About the Guest
What would you do if you could do life all over again? Seasoned communicator Jon Gauger posed that question to some top Christian leaders to find out how they handled life's regret. Bible teacher Kay Arthur, Pastor Michael Easley, Christian recording artist Michael Card and others tell what they would do differently knowing what they know today.
Jon GaugerJon Gauger hosts several nationally syndicated programs for Moody Radio and is an award-winning narrator of more than 45 audio books. As a journalist and speaker, he has traveled to 35 countries. From Billy Graham to Chuck Norris, Jon is never more at home than when hosting an interview. An ordained minister, Jon is an avid photographer and videographer. He is married to Diana, a gifted teacher--and Jon's favorite editor. The couple enjoys camping (trailers, not tents), reading, travel, and grea...more
What would you do if you could do life all over again? Jon Gauger posed that question to some top Christian leaders: Kay Arthur, Michael Easley, Michael Card, and others.
Bob: You’re familiar with the popular question that asks, “If you could have dinner with anybody you’d want, who would you include at the table?” Well, author, Jon Gauger, decided he would do his own variation of that intimate dinner party.
Jon: We talked to about 28 or 29 fairly well-known Christian leaders—and began asking myself, before it ever started: “I wonder about these people—whose sermons we hear on the radio, whose books we read, whose music we listen to—‘Do they have the same struggles that I have? Do they have the same regrets? Did they make the same kind of mistakes? And what do they do with those?’” I think anybody, who’s honest, has got regrets—I’ve got mine—but what do we do with those, as followers of Jesus? What do we do with them?
This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Today, all of us get to imagine that we're at Jon Gauger’s dinner party.
We'll get to hear how Christian leaders he talked to answered some pretty interesting questions. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, the great thing about my job is that I don't have to have any answers. I just have to ask good questions. That's all I have to do—find smart people and ask good questions.
Dennis: And any listener who’s listened to this broadcast knows that is not true. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, you know this—
Dennis: You do enjoy asking a great question, but you also enjoy asking the question and answering it yourself. [Laughter]
Bob: I don't mind doing that. [Laughter] You have found—and I've learned this from you—you and Barbara wrote a book, years ago, called The Good Questions Book. You have found there is great power in the right question.
Dennis: Yes; Howard Hendricks, who was a mentor of mine, described great questions as crowbars that could dislodge great memories / profound statements from the human heart.
Yes; I like having a dinner table meeting and just tossing out a question like this that I'm going to ask our guest, even before I introduce him.
Bob: You're going to ask him a tough question?
Dennis: I'm going to ask him my favorite question.
Dennis: Some of our listeners already know what that is. So, Jon, out of everything you've done in all your life, what would you say is the most courageous thing you have ever done?
Jon: You know, I would say that God has placed in my heart a care for lost people. I think about them / they weigh on my heart—this is just the way God has built me. I've had some great mentors. Having said that though, I have to confess that a number of times, when I have tried to—step up/reach out—share my faith verbally with someone, that has taken courage, especially in a number of different situations.
It continues to take courage, but I think God has called me to that.
Dennis: You know, that is interesting that you answered that way. You are in good company—the Commander of the International Space Station, who was interviewed here, on FamilyLife Today, Commander Butch Wilmore, was asked the same question. Now, here's a guy who has strapped on a rocket, and who knows how many hundreds of tons of solid fuel, and been slung into outer space.
Bob: He's gone faster than the three of us combined have ever gone.
Dennis: He's had like 700 landings on aircraft carriers; okay? His answer was the same as yours—was: “Sharing my faith in Jesus Christ with another person.”
Bob: I think you may want to save Dennis' question for Volume Two of your book. [Laughter]
Marty: That's right. We didn’t get to Dennis. [Laughter]
Bob: You just finished work on a book, where you took a bunch of great questions and sat down with a bunch of well-known people.
You had the opportunity to just ask them some of your favorite questions; right?
Jon: Yes; about 28/29 reasonably well-known Christian leaders—and began asking myself, before it ever started: “I wonder about these people—whose sermons we hear on the radio, whose books we read, whose music we listen to: ‘Do they have the same struggles that I have? Do they have the same regrets? Did they make the same kind of mistakes?’ and ‘What do they do with those?’” And that kind of spawned the idea of this little book, If I Could Do it All Over Again.
Dennis: Well, some of our listeners recognized Jon Gauger’s voice, who is heard on Moody Radio on a regular basis. He and his wife Diana have been married since 1983. They have two adult children and five grandchildren.
Out of all these questions that you asked, I'm going to ask you one.
Jon: Alright; go for it.
Bob: What's your favorite question?
Jon: Without a doubt, the reason to read this book is the chapter called “WhatDo I Do with My Regrets?”
I think anybody, who is honest, has got regrets. I've got mine, you know; but what do we do with those, as followers of Jesus? What do we do with them?
Bob: You asked three regret-related questions in the book. You started with “What is something you regret?” And then you asked, “Why is it we can't do better?” And then, “What do we do with our regret?
Let's start at the beginning, with the things that people regretted. One of the people that you talked to was Steve Brown—
Bob: —who is heard on Key Life radio—pastor / seminary prof in Florida. You asked him for his regret. Actually, with all of these, you taped the answers.
Bob: Let's hear what Steve Brown said is his greatest regret.
Steve Brown: [Recording] Oh, there are so many things that I wish I had done differently. I wish I had loved more. I wish I hadn't been so angry.
I wish I had been kinder and more merciful. But that's all forgiven / it's all covered—I'm clothed in the righteousness of Christ. If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn't even do it any better.
Bob: You know, Steve Brown is going to get to grace pretty quickly. I mean, he'll talk about regrets; but he's going to make a beeline straight to grace anytime he gets a question like that.
You asked the same question of Kay Arthur, from Precept Ministry. Here is what she shared.
Kay: [Recording] First of all, you’re talking to a woman that was religious, that was married, that was divorced, that was immoral, and that was saved. You're talking to a woman—and I'd just be very blunt about it—her son saw her be immoral / I mean, my oldest son. You're talking to a woman that has dealt with a lot of pain. But you know, one of the things that I've learned is—I’m not to live with "If onlys.”
I cannot change the past, but I can change the future.
I cannot recover anything from the past / God can redeem it. My job is to know my God. I would tell those people: “You know, if you are putting your head on the pillow, and living with those doubts, and you haven’t been in the Word of God—I'm not talking about a verse from a devotional—I'm talking about knowing / I mean, knowing the Old Testament / knowing God. Paul says, ‘Forgetting those things that are behind, I press forward toward the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus.’”
Dennis: Jon, if that's your favorite question, what is your favorite answer? Which one gave the answer that you just resonated with the most?
Jon: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth said, "We have to preach the gospel to ourselves.” She says, “In the end, the sum total of my life will be Jesus Christ and His righteousness.”
That just lifted such a huge burden off of me—this idea of trying to be more, and do more, and sin less and love more, and….—Jesus Christ and His righteousness—that's the sum total of my life.
Bob: You asked two people. You asked Michael W. Smith and Pastor Michael Easley, the former President of Moody Bible Institute, you asked them both about regrets from their past, and their answers were similar.
Michael: [Recording] Yes; probably the drugs. I've written books about it—so it’s no secret, you know. From ‘75 to ‘79—just fell off the cliff. I am very fortunate that I didn't die—just stupid / just bad, bad choices. I look back on it, and it is sort of surreal; because it’s not who I am / that's not what I was destined to be. I got caught in a trap, and it almost cost me my life; you know? Yes; if anything, I think that's the one phase of my life that I sit there and just go, “What was I thinking?”
Thank God for the rescue and thank God for a praying mama and daddy, who knew exactly what I was doing, but just stayed on their knees for me. If I could go back and redo that chapter, that's what I'd love to change.
Dennis: What would you say, Jon, to a person who goes: “That's me right now. That may have been Michael W. Smith, back in the late 1970s; but its 2016, and it’s me.”
Jon: I would say to you, listener, the same thing I said to a 97-year-old World War 2 pilot, who confessed to me enormous regret over an affair he’d had, having left his wife. I said to him, “Look, the Bible says, ‘All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory,’—and the reality is this—‘If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’”
And he said then, “Yes; but you don't understand what I've done!”
“Well, the Word says as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. We can't get our answers from ourselves, our culture, our books, or our self-help rack—it has got to come from the Word of God.”
Dennis: I think that is great counsel. I know Michael Easley has a similar story.
Michael [Recording]: Before I came to Christ, I was stupid—I was licentious, I used drugs, I did about anything you could do. Even after I came to Christ—the shame, and the guilt, and the regret of those—you know, I watch young teenage kids today—what they post / the pictures what they do—they are over-sexualized / they use drugs like we use soft drinks. I don’t think people understand the haunting shadows of that.
I know that I am forgiven / I know I’m cleansed—I know I am seen through the work of Jesus Christ—
—but if I could go back and talk to that stupid teenage kid and say: “Don't be licentious. Don't do drugs. Don't make these stupid choices you make.” The shame and the guilt of those—they can stir up real quickly.
Dennis: I'm thinking of a friend, whom I have spent a lot of time with over the years. One of the greatest regrets of his life was pornography—I mean, he was off in it deeply—and impacted his marriage / thought life. You could just see the pain on his face as he expressed that. There is a cost, unfortunately, to those things which we regret; isn't there, Jon?
Jon: Yes; a high cost, and that price weighs heavily over a long period of time. I referenced this 97-year-old man—this was an affair he had had more than half a century ago—and yet it nearly brought him to tears.
Bob: You spent some time as you talked with all of these folks, exploring why it is we have regrets. The reason is because we are all prone to disobedience, to selfishness, to going our own way.
Jon: “There is none righteous, no not one.”
Bob: That's right. And you ask Steve Brown, "Why is it we don't do better than we do?” He got right to the point.
Steve: [Recording] Because we like to sin. And we like to sin because of what Adam and Eve did and because of the fall. We wouldn't sin if we didn't like it. We make choices, and it’s the reason for the cross. If we could do better, God would have sent us a really nice book and said: “Here's the book. Just go to it.” Obviously, our problem was a lot bigger than that; and so He sent His Son to die on the cross in our place.
And you know something? You can tell how big a problem is by what it takes to fix it. In our case, it took the blood of God's own Son—so we must have a bigger problem than, “Do better,”—a much bigger problem than “Do better,” given the sacrifice of Christ.
Dennis: As he was talking, I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah 53:6, speaking of going our own way and what it cost God. Isaiah said: “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way,”—now, look at what it cost God—“And the Lord has laid on Him”—that's Christ—“the iniquity of us all.” That’s the amazing thing—that God recognizes we're broken, but He provides redemption/forgiveness. He wants to reach down and pull us out of the gutter and set our feet on the Rock.
Bob: And of course, that gets right to the heart of how we deal with regrets. One of the questions you asked people was: “We've all got regrets / we know where it comes from. Now, what do we do with it?”
Bob: And Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth had a pretty good answer to your question.
Nancy: [Recording]You know, when those regrets do weigh heavily on us, as they do for all of us at times, I think the first thing we have to do is thank God for grace. Go back to the cross. Preach the gospel to ourselves and realize: “I am not the Christ. I am a sinner who needs a savior, and thank God I have a Savior. I thank God that He has not dealt with me according to my sins or as I deserve.”
My dad—when he was asked how he was doing—his standard answer was, “Better than I deserve.”
How I thank God for His mercy / His grace in my life—and that at every point of my failure—my lack of discipline in so many areas of my life, my habits that I wish were different, bad habits that I've let grow up over my lifetime and good habits that I haven't developed like I wish I had—in all of that, I take who I am—with my failures, and faults, and flaws, and sins, and weaknesses—and I take it to Him. I take it to the cross, and I give thanks that He took all my sin on Himself. He has clothed me in His righteousness and that the sum total of my life will not be about how well I performed, or how well I lived up to my goals, or how successfully I overcame my you know bad habits, or sinful patterns. When it’s said and done, the sum total will be Christ, my righteousness. He took my sin—He who had no sin—He took that on Himself, and He's clothed me in His righteousness.
That is the only basis that I will ever be able to stand before God and not be ashamed—and say: “It’s all because of Jesus—it's all because of what He did.”
Every day, I have to preach that gospel back to myself and live in the constant conscious awareness that Christ is my life / He is my righteousness. He is my only hope in life and in death.
Dennis: I think the fascinating thing about her answer is she doesn't do what most of us are prone to do, which is find somebody who is worse than we are and compare ourselves with them—
Dennis: —you know what I mean?—
Dennis: —to make us feel better about ourselves, because we can find somebody who is worse off.
Dennis: Instead, she goes to the perfect One—the One who is righteous / who is the Judge—but the One who, in the midst of His perfection, offers absolute forgiveness, absolute mercy and grace for whatever you have done.
Bob: It sounded a lot like good news to me.
Jon: Awful good news. That clip that we just played sends shivers down my spine.
Bob: Yes. You also asked singer/songwriter, Michael Card, the same question. We should listen to what he shared, because this is great.
Michael: [Recording] Yes; that's easy. I think we offer those things up as an act of worship. In Psalm 51, David said, “It's not the blood of bulls and goats You want.” What He wants is a broken spirit and a contrite heart. I think part of being contrite and part of being broken is acknowledging how much you’ve messed up. Oddly enough, I think the biblical solution is—you turn around and you say: “Okay; Lord, I am going to offer up this confusion. I'm going to offer up this, because this is basically all I've got to give.”
You know, the thing that hurts you the most can be the most precious thing that you have to offer sometimes. Yes; I think that's what I do with my regrets—I give them to the Lord—say, "Here, You are worthy to receive these things.”
The cool thing is—He does stuff with it / He does good things with it. The worst thing to do is to hold onto it. There's a book called Sacrament of the Present Moment. The idea in the book is—Satan doesn’t want you in the present, because that is the only place that you can meet with God is the present. So he brings you and drags you into the past with your regrets and he drags you into the future with fear—and so that’s kind of what I'm pointing at: You have these regrets from the past. Satan doesn't want you in the present—he wants you in the past, feeling guilty for the things you've done.
That's why I say you take those things—you know, obviously, you repent / you confess those things; but then you offer then up. I think that—I think David, in Psalm 51, he realizes that all he's got is all God ever wanted—his broken spirit and his contrite heart. I mean, that's basically all that any of us have, you know, to offer—is our foolishness. But God takes those things, amazingly, and does stuff with them—because He uses pain / He uses suffering to save the world—so that even that suffering, that has come and gone—I think he uses.
Jon: Guys, I'm a photographer and love to take pictures. We were out on a hike in North Carolina this summer, busy taking pictures. I'm busy looking at those pictures, like we like to do—not watching where I ought to be going. All kinds of roots and trees in this path that we're going—because I'm so busy looking at the past—I was literally tripped up by those roots / landed on the ground—almost ruined the camera. Isn't that an image though for how we sometimes go through life—looking at the past / messing up the future—as Michael Card suggested.
Dennis: And there are a lot of listeners who will identify with this passage from Isaiah—it says: “They shall build up the ancient ruins. They shall raise up the former devastations. They shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”
There are listeners, right now, who look back on their family history. There's all kinds of issues—divorce; maybe, there's murder; perhaps sexual abuse—you name it. I mean, I'm always astounded when I get with a group of people and you can peel away the veneer that, unfortunately, too many of us bring forward in our relationships. You get to know them and you go, "Here’s a married couple, who are battling for their marriage; but between them, in their families, they have 13 divorces.” Literally, it’s what Isaiah's talking about—that God will repair the ruins of generations that have been passed on. You can stop it—you can stop the devastation with your life.
Bob: You know, these three chapters in your book, where you talk about things that people regret, and why it is we don’t do better, and what to do with our regret—
—I think, as people hear the comments of folks like Tim Keller and Josh McDowell, and Joe Stowell, and Tony Evans, Gary Chapman—people we've heard from today—Steve Brown, and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and Kay Arthur—I think their insights on this subject are going to be healing for a lot of people. I'd just encourage folks: “Get a copy of the book that Jon has put together—called If I Could Do It All Over Again—Christian leaders sharing some of the most important lessons of their lives.”
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of this book. This may be one you want to get multiple copies of and share with others at Christmas. Again the book is called If I Could Do It All Over Again. You can order from us at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; and our toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329—
—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, “Happy anniversary!” today to Jon and Debbie Hailey—who live in Fairhope, Alabama—35 years, as husband and wife, being celebrated today. “Congratulations!” to the Hailey's and to any of you who might be celebrating your anniversary today.
FamilyLife is all about anniversaries. We exist to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families so that more marriages go the distance. And we want to thank those of you who share our passion to see marriages strengthened and families thriving all around the world. Your donations to this ministry go directly toward providing help and hope to couples and families.
And here, as we head to the end of the year, your donations carry a little extra weight with them. We've got a matching-gift opportunity that’s been made available to us.
We have a matching-gift monitor this year—our friend, Michelle Hill, who’s keeping tabs on how the matching gift is doing each day. Michelle, welcome.
Michelle: Thank you, Bob, and I’ve got an update on our matching gift opportunity to share with our listeners…the matching gift fund that’s been made available to us here at FamilyLife is a fund of one and a quarter million dollars, and as of today folks have contributed two hundred twenty one thousand, six hundred sixty four dollars toward the match, and we’re excited about that!
Bob: And our listeners need to keep in mind, when they make a donation this year, their donation is going to be tripled—for every dollar they give, we get two dollars released from the matching fund. We hope you will consider making a yearend contribution and having that contribution tripled. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to donate online; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate over the phone.
Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLifeToday, at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Tomorrow, we’re gong to continue to hear from Christian leaders as they answered some challenging and provocative questions. Jon Gauger will be back with us. Hope you can be back as well.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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