The Key to a Great Relationship
About the Guest
Siblings don't always get along. But the sibling relationship can improve as brother s and sisters mature and grow in faith. Brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick reminisce about their childhood and the often comical spats they had growing up, and still sometimes have today. They point to their faith in Christ as the glue that bonds them together and challenge parents to seek the Lord daily, and to teach their children to do the same.
Brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick reminisce about their childhood and the often comical spats they had growing up, and still sometimes have today. They point to their faith in Christ as the glue that bonds them together.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 4th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today with Stephen and Alex Kendrick about how we cultivate a heart for God in our children’s lives. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, I’ve got a question I want to ask our guests. They’ve been on FamilyLife Today a number of times.
Dennis: They’re pretty good buddies—
Dennis: —and we don’t ask them real hard questions.
Bob: The movie stars—you talking about the movie stars we’ve got here?
Dennis: Stephen and Alex Kendrick join us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, guys.
Stephen: Hi, guys.
Alex: Thank you.
Dennis: These guys have made movies—Fireproof. They’ve written books—The Love Dare. They’ve got a new one called The Love Dare for Parents. But the bio I’ve got on you guys was—you’re brothers.
Stephen: We are.
Dennis: And you—you know—
Bob: You need the bio to know that? You didn’t realize that?
Dennis: Well, I don’t—but I looked at it; and I go, “Pastors, film makers, authors, and brothers.”
Stephen: That’s right.
Alex: The miracle of God’s salvation. [Laughter]
Stephen: Yes, we get along.
Dennis: There are some moms—
Bob: That’s the answer.
Stephen: And we get along.
Dennis: There are some moms and dads, who are moving to the edge of their chairs as I ask this question: “Tell us your worst encounter, as brothers.” You both have to think of one; then, just—
Stephen: I’ve got mine already. [Laughter]
Alex: Oh no!
Dennis: —I mean, tell me what—because there are some parents, who need hope—
Dennis: —that their kids are going to grow up, and they’re going to be brothers.
Stephen: We grew up fighting. I used to hide under Alex’s bed and make fun of him and laugh at him because he would sneak in his room and lock the door. He didn’t know anyone was in there. [Laughter] We did some pretty mean/harsh things for one another.
Stephen: Well, I remember when I was in high school. Alex was in college and was trying to impress all his college buddies. We were at a dinner. I started unpacking all the embarrassing memories of Alex, growing up, in front of his friends. They got a big laugh out of it. After that dinner, Alex pulled me off to the side. He said: “I am trying to be a team player to you. I know the same things about you, Stephen, but I’m not sharing them. I’m trying to affirm you, as my brother.” And he said: “You have to do the same thing for me. We have to be a team.”
Stephen: And that has come-to-Jesus moment for me—
Dennis: He took the high road—
Stephen: Yes, he did.
Dennis: —and called you off the low road.
Stephen: That’s exactly right.
Alex: Well, I haven’t always taken the high road; but no, there was one time—one time—and I was so furious. I made, when I was—I don’t remember if I was 18 or 19 years old—I put the video camera—pointed it at the couch, sat on the couch, and talked to my future teenage son. [Laughter] I did. And I was—I thought I was being so wise.
Here I am, 18 years old, trying to teach my future 18-year-old son what I’m thinking—“Why I stayed away from drugs,” or, “…this or that,” or, “I don’t understand girls,”—you know, whatever it is—had my heart broken. I thought that was—well, Stephen found the video tape. So, he decided he needed to add to this video tape, without me knowing. So, he sits—
Alex: —He sits back on the couch—puts the camera at him, after the video tape finished. Then, says: “And now, as Alex’s little brother, let me tell you the real deal,” [Laughter] and adds other stuff. So, my kids still haven’t seen this tape—but anyway—
Stephen: No, that didn’t go over well.
Bob: —the whole world—this needs to be on YouTube, guys.
Dennis: I think we need to put it on FamilyLife Today for listeners. [Laughter] Who owns it? Who’s got it?
Stephen: It could be bad. It could be bad. [Laughter]
Alex: No, I’ll tell you a serious one—a serious one—and I’ll be quick about it. We had finished Fireproof, and both of us were drained. I mean, we were just wiped-out. We were doing 16-hour days—week, after week, after week, after week. We’re trying to finish the edit—work on the DVD features. We’re working on The Love Dare. We’re working with the our novelist on—
Alex: —yes, curriculum—and on the novel for Fireproof. I mean, we were just drained. I remember I was just tired.
Bob: This was a movie about marital conflict that you guys made. You’d finished—
Bob: —it up. And what happened?
Alex: So, yes, we’re—I’m finishing up the edit. I was point-man on the movie. Stephen is point-man on the curriculum and on the book, The Love Dare. So, Stephen has more investment in The Love Dare. I have more investment in the movie. But we still work together. We were so tired, and I thought Stephen should’ve been further along on the research for The Love Dare. I’m tired of editing the movie. We got into an argument because I knew, as soon as the movie was done, “We have to finish The Love Dare,” which is funny—it’s so ironic. We’re fighting while we’re finishing The Love Dare—but anyway, but yes. [Laughter]
But I was so tired. I was irritated at him. At the same time, I wasn’t looking from the big perspective of how much Stephen had been adding to the movie and The Love Dare,which was a ton. I’m just looking at my own hours invested in this thing. So, I yelled at him. I was like: “You have no sense of—you don’t have a clock in your head. We’re supposed to turn this thing in at a certain time. It’s due. We’ve already blown past the due date.”
Now, Stephen is producer for these films. He’s handling all the extra things, outside of the edit room, that I don’t have to worry about.
Stephen: I’m fighting all the battles outside the room.
Alex: So, I get mad and yelled at him. He’s defending himself. We’re going back and forth. That was the last big argument we had. So, several years ago—but we, again—made amends, apologize, all that kind of stuff—but my point is this: We both have strengths, and we both have weaknesses. We work as a partnership—especially, when we have accountability, outside of this brother partnership—things go really well. But again, it’s this process of dying to yourself and staying humble and realizing your need for other people.
You can’t do everything yourself.
So, Stephen and my older brother, Shannon, are great brothers; but at the same time, that brotherly competition/friction, every once in a while, pops up. You’ve got to deal with it.
Stephen: The key, though, is our relationships with Christ—
Stephen: —with all three of us. The Lord has transformed our hearts. He’s given us a love for one another. We’re all three in the Word. We’re all three praying for each other—and God is giving us, continually—helps to be hard to offend and quick to forgive with each other.
Bob: Well, and what’s true for brothers is also true for husbands and wives and for moms and dads.
Stephen: That’s right.
Bob: When you guys wrote The Love Dare for Parents, you’re really calling husbands and wives and get on the same page together and to be proactive in making sure that the kids understand, in some very specific ways—“You’re loved. You’re valued. You’re appreciated,”—so that they grow up with a sense of God’s love filtering through you guys.
Stephen: That’s right. And really, we talk about—parents want their children to be blessed; but Scripture communicates that—
when parents fear the Lord—that God will, then, bless their children. It says in
Psalm 112—when we’re delighting in the Lord on a daily basis, when we’re praying for our kids, and when we’re walking with Jesus and modeling the Way—we set up our kids to be blessed. So, it’s easy for us, as parents, to say one thing; then, we don’t model that in our own lives.
So, in the book, we talk about walking intimately with God and letting Him be your satisfaction because, really, the Holy Spirit is the one who gives us love in our hearts. That love causes us to be patient, and kind, and not rude, and not jealous, and those things.
Dennis: Some of these dares are a dare to the parent to square away their relationship with God.
Stephen: With Christ.
Dennis: Give us an illustration of one and kind of what the dare is—the love dare for a parent who is raising a child or a whole family.
Stephen: We talk about parents finding their contentment and satisfaction in Christ rather than in their circumstances. You know, our kids can become—if we’re not careful, they can become an idol in our lives. They can become the whole center of our identity, as parents.
They are loved and welcomed members of the family; but Christ should always be where we go to—as our refuge—as our source for love, and joy, and peace. Those are the first three fruits of the Spirit.
Stephen: Those only come from God. So, we talk about, in the book, learning to zero down, with the Lord, and learning to—not only to surrender your life to Christ—but walk with Him, intimately, on a daily basis because that’s really the key to being the parent that your kids need.
Alex: And what the enemy tries to do—and he does this in every area of life—he wants you at one extreme or the other. He does not want you well-balanced and stable. This is, again, true for marriage and everything. For children—he wants you either to so idolize your children and invest in your children that you disregard other important things—or he wants you so detached from your kids that they are like: “Yes, my parents don’t even love me. I’m always on the back burner,”—whatever. But he doesn’t want you having that healthy balance of: “God is first, my spouse is second, and you are close behind that, as my children—
‘I love you. I treasure you. I’m glad God gave you to me.’” They need to hear that from your mouth. But at the same time, they know they are not it—they’re not your number one priority. The Lord is number one; then, your spouse; then, the children. When the children see that, they will carry that on to their families.
Dennis: And practically-speaking, before we came in the studio, Stephen, you were talking about one of these love dares that you’re spending some time with your kids—right now, on—is the fear of God.
Stephen: That’s exactly right.
Dennis: How are you explaining that to your children, and how are you teaching it to them?
Stephen: The fear of the Lord is when we take God very seriously. Scripture communicates that so many wonderful things happen when we fear the Lord. If you read—just Psalm 34—it talks about the angel of the Lord encamps around about those who fear the Lord—that God satisfies those who fear the Lord. When we develop a holy, reverent respect for God—where we are taking His Word seriously / we’re taking our relationship with Him seriously—it blesses every area of our lives.
You read that in Proverbs. With our kids, we—last year, we walked through
Psalm 139 with them—that: God always sees you, He’s always watching you, you’re accountable to Him, and He loves you. One day, you will stand before Him. If kids can develop a fear of the Lord, then, when they are not around their parents, they’re still going to make good, wise decisions.
If you look at Joseph, he ran from Potiphar’s wife because he said: “God sees me. God is watching me.” So, the Bible says, “The fear of the Lord causes us to hate and depart from evil and to walk in truth and honesty.” So, with our kids, we are teaching them that they’re going to reap what they sow—that God always sees them, He’s always with them, and they are accountable to Him.
Bob: I don’t know if you’ve ever read Jerry Bridges book about the joy of fearing God—
Bob: —but he talks about the difference between a slavish fear, which is not what we are talking about when we talk about fearing the Lord—
Bob: —but our holy fear of God. He uses the illustration of a private, who is attached as an aide to a Four-Star General.
And he says: “They spend all the time together. They build a relationship, and they know one another. But the private always is aware of whom this General is—what this General’s authority is. He would never become so causal with the General as to call him by his first name. He would always have that respect because of the office of this General. Yet, they could have a warm, loving relationship.” That’s how our kids need to understand what—that God’s not like your buddy, who you just pal around with. No, He is God.
Stephen: Yes, He is. He’s holy.
Bob: We need to understand His awesome transcendence and His holiness; but at the same time, He invites us to a deep relationship like the General and the private have.
Stephen: Well, and our respect for Him—when we greatly respect God, our intimacy with Him actually goes deeper.
Stephen: If you think about that—if you don’t teach your children to respect you, as their parents, you’re preparing them to disrespect all authority in the future, including the Lord. As we’re developing a respect-training in our kids, we also balance that out with our love with them.
Our intimacy with them goes deeper because of that.
Dennis: You actually challenge and lead your children in memorizing Scripture.
Dennis: Rattle off a few of the Scriptures that you would point parents to so they can write them down, right now, to be able to teach to their kids to fear God.
Dennis: And I’ll give you one to start with—it’s Psalm 112. You mentioned it earlier—
Dennis: —really, the first four or five verses: “Praise the Lord. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His offspring will be mighty in the land. The generation of the upright will be blessed.” Again, that’s a generational impact that we have, as parents, by, first of all—we fear God—we walk in reverence of the General—as Bob was talking about—recognizing who He is, and we’re passing on that fear to our children.
What are some other passages?
Stephen: We went through, like I said, Psalm 139.
It’s a great passage to talk about God’s intimacy in our lives. We memorized
Ephesians 6 with our kids. We just went through it. It took us a year with our children, but they learned respect and honor towards authority. Also, they learned the armor of God. They learned to be strong in the Lord and the power of His might; and they learned submission to authority, at the same time.
Bob: So, did you pick Ephesians 6 because of where it starts out [Laughter] because 6:1 is: “Children obey your parents, in the Lord,”—
Stephen: That’s right. [Laughter]
Bob: —“for this is right”?
Stephen: That is the only command the New Testament gives to children is to honor and obey their parents; so, we needed to start there! [Laughter]
Alex: Yes, Psalm 119:1-18. My son memorized—Joshua—about how a young man can keep his way pure. Then, Psalm 1—talking about who you hang out with: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners.” And so, my kids memorized all of Psalm 1; and that passage in Psalm 119; and, of course, several other ones.
But a funny one—I’ve got to say this real quick—we memorized Proverbs 27:14.
When my kids were being loud in the morning—and they were singing, trying to wake each other up—and so, I said, “I want you turn to Proverbs 27:14, which says, ‘He that blesses his friend with a loud voice in the morning will be counted a curse to him.’” [Laughter] I said: “In other words, guys, in the morning, you don’t just start screaming and yelling to wake everybody up unless you have to—if it’s an emergency. But go in there and wake them up when it’s time to get up. Let’s do breakfast and school work.” So, they’re like, “Wow!” and they start laughing. So, they learned this verse.
Bob: One of our favorites, at the dinner table—and I don’t remember the address—but there’s a proverb that says, “Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows is the man who provokes his friend and then says,”—
Stephen: “I was only joking.”
Bob: —“I was only joking.”
Alex: That’s it.
Stephen: Yes, that’s right.
Bob: Yes, and we got that all the time, at our house. Kids would say something to one another and go: “I was just kidding. I’m just kidding.” We’d say, “Like a madman shooting firebrands or deadly arrows….” I mean, we tossed that around so often—they could recite that one today if you went to them, as adults.
Dennis: What we’re talking about here is passing on the truth of God and, also, the experience of God.
Dennis: And those are both absolutely essential. If you pass on the truth of God, without an experience of God, that becomes boxy; and there’s no—
Dennis: —Yes. It does. There’s no joy because God loves us, and wants to relate to us, and wants us to experience Him on a daily basis. So, it’s the truth of God and the experience of God that we, as parents, are passing on to the next generation.
Bob: But you know, there are probably some parents who are listening and saying: “Okay, you started off talking about “How can we express love to our kids?” Then, we got off on Scripture memory. So, tie these two together for me. Having my kids memorize Scripture—they don’t go, ‘I know Mom and Dad love me because they made me memorize Ephesians 6 last year.’”
Stephen: Well, the source of love is God, Himself, and the Bible is the love letter—ultimate love letter from God. When parents are teaching their kids truth—you know, “Love rejoices in the truth,”—it says in First Corinthians 13—
well, they are not going to be able to do that unless they know what the truth is. So, it is so important that we have those parallel tracks—that we are speaking the truth in love / that we are planting the truth of God’s Word into that soil of a loving relationship with our kids.
Dennis was talking about relationship. Deuteronomy 6-8 communicates: “We are to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength. Then, we are to teach our children when we rise up, walk in the way, sit in our house, and go to bed at night. All the time, we are communicating: “Here’s how you love God. Here’s how you walk with God.”
And when we do that, we are setting up our kids for ultimate success beyond anything that we could buy them possession-wise, any schooling or training that we could give them, any scholarship at college. If they’ll love the Lord and fear the Lord, they are set up to do the will of God.
Bob: It’s got to be done with the right heart and right motivation, though. This has got to come from a mom and dad, where you really do want to bless your child and where you are not trying to build in legalism, because you’ve seen the parents: “We do the devotions. We do the Scripture memory.
“We do all of that,” but the kids would have no idea that Mom and Dad really cared about them.
Stephen: That’s true.
Alex: Yes, and that’s one of the reasons we try to arm the parent, when we wrote this book, The Love Dare for Parents. We try to arm them with, not only ways to do that, but there are prayer strategies in there. There are questions to ask to go to a deeper level. There are creative ideas and how to spend time with your kids, no matter their age—how to engender, not only a close walk with you, but with the Lord.
We try to arm them with as much as possible, in this book, to, not only go through the 40 days of dares, with principles attached; but also, the back matter in this book is chock-full of appendices that we tried to give them to help that relationship and their love for the Lord.
Dennis: I do think one of the things that you do a good job of in the book is, not only anchoring every one of these 40 dares in the Scripture, but you are also very practical. You deal with issues around boundaries and other things that parents are facing today.
But one of them that, if Barbara was here, she’d be pounding the table about—and it doesn’t sound like it’s very theological, but it really is—and that’s the love dare you give parents to teach their kids manners.
Stephen: Yes, and it’s absent in our culture!
Dennis: It is.
Stephen: It is absent.
Dennis: And that is why Barbara would pound the table.
Alex: Yes, you know, what we’re doing with our kids? We’re teaching them manners. And this is, again, part of the love dare. One of our kids will serve the others at dinner; and then, they’re supposed to respond a certain way. Then, later, a different one will clean up, afterwards. And they rotate.
We’re teaching each of them, not only table manners, but how to give and receive service. You know, when you are serving other people—that is an honor to do that. That’s not necessarily the lowly position. How do you show gratefulness to someone who is serving you? Again, we are not legalistic about it; but it’s something that they are going to carry through their entire life—to show value for other people but, also, be willing to serve other people with the right heart.
Stephen: First Corinthians 13 says, “Love is not rude.”
That means you are not doing anything that would gross anyone out or be unpleasant for the people around you. So, it’s really the Golden Rule played out in every-day behavior. So, teaching our kids: “Do you like it when someone else is opening their mouths, while they have food in it, and breathing on you? No, you don’t. Then, don’t do that to them.”
When I’m talking to my kids and teaching them, usually, the Golden Rule ends up coming out in the conversation because I ask: “When you have children, one day—if they speak to you with whiny and complaining tones, are you going to like that?”—“No, ma’am / No, Sir.” “Well, then, you don’t need to be doing that to us.” So, love is going to cause us to want to not be rude to one another.
Dennis: I recall, coming home from work one day, and Barbara had this article from a magazine that had been written by Elisabeth Elliot. Elisabeth was a guest, here on FamilyLife Today, on a number of occasions and is one of our favorite people. Barbara loved to read anything that Elisabeth wrote. This particular article was about teaching your kids manners. She anchored it in Philippians 2 that—
at the heart of manners—is giving my life for your life.
Dennis: It’s showing that I respect you.
Stephen: Esteeming others is more important than yourself.
Bob: We’re really not talking about how to raise little rule-keepers and Pharisees. We’re talking about how to raise people, who are centered on others more than they’re centered on themselves. And kids don’t do that naturally. Grown-ups don’t do that naturally; but that’s what, at the heart of what the Gospel points us to; isn’t it?
Alex: Which is a godly attribute—it is something that Jesus demonstrated to us and asked us to do. What did He say? “Love God and love others.”
Bob: That’s right.
Alex: Those are the two greatest commandments.
Dennis: And we all need spiritual wheel alignments—
Stephen: That’s right. [Laughter]
Dennis: —from time to time—
Stephen: That’s right.
Dennis: —to kind of get back on track and go: “You’re right. We do need to think of others more highly than we think of ourselves and to give our lives for others.” And our kids are going to—they’re going to catch this, as we teach them, but, also, as we model. Throughout your book, The Love Dare for Parents, you’re really using both methods of teaching—
both calling parents to model it—but also encouraging parents to do it, and to say things, and to be kind to them—to show them how to forgive, to teach them how to ask for forgiveness. And it’s really why these 40 days, I think, could transform a lot of homes and a lot of parents—whether you’re a single-parent, an intact family, or a blended family—I think you need this kind of spiritual guidance that’s going to set you on the right journey.
Bob: So, if you’ve noticed the kids are wobbling a little bit—you know because, when the wheels are out of alignment, that’s what happens—
Bob: —wobbling. If your kids are wobbling or if you’ve been wobbling, get an alignment. Get a copy of the book, The Love Dare for Parents. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can order the book from us, online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. So, online: FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY” to get a copy of The Love Dare for Parents.
When you’re online, you might also check out the new resource from Barbara Rainey called “How Do I Love Thee?” It takes the qualities of love from First Corinthians, Chapter 13, and turns them into an activity that families can do together, where you can learn and share what real love looks like, according to the Scriptures. Find out more about “How Do I Love Thee?”—Barbara Rainey’s new resource—when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call if you have any questions—1-800-FL-TODAY.
Of course, we’ve been talking about demonstrating love for our children today; but we also have to learn how we can more effectively express our love to one another in a marriage relationship. Dennis, you and your wife, Barbara, have written a book on that subject called Rekindling the Romance, with half of the book written for husbands and half of the book written for wives. You really address the romance robbers that can come into every marriage relationship, and you talk about how we can forge a stronger bond of love with our spouse.
We’re making this book available to all those who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, this month, with a donation. FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. It’s folks, like you, who make it possible for us to continue this radio program—for our website to be functioning, for the message of FamilyLife Today to be heard, all around the U.S. and all around the world, via the internet.
We want to say, “Thanks,” to those of you who have helped support this program in the past. And if you can make a donation today, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of Rekindling the Romance by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the button you see there that says, “I CARE.” You can make an online donation. We’ll send the book to you. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. When you make a donation over the phone, ask for a copy of the book on romance—the book, Rekindling the Romance. Or you can mail a check and request the book.
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And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow. We’ll, once again, talk with Stephen and Alex Kendrick about what unconditional love looks like in a family—the love between a parent and a child—how do we express that our love is not conditional? We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in 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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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