Tuesday: A Day of Suffering, Grace, & New Adventures

Tuesday has always been one of my favorite days of the week for one reason. Tuesday brings new things. New music. New books. New movies. New video games.

One Tuesday especially stands out. Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

We all know what happened on that fateful morning. But what I also remember is what new releases came out the same day. While all my friends were heading after school to BestBuy to buy Jay-Z’s infamous “The Blueprint”, I jumped at the chance as a 16-year-old to hop in the car and drive the 15 minute trip to Lifeway to grab a copy of the brand new album, “Satellite” from P.O.D. Both new albums would be devoured by audiences as people across the country looked for hope in the midst of darkness. In fact, many soon found songs on both albums released that Tuesday in September to be providential, or coincidental depending on who you talk to, such as P.O.D.’s single “Youth of the Nation.”

It was a day marked by suffering that sent people looking for new hope and grace.

On this New Release Tuesday in May nearly thirteen years later, new books and media highlight the same transcendent themes: suffering, grace, and newness.

1. Suffering –  From Reach Records comes Tedashii’s fourth album, “Below Paradise”.

Tedashii is a brilliant artist who has experienced grave suffering. This new album served as a journal for Tedashii as he sought relief from the suffering he experienced in losing his son. “Below Paradise” powerfully points to the reality that our world is broken and needs the renewal and rescue that is available through Jesus.

To read an interview with Tedashii, click here.

2. Grace
Released by Zondervan, “Proof: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistable Grace” is Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones’ Twenty-First Century rebranding of the doctrines of grace. Montgomery and Jones point the Christian back to the truth that “God’s wonderful acceptance of us [is] not because we have earned it or deserve it but because he gives it to us freely at Christ’s expense.”

The authors invite us to drink from the strong drink of grace until it leaves us staggering.  As a former member of Montgomery’s church in Louisville, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

To read a review of PROOF, click here. 

3. Newness –  The name David Crowder should not be new to too many people familiar with the Contemporary Christian music scene. Through his former band, The David Crowder*Band, Crowder consistently won awards, filled arenas, and dominated airwaves as he turned the Christian’s attention to the greatness of God and to the joy that is found in belonging to the family of Christ.

But today, “Crowder” as he is now known, releases his first solo album, “Neon Steeple”. As always Crowder is insightful and creative. He also continues to deliver music that easily translates to family worship services on long car rides.

To read a review of “Neon Steeple”, click here. 

There’s no way to argue against it. Tuesdays are great. New releases are exciting. They also serve as a powerful reminder of the good news that Jesus has come to make all things new. He suffered himself in his life on the cross so that we could enter new life with God in his new kingdom, and this was only done through his grace.

This Tuesday, pick up something new and revel in the good news that Jesus came to make you new by meeting you in the midst of your suffering and giving you such “intoxicating grace”.

 

Social Media & Jesus: Part 4 – Three Great Unknowns

As this series on social media comes to an end, I want to look at three social networks that for the most part have gone undetected by parents. While many adults are familiar with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, these apps have managed to explode in popularity among teens and young adults while avoiding the attention of many adults.

Previously in the series, I shared why you should care about social media, six resources that will help parents shepherd their families in their use of social media, as well as information on the three giants of social networking: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

But now, I want to focus on those networks that have managed to avoid the spotlight in many ways. My purpose is to raise awareness about these apps among parents so that families can have conversations about how they are using social media in their homes.

1. SnapChat – the social media network that has been dubbed, “the parent’s worst nightmare.” 

Snapchat is a photo sharing app with a twist. You take a picture. Send it to a friend. They see the picture. Then it automatically disappears a few seconds later.

SnapChat especially sends shivers down parents’ spine when they hear how SnapChat came into being. I am not saying that every person who uses SnapChat uses it for this purpose, but the guys who invented this app did so in order that they could share inappropriate pictures with girls on their campus and not get caught. 

As scary as this sounds, SnapChat is one of the most popular social media networks right now. Many adults just don’t know anything about it. 

For more information on using SnapChat, read and download the Parent’s Guide to SnapChat from connectsafely.org.

For an extended review on SnapChat, click here.

2. Kik – According to this helpful article that covers multiple social media networks on babble.com, Kik is an instant messaging service, which means it’s like texting, except you don’t have to give out your phone number. That seems like a good thing on the face of it: you’re not using up minutes and you’re keeping your phone number private. The thing  is, it’s pretty easy to monitor your kid’s texting usage: a quick look at your cell phone bill tells you the numbers they’re contacting, the numbers contacting them, and the time of day (math class?!?). It’s impossible to monitor your kid’s usage on kik. Besides the messaging capability, kik users can search for and share YouTube videos, reddit images, sketches, and more.”

An important thing for you to know about Kik that is not mentioned in this review is just how prevalent adult material is on the app. There is no adult content filter for Kik. In fact much of the adult content that finds it way on to Instagram is from Kik. 

If you have a daughter on social media, parents, you need to know just how many sexual predators, how many men are using apps like Kik, SnapChat, and Vine to take inappropriate pictures and put them on your students screens. They are everywhere on these “three unknowns”.

When we talk about adult content and pornography, its not just a talk for boys. You’re girls are under attack as well.

So if you allow your student to have Kik, you must be vigilant in walking alongside your student to live in wisdom and purity.

For an extended review on Kik, click here.

3. Vine – If you have heard of one of these three lesser known apps, it is probably Vine.  

You can think of Vine as like a 6-second version of Youtube. Vine is filled with short little clips. Many of which are artfully done. Many of which are hilarious. 

Many of which are explicit pornography. Like Kik, there is no adult-content filter on Vine. Adult content is everywhere on Vine.

An important issue that you should talk to your students about on Vine and other apps is their use of hashtags. Many producers of adult-content on apps like Vine and Kik use popular hashtags to direct people to their explicit videos in hopes of making people stumble upon their videos even when they’re not looking. Your student may be just looking up videos that are tagged #funny and stumble upon explicit material that has been given that hashtag by its producer. 

Like SnapChat and Kik, Vine is incredibly popular with the younger crowd but has managed to remain relatively unknown by many parents.

For a review on Vine, click here.

The Never Ending List – The truth is hundreds and thousands of new apps pop everyday. There’s no way we could talk about each and every one of them.

But again, you cannot escape it. Its not going anywhere. Social media is here to stay. 

So instead of trying to escape in a panic, we need to intentionally and proactively train our children on what it looks like to connect with one another on social media in a way that honors the Lord. 

As parents, you have every right to know about what’s going on in your house and on your student’s screens. Have discussions. Ask questions. Point them to wisdom and grace.

The good news is this: You do not need to know details about every single app that is available right now in order to shepherd your family.

But you should know every app that your student is using. Take your students phone or tablet for a few minutes, write down the names of the apps she is using. Google the ones you don’t know anything about. Use the resources I gave you in Part 2. Have conversations.

1 Corinthians 6:12 says “I will not be dominated by anything.” We cannot be dominated by social media. Be proactive in leading your family to use social media in a way that honors the Lord.

This series on social media has not been intended to scare you to the point that you forbid anyone in your house from using social media. Instead I hope this will help start conversations among your family in your home.

I would love to hear from you. What are some apps that your students are using a lot right now but are maybe not as well known as Facebook and Instagram?

Social Media & Jesus: Part 3 – Three Kings of Social Networking

We’ve already talked about why you should care about social media. In the last post, we looked at six resources you can use to help you shepherd your family online.

Now I want to turn our attention to three kings of the social media landscape. None of these three networks will surprise you. My purpose in writing about these three kings of social media is to highlight how teens are using these apps and to point out a few features of the apps that you might not be aware of.

1. Facebook – The Falling Giant

For many adults, when you hear someone talk about social media, you probably first think about Facebook. In many ways Facebook reigns supreme in the realm of social media.

Except in one very important sphere: Teenagers.

Study after study reveals that teenagers are using Facebook less and less. And one of the biggest reasons? Old people.

Bianca Bosker, in this report for the Huffington Post, said, “Facebook is the living room. Twitter and Instagram are the bedrooms and rec rooms.”

Why would the teens want to hang with the adults when they can go somewhere else and do their own thing?

The point is this: Mom and Dad, if you think you know what your kid is doing online because your friends with your student on Facebook, you are sadly mistaken.

Most teens use Facebook to portray a family-friendly persona while using other apps that their relatives do not use in order to be teenagers, to push the boundaries, and to explore the deeper, darker taboos in life.

Facebook may be the first thing you think of when you hear “social media”, but don’t depend on it to keep tabs on your student’s social media activity.

2. Twitter – 140 Characters of Fun

Go follow me on Twitter - @ja_nichols
Go follow me on Twitter – @ja_nichols

If you’re a more in-the-loop parent about technology, you might not just think about Facebook but also other popular apps like Twitter. 

If you do not know about these other apps, you need to. 

Twitter lets users send out really short posts— there’s a limit of 140 characters for each tweet. 

Many students will have a Twitter account, but Twitter is rare in the fact that it is actually more popular with adults than with teenagers.

Content-wise, Twitter does have filters set for adult content, however like any other filter, it struggles to keep up with everything. If explicit content does make it on Twitter, it is usually through other networks like the Twitter-run Vine. 

Here are two items you need to know about navigating Twitter:

The Following List – If you’re student has Twitter, you need to be aware of who your student is following. The Following list is everyone that your student is able to see when they post. For the most part, you control what material you see on Twitter, so managing the the Following list with your student is crucial to using the app wisely.

Following List
Following List

Trending Topics – These keywords are what is most popular on Twitter right now. When your student clicks on one of these trending topics, he is able to read tweets from anyone using the keyword(s) including people who are not on his Following List. This is often where inappropriate content can find its way on Twitter.

Trending Topics
Trending Topics

3. Instagram – The True King of Teens

Instagram is probably the most popular app today among teenagers. Instagram is a photo-sharing site that allows users to also connect their photos to their other social media accounts. 

In an article on babble.com  about different apps argues, the author writes, “If there’s a network that parents aren’t on but should be, its this one.”     

Here are some important thing to know about Instagram when talking with your student.

Following List – Like Twitter, it is crucial to know who your student is Following. The Following list is every person that is able to share photos directly to your student.

Following List
Following List

Private Messages – Instagram allows you to send pictures to people privately. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. Private messages can be accessed by clicking the disc icon on the top right of the home screen.

The Favorites Page – Like the Trending Topics on Twitter, the Favorites Page (identified by the star in the bottom left of the screen) includes posts by people beyond the Following List and includes whatever is most popular on Instagram at the moment. It also includes a search menu that enables you to look for photos from different people or different topics.  In my discussions with students about purity and accountability in regards to Instagram, this is where the trouble can happen on Instagram. If your student is on this network, you need to have conversations about their experiences on the Favorites page.

Favorite Page
Favorite Page

Bottom line: If you want to shepherd your student on using social media wisely, you must talk with your student about how they are using Instagram. Its the first step.

Go follow me on Instagram - @ja_nichols
Go follow me on Instagram – @ja_nichols

You are probably aware of all three of these networks, and your student probably uses one, if not, all of them. You need to have consistent conversations with your student so that they can know how to navigate these social media networks with wisdom.

In the next post, we are going to look at a few more apps that are just as popular with the students but have for the most part managed to escape the knowledge of the adults. Stay tuned as we take a look at one app that has been called “the parent’s worst nightmare”.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you help your student navigate their use of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Are there any lesser known apps that you would like to know more about? Let me know by leaving a comment in the section below.

Social Media & Jesus: Part 2 – Resources For Your Family

In the first post in this series, we looked at 4 Reasons You Should Care About Social Media. Social media is everywhere, and it is not going to go away. You nor your kids will be able to hide from it forever.

The problem for many us, however, isn’t that we do not care. Rather, many of us are just overwhelmed and intimidated by the ever-growing, ever-changing world of social media.

We want to care. We want to help our kids walk in wisdom, but we don’t know where to begin.

In order to help you get started in shepherding your family through the digital age, I want to provide you with a few links that I have found helpful in navigating the internet and social media.

 

1. Covenant Eyes – There are so many reasons why you need to know about Covenant Eyes. They have options for reports that send browsing histories to accountability partners as well as web content filtering. There are options for both individuals as well as families. If you do nothing else, browse their website and read a couple of their blog entries.

2. XXXChurch – XXXChurch is a great ministry that serves as an online resource to fight addiction to pornography. Their program X3Watch provides accountability for all devices – desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. This is another great resource that you should consider investing in for you or your family. 

3. CommonSenseMedia.org – Common Sense Media is more than about just social media. This site includes important information on everything from movies to books to video games. In regards to social media, the site includes a helpful search feature that allows you to look up an app for more information. 

4. ConnectSafely.org – This site constantly updates with helpful resources for you to navigate the internet and social media with your family. One of their best features is the “Parents’ Guide” series for popular apps like Instagram and SnapChat

5. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media – This very short book is packed with helpful information and tips on the world of social media. As with any book about technology it will be a little dated as networks and apps grow and change, but the principles given in the book are invaluable. 

6. Google – There’s this website called Google. It is amazing. Go ahead and click the link! You type something in, and it finds it for you. If there is something you are not sure about regarding social media, or if you’re overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, then remember these two words: “Google it!”

These are just a few of many helpful resources in figuring out the always-changing landscape of social media. I hope that they will be helpful to you as you consider how you should lead your family in using social media.

In the next post, we are going to look at three of the kings of social media and what you need to know about each network.

So what do you think? Are there any resources that you have found that are really helpful and not on this list? Share them by leaving a comment.

Social Media & Jesus: Part 1- Four Reasons You Should Care About Social Media

Social media and Jesus sounds like an odd combo. Almost like ketchup and bananas?!?

What do the two even have to do with one another? Sometimes it can sound as if we are just trying to lump anything with Jesus these days. Does God or the Bible really have anything to say to us and how we use social media?

Well, yes. God has plenty to say that can help us think through how we approach social media.

The Gospel – the message that life with God is now available to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and only given to us by grace and not our own works – should impact every aspect of our lives. It should especially affect the way we approach social media considering just how prominent a position it now holds in many of our lives.

So while the two may seem like a strange couple, it would greatly benefit us to consider how we approach social media with the life and work of Jesus in mind.

 

Why care about it in the first place?

But first, an important question: Why even care about social media? Here are four reasons, I believe that you should deeply care about it and the way we use it.

1. A Cultural Reason – Social media is everywhere and it is not going to go away.

Every commercial has a hashtag to use when you get on Twitter or Instagram. Every TV show, actor, athlete, sports team, candy, every business, every non-profit, every church has its own Facebook account. 

Social media is everywhere you turn. And its not going to go away any time soon. 

You cannot hide your kids from it forever. Therefore, we should care deeply about social media and learning how to use it in wisdom. 

2. A Theological Reason – We were made in the image of God to live in relationships and to connect with one another.

Genesis 1:26-27 shows us that all of us have been made in the image of God. We were created to reflect God in the way we rule over creation and in the way we relate with one another.

This is because our relationships actually point the world back to God who has always been in a relationship in the Trinity – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

So every time you log on to Facebook to share a photo you really like, every time you post a video to Vine or Youtube, every time you send a private message to a friend on SnapChat, you are actually displaying the image of God. 

3. A Personal Reason – How you use social media shapes how people see you.

This is one of the most overlooked truths about social media. We say things online that we would not say to someone’s face. We click like or retweet or share on posts that would embarrass us if they became public.

Kevin DeYoung offers this helpful reminder: “Whether you are a tween, a teen, a pastor, a politician, a grandma, or a grad student, whether you blog, tweet, post, or pin, here is the one indispensable social media rule you must follow if you want to be wise, edifying, and save yourself a lot of anguish: Assume that everyone, everywhere will read what you write and see what you post.”

The authors of  A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media give five serious warnings that all of us need to hear when we consider posting something online:

– Everything You Post Online Is Public 

– Everywhere You Go Is Tracked

– You Can’t Delete Anything

– Employers Look at Social Media Profiles Before Hiring and While You’re Employed

– Colleges May Screen Social Medial Profiles During the Admittance Process

4. A Practical Reason – Parents need to be aware of what’s going on in their homes.

Whether its today or it is when they turn 18 and leave the house, your student will have to know how to navigate social media with wisdom at some point. 

So like Solomon writing to his sons in the book of Proverbs, we need to regularly call our children to walk in the ways of the Lord and to live in wisdom.  What would it look like if the following verses described how you and your students used social media?

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones,” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Social media and Jesus is more than an odd combination. It’s a recognition that if Jesus is supposed to be the Lord of every area in our lives, then He must reign supreme in the way we login, like, share, tweet, and post in our social media filled world.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you should deeply care about social media. In the next post in this series, we will take a look at some helpful resources that you can use as you seek to approach social media with wisdom and intentionality.

In the mean time, what are some of the biggest reasons you think we should care about social media? What obstacles do you face in being more intentional with social media? I’d love to hear from you.