Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Hope for Imperfect Parents

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It’s the person who fears the Lord and who walks in God’s ways who will have the joy of seeing a family that has a heart for God.

Leslie: It’s Wednesday, May 2, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

During this current series called Leaving a Godly Legacy, I wish we could offer you a set of easy steps for raising perfect children. Everyone would listen to a program like that!

Unfortunately, there are no guaranteed steps when it comes to raising children. Imperfect parents raising imperfect kids need to call out to a perfect God day by day. Here’s Nancy to explain.

Nancy: There’s a sense in which I believe that I would not be here today if it were not for the power of a praying grandmother. She actually was my great-grandmother. My father is of Greek background, and his parents were Greek immigrants, and he had a grandmother that they called “Ya Ya,” which is the Greek word for grandmother.

My dad and his family and the cousins grew up in the same house. Ya Ya, who was part of that household, came over with my dad’s parents. Though the home was not really a Christian home, Ya Ya was a woman who did know the Lord and who prayed earnestly for the salvation and the spiritual life of her children and grandchildren and perhaps her great-grandchildren, of which I am one.

My dad’s cousin, Ted DeMoss, whom you may have heard of, was a great man of God and a real leader in ministries. He’s now with the Lord. I remember hearing him tell the story of how when he was a little boy, he shared a bedroom with Ya Ya.

He told about how sometimes at night he would go to bed, and Ya Ya would be on her knees, praying for the family. She never learned English. She prayed in her mother tongue, which was Turkish. Then he told how he would wake in the morning and find that she was still up praying for her family and her children and her grandchildren. What an impact that made on his life as a little boy

I never knew Ya Ya, my great-grandmother, but she was able to see God answer, in time, her prayers on behalf of my father (her grandson) who, as a teenager and a young man, was very rebellious. He was far from God and had no heart and hunger for God.

But on Friday, October 13, 1950, God got a hold of my dad’s heart and brought him under the hearing of the gospel. He was converted—dramatically converted—and gave his life to Christ.

At the same time or about that time, God was working in the heart of my mother, a little southern girl from Charlotte, North Carolina, Nancy Sossomon, bringing her into the kingdom. God brought their lives together and gave them seven children, of whom I am the oldest.

How I thank the Lord for the prayers of that great-grandmother, Ya Ya, who laid hold of God and said, “This matters to me, that God would give my children, my grandchildren, and the next generation, a heart and a hunger for God.”

I thank the Lord for her, and I realize as I think about Ya Ya, how important it is that we as women recognize our utter dependence upon God when it comes to this matter of the next generation.

We’re looking at a pair of Psalms, Psalms 127 and 128, that talk about this matter of leaving a legacy—bringing-up a new generation that has a heart and a hunger for God.

One of the most tragic verses, I think, in all of God’s Word is the passage in Judges 2:10, where it says: “There arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.”

Their parents knew God, their grandparents knew God, but something happened—the baton didn’t get passed. As I read that verse about a generation growing up who did not know God, I think it’s such a picture of many in our younger generation today.

We call it the post-modern generation, and we give all kinds of reasons and explanations for why they don’t have a hunger after God. But God’s plan is that the baton should be passed from one generation to the next and to the next.

Tell your children about the ways of God. Tell them the greatness of God, and as we’re going to see, model the ways of God for them. Be intentional; be purposeful in the way that you bring up your family, and then recognize your utter dependence upon God.

Recognize that though you may be that workman, that watchman, and that warrior that we’ve been reading about in Psalm 127, you can’t do it without God. You know that you can do a lot of things right. You can be intentional and purposeful, but if God doesn’t come through in their lives, they’re not going to have a heart for God.

Now, you can make your children do a lot of things right, as long as they’re smaller than you are, but you want more than that for your children, don’t you? You want them to love God. You want them to have hearts that pant after God, and we’ve said as we’ve looked into this Psalm that this is something that should concern us all.

Whether we have children or not, we all bear a responsibility for passing on to the next generation the heart and the ways of God. Let me tell you that what happens to your children matters to me, and I feel partially responsible as an adult in this generation of believers for what happens to the next generation, even though I don’t have my own children.

We’re together in this as a community of faith. It’s our responsibility to leave that heritage. Now, again, it’s their responsibility what they do with it, and they have to make choices. They will give account to God for what they do with what we have entrusted to them.

But as we seek to leave this heritage of godliness, we’ve got to acknowledge our dependence upon God. Any effort undertaken independently from God will be futile. That’s what we read about in Psalm 127:1.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” You can be a workman, but if you are not working under the master workman; if you’re not a subcontractor under the general contractor of God Himself—your work is going to be in vain.

You can’t have a godly family if God’s not building the home. Now, that sounds so obvious. You may wonder why I even have to say it, but that affects the way that we think about family, the way we do family day in and day out.

Are we consciously recognizing our dependence upon God? He goes on in this passage to say, “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1b). I know that every parent—particularly a mother—is tempted to be afraid in this day and age about what’s going to happen to their children.

Afraid when you send them to school, afraid when you have a babysitter, and even afraid sometimes, when you take them to a church nursery of what is going to happen. Will they fall, will they get hurt, will somebody do something wrong to them?

You hear all the horror stories, and maybe you’ve experienced some of those things with your own children. It’s easy for mothers to become watchmen; to become zealous in their protectiveness over their children.

But the Psalmist says here, “No matter how good of a watchman you are, unless the Lord guards the city, you’re staying awake in vain” (paraphrase). Even if your children are in your eyesight every moment of the day, you can’t protect them from getting hurt.

Certainly, as they get older and move out of your immediate sphere of influence and control and move out into the world and move away from your home, you can’t watch over them every moment of every day, but there is Someone who does.

One of the names for God that I think must be a precious name to every mother is the name El Roi, “the God who sees.” When you send your children out into the world or you send your children out to school or out of the home and into their own marriages and into the workplace, aren’t you glad you can trust El Roi? The God who sees?

Doesn’t that motivate and encourage you as you pray? You say, “Lord, I can’t see where this son or daughter is right now. I can’t see what they’re doing. I’m not there physically to protect them, and if I were there physically, I couldn’t protect their heart. But Lord, you see them. You know right where they are. You are the watchman.”

"Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” He goes on in verse 2, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows” (NKJV). He says, in other words, “If you undertake building a home or watching over the city in your own effort, independent of God, you will end up with heartache and sorrow.”

You just can’t control the situation. You can’t control your children. You can’t control your family, and for certain, we can’t control the next generation. So that’s why we must acknowledge the Lord.

Acknowledge His role as the Master Builder, the Ultimate Watchman. You see, we are partners with Him. Now, certainly not equal partners. He’s the senior partner for sure, but partnering with Him in an incredible undertaking—an impossible undertaking.

We are co-laborers with Him. We fight in His name and under His headship and lordship and leadership. We watch under His watchful eye. We build under His instruction and leadership. We are linking arms with Him and doing what is important to Him and what is on His heart.

No matter how much we try to do everything right, and by the way, any person who has children or any person who doesn’t have children, is a sinner. So our efforts at best are flawed. We are fallen. We are weak. We are sinful, and we do make mistakes.

We make wrong choices, so if it depended on our doing it all right, we’d never have children who have a heart for God. Even with our best efforts, we are still dependent on the Spirit of God and the grace of God, to make it click in our children’s lives; to make it click in the next generation.

That’s why I think every mother realizes—and why we need to be reminded—that our greatest resource is prayer. Unless the Lord does it, it’s not going to happen. The house isn’t going to get built. The city is not going to get guarded, unless God is the workman; unless God is the watchman; unless God is the warrior.

So moms, I ask you this: if you don’t cry out to God on behalf of your children and your grandchildren, who do you think is going to? Now, we all need to be crying out to God on behalf of the next generation, but I don’t know that anyone has as much reason or vested interest to do so as a mother or a grandmother!

Some of your children are grown and you think, “My task is done.” No, your task is not done! You have grandchildren. There will be great-grandchildren, and if the Lord tarries, great-great-grandchildren!

I have prayed numerous times over my brothers and sisters, and their mates and their children and their children who aren’t even thought of yet, down to four generations. I pray that everyone will know God; will love God; will walk with God; and will have a heart and a hunger for God.

We pray. When we cry out to God on behalf of our children, we acknowledge our need for God and our absolute, utter dependence upon Him.

Leslie: As parents, we need to learn all we can and get all the advice we can, but ultimately, what we really need to do is to cry out to God for help.

Nancy will be right back with the second half of today’s program. It’s part of a series called Leaving a Godly Legacy. The CDs of this week’s program would be helpful to any parent, whether they’re dealing with diapers, elementary school, or teenagers.

In each season of life, a parent can pull out these programs and hear them with fresh ears. Do you know a mom who could use these CDs? It’s easy to order a set for them at ReviveOurHearts.com. Let’s get back to Nancy who is continuing to discuss parenting from Psalm 127 and 128.

Nancy: If we want to pass on our faith intact to the next generation; if we want to pass on that baton, we must model the kind of faith that we want the next generation to embrace. We must live it out for them. We must demonstrate to them. We’ve got to show them what this kind of faith looks like.

If we want them to love God with all their hearts, they need to see that we love God with all our hearts. If we want them to live obedient lives, they need to be able to look at us and see that we obey God.

We need to model a whole-hearted love for God and obedience to His Word. The first verse of Psalm 128 says, “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in His ways!” Then it goes on to talk about what kind of family that person will have—about the husband, the wife, the children, the next generation, the blessing, and the peace upon Israel: “May you see your children’s children” (Psalm 128:6).

What’s the context for that whole passage? What’s the launching point? The person who fears the Lord and who walks in God’s ways will have the joy of seeing a family that has a heart for God.

I’m amazed over and over again at how often we fail to see the connection between the way that we live and kind of fruit that we’re producing in the next generation. We sow seeds of our own making—selfishness, pride, or worldliness—and then pray for a crop failure in the next generation—it doesn’t work that way.

That’s way James said, “Don’t let many of you aspire to be teachers, because you’ve got to live with what you produce” (James 3:1; paraphrase). The function of a leader, a teacher, or a parent is so determinative. We’re reproducing after our kind.

But so often, we fail to see the connection between our lives, our attitudes, our values, and those that are mirrored in the next generation. Parents share with me about issues of bitterness and resentment in their own lives, lack of discipline, and then they’re shocked when their children have these same seeds producing a multiplied harvest.

I think of parents who tolerate morally-questionable entertainment in their homes. They bring into their homes, by way of television and videos, activities and actions and language that they would never tolerate someone actually living out in their home, and then they wonder why their children struggle with moral issues and live immoral lives.

I think of parents who spend years arguing—contention in the marriage, failing to resolve conflicts God’s way, and then in many cases, finally divorcing and remarrying, and then wondering why their children are hostile and angry and insecure.

I’m not saying that every sin problem in every child is a reflection of the same sin problem in the parents. We’re all sinners: parents are sinners, and children are sinners, and children can find their own ways to sin, even if they don’t see it in their parents.

But I am saying there is a connection. Jesus said in Luke chapter six, verse 40b: “Everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” It doesn’t say he’ll know what his teacher knows. It says he will be like his teacher.

The fact is, if we don’t love God with all our hearts, we can’t expect the next generation to love God with all their hearts. If we’re living selfish, proud, rebellious, independent-spirited lives as women, then it should not shock us that the next generation of women would live proud, independent, self-sufficient, angry lives.

I am so thankful for the many things that my parents modeled in our home that are worthy of emulation—the pattern that is worthy of following. They would be quick to tell you there would be many things they did that they would not want their children to model, but I have tried to focus on the positive qualities that I saw modeled in my home as I was growing up.

My parents modeled such things as the importance of using time wisely. My dad was a bear about wasting time. That doesn’t mean that we couldn’t have purposeful recreation—we had family nights and game nights and fun times as a family, but time was not just to be frittered away.

My parents modeled beautifully the whole matter of giving—sacrificial giving. My parents loved to give, and we children grew up in a home where it was natural to think of how you could share what God has given you with others.

They modeled a heart and a passion for ministry. There was always ministry going on in our home. My dad was a businessman. My parents were not paid to be professional ministry people, but they loved ministry.

You know why? Because they loved God, and God was first in their lives. “Jesus first,” wasn’t just a lapel pin that they wore on their suit jacket. That was a living reality in our home.

They loved ministering to others. They modeled the permanence of marriage, and we knew that no matter what the struggles and the issues were in that marriage—and there were problems—that there was a firm covenant; a non-negotiable commitment that they had to work the problem out—marriage is permanent.

They modeled the importance of starting each day in the Word of God and in prayer. The matter of daily devotions has become such an important foundation in my own walk.

They modeled the value of hard work. They modeled a heart for evangelism, for sharing the gospel with people who didn’t know Christ. They had a heart for missions.

My mother was an incredible model of the ministry of hospitality. We always had people in our home: people for dinner, people staying over, people using our home in different ways, and my mother modeled the practical aspects of how you minister to people’s needs in the context of a home environment.

I’ll tell you something else she modeled that I am so thankful for today, and that is respect for the husband and dad in the home. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard my mother say a negative word about my dad.

Now, that’s not to say that my mom and my dad don’t have some negative character flaws. It’s not to say that there weren’t some things she could have found in him to point out, but I don’t recall ever hearing her point those things out.

I didn’t have perfect parents. No one does, but I have parents who made a conscientious effort to model to us the things that they wanted us to live out.

Let me just say this: If our jobs, our television, our entertainment, our hobbies, our other relationships outside the family, or even church activities are more important to us than our relationship with God, then we should not be surprised if our children grow up to have an appetite for things of this world more than they have an appetite for God.

So we ask ourselves this question: Am I modeling love for God? Am I modeling holiness of life? If the next generation grows up to be just like me, what will they be like? What will they be like?

Leslie: Sobering words from Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Keep asking yourself that question today, and I think it will affect the choices you make. Nancy will be right back to pray with us.

Colossians 3:12 lists some qualities that parents would be wise in developing. The verse says, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” We’ve designed a beautiful tote bag that reminds you of these qualities.

This summer, when you’re carrying stuff around on vacation or doing activities with your kids, this tote bag will be a small reminder that they’re watching and learning from you.

It also is a great conversation starter with other moms who need to develop these qualities. Ask for the tote bag when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts. You set the donation amount, and we’ll send the bag.

Your gift will help us through the summer months when gifts are traditionally low. May represents our fiscal year-end, and your donation will help us finish strong and be ready for more effective ministry in the year ahead.

You can order the tote bag and donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959. Make your donation, and ask for the bag.

The Bible lays out different roles for members of the family—that sometimes controversial idea often gets discussed in the context of marriage, but it also has relevance to raising children. Find out more tomorrow, on Revive Our Hearts. Now, Nancy’s back to pray with all of us imperfect parents.

Nancy: Father, the only way we can model holiness, compassion, and love for You is for You to conform us and transform us and sanctify us. Do in us that which we cannot do for ourselves. I pray that You will do such a work in us that our lives will bring hunger and thirst and longing in the next generation to be like You because they have seen You in us. We pray it for Jesus’ sake, amen.

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

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