Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Celebrate Christmas on the West Coast with Michael W. Smith

Celebrate Christmas on the West Coast with Michael W. Smith! This Sunday November 25th, Monday November, 26th, and Tuesday, November 27th. Click on the link for ticket prices and locations:

Friday, November 9, 2012

God Answered Our Prayers On Election Night!

Our prayers were answered with the election November 6, 2012.  Let me explain where I’m coming from. 

No, the election didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.  In fact, as I prayed before the election it was difficult for me to say, “May Your Will be done.”  And when I did say it, I followed it with, “but please let it be Romney.”  But it wasn’t to be. 

Personally, with this election, I believe America just committed suicide as a country.  The greatest and freest country the world has ever known, has willingly and with forethought, given away too much of its freedom to the government and to rest of the world.  I don’t want to go into detail why I believe this, because it will distract from the lesson God taught me through this election.   But I believe our days as a free nation are numbered. 

I was feeling sorry for myself (and my country) just after the election while feeding my dog. Trooper is a cute little black pug who really gets excited when I feed him.  So as he was jumping around waiting for me to deposit his food in his dish, I half seriously scolded him.

“No wonder you are so happy.  I feed you.  I provide a roof over your head.  I give you a bed.  I take care of all your needs.  You don’t have anything to worry about.”  As soon as those words came out of my mouth, God spoke to my heart.  “I do the same for you!”

But the future of America looks bleak I argued.  I don’t make much money, but what I do make is going to be taxed heavily.  The $16 trillion in debt is going to crush us! Obamacare is going to put my medical decisions in the hands of a bureaucrat. We have a president who wants to appease our enemies instead of standing up to them like Reagan.  Life is going to be so much more difficult.  Our future is in doubt.    

Immediately Matthew 6:24-34 came to mind.  That’s the passage where Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about what they will eat or drink, or what they will wear.  If God takes care of the birds of the air He will take care of you.  The lilies of the field don’t toil or spin yet they are more glorious than Solomon in all his glory. 

He reemphasized, don’t worry about what you will eat or drink, “but seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto you.”  In today’s vernacular, don’t worry, I gotcha covered.   

But I thought if we prayed and turned from sin, you would heal our land.   

Before the election, many Christians like me were praying the principle of II Chronicles 7:14. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Read that verse again.  We haven’t been humble as a nation, we haven’t been seeking God and we surely haven’t turned from our wicked ways.  So why would God heal our land? Even if we had met all the criteria in II Chronicles 7:14, how would God “heal our land?”  Politically?  Financially?  Economically?  What would healing look like? 

I’ve come to believe the “healing” God is talking about is individually.  “My people,” this verse refers to Israel but it could also easily include Christians.  Christian means “follower of Christ.”  We are His people and He wants US to be healed.

No matter who is president, if we have a big government or small, there is nothing stopping us from healing our land.  Let me explain.

Follow the steps of II Chronicles 7:14. We could be humble as individuals.  Humility is illustrated in Scripture as Jesus being humble by being the servant of all, even to His death on a cross.  (Phil 2:8)
We can practice being like Jesus by loving and serving others.  We can turn from our sinful ways.  We can seek God and ask Him to forgive us every time we do not live like Christ.  We can seek God’s Will for our lives. 

No government or person can stop us from living like Christ. 

No matter how bad you may think our government has become toward Christians and biblical values, it is still better than how Communist China has treated Christians for more than sixty years.  And during that time the Christian church thrived!  They had to worship in secret and rarely had a Bible, yet they grew so much that there are now more Christians in China than in the United States.  
So what should we take away from this?  God will heal our land but it’s up to us.  If we humble ourselves by loving and serving others and seek God’s way instead of seeking our desires; we will be “healed.” If enough Christians become “healed,” I believe our land will be “healed.” 

Christians have the responsibility to show others the love and humility of Christ.  When we do others will notice and will want what we have.  But until we do, the future of America is in doubt.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stuff You Need to Know About Teens and Social Networking!

Stuff You Need to

Know About Teens 

and Social Networking!

By Sarah B. Weir, Yahoo! blogger | Parenting – Tue, Aug 16, 2011 9:31 PM EDT
It’s 10 pm, do you know where your children are? Whether at home or out, odds are they are online and social networking. Even if parents do see what their kids post, they might not understand how living life online actually feels. Facebook Me, an original play written and performed by teens at the upcoming New York International Fringe Festival is a revealing exploration of what's going on behind millions of young people's computer screens.

I recently sat down with the cast (whose names have been changed below) and asked them to share about their experiences with social networking. I also spoke with a professor specializing in the psychology of technology, who offers some timely advice for parents. What the kids had to say:

"There's more 'life' happening online than offline. If you are not online, you are completely out of the loop--you don't have a life, you don't really exist.”
--Hannah, 13 years old

"I'm online even during class. I'm supposed to be taking notes but instead I'm commenting on stuff and uploading pictures."
--Emma, 14 years old

"I feel safer online than I do offline. So I do things online that I wouldn't do in real life."
--Sadie, 14 years old

"I've become very good at taking pictures of myself. I know what angle is best, I know how to part my know. It's like the number one thing on my mind is 'I need to get home right now and take a new profile picture.' All because I want someone to comment on how I look."
--Katie, 15 years old

"Social networking affects all the things you do in real life now. Like, if you go to a party, one of the most important aspects of going to the party is to document yourself for online posts. You have to prove you were looking good, you were having fun, and that you were actually there! It's not about the party anymore but about the pictures of the party."
--Caroline, 14 years old

"I feel sad, depressed, jealous, or whatever when I don't get a lot of "Likes" on my photo or when someone else gets way more Likes than me. Honestly, I'm not sure that parents realize how drastically it affects our self-image and confidence. If I see a picture of a really pretty girl, it's like 'Goodbye self-esteem.' It forces me to compete and do stuff that I don't want to do, so my confidence will get a boost."
--Samantha, 14 years old

"Sometimes I feel like I'm losing control. I want my parents to tell me to get off the computer. Actually, they would need to literally take the computer away because I can't stop myself."
--Nina, 15 years old

"My friendships are really affected by social networking. You have to constantly validate your friends online. And everyone's like 'Where were you?' 'What have you been doing?' 'Why haven't you commented on my picture yet?' So you have to be online all the time, just to keep track, so you don't upset anyone."
--Jasmine, 13 years old

"There is so much pressure to look happy all the time-you can never just be yourself-- because everybody is always taking pictures and posting them."
--Nikki, 13 years old

"I really want my mom to be proud of me. Obviously, I want her to think I'm writing my essay or doing things I should be doing instead of being on Facebook. But I also want to be online. So I lie or accuse her of not trusting me. It's awful, but I've become really comfortable with lying."
--Maya, 14 years old

Some new research has shown that social networking can also have positive effects on teens such as helping introverted adolescents forge relationships or providing a venue for activism and political engagement. But, given the lure of spending too much time plugged in and the self-esteem issues related to the constant scrutiny of one's online persona, how can parents help their kids have a healthy and productive relationship with technology?

Professor Larry D. Rosen of the California State University is an expert in the field of the "Psychology of Technology" and the author of Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn and Me, Myspace, and I: Parenting the Net Generation. He offers this advice:

Start young. You wouldn't let your toddler cross the street without holding your hand, so don't hand them your iPhone to play with for the first time without starting a simple discussion about the appropriate use of technology. These discussions need to be ongoing and become more complex as kids get older.

Listen. The ratio of parent listening to parent talking should be about five to one. Ask nonjudgmental questions in order to learn and assess. Here's an example: "I heard the term cyberbullying. Do you know what this is?" If kids think they are going to be "slammed" by their parents on a topic, they will shut down.
Institute family meals with tech breaks. Current psychological literature recommends that families sit down and share at least 3 or 4 meals together a week. Keep them short--under 45 minutes--and tech free for the most part. Give everyone a two-minute warning to check whatever device beforehand. After 15 minutes, allow a one minute message or text check. Aim to expand the tech free time as your kids become more focused.

Don't use your ignorance about technology as an excuse. It's true that kids know more about technology than parents but this is a poor reason for adults to act clueless about what teens or tweens might be doing online. Equally counterproductive is letting a kid spend hours on end alone in their room on the computer so you "can get work done."

Don't rely on secretly monitoring online activities. Not only is it an invasion of privacy, most kids can work around parents' surveillance in a matter of minutes.

Look for warning signs. If your child is regularly staying home "sick" from school and spending the entire day on the computer, if they choose to be online more often than out with friends, or if their grades are suffering because they are distracted by technology, you need to step in and help them create boundaries.

With their input, draft a written contract with clear rules and consequences. Often, parents make initial penalties too big such as grounding their kid for a month if they catch them online in the middle of the night. Better to start small such as losing their phone for an hour and escalate as necessary.