Author and speaker Rob Parsons offers biblically-based encouragement and hope to parents of children who've chosen a destructive lifestyle and/or adopted spiritually-wayward perspectives. (Part 2 of 2)
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Rob Parsons: It's the ancient story of the boy who broke his father's heart. And he went to a far country and one day he ends up in a pig sty somewhere and he thinks, "I want to go home." And he makes up a speech. And I've no doubt, as he's walkin' home, he's rehearsin' that little speech in his heart. What he doesn't know is every day since he left, the old man has climbed onto the flat roof of [the] little house and he's lookin' down the road and when he sees his boy, he starts to run.
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John Fuller: And that image of a father running to his wayward son, that's a powerful picture of how God, our Father runs to us when we've gone wayward in our lives. This is "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and that is the heart of Rob Parsons coming through and he's back for the second part of a really remarkable presentation that was recorded at a Focus on the Family event a few years back in Naples, Florida.
Jim Daly: And let me add, if you couldn't be with us last time, man, I encourage you to get the CD or download of Day 1, because there's so much meat in there that is so helpful to the parent whose heart is heavy. Rob's a powerful speaker who shares many stories in his presentation, illustrating ways parents can deal more effectively with their children and it is helpful advice.
Jim: For instance, he cautions us not to have a critical spirit while raising our children. Man, I'll tell you what, as a parent of two teenagers, it is easy to have a critical spirit when you're stepping over the garbage for the 15th time after you've told them to take the garbage out. But again, that attitude of calmness and expressing this to your child in a way that hopefully, they'll hear it and receive it and then do it.
Another point Rob makes is that sometimes parents of prodigals carry the weight of guilt that is not meant for them to bear. It's a heavy burden and taking all that blame is not helpful in the moment. I'm sure there's, you know, things that have been done incorrectly that you could've improved on, but you only have today and tomorrow. Let's move forward and get the job done.
Maybe not all of us have that story. Maybe we weren't the prodigal, nor do we have a prodigal child in our home. And I would say, count your blessings, because it is very common to have at least one child move in a destructive direction. I know you're gonna be encouraged hearing the rest of Rob's presentation today and I hope you'll listen with an open heart. We can often be about the rules, but at this moment, I'd encourage you to hear God speak to you about His love for you and His grace.
John: And let me just ask you to share about this presentation with somebody that is struggling in this area of parenting. They can find the download and the mobile app and the CD at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And as we begin, Rob Parsons continues his presentation very candidly sharing with a story about his own son, Lloyd.
Rob: Ladies and gentlemen, listen, don't ever be ashamed of your children. You might be ashamed of what they've done, but don't be ashamed of your children. Don't be ashamed of them. Nobody knows them like you. Nobody loves them apart from the Father like you.
And sometimes we have to catch them doing something right. You know, with the testing child, if they only hear our criticism, "Why aren't you more like your brother?" "Why don't you come to church more?" "Why don't you do this?" When the ear never hears praise, the heart loses the will to try.
I remember when Lloyd was 17. He was driving me crazy. And he managed to get enough money to buy an old car. And one day he came home and he said, "You know, Dad," he said, "I was down the road the other day and there was an old lady who was lost. And I said to her, 'Are you all right, my dear.' She said, 'No, son, I'm lost.'" He said, "Well, I'll take you home; I've got a car." And he said, "Dad, I took her to her house and I got out [of] the car and I opened the door for her like you taught me to do." And he said, "I walked her up to the drive to her home and she said, 'This is not my house.'" (Laughter)
"And I said, 'Well, where's your house?' And she gave me another address and I took her there and she said, 'This is not my house.'" (Laughter) He said, "Dad, I took her to eight houses (Laughter). And finally, I took her to a police station." And he's driving me crazy and he won't do his school work and his bedroom's a mess and he started smokin'. And I'm not happy about any of those things, but he goes to an old lady and says, "My dear, can I help you?" I must commend him for that. I must say, "Lloyd, when you did that, I was proud of you. It's the kind of thing Jesus would have done the same." Sometimes you have to catch them doin' something right. Do you know the fascinating thing, ladies and gentlemen? (Clearing throat) When we lay down the guilt, it gives room for God to work.
My mind goes to a woman of 45, the secretary of a very wealthy businessman in England. And he said to me, "Rob, I have taken her to so many meetings. She will not come to Christ. I've had evangelists in my office speaking to her. She lives with this man. She has now a little baby. She has begged him to marry her, but he won't marry her."
And at the end of our meeting, he called on her and asked her to give me a lift to the station. She got in the car. She said, "You know, Rob, last night I went to hear your wife, Diane, talk in a seminar, "Motherhood: A Rollercoaster Ride." She said, "Diane made me laugh and she made me cry." She said, "You know I'm not a Christian, don't you, Rob?" I said, "Oh, yes, I know that."
She said, "Where are you going when you leave us?" I said, "I'm gonna speak to some church leaders about a little book I've written called Bringing Home the Prodigals. Susie, did you ever know that little story?" "Oh, yes. When I was a little girl, I went to a Methodist church and they taught me the story there."
"Do you ever go to church now, Susie?" Her head went down. "No, no, I don't go now." And then I felt God prompt me and I said, "Susie, I don't want to offend you. You've told me you're not a Christian. I understand that, but Susie, do you ever pray?" She said, "I pray all the time. I can't stop praying." She said, "The other night, I'm lying on my bed. I'm crying out to God and my partner says, "Who are you talking to?" And I said, "I'm talking to God." She said, "I think he's kind of jealous, Rob."
I said, "Susie, would you mind if I told you a little story?" I said, "A couple of years ago, I was speaking at a big convention—4,000 people. And I spoke for three-quarters of an hour. And when I finished, a man got up and told a story and I knew in my heart, when he finished tellin' it and it only took him two minutes to tell, if he told it at the beginning, I'd never have spoken. That's pretty sobering for a preacher.
She said, "Tell it to me." I said, "Well, Jeff told us he had a great relationship with his mum and his dad, but in his 80's, his father had a stroke, was unable to speak. And Jeff's dad loved to speak to him. And Jeff rang his mum one day and said, "Mum, I'm doin' some business near your home. Can I come and stay the night?" She said, "Of course, son." And he said, "It's 11 o'clock at night and we're drinking cocoa and mum and I are speaking with great animation, but my old dad can only smile at me."
And he said, "About 11:30, I go up to bed. They've given me the old bedroom I had when I was a boy. And I'm lyin' there and there's even one of my old posters still on part of the wall. And I'm lying [there] and my mind's goin' back over years of childhood. And I begin to fall off to sleep and suddenly, there's a knock at the door and I'm a bit surprised by that.
But I shout, "Come in!" And in comes my old dad. And he comes to the bed and he looks down at me. And he sees there's a hair in my eye and he licks his finger and he pushes it back across my forehead. And then, as he used to when I was a boy, he tucked the bedclothes in around me and straightened the top sheet. And then he lent over me, kissed me, smiled and left."
And he said, "I am lying there and I am 45 years of age and I've got kids of my own and I've got people who work for me and I have just been tucked into bed by my own father. And boy, didn't it feel good." And Jeff looked out at 4,000 people said, "God wants to do that for you." And I said, "Susie, He wants to do it for you."
She wrote to me the next day. She said, "Thank you for your wise words. You made me think." I sent her a book I wrote. She wrote back to say she was praying for me. Ladies and gentlemen, I have no idea where Susie is on a journey of faith, but I know this. It is better to have some love for God, so you cry out to Him in the darkness, but to be too ashamed to go to church, than to be in church every single Sunday, but in your heart for there to be no love.
Sometimes I have to say, "Heavenly Father, help me cooperate with the Holy Spirit in understanding where You are working in this life, so that first I see not the things that others see, but begin to see what You may yet do and as we do, hope rises in our hearts.
Ladies and gentlemen, I won't keep you long. I just want to share briefly with you those final two points that God laid on my heart. No. 1 was, we have made prodigals of some who never were. Secondly, lay down the guilt and thirdly and I have to say, I believe this is at heart of it, when the father's house is filled with the Father's love, the prodigals will come home. But fourthly, when they do come home, pray with all your heart, they meet the father before they meet the elder brother.
The religious leaders said, "Why do you eat with sinners?" And He told them three stories. He told them the story of a sheep that was lost away from home. And then, He told them the story of a coin that was lost at home. And finally, He told them [the] story of two boys- and one was lost away from home and one was lost at home.
I remember a theologian saying to me years ago, the kiss of the father was an incredible kiss. I say, "Why so?" He said, "Well, but the boy would have still been smellin' of the pig sty." This father did not say, "Go home, have a wash." He says a Jewish father, embracing the boy smellin' of the pig sty, the father will be patient.
The elder brother will want it all sorted out immediately. The elder brother will say, "Can I smell alcohol on your breath? Are you still doin' this? Are you still livin' in that?" But the father will be patient. The father will know this is gonna take a little time. I think of a boy who said to his dad, "Dad, I am back, both to you and to God, but be patient with me. This may take a little time." The power of the father and the spirit of the elder brother.
John: Insights today from Rob Parsons about wayward children, about prodigals and this is "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. If you're really resonating with this compelling presentation and you'd like resources or perhaps to talk with someone, call us here at Focus on the Family and let us serve you please. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Now back to our guest, Rob Parsons on today's "Focus on the Family."
End of Program Note
Rob: The church I mentioned to you some time ago, that began at 300 and grew to 10,000, the vicar told me that one of his members had a hairdressing salon. And a young stripper from a local strip club—she was only 25 years of age—used to come [to] have her hair done there. And one day, she said to him, "Why don't you try and sleep with me like all the other men do?" He said, "I have different values." She said, "I'll bet you go to church, don't you?" He said, "I do." She said, "I'd like to come to your church." He said, "But I didn't want to bring her to our church. We were a happy, respectable little family church." He said, "I didn't want to bring her to our church and I knew what she'd wear if she came and she did when she came.
She came straight from the club. The pastor told me, he said, "When she walked down the aisle, I saw women putting their hands over their husbands' eyes." (Laughter) Again, she sat in the front row. After 10 minutes, she turned to the man who brought her and said, "Did you tell the preacher about me?" "No, I didn't tell him about you." "He knows all about me. He knows everything about my life." She gave her life to Christ that night. They gave her a Bible. That was the Sunday.
On the Wednesday, she rang the pastor. "Pastor, it's Nicki." "Nicki?" "The stripper." "Oh, oh, the stripper." (Laughter) He said, "I got my wife on the other extension." (Laughter) "Pastor, thank you for the Bible. Pastor, do you read the Bible?" "Yes, Nicki, I read the Bible." "Pastor, have you read the Corinthian book?" "Yes, Nicki, I've read the Corinthian book." "Pastor, have your read the part where it says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit?" "Yes, Nicki, I've read that."
"Well, Pastor, if that's true, I can't go on stripping. Pastor, have you read the Matthew book?" "Yes, Nicki, I've read the Matthew book." "Pastor, have you read the bit where it says that God looks after the birds of the air and the grass of the field? I think if that's true, if I give up stripping, He'll give me enough to wear and to eat. I'll be okay." She walked into the club on the Friday. She said, "I'm not gonna do this anymore."
When she got baptized six weeks later, five other strippers and four doormen came to church. They didn't come to church 'cause they wanted to; they came for Nicki's sake and they came in the clothes they wore in the club. The pastor said, "This time I saw women putting black plastic bags over their husbands' heads." (Laughter)
Several of those women and those men came to Christ that night. On the Monday morning, there was a knock on the pastor's door. It was an older woman from church. "Pastor," she said, "you have ruined this church. You have ruined this church, bringing these people in. We were a little, happy, respectable church. What's this gonna say to the young people? You have ruined this church." If she'd said it to me, I think I'd have got on my high horse about Jesus eating with sinners, but he was brighter than me.
He said, "I know I've ruined your church. What're we gonna do about it? Will you help me mentor some of these young women?" And he said, it was as if heaven itself held its breath waiting for her answer. (Laughter) And he said, "Finally she knelt forward. She tapped me on the knee and said, 'Well, Pastor, we're just gonna have to love them.'" My hat goes off to that woman, because of course, it was hard for her. And she may have had the spirit of the elder brother or elder sister, but something went on in that woman's heart that changed her. My heart goes out to her.
Ladies and gentlemen, pray together. Pray together. I know it's hard. I know it can be embarrassing, but begin this very day, even if going home in the car you say, "You know, darling, we could meet tonight and we'll just say the Lord's Prayer together." And then when you've finished saying that lovely prayer, "For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory," just for 10 seconds, "Lord, bless Peter wherever he is." "Bless Susie wherever she is." Pray for your kids.
If any of you are pregnant now, pray for the child in the womb. And if you have children and they're doing well in the faith, pray for them to hold on. Don't take anything for granted. Anything can happen to anybody. Anything can happen to anybody. Pray for your kids.
Normally before we go into a town with a seminar, we get the church leaders together about six weeks before and I speak to them. And I'm in Nottingham in England and a young man comes up to me. He's 25 years of age and he says, "Rob, today is the first day of me being employed in full-time Christian ministry. I'm a youth pastor." I say, "Congratulations." He said, "My mum wanted me to say hello to you." I said, "Do I know your mum?" He said, "No, you don't know my mum, but years ago in the Birmingham Symphony Hall, she laid my name at the foot of the cross when I was breaking her heart."
So, when we get to Nottingham, I tell that story in the first part of the evening. And as I'm walking down the aisle, somebody pulls my jacket and I turn and there's a woman and she says, "I'm that mother. I'm the mother." And folks, as I looked into her eyes, it's as if she was sayin', 'I am the mother who waited long nights for him to come home. I am the mother who at times, it seemed that heaven was like brass. I am the mother who prayed, prayed, prayed. I am the mother who never gave up. I am the mother.'"
Keep on prayin'. It's not only our only hope; it's our last hope. I can't promise you your prodigals will come home, but I can tell you this, God loves them more than you. He knows where they are and only He can bring them home.
Whenever I think about this issue, I think about the way Yancey tells it, not a story of a prodigal son but a prodigal daughter. She has a row with her father about the length of her skirt and the pin in her nose or the color of her hair and she walks out of their home in little Traverse City and she goes to the place she knows her father will never find her, big Detroit city. The second she gets off the Greyhound bus there's a businessman waiting to meet her.
He puts her in a penthouse of a hotel; men pay big money for this young girl. And for two years she lives like a queen. Then the drugs get to her and she's ill and he takes her out of the penthouse and she's sleeping in the shop doorway and she's got newspaper around her and cardboard underneath her and a hacking cough. And her mind goes back to home and she remembers apple blossom[s] in spring. She remembers her brown Labrador dog bouncing through the garden towards her. And she thinks, "I want to go home."
And she phones her mum and dad and she gets the answer phone and she says, "Mom, Dad, I want to come home. My bus gets into Traverse City at midnight. If there's nobody to meet me, I'll understand. I'll get straight back on the bus. I'll stay on the bus all the way to Canada."
It's a long way from Detroit city to Traverse City. It gets dark. It starts to snow and she falls asleep. And then there's a hiss of brakes and she hears the bus driver say, "Traverse City, folks. We're just here for 15 minutes." And she thinks 15 minutes to decide my life. She gets the lipstick from her teeth; she tries to rub the nicotine off her fingers. She straightens her blouse; she wonders if there'll be anybody to meet her. Nothing she ever imagined or dreamt of got her ready for the sight she saw that night when she entered the little bus station in Traverse City.
Thirty, 40 people with party hats on and banners that said, "Welcome Home, Darling." Uncles and Aunties and a Grandmother and a Great-Grandmother to boot and there's her mother and here's her father walking towards her with tears streaming down his face. And she says, "Daddy, I am so sorry." "Hush, child. We don't have time for that. We're gonna be late for the party." It's an incredible story.
Just after I wrote the book, a woman wrote to me. I don't know if she was the kind of woman who wrote this letter to her daughter. "You might be surprised to hear from me. It is sometime since we spoke and even longer since we were together. But I've rewound and reworded our last conversation and relived our last meeting many times in my heart and imagination.
"Words passed between us that would've best left unsaid. But not all memories are painful. I often wind the tape back further like a video film and watch you as a child clambering on a rocky beach or running with an excited smile to show me some treasure. I can still feel your hand in mine as you urge me to hurry along a windy street or held me back because you wanted to watch a tiny insect or an even slower caterpillar.
"I remember you as you grew--the challenges you faced and the friends you made, the pride I felt. And then I wonder when things started to go wrong, when we stopped talkin' and started shoutin'. When even the shoutin' gave way to silence and the silence to absence. You have walked a path in these last days I would not have chosen for you. But as you often have said, "It is your life and you must choose for yourself." And I have accepted those choices, however different they may be from my own.
"I want you to know, though, that my love for you is greater than those differences, that despite all that has built a barrier between us, the love I have for you is strong enough to move it, even piece by piece and however long it takes. Both of us need the forgiveness of the other. We need to hear words we've longed for. I believe it is never too late.
"You may choose to ignore these words. They may make you angry, rekindling memories you thought you had long forgotten. I understand that, but as your mother, I can do nothing but go on loving you, go on asking for your forgiveness and offering mine to you. No matter what has happened in the past and whatever is going on in your life right now, I love you. I am here for you and you can always come home."
Let me end with this. A woman wrote to me. She said, "When my daughter left at 18, both away from us and God, we didn't see her for six years. We didn't know whether she was alive or dead. And as my husband and I put the lights out at night, I would say, 'Darling, leave a porch light on.' I always left a light on." And she said, "At Christmas, I used to put a little Christmas tree outside as we used to when she was a little girl. And when my daughter came home, both wonderfully to us and to God, she said, "Mom, I was too ashamed to come home. But some nights in the early hours of the morning, 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning, I would come into our street and I would sit in my car in the darkness and every house would be dark apart from our house. You always left our light on. And some nights I would look at the little Christmas tree you put there and I knew it was for me."
Ladies and gentlemen, don't ever give up hope. Always keep on praying and always leave a light on. May God bless. (Applause)
John: Well, only God knows how our small acts of faith can work in His plans of redemption and we've been listening to an inspirational message from Rob Parsons on today's "Focus on the Family" and what a touching story to close on. It's so true, Jim; there's always hope.
Jim: Well, I love that line, "There's always hope." Absolutely and we believe what God says in His Word. That's what our hope is based on is Scripture. Romans 12:12 says it this way: "Rejoice in hope; be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer." And what I love about that, John, it shows not a person who's in turmoil, but a calm person who knows where their hope comes from, that no matter what their circumstances are, if they're the wayward child or if they're the parent of that wayward child or maybe even a grandparent of that wayward child, be constant in hope. I love that reminder. It sums it up and we can rejoice in that hope. We can be patient and we can pray.
Having a prodigal child is only one form of tribulation and in this world there are gonna be trials. The Scripture's very true and the Lord said, "But be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world" and that's what we need to remember, to hold out that hope and Rob did such an excellent job of painting that picture--
Jim: --that God is for us. He's not against us and we as parents have to remember that, too, that when we have that 20-something or maybe that teenager who's out of control, God is for that child, not against them. And we've gotta be able to portray that in our kindness and our love for them and our firmness, as well.
John: And God also promises peace within the tribulations or the storms that we're facing, like a wayward child. And here at Focus on the Family, we exist to be a safe harbor in the midst of those difficulties. Maybe having a prodigal isn't the storm you're in right now. Maybe there's something else that keeps you awake at night. Please know that we're here to help you to find that peace and strength.
Contact us and ask for Rob's book, Bringing Home the Prodigals and for a generous gift of any amount today, we'll send that helpful resource to you as our way of saying thank you and putting that tool in your hand. Additionally, by calling today and making a contribution, you'll be taking advantage of a matching gift opportunity made possible by some very generous friends of Focus on the Family. They believe in the work here. They understand that Focus is here primarily to help people connect with God through Jesus Christ and also to go through the challenges of life and have hope, maintain hope in Christ.
As we do that, they're saying that they'll match your gift today and double it. So, please donate today generously and know that we'll send that book to you and that you're effectively giving double the amount. You can donate and find out more about the resources that we have, including Rob's book and the CD or download of this message at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and talk to one of our counselors or request resources. Our number is 800-232-6459; 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, hoping you have a great weekend and inviting you back on Monday. You'll hear about Christian nice guys and why that may be a wrong perspective on being a true godly man. That's on Monday, when we once again, help your family thrive.
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