The Unchanging Christ
About the Guest
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Dennis and Barbara Rainey explain why believers have reason to be hopeful in a perilous world. The Raineys remind us that Jesus is our stability yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We can rest assured that God is still in control.
Dennis and Barbara Rainey remind us that Jesus is our stability yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We can rest assured that God is still in control.
The Unchanging Christ
Bob: Do you look at what's happening in our world and in our culture and lose heart?
Barbara Rainey says there's reason for optimism.
Barbara: I think, in the long run, this is going to be very good for the people of God. It's going to be very good for the church, because it will prove who really belongs to Christ. It will prove what we're really made of and where our loyalties lie; because if our loyalties are in the government—and who’s in power / who the President is—that's going to go away / that's going to fade.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday October 19th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Could it be that God is actually causing all things to work together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose, even in a political election year? We'll discuss that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. So here's the question: “Optimist or pessimist—which are you?” And your wife is here. [Laughter] So whatever you say, I am going to get a fact-checker, right here, to determine whether what you say is true.
Dennis: I'm a realistic optimist.
Bob: A realistic optimist. [Laughter] That sounds like you're hedging your bets on—
Dennis: No; no. I just take a real clear look at what's taking place. These are troubling days/challenging days—we don't know what the future holds.
But that's how I describe myself. I think I want to respond in faith. I think we are put here for good works. In fact, I was just thinking about this broadcast—I quoted this earlier on the broadcast—Psalm 37, verse 3:
“Trust in the Lord and do good.” You can't be a pessimist and do nothing—you have to trust in the Lord, and I think, be an optimist. An optimist says, “God is at work.”
I just walked into a meeting a few minutes ago and was just talking about the days in which we are alive. The gentleman who was there said, "Do you think maybe God's got a message for us?" And I said, "Do you think?!" [Laughter] I mean, these are fascinating days: “What is He up to? Why would you want to be up to anything else other than what God's doing?”
Bob: Okay; let me see if your wife would agree with your characterization. Is he a realistic optimist? Is that a good characterization?
Barbara: I do think that's a good description, and I was trying to decide what I would say. I would say he’s definitely not a pessimist.
Dennis: But what about you, Bob?
Barbara: He's by far more optimistic than pessimistic.
Bob: I want to know about Barbara first.
Bob: Are you an optimist?—or a pessimist?
Barbara: Well, honestly, I think I'd have to say the same answer that Dennis gave; because I can see the negative in things, but I think my faith calls me back to believe God. I think were it not for my faith, I think I would probably be a pessimist—
Barbara: —because I tend toward depression. I tend toward realism and practicality; so I tend to see the reasons why things won't work sometimes. But—
Bob: So how hard was it for you to create a plaque that says, "He shall be the stability of our times”?—Isaiah 33:6.
Barbara: Well, actually, this one was pretty easy. There have been some other things that weren't so easy, but this one was pretty easy.
Bob: A lot of people have seen this and said: “I need that—
Bob: —“in my home. I need something that reminds me—in a time, where we start to lose faith / where we start to lose hope—
Bob: —“I need something to remind me that there is still a reason for hope”; right?
Barbara: Well, the purpose of this plaque is to help us remember that there is Someone who never changes. I may change, my circumstances may change, my family may change, the country may change—I mean, everything is up for grabs except Jesus. The plaque we designed so that it will remind us every day, if you hang it in your house, He shall be the stability of your times. And why? Because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He won't change. He's never going anywhere.
No matter how unstable the world feels at any given moment, He's never changing. That reminder, I think, is really important for us, as Christians, in this era in which we live; because we are surrounded by so much that is creating uncertainly, and creating fear, and creating anxiety in our hearts. Jesus wants us to not be afraid but to trust in Him.
Bob: So let me ask the realistic optimist—
Bob: —over here: “As you look at the world that we are in today—you look at the economic condition, you look at the political scene / we've got an election coming up. We're going to have a new President, and we don't know which direction we're going to be headed. Are you hopeful about where we will be, as a church / as Americans? Do you think we will be in a better place a year from now / two years from now?”
Dennis: I'll tell you what I was thinking back the Fourth of July when I was in church with Barbara's mom and they sang the song, America the Beautiful. I have to tell you—as we sang that song, I was sad because it talks about crowning our good with brotherhood. It talks about nobleness, about character, about America representing God. I was really sad; but I didn't stay sad for long because I thought: "You know what? This is why we're here."
Bob, I am more resolute than ever that these days ought to be the days when Christians are shining their lights the brightest. Marriages and families are in serious trouble, folks. Who’s got the solution? Our God does. The Bible begins with a marriage / it ends with a marriage. The Bible contains the blueprints for making marriages and families work. This is an opportunity for our day. Are there political challenges? Are there economic challenges? Are there challenges with poverty in our country / with morality? No question about it, but what is the solution? I believe it is speaking to the needs of the human heart and the soul of individual people. I don't know of another solution if we abandon the gospel of Jesus Christ right now.
Bob: In the early 1980s, I remember we were—we had a Bible study that met in our home.
This was a time when I remember a friend of mine, who gave me advice—he said, "You should put your savings—whatever money you have—put it in a money market fund; because”—he said—"you can earn 10/12 percent interest on your money in a money market fund." It was true in those days, because inflation was so high that you could get that kind of interest securely on your money.
I remember thinking—in the midst of that Bible study: “I wonder how much of the affluence that we experience in our country is responsible for the spiritual lethargy of God's people?” I had this thought—I thought, “I wonder if a depression / another Great Depression would stir up a revival?” And then, I had this thought.” How badly do I want a revival?” I mean, I thought: “I don't know that I want a depression! I don't want to go though the hardship.”
But honestly, we're in a time of hardship, as Christians, in our day that I couldn't have imagined back in 1980. It does—to your point, Dennis—it does call us to live our lives boldly and to be lights in a dark world.
Dennis: It reminds me of the verse that we would read over each of our children as we launched our arrows into college—we'd take them as a freshman. We'd, you know, the girls—we would take a semi truck up to unload all their gear and get them moved in. Then I would read this verse—Philippians 2: “Do all things without grumbling or questioning that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the Word of life so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain nor labor in vain,”—
—there's a daddy speaking there.
But it’s also our heavenly Father speaking to us. He wants us to do good—to dwell in the land, cultivate faithfulness, trust God—but He wants us to be in the marketplace, doing good things, redeeming situations, and taking the gospel of Christ to people who need Him. All of us ought to have some tool or a number of tools we have that we can give away to others to share the gospel of Christ as we go about our duties in this culture, because you don't know who you're rubbing shoulders with. These are human beings that are going to live for eternity somewhere.
Bob: You keep copies of your book, Stepping Up, in the back of the pickup truck; don't you?
Dennis: I do. You know, it’s an inexpensive way to share Christ—to give a book away. It helps that I wrote the book.
Bob: Yes; you can buy it for a little discount.
Dennis: I can. [Laughter] But you know, here's the thing—you ought to have some way of being able to share your faith and leave it with someone, to be able to check back at a later date and say, "Hey, what did you think about what I gave you?" I give Barbara's book away, Letters to my Daughters, because I think there are a lot of young ladies / a lot of wives who don't know how to do this thing called being a wife.
Bob: Barbara, are you hopeful, as you look to the future—as you are now looking at your kids raising your grandchildren—and you think about the world that will be theirs in 20 years—do you think, “I really think they are going to have a better world than the one I grew up in”?
Barbara: Oh, I don't know that I think that there're going to have a better world, because that's such a big unknown. I think it kind of depends on the day that you ask me. [Laughter] Some days you ask me, I might be really afraid for my kids and my grandkids. But I think, when I pull back and look at the big picture, I remember that God is in control and He uses suffering, He uses hard times, and He uses difficulty in our lives to prune us.
This may be a time of pruning, and as you talked earlier, about revival coming. It may be that that is what God is up to, but we don't know.
We do know that He is in control / we do know that He is orchestrating. The situations that we find ourselves in are not what we would choose / they might not be what we would like, but we have to believe that God is sovereign over all. I think about the years of persecution in China and how the church has just exploded in China, even in spite of the persecution. We don't think that makes sense to us. You would think that, in persecution, people would go away—nobody would want to name the name of Christ. Why would you?—because you might be arrested and thrown in prison. And yet, people saw such a difference in their Chinese neighbors, who were believers—that they wanted what they had, in spite of the cost.
We haven't lived under that kind of persecution / that kind of difficulty. I think, in the long run, this is going to be very good for the people of God. It’s going to be very good for the church, because it will prove who really belongs to Christ. It will prove what we’re really made of and where our loyalties lie; because if our loyalties are in the government—and who’s in power / who the President is—that's going to go away / that's going to fade.
Bob: And I think your point’s great there. The question of whether we're hopeful people depends on what we're looking at—what we're focusing on.
Barbara: What we're hoping in.
Bob: That's right. If you are watching the news every day, you’re probably not going to be a hopeful person—
Bob: —as you just feed on that. If you are trusting in either candidate in the current political election to save the day, you have probably got misplaced hope. But if you’re hoping in Christ and His kingdom, that's unshakeable—
—your confidence in that will never be shaken
Bob: Even though circumstances around you may be unsettling, that's a firm hope; isn't it?
Barbara: Yes; and it reminds me—on yesterday's broadcast, we talked about the Martin Luther hymn. It reminds me of two other hymns / two other songs that are my favorite. One of them is In Christ Alone by Keith and Kristyn Getty. I love that and could sing it—I mean, I won't sing because it would hurt everybody’s ears. [Laughter] But I could recite the words. [Laughter] But the other one that I also love is an older song, and it is “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” It reminds me—because the Holy Spirit has reminded me of those words many times in my life to say: “Ah, where's your hope? What are you hoping in?” And then I go: “Oh yes; that's right. I'm hoping in a person, “I'm hoping in a circumstance,” “I'm hoping in a situation instead of hoping in Christ.”
Barbara: And so, when I remember those words, it's kind of like a wheel alignment, as Dennis would say. It takes me back to “Where's my hope?” And if my hope is in Christ, then I will not be moved.
Bob: I have to say a word about that hymn; because in the second verse of the hymn, The Solid Rock, it uses a word that we almost never use. We talk about things being overwhelming. Well, in that hymn, it says: “His oath, His covenant and His blood support me in the whelming flood.” And I have always thought, “We don't talk about anything being whelming.”
Barbara: Whelming—[Laughter]—we don't.
Bob: We talk about things being overwhelming; but the hymn writer is saying, "This is not overwhelming—it's whelming.” But it's not overwhelming because His oath, His covenant and His blood keep your head above water. “In the whelming flood, when all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay. On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
Dennis: And I would just add to that—we need to know whose we are and we need to know who we are. We need to know why we are here. He has given us an assignment. And I just was thinking, as you guys were talking—2 Corinthians, Chapter 5, verse 20—we talked about it earlier this fall, here on FamilyLife Today. Paul writes: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God.” What's he talking about there? He's talking about someone, who’s an ambassador—who knows why he is here and knows his message—and is speaking to the spiritual needs of the souls of men and women and boys and girls.
And I was just reminded, as we were talking, of another embassy I was in—in Washington, DC. It was called the Christian Embassy. It was a place where heads of state were entertained and the gospel was shared with them by Campus Crusade for Christ® and by Bill and Vonette Bright, the founders of Campus Crusade.
Early in my ministry, I was in that Christian Embassy with Bill Bright. He made a statement that could have been made in a taxi, traveling across the city; or it could have been in an airplane, traveling with him; or any other setting. But just because of where he said it, it made a huge difference. Bill Bright looked at me and he said: "Dennis, wear well the cloak of materialism. Wear it loosely. Don't let it cling to you. Don't let prosperity choke out your Christianity.” Basically, what he was warning me about—he said: “The church is lethargic. It is sluggish today, because it enjoys too many of the trappings of our materialistic world.” And he said, "Wear the cloak of materialism loosely."
I have never forgotten those words, and I think he is right. I think we need to take an inventory of how much we're carrying around: “How much stuff and gear do we have?” and “Are we really on mission? Are we about 2 Corinthians 5:20? Are we proclaiming the true needs of human beings’ souls and proclaiming the gospel of Christ to them in a needy day?”
Bob: So if somebody is low on hope—somebody just says: “I’m not hopeful. I’m discouraged. I look where we're headed; and I'm fearful, I'm anxious, I just don't think we are headed in a good place,”—is there a way to strengthen the hope in us, Barbara?
Barbara: Yes. I think it’s where we put our gaze. So if we're looking at the circumstances, and we're discouraged and losing hope because of what we see, we need to stop looking at that.
We need to look at God, and we need to read His story. We need to look at what the ultimate outcome is going to be—where God is taking us someday. Because there have been all kinds of people throughout history—and lots of them talked about in the Bible—where God has taken someone through a hard time, and then, there is a good outcome or a better outcome. I mean, I think about the story of Joseph; and I think about the story of Job; and I think abut the sufferings that Paul went through. God has made it really clear that He doesn’t abandon His people, and He has a purpose.
So for where we find ourselves today in our country—and we feel unstable, we feel insecure, we feel fearful—we have to go back to what isn't going to change; that is, God's Word is not going to change; His plan is not going to change; and His purposes for us, as His people, will not change. We need to immerse ourselves back in God's Word and maybe find a verse that really captures your heart like this one did of mine—
—Isaiah 33:6: “He shall be the stability of your times.” That really resonated with me, and that's a verse I’ve gone back to over and over again when I do feel insecure and when I do feel like the world is an unstable place.
Bob: Well it helps if you have it hanging. Where do you have yours hanging?
Barbara: I have it hanging in my kitchen—
Barbara: —because I am in my kitchen everyday
Bob: So you could look up and see that and just be reminded: “This is where my strength comes from / where my hope comes from. This is the bedrock of my life.”
Barbara: Yes; and I think it’s a part of what God wants us to do, as believers—is to surround ourselves with reminders of who He is. I think that is why, in Deuteronomy 6, He says we need to write it on our doorposts, and put it on our gates, and talk about it all the time everyday; because He knows we are a forgetful people. He knows we wander and we become afraid. When we have reminders / when I have reminders of the truth around me, it kind of takes me back to center.
It takes me back to what I know is right and I go: “Oh, that's right. I don't need to be afraid, because God is in control.” I think it’s good for us to have reminders surrounding us at home, and it’s good for our kids too.
Dennis: You know, these are days when we're at war. There's a spiritual war for good and evil taking place in our country. There was also another time, when there was another war that was occurring, when another hymn got written that I want Barbara to share with our listeners
Bob: Before you talk about that hymn though, let me encourage our listeners to see the plaque that you have created with Isaiah 33:6 on it that says, “He shall be the stability of your times." It’s a plaque that we'd love to send to you. Go to our website—at FamilyLifeToday.com—if you'd like to order one of these. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com.
Or you can call 1-800-358-6329. I think this is a plaque that a lot of families will appreciate having just as a regular reminder that God is our strength / He is our rock, and our stability is in Him.
Let me make sure our listeners know, as well, we have created a series of ten daily devotions that families can do together or couples can read through and pray through together. The content for these daily devotions can be found on the FamilyLife app. When you open the app, just click where it says, “Help and Hope,” and the information about the devotions is there. If you don't have the app on your device or on your smartphone, go to your app store and look for FamilyLife and you can download it. Or you can go to FamillyLifeToday.com and download the content from our website as well. We think going through these ten devotions will help you think rightly, as a family, about the circumstances we live in and about where our hope comes from.
Finally, just let me say a word of thanks to those of you who support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You make all that we do here possible, and we're grateful for your financial partnership. If you can help with a donation today, we'd love to send you a banner that Barbara Rainey has created that reminds you that your home is an embassy of the kingdom of heaven. Donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make a donation; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Dennis: We've been talking about how to make Christ the stability of our days, of our lives, of our marriages and families. Barbara found a song that is very familiar to all of our listeners—you’re going to smile when you hear it. You’re even going to smile bigger when you hear the context of when this song was written.
Barbara: I found this at a flea market—it's an old page of music from the ‘40s.
This song was written in 1942, I believe—‘41 or ‘42—and it is called The British Children's Prayer. It was taught to children during World War II. Listen to the words—the first line you will recognize immediately: “Now I lay me down to sleep.” We know that poem; don't we?—we've said it to our kids. But what we don't know is some of the other lines in this poem that these British children learned in the ‘40's, during World War II.
Now I lay me down to sleep; I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If this night's sleep should end in rest; that is forever, keep me blest.
Within Thy mercy may I be child of Thy kingdom, safe and free.
If I should wake within the night to see the sky all red with light
And hear the rooftops of the town with our own walls come crashing down,
Though there be death within the sky, may I not fear oh, Lord, to die.
If I should die before I awake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
But should I live the long night through, when I arise my work to do,
May I with courage seek to be, not safe, O Lord, not safe but free.
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