Pastor's Blog

You Are Loved

You Are Loved: Toleration is a popular word in our society today. Everywhere we look, toleration is praised as the highest virtue. I suppose it makes sense. Our culture has decided there’s no one absolute truth. We’ve convinced ourselves that no religion is better than any other. We have to get along somehow. So how’s this going to work? We better emphasize tolerance at all costs! Hold on… If you think tolerance is the greatest thing, imagine this: It’s your birthday. Your spouse or your best friend gives you a present with a hand-written card. In big letters, it says, “I tolerate you!” Huh. Is “tolerance” really that great?

God offers you so much more! God doesn’t tolerate you. God loves you! “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). God doesn’t tolerate you. He loves you! God doesn’t just put up with you the way you are. Instead, he sent his Son Jesus into the world to live for us. To die for us. To fundamentally change us into something we weren’t before—the forgiven, loved children of God. In our toleration crazed world, remember that you aren’t just tolerated. You are so much more. You are loved by God himself. Jesus proved it!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Hidden Dangers

Hidden Dangers: A fin. We saw a fin. While my family and I were swimming in the ocean last month, we saw a big fin swim less than 20 yards from us. I don’t know what it was. Our first thought was that it was a shark. Or it could have been a dolphin or a big fish. All I know is that it was scary! There are a lot of scary things in our world, aren’t there? There are hidden dangers all around us. Accidents. Sickness. Violence. You don’t have to be in the ocean. Disaster could strike at any time. How can we live like this? Isn’t it scary?

The world is scary, but we have our God. Or—better yet—God has us! “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2). So, “You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:5-6). It’s true that there are hidden dangers all around us, but so is our God. He is our fortress and refuge and Savior. You don’t have to fear hidden dangers. The worst that can happen is that you will open your eyes in heaven. Even if you see a fin, may God take away all your fears today.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Feeling vs. Reality

Feeling vs. Reality: In the past couple of generations, there has been a MAJOR shift in the way that our country’s populace generally views truth, and then specifically views organized faith groups, i.e. “church” or “organized religion.”

I’d liken it to the difference between medication and a placebo. As a general rule, we find medication helpful because it works. But only if you believe in a placebo will you find it helpful. You see, a placebo is inherently powerless to help you, but if you personally think it’s helpful, in the 21st century, no one’s going to fault you for using anything that “works” for you.

Today, many modern people look at religion as something that they won’t knock you for if you find it helpful. But they do not believe it is innately helpful, much like a placebo.

Do you see the difference? Several generations ago in our country, and really in most cultures throughout history (excluding modern Europe), people have always believed that basic notions of God and religion were true, and therefore they must be helpful. But modern people believe, for the most part, that we’ve progressed beyond the need for “God” to explain things. Consequently, if you want to be naïve enough to believe in God and religion, that’s fine, but please don’t try to share those beliefs with the rest of us and certainly don’t bring them into the social arena, because no one else should have their lives negatively impacted by your distorted belief in fairy tales. In other words, the basic current understanding of faith by most of the academic elites, the movers & shakers in the world, is that if you want to gullibly swallow the placebo of Christian faith, that’s fine, but the subtle insinuation is that you’re probably pretty weak-minded for believing something so antiquated, childish, and foolish.

What’s interesting to me about this common argument against biblical truth is that, while it’s backed by more Ph.D.’s, it’s really the same basic argument as a young teenager for why she believes what she believes – she feels that way. The academic might be able to cite some research, which has value, but do NOT let academics convince you that their beliefs are entirely evidence-based. They’re not. Every assessment we make stems from presuppositions we have. No interpretation is unbiased.

So, for instance, you might ask a 14-year-old girl why she likes one of the boys from One Direction and she’ll tell you “because I LOVE him!” Okaaaay. Got it. She has a strong feeling about him, so she believes it MUST be true. You ask a 30-year-old journalist why she thinks same-sex marriage should be legalized and she’ll maybe tell you that it’s because the majority of people today deem it “right.” You explain to her that 150 years ago the majority of people in our country believed that slavery was “right” and ask if she thinks that makes it right. She’ll tell you “It’s complicated.” But, you see, her opinion really wasn’t ever based on evidence; it was based on her own personal feeling about who we should be able to love. You ask a 50-year-old biology professor what a child in a pregnant woman’s stomach is and she’ll tell you it’s a “fetus” or an “embryo” or a “zygote” or whatever term-of-the-day language we’re calling unborn children these days, but if we discovered just a fraction of that fetus’ cells on planet Mars, that exact same biologist would tell you, “We’ve found life on Mars!” Uhhhhhhh. Her declaration of an unborn child as a “fetus” and not simply a “human” is not based on evidence; it’s based on presuppositions, feelings, about what the most convenient way to define something is. Had doctors been saying “We’re going to kill your child now” for the past 50 years, I feel that the abortion number would probably be about half of what it’s been.

I don’t think I’m overreacting when I suggest that the postmodern transition from reality dictating feelings to feelings dictating reality is something of an epidemic. I see it ALL the time from a theological standpoint. People say things like, “I don’t think a loving God would allow..” or “I don’t think God would be so exclusive about….” or “I don’t think miracles make sense because…..” But it isn’t really higher logic that drives people to those conclusions. It’s their feelings. There is absolutely nothing illogical about a loving God punishing sin or a wise God holding to exclusive truth or a supernatural God possessing the ability to intervene in his own created laws. Those individuals don’t hold those opinions because they’ve just carefully thought them through. They hold those positions because they feel that way – their gut reaction, their sinful hearts, have actually clouded their judgment at that point.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that modern people are the first people to project their feelings upon objective truth, reality, and God himself. What I’m suggesting is that we are probably the first culture in history that reasons that our own personal feelings are a good barometer of making claims about truth and how God should/does operate.

You might also notice that I used women in all of the examples above. That was intentional. For starters, and I mean this as a complement to women – they tend, on average, to feel more than men. Again, in general terms, the Bible suggests that they were designed by God as more relationally aware, emotionally intuitive creatures than men. In many ways, that’s an advantage and tremendous blessing. As a human race, we NEED that. But human strengths can also become weaknesses when we trust them too much. Additionally, and to be perfectly honest, I’ve simply encountered more women than men who will tell me how God should/would operate and base it on nothing from Scripture but on what they personally feel to be right.

But what if reality alone dictated our feelings? What if something was helpful simply because it was true, not true because we found it helpful? Christians should take this one step further – what if we actually let God’s promises in the Bible dictate the way we felt about everything and everyone?

Jesus said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) If I believed the reality, I would never feel alone. After talking about how wonderfully he provides for the sparrows, Jesus said, “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31) If I believed the reality, I would never feel worthless. Jesus said, “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” (Matthew 5:5 NLT) If I believed the reality, I wouldn’t ever feel superior to others. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45) If I believed reality, any anger I have towards people who mistreat me would turn into compassion towards those who God intends to be my family. Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14) If I believed the reality, I’d stop beating myself up for mistakes I’ve made that God himself has already pardoned.

What kind of people would we be if we allowed the reality that the Bible teaches to shape our feelings, instead of letting feelings that are generated by sinful hearts shape our reality?

On a bigger scale, what if everyone in the world let the reality of Scripture, the truth of Jesus Christ, dictate humanity’s existence? I feel like it would be a little slice of heaven.

We thank Pastor James Hein and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog.



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Know the Cost

Know the Cost: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but football season has started! I love football, but it’s been a little harder to watch the NFL ever since I saw the movie “Concussion” a few years ago. Have you seen it? “Concussion” tells the story of a doctor from Nigeria—Bennet Omalu—who studied the brain of a former NFL star who had committed suicide. Dr. Omalu realized that year after year of collision after collision in the NFL had damaged this man’s brain and caused his death. When he made this discovery, Dr. Omalu was sure that the NFL would be grateful to find out! But they weren’t. They did everything they could to disprove his findings. But Dr. Omalu didn’t give in. He wasn’t trying to destroy the game of football, but he insisted players have a right to know the cost of playing professional football. It’s good to know the cost.

That’s exactly what Jesus wants you to know. He wants you to know the cost. Not the cost of playing football. The cost of following him. Did you know there is a cost to following Jesus? He uses two stories to illustrate that. First, “suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” If you want to build a new house, it would be foolish not to make sure you have enough money to complete it! Can you imagine the ribbing you’d get from your friends if you built just half a house? You’ve got to know the cost!

Or Jesus says, “Suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.” This is more serious than building a house. Before a country goes to war, it’s necessary to know whether they have the resources to win. Any leader knows to calculate the cost before going to war. It’s obvious. You’ve got to know the cost!

So here’s the cost of following Jesus. Ready? “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” Wow! Did you know Jesus said that? Following Jesus means refusing to let anything get between you and Jesus. Whom are we most tempted to love more than Jesus? Family. Parents, spouse, children. Could that be wrong? A woman once said to me, “Pastor, you don’t have to worry about my faith. I love God almost as much as I love my kids.” Is that wrong? Yes! That woman has an idol—her kids. God wants you to love your parents. There’s a commandment about that! God wants you to love your spouse and your kids. But he wants you to refuse to let anyone get between you and Jesus. Sometimes faith in Jesus separates families.

Jesus wants you to know the cost. “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” That’s well-known phrase today, “Carry your cross.” It must have shocked Jesus’ disciples. A cross in Jesus’ day was the worst thing imaginable. “That cross that people get nailed to until they die, be ready to carry that around as my disciple.” Sound nice? This is a hard saying from Jesus! If you follow Jesus, you can expect to carry a cross—sufferings like broken relationships because of your faith in Jesus. There is a cost to following Jesus.

That doesn’t sound right, does it? We’re not used to talking like Jesus talked. If you’re new here today and thinking about following Jesus, I’d like to tell you it’s going to be easy. I’d like to say, “Join our church. It’s going to be great!” I’d like to promise, “Believe in Jesus, and your life’s going to go well.” Do we make it sound easy to be Christians? Jesus doesn’t. Jesus was not a people pleaser. He tells the truth. He wants you to know the cost of following him. “Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.” Want to follow Jesus? Here’s the cost: Be prepared to give up everything, starting with some of the people you love most.

I’m afraid that’s not our expectation as Christians in America. We’ve been so blessed that we’re used to having everything—and Jesus too. We expect to be safe. We expect to be free to believe what we want without persecution—without a cross! We expect to have wealth. We expect to enjoy sports. We expect to go on vacations. We expect to have beautiful families. And we expect Jesus to fit in with everything else in life. Right? Jesus and… But Jesus says that’s not how it works. “Those who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciple.” If it seems easy to be a Christian, Jesus challenges you today: “Are you really a Christian? Does Jesus really come first in your life? Does your family know what you believe?” It won’t be easy!

For some of you, hearing what Jesus says about hating—losing—family for his sake hits right at your hearts. You’ve talked to me about it. You have children who’ve fallen away from Jesus. Brothers and sisters and even spouses who don’t share your faith in Jesus. It hurts, doesn’t it? If you weren’t a Christian, it wouldn’t bother you at all. You’d say, “It’s okay. To each his own. It doesn’t matter what you believe.” But you know that’s not true. It’s not okay for someone not to believe in Jesus. It does matter what you believe. Faith in Jesus is the difference between heaven and hell. You look at the people you love, and you know exactly what Jesus is talking about. You know the cost of following Jesus. Your family. Your life! It hurts. Is Jesus worth it?

Last month, there was surprising news in the NFL. Andrew Luck, the star quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, suddenly decided to retire at 29 years old. People were shocked! The owner of the Colts estimates that Luck will miss out on $500 million by not finishing his career. $500 million! But Andrew Luck thought about the cost. He was constantly battling injuries, and he decided it wasn’t worth it, not even for $500 million. I think a lot of people are deciding that about Jesus. They hear what Jesus asks for—our lives. They hear what he wants us to be willing to give up—everything. And they decide it’s not worth the cost. 29-year olds are retiring from Jesus. 49-year-olds are retiring from Jesus. 69-year-olds retiring from Jesus. He’s not worth it!

So what about you? Now that you know the cost, is following Jesus worth it?

Before you decide if Jesus is worth it, there’s another side to the story. It’s true that there is a cost to following Jesus. God asks for everything. But you can’t consider our cost without first realizing what God has given up for you. What was God’s cost to have a relationship with us? Do you know? His Son Jesus. God gave up his family, so that we could be his family. Just think about that: God the Father knew the cost to save us—his only Son. Would you have done it? God did. God our Father doesn’t ask from us what he hasn’t already given up for us—everything!

Now think of Jesus’ cost. The Bible describes what Jesus gave up for us: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8). You got all that? Jesus is God, and yet he decided to become a human being. But he didn’t just become a human being. He became a humble servant. And then he died—for us. I want you to know the cost. To know the cost that Jesus paid for you: His life.

Jesus refused to let anything get between him and you—not even his family! Once when Jesus was preaching, his mother Mary and his brothers tried to get him to stop. Do you know what Jesus said? “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:30). That must have hurt Mary! But Jesus was letting even Mary, his mother, know that she did not have a right to get in the way of God. Or one time Peter—one of Jesus’ best friends—told Jesus he didn’t have to die. Do you know what Jesus said to Peter? “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23). Ouch! “Jesus, that’s not Satan. That’s your friend Peter!” But the moment Peter got in the way, he was Satan’s tool. Jesus didn’t let anything get between him and you.

Why? Why would God the Father sent his Son to die for you? There’s only one answer: He must love you—a lot! Why would Jesus stop at nothing to die on the cross for you? He must love you—a lot! God loves you more than anyone and anything else in the world. Do you know how much Jesus thinks you’re worth? Everything! There is nothing more wonderful than knowing the cost that Jesus was willing to pay for you and for me. To Jesus, you’re worth everything!

When you hear that, how can Jesus not be your dearest treasure? God doesn’t force us to follow him. He gives us the ability to push him away. But God wants you to know that whatever is coming between you and Jesus isn’t worth it. Whether it’s money or work or a relationship or even your mom or your kids, whatever comes between you and Jesus isn’t worth it. Not when you know the cost he paid.

The truth is, if you don’t have Jesus as your dearest treasure, you can’t be a good friend, because you will expect your friends to do for you what only Jesus can. If you don’t have Jesus as your dearest treasure, you can’t be a good spouse, because you will expect your spouse to do for you what only Jesus can do. If you don’t have Jesus as your dearest treasure, you can’t be a good parent, because you will place this pressure on your kids to do for you what only Jesus can do. The best thing to help your marriage is for you to grow closer to Jesus. The best thing for you as a parent is for you to grow closer to Jesus. In Jesus and only in Jesus do you learn what truly makes a relationship work: Forgiveness, undeserved love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and forgiveness. And if, in the end, your relationship with Jesus separates you from those you love, you always have Jesus. Because you know the cost he paid. You’re worth it! He’s worth it too.

This blog is based on Luke 14:25-33. (NIV)

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Citizens of Heaven

Citizens of Heaven: Presidential campaign season is officially in full swing. Have you noticed? It’s hard not to! Politics are on people’s minds. Just scroll through your Facebook news feed and note all the political articles and comments shared by your friends.

So what do we say? What attitude can a Christian have during campaign season? We need guidance and truth from sources other than CNN or Fox News or Facebook. We need the truth and comfort of God’s Word. Here are some beautiful truths from the Bible for us to remember during campaign season.

First, let’s remember that God is the authority over everything. That’s easy for us to forget. The Bible says, “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed….  The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them…. ‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain’” (Psalm 2:2,4,6). There is a real King. His name is Jesus. He already triumphed for his people. Don’t let the chaos fool you. Jesus isn’t worried! We know who is King.

Second, let’s trust God’s promise that the only thing that can change hearts is the Gospel. What America needs isn’t a certain president or political party. We need God’s Word. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zephaniah 4:5). If our country is going to return to Christ, changing laws isn’t the answer. It’s only going to happen through the preaching of the Gospel. Let’s share God’s Word—often!

Third, let’s remind ourselves where our real citizenship is. To the Philippians who were super proud of their Roman citizenship, Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). We are citizens of heaven! It’s a blessing to live in the United States, but when cancer strikes or death comes, being an American is no comfort. Let’s remember who we really are: Citizens of heaven because of Jesus. 

Finally, if our citizenship is in heaven, our goal on earth isn’t ensuring the success of any country. It’s winning souls for heaven. The heroes of faith in the Bible understood this. People like Moses and Abraham admitted “that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…. They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Let’s use the opportunities this campaign season provides to remind each other over and over again about our real King and our real home and our real citizenship. We’re citizens of heaven! That’s the only way to have true peace regardless of the outcome in November 2020.

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Don't Be Afraid

Don't Be Afraid. Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible is? Maybe you’d guess one of the 10 Commandments. “Do not steal.” “Do not lie.” “Do not commit adultery.” Or maybe you think of, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart,” or “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Those are commands from God, but none of those is the most frequent command in the Bible. Here’s a clue: What did the angels say to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born? “Do not be afraid!” (Luke 2:10).

That’s right—the most frequent command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid!” Isn’t that comforting to hear? Fear of danger robs our peace. Fear of punishment fills us with guilt. Fear of rejection makes us timid. There are so many fears… So what does God say—over and over again? “Do not be afraid!” Jesus’ forgiveness covers every single one of our sins. God’s angels surround us every minute of every day. Even if our loved ones turn their backs on us, our God never will. Death isn’t the end for us. Heaven is waiting! “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). May Jesus erase your fears today!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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Hope for the Future

Hope for the Future: Stuck. Trapped. Hopeless. Is that how you feel? Life can suffocate us and deflate us and leave us feeling like there’s no hope. Here’s what makes it worse: When you know that it’s all your fault! How often don’t we feel stuck, trapped, and hopeless, with no one to blame but ourselves? That’s how God’s people felt 2,500 years ago. Their country had been destroyed. They had been taken as exiles to Babylon. Here was the worst part: They knew it was all their fault because of their sins against God. Stuck. Trapped. What hope did they have?

A lot! God wrote to those exiles through the prophet Jeremiah: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11). As much as they had sinned, as bad as their current situation seemed, they weren’t forgotten. They were loved. They were forgiven. In fact, God still had plans for them. Big plans! What were God’s promises meant to give them? Hope. Hope for the future. No matter what you’ve done, no matter how trapped and stuck you feel, you aren’t forgotten either. You are loved. You are forgiven. God still has plans for you. Big plans! May that give you hope. Hope for the future!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog. 



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How Do I Forgive?

How Do I Forgive? Recently, a lady asked me, “How can I forgive?” What a great question! I could see in her eyes that she had very specific people in mind, people who had hurt her so much or so often that it seemed impossible to forgive them. I bet you can think of people like that too. How can I forgive? Could you answer her? I hope so! Like any good work, she can’t produce forgiveness on her own. She can’t look in her heart or try harder. You’ve tried that. It doesn’t work!

What does she need to be able to forgive? Jesus. More Jesus. The Bible encourages us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness comes from Jesus. How can she forgive? She needs to hear Jesus says to her, “I forgive you” over and over again. She needs to hear that as far as the east is from the west, God has removed our sins from us. How can you forgive? You need more time with Jesus. I need more time with Jesus. We need to have Jesus and his cross preached to our hearts again and again and again, until our hearts our so full with Jesus’ grace that we can say to others what Jesus says to us: “I forgive you!”

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog.



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Plastic Souls: The actual threat attached to Artificial Intelligence

Plastic Souls: The actual threat attached to Artificial Intelligence. If you ask inventor and famed futurist, Ray Kurzweil, the world will be run by artificial intelligence within 30 years (27 to be exact). The man has been called a “restless genius” by The Wallstreet Journal, “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes, “Edison’s rightful heir” by Inc. Magazine, and “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence” by none other than Bill Gates.

The Law of Accelerating Returns

In one of his best-sellers, The Age of Spiritual Machines, Kurzweil proposes something called The Law of Accelerating Returns. In short, this is the idea that technology, throughout human history, hasn’t increased at a linear rate, but at an exponential one. So, for instance, if you transported someone in a time machine from 1750 to the present day, the technology would have advanced at such an incredible rate (e.g. cars, planes, moon landing, phones, TV, computers, internet) that the incomprehensible differences might actually drive the poor guy insane. But if you transported someone from 1500 to 1750, the same gap of years, while some aspects of life might still amaze them, the shock would be significantly less. And if you wanted to travel back even further for someone to be shocked by the technological advancement of 1500, you might have to go back an entire millennium. Again, technology is not advancing at a linear pace. It’s advancing at an exponential rate.

Artificial General Intelligence

Ray Kurzweil says that the world will achieve Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) by 2029. Without letting it get too tech-sounding, AGI essentially refers to the computational power of the human brain. We already have something called Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI). This is the ability of a computer to perform one specific task at an extraordinary speed, faster than human.

So, you’ve perhaps played chess on your computer before. Today, the best chess players and best Jeopardy players in the world are now artificial intelligence.

Given a specific algorithm, a computer can routinely beat the brightest human mind in almost every specific task. Siri, the digital assistant on your iPhone, is another example of ANI. Siri has no self-awareness. But the program “Siri” can nonetheless access more information with more accuracy faster than any human.

Artificial Superintelligence

Kurzweil’s bet is that by 2029, Artificial Intelligence will be able to think through everything in life as comprehensively as any human. And by 2045, humans, now officially inferior, will essentially become subservient to Artificial Intelligence. This is called Artificial Superintelligence (ASI). In The Age of Spiritual Machines, the most fascinating, ominous quote of all actually comes from a somewhat crazed sounding guy that Kurzweil almost seems to admire – a Harvard mathematician named Theodore Kaczynski. That’s right, THE UNABOMBER. The line between genius and insanity is razor thin.

Kurzweil also, however, offers a less Doomsday, less Matrixy scenario than computers taking over the world. In this more optimistic case, humanity will graft the new advanced intelligence into our being, and become transhuman, which is seen as the next evolutionary step. The internet has already made all human knowledge accessible. But the next step is to have the brain’s neocortex seamlessly integrate this information from the cloud.

Imagine never having to read another book, learn another equation, or, for that matter, memorize another passage of the Bible.

What if you could simply download the Bible’s information and truly recall every detail of it as easily as you can recall details from your day? Kurzweil would suggest that we’re about 25 years out. The methodology of Catechism instruction is going to have to evolve. It’s hard to even comprehend the implications all of this might have for faith.

Okay, so if that seems nuts, first consider the fact that Kurzweil is credited as the inventor of the flat scanner, the electric piano, and almost everything related to speech recognition software.

There is not a single person in our country who hasn’t been affected by his inventions. So he has a proven track record of putting these wild ideas into practice successfully. Furthermore, the thing Kurzweil is most famous for is that back in the 1980s, he accurately predicted much of the most important technology of the 21st century – the utilization of computers in education, the rise of the internet, the ability to search the entire internet, the presence of a small, portable computer on every human (i.e. smartphone), and the idea of several mass data AI system companies existing as the most powerful entities in the world (e.g. Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc.)

The Predicted Benefits

Instead of fearing that Artificial Intelligence will take over the planet and destroy the human race, Kurzweil chooses to believe that the rise of Artificial Superintelligence will bring about benefits to humanity like

curing disease, ending poverty, and controlling weather patterns.

I’d be content with a robot that cleaned up after my dog on walks – it boggles my mind that in 2019 I’m still wrapping a plastic Target bag around my hand to remedy this problem. Point being, AI doesn’t all sound bad.

Biblically Speaking

If you trust what the Bible teaches about the future, there are elements of Kurzweil’s predictions that you must eliminate. For instance, the Bible suggests that humanity, when Jesus comes back, will have been continuing on with no awareness of an impending end (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Matthew 24:36-44). AI won’t end the human race. Similarly, the Bible repeatedly makes statements about God being the only one who can ultimately dictate weather (Psalm 148:8; Jonah 1:4; Psalm 42:7; Job 37:3; Genesis 6:5-9:19). Kurzweil is among those with the impression that humans can extend life infinitely with the right technology. Obviously we know this is not the case for sinful beings either (Romans 6:23).

The Real Danger

So while the future is going to look different, biblically speaking, it’s not going to be predominantly artificially intelligent. Contrary to what’s been depicted in virtually every sci-fi film of recent memory, while many humans have a fear of artificial intelligence taking over, I believe the real danger with expanding technology is that humans are becoming more artificial.

Put differently, how dehumanized can we become before we cease to function as humanity?

And what are we capable of once we lose our humanity?

The Effects on Gen Z

The global health service company Cigna released a report less than a year ago declaring an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. Half of Americans routinely feel severely lonely.

The most impacted generation, by far, is the young adults in Gen Z (ages 18-22). Notice the correlation between a generation that was the first raised as native to internet tech and feelings of isolation, depression, and loneliness.

The more dependent we’ve become upon machine, the less willing we are, and less required we are, to touch, to look someone in the eye, to share ourselves or to listen to others.

On social media, we feel like we can control the environment or control the perception of ourselves. But being in the presence of another human is a vulnerable experience.

We need it. But we’re increasingly terrified of it and inadequate at it. Actual respectful dialogue has been replaced by angry comment sections and hot takes.

And yes, technology allows us to FaceTime with a sister 1000 miles away, but is it possible that we might actually be more in need of a hug from a neighbor 20 feet away?

But that would require me to learn her name.

Hmmm.

Young adults today are suffering with unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation, depression, and suicide precisely because we’ve culturally dehumanized their existence. Technology has allowed us that luxury.

They’ve been allowed to believe that “friendship” simply comes at the cost of liking someone’s photo.

They’ve been allowed to believe that everyone else’s visually filtered, cleverly captioned life is reality.

They’ve been hyper-sexualized with gratuitous imagery, but have no conception of the intimacy of committed relationships.

My theology tells me that computers will not supersede humanity, all human problems will not be be untangled by algorithms, and death won’t be cured by nanobots. That’s the red herring that sells better at the box office. The bigger issue for eager Christians is that rapidly advancing technology could destroy our humanity if we let it.

And I’m convinced the solution is in valuing and practicing the doctrine of incarnation. What is incarnation?

Incarnation

Christologically, the incarnation is God taking on human flesh, i.e. becoming fully human. The Apostle John famously writes, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) 

The Apostle Paul also says, “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh.” (1 Timothy 3:16) and “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” (Colossians 2:9, also 1:19) Every aspect of the goodness of God is indwelled in Christ Jesus. And just as amazing and mysterious, in this era of world history, in the Age of Pentecost, when the Spirit has been sent to us, the aspects of God now dwell within his body, the Church. Paul writes, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV) 

The big idea is this: For God to fully communicate his grace to humanity, he had to place it inside humanity, and then embrace humanity. And if Jesus has now sent his Spirit with the purpose that, in a sense, he would do the exact same thing through you and me, his people, then anything that dehumanizes us is an enemy to the communication of God’s grace.

If we Christians don't incarnate a more beautiful truth - full of grace and truth - plastic souls are inevitable.

What We’ll Always Need

So we look to Christ, who made himself lower than what he could be (Philippians 2:7), not advanced technology, but humble humanity, i.e. God capable of being held in human arms.

It might very well be possible that artificial intelligence will largely end starvation, many diseases, and most poverty. And we should be supportive of and excited for that. But humans will never stop needing forgiveness, or compassion, or friendship, or a secured identity rooted in the Lord. Jesus Christ embodied God’s grace and was born into your life to freely give you all of that. And now he’s sending you into the future to do the same for others.

We thank Pastor James Hein and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog.



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Our Hope is in Jesus!

Our Hope is in Jesus! While we pray for good leaders in our country and communities, we’ve also come to expect lots of grand talk that never materializes. Lots of broken promises. That’s nothing new. Here’s some advice from over 2,500 years ago: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing” (Psalm 146:3-4). What does the Bible say? Don’t trust in princes—in people. They and their plans will one day come to nothing.

So what hope do we have? A lot! Here’s how that Psalm continues: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever” (Psalm 146:5-6). What a contrast, isn’t it? Mortal men vs. the Maker of heaven and earth. Princes who come to nothing vs. the Lord who remains faithful forever. Remind yourself of this again and again: My hope is in Jesus. He alone is faithful. My hope is in Jesus!

We thank Pastor Nathan Nass and https://www.breadforbeggars.com/ for this week's blog.



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Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. ~ HEBREWS 12:2 (NIV)