Thursday, May 9, 2013

Let Them Come Home by Abraham Piper

The article below was written by Abraham Piper (John Piper's son). I actually copied it straight from another blog and am keeping it here because it's just so ridiculously powerful and practical.

The following is Abraham’s account written for Decision Magazine.
When I was 19, I decided I’d be honest and stop pretending I was a christian.  At first I pretended that my reasoning was high-minded and philosophical. But really I just wanted to drink gallons of cheap sangria and sleep around. Four years of this and I was strung out, stupefied and generally pretty low. Especially when I was sober or alone.
My parents, (John and Noel Piper) who are strong believers and who raised their kids as well as any parents I’ve ever seen, were brokenhearted and baffled. (See sidebar story below.) I’m sure they were wondering why the child they tried to raise right was such a ridiculous screw-up now. But God was in control.
One Tuesday morning, before 8 o’clock, I went to the library to check my e-mail. I had a message from a girl I’d met a few weeks before, and her e-mail mentioned a verse in Romans. I went down to the Circle K and bought a 40-ounce can of Miller High Life for $1.29. Then I went back to where I was staying, rolled a few cigarettes, cracked open my drink, and started reading Romans. I wanted to read the verse from the e-mail, but I couldn’t remember what it was, so I started at the beginning of the book. By the time I got to chapter 10, the beer was gone, the ashtray needed emptying and I was a Christian.
The best way I know to describe what happened to me that morning is that God made it possible for me to love Jesus. When He makes this possible and at the same time gives you a glimpse of the true wonder of Jesus, it is impossible to resist His call.
Looking back on my years of rejecting Christ, I offer these suggestions to help you reach out to your wayward child so that they, too, would wake up to Christ’s amazing power to save even the worst of us.

1. Point them to Christ.

Your rebellious child’s real problem is not drugs or sex or cigarettes or porn or laziness or crime or cussing or slovenliness or homosexuality or being in a punk band. The real problem is that your child doesn’t see Jesus clearly. The best thing you can do for rebellious children—and the only reason to follow any of these suggestions—is to show them Christ. It won’t be simple or immediate, but the sins in their life that distress you and destroy them will begin to disappear only when they see Jesus more as He actually is.

2. Pray.

Only God can save your children, so keep on asking Him to display Himself to them in a way they can’t resist worshiping Him for.

3. Acknowledge that something is wrong.

When your daughter rejects Jesus, don’t pretend that everything is fine.
If you know she’s not a believer and you’re not reaching out to her, then start. And never stop. Don’t ignore her unbelief. Ignoring it might make holidays easier, but not eternity.

4. Don’t expect them to be Christlike.

If your son is not a Christian, he won’t act like one, and it’s hypocrisy if he does. If he has forsaken your faith, he has little motivation to live by your standards, and you have little reason to expect him to.
If he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, there is little significance in his admitting that it’s wrong to get wasted, for instance. You want to protect him, yes, but his most dangerous problem is unbelief—not partying. No matter how your child’s behavior proves his unbelief, always be sure to focus more on his heart’s sickness than its symptoms

5. Welcome them home.

Because your deepest concern is your son’s heart, not his actions, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, don’t make it hard for him. God may use your love to call him back to Christ. Obviously there are instances when parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house, if you are …” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by pushing him away with rules.
If your daughter stinks like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreeze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her 20-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money—and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, urge him not to go back, and let him come home.

6. Plead with them more than you rebuke them.

Be gentle in your disappointment.
What concerns you most is that your child is destroying herself, not that she’s breaking rules. Treat her in a way that makes this clear. She probably knows—especially if she was raised as a Christian—that what she’s doing is wrong. And she definitely knows you think it is, so she doesn’t need this pointed out. She needs to see how you are going to react to her evil. Your gentle forbearance and sorrowful hope will show her that you really do trust Jesus.
Her conscience can condemn her by itself. Your role is to stand kindly and firmly, always living in the hope that you want your child to return to.

7. Connect them to other believers.

Obviously, you are distant from your wayward child; otherwise you wouldn’t think they’re wayward. This is another reason why pleading is better than rebuking—your relationship with your rebellious child is tenuous and should be protected if at all possible.
But rebuke is still necessary. A lot of rebellious kids would do well to hear that they’re being fools, but you’re probably not the one to tell them. Try to keep other Christians in their lives and trust God to connect your son or daughter with a believer who can point out your child’s folly without getting the door slammed on them.

8. Respect their friends.

Of course your daughter’s relationships are founded on sin. And, yes, her friends are bad for her. But she’s bad for them, too. And nothing will be solved by making it evident that you don’t like who she’s hanging around with.
Be hospitable. Her friends are someone else’s wayward children, and they need Jesus, too.

9. E-mail them.

When you read something in the Bible that encourages you and helps you love Jesus more, write it up in a couple of lines and send it to your child. The best exhortation—better than any correction—is for them to see Christ’s joy in your life
Don’t stress out when you’re composing these as if each one needs to be singularly powerful. Just whip them out and let the cumulative effect of your satisfaction in God gather up in your child’s inbox. God’s Word is never useless.

10. Take them to lunch.

If possible, don’t let your only interaction with your child be electronic. Get together with him face to face if you can. You may think this is stressful and uncomfortable, but trust me that it’s far worse to be in the child’s shoes—he is experiencing all the same discomfort, but compounded by guilt. So if he is willing to get together with you for lunch, praise God, and use the opportunity.
It may almost feel hypocritical to talk about his daily life, since what you really care about is his eternal life, but be sure to do it anyway. He needs to know you care about all of him. Then, before lunch is over, ask about his soul. You don’t know how he’ll respond. Will he roll his eyes like you’re a moron? Will he get mad and leave? Or has God been working in him since you talked last? You don’t know until you risk asking. God will give you the gumption.

11. Take an interest in their pursuits.

Odds are that if your daughter is purposefully rejecting Christ, then the way she spends her time will disappoint you. Nevertheless, find the value in her interests, if possible, and encourage her. You went to her school plays and soccer games when she was 10; what can you do now that she’s 20 to show that you still really care about her interests?
Jesus spent time with tax collectors and prostitutes, and He wasn’t even related to them. Imitate Christ by being the kind of parent who will put some earplugs in your pocket and head downtown to where your daughter’s CD release show is. Encourage her and never stop praying that she will begin to use her gifts for Jesus’ glory instead of her own.

12. Point them to Christ.

This can’t be stressed enough. It’s the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.
The goal is not that they will be good kids again. It’s not that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not that they’ll like classical music instead of deathcore; it’s not that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election. The goal is not for you to stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study or even for you to be able to sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell.
The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Jesus Christ.
And not only is He the only point, but He’s the only hope. When they see the wonder of Jesus, satisfaction will be redefined. He Himself will replace the money, or the praise of man, or the high, or the sex that they are staking their eternities on right now. Only His grace can draw them from their perilous pursuits and bind them safely to Him—captive, but satisfied.
God will do this for many. Be faithful and don’t give up.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Little Girl Inside

There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed (perfect) love banishes all fear. 
1 John 4:18 [MSG]

     An expanse of green grass and rolling hills touches a horizon of pale blue sky. A large hand reaches down out of the heavens. The little girl in her summer dress reaches upward, her hand so very small as it tucks inside His, wrapped in a sense of safety that is palpable.

     A concrete pathway winding through fields of brightly colored flowers, they are walking and holding hands—the little girl in her summer dress and her companion, Jesus. Every time she looks up at him he is looking down at her, his focus only on her. The sparkle in his eyes tells her that she captivates him, and his smile communicates his delight in her. Their laughter is limitless; their giggles the sweetest sound to her ears. This pathway is theirs alone, but even if throngs of other people surrounded them, she would only hear his words. His voice fascinates her—every word feels wrapped in tender confidence. There is no place she would rather be than here with him, anywhere with him.

     They sit together on a black, wrought iron park bench, the little girl in her summer dress and her Jesus. She is tucked into the crook of his arm looking up at his face as he tells her a story. He loves to tell her stories, and they always seem to make her laugh. She can tell that he loves when she laughs because when she does he always turns his eyes to look right into hers … and then he laughs right back. And, oh, how she loves to watch him when he laughs at his own stories. His cheeks turn the slightest shade of pink and his chuckle makes her want to snuggle in even deeper underneath his arm. He never tells her the same story twice.

     Hand in hand they skip along, the little girl in her summer dress and her best friend, Jesus. Their feet are bare in the tender, moss green grass and the breeze feels good on their cheeks. She loves when they skip because even though his legs are much longer than hers he always purposes to keep her stride.

     The morning air is cool but the sun’s rays are warm and comforting. He is carrying her piggyback style, the little girl in her summer dress, with feet dangling at his sides. Her head is turned sideways, cheek pressed against his back, listening to the steady rhythm of his heartbeat. On this walk they don’t speak; they don’t need words, just each other—quiet and peaceful. This is some of her favorite time with him, and she can feel her heart smile.

Over the past several years—during worship or prayer—I’ve had multiple visions play out of Jesus and me. Always I am a little girl about five in a yellow summer dress with white stripes and an eyelet ruffle that touches just above my knees. Always we are outdoors, and always he holds my hand. Sometimes we just walk together and talk; he never runs out of questions. Sometimes we run around and play tag until we can’t catch our breath. Sometimes he takes my hands and spins me around until I’m parallel to the ground, feet flying straight out behind me. Sometimes we just hold hands and skip, our arms swinging wildly back and forth. And sometimes we just listen—listen to the sounds around us; we can hear everything.

"When she was little she lived."

Bob Hamp wrote this line in an article for Destiny In Bloom titled Somewhere Inside You She Lives. (If you haven't already read it, please head there after you're done here. It's a MUST read.)

Those six words spoke to the softest, squishiest place inside my heart—that place untouched by harsh words, rejection, decisions against my will and decisions I made against myself as the enemy’s lies became my truth, time and time again. That place that Jesus has purposed to show me time and time again: the heart of that little girl, all of five, always wearing her yellow and white summer dress. A pure heart—unbroken and undamaged by years of life and choices that were sometimes hers, sometimes not. A heart that fully trusts, fully engages, fully delights, fully lives and fully loves.

In this current season, Jesus is stripping me of the layers of life that have become bricks I have used over the years to build a wall of protection around my heart. It’s both a little bit scary and also a little bit intimidating, but I decided to dive in because a few months ago Jesus showed me something else: he showed me 'me' and he showed me the word 'unchosen'.

In this vision I had a brick in one hand and a trowel in the other. With every word spoken or deed done that I could define as 'against me', I would pick up a brick already labeled unchosen and build my wall. On the other side of this wall was Jesus, and just as fast as I could place a new brick in its place he was taking one down. The fact that he showed me a brick wall was not surprising. I’ve spent years becoming familiar with this particular protection device. What shocked me was the additional understanding he revealed: my brick wall wasn’t only shielding my heart from people, it was also a personally erected barricade between Jesus' heart and mine.

A broken and fearful heart in constant process of building any type of barrier—in the name of protecting itself against the words or actions of others—will also insulate itself from the very thing that was sent to heal it: Perfect Love.

I’m pursuing the unguarded love known by the little girl in her summer dress. Who or what is Jesus asking you to pursue?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dream Home

"Dream a little BIG dream with me." 

There's a saying rolling around the 'churched' community that goes: If you're dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough. It's easy to read those words on a pretty Instagram post and think "Yah! Absolutely!", but then to actually step up to the plate and swing for the fences with your dreams? Well, that takes some moxie and a lot of faith in the God who can provide above and beyond all that we can ask or imagine.

I've often wondered if we somehow disappoint God because we don't dare to ask for or pursue that which seems--at initial glance--beyond our abilities or capacity. But God... (hear that one roll around too?) He's big, and when I use that word I know that it's not big enough.

We read in the Bible that we don't have because we do not ask ... so, in a time when we are feverishly scouring the Internet for our next home, today we are daring to do two things: Dream Big and Ask Big!

For the past couple weeks every home we've researched just hasn't felt like 'the one'. Now I know that where we live is just as much a matter of choice as it is God's will--what are our priorities in location, size and price--but I also believe that we often tend to settle, for fear that what matches our dreams is just asking for too much.

Hear me on this: when I speak of asking for too much, especially regarding our next living location, I'm not referring to a Westlake mansion with a pool cabana bigger than our current entire living space. That's 'Upper 1% Asking' and even I don't go there. But what about asking for 4 bedrooms instead of 3, or a house with a yard instead of an apartment? What about asking for something that matches your color theme or flooring preferences? Or how about looking at locations with a pool instead of just assuming that's beyond our price range? (Right, Plestie???)

I'm asking all of this as I post a photo of our 'Dream Home'--the newest home posted online just two days ago, in the dream area in which we are looking. She's so beautiful and full of character; reminds me of Old Town Orange in California. And she has the exact number of rooms we are praying for. And she has a front porch (swoon). And she is located in the exact neighborhood we verbally dreamt about last week and, again, just minutes before logging online to look at a different house I had found days prior--that's not in our dream neighborhood but definitely within the specific high school boundaries we are looking in.

For weeks there hasn't been a single rental bite in this neighborhood, but now ... there she is. Our Dream Home! Yes, technically it's a wee bit more than we need--in terms of the number of bathrooms, not bedrooms she contains--but everyone should dream, right? And while we may not end up being able to work out all the 'necessaries' for her, I am loving looking at her and ... dreaming.

And so I'm posting her picture here because I do serve a God who is capable of providing above and beyond, and I want to remember this day that He showed us what a Dream Home looks like. We're praying that God will make a way for us with this gem, and if right now it's not possible, then someday it will be. And I'm okay with that.