Journey of an Elder Brother Day Fifteen

John Baptist by MeltonJohn the Baptist was an only child. His parents were very old when he was born, and he may have been orphaned at an early age. We don’t know much about John except he was STRANGE! Funny clothes, funny food, he was an outcast in hygiene conscious Israel. There was something about his message though. Crowds from all over Israel came to hear this strange looking man speak. His message was harsh, demanding, Holy. People responded, and those that responded with insincerity he rebuked. He feared not what man could do to him. He was focused on the Word from God. He was a prophet of God. He had a job to do.

Jesus-Baptized-09Anyone looking at John knew instantly that he was the Elder Brother Type. Hard, demanding, disciplined, driven, purposeful. His task was to prepare the way for one mightier than he – the Messiah. It was a task only an Elder Brother could do. John threw his heart and soul into his task. Then, one day, he saw this one whom he had been preaching about. At first he refused to baptize Jesus, but the Messiah insisted, and John obeyed.

Such an honor for an Elder Brother. They enjoy being in the limelight. They enjoy accomplishing their mission. They hate the thought of failure. Such thoughts were on John’s mind later on, after the lights had faded, and he found himself in prison. There was no fanfare now, no admiring crowds. John the Elder Brother was at the end of his mission, his life, yet he had not seen the Messiah come forth with power as he had presumed.

John_the_Baptist003The doubts were eating at John. He considered himself a failure. This was not how it was supposed to end. He imagined the Stellar Rise of the Messiah, with the crowds hoisting John on their shoulders as they sang his praises for preparing the way. Yet no Messiah came forth, the crowds were off following others. He was imprisoned, forgotten.

Word came to our brooding Elder Brother about Jesus of Nazareth and the amazing things He was doing. John the Elder Brother was anxious to know if he had done his task well, to hear encouraging words, perhaps even a thank you. Scriptures record:

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:2-6

Jesus refused to answer John directly, but closed his remarks with “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me!” What kind of answer is that? This doesn’t sound like a very loving Savior! This is no way to treat the one who prepared the way for you!

Jesus blessed are youJohn’s response is not recorded, but if you understand Elder Brother’s, you know how he responded. Elder Brother’s love accomplishment, and through His message Jesus revealed to John that his mission had truly been accomplished. His disciples delivered this word from Jesus and expected Johnt to be upset, but John just laid back down and started laughing. Jesus had just reminded him of something he had said in the wilderness, when his disciples asked him about Jesus baptizing at the same time as John.

In John 3:30, John had said “He must increase, and I must decrease!” In one swift blow Jesus had assured John and had thanked him as well! John had let the Elder Brother in him get the best of him. He had started to get offended because things weren’t going as John had thought they should. Jesus reminded John that He is Lord! And John is blessed when he doesn’t get offended at what the Lord is doing!

Wow! This is a lesson that EVERY Elder Brother must learn. Elder Brothers like things under control, according to their plan. But Jesus wants us to learn that He must be in charge, His plan is what is important, and we will be blessed if we realize He is Lord!

john-the-baptist-imprisonedFor a moment, John the Baptist was being the Elder Brother, and focusing on his situation and what he supposed was or wasn’t going according to schedule. He was frustrated, depressed, concerned, even bewildered. Elder Brothers will get that way because we are so intent on getting our way and accomplishing our tasks.

BUT JESUS!

Elder Brothers, look to Jesus, and surrender what you want to Him! And then DO NOT GET OFFENDED when He does things differently than what you want! Jesus must increase, and we must decrease!

Father: Everything I want to accomplish today I surrender to you, Father! Your will and purpose are supreme! May I not get upset or offended when things do not go my way! Keep everything going YOUR WAY!

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Journey of an Elder Brother Day Fourteen

cainThe first Elder Brother mentioned in the Bible was Cain. Cain provides a picture of typical  Elder Brothers. They tend to be hands on. They are not dreamers watching the flock, but have to get their hands dirty at whatever they are doing. They just have to stay busy. Elder Brothers are stubborn. They think their way is best and do not take criticism well. Elder brothers are proud of their accomplishments. They resent it when someone questions what they have done, or implies that it isn’t very good (they REALLY resent back seat drivers). Elder Brothers are not very generous. They tend to count pennies. Elder Brothers also allow their passions to get the best of them, and often get angry. Sure, they usually justify and even deny their anger, but they get angry nonetheless.

Cain Kills AbleSuch was Cain, a hard worker, stubborn, proud, stingy and given to anger. He didn’t see himself that way, until God confronted him. Then he saw himself as the sinful man that he was. How did God deal with him? He struck him where it would hurt the most:

No longer will the ground yield good crops for you, no matter how hard you work! From now on you will be a homeless wanderer on the earth.” Genesis 4:12

He struck him at his pride of accomplishment, that which the Elder Brother values above everything else. Elder Brothers love to be seen as accomplished, successful, worth something. Cain would no longer have good crops, he would no longer have easy success, he would no longer have a nice home to invite people to. He would forever be a wanderer.

Cain protested that this was too much to bear, that people would try to kill him. So God put a mark on Cain, to serve as a warning of judgment to anyone who killed him.

Cain - Unicorn ManHave you ever wondered what that mark was? I have. The Jewish Rabbi’s have some wild theories about the mark. The one I like best is from Rabbi Joseph who says it was a long horn growing out of his head! Picture Hellboy with only one horn.

As an Elder Brother who has experienced the DISCIPLINING Hand of God, I think I know. Whatever this mark looked like, it showed Cain’s BROKENNESS. Elder Brothers can only experience a relationship with the Father if they have been truly broken. How do I know Cain was broken? He named his first born son Enoch or Chanoch which signifies “instructed, dedicated, or initiated, especially in sacred things.” It may be considered some proof of Cain’s repentance, that he appears to have dedicated this son to God (Adam Clarke)

Cain could no longer have anything he might boast in, that his hands had made or grown. But he did have a son. Instead of boasting in his son, Broken Cain dedicated him to God. This is what brokenness will produce, and what Elder Brothers must experience if they are to know the Father’s heart. They must realize that nothing they have or have done is worth anything unless they give it to God! The Father is the source of ALL BLESSINGS, and a broken Elder Brother will know that, and give thanks!

Father: Reveal those things in my life that I am proud of, and that I am holding onto as MY accomplishment. Allow me to let go, and give them to you. May I share in the brokennes of your Son, my True Elder Brother.


Journey of an Elder Brother Day Thirteen

Younger Brother returnsWhat was the difference between the younger and the elder brother that meant that one could enjoy the feast and the other could not? The Prodigal or younger son feasted with the Father, while the Elder Brother did not go in, even though the Father begged him.

Why is it that some Christians experience the power and presence of God and some do do not? Why do some of God’s children live victorious lives while others are in a state of constant defeat? The difference is not explained by the presence or absence of the Father. He is present with every child of His.

banquet The-Invitation-PostersGod is Father to both sons, yet only one enjoyed the feast. Why? The younger son had come to a place of deep reverence for his Father, while the Elder Brother had not. The prodigal son recognized the Divine ownership of his life, while the Elder Brother was still his own master.

Peter wrote “Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15) Elder Brothers will never feast with the Father until they realize He is Lord of every aspect of their life. Elder Brothers must let go of everything, and realize it is all the Father’s. He is Lord!

The Prodigal returned with nothing. Even his reputation and standing were gone. He had become as nothing. He had no where to go but to the Father’s arms. Instead of scorn, his Father kissed him and opened his storehouse of grace to him. Can you feel the great reverence and humility that must have overwhelmed the prodigal’s heart? Such a Father! Such a Relationship! His Father became the Lord of his life!

Younger and Elder BrothersThe Elder Brother clung tighter to his world, and refused to reverence the Father’s wishes. He gained his world, but lost the Father’s Heart!

Elder Brother, how is your relationship with the Father? Do you feast with Him every day? Or is your relationship cold, lifeless, sterile? Open your arms to Him as your Lord. Realize you are nothing without Him.

Father: I want your Life! Teach me that I am nothing without you. Nothing in the world matters except my relationship with YOU!

Journey of an Elder Brother Day Twelve

Stuck Up Elder Brother

Sign Language for "Stuck Up"

Since I began this journey with the Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, my eyes have been opened to see the Elder Brother throughout the Bible. It is a whole new way of understanding the Gospel as well. The most amazing discovery has been the freedom that comes from admitting to God that we are an Elder Brother. There is no point in pretending. He knows our heart. He knows when we look down on others, when we think we are better than others. There is nothing wrong with being an Elder Brother. What is wrong is when we deny it, and say we are OK.

When you realize you are an Elder Brother, and are open and honest with God, and then ask Him to transform you into the True Elder Brother, the one who is not stingy or judgmental or selfish, WATCH OUT. He will start to work, and it will be painful.

Traduce a brotherOne way God will get you to let go of yourself is to let you see your self in a bad light. He will let you be TRADUCED! When you are traduced, you are “exposed to contempt or shame by means of false statements or misrepresentation.God will let you experience what it means to have someone look down at you, to judge you. Even if you have done nothing wrong, expect to be TRADUCED. It is God’s way of softening your heart to the needs of younger brothers. Elder Brothers have condemned and judged younger brothers far too long. God wants to see how you react to the wagging finger and upturned nose.

I experienced TRADUCING yesterday. Someone questioned my character by way of a misrepresentation. They had judged me yet did not have the guts to tell me to my face, or to tell me of their concerns. They had to have someone else do it. I had done nothing wrong, yet my blood started to boil, and I wanted to lash out. I especially despise cowards, people who talk about you behind your back yet will not talk to your face. As I was listening, blood boiling, the Father brought a verse to my heart, about Jesus not reviling when he was reviled, but committing himself to Him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:23 paraphrased). He reminded me that I had given my reputation to God several years ago, and that I must rest in Him. That is tough for an Elder Brother to do, especially when he is a Pastor. We tend to say “How Dare You!”

JesusbeatenYet Jesus is our True Elder Brother, and when He was TRADUCED, simply took it, and focused on His Father. He also prayed and forgave those who TRADUCED Him. So for the next few hours I prayed, forgave and asked the Father to enlarge my heart. The only way Elder Brothers will learn to be like Jesus is to learn to Love when we feel like hating or exacting revenge. I confessed I did not know how to love, but I knew the Father did.

Then I read what David Roper wrote in Our Daily Bread this morning:

“It was 40 years ago or more that I observed a friend of mine showing great affection for someone I considered unworthy of love. I thought my friend was being taken in, and I was afraid he would be disillusioned and saddened in the end. When I expressed my concern, he replied, “When I stand before my Lord, I hope He’ll say of me that I’ve loved too many, rather than too few.” I’ve never forgotten his words.”

The author continued expounding 1 Cor 13:7 “Love believes all things”“Love “believes” in people. It can see the potential in them. It believes that God can take the most unattractive and unworthy individual and turn that person into a masterpiece of beauty and grace. If love errs, it must err in the way of trustfulness and hopefulness.”

Love the UnlovelyThis is what Elder Brothers need to see. Instead of thinking we are the righteous ones, the ones whom the Father needs because we are so responsible, we need to see ourselves  along side the younger brother in the pigsty. We need to know what it is to be TRADUCED and looked down upon. Then we need to look at our Father and say, When our heart feels the Love of the Father even when we are at our worst, please let me never see another person as unattractive or unworthy or filthy or useless. Let me see them as YOUR MASTERPIECE! Then our heart is enlarged to LOVE THE UNLOVELY! May we ever look to the Father and pray that He will some day accuse us of loving too many, rather than too few!

Have no HeartElder brothers need to be TRADUCED so that we understand the pain and hurt of our younger brothers. When our hearts are aching then we will be sensitive to the pain of the younger brother’s heart. We will reach out to our Father for help, and only then will we be able to reach out to our younger brother. Sure, they may continue to break our heart, but as David Roper said: “It’s better to believe in someone and have your heart broken than to have no heart at all.

Lord, help us to believe in people
And all that in them You can do,
So we can say we’ve loved too many,
Rather than too few. —Sper

The Father looks beyond what the brothers are to what they can become.

Father: Soften and enlarge my heart to love my younger brothers the way my True Elder Brother loves me. Empower me to love the unlovely. May I never look down on anyone. May I see others as You see them!

Journey of an Elder Brother Day Eleven

Apostle-Paul-Citizen-of-Hea

The Apostle Paul was an Elder Bother who was transformed by the sight of our True Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. Jesus did not change his personality, his looks, his drive; Jesus simply re-focused it. Elder Brother types will always be Elder Brother types. We can’t help it. But in order to be Godly Elder Brothers, we must allow Jesus to change our focus, our motivation.

The Father was focused on the needs of the younger brother. The fact that he saw him coming a long way off means that he constantly looked for this son to return. His focus was on the return of his son. We see this same focus from parents who have had a child taken. Their present world comes to a halt and their entire focus becomes one occupied with the finding of their child.

TWhat is your focushe Elder Son kept his focus on the things and the tasks around him. He was still working in the field while the whole village was inside feasting with the younger brother. Even after he discovered the cause for the feast, his focus remained on the expense and upon himself.

What transformed Paul? We know it was the vision of Jesus, and his connectedness with the other Christians. But what kept Paul going years later, when he was being beaten, when he was imprisoned, when he was shipwreck. I believe he saw things through new eyes. He reveals this in Philippians 3:20-21:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Paul saw himself as neither Jew nor Greek, nor a Roman citizen. He saw himself as a Citizen of Heaven. But much more than that, he saw himself IN HEAVEN, and it was from HEAVEN that he waited for His Savior!

This picture is all wrong, isn’t it? After all, we wait for Jesus to return to the earth and take us BACK to heaven, don’t we? Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us, isn’t He? Yes he is, but He is also doing some major construction. How dare we limit Jesus to just one place.

Jesus returns2All Paul knew was that he was a citizen of heaven, and from HEAVEN he awaited His Savior! Could that mean that wherever Paul was he saw it as heaven? But when he was writing Philippians he was in a Roman prison! That certainly wasn’t heaven!

What is your focus going to be? What do you see when you examine your surroundings? Do you see the filth, the unfinished tasks, the things in disarray, the problems with friends and family, the irritations, the sins of the younger brother, the wastefulness of the father?

Paul saw himself in heaven no matter where he was. Whether in the ocean, in prison, in jail, underneath stones, being whipped, being scourged. He saw himself in heaven! And he was always looking for the return of His Savior, who would transform his broken and bruised body, to be like His glorified body!

this man jesus by meltonAre you an Elder Brother type? Change your focus. Instead of working so hard to organize your world, realize (if Christ lives in you), that you are in heaven! See heaven in your surroundings, in your circumstances, in your despair, in your hurts, in your loneliness. If Christ lives in you, you are in heaven right now, wherever you are. Look, down the road, is that the Savior coming to you?

Paul became a transformed Elder Brother because his eyes had been opened to see Jesus. From that day on, Jesus was all he focused on.

Father: Open my eyes to see the Power of Christ living in me. Change my focus from one of selfishness, self-righteousness, anything of my self, and keep me ever looking for my Savior!

Journey of an Elder Brother Day Ten

Why Pesecute me SaulIn the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I always identified with the Elder Brother, but in a good way. I was the hard working, father pleasing son. I tried to do the responsible things, while my younger brother went off and broke our father’s heart. God has opened my eyes to see just how lost the Elder Brother was, and to see my life in the same light. So the question I find myself asking is this, “What must the Elder Brother realize in order to bring about a better ending to this parable?”

This morning the Spirit brought Saul of Tarsus to mind. He was the classic Elder Brother, yet his life had an amazing turnaround. He was at that point in our parable where the Father was pleading with him to come and join the feast with his found and forgiven younger brother. He thought he was OK, that he was the righteous one.

But Saul, blinded by a bright light heard the words, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”

Younger Brothers in the Body of ChristIn that one moment our Lord let Saul know that all found younger brothers are actually connected to Him! And Saul rejecting and persecuting these younger brothers was actually hurting the Son of God. The Elder Brother in our parable could only focus on what he had and how his younger brother had wasted everything. He rejected the feast as a wasteful extravagance. But in rejecting the feast and the younger brother, he was rejecting the Father, for they were intimately connected!

Saul (now called Paul) wrote years later that “we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and we all belong to one another.” Rom 12:5.

asleep in our safe coffinIf Elder Brothers in the church are to re-write the ending of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, we must see our connectedness with those lost younger brothers. We must see that seeking after them is the way we strengthen our relationship with our Father!

To be comfortable in our self-righteousness is to be comfortable in our coffin, safe and protected from the world, but cold and lifeless as far as our relationship with the Father. We must see what is missing. We must see that our Savior, our Christ is aching without the younger brother. We must see that by ignoring our younger brother we are actually ignoring our Savior!

Father: Open my heart to see and feel the needs of your heart, the relationship you desire with the lost younger brothers. May I see that my apathy toward younger brothers is really apathy and coldness toward You!

Journey of an Elder Brother Day Nine

uzzah touiches arkElder Brothers are usually more responsible, more careful, and more critical when it comes to their jobs or tasks. I always wanted Elder Brother types to be managers or team leaders when I was in the business world. They usually took a personal ownership attitude toward their responsibilities. However, Elder Brother types usually don’t work well in church situations.  They tend to want to give God too much of a hand, and rely more on their own strength and not upon the Lord.

Classic example occurred when David was moving the Ark of the Covenant from the home of Abinadab to its rightful place. The two brothers Uzzah and Ahio were responsible for the move, driving the ox cart. Normally Uzzah, being the elder, would have driven, but he wanted to keep a close eye on the Ark, as he considered it his job to make sure it arrived in good order. So he let his younger brother drive. I’m sure Uzzah told him to keep away from the threshing floor of Nacon, but you know how those younger brothers are. He probably got lost in all the attention and failed to notice the oxen heading for the grain. I’m sure Uzzah had some harsh words for Ahio as the oxen left the road and rushed toward the grain of the threshing floor. The ground was getting more uneven, the oxen were getting faster, the Ark was rocking with the cart. Uzzah knew for sure that unless he steadied the Ark, it would continue to wobble until it fell off the cart. He couldn’t let that happen! What would God do if His Ark fell off the cart and broke? The Ark needed the steadying arm of Uzzah, so he did what any Elder Brother would do – he gave God a hand.

Uzzah Did Not Heed the LordYou know what happened. God didn’t want Uzzah’s help. In fact, God struck Uzzah dead on the spot.

Elder Brothers do not understand this story. Even David got mad at God. How could God do such a thing? All Uzzah was trying to do was help! Don’t you want us to take our jobs seriously, to always do our best?

God wants us to do whatever we do with all our hearts. But God wants things done His way and not our way. Paul put it this way when describing how slaves should work for their masters:

Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Ephesians 6:6-7

As an Elder Brother, Uzzah thought he was doing right. He was taking ownership of the Ark. He was doing his best to take care of it. But he was so wrong. God had prescribed precisely how the Ark was to be transported and touched. He expected His will to be followed to the letter. He did not need anyone revising His rules. He did not need a hand in transporting the Ark. He simply needed willing hands combined with willing hearts that were obedient to His Word.

Ive got this under control

I've Got this Under Control!

Elder Brothers must guard against the attitude that “I know how to do this.” “I don’t need anyone telling me what to do.” “I’ve got this under control.” Getting to know the Father’s heart requires obedience, but not unless it is from a humble heart. You may be a skilled, talented Elder Brother Manager in the business world. Your bosses may love what you are doing. But that doesn’t work in God’s House. In God’s House those that walk after His Spirit are to be in charge. Those that walk after their flesh are not welcome.

Uzzah did what was right under normal conditions. Elder Brothers will normally do what is right. There is a way which seems right to man, but the end thereof is death.

God does not want us to be right. Anyone can do what is right. God wants our hearts to be dependent upon Him, and to obey Him! That means Elder Brothers must humble themselves before the Father, and set aside what they think is right. They must depend upon the Father for their very life! The younger brother learned this lesson and was saved. But Elder Brothers have a hard time with humility and depending upon someone else.

Father: Open my eyes to see You, and to see how wrong I am. Take my heart and teach me to depend totally upon You! May Your Word be the only light for my path.