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Parenting

Fading to black: alternatives to screen-time

An upcoming issue of the magazine will feature 200 movie recommendations, and were anyone to watch even a fraction of these films, that'd be an awful lot of screen time. So, in the name of balance, let's make a plug for taking a screen sabbatical, going without our smartphone, TV, and computer for a day, a week, or even a month. We’re not talking about the time you have to spend on your laptop for work, or when you're using your phone to talk to your dear old mom. What we're talking about here is Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter time. Could you go without all that, for a week? It’d be difficult, but could you go screen-free? And If it’d be really difficult, might that be a sign that you should make the attempt? After all, we want to own our phone; we don’t want it to own us. Of course, going screen-free for a whole week (or a month, or a day) isn't about simply stopping the scrolling. Stopping will just leave you bored and antsy - you can't replace something with just doing nothing! No, if you're going to succeed then you’ll need to find other activities to fill the time. To that end, here’s a list of 25 alternatives to consider: grab a good book organize a ____ tournament (ping pong, horseshoes, croquet, etc.) listen to a podcast, audiobook, or the car radio go for coffee with a friend read through the Bible in month play a card or board game share a favorite book with your children find a hobby (car repair, woodworking, fishing, etc.) go for a walk and talk, chatting up all the neighbors you meet hold a _____ tasting party (wine, cheese, foreign cuisine, etc.) shoot hoops with your kids actually clean the garage phone your mom (it doesn’t count as screen time, even if you Skype her) knock off some of those home repairs have your kids help you with home repairs (even if takes twice as long) hit Costco as a family join a Bible study get an old-fashioned newspaper subscription take a night class hold a games night with neighbors serve a meal at a Rescue Mission go biking or rollerblading or bowling plant a garden hike up the nearest mountain organize a painting party (painting the fence, etc.) for a widow ...

Book excerpts, Parenting

10 QUOTES: On technology and the family

We need to control our technology; it can't control us   “…it is absolutely completely possible to make different choices about technology from the default settings of the world around us….it is possible to love and use all kinds of technology but still make radical choices to prevent technology from taking over our lives.” – Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family “The essential question we must constantly ask ourselves in the quickly evolving age of digital technology is not what can I do with my phone, but what should I do with it? That answer…can be resolved only by understanding why we exist in the first place.” – Tony Reinke, author of 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You “Am I entitled to feed on the fragmented trivialities online? In other words, am I entitled to spend hours every month simply browsing odd curiosities? I get the distinct sense in Scripture that the answer is 'no'.” – Reinke Your family may need to restrict technology “There is a better way. It doesn’t require us to become Amish, entirely separately ourselves from the modern technological world, and it doesn’t require us to deny the real benefits that technology provides our families and our wider society. But let me be direct and honest: this better way is radical. It requires making choices that most of our neighbors aren’t making. It requires making choices that most of our neighbors in church aren’t making. Let me put it this way: you don’t have to become Amish, but you probably have to become closer to Amish than you think.” – Crouch Parents need to be examples “Can we really tell our kids, ‘Do as we say, not as we do?’” – Delaney Ruston, doctor and the documentary filmmaker of Screenagers “The kids know we need help too….An awful lot of children born in 2007...have been competing with their parents’ screens their whole lives.” – Crouch Parents need to act sooner than later “Many parents fear that if they approach certain topics too early it will give their kids ideas about those things before they actually need to face them. Let me ask you some questions…. Do your kids ride the school bus with older kids? Are there older kids in your neighborhood? …. You may shield your tweens from talk of dating and teen relationships, but what about the eleventh graders making out in the back of the bus? You might supervise Internet activity, but what about the computers at friends’ houses?” – Nicole O’Dell, author of Hot Button Topics: Internet Edition “An astonishing 62 percent of teenagers say they have received a nude image on their phone, and 40 percent say they have sent one.” – Crouch We need to be parents, not policemen “Research shows that parenting with rules and boundaries but with love and caring promotes better everything; better grades in school, better relationships with their friends and family, everything!” – Ruston “Our children need to feel love, not condemnation. They should trust that we’re an ally, not the enemy. You’re not fighting against your kids in hopes of coming out victorious over them; you’re in a battle for them.” - O’Dell...

Assorted

Technology and our anxious hearts

As a pastor I get to talk to lots of people. After some conversation, I start to get a sense of where people stand. How are they doing? What’s on their mind? Anything bothering them? And maybe it won’t surprise you to hear that quite a few people are anxious. I don’t necessarily mean that in a clinical way, as a mental health disorder. But more generally, people have this feeling of unease, being unsettled, fearful and restless. It’s common, so common that probably everyone experiences it. And there can be a host of factors that contribute to our feeling of unease. If my stomach is kind of unsettled for weeks on end, then I’m going to start getting anxious. If you’re running low on money, you might be anxious. Other times there might not be a particular reason that we can put our finger on, but we still feel it: anxiety and fear. Far deeper than any one cause, it’s a basic condition for human beings, a component of who we are as a weak and sinful people, living in a world that is broken, difficult, and often hostile. Maybe you’ve heard this before, but do you know what is the most repeated command in the Scriptures? What’s the thing that God tells us to do most often? People usually think that it’s something like, “Love one another.” Or “Praise the Lord.” But the most repeated command in Scripture is this: “Fear not.” God says it to his special servants like Joshua. His angels say it to the people to whom they’re bringing messages. His prophets say it to Israel: “Do not fear.” And Jesus says it to his believers: “Do not be afraid.” More than 350 times in Scripture we find the command: “Fear not.” We need to hear that, because we do fear. It’s symptomatic of being a human. TECHNOLOGY ON THE BRAIN I’d like to unpack another factor in our daily fears and anxieties: technology. By technology I mean specifically things like the portable and connective devices that we have with us so much of the time, those devices that are always nearby and available: smartphones, laptops and other computers, and tablets. Some of us sit in front of screens all day and then, even when not at our desks, we continue to engage with technology. Also for those who don’t have an office job, so much time is spent with this technology: before work, during work, after work; before class, during class, after class. It’s hard for us to grasp how massive a change has happened in this area of portable technology. For instance, in a single decade we have rushed from a world with zero smartphones to a world with approximately two billion smartphones. We bought these devices because of what they promised to do for us, but we can be sure that they’re also doing something to us. REASONS FOR ANXIETY People have only started to think about the impact of this almost constant interaction with technology. With this relentless stimulation, the brain is not getting time to rest. And this can make us anxious for a number of reasons. Let’s look at a few of these reasons, and how we can counteract this anxiety with God’s truth. Reason #1 – FOMO One of the reasons that our use of technology can make us anxious is that it trains our brains to need a constant intake of information. Our brains are plastic and shape-able, and we are being programmed to expect continuous updates in a whole number of aspects of life. These updates are for everything ranging from significant international events in Moscow, to trivial things like what our friends had for breakfast this morning. And when we don’t get these updates, we feel disconnected and disconcerted. When we don’t have a chance to read them, or when we don’t have our electronic device on our person, it’s like the world is going by without us. It’s an affliction that is becoming widespread these days – an affliction so widespread that it has already entered the Oxford English Dictionary. What is it? FOMO. It’s a catchy acronym that stands for “Fear Of Missing Out.” According to one definition, it’s: the state of mental or emotional strain caused by the fear of missing out; a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity or a satisfying event. Missing the boat, missing the bus, missing an opportunity, or missing an event with friends – we’ve all experienced missing out in some way or another. So the fear of missing out is a universal experience. What does that look like in relation to our use of technology? The closeness of our phone to our eyeballs, and the connectivity of our computer to Wi-Fi or 4G networks, makes this a real struggle. We’re used to getting a constant refresh and update on things, whether about world events, or about how our life looks in comparison with others, or something else. As often as we log in and start scrolling around, there is a recharge of our fear that we’ve missed out on something. We want to know, we want to see, we want to comment. Whether it’s a breaking-news alert, a vibrating notification, or a text message, there’s an immediacy to every moment. Our phones make our lives vulnerable to that feeling that somewhere, somehow, something interesting is happening – right now! We’re addicted to anything new, and the newer the better. See whether you can relate to these scenarios: SCENARIO #1– You wake up in the morning, and what is the first thing that you do? You reach over to your bedside table, and check your phone. Who sent you a message? Who posted something? And you’re kind of alarmed to see that last night while you were getting your beauty sleep there was a conversation among your friends about something important – you missed it. There’s a twinge of regret. SCENARIO #2 –You’ve got a few minutes before you need to get going, so you head over to your favorite social media site. You see that one of your friends has been posting pictures of her amazing holiday: beautiful beaches, exciting cities, lots of artful shots of food and drink. And here you are, getting ready to clean the toilets again, or to listen to a two-hour lecture at university. Your life is unquestionably lousy. You’re missing out on fun and adventure. SCENARIO #3– You’re going to bed at night. You brush your teeth, etc. Then you lay down and read your Bible. But then, one last time, you check your phone: Any messages? Anything new? Not this time. But what about when you wake up? What will you have missed? There’s another twinge of anxiety. As you’ve probably experienced, we can get into a compulsive habit of going online. It’s not just checking social media, but other websites. What videos are on top at YouTube? Who is Kendall Jenner dating these days? What did Meghan Markle wear to the polo match with Prince Harry? What memes are trending? At one level we realize that we don’t really care about all these things, but we still choose to read and watch. We’d hate to miss out. Maybe you’ve heard about the studies that connect social media with depression. In an alarming number of users of social media, there is an almost immediate feeling of sadness when a person logs off. It’s even become a shorthand term, “Facebook depression” – or maybe “Insta-gloom.” Checking on the status of our friends often forces us to deal with people who are either more successful than we are, or more attractive, more whatever. We’ve just seen what is not ours. We’ve been reminded that our life is not as interesting. We wish people could see how good w eare, and we’re anxious to portray ourselves in a positive light – so we keep trying to set up the perfect selfie. And then we worry when it’s not possible. Response: you won’t miss out By now FOMO has become a joke and a hashtag. Yet it describes a deep insecurity that dwells inside each of us. And FOMO is neither unique nor modern, but pre-dates Wi-Fi and our always-connected phones. We can remember those days when we didn’t have a phone, but even back then, we had our fears of missing out, didn’t we? In Grade 4 there was a birthday party, and you weren’t going – that’s a pretty rotten feeling. Or you heard about the excellent business opportunity that a brother in your church received. You could’ve been part of that – why weren’t you invited? More FOMO! The problem is that our sinful natures will always say that if we could just have our idols (whatever they are), eventually they’ll be able to satisfy us. That goes all the way back to Paradise. What more could Adam or Eve want than what God had given? But Satan said, “Escape your creature-hood. Define your own truth. Keep the glory for yourself. Why miss out on becoming like God with just one bite?” Today that devilish offer still stands. FOMO smoulders in the human heart. The Bible calls it coveting, a faithless desire to possess something that doesn’t belong to us. We attach to idols our deep longing for happiness, thinking that a person or a possession or achievement or status or experience will finally make us happy. That’s why we keep searching, keep scrolling, keep buying – because we’re looking for something more. But the anxiety caused by the fear of missing out is a lie. It denies the immense riches of what we have in God and through Christ Jesus. At the heart of the gospel is the living God who sent his only Son so that with his blood He could buy for us the gift of salvation. Scripture says that we have no good thing apart from Him, that in his presence there is fullness of joy forever. As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt 6:33). If you know Christ, you’ll never miss out. Reason #2 – bad news These days there’s a 24-hour news cycle. This means there’s never a time of day when we can’t know what’s going on around the world. It used to be that you’d find out about events only when your morning (or evening) newspaper arrived, or when you watched the 10 o’clock news before you went to bed. If it didn’t make the news by those traditional times, then you wouldn’t know until the next day, or even later. Now, however, there are networks dedicated to providing news, every day, all day. This news is on TV, and it’s online. The networks have correspondents throughout the world who are able to post stories within seconds of writing or filming. These news stories are compelling, because when we hear about them, these events are not old. In fact, sometimes the events are still happening! The technology has made it possible for us to watch these things happen live: a massive fire downtown, an attack in Paris, a shooting in America – we are watching it unfold, or we’re “on the ground” for the aftermath. Because the world community is a more-connected place, we’ve been made aware of so many more events, some of them really terrible. There have always been horrific events, but now we can see them in all their detail: terrorist attacks, mass shootings, natural disasters. Instead of still camera shots we have video footage, which makes it more dramatic, and therefore more frightening. The constant news coverage also makes it seem like these things are happening more and more. The media knows that nothing gets attention like bad news – so they tell us about all the bad news they can find. So if you connect to the news regularly, you’ve probably had the thought that the world is completely falling apart. There are wars raging in different places, and the threat of radical Islamic terrorism. There are new and unstoppable strains of disease, and catastrophic weather due to climate change. After scrolling through the news for a while, you’re sure that almost everything is crumbling. Another aspect of all this bad news is the sense that not only is the world getting worse, but that the church is under attack. Reading almost any major source of news, you realize that Christian beliefs are considered a thing of the past, and that the Bible belongs in the dustbin of history. God’s standards are being dismissed, whether that relates to marriage and sexuality, or to drug use, or gambling, or something else. Fewer people these days identify as religious, and there can be vitriolic hatred for those who disagree with progressive thinkers. With all this bad news streaming into our eyes and ears, we can feel overwhelmed. For example, when we see so much suffering because of famine or war, we feel helpless: What can I do? How can I help? We conclude that we can’t help, so we just get used to it. Or hearing about danger from the random attacks of terrorists in public places, we can become fearful: What if we’re next? What if it happens here? Or, seeing where society is going and how the church is ridiculed, we worry about the church. How can the church survive? How can Christians and our old-fashioned Bible compete with people that seem to be so intelligent, sophisticated and influential? That constant newsfeed of disturbing stories and immoral trends makes us anxious. Maybe it makes us want to check out, just withdraw and retreat to our distractions. But is that the answer? Response: God is God The answer to our fear of bad news is this: Do not fear, for God is God, in all his glorious sovereignty and unfailing goodness. When we see another natural disaster, confessing that God is God means that it’s not up to us to save the world. We can show mercy to those who are suffering, and we ought to. But realize that this world is a vast place, and you’re just one person. You can’t do it all, and you don’t need to. “What if that happens here?” we say when there’s another terrorist attack. Again we confess that God is completely in control of all things. He’s not surprised by what President Putin is doing, or by what’s happening on the Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, you and I are so limited in our awareness or control. It’s like a board game, with a big board full of squares and twists and turns. We see only the square that we’re on, and we have no idea about what is coming next, whether good or bad. But God sees the whole board. He’s not restricted in anything He does, and there are no loose ends in God’s world. All of it He works out according to his own good purpose. And the beautiful thing is that God has only good things in store for his people. When marriage is redefined, and when we hear about persecution of Christians, and when there is the defiant rejection of God’s truth, remember that God said this was going to happen. He predicted all of it. He’s not surprised, even if we are. It’s actually reassuring to see his Word being fulfilled, even as people embrace the darkness, as love grows cold, and as the church is oppressed. It’s difficult, and we should grieve for those who are lost, and we must defend our faith, but remember that Christ told us all about it. It’s a reminder that He’s in charge, and that there’s no need to fear. Reason #3 – No Time Our technology also gives the impression that time is moving very quickly. The world is changing every hour, events are happening constantly, people are always doing exciting things! All this change and development means that time is running out. You only have one life, and it’s pretty short. Technology teaches us to think that this life might be our only chance for joy. If we miss this moment, there might never be another. So we’re learning to use technology to achieve a lot of things, to access a lot of information, and to be connected to a lot of people. Using the technology on your phone, you can schedule your day to a high degree. With a calendar and automatic reminders and planning tools, you can aim for the peak of productivity. Using technology, you can know a lot these days. You can closely manage your fitness levels, keep up with fashion, music, world news, and read about all kinds of things that interest you. Using technology, you can keep in touch with a lot of people. You can text, WhatsApp, FaceTime, etc. You don’t have to spend half an hour conversing, but you can have a brief but beneficial exchange. These are good things. Being productive is an aspect of faithful stewardship. It is fitting that we try to keep informed about world events and church life, so that we can be good neighbors and a prayerful people. It is right that we maintain meaningful contact with the people God has placed around us. But the problem is that all this takes time. Always needing to be scheduled means the pressure of managing every fifteen-minute block of our day. Taking 10,000 steps per day takes time. Reading and processing new information takes time. Keeping up contact with all sorts of people takes time and emotional energy. So sometimes we feel anxious because there is no time, not for everything. Technology is wonderful and it is terrible. It has made some great things possible, but it has also made us capable of too much. And so we’re anxious. What should we do about this fear? Response: you still get eternity So much to know, so much to do, so many to people to connect with – and only one life. But here’s the good news: we have more than one life! In Christ, we have an eternal promise. All that has been lost will be found in Him. All that we have missed will be restored in Him. Peter writes, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13). It’ll be so different from now, for in the new creation only righteousness shall dwell; there will be nothing incomplete, nothing wicked, nothing to cause grief or disappointment, but only peace and perfection. That gives us a great purpose, for we know that we’re going places. We know this life isn’t just about the pursuit of earthly goals. It’s not even simply about those good things like church and family and faith. Because these imperfect things are a part of something much bigger: God’s great plan to restore His creation perfectly through the Son. Don’t worry if you can’t do everything in this life – you still get eternity! Meanwhile, give your attention day by day to living for Christ. SEVEN SUGGESTIONS As you’ve read this article, maybe you’ve had the thought that you probably should just throw away your phone. But you’re also aware that you probably won’t throw it out. So moving forward, what can you do with technology and your anxious heart? Confess your anxiety to God. Pray for Him to forgive your worrying. Pray for Him to forgive your coveting. Pray for His strength to become more content in Christ. Confess your anxiety to other people. If you have a problem, you can be sure that other people have that same problem. It can be embarrassing to talk about, but let’s challenge each other to be holy. Be mindful about what you’re doing. Honestly ask yourself a few questions: How many people that you keep contact with are actually meaningful friends? How much has your life been improved by keeping constantly up to date on social media? Do you really need to read this article, watch this video, or comment on this post? Be with people. Take time to enjoy the presence of friends and family in the beauty of everyday life. Remember that it’s not true fellowship if everyone in the room is busy tapping at their screens! Instead, enjoy the gift of being together in talking, playing a game, getting outside, or discussing a good book. Take a break. Have specific times when you shut down social media and turn off the television or computer. Try to take a “Sabbath rest” from media – and not just on Sunday! You’ll probably enjoy time away from the frantic and never-ending flood of information. And you probably won’t miss out on anything important. Remember others. A God-given cure to discontentment and covetousness is serving the people around us. Our technology has the ability to turn us inwards, to become even more self-absorbed than we are naturally. So look around and give your attention to the interests of others. Remember the good news. Today there’s lots of bad news, but things aren’t always as disastrous as they seem. God is mercifully continuing to uphold this world – for example, through his blessings in health care and food production, many people are now able to live longer and healthier lives. We should also see how God is still restraining wickedness in this world through the (sometimes unexpected!) election of conservative governments who implement pro-life and pro-family policies. And don’t forget the best news of all: the truth of God’s Word and the good news of salvation and peace through Christ. We shouldn’t be so busy with everything else that we can’t get into the Scriptures. We probably have the Word on our phone, now let’s put it on our mind. CURES FOR ANXIETY Fear of missing out, the helplessness of hearing bad news, the pressures of having no time – we really can’t blame technology for any of this. This is because all sin originates inside the human heart, and because we’re a fundamentally weak people. But God graciously helps us and gives us his peace. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-27: Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life… Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? Jesus’ words are consistent with the command which is found more than any other in the Scriptures, “Do not fear.” May these beautiful ancient words speak directly to our modern anxieties about technology! Dr. Reuben Bredenhof is pastor of the Free Reformed Church of Mount Nasura, Western Australia. This article first appeared in two parts in Una Sancta, the denominational magazine of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia....

Parenting

A smartphone contract for our kids

The “"Lights at Stewart’s Place” Facebook page is normally about the Stewart family’s incredible Christmas light display. This past December they turned their whole house into a bright and brilliant light show that featured glowing brilliant colors dancing across their lawn, doors, walls, and windows, all of it synced perfectly to a half dozen Christmas songs. Most of their hometown, the city of Lynden, WA, probably passed by their house at some point in December to catch a look  (and you still can, via some wonderful videos on their Facebook page). But in January, a couple of weeks after all the lights had been taken down, this same Facebook page featured a very different sort of post. Cameron Stewart shared a smartphone contract he’d come up with for his children.  **** Reformed Perspective: Where’d you come up with the idea for this contract? Cameron Stewart: Our 12-year-old daughter was asking about getting a cellphone. We’d started her out on a flip phone and after a lot of prayer, we decided to give her a smartphone for her birthday. But I knew we needed a contract to spell out our expectations, and the dangers. So I came up with one. Some of the ideas came from various contracts and articles I found online but the bulk of it was things that were important to us. It has been adjusted various times and I am sure we will make more tweaks. RP: How has it been helpful? CS: We’ve been using it for a year now, and one thing that it really helped with is that it made our daughter understand how important her proper handling of her phone was to us. She knows we mean business. And she has done a great job.       **** SMARTPHONE CONTRACT We are excited to know that we can trust you, and that you have proven that you are responsible enough to use a smartphone to communicate. In order for you to have a smartphone, there are a few things that you must agree with, and abide by.   A smartphone is a communication instrument, and like every instrument, there are correct ways in which to use it.  Here are the instructions and guidelines that you, your mom, and I, will agree to in order for you to get a smartphone: My responsibilities and understandings A. I understand this is my mom and dad’s phone. They bought it. They paid for it.  They are letting me use it. Aren’t they awesome? B. If it ever rings, beeps or vibrates and it says “mom” or “dad”, I will answer it or text back right away.  It is never ok to ignore a call or text from my parents. C. I understand that nothing replaces face-to-face conversations. When I am in the company of my family and my friends, I will limit my smartphone use. I will show them that I value them by making them a priority over my smartphone. D. It is ok to take my phone to school, but I must obey all the school smartphone rules. No one else is allowed to use my smartphone unless they need to make an emergency call to their parents. I will NOT give out my passcode. E. On school nights the smartphone will be plugged in at 8:00 in the kitchen. On weekends my parents will grace me with another hour (9:00). F. I understand that the world does not revolve around me.  I should always be looking for ways to serve Jesus and others. My texts, phone calls, pictures, and social media should be about others more than they are about me. I should never be looking to draw attention to myself.Selfies may not be sent or posted if they do not contain at least one other person. I understand that when I send pictures of myself I am SCREAMING to the world – PAY ATTENTION TO ME!  We all need to remember, it’s not about me ☺I will never post or send pictures of others without asking them for permission first.  This will keep me out of trouble with others, and save myself some future heartaches.I will not take or send pictures of my private parts.  My parents assure me that “while this may seem funny someday, some idiot will tempt you to do this. It is a terrible idea that could make your life miserable.  Cyberspace is bigger than you could ever imagine and once it is out there, it never goes away (think "screenshots").” G. I understand smartphones can be very dangerous to my safety if my information gets into the wrong hands. I will NEVER text, talk, or communicate with people I do not know.I will immediately tell my parents if someone is trying to contact me that I do not know, or I do not want to have contact me. If someone sends me something questionable/inappropriate I will not delete it but will shut off my phone and bring it immediately to my parents, or to a trusted teacher if it occurs at school. I will not message, text or email ANY adult without my parents’ permission...even if it is for school, sports, music, etc.  Also, my parents will be included in the “group” conversation. I will never give out personal information with my phone such as last name, birth date, school I go to, or even the city I live in. I will just stay on a first name basis, so no creep can track me down.I will never share my contact information with any boys!I will give out my information sparingly, even if for a school-related project. H. I am never allowed to initiate conversations with boys for any reason, including homework. If a boy contacts me, I will immediately let my parents know, and we will work through the problem together. I. I will be positive, encouraging, and uplifting with the things that I do with my phone. I will never gossip or talk behind people’s backs.  I will not use the phone to lie, fool, or deceive anyone. J. I am not allowed at this time to use social media. Not at all! When I have shown that I am trustworthy, my parents may gradually let me use social media. I will give all account information to my parents.  This includes passwords. L. If the phone is dropped and breaks, if it falls in the toilet, is chewed up by the cat because I left it laying around, or is taken by the boogie man, I am responsible for fixing or replacing it. M. The smartphone may be taken away as a consequence for poor communication with my parents, not treating my siblings well, not keeping up my responsibilities around the house, poor performance at school, or any other reason my parents decide. I understand having a phone is a privilege, not a right. N. Last, and most importantly if anyone sends me a text that is inappropriate, or someone gets a hold of my phone and does anything that does not seem right through my phone, I must immediately tell my parents. I understand that they will help me with this and that I will not be in trouble for what happened. I understand that my parents have more experience handling these sorts of things. My parent’s responsibilities A. We will always be willing to help you through any problem with your phone or the use of it. B. We will always look first at any app or music you would like to download. C. Anytime you come to us with texts, pictures, call, or social media that is inappropriate we will support you, not judge/condemn you. D. We will monitor your phone all the time.   We can see everything you do on your phone – trust us ☺. It is our job to protect and take care of you, and we promise we will do it. We are fully aware that at some point you will mess up, and your phone will be taken away.  Your mom and dad will sit down and talk about it with you.  Then we will all start over again.  Mistakes are part of learning, and remember it’s not so much the mistake, but it is how you deal with it.  We are on your team. Signatures Mom ____________________________________________________________ Dad   ____________________________________________________________ Me    _____________________________________________________________ Date_________________________ ...

News

Who do you want to know better?

In a holiday ad (for Spanish speakers) the furniture giant IKEA gathered several families, seating each clan around a large table where a holiday feast was prepared with all the trimmings. Then a quiz started: if a person answered the question correctly they could stay and keep eating, but if they got something wrong they had to leave. Initially, everyone found the quiz easy, correctly answering questions like: What animal filters can you find on Instagram stories? Can you demonstrate the “swish swish” (or “floss”) dance? What is the latest Instagram feature? Can you finish a lyric from this current song? What does this text message abbreviation mean? How did this celebrity couple meet? But when the questions became more personal the answers stopped coming: How did your parents meet? What exactly is your dad’s job? What degrees does your grandma have? What’s your son’s favorite group? What’s your wife’s dream? What has your mother been studying recently? Some family members tried to guess the right answer, but one after another, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, grandparents too, had to get up and leave. Finally, there was one solitary figure remaining, a lonely grandpa. A teen daughter summed up the embarrassment everyone felt: “What I’ve discovered is that I don’t know as much about my family as I do about some celebrities.” There was a happy ending. Everyone was invited back to the table, but this time smartphones were placed in a box in the middle of the table and the lid was firmly affixed....

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Saturday Selections - Dec. 29, 2018

Mutations show devolution, not evolution (3 min) Beneficial mutations do happen, but they happen via a loss of information. And such information-losing mutations offer no explanation for molecules-to-man type evolution. These beneficial mutations are, in fact, examples of devolution. Don't give your kids smartphones. Let them use yours. Tedd Tripp with one brilliant tip to help teach our children to navigate the online world. How to protect your kids in the online world An article, and 12-minute video, with tips like: "First, you are not primarily your kids’ friend. You’re their parent. So you should parent them." and "You bought the phone. You control the TV. You control the Internet. You set the boundaries in your house." The perils of banning "fake news" Do we really want governments, and social media companies like Facebook, becoming the arbitrators of free speech? That sort of cure could be far worse than the disease. Is 10,000 steps a day a magic number? Some thoughts on the 10,000 steps more and more of us are trying to get each day. What DNA duplication might look like (3 min) Watch this and consider how much thought and intention and creativity would be needed to design a complex robot that could replicate itself. ...

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Saturday Selections - Nov. 17, 2018

Canadian doctors get ready for child euthanasia Doctors and bioethicists associated with the children's hospital in Toronto are pushing to be "allowed to euthanize 'capable minors'... without parental consent or even their notification." And a hospital waiting room in Canada is now promoting euthanasia. The effects of childlessness on the elderly A new study finds that elderly parents who have three or more children and who have weekly contact with them are the happiest seniors. We should let the world know. Mother-to-mother gospel opportunities Mothers are often looking for parenting advice and that gives us an opportunity to share, not mere moralisms, but the good news of the gospel! Before your kids get a smartphone...a question to ask The folks at Breakpoint have a question you should ask if your children have a smartphone on their Christmas wishlist. And related to that, researchers have now shown that social media use increases depression and loneliness. Good lovemaking is about God "God ordains lovemaking for couples when we are richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, when life is better or worse — until death do us part — because it reflects his enduring love for us." The Wild Brothers have a vlog! The Wild Brothers are four brothers who are part of a missionary family – the Wilds – living in Indonesia. They originally had their own  eight-episode "reality series" about their lives, published on DVD by Answers in Genesis. It was a family-friendly series that children and parents could all enjoy, showing both the challenges of life among the natives in the highlands of Indonesia, and the joys. And, of course, there were all sorts of exotic animals and locales for them to share with us. Now the brothers have their own vlog – Highlands to Island – with eight short (roughly 10-minute) episodes so far. I've only watched the first, but based on the DVD series, this should be good! ...

News

Saturday Selections - Oct 21, 2017

Welcoming vs. affirming In the LGBTQ debate there is a demand that for a church to be welcoming, it must also affirm people's lifestyle. Trevin Wax highlights the problem with that - it's not the church's business to be affirming anyone. "What is the crux of the problem here? It's the expectation that the church would be in the business of affirming anyone at all. The Bible teaches that God's righteousness cuts us all down to size. If a church were to close its doors to sinners, it would be empty. And if a church were to empty itself of only some kinds of sinners, it would soon be full only of self-righteousness. Better then for the church to close its doors entirely." Paul Tripp video offers encouragement for every parent Paul Tripp offers some insightful and encouraging biblical principles for parenting in his new videos series and the first session can be watched for free. This is a great hour-long session to watch with your better half (skip ahead to the 18:30 mark to get right to the talk). Should teens own smartphones? Some giants in the tech industry are questioning whether it's wise. Related, here is a Jewish a cappella group encouraging a shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) rest from more than just work Does Liberal Christianity leads to atheism? Bart Campolo says that his atheistic turn started when he gave up on believing that God is sovereign. After that, it was just a matter of working out things to their "logical" ends. Godly dominion vs. Environmentalism Dr. Calvin Beisner headlined Reformed Perspective's 2017 speaking tour, sharing a message similar to this one. What I want from the news Tim Challies gives a good summary of what we'd all like from the news (which is what RP tries to deliver).  ...

Assorted

What does fleeing sin look like?

Despite endless attempts to do so, fleeing sin can’t be done halfheartedly – that only sets the stage for failure. A tepid turning away is like a drunk who doesn’t buy beer anymore but still goes to all the same parties and hangs out with the same drunken crew. He’s pushed off his sin, but only a short distance. So what does fleeing sin look like? It’s radical. It involves complete commitment. In Genesis 39 we find an example of this radical commitment. When Potiphar’s wife propositions Joseph first he refuses her, and, when that isn’t enough and she grabs hold of his garment, Joseph takes off running. Now, grown men don’t run away, do they? It’s undignified. And they certainly don’t shed clothes to get away. But that’s what Joseph did. She was holding his cloak, so he let her keep it. We don’t know exactly what state of undress this left Joseph – was he naked, or did he just lose his outer layer? – but we do know this was no calm and cool departure. This was a man desperate to do what God wanted, even if it left him clothed only in righteousness. This is complete commitment. Matthew 5:29 outlines another radical response to sin: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” This passage is most often explained as a figure of speech, not to be taken literally. And that’s true enough – Jesus’ point here is to highlight just how important it is to flee sin but He isn’t prescribing the specific means of doing so. However, we shouldn’t “explain away” the radical nature of what’s being said. God can’t stand sin and we need to do whatever it takes to fight our entrapping, entangling sins. The reason that we don’t go plucking out eyeballs is because there are other means – more effective and less harmful – of fleeing sin. But these other means can be painful too, and we may be tempted to dismiss them as too radical. But if that leaves us trapped in our sin, then we need to hear what Christ says next: better a one-eyed man in Heaven than a two-eyed man in Hell. This is about our salvation! If your smartphone causes you to sin… Computers and smartphones are a part of our daily lives – most jobs involve them, and almost everyone has one. But they are also portals to pornography. If that’s a problem for you, then in Matt. 5:29 Christ prescribes a radical, and vital, solution: “if your computer/smartphone causes you to sin, pluck it out.” But how can we manage without a computer? How can we keep in touch with our friends without a smartphone? Is it even possible today to do without these devices? Well, plucking in this case might not mean doing completely without. They can be managed via various technological and practical means. A person can: install accountability software like Covenant Eyes on their computers that monitors where they go on the Internet and then shares it with an accountability partner get filtering software that will block most (but not all – nothing is 100% effective) of the harmful content on the Internet use software or hardware means to limit the time your computer is hooked up to the Internet place their computer in a public area in the home, where other can see what you are up to when you are online install monitoring software on their smartphone swap their smartphone for a simple cellphone (some still allow you to text friends, but not surf the Internet). What if none of this is sufficient? Then, Christ tells us to remember, better computer-less and on your way to Heaven, than a social media king on your way to Hell. If your friends tempt you to sin... Temptation comes in all sorts of forms, and some of us will find it harder than others to resist peer pressure. If your good buddies are into all the wrong things, and you find yourself pulled in again and again, then you need to give up on this group of friends (Prov. 13:20, 1 Cor. 15:33). It doesn’t matter if you’ve known them since elementary; don’t place your friends above God.  If your job tempts you to sin... Some jobs involve travel, leaving you alone in your hotel room with the porn channels, or maybe it’s simple risqué R-rated films, readily available. Maybe all that time alone on the road causes temptation. Or maybe you work in an office where there is a growing pressure to conform to their politically correct culture (and in doing so deny your Lord). Or you work with coarse colleagues who have nude pics on the walls. Or you have dishonest colleagues who pressure you to fudge figures. There’s any number of ways your job can be a source of temptation. There is also any number of ways of managing this. It could involve creativity, and a willingness to make strange requests. I heard of one man who required that any hotel room he stays at have the TV removed from his room. Maybe it means speaking to colleagues and asking them to take down their girlie pictures. It could be embarrassing. But that’s the level of commitment God calls us to. If a workaround isn’t possible, and temptation at your job is unavoidable and causing you to sin, then don’t think it too radical to quit…even if you don’t have another job lined up (this is what deacons are for). If your “me time” is causing you to sin... We are called to flee from more than just sexual temptation and drunkenness – Matthew 5:29 applies to all of life. So, for example, God also wants us to control our anger…even if you are a parent running on very little sleep. Tiredness can leave anyone short-tempered, and some of us have to watch out for this even more than others. Maybe it’s been a long day, the kids are finally in bed, and now we just want a little “me time” before we head to bed – just an hour of TV, or a couple chapters. We just want to unwind. Except, that we’re exhausted. And that exhaustion has meant that instead of being a loving disciplinarian, we’ve been a ticked off grump every time our kids have been kids. So it might only be nine o-clock, but if your “me time” is causing you to sin, you need to pack it in early. Flee to Now there is more to fleeing than simply fleeing from. Running from can give us only the temporary sort of victory that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 12:43-45. Here He describes a man who has a demon leave him. Success? Well, no, because after the demon leaves, the man doesn't replace it. When the demon comes back he finds his former abode "unoccupied" and so brings seven other demons to come join him, and "the last state of that man becomes worse then the first." This is what comes of fighting sin on our own. Our fleeing can't simply be an aimless fleeing from but must be deliberate fleeing to our Saviour. He can help us not only put off our old sinful ways, but renew us, so we can put on a new self (Ephesians 4:22-24) "which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." Conclusion When we are entangled in sin it may feel like there is no way out. It can feel like we are caught in such a complicated situation we are unable to get free. It’s important then to understand that fleeing sin isn’t complicated…but it is radical. And while fleeing sin isn’t complicated, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Proverbs 22:6 says that if we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old “he will not depart from it.” That works both ways, for good or evil. If you’ve been partaking in the same sin again and again, you’ve “trained” yourself – you’ve carved some deep ruts that will be hard to get out of, and easy to fall back into. That means fleeing from sin may be hard to do. But it isn’t hard to figure out what to do. It is a matter of placing God as first and throwing off everything that hinders (Hebrews 12:1). The reason we fall into sin, then, is because we count everything as too high a cost. Now anyone who has been entangled in sin knows they can’t get free on their own; that’s why in setting out the radical nature of what fleeing from sin involves, it’s vital we not forget the radical nature of what has already been done for us. Those entangling sins? Jesus has paid for them, so He can loose us from them. We need to flee from sin, yes, but more importantly, we need to run to the God who loved us so much He died for us to set us free. So what does fleeing sin look like? It means running from temptation and putting off every sin and weight that hinders us. It means turning and sprinting full out – arms flailing, legs churning, spittle flying, maybe even cloak leaving – towards our Father and his secure embrace. For more, see John Piper on Hebrews 12:1 and running....

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 ...

News

Porn and the smartphone: parents should be freaking out

In a May 2 piece in the American Conservative, journalist Rod Dreher said that when he goes to speak at Christian colleges, the professors, staffers and campus ministers he’s talks with tell him that “pornography is a massive problem.” How massive? “A campus minister who works with young undergraduates headed for professional ministry told me that every single one of the men he mentors has a porn addiction. Every. Single. One.” Parents who grew up with the Internet might think they understand the temptation their kids face. But this, the smartphone generation, is facing something new. While their parents could put their desktop computer in a public place, our children now have a portal, in their jeans pockets, that allows them access to porn everywhere and always. Dreher’s solution? It’s not as simple as any one thing. But he doesn’t like smartphones. What concerns me most of all right now is the horrifying complicity of conservative, even conservative Christian, parents in the spiritual, moral, and emotional ruin of their children and of their moral ecology because they, the parents, are too…afraid to say no, my kids will not have a smartphone, I don’t care what they and society think of me. Now Dreher isn’t advocating an anti-technology lifestyle. He knows we can’t just bubble-wrap our kids and ban them from the Internet for the first 18 years of their life. If we did, then, when they move out and get their first smartphone, it won’t be much better for them than if we just handed one to them at age 10. So no bubble-wrap, and no technology bans. But we also shouldn’t hand our children tools without first figuring out if they have the character and knowledge to use them properly. We wouldn’t hand our son or daughter a chainsaw without some lessons and precautions and it isn’t hyperbole to say we should be much more cautious about handing them a smartphone. After all, the chainsaw can only hurt or kill them; pornography can enslave them. To conclude his piece Dreher shared a conversation he had with a two readers who lead a Christian school. He told these men about how, in the article he was writing, he wanted to help parents understand just how “serious this situation is regarding kids, porn and smartphones” but that he didn’t “want to freak them out.” “Freak them out,” he was told, “They need to be freaked out.”...