Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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The Rope of Boundaries

Leslie Basham: Do you love your children enough to discipline them? Here's Denise Glenn.

 Denise Glenn: As a parent you are God's hands and feet here on this earth to carry out His discipline of the children so that they learn not only right from wrong, but they do learn there are consequences to sin.

 Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 20. Here's Nancy.

 Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Everywhere I go I meet moms who are heavy-hearted, burdened about their children. They may have toddler, they may have teenagers, they may have young adult children, but they are so burdened for their children to know the Lord and walk with Him and pursue Him and be godly.

That's why we're taking time on Revive Our Hearts this week to talk about what is a very important topic in God's Word and that's wisdom for mothers. Our guest is Denise Glenn. She's the founder of MotherWise, a ministry to help mothers become wise in the Word and the ways of God.

 Denise, thank you for joining us on Revive Our Hearts as we talk about this hugely important subject.

 Denise: Thank you Nancy. I'm so happy to be here. I love talking to moms.

 Nancy: And you are a mom. Tell us just a little bit about yourself for those who weren’t with us on the last broadcast.

 Denise: Well, we were blessed with three lovely, beautiful daughters after a bout with infertility. God intervened in our lives and gave us as a wonderful gift—three precious, precious daughters. And now I have three wonderful sons because I have sons-in-laws. We have eight beautiful grandchildren who've been born in eight years. So we've been busy in our house, but it's been such a blessing.

 Nancy: You were telling me you have three one-year-old grandchildren? Is that right?

 Denise: We do. All three girls delivered this past year. We have three one-year-olds. We have two four-year-olds, three one-year olds. It's amazing.

 Nancy: And God is using you in a wonderful way in this season of your life to help other mothers catch the vision and get some of the practical tools He has shown you from His Word over the years. One of the resources that is kind of the centerpiece of your ministry is an eight-week study, a Bible study, to help women find biblical answers on a variety of issues related to their relationship with the Lord, their marriage, and their mothering.

That study is called Wisdom for Mothers. It's a resource we recommend for small groups in local churches. There is more information on the MotherWise website about how they can implement this in their local.

 If you go to, we'll give you a link to that website and let you know how you can get this resource. We're making that book available, Wisdom for Mothers, to anyone who writes or calls or emails and asks for it. If you make a donation of any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, we'll be glad to send you that resource. It's a rich one, a valuable one whether you're an older woman or a younger woman. If you want to be a Titus 2 woman, this is a great resource, and we heartily recommend it.

 Denise, as we think about parenting, motherhood, you've got to have a goal. What's the purpose? I think it's so easy for moms to get caught up in the dailiness and the demands and the craziness of everything that has to be done each day and to lose sight of the purpose, the objective. As you look at God's Word and mothering in your own family, how would you define the goal for motherhood?

 Denise: Well the goal for motherhood, the goal for parenting, is godly offspring. God's Word talks a lot about producing the godly offspring. So as we begin to ask the Lord, “Lord, where are we headed with this?” As you said, we had three children in four years. So we were completely inundated with the physical part. God had to take us back to His Word to show us the goal for parenting is actually producing godly offspring.

Now I’ve had parents tell me that “I'm a failure. My children are not godly offspring. I've done everything wrong.” The exciting thing about this is you can implement this goal in your family even when your children are gone. You begin praying for them. Producing godly offspring is actually creating a place in their hearts for God to work.

So as we cooperate with God in the parenting process, of course, God is their Father. So as we cooperate with God, their heavenly Father, in the parenting process, we are creating that place in their hearts so that His Word can come in, rebellion is removed and His Word can come in. God can begin to do in and through our children the things that He's called them to do and designed them to do.

Nancy: If the goal is to have godly offspring, then that's going to affect priorities, choices, schedules. As you're making decisions about what activities they're going to be involved in, what your family is going to be involved in, the goal is not necessarily that they be good athletes or brilliant students or be able to make a huge living. God may bless with those things, but that’s not the goal. The goal has to be—keep your eye on the ball—that they be godly.

I’m so thankful that my parents wanted us to have godly character, to love Christ. So I think as we talk about these gifts that you can give your children, it's so important to be reminding mothers that here's the goal. This is what you're praying for. This is what you're asking God for. This is what you're praying not only for your own children but even single women like myself as we look at the next generation praying, “Lord, show us as an older Christian generation how to invest in the lives of these younger ones so that they can become godly, to reflect the beauty of Christ to our world, make the gospel known to the world." That gives a context for parenting that I think is really important.

 Denise: Nancy, as we began to just sit before the Lord and ask Him, “Okay God, now we've got our goal. How do we get there?” God began to show us the gifts that we need to give our children. Parents love to give their children gifts and not just physical gifts. As you've said, education, gifts, or taking them to sports or camps or trying to help them. But God began to show us how do we invest in our children, invest in the next generation so they move the kingdom forward.

 The first gift that He began to teach us was that our children have to have unconditional love, our unconditional love based on 1 Corinthians 13. It's God's agape love that's expressed through us, through the parents, to our children. That actually lays a foundation in their hearts and in their lives to receive what Christ wants to do for them.

 The second gift parents can give children is discipline, the rope of boundaries. In our family we're very careful to keep our boundaries. When they were young we had very tight boundaries around their behavior. We trained them and taught them. So as our children were loved, then they could receive the rope of boundaries. They knew they could trust us, that our discipline was actually for our good and for God's glory. We didn't do it all purposefully. But God began to train us and teach us again through His Word in the book of Proverbs.

Nancy: What you're talking about Denise is very counter-cultural because for generations now starting with Benjamin Spock in the 50s, which is when you and I were being reared, the thought was discipline will harm your children. Boundaries are not good for them. They won't feel loved if you put boundaries around them. And a whole generation now, multiple generations of parents bought into that philosophy and thought, “I can love my children or I can put boundaries.”

God began to show you that one way of expression love to your children was to make sure that there were adequate boundaries, and that was a revelation to you early in your mothering.

Denise: It was. We were rearing our children at the beginning in the 70s. And oh my goodness, you only reasoned with little children.

Nancy: You don't want to hurt their self-esteem.

Denise: Well, of course, our children were running our house. The children were in control, and we were like little puppets on a string. If they wanted to throw a fit, then we were always in crisis management. It was always crisis management, just putting out a fire.

When God began to get a hold of us and through some godly mentoring and through a deep study of His Word—we took the book of Proverbs and decided this was a great manual for disciplining our children—we just began to drink in the Word and really apply it practically, asking older believers how to do this. Our parents were good role models as well.

As we began setting firm, fair, clear boundaries for our children . . . and by the way, with little preschoolers, boundaries are very tight. You're basically trying to keep them from killing themselves. It's, “You may not go out into the street. You may not stick your finger in the light plug. You may not take a magic marker and write on the walls in the house.” So the boundaries are very, very tight.

As our children stay within those boundaries, then you let the rope out a little bit and give them more freedom so that by the time they're four or five, they can go to the neighbor's house or they can have a friend over and play. As long as they stay inside the boundaries, you give them more freedom and you enjoy watching them grow. No matter how old they are, when they step outside the boundaries, you pull these boundaries back in.

The goal of our discipline for our children is that eventually you give them the rope of boundaries These boundaries are all inside their hearts. They actually stop themselves When we send them off to the university and they're in that dorm room all by themselves, they have those internal boundaries that say, “You know what? I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to go there because I know that's going to be destructive for me.”

Nancy: What you’re really doing is teaching them that God has boundaries for His children, that starting with Genesis chapter 2 God says, “You can eat from all the trees in the garden, but here's a boundary. You can't eat from this tree.” You're teaching them that not only does God's Word have boundaries—we call them the laws of God, the truths of God's Word—but step outside of those boundaries and there are consequences. When laws get broken, there are consequences. So you're talking not just about drawing the boundaries but about meting out consequences when those boundaries are trespassed. We call that sin in the Bible.

Denise: That’s exactly right. As a parent you are God's hands and feet here on this earth to carry out His discipline of the children so that they learn not only right from wrong, but they do learn there are consequences to sin. As you are God's agent in your child's life, actually what discipline is doing, Nancy, is breaking down the rocks of rebellion and stubbornness. It's like in Mark 4 where Jesus was saying when the seed of God's Word goes into some hearts on hard soil and the rocks needed to be broken down.

What I prayed is that while I was a disciplinarian for my children, that my action as a mom when we would mete out consequences to disciplinary issues that it would actually break down the rocks of rebellion and stubbornness in the hearts of my children so that eventually the seed of God's Word could go deep in their hearts. We can love our children and that forms the basis, but the next gift has to be given on top of that, and that is actually taking the time and the energy and the effort to follow through with discipline. It is by far the hardest part of mothering.

Nancy: It requires that the mother herself be disciplined doesn't it?

Denise: Yes. And it's miserable. You may be sitting in a chair nursing a little baby and the two-year-old starts jumping on the white sofa in the black muddy shoes that you have just told them not to do. You're going to have to take that little baby, unplug him, put him down and go over and discipline your two-year-old. It is time consuming. It's exhausting. It's emotionally draining. But if you will invest in the hearts of your children, if you'll love them enough to discipline them, the fruit of their lives watching their lives as they have internal boundaries and can go about God's business in their lives is amazing, and it's worth it.

Nancy: My observation has been that parents make that investment sooner or later. If you do it when the children are little, you take the time, the effort, when you're a little bit younger and have more energy to do it, then the fruit and the rewards of that show up later. And parents who don't invest not just discipline but other godly influence in their children's lives, who don't take the time, who let their children raise themselves so to speak, eventually they're the ones coming crying, broken hearted because they're having to invest in their children as adults when it's for all practical purposes maybe too late.

So to take God's Word, and I love what you say about the book of Proverbs. There is such wisdom in the book of Proverbs—it's elsewhere in Scripture, too. But if you would just take the Proverbs and make that a study guide, a manual, and get in there and say, “What does it say about different aspects of a wise son, a foolish son, a wise parent, a foolish parent?” And believe what it says. Then by God's grace and the power of His Spirit and prayerfully, carefully begin to live that out. I think we would see just so much progress toward this goal of having godly offspring who, as you say, would advance the kingdom of God.

There can't be any greater joy for a parent than to know that their children are furthering the kingdom of God.

Denise: Nancy, Proverbs 19:18, if I only have one verse to talk to parents about discipline, I just direct them back to Proverbs 19:18. “Discipline your son for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death.” That verse captures it all. There is so much joy and hope and pleasure in watching a child who is self-disciplined and walks in self-control.

But a child who is not disciplined and has no self-control and chooses to step outside boundaries or doesn't have any at all, there are all sorts of death that we go through with our children—emotional death and sometimes even physical death. So I encourage parents, it is a beautiful gift to give your children if you will invest in setting firm and fair and clear boundaries. Start with Proverbs 10 and read to the end of the book. It is a great manual for parenting.

Nancy: You have three daughters. Did you find that those girls tested you in different ways or required different approaches to discipline?

Denise: Absolutely. Each of their personalities were completely different. One we could just look at her and say "no" from across the room, and she would melt and dissolve into these tears confessing things she didn't even do.

Nancy: Or things you didn't know she'd done.

Denise: Exactly. But repentance came very easily and very quickly. It was very easy. We had another child who—oh my goodness—everything we did . . . One time I remember disciplining her and she turned around and said, “Are you finished?” Oh my goodness. I thought this child was going to be in the penitentiary. But this child has turned out beautifully and wonderfully.

But each of our children have required such a different approach to discipline, a different approach to parenting. All three of their personalities have required us to stay on our knees and listen, watching and listening and observing this child, not having a cookie cutter approach to discipline but really tailoring that discipline to match the personality and the temperament of our children.

Nancy: Do you find as I do that it seems often parents are on different pages as it relates to discipline? You may have one who tends to be more lenient, one who tends to be more strict. How did you and David get or stay on the same page when it came to approaching the discipline of your children?

Denise: We're just like every other couple. Of course we had those issues. There were times David would be more strict in some areas, and I would be more lenient and vice versa. So God really inspired me one time in my quiet time to make an appointment with my husband. I called him at work and I said, “Sweetheart, I'd like to make an appointment with you.”

And he said, “What?”

I said, “Well, I need to talk to you about something.” And I think it was after the children had gone to bed one night, and I made us some cups of hot tea. We drank tea instead of coffee, and we sat down with our tea. I just said, “Here's what I’m seeing about our discipline, and this is the result that I’m seeing, and it's not good. It's not what we're wanting. This particular child we are out of control right here. Let's get this all out on the table. Let's talk about it because I need your input. We've got to figure this out, and we've got to have a united front.”

We had this sharp little kid who could just see through us. If we waffled or wavered at all, she was miles ahead of us. So we really had to get our act together. And I did, I just made an appointment with my husband, and we got our pencils and paper out and spent some time talking and praying and wrote out our boundaries. We wrote out the rules of the house. It helped us tremendously to have something written down that we actually took to this child and asked her to sign it. We all signed it, so there was no doubt about what the boundaries were and where we were coming from. It made a big difference.

Nancy: In your book you list 16 rules that Susannna Wesley had for childrearing. She was, of course, the famous mother of the famous sons, John and Charles Wesley, and a whole bunch of other children as well. What would you identify as the key rules that you had in your house, the things that you said these were important, these don't move, these are principles we’re really going to abide by in our family?

Denise: Well, Nancy, I am a kindergarten teacher at heart, so I had to make things simple. We had some very simple rules. When our children were young, we had one. Listen to my voice and obey.

Nancy: It sounds like something God says to us.

Denise: Exactly.

Nancy: And you're really teaching your children that's how to be happy for the rest of your life is to listen to God's voice and obey.

Denise: That's exactly right. That's what you're modeling for your children. So that was our rule. Listen to my voice and obey When I call, you come. When I ask you to clean up that little thing, clean. Whatever I ask you to do, that's what I need you to do. Now that put a lot of responsibility on me as a mother not to ask idly, not to get them to do this and get them to do that. I had to really think through before I asked my children to do something because they were expected to listen to our voices and obey. It just made things much simpler at the very beginning

Nancy: And presumably if they didn't, there were going to be consequences?

Denise: There were going to be consequences.

Nancy: And they knew that too?

Denise: They knew that too. They knew exactly what was going to happen, so we followed through with those consequences. Our family wasn't perfect. We didn't do it every single time. But in the long haul, over the general span of their lifetime, they knew there were going to be consequences, and it wasn't going to be a surprise. They knew exactly what was going to happen.

And so in just setting up that precedent, training our children to listen to our voice, that's exactly what was in my mind. We were training them to actually listen to the voice of the Father and to immediately obey when He spoke.

Nancy: Denise there is so much more that you could share on this area and our time has run out today. We want to get in the next program to the third gift you can give your children. So we're leaving I know a lot of questions unanswered about this whole area of discipline. God's Word has a lot of say about the specifics, even understanding physical discipline from a biblical perspective, which is a huge issue, one that's greatly misunderstood in our culture.

I'm so thankful that you've put together this study, this resource, Wisdom for Mothers. You devote a significant section of this book to deal with the practical outworking of disciplining your children—what it looks like at different seasons, at different stages of their lives but so important. If you're going to have children who do listen to God's voice and obey, which is not only how they will be blessed but it's how they will be protected from great danger, great harm. So it's so important that parents give their children this gift of what you call the rope of discipline. That’s not strangling them. That's as you explained, letting out the rope, creating the boundaries. That's a good Texas description to use that word picture of the rope.

But I hope that many of our listeners, particularly those who are mothers with young children or older women who are in a position to encourage and mentor younger women who are in those early mothering years, will get a hold of this resource.

Write to us, call us at Revive Our Hearts. Send us an email. Tell us that you want the Wisdom for Mothers study book. Its' an eight-week study guide. It takes you to the Scripture. It's a rich resource. We'll be glad to send it to you when you ask for it. If you send a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we're making that available. I think it's going to be a resource that God will use to help women get to that goal with their children. And by God's grace, that there will be a godly offspring.

Leslie Basham: I'll give you more detail on how you can get a copy of this study Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing. It's called Wisdom for Mothers by our guest Denise Glenn. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit, make your donation and we'll send the book to you.

When you visit, take an opportunity this week to interact with Denise Glenn. She'll be part of the Revive Our Hearts' listener blog. Just find today's transcript, scroll to the end, read the comments, ask your question and see what Denise has to say. Again, that's at

Do you ever feel this way?

Denise: Sometimes I hear women say, “I could never be a mentoring mom. My children are not perfect. I didn't do it perfectly.” And I say, “Wow. That's great. Tell them exactly what not to do.”

Leslie: Denise Glenn will help you learn how to influence other moms tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the New International Version.





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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.