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Is Technology Sinful?... Wrong Question

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James Kelly, Founder and Director of FaithTech - (faithtech.com: a growing movement of Jesus-followers and spiritual explorers who are interested in all things faith and technology) - wrote this excellent and insightfully relevant blog post recently. James says:

I once had a friend ask me, “Are video games sinful?” In classic fashion, I asked a question back: “what do you think?” His answer surprised me:

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. Maybe it’s a Hebrews 12 type thing.” A Hebrews 12 type thing? Never heard of that.

Lay Aside Every Weight and Sin

My friend was referring to Hebrews 12:1-3:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The context of Hebrews 12 is important. The “cloud of witnesses” refers to the great men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 that set the example of how one should run with perseverance the race marked out for them. They were defined by their faith. Not for purely avoiding sin, but for living for God and others. For taking risks for the Lord. For running with God.  

The power behind Hebrews 12 is that a Christ-follower’s framework for morality is not, “is it sinful?” The proper framework is, “does it help me run with Jesus?

So now the question is Does technology bring us closer to or further from Jesus?

A Mirror Into Tech Consumption

Have you seen Black Mirror? I felt a particular pull to watch the show because of my role leading FaithTech. It was intriguing — and, at times, terrifying! — to see a dystopian vision of futuristic technology and the way it can shape us. It certainly gave me pause!

But I can tell you this: I did not walk away from Black Mirror more holy. I was not more pure.

But why was I watching?

Was it to pass the time? Was it to numb my pain? Was it to blindly follow culture? If so, did the show help me run with Jesus and make me more holy?

No. But maybe it could have.

I could have chosen to watch Black Mirror grounded in prayer, asking Christ to reveal the cultural idolatry found in this parable. If my purpose in watching was to better equip myself to speak and live wisely in our culture, then Black Mirror would have helped me run with Jesus.

A New Phrase

Now, some of you may be thinking to yourselves, Aren’t we supposed to be “in the world, but not of the world?” Christians like to use this phrase, and it comes from passages like John 8:22-24, 15:19, and 1 John 4:5. However, I think this phrase can be misleading to a lot of Christians - making us believe we are placed in this world, but must retreat away from it.

So let’s consider another passage from John: John 17:14–19. On the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Father:

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

What this passage says is that we are to be grounded in the word and set apart in truth, but Jesus says we are to be sent into the world! That is profound. We are not retreating from the world, but going directly into it.

The phrase should not be, “in the world, not of the world?” The phrase should be, “not of the world, but sent into the world.”

With this framework, we can use technology to better send us into the world, as long as we are checking our hearts. As long as we are thinking deeply and critical on why we are engaging with technology.

Reflecting on the Right Questions

Forget “Is technology sinful?”

Is it making us more like Jesus? Is it helping us be a better witnesses of the truth?

Take a look at your life, your technology use, your habits, your use of spare time, your connections with friends and family, your work. What areas can you reexamine with this lens? In which areas can you lay aside weights that are preventing you from running your race?

It is time for a new framework for making decisions. You are not of the world, but sent into the world.

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The Power of Blessing - Part 5

The Power of Blessing - Part FIVE

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Continuing our focus on the 7 Stages of Blessing, we have reached the 4th stage, namely Early Childhood.

At Conception (1) the question is: "Am I welcome in this world?"

During Pregnancy (2) the question to be answered is: "Is there a safe place for me in the world?" 

At Birth (3) the question is: "Will my needs be met in this world?"

Now at stage 4, Early Childhood the question to be answered is: "Who Can I Trust in this world?" 

Jesus told the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them," Mark 10:13-16. A look, a touch and a meaningful word from Jesus brought so much to these young children. Their lives were affirmed by their very Creator. Jesus' disciples wanted the kids out of the way. In response, Jesus was "indignant" (to be angry over injustice) and said, "Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them." A child's honour is not determined by their age or abilities and they need to be affirmed of this.  Do children need to be taught how to internalize right and wrong which leads to good behaviour? A thousand times yes.  "For pre-school to pre-teen children, being corrected without being affirmed produces a feeling of rejection; it curses rather than blesses," says Terry Bone author of "The Power of Blessing."   (more to be said about this soon)

 

A Blessing on a Young Child may look like this:

* We bless your early childhood, that you may learn to trust everyone who has godly authority in your life.

* We bless your play times, that you may learn and grow to your full potential. May you be kept safe at all times.

* We bless your mental development, that nothing would hinder the growth of your mind to its full potential.

* We bless the development of your will, that you may be shaped in wisdom and love by those who lead in your life. May you learn to make wise choices in every life decision.

* We bless your spiritual journey, that you would understand and experience what it means to walk with God at a young age.

* We bless your family relationships, that you would discover and enjoy a sense of belonging in a family that loves you. May you be kept safe from accidental emotional injury and improper discipline.

* We bless your school experiences. May school be a safe place for you to learn and to grow. May school leaders and teachers recognize and encourage your gifts and talents.

* We bless your friendships. May you be guided to make wise choices in every relationship outside your family circle.

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The Power of Blessing - Part 4

The Power of Blessing - Part FOUR

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As we focus on the 7 Stages of Blessing, we have reached the 3rd stage, namely Birth.

At Conception (1) the question is: "Am I welcome in this world?" During Pregnancy (2) the question to be answered is: "Is there a safe place for me in the world?"  Now, at Birth (3), the question is: "Will my needs be met in this world?"

When a gentleman named Simeon blessed 8 day old Jesus in Luke 2:34, it says: "Then Simeon blessed them and said, 'This child is destined to...'" What amazing words! Every child is destined to be and to do. In fact, Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary's cousin Elizabeth had blessed Jesus while unborn in the womb. Then a couple of seniors, Simeon and Anna blessed Jesus days after his birth, speaking identity and destiny over infant Jesus.

Why? Why was Jesus blessed as an infant? Why should any newborn be blessed? At the moment a child is born, all five senses are active (unless there is a limitation) and billions of brain cells are processing information. Additionally, the unseen spirit of a baby is alive and active. Life questions continue to be reinforced: Am I welcome? Is there a safe place for me? Will my needs be met? As a child is touched and held and fed and spoken to, physical and emotional needs for belonging and acceptance are being met. These are foundational for emotional health later in life - scripture and science agree on this point!

A child is given a name or names at birth. Names are deeply bound to a person's identity. Just as Jesus' name was given to Him to life-purpose His identity and destiny as "God who saves," so to the names of newborns at birth. The gift of a name is part of blessing.

A Blessing on a Newborn may look like this:

* We bless you as you enter this world. You are our deeply loved daughter/son.

* We bless the day of your birth. May you always know that your needs will be met through God's resources.

* We bless your gender. You were created to become a wo/man according to God's design.

* We bless your birth order in the family you were given. May the timing of your arrival and the relationships with family members and friends be used by God to shape you according to God's will.

* We bless your spiritual journey. May you be spiritually protected from harm and deception and may you be surrounded by a faith community that will help you grow in deep relationship with God.

* We bless your emotional and cognitive growth as you begin to process the world around you. May your ears and eyes be guarded by those who care for you until you can make good choices.

* We bless your name. May God lead your life and may your name be suited to your identity and destiny. May God's purpose for your name be revealed and fulfilled as you grow.

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The Power of Blessing - Part 3

The Power of Blessing - Part THREE

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We are continuing to focus on the 7 Stages of Blessing. At Conception, the question to be answered is: "Am I welcome in this world?" During Pregnancy the question is: "Is there a safe place for me in the world?"

Mothers have the special honour of being co-creators with God as a little being - who is an eternal soul - is formed within her. The baby in it's mother's womb needs to feel that "I am in a safe place and that there are people who love me and welcome me into the world."

Psalm 139:13-16 in the Message says: "Lord You formed me in my mother's womb. Body and soul, I am marvellously made. You know me inside and out, You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, You watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before You." (Also see Luke 1:26-56, the story of Mary & Elizabeth and their pre-born childrens' interaction and blessing as recorded by Dr. Luke.)

A Blessing on a Pre-born Child may look like this:

* We bless your pre-born days. You are being uniquely crafted and specifically designed on purpose, with purpose, for God's purposes.

* We bless the formation of your body. God is working in secret on you while you wait to be introduced into the world (Psalm 139:13-15).

* We bless your emotional life. May you understand in your spirit and mind that God will always provide a place for you; a place of refuge on this earth from the forces that set themselves against you and a place in Heaven that Jesus has prepared for you. Your Daddy and Mommy love you. May God's perfect love displace any fears in your spirit while you wait to be born.

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