It is officially a week into the month…so this post is certainly late. Here are some of the books I enjoyed this past month.
Does God Desire All To Be Saved? by John Piper. I am not much for debates on predestination and election. I certainly have my opinions, but I would never lead with them. However, you need to have a backbone about you on these issues if you hope to engage in any intelligent spiritual conversation nowadays…or so it seems. Piper certainly has a backbone in this, but presents it in such a winsome way that you can’t help but love Jesus more because of the way he presents the glory of God in calling sinners to faith. This is a short read, but well worth it for those looking for a concise answer to this puzzling question.
On Christian Liberty by Martin Luther. Phenomenal not just for Luther’s defense of justification by faith alone through grace alone, but for how persuasively he argues his case against the Pope. He is persuasive not just because of the arguments he makes, but because of the care he shows for the Pope’s soul in the process. Luther was as bull-headed as any theologian out there, but gentle when he needed to be. This LONG letter is a perfect illustration of a good balance.
Will There Be Donuts? by David Pearl. If you are like me, it seems about half your working time is spend in and out of meetings. It could be with one person or a hundred…our lives seem to be inundated. Pearl does a great job of helping you distinguish what are important meetings and which are not. Which need to be killed and which need to flourish. What makes a great meeting and what makes a poor one. While the book was light on how-to (which I really wanted :) ), it did offer some good questions to ask as you are planning, executing, and even participating in meetings.
The Boy and His Horse by C.S. Lewis. Loved it. Every page of it told a fantastic story of adoption and redemption. Lewis is a master storyteller and knows the biblical story so well that it bleeds into every piece of fiction he writes.
O Love That Will Not Let Me Go Edited by Nancy Guthrie. I goof…no…an awesome resource on a theology of death. There are essays from many great theologians including Warfield, Keller, Edwards, and Piper among others. I found many of them very rewarding and nourishing. Each essay is only about 6-8 pages long so they are great if you are short on time.
1, 2 Timothy and Titus by Bryan Chapell and Kent Hughes. I am using this right now for a small group I am leading. It is in the Preaching the Word series, which has excellent readability and wonderful illustrations. The whole series, I have found, is a good lay-level commentary series that has good resources for preachers.
Jonathan Edwards in his wonderful book, Charity and Its Fruits:
“Humility tends also to prevent an arrogant and assuming behavior. He that is under the influence of an humble spirit is not forward to take too much upon him, and when he is amongst others, he does not carry it toward them as if he expected and insisted that a great deal of regard should be shown to himself. His behavior does not carry with it the idea that he is the best amongst those about him, and that he is the one to whom the chief regard should be shown, and whose judgment is most to be sought and followed. He does not carry it as if he expected that everybody should bow and truckle to him, and give place to him, as if no one was of as much consequence as himself. He does not put on assuming airs in his common conversation, nor in the management of his business, nor in the duties of religion. He is not forward to take upon himself that which does not belong to him, as though he had power where indeed he has not, as if the earth ought to be subject to his bidding, and must comply with his inclination and purposes.
On the contrary, he gives all due deference to the judgment and inclinations of others, and his behavior carries with it the impression that he sincerely receives and acts on that teaching of the apostle, “Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Phi 2:3). In talking of the things of religion, he has not the air, either in his speech or behavior, of one that esteems himself one of the best saints in the whole company, but he rather carries himself as if he thought, in the expression of the apostle, that he was “less than the least of all saints” (Eph 3:8).”
If I had any doubt about the potential evils of the Internet, they were permanently erased when I wrote a book about pornography, and followed it with one on life and faith after the digital explosion. In the aftermath I received email after email describing what pornography and other online dangers had done to individuals and to families. Since I have traveled around speaking on the subject of technology, I’ve learned even more about just how harmful it can be to allow children or teenagers free reign when it comes to their devices and their access to the Web. We are handing power tools to children and acting surprised when they get badly hurt.
My children are growing up fast—my son is 13 and my daughters are (almost) 11 and 7. They are asking for and in some cases even needing greater access to computers. Their friends are starting to get their first cell phones. My son just opened a Facebook account. Even my seven-year-old loves to write emails to her grandmother.
I am getting nervous. I know all the facts about what they may encounter out there, but have done too little to protect them.
I am about to strengthen my plan to protect my family. I thought it might be helpful to share this plan and this journey with you, both to get your feedback on it, and to allow you to see how it progresses. I intend to report back in a month or two to let you know what we have learned along the way.
I have four main goals:
Goal #1. I want to guard my children from seeing or experiencing what they don’t know exists. I want the innocent to remain innocent. In other words, I do not want my children to see pornography or to experience dangerous situations before I have been able to discuss these things with them. I have already had several of these discussions with my son, but not yet with my daughters. I believe this is a talk to have with them when they are old enough—probably around 11 or 12.
Goal #2. I want to prevent them from seeing or experiencing what they may desire once they learn that it exists. I am under no illusion that they will never want to see what all the buzz is about and what their friends will inevitably be discussing. So I want to make it as difficult as possible for them to access dangerous or pornographic material, even if they want to.
Goal #3. I want my devices to remain useable. I want to avoid a brute force approach that forces constant password prompts or that permits access to only an approved “whitelist” of sites. If a solution proves too cumbersome, I know I will abandon it before long.
Goal #4. I want to train my children to use the Internet and their devices responsibly. It would be far easier to take everything away from them, but there is greater value, I think, in leading and guiding them as they learn to use them. My desire is to train my children to use their devices and as they prove themselves, to allow them greater responsibility and with it freer access.
There are several things I should acknowledge.
Acknowledgement #1. I cannot completely protect my children. It is very nearly inevitable that at some point they will encounter dangerous or pornographic material online. This may be as a result of an unintentional click, it may be curiosity or deliberate desire, or it may be someone showing them something they do not want to see. Though I want to prevent them from ever seeing this material, realistically I also need to teach them how to act when they do.
Acknowledgement #2. Neither Aileen nor I struggle with a desire to look at pornography or to participate in dangerous or perverse online activities, so while many people wisely put measures in place to guard themselves from such sin, this is not an urgent concern for us. However, I will still attempt to address it as I go.
Acknowledgement #3. Aileen and I do not believe that, at least for now, our children have the right to privacy on their devices. We believe it is well within our rights as parents to inspect our children’s devices, to monitor the way they use them, and to take their devices away if they misuse them.
THE LAY OF THE LAND
Like so many families, we have accumulated an embarrassing number of Internet-enabled devices, some by purchase and some as gifts. None of them are the latest and greatest models, but none of them is quite obsolete either. As we build a solution to monitor and protect the family, we need it to account for a PC with Windows and both an iMac and MacBooks running OSX. Some of these are personal devices (e.g. my laptop) while some are shared by all the family members (e.g. the iMac and the PC). We also need a solution to account for smartphones, tablets and iPod Touches.
Here are the initial actions I have taken.
My plan is to rely, as much as possible, on Covenant Eyes. I will use it first, and if I find it disappointing, look elsewhere. I have installed it on all of our computers. I created an account for each of us with myself as the one who will receive weekly accountability reports. I set both the accountability and the filtering to the Teen (T) setting for each of the children. Aileen and I will have accountability but no filtering. As part of this plan, I had to make sure each computer was set to go to sleep quickly following use (since this will force the next person to log in to their own account).
I have created an account for each of us on the PC and for any of us who uses one of the Macs. Each account has a password known only to the account holder and to Aileen and me.
I have an iPad I use primarily for preaching and speaking; it has a password known only to Aileen and me. We also have an old, first generation iPad (left over from my contractor days) which has only very old games and apps. We disabled the browser and the ability to install new software without a password.
iPods & Cell Phones
The children’s iPods Touches (which they bought with paper route money) have a password known to that child and to mom and dad. Mom and dad maintain the “system” password which controls the security settings. We disabled the browser, the YouTube app, and the ability to install new software without a password.
I considered disabling the camera, but have not yet done that. I also considered using the Covenant Eyes web browser which would then apply filtering and accountability, but I see no reason (at least for now) that the kids need to browse the Web through their devices.
We do not have cable TV, so do not need to account for that.
Covenant Eyes is not free software, so there is some cost involved. This plan, as it stands, costs $22.99 per month which seems reasonable enough.
AND AWAY WE GO
I realize this solution is probably not yet complete and is more of a work in progress. For example, we have a Netflix account, and I need to consider how to keep my kids from accessing the worst of the Netflix library. But I think this plan is acceptable for now and will report back in a while to let you know how we have done with it.
Do let me know if you see any gaping holes or any panicked over-reaction. I would also love to hear from other parents about steps you have taken to guard your family.
I did not read a ton in September, but what I did was substantial.
Charity and It’s Fruit by Jonathan Edwards – Got this one for free on iBooks. It is a gem through and through. It consistently took my heart, pried it open, and revealed layer after layer of sin. Anger, selfishness, judgementalism, pride, self-promotion…it’s all here. Plus, it is wrapped in the language of a time when people were less afraid of offending one another and more concerned with speaking truth. I will come back to this one time and time again. Probably the best book I have read this year.
Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxes – This 500+ monster is still in process. I am about 2/3 of the way through, but it is riveting. You have to be patient with it because the language is thick and the plot line slow. For example, at 2/3 through Bonhoeffer has yet to be arrested and it doesn’t look like it’s coming anytime soon. The value in this book is the inside look it gives you at a man who dared to love boldly for Christ at the risk of his own life. Absolutely inspiring stuff!
Joseph Epstein (from 2008):
In America we are currently living in a Kindergarchy, under rule by children. People who are raising, or have recently raised, or have even been around children a fair amount in recent years will, I think, immediately sense what I have in mind. Children have gone from background to foreground figures in domestic life, with more and more attention centered on them, their upbringing, their small accomplishments, their right relationship with parents and grandparents. For the past 30 years at least, we have been lavishing vast expense and anxiety on our children in ways that are unprecedented in American and in perhaps any other national life. Such has been the weight of all this concern about children that it has exercised a subtle but pervasive tyranny of its own. This is what I call Kindergarchy: dreary, boring, sadly misguided Kindergarchy.