Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: internet

The fulness of the time – today

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

News reports are dismal: mass shootings; random killings; skyrocketing suicide rates; ethnic conflicts; antisemitism; recreational drug use on the rise, with fatal consequences for some; economic instability; political instability; refugees fleeing conflict in search of safety, many dying in the attempt; violence against women; and on and on.

It would seem that the condition of mankind today cries out for the saving gospel of Jesus Christ to be proclaimed. Does anybody believe it anymore? In most countries the agnostics and atheists outnumber those who call themselves Christian. Even those who call themselves Christian don’t appear to have much of an answer. Many have detoured into save the planet activism; others into pop psychology and others into feel good emotional revivalism. None of these offer a genuine solution or a durable healing of the gaping wounds in the souls of men and women.

The gospel of Jesus Christ offers exactly the healing balm that allows men and women, young and old, rich and poor, of any skin colour or ethnic identity to be made whole and to be able to love and respect others, and to be loved and respected by others.

The gospel needs to be proclaimed, and today we have the modern equivalent of the Roman road system that allows the gospel to be carried into all the world. It is called the internet. Yes, there is immorality being offered on this highway. Yes, there are other wares being offered that are harmful; Yes, there are deceptions and dangers out there on this highway. Christians of two millennia ago faced exactly the same dangers along the Roman roads; but they went out to proclaim the gospel and the gospel changed the world. Can that happen again?

Part of the inspiration for this post comes from Bill Sweeney’s blog, Unshakable Hope. Bill suffers from ALS and cannot speak or move any part of his body – except his eyes. He has a computer that is controlled by his eye movements and he is able to share his testimony and the saving truth of the gospel with people around the world. I first read the comparison of the internet to th Roman road system in his blog.

Gospel Tract and Bible Society of the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, of which I am a member, has a web site offering free gospel tracts to people around the world. Tracts are available in 100 languages, they can be read online or printed. Copies can be ordered at no charge for distribution, questions can be asked (though perhaps in only about 20 of those languages). Of course there comes a time when interested people need a personal contact. Visits are made and when there is a need missionary couples are sent to mentor and disciple. Churches exist in many countries today which originated from some individual reading a tract and then sharing it with friends.

I have a French-language blog. Last month at least one person in 65 different countries looked at that blog. I take no credit for that as most of what I post there is writings of the Anabaptist-Mennonite faith from hundreds of years ago. Are people reading out of curiosity or out of a hunger in the soul? Does it matter? It would be enough for curiosity to be a beginning.

To return to where I began, I believe there is a hunger in the souls of men and women the world around that is not being satisfied. Most cannot even identify what they are hungry for and try to satisfy it with things that do not satisfy. That leads to despair. Christians need to proclaim the message of hope, and with the internet I believe we have the means at our fingertips.

Breakdown on the information highway

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Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

I had planned to write something else yesterday evening, but found myself in a position much like the young man in the photo above: the vehicle with which I cruise the information highway had broken down.

We live on an acreage in a sparsely populated part of the Saskatchewan prairies where there are not enough homes to interest a big telecom in laying miles of fibre-optic cable. I had service from a satellite company for years, but clouds kept interfering with the signal. A year ago I switched to a service that captures the signal sent from the nearest cell phone tower; it is faster and pretty much problem free.

Except that there was a thunderstorm in the area the night before last that knocked out our power for awhile and when I got up in the morning the modem showed no signs of life. We had to leave for the city and were gone most of the day. When we got home it was too late to contact the dealer who installed the service. I checked everything out and concluded that the modem was truly fried. In the process, I discovered that in rearranging all the cords I had plugged the modem power supply directly into the wall outlet rather than the surge protector. No wonder it didn’t survive the power outage.

This morning I went to the dealer, Thorstad Computer, located in the nearby town of Outlook. They thought that it was probably the circuit protector that had failed, not the modem. They gave me a new circuit protector and a new modem to take home and try; they didn’t even ask me to pay for them until I knew for sure what I needed.

I went home, plugged in both new parts and soon the internet was working again. Then I swapped the old circuit protector for the new one: after a few minutes the internet was up and running again. Next, I swapped the old modem for the new one: once again, after a few minutes all the lights came on and we have internet – with the old parts!

What happened? Did the road trip do good things for the modem? Was there an electronic healing atmosphere in the computer shop?  I think it just needed a rest. I did disconnect the power to the modem for half a minute while trouble-shooting last night; evidently that wasn’t long enough.

The good folks at Thorstad say to keep the new parts over the weekend and if there are no more problems bring them back Tuesday (Monday is a holiday here).

We are having the hottest weather of the summer right now. The power was off again some time last night, again this morning (twice) and very briefly again as I was typing this.

The computer is on a battery back up to prevent data loss and get me through incidents like this, but it looks like my confidence in the old modem was misplaced – it was knocked out again by this last blip in the power. I’ve got the new one hooked up again.

There you have it: a play by play account of what it has taken to get back to travelling down the information highway.

Is technology dehumanizing us?

The Machine Stops, by E.M. Forster depicts a future age in which technology is able to supply all our needs. People live in individual underground compartments, all their needs are supplied by the all-encompassing machine at the push of a button. Direct person to person contact is unheard of, having been replaced by electronic means and that permit one to see and speak to any one of his or her thousands of contacts at will.

Wars, conflicts, and crime have ceased, weather on the surface of the planet is of no consequence, thus there is no news. New ideas are to be feared, but events of history and nature are discussed endlessly and third or fourth hand ideas about those events are deemed to be the most trustworthy. The population never changes. Births and deaths are by permission of the machine; permission to die is only given when there is a birth. A mother’s responsibility ends when a child is born.

One person finds a way to get outside the machine to the surface of the earth. Before he is dragged back below ground by the repair mechanism of the machine, he realizes there still are a few people living out there. His longing for freedom is unfulfilled and eventually the all powerful, self repairing machine breaks down and everyone living in their individual cell of underground paradise dies.

A chilling forecast of where our society is headed? Perhaps. The story was written in 1908 and is a short novella with three chapters.

There is a lot of hand-wringing in our day about the influence and effects of technology. After reading this book I began to wonder if we might have things backwards. Is technology dehumanizing us? Or are we willingly surrendering our birthright of being fully human? Is our desire for convenience and security just a camouflage for the repugnance we feel at the inconvenience of having to interact with other people?

What about those of us who call ourselves Christians? We all give verbal support to the goal of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world. At the same time, some of us are repelled by cities because of all the people. We would prefer to live in an isolated rural setting and be as self-sufficient as possible. Which of these conflicting ideas is the true expression of our heart’s deepest desire? What does that say about our faith?

The Jews of Jesus’ day despised the Samaritans, to the point of considering anything touched by a Samaritan to be defiled. Jesus used all sort of creative ways to try and jar people out of that rut.

For those of us who are members, or who attend, the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite, the Sunday School lesson for the coming Sunday looks helpful. It is based on Hebrews 13 and has a lot to say about hospitality, including to strangers. It says: “The love of Christ will move us to enlarge our circle of friends.”

The best way to avoid becoming dehumanized is by frequent face to face contact with other humans. Technology offers us a way to maintain an appearance of a wide circle of friends without really having to listen to them. It is that unwillingness to listen to others, the desire to avoid admitting there might be anything valid about their point of view, that is dehumanizing. Technology is the enabler, but not the real problem.

Words of wisdom from J. S. Park

I keep forgetting that most people on social media who act like authorities are young 20-somethings who haven’t seen much of the world and don’t know how it works. They want to change the world from their basement, or they’re just hungry to go viral. It doesn’t mean they can’t have an opinion. It means […]

via A Friendly Reminder: I Am Not Your Counselor and I Am Not a Journalist — J.S. Park

Reflections on my bread machine saga

I thought I had this bread machine almost figured out, I had managed to produce two loaves that were completely edible. Friday’s trial number six proved that I still have a ways to go – the loaf rose too high and then fell. I cut off the top part and the rest is quite edible, but I still haven’t mastered the process.

My mother was an artisan in the kitchen. she baked white bread, brown bread, rye bread, buns and cinnamon rolls without a recipe and without a failure.  A machine that makes breads does not have my mother’s knowledge and skills.

A bread machine is known as a robot boulanger in French – a robot baker. It occurs to me that in order to successfully produce a good loaf of bread with this robot I have to become its servant. If I do not do everything exactly as the robot wishes my efforts will produce flop after flop.

How much are our lives ruled by things? The weekend cyberattack creates some doubt in my mind about the brave new world that is promised by the internet of things. Could some shadowy group, directed by a criminal organization or a hostile government, bring all those things to a crashing halt?

What about self-driving cars? If one reads closely the propaganda in their favour, it becomes evident that the ultimate goal is to eliminate private ownership of automobiles. Would that then make us all slaves to some arcane algorithm? Who would design and control that algorithm?

The ultimate question is: How would a Christian live by the leading of the Holy Spirit if he cedes so much control of his life to things and algorithms?

I am not a Luddite, but these questions trouble my thoughts.

Temperamental devices

My internet has been down. My wife’s computer is connected to the same service, through the same modem and router and has had no problem. The cable connecting my computer to the internet had several splices and bare spots on the wire, evidently that must be the problem.I bought a new cable yesterday, hooked it up – still no signal.

The internet connection troubleshooter on my computer told me that an ethernet cable was disconnected. I’d just been through all that, so decided the problem must be an internal disconnection. This morning I pulled off all the wires and took my computer for a ride in the car to our nearest town with a computer shop. They plugged it in and it worked ! !? Evidently the car ride fixed it. The young man at the computer shop charged me for 15 minutes labour.

The next time this happens, I’ll just tell my computer “I’m going to take you for a ride.” Hopefully that will do the trick. If it doesn’t, I’ll try the little device the computer repair man sold me. It has one end that plugs into a USB port and the  internet cable plugs into the other end. This gives another pathway for the internet signal.

No doubt our grandfathers have all told us about their first  car that wouldn’t start until they gave it a good whack at a certain spot on the left front fender. Cars nowadays are much easier to start. A good thing too, a whack like that would make a permanent impression on their fenders.

I have had my share of temperamental automobiles. There was the venerable Olds which regularly coughed and sputtered to a stop because the timing had gone out of whack. I took to carrying a wrench so I could get out and turn the distributor housing until it would run smoothly. There was the 1972 Toyota Corolla that had the coil sitting low down a few inches from the road. Every time there was water on the road the connection got wet and the car stalled. (It never rains in Japan?) I carried a cloth to wipe off the moisture from the wire connection that fit into the top of the coil. Then there was the Dodge with a capacitor mounted behind and above the motor that was prone to failure. I always carried a spare so that I wouldn’t be stranded somewhere miles from home or a repair shop.

Unfortunately, we people can be temperamental at times, too. I’m sure many a person has at times wished to give me a good whack to see if that would solve my problem. I’m thankful that they have refrained and tried gentler ways. I would like to think that, unlike many cars that I have owned, I have become less temperamental with age.

Is it really that bad?

This world is a horrible place. There are environmental catastrophes, threats of international terrorism, dangers in the streets. The danger of religious persecution threatens us even here in North America. There is sexual exploitation of women and children. There is abuse of power by those in positions of trust: police officers, preachers, teachers and parents. There are dangers on the internet. It seems that you can’t trust anyone anymore.

Um . . . let’s back up a little bit here and see if we’re getting the whole picture. Yes, all these things are going on; and yes, these are the things the media wants to tell us about. But is that really what most of us are experiencing in our daily life?

My grandchildren are blissfully unaware of any threats to their well-being. I am not experiencing any harassment because of my religious beliefs. I encounter friendly and helpful people wherever I go.

I started using a cane about six weeks ago and I am amazed how that triggers acts of kindness from others. I have even had young ladies hold a door open for me. A few days ago I bought my fast food lunch at Tim Horton’s and the lady behind the counter offered to carry my tray to a table. I declined, but not without a hearty thank  you. Someday I may need her assistance.

Today I was in my favourite coffee shop – the one where the young ladies behind the counter don’t need to be told that I want a cappuccino with amaretto syrup. This time I asked the young lady who served me if she  had ever heard an old, old song that has her name in the title. Her response floored me: “You remembered my name!” I have known her name for a long time, she has served my coffee countless times, we have talked about other things than coffee, but I had never called her by name. This is something I have encouraged others to do, and here I wasn’t even doing it myself.

That seems such a small thing, but it was a reality check. When I begin thinking that the world is such a cold heartless place, perhaps the first question I need to ask is “Am I the problem?”

By the way, she was all too familiar with the song. Her music teacher used to sing it every time she went for a lesson.

Do it yourself customer service

A resident in a nearby home for seniors, let’s call him Frank, gets around fairly well in a wheelchair.  However, Frank has limited strength on one side, so he also has an electric wheelchair that he sometimes uses.

Recently he discovered that a small spring assembly from one of the front wheels was missing.  Presumably it came loose and fell out.  A friend called the dealer to order replacement parts.  The dealer said he could not order the parts without knowing the serial number of the wheelchair.   There is no serial number to be found, perhaps the sticker with that information also came loose and was lost?  The friend then took a picture of the spring assembly from the other side.  The dealer still didn’t have enough information to know what parts were needed.

Then Frank asked me to help.  The next time I went to the city I took the remaining spring assembly and showed it to the dealer.  He immediately recognized what make of wheelchair it came from.  After a brief check he said he did not have those parts in stock and would have to know the model number and serial number before he could order the parts.  He did take the assembly apart, laid out all the parts on the counter and took a picture with his cell phone, promising to see if anyone else in the shop could identify them.

That didn’t sound all that hopeful, so when I got home I went to my computer and googled the manufacturer’s name.  I then went to the model number of Frank’s wheelchair and found detailed illustrations and part numbers.  There is a generation 1 and a generation 2 of this machine, but the spring assembly is identical on both, so a serial number is not needed.

I copied down the numbers of all six parts that go into this assembly, faxed the list to the dealer and a few days later he called to tell me the parts were in.

All’s well that ends well, I guess.  But I remember a day when the dealer was the source of all information and parts for the machines he sold.  Now it’s the internet and woe betide  the person who doesn’t have internet access or doesn’t know how to use it.

Do it yourself publishing

Something similar is happening in the book publishing world.  Publishers are being squeezed for cash.  Except for a very few big name authors, publishers now expect writers to look after the editing of their own manuscripts and the promotion of their books once in print.

Help is available for the aspiring author who wants to see his name in print.  Many self-publishing companies will compete for the privilege to publish your book, as long as you are willing to pay for it,  There are a number of outfits offering print on demand at minimal cost.

So now it is possible for everyone who has ever dreamed of writing and publishing a book to actually do it.  Thousands of titles are coming out each year.  The average self published book will sell 200 copies, mostly to close friends and relatives.

If that’s all you want, it’s fine to go ahead and do it that way.  If you dream of something more than that, then you need to start with professional editing.  I have seen so many sloppily edited books that could have been good books with a little help.  I have no desire to follow their example, I don’t want to publish a book that shouts homemade as soon as you start reading it.  Editing is going to cost money unless you have a friend who is a professional editor and owes you a favour.

Book promotion is a topic for another post.  We in this house are just beginning to learn about that aspect, but it sounds like traditional methods such as book signings are not going to move a whole lot of books.   The best results will come from smart use of the internet via a website and a blog.  Some people talk a lot about Facebook and Twitter for marketing, others say don’t waste you time with them.   We don’t intend to.

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