In this interivew, author Jack Klumpenhower said, “God has come down to us in Jesus, and he's died for us to give us everything that God promises his children.” Listen to the entire interview here: https://www.wordonthego.net/7
Look for this new Podcast starting January 1. First guests include: Nancy Guthrie, Marty Machowski, Tim Challies, and Barbara Reaoch. "In the Word, On the Go" is here to help you or your family focus on 1 verse from God's Word for 10 minutes while you go about your day.
A guest post by Don Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean for the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY. Don is the author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress), Praying the Bible (Crossway), and Family Worship (Crossway). (This post originally appeared here.)
Proverbs has always been one of my favorite books. When as a young man it was called to my attention that there’s a chapter for each of the thirty-one days in a month, I began the habit of daily reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month. After doing so now for over forty years, I recently realized that means I’ve read through the book of Proverbs more than five hundred times. And I plan to continue the practice for the rest of my life, for I never outgrow the need for the practical wisdom of this divinely-inspired book.
But I must admit there are places in the Proverbs where I’m sometimes tempted to think, “Why do I need to read this again?” When I come to chapter seven, for example, I’m so familiar with the story that I know exactly what’s going to happen when the foolish young man decides to walk down the street where the adulteress lurks. I want to say to the guy, “Don’t go down there this month! You’ve gone down there every month for forty years and it always ends badly. For once could you take a different route?” But every month he heads down there, and he always ends up “going down to the chambers of death” (7:27).
Since I know the passage by heart, why read it again? Then a few years ago I awakened to the reality that when the beginnings of such temptations inevitably come my way, I’m never more than thirty days away from a fresh warning of the ruin that comes from yielding to seduction. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the point where I don’t need that warning—frequently.
“Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12).
Because of my love for the Proverbs and the perpetual value the wisdom of the book has been for my life, I wanted to instill its counsel early in the life of my daughter. So from the time she was very young, i began incorporating the book of Proverbs into our family worship routine.
Here’s how I did it. In the beginning I would read a third of a chapter to her every night. During the first month of every quarter (that is, January, April, July, and October) I would read the first third of the chapter that corresponds with the day of the month. On the second month of each quarter I read the middle third of the chapter for the day. And on the last month of the quarter I read the last third of the chapter. So on January 1 I read Proverbs 1:1-11 (or thereabouts). On February I read Proverbs 1:12-22. And on March 1 I read Proverbs 1:23-33.
After a few years, I started reading half a chapter each night, alternating every other month. So on January 1 I read Proverbs 1:1-17 or so, and on February 1 I read Proverbs 1:18-33. Then when she was old enough, I began reading the entire chapter each evening, covering all of chapter one on the first of every month, all of chapter two on the second of each month, and so forth.
After these few minutes in the Proverbs, I would turn to wherever else we were reading in the Bible at that time.
Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon a practice that dramatically increased her listening and understanding. Before I started reading I said, “I want you to pick a verse to explain to me, and one for me to explain to you.” This made a huge difference. Often, of course, her explanation of a verse was off base or unclear. That gave me another occasion to make the Bible more clear to her. I commend this simple, but effective, exercise to you.
This post was originally written as a foreword to a book I commend to you, Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation.
In this book, Champ Thornton provides another way to inculcate the divine wisdom of Proverbs into your family. Follow his plan and you will produce what may become the most valuable and spiritually-fruitful gift your children or grandchildren will ever receive. What you write in these pages will surely be long-lasting in its impact and deeply treasured by its recipients. Use this book; record the wisdom God has given to you through the book of Proverbs, and Pass it On.
Go online and you can read about Pass It On. The website for New Growth Press lists October 30 as the release date. The blurb on Amazon.com says, "Pass It On guides users through the book of Proverbs and allows them to create their own, personalized wisdom journal that they can share with someone they love."
But here are four facts about the book you won't find anywhere else online.
1. Pass It On has been in print since 2014.
When I completed a first rough draft in the summer of 2014, I wanted some friends to read it and give me their feedback. So to make it easier to use, I had a few copies privately self-published, using a print-on-demand website. After gathering input and re-writing the book, I printed a few more copies for a second round. These original copies are not available to the public, and despite being quite rare, are valued only by my parents.
2. Pass It On was not the original title.
At first it was entitled, Words of Wisdom: Proverbs for the Next Generation. But it seemed a bit arrogant to write a book and call it "Words of Wisdom." So, after considering Wise Beyond Your Years as an option, the second version was called, A Legacy of Wisdom. Thankfully, the team at New Growth Press suggested its current title: Pass It On.
3. Bruce Waltke's translation of Proverbs was our second choice (kinda).
In initial drafts, we had planned to include a more widely used translation of the Bible for the text of Proverbs. Options were the English Standard Version, New International Version, and the New Living Translation. But then the thought struck—why not ask for permission to use the translation by Bruce Waltke, which is featured in his two-volume commentary on Proverbs? Emails were sent, and permission was granted. Waltke's amazing translation was a "second choice" in sequence only!
4. Many kids will have read part of this book before their parents.
A mini-preview of part of this book has already appeared, using different words, in The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith (2016). In The Radical Book for Kids, careful readers of the chapter, "The Secret to Growing Up," will notice similarities, in miniature, to the more expansive "Bird's Eye View of Proverbs" in Pass It On.
Photo Credit: My thanks to www.abeautifulinheritance.co
Proverbs is puzzling. How do you master over 600 individual pieces of wisdom and then teach them to children? By 2012 this was my challenge as a father of three and, over the next five years, became my project. Looking back, I can identify seven specific reasons why I wrote Pass It On: A Proverbs Journal for the Next Generation.
- Actually, I didn't set out to write a book. In 2012, I simply wanted to learn Proverbs better, mining its riches for myself. The fruit of that original study appears all throughout Pass It On.
- I also wanted to find keys for teaching it to next generation. Given the length of Proverbs, I knew I would need ways to recall its wisdom in order to apply it to particular situations in life and parenting.
- Over time, I wanted to pass along to other parents, what I was learning—not as an expert, but as a fellow traveler along the winding road of raising a family. By 2014, the seeds of my study of Proverbs had also yielded several parenting seminars, parts of which eventually found their way into Pass It On.
- As I studied Proverbs, the more I realized that God intends that we learn wisdom not only from Scripture, but also from experience. Using his Word as a guide and grid, he wants us to observe how he made the world to work. And by asking guided questions in Pass It On, I give opportunities for parents to reflect on both the wisdom they observe in the book of Proverbs and also the wisdom they've gained in the school of life.
- I also wrote Pass It On to provide a user-friendly Topical Index to Proverbs that matches the realities we experience in daily life. Most topical guides to Proverbs are arranged alphabetically, like a dictionary. But I wanted to arrange the teachings of Proverbs using the syntax of relationships: with God, the world, people, and ourselves. So, the Topical Index, using these as the main headings, makes it easy to find proverbs on a particular topic.
- I wanted parents to leverage their regular time in the Word for the benefit of the next generation. Most Christian parents spend some time reading the Bible and praying, often several times per week, if not daily. Why not capture those insights, and in addition to benefiting from them personally, also pass them on to sons and daughters, grandchildren, or others? Pass It On goes beyond a typical Bible Study, because after you finish the study, you give the book, full of your insights and comments, to someone else—for him or her to read, keep, and cherish.
- I also hope that Pass It On creates a spark for families to share stories together. As you read each chapter of Proverbs, you'll also be asked questions about how you grew up, about your family, your interests, your hopes. These reflections will be treasured and can even become a starter kit for personal and enduring family conversations.
Today’s media has hijacked the word “radical.” Its Latin origin simply means “roots,” like the roots of a tree.
In this sense, Christian parents actually hope to raise “radical” kids. As our kids grow up, we want them to grow down—deep into the roots of the faith.
Why should we wait years to introduce our kids to theological treasures like the Trinity, the attributes of God, the storyline of the Bible or union with Christ? Kids are brighter than we often realize. Even at a young age, they’re designed to absorb and interpret the world around them.
When one of our kids was about 4 years old, I asked, “What happens to your food after you eat it?” Answer: “The mice in my tummy eat it.” Which of course raised a second question: “How do the mice get into your stomach?” Answer: “Through my pockets.” (Obviously.)
Though off the mark, these answers show that children are always processing, ever journeying into the wider world around them. And it’s our job to guide them, pointing out truths they might miss or misinterpret on their own. We want them to come to know the Lord, the Word he has written and the world he has made.
This means that, as parents, we also must be learning, allowing the regular reading of God’s Word to shape us. We can avail ourselves of good books about Scripture or theology. And we can optimize our commute by listening to helpful podcasts or audiobooks. In all this, we can’t give out what we’ve not first taken in.
Let’s sink our own roots down deep into the gospel—and then help our children do the same.
Deep roots also make for strong trees. Radical strength is needed to withstand the winds of culture, which attempt to bend our children to their values. Yet if a tree has a good root system, it can withstand the wildest storms.
Nurturing this kind of strength is difficult, but there are steps parents can take.
First, your kids need to know you’re a sinner—and they need to know you know it too. If our instructions mainly sound like “You need to… You should have,” then we may be communicating something we don’t intend. In our best moments, we’re simply calling them to join us on the pathway of discipleship. “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
Kids regularly need to hear some version of “we.” Their ears should echo with our admission: “I sin like that too, and have to turn to Christ in repentance and faith.” For example, talk to your kids about how you deal with anger and the idols it unmasks in your life. Model for them what it looks like to forgive and ask for forgiveness. From your weakness, God will grow their strength.
Second, your kids will find strength as they discover the goodness and faithfulness of God in creation and in history. As children and teens grow, they sometimes wonder if what they’ve been taught is real—or just some quirky view held by their family and a few others. Can Christianity navigate the swift currents of real life, or must it stick to some shallow, backwater tributary to stay afloat?
It’s imperative to anchor our kids’ (and our own) view of God in the created world and the historical record. Sin divides—people from God, from each other and from the goodness of the created order. In the great drama of redemption, God is uniting all things in Christ. And so as parents, we too must seek to connect what sin has divided. Practically, this might mean we help the next generation make the connection between the goodness of God and the wonders of science, the vigor of athletics, the joys of language. Do we help our kids take in sunsets, stories, snacks and sleep—and give thanks to the Maker of such gifts? Helping them link gifts with the Giver will expose the prevalent lie that Christianity is an optional feature on real life. Christ isn’t just part of life; he “is your life” (Col. 3:4).
Men and women have lived like this throughout history. We don’t stand alone in our faith. There’s parental wisdom in trying to protect our children from degraded aspects of the prevailing culture, but let’s not so isolate our families in a Christian subculture that they barely recognize our Christian heritage. The names of strong and diverse—yet flawed—men and women like Martin Luther, Sarah Edwards, John Bunyan and Amy Carmichael should become familiar in our families. God-given, radical strength is nothing new.
Is it easy to raise radical kids? Hardly. Glimpsing radical depth and radical strength in our children may seem miles and years away. But every day we have opportunities to plant seeds.
At the simplest level, we should scatter conversations about God throughout our family routines. After all, as parents we’re the primary disciplers God has provided for our kids.
There are many great resources available to help us. The following books may provide seed ideas for conversations in your family:
- The Ology by Marty Machowski
- Pilgrim’s Progress (retold by Gary Schmidt)
- New City Catechism
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
- Wise Words by Peter Leithart
- Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones
- Short Steps for Long Gains (teen and family editions from Matthias Media)
As Paul observed, “I planted…but God gave the growth” (1 Cor. 3:6). So we must talk, talk, talk, and pray, pray, pray.
As parents, we won’t be able to teach our children everything we want or everything they need. But we can plant seeds, which we pray God will cause to grow into strong trees with deep roots.
This article originally appeared at The Gospel Coalition website: here.
Guest Post by Jared Kennedy
My favorite scene in Toy Story takes place at the Dinoco Station. Woody and Buzz fight, and their squabble sends them falling out of the minivan onto the concrete. The argument goes on for a moment when, suddenly, Woody stops. He looks up and watches in horror as Andy and his mom drive away. Woody chases after the car for a few steps. “Doesn’t he realize I’m not there?” he shouts, “I’m lost. Oh, I’m a lost toy!” Woody experiences deep anguish, because he knows who he is.
You see, the toys in the world of Disney and Pixar’s Toy Story movies want nothing more than to bring joy to their owners. They want to love and be loved by their kid. After all, Woody’s kid Andy wrote his name in permanent marker under his shoe. Toys like Woody live for playtime. They revel in it. It’s what they’re created for. But, for a toy like Woody, being lost or replaced is your greatest fear. The older and more worn out a toy gets, the more danger there is of being donated, discarded and sent to a trash heap, or just stored in the attic forgotten. And getting left behind at a gas station is close to the worst that can happen.
Buzz Lightyear’s reaction fascinates me in this scene. He doesn’t understand the importance of catching up with Andy. He doesn't understand the great tragedy of being lost. Buzz thinks he’s a real spaceman having an adventure on an uncharted planet; he doesn’t know he’s a toy. What Buzz can’t see is that he’s more lost than he knows.
We are just like the toys in those movies. They’re lost without Andy, and we’re lost without God. God made us as his children—to love and be loved by him. We're his cherished sons and daughters. God made us his representatives. We bear his name. It's etched on our very souls. If we try to take account of our lives without considering the One for whom we were made or how he made us, we’re as delusional as Buzz.
So, how did God make us? Right at the beginning, God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…male and female" (Gen. 1:26-27). These verses show us that the biological differences between men and women are a fundamental part of God’s design—a part of who we are and a part of the essence of God’s image. God made us to live in community with one another so we can image forth the kind of relational life the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have eternally shared. While God made each person to represent him in some unique way, we need both women and men-with their complimentary differences-to get a complete picture of God’s loving character.
Let’s take it one step further. God didn’t just create men and women to be together, reflecting his glory. He also created men and women to work together, accomplishing his purposes. Just like the cowboy and the (eventually self-aware) spaceman must work together to get back to Andy, men and women must work together to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). As Hannah Anderson and Wendy Alsup observe:
By creating them as male and female, God invested their bodies with strengths and weaknesses that would bind them together in mutual dependence as they fulfilled the Creation Mandate. The woman’s body would allow her to cultivate new image bearers, but this would also make her more vulnerable. The man’s body would be unable to bear life, but his physical strength would allow him to protect and provide... The differences between them were not an end in themselves… They were the means by which they would together cultivate the good bounty of the earth and their own bodies. Together they would rule and reign over the new creation as King and Queen.
God’s in the business of gifting his children so they can use those gifts for his glory through loving and serving others. Our biological sex is one of the first of these gifts.
For young men, this means parents should prepare them to live as servant-leaders—to take initiative, work to cultivate good, and fight to protect what’s true:
1. Take Initiative. Think about how God commissioned Adam—before the Fall—to live as a servant-leader. God sent Adam to name all the beasts (Gen. 2:19-20). He names Adam as head and representative of the human family (Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:22). We see this confirmed in the order of creation (Gen. 2:7; 1 Tim. 2:13). But ultimately Adam failed (Gen. 3:6). Only Christ truly shows what it means to lovingly serve as head by humbly considering others as greater than himself (Phil. 2:3-8).
If we’re going to raise young men to serve as faithful covenant heads of families and churches, we must teach them to serve sacrificially. When a cup spills at the dinner table, boys shouldn’t wait for mom (or his sisters) to grab a paper towel. Teach boys to jump up and move toward the problem with eager humility (Prov. 3:27). This is important. We must show young men that taking initiative doesn’t require always being in charge. Even when they enter a headship role as husbands or fathers, leadership should look like Spirit-empowered service (Eph. 5:23; John 13).
2. Work for Good. A man’s physical strength allows him to provide for his family. He was created with an orientation toward work. Genesis tells us the Lord formed Adam from the ground (2:7), and then he placed the man in the garden “to work [the ground] and take care of it” (2:15). If a husband or father refuses to work and provide for his family, this is tantamount to denying the faith (1 Thess. 3:10; 1 Tim. 5:8). A lazy man fails to steward the strong body God gave him for the others in his care (Prov. 12:24). He fails to conform his life to Christ, who sacrificed his own body for our sakes.
Teach sons to cultivate their bodies, minds, and relationships—not for selfish gain, but for the sake of God and others.
If a young man doesn’t love God, he’ll work with the wrong goals in mind (Gen. 4:19-24; 11:1-9). We can teach young men to get a job and start investing early—not so they’ll be millionaires by forty but instead to learn the character and skill necessary to provide for a family. Boys need dads and other older men to model service in church and community. They need to see men working with humility for the sake of justice and mercy (Micah 6:8).
3. Fight to Protect. Finally, our goal should be to raise young men with self-control, who will use their physical and emotional strength to protect others. Some men fail to control their strong emotions and become foolish hotheads (Prov. 14:16-17). Others take it to the next level, using their physical strength for violence and abuse (Gen. 4:1-16). Adam neglected his strength. He should have spoken up to protect his wife from the serpent’s lies (Gen. 3:6). But in Adam’s failure, we receive the promise of one who would finally fight and crush Satan (Gen. 3:14-15; 1 Cor. 15:25).
We have an opportunity to participate in Christ’s victory when we fight for what is good and true (Rom. 16:19). Throughout the Scripture, we’re given examples of men who use their strength to protect others. Abraham went to war to save Lot. David fought again and again to save Israel. Not all our sons will learn to wrestle or do martial arts, but they can all learn to speak up and fight for what is good.
Just as we prepare young men to be servant leaders, we should call young women to live in conformity with Christ’s character as influential helpers and nurturers:
1. Give Help and Influence. When God made the woman for Adam as his wife, he created “a helper suitable for him,” because it wasn’t good for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). A few verses later, we see the woman who was “taken from Adam” (Gen. 2:22). This is parallel to the man who was taken from the ground and called to work it (Gen 2:7). In the context of marriage, the woman’s orientation is toward her husband—to give him her help and influence.
This is a unique way women image forth God’s character as help and salvation for his people (Ps. 33:20, Ps. 70:5; Ex. 18:4). It should inspire every woman and humble every prideful man to see that every major era of biblical history begins with a woman. (Eve—Gen. 3; Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter—Ex. 2; Hannah—1 Sam. 1; Mary and Elizabeth—Luke 1). Notice that Pharaoh’s daughter didn’t give birth to Moses, but through him she brought deliverance to the Hebrew people. Her compassion gave her saving influence (Ex. 2:6).
The woman was made as co-ruler with the man (Gen. 1:26); there’s shared authority in that statement. But often times influence accomplishes more than authority ever could—both for good and evil (Prov. 8-9; 31:10-31). Eve didn’t need to flex her muscles or get political to influence Adam to eat the fruit. She simply gave it to him. Her actions had destructive power. Teach your daughters their actions and words have influence (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:1-5). Then teach them to ask, “Is what I do and say a help or a hindrance to others? Do I think about how I can help and serve, or do I only consider how I want to be served?”
2. Nurture and Empower Others. After the Fall, God named the woman Eve, mother of all the living (Gen. 3:20). This was a grace. The man and woman received the wages for sin but not yet fully; the woman’s body could still give life. This is a great gift. A woman’s body is designed to incubate and sustain a baby’s life from conception to birth. Her milk alone can sustain her newborn for the first part of the baby’s life.
Not every woman will become a wife or mother, but every one of our daughters can provide life-giving care for others. Paul instructs every woman in the church to develop others (Titus 2:3-5). We see examples of this in Priscilla’s ministry to Apollos (Acts 18:26—her name is listed first before her husband!), in Philip’s prophet daughters (Acts 21:8), and in Timothy’s grandmother Lois (2 Tim. 1:5). Such women model what it means to nurture and empower others in the faith.
I hope I’ve been abundantly clear. Young men and women don’t need to “be more of a man” or “more of a woman.” Like Buzz Lightyear, they simply need to know who they are—who they’ve been created to be. Then, we can teach them to live a Christian life in accordance with this identity. Manhood and womanhood are not status levels to be achieved. Our gender flows from our biology. It’s a gift to receive and steward in love and service to others. As both sexes grow in maturity and transform into Christ’s likeness, the integration of their body and soul will ensure they are more fully formed as men and women.
If we're honest as parents, we'll all admit that we fall short of what we want to be. We start our parenting journey with high hopes to avoid the shortcomings we've seen in others. But we soon find that life is hectic, decisions are made in real time, and we come to make peace with our limitations. Over time, we learn to live with low-grade regret.
Sometimes the dissonance we feel between what we hope and what we deliver is not a problem to fix but a tension to manage. But there are others times when we've failed not just our own expectations but God's.
What should we do? How do we begin to change when we realize that we've not set the pace for spiritual leadership in our family? Where to start?
God has made it clear that whenever we fail to keep his Word, our next response should be repentance—turning back to the Lord, turning from our own way. We should stop and pray something like: "Father, I've sinned against what You've commanded me to be. I've fallen short. Please forgive me."
When we have failed to be the spiritual leaders in our families, then we should also make things right with our families. We might say something like: "I've not led our family well in the things of the Lord. Please forgive me. With the Lord's help, I want to change. Will you pray for me that I will set a better example for our family?"
The next step toward spiritual leadership in the family might also become a misstep. It's easy to stomp the accelerator and try to go from 0 to 60. For example, you might be tempted to schedule family devotions—seven days a week, 45-minutes each. This might start well, but it's likely to fizzle out.
Instead, set the bar low. Plan to meet two to three times per week, for only five to 10 minutes. Find something attainable and sustainable.
Psalm Food for Thought
Years ago, my wife and I adopted an idea that we had read. In our family Bible time with our young children, we started to read one of the shorter psalms aloud. At first, we would just read it to them a couple times, then pray and be done. Then after a couple days, we might invite them to try to say it with us. And within a few weeks, even children who couldn't read would be able to say it with us from memory.
Once the words of a particular psalm become second-nature, you could take a few minutes to focus on one portion of the psalm. Take a few minutes to share what you've learned about God from that psalm.
Here are some psalms you may want to consider memorizing together. Every psalm is worth committing to memory, but ones that our family has enjoyed learning include: Psalm 1, Psalm 23, Psalm 100 and (though it's a little longer) Psalm 103.
Remember, God gave you to your family, and he gave your family to you. You (and your family) may not be perfect, but God's plan always is.
(The above article appeared at charismamag.com on December 29, 2016.)
Every child knows the symbols of Easter: eggs, bunnies, flowers, and of course, candy. Most of these popular symbols point to the concept of new life (with candy representing only frenetic, sugar-crazed life).
And while candy is often at the forefront of kids' minds, it's the new life of Jesus's resurrection that stands behind the symbols as the ultimate reality, the true meaning of Easter.
But how do we teach our children the meaning of Jesus's resurrection? Yes, it's new life, but the Bible teaches that it's so much more. The meaning of the empty tomb is anything but empty.
I recently read a copy of Carl Laferton's 2016 book for young children: The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross. It's short (you could read it to your preschoolers in less than 10 minutes), but contains a hit-the-high-spots tour of the entire Bible. Commenting on the book, Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says: "Laferton has provided us with one of the best little treatments of biblical theology available for parents to read to their children. The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross not only teaches children stories in the Bible, but the story of the Bible."
And this story line of Scripture provides the ideal setting for displaying the many, shining facets of the resurrection. In his book, Lafterton writes:
"Suddenly Jesus was—alive! Suddenly, his friends weren't sad—now they were so, so happy! God had brought Jesus back to life so that he could live in God's wonderful place for ever! And Jesus has sent everyone an invitation to come and live with him there too!"
There are many ways to teach the younger generation about the meaning of Easter. The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross is one of the best.
If you'd like to watch Carl Laferton explain the resurrection in one minute, be sure to check out this video.
One of my seminary professors was rumored to read one new book each day. When asked about it, he said, "That's actually not true. . . . It's a book a night."
My book intake is much slower, but especially thanks to audiobooks, the following books were the ones I either enjoyed the most or found most profitable. I've also kept them listed within their respective categories below.
The Top Five
The Heart of a Servant Leader by John C. (Jack) Miller
This is a collection of letters written by pastor and author Jack Miller, and edited by his daughter, Barbara Miller Juliani. These pastoral gems contain sage counsel and carefully applied theology. I hope to re-read this treasure-trove of wisdom every few years.
Men of God: Becoming the Man God Wants You to Be ed. by Trevor Archer and Tim Thornborough
This little book collects a wide variety of topics applicable for men who strive to live godly lives in their various areas of responsibility. Power-packed and true-to-life, this book is ideal for men to read and discuss together.
Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray
The best book I've read on depression written from a Christian point of view. Engaging with empirical evidence of depression and employing seasoned pastoral wisdom, this book is extremely short and packed with help and light for those struggling in the dark.
That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis
The final volume of Lewis's "Space Trilogy," That Hideous Strength is also a timely critique of modern culture and human pride. Painting a gruesome portrait of evil, this is not "Narnia" and not for the faint of heart. Definitely was worth re-reading again.
The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim
A first-hand account of the quirks and eventual demise of a former South Carolina governor. Written from the perspective a speech-writer, this memoir features many inside details connected with the craft of speech writing.
All the Rest
Scripture & Theology
You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K. A. Smith
Turning Points in the History of Baptist Associations in America by Paul Stripling
Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully by John Piper
A Christian's Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament by J. Alec Motyer
Basic Christianity by John Stott
Church & Christian Living
The Heart of a Servant Leader by John C. (Jack) Miller
Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus by Jeramie Rinne
Men of God: Becoming the Man God Wants You to Be ed. by Trevor Archer and Tim Thornborough
Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray
Side by Side by Ed Welch
Lasting Impressions: From Visiting to Belonging by Mark Waltz
History & Biography
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough
The Literature of C. S. Lewis by Timothy Shutt
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby
The Man Who Loved China by Simon Winchester
The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics by Barton Swaim
Combat Officer: A Memoir of War in the South Pacific by Charles Walker
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey
Books Consulted for Series (not completely read)
Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung
Simplify Your Life: Spiritual Disciplines for the Overwhelmed by Donald S. Whitney
The Busy Christian's Guide to Busyness by Tim Chester
Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Plan for the World by Timothy J. Keller
Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Ed Welch
Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave by Ed Welch
That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
The Confession by John Grisham
The Appeal by John Grisham
The Litigators by John Grisham
The Summons by John Grisham
An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell
The White Lioness by Henning Mankell
The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordin
Kids are question-machines.
- "Why can't I go to Sam's house after school this afternoon?"
- "Why won't you let me go to that movie with my friends?"
- "What's wrong with what I want?"
- "Why do we all have to eat at this restaurant?"
And all good parents instinctively know the right answer: "Because I said so."
At one level, this response is correct. The Bible reminds children that they should obey their parents, as the right thing to do before the Lord (Ephesians 6:1f).
However, if we only give regulations without rationale, then our children may obey as long as we're around. We'll condition robotic responses in children who may lack the internal resources to meet the ever-changing demands of adulthood.
Thankfully, the Bible says more to children than "You just need to obey." The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs overflow with reasons why children should obey the Lord and walk in His wisdom. Chapters 10-31 contain what we typically think of as "proverbs"—short and memorable sayings, pearls of wisdom.
Yet instead of Proverbs immediately beginning to teach wisdom itself, the opening nine chapters primarily feature incentives for right and wise living. In these chapters you'll find (a) logical reasons for pursuing wisdom, (b) promised blessings for gaining wisdom, and (c) terrifyingly-true-to-life warnings about consequences for refusing wisdom. (E.g., for reasons: see 1:08; 2:1; 3:1; etc.; for blessings: see 1:9; 2:10-11; 3:13-14; etc.; for warnings: see 1:19; 2:22; 3:32-35; etc.)
Wise teaching shouldn't just present statements of truth, but pull back the curtain on why it's important. Wise parenting doesn't just require, it reasons. It doesn't just expect, but also explains.
In this way, we as parents are less like instructors, and more like guides, personally leading the next generation through the twists and turns of life that we ourselves attempt to navigate. We get to invite our children into the inner workings of righteous and wise living. So that one day, when the situation and specifics are different, wisdom may still be sought and found and followed.
If you'd like to learn more, use a good Study Bible to read through Proverbs 1-9. As you read, notice how often Solomon reasons with you, the reader. How does our parenting compare with this counter-balance to "because I said so"?
“Oh, . . . a new pair of socks . . . thanks, mom and dad.”
This kind of Christmas surprise sounds quite different than: “A new bike!? No way! Thank you!” Two gifts, two kinds of surprises. But both gifts are unexpected and both express the love of the parents.
Christmas surprises are nothing new. They go back to the very beginnings of this season. The story of Jesus’s birth, as described in the Gospel of Luke, bristles with the unexpected—each surprise showcasing the love of the Father.
The birth of Jesus entailed myriads of details working together. The Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, issued a census requiring Joseph and Mary to visit Bethlehem (Joseph’s ancestral home and the town prophesied by Micah to be the birthplace of the Messiah). And so, Joseph and Mary had already arrived in Bethlehem at the time when Mary was ready to give birth.
So many details, and God was in control of them all. Without effort, he guided the decision-making of a pagan emperor, who lived 2,100 miles from Bethlehem. Without difficulty, he moved the prophet Micah to foretell the location where his Son would be born—over 7 centuries later.
From all appearances to the average Roman citizen, it looked like Caesar ruled the world. What he wanted, happened—through the more than 1 million square miles of his empire. Yet surprisingly, the king was a pawn—a piece moved by the one true God to advance his loving plan of redemption.
And still today, nothing is too hard for the Lord. No matter how hard hearted your family member may be; regardless of how independently minded they seem; irrespective of how things appear—God is not challenged by their sin. So, pray for God to work—even in surprising ways—to guide and change those you love. His love knows no weakness.
Shepherds were considered lowlifes in that time. Although historically a noble profession in Israel (think King David the former shepherd boy), by Jesus’s day shepherds had become blacklisted. Ancient Jewish writings even ranked them among gamblers, tax collectors, and dishonest money-lenders.
Yet God announced the birth of his Son—not to priests at the nearby Temple, not to civic leaders in Jerusalem, and not even to common townsfolk in Bethlehem. Instead, in what must have been an unexpected move, God went outside acceptable social circles; he delivered the good news for the joy of “all the peoples” to the marginalized, to the shunned, to shepherds.
And our Christmas seasons are still populated with “shepherds.” Not the elementary-aged ones, wearing oversized bathrobes. But whether at church or at family gatherings, we will meet men and women who very much feel like outsiders. Men and women to whom we may surprisingly, like the angels, also bring the wide-reaching message of God’s love, the good news of Jesus Christ.
At this time of year, retail stores do their best to attract shoppers. They put signs outside which tell of fabulous deals inside. That’s how signs work—they’re pointers to the real thing. And in Luke 2, the shepherds are also given a sign—one which points to the Messiah. The sign? “You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12, ESV). What a relief to the marginalized shepherds. Their promised King had come in lowliness: wrapped in common attire and nestled in an uncommon bed.
And if the cloths and manger—like signs—pointed to the Promised One, the Messiah himself pointed to the Father (John 1:18). If you want to see what the Father is like, you need only look at Christ. Like Father, like Son. And it’s not just that you can see the Father in the mighty miracles of Jesus. Anything and everything the Son does reflect the Father. So, when we see Jesus in humble, lowly, approachable love—wrapped up and in a manger—we see nothing less than the humble heart of God.
During holiday times with friends and family, do we approach conversations needing to validate the reputations of ourselves or our children? Do we feel compelled to always be right? Are we willing to relinquish the power over our Christmas schedules and agendas? Our Lord and Master came—not as the Jews of his day anticipated, wielding his power and prerogatives. This approach would have meant judgment. Instead, our King came in lowliness, bringing our salvation.
May our Christmas season be freshly full of the surprising love and grace of Christ.
“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories.”
This quip supposedly comes from 17th century author John Wilmot, but most any parent could echo its sentiment. Parenting is complicated. Every child is made in the image of God, unique, and multi-faceted. The complexity grows as each additional child enters the family. And complications multiply as the relationship between each child and every other family member also requires attention. No wonder parenting is one of the most demanding pursuits on the planet.
In the face of the undeniable challenges that parenting presents, God's Word guides us through the thicket of complexity. Surprisingly brief, there are less than a dozen passages in Scripture that directly address how a parent should rear a child. One of these is Deuteronomy 6:20-25.
“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’
Did you notice anything unexpected in the parent's reply to the son's question? The child asks about the meaning of God's commands. In reply, the parent recounts a story. If one of my kids asked me about why he could or couldn't do something in our house, I might give several kinds of answers. I might provide pros and cons of a particular course of action, explain how it's unloving or unbiblical, or just drop back and punt: "Because I said so."
Yet in this passage God reminds us that the meaning for rules is found in a story, a narrative story line, a reality in which we live. In other words, the simplicity in parenting complexity is this: we must help our children live in reality.
Reality comes in all shapes and sizes. We want our children to be aware of the realities of life on planet earth. Often this happens gradually. Toddlers need to be reminded about simple realities like: "If you come close to the stove, you might get burned." Or "If you play near the top of the stairs, you might fall." While teenagers will need to live in the grittier realities (among others) that foolish choices about friends, drugs, drinking, and sex will likely lead them into great harm.
But children of all ages also need to be reminded of the realities of God. There is a God. He made everything, including them. We all live in a good, but fallen world. This Creator sent His Son into the world to live and die in the place of sinners who turn from sin and trust in Him. And one day God will set everything right once more.
All these (and much more!) are realities which actually exist. They provide the often-unseen contours and substance of our existence. This is God's universe, and we are living in it. So we would do well to know what He and His world are like, lest we run at cross purposes to reality itself. As pastor and author Eugene Peterson has written (quoting H. H. Farmer), "If you go against the grain of the universe, you get splinters.”
And so our straightforward mission as parents is to one day deploy our children into the world, children who are aware and ready to live in the realities of God and the world He has created. Help your children live in reality. For my wife and me, this aim has clarified our parenting—not straightening the twists and turns of the path, but providing a north star to guide our steps.
As parents of three children, my wife and I read the Bible together with our family. Throughout the week, we talk about what Scripture teaches about who God is, the facts of what He has done, and the realities He expects us to believe and live. God's truth is important.
Yet I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that as Christians we're mainly concerned with information, facts and data—as true as they may be. I don't want them to think that error is wrong only because it's false.
I also want them to realize that error is a deviation from goodness and from beauty. God's truth isn't just right, it's also good—leading them toward flourishing and thriving. And it's beautiful—leading them toward wonder and worship. Sin, in contrast, embraces what is incorrect, sub-human, and grotesque.
For thousands of years, the triad of goodness, beauty, and truth have been set forth by even secular philosophers as providing transcendent categories for what is most valuable in life. Yet if all truth is God's truth (and if He's also the source of all that is good and beautiful), then truth, goodness, and beauty are three sides of the same reality.
For parents, this means that we must work and pray to present God's truth to the next generation as not just essential for the Christian mind, but for the entire human life. Parenting according to Scripture affirms all that is true and good and beautiful.
With these three realities in mind, I am thrilled to see how The Radical Book for Kids has turned out. Designer Scot McDonald and the creative team at New Growth Press have put together a book for kids that will not only inform their minds with God's truth, but do so in a way that's engaging, vibrant, and fun. I hope this book will be a resource to lead many in the next generation to live, love, and enjoy God's truth, beauty, and goodness.