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About Jerusalem

A woman prays near the Tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Credit: Jelle Drok/Flickr/Creative Commons

A woman prays near the Tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Credit: Jelle Drok/Flickr/Creative Commons

In recent years, I have been blessed to spend several weeks in the eternal city of Jerusalem. This is the only city on the earth which the LORD God of Israel declared, “In Jerusalem, I will put my name forever” (2 Kings 21:4-7).

During my time in Israel, Psalm 122:6 was constantly before my eyes;  “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you.” Jerusalem is the most prayed for city in the universe.  At every meal, Jews pray the blessing, “Blessed are you, O LORD, who will build up Jerusalem in mercy.”

Every Monday the Jews recite Psalm 48 from their Prayer Book; “Walk about Zion and go all around her” (verse 12). Jerusalem is a spiritual city (not sinless), set apart for a Holy God.

Many days I spent just walking around Jerusalem and was constantly reminded of the  blessings connected with Israel that can only come from the true LORD God.  Indeed the peace of Jesus Christ is evident in the streets and there are places where one can experience “open heavens.”

A special place is the Garden Tomb, one of two supposed sites where Jesus was buried.  On each visit to that place, I experienced the deep things of God.  Walking through the gate the first time, I immediately sensed His resurrection spirit.

The second visit, I was healed from my grief over the death of a sister. The third time, I recognized it as a place where the LORD has chosen to put His name.  It is a place of remembrance, like coming back to an altar.

On my fourth visit, I sat between an Argentina group who sang a praise chorus in Spanish, while on the opposite side, an American group sang the same song in English. What a prophetic picture of the message of the Resurrected Christ being the Saviour of all mankind.

Another sacred place is the remaining portion of the Western (Wailing) Wall of the Temple where Jews gather all day long to offer up intercession.  The Western Wall is a place where Christians can freely pray along side the Jews.  To me, this is a prophetic picture of the coming together of the Jew and Gentile as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:11-18).

At the same time, Jerusalem is also the seat of Satan. With the world’s three main religions claiming Jerusalem as their Holy City, one encounters many different religious and evil spirits.  This is the city where Jesus was falsely accused, given a mock trial and was killed.

While Christians believe Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, the pallor of Jesus’ crucifixion from centuries past still haunts the city.  Many residents live with oppression and lack of joy but once outside Jerusalem’s city limits that oppression lifts.

With so many voices pleading for attention, one’s spirit is constantly trying to discern the will of the Father.  On my last night in Israel, I asked our LORD to help me hear His true word.  The next morning I awoke with this scripture in my heart, “for he who touches you (Israel) touches the apple (pupil) of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8).

The apple of the eye is the pupil, and the pupil is the instrument through which one sees.  He who touches Israel touches the center of God’s eyesight.  To have an accurate prophetic perception of God’s purposes on the earth today, we must have God’s vision for Jerusalem and Israel.

This is not a race or ethnic issue but it is about a promise-keeping God who is faithful to fulfill  His plan.  Since Israel is at the center of God’s vision, we need to see through the lens of Israel’s destiny if we are to be true prophetic people.

Has the church lost its message?

Message in a bottle Credit: Kev Lewis/Flickr/Creative Commons

Message in a bottle Credit: Kev Lewis/Flickr/Creative Commons

I was on a Christian website reading an article on Disney’s recent release of Beauty and the Beast that portrayed overtly homosexual scenes in a movie intended for children.  One person commented deriding and mocking the church’s failure to boycott the movie that was a box office success.

Baited, several Christians responded some with vulgar comments condemning the person. One used the term “bum holer,” a comment that was later removed.

To be honest, I felt a similar resentment towards this pro-gay commenter.

I have been a Christians for years but a verse from the Gospel of John cited in a devotional I received recently caught my attention. I wondered if someone had just added this verse to the Bible in the last couple of years, because it seems so contrary to current Christian practice.

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (Greek krino) the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV)

The Greek word ‘krino’ means to judge as the NASV translated it or to condemn as the NIV translated it.

God did not send Jesus to judge or condemn the world, but rather to save it.

So if Jesus was not sent to condemn the world, are Christians now supposed to take up that call? Are we called to condemn and judge or are we called to save it.

I am beginning to wonder in this rapidly changing world if the church has lost its message. I don’t think it’s wrong to oppose evil, but many Christians have veered into condemnation and judgement.

It seems to have become our primary focus. It is so easy to be caught up condemning sin because it is everywhere. Instead, does God want us to lift up Jesus (John 12:32)?

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, or perhaps God timed the recent discovery of the palace of the Assyrian King Sennacherib beneath the traditional site of Jonah’s tomb in Mosul, Iraq for such a time as this. The remains of Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria, are found on the outskirts of Mosul.

After ISIS ransacked Jonah’s tomb in search of antiquities, they dug caves beneath the tomb and stumbled upon the palace of Sennacherib. After Mosul was retaken by Iraqi forces earlier this year, they discovered this palace that confirmed the Biblical record.

But more importantly, it’s also a reminder of the message of the book of Jonah.

God wanted Jonah to call Nineveh to repentance, but he initially refused because the prophet was concerned its citizens might respond and escape God’s judgement.

People have no idea of how brutal the Assyrians were. In his article the Grisly Assyrian Record of Torture and Death, Erika Belibtreu briefly outlines their wickedness.

He didn’t get this information from how others described them, but from the Assyrians themselves who gloated about their exploits on obelisks and walls.

This culture reveled in evil.

The following descriptions are from the Assyrians own records.

Such as skinning their captives alive:

“I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me [and] draped their skins over the pile [of corpses]; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I flayed many right through my land [and] draped their skins over the walls.”

Burning children alive:

“I felled 50 of their fighting men with the sword, burnt 200 captives from them, [and] defeated in a battle on the plain 332 troops. … With their blood I dyed the mountain red like red wool, [and] the rest of them the ravines [and] torrents of the mountain swallowed. I carried off captives [and] possessions from them. I cut off the heads of their fighters [and] built [therewith] a tower before their city. I burnt their adolescent boys [and] girls.”

Cutting off people’s arms, legs, noses, ears and genitalia while they were still alive:

“In strife and conflict I besieged [and] conquered the city. I felled 3,000 of their fighting men with the sword … I captured many troops alive: I cut off of some their arms [and] hands; I cut off of others their noses, ears, [and] extremities. I gouged out the eyes of many troops. I made one pile of the living [and] one of heads. I hung their heads on trees around the city.” †

Many of the drawings show hundreds of decapitated heads littering the ground or displayed on stakes as decorations in the city.

For those spared, they cut holes into their lips and cheeks, linked them together with ropes and marched them off into brutal captivity as slaves and where the Assyrians forced some to live in cages no bigger than a dog kennel.

This was one of the most brutal cultures the world has ever seen, but God loved them, and when Jonah finally showed up:

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. (Jonah 3: 5  NASV)

And God forgave them just as Jesus wants us to do today.

Sources:

From porn star to Christian to pastor

Crystal Bassette and her husband Credit: YouTube capture -- This Morning show

Crystal Bassette and her husband Credit: YouTube capture — This Morning show

It’s a story that is sure to turn some heads.

When she was 21 years old, Crystal Bassette performed in her first porn video. According to the British Newspaper, The Sun, after the shoot she sat in her shower and cried for two hours.

She was supporting a son after becoming pregnant at age 16 and was working in a California bar with dreams of becoming an actress.

And though initially uncertain about continuing, the draw of a monthly salary of $25,000 proved too much and a month later she did her second porn shoot. Over the next several years, she would make over 100 porn movies.

With the money the lifestyle provided, she lived in a mansion complete with a maid, a gardener and seven cars, but to cope Bassette turned to alcohol and drugs.

But that all changed in 2014 when she had a serious car accident where police charged her with impaired driving. After the crash, Bassette attended her sister’s church on Easter Sunday and became a Christian after the pastor preached a sermon aimed directly at her — or so she felt.

But even after becoming a Christian, contractual obligations required her to do two more porn shoots before she was able to completely break free.

As she read the Bible, Crystal believed the Spirit of Jezebel had been the force manipulating her into the porn industry.

Crystal pushed through, met her husband, attended a pastoral training school and today they pastor New Beginnings Christian Life in Fulton, New York.

Down through the centuries many Christians have thought Mary Magellan came from a similar background working as a prostitute.

However, there is no conclusive evidence she was. What we do know is that Jesus delivered her from seven demons, a fact attested by both Luke and Mark (Luke 8:1-3; Mark 16:9).

Luke says that Mary, along with other women, were providing financial support to Jesus’ disciples and because of this some linked her to the unnamed prostitute who poured expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50.

But despite any clear connection, Pope Gregory I named her as this prostitute in a sermon preached in 591 AD and the reputation stuck.

Whether she is or isn’t, Mary plays a very prominent role in Jesus ministry and the Gospel writers mention her more times than many of the lesser apostles.

She is mentioned by name as being a witness to Christ’s crucifixion (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56). She was also involved in Christ’s burial where she along with Mary the mother of Jesus and Salome anointed Jesus’ body with spices in the tomb (Mark 16:1). Again through this act some see a connection with the unnamed prostitute who anointed Jesus’ feet.

She is also mentioned as one of the first to witness the empty tomb (John 20:1) and was the first person to see the resurrected Christ (John 20:16; Mark 16:9).

And curiously, it was Easter Sunday, that Crystal’s journey from porn star to Christian first started.

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Is Pope Francis paving the way for a second exodus from the Catholic church — Reformation Part II?

Pope Francis Credit: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston/George Martell/Pilot News Media/Flickr/Creative Commons

Pope Francis Credit: Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston/George Martell/Pilot News Media/Flickr/Creative Commons

When Martin Luther, a Catholic seminary professor and priest, pounded his 95 thesis on the door of a Roman Catholic church in Wittenburg Germany on October 31, 1517, he was not setting out to start a new church, he was trying to reform the Catholic church.

He was responding to the efforts of Johann Tetzel, a Dominican monk, who arrived in the area selling indulgences to help build a new cathedral in Rome. The indulgences allowed people to buy their way into heaven.

Martin Luther said people are saved by faith, not by money. The Roman Catholic church reacted to Luther’s call for reform birthing the protestant church. Now on the 500th anniversary of this reformation is a second one brewing?

I have been reading comments on a number of conservative Catholic sites of grave concerns about Pope Francis.

Pope Francis who campaigned and won the papacy in 2013 as a conservative Catholic is anything but. Conservative Catholics call Francis a Marxist and a liberal.

In 2015, Eugenio Scalfari, publisher of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, sent a series of questions to Pope Francis one them asked about salvation for atheists. Conservative Catholics were outraged when Pope Francis answered that an atheist did not have to believe in God to be saved, he only had to live according to his conscience.

Even secular papers are noticing a growing rift in the Catholic church. In a recent article, the Washington Post said that Conservative Catholics are “filled with dread’ about the direction Pope Francis is taking the church. The paper noted in 2014, Francis had 72% approval rating among Conservative Catholics and by 2015 that had fallen sharply to 45%.

LifeSiteNews is a prominent Canadian conservative Catholic website. With upwards of 30 million visitors each year, it has influence around the world. It is strongly pro-life and I have watched with interest as it expresses its concerns about Pope Francis.

It started off a recent article stating:

ROME, January 3, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – 2016 marked a dramatic turning point in the pontificate of Pope Francis. It may be called the year of the great awakening, as more and more faithful Catholics and prelates, Cardinals included, came to a frightening understanding that there is a major problem with the current Pope.

Then it lists a number of things Pope Francis did in 2016 that concerns them. Now to be fair some things Francis challenged are traditions in the Catholic church that are not necessarily Biblical, but others clearly are.

In May, Pope Francis derided Jesus’ exhortation to preach the gospel to the whole world when he compared Catholic evangelism to radical Islam saying: “It is true the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”

In February, he described one of Italy’s “foremost abortion promoter as one of  the nation’s ‘forgotten greats.'”

Lifesitenews then points out that Francis has been actively appointing Liberals as Cardinals. Liberal not only in terms of Catholic church traditions but liberal also in their views on scripture.

One of the goals of Pope Francis is to break down the barriers between Catholicism and Protestants and some suggest he is pushing for a one world church.  What is curious is that many evangelicals are warming to Pope Francis due in part because of his rejection of some Catholic extra-Biblical traditions.

However, speaking at the Ligonier National Conference held in Florida this year commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation, Italian Evangelical pastor Leonardo De Chirico warned attendees:

“Francis has little time for non-negotiable truths and gives more attention to the variety of people’s consciences. He’s more interested in warmth than light, in empathy than judgment.

“He focuses on attitude rather than identity and on embracing rather than teaching. He underlines the relational over the doctrinal. For him, human proximity is more important than theological integrity. Belonging, for him, has priority over believing.”

So where does this leave Conservative Catholics? Now I may not agree with everything Conservative Catholics believe, but I have met Charismatic Catholics who would fall into this category and they are definitely Christian.

So if this trend continues some may quit going to church or join evangelical fellowships.  Others may break off and form their own independent Catholic churches and according to one writer this may already be starting to happen.

Sources:

Christian pastor finds one of world’s largest diamonds

Rural village in Sierra Leone Credit: martagiqs/Flickr/Creative Commons

Rural village in Sierra Leone Credit: martagiqs/Flickr/Creative Commons

Emmanuel Momoh pastors an evangelical church in the village of Yakadu in the Kono region of Sierra Leone, a small country located along the Western coast of Africa. Found in the eastern part of the country, the province of Kono is famous for its diamonds.

When he isn’t serving as a pastor, Momoh also works a small artisan mine where he recently found the 706-carat diamond, slightly smaller than a hockey puck. According to experts, it is very unusual for diamonds of any significant quality to be found in these smaller mines, much less one of this size.

Yet to be fully evaluated, it is expected the diamond is worth upwards of $50 million — a 813-carat diamond recently sold for $63 million. There is hint of a possible flaw in the diamond that could affect its value.

If its size holds true, it could potentially be the tenth largest diamond ever found in the world.

Sierra Leone has a strong Christian community. Sign outside a home. Credit: Babak Fahamzadeh/Flickr/Creative Commons Sierra Leone has a strong Christian community. Sign outside a home. Credit: Babak Fahamzadeh/Flickr/Creative Commons

Though a predominantly Muslim country (78%) Sierra Leone has a strong Christian community (21%) that is largely Evangelical. Sign outside a Sierra Leone home. Credit: Babak Fahamzadeh/Flickr/Creative Commons

Perhaps the most stunning part of the story is Pastor Momoh’s decision to turn it over  to the government instead of trying to smuggle it out of the country. Shortly after handing it over, he expressed his hope money from the sale of the diamond would be used to benefit the people of Sierra Leone.

In the past, Sierra Leone was rocked by ‘blood stone’ diamonds being illicitly sold to fund the country’s bloody civil war.

After receiving the diamond, President Ernest Bai Koroma issued a news release thanking “the chief and his people for not smuggling the diamond out of the country.” In an interview with AP, Koroma called the diamond “a gift from God.”

Though Sierra Leone is nearly 80% Muslim, Koroma and his wife are Christians.

The president added that Pastor Momoh and the area will be properly rewarded and the whole country would benefit from the discovery.

With a population of seven million people, Sierra Leone was bludgeoned by a bloody civil war during the 90s. Funded by ‘blood diamonds’ rebels destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure including schools.

Since his election in 2007, President Koroma has instituted a number of legitimate reforms to rebuild the country including a crack down on corruption that resulted in the prosecution of ministers in his government found guilty of corruption.

The president has promised transparency on the sale of the diamond.

36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36 NASV)

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Being centered: A personal struggle to belong

Credit: mar is sea Y/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: mar is sea Y/Flickr/Creative Commons

Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters. After studying his life for the past year, I have developed a love/hate relationship with this Old Testament hero, both for the same reasons. He stood faithful in God, no matter what happened.

No matter who lied or betrayed him, no matter how far down in the pit life pushed him, he kept serving and looking to God. He stayed centered on God when most of us would have given up on God and our dreams.

But I want to look at one aspect of Joseph’s life that is often not discussed but is both encouraging and challenging.

Most people agree that Joseph came from a very dysfunctional home: 9 older jealous brothers, 3 step-moms, and a doting father who was clued-out as to the effect that his favoritism was having on his family.

After studying Joseph’s life, what I see is a loner. He was a loner but never alone. He was too Egyptian for his family and too Jewish for the Egyptians. At the end of Genesis when Jacob dies, his brothers are still living in fear of Joseph, and have never really accepted him. Before Joseph dies his wish is to be buried with his ancestors and not as an Egyptian hero.

He was a loner to the end who I believe really never belonged anywhere except with God.

It makes Joseph’s story all the more amazing that he was able to stay centered on God without the benefit of church groups, men’s ministry, or any support network. He stood centered on God with little help from his “brethren”, and he made it, big time.

I am not advocating pulling back from fellowship, living in a cave with Jesus and not going to church. Joseph had no choice. We all need to be part of one another; we all need fellowship. But there are those of us who, like Joseph, just don’t seem to fit. I can personally relate, which is why I am so intrigued by Joseph’s life.

My Personal Struggle to Belong

In many ways I identify with Joseph. Like others who find themselves struggling to fit, I tried the usual things – impress others by getting more education, being better at sports, making more money – but the outside stuff won’t heal the inside.

It is exhausting to continually try to fit and belong in the kingdom, yet always feeling like an outsider, wondering if the feeling of being part of “the team” will ever happen. The defense mechanisms that go along with this are like band aids – they may seem to protect – they may try to hide a nasty wound, but they don’t actually heal.

On the other hand, I’m not suggesting that the answer is to do the “lone ranger” thing either. What I am saying is that our hope is in being centered on God.

God has been showing me so clearly that I need to be focused on Him. My kudos, my value, my worth, my identity is all in Him and Him alone. To often those of us who struggle with belonging set ourselves up for failure because we either try too hard to fit and people react, or we expect to fail, and end up annoying people by our attitudes, and then walk away confirming our rejection.

The Lesson of a Dog

I received an epiphany on how to deal with this from our family dog. It came to me as I was walking and praying about this whole issue one day. God kept saying the same words to me as my wife says to our dog: “Look at me!”

To explain, our mutt was a pound puppy who came to us with a lot of fears and reactions – came from what you might call a dysfunctional background! He had been at the shelter for his fifth, sixth and seventh months of life, and we adopted him literally the day before he was to be put down. He was quite wild and crazy, and “needing a home with people who were willing to work with him”.

My wonderful wife worked with him until he now almost seems normal. One of the keys to training him are the phrases, “Look at me”, and “What do I have?” My wife has become our dog’s focal point, the calm in the midst of the storm.

She is the source of all that is good for our dog – treats, praise, pets, love, and again, treats! When squirrels and cats are line dancing on our front lawn and our dog is losing control, those few words change his whole crazy world.

I yell and the dog hears nothing; my wife calmly gets a treat and says in a normal voice, “Look at me,” and everything else fades for our dog as he centers on my wife’s face, tail wagging, sitting obediently, licking his chops and centered on the one person who can make sense of a crazy world.

God’s Lesson to Me

When I cried out, “God, what am I to do?” the answer came back from my heavenly Father, “Look at Me.” When the cats of life are driving me squirrely, and I don’t seem to know where I fit or belong, the answer is, “Look at Me.”

Remember this heart cry of our loving Father to all of us, even if we feel like outsiders or lepers. As we respond by being centered on His face, all the other “stuff” just fades into oblivion, and He will make sense of our world.

Stay Centered!

UFOs and Christians

Credit: Domiriel/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Domiriel/Flickr/Creative Commons

Do you remember movies like ET and Close Encounters of the Third Kind? The concept of aliens from other planets has been entertaining us for years. And sometimes the belief in flying saucers with strange passengers, and alien abductions becomes like a religious cult with true believers. Also, life on other planets is a mainstream scientific theory. One of the hottest things in modern astronomy is the search for Earth like planets.

When I was a boy, probably about eight years old, my big brother found a new hobby. He became a UFOlogist. He found a source of cheaply printed books with blurry pictures of weird things in the sky, and he let me read them. For a little boy, that was the best hobby ever. I still remember those stories about visitations and abductions, and things in the sky that the Air Force denied.

Eventually our mother learned about this and she was not happy. The tension was broken one Sunday, in church. The pastor said something about UFOs, in his sermon, and I sat up and listened carefully. I was hoping he would set our mother straight, but instead he told us those things were wrong and Christians should never believe in them. I remember how our mother scowled at us and nodded.

I realize now that she probably phoned the pastor and told him that her boys were going astray, and he set us straight from the pulpit. At the time I accepted my defeat, and looked for other hobbies.

Many years later, I was traveling in Arizona with some other people, and we drove into New Mexico and found the small city of Roswell. If you don’t know, about seventy years ago, a rancher found some debris on his land, near Roswell, and the military didn’t want to talk about it.

Now Roswell is a pilgrimage center for true believers. Shops that should be empty on main street have information centers and museums full of tourists. If you don’t believe in UFOs, it’s a lot of fun and the city needs the economy. I had a great afternoon.

New Mexico is east of Arizona, but if you travel north instead, to Las Vegas Nevada, you can drive north of that city into some wild country with a semi-secret airbase; Area 51. This is the other UFO pilgrimage site, with bus tours from Vegas. You can drive on Nevada State Route 375, the “Extraterrestrial Highway” in the desert, and watch the other tourists searching for mysterious things. I think that road would have almost no traffic if UFOlogists didn’t write about it.

Christians can know two things about UFOs and beings that are not from this world; people really are seeing something, and life does exist in other places. Reports of strange lights in the sky and flying objects that we can’t explain come from every part of the world. I don’t know what people are seeing, possibly there is an explanation, but people are seeing something.

Also, life does exist out there. I don’t know if Heaven is a planet and I don’t know what an angel looks like, but the Bible describes “hosts” of beings that are not from this Earth.

I think UFOlogy started when people stopped believing in God. If we don’t have angels, we can have intelligent beings in flying saucers instead. If we don’t believe in Heaven, we can search for planets that might support life. Christians worship Jesus, a being who came to this planet from somewhere else, and we communicate with Him when we pray. Skeptics and deniers might laugh, but then they wrap religion in pseudo-science and believe the same things.

We all know there is something out there.

Do you know these mysterious words from the first chapter of Job?

One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

We don’t know the story behind this scene, but we can know that this God loves us, and his message will make us better people.

And in the Christmas story:

And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the City of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a great multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests!”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:8 to 15).

UFOs indeed. Someone is sending us a message.

Seth, stem cells, teeth and the Bible

Credit: matt kornatz/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: matt kornatz/Flickr/Creative Commons

As I reported in my previous article, I am going for stem cell therapy on my knees. I have found the numerous news reports on stem cells very interesting but an article in early January from the British newspaper, The Telegraph, provided an insight into stem cells from a Biblical perspective.

Now let’s be clear, no where does the Bible directly discuss stem cells other than references to how God formed us in the womb (Psalm 139:13) in which stem cells play a critical role.

But the story about work being done by researchers at London’s King College provided another clue for me. They were testing the Alzheimer drug — Tideglusib — and discovered that the drug can cause teeth with cavities to repair themselves.

It does this by stimulating the ‘stem cells’ in the pulp of the tooth.

Teeth already have a limited ability to repair the dentine and enamel but the layer is so thin that it is not heavy enough to repair larger cavities.

Researchers found that by inserting a small sponge soaked with Tideglusib into the cavity of teeth in mice caused the stem cells to completely repair teeth within six weeks.

Since Tideglusib has already been approved for humans, they expect it could be ready for human use very quickly. It could radically transform the dental industry.

I found this very interesting, because it solved a problem that has puzzled me.

When my mom and dad hit their 90’s my mom had lost all her teeth and my dad had about half of his, and that despite modern dental care

So how many teeth would a person have left at 930 years which was the age Adam lived to (Genesis 5:5) or 912 years which is how old Seth was before he died (Genesis 5:8).

Most of the patriarchs that lived between man’s fall into sin and the flood were hundreds of years old before they died. If most a person’s teeth are gone by age 90, how could you properly eat and what would you eat for the next 800 years?

But this research out of England shows that teeth have the amazing ability to heal themselves of all major cavities with the proper stimulation of stem cells.

I suspect during that period stem cells played a much more active role in maintaining the human body than what we see today. Cavities were healed.

But that all changed in Genesis 6 after the sons of God married the daughters of men (Genesis 6:1-3). God was so disgusted by what happened, this resulted in a second judgment limiting human life span to 120 years:

Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3 NASV)

This is the maximum age people could live too, and of course other factors would come into play reducing that potential.

After the flood, lifespans began to drop.

The decline wasn’t immediate, and there were bumps, but overall after this judgment, there was a steady downward trend. Abraham lived to 175 years of age (Genesis 25:7) and his son Isaac to 180 years of age (Genesis 35:27-29).

By the time Joseph showed up — he lived to 110 (Genesis 50:26) — lifespans were permanently below the 120 year mark.

When God judged man to a lifespan of a 120 years, it not only limited the ability of cells to replicate themselves, but also limited the ability of stem cells to heal the body.

But when we look at the human body, we see God’s amazing plan that essentially enabled people to live healthy, active lives forever.

Then we ruined it.

Sources:

I am heading out for ‘stem cell’ therapy

Brussels, Belgium Credit: Francisco Antunes/Flickr/Creative Commons

Brussels, Belgium Credit: Francisco Antunes/Flickr/Creative Commons

I am heading out-of-town for ‘stem cell’ therapy on my knees, so posts will probably be a bit sporadic over the next few days.

There has been a lot of news recently on stem cells therapy for multiple areas from knees to hips to heart and even the brain.

After conception, a baby forms through the use of stem cells and because of this some have described them as mother cells. After you are born, you have stem cells inside you used to repair damaged tissue.

They are described as undifferentiated cells, meaning a stem cell can repair a damaged knee or that same stem cell could repair a damaged heart. It is basically blank and takes on the characteristic of the tissue it is repairing.

Because of this unique ability, doctors are using stem cells to repair damage in multiple areas of the body. They basically harvest stem cells and then insert a concentrated amount into the damaged area such as a knee or shoulder to encourage repair.

Though success is not guaranteed, it can result in improvement.

As some of you may be aware, I hurt my knee while snow blowing a couple of years back. This eventually required arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage.

Though, there was a remarkable improvement, the surgeon warned my knee may not be as good as it was before the injury. This was my case, which prompted my decision to consider ‘stem cell’ therapy.

I got a doctor’s referral, the required x-rays and booked my appointment. I am now two day away from having the therapy done.

They will drill through my back into the pelvis and draw the stem cells out from the bone marrow. This marrow will be processed, concentrating the stem cells, that are then inserted into my knees via a needle.

Yes, it can be painful. But am I willing to trade an hour of pain, for potentially years of better knees?

This is a trade I would make every day.

Some people notice improvement almost immediately, but for most it takes four to eight weeks. The full healing process takes six months.

I will keep you posted as to how this journey goes.

The dance of the butterfly

Credit: itsme_brian/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: itsme_brian/Flickr/Creative Commons

As much as I struggled and fought with winter this year, I have learned that it is just as important as all the other seasons.

To be honest, I felt trapped this winter. It’s been hard and I found the days long and the shortage of sun emotionally draining.

One day my mood was up (the sun was out) and the next day it would be down (cloudy skies).

I missed my flowers and the sunshine.

Through this I was reminded of the butterfly and its various stage of cocooning.

Some refer to the butterfly’s incubation time as a “holding space” where it completes its remarkable transformation from a caterpillar to a butterfly.

The Bible talks about a similar “holding space” for Christians:

“Cease striving and know that I am God. ” (Psalm 46:10)

I can picture the caterpillar becoming frustrated by the lack of light as the layers slowly envelope its tiny form.  But, it needs to surrender to the cocooning and its time of incubation.

I am beginning to understand that this cocooning time is vital for each one of us and that the restrictions of winter are a unique picture of the way God cocoons us.

So often we think we are ready for the next season in our lives and yet we are not.

We are frustrated and struggle to understand why it is necessary for it to be dark for so long.

We feel stuck with one foot on the ground and the other in the cocoon as we push through the unending layers to reach the light.

When God desires to birth a new plan and purpose for our lives we need to go through cocooning. Incubation is a time of  frustration and struggle — a necessary stage for completing the transformation.

It is a time to deal with any unresolved issues of unforgiveness, bitterness or anger.

It is crucial that we take the time to heal, regenerate and restore our relationship with God.

We will experience freedom as we are released from the darkness and layers that entangled us.

We will be ready and free to emerge into spring and the season of birthing. Free to move and express ourselves! Free to spread our wings and fly!

It’s the dance of the butterfly!

“Therefore, if any person is (ingrafted) in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation  (a new creature altogether); the old (previous moral and spiritual condition) has passed away. BEHOLD,THE FRESH AND NEW HAS COME! (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Hearing the prophetic sound

Credit: Luther Bailey/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Luther Bailey/Flickr/Creative Commons

If radio and television sound can be transmitted through receivers, can human beings transmit sounds that are not ordinarily heard by the human ear?

If a short-wave radio can receive communication from across the ocean, is it possible for a human to pick up that same information?

The prophet Isaiah spoke of supernatural hearing assistance when he wrote:

“He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear To hear as the learned. The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away” (Is. 50:4b-5).

On July 6, 2004, while playing my piano and worshiping the LORD, I heard the cries of young children.  As I continued to worship I discerned the cries of the children were from Australia and a burden came upon me.

I began to pace my living room and cry out, “Why are the children crying?” After some time the answer came, “Because they have no one to show them the Father’s Love”.

That answer disturbed me as I know there are some very good Australian Bible teachers.  For the next few days, I kept praying for those children and started to make contacts into the Australian Christian community.

Since I don’t really have a teaching ministry to children, I wondered if the burden was for all Australian children or for a specific group in a specific locality.

Seven days later, my burden was uncovered with a news report that three children had spent six days on a remote island in the Torres Strait, north of Australia. The parents and a younger sibling were missing and presumed drowned at sea.

Their father was a Badu Island Pastor.

The week previous when I had heard the children crying — considering the time difference — it happened during the first few hours of being lost at sea.  No doubt they were crying and with the loss of their natural father, they had “no one to show them the Father’s love”.

The story can be found in it’s entirety at: http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2004/s1153242.htm.

Here are some excerpts:

“13 July , 2004 –  Mark Colvin: In a remarkable tale of survival, three children have spent six days on a remote island after their family was swept away when their boat sank in Torres Strait.

The children have told rescuers that they swam quietly to avoid sharks and then opened coconuts with their teeth to stay alive.

Three other members of the family are still missing and a search is underway across the Torres Strait for the couple and their infant son.

Ian Townsend reports.

Ian Townsend: The six members of the family were on their way to Thursday Island for a birthday party. They’d taken their boat from Badu Island, where Naseli Nona was a local pastor. Aboard was his wife Lisa and their four children, two boys, 3 and 11 years old, and two girls, 10 and 15.

The boat developed engine problems, and as it was being fixed, it capsized. That was a week ago.

The parents and the baby boy are still missing, but the three eldest children are now recovering on Badu Island at the home of their aunt, Vicki Tamwoy.

Vicki Tamwoy: The three children that we have with us, Ellis, Bulla and Norita, were sort of told by their mum, swim for that rocky place over there so at least someone will survive. And Lisa, Haley, and Clarence remained together, sharing, you know, one life vest, and the children then remained on that rocky outcrop from Tuesday night ’til Friday morning.

Now they had no food, no water during that period of time. Bulla’s indicated that they might have had an oyster or two, but nothing else, certainly no water. On the Friday morning he said to the two girls we need to swim to this other island we can see, otherwise we will die.

So the three of them then took on something like a three kilometer swim to get to the island of Matu and there they remained from Friday until they were rescued by their uncle Frank Nona.”

This experience demonstrates that we only see and hear in part and that the prophetic is not always as it appears to be.  Initially I thought the message meant there was a lack of ministers to teach Biblical truths of the love of God.

But for those three children it meant that due to the death of one man, they had lost the love of their natural father who was also their godly Pastor.

It also demonstrates our Heavenly Father’s great love for His children by allowing a Canadian ear to hear their sounds coming from the Australian waters.

The first solar cell was invented in 1839 or was it?

Oriental Hornet from Israel Credit: Gideon Pisanty/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Oriental Hornet from Israel Credit: Gideon Pisanty/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

According to Wikipedia, French physicist Edmond Becquerel invented the world’s first solar cell in 1839. He was 19-years-old and used his father’s laboratory to construct it.

It was the world’s first photovoltaic cell to convert the sun’s light into electricity. But was Becquerel’s invention the world’s first photo cell as some claim?

According to Dr. Marian Plotkin, an entomologist at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, the answer is an emphatic ‘NO’.

That honor must go to the Oriental Hornet. It is a large insect — 25mm to 35mm long (1 to 1.38 inches) — common to the Middle East, Northern Africa and India.

In his study of this unique insect, Plotkin discovered this species of hornet actually produces electricity from the sun.

Yes it is a living, breathing, solar panel.

The brown area of the Oriental Hornet collects and traps the sun's light and the yellow area turns it into electricity. Credit: Kreta/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

The brown area of the Oriental Hornet collects and traps the sun’s light and the yellow area turns it into electricity. Credit: Kreta/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

To prove his point, Plotkin wired six hornets together and was able to produce enough electricity to fire up a digital watch.

At this point, they are still not sure how the energy is utilized, but some suspect the hornet uses the energy to dig — as the Oriental Hornet creates large nests beneath the earth’ surface.

While most hornets and wasps are twice as active in the morning than in any other part of the day, the Oriental Hornet does most of its work in mid afternoon. This suggests the electricity produced by the intenser midday sun provides the energy needed for the heavy task of constructing underground hives.

The hornet not only creates electricity but actually stores it — it is both a solar cell and a battery.

So how does it do this?

On the backs of the hornet there is  a brown grooved area that collects the sunlight. When sun hits this area, it breaks apart into several beams that are redirected into a layered area containing several rods made of chitlin.

These beams of light then bounce between these rods. Having captured this light it now needs to convert it to electricity.

It does this using the yellow areas on its body made from a pigment called xanthopterin. It transforms the light into electricity.

While most insects have an organ similar to a liver that metabolizes food changing it into energy, the Oriental Hornet’s liver is the yellow area. This suggests that electricity created and stored here is used in part to energize the hornet.

So how did this hornet with an elaborate and complicated system to capture light, convert it into energy, store it and then use it to ever evolve?

Well, it didn’t. In the same way, a solar panel speaks of a designer and a creator so does the Oriental Hornet’s electrical generating system.

The Bible refers to hornet three times (Exodus 23:28, Deuteronomy 7:20, Joshua 24:12) — always in a positive light.

God told Israel as they entered the Promised Land, He would use the hornet (Hebrew zorah) to drive out inhabitants of the land before them.

27 I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. (Exodus 23:27-28 NASV)

Some wonder if the description of hornets was metaphorical, but others are not so sure. If for a season God stirred up hornets making them extremely aggressive, some of the more nomadic groups would have contemplated finding a new place to live.

Then when the Israelis began to move in, this would have been the proverbial last straw. At the very least, it would have reduced the Canaanites willingness to defend a territory they were thinking of leaving anyways.

Since the large, electricity-producing Oriental Hornet is common to Israel, it was undoubtedly one of the species God recruited to convince Israel’s enemies they didn’t really want to stay.

Sources:

What ISIS intended as evil ends up as a confirmation of the Biblical record

Mosul, Iraq Credit: Kawa Somar/US Government/Voice of America/Wikipeidia

Mosul, Iraq Credit: Kawa Somar/US Government/Voice of America/Wikipeidia

One ancient tradition states the tomb of the prophet Jonah is located near the remains of the city of Nineveh. This particular site has been considered Jonah’s tomb since the 4th century and resulted in the construction of a Christian church and monastery at the site.

God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the city to repent of its sins. Fearing the city would escape God’s judgement if it responded, Jonah refused and sailed off to Tarshish located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

However, God stirred up a storm that eventually resulted in Jonah being tossed overboard and swallowed by a large fish. Stuck in it’s stomach for three days, Jonah repented and was coughed up on land. He went back to Nineveh who then responded to Jonah’s message.

If this tradition is right, Jonah must have stayed on in Nineveh.  However, this is not universally accepted. Other traditions state that Jonah returned to his home town of Gath-Hepher where he died.

The Assyrian church initially built at the shrine located just a few hundred feet from the remains of Nineveh was eventually taken over by the Muslims and converted into a Mosque, as Islam also considers Jonah one of its prophets.

However, when ISIS captured Mosul, they took over the mosque and ordered the shrine’s destruction. Most suspect the Shrine’s christian roots were enough reason for ISIS to destroy the site even if it had been converted into a Mosque. They want to wipe out any evidence of Christianity in territory under their control.

After Iraqi forces recaptured Mosul from ISIS a few weeks ago, they discovered that ISIS had dug a series of tunnels under what remained of Jonah’s tomb looking for artifacts to sell on the Black market.

In the process, ISIS had inadvertently stumbled upon the 2,300-year-old palace of King Sennacherib who ruled Nineveh at the height of its power between 705 BC to 681 BC.

The Bible mentions Sennacherib several times as he invaded Judah during the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32: 1-23; 2 Kings 18:13 – 19:37; Isaiah 36:1 – 37:38).

During the invasion, Sennacherib was able to take Lachish.  A clay tablet on display at the British Museum describes Sennacherib sitting on a throne of Judgment at Lachish ordering its destruction.

However, Sennacherib was unable to capture Jerusalem because an angel of the Lord wiped out thousands of Assyrian soldiers one night as they encamped around Jerusalem. This was in response to King Hezekiah’s prayer for help.

The death of thousands of soldiers forced Sennacherib to retreat. With his political position now substantially weakened, he was assassinated by enemies when he returned to Assyria.

36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home, and lived at Nineveh. 37 It came about as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer killed him with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. And Esarhaddon his son became king in his place. (2 Kings 19:36-37 NASV)

Though ISIS had looted many of the smaller items of Sennacherib’s palace, archaeologists found many larger relics confirming this was Sennacherib’s palace. They even found mention of Sennacherib’s son Esardaddon who took over after his assassins killed his father.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Iraqi archaeologist Layla Salih spoke of a “marble cuneiform inscription of King Esarhaddon thought to date back to the Assyrian empire in i673 BCE.”

So the irony is the destruction of a Christian shrine that ISIS intended for evil has instead become a yet another confirmation of the Biblical record.

Sources:

Baby’s stem cells heal mom

Credit: tomorca/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: tomorca/Flickr/Creative Commons

In a process officially called ‘fetomaternal microchimerism’ — I love how the name just runs off your tongue — medical researchers concluded that a baby actually helps a mother heal from pregnancy and birth.

When a woman gives birth it is a traumatic experience for both infant and mother. During the birthing the mother can actually be hurt and medical researchers found that the baby actually sends its stem cells into the mother to help heal the damage.

There has been a lot of news recently about stem cells and their ability to heal damaged body parts and organs. Stem cells are “blank cells” that can repair any type of tissue. If a stem cell is hanging around arm tissue, it will repair that. If it is hanging around heart tissue, that same stem cell will replicate those cells.

Along with their ability to heal and repair, stem cells also play a major role in the baby’s creation in the mother’s womb.

But this is where it gets interesting. Once, the stem cells have played their role in forming a baby, while still in the womb the baby floods the mother with stem cells that help the mother heal from any damage that may have occurred during the pregnancy.

But the healing isn’t limited to just birth, these stem cells will eventually graft into the mother’s blood marrow and move out from mom’s blood system to aid repair year’s later. According to a study conducted in 1996, researchers found stem cells from one baby boy were still in his mother 27 years after birth.

The same process happens in animals. Researchers at New York City’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine discovered after one female mouse gave birth, her young’s stem cells actually helped repair the mother’s heart when researchers induced cardiac problems.

Other studies have concluded that a baby’s stems cells help their mother in multiple areas including brain, liver problems and even resisting breast cancer.

Though the supporting articles repeatedly referred to the baby as a fetus and marveled at the wonders of evolution, one thing has proven particularly troubling for researchers.

Despite having a completely different genetic code, the baby’s stem cells are somehow completely integrated into the mother’s body. There is no rejection of these stem cells by the mother.

This is a major problem for all other forms of organ transplants — no matter how closely related the people are — requiring powerful drugs to stop the tissue from being rejected by the body.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139:14-16 NASV)

Source:

Jonah and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge?

Credit: Michal Strzelecki/Wojteck Strzelecki/Jerzy strzelecki/Wikipedia

Did Jonah discover the underocean mountains in 790BC? Credit: Michal Strzelecki/Wojteck Strzelecki/Jerzy strzelecki/Wikipedia

You have probably seen a documentary or even a movie highlighting the massive mountain ranges that exist at the bottom of the earth’s oceans.

Since they are located thousands of feet below the surface, no one knew of their existence until the 1800s.

One of the first hints appeared in 1875, when scientists on board the HMS Challenger were plotting a route for a telegraph cable across the Atlantic. But at that point, they had no idea of the size or extent of these under-ocean mountain ranges.

It wasn’t until the 1950s, when American-based Columbia University using a research vessel discovered a massive mountain range that extended up the middle of the Atlantic ocean.

At first they thought this mountain range – called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge – was unique to the Atlantic. But as they surveyed the bottoms of the earth’s other oceans they discovered other ranges as well.

Though these underwater mountains are only a recent discovery, the Bible actually spoke of them several times, thousands of year before scientists actually discovered them.

Perhaps the most unusual reference involves the story of Jonah who God had called to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh. Fearing the city might actually turn to God and escape punishment, Jonah refused and fled by ship to Tarshish — a city located along the coast of Spain.

During his flight, God whipped up a storm threatening Jonah’s escape ship. After Jonah confessed he was the problem, the sailors tossed the prophet overboard. After being swallowed by a large fish or whale and stuck in its belly for three days, Jonah came to his senses and repented. The fish coughed the disgruntled prophet up on a beach and he obeyed God and headed to Nineveh.

But there is evidence supporting this Divine story because of something Jonah said:

“Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
6 “I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. (Jonah 2:5-6 NASV)

As he slowly sank into the deep, Jonah saw giant mountains at the bottom of the ocean.

Notice how Jonah described mountain(s) plural. Jonah was not describing one mountain, but rather a series of mountains – a mountain ridge.

Of course, he could not sink that deep without drowning or being crushed, so either God was protecting him or the Lord gave Jonah a vision of his ultimate destination if he didn’t repent. Either way, Jonah saw something in 790BC that man knew nothing about until the 1800s, and didn’t fully understand till 1950s.

There are also other Biblical references. Psalm 104 refers to the waters covering the mountains. Most commentators agree the context indicates this Psalm is describing creation and not Noah’s flood. And when Jehovah created the oceans, it is clear there were mountains down below:

He established the earth upon its foundations,
So that it will not totter forever and ever.
You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
The waters were standing above the mountains. (Psalm 104:5-6 NASV)

Then in one of David’s psalms recorded in the Book of Samuel, he refers to great channels or valleys at the bottom of the seas:

“Then the channels (Heb. api-qe) of the sea appeared,
The foundations of the world were laid bare
By the rebuke of the Lord,
At the blast of the breath of His nostrils. (2 Samuel 22:16 NASV)

Translated channel in the NASV, the Hebrew word ‘api-qe’ also refers to valleys (Ezekiel 6:3). In order for there to be valleys, there must be mountains.

So here we have the Bible telling us about deep ocean mountains that science only first discovered 150 years.

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666 and all that

Credit: kaushik panchal/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: kaushik panchal/Flickr/Creative Commons

I was stopped by the police the other day. This was the second time in my life, so I was surprised. The officer explained that my driver’s license had expired on my birthday. I thought I had until the end of the month, but I didn’t. He let me off with a warning and I fixed the problem at a registry, right away.

A few years ago I saw a car in a handicapped parking stall outside a Halal meat store. I told the female driver about the problem and she basically went ballistic. I thought this new immigrant needed some direction, but she thought I needed something from her. I just walked away.

We all know about refugees and migrants who are crossing borders to find a better life in a wealthy country. There are stories now about people walking across the border from Minnesota to Manitoba, the U.S.A. to Canada, in the winter. I appreciate Winnipeg, one of my sons is there and he is doing well, but walking to Winnipeg, in the winter, will not improve the quality of anyone’s life. Apparently some have lost fingers in the severe cold.

We know the news stories and all the arguments on the surface about immigrants and refugees and migrants, and I don’t want to repeat the nonsense. The story below the surface is more important, and it is about smart phones, and possibly the Antichrist. Smart phones are everywhere, and they can track us — Top 10 Best Camera Phones for Photography.

Police surveillance: I asked a retired police officer about my traffic stop, and he said something like “We scan for dial-a-dopers.” In translation, the police routinely scan license plates to find mobile drug dealers. I was stopped as a courtesy because someone noticed that I forgot to renew. This can all be done in traffic, with a new model smart phone connected to a database.

Angry immigrants: Imagine if I chose to record the rude woman in a video. I could upload it to YouTube and maybe make some money, if other people were interested. She would be identified by her license plate and her face, and maybe her voice. Facial and voice recognition is almost as accurate as a fingerprint, to a database. Her troubles could continue for a lifetime. And I could do it all with my phone. We are not living in the eighties anymore.

Refugees and migrants: When hordes of people cross a border and all claim to be needy refugees, the police can’t separate the victims from the users, on the spot. But they can use a smart phone for instant ID.

Do you have a fingerprint scanner on your phone? Finger prints, facial images, and voice prints can all be taken with a smart phone, in the field. A high resolution camera with a flash could possibly take a retinal scan, a picture of the back of the eye through the lens.

I don’t think we can take DNA swabs or dental x rays with a smart phone, but wait a few years. Crossing a border illegally creates a profile that will never go away; immigration advocates in Minnesota are advising migrants to stay away from the Canadian border.

Information can be sent to a database and tracked with an algorithm, software that detects patterns, including movements of personal phones as a person travels. In a year or two, the authorities will know who can stay and who they want to deport. A Mexican woman in Arizona was stopped for bad driving, arrested, and deported, after living in the US for 21 years. Her husband and children could all stay, but she had to go.

Now, if she tries to return, she must get past the scanners at the border, and security cameras everywhere that will pick her out of a crowd for the rest of her life. Something told a traffic cop to hold the woman for deportation and that information pool has grown since. And a check can be done anywhere, with a cheap smart phone.

So what does this mean to a Christian, since smart phones are not in the Bible? In general, the world is changing rapidly and it is looking more like the book of Revelation every year. A prime example is the phones that we carry, but technology comes in many forms.

Jesus told us about the future “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Matthew 10: 26 and 27) and that is now true.

There is no place to hide from technology today, and we could hide a few years ago.

Daniel told us about the end of this age “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12:4).

We have a mania for migrating to better places, and technology changes every year.

We are promised that the world will change in the end “Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed; the one who brings destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

Today we are looking for the help we need, among ourselves and most public figures avoid talking about God.

It is easy to imagine these ancient prophecies happening in our modern world, and they were harder to picture a few years ago.

Jesus lived on the Earth during some hard times and like today, common people were unhappy. He spoke to fishermen who worked on a small lake “walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.

Come follow me Me, Jesus said, and I will make you …”” (Matthew 4:18 and 19).

Jesus promised to make them new and better people, without the deception and control in the world. Better people, in their unhappy place. And that has been my life experience. We don’t need to chase things that other people control.

Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 22:12 and 13)

For such a time as this

Storm clouds over Corsica, France Credit: hippolyte/Flickr/Creative Commons

Storm clouds over Corsica, France Credit: hippolyte/Flickr/Creative Commons

Recently, world events overwhelmed me. I became weak,  unbelieving and fearful. It seemed that I lost hope and my  desire to move forward and attempt things for God.

What can God accomplish and do in times such as these. Can I be used to bring healing and change to this world?

During these tumultuous days, I am reminded of a request Mordecai made of Queen Esther concerning the fate of their nation in captivity in Persia:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your Father’s house will perish” (Esther 4:14a)

We must not remain silent.

Esther chose to use her voice and to speak into a dangerous situation facing her nation.

God has a plan and during times of duress we need to listen to His voice.

Mordecai continued to exhort Esther:

“And who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14b)

We are needed.

Esther did not want to rock the boat in her relationship with the king. To make a request of him concerning the fate of her people was beyond her scope. But, she was needed and realized that God had prepared her for such a time as this.

God has not been caught by surprise by the events of these days.

For years we have have been in training and preparation for the days that are now upon us. Now it’s time to engage,  join our voices and make a clear sound.

Today, I am pressing the refresh button, and starting again.

It begins with you and me doing our small part. As we pray,  a tiny ripple goes out and merges with prayers in other cities and small communities This ripppling effect across our nation can set a massive wave of intercession in motion.

Let us shift our focus from the big picture and reach for that which is within our grip.

I recently read this prophetic word by Australian Lana Vawser who regularly posts on  the Elijah list:

“You are going to dance upon the injustice in your life and in the nations,  I saw the Lord rising up the warrior within women and giving their voice back. The overcoming spirit is being awakened and birthed in women,

This isn’t a walk of victory it’s going to be a dance of victory!!”

We have a voice and now God wants us to take our place on the wall.

Let us lift our voices in prayer and allow the warrior spirit of Miriam and the victory shouts of her fellow women (dancers) ring across our land:

“Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister took a tambourine and led all the women as they played their tambourines and danced.  And Miriam sang this song.”Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously, he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea.” (Exodus 15:20-21)

Sources:

From Debutante balls to the Brazilian jungle

Brazilian Amazon Credit: Guto de Lima/Flickr/Creative Commons

Brazilian Amazon Credit: Guto de Lima/Flickr/Creative Commons

The National Post ran a fascinating article on Canadian Ruth Thomson who 50 years ago left her high-class life as a Toronto debutante to serve in the jungles of Brazil as a Wycliffe missionary.

Her father was a highly successful Toronto lawyer, and Ruth grew up in a mansion and attended private school. She became so proficient at horse riding that another wealthy family — Pittsburgh’s Mellon family — asked Ruth to ride their horses competitively.

As she came of age, her parents expected Ruth to attend Downton Abbey debutante balls where parents signaled to Toronto society their young daughters were ready for dating and marriage. It featured flowing gowns and elbow-length gloves.

She recalls having disagreements with her parents in 1959 who wanted her to attend a number of  balls held at private clubs and the major event on that year’s social calendar  — the Governor General’s Ball.

She said “I had no patience for any of it. It all seemed so artificial. It wasn’t the life for me.”

But despite their wealth, she came from a family of faith and Ruth eventually left her life of privilege, attended Bible school, and at age 25 became a missionary to the Kayapo tribe in the Brazilian jungles.

When she arrived in the early 60s the Kayapo were a warrior people, armed with guns and clubs. The tribe of 8,600 people routinely killed anyone who strayed into their territory. She recalled having to bury a man, who the tribe had just killed.

For the first few years, she spent time learning their language and would eventually develop an alphabet used in Kyapato schools today to teach children.

Then in a way very similar to Paul, Ruth recounted the things she suffered while ministering to these people.

Are they servants of Christ?—I speak as if insane—I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 NASV)

Now compare Paul’s list to Ruth’s:

She suffered several bouts of malaria and typhoid. She was almost killed by an anaconda. Then there were the bugs – intestinal worms, “flesh-eating maggots,” and fleas that actually buried themselves into your skin and flesh. She was bitten by a poisonous caterpillar that she described as “liquid fire.”

Then there were the electric eels and the venomous fish. But despite it all she ministered for 50 years to the Kayapo.

Ruth is now 76 years old and despite her age still spends half of each year ministering in the Brazilian jungle.

Again similar to the Apostle Paul, she has not allowed age to put limits on what she should do.

As the Apostle Paul wrote one of his last letters before his martyrdom at the hands of the Roman emperor Nero, notice how the apostle described himself as an ‘old man.’ Yet despite his age, he was still ministering and preaching the gospel in prison:

yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— (Philemon 9 NIV)

Like Paul, Ruth has not allowed age to define what she can do for God’s kingdom.

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Vickie Williams-Tillman — a 21st century Good Samaritan in more than one way

Vickie Williams-Tillman (right) Credit: Baton Rouge Police Department

Vickie Williams-Tillman (right) Credit: Baton Rouge Police Department

Vickie Williams-Tillman, 56, a black Christian woman from Baton Rouge, Louisiana was on her way to the store when she saw a white police officer, Billy Aime, being assaulted by another man.

She was also doing what she normally does when driving, Vickie was listening to Gospel music.

The police officer had come upon the man sleeping in his vehicle. When Aime saw drug paraphernalia in the car he woke Thomas Bennett, 28. However, after getting out of his car, Bennett quickly gained the advantage. He grabbed Aime’s baton and began beating the police officer on the head.

Bennett was also after the police officer’s gun.

When Vickie saw the confrontation, she immediately called the police for help. But she did more than that. She got out of her car and jumped on Bennett’s back. This caught Bennett totally off guard, confusing him and hindering him from grabbing the gun.

When another police officer showed up a few minutes later, he subdued Bennett with a stun gun. The police charged Bennett with assaulting a police officer and possessing cocaine.

In an interview with The Advocate, Vickie said that a number of people had driven by, seen the confrontation, and did nothing:

“It was something that went through my soul. You don’t think about the risk. I could see in his eyes he needed help. You don’t have time to think about it …. I did what God needed me to do.”

In a ceremony honoring Vickie, Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston-Broome said:

“Vickie Williams-Tillman epitomizes the true Good Samaritan. She reached out and offered a courageous and unconditional response to the officer. Ms. Williams-Tillman is a hero and demonstrates the true meaning of loving God and loving your neighbor.”

But though Vickie went out of her way to help a person in distress, there is another odd parallel to the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37.

In the account, Jesus said that a man who had been set upon by robbers was lying injured on the road. A priest and a levite saw the man, but actually walked over to the other side of the road to avoid him.

Only a Samaritan had stopped to give aide, bandaging his wounds and transporting the injured man to an inn where  the Samaritan paid the man’s keep until he recovered.

What made this story so unusual is that Samaritans and Jews were utter enemies. The Jews despised the Samaritans.

The Samaritans were half Jewish and half Gentile. When the Assyrians captured Israel, they hauled off many of the Jews into captivity. The Assyrians then brought many other ethnic groups into the Jewish homeland who of course brought along their pagan idols.

Eventually, the Jews and Gentiles began to intermarry and out of this developed the Samaritan and a religion that incorporated both Jewish and pagan elements (2 Kings 17:26-28).

When the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon, the Samaritans tried to halt the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls and the temple (Nehemiah 6:1-14).  They maintained their own separate identity in the region of Samaria and even built a quazi-Jewish temple on Mount Gerizem — an affront to Jewish authority.

Samaria also gained notoriety as a region criminals fled too to avoid Jewish authorities (Joshua 20:6-7).

This long-standing hatred of the Samaritans brewed and by New Testament times, the Jews equated the Samaritans with being possessed by demons (John 8:48). But despite this divide, Jesus reached out to the Samaritans (John 4:6-26).

So what made the Good Samaritan story so unusual was that someone so despised had stopped to aid a Jew, while other Jews had done nothing.

Of course over the past few months, we have seen Blacks and other activists taking to the streets protesting what they call police brutality of blacks. Protests have turned violent resulting in states of emergency in some communities.

But despite this growing animosity and even hatred, here is a black Christian woman going out of her way to help a white police officer — a true Good Samaritan.

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Healing our rejection

Nambia desert Credit: John Adams/Flickr/Creative Commons

Nambia desert Credit: John Adams/Flickr/Creative Commons

Using a MRI scan university researchers discovered that emotional pain associated with rejection is as real as physical pain.

In 2011, the group led by University of Michigan associate professor Ethan Kross studied 40 people who had recently gone through a romantic break-up within the previous six months. All the participants chosen mentioned having felt intense feelings of rejection due to the ending of the relationship.

The 40 people were then put through two tests one related to the emotional pain they felt over the rejection and the other actual physical pain.

In the first test, the study subjects viewed an image of their ex and were asked to think about the break up.  In the second stage, thermal devices were attached to their arms that created heat the equivalent of hot coffee.

As the 40 people went through these and other comparative tests, the researchers monitored their brain activity using MRIs.

The researchers found that feelings of rejection sparked neural activity in the same area of the brain where people felt physical pain. In other words emotional anguish is as real as physical pain.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Kross said:

“We found that powerfully inducing feelings of social rejection activate regions of the brain that are involved in physical pain sensations.”

We experience rejection in many ways and these can have a serious impact on our well-being. It could be the emotional trauma associated with divorce or simply being passed over for a promotion.

It could be rejection from coworkers or school classmates or even believing your parents favored another sibling over you. The rejection could be decades old, but it can still have a hold on you.

And God is very concerned about healing us from the emotional pain associated with these episodes of rejection.

In Matthew we read:

16 When evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: “He Himself took our infirmities (astheneia)and carried away our diseases (nosous).” (Matthew 8:17 NASV)

It is an unusual verse because the verse separates out two types of illnesses “infirmities” and “diseases.” The Greek word for diseases ‘nosous’ is the word typically used to describe illness or sickness.

However, ‘infirmity’ (Greek astheneia) describes something different. It refers to ‘weaknesses” and can describe weaknesses associated with a physical disability (Luke 13:11-12). But the word also refers to timidity, a lack of confidence or fear in social situations.

The Apostle Paul used the word to describe his fear — insecurity or lack of confidence — about his visit to the Corinthian church:

I was with you in weakness (astheneia) and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. (1 Corinthians 2:3-4 NASV)

Why were these fears there — simply the apostle feared rejection.

Notice how it says in Matthew that Jesus took our infirmities.  The word means to receive or to take away and in order for this to happen, we have to give our weakness to Christ.

How do we do this?

We give them to Jesus by forgiving those who rejected us.

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Centered Like Clay

Credit: Iamnotunique/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Iamnotunique/Flickr/Creative Commons

One of the best definitions of intercession I have heard goes something like this:

“Intercession is not about defeating the devil in a particular battle; it is about getting into the face of God, with the defeat of the devil as the by-product.”

Reading the many accounts of Jesus’ ministry to desperate people reveals something wonderful about God’s character. It seems that the more irreverent and noisy, and the more into Jesus’ face and space someone was, the more Jesus liked it. He even went so far as to touch a leper before He had healed him. Yuck! (Mark 1:40-45)

What a wonderful Lord we serve, who beckons society’s “lepers” to come to Him, and get into God’s face and be redeemed!

My question is, how centered on God can you get?

Centered Like Clay

The term “centered” means different things to people of different backgrounds. From doctors setting bones to machinists working on a lathe, being centered and focused is critical to the success of any endeavor. I want to look at two Old Testament passages in reference to being centered in God:

“Arise and go down to the potter’s house and there I will announce My words to you.” Jeremiah 18:2

“But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

Both these passages refer to us being like clay and God as the potter. The little bit of pottery I did in high school taught me two important life-enhancing lessons:

  1. If you want to make something on a potter’s wheel, the clay must be centered.
  2. If your clay is not centered properly, it lands on the wall, and sticks really well!

If we are like clay, it is imperative that we stay focused and centered on Him; better that than being splattered all over the walls!

David the Warrior

Let’s look at an Old Testament warrior – King David. David was a complex character who wore many hats: shepherd, king, musician and songwriter, prophet and warrior. David knew what it was to feel out of place. He spent years as a king-in-waiting running for his life from King Saul. David’s own failures and sins at times made him an enemy of his own house and people.

“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek; That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle; In the secret place of His tent He will hide me; He will lift me up on a rock. And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord….When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You, “Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”…For my father and my mother have forsaken me, But the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:4-6,8,10)

In some ways, this psalm is typical of David’s work. Surrounded by enemies, David cries out for God’s mercy. At times, David must have felt like a leper, a pariah in his own land.

The language here paints a clear mental picture of someone centered on God during a time of great turmoil. David, a warrior, finds himself in the worst position a soldier could be – surrounded by enemies and traitors. But David the shepherd, the worshiper, the prophet, decides to focus on God alone.

David centers on God; not Mom and Dad, not friends, not even his church, but God alone.

A Christian community can be a wonderful support system in a time of need, but it should never be our center. If your Christian support group is what keeps your faith alive, your faith is misplaced, off balance. We are called to a relationship with the Creator of the universe. We are called to be Christ-like, not church-like.

David continually progresses toward the center. It seems that the worse the situation got in the natural, the more he got into God’s face. “…In the secret place of His tent He will hide me…” (Psalm 27:5) David was not content to be religious and just be in God’s neighborhood; he wanted to be in the innermost part of God’s tent, His sanctuary, the Holy of Holies.

God’s response is always the same. To the outcasts, the world’s lepers who center on God, He says come, bring it on. I will never turn you away!

Study: prayer calms the angry heart

A 2011 study conducted by researchers from universities in America and Europe concluded that prayer helps a person calm their anger.

The study conducted by Brad Bushman a psychology and communications professor from Ohio State University, Sander Koole of Holland’s VU University of Amsterdam and University of Michigan’s Ryan Bremner found that prayer quelled a person’s anger even if they were not particularly religious.

There were various stages to this study. In one session, the researchers asked the participants in the study to to write a paper that was then evaluated by a partner who purposely and aggressively criticized the paper. They were extremely negative about what the participant had wrote.

They then had some participants of the study group think about what their partner had said and others spend five minutes praying for them.

Once they had gone through this process, the participants then played a game with their partner. If the participant won, they were allowed to blast their partner with loud music. The participant also determined how loud the music was and how long it lasted.

The researchers found those who prayed for their partner were significantly restrained in how much they blasted their partner. However, if the participant prayed negatively about their partner, it had no effect. In fact, it some instances it even worsened the amount they blasted their partner.

They had to pray positively for the person to calm their anger.

Speaking on behalf of the research group, Bushman said:

“People turn to prayer when they’re feeling negative emotions, including anger. We found that prayer really can help people cope with their anger, probably by helping them change how they view the events that angered them and helping them take it less personally.”

In their news release, Koole stated that the effects of prayer in calming a person “were quite large.” He suggested that a person “may want to consider the old advice of praying for one’s enemies. It may not benefit their enemies, but it may help them deal with the negative emotions.”

Jesus said:

44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (Matthew 5:44 NASV)

Notice how Jesus connects loving your enemies with prayer — literally praying for the those who persecute you. The Greek word for persecute is ‘diokonton’ and though it includes the idea of persecution it means to chase, pursue, follow or seek after. It it talking about someone who purposefully went out of their way to hurt or offend you.

But notice how Jesus connects love with praying for them. The prayer benefits us maybe even more than the person you are praying for. If you are struggling to forgive, pray for the person who offended you.

But praying for your enemy can have an impact. When we look at all that befell Job, when his friends showed up they criticized Job and blamed him for the misfortune. It was all Job’s fault.

But finally God tired of it and He spoke to  Eliphaz the Temanite:

8 Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”

God told him to make an offering and Job would pray for him. Job would pray for the man who was criticizing, condemning and blaming him for all his misfortune. And it was because of Job’s prayer, that Eliphaz and his friends would be spared.

Obviously, Job was praying for Eliphaz, not against him and if this verse is any indication, God will particularly hear the prayer of the offended.

Source:

Dance of the Two Armies

Credit: Jonathan Chen/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Jonathan Chen/Flickr/Creative Commons

A Dance Company

After years of sojourning in a strange land and acquiring a large family with many goods, the Jewish patriarch Jacob set out for his homeland. Scriptures tell us that when he was on the way, he encountered the Hosts of Heaven.

“So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp. And he called the name of that place Mahanaim” (Genesis 32:1-2)

The english word Mahanaim is taken from the Hebrew word ‘Machanayim’ which means ‘double camp’(#4266 – Strong’s Concordance) and refers to #4264 – Machaneh (Makh-aneh) which is translated: “An encampment (of travellers of troops, hence an army, whether lit. (of soldiers) or figurative (of dancers, angels, cattle, locusts, stars or even sacred courts) army; band, battle, camp, company, hosts, tent.”

It has been suggested that this double camp of the angels of God were as a ‘dance company’.

Antichoric Dance

Alfred Sendrey in his book, “Music in Ancient Israel” interprets Genesis 32:1-3 as, “What Jacob saw in his vision were two groups of angels who – similar to Antiphoral singing – performed a sort of ‘antichoric’ dance (“one to another”), i.e., in two groups which alternately led the dancing. Therefore, Jacob called the place Mahanim, “Two Camps” (Philosophical Library Inc, page 475, (New York, 1969).

King Solomon, as the composer of the Song of Songs understood his forefather’s revelation since he wrote, “Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will you see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies ” (Solomon’s Song 6:13). This King James Version also translates it as “the dance of Mahanaim”, while the New King James Version translation of the Bible describes it as “the dance of the double camp”.

Alfred Sendrey continued to quote other research scholars with; “Morris Jastrow Jr. interprets Mahanaim as “the dance in the camp”, “a dance or a ‘round’ in the camp, which may have been the technical name for the sword dance of the bride, which would be danced by the bride in the presence of those who form the camp”. (Morris Jastrow Jr, The Song of Songs, page 218, (Philadelphia, 1921)

“Even more fallacious is Leroy Waterman’s explanation: “This may refer to a traditional war dance between two armies before they joined battle”.(The Song of Songs, translated and interpreted as a dramatic poem, (Ann Arbor, Mich, 1948).”.

Heaven & Earth Dance

Immediately following the ‘dance of the Mahanaim’, King Solomon described the feet of the Shulamite as, “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O prince’s daughter!” (Solomon’s Song 7:1). If this expression is read in close context with the former verse, one would assume that the writer was referring to the woman’s ‘beautiful dancing feet’.

Is it possible that Jacob and his direct ancestor Solomon both recognized the two companies as the Hosts of Heaven and a Company of Israelites who were performing a type of “antiphoral” dance? I suggest they knew the Dance of the Mahanaim to be a place where not only two companies of angels danced but also a place where the Hosts of Heaven and the Hosts of Earth would take turns leading in a dance!

Since Jacob and Solomon both saw this revelatory truth, quite probable this is the pattern the LORD of the Hosts has for both the angelic, spiritual and natural realm. With that we should rejoice, dance, and expect that as we dance before the Most High God, HE will send His Heavenly Hosts to dance in step with His people.

Cuneiform tablet confirms the gruesome story of Jeremiah 39

Remains of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq as seen from Saddam Hussein's former summer palace: Credit US Navy Arlo K Abrahamson/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Remains of the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq as seen from Saddam Hussein’s former summer palace: Credit US Navy Arlo K. Abrahamson/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Jeremiah chapter 39 paints the gruesome fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 586BC/587BC.

King Zedekiah had previously been installed by the Babylonians as Judah’s puppet king after Babylon defeated Jerusalem in 597 BC. Jerusalem remained largely intact, and Judah was forced to pay an annual tribute to Babylon.

However, Zedekiah, who was 21 years only when he was set up as a vassal king, eventually tired of the arrangement and rebelled against Babylon by forming an alliance with Egypt.

The prophet Jeremiah who initially served as one of Zedekiah’s counselors warned against the move, but Zedekiah was by this stage doing evil in the sight of the Lord (Jeremiah 52:1-3) setting the stage for God’s devastating judgement.

When King Nebuchadnezzar returned a second time to bring Jerusalem back into submission, he was in a foul mood. The battle predictably turned against Judah and with Jerusalem on the brink of falling, King Zedekiah, along with his family and personal guards, fled with the Babylonian army in pursuit.

After the invaders caught up with Zedekiah’s entourage on the plains of Jericho, they dragged the Jewish King before King Nebuchadnezzar who forced Zedekiah to watch the slaughter of his sons.  It would be the last thing he saw as Zedekiah’s eyes were then gouged out and he was marched off into captivity along with the citizens of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39:1-8).

Nebuchadnezzar ordered the city and its temple plundered and destroyed.  They hauled off the temple’s furniture (but not the Ark of the Covenant) back to Babylon. The people were also taken into captivity.

This whole process required bureaucrats and administrators to make sure it happened properly.

As Jerusalem was in its death throes, an interesting verse appears:

Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came in and sat down at the Middle Gate: Nergal-sar-ezer, Samgar-nebu, Sar-sekim the Rab-saris, Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag, and all the rest of the officials of the king of Babylon. (Jeremiah 39:3 NASV)

The Bible actually provides the names of four of the key Babylonian bureaucrats handling this operation — including a man called ‘Sar-sekim the Rab-saris.’

They set themselves up at one of the gates of Jerusalem as this would allow them to keep track of the booty the soldiers were hauling out of the city. I suspect they didn’t trust their soldiers.

The Hebrew term ‘Rab-saris’ is often translated chief official, but a second rendering also means Chief of the Eunuchs.  This would make him the senior administrator of the Babylonian palace. The person called ‘Nergal-sar-ezer the Rab-mag’, was probably Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual advisor as it literally means the chief astrologist.

In 2007, Dr. Michael Jursa, a professor at the University of Vienna, was translating Babylonian cuneiform tablets at London’s British Museum when incredibly he found a reference to ‘Sar-sekim, the chief Eunuch’ confirming the senior bureaucrat’s existence in the Babylonian Empire.

On the cuneiform, the man’s name was pronounced ‘Nabu-sharrussu-ukin,’ which the Bible text using Hebrew pronunciation rendered ‘Sar-sekim.’

Describing the discovery, Jursa said:

“But finding something like this tablet, where we see a person mentioned in the Bible making an everyday payment to the temple in Babylon and quoting the exact date is extraordinary.”

The tablet dated the transaction to 595 BC, two years after the first defeat of Jerusalem and eight years before its final destruction, when the book of Jeremiah mentions ‘Sar-sekim the Rab-saris.’

What makes this confirmation unique is that it was not discovered in Israel, but about a thousand kilometers away at the site of ancient city of Babylon in modern Iraq.

Sources:

Hollywood celebrities Carlos and Alexa PenaVega talk about the power of prayer

Actress Alexa PenaVega (nee Vega) recently shared an Instagram post on how prayer raised her 93 year-old-grandmother from the deathbed.

This past week has been a struggle for my family as our beautiful abuelita (grandma) was on life support. It has been a bitter sweet experience. Here is this woman who has had such a full and beautiful life… 93 years old…12 kids… more than 50 grand kids…10 great grand children… just the most incredible little Colombian woman inside and out. This week her lungs collapsed. Her heart started failing. Her stomach stopped working and she fell into a coma. As we all prepared ourselves to say goodbye my family’s local church members came to her side and prayed over her for over five hours. When I say the power of prayer can bring forth the most amazing miracles THIS WILL FLOOR YOU. Our abuelita Yeya woke up completely healed. The Dr.’s cannot find anything wrong with her. They can’t explain it. They keep running tests to try to make sense of it all. But we know… God’s grace is what healed her. It is miracles like this that remind me of how great our God is. Thankful for every extra day we get to live. #miracles#blessings

Alexa PenaVega, 28, first stepped into fame playing the role of Carmen Cortez in the three movie Spy kid series and in 2003 Vanity Fair nominated her as one of Hollywood’s hottest teen stars.

Since then she has gone on to act in several TV shows including ER, Chicago Hope, and even a guest role on one my favorites — Royal Pains. She has also had roles in over 40 movies and in 2015, Alexa participated in Dancing with the Stars where she, along with her pro-partner Mark Ballas, finished sixth.

She married actor/singer Carlos Pena Jr. in a 2014 ceremony in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and the two joined their last names to form a new family name PenaVega. Carlos who is from Guatemala is also a committed Christian.

In an interview with Christian Post, Alexa shared the importance of faith to both her and husband, but admitted transitioning a child star was difficult, and she didn’t always make the right decisions about what roles she accepted.

She says that her faith now plays an important place in what roles she accepts.:

“My faith is hands down the number one thing, above career and family.. “It’s number one for both me and my husband. We have been able to really keep each other in check.

I think that’s so important – especially in this business and living in California. It is so easy to fall into the typical trap that everybody falls into, but I have such an awesome group of people in my life that really keep me grounded and we help each other grow. It’s tough every single day, but worth it.”

As Christians in Hollywood Alexa added that there are those who support people of faith  but there are others who clearly go out of their way to mock Christians and this can make it difficult for believers.

Alex and Carlos also have a YouTube Channel (LexLovesLos) where they vlog and it even includes a devotional entitled WOW — Words of Wisdom. I shared one of their video devotions on prayer at the beginning of this post.

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Archaeologists to excavate site that once held the Ark of the Covenant

Painting of Israel carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the Promised Land under Joshua by Benjamin West (1738 -1820) Credit: Wikipedia

Painting of Israel carrying the Ark of the Covenant into the Promised Land under Joshua by Benjamin West (1738 -1820) Credit: Wikipedia

It is one of the great mysteries of the Bible – what happened to the Ark of the Covenant. When the Babylonians captured Jerusalem in 586 BC, they ransacked the city, hauled its citizens off into captivity and looted the Temple taking its treasures as spoils of war.

A number of Bible passages list the items the Babylonians stole. One found in Jeremiah is particularly detailed and includes even pots and spoons (Jeremiah 52:17-23). But strangely missing from all the lists including Jeremiah’s and the listings provided in 2 Kings 24:13, and 2 Kings 25: 13-18 is any mention of the Ark of the Covenant.

It was a gold-plated wooden box on which God’s Presence manifested. As the most important piece of furniture in the temple, the Babylonians would have coveted it.

Many believe the Jews hid the Ark to stop it from falling into Babylonian hands. But when Babylon hauled Israel’s citizens into captivity for 70 years, the people who hid the Ark died and its location forgotten. Rumors even circulated that the prophet Jeremiah had hidden it.

But the Temple’s most important piece of furniture is back in the news again when archaeologists announced they will be doing a dig at the site of the ancient Judean town of Kiryat Ye’arim.

The ark of the covenant actually sat at this site for 20 years. After the Philistines had captured the Ark of the Covenant in battle, they put it on display in the temple of Dagon. But after God judged the Philistines with a series of plagues, the terrified Philistines returned the Ark to the Israelis (1 Samuel 6) dropping it off at the border town of Beth-shemesh.

From here the Jews moved the Ark to Kiryat Ye’arim and set up priests to care for the site:

And the men of Kiriath-jearim came and took the ark of the Lord and brought it into the house of Abinadab on the hill, and consecrated Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord. From the day that the ark remained at Kiriath-jearim, the time was long, for it was twenty years; and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. (1 Samuel 7:1-2 NASV)

After 20 years at this place, King David transported the Ark to Jerusalem where it first resided in the Tabernacle of David and was later installed in the Temple of Solomon, where it eventually disappeared during the Babylonian invasion.

It is believed the dig at Kiryat Ye’arim taking place this summer by archaeologists from France and Israel will reveal significant discoveries as it is one the few remaining major archaeological sites in Israel yet to be investigated.

Though they don’t expect to find any clues to the Ark’s current location, many expect they will find evidence of the ark’s stay at the site. Some believe there may even be a small temple in the town where the Ark was housed.

The town was mentioned over 12 times in the Bible from the time of Israel’s conquest under Joshua well into King David’s reign. In the book of Joshua it was called Kiryat Ba’al suggesting it was also originally the site of a Baal Temple.

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A grandmother’s prayer leads to Chance the Rapper’s worship service at the Grammys

At the 59th Grammy Awards held Sunday, February 12, 2017, Chance the Rapper won three Grammys. The Grammy Awards are put on by The Recording Academy to honor outstanding achievement in music recording primarily in the English-speaking world.

Chance the Rapper who recently became a Christian received “Best New Artist,” Best Rap Album” and “Best Rap Performance” at this year’s awards.

He was nominated for seven in total for his recent 14-song album The Coloring Book. Five of the album’s songs have a significant Christian theme that marked the remarkable spiritual transformation that has taken place in the life of Chance the Rapper.

In a radio interview he shared what happened. His grandmother saw him while he was performing on his Acid Rap tour — the name reveals where he was at spiritually — and she began to pray for her grandson.

Chance the Rapper said:

“One day during my Acid Rap tour, my grandmther saw me and began to pray. She said ‘I break off anything in your life that is not God.’ After that, things began to change.”

Since that moment, fans have witnessed a startling transformation taking place in the rapper’s life.

And it was all on display at this year’s Grammys. As Chance the Rapper was accepting his award for Best New Artist, he proclaimed “Glory be to God. I claim this victory in the name of the Lord,”

He was also invited to perform at this year’s Grammys and sang songs off his recent album — all with a strong Christian message — including “Blessing” and “How Great.”

During the performance, Chance the Rapper told the audience “God is better than the world’s best things.” The finale included Kirk Franklin and a full Gospel choir.

Writing for Charisma Magazine, Alexis Maston described how she was caught up in the spiritual explosion taking place during the performance:

“At one point, he exhorted the crowd and told them to stand up for his God because He is worthy to be honored. As tears rushed to my eyes, I began to feel what you feel right before the church altar call. I was overwhelmed by the strong, tangible presence that could be felt through the screen by even the most callous of souls.”

And she was not alone. Others such as famed folk-singer Joni Mitchel stated that the performance impacted them.

Chance the Rapper is unique as he has unabashedly merged secular and sacred together in his music. He is not ashamed of His God or the Gospel and proclaims it boldly asking his fans to join the experience.

Remember it all started with his grandmother who broke things off her grandson that were influencing him in a negative way.

As we read the Gospels we see many instances of Jesus dealing with demons that were afflicting people emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Jesus gave His disciples the same authority to deal with these ungodly spiritual influences.

And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1 NASV)

It is an authority all of us have today. It is an authority that Chance the Rapper’s grandmother understood and believed.

She prayed with authority and her answered prayer is today impacting hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

It is not enough to just pray, you must believe when you pray.

 

Sources

The ‘new’ normal

Coniston, England Credit: Rich Bambford/Flickr/Creative Commons

Coniston, England Credit: Rich Bambford/Flickr/Creative Commons

The stun gun effect that I have been feeling these past few months had a lot  to do with the lack of sunshine this winter and not being able to get outside as much.  I miss my flowers and sun!

Feeling uncomfortable in my body, sluggish and unmotivated forced me to stretch myself outside my comfort zone physically. I signed up for a couple of exercise classes and started walking in the malls with my husband because walking outside in the cold, snow and ice wasn’t an option.

Movement became key and the more I stretched and moved my body beyond its limitations the better I felt.

It has also felt like an incubation time where thoughts and feelings, unpleasant and pleasant, have rolled around inside me allowing the real root of the emotions and thoughts to surface. Even Jesus learned through times of struggle.

“Although He was a Son, He learned (active, special) obedience through what he suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8)

I exercised my mind and dove deep into my thoughts and emotions. They were like signals directing me to a better way. What to let go of and what to focus on in the days ahead.

A few days ago I spent a beautiful morning at a mineral spa in a nearby city with my daughter.  It was quiet, the water was warm and healing to my body.  I felt like a dolphin as I plunged into the water, floated on my back, stretched and exercised in the water.

My daughter said to me, “mom you are so happy, I don’t think you know what normal is anymore!”

I had to laugh because a woman about my age resting against the sauna wall, blurted . . “Ugh, normal,” and we smiled and laughed.

As I floated by on my back past her,  I turned my head, looked at her and said, “I don’t think I can do normal anymore.”

It feels like I have discovered my ‘new normal.’

Being out of sorts and feeling uncomfortable inwardly and outwardly these past couple of months has been a catalyst.  A catalyst forcing me to look inside myself and ask some questions.

“For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away (and enjoy to the full) what is promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

We need to learn from these uncomfortable seasons in our lives, and as the writer of Hebrews suggests push through them.

God is wanting to stretch us and push us out of our comfort zone. We must take time to process the events of our lives. They are sign posts to direct us and bring us into alignment with his plan and purpose.

I felt so free and joyous as I entered the warm waters of the mineral spa that day. It was a true reflection of the past two months. I had arrived at a place of peace, fresh hope, purpose and direction.

We need these times of incubation to process and prepare our hearts, minds and bodies for the season before us.

I found my “new normal” and I let go of some things to embrace some new ones. It felt so good!

Evolving Evolutionists?

South American Squirrel monkey Credit: cuatrok77/Flickr/Creative Commons

South American Squirrel monkey Credit: cuatrok77/Flickr/Creative Commons

Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a respected anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh, still believes in evolution, but his views on Darwinism have evolved over the years, due to a lack of evidence in the fossil record.

In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Schwartz no longer believes in “gradualism.” According to the theory of evolution proposed by Charles Darwin, species evolved gradually over millions of years through minute incremental changes.

Schwartz argues that if these minute changes actually took place, evolutionists would find thousands examples of these species at different stages in their evolutionary development. Instead the fossil record is starkly quiet with huge gaps in the fossil record.

Darwin claimed that the absence of these missing links was simply a matter of bad luck. Schwartz disagrees – based on the evidence – the lack of transitional fossils says the transitions never existed in the first place.

Schwartz adds that some organs, such as the eye, are so complicated that the sheer number of changes required for its evolution “defies logic.”

He also takes a shot at another foundation stone of evolution – natural selection. Natural selection says that as the climate or environment changed species evolved to better adapt to the changing conditions.

Schwartz does not believe that’s true and points to the example of the mongoose lemurs living on two islands off the African coast.

On the island of Madagascar, these lemurs stay on the ground, are active during the day and eat leaves and fruit.

But on the island of Comoros the same species of lemur live in the trees, are active at night and hang from their hind legs to suck nectar out of flowers.

“These lemurs have the same teeth, the same feet, the same eyes, but if the environment changes they change their activities and their diet, not their anatomy,” said Schwartz.

Instead Schwartz proposes massive genetic alterations that created new features in species almost over night. He is not alone in this thinking. Other evolutionists are proposing similar rapid genetic mutation to explain the lack of a fossil evidence.

In his article, “Paleontology and Evolutionary Theory,” published in Evolution, the late David B. Kitts a paleontologist at Oklahoma University wrote:

 “Despite the bright promise that paleontology provides a means of ‘seeing’ evolution, it has presented some nasty difficulties for evolutionists, the most notorious of which is the presence of ‘gaps’ in the fossil record. Evolution requires intermediate forms between species, and paleontology does not provide them.”

The problem that Schwartz, Kitts and others are referring to is the sudden emergence of fully formed fossils in what is called the Cambrian Explosion. There is no gradual evolution, fully formed animal fossils just suddenly appear in the rock.

In an article in American Scientist, “The Evolution of Anthropod Nervous Systems”, Daniel Osorio, Jonathan Bacon and Paul Whitington described the problem this way:

“As Darwin noted in the Origin of Species, the abrupt emergence of arthropods in the fossil record during the Cambrian presents a problem for evolutionary biology. There are no obvious simpler or intermediate forms—either living or in the fossil record—that show convincingly how modern arthropods evolved from worm-like ancestors. Consequently there has been a wealth of speculation and contention.”

In fact, Blair Scott who worked as communications director for American Atheists confessed in a debate on evolution and creation with Kyle Butt of Apologetics Press:

“[I]f I take the Cambrian Explosion, on its own, the logical conclusion I would draw is, ‘Wow! It was created’.”

Creationists have claimed for years that the huge gap in the fossil records presented by the Cambrian Explosion is evidence of creation, not evolution.

According to the Genesis account God created vegetation on the second day (Gen 1:12) and on the fourth day fish and birds (v 20) and on the fifth day animals (v 24). They just suddenly appeared.

As evolutionists continue their incremental evolution, they will eventually end up at where it all started — Creation.

For more information on the Cambrian Explosion read Darwin’s Doubt: The explosive origin of animal, life and the case for intelligent design by Stephen C. Meyer. He received his Ph.D from the University of Cambridge and explains the major difficulties evolutionists face holding to their theory.

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When did Satan take over the world?

Singapore Credit: William Cho/Flickr/Creative Commons

Singapore Credit: William Cho/Flickr/Creative Commons

During the temptation in the wilderness, the devil showed Jesus all the “kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5) and offered the Lord a deal no man could refuse:

“I will give you all this domain and its glory, for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.” (Luke 4:6 NASV)

As we study this passage, we noticed that Jesus never challenged Satan’s claim the world had been handed over to him and several times the Lord acknowledged Satan was the ruler of this world (John 12:31; 14:30).

The apostle Paul pushed the theological barrier to the edge when he described Satan as the god of the world (2 Corinthians 4:4). In no way, did the apostle believe Satan was divine, as Paul clearly states there is only one God, but as far as humanity was concerned, the evil one functioned as a god.

The title-deed for planet earth was firmly in Satan’s grip.

So when did Satan take over the world?

Most instinctively think it took place when Adam and Eve fell into sin. But actually it did not happen until later.

In Genesis 6, the flood chapter, the Bible describes the world as being  “filled with violence”:

11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. (Genesis 6:11 NASV)

It was a time of anarchy. This meant there was no government structure in place to moderate man’s behavior. Men’s minds were overwhelmed with evil thoughts, lust, murder, anger, rage, and with nothing restraining them, their thoughts became their actions.

Several years ago, the police in the city where I lived went on a limited strike. The police union announced that officers would only handle serious offenses, while traffic violations and other minor indiscretions were ignored.

For a few days chaos reigned. Young men blockaded the city’s major thoroughfares for blocks so they could hold drag races. Though the streetlights worked, you slowed down and drove through green lights at your own risk. The city’s bars and night clubs turned into boxing arenas. Vandalism sky-rocketed.

All this happened because people had no fear of getting caught. When government is not in place to curb people’s actions, a certain segment of society will run wild. Over a prolonged period, this would degenerate into a state of anarchy as we see happening in verse 11.

But how did the Genesis world get to such a state? The answer is found in the first three verses of this chapter:

2 The sons of God saw the daughters of men were beautiful and they took wives for themselves whomever they choose. (Genesis 6:2 NASV)

This incident provoked God to utter an immediate and stunning declaration in the very next verse:

3 My spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years. (Genesis 6:3 NASV)

God’s response to the marriages between the ‘sons of God’ and ‘daughters of men’ was to withdraw from the earth. The word strive (Hebrew “diyn”) used by the NASV does not fully portray the meaning of this word.

“Diyn” is used 23 times in the Old Testament and means to rule or govern. According to the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, in each instance, except here, it is used in the context of governing either in the sense of legislative (passing laws or legislation), judicial (enforcing laws) or executive (administering laws) — see: Genesis 49:16, Proverbs 31:9, Genesis 15:14.

Consequently, we must conclude the word has the same meaning in Genesis 6:3.

This meant that after Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, God was still governing the world. In fact, that is exactly what happened when Cain murdered Abel. God dispensed justice and marked Cain (Genesis 4:15).

But God was so disgusted with what took place with the marriage of the ‘sons of God ‘and the ‘daughters of men’ that He withdrew His spirit from governing man. It was this abdication of God’s government that led to the state of anarchy that followed in verse 11.

With God pulling out was this the point when the world was ‘handed over to Satan?’

I think its reasonable to assume it was. As God departed, Satan moved in to fill the leadership void. Unhindered, he took his place as ruler of the world.

An old woman’s prophecy over actor Denzel Washington said he would speak to millions

Denzel Washington Credit: GabboT/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Denzel Washington Credit: GabboT/Wikipedia/Creative Commons

Denzel Washington, 62, is a popular American Actor, playing major roles in such movies as Remembering the Titans, Training Day and one of my favorites — The Book of Eli. He has won two Academy awards and three Golden Globes.

In an interview with Parade Magazine, Denzel spoke of his strong spiritual roots, including his father who was Pentecostal preacher for nearly five decades. Denzel added that he reads the Bible daily and has read it through completely three times.

God had a call and a purpose for Denzel and he tells of a prophetic word given him by an older woman at their church who many considered a prophet. She told Denzel that one day he would speak to millions of people.

Denzel was 21 years old and had just flunked out of college. He was sitting in his mother’s beauty shop, when the old woman approached him.

In an interview with Access Hollywood, Denzel recounts what happened next:

It was March 27, 1975. I started acting four months later. She said, “You know young man, you are going to travel the world and speak or preach to millions of people…

She said that, and then she wrote “prophecy.” She couldn’t even spell it well. Then my mother wrote “preacher.” And then I wrote my name—and it was on a blue envelope; I still have it.

So when she left, I said to my mother, “Who was that lady?” She said, “Well, she’s one of the oldest church members in town, and she’s known to have the gift of prophecy.”

This was supposed to be my life. She actually called it before… It’s nothing I did. It’s by the grace of God.

I wrote a story last year about a similar prophetic word given to actor Chris Pratt. In an interview with Esquire Magazine, under-aged, he was standing outside a Hawaii liquor store waiting for his friends who were in buying booze, when a stranger approached him.

The man told Chris:

“I stopped because Jesus told me to stop and talk to you. He said to tell you you’re destined for great things.”

When his friends came out a few minutes later, Pratt told them he would not be joining them that night and instead went with this man, who was a member of a Christian organization — Jews for Jesus.

Pratt said:

“I gave my soul to Jesus within, like, two days. I was stuffing envelopes for his organization, Jews for Jesus. I’m not even sure, at that age—I was nineteen years old—I knew what Jewish was.”

Four weeks after Chris became a Christian, he was waiting tables at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Maui, when a Hollywood movie director came into the restaurant. Within a few weeks, Chris was in California working his first movie.

In both the Old and New Testament, God spoke to people through the prophets. According to the Encyclopedia of Biblical prophecies, there are 578 prophecies found in the New Testament and 1,239 in the Old Testament. In total they covered 8,352 verses.

Prophecy is a big part of the Bible and God used prophetic words to show people their future much in the same way the Holy Spirit did for Denzel and Chris.

King David is today considered one of Israel’s greatest kings. But before his rise to fame, David was working in obscurity as a shepherd for his father. This was the equivalent of a college drop out or working as a waiter in a restaurant.

Then one day out of nowhere, the prophet Samuel shows up at Bethlehem and prophesies that David would be the next king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

God used prophecy in the Bible and still uses it today to encourage people in their walk with God. I am convinced that we will need this gift more than ever to survive the coming tumultuous times.

14 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:1 NASV)

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Children do better when parents are married versus living together

Children need married parents to thrive Credit: buck82/Flickr/Creative Commons

Children need married parents to thrive Credit: buck82/Flickr/Creative Commons

A recent study by the Institute for Family Studies found that children raised in a family where parents marry have the best chance of success. The study reported in The Federalist analyzed data from 100 countries.

The study found that where there is no marriage commitment — this included situations where both of the child’s biological parents were living together — there was a greater chance the child would face a union transition. This takes place when parents end their relationship and start a new sexual relationship.

These types of transition create a major time of instability for children often resulting in emotional and behavioral problems, educational difficulties and even a higher risk of death for the child.

The report stated that “[C]ohabitation continues to confer a stability disadvantage on individual children even as cohabitation has become more normative.”

The report disputes those who suggest that because of the rise in rates cohabitation it should be looked upon as the new form of marriage.

Writing for The Federalist, Holly Scheer said:

“Couples who commit to one another before having a biological child usually have a deeper commitment than those who partner in the wake of getting pregnant.”

Marriage increases the chance of a relationship remaining intact resulting in better results for the children.

The study also showed that the problem of union transition was highest in single-parent families where by the age of 12, a child is 900% more likely to have experienced a new parent.

The study found that the safest and most stable environment involved a family where the child was conceived after marriage.

Despite the staggering amount of evidence showing that children thrive better in a marriage situation, the number of people choosing not to marry is increasing. The number of unmarried women who were living with the father of the child versus being married when the child was born increased from 8% in 1970 to 28% in early 2000s.

The study also found that education had no impact on union stability. Children from educated co-habiting or single parents experienced much more union transition than children with married parents.

Living in a stable home environment is  a vital aid for a child to successfully navigate the teen years.  Previous studies have revealed the devastating impact that single parenthood and/or divorce can have on teens, this includes:

  • Increased alcohol usage –A Scottish study showed that girls age 18 were twice as likely to be classified as heavy drinkers (17.8%) if they were from single-parent families compared to just 9.2% for girls from intact families.
  • Increased trouble with the law — A study by England’s Youth Justice Board found that children aged 11 to 16, were 25% more likely to have a run in with the law than children from intact families. A second study showed that a boy’s chances of being classified a “persistent” offender increased by 60% if he was from a single-parent family.
  • Increase drug usage — One study found after factoring out other contributing issues such as finances being from a single-parent family increased a child’s chance of drug usage by 50%.
  • Increased educational problems — One study showed that children from single-parent families are twice as likely to have dropped out of school by age 16 than children from intact families. A second study revealed that boys from single-parent families were 270% more likely to skip classes than boys from families with both biological parents.
  • Increased emotional issues — A study out of the US found that children from divorced families had increased problems with both aggressive behavior and depression.

If cohabitation becomes the new norm for society, it will bring with it new and unprecedented social problems.

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A Muslim man’s journey to Christ through the Quran

Village in Indonesia Credit: Jose Javier Martin Esparto/Flickr/Creative Commons

Village in Indonesia Credit: Jose Javier Martin Esparto/Flickr/Creative Commons

Evangelical Focus recently shared the testimony of a young Muslim man who became a Christian because of what he read in the Quran — Islam’s version of the Bible.

Markus was raised in a strict Sudanese Muslim family in Western Java, Indonesia. His father, a high ranking Muslim leader, led the Muslim University that Markus eventually attended.

As part of an Islamic youth group, Markus actively shared Islam with non believers. It was the result of one encounter with a Chinese Christian man who led Markus to leave Islam and become a Christian.

As he shared his Islamic views with the man, he responded stating he was confident that he was going to His Father in heaven. For Muslims, heaven is a such a sacred place, they rarely talk about it.

Markus was also puzzled over how this man referred to God as his father as Muslims consider themselves slaves of Allah.

When Markus challenged the Christian on who his God was, the man answered simply Jesus.

This answer began to haunt Markus.

According to Muslim belief, the archangel Gabriel gave the Quran to the prophet Mohammad over a 23-year period between 609AD and 632AD. It includes a number of Biblical stories many that have been added to, altered and often reinterpreted.

As a Muslim, Markus knew the Quran talked about Isa or Jesus who it considered a prophet of Allah, but not divine. The Quran also says that Jesus did not die on the cross, that the disciples only mistakenly though He had.

But it does add, unlike Mohammad, Jesus actually never died and instead was taken to heaven. Because of this, Jesus will return during the end times. At that time, He will judge all people, kill satan and kill pigs — that some Muslims believe refers to sins.

But what confused Markus is that the Quran also states only Allah can judge people, so why is Jesus judging people?

Then the Quran says that Mohammad is the last prophet of Allah, but since the Quran also considers Jesus a prophet if He is returning, wouldn’t He be the last prophet?

When he brought these questions to his father and an Islamic teacher, they both told Markus this was true, but insisted he quit this line of questioning.

Because of these questions about Jesus, Markus eventually bought his own Bible and began comparing it with the Quran – this eventually led him to become a Christian.

Markus’s father became very angry when he found about his son’s decision to leave Islam. In his defense, Markus insisted he was still a Muslim, but believed Isa was the “true Word of God.” In fact, the Quran refers to Jesus as the “word of God” (Surah 4:171).

Unconvinced, his father beat Markus and drove him out of the family home.

Markus eventually ended up going to a Bible study at a pastor’s home in Indonesia for a few months and then attended a Bible school in Singapore, where he eventually became a pastor.

But Markus felt God calling him to return to Indonesia to preach the Gospel. He set up a mission in a Muslim village in Western Java where he helped in community development.

After about a year, the village leader asked Markus what religion he was.

For the first time, Markus shared his Christian faith and though the village chief did not respond, Markus noticed that as he prayed for the leader, there were tears in his eyes. What happened that day obviously impacted the man, because the next week 49 members of the village showed up wanting to become Christians.

Since then, Markus has developed a network of underground house churches throughout Indonesia where about 8,000 people attend mostly former Muslims. At times he has been forced to leave Western Java temporarily because of death threats from Muslim extremists, but he always returns to fulfill God’s call  to the Sudanese.

Former Muslim Imam Mario Joseph says that the Quran speaks of Jesus more than Mohammad, mentioning Jesus 25 times, and Mohammad only four.

It also records Jesus performing a number of miracles and healings — many Muslims refer to Jesus as the ‘healing prophet.” But the Quran does not cite one miracle that Mohammad did. Muslims counter this by arguing writing the Quran was a miracle.

Mario says the Quran also encourages Muslims to study the Old Testament and the Gospels if they are having doubts about Islam (10:194):

“So if you (O Muhammad SAW) are in doubt concerning that which We have revealed unto you, [i.e. that your name is written in the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] then ask those who are reading the Book [the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel)] before you. Verily, the truth has come to you from your Lord. So be not of those who doubt (it).”

It was this verse that led Mario to study the Bible and become a Christian.

Related: Former Muslim imam says the Qur’an is the reason he converted to Christianity

Sources:

Country superstar Reba McEntire produces first gospel album

Reba McEntire in concert Credit: Alisha Morgan/Flickr/Creative Commons

Reba McEntire in concert Credit: Alisha Morgan/Flickr/Creative Commons

After divorcing her husband of 25 years, Narvel Blackstock, in 2015, country singer Reba McEntire, 61, turned to God and her faith to keep her through this difficult time.

Referred to as the “Queen of Country,” Reba is one of America’s great country singers. She is a member of the Country Hall of Fame. In a career that has spanned 42 years, she has released 32 albums and sold over 85 million records world-wide and has 35 chart-topping singles.

After seeking God during this dark period of her life, Reba sensed that she needed to release what would be her first Gospel album. Entitled, “Sing it Now: Songs of Faith and Hope,” the two album set features 22 Gospel recordings.

Reba wants this album to encourage people to return to God.

During the recording of one of the songs, How Great Thou Art, Reba felt the Holy Spirit’s anointing on the music:

“When I got through with singing the song, I would go in there with Doug Sisemore, my co-producer, and Todd Tidwell. We would listen to it and see if I needed to sing it again. And when I was listening to ‘How Great Thou Art,’ the Holy Spirit came over me so strong, I would weep, and I would sob and it was just like, ‘Wow…. Why this song? I didn’t understand why. But more than any of the other ones, it would totally wrap me up.”

But it wasn’t just that song, others may also be similarly anointed. In an interview with Foxnews, Reba mentioned receiving a big response from a second song — Back to God:

“I’m hearing from people …. About how [this song] has touched their heart and about how much we need this song at this time with all the trouble in the United states. With all the differences of opinions let’s just give it back to God. It just seems very timely.”

Reba said in her interview that she prays regularly for God’s guidance, adding that she is not praying for her will but God’s will to be done.

“I pray for God’s way and not my way. I know God’s got the right path and the right plan,” said Reba.

Reba’s younger sister, Susie McEntire-Eaton is a country-Gospel singer who was inducted into the Christian music Hall of Fame in 2011.

Music is a powerful tool and can be used to break demonic strongholds in people’s lives.

When Israel’s King Saul refused to obey God, the Bible states an evil spirit terrorized the back-slidden leader (1 Samuel 16:14).

We are not told exactly what happened to Saul during those times, but the Hebrew word for terrorized is “baath” that means “to be overtaken by a sudden terror.” Saul was experiencing intense episodes of fear.

In some ways this describes what is happening in the world today — we are being assaulted by a spirit of fear.

Saul’s advisors were very concerned about what was happening to Saul and they turned to music for the solution.

They knew of a young man who was already gaining a reputation in Israel as a ‘skillful’ player of the lyre (verse 18). That young man was David who the Holy Spirit had come mightily upon after the prophet Samuel anointed this young son of Jesse as the next king of Israel (verse 13).

When David played his lyre, the skilfully played music under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, drove away the evil spirit that plagued Saul.

23 So it came about whenever the evil spirit from God came to Saul, David would take the harp and play it with his hand; and Saul would be refreshed (ravach) and be well, and the evil spirit would depart from him. (1 Samuel 16:23 NASV)

The Hebrew word translated ‘refreshed’ is ravach. It means “spacious, to liberate, to feel relieved.” The same word is used in Job 32:19-20, to describe Job’s relief from severe abdominal pain.

Anointed music has the power to heal and liberate, both physically and spiritually. It can deliver us from all our fears (Psalm 34:4).

Sources:

Every step I take

Credit: Michael Mazzamuto/Flickr/Creative Commons

Credit: Michael Mazzamuto/Flickr/Creative Commons

“What then shall we say to this?  If God is for us, who (can be) against us? Who can be our foe if God is on our side? (Romans 8:31)

It is so important to remind myself that God is always on my side and with me in everything I do. Whatever I face, God is for me and carries the heavier weight and authority in everything concerning my life.

When the teeter totter of life bounces me around, I know God is right beside me. He has the presence and authority to tip the scales in my favour and work everything out for my good.

King David understood this and his whole life was governed by a belief God was for him.

“The Lord is on my side, I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6)

I am learning to arm myself with the same attitude as Joshua who was aware of the presence and authority of God that he carried in every step he took into the land God promised Israel.

These were powerful words spoken to Joshua;

“Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. . . .Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous.” (Joshua 1:3, 6)

People who accomplished great things for God had this one common characteristic — they believed God was for them.

When I feel doubt or fear,  I visualize God beside me, walking with me, step in step.  He puts His foot down and walks with me through my day — in the very midst of my trials and testings.

The Lord is with me in the good times, bad times, in the valleys and on the mountains tops.

Knowing that the full weight of God’s presence and authority is in my every step has changed my perception of God.

Yet, as I step out in confidence and in faith there will be some shaking, as it often means stepping out of my comfort zone.  Attempting things again where I failed in the past or trying something I haven’t done before or facing an unexpected challenge.

This is my journey.

There is territory to be reclaimed in our lives. There are unexpected and sometimes difficult circumstances that shake us up.

We may tremble, but the ground underneath our feet will also tremble and shake as we begin to understand the presence, power and authority of God that is in us and with us in every step of our journey through life.

Now you must take the next vital step and believe this.

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