What is a prodigal? Christian Lecturer Dave Harvey defined it as “one who wanders” in his message at the IBCD Conference. The concept of a wanderer and prodigal is not new. Most of us have either read about, know, have been, or witnessed a prodigal. Since the Garden we are all prone to wander, and too often, we have...
What is a prodigal? Christian Lecturer Dave Harvey defined it as “one who wanders” in his message at the IBCD Conference. The concept of a wanderer and prodigal is not new. Most of us have either read about, know, have been, or witnessed a prodigal.
Since the Garden we are all prone to wander, and too often, we have. We decide that what God has provided simply isn’t enough for us. To make it all the harder, we have an enemy who instinctively seizes the opportunity to amplify that craving. And this is US, you and I, fellow sojourners and believers in Christ! This is why too often leaders fall, marriages fail, and relationships are severed.
The desire to wander is the apex where sovereignty and free will meet.
Harvey described this phenomenon of the Prodigal as “the saint who goes sideways.”
This Prodigal is the Fool described in Proverbs - deeply entrenched in rebellion, the one who dismisses God and replaces heavenly authority with his own. He is right in his own eyes, and no one – not even the holy, loving, powerful God – can tell him differently. The Fool has begun to believe that he is right, that his ways are right, and that everything he does is right.
Wayward is the destination that the Fool pursues, wayward is where the Fool will wind up. Pull back the curtain of a prodigal, and you will find the Fool. For the Fool wants to make choices that have no consequences and to have an autonomy that needs no accountability. The Fool is not particularly interested in the pain of the one who passionately pleads with them; creating a terrible imbalance, for the Fool will exploit neediness and humility.
This may seem terribly depressing, but take heart, God’s grace is far more tenacious than any sinner.
His grace has the power to pull one out of the blackest pit.
If you are struggling to love a prodigal in your life, know that you are not alone, God is relentless in His pursuit of the lost. Harvey said, “God deals with restlessness by exhausting our attempts to rest in anything but Him.”
So, what can you do? Begin by recognizing that the family loves the prodigal far more than they are loved, and because of that, our love has to be rugged. If it is not, if our love does not have teeth, then the prodigal is armed to exploit us.
What is this rugged love? It is never minimizing or denying what is happening; never simply hoping things will fix themselves. Instead, our goal must be to reflect the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is strong enough to face the satanic slope of evil.
Naming evil is important, but more than that, we must overcome evil with good. As the prodigal slips farther and farther from the Father of Light, their world becomes the shadowy realm of reckless self.
Express love intentionally and do not enable sin.
When we love a prodigal, we sometimes imagine stories in our mind about how we will win them back. We imagine ourselves as so loving, so patient, so kind, so understanding -- of course they will be won back! But we must remember that we are not the Holy Spirit. Do you trust yourself or can you trust God? If we confine our ideals of love to something that we can confine, we will find them way too small.
There is a paradox in Scripture which was described as “redemptive release”. God will pursue us as He releases us. He knows that there are times that we must be allowed to chase what we want only to find what we need. Think about it – the prodigal son did not sit around the house playing video games. He had to leave to realize how very much he wanted to be with his father.
It’s hard to wait, and our Savior is moved by your suffering as you wait for the prodigal and persevere. Really, you have only one of two choices - you can persevere or be poisoned.
Your hope cannot be in the prodigal but in what the Lord may or may not be doing.
Draw your eyes to our Lord. Let Scripture speak to you louder than any other of the voices muttering in your heart. This relationship with a prodigal may never be reconciled, but you will never lose your relationship with our Lord. God may wait until it seems too late, but we will not know His plans on this edge of eternity. By persevering in faith, you are testifying that He alone is the one worth trusting.
Will you trust Him as you wait for your prodigal to return to the Lord and give glory to Him?
This is a tiny thumbprint of the takeaways from Dave Harvey’s lectures at the IBCD Conference. If you have a prodigal in your life, I would love to pray with you, share some resources, and walk with you. Please contact me at email@example.com
Traveling in a van full of biblical counselors is bound to be an experience where you can learn wisdom and see grace in action. The Lord recently provided me with this treasure trove of blessing as we headed out to California for a conference on how to love prodigals with gracious truth. Throughout the trip...
Pilgrim Life with Other Believers
Traveling in a van full of biblical counselors is bound to be an experience where you can learn wisdom and see grace in action. The Lord recently provided me with this treasure trove of blessing as we headed out to California for a conference on how to love prodigals with gracious truth. Throughout the trip, I was conscious that I was surrounded by gifted brothers and sisters and as I reflected on the experience I appreciated anew. They haven’t written books or are not paid to speak to groups of people, but I was profoundly affected just to be with them. I was blessed by their spiritual gifts as well as their practical ones.
It isn’t the platform, but the wisdom of the Word that takes root in the soil of our hearts. How conscious are we to weed out the thorny seeds of pride? Those prickly spikes that cause us to mutter to ourselves, “Yeah, I know that” and shut our ears. Or worse, we wait for the other person to be quiet so we can blast out a response. The truth is that we don’t know. We might have an inkling of salvation, of prayer, of the Gospel, of doctrine, you fill in your favorite blank here, but there is always more to learn. Mary said, “It is when we turn away from God that we turn to our own selfishness.” Each person has something to add or share, a blessing to bestow. But often we miss it because we are too focused on ourselves.
Mary was full of prayer, full of wisdom, and quick to laugh. She was the one who found us incredibly affordable restaurants that delighted us with delicious food. We enjoyed our meals together no matter what table we were gathered around. There were breakfasts cooked by rotation in the morning at the house we stayed in, eating out, and on the last day, we were lavishly hosted by three other New Mexican sisters. I think Pam summed it up in her prayer before the meal when she said, “Oh, Father, what a taste of heaven it is to eat with brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Pam would look for ways to encourage us. She would listen, pray, and watch. Pam is a quiet woman of wisdom. When Vera said, “It takes experience to express the wisdom of Psalms”, it was a vivid description of Pam.
Vera is a sweet saint who took the time to appreciate the aesthetics around us and call our attention to our Lord’s attention to detail. She was drawn to flowers in particular. How much I would have missed if it hadn’t been for her! Did you know that there are trees that bloom purple flowers? There are stalks of fuzzy green stems, there are yellow flowers with orange triangles, bushes with red leaves and white berries, and I actually saw lemons on the tree! How creative is our God!? I wanted to take pictures, but it would never have done justice. Vera’s husband, Keith, said, “A photographer can only capture what he sees, but it is God who can see the full picture.” Keith is a retired fire-fighter who protected the little band of women folk under his care. He calmly drove us through the crazy California highways. We raced each other to get into the IBCD bookstore first each day.
Keith and Vera have provided marriage counseling at their church for several years, but I am struck by their humility. They are so hungry to learn more.
Carmen added a spark to our group. She was the one to see the humor in situations and point them out. She noticed if someone was on the fringe and was quick to serve. After the first day of the conference, she talked about the prodigal in her life. Carmen shared how hard it is to balance love and truth as she prayerfully sought ways to engage. She said, “If I am unwilling to look for ways to enter her world, how will she ever trust me?”
Each person in the van that week had gifts to share, in abundance. By listening, engaging, and simply being aware, God opened my eyes to see their gifts and appreciate them afresh. How can you be more aware and more appreciative of those around you as they share their practical and spiritual gifts with you this week?
Check back next week as we share more about Elizabeth's experience at the 2018 ICBD Conference!
God pursues each of us…seeking, waiting, showing up when we least expect it. When we see that, accept it for the gift it is, He transforms our lives in ways we can''t imagine! And there is nothing more amazing, more worth being thankful for, than His grace and mercy toward us; simple sinners. God sought, encouraged and drew Kim to Him. Her story is one you won't soon forget...
If I had time, I could tell you Kim’s whole life story, and it is worth every minute! She shared it with me over lunch recently, hoping it would help someone else have an easier journey. That knowing her story, someone might see that depression and mental health concerns aren’t just problems non-Christians struggle with. Instead, these are things that many of us struggle with. You might be tempted to pity Kim, but that’s not what she wants at all. Instead, she wants you to see how God kept showing up in her life, kept speaking to her, kept seeking her and that He continually sent her signs that He was there, waiting and providing for her.
He does that for each of us, doesn’t He……seeking, waiting, showing up when we least expect it? He is the Savior that never gives up on us.
God guided Kim: Kim previously attended several churches, including one in Albuquerque, where Kim struggled to fit in. “…no matter how much I tried, the more I sat in that church, the more I felt like I didn’t fit in,” she told me. “Every conversation was surface level, every relationship mediocre.” Then, she felt God telling her the He was going to make some changes in her life.
She soon moved to the mountains with family and sensed that it was time to move to a new church. “It was the first time in my life when I really listened to God. I had never listened to Him like this. It was intense,” she said. “But, He was clear…I want you out of this church.” So, Kim decided to try MCC.
God supported Kim: One Sunday morning, Kim called MCC to ask about women’s bible study opportunities. Admittedly, MCC’s church secretary, Elizabeth, does not always check the phone messages on Sunday mornings. For some reason, she did that morning. “She called me back that Sunday and told me that there were different women’s bible studies.” said Kim. “There was even one the next day!” And by God’s grace, Kim showed up for the Inductive Women’s Bible Study, and has been attending for the past year.
God encouraged Kim: The following week Kim attended her first service at MCC. “On my very first day, I walked in to MCC and saw Kay Willadsen,” Kim shared. “I think God meant for her to be there when I walked in that door. I was scared. It was a big deal to start at a new church. And Kay made me feel so comfortable.”
God left signs for Kim: Driving up the East Mountains to MCC one morning she looked out through the trees and clearly saw a cross in the trees. “Looking back now I can see that He was showing me that He was right there in the middle of my battle. He was showing me that He died on that cross to take my tears; he died to take my depression, to take my fears. I can see it in His Word.”
God spoke to Kim: The one continuous thing that has marked Kim’s life and walk with God has been her struggle with depression. Growing up in an abusive home, suffering a traumatic brain injury, having her daughter taken out of her home and spending a week in a mental facility have all pushed Kim to her limits, at various times. It has not been easy for Kim.
“On those days God was trying to speak to me,” Kim said, “whether it was in the shower or anywhere I was quiet, he was trying to speak to me. I didn’t understand it, but I knew he was there with me through every struggle.”
God provided for Kim: Kim shared that, “On one of my darkest days, when I could barely see the light, I walked in to the church (MCC) office and told church secretary Elizabeth Allan, I am done with Jesus….I don’t understand the Jesus thing no more.” Elizabeth, ever patient, just looked at her and asked, “Can you meet me every Thursday?” That was a little less than a year ago and the two have met faithfully every Thursday since. Kim considers herself lucky to have someone like Elizabeth to come alongside her, especially because that was not always the case.
“I didn’t always have someone beside me telling me what Jesus would do for me. I learned a lot about being a Christian on my own,” Kim said. “I didn’t truly understand it but I knew a little bit.” And that little bit was enough to get her through a dark and broken season where God revealed to her that she needed to get some help and to find a church home that would teach, support, and heal her.
God’s presence has been ever-present in Kim’s life, when she allowed herself to be watchful and aware.
There are so many other ways God has shown up in Kim’s life; so many ways He continues to transform her. I wish I could share them all but we’ll leave that to Kim. If you see her, ask her-- you will be blessed!
On Sundays, we have three options for Worship & Praise! Please join us:
- Indoors at 8:45 & 10:45am (due to limited seating, please register in advance)
- Via live-stream at 8:45am on Facebook
For the Indoor Worship & Praise:
We are looking forward to seeing you! As you sign up, request one ticket per family member! Make sure that you also check out our updated Guidelines for Gathering to Worship at MCC below before you come.
Please read the Guidelines for Gathering to Worship Together at MCC in its entirety so that you know what to expect when you come to our outdoor service. This will help you and those around you navigate a very new situation, hopefully in a way that is as seamless as possible. We believe that our unity will be expressed and strengthened as we serve one another in Christ this week so join us in extending grace to each other, amid our differing perspectives, and different views about how to live in this time.
“... submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
“Outdo one another in showing honor.”
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
Please know that we are making every effort for this gathering to be in full compliance with the protocols given by authorities. No single plan for our meeting will ever be the perfect solution in any one person’s eyes. We will all be making compromises. But as we defer to these guidelines set up by our elders and leadership, we will be serving our fellow believers, honoring Christ as best we can, and providing for a beautiful expression of worship to happen together.
Please stay home if any of the following apply to you:
- You are immunocompromised.
- You are feeling ill (running a fever, coughing, or showing other signs of sickness)
Please don’t put yourself or others at risk. Thank you for staying home and staying safe, because we love you!