Principles to Live By
About the Guest
Every day we make decisions that impact our lives. What kind of decision are you making today? For years Dennis Rainey has been sharing seven principles to live life by. Find out why seeking God is the beginning of it all.
Dennis RaineyDennis Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Since the organization began in 1976 through 2017, Dennis’ leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries around the world helping families discover the joy God intended for their relationships with God, spouse, and kids. Dennis has authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples and Staying Close and has received two Golden Medallion...more
What kind of decision are you making today? For years Dennis Rainey has been sharing seven principles to live life by. Find out why seeking God is the beginning of it all.
Principles to Live By
Bob: How often is the Bible opened in your home? How often is it talked about? Dennis Rainey says, “It ought to be a priority.”
Dennis: As a husband, you need to be guiding your wife into this—yes—salting her down with truth. As a wife, you need to be reminding your husband of the truth. And as parents, this is what your kids’ souls are all about.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 31st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. There are a lot of things that ought to be realigned in our homes; and at the center, ought to be God’s Word. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We finally get to let our listeners know about the power of lamination. [Laughter]
Dennis: This is a broadcast that is going to pay for its weight in gold—ladies and gentlemen—when you find out about the power of lamination that was passed on to me by Dr. Bill Bright.
Bob: So you want to explain the power of lamination?
Dennis: Dr. Bright was the Founder and President of, what was then, Campus Crusade for Christ®—it’s now Cru®—of which this ministry is a part. Bill passed out a list that he made—now, I don’t even remember what the list was all about, Bob—but he laminated it. I think he kind of smirked as he did. He said, “Because I laminated it, you’re not going to throw this away.” He’s right—I’ve got it somewhere. The power of lamination—if you’ve got something you want to pass on generationally—put it on a card stock and then laminate it on both sides.
Bob: It’s about the size of a credit card, and you laminate it. You hand it to folks, and it’s tough for people to throw things away that are laminated. So—this list that you laminated—what was the occasion?
Dennis: Well, the first time I gave this message was—I was asked to speak at commencement by the President of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Bob: Fine institutions.
Dennis: Both excellent. They conferred on me an honorary doctorate which was truly an honor, and I surprised Barbara. She didn’t know that I was getting an honorary doctorate. So, she was out in the audience waiting for me to speak when they asked me to come up on stage; and I asked her to join me, and they hooded me. It was pretty cool.
Bob: Did she call you, “Dr. Rainey,” the rest of the day? [Laughter]
Dennis: No. No, she has never referred to me—and I don’t think you have either—but I think it’s time.
Bob: Once or twice I’ve done it. [Laughter]
Dennis: No doubt about it. But here’s what happened, Bob. I was asked almost a year in advance to speak at both graduations. I thought, “What do you say to three or four hundred graduating seniors from a university and then what about another”—
—“two or three hundred who are graduating from a divinity school? Some getting PhD’s, MDiv’s—all kinds of studies that have taken them three years—four years—or longer to study—about God and their relationship with Him?”
I thought, “What do you say in a 30 minute message that can add any value to their lives?” I’m sure a lot of them are wondering, “You missed it, buddy.”
Bob: But you do want to say something that is impactful—something that is memorable, something that—I mean this is a big moment. You want to commemorate it with some words of wisdom.
Dennis: I did. I thought, “You know if I’m going to go there to speak, I want to give them my best shot.” So I began to pray. As I prayed about it, I thought, “The only reason I’m there is because of what God has done in my soul.” I thought, “So, what do I have to say to them about His work in my soul?” I thought, “Rather than getting down in the weeds on something, what if I could kind of hit the high points as I look back over my life of what really comprised the major commands of the Bible?”
It’s not all of the commands, but I came up with seven that I think these are worthy of challenging them with. As I prayed it through Bob, each of the commands had a warning with it.
The first principle of the message I gave was: “Seek God, not sin.” The second one was: “Fear God, not men.” The third was: “Love God, not the world”—that’s a really important warning. Fourth has been a part of my spiritual DNA all the way back to college, and it is this—“Believe God, not the deceiver.” There is an enemy who wants to lie to you—but God wants you to believe Him. Fifth—“Obey God, not your appetites.”
Sixth—“Worship God, not comfort.” Last is focused outwardly—“Serve God, not self.”
I had these reduced to an almost—it’s like a business card.
Bob: Like a credit card.
Dennis: I had these on here, and I passed them out to all the graduating seniors or the PhD’s and gave them a little graduation gift. I’ve, since, given that message at Dallas Theological Seminary to a graduating class there in Dallas, Texas—and then, also, at National Religious Broadcasters, where I was asked to speak to about four or five hundred Christian leaders.
I thought, “You know this was a good message to give to those graduating seniors—I think it’s a good message to remind Christians leaders because we sometimes, can forget the basics.” So, I started thinking, “Now, who is this for?” Well, it’s not just for graduating seniors from college or seminary, those in full-time Christian work or just Christian leaders.
I think it’s written to anyone who needs a spiritual wheel alignment.
I think there’s not a lot in our lives that pull us back to the big picture that remind us of our spiritual DNA and what God expects of us. There’s another audience too, Bob—I think people who are facing an important fork in the road—it may be a mid-life crisis— or maybe questioning your cause or your purpose or why you do what you do.
I ran into someone here at the office the day before yesterday—was working for a major company here in North America and had just gotten laid off. He said, “You know, my wife and I thought, ‘We’re just going to make a journey around the country. We’ve got some severance pay. We’re just going to go around the country and look and see what’s out there.’
Because we’ve been involved with the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway and I Still Do™—and we’ve been on three of the Love Like You Mean It® marriage cruises with FamilyLife, we thought, ‘We’re just going to stop in at FamilyLife.’”
Well, they did more than just stop in here. They got cornered and corralled and said, “Come on. Let’s go! Let’s get with it!” The wife said, “You know you don’t have to convince me—I’m all in.” Then, we looked at him—and he began to do a little bit of a crawfish—because he wasn’t there yet. That’s okay—it was good.
Dennis: A couple of other audiences I think this is written to—if a person is a crisis of faith—and it may be adversity—it may be a test—it may be a health issue, place of work issue, with a child, with an extended family member—you’re just in a real crisis of faith. It’s a great time to develop the faith muscle.
The last group is a graduating senior from a seminary—from a college, but also—listen to me—from high school.
I don’t think we are challenging our high school graduates with a high enough standard. I think we need to challenge their socks off to think about who they are going to live for—and how they’re going to live—as they go to college, Bob.
Dennis: A book like this—you can put this in a graduating senior from high school—in his or her hands just pray, “God, would you meet with them and give them a cause—give them a purpose—help them to be a part of your agenda as they go away to work, to service, to college—whatever it is they are going to be about?”
Bob: If you think about young men or women headed off to the college campus today, these are the kinds of principles that they need to have in mind—have imprinted on their hearts—before they hit the kinds of issues they are going to face on a college campus.
Dennis: If they’ve not settled the issue—like this one here that we’re going to talk about in a minute—who they are going to seek, what they’re going to seek—
Dennis: —well, I can tell you the warning on this is true.
Seek God, not sin. Why? Because sin is out to get you, and it crouches on the doorstep.
Go all the way back to Cain and Abel in Genesis, Chapter 4, and that’s what a lot of graduating seniors going into college—going into the service—into the workplace—are experiencing. They’re not ready for the spiritual battle that will occur over their soul—and something like this can help them think squarely about what they’re headed off into and how they’re going to handle it when they face it.
Bob: It seems like sin spends a lot more money on advertising than God does. [Laughter] You know what I’m saying? It just seems like the enticements for sin are all over the place! Of course, we’re bent in that direction—we are predisposed. Maybe, it’s that we are paying more attention to those advertisements than we are to what God is calling us to.
Dennis: Well, I think you are hitting something really important here, Bob. You’ll hear me talk about it as we go through all seven of these in the coming weeks and months ahead—
—but our hearts were made to love God, worship God, seek God. When we’re not seeking God and we’re not filling our hearts with Him, our hearts don’t go on to do nothing, to worship nothing, to seek nothing—our hearts are susceptible to being sought after and singled out and seduced.
I think it’s why—when I taught my sixth grade Sunday school class—it’s why I told them—I said, “There is only one of two ways you’re going to in to adolescence and junior high and high school. You’re either going to be a missionary. In other words, you’re going to be on a mission—God’s mission—for your life and for other people’s lives—or you’re going to be a mission field. Why? Because sin will be after you and will be deceiving you as you go through adolescence.”
I don’t know how many of those sixth graders heard me. I don’t know how many of the graduating seniors at Trinity heard me—but the point is I think Scripture really does challenge us to go back to the basics. In fact, it says this 50 times in Scripture, Bob—“Seek God.” 50 times! Now, why is that? Because our heart was made to seek God and to find God.
Bob: We’re not dealing with this issue in a vacuum because there is someone who is actively working to try to draw our attention away from God—and in the process, is lying to us about the benefits of abandoning God and following him.
Dennis: If you’re seeking God—really going after Him wholeheartedly—and by the way, there is a ton of Scriptures that command us to seek God. I’ll not give you all 50, but let me just give you some high points. 1 Chronicles 28:9—
—“And you Solomon, my son, know the God of your father and serve Him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.”
Now, this command—how was this passed on to Solomon? By daddy—a daddy to his son—“Son, listen up. Seek God with your whole heart.”
Isaiah 55:6—“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.” Jeremiah 29:13—“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.”
Bob, I was with a group of business guys who are all Christ followers and I just put this question to them—I said, “Tell me how you seek God”—[Silence]—and that’s the sound that occurred.
Bob: Got quiet.
Dennis: It got really quiet. I said, “What have you learned in your lifetime about seeking God?” Well, it was still quiet. So, I started thinking about it as I wrote this—and I’ve got a number of ways that you can seek God as you move through your lifetime that He’s taught me. I asked the audience the question right now, “What have you learned about seeking God in your lifetime that you could pass on to someone else?” Don’t get hyper-religious on us here—just put it real plainly. How do you seek God? What have you learned about seeking God wholeheartedly?
Bob: You posted that question on Facebook, and folks are starting to respond already to ways that they have learned to seek God. Listeners can go to the FamilyLife Facebook page and add their thoughts there.
We know that Jesus, also, commanded us to seek Him. He said, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you fishers of men.” James, Chapter 4, verse 8 and 10—it says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
Bob: So, it’s clear in Scripture that we’re directed to seek God—and there are some practical reasons why that makes sense; right?
Dennis: There are. There are going to be dark days. There are going to be days you go through in life where if you haven’t found God—if you don’t know Him and know Him enough to trust Him with your circumstances—you could be vulnerable. You know what I have found in my lifetime, Bob, is it takes a crisis—it takes a disruption, it takes a big time interruption sometimes—to get our attention.
Bob: Get your attention? Yes.
The year we started FamilyLife, 1976, Barbara and I had moved for the sixth time in five years.
We moved here to Little Rock. Not long after we moved here, my mom and dad came down. We had a great time together. A month later, I get a phone call, “Dad’s dead”—died of a massive heart attack. “Well, he was just here! He was just 66 years old.” That really kicked off a year of a number of different crises. Our son Benjamin had major surgery. Barbara almost died with a rapid heart rate of 300 beats a minute.
In the midst of those times, what or who do you seek in the midst of adversity? The answer is—God said, “Seek Me that you may live.” That’s Amos, Chapter 5, verse 6. Then, there is one last reason I think, Bob—this kind of gets at the nub of all of it—if you seek God, it’s not going to give pride a chance to rule in your life. If you’re seeking God, that means you’ve said, “I am not God. He is.”
“I will seek the One who is God.” I think all of life is a battle over—who do we think God is? Are we—do we know best—or does He?
Bob: How has seeking God been a part of the rhythm of your life? If you were in that room with that group of businessmen and somebody said, “How do you seek God?” would you have had ready answers?
Dennis: I don’t know if I would have if I hadn’t thought it through a little bit—but here’s where I begin. Instead of just reading the Bible, I would get into the Bible. Think about the Bible, ponder the Bible—and then perhaps pray a prayer as you read the Bible and as you ponder it—“God, would you show me—as I read the truth about You—to show me how I can find You?” You’ve got to start with the written word of God because that is specific revelation about who God is.
Now, I’ve found God, for instance, in creation. I wish all of our listeners could come and stand on my back deck.
Bob: And watch the sun set?
Dennis: Oh my goodness! Now, God had this place picked out for us back in 1983 where we could raise six kids and do it kind of in the wilderness.
Bob: Out in the woods.
Dennis: It is in the woods, but it’s on a ridge. We’ve got one of the most spectacular views in all of Arkansas. I’ve got to tell you, it’s right up there with some Colorado spots as well because it’s really, really green. But when is the last time you went outside and allowed the grandeur of God to speak to you?
Another place I’ve found God is in His people. If I read Genesis, Chapter 1, correctly, it says He made them male and female to be image-bearers—to reflect who He is. That means that even in our imperfections and our brokenness, we declare who God is in mysterious ways.
When is the last time you just looked at a person and just said, “That person is an image-bearer. They may get under my skin sometimes, but you know what? They are an image-bearer?”
Then, you can seek God in solitude—in prayer—and just pause and be quiet with nothing playing—nobody chattering. Find a quiet spot and just allow Him to speak. You’ve always got to evaluate what He says against the Scripture—but listen for the voice of God. Barbara wrote a little piece about this earlier this year—she just talked about how it appears as though God’s preferred method to speak to people is whispering. He doesn’t yell at people. God whispers. When is the last time you heard the God of the universe whisper something to you?
Something that He had as an assignment for you to do?
Bob: You can’t hear a whisper unless you get quiet; can you?
Dennis: That’s right. Then, one last way is something I don’t think we know a whole lot about today; but it’s talked about in the Book of Ecclesiastes. It’s the word ponder. Ponder is an active, intentional—chewing on the truth about God—taking maybe, an adversity to God, asking Him for—“How do You want to handle this?” “How do You want me to behave?” “How do You want me to respond?” “What’s the lesson for this in my life?” Then—again, back to what you said, Bob—be quiet. Listen.
If you haven’t read Ecclesiastes recently, just read through it and notice how many times in the book where the preacher who wrote Ecclesiastes said, “Thus, I pondered.” Before he pondered, it was vanity.
It was vanity of vanity—all of life is vanity—it’s meaningless—but he stopped and pondered what God was up to.
Here is the thing. As a husband, you need to be guiding your wife into this—yes—salting her down with truth. As a wife, you need to be reminding your husband of the truth. And as parents, this is what your kids’ souls are all about—teaching them to seek God—and to find God—and to know where to go to find Him. Do they know where to go to find God if they really wanted to seek God with all their hearts?
Bob: How did you and Barbara help your kids know how to seek God as you were raising them?
Dennis: Well, you ought to talk to them to really get the straight scoop, Bob. I wouldn’t give us a real high grade. We really did try to point them in that direction to seek God—but the thought of training our children to seek God that’s really a new thought. Think about it.
If God commanded us to seek Him, shouldn’t we be training our kids to do that? And—by the way, grandkids—oh yes, there are some great was to do that.
Here are some quick ways I’d recommend. Number one, model it. First of all, model it. Let them catch you on your knees reading the Bible. Secondly, introduce God to them. Create a salt block at your dinner table. Make them thirsty to know more about God. Give them great books that they should read—biographies of men and women who sought God and who found Him.
Then, two more—number four, create a Sabbath. Just create a day of rest when the activity slows down, and we have a chance to truly allow God to find you and you to turn around and seek Him. Then, finally, the last one is—just like David did to Solomon—a passage I read earlier—direct them. David commanded Solomon, “Seek God so that you can live.”
Let them know this is one of the non-negotiables because if you don’t seek God, sin is certainly trying seek you.
Bob: You refer to this as a non-negotiable. In fact, that’s how you’ve subtitled these points in your book, Choosing a Life That Matters: 7 Decisions You’ll Never Regret. Each of those is what you call a non-negotiable. I have to say, I think what you’ve written here is really—it’s foundational. It’s core truth about how we are to live in all aspects of life—in our marriage, in our family—but in everything we do.
We think this is so foundational that we want to make this book available to anybody who’d like a copy for a donation of any amount. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. There is information about Dennis’s new book, Choosing a Life That Matters. Just let us know you’d like a copy and make whatever donation you are able to make, and we’ll be happy to send a copy to you.
Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you’d like to request the book by phone, the number is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
By the way, today would be a great day for you to request a copy of the book because today is the last day for the matching gift opportunity that we’ve had presented to us this month—the last day for the donation you make to be matched dollar for dollar up until we reach our goal of $800,000. We’re hoping to hear from listeners today to help put us over the top on that matching gift goal. Of course, when you make a donation, you can know that your donation is being doubled as a result of the matching gift opportunity.
So, you can get a copy of Dennis’s book, and you can get your donation matched today. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link for Dennis’s book; or just click where it says, “DONATE,” and the information about how to get a copy of the book is available there.
Thanks in advance for donating. Again, if you’d like to make your donation by phone, call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY”.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about how important it is to have a healthy understanding of what it means to fear God. In fact, that’s the second decision that, Dennis, you talk about in your book. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow. Hope our listeners can join 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. 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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