About the Guest
What lessons have you learned in life? Seasoned broadcaster Jon Gauger gleaned the wisdom of some beloved Christian leaders: Pastor Tony Evans, Anne Graham Lotz, Ravi Zacharias, and others reflecting on what God has taught them through life's ups and downs.
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 lessons have you learned in life? Jon Gauger gleaned the wisdom of some beloved Christian leaders: Tony Evans, Anne Graham Lotz, Ravi Zacharias, and others.
Bob: Ask anyone who has lived any length of time and that person will undoubtedly be able to admit to regrets in life. Jon Gauger recently had an opportunity to ask a number of well-known people about their greatest regrets.
Jon: We talked to about 28 or 29 fairly well-known Christians. All of the answers were varied, and interesting, and challenging; and yet no single question that we asked garnered more of the same kind of response than this question—people said, “More time with family—I wish I had spent more time.”
This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 6th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. So how might you do your life differently if you could do it all over again? We’ll explore that and other topics with a number of different guests today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: So Bob, do you have an unforgettable life lesson?—I mean, just off the top here.
Bob: Off the top here—unforgettable life lesson? If you’re having dinner at The Cheesecake Factory®, do not pass up dessert. That would be my unforgettable life lesson.
Dennis: Why am I not surprised that it would involve food and The Cheesecake Factory? [Laughter]
Bob: —The Cheesecake Factory.
Dennis: I’m going to call The Cheesecake Factory. [Laughter] I’m going to demand some donations from them for FamilyLife Today because they’ve gotten a bunch—
Bob: A number of plugs? [Laughter]
Dennis: They have gotten a bunch.
Of course, Jon Gauger joins us again on FamilyLife Today. You would have no way of knowing the number of times. The reason is Bob has eaten at—count them—90 different—no; not 9—not 90 restaurants total—but 90 different locations.
Bob: Actually, I’ve added a few since I gave you that number—so—
Dennis: That was last weekend. [Laughter]
Bob: I’ve been on the road—what can I say?
Dennis: Jon is—we’ll get to that question in just a moment.
Jon has been married to Diana since 1983. They have two adult children / five grandchildren. He serves with Moody Radio, and he has written a book, If I Could Do It All Over Again. Where in the world did you come up with this?—because the questions are great—what spawned this?
Jon: I think the idea began way, way, way back. Things about time have always messed with me. When I was a Sunday school kid, I heard the story of Joshua in the tenth chapter of Joshua—so the “sun stood still,” and the “moon stopped until the nation avenged itself on its enemies.” That’s just grabbed my attention—things with time have always just kind of wrapped their tentacles around me.
You know, you think about movies like Groundhog Day or maybe some of our listeners would have seen The Age of Adaline—films that mess with your mind because time is so linear. But you think of heaven, where time is no more. You think of an old hymn, When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder: “When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more.”
That got me thinking and then this whole idea of mistakes/regrets: “What are we to do with them?” and “Those that we listen to on a daily basis on the radio; the authors that we read; the musicians that we hear—do they have failures like mine? What do they do with their failures?” So all this issue of time, mistakes, and heaven led to this little book, If I Could Do It All Over Again.
Dennis: I like the book; because you paint some Christian heroes, warts and all.
Bob: —with clay feet; absolutely.
Dennis: Yes; and frankly, we all have it. I don’t care how talented Michael W. Smith is or how good of a preacher Tony Evans is. You’ve captured some of his flaws here.
It’s not to celebrate the flaws but it’s to let others know that he is where he is today because he was able to move past some things that he regrets.
Bob: You mention Tony Evans—he was one of the people you talked to, Jon, as you were working on this book. You asked him about unforgettable life lessons, and this is what he shared with you.
Tony Evans [Recording]: The power of grace—that grace can do for me what I can never do for myself. We are so self-sufficient that we will often trump what God wants to do with our own will. Maybe we will be to some degree successful; but it is success with frustration, and irritation, and aggravation—whereas through grace / that is what God does for us—He lets things flow, and they flow very naturally, and without stressing. I would have leaned more on that than rather trying to force stuff to happen. I would allow what God provides to make it happen.
Jon: You know, he talks about letting things happen / letting God let those things happen instead of forcing them to happen. I relate to that. I don’t know about you guys; but I’m a bit of a driver/a doer. This issue of grace has been a lifelong thing for me.
Dennis: I was on a plane the other day, and it was late. There was a guy behind me, who was just chilling. He says: “Hey, everybody, relax! You’re not in control anyway.” [Laughter] You know, I kind of laughed about that; because I thought: “You know what? You’re exactly right. We are not in control. It is absolutely a phantom of our imagination to think we really control anything. We don’t control our next breath.”
Jon: You mention plane rides—coming down here to your studios in Little Rock, I sat next to Mel Blackaby, son of Henry Blackaby, who did the Experiencing God series—what a great conversation with him. I’m in the middle. Next to me is a lady, who has flopped across her lap, the most enormous date-planning book I’ve ever seen in my life.
Now, mind you, I’m not trying to look; but you’re kind of jammed into these seats. She was fiddling around with her pencil with past dates—dates that had already gone by—erasing/marking. I’m sure she had a legitimate reason for doing what she was doing, but it struck me: “Isn’t that a picture of how we live an awful lot of life?—fiddling around with dates long past / days gone—wishing for an eraser, wishing we could rewrite, trying to figure out what to do with those days past.”
Dennis: I’m looking over the names of those you asked this question of—an unforgettable life lesson. I’m thinking about Anne Graham Lotz, who is the daughter of Billy Graham. I just wonder what an unforgettable life lesson for her would be.
Anne Graham Lotz [Recording]: When I was 17, I was at a training institute in California. I felt very bound by what other people expected of me / thought I should be.
In fact, I got taken to task by people who—I wasn’t what they expected Billy Graham’s daughter to be—so they were very unhappy with me. Somebody spoke to me and said, “Anne,”—and I was very bound by that—and they said: “You’re looking at God through a prism. It’s affected by all these other peoples’ opinions of who God is / who you ought to be. You need to just look at God directly.”
From that point on, from that summer of my 17th year, I made the decision to live my life to please an audience of one—that I would live my life to please God. I knew that if He was pleased, my parents would be / my grandparents would be—the people I cared most about would be pleased with me. Some people wouldn’t be pleased, but you can’t please everybody anyway.
That has helped me enormously—when I’ve been on platforms in front of large audiences, or a television camera, or just going to the grocery store, or just living within the confines of my home—I live my life, 24/7, in utter devotion to please the Lord. I’m not saying I please Him all the time, but that’s my aim.
Dennis: Think about it Bob—if you were Billy Graham’s son / or a female listener, if you were Billy Graham’s daughter—do you think people would have some expectations?
Bob: Do you think Franklin ran away because of that? I mean, he was a rebel for a period of his life; because he didn’t want to live with those expectations.
Dennis: Right; what a great lesson.
I’m looking here at the next one—Gary Chapman.
Bob: Another North Carolinian. We’re going to hear two North Carolina accents in a row.
Dennis: Yes; people are going to get used to it. They’re going to have a southern drawl after listening to FamilyLife Today. I wonder if Gary Chapman’s life lesson had anything to do with love languages.
Jon: That might be the title of his book, but it didn’t have a whole lot to do with his answer—listen.
Gary Chapman [Recording]: I think the biggest lesson I have learned through life, and one that I continue to be aware of, is where Jesus said in the gospel of John, “Without Me you can do nothing.”
I remember when I graduated from college—I pretty much had the idea: “I’m a college graduate. I can do whatever needs to be done—turn me loose!” My first assignment was working on a folder in a print shop. For two weeks, I gave it everything I had for eight hours a day; and I could not get that folder to work. In my devotional time that morning, I read John 15:5—I think that’s the reference—”Without Me you can do nothing.” I just said, “God without You, I can’t run even a dumb folder.” I have never forgotten that lesson—that apart from God, I can do nothing.
Bob: That’s a great lesson learned, and it applies to a lot more than folders—it applies to everything in our lives.
I think you’d be interested at how Pastor Michael Easley responded to this question, because it had to do with the subject of marriage and holding the institution of marriage in high regard.
Michael Easley [Recording]: One of the stories I tell—and each time I tell it, I’m right back there in 1980—in this doctor’s home in Nacogdoches, Texas. Cindy and I had been married just a few months. We were invited to this party at this man’s house. Most of the people I didn’t know. We’re talking around the island of food, and someone asked about us. I said, “We just got married.” I made some quip about, “You know, I guess if it doesn’t work out, we could always get a divorce.”
This doctor, who was hosting the dinner party or whatever, said, “Hey, Michael, can I talk to you for just a minute?” “Sure Doc!” We walked back to his office, and he closed the door. He got within my personal space, like an inch away from my nose—and his eyes were aflame and his temples were bulging—he said, “Don’t you ever, ever joke or tease about divorce again!” He just laid into me.
I said, “Okay, Doc; I got it.” He said: “No; you don’t! You don’t use those words ever again!” I heard it—I can tell you, 34-plus years later—I still remember it. I’ve often said, “I wish there were a lot more doctors like that that got in a lot more young couple’s faces, and yelled at them, and said those kind of words: ‘This is not a joking matter.’”
Dennis: I’m smiling real big right now, because I couldn’t agree with him more.
Bob: You’d have gotten into his face if you had heard him say that; wouldn’t you?
Dennis: I would have hoped—hoped. [Laughter]
Bob: I can see your veins bulging.
Dennis: Yes; I mean, some people may feel like that’s out of line; but I think that, more than likely, that doc may have had a relationship with Michael, enough so that he could pull him aside and speak to him straight. I wonder today if there aren’t some life lessons that other people are missing because we aren’t courageous enough to confront them.
Jon: Think of the life lesson that ended up for Michael and his wife Cindy, who now counsel young couples—
—who, now, they coach them in life settings and they mentor. It wasn’t just a one-time experience for them.
Bob: You probed with people you talked to on the subject of things that, if they could do it all over again—things they’d spend less time doing and things they’d spend more time doing. I thought, “I wish you hadn’t asked Tim Keller—the pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church—that question; because his answer was kind of convicting.”
Tim Keller [Recording]: Certainly, surfing the internet, without a doubt, because there’s a hundred other things that would be better—more time with my wife, more time praying and meditating, more time reading. I do think the internet is a friend of information but the enemy of thought. In other words, it’s great at snippets of information; but it does not help you think / it does not help you reason out. In fact, the more you’re online—I can see that. The more you’re online, the less patient you are with sustained reasoning and with longer narratives.
It actually does not make you more able to think things out. So that’s one thing I’d do certainly less of.
Bob: I wish he could have tightened his answer up a little bit more there. He was kind of going on too long—“no sustained thought”—I’ve tried / that’s—I—I—I—
Dennis: There’s a reason why that was convicting for Bob; no question about it. [Laughter]
Bob: His point’s well-taken because the internet is a great tool; but I’ve gotten caught in what we call a “YouTube loop.” Did you ever get caught in a YouTube loop? This is where I’ll see a YouTube video—and it’s a 1965 performance of Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter by Herman’s Hermits. Well, I love that song; so I’ll watch the video. Well, right alongside, they give you six other videos that they say you ought to watch. I go: “The Mamas & the Papas! I haven’t seen The Mamas & the Papas in years!” All of a sudden, it’s two hours later; and I’ve just watched the greatest hits of the ‘50s and the ‘60s all over again.
Dennis: And I’ll be trying to go to sleep in my bed, about 10 miles away from Bob’s home—[Laughter]
Bob: You can hear me singing! [Laughter]
Dennis: No; no. There’ll be a little buzz on my computer, because Bob’s sending me The Mamas & the Papas. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, speaking of records, you asked Michael W. Smith what he would spend less time doing. His answer had to do with music too.
Michael W. Smith [Recording]: I’d probably just be less concerned about: “Are we selling records?” and “How many did we sell this week?” and that sort of immature thing of trying to be recognized / trying to be accepted. It’s amazing how you can get in that rut; and then, you base your whole life on what people think about you. There’s really only one person that we need to be worried about what He thinks and be concerned about—and that’s Abba. We should be completely secure in that, and I just found myself not. Again, I think that’s just growing up and learning. Yes; I would be less concerned about sitting in that audience, and waiting and wondering: “Are they calling your name for the Grammy?”—and if they didn’t call it, you got upset. [Laughter]
It’s just those kinds of things, where you just wish you were a little bit more mature.
Bob: It’s never happened to me. Anything like that ever happened to you?
Dennis: I’ve never been nominated for a Grammy—I wouldn’t know! [Laughter]
Bob: There is good reason for that! [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, I think what he’s talking about, though, is: “Whom are you trying to please?” You know, that goes back to the answers to a lot of these questions—is: “Whom are you living for? Is it for God and what He wants you to be and to do, or are you living for yourself or for other people?” That can be nearly as enslaving as being enslaved to yourself.
Bob: But the flip side of the question, “What would you spend less time doing?” is “What would you spend more time doing?” You asked Josh McDowell about that; and like a lot of us, he said, “I’d spend more time focused on family.”
Josh McDowell [Recording]: I have made over 19,000 airplane flights and 2,300 hotel rooms.
Now, one—I just wish I could have been with my family more. Don’t get me wrong—I’m satisfied with where my family is and my relationship with them and their relationship with the Lord—but I would say more time with my family. What I’m trying to learn from that now—is my grandchildren. Several months ago, I realized my grandchildren need me as much as my children needed me. I haven’t been that available to them like I should be; so I’m trying to bring some changes about in my life and ministry. So one thing to do over again—it would be family, because I think the fountain of life comes out of a family based in Christ.
Jon: You know, Dennis and Bob, we talked to about 28 or 29 fairly well-known Christians in this book. All of the answers were varied, and interesting, and challenging; and yet no single question that we asked garnered more of the same kind of response than this question.
Just to a person, people said, “More time with family—I wish I had spent more time.”
Bob: Of course, you’ve heard people say that, “No one, on his deathbed, says, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’”
Jon: Best-selling author and pastor emeritus, Erwin Lutzer of the Moody Church in Chicago was one of the most transparent guests that we talked to—sat in his study—and he just unloaded things that were rather revealing in a way that weren’t particularly proud moments, I’m sure. I certainly salute him for that courage.
One of the stories he tells is of his daughter sending him a letter when she was in high school/college. She was frustrated with her dad’s extraordinary fascination with studies of Martin Luther. She said to him in this letter, “Dad, I’m sorry; but I cannot compete with your study of Luther.” She went on to say some other things; and Pastor Lutzer said: “This was like a bucket of ice water on my head. I realized, at that moment, I needed to make some changes.”
And he did—to his credit.
Bob: You know, you did get a little different answer to the question from Ravi Zacharias. He didn’t go immediately to family—he talked about the importance of taking faith seriously, early.
Ravi Zacharias [Recording]: I think what I would probably say is to the young: “Take life seriously, early. Don’t wait until the strength of youth has gone by.” I guess that would be Solomon’s words too—you know, “...in the days of thy youth.”
We sometimes underestimate the strength of youth in the right direction. We think of it as all that we can do in warfare, and all that we can do in athleticism, and all that we can do in endurance, and all that we can do in physical strength. Don’t underestimate the shaping of the soul, early in life; because I think the sooner you get on track with where God wants you to be, the more beautiful that journey will become because you harness disciplines.
Ultimately, it’s the disciplines of life that bring you the joys for which you were created. That’s why David says how much he learned to love the law—it was for his benefit. To the young, I would say, “Take yourself more seriously early; because I think that, as a young man or a young woman, the disciplines you take will be wonderful and enduring in the joys you reap in the years to come.
Bob: Well, if you’re not a young man or a young woman, no time like the present to start taking spiritual disciplines seriously, and growing in grace, and growing in your relationship with Christ.
Dennis: Yes; I’m just thinking how Jesus summarized the Old Testament and New Testament—He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself.” The common word there is “love.”
It’s interesting what Ravi said. I think paying attention to your soul, your kids’ souls, and the soul of your marriage: “Are you spiritually growing? Are you fulfilling the mission God has for you?” I think we underestimate today how much trouble we are in, as a nation, because we have not been attentive to our souls. As a result, our morality is slipping / our value of human beings is slipping. We’re reaping the weeds that we’ve been sowing for decades. It’s time, I think, to go back to what Ravi talked about and pay attention to your soul when you’re a young person.
Bob: Good news here—and Jon you realize this as you were going through this—is we can begin the recalibration today. If there are things we say, “Well, I wish I’d done less of this,” or “I wish I’d done more of this,”—okay; you can’t fix yesterday, but you can decide to do more of the things today that you wish you’d done yesterday and do less of the things.
So: “No YouTube tonight for me. I’m not watching any ‘60s videos on YouTube at all tonight.”
Jon: Studying some Latin perhaps? [Laughter]
Bob: We’ll see. [Laughter]
Dennis: What are you going to do tomorrow night though, Bob?
Bob: I’m leaving my options open for tomorrow night. [Laughter]
Let me encourage listeners—we have copies of Jon Gauger’s book, If I Could Do It All Over Again. Great answers to some pretty good questions that Jon has posed—people like Tim Keller, and Michael W. Smith, and Anne Graham Lotz, Tony Evans, Joni Eareckson Tada, Ravi Zacharias, and others who spoke to those questions. Jon has put the answers in his book.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order the book, If I Could Do It All Over Again. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order over the phone. Again, the phone number is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-”F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Or go online to order If I Could Do It All Over Again—our website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Now do you remember what you were doing ten years ago today? Well, this is the day that Alex and Christy Cole, who live in Lenoir, North Carolina, got married. “Happy anniversary!” to the Coles as they celebrate their tenth anniversary today.
Here, at FamilyLife, we think anniversaries matter—we think they are a big deal. That’s because we are the Proud Sponsor of Anniversaries™ as we seek to provide practical biblical help and hope. We are grateful for those of you who partner with us in this effort. Here, during the month of December, your donation is not only critically needed, but there’s a great opportunity that we have for your donation to be tripled. Our December Matching-Gift Monitor, Michelle Hill, is back with us again today. Hello Michelle. Give us an update on how we’re doing toward the matching gift; will you?
Michelle: I’d be happy to. Bob, as of today we have received three hundred thirty one thousand three hundred forty dollars donated toward our matching gift total of one and quarter million dollars…so we’re excited about where we are so far, but we still have a lot of opportunity ahead of us, and we need to hear from more listeners…
Bob: Let me remind listeners—when you make a donation today, whatever amount you donate is going to be tripled. We hope you will consider being as generous as you can possibly be this month as you make a yearend contribution to support this ministry. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and donate online, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to donate over the phone. You can also mail your donation to FamilyLife Today. It will still be tripled if you do that. Our mailing address is PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to hear from Jon Gauger and from some of the people he talked to recently, asking some pretty compelling questions about life, and regrets, and choices, and decisions, and wisdom. We’ll hear from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth tomorrow, along with Joe Stowell, and Michael Card, and Gary Chapman, and Josh McDowell. Hope you can tune in for all of 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’ll 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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