FamilyLife Today®

Ten Urgent Steps

with Dennis Rainey | December 10, 2012
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Dennis Rainey takes some time to encourage families, especially fathers, and share some disciplines that will keep your family spiritually healthy. Not commandments, but more than suggestions, Dennis offers the first five of ten urgent steps.

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  • Dennis Rainey takes some time to encourage families, especially fathers, and share some disciplines that will keep your family spiritually healthy. Not commandments, but more than suggestions, Dennis offers the first five of ten urgent steps.

Dennis Rainey shares some disciplines that will keep your family spiritually healthy.

Ten Urgent Steps

With Dennis Rainey
December 10, 2012
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Bob:  Working to cultivate a spiritually strong family can be challenging, even when the culture is affirming what you’re trying to do.  Dennis Rainey says we are quickly moving into an era where that cultural affirmation is going to be missing.

Dennis:  It’s going to become increasingly difficult to be a pair of parents, or a single parent, trying to hold to the Bibleand the teachings of Scripture in this culture.  It’s going to be difficult in two ways.  People are going to want to throw rocks at you; but secondly, the temptation for you and me to look down our noses at other people, and judge them, and think, “How broken are you?”  Well, we’re expecting people who don’t know Christ to behave as though they do.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 10th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  What does it look like for us to learn how to live as missionaries, more and more, in our own communities?  We’re going to talk about that today.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  So, no guest; you didn’t bring a guest in here today.


Dennis:  I didn’t.  I’m taking over!

Bob:  [Laughter]  You have a few things you want to talk about today?

Dennis:  I have some things on my heart and chest that I want to share with our listeners because I think we’re living in an urgent day.

Bob:  It does feel like the culture is shifting a little bit; doesn’t it?

Dennis:  It does.  And Bob, here’s what I decided to do today.  I guess you could consider this a “State of the Family” address.

Bob:  Okay.

Dennis:  But it’s not going to be this fire-breathing, flame-throwing, standing on top of the mountain—shouting and yelling at everybody about what’s happening in the culture.  That’s never been our approach, here on FamilyLife Today.  We’ve always been about helping individuals, marriages, and families push back against the culture and live it out—where life is hammered out in their own marriages and their own communities.  So, I just have some things—they’re not the Ten Commandments; okay?  They’re not the Ten Commandments, but they’re not ten suggestions either.

Bob:  These are more than coaching tips that you’re giving.

Dennis:  No doubt.  I mean, it really is game time.  I know this is Christmas and it’s all filled with warm fuzzies and everything; but I believe, over the next couple of years, our families are going to increasingly fall under fire.  Before I get to the first five of my “Ten Urgent Steps for Families”, I just need to turn to you, as a listener, and ask for your help.

You may know that this is our 20th anniversary for FamilyLife Today.  We’ve been attempting to bring you timeless truths of Scripture in practical ways for your marriage, your family, and your relationships.  That’s why we’re here.  We’re here to help equip you with God’s truth.  If we’ve helped you, then I’d like to ask you if you’d help us because we’re facing right now a financial challenge, unlike really any other we’ve ever faced.

Over the last, really, 12 months, for some reason, we’ve seen a drop-off in donations by those folks who have kept this broadcast on the air over the years.  As a result, we are having to take a hard look at what we’re doing.  The good news, though, is that a number of families have come together and have put together a matching challenge, here in December, of about $3.6 million. 

What they’re saying is—they so believe in what FamilyLife is doing for your marriage, your family, and future generations—that they want to match every dollar you give, up to the total of $3.6 million.  Now, as a listener, you know that I hardly ever talk about asking you to make a donation, here on FamilyLife Today; but we are a listener-supported broadcast.  I want you to know, I’m proud—I’m really proud that we’re a listener-supported broadcast because you, as a listener, benefit.

You say, “Yes, I’d like to vote with my donations to keep you on the air and to keep you coming on strong with biblical truth that equips, not only me and my family, but also equips millions of others.”  Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do.  I need you to pick up a phone or to go online and make a donation today and help us take full advantage of all $3.6 million, here in the month of December, because we need your help and we need it now.

Bob:  You can go online at to make a yearend contribution to FamilyLife.  Just click the button that says, “I CARE”, or you can call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation over the phone.  We do appreciate whatever you are able to do, and are grateful that you listen and grateful that you’re a part of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.


Dennis:  We are.

Bob:  Now, let’s get to the “Ten Urgent Steps”.  That’s what you’re calling them?

Dennis:  I’m into steps these days.  I’m into steps.

Bob:  Something about stepping up.  And this is the kind of thing that, if a young couple came to you and said, “We’re just starting out our marriage. We want to make sure our family remains strong in the culture we’re in today.” —

Dennis:  I’m telling you, your marriage is taking place on a spiritual battlefield, not on a romantic balcony.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  These are non-negotiables.  These steps are absolutely essential if you’re not going to be a casualty in what’s taking place in marriage and family today.  As you listen to these first five—I’m going to attempt to give you five today.  As you listen to these five, try to grab one that you think you and your spouse, you and your family, you and your extended family need to apply today or in the coming days.

First one—Number one:  The first step is not a step up.  It’s a step down.  The first step is that you need to kneel down and surrender to the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  I have a passage in my Bible that has one of my mentors’ names by it.  It says, “Bill Bright’s life verse.”  It’s Galatians, Chapter 2, verse 20—this was Bill’s favorite verse.  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me.”  That passage of Scripture is calling us to die—to give up ourselves—and to yield to the only One who can help you defeat your selfishness—day-in and day-out—Jesus Christ.

Bob:  Can I tell you what helped unlock that verse for me in my thinking?  I remember reading it years ago and thinking, “What does that mean?  ‘I’ve been crucified.’  Well, I haven’t been crucified.”  I was just trying to get my head around that verse. 

Somebody suggested, where you see the word, “I”, there at the beginning—just put in the word, “self.”  Self is crucified with Christ; therefore, self no longer lives.  Jesus Christ now lives in me; “and the life I live, I live by faith in the Son...” That helped because it helped me understand what we’re really saying is, “My priorities are going to be different, going forward.  Instead of self-directed priorities, it’s going to be Christ-directed priorities.”

Dennis:  Yes.  And that’s the hope of the home.  That’s the hope of a family—that two individuals, a husband and a wife, would yield to Him.  You know what?  If self dies, between a husband and a wife, they have a chance of making it.

Bob:  It’s a good thing.

Dennis:  Christianity is, first and foremost, a relationship with the One who defeated death—Jesus Christ—and it begins with surrender to Him. 

It’s interesting, Bob, here in December, that I’d be giving this message because it was 40 years ago that Barbara and I started out our marriage and we had our first Christmas together.  Before we gave one another any presents on that first Christmas, back in 1972, we both gave Jesus Christ everything about us—our lives, our desire for possessions, for children, some of the things we valued—which were really silly, at the time, looking back on it.

Bob:  You did this in a tangible way.  You guys actually wrote it down and signed it over.

Dennis:  Wrote out a contract, a “Title Deed” to our Lives.  I’m going to tell you something.  That was determinative in what our marriage has become and what our family has become. 

No, it does not mean we have the perfect marriage.  If you’ve listened to FamilyLife Today, you’ve heard many of my idiotic choices that I’ve made here—and the selfishness that I still have—unfortunately, who tries to get off the cross—as you talked about—who wants to live out his own life.  But you know what?  That commitment changed the course of our lives.  

If Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be—if He is the King of kings, Lord of lords, God Incarnate, which is what we celebrate, here at Christmas—then He demands our absolute surrender and obedience.

Bob:  We do not live in a culture that promotes selflessness.  In fact, it promotes just the opposite; but you’re not simply talking about dying to self, as noble as that might be.  You have to take the next step and live for Christ because, if you’re going to die to self, something else is going to direct your life; right?

Dennis:  The cool thing about this is—the Bible tells us once we have committed our lives to Christ, He comes to indwell us.  Spiritually-speaking, He lives His life in and through us, if we surrender to Him.

Bob:  Alright.  So step one, in this culture—

Dennis:  Kneel down.

Bob:  Kneel down.

Dennis:  Surrender.

Bob:  Die to self.

Dennis:  Give up!  Some of you’ve been battling it too long.  Give up!  Put your hands out like you’re going to prison because—you know what? —if you’re a bond slave of Christ, it’ll pay off over the long haul.

Bob:  And it’s not something that you do once and then it’s done.  It’s something you do over and—

Dennis:  Oh, oh I wish it was, Bob.  I just wish it was, but you know what?  That surrender has to be done every day, moment by moment.

Number two—now, this is really important as we march forward in this culture.  Train your family to love others.  I purposely put this number two because it would be so easy to make this number eight, number nine—somewhere down on the list—but some of the things I’m going to talk about here are going to demand that we, not only exemplify the love of Christ, but we train our children to have that attitude in them.

It’s going to become increasingly difficult to be a married couple, standing on the Scriptures—to be a pair of parents, or a single parent, trying to hold to the Bible and the teachings of Scripture, in this culture.  It’s going to be difficult in two ways:  People are going to want to throw rocks at you.  So, they’re going to come after you.  But secondly, the temptation for you and me to look down our noses at other people, and judge them, and think, “Why don’t you clean up your act?  I mean, good night!  How broken are you?”  We’re expecting people, who don’t know Christ, to behave as though they do.

Bob:  Right. 

Dennis:  Why would we judge them?  That’s exactly the same way I’d be behaving if Christ didn’t live in me.  We aren’t going to win the day by yelling, and screaming, and turning up the emotional intensity of our arguments in this culture.  We are going to win the day, not by finger-pointing; but we’re going to win the day by becoming Christ-like as we love broken people and offer them—offer them and say, “You know what?  This is where you find life.  This is where you can find reality.”

First Corinthians 13 talks about faith, hope, and love.  It says the greatest of these—the greatest of those three:  faith, hope, and love—is love.  Why?  Because love can conquer even a hardened heart.

Bob:  Here’s a place where I had to do a little adjusting on my own because, again, when you look at media—and particularly news media today—turning up the volume and shouting has become the way to win ratings and—

Dennis:  Yes.  It’s entertainment.

Bob:  Yes, and you watch it—

Dennis:  —and you can become like it.

Bob:  And you get sucked right into it.  Yet, there is a fundamental self-righteousness that comes with that—that is, again, natural, I think, to all of us.  It feeds something inside of us.

Dennis:  Only to you, Bob.  [Laughter]  Not me.  Are you kidding me?

Bob:  We have to remember, all of us, that what we see in others is equally true about us.  We’re all sinners.  We’re all at the same place, at the foot of the cross, in need of the same salvation.  The person you’re looking at and going, “How could that person think that—be that way?  How can they live that way?”  Listen, you’re a lot closer to them than you are to the perfect example of Jesus Christ.

Dennis:  That’s exactly right.  Don’t miss this nuance of this one—training your family to love others.  Your little unit needs to be an incubator where you birth real love that pierces the darkness of the culture.  That means your kids need to catch from you how to do it—that they need to be taught from you how to do.  You do that by getting in the Book.  You read about Jesus, and how He handled those who persecuted Him and who wanted to put Him to death, and you attempt to love them as He did.

Bob:  Jesus is a better role model here than some of the anchors on TV; right?

Dennis:  I think that’s accurate.  Number two:  Train your family to love others.  Number three:  Become a guardian of marriage.

Bob:  Not just your marriage.

Dennis:  No, and in fact, here’s what I want our listeners to catch.  I believe the real hope for marriage and family, long haul, is in our listeners’ homes.  I believe a grass roots spiritual awakening that protects the marriage covenant—that also looks out for other people and their marriages—is going to be the way we express the love of Christ.

Now, I want to talk about two ways you can be a guardian of marriage.  Number one:  Guard and protect the definition of marriage.  Back in 1991, FamilyLife wrote a document called “The Family Manifesto”.  In it—it seemed a stretch—but in “The Family Manifesto”, we defined marriage between a man and a woman and their God for a lifetime, never between two people of the same sex.  Now, today, as we know, that definition is coming under fire.  It’s going to increasingly come under fire, but we must not be silent.  We must speak up and defend marriage, in a loving way.  That’s why I had love as number two.  We need to graciously speak up and say, “No, man didn’t design marriage.  God did.”  What God designed, we need to be careful that we don’t redefine.

A second way you can be the guardian of marriage, though, is by keeping your marriage covenant and calling others to do the same.  I was recently with a guy who went to I Still Do™.  Bob, do you remember I Still Do

Bob:  Sure.

Dennis:  We used to hold events, around the country, as we celebrated the marriage covenant.  Well, this young man and his wife came and brought another couple from their town to I Still Do in Memphis.  Both couples got the marriage covenant that we passed out, at the end of that event.  They went home and signed it—had their kids witness it.  They framed it, put it up on the wall—I believe in their bedroom.

A few years passed.  My friend said, “I heard that the other couple that went with us to Memphis—to I Still Do—were in trouble and they were getting a divorce.”  He said, “I went home after work. I took the marriage covenant off of our wall and went down to this guy’s office.”  He was a doctor.  He said, “I took that covenant in there and said, ‘I’m here to help you make good on your marriage covenant.’”  I wish I could tell you that that turned him around.  It didn’t, but you know what?  If more of that occurred, on behalf of other people’s covenants, we wouldn’t see the divorce rate what it is today.

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  We need to care about our own covenant; but also, be looking out for other people’s marriage covenant.  Okay?  Number three: Become a guardian of marriage.

Number four is pretty simple, but it’s pretty radical.  Slow down.  Slow down.  Take a step back—evaluate your schedule and where it’s taking you, your marriage and your family—and pull back and take a look at the pace of life—how you compare your schedule and all the things your family is doing with other families—and all the fatigue that it is producing, and all the increased schedule.  It even makes me tired to think about it, Bob.

Bob:  Do you remember the mom we talked to this year who had done the radical sabbatical for her family—where they pared off all kinds of things?

Dennis:  Yes, yes.

Bob:  You’re talking about taking that kind of a look at your schedule.

Dennis:  I am.  Ephesians 5 talks about being wise about the days because they are evil.  Bob, I think this is one of the most important things couples need to be considering today because the pace of life can set you up for an affair.  It can set you up to turn against your spouse, and it can also result in no longer investing in your marriage.  You’re so busy, you don’t have time for one another, and creating romance, and healthy conversations, where you get a chance to listen and connect with each other.

Bob:  You’re talking about being purposeful and intentional about the things that really matter because the culture will try to tell you, “Here’s what really matters.”  We have to weigh that out against what the Scriptures say really matters.

Dennis:  Exactly.  Number five—this is to men.  Listen carefully, guys.  Man up and step up.

Bob:  I knew this was going to be on the top ten somewhere.

Dennis:  Focus on becoming, not just any man, but a courageous man.  I want you to listen to me carefully.  This culture is trying to dis-courage you.  It is trying to remove courage from your chest.  It wants to rob you of your courage; but there isn’t a man listening, Bob, who wants to be known as a coward.  We don’t talk much about cowardice anymore.  We should.

I was recently with a group of men, about 15 men at a getaway, and we talked about why it’s so easy for men to be passive.  We came up with all kinds of reasons—afraid of failing, we are lazy, and we don’t know how—so, the easiest thing to do is nothing.  We let our wives do it.  So, we talked about, “What should we do?”  We watched the new Stepping Up™ video series that we just finished, which is a small group video series for men’s groups.  We got through eight of the ten in about four days.  As a result—I’ve got a feeling, Bob—there were about 15 wives, scattered all over the country, who had men come home from that retreat that probably surprised them.  It was like, “What happened to my husband?”

Bob:  “What happened to my husband?”

Dennis:  I just want our listeners to know—the battle today for the family begins with how men behave.  I want to show you how powerful an illustration can be of a man who behaves well by letting you listen to a clip from a FamilyLife Today broadcast—I don’t know, how many years ago? —maybe—six, eight, or ten years ago.  R.V. Brown came into the studio.  You know, Bob.  He was one of 17 children.  I asked him to give a tribute to his dad.  He called his dad Willie Fish.  Let’s listen to that tribute.

[Recorded Message]

R.V.:  Daddy Fish, I just want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, first of all, for loving my Mama, and then secondly, for loving me, and kissing me, and rubbing my little round head, and telling me to go to school, and everything was going to be okay.  And then, Dad, I want to thank you for taking me fishing—July the 6th, 1959, for the first time. 

And Dad, I want to just tell you what an awesome leader you was.  With no education, Dad, you taught me.  You educated me how to love.  Dad, thank you!  I’m the kind of man I am today because of who you are.  Thank you for loving Mama.  Thank you for the leadership and authority in which you raised us.  Thank you for the discipline; and most of all, father, I want to thank you for that hug and that kiss, and that little rub on my little, round head, and you’d say, “You’re going to be okay, son.”  Dad, I love you.


Dennis:  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Bob:  That’s right.

Dennis:  That’s a great illustration of what it means to be a courageous man.  Now, remember what I said at the beginning of the broadcast?  Just pick one of the five, just one of the five.

Bob:  Well, we’re not done because we’re going to keep working our way through this list of “Ten Urgent Steps for Families” in this culture, as we continue this week. 

I was thinking as you were talking about a book that you and Barbara wrote, a number of years ago, called Growing a Spiritually Strong Family.  I would point people to our website,, for more information about that book.  It’s a very short but very helpful book that just lays out the priorities that ought to be in place in every Christian home.  Go to for more information about the book, Growing a Spiritually Strong Family.

While you’re there, look for information on some of the other resources FamilyLife has been putting together to help strengthen marriages and families—like the new Stepping Up video kit that we put together—the video event; the video series.  There’s information about both of those at  There’s also information about The Art of Marriage® event kit or the small group study.  Go to for more information about all of these resources; or call us, toll-free.  1-800-FL-TODAY is our number; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.

And just a quick word here—Dennis mentioned earlier the matching gift that has been made available to FamilyLife, during the month of December.  We’re hoping that our listeners will help us take full advantage of this special matching-gift opportunity to make a donation online at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  

Again, we do appreciate your partnership with us.  We want to say, “Thanks,” in advance, for whatever you are able to do.  And pray for us, if you would, that folks would respond to FamilyLife, here during the final month of 2012, and help us get started strong in 2013.

And we want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow.  Dennis is going to continue taking us through the list of “Ten Urgent Steps” every family needs to have in place in this culture, and I hope you can tune in for that tomorrow.

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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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

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Episodes in this Series

Cultural Issues Day 2
How We Build Strong Families
with Dennis Rainey December 11, 2012
Dennis Rainey shares the second five urgent steps a family can take to stay spiritually healthy.
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