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Navigating the Digital Storm

Right now on the floor of the bedroom sits a black plastic milk crate. My wife came in and put it on my side of the bed and declared, “You’ve gotta do something with this.” I groaned in my spirit, because I knew this day was coming. You see, this isn’t any normal milk crate. This is a milk crate full of gadgets and gizmos whose day has passed. It’s the original iPod touch with a cracked screen. “But it still plays music!” It’s the iPod Nano that I got my wife for her birthday eight years ago that she used to take to the gym. “But it still works!” There is the GPS running watch with a battery that only lasts for 9 minutes. “Maybe I’ll use it for a REALLY quick run!” Then there are all of those brick-shaped power adapters that you’re not exactly sure what they go to, but you’re afraid to throw them away, lest you need them someday!

Yes, these are the confessions of a bleeding-edge, technologically obsessed, pathetically hopeless individual. You see, it’s my father’s fault. When I was 5 years old, he brought home a Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer from Radio Shack and my life was forever changed. When I was a child, my friends would endure periods of no television as punishment when they misbehaved, while my punishment was more severe—no computer! In 1997, I bought a Palm Pilot and it all went downhill from there. To be able to carry such information in your pocket was incredible at the time. I could carry my addressbook, a dictionary, and a calendar in one small device. I could even use the proprietary cable and plug it into my computer using proprietary software and sync it whenever I needed to make a change. Amazing!

Fast forward to the present, and the majority of Americans carry smartphones. We transfer funds between bank accounts at the red light, send a message to a friend on the other side of the world while in line at Starbucks, and stay in touch with loved ones, no longer bound by long-distance telephone rates or the need to be at home to call someone. What an amazing age we live in!

But imagine a world in which this technology wasn’t used for such lofty purposes. Imagine using this technology to escape from reality, to peer into the lives of others. Imagine that we used this technology to find out how boring and uneventful our lives are when compared with other people’s lives. Imagine that we determined our self-worth based on the number of times our peers clicked a digital thumbs-up button. Imagine that we had ready access to a computing device more powerful than the computer that put a man on the moon, and we used it to put a picture of our sandwich on the Internet for all to see. What a sad life that would be, right?

What if these technological wonders in our hands, while fostering relationships with people around the world, were actually alienating those in closest proximity to us? I took my wife on a date to a fancy Italian restaurant a few weeks ago. It was fancy for us at least, as it was one step up from Olive Garden, which is fancy for us! Before we were seated, I reached into my pocket and turned my phone off. I wanted the focus of our time to be on one another, and I am well aware of how easily I get distracted. However, as I looked around the restaurant, I was struck by the number of people who didn’t share the same conviction. One man was mindlessly scrolling Facebook while the woman across the table from him was smiling at her Pinterest app. Another man was watching basketball on his phone while his companion caught up on her email. Not a word was said at a table of four ladies while each one smiled and pecked away as she basked in the bluish glow of her smartphone screen.

I wish this were an isolated incident, but unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more common. Technology has become an idol for many. Below you’ll find some practical guidelines that I hope will help you to use the tool of technology without bowing to the idol.

Determine your priorities.

What is really important right now? If I’m ignoring my wife while checking sports scores, I’ve just communicated to her what is important. If my son is asking for help with his homework but I’m putting him off because of some cute YouTube video I’m watching, I’ve communicated to him what is important.

Develop guidelines in accordance with your priorities.

Determine what your priorities are and develop guidelines to help you live those out. For example, when we take a family vacation, our priority or goal is to draw close together as a family and create memories that will last a lifetime. So, for our family, vacations are completely cellphone free.

Use it for edifying purposes.

I’ve been guilty of firing up the Facebook app on my smartphone out of sheer boredom. Now, I’ve loaded the Kindle app on my phone and use idle time to read a book that will strengthen my walk with God. Waiting for your latte? Fire off an encouraging text message to someone who could use a kind word.

Guard your family.

With the advent of watches that integrate with your phone and eyewear with embedded computers, it’s obvious that technology is not going away. As a husband and a father of three precious children, I can choose to forbid the use of electronic devices or I can help lead my family in how to use them. By establishing safeguards to protect against inappropriate use and performing regular checkups of appropriate use, I’m able to see how my family is employing technology, and I can act quickly to correct any deficiencies before they become larger issues.

Get extreme.

Researchers from California State University tell us that excessive use of social media may be connected to attention deficit disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, voyeurism, addiction and more! Rather than attempting to describe all of these mental and physical conditions, I would instead point to the overarching issue of idolatry.
So what happens when technology becomes an idol? The only thing the Bible commands that we do is to destroy it. Can’t stop looking at pornography despite nearly losing your family? Cut off Internet access in the home. Obsessed with what your “friends” on Facebook are doing? Close your account. Feel tethered to your smartphone? Get a flip phone that only makes phone calls and is cumbersome for texting. While this sounds extreme by today’s standards, Jesus wouldn’t think so. After all, He did say in Matthew 5:30, “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee….” That’s pretty extreme, if you ask me!

Unbeknownst to many of us, our digital devices have become an extension of who we are. Most of us don’t need an extreme technology makeover, we just need to set our priorities with purpose and be more aware of how we spend our time. We need to use these devices as tools to live our lives to the fullest, not become slaves to them!

That milk crate is still sitting on the bedroom floor. It’s an illustration of how quickly the latest and greatest gadgets become obsolete and worthless. But that family vacation? The kids will remember it for a lifetime. Invest in what matters!

Note: For insightful and convicting reading on the effects of technology in relation to Christian living, check out The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies.

ANTHONY KING
Senior Pastor
at Huikala Baptist Church, Honolulu

Why I Love My Church!

Literally millions of people in the world can genuinely say, “I love my church!”  These people have experienced the blessing of a church family that loves God, exalts Jesus Christ, and shows love and forgiveness to one another.  It is among this kind of church family that people come to know the Lord as their personal Savior and begin to develop a spiritual walk with God.  The results are amazing:  peace in their lives and joy in their hearts.

Unfortunately, too many people have had negative experiences at church. Sometimes it is their fault, but all too many times it is the fault of another.

One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, “I’m not going.”

“Why not?” she asked.

“I’ll give you two good reasons,” he said. “First of all, they don’t like me, and secondly, I don’t like them.”

His mother replied, “I’ll give YOU two good reasons why YOU SHOULD go to church. First of all, you’re 59 years old, and secondly, you’re the pastor!”

That is a sad situation when the pastor is not thrilled about attending his own church.  My experience has been just the opposite. After pastoring the same church for 29 years, I am thrilled to say, “I still love my church!” I agree with the many in our church who have shared their reasons with me about Valley Forge Baptist – The Caring Church!

They have said to me…

I love my church because…

God is at work here!

We are a family!

I learn how to grow closer to God!

Jesus Christ is exalted!

We feed the hungry and give them the Gospel!

I love the music!

I love the people!

Do you have a church you can call “home”?  If not, come and experience what some of your neighbors have experienced at the corner of Black Rock Road and Rt. 113: people who love God and others. If the greatest desire of the human heart is to love and be loved, then you will certainly find that desire met in a church where Jesus Christ is worshipped!

Article by Pastor Scott Wendal

Grand Opening: Valley Forge Biblical Counseling Center

The Collegeville community and the surrounding area have a new friend: Valley Forge Biblical Counseling Center (VFBCC).  In existence for more than 15 years as a ministry of Valley Forge Baptist, the VFBCC has expanded its services to more directly meet the spiritual, mental, and emotional needs of the community through a newly renovated stand-alone counseling center on the campus of Valley Forge Baptist.  The center is located near the Black Rock Road entrance at the rear of the church property, a short distance from the corner of Rt. 113 and Black Rock Road.

VFBCC has three main goals:

  • Help individuals struggling with various life events to be strengthened and find their way back to a healthy, well-balanced life.
  • Provide a truly Christian alternative to secular counseling facilities by following a biblical approach to meeting people’s spiritual, mental, and emotional needs.
  • Become a training center for those who want to learn how to counsel others using the timeless truths of God’s Word as the primary source of help and hope.

As the Pastor of Family Ministries and Counseling for the past 15 years, I have seen a growing need for the local church to reach into the community with a message of help, hope, and healing. Our desire is to minister to people of all races, nationalities, and religious backgrounds to help them overcome the increasing various adversities and stresses that stem from our culture and life itself. We are committed to providing the practical message of hope and encouragement to hurting people, an outreach for which the church has been historically responsible.  What better way to care for the community than to have a counseling center dedicated to the principles of God’s Word to help people find inner peace and restore hope to their hurting hearts?  After all, it was Jesus, himself, who said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28).  VFBCC is committed to just such a compassionate ministry.

With the increasing social, emotional, and financial stresses plaguing our society during the past decade, along with war and the threat of terrorism, a sustained recession, high rates of unemployment, a changing value system, and a decrease in church attendance, is it any wonder that suicides are on the rise and the number of people on antidepressants has skyrocketed so that these drugs have become the second most prescribed in the nation behind cardiovascular medicines for reducing cholesterol?   America’s communities need spiritual help!

We have counselors certified in biblical counseling through a national agency called NANC (National Association of Nouthetic Counselors). VFBCC is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization, so counseling fees will be kept at a minimum cost.  You may contact the center by calling toll free (866) 828-9667 or by finding us on the web at www.VFBCC.org. We look forward to serving you and meeting your counseling needs.

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Article by Lamar Eifert

Director of the Valley Forge Biblical Counseling Center

The Blessing of a Mother

She was just a poor little Polish girl of 7 with one brother and four sisters. This little girl’s father was an alcoholic and he was not home much. By the time she was in the 2nd grade, her mother had left the family; shortly thereafter her father did, too. This little girl and her siblings stayed in the rundown house without a parent until a neighbor saw what was happening and intervened. She was sent to live with her grandparents, her mother’s parents, who showed her love and acceptance. Her mother did eventually return with a new husband and then left again. Her mother managed to stop by again, though, just to throw the children’s clothes on the front lawn. This little girl grew up, married my father, and became my wonderful mother. “Wonderful?” you may be thinking. How could this be? She came from a broken home and had a horrible example of a mother! Yes, wonderful. For when my mother lived with her grandparents, they showed her the love of God, and my mother received Christ as her Savior.

Knowing my mother’s sad background helps me to appreciate even more the mother I have. My mother is a very kind woman. When she was a little girl, she was nicknamed, “Grandma Booty.” Her sisters called her that because my mom was concerned that the neighborhood kittens would be cold during the winter months, so she knitted booties for their little paws. I often think of that nickname and smile. That is exactly like my mother. She is very concerned about little things like tiny kitten paws, and strangers, and people whom no one really takes notice of.

My mother has never raised her voice at me –ever– even when I was going through my difficult teen years. I didn’t realize how significant this was until I had children of my own and saw that it was quite easy to raise my voice at them –often. I never remember her ever saying an unkind word to me. To my mother I was the smartest, most beautiful, thoughtful girl in the world (I have since learned that she was just looking at me through her rose-colored glasses of love.) I never wanted to disappoint her.

Last, and most important, my mother has a forgiving heart. She held bitterness in her heart toward her mother, but after hearing a long-ago sermon at church on forgiveness, she realized that she was wrong. And so without her mother ever seeking forgiveness, my mother granted it anyway. I actually grew up knowing (and loving) this grandmother who had abandoned my mother, simply because my mother chose the path of forgiveness.

The longer I experience the mother-daughter relationship with my own two, the more and more I appreciate these fine qualities in my mother. Appreciation is by definition the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them their proper value. For the entirety of my life, I have observed and experienced the kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness of my mother, and I truly realize that these qualities are worth far more than gold. Thanks, Mom. I consider it a special blessing from God to have you as my mother.

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Article by Dina Hoskinson. Dina has been a member of Valley Forge Baptist for 25 years and has three children of her own. Dina currently serves as Pastor Scott Wendal’s administrative assistant and has done so for 23 years.

What Saved Our Marriage

Sherwood and I met when we attended the same high school. We never graduated with our classmates; we quit high school to get married. I turned 17 in August and we were married in September. In February we had Chip, our first child. That spring we watched from our car as our classmates graduated from high school, and Sherwood made the comment that we had made a big mistake.

Our married life began with Sherwood working a full-time job and a part-time job. He went to night school to get his high school diploma, because his father told him he would need that to get anywhere in life. Four years later we had our second child, Shirl.

I went to work part time to help out with the bills. Sherwood worked part time too, and eventually we both had our own friends and didn’t do much together. After living like this for 10 years, we decided there had to be more to life than this. We were going to get a divorce. I followed the advice of my mother-in-law and sought counseling. During that time, I was introduced to Jesus and I asked Him to be Lord and Savior of my life. It was a life-changing experience for me.

Sherwood watched me and couldn’t understand what was happening to me. He mentioned one day, “Linda, you have done some pretty strange things already, but this is the strangest of all.” He said he had wanted a new wife, and now that he had her, he didn’t know what to do with her. Well, God had made a new person out of me by showing me how to love my husband the way Christ loved the church. After watching my life for six months, Sherwood decided the change must be real, and he wanted the same thing for his life. He also accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior.

After that, we had three more children — Martha, Sherri Lin, and Amanda. We believed that now that we were Christians, our children would be perfect. They weren’t perfect, but they had the privilege of being raised in a Christian home, and God has greatly blessed us and them.

Jesus Christ truly saved our marriage. We can never repay God for what He has done for us, but now we are gratefully and faithfully serving Him every day of our lives. In September 2012 we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary, and we know that without Christ in our lives it never would have happened.

God has given us five wonderful children and seven wonderful grandchildren. We are very proud of all of them, and we thank God for our children’s spouses. We have been on some great family vacations and have many happy memories that we love to share again and again. In these 50 years, God has blessed us tremendously through our family and the many friends He has introduced us to. We are truly looking forward to what He is going to do in the future. To God be the glory!

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Article by Sherwood & Linda Conrad. The Conrads recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. They are faithful members at Valley Forge Baptist.

An Eternal Home

The evening prior to my grandfather’s open-heart surgery, I sat at the foot of his hospital bed as he recounted the exchange he had had with his surgeon. “The doctor told me I might not live through the surgery tomorrow,” my grandfather explained, and then added “I told him don’t worry about a thing—I know where I’m going if I die.”

It was the last conversation I ever had with him and the last time I ever saw him alive. Within days of the surgery, he went home to be with the Lord forever. Grandpop died as he lived—knowing there is a God in heaven who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for his sins.  Grandpop trusted God’s Word that promises in I John 5:13 “…that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

Grandpop, the oldest of 11 kids—nine boys and two girls—grew up in a single-parent home and sought to provide for his mother and siblings during the Depression Era. A favorite memory of mine is the story he told me that, while dating my grandmother, he was forced to cancel a Saturday-night event because he had nothing acceptable to wear. He explained at her doorstep that he had gotten home late from work that day and his brothers had gone out before him and taken all of the shirts. Soon after that, my grandparents were married by the justice of the peace and spent the next 56 years together as husband and wife.

Though I haven’t seen it in years, I still remember Grandpop’s Bible. It sat on the end table next to his reading chair. The black leather cover reminded me of a catcher’s mitt that had endured a thousand fastballs. The Bible had become worn from years of use and countless journeys to church. To Grandpop, God’s name was not just idle talk at dinner tables or whispers in hushed corners. His name was to be proclaimed among men! Grandpop’s life’s focus was an enduring relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

What about you? Do you know for certain if you were to die today where you would go for eternity? Are you confident that you are going to heaven or does the thought of death lead to doubt and fear?

If doubt and fear have crept in, I have good news to share with you today! The Bible says in Luke 19:10 that Jesus is “come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The bad news is that because of mankind’s sin, every person is lost, and the Bible clearly states that “all have sinned” (see Romans 3:23). This sin is what creates a separation from God. Mankind’s attempt to bridge this separation by way of good works, religion, money or morality will never be successful. You must know that it is only by way of Jesus Christ’s paying the penalty by dying on the cross for our sin that the debt could be paid in full. The “bridge” to eternal life in heaven has been built by Christ and Christ alone! What’s left now for you to do? How do you cross that bridge to eternal life? Admit that you are a sinner and “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” (Acts 16:31).

 Article by Ray Clifford
Ray helps in leading the College and Career ministry at Valley Forge Baptist.

 

Enjoying Life With Your Teen

Teenagers in Your Home?
You’ve lived through 2 a.m. feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the back-to-school blues. So why is the word “teenager” causing you so much anxiety?  The teenage years are an intense time of growth, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.  Add to that after-school sports, a learner’s permit and a part-time job, and you have the ingredients for the “perfect family storm.” But God’s plan and desire for your family is so much better than the average “teenage rebellion” scenario we read about in many magazines.  When a family follows the principles of God’s Word, everyone in the family can experience God’s favor and blessings in their lives – including teenagers and their parents.

However, many homes with teenagers are experiencing great upheaval and conflict.  Parents who are worried that their son or daughter is not demonstrating character qualities such as self-control or responsibility tend to pull in the reins.  In these relationships, the parents are restricting their teenager’s freedoms while their son or daughter is attempting to spread his or her wings.  The result is teenage rebellion and strained relationships with parents.

We parents of teenagers share much in common. We experience pain, joy, heartbreak, and frustration. You are not alone!

    You might be the parent of a teenager if…
You have to text your daughter in the next room in order to communicate with her.
Your wife opens her makeup drawer and it’s empty.
You open the refrigerator, and it is also empty.
You actually know what a “grip” is, but you can’t get one.
You haven’t seen the TV remote control since June.
The three most-repeated words in your house are “Clean… Your… Room.”
The next three most-used words in your house are, “Sor… ree… DAD.”
The alarm clock in your teenager’s room serves no useful purpose.
Your bath towels turn up missing and months later are found shoved in a darkened corner under your kid’s bed.
You cannot successfully lift your child’s backpack.

Ready for the Teen Years?
Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in behavior around their parents. They’re starting to separate from Mom and Dad as they become more independent. At the same time, kids this age are increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them and are desperately trying to fit in. Their peers often become much more important, as compared with their parents, in terms of making decisions. Kids often start “trying on” different looks and identities, and they become very aware of how they differ from their peers, which can result in episodes of distress and conflict with parents.  Dads and moms, this is not the time to overreact!  This is the time to pray, be patient, and seek the wisdom that God shares in the Word of God.  You can join us this fall on Wednesday evenings and receive help, encouragement, and instruction from the principles of God’s Word.

Article by Pastor Scott Wendal
Senior Pastor, Valley Forge Baptist

Making a House a Home

It was a plain house. The walls were off-white and the furniture was mismatched and worn. Not much insulation, and no indoor plumbing. The outside was no better. It certainly needed repairs and painting. And then there was the landscaping, or should I say lack thereof. Dirt, gravel and a few shrubs made up most of what would be considered landscaping.

But it’s strange. As plain and worn as the house looked, there was something about it—something that was warm and friendly, inviting and comfortable. But why? What would make such a plain, worn, and dilapidated house seem so hopeful, encouraging, and downright delightful?

Well, as I thought about it, it became clear. A house is a house. It’s a foundation, walls, roofing, insulation, finishing, etc., and those things are certainly fundamentally important to any structure. But this house was more than that. This was a home. A home is a place where a structure becomes a dwelling. A home is made up of people and relationships. A home is a place where more than brick and mortar, wiring and plumbing exist. A home is a place where living and loving and learning and growing can happen.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. A beautifully decorated house complete with all the necessities and then some is a wonderful thing. But even with those blessings, a house doesn’t become a home until relationships are allowed to take root, grow, develop, and bloom.

Just as it takes an architect, a plan, and craftsmanship to build a house, the building of a home has its own blueprint. And as I reflect on that plain, worn, seemingly unattractive house and consider what made it a home, the following characteristics stand out:

1) Acceptance – Without conditions, you are accepted at home.

2) Commitment – Without question, there is total security within relationships at home.

3) Forgiveness – This is the oil that keeps the relationship engine running smoothly.

4) Love – Love is a verb. It is action. Love in thought, word, and deed. Love is without conditions at home.

5) Grace – One type of grace is a disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill, having mercy; clemency. But we also need God’s grace to enjoy full, complete, peaceful relationships. God’s saving grace is unmerited favor given as a free gift and offered to all through Jesus Christ. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9). We are also reminded in Romans 5:20 that “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Oh, do we ever need grace for our relationships to be real and for us to genuinely dwell in more than just a house. Grace abounds in homes.

I’m sure you, like me, have seen a lot of houses but not so many homes. Many have a house, but it takes acceptance, commitment, forgiveness, love, and grace to have a home. This summer is a perfect time to begin construction on your new home.

 

Article by Greg Joyner
Associate Pastor | Valley Forge Baptist