Digital Church?

Digital Church

 

Christian blogger and Evangelical leader Albert Mohler recently posted a thought provoking blog entry on the rise of the ‘digital church’ as a replacement for traditional, physical church gatherings.

Brother Mohler rightly points out that digital technologies can be of great value for the believer and the church alike. Online sermon libraries, online archives of the written works of Christian teachers of prior generations, and use of social media for gospel outreach are just a few of the examples cited.

Mohler goes even one step further by implying that an online presence is even NECESSARY for ministry in the 21st Century:

A church without a digital presence is a church that, to many people, simply doesn’t exist.

However, we need to exercise caution. Even with all of the potential benefits that modern, digital technology offers there are some serious dangers that we must consider.

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Jottings – Evil Thinking

Jottings

Evil thinking is like soaking rags in petrol; when a spark comes, they are ablaze.

Sam Thorpe Jr., Look Straight Ahead – A Call To Men For Moral Purity, Port Colborne, ON: Everyday Publications, Inc., p. 76.

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Running On Empty

Empty

Sometimes when my gas tank is near empty, I like to play a game. I like to see just how far I can go and not run out of gas. I’ve been playing this game ever since I’ve been driving, and I’ve never had the same experience twice. How many games have you ever played which you can say the same thing about? Achieving a certain level of fear, and excitement contributes to the overall attraction of playing such a dumb and dangerous game.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” I had imagined that the worst thing that could happen was that I’d run out of gas! That goes without saying. But, if I ran out of gas, I knew what to do- pull over to the shoulder of the road, and call for help. Seems quite simple I suppose. However, the first time I ran out of gas, the road had no emergency shoulder, I was on a very steep hill, and I was stopped on a blind corner! All of a sudden, the world got a lot bigger as I imagined how playing this stupid game could potentially harm someone else!

Pornography has a similar allure. It has an element of danger, excitement, and gratification. One big problem about these emotions is that none of them take into consideration how others would be affected. I had NEVER considered how my addiction to pornography would affect others. All that was important to me was how pornography made me feel.

Now, to finish off my story from an earlier post and to wrap up this series of posts about why I started being accountable…

It was my turn to answer the question, “Have you had any lustful thoughts, attitudes, or watched anything which does not glorify God?” My initial reaction was to lie about it to everyone, but I could tell by the other guys’ response’s that no one else had lied. I spilled my guts like the kid from the 80’s movie called, “The Goonies”, Chunk when he was captured by the bank robbers and their evil mother. I told them about the years and years of how pornography had been such a cancer to my spiritual growth.

I received an evenly mixed dose of rebuke and encouragement from the guys. I was comforted in knowing that so many men like me have this struggle, even in the Christian community. By shedding light on this dark area of my life, I’ve been humbled in remembering just how sinful and corrupt I am. The great part in being humbled by my own sinfulness is that I was reminded about just how much I really need Jesus in my life.

There is just something extremely therapeutic about confession- warm, emotional, fulfilling. There is also a danger into turning something very innocent, such as confessing, into something ritualistic and legalistic- cold and empty, as if it were a hospital recovery room. My very first experience with accountability could definitely be best described by the former, and not the later.

In opening up to this group of guys who were only acquaintances, at best, was a huge step for me. In choosing to be honest to them about my struggles with online pornography, I was able to drop the heavy yoke of deception, and expose an area of my life which I’ve kept in the dark from everyone. I’ve deceived myself for way too long about how far I could go on an empty tank of gas.

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Digital Sojourner would like to thank Long Vo for writing this guest post. Long’s first two posts in this series were An Ounce Of Prevention and SPAM (Some Parts Are Me). Digital Sojourner recently discussed the importance of Christian accountability with Long… you can listen to the podcast here.

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Photo flickr/journeyguy

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SPAM (Some Parts Are Me)

First I would like to tell you a bit about myself before setting the stage for what you’re about to read. This is my second post regarding why I chose to be accountable, you can read the first post here.

I’m a born-again Christian, husband to a loving wife, and father to an awesome son. I worked long hours in the auto industry for about ten years (60-80 hrs. per week). However, one day, after becoming convicted about how I was neglecting my family… I quit and became a full time home-maker. I choose to serve my family by making the time to be available for them.

Here’s how it all began

It was 8:15 AM and I had just dropped something off for my wife at work (she’s a teacher at a Christian Pre-School). On my way out the door, I ran into a father whose son was in my son’s class. We exchanged pleasantries and, as I was preparing to excuse myself from the conversation to go home to drink some beer and surf the net for porn, he asks me if I’m part of an accountability group? At the time I had never even heard of such a thing.

Next, he handed me a card with 10 questions printed on it. The question which called out the most to me was, “Have you had any lustful thoughts, attitudes, or watched anything which does not glorify God?” Well, within a nanosecond I was ready to say, “No thanks!” and just walk away like he was selling sunglasses at a mall kiosk.

But something deep inside of me cried out, “I really need this in my life right now!” so asked my friend some other questions about the logistics of the group. After spending about ten minutes trying to fight off the call of the Spirit, I submitted and agreed to go to the next meeting.

The morning of the meeting was filled with great anxiety over how I would answer some of the questions. It seemed like it would have been easier if the group was made up of men who were total strangers, but the group consisted of the Headmaster of the school my wife teaches at, a local preacher, and an insurance salesman. I thought to myself, I’ll just lie about some of these questions so that they won’t find out how depraved I really am. After all, I’m a Christian! I have to live up to a certain image of perfection! As most Christians probably realize, but never talk about, we really do judge a book by its cover.

We met on the scheduled morning and began with some small talk… last night’s ball game, this morning’s run, and a problem customer who is never happy. Not long after, the guys all brought out their question cards and prepared themselves to go through each one.

When we came to the question that initially caught my eyes, I began to sweat. I didn’t want to lie, but I didn’t want to look foolish in front of these mature Christians. My canned SPAM response was ready to go…

If you want to know more of what happened, tune in next month for another installment in this series.

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Digital Sojourner would like to thank Long Vo for writing this guest post.

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The Ten Commandments of Passwords

In a recent post I discussed the startling revelation that one Facebook account is fraudulently accessed every 140 milliseconds– approximately 600,000 accounts everyday! This amazing fact highlights the necessity for extreme caution regarding online security.

How can you protect yourself from those who would like to break into your accounts?

The first, and probably most important, line of defense are the passwords you use. If you use weak passwords, or fail to manage your passwords properly, it is only a matter of time before your accounts are compromised.

So to help you protect your valueable information online, here is the Digital Sojourner’s Ten Commandments of Passwords:

  1. Thou shalt not use the same password for every account (if someone manages to get your password for one account, they now have your password for every account).
  2. Thou shalt not write your passwords down.
  3. Thou shalt change your passwords regularly.
  4. Thou shalt use passwords of 8 or more characters (with each added character the number of possible passwords increases exponentially, those attempting to crack your password are using high speed computer programs that try hundreds of potential passwords every minute– the more characters you use, the longer it will take).
  5. Thou shalt use a mixture of upper & lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols (again, with each type of character used the potential number of passwords increases exponentially).
  6. Thou shalt never use a real word from any language — especially “password”.
  7. Thou shalt never use personal information such as birth dates, family names, or anything else you have ever posted on Facebook.
  8. Thou shalt never tell anyone your password.
  9. Thou shalt exercise extreme caution with the password to your email account (after all, that is where all of those “password reset” emails from all of your other accounts are sent to. Someone breaks into your email account they can now break into ANY other account of yours!)
  10. Thou shalt use a high quality password manager. After reading this list you’re probably thinking– I could never do all of that for all of my accounts! And, of course, you are right– you can’t, no one can. Thankfully there are several excellent password management tools that are available. We will take a look at some of the options in a future post.
No password is invincible, even the Pentagon has been hacked, however if you keep the above tips in mind  you should be able deter even the most dedicated of would be thieves.  Do you have some additional password tips?  Let us know about them in the comments section.
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Who Hacked My Facebook?

FacebookThe All Facebook blog has a fascinating post today that carries an implied warning for digital sojourners.

Everyday there are 600,000 unauthorized Facebook logins. Simply amazing. This translates in to one compromised Facebook account every 140 milliseconds. Yikes!

You can read the entire post here.

This raises a very important issue for digital sojourners: online security.

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What Facebook Can’t Do

FacebookHere at the Digital Sojourner we are all about living a God honoring life in our modern, computerized world. We must use technology to aid us in serving the Greatest of all Masters. Yet, there is an inherent danger. When we allow our relationship with technology to overshadow our relationship with the Lord, it becomes an adulterous affair. We have left our first love. We must ever be on guard to keep the tools we use in proper perspective.

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Battles Over The Beginning

Recently the media has reported on the growing controversy over the historicity of Genesis. Well-known, self-described evangelical scholars are questioning the existence of Adam and Eve, the story of the flood, and other aspects of Genesis 1-11. Of course, this section of Scripture has been repeatedly attacked during the past two centuries – the assaults often being launched from the liberal wing of Christendom. Nineteenth-century German scholars declared that the Bible must be examined like any other work of literature, downplaying any notion of divine inspiration. Moreover, they typically set aside anything supernatural as unhistorical on the grounds that such things just do not occur and therefore must be myths and fabrications. That it comes from respected “evangelical” professors makes this latest criticism especially dangerous. These men are theological double-agents, undermining the church from within its own ranks.

Error in Christian circles is nothing new. False teachers have promulgated error from privileged positions within the church since the first century. The Lord Jesus warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23.) Similarly, Paul warned the Ephesian elders that “…from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30.) Christians must be vigilant against the inevitable attacks that come from within and without.

The conflict over the early chapters of Genesis is particularly dangerous because it undermines the authority of the rest of the Scriptures – thereby destroying the foundations of Christianity. Christian truth rests on the basis of the book of beginnings. What believers know about God, mankind, evil, sin, redemption, the purpose of existence, justice, future judgment, and many other doctrines find their origin in Genesis. The rest of the Bible rests on the belief that the first book is true history.

Genesis’ historical reliability ultimately depends upon the word of Christ Himself.

The New Testament makes it plain that He believed in the accuracy of this embattled book. For instance, He upheld the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman by referring back to the creation of the first human couple, saying: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6.) Elsewhere, Christ declared His belief in a personal Devil, Satan, also known as “the Father of lies” in language that hearkens back to the first temptation in Genesis 3 (John 8:44.) He also referenced other events such as Cain and Abel (Luke 11:51) and the flood of Noah (Matthew 24:37-38.)

The Lord Jesus is contrasted with the historical Adam regarding sin and salvation (Romans 5) and Christ’s triumph over death itself. If Adam is a literary invention than the basis of redemption and resurrection is undermined. One need not worry, however, for Jesus declared Himself to be the truth (John 14:6) and affirmed that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35.) Genesis is true – we have Christ’s word on it.

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Sojourners Not Soloists

Church History

Martin Luther was forced to respond to the charge that Scripture in the hands of the people, in the language of the people, was a dangerous thing. On the contrary, responded Luther, the Roman Church had built up a wall around Scripture which denied reform of the Church’s teachings and practices. Scripture in the hands of the believers under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is the way things are supposed to be. Indeed, it was the motivating factor behind him translating Scripture into German—the language of his people.

Today we have the opposite problem.

If people are reading Scripture at all (and mind you, Biblical Illiteracy is exceedingly high) they are reading it in a vacuum from other believers—which is an inherent problem of modern technology. We have so many tools available that, those of us who are reading, tend to insulate our thinking from other minds. After all (quoting Scripture and following Luther’s argumentation) “we have no need for anyone to teach us.”

In so doing we might fall into error that has long been addressed in church history.

Recall that Christ ascended and gave gifts and some of those gifts were teachers. It is with those gifts that we are corporately built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God. Even those who have the giftedness of being a teacher can’t get away from the fact that they themselves are strengthened, and even built-up, by other members of the church.

We might have an abundance of tools available at our finger tips but we also have (and this is much better) over two thousand years of The Holy Spirit Himself teaching the church. Two Thousand years of a gifted church (with teachers, exhorters, evangelists, etc) corporately responding to error that has crept in.

As we sojourn in this life, and we individually study scripture on our way, we must make sure to also study in community (your assembly) and in light of history. We’re not soloists who play a one man tune, but are corporatelly a body that is being put together. We should learn from our past as well as our present so that we personally do not get derailed by errors that have long been dealt with. As Michael Patton warns, spring-boarding off a famous saying: “Those who don’t learn heresy are doomed to repeat it.”

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The Information Super-Highway & The Renewed Mind

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Joshua 1:8

Unquestionably, this is the information age. Never before in history has so much data been accessible to so many people from every conceivable world region and demographic. If a question occurs to one, the answer is a few key strokes away. Want to know the GDP of Namibia, the population of Moneyreagh, Northern Ireland, or Adolf Hitler’s favorite composer? The answers are easily discoverable by means of the powerful search engines that comb the internet for facts and figures.

This abundance of accumulated knowledge works both positively and negatively in contemporary life. On the one hand, Bible translations and tools for studying them have proliferated on the web. Many out of print, public domain Christian books are now freely accessible thanks on websites like books.google.com and archive.org (these sites are searchable by author and title, so one needs to know which volumes one seeks.) A library that once was available only at much time and expense is now open to anyone with a computer and an internet connection.

The downside of this vast trove of information is that it can easily interfere with getting to know God through His Word.

Time that is better spent reading the Bible may be frittered away by endless and unrestrained surfing of the web. What is more, the essential discipline of meditation* on the Scriptures – mentally masticating them while prayerfully seeking the Lord’s mind and will – often is abandoned in favor of quick reading, skimming, and the short attention spans that are the negative byproduct of the information age. Joshua was told to meditate on the Word continually; this is something that characterized all of the great saints (e.g. the Psalms, which were the fruit of the meditations of the Shepherd-King David, as well as others – all by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, 2 Tim. 3:16.)

Pointing and clicking must not supplant pondering. The Word of God demands careful attention and reflection. It is to be hidden in believers’ hearts, and consulted in reference to every aspect of life. By all means, Christians must use modern technology to read, study, and proclaim the Word. But growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ will only come about through the time-consuming and somewhat painstaking discipline of meditatively considering the Scriptures.

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*Biblical meditation has nothing to do with the Eastern Mystical variety of meditation, which is actually its exact opposite. The Eastern variety – popular in Hinduism, Sufism, Buddhism, Transcendental Meditation, and New Age philosophy – tells one to empty his mind (sometimes by chanting a word like “Om.”) In contrast, the Bible’s use of “meditation” means to fill one’s mind with the words of Scripture and carefully consider them by prayerful and repeated thought.

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