FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Understanding Grace

with Tim Kimmel | July 26, 2004
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Today on the broadcast, Tim Kimmel, founder and executive director of Family Matters, a ministry known for its work in educating, equipping and encouraging families, encourages parents to treat their children the way God treats His children - with grace.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Today on the broadcast, Tim Kimmel, founder and executive director of Family Matters, a ministry known for its work in educating, equipping and encouraging families, encourages parents to treat their children the way God treats His children - with grace.

  • 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.

Tim Kimmel encourages parents to treat their children the way God treats His children – with grace.

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Understanding Grace

With Tim Kimmel
July 26, 2004
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Bob: Is your style of parenting grace-based?  Tim Kimmel helps us understand what he means by that concept.

Tim: Grace-based parenting is treating your children the way God treats His children.  Now, that didn't give you your definition, it just gave you your template in that we should treat our children the way God treats His.  He's dealing with us in grace, and so that means that we don't make arbitrary standards that are not backed up biblically and make them moral issues.  If we do that, we incite our kids to rebellion.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 26th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll talk today with Tim Kimmel about what grace-based parenting is and about what it isn't.  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.  Dennis?

Dennis: Bob, you consider yourself somewhat of a music expert, wouldn't that be true?

Bob: "Expert" would be a stretch.  I'm a "fan."

Dennis: "Hobbyist," then?

Bob: Yeah – hobbyist – that would be good.

Dennis: But our listeners know you to be a learned man when it comes to issues of music, hymns of the faith.

Bob: Yeah, well …

Dennis: … I just wanted to ask you how many stanzas are there to "Amazing Grace?"

Bob: Well, in most modern hymnals you'll find either four or five stanzas to "Amazing Grace," but if you dig around, like, 18 or something.  Isn't that right?

Dennis: Eighteen?

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: Well, this puts my research to shame if there's 18.

Bob: I'm just guessing here.

Dennis: Oh, are you?

Bob: Yeah.

Dennis: Okay.  So you were bluffing the whole way.

Bob: I know there are more than you'll find in most hymnals.  You'll find – John Newton, you know, wrote "Amazing Grace" …

Dennis: … right …

Bob: … and if you dig around, you'll find there are a whole bunch that we don't sing in most churches.

Dennis: Right.

Bob: But I don't know how many.

Dennis: But he wrote all those stanzas.

Bob: He wrote all of them, yes.

Dennis: That's wrong.

Bob: Oh, okay.

Dennis: That's not correct.  According to my research, there are seven stanzas to "Amazing Grace."  Now, if there's 18, which could very well be true, because I didn't stay up all night working on this.

Bob: John Newton didn't write them all?

Dennis: He did not write the mall.  In fact, the sixth stanza, they do not know who wrote it.  Now, you need to know, Bob, I did not know any of this.

Bob: You never heard the sixth stanza, right?

Dennis: Listen to this – "The earth shall soon dissolve like snow; the sun forbear to shine.  But God, who called me here below, shall be forever mine."  That's the sixth stanza and they literally do not know who wrote that stanza.

Bob: I think that was written by the same person who wrote, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony."  Don't you think?

Dennis: I'll be you're right, Bob.

Bob: That you can sing to the tune of "Amazing Grace," by the way.

Dennis: We're going in another direction, Bob.  We're going to go back to "Amazing Grace."

Bob: Okay.

Dennis: The first stanza, I just want to remind our listening audience of this song "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I'm found; was blind but now I see."

 You know, that song is one of my favorites, and I think the reason for that is because it proclaims something that all of us are trying to better understand.  And if we understand what His grace has done for us, we can better impart that grace to the next generation.

Bob: You think that the conversation about grace this week is going to be a little controversial?

Dennis: I think we may get outside the box a bit.  Our guest on FamilyLife Today is no stranger to many of our listeners.  They've heard him speak at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember, I Still Do, Rekindling the Romance, along with his wife Darcy.  Tim Kimmel joins us on FamilyLife Today.  Welcome back, Tim.

Tim: I'm glad to be with you guys, thanks.

Bob: You live outside the box, don't you?

Tim: Well, it's just that I've been following you around too much, Bob.

Dennis: Tim has written a book called "Grace-Based Parenting," and, of course, Tim is the proud pop of four children.

Tim: Yes, I am.

Dennis: Two grandchildren now …

Tim: … yes …

Dennis: … and has been married to Darcy since 1972 – just a couple of weeks longer than Barbara and me.

Bob: They got married just two Saturdays before you, is that right?

Dennis: Yeah, in August.  We got married in early September.

Tim: So if you need any pointers or anything because of the little head start we've had on you, just let us know.

Dennis: I will take all the pointers I can get.  Tim's book, though, is one that I'm looking forward to talking about, because it speaks of something that is indispensable, as parents attempt to raise the next generation – it speaks of grace.  Why is an understanding of grace important to parents, Tim?

Tim: Well, grace is what draws us all to Christ.  That's what we all resonate with as Christians.  The problem is that many times you can get inside a Christian home, and it does not reflect the grace relationship that we have with Christ.  Well, the reason it's so important, Dennis, is because if we don't make grace the theme of our home, we are contradicting, in the way we raise our kids, the very message we want them to embrace in their heart.

Bob: And that contradiction may ultimately spiritually sabotage what we're trying to do with our kids, right?

Tim: Absolutely.  It can bring the worst of out of them unwittingly, and we have some great Christian – conscientious Christian parents listening to us right now, and they want to do the best for their kids. 

 Let me define this in one statement – grace-based parenting is treating your children the way God treats His children.  Now, that didn't give you your definition, it just gave you your template in that we should treat our children the way God treats His.  He is dealing with us in grace, and so that means that we don't make arbitrary standards that are not backed up biblically and make them moral issues.  If we do that, we incite our kids to rebellion.

Dennis: Illustrate that, please.

Tim: Hair color on our sons.  Is there a biblical mandate against them changing their hair color?

Bob: Now, you bring up that illustration because you've had a little personal experience, right?

Tim: Yes, I have.

Dennis: In fact, down the hall here from the studio is a picture of Tim and his family.  It's their Christmas picture one year, and the reason we have it hanging in our halls is it's a picture of what happens when parents totally live in license.


 No, it is not a picture of that, it is a picture of …

Bob: … what happens when good parents go bad.

Dennis: We're going to rename this book before this is over.  In fact, do you know what we're going to do?  Some of our radio audience, they'd dare to look at this picture.  We're going to put it on the Web.

Tim: Okay.  Now, you realize this is a couple of years ago.  The kids have grown …

Dennis: … sure, sure, and the …

Tim: … you don't see Cody.

Dennis: We're going to tell the rest of the story later on.  The point is the picture is there because Tim and Darcy speak at our Weekend to Remember Marriage Conferences, Rekindling the Romance arena events, and we have a picture of all of our couples and their families who speak at our conferences.

Bob: And this particular picture was taken – well, how old was Cody when it was taken?

Tim: He was about 14 years old, I guess.

Bob: And what is Cody's natural hair color?

Tim: Brown.

Dennis: And what is the color in the picture?

Tim: It's kind of a burnt orange.  I don't know, it's more – I thought it was very handsome on him.  It's a great example, though, of what so many Christian parents make issues out of.

Bob: Now, tell us the whole hair story.  How did it happen?

Tim: Do you want to do that now or later?

Bob: No, tell us now?

Tim: Oh, we were on vacation – the vacation of a lifetime, the vacation you save up for for years.  We had taken our kids to Europe, and we were in Switzerland.  Darcy and the girls are in a car up front with the lady we had rendezvoused with, and we were going to stay with her for a couple of days, and we're following in a rental car.  And I said, "Look, should we get separated, we'll just pull over wherever we are, and then when you notice that we're not there, just double back and get us," because I had not figured out where we're going, I didn't have a map, I didn't have an address.  Well, sure enough, we lost them.  We're pulled over to the side of the road, and I said, "Well, kids, we may be here a while.  Boys, what do you want to talk about?"  Cody said, "Dad, I'd like to talk about me dying my hair and bleaching my hair."

 Now, here we are in the middle of Europe, in Switzerland, we'd never been there before.  We have had so many things on our agenda – I give my children a chance to set an agenda, and this is what's on the front of his mind.

Dennis: Had he walked by a shop or something?

Tim: No.  No, it was on the front side of the style.  You've got to understand that this was not on the backside.  Right now, a lot of parents hearing are saying, "What's the big deal?"  Well, it's because it's become more in vogue, even for Christian kids, but when he said it, that was back when, you know, you put it – you know, "Oh, these are kids from prison who are going to strip your car" or something like that.  You know, it was just different back then.  And it was where my teaching on grace had to kick in, and it's just like, I just sensed the Lord saying, "Now, just listen to this boy.  Listen to him."  Keep in mind, now, what is he doing?  He's asking.  What do a lot of kids do?  They just go do it, and they just come showing up at home with it – went over to their friend's house.  Because grace had given us a relationship up to that point, where he wanted to do something, but he wasn't going to move beyond permission of his parents on something that was like this – but he asked me.

 And we talked about it.  We talked about some of the reasons why some people have problems with that.  But not once could I come up with a moral reason or a biblical reason and, Dennis and Bob, I've found that people that try and come up with them – they're reading into the Bible.  We've got to be very careful on this regard that we don't read into the Bible, because that's called taking God's name in vain.  And a lot of Christian homes take God's name in vain to hold up arbitrary superficial standards that have nothing to do with the heart of God.  But we make them issues, and it stirs our kids on to anger towards God.

Bob: Now, I'm sure somewhere in the conversation you said to him, "Gee, it wouldn't be my preference that you would do this," or "I don't think you'd look your best if you did this."  Did that come up?

Tim: I said, "Here are my concerns."

Bob: Okay.

Tim: I outlined what I thought were the concerns.

Dennis: Which were?

Tim: Well, I said, "For one thing, you are in a position of ministry in the church," because he played the guitar and the bass.

Dennis: So he's up front.

Tim: He's up front.

Dennis: In front of the youth of …

Tim: … in front of the youth.

Dennis: The whole church?

Tim: Well, occasionally they'd have him over in front of the whole church, because he was that good of a musician.  And I said, "So you've got to understand that you set an example, you are a pacemaker – pacesetter – and because of that" – a pacemaker is even better, because, to a certain extent, he's like setting the beat of the spiritual heart of a lot of the kids around him who looked up to him.

Dennis: And you went on to tell him that if he did this you could be brought in front of the church to be disciplined publicly?

Tim: No, no, I did not.  I did not say that.  I knew that could happen.  I knew that could cost me because of my role, much like you guys – you're family advocates.  I knew that could cost me but, I'll tell you what, if you really want to bring the worst out of a Christian kid, make the reasons that they jump through all the hoops basically to make you look good.  And that's a great way to tick a kid off and send him into rebellion.  And we just had to work overtime, even though we're in a position, like you guys are, that people judge us by the behavior of our kids.

 And I'll tell you one – Colt, he's our youngest.  He asked permission – "Dad, can I get a Mohawk for spring break?"

Dennis: I think I saw this picture, too.

Tim: No, I don't think this one got out.  He said, "Dad, can I get a Mohawk?"  And I thought about it.  I said, "Well, it's spring break, and he's not in school."  I said we'd have to cut all your hair off at the end, you know, but, yeah, fine, if you want to have that.  He was about the same age as Cody at that time.

Dennis: Are you beginning to get the picture, Bob, that this family picture, this photograph …

Bob: … there are some hair issues.  We're talking about bad hair years for them, I'm afraid.

Dennis: Keep going.

Tim: Well, anyway, I was off speaking on the weekend, but he had called me once again and asked my permission, and I said, "Son, look, I don't care.  For the spring break, yeah, that would be fine.  I tell you what, I'm coming home, my flight's arriving Sunday evening, I'll come home, and we'll cut it when I get home."  Because at that time I was cutting the boys' hair.

 Well, he said, "Dad said I can get my Mohawk."  Well, our daughter, Shiloh, said, "Well, I can cut that for you."  And so she gave him the Mohawk Sunday afternoon.  He goes to church – he took Elmer's Glue and – the children's kind – and put it in the Mohawk to hold it up straight and went to church that night.  Now, this is Tim Kimmel's son with a Mohawk.

Bob: At the Sunday evening service.

Tim: But I want to tell you something …

Dennis: … at the Bible church.

Tim: At the Bible church, but you know what?  One thing that's neat about our church – it is a grace-based church.  They don't judge the kids by things that God doesn't judge them by.  They don't judge kids by things that don't matter.  They look at the heart, and I was so grateful because I didn't get any grief from anybody.  Some of my buddies teased me a little bit about it, but there was nothing condescending about – have you lost control of your family?  Because what they look at the Kimmel kids about is what's coming out of their heart, not what's on the outside.

Dennis: Let's go back to Switzerland.  So what happens with the orange hair?

Tim: I said to Cody, I said, "Look, I need to talk to your mom about this, and if she doesn't have a problem with this, then fine.  However, if Mom feels that she's just too uncomfortable with this, I am backing her, and I want you to just submit to that."  And he says, "Okay."  So I went and talked with Darcy, and she said, "Look, we really don't have any biblical grounds to say this is a moral issue," because it wasn't.  So she says, "I don't have a problem."

Well, it just so happened where we were staying, this lady, a wonderful lady, a friend of her mom's was there, and her daughter was there, and she is the voice, the play-by-play voice for what would be the equivalent of ESPN in Europe.  She speaks five languages, and she was a downhill racer for Switzerland's Olympic Team.  But she blew out her knee, and so she now is a commentator.  She had bleached the entire Switzerland soccer team's hair, and she had blond hair herself.  So she says, "I've got all the stuff.  We can do it tonight."  And we made a big deal.  We took pictures of it, and we all gathered around and watched him get his hair colored and, I'll tell you, we went parasailing off of one of the mountains there, and Cody took off ahead of me, and then I – and this is when you're tethered to somebody else that actually knows what they're doing.

Dennis: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that.

Tim: We're not up to speed on it, yeah.  He took off, and then I went off last, and we're gliding down over this little village, and we're up there suspended, and I looked over at my son, and I saw these little blond locks coming out from underneath his helmet and, I want to tell you, I was just so grateful – just so grateful to God for him, because he's a wonderful boy who loves Jesus with all of his heart, and he cares about his parents, he honors his siblings, he wants to be the light of the world, and I just said, "Great, go for it."  He's fine.  And he's had a fabulous life in ministry as a teenager, and that has not been an obstacle to him.

Bob: Some parents facing the options that you faced would be concerned that what's reflected in the heart of a young man who wants to bleach his hair is counter-culturalism, rebellion, "I want to hang with a different crowd than I'm hanging with" – they'd be afraid that it's symptomatic of something more significant.

Tim: That's exactly right.

Dennis: Not just a fashion statement.

Bob: Right.  I address that in a chapter in the book "Grace-Based Parenting," because here is something we need to understand – suppose it truly is reflecting an uneasiness or a rebellion in their heart.  Does it make sense to fight the symptom or does it make better sense to address the cause?  It would be much like if you had some kid that went total Gothic, you know, and they're wearing black, and they have everything – zippers in their nose and Velcro in their face, and they're just gone totally – they've just lost control.  You can fight each one of those things, but if it's reflecting a problem in their heart, it's much like a fever.  When we get fevers, you don't go to the doctor and say, "Give me something to get rid of my fever."  Because the fever reflects an infection, he says, "No, no, no, let's find where the infection is.  Let's treat the infection; the fever will go away."  And, by the way, Cody's hair is brown now, and he's kept it brown for a couple of years now, because – well, he was – he just got it all out of his system, and it did no harm.  It meant nothing and, see, I'm so glad that we didn't make the mistake that it's so easy to spiritualize this thing and make a moral issue out of it that wasn't there, it isn't there.

Dennis: Tim, what percent of Christian families are really grace-based parents?

Tim: To put a percentage on it would be hard, but I would love to quantify that.  But, I want to tell you, it's the minority.  You see, you can be a sold-out, vibrant Christian parent and not realize that your kids are embracing the faith through a legalistic framework.  It's like this – you see, I get up and go to church because I love church, and I can't wait to get there.  Why do our kids get up and go to church?  Well, because they have to.  I read my Bible every day because I love God's Word.  Why do our kids do it?  Well, because we either read it with them, to them, or we require them to read it.  I memorize Scripture.  They may, too, but it might be more to meet a requirement at their school or because we told them to.  I don't use profanity.  Why?  I don't want to dishonor God that way.  Why don't they use profanity?  Because they know they'd get in trouble if they did.

 You see, they're doing the exact same things we are doing, and they may get joy out of them, but our reasons for doing it has to do with a relationship at the heart level, and theirs may be much more at the head level and configured by their family.  So that's how legalism can happen in kids, where the parents are really sold out, and that's why a lot of sold-out Christian parents would never think that their home is creating a legalistic framework.

Bob: And there is nothing wrong, when your kids are young, with involving them in those disciplines, even when it's not in their heart, necessarily, to do those things.

Tim: Well, I'm glad you mentioned that, because I'm not saying that we shouldn't make our kids go to church or watch their language or any of that stuff – of course, we should, and that's how I think I developed my love for church.  It was just a habit as a kid, because I didn't really embrace Christ personally, deep down in my heart, until I was in my junior year of high school.  But I was in church the Sunday after I was born – every Sunday.

Dennis: You know, you're bringing up a subject here that is anchored throughout the Scriptures.  In fact, one of my favorite verses that Barbara and I absolutely embraced and clung to as we raised our children is John, chapter 1, verse 14 – and it's speaking of Jesus here – "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.  Glory as of the only Begotten from the Father."  Now, listen to this next phrase – "Full of grace and truth, God chose to manifest Himself to us through the Lord Jesus Christ" and chose to describe Him with these two incredible word – grace and truth.  And for Barbara and me, it was the tension of truth and grace held against one another so that we didn't drop our boundaries, we had standards, we had convictions based upon the Scripture, but we also had the relational component, the love, the forgiveness, the mercy, the compassion to pick a child up when he or she had failed and to help them learn through their failures.

 I think what we want to do over the next few days here on FamilyLife Today is help individuals, whether single, married, or parent – help individuals understand what grace is, first of all.  But then equip you to know how to express that grace to another human being, specifically your children as you raise them.

Bob: Tim's book is an asset in that regard.  It's called "Grace-Based Parenting," and it may challenge some of your parenting paradigms, but there is nothing wrong with a little challenge.  It's good to sharpen iron from time to time and to test these things and hold them up to the Word and say where it is it falls short, where have my standards been extra biblical.

Dennis: He's got a real interesting section on tattoos we're going to talk about later on.

Tim: Oh, no.

Bob: If you'd like to get a copy of the book, "Grace-Based Parenting," contact us here at FamilyLife at 1-800-FLTODAY or go online at  It's available either in book form or as an audio book, and we have both of them in our FamilyLife Resource Center.  Tim has also written a book called, "Little House on the Freeway," that's a classic about the issue of busy-ness we face as families, and anybody who wants to get your current book, along with "Little House on the Freeway," we're going to include, at no additional cost, either CDs or cassettes of our week-long visit with Tim Kimmel.  The toll-free number, again, to call is 1-800-FLTODAY or you can get more information about all our resources available from us here at FamilyLife when you go to our website at

 I don't know who it was that wrote the music to "Summertime and the Livin' Is Easy," but if things at your house are like things at my house, things don't get a whole lot easier in the summer.  We've got kids going in different directions – there's summer camp, there's swimming, there's family vacation – and there's a lot going on here at FamilyLife as well.  We've got our Rekindling the Romance one-day conferences for couples starting up next month; we've got some FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conferences continuing through the summer.

We are committed to effectively developing godly families who change the world one home at a time, and that mission takes no vacation.  We stay at it all summer long, and we appreciate those of you who this summer have contacted us and made a donation to FamilyLife.  Those donations, throughout the summer months, are strategically important.  In fact, they're critically important, as most of the time during the summer, we hear from fewer of our listeners than we do the rest of the year.

So thanks to those of you who have contacted us and made a donation over the summer.  We appreciate it, and we're glad to hear from you.  When you contact us, if you'd like to make a donation to FamilyLife Today, you can do it online at  You can give us a call at 1-800-FLTODAY or you can write a check and mail it to us, and if you need the mailing address, just get in touch with us, and someone on the team can pass it along to you.

Well, tomorrow Tim Kimmel is going to be back with us, and we're going to talk about how parenting can be fun instead of fearful and what's the key ingredient to make that happen.  I hope all of you can be back with us 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'll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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