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Technophobes and the God of the Bible

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar.  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”  Genesis 11:3-4

In our post-modern world, mankind has taken many a great technological leap.  We can see vast distances across the universe and deep into the recesses of the earth.  We have harnessed the power within the atom.  We can even alter the human genome, the biological code that encapsulates our humanity.

Whether those are leaps forward or backward is a different issue.  Sometimes we eagerly anticipate the advent of a new technology, looking forward to the new opportunities it will bring to our lives.  Sometimes we are fearful of the impact those technologies may have –  particularly in the hands of those we do not trust.

Importantly, this is not an issue unique to our time.  In our text for today we see a scene from the earliest period of recorded history of human beings celebrating the invention of the brick.  Those ancient people could have used those bricks to build homes, shops, or shelters for their animals.  Instead, they decided to build a monument to their own arrogance, a tower to the heavens.

Any time there is a new technological advance, we, collectively, have to decide how we will use it.  Our powers can be used to produce human flourishing, ease suffering, and wisely shepherd God’s creation.  They can also be used to kill, maim, and destroy.

That question will forever be with us.  Every time we gain new powers we must decide whether to devote those to Him or to ourselves.  The encouraging thing about this text is, even in man’s misuse of His gifts, God does not leave us to our own devices.  He reaches down to mercifully save us from our own folly.  As the world changes faster and faster with each technological breakthrough, we can remain calm in the midst of the changes.  Not because we think we will use that technology well or wisely, but because we can trust in the Lord to safeguard us from ourselves.

Doing Christian the Hard Way

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”  Matthew 19:23-24.

There are a myriad of sources in popular Christian culture that will purport to help you in your Christian walk.  We have podcasts and blogs and web sites and even some old-fashioned books to assist us.  They are targeted at teens, mothers, fathers, Christian business people, cancer sufferers, and just about every demographic that will support a marketing budget.  The idea is that Christian discipleship is hard and we need some experts to help us make progress.

That idea will resonate with many of us.  We struggle to exercise the spiritual disciplines we know will make us grow stronger in the Lord.  They aren’t called disciplines for nothing.  They won’t do themselves.  It takes some work.

It turns out, they can take a lot less work than you might think.  The energy required to exercise a discipline is negatively correlated with one’s commitment to that discipline.  If you really ENJOY running in the early morning, it takes much less discipline to get your miles done.

The same element is in play in Christian disciplines at multiple levels.  Certainly, if you find a valid Bible translation that you enjoy reading, devotional reading is a lot easier to engage.  But its also true that the more reservations we carry into our pursuing spiritual disciplines, the harder they will be.

  • It is easy to not lie. It is much harder to not lie and yet have everyone perceive you exactly the way you would like to be perceived.
  • It is easy to not steal. It is much harder to not steal if you want to possess everything your heart desires.
  • It is easy to love God. It is impossible to love God while also loving yourself and the world.

The journey of becoming like Christ through sanctification gets way easier when you agree to leave behind all the baggage you are holding onto.  What in your life is making your Christian walk such a burden?  Are you angry at your parents or spouse about treatment you have received from them?  Are you jealous of someone who worked less hard than you but received more recognition?  Carrying all those burdens is doing Christian the hard way.

What would you be willing to let go?  It is your choice as to how you will travel but you will go much farther and much faster if you travel light.

The Long Tail of a Good Blessing

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”  Exodus 34:6-7

Last weekend I was at a family funeral.  The details are very significant but I confess I am not yet ready to write about those.  Perhaps they will be a topic for a future devotional.  What I can say is that I had an opportunity to ponder the nature of blessing in a new and important way.

We all know that when a business builds a new building or establishes a new product, it can inure not just to the benefit of the current shareholders and employees but to future ones as well.  I occupy an office that was built before I had ever heard of my university.  I once occupied an office that was built before I was born.

In the same way, when the Lord pours out His blessings on those who are willing to receive them, they can inure to future generations.  I have been blessed through gifts granted to my parents, my grandparents, and my great grandparents.  Likewise, when I receive a blessing from God now, I can pass on that blessing to my children and grandchildren.

Sadly, it can also work in reverse.  When I refuse an offering from God, I am refusing that blessing not just for myself, but possibly for many generations to follow.  If I refuse to grow in humility, to learn generosity, or to forgive freely, those same gifts may well be denied to those who follow me.  After all, they learn what I know, and I only know what the Lord has granted me to know.

Let us take seriously our place in history my friends.  It is one thing to harm our own futures by ignoring God’s call to justice or turning away from His requirement to love the least.  It is a much more significant act to withhold those same gifts from the many who may come after us.

Your Kingdom Come

This, then, is how you should pray:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.”  Matthew 6:9-10a.

It can be easy to be dismayed by all the evils of the world.  Last week alone there was news of 500 men and boys in Nigeria who had been falsely imprisoned and tortured.  It has been a particularly brutal hurricane season in the Caribbean with scores dead and thousands displaced.  There are literally billions of people living in what most of us would call poverty.

Our own efforts to resolve some of these ills seem to have done more harm than good.  Our medical advances have spawned an ever hastening war between viruses and immunizations to see which can mutate faster.  Our generous “aid” to many developing nations has deindustrialized their domestic industries.  At some point, we may have to admit we aren’t very good at saving ourselves.

We might well look to heaven in despair and wonder where Jesus is in the midst of it all.  His kingdom broke through into our world over 2000 years ago at the Nativity.  And yet, today, we can struggle to see His advance.

First, take comfort my friends.  Jesus said the kingdom is within you (Luke 17:21).  If it is within us, then we can take the fight to the Enemy with God alone as our ally.  Let His kingdom be your kingdom.  And let His kingdom come in your house:

  • Be kind to your family.
  • Sacrifice for your spouse.
  • Repent of your sin.
  • Speak the truth of God over your friends.
  • Share what you have with the less fortunate.

There is almost no end of ways that you can advance the kingdom without the help of anyone but the Spirit of God.

Your actions may not stop wars, halt climate change, or end racial discrimination.  But the Lord also said His kingdom was like leaven (Matthew 13:33).  Whatever you do to advance the Kingdom of God will spread.  Eventually the whole earth will be impacted by your simple acts of courage and obedience.  Let His kingdom come in you, my friends, and watch to see all that the Lord can do from simple obedience like ours.

The Power of Choice

Listen to me, you islands;
    hear this, you distant nations:
Before I was born the Lord called me;
    from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.  Isaiah 49:1

I remember when I was a young man interviewing my heart out for a position, then waiting weeks to hear from the company.  Eventually they let me know I was “not right for the job”.  It was demoralizing to say the least.  I have had many and better jobs since then, but I still remember the phone call when they told me I wasn’t chosen.

I had a good friend in high school who asked four different people to the prom but no one said yes.  He was heartbroken and more than a little embarrassed.  He didn’t go to the prom at all.  An older fellow he knew was kind enough to go out to dinner with him that night just so he wouldn’t have to stay at home by himself.  He was pretty crushed.

Most of us have experienced the disappointment of not being chosen.  It comes in all different forms and from lots of situations but the feeling is similar.  Do you remember what it feels like?

We react to not being chosen in a lot of different ways.  Sometimes it makes us angry and we wonder what was wrong with the employer, boss, friend, or whoever it was who didn’t choose us.  Sometimes it makes us sad and makes us wonder what is wrong with us.  It can last a few minutes or a lifetime.  Sometimes, in the best of times, it can be redeemed by being chosen – deeply, personally, completely chosen.

This is the good news my friends.  The Lord chose you.  You were not an accident of biology or a just another chapter in an endless evolutionary story.  The Lord above chose for you to be on this earth, just as much as He chose Adam and Eve.  No matter who in the world has passed over or rejected you.  The Lord God almighty chose you.  And that is enough.