What is truth? Pontius Pilate asked that question, and it’s still being asked today. Barbara Rainey talks about Growing Together in Truth, part of a series of books designed to teach character qualities through stories.
What is truth? Pontius Pilate asked that question, and it’s still being asked today. Barbara Rainey talks about Growing Together in Truth, part of a series of books designed to teach character qualities through stories.
Bob: How old were your children when you stopped reading out loud to them?
Barbara Rainey says you need to continue reading to them even when they’re old enough to read for themselves.
Barbara: I remember reading The Hiding Place to our youngest two when they were in high school—at night before bed. It’s one of my favorite memories from their teenage years because I realized that kids may act like they’re too old to sit and listen to a story that Mom or Dad reads, but they really like it. There’s something about reading together that’s very affirming and uniting, I think.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about reading stories out loud to our children—stories that drive home that God’s Word is true. Stay tuned.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, one of those unforgettable scenes in the Scriptures is the scene where Jesus is on trial before Pontius Pilate—where He has been brought before Pilate, the Roman procurator—and charges have been made that He’s not loyal to Caesar. Pilate recognizes that this is a set-up, and he doesn’t really want to condemn Jesus. He looks for a way out. In the midst of this scene, there’s this question that gets posed by Pilate that hangs in the air. It is never resolved. The question that Pilate asks is, “What is truth?”
You read it in the Bible; and you go, “Is he just all of the sudden lapsing into some philosophical, metaphorical—is he just drifting back to his philosophy class from freshman—college?” But he is really searching for, “What’s real? What’s true?” in the midst of the most dramatic moment in all of human history.
Dennis: Yes. I was thinking back to the O.J. Simpson trial. On many occasions, just kind of watching all of the evidence fall out and you’re looking at it—you’re trying to come to grips with, “What is the truth? What is reality here?”
I think in any trial—and that’s what Pilate was involved with, a trial—he was trying to come to grips with, “What is the truth here? What’s going on? Is this man really the king of the Jews? Is he really who He claimed to be?”
Perhaps at that point, word had come to him that Jesus had claimed to be God in flesh. Perhaps that was unsettling to him. We don’t know from the Scripture—it’s not there. I think all of us are supposed to grapple with the truth.
Bob: Well, it’s the foundation on which we build everything. If you don’t have truth, then what do you build on, right?
Dennis: Right! And what we’re all about here at FamilyLife is helping you, in your life, to build your own life on the truth of Scripture; but we’re also all about helping you build your children’s lives and your grandchildren’s lives as you raise them on that same truth.
I’m thrilled that we have a very, very, very special guest.
Bob: Maybe the most special guest we have ever had on FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: For me, it is. (Laughter)
Dennis: It’s my bride of 39 years. Barbara joins us on FamilyLife Today.
Welcome back, Sweetheart.
Dennis: She’s just been working on a series of books that teach all kinds of character qualities that parents can instruct their children in. She does it by telling stories. She has already written two. One’s on gratitude; the second one is on courage. She has decided to write this third one on truth.
It’s not just merely teaching your kids to tell the truth. It’s about what you base your life on. Personally, I couldn’t be more excited about these devotionals that she has put together for families, to be able to read aloud, because if there’s ever been a time in our nation’s history when families need to return to the truth of God’s Word—the truth about God, the truth about Jesus Christ and what He came to offer people, and how they live their lives based on the truth—it’s today!
So this is designed to be able to help you, as a parent, teach your children the truth.
Bob: And these are stories, Barbara, that I guess you would want a child to be five or six? What’s the youngest that a child’s going to be able to understand the concepts that you’re dealing with in this book?
Barbara: In this particular book, probably five or six. I know the gratitude book—I had a young mom of a four-year-old read it—and she said the four-year-old got them all. I was a little bit surprised because I was thinking maybe five or six. So, it just kind of depends. I think parents need to know their own children. You might want to look over them and decide if all seven are appropriate for the ages of your children, but I would say somewhere in the five or six range and then through high school—through 18.
I want these stories to be interesting and engaging enough that a little one, who might not understand all of the concepts or everything that’s happening in the story, will still be able to pay attention because it’s an interesting and exciting story—but not boring so that your 18-year-old says, “Oh, do I have to sit and listen to this kid-story? because they’re not really kid-stories.
Bob: You know, I remember sitting down and reading with my children when they were five, or six, or seven. It was easy, and they loved it. They wanted the time. If I tried to pull out a story book to read to my kids when they were 11, 12, 13, it was kind of like, “Dad, I’m too old for this.”
Will kids in their junior high and high school years sit through a story like this?
Barbara: Oh, I think they will. You know, they might complain. They might roll their eyes; but if it’s just a part of what you’re doing as a family—they are not that long, anyway. The stories aren’t going to take you two or three minutes to read—each.
I remember reading The Hiding Place to our youngest two when they were in high school—at night before bed. It’s one of my favorite memories from their teenage years because I realized that they hadn’t heard the whole thing. So I got Corrie ten Boom’s story, and we read a chapter every night. They might have had to stay up after I read it and do some homework; but I realized when I did that, that kids may act like they’re too old to sit and listen to a story that Mom or Dad reads—
Dennis: Oh, yes; oh, yes.
Barbara: --but they really like it. There’s something comforting; there’s something wholesome; there’s something warm about reading together as a family. So if you do it around the dinner table, or if you do it at night when the kids go to bed, or if you do it in the morning before everybody runs off to school, there’s something about reading together that’s very affirming and uniting, I think.
Dennis: There’s something about a truly great story that is riveting. I mean, Barbara has seven great stories in this devotional. I’m not just talking about average-great. I’m talking about ones that will cause you to return to the dinner table night after night, after night, if you wanted to do it seven nights in a row; or if you want, to take one per week for the dinner table and read it aloud.
I mean, Bob, I’m thinking back to Dr. Jerry Sittser, a guest here on FamilyLife Today—and how he has a class for about 30 students where they get away—and there’s no electronics, there’s no email, no music. It’s kind of a miniature monastic experience for about 30 days.
Dennis: They’re favorite thing—do you remember what he said?
Barbara: I remember what he said.
Dennis: Their favorite thing was?
Barbara: Well, I’ve never forgotten it because it illustrates what we’re talking about. The favorite thing that these students spoke about again and again from that class was when he would read to them every night. It was like, “Really? College students like to be read to at night?” But they did; they loved it!
Dennis: And if you’ve got a great story that, again, really talks about tremendous human beings who took a stand when it was going to cost them something—but also when they were going to be rewarded with something as well—that’s all in here.
Barbara paints it really beautifully. I know when she shared the stories, I wanted to know the punch line. I wanted to know, “Where is this going? How is it going to end? What about this person? Who is she? Who is he? Tell me more about them.”
Bob: One of the stories in the Growing Together in Truth book is about a little girl—it’s a little girl who’s 12 years old?
Barbara: Yes. It’s about a little girl who was 11 when this situation happened with her family. I discovered this story, initially, many, many years ago. It was one of those articles we talked about yesterday. I tore it out of the magazine, and I stuck it in a file because I was so amazed at what this family went through and how they stood strong for Christ in some incredible situations.
But this is a story about a little girl named Elizabeth, and Elizabeth grew up in a country called Armenia. I didn’t even know where it was on the map. I had to go look. She grew up in a believing family—her parents both knew Christ, and they taught her and her little sister to know the Bible. She grew up in that environment.
When she turned 11, it was the beginning of World War I. When the war started, life changed forever for this little girl and her little eight-year-old sister. In their village, as the soldiers began to march through on their way to the front, some of them needed to spend the night. They stayed with her parents and demanded food. They didn’t have enough food to feed hundreds of soldiers coming through.
After a while, it began to become apparent that life was changed forever for their family. There began to be more and more pressure on her father to either join the army or to be exiled—taken away by force.
He wanted to stay with his family. He was a leader in their village, and he didn’t want to abandon his people. A friend of theirs came to their home one night and asked to speak to the father. They went off into another room, and the mother and the two little girls sat and listened and waited. When the friend left, the father came out and he said to Elizabeth, and her sister, and their mother, “Our friend came and he told me that if I would deny Christ, he would let the four of us come live with him; and we would be safe until the war was over.” But he said, “I told him that I cannot deny my Christ. No matter what happens, I will not give up Christ.”
The friend said, “Well, I just wanted to offer that to you,” and he left. That was the last they ever saw of him. A few days or weeks later (I can’t remember exactly now), the army came, and they took Elizabeth’s father. They drug him off, and they beat him severely. She found him. She was very much a tomboy—she tells—and she went off, chasing her father. Here she is 11—and she’s chasing these soldiers, who have her father, and she was not afraid—although I think she should have been.
But she went off chasing these soldiers, and she found her father, where they had left him after they had beaten him. He was lying on the ground somewhere near a ditch and was bleeding. It was apparent that he was probably not going to live. She got down on the ground next to him on her hands and knees and put her face down next to her daddy’s face, and she started talking to him.
He whispered to her and said, “Elizabeth, never give up Jesus. No matter how much they pressure you, never give up Jesus. If Christ died for us, and went through suffering for us, we can do that for Him, too. He will take care of us.” That was the last she ever heard of her father because, after that, he was taken away and he was killed, along with many of the other men who refused to join the army.
So then it was just Elizabeth, and her little sister, and their mom. They began to try to figure out what they were going to do to survive—how were they going to make it? Her mother decided that they must leave the village. So they packed up in the middle of the night and fled their village to a little bit bigger city that was nearby where they had some family. They lived with the family for a while. The mother got the two daughters and herself placed in Turkish families as servants so that they would have homes to live in and have places that were relatively safe.
Then about a month or so later, the army came back in and they did the same tactics with the adults in that city that they had in the village with her father. Her mother came to her one day and said, “My turn has come. I must choose tomorrow whether I am going to give up Christ and deny Christ and swear allegiance to Mohammed, or I’m going to be exiled.” She said, “I don’t want to leave you girls. I know that life will be hard for you as orphans, but I cannot give up Christ. I will not swear allegiance to Mohammed.” She said, “I want to tell you that your time for testing will come, too.”
She said, “Mohammed was a good man. You can learn about him; you can hear about him, but you must not worship him. Don’t ever deny Christ.” The next day she was taken with hundreds of other men, women, and teenagers—off to exile. These two little girls never saw their parents again.
When I read that story for the first time, I remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh! Would I say that to my kids? Could I say that to my kids? Would I deny Christ so that I could stay with my eight-year-old and my 11-year-old—so that they wouldn’t be orphans? I thought, “I don’t know if I could do that. I hope I would!”
But the bravery and the courage that those two parents displayed was stunning to me. As I read it, I thought, “This is a story that needs to be told—even though it happened almost 100 years ago—the faith and the courage of these two parents—because they banked their life on the truth of Scripture—they believed that Jesus was who He said He was—they believed that the Word of God was true, and it was inspired and there were no mistakes in it—they were willing to die for that. Because they lived that way, these two girls also lived that way. God protected these two girls. They ended up in an orphanage.
Elizabeth goes on in her book to tell about how she met the soldier who actually killed her father and how she told him, “First,” she said, “I was so angry I wanted to kill him. Then,” she said, “I remembered what my mother said. My mother said, ‘We must forgive because Christ forgave us.’” So she looked at him and said, “‘I must forgive you because the Christ that I belong to and the Christ that I worship forgave you. Therefore, I forgive you for killing my father.’”
She’s 11! Eleven! But that’s the power of knowing the truth in a person’s life. So, I included that story. It was one of the first stories that I found that I just thought, “I have to put this one in.” The inspiration for me, as a mother, in reading what this mom and dad did, was profound. Yet, I want these 11- and 12-year-olds today, who are living in our country, to hear what an 11- or 12-year-old is capable of. An 11- or 12-year-old can stand up for Christ. She or he can stand up for the Gospel, no matter how difficult the circumstances might be.
Dennis: As I was listening to you, Barbara, I was thinking, “Would I be that kind of father?” Like you, I would say, “I hope I would!”
Here’s a man who knew the truth and had a choice of whether to believe it and act on it. Bob, you know one of the things we’ve said here, as a part of our ministry, we believe convictions are forged where life and truth collide—where we hit circumstances, and they run up against the truth of what God has said in Scripture and what He calls us to believe, and do, and act on. Today, as never before—and I’ve been saying this repeatedly—there’s a need today for people to courageously believe the truth and obey it—to do it, not on a battleground on foreign soil, but to do it on the battleground of your home—for your marriage—for your family.
There are just some people giving up on their marriages today, and they are not believing the truth of the Bible—that God says, “For this cause a man shall leave . . . shall cleave . . . and shall become one.” It wasn’t meant to be reversed. It wasn’t meant to be torn apart. That kind of conviction around the truth of Scripture—we desperately need in our families today.
Bob: That mother who went to her kids and said, “Goodbye,”—essentially—was saying that because what she really believed was that to deny Christ was unthinkable—that God would take care of her children—that He was, in fact, going to be a better provider and protector of them than she would if she were to compromise her faith to try to stay behind.
Bob: She believed things to be true in the face of adversity. That’s where her resolute commitment to truth shines through in this story.
Bob: You, later, came across a book that had been written by this 11-year-old when she became an adult?
Barbara: Yes, that’s right. I was doing research to try to beef-up the parts of the story that I didn’t know. We just went online and found that Elizabeth, when she came to the States after she had grown up and gotten married, wrote a book telling her story. It reads like The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. I could not put it down. It is a remarkable story.
What was such a treasure was when I opened that book (because I ordered it online and it came in the mail), I took it out of the little packing container; and I flipped open the front cover—
Bob: This was a used copy of the book?
Barbara: A used copy, paperback, printed in the ‘30s—old book.
Bob: Out of print today—the book?
Barbara: Oh, I’m sure. I’m sure.
Barbara: But I opened the front cover of the book and there, inside the front cover, was her name. She had signed the book; and she said, “To the Reader: Here are some verses that got me through these really difficult years after my parents died.” She listed like 10 or 11 references—and then she wrote something at the bottom; and she signed her name, “Elizabeth Payne;” and she also signed it in Armenian underneath that.
I felt like I had been given a million dollars or something—this treasure of this life that was lived for Christ! This woman, who lost her parents, and didn’t turn on God and didn’t say, “God, where were You? Why did You abandon me?” Instead, she believed God, and she believed that she would see her parents again someday in heaven. She knew that God was in control. She knew God was sovereign. She knew He would be there for her, and she embraced that.
She lived to write this story of her life. It was like winning the lottery or something—having that book in my hands was a treasure!
Dennis: And you believe that truth does cost us, but there’s also a benefit.
Barbara: Yes, there’s a benefit. I think sometimes we look at the cost. We look at what Elizabeth had to decide and what her mother and father had to decide, but we don’t look at the reward. We don’t look at the hope. We don’t look at the benefit, on down the road. Yes, it cost her—her parents, but there will be a reward in heaven.
They believed that God would take care of their children without them. Elizabeth went on to have a very successful life—she and her sister—because they believed God.
Dennis: The passage I was thinking of were the words of Christ, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” What we, as parents, must do today with our children, and our grandchildren, is that we must train them in the truth so when life’s circumstances bump into them, they know what to do.
They are free to make the right choice and not be enslaved to sin, to foolishness—to going their own way and going against God.
Barbara: The verse that I wrote on Elizabeth’s story, in the book, comes from
Psalm 119, which is the longest psalm. It has all of these wonderful verses about the truth; but the one that I chose for her is the one that says, “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine.”
Elizabeth was wiser than her enemies because she believed in the Scripture—so did her mom and so did her dad. They survived, and God protected them because they staked their lives on the truth.
Dennis: So, the question for every parent, “How are you teaching the truth to your children?” There are three ways that you can do it—that we’re talking about here. Number one: teach them right out of the Bible. Just read the truth of the Scripture, as Barbara did, and let them sit and hear about the truth of God’s Word. Secondly, you can tell them great stories—stories like young ladies like Elizabeth and how their lives were lived, based upon the truth. Then, third (and I’ve got to believe this was one of the most powerful things in Elizabeth’s life), was that she saw—she saw the truth being lived out by her parents.
I mean, she saw her daddy give up his life for the truth, and then her mother. You know, we can’t say one thing and do another.
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: We have to be a model of that same truth with our children. We’re not going to do it perfectly, but you know what? That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask God to give us the ability and the courage to be able to do it in our own lives.
Bob: Stories like this—stories you’ve shared—spark a conversation in a family. I mean, after you’ve read a story like that, there are lots of questions. There’s lots of interaction that can go on—
Bob: --that can help you drive these truths deeper into the heart of your child.
We want to encourage our listeners to get a copy of Barbara’s brand-new book called Growing Together in Truth. This is a part of a series of Growing Together devotionals for families. The first one was Growing Together in Gratitude; the second one, Growing Together in Courage. Of course, we have those in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, as well.
Actually, this week, we are making Barbara’s new book, Growing Together in Truth, available to those of you who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation. All you have to do is go online to FamilyLifeToday.com; click where it says “Donate” up in the upper, right-hand corner. As you fill out the online donation form, write the word, “TRUTH”, in the key code box that you see on the form; and we’ll send a copy of the Growing Together in Truth devotional to you.
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and you can make a donation over the phone. Just ask for the new devotional from Barbara Rainey called Growing Together in Truth. If you’re interested in purchasing additional copies, or if you would like either of the two previous devotionals, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order from us online, or call toll-free at 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”; and we’ll arrange to get the book sent out to you.
Let me just add quickly we do appreciate those of you who are able to help with a donation. Our costs for producing and syndicating FamilyLife Today are covered by folks like you who, from time to time, will call in and make a donation to support the program. We’re really grateful for whatever you’re able to do in support of this program and just want to say, “Thanks,” for standing with us.
We want to encourage you to be back with us again tomorrow. Barbara’s going to be here, and we’re going to hear a couple more of the stories from the Growing Together in Truth devotional. So I hope you can tune in.
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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