Intentional Parenting—Championing True Men and Women in Your Own Home

Oct. 10, 2014 Dannah Gresh

Session Transcript

Dannah Gresh: All right, I am so crazy, out-of-my-mind excited to share with you, blessed that so many of you have come! I'm going to share a little about what the structure of our next hour looks like. We're going to cover a lot of territory!

We're going to cover a little bit of business here at the beginning, for about ten minutes. I have an announcement I'm really excited to make-I hope you're excited. When I make it, you have to cheer, even if you're not excited, all right?

Then I'm going to do about thirty minutes of teaching, and then with whatever time we have left over I'll take a few questions. So we'll do a little bit of Q and A. So if you have some questions as I'm teaching, go ahead and write those things down. I'm not the smartest person in the universe, so I might tell you I don't know, but I'll try to answer.

Are you ready for my exciting announcement? I think that probably one of the best books that Nancy Leigh DeMoss has ever written is Lies Women Believe. Anybody on the same page as me? All right. So for whatever reason-I do not know why-in 2008 she asked me to partner with her to write Lies Young Women Believe.

I have been so blessed to minister to teenage girls, all across the world really, with that topic. The reason that she asked me to write that with her is because you were writing to her and saying, "I've read Lies Women Believe, and it's awesome, but my lies started when I was a teenager. What can you do for my teenage daughter so she doesn't believe those lies?"

So we have just loved to see those two books bless the church. For about five years, since my headspace is primarily into eight-to-twelve-year-old girls, because the bulk of my ministry is something called Secret Keeper Girl where we travel across the nation-yeah, some of you are Secret Keeper Girl moms, yay! So my headspace is in that. In the past ten years we have seen a cultural shift, where the battle line for our daughters' purity and innocence has shifted. It might have been thirteen or fourteen when you were teenagers, but it's not anymore. The battle is happening when she's six, seven, and eight years old. I'll talk about that a little bit in my teaching time today.

I have been pleading with Nancy, "Can we please write Lies Little Women Believe?" I'm happy to say that last week she said, "Yes." [applause and cheers] So we are starting the research for that project. We'll be doing focus groups all across the nation-nine of them in nine different cities. And I would like to invite you to sign up, either after this workshop (my assistant Eileen will be here; I'll make sure you'll know where she is). You'll find Eileen after the workshop, right back there in the back. And these are all nine of the cities: Waynesboro, Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Virginia Beach, Virginia: East Liverpool, Ohio; Cadillac, Michigan; Brighton, Michigan; Lansing, Michigan; Millersburg, Ohio; and I think we will be having one in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

If any of those cities are near you and you would like to be in focus groups, see Eileen afterward. We would require that you have a daughter between the ages of eight and twelve years old, and there will two-hour-long focus groups. I'm going to be asking you questions. I get to ask the questions; you get to do the answers, for about an hour-and-a-half of that time.

We'll be providing coffee and snacks (I know you're going to come just for that), and then I'll be ending the two hours with thirty minutes of teaching on how to raise your daughter up in truth. So if you could help us with the research, we would love to include you in one of those focus groups. Just sign up for it today. If you miss Eileen, or if you have a friend and you tell her about this later on today, after this workshop Eileen will have the sign-up sheets at my booth (the Dannah Gresh booth) so you can sign up after the True Woman Conference. So thank you for being excited about that.

While I have this little card out, I want to tell you another neat thing. The cities in which we're doing these focus groups happen to also be the cities in which we're doing a mother/teen daughter tour this November. In all those cities, I'll be getting on the Secret Keeper Girl tour bus, taking it over. Instead of ministering to eight-to-twelve-year-old girls and their moms, we're going to be ministering to teenagers and their moms.

We know that one of things we can do to reduce all the risk of early sexual debut, of performing poorly academically, of violence-everything we fear our teenagers may experience and some of the things we experienced as teenagers-other than the presence of God in their lives, the number one thing risk-reducer is parent/child connectedness.

So our ministry has taken a rather dramatic stand in terms of, we really don't do events that often that are just for teenagers. We want to bring the hearts of mothers and daughters closer to each other; we want to bring the hearts of fathers closer to their daughters and their sons. And so the reason that we ask you to come be with us, with your teenagers, is because we know there's power in that.

So for two-and-a-half hours, we'll have a live worship band there-Copperlily, a young adorable married couple that's a new singing group that's going to be traveling with me. They're phenomenal role models for your daughters in terms of how to build a godly relationship.

You can sign up to win a pair of mother/daughter VIP tickets to one of those events in one of these cities, also at my book table. The VIP ticket includes an hour-long dinner with me or Copperlily. The daughters will be with Copperlily hearing about God's plan for relationships. Moms will be with me for one hour for a workshop on how to raise sexually pure daughters.

We'll provide dinner during those workshops; you get a VIP tour of backstage, the tour bus-which is really not that big of a deal (especially right now, because the tour bus's toilet doesn't work, so it's really not a big deal). [laughter] But then the two-and-a-half-hour event. So there are $45 tickets for that whole thing.

Regular admission is a lot less than that, right? (My husband's over there-I'm going to ask him stuff, and he's going to be like, "I don't know." He doesn't know and I don't know.) Anyway, general admission is cheaper than that. Oh, here's a mom who already has her tickets.

What city? She's a youth leader, and she's going to be in Lansing, Michigan. I'll be there too. See you there. She says they're $15 apiece. So for $30, mom and daughter, great night. Come on out, and join us!

All right, one more little item of business. I wanted to share with you the three books that I'm going to be teaching from today, so that you can write the names down and get all excited about them. Two of them are available in the bookstore; one is not. One is in my bag . . . can you grab that? It's the George Barna book.

Some of the research I'm going to share today is from my two books Six Ways to Keep the "Good" in Your Boy and Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl. The subtitle of both of these is Guiding Your Tween to Be a Godly Teen. These books are really for anyone who has children under the age of thirteen and how do you prepare for those tween years and how do you get them ready for their teen years.

And the other book that I'm going to sharing a lot of information from today, which you would have to order, is by George Barna. How many of you love George Barna? Okay, two of you, yay. And me. I love him, too. You're all going to love him by the end of this workshop. Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church's Number One Priority. Every parent, every youth ministry leader, every children's ministry leader, should read this book. It is phenomenal research on the condition of the children in our church. I'm going to be sharing with you some really neat research from that book.

With that, I want to tell you that I'm going to try to stay focused during this teaching time, but I might not because first of all, I just spent the morning with some of your teenage daughters, who are phenomenal, and God's moving in them very powerfully. So my head's just kind of like, "Wow!"

But my twenty-one-year-old daughter is going to be here at like 5:15 (not that I have a specific time that she's going to be arriving). She's a student at Cedarville University, which is just a couple hours from here, so she's going to be joining her dad and I tonight. Yes, a couple Cedarville grads in the house, it sounds like! And I'd like to introduce her dad, if that's okay, because I kind of like him. He's cute! [laughter]

Bob Gresh, stand up, babe. [applause] He doesn't know, but I'm going to be talking about him today, making him feel really uncomfortable. Because you know, he is a small piece of testosterone in this estro-fest. It's a bit much. He just came from hanging out with Jim Cymbala and the men in the prayer room, because he was like, "I need to see some ties." But he's all good.

I want to share with you, quickly, pictures of my children, so you kind of know who I am as a mom, and then we're going to dive into the content. I already mentioned to you I have a daughter named Lexi, who is a twenty-one-year-old student at Cedarville University. And I also have a lovely daughter named Autumn.

They are both twenty-one-they are three months apart. You can probably tell from the picture how they're three months apart. Autumn was adopted when she was almost fourteen years old. God allowed us to adopt her from China. She is currently in Taiwan on a five-month missions trip with YWAM.

So that puts Bob and I in our first month of empty-nest. He loves it; I cry once a day. We never know when it's going to happen. I'm okay, then suddenly I'm walking across the yard and I'm not. But I'm trying to do what I've counseled others to do.

The Lord said to me, "You've counseled single women to write a list of all the things they can do with their freedom to serve the Lord." So a few weeks ago when I was having one of my little cry-fests, the Lord said, "Hey, you remember that list? Yeah, you'd better get your pen out."

So I've been trying to write a list of all the things the Lord could do through me, because I've got a little more freedom than I did. I just cry while I do it. Then, Robby Gresh is our son. He's twenty-five, and as you can see, he just "put a ring on it," so we are getting ready to add Aleigha to our family on June 20.

I just want to share with you, my kids are twenty-five, twenty-one, and twenty-one, and they're not perfect-they have issues, we all have issues. But Bob and I set out to do some research when they were very small to see, "How can we get them to live lives of holiness and purity that are set apart for the Lord?" And as a twenty-five-year-old and two twenty-one-year-olds, I'm really honored at how they have chosen to follow some of the very things that I'm going to share with you today, as you raise your children.

So shall we dig into the content? All right, let me open us in prayer one more time. Father, I pray that Your Word would be alive and active, as You promise that it is, and that as we open it, You would open our hearts. Not just for our children, but Lord, what truths do You need to teach us as we go through these Scriptures that are uniquely for us and not necessarily for our children.

I put myself before you, Lord, and I say, "Father, if there is something you need to teach me as I open these Scriptures-if I need to see them in a new way, then teach me."

If these moms need to see something that I'm not speaking about, may your Spirit interpret what it is they need to hear. I just pray, Father, when we leave here that we'll feel more equipped. In Your Holy Name I ask this, amen.

I want to share with you a little bit about my ministry calling first. Sometimes God changes the way we do ministry. We think we have it all figured out, and then He says, "No, no, no. You're learning, but let me show you something new." How many of you have been there?

When I first started ministering publicly, it was because I had written a book called And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity. And most of our events were for teenagers, and most of them were just the teenagers; there weren't any moms present.

But that's when God revealed to me two things: One was it is parent/child connectedness more than any other factor that reduces the risk of a child having their heart broken in sexual pain when they're teenagers. So I knew that we needed to modify the ministry to include the moms.

Then the other thing that I learned that sexual values are "fully baked" by the time the teenagers were getting to me, because value formation happens between the ages of eight and twelve. And so when God revealed this to me, I realized we had to begin to do things differently. That's when Secret Keeper Girl was birthed, and we began to minister to eight-to-twelve-year-olds.

There are age-appropriate ways that we can share with them issues of gender, issues of manhood and womanhood, issues of sexuality, without robbing them of their innocence. But with the conversation that they're hearing in the culture today, if we aren't having a conversation with them in age-appropriate ways, they're going to have a value system built that's very faulty.

It's much easier to build a value system from the ground up than it is to tear one down and rebuild it. So it's important, moms, that we're having this conversation. Let me show you a graphic that I developed for Six Ways to Keep the Little in Your Girl and then used in Six Ways to Keep the Good in Your Boy. It shares the three phases of moral development.

The first one happens really, really young. It's on your handouts. It's called the copycat phase. It's when they're very young-two to three years old. Why on earth, moms, do you think that your daughters want an ironing board for Christmas? It's not because she thinks it's going to be awesome to iron for the rest of her life; it's because she wants to be like you.

I want you to consider, if you have these babies in your laps, that everything you're doing, everything they're observing-from the way you kiss your husband at night, the way you bless him, to the way you happily serve your family-that is informing her value system, because she just wants to be like you.

The next phase is the counseling phase-it starts to kick in about five or six years old-and this is when they start to ask the question, "Why?" and you want to bang your head against the wall about every time they ask it. They will ask you, "Why can't I have ice cream before dinner?" "Why can't I go outside to play after night?" "Why does my friend have two moms?" These are spiritual questions.

Pascal said that every time we ask the question "Why?" we are asking a question about God. I want you to consider that when your children are asking you "Why?" questions. During the counseling phase-which happens from about age five to nine, ten-they are open books for you to write on.

When you begin to tell them spiritual truth about manhood, womanhood, gender, sexuality, that's going to inform how they live for the rest of their lives. Many of us wait to have those conversations until they're in the final phase, which is coaching.

The coaching phase, which really kicks in about the time that most of us start to have those conversations-can we be honest about that?-guess what, it's too late. During the coaching phase-I want you to have this picture-the kids are out there living the game of life, and every now and then they come back to mom and dad to coach them up. It's not play-by-play.

And so, if you have not already had these important conversations about sexuality and values, you will have them out there playing the game on the wrong terms, and they're going to come back to you not just for coaching, but they're going to need an EMT. You see?

So it's so important that we begin to have those conversations before their twelfth birthday. In fact, most Christian psychologists will tell you that if you have not had an informative conversation with your child about sexuality between their ninth and tenth birthday, that you will have a very hard time developing a biblical worldview in them. That's scary for some of us, isn't it? But I want to remind you that we can do it in an age-appropriate way-and you're going to see that as we move on today.

So I want to explain to you, as I did a moment ago, that God changes the way we do things sometimes-and I want to share with you a change that He made in me just within the last twelve months. My husband and I are honored to sit on a panel of . . . I guess maybe experts or those interested in the gospel being alive and present in eight- to twelve-year-olds. It's called the "Tween Gospel Alliance."

It's so far been roundtable discussions, although we hope that in the next year you'll begin to see us in more of a public way. But it includes leaders like the children's directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the directors of AWANA, the directors of a ministry called I Shine, which is a multimedia ministry for tweens, and George Barna is on that panel as well.

Last summer, Bob and I were sitting at The Cove (the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Conference Center), and George Barna was sharing some statistics with us that just rattled my world as both a minister and a mom. I want to share a few of those with you today.

He began to share with us the fact that what children believe by their fourteenth birthday is generally what they die believing, and that is a really important quote to remember as we decide when we're going to have conversations with our children about values. What children believe by their fourteenth birthday is generally what they die believing.

Now there are exceptions. George Barna himself is an exception, because he came to know the Lord as his Savior in his twenties. So a man who is transformed by Christ in his twenties, but looking at the body of research and evidence, says, "Listen, if our children don't know Christ by their fourteenth birthday, the odds go way down that they ever will."

Now consider this: Only 32 percent of preteens in the United States today consider themselves to be Christians. That's drastically different from the statistics your parents and your grandparents would have been experiencing when they were tweens. So what will the population of the Christian church like in ten or twenty years?

Let's go even a little bit deeper, remembering that what your children believe by their fourteenth birthday is generally what they're going to die believing. Here are some specifics of what tweens believe today: Eighty percent believe the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Koran are the same; they are equal in value; they are the same book.

Sixty-eight percent believe you can earn your salvation. Fifty-six percent believe Jesus may have sinned while He was on earth.

Now let's look at, sort of, some negatives in that same area. Only 36 percent believe the Bible is accurate; only 32 percent believe Jesus is resurrected; and only 18 percent believe in absolute moral truth. Church, we have a problem.

After George Barna shared these things with us, my heart was wracked with the tension. I was just thinking through all the things. Does my child believe this, does my child believe that? I went home, I think, and gave all three of my children a quiz. [laughter] George looked at us, and this was his next sentence, "I beg you, invest the bulk of your resources-your time, your money, and your prayers-into children."

That's when I just began to cry, because I am, I have, I did invest the bulk of my time, my money, and my prayers first and foremost into my three children, and now in full-time ministry. At the end of the day, I'm a children's ministry director with Secret Keeper Girl. But here's the thing. Sometimes I've been ashamed of it; sometimes I've been the person in the room that feels (and maybe some of you who help with the children's ministry in your church can identify with that) that there's always a budget for adult ministry, but not for children's ministry.

I remember sitting there thinking, When I release a book for women or for teenagers, there's a marketing budget and there are radio interviews, and there is the applause of the church. But not when I release a book for Secret Keeper Girl. There is no marketing money then, there are hardly any radio interviews then, there is no applause then .

But taking it home, I can remember times when, you know, even though I've been in ministry from about the year 2000 when I first started, I would go speak one time a quarter, and I would be gone for maybe one night or two, because I had babies at home. And who was I to go out and raise other people's children to know the values of the Lord and not be tending to my own?

And through the years, the Lord's released us-with the accountability of my board and of my husband-to go a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more. But I've been a mom who's made lots of sacrifices. Some of you know this, because you minister, you're actively involved in your church. Some of you, because you need to financially, work away from home and there are sacrifices.

While many of my girlfriends were sending their kids to school and having lunch and girlfriend time, I never got that. And sometimes I felt like I was less . . . like the way I was choosing my family to be first made me less important. Do you ever feel that?

And I want to ask first, if you're in children's ministry and this resonates with you that the budgets are always bigger for the adults, and the time and the applause are always greater on the main stage at church for the adults, and you're a little bit guilty of feeling like, "Lord, is what I'm doing important? Does it matter as much as the row that they're hoeing to harvest in the Kingdom?" If that resonates with you, I'd like you to just stand up. I don't want to be all alone up here in this.

And now, if you're a mom who's ever struggled (stay standing), because maybe you're that mom that has chosen not to work. It's a stretch; it's hard to really make ends meet because God's called you to that. I don't want you to judge the moms that have chosen to work, but sometimes you feel like you're missing-it's like all day, baby-talk-and sometimes you just wish it wasn't. I mean, there are days when it would just be really nice to put a bra on, right?[laughter]

So if you've ever struggled with that as a mom, would you stand up? So I want to, before we dig into the Word, bless you. A few weeks ago, my friend Lisa blessed me and some other women in this way. So I'm going to pray it a little bit differently. Would you close your eyes, and I'm going to pray over you.

Father God, I pray over these women who are first and foremost wives and moms-well, first and foremost they're servants of the Most High God-and then moms and wives, and then they're ministers in their churches, in their communities and their states, and maybe even their nation.

Lord, we're standing before You because we're confessing that sometimes we're guilty of believing that the way we're investing and obeying isn't important. But the body of research says that it is. So I pray in Your Name that You would bless their minds to believe that what they're doing matters.

I pray that You would bless their hands to be always open to love children-their own, their spiritual children, the children in their church who are in deep need of love, because they're missing it. I pray that You would bless their feet, to go to places that they're called to go even when nobody else goes with them.

And I pray that You would bless their hearts to be courageous, to believe that what they're doing has Kingdom purpose. I pray this in Your Holy Name, amen.

It's good to know we're not alone, isn't it? I want to share with you a few more statistics before we open up the Word of God, because obviously the statistic that George Barna shared that was most frightening to me, as a woman who's trying to raise moms up to instill their children with biblical values, is that fact that only 18 percent of our tweens today believe in absolute moral truth. That means they believe there's right and wrong, black and white.

Certainly on some issues there are not, but there are a lot of issues where God says, "This is My line," and our children are not believing that. So I want to share with you a few statistics related to that.

According to a study by Pediatrics Journal, 25 percent of twelve-to-fourteen-year-olds participate in "sexting." Now the good news (but it's still really bad news) is that only 5 percent of them are actually sending or receiving nude photos; the rest is "just" verbal.

According to Covenant Eyes, the average age of first exposure to porn is eleven years old, and 42 percent of twelve-to fourteen-year-olds have been exposed. You know what, moms? If you have a computer at home that doesn't have a filter on it like Covenant Eyes or Safe Eyes (write that down), then you might as well just go out and buy copies of Playboy and Hustler and put them on the coffee table in your living room. It's that easy for them to get to. So if you don't have that, that's your first homework assignment from this workshop-go home and get Covenant Eyes or Safe Eyes.

Covenant Eyes is an accountability software, so it will not block your children from finding things. That's good for when they're teenagers or college-age, because they have accountability. Safe Eyes blocks things, so it's good for your younger children.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 6 percent of children have sex before their fourteenth birthday. When our children go to college-a state college, a community college-they will graduate from college, males, with an average of 9.7 sexual partners; females with an average of 7.1 sexual partners-and we see very little statistical difference in churched vs. unchurched students that attend state schools.

Now let me say this about Christian higher education-one of the reasons I'm thrilled that my daughter Lexi is in a Christian higher education institution is because we see a tremendous difference in their behavior. Rather than being in a tolerance culture, where 80 percent of the student body is fully sexually active and the banner of tolerance is waved proudly over everything but sexual purity (God's plan for sexuality), now they're in a Christian institution. They're in a purity and modesty culture, and that banner is waving. Does it have any influence? Yes. Only 22 percent of students who attend a Christian higher education institution are fully sexually active. That's good news. That's very good news and a prayerful consideration as you send your children to college.

This is one thing that I really want to drive home today-a growing number of tweens are being diagnosed with gender dysphoria in children, meaning that though their biological sex organs are one gender, they believe that they are the other gender. I'm getting phone calls from women all over the nation. Some of them are Christian teachers in public schools, some of them are Christian nurses in public schools, some of them are moms, because they want to know how to talk to their elementary school student about the fact that there's a boy using the girls' bathroom because he thinks he's a girl or vice versa. This is a battle that we need to be preparing our children for. Going back to George Barna, he says that when it comes to tweens, the major belief about homosexuality is that the Bible does not specifically condemn it.

I want to just say this outright, I am a woman. I have XX chromosomes in me. That's what they say is the thing that makes me a woman. I can produce eggs or ovum or female gametes, if there are any nurses or doctors in the house, and this makes me a woman. God chose that for me, and God chose that for you. Why did He choose that for us?

I want to insert a rather simplistic definition of truth right here. If you go outside today, the Indianapolis sky is trying real hard to be blue (it's not very blue-kind of gray-ish). But it's trying hard to be blue. Why would I say it's blue? How do I know that it's blue? What if came in here today and said that the sky is chartreuse, and I believe that is truth? What would you say to me? Would you agree? No.

Because most of you in elementary school were introduced to something called the primary color wheel. This is the standard, or definition, by which we judge all color. So that is our standard of truth. The definition of truth is just simply that-it's a standard or original by which we conform things. You can find that definition at dictionary.com.

For Christians, truth is this and something more, right? Because the Bible spells out for us what our standard or our original is, because Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Jesus is our standard, or original, to which we conform all truth, and we're going to do that today for our children.

Jesus also said He is the Word. "In the beginning was the Word . . . and the Word was God" (John 1:1). So we can trust that what's written in this Book-and I think most of us agree to this-is truth, right? Because the Word is Christ, and Christ is truth. My brain right now is a little bit fuzzy, because this seems too simplistic. Because when I go out of this room, I have to have a conversation with those who don't believe that this is truth, and it's a very confusing conversation.

The fact that I'm a woman was not highly contested until about the 1950s, and then there was a word that was introduced. In 1955, sexologist John Money introduced the word "gender." He introduced that because he was really stating something that was probably helpful-that there's not one kind of female; there's not one kind of woman.

You go ahead and put Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss on a stage together. They are two very different kinds of women! Are they biblical women who glorify God in every way, shape, and form? Absolutely! But they're different. And so the word "gender" was formed so that within the context of womanhood-and within the context of manhood-there could be some room for how we express that differently and uniquely. And that's a good thing, right?

However, in the 1970s, the feminists got a hold of the word, because they wanted to dismantle the differences between manhood and womanhood so that there were not differences. And somewhere along the way, someone entered the word "preference," and now "gender preference" is the status quo.

Did you know that Facebook has fifty-six different gender options for you to choose from when you sign up for a profile? You go ahead and look. It says "male," "female," or "other." And if you push the "other" button, you'll find fifty-four other options. They include things like transgender (transgender technically means those who feel that their sex organs should be different than what they have); there's "gender fluid," for those who prefer that sometimes they're male, sometimes they're female-but when they're male, they're fully male; when they're female, they're fully female. Well, you know-but they go back and forth

"Male-to-Female," MTF, meaning that a sex change is in the making. And if you can't find one in those fifty-six options, you can add one, and I'm sure their list will get longer. I don't want you to boycott Facebook, all right? That's not my point. My point is that truth is losing ground in our culture, and if you think for a second (you have to be twelve years old to be on Facebook-now that's not always the case). If you think for a second that this battle isn't impacting our younger children, then consider what I said a few moments ago about the elementary schools.

And consider this: Sweden, who often leads us in gender reform, in the last five years has introduced the gender-neutral pronoun hen to replace "he/him" to erase gender. And what happens in Sweden comes our way in five to ten years. It's coming our way, moms. We have to prepare our children for this conversation. We have to do it in a way that blesses them and keeps them safe.

But understanding manhood and womanhood is one of the most critical conversations that we can have with our children today. I want to share with you three truths today's tweens must know about their bodies in order for moral truth to survive their faith. It's important that you know these things, too.

Let's open the Bible first to l Corinthians 6:20. The first truth that I want you to introduce to your children is simply this: Your primary purpose is to glorify God. Now that sounds really basic, but stick with me here. Make no mistake about it that when we glorify God, it is our bodies that He chooses to use to do that.

First Corinthians 6:19-20: "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." This, our external shell, is the mechanism with which we glorify God. It's important that our children know that. I want to just read this to you, because I think this is important: "Our children do not need self-esteem; they need God-esteem. If they esteem God, they will understand their value and not make too much of themselves." That was good, right? I've got to say that again for like you paranoid note-takers. Some of you need that again? Yeah, I thought so.

"Our children do not need self-esteem; they need God-esteem. If they esteem God, they will understand their value but not make too much of themselves. Neither will they make too much of their opinions of themselves or the opinions of others" including in this area of gender. And they will learn that they are supposed to embrace their call to glorify God.

I want to share with you the Westminster Confession. It's probably somewhat familiar to you. It says that "the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him." The ampersand is big, because when we glorify God-though there is tremendous sacrifice in it-there is a joy in it that you can't know outside of that.

There are nights, mom, when you'd rather take a bubble bath than clean up the kitchen, am I right? You would rather tell your husband, "Honey, I'm going for a looong walk," then tuck the kids into bed ten times. Sometimes we need to do that, but if at the end of every night we took a bubble bath while our husbands did the dishes and we took a long walk while he put the children to bed, there would be no joy in us. Because we'd be so consumed with self rather than consumed with God's call on our lives.

But if we are obedient to the sacrifice of glorifying Him and doing the dishes and honoring our husbands and putting our children to bed over and over again-until they finally stay!-there's joy in the end of that night. Our children need to know that, and they don't learn it when they get everything they want.

Say this word with me. It's spelled "N-O." We're going to practice. One, two, three . . . no. Good job! And I know most of you use that word a lot when your kids want to go to a party or when they want to see a movie or when they want to listen to a song. But sometimes it's good to know you have permission, and you need to hear an "atta girl!" so I give you that "atta girl!" if you use that word "no." And in a moment I'm going to tell you that sometimes you don't need to use it, so don't sit there too comfortable, all right?

I want to say this about glorifying God: Sometimes when we're explaining that to our children, it can be hard. It's kind of a weird and lofty term. First, I want to share with you a romantic moment that I had with my husband this week. It's totally PG! [laughter]

So a few nights ago we had the blood moon. And the last couple blood moons, I was all excited-I wanted to see the blood moon. And I would wake up in the middle of the night. It would be cloudy. So the night before the blood moon, I looked at the forecast and it was going to be totally cloudy, so I didn't even try.

In the middle of the night, I hear my husband's phone go off, and he leaves. That's not unusual, because he doesn't sleep well, so I just tried to go back to sleep. Suddenly he comes in and nudges me and says, "Babe, come here."

He takes me outside and walks me out in the cool of the night, and I saw the most beautiful, amazing sight! He got lots of brownie points that night [laughter]-big brownie points. I want to encourage you that a great object lesson that every mom should teach her eight- to twelve-year-old-using the largest object lesson item you will ever use (the sun and the moon) is to take your children on a moon walk and to show them the brightness of that sun.

Watch the lunar calendar and pick a fantastic night, and when they look up into that sky, ask, "Does that moon have any light of its own?" No. It's a "cold, dark stone," says Sarah Groves, my favorite music artist. The cold, dark stone, but it glorifies the sun. And that's our job-to glorify God. It's not us they're supposed to see-it's God shining through us. That's our purpose! To let the world see God through who we are every day.

Now, let me say something about this moon walk-it will probably have to take place after bedtime! And this is when the word "no" is not a good word to use. Because I want to tell you the power of breaking some of the rules when your children are eight- to twelve-years-old. My husband did this beautifully with our son when he was in middle school, when he was a tween.

Every Monday night, Bob Gresh took Robby Gresh out for wings at 8 p.m. That meant he would not be home in time for bed. He was doing a Bible study with him, and he would extrapolate God's Word. But it was the biggest deal in the world to Robby that he was missing bedtime.

For a whole year they did this awesome Bible study, covering everything from money to sexual integrity to caring for a family one day and academic excellence and studying to show one's self approved. And you know why Robby's heart was open to hear it? Because he was missing bedtime! [laughter]

I should also point out that every Tuesday morning my husband had heartburn. [laughter] We all have to sacrifice. I wanted to say that because some of us are really too good at saying "no." Sometimes we need to say "yes." And ladies, hear me on this! I don't know how I felt. I probably nagged my husband about bedtime when he did that every Monday night. God forgive me.

Girls, we are really good at that. If we want our husbands to lead, we need to let 'em. Somebody say amen. Good. Somebody needed to hear that; I think I needed to hear that. So object lesson-sun, moon, after bedtime. Say "yes" to breaking some of the rules, but their primary purpose is to glorify God.

The next thing I want you to know is that their primary practice (if their purpose is to glorify God) is to look like Him, right? That's just logical thinking. If our primary purpose is to glorify Him, our primary practice is look like Him. And we do that best in the context of gender, of maleness and femaleness. This goes right back to Genesis. Let's open the Word.

Genesis 1:26-27: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . .' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Now think with me for just a moment. This is a big deal. God is saying, "They look like Me."

Just like your kids-the moment they're out, baby, you're like, "That's my nose; that's are dad's fingers; that's great-grandma's crooked left finger." We are naming everything. Sometimes-let's be truthful; it's not really true. But generally they look like us.

I have an adopted daughter, and she aches to know who she looks like and who she belongs to. This is part of what God wants us to understand about Genesis. He says, "You are my children, you look like Me."

Now here He is. He's saying, "You look like Me, you're My image." What does He choose to say about humanity that looks most like Him? Does He commend our language proficiency? Does He praise the fact that we will be creative and write sonnets and create great works of art? Does He talk about how we're going to defy the law of gravity and go to the moon one day? No! None of this! The only thing He mentions is gender. Maleness and femaleness make us in the image of God.

Do you know why it's a problem that our culture's trying to erase gender? Because what we're really saying is, "God, we don't want to look like You." Erasing gender is a rebellious refusal to glorify God. That is the heart of the gender battle. That is the heart of what's wrong with homosexuality. It's saying, "I do not want to look like You, God."

The book of Romans teaches us what I just said, about saying, "I don't want to look like You." That disregarding the definitions of manhood and womanhood is a rebellious refusal to glorify God. But this is what John Piper said: "God's divine nature is revealed in the physical, material universe. So much so that Romans 1:20 says, 'They are without excuse' when they exchange the glory of God for the glory of creature."

Going back to what I said before, it's a matter of who you're going to glorify. Our kids don't need self-esteem-they need God-esteem. Because we were not created to glorify ourselves and created to glorify the creature; we were created to glorify God.

Now let me take that one step further and say that Ephesians 5:31-32 says that marriage-taking gender and putting it together-is a picture of Christ and the Church. It says, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 

My husband Bob will often say, "Your mom's a good cook, Robby; marry well!" At every opportunity he can have, he would say those two words: "Marry well." I'm so proud that in about nine months my son is going to marry well-a girl who loves Jesus, and they're going to work through their stuff (just like you and I have)-but they're going to glorify God together because Robby's choosing to marry well.

You've got to tell your child that when they're five! Now some of you are going to say to me, "What if God chooses for my child not to be married? What if they're supposed to be single?" Well, that takes us to our third point, which is this: our bodies, therefore, must be a living sacrifice to God.

If our primary purpose is to glorify Him, we do that best by looking like Him as men and women, then our primary way of living should be as a living sacrifice to God. In Romans, the apostle Paul begs this of us, in Romans 12:1-2. Let me read that to you: "I beg you by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, which is holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may test and discern what is the will of God, what is good and perfect."

We have to be living sacrifices to God. You know what? We can't marginalize the beauty of gender or marginalize the critical importance of marriage just so that our children don't go through a season of heartache in their twenties or thirties or forties because they haven't been called to marriage. That will be their sacrifice, and it will hurt, and God will use it to glorify Him.

But if we are going to live to glorify Him in gender, we will not make our children so comfortable that they don't hurt. And you know what? We're not going to make ourselves so comfortable that we don't hurt, either. I want to close with just two testimonies.

One is not mine. I was speaking about a year ago at a national Christian conference in Florida. The conference was made up of Christian leaders who are in collegiate ministry all across the globe. Of course, one of the critical issues they're dealing with is tolerance, and sexuality, especially this issue of homosexuality, as the church tries to form a loving but truth-filled conversation.

And that is the one of the most difficult things that we're doing right now. I confess to you, I don't know all the answers; I'm just giving you what God's Word says so that we can figure it out together.

This young man stood on stage and he said, "You know, I struggled with same-sex attraction almost my whole life, and I've been in ministry almost my whole life." He was probably in his thirties. And he said, "I never felt like I was on the winning side of the battle until one day I was at a conference-and it was a lot like this one-and it was the same old message on sexual purity from the front stage. I stood at the back stage, and one of my Christian brothers-knowing what my battle was-walked up to me, and he just nudged me and said, 'Listen, do you see all those men in the room right now?'" (About 50 percent of the room was men.)

And he said, "Yes." And the man said, "They all have the same battle that you do." Of course, this didn't make sense to him because he knew that all of them were not struggling with same-sex attraction. So he said, "What do you mean?"

His friend said, "All of them have sexual desires that they can't fulfill. If they're going to glorify God, they have to sacrifice those desires." And he opened Romans 12:1-2 to him. The young man said, "For the first time I realized that my battle didn't make me different or worse from any other Christian in the room; I realized that we were all in the same boat."

As I was considering his testimony about two weeks ago, I wrote this sentence down. I want to share it as I wrote it, because I was praying for you, praying for people who would hear this message: "It doesn't matter what form of sexual temptation Satan tempts you with. We are all in the same boat, and it is our choice to obey the desires of our body, or to submit sacrificially to God's plan."

As this young man was now on stage, speaking and sharing his victory as he walks through life continuing to minister-with reduced same-sex attraction-and beginning to be introduced to the desire to be in a marriage relationship one day (he's in beautiful accountability, and he's lived of life of purity even though this battle has been in his life)-he looked out and said, "I want all of you to raise your hands if either you've had sex with someone you're not married to, or you have wanted to."

And, oh, did we squirm in our seats! And he said, "All of you at that moment had to make a choice if you would obey your flesh and glorify the creature or if you would sacrificially submit to God." And suddenly, we realized we are in the same boat.

My battle with sexuality has been different. Maybe your battle with sexuality has been different. I doubt many of us have skirted through life, with God's grace, with no battle. Though some of us do, we are the vast minority. When I was fifteen years old I gave the gift that God wanted me to give to my husband away to a man who is a complete stranger to me today. I worshiped the creature; I glorified self.

I spent ten years in the shame and loneliness of that sacrifice, because it's a sacrifice in a whole other awful way. Some of you know. And, oh, how the Lord has ripped me out of that, healed me up, used the forgiveness of my husband. My husband came into our marriage with a battle of lust, his own battle.

He came to our marriage bed a virgin, but very much fighting (like so many of your husbands) with lust and temptation in a horrific way. Three years into our marriage we decided we were going to win this war: me in all my sexual brokenness (that I feel like God has given layers and layers of beautiful healing, deeper purification, deeper sanctification, deeper holiness as we go through, now, twenty-five beautiful years in marriage).

The battle started and we began sacrificing, first, a lot of money and time in the counseling room. We are the poster children for Christian counseling-I promise you that. [laughter] We have our next appointment on Monday at five o'clock, thank you very much!

Now we like to call it "marriage coaching," because we're not quite as bad off as we used to be, but right now I'm just trying to figure out why I keep crying about being an empty-nester, and-you know, it's not good. So marriage counseling, here we come-again!

But it was a sacrifice. When everybody else seemed to be having fun in their marriages, we said, "We're not going to settle for normal. We're going to pay the price." We didn't have the money for counseling, but we found it and we paid it. We didn't have the time for counseling, but we found it and we paid it-we sacrificed.

And in those about three years of intense counseling, we made some decisions. And I'll share with you just one of them. But we had kind-of "Bob and Dannah's guidelines" regarding how we sacrificed so God would be glorified in us, as male and female, husband and wife. One of them is that I'm never alone with another man; he's never alone with another woman.

And you know what? Some people think we're freaks for it. We don't get in a car with someone of the opposite sex. There are sometimes when I go to speak somewhere, where it's a little awkward because they send just a guy to pick me up, and I have to explain, "Well, I've got to rent a taxi."

There was one time last year where, through a number of circumstances, my husband and I were taking our pastor and his wife on a vacation, because she's been serving Secret Keeper Girls as a lead teacher for ten years. A bunch of things ended up happening. Bob and Suzy were in different states and they were going to be flying in alone, and that would put my pastor and me in a car to the airport for four hours.

Guess what? I rented a car. People thought I was nuts. I wrote a blog about it, and everyone was like, "You're so self-righteous!" I'm not. It's not self-righteousness; I know how weak I am! When I was fifteen I proved that I'm capable of having sex with someone I'm not married to, and I will never do it again, by God's grace. [applause]

If we're going to teach our children, we're going to have to model it. I know that Robby and Aleigha are watching us. They're trying to figure out how they're going to do marriage, how they're going to do family. They're going to copy us, hopefully. We're going to tell them a few things they should not copy.

We're going to give them the short course. Some things they don't have to learn on the hot pavement of life, you know what I'm saying? How do you need to sacrifice? Listen to me, mom, the counseling room is not a scary place. If your marriage is broken by sexual pain and you're not fully healed yet, if it still brings you to tears, or you don't trust your husband because of this or because of that, you head to that counseling room. You pay the price, the sacrifice. It is your sacrifice to glorify God. If there's temptation in your marriage, or just temptation, find out what your guidelines are. Your guidelines might not be mine.

Some of you are in careers and different things where sometimes you are at a meeting or something with someone of the opposite sex, and it's a safe place and it's public. I won't even sit in a restaurant alone with a man even though there are people around. It's not something I can do.

What is your sacrifice? I want you to think about that for just a moment as I close in prayer. When I end my prayer, I want you to write down an answer, because if you can't live it, you cannot teach your children to live it.

Father, I thank for these precious moms. I thank you that what they do has value. I thank you that by Your grace You've given them everything they need to raise men and women, intentionally, to glorify You in their manhood, in their womanhood, and I pray that they would do that first and foremost by living out these three truths in their own life. I pray that they do that first and foremost by sacrificing themselves-in whatever way it takes-so that they can glorify You in their holiness, in their purity.

There are some of them that, first, that's going to mean sexual healing. Oh, Lord, let them know how powerful and freeing that is. But give them, right now Lord, a very clear idea of what their next step is, what their sacrifice is. I ask this in the Holy Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pause for just a moment before you move. Take a moment, and write that sentence down. Now you might not need it as much as your neighbor does, but I can promise you that in a group this size there's a friend who not only needs to write a sentence down, but probably share it with you tonight at dinner. So why don't you take just thirty seconds and write.