Beyond the Platform
About the Guest
John Piper encourages Christians who've been called by Christ to live every day for Him.
What were you really saying when you vowed to love 'until death do us part'? Dennis Rainey talks with author and pastor Alistair Begg about the solemnity of the marriage vows.
Ryan Dobson, and his father, Dr. James Dobson, share some emotional moments regarding Ryan's 1970 adoption.
moremoreBethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, Piper served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. He has authored more than 50 books, and more than 30 years of his preaching and writing are available free of charge at desiringGod.org. Piper resides in the Minneapolis area with his wife of 51 years, and has five children and 14 grandchil...morebooks, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—...more
Biblical truth should affect how you live every season of your life. Learn more from John Piper, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Alistair Begg, and James Dobson.
Bob: Our mission for FamilyLife Today, for the last 25 years, has been to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families. Along the way, we’ve had a lot of people, who’ve joined us to offer their insights and their observations—people like Pastor Alistair Begg.
Alistair: The phraseology of solemnity, and reverence, and of awe, and all those things is, I think, simply to remind this young couple that, although this is taking place in a very public forum—friends and family are there, and that’s very meaningful—it’s actually taking place in view of Almighty God and that it is before God, ultimately, that they will stand to give an account of their response to His Son and their willingness to fulfil their obligations within the framework of marriage.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 8th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
Marriage and family have always been central to God’s design—His plan for His people on planet earth. We’ll hear from a variety of people today who agree with that. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. We’re celebrating birthday week. We don’t just take a day—we take a whole week.
Dennis: Well, it’s 25—
Bob: Twenty-five years
Dennis: —25 years for goodness’ sakes!
Bob: In fact, if you’re turning 25 this year, you should tell all your friends: “It’s a weeklong celebration—not a day.” I think every quarter century should be a weeklong celebration; don’t you think?
Dennis: I think so. You know what I say to people who are celebrating their 25th anniversary?
Bob: No; what do you say?
Dennis: I say: “You got the silver. Now, go for the gold!”
Bob: There you go. That’s good.
Dennis: “Go for 50!” I don’t think Bob and I are going to go for—[Laughter]—I don’t think we’re going to go for the gold.
Bob: I don’t think anybody would want to be listening [Laughter] to us 25 years from now. [Elderly voice] And welcome to—
Dennis: Hold it! Hold it! The engineer out front—Keith! Keith, do you want to go for the gold?
Bob: [Elderly voice] He does. I can hear the program—
Dennis: Keith—Keith is only 12!
Keith: I can’t hear ya!
Bob: [Elderly voice] I can hear the program now—Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Dennis: Coots for Christ—
Bob: — [Elderly voice] Dennis and Bob. [Laughter]
[Resumes regular voice] So, this week, we’re celebrating by revisiting some of the highlight moments over the years—people we’ve had the opportunity to meet, and interview, and share the studio with. One of those people is Dr. John Piper. He and his wife Noël came down—and this was right after he had written the book, Don’t Waste Your Life. I’m thinking about the fact that you just wrote a book that has a similar title to it.
Dennis: That’s right: Choosing a Life That Matters. In fact, the story he tells on today’s broadcast is absolutely a classic.
Bob: It is a classic.
John: Yes; I got the story from Reader’s Digest—[Laughter]
Bob: That’s okay; Ronald Reagan got a lot of his stories from Reader’s Digest too—nothing wrong with it.
John: —and it was written by them—so it’s not told about them.
I won’t give any names, but they were marveling that at—I think age 51 and 52, or something like that—they were able to retire early / go to Florida. And the peak of their excitement about this stage in their life was that they could play softball and collect shells.
I just read that and thought, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Tragically, the AARP and most people giving counsel on what to do with your latter years are telling you to go play them away. I’m thinking: “That is not the way I want to spend my life at all—let alone, my last years / in the months, just proceeding seeing the King of the universe.”
Dennis: When you were a young lad, growing up in your home, there was a—was it a plaque or what was it?—it was in the kitchen as I recall? Is that right?
John: Right; it was in the kitchen.
I now have it in my living room at home—so that it’s been on the wall for 50 years of my life, at least—which says, “Only one life, twill soon be passed, only what’s done for Christ will last.” That was emblazoned on my mind, as a child—that significance and lasting reality is going to come from connectedness with Jesus.
Bob: So, you would say that, from early on, you understood this idea of the stewardship of your life and that it needed to be focused and rightly-directed. It’s not something that came to you later in life.
John: I would say, in my high school years—as I reflected back on the kinds of things I was thinking / the kinds of things I was writing and reading—as I reviewed those, it was amazing to me how much I was thinking about it in those days.
The other thing that probably affected the title of this book, Don’t Waste Your Life, is the story my dad, as an evangelist, would tell when he was doing evangelism. He came home one time, and with tears in his eyes, he said: “A man came to Christ—who must have been in his 70’s—
—“he had been a sinner in the community for years / people had prayed for him, and he resisted the gospel. He walked to the front and he sat down. After the service, as I sat beside him and counseled him, he just wept and wept. When I asked why he was weeping, he just repeated over and over: ‘I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!’’’ I tell you—as a teenager, that story from my dad landed on me with such power that I thought: “Never ever/ever do I want to be able to say that.”
“From Him, through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever and ever,”—Romans 11:36—it says. So, I think significance must be defined in terms of God—depending on Him / being guided by Him—giving Him all the praise, and all the glory, and all the honor; and then, finding lifestyles and ways of talking, and thinking, and feeling, and acting that make God look really good to this culture.
Bob: Well, again, that’s Dr. John Piper.
I have to tell you—earlier this year, that story / the seashell story, which has become famous for John Piper—he had shared that at an event over in Memphis—the One Day Conference. There were thousands of young people who were there. There was an online article—kind of an ongoing blog of people talking about how that story had redirected their lives—people, who are in ministry today because of the seashell story. God used that illustration powerfully and profoundly to wake up many in today’s generation to say: “I do want to choose a life that matters.”
Dennis: You know, Bob, it’s interesting that God would use it; because there’s not too many seashells in Memphis. [Laughter]
Bob: But they understood. [Laughter]
Dennis: There are a lot of seashells in Memphis—a lot of people collecting the wrong thing.
Dennis: This next guest on FamilyLife Today has an eternal perspective as well. Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth has been a friend of yours, Bob / mine and Barbara’s for a number of years. She is a great Bible teacher and does a great job through her radio program.
Bob: FamilyLife Today had the privilege of being a part of helping to birth Revive Our Hearts—Nancy’s radio ministry. She recorded her program here for the first eight years that it was being produced. We had a chance to partner with her to help launch that program.
But this clip actually goes back before she was on the radio / back before she was married—back to when she was traveling and speaking and hadn’t written her first book yet. We talked to her about the fact that God had her, as a single woman, involved in ministry. We talked about some of the challenges associated with singleness.
Bob: The key really to successful singleness is the same key that we have in successful marriages or successful living—it’s abandonment of all to the lordship of Christ.
Nancy: Yes; it is. If I could just make a comment here—just particularly to women, who are single—I find such freedom in knowing that God made me—not to be an initiator—but to be a responder. And that if God’s plan for me is marriage, I don’t have the least bit of responsibility to go and find who that is, or where it is, or when it is. That’s been a very, very liberating thing to me; and I think would set a lot of men free if we, Christian single women, would really just quit panicking and say: “My hope is in the Lord. My expectation is in Him. I’m not pursuing men / I’m not pursuing marriage. I’m pursuing God with all my heart.” I think that would set us free to have relationships that are really wholesome, and whole, and mature, and godly rather than based on a worldly view.
Dennis: If you don’t panic, and you’re not to pursue—do you flirt with the opposite sex?
Nancy: First Peter says, “The holy women of God trusted in God and the woman who trusts in God”—and I do.
I really—not all the time / not as I wish I would—and not without panic in many areas of my life—but deep, deep in my heart I do believe that God loves me, that He is sovereign, that He wants what’s best for my life more than I could ever want it. He surely could figure it out better than I could ever figure it out.
So, honestly, I don’t need to flirt. My goal in life is to please Him; and because I trust Him, it’s not necessary to—you know, I guess, flirting—I don’t know how you define it, but it certainly has something to do with drawing attention to myself and trying to gain something for myself. To live that way is—not only perverse—but it’s contrary to the whole purpose for which God made me—it puts me in bondage. I choose rather freedom, and freedom is to put my trust in the Lord.
Bob: Well, that is a younger, single Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth sharing about how God was at work in her life during her single years.
I neglected to mention that the Revive Our Hearts theme music—Keith Lynch is playing guitar. Our engineer played guitar on that theme music.
Dennis: I’m telling you—he’s ambidextrous. [Laughter]
Bob: We have another friend, who joined us for an interview, to talk about marriage and to talk about the significance of the marriage vow. This is our friend, Alistair Begg.
Dennis: —who’s got a true southern accent.
Bob: [Laughing] Southern Scotland.
Bob: [Laughter] That’s right. Alistair, of course, is heard on the daily radio program, Truth for Life. He pastors Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio. He’s a well-known author and speaker.
Dennis: And has a great cohost on the broadcast—the announcer on that as well—[Laughter]
Bob: Truth for Life. That’s right: “Where the learning is for living.”
Dennis: —and that’s Bob Lepine. [Laughter]
Bob: Here’s a clip of our conversation with Alistair, talking about the wedding vow.
Alistair: When you think about committing your life to another person / to another—a stumbling bumbling person like yourself—the language is going to be very, very important, especially, if it’s going to be a continual reference point for us—that we’re coming back to it and saying, “Well, don’t you remember when we said such-and-such?
“We said, ‘…better or worse.’ This is a little worse, but we already covered that in what we said,”—that kind of thing.
Bob: There’s a phrase that some pastors will use when they begin the vow part of a wedding, where they’ll say, “I solemnly charge you.” That may have been said when I got married. I don’t know if it was or not. Because even if it had been, I’m not sure I would have understood what the preacher was trying to say. What’s that all about—that solemnly charges stuff?
Alistair: The phrase can mean something; but unless the context is marked by a genuine sense of solemnity, what actually emerges—not from the phraseology—but from the conviction on the part of the couple and the person conducting the ceremony itself.
I mean, the phraseology of solemnity, and reverence, and of awe, and all of those things is, I think, simply to remind this young couple that, although this is taking place in a very public forum—and friends and family are there, and that’s very meaningful—it’s actually taking place in view of Almighty God and that it is before God, ultimately, that they will stand to give an account of their response to His Son and their willingness to fulfill their obligations within the framework of marriage.
Bob: Alistair, let me ask you—we’ve talked about the weight of the marriage ceremony / about the vows—and yet, the New Testament tells us that the wedding itself is really a picture. It’s a type of something that is beyond a man and a woman coming together. God intends for it to point to a reality that goes beyond husband and wife.
Alistair: Yes; which makes it even more significant—doesn’t it?—in light of what we’re saying—that we would ever trivialize that.
Yes; Paul says that “This is”—“This is a great mystery.” He says: “I’m talking about Christ and the church,”—and that, somehow or another, our marriages—in terms of selfless devotion and fidelity towards one another—are to speak and point away from ourselves to the immensity of God’s covenant love for those who are His children. And the fact that we are betrothed to Him / that He will come for a lovely bride set apart for her husband, without spot, or wrinkle, or any other blemish; and that He is the One who is taking the initiative in setting His love upon us—it takes us way beyond ourselves.
Also, you know, when you then come to the other side of it, and you say you are to love your wife the way that Christ loved the church, then if that doesn’t solemnize you, I don’t know really what will.
Bob: Again, that’s Alistair Begg talking about wedding vows. He spoke at one of our I Still Do® marriage events. I remember—it was powerful, and the audience was very grateful for his message.
Dennis: Very much so.
In fact, this next guest—I’ve got to tell you folks, this may be the best sting that Bob and I have ever pulled off with a radio guest. And get this, folks—it occurred on his home turf.
Bob: Let me give some backstory to this; okay?
Dennis: This was really, really fun! Listen to what happened.
Bob: We were starting an emphasis, here, at FamilyLife around adoption. Our friends out at Focus on the Family were also committed, passionately, to the issue of adoption. We were getting ready to promote the very first National Adoption Week. I called John Fuller, the cohost at Focus on the Family—I said: “What if we, on the same day, talked about our heart for adoption? Dennis could be a guest on Focus on the Family, and Dr. Dobson could be a guest on FamilyLife Today. Folks would hear us on each other’s shows, talking about adoption.” John said, “Great idea.” We headed out to Colorado Springs to record both programs.
Dennis: I’m sitting out in Dr. Dobson’s office with him; and he says: “You know, I’ve been thinking about it, Dennis. Why don’t we just do one program?—and not do two—where you and Bob are interviewing me. We’ll just have one program, and I’ll interview you guys.” I said: “No; that’s not going to work. [Laughter] Here’s why…” It wasn’t me trying to better him; it’s because we had a unique sting that was all about adoption.
Bob: We did. We had prerecorded an interview. We wanted Dr. Dobson to hear the interview that we had prerecorded during our interview with him.
James: I’ve got a lump in my throat already, and I don’t even know what’s coming.
Dennis: You have a unique story just about how you came to be Ryan Dobson. Do you want to share that?
Ryan: I do! When my sister was born, there were problems during her pregnancy—so that my mom wasn’t able to have more kids. They said, “You know, we’ve got to do something.” They decided they would pray for a miracle.
They committed to the Lord—they were going to get on their knees, at the side of their bed every night, and pray. They did that for an entire year. For 365 straight days, they prayed, every night, on their knees beside their bed and nothing happened. They just kept right on praying—one year turned into two, two quickly turned into three, and three turned into four. Four years go by—nothing happens.
Right about that time, there was a young couple—they were in high school / they dated for a while. After a while, the girl said: “This isn’t the guy that I want to marry. If I’m not going to marry him, I better not keep being with him.” They broke up. A short time later, she found out she was pregnant and didn’t know what to do, and didn’t know if she should tell her parents, and didn’t want them to be upset or mad or disappointed. She finally couldn’t take it—she broke down one night / she told her parents. They didn’t know what to do. They already had four kids, and one more mouth wasn’t going to help things. The family debated what would they do: “Were there any options available?”
Someone at their church pointed them to the doors of a pregnancy care center. They started meeting with a counselor. There were a lot of tears shed as options were laid out and they were trying to decide what to do. The Lord took my parents’ inability to have more kids, and he took that young couple’s high school folly or indiscretion, and He matched it together. On August 31, 1970, my parents, Jim and Shirley, brought me home from an adoption center. And that’s how I became a Dobson.
James: You should have warned me about this, Dennis.
Dennis: I did a little.
James: Oh, that touches my heart.
Dennis: What’s going through your mind?
James: Well, it just, again, takes me back to that era and what we were feeling.
Anyone who has ever been infertile, even for a short period of time, knows the sorrow, and the disappointment, and the pain of having the wife come home again from the doctor’s office and say: “No; not this time. Now, maybe later; but not yet,”—and to hear that over, and over, and over again, when your arms ache for a baby. And then to have the Lord put this beautiful little baby boy into your arms. [Laughter] We loved him from the moment we first saw him. This is just one of the happiest aspects of my entire life. Thank you, Ryan, for what you just said—you got to me, man. [Laughter]
Dennis: You know, before we leave this topic of Ryan’s appreciation for you adopting—you and Shirley adopting him—we asked for one last little piece to be recorded, Jim.
I want our listeners to eavesdrop as Ryan turns to you and Shirley and has some words of appreciation for your courage / your faith to step out and to offer a home to a child who might not have had one
James: Oh my.
Mom and Dad, I just appreciate so much the sacrifices that you made to get me—and to understand that so much more so, now, that I’ve got my own son. It really is about a faith issue. It’s trusting in God to go through that turmoil. To think someone did that for me—I didn’t understand it for many, many years; but because you latched on to me, I was no longer in a foster home. I was no longer wondering whose family I’d be, but I was instantly accepted into a family. And it was, instantly, my family.
Seeing you, Mom, today, in the National Day of Prayer and the impact you have upon—not just this country—but this world through prayer, I have no doubt that part of that was started when you started praying for me so long ago.
I’ve come home, many nights in high school and in college, and crept into the house, hoping not to wake anybody, and hear voices from your room. And to walk in and see you guys on your knees. Words can’t describe what that does to know that I have parents on their knees, every night, praying for me and asking the Lord for protection. It made all the difference in the world. Anytime I was going through a crisis, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, somebody out there would pray for me every night; and that was you and Dad.
And Dad, growing up in the household, I am who I am because of you. I am a Dobson. And to be raised in a household and to see, daily, someone stand up for the Word of God and to follow God, even when it seems like it’s not making sense, that changes people.
I have the greatest situation because I have parents who—not only modeled faith in God, unlike any other place I could get—but they modeled a healthy, loving relationship. You’ve been married for over 40 years. I hope to have that someday. I appreciate it, and I love you guys. And I know you’re going to be great, great, great grandparents. [Laughter]
James: Ryan, just let me tell you that, when we were on our knees there, praying for you, what we were praying for, over and over again, was that God would make you a man of God with a passion for Jesus Christ. He has answered that prayer.
And see you speaking all over the country, and see people responding to you, and carrying that same message—that your great grandfather, and your grandfather, and your father had such a passion for—is one of the great thrills of my life. It’s been a privilege being your father.
Dennis: [Laughter] That was a sweet moment; wasn’t it?
Bob: It was a great moment. And to take Dr. Dobson by surprise and to know that was a meaningful interchange between a father and a son—that I don’t know that they would have had that conversation unless somebody nudged it—right?
Dennis: Yes; you just don’t know. But what a privilege to do radio, Bob, with you for 25 years—and to interview folks like John Piper, Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth, Alistair Begg, and Dr. Dobson. What a privilege to bring these kinds of folks into the cars, living rooms, kitchens, workplaces of listeners all over the country.
Bob: Well, and we have some faithful listeners, who have not only tuned in regularly, but a lot of folks, who have come alongside and said: “We want to see the impact of this ministry expand. We want to help you reach more people.” They understand the mission; and they say: “We’re in. We want to see it expanded.” We’re grateful for those who have partnered with us over the years.
Dennis: We are. I just want to close, saying: “Thank you for caring about your family and the families of others and for giving, because your giving keeps FamilyLife Today on the air, going strong. It even allows FamilyLife Today to help start other radio ministries, like we did with Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth, 15 years ago.”
Bob: Yes. Well, and it’s easy to give, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. You can also mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
If you want to give a dollar a year for each year we’ve been on the air—that would be 25 bucks. If there are two of you listening in your house, you might make it $50—I mean, whatever you’re able to do to help support the ministry—we appreciate your participation.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to hear from some of the new young voices who are speaking out about marriage and family. We’ll hear from J.D. Greear, David Platt, Francis Chan, and Jen Wilkin tomorrow. Hope you can be with us for all of that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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