Posts Tagged ‘Prodigal Son’


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!

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!

Tompkins Family 1970As an Elder Brother I must confess I was never close to my earthly father, especially growing up. He was typical of most fathers at the time-not touchy feely, not very open, a man of few words; but when he spoke, you obeyed because you feared the consequences. Even as a young man working for him, we were never very close. I knew he loved me and had my best interests at heart, but there never was a closeness that some sons enjoy. He was always gone in those important 4-14 years, a traveling salesman. When he was home it was usually in a disciplinary fashion. Mom had had enough of dealing with three and then four rambunctious boys all week long. Friday evening was reckoning time around our house. I loved my Dad, I respected my Dad, I even feared my Dad, but I never felt close to my Dad.

Jonathon-attacks-PhilistineJonathon must have had that type of relationship with his father Saul. Saul had great responsibilities leading Israel, but he was a poor father. He was even a poor King. One day (1 Sam 14) Jonathon did a typical Elder Brother thing. He went with his armor bearer and tackled a guardpost of Philistines deep in Israeli territory. They killed as many as 20 men, causing the other Philistines to think an army was upon them. King Saul was told what was going on and ordered an assault. The Philistines were in disarray and suffered heavy casualties. Saul was so focused on complete victory that he ordered his soldiers to not eat or drink anything until all the Philistines were killed. His men were weak from hunger and thirst. Jonathon, unaware of the command, dipped his spear in some honey and was instantly energized after eating it. When told of the command of his father, he said the order was nonsense.

King Saul Orders attackKing Saul inquired of the Lord to get further military instructions (at least he was still trying to follow the Lord at this point). No Word from God came. He was upset and sought to find out the cause. Even if it was his own son, Jonathon, the perpetrator would be killed. The answer came back that Jonathon was indeed the cause, and Saul ordered him KILLED! The people intervened and Jonathon was spared. Some dad eh? All mine ever did was spank me!

Imagine how difficult it would be for Jonathon to get close to that kind of father. Selfish, conceited, unloving, such was King Saul. Fortunately, as a young teenager my life was influenced by a Divine Father who desired a close relationship with me. I discovered He is the most loving Father anyone could want. We all need to be loved, to have close friends, even us Elder Brother types.

Touch Hem to be WholeWhen Jesus walked this earth, people were drawn to Him, but only those who had a relationship with Him were changed. Mark 6:56 reveals why: “as many as touched (háptomai) him were made whole.” We think that the tactile touch was all it took, but the word haptomai means much more than a physical touch. This “TOUCH” means that “the handling of an object was done in such a manner as to exert a modifying influence upon it or upon oneself”.

I experienced such a TOUCH in times of reading my Father’s Word, in times of praying with my Father. Those ‘touches” exerted a modifying influence upon me, upon my heart.

When I was 19, my earthly father touched me with a confession. With tears in his eyes he told me that God had given him a second chance, and he asked my forgiveness for not being around when I was growing up. I remember the converstaion as if it was yesterday.

Father-and-Elder-BrotherSuch is this God, this Divine Father that loves us so much. When He touches our heart, we are never the same. That touch will open our hearts to those around us, those in our care. When God touches us with His Love and Forgiveness, it gives us the ability to Love others!

Elder Brothers need to be touched, need to have our hearts opened up to the needs of those around us. The Elder Brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son kept his heart closed, resisting the touch of his father. The younger brother had nowhere to go, so he eagerly accepted the touch and kisses of his father.

jonathan_davidJonathon met a younger brother named David, and their souls became knit together. Jonathon gave everything he had to care for David. He was the Elder Brother that David needed when everyone else was against David. Jonathon was even the target of his father’s own spear because of his love for David. The time came for David to go into hiding because it was obvious King Saul wanted him dead. Jonathon and David met secretly and said their goodbyes, “Then David bowed three times to Jonathan with his face to the ground. Both of them were in tears as they embraced each other and said good-bye, especially David.” (1 Sam 20:41)

Have you been touched by your earthly father? Have you been touched by your Heavenly Father? Is there a younger brother who has been touched by you? Will there be tears when you say goodbye?

My dad went to be with God in 1995 at the age of 63. In typical Elder Brother fashion I was the strong one during the funeral and the days following. I could not cry. I drove down to my Mom and Dad’s home in Destin Fl, to get some things of my dad. While I was there, trying on some of his clothes, it finally hit me. I broke down and wept and wept and wept. I don’t know how long, I only know I had never wept like that before. It was at that time I renewed my commitment to my Divine Father to serve Him and to answer the call to preach that He had given me 24 years earlier.

Jim-Tompkins-Sr-My-DadIn those few moments alone with the last remnants of my earthly father, my heart had finally been touched in a way to open my heart and eyes to the needs of others.

Dad, thanks for touching me with your life, thanks for opening my heart to serving the younger brothers around me. Your touch continues to be upon my life all these years later. When I preach, when I teach, when I serve, I know it is your touch that is by my side.

Father: Thank you for those who touch our lives. Would you open our hearts to be sensitive to the needs of all those around us. Would you allow us Elder Brothers to touch you and be made whole!

HypocriteJesus warned His followers to NOT be like the hypocrites. (Matthew 6:5) He didn’t name names, but I think everyone knew He was pointing at the religious leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees).

Tourist and hypocritesAnyone who has ever been in a foreign country with different language and customs can relate to what Jesus was talking about. When you go to a strange country, even though you don’t wear the funny shirt and silly hat, you will stick out as a tourist. You may try to speak the language, try to follow their customs, but it will be forced, it will be unnatural to you. A hypocrite is acting, doing something, speaking something that is not natural to them. When they are in their native setting, they will reveal their true identity and character.

Martha is an elder brotherI believe elder brothers are natural hypocrites. We are driven to be responsible, to be in charge, and we often find ourselves doing and acting responsibly even though our heart is not in it. But that is how we are wired. The challenge for elder brothers is to develop a pure heart, a sincere heart, a heart that seeks after God’s heart. To understand an elder brother, look at Martha as contrasted with Mary. Mary followed her heart, while Martha did what was needed. It did not matter what Martha wanted to do, she was simply driven to do what had to be done, because she was the responsible one. She sought approval by her works, while Mary simply wanted to be with Jesus.

Elder Brothers must ask God to examine their hearts, and reveal any hypocrisy, any selfishness, any pride. Elder Brothers will have a tendency to put on a responsible mask at church and then be very self-serving in their work and career. To an Elder Brother, Church can simply be a means of respectability in the eyes of others. Jesus would rather us be a Mary, or the younger brother who realizes he messed up yet repents and returns to the Father. Get an elder brother in the world, outside of their “comfort zone” and their hypocrisy will be revealed. Their true heart will be exposed.

Jesus challenges elder brothers to discover the desires of their heart, and then give them to Him. Over the next few weeks, I will be learning how to allow His heart to be my heart, without hypocrisy or selfishness.

“Journey of the Elder Brother” will be a feeble attempt to chronicle my journey through “The Prodigal God”.

From PathwayofBlessing

The-Prodigal-God We are starting “The Prodigal God” series at church tomorrow. I still remember hearing a preacher from Great Britain proclaim “God’s Chief Delight is to Give” as he spoke from this parable in chapel at Baptist Bible College. I have had to remind myself of that constantly in life, especially when things were looking hopeless. Timothy Keller does a fantastic job of laying the groundwork for our study, so much so that I am going to let him tell it tomorrow by letting him preach the first sermon. He opens up this parable in a way that I had not seen before, particularly in regards to the relationship between the elder brother and the brother who went away.

Jim and John to SchoolAs I watched and listened I was struck in my heart because I am the elder brother. I was the first born, I was the responsible one, I was the one who never got in trouble. My younger brother John, meanwhile, was always the one in trouble, always the one who seemed to have more fun because he was always pushing the limits. Smugly I laughed to myself when he got in trouble, yet inwardly I was jealous of his superior looks, athletic ability and success with the girls. John was the one who brought my dad the greatest joy and greatest heartache. John excelled in sports while I was merely a debater. My parents always went to watch John but never went to watch me debate. Dad and John fought to the point of blows, yet a mere word was spoken and I obeyed. Still, it seemed that John got all the attention.

John and Jim off to collegeJohn tried to do right at times. He even followed me to Bible College my third year. He only succeeded with the girls, and not with the grades. He was kicked out and celebrated by TEE-PEEing the entire campus. What a sight! He was always the one to break the rules and have the most fun. I got married and went to work for dad, and started having a family. John moved away to Arizona.

While I continued to be the dutiful elder brother, John made a mess of his life. He married and divorced five times (to only two different women). He got more and more into the drugs he had started experimenting with in high school. Marijuana led to cocaine which led to Meth and who know what else. John did it all. He got to where he couldn’t keep a job. He called constantly for money. His two boys would have nothing to do with him. Mom and Dad didn’t know what to do. They had spent thousands of dollars on rehab and psychiatric care, but nothing ever worked. They went to their grave with hearts heavy with grief over John.

Handsome John TompkinsJohn was the consummate con-man, fooling everyone but himself. I found him on the streets of Phoenix in 2004. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Could this be the brother I had always admired? He still amazes me, because he is surviving in a way I never could. But he doesn’t have to live this way. I got him a car so he could at least lock his possessions up (there is a lot of theft among the homeless). It lasted about 3 1/2 years. My brother Tim bought him another car that he lives in now.

John TompkinsThe point of all this – am I still being the selfish elder brother? John needs major dental work now. He is working at a regular labor type job. A friend says he is off drugs. AM I willing to be the elder brother who spares no expense to get his younger brother back to the Father? How much am I willing to spend to get John back to God? Am I willing to forgive the way our Prodigal God forgives? I’m sure the elder brother was muttering, “Why give him your ring, he will just run off and pawn it to pay for more drugs!” John did that to me many times. He has done his best to burn every bridge with every brother, sister, aunt, uncle cousin and friend he has.

What is the answer? What would John’s TRUE “Elder Brother(Jesus)” do? In His Word He tells us to forgive 490 times, to give if we have the ability to give, and to love him as I love myself. BUT THIS IS CRAZINESS TO ME, HIS ELDER BROTHER. I can’t possibly be the elder brother God wants me to be! I am so practical and reliable. I know nothing of the extravagant giving of my Prodigal God!

This series is for me, the elder brother. May God touch my heart and enlarge my view of how GIVING and FORGIVING God wants me to be! INCREASE MY FAITH!