A Christians guide to the internet

Sharing Online

So far most of the posts in this series have been about avoiding pitfalls on the internet and learning what it actually is. I thought I would move onto something else in this post and that is how we can use the internet as Christians to share, to learn, to connect and deepen our walk with the Lord.

This week I want to share a few ways you can share Christ and your life with Him. We have talked about practicing discernment in what to share in a previous post, so what sites are there available for us to share on?

The most well-known sites are the social networking ones, these are sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, etc. there are many more but these are biggest and most popular right now.
Facebook and Google+ are sites where you have a profile that you can choose what to put on, you can share about yourself, where you work, your education and photos, and also you can go on there and update your profile as many times as you want with a ‘status update’ which will show up in your friends (Facebook) or circles (Google+) newsfeed. You can make your profiles private so only those you accept as friends or into your circles can see them or you can make them all public, or you can do both when you write a status or share a photo you can pick the option of who can see it.

Some ideas of what you can share on these sites are:
Events from church, or publicise anything that is happening in your area and or church. You can share your testimony, both in status updates and or in the info about you on the profiles and you can share photos or pictures. You can share the Bible and any links to other sites that share Christ or have good information on them that you feel would be useful to others. I am sure there are many other things you can share also, it all depends on you and what parts of your life you want to share. Or whether you just want to share the gospel on its own.

Twitter is slightly different as it is basically just status updates, you only get so many characters to say what you wish to and once again you can share this with the public or just those that follow you.
It’s a good site for publicising charities and events and sharing quotes etc. I know people who use it for bible studies and sharing the gospel which is wonderful but be aware that the characters are limited and can very easily take things out of context which can cause confusion.

Instagram is a popular photo sharing site that is just on your phone. This is good for sharing photos of your life and you can write a decent amount under your photo as well, it can be a good place to share the gospel and your testimony and life with Jesus.

If this is something that interests you I would recommend praying about it first. And when thinking about which site suits you best ask yourself, how much time do you have to spend on this? What exactly do you want to share? Some people prefer to not have any information about themselves and just share the gospel, some people want to share about their relationship with Jesus which includes sharing about themselves also.

It can be tempting to jump in on them all but, over the years I have found it is best to concentrate on one or two sites so you have time to actually take notice of the people you share with, some of them may be real life friends and family some of them you might not know that well but it is nice to actually connect with people and show them the love and care of Jesus, don’t just share, but read what others are sharing about their lives, do they need comfort? Do they need prayer? Remember they are human and Jesus died for them also. I feel you get more out of the experience if you don’t just see it as something you go on, share something then switch off, how we treat others online is just as important how we treat them off.  Just because there will be a lot of people who aren’t authentic with what they share and say doesn’t mean we need to follow suit or avoid putting ourselves out there.

I have made some wonderful friends online, not all Christians but all of who I care about deeply, I pray for them and I check in on them if I haven’t heard anything for a while, and they do so for me. I may never have met them but that doesn’t stop me from caring. And when I came to Jesus He gave me more love and compassion for those people and put more into my life whom I care about very much. I am someone with a long term chronic illness who has spent many years unable to get out and meet people and for people like me meeting genuine, caring people on the internet has helped me a lot.  The internet has meant I have been able to connect with family I haven’t been able to see and find out what is happening in their lives, pray for them and with them and, as I can’t get to church often the same goes for my spiritual family as well.

The Lord has put people in my life who have been a great blessing to me so don’t forget to ask Him to guide you and bring others into your life that you can connect with. If you pray this and mean it, He will bless you for it. We live in a fallen world, which is reflected online and, even if those you talk to reject the gospel outright that doesn’t mean we should stop caring about them because God never does.

I hope this series has been of some use and do feel free to share it with anyone you feel may find it useful. ALswo if there is anything else you would like me to talk about just leave a comment.

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A Christians guide to the internet

Practicing Discernment Whilst on the Internet

As Christians we are told in Gods word many times to practice discernment, we are to discern spirits and what is the truth as the enemy wishes to lead us astray, many times in very subtle ways so we are focusing on something other than the truth of the gospel.

Unfortunately we have a bit of a reputation in the world as being naive, and we can add to that by believing some things that simply aren’t true, the gospel is true, it is not airy fairy it is truth and it makes a lot of sense when looked at properly with a sober mind.  However we can find ourselves sometimes being lead into believing some things that may sound true but aren’t when we shine the light of Gods word on them.

So our biggest and best tool for discerning truth on the internet is the Bible. Whatever we read, it is always a good idea to go back to the word and ask, is that what it really says?  Just because someone claims to be a bible scholar and is writing things on the internet does not mean they are correct, and just because you have questioned if they are right does not mean you are calling them a liar either we are human and we all make mistakes. I encourage anyone to go back to the word after reading any of these posts to see what the Lord says as His word is final.

There are two sites that I like to use to help me, Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway. Both these sites have multiple translations of the bible that you can quickly reference and Blue Letter Bible has the Strongs Concordance so you can read (and hear) the original language. However if you read anything else on these sites that is written by the author of the sites or anyone else other than Our Lord’s word, then practice discernment, I have found Blue Letter bible to be pretty sound so far but I have not read all of it. On the internet you will find a lot of people sharing their lives and their stories and also what they think the Bible is saying on certain subjects, their intents may be good and they may be right but if you use it as a way to go back to Gods word and check then you will find that your relationship with Him will only improve. Plus, it will help you remember what you have read. And as always I would try to do this prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Obviously when looking on the internet we might be looking at other subjects as well, such as science or current events etc. No matter what we are looking at its is always best to question whether it is right. If you go onto Facebook for example you will discover lots of stories and statuses being shared and sometimes we find ourselves going to share it without thinking, it is true? A lot of these things are started by people who wish to deceive and gain likes and clicks in order to boost their own ego or make money. This is called spam, sometimes it is obvious or downright offensive sometimes it is subtle such as a news story or charity that makes you believe that you are doing well to share. I have seen many stories shared by Christians on these sites that are just not true, so how do we know?
When looking at these stories or any site on the web ask yourself some questions:

When was it written? – if its a news site this is easy to find out, sometimes people share very old stories that are no longer relevant and so we find ourselves becoming angry at something that was resolved many years ago. However if you are on a website and are questioning this, go up to the tools section in your menu at the top of your browser and click on page info (for firefox). That will tell you the last date a website was modified, depending on the subject you might find that the content is no longer relevant for what you are looking at.

Why was it written? is it something that will just spread anger? Then make sure it is true, Google it or look for it on a sites such as snopes.com and hoax-slayer.com who debunk these stories when they are discovered as myths.

Who wrote it? Once again if it is a news site then this is easy, is it a reputable news site? Can you trust it? Does it have a governing body to answer to if it spreads lies? Do they share who they are and their intent, or are they hiding themselves and why? (sometimes people need to hide if they live in a country where they would be persecuted.) If it is a site you do not know and its in the UK you can go to this site:  http://www.nominet.org.uk/uk-domain-names and look it up to find out who owns it. (You can also get advice here on reporting a site that is doing criminal activity and get advice on how to complain about a site, if you wish to)

If it is a Christian site, then look around, what kind of things do they talk about? Do they display the fruits the of the spirit (which we are told helps us to discern a Christian from someone who isn’t one) do they share what they believe in a statement of faith? If not why not? And if they do, do they believe anything that isn’t right, once again go back to the beginning and see what Gods word says. I have actually come across sites that people have believed, that have turned out to be satire written by some unbelievers to try to show how gullible they believe Christians to be.

This may all sound like a lot of work but as you get into the habit you will find that you automatically will discern, as you become in tune with Gods will and hear the Holy Spirit, you might find that something doesn’t seem right and so you avoid it then afterwards learn why. It is like a muscle, keep using it and it will get stronger and you will become closer to our Lord. But please do not worry if you do share something, this is just a guide and God does understand that we can and do error. A lot of the time he uses our mistakes to teach us. Also we will find we also learn to discern when it is really important that the truth is told or if its just something is not worth it and we move on.

Once again, this is not about judging, or being paranoid, as we have the Lord on our side. This about making sure what you share and learn is correct, the internet is full of false information and when I was learning how to research on the internet I was taught how to discern a good site site and information from bad. By doing this you are helping make the internet a better and more useful place to be. And, more importantly helping keep the truth in your heart and your armor firmly on. Doing this can really help you in your studies too and to walk closer with our Lord as we learn to keep His truth in our mind and hearts always.

I just wish to make one last point, sometimes we will be following someone and they might err slightly or say something that we do not think is quite right, this doesn’t mean that they have come away from our Lord, and in these cases it is best to pray for them and let Jesus take them in hand as He sees fit. Some errors are more dangerous than others and as we learn to discern and ask for more discernment we will learn what the difference is. It isn’t always best to say something to them, especially on a public forum.

Next time I will share about how we can use social media effectively and why it is important that we watch what we say on there (this will also demonstrate another reason why we need to be careful what we share)

 

A Christians guide to the internet

Search Engines

There are a lot of search engines about, the most popular one is Google so its best to always start there. Another reason to start there is that when someone creates a website they have to register it with search engines and Google has the most sites registered to it. Google also owns some of the largest sites on the internet now such as YouTube and blogger (so do not worry if you have a blog on there, Google knows it’s there you don’t have to do anything)

I thought I would share a few facts on search engines then I will give some tips on how to use it effectively.
1. Search engines cannot search the whole internet, they only have access to less then 10%, one reason is because sites have to register with them to be found but also because a large part of the internet is behind a or is private so search engines cannot go there. If you wish to know more this site has some good information: http://netforbeginners.about.com/cs/secondaryweb1/a/secondaryweb.htm

2. When you put your search term and click search what happens is that the search engine sends out data packages called spiders to crawl the network to find the information you are looking for. They then bring that information back and index it according to how relevant it is for your search. This site shows a good overview of what happens when you use Google to search the internet. Google: How search works

3 Different search engines can be useful depending on what you are searching for, for example Google scholar searches for journals and papers and is useful for researching, plus there are sites dedicated to just finding jobs in certain areas and fields etc. Also when you use a site, that has a search facility that only searches their site. So without realising it you are using probably using many other search engines as you look around the internet.
Using Google

As Google is the best known and most used I will give a little advice on searching on there to get good results.
It actually does help to know a few things on using Google to help you find the site you need. When you begin a search be as specific as you can be and once you have the results look at what you have and refine your search accordingly.  For example if you are looking for a chicken recipe put in the term: chicken recipes then if you need something for a dietary requirement put that in too. So chicken recipes could become gluten free chicken recipes, you might find that gets a lot of results so you may need to refine a little more. Depending on the results you get depends on how you refine maybe you get a lot of results from a specific country so could try to put in your country. Then your search term becomes gluten free chicken recipes UK. Maybe you find a nice ingredient in a recipe, pop that ingredient into your search term and search again. As you go along you will find you get more and more specific results to what you are looking for. Eventually you should get a list of sites that are more manageable to look at.

If there is something you do not want to come up in your searches then put a minus sign before it and Google will not return with pages with that word in.

Its best to keep your search term specific as Google doesn’t read words such as ‘and’ or ‘it’ in sentences. Nor does it read punctuation. However if you wish Google to search those terms you need to put quotation marks around them.  But be aware it will search each word on its own so will come up with a huge amount of results that might not be relevant.  If you wish Google to search the whole sentence as a whole, say a title for a book then you put quotation marks at the beginning or the end of the search term. This means you can be very specific about what you wish Google to search for. This page has some good and simple tips to get the best results. Google: Basic tips on searching

I hope these tips have been some help. Searching can be quite daunting if you have never done it before and next time I will go over some safety features on Google and other sites so we don’t get any sites that we don’t wish to see. Obviously as Christians we will come across things that we might not agree with or things that might be offensive as the world sees things very different to us. But the Lord understands and sees our hearts, He knows when we are searching for something that we shouldn’t be and if we have just come across something we didn’t want to find.

According to Google there are 60 trillion web pages on the internet and we know the Lord knows every single one of them, He knows who created it and what and who is looking at them, we cannot escape Him even here and He will protect us if we ask Him. The internet can be a great tool for us to glorify Him and learn about Him if used correctly and He will guide us on here like He does in all aspects of life. We must make sure what we look at is not damaging to our fellowship with Him or leads us to sin and the temptation can be very strong, but the word says if we resist the devil he will flee so take heart as you use the internet as the Lord knows your intentions and your weaknesses and He will help you.

 

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A Christians guide to the internet

Accessing (and Respecting) The Internet

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Whenever we go in to the internet and ask it to do something such as search or go on Facebook our device sends out requests through the network and will be directed were to go by servers etc. This can get a little complicated so I will try to go over it simply in the next post when I discuss searching the internet.

Accessing the internet now is a lot easier as each device has its own way of accessing the internet, if you are accessing at home you just need to put in the code that’s on your router into your device and it will access the internet for you.

⦁ A router is a the box that your internet provider sends you that you plug into your phone line, it basically works as a signal box for the information and tells it where to go in the first instance.

However as you are reading this I am going to assume you have got that far already so I wanted to share something that is worth remembering when you are on the internet.

Everything on the internet and everything we do on the internet takes up space. Everything we upload to the internet takes up space, everything we look at or download from the internet takes up space. It takes up space on our devices and our devices saves a snapshot of every site we access. The means of travel for the information whether it is a physical line or wireless also has a space limit. So as information passes back and forth that space can be taken up and slow things down. Whenever we access a site we are taking up space on their server as we access the information on their site and it is brought up on our screens (which is a form of downloading).

⦁ Uploading is when you put something onto the system i.e a photo you share on Facebook, downloading is when we save something from the system on to our device.

Every device has an address assigned to it called an IP address, so it  can access the internet. It also means that websites have access to that address. This is saved in a little data packet called a cookie. And our devices saves its own cookie from the sites we have visited that has in it the information of the site we accessed and date of when we accessed it.

I have mentioned this as it is worth knowing as the internet is not a limitless entity floating in space, it is being managed by millions of people and information is being passed everyday which is taking up space on all devices and the lines that the information is passing through. So if your internet is slow, it is worth checking what you are looking at and how many pages you have open. – There could be other reasons but that is worth remembering.

The internet is not infallible, there are real humans behind everything and mistakes are made often, things go wrong often and sometimes we just ask too much from the devices we have. We have access to all this information and as a result it is easy to take for granted the work that has gone into us having this tool at our fingertips.As we have traffic jams on the motorway we have information jams on the internet. I believe that if we are to use the internet for Gods glory we must respect it and all the work that people do so we have access to all this information and ways of communicating. I think the internet is wonderful and I am grateful for it!  It is tempting to get frustrated when things go wrong but we must be aware that there are real people behind everything on the internet and there is no difference between losing your temper at someone face to face or somewhere on here.

As Christians it is wise to remember that we are dealing with real people and whatever we say on the internet will be seen by real people. I will discuss this more but for now we must try to remember that we are witnesses for the Lord on the internet as we are in the world and that we should speak to others on there as we would in the world. We also have the knowledge from our Lord that every gift we have is a blessing and the internet is a gift. It is abused by many as is the world and that is also a great gift. So lets try to use the internet to be salt and light as we do in the world.
Thank you for reading and I hope this has been of some use to someone.

A Christians guide to the internet

What is the Internet?

This is the first post in the series A Christians Guide to the Internet. If you want to know what this is all about then please visit the introductory post here.
This first post covers how the internet began and what it actually is.
So, what is the Internet?
Put simply the internet is a network of various devices, computers, laptops, servers, phones, tablets and anything else that we use to access the internet all communicating and passing and sharing information to each other via phone lines or radio waves (WiFi). This happens in what is called small data packages that travels across the Phones lines or Wifi.
The physical network of devices (computers, laptops etc) is called the World Wide Web, the information that is accessible on the network is called the internet.
⦁ A network is a system of ‘things’ or people that are all interconnected. In this case ‘things’ i.e whatever we use to go on the internet with.
How it began
In 1989 Tim Berners-Lee discovered that he could get a computer to share information with a server (a storage device) and the World Wide Web was born.
⦁ A server is different to a computer as it is used for storing information and now they are also used to host sites on for the people who own and create the website. You can even buy your own server yourself if you have the money and the inclination to do so.
The internet came after then as more clever people came together and started to grow the network and how the information is accessed and shared and they built on what Tim Berners-Lee pioneered. And as more people add their own information and technology it has grown into the very large system we have today.
So obviously the internet has grown significantly over the years as we have millions of devices all over the world connected to this network. It is worth remembering that no one owns the internet, Tim Berners-Lee was very adamant that would not happen.  But people do own the physical space that information is hosted on (servers).
Lots of different companies hire out and sell this space for people to host their websites etc on. And really big companies such as Google and public services such as banks and government bodies have their own servers. The internet is layered in that way and has a lot of information that the public cannot access such as personal bank details etc. It is so vast now though and owned by so many people that the internet has become an entity that is hard to police or control by any government (not that they don’t try).
I think this is why some people can become overwhelmed but as you would not try to look at the world as a whole and try to understand all the tribes and cultures and government systems, you don’t need to look at the internet as a whole either. Just what you wish to use it for.
So some points to remember:

  • The internet is millions of devices all on a network communicating and passing information to each other.
  • The physical network system of devices is called the World Wide Web.
  • The information being passed, shared and stored is the internet.
  • The World Wide Web began by a discovery of being able to get a computer and a server to talk to each other and pass information down phones lines in little data (information) packets.
  • Wireless devices uses radio waves which we call wifi.
  • Nobody owns the internet, but many different people own the different servers used to host information on. Some of which the public can access some we can’t.
  • A server is usually what the information is hosted on. Which is a device used to store and host information on for those who have created the website.
  • A website is the name for whatever you visit on the internet to look or read such as this site ‘Spans Studio’ and the screen you are looking at is called a webpage.
  • Information travels in small data packages via phone lines or radio waves. – this too has a space limit as information takes up space.
  • The internet has a limit but is always being added to.

The internet has information on there that’s been added by millions of people all over the world, some good information, some not so much. Yet even with all that information at our fingertips it still isn’t anything compared to the knowledge God has, for He knows all. So as we search and share on the internet, remember God knows everything on there as well, who has posted it and why who has searched for it and why. And He will help us if we wish to use our time on there to glorify Him and learn His word.

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In the next post we will discuss accessing the internet.

Reference:
Wikipedia page on Tim Berners-Lee: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee

A Christians guide to the internet

A Christians Guide to the Internet – Introduction

A couple of years ago I wrote a short series about the internet specifically for Christians for a library website I was working on. It’s based on my experience of working for printed publications via the internet, courses I have taken through the OU about the internet and of course blogging on here since 2008. It’s very basic and I don’t claim to be an expert at all but it was something I felt burdened to write. The site that published this series has been taken down now and I was sent it to share here, I hope it blesses you!

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When used correctly the internet can be a great tool for Christians. It can be used to share your walk with Christ, as a research tool to aide you in your Bible studies and a way to connect with brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide. We can reach and help those in need now more than we have ever been able to thanks to the World Wide Web. You can also, should you wish, learn many skills here that can be dedicated to the Lord’s work.

Being on the internet as a Christian is no different to being in the world as a Christian. There are things that are not right in God’s eyes, lies are spread (very easily), there are many false preachers, people bully, argue and say cruel things to one another and crimes are committed. Sins are committed on here like they are in the world as it is used by real people with real lives. Does this mean we should avoid the internet? I don’t believe so and I don’t believe the Lord would have all of us avoid it for those reasons either. *

The internet is used by millions of people who do not know Jesus. Many people live their whole lives on here and many also have full careers on here. It is now an integral part of many peoples lives and they use it everyday for lots of different reasons. Being on the internet however doesn’t mean we should partake in anything that is ungodly or encourage others to do so. As we are to be in the world not of the world – the internet is no different – we must take responsibility, with the help of the Holy Spirit, of our time spent on the internet. This series however is not to tell anyone what to do while on the internet. How you choose to use the internet is between you and the Lord and He will protect your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus here as well as as anywhere you go.

It is my aim with this series to help anyone who wishes to spend time on the internet and is unsure of it to learn how it works. To share tips and tricks on on how to be safe, how to avoid seeing anything you don’t wish to see and how to find the sites that you wish to find and practice discernment in what you read. Plus I will share a few different ways to share your walk with the Lord from my experience of blogging and being on social networking sites for several years. A few years ago I did a short course on the how to use the internet plus a few on how to blog and I will be sharing the things I feel that are relevant now to help anyone learn about the internet.

This series is specifically for Christians (though if you aren’t and it helps you that is great) who wish to use the internet but don’t know how or have little confidence with technology and are weary of what they might find on it. I do not claim to be an expert but I am willing to share what little knowledge I have if it will help anyone in this area.

As always I would encourage anyone to go to the Lord for guidance, test everything with scripture and to do your own research. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your time on here and help you use it wisely and to protect your hearts and minds. And if there is anything I, or anyone else, shares that pricks your conscience – don’t do it. Trust the Lord to guide you and you can’t go far wrong.

I pray that this series blesses you and helps you feel a little more confident on using the internet for Gods glory. If you have any questions or would like me to do a post on anything then please use the contact form on this site.

*If the Lord has for whatever reason told you to not go on the internet, then this course is not for you, His word is final in your life and nothing I say here should be used to go against His wishes for the individual.