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Can We Trade Sexual Immorality For Church Growth
Russell Moore helps us rebut the argument that “evangelical Christianity must retool our sexual ethic if we’re ever going to reach the next generation.”

Equip Your Kids To Say No To Porn
“Parents must be proactive in talking about porn with their kids.”

The Best Way To Live
Tim Brister: “For Jesus, the Ten Commandments were not a restrictive list of don’ts. It was a prescription of the best way to love God and to love one another.” And here’s Trevin Wax on The Love Behind The Law.

The Higher Ed Bubble Starts to Pop
Five reasons why a spate of colleges have started closing their doors or slashing budgets and Faculty.

A Good Funeral
This pastor’s favorite aspect of church is conducting Christian funerals.

Twins Separated for 80 Years Reunited
As a twin myself this resonates deeply. Read more at the BBC.

10 Money Lessons To Teach Your Kids

Yesterday I gave a brief review of Smart Money Smart Kids by Dave Ramsey and his daughter, Rachel Cruze. Today I want to summarize ten of the lessons I learned from the book.

1. We are all teaching our children how to handle money. The only questions are: (i) are we doing it intentionally or accidentally? and (ii) are we teaching them good lessons or bad lessons?

2. However bad your financial past, you can start to make it better today, change your family tree, and leave the best possible legacy for your children – a good example of financial stewardship.

3. Teaching your children financial stewardship begins with teaching them how to work because work builds discipline and self-denial. Giving our children money without expecting them to work breeds an entitlement mentality. Studies show that students who work ten to nineteen hours a week actually have higher GPAs on average than students who don’t hold jobs while in school.

4. We should teach our children how to divide all income into three main categories: save, spend, give.

5. At times we should let our kids suffer the consequences of their financial decisions – if our kids don’t learn how to make small inexpensive mistakes when they are kids, they will make huge and expensive mistakes as adults.

6. Teach our kids the value of the least used word in parenting today “NO!”

7. The Five Foundations for teenage financial responsibility:

  • Save a $500 emergency fund.
  • Get out of debt.
  • Pay cash for a car.
  • Pay cash for college.
  • Build wealth and give.

8. You will never get out of debt or build wealth if you have a car payment… Paying cash for a car and buying a used one is the shortest path to building wealth.

9. If you want to raise money-smart kids, you have to raise kids who are content… A heart filled with gratitude leaves no room for discontentment.

And the BIGGEST lesson of all in the book:

10. We must teach our children that they don’t own money—they are simply managers, or stewards of it. Owners have rights; managers have responsibilities. Owners think of themselves; managers can’t. It isn’t their money, so they must think of others. Owners worry over their money; managers don’t need to worry because the money isn’t theirs to begin with. Owners hold with a tight fist; managers hold with an open hand.

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How Personal Relationships Threaten The Power Of The State
“But the really dirty little secret statists would rather you not know is this:  strong relationships of mutual self-sacrifice yield the greatest prosperity of every kind – spiritual, emotional, and material – for everyone.”

How A Dad Loves A Prodigal
Well, this made me weep in the middle of Chicago airport. It brought back a lot of memories.

5 Observations About Younger Southern Baptists
Not many of them in Grand Rapids, but if you’re at all interested in the wider cause of Christ, this is fascinating.

I Miss The Absurdity
It actually gets replaced by an even stranger absurdity.

Preparing Your Teens For College
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What To Do When You’re Engulfed By Darkness
Some innovative (but biblical) solutions here.

Ben Carson: What’s The Importance of Common Sense

Smart Money Smart Kids

Dave Ramsey changed my life. Unfortunately, more than half of my life had passed before I “met” him on Wood Radio 1300 a few years ago. But, better late than never – hopefully I’ve still got a some years to put some of the lessons I’ve learned from him into practice.

And, even more importantly, I’ve got the chance to make sure my kids don’t make the same money mistakes I did. That’s why I’m so thankful for Smart Money Smart Kids, the latest book by Dave Ramsey, co-authored with his daughter Rachel Cruze. It’s a book for teaching parents how to train their children to be smart with money from their earliest years, but which can also teach people like me in my mid-years.

Boom Years
I used to work in the headquarters of a large financial services company before I was converted and called to the ministry. It was during the Thatcher/Reagan boom years in the mid-to-late eighties when money, mortgages, loans, investments and pensions were plentiful.

No one thought these years would ever end. We thought incomes, house values, pensions, and investments would just keep rising and rising, inducing multitudes to keep on living just beyond their means. “Next year’s raise will cover it….I’ll start my pension when I get that bonus….I’ll remortgage my house to pay for any emergency…My home is my investment…and so on.”

Most people weren’t tens of thousands of pounds or dollars in debt, but just a few thousand on a credit card here, a few thousand on a car loan there, etc. Saving for vacations, special purchases, and things like that were usually done after the event, via credit cards. Saving for pensions, kids education, etc. just seemed way too far away.  And budgeting was just so boring.

5-10% Irresponsible
As I say, most of us weren’t totally irresponsible, just maybe 5-10% irresponsible – spending just a bit beyond what we earned. Not a big problem – until it happens 5-10 years in a row, or when the stock-market crashes, or the housing bubble bursts, or kid’s college looms, or retirement approaches….or when they all come together in a perfect storm!

Even when we survived the downturns and recessions by tightening our belts for a few years, the previous bad habits were only hibernating and soon re-appeared when the “good times” returned.

Sound like your story? I think it’s the story of the vast majority of people, including Christians. And that’s why Dave Ramsey’s hard-hitting common-sense analysis and practical baby-step-by-baby-step solutions have struck such a chord with so many. I had never heard of him until just a few years ago when I stumbled upon his show on our local Grand Rapids radio station one evening.

Dangerous Vacuum
Ramsey’s approach is really very simple and obvious, and yet for all the thousands of hours we spend in school and church, the vast majority of us are not taught the basics of how to handle money responsibly and biblically. In this dangerous vacuum, we suck up the irresponsible and unbiblical messages and habits of our culture.

I’ve still got a lot to learn (and unlearn) in this area, and in some areas it’s almost too late for me to repair the damage – I already have two sons of college age. However, I do want my kids to learn better than I did. We are now regular listeners to Ramsey’s radio program (if only to make us feel a lot better about our financial stewardship compared to most people!), we read his books, and we talk a lot about the principles and practices he teaches. But, until now, we’ve lacked a systematic way of teaching this to our younger kids (I’ve got three aged 12 and under). That’s where Smart Money, Smart Kids comes in and excels.

It’s written in a conversational style with Dave and Rachel alternating throughout. Dave speaks of how he taught Rachel and his other kids, then Rachel talks about how she and her siblings learned through the hard times and the good times. The to-and-fro style works surprisingly well, giving a dynamism and energy to the book. The teaching covers all the main areas: working, spending, saving, giving, budgeting, debt, college, etc., and is also tailored to two different age-groups throughout (6 to 13, and 14 to college age).

Tomorrow I’ll list the major lessons I took away from the book. In the meantime, you can buy it here – highly recommended. If you want to teach yourself first before you teach your kids, I’d recommend Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

Top 10 Books For Moms

As I’m often asked for book recommendations on various subjects, I decided to put together an online list of my top ten books in various categories. Basically, if I was only allowed 10 books in my library on that subject, these are the ten I would choose. Other posts include:

With “Mother’s Day” just round the corner, I’m listing the Top 10 Books for Moms. I’ve read most of these, but one or two are on the list on the basis of reliable recommendations and social media surveys. Of course, most of the Top 10 Biographies of Christian Women could also be on this list, but I’ve decided not to overlap.

After this list you’ll find a poll where you can cast three votes for your favorite books in this category. Click on “View Results” to see what books are most popular.

You can also add any book not on the list by writing the title in “Other” or in the Comments  I’ll add these to the end of the post under “Reader Suggestions.”

1. True Woman 101: Divine Design: An Eight-Week Study on Biblical Womanhood by Nancy Leigh Demoss and Mary Kassian.

As the title says, an 8-week course on womanhood, ideally for a small group.  Counter-cultural yet truly liberating.

2. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller.

We have to have one book dedicated to marriage on the list, and what better choice than Keller’s marriage transforming book. Nothing has influenced my own marriage in recent years more than this book.

3. Parenting by God’s Promises by Joel Beeke.

This book achieves that rare biblical balance of combining the huge responsibility God lays upon parents together with the huge encouragement God gives to faithful parents about their children.

4. Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman.

You’ll be amazed at how Gloria Furman brings the Gospel into every part of everyday life. And then you’ll start doing it yourself. See also Gloria’s follow-up volume of daily devotions, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms. And if Daily Devotions is your thing, then you’ll enjoy Seasons of the Heart: A Year of Devotions from One Generation of Women to Another compiled by Donna Kelderman.

5. Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary by Aimee Bird.

Similar in genre to Gloria Furman’s books, this one will make moms value and love their work more and, more importantly, value and love their God more.

6. Lies Women Believe: And the Truth That Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh Demoss.

In this book Nancy highlights a number of lies that many Christian women have embraced about themselves, about God, about marriage, and others. But she not only exposes them, she also uses God’s truth to smash these chains and set captives free.

7. True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

The most recent publication on the list, it inspires women to aspire to the beauty of godliness. It’s one for daughters too, as is Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian.

8. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior

The only non-Christian book on the list but an enjoyable and informative read about the numerous ways the parent-child relationship has changed in our culture. It’s fascinating to see even secular voices being raised against the child-centered and child-driven families that our culture is creating.

9. God, Marriage, and Family (Second Edition): Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation by Andreas Kostenberger.

Probably the most comprehensive book on the list. It’s a big book that you will find useful to have on your shelves as a reference book on a range of current cultural issues such as birth control, homosexuality, singleness, re-marriage, etc.

10. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism by John Piper & Wayne Grudem.

Like #9, this is another substantial and demanding book on the list. The go-to book for the complementarian position (i.e. that God has made men and women differently and with different roles to complement each other). One for serious and disciplined readers.

Now you decide, what are your favorites? You can cast three votes and add a book if it’s not in the list.

Honorable Mentions

Tending Your Garden: Wisdom for Keepers at Home by Denise Sproul.

Let Me Be a Woman by Elisabeth Elliot

Life in Jesus: A Memoir of Mary Winslow by Octavius Winslow.

Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood by Rachel Jankovic.

Reader Suggestions

A Mother’s Heart: A Look at Values, Vision, and Character for the Christian Mother by Jean Fleming.

Mother by Kathleen Norris.

Confessions by Augustine (for the role of a praying mother).

Because He Loves Me: How Christ Transforms Our Daily Life by Elyse Fitzpatrick.

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Failure is Not a Virtue
Very, very important post.

Life Is Winning In Indiana
James Faris with an encouraging report about the pro-life cause in Indiana.

7 Simple Ways to Improve Your Mental Health
And substitute biblical meditation for #7.

7 Lessons in Church Planting
Bill Vandoodewaard looks back on past church planting efforts to encourage us in future church planting.

Free Book of the Month
If you’ve got Logos, you can pick up 300 Quotations from the Puritans for free, and a study on the Epistle of James for $0.99.

2014 Update: The Story of Ian and Larissa