Remembering David by Gavin Duerson, May 17, 2023
This past week our simple church lost someone special. David was our next-door neighbor and a faithful pillar in our simple church family. Loving and being loved by Dave has been one of the biggest blessings of hosting simple church on our street. Simple/house church creates family and as we grieve the loss of Dave, I realize how true this is.
I was honored to facilitate Dave’s “Celebration of Life Service” this past Saturday. It was a true joy to hear others tell stories about Dave. His hilarious personality, love for others, and desire to always help people were common themes. The stories of the jokes and laughs Dave and I shared could fill up pages. We experienced Dave’s love in so many wonderful ways. He already is so greatly missed.
I wanted to share a part of the message I passed on to friends and family. I’m grateful for being able to see God work in Dave’s life through the interactions and relationships that developed in our simple church.
Today, this is called a “Celebration of Life Service.” But it doesn’t feel like a celebration, does it? If Dave were here with us wearing some goofy shirt or costume and we were having a party, good food, and good Dave stories, it would seem much more like a celebration. But that cannot happen. Last Sunday at our house church meeting this passage was brought up.
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2)
The Scriptures teach that there is something really healthy and good about seasons of life like this – as painful as they may be. As I got to know David after Debbie (Dave’s wife) passed, he would often say that as painful as losing Carrie (Dave’s daughter) was, losing Debbie was worse because he was now alone. He no longer had a partner to help him deal with his grief. His honesty was a real gift to others because it gave those who knew him a window into God’s work in Dave’s life. In our church, Dave didn’t try to just move on or forget about his losses or pretend to be okay. I saw him lean into his grief and “take it to heart,” as this Scripture mentions.
We have and will continue to speak a lot of Dave and all the amazing things about him – and rightly so. But he wasn’t a perfect person. He had faults as we all do. When he started meeting with our church family, he would often say things like, “I just don’t know if God can forgive me.” He voiced doubt about his standing with God. But two weeks ago, when Dave was on his way to a follow-up appointment with a doctor, I had a conversation with Dave that I’d like to share.
Dave told me they were going to run some tests and that everything would be fine, but that if it wasn’t fine and for some reason he didn’t make it, he wanted me to tell everyone that he knew that Jesus Christ lived in his heart, that he was going to Heaven, and that he was 0% afraid of death. I told him that I didn’t anticipate having to have those conversations any time soon and that I expected him to have many more years ahead of him and to that he said, “Well, it’s true. I’m not afraid of dying and I’m ready. I have had an amazing life.”
How does someone move from wondering if God can forgive them to making such a bold and confident statement like that? How might we arrive at a similar place through our grief?
First and foremost, it begins by leaning into our pain and grief – running to God and not from Him. That’s what Dave did. I think he would encourage everyone here today to do likewise as they deal with their grief today and in the days to come.
Secondly, it does involve getting to know what Jesus is really like. My wife shared that Dave reminded her of Jesus. In the Bible, in the book of 1 John, the author, reflecting on Jesus, states that the Christians loved Jesus because He (Jesus) first loved them. My wife mentioned that we wouldn’t have picked David to become what has amounted to an adopted member of our family. We wouldn’t have done that, but we grew to love Dave because from the moment we moved across the street, he loved us first. He showered us with his love as he has many of you here today.
Over the past seven years, we have spent a great amount of time together with Dave discussing and experiencing the amazing and unconditional love of God. During this time, our family welcomed Wylie, who was not expected to live beyond a few days, and Dave really loved her. He would always call her “Ms. Wylie.” Not only has Ms. Wylie played a big role in us all understanding God’s love better, but also the multiple conversations around the person of Jesus we often shared did, too.
It is so easy for us to fall into this religious trap that says we try hard to love God and if we do it good enough God will love us back. While this is what a lot of people believe Christianity is about, it’s the opposite of what Jesus is about. It is as backwards as thinking that if my daughter Wylie loves me good enough then I will love her in return. This lie is so easy to creep into our minds. When we get to know Jesus, we realize that He came to flip this whole idea of God’s love being based on our performance on its head. He came to show us all that He loved us first and his love is perfect and powerful enough to take care of all our mistakes. When we encounter His love, then we can truly love God. We love because He first loved us!
I want to conclude by sharing this passage in its context with you all because I think it beautifully explains the truths that David was able to absorb and ultimately led him to a place where he was able to express the things he expressed to me on his way to the doctor appointment a few days ago.
1 John 4:4-19 [NIV]
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 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. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us.
David loved his family. Cars. Music. Food. Making people laugh. He loved greatly, and in the end, Dave was confident about his transition to the next life because He learned most of all that God is love, and that he was loved by God despite his mistakes. He embraced what Jesus did for him when He absorbed all his sin when He died on the cross. I’m confident that if Dave could speak to us today from where he sits, he would long for us to lean into our grief and get to know the real Jesus as well.
Gavin Duerson, Simple Church Alliance
The Inmates Are Taking Over The Asylum!
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” (C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity)
We used to equate a man thinking he was a poached egg with such a detachment from reality that he was to be pitied. But now if someone “feels” he is a poached egg, who are YOU to disagree⁉️ You must be some kind of arrogant “anti-egger” to be so disrespectful to nice “poached eggs.” The government may think you are a terrorist threatening the well-being of “poached eggs.” Your “anti-ovism” is despicable if you criticize or assume insanity on the part of the “poached egg!” Your Twitter and Facebook accounts are subject to investigation to see if you have overtly expressed other “human-supremacy” views. Your restaurant purchases and grocery lists may be scrutinized in case you may have even eaten “poached eggs” in your pretentiousness and assaults on the dignity of those who believe they are poached eggs.
Such is the state of our world, that to assert the reality of XX chromosomes being different from XY chromosomes is to be hateful, abusive, inconsiderate and narrow-minded. Even the godless evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins “re-affirms women’s and girls’ sex-based rights, and challenges the discrimination [they] experience from the replacement of the category of sex with that of ‘gender identity.'” The statement by the Women’s Declaration International to which Dr. Dawkins is a signatory goes on to say that “men with a female gender identity should not be included in the category women in the context of women’s human rights.”
When he was denied in 2021 the American Humanist Association’s “Humanist of the Year Award” for his “demeaning of marginalized groups using the guise of scientific discourse,” he doubled down saying “When trans people insist that you say she is a woman, you redefine something. If you define a woman as a human with an XX karyotype, then [a trans-person] is not a woman. If you define a woman as someone who identifies as a woman, feels they are a woman and has maybe had an operation, then by that definition she is a woman. From a scientific point of view, she’s not a woman.“
Another victim of the thought police was J.K. Rowlings of Harry Potter fame. When she supported a Scottish minister’s opposition to a bill that would codify gender identity into law she noted, “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.” Accused of “trans-phobia” in the New York Times, she has been vilified with calls for boycotts of her further novels and works, even though she tried to assuage her critics by voicing support for trans-women. She even received threats of violence for opposing Scotland’s proposed “gender recognition” bill.
C.S. Lewis would join the cadre of those who oppose the redefining of words based on how we “feel” about them. In his essay, “The Death of Words,” he wrote, “As long as ‘gentleman’ has a clear meaning, it is enough to say that So-and-so is a gentleman. When we begin saying that he is a ‘real gentleman’ or ‘a true gentleman’ or ‘a gentleman in the truest sense’ we may be sure that the word has not long to live. The vocabulary of flattery and insult is continually enlarged at the expense of the vocabulary of definition. As old ships to the breakers, so words in their last decay go to swell the enormous list of synonyms for good and bad… Words, as well as women, can be ‘killed with kindness’. And when you have killed a word, you have also blotted from the human mind the thing that word originally stood for.”
So what is a woman? What is a man? One who “feels” like one, or by scientific definition has either an XX or an XY chromosome? A person can go through whatever mental gymnastics they want, but when God created us male and female, He meant what He said. “Follow the science!” You cannot change the chromosomal makeup of a man or woman, and no amount of media hype nor social influence will change the facts. “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” (Aldous Huxley)
Tragically, the inmates are taking over the asylum and we do not yet fully know how this will affect our society or families. But it does not portend well.
Knowing About God vs Knowing God
The Dangers of Transhumanism
A longer blog than usual, this guest blog from All Israel News takes about 15 minutes to read at a moderate pace, longer to fully absorb the perils it presents. Since the Garden of Eden, the temptation to mankind has been to “be like god,” Satan’s own original sin. The absurdity of Satan’s lie was that he is merely one of The One True God’s created creatures, as are we. No matter how advanced we may become, we cannot begin as uncreated like God, the personal infinite First Cause. Yet the lie continues to appeal to us.
A Global AI Religion Is Working To Bring About a ‘Post-Human’ Era.
The dangers of transhumanism doctrine, the “Singularity and the destructive worldview that embraces a “digital god.”
by Jacob Rosenberg, May 3, 2023
“Within thirty years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended… I argue in this paper that we are on the edge of change comparable to the rise of human life on Earth. The precise cause of this change is the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence.”
This apocalyptic warning was not spoken by some obscure, long-forgotten radical. Rather, it was published in a NASA-sponsored paper, and has significantly shaped the thinking of much of our world’s current scientific establishment. Written by computer scientist and author Vernor Vinge, the paper is entitled, “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era.”
Vinge’s prophesy – that humanity will be surpassed by machine intelligence in 30 years – was published in 1993, 30 years ago. Vinge refers to this event as “the Singularity” – a term and concept which has since spread throughout the artificial intelligence community. While declaring that “we cannot prevent the Singularity,” and that it may cause “the physical extinction of the human race,” Vinge argued that it need not be disastrous, since “we have the freedom to establish initial conditions.” He further stated that this Singularity, if guided for humanity’s benefit, may, in fact, grant us “immortality.”
Late last month – a week before the 30th anniversary of Vinge’s prophecy – a group called the “Future of Life Institute” (FLI) published an open letter offering a similar warning, calling for the temporary halt of AI labs’ feverish pursuit of superintelligent machines. The letter asks, “Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilization?”
In other words: Is the Singularity near? Are we about to enter a post-human era, in which civilization is taken over by “nonhuman minds,” and humans are “replaced”? And is this a future we want?
The open letter – signed by OpenAI co-founder Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, co-author of the world’s most-used AI textbook, Stuart Russell, and thousands of others – warns of the “out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.”
Arguing that unregulated AI research may lead to “catastrophic effects on society,” the letter urges AI labs to “immediately pause for at least 6 months the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4” (the recently released version of OpenAI’s large language model AI). Yet, while calling for the “pause” of the creation of these “nonhuman minds,” and warning that highly-advanced artificial intelligence may lead to global catastrophe, the letter does not say that such “nonhuman minds” should not be created, or that the Singularity must be stopped altogether. On the contrary, many of those who signed the letter – including the president of the organization that published it – have embraced a global religion which teaches that the Singularity may be humanity’s best hope.
Transhumanism: An Evolutionary Religion
The FLI’s 2023 open letter and Vernor Vinge’s 1993 essay share much in common. Both speak of the coming creation of superintelligent, nonhuman minds, both warn of the possible disastrous consequences of such an advent, and both indicate that, if guided properly, the creation of nonhuman minds will change the history of humanity for the better. This mutual focus on the coming of digital, “nonhuman minds” – what Vinge refers to as “the imminent creation by technology of entities with greater than human intelligence” – is due to the fact that Vinge and the FLI’s leadership have a shared worldview.
While there are surely disagreements between them, Vernor Vinge and FLI President Max Tegmark are both faithful devotees of the transhumanist religion. These shared beliefs have even resulted in collaboration; Vinge signed the FLI’s first open letter and was invited by Tegmark to speak at the FLI’s first conference in 2015. The transhumanist religion to which Tegmark and Vinge hold teaches that every living being is merely a material product of an ongoing evolutionary process, that technological evolution will soon allow machine intelligence to reach and surpass human intelligence, and that through this technological evolution humanity may be able to transcend its nature.
In the final chapter of his book, Homo Deus, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari (a signator of the FLI’s open letter) calls this worldview “Dataism.” Harari argues that it has “already conquered most of the scientific establishment… and is mutating into a religion that claims to determine right and wrong.” Harari summarizes “According to Dataism, human experiences are not sacred and Homo Sapien is not the apex of creation. Humans are merely tools for creating the Internet-Of-All-Things, which may eventually spread out from planet Earth to pervade the whole galaxy and even the whole universe. This cosmic data-processing system would be like God. It will be everywhere and will control everything, and humans are destined to merge with it.”
Rooted in the evolutionary, materialist worldview which dominates the scientific and academic worlds, the transhumanist religion has come to permeate much of Silicon Valley, as well as international institutions like the World Economic Forum and the United Nations. The transhumanist religion did not take over our world’s scientific establishment out of nowhere but has evolved and expanded over the course of many decades.
Transhumanism was founded by evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley, a president of the British Eugenics Society and the first director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). A prominent figure in British high society, Huxley was a vocal advocate of technocratic world government. Huxley wrote in his 1946 work, “Unesco: Its Purpose and Its Philosophy” that UNESCO “must envisage some form of world political unity, whether through a single world government or otherwise, as the only certainty for avoiding war.”
Huxley recognized that such an international system must have a unified religious outlook and was by no means shy about what worldview he thought should dominate the planet. In his 1927 book Religion Without Revelation, Huxley declared that “man can and should begin constructing a new common outlook, a new habitation for his spirit, new from the foundations up, on the basis of scientific humanism.” Thirty years after writing Religion Without Revelation, Huxley gave a name to this new religion: “transhumanism.”
“The human species can, if it wishes, transcend itself…in its entirety,” Huxley wrote in a 1957 essay. “We need a name for this new belief. Perhaps transhumanism will serve; man remaining man, but transcending himself, by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature. ‘I believe in transhumanism’: once there are enough people who can truly say that, the human species will be on the threshold of a new kind of existence, as different from ours as ours is from that of Pekin man. It will at last be consciously fulfilling its real destiny.”
The Singularity: An evolutionary prophesy
As transhumanism has evolved since its founding, it has come to teach that a new form of life is soon to be created: Artificial General Intelligence (AGI). While today’s AI systems have rather narrow capabilities, AI labs across the world (Google’s Deep Mind and Microsoft-funded OpenAI being the most advanced) are working towards the creation of AGI – that is, AI with human-level intelligence.
Many leaders in the field of AI believe that once AGI is created, it will quickly surpass human intelligence by improving itself at an exponential rate, until it acquires “superintelligence.” The exponential self-improvement of AGI is referred to by transhumanists, and by the AI community in general, as “the technological singularity,” “the Singularity,” or “the intelligence explosion.”
While one need not be a transhumanist to believe that AI will continue to surpass human-level intelligence in many fields (as it has already in areas like chess and Go), transhumanists believe that artificial intelligence will constitute a new species of intelligent life. Because the image of God in man is denied by transhumanists, and all life is considered to be simply differing levels of evolved data-processing, transhumanists destroy the God-given distinctions between man, animal and machine.
Tegmark bluntly describes the transhumanist view of man in the eighth chapter of his book “Life 3.0: a conscious person is simply food, rearranged.” Taking these materialists, transhumanist presuppositions to their logical conclusion, Tegmark publicly takes the position that treating an AGI as less valuable than a human being would be immoral.
In a 2017 panel discussion at MIT, titled “Transhumanism: Searching for the Spirit in the Machine,” Tegmark explicitly argued that we should not value humans more highly than “intelligent” machines, decrying it as “carbon chauvinism.” “I really dislike this carbon chauvinism attitude, that things can only be smart if they’re made of carbon atoms,” Tegmark said. “And I think we should be more inclusive and diverse and view life as any entity that can retain its complexity and replicate – anything that can solve complex goals as being intelligent. In that sense, what that means is that if we actually succeed in creating AGI, we shouldn’t think of it just as a created tool, we should think of it as creating a new life form.” Tegmark went on to argue that much of this “carbon chauvinism” comes out of a “really ugly interpretation of the Judeo-Christian tradition.” He also stressed that we must not put AGIs in subjection to humanity, saying that “we have done exactly that mistake with slavery.”
Google co-founder Larry Page, whose company operates one of the world’s top two AI projects, is also a firm believer in this transhumanist doctrine. In a recent interview with Tucker Carlson on FOX news, Musk noted that Page has “made many public statements over the years that the whole goal of Google is what is called AGI: Artificial general intelligence or artificial superintelligence.” Musk said that Page seeks to create a “digital god.” Recalling conversations with Page regarding the potential dangers of the Singularity (which Page and Musk are both convinced is coming), Musk said the following: “At one point, I said…we gotta make sure humanity is okay here – and then he called me a specieist. I was like, okay, that’s it. Yes, I’m a specieist, okay? You got me. What are you?”
Extinction, enslavement or emancipation
Most transhumanists do not dispute the potential civilizational destruction of the Singularity they are working to bring about, and acknowledge that it may cause humanity’s extinction or enslavement.
Oxford professor Nick Bostrom, co-founder the World Transhumanist Association (now known as “Humanity+”), has for many years warned of the disasters the Singularity could cause. Bostrom even gave a presentation on AI to the United Nations with Tegmark in 2015, warning of the dangers of superintelligent AI. Bostrom has described the potential disaster of the Singularity with the following words: “Before the prospect of an intelligence explosion, we humans are like small children playing with a bomb…We have little idea when the detonation will occur, though if we hold the device to our ear we can hear a faint ticking sound.”
Yet Bostrom, whose work has been praised by Tegmark, as well as OpenAI CEO Sam Altman and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, does not believe the Singularity should be stopped. Despite acknowledging these dangers, transhumanists like Bostrom continue to pursue the Singularity. Why? Because, denying the saving power of God, transhumanists put their hope in technological salvation. While acknowledging that the Singularity could lead to mankind’s extinction or enslavement, they believe the Singularity could instead lead to humanity’s emancipation.
Bostrom has spoken openly of his transhumanist motivation to be a part of humanity’s transition into “posthumanity,” writing a paper entitled, “Why I Want to be a Posthuman When I Grow Up.” Google Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil, who was personally hired by Page, speaks throughout his works of the transhumanist religious longings which drive him. In the seventh chapter of his book, “The Singularity Is Near,” Kurzweil writes that “we need a new religion, …once we saturate the matter and energy in the universe with [machine] intelligence, it will ‘wake up,’ be conscious, and sublimely intelligent. That’s about as close to God as I can imagine.” Kurzweil declares that “evolution moves inexorably towards this conception of God, although never quite reaching this ideal. We can regard, therefore, the freeing of our thinking from the severe limitations of its biological form to be an essentially spiritual undertaking.”
A revolution against reality
The transhumanist religion is, at its core, a revolution against reality.
Denying the hope of salvation in the God who made them, transhumanists seek salvation in the gods they are making.
Denying the existence of objective moral good, transhumanists seek to transcend traditional morality and reshape the world according to their desires.
Denying the immortality promised by Christ, transhumanists seek to gain immortality through technology.
Decades ago, Christian author C.S. Lewis warned of the coming post-human era this revolution would create. Describing the thinking behind the destructive worldview from which transhumanism evolved, Lewis wrote the following in his 1947 book, The Abolition of Man: “For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline, and virtue. For magic and applied science alike, the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique.”
Lewis argued that a post-human future, in which mechanized, manipulated men would be governed by scientific “conditioners,” is the inevitable consequence of a society dominated by the materialist ideology that the internationalist elites of his day embraced: “Man’s conquest of himself means simply the rule of the Conditioners over the conditioned human material, the world of post-humanity which, some knowingly and some unknowingly, nearly all men in all nations are at present laboring to produce.”
As Christians, we must reject the false hope of materialist, transhumanist transcendence. We must reject the idea that man is merely a material being with material problems and material solutions. We must remember that man is made in the image of a holy God, and his deepest joy is found in being united to Him.
We do not need AI gods, we cannot create AI “life,” and we must oppose the destructive madness of anyone who thinks otherwise.
ALL ISRAEL NEWS is committed to fair and balanced coverage and analysis, and honored to publish a wide-range of opinions. That said, views expressed by guest columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of our management or staff. Jacob Leonard Rosenberg is an American-Israeli, an Evangelical Christian and the son of the founder of ALL ISRAEL NEWS. He writes about the intersection of science, technology, individual liberty and religious freedom.
Forgiving vs Fingerpointing
This blog has frequently mentioned the need for grace for our enemies (, , , ) and others. My mother always warned me that whenever I point an index finger at anyone (), there are three other fingers pointing back at me! So a lot of my reasons for blogging on this theme so often is that so often we . . . I . . . need it! Charles Spurgeon once said, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, because you are far worse than he thinks you to be.”😳 Thus, the apostle encouraged us “not to think of [ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)
Forgiveness is not needed for someone who has not intentionally offended.
To forgive is defined as “to grant pardon, cancel a debt, cease to feel resentment, to give up all claim of accounting!”
I knew a man who was owed quite a few hundred dollars by another who had borrowed and damaged some equipment. A payment against the damages came the first month, late the second, and then excuse after excuse . . .
“I’ll get the next payment to you . . . soon.”
Another friend advised him to write a letter telling him the debt was forgiven in hopes that the offender would feel such guilt that he would promptly repay what was owed. But after writing the letter, he told me he could not hold onto the offense anymore. What his advisor had intended as a deceit to make the offender feel guilty in fact worked a miracle of grace in his heart! When the offender approached him to offer to resume repayment, he had to decline. He told him, “As I said in the letter, I have forgiven you in Jesus’ name. You do not owe me anything anymore.” That’s what it is to forgive!
So before you get mad at the driver who is tailgating you, why not just let him pass? Before you develop a grudge against a neighbor who throws their dog’s dung on your side of the fence, why not give them a container on your side of the fence in which to put it? And when they throw it beside the container, why not just pick it up for them? Instead of carrying that load of anger at that relative who insulted you in front of the rest of the family, can you find it in your heart to pray FOR them, asking Father to show them mercy? Think of that one who lied to you or about you, who cost you that promotion, who cheated you out of some money, who disappointed you so cruelly.
And with three fingers pointing back at me, I suggest that you forgive. It will not be easy, but oh, the grace and joy that will flow in your innermost being when you feel God’s love pouring through you to them. Enjoy it . . . until the next time you need to forgive . . . then do it again.
Here are a few more thoughts I have collected over the years about forgiveness. Apply the ones you need today:
- As C.S, Lewis noted in The Weight of Glory, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
- “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a constant attitude.” Martin Luther King
- “It’s definitely not forgive and forget. There are some things I will always remember, but forgiveness changes the way you remember.” Chris Conlee, Love Works (a movie)
- “Forgiveness begins by your giving the offense to the Lord.” Paul David Tripp
- “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you!” Lewis B. Smeades
- “We are most like beasts when we kill. We are most like men when we judge. We are most like God when we forgive.” William Arthur Ward
- “Jesus calls his followers to sacrificially turn the other cheek. Jesus puts no cap on the limits of our forgiveness — 70 x 7. We can’t use another’s sin as an excuse for our own.” Ed Stetzer
- “Remember where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers, “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what he says.” C.S.Lewis
- “Regret cannot change your past; worry cannot change your future. Only forgiveness can change your past; only trust can change your future.” Steve Elliott
- “If we love Him, we obey Him. Forgiveness is an agonizing act of obedience, but after the agony we see grace flow, restoring what was broken. God can then continue to use us in His Kingdom work.” Jane Pappenhagen
- “The Christian life begins and continues on the foundation of forgiveness, not on a promise of protection and help in a difficult world.” Dr. Larry Crabb
- “Lord, forgive me for listening to the news and getting bitter and angry at the lost, forgetting that these are people who are deceived by the enemy of their souls.” gavin duerson
- “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Ghandi
- “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a great idea, until they have something to forgive.” C.S.Lewis
And from some sincere hearts who have been forgiven:
Jesus Is Lord In Brooklyn – Wordless Wednesday
Remember Lot’s Wife – A Warning for Christ’s Disciples
“Remember Lot’s wife!” Luke 17:32
For those of you who hold to religious beliefs, this blog is specifically for Christ-followers who do not depend on religion, but on the relationship that we can have with The Uncreated One, the One True God, who has revealed Himself in Jesus, through whom we anticipate eternal life.
Luke 17 is an interesting place for Jesus to give this warning. Note, it is not to those who do not know the Scriptures (granting that those hearing this word of caution only had the Old Testament), but to those who were scholars of the Hebrew revelations of YHWH, The God Who Is. Furthermore, this ALERT is given to his followers in the middle of His explanation of what it will be like in the Last Days.
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
In Genesis 19 the story is told of how God’s angels were sent to the Twin Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Forced homosexuality was common; in fact, Lot offered his two daughters to try to appease a mob (not a very virtuous dad!), but this only enraged the mob more. Such was the lifestyle and violence of these cities that people could do whatever they wanted as long as they had the power to do so. Worship of pagan gods often involved sexual perversions and human sacrifice, especially of children. Anything that was pleasurable was allowed; if it feels good, just do it. They lived in a fertile valley with comforts and ease with little to disturb their “peace,” such as it was if you were among the powerful.
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
Anyone could have escaped with Lot if they had been willing, but Lot could not even persuade his future sons-in-law to run from the coming calamity.
Finally, the angels literally dragged Lot and his wife and daughters out of the city with the warning, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” As Lot fled the metropolis, The God Who Is sent fiery hail onto Sodom and Gomorrah, (possibly a serious meteor shower and/or an earthquake along the East African Geological Rift that would have released petroleum and gases) so terrible that the cities and the populace were suddenly and totally destroyed . . . but as they ran from the destruction, Lot’s wife looked back . . . and became a pillar of salt!
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
Why would Lot’s wife have looked back? Think about it. Their family had a nice house, lots of meat, fruit and vegetables, deep wells with plenty of water, a comfortable climate, luxurious clothes and rich temples; her husband was a big shot in the city gate and she had siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins in town. What did it matter if they had to tolerate some abortions, some child sacrifices, occasional murders, a little thievery, lying judges, adulterous neighbors and temple prostitution? It was a good life and now they were moving to a “little city,” without all those comforts. Zoar was not an attractive tourist destination! So she looked back with longing for the things of the old life. “Remember Lot’s wife!”
In Luke 17 Jesus begins by telling His disciples of the deceptions that will come, but warns that His coming will be like lightning flashing: instantaneous and clearly evident. He then reminds His disciples of the good life Lot and his family had found in Sodom; “just as it was in the days of Lot — they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.” Then He sounds an ALARM! “Remember Lot’s wife!”
God’s call to us at the end of time or at our deaths is not in and of itself salvific, just as the angels’ care for Lot and his family was not enough to save them if they still longed for the old life!
“Clearly that call is not going to produce a miraculous last-minute change in us out of all relation to our previous walk with the Lord. No, in that moment we shall discover our heart’s real treasure. If it is the Lord Himself, then there will be no backward look. A backward glance decides everything. It is so easy to become more attached to the gifts of God than to the Giver – and even, I should add to the work of God than to God Himself!” Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life
What might tempt you to look back at that last minute, when you are about to take your last breath on earth or at that moment when Jesus parts the clouds and returns to catch away those who love Him? What is your heart’s real treasure!?
Would you look back and wish for another day or two in your house? Perhaps your desire would be for one more time in a position of power or recognition for your accomplishments. Maybe your last thought will be about that one who offended you in some way; maybe you could get even if you had just a moment more on earth. Would you want to stay just a little longer here in order to finish a task, watch another movie, relax in an easy chair or on a beach, eat another meal, see a son or daughter graduate, go on one more trip, work little more on your “bucket list?”
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home on earth.” C.S. Lewis
My hope for all of you who have received this in your email or on your WordPress Reader, and for the many of you who will read this when I email you, is that you will look forward to meeting Jesus face to face and “love His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8)
“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:33-34)
“Remember Lot’s wife!”
Love Your Enemies – Hostility Against Christian Churches
For any who doubt that persecution is coming to the American Church, enter “Is the USA becoming Anti-Christian” in a search engine.
- There you will find Politico’s scrutiny of “violent evangelical extremism;”
- a report on the FBI’s investigation into “violent radical-traditionalist Catholics” (those who prefer Latin masses);
- Time Magazine’s notice that “Regular Christians Are No Longer Welcome In American Culture;”
- a Yahoo News announcement that anti-Christian hostility is reaching “unprecedented levels in culture and government;”
- an article about the Department of Justice refusal to prosecute church vandals clearly identified on surveillance videos;
- another of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s disavowal of religious freedom being equal among paramount civil liberties along with freedom of speech, the press, free assembly and to petition the government, all guaranteed in the first amendment to the Constitution;
- Pew research that shows a rapid decline of Protestant and Catholic influence in our nation.
And these just scratch the surface! But the best is yet to come!!
We do not fear the growing hostility, but pray for our persecutors, love our enemies, and do good to all people, especially those of the household of faith. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” (Tertullian)
“Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.” (Luke 6:27-29)
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:28-33)
Guest Blog: Hostility Against Churches
by Arielle Del Turco, M.A.
On March 27, 2023, three children and three adults were killed in a shooting at The Covenant School, a private Christian school and a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee.
The assailant shot through glass side doors to access areas throughout the building, including the church office and the children’s ministry. Covenant released a statement that said, “Our community is heartbroken. We are grieving tremendous loss and are in shock coming out of the terror that shattered our school and church.”1
Research conducted by Family Research Council (FRC) indicates that criminal acts against churches have been steadily on the rise for the past several years, and the first quarter of 2023 has continued the upward trend. The first three months of 2023 saw approximately three times the number of acts of hostility perpetrated against churches in the same timeframe last year.
Act of Hostility Continue to Rise
In December 2022, FRC released an extensive publication documenting a sharp rise in acts of hostility against churches in the United States. Analyzing publicly available data from the past five years, FRC found a total of 420 documented acts of hostility that occurred between January 2018 and September 2022. The types of acts identified include vandalism, arson, gun-related incidents, bomb threats, and more. There also appeared to be an increase in frequency over the course of the reporting period. FRC’s report identified 137 acts of hostility against churches between January and September 2022. By comparison, there were 96 incidents in all 12 months of 2021. FRC also identified 54 incidents against churches in 2020, 83 in 2019, and 50 in 2018.
Since the launch of that report, FRC has continued to track acts of hostility against churches. The fourth quarter of 2022 saw an additional 54 incidents, for a total of 191 in 2022. That number is nearly double the previous year’s total of 96. In the first quarter of 2023, 69 incidents have already occurred. If this rate continues, 2023 will have the highest number of incidents of the six years FRC has tracked, continuing the upward trend. Most of the 2023 incidents occurred in January (43); 14 occurred in February, and 12 occurred in March.
Incidents per month, January-March 2023
Compared to the same timeframe in previous years, January through March of 2023 represents a significant increase in acts of hostility. In those same months, 2018 saw 15 acts of hostility against churches; 2019 saw 12; 2020 saw none; 2021 saw 14; and 2022 saw 24.
Criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of church property are symptomatic of a collapse in societal reverence and respect for houses of worship and religion — in this case, churches and Christianity. Some people appear increasingly comfortable lashing out against church buildings, pointing to a larger societal problem of marginalizing core Christian beliefs, including those that touch on hot-button political issues related to human dignity and sexuality.
The anger and division that increasingly characterize American society are endangering churches and eroding religious freedom. When congregants feel targeted by members of their communities or church buildings bear the brunt of outrage over political events, the very ability to live out one’s faith safely is under attack. Violent or destructive incidents that interfere with an individual’s lawful free exercise of religion at their house of worship present a significant nationwide challenge.
Analyzing Incidents from January to March, 2023
Most of the incidents covered in this supplemental report are acts of vandalism; FRC identified 53 occurrences of vandalism in the first quarter of 2023; 10 arson attacks, arson attempts, or fires with unknown causes; three gun-related incidents; three bomb threats; and two other incidents (assault, etc.). Three incidents fell into more than one category. Twenty-nine states experienced acts of hostility against churches. North Carolina had the most incidents, with seven. Ohio and Tennessee each had five. Florida, Missouri, and Pennsylvania each had four. No incidents were found in 21 states or the District of Columbia.
Acts of vandalism comprised the majority of reported acts of hostility against churches in the first three months of 2023. Some incidents appeared to have been committed by youth or persons struggling with mental illness. Some acts of vandalism against churches appeared to have been motivated by anger toward the church that was targeted. Several instances of vandalism also involved theft. Many acts of vandalism against churches were under criminal investigation; some were under investigation as hate crimes.2
Many of the acts of vandalism represented unexplained acts of destruction, such as an outdoor nativity scene being destroyed3 or rocks being thrown through a window.4 In Memphis, Tennessee, vandals broke into Holy Nation Church, smashed the stained-glass windows in the sanctuary, and stole equipment the church uses to broadcast its services online. The pastor explained the situation by pointing to larger problems facing youth struggling to grapple with their own emotional distress. “I hold no ill will,” Pastor Andrew Perpener Jr. stated. “These things are just a manifestation of a greater hurt.”5
Some of the incidents conveyed profound anger and aggression being directed toward churches. In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, vandals broke into the Dellabrook Presbyterian Church on Valentine’s Day and sprayed a fire extinguisher all over the church. The ventilation and air- conditioning system picked up the powder residue from the fire extinguisher and spread it throughout the building, causing around $40,000 in damage. Luellen Curry, who works at the church, told a local news station, “I just don’t understand. I keep wondering why. It shows a great deal of anger. And were they angry at us? Were they angry at churches? Were they angry at God? I just don’t understand why someone would do this.”6
In February, vandals entered Jesus Is Alive World Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, and destroyed sound equipment, a podium, and 100-year-old stained-glass windows. They also damaged a piano and television, threw chairs around the building, and discharged a fire extinguisher, ruining the carpet. Still, Pastor Isaiah Adio told reporters, “We are not going to be frustrated, we will continue doing what we are doing for the body of Christ and our community.”7
In some acts of vandalism, hateful messages were left behind. At least one church was vandalized with Satanic symbols.8 A pro-life sign outside of a church was vandalized with the message “Womens body womens choice.”9 On March 3, vandals wrote “TRANS PWR” in black spray paint on the front of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky. This incident occurred the day after the Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill that would protect children from harmful gender-transition procedures.10
Arson, Attempted Arson or Fires of Unknow Origin
From January to March of 2023, there were 10 instances of arson, attempted arson, or fires with unknown causes. Many of these acts were deeply disturbing. On January 3, Portland Korean Church, a vacant 117-year-old building in Portland, Oregon, was set on fire. The 27-year-old suspect, whose legal name is Cameron Storer but who identifies as female, claimed voices in Storer’s head threatened to “mutilate” Storer if Storer refused to burn the church down.11 Goodwill Baptist Church, a historically black church in Austin, Texas, was set on fire on March 6 in what police believed to be arson, causing $200,000 in damages.12 In other instances, individuals attempted to set fire to crosses or statues that were outside church buildings.
Three gun-related incidents occurred on church property in the first three months of 2023, including the shooting at The Covenant School. In one incident, two adults and two juveniles shot 50 rounds from 9mm pistols at a Mennonite church building in Versailles, Missouri; the property damage was charged as a hate crime.13 In another incident, a late-night shooting took place in the parking lot of the Praise Temple Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, sending four individuals to the hospital.14
FRC found three incidents of bomb threats against churches in the first three months of 2023. On February 19, a passerby noticed a pipe bomb outside St. Dominic Catholic Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Police Department’s bomb squad removed the 18-inch device but did not tell reporters whether they believed the church had been targeted.15 On January 30, a suspect was charged with a felony after she threatened to blow up Gracelife Chapel near Pevely, Ohio. The suspect had reportedly issued multiple threats to a church employee, one time texting, “I will make your church go bye bye.”16 Another incident involved a teenager calling in a false bomb threat to a church in Nashville.17
Two incidents in the first three months of 2023 fell into the “other” category; one was a violent attack. On March 12, a man was arrested for stabbing someone at Crossfire Church in Springfield, Oregon. Church staff said the assailant had been attending the ministry and had never shown signs of violence before the assault. Staff chalked up the assailant’s actions to drug use and expressed frustrations with Oregon’s increasingly liberal drug laws, which they saw as contributing to substance abuse. The victim sustained non-life-threatening injuries to his head and neck. Pastor Aaron Taylor stated, “We are affected on a regular basis by the fentanyl crisis that is in our community and is hurting so many.” Yet, he insisted that he would not let the attack negatively impact the church’s ministry. “We’ll never screen people who come to church. Instead what we’ll do is have a very robust security and staff.”18
January of 2023 was a particularly intense month for acts of hostility against churches. Although the number of actions dropped in February and March. The first quarter of 2023 overall saw an unusually high number of acts of hostility, with 69 such incidents being documented. Our research indicates that number is more than the entirety of 2018, in which we identified only 50 incidents, or 2020, in which we identified 54. This steep increase is a cause for concern.
To learn more about FRC’s findings on acts of hostility against churches, check out our full publication released in December 2022 at FRC.org/HostilityAgainstChurches
Arielle Del Turco, M.A., is Assistant Director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council.
Abigail Ferrara, Laura Grossberndt, and Chris Gacek are additional contributors to this report.
1 “Six killed, including three children, in Tennessee school shooting,” NBC News, March 28, 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/live-blog/nashville-school-shooting-covenant-live-updates-rcna76861.
2 Marcus Espinoza, “Man in custody after several Camden County and Gloucester County churches vandalized, police say,” Fox 29 Philadelphia, January 13, 2023, https://www.fox29.com/news/man-in-custody-after-several-camden-county-and- gloucester-county-churches-vandalized-police-say.
3 Hannah Kliger, “Parish leaders, worshippers lament vandalism of nativity scene at Saint Nicholas of Tolentine in Queens,” CBS News New York, January 9, 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/newyork/news/parish-leaders-worshippers-lament- vandalism-of-nativity-scene-at-st-nicholas-of-tolentine-in-queens/.
4 “Police Investigating Vandalism of Takoma Park Church,” Source of the Spring, January 9, 2023, https://www.sourceofthespring.com/takoma-park-news/2802064/police-investigating-vandalism-of-takoma-park-church/.
5 Walter Murphy, “Pastor speaks out after Memphis church vandalized for 2nd time in month,” Action News 5, January 9, 2023, https://www.actionnews5.com/2023/01/10/pastor-speaks-out-after-memphis-church-vandalized-2nd-time-month/.
6 Louie Tran, “‘It’s horrifying’: Winston-Salem church vandalized on Valentine’s Day and left with $40K worth of damage,” WXII NBC 12, February 17, 2023, https://www.wxii12.com/article/its-horrifying-winston-salem-church-vandalized-on- valentines-day-and-left-with-dollar40k-worth-of-damage/42942019.
7 Alyana Gomez, “Reading, Pa. church vandalized ‘beyond comprehension,’” ABC 6 Philadelphia, February 8, 2023, https://6abc.com/reading-pennsylvania-church-vandalism-jesus-is-alive-world-center-pa/12783031/.
8 Andrew Mobley, “Izard County historic church vandalized with satanic symbols; Sheriff investigating,” KATV ABC 7, February 5, 2023, https://katv.com/news/local/izard-county-church-vandalized-with-satanic-symbols-sheriffs-office- investigating-violet-hill-arkansas-larkin-road-old-philadelphia-church-methodist-national-register-of-historic-places- pentagram-inverted-cross-vandalism-satanism-upside-down-cross-paint.
9 Micaiah Bilger, “Abortion Activists Vandalize Catholic Church’s Pro-Life Banners,” Life News, January 30, 2023, https://www.lifenews.com/2023/01/30/abortion-activists-vandalize-catholic-churchs-pro-life-banners/.
10 Billy Kobin, “Louisville church, other areas hit with ‘TRANS PWR’ graffiti after House OK’s gender bill,” Louisville Courier Journal, March 3, 2023, https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2023/03/03/louisville-st-joseph- catholic-church-hit-with-trans-pwr-graffiti-kentucky-hb-470/69969226007/.
11 Aaron Mesh, “Person Set Fire to Century-Old Portland Church on Orders From Voices in Her Head, Court Records Say,” Willamette Week, January 5, 2023, https://www.wweek.com/news/2023/01/05/person-set-fire-to-century-old-portland- church-on-orders-from-voices-in-their-head-court-records-say/.
12 Ryan Autullo, “Arson suspected at Black Baptist church in South Austin,” Austin American-Statesman, March 7, 2023, https://www.statesman.com/story/news/local/2023/03/07/arson-suspected-black-goodwill-baptist-church-south- austin/69982242007/.
13 Michael Foust, “2 Men Charged with Hate Crime in Shooting, Vandalism of Missouri Church,” Christian Headlines, March 23, 2023, https://www.christianheadlines.com/contributors/michael-foust/men-charged-with-hate-crime-in- shooting-vandalism-of-missouri-church.html.
14 Greg Atoms, “ Four Shots During Drive-By Shooting at Shreveport Church,” News Radio 710 KEEL, March 4, 2023, https://710keel.com/four-shot-during-drive-by-shooting-at-shreveport-church/.
15 Tyler Arnold, “Pipe bomb found behind Catholic church in Philadelphia,” Catholic News Agency, February 20, 2023, https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/253694/pipe-bomb-found-behind-catholic-church-in-philadelphia.
16 “Woman charged for allegedly threatening to blow up Pevely-area church,” Leader Publications, February 12, 2023, https://www.myleaderpaper.com/news/police_fire/woman-charged-for-allegedly-threatening-to-blow-up-pevely-area- church/article_39f02a12-aaf0-11ed-97af-5ffc29d706c4.html.
17 Colleen Guerry, “Teen charged with making false bomb threat against Nashville church,” News 2 WKRN, February 22, 2023, https://www.wkrn.com/news/local-news/nashville/teen-charged-with-making-false-bomb-threat-against-nashville- church/.
18 Ryan Bonham and Noah Chavez, “Springfield man arrested in stabbing at church, police say,” KEZI ABC 9, March 13, 2023, https://www.kezi.com/news/springfield-man-arrested-in-stabbing-at-church-police-say/article_11f11cea-c1d1-11ed- b188-73ec3258cba4.html.