Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Connecting the online world to your world

In a day when resources inundate us at the click of a mouse – everything from a organizational tool found on Pinterest to a systematic treatment of dispensationalism – we often find ourselves submerged in mass information, yet lacking in the application of it. We access more resources in less than 60 seconds than ever possible in history, and yet by the obvious state of the evangelical church, we have never been in more desperate need for the daily discipline of biblical living.

Knowledge and theological prowess represents many churches and seminary communities, but Christians continually ask, “Why can’t I seem to overcome this particular temptation?” or “How do I implement this principle I just read in a way that maximizes its effects?”

As someone who completed a portion of my graduate degree online, and who enjoys research, I often sense this dilemma within my own heart and mind. In considering the disconnect between what we read and how we live, let me offer some suggestions:

Transfer one principle from the article the same day you read it. If it’s a recipe, jot down the name on a list to go back later for further consideration. If it’s a helpful article on how to cultivate a love for reading in your children, identify one item that can be put into practice immediately, and do it that night. Keep a notepad next to your computer, and discipline yourself to write down at least one thought you have considered while reading a specific piece.

Teach or “rehearse” the article to your spouse or a close friend within just a couple of days, while the information is still fresh in your mind. We remember things we repeat, and by sharing the information with someone else, you can evaluate its usefulness. This may help you decide if the topic is actually worth the investment of more time and resources.

Acknowledge that the application might look very different in the context of your own life than in the authors. Your home is likely unique in comparison to theirs, you may have varying authorities who play a role in the implementation of a particular principle, and your own expectations and preferences will be different than those of the writer.

When reading articles that address a controversial subject, we must always believe the best about the writer. As Paul teaches to the Corinthians, “love believes all things” (I Corinthians 13:7). We ought not “troll” around websites searching for opportunities to rebuke or chastise the author(s) because we believe we have some corner on truth. It seems more and more people follow Twitter feeds and blogs for the purpose of finding something wrong so they can provide public correction. While there is a time and place for biblical discernment leading to critical analysis, wisdom and love demand careful consideration before doing so.

And as the saying goes, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” – if you find something that you genuinely disagree with, it doesn’t mean the post is without value. I am a complementarian and a Calvinist, yet I enjoy and benefit from reading a number of pieces on issues such as gender and soteriology, written by those who would not identify themselves with those same mindsets. In fact, by engaging with those who share varying perspectives, we experience a softening and sharpening in our own thinking – softening, in the sense that we likely become more compassionate and patient towards those who may not share our viewpoint, and sharpening, by either confirming what we already know to be true or giving us helpful information needed to obtain a more accurate position. In the end, it is such humility that may win over our supposed opponent – or at the very least allow us to be friends.

Above all, we must weigh everything against Scripture. If a principle takes away critical amounts of time from your husband or children, or puts unnecessary burdens on the family’s finances and resources, you must give careful consideration as to its true value. For example, marriage and parenting articles may provide encouraging suggestions to implement in the home, but the proper approach acknowledges your husband’s leadership and appeals to him in love. Decisions about what is helpful will vary from home to home.

Applying what we take in through daily reading proves to be a significant challenge. Access to books, sermons, articles and even brief quotations come at a speeding rate. Our attention spans are short, evidenced by our inability to linger in meaningful conversations or to recall with specificity what we have read. Being immersed in a sea of information may be the very reason daily application of truth becomes so difficult.

Our commitment to Scripture calls for a “disconnect” at times. Turning off the computer or stepping away from books and commentaries allows us to be refreshed in the “pure milk” of the Word. As Paul instructed Timothy, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tm. 3:16). The appropriate place for advanced technology and limitless resources ought to be stimulation – not saturation – of our spiritual lives.

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