Tag Archives: Prodigal God

Journey of an Elder Brother Day Eighteen

Parable of Lost SonsSome suggest we no longer call this the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but the Parable of the Lost Sons. I suggest that we call it the parable of the Lost Son and the Selfish Child.

Jesus said the Father had two SONS, using the Greek word “huios” for both. Then the younger SON left, declaring his freedom, and in that culture became DEAD to his Father. When his Father saw him afar off, he leaped from his chair and ran to meet him. Rejoicing he told everyone that this SON (huios) of mine was DEAD and is ALIVE again. (has come to life again – anadzah’o)

God of HopeThe younger brother was his SON again. This the Father demonstrated with the ring, the robe and the sandals. They meant the Father had RESTORED his RELATIONSHIP with his SON! WHY? Because our Father is is the Father of LIFE, of HOPE, of LIVING RELATIONSHIPS.

Jesus is AliveJesus declared this when he answered the Sadducee’s:  “He is not God of the dead, but of the living.Matthew 22:32

Not only is God the God of the Living, but Paul declared this to the Romans: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Peter further explained that this is a Living Hope by the Resurrection:Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy begat us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3).

God is the God of Hope by the Resurrection — in other words, by the triumph of Life over death. This means that in every dark situation, God never despairs and never gives up. For our Father knows the tremendous power of Resurrection, of Life.

TThe Resurrectionhe Father had two SONS, but only one knew the power of RESURRECTION. In fact, when the Elder Brother argued with the Father, the Father called him my CHILD (teknon). Calling him a child was like saying “I know you are mine by birth, but you are not my SON, because we don’t have a REAL RELATIONSHIP!”

Jesus was never referred to as TEKNON of God. He was always called the HUIOS of God. We, on the other hand, are called the TEKNON of God by John to indicate we are BORN into the family of God:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name.  John 1:12.

Both Younger and Elder Brothers were the children of the Father, but as our Parable ends, only one was the SON of the Father. The Younger was the Son because he had come back to life and had come into a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with his Father.

The Elder Brother was a child of the Father, but there was no LIFE, no RELATIONSHIP.

The shocking truth of this Parable is that only the younger son reflected the character of the LIVING FATHER. The sinner was more like his Father than the righteous Elder Brother! WHY? Because the Younger Son was ALIVE, while the Elder Brother was DEAD in his self-righteousness.

Matthew 5:9 & 45 use the word huios and it refers to those who reflect the character of God. The Greek word for child or children is teknon. In contrast to huios, it means the fact of birth whereas huios stresses the dignity and character of the relationship. Another aspect of this Greek word, huios,  involves “likeness.” The New Testament contains the concept expressed in the proverb, “Like father, like son” (Matt. 5:45,48). It was typical Hebrew usage to employ the word “son” to express likeness. For instance, those who are peacemakers will be called God’s sons because they are like God (Matt. 5:9). God’s likeness, His image, will be “stamped” upon those who have been brought to maturity and adopted as sons (Rom. 8:29; I John 3:2-3).

One way to understand the difference between the Elder and Younger is to understand another use of HUIOS with the addition of thesia or “huiosthesia” – “adopted or placed as sons”. In the Roman world, the father adopted as a son his own child. Birth made him a child (teknon); adoption made him a son (huios). Between the period of birth and adoption, there were stages of growth, education and discipline, until the maturity was reached for adoption into sonship. With adoption the son was recognized as one who could faithfully represent the father. He had arrived at the point of maturity, where the father could entrust him with the responsibility of overseeing the family business. The son becomes the “heir” of his father’s inheritance. Birth gives one the right to the inheritance, but adoption gives one the participation in the inheritance.

PrayWallFThe Elder Brother assumed upon the FATHER’S Stuff because of his natural birth, because he was the first born child. But what the Father was declaring was the SONSHIP of the younger brother because of his RESURRECTION and their restored RELATIONSHIP.

baby drinking milkPaul referred to the Corinthians as babies, still on milk. They had been born into the family of God, but had never matured, even though they had been enriched in speech and in knowledge of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 1:6). In fact, he said they were not lacking in any spiritual gift. The Corinthians probably saw themselves as the Elder Brother saw himself – the Mature Ones. But the Father called the Elder Brother a child, and Paul called the Corinthians babies!

What makes the difference? How do we Elder Brother Types become SONS? How do Babes become mature, able to chomp down on meat? Paul gives us the clue when he says “you are still of the flesh.” What does that mean to born again children of God?

It means we are still walking around in our stinking rotting corpses. And the flesh is abhorred by the Father.  Paul shouts the secret of SONSHIP to all Elder Brothers:

And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. 1 Corinthians 2:12 (NLT)

Walk in the SpiritWe have a LIVING RELATIONSHIP with the FATHER of the LIVING, but it is only through the Holy Spirit! We must walk after the Holy Spirit to enjoy this Living Relationship with our Father. It is not on the basis of our works that we have this living relationship. It is on the basis of the Holy Spirit being allowed to LIVE in us!

The Father went outside and pleaded with his Elder Child. The word for plead is paraclete, the same word we use for the Holy Spirit! Picture the Holy Spirit pleading with all us EBT’s to reckon our flesh and works dead, and to FOLLOW HIM, to Walk in the LIFE of the Holy Spirit! This is the only way we will enjoy any RELATIONSHIP with the FATHER!

He is the FATHER of the LIVING, the FATHER of those who have died to the flesh, and now walk in the Living Relationship of the Holy Spirit within us! The younger brother experienced that death and so was welcomed to LIFE, to SONSHIP. The Elder Brother saw no need to die, and so found no LIFE.

Father: Enable me to die to self, and to walk in the newness of LIFE in the Holy Spirit. May our RELATIONSHIP be the number one priority of my life!

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!

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 Six

abraham-pray

Abraham had his doubts

Abram behaved as a True Elder Brother when he went after and rescued his nephew Lot. The Elder Brother is to be the responsible one, and protect the family. He spared no expense in rescuing his nephew. Yet after wards, he did a very ‘un-elderly brother’ thing when he refused the loot offered by the King of Sodom. This is what made Abram a Godly Elder Brother – his focus was on his relationship with the Father, not on “stuff”.

But he must have had his doubts. It is hard for Elder Brothers to not think ‘practically’. That is why God appeared to him in Genesis 15:1,

“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”

God never wastes words. He would not have told Abram not to fear if fear was not in his heart. Perhaps he was afraid his following this invisible Jehovah was a waste. After all, Jehovah had still not provided him with an heir. What kind of God is that? So he complained to Jehovah:

“O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.”

Abram the Elder Brother was responsible, obedient and childless. His labors would all be in vain if he had no heir. So fear was in his heart. Do I keep following Jehovah, or return to the gods of my forefathers? After all, Abram began life as an idolater in a foreign land.

milky-wayGod could see the fear and hesitation in his heart, just as He sees the fear and hesitation in every Elder Brothers heart. So Jehovah took Abram outside and showed him the Milky Way. “Your descendants will be as many as the stars!” In that moment, Abram believed Jehovah, and it was counted unto him as righteousness.

A simple display and Word from Jehovah was all it took to dispel the fear in Abrams heart. When fear gripped his heart and he started to lean on his own understanding, he looked to the stars and believed the Word of God!

Abram Believed God

Abram Believed God

Elder Brothers, if you have doubts and fears about your labors and what good they are, open the Word of God and look for His promises to you. Ask Him for a special Word that will dispel the fear from your heart. Elder Brothers mask their insecurities with hard work, tasks and accomplishments. Yet inwardly we are beset by fear and doubt. Is this all worth while? Will anyone appreciate what I have done when I am gone? Will my children realize all I have sacrificed for them?

Look to the heavens, and hear the Word of Jehovah! His love for you is overwhelming. He is building His Kingdom on the backs of His faithful and hardworking Elder Brothers. We are the ones who must rescue our captured kinsmen.

Father: Open my heart to hearing your assuring voice, open my eyes to see your wondrous power!

Journey of an Elder Brother Day Five

saul-reproached-by-samuel

Elder Brother Saul

Adulterous Woman

Adulterous Woman

As an Elder Brother, I believe we think that sometimes we can get away with disobeying the rules. We tend to think we are above the law because we are naturally so responsible and driven. We don’t want some stupid rules getting in the way of what WE THINK is important. I know the Pharisees expected everyone to obey the laws they set forth, but secretly had laws that applied only to them. Who can say whether the arrogance of the Elder Brother was masking his own secret disobedience (remember the Elder Brothers bringing the adulterous woman to Jesus)?

Saul was definitely an Elder Brother. God was testing him as he does all Elder Brothers on two points: Faith and Obedience. Faith is needed to see and know the Father’s heart. Obedience is required because the Father is the source of ALL BLESSINGS.

But Elder Brothers hate to wait. Just ask them. Always in a hurry, always moving on to the next task. Saul was kept waiting for the Prophet Samuel in 1 Sam 13. He was told to tarry “till I come”. He failed the test of faith and obedience. Elder Brothers must learn to wait upon God, and not rely upon their own resources.

Saul disobeys God

King Saul Disobeys God

Then again in 1 Samuel 15, Saul was told to destroy Amalek utterly. Everything must be destroyed. But the bleating of the sheep gave him away. Saul was acting like the Elder Brother, focusing on the THINGS and not focusing on OBEYING the FATHER! He even believed he had obeyed, because most Elder Brothers believe they follow a different set of rules.

Saul learned too late that the Father values Faith and Obedience. The younger son realized when he reached the end of himself, and came home. The Elder Brother was home, but in his own self-reliance obeyed his own set of rules, and failed by FAITH to see the Father’s heart.

Are you an Elder Brother like me? Then the two greatest tests you will face are the tests of Faith and Obedience. There is no Word from God too small to be obeyed. We must learn to empty ourselves of any self-reliance, and cling totally upon the Lord. Then we must learn to wait. Waiting is the hardest thing for Elder Brothers to do. Always give the Father ONE MORE DAY to show His Power!

Father: Teach me to lean totally upon you, and teach me the joy of waiting upon you!

Journey of an Elder Brother Day Four

peter the elder brotherElder brothers are never lost for an opinion. Too often they shoot first and tend to the wounded second. The elder brother’s words must have hurt the father deeply. They were spoken in anger and with attitude.

Peter was an elder brother. He was quick to spout his opinion, right or wrong. His mouth often got him into trouble. How did Peter learn to be slow to speak his mind? He was interrupted by God! On the Mount of Transfiguration, God interrupted Peter and said, “This is my beloved Son, HEAR HIM!”  In Capernaum, Peter spoke quickly and committed Jesus to paying the temple tax. When he was about to tell Jesus, Jesus interrupted him and “spake first to him” to correct his false ideas on the matter. Then in Caesarea, while Peter was still preaching, the Holy Spirit shut Peter’s mouth by an amazing miracle, so that Peter’s six companions were “amazed”. Father, Son and Holy Spirit each interrupted Peter’s speech.

transfiguration-of-JesusThis elder brother, who was so quick to speak his mind, learned valuable lessons at the interruption of the Divine Trinity. This is why he could write of the value of good speech:

To sum up, you should all be of one mind living like brothers with true love and sympathy for each other, generous and courteous at all times. Never pay back a bad turn with a bad turn or an insult with another insult, but on the contrary pay back with good. For this is your calling – to do good and one day to inherit all the goodness of God. For: ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile: let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil’. 1 Peter 3:8-12

peter speechPeter knew all too well that the eyes of the Lord were upon him. He had seen Him intervene when he was rushing foolishly headlong. Are you an Elder Brother like me? Learn to listen to the Lord before you speak. Be slow to speak and quick to love.

Father: Teach me that you are always listening to my speech, and to let your love guide my words.