God’s Extravagant Love
About the Guest
As parents, we're often tempted to lose our temper, and forget our purpose to love and teach. Film producers Stephen and Alex Kendrick challenge parents through their new book, "The Love Dare for Parents," to parent with purpose for 40 days, taking each day to intentionally love their children with the love of God.
Film producers Stephen and Alex Kendrick challenge parents through their new book, “The Love Dare for Parents,” to parent with purpose for 40 days, taking each day to intentionally love their children with the love of God.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, February 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Stephen and Alex Kendrick join us today with a dare. They want all of us to do a better job of loving our children. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I think all of us have had those grocery-store moments, where we are walking through the grocery store and you see a parent and a child interacting in the grocery store—and the child, maybe, misbehaving—the parents are misbehaving just as badly as the child.
Dennis: You just wonder when you see that—it’s like, “If that’s happening out here,—
Dennis: —“what’s happening at home, in private, where no one can see?”
Bob: I was talking to a friend, recently, who was describing a scene—where a child was sitting, and appeared to be minding her own business, and was humming. The mother started cursing at the child: “Why are you always making so much noise? Get away from me.” You just think, “What’s going to be the impact of that, in the heart of a child, as that child grows to adulthood?”
Dennis: And as parents, there are those momentary situations where you may be tempted to lose control or lose your temper.
That’s where the Scriptures, I think, call us to surrender ourselves and our emotions and bring them, really, before the Lord and ask Him to empower us.
But there are also those times, with our children, when they aren’t obeying us, over a period of time. We’re putting up with, maybe, a five-year-old who is lying, repeatedly over a period of months, or he or she is stealing—or they may grow into—the elementary years, junior high, and high school—where the issues become larger. When we’re going through that, I think we need spiritual guard rails to make sure we don’t run off the road, as parents, and we stand firm and head in the right direction.
We’ve got a couple of guys with us, here on FamilyLife Today, who I know agree with me because they’ve written a book called The Love Dare for Parents. Stephen and Alex Kendrick join us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Alex: Thank you.
Stephen: Good to see you. Glad to be here.
Dennis: You guys have made films. You’ve written books, but you also are parents. I’m just wondering, “Has there ever been a period—with one of your children or, maybe, multiple children—where you thought, ‘Man, I need somebody to come, and put their arm around me, and give me a little guidance here’?” Ever been there?
Stephen: I think all the time! [Laughter] We’re all needing mentorship. We’re all needing to pass it on—what the Lord is teaching us.
Dennis: So, you’ve put this book together to be able to mentor, and coach, and encourage parents around, really, 40 days that challenge parents with a dare, each day, that’s anchored in Scripture.
What’s one that really goes to the heart of the issue with a child? Maybe, they are not a prodigal—as in having left the house and away from the home—but they’re what Barbara and I referred to, as we wrote a book called Parenting Today’s Adolescent—that is an in-house prodigal—maybe, a child who is just not doing well— maybe, they are five years old; maybe, they are nine; maybe, they are thirteen / eighteen.
What’s one of these dares that you would point parents to—to address one of those issues?
Stephen: Well, we cannot reach into anyone’s heart and change it. One of the days we talk about influencing your kids and creating a river of influence—of good books, good mentors, good movies, good music—in their lives and getting them out of the stream of this world. One of the days we talk about modeling the Way in the home; but the other one is we put a prayer strategy in the book because, ultimately, the Lord is the one who changes the heart.
Stephen: And so, in the book and in the appendix, we talk about praying very strategically for your children—praying that God would draw them to Christ, at an early age—praying that God would cause them to fear the Lord, and hate evil, and love what is good—that God would surround them with good friendships and cause them to discern what is right and wrong in those situations. But the Bible communicates, multiple times, that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; but He could also open up Lydia’s heart, in Acts, to the gospel. He can do the same thing with our children.
Bob: Alex, if a dad came to you; and he said: “I just feel like I’ve lost my son. He’s 14. I try to talk to him. It is stone-faced / no expression. He can’t wait for me to leave the room. I just feel like the relationship is over. I don’t know what I did. I want to win his heart back.” What strategy—is there a way to do that?
Alex: There is. It’s not just an easy answer, but let’s go back to what we all need. We all want to feel safe, secure, and loved in a relationship. So, think about—even in a marriage, you want to feel safe, secure, and loved by your spouse.
Alex: Well, kids are similar. They want to feel safe with their parents. They want to feel secure in their identity and their love from their parents. And love—there are a number of ways you can do that. And there are a number of things we do that can harm that.
So, let’s focus on trying to win a child’s heart back. I’m going to give you three A’s—and we’ve talked about this before—but attention, affirmation, and affection.
Giving the proper attention to your child—where they know your investment of time and energy into them is crucial for them to know that you are loving them. When you give them affirmation—you’re saying: “I love you. I’m grateful God gave you to me.” You’re affirming what they are good at/things they’ve done well. Again, that’s nurturing their heart. And finally, affection—to say, in the proper ways—to say, “I love you,” with the simple touches, hugs, pats on the back—all those things.
And let me point this out—attention, affirmation, and affection—what did the LORD do to Jesus when He was about to go into ministry and He was being baptized? The LORD affirmed who He was: “You are My Son in whom I am well pleased.” That has to do with His identity—that has to do with God’s favor on Him. He tells everyone, “Listen to My Son.” Then, what happened, right after that? Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted by the devil for 40 days. And what does the devil do? He goes after His identity—His security.
But Jesus has just been affirmed and secured in the Father. The LORD says: “I love You. You are My Son.” And he attacks Jesus about His identity: “If You are God’s Son, then, this.” “If You are God’s Son, then, that.” But again, the LORD took care of it. As a loving Father, He affirmed His Son. So, attention, affirmation, affection—you do that to your kids—that’s a great place to start.
Dennis: And I’m looking back through your book, at this point. Every one of these 40 dares is really a challenge to love.
Dennis: All 40 begin with the word, “Love is,” or, “Love bears all things,” or, “Love is kind,” “Love is compassionate.” You’re really coaching parents to know how to, biblically, love their children. You’d think parents would know how to do it naturally, but that’s why God gave us the Scriptures. We aren’t necessarily naturally good at loving—
Stephen: That’s right.
Dennis: —according to God’s way.
Stephen: Well, and if we ask ourselves: “Are you impatient with your kids? Are you unkind to your kids? Are you rude around your kids?”
Dennis: That’s enough questions! [Laughter]
I mean, kids bring out—they bring that stuff out of us because God’s doing a work in our lives, too.
Stephen: Yes, He is. God has a way of using marriage and children to expose un-Christlikeness in us because He’s trying to conform all of us into the image of His Son. And He’ll use all circumstances to do so. So, instead of attacking our children, sometimes, we need to say, “Lord, you’ve just used my child to reveal selfness in me / pride in me / or that I’m clinging to my rights rather than laying down my life for someone else.”
Dennis: Well, I want to go back to something that Stephen said earlier about interceding for your kids because I really think we underplay this, as parents. It, not only works with a 14-year-old, when the stakes are higher; but it also works when they are toddlers, or three, or four, or five years old.
I don’t remember how old this particular child was, but he was ours. He’d learned something or got something genetically from me—I’m convinced—because he was stealing. He was stealing. I used to steal a nickel / a dime out of my dad’s change—and, you know, just took it.
Stephen: A man shall reap what he sows. [Laughter]
Dennis: But we couldn’t catch this kid in his thievery. And by the way, we had six kids; and there was more than one of them that went through this little phase. So, we began to intercede: “God, we need Your help. We are helpless parents who need the help of God Almighty to catch this little thief that’s in our house.”
Alex: There are certain things you can do, as a parent—keep your eyes open and watch out for the areas of your kids’ lives that may need addressing. However, you don’t know everything. You’re not always watching them. And as you know, when you were young / when I was young, we know when Mom and Dad are coming down the hall. We can hear them. We act like we’re asleep, sometimes. My point is—the Lord sees everything. He knows.
So, why not do what God’s called you to do, as a parent? But have that prayer strategy—to bathe your children in prayer—that you’re praying for their heart to be tender toward the Lord—
to have a sensitive conscience, for discernment, for wisdom, and for anything to hurt or poke them if they step off the path they’re supposed to be on. Let the Lord do the heavy lifting. It doesn’t mean we abdicate our role, as parents; but yet, the Lord sees and knows everything. He loves us, and He loves our children more than we ever could.
Stephen: Okay, Dennis, Number 5 in this book is “Pray that your kids will be caught when they’re guilty.” And so, I want you to finish your story. What happened?
Dennis: Well, there was a set of circumstances that occurred that could have only been set up—
Stephen: By God?
Dennis: —by God! I mean, we caught this little rascal—in fact, both times it occurred, we caught him—and got my porch painted once because the kid was older [Laughter]—and on the other occasion, we administered a little discipline. But here’s what we did. We would pray for our kids—we would pray with our kids—
Dennis: —and they knew we would pray that God would help us catch them—
Dennis: —if they were off in something they ought not to—
Bob: You mean, you prayed that—you’d say, “Lord, help us catch a child”—
Dennis: I prayed that over them, out loud. [Laughter]
Stephen: That’s the fear—you’re teaching them the fear of the Lord.
Dennis: And I, at one point, I kind of opened my eye a little bit. It was like, “Am I detecting a wrinkle of a forehead like: ‘Oh, no way! He’s calling on God, at this point. This is not fair.’?” We’re not playing games here. These are the souls of children, and parents have an important assignment to correct evil behavior—
Dennis: —evil tendencies. And let’s face it. We all have them, and our children are related to us.
Stephen: Well, Hebrews 13 says, “We are accountable for the souls of those who are up underneath our care.” And if you think about that, we will—we, as parents, will stand before God, one day, because He’s entrusted these homework assignments to us—called children. We will be held accountable as to what we did with them. And the Lord is commanding parents, “Fathers, it’s your job not to provoke your children to wrath, but you train them up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord.” He’s telling us to model the Way.
We should be turning to our kids and saying, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.” We should be praying for them. We need the Lord’s help every day—every step of the way.
Bob: One of the skills that I think some of us, as parents, need to get a little sharper in is the skill of listening. One of the dares—
Alex: That’s right.
Bob: —in The Love Dare is the need for us to be better listeners, as parents.
Alex: Yes, there is a time to rebuke or discipline behavior. There are other times that you can demonstrate love by listening. I mean, I’m talking about full-on: “I’m focused on you. I’m listening.” You’re not trying to necessarily fix everything. You’re just hearing them out, which is an act of love.
Alex: And there’s a time to do that. My youngest son, Caleb—he is seven years old. And he’s come to me—and sometimes, what he comes to me with isn’t that big of a deal—but he wants to explain everything to me and tell me—if he’s upset about something. I have learned, at times: “Alex, just shut up and listen to him. Take in everything he says. He needs to see you listening—processing everything he wants you to process.”
Then, when we talk at the end, he feels like that that was quality time there: “Dad heard me out!” And he sat there for three, four, five minutes—and either ranted or explained something to me—but listening is an art! And that’s one thing we dare parents to do well—to find those times—where it doesn’t require a rebuke; or, “Here’s what…”; or consoling—but you just listen.
Dennis: And here’s one additional place where I would apply what Stephen said, earlier, about intercession and prayer. If you’re sitting there, listening to a teenager—and it’s this rant that’s occurred half a dozen times or it’s this emotional expression, where you’re going, “What’s going on here?”—at those moments, just fire off a prayer to the Throne. Ask God to help you, as a parent, understand: “What is going on here? What’s the need in my daughter/my son? I don’t understand this situation.” It’s not that God will give you an audible answer—
but I’ve found, on many occasions, He will help me ask a follow-up question—
Dennis: —that will unlock what is truly happening. It’s not even in the body of information that’s being shared. It’s off in another direction of something that happened—maybe, earlier in the day or last week—that we are totally oblivious to.
Stephen: The Lord gives us His Holy Spirit. That is an interactive relationship with God, on an ongoing basis, that we’re saying: “Lord, give me wisdom for this moment. Give me grace, and strength, and patience in this moment. Give me love for my children in this moment. Give me discernment, in this moment, to know what is right and wrong.”
Bob: You also encourage parents to help their children dream and to, then, try to meet those dreams. And I really like the concept of—what do you call it?—“Dream Day”?
Alex: I call it a “Dream Day”. Stephen calls it—
Stephen: “Best Day Ever.”
Alex: —“Best Day Ever”. And what we do—and again, this is not trying to tell parents to spend unnecessary money on something—but this is what we do in my family. And Stephen can tell you how he does it in his.
One of the ways that we try to impart love to our kids is in fulfilling a reasonable dream. I’ve gone to all six of my kids and said, “I want you to write out a Dream Day, locally, within a certain mile radius”—[Laughter]—well, yes. No—I’m not saying—“Take me to Paris, Dad.”
Alex: Maybe, there is something like that in the future; but for each of my six kids—they individually get to write down, “I would love to do this with my dad, or with my mom, or with my whole family.” It may be as simple as, “Hey, I want to go—in the morning, I want to go to a miniature golf course. Then, I want to go get an ice cream sundae. Then, I want to do this.” Then, I pick a day—usually, a Saturday. We try to fulfill that reasonable Dream Day.
For a kid to come up with that and have that fulfilled—the ones we’ve already done—they remember and refer to those, on a regular basis. It’s an incredible investment in the heart of your child.
Bob: And a lot of parents would think, “I could—if I did that, my child would come up with a bunch of unreasonable stuff.” You’d be surprised at the simple things—
Bob: —kids want to do; wouldn’t you?
Stephen: “Dad, if you would just help me clean my closet.” And for some kids—that’s their biggest stressor, at that moment; and that’s what they want. With my kids, sometimes—well, I have a four-year-old: “Would you just get me a Happy Meal and let’s just go out together?”—with Daddy and you. And it’s a big deal for the kids. So, we call it, “Best Day Ever.”
And I’ll say to my kids: “What would be your Best Day Ever? Here’s the amount of money we can spend—it’s 20 bucks. You pick the restaurant. You pick what we’re going to do with this time.” Sometimes, it is very inexpensive; but the kid turns around and they know that their dad and mom love them.
Bob: There’s an old story that you’ve probably heard before about a business man who took a day off and took his son fishing.
Bob: And he gets done. He wrote in his journal: “Took my son fishing—a wasted day.” And the son wrote in his diary: “Went fishing with my dad. Best day ever.”
Bob: And that really is the perspective we have to have. There are simple things that can involve time—activities that kids don’t get to do, on a regular basis, that can be so—like you said—they build memories they’ll never forget; don’t they?
Alex: That’s right. That’s right because it leaves an impression: “My parents invested in me. They cared about what I wanted to do.” That time is like it’s amplified in their mind: “I’m not just doing something fun. I’m doing something that my parents allowed me to choose.” And yes, like Stephen said, you may have to put boundaries on it and say: “You’ve got these seven hours,” or, “It has to be within this radius—a 20-mile radius”—whatever. You know your budget, and you know what you are able to do; but let your child decide and pick one of those things. They will remember it for a long time.
Bob: So, give me an idea of: “What was a Kendrick family Dream Day?”
Alex: Well, I hate to admit this. I don’t like roller skating because I fall, and I bust up my knees, and I’ve cut my chin before. I’m not good at it. [Laughter]
Stephen: Tough love. This is tough love!
Alex: See, what my kid—
Dennis: His martyr meter is going off now.
Bob: Well, now, you should tell your kids: “I can’t do it. I’m an actor. [Laughter] The studio won’t let me do it.”
Stephen: “Where’s my stunt double?”
Alex: My sons want to go swimming or play basketball—things like that—or go shoot the BB gun in the backyard—and I’m like all for it.
My daughters love to go roller skating. So, that means I go roller skating. It’s not my favorite thing to do; but I’ve been roller skating two or three times now. They want to go get an ice cream afterwards at a local ice cream place. And sometimes, maybe, watch their favorite princess movie or whatever; but I do it. I dote on them that day. I tell them I love them, and they refer to that day. It was just—it’s a huge moment in their life.
Bob: How about a Stephen Kendrick family Dream Day?
Stephen: I remember, one day, we went to Chuck E. Cheese®, Burger King® playground. We rented a movie that they loved. We went out for ice cream that day, and they bought a toy at Target. For the kids, it was Best Day Ever. The other thing that I would attach to that is there are times when we set up our kids, where: “If you clean your room,” or, “…you do this, you’ll get a reward;” but it’s also important that we’re not teaching our kids that our love for them is conditional—
Alex: That’s right.
Stephen: —it is on their behavior.
Stephen: So, many times, I’ll do something for my kids; and I’ll say, “You know why Daddy did that for you? It’s because I love you, and that’s the only reason.
It’s not because you earned it or you deserve it. It’s just because I love you.”
Dennis: You’re really talking about reflecting God’s extravagant—
Alex: That’s right.
Dennis: —love. And I’m trying to find it here. It’s a prayer of Paul’s in Ephesians, Chapter 3. It says, “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we could ask”— as His kids—“or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.”
Paul’s reminding us of who God is—that He is a generous giver of grace, and of good gifts, and He’s not a god in heaven with a giant fly swatter—just trying to catch us having fun and WHACK! “Wipe that smile off your face, kid.” No, God wants us to live life to the fullest. We, as parents, are, really, commissioned, by God, with the assignment of raising our kids to understand who He is.
Stephen: He is the King of Fun.
Dennis: He really is.
Stephen: Everything we enjoy in life—if you think about it—that’s good—it came directly from the hand of God.
Dennis: And I want our children to picture God with a smile because isn’t that what He commands us to do—at the end of the race that we all run—where He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master”? I don’t think He’s saying that with a frown on His face. I think God’s going to say that with a smile on His face.
And I just want to say, “Thanks,” to both of you, fathers, for peeling back your hearts and putting it between two covers—calling it The Love Dare for Parents—and challenging parents to go back to the Book. And what they are going to find—this is all anchored in the Bible. It’s meant to be a core biblical assignment for parents to really help them on the journey of being a parent because it is hard work, but it is extremely satisfying.
And guys, thanks, too, for the little movies you make, from time to time, too, by the way. [Laughter]
Alex: Thank you.
Bob: In fact, we’ll keep our listeners up to date as you guys go to work on your next movie, which is expected out a year or more from now. In the meantime, I want to encourage listeners to get a copy of The Love Dare for Parents and go to work. Start with Day 1. Both of you get on the same page—both of you working together on this. Demonstrate to your kids that your love for them is genuine. Make sure they understand. Make sure they know, and feel, and experience your love. Again, the title of the book is The Love Dare for Parents. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
When you are on our website, check out the resource that Barbara Rainey has developed for moms and dads. It’s called “How Do I Love Thee?” It’s designed to help parents and children—
study, together, the attributes of genuine love that are listed in First Corinthians, Chapter 13—to help us dive deeper into what it means when we say: “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy or boast. It’s not rude. It’s not arrogant.” Find out more about “How Do I Love Thee?” and how you can use that, with your family, during the month of February. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you have any questions—1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
Now, we are grateful for those of you who are regular listeners to FamilyLife Today and who have listened long enough to have a sense of: “What is our mission?” here at FamilyLife. We want to provide practical, biblical help for your marriage and for your family, day in and day out, on this radio program. Our goal is to see every home become a godly home. And you help make that happen when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about the transformation that can happen in a marriage when a husband takes the initiative to more regularly pray with his wife. Sam Ingrassia will be with us. He’ll tell us his story of how he learned that important truth. Hope you can be with us for that, as well.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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