the coaching staff were great high school and/or college athletes. One of my favorite coaches I have ever worked with was a quarterback at NC State. He was a young guy and an extremely gifted athlete. At the time he was working with our team there were not five bodies we could tie together that would even come close to accomplishing what he was able to do as a high school quarterback. But what I loved about him was that he NEVER compared the kids to himself. He very seldom used the word “I.” He was not trying to produce another version of himself, but he was trying to push the kids to become the best version of themselves as men and as athletes.

Parenting is not Cloning

Parenting is not cloning, it is development. Too many kids fail to launch because they feel like they have failed long before they even got to the starting line. Because they are different than their parents or may have made some choices that their parents would not have made, they have been made to feel as if they failed.

Another scenario I see too often is a parent trying to make up for his own disappointments and failures through his or her kids. While every parent wants his or her child to learn from their mistakes, your kid is not your best chance at a state championship, or a better job than yours, or even a better life than yours. You can’t live vicariously through your kids and think that sets them up for success. It only pigeon holes them for a pathway to failure.

Development means that you are helping your child find their God-given calling. As a parent, you are God’s steward to help train, develop, and reinforce the critical content that will help them fulfill God’s call in their lives.

In my own home, I have two daughters. Though we raise them reinforcing the same Biblical, core values and beliefs, we realize that they are very different people with distinct personalities. My eldest daughter is a leader. My youngest daughter is an artist. Daughter #1 got a kayak for her birthday. Daughter #2 got a guitar for Christmas. One daughter doesn’t want to be talked to before 9am while the other can’t get enough hugs.

Know your kids and tailor your content.

Taking Steps Toward Development

As a parent, think reinforcement and content. Reinforcement, sit down and write out the core values of your home. Evaluate your consistency in reinforcing these things. Is it working? Is your child getting the message? Are they beginning to demonstrate those desired values in their behavior? Why or why not? Are there things in your life that make that message inconsistent that need to be reprioritized?

As far as content, are you acting as the gatekeeper of your home or are you farming out parenting to a device, television, or video game system? Is your child getting attention and conversation from you? Are you paying attention to their bends, gifts, talents or are you just trying to make them another you? Are you seeking God’s direction for their lives?

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Why is Bubba Still in My Basement? Missing the Point of Parenting

What is the point of parenting? Is it to raise a happy, healthy child? That seems to be a fairly generic goal.

How does one measure success as a parent? Is it GPA, earning potential, athletic achievement, or some sort of moral standard? How do we know if we’ve done well?

The point of parenting is articulated in the 28th verse of the Bible. Even before God rested, He explains the purpose of a parent.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’

Gen. 1:27-28

OK, nice Bible verse. So what’s the point of parenting?

  • Image – you are the representative of God on earth. You demonstrate how His Word works in the world and share the blessing that it brings. Your home, as imperfect as it may be at times, is a demonstration of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His redemptive power to the world.
  • Multiply – notice the Bible doesn’t say add but multiply. All things being equal, any man and woman can biologically add children, but the word “multiply” means that there is something exponential in the purpose of parenting. Teach your child how to be an image of God and you double yourself. If that child has children who also pass along those values, and so on and so on, what you have done for the benefit of the world is exponential. The greatest contribution you can make to the world is not the business you start or the recognition you receive. The greatest contribution you make to the world according to Genesis 1:17-28 is in the children you send.
  • Fill – what you are for your children doesn’t stay put, it moves. Notice that the verse does not say fill your basement space, but fill the earth. What has happened in your home needs to happen again, in another place. The word “fill” assumes there is an empty space with a need. When we fill the earth with “image-ness” there is less of a void. People tried the stay-put plan with the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). God didn’t take it well. Don’t make your basement Babel 2.0. God was the first father to boot a Bubba out of the basement. The earth left to itself descends into chaos. It needs more images to fill the earth, spread out, and work God’s plan (Gen. 2:5).
  • Subdue – God created the world by applying His Word day by day. In the same way that God applied His Word and brought chaos to order, His images continue to work the earth, day by day, by applying God’s Word bringing an otherwise chaotic culture to order. We need MUCH more of this, don’t we?

So, in short. The point of parenting is to teach a child what it means to be an image of God so that when you release him or her into the world they will continue to apply God’s Word to an otherwise chaotic world and bring it to order.

But Houston, we have a problem; failure to launch.

Failure to Launch

A study published in November of 2016 found that in The State of New Jersey, 45% of young adults aged 18-34 live with their parents, even though they are employed.

The common term for a child’s unwillingness to leave out on his own is “failure to launch.”

I realize that there are a lot of circumstances in life in which a young adult may choose, or need for a time, to live in their parent’s home. Many college students save on the high cost of housing by commuting. I was one of those. My parents encouraged me to go to college by offering to pay tuition. The rest of it was on me. When I realized how much debt I would have just in housing expenses, and then took a look at what they were serving in the cafeteria, I realized that home is a really good deal!

There may be hardships or unforeseen circumstances that require a young adult to shelter at home for a time. There may be mental or physical disabilities that make staying at home a wise choice. But from what I understand of the study, these circumstances are not factored into the 45%. Even if I am making a mistaken assumption and all of these variables are included, 45% still sounds a little high don’t you think?

Life can be difficult and expensive, but I don’t think it is any parent’s dream to raise a capable kid, only to find that at 31 Bubba refuses to leave the basement!

Why am I being so hard on Bubba and his parents?

So what if Bubba is still in your basement? Or maybe he’s a boomerang kid – he moves out but keeps coming back. Am I saying that you are a bad parent? Not at all. I’m not even saying that Bubba is a bad person. Bubba’s first choice may not be for him to be in your basement. Furthermore, I know of some amazing single people who have greatly impacted God’s Kingdom who have lived their entire lives in their parent’s home.

But if you have an adult child who has no plan to launch out on his own and no concern for God’s Kingdom, I do have a question. What’s your release plan?

Surely you are not about to give up on Genesis 1:27 and 28. It’s too great of a vision. I’m not trying to condemn you, but I do want to challenge you. The world has enough people in it that eat Dorito’s, play video games, and binge watch NetFlix. We have some definite void in this culture that needs to be filled. Rise up, don’t give up!

God’s desire is for you to embrace the point of parenting. It will be a blessing to you!

Why are there so many Bubba’s in New Jersey?

Bubba stuck in the basement is not just a New Jersey problem. Failure to launch is becoming epidemic in the American family. Why is this? Perhaps it is because many have missed the point of parenting.

The point of parenting is not to just please our children, but to release them as mature adults. Instead of our homes being launch pads we are instead creating safe, sterilized bunkers in which our kids have everything their heart’s desire, where they are never hurt, never disappointed, never told “no”, and somehow sold on the snake oil that they should never fail.

The problem then becomes that they NEVER leave. Even worse, some parents, never get it! They don’t want to release their children. And YES – this I condemn. It is disobedience and not AT ALL God’s design!

Some parents simply want to control their children no matter how old they are. God has called parents to be equippers, not enablers. If a parent is an enabler, there sits Bubba in the basement thinking he is the center of the world; having no plans to impact the world. This is a child that has been added to the world, but who multiplies nothing. He is a consumer; a proverbial black hole of a family’s resources. He only adds to the chaos, making no contribution to subdue it.

So what if I don’t want a Bubba in my basement?

But maybe that’s not your vision. You don’t want Bubba in your basement. Perhaps you want to be an effective parent who releases an image of God capable of impacting culture and subduing the chaos. So how do we accomplish the point of parenting and raise kids with for purposeful release?

So now that I’ve intrigued some readers and perhaps angered others, let’s offer the proverbial cliff hanger. What’s the answer? I’ll share it in my next post. This week I’ll also address the issue of parents who have done it right, but the child rebels. What then? Stay tuned! Subscribe! Comment, ask questions – let’s have a conversation. How would you explain the point of parenting?

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Check out a past post – God’s Good Reason for Bad Things

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HATEFUL ENEMIES BLOG POST GRAPHIC

Redemptive Response to Cursing, Abusive, Hateful Enemies

Between emotion and action, Jesus issues four corrective commands. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:27-28 Those commands seem unreasonable and impractical especially when we have such cursing, abusive, hateful enemies. Does Jesus really expect us to respond to such horrible people with redemptive action? The answer is, Yes. Not only does he expect it, but one character in the Bible exemplifies it, Joseph.

In my previous post, we looked at how Joseph loved his family despite them becoming his enemy. How did Joseph exemplify the other corrective commands of Jesus?

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Do Good to Those Who Hate You

Joseph did good even when life was bad. Joseph’s brothers sold him. He served his master well and God gave him favor (Genesis 39:3-6).

Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of rape. Potiphar put Joseph in prison. Even there he did well and the Lord gave him favor (Gen. 39:21-23).

“Where” Joseph was never changed who Joseph was. He did well because the Lord is good. Joseph’s actions became a testimony to everyone around him. We can learn from his example. When you respond with bad, it does no good!

Bless Those Who Curse You

Joseph’s brothers conspired against him. Blessing and cursing; both are about words. Words hurt.

Our natural emotional response to cursing is to curse back. In Genesis 45, Joseph had the opportunity to get physical and verbal revenge on his brothers. At one time they determined his fate in a pit, now Joseph had the opportunity to determine their fate from the palace. What sort of words would Joseph choose, blessing or cursing?

Joseph chose blessing. If you read Genesis 45:4-14 you will find that Joseph directs his brother’s attention to what God has done. He then promises to bless them and provide from them out of the abundance of Egypt. Notice the last line of this paragraph full of blessings.

“After that his brothers talked with him.”

How many of us in our time of hurt would welcome a productive conversation? Imagine having a conversation in which wrongs are confessed, the hurt is expressed, and apologies are exchanged. That sort of reconciliation only comes through redemption. A conversation like that does not come about through revenge. Cursing for cursing does not cure the hurt.

Pray for Those Who Abuse You

The Bible doesn’t record Joseph’s prayers, but make no mistake, Joseph prayed. The integrity of his character, the strength of his witness through trial, and the favor God gave him only comes through prayer. Joseph never wavered from God’s will. He interpreted dreams through the wisdom of God. When the moment of redemption came, the emotions were overwhelming. I’m sure the hurt resurfaced. But rather than revenge Joseph chose redemption. A choice like that only comes as the product of prayer.

As for you! But God!

The climax of Joseph’s story comes in Genesis 50:20. Jacob, the father of these lost boys brothers has died. Now that dad is gone, will Joseph finally get revenge? Absolutely not. He explains:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today.

Genesis 50:20

Somewhere between angry emotion and destructive action is something only Christ can do in you.

So how do we tap into this redemptive response only Christ can give?

  1. Know Christ as Lord and Savior. Through repentance and faith, we enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9,10, 13). We don’t need a situation change as much as we need a nature change. The Bible teaches that when we repent of sin and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior that He places His Holy Spirit inside of us (2 Cor. 1:22). The fruits of our new nature will begin to emerge (Gal. 5:22-24).
  2. Renew your mind. After giving his discourse on such a great salvation, Paul turns his attention to life application in Romans 12:1-2. Our new life in Jesus calls for us to not be conformed to this world, but to be transformed into Christ. That transformation comes only through “renewal of the mind.” Renewal of the mind means that we unlearn those habits and patterns of reaction to emotion that conform to the ways of the world. We then learn Biblical, Christ-honoring patterns of behavior as part of the transformation of salvation.
  3. Feed and foster new life from the graces of the church and spiritual discipline. Part of discipleship is discipline. Seek to establish daily habits of Bible reading, prayer, service, and worship. Your church becomes a critical ally in the transformation process. God uses the church to minister His graces of forgiveness, conviction, grace, mercy, and love to His people. Prayer is a conversation with God. Sometimes in prayer, you feel as if you are only speaking to Him. You will be amazed at how God uses His church to speak back to you.

Conclusion

We will all have cursing, hateful, abusive enemies. When people take destructive action against us we are flooded with negative emotion. Our natural reaction is to return destruction for destruction. But Jesus is our in-between. He is our corrective thought. In a sin cursed world He has chosen to call his people to be the conduits of redemption. Unnatural? Yes. Supernatural? Absolutely. But by following Christ we introduce into the fabric of a fallen story something that will save many people alive. Think about it. Had Joseph chosen destructive action and destroyed his brothers the seed of the Savior would have been lost. What salvation could Christ bring from you if you choose redemptive response rather than destructive action?

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When Your Family Becomes Your Enemy, How to Effectively and Redemptively Love

When your family becomes your enemy, how do you redemptively and effectively love them? Is it even possible?

In my previous post, we examined four commands that Jesus gave us that call for radical, redemptive action in response to our hateful, abusive, cursing, enemies (Luke 11:27-28).

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But I say to you, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Luke 11:27-28

I ended with the question of who can possibly carry out these commands in such an emotionally volatile situation? Has anyone ever done such a thing? The answer is, yes. The finale of the Book of Genesis is the telling of the story of Joseph. Joseph’s story is curious to us because his family becomes his enemy. He was hated, cursed, and abused by his brothers.

The CliffsNotes Version of Joseph

I would encourage you to read the Joseph story in its entirety. Joseph’s story is found in Genesis 37-50. Let me give you the CliffsNotes version.

Joseph was the favored son of his father as indicated by the magnificent robe he wore (Gen. 37:3). He was a bit of a tattle tale in that he brought a bad report of his brothers to his father (Gen. 37:2). Joseph was also a bit naive. He had a dream that indicated that there would come a day in which Joseph’s brothers would bow down to him. When he told them of the dream, to no one’s surprise, they did not take it well (Gen. 37:5-8). Joseph then has another dream that is much like the first. And like a naive, favored, little brother with a total lack of self-awareness, Joseph reports on his dream again as if they would be happy to hear it. Needless to say, again, it did not go well.

Do Good to Those Who Hate You

And so, in Genesis 37:4 the Bible says that Joseph’s brothers hated him. Joseph may have been the proto-typical annoying little brother in some ways, but that does not excuse their attitude toward him. Even still, bad goes to worse. In Genesis 37:5 the Bible says they hated him even more. As if that were not enough hate, Genesis 37:8 they hated him even more.

Checkmark on hating Joseph.

Bless Those Who Curse You

The Bible doesn’t say that Joseph was cursed, but it does say in 37:18 that his brother’s conspired against him. They considered two options. Option 1, kill our little brother. Option B, sell little brother. In the traditional sense, cursing is the wish or determination of a destructive fate upon someone. In the modern sense, people think of cursing as the use of profanity. I would say in a “conspiracy” conversation of this sort, either applies. I’m sure there are some words the Bible bleeps out between men who are trying to dispose of their brother.

Checkmark on cursing Joseph.

Pray for Those Who Abuse You

As the brothers deliberate between murder and human trafficking, they throw Joseph in a pit. The most chilling verse in the story comes in Genesis 37:25. “Then they sat down to eat.” Imagine the confusion that would be in you if you were captured and thrown into a pit. How much fear would fill you to have brothers so evil deciding your fate? This is a horrible situation and Joseph’s brothers eat a sandwich. Abuse is a cold, calculated manipulation of a person.

Checkmark on abusing Joseph.

There is no peace in the relationship between Joseph and his brothers. They are enemies and not at all acting like family.

When Family Becomes Enemy

Abuse is always painful. That pain is multiplied exponentially when it is family. When the people who were put on earth to nurture you, abuse you; it is a twist in the fabric of creation itself. That is NOT the way the world is supposed to work. How can a mother, father, son, or daughter treat you like they do? How can a brother or sister turn on you as they have? There are a lot of people who have a Genesis 37 and it is very difficult to listen to them tell the story.

When your family becomes the enemy it unleashes an F5 tornado of negative emotion in a person’s heart. They live in an internal, inescapable storm. When family is the enemy, there is no shelter.

So how does Joseph respond? He responds with radical, redemptive action; just like Jesus commanded in Luke 11.

Joseph Loved His Family/Enemy

In an improbable turn of events, Joseph goes from being one of history’s first victims of human trafficking to becoming the Governor of Egypt. God gives him some insight that becomes valuable economic advice to the nation during famine.

In Genesis 42, Joseph’s father sends some of the brothers from Canaan to Egypt to buy food. In an incredible twist of fate, Joseph’s brothers walk into the room and bow before Joseph. They do not recognize him, but he recognizes them. It plays out just like his boyhood dream.

The Bible says in Genesis 42:7 that Joseph treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. We might respond, “Serves them right!” I can’t imagine the amount of negative emotion that may have built up in Joseph over so many years. But Joseph is not getting revenge, Joseph is seeking redemption.

Joseph Tests His Brothers

If you continue to read the story, Joseph begins to test his brothers. In each test, Joseph brings the fate of his younger brother, Benjamin, into question. Benjamin is an important point of focus because he is also the only other brother born by Joseph’s mother Rachel. Rachel is the favored wife. Joseph was the favored son. With him gone, surely now favor has fallen on Benjamin.

Will the brothers tell him the truth about Benjamin? Will they use him as a pawn in bargaining for their own self-interest or will they abandon him as they did Joseph? In short, Joseph is trying to see if they have had a heart change.

So why go through all of this trouble of testing them? Why choose redemption rather than revenge? Genesis 42:9 says that “Joseph remembered the dreams that he dreamed of them.”

What we know of the dream is that Joseph’s brothers bow down to him. That is all that Joseph’s brothers really cared to know of the dream as well. But though that may have been the content of the dream, that was not its full meaning. If that is all the dream was about, the vision is fulfilled and Joseph can move on. But Joseph realizes that the dream is not about humiliation, it is about redemption.

The Emotional Release You Need

From Genesis 42 – 44 we read of Joseph testing his brothers. How do the tests end? Pass or fail? At the end of Genesis 44, the brothers break. They exhibit a heart of compassion and a commitment to the protection of their younger brother. Finally, in a roundabout way, they realize that they have brought much grief upon their father in what they have done to Joseph. They do not want to cause more family pain. The brothers have had a heart change.

And here comes the emotional release!

In Genesis 45:1-3 we read one of the Bible’s most moving scenes. In a torrent of tears Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. They stand silent, in total dismay of this incredible twist of fate.

This is the moment we dream of when we have been hurt by an enemy; especially when it’s family. This is the great equalizer when all that is wrong is made right. When we finally have the upper hand – and it would feel so good – right!

But notice that this emotional release does not come out of revenge. It comes through redemption. It does not come from a heart of destruction, but reconciliation. Joseph saved his family because he loved his enemies.

Critical Truths in Loving Your Family/Enemy

There are some critical truths we can glean here from Jesus’ command and Joseph’s example.

  1. You may be the victim, but in Christ, you possess the greater power. It takes little power or integrity to destroy a person or a family. To retaliate is natural. To redeem is supernatural. If you follow Christ as your Savior, through God’s Word, His Spirit, and His desire to seek that which is lost, you have access to the greater power to redeem. Imagine God using you to bring some horrible people to salvation.
  2. God protected Joseph. God will protect you. As terrible as Joseph’s story was, hindsight shows us that it wasn’t all bad. There may be a time in which the actions of an enemy result in what seems like a loss to you. You may lose your family. In the end, you may lose a job. It may not be your fault, but you lose a friend. Whatever you lost, it may be terribly unfair. There is no excuse for what happened to Joseph, but being removed from his family at that time may have been the best thing for him. I’m afraid that the conversation the brothers had about killing Joseph in Genesis 37 would have only continued. Eventually, they may have followed through. We also see that despite the evil of the removal, God used that time to work in Joseph’s life. Sometimes God has to work in you before He will work through you. When people are up to awful things, God is up to greater things (Rom. 8:28).
  3. Who they are doesn’t define who you are. Joseph was sold into slavery but it never compromised his integrity. Our culture seems to embrace a “once a victim/always a victim mentality.” That doesn’t have to be the case. A victim has every right to make choices that eventually lead to victory. Furthermore, if you read Jesus’ four commands in Luke 11 in context, you realize all that the enemy does to you comes down to a single issue. And that issue ultimately has nothing to do with you. It has to do with Christ. People victimize us either 1) because they don’t know Jesus or 2) because we do know Jesus. They are going to do what they do because of who they are, but we respond in the way we do because of who Jesus is.
  4. Your enemy ultimately faces eternity. I pray that you know Jesus as Savior. If you do, what someone did to you will have no bearing on your eternity. A person may take something from you in this life, they cannot touch your eternity (Matthew 6:19-21). God will restore eternity-fold what the enemy has taken. So, let’s ask an objective question. If you get revenge, it may feel better for you in this life, but what good does it do for eternity? What good does it do for yours or for theirs? In revenge, there is only loss. In redemption, there is eternal gain.

What else can we learn from Joseph’s response? To be continued in the next post.

What more can be learned from Joseph’s response? Read the follow up post: A Redemptive Response to Hateful, Abusive, Cursing Enemies.

HATEFUL ENEMIES BLOG POST GRAPHIC

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“All of” Giving, Not a Donation, but an Act of Devotion

“All of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. With the “all of” giver, the heart and the head converge in a different place (see previous post). This person calculates life with a different equation than everyone else.

In Mark 12 we read of an amazing scene as an unlikely widow who gives all.

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those whoa re contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, ALL SHE HAD to live on.

Mark 12:41-44

If we watch the woman give we learn the following principles about “all of” giving. “All of” giving 1) has God as its focus. 2) Gratitude is the attitude. 3) The “all of” giver understands where he gets all he’s got.

“All of Giving” – God as the Focus

In a previous post, I stated that giving is emotional before it is financial. There are many things that can hijack the emotions of giving. You either reduce your amount or decide against giving simply because it doesn’t feel right.

  • Look at this place! They don’t need my money.
  • That guy looks like he’s better off than me. Why give to him?
  • That guy needs to get a job.
  • Those people can help themselves.
  • Where does all of this money people give go?

It is easy to get emotionally hijacked in giving.

The Cheerful Giver

God understands the emotional component of giving. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says that the Lord loves a cheerful giver.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, ‘not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

2 Corinthians 9:7

There are two words in that verse that speak of an emotionally hijacked giver. He is reluctant. He is motivated by guilt, so he gives under compulsion. Does the Lord appreciate an emotionally hijacked giver? Maybe. I would think so. Does he hate him? I would think not. But that’s not the point of the verse. The verse is a worshipful, emotional collision between a cheerful giver and a God who loves him. It is like two friends who can’t wait to get together. It is a happy, joyous moment.

If you allow 2 Corinthians 9:7 to cast light on the scene in Mark 12, it will stop our often cold, emotionless reading of Scripture. She is the cheerful giver and the Creator of the Universe is absolutely loving the conversation he is having with his disciples about her.

Jesus Would Not Hi-jack This Woman in Worship

There is NO WAY her Savior and Creator would dare to hi-jack the emotion of this moment. He dares not to stop her as she gives all though he had logical reason in our minds and plenty of opportunity.

  • Why didn’t Jesus tell her, “Woman, this place has plenty of money, your small coins will make no difference? Keep them.”
  • Why didn’t Jesus say, “Mam, this place is corrupt. Give me 2 hours and I’ll have this place turned upside down. There will be coins spilled everywhere and you can have as many as you want.”
  • Why did he not just walk up and say, “Lady, I created the universe. Keep your money.”

Why didn’t he do any of these things? A loving God would never tell a cheerful giver to go away and He would not dare to hijack her worship of Him. To understand this scene and this woman you must understand.

She was not giving to the Temple.

She was not giving to a cause.

Her offering may have been handled by a priest but it was not given to a priest.

She was giving to God.

This was not a donation. This was an act of worship.

“All of” Giving – Gratitude is the Attitude

She is giving all she has. Ironically enough the Savior who will give Himself for the sake of His disciples is across the way discussing what she just did. In the end, she has given all for Him. He will give His all for her and them. They, his disciples, will give all for Him.

“All of” giving is a proclamation of the gospel. How can we not fail to give all when we consider that:

  • The Father has given the Son for us.
  • Jesus hung as a cursed man on a tree becoming sin for you and me.
  • He bore our sins, carried our sorrows and was pierced for our transgressions. By His stripes, we are healed.
  • Jesus rose victorious over death, Hell, and the grave.
  • He has given us His Spirit.
  • Jesus will give us a new heaven and a new earth in which we will dwell with Him forever.

“All” I will ever have is so little to give to a Savior who has done so much for me.

“All of” Giving – Understands Where You Get All You’ve Got

A person who gives “all of” does so because they realize all they have was never theirs to keep. All we have is His. The Bible teaches that we are entrusted stewards. We are managers, not creators. We are servants, not sovereigns.

The value of the two coins the woman gave was not determined by the mint in Rome. The way the woman calculated the value of the coins was in her understanding of how she got them, not in who minted them. Those two coins were not her coins. Those were God’s coins. She was merely returning them.

For the “all of” giver it is not about affordability as much as it is availability.

Again, “all of” giving is not a donation. It is an act of devotion. And it is only in “all of” giving that we can truly learn how to trust a good God and the meaning of His name, The Lord Will Provide (Gen. 22:14).

What Happened to the Woman?

I wonder what happened to the woman? The Bible never says. But the Bible does say:

Do not be anxious about anything saying ‘what shall we eat’ or ‘what shall we drink’ or ‘what shall we wear.” For the Gentiles seek after these things and your heavenly Father knows you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33

My God will supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory.

Philippians 4:19

The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Psalm 34:10

Only in eternity will we meet the woman and know what became of her, but I do know that according to His Word, Jesus did not let her walk away empty handed. I imagine any one of the following possibilities:

  • Jesus walks over to the woman and says, “Mam, we just had a picnic on a nearby hillside and we had a bunch left over. Andrew! Could you please bring those baskets of leftover fish and bread. Mam, you can have all you want.
  • Maybe Jesus directed her to a great place to stay outside of the city. “I know a great family we stay with quite a bit. It is a man named Lazarus and his two sisters. They are extremely hospitable. Lazarus was pretty sick recently, but he’s fine now. Why don’t we go have a meal with them?”
  • Maybe Jesus gave her an invitation. “Mam, we are going to have Passover together in a couple of weeks. I would love for you to come.”

The Bible indicates that there were several women who travelled around with the company of the disciples. I wonder if on the Day of Pentecost, this woman was part of band of disciples in Jerusalem who were the first to experience God’s outpouring of His Holy Spirit.

I can only imagine!

Conclusion:

With such a Savior, when we ask the question of how can we afford to give all? I think the answer is how can we afford not to give all?

I think there are 3 essential questions that help us recalculate all.

  1. How did I get it? The problem with the rich, young ruler that went away sorrowful was that he had great possessions and his great possessions had him. He could not release them because they defined him. Understanding our life as a steward is an extremely worship, liberating way of life. If I never had it, it is no problem if I lose it.
  2. How can God use it? Giving all doesn’t mean that you have to go to church this Sunday and empty out your bank account. But “all of” means that it is all available. As a steward of God’s stuff, you are always looking for how God can use it. How can you leverage all you have and all you are for the sake of the gospel?
  3. How can I give it? I know some will accuse me of being partial as a pastor when I say this, but I believe in and practice storehouse tithing. I believe that the first 10% of my income is to be given to my local church as an offering to God. I’m not here to argue with you, I’m just telling you what I do and what I will continue to do. The rest of it is always on the table. All giving is not financial. There is giving that is hospitable. There is giving that is helpful. Ultimately, I am the one that has to be in the offering plate!

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“Out of” Giving, The Blessing We Are Missing

There is a version of giving that comes from the bottom. This type of giving makes sure you have plenty left over. I call this “out of” giving. Most people give “out of.” The problem is that there is a blessing we are missing in “out of” giving. Financially it makes the most sense. “Out of” giving is safe. But there is still something that doesn’t add up.

In my previous post, I said that giving is emotional before it is financial. Emotional giving is a type of giving I tagged as “because of” giving. “Because of” gives from the heart. “Out of” giving is where the head kicks in. The heart says it feels right. The head makes sure the numbers are right.

In Mark 12:41-44 we see plenty of “out of” giving.

“And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed OUT OF their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

In this scene, there are “many” rich people who are putting in large sums of money. That makes sense. There is nothing unusual about it. We would expect it of them. They’ve got it, so give it.

“Out Of” Feels Better

“Out of” giving makes sure that you can feel good that you gave, but that you feel even better about having plenty left over. This kind of giving doesn’t offend your head because you can afford it and it does not hurt the heart because you can walk away feeling good that you made a contribution. “Out of” giving is practical and affordable. All is well.

This is why the widow’s gift doesn’t make sense. Even Jesus drew attention to the fact that she gave OUT OF her poverty, which was all she had, “all she had to live on.” What she did is not practical and obviously for her not at all affordable.

She zeroed out an already struggling life. She just moved from tax bracket “poor” to tax bracket “nothing.” When she dropped her two nearly worthless coins into the coffer, her life just hit rock bottom. All that she has in the world is gone. What has she done?

To answer this question we must understand four types of givers.

Four Types of Givers

2 That Give Off the Bottom
  • Takers – These are people give nothing at all. They do not feel any need to contribute. Takers give no time. They give no talent. They give no treasure. These people develop an attitude that you have more than them, so you ought to give it to them. These people look at the rich in this passage and feel that the rich owe it to them. The only reason I include the taker as a giver is because he/she will give you one thing – his/her opinion. And take it from a pastor of 20+ years, the taker’s opinion doesn’t come cheap!
  • Tippers – Tippers are people who throw in a little bit if they got something from it. These people make sure to leave a little, but that they also have a lot left over.

Both takers and tippers give “out of”, from the bottom. The turning point comes in the following two types of givers. These are people who give off the top. They put a priority on giving. Only here do we begin to understand the widowed woman of Mark 12.

2 That Take It Off the Top
  • Tithers – Tithers give the first 10% to the Lord as an act of obedience. The top 10 is protected. It is reserved for God. Tithers take on the mentality that the first 10% was never theirs to keep. There is no question that it will be given. The beauty of Biblical tithing is that everyone has a 10%. Not everyone may have $100, but everyone has a 10%.
  • Givers – It is only above the tithe that we truly begin to give. The first 10% is an act of obedience. Beyond 10% is an act of gratuitous worship. This is where sacrifice begins. It does not make sense in the head and it may hurt the heart, but the giver realizes that what is given is better with God than it is with himself. (Here is an excellent article on tithing and giving by Dave Ramsey).

This brings us back to the woman. She was not giving “because of.” Nor was she giving “out of.” She gave “all of.”

When we give off of the bottom we do it out of safety, security, and the anxiety of having nothing left. But as she zeroed out there is no sense in Jesus’ observations of her that she is anxious about anything. Perhaps Jesus words “all she had to live on” are the clue. When we give off of the bottom all we have to live on is all we think we are living for. Maybe she was living on more! Maybe she was living FOR more!

What is the Blessing?

So what is the blessing? We will discuss this more in the next post, but we know this. Her giving was a blessing to Jesus. She became a teaching moment for the master. As he gathers His disciples He has a living illustration of what He will become for them, a Savior who gives all.

She is a blessing to us. We are humbled by her story. We are drawn to Christ by her. We glorify God for her. We cannot read the Gospel of Mark without her. She becomes the blessing.

Be sure to return for the next post to find out more about the blessing God gives to the “all of” giver.

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