Month: July 2016

Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time by Jean Leon Gerome (1897) Wikipedia

Is Jesus Real? Philo and the Christ Myth

There is a popular argument going around these days “Jesus never existed and we can prove it.” At the time of Jesus, a Jewish writer named Philo lived in Alexandria, a large city on the coast of Egypt. Philo tried to integrate the Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, to make the Jews more Greek and Roman. Historically, he was not popular with his fellow Jews. We know about him now because Christians liked his writings. It is interesting that Philo never once mentioned Jesus in his writings. This man lived when the New Testament tells us Jesus preached and did miracles, and Philo is silent about Jesus. Today, some critics are saying Christians believe in a made up character, the “Christ Myth.” You can search for “Philo” and the other terms on the Internet, but I don’t want to give links because most of the discussions are aggressive and offensive. Today, Philo’s silence encourages some people to believe that Jesus never existed. So what should we do with Philo? The argument of silence is always …

The Dead Sea Photo: Daniel Godwin/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is Ezekiel’s prophecy about the Dead Sea coming to life?

At 429 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest land spot on earth. And as its name suggests due to its salt density (nearly 10 times denser than the ocean), nothing is able to live in the water. This includes fish and other aquatic life. It doesn’t even have plant life along its shore because of the layers of salt. The sea which is 50 kms long borders Israel, Palestine and Jordan. It is a popular Mediterranean tourist destination, and due to the water’s density, people float more than swim in its water. Because of its high mineral concentrations, many believe its water and mud have medicinal qualities. Apparently, even King Herod the Great had a health spa of sorts along its shores. The Bible talks about the Dead Sea a few times. The first is found in Genesis 14:3. But perhaps one of the stranger mentions is an end-time prophecy by Ezekiel that one day the Dead Sea will come back to life. Its dead putrid waters will be healed. 8 Then …

Another media report of Muslims turning to Christ in significant numbers, this time in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Photo: Stoke-on-Trent, Futurilla/Flickr/Creative Commons

Media reports Muslims turning to Christianity in England

I have written several articles on Muslims converting to Christianity in unprecedented numbers. Stories tell of Muslims turning to Christ after Jesus appeared to them in dreams, a fulfillment of Joel 2:28. In Iran, thousands are becoming Christians despite the fear of persecution when they make that decision. And now with the recent influx of hundreds of thousands of Muslims into Europe, several secular media report that thousands of Muslims — many fed up with the violence of the extremists — are becoming Christians across Europe. Now we can add England to this list. A prominent English newspaper, The Guardian wrote a curious article on what is happening at Church of St. Mark in Stoke-on-Trent, England. The story stated that one recent Saturday morning, 15 Muslim refugees were baptized in the church. Rev Sally Smith who serves as the church’s vicar, says that three to four Muslims turn to Christianity weekly. According to the article, part of the reason for the growth is that the church is supplying the refugees assistance in the form of …

Kenai River in Alaska. Photo: Teresa/Flickr/Creative Commons

Holy Spirit gives pastor a word of wisdom on how to save a woman’s life with his fishing rod

Located in Alaska, the Kenai River is cold and fast and each year it seems to claim one person’s life. Because of the many camping sites along the river, the state’s various departments warn of the dangers of the river and its extremely cold water. Andy Foor is a pastor from Everett, Pennsylvania and according to an article in the Peninsula Clarion, he was visiting Alaska this summer. One Saturday, July 16, 2016, he decided to go fishing along the banks of the Kenai River. He arrived around 5:30 AM, and a short time later noticed two women walking along the banks of the river. He didn’t think much about it until he heard one of the women hollering. Her friend had fallen into the river. When Foor turned he noticed the woman, who wasn’t wearing a life jacket, had gone completely under water. She disappeared for about 15 seconds, then bobbed up screaming for help because she couldn’t swim. The current was carrying her out into the middle of the river. Foor didn’t know …

The battle in the heavenly realm Photo: 君勇 林/Flickr/Creative Commons

Battling in the heavenly realm for your nation

In an earlier post, I talked about Jesus delivering a man possessed by a legion of demons in an area called the Gadarenes. What I didn’t talk about is the bizarre request this horde of demons made to Jesus. Mark writes about the encounter in his gospel. He notes that the deliverance is a bit unusual, because the demons didn’t immediately leave when Jesus commanded them, which had been standard practice up to this point: 8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. (Mark 5:8-10 NASV) Because the spirit was able to initially resist, Jesus asked for its name and even that was not provided right away. But Christ had authority, and the evil spirit finally buckled and coughed up its name. It called itself Legion, “for we are many.” At …

Beautiful Thailand Photo: Robert Saltori/Flckr/Creative Commons

Is Satan real? Thai model manifests a spirit on live TV?

An interesting YouTube video has gone viral showing a young Thai model, Thippawan ‘Pui’ Chaphupuang” being possessed by a spirit while being interviewed on a live TV show in Thailand. During the interview, the young woman tells the host that she is often visited by a Thai spirit called ‘pop.’ According to Thai beliefs, Pop is a powerful ghost or spirit said to possess women. It is thought to be cannibalistic and will eat the internal organs such as the heart and liver of the girl it possesses. In other words, it will eventually destroy the person, it possesses. It is believed to be the malevolent side of a group of Thai spirits called Phi Fa that causes natural disasters or disease. During the interview the girl tells the host that ‘pop’ is coming to possess her and she begins to manifest this spirit. The original poster removed the video, but others have since posted it. The young woman begins to writhe and screech and at times speaks in a lower tone. The host asks …

A church worship service. Photo: Joachim S. Muller/Flickr/Creative Commons

Did God create you to dance?

Should we be dancing in church? Well, if a 2006 study is correct, it appears when God created humans, He hard-wired each of us to dance — more on that in a moment. I still remember a service at a church I was attending in the 70s. The Jesus people movement was in full swing and the congregation was made up of people 30 years and younger. Back then everybody had long hair, including the girls. One particular Sunday evening service we kicked back the chairs and began dancing before the Lord. We broke up into groups, joined hands and whirled around in circles dancing and singing. The thing that struck me the most was the utter joy and excitement on people’s faces as they danced and worshiped the Lord. I was attending seminary at the time, in a denomination that frowned on this type of activity. But they faithfully preached the Bible and people were saved through this ministry. I had a professor by the name of Dr. Dahns. He was a former United Church Minister …

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem Photo: jordan Pickett/Flickr/Creative Commons

UNESCO to vote if Jews have any connection to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

This week the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced it is postponing a vote that would put Jerusalem’s Temple Mount firmly in the hands of the Muslim. Whether Israel would actually implement UNESCO’s recommendations is anther issue. But if the motion passed it undoubtedly would embolden the Muslims in their attempts to control the site. The vote is part of a Palestinian-Jordanian initiative that would declare the Temple Mount  a “Muslim-only” site. The vote would see the Temple Mount returned to its status before the 1967 Six Day war. Prior to the Israel Arab conflict, the Jordan Waqf that operates the two Muslim buildings on the site — the al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock — controlled every aspect of the Temple Mount including who could visit the site. But perhaps the most disturbing part of the motion is that it would deny any historical Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. The original motion also referred to Israel as an “occupying force.” When Israel protested the motion later revisions tried to …

Photo: WELS net/Flickr/Creative Commons

All Shook Up!

We have a nice apple tree in our front yard, and I just love apple crisp during the cold months. But, if you want nice apples, you have to do some work. When my wife and I moved to our present home we were thrilled that we had an apple tree, but what it produced were tons of small “crabapples.” We were told that at one time the tree had produced larger apples, and a friendly expert told us that as soon as the apples started to grow, to remove many of them and what remained would be larger apples. The other day I was doing my apple thinning, but even after using my six-foot ladder I could not reach the high branches. I had a great idea. It seemed to me that there were a number of really small apples with weak stems, barely attached to the branches, that would easily fall off if I reached up and gave the high branches a good shake. That’s when God spoke to me about John 15:1-11. …

Bethany Hamilton surfing off the coast of Santiago, Galicia, Spain. Photo Valdovino.net/Flickr/Creative Commons

God will fulfill His purpose for your life

Despite our setbacks, mistakes, accidents, failures, sins and fears, God fully intends on accomplishing His purposes for our lives. That was the first thing I thought of when I read the powerful testimony of Bethany Hamilton. You may remember her story, Bethany was thirteen years old when a shark attacked her while she surfed in Hawaii in 2003. Though the shark cut off her arm, incredibly Bethany survived. Three weeks later, she conquered her fears and was back surfing. Her strong faith in God helped her through the ordeal and her story would spread around the world because of it. Since then a feature film, Soul Surfer, has been made on Bethany’s triumphal return to surfing. She is now married to Adam Dirks and they have a one year old son. Aside from winning several surfing competitions, she and Adam also placed third during the 2014 filming of The Amazing Race. The World Surf League announced that on May 30, 2016, Bethany, 26, finished third in the World Surf’s League Fiji Women’s Pro. She wasn’t …

Photo: Ed Yourdon/Flickr/Creative Commons

The secret mystery of contentment

A favorite verse many Christians often quote is “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Found in Philippians, I think we often miss how Paul intended these words to be understood. The phrase is found in the larger context of being content in whatever circumstance life hands us. As we live life, we are subject to change. Growing older. Changes in jobs, some planned some unplanned. Changes in marital status. Life can often blind side us. Even as Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians he was sitting in a dark, damp and gloomy Roman jail. His death was imminent. From this prison, Paul writes: 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens …

Photo: BostonBill/Flickr/Creative Commons

No, You Cannot Have a Billion Dollars

I am sure that you are here for a reason. Every human being has a purpose attached to their existence, and feeding ourselves is not the meaning of life. Building important things means more than becoming the richest person in the cemetery. Recently I had to wait in a parking lot for someone, while a thunderstorm poured water on everything. I was safe and dry in my truck, but I got bored so I drove over to a huge home improvement center and went inside until the rain stopped. Window shopping for paint, and power tools, and patio furniture distracted me for a while, and just when that got old, a friend walked around a corner and said hello. My friend goes to the church I used to attend, until I moved, and we talked for a while. One thing was clear, my friend wasn’t hiding from the rain; he was working in the mega home improvement store. The economy is in a recession, where I live, and my friend found a low paying retail …

Drug-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) bacteria. Photo: National Institute of Health (Wikipedia/Flickr/Creative Commons)

None of these diseases

There was a curious discovery in the guts of nine Inca mummies dug out of the mountains of Chile. Tasha Santiago-Rodriguez, who works with California Polytechnic State University (CPSU), said initially her group was “very surprised” by what they found. In the stomachs of the ancient mummies dated between the 10th and 18th century, they discovered antibody-resistant bacteria. Drug-resistant bacteria is becoming an increasing concern in the 21st century. It involves disease-causing bacteria with a natural immunity to modern antibodies that doctors have traditionally used to fight them. A number of these drug-resistant bacteria recently showed up in Europe, Asia and the US. Without drugs to beat this bacteria back, human populations will become increasingly vulnerable. As these super-bugs started appearing, there have been repeated references in the media on how these bacteria have mutated building up a resistance to our modern drugs. It leaves the impression we are witnessing evolution in action. However, the recent discovery of bacteria with resistance to modern drugs like tetracycline,  penicillin and vancomycin in the guts of ancient Incas sets …

Replica of a Viking ship. Photo: valt98/Flickr/Creative Commons

Viking tales and dinosaurs

In the late 1930s, while digging in the remains of an ancient fortress, Sverresborg Castle, located near Bergen, Norway, archaeologist Gerhard Fischer came across the partial skeletal remains of a body in a well filled with rocks. But when World War II broke out the excavation stopped,  the remains buried and the discovery largely forgotten. However according to the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage, in 2014 archaeologists have stumbled across more remains of this body in the well. After dating a bone shard they discovered it was over 800 years old — dating it to 1200 AD. But here the story takes an interesting twist. There are a number of sagas or epic poems written by Vikings and handed down through the generations. Many disregarded them as fanciful tales. But there is one saga entitled the Sverris Saga, dated to the 1200s, that talks about Viking wars, great voyages and clan feuds. In it there is an elaborate story about King Sverre Sigurdsson who led a group called the Baglers. They were so poor they wore shoes made of birch bark. …

Are you feeling trapped by your own limits? Photo: Hans Ackr/Flickr/Creative Commons

Are you a ‘limited’ edition?

Limits, we all have them and I have always looked at them in a negative way. Recently, I read an Albert Einstein quote, where he said: “Once we accept our limits, we can go beyond them” It really got me thinking about the limitations in my life. Some days my world seems so small. I feel guilty and sometimes angry about wanting more, beyond the limits of my home and everyday responsibilities. It seems from the beginning, God knew we could not be responsible for everything, nor could we do just whatever we please.  When we function within His limits there is a blessing of protection on our lives. But sometimes the limits that seem to be on us are not ones put there by God, but limits we have put on ourselves. I ask myself how can I go beyond this ordinary life? Should I be content with doing the dishes laundry, making supper and going to work? When the daily cycle of life drags me down, I begin to buy into this ‘house mentality’. …

The Kremlin and St. Basil Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. Photo: Mariano Mantel/Flickr/Creative Commons

Russian government makes it illegal for believers to share their faith privately

The Russian government just passed a bill severely curtailing religious expression in that country. According to reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already signed off on the bill and it will come into effect on July 20, 2o16 The legislation was part of a package of bills intended to counter terrorism. However, many are concerned due to its broad reach, the law could be used by local authorities to persecute the Christian church. Among the many features of the bill, evangelism would be limited to regular church services and would only be allowed by people licensed with an organization registered with the government. Essentially, this would stop church members from sharing their faith privately. This can include something as innocent as reading a Bible in the presence of non-believing friends. It also forbids using the internet to share one’s faith which means that people and churches could run foul of the law by simply inviting someone to church via an email. The law that was first drafted in April also prevents believers from holding church …

Alone. Photo: Stefano Bertolotti/Flickr/Creative Commons

Praying for connection

I am sitting in my living room in my new home. I am grateful for my life at this moment and for moving and setting up a new residence outside a small city where we have lived for almost two years. This place and space my husband and I have created is pretty good. Although, this phase of retirement living in a new place is very quiet these days. There are days and weeks where life and people I knew are just a blurred  memory.  Other days the memories are more vivid. These past two years have been a time of rest for me.  The Lord  has led me beside still waters, refreshed my soul and breathed new life and hope into me. Creating a new circle of friends is difficult. Yet, I know that God created us with a need for relationship.  From past experience, I know that it takes time and often years to find friends that you have a connection with. Stepping out of my comfort zone and extending myself to others …

Eric Metaxas addressing the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/Creative Commons

Eric Metaxas on ‘authentic’ faith

Eric Metaxas recently gave an interesting speech to a three-day conference called The Bridge. Its theme was the persecuted church. Metaxas is a popular author, speaker and radio host. He has written several books and has appeared as a cultural commentator on Foxnews, CNN and MSNBC. Since the death of Chuck Colsen of Prison Fellowship he has become one of the main voices for the organization’s program Breakpoint. Samuel Smith a writer for Christian Post reported on Metaxas’s hour-long speech in which he said the faith of the North American church has become diluted because of our success. Metaxas said in other parts of the world where Christians regularly face persecution, they have been forced to ask themselves “Do I actually believe this or don’t I?” Until recently, Christians in America have never been faced with this question. Metaxas cited the life of German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) who the Nazi Gestapo arrested in April 1943 because of his vocal opposition to Adolph Hitler. Metaxas wrote a book on Bonhoeffer —Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. …

Dr. Michio Kaku speaking in Brazil Photo: by Cristiano Sant' Anna - Campus Party Brasil/Flickr/Creative Commons

World-renown physicist Michio Kaku acknowledges the existence of God

Atheists enjoy mocking Christians accusing them of having a fairy-tale belief in Creation – that somehow there is a God who created heaven and earth. So what happens when a renown scientist, with a Doctorate in Physics, says he believes that there is an intelligent being who created the universe? Not only that, he came to this conclusion after his study of science. Meet world-renown American physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, 69. Born to Japanese parents, for 25 years he has held the Henry Semat Chair and professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York. His journey started as a student at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California. Kaku showed up at his school’s National Science Fair with a particle accelerator, an atom smasher, that he made in his parent’s garage. Though most were astounded by what he had created, Kaku looked upon it as a bit of a failure, as he had hoped to create a “a beam of gamma rays powerful enough to create antimatter.” But despite his invention’s shortcomings, Physicist …

This image was developed after terrorists attacked the office of the magazine Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015 killing 12 people. Image: Christian R. Hamacher/Flickr/Creative Commons

Another Holy Spirit outpouring — this time France

Christian Broadcasting Network is reporting on a move of God in France at the Grande Conference held in Nates, July 1-3, 2016. According to a report by Chris Gore, a pastor from California who spoke at the event, during one of the early services nearly 70% of the people in attendance, numbering over 1,000, gave their life to the Lord. In later services there was an outpouring of miracles with hundreds claiming healings. On his Facebook page, Gore wrote: Europe is alive for Jesus! What an incredible night in France. We saw tonight around 2,000 miracles and exactly 100 reports of deaf ears opening. The convention also featured Canadian speakers John and Carol Arnott who led the infamous Toronto revival. Similar events are scheduled for Austria and Germany later this fall. In the midst of the terrorism and violence that has hit Europe, God is beginning to stir. In the Book of Revelation, an apocalyptic vision of the end times given to the Apostle John, he writes on an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that …

A fig tree with fruit. Photo: Sean O'Sullivan/Flickr/Creative Commons

Start doubting your doubts

George Bernard Dantzig had just received his Masters Degree in mathematics in 1937 and a short time later was accepted as a Doctoral candidate in mathematics at the University of California. His Doctorate would be interrupted by World War 2 and Dantzig, who died in 2005 at age 90, would finally receive it in 1946. But one day in 1939, he was late for a Doctorate statistics class. When he arrived, his college professor, Dr. Jerzy Neyman, had written two statistical problems on the black board. Believing these were class assignments, Dantzig wrote them down and took them home. In an 1986 interview with College Mathematics Journal, he said the two questions proved quite challenging and it took him a few days to complete them. After finishing, he sheepishly approached Dr. Neyman apologizing for having taken so long. When Dantzig asked if he still wanted the assignment, the professor told him to throw it on his desk cluttered with paper. Six weeks later, on a Sunday morning at about 8 AM, while Dantzig and his …

Inside Egypt's cave church where 70,000 meet in services on a weekly basis. The church can seat 20,000 inside and thousands more outside. Photo: vagabondblogger/Flickr/Creative Commons

Egyptian cave church has 70,000 people attending services every week

I was surprised to find out one of the largest churches in the world is found in Egypt. With the increased activity of Muslim militants, Christians are increasingly under threat in the Middle East and many are leaving. But in the midst of this turmoil, a church thrives in Mokattam mountain located southeast of Cairo, Egypt. Over 70,000 people attend the weekly services held at the Coptic church built into the mountain, that is part of the ancient Monastery of Saint Simon. The church itself holds about 20,000 people including those who sit inside and out. There are also several other chapels built in caves inside the mountain that connect with the main sanctuary. Though a Coptic church, it has a definite Charismatic flavor as you can see in a video of a service below as the congregation sings “Emmanuel”: So who attends this church? Most of them are Zabbaleens, literally “garbage people.” They etch out a living pouring through Cairo’s (population 6.8 million) massive garbage dumps. The Zabbaleens were originally farmers who came to …

The cost of freedom. Photo: Mark Sardella/Flickr/Creative Commons

Sometimes you just have to pay the bribe

I was reading a story that brought back some old memories. Rev. Canon Andrew White, otherwise known as the Vicar of Baghdad, was at one point the only Anglican Priest willing to live in Baghdad, Iraq. Because of his prominence, there were fears he would be assassinated by Islamic terrorist and last year the Anglican church transferred him to a church in Jordan. Reports are circulating that he was recently suspended by an organization he works for — the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East (FRRM). FRRM has launched an inquiry over allegations the Vicar used the organization’s funds to free Christian women being sold in a sex slave market by the Islamic terrorist organization — ISIS. White has since denied using FRRM funds for this. But the incident reminded me of something my wife and I went through over 20 years ago. We were unable to have children and this led us to adopt overseas. We adopted our daughter from Peru. As we entered the adoption process, we had to pay …

Why do some Christians love to hate? Photo: Bart/Flickr/Creative Commons

Christians Who Hate

Wikipedia has a list of “List of terrorist incidents, January–June 2016” and it is a long list for just six months, with everything from mob violence to airport bombings. Human beings are violent and unhappy. When I check the news, someone else has died in some terrorist attack, somewhere in the world. I hope we never get immune to the fact that most killers, in these news stories, hate and kill in the name of God. The good news for Christians is that most religious violence has come from other religions; until now. So can Christians hate? Can we hate people, and not just bad things? Would the death of anyone make your life better? I know that the mean and miserable people in my life are growing older; but every time one of them dies, my life does not get better. There is no improvement down that road. My happiness is tied to God, not to them. So is there any possibility of Christian-inspired violence in the world? Yes. I have never met someone …

Hundreds of Orthodox Jews turning to Christ. Photo: Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem Claudius Prober/Flickr/Creative Commons

Report on Israeli website states hundreds of Orthodox Jews are accepting Jesus

An article published on a Hebrew website, MyNet, intended to warn Jews living in Petach Tikva, Israel of Christians/Messianic Jews preaching Jesus has instead revealed hundreds of Orthodox Jews are accepting Christ as the Jewish Messiah. Kehila News, a Messianic website, was the first to report on the curious article on MyNet which functions as a news portal for the Israeli City of Petach Tikva.  Kehila describes the reaction among Orthodox Jews as a “spiritual meltdown.” Located in Central Israel, Petach Tikva has a population of 225,00, of which 70,000 are considered Orthodox Jews or haredim. The strength of the Orthodox population is seen in the 300 synagogues and eight ritual baths in the city. MyNet accused Christians/Messianic Jews of sharing propaganda. Even the city’s acting Mayor Uriel Boso waded into the controversy voicing his concern. Boso specifically cited Jews for Jesus as one of the main offending groups. According to Kehila, Boso described the number of Jews becoming Christians as a “dire phenomena.” The article on MyNet is in Hebrew, and below is a rough …