Month: February 2016

Purified faith. Photo: Molten gold Domiriel/Flickr

Peter’s word for today — testing of faith and garrisoning our salvation

According to ancient tradition, the Roman Emperor Nero crucified the Apostle Peter because of his faith in Christ. However, believing he was unworthy to be crucified in the same fashion as Jesus, Peter requested crucifixion upside down which the Romans did. By the time Nero became emperor in 64 AD, Christians were considered social outcasts in Roman society. The Roman emperors were considered gods and it was a person’s civic duty to make sacrifices to them. Christians could avoid martyrdom by simply making an offering to the Roman emperor. Later, the Romans required Christians to show certificates that they had made a sacrifice to the emperor, witnessed by others. If they refused it usually meant torture and death often by crucifixion or fire. After the Romans finished constructing the Colosseum in 80 AD, along with commons crooks and slaves, Christians were thrown in the arena before massive crowds to be ripped apart by lions or other wild beasts. One of the contraptions the Romans used to entertain the tens of thousands sitting in the seats …

Dealing with the pain of grief.

How grief tilted my world

My first-born son, Graham, died on January 15, 2004. He was 18 years old.  He took his own life while stranded on a country road in his own vehicle. My world took a serious tilt. My perspective on life shifted to the dark side. Everything and everyone changed as I viewed them through the eyes of grief. I didn’t know what to do with the people who surrounded me and engaged in life with me. I was terrified to talk about the loss of my son. Not feeling free to share feelings and thoughts hindered my grieving process.  I read the Bible and books on grief and suicide hoping this would help me deal with people’s questions and comments. Nothing could prepare me though. I had to face it alone and walk through the unknown waters of grief and let the waves splash over me. People meant well and out of the uncertainty of what to say their comments sometimes came across the wrong way — like my son’s suicide was probably for the best …

Za'atari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan. Photo UNHCR Photo Unit/Flickr/Creative Commons

Muslim family receives a message from God through a vision

Ekballow Project is a ministry actively involved in sharing Jesus among Muslims. According to  Ekballow’s Tyler Connel, because of the horrific suffering Muslims are experiencing in the Middle East at the hands of extremists many are becoming disillusioned and are increasingly open to the Gospel. The organization recently shared a video on the compelling story of how a whole family of Muslims in the Middle East became Christians. Two years ago, A young man, 24, from Vermont, USA, who they refer to only as “Daniel” to protect his identity, was ministering to Syrians in a refugee camp in an unnamed Muslim country. With an interpreter at his side, he was going from tent to tent sharing Christ. When he arrived at one tent, he introduced himself as “Daniel” and told the family he was there to talk about Jesus. He had barely finished his sentence, when the father started yelling and the family sat stunned looking at him. It was obvious something unusual was taking place. Daniel asked the interpreter what was going on. Through …

Artist's conception of an asteroid. Image NASA/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

NASA tweets about a massive asteroid blast over the Atlantic on February 6, 2016

NASA is reporting that on February 6, 2016, an asteroid exploded over the Atlantic ocean about 1,000 kms (620 miles) off the coast of Brazil. The news of explosion was tweeted by NASA’s Ron Baalke. This is the largest asteroid explosion since the one that hit Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. NASA estimates this year’s explosion was the size of the nuclear bomb that hit Hiroshima in World War 11. But with a blast equal to 13,000 tons of TNT, it was minuscule compared to the 19-meter asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk. Scientists estimated that blast at 400,000 tons of TNT. Nearly, 1,600 people were injured as result of exploding glass caused by the explosion. It is estimated the asteroid off Brazil was about a third the size — maybe five to seven meters wide. NASA says there are several asteroids exploding in the atmosphere each year, but since most happen over the ocean they go unnoticed. Because of the dangerous threats they pose to human life, NASA tracks asteroids. Of the 12,992 asteroids that it …

Utah Monument Valley Photo Wolfgang Staudt/Flickr/Creative Commons

Utah may pass legislation requiring anesthesia for aborted babies

The Republican governor of Utah says he would sign off on legislation requiring doctors to provide anesthesia to babies during abortions. Though Gov. Gary Herbert does not personally agree with abortion, if it is legal he believes it should be conducted in the most humane way possible. A bill requiring anesthesia in that state is being drafted by Sen. Curt Bramble. He is proposing legislation that would require anesthesia at the age a baby would experience pain. It is not certain at this point at what age this would apply. Herbert did note that a baby’s heart starts beating at five weeks. Already, those working in the abortion industries have come out against the bill arguing that providing anesthesia to the baby would be more government intrusion into the mother/Doctor decision. Minnesota passed legislation in 2005 requiring mothers be provided with the option of giving pain medication to their babies during an abortion. Up to the early 1980s, surgeons were routinely performing surgeries on recently born babies without anesthesia because they did not believe they …

Michelangelo's Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel Photo: Bill Read/Flickr/Creative Commons

Are we hard-wired to believe in God?

According to the Book of Genesis, God created humans in His likeness and image (Genesis 1:26). We were created to manifest in human form the characteristics of God. Along with this humans were created to connect with God allowing us to communicate and fellowship with our Heavenly Father. This is how God intended our relationship to function at the beginning. It took a while, but modern researchers are finally admitting what people have known for centuries — humans are hard-wired to believe in God. Not all scientists are convinced this is the case as it does cause some troubling concerns for those embedded in the evolutionary side of the debate. But nevertheless an increasing number are concluding that humans are built to believe in God. Charisma recently reported on a round table discussion shown on the National Geographic Channel addressing this very issue. On the program, Shaheen Lakhan, who holds multiple doctorates, states: “Psychologists and anthropologists deemed that children left to their own devices would have some conception of God. Some attribute this to our …

Understanding who we are in Christ will change us. Photo: James/Flickr/Creative Commons

Rooted in love

Recently, I heard a beautiful message on having Christ’s love rooted in our lives because it has the power to radically change us. Our pastor talked about Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians: “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge , that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God.”  (Ephesians 3:17 -19 NASB) This prayer came out of the Apostle Paul’s deep desire that the Ephesians would know their identity in Christ.  Once they grasped who they really were through a revelation of God’s love their perception of themselves and the world would change: Paul was passionate about believers being rooted and grounded in the love of God.  He knew it would bring a stability and security that would produce wholeness and make them complete. Our pastor referred to a story …

Why do people believe the lies? Photo: Wojciech Staszyczyk/Flickr/Creative Commons

The age of delusion

We are living in a bizarre world. Progressiveness and political correctness rule the day. It is a powerful delusion, almost a drug to many. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. The Apostle Paul warned of just such a time when delusion, not truth and common sense, would rule the world. 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false [lit the lie].(2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 NASV) Paul warns that because people have chosen to ignore the truth they are now vulnerable to believing a lie. Not only are they more susceptible, God will also send a spirit of delusion so that people will believe what is false. A similar pattern took place during the Exodus. When Moses approached the Pharaoh about letting Israel go he hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34) and then at other times God hardened the Pharaoh’s …

Abandoned homes in Gary, Indiana Photo: Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr/Creative Commons

Was Gary, Indiana’s ‘portal to hell’ finally destroyed?

The Dailymail is reporting that a home in Gary, Indiana described as a ‘portal to hell’ was finally razed to the ground earlier this year. This description of the house was not uttered by a pastor or religious person, but rather by a police officer who visited the home. Neither was it a metaphorical description, but rather reflected the beliefs that it was a place where demons and evil spirits manifested themselves. Located 25 miles from Chicago, Gary, Indiana is a city in decline. With a population of about 80,000 it has 10,000 abandoned homes, businesses and industries and according to one report is a serial killer’s playground. The story about this house started in 2011, when Latoya Ammons and her three children rented the house. Shortly after they moved in Latoya reported that her family was being tormented by evil spirits. Bizarre things began happening in her home including hearing strange sounds and even seeing a presence in the house. No one other than family members could verify this and if these manifestations had …

Open door Kreg Steppe/Flickr/Creative Commons

The open door that was there all the time

Recently, I read an article with a great analogy regarding personal breakthrough in our lives. The author had been exploring an old abandoned house and heard a frantic buzzing sound coming from the living room. He entered the room to witness a frustrated fly banging its tiny body against the living room window again and again determined to get to  the other side. Its perseverance was admirable.  The  fly could clearly see what it wanted through the window — green grass, flowers and sunshine. The frustration of being trapped inside the house fueled its endless attempts to get out. In an effort to free the fly from its prison the writer opened the front door to let it out. The frantic insect remained unaware of the golden opportunity just a few feet away and the efforts being made to redirect its attention to the open door. There is a very simple truth here. I am sure that I am not the only one who has been so intent on one thing or one way to …

Controversy in Chicago? Photo: Downtown Chicago -- Greg Wass/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Christian Muslim War – Or Not

A recent article in Aljazeera News comments on opposition to the conversion of an empty church to a mosque, for Muslims living near Chicago. The title describes “controversy” over the plan, and opposition in the community. The comments from readers are predictable, with hateful troll messages. “Religions in general are the work of Satan.”, “your name shouts like you need to take a bath”, and “Hope you get good sleep after spitting so much poison” are some comments I can print here. The article is long, but reading past the title shows one important thing, there is no controversy. It is true that a Muslim group wants to use an abandoned church building as a mosque, but there is no report of effective opposition from anyone. Apparently some anonymous flyers have been left in nearby mailboxes stating concerns about property values and traffic congestion. There is no mention of religious statements in the flyers. I guess this represents someone in the community with a computer and a printer. The authorities have given approval and a …

A photo taken somewhere in China entitled "Finger of God." Chez Andre 1/Flickr/Creative Commons

The God of atheists?

Elizabeth King wrote an interesting article for The Washington Post in early February 2016. An atheist she states in the title: “I’m an atheist. So why can’t I shake God? King says she grew up in a Christian home with her mom and step dad. She called herself a born-again Christian who went to Church twice a week. But that all changed when she turned 16 and she began to question all things God and Biblical. In the end she seems to blame her youth pastors who were unable to provide satisfactory answers as to why homosexuality was a sin or why premarital sex was wrong. From these unanswered questions, King slowly graduated to becoming a full-blown atheist. But psychologist Paul Vitz has a different opinion on what causes atheism. In 1999, he wrote a controversial book,  Faith of the Fathers: The Psychology of Atheism. He believes that people’s atheism is based on a person’s relationship with their father. Poor or absent fathers create many atheists, he believes. In his book, he delves into the …

Northridge megachurch in Plymouth, Michigan. Photo: Dwight Burdette/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Study reveals weaknesses in mega churches

A study just released by Duke University revealed a concerning weakness in big churches. The larger a church becomes the more sporadic its members are when it comes to church attendance and less likely they are to volunteer. The study was conducted by David Eagle, who teaches at Duke’s Center for Health Policy and Inequalities. Eagle formerly pastored a church in Canada and it was this experience that led to his interest in conducting the study. In an interview with the Christian Post, he said while in Canada there was a major push by his denomination on church growth. He was told larger churches would result in more non-Christians attending. Eagle said: “I was skeptical of this approach, and began to think that an emphasis on growth could lead to unintended consequences — things like creating a less involved membership.” For his study he analyzed data from the National Congregations Study and the General Social Survey in the US. He compared church attendance among four major church groups — Conservative Churches, Roman Catholic, Black Protestant …

Roaring waves on Lake Michigan Photo: Mic Stolz/Flickr/Creative Commons

Be still and know that I am God

When we look at the chaos and craziness enveloping the world, it is easy to react. But in the midst of this Psalm 46 urges us to do the exact opposite of what we feel. The Psalmist writes: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 NASV) The writer starts out in verse one: God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Though we are not told what “trouble” inspired this Psalm, the writer speaks of a world in utter collapse — natural calamities beyond human control were happening all around. Mountains were quaking (earthquakes v 3). Oceans surging (tsunamis v 3) The nations were in an uproar and some were tottering on the verge of being obliterated (v 6). Everyone was angry and fighting. This Psalm could have been written in 2016. And in the midst of this God tells His people to do the exact opposite of what their body is screaming out for them to do. Instead of responding with fear and anger, God says “Be …

If a hand-sized rock can create a 2-meteor crater, how big of a crater will a housed-sized one create? Photo Arizona crater. Photo Glendon Rolston/Flickr/Creative Commons

Was a man in India killed by a meteor?

In what may become the first confirmed case of a meteorite killing a person, officials are investigating the death of a man in the city of Vellore in Tamil Nadu state, South India. Over the weekend a bus driver was standing on the grounds of an engineering college when a nearby water cooler exploded. The man dropped to the ground and was later pronounced dead at a hospital. The explosion also shattered windows in buildings surrounding the area. Though people reported seeing a bright object flashing down from the sky, authorities initially believed the blast was caused by explosives used at a nearby building site. However, when there was no evidence for that, the investigation shifted to a meteorite after they discovered a small bluish, diamond-like stone in the two-meter (five foot) sized crater left by the explosion. It was found by a metal detector. Scientists with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics now believe the forty-year-old man was killed by exploding shards off a small meteorite when it smashed into the ground. Officials are sending …

Painting of David slaying Goliath with the giant's sword by Guillaume Courtois (1628-1679) Wikipedia

Shin or forehead and does it matter?

First of all let me state categorically it doesn’t matter, but the discussion provides a unique twist on a favorite Bible story. In the English language we have many words that have more than one meaning take “fly” as an example. It can refer to an insect or “flying” through the air. “Bark” can refer to the outer layer of a tree, or the sound of a dog. In these cases, context means everything. In the Hebrew we can have the same thing happening. Take the story of the epic battle between David and Goliath. In the account found in 1 Samuel 17, we read that the Israeli army was faced off against the Philistines. The Philistines had a giant named Goliath. Standing over 9′ tall, each morning he would come out in full armor and parade in front of the Israelis, shouting for one of them to take him on in one-on-one battle. His challenge was all about fear and intimidation and it was working. No one was brave enough to challenge the Philistine …

Photo of Pool of Siloam current site and artists rendering of what it looked like initially. Images: photo of pool in 2007/Wikipedia/Daniel Ventura -- Artist rendering Wikipedia/Yoav Dothan

Pool of Siloam discovered

An article in the Los Angeles Times reported on the discovery of the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem in 2004. It was the place of one of Jesus’ more unusual healings (John 9:1-33). In the account recorded in the Book of John, Jesus and the disciples came across a man blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus if this man was being punished for his parents’ sin or his own sin. Jesus answered neither, then spitting on the ground He created paste from the mud and applied it to the man’s eyes. Jesus then told the man to go to the Pool of Siloam and clean off his eyes. After doing that, the man could immediately see. The healing proved controversial as the pharisees challenged the healing because it took place on the Sabbath and was considered work. Over the years those of a Liberal persuasion have argued that the Pool of Siloam never existed. They believed John made up the pool and by implication the story involving Jesus that came with it. But that …

Cam Newton passing at the 2014 Pro Bowl: Photo/Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Cam Newton’s brush with faith

Cam Newton, the all pro quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, is arguably the best NFL player in 2015-16. Standing at 6’5″ and 245 pounds, Newton is a dominating Quarterback in the NFL, running and passing the football with equal ease. After finishing the season 15-1, he led the Panthers through the post season to a seat at the Super Bowl. But from an article on God Reports, we find that Cam comes from a strong Christian background. His father, Cecil Newton, is a bishop presiding over five Pentecostal churches based in Georgia. There are moments when Cam’s faith peeps through the glamour and fame like on Instagram when he recently cited Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much is required. Thank you God, for giving me this platform, I will be forever be thankful.” He also escaped serious injury in a car accident. His truck was hit by a car as Newton drove through an intersection causing his truck to roll. Newton missed only one game due to a minor lower back fracture. He …

Youtube capture Audrey Assad

Audrey Assad’s haunting song of martyrdom

You have to read the story behind this song, Even Unto Death, just released by Christian singer Audrey Assad. It is part of her new album, Inheritance, scheduled for release on February 12. She wrote this song after watching the martyrdom of 21 Egyptian Christian men on the shores of the Mediterranean by the Muslim extremist group ISIS. In the video, ISIS led the 21 men, dressed in orange, to the beach where they were beheaded simply because they believed in Jesus. To live, all these Coptic Christians had to do to was renounce their faith in Christ. Audrey wrote: “You must remember that night, months ago, when I saw the video of those 21 precious Egyptian men kneeling on a Mediterranean beach. I stared at the procession … I knew that I was looking into the sickening, quaking black hole that is death. The captives prayed, their lips moving silently, their eyes closed or raised to the heavens. What were they whispering, in those last, fast-fading moments of their lives? Were they afraid? What …

Praying during Ukraine revolution in 2014 Photo: Steve Evans/Flickr/Creative Commons

Talking to your imaginary friend; praying to God

Do you remember when people were courteous? That was before the Internet. Now we have blogs and mean trolls who express hatred that could get them arrested, or assaulted, in a public place. Hatred of Christians is one popular theme. If you wait long enough, everyone gets hated by someone on the Internet, and I don’t think we are special victims. But the experience is painful for a Christian. “Yesterday lunchtime I walked past a street preacher who was yelling through a bullhorn that there can be no morality without an imaginary friend. I felt it to be my moral responsibility to tell him that not only was he wrong, but that he is also a complete idiot.” Other comments are like: Have you had a conversation with your invisible friend lately? How is Jesus different from a pink unicorn? Children have imaginary friends, the rest of us have grown up. If one person believes in something invisible, that is insane; if many people believe together, it’s religion. There is more, and worse, but I …

Daniel and Amy McArthur Photo: YouTube Capture/The Christian Institute

Gay activist supports Irish Christian bakers

A strange case emerging in Northern Ireland has a prominent gay activist supporting a bakers decision not to produce a cake promoting gay marriage. The issue involves evangelical Christians Daniel and Amy McArthur who manage a family-owned business: Ashers Baking Co in Newtonabbey, Northern Ireland. In the summer of 2014, they were asked to create a cake for an event supporting the push for the legalization of gay marriage in Northern Ireland. The cake was supposed to have the images of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie on it along with the words “Support Gay Marriage.” The order was initially accepted at the store and later cancelled because the McArthurs did not feel comfortable supporting gay marriage. When they cancelled the order, Gareth Lee, who had requested the cake on behalf of the group Queerspace, took the McArthurs before England’s Equality Commission claiming discrimination. In the court case that followed, lawyers for The Christian Institute representing the McArthurs argued this was not a case of discrimination because the McArthurs did not know Lee was gay. Rather, …

Game-changing oil discovery in Israel? Photo: Brennan Browne/Flickr/Creative Commons

Game-changing Promise of God? Oil found in Israel

Israel is a bit out of sorts with the rest of the Middle East. While huge quantities of oil have been found in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran among others, Israel has not found any and has been forced to import oil. Some Israelis blame Moses for the lack oil, joking if he had turned right instead of left, Israel would be swimming in black gold. But that was not the direction to the Promised Land. However, this may have all changed. This past fall, Afek Oil and Gas (AOG) announced a major oil discovery in the Golan heights found in Israel near the border of Syria. Israel took this land from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War started by the Egyptian President Gamal Nasser who was attempting to unite the Arab world to wipe out Israel. Though this Arab coalition suffered a disastrous defeat, the area is still a bone of contention with Syria. Speaking on behalf of AOG in an interview with Foxnews, geologist Yuval Bartov said: “We are talking about …