About the Guest
Jim Elliff, talks with Dennis Rainey about leading your children to faith in Christ.
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Barbara Rainey believes that Easter can be a perfect time to teach your children about Jesus. She shares ideas of how to make Holy Week special.
Bob: For a lot of families, Easter has either become secularized/commercialized or it’s become insignificant. Barbara Rainey says that’s not how it ought to be.
Barbara: We’ve let the stores tell us that it’s about bunny rabbits, and it’s about Easter egg hunts, and it’s about candies, and all of that kind of thing. We’ve let them tell us how to celebrate the greatest event that has ever happened. My challenge to families is: “Take it back.” We can make a statement, when we celebrate Easter as a family, that this is the most important holiday of the year.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, March 19th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Have you been making much of Easter in your home? Is it something you’ve been talking about? Did you even realize it’s coming up pretty soon? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. I don’t know how many parents have stopped to think about this, but next week is a pretty good discipleship opportunity for any mom and dad with their kids; right?
Dennis: And I would say it is a great evangelistic opportunity. Bob, I just want to reach out to our listeners, right now, and just say: “There are a number of you, who are listeners, who need to be thinking about / praying about and looking for opportunities to lead your son/your daughter to faith in Jesus Christ. You need to do your job to make sure they understand what they need to know in order to have a relationship with God.
Bob: You’re not talking about getting them to simply pray a prayer or—
Dennis: No; not at all.
Bob: It’s beyond that; right?
Dennis: We ran across a quote by George Barna, who did some research within the Christian community, who said that seven out of ten Christian parents did not have as their goal the salvation of their child. Now, when I read that the first time—Barbara, you’re here. Welcome back to FamilyLife Today, by the way.
Barbara: Thanks; glad to be here.
Dennis: When you read that, what did you think?
Barbara: Well, I was shocked; first of all, because I think I was thinking in the context of the church / of the Christian community. Now, it may be that the poll was taken of an at-large population; and so it would be some believers / some not believers. But none the less, it was quite surprising to me that a relationship with God got such a low ranking as a goal for parents.
Dennis: Bob, I’m writing about this in The Art of Parenting book. You’ve just finished the work on the movie—and it [Like Arrows] will be coming out in May—and then The Art of Parenting™ video series will soon follow. This whole emphasis for parents has been brought about because we want to equip parents to know how to spiritually relate to their children and help their kids get off to a great start.
Bob: Well, and to help them understand—job one, as a parent, is the spiritual development of your kids. Everything else can go right in their life—if the spiritual part goes wrong, that’s not going to serve them. But if there are bumps along the way in every other area of life—but they’ve got a good spiritual foundation poured under them—then that will serve them well.
Barbara: There are lots of reasons why parents need to make sure that’s in place with your kids. One of the most important reasons is that you’re not always going to be there. You’re not going to be there when they go sit in school and have a child make fun of them, or they get bullied on a playground, or they go to college and they’re faced with all kinds of things. It’s not just about getting your child to pray the prayer of salvation, so he goes to heaven and doesn’t go to hell. It’s about helping him have a personal one-on-one relationship with God, who will never ever leave him and never forsake him; because you’re going to fail your child, but God won’t.
Dennis: I was about to say that I was writing about this in The Art of Parenting book, which Barbara and I are working on.
I just finished writing about the most holy privilege we have, as parents. Listen to me—when they hand you the baby after the baby’s born or you adopt a child, God has entrusted that child to you for your care. And what you do, as a parent—it’s just hit me with a fresh realism—as you take that little child’s hand in yours and, over the next 17/18 years,—if God gives that length of days to that child’s life—you put that little hand, repeatedly, in God’s and you make an introduction. It’s the most epic introduction you will ever make for your child in his existence.
Bob: Let me point our listeners to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got a series there—that would be a great series for you to download and listen to—that’s all about leading your children to Christ—a series we did, years ago, with Jim Elliff on the subject.
It’s available as a podcast. This would be great content for you to listen to together and talk about as you raise your children.
I mentioned that we’re about to enter into a week that is a significant opportunity for parents, because the week is all about the last week in the life of Jesus. And Barbara, this week of Jesus’ life is half of the book of John.
Barbara: Yes; yes.
Bob: So in John’s mind, this week is the whole story—not the whole story—but it’s the biggest part of the story.
Barbara: Well, it’s more important than the rest of his life is what he’s saying. I think what this affords us, in our families, is the natural opportunity because it is Holy Week. Palm Sunday starts on Sunday, and you’ve got the whole week to begin to have conversations with your children. It gives you the opportunity to take that child’s hand, as Dennis was just saying, and take him to Jesus. Take him to Jesus and help him see that Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
“What does that mean?”—help him understand what that means and continue to do that throughout the rest of the week. It’s such a great privilege to help your children connect with God, and Easter is a perfect opportunity to do that.
Bob: You mentioned Palm Sunday. When I was growing up, going to church, that Sunday of the year—there were a couple of hymns we always sang, and the kids always came in with palm branches—
Barbara: Yes; yes.
Bob: —and they were dressed up. There was a little parade and processional. I’m guessing a lot of churches don’t have palm branch parades the way that we did when I was a child. And it’s not that you have to bring back the old traditions, but it’s almost like we ignore the fact that it’s Palm Sunday. We rush right to Easter and get passed it and it’s over. This has become a microwave holiday rather than a slow cook holiday. [Laughter]
Barbara: There is no question about that. And it’s being co-opted by the culture. I try to be very careful about how much I talk about the culture, because it’s not the culture’s fault; it’s our fault! We’ve let it go.
We’ve let the stores tell us that it’s about bunny rabbits, and it’s about Easter egg hunts, and it’s about candies, and all of that kind of thing. We’ve let them tell us how to celebrate the greatest event that has ever happened.
My challenge to families is: “Take it back. You can take it back. We, together, can take it back. We can make a statement, when we celebrate Easter as a family / as a community—especially as a church—that this is the most important holiday of the year—far more important than Christmas.” We don’t see that in our practical application of it, because we spend so little time preparing for Easter compared to how much time we prepare for Christmas.
And yet, the opportunity is ripe for us, who know Christ, to take this holiday back and to use it as a way to engage with our family about Jesus, and who He is, and what He did, and why the resurrection is so important—it’s not just to give us eternal life—but it’s because Jesus wants to resurrect our lives on a daily basis.
He wants to resurrect your marriage / your kids’ sibling rivalry. He wants to resurrect your relationship with your parents / your siblings, as an adult. We tend to look at the resurrection as just an event. That was Jesus / that was His life, and it opened the door for us to go to heaven; but we don’t take in the knowledge that the resurrection is for us.
Dennis: You’ve been pounding the table about Easter for the past two decades at our home. If we had the same table all those years, there would be a fist print where Barbara has just been championing the message of Easter—calling our family—well, you’ve got an interesting term. You believe that followers of Christ need to become a certain kind of people.
Barbara: Oh, I do; yes—it’s “Easter people.” I think we are known for the way we celebrate Christmas, but I don’t think we’re known for the way we celebrate Easter. We don’t celebrate Easter in any way that’s all that different from people who don’t even know Christ.
Most of us kind of wake up on Palm Sunday, or maybe a few days later, and go: “Oh my; Easter’s coming up. I haven’t bought any candy for my kids’ baskets,” or “Oh my; Easter’s coming up. What are we going to wear to church on Sunday?”
Dennis: Isn’t that what it’s about?—[Laughter]—Easter baskets, and bunnies, and wearing your finest clothes to church to be seen by everybody else?
Barbara: Well, let me say—let me say—there is nothing wrong with Easter baskets and buying your kids some candy.
Bob: Okay; I’m glad to hear that because those peanut butter eggs—[Laughter]
Barbara: I know; I know. They’re really good.
Bob: I was thinking those were off the table. [Laughter]
Dennis: Bob, you just wanted to steal them—you’re just wanting to heist a few.
Barbara: And don’t you like Peeps®? Haven’t we talked about this?
Bob: I do like Peeps.
Barbara: You like Peeps too?
Bob: I’m a Peep fan; yes.
Barbara: Yes; I like Peeps. [Laughter]
Dennis: Oh my goodness—just pull out a bag of sugar and just pour it down your throat—that’s what a Peep is. [Laughter]
Barbara: It is. [Laughter]
But let me say this about the clothes—you just mentioned something about the clothes. I think we have reacted against that as if that was meaningful.
But what it is—I think when we do put on some finery, as you called it, or we dress somewhat different on Easter, we’re sending a signal—to ourselves, and our children, and those around us—that this is an amazing day. This is a day worth setting apart. The clothes aren’t magical—there’s nothing in the Bible about doing it—but I think it helps us remember that this is a day that is set apart—that is like none other in the year—and we need to look like it on the outside.
Bob: I have used a shorthand, for years, to help me just remember what the significance of this week is for my life and for all of our lives. Friday—the crucifixion is about forgiveness—it’s about the fact that sins are paid for / that the price we owe is paid. Sunday is about transformation from death to life, and then everything that follows is about hope. Forgiveness, transformation, and hope are the three words that I just keep coming back to.
And you know what? In my life, every day, I need to reflect on the reality of forgiveness because, every day, I have the reality of sin; right?
Barbara: That’s right.
Bob: I need to reflect on the reality of the transforming work that God is still doing in me: “He who began a good work…is faithful to complete it [Philippians 1:6]”; and I need to reflect on the fact I have a hope—that this life is not the end. This is not all there is but that there is a future that God has planned for us and a purpose that is ahead for us. Bill Gaither said, “I can face uncertain days because He lives.”
Barbara: Well, and Easter’s all about that future too. I don’t think we think enough about that when we think about Easter. I think we look back—we look at the cross, and we celebrate the finality of the cross—but we underestimate and don’t think about that it’s also about the future; because Jesus rose and, 40 days later, He ascended into heaven—and were going to follow him there.
I think the hope word is really good, because I think it reminds us that it’s not just about something that was done/finalized/completed but it’s about the future that we are going to have.
Bob: Well, I will say—our church, when we have our Good Friday service, we don’t sing about the resurrection—we sing about the cross—but when it gets to Easter Sunday, we sing about the resurrection; yes.
Barbara: As it should be; I agree.
Dennis: And Easter—you believe, Barbara, that one of the reasons why we’re not better at celebrating this is—it’s a little bit like you said, Barbara—the culture doesn’t help remind us that we need to do our job, as parents—who know Jesus Christ and are trying to follow Him—and use the eight days / the full eight days from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Day—to celebrate what took place in that time period.
Bob: Okay; so move from the soap box into the laboratory / the practical. So yes; we do want to make this week something significant, but what do we do?
Barbara: Well, we’ve created a very simple devotional that families can use, starting on Palm Sunday. It gives you something simple to read every day between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. What that does is—it helps you make an investment in your child’s life—it helps you point him and remind him of truth / it just gives you an opportunity to engage about the last week of Jesus’ life.
Most of us—I mean, our kids were all in school during Holy Week. That just makes it a real challenge when your kids are in school the whole week leading up to Easter. So, these are very simple, short little readings that you can read every day with your kids.
Bob: This is breakfast table or dinner table kind of things you do, and this is a downloadable devotional.
Bob: It’s available for free. Listeners can go to FamilyLifeToday.com—or go to your website, EverThineHome.com—to download the devotional. In addition to the devotional, you’re encouraging parents to get candles to be a part of this?
Barbara: I am. I’m encouraging parents—as a way to supplement the free downloadable content / the devotional you can do with your families—go buy seven inexpensive pillar candles just about anywhere. We also have downloadable labels that you put on each of the seven candles that are the seven “I am” names of Jesus from the Book of John: “I am the bread of life,” “I am the light of the world,” “I am the true vine,” “I am the door,” etc. You label each one of these seven candles with one of those seven names.
Dennis: And you use a hairdryer.
Barbara: Yes; it’s a fun little thing. We’ve got a tutorial on EverThineHome.com.
Bob: So, you label the candles with the free downloadable labels. You’ve got the devotional.
Bob: And then how do you use the candles during the week?
Barbara: Well, starting on Palm Sunday, there’s a little bitty background story to read that won’t take but 90 seconds or so. Then you would light six of the candles—not the last one.
Bob: There are seven candles.
Barbara: There’s seven candles all together. Your last one, number seven, will be “I am the resurrection and the life.”
You will light the first six candles on Palm Sunday. You will read the story about the first one, which is where Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” When you finish reading the story and have your little discussion, you’ll blow out that first candle: “I am the bread of life.”
Barbara: And then on Monday, you will light five candles instead of six.
Bob: So, eventually, you’re going to extinguish all six candles; but as a part of your devotional, you’ll blow out number one.
Barbara: Correct; yes. [Laughter] Before you get in the car and go to school and run carpool, you blow them all out.
Dennis: Yes; that’s exactly right. Burn the house down. [Laughter]
Barbara: Don’t burn the house down!
Bob: So, Monday you’d light five. At the end of the devotional, you’d blow out another one.
Barbara: Blow out the one that is that day’s name.
Bob: So, each day, it’s getting a little darker.
Barbara: That’s right; it is helping you help your children understand that, as Jesus walked to the cross, He was walking toward death. He was walking toward the day when the light of the world would be extinguished, and that happened on Good Friday. On Good Friday, you will only be lighting one candle; and then you will blow that one candle out.
On Saturday, no candles get lit. In fact, I even suggest that, if you have a piece of black cloth—or you can go buy one at some discount store—cover up all of your candles with black cloth; because, when you think about the disciples, what did the disciples feel on Saturday? They were absolutely devastated/lost/forsaken. They thought it was over. They had no idea that Jesus was going to raise from the dead. How could they? Nobody had ever done that before.
We, on the other side—we know what’s going to happen on Sunday—so it’s very easy for us to just walk by how the disciples felt on Saturday. But by not lighting a candle in your house on Saturday—and instead covering them all with black cloth—that, too, sends a signal to your children—that the light of the world was gone for a time / He was really gone—and “How might that have felt to the disciples?”
Bob: You know, we talked about forgiveness, transformation, and hope. And we kind of take hope for granted—
Barbara: We do.
Dennis: We do.
Bob: —because we expect it. The disciples had a day of complete hopelessness—
Bob: —and all of a sudden, when hope emerges out of complete hopelessness—I’m thinking—this is a bad analogy—but I’m thinking of football teams, who have been down by 30 points, going into the last quarter of a game and the comeback happens; right?
Barbara: And what do people do when the comeback happens?—in the stands / the ones who bravely stayed?
Bob: They’re explosive—[Laughter]
Bob: —with their cheer and their joy—
Bob: —because they had given up the game. They thought, “This is over”; and when the team starts coming back, it’s like “We could win.” Then, the final touchdown pass—they win the game, and people go crazy!
Well, we ought to be doing that on Easter morning; shouldn’t we?
Barbara: Absolutely; I mean, it’s one of my biggest beefs about Easter Sunday—is that we’re so blasé about it. We’re so: “Comme ci comme ca. It’s Easter Sunday. We’ll wear nice clothes. We’ll have a little bit different meal”; and then the TV goes on at 1:00 in the afternoon or whatever.
You’re absolutely right—we should be jumping, and singing, and dancing, and cheering, and lighting candles, and setting off fireworks—whatever we can think of—let balloons go; it doesn’t matter. We should be, first of all, expressing our joy, and our gratitude, and our worship that God would do this for us.
But secondly, we want people to know that we belong to the King of kings—we belong to Jesus, and He’s alive! If we don’t do something exuberant and even excessive—because we would feel like that is excessive—we don’t feel like that in a football game, but we would feel like that at church or at home. But if we don’t, then do we really appreciate what Jesus did for us? I would have to say, “Well, maybe not so much,” because we’re so used to it.
Dennis: The Apostle Paul wrote about this in 1Corinthians 15. He just visited the thought that: “What if Christ had not been raised from the dead? If He was still dead, what would that mean?”
Well, here’s what he said—I’m just going to read two of several verses—he said in verse 14: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain”—and then he points to the crowd and goes—“and your faith is in vain,”—back to hope, Bob—hopelessness: “Your faith is worthless if Christ is dead.” And then, verse 19, he says this: “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” if it’s not true.
Barbara: But it is true.
Dennis: It is true and a family ought to be a place where you really could have a little uninhibited joy.
Dennis: Like a touchdown. That’s one of my beefs too, Bob—this is the greatest comeback in history!
Barbara: That’s right; it is.
Dennis: He defeated death so that, one day, we will too. And if there’s anything we ought to be giving a standing ovation for—it is that we, at the end of our lives, aren’t going to be pitied. We’re going to be transitioning to celestial air—as Dr. Bill Bright, who is the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ®, used to say—“Don’t be sad for me. I’m going to be breathing celestial air,” he said. No one was pitying him.
Dennis: He had hoped in Christ, and he experienced the reality of that hope.
Bob: So here we go—we’ve got an opportunity for you, as a mom/as a dad, to do something that will be simple, executable but significant for your family/for your children. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and download what Barbara has put together to help make Easter more significant in your home.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. This is all free download stuff—check it out. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com.
You may want to post a link to this on social media or share it with your friends. I mean, it would be nice to get something viral going so that Easter is more significant for more families than it has been in past years. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. Download the Holy Week devotional / the candle imprints—all of those are available, online, at our website: FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now, I think that the point of all of this is—as parents, we need to be intentional in the things we’re doing. We need to make sure that the gospel is at the center of what we’re doing in raising our children. I think, for a lot of families, faith is something that’s a component of what’s going on in the home; but it’s not core.
In fact, that’s at the heart of the movie that we’re going to be releasing in theatres, coming up on May 1st and 3rd—the movie, Like Arrows. It tells the story of a family that experienced a dramatic turn around when they recognized that their faith needed to be more important than it was. If you’ve not seen the trailer for the movie, Like Arrows, it’s available on our website, now, at FamilyLifeToday.com. The movie is kind of a catalytic event to help us introduce to people a new eight-part video series we’ve created called The Art of Parenting—it features Dennis and Barbara Rainey. That’s going to be available, beginning May 1st as well.
We’ve got a burden, here, at FamilyLife® to try to get this parenting material/this content that we’ve got into the hands and hearts of people who aren’t listening to FamilyLife Today / who aren’t going to church regularly—folks who would be open to understanding God’s design for parenting, but they’re just not hearing about it.
Our goal, over the next three years, is to try and reach a million people in three language groups with this powerful parenting content. We’ve calculated that it’s going to take us about $10 per home to be able to connect with folks and share with them this content. We’re asking you: “Would help us reach more people—and especially, people who aren’t going to church right now—help us get this content to them?” You can do that by making a donation today at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
When you donate, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a set of seven prayer cards that will help you be praying more specifically and more regularly for your children, for your grandchildren, for your nieces or nephews. The prayer cards are our gift to you when you donate to support this effort to connect with more people through The Art of Parenting.
Again, donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate.
And be sure to join us back again tomorrow. We’re going to hear about Easter 2017 and how it was celebrated by the Rainey family. It was a pretty big deal. We’ll get the details 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.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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