FamilyLife Today® Podcast

The Power of a Father’s Influence

with Dennis Rainey | June 9, 2011
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What can a father do to help his son move toward manhood? Dennis Rainey, a father of six, talks frankly to men about coming alongside their adolescent sons to provide wisdom and encouragement as they mature.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • What can a father do to help his son move toward manhood? Dennis Rainey, a father of six, talks frankly to men about coming alongside their adolescent sons to provide wisdom and encouragement as they mature.

  • 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.

What can a father do to help his son move toward manhood?

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The Power of a Father’s Influence

With Dennis Rainey
June 09, 2011
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Bob:  Dennis Rainey says a lot of guys today are confused about just what it means to be a man. 

Dennis:  They’re looking for someone to talk to; they’re looking for some guidance in sorting out all the confusing messages that are coming their way.  They want to know what it means to be a man.  “What does a man do?  How does he think?  How does he act?”

They want to know the essence of what manhood is all about, and they want to know it from an authoritative source.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, June 9th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We’re going to look today to an authoritative source – we’re going to look at what the Scriptures have to say about what it means to be a man.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition.  You know, I think if you look at enough advertising in magazines or on television, you really get the sense that advertisers are recognizing that guys, there’s something in us that wants to be what men are supposed to be.  And what they’re trying to say in the advertising is, “If you buy this product, you’ll be that guy.  Buy this shaving cream, or this after-shave lotion, or this deodorant, and you’ll be the kind of man you really want to be.” 

I think guys watch those kinds of commercials and think, “I’m going to go buy that razor, because then I’m going to be a real man!”

Dennis: Well, think about what they’re appealing to.  There is something within the chest of a man that longs to be a courageous, aspiring, noble warrior.  And you don’t have to enlist in the army to be one of those men, because there is a spiritual battle taking place today around every life listening to this broadcast.

There’s probably not a person listening, Bob, who doesn’t need some kind of man around their life right now to help them handle the spiritual battle that’s taking place in their life.

Bob:  Yes, we are in an army of sorts, aren’t we – we’re in a spiritual army, a spiritual battle.  We do need other men to urge us on, and this week we’re talking about what we can do as men to move up, to step up, to the next place God has for us in our journey toward manhood.

Dennis: That’s right.  I’ve just finished a book called Stepping Up.  In it, I talk about how stepping up is not just reserved for Michael Jordan at a sporting event.

You know, I used to watch Michael Jordan play basketball, and I have to say I really do miss him, because when he got that “eye of the tiger” in his eye and he started looking at the basket and at the goal there wasn’t anybody on the earth that could stop him.  Well, you know what the announcer would say?  He would say, “He stepped up his game.”

I think the same is true for men today.  Men need to “step up” to manhood and in the process become all that God intends.

What I’ve outlined are five simple, yet profound steps that I think men can take to help them become the man God created them to be.  There’s the step of boyhood:  a boy was intended to step up and transition through adolescence (that’s the second step).  The third step is manhood: and a man isn’t to straddle the manhood step and have one foot on it and one foot in adolescence.

Bob:  Which is where a lot of guys are today.

Dennis: I’m telling you!

There are two last steps, though, that I think add great direction and vision to a man’s life.  That’s the step of moving up from manhood to mentor, and then finally from being a mentor to a patriarch.


Bob:  I think one of the things that you’ve given us in this new book is a vision beyond manhood.  Frankly, most of us have thought that if you get to manhood, you’ve arrived.  You’ve said, “No, that’s not the stopping point.  There’s still vision for your life even once you’re firmly established as a man.”

Dennis: You know, there’s a poem that I ran across, Bob, that speaks of an established man like you’re talking about there.  It was written by Josiah Gilbert Holland, and I have no idea when he lived or how he lived, but his poem called something out in me as I read it.  I just want to share it with our listeners.  It’s entitled “Give Us Men.”

“Give us Men!
Strong and stalwart ones;
Men whom highest hope inspires,
Men whom purest honor fires,
Men who trample self beneath them,
Men who make their country wreath them
As her noble sons,
Worthy of their sires;
Men who never shame their mothers,
Men who never fail their brothers,
True, however false are others:
Give us Men - I say again,
Give us Men!

Give us Men!
Men who, when tempest gathers,
Grasp the standard of their fathers
In the thickest fight;
Men who strike for home and altar,
Let the coward cringe and falter,
God defend the right!
True as truth the lorn and lonely,
Tender, as the brave are only,
Men who tread where saints have trod,
Men for Country, Home, and God:
Give us Men! I say again  -
Give us Men!’

-Josiah Gilbert Holland

Dennis: I’ll tell you, there’s never been a time in our nation’s history, I don’t think, as there is today when we’ve needed men to be that kind of man.

Bob:  When you read that poem, I was thinking back to the men who were onboard the Titanic the night it sank – the men who sent women and children first.  Of course, there were a few men who tried to disguise themselves and then hide out in the lifeboats so that they could be preserved.

I remember watching the old movie, A Night to Remember, that tells the story of the Titanic, and there’s this great scene where they uncover a stowaway, a man, there among the women and children, trying to save his life.  And you look at it and say, “That’s not what a man does.  He doesn’t climb in the lifeboat and try to preserve himself.  He gives up his life for others.”

Dennis: Well, you’re going to see a little bit later on how you’re really hitting at the core of what is a real man.  I’ll give you a hint:  it is all about courage. 

Bob:  Why is it, you think, today, that we have a manhood deficit?  Why is it that men haven’t stepped up to manhood?

Dennis: Well, Bob, I’ve interacted literally with thousands of men at Promise Keepers events, at other events I’ve spoken at, and here at FamilyLife you and I have interviewed authorities on this subject. . . I really see men looking for three things today.  I think they are desperate to find them!

First of all, they want to know what it means to be a man.  What it’s all about.  And they want to know it from an authoritative source.  They’re looking for some guidance in sorting out all the confusing messages that are coming their way about the definition of manhood.

Now, if you think about it, where are we getting those illustrations?  Those examples of what a real man is, and what a real man does?  Well, the most prominent, I think, is media:  movies, television, and the internet.  We have all kinds of images being portrayed night after night on TV, and it’s usually adultery, drinking, or some kind of addiction of some kind that they’re associated with.  It is not men who are noble, men who are protecting their community, their families, and their nation.

So we have an image coming at us that says being a man is all about meeting my own needs.  It’s all about me.  It’s all about self.  The intellectual elite is another source of messages that are coming at us in the culture and what’s happening at our universities today is that we’re training young men and young women with definitions of what it means to be a man by professors whose worldview ignores God, the Scriptures, or that God designed them male and female in the first place. 

So what we have coming out of the university is that there are five sexes – not two, but five – or another message they promote is that there is a unisex. 

Bob:  Yes, just one sex.  We’re all really the same other than a few biological quirks. 

Dennis: Yes, and so here you have these messages – not coming from all universities, or all professors, certainly, but enough to brainwash a generation.

Bob:  Yes.  I was getting my haircut over the weekend. You talk about brainwashing a generation – I was sitting in the barber shop waiting for them to call out my name, and I picked up a men’s magazine.  I think this one was Men’s Health.  If I was trying to get a definition for what a man is today from Men’s Health magazine, here’s the definition I’d get:  “It’s all about how your body looks.”  And I’d be in real trouble!

Dennis: Both of us, both of us would be in trouble.


Bob:  Because I don’t have a six-pack of abs; I’ve got a keg.

That’s how that works for me.


You pick up this magazine that says, “This is what a man is.”  And it has no resemblance to any kind of biblical definition for manhood.

Dennis: If you think about it, Bob, what’s missing today is that those of us who know the Bible and who can represent it well are not stepping forward with a good, clear definition of manhood to combat the culture.

In fact, Paul contrasts your health magazine illustration of what it means to be a man in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 16, verses 13 and 14, with this:  He says, “Be on the alert.  Stand firm in the faith.  Act like men.  Be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”

Now that’s different.  That’s a contrast to what the health magazine would promote.

Bob:  Yes, in fact, if a guy’s looking for a definition for manhood, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 is a pretty good definition, isn’t it?

Dennis: It’s not bad.

Bob:  You can commit that one to memory and you’ve got some marching orders.

Dennis: I’ll tell you, every man would be wise to be on the alert, to stand firm in the faith, to be acting like a man, and be strong, and letting everything that we do be done in love.

Bob:  That’s right.

Dennis: There’s a second thing that men are looking for today, and that’s a vision for being a man.  I think there is a real loss today, Bob, of a clear, compelling vision for manhood that calls men to nobility, to sacrifice, to death to self, and to love other people.

You know, you go back to Joshua, Chapter 1, and God, through the prophet Joshua, exhorted the men of that day to fear not, but be courageous.  Three times.  To know their God, not be afraid, and to be courageous.  

Bob:  Yes, “have I not commanded you; be very strong and courageous.”

Dennis: That’s right.  And you can just sense the men bowing up and stepping up as a result of that command.

Bob:  I think all of us wonder, “Where do we get that kind of courage?  Where does it get borne into the heart of a boy?  Where does a man in his 20’s who recognizes his own fears go to get that kind of courage?”

Dennis: I believe a boy can have a chest implant.  A chest implant from his God, from his mom, from his dad, and from other significant godly men in his life.  One of the great needs, Bob, is for those who are raising sons today, whether it’s a two parent family of a mom and a dad together, or a single-parent mom raising a son, is to employ the help of friends.  Male friends to intersect with their sons’ lives and to encourage them to have a chest, to be heroic, and to step up when the situation calls for such.

You know, you were in a meeting with my son Samuel when he was a teenager.  I invited you, along with Bill Bright, and Jeff Shulte, and another friend of mine, Merle Engle, to come together for a breakfast to speak some words of truth and encouragement into my son’s life.

And this is what you did right here.  You gave him a sense of vision; a compelling vision for going away to college and for stepping up and becoming a man.

Bob:  As you’ve said, that’s what a man needs.  He needs a definition, a vision, and someone to call him to courage.  I’ve watched you do this with men, calling them to pray with their wives regularly.

Dennis: Right.

Bob:  Calling men to. . .

Dennis: To interview their daugthers’ dates.

Bob:  That’s what I was thinking of.

Those little acts that demand courage from all of us. .  .

Dennis: But they demand a man who steps up fully on the manhood step and says, “You know what?  I’m going to be the man.”

Speaking of being the man, I have a piece that I wrote to my grafted in son, otherwise known as my son-in-law – but I like to refer to him as my grafted in son, just my son – but Michael Escue is now a doctor.  I was so proud of him, obviously, after he’d married Ashley and they had gone through med school and had a child or two at the time.  I wanted to get him something upon graduation from med school that could be more than just a few kind words.  So I wrote a piece to him that I want to share a portion of with our listeners.

Bob, I kind of went out of my way to do this, because I went online and found a sword.  A bona fide, almost four foot-long sword.  I paid a hundred bucks for this sword.  It’s the real deal; it’s a King Arthur sword.  I had the sword there, and I had this piece that I had written to Michael framed.  I read it to him right before I gave him the sword. 

It was really a fascinating time as he graduated from med school to be able to read this to him, and to exhort him or - as we’ve been talking about - encourage him to be the man.  It’s entitled “Be the Man, Michael – God’s Man.”

“God made you to be the man – His man.  Michael, I appreciate you.  You are an answer to our prayers for a godly husband for Ashley.  Four years ago, you asked me for my princess’s hand in marriage.  You know the rest of the story.  You got the princess’s hand, and her family, all of her family.  A lesser man might have fainted under the load of all those relationships. 

You and I have charted some new territory together.  I’ve never grafted a new son into our family, but you have made the process painless.  I’ve been amazed at your servant spirit and your teachability.  You have eagerly helped me install a garbage disposal, and you’ve been a gracious man to listen to me when I called our family to stick together.  It takes a man to listen to another man.  Be God’s man. 

And so on this special occasion of your graduation from med school, I want to honor you with a charge and with a blessing.  When success comes your way, as it most assuredly will, don’t let its trappings cling to you.  I’ll pass along some godly advice that Bill Bright gave me when I was about your age:  ‘Wear the cloak of materialism loosely.  There is no amount of money that God won’t give to the man who doesn’t allow any of it to stick to his fingers.’  Be a funnel, Michael, not a bucket.  If you do, you’ll be the man - God’s man.

When your family lets you down and your friends don’t hold you up, resist cynicism.  Never forget that cynicism is a subtle form of disbelief.  Remember that God is always able.  Be the man - God’s man. 

When it seems that chaos at home presses in, and that satisfaction and accomplishment at work pull you out, stand firm against the lure of lesser loyalties.  Keep on loving Ashley and be a covenant-keeping, family man – God’s man.

When it’s painful to be the man, and you want to pull back, don’t.  Don’t play it safe; don’t hide.  Instead, step up.  Step forward.  Step into the pain.  If you do, you’ll be the man – God’s man.  When temptations come your way - and they will – guard your heart with diligence.  A man is never more of a man than when his heart is yielded to God and protected by His Word.  Be the man – God’s man.

When pride tempts, put self to death.  Be the man – God’s man.  When children test your patience, when children test your love, when children test your resolve, pass these tests by being the man – God’s man.  When the Rainey family is late – again – be patient with us again.  Be the man – God’s man. 

As  I close, there are eight things that God requires:  to love your God supremely, to guard your heart securely, to serve your fellow man patiently, to speak truth steadfastly, to protect your family securely, to live uprightly and resolutely, to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, and to do battle for your generation’s souls courageously.  No, Michael, you won’t ever be my son-in-law.  You have become a valued and respected son.  And so, as one who has watched you love, lead, and serve my daughter Ashley and your young family over these past four years, I bless you as a man.  I bless you as a man who is indeed God’s man.”

And then I closed with Psalm 112:1-2:  “Praise the Lord.  How blessed is the man who fears the Lord; who greatly delights in His commandments.  His descendants will be mighty on earth.  The generation of the upright will be blessed.”  (Then added) “Michael, I love you, and I’m proud to be your dad.”

I read Michael that piece, and then placed that sword in his hands.  You know it’s really interesting, Bob, although Michael isn’t my flesh and blood son, I had a real sense in which, as a younger man, that moment with him of being charged by me and blessed by me after a significant accomplishment in his life, was a really important moment for him as a man.

I think it’s a moment that needs to be replicated in the lives of a lot of young men today as we help them grow into all that God created them to be as men.

Bob:  I don’t know that a lot of men have the real understanding of how powerful their words are – their words to encourage, to exhort, to bless; to call a son or a son-in-law up.  Those are powerful, important words.  That’s a tool we as men need to put to work.

I think as guys read through the book that you’ve just completed, called Stepping Up:  A Call to Courageous Manhood, it’s going to give them a sense of what it is God is calling all of us to do and to be as men as how we can step into that role.

We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  A lot of guys are starting to pass this book along to their sons, or to other guys at the church – guys getting together and studying through the book together – and we’re getting a lot of encouraging and very positive feedback from the guys who have had a chance to read through the book.  In fact, right now, for a limited time, the book is available as an e-book.  If you want to download it as an e-book, you can go to for more information on how to download the e-book for your e-reader, or just call us at 1-800-FLTODAY and order a copy of the book Stepping Up:  A Call to Courageous Manhood, and we’ll make arrangements to get it sent to you.

By the way, our friends at Sherwood Pictures are working on a new movie.  These are the guys who made the movie Fireproof.  They have a movie that’s coming out in September called Courageous, and it’s right in line with what we’ve been talking about this week.  They have developed a four-part Bible study for men that calls us to courageous living.  That Bible study is available in a special FamilyLife edition, along with a DVD that features clips from the upcoming movie.

Go to for more information on the Courageous Bible study, or call us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY.  This may be a study that you and a group of guys want to go through this summer.  It would be great to go through with your sons.  It is available, so again, call 1-800-FLTODAY for more information or go online at

And, finally, a quick word of thanks to those of you who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today financially.  We are listener-supported; more than 65% of our annual budget is funded by folks like you who make donations to help support the ministry.  This month if you’re able to make a donation in support of FamilyLife Today, we’d like to send you a book and an audio CD that deal with the subject of how a man prays for his family.  Along with that, we’ll send some prayer cards that will give you some prompts for how you can be praying for your children throughout the day.

If you make a donation to, just type the word “PRAY” into the key code box and we’ll send you the book and the CD and the prayer cards, or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  Make a donation over the phone and ask for the material on men and prayer, and we’ll get those off to you.  We want to say “thanks” again for your financial support of the ministry.  We do appreciate your partnership here with us. 

We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow when we’re going to continue talking about what it means to be the man God has called you to be.  We hope you can join us 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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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

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