Monday, November 18, 2019

It's a Toll Road not a Freeway

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  I don’t know exactly what the road to Heaven is paved with but I do know that it is a toll road and not a freeway. In our passage we see that everybody who aspires to justification before God has a bill to pay.  We will also see that the currency we have on our own to offer to pay the toll is worthless.  So if it’s not a freeway and our money is no good, how do we get to our final destination???

Romans 3:23-25
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that comes by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of His blood – to be received by faith…

Things to think about:
·      The premise here is that a debt has been incurred and must be satisfied. In our verse above it says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  In Romans 6:23 it goes on to say that “the wages of sin is death”
o   Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin
o   This is in keeping with the Old Testament law of blood sacrifice found in Leviticus 17:11
§  “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”
o   This is clearly NOT a freeway
·      So there is a toll to be paid on the road to salvation and its currency is blood.
o   “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of His blood”
o   God has provided the token for the toll road
o   Salvation is freely offered but salvation is surely not free. 
o   In the same way you can give a gift to someone (and they accept it), that gift is free to him or her but may have cost you quite dearly.
·      “All are justified freely by His grace”
o   Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – it is the gift of God
o   So the toll has been paid if we will take the token offered to us
o   Why are works really counterfeit coins in God’s toll booth?
§  Isaiah 64:6 – “all of our righteous acts are as filthy rags”
·      To be clear, this has to do with salvation, not our good works offered to God after we have accepted His atoning sacrifice. See Ephesians 2:10
o   How do we accept God’s free gift?
§  Hint: it’s in our verse above
§  How would you define faith?
§  Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
·      In what ways does today’s study help you think about the road to Heaven?
o   Has it cast anything in a different light for you?
o   Are you using the right token on God’s toll road?

Monday, November 4, 2019

Artificial Intelligence

The next frontier in computer science is advancing the technology of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  Essentially, AI is the ability for a computer to try and imitate the human mind, hence the name “artificial intelligence”.  Similarly, man’s predisposition is to try and approximate or even replace God’s intelligence with his own.  Not unlike self-driving cars that depend on AI, when we rely on our own form of AI the results can be disastrous!

Proverbs 14:12 – There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.

Things to think about:
·      Our lives are full of countless examples of decisions we have made or actions we have taken that sounded good for one reason or the other but ultimately led to a bad conclusion.
o   If you can’t relate to this you can stop reading now J
o   And yet, rarely would we knowingly walk into a bad decision so there must be a disconnect between what we think and reality
o   Let’s look at a few suspects that might be culprits leading us to artificial intelligence
·      Feelings
o   “If it feels good, do it!”
o   Unbridled appetites can be a problem.  Most of our appetites are God-given and therefore healthy (food, pleasure, anger, etc.) The problem is when our desires outpace our needs and we act on a feeling.
o   The opposite of impulsiveness is self-control, one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23)
o   What role does impatience play here?
o   What have you learned through experience with regard to controlling impulsive behavior?
·      Pride
o   In Psalm 10:4 it says, “In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.”
o   Pride is an overblown sense of self and one’s abilities.  It is the opposite of subjugating oneself to God’s sovereignty and wisdom.
o   One way this can manifest itself is in not seeking Godly counsel but relying on our own judgment. 
§  Can you think of a time when a feeling of “I know best” didn’t quite work out so well?
§  On the other hand, when have you swallowed your pride a bit and been grateful you did?
o   Other facets of Pride that can justify poor decisions
§  Unbelief in God – the ultimate bad decision!
§  Secretiveness to protect our ego
§  Spending money we don’t have (or should be using for another purpose)
§  What else?
·      God’s Intelligence (GI)
o   So what’s the antidote to AI?  How about GI? J
o   Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge
o   Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.
o   In what ways have you experienced God’s renewal of your mind?
§  Are there beliefs, habits, or attitudes that you can clearly see now with the benefit of time that God has brought you around to His way of thinking?

Monday, October 28, 2019

Construction Zone

I was driving down I-71 recently and got stuck in the inevitable traffic due to the ongoing construction.  It got me thinking about how putting up with some temporary inconvenience is tolerable if the payoff is worth it.  If an added lane makes getting downtown a 30 minute drive instead of 50 minutes (on a good day) then I’m all for it.  If it makes the roads safer for me and everyone else, then I say keep digging! But if the supposed benefit is unclear or not that great then why bother with all the fuss of the construction?  Maybe Philippians 1:6 offers a glimpse into what’s going on with the construction project God has undertaken in each of our lives and let’s see if the end result outweighs the aggravation (spoiler alert – it does!)

Philippians 1:6
Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will see it through to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

Things to think about:
·      Have you been stuck in traffic recently and gotten frustrated?  Have you been to LaGuardia Airport recently – it is the mother of messes!
o   Do you tend to get irritated with construction projects or are you more go with the flow?
·      Thankfully God has the interest, the resources, and most of all the patience to take up a project like me.
o   Why would He want to work on somebody like you or me?
o   Ephesians 2:4-5 – “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
o  Ephesians 2:7 – “in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
§  Salvation is the beginning of the project, the foundation of the work to be done, not the end result.
·      What are some of God’s tools He uses during the construction project?
o  The example of Jesus
o  The Holy Spirit acting in and through us
o  His Word
o  Prayer
o  Pastors, preachers, teachers, mentors
o  Discipline
o  Our mistakes
o   What else has God used in your life?
o   How is God using any of these in your life today?
·      What does the finished project look like?
o   Phil: 1:9-11 – “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ…”
§  Your love may abound more and more
§  You may be able to discern what is best
§  You may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ
§  Filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ
·      And the whole point of the project isn’t about you or me, it is about Him and them
o   Phil 1:11b – “To the glory and praise of God”
o   Eph. 2:10 – “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
How does today’s study make you think differently about your calling and God’s work to fulfill it?