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The Painful Path of a Prodigal: Dealing with False Professions

Some parents of prodigals have walked the hard road of a false profession of faith by their son or daughter—only to be heartbroken, realizing it was a manipulative effort to gain some advantage. Having grown up in a Christian home, prodigals are well versed in what to say and do to give their parents hope that their profession may be real. Not wanting to thwart the work of the Spirit, and excited to think that their prayers have been answered, parents may take the profession at face value and welcome their prodigal home. Soon, the reality brings disappointment and the deep pain of betrayal. We should regard with realism any profession of faith. Proverbs 14:15 points out that “[t]he simple […]

Loving Messy People: Serving in Love

Somehow, somewhere along the way, personal ministry became primarily a “talking” ministry. When we think about ministering to others, we usually picture two people sitting in an office or over coffee talking about life, issues, Scripture, God, and the gospel. And, while gospel care must involve listening and talking, it must also involve more. In his first letter, Peter describes the ministries of service and of speaking as two sides of the same coin: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies— in order that in everything God […]

The Painful Path of a Prodigal: Facing the Hard Reality

“Didn’t he ever make a profession of faith in Christ as a child?” This question came in response to a request to pray for our wayward son —in particular, asking God to show mercy and save his soul. Since our son grew up in the church, the questioner assumed he experienced many opportunities as a young boy to hear the gospel. Surely, they thought, he responded to an invitation at some point as a young child. Unfortunately, he gave no evidence of a relationship with Jesus in his teenage or adult life. I could not count the number of times we heard parents make statements about their children such as, “I take comfort from the fact that he made a […]

Loving Messy People: Knowing In Love

Gospel care is essentially a ministry of love. And love, if it truly seeks the best for the other person, is not applied arbitrarily but wisely and carefully. As David Powlison wrote, “Wise counseling [or any form of gospel care] is essentially a way of loving another person well. It is a way of speaking what is true and constructive into this person’s life right now. Good [personal ministry] is essentially wise love in action.” (David Powlison, Speaking the Truth in Love, 5-6). I love that phrase “wise love in action.” I’m not sure there’s a more concise or accurate description of gospel care. And as we see from these proverbs, wise love is love that seeks and acquires knowledge. […]

Back In Stock: The Gospel for Children

We are pleased to announce that, after a long hiatus, The Gospel for Children by John B. Leuzarder is back in stock. “This book is very special. It presents the Gospel in a straightforward, uncomplicated manner — explaining the truths of God, the Bible, sin, Jesus, the need for repentance and faith, and counting the costs of the Christian life, but in a way that both children and even adults will easily benefit from. I highly recommend it.” —Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding a Child’s Heart

The Painful Path of a Prodigal: Embracing Forgiveness

Parents of a prodigal wrestle with questions of how their own failures contributed to their child’s choice of a wayward path. It is natural to reflect on your parenting and identify things left undone, things you wish you did not do, or things you could have done better. Those who have a prodigal are especially prone to blame themselves, which inevitably harms other relationships in life. As a parent of a prodigal, how does one deal with these struggles? Acknowledge Your Imperfections No parent has always been exemplary in their actions towards their children. There were days when our words to them were wrong, perhaps even destructive. We missed teachable moments because we were preoccupied with lesser things. Does this […]

Loving Messy People: The Goal and the Gospel

Almost every system to deal with people’s messes caters to self-defined goals. Whether you want to be happier, calmer, more productive, more disciplined, or less stressed, there are countless self-help resources and professionals with the express purpose of helping you change in the exact ways you desire. We define our own messes, and so we also define our own goals of change. However, if we are going to follow God’s call to speak the truth in love to one another, we must first clarify what the goal of that love-filled truth is. More specifically, we must make sure that our goal is in line with God’s goal. Thankfully, God has communicated his goal for our ministry clearly and repeatedly in […]

The Painful Path of a Prodigal: Responding to the Judgment of Others

As parents, we cannot assure the outcome of our children—for good or bad. This does not mean we should abandon instructing our children. We must teach, both in word and by example. We have a responsibility before God to do our very best. The uncertainty of the outcome for any specific child does not reduce or remove this responsibility. How then should we respond when the painful judgment of others falls upon us? First, we should allow it to humble us. We must realize our sovereign God puts critics in our lives for our good. If the Lord uses the wrongful judgment of others to strike a blow to my pride, I should rejoice as this “enemy within” is losing […]

Loving Messy People: Speaking the Truth in Love

My entire life I have been surrounded by messy people with messy lives. The only reason it doesn’t bother me is because I’m messy, too. But it should be familiar to be around messy people. That’s what the church is. I assume that’s been your experience, too. Some people can trick you for a season, but I promise, they’re just as messy as the rest of us. All Christians are. Eventually the depression, anxiety, chronic health issues, addictions, doubts, insecurities, pride, abuse, prejudice, or poverty will come to the surface. To know a person is to know their mess. Whatever the cause of the mess, God has a plan to help each one of us grow. And at the center […]

The Painful Path of a Prodigal: The End of the Journey

Having forewarned me it would be difficult to look at, the man slid a photo across my office conference table. I forced my eyes to look down at the image. There was no need to gaze long upon the face. My heart wanted to deny it was he. However, those were clearly his eyes. The nose as I had seen it since his birth. Though his overall features were distorted, there was no denying who the picture captured. Gripped by this reality, I raised my eyes to the man across the table—who sat silent while awaiting my verdict. Deep within I wanted to scream, “I never saw this face before. I do not know who he is.” Yet I did. […]