dysfunction (3)

And You Think YOU Have a Crazy Family Tree?

Father’s Day is a special time for families—but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy time. Like any holiday, Father’s Day can either be pleasant or painful, magical or mayhem. It’s a great opportunity to reflect on the heritage you’re leaving as a parent or grandparent, but that can be a cause for either celebration or concern.

Picture the family line of a good friend of mine. If the whole gang could somehow be brought together for a family reunion, I can only imagine the sparks that would fly.

  • One of my friend’s female ancestors slept with her father-in-law and bore him twin boys.
  • Another member of the family tree was a prostitute, known for being a very convincing liar.
  • The family line included someone from a despised ethnic group that had its origins in incest between a father and daughter.
  • Two ancestors were involved in an adulterous relationship, and the man ultimately killed his lover’s husband to keep the affair from being discovered.
  • Several ancestors had multiple wives, and others were known for worshiping idols.

And you think you have some crazies in your family lineage?! The good news is that God is able to redeem terrible situations like these and transform them with His amazing grace.

How do I know? Because the Friend I’m referring to is Jesus.

Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 reveals all of the sinful and dysfunctional ancestors I’ve described, and yet this was the human lineage of the Son of God. Instead of being able to boast of a spotless family lineage, the Bible describes our spotless Lord and Savior as “a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2).

So what does this mean for you and me? Several things:

  1. Experiencing and extending God’s grace. You need to experience God’s grace and then extend it to your imperfect, dysfunctional family members—just as you’re hopeful they will offer grace to cover your If the twisted members of Jesus’ family tree could find grace enough to become a part of His royal lineage, then surely there’s hope for your weird relatives as well.
  2. No more blame-shifting. It’s time to quit blaming others and making excuses for our past. Sure, your family upbringing may have been a mess. But God stands ready to turn your MESS into your MESSAGE—if you’ll let Him. Through divine intervention, your family tree can undergo a new beginning today. You don’t have to fall into the same old sins and strongholds of your earthly heritage, because you’ve been redeemed from the futile way of life inherited from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). In Christ, you’re a new creation, no matter who your earthly ancestors were (2 Corinthians 5:17).
  3. Facing the facts. If I were writing the book of Matthew, I would have been tempted to doctor the records and “sanitize” Jesus’ family tree. Couldn’t Matthew have just listed all the success stories and none of the embarrassments of Jesus’ ancestors? Yet the beauty of the gospel is that it transforms sinners—people like you and me. If people were already perfect, they wouldn’t need to be transformed. So the next time you wish you could erase some names from your family tree, think again. Face the truth, and let it set you free (John 8:32).

During this special holiday, perhaps you’ll experience some regrets or face some things that deserve repentance. Yet as you allow God’s grace and mercy to fill your heart, you will be able to see your heritage in a new light, celebrating your family lineage more wholeheartedly than ever before.

Armed with this new grace-inspired vision, I pray the Lord will use you to bring hope and healing to those around you who need it most.

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Avoiding Overdrawn Relationship Accounts

Many decades ago, I discovered the reality of Jesus’ teaching that it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). So I became a giver, and I’ve received many blessings as a result.

But, as with most truths, there’s another side to this principle: Healthy relationships are reciprocal. When one person in the relationship does all the giving and the other does all the taking, the bond inevitably becomes twisted and toxic.

Sadly, I’ve been rather slow in learning this. Giving has always been a natural part of who I am, but receiving is much more difficult for me. I don’t like asking people for their help, even when I need it. And the thought of being a burden to someone else is horrifying.

So, when I give, I seldom expect anything in return. Based on Jesus’ words in Luke 6:34-35, I’ve always thought this was the godly way to relate to people. But once again, I’ve often missed another important component of the relationship equation. Too often, I’ve been willing to continually give and give, while the other person received and received. Although this made me feel good at first, it was a prescription for codependency, certainly not a healthy relationship.

The apostle Paul seemed to face this kind of situation with the Corinthian church. He had poured his life into them and opened his heart wide. While this kind of imbalance was fine in their infancy, he said it was now time for them to grow up and open their hearts to him as well (2 Corinthians 6:11-13).

Monitoring Your Account

If we don’t ever monitor our checking account, we run the risk of overdrawing it from time to time. Our relationships need to be monitored and assessed in much the same way.

I’ve found that when our emotional bank account is full and overflowing, it’s very easy to be a giver. But if the other person never puts anything back into the relational bank account, we eventually discover that the account is empty or even overdrawn.

Have you ever experienced this? If you’re a chronic giver like me, I’m sure you have. And then you find yourself resenting the very people you joyfully gave your life to for so long.

If you are willing to do all the giving, you’ll have no trouble finding people willing to do all the taking. Even with that imbalance, everything is likely to seem fine until the relational bank account finally runs dry.

This is a hard lesson, but you’re not doing people any favor if you allow them to become a leech instead of a healthy contributor to the relationship. They may not be able to contribute as much as you do, and that’s okay. But they need to contribute something.

Making Changes

Recently I’ve had to say “NO” to several people who wanted to make a withdrawal from my emotional bank account. Why? Because, over the course of time, they had never put anything into the account.

When people face times of crisis, it’s natural to want to help them. But what about a situation where someone always seems to be in crisis mode? And how should you respond those who never make any deposit into your account even when times are good for them? It may seem harsh, but sometimes the imbalance is so great that the wisest thing to do is to shut the door on the relationship altogether.

In contrast, I’ve found that it’s always a great joy to give to those who’ve taken time to make a deposit of some kind into my life. Whatever they need, I’m happy to give it if I can.

So I hope you’ve discovered the joy in being a giver. But I also hope you’ve learned to develop healthy, reciprocal relationships, where both of you are putting something into the account.

If, like me, your relationships have often been off-balanced, perhaps it’s time for some frank discussions with your friends and family members. Don’t wait until the account is totally overdrawn to request some changes.

One More Thing…

Even as we learn the importance of cultivating reciprocal relationships, where both parties make contributions into the account, there’s another vital principle we must never forget: The ultimate source of love is God Himself, not any human relationship.

“Let us love one another,” we’re told in 1 John 4:7, “for love comes from God.” If we look to any other source, we’re certain to face disappointment.

You see, we’re much more likely to be hurt by our human relationships when we allow our love relationship with the Lord to run dry. When His love is overflowing in our lives (Psalm 23:5), we’re far less likely to be offended by the failure of people to make deposits into our emotional account. That doesn’t let them off the hook, but it means we can abide in God’s peace and joy even when people let us down.  

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You & Me and Our Crazy Family Tree

Christmas is a special time for families—but that doesn’t mean it’s always an easy time. Gathering with relatives over the holidays can either be pleasant or painful, magical or mayhem. While you have great anticipation in seeing some of your loved ones, other members of your family tree may make you cringe.

Picture the family line of a good friend of mine. If the whole gang could somehow be brought together for a family reunion, I can only imagine the sparks that would fly.

  • One of my friend’s female ancestors slept with her father-in-law and bore him twin boys.
  • Another member of the family tree was a prostitute, known for being a very convincing liar.
  • The family line included someone from a despised ethnic group that had its origins in incest between a father and daughter.
  • Two ancestors were involved in an adulterous relationship, and the man ultimately killed his lover’s husband to keep the affair from being discovered.
  • Several ancestors had multiple wives, and others were known for worshiping idols.

And you think you have some crazies in your family lineage?! The good news is that God is able to redeem terrible situations like these and transform them with His amazing grace.

How do I know? Because the Friend I’m referring to is Jesus.

Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1 reveals all of the sinful and dysfunctional ancestors I’ve described, and yet this was the human lineage of the Son of God. Instead of being able to boast of a spotless family lineage, the Bible describes our spotless Lord and Savior as “a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2).

So what does this mean for you and me? Several things:

     Experiencing and extending God’s grace. We need to experience God’s grace and then extend it to our imperfect, dysfunctional family members—just as we’re hopeful they will offer grace to cover our imperfections. If the twisted members of Jesus’ family tree could find grace enough to become a part of His royal lineage, then surely there’s hope for our weird relatives as well.

     No more blame-shifting. It’s time to quit blaming others and making excuses for our past. Sure, your family upbringing may have been a mess. But God stands ready to turn your MESS into your MESSAGE—if you’ll let Him. Through divine intervention, your family tree can undergo a new beginning today. You don’t have to fall into the same old sins and strongholds of your earthly heritage, because you’ve been redeemed from the futile way of life inherited from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18). In Christ, you’re a new creation, no matter who your earthly ancestors were (2 Corinthians 5:17).

     Facing the facts. If I were writing the book of Matthew, I would have been tempted to doctor the records and “sanitize” Jesus’ family tree. Couldn’t Matthew have just listed all the success stories and none of the embarrassments of Jesus’ ancestors? Yet the beauty of the gospel is that it transforms sinners—people like you and me. If people were already perfect, they wouldn’t need to be transformed. So the next time you wish you could erase some names from your family tree, think again. Face the truth, and let it set you free (John 8:32).

As God’s grace and mercy fill your heart this Christmas, I pray you will enjoy your family members and your heritage more than ever before. May the Lord use you to bring hope and healing to those who need it most.

Read more…