Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Your Child's Heart

Leslie Basham: Do your kids understand why the rules of your home exist? Here's Steve Canfield.

Steve Canfield: I think sometimes parents don't transfer from the obedience years where they're just telling them, “Don't do this, and don't do that,” through the years of, “Here's why we don't do this,”—just the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots,”—to this relationship personally with the God of the universe.

Leslie: It's Friday, May 4, and you're listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. All week Nancy's been teaching out of Psalm 127 and 128 in a series called Leaving a Godly Legacy. She'll pick that teaching up next week, but today we wanted to pause and let you hear from a couple that's in the process of building a godly legacy. Here's Nancy to introduce our guests.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I've had the privilege for the last 28 years of being a part of Life Action Ministries, and we've talked about that some on Revive Our Hearts. Life Action is the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Life Action Ministries exists to believe God to send revival to the heart of the local church throughout our country. We have teams that minister throughout the United States, and you can find out more on our website. You can link to Life Action Ministries to find out more about that ministry and how some of those teams could perhaps even minister in your own church.

Over the years it's been a privilege for me to serve with other staff members in Life Action who are committed to the same basic principles and truths that we talk about here on Revive Our Hearts and who not only believe these things and teach them, but who practice them in their lives. One of the families that's been a dear part of my life over all these years has been Steve and Debby Canfield and their growing family over the years.

They've been a part of Life Action Ministries for even longer than I have been—30 years now. Now two of your sons are married. Steven, the firstborn, was the first to marry, and Steven, tell us a little bit about your family.

Steven Canfield: My wife is Christy, and we met at a Bible college that we attended together. We quickly started having children. We have four children. Our oldest is seven, and our youngest is one years old.

Nancy: We're starting again with a whole, new generation.

Steven: Yes, yes, we are trying to continue on the legacy, and by God's grace, we are trying our best to do that.

Nancy: Let's talk about this whole thing of family which we're talking about on this series on Revive Our Hearts, Leaving a Legacy. The whole matter of family—and as you think about it, why did God even have the idea of family? What's the point of family, and what are some of the things that you believe God accomplishes in people's lives and for God's kingdom and His glory as a result of this thing called the family?

Steve Canfield: I heard someone say one time that home is a place you go when you're tired of being nice to people, and I think that's the way. . .

Nancy: It is for a lot of us.

Steve: That's the way a lot of our homes are. The home becomes a little crucible where God takes the principles of His Word, and they are lived out. Home is a place where you go to make up your mind about life.

You can do a lot of things at church and at job and at community, but the real issue is what is someone behind the doors of their home? It's very easy to wear a mask in front of the people that we're around, but boy, the people behind the doors of your home, they really know you. Those principles that you say you believe—you say, you know, “I really think this is right”—you ask the people who live with you behind the doors of your home, and you'll see where you're really at.

Nancy: Now we have a lot of listeners, and we have a lot of moms with young children, some single moms who listen to Revive Our Hearts. Life is challenging, and there are seasons with their children where it is just, you know—survival is the name of the game.

Steven, as you and Christy are starting your family, and you have four little ones, there have to be these moments of feeling, “This is overwhelming.” What is the vision for your family? Why do you do this? What gives you a sense of, “we can get beyond this day,” and it's worth pressing on? What is the vision you hold before you as a family that makes family valuable and worth working hard for?

Steven: Well, for us, we do have many of those days, and there are days when, as coming into being a father, I just kind of figured, you know, I saw my parents do it. This is going to be a piece of cake.

I know the seminar notes. I have this in my Bible. I've seen it done, and I'm just going to knack this. This is going to be smooth sailing, but God has used the hard times in our home with our children and the confusion that we've had often. . .

Nancy: How long did it take you to realize that it wasn't going to be all smooth sailing?

Steven: The first child about did us in. The first child we had, we just were pulling our hair out. We did not know what to do, and it's like, I know this. I know how to do this, don't I? I've seen it done. I've read the books. Why can't I do this?

I think a lot of it is God just needed to bring me to the point of, “Steven, you don't have it all together, and you need Me desperately for this.” As we work through daily—and daily it seems like there's another catastrophe blowing up—the vision that we have to keep reminding ourselves of is that we are raising children to be adults who will be kingdom-changers, that will be advancing the kingdom of God.

There are so many things that they do that bug us at times or that frustrate us at times, but yet, I'm wanting to raise children who are passionate for God above all else. Christy and I, my wife, we have to endure through those challenges and work with them patiently in hopes that one day God would grant us the desire of our hearts, that we would have little warriors for the kingdom of God.

That's our heart. That's what my parents were hoping for and believing God for in us, and that's what I pray that the legacy will continue on in our children, that we would have little kingdom children for warriors for His kingdom.

Steve: I remember as our kids were growing up, people would sometimes question our lifestyle because we were taking our kids all over the country and so forth. I remember people saying, “How are they going to learn to survive in the real world? I mean, you've got them in this surreal environment, and how are they going to survive?”

Our response to that was that our prayer is not that our kids would grow up and just survive, but we want to see them change the world. I think the mentality of our generation is, if my child can grow up, have a home, have a job, have at least the same things that I have had, and they can survive, man, that will be great.

We need to change our attitude toward that and say, “Let's raise some world-changers. Let's raise some people who, some children who have impact on the kingdom and impact on their generation.” I think our sights are set too low for our kids sometimes.

Nancy: Steve and Debby, how did God give you that kind of heart and desire and passion for your children? Is this something that you just always grew up knowing that you wanted—to raise children who were kingdom-changers? What were some of the influences God used to give you that passion and burden?

Debby: Well, I wasn't saved till I was a teenager, and my parents came to know the Lord after I did. Watching them change so dramatically—my dad was a pharmacist. He had four pharmacies. He had a pipe shop, and it just seemed like after he changed, he started taking things out of the drugstore that he didn't feel God wanted there.

My mom, I'd see her and my dad get up and spend time with the Lord in the morning. My mom had seven children, so when I was in college, she was still having babies. I remember seeing her, knowing she was up all night, still getting up, even if it was for a short period of time, spending time with the Lord. That so impacted my life when I started having children, to make that a priority in my life.

Steve: I think part of the consistency that we've seen in our kids in those times has been because of Debby's desire to see that in her kids because of what she saw in her parents. I remember when Steven was, probably, I don't know, seven or eight, one of the team members we traveled with challenged him that if he would have his devotions every day for, I think, three months or something, that he would take Steven out to like Red Lobster or something.

Anyway, he started having consistent, daily devotions, and so then his brother, Jeremiah, came to me (so he would have been seven) and said, “Dad, how come Steven gets to have devotions every morning? I said, “Well, Jeremiah, you can get up, and you can start doing that.”

I remember I was talking with a pastor about his family one time, and he said, “My wife takes care of having devotions with the kids and so forth. When they get old enough so I can really relate to them, then I'll start talking to them about those things.”

I said to him, “You can't wait till your kids become teenagers to start talking to them about things that are eternal.” The conversations that we've had in the home didn't just start when they were intellectually at our level, but rather, in early days of developing patterns of consistency based on what we may have seen.

I think another thing for me was just the reality of seeing people when I came to Life Action. (I'd heard a lot about Christianity in Bible college and so forth.) When I came here, I saw some people who were living what I had heard preached.

Man, that so impacted my life, but I wanted my kids not just to hear the messages that I'd heard. I wanted them to live those things. The power of a life message is so much greater than just let the Word say and let the notes and outlines say. It has to be caught, not just taught.

Nancy: Steven, what are some of your earliest memories of catching your parents' heart for the Lord and you connecting to that personally? What were some of the things as a young boy that impacted you spiritually that you saw in your parents?

Steven: I remember there was a lady in a church that we were at. She came up to us, and she asked me, “Now why did you and your brothers not rebel against your parents like a lot of pastors' kids tend to do?”

I thought about that for a second, and I said, “Well, I think the main reason is because my parents practice what they preached. If my dad was preaching on having a time with the Lord to a church, then I would come. I would wake up the next morning, and I would see him on his knees having a time with the Lord.

“If my mom was teaching in a ladies' time about responding right to trials, then I would see my mom implement that in the home. If she didn't, then she would confess and ask us to forgive her,” so I said to the lady, “Why would you want to rebel against authenticity?”

My brothers and I have talked about this a number of times—just wondering what it was that really gave us that heart for the Lord. One of the things that we saw was a reality. They weren't perfect, and they readily admitted that.

They confessed when they did things wrong, but I think probably the biggest thing that stands out is the times that they asked our forgiveness when they did things that were not honoring to the Lord because that was just part of our home. When somebody did something wrong, we would go to each other and say, “That was not what God wanted, and will you forgive me?” There was a real, confession atmosphere in our home which is one of the main reasons why I saw authenticity in our home from early on.

Nancy: Perfection wasn't what was needed.

Steven: No, because there was great imperfection all the time. I mean, my home now is very imperfect, but we've taken that confession atmosphere into our home. We're confessing to our kids when we get upset with them, which we do, and we ask their forgiveness.

Because I saw that modeled in my mom and dad (I don't remember how many times they probably asked me to forgive them for things that they had done), that didn't make me look at them any worse. It just gave me a greater respect for them because they were willing to admit their imperfections. That didn't harden my heart against like a hypocritical kind of teaching. That's probably the biggest thing is just that constant confession when there are wrong things done in the home.

Steve: I saw a father/son retreat some time ago where they did a survey and asked these dads, “What do you wish you could have heard your father say to you?” All the answers funneled down to basically three things. They said, “I wish I could have heard my dad say, 'I love you.' I wish I could have heard my dad say, 'I'm proud of you,' and I wish I could have heard my dad say, 'I was wrong.'”

I think those three statements—man, we all love our kids, but sometimes we just don't say those things, even, “I'm proud of you.” In this generation of wanting to be successful, whether it's in sports or whatever, it's such a tendency to focus on what they aren't doing in a good motive to try to help them move on, but yet we fail to communicate how proud we are of them.

Then, just this thing to say, “I was wrong.” They know we're wrong. I remember some years ago, I was preaching the next day. It was a Saturday night, and I was studying.

We have a practice in our house that every night before we go to bed that we pray with the kids. It was time to put them to bed, so I put my pen down. I went back into their room. We just had the three older boys, and each night as we pray, sometimes they really get into it. Sometimes they're just kind of giddy. They're boys, and they're going through the motions.

They're messing around, and I was in a hurry because I was trying to study. They're messing around. This was prayer time. Finally I just said, “Okay, that's it. That's enough. I don't want to hear anybody else messing around. Pray, and let's do this. Let's get this done.”

Nancy: Let's love God.

Steve: Yes, let's love God now, and so they did. They saw Dad wasn't happy, and he was upset. They prayed. I prayed. I turned out the lights. I said, “I don't want to hear another word.”

I went back up, and I picked up my pen again, and I'm trying to get ready for the next day. It's like God said, “Steve,” and He just tapped me on the shoulder from the inside, you know.

I said, “I'm getting ready to study.” I said. “I can't do it.”

He said, “Steve, you might as well not. You're going to stand up there tomorrow morning and tell people how to live after that?”

I said, “You're right.” I put my pen down, went back in, flipped on the light, and I said, “Guys, a few moments ago we prayed, but we just went through the motions because my attitude was wrong. I was upset and frustrated. I was just trying to get back to what I was going to do. Will you please forgive me?”

They said, “Yes.” I remember walking out of the room, and we had bunk-beds there. My second son, Jeremiah, was in the top bunk. He put his hand on my shoulder and stopped me. He said, “Dad, would you forgive me for messing around?”

Now the reason he asked forgiveness was because I asked forgiveness, and I think that there's a pattern of those things that our kids need to see. I didn't do that because I wanted him to ask forgiveness, but those things pass on rather than just saying, “Now when somebody does something to you, you need to go back to them, or when you do something to someone, you go back to them.” They want to see those things.

Debbie has been a great model of that, too, because when there's frustration and anger and so forth, she's quick to go back and say to the boys, “You know, I was wrong, and I responded wrong to your dad.” If she responds wrong to me, she didn't just ask me to forgive her, she asked the kids who saw that response. That's just been a really important part, I think.

Nancy: I've read some statistics recently about the number of children that grow up in Christian homes in our Evangelical churches and once they get out of high school, leave the church, never to return. I've seen some studies which said two-thirds of them; I've seen as high as 80 percent. I don't know what the actual number is, but it is a lot of kids who are growing up and leaving high school and saying, “I'm not interested in this anymore.”

What do you think, as you've been ministering to families and young people—what do you think are some of the reasons that those kids are saying, “I'm out of here. Spiritually, this is not what I want, to follow Christ”? After they've grown up and heard it and been taught, and yet they're saying, “I don't want that.”

Steven: I don't feel that they see the reality of what's being preached in the pulpit lived out in the home on a daily basis. The preaching is on loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and here the parents are saying, “Amen,” and “That's right.” They go home, and they love the television. They love the food. They love their own, personal time. There's this disconnect where the kids are hearing this, and they're not seeing it.

The preacher preaches on giving thanks in everything. Then they go home, and their parents are complaining about everything that could be complained about, possibly even the preacher. There's just this false kind of Christianity where it's not reality. It's just a game, and the kids see that.

Today's youth are very turned off by hypocrisy. They want to be real, and if it's not real, they're going to see right through it. There's just such a need for reality, an authenticity in the home, first of all.

The second thing that comes to my mind is their busyness, and it just seems like people today are so busy doing great things. They leave their kids in the dust. My parents are very busy, very busy people, but they were very set on us having time as a family where we interacted often, to such a degree that I almost became a little upset about it as a youth because I didn't want to always be with the family.

They made that a priority. We played putt-putt more than I care to recall, and I hated putt-putt. I wasn't very good at putt-putt, and I'd rather have done anything else than putt-putt. Here we are putt-putting across America, and I didn't particularly want to putt-putt across America when there's so many other things to do.

What it did was it forced us to be together in some kind of semi-fun activity and to see that this isn't all about their agenda—that we are right in the middle of it, and we get to interact with them and spend time with them. Now I would love to putt-putt just to be with them, now that I have grown up.

I see the value of those times and want those times for my family as well, so I have to guard myself against that tendency just to be so busy doing what God's called me to do where I don't sacrifice those just fun times and relaxing times with the family. Those are so crucial, I think.

Nancy: They were intentional about making the family a priority.

Steven: Yes, very intentional. It was not an option, in most cases. We were going to have fun together whether we liked it or not.

Nancy: Required fun.

Steven: Right, and we did, though. We had a lot of fun, but sometimes it was getting past the, “Do we really have to go play putt-putt again?” thing.

Nancy: I see so many families, and I know you've seen them as well, who are—as their kids get older—are pulled in so many different directions. I think that busyness really is something that fractures the family because everybody's busy at their own thing. What's a parent to do?

How do you counsel parents? How do you encourage them to be able to get time with their family and to make that a priority when the kids have school activities, sports activities, extra-curricular activities? How can the family really be a priority?

Steve: There was a survey done at a major, state university, and they asked the incoming freshmen if they had the same religious beliefs as their parents. The majority said, “No.” The next question on this little survey was, “If not/if so, then why, and if not, why not?” The number one answer as to why not was because they said, “I never saw my parents pray for something that God answered.”

I think that the faith the children have lost in their parents is because they have not seen their parents come together and pray and God answer that prayer, and so they concluded, “There must not be a God.” All my life I've heard the phrase, “The family that prays together stays together,” and I think it's much more than that. I think the family that prays together develops a view of God that carries that child into adulthood where they realize it's not just about my parents.

It's not just about what they think and their values and so forth. This is about somebody bigger than my dad or bigger than the church. I mean, this is about the God of the universe.

I think sometimes parents don't transfer from the obedience years where they're just telling them, “Don't do this and don't do that,” through the years of, “Here's why we don't do this. It's because we serve a God who has values and who is holy and who is righteous and who is a provider and a healer and all the things that God is.” We don't transition them from just the “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” to this relationship, personally, with the God of the universe.

I remember we were headed someplace to a relative's house when Steven was in high school, and this relative was not saved. I just knew that the possibility was that he was involved in some things he probably shouldn't be involved in. He had a car, so I said to Steven—and he was probably 15 or so, or 14, “Now if you go out with this guy, and you're out in his car, what are you going to do if he pulls out some pornography to show it to you? What are you going to do?”

I'll never forget his answer. He said, “Well, Dad, if I'm walking in the Spirit, I'm not going to look at it because God doesn't want me to, and if I'm not walking in the Spirit, I'm not going to look at it because you don't want me to.”

Nancy: Either way, you're covered.

Steve: Yes, but the point is he's transitioning from Dad's rules because I'm not going to be with him all his life. There's got to be a transition to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives so they're responding in adulthood out of love and respect and desire for the God of the universe, not just out of obedience to a parent who has made them tow the line in their youth.

Leslie: That's Steve Canfield along with some of his family. They've been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about the hearts of children. How can you get your kids to learn to serve God because they want to, not just because they're following your rules?

This conversation echoes the things Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been saying in her teaching, Leaving a Godly Legacy. She'll pick it back up next week. It's solid, biblical teaching that you can trust as you teach your children to have a heart for God.

The CDs of this series will be helpful to you as your children move from season to season in life. Each age group has its own challenges, and this is the kind of message that you'll want to refer back to again. To get a copy of the series, Leaving a Godly Legacy, visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1-800-569-5959.

To help you remember some of the things you've learned this week, we want to send you a decorative bookmark at no cost to you. Keep this in your Bible or somewhere else where you'll see it and be reminded of the importance of your role as a parent. On one side you'll find Psalm 127. That's the text Nancy's been going through this week, and on the other you'll find comments from Nancy on leaving a godly legacy.

We'll send you five of these bookmarks at no charge. You can keep one for yourself and pass some along to other parents. Just ask for them when you call 1-800-569-5959 or order online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

As you're riding around town with your kids, making it to the carpool line on time, getting to piano lessons or soccer games, do you ever forget why you're doing all these things? Nancy will give moms a big-picture view on Monday. Remember why parenthood is so important. Please be back for 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.

Join the Discussion