Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Parenting the Internet Generation

by Luke Gilkerson
144 pages / 2016

This is a great, informative, and very, very important book on how to help our kids resist pornography.

Our children live in a "pornified" culture and it seems that no matter how protective we parents might be, it's only a matter of time before our children run across something on the Internet that we wish they'd never seen.

So how can we protect them? How can we do all we can to push that eventual exposure to as far out as we can? And how can we prepare them for what they need to do when it does happen? To answer those questions and more I can't think of a better resource to turn to than Parenting the Internet Generation.

And not only is it fantastic, it's free!

Parenting is foundational

What makes Parenting so much better than other books on this topic is that it digs much deeper. This isn't simply a pornography problem; what it really comes down to is Christian parenting. If we want our kids to resist temptation, and come to us when they do mess up, then we need to know how to discipline them rightly, as God instructs us.

The best way to show just how good this book really is might be to share some excerpts. So I'll begin with one of Gilkerson's biblical-based thoughts on discipling rightly.
Paul reminds fathers, “Do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21, NIV), and again in another letter, “Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV). Training and instruction happens as parents create an environment of authority, structure, correction, and consequences, but Paul knows how easily parents can become frustrated and resentful in the process of parenting. This, in turn, leads us to embitter and exasperate our children by breaking their spirits. 
One of the most common ways parents do this is by using shame-based strategies to get their kids to behave. What exactly is “shame-based” parenting? It is a family dynamic where shame—the looming threat or presence of disapproval and disfavor – is the primary motivator used for good behavior. This can show up in a thousand ways.
  • Expecting perfection by overestimating what their sinful hearts can do.
  • Failing to really listen to them as we correct them. 
  • Speaking bitter or harsh words (“What is wrong with you?” “When will you ever…?” “You always…” “You never…” “You idiot”)
  • Showing little compassion 
  • Giving the cold shoulder or being dismissive 
  • Pushing kids to excel in peripheral tasks 
  • Showing favoritism to other siblings 
It is a rigid environment that leaves children discouraged and exasperated. This kind of environment often trains children to be obsessive over “doing the right things” in order to be approved – or else totally rebellious. This kind of environment has unwittingly made so many children ripe for sexually sinful habits.
See where Gilkerson is going here? How we parent can either help our children resist temptation...or push them towards it. Most of us have indulged in this shame-based parenting at one point or another, and if we are going to help our kids, then we need to stop. We need to repent. The alternative is too horrible to consider. As Douglas Wilson puts it (in a quotation Gilkerson includes):
Gracious fathers lead their sons through the minefield of sin. Indulgent fathers watch their sons wander off into the minefield. Legal fathers chase them there.
I read this and found it daunting. It seemed simply too much for me, or me and my wife, to pull off. We know we're going to mess up, fall short, and just generally fail our kids.

But it's just that understanding is key. We are going to sin, but our gracious God is ready to forgive a repentant sinner. When we fall on God's grace then even our failures can be instructive to our children, showing them the graciousness of God that they can depend on.

So we don't need to be perfect. But, our parenting goals should be clear:
Make this your goal every day: In each phase of the day when I interact with my children, I will either be an example to them in my obedience to and love for God, or I will be an example in my repentance.

In nine chapters Gilkerson lays out:
  1. How porn harms our children (Introduction and Chapter 1) 
  2. What parents need to teach our children and model to them (Chapters 2-6, 8) 
  3. Tools parents can make use of (Chapter 7 and the Appendices) 
  4. What the gospel is, and how it applies to the matters or parenting and pornography (Chapter 9) 
Each chapter ends with a half dozen or so reflection questions and some of these are so very pointed they may draw blood. A few examples:
"“If our sin is small, then our Savior must be small. But, if our sin is outright rebellion, then our Savior must be a true rescuer.” In what ways have you made Jesus small in how you’ve parented? 
If you have a tween or teen, have you ever directly asked him/her, “Have you ever seen pornography?” What would you say if he/she said, “yes”? Are you ready for that conversation? 
At some point, it will happen — maybe not in your home, but maybe at school, on the bus, or at a friend’s house. Does your child know what to do if he/she ever sees porn?
Each chapter also includes a link to a short  (4 minutes or less) video summarizing what the chapter just went over.

These questions and video are great study aids, probably best suited for a couple to go through together, but they would work great for a weekly parents' study group too. Whether you're going through it alone, or with a group each chapter has a lot to chew on so the best pace is probably just one chapter per week. The material is simply too thought-provoking to run through any quicker.


This isn't a perfect book - I could list some minor quibbles (I think the distinction Gilkerson makes between guilt and shame is a bit confusing) – but I've not run across any better. It is the best guide available on a subject parents would love to have help with.

I should mention that the author works for Covenant Eyes (CE), which sells accountability software – this is software parents can use to monitor all the websites their children visit. This isn't spying - the CE logo pops up every time the computer loads up, so children will know they are being monitored. This is, instead, a parent coming alongside their child, helping them resist temptation, and being aware of when they don't. The book is made available for free on their website (you do have to give your name and email address to get the e-book but they won't spam you). While companies generally give away books for promotional reasons, and I'm sure that CE will gain a few clients because of this book, CE's motivations for giving away this book are of the very best kind. It's clear they want to help parents.

And with this excellent resource, they most certainly are. You can get it here for free... and you really should!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Shigeru Mizuki's HITLER

by Shigeru Mizuki
307 pages / 2015

This is a fascinating graphic novel (aka comic) biography on the world's most notorious mass murder, written by a cartoonist who fought for the Japanese during World War II. Mizuki fought for the Japanese, but, as is depicted in his autobiographical graphic novel Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan  he was an unwilling participant, not at all sympathetic to the Axis powers, or Hitler or the Nazis.

Still, the strength of this biography might be the dispassionate distance evidenced throughout that probably comes from the fact that neither he nor his country fought against Hitler. This isn't a sympathetic portrait of Hitler, but it is a "just the facts ma'am" kind of account, with the author feeling no need to demonize Hitler. Depicting Hitler's actions does that all by itself. The result is a presentation of Hitler as an egomaniac and a monster but also far more understandable then we all might find comfortable. We know people like this. "Follow me, and I will save you" he cried, and millions, fed up with the incompetence of their political leaders, turned to him as a savior.

Does that sound familiar?

This has been the rallying cry of demagogic politicians the world over, throughout history. So when we hear it today we must not be fooled. In desperation, the German people turned to someone who promised he would make Germany great again but God has warned us clearly: "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save (Psalm 146:3). When we don't take that to heart – when we look to a mere man to be our savior – then we can expect evil to result.

The all too recognizable Hitler that Shigeru Mizuki shows us is one we can most certainly learn from, and take warning from.


For a book about the world's most infamous man, this has surprisingly few cautions to share.

Violence: Since Hitler is the focus, and he didn't do the killing himself, there isn't all that much violence depicted, and none of it gory.

Sex/Nudity: Hitler wanted to portray himself as a chaste leader, so the relationships he had with Eva Braun, (his mistress who married him only hours before he committed suicide) and his 17-year-old niece Geli Raubal (who was rumored to have also been his mistress, until she committed suicide at 23) are detailed, but nothing more than a couple of kisses are depicted. As to nudity, there are a few panels showing skeletal naked Jews but genitalia are obscured in shadow.

Language: I only noticed once instance of anything particularly vulgar being used: someone is called an "asshole."

There is also one instance where God's name might be taken in vain. When Czechoslovakian President Hacha is pressured to sign over his country to the Nazis (or have it destroyed if he does not), right before collapsing in stress he thinks "Dear God..." While it is not noted in the book, Hacha was a Catholic so this may well be an appropriate usage, showing a man in stress turning to God. But "Dear God" is often used as a way of saying "Oh no!" and in those instances it is indeed taking God's name in vain. So I don't know quite what to think, and share this so you can make your own assessment. God's name comes up in a few other instances (ex. Hitler describes himself as being protected by God) but all other occasions are clearly appropriate uses.


Graphic novels at their best are the combination of two mediums, drawing and writing; by this combination they surpass what could be done with just art, or just literature. Shigeru Mizuki's Hitler is an example of this medium at its best. It is informative, eye-opening tale, and, while thick at 300 pages, more informative than any book that size.

It is also written in a form that might engage even someone who finds reading very difficult - graphic novels, even serious and lengthy ones, are far less intimidating to struggling readers and could be used to create confidence in them. After all, if they can read a 300 page book, that's really something!

This is a comic, but it is also a serious novel about a serious subject, and as such is suitable only for teens and adults. I would recommend it for 12 and up, and suggest it as a potential tool for English teachers who are trying to find challenging books for high school boys, especially those who don't normally like to read. This could also be put to good use by any high school history teacher as well.

You can buy a copy at Amazon.com by clicking here or Amazon.ca here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What Is a Healthy Church Member?

by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
127 pages / 2008

Why a whole book on this subject? In the introduction, the author himself acknowledges that the healthy church member is essentially a healthy Christian. Well, doesn't the Belgic Confession define the marks of the true Christian fully enough in Article 29 (read the fourth paragraph of this link)?

Well, can we ever know enough about being not only a true Christian, but a Christian who shows himself or herself healthy enough to be used, by the grace of God, to build up a healthy church?

The first nine marks of Thabiti Anyabwile's profile of a healthy church are the other side of the coin's profile of a healthy church, which are developed in the 9Marks series from Crossway. For instance, a healthy church has expositional preaching (what the Belgic Confession calls "the pure preaching of the gospel") and so should have members who are expositional listeners, who are willing to be taught, to talk about the sermon with others, and to apply what they have learned to their own lives. Various other titles in this series deal with other marks of a healthy church - Biblical theology; Biblical understanding of the gospel, conversion, and evangelism; and Biblical practices regarding church membership, church discipline, discipleship, and church leadership. Each of these has its counterpart in the healthy church member.

Anyabwile discusses how a healthy church member is a Biblical theologian - eager to know the whole counsel of God in both Old and New Testament, and with Christ in view in both Testaments. He shows how a healthy church member is saturated with, yearning for, and protective of the Biblical gospel; how such a member shows the marks of genuine conversion, including love for God the Father and for other believers, as well as the work of the Spirit in his heart and life; and how such a member understands the need for others' conversion and hence is eager for evangelism because of the sin in all of us that requires the work of Christ and the cleansing power of the Spirit.

Just as a healthy church seeks much from its members in their service to God and their neighbour, so healthy church members are committed to the good of the church. Such members thus welcome the discipline of the church for both themselves and other members, and want to grow spiritually and help and urge others to grow spiritually through the means of grace (preaching and the sacraments). Finally, a healthy church has faithful leadership and thus also has members who are humble followers.

Anyabwile adds one characteristic to the nine we have looked at. If a church and its members are to be spiritually (or even physically) healthy, such strength can only ultimately come from God Himself. Hence a healthy church member must, and eagerly will, seek God's help by being "A Prayer Warrior."

What Is a Healthy Church Member? would be an excellent book study for leadership training, and for every church member who cares as much for the Body of Christ - the church - as for Christ the Head
of the church. If you believe that Anyabwile's book can give you a better understanding of what promotes healthy church membership, you can get it at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.