FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Decisions, Decisions

with Dennis Rainey | October 13, 2010
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A good name is better than riches. Dennis Rainey explains that your legacy is the result of the decisions you make over a lifetime.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • A good name is better than riches. Dennis Rainey explains that your legacy is the result of the decisions you make over a lifetime.

  • 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.

A good name is better than riches.

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Decisions, Decisions

With Dennis Rainey
October 13, 2010
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Various Voices:  “There has been another curious twist in the case of Bernard Madoff….”  “With all the sensational trappings of the Madoff saga….”  “Madoff will be sentenced today for his 65 billion dollars….”  “Madoff said ‘he had no excuse’ before federal judge….”  “Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years behind bars, the maximum sentence….”  “Bernie Madoff wearing handcuffs instead of cuff links….”  “Thousands of people were victimized by Bernard Madoff….”  “The name Bernard Madoff elicits raw and angry emotions among those who lost billions of what appears….”

Bob:  In the spring of 2010 in New York, a woman petitioned the court to have her name legally changed.  It was Bernie Madoff’s daughter in law Stephanie. 

This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 13th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. 

Each one of our lives is made up of one decision after another, after another.  The decisions you make today for good or for evil will determine the legacy you leave to future generations. 

Welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  

In advertising, it has been common for years for businesses in small towns—one of the things they say in their ads is “in business since whenever.”   I remember hearing that in advertising when I was younger and thinking ‘Oh, who cares how long you have been in business, right? 

I mean, I am not going to make a decision on who I am going to use based on the fact that you have been around for a long time.’  The older I get the more I think it does say something if you have been home owned for 60 years.

Dennis:  It really does.  In fact, I want you to imagine something with me for a moment.  I want you to go out 50 years to the year 2060.

Bob:  Okay.

Dennis:  You are at a sporting event—

Bob:  No, I am dead. (laughter)

Dennis:  You are still alive, or one of your descendents is alive.


Bob:  Alright.  Okay, that is good.

Dennis:  Whoever it is, is sitting there turns to the person at the sporting event that they don’t know who they are, and they introduce themselves to the other person.  The other person says my name is Jim Madoff.  What would you immediately want to know?

Bob:  You any relation to Bernie Madoff?

Dennis:  That person undoubtedly at that point would slump a bit and say I’ve been found out again.  Probably will live a lifetime—unless they change their last name—of living down the actions of Bernie. 

Seventy-one years old, the Wall Street Journal, Bob, recorded his score card: lies, scams, deceit, betrayal.  One judge referred to his business as quote “extraordinarily evil fraud.”  Bernie told his sons that he was all about a massive Ponzi scheme, and that they been involved with him in it for years.  Total losses 19.4 billion dollars.  When he was sentenced to 150 years in prison, the courtroom broke into cheers and applause. 

I want you to think about that.  What if you were Bernie Madoff sitting at the table and you are hearing people applaud you going to jail?  Well, I save something, Bob, that is just a reminder to me.  It is the headlines from the Wall Street Journal.  You are looking at it with me here. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2009, the headline reads big, dark black print “Evil Madoff Gets 150 Years in Epic Fraud.”  Then, it has got a picture that has been sketched.  Madoff’s quote underneath the picture says, “I have left a legacy of shame to my children and grandchildren.” 

Bob:  That is the opposite of Proverbs 22:1.  If Proverbs 22:1 says a good name is to be pursued and to be treasured, this is a name that has been disgraced and tarnished.  It is something that you regret. 

Dennis:  At some point, they had the riches; but in the end, they lost both the riches and a name.  In the process, as he said, he left them a legacy of shame. 

We are talking in this series about how you leave a legacy, about certain components that really build and make our legacy.  What Madoff illustrates here is that your legacy is the result of the decisions you make over a lifetime. 

Now, I want you to do something for me, Bob.  I want you to think about some families in the Bible and men and women who have led them.  I want you to think about the different kinds of legacies people left.


Bob:  Okay.

Dennis:  Who comes to your mind?

Bob:  I think of Abraham.  I mean, families in the Bible, I go right back to Abraham and Sarah because they are the first family.

Dennis:  What would have been the legacy that he would have left?


Bob:  A mighty nation.  God promised him “I will make your descendents great.”  He became a great nation.

Dennis:  It was all in response to his faith: trusting God that, that mighty nation occurred.

Bob:  He was a flawed man.  He messed up along the way, but he pursued his relationship with God.  He exercised faith, and God blessed him.

Dennis:  Is there another that comes to your mind?  Just waiting to see until you come up with the right one.


Not that Abraham was a bad one.

Bob:  I think of Mary and Joseph; but that was not the one, you are thinking of either.

Dennis:  That wasn’t either.  That was a good legacy, though.

Bob:  Yes. You think of—

Dennis:  I think so.

Bob:  You think of their faithfulness and what went on there.

Dennis:  I will give you a hint. 

Bob:  Give me a hint.


Dennis:  This broadcast can only go so long.  He was a king.

Bob:  Well, I would think of King David—

Dennis:  Yes.

Bob:  The great king of Israel. 

Dennis:  What do you discern about his legacy?

Bob:  Here is what has always been interesting to me about David.  Mighty man, great faith, referred to in the Scriptures as “the man after God’s own heart,” who stumbled badly as a parent, apparently—

Dennis:  Right.

Bob:  As a husband, obviously.  As a result, his latter years were sad.  His legacy—he was always remembered as the great king of Israel.  They needed a king like David; but in terms of his family and his family tree, there was a lot of bitter fruit that was born by his decisions.

Dennis:  His life is summarized in Acts 13:36.  It is a verse that I have quoted a couple of times in this series on legacies.  It says, “After David had served the purposes of God in his generation, he slept.” 

So, here is a summary of a man whose life was checkered with successes and failures when it comes to God’s opinion of life.  Yet, when God summarizes his life in a dozen words or so, it says David was a part of accomplishing what God did in his generation. 

I take heart at that because I think we all are flawed.  We have all made some stupid, foolish choices that mark us even today.  Our God is a God of great grace and mercy.  It is what the Cross of Christ and what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. 

He went to the Cross to die for our sins; so, we could have right standing before Him, have our sins forgiven.  So that as we live out our lives—even if we have messed up with some huge decisions in the past maybe a divorce, maybe infidelity—God is greater than those poor decisions.  He can not necessarily overrule those decisions, but He can use you despite those decisions for His glory and His purposes.

Bob:  There may be consequences from those decisions that follow us through our lives.  I think of the passage in Isaiah where it talks about God bringing beauty from ashes.  That really is the story of each one of our lives as God brings redemption to the ash pile that we offer.

Dennis:  I don’t know how people who live life today, live without a faith in God.  As you review your history and your mistakes, and you are reminded of where you have fallen short—maybe they deny that, maybe that don’t review, maybe they don’t rehearse those mistakes.

This, to me, is our hope that there is a God who does wash us white as snow and gives us a purpose for our lives.  Even to take what mistakes we have made and use them for good because we are called according to His purposes.  Our decisions are based on our worldview.  Our convictions about what God says about life or what the world says about life.  Some of us just buy into what the world says.

Bob:  Or what our flesh says, or the little voice we hear whispering in our ear says “come this way.”

Dennis:  I want to read you something that is unfortunately a great illustration of this.  One of our speakers at our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways led a conference recently and received an e-mail from one of the guest at the conference.  They had been married only a short period of time, let me just read you what was written to this speaker. 

He said, “My name is Jim.  I was at the conference this past weekend with my wife Jennifer.”  By the way, I have changed the names here, and I have also changed a couple of facts about the number of years they have been married. 

He says, “I love my wife who I have been married to for six months. I also love a woman I have known for five years, who I truly care about.  I don’t know what to do.  I cannot keep myself from temptation.  What should I do?”

“I know I should focus on my wife.  I can’t.  There are so many women who want me.  I am too weak to resist.  I love this other woman, especially.  I cannot help myself.  I want you to tell me the right thing.  I don’t think I’ll listen, but I want to badly.” 

Do you think that young man is confused?  Do you think he is being tempted?  Do you think his life is in a vice?  I mean, he has only been married for a few months, and he is already looking around or he has never stopped looking around.

Bob:  You wish you could sit down with a young man like that and say let’s follow the trail your decision making process is going to lead you on.  Let’s just follow the natural progression.  If you choose this, here is where you are headed.  If you choose this, this is where you are headed.  That is your point as you talk about legacies.  The decisions we are facing today will put us on the path either for a legacy that will be celebrated or one that will be ashamed of.

Dennis:  You just virtually captured, in essence, what the speaker said.  I want you to know the speaker had evidently talked to this young man throughout the weekend because he shoots rather forthrightly and straight with him. 

“Dear Jim, I will tell you what God says you need to do.  You heard it all weekend.”  He goes onto say, “if you don’t choose to respond, then it is simply a matter of big you, little God, and little everyone else.  Frankly, I can summarize what you really need to do in two words. Grow up!”

Bob:  Wow.

Dennis:  Exclamation point.  “Your commitment, Jim, is to you and your feelings.  It is rooted in selfishness.  Your wife is only secondary consideration in your comments to me.  There are some deeply rooted problems in your heart that are allowing you to give such a strong foothold to the enemy.  To be certain, his end is destruction, death, wasted life, and broken dreams.” 

Exactly what you said Bob. 

“If you really want to find peace and God’s perfect purposes for your life, then you have to start by dying to yourself and living for your wife.”  He goes onto share the gospel with this young man and explains how he can die to himself and ultimately give up his life for his wife by placing his faith in Christ. 

I look at the letter, and I have to wonder, “Is this young man a follower of Christ?  Does he really understand who Christ is?”  If he does, then he is certainly being a disobedient son.

Bob:  You have heard me tell the story about me sitting down with my pastor years ago, and he shared with me about another man in our church who had just fallen to adultery.  We were talking about the earthquake that was about to go off in that home.  We were talking about the months and years of repair work that were going to have to be done in a marriage and a family because of an hour long indiscretion on the part of our friend. 

I remember my pastor looking at me and saying, “You know, when you face a decision like this, you are not thinking about the months and the years or the legacy.  You are just thinking about the immediate.”  I remember him also saying, “And no sex is that good.” 

He is right.  The decisions we face today can echo through the decades and can be felt by generations to come.  That is why, to choose obedience and to choose to respond in faith is always the path that will lead toward the kind of legacy you’ll celebrate later in life.

Dennis:  Yes.  These decisions we are talking about, Bob—when you step over the line morally, it is like setting off an atomic bomb.  Yes, there is the initial devastation, but there is also the half life.  The nuclear fallout and radiation that in this case as you’re talking about, is going to be felt for generations that follow.  They have no idea how that is going to impact a grandson, a granddaughter on down the line. 

The point is we can’t base our lives on our feelings.  We have to base them upon convictions that are anchored in the Bible, the Word of God, Scriptures. 

There are three areas that for me, as a man, that I just look at; and I think, “I want to leave a legacy to my children and my grandchildren around this subject.” 

The first one is around making a decision to love people, who quite honestly if I was to allow my flesh to go where it would like to go, quite honestly, it would like to hate them.  I have been wounded by a person in my life repeatedly.  Family members have observed this. 

I recently had one of my adult children come to me and say, “Dad, why don’t you just get ticked?”  I could almost hear my mom.  My mom had a phrase that you don’t hear used today.  My mom used to say, “Well, I just told her off.”  Just tell somebody off.  In other words, you are giving them a piece of your mind that you can afford to lose.


Bob:  Just let it rip.

Dennis:  Just let it rip.  I look back at the family member who said this to me; and I said, “I have not loved this person perfectly.  I am not standing as some kind of self righteous, smug—feeling like I’ve done everything perfectly in this situation, but I want you to know I have not given into hatred either.  The gospel calls me to forgive.  The gospel calls me not to take into account a wrong suffered.” 

I said, “I just want you to know some day I am going to be gone, and you are going to remember me for a lot of things.  I hope I will have passed on to you a legacy of love.  Because I have seen the other kind of legacies passed on in families and it is not good.”

A second decision that is very determinative in our lives is who we choose to marry.  Now, we have a lot of singles who listen to this broadcast.  They typically hear us applying these principles to husbands and wives, moms and dads, and grandparents.  I am going to apply this principle here to singles. 

I was recently having dinner with my mentor and friend Dr. Howard Hendricks.  Over dinner I asked him the question, “Prof, what is the most courageous thing you’ve done in your life?”  He got a sly grin on his face, and he looked back at me.  He said, “That is easy.  When I was in college, I was dating a young woman.  I was having to make a decision to either do what my dad wanted me to do and go to college.” 

Maybe, I would imagine an Ivy League school.  He was a very, very bright young man.  His dad wanted to see him excel. 

He said “I was dating a young lady who wanted me to go in that direction too because that represented her values as well.”  He said, “I was convinced, though, that God was at work in my life wanting me to go to seminary.”  He said, “I knew what my dad’s response would be to that.”  He said, “I also knew what I had to do with this young lady because I couldn’t marry her and take her to seminary because that didn’t represent her values.” 

He said, “I drove over to her house, and I told her that I decided to go to Dallas Theological Seminary.”  He said, “Dennis, I had to pry her fingers off my car.  So, I could drive away at the end of the discussion.”  He said, “It was the most courageous thing I have ever done.”  Because he cared for the young lady and he had a history with her.  He said, “Driving away and then going back and telling my dad was the next most courageous thing.”  His dad’s response was not positive either.  He said, “Dennis, that was one of the most determinative decisions I have ever made in my life.” 

Here is what is remarkable about it, Bob.  I was sitting at that dinner celebrating with him 60 years of teaching.  I think he touched about 13,000 students.  He marked their lives with a love for Christ. 

This ministry is, in many ways, a part of that decision he made on that day with that young lady.  FamilyLife was really initially forged and formed by an idea that Professor Hendricks had in a message he gave in St. Louis in 1975, that resulted in this ministry. 

Your decisions, your legacy is going to be felt for generations.  I want to go back for just a moment to Bernie Madoff.  A good name is better than riches.  My dad, Hook Rainey had a good name and a great legacy.  His legacy was one of integrity, honesty, fidelity.  Hook Rainey was a quiet man whose life spoke volumes.  The older I get the more I realize what a gift he gave me in giving me a good name. 

Now here is the question.  What decision do you need to make right now that will impact your descendants, your legacy for generations?  Is it about a choice outside of your marriage?  Is it about a choice inside your marriage, a temptation?  Is it about work?  Is it about what is right or wrong?  The question is what kind of name will you leave to your children?  What kind of legacy will it represent? 

Bob:  I keep coming back to a chorus of a song that Sara Groves recorded a number of years ago where she said, “Remind me of this: with every decision, generations will reap what I sow.  I can pass on a curse or a blessing to those I will never know.” 

That is a sobering reminder.  It is a sobering thought that we are not the only ones who will be affected by the choices we make.  Even with the decisions that seem to only impact us or decisions that we make that nobody else sees or knows about, those decisions shape who we are.  Who we are is a part of what gets what passed on to the next generation.  We need to think soberly about that with the choices that are in front of us today, whatever those choices might be. 

I think at the same time we need to recognize that our lives do matter in the eternal scheme of things.  There is a purpose for which we were created our lives have meaning because God created us to have meaning. 

As I sat down to watch the DVD that our friends at VeggieTales put together called It’s a Meaningful Life, it is just a great reminder of the fact that you can lead what seems like an inconsequential life, a normal life—where you do your job, you raise your kids, you are faithful to your wife— that may seem like I didn’t do very much.  You have no idea how profound that can be in the eternal scheme of things.  Every life has purpose and meaning. 

I just want to encourage our listeners if you haven’t gotten a copy of the new DVD from VeggieTales, it is called It’s a Meaningful Life, you can go online at and order one from us if you like. 

Again, the website is  The name of the DVD is It’s a Meaningful Life. If you would prefer to order by phone, call 1-800-FL-Today, 1-800-358-6329.  That is 1-800-F as in “Family,” L as in “Life,” and the word Today. 

Let me say a quick word of thanks to those you who have made FamilyLife a part of the legacy that you are leaving by investing in this ministry, by making donations to help support us and keep us on the air.  This ministry is a part of your legacy.  We appreciate that partnership and just want you to know that we are very grateful for your support. 

Tomorrow we want to talk about the intentionality, being purposeful to establish some spiritual milestones in your life and the life of your family as a part of the legacy that you will pass on.  I hope that you can tune in for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and 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. 

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