When Family Becomes Enemy Title for Blog Post

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).

throat punch love your enemy title

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.

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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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Because of giving by Brian Branam

“Because of” Giving, the emotion we are missing.

In my previous post, we began to listen in as Jesus draws our attention toward a widowed woman in the treasury who gave all she had to live on. Our obvious question is as to how could she afford to give all? From this story in Mark 12:41 we are looking at three ways people calculate giving. With this post, we examine the first of the three, “because of” giving. In “because of” giving there is an emotion we are missing.

“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

Giving is Emotional Before it is Financial

When it comes to giving, people make an emotional decision before they make a financial one. They consider motive before amount. Giving comes from the heart before it comes from the hand.

As Jesus is people watching opposite the temple treasury, I’m certain there are as many motives to giving as there are people giving. So let’s ask the question, why do people give?

3 Types of Givers

Some people are cause givers. They will give if they feel that they are giving to a worthy cause. Is their giving going to help children? Will their money be used to find a cure for a disease? Is there someone in need or something of need that giving will benefit? The cause giver is usually not a consistent giver, but they will rise up when they feel that what they give will make a difference.

Some people are connection givers. Connection givers won’t give unless they are involved. The connection giver usually starts out as a passive bystander who may appreciate the cause, but they are for all practical purposes an outsider. Somehow they get involved. Now from the inside, they see the need so they give. The connection giver eventually becomes a champion of the cause, who ironically enough, can’t believe that there aren’t more people giving to this.

The reluctant giver may not give at first, but eventually, he or she will give out of compulsion. This person is moved to generosity because they feel guilty. They would feel worse for not giving than they feel the financial loss of giving.

Facebook Figured it Out

Facebook has done a brilliant job to tapping into the emotions of giving. They have intertwined the cause, necessary connection, and compulsion of giving. Have you ever seen the post that says, “This year for my birthday I am giving to . . .?” And then you, as a gift to them, are encouraged to join in the worthy birthday cause. The connection is with your friend. The compulsion comes as you see a list of everyone else who has given to the cause – and your name is NOT on the list! How could you? The truth is that you haven’t bought this person a present for their birthday in years, maybe not ever! But due to the cause, connection, and under compulsion you make the emotional decision to give.

Giving is emotional before it is financial! Mark Zuckerberg got you!

The Missing Emotion of “Because of” Giving

However you slice the emotion, we are still left to wonder. Why would she give all? What was the widow woman’s motive?

If giving is emotional before it is financial we have to ask, what was she feeling? What kind of emotion must you be experiencing that moves you to give all? Is it joy? The Bible presents her in a sad situation, but is she happy? If so, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be that happy, that joyful? What emotion is it that moves her so much to think that her two nearly worthless coins are better in the treasury than they are with me?

Whatever her emotion, it is the antithesis of our approach. We believe that the greater emotion comes in having rather than in giving. As a result, we make emotional decisions to buy things that do not turn out to be sound financial decisions. We think it would make us happy to have it. And true, for a time, we are happy with it. But in time, we have forgotten it. And then, we are emotionally motivated to find the next thing we think will make us happy. We are never satisfied. Emotional spending never works.

Question her emotion.

Whatever it is we feel we have to have, I think we would all agree. Compared to her, we have more, but we are not motivated. What is that emotion she feels? What is the emotion we are missing by not giving all?

When the Bible encourages us to give all we’ve got, maybe there is a happiness, a joy, an emotion in letting go that is much greater than simply being a consumer. Perhaps there is something liberating in giving that is greater than any experience we have ever had in spending.

Maybe she has something we don’t.

Maybe in calling us to give all, God wants us to have something that only comes through giving.

Next post – “Out of” Giving

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how to afford to give all

Give All You’ve Got

The Bible says to give all you’ve got. How can anyone possibly afford to give all?

“And he (Jesus) sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.”

Mark 12:41a

Jesus sits down across from the treasury area of the Temple and watches as people walk up and put money into the offering box. The treasury was located in a large outer courtyard of the Temple. The courtyard was lined with massive stone columns. Within the courtyard stood four giant lampstands that were lit during the Feast of Tabernacles. They were so large and stood so high on the temple mount that they could be seen all over Jerusalem. It would be in this place, before these flames that Jesus would proclaim, “I am the light of the world” in John 8.

The treasury of the Temple
The Treasury of the Temple

Behind the walls of the treasury were storehouses that held the wealth of the Temple. The offerings brought to the treasury would be placed in one of 13 golden coffers that were attached to the wall. Each of them were shaped like a trumpet. No doubt the area must have sounded much like a toll booth or a row of turnstiles at the subway station as people passed by dropping in their coins.

The treasury was a busy, noisy place. And there sits Jesus, people watching.

The Creator is People Watching

The Bible says of Jesus in John 1:3, “That all things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

It is this Jesus that is sitting and watching the activity of the treasury that has crafted the most spectacular elements of our universe. The galaxy in which we reside is called the Milky Way. It is estimated that there may be as many as 250 billion stars in the Milky Way. Jesus made all of them.

If a quarter were used to represent the size of our solar system, the Milky Way would be the size of the landmass of the United States of America in comparison. Our galaxy is a huge place. He made all of it.

And there sits the creator watching people put money into the treasury.

“Many rich people put in large sums.”

Mark 12:41b

Imagine the sound the rich people make as they give! It would be much like it is when you collect change for a year, put it into some sort of bucket and take it to that thing in the grocery store that turns coin into cash. Imagine the attention it garners when the rich put in large sums. But there is no reaction from the Lord of all creation.

The Woman Jesus Noticed

“And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.”

Mark 12:42

It is obvious as a widow that she has lost her husband. But note also what the Bible does not say. There is no one else accompanying her. There is no son, no daughter. She is alone in the world. Understanding the social constructs of her day there is only one word used to describe where a woman like that ends up. She is poor.

She walks up and puts in two small copper coins. No doubt they make the least noise of the day. Mark, the writer of this gospel, pulls out his calculator and helps us do the math on her offering. Her two coins are worth a penny. It would take 64 Roman pennies to add up to a day’s wage of a menial, entry level laborer. In other words, she is about 120 coins short of her offering being worth anything.

And think of the money in the storehouses behind the wall. What is her offering in comparison to all that is in there? Furthermore, compared to the many rich people who were in line ahead of her, what is this? These two small copper coins are hardly enough for bread.

An Example of Disciple

But she dropped in her coins and the creator saw her. And now, he responds. He calls together his disciples and directs their attention toward her. Imagine this moment. He raises his hand in her direction, pointing her out from amongst the crowd. This is the hand that fashioned Adam from the dust. Now the hands of the creator are directing all eyes to be on her.

Jesus then begins to talk about her. This is the mouth that said, “Let there be light.” And there was light. He spoke creation into existence. Now he speaks about her. Mark has told us that here offering was worth about a penny. The creator recalculates it again. And with his words, he reveals a new equation for everything.

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 12:43-44

Those final six words after the comma are critical to the calculation. “All she had to live on.”

Her offering was so small no one noticed it, but so large that only God could calculate it correctly.

Our Struggle with Giving All

We all appreciate this story. It is simple. The story is admirable. It is beautiful. We read it in much the same way as we would take in a masterful work of art. As much as we appreciate it, we could never do it.

We struggle with it. Give all? We know good and well that is what our Savior is getting at. He is making an example of her. She is now the topic of his teaching. To give all is admirable, but who can afford to give all?

Just in case you doubt Jesus’ expectation there is another story that demonstrates the point in Mark 10. An eager young man approaches Jesus. The Bible describes him as rich and powerful. He is well recognized in his community. He asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Let’s cut to the chase. Jesus answers, “God sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” The Bible says that the man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.

The word “sorrowful” is a perfect description of how this story ultimately makes us feel. What the woman did was wonderful, but it is not practical. And when we realize that this is the standard Jesus raises for us, it give us that disappointed feeling – I think “sorrowful” is the word!

Why So Sorrowful?

But why so sorrowful? Maybe it is the sorrow of losing something you love. There is attachment and detachment. You can’t imagine life without all you have.

Maybe it sorrow born out of fear. If I give all, what will I have left to live on? How do I handle life if I have nothing left? Is Jesus pointing us to homelessness? Are we going to have to go hungry if we are to follow Him?

Maybe it is the sorrow of feeling inadequate. You already worry enough about money. You struggle with generosity. You’re OK with giving if you’ve got it, but ALL? Isn’t ALL a little much?

Giving is good, but I can’t possibly afford ALL.

Calculating All

This story is beautiful but if this is what Jesus is asking of us, it makes us sorrowful. But whatever your response, you can’t ignore one feature of it. Look across the way. There is the creator teaching and talking about her. Here is the one who has told us to make our entire lives about telling people about him, but he is telling us about her.

Furthermore we can’t ignore the most glaring truth of the story. We have no excuse. You and I say we can’t afford all, but somehow she did.

How can we afford to give all? Let’s break down this story and talk about how we can afford all. When it comes to giving, there are three ways we calculate what we can afford.

To be continued in the next post . . .”Because of” Giving

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Think resurrection for a much better body

The Resurrection as a Seed – a better way to think of your body

If you can think of your body as a seed, it will lead to a much better body (well, sort of). In 1 Corinthians 15:36-37, Paul says that in light of the resurrection that we need to think of our bodies like a seed. This is a revolutionary thought. Suddenly we realize that what we look like or feel like is not nearly as important as what we ARE like. Healthy choices help, but we need to be ultimately concerned about what is within us.

In my previous post, I said that if we are to think of our bodies as a seed, then death is not the end of us. When a seed is planted that is the end of it as it is, but that is not the end of it. In the same way, death may be the end of you as you are, but it is certainly not the end of you. If what is within you is resurrected forever, what is your forever going to be?

Once the seed is planted, what else is important about it that helps us understand more the nature of our resurrection?

A Seed is Purposed

In the next part of the passage, Paul explains that our bodies serve a purpose. He does this by pointing to the various kinds of bodies we see in creation. Each one of them is purposed for the existence it enjoys.

“For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.”

I Corinthians 15:39-41
You are Not Fit for Forever

The body you have is fit for life now, but it is not fit for life forever. It does well with air, water, and food. It has senses that connect you to the world around you. If everything is working properly, you see the world, smell it, taste it, hear it, and feel it. This is another reason why making our bodies ultimate leads to misery. If we think this life is all we have we try to get our fill of the sensory experience of this body. We want food, sex, drink, and never-ending amounts of pleasure; but it never satisfies. It is as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 1:

“All things are full of weariness, a man cannot utter it;

the eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear with hearing.”

Ecclesiastes 1:8

The reason for this is that there is something on you (your body) that is fit for life on Earth, but there is something within you (your spirit) that longs for a life that lasts forever. Your flesh works well for the sensory experience of the natural world, but your spirit longs for deeper things. The flesh is satisfied with now. Your spirit is longing for forever.

If you think of a seed, it has a shell or a husk. That shell or husk serves an important purpose. It secures what is within the seed so that it can get into the soil. Once in the soil, that husk is not fit for the next phase of life. The husk is non-essential to an organism that is now going to exist with deep roots below the surface and a stem, branches, leaves, and fruit that longs for the sun above the surface. The seed doesn’t last. Neither will your body.

A Seed is Perishing

Because a seed serves the purpose of getting the DNA of an organism into the soil, it is naturally perishing. The same is true of our bodies. If we are not going to exist like this forever, our bodies are serving an important purpose, but there will come an end of them. Paul describes our bodies as they are with words like perishing, dishonor, weakness, and natural. He describes what we need to become with words like imperishing, glorious, powerful, and spiritual. Something decaying brings forth something amazing!

“So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.”

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Have you ever seen a magnificent tree? I know that statement sounds boring and pedestrian as we see trees all around us. Most of them are merely filler for the scenery throughout our day. But what I mean by a magnificent tree is one that is so old, so large, and so full that you take notice of it. You stop and stare, marveling at the sheer size of it.

What a Tree!

I ride a bicycle for mental release and exercise. There is a tree on one of my bike routes that is truly magnificent. The branches of this tree are as large as most full grown trees. The trunk is so large in diameter that it would take 4-5 full grown adults to wrap their arms around it. I wonder how much of our nation’s history has come and gone with this tree standing where it is?

This tree stands in the Crandall community of NW Georgia.
A Truly Magnificent Tree

As magnificent as this is, there is not one time that I have ever ridden by it and thought, “Wow, I would like to see the acorn that thing came from!” The glory of this tree was not in its seed. The glory of this tree is in the maturity it has reached. The seed has perished so that this tree could reach its purpose.

This being the case, it makes one wonder why we give so much time and attention to fit bodies. We parade them on magazines. We admire them in movies. They’re just seeds man! Have you ever seen anyone flipping through the pages of a seed fitness magazine? Have you ever heard anyone say, “I sure would like a seed like that?”

As much as we put into our bodies, keeping them as they are is not our ultimate purpose. Again, health helps, but our bodies are perishing. There is a reason why that same girl that was on the magazine at 25 is not there at 45. If she is, it is probably with much more clothing. There is a reason why Arnold Schwarzenegger became the Terminator in 1984 and not 2019. One thing is for sure – Arni’s body from 1984 will not be back!

A Seed is Powerful

We can eat right, lose weight, have liposuction and plastic surgery all in hopes of transforming our bodies, but the real transformation takes place after death. The true nature of a seed comes out only after it is planted. The same is true of our bodies. As the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44, what is perishable is raised imperishable. What is sown in dishonor is raised in glory.

And this is the heart of our conversation concerning this passage. What you look like or feel like is not nearly as important as who you are. Your concern for your shape is not nearly as important as concern for your nature. If what’s inside of you is resurrected forever, what is your forever going to be?

How many apples?

I heard a quote one time and I am not certain of its source, but it says, “Any fool can count the number of seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”

This concern of God for what is inside of us is expressed as Samuel seeks to anoint Israel’s next king. Samuel goes to the household of the king as he is told and he is impressed by each of the sons, but none of them would be king. They were tall. Handsome. Stately in appearance but none of them were fit to be king. And then the forgotten son shows up, small, ruddy, dirty from being in the field keeping sheep. It is this one, David, that will be anointed king. And then God explains that men count seeds rather than counting what is within them.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

God is not nearly as concerned about your body as you are. God is concerned about what is in there!

The Seed is Promised

From verses 45-49 the Bible now begins to focus on nature. As far as we know, there are about 60,000 species of trees in the world. When it comes to humans there are only two natures within us; Christ or Adam.

“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”

1 Corinthians 15:45-49

The nature of Adam is man in rebellion against God. It is man deciding that he had rather be god than serve God. The Adam in us is why our mouths had rather curse than bless. It is our rebellious nature that explains why we had rather use our senses to indulge the world than simply connect with it.

Nature Change

We need a nature change. Christ gives us this new nature we need. This is the idea behind what Jesus refers to as being, “born again (John 3).” In Christ we become more like God created us to be and less like the rebels we have become.

Sure, we may need to lose a little weight, but what we really need is a new nature!

An apple seed will only bring forth apple trees. You will NEVER plant an apple seed in your yard and be surprised by watermelons. A seed never betrays its nature.

The Lesson of the Methuselah Tree

In 1963 archeologists uncovered some seeds that dated back to the time of King Herod. These date palm seeds are from the first century, from the time that Jesus lived on earth. At the time of Jesus, these seeds were somewhere on one of Herod’s tables waiting to be planted. But Herod didn’t plant the seeds. In fact, the seeds were not planted until 2005.

Amazingly a date palm seedling broke through the soil and now stands a flowering date palm tree appropriately known as Methuselah. No matter how old it is, a seed never betrays its nature.

When it comes down to it, you know your nature. You know what is within you. If what is within you is resurrected, what will your forever be like?

Two Natures, Two Forevers

There are two natures in this life and there are two versions of eternity in the next one. The nature of Adam resurrected becomes an eternity of torments, separated from God forever in an eternal lake of fire. The nature of Christ resurrected becomes an eternity in a world as God intended it. We live in a world that is right, a new heavens and a new earth. Revelation 20–22 reveals these ends to us.

In the same way that an apple seed will not surprise you with watermelons; you know your nature now – there will be no surprises in the resurrection.

So lose some weight. Eat better. All of that helps, but what about your nature? Working on the seed is one thing, but changing the seed is quite another. Only Christ can redeem us from what we have become in Adam. Repent of sin and turn to Christ today!

You are going to live forever. What will your forever be like?

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new body post by Brian Branam transformation of resurrection

You Need a New Body! The Transformation of Resurrection

How would you define resurrection? In simple terms, I think most people would say that resurrection is a dead person coming back to life with a much better body. By better body, I mean one that is no longer susceptible to disease or death. But have you ever really thought about what that better body might be like? The Bible entertains this question.

“But someone will ask, ‘How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?'”

1 Corinthians 15:35

I would think that any conversation we may have about a better body would interest us. We are infatuated with our bodies. From daytime television to wellness magazines, from Dr. Oz to Men’s Health we tune in to things that promise to help us live longer, happier, healthier lives.

We have great concerns about body image. Hollywood dictates to us what is attractive and what is not. As a result, our nation is home to over 18,000 tanning salons. Shows like The Biggest Loser and America’s Next Top model get high ratings.

It seems the younger we are the greater the struggle with body image. According to an article at badgerherald.com, in 2003 more than 223,000 cosmetic procedures were performed on patients 18 or younger. 90% of college students say they are unhappy with their body.

Why We Hate our Bodies

Why is it that we pay so much attention to our bodies, work so hard on our bodies, have so much information about our bodies, but still seem to be so unhappy with our bodies?

I think it is because we live as if this body is all we’ve got. When you make your body ultimate, you are bound to be miserable. Eventually, you come to grips with the reality that you are fighting a losing battle.

If you play the comparison game with well-figured people, you may follow their workout or drink their drink for a time. But at some point, you realize there is one key ingredient missing from the equation. Their body is not your body. You can drink seaweed with every meal, but you can’t be them.

While healthier choices are helpful, it is futile to try to preserve a body that is bound to decay and destined to die.

Resurrection is radical body transformation! But it will not come through keto or liposuction. If you will grab on to what the Bible says about your body in light of the resurrection, you will think about your body in a much healthier and happier way.

Think Seed

The Bible says that if you really want to understand resurrection, you need to think of yourself as a seed.

And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.

1 Corinthians 15:37-38

If we are to think of our bodies as a seed, then the real concern we should have of our bodies is not what they look like, but what is in them. If what is in you is resurrected to its fullest potential what does that mean you become forever?

Let’s take this idea of thinking about the resurrection and our bodies like a seed and unpack this idea in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.

A Seed Must be PLANTED

“You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or some other grain.”

1 Corinthians 15:36-37

When a seed is planted in the soil, that is the end of it as it is, but that is not the end of it.

Death is not the end of you.

They say, “You only live once.” The Bible says that is not true. The Bible teaches that you will live forever. After you die, you will be resurrected as an eternal version of yourself.

The Bible also teaches that there are only two versions of forever. One is the forever blessedness of those Christ has redeemed in a new Heaven and a new Earth (Rev. 21). This version of forever will be the world as God intended it to be in the beginning. It will be good and life-giving.

The other version of forever is one of punishment as those who were not redeemed by Christ are separated from Him in an eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15). This is a horrible and painful end of unimaginable suffering.

Good Looking, Healthy People Die

If we think of our bodies as a seed to be planted, then we surely can’t think of them as an end. For one, death is an inescapable reality. No matter what you do, you are going to die. No one survives life. Very good looking, extremely healthy people die.

The world’s greatest athletes all die. Robert Atkins, the inventor of the wildly popular low-carb Atkins diet, is dead.

Have you ever done Pilates? Joseph Pilates died of emphysema from smoking cigars at the age of 83. He was very flexible when he died.

Being healthy helps, but it is not going to save you. At some point, we have to realize that the question is not how we look or even how we feel. The question we should be asking is what is within us? That’s always the question of a seed – not its color, its size, or its texture. The question of a seed is of what is inside of it?

Perhaps instead of so much working out, we need to spend some time working in.

If what is inside of you is resurrected forever, what is your forever going to be?

It is not true that you only live once. What is true is that you only get one shot to make sure what is in the seed is what needs to be in the seed. And this is not a question of fitness, but of nature. This we will discuss in tomorrow’s post.

To be continued in the next post.. Think Resurrection for a Much Better Body.

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