Sunday, December 16, 2012

How Does Jesus Come to Newtown?

by John Piper
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize . . . but one who in every respect has been tested as we are. (Hebrews 4:15)
Mass murder is why Jesus came into the world the way he did. What kind of Savior do we need when our hearts are shredded by brutal loss?
We need a suffering Savior. We need a Savior who has tasted the cup of horror we are being forced to drink.
And that is how he came. He knew what this world needed. Not a comedian. Not a sports hero. Not a movie star. Not a political genius. Not a doctor. Not even a pastor. The world needed what no mere man could be.
The world needed a suffering Sovereign. Mere suffering would not do. Mere sovereignty would not do. The one is not strong enough to save; the other is not weak enough to sympathize.
So he came as who he was: the compassionate King. The crushed Conqueror. The lamb-like Lion. The suffering Sovereign.
Now he comes to Newtown, Connecticut.
The God who draws near to Newtown is the suffering, sympathetic God-man, Jesus Christ. No one else can feel what he has felt. No one else can love like he can love. No one else can heal like he can heal. No one else can save like he can save.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Conviction To Lead Part 2

by Albert Mohler

Al Mohler discusses the release of his book, The Conviction To Lead.  Though 'yet another book on leadership,' this is a deep, fresh, and timely look at the spiritual, super-natural convictions and resolves of the spiritual leader.

Available on Amazon

The Conviction To Lead Part 1

by Albert Mohler

Al Mohler discusses the release of his book, The Conviction To Lead.  Though 'yet another book on leadership,' this is a deep, fresh, and timely look at the spiritual, super-natural convictions and resolves of the spiritual leader.

Available on Amazon

Saturday, December 1, 2012

40 Things Husbands Should Stop Doing

by Dave Boehi

Sometimes we need encouragement in our quest to step up and be the men God has called us to be.  Sometimes we need information, and sometimes we need training.  Sometimes we need a mentor—someone who will show us how to be godly men, how to love our wives as Christ loves the church. 
And sometimes we need to know what we should stop doing.  Sometimes we may even need someone to say, “Hey, stop acting like a jerk!”
That’s what this list is about. 
Earlier this year we ran a popular article in The Family Room titled, “15 Things Wives Should Stop Doing.”  Several readers asked for a similar list for husbands, so we gathered suggestions from a number of men.  Here are 40 of the best ideas.  Of course, not all of these items apply to all men.  But perhaps something here will hit home for you.
1. Stop acting like the battle is won in pursuing and getting to know your wife. Have fun together, just like you used to do before you walked down the aisle.
2. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom, stop treating her like her work during the day is somehow less strenuous or less important than yours.
3. Stop coming home from work and plopping in front of the television for the night, leaving your wife to bear the responsibility for everything else going on in the home.
4. Stop working so much. Find a healthy balance between work and family.  Your wife would rather have you than a big house, nice car, etc.
5. Stop acting like you’re listening when you’re really watching TV.
6. Stop allowing the spiritual leadership of the family to default to your wife.
7. Stop being passive when it comes to disciplining and training your kids.
8. Stop saying you know and understand what your wife is saying or feeling when you haven’t even listened to what she has to say.
9. Stop being a closed book.  Open up to your wife.  Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
10. Stop allowing your role as leader in the home to be an excuse for selfish behavior.  Don’t forget that a true leader also serves. 
11. Stop dishonoring your wife by criticizing her in front of your children or in public.
12. When you wife irritates you, don’t answer right away. Instead count to 10 and remember that she is a gift from God.
13. Stop using your size and strength and anger to intimidate your wife and children.
14. Stop using the word “divorce” in your vocabulary.
15. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations with your wife.
16. Stop saying you’ll do something and then procrastinating.
17. Don’t purchase any major item without first discussing it with your wife.
18. It’s impossible not to notice beautiful women who pass by.  But don’t allow your eyes to linger.  (And if your wife is with you, don’t lie to her and say you didn’t see that woman.  Just admit you looked.)
19. Stop thinking, I know more than my wife. You and your wife will each have more knowledge than the other in certain areas.
20. Don’t assume you know what your wife is thinking. Ask her how she is feeling and why.
21. When your wife tells you about a problem she’s having, don’t immediately try to solve it. She may just need you to listen to her.
22. Stop the sarcasm.  You may be trying to sound funny, but you’re only cutting down your wife.
23. Stop treating your wife like a child. Remember that God has given her a wealth of experience and information that you need.
24. Stop acting like God and trying to control your wife. 
25. Stop pointing out her mistakes and asking for explanations. Doing these things can make her feel like a failure.
26. Never casually or disrespectfully talk to other guys about sex with your wife.
27. Stop telling your wife that she is supposed to “submit” to you.  If she is not following you, that means you’re not leading her as Christ loves the church.
28. Stop feeding your sexual desires from any source other than your wife.
29. Don’t be alone with any woman who is not your wife or related to you.
30. Stop discussing deep-level issues with a woman who is not your wife or related to you.
31. Stop deceiving your wife about your finances.
32. Don’t look up old girlfriends on Facebook.
33. Stop putting a number on how often you should enjoy sexual intimacy.
34. Stop acting as if you have a GPS programmed into your brain.  Before you go somewhere with your wife, get the right address and find out how to get there.  If you are lost, don’t hesitate to get directions—from your smartphone map, even from a person. 
35. Don’t make fun of your wife to other guys.
36. Don’t allow guy-only activities (like playing golf, basketball, etc.) to rob you of leisure time with your wife and kids.
37. Stop expecting your wife to do all the housework. 
38. Stop saying, “Honey … can you get the kids to be quiet?” when the kids are being monsters. Get up and go quiet them down yourself!
39. Stop putting all your stuff in the laundry basket and then acting as if you “did the laundry.”
40. Stop acting like picking up a gallon of milk is equal to the martyrdom of St. Stephen.
Some will say that lists like these are “too negative”—that this is an example of “trashing” men.  Here’s how I see it:  If you are coaching your son’s Little League team, you’re going to teach him a lot of positives—how to hit, how to throw, what base he should throw to when there are runners on first and second.  But you also will need to get him to stop doing things—like swinging at bad pitches, or jogging to first base instead of sprinting. 
Sometimes we need to know what not to do.
Is there's anything you’d like to add to the list? 
Navigate to the source and consider some of the comments posted by other readers.  God is just and we must be imitators of Him.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Let Jesus Be King

...and His ministry His. - by SADalizu

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' But if you bite and devour one another take care that you are not consumed by one another." - Galatians 5:14-15

     In the last five years, the Church in the United States has displayed an increasingly disturbing chain of internal backbiting and devouring.  Based on my observation and personal witness of this, especially in the last 6 months in my own home church of 7 years, I am deeply concerned and heartbroken.  I never suspected that our local church would be affected.  So my concern is not only toward the U.S. church (or universal church), but the ministry of my own home and heart (personal ministry), especially as I aspire to the office of bishop (1Tim 3).

     The central issue based on a sample of just a handful of very prominent churches from east to west, is in the breakdown (or disregard) of love and kindness among the leaders (pastors, elders, and deacons) who oversee these local bodies. The leaders are biting and devouring one another: whether by displaying distrust without communicating it, taking the other's wife for himself, or endless criticism without encouragement.  Unfortunately and subsequently, the people of the body are therefore subjet to consumption by these divided leaders.  Galatians 5:14-15 sets love as the overall moral standard for obedience to the law: "For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom" (MSG).  The Message's paraphrase highlights the violation of Gospel-freedom.   Verse 15 says it perfectly, "...If you bite and ravage each other, watch out - in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?"  One commentary describes Gal 5:15 as, "The imagery [of] wild animals savagely attacking and killing each other - a graphic picture of what happens in the spiritual realm when believers do not love and serve each other." 

     When we consider the context of the entire passage, Paul is addressing justification and freedom by grace alone through faith alone, in Christ alone, through the nearness and advocacy of the Holy Spirit, as opposed to "the Law."  First of all, the Law does not provide freedom (Heb 10:1-2).  The Law condemns and curses, while justification and atonement comes from God (Gal 3:10-29), thus providing our freedom.  By what then are we proven just?  How do we go on since Christ is King?

     The Gospel:  Grace alone through faith alone; Not by law, but through Christ that no man would boast (Eph 2:8-9).  Believers must understand that the law is by no means bad; it defines sin and IS representative of God's character - though unattainable by no man?  Therefore, Christ being the only advocate to free believers from the Law, came to remove the just curse of the law from the believer bringing permanent justification and atonement to the receptive believer.  No man can do this for you, only Christ.

     Love: Consider Galatians 5:14, that the entirety of the law is fulfilled in one word - LOVE. Another scholar brings forth clarity: "When Paul says the whole law is fulfilled in the commandment to 'love your neighbor as yourself,' and when he uses that command as the reason why the Galatians are to 'serve one another' (v. 13), he implies that Christians still have a moral obligation to follow the moral standards found in God's 'law' in Scripture. Obedience is not a means of justification, but it is a crucial component of the Christian life." Do you grasp that this is is a command to the practical outworking of unconditional love?  Not optional. Unfortunately many so-called believers overlook - or are ignorant to - this imperative. Paul is emphatic in Galatians.

     The curse of the law has been lifted by the blood of the lamb - Jesus Christ;  Not obedience to the Law (Rom 3:23, 24).

     Conclusion:  Christian, in your salvation, do not prolong the curse with willful disobedience.  So back to the premise - family and personal ministry to start.  None of this is mine to begin with.  I received received it...we all received it.  Salvation was given as a gift.  I'm ashamed to behave as the one who granted my own salvation.  O Woe Is Me, wretched man that I am!  It is Christ Jesus Himself.  At this point in my own personal ministry and salvation walk, what I observe in Christ Jesus and the triune-dispatched ministry of the Holy Spirit, causes me to yearn for a deeper and more deliberate fellowship with the Lord.

Not religious or dogmatic orthodoxy.

     The events of the last few months provide a grim portrait depicting what occurs on earth in the hearts of our churches. This is quite dismal. The Great Shepherd knows His sheep and also feeds them, but yet we bite and devour His sheep.  We must repent and turn from our ways and back to God.  Lay down religion and take up faith.  I myself am in danger of biting and devouring them too if I am puffed up and devoid of dependence on the Holy Spirit.  Repent therefore, of your sins, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The Lord will separate the sheep and the goats. "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love, serve one another" - Galatians 5:13.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Cross and Criticism

This article originally appeared in the Spring 1999 issue of The Journal of Biblical Counseling, (Vol. 17, No. 3) and is reprinted by permission. It is also available in booklet form.

by Dr. Alfred J. Poirier, former Chairman of the Board of Directors for Peacemaker Ministries

       On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger and its crew embarked on a mission to broaden educational horizons and promote the advancement of scientific knowledge. The most outstanding objective of the Challenger 51-L mission was the delivery of educational lessons from space by teacher Christa McAuliffe. A lesson was, indeed, delivered, but not one which anyone expected.
       Just 75 seconds after liftoff, tragedy struck. Before a watching world the shuttle suddenly erupted overhead, disintegrating the cabin along with its crew. The debris of metal, blood and bones plummeted to earth, along with our nation's glory.
       What had gone wrong? That was the pressing question everyone asked. As teams of researchers examined the wreckage, the specific cause was soon found. The problem was with the O-rings (circular rubber seals), which had been designed to fit snugly into the joints of the booster engine sections. Evidently, the O-rings had become defective under adverse conditions, and the resulting mechanical failure led to the tragedy. Was that the whole story?
       The truth eventually got out. The New York Times put it frankly: the ultimate cause of the space shuttle disaster was pride. A group of top managers failed to listen carefully to the warnings, advice and criticisms given by those down the line who were concerned about the operational reliability of certain parts of the booster engine under conditions of abnormal stress. Just think: heeding criticism could have saved seven human lives.
       As a pastor, church leader, and lecturer for Peacemaker Ministries, I am blessed with the opportunity to minister to people and congregations in conflict. Among the many things I've come to learn is the dominant role that giving and taking criticism has in exacerbating conflict. Yet, even more, I've learned that the remedy wonderfully provided by God requires us to return to the cross of Christ. For our present purposes, I want us to look at the problem of taking criticism.

The Dynamic of Defending Against Criticism
      First of all, let me define what I mean by criticism. I'm using criticism in a broad sense as referring to any judgment made about you by another, which declares that you fall short of a particular standard. The standard may be God's or man's. The judgment may be true or false. It may be given gently with a view to correction, or harshly and in a condemnatory fashion. It may be given by a friend or by an enemy. But whatever the case, it is a judgment or criticism about you, that you have fallen short of a standard.
      However it comes, most of us would agree that criticism is difficult to take. Who of us doesn't know someone with whom we need to be especially careful in our remarks lest they blow up in response to our suggested corrections? Unfortunately, as I travel around the country, the tale is often told that many people would never dare confront or criticize their pastor or leader for fear of retaliation. Many just find another organization to work for or church to attend.
      In fact, don't you know of leaders who select those to be nearest to them who are easiest on them? How many times have you been warned to "walk on eggshells" around that person?
       As sad a commentary as this is, such people are not much different from me. I, too, do not like criticism. Any criticism is hard for me to take. I'd much rather be commended than corrected, praised than rebuked. I'd much rather judge than be judged! And I do not think that I am alone in this. The more I listen, the more I hear the dynamic of defensiveness against criticism.
      In counseling, I see it in the humorous way a couple will be diverted from the issue at hand to debate who said what, when, and where. Or in how people debate back and forth as to whether it was a Tuesday or a Wednesday when they did something.
      Why do we expend so much time and energy swatting at these flies with sledgehammers? Why are our hearts and minds so instantly engaged and our emotions surging with great vigor in our defense? The answer is simple. These issues are not minor or insignificant. We defend that which we deem of great value. We think it is our life we are saving. We believe something much larger will be lost if we do not use every means to rescue it. Our name, our reputation, our honor, our glory.
       "If I don't point out that I've been misunderstood, misquoted, or falsely accused, then others won't know I'm right. And if I don't point out my rightness, nobody will. I will be scorned and condemned in the eyes of others."

      Do you see the idol of self here? The desire for self-justification? But idols have legs. Because of this deep idolatrous desire for self-justification, the tragedy of the Space Shuttle gets played out over and over again in our relationships. It destroys our ability to listen and learn, and it provokes us to quarrel.
       Thus, for the sake of our pride and foolishness, we willingly suffer loss of friends, spouse, or loved ones. Some of that destruction comes in the shape of a thin truce. We tolerate a cold war. We make a false peace. We pledge to each other to discuss only those things which have little significance for bettering our souls. We lay out land mines and threaten the other that we will explode in anger if they so much as raise the forbidden subject of my mistake, my error, or my sin.
       This is how churches split and factions develop. We surround ourselves with "yes" men—people willing to never challenge, advise, or criticize us. Yet, while we go on defending ourselves against criticism, we find Scripture teaching something different.

Criticism Commended  
      The ability to hear and heed correction or criticism is commended in Scripture, particularly in Proverbs. Being teachable, able and willing to receive correction, is a mark of the wise. And the wise father or mother will encourage as well as model such an attitude for their daughters and sons.

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice (Prov. 12:15).
Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice (Prov. 13:10).
A rebuke impresses a man of discernment more than a hundred lashes a fool (Prov. 17:10).

The ability to take advice, correction, and rebuke is not only considered a mark of the wise, and the inability a mark of the fool, but both the wise and the fool reap according to their ability to take criticism:

He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded (Prov. 13:13).

Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning (Prov. 9:9).

He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding (Prov. 15:32).

There is gain in taking criticism. No wonder David exclaims in Psalm 141:5: Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. David knows the profit of gaining wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. He knows rebukes are a kindness, a blessing, an honor.

Ask yourself: Is that how you look at a rebuke? Is that how you perceive criticism, correction or counsel? Do you want to look at it that way?

       How can we move from always being quick to defend ourselves against any and all criticism toward becoming instead like David who saw it as gain? The answer is through understanding, believing, and affirming all that God says about us in the cross of Christ.
       Paul summed it up when he said, "I have been crucified with Christ." A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ's crucifixion. God affirms in Christ's crucifixion the whole truth about Himself: His holiness, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth as revealed and demonstrated in His Son, Jesus. Equally, in the cross God condemns the lie: sin, deceit, and the idolatrous heart. He condemns my sinfulness as well as my specific sins. Let's see how this applies to giving and taking criticism.

First, in Christ's Cross I Agree With God's Judgment of Me
       I see myself as God sees me—a sinner. There is no escaping the truth: "No one is righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:9-18). In response to my sin, the cross has criticized and judged me more intensely, deeply, pervasively, and truly than anyone else ever could. This knowledge permits us to say to all other criticism of us: "This is just a fraction of it."

Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law (Gal. 3:10).

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).

By faith, I affirm God's judgment of myself, that I am a sinner. I also believe that the answer to my sin lies in the cross.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live (Gal. 2:20).

For we know that our old self was crucified with him [Jesus] so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin (Rom. 6:6).

       If the cross says anything, it speaks about my sin. The person who says "I have been crucified with Christ" is a person well aware of his sinfulness. You'll never get life right by your own unaided efforts because all who rely on observing the law are under a curse. "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law" (Gal. 3:10). Thus the cross doesn't merely criticize or judge us; it condemns us for not doing everything written in God's law. Do you believe that? Do you feel the force of that criticism? Do you appreciate the thoroughness of God's judgment?

      The crucified person also knows that he cannot defend himself against God's judgment by trying to offset his sin by his good works. Think about this fact: whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).
      To claim to be a Christian is to agree with all God says about our sin. As a person "crucified with Christ," we admit, agree, and approve of God's judgment against us: There is no one righteous, not even one (Rom. 3:10).

Second, In Christ's Cross I Agree With God's Justification of Me
       I must not only agree with God's judgment of me as sinner in the cross of Christ, but I must also agree with God's justification of me as sinner. Through the sacrificial love of Jesus, God justifies ungodly people (Rom. 3:21-26).
But the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

My goal is to boast in Christ's righteousness, not my own.

No one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by observing the law (Rom. 3:20).

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Rom. 3:22).

       Pride breeds quarrels, says Solomon. Quarrels are often over who is right. Quarrels erupt in our idolatrous demand for self-justification. But not if I am applying the cross. For the cross not only declares God's just verdict against me as a sinner, but His declaration of righteousness by grace through faith in Christ.
       The cross of Christ reminds me that the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. And because of this, God has thoroughly and forever accepted me in Christ. Here is how grace works: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Gal. 3:13f).
       What a sure foundation for the soul! Now, I don't practice self-justification, but boasting—boasting about Christ's righteousness for me.
       If you truly take this to heart, the whole world can stand against you, denounce you, or criticize you, and you will be able to reply, "If God has justified me, who can condemn me?" "If God justifies me, accepts me, and will never forsake me, then why should I feel insecure and fear criticism?" "Christ took my sins, and I receive His Spirit. Christ takes my condemnation, and I receive His righteousness."

Implications for Dealing with Criticism
       In light of God's judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God's criticism of me in Christ's cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. And the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy. If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blameshifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (Rom. 8:33-34a).

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it (Ps. 141:5).

       If I know myself as crucified with Christ, I can now receive another's criticism with this attitude: "You have not discovered a fraction of my guilt. Christ has said more about my sin, my failings, my rebellion and my foolishness than any man can lay against me. I thank you for your corrections. They are a blessing and a kindness to me. For even when they are wrong or misplaced, they remind me of my true faults and sins for which my Lord and Savior paid dearly when He went to the cross for me. I want to hear where your criticisms are valid."
       The correction and advice that we hear are sent by our heavenly Father. They are His corrections, rebukes, warnings, and scoldings. His reminders are meant to humble me, to weed out the root of pride and replace it with a heart and lifestyle of growing wisdom, understanding, goodness, and truth. For example, if you can take criticism—however just or unjust—you'll learn to give it with gracious intent and constructive results. See the sidebar, "Giving Criticism God's Way."
      I do not fear man's criticism for I have already agreed with God's criticism. And I do not look ultimately for man's approval for I have gained by grace God's approval. In fact, His love for me helps me to hear correction and criticism as a kindness, oil on my head, from my Father who loves me and says, "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son" (Heb. 12:5-6).

Applying What We've Learned
1. Critique yourself. How do I typically react to correction? Do I pout when criticized or corrected? What is my first response when someone says I'm wrong? Do I tend to attack the person? To reject the content of criticism? To react to the manner? How well do I take advice? How well do I seek it? Are people able to approach me to correct me? Am I teachable?
       Do I harbor anger against the person who criticizes me? Do I immediately seek to defend myself, hauling out my righteous acts and personal opinions in order to defend myself and display my rightness? Can my spouse, parents, children, brothers, sisters, or friends correct me?

2. Ask the Lord to give you a desire to be wise instead of a fool. Use Proverbs to commend to yourself the goodness of being willing and able to receive criticism, advice, rebuke, counsel, or correction. Meditate upon the passages given above: Proverbs 9:9; 12:15; 13:10,13; 15:32; 17:10; Psalm 141:5.

3. Focus on your crucifixion with Christ. While I can say I have faith in Christ, and even say with Paul, "I have been crucified with Christ," yet I still find myself not living in light of the cross. So I challenge myself with two questions. First, if I continually squirm under the criticism of others, how can I say I know and agree with the criticism of the cross? Second, if I typically justify myself, how can I say I know, love, and cling to God's justification of me through Christ's cross? This drives me back to contemplating God's judgment and justification of the sinner in Christ on the cross. As I meditate on what God has done in Christ for me, I find a resolve to agree with and affirm all that God says about me in Christ, with whom I've been crucified.

4. Learn to speak nourishing words to others. I want to receive criticism as a sinner living within Jesus' mercy, so how can I give criticism in a way that communicates mercy to another? Accurate, balanced criticism, given mercifully, is the easiest to hear—and even against that my pride rebels. Unfair criticism or harsh criticism (whether fair or unfair) is needlessly hard to hear. How can I best give accurate, fair criticism, well tempered with mercy and affirmation?

My prayer is that in your struggle against the sin of self-justification you will deepen your love for the glory of God as revealed in the gospel of His Son, and that you will grow wise by faith.

Dr. Alfred J. Poirier pastors Rocky Mountain Community Church, PCA, as well as serves as adjunct instructor for Peacemaker Ministries on issues involving conflict counseling and mediation. He completed his D. Min. in counseling at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA in 2005.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Plugging In (Part 3)

Setting Boundaries for Mobile Technology
by Dave Boehi
This is the final installment of a three-part series. Read part one and part two.

"After I wrote recently about the ways new technology (cell phones, iPads, internet, etc.) are changing the way we relate to each other, one reader wrote to say, “I completely agree with the technology issues. It just sucks us in. I have been staying with my sister for a few months to help with a new baby and her husband sits on the couch with his iPod touch, Kindle, or tablet almost all night after work.”
She described a husband and father who remained glued to his devices at dinner and “into the wee hours of the night.” He yelled at his 1-year-old son if he dared to interrupt his concentration. “He claims to be a Christian, yet does not fulfill his role as husband or father, except to provide food and a place to sleep, and is angry a lot.”
Many of you could tell stories similar to this. It’s not that the technology is inherently bad. Far from it—it helps us connect with people in many positive ways. The problem is that so many people are unable to control it. “Technology is replacing our godly relationships!” another reader wrote. “Our electronic communication has become an easy way to escape genuine communication.”
Household rules
Many readers wrote about the boundaries they were implementing in their families to promote face-to-face communication. Here are some highlights:
1. No devices at the dinner table.   This was mentioned many times in emails. Dinner time should be reserved for conversation. One reader wrote, “I totally agree that we are losing the ability to communicate on a verbal level due to the technology that is so prevalent. Not long ago at a family gathering, there were five adults sitting around the dining table (where we used to have spirited discussions). Three of the five were playing games and/or texting—therefore saying nothing verbally. It saddened me to see this happening.”
One family calls this rule “TTT—Timeout from Technology at the Table.”
2. No phones at the restaurant.  “My husband and I have made a deal for date nights,” wrote one wife. “He is way too plugged in to TV and his phone. Therefore when we are out at restaurants we are not allowed to use our phones unless it is a call from the babysitter.  Also we do not go to restaurants that have televisions because he will be too distracted, and I will be mad that he is not totally engaged.  We all need to find time daily to disconnect from all the information and reconnect with our families with good ‘old fashioned’ conversation.”
Another reader said she and her husband leave their cell phones in the car before they enter a restaurant.
3. No texting someone when you’re both at home—or in the same room. Don’t laugh—it happens all the time, especially with teenagers. “My 18-year-old son will text me from upstairs or another room in the house with a question and I refuse to answer him unless he actually comes and asks me,” wrote one mom.   
4. No texting or talking about really important personal issues over the phone. This should be done face-to-face, unless it is something that can't wait. One reader said, “There is a huge gap in a 'conversation' when texting because you don't really fully understand what that person really means unless you hear the tone in their voice or see their face and a lot can be taken the wrong way, creating bad feelings, etc.”
5. Regulate use of devices on vacations. Some parents, for example, don’t allow kids to use cell phones while riding in the car, and they limit the use of DVDs. This forces the family to interact with each other. 
For adults, vacations can be a difficult time to unplug from work when email and messages are just a click away. One reader said of a recent vacation, “It was hard to get ‘unconnected’ even for a few days. But I am having to learn that it's okay to leave your phone at home and not have to go everywhere with it. Who cares if you don't reply to every text or email right away?”
Love the one you’re with
Boundaries like these establish a strong family value: When you’re with someone, that relationship is your priority. Retraining will take some time if you, your spouse, or your children have become addicted to your devices. But keeping them in their rightful place will, in the words of one reader, “open up the door to more intimate communication with your spouse and family.”
I also liked the comment from a reader who pointed out, “Anything that becomes a necessity has the ability to become an idol.” In other words, you can become so attached to your smartphone that it basically becomes the most important thing in your life: “If you can’t live without a gadget … throw it away.  If a gadget is absorbing most of your leisure time … throw it away!” 
“Life is too short.  Let’s not invest what little time we have in meaningless endeavors.”

Friday, May 25, 2012

Plugged-In (Part 2)

Are We Replacing Conversation With Connectivity?
Technology is changing so quickly that most of us are barely aware of how our behavior is changing.
by Dave Boehi

You’re driving down a city street and find yourself stuck behind someone going 15 mph below the speed limit.  What’s your first thought?  That guy needs to get off his cell phone!
You’re sitting in the stands at a high school football game.  You notice that many of the students are not only ignoring the game but they’re also ignoring the friends seated beside them—instead they are busy texting other friends.
You walk through an airport concourse and notice a man pacing back and forth, waving his hands while he talks on his cell phone in a voice that bounces off the walls 30 yards away.  You think, That’s why I hope they never allow people to make calls with their cell phones on a flight.
Sound familiar?  In the last 15 years the cell phone has conquered the world.  I could make a list of 50 ways these phones have improved our lives.   But if you’re like me and can remember what life was like before we all got cell phones, you may wonder if all the changes are really for the good.
Remember those days when you could go to a movie—or to church—and not worry about being distracted by ringing phones or by the white glow of someone texting a friend?  Remember when meetings at work weren’t interrupted by phone calls that people just had to accept?
And here’s one more scene we all see regularly:
You walk into a restaurant and you notice a couple seated near you.  And you notice that they really are not enjoying this opportunity to be together, because one is patiently waiting for the other to stop talking or texting on the cell phone.  And you think, How sad that they aren’t talking to each other.
Adjusting to a new technology is nothing new.  Electricity, automobiles, telephones, radio, television, computers, and many other new inventions sparked significant changes in our culture and in the way we related to our spouses, our children, and our friends.  But the pace of change since 1995 has been breathtaking.  We’ve seen the emergence of the internet and of mobile phones, and then the convergence of the two.  We can now be plugged in wherever we are, 24/7.
The technology is evolving so quickly that most of us are barely aware of how our behavior is changing.  But we’re starting to wake up.  Over the last couple years I’ve noticed an increasing number of articles and books on topics like, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”, “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price”, and “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?”.
An interesting article that caught my attention recently is, “The Flight from Conversation,” an opinion piece in the New York Times.  Sherry Turkle, an author and professor at MIT, writes of her concern that our new ability to connect easily through the web and through cell phones is causing many to forget the importance of conversation in developing a strong relationship.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives.  I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are. …
Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding.  We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology.  And the move from conversation to connection is part of this.  But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves.  Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring; we forget that there is a difference.
We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation.  But they don’t.  E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places—in politics, commerce, romance and friendship.  But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.
The drift from conversation to connectivity—from “talking to texting”—should be a concern for any married couple and for any parent.  Other technologies—particularly television—have distracted us from conversation for many years, but recent advances give us the option to replace it.  And how can you develop and maintain a strong relationship with your spouse or anyone else in your family if you aren’t talking to each other?
Some parents are starting to wonder whether their teenage children—obsessively focused on texting—are falling behind in their verbal and relational skills.  Turkle writes, “A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, ‘Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.’”  Think he may need to learn that little skill before he gets married?


Plugging In (Part 1)

Where Is Technology Driving Us?
by Dave Boehi

Image courtesy of

"Technology drives me crazy" by Dave Boehi

I wouldn’t call it a “love-hate” relationship. Perhaps it’s “love-fear.”

On one hand, we love our new technology—our smartphones, our iPads, our laptops. We love the connection these devices give us to information and to people.

Yet many of us also fear what this new technology can do to people. We've seen how it can dominate their lives and sabotage their relationships.

When I wrote of these sweeping changes in my last column, it seemed to touch a nerve. “These mobile devices can take over your life,” wrote one reader in an email. Another said, “I understand technology has its advantages, but we are being ruled by the technology rather than using it as a tool.”

Another wrote, “It’s too easy to disconnect using technology. We all know of the people who check out from life by absorbing themselves in TV. Now we have the internet and cell phones and gaming systems to draw them further into non-reality but yet sooth them with the illusion of being connected or productive somehow.”

Some readers told sad stories about the growing isolation in their marriages:

  •  “I'm usually the spouse waiting for my husband to get off the cell, iPad, instagram, text messaging, Facebook, or some other game that has him hooked. I'm tired of having my conversations through text messages and would enjoy an old-fashioned conversation face to face. But the truth is we barely have anything to say to each other anymore.” 
  • “My husband and I have struggled for the last 25 years of our marriage with conversation, but what has happened now is Facebook has taken over. If dinner isn't ready when he comes home, he's on Facebook until it is. Every morning he gets up and hits Facebook to see who's been on. Sadly he does not see it as an issue. And I fear I am not alone in this.” 
  • “I am one of those people at the restaurant with her spouse, waiting and feeling lonely. My husband is always looking at his phone, checking his email or his bank account, his Facebook, and his texts. I just sit waiting and thinking to myself, ‘Why am I not good enough for him? Why does he have to be entertained by everyone and everything else?’ It deeply depresses me and he just cannot understand my point of view.” 
And many readers expressed their concern about the effects on the next generation. “Technology drives me crazy,” one said. “We had to limit our daughter’s texting as she was sending more than 12,000 a month and they were completely senseless.”

Others wrote:

  •  “I have a 16-year-old son who has no idea how to have a conversation with a girl. He can text all night long, but take that privilege away and he is lost.” 
  • “Co-workers and I talk all the time about how this new generation has no idea how to carry on a conversation.” 
  • “Our young people in society may be technologically savvier than the prior generations, but they are also socially illiterate when it comes to common courtesy and manners.” 
And then there was the man who told about his son and girlfriend who “met, fell in love, and have maintained a long distance relationship almost exclusively through texting.” During their six-month relationship they’ve only seen each other three times. “I keep wondering if you can really know someone with such poor communication,” he wrote. “I just see no way this could really prepare them to do life together.”

Some people gravitate toward texting or Twitter for communication just as they did years ago toward email—it’s simpler, faster, easier. What they don’t realize is that too much is lost in those mediums—emotion, facial expressions, tone of voice, and much more. One woman wrote about problems in her marriage: “… many arguments occur because of something that was texted and was misunderstood by one of us. Today my husband texted me after refusing to have a conversation last night. I thought the tone of his text was ugly and didn't respond. Later he texted me asking why I didn't respond and I said I would rather talk than text because texting can be misunderstood. His response was ‘I enjoy texting. Speak message. Little emotion. Can get right to point.’"

What a classic quote, and so typically male: “I enjoy texting. Speak message. Little emotion. Can get right to point.” The problem is that real relationships require real conversation and real emotion.

“When we text, email, Facebook, and the like, we lose a vital piece of relationships: the emotional connection,” wrote another reader. “Without the sound of our voices, the body language, the touch, we as humans lose what God intended to be a vital part of how we are supposed to relate and a vital part of how we are supposed to receive love and be in communion with others.”

What will you do about this dilemma in your home? Don't let this problem dwell in your midst.

For God's glory.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Ten Ideas To Make Time For My Wife

10 Ideas to Make Time for Your Spouse

by Mary May Larmoyeux

The following 10 ideas can help you and me intentionally make time for our spouse:

1. Cultivate a common interest. Your spouse should be your best friend, and friends enjoy spending time with one another. If you and your spouse have different hobbies, find something that you both enjoy doing and do it together. You may want to go bike riding, walk together at the end of a long day, play tennis, or learn how to ballroom dance. Shared experiences enrich marriages and deepen friendship.

“I realized that our relationship had to be a higher priority than my hobbies,” says FamilyLife President Dennis Rainey of his early days of marriage. “Barbara and I had to decide what we wanted to be at the end of our lives—two people who had grown old together as partners or two people who had grown old alone.”

2. Have a regular date night. If you don’t have a relative nearby who would gladly watch your kids, then consider swapping babysitting with a friend on a regular basis. For example, you would watch their kids on the first Friday of every month and they would watch your kids on the second Saturday of every month.

With a little imagination, you can also plan some great dates at home … not only while the kids are sleeping, but also while they are enjoying pizza or watching a special movie.

3. Try new adventures together. We only live this life once. Try doing something different to force yourself out of the rut of normal day-to-day living. If you and your spouse would like to do something a little more daring, consider activities such as skydiving, scuba diving, mountain climbing, etc.

“When my husband, Jim, and I said, ‘I do’ 37 years ago, I never envisioned myself camping on a budget or whizzing through the countryside on the back of a motorcycle,” LaRue Launius says. “And Jim never imagined himself thousands of feet up in the air. But God has used these experiences, and countless others, to gradually knit our hearts together as best friends.”

4. Write love letters to one another and read them over a romantic dinner. Writing letters is almost a lost art form today. You may want to redeem it by regularly expressing your love to your spouse in a letter. Then read it to your spouse over a romantic dinner.

You could purchase special wooden boxes for your love letters. Or, record them in individual journals as a lasting reminder to your legacy of your love for one another.

If you’re not sure how to begin writing your letter, read “Tips for Writing a Notable Love Letter.”

5. Go on overnight getaways—without the kids. The possibilities are endless. Many state parks have great campsites and beautiful lodges. Staying at a nearby bed and breakfast can be a real treat. Also, hotels often have special weekend getaway packages.

Bill and Carolyn Wellons have written a getaway guide for couples titled, Getting Away to Get It Together. After being married for 10 years, they discovered a secret that re-energizes their relationship—regular getaways. “We may relax at a friend’s lake house, camp at a state park, or book a resort condominium in the off-season,” Bill explains. “God has continued to teach us to step off life’s treadmill and examine the health of our relationship. When we evaluate where we are heading, we reap a fabulous return on investment.”

6. Set aside regular time to talk with one another—without any distractions. Make time to focus on one another and talk about the day’s events. When our children were young, my husband and I tried to visit together for 10-15 minutes before dinner each evening—just the two of us. You and your spouse may want to do this after the kids go to bed. The important thing is to share heart-to-heart and face-to-face.

If the kids are in school, you may want to have lunch together once a week. Put it on the calendar and make definite appointments. I read about a pastor who did this for years. He had a standing invitation for lunch one day a week that could not be broken—lunch with his wife.

7. Read a book together and discuss it over coffee at a local coffeehouse or bookstore. Take turns choosing the books. If a movie has been made out of the book, read and discuss it together and then watch the movie. Compare the book to the movie.

8. Be accountable to one another. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 tells us, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.”

You may want to ask your spouse to keep you accountable in a certain area. For example, I have a habit of over-committing myself and having way too many things on the to-do list. My husband is great about bringing me back to earth and helping me establish a more balanced schedule.

Being accountable to our spouse requires one-on-one time—whether it’s over coffee in the morning or evaluating a to-do list together in the afternoon.

“Accountability gives each marriage partner freedom and access to the other,” Dennis Rainey writes. He adds that it means asking for advice and gives a spouse the freedom to share honest observations. “It means we're teachable and approachable. We both need to be accountable to the other because each partner is fallible and quite capable of using faulty judgment.”

9. Pray together. When we regularly pray with our spouse, our souls and hearts are uniquely knit together. Sadly, we’ll forget many of the ways God answers our prayers unless we write them down.

You may want to record how God answers your prayers in a notebook. Once or so a year, go on an overnight getaway with your spouse and review it together. Spend some time thanking the Lord for all He has done.

10. Tune-up your marriage at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. Attending a Weekend to Remember will help you get away from the distractions of life and focus on one another.

The Theology of Television by John Piper

If there's ever a compelling reason why Christian homes and television do not mix, here it is:

Sam Storms, “Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God,” in For the Fame of God’s Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper (ed. Sam Storms and Justin Taylor; Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 49–50.

John Piper is known for many things. . . .

Some would likely mention the fact that he’s never owned a television! I vividly remember my first visit to John’s home in 1992. He had invited me to speak at his annual pastor’s conference which, as it turns out, is regularly scheduled during the week following the Super Bowl. Upon arriving at his home after the Sunday service, I told John that I had been looking forward for quite some time to watching the game with him. “Not at my house,” he said. “We don’t have a TV.” After I recovered from the initial shock, John graciously agreed to take me to the home of a church member where I could indulge myself in this annual affair. And yes, John stayed and actually watched the game!

As strange as it may sound to those unacquainted with Piper, his decision to rid his home of the influence of television was not from a disdain for pleasure, but an expression of his radical pursuit of it. What John regards as the banal and mind-numbing distractions of TV serve only to diminish his capacity to enjoy the one preeminent delight that never fails to satisfy, namely, the mind-expanding and ever-fascinating knowledge of God as revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. The rationale for this will, I pray, become clearer in the course of reading this chapter. See also John’s article, “Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies,” June 25, 2009, available at

John Piper, “Sky Talk,” September 14, 1980:
We are told today that we live in a visual age instead of a verbal one. People need pictures not lectures. Television and movies have conspired to make us disenchanted with reasoning and enamor us with films. This is mostly true, I think, but partly misleading. Our minds have been weakened, but I am not sure our eyes have been strengthened. That you have been conditioned to crave to do something does not mean you are better at it. To be sure, we are more visually dependent and hungry, but I doubt that we are better at seeing than our forefathers.
There are at least two kinds of seeing: one is active and one is passive. Seeing actively means construing what you see, working on it with your mind to find meaning—not necessarily verbal meaning—but all the pattern and design the artist (whether God or man) intended. When a trained eye looks at Rembrandt’s Paul in Prison, he sees more than an untrained eye, because his eyes are active and construe, while the untrained eye is passive.
Well, my suspicion is that television in general does not train active seeing but rather encourages passive watching. Nobody goes to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to watch a painting; you go to see, to look at, to inspect. But you go home to watch T.V. Therefore, I am not very encouraged by our culture, because even though we are more visually dependent today, I don’t think we are more visually acute or perceptive. Our skill in active seeing is no better and perhaps weaker than in the pre-T.V. days.

The upshot of this is that we all have a long way to go in becoming more adept at seeing the voiceless speech of nature. We need to apply ourselves to form the habits of active seeing rather than passive watching.

John Piper, “Jesus Is Precious Because He Removes Our Guilt,” February 21, 1982:

Some people keep the television on all day for a constant barrage of sound and sight on their minds to guard them from what Simon and Garfunkel called the unsettling “sounds of silence.”

John Piper, “Grow in Grace and in the Knowledge of Our Lord,” June 20, 1982:

I know that in my preaching I am addressing a visually oriented and TV influenced people. I know that 98% of you have televisions, and in 1971 the average adult in America watched 23 hours a week. I believe John Stott is right in his new book on preaching when he says that lengthy exposure to television tends to produce physical laziness, intellectual flabbiness, emotional exhaustion, psychological confusion, and moral disorientation. What this means for us preachers (especially me) is that we must improve our ability to communicate effectively and hold attention with no antics, no stringed orchestras, no violence, and no sex. But it does not mean that we can abandon our calling to preach the whole counsel of God. And therefore it should be expected that preaching will sometimes be the most demanding thing you hear all week. I can’t see how it would be otherwise, unless I make easy what the apostles couldn’t.

John Piper, “When Not to Believe an Angel,” February 6, 1983:
O, how we need to meditate on the horror of rejecting the gospel. Satan does his best with television and radio to create in us a mind that is so trivial and banal and petty and earthly that we find ourselves incapable of feeling what terrifying truth is in this word anathema. O, how we need to guard ourselves from the barrage of eternity-denying entertainment. We need to cultivate a pure and childlike imagination that hears a word like anathema the way a child hears his first peal of thunder, or feels his first earthquake, or suffers his first storm at sea. The Bible does not reveal to us the eternal curse of God that we may yawn and turn the page. The wrath of God is revealed to shake unbelievers out of their stupor, and to take the swagger out of the Christian’s walk and the cocky twang out of his voice. Don’t skim over verses 8 and 9 quickly. There is much humbling and sobering and sanctifying to be had here. Ponder these things in quietness.

John Piper, “Blessed Are the Merciful,” February 23, 1986:
When Jesus says, “Don’t neglect the weightier matters of the law,” he means, “Beware of going through the day doing only trivial things, thinking only trivial thoughts, feeling only trivial feelings. The Lord wants us to pinch ourselves again and again lest we be found swooning in front of the television, making no plans for the weighty matter of mercy.

John Piper, “Preaching as Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation,” Trinity Journal 16 (1995): 44:
Turn off the television.
It is not necessary for relevance. And it is a deadly place to rest the mind. Its pervasive banality, sexual innuendo, and God-ignoring values have no ennobling effects on the preacher’s soul. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles almost everything. I have taught and preached for twenty years now and never owned a television. It is unnecessary for most of you, and it is spiritually deadly for all of you.

John Piper, “By This Time You Ought to be Teachers,” September 29, 1996:
The startling truth is that, if you stumble over Melchizedek, it may be because you watch questionable TV programs. If you stumble over the doctrine of election, it may be because you still use some shady business practices. If you stumble over the God-centered work of Christ in the cross, it may be because you love money and spend too much and give too little. The pathway to maturity and to solid Biblical food is not first becoming an intelligent person, but becoming an obedient person. What you do with alcohol and sex and money and leisure and food and computer have more to do with your capacity for solid food than with where you go to school or what books you read.

John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002), 68:
There is so much soul-refreshing, heart-deepening, mind-enlarging truth to be had from great books! Your people will know if you are walking with the giants (as Warren Wiersbe says) or watching television.

John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), 120:
Television, the Great Life-Waster
Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you’re watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great calling is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels. . . .

John Piper, Pierced by the Word: Thirty-One Meditations for Your Soul (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 77–79:
You Have One Precious Life: Is TV Too Big a Part of It?
IF ALL OTHER VARIABLES ARE EQUAL, YOUR CAPACITY TO know God deeply will probably diminish in direct proportion to how much television you watch. There are several reasons for this. One is that television reflects American culture at its most trivial. And a steady diet of triviality shrinks the soul. You get used to it. It starts to seem normal. Silly becomes funny. And funny becomes pleasing. And pleasing becomes soul-satisfaction. And in the end the soul that is made for God has shrunk to fit snugly around triteness.

This may be unnoticed, because if all you’ve known is American culture, you can’t tell there is anything wrong. If you have only read comic books, it won’t be strange that there are no novels in your house. If you live where there are no seasons, you won’t miss the colors of fall. If you watch fifty TV ads each night, you may forget there is such a thing as wisdom. TV is mostly trivial. It seldom inspires great thoughts or great feelings with glimpses of great Truth. God is the great, absolute, all-shaping Reality. If He gets any air time, He is treated as an opinion. There is no reverence. No trembling. God and all that He thinks about the world is missing. Cut loose from God, everything goes down.

Just think how new TV is. In the 2000 years since Christ, TV has shaped only the last 2.5 percent of that history. For 97.5 percent of the time since Jesus, there was no TV. And for 95 percent of this time there was no radio. It arrived on the scene in the early 1900s. So for 1900 years of Christian history, people spent their leisure time doing other things. We wonder, what could they possibly have done? They may have read more. Or discussed things more. For certain they were not bombarded with soul-shrinking, round-the-clock trivialities.

Do you ever ask, “What could I accomplish that is truly worthwhile if I did not watch TV?” You see, it isn’t just what TV does to us with its rivers of emptiness; it is also what TV keeps us from doing. Why not try something? Make a list of what you might accomplish if you took the time you spend watching TV and devoted it to something else. For example:

You might be inspired to some great venture by learning about the life of a noble saint like Amy Carmichael and how she found courage to go alone to serve the children of India. Where do such radical dreams come from? Not from watching TV. Open your soul to be blown away by some unspeakable life of dedication to a great cause.

You might be inspired by a biography of a businessman or doctor or nurse to work hard for the skills to bless others with the excellence of your profession devoted to a higher end than anything you will see commended on TV, which never includes Jesus Christ.

You might memorize the eighth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans, and penetrate to the depths of his vision of God, and discover the precious power of memorized Scripture in your life and ministry to others. No one could estimate the power that would come to a church if we all turned the TV off for one month and devoted that same amount of time to memorizing Scripture.
You might write a simple poem or a letter to a parent or a child or a friend or a colleague expressing deep gratitude for their life or a longing for their soul.

You might make a cake or a casserole for new neighbors and take it to them with a smile and an invitation to visit some time and get to know each other.

So there are good reasons to try a TV fast. Or to simply wean yourself off of it entirely. We have not owned a TV for thirty-four years of marriage except for three years in Germany when we used it for language learning. There is no inherent virtue in this. I only mention it to prove that you can raise five culturally sensitive and Biblically informed children without it. They never complained about it. In fact they often wondered out loud how people found the time to watch as much as they do.

Justin Taylor, “Conversations with the Contributors,” in The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World (ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor; Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 152–54:
Justin Taylor:
What about your approaches to pop culture? Pastor Mark [Driscoll], you go to movies. You watch TV. You listen to modern music and go to comedy shows. Pastor John-you don’t! So John, how do you stay relevant by mainly avoiding pop culture? . . .
John Piper:
My short answer is that I think I’m weak and therefore would probably become a carnal person if I plunged more deeply into movies than I do. That’s the first answer: Piper’s weak; he has to steer clear of certain kinds of things in order to maintain his level of intensity.
The second answer is that I think there are common denominators in human beings that are so massive that one can get a lot of mileage out of feeling them very strongly. For example, take the fact that everybody’s going to die. You should try feeling that sometime. Just feel it. Everybody’s going to die. And everybody loves authenticity. Try to feel that and go with that. People generally like to be held in suspense and then have something solved. I read the newspaper, listen to a little bit of NPR, and look at advertisers. I think they’re the ones who study human beings, so I just try to read off what are they doing there. But mainly I’m trying to understand how John Piper ticks. I go deep with my own heart and my own struggles and my own fears and guilt and pride and then figure out how to work on that, and then from the Bible I tell others how they can work on that—and there’s enough connection to be of some use.

John Piper, “Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies,” June 25, 2009:
I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema. You will not want your biographer to write: Prick him and he bleeds movies. . . .
But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.

One more smaller concern with TV (besides its addictive tendencies, trivialization of life, and deadening effects): It takes time. I have so many things I want to accomplish in this one short life. Don’t waste your life is not a catchphrase for me; it’s a cliff I walk beside every day with trembling.

TV consumes more and more time for those who get used to watching it. You start to feel like it belongs. You wonder how you could get along without it. I am jealous for my evenings. There are so many things in life I want to accomplish. I simply could not do what I do if I watched television. So we have never had a TV in 40 years of marriage (except in Germany, to help learn the language). I don’t regret it.

John Piper, tweet on November 25, 2011:
Watching TV in 1986 I wrote in my journal: No good shows. Just cute evil and clean godlessness. I assume it hasn’t improved.