Confessions of the Older Brother

Confession from the older brother of the prodigal son.

I knew it. I just knew it. That little brat took his portion of the inheritance from our father and then ran off. I knew he was going to waste it too. He wastes everything. He is so ungrateful! I stay here working night and day like a slave to please our father and he gets to run off and have a party. I am so mad! Seriously who does he think he is? Was he up at dawn to feed the animals? No. Was he out in the field sweating every day? No. He was never there to do the hard things. He was never there to do the dirty work. When a guest would come who would prepare the feast? Me. Mr. Fun gets to run around and do as he pleases and I am left holding the bag and doing the work. And now this.

He just shows back up. Just comes home like a hero who was sent off to war. Well, how nice to see you again little brother. Have you come home to collect my inheritance as well? Was it not enough to blow yours? Do you need a little extra for a fix? Let me guess “oh father I have sinned against you and I am so sorry, just let me be a servant.” Boohoo. If he was my kid I would give him something alright. A boot right in the backside. See ya sucker thanks for stopping by. But no, dad just stands there hugging him and kissing him. Seriously? That’s what makes me so angry.

Don’t get me wrong I am plenty mad at my brother but what makes me so angry is I knew this was going to happen. I knew my father was going to forgive him and just love on him. I love my father and he is such a great man. He is so kind, loving, generous, patient, and giving. Not just to me and my lazy brother but to everyone. If there is ever anyone who is in need my father will help. He never says no to someone who comes to him. I love my father so much and I saw how much it hurt him when my brother ran off. I try to please my father all the time hardly asking for anything. I seek to do what he wants because I love him but my brother gets lavished with affection for being a screwup.

*******

Ok, I took some liberties but I have been thinking about the older brother. Mostly because I realized the other day that I have slipped into being the older brother. I am no saint to be sure but I try very hard (problem) and I desire to please my Father (good thing). In the midst of my laboring (problem), I know some people who have and are wasting their gifts. I have found myself becoming a little bitter (problem). What makes me upset is I am busting my but to do right (problem), act right (problem), and be good (problem) because I love God (good thing). I want to please my Father and rejoice only in Him (good thing) but I don’t understand why it has to be so hard. People I know who are wasting their gifts are able to do all sorts of things I am not because I am trying to seek His kingdom (good thing).

Here is the kicker, though – I know God is standing at the ready to receive them and give them His love. Oh, that is the frustrating part. It is frustrating because I know that I cannot just blow it off and go do what I want because that would be willingly sinning. So I get to stand and watch people get what they want knowing they will turn to God and get blessed. That is the thing about serving a loving and generous God.

Don’t get me wrong. Like I said I am no saint, and to top it off I know I am wrong. I know verses like Romans 14:4 say do not judge another man’s servant. Or Matthew 7:3 where Jesus says I should remove the plank from my eye. I know full well that I am wrong. So what do I do?

First, I need to confess my sin. Then I need to ask God to change my heart. To help me be more focused on who He wants me to be. Finally, I have to receive the goodness and love I know He has. I think a big first step is realizing that I am wrong and that God can course correct me. I don’t want to feel this way and I am getting better but I thought it would be best to share a real struggle because I know I am not alone in these types of feelings. We know we should not have them and we know we are wrong but we get stuck because as a Christian we should not be like this. Part of the problem is that as a Christian I have to be able to admit I struggle and fail. That is why I need a great Savior. 

We can go on pretending that everything is fine and we don’t have envy or jealousy or bitterness but that does not actually fix the problem that just pretends it’s not there. However, God knows the heart so if you are struggling with these things then God knows so why not just confess it and let Him heal you?

 

Just a thought,

Mike

 

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Chapter Nine – Missing the Point

This is a rough draft from chapter nine of my new book. It is a Bible study through the Gospel of Mark.

 

Chapter Nine – Missing the Point

When deciding what to look at in chapter 9 we are faced with a what at first appears to be a series of different situations and incidents. There is the transfiguration, the demon that could only come out by prayer and fasting, Jesus’s second prediction of His death, a conversation about who is the greatest, others casting out demons in Jesus’s name, and a series of warnings from Jesus. These things on their own present a difficulty when trying to decide what gets the little time together we have. However, there is a common theme that runs through most of these incidents. If you saw it at first, then, to be honest, you did better than I because I had to read and reread a few times. In most of these events, someone missed the point.

At the transfiguration, Peter missed the point by wanting to make three tabernacles. He wanted to make one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. I am not sure but it would seem that his hope was the other two would stay awhile. Peter made the mistake of putting these three on the same level. He foolishly thought the Messiah was about the same as the previous prophets. In Peter’s mind, as well as others of his time, Moses and Elijah were two of the greatest people to ever live. Moses because he led the children of Israel out of Egypt and then later the Law was given through him. Elijah because he was a mighty prophet. So mighty of God in fact that he was taken to heaven by chariots of fire. For them to come and speak to Jesus must have been a sight and only reinforced to Peter that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. The problem, as we said, is that Peter put these three on the same plain. Jesus however, is greater. The Father Himself actually corrected Peter by declaring “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

Peter foolishly thought these three were the same but how many times have we foolishly placed things on the same level as Jesus? How many times have we missed the point and thought something was as big as God? A job. A death. A new child. A tragic loss. A debt we cannot pay. A new marriage. A failed marriage. A wayward child. There are good and bad things we put on the same plain as God. We elevate these things and build dwellings for them to stay and take up a place of high importance in our lives. Just like Peter we need to be corrected and reminded that Jesus is the beloved Son and it is to Him that we must listen.

                This is my beloved Son; listen to Him. Mark 9:7

The next one to miss the point was the father of the possessed child. If there is anyone who gets a little extra sympathy from me, it is a distraught parent. I cannot imagine having to see your child go through something that you cannot fix. Seeing them suffer and knowing there is nothing you can do to fix the situation. Knowing that your child is hurting and you cannot take it away crushes you as a parent. This man did what he could, and he took the child to the disciples but they were not able to do anything. Enter Jesus. The man comes before Jesus and says “if you can do anything have compassion on us.” Have you ever reached a point like that? To just cry out to God and say “can you do something?”

The man for all his love for his child missed a point, though. It was not a question of if Jesus could do something. Instead, the question was did the man believe? The man questioned Jesus’s ability when in this case it was his faith that was in question by Jesus. Jesus was able to and did cast out the demon. He tells the disciples after that they could only do this by prayer and fasting. There is a common misunderstanding that surrounds this section of Scripture. I have heard people say to others that they do not have the faith to be healed and some site this verse as proof of their claim (that enough faith is needed) but there is a problem. The problem is that it is not the father who needed deliverance but the son. The faith of the son was not in question but that of the one bringing the petition to Jesus. In the same way, we should not be so quick to question the faith of the infirmed if we are praying to God for them. If we interpret this section correctly we should see the man is acting as the intercessor for another and his faith is questioned. The question we should ask ourselves is not do others have enough faith but do we?

I do believe! Help my unbelief. – Mark 9:24

The last thing I want us to look at is the way the disciples missed kingdom greatness. The disciples had been arguing among themselves about who was the greatest in the kingdom but when Jesus asked them what they were talking about they had nothing to say. This is one of those things in the Bible that transcends time and culture. You do not really need to know about the historical setting or cultural nuisances in order to understand that the disciples wanted to know who was the best. This is not a specific issue to the disciples but a fundamental flaw inherent in all people. It is the desire to be important and to be known. In our day with cell phones, social media, blogs, and streaming video we can be famous for just being famous. We have people who are famous in our day just because they are on TV or just because they make on-line videos. They do not actually do anything nor have they studied for years to learn something they are simply famous because they are. It is very odd. That is just how it has come to work in the world and because it feeds our natural desire to be important and known we allow it hoping someday we will be known. In God’s kingdom, it does not work this way, though.

Jesus says that those who want to become great in the kingdom must serve. If you want to be exalted, you must be humble. If you want to be first you must be last. It is contrary to the way things work in the natural but in reality it should be. If Jesus has come to bring God’s kingdom, then we should understand that it is different than what we have. Jesus uses a child as the example of what we must be like. A child while loved does not have much to offer. They are dependent on the parent for everything. We must be like a child and be dependent on God. Not seeking our own but trusting in our Father for direction, provision, and instruction. A child thinks they know more than they do but as any parent can tell you their child is not as smart as they think they are. You and I are not as smart as we think we are. We think we know a great many things but God knows all things. To be great then in the kingdom then is to understand your place and serve those who God puts in your life. There are no famous people in the kingdom of heaven except God alone.

If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all. – Mark 9:35

 

Questions:

  1. How do you think Peter missed the point in putting Moses and Elijah on the same level as Jesus?
    1. Moses and Elijah are important in Israel’s history but not as important. What do we do things that are not as important as God?
  2. Are there things you have put on the same level as Jesus?
    1. How can we better prioritize these things in our lives?
  3. The father went to Jesus because he knew he could not do it himself, have you gone to Jesus for things that were beyond you?
    1. Do you ever wonder if God cares?
  4. Jesus asked the father if he believed; do you believe when you pray?
    1. The father confessed his need for his faith to be strengthened, have you ever acknowledged a lack of faith?
  5. What was wrong with the disciples wanting to be great?
    1. Do you desire greatness?
  6. What does it mean to be humble?
    1. What is the difference between true humility and false humility?

The Beatitudes Part 2

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. It’s funny how this works but I think it goes back to you reap what you sow. When you sow mercy you reap mercy. It’s odd that when you give of yourself and act in merciful kind ways how good you feel, it almost seems selfish in a way. You do good and you feel good, so you want to do more good things. If we could remember that then we would see more mercy come to us in times of need and want. A friend of mine and his wife are always giving of themselves and it seems that when something happens to them (negatively) there is always either someone there to help them or God delivers a miracle to them. That is what this is talking about they are merciful so in return they receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. What an amazing reward, to think that someone who is good enough and keeps themselves pure enough will see God. If only I could be good enough and keep my heart pure then I could see Him, but unfortunately, I am not good enough. Actually, none of us are. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that all have fallen short of the glory of God. That means that none of us can see Him on our own. But in the same letter, Paul tells us that we (Christians) have been buried with Him (Jesus) in baptism and raised in newness of life. We are now in Christ (for you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God) because of this we can be that one who is pure of heart and get to see God. That is a wonderful thing.

Blessed are the peacemakers, not blessed are the backbiters who pretend to be at peace and then gossip about someone else. Any husband or wife can tell you there are times when you are right but you hold your tongue and let the other person unload their stress. Often times the other person ends up apologizing. When you are the stronger one (not letting people run over you) but strong enough to say I want peace and I will work towards that process then you will see things change. You will see how things seem to come together, the trick of it though is to have peace. You cannot be a peacemaker without having peace in the first place. You have to be at peace with God and yourself before you can help someone else or a situation become peaceful. The reason is because the person or the situation will stress you out. It will push you beyond what is comfortable, but if you have peace then you can overcome that and become a peacemaker.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. This one always makes me smile because a paraphrase is something like “happy are those who get beat up for liking good”. That’s right if you follow Christ then there will be times when someone attacks you for it. Jesus Himself said it “they will hate you because they hate Me” (paraphrase) it might not seem fair to your right now, but think about Jesus on the cross was that fair? It was not fair, but He gave Himself for you, maybe in you devoting your life to Him someone who picked on you and made fun of you will come to Him later on. We don’t know what will be the outcome of our life but we do know how He told us to live it. It is not an easy life but by His strength we can.

Just a thought,

Mike

The Beatitudes Part 1

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Behold the Beatitudes! First for clarification beatitudes basically means happiness. The idea is that if you do these things you will have happiness or be blessed. We should also point out real quick that blessing does not mean material wealth. This is not a get rich quick scheme by Jesus. They seem so simple but I believe that if we sought after them with more fervency than we do, we would do well because after all Jesus says “Blessed are…” Let me also clarify these eight things will not save you, but they will help you grow from babes in Christ needing only milk to mature Christians who are able to eat meat (Hebrews 5:12).

Blessed are the poor in spirit, because when we are poor in spirit and weak, Christ is strong in us. The more we are weak and do not rely on our strength but lay ourselves aside we allow Christ to move in us. How many times have you held onto something and said: “I can do this, I will show how strong I am.” We have to rely on the Lord and His strength to work in us, we have to reach the place where we say “Lord I cannot do this I need your help”.

Blessed are those who mourn because they shall be comforted by the Comforter. Mourning is not just when someone passes; I believe we should also mourn for this generation, this nation, and the people of God who have walked away from Him. We should weep and lament over what has happens to some 3,5000 unborn children a day. We should not stop weeping because we got a new TV or video game or what have you. We need to continue to mourn over the things that God Himself mourns over. Put aside your differences with your brother or sister or neighbor. Stop arguing with the Catholics or Protestants; unite in prayer against the true enemy.

Blessed are the meek, but meekness is not weakness. Too many times people do not want to be meek because they think that it is a weakness, but it is the opposite. Meekness is power under control. Christ demonstrated amazing meekness before the cross when he said that at His word there would be twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, that is somewhere in the vicinity of 60,000 angels. That is a lot of power at His disposal but He chose to not use it, instead, He chose to endure that which was placed before Him. Pride says “do it, show them what you’ve got” meekness says “hold back, show them what Christ has”. No meekness is not weakness it is a greater strength than you or I can truly comprehend because it requires us to lay aside our pride.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Have you ever been hungry? So hungry that food is all you can think about, a hunger that possesses your thoughts and takes over your rational thinking? When we get that way there is only one thing we want; to be full. God is asking us for that same feeling here. He wants us to be hungry for Him and His righteousness. The great thing is that if we are hungry for Him we will be filled with Him, it is not a maybe, it is not something that might happen if things work out that way, no it is a promise. YOU WILL BE FILLED. We know the outcome so the question begs why are we not full? I think it is because we are not hungry enough. I think we are born hungry for Him, but we were just fed the wrongs things growing up. We thirst for truth like pure milk and are given a half and half, we are hungry for righteousness and get a righteousness/selfish combination instead. It’s funny to me that it has to be done this way, the enemies of God can’t give us a straight lie because we would not accept it if it were a flat out lie. Instead, they need to sprinkle some truth in it first; let us taste that part of it then hit us with the rest. What we have to do is relearn to eat the good stuff only. Have you ever tried to stop eating junk food? Let’s use fast food as an example. When you first stop you don’t like the taste of the other food, it’s not as sweet or salty or fried but you push on and continue to eat it and after awhile it is the good, so good you don’t remember what the fast food tastes like. Then one day you eat the fast food again and it’s tasty alright but then you have a stomach ache, and you feel drained and weak. You don’t have the energy you had when you ate the good food and it was a waste of time and energy eating the garbage. Truth and lies are the same way. Eat the truth be hungry for the truth and the lies of the enemy will become bitter and turn your stomach, but first, you have to eat from the true vine.

 

To be continued…..