Eternally Lost

The Bible speaks of an awful, coming judgment. Every prophecy of judgment in the Bible climaxes in a terrifying paragraph in Revelation 20:11-15. This vivid scene of the Great White Throne Judgment is not shared to inform us, but to warn us. The language of this text invites us to stand in the scene and see it for ourselves.

In contrast to this awful judgment is an inspiring scene of triumphant salvation shared in Revelation 21. Every reader has a choice to make before it is too late.

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Past Posts:

How to love your family when they become your enemy.

How pornography short-circuits intimacy.

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3D Parenting – D3 Demonstrate

You can seek to develop your child. You can even discipline your child. But you will only mislead your child if you do not demonstrate the values and beliefs you are seeking to instill in your child. A parent must be believable. Make no mistake, your children hear you, but they also watch you. And it is amazing how they replicate what you demonstrate.

My Daddy is Going to Kick Your Dog in the Teeth

One Mother’s Day the girls and I had set up the perfect picnic for their mother. We had just finished up at church. I felt I had preached a solid “A” sermon before a large crowd of mommas and I was now working the plan to honor the mother of my children. The plan included fried chicken, and a nice picnic spread beside a creek at a nearby park.

There were lots of other people in the park also enjoying a great Mother’s Day. All was well. Enter the dog!

Apparently, on this Mother’s Day a young athletic, 20-something-year-old man had decided not to bring his mother to the park, or any female, or any person for that matter. His great idea was to bring his dog to Mother’s Day in the park. He pulled up and parked about 100 yards away from us, but on the other side of the creek from where we were set up. As soon as he opened his car door a large brown Lab came springing out of the vehicle and made clear his intentions. He was going for a swim.

“Splash!” About 75 yards up the creek from where we were having our picnic, the dog hit the water. While the dog found the creek, his owner found a stick. Dog + Stick + Creek = an amazing show. The more the man threw the stick into the water the more the dog loved it and would retrieve it, greatly anticipating another throw into the water so he could do it again and again. The longer this continued 1) more and more people gathered to watch the dog and 2) the closer and closer dog-man brought the show to us.

At the time my girls were small and they were not big fans of dogs. They were getting a little nervous. But most importantly, my wife REALLY disliked dogs. I could tell that my girls and their wonderful mother were doing less chicken eating and more nervous dog watching as the dog show approached.

So, wanting to be a big strong dad and husband, I had a John Wayne moment. “Girls, I am not going to let that dog hurt you. If it comes near us, I will kick it in the teeth.”

Not 30 seconds later Mr. Dog Show threw the stick straight at us and you can now see the scene unfolding in your mind. “Splash!” Here comes Sparky the wonder dog. My girls immediately got up ready to run. Shannon shuttered back, very nervous of the approaching dog. The owner realized what he had done. He had interrupted what had become an almost postcard type scene of a preacher and his family, in their Sunday best, sitting beside a creek eating fried chicken for Mother’s Day.

“I am SO sorry!”, Mr. Dog Show yelled from the other creek bank. Now all eyes were on us. There were probably some people gathered into this scene who were guests at our church that day who had heard my solid “A” sermon. At that moment, it seemed as if all of nature stopped and the world grew silent and still, awaiting my reply to Mr. Dog Show.

On cue, my three-year-old daughter Kiley stood up in her beautiful Mother’s Day dress with a chicken leg in her hand and announced to Mr. Dog Show and all of his fans, “My daddy is going to kick your dog in the teeth!”

You are not raising a child. You are raising a recorder! Your children repeat you! They watch you. Parenting involves development and discipline. But with parenting also comes the pressure to demonstrate. You must be believable.

Parenting is Modeling

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is commonly referred to as Shema. Shema is the Hebrew word translated “to hear.” These verses are recited daily by devote Jews and remind them of the singularity of God and their allegiance to Him and Him alone.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

While these verses are doctrinal, the following verses are practical. How do you pass this on to your children? How do you demonstrate that you are truly singularly devoted to God and that you love him with your all?

And these words I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes a home with a steady stream of discipleship and Biblical teaching. Notice that this home doesn’t have “Bible time.” What they believe is all of the time. This IS them. They walk it. They talk it. It forms their day. A Bible is not something they have, it is something they live.

I am a pastor. What I am about to say is going to be a shock for some and it is not for all. You may do it differently than I do it, but we’ve NEVER had a consistent, regimented, family devotional time in our home. Do we encourage and practice private devotion? Yes. Have we tried a dedicated family devotional time? Yes. Did we fail miserably? Yes! And when I mean fail, I mean crash and burn, call 911, epic fail! My kids hated it every time we tried it.

But what I can tell you is that we pray together. We talk about the Lord. We do doctrinal teaching. We exhibit devotion. But it is all a part of our daily conversation. For Shannon and I, Christianity is not something we mandate, it is something we model. We talk with them about the Lord and we let them watch us.

We let them watch us fail. We ask them for forgiveness. We pray for them and with them. We struggle with the Lord’s will before them. We celebrate the Lord’s goodness when it is evident. We seek the Lord’s direction in decisions. We make our girls a part of the ongoing conversation we are having about and with the Lord.

What makes a Christian home is not that you have a Bible. It is not even that you have a Bible time. A Christian home is a home of discipleship and modeling. It is a place in which Scripture is not mandated, but demonstrated.

So, Did I Kick the Dog?

I didn’t kick the dog, but Kiley let everyone in the park including the dog’s owner know what I said. While that story is funny, it reminded me. She repeated nothing I said in the sermon that day, but she repeated perfectly what I said to her. What I said to the congregation wasn’t nearly as important to her as what she sees from me and hears from me with my family. She probably won’t remember 5 of my sermons. She will remember EVERYTHING about me being her dad – good and bad.

The transfer of your faith from you to your children will not be possible if you are not believable. You are raising a mini-recorder! Give them great content to remember!

Here’s a great article on the power of a dad being a role model for his daughter.

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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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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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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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