Category Archives: Family

Bible Study Basket: A Great Christmas Present Idea

Last year, we shared some links for a Christmas shopping list, and many of you took advantage of some of the ideas. [If you want to see that list, here’s the link.]

This year, instead of tons of different products, we thought we’d give you one idea that you can build in your own way. This is a great idea for all those holiday parties or for that one hard-to-buy-for person on your list, because it is flexible and something that is actually important.

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It is a Bible Study Basket!

The idea behind this gift is obvious: it is a collection of items that helps someone with their Bible study. It is all those “little” things that someone never seems to have on hand right when they need them, all in one place.

Of course, this gift assumes the person already has a Bible they like to use for their own personal study. In case they don’t, however, here are 4 that might be a great gift to help them get started with their own Bible study.

English Standard Version Wide Margin Reference Bible

The MacArthur Study Bible (New King James Version). [Note: We do not endorse every study note in this study Bible, but it is good overall.]

New American Standard Bible Side-Column Reference Wide-Margin Bible

…and the ultimate, if you have a lot of money to spend: New American Standard Bible Wide-Margin Reference Bible (goatskin cover)

Now that we know the person has a nice Bible to take notes in, let’s start building the basket! Here are some things to include in the gift for the Bible student on your list:

1. A Companion Book. We suggest one of the following two options, depending on your budget.

Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible by Scott Duvall ($28.90). We have not read every word of this book, but it is a great tool to helping you work through serious Bible study without being so technical that it will bore the reader.

A Study Guide to Greater Bible Knowledge by Wayne Jackson. The link provided is just to show you the book. Likely, you can find it in a bookstore less expensively by calling around. I know, for example, that Gospel Advocate keeps it in stock most of the time. This is a wonderful little book that helps someone get started with how to study the Bible.

2. Two kinds of pens. Serious Bible students are crazy about selecting a type of pen or marker. Honestly, I have never tried tons of kinds, but I have found the ones that follow to be the best of those I have used, and several articles and videos online agree. These are a must-add to the basket.

Pigma Micron Pens. These archive-level pens have a very small tip and almost never bleed through the page. I love them, and use them for a lot more than just marking in my Bible. Depending on your budget, mix and match these different packs:

6-color pack ($13.12)

An extra black pen ($5.83)

Crayola Twistables. No, I’m not kidding! Highlighting is a staple of Bible study for a lot of people, but regular highlighters bleed through the pages terribly. These crayon sticks rarely bleed through and, personally, I like the color more than a regular highlighter, which is too bright. Admittedly, I have only tested these, but I like the results. If your Bible student is a fan of highlighting, they will love these! Pick up at least one pack, and depending your budget, you may want to add two or three packs.

Crayola Twistables, 18-pack ($5.69)

3. Straight edge. For those who like to make sure their notes and underlines are perfectly straight, an edge is really helpful. Again, we offer two options, based on your price range.

Helix Stainless Steel 6-inch ruler ($6.38). This may seem a bit pricey for a ruler, but the metal ruler will stay in place as you work better than lightweight plastic.

Oxford Half-Sized Index Cards ($1.79). These 3 inch x 2 1/2 inch cards serve a dual purpose. They help keep a straight edge for underlining or writing, and they serve as notecards for those who want to use them for extra notes or memorizing verses. The price above is for a pack of 200 cards.

4. A bag to put it all in. Here is where you can save even more money. Instead of buying an actual basket to put all these things in (that may or may not get used again in the future), why not get your Bible student a nice bag to put their Bible study material in, and give the gift in the bag! Obviously, this is an optional part of the gift, but it might make a nice touch for someone on your shopping list.

Mead Five-Star Stand and Store Pencil Pouch ($9.78). This bag is small, but the best part about it is that it stands on its own while someone is using it, so the Bible student can see all his or her pens, rulers, etc. at a glance without cluttering up the workspace. It also makes studying when a big workspace is not available much easier, since everything is together.

So, there you have it. A customizable gift that will actually be helpful. Hope you enjoy this little idea, but more than that, we hope the gift of Bible study helps someone you know and love prepare for eternity!

QUESTION: What did we forget? Put your suggestions for items to include in a Bible study basket in the comments below!


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Photo background credit: Mark Grapenater on Creative Commons

Thanksgiving Proclamation

This Thanksgiving Day, I would hope that all of us would take some time away from parades, meals, football, and preparations for ‘Black Friday” to reflect on how this unique holiday got started. It is interesting to me that, both the Congress and President Washington were involved in this proclamation.

It seems to me that, while we may have made a lot of progress in a lot of  areas during the past 225 years, we might be well advised to “return to our roots” when it comes to our acknowledgment of, and dependence upon, God.   — Jim Faughn


Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other trangressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

The Memories of a House

memories of a house

Tomorrow, they start packing and Friday we move out. For about 6 1/2 years, one address has been the place we called home. It has been a wonderful house.

Still, it is made up of wood, concrete, vinyl siding, carpet, metal and other material “stuff.” Through the designs and work of people with different skills than I have, all this “stuff” becomes a beautiful and functional place to live. When looking for a place to live, we think about if our couch can go here or if all our pots and pans can fit in there; we consider if this room will work for an office or den or if that room will be the bedroom for one child or another. It is utilitarian.

…and then you live there awhile.

That back yard is where we put our child’s first swingset. It was cold, so her first ride on the swing was in a coat and gloves.

The oddly-laid-out living room has been the home of countless family devotionals, movie nights, and games.

The red dining room (that we liked at first, then thought we would change until we decided to move) has hosted scores of people and helped us connect with so many individuals. It is also where we put together puzzles and tried to teach manners.

In that light green room upstairs, I watched my daughter start to pick out her own clothes (sometimes), fix her own hair, and dress her dolls. I picked her up for our daddy dates at the bottom of those stairs.

In the blue room, I wrestled on the bed with my son, and watched him gain a love for reading about God’s world. I saw him make train tracks in the floor and caught him flexing in his mirror a time or two.

In another room, I continually saw my wife grow in her beauty and grace. From getting ready in the morning to reading Anne of Green Gables after I had turned off my lamp, she continually amazes me and fascinates me. We have cried so many tears over people we know who are hurting, and have laughed at so many inside jokes in this room.

It is just a house, but in those four walls, life happened. Too rapidly, at times, but it happened. Mistakes were made, triumphs were celebrated, tears were shed, and lots of laughs were shared. Meals were enjoyed, friends were entertained, and a few storms–literal and figurative–were weathered. We even had our mailbox destroyed once.

…oh, and the bare spot on the front yard? That’s just from kids being kids.

…and the front porch? I have read more books to my children out there than I can count.

…and our first day of homeschool? It was in the room that was listed as an “office.”

And on and on it goes.

It’s just a house, but memories are everywhere. It is hard to leave it behind.

Until I remember that the home isn’t made of the material stuff. It is the three special people who have helped make all the memories throughout the years. You see, we are leaving a house behind, but we are taking a home with us.

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Photo background credit: ME! The picture is from the day we moved into our house in Hermitage. Needless to say, all of us have changed (the kids have gotten bigger, I have lost some weight, and Leah has only gotten more beautiful).


Praying Together

praying together
One recent religious survey noted that the average minister only prays three minutes each day. I found this astounding. I do not know if it is accurate, but if this is true, is it any wonder why the church is not growing?Hey wait a minute…maybe we should ask ourselves how much we are praying? It’s not that there is a required amount, but rather it has to do with where we are in our spiritual lives. Prayer is key. Prayer can change everything.

I am finding that one of the most important things I can do to change and improve my own prayer life is to pray with others. When we pray with our spouses it changes our marriage. When we pray with our family it brings God into our home in a greater way. When we pray with our friends we share our lives together and our friendship grows. When we pray with the church we have more confidence in our spiritual journey.

Here are a few suggestions that I believe will enhance your prayer life:

1. Have a prayer list.

  • Sit down and think of all the people who have special needs and all the problems people are facing. A prayer list helps you focus on issues others are struggling with and humbles you. You will realize how many people need prayers, and you will be reminded about how many blessings you have.
2. Pray more in your Bible classes.
  • It would be a good idea for each of our Bible classes, if we started and ended with a prayer. It will change the way you study. It will allow God to be present with those who are looking into His word.
3. Make a regular time each evening to pray with your spouse.
  • When couples communicate with God they also communicate with each other. If you have never heard your spouse pray, you are missing out on knowing them as well as you could.
4. Teach your children how to pray, and help them to pray regularly.
  • There is nothing more rewarding then listening to your child as they learn to pray. As they improve, you are developing in them a relationship with God that they will never regret.
Prayer is not a job, it is a privilege. We desperately need to pray.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” ~ James 5:16
Photo background credit: Stevan Sheets on Creative Commons

Zager & Evans Miscalculated Slightly

zager and evans

Those of us “of a certain age” may remember an unusual song recorded in 1969. Among the things that were unusual about it were the following:

  • It was recorded by a folk-rock duo from the state of Nebraska (of all places).
  • It held the #1 position on the record charts longer than any other record of that year (even though such notables as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Fifth Dimension, The Temptations, and others also had #1 hits that year).
  • It has no chorus. It just sort of progressed through an imaginary future timeline.
  • It had a unique (and unusual) subtitle; Exordium & Terminus (Beginning & End).

For those who are not “of a certain age” and for those who are, but who may have forgotten this unusual song, I have in mind is In the Year 2525 by (Denny) Zager and (Rick) Evans. (No, I did not remember or even know their first names. I had to look them up.)

Anyway, here are some of the lyrics of that song:

In the year 6565

Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife
You’ll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

Folks, we are there! In fact, if my math skills haven’t completely deserted me, we are there 4,551 years earlier than the song predicted.

As evidence of that, consider the following headline from the online edition of The Washington Post of October 2, 2014:

White Woman Sues Sperm Bank after She Mistakenly Gets Black Donor’s Sperm

The opening paragraph of the article states:

An Ohio mom and her same-sex partner are suing a Chicago-area fertility clinic for sending sperm from a black donor instead of the white donor’s sperm that she ordered.

A little further in the article, the reader learns this information:

After poring over pages of donor histories from Midwest Sperm Bank three years ago, Cramblett and her partner, 29-year-old Amanda Zinkon, selected donor No. 380, who was white. Cramblett used the sperm to get pregnant and, months later, the two decided to reserve more sperm from that donor so Zinkon could one day have a child related to the one Cramblett was carrying.

During that process, the couple learned the truth: An employee at the fertility clinic allegedly misread a handwritten order — and Cramblett had been inseminated by donor No. 330, who was black.

So, having a child is no more than a business transaction now. I can’t help but wonder what sort of “return policy” there would be on something like this.

God’s design was and is for one man to marry one woman. Together, they were and are to bring children into the world and nurture and train them.

He is eternal. His will is binding; Zager & Evans and Crablett & Zinkon notwithstanding. For that matter; the government, social pressures, liberal theologians, etc. notwithstanding.

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Photo background credit: Chris Drumm on Creative Commons


Training Your Children for Worship 3: Prayer Checklist and “Time for Worship” Cards for Kids {Free Printable}

Today’s post is the 3rd in our 4-part series of free printables to help you train your children for worship. If you missed either of the first two posts, below are the links.

1: A Devotional Guide on Worship

2: Family Devotionals on the Acts of Worship

Today, we are sharing TWO free printables with you!

FIRST, we have a “prayer checklist” that can be used either in a family devotional setting or during a worship service to help a child focus on the importance of prayer. While prayer is not meant to be just a “checklist,” we also need to teach our children that prayer is more than some type of “I want” list.

SECOND, we are pleased to offer “Time for Worship” cards. This set of cards is meant to be printed out and taken to worship by children. The cards can be stapled together, put on a ring, or just stacked and carried. Each one shares some things to remember with it is “time” for a particular avenue of worship (when it’s time to sing, when it’s time for the sermon, etc.). Designed for smaller children, these could be adapted for older kids as well.

To view/download these printables for free, simply click on the picture. We hope this is a great help to your family!

prayer and time for worship 2

Training Your Children for Worship 2: Family Devotionals on the Acts of Worship {Free Printables}

Last week, we shared the first of four free printables to help you train your children for worship. If you missed that one, which was a devotional guide about worship, click here and you can get it for free.

To continue with the free stuff, we have another family devotional guide for you this week. This time, though, it is a SET of devotional guides. There are five in all, one for each of the five avenues of worship.

As with the other guides, these are meant to help you have family devotionals that are only about 10 minutes in length and that help by getting input from the children.

Just as a tip, it might be good to focus on one avenue of worship each week. In fact (as a head’s up), our free printable next Wednesday will help you focus on one of the avenues of worship (prayer).

We hope you find these helpful, and we hope you’ll pass them along through social media so others can benefit from them, as well.

Simply click on the picture below, and you will be taken to a page where you can view and/or download the guides. Enjoy!

acts of worship 2

Why We Made Our 7-Year-Old Sign a Minecraft Contract

minecraft contract

Minecraft. I know very little about this game, except that our son has been begging us to download it for months. It is one of the few times he has truly fixated on something for more than a few days.

After doing some light research and seeing that is a fairly harmless game, we decided to let him get the game on Leah’s iPad…

after he signed a contract.

That’s right, our 7-year-old had to sign a contract to get and play the game.

The short document stated such things as:

  • He would pay for the game himself out of his saving jar.
  • If he complained when told to turn the game off, he could not play it for 2 weeks.
  • He can only play for one hour on Saturdays and at other times only with permission.
  • If we catch him playing the game at other times, the game is taken away for a month.

We read the contract with him and he signed it (after writing “I will agree”…how cute is that?), then gave us the money for the game. Leah and I also signed it (as “mommy” and “daddy”).

Now, at this point, some of you think we are tyrants. He’s seven years old. How could we possibly do this to our son?

Better: why would we do this?


It teaches him about responsibility. He is responsible for paying for the game and for checking with us for upgrades or other downloads.

It holds him accountable. He knows the contract, and we are keeping it posted on our refrigerator. He cannot claim to just “forget,” and things be okay.

It keeps us accountable. We signed the document, too. So, if we just let him get away with things that break the contract, it will chip away at our influence.

It is how things are done in real life. We sign our names to things all the time as adults. It is better for him to learn about this now with such a small thing, than to have his name on his first contract be for a job, rent agreement, or mortgage, where the money involved and level of responsibility are so much higher.

QUESTION: What do you think of this parenting tactic? Share your reactions in the comments!

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Training Your Children for Worship 1: A Devotional on Worship {Free Printable}

In our latest podcast, Leah and I talked about the importance of training our children for worship. Also in that podcast, we mentioned how we are going to be sharing some posts and printables to help you do that. We have settled on four posts–to be released on Wednesdays–and today is the first in those posts.

The importance of a family discussing things in the home cannot be overstated. Through family devotionals, a family can gain a great deal of closeness and can focus more clearly on connecting with God. These times are also wonderful training grounds to discuss areas in which we want our children to grow. (By the way, if you are new to the idea of a family devotional, here is a post I wrote over four years ago that will help you focus on what to be doing.)

So, for the first two posts in this series (today and next Wednesday), we are going to share brief devotional guides to help you focus your family on worship. The first is a simple printable that gives you an outline of a short devotional on worship in general. The devotional is not meant to last more than about 10 minutes, but has a lot of questions, to help your children be involved in the learning process.

We have also included a song to sing at both the beginning and end called “We Will Glorify.” If you happen to be unfamiliar with this song, you can find it here and learn it ahead of time. It is a simple song, and one that will help focus your minds on what worship really means.

We hope you enjoy this first printable, and we’ll be back next Wednesday with a great set of guides to help you with more family devotionals!

(Click on the picture and a new tab will open with the printable, ready for you to use!)

worship guide 2

On Disruptive Children in Worship

on disruptive children in worship

As a preacher, I get asked a lot of interesting questions. Often, people are just seeking my opinion on a matter, while at other times, they are questions about how certain things affect (or don’t) my work.

One of the more common questions I get asked is along these lines: Do crying babies bother you when you are preaching?

My immediate answer is “No!” I can honestly say that, probably only once or twice, has a child’s “disruption” disrupted me while preaching. Thankfully, I have been told that it wasn’t noticed by those listening. Instead, it was all in just my train of thought and trying to keep my thinking straight.

So, if you are a parent with a baby who cries in worship, this post is not written to complain. You are bringing your baby or small child to worship. Those cries are music to my ears, because a parent has that child right where that little one needs to be!

That said, are there times when a child needs to be taken out of a worship service? Sure. A baby, toddler, or small child can get disruptive, especially to those who are sitting nearby and doing their best to worship the Lord. Let me say, they are doing their best to focus on the Lord, not your child. They may have “a look” on their face, but if that person has the heart of a Christian, it is not because they are angry with you. They might be frustrated, but if they have ever been a parent, they understand what you are going through.

So what can a parent do when a child gets disruptive? Here are 5 suggestions for dealing with a disruptive child in worship.

1. Have quiet things for the child to do. One way to help some children is to distract their minds. But, please, have these distractions be quiet things, like Bible books or puzzles. I have known of parents who let their baby play with a cell phone during worship, and we can all guess how that turned out!

2. Have “related” things for the child to do. This is similar, but I believe it is best to make sure what the child is doing is still related to the Bible and worship. Please do not think that letting a child play Temple Run or Minecraft on your iPad is going to help. The child will learn to act up to get to play a favorite game!

3. Do not be embarrassed in taking your child out. I know this is easier said than done (I’ve taken my children out when someone else was preaching), but you are doing your job as a parent. There is no shame in that.

4. Take them out, but do not reward them. Parents, please do not take your child out if you are going to give that child candy or just let them play around on the floor! When you must take a child out for disrupting worship, calm the child by singing or just letting the child rest. If the child has been intentionally disruptive…well…let’s just say it this way: do not make the trip out a pleasant experience. If you reward the negative behavior, guess what you will get more of next Sunday?

5. Make the trips out as brief as possible. Yes, sometimes the sermon is boring, but take the child out, get your point across, and come back in. A child needs to learn to be in the worship service by actually being in the worship service, not taking 30 minute trips to the cry room. Every child is different, but just a few minutes is usually sufficient, unless a child is physically ill.

As I said before, this post is not written to pick on parents who have children when their children cry. Mine have done it, and I’m sure they will probably have to be taken out again sometime for discipline.

Even if they cry, parents please bring those children to worship! They are learning about worship, and you are doing a great job in having them present.

[NOTE: Tomorrow, we will release the first of our “Training Your Children for Worship” posts with a free printable! To learn more about this series of posts, check out this podcast.]

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Photo background credit: Tamaki Sono on Creative Commons