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Documentary, Internet, Recent Articles, RP App, Sexuality

Fund a film about fighting sexual temptation

"Into the Light" will equip God’s people to fight the pull of pornography

This is an overview of an episode of Lucas Holvlüwer and Tyler Vanderwoudes’ Real Talk podcast. Real Talk is a podcast of Reformed Perspective featuring great conversations on everything from propaganda to mental health, and if you haven't checked it out already, you really should. And you really can, at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca.

*****

On this, their 50th episode, Real Talk’s Lucas and Tyler invited filmmakers Jake Valk and John-Michael Bout to talk about pornography, its devastating effects on Christians, and how the Lord’s people can fight against this terrible pervasive sin.

Bout began by describing in a very real and personal way his own decade-long struggle with pornography – the feelings of guilt at what he knew was sinful, difficulties with anger brought on by his own hypocrisy, and his gradual drift away from the Lord with a conscience made dull over time. Bout described how grateful he is that God led other Christians on his path who had turned away from porn by the Lord’s grace, and dedicated themselves to helping others with this pervasive, insidious sin.

A providential conversation

So what made the two of them think about creating a documentary? Jake Valk shared a story of having coffee with Christian author Tim Challies, whose book Sexual Detox was of great help. Not (yet) knowing that Valk was a filmmaker, Challies wondered if books were the best means to address the problem of pornography: wouldn’t video be a better medium to reach those caught up in that cycle?

This suggestion fanned a spark into a flame: why not make a documentary that would inspire people to take the steps to get out of the grip of pornography? And that is just what Valk and Bout did. Their new film, to be called Into the Light introduces six speakers with expertise in Christian responses to porn, not just in understanding that porn is sinful and wrong, but with real and practical suggestions for how to stop sinful habits, from the perspective of both those struggling with the sin, and those trying to help “the struggler.”

Valk explained:

“(One of our speakers) is Deepak Reju; he wrote the book Rescue Plan. He and Jonathan Holmes wrote a pair of books that are really good. One of the things he talks about is the philosophy of locking down a phone: how to cut off all access, and he walks you through that process from the vantage point of someone who is struggling with porn, but also if you’re helping someone who is struggling, and understand how they would be tempted to get out of the full lockdown of a phone, and so you can be extra alert to make sure that you really are shutting down a device for all it’s worth.  So you can kind of take everything that our speakers talk about in the film from two different angles – the struggler, and the (one helping the struggler).”

Valk and Bout want the film to be made available for no cost to churches, organizations, and individuals, to be a resource to as many people as possible. To make this work, they’ve been fundraising through a Christian crowdfunding site with a target of $85,000. You can find out how to donate at their page GiveSendGo.com/IntoTheLight, and you can watch the trailer below.

It’s not about stopping the bad, but embracing the One Who is Good

Bout emphasized that freeing people from porn is not the end goal: the real goal is to help people find Jesus Christ, and to have Him be the foundation of their new life.

“There are other methods to get free from pornography that don’t involve God – there are many secular programs… but if you get free of porn and still lose your soul, what’s the point?”

Valk stated emphatically that a documentary can never take the place of a program like Life Renewal, with accountability, personal connections, and a thorough teaching program.

“Life Renewal is way better than what we can make. 100 percent! Life Renewal is so thorough; they really walk through the process and do it over a year. That’s way better than this!”

But there’s also a place for a film like Into the Light to help get conversations started, and to push a struggling sinner to seek help through a program like Life Renewal and other Christian resources.

“If you find this film, and you’re uncovering sin, and you’re bringing it into the light, and you’re really building your relationship with God, and you want to go to something like Life Renewal which will take you way, way deeper, please do! They do a phenomenal job.”

First, stop the bleeding

So what else is in the film? Bout summarized a section that deals with “triage”

“Deepak Reju gets into the radical practical measures of cutting off access (to porn)… if you walked into a hospital with an open wound, you’re not going to be getting asked ‘oh, so what are your symptoms, what are some things you need?’ The first thing they do is they take you in and stitch up the gaping bleeding wound so that they can have the healing take place, and to use that analogy, when you’re dealing with pornography it’s not legalism to say we have to start by cutting off access… cutting off total access.”

Valk remembered asking one of the speakers, Heath Lambert, when it was OK to introduce the internet or social media back into someone’s life.

“Heath gave a really thoughtful response to that, a large part of it being that you’re not necessarily the best person to make that choice, so having good community in your life saying, hey brother, you know it’s been two months since you last fell into pornography, you’re displaying good devotional habits, you’re really walking with the Lord, I can see that in your life. If you enjoy Instagram, I think it’s reasonable you can have it back, let’s see how that goes… So other people in your life can give you an opportunity to have a better perspective.”

Bout followed up on his own story:

“There are a lot of things that I cut out, and there’s (just) a couple of things I’ve reintroduced back. I never had to go as radical as going to a flip phone – actually, that may have been a good thing to do; I really respect people who do that. So for myself, I’ve actually kept most of the (guards) that I put in place, and just because I know I would so much rather live with the inconvenience than deal with the temptation or the potential relapse.”

What about relapse?

Speaker Ellen Mary Dykas is highlighted in one of the chapters in the film called “Endurance,” dealing with the reality of sinners struggling with a relapse, or a step backwards. Bout stated that it is very rare that one is able to “change instantly, although that is not beyond the Lord’s power. Your inadequacies, your failures do not mean that God is not able or willing to change you.” Valk summarized some of what Dykas taught:

“Your identity is not your track record. You are not your success last week, your success yesterday, the pattern of sin… even if you do really well, that’s still not your identity. Your identity has to be as a Christian, as a loved, cherished child of God, because that’s where you find your root in fighting in the first place.”

The last section of the film is presented by Garrett Kell, and reminds viewers of the hope that we have in Jesus’ saving work. Valk summarized: No matter what our sinful tendencies are today,

“one day all of this sin, that darkness, like what you did last night, all that’s going to be gone if you’re a Christian… God’s going to do away with this sin nature that we have, and that’s going to be incredible, and then there’s going to be (forever) of being porn free… I won’t have to shed another tear, an angry, frustrated tear (at my sins)… There is hope beyond this (life) where there are no tears anymore!”

You can download this and other episodes of “Real Talk” at www.RealTalkPodcast.ca, on your favorite podcast app, or through the ReformedPerspective.ca home page. You can also watch the YouTube version of the 50th episode below. For more information on “Into the Light,” go to IntoTheLightDocumentary.com

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Internet, RP App

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place

by Andy Crouch 2017/ 220 pages Did you just binge multiple seasons of that show everyone is talking about over the weekend? Do you feel guilty for doing it? Do often lay on the couch and scroll Instagram and TikTok from the time you get home until you crawl into bed? Does your family see the back of your phone more than your face? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to read The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch.  Crouch’s approach to technology is “almost almost Amish.” He does appreciate the many ways that technology has improved all aspects of our lives, but is wary of the “easy-everywhere” lifestyle that technology offers, especially within our homes. Technology may give us unlimited access to information, but it does not make us wise. It gives us a platform to speak, but it does not give us the conviction and character to act. Wisdom and courage can only be nurtured and grown with the help of our family, and of course the Church.  Worship is the most important thing we can do, as Deuteronomy 6 reminds us, that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might. True worship with our brother and sisters in Christ calls us out of an “easy-everything” world back to “the burden of bearing the image of God” which brings us ultimate joy. Technology can derail this by addicting us to instant gratification. Crouch challenges readers to 10 commitments to detox from this “easy-everywhere” lifestyle, a detox my family and I have just begun.I would encourage anyone struggling with putting technology in its proper place to read this book. While not everyone lives in a single-family household, we are all part of the family of God, making these 10 commitments relevant to all.  You can read an excerpt of the first 30 pages here and listen to a 6 minute interview with the author below. ...

Internet, RP App

20 Scriptures to guide our online speech

May God give us the humility to recognize how our online speech may be out of step with his calling on our lives ***** Scripture has a lot to say about how we wield our speech, and those passages are all the more important now that technological advances have greatly multiplied our ways and means of speech. So no, there is no proverb specifically about how to tweet, and we aren’t usually dictating our Facebook posts with our voice, but what we post on these social media platforms does fall under the umbrella of Scripture’s guidance on speech as much as words we literally utter with our mouths. Below are 20 passages of Scripture to guide our online speech. Let’s consider them as we engage with other image-bearers online: Is it true?  The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. - Proverbs 12:22 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. - Psalm 34:13 Do you need to say it? Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. - Ephesians 4:29 Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. - Proverbs 13:3 Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues. - Proverbs 10:19 But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. - Matthew 12:36 Is it helpful? Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. - Colossians 4:5-6 Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. - Proverbs 16:24 Is it quarrelsome? Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. - 1 Peter 3:9 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. - Proverbs 20:3 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. - James 1:19 With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape. - Proverbs 11:9 The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. - Proverbs 18:6 Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked. - Proverbs 10:6 What does it say about your heart? A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. - Luke 6:45 Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. - Ecclesiastes 10:12 The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. - Proverbs 15:4 Does it praise God? Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. - James 3:10 My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. - Psalm 71:8 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:14 Conclusion May God bless you today. And may he graciously give us the humility to hold our digital tongues unless we intend to build up others or point others to his goodness. A version of this article appeared in Chris Martin’s "Terms of Service" newsletter, which looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective – you can sign up for it at www.TermsOfService.social. Get his new book of the same name at many online retailers. His article is reprinted here with permission....

Internet, Parenting, RP App

Parents, you are your child's best protection from online horrors

“You cannot raise your children as your parents raised you, because your parents raised you for a world that no longer exists.” – Author unknown ••••• I was born in 1988, and my generation straddled a lot of things. As kids we listened to cassette tapes and videos were on VHS – a video camera was roughly the size of an over-the-shoulder Hollywood contraption. The pace of technological change was so swift everything seemed to go defunct in just a few years, from the Walkman to the Discman to the iPod in a blink, while Blockbuster went big and bust in just a few years, with corner stores and gas stations investing in videos and then DVDs just in time to see their investments become obsolete as the digital world swallowed everything. And at the backs of many of the scuzzier corner stores were little rooms usually covered by ratty curtains where furtive people would duck to pick their pornos, from big-bellied greasy truckers who didn’t care who saw them to sneakier folks with a worried eye out for parents, spouses or neighbors. An aura of shame and moral grossness hung about the whole thing, and those heading back there seemed to know it. But besides that, everything seemed largely contained, and it was. Our parents could let us head outdoors without worrying too much. Some kids got their hands on porn magazines and hid them; many got caught; but the digital deluge had not yet begun, and it was easier to assume that children could roam free without risking their innocence. Then, in 2006, came the iPhone. Everything changed. Instant access to the pits of hell Suddenly, pornography became next to impossible to contain. A generation of Christian kids grew up looking at porn on devices that their parents had not had as children, and had not considered a source of risk. Parents didn’t know their kids’ phones or iPads or most any other device could connect to some shop’s free Wi-Fi, allowing them to scour the Internet’s filthy caverns. Curiosity, temptation, mistake – it didn’t (and doesn’t) take much to get hooked, and pornography swept the culture and the churches like a tsunami. In 2016, on the sites owned by a single porn company, the number of hours of pornography watched, once tallied up, amounted 524,641 years – or roughly twelve porn videos for every man, woman, and child on planet earth. I’ve been speaking on pornography in Reformed communities and elsewhere for over ten years, and I can confirm – and I’m sure you’ll agree – that the consequences have been catastrophic. Our children now grow up entirely surrounded by devices that act as portals to the demonic. I could tell scores of stories about children from Reformed homes who got addicted to porn simply by clicking a pop-up that flashed across the screen while playing an innocent game. This isn't how we grew up The digitization of our society has resulted in a world actively hostile to the innocence of children, and there is no simple solution – no book, filter, conference, or course that will protect them. As Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Combatting Sexual Exploitation has said, we can no longer trust that our children will not see pornography – even with our best efforts. We must prepare their minds for when, inevitably in this culture, they do see it. That means that only cultivating powerful personal relationships with our kids will do. The uncomfortable truth is that parenting in the digital age is different than parenting in previous generations. The fundamentals remain the same, as do our vows at baptism. But never in recorded human history have children had such widespread access to the most depraved sexual fantasies the human imagination can produce – never. I often hear people dismiss or downplay the dangers of the digital age by noting that there is nothing new under the sun. This is true insofar as sexual sin has been existed since the Fall. But it is not true that any previous generation has been so thoroughly poisoned and so many lives destroyed, with the average age a child is first exposed to hardcore porn dropping year over year (it now sits around age 8 or 9). It is true that porn has always existed, but the things kids are exposed to now are nothing like the crass etchings on the walls of Pompeii, and it is a false comfort to suggest that they are. Children today have access to things their parents couldn’t purchase and their grandparents couldn’t imagine. Our children do. Not so long ago, parents could send their kids outdoors to play without worrying about what devices the neighborhood kids might have and what they might show their friends at the park (I’ve heard plenty of stories of kids getting exposed to porn the first time this way). Although the culture has long since stopped inculcating Christian values – when my mom went to public school, they still opened the day with the Lord’s Prayer – it was not yet hostile, and it was not yet permeated with pornography the way it is now. With comparatively little effort, the innocence of children could be protected. Today’s mainstream entertainment is packed with blasphemy and filth. Children’s entertainment features LGBT content as a matter of course. Within the span of a single lifetime, TV shows have gone from Leave it to Beaver to having a post-sex change transgender beaver on Blue’s Clues with chest scars from her double-mastectomy – and this is a show for children. The world our parents raised us in is dead and gone. It is important to recognize this. Let me put it as bluntly as I can. The forces of evil have broken loose, and they are no longer contained to video rental stores, or corner store magazine racks, or even computer screens. It is in your house, on all of your devices, including the one you carry everywhere in your pocket. The Devil is up close and personal now, so close you can feel his breath. He wants to destroy our marriages, our families, and our communities – and his digital dragnets are doing a horrifyingly magnificent job. Who will be there for your child? There is no easy fix to this problem. Parents in the digital age must face the fact that the only way to protect our children is for us to spend an enormous amount of time with them. Not just quality time – quantity time. Parents must ensure that their influence counterbalances the many influences that will be fighting for their children’s time. The gravitational pull of parent-child relationship must be stronger than the gravitational pull of Pornhub, secular entertainment, and the temptations clamoring for their attention. In the digital age – also sometimes referred to as the information age – we have a choice: the Internet-driven culture will shape our children, or we will. As prevention fails, parents' presence is crucial Over the past ten years speaking on pornography and related cultural issues in Reformed communities, I have seen porn use among the young go from a problem to the norm. The same is true for sexting. The views of many of our children on LGBT issues are also shifting radically as they are exposed to LGBT social media and YouTube influencers with millions of young fans. As the Internet opens up countless new worlds for the young, old certainties that were once taken for granted are up for grabs, and our children will be exposed to every imaginable poison. It will not be enough to merely attempt prevention (and if we do, it is likely to fail.) We will have to commit ourselves to being present in a way that few other generations needed to. This will mean prioritizing family interests over business interests. It may mean making less money in order to spend more time with the kids. It will certainly mean carving out large amounts of time when you are simply available to talk to your kids about all of these issues, and to begin these conversations. Be assured, the culture is starting these conversations with missionary zeal, and they are winning converts. In response, we will need to equip ourselves to talk to our children about all of these issues – and form relationships with them that will give us the space to have these conversations. In many, if not most cases, it will be a difficult task. We will shape our children, or the culture will. Jonathon Van Maren blogs at TheBridgehead.ca....

Internet

3 reasons to praise God for social media

As a default, I tend to call attention to the problems that social media, and our relationship with it, has introduced into our lives. Social media has a grip on our hearts and minds in countless, ever-evolving ways, and it is important for us to keep up with that. So much of it is harming us in ways we don’t see. All of that being true, I think it is also important to also recognize the goodness of God and all that we do enjoy because of the social Internet. It really isn’t all bad! And we do well to be reminded of this. With all of that, here are three reasons I think we can praise God for social media:  1) We can see the work of God around the world Isn’t it amazing that social media has afforded us the opportunity to see the ways God is working around the world? In the days before the Internet, to learn of God’s work in Spain or South Korea or South Africa would have required a personal connection with someone in those parts of the world – perhaps our church sent a missionary abroad or a friend from college chose to serve the Lord in a different part of the world and we joined their mailing list. Today, we can see the amazing work of God around the world by browsing the Internet, joining email lists of missions organizations, or simply engaging with brothers and sisters in Christ on our preferred social media platforms. Sure, an ever-present opportunity to be aware of the work of God in the world can tempt us to be overly-concerned with matters that are out of our control, but what a grace of God to be able to see his hand move across the world in such miraculous ways simply by scrolling on the screens in our hands! God is always at work in every corner of the globe. He is eternally interested in revealing the fullness of his glory so that ever-increasing numbers of people can come into contact with his goodness and trust him as their God rather than themselves. The Internet, and social media in particular, have given us the ability to peek into how God is doing this all around the world in a way no one in history has had before. So cool. 2) We can connect with like-minded followers of Christ As I mentioned above, one of the ways we can learn of the ways God is working around the world is simply by connecting with brothers and sisters in Christ on social media. Of course, one of the saddest effects of the social Internet on Christians is that it enables our desire to meddle, gossip, and wield our virtual tongues in ways that do not honor the Lord. I am guilty of using social media to hurt others with my words, as are most of us, I’m sure. This is a real sin of which we ought to repent, too – hurtful online speech is no less real than in-person hurtful speech. But what an amazing grace of God it is when we use social media to connect with other believers not to debate theology or call into question their faith, but build one another up through encouragement, prayer, and fellowship! I am grateful to God for how social media has acted as a way to keep in touch with brothers and sisters across the world or from past periods of my life when we lived close to one another. And, at the same time, I am grateful for all the relationships the Lord has given me that have almost exclusively taken place through various social internet avenues. There are dozens of brothers and sisters in Christ I have interacted with on Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere that I will not meet until we dine together at the marriage supper of the Lamb. How amazing is that?! Praise God for such an opportunity. 3) We can study the beliefs and culture of all kinds of people. I don’t know about you, but I love learning. I read all kinds of books. I like reading books about U.S. presidents. I like reading books about business moguls like John D. Rockefeller (which I’m reading right now). I like reading books about social media. I like reading books about God’s work in our lives. On top of reading books about all kinds of subjects, I love accidentally falling down what are often called “Wikipedia Rabbit Holes” – maybe you’ve experienced this! You find yourself on one Wikipedia page, then another, then another, and before you know it you’ve wasted an hour! But that time is so often not wasted! Just the other day I was researching some famous criminal who came up in conversation, which then led me to a Wikipedia page about one of the highest security prisons in the world. It was so fascinating! I learned a lot. How cool is it that we can use the Internet to learn? Even more specifically, we can use social media to learn! Social media doesn’t just have to be all about political arguments and funny cat videos. Simply by spending time on social media and interacting with people who are unlike you, you can learn about how different people live, believe, and see the world. Maybe you’ll never make it to India and experience the richness of Indian culture, but if you happen to connect with an Indian person on social media, you could engage in conversation with them about what they believe, what a typical day looks like for them, and learn how their life is different from yours. Social media has afforded us the opportunity to have a much more diverse, well-rounded perspective on the world. Of course, when we engage with people who hold different worldviews or systems of belief, we don’t have to adopt their perspectives, but the more we can learn about other people and perspectives the more we can question our own and grow! If we are intentional, we can really learn a lot by scrolling on social media. It doesn’t have to be all about consumption and entertainment.  Remember to praise God I really try hard to keep up with the ways social media is evolving so that I can write helpful articles that caution us against blindly adopting every new and latest social media trend. We need to be more careful about how we use social media. But cynicism and unhealthy negativity can so easily creep in when I constantly study the harmful effects of social media. It is important to remember to praise God for the goodness He shows us in these small provisions. Any peek we can get into the workings of God in the world is amazing. Praise God for the tools he gives us to see him work and make much of his name. This is reprinted with permission from Chris Martin’s Terms of Service newsletter which looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective. You can sign up to it for free. He has just published his first book, “Terms of Service: the Real Cost of Social Media,” which is available at Amazon.ca and Amazon.com....

Internet

Do we "like" sin?

Welcome to the Information Age. With apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, we now have a window into the lives of our friends, family, acquaintances and even complete strangers. Business owners can now Google prospective employees, parents can check Instagram to vet new friends of their children, and a woman can search Facebook about a potential boyfriend. We can track down long lost friends from high school and keep in touch with family around the world. The benefits are evident in our churches too, in how we can share information about prayer requests, children’s illnesses, bus routes being late, weather conditions, and new study groups. Via these social media forums, users are connected together in an online virtual world where our interests and ideas can be shared at the speed of light to our online peers. We can share articles that we deem interesting or important, and we can take political stands on issues. With a click of the button, we can friend and follow almost anyone we want. We like or dislike our way through thousands of gigabytes of information, telling everyone our favorite TV shows, games, authors, preachers, speakers and much more. But how does our online presence reflect our allegiance? Do our likes match up with God’s own? Many brothers and sisters seem to disconnect the online version of themselves from the real (or maybe their social media presence is their true self?). Christians will watch horrific godless shows and discuss them and like them on Facebook. Some may share photos of themselves in provocative poses with minimal clothing, or share pictures of drunken partying. We’ll fight with others online, speaking wrathfully, and assume the worst of whomever we’re arguing with. Disputes with our consistory, or our spouse, will be aired publicly and captured for all eternity. We’ll speak derisively about our employers, or our minister, family members, or friends. Online Christians will use filthy language, or casually take God’s name in vain in ways that they would not in the offline world. The Bible calls this disconnect an unstable “double-mindedness” (James 1:8, 22-25) – we are trying to be two people, each serving a different master (Matthew 6:24). Not only are we responsible for how we present ourselves online, we’re responsible for what we like and follow. When we see pictures of brothers and sisters sinning and like them, when we click thumbs up to a godless show, or blasphemous musician do we understand what we are telling everyone? Though it may take little thought – just a quick click of the mouse and a friendly like or thumbs up – what we are saying is I agree, I like this, I love this, this is good. Though it seems harmless, this is encouragement. When I sin and someone says good job,they are enabling me. That is not love. That is sinful. It is wicked. We should not condone sin whether online or off. In fact, we should love one another enough to be willing to privately approach and hold our brothers and sisters accountable. Maybe we think this a task better suited to elders. But not all consistory members are on these online forums. They don’t always know what is happening on Facebook or Instagram. And it is not their job to follow every one of us everywhere we go. As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we need to hold each other accountable out of love for each other (Eccl. 4:9-12). And we need to do so out of love for our Lord – the world will get their ideas of Who He is based in large part on how we, his ambassadors, act. Finally, whether we sin in daily life or online, God sees. In a world of both hate and tolerance, filth and fanaticism, we need to be careful not only in how we behave online, but also in what we like, share and post and therefore condone, as well....

Internet

Charles Spurgeon with some advice for the Internet age

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) died a century before Mankind mastered the ability to pass along unverified news stories and unfounded rumors at the speed of light. But while the medium is new, the sin of gossip isn’t, and Spurgeon’s warning remains as relevant as ever. **** What a pity that there’s no tax on words: what an income the government would get from it. And if lies paid double, we could pay off the National Debt! But, alas, talking pays no tax. Silence is golden Now if men only said what was true, what a peaceable world it would be. But we pass on hearsay. And hearsay is half lies – consider how a tale never loses in the retelling of it. As a snowball grows by rolling, so does the story. So those who talk much, lie much. While silence rarely causes mischief; too much talking can be a plague to the parish. Since silence is wisdom, it’s clear, then, that wise men and wise women are scarce. As they say, still waters are the deepest, but the shallowest brooks babble the most. An open mouth shows an empty head. It’s like a treasure chest – if it had gold or silver in it, it wouldn’t always be standing wide open. Talking comes naturally for us, but it takes a good deal of training to learn to be quiet; yet regard for truth should put a bit into every honest man's mouth and a bridle on every good woman's tongue. Be free of slander If we must talk, at least let us be free from slander. Spreading slander may be fun for some, but it is death to those they abuse. We can commit murder with the tongue as well as with the hand. The worst evil you can do a man is to injure his character. As the Quaker said to his dog, "I'll not beat thee, nor abuse thee, but I'll give thee an ill name." The world, for the most part, believes that where there is smoke there is fire, and what everybody says must be true. Let us be careful, then, that we do not hurt our neighbor in so tender a spot as to besmirch his character, for it is hard to get dirt off, once it is thrown. When a man finds himself put in people's bad books, he might never be able to get out of them. So, again, if we want to be sure not to speak wrongly, it might be just as well to speak as little as possible; for if all men's sins were divided into two bundles, half of them would be sins of the tongue. "And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body" (James 3:2). The solution So, gossips, give up the shameful trade of tale-spreading; don't be the devil's bellows, giving more air to the fire of strife. If you are going to talk, at least season your tongues with the salt of grace – praise God more, and blame neighbors less. Any goose can cackle, any fly can find a sore place, and any empty barrel can make a big noise. But the flies will not go down your throat if you keep your mouth shut, and no evil talk will come out either. So think much, but speak little; be quick at work and slow at talk; and, above all, ask the great Lord to set a watch over your lips. This is an abridged, modernized, version of Chapter 6, "On Gossips" from Charles Spurgeon’s “The Ploughman Talks.”...

Internet, Media bias

Wikipedia: reader beware

I recently assigned a group of Grade 7-10 church history students a research project. I observed them as they began their work on their personal computers and for many their first stop was Wikipedia. On an average day, I would probably check something on Wikipedia myself at least two or three times. But who can guarantee that all the information on Wikipedia is accurate and unbiased? As it turns out, bias is also a problem on this website. And that’s particularly evident in the realm of controversial subjects like creationism and Intelligent Design (ID). A recent example involved Dr. Günter Bechly, a paleontologist and entomologist affiliated with the Discovery Institute, an organization promoting ID. He is notable for his groundbreaking research on fossil insects. Wikipedia used to include an article about Dr. Bechly. However, it was deleted after prejudiced pro-Darwin editors decided he was not notable enough to be included anymore. Wikipedia is unreliable in terms of what it withholds from the public eye. It’s also unreliable in terms of how it presents the material that it does include on ID. For example, the main article on ID (as of Nov. 13) asserts in the opening paragraph that ID is a “pseudoscience” and “a religious argument for the existence of God.” So Wikipedia prejudicially discounts any scientific basis for ID. Though pro-ID contributors have tried to edit the article (as anyone can normally do), the volunteer Wiki editors always switch it back or lock the article down. Wikipedia can be helpful for checking basic facts like dates. But once one gets into areas of controversy or opinion, its usefulness and objectivity begin to diminish. The problem is that human beings edit it. And human beings all have that heart condition: notoriously prone to deceive and be deceived. While editors of the print encyclopedias of the past were not immune to this condition, because there was a monetary incentive involved there were more checks and balances. Today, more than ever, we have to do our own checking. Apply the wisdom of Proverbs 18:17, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Just because you read it on Wikipedia doesn’t make it true! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqiXgtDdEwM Dr. Bredenhof is the pastor of the Free Reformed Church in Launceston, Tasmania, and he blogs at Yinkahdinay....

Internet

Facebook…to God’s glory

Recently a colleague commented on the fear that some have about social media, and their resulting reluctance to open Facebook accounts. She said it reminded her of controversy that occurred in the mid 1970’s, when television first became common amongst our church families. I thought it an interesting point, and wanted to take a brief look at Facebook, in light of how our churches dealt with TV those decades ago. Where’s the discussion? Back then, church members debated the pros and cons of having a television. It was a hot issue. People were concerned that television viewing would pose a serious threat to the spiritual wellbeing of the congregation. Consistories even hesitated to nominate for office those brothers who had purchased a TV. Today, most families do have a TV or watch its programs via the Internet. We’ve come to understand the need for good stewardship – what matters is how we use the TV, not whether or not we have one. And in a similar way, we today realize that the world of social media is not inherently evil. And it is already as common as TV; an estimated 1.94 billion people used its services in March. Checking Facebook is just a part of our regular daily activities for many, it’s not a hot issue. An addiction But maybe it should be. Following the introduction of television, problems with TV addiction also soon appeared. Families discovered that it wasn’t easy to turn the TV off. Programs were smartly sequenced to keep the viewers tuned-in. And, church members also fell victim to too much TV viewing. Who knows how many church meetings were missed, and how much time was wasted, due to a TV addiction? Whilst seemingly less concerning than, for example, an addiction to drugs, the spiritual harm caused by a TV addiction is real and troublesome. “Facebook Addiction” is a new reality. A quick Google search of this topic will uncover a host of websites aimed at helping those who have been caught-up in the fury of Facebook. As blogger Michael Poh notes in a post titled, 7 Telltale Signs of Facebook Addiction: As you get used to communicating on Facebook via messaging, sharing photos and posts, commenting and “liking” others etc., it may come to a point when you get more comfortable socializing online than offline. You become over-reliant on Facebook to fulfill your social needs and may start sacrificing the time spent on real-life meet-ups for coffee with your friends.” How ironic, that something which is intended to improve our social world, can actually lead to increased loneliness. The disconnect When television ownership became possible within our churches, initially it resulted in a sort of disconnect between the members. There were members who readily accepted and welcomed a television into their homes. But, there were also members who strongly opposed television ownership. This latter group often spoke about TV’s negative influence and their concern for the spiritual wellbeing of others. Some parents even prevented their children from visiting friends with homes that had a TV. There were two groups. It was a time of “disconnect” between the members of one church. Fast forward to today’s world of social media, and consider how Facebook has influenced our churches. Unlike the debates surrounding TV, little has been said about having a Facebook account. Rather, it seems like it is just assumed that an active church member should have an active Facebook account, if only to keep in touch with others. Nevertheless, what about the members who are reluctant to join Facebook? We know spending too many hours reading and posting messages can lead to problems, so we know Facebook is not for everyone. So what of invites that happen only via Facebook? Or events that are only advertised there? If some members don’t have an account, for whatever reason, won’t they feel left out, disadvantaged and disconnected? Although the disconnect caused by Facebook might seem trivial, whatever threatens to breakdown the communion of saints should not be ignored. Fellowship The point here isn’t to argue that Facebook – or TV – are inherently bad. Just consider, when TV first became available in our homes, it wasn’t uncommon for families or friends to get together and enjoy an evening of TV viewing. Whether it was an exciting sports event, a special documentary or perhaps an important news report, these were times of fellowship amongst church members. Although such evenings might be rare today, it shows that TV can be used to bring people together. So is the same possible with Facebook? And if so, what does Facebook fellowship look like? One member told me, “Each day, on Facebook, I look forward to Rev. V’s meditations!” Another member said, “It’s such a good way to share each other’s joys and sorrows.” It is a way to stay in contact when living far away from loved ones, or when shut in. As someone told me, “Without Facebook, I would probably be quite lonely.” Clearly, the enhancement of fellowship is also possible through Facebook. Of course, we realize that what is viewed and put on Facebook will be crucial, just as it with the kinds of TV programs watched. Angry Facebook messages and inappropriate TV programs will endanger true fellowship. Conclusion It’s interesting to note how both the TV and Facebook have impacted our churches. At times we struggle to adapt our lives to the changes that confront us. Making the right decision isn’t always simple or easy! Yet, the Lord guides us through His Word. Colossians 3:17 states, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” In the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we’re instructed to “hallow” the name of God. Therefore, we must not post anything on Facebook, nor allow our eyes to see TV programs, that will lead us away from God. Lord’s Day 47 concludes with these words: Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life – our thoughts, words and actions – that your name is not blasphemed because of us, but always honored and praised. As the communion of saints, we remain duty-bound to use the TV and Facebook (and other social media) for the benefit and wellbeing of the other members. Such a duty might cause us to join Facebook, or help us to be patience with others who are reluctant to enter into the world of social media. Ultimately, our discussions about social media (including Facebook) must serve to God’s glory! A version of this article first appeared in the August 2017 issue of Una Sancta and it is reprinted here with permission....