Helpful Apps for Fighting Sin

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I’ve been doing a series on helpful apps for various things (see previous ones on devotions and evangelism). Today, I want to talk about some helpful apps for fighting sin.

And I do mean fighting sin. Because it is a fierce, unending, exhausting struggle.

Right now, as you read this, you are in an all-out war. Each day when you wake up, you have just started a new battle in that war. At the end of the day, you can either mark it down as a victory or a defeat for you personally.

Choose to fight. Choose to win!

Not in your own strength – of course! Anyone who thinks they can fight sin on their own willpower is delusional and should be admitted to an asylum. But when we realize we have a Savior who defeated the hordes of hell on the Cross and rose again, we gain confidence that victory is possible.

It won’t be easy. We need every weapon we can get a hold of to throw at this enemy. Might I suggest installing a couple “swords” – and maybe a bazooka – on your iPhone.

Here’s some wartime apps for today’s battle:

1. Covenant Eyes – K9 – xxxChurch

These are a great triumvirate of filter firepower for any device. They are simply filters to weed out sin from your Internet usage. Covenant Eyes is perhaps the best, with the option to have an accountability partner emailed with your usage. It may be embarrassing for your best friend to see that you spent 26 hours on Facebook on Saturday (very talented), but it would be even worse for your best friend to find you surfing on an immoral site. K9 and xxxChurch are free – a great place to start. Let me be frank – you NEED one of these for every device. Immorality is not just a laptop browser problem. It’s actually probably more of a late-night iPhone problem – so convenient, so hidden. And you can access unfiltered Internet easily through your Safari browser, YouTube app, and even the Facebook and Twitter apps. Even FB Messenger has a way to access the Internet (I’m not telling you how, but if your flesh is as bad as mine, it will find a way). So in addition to these great filters, you also need…

2. iPhone restrictions

Being an iPhone user and thus more sanctified, I shall describe it as it works on my godly device – you heathens on Androids will have to repent first (mostly kidding). In the Settings app, under “General,” there’s a restrictions part. You have to have a four-digit code for it – and if you’re like me, my memory won’t remember the date of the 95 Theses for the History exam but will remember these four numbers no matter what they are (stupid memory). So I have to have a friend punch in the numbers and write it down somewhere in case I need it (I shouldn’t ever need it). Then, I’m able to go in and restrict Internet usage. I would make it as restrictive as possible. When in doubt, restrict the site. After all, it’s simply a matter of convenience – and convenience should die a brutal death if it causes you to sin. If you restrict what websites you can access, then no matter how your flesh finds a way on the Internet, it still won’t be able to access those sites. You should also slide the Safari button off, disabling that browser so that you can only use one of the filter’s browsers/apps from above. You can also restrict the age-appropriate range of apps you choose – I would recommend something fairly low to keep you from downloading things like Chrome or other browsers.

(I’m told that Norton Antivirus has an Android app that can disable specific apps, but I do not think this is Apple compatible. Thus, I suppose the Android users have one saving grace for their pitiful state.)

3. STOP IT!

Okay, this isn’t an app. But it is something to keep in mind, beyond all these helpful apps. In fact, you can have all these apps, use them perfectly, cut off all access to immorality and temptation, and STILL FAIL!

Why? Because though sin is exaggerated by technology, it does not find its root there. Your sin habit is not found in your iPhone, but in your heart.

So for all our efforts to cut off sin, it really comes down to a simple concept – STOP IT!!!

My university president preached a message on that last week. And it came across as a bit insensitive to many of my classmates. But after reflecting on it all week, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s exactly right. It’s good to employ every weapon we have against sin with apps, Bible-reading, prayer, etc. But at the end of the day, weapons do no good if we have no motivation or resolve to fight.

So as you add weapons to your smart phone stockpile, remember – at the end of the day, you must determine to simply fight. Don’t hold back. Don’t show mercy.

Kill sin, or it will kill you.

Restrict the Internet, or it will restrict you.

Delete the app, or it may delete you.

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Facebook and Flamethrowers

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My Mom (bless her heart) used to always yell something up to me when I was a teenager, locked in my room for hours on end, spending the summer staring at the sacred screen.

“Matthew! Two letters – T.W.!!”

TW is my Mom’s hipster lingo for “Time-Waster.”

She meant things like Facebook, Twitter, news sites, random and pointless research on the inerrant Wikipedia, the occasional computer game, or any other digital media that I worshiped at the keyboard altar.

Technology is awesome. But technology can be killer. It can waste your life. It can rot your life.

Porn. Arranging hook-ups online. Viewing garbage on social media. Pumping ego on your post. Demonizing people with every tweet. Creating enemies or shallow relationships.

I love digital media. But its a beast to be tamed, though it often looks like a kitty-cat. And Satan can often use it as his mighty steed to blaze into our hearts and try to knock the King out.

How do we fight against him? How do we stop the digital rot?

Thank goodness, it’s not by moving to Amish country.

The way to conquer TWs is to focus on one other letter – F.

Filter

There’s no way around this. Let me be abundantly clear – a filter is a necessity in our modern world. If you desire to raise a godly family or be a godly person, you MUST have a filter on every computer and smart phone and tablet in your house or in your possession.

You may think your children would never have a problem with it, but why take the risk? You may think you’re strong enough, but we’re talking about your very soul in danger! You may think filters are inconvenient, but we’ve gotta remember that Christ has not called us to comfort. He called us to be willing to even cut off our hand to destroy sin.

It’s simply not worth the risk.

The two filters I’ve used are K9 Web Protection – which is free! – and Covenant Eyes, which is a little better, but costs. Either work well for stopping access to immorality. Or they can even be used to stop access to fine sites that you spend too much time on – you can take a Facebook fast by blocking it in your filter or take a break from negative news by blocking all news sites.

Friend

The Bible has a lot to say about accountability and transparency. “Confess your faults to one another,” says James. Each one of us should have a friend OUTSIDE our family that we can be accountable to. I’ve been blessed to have several of these in my life. I text them throughout the week, asking how they are doing. And they text me at random times, checking up on how I am doing. We can be honest with each other, because we’ve built a relationship of love, respect, and honesty.

There are few greater blessings in life than a friend that you can be honest with. Especially in your use of digital tech. Even better, you can put them as your accountability partner on your filter (Covenant Eyes does this well) and they’ll get an email from your filter if you view something inappropriate.

Use fire to fight fire. Use good technology to fight against bad uses of technology. Speaking of fire…

Flamethrower

I just had to have a third “f,” okay?

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Sometimes you just have to get rid of stuff!

Jesus says that if our eye offends us, pluck it out! Perhaps a modern adaption might say that if our iPad offends us – smash it! If our Facebook causes us to sin incessantly, DELETE IT with all the passion you can muster!

There will be casualties in our fight against sin – either you or the form of technology that causes you to sin. Choose to fight. Choose to war.

Choose to win.

Or choose to spend your time on TWs. Choose to rot your soul.

It’s up to you.

A Friend of a Millennial: Two Ways to Make Your Church More Millennial-Friendly

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Trending Topic: #ReachingMillennials

I love my generation. We have the iPod, iPhone, and iPad—and soon we’ll have computers that fit over our eyes (hurry up, Google!). We have texting at our fingertips—even while driving! We have our own new Star Wars—or at least we will soon (we don’t claim those prequels as our own). We have angry birds and sometimes angry protestors. We have some awesome people like Tim Tebow, Josh Hutcherson…Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus…

All right, so we got our negatives as well as positives. Frankly, I don’t know which we have more of. Most of our greatest gifts are also our greatest weaknesses. Our technology and love of it enables us to connect with more people—but also disconnects us from the people around us. Our social media enables us to experience more diverse cultures—but also causes us to doubt all universal truth.

It’s many of these weaknesses that get unnecessarily emphasized by the older generations of many churches. But the fact is that ALL generations have pluses and minuses. Our goal as the body of Christ is to create an environment in our assemblies where each generation’s strengths can be best used without drawing out another generation’s weaknesses. Unfortunately, I—and many of my fellow millennials—feel that our churches are not employing the millennial generation in the ministry as they should.

The need is dire. And the data is clear—especially the research done by Pew this year—millennials are leaving church in droves. Soon, it’ll be one third of all millennials who are uncommitted to a religion! Apparently, there is something wrong—either with the millennials or with the churches. Obviously, much of the blame lies at the feet of my uncommitted, pluralistic generation—I won’t deny that. However, some blame could be laid at the feet of the churches and their leaders who are failing to outreach to millennials in their ministries.

I understand their dilemma. They don’t want to drive away the older generations by overemphasizing the millennials and their desires. Some churches have done this—and the research shows that millennials don’t even like this, much less the older people! We want a church that is real—not one trying to be “cool.” But at the same time, we want a church that is relevant to our generation—and that’s not a bad word! We want a church where we can grow, thrive, and hone our spiritual gifts to be used for the glory of God. We want a church that takes the Gospel and communicates it in our cultural context without compromising the truth. But sometimes that’ll take alienating the older generation to accomplish that.

But not always. There are two simple things that each church could do that would encourage millennials to participate in the ministry without alienating the older generations.

  1. Become more visual.

Our generation is a visual generation. Duh—we stare at screens most of the day! We are obsessed with movies and TV shows—just research how many hours we spend “binge-watching” or how quickly a new trailer will start trending on Facebook. We also love art—of any kind! We may not be pumping out Raphaels, but we enjoy the modern art on display in coffee galleries. We like searching Pinterest for new “artsy” ways of renovating normal things, and we obsess over new Broadways. Like every generation of all time and in all places, we like STORIES.

Telling stories is one of the best ways of communicating truth. Don’t believe me? Well, the very Son of God employed story most often to communicate His message of the kingdom—we call them “parables.” Too often, our church services are focused on two things—music and preaching. And both are Biblically required—preaching especially! But it’s interesting to note that Christ did not go around Galilee with a traveling choir! Instead, He walked around telling fictional stories (and yes, preaching).

And Christ is a great communicator to the millennial generation. No, we shouldn’t transform our services into “storytime.” But we should use all venues available to communicate to millennials, as well as the older generations (who also love stories). Perhaps this looks like cutting the music service down a few minutes to have time to show a relevant video that ties into the sermon. Perhaps it means forgoing the usual “cantata” and instead having a drama or video made or produced by millennials in your church.

Millennials could we wasting away in your church with many talents and a passion for communicating truth via story. You may have a great cinematographer or actor or writer or artist in your church just waiting to employ their talents as a method for communicating Gospel truth. Or they may not have even thought of using their talents in such a kingdom-building way! No wonder—they think that church and their future work are totally unrelated fields because they have never been given an opportunity to use their “secular” talent for a “spiritual” purpose.

You can give them that chance. Make your services and programs less about structure and traditions but rather about communicating the Gospel through all available mediums—including the one that touches millennials the most: the visual.

  1. Become more relational.

Millennials are a relational generation. We perceive everyone on the same playing field—leaders should not be high and lofty, but rather act like “one of us” who struggles but has found a measure of success. The older generation may think this will lead to a lack of respect for authority—but it’s quite the opposite. Millennials respect a leader more the more he makes himself “relatable.”

Millennials crave relationships. We may try to put up walls through “impersonal” communication forms like texting or social media, but we love communicating overall and feeling like our voices are being heard, for good or for ill. We want to be “listened to.” We have some good ideas—and some bad ones too. Yet, I’ve found that once you’re in an organization for a while, you get caught in a rut and cannot see how to initiate reform. But when someone from outside—with “wide eyes and bushy tails”—joins the organization, he can often see what needs to be fixed and is full of ideas to do just that. Millennials are quick (perhaps too quick) to give these new people power to implement change and in the process drive away the old members. But I do think more of a balance can be maintained where we take ideas and insights from all members, including millennials—with a grain of salt!

Beyond this, millennials also want to feel like they’re being invested in. That the leaders and older members of the church actually care about them. First things first, that they actually know the millennials’ names—they’re not just another face in the pew, even if they only visit during the school year. That there are adult members who know not only their name, but also their interests, their prayer requests, their financial needs, and their relationship status. When a millennial needs counsel, he should feel like he can go immediately to a leader in his church and ask for advice—without having to explain his whole backstory to someone who barely knows him! There should be at least one adult who has invested in each millennial who can offer advice—even if it’s not requested. The church should be the first place they run to for counsel—not Facebook, Google, worldly TV shows, unsaved friends, or bloggers.

What does this look like? My favorite word: “mentoring.” One-on-one, over coffee, over current issues, over recent sin struggles. Time and time again, week by week, over fun and over failure, over dreams and doubts. You want to know the cure for millennials leaving your church at a rapid pace? One simple solution: get to know the millennials! Invest in them—so that they have to step over you if they’re going to leave the faith.

This is my passion in life. This is what I come back to over and over again. I know I’ve blogged about it a lot—and I hope I die blogging about it! Because this stuff is important. Nine out of ten millennials who leave the church never had a mentor at all, according to Barna (see infographic below). That’s some frightening data. That should compel action.

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It’s not going to be easy. It may upset some older people. But I highly doubt implementing these two “simple” steps will cause any older people to leave your church. But not implementing them has already and will continue driving millennials out of your church. Older people will not object to more visual media—so long as it doesn’t detract from the Gospel, but rather boldly proclaims It! And they certainly won’t reject pushing for more investment in millennials—in fact, they should be leading the charge on that! And if they are opposed to that, then it’s time to confront them about that sin.

Sin. That’s pretty harsh. This isn’t just my opinion, though. I have no authority to address this subject, nor the experience or wisdom to solve the problem. I take into consideration the passage that warns not to “rebuke an older man sharply” (1 Tim. 5:1). But I take the approach of the second half—“appeal to him as you would to a father.” So I appeal to you, in Paul’s later words to the same man, to “entrust to faithful men” what you have heard (2 Tim. 2:2). I urge the under-shepherds of Christ to “shepherd the flock of God” (1 Peter 5)—which includes millennials! I encourage everyone to take another look at Christ—and another and another! Observe how He ministered to people—old, young, Jew, Samaritan, sinner, self-righteous, dead, or alive. And imitate Him.

After all, He knows how to keep millennials in your church. He loves millennials. He died for millennials. He’s a friend of millennials. Are you?

-M@

At This Table Gathered Round

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Keep Calm and Read a Modern Psalm Based on 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24:

Here at this table, gathered round,

My family sits and eats.

From every plate the food abounds,

As we begin this feast.

And as I turn and look around

And think on each person,

I see that some have let me down,

And some sought their own ends.

For every family has its flaws,

As through this life we plod.

We all have broken every law,

But that is not my God.

My God is faithful in His call,

And He will see me through.

He will preserve me for long haul,

And will be always true.

Here at this table, gathered round,

The food is packed in tight.

The turkey’s stuffed, the stuffing’s downed,

As each one takes each bite.

And as we gorge on every dish,

We think we’re satisfied.

But that’s a dream, a silly wish,

That only feeds our pride.

Though we eat much, still every day,

We’ll hunger still for more.

The food we eat will pass away,

But that is not my Lord.

My Lord is faithful in His call,

And He will see me through.

He will preserve me for long haul,

And will be always true.

Here at this table, gathered round,

I look into my heart.

I see in me the same bad things,

I saw in every part.

For as I think o’er this past year,

I see much sin and lust.

To share the Gospel, I had fear,

Nor was I very just.

My many friends I have let down,

I’ve made so many sad.

But I am thankful that I’ve found,

That that is not my Dad.

My Dad is faithful in His call,

And He will see me through.

He will preserve me for long haul,

And will be always true.

-Matthew W., SC