Posts Tagged ‘Orphan Thinking’

Orphans: Holding and being Held

09/15/2012 2 comments

“But when he came to himself…, he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” (Lk. 15:17-20)

The embrace of the father in this parable is one of the major points of the story. We often focus on the rebellion of the prodigal and his return, or the elder brother’s attempt to earn favor. But Jesus’ purpose in telling the story was to draw attention to his Father’s willingness to embrace those who have gone astray.

In the parable, both the elder brother and the prodigal thought like orphans. The elder brother thought he had to work to earn the right to enjoy his father’s house (which was also his house). He did not feel like he belonged as a part of the family. He was behaving like a servant, not like a son, even though the whole estate was his. His inheritance was not available to him because of his orphan thinking. Inheritance is for sons, not orphans.

The prodigal also thought like an orphan. He felt like he had to go outside his father’s house to enjoy life. Like the elder brother, he did not feel like he belonged to his father. He wanted to break free from what he perceived to be a restricting environment. But the only way he could break away was to take his inheritance and use it for his own self-centered desires. Like Adam and Eve, he believed the lie that the father did not have his best interest in mind.

When the prodigal “came to himself” (v. 17), he realized he was a son of a good father. He had been alienated from his father, which was also alienation from himself. He had to return to himself (as a son) before he could return to his father. He had ceased to feel like a son, but he had not ceased to be a son.

On his return, his father held him in his arms without requiring any penance. That embrace had been available before the prodigal left home. But the prodigal, thinking like an orphan, was not able to receive that embrace. The father wanted to hold his son, but the son would not be held. His orphan thinking was keeping him from intimacy with his father.

But the elder brother was also refusing to receive the embrace, even though it was for different reasons. He wanted the approval of his friends. He was trying to earn the right to use the father’s house to entertain his friends. He was not interested in his father’s presence. His orphan thinking was also keeping him from intimacy with his father.

True intimacy with God is about holding and being held; God holds and we allow ourselves to be held. If one is trying to hold but the other is resisting, there can be no intimacy. Abba Father holds all of us in his heart at all times and in all circumstances. Lack of intimacy is never a problem on God’s side. His steadfast love endures forever. If you feel a lack of intimacy with God, stop trying so hard to win his favor and simply spend more time allowing him to hold you.

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If you are interested in a deeper study of the parable of the prodigal, go to an check out my “Invitation to Intimacy,” which is a meditation on Luke chapter 17.

Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries


Orphans and the Family Business

08/11/2012 1 comment

“In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and I will take you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 ESV).

The ESV Bible has captured the idea of this text. A house has rooms, not mansions. But the word house can also mean household. We, the Church, are the household of God (Heb. 3:3-6; Eph. 2:19). It seems to me Jesus is speaking of the Father’s Family Business which operates out of his house. At age 12 Jesus was already about his Father’s Business (Luke 2:49). The word business in Luke is a form of the word for house.

So what are the many rooms in the house of the Family Business? A short answer would be that the rooms are for particular functions within the House. Father is in the business of saving, healing and training others in the ways of the kingdom of God. There is a room for each of us according to the function we are called and equipped for. He did not leave us as orphans; we have a place in his House.

Jesus went to prepare a place for each of us according to the nature he put in us when he knit us together in our mother’s womb. When a person receives the Lord, Jesus comes to bring them to himself and involve them in the Family Business. To function in that room we must be responsive to daily instructions from Father. Jesus lived his life doing only what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19). When he brings us to himself, we are in that place of intimacy (the bosom) where we can see what Father is doing and allow him to do the work through us. Your room is waiting for you.

We noticed in previous blogs that orphans are those who behave as though they don’t have a father. Many Christians never relate to the Father; they act like spiritual orphans. Some feel that there is no Father who is really there for them to help them and protect them. Some try to do the Family Business with no input from Father. Others act as though it is the responsibility of a select few to do the work. They have no real part in the Family Business. All three groups often criticize others who are doing the work.

Some orphans wear themselves out trying to do the work with no energy from the Holy Spirit. Some time ago I heard someone say that ministry drains them. Ministry actually energizes those who are doing what Father is doing and receiving his energy to do it. There is certainly a time to go to a quiet place to rest. Jesus went to a desert place often. He didn’t go away to avoid people; he went to be with his Father and receive more to give away the next day.

The place Jesus prepared for us is in the Father’s heart for the nations. Father loves the whole world. Those who are in the place Jesus prepared for them will overflow with Father’s love within the function (room) they were designed to fill. We are behaving like orphans if we are not involved in Father’s Family Business.

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Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries

Orphans and Authorities

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

In our culture few have experienced intimacy with an earthly father. That makes it difficult to approach God as Father because our “internalized father” (the image of fatherhood from our Dad) was never open to intimacy; he was focused on the task at hand and getting the job done right. Or perhaps he was simply not there when we needed him, or was physically away from the home. The majority of children are raised in a home without the presence of a father. This is the source of orphan thinking.

We see God through that lens. Apparently Father God intended for parents to present an image of God to their children by the way they function as parents. At a certain age, we transfer our internalized image of Dad over to Father God. We think God is like our daddy. The good news of the Gospel is that God is not like your daddy. Even if you had a good father, Father God is ever so much more open to intimacy and more available. He doesn’t have to work for a living.

As young children we worked hard to win the favor of our dad (at least when we were very young, before we were wounded). We often think that intimacy with Father comes by our effort to be in his presence. But truthfully, we are always in his presence. He will never leave us. Intimacy can never come by human effort. It’s more passive from the human side. Papa God has already done the work. We simply need to let him have his way, let him hold you in his arms.

Because of this “father wound” we tend to resist authority at some level. Teenage rebellion is an effort to break the father’s hold. Sometimes the Teen simply shuts down, goes to his room and refuses to relate. He’s resisting because it hurts too much to face rejection again. In adult life the orphan heart will have trouble with bosses, husbands, pastors and even the civil authorities. All this is often an outworking of the father wound. We tend to see the “internalized father” in those in authority over us.

“No one tells me what to do,” is the outcry of an orphan who has been wounded by a demanding father. “I can never measure up no matter how hard I try,” he says, “therefore why should I try? I will be criticized and rejected anyway, so I will just give him something to reject. I’ll reject him before he rejects me. That gives me control over the situation.”

Why do fathers in our culture wound their children? Because they are orphans in their thinking! They are trying to solve their own father issues by making their children behave in a way that makes them feel good about themselves. They want their children to make them look good in the eyes of their peers. In other words an orphan only thinks of himself and his needs. He is not genuinely interested in the feelings of his children.

In this way tendencies to behave inappropriately are passed down from generation to generation. We call these tendencies generational iniquities. The tendencies are not passed on through the genes but through trying to make up for the love deficit carried over from childhood. These tendencies, or iniquities, are impossible to overcome through self-effort. Only Father God can heal a broken heart. Without him we can do nothing. But we continue to try because we’re still trying to earn a father’s favor.

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
Founder and President
On Word Ministries

Recognizing the Orphan

07/01/2012 3 comments

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

Most of us think like orphans at least occasionally. We feel like there’s no father there for us who understands or, if he does understand, he’s not able to help. We feel we must face our problems alone and fight our way through life trying to get ahead of the game. In other words, we feel like there’s no father who’s actually willing and able to help. There’s no father who loves us enough to be there and walk with us. We feel like we’re alone in our journey.

According to Thayer, the word orphan refers to one bereft of parents, teacher, guide or guardian. It’s one who has no one who cares or no one willing to teach, to guide and to guard. When we speak as though no one is there for us, we are speaking like an orphan. With no guide, we are alone to make decisions. With no teacher, we must learn the hard way. With no true father, we are without comfort when we fail. We are alone in a desert place.

Jesus said, “I will come to you.” He promised to never leave us alone in our journey, to never forsake us in our difficult times. Jesus is willing and able to help us. He sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. But our feelings of being alone betray us. These feelings identify us as those who do not really believe the promises deep in our heart. We may believe them in our mind. But our heart is the seat of feelings, and we feel like we’re abandoned and alone.

So we recognize the Orphan by those feelings that are contrary to the promises of the presence and participation of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our lives. The process of growing in Christ is the process of overcoming all feelings that deny Father’s presence and availability. Recognizing this orphan thinking is the first step to freedom from anxiety. We do have a Father who loves us unconditionally and who is able to help. The prodigal son ‘came to himself’ when he realized he had a father who was willing and able to support him. We need to come to ourselves as sons.

Orphan thinking began with Eve. The snake suggested that God did not want her to be like him. He was forbidding the one thing that would make her like God, he suggested. God created mankind to bear his image and likeness. But the only way to develop that likeness is to receive the unconditional love of God who IS love. When Eve fell for the lie she began to think like an orphan. Adam joined her in this lie and both were suddenly ashamed of what God had created.

From that day to this orphan thinking has been common in the human race. My experience as a five year old boy is probably not uncommon. In the previous blog I related the feeling that my parents had adopted me, that I really didn’t belong to them. It is as though we were orphans when we were born. Even with parents who loved as best they could, we often feel like we are without a helper and a guide.

Jesus did come to us, and in his presence is the presence of Abba Father. He did not leave us desolate and without help. We do have a Father who cares. That means our orphan feelings are lies. They come from the original orphan, the father of lies.

We will continue this line of thinking as we seek a lasting solution to the problem of orphan thinking. If you desire to receive automatic notice when new blogs appear, go to: and enter your email address in the link provided on the right toward the top.

The thoughts in this blog series is a continuation of thoughts presented in “Invitation to Intimacy: Reflections on he Lost and Found Parables.” You can order a copy online at:

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Looking Forward,
Fount Shults
President and Founder
On Word Ministries

Meet the Orphan

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

When Jesus said he would not leave us orphans, he implied we are in fact orphans, at least in our thinking. Even when we have parents we often feel like orphans and behave as though we have no one who really cares how we feel or what we are going through.

I can remember as a small boy, not more than five years old, playing in the yard with my brother and wondering if I was adopted. I knew my parents were committed to taking care of me, but I didn’t feel like I belonged. The correction and discipline I received from my dad made me think I was required to perform well before I would be accepted in his heart. Many are like that with Father God. They know Father is committed to take care of them (in heaven someday) but they do not feel like they belong in his presence now.

Orphan thinking comes from feeling abandoned, whether by death, by desertion, by abuse or simply by the absence of a father. This is true even if the father is there in the house when he is unable to be available emotionally for his children. Children interpret death, desertion, abuse and absence as abandonment because it seems like no one is there to care for their needs. No one is there to comfort a child who is being abused by the one who should be comforting him.

Inheritance is for sons; orphans have no inheritance. They must care for themselves and prepare for their own future. Orphans are left to their own resources to face life; sons lean on their Father’s resources. As long as we feel like we don’t belong, we will be unable to take advantage of the inheritance we have from Father. We can never enter into rest so we will continue to strive. Both the prodigal and the elder brother were thinking like orphans, the elder trying to earn a place in the house and the prodigal trying to purchase a place to belong.

The teaching on adoption from Paul’s writings actually contributes to the problem (not Paul’s teaching but the way it is interpreted by some teachers). We already feel unworthy of Father’s love because we have not performed perfectly. Then the teachers tell us we were adopted into the family. If we are adopted as urchins off the street, we don’t have the Father’s DNA. We only belong to him legally. We do not have his nature. We can only reproduce what we are by nature, so we can never be like him. That’s what orphan thinking produces.

The reason so many of us try to find love and comfort from sources other than God is because we are not convinced deep in our heart that we are good enough to receive it from him. Like the elder brother we think we must earn that place in Father’s heart, or, like the prodigal, we try to use the gifts Father gave us to purchase a place in the hearts of those in the foreign country.

One problem is that we are seeking to be loved rather than seeking to love. The reason we are seeking to be loved is because we don’t really believe we are loved. If we were fully convinced in our heart that Father’s love is available unconditionally, we would simply allow that love to come in and overflow to others, even to those who don’t deserve it.

In this series of blogs we intend to expose different aspects of orphan thinking and show how our relationship with God and with others is affected by that thinking. We will also show how we can overcome orphan thinking and begin to receive our inheritance from the Father of Love.

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Looking Forward,
On Word Ministries
Fount Shults