By Melissa Affolter
In a day when resources inundate us at the click of a mouse – everything from a new organizational tool found on Pinterest to a systematic treatment of dispensational theology – we often find ourselves deeply 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 state of many evangelical churches, we have never been in more desperate need for the daily discipline of biblical living.
Knowledge and theological prowess represent the vast majority of 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 online into my daily life in a way that maximizes its effects?”
As someone who completed a portion of my graduate degree online, and who thoroughly 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 better cultivate a love for reading in your children, identify one item that can be put into practice immediately, and then do it that very night. Keep a notepad next to your computer, and discipline yourself to write down at least one thought that 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 better 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 of the post 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 have a role in the implementation of that particular principle. Your personal expectations and preferences could be different than those of the writer. It’s important to remember that everyone applies truths differently, and to not give in to the temptation to compare.
When reading articles that address a controversial subject, we must always believe the best about the writer. As Paul taught the Corinthians that “love believes all things” (1 Cor. 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 that 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 to lead 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, that doesn’t mean the post is without value. I am a complementarian and a Calvinist, yet I enjoy and benefit from reading a great 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. Even something as seemingly harmless as cooking or organizing sites must be viewed through the lens of biblical truth. If a certain principle takes away critical amounts of time from your husband or children, or puts unnecessary burdens on the family’s finances or resources, then 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 an increasingly significant challenge. Access to books, sermons, articles and even brief quotations come at an overwhelming speed. Our attention spans are vastly short, evidenced by our inability to linger in meaningful conversations or to recall with specificity what we have read. Immersion in an array of information may be the very reason daily application of truth becomes so difficult.
Our commitment to scripture might mean we 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 Tim. 3:16). The appropriate place for advanced technology and limitless resources ought to be stimulation – not saturation – of our spiritual lives.
Melissa Affolter is a curriculum writer for The Rafiki Foundation in Florida and serves in the youth and children’s ministries at Riverbend Community Church in Ormond Beach. After completing a degree in history and teaching in a Classical Christian school for several years, Melissa earned a Master of Arts in biblical counseling from The Master’s College in 2011. She enjoys meeting with young women regularly for counsel and encouragement, as well as loving on the many children who refer to her as “Auntie Mel”.
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