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Internet

Censorship isn't Christians' biggest social media problem

...but we usually act like it is. ***** Not so long ago, I was having a conversation with someone about why I write so much about Christians’ concerning relationship with the social internet. This person has some insight into Christian organizations, how they are led, and why they often focus on the issues they do. He said to me, in paraphrase, “It’s a lot easier to get Christians to care about and give money to combat social media censorship than it is to get them to care about how social media is forming our hearts.” I was frustrated by what this guy said, but I couldn’t refute it. I’ve been on the radio every other week for the last seven years, most of that time to talk social media, and I’ve been privileged to speak to groups on these topics too. What I’ve found is that lots of Christians are concerned about social media censorship. Too few are concerned about social media discipleship. This isn't surprising. We are more interested in the ways we can form the world than we are with the ways the world is forming us. This isn’t to say social media/internet censorship isn’t a problem. It certainly is. But I worry that we as Christians are more interested in protecting our expression than we are our hearts. Outrage sells Frankly, if I’m being 100% honest, I think a lot of Christians/Christian organizations focus on social media censorship and alleged suppression of Christian ideals because it raises more money than the alternative. But I’m more cynical than I should be, so that perspective could just be the cynicism talking. But it makes sense doesn’t it? People get more fired up about the “oppression of censorship” than they do a discipleship crisis. And when people get more fired up, they’re going to give more money. Just a couple of weeks ago, the MIT Technology Review reported Facebook’s internal data that 19 of the top 20 Christian Facebook pages are actually not run by Christians trying to encourage other Christians with gospel truths – they’re troll farms run by Eastern European internet mobs that use encouraging Christian(ish) messages to manipulate and deceive Christians who don’t know any better. The Internet is making fools of us. It’s leading us to hate one another more than love one another. It’s warping our understandings of authority and truth and beauty and love and purpose. It’s ripping churches, families, and countries apart. In the face of all of these harsh realities, why are we so much more concerned with a platform suppressing our opinions about social issues? Because we want the world to adhere to a standard of faith we are increasingly neglecting ourselves. What’s wrong with the world? I am Christians’ biggest social media problem isn’t censorship – it’s discipleship. But the oppositional posture afforded by the image of fighting the secular, Jesus-hating culture and their efforts to suppress the issues Christians care about most is too lucrative to ignore in an effort to address the ways our relationship with social media is warping our own hearts. In short, “the culture” makes for a better enemy than does our own heart. “They” are out to get us by suppressing our speech, nevermind what we’re doing to ourselves by scrolling Facebook for four hours a day. It’s like we’re hyper vigilant about the possibility of our homes being broken into as we burn them down ourselves. This originally appeared in Chris Martin’s "Terms of Service" newsletter and is reprinted here with permission.  “Terms of Service” looks at the social internet from a Christian perspective, and you can sign up at www.termsofservice.social. “Terms of Service” the book will be published on Feb. 1, 2022, and you can pre-order it here....

Dating

Online dating as seen from the other side

Editor's note: In "The pros and cons of online dating" Peter Riemersma shared how he met his wife via a Reformed singles site. In this post Robin shares her side of the story. ***** I was skeptical about the whole online dating thing…until I saw that the  Soverign Grace Singles website was a smaller, more close knit and “safer” community and would be good to try even to just make friends. Then, Peter from Canada (yikes - it seemed so far at the time) wrote me and I wondered what to do. So I prayed about it, and thought to myself (with nudges from the Holy Spirit I'm sure)...is anything impossible for God? Maybe He wants me to go through this type of courting, rather than the type I had always imagined. I always thought someone would just be “sent” to my local vicinity and we could spend time in groups together and get to know one another over a long period. The Lord had something quite different in store for me! Something about Peter was different. I wasn't afraid, though I was very cautious at first, and we just naturally corresponded even despite the distance. And we both enjoyed doing so. With the proper prayer and caution, I don't think distance should prevent a relationship. But it is very difficult, at the same time. Being apart between visits was hard, yet at the same time it forced us to really get to know one another through talking, and not just going to movies together and sitting there like zombies, or getting too physically involved (in fact Peter and I chose not to even kiss until our wedding day). We had to pray for one another remotely, and trust God to work out the immigration details as well. It was a lot to handle…but I wouldn't trade the whole experience, or having Peter as my husband now, for the world. I see how God led us through everything step by step. Step by step - I guess that's the key thing. Try not to feel rushed - and if a gentleman is rushing you slow down and see if he'll wait or cool it a bit. That's what I did with Peter for a time, too. We both knew it was right when we felt the same after this “test.”...

Dating

The pros and cons of online dating

I first wrote on online dating more than a dozen years ago, back when the Internet was still young, and people still called it the “information highway.” A lot has changed since then – Facebook groups, smartphones, and apps, have increased the number of online dating options. But it’s still strangers trying to get to know each other via long distance communication so a lot remains the same. When I started out, being rather new to computers, I had to be taught the basics of how to get online. Through this cyberspace navigating I came across various ads for "Christian" dating websites. I paid my fee and began to browse many profiles with a particular Christian service. Over time I discovered many familiar faces I knew from various locations. I also discovered some of the pros and cons of online dating. Watch out for weeds! Over time I soon noticed that many on this site who claimed to be Christian were not necessarily so, and that there was a real need to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). That might seem a given. After all, God says there are weeds mixed in with the wheat in the Church (Matt. 13:24-30). But it took me time to realize, and after I did, I had a lot of online correspondence with people on the site trying to warn them to be careful and not trust every site or person who claimed to be "Christian."  God can use the “friend-zone” During my first paid term on the site I met a dear sister in the Lord. After a while of encouraging one another by writing on the site we began encouraging one another with email exchanges using our personal email addresses (all the while still cautiously using our aliases, rather than giving our real names at this point). From that, more trust began and in time the next step was undertaken and we exchanged telephone numbers and snail mail addresses, and new correspondence again was initiated. Over time the limitations caused by our distance from one another became obvious and an in-person meet-and-greet was arranged. This was somewhat nerve-wracking – I certainly made a point of being on time for our "date”! We met, spent a few days together, and in parting ways both of us agreed to remain as friends. While our relationship didn’t go any further, our correspondence and encouragement continued until one day she informed me that the Lord had led her to a godly man she had begun to court. They soon got engaged too, and shortly after I opened my snail mail to find a wedding invitation. This was to be a Reformed wedding, as their relationship had become one built on the Reformed faith. They have built their marriage on this and the promises of God’s infallible word. This was the doing of the Lord and she credits me for being used by the Lord as to the one who introduced her to the riches of the Reformed faith. And how rich they are! A need for more than generic “Christian” At this same time the Lord had begun to stir an interest in someone I’d soon get to know. This brother in the Lord saw the need to create not only a truly Christian online singes website, but a specifically Reformed Christian online singes website. And it came to him as he was on a fishing trip! So in 2005, Dean Scott had SovereignGraceSingles.com (SGS) up and running. Once it was, many friends who had been on the previously mentioned "Christian" website were alerted about this new Reformed website – a site that would be specifically for us who were different in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ than those in mainline churches. I prayerfully decided to try it out. I’m very thankful for the sister in the Lord who led me, and many others, to it, as I soon realized this site was indeed legitimate. It was a great environment in which to meet godly sisters and brothers in the Lord.  Try and try again It was then that I met a sister on the site who, at one point, I thought was to be my life partner. But that’s not how things went. After this second “failed” online relationship, I began to get rather disillusioned with online dating. And in response to this disappointment I reminded myself, as I have various times through my life, “You will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." But I took this passage more seriously than perhaps I had ever done before in my life. Recalling someone’s wise advice, I considered how I was to surrender all of my desires to the Lord and delight in Him, “and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). I knew I needed to make the Lord’s priorities my own. Instead of impatience, I would be content, knowing He was in charge. So I went back to my computer, but with a very different mindset, and heart. In browsing the SGS website I noticed the profile of someone new. I did not know it then, but the Lord had also placed it on her heart to wait on the Lord and let “His will be done," as well as to give “cyberspace relationships” one more try. When I came across her profile I prayed once again "Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" and I initiated contact with her. Not expecting anything from it, I once again was put to the test, and called upon to practice the gifts of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Two days later, upon revisiting SGS’s website, I noticed there was a message in my mailbox from her (we did not know one another other than our aliases). And we both, having sought God’s will, began encouraging one another. Our communication became more regular, and we began to focus on really getting to know one another exclusively. Praise God! Today as a married couple we are united as one in Christ. "For nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Ask, ask, ask In addition to my gratitude to God, I will always be grateful to Dean Scott and for SGS, for how they helped bring my wife I together. But am I trying to say that you shouldn’t use any other "Christian" or singles websites? Not quite. But the problem that comes with these other sites is the constant temptation to compromise your faith – compromise your relationship with God – because most of the people you meet are not going to be a spiritual match with you. And God should never be second. So I’ve seen people become willing to compromise, and they have either left the Reformed faith, or been misled by not fully understanding their mate by not watching for red flags. So, the only way to use a secular, or generically Christian site, is if you are willing to ask tough questions right away, and ruthlessly weed out anyone who does not love the Lord as you do. Even on a Reformed site, you need to be cautious. Much grief can be avoided by observing potential life partners very carefully in their natural habitat and immediate surroundings in meet and greets. Also, never presume something – when in doubt, ask! You should also get to know his/her pastor, elders, or deacons. Ask them for a character reference or referral, and take time to get to know your suitors’ family, closest friends, and congregation. When appropriate ask about how they handle their finances. And most of all - ask yourself serious questions. If it is a long-distance relationship, ask, am I prepared for long intervals apart? Am I prepared to be faithful, both mentally and physically?  Conclusion So...are you considering looking for a mate online? If so, the very first thing to do is get your relationship with God right. Spend time praying and in His Word. Enjoy time with and serve your local Body of Christ. Do the work the Lord has given you for employment or vocation with all your heart. And pray. Wait on Him and ask for healthy relationships. One of them – whether online or not – may just turn out to be a lifelong love, blessed by God and truly joyful. A version of this article first appeared in Christian Renewal back in February of 2009. Peter's wife Robin shares her side of their story here....

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 ...