Joey Sparks
2Aug/120

Protect Their Hearts

The Internet is simultaneously one of humanities' greatest inventions, amazing blessings, and dangerous threats. We are always one click away from danger no matter our age, gender, profession, naivety, or blamelessness. We must make sure we interact with the same godliness online that God expects in all other ways of life.

We frequently hear of children who are harmed by brutal and sick individuals who gain access to their lives through the Internet. We should do all we can to close up those loopholes.

As parents, you have the right--and responsibility--to know exactly what your children are doing on the Internet...no matter how old they are. You should have the same access to their accounts (with passwords, etc.) they do. You should talk openly and honestly about their online friendships, habits, and overall safety. But when you do, do your best to model the attitudes in yourself you wish to see from them. If you're condescending and not understanding, you shut those doors of communication down.

ABCLRC-Internet Safety (by ABC LRC Flickr CC by nc sa)

But the most urgent arena of concern for your children on the Internet is that of sexual sin, specifically pornography.

The statistical likelihood of your child facing a child predator online is slim. But the chances of your child NOT viewing pornography online in some capacity is about 3% for boys and 9% for girls. That includes those who unintentionally stumble across it. If your child wants to find it, there's a 100% chance he or she will. It's just that easy.

The good news is that God forgives and cleanses no matter the depths of sin (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

More good news is that you don't have to know everything about the Internet and computer technology to protect your child's heart from spiritual threats such as pornography.

The most powerful weapons at your disposal are spiritual and internal; they should be aimed at his or her heart. Pray for them. Model purity, consistency, and propriety before them--online and off. Talk openly and honestly (with common sense) with them about temptations, sexual sin, and God's purpose for sexual intimacy in marriage.

Would you rather them to hear the truth from you and God's Word or error from the world and Satan?

There are other weapons that can assist you from an external perspective, as well.

The best place to start is http://covenanteyes.com. Covenant Eyes specializes in Internet technology that provides a safe surfing atmosphere for the entire family. They feature two softwares: Internet accountability software (browsing is monitored around the clock and reports are sent via e-mail to accountability partners) and Internet filtering software (specific sites are blocked and attempts to access blocked sites are logged and sent via the accountability reports). These softwares simply run in the background, but cannot be disabled without also disabling access to the Internet. This "two-pronged" approach is the best external solution, especially for homes with children. Covenant Eyes charges for using their services. While they are not free, they are more than reasonable. Amanda and I have used the accountability software for years and we pay for an entire year of service for less than what most Internet service providers charge for one month. There are a few free services out there, but research suggests the paid services are much more efficient and effective. If you recognize the legitimacy of this most dangerous threat, is any price too great?

Additionally, the Covenant Eyes website also features a wealth of resources for all kinds of Internet safety and protection. They have numerous (free) e-books, articles, statistics, podcasts, and a well-maintained and regularly-updated blog. No matter your relationship to the dangers on the Internet, whether totally naive or buried in addiction, there's something to educate, challenge, and help you.

Every child born in our part of the world is a "digital native." He or she will never know a time with less technology. He or she will never be less tech-savvy. He or she will one day view smart phones like many of us view rotary phones.

In a matter of a few decades, computers have moved from warehouses to business centers to living rooms to briefcases to front pockets. We as adults and parents will never be on the edge of technological advancement like younger generations. But that's no excuse for letting this powerful tool destroy their souls. May God help us to use the Internet responsibly and ensure our children do the same.

 I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman? (Job 31:1)

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea." (Mark 9:42)

The righteous man walks in his integrity; His children are blessed after him. (Proverbs 20:7)

16Sep/110

4 Things Jesus Says About Salvation

In John 5:34, Jesus says, "Not that the testimony I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved."

Jesus spoke and taught during his ministry on earth so that we all might be saved (Luke 19:10). Because it leads to salvation, we must obey all he taught. The following are not a trite formula, but rather the simple truths spoken by Jesus:

1) Believe Him.

"I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins" (John 8:24).

The foundation of obedience is faith in Jesus as the Son of God. He is the only one through whom man is saved (Acts 4:12).

2) Repent of sin.

"No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3).

"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).

Believing Jesus illuminates our sinful state. A life of complete change from sin is the only life that can follow Jesus. We must put our old lives to death daily, or we'll experience death in the life beyond.

3) Confess Him before others.

"So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).

Followers of Jesus must acknowledge him as the Son of God. This commitment is expected when we obey Christ and every day thereafter. The pull to deny him is strong at times, but we must always confess our discipleship (John 12:42-43).

4) Be immersed.

"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).

The gospel is for all. Thus, the need for baptism is for all as well. We meet Christ at his death (Rom. 6:3-4) and are born again through immersion for the forgiveness of sins (John 3:3-5).

Many well-meaning souls claim, "all we need is Jesus" to be saved. They don't want to exclude or offend others by specifics and difficult commands. Yet, the honest reading of scripture guides us to the expectations of salvation, straight from the Savior.

13Sep/110

When Can You Start?

This post was originally published in the Sunday, April 24, 2011 Midway Herald (our bulletin)...three days prior to the April 27th tornado Super-Outbreak that devastated the state of Alabama.

Destruction can happen in a single moment. Rebuilding rarely ever does.

Residents from Oklahoma through North Carolina are experiencing the lengthy rebuilding process following last weekend’s deadly severe storms. Americans are still rebuilding from traumatic school attacks at Virginia Tech and Columbine, CO—anniversaries of both occurred this past week. Our country is still picking up the pieces of the economy, fear, politics, and military action from the 9/11 attacks of nine-and-a-half years ago.

It’s almost always easier and quicker to tear down than to build up. It takes months or even years to build a building that we can demolish in 15 seconds once it becomes obsolete. Ingesting a poisonous substance has immediate consequences, but eating the healthiest foods takes months or years to cause measurable improvements. We (and by "we," I mean someone who knows how to chop down a tree...not myself) spend only a few hours chopping down a tree that needed decades to grow big and tall.

Theologically, God did the same with sin. Adam and Eve introduced sin with two bites and God spent thousands of years preparing the hearts of humanity for redemption through His Son. We have the tremendous benefit of witnessing the process on the pages of inspired Scripture. The saving gospel was planned “before the foundation of the earth” and found its fulfillment in the “fullness of time” (Ephesians 1:4, 10). Though God was physically capable of redeeming sin in the garden, His infinite wisdom knew we weren’t capable of receiving it. So he rebuilt in much lengthier time than we destroyed.

If our lives feel destroyed, God’s work through Christ ensures that we don’t have to stay that way. Thankfully, the Lord forgives us immediately upon obedience (cf. Acts 22:16). But we can’t undo a moment of hurt with a single moment of good. We can’t hold ourselves to an impossible standard, nor should we expect it of others. We can always look for starting moments.

Destruction can happen in a single moment. Rebuilding rarely ever does. Starting always does.