Unfaithful Children/Spouse Archives 2007

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  • Expect More Out of Your Kids by Matthew Allen
  • I Was Sentenced to Death in the Electric Chair by Clyde Thompson
  • The young mother set her foot on the path of life....
  • The Mother of the Prodigal Son (poem)
  • Why Do "Good" People Do "Bad" Things? by Wayne Jackson
  • Parents and the Prodigal by Dee Bowman
  • A Plea for Help (a letter from a reader) response by Pat Gates
  • Your Parents Can't Make You Go to Heaven! by Ted J. Clarke
  • Should I Make My Child Attend Worship and Bible Study? by Pat Gates
  • When Daddy Prays (poem) 

This article is important to Christians because, unfortunately, when a teenage boy goes astray I've witnessed the attitude in some Christians of, oh well, boys will be boys. And, don't worry, they are just sowing their wild oats and they will get over it in a couple of years. This "sowing of wild oats" should never be expected, nor accepted with our children. If a teenager was in a sinking boat would we have the attitude, Oh well, boats do sink at times and if we just ignore it, all will be fine? Of course we wouldn't think that...yet when it comes to a precious soul, do we dare turn away and not reach out to rescue a soul before it permanently sinks to destruction? Even though the world around us is so use to sin, let us never allow ourselves to get so callous that sin is to be accepted and ignored.

Expect More Out of Your Kids

Matthew Allen

Earlier this week, I participated in a discussion concerning alcohol and advertising. The debate was over whether alcohol companies target youth in their advertising. There is very strong evidence to suggest that the alcohol companies do in fact target adolescent audiences even though such persons are under the legal age to consume alcohol. The prevailing thought that came out of this group discussion was that large numbers of teens in our country drink and there are a number of factors that contribute to this problem. Perhaps part of the blame can be shared by the alcohol companies and a permissive society. Some said the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of parents. I believe this to be true, which leads me to ask, “What about parents today who have the idea that teens are going to engage in this behavior no matter what?” I know of parents who have built areas in their own backyards in order for their children to have “parties.” One parent who did this told me, “at least I know where my son is, and I do not have to worry about him driving home drunk.”  At the time, his child was well under the legal drinking age.

            The idea of its going to happen anyway is everywhere in our society. Not only do we hear this in reference to teen consumption of alcohol, but we hear it in other areas as well:

  • Sex: We are told since it is going to happen we better supply our youth with so-called “safe-sex” alternatives. Some parents now allow their children to have their boyfriend/girlfriend over to sleep together at home, because it’s going to happen anyway.

  • Drugs: In Oregon, state legislators have passed a needle exchange law for heroine addicts. This is so they can turn in their dirty needles and exchange them for sterile ones in an effort to suppress the spread of HIV. It’s going to happen, we’re told and because of this some now even lobby to legalize drug use in America.

The it’s going to happen anyway line of thinking is scary because it places our culture on an extremely slippery slope. Could we not apply it to cheating?  Lying? Smoking? Homosexuality? Reckless driving? Anything and everything? There is no end to it!  Christians beware! The world can and does influence our thinking. Are we prepared to stand up for godly values and moral principles? Are we ready to do the hard work of instilling these values into our children?

What the it’s going to happen anyway approach suggests
and why you need to be aware of it:

            It suggests a defeatist mentality. In effect, big business, some parents, and society in general attempt to lower the bar for our youth on a daily basis. How dare we throw up our hands and say we are helpless to correct a problem! Parents…expect more out of your kids.  Hold them to high standards of morality and conduct. Peter wrote, "do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior" (I Peter 1:14-15).  We need to believe in our kids – they are capable of doing incredible things for God. They can be tremendous sources of light – if we will lovingly encourage them to do it.

            It suggests a certain degree of parental laziness. In most cases, parents who give themselves over to this approach are not holding themselves to high moral standards. It takes time and effort to train our children in the ways of righteousness. It is the job of the parents to bring their children "up in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). Too many parents have let their careers and hobbies steer them away from raising their children. How many children in America are forced to raise themselves – even with both parents living inside the home?

            It suggests a lack of belief in moral absolutes. There are matters of right and wrong that are unshakable. We must beware lest we give into the dominant thinking that there are different standards of morality. There is only one and it is from God. We need to humble ourselves before Him and submit to His ways. Christians have been told to "walk as children of Light ... trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:8,10).

            It suggests that some parents are fearful of being called hypocrites. There is a well-played public service announcement on many radio stations that encourages parents to get over the fear of being called a hypocrite by their children when they tell them not to do drugs. Some parents operate under the mentality that if they once engaged in bad behavior that somehow they are forever disqualified from holding their children accountable for reckless behavior. The idea is that they are a hypocrite. If the parents have ceased the behavior and have learned from their mistakes, they are not being hypocritical when they forbid their children from unacceptable behavior. Going along with this, must our children know every detail of the “bad” things we did? We must be careful lest by revealing our past we give our children a “green light” to do things we would rather them not. It is easy for a child to rationalize that since his parents did it, he can too.

           success-girl-color.gif Parenting in today’s world is hard. But it has always been hard. Our generation is no different from those who have come before us. Imagine trying to rear children with godly values in the corrupt, first-century Roman society. For those of us who have children at home, let’s raise the level of expectation. Let’s live by example in holding them to God’s standard and teaching them to trust in God’s ways. He

"He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight" ( Proverbs 11:19-20).



Setting high spiritual expections for our child means that we teach them God's law and love and we expect them to obey God and grow into godliness. Of course we are talking about their age-related capabilities, never pushing and stressing them beyond what they are capable of handling. However, in many cases the opposite holds true, parents don't see what their child is capable of handling spiritually and they don't expect enough from them. I'm afraid that is especially true in our children's bible classes. In setting high expections for our children, we ourselves need to be an example of having the same high expectations in our own lives.

Setting high expectations for our child will not work if we do not teach and discipline in patience and love as our heavenly Father does with us. And just as our Father expects us to obey, we must expect that from our children. Apathy and laziness has no place in parenting, no matter what age our child is. pg


I Was Sentenced to Death in the Electric Chair
– A True Story
by Clyde Thompson

Christian Courier August, 2007
used with permission

A NOTE FROM A READER:  "As with many nights I have a great deal of trouble going to sleep early, so I get on the computer and search for something good to read.  I usually find it on OURHOPEONLINE.  Tonight I read in the Archives the article by Clyde Thompson.  That article touched me deeply to know that he suffered so much and still remained faithful most of the time to God.  Also read the article about a wayward child - which also hit directly home.  I too learned not to get angry with him but to say "I love you" and hug him if he will allow me to hug him.  I keep telling him he maybe a middle aged man now but he is still my "boy" and I can hug him and say I love you.  Now he will hug me for no reason and say I love you Mom. Wish he would change his sinful ways that lead to trouble with the law.  Keep telling him he is getting to old for such young foolishness.  Just hope and pray he will return to God before it is too late." -anonymous


Thank you for writing and for your nice comments. My heart goes out to you. I love to picture you hugging your "middle-aged" man child, telling him he is still your boy... it's true isn't it? My oldest is 32 but I would imagine when he is 62 (if I'm still alive) I would still feel the young child when I hugged him. Keep being a good example, loving, teaching, and hugging!   --Pat

The young mother set her foot on the path of life. "Is this the long way?" she asked.

And the guide said, "Yes, and the way is hard and you will be old before you reach the end, but the end will be better than the beginning."

But the young mother was happy, and she would not believe that anything could be better than these years. So she played with her children and gathered flowers for them along the way, and bathed them in the clear springs; and the sun shone on them and the young mother cried, "Nothing will ever be lovelier than this."

Then the night came, and the storm. The path was dark and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother drew them close and covered them with her mantle. The children said, "Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near and no harm can come."

And the morning came and there was a hill ahead, and the children climbed and grew weary and the mother was weary. But at all times she said to her children, "A little patience and we are there."

So the children climbed and when they reached the top they said, "Mother, we would not have done it without you." And the mother, when she lay down at night, looked up at the stars and said, "This is a better day than the last, for my children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave them courage, today, I've given them strength."

The next day brought strange clouds which darkened the earth; clouds of war and hate and evil. The children groped and stumbled and the mother said, "Look up. Lift your eyes to the light." And the children looked and saw, above the clouds, an everlasting glory and it guided them beyond the darkness.And that night the mother said, "This is the best day of all, for I have shown my children, God."

The days went on, and the weeks and months and years, and the mother grew old and she was little and bent. But her children were tall and strong and walked with courage. And when the way was rough, they lifted her for she was as light as a feather. At last they came to a hill and beyond they could see a shining road and the golden gates flung wide. The mother said, "I have reached the end of my journey. Now I know the end is better than the beginning, for my children can walk alone and their children after them.

And the children said, "You will always walk with us, Mother, even when you have gone through the gates. And they stood and watched her as she went on alone and the gates closed after her. And they said, "We cannot see her but she is with us still. A mother like our's is more than a memory. She is a living presence."

author unknown


The Mother of the Prodigal Son

Where is the mother of the prodigal son
On that day so long ago?
What were her thoughts
And what were her fears
As she watched him turn and go?
How many times in the dark of night
Did the tears slide down her face?
Did she get out of bed
And fall to her knees,
Just to pray that her boy was safe?
How were the days when she did not know
Was he alive? Was he warm? Was he well?
Who were his friends?
And where did he sleep?
Was there anyone there she could tell?
But, oh, on that day
When she looked down the road
As she had looked since her son went away,
Did love unspeakable flood her soul?
Did she cry?
What did she say?
I think when the father had welcomed their son
And the boy had greeted his brother,
That the servants made a path
For him to enter the door
And the waiting arms of his mother.


Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray,
and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
Ps 55:17


Why Do “Good” People
Do “Bad” Things?
by Wayne Jackson

Not infrequently one is shocked when he hears of a “good” person who has done a very “bad” thing? How are such tragedies to be explained?

Some years ago a prominent Jewish scholar wrote a book titled, When Bad Things Happen To Good People. Though the book was not totally void of merit, it was flawed seriously in that the author suggested that whereas God might wish the situation were otherwise, he is powerless to remedy the problem of evil. The writer’s solution was a classic example of the old saying, “the cure is worse than the ailment.”

There is a question that is equally gripping. ”Why do good people do bad things?” Of course all of us sin, and we daily need the grace of God (1 John 2:1). Occasionally, though, we are stunned, sometimes traumatized, when people we have known for many years, and for whom we have entertained the highest regard, do outrageous things that seem so terribly out of character for them. What has happened? We thumb through the pages of our minds trying to make sense of seemingly senseless deeds. Is there any answer? Let us briefly, and with reverence, explore this issue.

The Mystery

In the first place we must concede initially that only God knows the inner recesses of a person’s mind. “Jehovah sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7; cf. Luke 16:15).

Experts may study a person’s past, pursue physiological and psychological tests, and engage in prolonged interviews with the “evil” person himself, and yet the causes of what appear to be random acts of wickedness may never be known completely. Paul contended that no person can really “know the things” of another (1 Corinthians 2:11), and sometimes it is the case that not even the “bad” person knows why he did what he did—though perhaps that “non-explanation” is more frequently than not a rationalization for not wanting to reveal the actual problem.

In this article, we would like to suggest some possible explanations for why “good” people do “bad” things.


At the very start of this discussion we must concede that it is possible for a “good” person to slip into a state of irrationality (i.e., become incapable of reasoning, hence, be mentally irresponsible), and thus do things he would never do under normal circumstances. The causes triggering such aberrant behavior may be varied, and in some cases entirely unknown. If one has become irrational, therefore, and is not morally culpable, while the act itself technically is “bad,” it is not so for the perpetrator, for he does not comprehend the nature of his act.

A very fine Christian man, an industrial painter by trade, committed suicide in a most horrible fashion. When many of his acquaintances heard the tragic news, they were dumbfounded. How could a gentle, caring person possibly do such a thing? An autopsy revealed that over many years noxious chemicals within the paint were absorbed, which seriously damaged his brain. His faculties for making spiritual decisions had been nullified.

I knew a deeply spiritual man who was as close to the Lord as anyone within my acquaintance. As he grew older he became consumed with cancer, his brain being seriously damaged. He gradually turned into a stranger, using the vilest profanity, and occasionally making lewd suggestions to ladies in his presence. The body was that of a good man; the words were from his pre-Christian past—still in the brain’s storage, but not issuing from his godly soul!

Varying circumstances may alter a person’s clarity of mind; they could be genetic, environmental, disease, etc., and consequently illness could lie behind his/her inexplicable conduct. These would be deeds for which one is not accountable. Unfortunately, this rationale is probably used to justify the person in more cases than is warranted. But God knows the truth and will do right by all (Genesis 18:25).

The Façade of Goodness

Some “good” people, who do bad things, actually are not good people at all. They have feigned goodness out of various motives, but inwardly they have been corrupt for a long time. Though Judas Iscariot obviously had some good traits initially (otherwise he would not have been chosen as an apostle — see Acts 1:17), there were hints of his spiritual depravity before his actual betrayal of the Lord (cf. John 12:4-6).

Dennis Rader became known as the BTK serial murderer (BTK was a self-adopted code title for “bind, torture, and kill”). For some 30 years Rader appeared to be a model citizen. He was a Cub Scout leader, was active in his church, and had the respect of his associates. All the while he was periodically committing the most atrocious brutalities in the annals of American criminality. His arrest February 26, 2005 left numerous friends and associates in a state of absolute shock. He was a “good” man who wasn’t!

It is not unusual for some prominent religious leader to be exposed as a deviant. Those of his religious fellowship are terribly traumatized by his exposure, only to learn that his perversion spanned several decades. The term “hypocrite” seems almost too tame for such creatures.

Here is an important point. A good person can never go through the motions of evil, for such would be evil itself, and therefore contrary to the principles of truth he holds dear. But a wicked person can mask himself in the disguise of goodness with little, if any, pangs of conscience. One more deception is scarcely a bother.

The Power of Choice

Some good people do bad things simply because they can! One of the marvelous gifts of God is the power of choice. It is one of those aspects that is a part of the blessing of being created “in the image” of God (Genesis 1:26-27). However, the Lord, as a Being who is without limitation in all his attributes (which includes being infinitely good — Psalm 33:5; Romans 2:4), never chooses the option of evil—nor does he ever even wish to (James 1:13). As created beings though, we are finite; hence, we make choices between good and evil; and all too frequently, to our own hurt, we make stupid and wicked choices.

With sufficient motivation, an evil person can choose to change his life and seek God’s pardon (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Clyde Thompson was known as “the meanest man in Texas.” A multiple murderer (two of these committed when he was only 17), he was the terror of the Texas prison system. He killed two prisoners while on death row. But a kindly guard gave him a Bible, and through reading and ingesting the Holy Scriptures, his life was radically changed. Eventually he was paroled, and he became one of the most vigorous prison-evangelists of the century, leading many souls to Christ (see: Don Umphrey, The Meanest Man In Texas, Dallas: Quarry Press, 2004).

On the other hand, for reasons perhaps known only by oneself and God, a good person can choose to turn from goodness and do evil—recklessly, with unrestrained abandon (Ezekiel 18:24).

“But why?” we ask. Why did Peter, a very good man, deny he knew Jesus? Was it overconfidence? Fear? Both? We may speculate, but the simple fact is—he did it, and it was wrong.

A variety of possibilities might be suggested as to why people do things that are perceived to be abnormal for them. A long-held, subdued grudge, under certain circumstances, may flare into a roaring flame. A spouse, perhaps neglected or abused, might reach a level of frustration, rebel, and commit an immoral or criminal act. An aging husband or wife, in a period of depression, might have a “fling” in an attempt to recapture a missing dimension in his/her life. Sometimes people are desperate, and no other person knows it but them; desperation can trigger rash and ungodly acts.

The truth is, we may never discover why certain good people do bad things. One thing we do know is this. Our ability to “choose” is a gift that may be employed righteously, or devilishly; we must constantly cultivate a passionate desire to make wise choices to the glory of God.

Unique Weaknesses

Saul, the first king of Israel, started his reign admirably. Blessed by God, he valiantly defeated some of the pagan enemies that troubled the nation of Israel (1 Samuel 11). But the ruler had some significant weaknesses. In his arrogance, he set aside divine instruction and determined he would exercise his own judgment (cf. 1 Samuel 13:8ff; 15:1ff). When the courageous young David began to attract considerable attention after his defeat of Goliath, a spirit of jealousy (perhaps lying dormant already) seized the king and led him down a path of spiritual abandon (cf. 1 Samuel 16:14). He hardly was recognizable as the former “Saul.”

Every person has weaknesses; the one who says he does not has perhaps revealed his greatest weakness of all. Even the indomitable Paul struggled to bring certain fleshly temptations into subjection (1 Corinthians 9:26-27; cf. Romans 7:14ff). If this amazing apostle labored under tremendous internal pressures (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7ff), should we be surprised at our own inclinations?

It sometimes is the case that a person will struggle with a personal weakness for years—holding his own, yet yielding on occasion. He makes progress, however, and does well over all. Then, for some reason that may not be apparent to others, he/she totally surrenders to those unspeakable acts that baffle family and friends. These people “break” spiritually, forfeiting all implements of moral/religious defense (Ephesians 6:10ff). Are rational people accountable for these acts of rebellion? They are indeed and they will appear before the Lord in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). The lesson we should learn is this: our personal weaknesses must be identified and assaulted—through study, prayer, and association with godly people who can provide us with moral support, even if they are unaware of the specific nature of our needs.

Some people are more fragile than others. A tragedy in their lives, for example, virtually dissembles them. A lady recently lost a wonderful Christian friend to cancer. With tears streaming down her face, she told me: “I just don’t know how I can believe in God any longer.” Did she expect her friend to live forever? Doesn’t death come to all? We must be stronger than to go to pieces when disaster strikes. One thing is certain: heartaches won’t cease just because one turns “bad.”

The Eroding Conscience

The human conscience is an inward faculty, unique to those made in God’s image. It either accuses or excuses a person’s thoughts, words, and actions (Romans 2:15). The conscience does not determine what is right or wrong (Proverbs 14:12; Acts 23:1); rather it merely judges one, based upon the standard of conduct the person has adopted. It is clear, therefore, that the conscience must be educated by divine revelation (the Scriptures), and constantly cultivated to remain sensitive to truth (Ephesians 4:19; 1 Timothy 4:2; Hebrews 5:14).

The Bible speaks frequently about the “hardening of the heart.” The conscience is such a sensitive instrument that it becomes wrong to violate it even in matters of expediency (Romans 14:23). There are some people who let their consciences gradually erode; eventually they slip over the edge and do terrible things, of which others never dreamed them capable.

Richard Kuklinski was a “hit man” for the mafia. This professional murderer was known as “the iceman” because he sometimes froze corpses to disguise the time of death. Ironically, he also was emotionally frigid as well, having killed approximately 125 victims before he was arrested in 1986. In a television documentary, Kuklinski attributed much of his apathy towards violence to his father, a mean-spirited, brute who beat his son regularly—apparently for no reason at all. Growing up as the victim of abuse, young Richard eventually pursued the path of viciousness himself, killing his first victim at age 18. To look into his eyes (via several television documentaries) was to peer through clouded windows into a vacuum where there appeared to be no remnant of conscience. He claimed to have no remorse over the slaughter of his victims. How very important it is to: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

Evil Companionships

When Paul penned First Corinthians to a church in a very corrupt city, he cautioned: “Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (15:33). Actually this is a quotation from Menander, a Greek playwright, who, in that context, spoke of the danger of consorting with prostitutes. Another proverbial expression says, “lie down with dogs; get up with fleas.” This is not in the Bible, but it surely makes a point.

In his parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus told of a foolish youth who took his inheritance, gathered his possessions, and “took his journey into a far country. There, he wasted his substance with riotous living” (Luke 15:13). It does not take much imagination to picture the many newfound companions who flocked to the lad, wresting him from his spiritual roots, and joyfully helping him waste his inheritance.

There are numerous warnings in Holy Scripture of the danger of close association with the ungodly. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:6, 9ff; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Peter 2:2, 18-20). Some folks, basically good people, have been caught up in relationships with ungodly companions who have led them—like lambs to the slaughter—away from the source of their spiritual strength.

In an intimate environment of wickedness it becomes infinitely easier to do unbelievably terrible things. I know of a young man who right now is on death row in a major prison facility. A murder was committed one night; though he denies any personal involvement, he admits he was “with them,” and now he awaits an uncertain fate.

I have known of Christian parents who were stunned to learn abruptly of their children’s wicked lifestyles, themselves seemingly oblivious to the fact that for years they, with considerable pride, had thrust their youths into a corrupt environment—under the guise of wanting them to cultivate “social” skills.

A Destroyed Foundation

The composer of Psalm 11 once asked: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (v. 3). There is a principle here that warrants investigation. A structure is no stronger than the foundation upon which it rests (cf. Matthew 7:21-27). People who have but a veneer for a spiritual base are very vulnerable to temptation and apostasy.

Good conduct ultimately is tied to God. The atheistic philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, was quite correct when he wrote, “Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist.” While there are many skeptics who are moral, relatively speaking, they are so because they have “bootlegged” their ethics from elsewhere, and not because such is intrinsic to their blighted system. The best people are those who nourish their souls constantly with the strength that is resident in the Bible. “Your word have I laid up in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). When the Son of God was severely tempted after the forty-day ordeal in the wilderness, his source of power was “it is written” (Matthew 4:4-10).

It is a grim and tragic reality that many people who are “good” people basically, do not keep their souls strong, hence eventually they drift into a state of weakness (Hebrews 2:1). One can profit from reflecting upon Paul’s discussion of those who are “strong,” versus those who are “weak,” in Romans, chapters 14 and 15. The difference between the two classes is divine knowledge, assimilated and applied.

It is an indisputable fact that the pages of church history are littered with cases involving “good” people who lacked or neglected the discipline of study and perseverance, and so permitted the assaults of unbelief to chip away at their moral sensitivity. Progressively they became weaker. Finally, with nothing to fall back on, they give in to pride, anger, frustration, immorality, and/or even criminal conduct. Once the “foundation” has rotted, the person becomes easy prey for Heaven’s archenemy.

The “Security” Illusion

It is most likely that there are some “good people” who labor under the illusion that just because they have lived faithfully for many years, a breech of faith, even a dramatic one, will not jeopardize their salvation. Apparently they entertain the notion that their longevity in Christ grants immunity from the consequences of evil deeds. Some doubtless have absorbed that noxious dogma of Calvinism—that the child of God can never be lost. No matter what he does, his heavenly destiny is secure, they allege. However, a prophet of God declared:

But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of his righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered: in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them shall he die (Ezekiel 18:24).

These are sobering words indeed. The fate of the rebel is too transparent to misunderstand.


The benefits of this study may be twofold. First, it can serve as a preventive for those of us who want to enter heaven more than anything else, and we are concerned about how to maintain our spiritual integrity; how to avoid some of the pitfalls that lie in that perilous route.

Second, a consideration of these truths may assist us in understanding, and coping with, the defection of loved ones and friends who have so disappointed and discouraged us.

Life is filled with struggle and heartache. But giving in never accomplishes anything. It only complicates.

Copyright © 1998 - 2007 by Christian Courier Publications.
All rights reserved. ISSN: 1559-2235
used with permission


Parents and the Prodigal
by Dee Bowman

The Parable of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11-32) is at once one of the most pensive and disturbing of Jesus’ famous illustrative narratives. It connects to the human heart in a way that is direct and arresting. It speaks of losing, but it speaks of winning, too. It speaks of sadness, then gladness, then sadness again. It’s very much like life, this parable. Please note these things parents can learn from the parable of the prodigal.

The far country is an enemy of the family.
Forbidden fruit has always had its appeal. It’s the same with the lights of the far country. This lad didn’t just get up one morning and decide he was going to “waste his substance with riotous living.” It was a process. He had thought about how great it would be for a long time. He had dwelt on its pleasures and contemplated its delights long before he decided to go over there.

We live in an age where restrictions are few and where the far country is not really very far. Its enticements, furthermore, are not frowned upon in many families and its allurements are not discussed because the family is not actually together very much. We need to wake up to the dangers of the culture we live in and warn our kids about its possible encroachments and the ease with which it can tantalize and tempt them and how quickly it can carry them away. It’s fine to let out a little rope, but we need to pull on it once in a while, too.

Good families can have bad kids.
There is no indication in the parable that the Father’s values were ill-defined, or that his restrictions were loose and ambiguous. Actually, the indication is that the rules were strict and the values carefully stated and that’s the reason the son wanted to be loose. He felt cramped by the rules, and his fun was hampered by the restrictions. No one knows what causes good families to have bad kids, but one thing is certain: every person has his own will and ultimately makes his own decisions. This young fellow came from a good family; but he wanted something else. He decided what he wanted by himself. And so a good kid went bad. Why? Who knows? He just went bad because he decided he wanted to.

But if a kid goes bad, it ought to be after we’ve done all we can. Far more youngsters go bad on account of a lack of restrictions than go bad in spite of them. We should not despair because our restrictions are thought to be impositions. We should not grow weary because our rules are disdained and our restraints despised by our children. We must keep in mind that love and discipline are always connected (Heb. 12:6).

Bad kids don’t always stay bad.
This kid went bad—really bad. He “wasted his substance with riotous living,” and probably “devoured thy living with harlots.” That’s bad, folks. Not only that, but he went so bad that he was feeding pigs and was ready to eat the millet they ate. He was about as low as you could get, wallowing about in a pig’s sty. But, you know what? He came to himself. That’s right, he came to! Furthermore, he remembered where he came from. He knew what to do about his situation. He decided to go home.

It’s just so that bad kids don’t always stay bad. Some do, that’s for sure; but many don’t. Instilling high values and good morals is not a waste of time. It’s encouraging that sometimes when they’re at their lowest ebb, your training and discipline come to the fore. It’s then that they remember their up-bringing and decide that maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. It’s then that they come to their moral senses and realize that your nagging and scolding had a reason. It’s when they need to come home that it all begins to make sense. This kid came to himself and he went home.

The ones that stay home aren’t always so good either.
The elder brother apparently had the same rules and restrictions, but he didn’t leave home. But that doesn’t mean he was a good boy. In fact, his attitude at his brother’s return shows that while he was at home, his heart wasn’t in the right place. He didn’t disobey the rules, but that didn’t mean all was well with his soul. How is it that he could not rejoice with the father at the return of his brother? Why did he react as he did? Why was he not pleased to see his brother’s return home?

The attitude of the older brother proves one thing: you can be evil in the midst of good surroundings. Just being close to good doesn’t argue that you’re good. Just looking good on the outside doesn’t really argue anything; it’s what’s on the inside that counts in the ultimate reality.

Don’t give up.
“But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him…” How do you account for that? Simple. His father was continually watching for him. He no doubt had prayed for his return. And prayed. And prayed. He knew what direction he had gone when he left, and he knew that the boy knew the way home, so he just kept on looking. And looking. And looking. And one day he say him coming.

There is never any give up in love. Love just keeps hoping and hoping, just keeps looking and looking. No matter how long it’s been, no matter what has been done, no matter how deep the hurt or how long the anguish, the Father just keeps on looking; and so must we. Notice, I did not say “the father,” but “the Father.” We may leave him, but He said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). It’s always in order to go home, no matter how far away you’ve been.

Parenting is hard business. I hope this has helped a little.

Copyright (C) 2002-2005 Southside Church of Christ
All rights reserved.

used with permission


(Response by Pat Gates)

I am grieving my son's being in the world and using drugs, alcohol and fornication daily.  He's committing slow suicide which I have to watch.  I am depressed, anxious, have panic attacks, and am now suffering numerous health problems from the sleeplessness, and nervousness involved in this. We have 3 sons; 29, 26, and 23.  Our youngest has decided on living the lifestyle of Hollywood.   Please help me with your encouraging newsletter and pray for me to have strength to trust in God's all-seeing, all- knowing and all- powerful abilities.-ANONYMOUS

My dear sister,

I wanted to write you as soon as I read your note because I know the pain you are going through. You did not give your email address, which I understand, so I couldn't respond.  After you read this, if you want to correspond, please feel free to do so, but don't forget to give me your email address. When I say on this site that you can write anonymously, it is true...even I can't see the email address unless the box is filled in. 

My heart goes out to you and you did the right thing to write this group. You are not alone in your grief; many of us have experienced the pain of having an unfaithful child. No matter the age of the child, no matter what the child is or is not involved in, the suffering all the parents go through is great, but when the unfaithful child is involved with dangerous substances, of course the concern increases.

I realize the following may not apply to you, but here are some suggestions I found helpful:

GET RID OF GUILT:   We mothers often consume ourselves in guilt thinking we haven't been good mothers and every mistake we've ever done with our children, from their birth on up, comes to mind. Yes, we make mistakes, but most of the time our guilt is irrational. If guilt is a big issue, then we need to pray and ask forgiveness for anything we've done wrong as a mother and, after doing so, not torture ourselves with guilt. Our children make their own choices.

A young man who repented let his parents know it wasn't their fault, that the life he had led, was entirely his choice. Thinking back on my own wayward time when I was young, I wasn't blaming my parents, I was living the life I had chosen.

If there is something we feel we did or did not do for our child and that lays heavy of our mind, then it may be good to apologize to our child, for their sake as well as our own peace of mind. But they do not need to use that for their crutch and their excuse to continue in sin, so the apology should be sincere, but not said in such a way as to look like their choice of life is all our fault. It's not and it would be harmful for parent and child to believe that. 

PRAYER AND TRUST: There was a time years ago I continually prayed for my child. I prayed and prayed and I worried and worried. See something wrong with this picture? Although it's been well over ten years ago, I clearly remember the time I was sick with worry and it dawned on me I was feeling that way right after I had prayed to God. These words came to mind, "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." I'd been praying in doubt. I had little comfort after the prayer, because I was not praying in trust and hope, rather I prayed in doubt and desperation. I felt a shock of fear that I had been praying in vain and I was hurting my child. I would not let that happen again. I repented, prayed again for my son, and would not allow myself to worry. When I felt anxious I would force myself to remember my prayer and the promise that God gives us that He hears our faithful prayers and will answer them.

A PEACEFUL ENVIRONMENT: I got into many discussions with my son and sometimes I would get upset and emotional and we'd end up arguing. Our home was far from peaceful when this happened. 

During this time I was writing a Christian woman in Texas. We had met through Our Hope and although we had never met face to face, we became good friends through our letters. She had a faithful son who was in his early 40's but she told me when he was young, he had similar experiences that my son was presently going through. She gave me some soul-saving advice: Don't argue. When my child says something that could provoke an argument, let it go and keep my mouth shut. My role was to show my son I loved him and to give him a peaceful environment. She told me to hug him and say, "I love you," even if I had to force myself when something was being said that angered me. It worked.

It wasn't long after I started doing that, that my son came home. That wasn't the sole reason for his coming home, but I'm sure it helped him to know he was indeed welcomed back and was loved. I am forever grateful for this dear sister who showed me a better way of helping my child. This also helped me emotionally; I didn't have to live with the memory of those arguments day after day. I remember the first time I tried my friend's advice, the time I chose to keep my mouth shut when I heard something that disturbed me and instead of arguing I chose to hug him and tell him "I love you." It felt so good and it felt good to feel him hug me back.

I immediately saw the wisdom in expressing love, rather than arguing. My son knew what I believed because I had let him know many times in the past. But the "discussions" were being repeated over and over and they were getting nowhere. I decided to leave the conversations up to my husband who was more calm than I was and to pray for other Christians who would help, to come in contact with my son (this took a couple of years, but my prayer was answered).

TOUGH LOVE AND CONSISTENCY IN DISCIPLINE: Our children, no matter their age, no matter if they are faithful or unfaithful, they need to see consistency in their parents. If they are taught God's law, they need to see their parents carry it out in their daily lives. If they are taught God is displeased with sinful actions, they need to see we are displeased. If they are taught God's discipline, they need to see their parents discipline. If they hear us tell them not to do a certain thing or they'll have to be disciplined, then they need that discipline to take place. Consistency is important to a child's emotional and spiritual well-being.

The peaceful environment mentioned above will not help them turn back to the Lord if that is all they are receiving. If the unfaithful child does not receive discipline and knowledge of where his/her parent stands, the peaceful home will only lead to further digression. The reason my friend's advice to quit arguing and just give love worked, is because my son knew he wasn't getting away with anything. He knew where his parents stood and sin would not be permitted in their home, nor condoned in any way.

Tough love is, at times, painful. We sometimes have to make a decision that goes against all our motherly instincts to care and provide for our child's needs. There are times when supporting our older children financially may be hurting them spiritually, if they are choosing a path apart from God.

My son later told me that my husband's and my discipline and toughness is what helped him so much. He needed those set boundaries. These boundaries also helped me emotionally (even during the pain) because I didn't have to worry if I had made the right decision whenever I did what God instructed me to. Remembering the story of Eli's inconsistencies with his sons was a great strength and comfort when I had to use discipline; I knew God would be displeased if I overlooked sin.

IGNORE ATTACKS: Children learn at a young age how to manipulate their parents and how much they can be manipulated. One of the things they master with their mothers is how to create guilt in her. Yes, I know, we mothers are known for making our children feel guilty, but the child learns how to master this as well. Although I've never heard "I hate you" from my children, many parents do. But it doesn't have to be those words, the manipulation can be more subtle to where the mother thinks she won't have her child's love, even if she never hears the words, "I hate you." This concern of losing a child's love often causes a mother to cave in and make allowances for her child when she shouldn't.

Their display of anger or words of hate may cause many sleepless nights and needless worry. During this time we need to think rationally; saying no to a child because it is for their good is not something that will make our child actually hate us. They may try to make us feel guilty in order to get their way, but we must not allow this to happen. If we discipline in love and patience, we don't need to not worry that we will lose our child's love. We won't. We may get the backlash of their disappointment and anger because they didn't get their way, but they know we are doing our parental responsibility and will have more respect for us in the long run.

WORRY HURTS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR HUSBAND:  Worry can get in the way of our relationship with our husbands and with our other children. Sin has already disrupted the family when it wasn't our choice so why allow it to disrupt further when we have a choice. Our husbands need us. He is just as concerned, but he may not show it in the same way as we do. In general we women express our concern and display it in outward emotions, but men usually do not, to the same degree, and they are more capable of not dwelling on a problem  24 hours a day. At bedtime our husband may easily fall asleep in the midst of a crisis as we lay awake wondering how in the world he can sleep. Surely he just doesn't care as much as we do, otherwise he would not be able to get the problem out of his mind. This isn't correct. He cares just as much, but men were taught as young boys not to display emotion, as well as the fact that God has created male and female brains differently.

Stress, if allowed, can replace the affection between a husband and wife because stress demands attention and problems arise when we remained focused on our stress and give it the priority over our spouse. We then excuse our actions or our lack of attention to our husbands because we are engulfed in the selfishness of being stressed out. In reality, our pain, even our child's unfaithfulness, should never come between the relationship between husband and wife. If it does, we'll end up blaming our husbands, we'll feel lonely because we think our husbands don't understand, and we allow them to be the "whipping boy" of our pain.  

Our worry can cause us to look at life and our husbands through gray-colored glasses. We can't see them clearly and we forget they are the ones who have always stood by us and understood us. They don't need to see constant tears and hear constant conversations about our child. They deserve more from us.

WORRY HURTS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS: The other children in the family don't need to hear constant anger and worry. They too need a peaceful environment and worry gets in the way of that. They need attention and they need to know they are just as important to us.

Our spiritual family and our friends need us and constant worry uses up our energy to see to other's needs.

Our unfaithful children do not need to see and hear our constant worry. While they do need to know we are not giving up on them, coming home to a distraught mother only adds to the stressful environment. Our children may never use these words, but I would imagine they feel lost and confused, dealing with so many conflicting emotions and thoughts within themselves. Because of this, they need a stable, secure home to come home to; they needed to see the strength and peace that God provides. 

WORRY HURTS HEALTH:  As you have pointed out, worry does indeed hurt our health and can leave the door open for numerous problems. When we encounter stress, our body goes into a "flight-or-fight" mode. Our pituitary gland releases more adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which signals other glands to produce additional hormones. The pituitary tells our adrenal glands to release a flood of stress hormones into our bloodstream, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help us to concentrate better, speed our reaction time and increases our strength and agility.

When the stress is over, the levels of hormones decline and our heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and metabolism return to normal. But if stress continues to a long time, our body doesn't have a chance to recover. This can cause obesity, digestive problems, heart disorders, a suppression or overactivation of our immune system, insomnia, a worsening of skin conditions and asthma attacks, and depression.

I'm well aware of the physical results of stress. I had been under a great deal of continuous stress from 2002 through 2004 because of serious health problems with different ones in my family. 2005 was a much better year and my stress level decreased, but the physical outcome has not been good. The past months I've been in almost continuous flareups of my illness, having symptoms that I have not experienced in the last several years. I have developed new problems in my joints and physical and emotional symptoms of depression and stress had become overwhelming in the early months of 2005.  After months of experiencing the physical and emotional symptoms of stress, I decided to take an antidepressant. I realize with some people, they may not work very well or they may cause side-effects that are intolerable. With me, it was if someone had magically lifted a great burden from me. There is no tranquilizing effect, rather it gave me more clarity of mind and helped me to better organize my thoughts and actions.

I know there are many Christians who think no Christian should ever put themselves in a position where they feel they have to take a antidepressant. I won't go into this in depth (we'll talk about this some other time), but first of all, most of the time we don't "put ourselves into stressful situations" for they are beyond our control. Second of all, stress can cause physical symptoms and if a pill helps with those symptoms, than that's great. Is it a sin to take medicine for a migraine when it has come from stress? No one thinks anything wrong with that. We need to gain knowledge and be fair-minded. I recommend them if we are also working on our thinking according to God's wisdom and not just relying on a pill (that doesn't work anyway).  

SEEK HELP FROM GOD'S WORD AND FROM THE STRENGTH AND COMFORT OF THOSE WHO UNDERSTAND. I'm so glad you wrote us. Please continue to do so. Tell us what you need. Unfortunately, in my experience, I didn't have much support from other Christians at the beginning, but later, in another location, I did.  I'll speak more on this another time, but seeking help from Christians who understand and who want to help is so comforting. Again, you did the right thing to write us.

Also, as I'm sure you know, God's word is the source of comfort and instruction for us. As I said, the story of Eli helped me to be tougher and consistent. Proverbs helped me to understand the nature of rebellion. The Psalms comforted me and reassured me that God sees my pain and hears my prayers. The New Testament gave me assurance of hope and God's desire to help my son.

HELP OTHERS: We need to help others in similar situations. This, in turn, strengthens us and we can use a bad situation for good. How about those of you reading this--have you any words of comfort and wisdom to share? We need you.

HOPE - HOPE - HOPE: Never lose hope, no matter how hopeless the situation seems. God can do what we can't and He provides within His wisdom, will and time-frame. We must be patient and trust our loving God who wills that all men be saved. "Be still and hope in the Lord."

All my children, now, are strong Christians, full of faith and trust in God. Never give up on hope. I have seen men in their 60's repent and turn back to God and their families, but I pray that peace will soon be for you and your family.

I am praying for you and your son,

Pat Gates

The following poem was written from the perspective of physical death, but let's read this with spiritual death in mind.

I never knew,
when you lost your child,
what you were going through.
I wasn't there,
I stayed away,
I just deserted you.

I didn't know the words to say.
I didn't know the things to do.
I think your pain so frightened me.
I didn't know how to comfort you.

And then one day - MY child died,
and you were the first one there.
You quietly stayed, by my side,
and held me as I cried.
You didn't leave,
you didn't go,
the lesson learned is....
Now, I know.

~Author Unknown ~



Your Parents Can't Make You Go to Heaven!
by Ted J. Clarke

One of the greatest miseries of being a child is being made to do things that a child does not want to do. Eating vegetables, brushing teeth, taking a bath, cleaning one's room, going to Aunt June's, going to school, attending worship and Bible study -- these all rate high on the list of things that many children and teens do not like to do at some time or another.

As children get a little older, they often can see the wisdom of brushing their teeth or taking a bath, and many like going to school, even if it is not because they see the value of a good education. But mom and dad still make them attend church, even after they have complained sufficiently to be exempted from visiting Aunt June. Why?

Some young people feel as though they have finally broken the stranglehold parents exercise over children, when they have removed themselves from parental power to make them "go to church." A number of older people have told me that the reason they do not attend church in their adult years is because their parents made them go when they were children. Most of us know that really is not the reason. The real reason is usually twofold. One, the young person was not made to see the need for attending worship or Bible study as he was growing up, or the child simply did not learn the lessons taught. Two, the young person has grown and has made a decision that he does not need God in his life. His interests are simply not served by religion. In the growing process, the wisdom of eating properly bathing, and brushing teeth made sense, but somehow God was never made as real or as sensitive as those other things? Why?

Well, growing up is more than just getting older and bigger. There is a maturing of the mind (a true sense of seeking for answers to the questions of "Where did I come from? Why am I here? What happens to me when I die?"). When we really grow up, there is a soberness about life's purpose and death's destiny with those who are truly mature. Young people, it is not easy to force yourselves to think about these things, but it is important that you do so!

As you develop and grow older, try to grow in wisdom, too. When you become a young adult, your parents cannot make you do many things they used to do. You may be happy about that, but your parents did what they thought was best for you (Hebrews 12:9-11). There is one final thing that your parents cannot make you do! They cannot make you go to heaven. As much as they would like to see you there, they cannot make you go! That is a decision you get to make. You do not have to go, if you do not want to go! Romans 14:12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 say that "each one of us will give an account of himself." Growing up is great! The adult life is a continuing education. There are tremendous and eternal consequences attached to the decisions you make as young adults! Use your freedom to make the right choices for yourselves.



Should I MAKE My Child
Attend Worship and Bible Study?


by Pat Gates

  • God commands us to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
  • We are to do whatever needs to be done to help our children get to heaven.
  • Children who are "made" to go to every service understand that it is a natural part of their lives and they don't expect it to be any different.
  • Yes, some children grow up and have enough of school and don't choose college. Some grow up and don't brush their teeth 2 or 3 times a day. Some grow up and quit making their bed. But are these good reasons for not making them do these things when they are growing up? Do you feel like you are abusing your child as you force them to go to school, brush their teeth and clean their room? No? Then why feel badly for forcing them to meet with the saints that is for their eternal good?
  • Most children don't feel forced when the family is faithful in attending all services, but once in a while if they do get upset because they are missing out on an event they want to attend, they'll get over it and deep inside they know where they are suppose to be.
  • If you aren't consistent with your children in attendance they are more likely to grow up to be unfaithful adults because they weren't trained to put God first.
  • If you are consistent and your child grows up and chooses to be unfaithful, there will be pain, but you will know you tried to do what God wanted you to do and you loved your child enough to set him on the right path. This will be a comfort to you and this long-standing habit you gave your child as he was growing up will have more of an impact in helping him return to his God. 



When Daddy prays, he doesn't use
The words the preacher does;
There's different things for different days
But mostly it's for us.

When Daddy prays, the house is still,
His voice is slow and deep.
We shut our eyes, the clock ticks loud.
So quiet we must keep.

He prays that we may be good boys,
And later on good men.
And then we squirm, and think we won't
Have any quarrels again.

You'd never think, to look at Dad,
He once had tempers too.
I guess if Daddy needs to pray.
We youngsters surely do.

Sometimes the prayer gets very long
And hard to understand
And then I wiggle up quite close
And let him hold my hand.

I can't remember all of it
I'm little yet, you see.
But one thing I cannot forget
My Daddy prays for me!

Author unknown


November 2017