Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Planting Seeds in a Child's Heart

Leslie Basham: How well do your children know the Bible? Today’s guests, Bruce and Jodi Ware, ask some kids what they know about heaven.

Jodi Ware: Alright. Here’s another question to think about. What is heaven like? Riley?

Riley: I imagine it like being towers and towers of gold on clouds.

Boy: The Bible says that there are streets of gold, but it might be even more perfect than that.

Girl: When I think of heaven (this is kind of funny), I think of lots of people in robes. I also imagine my dad talking to God, and there’s gold everywhere. And God is wearing a blue robe.

Jodi: That sounds neat.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, July 13.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If you’ve listened to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you know that we are always encouraging women about the importance of passing on to the next generation the baton of truth. We cannot afford to drop that baton.

I’m so thankful for the way my parents were intentional about passing that baton on to me and to my six brothers and sisters, and how they took time when we were young to teach us the Word and ways of God.

I want to do everything I can through this ministry to help moms and sisters and aunts and grandmoms and friends know how to teach little ones the importance of God’s ways, to teach the Word of God so they can grow up and know Him and love Him and serve Him.

I’m so thankful that we have with us in the studio today a couple who are dear, long-time friends of mine. They have this same heart. You’re going to get to know them and hear some practical insights today on how you can teach your children or other children in your sphere of influence the Word and the ways of God.

So I want to welcome to Revive Our Hearts Dr. Bruce Ware and his wife, Jodi. Bruce and Jodi, thank you so much for coming by today and for being willing to share with our listeners.

Jodi: It’s a real delight Nancy. Thank you.

Dr. Bruce Ware: Glad to be here.

Nancy: Bruce, you’re a seminary professor. You teach theology at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Did I say that right?

Dr. Ware: That’s right. Yes.

Nancy: Yet you realize the importance not only of teaching seminary students, but of all of God’s people teaching their children the truth of God’s Word.

Dr. Ware: Yes. Of course, it was something that was modeled in my home and in Jodi’s home growing up. It's something we endeavored to pass on to our children as well in our home. It was a place where they really did learn who God is and grow in an environment where they thought wonderful thoughts about who He is.

Nancy: There’s nothing more important than to think right thoughts about God. We want to hear more today and in these next couple of sessions about how your parents influenced you with the study of God as you grew up, and how you did that with your children.

Speaking of children, Jodi, you’ve been married to Bruce for more than 30 years now. You and Bruce have a couple of daughters. Tell us about them.

Jodi: We were blessed by the Lord with two girls. Bethany is now 25, and she is married and recently became a mother. So we became grandparents about four months ago. And Rachel is a senior at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

Nancy: So you and Bruce have had a lot of years of teaching your children the ways of God, and now you get to experience the joy of them getting ready to pass that baton on to the next generation.

Jodi: It is so clear to me, Nancy, as we think about our new granddaughter and other grandchildren who may follow, the importance of finishing well—living a faithful life before our children and now grandchildren so that they see in us the importance of pursuing a relationship with the Lord and living in obedience to Him.

Nancy: I think anybody who’s a parent realizes that it’s easy to get consumed with the everyday demands and deadlines and details of life—getting them clothed and fed and to school and to play practice and to piano lessons and to sporting events. It's easy to get caught up in all of those things but to miss the most important aspect of parenting, and that is the shepherding of their souls.

Dr. Ware: That is so true, Nancy. I think it is such a tendency in our culture, not only with our children but in our own lives, to let secondary things take primary place. But they don’t belong there. So we need to keep first things first and keep second things where they belong, even if they’re good.

The most important things are for our own souls to grow in our relationship with God, to have a vital sense of what it means to be in His presence and learn from Him, and then to pass this on to our children. Not just, as it were, “habits” of spending time in the Word and knowing Him, but actually passing on the content, the vision of God that He grants to us as we grow—passing that on to our children.

Nancy: It seems to me in our generation that there’s been less and less emphasis placed on the content of our faith.

Dr. Ware: Yes. Absolutely. It’s hard to say how far back this goes. In my own life I was greatly influenced my freshman year of college by reading a book by A. W. Tozer entitled The Knowledge of the Holy.

Nancy: Yes. It’s a classic.

Dr. Ware: It is, and it’s still worth reading by all Christian people if you’ve never read it. It’s a great study on the attributes of God.

What prompted A. W. Tozer, back in 1962, to write this book, he says in the first chapter (this is a paraphrase but pretty close to what he says): The view of God entertained among evangelicals in his day was so low, so beneath the dignity of God as to constitute idolatry.

I think, “My goodness. He said that in 1962! Are we better off now all these years later, forty plus years later, than we were then?”

I think the answer, as an evangelical movement, is no; we have strayed further. We have less interest, less attention on learning Scripture and on listening to the Word preached. We want to hear things about how wonderful we are, not how wonderful God is.

So we really need, as a Christian culture, to regain a vision for goodness—the only goodness—that is found in knowing God.

Nancy: You’re so concerned about this that you have actually written a book, not for seminary students but for parents to use with their children. It’s called Big Truths for Young Hearts.

What is that book? What’s the purpose of it? Why did you write it?

Dr. Ware: Well, it was a delight to write, to say that just off the top. What prompted it really was that our two daughters, Bethany and Rachel, both asked me if I would work on this.

When they were little, the Lord really prompted Jodi and me to spend devoted time in teaching them theology—not only Bible stories and taking them through passages of Scripture, which we did as well, but actually teaching them the doctrines of the faith.

Of course, I do this for a living; it’s my profession. So it was natural for me to think in these ways.

But I do remember the time in our young family’s life when I was frustrated with our two girls and their “giggly-ness.” They didn’t want to go to sleep at night. They weren’t misbehaving, they were just having a lot of fun, and it was hard to get them to sleep.

It finally dawned on me, and I talked with Jodi about this: Would it not be a good thing to co-opt that and use that time at bedtime to talk with them about these wonderful truths of the Christian faith?

So starting when they were pretty young, I took them through (over a number of years) basically the whole of systematic theology that I was teaching to my students. I taught it to them in small nuggets, looking at a few verses and talking about things.

And I was amazed at how interested they were in these things. They asked so many questions and obviously were engaged in it.

So it was that experience with Bethany and Rachel that led them to prompt me, then, to put into writing this study of God for children.

Nancy: Jodi, were you in those late-night sessions that Bruce would have with the girls?

Jodi: If it wasn’t too late, I was. I did enjoy being a part of that and interacting and learning and teaching along with Bruce. It was something that our whole family was interested in together, and it was a great privilege to talk about these things.

Nancy: And we’re talking what ages? I mean, can little kids get into these kinds of discussions?

Jodi: I would think Bethany was about six and Rachel three when we began to be a little more intentional. Absolutely.

Nancy: Six and three. If you’d said “systematic theology,” they would have had no idea what you were talking about.

Jodi: That’s right. And we didn’t say that. We said, “We’re going to learn about God, because that’s the most important thing to study, and we want to learn together.”

Nancy: Did it surprise you how they were able to grasp concepts?

Jodi: It made me so thankful, so thankful that God was working in their minds to understand things. We certainly were surprised.

Dr. Ware: You know, Nancy, one thing we noticed was, of course as they grew they were able to grasp things more and understand them more deeply; but there was an elementary understanding even of things like the Trinity and the two natures of Christ. Not in the ways that they were able to get later on, but just the basic understanding of it and the importance of it that they were able to grasp even as very young children.

Through that I learned that children have a greater capacity and interest and curiosity than we adults give them credit for in many, many cases. What is needed is to stimulate that curiosity.

Give them some thoughts, some ideas. Communicate some minimal amount of truth that sort of primes the pump. I think a lot of parents will be amazed at how much their children are interested and will think about these things.

Nancy: That’s interesting to me, because when you say the word theology or doctrine today—now, in your circles that primes your pump; that’s what you live for—but I find that in typical Christian circles, people think of theology or doctrine as being dry, dull, not interesting; they’d much rather do something else.

But I wonder if that’s because enthusiasm for the truths of our great God was maybe not planted in them when they were little.

Dr. Ware: It very well could be that, Nancy; they just have never tasted well. If you’ve never had a banquet where you have excellent prime rib or other food that is prepared really well, and you’ve never tasted it, you might look at a table of glorious affair and turn away from it because you don’t know. You haven’t tasted, and you don’t know how great it is.

I think oftentimes that is the case. I also think that parents can become discouraged, because when their children do ask questions, if they don’t know the answers they think, “Well, I don’t want to encourage this. All that does is show up that I don’t know what I need to know about this.”

Instead, I think parents ought to take it as an opportunity to learn more themselves; say, “Boy, that’s a great question! That’s an interesting thing. And honestly right now, [Johnny, Billy, Suzie], I don’t know the answer to that. But let’s think about it some more and talk to some folks and do some reading, and let’s see if we can learn more about this.”

Nancy: Jodi, can you think of any times when your daughters came up with a question or something they were curious about, about theology or about the Lord, and you thought, “Let’s wait until your dad gets home to talk about that one,” or “I’m not sure how to handle that”?

Jodi: I do remember a lot of times like that, Nancy. One time Rachel was wondering why Jesus was both God and man and what was the importance of that. And I wasn’t clear on that. I had a few ideas, but it was very helpful to ask Bruce about it.

But I also wanted to encourage them to turn to the Word. We would frequently look up things together and investigate and try to find answers, because this is our authority. The Word is the authority and where we look for our answers.

Nancy: But that takes time and effort and intentionality, and people are so busy today. I wonder if they just feel like, “We can’t fit that into our busy lives.”

Why is it important that they make time for teaching theology to their children?

Jodi: I do know, especially when children are young, you feel like the days are full of details and you can’t begin to think about teaching and training about the Lord. But it’s so important to take the time to figure out what you can let go of, how you can simplify your life.

What other influences are taking over your family, eating up a lot of that time that could be spent in ways that matter for eternity?

It’s important for all of us, but especially as we raise our children, to think through what lasts for eternity. In our culture today there are so many temptations, so many avenues of entertainment that can eat up so much time.

From the vantage point of being an older woman, I’m thankful for the things the Lord is showing me from this position. Far fewer things matter for eternity, and a lot of things that I used to think were so important I now see really weren’t.

What matters, what lasts, is the Word of God and people. That’s why we want to invest our lives and train our children to invest their lives in.

Nancy: Okay, moms, you’re hearing from a Titus 2 woman, and she’s just given you some wise instruction. I think these influences—television and entertainment—not only is the world’s entertainment eating up time that could be invested in the training of our children, but I think it’s also stealing their appetite for spiritual truth.

Jodi: I agree, Nancy. I think of it as feeding on junk food; you lose your appetite for good, nutritious, life-producing food. And that is so much of what the world has to offer; it’s just junk food.

Nancy: Cotton candy.

Jodi: Then we forget, and we don’t realize that the words of the Lord are indeed sweeter than honey, because we’re satisfied with lesser things.

Nancy: So as you were raising your children, your daughters, did you find that they were always really interested in study of God, theology, spiritual things? Or were there some times that you had to cultivate that interest in practical ways? How did you do that?

Dr. Ware: You know, Nancy, we did. Of course, these are sinful children too.

Nancy: And sinful parents.

Jodi: Absolutely.

Dr. Ware: And sinful parents. So there will always be that battle of values, of my flesh wanting to do things that the culture and my peers and the society I live in are urging me to do.

And there is this other call on my life to learn Scripture and to know God. So there will always be this battle, both for parents and for children.

But the thing that I wanted to convey to my own children, probably first and foremost, was that the study of God was my own personal passion. That is, I wanted them to see as much my heart as they learned specific truths about Him.

I wanted them to know this was the real thing, that this was not just some academic interest. It wasn’t like learning the arithmetic table. It wasn’t like learning other things that are important to know. This is life. This is what matters most.

Of course, that reflects in my own life the impact Tozer had on me that has impacted me all these years. He begins the first chapter of The Knowledge of the Holy by saying, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

I have embraced that concept. I believe it’s true; and if it’s true for me, it’s true for my children. The most important thing for them is not anything else other than knowing God.

Not to say that there are not other important things. But the most important thing is knowing God.

Nancy: I think you’ve hit on something really important there. I grew up in conservative, Bible-believing, Bible-preaching churches and Christian school—a lot of input, a lot of content, a lot of training. I’m very, very grateful for that.

But a lot of the young people that I grew up with rejected the faith. I wonder if it wasn’t that they just heard; they got the head knowledge, but they didn’t see the heart. So they rejected something that was just academic and intellectual but didn’t impact their lives.

Jodi, I know you as a mom understand the importance of children not just getting the content but seeing it in the context of a passion for Christ and a love for Him and for His Word.

Jodi: That’s exactly right, Nancy. I think that’s why some people think theology is boring, because they’ve heard it taught or explained without that passion, without it being demonstrated that this is what matters and this is what changes lives: truth about God.

I want to encourage young moms: As you live out your life before your children, you do not have to model a perfect Christian walk. But we do need to be authentic before our children.

  • We need for them to see us turn to the Lord.
  • We need for them to see us confess to them.
  • We need for them to see us depend on the Lord in all circumstances.
  • We need for them to see that when we don’t know the answers, we pray and seek those answers out.
  • We don’t need to be perfect Christian mothers. But they need to see us depending on the Lord.

Nancy: You shared with me an illustration of how, when your girls were very little, they saw the impact that the Word had during a tough time in your life.

Jodi: That’s exactly right. Following the birth of our second daughter, Rachel, I experienced pretty severe postpartum depression. It was a very difficult time. Life looked quite bleak.

The Lord in His mercy had us in a church with a pastor who was a very gifted biblical counselor, and every week or two I would go to spend time with him. He would give me a prescription—he would type out of a passage of Scripture to memorize and on which to meditate, and that is what I clung to in those dark days. I was literally clinging to the Word of God.

After a few months of this, I heard Bethany, who was four years old at the time, say to her grandmother, “Mommy needs to read her Bible. That’s where she gets her strength.”

Nancy: Wow.

Jodi: And I was thankful. I thought, “That’s a good thing for a four-year-old to learn, that that’s where I get my strength.” And that continues to this day. That is where I get my strength.

Nancy: And now she’s a young mom and knows where to get her strength.

Jodi: That’s exactly right. She’s been going through that postpartum period, and we’ve been talking a lot about that. There’s something about becoming a mother that causes you to be tempted to anxiety and fear and worry.

You have this tiny, precious little life that is so vulnerable and so dependent on you. It causes you to turn to the Lord and trust Him in new and deeper ways.

Nancy: Teaching the Word of God to children takes place in the context of everyday, real-life circumstances. But it also needs to take place in a more structured, intentional way.

Bruce, that’s why you wrote this book, Big Truths for Young Hearts. We’re going to talk more about that book in the next program, but just give us in a nutshell an overview of what that book does and how it can be a helpful tool to parents.

Dr. Ware: Thank you, Nancy. What I tried to convey in this book is first the content of the Christian faith. It covers everything from the doctrine of the Bible through last things—eschatology, as it’s sometimes called.

I wanted to convey rich truths of the Christian faith, but also to do it in a way that would hopefully stimulate children, as well as parents as they read this, to see the beauty and the wonder and the glory and the richness of who God is and of His ways.

So it isn’t just learning facts, as it were, although facts are important, as we all know. A relationship requires that you know certain things about another person.

But it’s more than that. It’s the heart of who God is and the heart of a relationship with Him that I was hoping to convey through that book as well.

Nancy: I hope that every parent listening to Revive Our Hearts, and certainly every parent with young children—the age range is six to fourteen, thereabouts; some younger children and some older children can perhaps benefit from this—every grandparent of young children, every person who is in some way investing in or involved in the lives of these young ones will get a copy of this book Big Truths for Young Hearts.

This is a great way to plant the seeds of God’s Word in their hearts in a way that will take root, by God’s grace, and will produce fruit, not only now in the short term but, God willing, in the long term, for generations to come.

Leslie: Again, the book Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been telling you about is called Big Truths for Young Hearts, written by our guest Bruce Ware. We also heard from his wife, Jodi.

When reading this book, you and your kids will explore the major doctrines of the faith one chapter per day. Not only will your children learn these important doctrines, but as you teach them, you’ll be brushing up on these important concepts as well.

We’d like to send you this valuable book when you make a donation of any amount to this radio ministry. Ask for the book when you call with your donation. Dial 800-569-5959, or you can visit our website, ReviveOurHearts.com.

If you haven’t been to our site, I think you’ll find it worth visiting. You’ll find each day’s audio, past broadcasts, the daily transcript, and the listener blog.

In fact, our guest Bruce Ware will be participating in the listener blog. Again, it’s all at www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

Maybe your experience of family devotions is like this: You’re trying to read the Bible, and it seems like your kids are just not listening. It may be that more is sinking in than you realize. Get some encouragement as Bruce and Jodi Ware return 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.