How is Jesus Making a Difference in Our Lives? – Week #3: Technology

Read Psalm 24, John 13:31-35 here.

Listen here: 

Sociologist Daniel Bell said, “Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination.”[1]

  • Can you imagine life before someone figured out how to make fire?
    • All they had to eat was salad and sushi.
  • Can you imagine life before they invented the wheel?
    • It was such a drag.
    • Also, before the wheel, no restaurants delivered.

Technology is the use of knowledge to invent things and solve problems – the practical application of knowledge.[2]  So many inventions have changed our lives over the course of history.

What inventions are you most thankful for?

I am thank for anesthesia (invented in 1846 by Thomas Green Morton, Boston)[3]

Which inventions have most changed the world? The magazine The Atlantic asked a dozen scientists, historians, and technologists to rank the top innovations since the wheel. Here are the top twelve results:[4]

  1. Printing Press
    1. Woodblock printing (868, Chinese Monks)[5]
    2. Movable type (1377, Korean Monk Baegun)
    3. Mechanized ink transfer (1440, Johannes Gutenberg)
  2. Electricity (late 19th century)
  3. Penicillin (1928)
  4. Semiconductor Electronics (mid-20th century)
  5. Optical Lenses (13th century)
  6. Paper (2nd century)
  7. Internal Combustion Engine (late 19th century)
  8. Vaccination (1796, Edward Jenner (smallpox); but not until 1885, Louis Pasteur (rabies) widely used)
  9. Internet (1960s)
  10. Steam Engine (1712)
  11. Nitrogen Fixation (1912, Fritz Haber)
    1. A chemical process that paved the way for many inventions, including creation of fertilizer
  12. Sanitation Systems (mid-19th century)

Why are we talking about technology in church today? Because everything we have and everything we are comes from God, and our relationship with technology affects our relationship with God and with one another.  As impersonal as technology may seem, it is inspired by God, created by people, used by people, and it affects people.  It can be used for good, or for evil.  It can help us, even helping us draw closer to God, or get between us and God.

How does knowing Jesus make a difference in this part of our lives?

Knowing Jesus makes a difference in why we create, how we create, and what we create.

Psalm 24 says:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
    the world, and those who live in it;
 for he has founded it on the seas,
    and established it on the rivers.

The earth is the Lord’s.  He founded it.  This is God’s creative and sustaining power at work.[6] God made the world and filled it with plants and trees and birds and animals and people.

Adam Copeland, author of this week’s chapter in our small group book Beyond the Offering Plate says, “Without God, not only would computers not exist, we and all the world would not exist. God spoke creation into being, and we owe everything to God.”[7]

We are made in the image of God.  We are reflections of GodThat’s why we are inspired to create.  God made us with brains that use creative thought to solve problems and find new ways to do things, and even find new things to do.  What we create and how we create it is influenced by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  That’s why Paul said in Ephesians 2:10 that “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” and why C.S. Lewis said, “There are no ordinary people.”[8]  We have the extraordinary creative power of God working through us, inspiring us to find ways to make the world a better place.

Knowing Jesus makes a difference in how we use what we have created.  The Holy Spirit is with us helping us to use technology with integrity.

Our ability to abide in the presence of God is connected to how well we keep ourselves fit for being in God’s presence. [9]   God is with us, but we hide from God when we are feeling guilty, just like Adam and Eve did when they ate the apple. Psalm 24 was likely used as a call to worship, a call to come into God’s presence.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
    who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
    and do not swear deceitfully. –Psalm 24:3-4

Coming with clean hands and pure heart means that we do our best to turn away from sin, and that we confess our sin and accept God’s forgiveness.  In Jesus’ time, the entrance to the temple had ritual baths in which worshipers would cleanse themselves before approaching.[10]

GTY_holy_water_baptism_jt_130914_16x9_992Today some churches have the baptismal font by the entrance to the sanctuary so that worshippers can touch the water, and make the sign of the cross over themselves, remembering their baptism and the grace of Jesus Christ that brings us forgiveness.[11]

Who may come into God’s presence?  Psalm 24 says “those who do not lift their souls to what is false.” This is referring to worshipping idols.  It literally says “not lifting up their souls to emptiness.”[12]  We lift up our souls to emptiness when we put our trust in something other than God, like money or technology or ourselves.  These things give us a false sense of security and control. How might we be lifting our souls up to emptiness?

Technology brings us new opportunities and new pitfalls.  I was talking with a mom recently about the challenges of limiting access to televisions that can go on the internet, a problem that didn’t exist yet when my kids were young.  Not that we didn’t have challenges.  They were just different challenges.

We complain today that everybody walks around with their attention focused on the screens on their phones.  It turns out that’s nothing new.  We’ve just found new ways to do it.

Standing Room OnlyThis picture is from a train in 1955.  The caption complained that everyone had their nose in a newspaper.

Technology that starts out with good intentions can turn into something bad, especially if we’re not careful.

BBT1.jpgThe sitcom Big Bang Theory[13] is about seven people who live in Pasadena, California. Five of them work at Caltech. Two are physicists, one is an astrophysicist, one is an aerospace engineer.  When they’re sitting around their apartment talking, the conversation often turns to matters of science, and one day they hit on an idea for a quantum vortex gyroscope guidance system.  As they get to work on developing this gyroscope, they’re imagining how they can use it to explore the universe for the betterment of mankind.  The military hears about it and wants to fund the research.  This is good in some ways, but will mean they can’t sell it commercially.  It will also mean the military will own the technology, which makes them hesitate.

BigBangTheoryHoward, the engineer, tells the colonel that’s come to make the deal: “… you should know we’re a little concerned about this being used in weapons.”  The colonel replies, “Oh, well, let me put your mind at ease. What we use it for is none of your business.”[14]

There are lots of positive uses of technology.  I learned this week that there’s a new way for people to monitor their blood sugar that doesn’t require pricking one’s fingers several times a day.[15]

Another amazing feat of health technology was the mapping of the human genome that was completed in 2003.[16]  As a result of this, doctors are now able to test for genetic defects and treat them much more effectively.  A similar technology enabled us to develop tests that show how to attack diseases that mutate.  AIDS is one of those diseases that adapts quickly and develops resistance to medicine, but with the right tests, doctors can see what has changed, and adjust the treatment.  Effective treatment not only helps the person who has AIDS, but also makes it less likely to spread to other people.[17]

These are just some of the ways that we use technology to serve God, as we use technology to solve problems, to help each other, and to love one another.  And loving one another is what we are commanded to do, as we read today in John 13.

In John 13 we read just a little bit of Jesus’ last teaching to the disciples.  Jesus is eating the Passover meal with his disciples. This is the last evening he will spend with them, because he will be arrested this very night. He’s just washed their feet, demonstrating that he’s not just their leader, he’s also their servant.  He tells them:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35

Just as I have loved you.  Jesus has just washed their feet, demonstrating the depth of sacrifice he’s encouraging them to make. Foot washing was the most menial task, so menial it was often saved for Gentile slaves to do.[18] If Jesus, who was not only their teacher and lord, but also the son of God, is willing to go to this depth to serve others, how much more should we be willing to serve others.

jesuschrist1-2xJesus death on the cross demonstrates even further how Jesus calls us to a life of sacrifice

  • So when Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you ought to love one another,” he is saying, “with the same kind of self-sacrificing attitude that I have.” And remember that Jesus sacrificed himself to the ultimate degree, enduring one of the most painful deaths possible, death on a cross.

On our own we do not have the capacity for this kind of love.  We can try and succeed for a time but we fall short.

  • We renew our capacity for love, we are made able to love beyond our own abilities when we turn to God, who is the source of our love: We love because he first loved us. –1 John 4:19

The witness of love

  • Jesus adds further explanation of the value of obeying this commandment to love one another as he has loved us when he says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples.”
  • Love is our witness. Not just average love, but God’s love, the love Jesus demonstrated
    1. Love that is willing to put ourselves aside in service to others.
    2. This is how we show the world what God is like.

This is how we glorify God and enjoy his love in us—by letting it flow through us to the world around us.

How would Jesus use technology?  Pastor & Author Joel Mayward considers this in a piece he wrote for Christianity Today: “Why didn’t [God] wait until television, when he could have done a two-hour evening special on how much he cares for us and desires relationship with us? Certainly he knew the Internet was coming—he could have created a Facebook account and given us constant updates on his love for us through his statuses, sharing special nuggets of inspirational verses and catchphrases through his Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr accounts.”[19]

Maybe God has left it to us to do this instead. Are we making use of all the tools available to us to help the world know how Jesus makes a difference?  To tell the world how much God loves us?

This past week was National Suicide Prevention week.[20]  Technology is helping to prevent suicide in a variety of ways.  One is that we are talking about suicide on social media, and encouraging people to get help.  There were lots of posts this past week that included the national suicide hotline phone number 800-273-TALK.  Facebook has implemented new technology to find posts that indicate someone is suicidal.  The technology sends alerts to a crew of Facebook monitors who then alert local first-responders who then go to the person.[21] It’s a wonderful way to use technology for good and to love one another.

There are lots of ways we too can use the tools that we have to do all we can to help all the people we can, to show and tell the world that Jesus loves us and makes a difference in our lives.

We need to continually check ourselves, and ask ourselves…Is technology helping us in our relationship with God and the people around us, or has it become an idol, something we trust more than we trust God?

  • How is technology shaping us for discipleship, witness, and service——positively and negatively?[22]

The world has changed so much, and it will keep on changing.

As people created in the image of God, we can’t help but find new ways to do things, new ways to serve one another, and new ways to worship our amazing God.

With Jesus help, we can use the amazing creative power of technology for the good of the world.

We will sometimes fail, but because of Jesus there is grace.  This amazing grace is why we’re here, and why we’re talking about how Jesus is making a difference in our lives.

Thanks be to God.

—————–

[1] Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/daniel_bell_177480

[2] Merriam Webster https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/technology

[3] http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1676-24442009000400001&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/11/innovations-list/309536/#list

[5] https://www.livescience.com/43639-who-invented-the-printing-press.html

[6] Gerald Wilson, NIV Application Commentary: Psalms Vol.1 (Zondervan), pg. 448

[7] Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship (pp. 51-52). Presbyterian Publishing. Kindle Edition.

[8] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, as quoted here: https://tifwe.org/cs-lewis-imagination-creativity/  accessed September 16, 2018.

[9] Wilson, pg. 449. “The stability and security of the creation cannot be isolated from right relationship with God.”

[10] Wilson, pg. 450.

[11] Kristopher Seaman, “Why Do We Bless Ourselves with Holy Water upon Entering the Worship Space?” accessed at http://pastoralliturgy.org/resources/0901ReproRsrc.pdf September 14, 2018

[12] שָׁוְא shav means emptiness, vanity https://biblehub.com/hebrew/7723.htm

[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Bang_Theory

[14] https://bigbangtrans.wordpress.com/series-10-episode-02-the-military-miniturization/

[15] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/fda-approves-first-blood-sugar-monitor-without-finger-prick/

[16] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Genome_Project

[17] https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/staying-in-hiv-care/provider-visits-and-lab-test/lab-tests-and-results

[18] Gary Burghe, NIV Application Commentary: John (Zondervan), 369.

[19] http://colehuffman.com/home/posts/jesus-tech

[20] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Suicide_Prevention_Week

[21] https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/27/facebook-ai-suicide-prevention/

[22] Adam Copeland, Beyond the Offering Plate: A Holistic Approach to Stewardship (p. 61). Presbyterian Publishing. Kindle Edition.

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