I have a new cell phone–an Android Galaxy Note 3 which is an amazing machine. I’m about to upgrade my laptop to a Hewlett Packard Spectre that can do one thousand times what my original computer did for one third of the price.
I’m going to send this blog all over the world via the Internet which didn’t exist when I was in high school. It only takes a few keystrokes and VOILA! My writings circle the globe in less than ten seconds.
These new contraptions are incredible tools, but as Bill O’Reilly has pointed out recently, they can be extremely addicting, distracting, and destructive to our spiritual health.
We may want to ask ourselves the question: Do I want electronic life or eternal life? (Or both.)
Even the secular media is getting the idea that people are getting addicted to the machines, especially impacting kids and parents. Here’s an April 22, 2014 article by Kate Raddatz of CBS Minneapolis:
“Researchers at the Boston Medical Center observed 55 different groups of parents and young children eating at fast food restaurants. The study found the majority pulled out their mobile devices right away, and, in turn, their kids tended to act up more.”
“’It’s just normal childhood behavior,’ said parenting coach Toni Schutta. ‘If I can’t get your attention in a positive way, I’m going seek it in a negative way.’”
“Suzanne Ferguson, of Minneapolis, said she and her husband used to be smartphone addicts, checking their emails around their kids.”
“‘We were the couple that would go out to eat at dinner and both be on our own phones before we had kids,’ she said. ‘We’re very much attached to our phones.’”
“Schutta says parents spend, on average, 11 hours a day using electronic devices. All that time takes away from face to face communication which helps kids learn behavior.”
“’Kids in preschool and kindergarten are no longer as able to read social cues from other human beings,’ Schutta said. ‘That’s in part because of their own media use and it’s in part because of their parents’ media use, they’re just not getting that training.’”
“Too much time on technology can also leave an emotional impact on your child, if you’re missing life moments for email.”
“’We get such a limited amount of time with our kids in the day, we need meaningful conversations,’ Schutta said.” Ferguson said once her daughter starting talking, it was the kick she needed to kick her phone habit.”
“’Dinner is a good time to have family time, so trying to keep the phone as much as possible away,’ she said.”
Of course, the machine craze goes way beyond family life. Driving while texting is probably the biggest new problem on the freeways, and electronic addiction to endless video games (let alone pornography) are driving down our productivity.
Interestingly, the Bible said this explosion of knowledge (via the machines) would come one day.
Daniel 12:4 sounds like 2014: “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Doesn’t that remind you of our fast-paced society and the reams of information we must now process each day?
Yes, we are living in a day of abundant travel (running to and fro) and increased knowledge (the Information Age). But have we stopped to ponder what it might do to ourselves, our families, and our souls? What is the godly response to the dawn of an age aggressively molded by information and technology?
First of all, let’s look at the positive. The Bible says that “knowledge is power” (Proverbs 24:5). Thus the use of fiber optics, high speed airplanes, the Internet. etc. can all be used to empower the Christ’s Good News to spread throughout the earth. This is certainly God intention: To use this age to increase the knowledge of His Son in all the nations of the world.
And it is happening. I can e-mail or SKYPE missionary friends all over the world and plan evangelistic initiatives in a matter of minutes. That used to take two weeks of postal delivery–or three-to twelve months to deliver by boat–or it wasn’t possible at all.
Technology has changed all that.
What about travel? In the 1990s alone, Our King’s Kids missionaries flew over six million miles and preached Jesus to hundreds of thousands of people. Why? Technology.
When you look at the great missions advance of the past fifty years (hundreds of millions of people coming to Christ on every continent of the world), there is no question in anyone’s mind that technological advances have played a great part in the harvest.
And the best and greatest still lies ahead. I chronicle that in my book The Fourth Wave.
But there is a negative side also. Much of today’s media is in the hands of ungodly people or institutions that are discipling the planet with it, and only a small perecentage is being consciously used to advance God’s kingdom.
A recent article almost glowingly looks at the most unifying part of that techno advance–The Internet–with these sobering words:
“We’re at the beginning of a new way of working, shopping, playing and communicating. We’re calling this phenomenon e-life, and it’s just in time. Because the day is approaching when no one will describe the digital, Net-based, computer-connected gestalt with such a transitory term. We’ll just call it life.”
E-life. Interesting term. Of course they mean electronic life, but there’s another phrase that comes to my mind: eternal life. In the article’s paradigm, electronic life is the very future itself–life. Are we preparing the world to accept the Information Age as the true heaven–a worldly substitute for relationship with God (which Jesus said was eternal life)?
I fear so, and I don’t want a part of it. This planet, wired to the hilt without God, is already hell. Can you imagine what the evil use of technology could create on earth in the coming decades?
Technology is only a tool, but used improperly it can easily become a master (think atomic bombs). Or an idol. Or a substitute for God. I believe that one of Satan’s quiet strategies is to lull us into believing that technology can be a meaningful God replacement.
Ponder this E-life substitute for friendship with the Living God:
1. Movies can be a substitute for God’s omnipotence. Instead of marveling at God’s REAL voice speaking from heaven during Moses’ time, you go into a movie theater and see actors whose heads are fifteen feet high, whose voices boom in Dolby stereo, and appear to have the power to do anything (the story line allows).
2. Television and radio can be a substitute for God’s omnipresence. They’re everywhere–always babbling away. They’re on in many homes 18-24 hours a day. Every airport you travel trough has TV monitors at each gate and in most restaurants. When you need comfort, companionship, or stimulation, or just to pass the time–where do you turn? The TV knob. It even makes a great babysitter for the kids.
3. The Internet can be a substitute for God’s omniscience. It’s the place to go for all knowledge. Right now there are over 2 billion world-wide users. There are hundred of thousands of pornographic sites and they get more hits than Netflix–corrupting the human heart at the click of a button. 160 million Americans use e-mail. On our favorite machines–the cell phone–you can chat, buy food, pay bills, watch movies, or whatever you like, and spend hours a day looking at an impersonal screen. Hours of prayer have given way to hours of texting and surfing.
A wired, fast-as-a-bullet world has captured our hearts, time, attention, family life, and pocket books (ever count up the money you spent on technology in the past few years?). In some ways, it is becoming our god (what you give your time and supreme attention to).
While using technology for the noble purposes of advancing God’s Kingdom, how can we keep ourselves unstained by the god-substituting lust of the e-world? Which do you enjoy more: The wonders of e-life, or the hope of eternal life? Or can you have both?
Here are my encouragements during this Daniel 12:4 time period:
- Use all machines to learn, grow, and love those God has put in your life.
- Spend more time in prayer, Bible-reading, book reading, and worship than you do fingering keyboards and touchscreens.
- Keep the machines out of sight when you’re with family and friends–especially during meals.
- Never use the machines for evil. Stay away from all the bad stuff.
- Use your electronic life to advance God’s kingdom and fulfill the Great Commission.
- Shut off the machines more and listen to God. Take walks. Meditate in the silence. Long for His voice more than the chatter of a multitude of human voices.
And more than anything, never enjoy your e-life more than you long for eternal life.
You can have both–but one is a grain of sand and the other is an unending ocean of relational delights.