How The Prodigal Son Should Have Ended

I’ve always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.

prodigal-sonFor most of my Christian walk, I’ve completely identified with the younger brother.  Drawn to what the world had to offer, in defiance of the Father’s will, defeated by the world, humbled and fearful of the Father’s wrath, hanging my head as I vied for a servant’s position in the household, then overcome by His unexpected grace and mercy, and ultimately fully aware of and troubled by the older brother’s lack of compassion and understanding.

But over the past few years, God has led me through some intense healing and deliverance.  The theme of this recent season has been learning what it means to be a true son of God.  I’ve learned a lot about my identity in the Kingdom and that has changed everything.  It’s changed how I relate to God.  For the first time ever, I began experiencing Him as a father.  And I found out that He is a really really good father!  It’s changed how I view the Kingdom of Heaven.  For the first time ever, I don’t see it as some far off land that I may get to be a part of one day.  Instead, I realize that it is at hand.  I am already a part of it and I am an Ambassador of Heaven living in a foreign land.  I represent the culture of Heaven here on earth and it’s my privilege to spread that culture.  It’s changed how I feel about myself.  For the first time ever, I feel like ALL of the promises in the Word are for me.  All that He has really is mine!

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And for the first time ever, I realize that in this season of my life, I actually now more closely resemble the older brother in the parable.  I know my place in the family now and I’m busy serving my God as a true son.  And, I have very little desire for the things of the world when compared with the things of God. 

So now, I have a decision to make.  Will I behave just like the older brother in the parable, or will I rewrite this story?

Option One: The Original Story

I’m serving my Father in His house, tending to my own inheritance all the while there are prodigal sons and daughters living out beyond the reach of the family.  My Father watches at the window waiting for them to return, desperate to get to them before anyone else in the household does.  Who knows what they might do to them?  The disgrace they’ve brought the family is reason enough to rough them up and send them packing. 

But, that’s not my Father’s heart.  He weeps for them.  He watches for them.  He longs for them.  He’s come to me and to others several times entreating us to go look for them and bring them home.

But who has time for that?

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The Prodigal Son Driven Out

Give it up Father!  Just forget about them if they don’t want to be a part of this family.  Look around at how well things are going here!  Everyone’s happy.  Everyone’s needs are met.  We’re working together to build and expand your household.  We’re getting stronger.  We’re getting fatter.  We’re getting richer.  Our enemies come to try to rob us and we easily send them packing.  We’ve got it made in the shade.  Who needs all those dirty, stinky, needy prodigals coming in here and screwing up what we’ve worked so hard to build?     

One of them came back the other day.  And Father actually threw him a party.  He gave him fine clothes and gifts!  Can you imagine?  Father is acting just like these prodigals: hasty, irrational, extravagant, and indulgent.  It was so wasteful.  All that I’ve worked so hard for was just given to this scoundrel.  I had to say something.  Father made a big point of telling me that this prodigal wasn’t just His son, but that he was my brother.  Well, Father can go on thinking that if He wants, but that wretch is no brother of mine.  Let him prove himself first.  Maybe then I’ll accept him.painting1

Uggh!  Now that I’m the older brother, I just hate this part of the story.  I want to rewrite it.  I believe the whole reason Jesus told this story is so that we would rewrite it!

Option Two: An Alternate Ending (How it Should Have Ended…And Still Can)

So many of my brothers and sisters have left and are living out lives they were never designed to live.  My Father’s heart breaks for them.  He paces before the window every day, watching and praying for their safe return.  I can’t bear seeing my Father like this.  I can’t bear the thought of what my brothers and sisters might be going through.  They are living without the protection and provision I enjoy as a son of this household.  They are living without the Father’s love and blessing and guidance. 

There’s so much to do here, but I can’t get them off my mind.  My Father loves them as much as He loves me.  And I love my Father.  So when my Father’s heart breaks, so does mine.

So, I went to my Father one day and I said, “Father, send me out to find these lost sons and daughters of yours.  Give me authority to tell them how you really feel about them.  Give me provision to journey to the ends of the earth to find them!  Give me authority to bring them home to you.” 

tumblr_li7zmaRFW71qhmhdfo1_500With joy, He gave me everything I asked for and sent me out to find them.  In ways, it was tough to leave the safety of the household and venture out to where I might be mocked or abused or even killed.  But I knew that I had the support of my entire family behind me.  So I mustered up all the courage I had and decided to care more about my lost brothers and sisters than I did for myself and my own needs and safety. 

And when I found one of my brothers face-down in the muck of a pig pen, it made it all worth it.  He was dirty and stinky and half starved to death.  I ran to him and got right down in the pig poop with him.  I got filthy dirty, but I didn’t care.  I took no thought of what people might think when they saw me covered in muck.  All I was thinking about was rescuing my brother. 

My brother was beyond surprised to see me.  He couldn’t believe that I had actually left home for the sole purpose of finding him.  He thought the family had written him off.  He thought Father hated him.  He thought he was too dirty to be accepted. 

mudkids-1I brushed the mud off of his face.  “There you are,” I said.  I told him he was my brother and I loved him no matter what he had done.  I told him all about how the Father wept for him and longed for him.  I told him, “This isn’t who you are.  This pig pen doesn’t define you.  You’re a member of a wealthy and royal family.  Come home, brother.  Father and I love you!” 

I helped him to his feet and together we headed home.  All the while, he hung his head and kept rehearsing his apology.  He kept asking me if I was sure he would be welcome.  I reassured him over and over again that no one would turn him away. 

 When we drew near to the house, he grew increasingly nervous and considered turning back several times.  “Don’t,” I pleaded.  “Just wait until you see!  Everyone will be overjoyed to see you!  I guarantee you Father will be head over heels for you!” 

Finally, we reached the edge of the property and here came Father, running out of the house and down the hill toward him!  Father’s arms were wide open.  There was a huge smile on His face and tears in His eyes.  My brother just dropped to his knees and hung his head. murillo

But just then, something miraculous happened.  Every member of the family who had heard what was happening immediately left their work in the fields and joined the Father in running down the hill to greet our brother who had returned.  It was amazing to see my family with one heart and one purpose following in the footsteps of our great Father. 

The party started right then and there as the Father and everyone after Him hugged and fawned over my brother.  We all helped him into his new clothes and we reminded him over and over again the he was a true son of this family.  We fed him and helped him heal.  We held his hand and loved him.  We never treated him any differently. 


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And he grew strong and confident.  And now, whenever he and I hear of another lost son or daughter, we go out together after him or her.  And we as a family celebrate over and over again, every time our brothers and sisters come home.  We’re constantly throwing parties.  And I love it!  I wouldn’t want to be a part of any other family.

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Benjamin Nolot, A Forerunner for Purity in a Pornified World

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Benjamin Nolot

“Women are intellectual, emotional, spiritual…creative, athletic, familial, political, caring, compassionate, relational, strong; they may desire autonomy and independence, or family and children; they long for commitment and fidelity; they are searching for deeper meaning and purpose; they long to have an impact in the world.  Simply put, women are not a sexual buffet for the gratuitous appetites of men; they are image bearers of God and the crown of His creation.” 

photoThese words were spoken by Benjamin Nolot (founder of Exodus Cry and award-winning director of Nefarious, a film exploring the nature and manifestation of human trafficking in the world today), at the One Thing conference in Kansas City, which wrapped up on the last day of 2013.  Blake and I drove the six hours to KC this past weekend mainly to hear him speak, but also enjoyed hanging with some friends, a teaching by Mike Bickle, worship with Matt Redman, Laura Hackett, and Jon Thurlow, lunch at Cosentino’s (a downtown market with a plethora of different fresh food), and an early birthday treat for Blake which started with our favorite KC BBQ at Jack Stack’s and wrapped up with some coffee, cookies, and chai at a local coffee house called Crossroads (Blake even wore his Crossroads hoody that day.  How did he know?).

Early Birthday Goodness

Early Birthday Goodness

The One Thing Conference is an annual gathering of around 30,000 people, hosted by the International House of Prayer (IHOP), which focuses on drawing people into a deep encounter with Jesus so that they might make Him and His call the One Thing in their life which takes all preeminence.  It takes place after Christmas each year and wraps up with an extended worship set to ring in the New Year.  Unfortunately, Blake and I couldn’t stay the whole time (we missed the beginning and the end and were only there for about a day and a half), but I was adamant that we hear Benjamin Nolot speak, as he is one of my living heroes.  

One Thing 2013

One Thing 2013

At this time, I feel I must explain what I mean by “living hero” because it is a term I use quite often and you will most likely read it again in future posts.  A living hero is NOT someone I idolize. They are simply someone I greatly respect and who inspires me. They are NOT someone I try to emulate, but rather, are someone I submit to learn from.  They are someone whose life I follow and am interested in observing.   I say all this because I feel it’s important that there be only one I exalt and emulate: Christ Jesus. But there are many people who are forerunners worthy of my notice and Benji Nolot is amongst those at the top of that list. 

His message at the conference was profound and was birthed out of the research and filming of the sequel to Nefarious.  While the first film revealed the problem of human trafficking, it did not explore many of the causes.  With over 30 million people enslaved today (more than ever in human history), the majority of whom are enslaved for the purpose of sexual exploitation, the enormity of the problem begs the question: why?  In other words, how has humanity reached such a deep level of global depravity that this many people are being commodified?  As Nolot puts it, “What type of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?”  Nefarious-HTML1

The second film promises answer this central dramatic question by exposing the pornified nature of multiple aspects of our culture which work collectively to do two things: to groom women and girls to conform to the idealized hyper-sexualized image of femininity while simultaneously grooming men and boys to consume women’s sexuality.  This duality working in tandem is so inherently problematic for both sexes, especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy sexuality, resulting in what Nolot refers to as a “toxic sexuality.” The end result of such toxic sexuality is the dehumanization of both women and men.  Women’s sexuality become their only value and they are reduced to “nymphomaniacs with no sexual discretion or preference.”  Furthermore, they must always be available for sex in order to achieve visibility.  Men are also dehumanized as they are reduced to “unfeeling, amoral, life-support systems for [feminine arousal]” and find value through the domination and degradation of women.  

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This is just the tip of the iceberg concerning how our culture is affecting our view of gender roles, our sexuality, and ourselves as individuals.  His message was so dynamic and so multi-faceted that I couldn’t possibly address all of the points in this post. But it was so powerful that I wouldn’t want you to miss out! So check out the teachings below:

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 1 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

Contending for Purity in a Pornified World Part 2 (Benjamin Nolot: One Thing 2013)

There is, however, one topic, the idea of the “female double bind,” which I would like to highlight here because I believe it is an aspect of the problem which has infiltrated the Church and is therefore keeping us from fully engaging with God’s heart toward this issue.  This is yet another case of the Church trying to NOT be “in the world” and in effect becoming “of the world” (with our own Christian brand of course).  Hint: it’s supposed to be the other way around.  We’re supposed to be in the world but not of it!

The Female Double Bind

The female double bind is an “impossible dilemma that women and girls face in [our] sexist culture.”  It’s based on the premise of culture-grooming mentioned earlier. The double standard is that men who are groomed to be consumers of sex are celebrated when they reach this ideal, while women who are groomed to objectify their own sexuality are shamed when they reach the ideal.  It’s the irony of a mentality which calls a promiscuous male a stud, pimp, or player (a celebratory term) and calls a promiscuous female a slut or whore (a term of derision).  

Human-Trafficking-1024x688Basically, the female double bind means that a woman can’t win.  Only men are the winners (if it can even be called winning) in this type of culture and they win by wielding the invincible double bind to completely degrade and oppress women.

This is perfectly exemplified by a quote Nolot shared from a woman he interviewed who had formerly been prostituted.  She said, “We are very close to death.  All women are.  And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating.  And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.”  

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Isaiah 61

Now, I don’t know about you, but when she says, “there is no escape for us,” it completely breaks my heart.  Why?  Because I know the man who was anointed to set the captives free and proclaim release to the prisoners (Isaiah 61/Luke 4).  And His word says that the same Spirit is upon me and upon every believer.  My heart breaks because I know that it’s the will of God that the Bride of Christ, His church, have the same broken heart for humanity that Jesus has, a heart moved to action with compassion by the sufferings of humanity who are under the burden of the exploitative nature of sin. 

So why then, if the Church has the authority to set captives free, would this woman feel she had no escape? 

strippersnIt’s the same reason that a woman I met who was working in a strip club took one look at our Bibles which say, “Jesus Loves Strippers” and boldly and sincerely asked our team, “Does He really?  Am I less than to Him because of what I do?”  Because, up until that point, she had only been met with condemnation from Christians who had chosen to degrade her character right along side the men in the clubs who exploited her.  She didn’t yet know about the Savior who sets us free.  The Savior who convicts but never condemns.  The Savior who loves her so immensely.  She didn’t yet know the Father who created her and saw her as lovely.  The Father who longs to be in relationship with her.  The Father who longs to bless her.  The Father who gave up and sacrificed His own son so that He could have her as His own daughter.  She didn’t know because no one had ever told her or shown her.  She didn’t know because all the Christians she had encountered had joined right along with the World in participating in what Nolot refers to as “slut shaming.”  She was expecting God to do the same. 

Church, we must guard against throwing the baby out with the bathwater!  In rejecting sexual immorality, we have a tendency to also rejected people who are enslaved by the spirit of lust and perversion, especially women!  Women who are simply trying to survive in a pornified culture.  Women who don’t know the freedom found in Christ because we’ve not offered it to them.  Women who look at the Church and see the same double bind found in the strip club.  They feel degraded and vilified for conforming to culture no matter where they turn.  It’s completely understandable that they would choose, therefore, to stay within the context of culture rather than seek refuge in the Church.  Popular culture is familiar and the Church doesn’t feel at all like a refuge.  

isaiah61We have to have a better answer than that!  And I believe we do!  To quote Sarah Bessey, author of the book, Jesus Feminist, “The world is failing women, and we, the people of God, know the solution: our beloved Jesus and His Kingdom ways are good news, in every sense of the words!”  And I must tell you that I am beginning to see a huge shift in the way the Body of Christ is responding to women and I’m so encouraged by it!  Ministries such as Exodus Cry, BeLoved, Strip Church, and several others are breaking the female double bind both in the sex industry and within the Church.  Christ is stirring His Bride to go after the lost daughters and shower them with His love and honor.  And from what I’ve seen, it works.  Lo and behold, His Word stands true:  His goodness really does lead us to repentance.  And His light really does shine in the darkness.  And His mercies really are endless.  He really does set captives free, heal the broken-hearted, and bring dead things to life.  He really is the one who so loved the World!  

To bring this to a close, I want to invite and urge each of us as individuals to take a sincere inventory of his or her own heart.  How do I really feel about the so-called “soiled” woman?  Do I have God’s attitude toward her?  Or have I bought into the culture’s double bind?  

These are questions you must answer, because she’s asking you another question.  She’s asking you, “Does He really love me?”  

Here’s a hint:  God loves her as much as He loves you.  Why not go show and tell her?  Don’t know where to start?  Why not take your cue from Benjamin Nolot?  Begin by telling her: She is the “crown of God’s creation.”

Because, she is.