Valuing Real Family Values
About the Guest
If a tiny mustard seed of faith can move mountains, just think of what it can do for your family! Join us for the broadcast when Dennis Rainey, author of Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, talks about the benefits of a prayerful life.
Dennis Rainey talks about the benefits of a prayerful life.
Valuing Real Family Values
Dennis: If you want to know what the will of God is, if you want to prove what the will of God is, if you want to experience what Romans 12:1-2 is talking about, that which is good, acceptable and perfect, then that means you must not be conformed to the world. You must be transformed by the Scripture by the renewing of your mind according to what the Bible has to say.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 3rd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Is your family conforming or is it being transformed? Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We're talking this week about something that our listeners have told us over the years, Dennis, is the top priority they have. It's the number-one thing that's on their agenda, and that is they want a marriage and a family relationship that is rooted spiritually. They want a spiritually strong family.
Dennis: And I believe what we're doing every day on FamilyLife Today is coming to you with practical biblical principles to help you, as a listener, do just that – to grow spiritually. You do that by knowing God's Word, by applying God's Word, by experiencing the benefits of having been obedient to what He's said. Then you begin to embrace it where it becomes a conviction and, finally, you proclaim it to others. And it's at that point, when we proclaim it to another person, I think that we really begin to grow rapidly, and that's why one of the encouraging things that I love to hear is when I need a radio listener.
He said, "You know, my wife and I came to one of your Weekend to Remember conferences, I Still Do, we started leading a Homebuilders Bible study, and we have really, really grown."
Bob: We've talked about the foundation of God's Word and about prayer, how important both of those are to the spiritual growth of a couple and of a family. One of the naïve assumptions that many of us began marriage with was the idea that because both of us had a common faith, a common conviction, about the lordship of Christ in our lives that would be sufficient to make sure that our marriage and our family was firmly rooted, and we would avoid a lot of the problems other families faced because we both had a common commitment to Christ.
You and Barbara started with that common commitment to Christ but, like the rest of us, you found out that doesn't answer all of the questions immediately, does it?
Dennis: I really like the word you used there – "naïve." We get married, we're making all these assumptions that because we both come from backgrounds that have some degree of religion influencing us, therefore we are, together, going to know to grow spiritually as a couple. I want to tell you something, it's a setup. I'm telling you, it's a setup, and that's why the divorce rate and the church is higher than the culture, because we think because we grew up in the church, we're insulated against the world's system. We're not.
Bob: You and Barbara have written a book called "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," where you talk about the need for us to come together around our values, around our priorities, around our mission as a family. And I guess that all begins, not with what you do as a couple, but it begins by taking that worldly thinking that you've been talking about and recognizing it in your own life and starting to make some changes, right?
Dennis: I don't believe that a couple can grow spiritually until they, as individuals, have come to the fork in the road where they have chosen God instead of self; where they've chosen the Scriptures and not the world's plan. And, for me, that fork in the road came between my sophomore and junior year in college. One of my favorite verses that I think really anchors this discussion today is Romans, chapter 12, verse 1 and 2, and I want to read it all, and then I want to tell you a story just about how I came to my own conviction here.
Paul writes, "I urge you" – you can almost feel the passion in his voice – "I urge you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is; that which is good and acceptable and perfect." And, for me, that summer between my sophomore and junior year, I came to a fork in the road where I had to decide – was I going to live according to the flesh, was I going to continue to straddle the fence as a man created in God's image, or was I going to begin to base my life upon what the Scriptures said and commit my heart, my life, and my path to that of God and to the person of Jesus Christ and become a disciple and a follower of Jesus.
Now, I want to tell you, you're never going to have a spiritually strong family until you, first – forget your spouse, okay – the easiest thing to do is to point your finger at – "But what about him?"
Bob: "If she was doing what she needed to do, we'd be really in good shape."
Dennis: That's exactly right. It's his fault. You know, it must begin with you. Are you totally committed to Jesus Christ? Have you surrendered to His lordship, have you said to Him, "I want You not merely to be my Savior, but I want You to be my Master. I am going to follow you. I will be a learner from you." I want to make Jesus Christ the focal point of my life. I want Him to teach me how to live. I want to learn from Him daily. I want to find out how to love. I want to find out how to live. And the only way you're going to do that is to turn from the world to Jesus Christ and make a personal surrender and personal commitment to the God of the Universe who wrapped Himself in flesh and became a man, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life, died on a cross and rose again on the third day so that He might live in us.
And, Bob, it's His life – Jesus living in us that give us the power to begin to grow spiritually.
Bob: You talk about this time between your sophomore and your junior year in college when you came to that realization – that you needed to be a wholly committed follower of Christ. Barbara had that same kind of an experience during college where she became a fully committed follower of Christ. So by the time the two of you got married, you were both fully desiring to do God's work and God's will. In fact, you got married with the intent of being involved in ministry together. You were both on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ at the time and planned to continue in that regard.
Dennis: But, Bob, that doesn't guarantee – that does not guarantee that you're both going to be growing spiritually together.
Unless a couple sits down, I believe, and decides on the goal of their marriage – yes, we want to have a goal of growing spiritually together both as a couple and as a family.
I am reminded of a philosopher I've quoted many times here on FamilyLife Today. He was a 1st century Roman philosopher by the name of Seneca. He said "You must know for which harbor you are headed if you are to catch the right wind to take you there."
Now, for a married couple, you have to decide if you're going to sail towards the same harbor, because if you set up your rudder and your sails to go to two different harbors, you both can be tracking spiritually as a part of your lives, but it will not become the foundation, the strength, and the source of growth and joy that God designed it to be.
Bob: When was it in marriage that you realized that maybe you and Barbara had different harbors in sight for some area of your marriage – when you looked at each other and said, "I'm not sure we agree on this."
Dennis: Well, one of the stories we tell in the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," is how Barbara got really ticked off at me. I had come up with this list, notice the capital "I." I had come up with this list of 25 values that we were going to have as a couple. Now, do you hear the contradiction?
Bob: Uh-huh, "My list of our values."
Dennis: That's right.
Bob: I got you.
Dennis: MY list of our values. Well, when I presented that to Barbara, I didn't get instant buy-in.
Bob: You're saying there was a little push-back on those values?
Dennis: I'm saying it made her angry, it really did. Now, here we're arguing about spiritual values.
Bob: Were you on a date night together, and you pulled this out or do you remember?
Dennis: I don't remember, but I do know Barbara writes about it in the book, and she wrote basically this, she said, "When he pulls out these 25 values, and I realize I've had no say in it, all of a sudden I realized they're not our values." And one of the things a couple needs to do early on in their marriage or, for that matter, at any point in their marriage, is to decide what your harbors are. Where are you headed as a couple?
Bob: And decide that together is what you're saying.
Dennis: That's right. And so what we did on a weekend getaway, we sat down with a fresh sheet of paper that didn't have any of my values.
Bob: Clean, nothing written on it.
Dennis: That's exactly right. And she got off in one corner, and I in another, and we spent a couple of hours, separate from one another, writing out what we believed our top 10 values should be.
Bob: Now, let me stop you right here, because there are a lot of folks who are going, "I don't understand what you're talking about – your list of 25 values." What kinds of things were on that list that you were saying were values for you?
Dennis: Well, one thing, The Book right here, the Bible. We're going to live by The Book, we're going to be in The Book, we're going to talk about The Book, we're going to draw our life from this Book, we're going to make our decisions according to this Book.
Dennis: Another one would be to learn the fear of God, which comes from The Book. Total surrender to Jesus Christ, that He owns everything we have today, He owns everything we'll have tomorrow, He is the author of life, and we're going to submit to Him and His lordship. We will be obedient to what He has called us to do.
Bob: But there were some value clashes between the two of you. I've heard you talk about this before, and you've said that Barbara had, as a high value, teaching kids the work ethic, and that didn't even show up on your piece of paper.
Dennis: I didn't have that as one of my top 10. In fact, one of the things she didn't have in her top 10 that I had on mine was teaching our children how to build a relationship with another person. Now, as Barbara looked at her list, and she thought about work, she thought, "How can he not have work on his list?" I mean, work is a part of the main responsibility of life. I'm sitting there looking at her list and go, "I am not believing. She didn't have the value of relationships." I mean, what is life if it's not relationships?
Dennis: So here you have a task-oriented person, Barbara – married to a relationship-oriented person, me – and our values are clashing. And I don't remember the discussion, but I do remember, after we spent two hours separate from one another, we then had a very stimulating discussion together as we took our list of now 20 values, some of which were the same, but we began to hammer out a top 5 list together that we had to own together and, interestingly enough, Bob, "work" showed up on that top 5 and so did teaching our children how to build a relationship, as well. So you have us owning a set of values together as a couple.
Bob: Well, here is a great illustration that you've given us of how two committed Christian people can walk into marriage thinking that because they're both committed to Christ, they're going to agree on almost everything. And yet Barbara's orientation toward teaching your kids the work ethic, that's a great, noble goal. Your orientation toward teaching them how to build a stronger relationship, that's an equally noble goal.
Now it comes to Saturday and how you're going to spend your Saturday, and the work-oriented person is saying, "This is a great day for the kids to learn how to work in the yard, get the chores done. The value of hard work – they're going to experience that today." And the other person is thinking, "Boy, Saturday, the sun is out, a great day to go out, and we'll have a cookout, we'll play some baseball together. We'll build memories, we'll build relationship, it will be great." Two people committed to the same God, the same ideas, who have not settled these values can wind up in conflict.
Dennis: Were you at our house on some Saturdays, Bob? Because that's exactly what happened, I mean, seriously. First of all, you have to be committed to Jesus Christ, because if you haven't made that decision at the fork in the road, all the value stuff is just about the world, anyway. Secondly, you have to clarify your goal together as a couple but, third, you have to resolve to live according to your values, and that means you live together according to those values.
So, in some regards, Bob, we learned how to play on Saturday and how to have fun as we worked. Now, that may sound like a copout, but we would work until noon, and we'd play in the afternoon, and there were compromises made and tradeoffs between Barbara and me, but we both saw where the conflict came from – a different set of values – but one that we owned together as a couple. And as a result I think there was a greater degree of growth spiritually in our lives and also in our children's lives. Because what are doing but we're teaching our children to know God, we're teaching them to love God, to obey God, and to honor God. And relationships are a part of that, work is a part of that, and you're instructing your children about God as you go through life. You're not just going through life living a materialistic lifestyle, a lifestyle according to the culture. You're living your life according to the Scriptures.
Bob: There are some couples who might sit down tonight or this weekend and say, "You know, I heard Dennis talk about how he and Barbara got together on their values, but I don't know where to start." I mean, we'd write down on our list of values, the Bible is a value, and church is a value, and prayer. And then they wouldn't know where to go beyond that in terms of determining. They wouldn't even think of teaching kids to build a relationship as one of their values. How do you start something like this?
Dennis: Well, I'll tell you what we'll do, Bob, we'll actually put a project on our website, FamilyLife.com, and if you don't go online, you can call our 800 number, and we'll figure out how to get you a copy of this. But basically what a couple needs to do is decide what they individually believe in and what they're passionate about and what they hold of closest value.
And then, Bob, I think they've got to hold it up against what they know the Bible teaches. Because if it's just what I value and not what God values, I think we're falling back into that conformity according to the world. So we have to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, which means make sure your values are the biblical values.
For instance, I believe God values family above our work. I don't think he would ask us to permanently sacrifice our family for our jobs. Beyond that, we list a number, and I mean there's a number of core values that people can hold to individually and as a couple. There are spiritual values about who God is and teaching faith to your children, prayer, as you mentioned, a humble heart, the fear of God, forgiving another person. There's a whole list of relational values you can check out on the Internet, and there's moral values, lifestyle values – now, that's a big one – how you spend your time each day. That's a statement of your values.
There are personal, developmental values – and, by the way, these are really good especially for families who can look out to the horizon and in the not-too-distant future see the reality that we're going to be empty nesters someday, and so you men need to be developing your wives spiritually, and their personal gifts, and their abilities, and their contributions, because when the children are gone, and their focus is freed up, they need someone to be on their team helping them dream dreams and look out to the horizon and think about goals, perhaps even goals for you as a couple to share in ministry together. Like the value of leading a Homebuilders group together.
Bob: And, you know, a lot of couples this time of year start looking toward September and the start of the school year, and they start thinking about some disciplines they want to build into their family and into their routine, and it's a great time to think about starting a Homebuilders group for the fall.
In fact, this month we have our Homebuilders guides, our resources, available at a discounted price. If our listeners want to go to our website, FamilyLife.com, they can review the list of Homebuilders resources that are available. There is information on our website about how to start a group like this and, again, if you order during the month of August, you'll save on the regular cost of these Homebuilder study guides.
Our website is FamilyLife.com, and when you go there, if you click the "Go" button in the middle of the screen, it will take you to a page where you can get more information not only about Homebuilders but about your book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," that we've been talking about this week. It's a book that is easy to read. In fact, you can read it in about an hour, and yet it is packed full of the biblical basics for a family that wants to be rooted and grounded in the Scriptures; a family that is pursuing a "Godward" direction for your marriage and for your family. It's a great book to read together, to discuss together as a couple; make sure that you are headed to the same harbor; that you're working off the same set of blueprints, and you can request a copy when you go online at FamilyLife.com and click that "Go" button in the middle of the screen. There's information on how to order a variety of resources, again, on our website at FamilyLife.com or call 1-800-FLTODAY, and you can request more information about these resources and order them over the phone, if you'd like. Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
When you do get in touch with us, someone may ask if you are interested in making a donation to FamilyLife Today, and the reason for that is because we are listener-supported, and those donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in cities all across the country. So when folks like you are able to make a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, you're really investing in the ongoing ministry of this radio program and the other outreaches of FamilyLife. You're helping us help you build a spiritually strong family, and you're helping us reach your friends and neighbors in your community as well.
This month, if you are able to help with a donation of any amount, we'd like to send you a thank you gift. It's a CD that features a conversation that we had several months ago with Beth Moore, who is the author of a number of Bible studies that women's groups have done all around the country. We talked with Beth about her own marriage and her family. She was very transparent, and it was a delightful interview. In fact, I was just afraid she'd had too much coffee that day when she came into the studio.
If you would like to hear that conversation with Beth Moore, you can request the CD this month when you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You can donate online at FamilyLife.com, and if you do, as you fill out the donation form, when you come to the keycode box, type in the word "free" and that way we'll know you want the Beth Moore CD. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329. Someone on our team will make sure that you get the Beth Moore CD sent out to you and, again, thanks for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Dennis?
Dennis: Bob, there is one additional thing about growing a spiritually strong family that I am personally discovering, and this is a fresh discovery for Barbara and me. As the children begin to grow up and out of your home, and they begin to live out the values you've imparted to them, there's a couple of important principles I want to challenge you parents with. Number one, give your children freedom in their new marriages and families to have different values than you have. Don’t become a meddling in-law or a meddling parent. Give your children freedom to have different values. Even freedom at points to have wrong values and not feel like you've got to step in and be the parent. And I want to tell you, Bob, that's difficult.
Bob: You're saying this is something that you're learning even now?
Dennis: I'm telling you, you have to give them the freedom. You pray for them, but the second thing you do is without becoming a parent again in authority, you lead by influence, and you lead by constantly calling them up to live lives according to the biblical standard.
You never stop being your children's parent. And so, as a daddy, you need to realize you have tremendous influence and power in your children's lives if you will use it sparingly, and you'll use it strategically. It doesn't mean you can get off on all these lectures all the time. I gave my children enough lectures for a couple of lifetimes. But it means that as they become adults, there is an occasion when you'll seize the opportunity once again to put your arm around your adult son, your adult daughter, and affirm their values, as I did with Ashley the other day. I said, "Ashley, you are a great mom. You're a great wife. Making those meals and going down to the med school and meeting your husband down there is a statement that you are a great wife and a mom."
And then occasionally putting your arm around them and saying, "You know, I want to exhort you to love and good deeds." And it's not so much corrective, Bob, as it is an implanting of those values for their generation that you are calling them to continue to grow spiritually and keep their priorities in order.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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