Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Building Up, Not Tearing Down

Dannah Gresh: Life is full of choices that are either constructive or destructive. Here’s Dr. Venessa Ellen.

Dr. Venessa Ellen: Wisdom, in order to build it up, I’ve got to seek truth, live truth, think truth, believe truth vs. tearing it down acting in my unbelief systems!

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, for July 28, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I’m so glad we’re able to continue a conversation we started yesterday with Dr. Venessa Ellen from Houston. You’ve the Chair of the Women’s Ministries Department at the College of Biblical Studies.

Dr. Ellen: Yes.

Nancy: I was so fascinated by our conversation yesterday. I wish we could just sit and talk for hours! You’ve been working hard here at Revive Our Hearts for the last couple of days. 

Dr. Ellen: It’s been wonderful!

Nancy: I’m just glad we were able to snag these moments to sit down and have a conversation about some of the things that impact us as women, especially in our relationships and in our churches and in our families.

You’ve worked with so many women; you have a lot of practical wisdom. As we’ve been talking, I think about that verse, Proverbs chapter 14:1, that talks about how a wise woman builds her house but a foolish woman tears it down with her hands.

Now, we know we’re not just talking about a physical house here, and we’re not just talking about the home that we live in. That’s certainly a big application there, but the church is a family, too, it’s a home for the people of God.

I think we both could see in our own lives and in those we minister to ways that when we are wise women, our homes, our workplaces, our relationships are built up. They’re strengthened, they’re encouraged, they prosper. But when we’re foolish women, we can be really, really destructive!

And not just women; the same could be said of men. But that verse specifically talks about a wise woman, so let’s just pick up where we left off yesterday.

Dr. Ellen: Okay.

Nancy: What are some of the ways (as we started into this) that a woman can get wisdom that can build up her environment? We talked about getting into the Word of God. We talked about being plugged into accountability relationships, mentoring relationships. 

Are there any other ways that you can think of that women need wisdom, and how that builds up our home, our church, our relationships?

Dr. Ellen: Well, one way I would think is that the Scripture also talks about taking every thought captive (see 2 Cor. 10:5). Sometimes we think on things too long. We create these belief systems in our mind that either: “She doesn’t like me,” or “They don’t like my clothing,” or there’s something.

We start to have these belief systems and, before you know it, we’re acting on them as if they are true.

Nancy: So this is a foolish way of living that actually ends up being destructive and tearing down our relationships.

Dr. Ellen: Yes, exactly.

Nancy: I must say, (I don’t want to over-generalize here, but) I think it’s hard for a lot of men to understand how women’s minds work. We’re always thinking about seventy-two things at once, and when you think about something negative, it snowballs.

We mull it over, and if it something that’s not true and it’s not rooted in truth . . . It can be just pondering or something that we heard or something somebody said to us two years ago, or twenty-two years ago! We’re stuck. Like the old records with the needle; it’s just gets stuck and makes an annoying noise!

If we’re thinking things that are not true, we really can get way off track! How does that affect not only us, but the people around us?

Dr. Ellen:: It starts a snowball effect of disorder, chaos, every evil thing, basically. We were talking about wisdom and what is it? I would say it’s the opposite of that. I would say what we need to do is to start to take every thought captive. Begin to ask, “Is this really true? How do I know this? Where did I get this thought from?”

And that can apply to what I believe my husband is or is not doing, what my boss is or is not doing. We get caught in this mental space that we sometimes have a hard time working ourselves out of. Wisdom is, one: Getting into the Word and asking, “Is what I’m believing true? What I’m telling myself, is it truth?”

Nancy: These thoughts that are threatening to capsize me and threatening the people around me, are they true?

Dr. Ellen: “Are they true?” Many women will spiral down out of control into depression and other things based on a single thought that may not have even been true. 

Nancy: And then sometimes, the thought is true but it’s not something we need to let control us. “Let all things be done in love.” (see 1 Cor. 16:14). 

Dr. Ellen: Yes, and even if it is true, now ask the question: “What is God allowing in my life; what is He trying to teach me? What is He walking me through, in this moment?” Because sometimes it is true that your boss is not great, or he’s trying to convince you to do something immoral or illegal.

Nancy: No matter how great your husband is, there are things about him that are not fully sanctified yet. 

Dr. Ellen: That’s right, and your children, oh, my goodness! Children or grandchildren, there are things that they could be doing . . . But now, how am I going to handle it in a God-honoring way? How am I going to love them?

Nancy: How am I going to be building them up rather than tearing them down?

Dr. Ellen: Yes. So when we look at “a wise woman builds up her house,” she has to stop and ask, “How do I do the opposite of what my flesh would want me to right now?

Nancy: Because usually the right thing to do is the opposite of what my flesh is telling me, right? 

Dr. Ellen: It is. “How do I get into the opposite game? Which is really, “How do I love them? How do I seek their highest good? How do I agape them?” Sometimes we just want to be in the touchy-feely love stage, not really the sacrificial, agape love stage.

Nancy: Which is absolutely what it takes to get through the hard patches. 

Dr. Ellen: Yes! So wisdom, in order to build it up, I’ve got to seek truth, live truth, think truth, believe truth vs. tearing it down and acting in my unbelief systems!

Nancy: Or my wrong belief systems. Lack of faith, lack of truth, lack of love. So it’s really just continually counseling our hearts according to what is true, not what my emotions are running away with.

Don’t you find that our emotions, if they’re not girded up with truth, they can become a torrent, a hurricane, a storm that devastates the people around us?

Dr. Ellen: Oh, yes. We are quick sometimes to say, “Well, it’s just my emotions; I wasn’t thinking anything!” as if emotions are out there by themselves. No, they’re driven by the thoughts from the heart: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:45). So your emotions are rooted and grounded in what you’re thinking.

You think so, believe so, you act so. Before you know it, you’re out of control! It is a little harder sometimes for us, as women, because we do have estrogen. We do have hormonal imbalances—we have all these things—and we’d like to blame it on that. 

I’m in a menopausal season. I love to blame my craziness on, “I’m hot, I’m tired, and I’m bothered! All the above!”

Nancy: That’s not a good combination! So in those seasons—they’re very real!—how do we manage? How do we walk in the Spirit rather than letting our flesh just run over everything and everyone around us, pulling us down, and them, too?

Dr. Ellen: First, take responsibility. It’s not just this thing that’s happening outside of your control. I can’t say, “Well, you know I’m menopausal; that’s why I cussed him out.” We take responsibility, because the Bible calls us to self-control. It doesn’t say, “Unless you’re pregnant, unless you’re PMS-ing, unless you’re menopausal . . .”

So I would say first let’s take responsibility for our thoughts, our emotions, our responsibility, and then, sometimes you need to remove yourself. Sometimes, for me, I have to step away and have a conversation with God. I think that’s okay. Remove yourself until you get self-control!

Now, I’m not saying leave the home. Some people take it to the extreme. But take a moment to pray.

Nancy: Pause.

Dr. Ellen: Just press “pause,” talk to the Lord, allow Him to center you and then go back and try to do it in a more loving way.

Nancy: I wonder how much of our craziness in those moments might be diminished or averted if we would just stop and say, “Lord, I really need You right now! I cannot handle this child!” And there are some seasons of a woman’s life . . .

I think of some of my friends who are young moms who have a lot of little ones, and they are always tired. I mean “they,” the mothers. The kids have limitless energy, it seems! But that’s a season. And to say, “Lord, I can’t do this without You!” That’s humility, which is wisdom. 

Dr. Ellen: Right, it is wisdom, and it helps, too, to have support. If it’s your husband or a best friend or a neighbor, because sometimes you really do have to say, “Mom’s going to take a bubble bath. I just need fifteen minutes to gather my thoughts and come back, and we can talk about this ‘D’ that you made.”

Sometimes you just really need to separate yourself so that you don’t respond in unloving ways.

Nancy: Yes. You talked about support. I think that’s an example of how we really do need to walk in community. To have women friendships can be so important, so that when I’m weak, when I’m needy, I’m not too proud to say, “I need some help here! I think I’m going to really lose it. Can you pray for me?”

I have some women I do this with; they do it with me. When we’re like on the verge of sinning or we’re tempted to sin, we’re going to text and say, “Can you pray for me? I’m not handling this very well.”

Dr. Ellen: Yes, and it’s good to have that mature friend, that mature support.

Nancy: Yes, not just somebody that’s going to sympathize with you in your sinfulness.

Dr. Ellen: “Girl! You should have told him off!”—that type of thing. You don’t want someone that’s going to agree with your sin, although you feel like you want a “yes” person in the moment. But you really need someone who can say, “That’s not the right way to handle it.”

I want to remind people, sometimes a situation that’s happening outside of you is real; someone may have really wronged you. So the response you’re about to have may seem appropriate to what has happened to you. You just need to make sure it’s appropriate to what God says; is that the response He wants you to have?

Nancy: That’s why I’m so thankful for friends I have whom I can share with them confidentially, “Here’s what I’m dealing with.” I know they’re not going to say, “Oh, that person’s a jerk!” They’re going to help me think through what is a godly response to that situation, which is what I really need. That’s a true friend in that moment!

You know, as we talk about wisdom and foolishness, Proverbs 14, you can’t not talk about the tongue! I mean that’s huge, that’s all through Proverbs, all through Scripture. I think something that really gets me—and us as women—in a lot of trouble is thinking that it’s okay to say whatever I’m thinking.

Dr. Ellen: Exactly! And especially as the generations age. It seems to be that once you cross sixty, even seventy, that generation sometimes thinks, Well, I’m old enough; I can say what I want now. I’ve lived long enough to be able to.

Nancy: I just got into sixty myself, so you’re preaching to me right here! Go ahead!

Dr. Ellen: I’ve earned my stripes to tell you what I’m thinking. We still need to have a response to be godly and to have a testimony before the world that shows Christ’s love.

Now, are we going to be perfect? No, but I think this is where the true Christian goes back and confesses: “You know, the way I spoke to you earlier wasn’t loving, it wasn’t gentle, it wasn’t kind. Would you please forgive me?” Because we’re not always going to get it right. 

Nancy: Maybe I’m just seeing a lot of this these days, but I’m thinking especially about social media and the freedom with which people are just hurling accusations—men and women—on so many issues. If I disagree with you (and I’m talking about Christians), we feel the liberty just to fling barbs, these arrows, to crucify you.

Sometimes I think we’re saying things in that setting that we would never to say to that person if they were sitting in the same room with us. 

Dr. Ellen: That’s exactly right, yes.

Nancy: And how destructive is this, in the body of Christ and in our testimony to the world?

Dr. Ellen: It is. I think that what they forget is, Christ is sitting right there with you! 

Nancy: Yes, no kidding. 

Dr. Ellen: So what you may sending out into the airwaves and it’s okay because the person is not there . . . a Person is there! You are offending a holy God by treating His children in such a way! So whether we are in person or not, God has still called us to holiness.

I think that’s the standard that’s missing: He’s called us to holy living. It doesn’t matter if it’s on social media. How dare we treat our brothers and sisters in such a way!? That’s not pleasing unto Him. I think we’ve lost our way with that. 

Nancy: Yes. Well, we love ourselves more than we love others, right?

Dr. Ellen: Oh, yes, and we think we have a right. I think what I’m seeing in this social media game is, we “have a right” to declare something as wrong. You know what I mean? We look into someone’s life, and then we decide, “I can tell you you’re wrong.”

But what if they were looking into our lives? What if someone was following us around with a camera and said all day long, “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” We would be annoyed!

Nancy: Not to speak of, we wouldn’t be motivated to change! 

Dr. Ellen: Exactly! So telling me off on social media may not get me to the point where you think I should be, and how is that Christian charity?

Nancy: It seems like we live in such an uncivil era! In the news, in politics, it’s just loud angry screaming at each other. I feel like, as Christians, we’ve picked up a lot of that tone.

Dr. Ellen: Oh yes, we have, but I don’t know that we are showing the compassion. We’ve lost the art of what we’re called to.

Nancy: You can’t be yelling at someone and loving them at the same time, right?

Dr. Ellen: It’s hard. It’s very, very hard to do. But I don’t know that many would think . . . I’ve read a couple of things and they say, “Well, we have the right to rebuke one another!” I get that, but what happened to the part that says, “one on one.” If you have aught against them, go to them one on one. (see Matt. 18:15)

Nancy: Yes. 

Dr. Ellen: There’s, like I don’t know, a million people out there in that social media room! That’s why my husband and I don’t do social media. Our church just launched into that, so I’m a little terrified. But I don’t know . . .

Nancy: Get thick skin when you go there!

Dr. Ellen: I know! But I don’t see the Christian charity, the love, the gentleness, the grace . . .

Nancy: . . . the fruit of the Spirit. 

Dr. Ellen: The fruit of the Spirit. You know, wait for a pattern before you call someone something.

Nancy: And Galatians 6:1 says when you do rebuke, do it “in a spirit of gentleness.”

Dr. Ellen:Yes! “You who are spiritual, restore such a one.”

Nancy: “And watch, lest you also fall into similar sins,” right?

Dr. Ellen: The same way you’re judged, you shall be judged (see Matt. 7:2). You see, we forget all of these things, but we want to run right to, “But we can rebuke!” Yes, but there are other passages.

Nancy: I’m thinking right now, speaking of passages talking about wisdom and foolishness of James chapter 3. The Scripture says,

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom [the humility of wisdom].

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above [godly wisdom], but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (vv. 13–17).

It’s like, boy, what a contrast there is between that wisdom that is from above and the wisdom that is earthly, sensual, and devilish.

Dr. Ellen: Demonic. Uh!

Nancy: And we can have that lower kind of wisdom; it’s not wisdom at all, it’s foolishness. That’s what tears down. That’s not just in the world; we can have that in our churches and in our Christian homes.

Dr. Ellen: Oh, we do! It’s called “church splits.” 

Nancy: No kidding!

Dr. Ellen: Yes. If you ask, “What caused that church split? “Selfish ambition, evil-ness, demonic-ness, all of that.

Nancy: Strife, lack of humility, pride. 

Dr. Ellen: All of that toward the church: “I want red carpet!” “No, I want blue carpet!” It happens!

Nancy: And Proverbs says only by pride comes contention. Just in the last few weeks, I found this in my marriage, as Robert and I were having a hard conversation. It took me a lot of the night being awake, while he was sleeping next to me, to realize, “My pride fueled this!”

We weren’t screaming and yelling, but there was a barrier, and if we don’t deal with that and humble ourselves . . . So when he woke up, I was already lying there. I said, “Honey, I need you to forgive me. I wasn’t being truthful with myself or with you or being loving when I was responding in that conversation.”

So this is something where we have to be continually humbling ourselves, owning up, taking responsibility and doing what we can to sow peace.

Dr. Ellen: Yes, but if we don’t . . . Let’s take your example. Let’s say we don’t confess and repent. There’s that little bump under the rug of the carpet, and then another thing happens and we don’t, then now it becomes a little hump, and it’s a hill, and now it’s a mountain. Before you know it, marriages fall, because you keep tripping over years and years of that lack of love towards one another.

That happens in the church. People have been mad long before they leave and walk out the door. Let’s take the time out to stop and say, “Okay, maybe you were right in this regard; maybe I was right in this one. But who cares who’s right? Where’s the love? Where’s the glory to God? How do we make this right, how do we reconcile this?”

Nancy: Yes.

Dr. Ellen: Now, I do always say to women, because sometimes they say, “Well, I have tried! I’ve tried with my spouse; I’ve tried with my mother; I’ve tried with my children, and you know, it just doesn’t work!”

And I say, “Well, the Bible also says, ‘As much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men’ (Rom. 12:18). It doesn’t say you’re always going to have this peaceful relationship. Just don’t let it be because of you that there’s discord. I want to encourage women, it’s not going to turn out to be a peaceful situation sometimes, but just as long as it’s not because of you.

Nancy: And so often we’re giving ammunition to the enemy and to the other person by our pride, our foolishness, and it’s tearing down those relationships. I want to just touch on one other thing that I know you have a life message in, and I want to get your wisdom in this.

You have struggled for years with lupus, and your two daughters have as well. So you have dealt with physical weakness, with pain, with limitations. I think sometimes, in our lives as women, that season . . . I have a number of friends who are struggling with Lyme disease, and it’s so debilitating!

How do you counsel your heart and other women when it comes to walking in the Spirit? You want to, but you just feel so physically weak.

Dr. Ellen: It can be tough! This last year has been very tough for me. What’s helpful is to have others encourage you and come around you and support you. I had three surgeries in eight months last year. I was confined to the house the majority of that time.

At some point life has to go on for everyone else. So at some point I was left in the home by myself. I can admit there were days when I really started down a dark path. You just start to feel like life is passing you by!

Everyone else’s life is going on, but yours is just still. It’s not moving. I remember saying, “Okay, God, what are You trying to teach me? How do I get back to You? I feel like I’m moving. You didn’t move! I’m drifting. Let me thank You for my circumstance!” So that’s what I would tell women: thank God for everything!

Because I look at it this way: in life, there’s a buffet of illnesses. There’s this, there’s that, and there’s all this stuff. . .and somewhere in there, there’s lupus. And I go, “Compared to the other ninety-nine million, I’ll take lupus for five-hundred, Alex!” You know? (laughter) So you find a way to thank God for everything!

Nancy: But you may have one of the . . . I have six friends who have lost their lives to ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. That is a vicious disease! And so you may get one of the worst ones. Can you walk in the Spirit and in thankfulness then?

I think you can! One of the things they told me was that, “You do know there is no cure, and you will die from this.” I sat down my leadership team at the church and said, “Listen, there are some things I need to teach you, because I don’t know how long I’m going to be here!”

But you know, at the end of the day, we were not intended to stay here! I know that’s hard, that’s hard to swallow, it’s hard for people who have tough situations. But everything about me right now is falling apart. Every joint is coming apart.

Nancy: And it’s true of all of us, whether we realize it or not. Sooner or later, these earthly bodies are going to be in the ground.

Dr. Ellen: Yes, they’re going to return to the dirt. But I do think you can be thankful, because God knows what’s best. If I really believe He’s a loving God, He’s sovereign and all that, I’ve got to take this. I can’t just take the good, I’ve got to take this as well.

Nancy: Well, wise words from Dr. Venessa Ellen. I wish we could continue this conversation for a very long time! Thank you for living out this message in your own life, thank you for the work you’re doing to mentor and teach women and women’s ministry leaders.

I know the women who have been listening to us have this conversation. You’ve made us think and evaluate and take stock and say, “Lord, what are You saying in my life?” 

I especially want to just say to a woman who is in a contentious relationship: Ask God for help to be a peacemaker, to have the wisdom that is from above. You can never go wrong on the pathway of humility! 

Dr. Ellen: Never!

Nancy: Someone said to me on social media in the past few days—somebody I don’t know just saw a situation where they felt I had been wronged—and they said, “Why don’t you stand up and point that out. Stand up for yourself!”

You know, I’m not saying that there’s never a time to do that, but the thought that came to my mind in that moment was the silence of Christ. At some key points when He was being maligned, He just didn’t say a word. 

Dr. Ellen: “Never said a mumbling word.”

Nancy: There’s a time to say a word, there’s a time to be quiet, and we need God’s wisdom and grace to know the difference so we can build up our homes, our relationships, the body of Christ, rather than tearing them down. 

Dr. Ellen: Amen!

Dannah: Okay, wisdom! Wisdom for when to speak up or when to say silent. That’s getting really practical now, isn’t it? And I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s so easy to choose unwisely, and it takes soaking my mind in God’s Word and walking in the Spirit to make those wise, God-honoring choices. 

Dr. Venessa Ellen has been in conversation with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, and do you know what strikes me? A lot of what they just said is not really rocket science! It’s things you and I have heard before, but it’s oh, so good to be reminded of them, isn’t it? Back to the basics!

Well, if you’re looking for simplicity in a world that’s getting more and more complicated, God’s wisdom is for you! That’s the kind of thing author and businessman Mark DeMoss writes about in The Little Red Book of Wisdom. He breaks things down into basic, more simple truths, and it’s so refreshing!

Like think about this: What would your life look like if you valued listening and thinking over talking and doing? How would things be different? The Little Red Book of Wisdom takes you on a journey many people completely miss, because they’re distracted and attracted to whatever is newer or quicker or easier!

This month we’ll send you a copy of this book when you contact us with your gift. We’re a listener-supported ministry, and that means we depend on donations from people just like you in order to keep our day-to-day operations going. So thank you in advance for your generous donation! And be sure to ask about The Little Red Book of Wisdom when you get in touch with us.Our website is ReviveOurHearts.com, and our toll-free number is 1–800–569–5959.

If you’ve ever attacked your Bible reading time with colored pencils, there’s a good chance you’ll recognize the voice of our guest tomorrow!

Kay Arthur: When you observe the text, the first thing you want is, you get ahold of it and you ask the questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? And: “Who is this about? Who are the main characters? Who is speaking? To whom are they speaking?” You go with the most obvious when you’re studying inductively.

Dannah: The much-loved Kay Arthur joins Nancy to talk about ways all of us can study God’s Word more effectively. I’m Dannah Gresh. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Challenging you to build up rather than tear down. Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.