Tuesday, November 7, 2017

God? There's an app for that!

Are you tired of getting up on Sunday mornings to get to church? Do you wish worship would stop getting in the way of what you really want to do? You've been heard. You are not alone. Your prayers have been answered, but not by the oppressive God you've been following. Download our app and discover a God who understands how busy you are.

What do you think? Is this an app that speaks to you? Just to be clear, none of this is real...yet. This approach is not far off as the Google engineer responsible for their self-driving car, Anthony Levandowski, has established a nonprofit religious organization called Way of the Future. The self described purpose of the organization is to "develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence, and through understanding and worship of the Godhead contribute to the betterment of society." Imagine a future where people worship an artificial intelligence God. A machine would be the moral and spiritual compass for these "disciples". In this future, Man creates God. This organization was the backdrop for our discussion in adult Sunday school at Grace Baptist Church in Blue Bell, PA.

We took a trip all the way back to the book of Genesis where God said to Adam, "you are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die" (Genesis 2: 16-17). The serpent came along and told Eve she would not die if she ate from the tree and, in fact, would be like God, knowing good and evil. The problem is that knowledge wasn't meant for Eve.

Is the Way of the Future organization making the same mistake as Eve? The goal of the organization is "to develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on artificial intelligence". This artificial intelligence God has to be created and programmed with knowledge under the assumption the machine can be like God by using this knowledge to provide guidance to better society. One of the major flaws in this approach is you cannot equate something created with the creator. In other words, referring back to the original sin, this artificial intelligence God represents Eve who gains the knowledge of good and evil to be "like" God. Eve cannot be God as she is the "created", not the "creator".

Will this artificial intelligence idol sway Christians who are looking for an easier path? Perhaps it will, but we should look to Psalm 115, verses 4-8 for guidance:

But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them

It is important to note, there is very little known about Way of the Future. They do intend to better society, which is a positive goal, but designating themselves as a religious organization puts them on a path of many well-intentioned movements before them. You might say we don't know what this future looks like, but with so many examples of false idols from our past I believe we have a pretty good idea.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Becoming a Healthy Church

The following are notes taken from Pastor George Hawthorne's sermon on Sunday, May 21, 2017.

Did you know that North America is the only continent where the church isn't growing?

What are some of the indicators of a healthy church?

1.  Love -- A healthy church exemplifies acceptance and unconditional love like Jesus.  For all kinds of people, especially the downtrodden and forgotten

2.  Purpose -- A healthy church has a clear sense of purpose and a vision for the future.  Deep down in each of us is the desire to make our lives count.  Good things do not happen by accident.

3.  Prayer -- A healthy church is a praying church.  Begin your day with prayer.  Prayer makes a difference.

4.  Service -- A healthy church is  not just serving its congregation, its in service to its community, country and world.  God loves all creation, and expects us to live lives of service to others.

5.  Optimism/Enthusiasm -- A healthy church is optimistic about the future, and believes better days lie ahead.  Our church has a glorious past, but constantly looking back is a hindrance to its future health.

6. Personal Growth  -- A healthy church's members have a keen desire for personal growth.  They want to know God in an intimate manner, with an expectant heart.  They hunger to know God's will in their lives.  Church is more than a social outlet, it's a place to learn to walk and grow with God.

7.  Outward Focus -- A healthy church is not just worried about keeping the lights on, and running the latest program.  A healthy church is outwardly focused, seeking to reach and serve those beyond our walls.

8.  Open to Change  -- A healthy church is flexible and willing to look at and do things differently in order to better serve God's will and the community.  A danger to a healthy church is "but we've always done it that way, or we never do that here."