Category Archives: Family

Why We Switched to Republic Wireless and Lowered Our Phone Bill by $70 Per Month

I love cell phones. I especially love smartphones. I have owned an iPhone and an Andriod (HTC Inspire) over the last 6+ years, and, honestly, it is hard to consider ever leaving a smartphone behind.

However, I can’t stand how much our cell phone bill is (or, rather, was). Further, I despise cell phone contracts. Sure, you get a nice phone, but at what price?

So, with our current AT&T contract set to expire in early 2014, I started researching pretty much any and every alternative I could think of. I searched online, got recommendations from friends, and even talked to some folks in stores. It would be hard to list every company and option that I researched. (Leah got sick of hearing about it, since this lasted for almost six months.) AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Ting, Cricket, T-Mobile, Boost, Straight Talk, Virgin Mobile…and quite a few more were all researched heavily.

Finally, we decided to switch to Republic Wireless. The odds are, you haven’t heard of this company, but I hope to persuade you to consider them in today’s post. The reason is really simple: our cell phone bill will now be less than $50 per month…total.

Where We Were

Previously, we were customers with AT&T and, to be honest, we were quite pleased with their service. We just didn’t like how much our bill was, and we did not like being trapped by a 2-year contract just for me to have a nice phone.

All these years, I have had a smartphone and Leah has not. She has never really wanted one, but her phones were unwieldy, especially for texting.

So, we paid for a small shared phone plan, and added a very small text plan for her. Additionally, we paid for me to have a data package. I did not pay for texting on my phone, but used Google Voice for free texting.

Still, our bill averaged about $116.00 per month. Some of you are reading that and going, “So what?” I know that’s not a huge bill, but it was far more than we wanted to pay. It just seemed crazy to pay that much, especially when only one of us was using a smartphone.

And, have I mentioned, we were in a two-year contract, which I hate?

Why Republic Wireless?

After tons of research, we decided to give Republic Wireless our business. Admittedly, this is a fairly new company, but they are well-established, and their share is growing.

The reason is very simple: they are very inexpensive and do not require a contract.

To start, you must purchase a Moto X phone through Republic Wireless. These phones run $300 each. Yes, we paid $600 for our phones,*** but I think you’ll see why very soon. By the way, I love the Moto X. As a former iPhone owner, I will even say that I like it more than the iPhone. It is extremely fast and has tons of great features. Even if you aren’t a tech person, though, it is super easy to use. [A good review of the phone can be found here.]

Now, why would we dole out that much money for phones? How about to lower our cell bill by about $70 each month!

Republic offers four plans:

  • Wi-Fi only talk, text, and data for $5/month.
  • Unlimited talk and text over cellular, and Wi-Fi only data for $10/month (this is Leah’s plan)
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data over Wi-Fi and 3G network for $25/month (this is my plan)
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data over Wi-fi and 4G network for $40/month

So, with the two we chose ($10 for Leah and $25 for me), our bill is only $35 per month, plus tax (which isn’t much at all). Our bill should not ever be over $50, and will probably not approach that anytime soon. And, remember, there is no contract. We can come or go whenever we want with no early termination fee!

Now, consider where we were at (about $116/month) and where we are (let’s say $46/month), and you can see why we were willing to pay so much for our phones. We are saving around $70 each month on our cell phone bill! It won’t take anytime for us to make up the money we spent.

Let’s do the math for a moment.

Currently, we use AT&T, and our phones cost us nothing. Our average bill, however, is about $116. So, in the course of a year, we averaged spending just shy of $1400 ($1392, to be exact) on our AT&T plan.

Now, we did have to buy our phones from Republic.*** So we have to start at $600, but if our bill is $46 each month, that’s only $540. Add in the $600 for the phones, and we are at $1140. In other words, we will save about $250 our first year, and that’s with the price of the phones added in. In the coming years, we’ll save hundreds of dollars a year over our old plan. Just compare $1392 for a year to $540. How does pocketing an extra $852 dollars sound? You could give more, support a mission effort, pay off debt, or use that money to save up for another purchase in the future; all instead of sending it to a cell phone company!

UPDATE (April 15, 2014): Republic will begin offering a Moto G phone for only $149 starting on April 17, 2014. This phone will feature the $5, $10, and $20 per month plans only, but makes a much less expensive option for purchasing the phone.

How Do They Do This?

I kept wondering the same thing. It really sounded too good to be true.

Republic Wireless utilizes Wi-Fi in a very unique way. If you are in a Wi-Fi zone, your calls, texts, and data are automatically sent through that network (provided you are logged on), which saves on the cellular network. Republic is counting on a lot of users utilizing Wi-Fi to offset their costs.

When you aren’t in a Wi-Fi zone, calls are texts (as well as 3G and/or 4G if you have those plans) are run over the Sprint network. Now, I know what you are thinking: “You had me until Sprint.” Trust me, I felt the same way at first. THEN, however, I discovered that, when you are not on a Sprint network, Republic automatically roams to Verizon’s network, for free!

It’s not a bad plan: you have Verizon as a backup!

Oh, and what happens if you start a call in a Wi-Fi spot, but then leave it? No problem. That’s why you must purchase the Moto X from Republic. It is equipped with a “Wi-Fi handoff,” so you do not drop the call when you leave a Wi-Fi zone, and the handoff really is seamless. If you enter a Wi-Fi zone, your phone stays on the cellular plan until you end your call, so the transition is seamless that way, as well.

A few weeks ago, just after getting my phone to try out (you get a 30-day trial with full refund of the phone and the service plan if you are unhappy), I drove to Southeast Missouri to help with a funeral. I took the phone with me to test the signal. From Nashville, Tennessee to Dexter, Missouri I had signal the entire trip, except for a very short stretch (about 5 miles) in Western Kentucky. In that stretch of no signal, by the way, my AT&T phone only had one bar of service. I have since taken the phone to Henderson, Tennessee and had signal the entire time, as well.

UPDATE (April 15, 2014): We have now taken our phones to the Jasper, Alabama area with no problem as well. We are well satisfied with the coverage in/around Nashville and all places we have taken the phones thus far.

We are more than pleased with the phone (the Moto X rocks), and the service is more than admirable. But the cost? And having no contract?

How could we pass that up!

I will give two negatives before ending. First, the data signal is a bit slower than I was used to before. However, it is not slow; just slower. I just wanted to let you know that, in case you literally “live” on your phone for data. I use mine a lot, but don’t go crazy with it, so it’s no big deal to me. Other than that, we are perfectly happy with the performance of Republic on the Moto X.

Second, there is very little customer service. In fact, the customer service at Republic Wireless is basically a series of forums, but it is remarkable how much information is there. You can email them, and I have done that once, with a response in less than a day. I don’t mind this way of doing things for two reasons: (1) it keeps prices very low, and (2) how often do you actually use customer service, except when you are trying to lower your bill?


If you are interested in switching to Republic, please use THIS LINK. If you use this link and stay with Republic Wireless for more than the 30 day free trial, I will get a $20 credit, and so will you!

[***Lest you think Leah and I have an extra $600 just lying around to buy gadgets and gizmos, we saved up for this purchase. We took some extra money for a few months and bought the phones. As far as money out of our regular budget, we only paid for shipping.]

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? Please leave your thoughts below about our switch. Let us know what you think.


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How Pornography is Robbing Men…and Boys

There can be no doubt that pornography is a major problem in our society. Even some, who a few years ago, thought that “a little porn” was “no big deal” are now reversing course. As we see this industry grow into a literal powerhouse economically, it is clear that the “adult” industry is here to stay.

But at what cost?

pornography robbing men boys

Pornography is not just a problem for men any longer. Though we are going to confine our thoughts in this post to males, it is now estimated that fully 30% of those who regularly visit pornographic websites are female, and the number is growing. More startling, though, is the suggestion that this growth in female users is because the number of men who are regular visitors is about as high as it is going to get. So many men are hooked that those who sell this smut must look elsewhere, and they are finding a lot of females who are ready to look, too.

Pornography is not just something that provides a little “tease” or even a little “escape,” however. It is dangerous. We know that it is habit-forming (dare I say, “addictive”), and research has proven that time and again. The earlier the exposure, the more likely a problem or even an addiction can form. Boys now average the age of just 11 for their first exposure. And the age is dropping.

But from young boys to older men, and every age in between, pornography robs men. It is a thief that takes a lot, and gives very little back. What is it robbing men of?

Redeeming the Time. Every mouse click can lead to a few more mouse clicks. When the internet first started really growing in popularity and usage, we kidded about how it was a “time suck.” A person would sit down to find out the score to the game, and two hours later, finally log off from the ‘net. Now, many men sit down to “just” see one picture or short video clip, only to look up and it’s been the same two hours, but the time has been spent alone, filling his mind with sexually perverted imagery. Many have lost their jobs over this issue, not necessarily because they were viewing porn, but because they were wasting valuable working time and not getting their work done. The time that is spent viewing pornographic pictures or videos is time that is not being spent doing what God has put us on the earth to do.

True marital intimacy. Pornography makes a woman into nothing more than an object. She becomes something to conquer and do with as the man pleases, then dispose of for another conquest. In other words, it removes the soul from the body. True, God-given sexuality combines the whole of man and woman in a bond that is not only innocent, but intimate. If a man is viewing all these other women, he cannot fully concentrate on his wife, and he will struggle to be truly intimate with her.

Appreciation of real beauty. Those who are addicted to pornography often speak of how it takes “more and more” to find the same level of fun. They sometimes mean that in volume, but they also mean it in the types of things they want to see. The girl who was super good looking yesterday no longer measures up, as the industry churns out newer, raunchier, and more seductive material. With high-quality cameras, computer editing, and airbrushing, the girls are no longer even real in their proportions or their looks. Now, his wife is not quite what she used to be, either. Instead of seeing how beautiful his wife really is, he will begin to think about any flaw she might have, and he will fail to appreciate her true, and God-given, beauty.

Evangelism. Men who struggle with pornography only see bodies. They do not see souls, so why would they preach or teach others the need to be saved? He will especially struggle to talk to women about salvation, because (frankly) that’s not what he’s thinking about when he looks at a woman any longer. He isn’t thinking about her soul, because pornography has removed that thought from his mind.

Every man and boy needs to realize that pornography is no laughing matter. It is a thief, and thieves need to be apprehended.

QUESTION: What else does pornography rob a man of? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Further Reading:

The Effects of Porn on the Male Brain [Christian Research Institute]

Wired for Intimacy by William M. Struthers [Kindle book on Amazon]

How Porn Affects the Brain

“The Truth about…Pornography”


Photo credit: Alfred Fitzpatrick on Creative Commons

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To My Son, After a Special Day

Dear Son,

You may not long remember what happened Saturday, but I won’t soon forget it. If you do remember it, your mind may go to some of the things that happened that you found a bit unpleasant. I know it was noisy, and the game lasted a long time, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forget our day.

I asked you if you wanted to go watch a basketball game, and I know you aren’t really into sports, but you decided to go anyway. Mostly, that was because you found out grampy was going to be there, too, but that’s okay. That’s part of what made it a special day. A boy needs his grandfathers, and you have two wonderful men there, as well.

The game was not a sell-out, and the play on the court was completely awful. I’m not even sure you realized that the game went into overtime, causing us to have to sit through more of the terrible shooting and sloppy passing.

But what I remember more is that is this: every time I looked in my rear-view mirror in the car, or in the seat to my right in the stadium, there you were. My son. My boy.

Every night, I thank God for you, and I pray words of gratitude that God has allowed me to be your daddy. You are a wonderful young man. But daddy gets too busy sometimes. At other times, I’m just tired. You don’t get all the attention and love you need, but daddy is trying to do better. That three-hour Lego project a few weeks ago wasn’t the easiest 180-minutes of my life. But the smile on your face upon finishing the fort was worth it. Taking almost 90 minutes to set up probably 200 dominoes a few days ago was an exercise in patience for both of us (especially when we had to rebuild a few lines that fell early). But, your joy at the falling tiles was a great few moments.

And then…Saturday. We left at 11AM, and didn’t get home until about 4PM. Five hours for you, daddy, and grampy to be together. You were bored a lot of the time, and you don’t like loud noises, but you made it through. You loved the band (that’s okay; daddy does, too), and thought it was amazing that people could hold other people up in the air to do cheers. You even liked some of the noises the crowd made, even if the guy sitting behind us was super annoying.

But, through it all, there was your sweet face. Every day, I see you growing more and more out of the “little boy” phase and into the “big boy” phase. I do not know what God has planned for you for your future, but I pray often that He allows me to be around for a lot of it. And I pray that you grow to see why days like Saturday may not have meant a lot to you, but they mean the world to me.

Thank you for a very special day, son. I love you.



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Why Your Son Doesn’t Answer: Understanding a Boy’s Brain

Nearly anytime I see a report that trumpets some great discovery about how males and females are different, I have to laugh. Does it really take a scientific study to tell us something that any trip to the park or the mall would make abundantly clear?

However, some of the information about why there are differences really is interesting. One of those has to do with the way a boy’s brain is wired. It helps to explain some of the difficulties we as parents might face in raising a young man.

boys brain

To those of us without a medical degree, the brain has “gray” and “white” matter in it. Doctors have very fancy terms, but I can grasp the two colors! A study by Richard Haier and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen “discovered that male brains utilize nearly seven times more gray matter for activity while female brains utilize nearly ten times more white matter.” (1)

What does that mean?

The gray-matter parts of our brains are very localized, almost like cubicles in an office building. Each one does one task and focuses on that task. So, when a boy is doing something, these “localized” portions of his brain are focused on that thing. It is one reason why, if your son is playing a game and you try to talk to him, he may not even notice you. It could be that he is not being unsympathetic or uncaring. It could just be that his brain really is “tuned in” to what he is doing.

White-matter portions of the brain, in the other hand, are far more interconnected. Think of a major interstate exchange in a big city, and you’ll have some idea of the picture. Girls use these parts of their brains more, which is why they can usually transition more quickly from one thing to another than boys. Simply call your children, who are playing a game, to the dinner table, and usually the girl will come more quickly than the boy. The reason is because her brain is more wired to make such quick “switches” between thoughts and activities.

What does this mean for our sons? Of course, every child is different, but let’s look at some general applications from this simple knowledge.

Focus on One Task. This is not a bad thing. The typical boy can focus on one thing, but will often work at it for-seemingly-ever to figure something out. He may be impatient when he can’t do something well, but he’ll stay at it more often than girls. This is a good trait for his future, because he will be more likely to stay with a job until it is done.

Fear of Failure. This is a negative of this almost “tunnel vision” approach boys have. He may give up very quickly on a task because he thinks he cannot complete it. He would rather use this strong work ethic in something he can “win.” By the way, this helps to explain why so many boys are virtually (or literally) addicted to video games. Once they find one they can improve on, they will play for hours. However, if he doesn’t finish “level one” in a try or two, he may give up. Obviously, we must work with boys to help them overcome this fear and to learn that failure is okay, so long as he gives his best effort.

Patience. Obviously, all children need patient parents, but boys are often picked on because they don’t “drop what they are doing” and “get here right now.” Of course, they need to learn responsibility and the need to see the desires of others, but boys naturally will be slower at transitioning from one task to another. Give him a moment to come out of “his world” and into what you need him to do. Work with him in getting quicker at these transitions.

Relational Struggles. Boys can seem, and can literally be, oblivious to what others are doing, even in the same room. Because they have this tendency, we jump on them and can fail to help them develop the ability to be more aware of not only the presence of others, but the needs of other people. This is a struggle that will continue, but it can be improved. It has to be molded, however.

We never want to “excuse” a boy’s behavior, simply because this is part of his natural makeup. Parents do need to understand his mind, though, so they can know not only what they want him to become, but also where they are starting.

QUESTION: What are some other positives and negatives of a boy using his “gray matter” so much?

(1) This post is based upon some research found in the book Raising Boys by Design by Gregory L. Jantz and Michael Gurian. It is a book I highly recommend for parents or for those who counsel families. You can get a copy from Amazon here. (The quotation above is from page 21.)


Photo credit: Nathanial Burton-Bradford on Creative Commons

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Why Wait for Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is Friday. (Husbands, read that sentence again!)


Leah and I have never made a huge deal of the holiday, but we always go out on a date and enjoy some time with the kids. We don’t buy extravagant gifts, but I do still ask her to be my valentine. Of course, now Turner asks her, too, so I have some competition!

I hope you are planning something special for the day, but I’d like to ask: why wait until Friday? Why wait until Valentine’s Day?

You don’t have to wait to tell your husband or wife “I love you.”

You don’t have to wait to get a little surprise gift.

You don’t have to wait to get a sitter and go out to eat.

You don’t have to wait to send a romantic text or email.

You don’t have to wait to add a few extra seconds to a kiss or hug.

Holidays are wonderful, and they do help us mark certain dates as special. Valentine’s Day should help focus us on our marriage and how blessed we are to have one another. But shouldn’t that be true each and every day?

Take a moment today and do something “just because” that too many folks will wait until Friday to do. Make it more like Valentine’s Day before Valentine’s Day ever comes.

QUESTION: Why do we wait for holidays too often to show our spouse how special they are? Share your thoughts in the comments.


Photo credit: Esparta Palma on Creative Commons

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How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals

[Note: The following in the manuscript I am using for a lecture at the annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible lectures on the theme “How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals.” Although much longer than my usual blog posts, I hope you find it encouraging.]

It is 8 PM and your home is still and calm. The children have already cleaned their rooms so that a maid would be jealous of the perfection of their work. They have taken their showers, and you are sure that there is not a single germ or speck of dirt to be found anywhere on their bodies. Their teeth are gleaming white, and you are certain that the dental floss has removed every last molecule of plaque from between their teeth.

Now, the children gather on the couch in a room that is so well-kept you are just certain that Southern Living is going to knock on the door to take photos of the room for their latest feature article. The children wear smiles because they know that daddy is going to take the next 45 minutes to expound unto them the deep-seated nuggets of truth of the prophecies of Ezekiel, and this is what they have waited all day to learn. Forget the time outside, playing tag with the friends from up the street; hearing these lengthy discussions about the intricate nuances of the Hebrew language in poetic prophecy—that’s where it’s at!

If you are sitting here today, and this describes your home devotionals, then I’ll just say this: You need to be down here teaching this hour! Because the picture that we painted above may sound wonderful and may sound ideal, but it is certainly not what most—or any—of us experience when we try to have devotionals in our homes.

Before moving on, let me make this remark by way of introduction. This was a difficult topic to discuss in the lectureship book. That volume is usually filled with quite scholarly material, and this is not as much of an in-depth subject. What I tried to do, then, was lay a deeper foundation in the book that you can go back and read at your own leisure. In this hour, our goal is to talk a bit more about the practical side of things. We also want to share a few resources—among countless ones we could share—that might help you if you need such for your home.

It doesn’t matter what you call it. It could be a devotional. In our home it’s “Bible time.” For some, it’s family worship, and there are many other names. The point of this effort, though, is simple: it is dedicating a few moments on a regular basis to focus the entire family on God and His Word. In fact, that last sentence is going to serve as our working definition as we consider “How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals.” So, here is that statement again: A family devotional is dedicating a few moments on a regular basis to focus the entire family on God and His Word.

Using that description as our working definition, we will discuss 6 areas this afternoon that should help us as we seek to lead our families. I would like to state that this track on the lectureship is called “Especially for Young Families.” I am going to emphasize those homes in this lecture, but I will try to point out some things that can be useful if your children are a bit older. Of course, much of what we will say is true across the demographics, but our examples will mostly be considering those who are younger.

With that said, let’s use our working definition to consider how to lead our homes in this area.

1. Dedicating. We will not spend a lot of time on this first section, but it needs to be said and emphasized: For family devotionals to occur, there must be dedication to this idea as important. I am not going to suggest this afternoon that, if you haven’t been having devotionals or if you are hit-and-miss with them, that you are lacking in your spirituality. I don’t think you would come to a session like this, or to this lectureship as a whole, if you lacked in spiritual dedication.

What I am suggesting is that you must be dedicated to the importance of family devotionals if you are going to not only have them, but keep them going. For that to happen, it must be something that is not just in your head, but in your heart. And, if we are honest, only the Lord can truly change a heart. Spend time in prayer about your devotionals and your willingness to lead them. Pray for wisdom in how to handle these devotionals, and ask humbly for God to give you the wisdom and the patience to keep going when there are days that don’t go well.

Why? Trust me: not every devotional will go well. In fact, probably only a small percentage will go exactly as you had planned. When you are used to working at things and having them go according to a plan, it is easy to get discouraged when things don’t work out as you might like. That’s when your dedication must kick in.

Before moving on, I will add this quick thought. Married couples, you both need to be dedicated to this idea, too. If one is on fire to have home devotionals and the other won’t even turn off the TV to take part, the kids are going to pick up on that very quickly. One of you may be more interested than the other (in fact, that’s only natural), but both of you need to be dedicated to the idea that this is important.

2. A few moments. Now, at this point, some of you may question my faithfulness, because I am going to tell you that these family devotionals should not last more than a few minutes. For some of us, especially us preachers, we might think that we should work up a 45-minute exposition of some relatively unknown passage dealing with prophecy or with how to handle uncleanness (after all, you have small children, and uncleanness is a constant!), but if we are realistic, we know that these long expositions are not really how best to teach in this way.

The fact of the matter is, especially when your children are smaller, you can accomplish so much in very little time. In our home, most of our devotionals last about 10-15 minutes, and I would say that they are more often closer to the 10 minutes than the 15. We do not go by the clock, but that seems to be about the average range.

Why such a short period of time? There are a couple of reasons. One is that we are busy, just like you are. We try to keep our calendars pretty clear, but if we are going to be active in the work of the Lord, good citizens, and also have a good family life, those calendars are going to fill up quickly. We all understand that. Some people hear the idea of having a family devotional and think, “It’s just something else to do.” That’s one reason these need to be brief. We are already so busy.

But I also suggest a shorter period of time because so much can be done in a short period of time. I want you to think back to the last day of work you had before going on vacation last year. Maybe you were leaving on a Friday to head off to the mountains or away on a cruise. Think back to that Thursday then; the day before you left. In just your first 10 or 15 minutes, how much did you accomplish? For most of us, on days like that, it is a tremendous amount of work.

Why? Because we are clear about what we need to do. The same is true in your family devotionals. We’ll talk more about focus in a few minutes, but it helps in keeping these times brief if we have a plan. Would you rather your children (or you, for that matter) know one thing really well, or barely know a few random things? Take a few minutes and focus on that one thing.

Also, consider the majority of educational programming your children watch. Most of the shows may be the same length, but they move between scenes quickly. They get in, teach a lesson, and get out. And we all need to recognize that, for a great number of kids, it works. It’s not a bad way to approach considering the length of our devotionals.

3. Regular basis. Here is where most of us struggle. We decide we are going to start having home devotionals. Maybe you make that decision as a result of this session today, or just as a result of being around this wonderful group of people this week. We get the energy and motivation to start something like this, and we say, “Next week on Monday night, we are starting this.” And, wouldn’t you know it? That’s the day little Susie comes home from school with a fever. And you forgot that there was an all-hands-on-deck meeting at work that night. Before you know it, it’s been a month since you made the decision to start having devotionals and you have yet to have your first one.

So, how are we supposed to stay in a regular schedule when life is so chaotic? Let me offer a few suggestions to help.

                *Do not be confined to a specific place. I’ll admit that we aren’t perfect at this, but there have been a number of times where we have done our family devotional in the car. Maybe it’s a short drive across town, but just singing a few songs or reviewing a Bible story can happen in the car. If you decide that you can’t have your devotional in any location other than your living room or around the dining room table, it’s going to be much more difficult to get in a rhythm. After all, for most families, how often are we in the same location—even at home—at nearly the exact same time every night?

                *Schedule more than one per week. Think with me for a moment. If you say, “Our devotionals are going to be on Monday nights,” and then you miss a Monday night, it’s a full 14 days between devotionals. Just missing one or two can easily get you out of the regular practice because it is so long in between times together. Instead, if you try to have 2 or 3 each week and you happen to miss one, it is much easier to stay in regular practice. Of course, there are other reasons to have a devotional more than once each week, but this is a wonderful extra benefit.

                *Put it on the calendar. Full disclosure: this is not something we literally do. Leah and I share a Google Calendar and you will not find “family devo” or “Bible time” on the calendar. The reason is that we are just in the habit of doing this. If you are not, though, put it on your calendar, or set your phone to remind you at a certain time each day to have your devotional. It is remarkable how, what we put on our calendars seems to get done. Also, if you put your Bible time on the calendar and someone calls and wants you to do something, you can honestly say, “I already have a commitment for that time of the evening. Can we choose a different time?”

                *Remember: brevity! If you are trying to have hour-long devotionals, you are going to struggle to carve out the time on a regular basis. But, no matter how busy you are, if you are only looking for about 15 minutes a couple of times each week, it’s much easier to stay in rhythm. Even if it’s time in the car, it’s not hard for most of us to find that kind of time. And, I’ll just say it, if it is hard to find 10-15 minutes, maybe we are too busy, and this can be a great time to triage the calendar and do some evaluation!

Before we leave this idea of our devotionals being on a regular basis, I would also add that we need to consider what time of day you want to have your devotionals. We have been assuming in this lesson that these times will be in the evening, but that may not work well for your family, and you’ll get frustrated and quit. Maybe daddy is involved in shift work and it would work better for the family to meet around the breakfast table a few minutes before the bus comes or before homeschool begins. If you homeschool, maybe dad can come home for lunch and that’s when the devotional can happen. Maybe it’s right when the kids get home from school. Or right when dad and/or mom get home from work. Maybe it is as soon as everyone is done eating supper. The key is to make this your family devotional time, making it best fit the life of your family.

4. Focus. I want to camp on this fourth point for a little while, because this is so key. It is here that we’ll share some resources as well in just a moment.

In reality, this is the key to what our assignment for this session is: “Leading Your Family in Home Devotionals.” If those who are leading are not focused, then how can we expect the devotionals themselves to have focus? Now, as we’ve said throughout, life is chaotic and every devotional period is not going to perfectly follow some amazing “script” you plan out. There are going to be some very frustrating evenings, and there are going to be times when you just aren’t feeling like keeping things on track. But I would challenge you: make this the exception rather than the rule.

What are some ways to focus? The best way is to ask one question: “What do I want my children to learn right now?” Now, I know, there are probably 100 or more answers to that question. After all, every one of us, no matter the age of our children, wish we could just open up their heads and pour in wisdom and knowledge, because we see so many areas where they need to learn, grow, and mature.

But, in answering that question, try to focus your thinking on just a handful of things that you want them to grow in at this stage of their life. Here are a few areas you might want to consider:


  • Maybe it is simply knowing accounts from Scripture better. This could be the case if your children are small, or if your family is new to Scripture. There is no shame in saying that you’d like to know more about some of the great stories and people of Scripture, and we all surely want our children to know them better.
  • Maybe it is Scripture memorization. Family devotionals are a wonderful time to memorize a few verses together, especially if they are verses about a certain area in which you want your children to improve. Psalms and Proverbs both contain verses that are practical and quite easy for memorization, even by smaller children.
  • Maybe it is just worshiping together. This can be so helpful if your children struggle to act well in worship. Taking a few minutes to sing together and pray together is a great way to teach them about the wonderful nature of worship, as well as helping them learn how to act in worship.
  • Maybe it is morality. Especially as your children age, devotionals provide a great way to focus on how to handle certain moral situations. Just remember to point them to the Scriptures, and not some type of situational ethics or selective morality. But teach them to look at situations through Biblical glasses and to think about how God would have us handle difficult decisions or struggles.
  • Maybe it is leadership. For boys, family devotionals can be a tremendous way to practice leading in worship. They can learn to direct singing, read Scripture, or lead a prayer in front of just their family, who they know will support them, but also help them improve. For young ladies, she can learn how to read out loud to someone who is in the hospital or she can prepare the materials for a devotional, so that she is learning about preparing Bible lessons for class settings.
  • Maybe it’s service. One great way to spend family Bible time is in doing an act of service for someone else, and talking about the importance of helping others. It could be writing or making a card, or helping mommy pack some cookies for a neighbor who is sick. All the while, the conversation is about why we do things like this. We are teaching that this is done in the name of the Lord and to His glory.

Are you beginning to see that the possibilities are quite long? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but maybe you see something that makes you think of your own children and something you would really like to place some emphasis on.

At the beginning of 2014, our family laid down what we would like to do in our family devotionals. We’ve had them for some time, but we tried to think realistically about what we could do each evening, and how that would help our children where they are right now. So, at our house, here is how we are currently striving to handle our devotionals. You’ll notice that there are a few different areas of emphasis, but we like the variety during the week.

*Monday night is Bible review. This works well for us for a couple of reasons.

One is because we can take something from a Bible class on Sunday or Wednesday and make it useful for our home. You know all those zillions of pieces of paper and crafts that those wonderful Bible school teachers help your children make? They send them home, and then you aren’t sure what you are supposed to do with them, right? For most of us, we can’t keep all of them, but maybe you can keep a few and use them in this way. Leah builds a small notebook for each of our kids of some of the projects, worksheets, and crafts. At times, we use these for review, while at other times, we think of something else for them to draw, make, or just tell to review that part of Scripture. Sometimes, we just talk about a Bible story, and we even let the kids act them out at times. When daddy is Goliath, things get a little interesting!

Monday nights being review night also works well for us because at least one Monday night each month, I have a meeting at the church building, and Leah can handle the devotional on those nights with or without me. In fact, she is far more talented in this area than I am, so if I cannot be there for the devotional, I know it’s going to go very well. We’ll talk more in a few moments about the whole family being present, but we all know there will be a few times where that just isn’t possible. We try to think about that in these plans.

*Tuesday night is KidSing night. At Lebanon Road, we have KidSing on Sunday evenings before services. This is much like a pew packers program, but our emphasis is on memorizing Bible facts. We take the cards that Glenn Colley makes available on the West Huntsville Church of Christ website (which I’ll give in a moment). I modify them slightly and on Sunday evenings before services, I review these cards with our K-6 group at Lebanon Road. We really want our children to know these cards well, so we take Tuesday nights to rehearse the cards in our home devotionals. If our kids have been paying attention in KidSing, this doesn’t take long. If they haven’t, these can be some frustrating nights.

*Thursday night is object lesson night. We have yet to start these on a regular basis because Thursday nights are also our nights to either (1) have guests over for a meal, or (2) Leah and I to have a date night out. So far in 2014, we have had a lot of guests, which is great. However, on nights we are home, we will take an object lesson and present it to the kids. Again, I’ll give you a resource in a few moments, but these are simply taking a common object and developing a moral and devotional thought from it, much like Jesus did in teaching through parables.

*Saturday night is worship night. For us, these are simply brief evenings where we sing a couple of songs and maybe read a passage from the Bible or something else that reminds us of a Biblical principle. These evenings are brief, but the emphasis is on helping us begin to prepare our minds for worship on Sunday.

Is that how you have to do this in your home? Of course not, and this is a new way we are holding our devotionals in 2014. I doubt it’s perfect, and I’m sure that, as our children get older, it will change. I just wanted you to see that we are trying to remain focused on a few areas and stay regular in doing these things with our children.

Now, I will also say that we need help in this. Leah and I will admit that we are not perfectly creative, and to come up with this much stuff on a regular basis is not easy. So, we turn to resources. Let me give you a few that we have used through the years, and there are countless others that are out there to help.

  • The One-Year Children’s Bible. When our kids were smaller, they got this book for Christmas, and we read through it. Now, we did not read every day, but sometimes read a couple of entries in one evening. We did, however, read through this book in about a year. It’s a great way to get the children used to seeing the whole picture of the Bible. You may have to edit an entry or two throughout the year, but not many. Each of the 365 entries takes about 2 or 3 minutes to read, making it great for small children.
  • Family Devotionals” by Kaio Publications. These are CD-roms that have object lesson you can print out from a pdf format. Currently, there are four CD’s available, and each one has 30 short devotionals on it. The ones currently available are “object lessons from the yard,” the kitchen, the garage, and the house. More titles are coming, by the way. But, right there, you can have 120 print-and-teach devotionals ready to go. The goal is to eventually have 360 devotionals in the complete set, but 120 is enough for most of us to get started!
  • KidSing cards. You don’t have to have a pew packers or KidSing program at your congregation to use these cards in your family devotionals! You can get them for free at Or just look at those and decide on your own areas of Scripture to emphasize for memorization in your family devotionals.
  • Hannah’s Hundred. We love these CD’s and a lot of the songs we sing are memory verses from them. We also make up a few of our own, which the kids love. Each of these CDs helps the children (and you) learn 100 verses of Scripture. These are perfect for the nights when you are traveling and need to have your family devotional in the car.
  • Acts by the Numbers. This is a resource on our family blog, but it is also something we did at Lebanon Road in 2013. These provide a fact-sheet for each of the 28 chapters of the book of Acts. Each sheet talks about one chapter and has 1 summary statement, 2 memory verses, 3 review questions, and a 4-minute activity. I will admit, in reviewing these, a couple have a mistake on them, but I think you’ll still like them as a quick-printable devotional idea for your family. These are totally free at our website.
  • Lads to Leaders rulebook. You may have noticed that some of the things we have discussed are quite similar to some of the events at Lads to Leaders. You may not be involved in Lads, but that’s okay. That’s not what I’m saying in this lecture. Some of the events are good ideas for some areas to emphasize in your home devotionals, and can be tailored to fit what you do.
  • Devotions for the Children’s Hour. Kenneth Taylor, who paraphrased The Living Bible, wrote this collection of short devotionals for kids. We use this sometimes on Saturday nights, but I will say that you’ll skip or reword quite a few lessons. There’s a lot of “chaff” to be removed, but you can get a lot of good ideas from this book. Lessons are things like “Why do some people not believe the Bible?” and “Why can I trust God?” This is a good idea book, but you’ll have to do some editing for doctrinal reasons.
  • Finally, as your children age, I would suggest selecting good books from some of our brotherhood companies to work through as a family. Those famous “13-chapter” books often contain a good amount of material that maybe you divide up over the course of 2 or 3 evenings to discuss.

The key is to ask around for help. There are nearly countless resources online that can help you with whatever areas you wish to place your focus on. Ask a Bible school teacher, or call a brotherhood bookstore. If you like crafty stuff, head to Pinterest.

No matter what, get focused. Decide what you want your children to learn at this stage in their life and then lead them in learning those things.

5. Entire Family. I mentioned to you that there are a few evenings where I cannot be present for our family Bible time, but those are exceptionally rare. We take this time as a family very seriously. This is not something that should be done by part of the family. Family devotionals are a time that need to be enjoyed, yes; but they also need to be expected.

Dads, I’ll just speak to us for a second. This needs to be an area where your leadership shines. You may not be too creative, but just your emphasis in being present and showing leadership will teach volumes. In fact, it may teach more than the actual lesson being presented during the devotional time. Please make this a priority and be present a vast majority of the time, but also be involved. Let your kids see you read the story or sing the song. Memorize the verses with the kids and help them when they struggle to understand. You won’t regret leading in this way.

Moms, may I speak to you for a moment? Your husband needs your support! It may add something to your day to help get something together for the devotional, but wouldn’t you love to have a man willing to lead his family in this area? Help him come up with ideas and offer your area of expertise. Maybe you can help with a craft or printing out a worksheet. Maybe you can help select some resources for him to use. Maybe you can run (shall we call it) “crowd control” when the devotional isn’t going as well as you might like.

If you have older kids, let me speak to you. This is a time when you will strongly need to evaluate when you have your devotionals. Teenagers will be heavily involved in so many things. Maybe they are an athlete, or they are great in the band. Maybe they have a job. Whether they are in public school, private school, or homeschool, they will be busy. It may be time to move the family devotional to the morning or to just after dinner. But do not let them off the hook just because they are busy. If they can get away from this now for being busy, they have a ready-made excuse to never start devotionals in their own home one day. This is about family and it is about priorities, and being together as a family for this purpose must be a priority.

6. God and His Word. Here is where we will end, because it needs to be the focal point of everything. We haven’t mentioned a single Bible verse yet, but we want to change that to help us draw our thoughts to a close this afternoon.

In Deuteronomy 6, we know the passage that says that the Israelites were to instill the law of God on the hearts of their children. Starting in verse 4, Moses wrote, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” That’s one of those great Old Testament emphasis passages that grounds us in the importance of our work as parents and leaders of the home.

But we see it lived out in another well-known passage from the New Testament. Paul wrote to a young preacher, sometimes called his protégé, named Timothy. As he did, Paul wrote about the sincere faith that was in Timothy, but that was first seen in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). Knowing that heritage of faith, it is no wonder that Paul would write to that same man these words in 2 Timothy 3:14-15: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

I know those verses do not say, “You must have family Bible time.” I get that. But I also know that my children will likely place emphasis and value in what we do as parents. I want them to see that we place emphasis in God and His Word, and in learning that together. I want them to see that we place value and emphasis in meeting together as a family to do that.

My children need to see that our family gets together to focus on God regularly, so that I can instill into their lives what they need at this point in their growth and development.

Why? Think of what the passages in Deuteronomy and 2 Timothy teach us. We need to place this emphasis…

Because this world needs more who

Number one: have the commandments of the Lord on their heart,

Number two: are willing to teach their children who will teach their children,

Number three: are acquainted with the sacred writings,

Number four: firmly believe those writings,

                And number five: are saved by the message of Scripture.

As long as I live, I will pray for my children and their spiritual growth and maturity. But, practically speaking, I’ve only got a few years to have them right there with me where I can guide them so closely. When those years have flown by—and they are flying by—my children will head out into a world that does not have the commandments of God on its collective heart, that will not teach children (my grandchildren) the Scriptures, is not acquainted with the sacred writings, clearly does not believe them, and—tragically—will be lost because of that.

Why, then, would I ever hesitate to focus as much as I can with these wonderful treasures that God has given to me? You may call it a devotional, or Bible time, or family time, or any number of other names.

But whatever you call it, treat it as sacred, and God will bless your effort.

Let’s not just have family devotionals. Let’s lead them.

11 Things I Regret and 1 Thing I Never Will

Maybe the hardest part of forgiveness is self-forgiveness. There is no doubt that God forgives, and I’m grateful for so many in my life who have shown me forgiveness throughout the years. However, I know my weaknesses, and my brain–like yours, I’m sure–refuses to let me forget things that I know I’ve been forgiven of.


Some of that isn’t good, but it’s not all bad, either. A feeling of regret is helpful when confronted with the same temptations or struggles later in life. Wisdom demands that we remember and use that regret as motivation to do better.

This post is not meant to be a “tell-all” (sorry if you were expecting that), but I do want to share 11 things I regret.

I regret…

…times when I have not been “there” for my kids the way I should have, and put them far further down the priority list than they should be.

…days when I don’t listen to Leah closely, showing her that her thoughts are truly important to me.

…missed opportunities to invite others to worship or speak a word for the Lord.

…losing my patience with the kids, and not showing them how to properly handle anger or frustration.

…many entertainment choices in years gone by (which is one reason I blog about it quite often).

…tons of sermons where I know I preached the truth, but didn’t do so with passion.

…not bridling my tongue when “going for the laugh,” often at someone else’s expense.

…times when I didn’t visit the sick or shut in like I should (something I’m improving at, but still struggle with).

…struggling to be committed to prayer, especially when things are going well.

…dealing with laziness, especially at home.

…too often, being reactive instead of proactive.

…not honoring my parents and sister as often as I should. (They so much deserve honor!)

Now, before you get ready to comment and say, “Oh, it’s okay. We all struggle with stuff,” let me get to the point of this post.

That list could be quite a bit longer. I have lots of regrets, some general and some specific. My mind can go back to many events, moments, and conversations when I was not what I should have been. If we’re honest, we can all do that.

But there is one thing I will never regret.

As many things as I may do (or fail to do) that bring regret, I will never regret that when I fail, it’s because I’m striving to reach the standard of Jesus Christ.

Though I’ll never get there, I can live without regret because He’s helping me be more like Him, and His hand will help me rise up and over my regrets each day.

And that’s something I’ll never regret!


Photo credit: Richard Summers on Creative Commons

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“The Wolf of Wall Street” and a Vanishing Conscience


According to Variety magazine, that is how many times a movie-goer who sees the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” will hear one particular curse word.


You read that correctly. In the three-hour (exactly) movie, just one curse word is used over five-hundred times. It averages out to 2.8 occurrences per minute over the course of the 180 minute film.

I have seem some Christians on social media mentioning this “extreme” use of language. Thankfully, they are not people who have seen the movie, but those who are just reporting–as I am in this post–this awful use of language.

Listening to the radio the other day, we heard a dj mention this as well, and say that several of his friends had walked out of the theater, due to the language.

But it got me thinking. Why does it shock us that a movie would have this much language in it?

And that led me to another question: where is “the line?”

Why are we shocked and appalled by 506 curse words in a movie, but we will justify a movie that “only” has a hundred or so?

We are quick to point out a movie’s “clean” nature, but think of how we talk.

  • “It was great, and it only used a few bad words.”
  • “There were a few cuss words, but it’s still worth seeing.”
  • “I guess there were a few bad words, but the acting is great.”

I am not going to be Pharisaical about this, but I really think Christians should take stock in what they are supporting when they pay money to go to the theater. Further, we need to be very careful about how we talk about our entertainment choices. If we aren’t careful, we can end up justifying seeing nearly anything, simply because it’s “not as bad as” some other film.

…that could lead down a very dangerous road!

And that is just what Hollywood wants. It won’t be long, I’m sure, before a movie sets a new record for curse words. With the moral sewage that regularly emanates from the movie industry, 506 curse words may be old news in just a few years.

But, if (when) that happens, will some of us talk about “The Wolf of Wall Street” as “not as bad as” this new record-setter? That should be an eye-opening question.

So, what will you be watching over the next few days? Will you allow whatever is in the news or the latest blockbuster to be your determining factor, justifying it as “it’s just entertainment?” Or, will you think in Biblical terms about holiness and the need to guard your heart and mind as holy instruments to be used in the service of the Lord?

“O be careful little ears what you hear…”


Photo credit: Goksan Ozman on Creative Commons

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Tears of Faith

Recently, I had a wonderful visit with an aging saint. He has been through quite a number of health issues, and is a widower of a little more than 10 years. He is fairly quiet, but we enjoy each other’s company.


On this day, he had great news from his doctors and was wanting to talk. It was a joy to hear his good news and then just to “shoot the breeze” for a few minutes. To say the least, we had a great visit.

However, during the course of our time, this man shed tears.


But he taught me so much in those moments that I pray I do not forget anytime soon.

This could be a post about keeping a tender heart or about how it’s okay for real men to cry, but that’s not what he taught me through his tears.

He taught me about what is really important.

His first tears fell from his face as we were just sharing memories. He had told me that his heart doctor had given him good news, and that he took that news very seriously. This wise man said something like, “That heart will get you if you aren’t careful. And often without warning.”

Then, he sobbed. Why? Because, through the tears, he said, “Just like it did my wife.”

She died from a sudden heart attack over 10 years ago, but that memory still floods this good man with emotion. He showed me pictures (she was beautiful) and talked about some of their family traditions.

Our conversation continued for a little while on various subjects, when he turned the talk to Lebanon Road and what a good place it is. Part of the pain this man has been through for many months is that he has not been able to drive. And, even if someone could bring him to worship, there have been very few days when he could come. The pain was just too much for him to bear.

As he talked about that, tears began to flow again.

As they did, he said, “I sure miss church. I’ve wanted to go to church.”

Here was a man who has been through so much for quite a long time. His pain is unthinkable to me, and he has been able to do very little for himself. He has faced frustration and pain that I would not wish upon anyone, and has done so with a great attitude.

But what brought him to tears?

He missed his wife and worship.

Talk about a wake up call for all of us.

When you are thinking of returning “that” phone call to “that” girl, or chatting with that “old flame” on Facebook, think of my friend, who built a marriage that shows what love and dedication is all about.

Or,when the beach or “the big game” seems more important than worshiping God, picture my friend sitting at home where he can watch whatever he wants on TV, but would do anything to gather before God in worship.

If his tears didn’t remind me of where my priorities should be, then I’m not sure my emotions can be touched. What will touch yours?


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We Homeschool, But You Don’t Have To (or, “Why a Lot of Homeschoolers Give Homeschooling a Bad Name”)

Yes, we homeschool our children.

Yes, we have since they started school. We are in year 3 now.

Yes, we think it’s what is best for our children (at least at this time).

But no…we do not think you have to in order to be faithful parents.


I saw it again very recently. I was scanning my Facebook feed and noticed an article someone had linked to. It was about some controversial matter in another state in a public school (by the way, the person who linked to the article doesn’t even live in the state where the event happened). It was one of those matters that is good to know about, and I’m glad this person linked to it as a sort of “f.y.i.”.

Then, however, I read it. It was the comment on the link which said, basically, “This is why we homeschool our children.”

Then, this person added…

“…and you should, too.”

I groaned.

We love homeschooling our children. We love what it gives both to them and to our family. When people ask about it, we try to be enthusiastic about what it means to our family. If they are considering homeschooling, we try to tell them that they can do it, and we strive to show the benefits.

But we do not try to tell people (1) that’s is a utopia, or (2) that it’s the only answer!

Let’s be honest: a strong argument could be made against homeschooling. That whole “salt” and “light” idea comes to mind, just for starters.

Are events like the one I read about on Facebook a reason why we homeschool? Absolutely. But that drift in many parts of our country away from Biblical morality is not the only reason we made this choice.

But far above that, way too many of us who homeschool talk about it as if it is “the only answer” for schooling children. The fact of the matter is, that’s just not the case. We plan on homeschooling throughout our children’s “school years,” but we also are honest enough to say that we need to evaluate that decision each year. Is this decision the right one for “this” child at “this” time?

We are very enthusiastic about our choice, and we think it works for us. A lot–I would even say, a vast majority–who homeschool feel the same way. They love it, and it works well. However, my job as a dad who homeschools is not to tell you that you should choose the same for your children. I don’t know your children like you do. I don’t know your home situation like you do.

But I do know this: no matter what choice you make, you must be involved! No matter how you choose to educate your children, you are still the steward of a life entrusted to you by God. If your children go to public or private school, you need to be involved in seeing that values are upheld. Remember, it’s not “their” job to educate your children. It’s your work to raise them in God’s nurture and admonition.

So, may I make an appeal? It is an appeal from a dad who homeschools to all the other homeschooling parents out there. Be enthusiastic about it. Go at it as best you can. Let this decision be one you are proud of and that truly impacts your children.

But please, stop trying to make it sound like every family should make the same choice. It’s a good choice. We think it’s a great choice…

…for our kids…

but we are going to pray that you make the best choice for your kids. And we’ll support your decision, and hope you’ll support ours.


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