Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Prodigal Father Part 1: All That Is Mine Is Yours

In stark contrast to the incredibly deep spiritual direction that this post is going to take, I’d like to start out with a reference to Zoolander.

“But wait!” you say, “I haven’t seen Zoolander!”

Don’t worry – it’s not a thinker movie.

Check out this clip:

When things don’t go his way, Derek has an identity crisis and, staring into a puddle, asks: Who am I?

His reflection is no help.

I have felt this way before. I’ve never lost a modeling competition (I won them ALL), but my foundations have been shaken a good deal. And I’m not just talking about west coast earthquakes.

But Jesus has been speaking to Matt and me lately about our identity in Him. Our adoption, our sonship, our co-heir-ship.
And I was brought to the story of the prodigal son where Holy Spirit highlighted some things I had never seen before.
I noticed that these brothers both had lost sight of their identity. Neither of them was living in what it meant to be sons and coheirs.

Growing up I can remember thinking “that brat, asking his dad for a bunch of money! And that dad is kind of a push over…he didn’t even flinch.”

Interesting. The dad didn’t even flinch.

I wonder if that isn’t where the son went wrong. Was the asking for his inheritance wrong, or was it the way he spent it?

When I was a kid I loved going to my grandparents‘ houses for all the obvious reasons. My dad’s parents’ house not only had my Grandpa and Grandma IN it, but also a pool, a pool table, a TV bigger than me, and a substantial stock piling of Dole pineapple juices in tiny little cans.

I am not sure if Grandpa himself liked these, as I have actually never seen him consume one…but they were always there. And I loved them.

Mom and Dad didn’t want us to be little crazy kids, though, and tear through our grandparents’ house eating anything we wanted so I was always instructed to ask Grandpa or Grandma first before I had one.

And, every time, Grandpa’s response was: “Of course! You can have anything you want.”

He almost seemed confused as to why I was asking.

So I would enjoy a can poolside with my cousins. The 90s were awesome.

However, I’m not sure Grandpa would have been quite so thrilled if I had opened up the can and poured it down the drain.
While the juice was blessing me and filling me and taking care of me it was all mine to have as much as I wanted. If I had been flippant with it, that would have changed.  It seems to me that the son’s offense wasn’t in wanting his inheritance. He grieved his father when he took that inheritance, along with all his other stuff (probably also given to him by his father) and left.

So not only did the dad not flinch at the request, but he divided the inheritance right then and there and gave half to his younger son. My study Bible says that was very uncommon.

But then our Heavenly Father IS uncommon! He made us co-heirs. Through Jesus we have received adoption as sons by which we cry out Abba! Father! (reference) And we know that Abba translates as basically “Daddy,” which is an incredibly close and intimate term for father.

(An aside: I love the poetic irony of God. He set up how inheritances should work in the old testament and then BLEW THAT UP in the new testament. I find that so magnificent.)

These sons weren’t being intimate with their father. The younger took his freely given inheritance and squandered it, while the older assumed that he couldn’t have his. The one felt that he had to leave and be his own man while the other thought he had to unquestioningly serve in order to gain approval. Neither was wanting to be close with and known by his father.

What if I had always just sat there in my grandparents’ house knowing that they had pineapple juices and assuming that, if I was good enough, they might bring me one, but never asking for it? My grandpa can’t know what I need unless I am talking with him and letting him know me.

And so bitterness consumed the older brother. His inheritance sat right there in front of him, and he never asked to participate in it. In self-righteousness he even spits out that he has always “served” his father, when it doesn’t really seem like that was a requirement put on him. The father doesn’t even acknowledge the statement in his answer, but instead just asserts “you have always been with me”.

If we are serving our Father in order that He might bless us, I believe our motivation is wrong and is setting us up for bitterness and even worse, distance. Our heavenly Father wants to know us. He wants to be with us. Jesus endured the cross for the joy of having us restored to Him. That is a Father who is going out of His way to get us to Him. Why would He go all that way and then stand at a distance once He has us and make us serve Him? If our serving of Him is born out of thankfulness and joy, and wanting to honor our Father who has freely given us so much, then the outcome is more closeness, not mere admittance.

It goes against our “it’s a hard knock life” mentality to graft into our noggins the concept that we did nothing, nor can do anything to earn our inheritance. We weren’t good enough. We aren’t now (in our own power). And we won’t be in the future (I’m pretty sure I’m going to sin around 2pm today when I get angry cause Darcy will refuse her afternoon nap). In the same way I never did anything to earn my grandpa’s love and pineapple juice. I was a total user in his house. I played pool upstairs, then I played in the pool outside, then I drank his pineapple juice, and then I lounged around and watched TV, and then I trotted along behind him while he did some chores, and then he would take us all out to dinner where again, I could “have anything I wanted”…!?!?!?!

All he needed in return is that I loved him and was his.

Heavenly Father has been getting at this point with me lately. The Bible says that in Him we are: saved, redeemed, more than conquerors, sons and daughters, brought close, seated with Christ, free, heirs, a royal priesthood, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, and on and on. We didn’t deserve it, but there it is.

What am I supposed to do with all of that?

That needs to flavor my life somehow.

And I think that it’s more than where we spend our Sunday mornings (or Saturday nights in our case) or what music we listen to as we drive around town. It’s more than how we tithe and what homeschool curriculum we buy.

The closeness we are invited into by our Father does not have to wait around until after death. In fact the father in the story tells the older son that his brother had been dead, but was now alive. We have been made alive in Christ!


I am so thankful that I never forsook my Father and I never really had “prodigal” wandering years.

But I don’t want to live like the older brother either. He was waiting around for his inheritance that was already there, and was living like he couldn’t have it until later – like some family heirloom samurai sword that you can look at but never EVER touch…And that confused, self-righteous bitterness blocked the closeness that they could have been enjoying all along.

Why does it feel weird to be close to heavenly Father? Why does it feel odd to trot along behind or beside Him while He moves about His kingdom just as my Grandpa and I walked around his property? Why does it feel odd when I hear someone refer to Him as “Daddy” or “Papa God”? That is what Abba means…and yet…

Can it be that in wanting so much to not be the prodigal son, we have become the stingy son? And we have put that stingy-ness on the Father as well.

In another coming post I am excited to share more about what our inheritance in Christ is. But for now ask Holy Spirit to speak to you and to establish (maybe for the first time in your life) WHO you are in Him. Jesus, impress on our hearts the awesome fullness of the place you have made for us: adopted Sons and Daughters who did not deserve it, but who want so much to represent you, our lavish Father.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Healing My Sin, Healing Our Marriage

We were sitting together, Corrie and I, in our room not sure how this talk was going to go.  We had had a bit of a fight the night before and had gone all day without having a chance to sit down and work it through.  So after the girls went to bed, we both knew that we had to work it out.  We want to be close to each other and just letting things fade into the distance is not the way to get there.

Neither is digging in my heals, fighting for my rights, and feeding my anger.  But I wanted tonight to be different.  That's why we were sitting in our room instead of the living room.  I sensed that Jesus would do something good, and I wanted him to do it in our room.  I wanted his healing to fill our space, to change the atmosphere there from what had happened the night before.

As we were sitting facing each other, Corrie cautiously, but lovingly and hope-fully, told me that I had gotten really angry.  It didn't seem like me.  It scared her.

There it is.  Anger?!  Wait.  I'm not an angry person.  Most people who know me would say the same.

This had been coming up somewhat frequently for us over the last several months.  And to be honest, I either didn't see it or didn't categorize it as anger because, in my mind, it was justified.  How can I be unrighteously angry if I DESERVE to be angry?

But something broke that night.  I don't know what caused it.  I can't give you a trigger or a formula:  If you are struggling with x then do y and it will be fixed.

Just seek Jesus for his presence and power.  Spend time with him.  Talk to him.  Listen when he talks to you.  Then rivers of living water will flow from you, and you won't have to work up holy living.  It just happens.

It doesn't matter what the struggle is.  Sickness, bondage, hurt, sin, anger, marriage stuff.  Be with Jesus.  Any answers outside of his real, near presence are incomplete.

That night, when Corrie shared her heart with me, it finally broke through what had been my hardened walls. 

I had hurt her.  I had HURT her.  My love.  My beautiful wife.  My best friend. 

I had hurt her, and that fact mattered more, finally, than all of my rights and hurts and thoughts and reasons for justifying my anger.  I had wounded her heart.  That fact broke my heart.

And I cried in front of her.

It wasn't for show.  It wasn't to impress her with how sorry I felt.  It wasn't anything I tried to do.  It just happened because, like I said, "Rivers of living water will flow."

After these tears Corrie and I together went through a process of dealing with sin that we learned at the marriage conference we went to several months ago.  It involves going through some steps of repentance and actively resisting the sin.

A Fresh Perspective on Sin

But it's so beautifully different than the way I had thought about sin growing up.  When I saw something in me that I wished were different (anger, depression, lust, general melancholy, fear of people...especially NEW people!), it became a huge source of self-doubt, self-deprecation, and an endless spiral of guilt and shame.

I'd ask questions like, "What's wrong with me?  I've been a Christian for however many years and still can't get it right."

Or there's the questions to God.  "What's wrong with you?  You say you're powerful but you still can't get me right!"

This is what happens when we don't know, or don't believe, who we are--who we've become under the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  It doesn't matter how crappy I feel about myself, the Bible says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has gone and the new has come.

Romans 7 says that it is no longer I who sin, but the sin that is in me that sins.  John 1 says that, because I believe, I have the right to be a child of God.  His DNA courses through my veins now.  And isn't it in Peter where we see that we're kings and priests?  "A royal priesthood."

Sin is not my identity anymore.  It used to be...but then...Jesus!  Now, the sin, the anger, is an enemy.  I am not on its team.  Therefore, I come against it in the authority that he has given me over every power of darkness (Luke 10:19), and in the presence and power of Holy Spirit, because "greater is he in me than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4).

As I repented of my anger toward Corrie and we, together, fought back against the sin, we asked the Father to send it away from me and to replace it with something from his heart instead.  When we asked him what that something was that he wanted to exchange for the anger, he showed me a vision.

Visions from God's Heart

I saw myself standing in a small square of land surrounded on four sides by tall stone walls.  It was like a hollow tower.  As enemies attacked this tower and stones were knocked out of the walls, I would scramble to try to repair the holes quickly before any flaming arrows could get through.

I knew that these walls were anger.  I was using anger as a way of protecting myself from anything that could hurt me.  Specifically with Corrie, getting angry and staying there was a way of isolating myself from real closeness with her.  My anger cut her off from me while it was telling me that it was actually the only way to get what I want in our marriage.

In that anger, my focus was on myself and nothing close to caring for her.

Then, suddenly, the walls were gone, and I was standing in the same place alone, with no walls this time.  I could see now that I was on a hill with a battle going on all around.  Covering me was this armor that kept flickering in and out between armor and the body of a lion.  When it was armor, it was solid and very visible.  But when it switched to the lion it became more transparent, almost superimposed over me.  It looked as if both the lion and I were occupying the same space without one replacing the other.

When arrows would hit me now, it didn't matter.  They were immediately extinguished (if they had been on fire), and they fell right off.  Who needs walls when Jesus lives in you?  Who needs to fight for your own rights, to dig in your heals to make sure you get your due when the Spirit of God is your protection, your very identity?

Psalm 16:8 "I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."

Psalm 62:6 "He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

Proverbs 28:1 "But the righteous are bold as a lion."

The Father showed me that this is the man he made me to be for my wife.  A man with no walls of angry self-protection...firstly in our marriage.  My protection is the armor he gives me, which is his very presence inside of me, the presence of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.  And his armor does not divide us.  It unites the two into one.  It both keeps my heart strong to love, and it fights for and protects her heart.

After the vision stopped, and I told it to Corrie.  I immediately had thoughts of doubt and accusation come at me.

"This isn't real.  You're not hearing from God."

"This doesn't mean anything.  You haven't changed yet, so why should you expect to change now?"

"Corrie isn't impressed with this.  She won't believe that you'll change.  You've hurt her so much already."

As I was telling Corrie these thoughts, out of nowhere I heard in my spirit a lion roar.  It was quite loud and powerful and right above me, like Jesus was standing over me.  As it roared, I felt a warmth flowing down my head and back, almost like his breath.

Sure, the devil may prowl like a roaring lion, speaking lies and defeat and death.  But Jesus is stronger.  Jesus is more powerful.  His roar is louder and gets the final say.  What he stakes a claim to, no power of hell is allowed to have.  Jesus, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, can have my sin, my anger.  He can have my emotions.  He can have my mind.  And he can have my marriage and the woman I love.

I'm done with you, anger.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Praying for the Mailman

"Come one Rebecca.  Take my hand while we walk in the street."

I was keeping Rebecca focused on the task at hand (a task in and of itself as parents of 5 year olds know) as we set out for the park.

As we stepped off the driveway, one of our regular mailmen was there, his truck parked at the bank of mailboxes, which is just about 40 feet from our driveway.  He noticed the way I walk, with an obvious limp from my soon-to-be-free arthritic joints.

"Are you okay?" he asked.  "Did something happen?"

That's always a tough question to answer because I never know how MUCH of an answer the person is ready for.

"Yeah, I'm okay," I replied.  "I've been battling arthritis for a while now."

"Arthritis, huh?  You know, I've got arthritis too."

Bingo.  The way I happened to answer resonated with some common ground in him.  And I got excited because this was shaping up to be a great opportunity for praying for healing for this kind man.  And to top it off, Rebecca was right here with me and she would have an opportunity to see her Daddy show Jesus love and power to someone who needs it.  So rather than keep on talking about my health, I asked him about his.

"Oh really.  Where?"

He went on to explain that his lower back, particularly his spine, had some pretty significant issues.

"Does it hurt all the time?  Or just when you're straining it?  Or more in the winter than the summer?"

"No it hurts all the time.  Just worse sometimes than others."

Okay, this was my fork in the road.  I could stay comfortable and give my condolences and go on my way, hand in hand with Rebecca.  Or...or...

Or I could step out in courage and faith and go for this thing.  If I'm gonna believe in healing, then Jesus please help me to walk in the boldness of your Spirit and live like it :)

So I continued, "Hey, this might be weird, and I know you're working, so I won't keep you long.  But I was wondering if it would be okay if I pray for your back right now.  I don't know what you believe or anything like that.  And to be honest, it doesn't really matter.  Jesus really really loves you, and I believe that he would love to show you by healing your back.  Would it be okay if I pray for you?"

I didn't preach at him.  I didn't try to get a conversion out of him.  I just wanted to love him with the power of Jesus and let that do its own work.  And to my surprise, he said yes!

So right there, in the street by our driveway, at the back of his mail truck, I put my hand on his back and I prayed, "Thank you Jesus for (name) and for how much you love him.  Thank you that no matter where he's been in life or what he's done, you love him immeasurably and you really want to show him.  So in the name of Jesus, I command the pain in this back to leave (name) right now.  And I speak full and complete healing to his spine and muscles and ligaments.  Everything that is not the way Jesus made it to function, be restored and fully well."

He turned around and looked me in the eyes.  And I could see surprise and awkwardness.  But I could also see genuine gratitude, like he was thankful for someone to love him, and at least try to meet his need without asking for anything in return.

I asked him, "So do you feel anything?"

"No, not right now.  But you never know, it could have started something, and maybe I'll be able to tell later."

A kind, gracious reply.  I could tell he didn't want to bum me out.  I thanked him for letting me pray for him and that I believe that Jesus wants him well.  Then, Rebecca and I said goodbye and headed off to the park.

Corrie and I are so brand new to praying for people for healing, and we have a lot to learn.

I learned that day that, if nothing happens at first, I'd like to ask to pray again, and again, and again if needed.  Sometimes these things take a few assaults on them before they bow to Jesus and get out.

I learned that, even though I don't know whether he was healed or not.  And even though I don't know what Jesus may have done in him through my quick encounter with's okay.  I loved him.  I was the conduit for Jesus to love him.  And it's his kindness that will lead him to repentance, not my pressing and pushing to be able to share the full gospel message.  If I get to...great.  But what I really want is to demonstrate the gospel in power and love.

I also learned how great a privilege it is to model Jesus for Rebecca.  Maybe she didn't see the mailman healed right then.  You might think, "Doesn't that rock her faith?"

The truth is...NOT AT ALL!  In fact, quite the opposite.  She prays for healing quite often and has seen it happen a couple times.  Her faith and awareness of the reality of Jesus was not weakened by this man not getting healed right then.  Her faith was built by watching Daddy go for it!

Let's keep seeking Jesus for more of his healing power to be released through us.