We All Come from Someone, Some Place, and Some Thing

These All Contribute to Who We Are

We are continuing through the Roots Advent study this week.

Last week was about the “someone”. We discussed Jesus’ family and the imperfect people that were a part of His family. It showed us that neither us nor our family have to be perfect to be used by God.

This week we look at the “some place”.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem. A small, insignificant, out of the way place. But this small, insignificant, out of the way town is probably the most well-known town in the world.

This small, insignificant, out of the way town, in reality, is the biggest, most significant town. It is, after all, the place where Jesus, the Savior of the world, was born.

What’s really amazing is that it is so much more than just where Jesus was born.

For being a small, out of the way place, Bethlehem had a lot going on. Jacob’s wife, Rachel, is buried near Bethlehem. (Genesis 35:16-20)

The book of Ruth is a small book in the Bible, just four chapters, but there’s a big story in this small book.

Ruth was a Moabite woman who married an Israelite, Mahlon. After the death of all the male members of her family (her husband, her father-in-law, and her brother-in-law), she decides to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law, and move back to Bethlehem. (Ruth 1:1-2)

This is where Ruth wins the love and protection of Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi. Ruth is the great-grandmother of David. She is one of five women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus found in the Matthew, (Matthew 1:1-16) alongside Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba, and Mary.  

Ruth’s seemingly small decision to be loyal to her mother-in-law and move with her back to the small town of Bethlehem had a big impact.

The world’s focus is on big, powerful, and popular. The world looks at the outside, but God looks at the inside.

Three things that Bethlehem show us are…

  • God works through the small – The little town of Bethlehem had a big impact. Jesus, a small baby was born there.
  • God works through the powerless – Bethlehem was powerless in the governmental landscape. Jesus as a baby was powerless. He needed to be taken care of.
  • God works through the hidden – Bethlehem was an out of the mainstream, ordinary place. Jesus was born, hidden away there.

It’s easy to get sucked into the worldly perception of what our lives, businesses, organizations, and churches are supposed to be like, through the bombardment of social media, internet, television, etc. Don’t be sucked into the worldly focus.

God can do amazing things with the small, powerless, and hidden.

Let God do amazing things through the small, powerless, and hidden.

Let God do amazing things through you.

We Don’t Have to be Perfect to be Used by God

Even the People in Jesus’ Family Weren’t Perfect

When we think about Christmas, we often think about memories with our family…some good and some maybe not so much. Regardless of your memories, family is a part of who we are. Who our family is shouldn’t determine the decisions we make. We have control over our choices.

As we continue through the Advent study of the family story of Jesus and His roots, we come to the story of Jacob . Jacob is a part of Jesus’ family and a good example of not being perfect.

Let’s take a look at Jacob’s part in the family of Jesus.

Jacob’s strong will started early, while he was still in his mother’s womb. (Genesis 25:22-26) He and his brother Esau were at odds from that point on, and it continued for years.

Jacob cheated his older brother out of his inheritance by trading a bowl of stew for his birthright. (Genesis 25:27-34) Then, Jacob lies to his father to close the deal. (Genesis 27:1-29) This certainly doesn’t sound anything at all like a perfect family.

On top of this, Jacob’s mother Rebekah instigated and helped orchestrate the whole deal. (Genesis 27:5-17) This family sounds like it’s a long way from perfect.

Afterwards, Esau is furious with his brother and vowed to kill him. Rebekah became aware of what Esau was planning and sent Jacob away to her brother Laban’s. (Genesis 27:41-45)

As Jacob was on his way to Laban’s, he spent a night near Bethel where he had a dream about a stairway going up to heaven.

Suddenly the Lord was standing on it and saying, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will become like the dust of the earth; you will spread out to the west, east, north, and south. Every family of earth will be blessed because of you and your descendants. I am with you now, I will protect you everywhere you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done everything that I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15)

This was a changing point in Jacob’s life.

Now the tables get turned and Jacob has to reap some of what he has sown.

He meets Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and falls in love with her. Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven years in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage. Then Laban pulls a fast one on Jacob and switches Leah, the other sister, for Rachel. Jacob then has to work another seven years for Rachel. (Genesis 29: 16-30)

After working for Laban for years, Jacob decides to go back home. He’s concerned about Esau and the threat he had made to kill him, so he sent messengers ahead to offer Esau some compensation for stealing his birthright.

The messengers came back telling Jacob that Esau was sending four hundred men. Now Jacob is convinced that Esau is going to follow through on his threat. Then Jacob prayed. (Genesis 32:1-12)

Jacob got up during the night and decided to take his wives, servants, sons, and everything he owns across the river. Then he goes away to be by himself.

While he’s alone, he wrestles with a man until dawn. When the man determined that he couldn’t defeat Jacob, he grabbed Jacob’s leg and threw his hip out of joint. They continued to wrestle until the man said, “Let go of me! It’s almost daylight.”

Jacob held on until the man blessed him. The man told Jacob, “From now on, your name will no longer be Jacob. You will be called Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with men, and you have won.” But Jacob was left with a limp that reminded him of his struggle. (Genesis 32:22-32)

We’ve all wrestled with God about different things and have been left with our own limps.

Jacob was just one of the imperfect members of Jesus’ family. We are all imperfect and come from families that are imperfect. No one other than Jesus is perfect.

If we aren’t careful, we can get hung up on our imperfections and convince ourselves that God can’t use us. He can and will use us if we let Him.

Just like God used the imperfect Jacob to do great things. He will do the same for you and me. It’s up to us to let Him.

Our Family Trees Start at the Roots

And Some of the Branches May Not Be the Best

Every one of us has a family and every family has a story. Each of these stories is different. Some are comedies, some are fairy tales, some are mysteries, some are fantasies, and some are horror stories.

I’m fortunate to have an amazing family. Is isn’t perfect…no, but none are.

We all have memories of family…both good and bad. We are a combination of who God made us to be and our life experiences.

No matter what our family story is, we have the power to write our own chapter.

We all come from someone, somewhere, and something…a people, a place, and a story. So does Jesus.

Currently we are going through an Advent study, Roots: Advent and the Family Story of Jesus at church. Pastor Lisa’s message on Sunday was tied to the study.

The heart and mission of Jesus is better understood by exploring the roots that grew into Jesus’s life. The roots of Jesus are his family tree and its characters, the land of Israel – its towns and terrain, and the incredible faith-story of God’s covenant people, the Jews.

In Roots: Advent and the Family Story of Jesus, there is the rediscovery that Jesus — born naturally of a mother from a family line herself, and nurtured by a father who knew the names of his family many generations into the past (Matthew 1:1–17) — comes from the family vine of the great King David, the son of Jesse, and from a long line of faithful men and women.

Both Jesus’ genealogical ancestry and His faith heritage take us on a journey through the stories of saints and sinners woven into the family line of the Son of God.

Yes, you read that right, there were both saints and sinners in Jesus’ family tree.

Just because our family trees have some bad branches doesn’t mean that we must be bad. We can choose what kind of branch we will be.

In Matthew 1:6, we see that Jesse was the father of David the king of the Jews. In Isaiah 11:1-3, we read that a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse.

Have you ever seen a live tree cut down and just the stump is left? If you have then you know how new trees can sprout up from that stump. Often many more than just one tree. This growing and spreading of trees is the same in families.

The importance of family is evident with the popularity of people searching for their family ancestry. This desire to know who and where we come from is a part of who we are.

A tree is a great way to represent the growing and spreading of families with the relationships through a tree and branches.

If we go back far enough in our family tree, we will end up at the beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There were times throughout history when the tree was cut down and sprouted again.

We need to celebrate our history and grow into the branch that we were meant to be.

We All Need Grace, and Getting It Comes Down to a Choice

This Is True for All Life’s Important Decisions

Our whole life is made up of decisions. It’s up to us to make the right choices.

Too often we don’t.

Sometimes it’s because our life situation is all we’ve ever known.

This was the case for Johnny Lee Clary. He grew up in a family full of hate and fear. His family was racist and full of aggression.

“There was a lot of alcoholism in our home and fighting all the time. My mother was constantly cheating on my father. My mother drove my father into bankruptcy, and then my father was faced with losing everything he had worked hard for.

I watched my father, one night, take a pistol and put it to his head and blow his brains out.”

Johnny was only 11 years old when his father died. Immediately after the funeral, his mother put him on a bus and sent me out to California to go live with his sister.

“That just made me hate that much more. So, I was hating everyone. At 14 years old, I felt like committing suicide myself.  I was thinking seriously about ending my life so I could go be with my dad.”

Then he saw David Duke, head of the Ku Lux Klan on television telling everybody that the White people needed to stick together. This made him feel some kind of a weird connection to his dad.

Johnny wrote Duke a letter telling him his life story. Before long, there was a knock on the door.

“I opened up the door, he shook my hand and said, ‘I’m a friend of David Duke’s.  We’re here to protect you, son.  What you need is a family.’”

The Klansmen taught Johnny the ways of the KKK. When he was 18, he returned to Oklahoma to start his own Klan chapter. Eventually he rose to the rank of Imperial Wizard, the Klan’s top leadership position.

“I finally felt like I’d found something that I could amount to in life.

The FBI opened an investigation on Johnny. He knew it was just a matter of time before he was going to end up getting arrested.

Johnny decided his only shot of staying out of prison was to step down as Imperial Wizard. But when he did, the Klan turned on him, fearing that he was an FBI informant.

Once again, he became a person without any friends. He started drinking, and the fear and hate consumed him.

“I thought of my daddy and I thought Daddy had the right idea. I sat down and was looking at the gun and there was a Bible sitting there. I thought that there is no possible way that the good Lord can forgive somebody like me, because I had been so full of hate. I had all the violence and lived such a bad life.”

He flipped open the Bible and it opened to Luke 15, the story of the prodigal son.

Johnny read Jesus’ parable of the young man who demanded his inheritance from his father, then squandered it all. He returned home to the father remorseful. His father did not chastise him, instead he celebrated his return.

“I finally got on my knees and said, ‘God, my life is screwed up.  God, I’m in a mess.  I need Your help.’”

He went to a nearby church. What he saw there amazed him: Blacks and Whites sitting together.  This moved Johnny’s heart, and at the end of the service, he gave his life to Christ.

“I felt like a new person, brand new creation.  I felt like I had had a weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Johnny wanted to share this with others but didn’t know how to get started, so he called on the Rev. Wade Watts, Minister of an African-American church that the Klan harassed.

“The Klan had set fire to his church and did everything under the sun to harass this man. I remember he debated me at a radio station one time. He looked right at me, and he goes, ‘You can’t do enough to me to make me hate you.  I’m going to love you. I’m going to pray for you whether you like it or not.’”

Johnny went to Rev. Wade Watts and they became good friends.

Johnny learned how to love and live in unity with all people.

“Not only has He given me a good wife to stand by my side, but He’s given me good friends. He’s given me a good life here on earth.  He’s given me hope, gave me the gift of love. Taught me what love’s all about. Isn’t that what God is? 

God is love. 

I’m not that mixed up kid looking for a family anymore.  I’ve got a family. I’ve got a relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

More of Johnny’s story

Most of our have not experienced or done the things that Johnny did, but we all need grace. If he can receive it, so can you.

Receiving grace is a choice and available to anyone who asks for it.

It’s Important to be Intentional and Choose Your Situations Wisely

It’s Amazing…He Looks Just Like You

Pastor Lee shared a story this week about a missionary couple that had small children. When the couple left for a short overseas mission trip, they left the children with family. While in this foreign country war broke out and the couple was unable to get home…for eight years. When they came home the oldest son, now a young man, met them at the train station. After the mother hugged her son, she stepped back, looked at him and said, “He looks just like you.”

We’ve all experienced the resemblance of families. This is something much more than just DNA. This includes the habits, actions, expressions, mannerisms, etc. of those we spend the most time with.

You will become what you surround yourself with.

You will become what you read, what you listen to, what you watch. You will speak the language, wear the clothes, develop the habits and live the lifestyle of those you hang out with. If you associate with chickens, you will scratch the ground squabbling over crumbs. If you associate with eagles you will learn to soar to great heights. (2nd Decision I will seek wisdom, from The Travelers Gift by Andy Andrews)

This is why it’s critically important to make your choices wisely.

 A missionary in Africa tells a story about woman that faithfully came to church. Each time she came her dog came with her. She would set at the end of the same row each week and the dog sat beside her in the isle. Then at the end of service the dog followed her to the altar where she knelt and prayed.

This women’s husband was mean and abusive to her. Then in one of his abusive episodes he killed her. Because they lived in a small village there was no repercussions for his actions. He and the dog just continued like nothing had changed.

One day the husband noticed that the dog was leaving and gone for a couple of hours at the same time each week. After a while he became curious and followed the dog.

The dog was going to the church service and setting at the same place it always had and then going to the altar. The people of the church knew what the man had done and even so, they still welcomed him in Christian love.

The man was so moved that he repented of his sins and accepted Jesus into his life.

When we hear the Good News about God saving us and believe in the message of Christ, God puts His special mark on us. This mark being the Holy Spirit. Then we can enjoy the complete freedom that comes from belonging to Him. (Ephesians 1:3-14)

God can do amazing things if we will trust Him and obey His instructions. Just like in the song, Trust and Obey, there’s no other way. This is how we can be happy and enjoy the favor that He gives.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we will be like Him.

Suffering Has Always Been a Part of Life

What Are You Going to Do About It?

Suffering and perspective have been a common theme over the past several weeks. It started with the importance of making every day a day of thanksgiving. There’s no question that there’s suffering in the world. It’s been this way since Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden.

Looking back through history at things people have had to endure is easy to read or talk about, but we can’t really compare our current situations to those. We haven’t had to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years with no place to call home. Or be imprisoned in a concentration camp because of our religion. Or lived in a sod house without any electricity, water, central HVAC, and not being able to go to the store to get food.

Sure, there are things every day that are difficult, but we’ve become spoiled!

Doug Miller presented the message Sunday in Pastor Lee’s absence. The point of his message was one of hope, support, and perspective. If anyone can speak to suffering, it’s the Miller family. They dealt with the death of both a mother and a daughter within a week in December. You can see the heart felt message here.

Of course, we want a world without suffering but that’s not going to happen. Doug pointed out that they’re doing okay because of being supported by family, friends, and prayer.

Support of family and friends is critical to well-being.

They found blessings in part because they were looking for them. Looking for this support started long ago being raised in the family and church that they were. All along the way decisions were being made that lead to this place. The decisions we make today will have consequences in the future.

Choose your friends well. Life is hard, but it’s harder if you try to go it alone.

This also means that we need to be willing to be good friends, because there’s always a need for good friends. You can choose your friends. You can choose to be a friend. You can choose how you will deal with life’s difficulties.

You can choose!

If I Scratch in the Dirt with Chickens, Crumbs Is All I’ll Get





Hanging Out with Eagles Helps Me Soar to Greater Heights


Last week I wrote about the importance of a loving church family from Pastor Lee’s message last Sunday. This week’s conclusion of the faith sharing series included sharing of personal stories.

From these stories there were struggles shared, faith expressed and confirmation of the importance of a loving church.

Tears were shed and bonds were strengthened. In the sharing, both last week and this, the one thing that was evident was the importance of being surrounded by the love and support of others.

Those with whom we choose to associate with directly affect who we’ll become, either good or bad. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Your friends are a statement of who you are choosing to become. 

Choose to hang out with eagles.


It’s evident that we are influenced by who we choose to associate with, on the other side, we influence others who associate with us. We have been called by Jesus to be salt and light to the world. We need to be lifting others up and helping them to soar higher.


Choose to be an eagle to others.

Influence is both powerful and gradual. Everything is always changing, either toward good or bad. What’s important is that we are intentional about the influences in our lives and choose the good.

We can choose to scratch in the dirt with chickens or we can fly with the eagles. It’s up to you which you choose, but you were made to fly.