Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Can Young Children Understand the Bible?

Leslie Basham: Does it ever feel like you’re trying to read the Bible to your kids, but they’re not catching anything you’re saying?

Carrie Ward: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their host, and . . . “

Emma: Mom, can I have some more toast?

Carrie: Um, sure, just a second . . . “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

Benjamin: Do we have to take a nap today?

Carrie: Yes, God rested and so should you. Where was I? “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified, it because in it . . .” Where are you going?

Benjamin: I need to wash my hands.

Carrie: Can’t you wait just a minute?

Maggie: Mom, I spilled!—ew—sticky it’s sticky . . . !

Dog: Woof, woof!

Leslie: Well, you’re about to get encouragement to keep reading, even if your house sounds this way.

Emma:  Mom, can I have more juice?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 15, 2014.

Dog: Woof!

Leslie: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Here in July, we’re exploring the way God’s Word intersects with practical life issues we have as women in different seasons of life. We’re doing that by talking with the authors in the True Woman line of books.

We’ve heard from:

  • Paula Hendricks, who has written Confessions of a Boy Crazy Girl
  • Erin Davis, who has written a book for young moms called Beyond Bath Time
  • Mary Kassian and Susan Hunt, who have written a book for teenage girls called Becoming God’s True Woman While I Still Have a Curfew

And today’s topic is especially close to my heart.

In an interview for a magazine article, I was asked this question: “What impact did the Bible have on your coming to faith in Christ, and what impact has it had on your growth as a disciple?” To which I quickly responded, “Everything.” I’m serious. I cannot thank the Lord enough for the blessing of having grown up in a Word-saturated environment.

My parents loved the Lord. They weren't perfect, but it was clear that they loved the Lord. They modeled a high view of Scripture. They were consistently in the Word themselves, and they sought to make it a part of the fabric of our home life—and that's in a family of seven kids, all very close in age. As you can imagine, that was challenging at times. But they did it, and they gave us a lot of positive exposure to others who loved Christ and honored His Word.

Those early experiences of learning God’s Word and, so very important, seeing it lived out in our home, gave me a priceless gift that has been with me for all of my life. That gift is an appetite for God.

The fact is, we all have appetites. The question is, what do we have appetites for? I’m so deeply grateful for the ways that my parents helped to foster in us an appetite for what really satisfies, and that’s Jesus.

My parents would be the first to say that they fell far short of all they wanted to be as parents. But I know this . . . more than anything else, they wanted each of the children in their home to know and love God, so they made sure that our lives were planted in His Word.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. It’s not that our family talked about the Bible all the time, that we had family devotions at three meals a day, or that our family perfectly lived up to the Bible’s ideals. None of that is true.

But, my parents were intentional in their efforts to make our home revolve around the Lord and His Word. I’m still reaping the benefits of that every day of my life. I’m still hungry for God, and eager to cultivate that appetite in others, and that’s why we have this ministry.

You may not have been blessed with that kind of spiritual upbringing, and perhaps as a parent you’re thinking, Wow, I’d love for my children to have a lifelong passion for God and His Word, but I’m not even sure my own spiritual hunger is what it ought to be.

Spiritual appetites can’t be forced. I think we know that. Parents can’t make their children want to walk with God. You know as well as I do that God has to turn on the light in their little hearts and draw them to Himself. But I do believe that there is a whole lot that parents can do to "salt the oats", so to speak. And not just parents, but also caring friends—to create an atmosphere in children’s lives that is conducive to spiritual growth and hunger, and to nurture in children a desire to know and cherish Christ.

My good friend Carrie Ward’s husband, Wes, serves as our Media and Marketing director here at Revive Our Hearts. When our lives first intersected, Carrie was a young mom with two little ones. Now, a dozen years later, there are four school-aged children, the oldest of whom stands a head taller than his mom.

In that span of time, it has been a really great joy to watch Carrie develop an insatiable appetite for God. And then it has been incredible to see the journey God has taken this family on as Carrie has set out with her husband to help make their children thirsty for God.

As a result of that journey, Carrie has just written a terrific little book called Together Growing Appetites for God. Over the next few days we want to share that story with you: one mom, one family, who know the power of spending time each day in God’s Word.

But this isn’t just about Carrie and her story. This could be your family's story. I long to see God raise up hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of women across this country—women who love God and are being intentional about cultivating in their children an appetite for God and His Word, as Carrie Ward has been doing in the lives of her children over these last dozen years.

Let’s listen as Carrie describes the incredible things that happen when one generation introduces the Bible to the next. Leslie has the story.

Leslie: Carrie Ward grew up going to church. She heard good preaching and had good teachers, so she learned a lot about the Bible, but she struggled to read it for herself.

Carrie: As a young child, I didn’t make an attempt. As I grew older, I made attempts, but they weren’t very successful attempts. I continued to be active in youth group. In college I was active in a campus ministry . . . that type of thing . . . but as far as personal study, I would always try, and it would fizzle.

Leslie: It seemed like someone always had a new piece of advice that Carrie should try.

Carrie: I would hear someone offer a technique or new method, or how to keep a journal while you’re reading through the Bible, or that type of thing. I would think, “Well, I’ll try again.” I probably read Genesis several times.

When I became an adult, it was pretty much the same practice. I would try to read the Bible. I would feel a certain amount of guilt and frustration that I didn’t have this habit.

Leslie: This became a source of condemnation for Carrie.

Carrie: I felt those around me had the practice down. Why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I keep this habit going? I knew it was something I should do, so what was I doing wrong that I couldn’t maintain it?

I felt there were certain things about my nature that were strikes against me. I was a slow reader, not particularly a morning person, and those seemed like things you need to have in order to be successful.

Leslie: Carrie felt like there was a gap in her knowledge about God’s Word.

Carrie: There were parts of the Bible I had never read. I had been in church my entire life, so it’s not as though I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the parts of the Bible, but there are some parts of the Bible that really aren’t preached very often, and so there were parts of the Bible that I had never before read.

Leslie: And Carrie felt like knowing God’s Word was important for integrity.

Carrie: I say that I believe this, and yet I haven’t read it.

Leslie: Carrie was also aware that she really needed to know what the Bible said.

Carrie: I think it was a gracious thing that God put me in a place where I heard the Bible, I heard teachers who were faithful to teach. When I was in Sunday School, I heard preachers who were faithful to preach the Word. That was a gracious thing, but I found myself inadequate to give a reason for the hope that is in me.

I worked in a secular atmosphere before I had my children. They would often give my their views and I could give my opinion, but my opinion is not going to have the power that God’s Word would have. I felt very frustrated and very inadequate to speak truth into their lives because I didn’t have it in me.

Leslie: When Carrie and her husband Wes began to have children, this question took on a new importance. How could Carrie pass on a love for God’s Word to them when she was struggling with her own consistency?

Carrie: When I began to have children, I didn’t have a plan. I knew that I wanted them to be in church, I knew that I wanted them to know about God, obviously. I’d come to faith as a child, so I had a sincere desire to know God.

I think when they were younger we did read them storybook Bibles. Nancy DeMoss had given us Leading Little Ones to God, and we went through that. I was eager to go through that, and it was actually very beneficial for me as well as for them. It wasn’t as if we weren’t doing anything. We were active in  church also.

But at the time, I wasn’t consistent in reading the Bible myself. I didn’t really have a plan of how to do that, at least in the beginning.

Leslie: Wes was working with Revive Our Hearts, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss gave Wes and Carrie a copy of her book, A Place of Quiet Rest. It describes why time with God and His Word is so valuable.

Carrie: I don’t know that she intended the way it struck me, but it really pointed out a lack of devotion in my life.

Leslie: I imagine that many listeners can relate to the way Carrie felt.

Carrie: I think often it was about duty and not the relationship, about what I felt I should be doing to measure up as a believer, and not about seeking God.

Leslie: Hearing from Carrie reminds me of a conversation we once aired on Revive our Hearts. Nancy was talking with Janet Pope:

Janet Pope: What if I said to you, “You are so disciplined in eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. You rarely miss a day.” And you would say, “No it’s not discipline. I’m hungry.” And so, I would say to you, “It’s not that you are lacking discipline. It’s that you are not hungry.”

Leslie: Carrie Ward was about to discover this. After spending years trying to become more disciplined, she was about to discover what it was like to become more hungry.

Carrie: I got some news from a friend that was really devastating to me. It’s the kind of news that when you receive it, you have this knot in the pit of your stomach. It sent me into a season of prayer that was more intense than I had prayed in a long time.

Wes: Carrie was sleepless for a lot of nights, and that was very unusual, because sleep comes more easily to her than it does to me.

Leslie: This is Carrie’s husband, Wes.

Wes: It was a common new habit to have her up in the middle of the night.

Carrie: Really weeping over this situation . . .

Wes: . . . and earnest prayer and concern, so there were some times it was a concern that led to prayer, and other times it was just up praying over the concerns.

Carrie: I think it was really what God used to grow in me a hunger to know Him, so that it wasn’t so much of fulfilling a duty as it was getting to know God. And I think, really, that time of prayer is what I would pinpoint as when God really started to work—and I was praying for something else. I wasn’t praying God would help me read the Bible. I was praying for something else. But I think that time of prayer that was extended really softened my heart to what He wanted to say to me and made me more receptive to what God needed to teach me.

God began to grown in me a hunger to, not just fulfill a requirement, but to know Him. That manifested itself in a desire to read the Bible.

Leslie: Carrie Ward says your hunger for God’s Word can grow too. You can cry out to God just like she did.

Carrie: I would hope that someone would not have to go through something devastating in order to have a hunger for God, but I would say, pray about it. I would say, call out to God and ask Him to give you a hunger and to open up His Word to you, and keep trying.

I would definitely say I don’t want you to have to go through the devastating experience, but I do want you to call out to God and ask Him to change your heart. I would encourage the prayer.

Leslie: Now that Carrie’s hunger for God’s Word had grown, she needed to figure out the practical next step. How was she going to feed that hunger?

Carrie: So I tried the usual things you’re supposed to do, which is get up early and read your Bible. I was facing the same struggles I had faced my entire life. Having three children under four, no matter how early you get up, they’re going to get up, too.

They have this sense that you’re moving, so one of them would need me. I can remember a couple of days actually hiding out in the bathroom, thinking I could get a little bit of time reading and praying, but Wes would need to get ready for work, and so it wasn’t actually working very well even then.

I was afraid that I was going to fail once again.

Leslie: Carrie also had a growing desire to teach the Bible to her children.

Carrie: I was actually on the lookout for a children’s Bible that had more texts taken directly from Scripture and more stories in it.

Leslie: Then the idea came to her: Why not involve her young children in her desire to read the Bible every day?

Carrie: So my plan was to read one chapter a day, five days a week, and go from Genesis to Revelation.

Leslie: Could a four-year, a two-year old and an infant get anything from the actual text of the Bible itself?

Carrie: It crossed my mind that, if I haven’t been successful in reading the Bible myself, what makes me think I can be successful at reading it to preschoolers? That did cross my mind. But there was something in me that wouldn’t let go of the idea.

But, as I’m explaining my plan, I’m thinking, “How long will this take? So I got out my pen and paper and did the math on it, and I factored in days that we might be sick and we might not be able to read. It was going to take me eight years to read the Bible, and that was overwhelming for a person who is a slow reader and not very disciplined and all these things.

Eight years seemed overwhelming. But at the same time, the desire didn’t go away. I said that night, “I want to do this.”

Wes: There was a resolve that seemed different.

Carrie: I have to think that God gave me the idea and was keeping that fueled.

Wes: You could see it in her eyes that there was something different, and she wanted to make this thing happen.

Carrie: The idea wouldn’t go away.

Wes: I really think that was born out of that heart condition that said, “I need the Lord. This Word is very true." And not only do the recent circumstances need my interest in prayer, but I need it for myself; I need it for my kids.”

Carrie: Genesis chapter 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . ." 

Leslie: Since this plan was the result of a growing hunger for God’s Word, it seemed appropriate that Carrie and the kids would read the Bible each day while eating breakfast.

So the day finally came when Carrie, Graham, Maggie, and Benjamin began their journey through the entire Bible. Carrie doesn’t remember the exact conversation, but does remember that it was chaotic . . . something like this . . .

Carrie: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their host, and . . ." 

Emma: Mom, can I have some more toast?

Carrie: Um, sure, just a second . . . “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

Benjamin: Do we have to take a nap today?

Carrie: Yes, God rested and so should you. Where was I? “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it . . .” Where are you going?

Benjamin: I need to wash my hands.

Carrie: Can you wait just a minute?

Maggie: Mom, I spilled!—ew—sticky it’s sticky . . .!

Dog: Woof woof!

Carrie: And I felt like I was reading out loud to myself much of the time.

Emma: Mom, can I have more juice?

Carrie: And I wondered if it was going to work. So, the first three days were chaos and had me feeling like, “I don’t know if we can do this.” I was still motivated to try.

Leslie: Then the fourth day came along, the story of Cain and Abel.

Carrie: “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out into the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother and killed him. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Where’s your brother Abel?’ I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Gen. 4:8–9).

Leslie: Carrie began cleaning the dishes after yet another discouraging Bible reading session, but then she heard something in the next room.

Benjamin: God, here’s my offering of vegetables.

Leslie: Her kids were playing, acting out a story.

Emma: It's my offering. It's a sheep.

Leslie: It wasn’t one they had heard on TV or in a movie. They were acting out the story they had just heard during their chaotic breakfast.

Benjamin: I need to get him . . .

Leslie: Carrie was so happy that it didn’t even bother her that both kids wanted to play the role of Cain.

Benjamin: I want to be Cain this time.

Maggie: But you were Cain last time.

Carrie: So they were both wanting to whack each other with some invisible farm tool. Both your kids wanting to be Cain is probably not something a mom should be excited about, but I was very excited at that point, because I knew that they were hearing. They were acting it out in great detail, so I knew they were really hearing what I was saying, even though it didn’t look like they were listening. That was really a gracious thing God did to help give me a boost to keep going.

[Sound of children laughing while playing]

After the morning my older two kids acted out Cain and Abel, this became a regular routine. We would read a story—and the Od Testament is so rich with stories—we would read something and they would be almost immediately in the living room acting it out.

Leslie: One story that captivated this family was from 1 Kings 13.

Carrie: "Now, when the king heard the saying that the man of God cried out against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, 'Seize him.'”

Leslie: During breakfast, Carrie read this story about a king who had established idols in Israel.

Carrie: "But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up so that he could not draw it back to himself."

Leslie: The kids were fascinated that this king’s hand withered, and they kept repeating the story. 

Benjamin: “Seize him.”

Leslie: . . . Curling their hands toward their chests and then crumpling to the floor.

[Children screeching]

CarrieThat’s the great thing about kids, they sort of put themselves in the story. So they don’t just hear it, they turn around and play that way.

“The king said to the man, ‘Please entreat the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored to me,’ so the man of God entreated the Lord and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before.”

And this was just very encouraging for me, and it was also helping to reinforce what we read. It reinforced it in me, and I felt like it was reinforcing in their lives as well, because they would play that after we read it, and it was very encouraging. That went on for months because that whole section of Scripture is so full of stories that are ready to be acted out.

Benjamin: I come to you in the name of the Lord.

Nancy: I remember when Carrie and Wes first started talking about the fact the she was reading the Bible aloud to their children. Most parents are thinking, How in the world can they possibly understand this? How is this going to make a difference in their lives?

But I remember thinking, This is so wise, this is so great to be indoctrinating the children, impressing this in their heads and hearts when they’re so little—that this is what they’re teething on, the Word of God. You think how different that is from what most children are teething on today—it’s anything but the Word of God.

Wes: It’s so cool to know that they’re getting this foundation that is going to serve them so well for the rest of their days. They don’t realize that yet. But the older I get, the more I wish I had in me what I know they’re getting in them. Actually, I benefit from what is in them already because when I come home, they’re like little walking concordances.

I can’t tell you, and connect all the dots with Scripture like they can. Hopefully they’re going to start making the theological connections, but right now it is the story connections and the sweep of Scripture and how different things fit together . . . they get that a lot better than I do.

So, I can ask a question about a certain character, and they’ll be able to tell me where that character shows up in Scripture or what the details of the story are exactly.

Carrie: Those dramatic stories in Scripture really pique their interest and their curiosity, and I think that just reinforces the story in their minds. Later we’re going to build on that, and we have built on that. But that initial hearing the story and being excited about the story is a good thing, I think. They want to act it out because they thought it was an interesting and exciting thing to watch what God did.

[Children laughing]

Nancy: I don’t know any more valuable way that you can help to pass the baton of truth on to the next generation than by being involved in getting the Word into the lives of your children. Carrie Ward has written about her journey in reading the Bible with her children in a book called Together Growing Appetites for God.

I want to encourage every mom who has kids still in the home to get a copy of this book, which will encourage you to purposefully share God’s Word with your children.

If you don’t have a consistent time to read the Bible as a family, this book will show you how to get started. If you’re already reading together, this book will cheer you on. Even if you don’t have biological children living in your house—perhaps you’re a grandmom or a single woman who’s investing in other kids’ lives—this book will show you the importance of sharing God’s Word with young people that you know.

Every one of us needs to be seeking God’s Word ourselves and then sharing it with others. Carrie’s book Together Growing Appetites for God is part of the True Woman line of books. I’m glad that Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman Movement can have a role in letting our listeners know about this important book.

We’ll send you a copy of Together Growing Appetites for God when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, just ask for the book Together when you make your donation. You can call us at 1–800–569–5959, or just visit us at

Leslie: Thanks Nancy. I’ll just remind you, we’ll be making this offer through this Thursday, so call to get the book Together soon. We’re happy to send one copy per household.

Today we heard how Carrie Ward and her kids set out to read the whole Bible, expecting it to take eight years. Did they reach their goal? Find out tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.


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

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.