Virgil said, "As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines." Dennis Rainey shares how that concept applies to parenting. And how the parenting principles taught him about the gospel.
Virgil said, "As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines." Dennis Rainey shares how that concept applies to parenting. And how the parenting principles taught him about the gospel.
Bob: When you think about raising your children, what’s the starting point? What’s the foundation for that endeavor? Dennis Rainey says it needs to be a healthy reverence for who God is.
Dennis: Let me tell you something—the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. It’s the beginning of wisdom. It leads to life; it leads to a clear conscience and a good night’s sleep—the Proverbs tell us. As you teach your children to fear God and recognize His authority, you get your authority to raise them from Him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 15th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. What is the starting place for parenting? Before we get to the how-tos, what needs to be our foundation? We’re going to spend time hearing from Dennis Rainey about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about being a mom and being a dad in recent days; haven’t you?
Dennis: I have—working on a book. Barbara and I are hunkering down and working on The Art of Parenting. Can’t wait until it comes out.
Bob: Yes; and as you look at how moms and dads are doing, raising the next generation, what kind of letter grade would you give them for what you’re seeing today?
Dennis: That’s a good question, Bob. I think moms and dads are challenged all the way to their socks today. I think this culture is perhaps the most challenging culture because of this little device we have in our pockets or our purses, called an iPhone® or a screen. There’s more access to our children’s lives today at earlier and earlier ages. I think a lot of parents want to do what’s right; they just don’t know exactly how to go about it. They need a proactive plan to be about.
And that’s part of why I said, “Yes,” to speaking at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Parenting Conference, back last summer, and was excited about going over there and speaking to a group of young parents. I think they’re eager to learn and want to know what the Bible has to say about raising kids.
Bob: They asked you to reflect back on your years of parenting and your years on FamilyLife Today and kind of pull out the lessons learned as you raised your children. Today, we’re going to hear Part One of the message that you shared with this audience, and there were a lot of young people taking a lot of notes as you spoke.
Dennis: There were.
In fact, our listeners, who listen to FamilyLife Today—I got a note from a listener the other day, who said, “I’ve been listening to FamilyLife Today for 30 years.” I thought, “That’s interesting, because we’ve only been on the air for 25.” [Laughter] Just made him feel like it was 30. But they complimented us and said we’d helped them navigate the waters in their generation, raising their kids. We want to continue to be there to do that for the next generation too.
Bob: Well, let’s listen to Part One of Dennis Rainey’s message on “Gospel Lessons Learned While Raising Children.”
Dennis: I collect quotes. One of my favorite quotes is by Winston Churchill, who said, “I am easily satisfied with the very best.” [Laughter] I really like that.
Here’s my favorite quote on the family—Chuck Swindoll: “Whatever else may be said about the home, it is the bottom line of life, the anvil upon which attitudes and convictions are hammered out. It is the place where life’s bills come due—the single most influential force in our earthly existence. No price tag can adequately reflect its value; no gauge can measure its ultimate influence for good or ill.
“It is at home, among family members,”—listen to this—“that we come to terms with circumstances. It is here that life makes up its mind.”
One of the great privileges of having four daughters and two sons was that I would date our daughters, and I’d take my sons hunting. When I dated my daughters, one of the things I would say to them is—I’d say, “Sweetheart, when you become a young lady and a young man comes to take you out, Daddy just wants to have a little conversation with him.” [Laughter]
They thought that was kind of cute when they were three, four, five, six, seven, [and] eight; and then, as they moved into junior high and high school, they began to doubt that idea a little bit. [Laughter] But our oldest daughter, Ashley, had a young man who asked her out on a date. She knew what was happening. Kevin came over to my office, and I knew that he liked R.C. Cola—so I had an R.C. for him.
I got out from behind my desk—I knew it was intimidating—and we went outside and walked over by his motorbike. [Laughter] We clarified he wasn’t taking that on the date. And then I began to talk to Kevin straight—I said: “You know what, Kevin? Ashley has been entrusted to me and Barbara in stewardship. God has commissioned me, to the best of my ability, to help her be innocent of evil and wise in what is good.
“I want to ask you, Kevin, as a young man who’s growing up, and as an older man to you, to help me deliver that to my daughter. I want you to know, Kevin, that because of my work, I know how young men think. You and I know that they think about sex every seven seconds.
“In fact, if the truth were known, they were lying about the other six seconds.” [Laughter]
Kevin’s eyes began to dilate a little bit at that point. So I said, “Kevin, I just want you to know, whether you go out with my daughter one time or 50 times, or whether she becomes your wife, I really want to ask you to keep your hands and your lips off my daughter. Will you do that? Shake my hand if you’ll do that.” And then I said, “And if God gives you the privilege someday of becoming a father, would you also agree that you will interview your daughter’s dates?—because this is one of the greatest privileges, to be able to talk to you, man to man.”
Well, four daughters—there was a stream of young men that came through my home. I interviewed 40 guys. [Laughter] Scratch that—39. One of them was a wimp—he passed out in the living room before he ever got to the porch, where I talked to him. [Laughter]
I had fathers who came with their sons, who wanted to listen to the interview. I had one young man, who called me up and said: “Mr. Rainey, I don’t want to date any of your daughters. I just want to be interviewed!” [Laughter] I had a father who sent a baseball bat with his son and a Sharpie® marker and said: “Would you write the questions and the points you’re making, as you interview my son, on the ball bat? I have a daughter myself, and I want to use the ball bat to read the questions off of.” [Laughter] I just have to tell you, honestly as a father—one of the greatest privileges in my life was to talk to these young men about honoring the dignity of a young lady.
They’ve asked me to speak about gospel lessons, looking back and raising children.
I want to tell you something—without realizing it, this is at the heart of the gospel. What does the gospel do? The gospel goes into the darkness, and it delivers the light. What do young people today need more than ever? They need adults moving into the darkness that pervades their lives and call them up, like Crawford was talking about. I’ll never forget what my son said one night as I was debriefing after one of these conversations—he said, “Dad, I hope—when I’m a young man and I ask a young lady out, I hope that the daddy asks to interview me; because I’ll know I’m in the right place.”
These are challenging days, as we’ve been talking about, to raise children. These are days when you have to know what you believe. I have come to give you courage. I have come to encourage you to stick to the Book.
Parenting is really hard work, but I have to show you the result of it. All six of our kids are married—twenty-three grandkids. It’s not a perfect family. We’ve had more than our share of bumps in the road—kids struggling with their faith/doubts—but it’s worth it. It’s absolutely worth it.
The Roman poet Virgil, in 30 BC, made this statement: “As the twig is bent, so the tree inclines.” I want to share with you some ways to help the tree incline in the right direction, around the gospel. This first one is really important. If we could just stop here and camp here for the entire time, it would be perfect. Let me just share this first one.
Model and pass on the truth about God and your experience of God to your children. Open your app or your Bible to Psalm 78, verse 5: “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep His commandments.” There are two key points here—passing on the truth about who God is and passing on your experience of that God—because He came to invade our souls / our lives.
Why are kids leaving the faith?
Well, they have their own choice; but one of the reasons is—I think we have taught dogma without the experience of that truth. If there has ever been a time when Christian parents needed to embrace the truth about God and the truth that He has given us to live by, it’s today. You can’t be like all of your friends, especially many of your friends you go to church with. The junior high years were like a fork in the road. The kids that our children hung around with and their parents—the junior high years begin to separate the ones who had convictions and were leading with truth and those who didn’t.
A.W. Tozer made a statement that I’m quoting with increasing rapidity these days. He said this: “The most important thing about you is what you think about God,” /
“The most important thing about you is what you think about God,” because as you rightly evaluate who God is, you will rightly evaluate who you are and what you’re up to. Therefore, the most important thing you can help your children do is to get to know the God of this Book.
I want you to picture taking your child’s hand in yours and introducing your child to Almighty God over a period of 18, 20, 25 years, as God gives you influence in your children’s lives. You’re making an introduction to Almighty God. You’re introducing Him, not merely with the truth of this Book, but also with your experience of how you’re experiencing Him in your daily life. The dinner table ought to be a time that celebrates what God did throughout the day in your life, letting your kids know that the Book is in you and living out through you——
—the God of this Book is as well. You have to train your children to begin to exercise their own faith. As you take their hand in yours, you introduce them to God; and you place their hand in His.
I was on my way—on a trip. I’d just gotten into our little Honda station wagon, which we outgrew. I noticed that our oldest daughter, Ashley—who I think, at the time, was eight or nine years of age—walked out with me to the garage. I got in the car; she put her hand on my arm and started patting. I said, “Princess, what’s up?!” She said: “Daddy, we were listening to the news the other night on the radio. I heard about this plane crash in Dallas, and I’m afraid your plane is going to crash.”
I began to explain to Ashley a few of the engineering dynamics of how a jet engine works. I could see by the look upon her face I was not connecting with her whatsoever; and then it hit me: “This is a teachable moment! Make the handoff, Dad!” I looked at Ashley—I said: “Ashley, as you know, your mom and I are trying to introduce you to God and help you depend upon Him. Ashley, it’s as though there are all these cords coming from your heart to ours. But one by one, Ashley,”—and I reached over and took her hand; I said—“You have to unplug one of those cords, and you have to plug into God and trust Him yourself.”
She looked up, she grabbed the invisible cord, and said, “But I don’t want to.” [Laughter] I reached back and I said, “But you have to.” I prayed with her for a few moments and away we went. I said: “Ashley, I can’t be upstairs in your bedroom. I’m about to leave, but God is [with you].”
I have no idea if she remembers that little conversation; but it symbolizes what you’re to do, as a parent—how to pass on the truth of God, the truth about God, and your experience of God in your life.
One of the ways you do it—it begins in this passage—it says, “He established a testimony in Jacob.” Just share your testimony of how you came to faith in Jesus Christ with your kids / with your grandkids. Don’t assume they’ve heard it. Use the dinner table as a time to report what God did / how He showed up.
And then I’d also say—as you struggle with doubt, and fear, and sin—bring them into your experience, and don’t make doubt shameful. One of the most powerful avenues in my life came about as I was struggling with my doubts.
Tom Skinner, an evangelist from the east coast / chaplain of the Washington Redskins, made a statement that had a profound impact on my life as a college junior. He said this: “I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts when, suddenly, I realized I’d better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape, and it’s a great relief.”
The home ought to be a place that’s safe to bring your struggles and we’ll talk about “How does God invade in those moments?” First thing, model and pass on the truth about God and your experience of God.
The second gospel lesson is all about the good news—how Jesus came to rescue us from the wrath of God / from hell.
As a boy, I grew up in a Southern Baptist church in southwest Missouri. On Sunday morning, that pulpit would tip; and fire and brimstone would roll out into the audience. I remember going to sleep at night being afraid that I would die before I could make a commitment to Jesus Christ, and I was going to be a crispy critter for all of eternity. Some would say that was not healthy. I want to tell you something—I think it marked me, as a young man, with a very healthy fear of God. That’s the second thing you should pass on to your children.
Pass on the fear of God / a respect for God. The night before last, I put a couple of my grandsons to bed, down in Franklin, Tennessee. My son, Samuel, said, “Would you tell them a Speck story?”
I took about 15 minutes to tell this adventure of these two Speck kids, who were off on a canoe down a stream. They ran into all kinds of dangers in this tiny Speck canoe with even tinier paddles. We ended on the edge, not knowing what was going to happen next. I said, “And your dad will help you find out tomorrow night what happened to these Speck kids.”
Then I said, “Can I pray with you boys?” They said, “Sure.” One was five; the other’s nine. I closed my eyes and I said: “Lord God, thank You for these two young boys. I pray they might know Your love and that they also might fear You,”—to which one of my grandsons stopped me in the prayer—he said: “Papa! Fear God?” I said: “Yes; that means you respect Him. You recognize who He is—He has all the authority.” Then I finished out my prayer.
We pass on the truth about God and who He is and the respect for God through all kinds of things that happen in our lives. The problem, today, is that many Christians haven’t rejected God—we’ve just reduced Him. We’re not lifting up a God who really is a God to be feared. Yes; He’s a God of love, but He’s also a God to be feared.
I love this quote by Wilbur Reese—it’s called “Three Dollars’ Worth of God.” “I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough of Him to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I want ecstasy, not transformation. I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy three dollars’ worth of God, please.”
Let me tell you something—the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. It’s the beginning of wisdom. It leads to life; it leads to a clear conscience and a good night’s sleep—the Proverbs tell us. As you teach your children to fear God and recognize His authority, you get your authority to raise them from Him.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to the first part of a message from Dennis Rainey—a message for parents. That’s an important part of parenting—is to make sure our children have a right view of who God is.
Dennis: As I talked about, at the beginning of the message, Bob—I think one of the reasons why we’re losing a generation of young people, who are graduating from high school and college and leaving the church, is because what they see us practicing, as their moms and dads in our daily lives, doesn’t match up with what we teach them from the Scriptures.
If you got any takeaway from the broadcast today, use tonight’s dinner to talk about what God’s been teaching you recently. Just talk about something He convicted you of—maybe a sin, maybe a thought, maybe a temptation—and authenticate what you’re teaching your kids by sharing with them what God’s doing in your life.
Bob: Well, and I want to encourage our listeners to go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. We have an event coming up the first part of May—it’s a movie that’s going to be in theaters—it’s called Like Arrows. It’s all about what we’ve been hearing you talk about today. It’s all about the difference it makes in a family when Jesus is at the center of what you’re doing.
I’m mentioning our website because, on our website, there’s a trailer for the movie—you can see what it’s going to look like. Again, it’s called Like Arrows. When you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, you can find out more about the movie. It’s going to be in about 800 theaters across the country for two nights only, May 1st and May 3rd.
You can buy tickets now. You can plan on taking a group / you plan on bringing folks from your church out to see the Like Arrows movie in theaters May 1st and May 3rd. Again, more information available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
This movie is the kickoff for a new video series that will be releasing in May called The Art of Parenting, which is based on the book that you and Barbara are finishing up, right now, that will be out later this year. Again, you can find out more about the movie—and if you want to find out about the small group series we’ll be releasing in May called The Art of Parenting—all the details are available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Stop by the website and forward the trailer. Send the link on to friends so that they can watch it too. We hope you’ll make plans now to join us on May 1st and May 3rd when that movie is shown in theaters across the country.
You know, these projects that we’re involved with—the parenting video series, the Like Arrows movie—
—all that we’re doing through events and resources, this daily radio program, our website—all of it has one aim in mind. We want to effectively develop godly marriages and families. We believe godly marries and families change the world, one home at a time.
And we’re grateful for those of you who partner with us—those of you who help extend the reach of this ministry. I like to say it this way—I tell folks: “We have this car that has been built. We just need help with the gas.” Every time you make a donation, you’re buying a new tank of gas so that we can take God’s design for marriages and families to more people who can hear it more regularly.
If you’re a long-time listener to FamilyLife Today, and you’ve never made a donation, today would be a great day for you to join the team and be part of the work that God is doing through this ministry. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and make a donation, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about the importance of discipline in a family—why that needs to be a priority for us, as parents. I’m not just talking about punishment—there’s a difference between punishment and discipline—we’re talking about helping your children govern their lives. We’ll hear more about that from Dennis Rainey tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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