FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Bedrock Beliefs Become Life Messages

with Dennis Rainey | November 22, 2017
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For Dennis Rainey, life messages are not clever marketing decisions. They are bedrock beliefs founded on Scripture that he has lived out in ever increasing measure over more than four decades of ministry. Today we'll explore key themes from Dennis' life, including five key steps to manhood, the meaning of courage, and the power of the fifth commandment.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • For Dennis Rainey, life messages are not clever marketing decisions. They are bedrock beliefs founded on Scripture that he has lived out in ever increasing measure over more than four decades of ministry. Today we'll explore key themes from Dennis' life, including five key steps to manhood, the meaning of courage, and the power of the fifth commandment.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

For Dennis Rainey, life messages are bedrock beliefs founded on Scripture. We’re exploring key themes from Dennis’ life: five steps to manhood, the meaning of courage, and the power of the fifth commandment.

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Bedrock Beliefs Become Life Messages

With Dennis Rainey
November 22, 2017
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Bob: In his book, Stepping Up, Dennis Rainey calls men to be godly men and to fully embrace the fact that God made them men. Here’s Dennis.

Dennis: I think the closest the Bible comes to defining manhood is found in 1Corinthians, Chapter 16, verses 13 and 14—it says: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” In that passage, Bob, if you had to boil that passage down to a single word, I think it’s “initiative.” I don’t think a man is ever a man when he’s being lazy / when he’s being passive.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 22nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are a lot of things Dennis Rainey has been passionate about during 40-plus years of ministry, and we’ll hear about some of those things today.



Stay with us.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We’re spending this week giving thanks—a lot to give thanks for, including 25 years of FamilyLife Today. We just had our birthday for our 25th anniversary of the launch of this program, earlier this month. We thought we’d spend some time listening back to some of the highlights from the last 25 years—we’ve heard from your kids / we’ve heard from your wife—so all that’s left is to hear from you.


Dennis: Yes; and I just want our listeners to know that I didn’t select any of these. [Laughter] This was all a collusion between our engineer, Keith Lynch, who was probably threatened within an inch of his employment here by Bob—

Bob: He was in the thick of this! He—

Dennis: Of course, we could blame it on Dan—Dan Donovan, who’s—[Laughter]—he may have been the likely source of who conspired here.



Bob: So here’s what we’re going to do today—we’re going to hear some of the highlight moments from FamilyLife Today that featured you. There have been some moments, over the years, that have—

Dennis: I’m sure they all show me with great dignity, Bob.

Bob: There have been moments that have re-occurred. In fact—

Dennis: Keith, I’m really counting on you to protect the host of FamilyLife Today. [Laughter]

Bob: There have been questions that you have asked more than one guest, like this question.

[Previous Interviews]


Dennis: It’s one of my favorite questions that I ask people, and I’m curious as to how you’ll answer it: “Out of everything you’ve ever done in your life…

[Different Interview]: “Of all the things you’ve done…

[Different Interview]: “Out of everything you’ve done on the world…

[Different Interview]: “…what is the most courageous thing?

[Different Interview]: “What would you say is the most courageous…

[Different Interview]: “What would you say is the most courageous thing you have ever done?”



Bill Bright: Surrendering everything, where we signed a contract to be slaves of Jesus.

Sally Lloyd-Jones: When I went to boarding school when I was eight.

Stephen Kendrick: I went through a season in my life of depression. It was very difficult.

Previous Guest: Well, some people might argue that it was asking my wife to marry me; because I was clearly out of my league. [Laughter]

Previous Guest: When I witnessed to my sister.

Previous Guest: I think the thing that takes courage is to love people when it’s hard and when it hurts.

Dennis: Courage…

[Previous Interview]: Courage is doing your duty…

[Previous Interview]: …is doing your duty in the face…

[Previous Interview]: …in the face of fear.

[Previous Interview]: …of fear.

Bill Bright: It was simply an act of obedience; so I don’t think it was that courageous.


Bob: That’s just a handful of the responses we’ve gotten to that question, over the years; but it’s been a fascinating question to hear people respond to.

Dennis: Yes; and they usually say, “I’ve never done anything courageous.” But as we’ve found, there are a lot of courageous saints—that we go to church with / our kids are in school with—who have done courageous things that have never been told. It’s always a treat to feature them, here, on FamilyLife Today.



Bob: Some of the people we heard from there were Sally Lloyd-Jones, and Stephen Kendrick, and, of course,—

Dennis: —Bill Bright.

Bob: —the co-founder of Campus Crusade for Christ®, now Cru®. He shared the most courageous thing he’d ever done, just months before God called him home.

Dennis: Right; you could hear it in his voice—he was having difficulty breathing. You and I flew down to Orlando and interviewed him in his living room. That interview—actually, a couple of interviews—are among, I think, both yours, Bob, and mine of our favorites out of more than 6,000 interviews that we’ve done over the years.

Bob: There have been some great privileges—great people we’ve gotten to talk to—but to get to talk to Dr. Bright in those final months of his life was, indeed, a privilege.

One of the hallmark moments for the ministry actually happened at a staff meeting, where you were challenging the men on staff to step up.

Dennis: “Man up!”

Bob: Did this happen spontaneously?

Dennis: Is this the first time I gave this message?



Bob: No; this is actually—this is a condensed version of the message. But you were in a staff meeting and you were challenging all of us that we needed to take our assignment— at the ministry, in our marriages / all of it—seriously. We needed to step up, as men. I’m just wondering: “Had you mapped out these five steps? Had you given thought to this before that message?”

Dennis: I really didn’t have the concept of there being five steps. I just knew some of our men here—we had some younger guys and, frankly, some who were old enough to know better—who weren’t assuming their responsibility, as leaders in the community / leaders in their marriages and families. I basically called a team meeting of all the guys, and it wasn’t a locker room talk; but it was close.

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: I mean, it was one of those where: “Come on, guys! We’re teaching the world here how to do marriage and family God’s way, according to Scriptures. If you’re not living it—you’re not stepping up—then let’s go! Let’s change what’s happening.”



Bob: In the room, where we were having that meeting, there were stair steps leading up to the platform. You used those steps to picture for us how men need to move from complacency / from boyhood, through adolescence to manhood and beyond. As you gave that message, that was really the birth of what became the book, Stepping Up / the video series, Stepping Up®, and became, really, a life message for you.

Dennis: Well, faith is active—it’s not passive. I think the concept of men stepping up—we use it all the time in sport, whether it’s golf, or football, or baseball—they talk about a guy who stepped up his game. These are days, in this culture—on behalf of a man’s marriage, his family, his community—where I’m still passionate, Bob, that men need to own the responsibility of protecting those allotted to their charge.



And to do that—sometimes, it’s going to demand sacrifice; and you’ve got to turn your back on childish things—on boyhood issues / adolescent issues—to step up to the manhood step—and beyond to mentor and patriarch.

Bob: Here’s how you outlined those five steps, later, as you were sharing this idea with our audience.

[Previous Interview]


Dennis: I think there needs to be a fresh definition of manhood. I think we need a fresh vision of what it looks like to be a man today, because these are new days with new challenges facing young men. If young men are going to step on up to manhood, they need older men in their lives to help them do that.

Bob: And you think manhood is a part of the process, but it’s not the end of the line. You have five steps that you think a man needs to go through in his life; right?

Dennis: I think young men today need to see these five steps before them to give them a vision of where they’re headed. The first step is boyhood—that’s that magical time of innocence that young boys go through.



But then they have to transition through a phase called adolescence, and that’s a time where they’re part boy / part man. The man is emerging and the boy—well, he’s slowly being put away.

Bob: —or he ought to be put away. [Laughter] For some guys, he hangs around longer than he should; doesn’t he?

Dennis: Exactly; adolescence should give way to a man stepping up, fully, on the third step of manhood, where a man knows that he is a man; and he has a vision for the rest of his days. The last two steps are: the steps of being a mentor / and the final step is, I think, the ultimate call of a man, and that’s to be a patriarch—a generational protector / generational guardian—one who’s nearing the end of his life but has a vision for future generations.

Bob: Take me back to that third step, though. If we’re talking about a man emerging from adolescence and fully embracing manhood, is there a way to define that so the guy can get his arms around it?



Dennis: I think the closest the Bible comes to defining manhood is found in

1 Corinthians, Chapter 16, verses 13 and 14—it says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” In that passage, Bob, if you had to boil that passage down to a single word—which I think would be dangerous but, nonetheless, I think it’s good to have some sense of essence of what masculinity / biblical masculinity is—I think it’s “initiative.” I don’t think a man is ever a man when he’s being lazy / when he’s being passive. You look at this passage, and the command is to be on guard—to guard your heart / to stand firm in the faith.

Bob: Have a backbone; right?

Dennis: Yes; to be men of courage—to act like a man / to be strong.



And then—not only the tough side of a man—but the tender side of a man—do everything in love.

Bob: Right.

Dennis: There’s a relational side to being a real man that I think gets overlooked today, and that we dare not minimize.

Bob: When you talk about the essence of manhood being initiative, what are you talking about?

Dennis: God made man to step up, to step out, and to lead out. We are commanded in Scripture to be still and know that He is God—those are moments of reflection and meditation. If you look at a man—nothing ever comes to a man who is passive / who’s lazy. In fact, if you look at the Proverbs, the Proverbs tell us that ruin comes to the man who is lazy.



What I think God is calling men to do is to live by faith, and faith is never a passive verb.

Faith is an active verb that calls us to believe the truth about God and then step out, based upon the truth about Him; and to love our wives / lead our families; to be men of integrity in our businesses / in our corporate life as well as our church, and our neighborhood, and our community. All of that, Bob—all of that takes initiative.



Bob: That’s a quick summary of what became your book, Stepping Up, and the video series, Stepping Up. That message has marked a lot of men’s lives over the years.

Dennis: We’ve had over a quarter million men that we know of who have been through that series. I was recently in Bismarck, North Dakota, speaking to a group up there called Steer International. These are farmers and ranchers, who raise cattle and crops to give money to the Great Commission. I met guys up there who had been through Stepping Up, from all over the country, not just in North Dakota.



I think men like to get together with other men and share their story of God’s work in their life. They also like to share how they’ve been courageous, back to that favorite question of mine. I think men like to be asked that question and like to answer it; because it causes them, in their soul, to reflect back on, “What was it that demanded a lot of me and caused my chest to swell and act like a man?” which is what 1 Corinthians 16:13 and 14 says.

Bob: I think the two things in the book that were profound for me were: number one, that manhood is not the end of the journey—that there’s a vista beyond manhood / that to be a mentor and to be a patriarch is something we can aspire to, and we can work toward, and we can aim for. The other big idea is that a lot of us spend our time straddling the adolescent step and the manhood step, and we kind of move back and forth.



Some days, guys who are 50/60 years old just want to act like an adolescent—we want to be irresponsible, and carefree, and just go with whatever feels good on that day—and that’s not what men do.

Dennis: There is a generation of, unfortunately, young men who’ve kind of put a cushion on the adolescent step. They’ve widened it / broadened it, and they’re stretching adolescence into their 20s—and some, even into their 30s—and they’re avoiding adult responsibilities.

There’s a story told of a Roman emperor, who called all the men together in his city and he challenged them—he says: “You’re not acting like men. You’re not assuming the responsibilities of being a man.” I think, today, some of these guys, who are avoiding adult responsibilities, need an older man to step into their lives—not in a shameful way—but in an encouraging way, wrap their arm around them and say: “Step up and assume the God-given right and the God-given responsibilities to be who He created you to be and help protect your community.



“Help protect women.” I’m passionate about that; because I just see a lot of women being mistreated / children being taken advantage of.

And then, Bob, the other thing that I mentioned in that was the idea of a patriarch having a vision for manhood. It’s too bad the concept of patriarch has become a dirty word—it almost has no dignity to it. Well, that’s not the kind of dignity the Scripture places on that concept—it was the idea of an elder—a wise man / a sage—a man who was seasoned by his choices, good and bad, so that he can pass on life lessons to younger men.

I think, if we’ve ever needed a generation of patriarchs, who truly step up and step into battle and not unplug—and retire and go off and chase their hobbies around a field, or in a stream, or around a sporting event—it’s today!



Men need to have a hill that they’re charging, and they need to be the men that God created them to be in the battle. You were not made to trade your sword in for a 9-iron. You have to keep your sword and stay in the battle.

Bob: Long before you wrote the book, Stepping Up, you were challenging men to step into their responsibilities, as dads, and to shepherd the next generation. In fact, it was a landmark moment at a Promise Keepers event, where you gave a living illustration for the guys in the stadium of how a dad navigates his son through the traps of adolescence.


[Previous Message]


Dennis: David and Jonathan Short are here, and they have agreed to help me in a little illustration here as we conclude this message.



What the guys are setting up right now on the platform, gentleman, are traps. The bear trap is right here, in case you can’t see it. They are about to set up some additional traps between where Jonathan is going to stand and where David, his dad, and I are going to stand at the other end of the stage.

Jonathan, in a moment, I’m going to turn and address you, as a young man. Your dad and I, as the older generation, are going to turn to you. We’re going to beckon you to come to maturity—we’re going to call you to come to adulthood / we’re going to call you, as a young man, to come to being a real man, to manhood; alright?

When we do that, what I want you to do is—I want you to come; okay? Now, to illustrate what’s taking place in our culture, with the youth of today, guys, I felt like it would be appropriate to blindfold Jonathan. Okay; Jonathan can’t see. Jonathan, you stand right there; your dad and I are going to go over here.



There are traps all over the stage up here, guys—that you can’t see—representing peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, pornography, pride, sexual immorality. About five steps in front of Jonathan is the bear trap. Guys, that’s real; and it’s loaded.

Jonathan, as a young man, you’re vulnerable at this age. You know, the blindfold is a picture of adolescence; but it doesn’t quite capture how vulnerable you really are—so, Jonathan, I want you to take your shoes off. Okay; Jonathan, on the count of three, I want you to come to your dad and me on this side of the stage, representing maturity, adulthood, and manhood—one, two, three! 

David: Jonathan, stop! This is your dad. [Applause]





Bob: Explain for listeners what’s going on here.

Dennis: Well, the dad walked all the way through the traps / walked over to his son, who’s blindfolded, and said: “Son, put your hands on my shoulders. Stick close. Stick right behind me. The traps are real, they’re set, and don’t veer to the left or to the right.”

Bob: And the crowd responded with that ovation / with that applause.

Dennis: I’m telling you, Bob—having watched this occur a couple of times in massive events like that—there’s something in the heart of a man, who wished he had a father who had guided him around the traps rather than into them.

Bob: Well, there is one other question that you have asked a lot of guests on FamilyLife Today

Dennis: What would that be, Bob?

Bob: —not just the question about courage—but you’ve given a lot of guests an assignment over the years that is built around the fifth commandment.

[Previous Interviews]

Dennis: I want to ask you a question. It’s going to be a hard one—I’m going to warn you.



[Different Interview]: We’ve given a few guests, over the years, the opportunity, here, at the end of our broadcast, to seat their father or their mother across the table from them…

[Different Interview]: What I’m going to do is—I’m going to seat your mom across the table…

[Different Interview]: What I’m going to do is—I’m going to seat your daddy at the end of the table…

[Different Interview]: …seat them across the table from you, and I want you just to…

[Different Interview]: I’m going to ask you to take a few moments with just your mom, seated right beside you…

[Different Interview]: I’m going to seat your father across…

[Different Interview]: I’m going to seat her across the table…

[Different Interview]: Just picture them seated right across from you, here, in the studio…

Dennis: One of the things I’ve done, from time to time, just to show the power of honor and the power of the fifth commandment, is to ask a guest to give their parents a tribute. I want to ask you to give a tribute—to just speak directly to your dad and mom…

[Different Interview]: …to give her a tribute.

Previous Guest: Dear Mom, how I love you!

Previous Guest: Okay; Mom—I have a word to say to you of “Thanks!”



Previous Guest: Mama, you never had a harsh word for me.

Previous Guest: I want to be just like my mom when I grow up. [Emotion in voice]

Previous Guest: You always seemed to be ready to read to me.

Previous Guest: And I’m so grateful that you make my dad so happy! [Emotion in voice] You were sent to us from God, and I’m just so grateful.

Dennis: And I’d like you to give your dad a tribute.

Previous Guest: You know, Dad, you’ve demonstrated, over the years, your deep love for your kids…I thank you for forgiving those who have hurt you and in demonstrating to us that there is a holy God in heaven.

Previous Guest: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for loving me, and kissing me, and rubbing my little round head, telling me to go to school, and everything was going to be okay.

Previous Guest: Thank you for teaching me and telling me that I’m a man and standing with me during hard times.

Previous Guest: Daddy, you’re amazing! What a man! [Emotion in voice]

Previous Guest: It’s not just my life, Dad, but many others. I thank God for you.


Dennis: I was starting to think about my dad—so it was making it tough—but my dad died before I got a chance to tell him.





Bob: There have been some moving moments as guests have shared tributes with their moms or their dads. There’s power in the fifth commandment; isn’t there?

Dennis: There really is. It reminds us what matters and it reminds us just to hang in there, not quit. Many of those fathers will never be known publicly, but they were men that made their mark on a boy or on a girl’s life, growing up. The mark was a good one / a great one.

Bob: Yes; and you know, it’s not too late for listeners, who would say, “I want to take the opportunity to express words of honor to my mom or to my dad.” Christmas is a great opportunity. There’s time between now and Christmas for you to engage in a process, where you would write out a tribute to your parents and present it to them on Christmas.

In fact, Dennis, you’ve written about this in a book called The Forgotten Commandment, which is a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We have resources, online, to help you write a tribute.



Go to our website,, and find out what’s available to help you in the process of expressing honor to your parents. Even if you look back and you go, “There was not much honorable in my family, growing up,” that’s where I think your book, The Forgotten Commandment, really helps us recognize the fact that God’s at work in every family. There are still things that we can say and do to bring honor to our parents, even if there was a lot of damage done. Again, the book is called The Forgotten Commandment. It’s in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, to request a copy; or call if you’d like—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. The website is

Now, as we prepare to gather together with family/friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, we want to just take a minute and say, “Thank you,” to those of you who are regular listeners to this program and “Thank you,” to the—



—I think the number I heard, recently, was like—six to seven percent of listeners, who actually go the extra mile and make this program possible for others. When you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, what you’re doing is acknowledging that there are others who need the practical biblical help and hope that this program provides; and you say: “I want to make it possible for young moms and dads...” “I want to make it possible for people in other countries, who are tuning in, to listen online,” “I want to make it possible for my community to hear FamilyLife Today and for this program to be a part of how we are shaping marriages and families in our generation.” We’d love to hear from you.

If you’re a long-time listener, we’d love to have you join the team of folks who make this program possible. You can do that by donating, online, at; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.



Now, tomorrow, we’re going to have a history lesson for Thanksgiving Day. We’re going to hear from a world-class historian, who will tell us what it was like in the Plymouth Colony during that very first Thanksgiving, back in the early 1600s. It’s a great reminder of the reality of Thanksgiving. Hope you can spare a few minutes during the holiday to tune in and listen.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a CruMinistry.

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