A Prodigals Sister

Luke 15:11-32

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.[a]

22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

 

Since 2011 I’ve been at home, working in my Father’s field while my man worked away from home. Let me clarify a few things from the get go: my man is a son, adopted into our Father’s family since he was a teenager. But during the last 8 years as he traveled for his job, his heart became lost.  He didn’t waste his money on wild living. He faithfully supported his family. He didn’t squander his inheritance on prostitutes. He remained faithful to his wife. But, as a self-confessed prodigal, he admits that he left his Father to pursue a life on his own.

During that time, I tilled the ground at home: managing the estate, training the kids, homeschooling, and doing the work of the ministry. I slaved away….and I was continually angry. I was angry that I was doing IT ALL alone. I was angry that my frequent flyer platinum preferred man left at the beginning of each week. I was angry that my frequent flyer platinum preferred man came home for weekend layovers. I prayed for him to come home permanently. I begged. I pleaded. I yelled. I threatened. All to no avail. He couldn’t see that he was starving in the farmers field. He couldn’t hear that I was starving for his love and his leadership. As days turned into months that turned into years, I eventually began relenting to corrections from those in the body of Christ who love me, “Jodie, LET. IT. GO. You can’t fix it.” I finally gave notice to the “Mrs. fix it” job when I surrendered to the Spirit at my annual spiritual heart exam this spring. Through the ministry of a pastor (gift, not title) in NC, the Spirit revealed that my heart was done (literally DONE; it had been boiling in a pressure cooker!). I agreed with the Spirt and declared “I’m done.” Two weeks later during a worship service in FL, the Spirit showed me the done heart again… along with a jello heart. He commanded: “choose one.”  I chose jello, and He crushed the done heart into ash.

I won’t speculate that my obedience to the Spirit helped cause a radical shift in our circumstances the following months, but I don’t believe in coincidence. God uses ALL things for our good, according to His purposes, not our own. (Romans 8:28)

Around the same season, my man came to his senses in the pig trough. He began seeing the Holy Spirit burn his hardened heart from the inside out. He started to feel again: longing for relationship with the Father, with his wife, and his children. He confessed. He repented. And a short time later, someone from his companies HR department asked him to apply for a newly created position. He applied. He interviewed. He was flown to headquarters. He was given the job. He accepted. And the location where this newly created global position would be based from? AT HOME!

Not. Kidding.

Oh, how the Father rejoiced when He saw his son come home! As my man received his robe and ring and sandals and gathered with family in celebration, I stood outside the party pouting. Me, the prodigals sister in the Lord. Me, the one who prayed for the prodigal to come to his senses. Me, the Father’s daughter who stayed at home.

Me. Me. Me!

sister.jpg

As steaming hot lava began flowing out of a volcano of emotions, I realized my sense of justice was unbalanced. From my perspective, I deserved to be praised and celebrated for staying at home the entire time! After all, I was the one who had been doing what the Father said. And now, because my brother had finally come to his senses and come back home where he belonged, the entire family was rejoicing like it was 1999…uh, I mean, 2019!!!

Yep. There it was, hidden in my Pharisaical heart: spiritual pride. Only the revelatory conviction of the Holy Spirit could give me eyes to see and ears to hear. Only deep grief through the gift of repentance could remove it. And now, this sister is rejoiceing in the celebration of her brothers homecoming, knowing that:

WE are His beloved children.

WE have been given an inheritance.

WE have the freedom to choose life or death.

WE have been lost.

WE have been found.

WE have received a robe and a ring and sandals.

WE will celebrate together, at the wedding feast with the Father and the Spirit as the Son is joined with His pure and spotless bride (Revelation 19). What a celebration that will be for the family of God, for all eternity!!!

Into the Wilderness

Matthew 4:1 New Living Translation (NLT)

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil.

In the spring of 2018, the Lord showed me the wilderness I was beginning to endure, alone. I would be led by the Spirit to an empty, man-made, concrete river bed. I would be tempted. I would suffer. I would scream. I would cry. And Jesus would be with me.

In the following weeks and months that led into a new year, I engaged in conversations with the Lord in that dry place. He stood with me as I grieved. He comforted me as I sobbed. He listened as I screamed. He heard me as I processed my anger. He cared for me. He fed me. He gave me living water to drink from His hands. He showed me the free-flowing river I was destined to enter. He showed me the way out of the dry river bed. He showed me the angels that would protect me from my enemies as they hurled accusations against me. He showed me the fear of man that so easily entangles me. He showed me the lies I’ve believed. He showed me how to repent and be forgiven, and forgive. He showed me how to trust in Him alone.

I must admit; there has been much protest from me in the wilderness.

But I’ve stayed in this place with Him. And I will remain here until He leads me out.

For I have come to know the One who will never leave me or forsake me. The One who calls me His own. The One who created me in my mothers womb. The One who called me by name before the foundations of the earth. The One who loved me unto death. The One who conquered the grave. The One who sits at the right hand of our Father. The One who intercedes for me. The One who knows the plans for me. The One who uses all things for my good. The One who receives all the glory for my life.

Into the Wilderness.jpgAnd because I know Him, I know that He is doing something new in me. Actually, its already begun. Do you see it? He has made a pathway through the wilderness. He has made a river in the dry wasteland. I WILL be refreshed! And He will be honored.

 

Isaiah 43:14-21 New Living Translation (NLT) 

14 This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

“For your sakes I will send an army against Babylon,
    forcing the Babylonians[a] to flee in those ships they are so proud of.
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One,
    Israel’s Creator and King.
16 I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters,
    making a dry path through the sea.
17 I called forth the mighty army of Egypt
    with all its chariots and horses.
I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned,
    their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.

18 “But forget all that—
    it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
    See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
    I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
    the jackals and owls, too,
    for giving them water in the desert.
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
    so my chosen people can be refreshed.
21 I have made Israel for myself,
    and they will someday honor me before the whole world.

Divorcing the System

 Ephesians 5:25-30 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her 26 to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.[a] 27 He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.28 In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as they love their own bodies. For a man who loves his wife actually shows love for himself. 29 No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church.30 And we are members of his body.

We left our local church again.

Why?

Short answer: God said.

Long answer: We came to a fork in the narrow road where we had to choose to be loyal to a church system or submit to what Scripture and the Spirit were saying.

divorcing.jpgAfter many months of searching Scripture, praying, sobbing, contemplating,  receiving visions and dreams from the Lord, and wrestling through my selfish desire to remain in fellowship with my friends, we divorced the church system.

We LOVE the church, the body of Christ, His bride. But we can no longer submit to man’s system of doing church. The cry of our heart is to BE THE CHURCH, worshipping the Lord in Spirt and in Truth.

John 4:21-24 New Living Translation (NLT)

21 Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Charming and I were raised going to church, long before we became part of the Church. I was part of the Presbyterian system and we have been part of the Methodist system, the non-denominational Baptist system, the non-denominational Pentecostal system, and the non-denominational mega system.

We had fantastic pastors and not so fantastic pastors. We had pastors who shepherded these stupid, stubborn sheep! And we had pastors who became power hungry, prideful dictators that pursued their own empires. Honestly, I don’t think they knew what they were doing. They didn’t realize they were neglecting the sheep because they were too busy managing the system. They didn’t see the enemy sneak in to steal, kill and destroy the flock. They didn’t hear the cries of the wandering sheep who needed to be led back to the safety of the sheepfold. The sheep became just another number. Just another servant of the system.  As my friend said, “just a cog in a wheel.” Just another passenger on a runaway freight train; who’s tracks were already laid, who’s schedules were already made, and who’s conductors weren’t concerned with a few passengers hopping off at the station, because greater numbers would jump on at the next.

I have forgiven those shepherds.

Just as the Great Shepherd has forgiven me.

I’ve never been given the title of pastor, but I understand what it means to pastor people, to shepherd the sheep. Charming and I have led others in service teams and small groups for over two decades in local churches and in ministry through the non-profit we founded in 2010.

I understand wanting to be used by God.

I understand wanting to serve people.

I understand wanting power.

I understand wanting a position.

I understand wanting to please others.

I understand wanting to be on a platform.

I understand wanting the praises of others.

I understand wanting big numbers; people and dollar bills.

And, I understand grieving the Spirit by obeying the system instead of obeying Him.

But I also understand that God’s kindness led me to repent.

Repent for the lust of my eyes, the lust of my flesh and the pride of my life.

And a result of His revelation, He required a response: divorce the church system.

Jesus said, if I love Him I will obey His commands.

I do. And I did.

The divorce has been painful for our family.

But the Lord has been faithful. We are no longer bound to a system. Instead, we are free to worship the Lord in Spirit and in Truth with other parts of the body. Gathering at home each week, we’ve gone back to the simple way (Acts 2); worshipping, praying, studying Scripture, and sharing communion and meals with one another.

If we believe, receive and confess Jesus as Lord and Savior…

We are His church.

We are His body.

We are His bride.

We believe in the Father.

We believe in the Son.

We believe in the Spirit.

We believe in the baptism of water and fire.

We believe the Father gives good gifts to the church.

We believe the Son gives good gifts to the church.

We believe the Spirit gives good gifts to the church.

We believe the church is to be disciples and make disciples.

We believe Jesus is the head of His church, His body, His bride.

We believe the Spirit is preparing the bride for the Grooms return.

We believe Jesus will present His pure and spotless bride to the Father.

Ephesians 4:1-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.

However, he has given each one of us a special gift[a] through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say,

“When he ascended to the heights,
    he led a crowd of captives
    and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world.[c] 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.  

Revelation 19:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

Then I heard again what sounded like the shout of a vast crowd or the roar of mighty ocean waves or the crash of loud thunder:

“Praise the Lord!
    For the Lord our God,[a] the Almighty, reigns.
Let us be glad and rejoice,
    and let us give honor to him.
For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb,
    and his bride has prepared herself.