John Fuller: This is John Fuller along with Jim Daly and we wanted to take just a moment to thank you for listening to Focus on the Family.
Jim Daly: That’s right, John. We know life is a bit crazy right now but let me remind all of us the words Jesus gave us in John 14:27. He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do, I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” And you know, as believers, we have hope. In this time of unrest, it’s important for you to be there for your family. And we want you to know, we’re here for you too. While many on our staff are working from home, our phone lines are still open. We also have many resources online to help you and your family navigate the current situation. And our regular broadcast content will continue so we can provide hope and answers for your family’s situation.
John: Find the help you need today at focusonthefamily.com or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Also, due to ongoing concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and the follow guidance from state and federal authorities, Focus on the Family is postponing our five-city ALIVE 2020 event originally scheduled for May 9th. We’re currently looking at dates in late August or September to reschedule the event.
John: And we’ll be posting the latest information about the event at focusonthefamily.com/alive.
Jim: In the meantime, please join us in asking for the Lord’s blessing and favor on our nation and literally around the world. And especially for those directly impacted by this pandemic. And remember, take a deep breath, be considerate of others, and help them as you can. Love on your family – your neighbor. And remember to pray. We serve a powerful, loving, and merciful God and we’re going to get through this. And from all of us here at Focus on the Family, thank you for praying for us.
John: On a previous Focus on the Family radio program, Dr. Tony Evans shared about the importance of parents, specifically dads, training our children spiritually while at the dinner table.
Dr. Tony Evans: The Bible says that the way a man leads his family is around the table. Every man can lead his family in less than one hour a day if he’s at the table, because the dinner table was used not just for eating, but for leading. Is work done, is schoolwork done, is behavior right? When the husband, as many days as he can, is at that table, he changes the atmosphere of the home. So, you just don’t eat there; you lead there.
End of Excerpt
John: Some great advice for every dad and mom and we’re gonna be talking with Tony’s son and his wife today about some simple ideas for teaching your children the things that are gonna matter the most in their lives. Our host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim: John, I love that line by Tony. You’re not here to eat but to eat and lead. (Laughter)
John: That’s an awesome responsibility.
Jim: That sounds like a Tony colloquialism, doesn’t it?
John: It does, yeah, absolutely.
Jim: I mean he’s so good at that. John, as parents, we are always looking to train and to teach and in a conversation, I had with Chuck Colson one time, he said, “You know, by the age of 10, your children’s moral compass is pretty well set. Then from 10 forward, it’s about boundaries and managing those boundaries.” We’re gonna talk about how to set that moral compass through devotions, family devotions and other things – discussions and talk about the conflict that can occur between mom and dad when it comes to what devotions look like, with our two special guests today.
John: And I mentioned Tony Evan’s son and that’s Jonathan and he and his wife, Kanika are here. Um, Jonathan is the chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys, and he’s a motivational speaker, as well. He’s written a book with his dad, Tony Evans, called Kingdom Family Devotional: 52 Weeks of Growing Together. And Kanika is a proud mom of four beautiful kids and they’re pretty active in their church.
Jim: And, John, let me mention we’re offering the devotional book as our way of saying thank you when you make a monthly gift to Focus on the Family to support the broadcast. We’ll tell you more at the end of the program how to do that. Jonathan and Kanika, welcome both of you to Focus on the Family.
Kanika Evans: Thank you.
Jonathan Evans: Good to be here.
Jim: First time, right?
Jonathan: It’s the first time here, absolutely.
Jim: We’re not gonna hold the Dallas Cowboys against you being in Bronco territory here in Colorado.
Jonathan: Please don’t; please don’t. It’s all about the body of Christ here.
Jim: (Laughter) Yeah, there you go.
Jonathan: We’ll do football later.
Jim: Well, you know, the Super Bowl someday may host those two, so we’ll, uh – we’ll talk on the phone on that day.
Jonathan: That’d be great. I’ll make sure I have seats right next to you.
Jim: Try to reconcile.
Jim: Okay, we are here today to talk about devotions, family devotions. This is one of the areas that Jean and I can struggle a bit. I mean, we are good at times, and other times we’re falling’ back. Um, and, uh, I really want to know, between the two of you right from the start, how do you handle this as mom and dad and husband and wife? In our situation, Jean is far more the schoolteacher. She wants to sit down, have a very formal devotion. I’m kind of in the mood to do it in the moment if we’re walking’ down the road, I’m driving’ ‘em to school, we’ll read a Proverb together. But I want to be doing something. Has that worked out for you guys? Have you come to a formal agreement as parents?
Jonathan: Well, I think it’s worked out well. The reason is, is because I’m the one that gets to take them to school, um, every day. So, it’s my job to get them up, get them ready for school. She stays up late getting’ all the extra work done that she couldn’t get done when they were awake runnin’ around.
Jim: Now your kids, just for the audience, how old are your children?
Jonathan: We have an 8-year-old, a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old.
Jim: So, mom and dad out there, if you thought you were busy, they’re right with you with four kids under 10, under 8 really.
Jim: So, that’s awesome, um, but how does that discussion go for you guys right now.
Jonathan: Well, I think – you know, I always call my wife when I’m takin’ them to school, ‘cause it’s kind of my responsibility to get them to and from school and I do a lot of my father-kids time with them on the drive. And I think it’s important to do that. You know, my wife will call me and I’ll say, “I’m preaching’ to ‘em again, baby. I’m preaching’ to ‘em again, Babe. I’ll call you right back.”
Jonathan: But just having’ those discussions, finding out what how their day was coming from school and what your expectations are going to school, how much God loves them and wants them to do well and how much He wants them to maximize their abilities and all of those different things I get to do while I’m moving and shaking.
Jim: Yeah, right, which is important for us guys, right?
Jim: Kanika, I want to ask you as mom, do you worry about their development, their spiritual development? Are you the one that’s saying, “Okay, we haven’t had devotions in a couple of days. We need something formal. After dinner, let’s sit down for 30 minutes and ‘I’ve got this great new curriculum I bought, Jonathan, and I want you to lead us in family…’” Do you ever have that discussion?
Kanika: Um, I never really have to worry about it. Jonathan usually will automatically initiate it, um, during dinner. But we started doing, maybe within the past year or two, we started doing something every day at the dinner table called “Highs and Lows.” And that is when each kid will tell us their high point and low point for the day.
Jim: What does that 3-year-old say about their high point?
Kanika: He – his – every day his high point is, he got to eat food. He loves to eat.
Jim: (Laughter) He loves that. And what’s a low point they might have?
Kanika: He’ll usually say, “I don’t have a low.”
Jim: Oh, that’s good.
Kanika: Because he’s just learning, you know, ‘cause he pretty much says the same thing every day.
Jim: (Laughter) And that’s okay, ‘cause you’re training them to at least think this through, right?
Kanika: Yes, exactly, exactly.
Jim: Now, how much of your background plays into, being young parents, plays into how you do devotions today? I mean, describe both of your backgrounds.
Jonathan: Well, I’ll start. Um, just being – first of all from a two-parent home, and then Tony Evans and Lois Evans being my parents, obviously, that background, you know, had a foundation of theology. It had a foundation of Christ. And it was very important for my dad to lead at the table, like he talked about. So, he would ask my mom, “Please, Monday through Thursday at least, can you fix dinner, ‘cause I can’t do it. If I do it, the kids will be in trouble. Can you fix dinner for the kids so that we can be around the table, so I can use it as an opportunity to talk to the kids, to lead the kids and we can really engage our kids at that time.” So, I grew up with the formula of daddy opening up the Bible and asking us all to read a verse from a specific passage that he wanted us to go through and have us explain to him what we thought that verse meant.
Jonathan: And if we were wrong, he’d correct us and he’d kinda train us using the Bible. And then he wanted to ask us what was going on in our life and who we were talking to, the girls, who their dating. I wasn’t old enough the time.
Jonathan: But they were already out of the house when he started asking me those questions. But it was that time. It was that family time. Um, and so that translates to what I do at our house with our kids. And I ask my wife the same thing. “Hey, it’s important for us to get around the table, because that’s the time we can really spend with our kids, and we’ve got all of their attention, and we’re able to, uh, get the eye contact and get them away from the video games and away from the TV and really pour into them.”
Jim: Now this devotional that you and your father have written, I mean, it is geared for the younger child, which is important, because again, it’s where that formation, that moral formation and character is shaped. Um, when you were 15 or 16, did you ever roll your eyes when your dad was sayin’, “Okay, let’s have dinner. Jonathan, read this Scripture,” ‘cause sometimes at 15 and 16, to be realistic, it’s certain possible that your child’ll be all in and, uh, sometimes that’s our experience. Sometimes they are saying, “You know, I’m a little distracted, Dad.” How were you as that child, and how was your father in that moment?
Jonathan: Absolutely, I think that it’s, uh – it’s normal to have a teenager who doesn’t want to sit down and read the Bible and be preached to all the time. They’re always getting that from their parents anyway, whether it’s from the Bible or whether it’s, “Do this; do that. Clean up this. Do these chores.” So, you’re gonna kinda get that time of eye rolls. But that’s not what you’re focused on. What you’re focused on is how when they grow to maturity, that they look back and view how important that time was.
Jonathan: And when – now that I look back, I think about my formation as a Christian, as a man came from that time I was at the table, even though I was rolling my eyes, because I was mad I was missing The Cosby Show.
Jonathan: You know, so, we were all thinking about, “Man, why do we have to do this now?” you know. The Cosby Show was on, you know, and all of those different things that we were missing out on. But little did we know, we weren’t missing out on anything, but we were gaining everything.
Jonathan: But we learned that later, and so, the focus can’t just be on them rolling their eyes in the moment, but them having their eyes straight in the future and being able to look back and say, “That was well worth it.”
Jim: Kanika, you have married into the Evans family, and they do something every month that must have been interesting to you. What is it that they do every month?
Kanika: Every month we have family dinner together on the first Sunday after church. And each of the children in the family will, um, recite a Scripture.
Kanika: And it’s a good opportunity for them to learn how to speak in front of people. You know, we’re kinda coaching them. Take your gum out, you know.
Jim: Kind of a big crowd, right?
Jim: Now with all the spouses and the kids, too.
Kanika: With our families, yes.
Jim: That’s probably 30, 40 people, right?
Jonathan: Yeah, it’s a big gathering, for sure.
Jim: (Laughter) That’s a great idea.
John: I’ve gotta ask though. Do you have to recite a verse, too?
Jonathan: No, I don’t.
John: You don’t, so you’re off the hook now?
Jonathan: I’m kind of off the hook when it comes to family dinner. The concentration is on – is on the kids, but they have to know it. That means we have to teach it.
Jonathan: So, you’re kinda off the hook, but on the hook.
Jim: So, your dad’s still testing you.
Jonathan: That’s right. The kids better be ready.
Jonathan: The kids better be ready.
Jim: I love it. Kanika, your background, what type of home were you raised in, and who made the greatest impact on you?
Kanika: Um, well, I was raised in a single-parent home with my mom and, um, she got married when I was about 14, so for a long time it was just she and I. And, um, she always, you know, wanted me to be grounded in the church. She grew up in the church and she felt like especially because I didn’t have a father in the home, that she really wanted me to be grounded in the church. So, I was very involved in church activities growing up. I was at the church several days a week and even, um – because she had to work two jobs sometimes, there were other ladies in the church that would come pick me up and take me to, you know, Wednesday night service, youth service and things like that.
Jim: And it sounds like you really embraced that as a child.
Kanika: Mm hmm.
Jim: Was there a hunger that you had, a natural hunger, spiritually?
Kanika: I think – I think there was, and for me, being an only child, then there was also just the connection that I had with other, um, people in my youth group and things like that, because I didn’t have siblings, so they were kind of, you know, another family for me, so.
Jim: And who … who made that great impact on you? It was your grandmother, I think, right?
Kanika: Well, my grandmother, um… I did stay with her sometimes, um … just you know, if my mom had to work late—
Kanika: –and things like that. So, I kind of had um … I got a lot of impact from my grandmother, but I still got a lot from my mom—
Kanika: –just seeing her walk through, you know, the daily hardships of being a single parent and her staying faithful to the Lord
Jim: Can you remember back to being that 13-year-old girl or 14-year-old girl and saying, “When I’m older, this is what I want to have?” And having a picture in your mind as a young girl what you were hoping to have when you got married someday?
Kanika: I definitely remember just wanting to, um – as an adult, you know, just wanting to find, you know – or not find a husband, but, um, be connected with a husband who valued family, who valued church. I mean, I just knew that anything else was not an option for me.
John: Our guests today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly are Jonathan and Kanika Evans and, uh, Jonathan and his dad, Tony Evans, wrote this book, Kingdom Family Devotional. It’s so important to understand who you are, um, and to live out Deuteronomy 6. I mean, what you’re talking about right there is that we have to have our act together before we try to teach our kids. We can’t be hypocrites about this. And there has to be a level of authenticity with God that you experience before you try to teach your children this.
Jonathan: Yes, I mean, you know, kids are sponges. I learned that. I mean, they see everything. Uh, they emulate the things that they see. And they do realize when something is off, when they’re being told something, and then you get the response, “But you do this.”
John: That’s especially true in the teenage years I’ve found. How about you, Jim?
Jim: Yes. Jonathan, let me ask you in terms of this world that you live in as a, uh, chaplain to the Dallas Cowboys. You played at Baylor. I’ll throw a shout-out at Baylor. We have a lot of Baylor listeners (Laughter) in Texas, so there you go, guys. But in that context, you see the impact of fatherlessness. You see a lot of guys, black and white, but because of the brokenness of homes and particularly football, it just draws a lot of young men that want to prove themselves, that want to go on the field of battle and be men. Um, do you see that parallel situation with training your kids in the evening at home, your, you know, 3-year-old, your 8-year-old and then you’re with these 20, 30-something young men that are still needing to be affirmed and still
Jonathan: Oh, absolutely. Fatherlessness is huge. Um, 70% of African-American kids don’t have fathers, 40% and rising in the Anglo community don’t have fathers. And so, you see this attack of the enemy on fathers, and especially because God has called them, uh, you know, to lead their family in righteousness and justice, okay. And so, when you don’t have that, um, around the table, when you don’t have that in the home, especially young boys, mothers do a great job, but they can’t teach a boy how to be a man. Um, only a father can do that. And so, it’s very important for men to do what God has told them to do and that is be there for their families and raise them up in righteousness and justice, so that they really understand what manhood is. And you can see that – that parallel. You can be a 30-year-old or 23-year-old, 25-year-old who can lift a lot of weights, run real fast and still have so many immaturities, because no one was there to help mold you into what God’s man really looks like.
Jonathan: And since God is the Creator, certainly He knows more – a little bit more about life living than we do.
Jim: Now you don’t know about this, but we got a little audio clip from your dad to, uh, give us some insight on his fathering with you.
Jim: Let’s take a listen to this.
Tony: When my son, Jonathan, he’s our football player, when he was young, he would – he called me and asked me to go to the gym with him at our church. And I said, “Okay.” He said, “I want to show you something.” I said, “What?” He says, “I want you to see me dunk the ball.” He’s 11-years-old. He dribbles the ball. He goes up, and he dunks the ball. Now the problem with the dunk is, he had gotten the custodian to lower the goal…
Tony: …from 10 feet to 6 feet and he dunked. I said, “Well, that was good, son, but I got the custodian to raise the goal back up to its 10-foot level.” And I told him, “Son, our goal is not for you to lower the standard and dunk, but to keep the standard where it is and you rise to the level of being able to dunk.” Now he dunks at 10 feet, but we had to keep the standard up. I couldn’t let him settle for a 6-foot goal. We’re letting too many people settle and we’re lowering the standard and so, people are dunking at 6 feet and thinking they’re achieving something.
Jim: Yeah, that just sounds like your dad, doesn’t it?
Jonathan: That is my dad.
Jonathan: That is my dad on the button.
Jim: How did that inspire you? How did it shape you? How did it give you a perspective while growing up?
Jonathan: Well, you know what? That specific illustration was very important for me athletically, because me understanding that my father was not going to get excited and run around in circles just because I was able to lower the standard and do well, uh, because two years later I dunked at 10 feet.
Jim: At 13.
Jonathan: At 13.
Jim: (Laughing) Without a trampoline.
Jonathan: Without a trampoline. Without any of those things. Because, um, I was a son who wanted to please his father.
Jonathan: And so, because my father was not, you know, 100% pleased with the lower standard, then I had to raise my standard in order to please him. And I think that’s the same thing in the Christian life. When you understand that the world may lower the standard; they may be the custodian that comes in and lowers the standard so that everybody can dunk and feel good about themselves, but God has a higher standard. And when we can get our kids to understand, um, how important it is to please God and have a relationship with God that naturally makes you want to please Him…
Jonathan: …then you will start raising your standard of living, raising your standard of devotion. And, uh, that’s when you get God really excited.
Jim: Kanika, do you, as mom, um, have a fear inside sometimes that we’re not doing enough? We need to do more. And how do you translate that to Jonathan? How do you guys talk about it, kind of the pillow talk when everything’s done, and the lunches are made and you’re laying in bed. Do you talk about your concerns yet? Is that happening at this point with young kids in your home?
Kanika: Um, I’m not sure that we think that we’re not doing enough, because we are very intentional about wanting to sow seeds in our children, but a lot of times we’ll talk about maybe if there’s things we need to tweak, like how we need to adjust what we’re doing to fit the individual personalities of each kid.
Jim: Maybe like the themes of honesty or integrity, those things?
Kanika: Right, right.
Jonathan: Absolutely, prayer, all of those different things that are important, ‘cause when you have different ages, when you have four kids, they’re different ages, so as we talk about, okay, well, how long does devotions really need to be at this point?
Jonathan: I know she has to calm me down. I know you really want to make a point here…
Jonathan: …but you know, Kyler’s 1. Camden’s 3. J2’s just getting’ to the point. I call him “J2.”
Jonathan: That’s just to kinda add a little swag to it, ‘cause Jonathan the second.
Jim: Yeah, I like that.
Jonathan: But we call him J2. Because they’re all different ages and so, we want to make sure that our devotions we have with them are five minutes, that we use illustrations, that we get ‘em to sing songs, that we kinda plan a little bit ahead of time so that we’re not just kind of throwing stuff together, because that’s the way to keep ‘em engaged. So, we definitely spend time talking about that. We feel like we’re doing as much as we can at the age that they are.
Jonathan: Um, and then as they grow, we’ll just have to grow.
Jim: Uh, Jonathan and Kanika, this is exactly why we did this project with you, uh, this devotional for children. Let me ask you for your favorite, or one of your favorites. I know it’s asking you which child do you like best.
Jim: But out of the devotional material, what’s one that pops out for you and give us a taste of what people can invest in when they get a copy of the devotional.
Jonathan: Well, you’re investing in a tool first of all that’s gonna help. We don’t want to challenge you to lead your family and then leave you with nothing. We have a tool that will kinda help you do that in a simple way. Um, one of them at the beginning of the book is just on Jesus’ love and so that your kids can really understand Jesus’s love for them. And Christ demonstrated His love that while we were yet sinners, Christ died. And I just used the lioness and her cubs and just talking about how, um, there was a dangerous animal lurking about, and she saw it and went out to protect her cubs. And in protecting them, she was bitten by this – this venomous animal and I think it was a snake as I think back on the description there. And so, she became sick and she had to lay down for three days. But she ended up getting the snake out of there because of her protective nature. And so, she became sick for three days and then we talked about, after three days the venom went away, and she was able to get back up and play with her cubs. But ultimately, she protected those who couldn’t protect themselves, protected those who couldn’t do anything for themselves. And we talked about how Jesus did the same thing for us, that He took the bite of sin and He died, and he was down for three days; uh, then He rose on the third day. And those who couldn’t protect themselves, do anything for themselves or work for their own safety – because we’re only cubs – Jesus did that for us. And now we’re protected, because He was willing to go take the bite and protect us in an area that we simply couldn’t protect ourselves.
Jim: You know so often – it’s a beautiful analogy. So often we tend to underplay our children’s ability to grasp these concepts, don’t we? So, when they’re 4, 5, 6, we want to speak down to them, but actually when you connect these dots, they’re quite capable of catching it. And that’s what you’re really trying to do, is take maybe a complex theological issue and break it down into something that is discernible.
Jonathan: Right, right.
Jim: But I would say, don’t aim too low, like your dad said about dunking the ball.
Jim: Keep that up there pretty high, and I think you’ll be surprised at how much your children actually understand, and you just keep working it and helping them understand better and better.
Jim: You also did something that we’re gonna put on the website, kinda what we call a web extra, John, and that was something you did with your kids at Christmas. So, I’ll keep the suspense. People can go to the website and check that out. You guys already have big grins on your faces, so it’s gonna be worth it. But I want to say thank you. Thank you for tackling this big issue, because intentional Christian parenting requires that, uh, we have victory in this area, that we are able to embrace it, to understand our role, both as husbands and wives and dads and moms, with, uh, training our children in the way they should go. And I think this devotional is a wonderful way to guide you, to put a tool in your hand, to make it a little easier for you. And I’m gonna point right at you, dad. Why don’t we do this and make sure our wives are participating, but let’s take the lead. I think that would take a great relief off of the shoulders of our wives and, uh, let’s be more intentional. I love the idea, too, just reading Scripture, Jonathan, like your dad did for you at the dinner table and talking over a verse and letting them tell you what they think it means. I’m gonna start doing that tonight actually and that’s one way to go. So, thank you again for being with us. Thank you for this devotional and thank you for today.
Jonathan: Thank you.
Kanika: Thank you.
John: And once again, our guests have been Jonathan and Kanika Evans and along with Tony Evans, Jonathan has written this book, Kingdom Family Devotional: 52 Weeks of Growing Together. And it’s a great toolbox. And you can adapt the stories and the devotions for your family. It’s a great time to get a copy here at the start of the year. Uh, it’ll carry you through the rest of the year. And try it. See what a difference this can make in your family.
Jim: John, I hope everyone listening knows, this is our mission here at Focus on the Family, is to help you and your family. Certainly, one of the ways we can do that is helping you to train your kids spiritually. I mean this is on the heart of every serious mom and dad. And I want you to hear from Lauralee on how Focus has helped her to parent her kids better.
Lauralee: I love that Focus on the Family is constantly giving us tools on how to become better parents. And I love that Focus is focused on that, you know? On following what the Bible says on how to raise children and – and constantly giving us inspiration and ideas and like – creative ideas on how to raise our children in a Godly way.
Jim: And let me say this clearly– this is to God’s glory. I mean, we’re here as hands and feet. We’re trying to do the best job we can do to honor him and to impact our own families as well as your families. That’s job one for all of us as parents and Focus is here for you, mom and dad. So, let me encourage you to support the ministry. If you want to be a better parent this year, let us come alongside you and offer the wisdom that God has placed here for over 40 years. If you believe in this daily broadcast and the help it provides, can I ask you to prayerfully consider becoming a friend of Focus on the Family by making a monthly donation of any amount and we’ll send you a copy of Kingdom Family Devotional to show you our appreciation for supporting this broadcast. And let me say, thank you so very much for standing with us as we do ministry together.
John: Make a monthly donation today to help support this broadcast and get a copy of the book. Just stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Now we understand that you might be struggling a little bit with younger children who are unexpectedly spending extra time at home given the current circumstances in the world. So, Focus on the Family wants to help. We’re offering a four-week free trial of our Adventures in Odyssey Club. It’s an online service – 800 episodes of this award-winning audio drama to help your kids stay occupied and to foster family connections and family conversations about truth. Take advantage of this free extended four-week trial offer of the Adventures in Odyssey Club. Just stop by our website for the details. Again, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.