Seeing New Things
SEEING NEW THINGS
Nicholas Negroponte, is the founder of MIT’s Media Lab, and a seer of new things. In 1984 he gave a Technology, Education, and Design (TED) talk Negroponte predicted several technologies that are in common use today, including the smart phone and the e-reader. In a follow up TED talk he did in 2014 entitled, A 30 year history of the future , Negroponte reviewed how his prediction were received at the time as well as how they played out over a thirty year period. At the time of his TED talk in 1984 Negroponte was 40. When he gave his TED talk in 2014 he was 71.
Negroponte’s predictions of a touch screen interface and of e readers were met with particular skepticism by critics when he made those predictions. As early as the 1970’s Negroponte predicted that our fingers would be the primary way we would interact with computers in the future. At the time mostly everyone in his field thought Negroponte was ridiculous to predict that we would be interacting with computers through the use of our fingers. To quote Negroponte, “ papers were published about how stupid it was to use fingers. Three reasons. One, because they were low resolution. The other was your hand would exclude what you wanted to see. And the third, which was the winner, was because your fingers would get the screen dirty.” In 2007 Steve Jobbs vindicated Negroponte’s prediction on touch screens with the introduction of the Iphone. Clifford Stoll, a writer at Newsweek magazine, in 1995 said this about Negroponte’s prediction of e-readers, “ Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the internet. Uh, sure.”
How was Negroponte able to make such accurate predictions? He attributes his success at prediction primarily to his getting older. To quote Negroponte in his 2014 TED talk, “ One of the things about age is that I can tell you with great confidence I’ve been to the future. I’ve been there actually many times. And the reason I say that is how many times in my life have I said oh in ten years this will happen. And then ten years comes. Oh in five years this will happen. And then five years comes. So I say this a little bit having sort of felt I have been there a number of times.” Negroponte goes on to say that one of the things he is most quoted for is in 1980 where he said, “Computing is not about computers anymore it is about living.”
Negroponte was able to distill down his years of experience with architecture, design, computers, and people, into the wisdom by which he was able to see new things. Even when he gave his 1984 TED talk he had been working in the fields of architecture, design, and technology for fifteen years. Accurate predictions of the future do not come out of the blue. Instead, they come from lessons of the past that are interpreted through the light of hope for the future.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
The LORD, through his prophet Isaiah, is speaking to His people during a difficult time in their history. Jerusalem has fallen, along with the Southern Kingdom of Judah, to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, and the people have been carried off into captivity in a foreign land. The people remember what God had done for them before, how he delivered them out of Egypt with Signs and Wonders, and they want God to do that again. The Israelites are so stuck in past glory that they can’t see what God is doing in the present. God says in our text today that indeed he is the one who delivered them out of Egypt. But he is doing a new thing different than what he did in Egypt. He has called the Israelites to be a witness to the surrounding nations that they might know his glory.
How do we stop ourselves from getting stuck in past glory or getting weighed down by past regrets? Our call to worship from 1 Peter shows us. The key to seeing new things is humbling ourselves. And in humbling ourselves we see good news.
The Good News: When we humble ourselves God will exalt us in due to revealing to us new things.
How do we humble ourselves?
We humble ourselves by perceiving and receiving the Kingdom of God.
We humble ourselves by perceiving and receiving the Kingdom of God. The prophet Isaiah often talks about a reversal in who is able to hear God’s message. Those who Israel considers to be blind, that being the surrounding nations, God says will now see His Glory. Those who Israel considers to be deaf, the surrounding nations, God says will now hear his message. Jesus picks up this theme of Isaiah in the New Testament by teaching in parables.
Many teachers today will say that Jesus taught in parables to connect with his audience. Because his audience was mainly farmers he taught about sowing and reaping to connect with them. Much like how I talked about smart phones since everyone today has a smart phone. Yet, the New Testament is clear that Jesus did not teach in parables to illustrate his point but to obscure his point. When the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables this is what he says, “10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’[a]
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
(Matthew 13:10-16). Jesus spoke in parables not to connect with our life but to connect with his. He spoke in parables to challenge us to connect with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is what we pray every Sunday in the Lord’s prayer, Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom of God is when heaven invades Earth. It is when the future God has for us breaks through into our present and we see new possibilities in our lives. How do we see the Kingdom of God? I believe the scripture says we see the kingdom of God when we are humbled. We are humbled 1. By the School of Hard Knocks. 2. The School of Prayer.
First, life humbles us through the school of hard knocks. It is interesting that Jesus did not find his disciples in the library fishing for books to write their next sermon but by the Sea of Galilee fishing to provide the next meal for their families. And Jesus calls them by the sea shore, “ Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him (Mark 1:17).
I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t go to some theological library to recruit disciples who were looking for commentaries to write their next sermons. Instead he went to the sea of Galilee to recruit fisherman who were not looking to write their next sermon but were looking for their next meal to feed their family. And he said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” It strikes me that one cannot become fishers of men unless one knows how hard fishing is. One cannot build the house of faith unless one knows the details and planning that go into building and maintaining a house. One cannot cut it in ministry unless one can also cut it in cutting the grass. There is something about working with our hands, and using God’s ability he gave us to work with our hands, that teaches us our strengths and limitations, and when we reach our limitations leads us to recognize the hand of God, to be guided into the school of prayer.
The school of prayer helps us see the glory in the little things. And seeing glory in the little things leads us into big breakthroughs. In the words of Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who spent his life praying and doing physical labor behind the walls of a monastery, “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”
God does not regard the greatness of our work but the love with which we perform it. And if that be the case I believe today, in these pews, there are many rock stars in the Kingdom of Heaven , who are not seen by the world, but will receive a well done good and faithful servant.
There is perhaps no greater example of a man who Jesus taught to see new things than the Apostle Peter. Simon and his brother Andrew were the first two disciples that Jesus called by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus gave Simon the nickname Peter, which means rock, because he would be a founding leading in the church, and also because he was a little thick headed. Peter was a man who knew the value of hard work, a man who loved to work with his hand. He was also one of Jesus’ closet friends and devoted followers.
Peter also had a lot of spiritual potential. He got what Jesus was about more so than the other eleven. In the Gospels Jesus asks his disciples who the crowds think he is? Do they get the deeper message behind his parables? Most of the disciples give incorrect answers. Even, though Jesus explains the parables to the disciples, still they do not perceive nor do they understand. Yet, Peter declares, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus replies, “ Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!” (Matthew 16:16).
And yet, Peter’s idea of who the Son of God should be was different than who Jesus actually was. When Jesus predicted that he must go to Jerusalem, die and rise again, Peter took Jesus aside saying this is not the way the Messiah is supposed act. Jesus saying, “ Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men!” (Matthew 16:22). Peter, being through the school of hard knocks, being a practical man, could not see how his Lord suffering, could possibly be part of God’s plan. Sometimes we can become masters of the daily grind but the daily grind can grind our imaginations down.
People often say Peter was a coward. But that isn’t true. The Gospel of John tells us, that when Jesus’ enemies came for him, it was Peter who drew his sword and tried to defend Jesus (John 18:10). Peter was ready to go down in a blaze of glory. But when the battle seemed lost Peter wasn’t ready to die in obscurity and defeat, he wasn’t ready to die in humility. After it seemed like Jesus had lost Peter denied his Lord three times. And Jesus knew that humility was a problem for Peter. Jesus knew that despite his best intentions, Satan would get the best of Peter. Luke records what Jesus said to Peter before he denied Jesus, “ Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31). And even now Jesus prayers for us, in heaven, that we might turn again and strengthen each other. And we will when we engage in the school of prayer.
We see that time come in Peter’s life in the book of Acts. After Jesus death and resurrection, after Jesus has poured out the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire, to empower his people, we see Peter turn and strengthen his people. Luke tells us that the disciples had no master plan to spread the Gospel to the world. Instead Luke tells us the believers, “they devoted themselves to the apostles teachings and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Day by day they attended the Temple in Jerusalem, and they met together in their homes. AS their hearts grew in worship and prayer, their desire to meet the practical needs of those around them grew also.
One day Peter and John were going to the Temple to pray around 3pm, as they did three times a day, as was the practice for Jews in Jerusalem at the time. And there was a man who was born lame, whom people would lay by the Beautiful Gate, one of the ornate entrances to the Temple, so this is disabled man could ask for alms from the people who passed him by. The implication is that Peter and John had walked past this man before, since it was their daily practice to pray in the Temple, and it was this man’s daily practice to ask for alms. How many times had they passed by this man? A dozen, a hundred, a thousand? There is no way to be sure. But this day, as Peter and John passed by this lame man Peter saw something new. To quote the book of Acts,
“ Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And peter directed his gave at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.” (Acts 3:1-10). They wondered how this was accomplished. Peter replied it was not because of his power or piety but because a time of refreshing in the presence of the Lord was coming so repent and believe.
How did Peter know? How did he know that the Lord was doing a new thing? Because I want to see that. I have seen the Lord heal people. And I want to put that in a bottle, I want to put success in a bottle so I can bring it out any time I want. But that is talking about old glory. And I am not Peter and you are not Peter. But I am Will. And the Holy Spirit lives in me. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in me. And that same Spirit lives in you if you trust in him. And I don’t know what God is going to do. But I know that God wants to do a new thing. If we humble ourselves he will exalt us, above our problems, above our pain, into praise. And we will see the glory of the Lord in the land of the living. We will see new things.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.