Kathie Lee Gifford and Andy Stanley are two gifted communicators. Today, they tell us about the ways they reach out to inspire people young and old with the love and gifts God has for them. Up first, Kathie Lee Gifford is a television host, singer, songwriter, and author. She is the co-host with Hoda Kotb of the fourth hour of NBC’s TODAY Show. When we spoke with Kathie Lee about her various successes, she talked about how her faith has kept her grounded through it all. She also shared about a new project she has been working on: a children’s book called The Gift That I Can Give, which encourages kids to recognize the unique gifts God has given each of us. In 1995, pastor Andy Stanley founded Atlanta-based North Point Ministries. Andy is one of the world’s most influential pastors, and one of the most prolific: he’s written more than 20 books, including his latest, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. Today, we talk with Andy about why he has a heart for connecting in a relevant way with people who haven’t been to church or have left the church, and about why he feels it’s important to reach people the way Jesus did: by showing His love to others.
This episode of the Jesus Calling Podcast is brought to you by James Avery Jewelry. Gifts for everyone on your Christmas list. JamesAvery.com.
Kathie Lee Gifford: I think we’re asking our children the wrong question in our culture. We’ve been asking them for years, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I think a better question is, “What are you already becoming? Because God made you that way. What is your gift? What is the one thing that you can do that no one else can do but you?” That’s where you’re also going to find great joy in life because you will be in the center of God’s will.
No One’s Left Out in God’s Family: Kathie Lee Gifford and Andy Stanley – Episode #125
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we’re talking with two gifted communicators about the ways they reach out to inspire people young and old with the love and gifts God has for them: television host Kathie Lee Gifford, and author and pastor Andy Stanley.
Up first, Kathie Lee Gifford is a television host, singer, songwriter, and author. She is the co-host with Hoda Kotb of the fourth hour of NBC’s TODAY. She has received 11 Daytime EMMY nominations and one Daytime EMMY win in 2010 as part of the TODAY team. When we spoke with Kathie Lee about her various successes, she talked about how her faith has kept her grounded through it all. She also shared about a new project she has been working on: a children’s book called The Gift That I Can Give, which encourages kids to recognize the unique gifts God has given each and every one of us.
Kathie Lee Gifford: Hey, everybody, I’m Kathie Lee Gifford.
When I was born, I was born into a beautiful family of a mother and a father who loved me and honored God in their life. But they did not have a living, vibrant relationship with the living God. That came later.
What I did have and what I did receive from my parents, which I was grateful for, was an understanding that they had given birth to my brother to me and to my younger sister, three unique individuals that all had separate gifts, and they encouraged our gifts.
I came out of my mother’s womb with a rimshot and a pratfall. I was putting on shows since before I can even remember. My nickname when I was growing up was “Sarah Heartburn,” instead of Sarah Bernhardt because I was the drama queen, and I still am. Instead of trying to make me a lawyer or a doctor or in the sciences, somewhere where I had no interest in being, my parents realized they had a natural-born performer, and so was my sister. My brother was the academic. They encouraged that.
When you’re a parent, it’s very evident what your child is interested in, and they’re not necessarily great at it at the beginning. That’s for your formative years. But you can tell what your children love to do. That’s what we should encourage them [to do].
“[In their formative years], you can tell what your children love to do. That’s what we should encourage them [to do].” – Kathie Lee Gifford
What is Your Gift From God?
I’d written a little musical, a children’s musical, that came out called The Little Giant, just about half an hour long, based on the story of David and Goliath. And there’s a song at the end of the musical called “What Is Your Stone?” based on what is the gift that we all have innately in us even before we’re born. The Bible talks about the fact that we are wonderfully and fearfully made in our mother’s womb, and God knew us before the foundations of the earth. So every gift we have is already in us. It’s in our DNA, even while God is forming us in that secret, dark place our mother’s womb.
“Every gift we have is already in us. It’s in our DNA, even while God is forming us in that secret, dark place our mother’s womb.” – Kathie Lee Gifford
And so the song goes:
“What is your gift? How will you know it?
What is your gift? How will you throw it?”
Like David threw his stone.
“What is the one thing that you can do
that no one else can do but you?
What is your gift?”
We always talk about building up children’s self-esteem. The best way to build your child’s self-esteem is to tell them that they’re wonderfully and fearfully made in their mother’s womb by a God who created them for great things, and He has a purpose for them unlike any purpose for any other human being. You’re that special. The first letter in the word unique is u. And children need to know that there are like snowflakes, because every snowflake is unique. Also, if God cares so much about making snowflakes unique, imagine the trouble He goes to and the care He takes in creating individual human beings for His glory. He takes such great delight in creating us. He takes even more great delight in co-creating with us as we grow.
“The best way to build your child’s self-esteem is to tell them that they’re wonderfully and fearfully made in their mother’s womb by a God who created them for great things, and He has a purpose for them unlike any purpose for any other human being.” – Kathie Lee Gifford
The message in our little book is not only that we have unique, individual gifts to give and to offer, but there is one thing that every single one of us can do too—if it’s the only thing we do, it’s a good thing—and that is to impart God’s love to people. If God has filled our heart with love, it should be overflowing. When Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life and life more abundantly,” the word for life in that in the original Greek is the word zoe. And it means so huge, so abundant, so overflowing that it cannot be contained.
If we have love like that in our hearts for God, our Savior, and our Creator, He expects us to share it with others. And every single one of us, no matter how much money we have or don’t have, no matter how much talent we have or don’t have, have that to share. There’s no excuse not to share that with this hurting world.
Reclaiming Our Worth in God’s Love
One of the hardest things in our world today—and it’s not just that children face it, but we all do—is social media, the advancement of technology in our world, to the point that it’s so prevalent and so all-consuming that it’s starting to define what we should be, how we should look, how successful you need to be to be a success. And anytime we let the world define us, we’re going to get off track.
“Anytime we let the world define us, we’re going to get off track. . . . If we start comparing ourselves to everything that’s out there, we’ll never be enough. ” – Kathie Lee Gifford
For every truth, there is a counterfeit. And we have to be on our guard for the counterfeits in this world. Satan doesn’t want us to think we’re talented enough. Satan doesn’t want us to think we’re pretty enough or we’re thin enough or we’re rich enough or we’re anything enough. If we start comparing ourselves to everything that’s out there, we’ll never be enough.
And Jesus said and He says still to this day, “Not only are you enough, you are perfect in My eyesight. You are perfect. I do not make mistakes. People do, but I don’t. And I will use you with your so-called imperfections because I see you wrapped in a robe of righteousness and dressed in a garment of glory. That’s the way I see you.”
Now, are you going to let God define who you are? Or are you going to let some faceless internet troll tell you what you are? Go to the Source, the One who loves you, the One who loved you so much that He died for you to give you life, a real life, an authentic one.
One of my favorite verses is in the book of Acts where it says, “In Him, we live and move and have our being.”
So what does that mean? Does that mean “in Him, we go to church on Sunday for an hour?” No. It means every waking and even sleeping moment, from the moment we are conceived in our mother’s womb to that moment that we are received into glory when we pass through this world, it is a constant relationship living relationship with God Almighty. And that should inform and impact every decision we make, every thought we have, every word that that comes from our mouth. Everything should be about that, about relationship with the living God. And it sounds overwhelming to people who don’t understand it, the concept is so foreign. But it’s so real to those of us who have spent our life pursuing relationship with God.
The first thing I think of the minute I wake, and it’s the last thing I think of when I’m falling asleep, and it’s in the Thessalonians. It says, “Pray unceasingly.” How do we do that? You make your life a prayer. You never have a meal unless you thanking God for it. You never say hello without asking God to bless somebody. You never take a test unless you ask God to help you do it. Do everything your best for His glory, and not for the glory of anything or anyone else. It impacts everything about your life.
Finding Our Place in a New Chapter
I have felt for quite a while now that God is leading me into a new season of my life. I have been a widow for over three years now. I’ve been an orphan for over a year. My mom just passed, my dad passed many years ago. I’ve been an empty nester for the last six years, since my children moved to Los Angeles, so I am in a season of wilderness the last few years.
God is moving me into the Promised Land now, I feel. I’m excited I’m doing things at this age that I never dreamed I’d be able to do. I’m acting and singing and writing films in ways that I never dreamed I could do at this point in my life.
I’m introducing a whole line of new movies for Hallmark called the “God Wink” series, based on real-life stories of people who fell in love, based on what might have looked like a coincidence or a series of coincidences, but I don’t believe that life is random at all. God certainly isn’t random. He’s perfect. The Bible says, “As for God, His ways are perfect.” The Word of the Lord is flawless, and He has a divine alignment. And our movies are about how His divinity transcends and transects and intersects our humanity in the way that He gets involved in the human life and He sets things in motion. And we should be looking for those miraculous moments, what we call “God winks.”
I have another film coming out called Then Came You that I wrote for my friend Craig Ferguson and for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever written the screenplay that’s actually been made into a motion picture. It was the greatest professional experience of my entire career. I wrote all the music with GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter and producer Brett James in Nashville. One of the greatest experiences of my life working with him, working with Craig Ferguson, one of the most talented people God’s ever made. Gave him a Jesus Calling, and gave Brett a Jesus Calling. I give everybody a Jesus Calling. And then I tell them, “By the way, you guys, you can also get a Jesus Today, a Jesus Lives. I think there’s five. I read them every single day.” And they just have impact.
God’s doing a great and mighty thing now in my life. I’m excited. I think I’m about to make a move, an exciting move, and it’s one of those things in life where you say, “Stay tuned! If I have a pulse, I’ve still got a purpose.”
God Can Use Everything for His Purpose
I was blessed to meet Sarah Young through our mutual publisher several months back. I knew that she had been battling Lyme disease. She speaks very honestly and candidly in her books about the the physical challenges she’s had since God called her to this this writing, this “inspiration of the Holy Spirit” is what I call it. She is willing to serve and willing to be faithful still to what God has called her to do, in spite of her her pain, in spite of her exhaustion.
She has the gift of weakness, the gift of illness. She sees it as though she doesn’t think she could have ever been the the conduit for God’s healing spirit, if she hadn’t been so not so needy of healing herself. God will use everything in our life for His glory and for His purpose, if we just are willing to be used. And that’s the most beautiful thing about her. Her willingness to be used to God.
“God will use everything in our life for His glory and for His purpose, if we just are willing to be used.” – Kathie Lee Gifford
25 million Jesus Callings out there. Do you know how many people that has blessed? My dear friend Emily gave me Jesus Calling years ago, and I’ve probably purchased a thousand of them since then to give away. And everyone responds to that book in such a similar way, in spite of all of their differences. They all say to me, “Oh gosh, I read it today. It’s as if it was written just for me.” That is the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Children
I have been in the entertainment industry for 55 years. I cannot tell you how many people have come through Regis and Kathie Lee to TODAY Show, Good Morning America, all the shows that I’ve done in all these years who are the most successful people in the world today, many of them. And how many times I have looked at their lives and I’ve gone, “What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world and lose their very soul?”
If you spend your life trying to accomplish things and have trophies on your shelf and money in the bank, you will end up one of the loneliest, most miserable people in the world. It’s only when you build your life on relationships, starting with relationally vertically this way with God the Father, Eternal Creator of the world, of the universe and everything we don’t even know beyond. If we are right with Him, our horizontal relationships have a much better chance of being successful.
I’ve taught my children, since before they could understand it, that God was the single most important presence in their life. One day their father would pass, and that has happened. One day I will pass. Sometimes they wish it was sooner. You know, that’s just life. But God is the same yesterday today and forever. He will never pass. His days are endless. And if you build a relationship with God early on in your existence, it’s the greatest gift you can give your children, the gift of friendship with God.
“If you build a relationship with God early on in your existence, it’s the greatest gift you can give your children, the gift of friendship with God.” – Kathie Lee Gifford
Narrator: You can find Kathie Lee’s children’s book, The Gift That I Can Give, at your favorite book retailer today!
Stay tuned to hear our next guest, author and minister Andy Stanley, after this message from our sponsor.
Narrator: Hi, I’m Laura Neutzling, the host of the Jesus Calling Podcast. One of my favorite Christmas memories when I was growing up was the gift that I would get each year from my dad. I would smile, seeing that tiny box under the tree each year and couldn’t wait to open it. Removing the Christmas paper and opening that little coral box, I would always find a treasure, a piece of jewelry that was special, picked out by my dad for me from James Avery Artisan Jewelry. I cherish those pieces even today.
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Narrator: Our next guest is communicator, author, and pastor Andy Stanley. In 1995, Andy founded Atlanta-based North Point Ministries, and today serves nearly 118,000 people each week around the globe. Andy is one of the world’s most influential pastors, and one of the most prolific: he’s written more than 20 books, including his latest, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. Today, we talk with Andy about why he has a heart for connecting in a relevant way with people who haven’t been to church or have left the church, and about why he feels it’s important to reach people the way Jesus did: by showing His love to others.
But my claim to fame is I’m actually the son of an even more famous pastor, a way more famous pastor: Dr. Charles Stanley. So I’m a preacher’s kid with preacher’s kids—three preacher’s kids, they’re all in their 20s. They’ve all graduated from college. Sandra and I are foster parents, but right now we don’t have any kids living with us, so we are enjoying being empty nesters. It’s pretty cool season of life.
I’ve always loved the local church. Even through high school and college, I wasn’t one of those rebellious preachers kids. I have just always loved the local church, and I’m super excited about this book because of how I hope it will impact the local church.
The Reason Why Some People Don’t Go to Church—Or Stop Going
With my love for the local church, of course, I’m disturbed like so many people are with how many people are not just not going to church, but how many people are dropping out of church—especially church kids, especially preacher’s kids, kids who have been to camp, gotten the T-shirt and memorized the books the Bible. You say John 11, they say Lazarus. You know, they get it, but they just aren’t involved. They just aren’t participating in church anymore. So this is one of the reasons I wrote the book, because this is what has driven me really since we started our church.
The short answer to why people drop out of church is that they have been to church, and they just don’t feel like it’s relevant. All the research tells us that folks who drop out of church, or who just refuse to go to begin with, it’s because they just don’t believe.
“Folks who drop out of church, or who just refuse to go to begin with, it’s because they just don’t believe.” – Andy Stanley
And one of the things that drives me as a pastor as a church leader is to ask the question, “What is it exactly that you don’t believe? What is it that you quit believing?”
Anytime anybody who grew up in church and has decided to leave the church, I want to hear their story. And the fascinating thing is I’ve never heard a story from a person who quit Christianity for a reason that actually had anything to do with Christianity.
“I’ve never heard a story from a person who quit Christianity for a reason that actually had anything to do with Christianity.” – Andy Stanley
Jesus’ Marching Orders for Us: Love One Another
I think it’s time for the church to step back onto the firm ground of the first-century Christians, because this is something I think most Christians don’t know: the Bible, as we think about it—that is, the Jewish scripture, the Old Testament and the documents that make up the New Testament—the first time those two bodies of literature were put together was in the fourth century, about 350 years after the Resurrection. And the reason that’s important is, think about this: for the first 350 years of Christianity, for the first 350 years, no one ever said, “The Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible teaches,” because there was no “the Bible.” And yet Christianity, the church, made its greatest strides within those 350 years. It was a ragtag group of people running around Jerusalem saying, “Someone has risen from the dead.” That belief system actually became central and core to the belief system of the entire Roman Empire.
And so even with all that’s happening in our culture and society and in the church, I’m not the least bit discouraged because I’m absolutely convinced that there is a version of our faith that is robust, it’s endurable. It’s harder than Roman steel and tougher than Roman nails. And if we can refocus people on on the original version, I’m absolutely convinced that things will change. Because again, we have a compelling story. God wanted us to know what he was like so much he sent His Son into this world. He showed up. God dwelled with us.
Jesus could not have been clearer. He gives us our marching orders. He said, ‘I’m establishing a brand-new covenant, and this new covenant will have only one commandment’—not ten, not 613, like the old covenant—this new commandment, this new covenant has only one command, and here it is: You are to love not as you want to be loved. This isn’t the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It’s better than that. It’s a higher standard than that. He said, “I want you to love as I have loved you.” His words. “As I have loved you, so you are to love one another.”
And think about what went through the minds of the men in the room that night. This is before He was arrested, before the crucifixion. They individually had experienced Jesus’ love in an extraordinary way. You think about Matthew, a tax collector. Jesus stops and says, “Matthew, I want you to follow me.” And in that day, in that moment, He gave Matthew extraordinary dignity.
Nathaniel pretty much dissed everybody. He was from Nazareth, and Jesus said, “Hey, I know what you said about me my hometown of my friends, but I want you to follow me anyway.” And then, really, hours later, they would watch a demonstration of love that took their breath away because it took Jesus’ breath away. And then He would rise from the dead and He would say, “As I have loved you, so you are to love one another.” It’s the one commandment. It is the one standard. It is the ethical direction for all Jesus followers.
For those of us who are trying to live out our faith in culture, those are our marching orders. We are to love not as we want to be loved. And that’s kind of the Golden Rule. This is the platinum rule: we are to do unto others as God through Christ has done to us.
“We are to do unto others as God through Christ has done to us.” – Andy Stanley
And the interesting thing is, if you’ll take that one thought and begin to read the epistles of the Apostle Paul, basically everything the Apostle Paul taught was an application of that one command. In the Apostle Paul’s letters, he does not give Christians new commands or new rules to live by. He really just applies what Jesus taught.
So at the end of the day, when it comes to evangelism, when it comes to drawing people back to faith or drawing people back to church, it really comes down to that kind of demonstration of love. And chances are, everybody listening to this podcast has had an experience either personally or has heard a story of someone who was drawn back to faith not because of what the Bible said, not because someone was able to quote or exegete scripture, but because of how they lived. And more specifically, how they loved.
Remembering “God Is Love”
But here’s something that most people don’t know that every Christian should know: the idea of God being love was introduced to the world through one of Jesus’ followers. The Apostle John, in his letter to the church, is the first person in history that we know of to ever utter the words “God is love.” That is a uniquely Christian concept.
And the reason that’s important is because John lived at a time when nothing loving was going on. He had been exiled. His friends had all been executed. The Apostle Paul was dead by this time. Peter was dead. It looked like Rome had won.
But John looked around this chaotic world where love could not be found, and still he said, “God is love.” And the reason he said that is because he believed that when Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” In that moment John realized, I am as close to seeing God as I will ever see God. And in the eyes of Jesus, he saw love.
The idea of God being a loving God, or God being love is a uniquely Christian concept. So when we hear people in society just flippantly say, “Well, I believe God is a loving God, and I believe God is love,” that’s our opportunity to say, “You know what? I do too. Do you know where that idea came from? The first time it was ever uttered, it was uttered in connection to Jesus.” We tie it back to what Jesus said and what Jesus did on our behalf.
This Is the Bible’s Role in Our Lives Today
Having said all that, what is the role of the Bible in the life of the believer? And I think perhaps the best way to sum it up this way is: first of all, it is the story, the history of our faith, beginning “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” when God through Moses said to all of the surrounding nations. And from there we find Abraham that God drops in and says, “I’m going to clean up this mess called sin that you introduced into my world.” And then He established a covenant with the nation of Israel that leads us to Jesus.
We have an extraordinary, extraordinary story. We have an undeniable story. We have this extraordinary literature that spans thousands of years and yet tells a single story. So the Bible, the scripture is extraordinarily important. But it’s extraordinarily important for us to understand exactly what the Bible is. And again, the sequencing in terms of our faith is this: Jesus came to introduce God to the world in a way that the old covenant could not and did not.
“Jesus came to introduce God to the world in a way that the old covenant could not and did not. “ – Andy Stanley
And then for those who place that childlike faith in Jesus, they will discover over time the beauty of the scripture, the importance of the Bible, and how their story interfaces intersects with the story of God.
“The Most Important Thing in the World,” according to Dr. Charles Stanley
My dad, as I mentioned earlier, is a pastor. He’s 85 years old. And for years and years, he would say this. I would hear him say sermons in his devotional books and then he would say it to me growing up. He would say, “Andy, the most important thing in the world—” This is how he would say it, this is a direct quote, “Andy, the most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” He wouldn’t say “God,” he wouldn’t just say “Jesus.” He would say, “The most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” And I’m telling you, that is an extraordinary extraordinary idea. And he is absolutely right.
“The most important thing in the world is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” according to Dr. Charles Stanley
This is one of the beauties of devotional books like Jesus Calling. I grew up reading My Utmost for His Highest, which was kind of the Jesus Calling in its day. But any kind of tool a person can use to draw closer personally to their Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ is something we should all take advantage of, whether it’s reading the scripture directly or reading a portion of Scripture along with a devotional book.
Leverage those tools so that it becomes yours, so that it becomes personal, because my dad is exactly right. The most important thing in your life is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Narrator: As we think about how important it is to nurture our personal relationship with Jesus, we’d like to share this passage from the January 25th entry of the Jesus Calling Audiobook:
Let My Love enfold you in the radiance of My Glory. Sit still in the Light of My Presence, and receive My Peace. These quiet moments with Me transcend time, accomplishing far more than you can imagine. Bring Me the sacrifice of your time, and watch to see how abundantly I bless you and your loved ones.
Through the intimacy of our relationship, you are being transformed from the inside out. As you keep your focus on Me, I form you into the one I desire you to be. Your part is to yield to My creative work in you, neither resisting it nor trying to speed it up. Enjoy the tempo of a God-breathed life by letting Me set the pace. Hold My hand in childlike trust, and the way before you will open up step by step.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with author Bo Stern. After more than two decades of marriage, in 2015 Bo lost her husband Steve after a long battle with ALS. In her book When Holidays Hurt, Bo recalls how painful and disorienting the Christmas season was during her husband’s illness and death, and how she began to cope with her feelings during what was once a happy season.
Bo Stern: The holidays had always been a point of orientation for me. “This is when we all come back together. This is when all the things go well. This is what the house looks pretty.” And all of a sudden, I got into this holiday season where everything just felt a kilter. Everything felt off base.
I had this little meltdown in Target one day. They started playing holiday music, and I’m there in the LEGO aisle just having those little, “I can’t do it.” And I had to go home, and I sat down with my Bible and the Christmas story. I looked at the Christmas story through really fresh eyes, and I realized: this was not an easy story. This was not American perfection. This was hard.