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Internet

Proverbs: 3,000 years ahead of its time

Solomon did not have a web page. He didn’t blog. He didn’t tweet. He wasn’t on Snap Chat or Instagram. But he can still help you navigate the seas of social media. Here are three important terms to know when using the Internet: Verify, Verify, Verify! In the world of social media, little is as it seems. You must verify that what you read and see is not just a half-truth or flat-out deception. Proverbs 18:17 says:

The first to present his case in a dispute seems right, until his opponent comes and cross-examines him.

It is easy to accept texts, tweets, posts, emails, etc., at face value. Don’t! This isn’t cynical, but just realizing that the Bible warns about the deception of the human heart.  The online chat can be with a predator. The text or email can sound like a real need, but it may well be only half of the truth. Someone who is struggling may be telling you only one side of the story. Remember what is important about internet communication: VERIFY what you hear or read by way of another source. Just because one person or source says something is true, doesn’t make it true. If verification is not possible then you must withhold judgment about the truth of what you read. Also, verify the identity of whom you communicate with. Predators are a serious threat! VERIFY that the person you are communicating with has nothing to gain from the information you receive. Is the person trying to gain your support in a dispute? Are you being asked for information that could compromise you in some way? Is someone else being put in a bad light by what you hear? Are you being intentionally or unintentionally misled? VERIFY that the person you are communicating with has done their due diligence in verifying what you are being told. Simply asking “how do you know that” is a great way to avoid gossip. Someone reading this might well ask, “Well this article is online, how can I trust what you are saying?” That is exactly the right question to ask! In this case, you know the source of the article, ShepherdPress.com. You can know who the author is by checking out the webpage. You have the ability to communicate and ask for verification either by comment or via email from the Shepherd Press web page. You have the ability to check out the background and beliefs of Shepherd Press by checking out that same page.  This is the sort of verification you should engage in with any information gained via social media. Protect yourself and your children by acting on the truth of Proverbs 18:17. Solomon may not have had internet access. But his wisdom is timeless!

Jay Younts is the author of “Everyday Talk: Talking freely and Naturally about God with Your Children” and “Everyday Talk about Sex & Marriage.” He blogged at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared. This was featured in the Jan/Feb 2018 magazine issue.

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....

Adult non-fiction, Internet, Parenting

13 quick thoughts on "Screen-Smart Parenting"

Parenting is _________.  You fill in the blank.  It is so many things.  It is an adventure with no shortage of ups and downs.  I am sure we have felt at times proud and accomplished and then just as quickly felt embarrassed and insecure. These beautiful children God has entrusted to our care lead lives that are also filled with adventure and with healthy doses of curiosity. Screen time: less is more This year, we have been reading Screen-Smart Parenting in our homes and coming together to discuss its content together as parents. Our children have access to so much now and the book is encouraging us all to be good gatekeepers so that our children do not develop unhealthy habits and behaviors that the Devil longs to exploit. The digital devises in our homes and that many of our children possess provide opportunities for growth, learning and connection. Here are some tips that the book gives for healthy homes and habits: 1. No TV in the bedroom. 2. No background TV in the home. 3. Turn off devices at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. 4. Teach your children to ask permission to use technology. Make technology a privilege, not a right. 5. Download/buy games and apps yourself, don't let children do so. 6. Oversee YouTube.  Tell your children to report any inappropriate games/sites/social networks to you. 7.Keep family computers/devices in as public a space as possible. 8. Don't permit technology use during meals. 9. Designate screen-free times for the entire family. Smartphones: you need complete access Our children need help with time management online and offline.  They need protected study and sleep time.  They need coaching on how to use good judgment online, with sticky and uncomfortable situations online.If your child has a smartphone: 10. Parents, you should know all their passwords. 11. Start with having all texts come to your devices. 12. Hold the phone when your child is sleeping (set up a nighttime charging station in a common room). 13. Encourage selfies in moderation. Most of all, our children need for us as their parents to be good digital role models for them.  Model that we can be engaged and present with our children without digital technology. We are now reading the last section of the book, Part 3.  In it, the author Dr. Jodi Gold walks readers through the development of a Family Digital Technology Agreement.  Each will look different but it will help shape the healthy practices you commit to as a family.  I am really looking forward to completing this for our own home! Technology: the Devil wants it for his ends Ultimately, we understand that this world is God's and He made it good.  We believe that there is not one square inch of God's world that doesn't have his mark and stamp as creator - and ultimate redeemer.  Satan is not a creator.  He is merely creative in how he has distorted and twisted what God has made.   Technology is a gift.  It is good - and we see and experience its benefits all around us.  But it is also something that needs boundaries and limits in order for us not to fall into traps of unhealthy habits and behaviors that the Devil has set up to exploit. This is good, hard work, parents.  But it is important.  And you are not alone! May God continue to give us courage and grace and wisdom as we raise up a generation of young people to know, love and serve Him.  To His glory!  Randy Moes is a high school principal at Calvin Christian School in South Holland, Illinois ...