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Leaving a Legacy of Love

Leaving a Legacy of Love

Popular speaker and author Bill Butterworth offers biblically-based encouragement for how you can leave a legacy of love for your family.
Original Air Date: April 9, 2007


John Fuller: Today on “Focus on the Family,” Bill Butterworth shares one of the most important ideas he’s ever found in the Bible.


Bill Butterworth:It’s as if God were answering my question by saying, “You want something important to teach your kids? I’ll give you three things: faith, hope and love. You want the gold-medal winner out of the three (Sound of pop), choose love.”

End of Teaser

John: And you’re going to hear how to demonstrate love in your family as we kick off the new year with Focus president, Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: John, this is a great time to think about things we’d like to do better. That can be convicting, but also inspiring. And Bill Butterworth has a lighthearted message to share with us that contains some important truths about showing love to those around us. He’s an author and much-sought-after speaker and most importantly, the father of four boys and a girl.

John: And here is Bill Butterworth on “Focus on the Family.”


Bill: I want to tell you about a very important moment in my life. Sociologists talk about significant emotional events when, you know, you’re just not the same after they happen. And there’re some that we’ve all experienced, but then there are individual ones that mark us as people and we’re never the same.

For me it took place very simply. It was the first words of my youngest child. There are five Butterworths in the Butterworth family: Joy, Jessie, Jeffery, John and Joseph.So now you know why we travel, but [(Laughter) when Joseph was getting ready to speak it was a big event.

Now where are the parents out there? Any parents willing to raise their hands? Okay, very popular here, all right. How many of you had parents? Would you raise your hands? (Laughter) Okay, huh, not as many, but anyway (Laughter), you know how this whole parenting thing works, right? When our first child came along–Joy–we were typical first time parents. (Sound of pop) This kid’s gonna walk at 6 months; this kid’s gonna talk at 8 months. This kid’s gonna talk another language at 9 months; this kid’s gonna have a Stanford application already filled out at 10 months, you know just all the pressure, all the stress, putting it on that first kid.

Well, by the time you have five, you learn to lighten up. You learn a lot about parenting. I can remember when Joseph came along thinking to myself, “That kid can walk whenever he wants; that kid can talk whenever he wants. I don’t care if he’s 12; if he can get in and out of that diaper on his own I have no problem (Laughter) with that. There is no pressure on this guy; we’re not gonna have any problems.

So I remember that this was not so much a big deal, to me, when he was gonna start to talk, but it’s as if God grabbed it and grabbed ahold of me and said, “You better pay attention, ’cause this kid’s got a message for you.” ‘Cause see, kids kind of learn how to talk two different ways, I’ve observed. The most common one is they kind of accidentally stumble into it, right? They’re sitting there one day, “Goo goo, ga ga, me me, nu nu, (Baby sounds) broccoli.” (Laughter) The kid is speaking; listen to that. And then there’s this other method where it’s almost like they just have an on switch flipped and they just start speaking perfectly.

This is the way it was with Joseph. He spoke on a Monday night at dinner and the reason I remember it was Monday night at dinner is when he was 1-year-old, 1986. It was a very busy time for me. I thought I was more important than I probably should have thought. I was working Monday through Friday at “Insight for Living” with the Swindolls and I was counseling all week. And Friday afternoon I’d sneak out of my office in Southern California and I’d fly somewhere and I’d spend a weekend with a group like you.

And oftentimes my theme for the weekend would be “You Need to Spend More Time with Your Family.” (Laughter) I’d fly back; my kids would already in bed. I’d get up early Monday morning before they woke up to get into the office to make up for the time I missed sneaking out early Friday afternoon. So if you’re following me, sometimes it would be Monday night before I’d see my kids, having only seen them the previous Thursday night when I tucked them into bed. And I’ll go ahead and give you the interpretation: that’s all wrong; that’s way too much.

So it’s Monday night; we’re at dinner. I haven’t seen my family since Thursday night. Joseph hits the on switch; it’s time to speak. I mean, to this day I look in his eyes and I can still revisit this. He’s in his highchair sitting between his mom and me. He turns and looks at his mom; his face lights up. With unmistakable clarity he goes, “Hey-ey-ey, Ma!” (Laughter) And then he turns and looks at me, face lights up, same unmistakable clarity, “Hey-ey-ey, Bob!” (Laughter) And his mom doesn’t miss a beat, she says, “Whoa, you’ve been on the road too much.” And I said, “Never mind that; who’s Bob?” (Laughter)

Well, I found out there wasn’t a Bob and I don’t know whether that was good news or bad news because then I realized my son doesn’t even know who I am. He doesn’t call me Dad; he don’t even have the first name right. I’m Bob and the rest of my family’s telling me, “Dad, it was an innocent mistake. You gotta get a grip.” And I couldn’t, I just went into this funk. I’m thinking, “Well, what right do I have to expect him to call me dad. He doesn’t know who I am. He never sees me. I’m this all important guy who’s got to go out and do all this other stuff. I’m not being a good dad.” What a rotten thing to be communicated.

I can remember sitting there weeks afterwards still in this kind of haze. And of course, Joseph has moved into the phase of language. One of my favorite times when a kid has like three or four favorite words, right, and they just say them over and over again. He had three. If he wanted more to eat he’d say, “More” and if he wanted something to drink he’d say, “Dink.” And he, believe it or not, started calling me Bill,” (Laughter) and I thought this was good. I didn’t take it as disrespectful. After all, we started off with Bob, so I thought we were moving in the right way. (Laughter) We’d get to Dad; we’d get to Dad.

SoI’m there at the dinner table trying to figure out why doesn’t even know who I am and he’s over there barking in the high chair, “More dink, Bill.” (Laughter) Well, that was a big moment for me. I mean, I made some radical changes. I left my position at Insight for Living and started what has been a wonderful 15 years of speaking full time all over the country. But he caught my attention that day and if I can freeze that moment for you and tell you about one other one and bring ’em together, you’ll see where we’re going this morning in the minutes we have.

It was many years later; it was only a few years ago, I was sitting in my home in California and the phone rang and it was from Philadelphia, where I had been born and raised. And the message was, “Your father has suddenly passed away. Would you come to Philadelphia and preach his funeral?” which, of course,I was pleased and privileged to be able to do, although I was deeply crushed at the … the death of my father. I didn’t expect it whatsoever.

So I flew to Philadelphia and it’s that situation where I’m behind the lectern and my father’s body is lying in a casket right next to me and I’m the family representative who was supposed to tell everybody what my father has passed on, what he has left behind, his legacy if you will–not his stock portfolio, not what’s in the will, not the real estate, but the real inside stuff. What did my dad teach me that out-lives him, that goes on? And fortunately for me, my dad was one of my heroes, so it was a very easy speech to give from that vantage point.

But any parent in the room probably knows where I’m going with this. I couldn’t help but think, you know, one of these days it’s gonna be all different. I’m gonna be over here and one of the five kids is gonna be elected as the representative. What are we going to say about our dad? Now, that kind of sent a shiver up my spine, ’cause I realize, you know, my kids can give you a grocery list of things I don’t do well. You know, don’t let Dad near a check book if you want it to be balanced. Dad is not healthy around power tools, you know. Dad is a, you know, just don’t put him in these kind of situations. There’s a lot they can say that I don’t do well. And I couldn’t think of what they would say that I did do well and I thought well, I better figure out something that’s gonna be significant.

And so I thought a glance through the Bible might be important. I was looking for that Bible verse that began, “This is what thou shalt teach thy children, so that they shall say this about thee when thou diest.” (Laughter) I thought, “Yeah, that’s what I want.” There’s no verse that starts out that way.

Program Note:

John: We’re listening to Bill Butterworth on today’s “Focus on the Family” and like he just mentioned, you can get a free audio download of this program today so you can listen again or share it with a friend when you visit And while you’re there, look around the online store and find other helpful resources. Let’s return now to Bill Butterworth on “Focus on the Family.”

End of Program Note

Bill: So I thought, “What is it that is important to God? I mean, what will outlive me? What will outlive you that’s significant?” And I was drawn to a chapter that I memorized as a child in Sunday school; you may even know it. It’s the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians, where Paul ends with this beautiful summary, “Now abide faith, hope and love, these three, but the greatest of these is,” somebody tell me, (Audience “Love”) “love.” You know it. It’s as if God were answering my question by saying, “You want something important to teach your kids? I’ll give you three things: faith, hope and love. You want the gold medal winner out of the three, (Pop sound) choose love. Love your kids, man and that will outlive you.”

So I thought, “Man that’s what it is.” And so, I’ve set this out as this is to be my legacy, if I have anything to do with it,if my kids can say, “You know, my dad did an awful lot wrong, but I’ll tell you one thing we knew about him. Our dad always loved us. We always knew it; he always showed us. He’s a good man.”

What does love look like from God’s standard? If God is saying to you, “Make love your legacy and allow it to fuel your relationships,” what does love look like? Well, there’s a wonderful little passage in 1 Thessalonians that I want to read to you and then give you some very simple points to follow as we look at this, this morning. It’s 1 Thessalonians 4, verses 9, 10 & 11. “Now as to the love of the brethren,” it says, “you have no need for anyone to write to you, because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. You practice love towards all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. We urge you to excel still more, making it your ambition to lead a quiet life.”

So if you’re a note taker let me give you three points on how people will know you’re a loving person. Point No. 1, “Loving people know that love is a top priority.” One of my most favorite invitations, I often get invited to go onto Christian college campuses and speak to the college students. And they have this wonderful quaint old custom on a lot of Christian college campuses. It’s a required meeting that they call “chapel.” And that’s where you speak. You speak to the whole student body. It’s required. You’re guaranteed a full house. They go in and wake these kids up. There’s guns. There’s handcuffs, there’s … you know, I mean it’s a very religious experience. (Laughter)

So, I know I can do all right in chapel, ’cause everybody’s there. But the president will often say, “Why don’t you stay over and do a little voluntary session that night?” Well, nobody comes to voluntary sessions when you’re in college. So, I decided I gotta come up with a really good topic. So somewhere during chapel I’ll say, “Hey, if you have any free time tonight, come on back out tonight. We’re gonna answer the question, how to know if you’re really in love.” Whoosh! You know,the place is packed because like all the girls are sayin’, “Well, you know, I think Edgar’s the one, but I have questions. There are issues. I have doubts. I just don’t know.” And Edgar’s like, “Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh.” (Laughter)

So everybody’s there and what I tell these college students is, you know, what we need to understand is there are many aspects of love. There’s a physical aspect of love, that aspect that says, “Whoo, I like this person. I want to hold their hand. I want to put my arm around her.” “I want to hug him. I want to kiss him,” etc., etc. And in God’s grand scheme in the right context, even the etc., etc. is all His design. It’s a beautiful thing.

But that’s not all there is to love. There’s the emotional aspect of love. Women are way ahead of us, guys. This is why a woman says, “Oh, my boyfriend walks through the door and ooh, ooh, hoo! You know, I get lightheaded and my knees get weak and I get butterflies in my stomach.” And guys, we try to respond in kind. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I see you across the hall” and I’m like, nauseous. (Laughter) Doesn’t have quite the effect that it does when you’re girlfriend or your wife says it to you, huh? Okay.

But that’s usually where it stops. God has a whole ‘nother level of love that’s the key to all this and that’s what I call “the volitional aspect of love.” We choose to love. I can love you when you are just so cute and lovable and huggable. And I can also love you when you are unlovable. Anybody got an unlovable person in your life? Don’t raise your hand; they might be here. (Laughter) You know the strain, the drain. I gotta love that person again.

Now this is where you’d expect a father of five to go through a litany of stories about the kids. Four of my five are boys. Let’s just talk about boys at that teenage stage. You know, the fumes alone are enough to kill ya and you just wonder, then … but (Laughter) I would tell those stories. My kids would often be with me and I’d see ’em kind of sink in deeper, deeper in their seats. You know, on the way home, “Thanks, dad; thanks for sharin’ that story. I’m glad that thousands of people know I’m an idiot now.” (Laughter) “You’re a good man, dad.”

So one day on a lark, I asked myself what I thought was a frivolous question. It was, “I wonder if my kids ever have to choose to love me in an unlovable state?” Uh! (Laughter) And I thought of like one thing which led to six, which led to four pages, which led to several hours. I mean, I was getting depressed. It’s like I gotta stop. I can’t believe this. My kids are constantly being put in a position where theygotta love me when I’m not all that lovable either. Pretty scary, huh?

We lived in Southern California for years and then we moved up to Northern California. We left Orange County and moved up to a tiny little town just below Lake Tahoe–very small, not a lot of stuff going on. I remember my oldest son was so excited about the first spring up there so he could play Little League.

And he had come from Orange County, you know, Orange County little league. Man it’s primo. I mean, you get uniform day; you get an exact replica of what the pros wear. I mean if you’re the Little League Dodgers, it’s like you got a professional Dodger uniform that was simply left in the dryer too long. (Laughter) I mean, it’s precise, you know.

So, we’re up in Northern California and it’s uniform day and the coach says, “Get in line; get your T-shirts.” And my darling little naive son turns around and looks at me and says, “Dad, they give out T-shirts to wear under the uniforms,” you know. He doesn’t have a clue. The T-shirt is it. “Oh, Dad, talk to the coach.” I go over to the coach, “Is this it?” He said, “Well, you’ve got to buy him a hat, but yeah, this is it, Little League on a budget.” Well, I had no idea what the budget was like.

I go to the first game and that’s where I really got rocked, okay. You’re inthe stands; the baseball field is out there, right. Home plate, you’re all right behind it. Right before the game the two adult coaches come out to home plate, shake hands, “Let’s have a good game.” They turned and look at the stands and to my horror, they start going, “I’ll take you, sir; I’ll take you. I’ll take you, sir.” I start mumbling to the kids next to me, “What’s going on?” And one of my boys says, “Dad, they’re picking umps.” (Laughter) I said, “They don’t even pay for umps around here?” “No, no, no, they just pull ’em out of the crowd.” (Laughter)

Well, I’m like, “Oh no, I know they’re gonna pick me. I can’t do this. This is too much stress. How can they put me out there when my son’s playing? Am I ever gonna call my son out? Is he ever gonna hit a foul ball? Is he ever not gonna be safe? I mean you can’t do this to me. I can’t stand the stress. I can’t stand the pressure. Somebody help me here.”

So, in good victorious living style, I was up for seven straight nights, couldn’t sleep. I know they’re gonna pick me. I know they’re gonna pick me this week. I know they’re gonna pick me. (Laughter)

Program Note:

John: You’re listening to Bill Butterworth on today’s “Focus on the Family” and this reminder, today we’ve got a free audio download of the program for you so you can listen again or share it with a friend and that’s available at Let’s go ahead and return now to Bill Butterworth on “Focus on the Family.”

End of Program Note

Bill: Next Saturday, sure enough the coaches come out; they shake hands, “Let’s have a good game.” “I’ll take you, sir; I’ll take you, sir.” And boy, he looks right at me, “I’ll take you, sir.” Well fortunately, I had seen that finger point at me a thousand times in the seven sleepless nights and I was prepared. No sooner did he say, “I’ll take you, sir,” I stood up and confidently replied, “(Speaking in a foreign language)” (Laughter). Which of course, is German and if you speak German, you realize I just said, “I can’t understand you because I believe my mother is broken.” (Laughter)

Well the poor coach, he’s like the deer in the headlights. He’s just kind of frozen there at me and he turns and looks at my kids and he says, “Your dad doesn’t speak English?!” And I can see my kids looking up at me like, “This is the moment. (Laughter) Do we just love the unlovable or do we just let the guy fry?” (Laughter) Right? You’ve been there. And God bless ’em. My dear kids, they just looked over at the coach. (Laughter)

And the coach is like, “Well, I’m sorry; we can’t have someone who doesn’t speak English. Never mind.” And they didn’t pick me for the whole rest of the season. It was great. But my poor kids, they’re in school. All their classmates are saying, “Your dad doesn’t speak English?! (Laughter) What does he do?” And they’d say, “He’s a speaker.” (Laughter)

Love is an act of the will. So point No. 1, loving people know that love is a top priority.

No. 2, loving people know love takes practice. Loving people know that love takes practice. Verse 10 says it; “You practice love toward all those in Macedonia, we urge you to excel still more.” Love takes practice. It’s not something that you master once and for all and then you don’t have to work on it again,ever again. This verse tells me first of all, that love is in the context of a relationship. You practice it towards all those that are in Macedonia.

“May your love be practiced and excel still more.” When’s the last time you did an unselfish demonstrative act of love to someone that you love? Maybe you need to do that. Now if they’re here, you’ll do that and they’ll say, “You’re only doing that ’cause the blond guy told you to do it in church.” (Laughter) So you might need to have a backup so that they know, “Whoa, you mean it, too. All right, this is good.” But anything is better than nothing. Demonstrate love; practice love. Loving people know, No. 1 that love is a top priority, No. 2 that love takes practice.

The third one I want you to consider as we wrap this up is that that loving people know love’s tremendous power. Loving people know love’s tremendous power. Verse 11 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life.” Now it’s interesting; it doesn’t mean a life of silence–the life of a librarian. The word “quiet” means a settled life. The 21st century synonym would be, ‘Make it your goal to lead a life that is stress free.”

How do I live life above the stress level? You don’t; God lives it through you. You now have the power of God in you. Now, I mean, you still show up; you’re still breathing. You’re still making decisions. I don’t mean to take us completely off the hook, but do you understand what I’m saying? The Bible teaches that when you and I come into relationship with God, when we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are born into God’s family and God literally comes and lives inside of us. What a beautiful thing!

And because He lives inside of us now, as we yield to Him inside of us, He loves through us. So I can love that unlovable roommate, neighbor, boss, spouse, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, uncle. I can love that person, because God is loving through me. And I can live above stress, because God’s love not only works through me, but works through the people that are around me. No more do you see God’s love demonstrated in a higher form than when we go through difficult times, right?

For me, my world hit bottom 10 years ago. After 17 years of marriage, it was over. All of a sudden, I’m divorced. It’s not what I wanted. I’m thinking, I’ve got all these kids. What am I gonna do with these kids? This isn’t supposed to happen to people like me. I’m a good guy. This happens to mean guys–people that beat up people and cheat on people. I’m a good guy. This shouldn’t happen to me, but it did.

And I remember thinking, how am I gonna get through this? And you know, consequently, after eight years of being single again, God brought Kathi into my life and we began to see, you know, there was so much to be learned not only about our love between one another, but during those single years–and she could tell you the same story–it’s all about God’s love being shown through the friends in our life, friends that would circle around me and say, “We’re not gonna let you go through this by yourself.”

That’s why God gives us friends that just kind of put their arms around. And they don’t have all the answers and I’m sure for my friends, it was a very ugly assignment, “Well, I got to go over and talk to Bill. He’s a mess. All he does is cry and, you know, drip water everywhere. And oh, it’s sad. You see a person like him it’s sad; it’s brutal, but I’ll go do it, ’cause I love him and we can bring him through it.” And you know what that’s all about, some of you, ’cause you know the pain of being left or being lost or being just somehow given that feeling of unloveliness and I don’t deserve to ever love again. God says, “Wrong, you do. I’m gonna love you even when it hurts.”

That’s love’s tremendous power that can only come from Him. See love is a top priority; it is something that takes practice. But as we realize that God can love through us and give us that tremendous power, then even when life doesn’t turn out like we’ve planned, we can begin to see sense made of it again and we can learn to love again the way God wants us to.


John: That’s popular author and speaker, Bill Butterworth on this edition of “Focus on the Family,” reminding us that when the people around us feel broken, we simply need to be the hands and feet of Christ and minister to them, reach out to them in love. And Bill Butterworth experienced that himself and he’s now committed to living out that legacy to those around him.

Jim: John, sometimes we just make it too difficult, don’t we? Bill pointed out there in 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote that three things remain–faith, hope and love. And what was the greatest?

John: It was love.

Jim: Love and sure, in our relationships, we have to balance that out with respect and discipline and you know, sometimes even a little firmness as parents, but the bottom line is this. When you’re at a loss for how to reach that rebellious child or you don’t know what to say to the grieving widow next door or how to respond to that person going through a tragic divorce like Bill way, we need to start by loving them. Make it a priority. Practice living that way. Then just watch. You’ll begin to see God’s enormous power emerge out of that situation.

John: And we’ve heard so many stories of people seeing just that happen, in the letters we get, the calls, the e-mails. God’s doing a lot of great work.

Jim: We have, John and that’s why we wanted to air this program to start the New Year, to remind you that the world would be a better place if we can fill it with God’s love. And if you’re thinking of someone who needs to hear this message from Bill or if you’d like to listen through it again, please visit our website. We’d like to give you the audio download for free.

John: Yeah, you’ll find that download and other resources at

Jim: John, also want to recommend a book that I wrote, The Good Dad for the dads that are struggling to love their kids. That was the main theme of the book, how to certainly do the parental requirements, but through it, you have to love your children. They need to know it and we’d be happy to send that for a donation of any amount as you support the work here at Focus on the Family.

John: Donate and find the book and the free audio download of today’s message at or give us a call tomorrow. Our staff has the day off today to celebrate the New Year. Our number is 800- A -FAMILY: 800-232-6459.

Next time, join us as we provide encouragement to declutter your home.


Mrs. Kathi Lipp: I really think that clutter comes down to a couple of things, well, three–fear, guilt and shame. Fear, if I get rid of that, what if I need it later on?

End of Excerpt

John: I’m sure you’ve asked that kind of a question and Kathi Lipp joins us tomorrow to offer some ideas to create some space in your life. That’s on the next “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly.

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