Technology & The Christian World: Are They Compatible?

by Ben Ditzel

In the Biblical New Testament, Christians are told to do all things to the glory of God. Through discussing about certain behaviours in people, Paul widens the spectrum to ‘all things’ in the final passage of the admonishment. ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor. 10:31). ImageIn today’s culture, many Christians, rooted in tradition and fear of the unknown, have grown to an adverse perspective of all technology and resent everything it represents. They firmly clutch onto their paper and ink Bibles, their notebook paper and pen, and hide in a dark room, angry at the advancing world. However, this technology, like almost everything known to man today, can be used to harm or help. It can be used for evil or good.

Technology, in and of itself, is no more evil than the Gutenberg printing press that scores of traditional Christians in its day, shouted in anger over, for fear it would make oral traditions die and enable peasant Christians to damn themselves with misinterpretations of the newly mass-printed Bibles. But, with everything, there is a moderation factor; a point at which, for Christians, God still comes first at all times. Arthur Boers, in his book Living Into Focus, has this to say about technology in today’s lifestyle. ‘Though some have opted to “live off the grid” and find the lifestyle rewarding, my point is not that we should abandon contemporary technology and naively take on previous hardships and all become — using familiar biblical terminology — “hewers of wood and drawers of water.” Nor do I believe we should pine after the “good old days”’ (16). He goes on to define that he desires that Christians ought not to openly embrace all forms of technology either. Rather, there ought to be a searching out and discernment as to which new thing is profitable and which has no edification value. (16-17)

Many Christian ascetics, when trying to find a Scripture that will prove their point that God’s people should smite ‘these modern gadgets’, use Daniel 12:4 as an intriguing reference. ‘But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.’ However, in The MacArthur Study Bible, Pastor John MacArthur has this to say about this reference which lays their claims to ruin. ‘“Go back and forth”…refers to the movement of a person searching for something. In the tribulation, people will search for answers to the devastation and discover increased knowledge through Daniel’s preserved book’ (1223). So, it seems that this increased wisdom that so many claim to be such advancements as the internet, smartphones, or even the increased number of books by way of the printing press is not speaking about technology at all. Rather it speaks of the knowledge found in the book of Daniel that is revealed when the prophecies begin to be fulfilled.  John E. Goldingay’s Word Biblical Commentary on Daniel expresses much the same view. ‘Daniel is to “close up” and “seal” (the book): the expressions suggest not merely conserving them but withholding them. This is confirmed by the next words: because they are withheld, “many will hurry to and fro,” unable to find a word from God’ (309). So, where does this fear of technology stem from? Where do Christians back up their ignorant claims that the newest piece of technology will adversely ruin a traditional or cultural standard that has been around for centuries? Apart from the occasional Amish styled Christian or the believer who simply will not have any of today’s conveniences because he learned how to do things the proper way, there is a possible explanation for why many followers of Christ have a fear of modern advancement in lifestyles. In Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid? he relates how, historically, there have been other events that contemporaries of that time felt were tragic.

‘In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” (Carr)

History has proven to us that Socrates was in error in his conception of how forgetfulness would occur. However, it is up to the individual to decide whether writing has filled them with the conceit of wisdom or not.

Richard Seed, a physicist in Illinois, made national headlines when, in 1998, he asserted that he was going to experiment more with human cloning and social repercussions associated with it. David Noble accounts the story in his book The Religion of Technology.

‘Entirely ignored in all the clamour, however, was the religious rationale at the core of Seed’s defiant declaration, which in his view, placed his project above social concerns. “God made man in his own image,” Seed explained in a January 7th interview on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. “God intended for man to become one with God. We are going to become one with God. We are going to have almost as much knowledge and almost as much power as God. Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in becoming “‘one with God.”’’ (vii)

So perhaps there is some rhyme and reason to this nervousness that is causing God’s people to bite their nails whenever the technology report comes on the television.

Sadly, Richard Seed is not alone in his arrogant and blasphemous declarations and views. Numerous scientists and companies have signed onto this mad rush for what seems to be only that of a race to achieve the accomplishments that only God can attain.  In the book of Revelation, chapter 13, verses 15-17 say regarding the end times, ‘And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.’ In his commentary on Revelation, John MacArthur again writes, ‘The false prophet will animate the image of Antichrist so that it gives the appearance of being alive. With today’s amazing special effects technology and robotics, that is not out of the realm of possibility’ (62). And again in Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, he writes regarding this mark, ‘It is made a qualification for buying and selling, as well as for places of profit and trust, that they oblige themselves to use all their interest, power, and endeavour, to forward the dominion of the beast, which is meant by receiving his mark. To make an image to the beast, whose deadly wound was healed, would be to give form and power to his worship, or to require obedience to his commands. To worship the image of the beast, implies being subject to those things which stamp the character of the picture, and render it the image of the beast’ (5431).

Also, there are several movies that portray the fear that may arise out of the technological advancements. In J.M. van der Laan’s article, he looks at two specific movies, The Terminator and The Matrix in order to analyse people’s feelings towards technology. He writes, ‘Over the years, many movies have presented on-screen a struggle between machines and human beings. Typically, the machines have come to rule and threaten the existence of humanity. They must be conquered to ensure the survival of and to secure the freedom of the human race’ (31). Moreover, in the movie I, Robot, actor Will Smith portrays a man living in the not too distant future where robots have taken over the daily tasks of life and made everything a lot easier, or so it would seem, for man. The climax of the movie is when Smith’s character realises that the robots have not only been programmed to perform tasks beyond the extraordinary, but they are developing within themselves emotions and the ability to make choices based on their own rationale. Chaos ensues as robots swarm the earth. But, is this possible? Is this even something that Christians should be concerned about? It would seem that, to be honest, the argument of technology advancing to the point where humans are in danger is not the actual problem. What Christians today are facing is a problem with Godly morality, not human survival. So, what are Christians to do? How are they to react in such a time as this with technologies being developed faster than thought and new abilities being granted to man daily?

As a technology consumer, the line between being efficient and using technology to save time and be productive and the temptation to overuse technology and become overly absorbed in it has been a constant battle. On one hand, there are benefits to the advancement of technology. Professor Anna Yu of Azusa Pacific University relates how technology affects her life. ‘I use technology to communicate with other Christians, receive church meeting announcements and prayer requests, schedule church activities, access online hymns, read the Bible and read other forms of Christian literature. It’s easy to see ways in which technology facilitates my life as a Christian. However, it’s harder to know whether it, in and of itself, impacts my life as a Christian.’ In John P. Ruane’s Christianity and Historicity: Faith and the World, he says, ‘Technology now makes it possible for all men to share in the benefits of education and medicine, better housing and working conditions, benefits that were formerly the privileges of a minority’ (754). In addition, it is often the case that the latest and greatest app will make life that much easier in what needs to be done. On the other hand of the dilemma, it is easy to become addicted or heavily involved in a device or programme that is simply not beneficial or edifying. Scripture is very clear, time and again, that Christians are to be wise and always be checking themselves and testing to see if their actions are glorifying to God. In 1 Peter 2:16, it is written, “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (The MacArthur Study Bible 1912). So, perhaps Arthur Boers is right. There are certainly what seem to be morally harmless technologies such as microwaves, electric lights, and digital watches. But there are also neutral technologies. These are inventions that can be used by the consumer for either good or bad. For instance, the new iPhone 5S smartphone that was released earlier this year is excessively popular worldwide. This smartphone not only provides the ability to call your friends and relatives as a telephone device, but also text message them, email, and browse the internet through numerous apps and the web browser. Once the internet is in the hands of every individual, a moralistic issue arises.

So, what actions are fitting for a follower of Christ and what is not? Some pretty simple decisions are in the form of fraud, pornography, and copyright infringement. However, other problems are not so easy. Revelation talks about the mark of the beast being something everyone must have in order to buy or sell. Some people have attributed this mark to an app such as Isis, Google Wallet, or some sort of Near Field Communication paying system. Should Christians risk it and stay on top of the latest and greatest? What about social spheres such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter? How long is too long to spend on these time consuming programmes built to share an individual’s life? A question of moralism comes up when these smartphones become something of an idol in the user’s hands. An app called Snapchat even allows people to send photographs to one another that they only can view for a certain number of seconds before it is forever erased. This simply leaves the gate wide open for stumbling blocks in the Christian life. Sending inappropriate photos, spreading gossip, taking illegal images, and even wasting countless hours with immature interactions are just a few of the problems that can come from such a service.

Therefore, it is imperative that individuals be knowledgeable about the spiritual dangers of these devices and the responsibility that comes with the use of technology. If users of technology know how to use them appropriately and have taken measures to limit their personal temptations, whatever they may be, they could use technology for good and stay away from the evils that can arise. Professor Yu recommends, ‘I would encourage anyone to use technology as a resource to pursue and explore his or her faith, for anything from research of pressing questions, to sharing of testimonies, fellowship, and encouragement.’ Technology has given way for a wider audience to the Gospel message. Hence, Christians should seek to use this method to enhance the Kingdom of God, by spreading the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the World Wide Web. And whatever believers do using technology, they must “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor.10:31).


 

Works Cited

 

Boers, Arthur P. Living into Focus: Choosing What Matters in an Age of Distractions. Grand Rapids,

MI: Brazos, 2012. 16-17. Print.

Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” theatlantic.com. The Atlantic, Web. 27 Oct. 2013.

Goldingay, John. Daniel. Dallas, TX: Word, 1989. 309. Print.

Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary On the Whole Bible.: Intervarsity Pr, 2004. 5431.

Print.

MacArthur, John. Revelation 12-22. Chicago, IL: Moody, 2000. 62. Print.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. Nashville: Nelson Bibles,

2006. 1223. Print.

Noble, David F. Introduction. The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of

Invention. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1997. vii. Print.

Ruane, John P. “Christianity and Historicity: Faith and the World.” Philippine Studies: Historical and

Ethnographic Viewpoints 12.4 (1964): 751-755.

Van Der Laan, J. M. “Machines and Human Beings in the Movies.” Bulletin of Science, Technology &

Society 26.1 (2006): 31-37. Print.

The Poverty of the Prosperity Gospel

Ben J. Ditzel

 

With his salesman smile and soothingly mellow voice, the orator, standing in the middle of a renovated sports arena, begins his pitch. Pastor Joel Osteen pulls a quote from his book, Your Best Life Now, 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential and proclaims, “If you want success, if you want wisdom, if you want to be prosperous and healthy, you’re going to have to do more than meditate and believe; you must boldly declare words of faith and victory over yourself and your family” (132). Pastor Osteen’s words sound like a recipe for accomplishment from a genie type of figure. According to Jesse Bogan’s “America’s Biggest Megachurches” on Forbes.com, Joel Osteen is a “best-selling author and pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, the largest megachurch in the country” (Bogan 14 October 2013). Lakewood Church boasts an attendance of over 45,000 people each week. This magic potion for health and wealth stemming from following Christ is called the prosperity gospel. The opposition’s praxis in counteracting this false doctrine of health and wealth should be to seek truth in the context of God’s Word, recognise that Biblically guaranteed wealth is not the earthly type, and warn others against the snares of such a false gospel.

Debates and controversies in the Christian church have been present for many years. Looking at the book of first and second Corinthians in the Bible, the disagreements and the misunderstandings that were present even in the days of the early church are just as existent today. Therefore, it is no surprise that there are many discussions and opinions over God’s expectation of mankind and the way in which He blesses His true followers. However, lies such as the prosperity gospel have leached into the church, robbing church members of God’s truth. Quoting Robert Tilton’s “Is It God’s Will For You To Be Rich?” on BibleDollar.com, David Jones writes in The Bankruptcy of the Prosperity Gospel: An Exercise in Biblical and Theological Ethics on Bible.org,

Image“Simply put, this egocentric gospel teaches that God wants believers to be materially wealthy. Listen to the words of Robert Tilton, one of the prosperity gospel’s most well-known spokesmen: ‘I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word [of God], not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.’” (Jones; Tilton 08 October 2013)

But this gospel of prosperity and works only goes as far as the pulpit-talk pitches it. All of humanity has difficulties like financial stress, hurting relationships, or physical ailments. These factors are why the prosperity gospel appeals to so many. Just boldly declare words of faith and victory, and health, wealth and wisdom should follow. Prosperity gospel advocates say that blessings will come in the form of material wealth just from following Christ. Jeremiah 29:11 is used all too often to back up these claims. “For I know the plans that I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” These teachers back up their claims saying that God is love. How could He want harm for His children? Benny Hinn describes his idea on the Benny Hinn Ministries’ website in “Your Supernatural Wealth Transfer is Coming”.

“Today, as you sow your seed into God’s kingdom, remember that He is watching your faithfulness. What you sow declares your faith. As you begin to sow your seed, God will place even more seed in your hand. He will multiply the seed you sow but not the seed you keep in your hand! When the seed meets the right soil, it will produce abundantly. Sow your seed this month. Prove your faithfulness to God, and watch what God will do with you today and tomorrow, especially on that glorious day and in that season when the great wealth transfer will begin upon the righteous!” (Hinn 15 November 2013)

However, the Bible shows that Hinn’s doctrine is simply not backed up by Scripture. In 1 Peter 4, Peter warns that the cost of following Christ will be great. Numerous Godly people have suffered much for their faith, such as Job in the Bible. Job was, for all practical purposes, a Godly man who obeyed his Lord in all things. But God allowed Satan to afflict Job. Even though Job was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil, God allowed enormous tragedy to befall him for seemingly no fault of his own. In Job 1:9-12, there is a discussion between Satan and God regarding Job.

“Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

God is allowing Satan to destroy Job’s livelihood, family, and everything he has and knows. The word fear is actually referring to respect or honour in the original text and Satan seems to insinuate that Job only respected and honoured God because his life was easy. God had been good to Job in his health and wealth. But God knew the heart of Job. The story continued when Satan stripped Job of his family, servants, livestock, agriculture, and everything he had, but he never once, despite his persistently discouraging wife and disparaging friends, sinned or blamed God. Job had not subscribed to the prosperity gospel.

But what will occur when the declaration falls void and life takes a dive into the dumpster? What then? What happens to this pastor-defined loving god they have created? The factual error with this philosophy lies in history itself. Did not Christ love Paul? What about Stephen? Were not William Tyndale, John Huss, Hugh Latimer, and Jim Elliot spreading the Gospel and preaching Christ’s love as He commanded us? They were most certainly not blessed with riches and health. They were, in fact, all killed for their faith. In addition, Mark 13, verses 9 and 13 tells Christians, “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them…And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” That does not sound much like a supernatural wealth transfer! And this time of trial is when thousands of people every year decide their critics have been right all along. Numerous people with a history of a faith in God have reported that their belief completely changed or vaporised upon the realisation that God was not going to bless them with earthly bounty. God has no care for them after all. God is dead. Religion is old-fashioned. God failed them. They are done with Him. But who is this god? Pastor Osteen, along with numerous others, is preaching about a god they claim is the God of Christianity, but this god they speak of is not the true living God of the Bible. The prosperity gospel’s god is not the Christian God and kills the seeds planted by true Christian faith.

David Jones and Russell Woodbridge write in Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ, “According to this new gospel, if believers repeat positive confessions, focus their thoughts, and generate enough faith, God will release blessings upon their lives. This new gospel claims that God desires and even promises that believers will live a healthy and financially prosperous life.” (Jones 15) But, when people begin to realise that God is not their genie in a bottle, granting them their every wish, they become disillusioned, turning away from God in rejection and bitterness. They are dissatisfied with this conception of God that has failed them. This is the biggest tragedy of all: a religion that directs people away from the true Christ. In Luke 17:12, Jesus says that if anyone causes a believer to stumble in their walk to Christ, “it would be better for him if a millstone was hung around his neck and he was cast into the sea”. People become embittered against God. Their anger stems from a feeling of betrayal and disappointment with their false belief in a god who would grant them their heart’s desires if they just followed a few sets of rules and donated to the church’s weekly offering.

Jesus pointed to tribulations that will arise from being a follower of Him. Why all the pain? The hurt and suffering is most certainly not caused because Jesus has no love for His elect. The grief is simply because the fallen world has rejected Christ, so they will, undoubtedly, reject His followers and make life excessively difficult for them. Jesus said that the world will hate His followers for their faith in Him. Matthew writes, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” This does not sound much like prosperity on this earth. It does not sound like, after invoking God’s blessings, He will inexplicably roll a Ferrari filled with cash into His closest follower’s driveway. In fact, it sounds like the opposite. David Jones in his book, Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ?, says, “The prosperity gospel contains a grain of biblical truth, albeit a grain of truth that has been greatly distorted. Proponents of the prosperity gospel teach that God is love, that He has the power to bless, and that He is exceedingly gracious toward His creation.” (Jones 18) Creflo Dollar says on the Creflo Dollar Ministries website’s “Blessed Not Cursed”, “If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you are blessed!” (Dollar 15 November 2013) Creflo’s definition of this blessing, again, is a material wealth that the prosperity gospel seemingly gleans from Scripture.

In his sermon on Grace to You, “Religion and It’s Victims”, Bible teacher John MacArthur warns, “Beware of the false shepherds, the false teachers who take the last coins out of the widows’ purse to fill their coffers on the pretence that that kind of giving is the path to blessing. That is the prosperity gospel.” (MacArthur 11 October 2013) This false gospel teaches salvation not by faith, but by works. It evokes a sense of self-accomplishment after salvation. Pastor Osteen even says that it is up to the sinner to make Jesus the Lord of their life. Sometimes success distracts one from God and gives the subscriber to this gospel an affirmation that following Christ brings worldly bounties. Both of these scenarios can give the sinner a sense of pride and pointing to himself rather than God. In The Heart of the Prosperity Gospel, Dan Lioy claims, “When people insist they are complete within themselves, it leads to a rejection of virtually every truth-claim about God and His existence. A Christ-centred ethical norm is jettisoned for a man-centred, materialistic one.” (49) But the Bible clearly teaches in numerous places that it is by grace that salvation occurs, through faith, not of anyone’s merit, rather it is a gift from God that even enables people to be saved by Him. Salvation does not occur by an emotional feeling with tears and fear from a current bind. Salvation occurs when Jesus Christ initiates a process within the predestined individual which creates a desire to follow Christ. People that are wholly bought into the lies of the prosperity gospel are being distracted from the True Gospel which proclaims time and again that Jesus Christ is all that the Christian needs. The True Gospel teaches that His grace is sufficient. This life is not about His follower’s pleasure or worldly joy. Rather, the Christian Gospel teaches that life is all about serving God and glorifying Him.

In 1095 A.D., the Catholic Church instated the selling of what they called indulgences. These indulgences, which were sometimes kept track of by tokens, issued full or partial diminution of the penalty for sins after the offender admitted and received pardon. In Catholic doctrine, all sins must be cleansed on earth or after death in purgatory. The Catholic Church began selling these absolutions and reaped great profits. Sinners worldwide would pay the Catholic Church in the hopes that their anguish would be minimised in exchange for this lucre. Much like then, the modern church, particularly ones that teach and exercise the prosperity gospel, strongly encourages the repetitive giving of money to church government, functions, maintenance, groups, organisations, and outreaches. They obligate the subscriber to give in order to get. The church government functions much like a corporate business with junior pastors, music pastors, and extra teachers in the place of vice presidents and middle management. The elders and deacons are working in the place that supervisors and regional managers operate and finally the congregation in general are the lowly workers who end up working the hardest for this salvation by works. This ends up just like a classic pyramid scheme simply because the pastor keeps preaching and pressuring everyone to give more to the church with the promise that God will shower them with healing, relationships, and every gift imaginable. They claim that God wants to bless His children so much, but their unwillingness to give what they have is holding Him back. Manipulated by this lie, people give more and more to those above them, and those above them keep giving more, and so on. The pastors and leaders at the very top end up receiving enormous amounts of money, and what results is a pyramid scheme.

In Luke 21, the story of the widow who threw her last coins into the Pharisee’s coffers is told. Most Christians today assume this is powerful proof to tithe and give most, if not all of your money to church causes. They say that Christians are to mimic that great example of giving everything they have and having faith that God will give them, in return, bounty many times more than what they gave. They state that the parable of the poor woman who gave away her last coin to the Pharisees is a wonderful example of how someone gave all she had to God and His work. However, their very premise is flawed and out of original context. Jesus was not commending the widow’s actions. He was telling his disciples how the widow was so bought into the system that the Jewish culture had formed, that she was pressured into giving her very livelihood into the scheme. This is very clear in the Greek, but the translation has left it a bit ambiguous. The ancient Jewish culture was the perfect pyramid scheme and the widow was at the very bottom. She would now starve and the high ranking religious leaders would have a few more coins in their purses. It is shameful to take advantage of the poor just as much as it is shameful to take advantage of those who are weaker in their faith and might easily buy into these lies of the prosperity gospel.

Capitalism as a whole has been a source of encouragement for this gospel of prosperity because as a nation, the United States, and other first world nations where it flourishes, has learned to live with much. People are encouraged and demanded by cultural norms to succeed at all costs and to make more than enough money to rest on a financial cushion and be accepted by higher spheres of social life. But are Christians supposed to make a certain income? Are they required to be at a certain social standing? John MacArthur writes in Whose Money Is It Anyway, that everyone has a different place in society.

“The Lord in His providence has made each human being unique, with differing abilities to earn money. As a result, people have written great books and composed outstanding pieces of music, painted memorable pictures, and produced stage and film masterpieces, designed engineering marvels, developed new businesses, and discovered indispensable technical advances, all of which have generated personal income and benefited the world’s social and economic structures. Such efforts are all within the framework of God’s creative purpose and sovereign plan for mankind’s use of the earth’s great wealth.” (6)

Christians’ best lives are not now on earth, followers of Christ are not to expect material blessings for following Him, and contextually speaking, Biblical blessings are not the wealth and health that the prosperity gospel advocates claim they are. Their teaching does not come from the inspired Word of God, the Bible. Prosperity gospel speakers use Scripture in their sermons, but have taken it out of context and change the meaning to fit what they are comfortable with, rather than what Scripture teaches, therefore making their claims void and contrary to the true Gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches Christians that their identity is not in social standing or health and wealth. Rather, a Christian’s identity is in Christ. In fact, the word bondservant in the New Testament is literally translated as slave. Christians are slaves of Jesus Christ but since He is the perfect Master and they are joyful slaves to His will, this does not have an unfavourable connotation. In fact, it is the best place to be since without Him, humans would be wallowing in their own wills and attempts at a works based salvation or earthly success. Humans are either slaves of sin or slaves of Christ. With Christ as Lord, His children are protected, eternally provided for, and are fellow heirs of the Kingdom of God. The prosperity gospel is not the true Gospel! In John 16:33, John writes the words of Christ, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Jesus Christ’s followers may not be prosperous in this life, but the next life is where the true everlasting prosperity awaits.

           


 

 

Works Cited

Bogan, Jesse. Forbes. Web. “America’s Biggest Megachurches.” Forbes Magazine. (14 Oct.

2013). <http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/26/americas-biggest-megachurches-business-megachurches.html>.

 

Dollar, Creflo. Web. “Blessed Not Cursed.” Creflo Dollar Ministries. (15

Nov. 2013). < http://creflodollarministries.org/BibleStudy/Articles.aspx?id=392>.

 

Hinn, Benny. Web. “Your Supernatural Wealth Transfer Is Coming.” Benny Hinn Ministries.

(15 Nov. 2013). < http://www.bennyhinn.org/articles/7574/your-supernatural-wealth-transfer-is-coming&gt;.

 

Jones, David. Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the

            Gospel of Christ?. Kregel Publications, 2010. 15, 18. Print.

Bible.org. Web. “The Bankruptcy of the Prosperity Gospel: An Exercise in Biblical and Theological Ethics.” (08 Oct. 2013). < http://bible.org/article/bankruptcy-prosperity-gospel-exercise-biblical-and-theological-ethics&gt;.

 

Lioy, Dan. “The Heart of the Prosperity Gospel: Self or the Savior?.” Conspectus 4.1 (2007).

49. Print.

 

MacArthur, John. Grace To You. Web. “Religion and It’s Victims”  (11 Oct. 2013).

<http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/41-65&gt;.

Whose Money Is It Anyway? Nashville, TN: Word Pub., 2000. 6. Print.

 

Osteen, Joel. “Your Best Life Now, 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.” New York, NY:

FaithWords, 2004. 132. Print.

 

Tilton, Robert; Parker Tim. BibleDollar.com. Web. “Is It God’s Will For You To Be

Rich?” (15 Oct. 2013).  <http://bibledollar.com/is-it-gods-will-for-you-to-be-rich/&gt;.

 

 

Twilight and Fantasy

I wouldn’t allow any child at all to get anywhere near that kind of stuff because what it does…they’ve got enough evil in the real world and what it does is create a horrifying unreal world, a fantasy world where you can get away with even worst things. – John MacArthur

Tonight, a ragingly popular movie is coming out. It is the next part in the series that has captivated the minds and hearts of not just teenagers, but people from all ages and all religions. As Christians, we have to remember that the things that we allow into our lives influence us. Regarding the Twilight series, the main question you have to ask yourself is “If Jesus were sitting next to you would you still watch the movie?” We are called to a higher standard than the world with no compromises. When you say something like “Are we supposed to live in a cave?” you are falling into the trap of the devil and the world by feeling pressure to embrace what the world calls a social norm.
In the real world, certain behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable. In the real world, there’s a level of outrage. But in the world of vampires and werewolves, from what I understand, you can fly through the air and bite off somebody’s head and spit it out, or you can morph yourself into some kind of a horrible ghastly creature that can wreak havoc and massacre cities and people. That is evil the way Satan would want it to be in an unrestrained world. But he can’t pull it off in this world because he is restrained. But in the fantasy world, Satan is unrestrained. And I think that’s all that is, that is a fantasy world in which Satan runs unrestrained. And this comes down to video games, this comes down to books, this comes down to movies, anything that takes people into a fantasy world takes them to a place of danger because there are no boundaries there are no limits for behavior in the fantasy world. And that is why we have the kind of behavior in the real world that goes beyond these bounds to a degree that we’ve never had in human…in our lifetime in the past because people finally obliterate the line between the fantasy world and the real world and they turn in to monsters that do horrendous things that even appalls the criminal element in society. Just some thoughts.

What Is Worship Music?

When the Bible was translated into the language of the people and out of the Latin that only the upper class religious leaders knew, it was now open to everyone. Language, though usually referred to in reference to a spoken tongue or dialect of a certain people, can mean a variety of things. Language can mean also, a way of communication through whatever means to another individual. For instance, if you were to go to a different culture and greet them with shaking their hand, chances are, they would not interpret that as a greeting. You would have to greet them in their language or custom which might be a word or a gesture or even a ceremony. The same applies in music. For those who are accustomed to classical music, today’s rock beat might seem like something, literally, out of an African tribe. But it is a different language of communicating. Some music communicated different things, while other music communicates the same thing of others, while only in a different ‘language’ so to speak. In ancient times, even dating to Biblical times, Christians sang a hymn of some sort. I’m sure that the hymn that Jesus and his disciples sang at the Last Supper sounded nothing like, Almighty Fortress Is Our God, neither did it sound like the contemporary song, He Is Exalted by Twila Paris. There are three languages here communicating the same thing. For those in Jesus’ time, their hymn was their way of worshipping God in song. If Jesus’ disciples were here today, undoubtedly, they would not understand that Almighty Fortress Is Our God or He Is Exalted were worship songs or hymns. For one, they would not understand the spoken language, but that aside, they would not understand the song composition. When David danced before the Lord after recovering the Ark of the Covenant, his song was undoubtedly far different sounding than even the disciples’ hymn. Language in music changes over the years though communicating the same thing throughout the years, in this case, praise to God. Jesus’ disciples would still feel that worshipping God in song meant using the hymns they had sung with Him. They would not accept songs by Martin Luther, John Wesley, or John Newton. Nor would they accept songs by Twila Paris, Michael W. Smith, or Steve Green. However, if we today heard the disciples hymn, we would probably think it was some sort of Middle Eastern dance or chant and not see it as worship whatever. The difference in culture has a great effect on this as well as the difference in time. The worship language of the 1500s until the late 1800s or early 1900s was hymns by those like Martin Luther. After which came what we call Old Time Gospel songs and shortly after came what we call Praise and Worship. It is the different languages of different ages throughout time. All of which express praise to our God in our own way and culture. Personally, I know that singing hymns from the 1500s are truly worshipful and have a good deal to say within the music.  Also, I know that singing He Is Exalted by Twila Paris written within the last 30 years is also truly worshipful and thought provoking. Christian music has become far more popular in the last 10 to 15 years with the rise of Praise and Worship and Christian Contemporary Music. It’s granted that some people listen to the music without a correct understanding of Christianity. But the same was  true in Martin Luther’s day and in even in relatively recent days such as 19th  century England when people went to church as a matter of form and many people  lived very immoral lives at the same time. Today’s worship music language is the Praise & Worship style. There are those who prefer to worship God with hymns of the 1500s and traditional hymns and there are those who prefer to worship God with Contemporary worship. Its all worship and with the right attitude, it all worships God. If you don’t have the right motive or attitude when singing ‘Praise Ye The Lord’ or ‘Shine Jesus Shine’, neither one is edifying to God. To pick apart and say one is worship and the other is not only hurts the church and divides the body. And as the Bible states, a house divided against itself can not stand. Furthermore a church or church family that is divided on types of worship can’t focus on what a church is supposed to focus on because it is too caught up in mundane details of different generations. Just like you would not force Africans to learn English if you went there to be a missionary, we ought not to force our contemporary music on traditional music worshippers and traditional music worshippers ought not to force traditional hymns on contemporary worshippers. Both are worshipping God in their own language and both are just as pleasing to God as singing a hymn at the Last Supper over 2000 years ago.


Thoughts on the Flag and the Pledge…

You know, I got to thinking the past few days about the incredible reverence that people in the US have for the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance. For example:

-When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
-The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use.
-The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
-The flag should be raised briskly and lowered slowly and ceremoniously. Ordinarily it should be displayed only between sunrise and sunset. It should be illuminated if displayed at night.
-The flag of the United States of America is saluted as it is hoisted and lowered. The salute is held until the flag is unsnapped from the halyard or through the last note of music, whichever is the longest.
-When the flag is displayed over a street, it should be hung vertically, with the union to the north or east. If the street runs north-south, the stars should face east. For streets running east-west, the stars should face north. If the flag is suspended over a sidewalk, the flag’s union should be farthest from the building and the stars facing away from it.
-During The Pledge of Allegiance all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.

And that is a small sampling of the rules, regulations, and laws regarding the flag of the US. It is treated like a deity! To the best of my knowledge, no other country treats the flag of that country with such reverence and devotion. It is as if we, as the US worship it. I wouldn’t care as much if it was just the unconverted and Godless of our nation who all but worshiped this piece of cloth; this symbol of an earthly country. But it is when Christians, and Christian schools, even churches start falling into this flag worship… That is when I get concerned. Should we, as citizens of heaven and ambassadors for God and His Kingdom, be so devoted to a country, even less, a flag? Why do we as Christians ‘pledge our allegiance’ to a flag? We are to pledge our allegiance to One only and that One being Jesus Christ. I understand that in Romans 13, Paul stated that every Christian should “be subject unto the higher powers.” However, we need to understand that our foremost allegiance is to God. We are to be subject and submissive to our government but that does not mean to pledge our devotion and allegiance to it! It is clearly a form of idolatry to salute a flag and swear our devotion to it. In James 5:12, the Bible reads, “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath”.
It also reminds me of Daniel 3:18. “Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” And then a point that I find very curious. Why is the pledge “to the flag”?  Why not the government. Yes it says the ‘and the Republic for which it stands” but it says ‘and’, so the flag is still an object of allegiance.
My conclusion to this is as follows. I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, will not participate in saying The Pledge of Allegiance, nor will I pretend to participate by putting my hand over my heart or taking a similar posture while others are reciting this pledge. Why? A Christian’s loyalty is to the Kingdom of Heaven, not to any earthly kingdom.  As such, a Christian ought not to participate in rituals which sanction a kingdom other than the Kingdom of Heaven. Furthermore, in obedience to Scripture, a Christian cannot take a pledge which he or she is not certain they will follow. Also, I do not support the idea of the United States of America being “indivisible”, which is incompatible with liberty. The Pledge of Allegiance contains untruths regarding the US, including the statement “with liberty and justice for all”. It is quite clear to any Christian in this country that there is not liberty and justice for all, particularly Christians.  I will not speak or proclaim these untrue statements. And finally, The United States of America, is no longer a nation “under God” if it ever was and I will not claim it is and in turn, give a bad name to my faith and more seriously, tarnish the reputation of my Lord to others.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?  Or am I trying to please man?  If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal. 1:10

Introduction

I am leader of  Truth Ministries in Los Angeles, CA. I live in Los Angeles, CA, am married, and speak at various places around the country. I have spoken as guest speaker at several churches as well as Iowa State University, Des Moines Area Community College, Drake University in Des Moines Iowa, Grand Canyon University, and the US Cellular Center of Cedar Rapids Iowa. I speak on topics ranging from Christian ethics and morals to young adult values and living intentionally as believers in Jesus Christ.

I have family in Des Moines, Iowa and Cove, Arkansas. I recently moved to California from Iowa and left a close church family at Grandview Park Baptist Church. I am seeking a new church home personally as I continue to provide others with Biblical encouragement and counseling.

I hope to use this blog for random thoughts and article and sermon ideas that come to me.

Thanks for reading and please leave comments!

-Ben Ditzel