Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Giving to God First

Dannah Gresh: From the time Art DeMoss committed the first hour of each morning to the Word of God and prayer, he never missed a day. His son, Mark, was watching.

Mark DeMossI’d like to say watching him [my father] begin each morning with devotions, I never missed a morning doing the same thing, but that wouldn’t be true. But it made enough of an impression on me to seek to make that a goal and a priority of my own.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Forgiveness, for Tuesday, July 7, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: This week our listeners have the chance to meet one of my favorite people, my brother Mark DeMoss. I’ve known him for, well . . . a long time, and we’ve walked through many seasons of life together. In fact, Mark walked me down the aisle and gave me away at my wedding to Robert.

Mark has a heart to seek and follow the Lord and has modeled a life of integrity to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Mark wrote a terrific book back in 2011, and you might say, “Nancy, you’re biased.” And I suppose that’s true. But honestly, I think this book is just such a practical, helpful, encouraging, and challenging resource. It’s easy to read. In fact, the first time I read it cover to cover. I stayed up late that night reading it, not wanting to put it down. Many times over the years, I've gone back to re-read parts of this book again.

It’s called The Little Red Book of Wisdom. It’s a book that is little in physical size, but just jam-packed with great, practical, insight for life.

Dannah: Nancy, you  talked with Mark about this book in 2011, and this week we are revisiting that classic series here on Revive Our Hearts.

In your conversation you discussed some of the most important habits we can develop in life.

Nancy: Those habits would later become really important to Mark as he battled cancer and then realized it was time to bring his successful public relations firm to a close. So let’s listen to the conversation I had with Mark DeMoss several years ago about The Little Red Book of Wisdom.

Mark: Well, thanks for giving it time and attention. It was a new experience for me. It has been an exciting project, and it’s my heart on paper.

Nancy: And your life backs up what’s on paper, which is what I so appreciate about it.

You talk throughout this book about the importance of priorities—first things first, the things that really matter—the things that when so many people come to the end of their lives, they look back and wish they had given more attention to. You’re saying, in essence, if you wish you’d given more attention to it later, why don’t you give attention to it now?

And Mark, so many of the things you talk about in this book are things that we saw modeled in our home as we were growing up. Things that we saw in our dad who didn’t come to know the Lord until he was in his mid-twenties, so it wasn’t like he had this great spiritual background. He started a new family line, so to speak. And now you and April are passing these things that you learned from both of your parents on to your children.

I had a chance last week (though you didn’t know about this until we got in the studio this week), to talk with your children and to get their perspective on some of the things you’ve written in this book. They didn’t hear each other as I was talking with them.

I talked with them one after the other, and each of your children, when I asked them about your priorities and the way you live your life, commented on the fact that they see their dad spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis. I asked your youngest daughter, Madison, who is in eighth grade, why she thinks it’s so important to you to spend time in God’s Word each day, and here’s her answer.

Madison: Because he loves God, and he likes spending time with Him.

Nancy: Just one sentence there, but I thought it was so precious that she has come to see in you and April that this is a matter of a relationship—not just a matter of something you have to do. We learned that from our dad as we saw him starting each day with the Lord. What kind of impact did that make on you growing up in that home now as an adult man?

Mark: Well, it made a huge impact, and I’d like to say watching him begin each morning like that, that I never missed a morning doing the same thing, but that wouldn’t be true. But it made enough of an impression on me to seek to make that a goal and a priority of my own.

Nancy: To start your day in the Word.

Mark: To start my day that way, before I go to the office, before I’m reading newspapers or getting into other things, to begin that way. For the most part, I’ve been able to do it. I’d say, listening to my children comment on it, though, almost convicts me that while the habit might be good, I know that I can spend more time.

You can’t spend enough time in God’s Book and His Word and fellowshipping with Him. But it’s a great example. Growing up in a home without a television, here our father was running a huge corporation, and we got no newspaper at home. He wasn’t waking up to the stock reports and the Wall Street Journal but was in the Bible.

He had a system that he used, and I’ve used it ever since for the most part. It is to read each morning two chapters in the Old Testament, two chapters in the New Testament, and Psalms and Proverbs. In doing that, one would read through the Old Testament every year, and read through the New Testament a couple of times a year, and would read through Psalms and Proverbs every month.

Proverbs is conveniently divided into 31 chapters, and when reading one chapter of Proverbs a day, you’ll read the entire book of Proverbs twelve times a year. It is so full of every conceivable thing we can encounter in life; we can probably find in this little book of Proverbs. I would consider it the classic textbook on wisdom of all time. It’s how I’ve begun my day.

Nancy: For how many years?

Mark: I would say for probably half my life, twenty plus years. I know I didn’t do this every morning in college. I’m sure I didn’t do it every morning in high school, and I will have missed some mornings since then. The principle for me has been to carve out time in the beginning of the day, and whether that’s literally when your feet hit the floor or thirty minutes or an hour later, I don’t think is that critical. If I have a 6:30 a.m. flight out of the world’s busiest airport in Atlanta, and I leave my house at 4:30 or 5; I’m going to be reading my Bible on the airplane, not at the side of my bed.

But that’s been what I’ve liked about this commitment to the morning. You don’t leave to chance that it gets edged out with the rest of your day’s responsibilities. If I were to say, "I'd like to do this during my lunch break," well there are lots of days when my lunch break evaporates because of a work crisis or a child needs to be picked up from school because they’re sick or whatever. The morning seems to be one thing we can totally control, because we can control what time we get up. So we can get up a little earlier and know that that time is guarded.

Nancy: In the same way that our lives were indelibly imprinted by our dad’s example in that area, your children’s lives are being impacted by your example in that area, which has been such a precious thing for me to see. Your middle child is a son, he’s fifteen, and his name is Mark, but he’s been called Mookie for as long as I can remember. Mookie had some comments about his observations in relation to this whole thing about a morning quiet time and the book of Proverbs in particular.

Nancy: You read a chapter from Proverbs each day?

Mookie: Yes, Ma’am.

Nancy: When did you start doing that?

Mookie: I think I started it at the end of my seventh grade year, so almost two years ago, about a year-and-half ago.

Nancy: Is it something you just decided on your own to do?

Mookie: Well, no, Ma’am. My dad, he would always read—I mean, he reads more than this book. He always reads a chapter of Proverbs every day, and I was talking with him one day, and he encouraged me to start doing it. So I did as another part of my quiet time and time with the Lord. He really encouraged me to start doing that.

Nancy: And you do that at night?

Mookie: Yes, Ma’am.

Nancy: Can you think of anything in your life that has changed or helped you practically from your reading of Proverbs?

Mookie: I mean, I’ve learned so much from it. I’m still trying to apply a lot of it to my life. I’m trying to do a lot better on thinking before I speak thing because I tend to speak without thinking a lot of times. And I get a little attitude sometimes, and that’s something that God’s placed on my heart that I need to be better about.

Nancy: That’s got to bring a lot of joy to your heart as a dad to see your kids developing that heart to put God first in their lives.

Mark: It does. There’s nothing I’d rather hear. I noted in this chapter about Proverbs, while I was writing this book, Mookie came down to breakfast one morning and said, “Dad, I just finished my seventh month of reading a Proverb every day.” And that was the first I’d known he had really set out to do this.

Then he came down some months later and told me he had finished twelve months, so I knew he was actually tracking it. Solomon in Proverbs says that a wise son makes a father glad, and this has certainly made me glad. I will tell you that even if he wasn’t quick to recall some specific proverb or principles in Proverbs, he will periodically quote one as it applies to some situation, either temper or quick to speak or something.

Nancy: He’s getting it.

Mark: So I know he’s getting it.

Nancy: This is just a part of this whole thing we learned from our dad about putting first things first. He talked about what we saw him live in our home, which was this matter of first.

Mark: We talked about giving God the first part of the first hour of each day, giving God the first day of each week, and giving God the first tenth of every dollar, also a very radical idea today, and some other things like putting Him first in your home. I captured those first three in a chapter called, “The Wisdom of Firsts.”

Again, spending time with the Lord, I think so many people get caught up in not having an hour to give to the Lord at the beginning of the day, Or they don’t think they could make that kind of time. That’s why I really believe that doing something first is more important than how long you do it.

Then giving God the first day of the week, which we know is the Sabbath, is one of the Ten Commandments. That concept in this country certainly has fallen by the wayside in recent decades. Everybody would have their own standard of what that means. Even people who teach it would have different standards of what’s appropriate and not appropriate.

Again, I think rather than getting hung up on the specifics of it, the principle remains very valid and very real. I will do things on a Sunday that I’m sure someone else would say, “Well, I don’t even do that.” So I’m not proposing some scale of legalism or perfection of who keeps the Sabbath the best. But I would say this: If your Sabbath doesn’t look different than your other six days, let’s just start with that as a standard. If it doesn’t look different than your other six days, it’s probably out of whack.

I’ve just made it a practice to do nothing work related, meaning related to my business, to my profession. I don’t read work-related stuff; I don’t prepare for a Monday meeting, and I don’t answer emails on Sundays. I detach myself from the business of the DeMoss group.

Nancy: Don’t you find this is really a gift from the Lord? It’s a blessing rather than a bondage to me!

Mark: It is a gift, and I really believe that there are emotional benefits. I think there are psychological benefits. I think there are physical benefits. I used to think I could go all the time and work hard and play hard and stay up late and cram a lot in. As I get older, even in my 40s, I get tired. I need rest. My body needs rest. I try to shut down Sundays, and that’s been a helpful thing.

Nancy: You’ve had a huge influence on my life in that particular area because I did not practice that well for many, many years. In recent years, for me it’s computer-free Sundays, because I’m on my computer all the time, morning, noon, and night, the rest of the week, and just shutting down my laptop on Saturday night and not opening it again until Monday morning has been such a blessing.

And of course, there’s time with God’s people; there’s time in worship; there’s time sitting under the preaching and the ministry of the Word on the Lords’ day—those are all gifts as well to pull back and to be refreshed and replenished. I thank you for your influence in that. My only regret on that is that I didn’t start it years earlier.

Mark: Well, I could do even less on Sunday than I do now. In a given year, there will be a couple of Sundays that I probably travel. I want to be conscious of Sunday and not have Sunday look like the other days except that I went to church for an hour. That’s been a valuable principle.

Then our dad talked about giving God the first part of every dollar. That’s, of course, the biblical principle known as tithing. For whatever reason, that’s gone out of style or is uncomfortable for people or awkward. The subject of money makes a lot of people squirm.

Here again, I’ve tried to focus on principles here more than anything else, and the principle is one of giving and recognizing what the source of our wealth is in the first place. While most people who think about giving at all tend to ask, “How much should I give?” in reality, if all that we have comes from God, we really ought to be asking, “How much should we keep?” “How much should I spend?” “How much should I live on?”

Nancy: How much is enough?

Mark: How much is enough? These are valuable principles, and they didn’t come from me; they didn’t come from my father—they are straight out of God’s Word. One thing I can say is that if you’ll test them, they will work.

Nancy: And here again, your and April’s example is impacting your children. Here’s what Mookie had to say that he’s picked up from your life in relation to giving.

Nancy: I know your mom and dad have a heart for giving to other people and to the Lord’s work. How have you seen that in their lives?

Mookie: Well, first of all, they’ve always taught us that everything we own is already God’s. It’s already His, and so we need to give back to Him. They always showed us that in the Bible it says to give ten percent and offering, and they’re always good about not just tithing but giving offerings as well.

Nancy: The fact is that God really does own it all—everything we have: our time, our resources, our day—it all belongs to Him. So by giving Him that first part, literally, of the day or of the first day of the week or the first part of every dollar, we’re really acknowledging, “Lord, it’s all Yours.”

It’s amazing how God has, in His economy and in His math, a way of multiplying. We think, I can’t afford to give up that part of the day, or I can’t afford to give up that day of the week, or I can’t afford to give up the first part of my income. But I’ve seen God over and over again in your life, Mark, in our family’s life, in my life, multiply and end up having more.

Our dad used to quote that verse from Proverbs that says, “Reverence from God adds hours to each day.” You know, he took that, among other things, to mean that if we honor God with the first part of the day, that God will, in a sense, multiply to us the fruitfulness and the usefulness of that day.

Mark, I asked your children, if they had a chance, what they would like to say to you to express their love and admiration for you as a dad. I think you’ll be touched, as I was, by what your three children had to say, starting first with your youngest daughter, Madison.

Madison: Dad, I love you because you’re humble. You always pray with me, and you show your love to me and mom and Mookie and Georgia. I’m glad you’re my dad, and I love you so much.

Georgia: Dad, I love you because of the incredible encouragement you are to me daily, and the example you set to me about what it truly means to seek after Christ with everything that you do and put Him first in all that you do. You are probably the wisest person I know, and I love you very much.

Mookie: Dad, I love you and I respect you for all that you’ve done for us and our family—the way you’ve treated mom and the way you’ve treated us and how you’ve spent time and showed us that you care about us. I hope one day I will be anywhere as close to as wise as you are, and you’re my hero. Thank you, and I love you.

Mark: There’s no greater joy than to know that your children walk in truth. That’s very special.

Dannah: That's Nancy's brother, Mark DeMoss, and some of his kids—who sound a little bit younger then.

Nancy: They did because we recorded this nine years ago, when those kids were teenagers. They are now young adults. What a joy it is to see each of them walking with the Lord, married to a godly mate, and starting to train their own children in the wisdom and ways of the Lord.

As I mentioned earlier, in 2016, Mark was diagnosed with lymphoma. He went through effective treatment, praise the Lord! Then he decided after twenty-eight years of founding and running a public relations firm, that it was time to bring that business to an end. As he walked through those big life challenges, as well as the challenges of kids growing up, and changes in family and parents, he was helped by the kind of biblical wisdom that he has been sharing today.

Dannah: He shares some of those same, solid truths in the book entitled, The Little Red Book of Wisdom. Now, if you like to accessorize in red, like I do, this book is for you because it is literally red. And even if you don’t, the wise advice inside will be worth stepping outside your normal palate. The important thing is that you read this book and apply the wisdom Mark shares to your daily life.

Nancy: Dannah, I love the way he's broken the book into two sections. There are short chapters for your wisdom on personal life. The second half is on wisdom for your professional life. So not only will you enjoy this book, it's a gift you can give to a dad or a husband or grown kids. There's a lot of wisdom for each season of life in this little book.

Dannah: We’d like to send you The Little Red Book of Wisdom as our thank-you gift  when you support Revive Our Hearts and help us continue bringing the program to you each weekday. When you donate any amount, ask for The Little Red Book of Wisdom. You can visit us, or call 1–800–569–5959.

In a world of information overload, how can you cut through the clutter and deliver a heart-to-heart message to someone? Mark DeMoss will talk about it tomorrow. Here’s a preview.

Mark: There are hundreds of things we can do. Talk about letter writing. Anybody can go about writing a letter. You can do it today. I have never had a single person thank me for something I sent in an email. And yet, the people who have told me of the impact of a letter, a handwritten or typed letter that was in an envelope with a stamp on it. I hear about it all the time.

I'm convinced that no other form of communication matches the impact of a written letter.

Dannah: Wisdom for daily life on the next Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Calling you to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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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.