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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

3 Steps That Lead to a Healthy Relationship

A healthy marriage is one in which you go through the stages of self-discovery and learn to identify your healthy and less-than-healthy expectations. Then you choose to take personal responsibility for your actions and reactions. Finally, you make the commitment to honor the marriage and your spouse.

If you’re waiting for your spouse to change first before you take personal responsibility for what you can change in yourself, you may never see an improvement in the state of your marriage. So be the change agent in your relationship and begin showing your spouse how committed you are. Here are three ways guaranteed to improve the health of your marriage.

Step 1: Build Up Your Mate with Encouragement

Your spouse may feel discouraged, frustrated, and tired—not just at the end of the day, but every day. He or she may be going through a season in life when everything seems too hard to deal with. That’s why it’s so important to be a source of encouragement and hope.
Paul reminded the Thessalonians, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). He is encouraging people to watch their words, love one another, and build each other up. That applies to everyday interactions, including your marriage.

Step 2: Pray for Your Spouse

When it comes to marriage, never underestimate the power of prayer. Over the years I have literally seen hundreds of marriages on the brink of divorce come alive with joy, passion, and new life because of the power of prayer.

Hebrews 4:16 instructs, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” That’s right! The mercy and grace you need to love your spouse is available to you every day. Prayer is the key. Sometimes as you pray, you’ll see immediate changes in your spouse; but other times the transformation will be much slower. Often when you pray, the greatest change you’ll see is in yourself—in your heart, your perspective, your attitude.

Matthew 7:7-11 encourages us to be persistent. You have the opportunity to lift the name of your spouse before God every day!

It’s never too late to begin praying. All too often I have found that when my emotional and relational gauges are low, and I’m low on energy when it comes to loving my wife, there’s no faster way to refuel than spending time in prayer. It’s hard to stay disconnected from someone you are praying for on a regular basis. In fact, it’s almost impossible. You simply can’t harbor anger, bitterness, or frustration against someone and still ask God to bless him or her on a regular basis.

Step 3: Ask God to Let It Begin with You

A broken marriage begins to mend and communication is re-established when one of the partners is willing to make a breakthrough and say “Lord, begin with me. I am the one who needs to change, to love more deeply and more wisely.”

Even if you think your spouse is 100 percent wrong, when you stand in the presence of Christ, you will begin to see that you, too, have shortcomings. You will discern where you have failed to accept responsibility for your part in the marital relationship, and you will be able to say “God, change me.”

A Christian should be committed to follow Christ’s example. He went all the way in love, all the time. So, for a start, stop demanding that your partner change his or her ways. Let God start changing you.

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From As Long As We Both Shall Live
©2009 by Gary Smalley and Ted Cunningham. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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!

JBP_Conrad50th-245

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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.

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