Month: September 2016

Noah's ark in Biblical Theme park in Kentucky. Credit: Adam Lederer/Flickr/Creative Commons

Former Buddhist to build full-sized Noah’s ark in Moose Jaw, Canada

A Chinese business man who converted to Christianity from Buddhism in 2009 has announced plans to build a Biblical-theme park in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. It is a small city of around 36,000 residents. I have actually been surprised by the amount of attention this announcement received from Christian and secular media around the world. Sun Wenqing will be working with the owner of a Moose Jaw cemetery, Marc L’Hoir, to build the park that will include a full-sized replica of Noah’s ark. Sill in the planning stages, the ark will be three stories high and 133 meters long and 23 meters wide. Though some may question if this park will ever come to fruition, according to China Christian Daily, Wenqing has already built a similar park in Shenyang, China. With 6.3 million citizens, it is the capital of Liaoning Province in Northeast China. According to Wikipedia, Liaoning Province has one of the lowest rates of Christian persecution in China and features a number of Christian organizations including a seminary. Moose Jaw city council has …

Credit: Giusi Barbiani/Flickr/Creative Commons

Meditation: A kind of hush

The other day I was sitting in the car waiting for my mother. Fall was upon us and through the pouring rain, the only real colour to be seen was in the leaves. The rest was mostly grey. Everything seemed so serene and a stillness came over me – a hush if you will. This scripture came to my mind: “But the Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth hush and keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20) These beautiful ‘hush’ moments usually come without notice, yet just when I need them. The noise and cares of the world can creep in and clutter my soul. Before long I am feeling unsettled and sadly like no one cares. The disciples felt similar emotions one night in a boat when a terrible storm occurred. Jesus was asleep then and the disciples came to him and said, ‘Teacher don’t you care if we drown?’ (Mark 4 :38) The bible says Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Hush be still’ …

Crosses near Budapest, Hungary Credit: Gyorgy Soponyai/Flickr/Creative Commons

Acts of faith in a foreign land — Naaman, Bieber and Pratt

There is a story in 2 Kings about Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19), a general in the Aramean army. The Bible describes him as “a great man” (v 1) suggesting he was a national hero in Aram. But though a celebrity, he also had leprosy — a dreaded, disfiguring disease in that culture. Since leprosy was incurable, people were considered the living dead. But one day his servant girl, an Israelite captured during one of Naaman’s many raids, told her master about an Israeli prophet capable of curing a person of leprosy. When he tracked down the prophet, Elisha told Naaman he would be healed if he dunked himself seven times in the Jordan River. After kicking up a bit of a fuss, Naaman did as he was told and was instantly healed. Naaman offered Elisha gold and wealth for the healing, but the the prophet refused the generous gift. So instead Naaman asked Elisha for a gift. He wanted two mule loads of Israeli dirt so he could build an altar to the Lord back …

People lining up down the street and around the corner to attend a service at Hillsong NY. Photo: Carl Lentz/Instagram

And the darkness could not overcome the light

Carl Lentz is the pastor of a Hillsong church in New York City. This past week he shared a powerful photo on Instagram of people waiting to enter their church. On Sunday evening, people lined up to attend the first service, but when it filled to capacity, they stayed in a line that stretched around the street corner for two and a half hours waiting for the next service to start. Writing on Instagram to his 336,000 followers, Lentz states: “Last night, hundreds of people couldn’t get into our first service. So they waited two hours to be part of the “second” one… who know, perhaps someday soon we will have our own building. But I will never forget these days. Every meeting we have ever had, we have to rent a venue. Pay for it. And it’s never big enough! So waiting in a line, to get into an overcrowded room where you just might have to stand the whole time, becomes a normal thing. It’s literally a choice to be inconvenienced. The photo …

Ein Gedi Leviticus scroll. Credit: Dr. Brent Seales

Ancient Leviticus text reveals the accuracy of the Bible

Using a process called ‘virtual unwrapping,’ scientists were able to read the the text on a parchment destroyed in an ancient synagogue that burned down in 600 AD. The parchment was inside a box called the Holy Ark used by Synagogues to store Biblical scrolls. The scrolled parchment made up of five layers was found in 1970 in a synagogue discovered in the archaeological remains of a small Jewish community referred to as Ein Gedi on the coast of the Dead Sea. The whole town apparently burned down at the same time. Archaeologists stopped working on the scroll when it disintegrated at touch. It sat unstudied until University of Kentucky computer scientists scanned the charred parchment using a mico-CT scanner at the request of the Israeli Antiquity Authority. They basically used this to create digital images of the scroll and then flattened the sheets. Because the Jews used an ink with metal properties the scanners were able to easily pick out the Hebrew lettering. According to Breaking Israel News (BIN), the scroll contained text from …

Israeli Defense Forces involved in counter-terrorism training in Hebron, Credit/Israel Defense Forces/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Spiritual Lesson in Terrorism

Where will we be in five years? What are we building now? It is easy to predict the future for our families and marriages, jobs and businesses, and churches. I met a man recently who had a five year plan with his wife, and the plan was working. The whole family was prospering in changing times. This is a spiritual lesson we can learn from terrorists. Recently an angry man Ahmad Khan Rahami was arrested for several terrorist bombings near New York City. Apparently he is typical of a new threat to us all a “lone wolf terrorist” who acts without ties to a larger group. Politicians are warning us that anyone, in isolation, can become a violent terrorist and hurt us all. I disagree. There is a lot of discussion about the threat of violence and terrorism and isolated lone wolves, and one side in the conversation believes that successful people always work with a team. One analyst wrote about Ahmad Rahami and the “misnomer” of the lone wolf. People never do great things …

Elijah confronting King Ahab and jezebel Credit: Painting by Sir Francis Dicksee (1853-1928)/Wikipedia

Dutch scholar convinced ancient seal belonged to Queen Jezebel

Dr. Marjo Korpel who now teaches Old Testament studies at Amsterdam and Groningen Universities in Holland has concluded an ancient seal discovered in Israel in 1964 actually belonged to Israel’s notorious, evil-Queen – Jezebel. Many consider Korpel to be a careful and respected researcher and her conclusions garnered a huge reaction in the archaeological community. The account — recorded in 1 and 2 Kings — tells the story of King Ahab’s marriage to Jezebel — a Phoenician princess. When Jezebel arrived to take her place at Ahab’s side, she brought a wedding present for her husband — 400 prophets of Asherah and 450 prophets of Baal. Almost immediately, two centers of idol worship popped up — one at each of Israel’s capital cities. A Baal temple was built in Samaria and at the main palace in Jezreel, Jezebel set up the temple of Asherah where the 400 prophets of Asherah served this deity and ate at the table of Jezebel (1 Kings 16:32, 33; 1 Kings 18:19). In the end, she dominated her husband and effectively …

Fear not, for I am with you.... Credit: Eric Wagner/Flickr/Creative Commons

Don’t ‘fear’ the coming darkness

An article in the Daily Mail on changes taking place at Canterbury Cathedral in London, England speaks of a significant culture shock coming for western Christians. For years, we have lived in a bubble where we could go through our day not worrying we would be attacked for our faith. But that bubble is bursting or at the very least there is a noticeable leak. Police in England have just announced they will be stationing armed guards at Canterbury Cathedral in England. Built in 597AD, it is one of Britain’s oldest churches.  This is not the church hiring its own security staff, but rather police sending in protection. And in a country where police typically patrol without guns, these guards are armed.  The article added that protection will be given to other unnamed churches and public venus. The police made this decision in response to recent attacks on churches in Europe by Muslim extremists. In July, an 84-year-old Catholic priest in Normandy, France had his throat slit by Islamic extremists in front of his congregation during …

Do you love yourself? Credit: chandrika221/Flickr/Creative Commons

Do we need to love ourselves?

“The second is: ‘You must love others as much as yourself.’ No other commandments are greater than these.” (Mark 12:3) According to Matthew Henry’s commentary, loving yourself from a biblical perspective refers to loving the image of God in you and the way He created you. This is not referring to a conceited, prideful, self-worship type of love. Loving yourself and embracing your significance as a Christian is vital. We need to love and value ourselves in the same way God does. Low self-esteem, beating ourselves up emotionally and physically (body image), defining ourselves through past mistakes and failures are all signs that we are not loving ourselves in the same way God loves us. We can be bitter and unforgiving towards others. But we can also be bitter and unforgiving towards ourselves and God because of the way we perceive ourselves  through our body image or  the way things turned out for us in life. I am learning that it  is just as important to forgive myself  as it is to forgive others. Understanding …

The Magdala Stone: Credit: Hanay/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Does the Magdala Stone provide a clue to why Jesus was crucified?

The discovery of a small coin dated to 29 AD was tantalizing enough, but its discovery in an ancient synagogue found in Northern Israel along the Sea of Galilee has provided new understanding of ancient Judaism and even the Gospels. The site was uncovered during construction of a christian retreat center and spa for a Catholic order called the Legionnaries of Christ. The organization which trains men for the priesthood has a controversial reputation. Some accused the order of  being cult-like due to its regimented structure that during its early years forbid adherents from contacting their families. This policy has since been completely reversed. The coin confirms the synagogue’s existence during the time Jesus ministered in Galilee. He undoubtedly taught at this synagogue as the Lord regularly spoke at synagogues throughout Israel  (Luke 4:15). The town where the synagogue was discovered is the hometown of Mary Magdalene. She was a close follower, who Christ delivered of evil spirits. 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, …

The beauty of creation. Credit: Max Norskog/Flickr/Creative Commons

Scientists who dissent on evolution

We are inundated constantly with messages on evolutionary theory. We see it referenced in movies, documentaries, newspapers, magazines, websites and even TV ads. Though flooded almost daily with this belief, many are unaware there is a growing list of scientists who openly question the very tenants of Darwin’s theory of evolution. This is happening because the evidence does not support the theory — one of the basic theorems of science. In fact, a website (www.dissentfromdarwin.org) was set up a few years ago specifically for scientists having second thoughts about Darwin’s theory of evolution. In order to join this prestigious list, one must have a doctorate in one of the sciences such as chemistry, physics or biology or be a medical doctor. The signers must willingly subscribe to this basic belief: “We are skeptical of claims of the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” This list — updated quarterly — is managed by the Discovery Institute and as …

King David moving the Ark of the Covenant from Gibeon to the Tabernacle of David in Jerusalem. Painter unknown

Why did King David set up the Tabernacle of David?

Perhaps one of the most controversial articles I have written is “King David’s deep dark secret.” I have had more comments on that article than any others I have written and I have easily had more people disagreeing with me. In the article I contend that King David was illegitimate. When he said in the Psalms that he was conceived in sin — he meant it quite literally. His mother conceived him in an act of sin. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5 NASV) This explains what happened when God told Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king of Israel, replacing Saul (1 Samuel 16:1-13). The Bible tells us the elders were trembling when the prophet showed up (v 4). Samuel terrified the elders, so when God’s prophet asked for all the sons, the elders would make sure they were there. But they excluded David. Some suggest this happened because he was the youngest, but …

Shekel overlaid on a model of the Temple: Source Wikipedia/Juan R. Cuadra

Why did Jesus pay the Temple tax?

There is an interesting story in the Gospels involving Peter and the Temple tax collectors.  They had cornered the apostle and asked him if he and His Master — Jesus — paid the temple tax. Under pressure and in typical Peter fashion, he blurted out “yes” without thinking (Matthew 17:24-27). “Does your teacher not pay the [b]two-drachma tax?”25 He [Peter] said, “Yes.” (Matthew 17:24b-25 NASV) The priests had instituted a yearly tax for the temple of two drachma (half shekel). It was patterned after similar taxes paid in the Old Testament. Moses instituted a half shekel sanctuary tax to help fund the tabernacle (Exodus 30:12-13). However this tax was only collected when Israel performed a national census. There was also a one third shekel tax instituted annually for the temple in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:32; Ezra 6:8). But this was a voluntary contribution from the people while the Exodus tax had the authority of Moses behind it. So priests merged these two ideas together — taking the half Shekel tax from Exodus …

Don't allow storms to rule your life. Photo credit: Bill Collison/Flickr/Creative Commons

What it means to cast your bread upon the water

This past summer, I planned a walk with friends around a beautiful lake in the center of our city. At one point in our journey, we stopped at a quiet little spot along the edge, took our bread crumbs and threw them upon the water and watched them float away. We were symbolically fulfilling the words King Solomon wrote: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, yes, even to eight, for you know not what evil may come upon the earth.” (Ecclesiastes 11: 1–2 AMP) Commentators believe Solomon was referring to ships he sent out full of goods to trade with other nations. During their journey they would encounter prevailing winds, massive storms with surging waves crashing over their small wooden hulls. But they would battle through. They would be gone for days, even weeks, and when they returned home they were laden with valuable merchandise. He was describing an investment that will come back to us particularly in troubled times therefore we …

Do the earliest references to Yahweh in Egypt confirm the Exodus? Credit: clubmed.co.uk/Flickr/Creative Commons

Egypt meets Yahweh: Another confirmation of the Exodus?

When we look at Biblical accounts there are many mentions of Egypt with the most prominent being Israel’s exodus out of that country under Moses. It was  a dramatic encounter that brought the full force of Yahweh against Egypt and its pharaoh who refused to let Israel leave. Similarly, there are several references to Israel in Egyptian records — from mentions on wall carvings and steles to papyris. According to Charles Aling the oldest reference is found on the Merneptah Stele dated to around 1208 BC that refers to a group of people called the Shasu. Aling who specializes in Egyptology is chairman of the History department at Northwestern College. The Egyptians referred to the Shasu several times through the centuries. The word is used to describe a semi-nomadic people who lived in Canaan. It is generally believed that Shasu incorporated all the Semitic people – descendants of Abraham — such as the Edomites, Ishmaelites, Moabites and Israelis. From the Egyptian records the Shasu were generally looked upon as enemies of Egypt and in one …

Asteroid -- Credit: Kevin Gill/Flickr/Creative Commons

Another near brush with the apocalypse?

The Apostle John was probably in his late 70s when Roman emperor Domitian banished this favorite of Jesus’ disciples to the Island of Patmos due to his Christian beliefs. It was on this idyllic island located off the coast of Turkey that God gave John a disturbing apocalyptic vision of the end times, that today we call the Book of Revelation. In his vision, John saw many strange things, but perhaps one of the most disturbing was a flaming mountain falling from the sky and hitting an ocean. 8 The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood, 9 and a third of the creatures which were in the sea and had life, died; and a third of the ships were destroyed. (Revelation 8:8-9 NASV) The resulting devastation will be catastrophic. The size suggests this is not a meteorite strike, but rather an asteroid. Though we are accustomed to seeing meteors blazing through our atmosphere, if they reach earth without …

Credit: Rosa Lynn A/Flickr/Creative Commons

People Who Pet Dolphins

Recently, Oscar winning actress Brie Larson apologized. In 2004, when she was 14, she petted a dolphin. Now she is building a successful career in Hollywood, and she has tried very hard to clear herself of any controversy. In this case, controversy is animal cruelty. Brie Larson is a dolphin petter. More correctly, she was a petter, as a child. Now she has apologized. Movie stars with fabulous careers have corporate teams of managers, publicists, and stylists; and a public apology indicates some alarm. This dolphin petting accusation seems to be a serious threat to someone. We live in interesting times. Now, the eternal and universal moral principles that underpin everything in society seem to last about a week. Tourists used to enjoy petting dolphins, and I remember when we were not offended by oil in pipelines, and when good electricity did not always come from windmills. A few days ago someone asked me to explain the words behind the acronym LGBT. We were having a conversation about transgender access to public washrooms. It’s hard …

A scene from Jesus VR: The story of Christ. Photo: Autumnvr.com

World’s first full-length ‘virtual reality’ movie is about the life of Jesus

David Hansen is a movie director and producer from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has just produced the world’s first full-length virtual reality (VR) movie and it is about the life of Christ. In the movie entitled Jesus VR: The Story of Christ, Tim Fellingham plays Jesus and Mish Boyko the role of Peter. It was featured at the prestigious Venice Film Festival this past week where they presented a 40-minute cut of the 90-minute movie.  In an interview with the Regina Leader Post, Hansen described their invite to the festival as “unbelievable.” Virtual reality allows a person to be immersed in the environment. You literally become part of the story as it is happening. In computer generated environments you are even able to manipulate objects or perform certain activities. However, they are not quite there for VR movies made up of real people and movie sets. Nevertheless you are standing with the disciples as the events take place. In a news release, Hansen described Christ’s story as the most powerful story of all time adding  “The …

Do you have Desmond T. Doss’ spiritual gift?

Mel Gibson’s most recent movie Hacksaw Ridge received a 10-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival. Standing ovations are not common occurrences at this festival, much less for movies with a Christian faith theme. Gibson’s movie, which will be released in theaters in November, is based on the life of a heroic soldier from World War II — Desmond T. Doss. As a Seventh Day Adventist, Doss was a conscientious objector and was unwilling to become involved in the actual fighting. The Seventh Day Adventists denomination officially holds to the position of pacifism. Like most people, it is easy to consider conscientious objectors as little more than cowards. But that could not be said about Doss, who died in March 2006 at the age of 87. According to an article in the New York Times, while growing up his dad put a poster over Desmond’s bed. It had the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s prayer emblazoned on an image of Cain standing with a club over the dead body of his brother Able – …

Battling the storm of worry. Photo: R/Flickr/Creative Commons

Have you lost your mind?

Sometime this past summer, I lost my mind. I sensed a cog slipping and I started losing a grip on my thoughts.  They were coming faster — racing through my mind. Fatigue set in and I eventually crashed emotionally, physically and spiritually. Slowly, I had given my thoughts over to the worries of the next day and the next week. I was living in a place and space of constant uncertainty fueled by doubt and fear. Jesus commanded us not to worry about the next day. “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” (Matthew 6:34 TLB) We need to learn to live one day at a time. This requires that we stay in the present and not concern ourselves about the future. It does not mean that we don’t plan for the future, but we must not allow the future to flood our thinking. We must simply remind ourselves that we are a child of God and in His care. God will …

Workers sifting through the 400 truckloads of dirt hauled out of the Temple Mount as part of the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Photo: Zachi Dvira Pikiwiki Israel

Ancient flooring from Herod’s Temple discovered?

Archaeologists with the Temple Mount Sifting Project believe they have discovered the floor that made up the court-yard of Herod’s temple. This was the floor Jesus walked on when He visited the temple in the Gospels. They made the announcement at a news conference today. The first Jewish Temple built by King Solomon was destroyed by Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, who then sent most of the Jews into captivity. After Persia’s King Cyrus conquered Babylon, he allowed the Jews under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah to return to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. The construction of the smaller second temple started around 538 BC and was eventually completed in 515 BC (Ezra 6). Though it survived near destruction in 332 BC, after quelling a Jewish rebellion Antiochus IV Epiphanes (215 BC – 164 BC) desecrated this second temple by setting us an idol of Zeus inside it and sacrificing a pig. But the temple continued and it was this version that King Herod restored and expanded in 20 BC.  The transformation was …

Fall sunset over Zurich, Switzerland. Photo: Werner_B/Flickr/Creative Commons

Swiss agency reports large numbers of Muslims converting to Christ

It’s happening all across Europe — Germany, England, Austria — Muslims are turning to Christ by the thousands. Despite all that is happening, the Holy Spirit is moving. The latest country added to that list is Switzerland. According to Switzerland’s Counselling Center for Integration and Religious Affairs (CCIRA), since 2004 over 2,000 Muslim refugees have become Christians. And it does not appear that the conversion rates will be slowing down any time soon. The ones turning to Christ are mostly Kurds and Afghans. In an interview with a Swiss TV news program, 20 Minutes, CCIRA coordinator Kathrin Anliker said a couple of factors are at play here. First Muslims are increasingly horrified by the brutality of extremists in the Middle East. Just recently a Sharia court in ISIS controlled Mosul, Iraq ordered nine young men to be publicly executed. According to reports, ISIS accused the nine of being members of a resistance movement.  The court ordered the men be tied to iron posts then cut in half with a chain saw. Secondly, Anliker noticed that some of the refugees had …

Use whatever faith you have for your miracle

I think the Charismatic brand of faith preachers have probably done more to destroy faith in Christians than actually increase it. They have convinced many of us that all we need is “more” faith and we can do the miracles of Jesus and drive around in Aston Martins. But is that what the Bible really teaches? Luke tells the story about a day the disciples asked Christ to “increase their faith” (Luke 17:5). They watched Christ perform great miracles and they wanted more faith so they could do the same miracles. But the answer Jesus gave them was shocking. 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6) Instead of telling the disciples what great miracles they could do with great gobs of faith, Jesus said they only needed an ounce of faith — mustard-seed sized faith — and they could cast a mulberry tree into the ocean. Mulberry trees run from 32′ …

65% of British people believe they had an encounter with God. Photo: London England -- Ville Miettinen/Flickr/Creative Commons

British survey reveals God is still encountering people today

It is very clear when you read the Bible that God desires personal encounters with people. In the Old Testament, Moses ran into God in the wilderness through a burning bush (Exodus 3:1 – 4:17). The incident changed his life and transformed him from a shepherd to the man who led Israel out of Egypt. In the New Testament, God encountered people through the filling of the Holy Spirit. It was a dramatic event. When the Holy Spirit fell on the gentiles in Cornelius’s house, the disciples in attendance had no doubt it had happened because of what they saw (Acts 10:44-46). A meeting with God can also take on other forms. After an angel told Philip to go down a specific road he ran into the Ethiopian Eunuch who was just leaving Jerusalem (Acts 8:25-40). Puzzled by what he was reading in Isaiah, Philip’s timely arrival led to the man becoming a Christian. The eunuch worked in the treasury department for the Ethiopian Royal family (Acts 8:27). His conversion brought Christianity to that nation. According to a recent British survey, these God encounters …

Photo of Allepo, Syria (Photo Craig Jenkins Wikipedia/Creative Commons) where Muslim extremists captured Karla Mueller insert image (YouTube capture)

Despite ISIL’s torture and rape, Kayla Mueller refused to renounce Christ

On August 4, 2013, American Kayla Mueller, 24, from Prescott, Arizona was working as a humanitarian aid worker in Syria when ISIL captured her and a friend, Omar Alkhani, as they were leaving a Doctors without Borders hospital in Aleppo. Omar who was a contractor for Doctors without Borders was released a few weeks later. Meanwhile, hoping for a ransom, ISIS moved Kayla to various locations throughout Syria. In 2014, the Islamic extremists notified Kayla’s parents of their daughter’s kidnapping. However, nothing could be worked out and  after 18 months in a brutal captivity, Kayla died in February 2015 after an air strike by the Jordanian air force. Recently in an interview with ABC’s news program 20/20, four hostages who shared a cell with Kayla came forward with a story about her remarkable faith in Christ. It appears ISIL was purposefully trying to force Kayla to recant her faith. But in the face of the unrelenting torture, Kayla remained strong to the end. According to ABC, her torture included “verbal abuse, prolonged isolation, sensory deprivation, stress …