Imagine a day when your grocery cart will scan and weigh items, alert you to sales, suggest items based on what you’ve already chosen, and help locate products in the store. It will then scan your credit card to check out.
Here’s an even-easier fantasy: You could download a free app, scan a QR code at the store’s entrance, grab items off the shelves, then exit through the turnstiles. By the time you’re halfway to your car, you’ll receive a receipt in the app.
Sounds like science fiction? It’s actually just science. The Wall Street Journal tells us that AI-powered shopping is already here and coming to stores nationwide this year.
Will a robot drive your next taxi?
Here’s another fiction-to-fact story: According to Bloomberg Businessweek, robot-driven taxis will soon make travel in a driverless cab much cheaper than owning our own car. Ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft are making personal car ownership less attractive as well.
FedEx is testing autonomous delivery robots that will bring products from Pizza Hut, Walmart, Walgreens, and other companies to your door. AutoZone, Lowe’s, and Target have also signed on to the program.
An adjunct professor at Stanford School of Medicine has developed an AI-assisted mental health platform. Woebot offers flexibility for patients by being available at any hour of the day. This virtual counselor also offers anonymity that might free patients worried about how their therapist is evaluating them.
And an unmanned space capsule has docked at the International Space Station. The SpaceX vessel is carrying a data-collecting test dummy named Ripley, which will monitor how traveling in the craft may affect humans in the future.
“The deadliest animal in history”
Humans can do amazing things. However, we are still finite people living in a fallen world.
I just finished reading No Beast So Fierce by Dane Huckelbridge. The subtitle tells the tale: The Terrifying True Story of the Champawat Tiger, the Deadliest Animal in History.
A Bengal tiger was shot in the mouth by a hunter in 1900 but survived. Its injury rendered it unable to catch its normal prey, so it began hunting people. Over the next seven years, the tiger killed and ate more than four hundred people in Nepal and India. A hunter retained by the British government was finally able to kill it in 1907.
Why was the Bengal tiger able to hunt humans so effectively for so long? As Huckelbridge notes, such tigers can run nearly three times faster than humans. Their bite is stronger than that of a great white shark. A single blow from their paw can decapitate a human. And they are smart, often outwitting their prey by imitating their sounds and tracking them into places where they are susceptible to attack.
Tigers are not the only predators humans should fear. Mosquitoes, snakes, dogs, and tapeworms are among the animals that kill the most people worldwide.
Luke Perry and Job
However, if you’re like most of us, you’re not really afraid of Bengal tigers, mosquitoes, and tapeworms today.
Our technological advances can lead us to think we are immune from mortality. If we had been living in the jungles of Nepal a century ago, the perilous nature of life would have been far more obvious to us. Even a generation ago, we would have lived in fear of polio or smallpox.
But Scripture is still true: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Science can improve our lives, but it cannot prevent our deaths.
Janice Freeman, one of the most popular contestants on The Voice two years ago, died last Saturday from pneumonia and a blood clot. She was thirty-three years old. Pedestrian deaths have reached their highest level since 1990. A helicopter crashed in Kenya last Sunday, killing four American tourists and its Kenyan pilot. And television star Luke Perry died yesterday after suffering a massive stroke.
Job complained that his prosperity “passed away like a cloud” (Job 30:15). So will ours, one day.
Defeating the devil
Satan wants lost people to ignore their mortality until it’s too late. For the devil, “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts” (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters). He wants those who reject their need for Jesus to realize they are wrong only when they stand before the Lord in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The devil employs a similar strategy with Christians. He wants us to ignore the eternal peril of the non-believers we know. And he wants us to put off preparing for heaven until we arrive there.
Our response should be to use the temporal to serve the eternal. How?
One: Pray urgently by name for the lost people we know, then do all we can to help them trust in Jesus. “Now is the day of salvation” because tomorrow is promised to no one (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Two: Use our material resources and cultural influence to serve eternal souls. Such compassion echoes in heaven (Revelation 14:13) and imitates the One who “came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
How Chip and Joanna Gaines helped a homeless church
Church Under the Bridge is one of my favorite ministries anywhere.
In 1992, Jimmy and Janet Dorrell began meeting with homeless people under the Interstate 35 bridge in Waco. Their ministry has become one of the most inclusive, transformative churches I have ever seen.
Then, ironically, construction to widen the highway at their location rendered their ministry homeless.
In stepped Chip and Joanna Gaines to offer the church free use of the lawn at their Magnolia Market at the Silos. The couple joined two hundred members of the congregation for worship last Sunday. The church’s website now welcomes everyone to “Church Under the Bridge at the Silos.”
The Dorrells and Gaineses have very different stories, but both show us what God can do with our influence when we surrender it to him.
How will you use your temporary possessions to serve eternal souls today?