Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Lies Families Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God is not a divine vending machine. Dannah Gresh says her prayer life is beginning to reflect that truth.

Dannah Gresh: I’ve stopped treating God like a genie in a bottle. I’ve stopped giving Him my to-do list every day. And I started saying, “God, what do You want? What is Your will? What are You trying to teach me during this time?”

My prayers have started to sound a whole lot like Jesus’ prayers—“Not my will, but Thine.”

Nancy: We’ll hear about ways to adjust our thinking with the truth of God’s Word. This is the Revive Our Hearts for December 14, 2020. I’m Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

If you feel like you’re in a battle, that could well be because you are. At this time of year, with holiday preparations in full swing, it’s easy for any of us to feel overwhelmed. We just can’t manage everything on our plates.

And on top of that, we’re experiencing extra pressures unique to 2020.

And, if you’re a parent, there are all the normal stresses related to parenting, with 2020 challenges thrown into the mix, too. You know what I’m talking about.

Dannah, it’s been a difficult year for families.

Dannah: It certainly has. I’ve watched some of my friends having to adjust to remote learning, that is being the educator at home of their children, and they’re learning that.

I’ve seen them help their children through the disappointment of not getting to participate in extracurricular activities that mean so much to them. And, I might add, work out their energy.

Nancy: Yes. One of our grandchildren is a senior in high school, and she’s not been able to do many of the things that she had hoped would be a part of her senior year.

Then I’m thinking also about some family members who have not been able to see their children or their grandchildren, or adult children who have not been able to see their elderly parents.

This has been a really hard and stressful time for so many families. But thankfully, God has not left us defenseless in the battle.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, the apostle Paul talks about the weapons God has given us. He says these weapons aren’t according to the flesh, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. So our battles are first and foremost spiritual in nature. That means your husband or your parents or your kids, they are not the enemy. There’s a spiritual battle going on.

The fight is also in the realm of our thoughts. Scripture talks about philosophies and ways of thinking. It says we need to take every thought captive to obey Christ. And that is where God’s Word comes in.

We need the truth of God’s Word to fight against the lies that we’re so quick to believe because the lies scream through our emotions and say, “You can’t do this,” or “Everything’s going off the rails.” But that’s where we need God’s truth to counsel our hearts.

Well, recently, Dannah, you spoke at an online event for parents and children’s ministry leaders.

Dannah: Yes. It’s called “Kidmin Mega-Con,” and it’s put on by an organization I love called Kids Matter.

Nancy: And, Dannah, I’m excited that today we can air one of the sessions you did at that conference.

Dannah is going to show us some of the lies that families can easily believe along with the truth that sets us free. This is truth we all need in our families in this season. Let’s listen.

Dannah: Before we read this passage in Exodus 33, let me set things up for you. Moses had been up on Mount Sinai, experiencing God’s majestic presence and listening to His powerful voice. And the mountain shook when He spoke, and Moses fell to his knees.

Meanwhile, the kids were down in the valley. I think it was a literal valley and a proverbial dip, if you know what I mean. They decided they just wanted to be like everyone else and have something to worship that they could see. They wanted to be normal. (Okay. I’ve got to say right there—that’s where I’m alarmed at my own craving for normal right now in this pandemic.)

So Aaron builds them this golden calf. And when Moses comes down off the mountain, he finds them partying. Of course, like any dad who walks in on a frat party when he arrives home from a business trip, Moses loses his cool. He melts the cow down, pounds it in the dust, and makes his prodigal kids drink it. (Uh huh. Can you say dysfunctional?)

In many ways, the Israelite family out funks us all. And let me tell you, the Gresh family puts the funk and the fun in dysfunctional. I don’t know if your family does, but we certainly do.

They’re not that much unlike us, are they—these Israelites? And God is angry at them. He tells Moses that He will not go with them—I’m quoting that, “Not go with them for the rest of their journey.” He’s withdrawing His presence.

And what we’re going to read here is Moses’ prayer for a highly dysfunctional family. I’m going to read to you Exodus 33, starting in verse 12. We’ll read to verse 18 if you want to read along in your Bibles.

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.' Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and have found favor in my sight.’ Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

Now, at this point, God has already said, “All right, Moses. I’m going to go with you because you begged.” But Moses is still coming at God and saying, “No, no, no, no, really. You told me You’re going to be with us. You told me we were Your people.” And then He says:

“My presence [this is God] will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And Moses said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.”

Okay, didn’t God just say, “I will go with you?” He had decided, “Okay, I know I said I wouldn’t go, but I see one person, one holy person, one hungry person, one passionate person. So I’m going to go.” And then Moses says:

“For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight. I know you by name.” And Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”

All right. Let me show you what God put in my heart about these verses. I’d been praying about what to share with you today, and I’m highly burdened for the state of Christian family. I was before this pandemic. It’s only grown greater throughout it.

I don’t know if you had a sense in March of, “Maybe the Lord is going to use this for revival. Maybe the Lord is going to kick us into gear so that the family is truly engaged in ministry, so that we truly see people not just showing up to watch church, but they do church with us.”

God keeps bringing me back to this passage. It’s a passage I’ve been mulling over for such a long time. And I see three lies that the Israelites believed—not Moses—that we often believe.

Lie number one is this—I’ve already referenced it: We need to be normal.

Have you heard it? Have you heard it in your church? Have you heard people saying, “I just want to get back to normal.”

The Israelites wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted gods—plural—to worship like everyone else. Exodus 32:1 tells them they wanted to be like everyone else. Go ahead and look at it. Test me.

Now, the calf they made, or that Aaron made for them, was likely inspired by Baal, or Ba-al, a god worshipped for fertility and through sexual ritual. Of course, you get there, and you’re, like, “Okay, if we aren’t a culture that is all but worshipping through sexual ritual, what are we?”

One of the big things I work through with teens and college students is, if they’re single, and they’re not in a relationship, and they can’t have sex, they’re like, “So what’s my sexual outlet?” They feel like they have to have one when God’s Word tells us in the New Testament that it’s better if we’re single because we’re free to serve Him.

That must mean that we’re not going to die if we don’t have sex. As far as I can tell, there’s no record of anyone dying because they couldn’t have sex. But we worship it. We’re not that different from the Israelites, are we?

Our children largely watch the same movies, listen to the same songs, have the same goals, live under the same schedules, and, perhaps more sadly, have the same role models as the rest of the world. And, frankly, sometimes so do you and I.

Maybe the reason there’s no statistical difference in the moral behavior of the churched and the unchurched is that we, like the Israelites, believe the lie that we need to be normal. We want to be like everyone else. And sometimes we believe it for the sake of being relevant. But are we? Are we really relevant if we aren’t less stressed, less depressed, less bored, less angry, less unhappy, less fearful?

Here’s the truth we need: God tells us in His Word that He wants us to stick out. He doesn’t want us to be normal. He wants us to stick out, to look different.

Moses knew that the outcome of the one true God should be a distinct lifestyle. I just read it to you in Exodus 33:16. He said, “What’s going to make us stick out? What’s going to make us look different unless You’re with us, unless we’re marked by Your presence?”

So he pleads with God for one more shot at looking different. And I plead with you—I plead with you—let’s let this pandemic be our shot at being different.

Philippians tells us that we should be so different that we shine like stars on a night sky. We should stick out. We should be distinct.

Moses knew that. The others didn’t. They believed the lie that it was good to be normal. And Moses understood very clearly that it was not good to be normal, that we’re supposed to stick out.

Lie number two—and this one I want you to hear me on because I have young people very close to me who are being devoured by this lie, and it breaks my heart. Maybe you do, too. The lie is this: Doubt is the enemy of faith. (Did you hear what I said? Many times we believe the lie that doubt is the enemy of faith.)

The Israelites had questions. They had questions about God. I imagine some of their questions. Maybe when Moses went up on the mountain, and he was gone, it was, “Where’s Moses?” That’s probably one of their practical questions. Right?

They were probably asking, “Who is our god?” Otherwise, why would they ask for the golden calf to worship. Right?

I can only imagine, with a forty-year journey, that they had to ask once or twice, “Are we there yet?” (Like cranky, grumbling children in the backseat of a car.)

And to be fair, their doubts conjure up images of double-mindedness that James warns us about. They became unstable.

Any time we allow doubts and questions to overrule us and not be dealt with the proper way, we do become unstable. And that’s why we see them worshipping and partying in ungodly ways.

Maybe that’s why we are worshipping and partying sometimes—I’m talking about the Church—in ungodly ways. We’re medicating our pain instead of taking it to God for healing.

But doubt can be a good learning tool. Listen to me here: If we take our doubt to God, if we take our questions to God, instead of them drawing us away from Him, they draw us to Him.

But that’s not what the Israelites do. They don’t take their questions to God. They take them to Aaron, who apparently wasn’t all that good at directing them to God, which we see Moses doing pretty well and quite frequently.

But the question I have is this: Which one are you? Are you Aaron? Or are you Moses?

When someone approaches you, a teenager, a parent, another person on your ministry team, coming to you with their doubts . . . “I’ll tell you what: This pandemic has me asking hard questions of God.” When someone comes to you with that, do you rush to heal their comfort with an earthly balm the way that Aaron did, “Maybe we’ll keep you busy here. Maybe we’ll give you parties. Maybe you just need to get out.”

Or do you say, “Let’s sit in this pain. Let’s sit in this doubt. But let’s take it to God”? Because that’s what Moses did.

Which one are you? Are you Aaron? Or are you Moses?

We’re losing our kids, and we’re losing them in part, I think, because we’re afraid of their questions. If you survey Millennials, one of the top six reasons they report leaving the Church is that we were allergic to their questions. And they have some very real difficult questions.

They’ve asked me those questions. They’ve said things like: “Isn’t church kind of a performance?” That’s a good question.

“Why is church such a spectator sport?” That’s a good question.

“Shouldn’t there be more power in my experience at church?” Very good question.

They also ask questions that I’m sure I know the answer to.

“How do you know God didn’t create this world through evolution?

“Why is marriage between one man and one woman? How can you really be so sure of it?”

Sometimes their questions are places where they need to grow in their faith and their theology, and sometimes their questions are where we need to grow in ours. (Somebody say, “Amen!”)

Let’s start entering into the dialogue of humility and mercy. You know what the book of Jude says to those who are doubtful? The book of Jude, (read it if you don’t believe me. It’s short. It won’t take you long) tells us that when someone comes to us with doubt, we should be merciful. That’s the word—merciful.

Are you merciful when someone comes to you and says, “If God is so good, how could this pandemic be happening?”

“If God loves us so much, why are some of the things that make people happy forbidden in Scriptures?”

Are you merciful when those questions come?

“Maybe God is trying to change church because we’ve been doing it wrong. Is that possible that’s what’s happening in this pandemic?” That’s what somebody asked me recently. You know what? Yes, maybe.

Here’s the truth we need: No matter what the question, God is not afraid of our questions. He can handle them.

Moses was a great questioner. He had a lot of doubts about himself, doubts about God, but he went to God with them. And that was the difference between him and the rest of Israel.

At the burning bush: “How will they know You have sent me? What if they don’t believe me? Who’s going to do the speaking?”

Do you ever feel that way in ministry? You feel the call of God so big, but then you’re like, “Yes, but when I go and tell them this is what I’m supposed to do, how will they know that it came from God? What if they don’t believe me?”

And then do you ever feel inadequate in your gifts? You know, the gifts Satan attacks the most in my life is my speaking and my teaching. He’s doing it right now.

But Moses takes those things to God. He verbalizes them. And now, in the passage we just read, when God says He won’t go with them, Moses says, “But how will that make You look, God?” (What an audacious question!) “People will say You drug us out here to kill us. Can’t You reconsider?” (That’s what Moses said there.) “Couldn’t You just change Your mind and come with us?”

We need to take the example of Moses. Let’s not be allergic to questions. In fact, let’s not be allergic to doubt.

Some of the great men and women of the Bible had doubts, including Moses. And you know who else did? John the Baptist.

In his final hours after spending his life looking distinct and different—not normal at all, to say the least—and spending it proclaiming the arrival of our Savior; John the Baptist, in prison, discouraged and fearful and afraid, sends a message to Jesus. It certainly isn’t full of faith and conviction. He says, “Are You really Him?”

God can handle our doubts and questions, and there are a lot of them right now. Don’t be allergic to them.

But here’s the lie that I think we most need to hear about today, and I’ll end with this. Lie number three: (Oh, I hope you’re not believing this one, but if you’re like me, you have moments.) The lie is that we can lead without God.

When they built that idol, they were clearly saying, “We don’t need God. We don’t need that God. We need our god. We’ll take this into our own hands. We’ll take worship into our own hands. We’ll take decisions into our own hands. We’ll take rules into our own hands.”

They were saying they needed gods, gold, partying, and sex and their own way more than they needed God. Are we that different? Is our craving for normal maybe evidence that there’s a little bit of that in us?

The fruit of the state of our church is proof that we’re not that different. The anxiety and the depression in our church, the suicide happening in our church is fruit. We have to look at that and say, “That’s happening on our watch. What are we doing?”

Are we bearing fruit of joy, love, peace, patience, gentleness? Is there enough of that? I don’t think there’s room for the anxiety and the depression when those things are present.

Now, please understand me. I have family members who have battled greatly with depression that is very physiological. But you cannot have an entire generation struggling in it and saying that it’s merely physiological. There are also emotional and spiritual components. And even with my family members who have physiological needs, they need physicians to help them, when they treat their spirit with truth, they do so much better.

I’m just saying this: We’re not bearing fruit consistent with abiding in God. We want our gods, our gold, our parties and our sex more than we want God’s presence. And it’s evident in our prayer life. We treat God like a genie in a bottle, doling out all our to-dos to Him.

I want to ask you a question: Have you been praying during this pandemic? I bet you have.

In the last week and a half, God’s given me a wake-up call. I was saying, “God, stop the pandemic. God, protect the economy. God, bring our churches back together. God, take care of my family. God, my ministry doesn’t have any means of income.”

In the last ten days, I’ve stopped treating God like a genie in a bottle. I’ve stopped giving Him my to-do list every day. I’ve started saying, “God, what do You want? What is Your will? What are You trying to teach me during this time?”

My prayers have started to sound a whole lot more like Jesus’ prayers—“Not my will, but Thine.”

Here’s the truth we need: God’s presence is what we’re missing.

Moses had already been promised that God will go with them, and he keeps begging. He’s already changed God’s mind, so to speak, and then God says (in the Message version), “Ask Me anything.” (I like the Message version for the simplicity of it and it helps bring it close to my heart. And it says in the Message version:) “Ask Me anything.”

He’s already said, “I’ll go with you.” And Moses is still “angsting.” And He says, “Okay, ask Me anything.”

Moses here is, “God is going to do anything I ask.”

You know that moment in the Princess Bride, at the very beginning of the movie where the farmer boy says to the beautiful maiden, “As you wish,” to anything she asks? I think that’s what Moses hears, “As you wish. As you wish.” He hears, “I love you.” That’s what the farmer boy was saying every time when he said, “As you wish.” He was saying, “I love you. I love you. I love you.”

And so, the great questioner, Moses, decides to go for it with one more query. So what does a burnt-out father of a dysfunctional family ask of a God who says, “As you wish—anything you want”?

Does he say, “God, make me younger for this job? Those kids are wearing me out”?

Does he say, “God, kill our enemies. I see them coming. What are we going to do if they get close?”

Does he say, “God, make those kids behave! They are driving me crazy!”?

Does he say, “God, beam us up to the Promised Land”?

No. Moses doesn’t treat God like a genie in a bottle. He asks for the one thing he cannot live without. “Show me Your glory. Show me You. More, more, God. I want more of You. Show me some heart-stopping, soul-shaking, extra-amazing You.”

I long for your prayers and mine to be like that right now. We need more of Him.

Forget the money for your budget.

Forget the power to make decisions on children’s behalf in a church model that largely thinks about the adults more than the kids.

Forget about being the best ministry on the block and getting all the attention.

Forget about writing the most profound curriculum that’s ever come to children’s and family ministry.

Forget image management.

We can’t do this without God. We cannot live without You, God. Let me just pray that for you.

Lord, forgive us that we have fallen prey to live a lot like Your nation, Your beloved people Israel. I know in my own heart I have craved the normal. I know in my own heart I have not prayed the right prayers. I haven’t asked for more of You.

But we ask right now: What do You want in our churches? What do you want in our para-church ministries? What do You want, Lord?

I know what we want. If You heal this pandemic—great.

If You fix the racial division that’s causing so much pain, Oh, Lord, I pray that You would. But, is that what You want to do? Because I think we need to want You more than we want those things. And I know that I don’t. So change us, Lord.

I just pray this in Your holy name, and I pray that we’d use it to change the way we minister, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. Amen.

Nancy: Amen.

That’s Dannah Gresh speaking recently to parents and children’s ministry leaders about “Lies Families Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free.”

One of the greatest truths we need to be reminding ourselves of is that Christ is King. Psalm 103 says, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all.” And what a comfort that assurance is to our hearts in the midst of such chaotic, confusing days.

Now, we’re able to bring you teaching like what you heard today on a regular basis because of the support that we receive from friends like you. So thank you for praying for Revive Our Hearts. I mean that. We need your prayers.

Thank you for giving to Revive Our Hearts. I mean that. We need your financial support.

I want to remind you of our matching challenge going on here during the month of December where your donation to support Revive Our Hearts will effectively be doubled.

That’s because a generous group of friends has offered to match your gift, dollar for dollar, up to a total amount of just over $1 million dollars. So we need to hear from lots of listeners this month. Some can give more. Some can give less. But together our prayer is that it will match this entire challenge we’ve been offered.

So would you pray about what the Lord might have you to give towards this challenge? We don’t want you to cut back on your normal giving commitments at your church. That’s really important. But if you’re able to give something above and beyond that, would you consider making a gift to Revive Our Hearts?

If you’d like to partner with us through a gift at this time, you can contact us through our website,, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Thank you so much for your support, your prayers, and your encouragement to this ministry.

So, can God use really negative experiences for the good of His children? Jacque Chesla learned the truth that: Yes, He can, and He does. She’ll share her story tomorrow—and you won’t want to miss it—right here on Revive Our Hearts.

Pointing you to the truth that sets you free, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.