Category Archives: Parenting and Family Matters

The Delusion of a “Home Democracy”

a_nuclear_familye_large.jpgOne of the most misused and misunderstood words in the English language these days is the term “Democracy”.  Few people understand it and fewer people know how it is most wisely applied.  For example, you may be surprised to know that the United States government is not a pure “democracy”.  Our Found Fathers, in their Scripture-inspired wisdom, recognized that a pure democracy holds the potential for mob rule and thus structured our government to be a Constitutional Republic found on democratic principles.  The distinctive difference is that in a Constitutional Republic, the “people” elect representatives who have a responsibility to establish frameworks, set priorities, gather information and make decisions.  In a democracy, everyone has an equal voice without regard to the experience, character, maturity, intellect, wisdom or any other factor usually required for one to become a leader or even a person of substance.  Even in a Constitutional Republic or many other forms of democracy, if a nation’s populace isn’t mature, moral and educated, they run the danger of electing leadership unqualified or ill-suited for public office.  The Gaza Strip, several African nations, Venezuela and multiple other nations would be evidence of that.  (This reality does not bode real well for our own nation either.)

The American Experiment has proven the wisdom of putting leaderhsip in place that is empowered to act in our best interests, but yet remains accountable to the citizenry.

If this has indeed worked so well in government, my question is, “Why have so many people abaonded the practice in that most intimate and sacred institution — the family?”  You don’t have to look or listen long to see that millions of American family have bought into the drivel that a home schould be run like a pure democracy with each member of the family, from dad to preschooler, getting a voice and a vote. The results has been chaos and bedlam and the consequences are often dangerous.

I did not grow up in a democratic home — I would say that we could best be described as a benevolent dicatorship.  Mother leaned toward the benevolent side of that term.  Dad?  Well, let’s just say that he had the spiritual gift of dictatorial decision-making.  When dad spoke, he did so with authority and confidence and seldom waited for a consensus.  Thankfully, mom and dad were so close, that she often softened his rough edges and communicated his decisions with grace and compassion.  (I guess you could say that she was his “press secretary”.)  Either way, it worked.  We didn’t always like the edicts emanating from my father’s throne, but, then again, we never expected to have a voice in the process — so we simply obeyed.

He truly was a tyrant.  We didn’t get to choose whether or not we ate our green beans.  He said, “No green beans; no dessert” and that was the law.  So we gagged them down and washed away the taste with strawberry shortcake.  We weren’t allowed to negotiate our curfews.  Arguing and badgering would only results in an EARLIER curfew.  Cleaning our rooms or mowing the grass was not optional and subject to appeal to our union representative.  Our dictator just informed us that part of being a family meant sharing in family responsibilities.

Lest I make my dad out to be too much of a tyrant, let me say that he balanced his autocratic style with plenty of expressive love and affection, a close relationship with our mother and a strong Christian commitment to Scripture and the local church.  As a result, while we weren’t the perfect family, it truly was a mostly peaceful and orderly home and all three of us who grew up in it are now married to our original spouses, raising kids, attending church and committed to our form of undemocratic rule in our homes.

Kids NEED parents.  Parents should not shirk from their responsibility to provide standards and correction and guidance and discipline.  Your children have enough “friends” and “buddies” so don’t be too concerned if you’re not “one of the gang”.  Don’t worry if your poll numbers are down from time to time.  You aren’t running for re-election.  It’s more important to be respected than popular and sometimes you must choose being loved later to being liked today.  Weak parents produce confused kids who often lack a moral compass.  The parent who makes his or her decision subject to popular vote or who vacillates in the fact of whining and fit-pitching, does their kids a tremendous disservices and invites disorder and disobedience.

Parents need to grow backbones and lead their children as much we they love them.  They may not always appreciate it no, but one day, the wil most certainly rise up and call you blessed!

The Latest in Pastoral Challenges — 7 Days of Sex

sex_challenge.pngI’ve wrestled all week-end as to whether or not I was going to weigh in on this, but I guess I’m going to go ahead and do it knowing full well that I’m probably going to get blasted for some who will think I’m an old fogy or out-of-touch or being unnecessarily critical.  I’m really kind of interested to get some sort of measurement as to what others think of this new “trend” as well, so feel free to weigh in on it.

Ed Young, Jr. is the latest, and perhaps highest profile, pastor who has decided to challenge his audience to commit to seven consecutive days of sex.  (Note: this challenge is for married, heterosexual couples we can all safely assume.)  Here’s the link to the story HERE.  Ed, of Fellowship Church in Grapevine, TX and who has satellite campuses across the country — including here in Miami — is just the latest to do this.  In fact, while I lived in Charlotte, one couple blogged and later wrote a book about their 365-Day Challenge (yes, you read that correctly), but it wasn’t part of a church context.

I personally find this kind of trendy, flavor-of-the-month, pop-psychology type of “religion” distasteful and immensely irritating.  To me, this fits in with other “trends” in emergent-driven churches like wearing too much gel in one’s hair, wearing shirt tails out, giving away shot glasses with the church name on them out in bars, shocking signs (Flamingo Road Church recently had a huge banner on their building asking people to “Flip Someone the Bird” this Thanksgiving.  It was part of a Thanksgiving food drive.  Please excuse me while I roll my eyes.), Starbucks franchises in the lobbies, one-word church names and worship franchising.  None of these, on their own are intrinsically evil or always unBiblical — it’s just that if I were an unsaved person watching all these gyrations to get me to give them some attention, I’d be laughing hysterically at the antics and the seeming desperation.  In fact, I do laugh hysterically at it sometimes.  Other times, I just throw up a little bit in my mouth.

Should Pastor’s address sex as part of their ministry of the Word to believers?   Yes.  Have we always done a good job of that?  No.  In the process, have we made sex a “dirty word” and somehow damaged the psyche of married people everywhere?  I don’t know….I think the birthrate of evangelicals would argue otherwise.  And yes, I know that sex is a gift from God for Procreation AND recreation, but I don’t think any one’s suffering from a lack of encouragement and education in the latter department either.  Otherwise, why would I hear my youngest son running around the house singing “Viva Viagra” at the top of his lungs from hearing that stupid commercial all the time. (And he’s clueless about Viagra, I might add.)

From my perspective (and note that I’m going into personal opinion mode here), this kind of trendyism just irritates me to no end.  Sex happens.  It’s not bad; it’s good.  Yes, the world pollutes the beauty and sanctity of it.  Do I think that being pressured to take some sort of week-long love fest is going to solve the problems in most marriages?  Not on your life.  In fact, in many cases, it will make it worse.  It just adds more pressure into an arena that is far too delicate for mass therapy.

To me, this trivializes something that is private and personal and more than a little sacred.  I question the value for putting such a specific emphasis on the “act” in a group setting.  I wonder how this fits into the admonition from Scripture that warns us that it is better not to talk openly about those things done in secret and a reminder that the marriage bed is to be considered holy.

Do I think there are occasions when frank discussions about sexual matters are appropriate in a church context?  Without a doubt.  Are marriages under stress because of sexual dysfunction and unfilled sexual relationships?  Absolutely.  Does a lack of sex in a marriage lead to temptation that may drive one or both spouses to infidelity, pornography, anger, depression, etc…?  No question about it.  Is the quick and appropriate fix for it to do some sort of gimmicky sex challenge.  I think not.

So I’m disturbed — not just about the whole sex challenge thing, but about the tendency we have in evangelicalism today to jump on the latest “hot idea” and now, we’re going to see a thousand other hip pastors with too much gel and untucked shirts, grab a cup of Starbucks and scoot back on their stool (which is painted flat black, of course) and tell audiences that making a commitment for sex for a week will do a body good.

Sorry….I’m just not buying it.

What do you think?


Listomania 12 – What Are We Failing to Teach Our Children?

handholdfemale.jpgI’m working on a personal project for something and one of the issues I’m contemplating these days is “What are we failing to teach our children?”  This was actually one of those questions that I jotted down during a sermon at the church I was attending before we moved from Charlotte (First Baptist of Indian Trails).  Pastor Mike was preaching on the family and I had one of those “ah ha” moments when this idea first hit me.

So quickly, I began scribbling my own list of ideas and just now, I’ve reached a point where I’m trying to develop some substance out of that moment of clarity.  So here’s my personal list of “Things We Are Failing to Teach Our Children” and as always, I’m going to ask my readers to chime in an add their own.

1. How to handle money

2. Self Control and Self Denial

3. How to resolve conflict

4. The importance of perseverance

5. Choosing the right friends

6. Gender-based social skills

7. How to keep a schedule

8. How to accept responsibility

9. Accepting and appreciating gender roles

10. Principles of dress and presentation

11. The importance of reverence

12. How to response to authority

13. Handling life’s unfair moments

14. The difference between love and sex

15. The power and reward of hard work

16. Family teamwork

17. How to effectively communicate verbally

18. The art of demonstrating gratitude

19. How to exercise leadership alone

20. How to treat someone of the opposite gender

So those are the first 20 that came to my mind, but knowing the readers of this blog, you’ve got some that are a lot better.  So join in on the conversation and offer some parenting advice to the world by helping us think of things we should be teaching our kids!

Whose Job Is It to Talk to Your Kids about Sex?

sex-ed-300×219.jpgJohn McCain’s campaign is exploiting a bill that was supported by Barak Obama that contained a comprehensive sex education mandate that began with some sort of strategy for children as young as five years of age.  We all see this for what it is… yet another opportunity to blow one facet of a situation out of proportion so that they use if for political gain.  Blah, blah, blah…..that’s the name of the game until the election is over.

However, this particular issue DOES raise an important question.  Exactly whose job IS IT to talk to your children about sex?

Several years ago, a national survey was released that found that most parents wanted their kids to learn more than just the “birds and the bees” basics of sex education.  An astounding 80% of those parents surveyed said sexual oritnation, abortion and how to use condoms should be taught.  Nearly that many said such controversial issues should be presented in a “balanced” way that presents different view of society.  (That’s “code” for tolerant and non-judgemental.)

Of course, the real story may well have been the biased way in which the survey was taken.  The survey consisted of fifteen hundred students and parents, plus one thousand sex education teachers and three hundred principals.  (Remember that old saying about “liars figure and figures lie”?  Well some time researchers manipulate the results by determine who gets to swim in their pool at question time.)  It is safe to assume that all of the parents, students, sex education teachers and principals were taken from the public school system.  Having over one-third of the respondents be sex edcuation would obviously skew the findings.  So much for “sound research.”  Of course, that mattered to liberal educators and others who were quick to use this pathetically unsound piece of empirical evidence to promote their argument that kids need more instruction in not just the mechanics and biology of sex, but techniques, values and alternatives.

The students made the claim that 90% of them learned about AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases in sex education classes rather than at home.  But the fundamental question that needs to be asked is being missed.  Whose job is it to teach our children about sex.

As one parent, let me state it clearly and succinctly — MINE.

It is amazing to me that parents sit idly by while the coorupt government school system, which is filled to the brim with liberal sociologists, educational relativists, moral ignorance and which, by statute, is completely void of Christian values, takes over this crucial component of a child’s development and education.

parenting.jpgWhy?  Often because we’re just too uncomfortable talking about sex to have a few frank discussion with our kids as they mature?  If that is the case, then we are in worse shape than we can imagine as a country.  No wonder, liberal politicians and educators have rushed in to fill the void left by timid parents.

Parents should be indignant, if not outraged, at the thought that their children are being taught “more than the birds and the bees” in typical public school classrooms.  In some instances, students are being taught how to properly use condoms utilizing pieces of fruit or anatomically-correct props.  Any more and more school districts, children as young as kindergartners are being taught the basics of human reproduction — not simply, “good touch/bad touch”.  In many districts, children are being subjected to “instruction” (or indoctrination) on every imaginable form of sexual union — normal and deviant — in a way that is considered “non-judgemental”.  Homosexuality is just an alternative lifestyle.  Adultery becomes a consequence of evolution and survival of the fittest.  Premarital sex?  Why, that isn’t even an issue….it’s assumed that “when the right time for you comes”, you’ll just hop right in bed.  Just make sure you have “protection”.

So what’s a Christian parent to do?

Well, first of all, we have a responsibility to iknow what our children are being taught.  Don’t be intimidated by elitist educators who think they know better than you do what you children need.  (I have three degrees in education and I’m well equipped to warn you of the we-know-better-than-parents mentality that permeates the public education system.)  If that means making an apointment with your child’s teacher or the administrator of the school and asking to review the material dealing with human sexuality, then do it!  If you see that it is inconsistent with your values, too graphic, or premature, then request to have your child exempted from the class.  (Once you see the material, it is highly likely that oyu are going to need to consider this option and yes, you are within your rights to keep your child from that class.  Don’t be weak and don’t be intimidated.  Remember, they are YOUR kids, not the government’s.)

But finally, we must do OUR jobs as parents.  We must take the time to have frank conversations about sexuality with our kids.  Yep, it will be awkward and uncomfortable.  No parent enjoys talking to their kids about sex any more than the kids enjoys having their parent talking to them about it.  Everyone simply needs to get over it.

The world is constantly bombarding them with unbiblical messages about sexuality and we must make a counter offensive.  That includes turning off the TV, being very aware of where your child is on the internet, being careful about their companions, screening their music and simply being an aware and connected parent.  Above all, don’t turn over the privilege and responsibility of training your children in this important area to those whose values or agenda run contrary to that of Biblical worldview.

Living Below One’s Means

piggy.jpgWe are in the middle of a month-long emphasis on Biblical stewardship and finances at New Testament Baptist Church in Miami, where I serve as the Executive Pastor.  Some people hate stewardship month — but I don’t.  It doesn’t bother me one whit to talk about money, teach about money, learn about money or listen to someone preach about money.  I’ve heard all the old jokes and criticisms about addressing financial issues in a church, but if it wasn’t so important to God, then maybe He wouldn’t have shared so much about it in the Bible.  It’s JUST money, people.  It doesn’t even belong to us.  You aren’t taking it with you!  It’s just a tool.  Get over it!

Recently, I’ve been looking at my own personal financial goals to make sure that I am adequately planning for the future.  My family is at, what is probably, the appex of financial needs in the timeline of our family.  All four kids are still living at home.  One is in college and another joins him next year.  We do not own our house — the bank does.  We have four drivers in the family.  One of my kids is in braces and two more will soon join her.  You know — it’s just life….and life take money.  God has always been very generous to me as I’ve ministered for Him.   I sometimes feel a little guilty with the blessings we’ve received over the years and the level of comfort we enjoy compared to many others in the ministry.  Having received a family inheritance in my early thirties, being able to spin my public-speaking and writing into a channel for an extra income flow, having the privilege of serving as an adjunct professor and other similar blessings from the Lord has made all the difference in the world for our particular situation.

But as I look at my current financial condition and the chllanges that will stress my personal finances in the future, I”m extremely thankful for a principle that was taught to me by my grandfather and parents.  It was the principle of “living below your means.”

As a pastor, I’ve often been called upon to offer counsel to families who are in tremendous crises personally, spiritual and financially because they have been guilty of living above their means.  Much of the time it was due to silly spending, chasing foolish dreams or wanting too much too soon.  All of the time, it was directly related with a budget that encouraged them to live at or above their income level.  As a result, they rarely had a “buffer” for emergencies — something my mother refers to as her “rainy day fund” and more often, there was a gradual descent into a quagmire of personal and consumer debt that eventually overwhelmed them.

Why is it that so many of us try to live life at the margins?  We overextend our time, our money and our commitments.  We try to have it all and in the process we enjoy very little of what we have.  In our wild-eyed pursuit of trinkets and toys, we leave ourselves no space for pleasure, emergency or error.

Living below your means provides incredible freedom.  The concepts is that you don’t spend everything you have.  My grandfather taught me to take 10% of everything I earn and put it away before I ever can get my hands on it.  So I have always had a payroll deduction system that does just that.  I always have, and I have, a next egg for emergencies and, hopefully, my eventual retirement without having to be a burden on others.  My parents always taught me to give at least the first 10% of my income to the Lord’s work.  Over the years, that 10% has at times risen to as much as 20% and is rarely just 10%.  I’ve enjoyed supporting my local church, helping missionaries, taking part in projects and building campaigns and helping the hurting as I’ve applied this principle.

Living below my means has never really forced me to sacrifice, even when we had an extremely limited income with very high expenses. At times, it meant we sat on used furniture, lived in a smaller house and didn’t eat out very often.  But debt didn’t enslave us and we were just as happy as if we’d been sitting on Ethan Allen chairs in a 20-room house dining on chateau briand and caviar every night….maybe happier.

Scripture tells us that a foolish man does not consider th e cost of his house before he builds it.  We would all be wise to consider the principle of living below one’s means in order to learn from the discipline, to be free from materialism and debt and to prepare fo the future benefits of Biblical stewardship.

I hope that someday in the future, we will be in a position to give even more of our resources to the Lord’s work.  Of course, I want to leave something for my children when my wife and I head for heaven, but I also want to continue making an investment in what I spent my early life doing even when I’m in heaven.  Living below my means is essential to having the freedom to give today and the hope of taking advantage of the opportunities tomorrow.

For a great little read on this and other financial principles, read Randy Alcorn’s, “The Treasure Principle” which you can find HERE.

So You Want to be a Millionaire? But you are in the MINISTRY!!!

monopoly.jpgI know it drives people nuts when someone starts a conversations with “Back in my day….”, but if you’ll indulge me, I’ll start off today with “Back in my day and it was my first year of teaching….”

 

….I arrived in West Palm Beach at Berean Christian School where I was assigned 7 classes (with 7 unique preps) with six of them being English and one being Bible.  I was handed 3 gallons of enamel paint, escorted to a classroom that was filled with brand new textbooks that had to be unpacked and inventoried, told to paint my class room by the end of the week (w/trim – and it was OIL-BASED paint – I had never painted a thing more complicated than a fence or a barn before) and as my supervisor was leaving, he mentioned that, “Oh yeah, and there’s orientation classes from 8-4 every day Monday through Thursday and Parent/Teacher orientation is at 7:00 on Friday.”  I didn’t see him again the rest of the week.

 

That was my first 100-hour week in the ministry (and wouldn’t be my last) and for the assignment I was making the grand sum of $240 per week for a 40-week year.  (That’s an annual salary of $9,200 per year.)  My second year I was raised to the stunning sum of $9,600 per year and the third year I became the PRINCIPAL and was given a whopping $14,000 a year for a 52-week contract.  I got married my second year and our combined salaries were less than $20K per year.  We ate hamburger and macaroni off of a folding table and folding chairs in our little apartment and were as happy as if we had good sense.  It was the mid-1980’s and I had no idea that this was anything but “par for the course” for Christian education ministry.

 

Please understand, I’m not complaining – I’m just telling you this background to give you some context.  Working in ministry is usually done at some level of financial sacrifice.  At the same time, I have never missed a meal, never missed a bill, never lacked for a car, have owned our own townhouse or house since our first year of marriage, paid over $100K in medical and family-related bills, have a retirement account and visit the mutant rodent in Orlando every few years with my family.  How was that possible?

 

Let me share some thoughts with you on how you can gain financial independence while staying in the ministry….

1.       Tithe 

Yep.  It’s that simple.  Tithing is part of my DNA and I’ve never had to really think about it thanks to the great upbringing I had, but I realize that not everyone has been taught the principle of tithing.  Excuse me for waving off the tired old arguments presented about tithing being an “Old Testament” custom, a legalistic thing, etc… and just say, it is absolutely Biblical (OT andNT) and you will be blessed if you do it.  I have never counseled a person in a quarter century of ministry who tithed and was in financial trouble.  Conversely, most people I know who are in financial trouble don’t tithe.  If you learn the discipline of living on 90% of your income (and yes, I believe in tithing from pre-tax dollars and have always practiced that), you’ll find that you’ll live better on 90% than you would on 100%.  God will not bless us when we ignore His plan out of convenience, rationalization and laziness.  Trust God. Tithe.

2.       Use “Found” Money Wisely 

I consider “found” money to be any money that comes into my budget from a source other than my salary. This would include tax refunds, birthday gifts, inheritance money, insurance payments, tips, bonuses, rewards, etc…  Do one of two things with “found” money — save it (for at least 6 months before you spend it) or retire debt with it.  Do not use it to “splurge”.  Do not give into the temptation to “reward yourself” with it.  Do not spend it on impulse.  Get it out of your sight FAST.

 

Editorial note: The idea that we are doing something “patriotic” by taking President Bush’s tax rebate and spending it by “investing in the economy” is asinine.  The reason we are in the problems we are in this country economically is because we keep borrowing more money than we make and it is stupid….STUPID….to buy into the line of reasoning that says we stimulate the economy by borrowing more money and then blowing it on big screen TV’s and dinners at Red Lobster.  (Did I mention this was STUPID?)

3.         Shop with a list 

Always.  Do not go shopping on a whim.  Don’t recreationally shop.  Keep a list on your refrigerator and add to it as things come to mind.  Do not succumb to the corporate strategy of getting you to impulse buy at the end of every aisle, at the checkout counter and across the promotional aisles.  If you think of something you forgot to put on your list, then make a second list….take it home with you and the NEXT time you go to the store, then buy it.  (If you still think you need it then.)  Discipline – it’s really a good thing.

4.       EBay 

You think I’m kidding, but I’m deadly serious.  I know of an incredible single-mom teacher in a Christian school that makes loads of supplemental income buying delinquent rental units, emptying them into her garage and selling the stuff on EBay.  What she doesn’t sell on EBay, she tries to sell in an occasional garage sale and if it doesn’t sell then, she throws it away. 

 

I used to make $3-5K a year selling individual postcards on EBay that collectors wanted.  I found them by buying large lots of postcards on EBay and then reselling them individually.  I did this while I sat in my family room watching TV with my kids with my laptop on my knees.  It’s how I paid for family vacations.  I once sold a can of Spam from Korea on EBay for $54.  I found a guy with several boxes of hummingbird feeders on Craigslist (a free online garage sale) and bought them for $50.  I then sold 200 feeders at 5-10 bucks a piece on EBay and pocketed the difference.  All of this using time that I had previously spent watching a video with the kids or doing something equally mindless.

5.       Get a second job 

It has been said that you earn a living by what you do from 8-5.  You become a success by what you do from 5-8.  I’ve always looked for ways to earn extra money outside of my regular job.  Over the years I’ve tutored, given piano lessons, Ebay’d, written articles for magazines, done public speaking and other little things.  I’ve been doing that for 20 years and ALWAYS make at least $5,000 a year by doing this kind of stuff.  That may not sound like much – but does $100,000 sound like a lot to you?  I’ve easily made that and more during the time that other people gossip on the phone, watch Seinfeld reruns and take naps.  And for the record – I’m the kind of guy that doesn’t expect his wife to wait on him hand and foot, so yes, I sometimes cook dinner, watch the kids and help around the house.  Get a second job and bank that money for a down payment on your house or to put into retirement.  Again – don’t spend it if you can avoid it.

6.       Hate your credit cards 

Have only one.  I don’t care what kind of “great deal” they are giving you at Kohl’s, Macy’s or USAirways to get “their” card, only have one credit card.  Find one without an annual fee, btw….they are out there.  Then pay it off EVERY month.  No exceptions.  If you don’t pay it off in full one month, do not allow yourself to use it again until you have paid it off. 

7.       Have “funds” 

Set up envelopes or a spread sheet and bank ahead for things you know you will have to spend money on in the future.  Have a Christmas/Birthday gift fund, a vacation fund, a car repair fund and an emergency fund.  Put something…anything…in those funds every pay period without fail.  Even if it’s only $25 per fund, let it accumulate.  When the time comes and you need the money, you’ll be glad you did!

8.       Bank your raises 

The next time you get a raise, take some or all of it and have it sent to a savings account and try to continue to live on what you have been making.  Even if you take a portion of each raise, over time it will add up.  Many people adjust their lifestyle with each pay increase and then wonder why they never get ahead. 

9.       Don’t eat out 

Seriously, eating out is one of the biggest wastes of money there is.  If you “must” eat out, limit yourself to once a week.  Pack lunches.  Bring leftovers to work.  Wait until you get home.  Again, we “rationalize” spending money – “I’ve had a rough day”, “I’m too tired….”, “Someone was mean to me today and I need to self-comfort with a big ol’ bucket of Kentucky Fried Heart Attack.”  C’mon.  And by the way, have you noticed that you feel the same when you hit the “full” level whether you’ve filled yourself with filet mignon or Taco Bell?  So take that into consideration as well.

10.   Pay God and yourself first. 

I have always had my tithe deducted either by my employer or by bank draft immediately.  I’m paying God before I pay the cable guy.  I’ve also set it up where I save 10%.  So the first 10% goes to God, the second 10% goes to Dan and I live on whatever the government allows me to keep of the remainder.  It is tight the first year or two, but once you are used to living on that….it gets easier year after year.  Again, keep in mind that I’ve been at this for 25 years.  But it is so fun to wait until that 10% savings hits an amount and then I can use it (not spend it, but invest it) on something that will grow even more.  Once I bought silver coins (today they have doubled in value).  Once I bought some stocks (that wasn’t smart, but I gave it a shot.)  I even did this long enough that I was able to buy a rental house and I’ve watched it appreciate in value while my tenant paid the mortgage for me.  But the key to saving was to never let it hit my checking account.  Out of sight, out of mind.  Otherwise, I know myself….I would have headed to the Red Lobster if I had seen a little extra cash in my account.

11.   Use Cash 

I know they give you frequent flier miles to put it on your credit card.  Dumb idea.  Save up for your ticket.  It’ll be cheaper in the long run.  Don’t use credit, don’t use your debit card.  FORCE yourself to pull that $20 bill out of your pocket and plunk it down for an over-priced cup of java and realize that you are taking your real, hard-earned CASH and spending it on something that you can make for yourself at home for 1/10th the cost or better yet, you really don’t need at all.  You’ll find it is a LOT easier to spend money you “can’t see” than it is to spend money that you actually have to touch as you say goodbye to it.

12.   Be excellent 

Let’s face it…it’s the American way.  If you are the best employee around, if you are getting your job done with excellence and people love you, if you are known to go “above and beyond”, if you add value to the ministry by being faithful and compassionate and reaching out to others, if you are dependable and LOYAL and POSITIVE…..the “powers that be” are going to do their dead level best to keep you on their team.  You don’t need to be the annual “if-I-don’t-get-a-big-ol’-honkin’-raise-I’m-gonna’-cause-a-problem” type.  But by doing the extra, getting that advanced degree, volunteering to go the second mile, solving the problems before they go up the chain, positive example of excellence, you’ll be surprised at how the Lord will honor that with additional opportunities.

 

And finally….

13.   Stick it out 

People who “job hop” are almost always at the lower end of the pay scale.  It’s just the way it is.  Don’t be fooled into “promises” of “greener grass”.  Stick with it.  Ask your supervisor how you can advance.  Get that extra degree.  Participate fully and joyfully.  Put down roots.  Bloom where you are planted and watch what happens.

 

This has been long, I realize….but I hope it is also practical for you.  You don’t have to be poor to be spiritual and wealth is not a sign that God loves you more than He loves someone else.  But God will give you more than you think if you’ll follow His plans and principles.  At the end of the day, the poorest person who reads this is still probably in the top 20% of people economically in the world.

 

For more ideas, I highly recommend Crown Financial Ministries as well as Dave Ramsey’s stuff.  Take the time to learn how to handle your money wisely and make it work for you.  It’s a resource God has given you – He expects you to treat it like the investment that it is.

Does Anyone Really Believe That Abortion Isn’t Murder?

If so, then read THIS article from a London Newspaper.  Glibly, for myriad rationalized reasons, little boys and girls are murdered in utero every day and each one of them has a story and a face and a potential just like this little guy.  Read it and weap for what could have been in the lives of those who did not make it.

Read It and Weep

Al Mohler is a top tier writer, theologian, thinker and commentator. His recent article on the practice of selective abortions is enough to make the hardest and most stoic heart cry. This is graphic, but real and a must-read for those who have allowed the horror of abortion to become common or who are in danger or having it become so.

Click HERE.

Charlotte Parents, Relient K and Amos’s at South End

Christian teens all around Charlotte are talking about Relient K’s appearance this week-end at Amos South End. I decided to do a little research on the “event” to learn a bit more about it.

There is a trend in the “Christian” “entertainment” industry to “connect” Christian groups with the unsaved world — or so we’re told. Groups like Relient K deign overt evangelism and you can visit their website and leave it totally unaware that they are a “Christian” band. They sing a nebulous “gospel” that speaks occasionally of God and struggles and such without any sort of direction to a personal relationship with Christ. Here’s the LINK to Relient K’s Biography from their website. See if YOU can find anything that in any way suggests that they are a Christian group.

I have major philosophical issues with that whole strategy, but here’s my bigger beef. Groups like Relient K are doing a better job of connecting Christian kids with worldliness than they are connecting unconverted kids to Christianity.

The visit to Charlotte is a perfect example.

Their venue of choice is Amos South End. Click on their website HERE. Amos makes no pretense of being a Christian club. It is a regular dance club and bar. Look at the bands that are going to be there in the coming weeks. But this Friday night, making up the audience in the smoke-filled room where the regulars are going to be swilling alcoholic beverages and exchanging phone numbers is going to be a large number of Christian teens who are drawn to the club to hear their “hot” band. Realizing that these pre-21-year-olds aren’t going to be able to drink those high profit drinks, Amos’s hits the 20 and younger crowd with a $2 surcharge.

So imagine this…your 15-year-olddaughter can be standing next to a 25-year old “club regular” who has a beer in his hand and a condom in his back pocket while mom and dad think that Susie is out at a “Christian concert.” The desensitizing magic of a place like this will create an appetite for additional visits to hear other “interesting” groups as they promote their next concerts. Friendships will be forged, shared experiences will create connections and the shock of being in a room with dancing, drinking, smoking kids in a club will soon wear off. It will be easier and easier to feel at home in this kind of atmosphere.

I know I’ll get hate mail for posting my opinion on this. Someone will surely tell me that I’m a dinosaur. Someone else will defend Relient K’s approach to stealth evangelism. Others will call me a legalist. Some might even try to convince me that this is a great way for their kid to be a witness or to have their faith tested. (Both fallacious arguments I’ll address some other time.) But I’m going to be clear on this. Letting your Christian kid go to a dance club to hear a concert — even a so-called “Christian” group — is playing with fire.

Here’s how strongly I feel about this. If there are any Northside kids with tickets to this, bring them to my office and I’ll buy them from you for what you paid for them. No questions asked. You don’t even have to see me. Just put the ticket in an envelope with your name on it and I’ll send the money right back to you in the same envelope. No one who knows me can ever question my love for our teens in our church and school. I believe in them, am protective of them, love them, pray for them, am proud of them. And it’s all those things that motivate me to write this warning and to offer this deal. Parents….check out that website. Here’s the link again. Amos South End. Read the Scripture below and tell me how we can rationalize letting our teens go to a dance club to hear even a band that describes itself as “Christian”.

Philippians 4:8

Amos 3:3

2 Corinthians 6:14-18

Joshua 24:15

Losing Perspective in a Kid-Centered World

OK, Ill confess. I TIVOd the American Idol tryouts and watched them while exercising on my new elliptical trainer. Im generally not a fan of the show, but theres something embarrassingly fascinating about the tryout episodes in a gawkish kind of way. Its the same sensation I get when I slow down to look at a traffic accident. I know I shouldnt look, but just cant seem to resist.

The legions of personalities represented in this competitive frenzy to become a celebrity would provide enough fodder to write a book of commentaries on our postmodern fascination with pop culture. Rarely have so many with so little talent attempted to achieve stardom with more confidence and less reason for that confidence in all of human history.

But today, I want to focus on one particular category of entrants those precious darlings of over-involved parents who have convinced their progeny that they are prodigies. One such American Idol wannabee was a rather awkward teenager who claimed to possess the triple-threat of being a singer, a juggler and a dancer. Without trying to mimic the cruelty of the AI judges, lets just say he was none of the above and thus was summarily dismissed without the essential golden ticket to return to the expectant arms of his fawning parents.

The explosion occurred within micro-seconds of entering the presence of his family. It was sheer rage punctuated by incredible profanity, an amazing dive into the depths of self-pity and depression, followed up by what can only be described as girlish wailing and sobbing in the bosom of his precious mother who rubbed his back and assured him that the judges were idiots and that hed still achieve fame one way or another. The stunning thing was the rapidity of the emotional transitions as this sixteen-year-old hustled through each stage of his temper tantrum faster than you could say, Taylor Hicks.

This sad display was but one of several similar ones and brings me to the topic at hand. Todays generation of parents have lost their perspective when it comes to how to raise their children with a genuine sense of their place in the universe.

The Psalmist marveled when thinking of his Creator, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Conversely, todays child behaves as if the entire universe has been created to serve him. This selfish and self-centered attitude is born of parents who have adopted a child-centric attitude toward their children.

So often, we have heard the mantra of the social liberals who proclaim Children First! as they demand more money and authority in invading the privacy of the nuclear family. Indeed, children do demand a substantial commitment, constant and diligent attention and enough personal energy to light up a small city. However, our generation takes this attitude to a whole new level.

Whether its our constant concern over the development of self-esteem, the way we assume that our children are always right and the authority (as in teachers, police officers and coaches) are always wrong, the tendency we have to structure our entire life around the scheduled activities of the childs recreational, social and entertainment life, to the irrational desire many parents have to be liked (as opposed to respected) by their children, we are developing a generation of self-centered brats who think that they are entitled to every opportunity, every consideration, every convenience without ever having had to wait for, earn or attain the privilege.

In doing so, we have reared a generation that does not understand the definition of words like humility, perseverance, duty, respect, submission, courtesy, self-control or sharing. By sheltering them from lifes unfair moments, by not using moments of failure or disappointment as opportunities for instruction, by telling our children real lies like you can do anything you set your mind to (really, lets see your five-foot-six son who weighs 195 pounds, but likes basketball dunk it someday), by constantly intervening when something doesnt go their way, we create a distorted view of real life for our kids.

Without a doubt, parents need to be supportive, positive, compassionate and engaged. But part of good parenting involves preparing your child to survive and thrive in a world that is often unfair, difficult and occasionally filled with disappointments and times of testing. When we equip them to persevere, keep their perspective and to accept or at least endure difficult times as part of the process God can use to make us more like Him, we are giving them a gift that will produce a character that will sustain them when talent fades or fails to develop at all. Hollywood, Nashville and New York are littered with the sad tales of people who had talent, but not character. When it comes down to a choice of celebrity or character, Id prefer my children possess the latter every single time.