All right, I'll ask you this, and I think I know because you wrote a book on it, but let's see. Let's see if I get the answer. You might have a different answer now.
What do you think the most important thing a parent can do, Christian parent, if he's hoping and dreaming and praying he or she to raise radical followers of Christ in his children? Where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.
And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at familylifetoday.com or on the Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. You live it in front of them.
I didn't realize how big that is until we had teenagers, because they're basically saying, I really don't care what you say. I'm watching what you do. And I'd say that's the most important because when you are radically following and loving Jesus, they can't help but notice that. And not in a way, if you're doing that, you understand the grace that God has put on your life.
You understand what it means to love people. If you're being the Pharisee and if you're being super legalistic, your kids will totally not buy it. But if you're living a life like Christ, and in no means did we do that perfectly at all. Like we failed miserably. But we told our kids, you guys, we're failing. We're not doing very well. But even that honesty seemed to help.
What would you say? Well, it doesn't matter what I think. I think we want to ask Jeff Norris, who's sitting in the studio with us, pastor of Perimeter Church up in Atlanta, Georgia. Jeff, welcome back. Thank you. Thank you.
So glad to be here again. The reason I'm asking you is you wrote a book called Rooted Lifestyle of Radical Dependence. I've read it.
It's a great book. You've got kids. You've got teenage kids. How many kids do you have? We have four. 19, almost 15, 13, and 10.
So three teenagers. We're in the thick of it. So I'll throw the same question out to you. I agree with Ann. I think living it is huge.
But you're right in it right now. We have grandkids now, so we've gone through that season. You wrote a book about radical dependence on Christ for yourself, but as you are living that and being a parent, what would you say to number one thing a parent can do? Well, first let me say this, and this is classic sucking up to the host, but you guys do not look like you're old enough to have grandkids. Oh, you're so nice. You're going to have to tell Rachel and I want to know your secrets. Can we schedule Jeff's back?
Can we keep having him back one more? Here's what I would say about parenting. It is so hard. I felt the need a lot of times to feel like I have to give right answers to church members because you sit in a seat. You're a senior pastor. You're supposed to have the answers.
It is so freeing to tell church members and friends and whoever. I don't know. I know some things and there's a lot that I don't know. And here's what I do know.
I do know that I agree with Ann. We have to live it out. We have to pray. We have to be dependent upon the Lord to do what only He can do. I keep bringing up Randy Pope, the founder of our church that I followed as senior pastor. He had a great phrase that he used all the time, which was, attempt something so great for God that it's doomed to fail unless God be in it. I love that.
Yeah. And we use it. It's our church motto. And I think that describes parenting really well. Attempt something so great for God that it's doomed to fail unless God be in it. A lot of days feel like that.
God, I'm trying to raise these children, to glorify you, raise them in admonition, Lord. And I feel like I'm messing it up at every turn. I don't know how to deal with this situation or that situation. Sometimes my wife and I aren't in agreement on how to handle this situation. And I think she's handling it wrong and she thinks I'm handling it wrong.
And what do we do, Lord? And unless you show up, our kids are going to fall apart, which is not true. It's all in the grace of God.
But that's how you feel. I've often said that I probably, hopefully, Lord willing, I'm a better dad than I think I am in my mind. But I've often said that if I've done anything right in front of my kids, it's that I've been faithful to repent.
That's what I was going to ask you. You know, what have you done right? And I'd love to hear what you think you've done wrong. Or if you want, just tell us what your wife has done wrong.
What she's done right. But that's one of them. That would be, I'm a confessor, repenter, apologizer?
Yeah. And of course, I haven't done that perfectly by any means. But I feel like, okay, in front of my kids, I've prayed with them. And they've heard me say many times over, Father, forgive me. Forgive me for the way I just raised my voice. Forgive me of how I jumped to conclusions. Forgive me how I didn't believe the best in my daughter in this situation.
Forgive me of how I lost my temper, whatever it may be. And you've prayed this out loud in front of your kids. Yes.
Yes. And then secondarily, that's first and foremost, prayers of repentance with my kids to the Lord. And then admissions or repentance to my wife, apologizing to Rachel in front of them. Sweetie, I'm really sorry.
I really overreacted there. And not doing it for my kids, but if they're in the room, not telling them to go, go away. I need to talk to your mom.
You need to hear your dad admit I was wrong. That's a hard thing for everyone to do. For whatever reason, men tend to struggle with that even more, traditionally at least. I think I'm the worst in our family.
And so, but just, man, that is so huge. There's so much that in doing that breaks down walls of hostility that can exist within the home. There's a great book that I read many years ago by Dave Harvey called When Sinners Say I Do. And the whole overarching principle of the book is marriage is two sinners coming together. And if they can come together under the mindset and heart set that I'm the biggest sinner in our marriage, and I need Jesus more than you do, then that's the foundational part or beginning of a healthy marriage, where we can together say, can we run to Jesus together?
Because I really need him. I see my insufficiencies and my weaknesses every day. Now, as it comes to parenting, though, how are we leading our kids to see the all-sufficiency of Christ in our lives? That if we're going to say, I want to be radically dependent upon him, then are our kids seeing that? Are they seeing us be radically dependent upon him? I think one of the things that really damages our children over the generations is that they have watched parents who are a part of the church, but not dependent upon the Lord. And so they naturally, I mean, our kids, they can pick up on things. They are very discerning.
And so they very naturally pick up on the hypocrisy. And so I would rather parent out of weakness, showing my dependence upon the Lord, than out of giving a mirage to my kids that I have it together. Well, I think for our kids to watch us do something that to them looks like, that's dumb.
Why would you do that? That feels really risky. I'm thinking about— You're talking about a step of faith, not like a dumb— I'm thinking about money. Yeah, I'm thinking we pledge this amount of money to tie it to our church. It was a capital campaign that we were running.
And Dave came to me one day and said, here's what I feel like God's saying. And I said, like, that would be dumb. That would be irresponsible. That would not be wise. That would not be frugal.
And I said, but let me pray about that. And I can remember our kids were teenagers at the time, and we brought them in on this, and they said— It was the equivalent of one year in college. And they were like, that seems dumb. We're like, we're going to give away tuition for one year. And it's on top of our regular tithing. And so I can remember one son said, that just doesn't even make sense that you would give that amount of money. And we're like, we know. It doesn't make sense to us either. But we feel called to that.
And so when I went to Dave and said, I prayed about it, and darn it, I feel like it's the same amount that you said. And so it was by faith, it was a radical dependence upon God, because we had kids in college. So that felt really irresponsible. And yet, I think our kids were watching. I think they're all sitting back as teenagers, like, oh, this is going to be interesting.
Let's see what God does, if he does anything, or is this just our parents being silly? What, about two years later? And this doesn't always happen, we'll say. This hasn't always happened.
Yeah, it isn't like, hey, you do this, you get this. But it was a couple years later, our son gets a full ride to play college football. And to this day, by the way, he still comes to me and says, hey, you still owe me money. You know, I'm like, what? I got you a free college scholarship.
You're buying dinner tonight. I'm like, that only lasts so many years after. But it was a moment where our kids could watch and go, wow.
Again, not that A plus B always equals C, but God did provide in a unique way, and they watched Mom and Dad be radically dependent. We had another son. He calls us at college. He goes, hey, Mom and Dad, I'm moving into this new apartment, and I'm talking to the landlord.
And I'm saying, yeah, I'm from Rochester. And he goes, your name sounds familiar. Do you have anything to do with Kensington Church? And he said, oh, yeah, my dad helped found that church. He's one of the founders. And he goes, wow, I gave my life to Jesus in that church, and I want you to not have to pay rent this year.
So you got a rent-free apartment for a year. We're like, what is happening? Yeah. And, you know, I love that.
I love everything about that. And I agree with, you know, we often couch stories like that with God doesn't always return what we invest in terms of if we're going to sacrifice and be radically dependent. You know, we say that, and rightfully so, because we're so careful with the prosperity gospel. We don't want people thinking that God's a genie in the bottle and, you know, this cosmic grandfather that's just ready. But we do need to press into the reality that when we are radically dependent upon him, he takes care of us. He meets us where we need to be met. Now, sometimes that's with tangible means, but it's always with more of him. It's always with more of him, satisfying us in the deepest ways and providing for us in every way.
Sometimes those provisions are different than what we would have ever asked for, but it's still his provision. I think with radical dependence and that whole mindset of being rooted in radical dependence is it has to be so very Jesus-centered and cross-centered. Because what do you see him being? Who is Jesus? Jesus is God in the flesh who came to give himself up, to be so very radically dependent upon the Father. I and the Father are one. I can do nothing apart from the Father. If we want to begin to get a definition of what is dependence upon the Lord, then we stare at Jesus. We stare at him.
We watch him in his relationship with the Father. So you're saying, because when I hear you say it's got to be Jesus-centered and cross-centered, part of me is like, of course, what else could it be? But it could very easily be radical dependence on my career, my bank account. My money, yeah. You name it, right? Is that what you're saying?
Yeah, and I'm even saying this, absolutely that, but then even thinking about it this way, we can make anything selfish and self-centered about us. You're listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Jeff Norris on Family Life Today. We'll hear more in just a minute, but first, I wanted you to hear what one listener said about a recent Family Life Today episode.
She said it was refreshing and a gift. The conversation that the Wilsons had at the end of the podcast was so real and personal, and I needed that today. I pray other couples hear this today and let it bless their life like it has mine.
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You can get your copy when you give at familylifetoday.com or by calling 800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F as in Family, L as in Life, and then the word Today. All right, now back to Dave and Anne with Jeff Norris and how, as humans, we can make just about anything all about us, even dependence on God. So we can even become radically dependent for the sake of just being dependent and feeling the what feels like religious progression because I'm being sacrificial.
So in other words, at the heart of being radically dependent, and in the book I talk about being radically dependent in sacrifice and self-denial. Well, there's all kinds of world religions that are centered on sacrifice and self-denial that aren't centered on Jesus. And so is it just, hey, let's be sacrificial and deny self? Well, if that's it, then go be a monk.
You can be Buddhist and do that. There's all kinds of things you can do and be sacrificial. And that's why I say it has to be so very Jesus-centered and cross-centered because it's not just so that we can feel better about ourselves. Look at me, I'm being sacrificial and I feel really religious because I'm doing it. And God must be happy with me because of how sacrificial I'm being. Well, all of a sudden, that's a very self-centered way of being dependent sacrificially, if that makes sense. It's self-sacrifice and it's self-denial so that I get more of Jesus. So that in my emptiness, He fills me up. Then in my weakness, He makes me strong. That is His power at work in me, that it's doomed to failure unless God be in it. You know, it's that kind of Christ-centeredness that has to be present. Otherwise, why are we pursuing radical dependence?
Yeah, I love you. You quote John Stott, and I'm going to read it back to you. I mean, you wrote it in your book, but I want to hear you respond to what he said. Because in some ways, as we're having this discussion about radical dependence and being rooted and also trying to pray and dream that our kids would be adult followers who are rooted and radically dependent, I think the world and our kids are not looking for this.
It's an interesting quote. John Stott said, Large numbers of people have covered themselves with a decent but thin veneer of Christianity. They have allowed themselves to be respectable, but not enough to be uncomfortable. Their religion is a great soft cushion.
It protects them from the hard unpleasantness of life while changing its place and shape to suit their convenience. Yeah. Wow. Yeah, that's warm and fuzzy, isn't it? Yeah, right. It's like, bam, right in your face. Oh, between the eyes.
Yeah. I love and hate that quote from Stott. I love it because he's spot on.
I hate it because it hurts. You know, if I'm not mistaken, he wrote that in the 70s, in the 1970s. And it feels like he wrote it for the church today.
Yeah. And what he saw back then has only perpetuated since then in the American church, at least, and that's our context. So we can speak to that. And that is, that's what we have presented people. That's the Christianity that so many churches and Christians have settled for. And what we've made our God is our comfort. What we've made our God is we want that thin veneer because then we can keep living life the way that we want to and just wrap it in Jesus' language or Christian language or church language. And at the end of the day, we're not pursuing him. We're pursuing our own, what we want and our own desires. And what ends up happening and what ends up being flipped and twisted is that Jesus becomes the means to the end of what we really want.
And not the ending of himself. And so I'll tell you this story and we may be out of time. So our son, we have one son, three daughters. Our three girls are biological. Our son, we adopted.
He's our oldest. We adopted him when he was three from Ukraine. And we went over and spent the whole month of November 2005 in Kiev, Ukraine, doing just paperwork, meeting with officials, so on and so forth. Well, in God's goodness and sovereignty, we were there that whole month, not only to do that, but to get to know him. Every day we got to go for about two hours to the orphanage. It ended up being such a blessing because he got used to us. We got used to him. And so the day we took him home, it wasn't so startling for him.
But every day we would go and they would put us in this little playroom in the orphanage. One of the greatest desires that I had is I wanted him by the end of that month. One of my prayers was that by the end of that month, he would begin to see me, not as this guy who shows up to play with him, but as daddy or papa, as they say in Russian. And every day, you know, attachment with for those who are listening, who have been through adoption, you know that attachment can take a long time.
So it's probably a little naive and advantageous for me to think that could happen in a month. But I was praying for that. One day, I'm standing there and I feel his hand grab mine, and he had never done that. And my heart leapt. And it just for a moment, I sat there and I thought, is it happening?
Is he seeing me as daddy? Well, then he begins to lead me across the room, and so I go with him. And before long, we're standing in front of a shelf that went almost to the ceiling.
It was a low ceiling, about an eight-foot ceiling. I'm 6'2". He's a little bitty. And he starts pointing to the top shelf to a toy that he can't reach.
And he just starts saying in Russian, and I don't remember the word, but he keeps just saying that, that, that. And so it occurs to me, he didn't grab my hand because he wanted me, and he didn't grab my hand because he saw me as daddy. He grabbed my hand because I was the one big enough to get what he really wanted.
And it wasn't me. And in that moment, I don't say this just because pastors always have the, you have to make it uber spiritual, but really and truly, in that moment, it was not audibly, but it was if the Lord whispered in my ear, this is what you do with me. You come grab my hand, and you come to me not because you really want me, not because you really long to be satisfied deeply in me, and not because you see me as Abba Father, as daddy, to be filled to the fullest because you were created for me and redeemed in me.
You just take me to the shelves in your life. And it's okay to ask God for things. That's not the point of the analogy. I've had people sometimes say, well, are we not supposed to ask God for things? No, no, no. Just one point to the analogy.
Not, not many. But you just grab my hand so that you can lead me to the shelves in your life and tell me, would you get that for me? Would you get that? You're bigger than I am, so will you get it? As opposed to, now I want to be so dependent upon you, Lord, that I am filled by you. You are the one in whom I'm deeply satisfied. You know, I think of Psalm 73. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there's nothing on this earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but you, you, O Lord, you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. We started out our program talking about how do we get kids that are fully surrendered and walking radically, independently upon Jesus, that kind of parent who is taking God's hand every day, not because of what they can get, but because of who He is. I think if I have a life mantra, it is to be totally and completely sold out to Him. Like, you give Him everything, everything.
You don't hold anything back. Because when you are before Him and you've given Him everything, that's, to me, when true life begins. It's not easy, and it doesn't mean you won't have hardship.
Sure. But there's something about walking with the Father who wants to be with you at all costs, at all times, to be with you, that knows you, that sees you, that hears you. And He fills me, all of us. Wouldn't we say, like, that's where we want to be?
Totally rooted and dependent. Yeah, and as we've said over the last two days, you have to know Him so intimately to know that's who He is. Because I do think even our kids in the next generation, many are tending to walk away, I think, because of what you just got at. It's a fluffy gospel. I came to a God I thought would give me this, and it's not working out that way.
I'm walking away. And I think the shelf for a lot of us is, if I follow Jesus, He'll make my marriage better. If I follow Jesus, He'll... He'll take away the heart.
I'm not saying He doesn't do that. God definitely is the center of making our marriage. But it's like, wow, when it doesn't go as we think, we're like, I'm letting go of this hand. And we don't know Him as our Father. And when you really get to know Him as your Father, you're like, how could I ever walk away from Him? Because I've experienced, I've tasted and seen the Lord is good. And then to ask the question, when was the last time I did something that I thought, I cannot do this apart from Jesus? Like to step out in faith, something radical, not because we should or we're saying you should do that, but it's because you're feeling God's nudge, like, step out, step out. When's the last time that we attempted something so great for God that it's doomed to fail unless God be in it? You know, one last thing maybe I could say here is that just to encourage all of us, we have to be people of the book, the Bible, we have to be, we have to know the Word, and here's why. It anchors us so deeply in what is true, in the one who is truth, but then what is true. And one of the things that occurred to me as I was prepping for teaching this and then writing the book, how many people, how many people do we read about in the scriptures who devoted themselves fully to the Lord, that God used in amazing ways, as broken as they are, just like us, did they get what they wanted in terms of earthly desires? How many? I mean, almost none.
I was going to say, it's almost zero. Yeah. I mean, the only one, and I might if I could sit here longer, the only one that comes to mind that I go, you know what, he ended up getting even more than he ever dreamed of was Joseph. But I mean, incredible amounts of hard for Joseph. Solomon. Solomon.
But look how he ended. Yeah. It's like everything's vanity. Right.
Everything's meaningless. He had everything. He got everything.
Yeah. And I just say that to say this, but what did so many of them get in return? They got the Lord. They got his kingdom. They experienced the flourishing of knowing God and being known by him.
And that's irreplaceable. You've been listening to Dave and Anne Wilson with Jeff Norris. His book is called Rooted, a lifestyle of radical dependence.
You can get a copy at family life today dot com. I've got the president of family life, David Robbins, here with me. And David, it's been a unique day for you.
You know, today's been extra fun for me because I've gotten to be here in studio with a good friend. Jeff Norris and I go way back some 20 years and we were on the same team together when we were serving college students on campus at the University of Georgia. And he adopted his first kid. We had our first kid with special needs when we were together in that season. And that that rooted our relationship.
And I love having him come and share about a lifestyle of dependence. And one of the mantras that Meg and I have made a part of our lives because we really do believe it and we've had to live it, is that if dependency on Jesus is the goal, then weakness is actually an advantage. And one of the things that happens when we experience weakness is our need for others increases. And when I think about Jeff being in studio today and getting to hear from him, I reflect back on seasons where we felt our dependence and need adopting from overseas. A kid born with special needs and we needed one another. But we had a foundation already of community. And when hard things came our way, we were able to dive into those hard places together and depend upon the Lord together. So as I reflect on today's program around dependence and us being followers who are rooted in radical dependence, I think be rooted in radical dependence with relationships.
Go find those relationships. Take risks to share with people what's really going on in your life. You will not regret it because you'll end up looking back on seasons some 20 years later and say, I not only depended upon the Lord, I needed other people and they pushed me closer to him.
Yeah, community has been the most essential thing in my life, too, as I've walked and grown in Jesus. Thanks, David. Now, coming up next week, have you been finding yourself upset and agitated with your spouse lately?
Maybe you're on the verge of giving up. Well, next week, the Wilsons are joined by our very own Bob Lapine to help you walk through the challenges that emerge in every marriage, causing couples to become isolated and alienated. That's next week. There are a few weekend to remember marriage getaways happening around the country. You could pray for the couples who are going to be gathering in Little Rock, Arkansas and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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