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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....

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 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 judgement 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 blogs at ShepherdPress.com, where this article (reprinted with permission) first appeared....

Assorted

One week in: Facebook isn't for everyone

It's been nearly a full week since I deleted my Facebook account. My thoughts so far? Why didn’t I do this before?!? I made my decision to exit social media circles carefully. I first joined Facebook when I turned 15, and have slowly become more and more dependent on it and other social media outlets since then. Facebook, Instagram, and in a lesser way, Snapchat have caused too much damage in my mind and heart for me to justify continued use. Not for me Let me be clear: I do not believe they are evil creations! It is simply that I am not meant for social arenas. The Apostle Paul tells us that all things may be lawful, but they may not be helpful; he urges us to do all things in moderation, and herein is where I think the evil in social media might be found: the temptation to addiction. I don’t presume to tell you that social media is good or bad for you. But I do want to challenge you to ask that question for yourself. Are you able to use it in moderation? It is certainly lawful, but is it helpful for you? Like many others, I am a person with intense convictions, feelings, hopes, dreams, desires, sorrows, and fears. When I see beauty I experience joy, and when I see ugliness I feel sadness, anger, and if not treated carefully, that sadness and anger can begin to cross into the murky waters of depression and hatred. In the early Facebook days there was much more to enjoy on Facebook, and it was much more personal. These days most of my newsfeed isn’t even posts from my friends. Usually it’s posts from my friends of friends, from ads, and from viral strings (which are usually filled with hateful interactions between people who don’t even know each other!) I have found that being addicted to scrolling social medias is not just a mindless thing. It’s very mindFUL. I see hateful social justice posts regarding racism, sexism, classism, religion, or politics, and my head seethes with frustration at the world I live in. From the ignorance and folly, to the intentional hatred and violence, I find that the personality and heart that God built into me can’t handle such a constant diet of that well. Some people can! And I am grateful for their ability to present goodness in that world. But it’s not me. I’m not called to that. A diet of such negativity has brought more and more worry to my heart, and less and less joy. How did I get here to this choice? I did not want to make a rash decision to leave social media circles, just to re-enter them a week later, so I have spent months in prayer, bringing my symptoms of depression, frustration, and cynicism to Him and asking Him to show me the true source. I felt sure the root was in social media, but I didn’t want to rule out other possibilities, which is why I took my time.  I found my answer one morning when I felt the Spirit calling me to come be with Him. I opened my bible unintentionally to Psalm 37; as I read through it I found each next verse convicting me more deeply that I had to give up this addiction of social media completely in order to restore the joy in life and the control over my daily habits. "Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in Yahweh, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness" (vs. 1-2). There are a couple of things in this Psalm that addressed so poignantly the decision I was facing, and the effect that social media was having on my life. First, I find that whether I’m dealing with stupid drivers on the road, or observing hatred via social media viral strings, I get angry. I see ignorance, stupidity, folly, and evil and I feel worried, anxious, joyless, and sometimes even hatred. The very first verse in Psalm 37 says: “Fret not yourself because of evildoers.” And second, I find that the complicated busyness of life, feeling spread thin from being aware of hundreds of people’s lives via social media, and having an appalling amount of useless information running around in my head makes me feel worn out emotionally all the time. The second verse in Psalm 37 spoke to me of the beauty of a simple and quiet life, saying: “Trust in Yahweh, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.” From negative to positive After reading that Psalm I made the final decision to go cold turkey on the addiction that social media had become, and immediately felt such abounding peace in my heart. Peace and joy like I haven’t felt in a long time. I deleted (not just deactivated) my social media accounts, and discovered more wholesome and thoughtful ways of communicating with friends and family, by way of iCloud Photo Sharing, and Blogging. So why do I ask "Why didn't I do this before?" It's been a week filled with so much beauty, creativity, and positivity. Something I've learned to value highly through the ups and downs of life is to surround yourself with positivity. Or, as my favorite band Switchfoot puts it: "Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want? You're making it, every day you're alive. You start to look like what you believe... What you say is your religion; How you say it's your religion; Who you love is your religion; How you love is your religion; All your science, your religion; All your hatred, your religion; All your wars are your religion; Every breath is your religion, yea! Is this the world you want? Is this the world you want? You're making it, every day you're alive." For years I surrounded myself with the voices of negativity and with the feelings of failure and worthlessness that comes with addiction to screens and social media. It marred how I lived, how I loved, how I spoke, how I thought, even how I felt. When I removed myself from the chronic negativity spawned by so many of the voices on social media, I found that I no longer had a confusing veil of shadow keeping me from appreciating the good things in life. Exiting social media tore down that veil; it was as though I saw real sunshine for the first time in years. Time to spare Without having my time eaten up by the pointless pursuits of the internet, I've found that my days are far longer, with far more potential. Instead of putting off every errand, chore, or project till the last possible moment, it's been myriads of happy busyness. The week began with some thoughts in my mind of a project of redoing our guest room. Up until now it’s been a workout/study/guest room containing a loft bed for the occasional guest; underneath it, a desk and a dresser of drawers for workspace and storage; and a workout tower for my husband. My goal was to transform it into a real guest room, suitable for putting real guests up in, while keeping some room available for my husband's workspace. I did some cleaning, organizing, and preparatory errands during this week, utilizing all my coupons and rewards points to obtain what I needed to put together a good-looking, color coordinated guest room and bathroom. It was a week-long project with hard work, but the final result is just beautiful. My husband saw a new side of me today. I was geeking out over the excitement of being able to decorate beautifully, and take a messy unkempt place where we didn't like to be, and turn it into a soothing, warm, and comfy room. What I love about the day we had today, was that instead of quite literally wasting a day of our lives by instead living the lives of the characters on TV, was that we created. We worked, we sweated, and we created. We lived today to the fullest, by being and doing exactly what God created us to do: to be like Him! Our work today was a story of His work - taking something unlovely and useless, and redeeming it through His own hard work into something beautiful and worthy! Joy comes in many ways, but in my life, joy comes most in the creation of something beautiful. A little excursion to Bibles for China Thrift Store with a ton of loft bed hardware bungee corded down and sticking halfway out of my trunk turned into a fun and sunny adventure with my husband, enjoying the open windows, the fresh cool air, and the blue skies. (And a new all time low, driving down the road to the dumpster holding an old ratty twin mattress to the top of my car with our arms extended up out of the windows... but we don't talk about that.) So a week in and here's what I'm thankful for: I'm thankful for more time to do fulfilling work and errands; I'm thankful for more time to relate to friends on a deeper level than a "like" on a post; I'm thankful for time to read books, and do constructive crafts; I'm thankful for time to THINK: I've had a lot of thoughts and ideas and arguments brewing in my mind, and I've enjoyed the quiet luxury of focused thought. I'm thankful for beauty from ashes. And now I'm excited to go to the house of the Lord in the morning and worship with the beautiful community that Jesus has been so kindly building around us. Grace Pitman blogs at ThePitmanCorner.com where a version of this article first appeared....

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....

Media bias, News

Now YOU are the media

What do you think the public needs to read, hear, and see? If you had your own media outlet what sort of news would you pass on to the public? Don’t mistake this for a hypothetical question. You do own a media outlet – we all do. In an age of Facebook, and Instagram, and Twitter, we are publishers, one and all, with each of us serving up the news to anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred followers and friends via our social media feeds. Now, some of those are close friends and family who think just like you do. But you also have some college friends, or neighbors, or even family members who most definitely do not share your way of thinking. And their only exposure to your perspective – to a biblical perspective – might well be your social media feed. So what do you want to share with them? What do you think they most need to hear? Another cute cat video? Pictures from your latest camping trip? Those might be appreciated. Those have their place. But your media outlet can share so much more. Remember that teammate from your high school volleyball squad, the one who now says there is no God? What if you included a video highlighting some of God’s creative genius on your social media feed? And how about that co-worker who asked to be your Facebook friend, and who seems to have no interest in talking about God? What if you could deliver them some well-thought out, well-written articles about how the world only makes sense when viewed through biblical lenses? Maybe they’ll see your posts. Maybe they’ll read them. But even if they don’t, by regularly sharing God-honoring articles and videos you can have an enormous impact on how many others will see this material. You know how Facebook works – the more Likes or Shares an article gets, the greater the number of people who will have that article show up on their own Facebook page feed. The fact is, while all of us are now media outlet, together we can be even bigger – we can challenge the media empires by highlighting and sharing content we want our friends, neighbors and family to see. This is one of the reasons why, a couple months back, Reformed Perspective decided to make a big change. We still publish a print magazine, but now we're also publishing 5-days-a-week-250-times-a-year online. The only restrictions on how many we can impact are the excellence of our articles  and how many others are eager to share them with others. It doesn't matter how good our content is, if other media outlets – if you – aren't willing to share it. To give you an idea of the type of influence just a few people can have online, when just a half dozen people "Share" one of our articles from RP's Facebook page, the number of other people who read it that day will jump from mere dozens to hundreds – a dozen Shares and the article will likely be read by thousands. Facebook "Likes" and comments also help an article reach more, but a single Share seems to have the impact of at least 10 Likes – Facebook knows that when you share something you think it really is good, and they boost it based on your enthusiasm. Of course RP is just one small corner of the Internet – there are many other great resources to highlight too. But whether it’s sharing RP materials, or sharing a great article from DesiringGod.org, AnswersInGenesis.org, OneChristianDad.com, or Challies.com, we all need to embrace our roles as media outlets. Social media has given us this opportunity and we need to seize it for all it’s worth!...