Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Moms get pulled in a lot of different directions and need to set some priorities. Holly Elliff says, "Make sure those priorities include prayer."

Holly Elliff: Don’t stop short of praying for your kids. How tragic it would be if they had the right kind of tennis shoes but not a praying mom!

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, April 17. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Over the last couple of days, my friend Holly Elliff has been providing a biblical understanding of motherhood. We’ve been listening to her wise counsel from the Revive Our HeartsTrue Woman conference last fall.

Along with the main sessions from the conference, we planned some break-out sessions for women in various seasons of life. Honestly, I expected many women to skip those sessions and catch up on shopping or take a nap.

So we were really surprised and so thankful when those break-out sessions were packed and overflowing. Those thousands of women from all across the country and around the world came to True Woman hungry to learn about God’s purpose for their lives as women, wives, and moms.

Holly Elliff is a pastor’s wife. She’s a mother of eight and, as of this week, grandmother of four, and she led one of those break-out sessions. When we left off yesterday, Holly was explaining why moms need God’s grace every day.

Holly: Several years ago we took our kids to visit a silver mine in Colorado, and they gave us these helmets. We look like a tour group when we go some places. I had to get over the embarrassment of that a little bit, but they gave us these helmets with little flashlight things on the front.

The mine was totally dark, but around us there was a little puddle of light so that every time we took a step, there was a new puddle of light. Every time we needed light, it was there, so we could see what was in front of us.

That’s the way I like to think about God’s grace. Paul said in Romans 5:1-2, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand” (NASB). 

The next time you’re at a tough parenting moment, a tough mom moment, remember that you are standing in God’s grace. It may not feel like you’re standing in grace, but it is a promise from the Lord Himself.

The encircling presence of God’s grace enables us to stand and take the next step as parents so that we will have the grace we need for the next moment of our journey as well. Tomorrow we will again have what we need if we walk in God’s provided grace.

Then, very quickly, let me run through ten tips. This is not David Letterman’s Top Ten List, but after 30 years of parenting. As Billy and I chatted about what was valuable in our home, these are some tools that God has given us. Let me share some of these with you.

I’ve been married for more than 35 years. For 30 of those years, I’ve been privileged to pursue God’s call to raise our kids for Christ. I can assure you that we are not perfect parents, and we don’t have perfect children.

We do, however, know the One who is perfect and complete and lacking in nothing. There is no magic formula to produce children that have a heart for God.

Let me say a word here to moms who may have a prodigal at this moment. Maybe you have a child that is breaking your heart. As we walk through this list, don’t allow the enemy to pile condemnation on you, or something that God didn’t intend, because He knows your heart.

I have a dear, dear friend who has a prodigal daughter; she has been a faithful parent, but she still has a prodigal daughter. So as we walk through this list, you go to the Lord for what you need to hear. Don’t allow the enemy to pile condemnation on you.

There is no magic formula to produce children who have a heart for God. However, I believe it is possible by God’s grace to cultivate an environment that encourages spiritual growth and fosters tender hearts so that our children will be more inclined to hear when the Lord calls their names.

My husband and I have found these practical truths to be helpful in our journey as parents. I’m going to walk through these quickly.

First of all: Pattern right responses. I’m a speech pathologist, or was before I had children. I know from experience that if parents pattern speech for their kids, then their kids are going to talk earlier, and they’re going to understand more of the language that is said to them.

In the same way, if we pattern “please” for our kids, they’re probably going to say please, right? If we pattern for our children what God intends to be evident in our lives, our kids are going to be quicker to pick up on that.

Deuteronomy 6 talks about this. You live before your kids in such a way that as you go—when you wake up, when you lie down, as you walk—you live in a way that pleases the Lord. Don’t forget those things. Don’t let them depart from your heart. Make them known to your sons and your grandsons.

He goes on to say, "These things have to be on your heart. You shall teach them when you talk to your sons. You shall talk of them in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise up" (see verses 6-7).

Then, we are to seize teachable moments. These verses from Deuteronomy that we just read encourage us to teach as we go, all the time. Be intentional about your motherhood.

We need to be alert to moments—some large, some small—when our kids will have ears to hear the truth. We could end up being the most organized mom, the best soccer mom around, the most efficient mother in every way, but we could find out too late that we exchanged temporal values for eternal ones.

Our kids will determine their priorities by what they’ve seen in our life. If they see you picking up the Bible, then that’s a value they will absorb. If your Bible sits on the shelf from Sunday to Sunday, they’ll notice that, too.

There are truths we can teach when our child is ten years old that might not be heard when that child is fifteen. Be intentional about what you teach.

Encourage your children to think, to talk about when they hear and read. Don’t expect your Sunday school teachers to do that.

Proverbs 1:7-9 reminds us,

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching; indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck.

Our children’s responsibility is to listen, but our responsibility is to teach, and to do it intentionally, whenever and wherever possible.

Then, we are to become students of our children. When Scripture talks about kids, it refers to them as olive plants [see Psalm 128:3].

Olive plants have to be planted separately. They are totally separate plants, and they are distinct. They are different. They have to be treated differently.

In the same way, in any size family, every child is separate and unique. The Lord says that child was fashioned by Him, that He knew him before he was even created, and God knows what that child needs.

Create an environment at home that is safe and warm and inviting. Our kids are never too old to need affection.

The other night my 17-year-old came and sat in my lap. Now, he’s six feet tall, so that was quite an experience.

Every child needs a place where wounds can heal, where truth is available, where grace is evident. We want our kids to believe, as Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz, what? “There’s no place like home.” Right? You want your kids to believe there’s no place like your home.

We need to know our kids so we can apply what we know of God to their current life circumstances. I have one daughter who can only really have a deep conversation if we are at Sonic getting milkshakes. I don’t know why that is, but the Lord showed that to me one day about her, and sure enough, if I go buy her a hot fudge shake at Sonic, she’ll talk about anything.

Then, keep them talking. Open, warm relationships are possible even during teenage years. We are now on teenager number seven out of eight. The foundation for that kind of connection is laid well before hormones make life more challenging. If you wait until they’re fifteen, you’re in trouble.

Openness and honesty are essential family values in our homes. Teach your children, beginning when they’re young (or now, if you didn’t do it then), to talk about what concerns them.

Talk to them on appropriate levels about how you deal with struggles, about how you pray for other people, about how you go to the Lord when you don’t know what to do, about how you handle difficulty in your own life. They’re going to learn by watching and listening to you as you talk with them about those things.

Make mealtimes or time in the car very intentional. Ask questions of your kids.

These don’t have to all be serious. They can be funny, silly things. They can be things that just encourage conversation.

But if you start that early (or even if you begin it now)—they’ll think you’re weird at first, but it’s never too late. Encourage open conversation, because what happens is, if they are talkers when they’re younger, when they hit teenage years, you can still talk to them. They’re not so quick to retreat.

We don’t let our kids run into their room and slam their door. We go get them out, and we talk about what the issue is, and we talk until we get to the bottom of it. I’ve had so many 2 a.m. conversations, I can’t tell you; but encourage your kids to talk and be honest.

When Christ appointed The Twelve, it was so they would be with Him. He knew He only had three years of ministry on earth.

We have our children for a very short, appointed time. I know it seems long now if you have little ones, but trust me, it is not long. It is not long at all, and it will be a heartbeat before they are grown.

We need to bring the same relational intentionality to our time with our children that Christ had with His disciples. He knew how short the time was. We don’t know that, but we need to be intentional about the time with our children.

Then, balance truth and grace. Paul says, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). As moms, sometimes we have to grow up, right?

It’s hard sometimes. We want to still be free.

My daughter just had her second baby, and she said to me the other day, “You know what? This is really hard. I was used to talking a nap in the afternoons, and that’s kind of gone now. Oh, man, this is really hard.”

Sometimes we have to “grow up” into Christ; but truth and love need to be balanced in our teaching and our discipline so we don’t provoke our children to wrath. Ephesians 6:4 warns us that that’s critical.

Love without truth fosters indulgence and selfishness. Truth without love breeds legalism and resentment.

It’s so dangerous to have truth without love. You will have kids who walk away when they hit teenage years if all they have known is truth not balanced by grace and love.

We must continually ask God to help us know how to keep that see-saw parallel. It’s not always easy.

That’s why, if God has given you a husband, many times our husbands are a contrast to us. Don’t tell your husband he doesn’t know what he’s doing in relation to the kids, because God put him there to help keep that see-saw parallel so that you balance truth and love.

If you’re a single mom here today, I would encourage you to find some godly people, friends in church, some family members that are godly. Ask them to help you stay balanced in your parenting. It’s critical.

Distinguish between defiance and “crazy kid things.” You heard my list at the beginning, right? There’s a big difference between foolishness that is just “bound up in the heart of a child”—because they’re foolish, Proverbs 22:15 says—and outright disobedience.

Our kids are going to do crazy things because they’re kids. When my daughter put her shorts in the dryer with her pockets full of crayons, I had never actually said to her, “If you put your shorts in the dryer with the pockets full of crayons, it will ruin an entire load of laundry.” I’d never told her that. That was a crazy kid thing.

We call those at our house CKTs—Crazy Kid Things. CKTs, although annoying, are not the same thing as disobedience.

Now, the second time that the shorts go in the dryer full of crayons, after I’ve given instruction, that would qualify as disobedience. So while CKTs need intervention and training, disobedience needs correction.

Willful, intentional disobedience that doesn’t get attention will become outright rebellion by the time a child enters his pre-teen years. We have to learn early on to distinguish the difference between crazy kid things and rebellion.

Watch for a spirit in your child that says, “I will not.” When you see that, ask the Lord to give you discernment about that child’s intent.

Ultimately, you must be the parent. If the issue is about who’s in charge, you have to win, or dad has to win. Hebrews talks about this when it says discipline sometimes seems to be sorrowful, but in the end we are trained by it and it yields righteousness [see Hebrews 12:11].

Then, we are to teach internal control vs. external control. Proverbs talks about the importance of self-control in our children’s lives. You see these Scriptures here?

“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who [captures] a city” (Proverbs 16:32).

As our children grow up, they can more and more govern themselves so that they learn the difference between internal control and external control.

When I go to my four-year-old and say to him, “I want you to sit down on this bench,” he makes a decision whether or not to sit down on the bench. If he does it himself, that’s internal control; but if he doesn’t do it, then I have to help him sit down on the bench, right?

Sometimes it might mean just leading him over and sitting him on the bench. Sometimes it means something more serious than that.

So teach your children the difference between internal control and external control. Even young children quickly realize that internal control is a lot less costly than external control.

Then, encourage kids to be the age they are. We live in a culture that markets adult sensuality to young children.

It’s important for our kids to realize that if they’re three, we want them to look and act and behave like a three-year-old. If they’re fifteen, we want them to look and act and behave like a fifteen-year-old, and not anything earlier or later than that.

Paul said, Don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed as you renew your mind [see Romans 12:2]. We need children who are wholly non-conformists.

Then, guard their hearts. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on that because we’ve talked about that some, but we need to be sure that our kids become saturated with God’s value system and not with the value system of this world. Sensuality and materialism are embedded in everything we see around us.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” We cannot be too cautious.

Encourage your kids to come to you when they have questions about moral issues. Know who their friends are. Have their friends in your house so you can look for red-flag things that ought to be indicating a problem.

Above all, listen to your kids. Listen to what they’re thinking. Listen to what they’re saying. Listen to what they’re not saying.

Check their computer. Check their emails. Check their Facebook page. Don’t be naive. We want to be wise women in regard to our children.

Then, be purposeful in prayer. There are moments in parenting when our children’s needs are just too great for us.

Sometimes we not only don’t have the answer, we can’t even identify the problem. Sometimes we just need to be grateful that God has given us access to His endless wisdom.

Don’t stop short of praying for your kids. How tragic it would be if they had the right kind of tennis shoes but not a praying mom!

Treat your children as though you won’t have them next year. Train your children as though they won’t have you next year. Ask yourself, “Am I being intentional about training my children for Christ?”

Identify the areas of training that you know need attention in your home. Lift those things to the Lord one at a time in prayer, and then write out what God is prompting your heart to change in relation to your kids.

My desire for us today as women, and we’re going to conclude here, is that God would call out women who, like Hannah, would embrace the gift of children; who will consecrate their children to God for His kingdom purposes; who are courageous enough to live counter to their culture.

If you love your kids and you raise them for Christ, you will be odd. You will not look like the rest of the women around you, and that is how it should be if we’re going to be women called out by God—women who understand the call that God has given us to nurture and train our own children.

But our call does not end there, because I am to nurture and train my own children, but then I am to turn around to those behind me and help them nurture and train their children, so that their children can nurture and train future children. Psalm 78:4-7 is such a neat description of this:

Tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
For He established a testimony in Jacob
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know,
even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments.

Nancy: Amen. Holly Elliff has been providing encouraging ideas for moms ready for their important assignment from God to invest in the future. We just heard the conclusion of Holly’s message given at the Revive Our Hearts True Woman conference last fall.

Her talk was practical; it was honest; it was biblical. If you missed any of it, I know you’ll want a copy of it on CD; or if you know a mom who could use some encouragement, consider ordering her a CD.

When you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send Holly’s message as a way of saying thank you. We’ll also include a companion booklet we asked Holly to write. It will make today’s message personal to you by helping you apply it to your unique situation.

Again, we’ll send the message on CD, and Holly’s booklet called “Turning the Tide,” when you make a donation of any size to Revive Our Hearts. And when you send that gift, you’ll be helping to multiply this message into the hearts of hundreds of thousands of women across this country and around the world.

Today is the final day we will be making this offer, so visit ReviveOurHeartsRadio.com to make your donation, or call us at 800-569-5959.

In recent weeks, we’ve all been grieved to hear a number of reports about people going on killing sprees. Next week marks the tenth anniversary of the high school shootings that took place in Littleton, Colorado.

Next Monday on Revive Our Hearts, we’re going to air a message that I gave to a group of women just weeks after the massacre in Littleton. I talked about what we as Christian women can do in such a time as this.

I think that message is even more timely now than it was when I first gave it ten years ago. I hope you’ll participate in your church services this weekend and then join us again next week for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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