The Rushmore Report – Should I Invest in the Stock Market?

I am often asked, “Should I invest in the stock market?” The volatility of the recent market makes this a more poignant question now than ever. This is my best advice. Proverbs 4:7 notes, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Before you decide how and even whether you should be involved to be in the stock market, consider this:

First: Understand your Finances.

Evaluate your own personal balance sheet, which includes your income, your assets, your obligations (your bills) and your debts. Too many of us are uninformed about our true financial picture.

In Proverbs we are advised: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.”

You can think of “a crown” as a job, which may end, and the flocks as savings and investment as livestock had value. Even kings need to know what’s in the bank.

Second: Understand the Difference Between Saving and Investing.

After you have established a budget that makes allowance for your obligations, such as tithing, and saving an emergency fund (for those undesirable events that happen to all of us), you will now know what you have available for investing. Your savings account should not be placed at risk. Investment funds are subject to loss but at various degrees of risk. If you cannot afford to lose the funds, they should be moved into a savings program consisting of money market funds, CD’s and/or treasuries.

Initially, we at Crown recommend that you invest about 5 percent of your income. You can learn more about budgeting here. But this is the important part — be prepared to lose it.

One of the realities of any investment is that sometimes it fails. What goes up often comes down.

Over the last few years, the stock market has enjoyed the financial momentum of emerging markets — these are growing economies in a group of countries called BRICS, representing the financial markets of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. But as you noted in your question, BRICS are in trouble. Brazil is headed into recession. China’s government is engaging in huge market corrections that worry investors about whether it is truly strong, and turmoil in the oil industry is impacting Russia and the Middle East. Of course here at home, we’ve had our own difficulties with job creation and a slow economy.

The bottom line is that when choosing investment or savings; don’t look for a quick profit from a deal too good to be true (it probably is). Choose carefully, and consider getting good financial advice from an advisor who shares your values.

Third: Understand and Practice Diversification.

Over the course of a lifetime of saving and investing, money will grow, but if you will need to retire soon, the stock market may be too volatile short term. Diversification is the only safe strategy for investing, to allow your money — the seed you have to sow — a chance to grow in more than one field, and to protect yourself from the rise and fall of markets.

Ecclesiastes 11:2 is Solomon’s timeless advice on diversification. It is the best hedge against uncertainty. He recommends dividing your “portions” or investment monies between 7 or 8 different opportunities. This equates to no more than 12-15% in a single fund.

Fourth: Understand that you have more options than just the stock market.

If you’re looking for a strategy for growing wealth and assets, consider the Proverbs 31 woman. She engaged in real estate, trading, fashion, working in a number of business ventures available to her. She diversified her investment, and rose early to make them profitable.

Perhaps investing in a local business would work better for you. Typically, investing in your own skills and talents pays the greatest dividends over time.

Fifth: Understand Slow Growth is Good.

All of us need to prepare for the future with wise saving and investing, but don’t be in too much a hurry as that can lead you to unnecessary risk.

“Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow,” Proverbs 13:11.

About the Author

Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late, Larry Burkett. He is an author, host of My MoneyLife- a daily radio feature and a frequent speaker on the topic of Biblical financial principles. Follow him on Twitter @chuckbentley and visit Crown.org for more help.

The Rushmore Report – Billy Graham on New Year’s Resolutions

Known as “America’s Pastor,” Billy Graham remains the most significant Christian figure of the last 100 years. In December, 2011, already well into his 90s, Graham fielded a question about New Year’s resolutions. Following is that question and Dr. Graham’s response. As we enter a new year, his words are as timely and inspired today as they were when he wrote them seven years ago.

Question: I’ve about decided I’m not going to make any New Year’s resolutions this year. I’ve always done it, but I don’t think I’ve ever managed to keep a single one more than a few weeks. Why should I bother?

Answer: You’re right; it’s probably not worth bothering with resolutions if you start out assuming you’re going to fail, because that’s exactly what you’ll end up doing. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and I suggest you reconsider.

The start of a new year is a good time to stop and look at our lives, and that’s the first step in making any realistic resolutions. What needs to be improved in our lives? What needs to be eliminated or added? Most of all, what does God see when he looks at me, and what does he want me to do with his help? What is his will for the coming year, and for my life? The Bible says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Then make sure your resolutions are realistic. Many New Year’s resolutions aren’t “resolutions” at all; they’re only vague dreams or wishes. Don’t focus on self-centered goals; focus instead on what God wants to do in your life. Above all, make sure of your commitment to Christ, and if it means little to you, why not begin the new year by giving your life to him?

Finally, think through how you can achieve the goals you’ve set. Pray for God’s help; plan what steps you need to take; get others to encourage and help you. May 2012 become the best year you’ve ever had, as you build your life on the foundation of Christ and his word.

The Rushmore Report – A Timeless Christmas Message by Billy Graham

Read this timeless piece, originally penned by Billy Graham in 1969, on the reason for Christmas.

Christmas is a special time. It is a family celebration. Other holidays are different. Good Friday and Easter are usually celebrated in church. National days are honored with speeches, parades and the ceremonies of government. But Christmas is glorified in the home because it is the celebration of a birthday.

Yet there is irony in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. He was born away from home, on a journey that symbolized the restless and the wandering nature of the world into which He came. He was born in the insecurity of a barn, a symbol of the fact that during His public ministry, He would have very little home life. He roamed the roads and towns of ancient Palestine. He died, taking the ordeal of the cross so that out of His suffering and His victorious resurrection mankind could find redemption.

Christmas means different things to different people. To some, Christmas is merely a means to make more money. People vie with each other in their preparation for the celebration of the occasion. Some of them do not believe in Christ; they may even hate Him. But Christmas has become big business. People are more concerned to hear about their profit from Christmas than to hear about the Prophet from Bethlehem. The clinking sound of money is sweeter to some than the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angels to the shepherds.

Many people cannot hear Christmas carols today because their ears are attuned to different sounds. Some minds are riveted to Wall Street, and their eyes are focused on reports about the stock market going up or down.

Pleasure-seeking consumes the time and the thoughts of many people. Some try to find a merry Christmas in what they call entertainment and fun. Instead of imbibing the spirit of Christmas, they choose to imbibe spirits at Christmas. For many people the holiday is an opportunity to celebrate in the wrong way.

The Apostle Paul once said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). He meant that he conquered his appetites and kept his passions and desires under control. We, too, need to conquer our hatreds, our fears, our doubts, our anxieties. We need to conquer selfishness—even the desire for special Christmas gifts for ourselves.

We cannot have a merry Christmas or a happy new year when we have become slaves to the passions and vices that hound us. These things—materialism, money, artificial pleasure—are crowding Christ out of Christmas for multitudes. They are so busy with a thousand and one other things that they have no time to consider the message of the Baby of Bethlehem.

On that first Christmas, 2,000 years ago, the world experienced three phenomena:

First, the star. Many stars shone in the sky, but none like this one. This one shone with aura and brilliance! It was as though God had taken a lamp from the ceiling of Heaven and hung it in the dark sky over a troubled world.

Second, a new song in the air. A world that had lost its song learned to sing again. With the coming of God in the flesh, hope sprang up in the hearts of people. Led by angelic beings, we can now take up the refrain, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

And third, good news—the Good News that at last a Savior had come to save men and women from sin: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus was the central theme of that first Christmas. The star, the song, the gifts, the kneeling, the joy, the hope, the excitement—all were because of Him.

God’s star promised peace to the world if we will believe and trust Him. But having rejected Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we have no peace in the world. Too often our synthetic stars bring only fear, anxiety and even more war.

In our world today are self-proclaimed saviors, people who claim to be God’s gift to the world. How different they are from Jesus, who “was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

The Scriptures say, “There is born to you this day … a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Heaven and Earth joined together! God and mankind reconciled. Hope for the hopeless, pardon for the guilty, forgiveness for the conscience-stricken, peace for those who knew no peace, Good News for those who have had nothing but bad news!

Yes, Jesus Christ can save us from despair. I have talked with many leaders, and one thing that most of them have in common is pessimism. The tensions, conflicts and seemingly insoluble problems of this world tend to make them cynical and doubtful.

Many cynics will blame God for the troubles of the world. We should blame ourselves. We have a spiritual disease, and that disease is called sin. Until sin is conquered, the world will not be a better place in which to live.

When people willfully reject the Prince of Peace, they pay a terrible price. A secular and materialistic society that has rejected the Prince of Peace yields to pessimism and despair. The blighting cynicism that has come as a result of our rejection of God is reflected in our literature, our art, our films, our television programs and even our pulpits.

Christmas should be a time of renewed hope—not hope in a particular political concept, but Christmas hope; Christian hope; hope in Jesus Christ; hope that, despite our tangled bungling, God will bring order out of chaos.

But Christmas is even more personal. The angel who said, “He will save His people from their sins,” was touching the very heart of your need.

People today would rather not talk about sin. They don’t want to face the reality of their spiritual disease. I heard of a man who found conversation about cancer distasteful. When the subject came up, he would walk away. He would not consent to periodic examination.

He would permit no X-rays. But one day, having experienced a loss of weight and appetite, he was persuaded to have a physical examination. The doctors found a cancer of massive proportions.

So it is with sin. Our reluctance to discuss it, our tendency to ignore it, our resentment of anyone’s talking about it, may be a revelation of our secret fear that we may be sin-filled.

Jesus Christ has a great deal to say about sin. He came on that first Christmas night to “save His people from their sins.” No doctor in the world can treat sin. No psychiatrist in the world can cure sin. They can work on symptoms, they can help the sinner to live with his sin, but they cannot get rid of the disease. Only Jesus Christ can heal the disease of sin.

This is what the cross and the resurrection are all about. And Christmas is not Christmas without the message of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is why He was born. This was the message of the first Christmas night: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” The Christmas message says that God’s grace is greater than our sin. It says that the sin question was answered at the cross. Christmas says that the cross went as deep as our needs. The cross was the cure—offered, paid for and administered by a loving God in His beloved Son.

I never come to Christmas without thinking of the thousands of people who are lonely, diseased and troubled at this time of year. Christmas is a reminder from God Himself that we are not alone. The Prophet Isaiah said that His name would be called Immanuel, which means God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). God revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus a reconciling love that rescues us from separation and loneliness.

At this Christmas season you can be assured that Jesus Christ is here. He is here to give us hope, to forgive our sins, to give us a new song, to impart faith and to heal our spiritual wounds, if only we will let Him.

The Christmas message has not changed after 2,000 years. Christmas still reminds us that God is with us.

In spite of all the pessimism and cynicism, in spite of all the headlines about murders, assassinations, riots, demonstrations and war, Jesus Christ is alive. He is alive to conquer despair, to impart hope, to forgive sins and to take away our loneliness. He is alive to reconcile us to God.

This Christmas, accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Give Him the gift that He wants—your heart, your soul, your life.

About the Author

Billy Graham was the most significant Christian figure of the 20th century.

The Rushmore Report – The 20 Most Popular Christmas Songs of All Time

What are the most popular Christmas songs of all time? Christmas carols capture the spirit of the holidays and tap into a nostalgia that crosses multiple generations. The Ranker Group ventured into the realm of popular Christmas music with a nationwide poll. They asked one question of 10,200 Americans – What is your favorite Christmas song ever? Here is the list of the 20 most popular.

1. White Christmas
2. Silent Night
3. Santa Clause Is Coming to Town
4. Winter Wonderland
5. Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer
6. O Holy Night
7. Joy to the World
8. Last Christmas
9. Little Drummer Boy
10. Jingle Bell Rock
11. Frosty the Snowman
12. Jingle Bells
13. Here Comes Santa Claus
14. A Holly Jolly Christmas
15. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
16. Santa Baby
17. Baby It’s Cold Outside
18. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
19. Do They Know It’s Christmas?
20. I’ll Be Home for Christmas

A Tribute to My Dad

I still remember “the call.” It came 39 years ago today, at 1:00 p.m. I was home alone, in my college apartment, watching a baseball game on TV. When I answered the phone, Mark Murrow greeted me with a dim voice. I’d never had a call from Mark before. He lived next door to my parents, about an hour’s drive away. “Why would he be calling me?” I wondered. Soon, it became clear.

“Your dad has had a heart attack. You need to get to the hospital as soon as you can. He is at Northwest Medical Center.” He told me where the hospital was, and I hung up.

Jumping in my 1975 Ford Maverick, I head for the nearby Tenneco gas station. After buying just enough gas for the trip across Houston, I was off, driving like a crazy man. Then it happened. At 1:20, a peace came over me as I sensed a clear voice from God. “You can slow down now. He’s gone.”

He’s gone. Those two words would change everything for me.

When I arrived at the hospital, I went to my mother. We hugged, cried, and prayed. Then I called my brother. When he arrived an hour later, I told him the grim news. The rest of the day remains a blur.

But let me return to those two words: He’s gone.

The Bible says, “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). I confess I have honored my dad more in the past 37 years than I did in my first 19. There were too many times I did not obey his words or honor his position. I suppose that’s called “being a teenager.”

I had a special relationship with my dad. There are so many great memories: playing catch, fishing all night, birthday parties, vacations, cub scout outings, ball games, and my favorite – the night he slipped into the church sanctuary to hear me preach my first sermon.

So today, on the 37th anniversary of his death, I honor the memory and legacy of Lester I. Denison. A farm boy and product of the Depression, he served his country heroically in WWII. He started his own business, raised two good kids, and was faithful and wonderful to his wife.

It has been said, “The greatest need in every male’s heart is to have the approval of his father.” I suppose I’m still seeking my dad’s approval. I want him to be proud of me . . . as I am of him.

Lester I. Denison was many things: military veteran, business owner, Sunday school teacher, and entrepreneur. But to me he was just “Dad.” That makes this my saddest day of the year. On December 15, for the 37th time, those two words still ring in my ears as if spoken just seconds ago . . .

He’s gone.

The Rushmore Report – Ten Ways to Keep Christ in Christmas

The number one way to keep Jesus Christ in your Christmas celebrations is to have him present in your daily life. If you’re not sure what it means to become a believer in Christ, check out this article on “How to Become a Christian.”

If you’ve already accepted Jesus as your Savior and made him the center of your life, keeping Christ in Christmas is more about the way you live your life than the things you say—such as “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.”

Keeping Christ in Christmas means daily revealing the character, love and spirit of Christ that dwells in you, by allowing these traits to shine through your actions. Here are simple ways to keep Christ the central focus of your life this Christmas season.

1) Give God one very special gift just from you to him.

2) Set aside a special time to read the Christmas story in Luke 1:5-56 through 2:1-20.

3) Set up a Nativity scene in your home.

4) Plan a project of good will this Christmas.

5) Take a group Christmas caroling in a nursing home or a children’s hospital.

6) Give a surprise gift of service to each member of your family.

7) Set aside a time of family devotions on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

8) Attend a Christmas church service together with your family.
If you are alone this Christmas or don’t have family living near you, invite a friend or a neighbor to join you.

9) Send Christmas cards that convey a spiritual message.

10) Write a Christmas letter to a missionary.

About the Author

Mary Fairchild is a Christian writer, editor, and full-time minister. She writes on Christian issues for an organization called ThoughtCo.

The Rushmore Report – Nicole Kidman Talks About Her Faith

In promoting her upcoming film Hollywood icon Nicole Kidman has opened up about her faith and personal belief in God.  For the December/January issue of Allure magazine, Kidman, who was raised in an Irish Catholic family, sported a diamond-studded crucifix, which she said was a gift from her grandmother. She wears it all the time. “I’m spiritual in the sense that I absolutely believe in God,” she said.

Kidman went on to reveal that she once thought of becoming a nun. “I loved the idea of being a nun,” she said. “I did not choose that path, but I was very drawn to it.”

The 51-year-old is the star of the new film, “Boy Erased,” in which she plays a pastor’s wife. Her role as Nancy Eamons is the wife of a small-town Baptist pastor who put their son in a “gay conversion” program after discovering that he was gay.

Once linked to Scientology, Kidman shared that she had become estranged from her two oldest children. Her kids left her for a life with their adoptive father Tom Cruise following their divorce.

“They are adults. They are able to make their own decisions. But my job is to love them,” Kidman said.

Now married to country music star Keith Urban, the two recently visited a children’s hospital in Australia together. There, they sang “Amazing Grace.”

Urban and Kidman toured the Monash Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, visiting kids with cancer. Others in the hospital halls joined them in singing the famous hymn.

Such outings and quiet ministry have become commonplace for both Kidman and Urban. Nicole Kidman has returned to the faith of her childhood. Her Christian faith is growing and increasingly becoming a part of her daily lifestyle.

The Rushmore Report – The Top 10 Reasons People Get Divorced

If you think that sexual infidelity is the leading cause of divorce, you’ve got it all wrong. We polled over 100 YourTango experts to see what they say are the top reasons married couples decide to split, and — believe it or not — communication problems came out on top as the number one reason marriages fail. Here are some other culprits our experts blame for the high divorce rate.

1. Getting in for the wrong reasons.

Marrying for money — we’ve all heard that that is a ticket to a quick divorce, but what about when you marry because it’s what you think you should do?

I’ve met many divorced women who say the problems that made them leave were there right from the beginning but “everyone expected us to live happily ever after” or “we had already spent so much money on the wedding” or “we had just built our dream home.” So, remember, until you say “I do,” you always have the choice to say “I don’t!”

2. Lack of individual identity.

A codependent relationship is not healthy. When you don’t have your own interests or the opportunity to express yourself outside of coupledom, you become “couple dumb.”

If you are not comfortable doing things without your partner, or you don’t know what kind of music, movies, or food you used to like, you are likely in deep and you probably feel like you are drowning and don’t know why.

3. Becoming lost in the roles.

Just as many couples “forget” their single friends and single ways when they get married, when you add children into the mix, most parents soon neglect or completely forget that they are a couple.

As children grow and need less attention, many husbands and wives find that they have grown apart and they can’t remember why they ever got married in the first place because they no longer have anything in common.

4. Not having a shared vision of success.

“Everything changed when we got married!” He drives you crazy because you’re a saver and he’s a spender. Your idea of a weekend getaway is a cozy cottage in the woods; your partner wants to the hit the town and catch a game. He thinks it’s your job to cook and clean, but you disagree.

Why didn’t he mention these things before? Maybe you should have asked. Chances are that he hasn’t changed — your expectations did. Is it possible to survive major differences in philosophy? It is possible, but many do not.

5. The intimacy disappears.

Somewhere in a marriage there is a subtle change in the intimacy department. One person has an off day, there is a misunderstanding or someone doesn’t feel well. Then there’s the idea that he isn’t as romantic or she isn’t as sexual.

Whoever is the one with the subtle change can trigger a downward spiral in the intimacy department. Men generally need sexual receptivity to feel romantic and women generally need romance to be sexually receptive. As long as both people are getting what they need, they willingly provide what the other person wants. However, when there is a lessening on either’s part, that can trigger a pulling back in the other. If gone unnoticed and unchecked, before the couple realizes, they are seriously intimately estranged and wonder what happened. This can lead to divorce as couples begin to feel unloved and unappreciated.

6. Unmet expectations.

Somewhere written into a human’s genetic code lie the instruction that when a person isn’t happy, he or she is supposed to force his/her significant to make the changes required to make the unhappy person happy again. This usually takes the form of complaining, blaming, criticizing, nagging, threatening, punishing and/or bribing.

When one or both people in the marriage are attempting to coerce each other into doing things they don’t want to do for their partner’s happiness, it is a recipe for disaster. When you are unhappy in a relationship, it’s okay to ask for the change you want. But, if your partner doesn’t oblige you, then you become responsible for your own happiness.

7. Finances.

It’s not usually the lack of finances that causes the divorce, but the lack of compatibility in the financial arena.

Opposites can attract but when two people are opposites in the financial department, divorce often ensues. Imagine the conflict if one is a saver and one is a spender. One is focused on the future while the other believes in living for today. One has no problem buying on credit, while the other believes in saving up for what one wants.

Over time, this conflict can reach such heights that divorce seems to be the only logical conclusion.

8. Being out of touch… literally.

I’m talking about physical contact. Of course, sex is great, but you also need to supplement it with little hello and goodbye kisses, impromptu hugs and simply holding hands. Couples who don’t maintain an intimate connection through both sexual and non-sexual actions are destined to become virtual strangers.

9. Different priorities and interests.

Having shared interests and exploring them together is essential for a successful marriage. Of course, having “me time” is important as well, but unless you can find common passions and look for ways to experience them together, you’ll inevitably grow farther and farther apart.

10. Inability to resolve conflicts.

Every couple has disagreements. The key is to develop ground rules so that each partner feels respected and heard. Sometimes it takes a third party “referee” to help define those rules and teach us to move through the charged emotions so resentments don’t linger.

About the Author

Lisa Payne writes for Huff.Post.

The Rushmore Report – Christian Singer Lauren Daigle Performs on ‘Ellen’

Grammy-nominated singer Lauren Daigle was featured on NBC’s popular “Ellen DeGeneres Show” last week, where she showcased her new Christian music. DeGeneres called Daigle “amazing” before the Christian singer took the stage to perform “Rolling Stones” off of her recently released album Look Up Child.

Daigle sang, “Six feet under, I thought it was over. An answer to prayer, the voice of a Savior. Rise up, rise!”

After the performance, DeGeneres rushed on stage, hugged Daigle, and joked that the former “American Idol” alum was so successful because DeGeneres was a judge while Daigle did a short stint on the popular singing competition show.

Daigle had announced her special appearance on “Ellen” in a Facebook post, and while some praised her for it, others took issue because of DeGeneres’ open lesbian lifestyle. However, as Daigle said in a recent interview with The Christian Post, she is remaining true to her call of going outside of the church to share the Gospel.

“I think the passage that says, ‘Go out into the world and draw people unto Him,’ the Great Commission, that’s what I think about in regard to the mainstream aspect,” Daigle told CP in the interview. “I wasn’t looking at making my music as in mainstream versus Christian. I was like, ‘Okay, what is the purest version of me? Or what is the purest thing that God has written into my spirit and how do I express that? How do I communicate that?’”

The 27-year-old Louisiana native said she’s not afraid to appeal to the world with her message of hope, which some fear might lead her astray and to abandon her worship roots to become a secular artist. Daigle, however, said her faith and mission in life have never been clearer.

 

The Rushmore Report – Five Keys to Raising Christian Kids

In the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to speak at several Christian conferences and churches on the importance of parents teaching their kids apologetics (how to make a case for and defend the truth of the Christian faith). When I speak, I often begin by asking the following two questions. First, I ask parents, “How many of you have come here already knowing that our world is becoming very secular and that your child’s faith is likely to be challenged in some way because of it?”

One hundred percent of the hands go up…every time.

Second, I ask parents, “How many of you would go to the next step of saying you’re confident that you know specifically what those big faith challenges are, how to effectively address them with your kids, and how that translates into parenting responsibilities on a day-to-day basis?”

Zero percent of the hands go up…every time.

As I’ve blogged about Christian parenting for the last four years, I’ve had the opportunity to hear from hundreds of parents. This gap between 1) knowing our secular world will influence our kids’ faith and 2) understanding what exactly that means for parents, is nearly universal. And it often leads to fear and frustration—parents know there’s a problem but they don’t know the solution.

It’s that gap that led me to write Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith. I wanted to help parents identify and understand 40 of the most important faith challenges they need to discuss with their kids so those challenges no longer feel ambiguous and unmanageable. But even once parents gain this critical understanding, the question remains: How does this translate into parental responsibilities?

Here are five key things to consider.

1. Parents must commit to continually deepening their understanding of Christianity.

In a secular world, kids will frequently encounter challenges to their faith—especially from vocal atheists. Atheists are often well prepared to lay out their arguments against God and Christianity in particular. Unfortunately, many Christian parents are not equally prepared to teach their kids the case for the truth of Christianity and how to defend their beliefs. Questions like the following are critically important for kids to understand today, but few parents are equipped to proactively address them: What evidence is there for the existence of God? Why would a good God allow evil and suffering? How can a loving God send people to hell? Is faith in God the opposite of reason? What are the historical facts of the resurrection that nearly every scholar agrees on? How can Christians believe miracles are even possible? How do we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote? Does the Bible support slavery, rape, and human sacrifice (as skeptics allege)?

In the past, when society was at least more nominally Christian, parents may have been able to avoid addressing the more difficult questions of faith with their kids (not that they should have!). But today’s challenges require much more from faithful Christian parents. We must learn what the big challenges are, equip ourselves to engage with them, and commit to continually deepening our understanding of our faith so we can guide our kids accordingly.

2. Parents must intentionally make “spiritual space” in their home.

It’s not enough to deepen your own understanding of Christianity, of course. Somehow you have to transfer that understanding to your kids, and that transfer requires carefully set aside time. The kinds of faith conversations we need to be having with our kids today (like the questions listed in point 1) are simply not going to happen in a meaningful way unless you make spiritual space for them. By spiritual space, I mean dedicated time for your family to engage together in growing your understanding of and relationship with God. There’s no reason such a time shouldn’t be scheduled just like all the other (less important) activities in your life. If you’re not currently doing this, start with just 30 minutes per week. That’s reasonable for any family.

3. Parents must study the Bible with their kids. Really.

Even if you know Bible study is important, statistics show you’re probably not doing it: Fewer than 1 in 10 Christian families study the Bible together in a given week. If your kids perceive that you’ve effectively relegated the Bible to the backburner of relevancy, they’ll have little reason to see it as the authoritative book Christians claim it to be. It’s absolutely pointless to talk about the Bible being God’s Word if you’re not treating it as such.

Meanwhile, the Bible is a favorite attack point of skeptics and our kids will have ample opportunity to hear how it’s an ancient, irrelevant book filled with inaccuracies and contradictions. If you’re not regularly studying the Bible with your kids, there’s a good chance they’ll eventually stop caring what it has to say.

4. Parents must proactively and regularly ask their kids what questions they have about faith.

In a secular world, where kids are constantly hearing competing worldviews, questions are guaranteed to continually arise. But there are many reasons kids may never actually ask them—they have too many other things going on, they’re afraid of your reaction, or they are simply not interested enough to bring them up.

In our house, we’ve implemented a scheduled “questions night” to help with this. You can read about how to start your own in my article, How to Get Your Kids to Ask More Questions about Their Faith.

5. Parents must ask their kids the tough questions they don’t think to ask.

If you regularly encourage your kids to ask questions about faith (see point 4), you’ll have lots of great conversations. But many questions that are important for kids to understand in preparation for the secular world they’ll encounter are ones that might never cross their mind to ask. For example, most kids don’t think to ask how we know the Bible we have today says what the authors originally wrote. But that doesn’t mean they won’t almost certainly encounter skeptics who tell them the Bible is completely untrustworthy for that reason. Just as we don’t wait for our kids to ask questions about World War II before deciding when, what, and how to teach them about it, we shouldn’t wait until our kids encounter challenges before we address them. They’ll undoubtedly hear about these topics from skeptics at some point, so there’s no reason they shouldn’t hear about them from us first.

About the Author

Natasha Crain is the author of Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side.