Sunday, March 8, 2015

SETI to knock on ET's door: who will answer?

Of the groups searching for extraterrestrial life, SETI is probably the most well known. SETI stands for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, and by their own definition is an exploratory science that seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology. [1]

The modern SETI era can be defined as beginning in 1959. In that year, Cornell physicists Giuseppi Cocconi and Philip Morrison published an article in Nature in which they pointed out the potential for using microwave radio to communicate between the stars. In the spring of 1960, a young radio astronomer named Frank Drake conducted the first microwave radio search for signals from other solar systems. Their work caught the attention of the Russians who then dominated the SETI field for nearly a decade, using nearly-omnidirectional antennas to observe large chunks of sky, hoping there were a few very advanced civilizations capable of radiating enormous amounts of transmitter power. No such luck.

At the beginning of the 1970's, NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California began to consider the technology required for an effective search. A team of outside experts, under the direction of Bernard Oliver, from Hewlett-Packard Corporation, produced a comprehensive study for NASA known as Project Cyclops. The Cyclops report provided an analysis of SETI science and technology issues that is the foundation upon which much subsequent work is based.

By the late-1970s, SETI programs had been established at NASA's Ames Research Center and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. These groups attempted to examine 1,000 Sun-like stars in a Targeted Search, capable of detecting weak or sporadic signals as well as systematically sweep all directions in a Sky Survey. In 1988, after a decade of study and preliminary design, NASA Headquarters formally adopted this strategy, and funded the program. Four years later, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World, the observations began, however, within a year, Congress terminated funding.

More recently, (1994 - 2004) the Center for SETI Research at the SETI Institute was funded entirely by donations from individuals and grants from private foundations.  In 2005, a NASA grant was awarded for work on signal detection for the Allen Telescope Array.  Donations and non-governmental grants still comprise the vast majority of funding for the Center.

SETI asks the questions, "What if space alien's landed? Would it be War of the Worlds, Independence Day, or The X Files?" SETI representatives believe Sundance Film Festival Danish director Michael Madsen lays out "a more cerebral storyline, and one that might be more realistic.

In The Visit, a fictional piece presented as documentary, real scientists, politicians, military types, and United Nations officials sit behind their stunningly neat desks and mull over what to do about a house guest who's arrived from the stars."

The movie portrays officials in complete control, the visitor almost a bystander, offering no risk, threat, or it seems, benefit. The focus of the film seems to be our reaction, as if, the visitors, or guests, simply await our apparent wisdom-fueled reaction to their arrival.

SETI researchers are in fact, so sure extraterrestrials are just blithely unaware of our awesome existence and will surely be so wowified to discover we exist they are pushing for a cease of passive listening for life elsewhere in leui of an aggressive attempt to initialize contact ourselves, kind of a celestial doorbell... a really annoying, in your face kind of doorbell.

To date the only known space messages sent out from the earth have been a graphic message was sent into space by the Arecibo radio telescope in the 1970s, a radio message broadcast from the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico toward a cluster of stars 25,000 light-years away, in 1974, and in 2008, Doritos company sent an advertisement from a radar station in Norway to a potentially habitable star system 42 light-years away. Because any decent space alien has got to be craving some cool ranch Doritos, y'all.

Other researchers seek a more cautious approach, demanding an international consensus before "outing" Earth to the rest of the universe. [2] Scientists in both camps faced off on February 12, 2015 at a debate held at a meeting of AAAS (which publishes Science:)

"Advocates for active SETI say that keen-eared aliens could already pick up some of Earth’s ambient transmissions. Current radio and TV transmissions could be heard only a few light-years away with the current radio telescope technology on Earth, but Vakoch says that an advanced civilization would have far more developed techniques for listening. Brin says this is the “barn door excuse” and adds that many active SETI techniques would send out focused, powerful messages that would travel many times farther than the day-to-day transmissions from Earth. He views active SETI messages as cosmic pollution, rather than exploration. Although he’s not worried about alien invasions, he thinks the assumption of benevolence—or even the existence of aliens—is overstated."

Did I actually hear a voice of reason? The assumption of benevolence is overstated? To my understanding, there has not been one instance of a benevolent meeting between "alien creatures" and human beings. There have been multiple encounters with people who have reportedly been kidnapped, examined, physically violated, and even claimed to have had unborn children removed from their wombs.

Similar to the belief in evolution, despite the magnitude of evidence pointing elsewhere, SETI researchers seem determined to force their ill-advised agenda on the world at large, seeking to increase communication and interaction with beings that thus far, have shown themselves to be nothing but malevolent.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, people want so badly for someone other than a moral and just God to have designed, created, and ultimately to judge this planet and those that dwell on it, that they are more willing to reach out to an "unknown" and definitely self-serving force that surely, will allow humans to also serve themselves, thereby deceiving themselves to their very doom.



1. SETI.org. Web. Accessed on 2015/03/07

2. Hand, Eric. Researchers call for interstellar messages to alien civilizations. Sciencemag.org. 2015. Web. Accessed on 2015/03/07 http://news.sciencemag.org/space/2015/02/researchers-call-interstellar-messages-alien-civilizations

Monday, February 23, 2015

A brief history of Replacement theology

Replacement theology, also called Supersessionism, is is the teaching that the Christian church has replaced Israel in regards to God's purpose and promises. (1) Dr. Chuck Missler breaks it down with two main points:
  • Israel rejected her messiah; therefore she forfeited the promises God had made to her.
  • The Church has replaced Israel, becoming "Spiritual Israel." (2)
Neither of these views are Biblical. Israel and the Church have will certainly travel different, and equally important paths, but for all those who accept Jesus Christ as Messiah, we will eventually reach the same destination: heavenly life with our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
It is very clear in Ezekial 38 & 39, Psalm 83, and according to the promises of the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7, that Israel is very much still in the palm of God's hand and continues to have prominence and importance in His plans.
For example, in Israel and the Church: The Prodigal Heirs Dr. Missler cites four prerequisites that must be in place before the 70th Week of Daniel 9:
The nation of Israel reestablished as a soveriegn state
The nation be militarily secure
The nation be at apparent peace in the Middle East
The nation have restored material fortune. (3)
While Israel is indeed a sovereign state, it is yet to be militarily secure, at peace, or have restored material fortune. With the discovery of oil in Israel, we may be on the brink of the final three conditions being met. Regardless it is clear that without Israel's part in God's plan, we will never see the 70th week ushered in leading to a mere 7 years before Christ returns to rule in the Millennial Kindgom.
How prevelant is Replacement Theology in the Church? Rev. Brian D. Warner, M.A., of Wheaton College Graduate School believes Replacement Theology is a myth and is a devisive tool used by some Christians to attack and marginalize other Christians. (4) He gives quite a bit of evidence to suggest the theory is wrong, however offers no proof that denominations do not believe and promote the concept.
This subject can easily become an entire book on it's own, so to be brief, I have included a definition of the ways Replacement Theory can be expressed that may lead interested parties to further research on the subject:
"R. Kendall Soulen notes three categories of supersessionism identified by Christian theologians: punitive, economic, and structural:[3]
Punitive supersessionism is represented by such Christian thinkers as Hippolytus, Origen, and Luther. It is the view that Jews who reject Jesus as the Jewish Messiah are consequently condemned by God, forfeiting the promises otherwise due to them under the covenants.
Economic supersessionism is used in the technical theological sense of function (see economic Trinity). It is the view that the practical purpose of the nation of Israel in God's plan is replaced by the role of the Church. It is represented by writers such as Justin Martyr, Augustine, and Barth.
Structural supersessionism is Soulen's term for the de facto marginalization of the Old Testament as normative for Christian thought. In his words, "Structural supersessionism refers to the narrative logic of the standard model whereby it renders the Hebrew Scriptures largely indecisive for shaping Christian convictions about how God’s works as Consummator and Redeemer engage humankind in universal and enduring ways."[7] Soulen's terminology is used by Craig A. Blaising, in 'The Future of Israel as a Theological Question.'[8]" (5)
According to this source, early church fathers who purpoted this theory included, to name just a few:
1. Justin Martyr
2. Hippolytus of Rome
3. Tertullian
4. Augustine
In addition, the Roman Catholic Church, prior to Vatican II, offered many teachings consistent with Replacement Theory, one of which continues to this day: "The Codex Justinianus (1:5:12) for example defines "everyone who is not devoted to the Catholic Church and to our Orthodox holy Faith" a heretic." (5)
HearNow.org lists the following church denominations as officially making statements of belief in Replacement Theology. (6) I was not able to find a date of publication, however the site did go on to list sources and quotes. It would make an interesting start to further research.









John J. Parsons, Hebrew4Christians.org offers additional insight to the different view of the relationship between the Church and Israel. (7)
In conclusion, while Christians will likely always be divided in areas of denominational opinion, as we draw closer to the Millennial Kingdom, and the blindness of Israel is lifted, I pray that the blindness of Christians will also be lifted in regards to the place of Israel in the heart of our mutual Lord, and that we bless Israel instead of cursing her, for we all know how that works out (Genesis 12:3.)
1. Slick, Matt. Christian Apologetics and Research Minisitry. 2015. Web. https://carm.org/dictionary-replacement-theology
2. Missler, Chuck. The Prodigal Heirs: Israel and the Church. Couer d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House, 1995. MP3
3. Missler, Chuck. Israel and the Church: The Prodigal Heirs. Couer D'Alene, ID: Koinonia House, 2012. DVD
4. Warner, Brian D. Replacement Theology. ReplacementTheology.org. 2012. Web. http://replacementtheology.org/
5. Wikipedia. Supersessionism. 2015. Web. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supersessionism
6. Is the Church Israel? HearNow.org. 2015. Web. http://www.hearnow.org/ICIo.html
7. Parsons, John J. Israel and the Church. Hebrew4Christians.com. 2015. Web. http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Articles/Israel/israel.html

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Evolution or Intelligent Design in scientific progress

What do evolutionists mean by their catch-term? According to the dictionary, evolution is "any process of formation or growth; development: the evolution of a language; the evolution of the airplane. 2. a product of such development; something evolved : The exploration of space is the evolution of decades of research. 3. Biology. change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift. Latin ē vol ū ti ō n - (stem of ēvolūtiō) an unrolling, opening, equivalent to ē vol ū t (us) [1]

Interestingly, the authors at Allaboutscience.org give a slightly different twist on the dictionary definition: "Evolution is technically defined as: "a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form." Notice the reference to a more complex or better form.

Let's contrast the term "Intelligent Design": the theory that the universe and living things were designed and created by the purposeful action of an intelligent agent. [1]

One theory suggests more complex and better forms of animals, or people, are derived from a gradual process, with no guidance or intentional direction, the other that an intelligent agent purposefully guides creation and development of life.

So, if evolution is the process by which we get better, more complex beings, surely today's scientists capitalize on this phenomenon in the development of transhumans: post-human super-beings evolved from lesser forms currently on the earth....right? No, wait a minute, evolution takes billions of years and there is no guarantee of the outcome, not to mention that evolutionary processes in the short term (i.e., genetic mutation) results in only one outcome: cancer.

How come evolution (as defined by the evolutionist) in the short term creates nothing but death and disease, but in the long-term creates more complex and better beings? I'm confused.

Scientists have been manipulating the gene pool of plants, animals, and now humans, for decades in an attempt to intelligently design a better food source, and a superior human race. So far we know that genetically modified food is linked to tumors, cancers, and auto-immune disease (look up GMO's and disease for a long list of resources) so what can we expect with genetically modified humans?

Regardless, the hypocrisy of a group that claims life changes are directed by evolution, yet continually demonstrates the knowledge that no cross-species changes are possible without intelligent intervention and purpose seems lost on the multitude. If evolution can create cross-species beings, why have we not seen cross-species beings, or had a need for legislature defining the rights and treatment of "humans with unique physical, emotional, or cognitive abilities"? [3]


??
1.Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2015-02-19. Web. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/evolution

2. What is evolution. Allaboutscience.org. Retrieved 2015-02-19. Web. http://www.allaboutscience.org/what-is-evolution-faq.htm#sthash.3bv81sS0.dpuf

3. Horn, Tom, Chuck Missler. The Hybrid Age. Couer d'Alene, ID: Koinonia House, 2012. DVD

Transhumanism

In The Hybrid Age, Tom Horn discusses Transhumanism, the creation of enhanced human-animals chimeras. It seems the stuff only seen in science fiction, but the idea of transhumanism has been around for thousands of years, and the technology, while it might seem recent, has roots that go back as far as time.

When did science fiction begin to influence our minds and even, technological endeavors?

"Johannes Kepler's Somnium (1620-1630) may fit, since it describes a trip to the moon and the earth's movement seen from that perspective. One might make a case for Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels of 1728 as an example of science fantasy used as a vehicle for social satire á la H.G. Wells. But the philosophical and the scientifically possible—as well as thrills and chills—get a convincing combination in Mary W. Shelley's 1818 classic Frankenstein, to which she added The Last Man in 1826, dealing with a plague-driven world apocalypse - See more at"[1]

With the story of Frankenstein, Shelley introduces the possibility of a creature reformed from parts of man, but not truly a man. This creature is stronger than a man, and possibly immortal. The seed was sown.

Man has always desired to be greater than he is: smarter, faster, more bionic... Who doesn't love the 6 Million Dollar Man, the Bionic Woman, the X-Men, SuperMan, SpiderMan, etc.

Of course, the entertainment gurus that be have typically fashioned heroes who were kind, intelligent, trustworthy, brave, and possessing super-human integrity to boot. Recently we've seen a shift back to the antihero: "a main character in a book, play, movie, etc., who does not have the usual good qualities that are expected in a hero." [2]

Although the term antihero was first used as a literary term by Dostoevsky, and repeatedly on the stage in Greek drama, greater differences between the characteristics of a hero and and antihero have become apparent in the present age. The antihero can hardly be called a hero in any sense of the word, since he works what we call good, only for his own personaly gain. An example is the character "Red" in the t.v. show Blacklist, played by James Spader. The character works with FBI to catch the worst of the bad guys on the "blacklist" only to bring him closer to a young FBI agent we are led to believe is his daughter.

His only reason for anything good or helpful he does, is to endear himself to the woman, or to further his own illegal and immoral interests. Yet, for all intents and purposes, he is the hero, or antihero of the show. He murders without remorse, uses people to his own ends without concern for their well-being, kidnaps and tortures people, but is also highly intelligent, skilled in fighting, espionage, and manipulation. The viewers eat it up.

In A Genealogy of Antihero, the author states, " In contemporary literature, antiheroes have begun to outnumber heroes as a result of historical, political and sociological facts such as wars, and literary pieces have tended to present themes of failure, inaction, uncertainty and despair rather than heroism and valour. This study argues that Second World War has the crucial impact on the development of the notion of modern antihero. As a consequence of the war, “hero” as the symbol of valour, adventure, change and action in the legends and epic poems has been transformed into “antihero” of failure and despair, especially in realist, absurdist and existentialist works written during/after the Second World War." [3]

I offer a different theory. I believe that if you tell generation after generation that God is dead, that we are worthless specks in the vast universe evolutionally developed from nothing who will return to being nothing after death, that we are likely the genetic experiment of alien creatures who stand aloof and appraise us or even kidnap and experiment on us with no concern or empathy for our needs...is it any wonder that we have begun to seek value for ourselves through power and material gain?

If there is no reason to be good, why not be evil? If there is no heavenly treasure, why not cling to life on earth, even eternally, and seek the rewards of this world, not matter the cost? Science fiction, and all literature or entertainment, reflects what is in our hearts, what has been lurking in our hearts since the Serpent seduced the first man and woman. If there is no one greater than I am, I can be the greatest.

1. Guttman, John. Weider History. 2015. Web. http://www.historynet.com/what-is-considered-to-be-the-worlds-first-science-fiction-novel.htm#sthash.8dVPTgR4.dpuf
2. "Antihero - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2015-02-19. Web. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antihero
3.  KADİROĞLU, Murat. A Genealogy of Antihero. Web. http://dergiler.ankara.edu.tr/dergiler/26/1748/18584.pdf

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The seven species in the land of milk and honey

Welcome back to A Good Bible Study! Are you ready for some spiritual food? I've got something really tasty for you today: it's all about the land of milk and honey.

Today, I watched Revealing Jesus, by Dr. Dan. Stolebarger is one the instructors in my doctoral program. He was discussing Deuteronomy 8:7-10 in which God tells the Israelites all about this wonderful land to which He brought them: the land flowing with milk and honey.

But, to get a really good picture of what's going on in the bible, I've always found it useful to back up and read a few verses previous to get some context. Here, God is reminding the Israelites of just how bad it was. Because, when things are good, we can forget where we came from.

In verse 3, it says, "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and [then] fed you with manna...your garments did not wear out...nor your feet swell these forty years...therefore" [NKJV] and God shares with them the blessings of this new land.

We say we can't appreciate joy without sadness, or the sun without the rain, well, the Israelites could not even begin to appreciate the blessing of the Land, without first learning what it was like to hunger. God hopes his children will appreciate the blessings all the more because He allowed them to experience, deeply, what it is like to go without.
Once in the land, the people were given plenty to eat, and God specifically mentions 7 Species: 2 grains and 5 fruits. In Revealing Jesus, Dr. Dan Stolebarger suggested each species reflects Jesus Messiah (1):
Barley - it is separated by the wind, or the Breath of God. Jesus spoke in the wind to the Israelites. He spoke all of creation into existence with the breath of his nostril. It was used to purchase Gomer, as Jesus' body was used to purchase each of us. Barley loaves fed the multitude, and His body is our Living Bread, feeding our spirits.
Wheat - it must be pressed down to release the grain from the chaff. Jesus was pressed down with the weight of sin on our behalf. It is the bread of life, while Jesus is The Bread of Life.
Grapes - must be completely crushed to release their juices, which run red like blood. Jesus, of course, was crushed and bruised by his captors; his body was pierced and his blood spilled to save us. He is the vine, we are the branches, grafted into His body.
Pomegranate - the 613 seeds (has anyone counted?) may represent the 613 mitzvoth, or commandments of the Torah, the word of God. Jesus, the Word of God, came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.
Olives - Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. He is our light, as olive oil is burned in lamps, He burns in our hearts.
Date Honey - Israel is the "land of milk and honey." Dr. Stolebarger said that the honey in this case is date honey, since bees are non-kosher. Rabbi Menachem Posner, of Chabad.org confirmed this fact in his article, "Why is Israel called the land of milk and honey." (2)

However, elsewhere in scripture, we are advised to eat honeycomb. The words used are:
nopet: honey of the honeycomb. Prov. 5:3; 24:13; 27:7 Song of Solomon 4:11
d'bas: honey, honeycomb plus ya'ra: forest, honeycomb plus ha: the, a, who , this, that i.e., the honey of the forest, (a liquid.) Isa. 14:27 [KJV]
ya'ar: p.n. honeycomb, also refers to forests and woods. Song of Solomon 5:1
and the kicker:
melissios: pertaining to the bee, honecomb. Luke 24:42 [kjv]
Why would the land of milk and honey refer to date honey which must be processed, instead of a food readily available from God? If bees are not kosher, why would Scripture advise us to eat honey? I had to know!

While Israel is the land of milk and date honey, bee honey is also eaten by Kosher Jews according to Rochel Chein, of Chabad.org:


"Honey consists of nectar, which bees gather, store and transport to their honeycombs. While in the bee, the nectar is broken down and transformed into honey by enzymes in the bee. But it is not actually digested by the bee. So the honey is not a product of the bee itself--as is milk.
One hundred percent pure, raw honey is kosher." (3)

The last of the 7 species is the fig. I never understood why Jesus cursed that fig tree in Matthew 21. It seemed almost petty, and I know Jesus is not petty. Finally, an explanation!

Dr. Stolebarger taught that a fig tree is representative, among other things, of the followers of Jesus, the Church members. Let me explain.
A fig tree produces fruit before it leaves out. Once it is full of leaves, it should also have borne much fruit. The fig tree in the bible had plenty of leaves, but no fruit. It looked the part, but it was all a sham. There was no productivity, there were no works indicative of the Spirit within. It was a fake, a phony, a liar. It was a religious person with no faith and no fruit.
That's why Jesus cursed it, and it withered and died. It represented what will happen to believers who are all show and no substance. Those who go to church, but have nothing to show for their religiosity. It wasn't the tree, it was that the tree was unproductive and useless. Let's not be the fig tree, but instead be the grafted-in vine.
1. Stolebarger, Dan. Revealing Jesus. Coeur D'Alene, ID: Koinonia House, 2011. DVD
2. Posner, Menachem. Why is Israel called the land of milk and honey?. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/624194/jewish/Why-is-Israel-called-the-land-of-Milk-and-Honey.htm. 2015
3. Chein, Rochel. Why is honey kosher? http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/712032/jewish/Why-Is-Honey-Kosher.htm. 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Why is prophecy a more sure word than eye witness testimony?


Photo courtesy of digidreamgrafix, www.freedigitalphotos.net
 
In 2 Peter 1:19, Peter has just discussed some of the things which he has personally witnessed: the transfiguration of Christ on the mountain, and even God speaking from heaven telling us that Jesus is His Son, whom He loves, and in whom He was well pleased. But Peter tells us that an eyewitness account like this, even in Scripture, is incomparable with the word of prophecy.

 "We have also a more sure word of prophecy." 2 Peter 1:19 The word for more sure here is bebaios, meaning firm, more sure, certain, binding, and steadfast.(1) Peter says prophecy is more sure, more certain, and more binding that eye witness testimony. Why?

One reason is that, disregarding the inerrancy of Scripture, typically eye witness testimony is considered a less than reliable body of evidence.

"Since the 1990s, when DNA testing was first introduced, Innocence Project researchers have reported that 73 percent of the 239 convictions overturned through DNA testing were based on eyewitness testimony. One third of these overturned cases rested on the testimony of two or more mistaken eyewitnesses."(2)

Eye witness accounts are highly susceptible to the passage of time, to preconceived beliefs, to the effects of fatigue, patience, and by "filling in the blanks" of information to speed processing/cataloging/retrieval of information. The term we used in practice was a form of generalization, however, currently University College London neuroscientist Karl Friston has expanded on the theory, calling it a process of "predictive coding."(3)

Our brains actively predict or guess what we are seeing when there is not enough information, or even when the image is first coming into our brains, predicting what is going to be visualized and as a result, the brain accepts that guess as an accurate representation - even if it is totally wrong.

Have you ever seen the video in which a man in an ape-suit runs across the court during a basketball game and people interviewed afterwards say they never saw the "ape," even though it ran right across their field of vision? Pretty funny. Here is a link to a site where you can watch an example of this phenomenon. http://www.livescience.com/6727-invisible-gorilla-test-shows-notice.html

A Stanford University paper lists the following about the accuracy of eye witness testimony:

"Accuracy of recollection decreases at a geometric rather than arithmetic rate (so passage of time has a highly distorting effect on recollection); accuracy of recollection is not highly correlated with the recollector's confidence; and memory is highly suggestible people are easily ‘reminded’ of events that never happened, and having been ‘reminded’ may thereafter hold the false recollection as tenaciously as they would a true one." (4)

In addition, truthfulness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. While in grad school, I performed an experiment to determine if good looks or race had any affect on one's perception of truthfulness. I showed a picture of an attractive, blond, white male, white female; black male; and black female; as well as unattractive versions of the same along with a vignette (short story) about the person. The participants were asked to decide if they thought the person's dialogue in the story was truthful or not.

In short, the experiment revealed that white, attractive males were perceived as the most truthful and honest, followed by attractive black males, then attractive white females, then attractive black females, and then all followed by unattractive subjects. Attractiveness counts, as does race and gender. Remember, this was all unconscious processing happening as far as I could observe. The results were consistent with similar studies done, so this was not relative only to my sample.

This is all interesting, but since Scripture is inerrant, I believe in this case, Peter had another reason for considering prophecy a more sure word: eye witness testimony requires at least two witnesses, and is even then questionable, but prophecy is objectively self-validating. It either comes to pass or it does not.

"When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." [Deut.18:22 KJV]

"The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him." [Jer. 28:9 KJV]

You can't get better evidence than that.

1. Strong, James. The Strongest Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001

2. Arkowitz, Hal and Lilienfeld. Scott O. Scientific American, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-the-eyes-have-it/. 2009

3. University of Glasgow. What our eyes can't see, the brain fills in. Phys.Org. http://phys.org/news/2011-04-eyes-brain.html. 2011

4. Engelhardt, Laura.The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony: a talk by Barbara Tversky, Professor of Psychology and George Fisher, Professor of Law. http://agora.stanford.edu/sjls/Issue%20One/fisher&tversky.htm. 2015 citing from Krist v. Eli Lilly and Co., 897 F.2d 293, 297 (7th Cir. 1990), (listing the findings of various psychological studies.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Did they say your child was a punishment for sin?

Hello, thank you for joining me in A Good Bible Study! It has been quite a few months since we got together to share God's Word. Getting to know the passion and zeal God has for us was wonderful, wasn't it?! And learning that He put passion and zeal for Him, and for life, in our DNA package was very cool, as well. 

Photo by Sura Nualpradid, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
I'm reading the book of John now, chapter 9. Jesus addresses whether or not a parent's sin caused a baby to be born with birth defects. How is this relevant to you and me? Because this ignorant, self-righteous attitude is still prevalent today, even in western "civilized" countries.

More than once I've heard grief stricken parents share a story of a "well-meaning" acquaintance who suggested their child's affliction was somehow their fault. When our doctor told us that our unborn son, Matthew, had multiple birth defects, one of the first things I considered was had I unknowingly done something to cause our pain? The medical answer was that Matthew was just that 1 in 10,000 babies that do not form correctly and for some reason did not miscarry.

Believe it or not, a pastor (not ours) told us that yes, my husband and I caused Matthew's illness because we were not happy about being pregnant again so soon after our daughter was born. If we sincerely repented, he said, Matthew would be healed. OK, on the off chance it could help, we did just that but, really? If being initially unhappy about a pregnancy, caused miscarriage and birth defects, I shudder to think of how many children would not be alive today!

And yes, we were sincere about regretting our initial reaction to Matthew's arrival, and no, he was not healed. However, Matthew did far more than any doctor predicted. He touched hundreds of hearts while he was with us, and his life was meaningful and full, in that short time. And like all of our children will do, he died.

It saddens me to hear self-righteous individuals tell parents that their child's misfortune was caused by their sinful past decisions. I especially hate it when they quote limited passages from the bible, out of context, as "support." I hate to tell you Bub, but if it were the case that our sins cause birth defects in our children, then every single child alive would be born severely challenged!

Read with me briefly John 8: 1-11; New International Version 1984

1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and He sat down to teach them. 3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.
 But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning Him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.
His point? Not one of us is without sin in our lives, even if only in our hearts. Even those of us who might say, "I follow all of God's laws every day," cannot say they have never thought something hurtful or judgmental.  
"Who can say I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin?" Proverbs 20:9
" Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don't have eternal life within them."    1 John 3:15
So, who are these people who have never even had a hateful thought, who have never held onto a grudge, who have never carried a bit of prejudice in their hearts? According to God, they don't exist. So, by the logic that our negative choices have the consequence of emotionally, or physically, or intellectually challenged children, there should be not one healthy child in existence.

Now does Jesus say, "Hey everyone's doing it, so I'm not going to single you out for punishment?" Come on.  Re-read verse 11.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.

So, just so we are on the same page: we are all sinners, and we can all be forgiven, and if we truly want forgiveness, we are going to stop doing the same things over and over that lead us into trouble. Makes sense.

Ever going to not be a sinner, even for a moment? Doubtful - just because it's difficult to maintain anything near perfect control over our thoughts. Did He ever ask us to be perfect in order to be forgiven? No, Jesus has got that covered. He simply asks us to be sincere. Not perfect, just sincere.

Look, we can certainly do things that affect our unborn children. Taking drugs, alcohol, being physically abused, falling, sure, of course, there are things we or others can do that will harm our children. That's not what I am talking about, and that's not what these verses refer to ( I know it should be, to what they refer, but that proper English sounds weird in a conversation, and that's what you and I are having.)

Our children are not directly punished for our sins. They might be affected by our behavior, but God is not tapping babies on the head and assigning a genetic abnormality because you told a lie in the third grade, or even did something far worse. I will let God himself explain:

Jesus answered the question very clearly in John 9:1-3
"As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, 'Rabbi (teacher), who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' 'Neither this man nor his parents sinned,' said Jesus, 'but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.'" 
 After this, Jesus healed the man. He did not say God made the child blind, necessarily, either. He did say God's work would be displayed in this man's life because of his affliction. God wanted to show Himself to this man and for some reason, it was through his blindness, and healing, that was the most effective. Back to the point at hand:

During this time, people believed that a baby could sin in the womb, and bring calamity on herself. Either that, or the affliction was a finger pointing at the parents' sin. Can you imagine living with a birth defect or illness and being treated like someone who either was so bad they had sinned in the womb, or that their parents had done something so sinful their child would live in torment the rest of his life? Unfortunately, children live this way all over the world to this day; the victims of ignorant and murderous societies. Sometimes they live right here in America.

So for all those who bring up specific instances in the Old Testament in which entire peoples were eradicated, including children, because of the rampant sin in the culture, who then use that situation as justification to blame you for your child's illness, I have to say that person needs to spend a little more time with God and get to know His views on children a wee bit more before speaking again.

Mark 10:13-16, New International Version (NIV) 
13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him. Psalm 127:3
While my Matthew was allowed by God to be born with problems, and to live only a short while, just like the blind man, God's love was displayed in Matthew's brief time with us in a way that might only have been possible through his illness. We all get sick, we all die. God did not punish me through my son's illness, He blessed me through it.

I am in no way happy or glad he was born with so many challenges - don't mistake me! I am happy I was not alone in dealing with it, and I am happy so much good came out of it. For whatever reason, that was Matthew's life.

He was a blessing, not a curse.

Lord, help us to look with compassion on those who think serving you means pointing a finger of blame instead of a hand of compassion and help. Help us to know how to love someone we see as sinning. Help us to temper our criticism with remembering that there are ways we are sinning every day, that are just as hurtful to You, as what we see our neighbor doing. Help us to be sincere, to love you, and to show love to one another. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen






Friday, December 9, 2011

A Good Bible Study: Stop trying to earn my love and just call on me


Photo by David Castillo Dominici, courtesy
of www.freedigitalphotos.net
Hello, thank you for sharing A Good Bible Study with me! We are discussing the passionate love of God, and our passionate response.

Read with me from one of my favorite books in the Bible, Romans. I love the way it just spells it all out, holding nothing back, telling it like it is. Some times we need that in our lives. We need someone to be honest, and set us straight, while never letting us forget how much we are loved.

Romans 10:2-4
"2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. 4 For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given.[a] As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God."

Remember that word "zeal?" It means passion! We can be passionate about all the wrong things, can't we. It’s possible to even be passionate for God, but still be off the mark. Remember Apollos? Go back and read that post for a quick refresher, then come back here. I'll wait.

We can think we are showing passion for someone or something, but we might be barking up the wrong tree altogether. You know how those good intentions go.

For example, my husband and I love each other very much, but if I do not learn what makes him feel loved, and do everything I see as loving except those things, am I really taking the action to love him? Remember, the passionate love God desires is a verb, it is volitional, it is not just an emotion, it is what you do with that emotion.

The Israelites thought they were loving God by following the law. After all, Moses was God's friend, and that's who gave them the law. So, the law must be good, right? The problem arose when the Israelites refused to accept that the law was fulfilled, or completed, by the coming of the Messiah, Jesus.

Now, this wasn't hidden information. It was all plainly given in Scripture. There was no secret about the Messiah and the signs that would precede Him, as well as prove His identity. Jesus fulfilled every one of the more than 300 indicators, yet many of the Jews refused to accept the Truth. They continued to seek God through the law and through animal sacrifice, because they could not accept Jesus’ sacrifice.

I used to struggle with accepting forgiveness, too. I thought if I didn't work for it, it must not be real. Just accept Him? It goes against the grain for some of us.

May be it was that way for the religious Jews. Then again, there are people who would rather miss out on their blessing if to receive it they must admit they were wrong. It's kind of like being married: you can either be stubborn, or you can be happy, but you can't be both.

It takes a change in heart to join up with someone you're determined to hate and mistrust. Many Jews had believed Jesus was a false prophet, accusing Him of receiving power from Satan to perform His miracles. If they'd only obeyed the law in this instance, testing the spirits against Scripture, it would have been abundantly clear Whose Son Jesus was.

As it was, they were zealous for the law when it suited their own opinions, but were not zealous at all for the God who gave them the law.

It's easy to get off track, isn't it. We start to forget why we started something in the first place and find ourselves feeling trapped by the very activities that we meant to improve our relationships with our spouses, kids, friends, family, even God. We become slaves to the schedule, the rules, the timeline and forget about what was the purpose of it all in the first place!

“For I bear them witness, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10: 2-4

Do you want to passionate about something? Do you want something to get excited about? Then read on to verses 9-13:

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart  that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Whoever - that's you and me, by the way - calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Period. End of story. No ifs, ands or buts. Call on Him now. His name is Jesus. Be saved now. You will figure out the rest later. Call on Him. It's enough. It's all you need. It's that simple. Do it now.

"Lord Jesus, I want to be saved. I want You to save me. I want You to be in my heart from today onward. I don't ever want to be alone again. I am sorry for everything I have done to push You away until now. I don't know what happens after this, but I believe You do. I am calling on You and want You to open my eyes and my heart to You from now on. Thank You."

Amen and love, Karen

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Good Bible Study: God's Passionate Love for you


Photo by Dan, courtesy of www.freedigitalphotos.net

Good to see you again - In A Good Bible Study we are continually blessed by the discovery of God's passionate love for you, and for me.

We think of passion as a human emotion, focused on pleasure and success, but for God, passion is just one of many descriptions of His incredible love for you, His pure desire to be in relationship with you, and Hiis intense kindness and grace towards you. But is this a flowerly, meek and mild sort of love? Hardly.

Look at Jesus. Jesus is God-with-us. Everything that God is, Jesus is. Some of us think Jesus was mild mannered and passive, spreading peace, love and flowers, to all the world. Get ready for a wake up, ladies and gentlemen. Jesus, our God, was  no pushover. Not when it came to insulting His Father's name or bringing shame to His house. 

During the Passover, Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem. He found the merchants were selling sacrificial animals right in the temple grounds! Jesus was filled with righteous anger and turned over their tables saying, "Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”

If you were a Jew, and if you were in the temple then you were, you knew Jesus was fulfilling the words in Psalm 69:9 “Zeal for Your  house has eaten Me up.”

His disciples immediately remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: "Passion for God's house will consume me."

Passion, righteous anger, spiritual indignation, had risen up in our Lord because of the disrespectful manner in which the religious folk were treating the earthly house of God.

God is passionate, and Jesus is His Father's Son. He was passionate about respect for His Father in this instance, but He did not sin in His anger. He did not allow His passion for reverence of His Father’s house to move Him to sin.

I love this example for those of us who believe we should always back down, even when we know what is happening around us, to us, or to those for whom we are responsible to and for, is wrong. Standing up for what is right is not sinful. It's all in the delivery. Hear that ladies?

Jesus had the right and responsibility to stand up because He is who He is, and Who He is responsible to, and who he is responsible for. For the first time, those in power were getting hit at home with the message.

According to the Nelson Study Bible, NKJV, 1997 this was Jesus' first public presentation of Himself as Messiah.

"The Messiah's ministry began in the Temple. He came to purify. The expression 'My Father's house' was a distinct claim to messiahship. At the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11) Jesus demonstrated His deity and power; here He showed His authority."

Oh yes, the Jewish leaders got what Jesus was saying by, "My Father's house."So, how did the Jewish merchants and religious leaders respond? After all, Jesus was accusing them of a misuse of their positions for financial gain, of taking advantage of the people coming to worship, and of reducing the very House of God to a pawn brokerage.

They pushed out their chests and challenged, "Oh, yeah? Prove it."

They wanted a sign. What they got was a prophesy of what was coming up in the very near future, but they didn't get it. They didn't want to get it.

Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” 

He wasn't referring to the building, He was referring to Himself. He would be killed and on the third day resurrect Himself.

Shortly after, some of the religious leaders had Jesus arrested, just as predicted, and pressured the Roman leader, Pontius Pilate, to have Jesus publicly humiliated, beaten, and crucified on a cross to die. It was verified unmistakeably that Jesus did die on that cross, and believe me, those in power were taking no chances. Dead is dead. Now, that was Fri., the first day (per Jewish tradition.)

On Sunday (the third day), the heavily guarded and sealed tomb was empty.

On that very day, Jesus resumed His ministry on earth for another 40 days, teaching to thousands of people, preparing His apostles for their continuing ministry, and fulfilling every single prophecy ever written about the Messiah, the Son of God, your Savior, and thankfully, mine.
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

Thank you Father for sending Your Son, Jesus. Thank you Jesus, for coming. Thank you for sending Your Holy Spirit to love us, guide us, listen to us, help us, and comfort us. Amen.

Love, Karen