Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles, Part 2
About the Guest
A rose won’t grow into the beautiful flower it was meant to be without a little nourishment. Neither will our family’s spiritual life. Join us for today's broadcast as FamilyLife President Dennis Rainey talks about growing a spiritually strong family.
Dennis Rainey talks about growing a spiritually strong family.
Exercising Our Spiritual Muscles, Part 2
Bob: Like a lot of families, when I was growing up, our kitchen cupboard had pencil marks showing how we were growing as children. But there's a bigger question families need to be asking – how are we growing spiritually? Here's Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: When we talk about spiritual growth, we're talking about someone who exercises his soul in a relationship with God as you confront life, so that you make choices not on the basis of what you see but on the basis of what the Scriptures tell you is the truth.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 1st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Spiritual growth can be measured, but you can't use pencil marks to do it. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. Those of you who actually went to our website at FamilyLife.com looking for pictures of my muscles, I was able, at the end of our program yesterday …
Dennis: … it was there microscopically. You had …
Bob: Now you're insulting my muscle size.
Dennis: You had to hit – you know, those little blowup deals on the Internet you can get? We used the most powerful …
Bob: … magnifier? Yeah, thank you very much. We've been talking this …
Dennis: [laughing] … some of our listeners have no idea what we just …
Bob: … what we're talking about. Let me explain this. We're talking about growing together spiritually; how we can grow spiritually as a family. And yesterday, as a part of an illustration, our host mentioned muscular development.
Dennis: No, no, no, I did not mention muscular – well, I did, but you were the one who brought up your muscles.
Bob: I was the one who personalized it. We were talking about how if you want your muscles to grow, you have to give them a workout, and, obviously, if you want your spiritual muscles to grow, they need the same kind of a workout.
Dennis: And you were talking theoretically about you visiting …
Bob: … the gym …
Dennis: … the gym and pressing some heavy metal and …
Bob: Right, and the operative word there is "theoretically." I was talking about that in a theoretical sense, and then you offered to put pictures of my muscles on the Web, and I just wanted to let listeners know that …
Dennis: We had thousands who went looking, Bob, thousands.
Bob: It was just a jest; Dennis was just kidding. Well, we talked yesterday about how spiritual growth for any person or for any family is really built around a series of spiritual disciplines. You talked yesterday about the discipline of prayer and about being in the Word. You talked about worship and about service and fellowship and sharing your faith as spiritual disciplines that produce spiritual growth.
But as I said to you, I think there are a lot of couples today, either just getting started or maybe they've been married for 10 or 20 years, and they're going, you know what? These spiritual disciplines – you know, we're all doing them individually, but we don't do them as a family, and when we try it doesn't go very well.
Dennis: And the reality is, Bob, the Lord God knows where we've come from. So do you know what He does? He gives us tests to see if we are applying what we've heard. And so the bottom line is, as a couple, you're going to face trials. Now, you can decide to face those trials individually and decide individually which way you are going to go, or you can face those trials as a couple and as a family and decide together that you're going to handle those trials, those problems, those difficulties, those challenges, that period of suffering – you've decided you're going to handle it according to the Scriptures.
Now, the problem is, Bob, some of our listeners are married to individuals who – well, their bottom line is they're spiritually mismatched. They are not equally yoked with another person who wants to handle the problems of life together spiritually and look to God and His Word for a solution.
Bob: It may be that they're married to someone who is not a believer or married to someone who is still at a place where he or she is on milk while the other person is hungry for meat.
Dennis: And there's hope there, there really is. I want you to know, though, we understand your living there, and it's not this ideal situation. It doesn't take away from the importance, however, of you being obedient to do what God has called you to do. Spiritual growth usually occurs within the context of relationships, and if you can't connect with your spouse or with your family to grow spiritually in the midst of a challenge you're facing, then you need to find a same-sex friend who will encourage you and come alongside you and cheer you on; a person you can pick up the phone and call at that point of need and say, "Would you pray for me? I don't feel like obeying. I don't feel like following God. I feel like tossing the towel in on the Scriptures, on Christianity, the church, this whole faith bit. I want out of here. I don't like it."
It's at those points, Bob, where a good friend, and I'm talking about a friend who knows the Scriptures and who will call you to do what's right and who will empathize with you in your weaknesses, will still remind you of the truth of God's Word and will not encourage you to toss the towel in on your life, your marriage, and your family.
This whole issue of growth, Bob, I'm convinced it's the way we defeat divorce. If you're not growing, divorce is going to become a greater option. If you are growing, however, there is hope when you grow. When you get to know God, you realize He is using your marriage, even in its imperfection, to build things into your life, into your children's lives, that the struggles of your marriage and your family have divine purposes and God is up to something.
A lot of times our listeners, I think, listen to you and me, and they think we live in these ideal marriages with ideal families. Both you and I have shared many times on FamilyLife Today our own struggles. You all don't know everything that we struggle with. We can't always share everything that we struggle with, but I'm left with the same choice that you're left with – am I going to believe God? Will I trust Him that He says all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose. This is all about being obedient to God's Word and, as a result, you grow, and you grow spiritually.
Bob: Let's say we've got some folks who are listening who would say, "All right, that's what we want. We want spiritual growth for our family. Either it's just getting started, or we recognize that we've drifted, and we want to pull things back on course as a family. We want to develop some spiritual disciplines." Would you say in an ideal situation, that it's a husband's responsibility to call the family to spiritual disciplines?
Dennis: I think it is. I think if the husband doesn't, the wife, I think, needs to appropriately step in there. I would not create a situation where because the husband is disinterested, spiritually passive, of the wife doing nothing. I believe you work together in tandem, and there are periods in a marriage, a season in a marriage, where one person may have to come alongside the other. Your wife may have to come alongside you as a man and pick up where you're spiritually not leading.
Now, is that the ideal? No, but a lot of life is not lived in the ideal. We're exhorted toward it. I'd have to say in times of our marriage, it has been Barbara who has reminded me of my spiritual responsibility by having to pick up what I should be doing. And I think men many times, Bob, are threatened when their wives do that, but they need to talk about it with their wives, and their wives need to be careful that they don't do it in such a way that puts their husband down, constantly trying to get him in there and set it up so he can. But I believe, ideally, a husband ought to be the one who is setting the spiritual course, the spiritual direction, and creating the environment for not only his growth, but his wife's growth, and his family's growth in Christ.
Bob: I was out to dinner with Mary Ann at a Chinese restaurant about a year ago, and I asked one of those questions that is a dangerous question to ask. I said, what kinds of things am I not doing that you would wish I would do?
Dennis: Oh, boy. I've asked that question, too, and if you want an answer, ask the question.
Bob: Yeah, ask the question. You might ask it this way – what are you praying about related to me that I don't know about? That's a scary question to ask, but Mary Ann stepped up, and she talked about a particular spiritual discipline, and she said, "You know, I feel like this is lacking in our family. I feel like you're not giving it the leadership and the attention that you should, and I'm saddened by that."
Now, she didn't say it in a shaming way, she didn't say it in a way that said, "I don't respect you," or "I don't love you." She just said it in a very honest way that said this is something that I've been disappointed by. And it called me back to the responsibility of leadership in that area, and I'd say – I've tried to step it up. I need to go out to dinner with her again and say how are we doing there and see what …
Dennis: … the report card says now.
Bob: Yes, what the report card says, whether the adjustment has been made appropriately. But it's healthy for us to ask one another those questions and to be ready to receive from the other person without getting defensive, receive that kind of assistance, and I would say it's been a good thing for our marriage and for our family that she kind of nudged me back in the right direction.
Dennis: A story that we have told here more than once on FamilyLife Today is the story of a single parent by the name of Marjorie Schulte [sp]. Marjorie Schulte was pregnant with her sixth when her husband left her, and the image of this single-parent mom now being left by her husband is so vivid in my mind, but she called her family together, and she said, "We will be a family." We will be a family. And Barbara and I have faced challenges in recent years, and one time she asked me, she said, "I just appreciate your leadership. Where did you get the idea for some of how you lead our family from time to time?" And I said, "Well, if you want to know the truth, one of the phrases that has echoed in my soul as a man who has tried to give leadership to his marriage and to his family were the words of a single-parent mom who courageously decided that her circumstances were not going to get the best of her and her family, and she rallied her little brood around her, and she said, "We will be a family."
And I think, personally, there are those listening right now who need to decide, you know what? We're going to be God's family. We're going to grow, we're not going to cave in to the circumstances, we're not going to be passive, we're not going to wait for bad news or a crisis to cause us to go to the Scriptures. We're going to take time now to exercise our soul muscle as a family and grow together and be a family.
Bob: Let's talk specifically about some of the ways that a husband or a wife or a couple together can begin to incorporate the spiritual discipline of reading the Bible, studying the Bible together. I don't know this, but I would imagine when Mary Ann and I got married, she had some picture in her mind that we'd spend our evenings with the concordance open on the coffee table and with a few commentaries scattered around, and we'd just be involved in ongoing family Bible study together. That is not what has manifested itself over the last 24 years of our marriage. How would you coach a couple who say, "We need more Bible in our relationship together as husband and wife and in our family?"
Dennis: Well, first of all, I want to go back to something we shared yesterday. If you haven't learned to walk then you know what? Let's just talk about the milk of the Scripture and take the Gospel of John and start reading it, either individually, together as a couple, or reading it to your family. One chapter a day for 21 days – just take a chapter of the Gospel of John and read it and talk about our Savior and what He said and how that Scripture applies to life today as you are living it.
Bob: Okay, you get done reading that chapter, and you read the last verse in the chapter, and you close up the Bible, and it feels like you need to ask a question or make a comment or something. Do you just say, "Let's pray?" How would you do that?
Dennis: Well, at that point, throw it open. Say, "What hit you as I was reading those words?" And as long as the rolls, then talk about it, and when it's over, say, "Let's pray."
Bob: But what if you read through a chapter like that, and you say, "Does anybody have any comments?" And one of your kids raises his hand and says, "Well, I've got a question," and asks you some question that you don't have a clue about the answer to, or maybe you read three or four nights in a row and say, "Anybody have anything they want to say?" Nobody says a word. At some point you begin to feel like this is a threatening activity, and I feel like I'm failing, and I'd like to stop it.
Dennis: I would say start this, try it for a night, once a week at the dinner table or at breakfast. But try it for once a week just to begin somewhere. I think one of the problems is we have this idyllic picture in mind of everybody tenaciously digging in and contributing, and it's perfect. We've had more fights between children or between husband and wife studying the Scriptures than I care to admit over the past more than 30 years of marriage, Bob. I think start somewhere, reduce your expectations, but get into the Word and just do it regularly, even if it's just one night a week or one morning a week for several weeks.
But the idea is to draw on the Scriptures for your life.
Bob: If you don't have kids, should you do it, just the two of you, husband and wife?
Dennis: Oh, absolutely. And for Barbara and me, we enjoy reading the Scriptures together in bed – just turn to one another and read a passage. We were facing something very difficult over a period of days, and I turned to Psalm 26, and just read it out loud to her, and then we prayed together. You don't have to discuss it. You can think about it. You can sleep on it.
Bob: In addition to the reading of the Scriptures, again, how can we, as a family and as a couple, spend more time studying and knowing God's Word?
Dennis: One of the ways would be to use a daily devotional. A book Barbara and I wrote a number of years ago, "Moments Together for Couples" – I've talked to a number of listeners who have dug into this on a daily basis. You can get a sampling of this at our Internet site, FamilyLife.com. You can actually have this sent to your computer to read and share together.
I think one of the keys is to find different ways to get into the Scriptures so that you're not bored, so that you keep the interest up, and you keep a steady diet coming into your marriage and to your family, and for us, at least, it seems that you need to vary the type of foods and the methods that you bring that food to your family. A devotional like "Moments Together for Couples," from the Internet or getting the book, is a great way for a couple to begin to share spiritually and talk. And the good thing about "Moments Together for Couples," is that at the end of each devotional are a number of questions that will help you apply the Scriptures to your life, your marriage, your children, your extended family, and that's the payoff for the Scriptures. You begin to experience the benefit of having been obedient to God's Word.
Bob: In your book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," you talk about memorizing Scripture together as a family; you talk about how you can watch and discuss Christian videos, how you can have the Scriptures on display in your house, passages of the Bible that are a part of the artwork that's on display in your house. And you talk about how you have, from time to time, gotten together one-on-one with your teenagers and spent some time in the Word, primarily in the Proverbs, right?
Dennis: Right. We would meet together at a grocery store, you know, where you get food, you can attract a teenager. And we would get some doughnuts or get a hot breakfast at this grocery store, and we'd spend 15 to 30 minutes just cracking open a chapter of the Proverbs and maybe we'd camp out on a verse, maybe we'd discuss the whole chapter, and maybe they'd sit there looking brain dead having nothing to say, grunting and groaning and rolling their eyes, and you'd feel like a total failure. But we still met and still kept on getting into the Scriptures with them, Bob, and I think that's the issue – just keep on taking them to the milk and the meat of God's Word.
Bob: Did you have to drag them? Did you have to bribe them? Did they say, "I can't go tomorrow," or "I have a test," or "I need to sleep in."
Dennis: Oh, yeah, it was not easy, and schedules get in the way of it, and you have to pick back up after feeling like you've failed by missing several weeks in a row. One little key in motivating a teenager to meet you for a Bible study is to ask them to invite a couple of friends. And so there's peer pressure to show up, and there's peer pressure to stay alert. I felt like the learning quotient was 2X or 3X when you had a couple of teenagers at the table, and this is really cool – and if you ask a father to bring his daughter or a father to bring his son and join you for the study. I found, at that point, it becomes two-on-two, and that's a pretty good offense, two-on-two.
Bob: You talk about a lot of these kinds of specific strategies, again, in the book "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," which is a great place for a family to begin, a family that would say, "You know what? We need to kind of pull things together spiritually. We've gotten sloppy, or we've gotten lazy, we need to reform a little bit." This is a good starting place, this book.
Dennis: And it's a little book.
Bob: Yes, it is. It's how many pages?
Dennis: Well, let's look here. It's not a big book.
Dennis: And, Bob, I know you like books that have big print. This does not have …
Bob: … just a second …
Dennis: This does not have little print.
Dennis: This actually has 94 pages.
Bob: Oh, that's easy. I can polish that off over lunch.
Dennis: Ninety-four pages, and it has 10 spiritual seeds for growing together as a family.
Bob: Now, the book does not come with seed packets included, but if you are interested in getting a copy of the book, "Growing a Spiritually Strong Family," you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. On our home page, you'll see a little button that says "Go" in the middle of the home page, and you click on that button, it will take you right to a page where there is more information about this book. There is also information about the "Moments Together for Couples" devotional that you were talking about and, in fact, any of our listeners who are interested in a copy of both of these resources, we'll send along at no additional cost the CD album that features our conversations this week and next week on the subject of growing a spiritually strong family. And, as I mentioned already, this is a subject that our listeners have told us throughout the years is their top priority as a family – to develop spiritually. And these are great resources to help make that happen in your home and in your family.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com. Click the "Go" button in the middle of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you can get more information about these resources or call 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can let you know how you can have these resources sent out to you.
And, by the way, if you are able to help us during the month of August with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we have a thank you gift we'd like to send you. You will remember, Dennis, when we had the opportunity to sit down with Beth Moore, who has written a number of Bible studies that have been used by women all across the country. We talked with her about her marriage of 25-plus years to her husband Keith. We talked about her family and about some of the challenges they've faced as they have sought to build a spiritually strong family.
We want to make the CD of that conversation available this month as our way of saying thank you to any of our listeners who can help with a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We are listener-supported, and those donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in cities all across the country. So when you help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, you're making sure that you and your friends and neighbors and others all around the country can continue to hear this broadcast day in and day out.
You can make a donation online, if you'd like, at FamilyLife.com, and if you do that, when you get to the keycode box, if you'd like a copy of the CD with Beth Moore, just type the word "free" in the keycode box, and we'll send it out to you. Or if you're calling 1-800-FLTODAY, ask for the CD with Beth Moore, and we'll be happy to get that out to you as well. Again, our toll-free number is 1-800-FLTODAY, the website if FamilyLife.com, and let me say thanks in advance for your financial support.
Well, tomorrow we want to talk about one of the most important and, frankly, one of the most intimidating spiritual disciplines families face. We'll explain what that is when we come back tomorrow. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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