Labor Day 2020: A Working Man – Rev. J. Engelsma

Col32324The latest issue of the Standard Bearer – Sept.1, 2020 – includes a valuable and timely article by Rev. Josh Engelsma on work. It is part of a series he is working on for the rubric “Strength of Youth,” in which he is developing the biblical idea of godly manhood. In this installment he writes on the place of labor (work) in the godly man’s life, tracing the concept from the threefold viewpoint of creation, the Fall, and redemption.

On this Labor Day holiday in the U.S., when there are so many distorted voices calling for our attention on the place and value of work in our lives, it is good to reference this article and hear what God’s Word says about it. I can only quote a portion of it, so we will go to the end of the article and quote from his section “work and redemption.”

Thankfully, as Christians we have hope in the face of sin and the curse. That hope is in Jesus Christ and His work. He took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh, condescended to dwell in this world under the curse, and came to work. His work was to do the will of His Father and redeem His elect people. His earthly ministry was one of constant work: preaching and teaching and performing countless miracles. In reading the gospel accounts one gets the sense of constant activity and busyness with very little opportunity for rest. Especially did Jesus spend Himself in His work at the end of His life as He suffered the wrath of God at the cross and gave His life to atone for our sins.

As men, our confidence may never be in our own working and busyness. Rather we trust alone in Christ and His perfect work. On the basis of His finished work, we are forgiven of our sins with respect to our work. And by the power of His work in us, we are strengthened to fight against our sins and to work out of thanksgiving for His work. And we look forward in hope to the removal of the curse when in perfected bodies and souls we will serve God forever in the new heavens and earth.

Keeping this always in mind, we seek to determine what work the Lord would have us to do. We take stock of the unique gifts and opportunities God gives us (cf. Rom. 12:3-8). We seek out the wise counsel of parents, friends, teachers, and fellow saints. And through prayer we fill out that job application and strike out on that career path. As Christians we have a vocation, a unique calling from God. The idea of a calling is not just for pastors and teachers, but for electricians and salesmen as well.

In the work we are given to do, we strive to work hard. There are few things worse than a man who will not work hard. It ought to be the case as Christians that we are the best, most-desired employees. We respect our employer, give an honest day’s labor, make the best use of our abilities, are faithful and trustworthy, seek the good of the company, and refuse to cheat and cut corners.

In working hard, we seek to do so with the right motive in our hearts. We are not laboring to be rich. We are not seeking greatness as the world counts it. We labor as grateful servants in God’s heavenly kingdom. God does not need us, but He is pleased to use us as instruments in His hand for the advancement of His kingdom. That means that our labor is not empty and meaningless, as 1 Corinthians 15:58 reminds us: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” Even the lowliest ditch-digger has an honorable, necessary place of service in the kingdom.

The way this kingdom-focus often comes to expression is in our giving. We work hard not for materialistic purposes, but so that we might use the money God gives to support our family, send our children to a Christian school, feed the poor, provide for the ministry of the Word, and promote the various labors of the church (evangelism, missions, seminary instruction, for example).

Finally, we work not for our own glory and the praise of men, but for the glory of God. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Col. 3:23).

Let this prayer be yours as you leave for work in the morning, and as you lay your weary body to rest at night:

So let there be on us bestowed
The beauty of the Lord our God;
The work accomplished by our hand
Establish thou, and make it stand;
Yea, let our hopeful labor be
Established evermore by Thee,
Established evermore by Thee (Psalter #246:3).

If you are interested in receiving this Reformed periodical, visit this link to the Standard Bearer website, where you will find subscription information – for both print and digital copies.

A Christian Reading Manifesto (Worth Your Time!)

This was a mention in one of Tim Challies’ a la carte last week, and it is powerful piece on the need for a new generation to take up the deliberate and diligent labor of reading. Yes, the author writes especially with young adults and young people in mind, and I would echo that urgent plea.

The author, Dr. David Steele, begins by laying out his concern as we face our technologically rich “information age”:

Despite the benefits of recent technological tools, we are also experiencing a phenomenon that should be of grave concern to pastors and Christian leaders. Many people, especially millennials (people born between 1981 and 1995) are eager to learn but appear resistant to reading. They are “on the verge,” in the prophetic words of Neil Postman, “of amusing themselves to death.”2 They may eagerly listen to a podcast or watch a YouTube video, but a growing number of people pass when it comes to the written page. They are quick to listen but slow to read. Thus, we stand at the crossroads. We have a wealth of information at our fingertips but many resist the challenge to read books. Pastors should be especially concerned as they seek to train and equip the next generation of Christian leaders, who are in many cases, reluctant to read.

But then he lays the groundwork for his “reading manifesto”:

Mark Noll laments, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”3 Thirty years earlier, Harry Blamires offered an even grimmer assessment: “There is no longer a Christian mind; there is no shared field of discourse in which we can move at ease as thinking Christians by trodden ways and past established landmarks.”4 These allegations should serve as a warning and alert Christians, thus refueling their resolve for learning and spiritual growth. My own view is one of cautious optimism. That is, I maintain (despite the evidence) there is still hope for the evangelical mind. But a new awakening will require a commitment to, you guessed it … reading.

I offer this Christian Reading Manifesto as a brief rationale and apologetic for evangelicals, especially young people. My hope is that many will respond to the challenge and enter a new era of learning which will accelerate their Christian growth and sanctification. Lord willing, this new resurgence of learning will impact countless lives in the coming days and help spark a new Reformation.

What follows are his seven (7) points about reading, each of which is essential. I encourage all our readers – and especially our young people! – to take note of these points. Print this article off and reference repeatedly this summer. And then dive into a classic of the Christian faith. Steele offers some good suggestions, but there are plenty of others. I think of J.I. Packer’s Knowing God or A.W. Pink’s Sovereignty of God. If you need help finding a book, I’d be happy to assist you. I’m confident we could find one that matches your interests and that would challenge you at the same time.

Source: A Christian Reading Manifesto – Veritas et Lux

New Book Alert and Review – Dating Differently: A Guide to Reformed Dating

dating-differently-JEngelsma-2019Just off the presses and at the warehouse is the latest Reformed Free Publishing Association’s (rfpa.org) title – Dating Differently: A Guide to Reformed Dating. It is with high anticipation and great excitement that we welcome this new book. And we may add that we are deeply grateful it has been written, as it not only fills a gap in the RFPA’s publications, but also in the writings of the Protestant Reformed Churches and in the offerings of the broader Reformed book world.

The author is Rev. Joshua Engelsma, a 2014 graduate of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and currently pastor of Doon Protestant Reformed Church in Northwest Iowa. It is evident from the outset that pastor Engelsma writes not only out his own life experiences in dating and entering into marriage, but also out of his own pastoral experience. The chapters breathe genuine concern for the young people of the covenant as well as love for God, the church, and his own wife (to whom the book is affectionately dedicated). As you read through the book, you feel that you are being addressed by a true friend (a tried and tested friend!) who cares about how you go about making one of the most important decisions in life: whom you will marry. Young people – even very young people – will find a faithful guide here. And so will parents, pastors, and counselors involved in nurturing the youth of the church and kingdom of God.

But let’s find out a bit more about Dating Differently. What is it about and what makes it different from other Christian books on dating?

The publisher gives the following as a brief description:

We’re bombarded with antichristian messages everywhere in life, and from casual hookups to casual sex, our culture’s messages on dating are no different.

But Christians don’t have to follow these norms. The Bible gives us a better way.

It’s a way of chastity and wisdom. A way that understands that marriage—the end goal of dating—is for life. The person you marry will shape who you become spiritually. And that person will also be the father or mother to the children God is pleased to give you some day.

Pastorally and accessibly, Joshua Engelsma answers the practical questions of Reformed, Christian dating based on the truth that we must date differently—with marriage as the goal and scripture as the guide.

That description reveals the antithetical nature of this work – so vital in this age in which we and our young people are living! The author strives to guide the young people of the church in spiritual separation from the godless world in which we live, as well as from the apostate church world and its false guidance about dating. Rather, he shows them how to be devoted to God and to Jesus Christ as they date and prepare for marriage, or are called to singleness in their Christian lives.

With regard to the specific content, Dating Differently is comprehensive, as the chapter list indicates:

  1. Preface
  2. Is there help?
  3. Where’s this headed?
  4. When should I start?
  5. Who’s the one?
  6. What’s there to do on dates?
  7. What’s the place of my parents and others?
  8. What about sex?
  9. What if I’m single all my life?
  10. When do I get married?
  11. Conclusion

You will note from these chapter titles that Pastor Engelsma covers all the basics of dating with a view to marriage, including that question about being and remaining single, which he shows is also a good way of the Lord. And you will discern from this content that the author does not shy away from the tough issues involved with dating as a Christian – issues such as recreational dating vs. dating with a distinct purpose (marriage); who takes the lead in dating (male headship and male leadership while maintaining the full spiritual equality of the woman); the role of parents (maintaining parental authority over against the autonomy of the young man/young woman); and the place of sex in dating (none – it must be saved for marriage!).

While reading through the manuscript the publisher sent me, I was also struck by the practical nature of this book. In some cases, with very personal and practical subjects like this, pastors write out of principle (as they should!) but fall short on being practical, and the result is a book that is sound but not in touch with the real world of its main objects. That is not true of Dating Differently. Pastor Engelsma writes about dating in a most principled manner (grounded in Scripture) while also being personal and practical. Being not that far removed from the dating years, he writes as one who knows that world well and relates it practically so that young people can relate to his wise counsel. That means the book is also clear and direct without being condescending or condemnatory. Young people will receive the practical guidance because they sense the author knows his subject – and them.

Need an example of that principled practicality found in the book? Here’s a snippet from chapter 4, “When should I start?”

If you are fifteen or sixteen and consider yourself ready to date, take a moment to stop and think about the future. If you start dating now and continue to date the same person, when you graduate from high school you will have dated for two or three years. Two or three years is a long time to date, enough time for you to know whether you can marry this person or not. Are you ready at eighteen, freshly graduated from high school, to get married? As a young man, are you going to be ready to support a wife and family? As a young woman, are you ready to be a wife and possibly a mother? Or do you have plans of going to college and getting a degree? If so, do you think that after three years of dating in high school you are willing to wait through four more years of college before getting married? Is that really wise?

Perhaps there are some of you who at sixteen are ready for all this. But as a general rule, most are not. If you are going to date, be sure that you are spiritually mature.

But the book doesn’t simply cover these varied dating topics in a general or vague way. The author is Reformed and approaches all these subjects in a Reformed way. That means, first of all, that he is committed to showing young people how they must date according to the Word of God. That’s the guide he uses and points the reader to throughout. Each chapter is replete with Scripture references, and the study questions at the end of each chapter also point the reader to the Bible. Such an approach shows that the author is interested in confronting his readers with God and His way, not man and his way.

In addition, the author is Protestant Reformed, and writes from the precious and precise perspective of the PRC’s teaching on marriage – the Bible’s teaching! – often lost and forsaken in the Reformed world today. He explains that particular position in the Preface:

There are plenty of other books on dating on the market, some worthwhile, others not. In part what makes this book unique is that it is written from the viewpoint of the biblical, historically Reformed view of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life, with divorce permitted only in cases of fornication and all remarriage forbidden while one’s spouse is living. This precious truth, still maintained in the Protestant Reformed Churches in which I serve, is applied in the pages that follow to the practical subject of dating.

It should be evident by now that I highly recommend this short but trustworthy Reformed guide on dating. I encourage our young people – and their parents – to get this book and read it promptly. And then apply it, personally and practically. Use the wisdom found on its pages. And, of course, the book will also benefit pastors and teachers, elders and grandparents, and single believers. Add it to your personal or family library. Get one for your church library. Think about giving one as a gift to your local community library. Reading and following God’s way of dating as outlined in this title will reap a beautiful and blessed covenant harvest.

The book retails for $16.95 but can be purchased at a discounted price by joining the RFPA Book Club. Visit the RFPA website for more information and for ordering.

Nota bene: I plan to return to this book in future posts for some choice quotes, demonstrating the truth of what I have posted here.

Addressing a Generational Crisis: Tabletalk Magazine – October 2019

We are halfway through the month and we ought to introduce the October 2019 issue of Tabletalk, the monthly devotional magazine of Ligonier Ministries.  This month has a striking theme: “From Generation to Generation,” and the featured articles let the old speak to the young and the young to the old. It is a wonderful testimony to the unity of the church of Christ and the continuity of God’s covenant of grace.

Burk Parsons sets the tone and shows the need for this issue with his introduction, “The Divorce of Generations.” Here are some of his opening thoughts:

We are in a crisis, and it is one of the greatest crises we have ever encountered. While the world has always faced this issue in one way or another, the church has only begun to acknowledge the reality of it, and it is growing. This crisis is not merely one involving anti-establishment impulses or anti-tradition feelings that we have observed, off or on, throughout history. Nor is it simply a matter of typical teenage rebellion. Rather, it is a problem that has emerged in some ways in every age bracket.

This crisis, simply put, is the divorce of generations. Younger generations have divorced themselves from older generations, and older generations have all but given up on younger generations. While I am speaking generally, this crisis is the source of numerous other troubles in various contexts—the classroom, the workplace, the home, the state, the church, and the world. For when younger generations seek to sever all ties with older generations, the very fabric of civilization begins to rip apart. When younger men and women reject and repudiate the authority of older men and women, they are walking a path to their own demise.

That is why, in this issue, we have sought to publish articles that speak from generation to generation—from the older generation to the younger generation and from the younger to the older.

And the special articles definitely address this crisis in the church and covenant community. Let me give you a taste from each side, as we hear first from an older saint to a younger, and then the other way around. In Geoff Thomas’ address, he calls the young to “Take Sin Seriously,” pointing out powerfully for our benefit:

See the judgment of sin that fell on the Lord Jesus on Golgotha. What do the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit think of sin? Consider the end of the Son whom God the Father loves. There is no father more loving than the Father and no son more beloved than the Son. Yet, the Son bore our sins in His own body on the cross. The Son of God became the Lamb of God. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. But God the Father did not spare Him. There could not be a gram of compromise as far as sin was concerned. God did not restrain one stroke of His rod of justice in displaying how worthy of condemnation sin is. It pleased the Father to strike Christ dead. The Father lifted up His rod, and Christ took it on Himself—in our place.

All this indicates the seriousness with which God views sin, and how inexpressible is all that God endured in order for pathetic folk like us to be delivered from iniquity. And you can shrug? You can nod and yet carry on sinning in deed and word and attitude and omission?

Unbeliever, Jesus Christ is everything sinners need. He can satisfy all your desires and can snap those mighty chains that attach you to sin. Christian, young and old alike, put to death remaining sin. Strangle it and give it not a breath. Starve it. Refuse to feed it with a single tidbit. Take sin seriously because you take the righteousness and blood of Christ seriously.

And then hear this younger voice from Joe Holland, as he pleads with the older to “be patient with us as we learn”:

But now I come to the hardest part: my request of you.

As the young and old stand on either side of this age gap, one of us must make the first move. I wish I could lay the burden on us both. But the pride, frailty, and instability of youth place us at a woeful disadvantage. Older saint, we need you to make the first move and keep pursuing us. We need you to seek, mentor, disciple, and love the younger Christians in our church. I’m asking you to be patient with younger Christians with a patience such as our Lord Jesus exemplified. When we act in pride, please patiently endure us. When we are slow to listen, please patiently tolerate us. When we are quick to speak, please patiently listen to us with a knowing smile that we’ll one day learn was pity mixed with grace. When we give you the look of resentment and dismissal, please patiently receive that insult and be ready to forgive us. Please patiently correct us, pray for us, and stand with us. If you don’t move first, if you don’t stay near us with a Christlike patience, then this gap will remain between us, to the detriment of us both.

Please, older Christian, be patient with us as we learn.

There is much to profit from in this unique issue. Make a point to read some articles before the month is out. Better yet, seek out an older saint or a younger saint at church and make an effort to listen and to speak. Yes, in that order.

Source: Latest Issue – October 2019

PRC Archives: A 1953 Event in Photos

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It’s Spring Break week here in chilly Michigan, and while others may be playing hard in warmer climes, we are going to create our own warm fun – with a PRC history/archives photo trivia post.

These are some more pictures donated recently by John Buiter (Hope PRC), and your only clue is that this event took place in the summer of 1953. The rest is up to you! Guess the event and identify the ministers and others in the group photo. And, of course, where the event was held that year!

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I realize there were serious and significant things going on in the PRC in that year, but we can still celebrate the special fellowship and fun these members had that summer.

Published in: on April 4, 2019 at 4:22 PM  Comments (1)  

“By Grace Alone” – A Blessed Summary Song of the Five Points of Calvinism

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Tonight the teachers and students of Heritage Christian School (where we have several grandchildren) gave a marvelous program of music and readings (Scripture and Reformed confessions) centered on the theme TULIP, the Five Points of Calvinism.

While all the songs were fitting, there was one that stood out, perhaps in part because the lyrics were new to me and also because they so completely captured the doctrines of grace, as we often call them. The title of the song is “By Grace Alone,” and it was sung to the tune “Melita,” (also known as the “Navy hymn”) perhaps most commonly known as the hymn “Almighty Father, Strong to Save,” but also found in the PRC Psalter (#232 – “Expectancy of Grace” – based on Psalm 85).

I found the words on several websites; one said the author is unknown, while another gave as the author Rev. Paul Treick. If someone can help sort that out, it would be appreciated.

While the 5th and 6th grade-choir did not sing all of the stanzas of “By Grace Alone”, I post them here in complete form. You will readily see why they so faithfully present the truths of Calvinism.

By Grace Alone author unknown

1)
Thou art our God, and we thy race
Elected by thy sovereign grace.
Not by the works which we have done
But by the cross our vict’ry’s won,
Oh keep this truth within my heart,
That from it I may ne’er depart.

T
By nature we depraved did dwell
Under thy curse–deserving hell–
Sinful, corrupt in every part,
Not one pure motive in our heart.
Hadst thou not looked on us in grace,
We would remain a perished race.

U
In love eternal thou did chose
To save thy sheep; their bonds to loose,
No good did we within us have
To claim thy gracious plan to save.
Elected by thy grace alone;
Holy to stand before thy throne.

L
Incarnate did thy Son appear–
A sacrifice–a Lamb most pure;
To make atonement for his sheep
And perfectly thy will to keep.
Now cleansed from sin and righteous, we
Are sons and heirs eternally!

I
The blood of Christ by grace supplied
Was by thy Spirit’s pow’r applied.
Thy Spirit we could not resist,
Who breathed new life into our breast.
Our souls alive, which once were dead,
Sing praise to Christ, the Lord, our Head!

P
With all thy saints we are preserved
To enter heav’n–a place reserved.
Secure we’re kept within thy care,
Lest we be lost to Satan’s snare.
Oh Sovereign God, all praise to thee
For our salvation, full and free!

7)
This hymn of thanks, Oh Lord we bring;
For by thy grace alone we sing.
Employ our lives in every sphere,
Thy law to keep; thy Name to fear,
“By grace alone”–this doctrine pure–
Our only comfort doth secure.

Young Men, Be Strong! ~ Rev. Josh Engelsma

sb-logo-rfpaThe latest issue of the Standard Bearer includes the next installment of Rev. Josh Engelsma’s series on biblical manhood, penned under the rubric “Strength of Youth.” While he intends to write on biblical womanhood too, pastor Engelsma is addressing young men first, because that too is biblical. To men God gives the position of headship and the charge of leadership in marriage, the family, and the church. So men – young men too – bear the responsibility to grasp this position and to grow in leadership.

This particular article focuses on the calling to “be strong.” And by that Rev. Engelsma means in the sense of Eph.6:10 – “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Listen as he explains what this strength is:

When you think about what it means to be a mature man, one of the things that probably comes to mind is his strength. Generally speaking, men are physically stronger than women. If the woman is the “weaker vessel” (1 Pet. 3:7), this implies that the man is the stronger vessel.

Especially is it the case with young men that they are characterized by strength. When I was a teenager it was not uncommon for me to work all day in the scorching heat of the summer and then after work spend the entire evening running up and down the basketball court. The point is not to make you think that I was so strong (I wasn’t), but rather to illustrate the point that young men in general are strong.

The Bible speaks of young men in the same way. Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.” We read in 1 John 2:14, “…I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong…” And in Isaiah 40:30, when it describes our dependence upon Almighty God, it speaks of young men as the epitome of earthly strength: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall.”

But when the Bible speaks of the strength of youth, it does not have in mind merely muscles. After all, God “taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man” (Ps. 147:10, a verse oft repeated to a sports-crazed young man by a wise grandmother).

Rather, the Word of God has in mind spiritual strength. This is evident from the rest of 1 John 2:14 when it says to young men, “… because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” What ought to characterize mature Christian men, and young men in particular, is that they are strong spiritually.

He then goes to define what this spiritual strength is, and does so from a specific point of view, that of saving faith. After explaining what this faith looks like, he begins to make application, pointing out this practical truth:

It seems almost paradoxical, but the reality is that spiritual strength is found in acknowledging that you are weak. The proud man, the one who imagines himself to be strong, falls. The humble man, the one who knows he is weak and depends entirely on Christ for strength, stands. “When I am weak, then am I strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

If the strength of youth is faith, then one who is spiritually strong is one who possesses this hearty trust in and dependence upon Christ.

And this is strength! By faith in Christ we are strong to withstand the fiery darts of the devil. By faith in Christ we are strong to overcome the world and its pressures. By faith in Christ we are strong to wage war against our old man of sin. By faith in Christ we are able to bear up under heavy burdens. By faith in Christ we are able to carry out our callings in life. By faith in Christ we are able to be strong and courageous leaders.

Young men, you are strong! Because you’ve received the gift of faith!

Read the rest of this edifying article in the October 1 issue of the SB. And if you are not yet receiving it so as to read it, visit the subscription page of the website and get signed up!

PRC Archives – 1952 PRYP’s Convention – Hull, IA

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The young people took an outing to the Morrell Meat Packing plant in ?

Recently we received a small photo album from Bob and Dorothy Noorman (nee Wiersma), which contained some personal pictures taken at the 1952 PRC Young People’s Convention sponsored by Hull PRC. It is a nice collection of photos to add to our archives, and we appreciate the donation much.

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A group of diligent conventioneers pouring over the convention booklet! There’s a future PRC minister in the bunch – can you find him?

Today we share these with you, hoping that you too will remember that event or recognize some of the ministers and young people in the pictures. Have fun! How many can you name? Dorothy had included most the names on the back, which is very helpful!

PRYP-Conv-1952-Hull-IA_0002This group of handsome fellas apparently traveled together out west, taking in the 1952 convention on the way. How many can you name? There’s a Veldman, a Monsma, a Pastoor, a Huizinga, and a Hanko in here!

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Banquet time! I see a Doezema and a Kamminga (and Dorothy herself is in this one!). Who can you identify?

PRYP-Conv-1952-Hull-IA_0004And the entertainment for the banquet night. Recognize these horn players?

PRYP-Conv-1952-Hull-IA_0005And the next Federation Board leaders – see people you know here?

PRYP-Conv-1952-Hull-IA_0007PRYP-Conv-1952-Hull-IA_0006The convention included an outing to a park and lake in South Dakota. Any one able to identify this place and its band shell?

Thanks for your help!

Published in: on July 26, 2018 at 3:17 PM  Leave a Comment  

Ten Technological Traps – J. Engelsma (Grace Gems)

Today’s “Grace Gems” devotional was an edifying surprise! It features Rev. Josh Engelsma’s post on “Ten Technological Traps” as first published on the RFPA’s blog. Engelsma is the pastor of Doon PRC (Doon, IA).

As we end this work week and anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, this article certainly gives us reason for self-examination and careful reflection on how we are using technology in our own lives.

I re-post it here as found on the Grace Gems site.

Ten Technological Traps

(Joshua Engelsma, 2017, used with permission)

We live in a time of great technological advancement. Companies are constantly churning out new products that are hailed as smarter, more advanced, and more innovative. And in many ways we have made ourselves dependent on technology with our smartphones, tablets, and computers, too name just a few.

There is nothing inherently sinful in these things. In fact, they can be powerful tools for good in the service of God and his church, and therefore we can use them with a good conscience before God. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

That being said, we ought to recognize that there are many dangers that these wonders of the technological age present. These dangers ought to make us careful in our use of these good gifts.

What follows are a list of ten such dangers, “traps” of technology:

1) We can waste an unbelievable amount of time using technology. How many hours are wasted staring at the TV, pursuing pointless information on the internet, looking at pictures on Instagram, and posting on Facebook? Too many, making this one of the top traps of technology.

2) Technology makes it relatively easy to sin. This is not to say that the same sins weren’t found fifty years ago, for they certainly were. But with technology there are more opportunities to sin and sinful things are more readily accessible. As a wise saint said to me recently, “When I was younger, you had to work pretty hard to get in trouble and access sinful things. Now you can get it in a few seconds on your phone.”

3) We can very easily become discontent through our use of technology. One area of discontentment is with the technology itself. We are dissatisfied with the smartphone or computer that we have and are always looking for something newer, better, and faster. It becomes an idol in our life. Another area of discontentment is with the things that we view through technology. Seeing the glamorous life of this athlete/actress/friend, I become discontented with my seemingly boring life.

4) Technology is often the means by which we backbite and slander. One wrong move and soon the news spreads like wildfire across the gossip channels of text messaging and social media.

5) Through our use of technology we often give a poor witness to the world of our faith. We post pictures of some ungodly musician’s concert we attended. We “like” this popular drama on TV. We let everyone know how excited we are about the release of the latest Hollywood movie.

6) It is very easy through technology to fall into the trap of unreality. We see pictures of the expensive vacations and fun activities that others are doing, and think that their life must be perfect. Young people might give the impression that anyone who’s anything is hanging out on Friday night, so that the one left at home feels left out and friendless.

7) In the age of instant information, it seems as if younger generations are losing the ability to read, write, listen, and think critically and deeply.

8) Our use of technology can weaken our ability to converse and thus hurt our relationships to others. It seems pretty common to go into a restaurant and see a husband and wife sitting across from one another, both staring at their phones. It seems pretty common to try and have a conversation with a teenager while their face is buried in their phone.

9) There is the danger with technology of over-sharing information. I’m all for getting to know other people better and sharing their joys and sorrows. But I don’t need to know what you just ate for breakfast. I don’t need to know a disagreement that you had with your spouse. I don’t need to know that you’re angry at your coworkers. I don’t need to know (usually) that you’re having an all-around bad day.

10) One of the dangers of technology is that we are able to retreat into a world without any accountability. When we are at work, we have the accountability of employers and employees. When we are at home, we have the accountability of spouses, parents, children, siblings. When we are at school, we have the accountability of teachers and classmates. But with technology we can often enter a world with little or no accountability. We can say things that we wouldn’t ordinarily say. We can sneak off to our bedroom and watch all sorts of vile things. And if anyone looks over our shoulder or asks to see our device, we hide behind the vault-door of passwords.

Do we “hear the strains of a stirring symphony approaching”? (Hint: You will hear it on the Lord’s Day)

Acts2-42

Once more I am going to quote from the ninth chapter  of Michael Horton’s Or-di-nar-y: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014). That chapter, from which I have quoted thrice already, is titled, you may remember, “God’s ecosystem.”

In that chapter Horton is stressing the organic idea of the church – the saints’ spiritual life together in Christ, which is ever being sustained and growing in God’s garden through the “ordinary” means of grace, especially the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments.

Toward the end of this ninth chapter, Horton stresses the vital importance of ensuring that the young people of the church (recall that last time we quoted something about the importance of having the children of the church in the worship services) not only have their times of fellowship and activity together, but that they also are taught well the doctrines of their faith, so that they are grounded in Christ and His truth. In that connection he makes some closing points about their life in the church too, which is applicable for them but for all of us who are members of Christ’s body in its visible form on earth.

Listen carefully to these words also:

But it’s not only a matter of the right content and method of instruction. [He is referring to good catechism teaching by the pastor.] We also grow more and more in our union with Christ and his body through intentional and structured social practices ordained by Christ. Recall the ordinary [There’s that key word again!] weekly ministry in Acts 2: ‘So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers’ (2:41-42).

What place does my baptism have even now in daily life? What does this tell me about who my closest relatives are? Even more than husband and wife, we are brother and sister in Christ. Even more than children in a natural family, we are coheirs and adopted children together with the Father, in the Son, by  the Spirit. Am I the beneficiary of and submissive ‘to the teaching and the fellowship’ of Christ’s undershepherds? What is being given to me, done for me and to me, in the Lord’s Supper, as I am drawn out of my self-enclosed cocoon to cling to Christ in faith and to my brothers and sisters in love?

How do ‘the prayers’ shape my own participation in Christ and his body, so that even when I pray in private or with my family, I am still doing so with Christ and his church? Some of the prayers are sung as well. Do these songs make ‘the word of Christ dwell in you richly’ (Col 3:16)? Are youth group trips planned in sync with the wider church activities, or do they regularly draw the young people away from the church, even on occasion the ordinary public service on the Lord’s Day?

And then Horton closes this chapter with these inspiring words about our life together in the church in light of our glorious hope:

Yet it is especially in Christ’s body that the new world – the real world – comes alive to us. Observing the health, wealth, and happiness of the wicked, Asaph confesses, ‘My feet almost stumbled’ (Ps 73:2). But then he entered the sanctuary and everything began to fall into place (73: 16-28). Similarly, every time we hear God’s Word, witness a baptism, receive the Supper, and join in common confession, prayer, and praise, the familiar world of the work week seems like a passing shadow. Its siren songs become faint as we hear the strains of a stirring symphony approaching. We begin to taste morsels of the wedding feast that is being prepared. Even through these ordinary means, something extraordinary has arrived, is arriving, will arrive. But we wait for it patiently [pp.187-89].

Does that not fill you with longing for the morrow, and another day in God’s house with His saints?! There is no greater privilege, no higher blessing than this. Do you “hear the strains of a stirring symphony approaching”?