The advent (good word for the season) of the internet has brought massive changes to the world it has literally changed how we do just about everything. The current generation of teens can't even envision being stranded on a solitary road without instant access to assistance. Once, as I relate the story of being stranded for two hours at midnight on an exit ramp on the Garden State Parkway, until finally someone came along and gave me assistance, the question I was asked was: Why didn't you use your cell phone? There was a strange reaction on the person's face when I told them that we had no cell phones in those days (the technologically dark age of the 1960's).
Today everything is at one's fingertips (how this expression has taken on a literal application!!).
I love the fact that when I need a visual explanation on how to do certain jobs on the '65 Mustang, I Google, and there it is! And if I want to watch a video training on the characteristics and the procedures of the Garmin G1000 system, I go to YouTube, and find the training that I need. This is me! A man in his 60's whose office wall is still lined with books yet I find myself, more and more, turning to the internet and taking advantage of the technology that existed only in science fiction when I was a kid.
But advantages often carry potential dangers -these may be obvious or hidden - consequently, my concern, and the reason for bringing up this topic, is that with the internet we may also find some very real and harmful hazards in the area of faith.
As I am writing this piece, I am doing it on my computer - which is set up with many "favorite" sites for the internet - and which I regularly use and which I will never discourage anyone else from using. But I want to sound a word of caution (there are many areas of caution - one of the areas of concern is that of posting personal or otherwise sensitive information - some things may be funny now, but they will not be funny when they keep you from being considered for employment in the future. Other postings may be harmful to someone else. Personal information about someone else may easily ruin their reputation [remember that the source of these postings is easily traceable]).
But what is also of great concern is that people turn to the internet for answers to doctrinal and theological questions. Google will link you to thousands of sites which will answer your question, but therein lies the problem. The answer to the question may not be from a source that is true to sound fundamental interpretation of the Scriptures - and not every site posts their statement of faith.
Let me suggest a few simple rules to safeguard your inquisitive soul (which is a good thing). First of all, if you are going to consult the internet with a Bible related question, then go to web sites belonging to people or organizations that you know to be reputable, and are holding to the inspiration and the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Reading material that comes from sources who are different from your position is fine if you are established in your own faith and you want to find out about other people's views but only if it is done with the intention of strengthening your own faith and making you a better defender of the faith.
The other rule is that your best place to gain biblical knowledge is your Church and the Pastor you trust - who is, by God set in his/her position to nurture your soul and equip you for service. Your Pastor has a calling from God to shepherd the local flock. Your Pastor spends time in the study of the Scriptures, and on his/her knees praying for guidance, as well as for you personally. Your Pastor also knows that one day he/she will stand before God and be brought to accountability on the way that they discharged their God-given duty. But in addition to using your Pastor as a source of your own spiritual strengthening, be constant in praying for your Pastor because Pastors are always targeted by the enemy of your soul with the intent of disrupting their effectiveness.
And to you, Pastors, the Apostle Peter has this to say: To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ's sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1Peter 5:1-4).
Merry Christmas, as you enjoy your spiritual benefit brought by the Lamb of God who takes away your sins after hearing your repentance.
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)