In the late 90s, I destroyed my first computer. I’m not exactly sure what I did to it, but I know that taking it apart and putting it back together didn’t fix the little blinking cursor on an otherwise blank screen. A few years prior, I saw for the first time a computer play a video from a disc. Now, the marvel of technology in my own bedroom with a CD-Rom, file folder structure, and a program for restitching MIDI files too large for a single 1.44 MB floppy disk was dead. I had recently been adopted into a better living situation by older parents who thought a computer would benefit me. But, they sure didn’t know how to fix it—nor how to even turn it on. A computer repairman said it was done. Thus began my fascination with technology.
Later, we went to Circuit City and bought a newer model. This one had something called the Internet. We signed a plan with CompuServe, and I picked out my first email address; it contained “23” as an homage to Michael Jordan. And as a kid takes off the training wheels when learning to balance, I soon after bought a Windows XP Home Edition upgrade disc and felt unleashed. We later upgraded from a dial-up connection to 1MB cable internet, and I can still visualize how the MSN homepage loaded without delay. Over the years, I returned to Circuit City and purchased more of these amazing tools: for example, a Sony Clié personal digital assistant, a USB thumb drive (that held an enormous 128MB for only $149—what a deal), and a digital camcorder… All was well until I was invited to an event at BJU. There on display in the bookstore was an Apple iMac G4, still one of the most iconic and masterfully designed computers ever made. Thus began my fascination with Apple technology.
Where was God in all of this? At that point, I had been a Christian for less than two years. It was fall 2002, and I was taking night classes at a small Bible college in Greenville and working the third shift at Ryobi. I was almost always completely alone for at least 5–6 hours a night in a 500,000 square foot building. These were the circumstances that formed my fascination with using technology (and enjoying using technology) for God’s glory.
At the beginning of 2003, I used my new college student discount to buy an education bundle that included a laptop and something in a new category of devices called an iPod. In the slow and dead hours of third shift, I used my time to learn an entirely new operating system and work on college assignments. In the calmness of the midnight hours, I would listen to sermons on my iPod as I walked outside around the Ryobi property. At the beginning of 2004, some people in church donated some money so that I could start a 15-minute weekly program at our local AM radio station. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do: to give a new Christian attending a fundamentalist college a voice to say whatever was on his mind across the airwaves every Friday at 5pm. It wasn’t much, but it was what I had, and I wanted to give it to God. I read in a technology magazine about a new way people could download MP3 files on demand using RSS feeds called “podcasting.” The radio programs were already in MP3 format when I recorded them, so I used a template and taught myself the bare basics of writing an RSS file and creating a podcast in 2005. I was fascinated, absolutely filled with child-like wonder.
So at the beginning of 2005, alone at work in the middle of the night, I could listen to sermons from a pastor in Florida while walking under the stars. I could read the Bible and search for words in MacSword. With a microphone and SoundStudio, this little kid on nightshift could talk about the Bible. And with an RSS file with MP3 attachments, people beyond the AM radio signal could listen if they wanted to—the family in Indiana who blessed us with a gift for our marriage, the mother who recently miscarried in Wisconsin, the mother raising three children in West Virginia, the man in Oregon who donated web server space, and a pastor in Fresno… maybe the format was so new that the options were pretty limited. But like the lad with the fish and the loaves, I gave to Jesus what I had—a love for him and a desire to use technology for him—and he blessed it.
It was my feeble attempt to get in on what seemed to be a revolution in how digital media was being delivered and consumed. Life was simple, technology was changing, the spare room in our apartment was my computer room, and I had little knowledge of the Bible and little knowledge of how computers actually worked. Eventually, the local radio station closed, the podcast stopped, life got busy, and the handful of people who subscribed no longer heard me 15 minutes a week—the USB mic I bought for the radio program has been idly stashed in my desk drawer for nearly a decade.
I obviously didn’t change the world (or my tiny town), but a new love for Jesus and an interest in technologies for the new millennium changed me. And without even realizing it, I think it was Jesus teaching me that I can find his fingerprints everywhere—even in operating systems, beautifully designed electronics, RSS and XML feeds, website design software, MP3 sermons, and an email folder to keep correspondence with people who told me thank you and to keep going.
Spiritually and technologically, it is the most sentimental time of my life. This paper, written as an assignment in biblical theology, will surely not start any academic flames. But, perhaps God can use it to rekindle the spark of wonder I had years ago, that he cares about how we might live all parts of our life for his glory. For those who think it may be too technological and less biblical, I’ll blame that on my lack of biblical knowledge—I can’t even read the Greek or Hebrew behind our beautifully typeset English Bibles. For those who think it may be too biblical and not enough bits and bytes, I’ll blame that on my lack of technological knowledge—I have no understanding of the code behind our beautiful graphical user interfaces. And if anyone wonders why someone with little understanding of both the Bible and technology wants to write something about how both come together, that is because I never want to lose my child-like sense of wonder as I wander through this world marveling at all the ways the Creator has interwoven doctrine and data, theology and technology in such beautiful, biblical, and innovative ways.