Paranoid Robots

My first wife was a gadget lover, and every time we went to USA she came back with some new invention for her kitchen; if there was a robotic element she was very happy.  She also had two robots for cleaning her floors [no I wasn’t one of them]. One was a wet cleaner for kitchen and bathrooms and the other was a dry cleaner for hardwood and synthetic floors. The present commercially available robots like vacuum cleaners are little more than drones capable of carrying out only one task. However at a recent convention, a panel of robotic experts has stated that within ten years there will be robots that can perform manifold tasks and also provide companionship for their owners.

But, to cap it all, they are now predicting that there will be paranoid robots in the near future, possibly as early as 2020. There is a film called ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ in which a depressed machine roams through space, but having them roam in our homes is a distressing thought. In about ten years scientists believe they can give robots their own emotions as they act independently, being capable of performing a variety of domestic tasks.

To do this they are giving robots emotions so that they can be motivated. If a robot feels happy after cleaning a dirty carpet then it will apparently seek out more dirt to cleanse and thus feel the same. It could of course throw dirt on the carpet so it could keep cleaning, but I don’t expect the experts have thought of that paranoia! We now have e-mail addiction where people send themselves an e-mail if after a few minutes their in-tray is empty.

It seems that “human emotions are a series of electrical and chemical signals that are interpreted by our brains to produce a particular feeling. This emotion then drives a series of decisions about what to do next.” Likewise when a robot is shown a toy it will become happy and smile, when surprised it will cower and exhibit fear. By creating frustration when doing difficult tasks it will seek out alternative methods, while boredom will motivate it to new tasks. The feeling of hunger will make it realise it needs recharging.

If lawless and decadent mankind gives robots emotions they will resemble mankind by 2020. We could have a disintegrating society where people and robots have emotions out of control. It is already present in some of our teenagers who will be part of that scientific body — it won’t take long to encode such disorder into the robotic race.

For those who can see clearly, there is gloom over the state of the nations from a moral, spiritual, ethical and political perspective. When people come to church they want their aspirations lifted.

They want to enter a place and a phase of praise and worship that takes them away from the reality of a declining nation which offers them very little hope for spiritual advancement or moral rectitude. Public idols in sport, entertainment and politics compromise moral standards, and bend the rules of decency and right living. There is self-pleasing and double-talk on every hand.

Humanistic governments set little example before young people, and the proliferation of broken homes, single parent families, divorce, over emphasis on same-sex marriage, drunkenness  and out-of-wedlock pregnancies is disheartening, and establishes an environment where growing young people can find little of value in the morals and standards of some of their political leaders. It’s not unusual therefore to find depression on the rise in younger people and an increase in neurosis. They are confused by doubtful and double standards.

Our godless society is force-feeding our children into adulthood denying them the innocence that they need to be rational well-ordered people; their emotions are out of sync with expectations and reality. An approved psychiatrist has just released a book into the educational community advising our children about the advantages of anal and oral sex so they can have sexual experience without becoming pregnant. The mind is flabbergasted at such an abomination. Humans make love face to face; it is only animals that differ. Thus our children will be taught experience without maturity to discern propriety. 

Our only answer is to declare our Christian heritage and standard. To set before our children and teenagers what Christ expects of us, and how we should react in circumstances contrary to morality, good behaviour and decency. They should be brought up in a godly atmosphere where at home and at church they see enacted a level of purity and lifestyle that will wash over them in the ordinary things of life. Perhaps then our robots will learn virtue!

Vampire Face-lift

An article entitled “‘the vampire facelift that puts colour in your cheeks” informs of a new beauty process that is associated with your own blood and is better than Botox or plastic surgery. Women are ironing out their wrinkles and rejuvenating their skin with injections of their own blood. The procedure involves taking blood from a patient’s arm and running it through a machine that separates out the platelets. These platelets, which are tiny cells, have hormones and proteins, and are responsible for making the blood clot following injury. It is thought that at high concentrations, if injected into the face, they will stimulate the skin to repair itself.  It was tested on rats with positive results, although why rats would want a beauty treatment puzzles me!

Patients have three sessions costing £400 each and a whole course is £1,500. It helps skin which has become dry or damaged by the sun or smoking and is thus wrinkled. It has been found that these injections increased the number of collagen fibres in the skin and improved its quality. This treatment had impressive results in America and has now invaded our shores also with good outcomes. A registrar from a Harley Street surgery has stated that 60% of patients are well satisfied with the experiment. One is not sure what happens to the other 40% – perhaps still wrinkled!

It is said that the face we have until we are forty is the result of our parents and thereafter by ourselves – how we live determines how we look. The face often reflects the soul, clearly stated in Proverbs 27:19 As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” In life we are assailed by hurry, worry, flurry, fear and faces. These, in varying degrees, affect us adversely; we crinkle and crease in proportion to our reaction to surrounding influences. However, scientists at Orebro University, Sweden have declared that our eyes are indeed windows to our soul. Their findings showed that those with densely packed crypts are more warm hearted, tender, trusting, and likely to sympathise with others. In comparison, those with more contraction furrows were more neurotic, impulsive and likely to give way to cravings. The researchers argued that eye structure and personality could be linked because the genes responsible for the development of the iris also play a role in shaping part of the frontal lobe of the brain, which influences personality.

Further it is often said that ‘The beauty on the outside never gets into the soul. But the beauty of the soul reflects itself on the face,’ or visa versa. [Archdeacon Fulton Sheen]. We cannot by cell injection become a beautiful person, it is inward and either shines or we are not beautiful, whatever the face tells us – either real or artificial, the eyes reveal how it really is.

Metaphorically the blood of Christ flowing through us by divine injection helps alleviate crinkles and wrinkles; the transmuting beauty from within shines out changing us from glory to glory. The promise is sure, the fact undeniable. It is then that the face and eyes are co-joined in harmony of metamorphous wonder, divinely etched. Our transfusion came through the cross as we knelt in repentance before the riven Christ – it cost us our pride and he his life. His experiment has gone on for over two thousand years and whereas human attempts at anti-ageing fail200, his converts to life eternal, and whilst life remains those wrinkles become signs of honour. He takes the pain of life and makes it into glory.

Once we have had that injection we begin to reflect heaven which is born in our soul. We are not vampires but victorious, triumphing even over age. We do not lose but gain beauty as the years pass and we resemble the living Christ because His blood is ever efficacious to forgive and cleanse – beauty is seen in holiness.  Let the Bible speak: Ps 51:7 “Cleanse me with hyssop, [or take me to your laundry] and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” What is more beautiful than the driven snow?



The Fruitful Life

There is a law of fruitfulness in the entire creation and consequently history confirms that mankind in particular has always had a need for productivity to fulfil their needs, ever since God said to Adam “till the ground.” It appears that a disposition has been implanted into humanity requiring self-generation that impels them to spawn something positive in life, either offspring or destiny or both.

Taking this to extreme lengths Christians are encouraged to meet targets for God in their lives and so actively witness, and produce positive results for eternity.  Pastors devise test papers [sermons] to encourage their congregations to respond to the demands of harvest; detailing how they can become more efficient in spreading the gospel and establishing the kingdom. Management techniques have invaded the modern church. Meetings are honed to perfection to make it easier for people to attend and carry on a busy life, almost a drive-through situation, like MacDonald’s.

The individual is nurtured and cared for like no other period in history, so they don’t get offended or become lukewarm; keys for success are enumerated to keep them on fire and ablaze for God.  No one is allowed to miss out; we are all encouraged to be purpose driven.  We are challenged to define and deploy a vision statement and, asked what our mission statement is, we must always be ready to do — and perhaps to be!  The problem is that we cannot calculate that kind of success; it is not a numeric game.  30, 60 and 100-fold cannot be measured in human terms but only in divine destiny. Fruitfulness is split into two facets; the one is the fruit of character touching our inward development and the other is our ministry, which affects our outward witness and deals with gifting. They walk hand in hand and are difficult to separate but not impossible to recognise.

One passage in the Bible above all others illustrates the secret of everlasting fruitfulness or productivity and is found in the book of Ruth. Naomi and Eliakim and their two sons leave Bethlehem Ephrata for Moab.  The two sons marry, one to Ruth and the other to Orpah, and eventually all the men died leaving Naomi and her daughters–in-law.  After ten years Naomi decides to return to her homeland, and appeals to her daughters-in-law to return to theirs but Ruth refuses and accompanies her to Bethlehem. Because they are poor Ruth gleans in the fields of Boaz, who espies her and commands that his reapers leave handfuls on purpose for her. The seeds of love have been sown!

Naomi, realising that she is related to Boaz, and therefore Ruth also because of marriage to her late son, sends her to the threshing floor at evening to lie at the feet of Boaz so she can be noticed and a demand made upon him to marry her according to Jewish law.  He says there is someone closer by lineage and he will deal with it, which he does in the morning, but he sends Ruth away with her skirt full of grain.  The nearer kinsman refuses to marry Ruth, so Boaz steps in ands seals the deal, and a Moabitish damsel, part of the cursed generation, becomes part of the ancestry of Christ.

There is a progression: Ruth gleans from the corners of the fields, thus from no grain to some grain, and then handfuls on purpose so from some grain to more grain; then her skirt was full which is from more grain to much grain and then marriage when she comes into relationship with Boaz and a son, Obed, is born, and now she has fruit that remains. Mildew, mice and ice can affect the grain but not the son.  She becomes fruitful through relationship.

In John 15 verse 2, 4 we read: no fruit” and “fruit.” In verse 2 again more fruit.” In verse 5 “much fruit.” In verse 16 “fruit that remains.”  There is a progression. The basis of this is verse 7: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” While Christians struggle to produce, they need to learn that the secret is to dwell in Christ’s presence, it is the answer.  Aaron’s rod lay before God’s presence in the Tabernacle overnight and did nothing but it was found to have budded, blossomed and fruited in the morning [Numbers 17:8]. Fruitfulness comes from abiding with activity, but abiding or relationship is foundational! 


War & Peace

The story is told of a scorpion that wanted to cross a stream. A frog offered to give it a ride. As they were travelling, the scorpion stung the frog. The frog winced, but continued across the water. This happened several times. When they reached the other side, the frog asked, “Why did you sting me when I was helping you?” The scorpion replied, “I can’t help it – it’s my nature. But tell me, why did you continue to help me even when I was hurting you?” “Because helping others is my nature,” replied the frog.[1]

Probably, the classic mis-pronouncement in political history was that made by Neville Chamberlain when broadcasting the Munich Agreement on the 1st October 1938 – “I believe it is peace for our time . . . peace with honour.” Shortly after that, Hitler marched on Poland, war was declared, and Chamberlain resigned. Chamberlain desperately wanted to believe that war could be averted, that was his nature. He was a man of peace who endeavoured to maintain neutrality for his nation, even in spite of the gathering political storm.

Thomas a Kempis said: “All people desire peace, but few desire the things that make for peace.” The self-discipline to achieve a resolution of conflict is often sacrificed for the path of least resistance resulting in aggression. All of us face a war situation of some sort or another, but the process of truce is at times difficult and many, like Chamberlain, shy away from the reality of the situation.

Very few would deny the existence of personal conflict, and it is hard to speak about peace because we know so little of it. All of us are caught up in our own wars, both large and little, hot and cold and as a result we long for peace.  One person put it this way; “peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload.” We have just come to the end of a furious election and it seemed during it that parties were at war!

There are four main types of conflict; political, ecclesiastical, family and personal. Today we have the prospect of Europe facing troubles created by ISIS as fleeing migrants endeavour to land on their beaches. There is war in the Anglican denomination because of the appointment of homosexual and women bishops. There are wars raging in countless homes throughout this land, as husbands and wives rage in anger and children are emotionally scarred for life.

If only our own conflict that has been grumbling on for years could finally be put behind us, then we think that life would take on a new brightness; but soon another conflict would arise because we are only human. We see in our own troubles a mirror of the world situation, and just as we imagine victory over our own enemies so we take sides as we see nations slaughter each other.

The Biblical word, “Shalom” can simply be a prayer for safety, good health or success. It can also describe good relations between people and nations.

When Jews greet one another, they offer the word as a benediction. In Hebrew it is “never only a negative state; it never means only the absence of trouble; it always means everything which makes for man’s highest good.”[2]

The essential effort to be a peacemaker not peace lover, always starts with turning to God. No one can work at peace until they KNOW peace. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ “ (Romans 5:1). In anticipation of the future gospel Isaiah quotes: “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.” (Isa. 32:17). The argument of Christ’s prayer was: that they may be one, even as we are one” (verse 22). There was never any discord between the Father and the Son Jesus Christ. Peace was His prayer; peace can be our blessing.

1 The Clergy Journal, May/June 2002, p. 44.

2  William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol 1, The Saint Andrew Press,   1965, Page 103

The A40 Saloon

A FEW YEARS AGO I had two cards pushed through my door because parcels were delivered and we were out. It had taken me some considerable time to trace a supplier of decaffeinated tea by water process (almost all firms in England use chemicals) but I found that Twinings produced some for export, and were willing to sell me some. This was one of the packets that couldn’t be delivered so I arranged for them to call when someone would be in.

The van drove up on the appropriate day and the driver walked down the path with our parcel. Schmitz, our dog at the time, with his usual exuberant and joyful ‘barkyness’ went wild. Patricia managed to grab his collar and pull him back over the doorstep, but on looking up saw the man walking back to his cab throwing the retort over his shoulder “collect it yourself” climbed back into his van and drove off back to his depot. The days of co-operation seem to have long gone. I think it was good I wasn’t in the house at the time!

Matsushita has developed a video monitor system that snaps pictures of anyone who rings your doorbell while you are out for the day. The device captures up to 16 snapshots per day. It is good for checking those people who “case” the area looking for empty houses.  It also acts as a visual answering machine.

The thought came to me that the door of heaven has no such device, neither do you ever have to leave a card saying “called but you were out.”  God is always available, he never goes out, and no doubt his dogs are perfectly trained! King David tells us that “The LORD is in His holy temple, the LORD’S throne is in heaven; his eyes behold, his eyelids test the sons of men.” (Psalm 11:4) they ‘test’ us because they never close.  Whosoever calls, he is there to answer.  He doesn’t go on holiday, turn off his mobile phone or put the answer phone on, he’s not curled up asleep for forty winks after lunch, and no matter the time or the day, he is there to care for us.

Neither do we need to make alternative arrangements for him to deliver to us for he knows when WE are in. If we’ve ordered something from heaven’s superstore, you can be sure he’ll deliver on time not a second or a day too late. God’s middle name is “co-operation” and don’t ask me why, because at best we are a wretched bunch, but we are saved by grace, and He does love His own and seeks to meet them at their point of need.

In fact, it says in Psalm 147:15 “He launches his promises earthward-how swift and sure they come” [The Message], when something is launched it is directional and specific, it has a destination, its route is planned and perfect. Many years ago I received an envelope through my door and found it was bill which I had overlooked and not budgeted for and knew I could not meet it. As I pondered and prayed a knock came on the front door and there stood man who wanted to know if he could buy my A40 saloon on the front drive. It belonged to my first wife but her muscular condition had worsened so she could not drive it and I had intended selling it. The sum he offered was the sum of the bill I was holding in my hand which he could not read.  God delivers at the moment for the circumstance, on time and to fit the situation. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” [Matt 6:33]. These are the little things God excels at.