When I was a young man, Memorial Day was a big deal. There were parades, speeches, special services at many churches, and a town memorial. We were constantly reminded of the men and women who died to make it possible for us to live in freedom in the United States. In those days, in Bloomington, Indiana, where I grew up, many military veteran’s groups marched in the parade, and all the high school bands participated. After serving in the military, I found that Memorial Day had changed. It had become “the first weekend of summer.” There were no parades, and only a few veteran groups paid attention to the original purpose. What will Memorial Day 2021 be like? Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in 1868, three years after the civil war ended. At Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers were put on all graves, and 5,000 people attended the ceremony. General Logan, who directed the ceremony, said, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
Since that time, over 1.2 million Americans have died in our nation’s wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a National Holiday by Congress. In 2000, Congress enacted The National Moment of Remembrance Act (P.L.106-579). Its charter says, “To encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country … by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.”
The National Moment of Remembrance Act suggests that at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day, “Everyone is to pause for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation … It is a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.” We are in no way minimalizing the struggles for freedom and racial equity in America today, but even with our problems, how can we look at other nations and not be thankful for what we have?
On Memorial Day 2021, not understanding the sacrifices of the past has made us a selfish and self-serving people. Our ecological problems are because we want what is ours without thinking about the future. Our moral problems are because we have forgotten the teachings of Jesus Christ, which call us to live to serve others with integrity. In Luke 22:19-20, we read about Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper as a way of helping us remember Him, what He taught, and the example He set. First Corinthians 11:28-30 warns Christians not to participate in communion without thought and understanding since “for this cause many are weak and sickly among you.”
What is true of the Church is true of America. We need a memorial to remind us of the important things. On Memorial Day 2021, let us not be so focused on our own agendas that we forget the past and what our predecessors have done to allow us to have what we enjoy today.
In over 50 years of working with young people both in church situations and in my teaching in public schools, I have found one of the most destructive things in our culture is also one of the least talked about. It’s the problem of pornography.
Several years ago, our ministry produced a video series with Jimmy Hinton dealing with sexual predators. This series was personal for Jimmy because his father is in prison for sexual misconduct, even though he was a preacher for many years. It is an excellent series, but we have found that congregations don’t want to talk about this subject. When we send the DVD series and the teaching materials we provide with it, we usually have to mail it to an individual or business address rather than a church. The usual statement from church leaders or ministers is, “Well, we just don’t have that problem here.”
We have done many youth rallies and camp sessions and have participated in many church workshops. Over and over, teens have come to us to find answers to their personal struggles with porn and sexual abuse but wanting to remain anonymous. In several situations, I was forced to confront a youth leader or a minister about their use of pornography. In some cases, they were involved in a relationship that was in clear violation of God’sWord.
An organization known as LifePlan has released new data on the problem of pornography. Pornography use has skyrocketed, with one website reporting four-and-a-half billion hours of porn watched in one year. Seventy percent of Christian youth leaders have had a teenager come to them for help in dealing with pornography. Let us be clear that we are not talking about “dirty movies.” We are talking about movies that display sexual intercourse and perversions, including sex with animals. The STD rate among young adults (ages 15 to 24) in the United States is over 10 million a year.
I have learned by experience that giving a lesson on sexual behavior is a quick way to be reprimanded. People don’t want to hear teaching from the pulpit about why sex outside of marriage is not only wrong and sinful and destructive mentally and spiritually. “That’s the parent’s job” is the usual response. But parents aren’t doing it, and having the Church back up a parent who IS doing it should be the best of all worlds.
Don’t assume that this is someone else’s problem. We need to have frank discussions with kids. Youth leaders need to broach this subject with teens and their parents, and they need to know how to deal with their own struggles. Read Romans 1:24-32 and discuss it in detail with the young people you have access to. Pornography is a growing business in our world, and the problem of pornography isn’t going away. Neither is Satan going to stop bringing it into the minds of those who claim to be Christians.
Are animals willing to sacrifice their well-being to benefit another animal? Altruism is a human characteristic thought to be missing in animals. As scientists study animal behavior more deeply, they see many cases where animals seem to demonstrate altruism. Those include jumping into a fight to save another animal when there is no direct benefit to the intervening animal. In one case, killer whales were hunting a sea lion. Suddenly two humpback whales charged in and pushed the killer whales away, allowing the sea lion to escape. People observed that happening three times in the same area.
There are also situations where animals seem to demonstrate altruism by giving food away. Vampire bats need a constant supply of blood because they can’t survive more than 70 hours without it. Researchers have seen vampire bats regurgitate blood when an individual misses a meal. In one case, a vampire bat gave away so much blood that it starved to death. Studies of meerkats, a species of mongoose in southern Africa, have shown that one couple will breed the offspring and other adults raise the babies. Studies of bonobo primates have demonstrated that they share food both in captivity and in the wild.
Are those the behaviors we thought that only humans exhibited? One constant danger in studying animals is our tendency to anthropomorphize animal behavior. In other words, we interpret animal behavior in light of human behavior rather than looking at the possible reasons for the animal’s actions. You can see this by looking at how people treat and talk to their dogs. The reality is that the dog has learned where it gets its food, its sensual pleasure, and its security. No matter how much support the dog receives, it will still chase the cat, eat the feces of another dog, and bark at a time that displeases the owner. Dog owners tend to overlook those animal instincts and behaviors, and they may even put clothing on the dog.
Researchers can see that all animal behavior in the wild has some kind of survival benefit. In the cases above, the whales don’t have sympathy for the seal. Killer whales attack humpback whale babies, and the best defense the humpbacks have is to drive the killer whales out of the area. Vampire bats are not successful in getting blood every time they go out, so sharing benefits all of the bats because the next night might be their time to be unsuccessful. A similar scenario is present with monkeys sharing. These animals seem to demonstrate altruism but still resort to survival behavior when under stress. Chimps raised in human homes do not become humans. When a human invades their territory, they resort to violent behavior. At the same time, pure altruism is a trait available to humans, but not all humans demonstrate it at all times. There is a saying that humans can act like animals, but animals cannot act like humans. The death of Christ on the cross is the classic example of sacrificing one’s self to benefit even those who reject you.
One of the medical issues of our day is the shortage of organs for transplant. Many people die while waiting for a heart, kidney, or liver, and the problem of finding organ donors is complicated. That leads to the question of who owns your body when you die?
In the United States, there are data banks for almost every organ in our bodies. If someone needs a kidney, their surgeon can go to the kidney bank and see how many people in the database have the blood type and traits to be a donor. Often kidneys are supplied by living donors, so the kidney is moved from one person to another, with both the donor and the one receiving the new organ in the same operating room. Of course, that is not possible for many organs such as hearts.
The government of Switzerland is considering a bill that would make the state the receptor of everyone when they die unless the person officially opts out. When a person dies, their organs will become a “public asset” so doctors could harvest them for transplant to alleviate the shortage. The Swiss medical establishment says that between 50 and 100 patients die in Switzerland every year because of the lack of organs for transplant.
This proposed law brings up all kinds of issues and gives a whole new dimension to the relationship between the state and the individual. Who owns your body when you die? Many times a dying person is in a coma or is pronounced brain dead. Taking their organs would certainly be a form of euthanasia. What about the person who is terminal with cancer but has organs that are unaffected by the disease?
The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.” That same chapter tells us that we will all be changed (verse 52). The natural body is not sacred. It is the dwelling place of God’s Spirit when we are alive (1 Corinthians 3:16), and our soul is housed in it. But Genesis tells us that our body is “dust to dust.”
The body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26). I had that vividly pointed out to me as I stood beside my wife’s bed when she died. The body was lifeless, cold, and unresponsive. My wife Phyllis was gone and what was left was the house in which her spirit had lived.
Apparently, the media are running out of things to talk about, so they have resurrected the claims of alien visitation to Earth. In June, U.S. intelligence agencies are supposed to release a report detailing what the government knows about Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP). Former CIA director John Brennan has stated that there have been scores of credible sightings of UAPs or UFOs that “may be piloted by a different form of life.” We have repeatedly pointed out that this is not a biblical issue. The Bible does not say that Earth is the only place where God created life.
Once when I was working in Canada, a group of people claimed that a ghost was haunting a woods nearby. One night, several of us camped out in that woods. At about 2 a.m., we saw a ghost, complete with an open mouth and two eyes. It glowed a greenish-yellow color and then vanished. One of the native Canadians in the group laughed because he knew what we were seeing. The aurora borealis (northern lights) were flickering wildly in a solar maximum, and the ultraviolet radiation caused bioluminescence in a dead tree. In broad daylight, we could see that, but at night, with our imaginations running wild, it looked totally different.
Atmospheric refraction or reflection off high clouds can make city lights visible many miles from the city. Earthquakes generate radiation, and some of it is in the visible spectrum. Weather balloons, flares, test aircraft, cloud reflections, satellites, planes, or drones can all become Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. With this new report, we will see a barrage of headlines from conspiracy advocates, tabloid writers, and psychics. In truth, it is more likely that the number of actual mystery objects will be very small. Jesus Christ has answers to the real struggles in life, but E.T. does not.
On the morning of May 26, 2021, the Moon will turn red in what some people refer to as a “blood moon.” Is this a fulfillment of Acts 2:20-21? Certainly not. It is merely another lunar eclipse.
Unfortunately, most of us in the United States will see little or none of it. In the western part of the country, the penumbral stage will begin as the Moon sets in the west. The umbral, or complete, stage will only be visible along a slice of the Pacific coast, in western Alaska, and all of Hawaii. It will also be visible across the International Dateline into parts of Asia and Australia.
There are several lessons this event can teach us. The first one is theological and has to do with how we read the Bible. To correctly understand this Bible passage, you have to look at who said it, to whom, why, and how the people it was addressed to would have understood it. Acts 2:14-40 is Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. Peter spoke to the Jews who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate an event peculiar to the Jews, and he quoted Joel 2:28-32. The Jews understood “the last days” to refer to the Messiah’s coming as prophesied in Isaiah. Everyone understood the Moon turning to blood was a symbol of the great change that was coming.
So how do we know that the “moon will turn to blood” on May 26? God constructed the universe with such design and intelligence that we can tell when the Moon will enter the umbra of a lunar eclipse, and we can know that to the second. We also know that the Sun’s light shining through Earth’s atmosphere colors the Moon red while refracting the blue light away. What we see reflected from the Moon is that red light. This event has no spiritual significance. The last total lunar eclipse took place on January 21, 2019. Unlike the return of Christ, we can accurately predict when another lunar eclipse will be.
We see God’s wisdom and design in the precision of the creation and the remarkable position of the Moon and Earth allowing Earth’s shadow to fall on the Moon. As they have in the past, some people will try to use another lunar eclipse for religious purposes, but our plea is to count this as one more evidence that science and faith are symbiotic. The only religious significance of the things we see in the sky is to remind us of God’s power and design.
A federal judge has ruled against a Christian college in Missouri, and the ruling may affect other Christian colleges and universities. It involves opening the women’s dorm rooms and showers to biological males. On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order prohibiting “discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.” His order requires federal agencies to interpret the word “sex” to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Fair Housing Act is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. It prohibits discrimination in the sale or rental of housing based on race, religion, or national origin. In 1974 a provision was added banning discrimination based on sex, but it says nothing about sexual orientation and gender identity. With the new executive order, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is now enforcing the requirement based on “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” and applying it to dormitory housing at colleges and universities.
The College of the Ozarks is a Christian college near Branson, Missouri. In April 2021, the college sued the Biden administration, stating that the new executive order “requires private religious colleges to place biological males into female dormitories and to assign them as female’s roommates.” On moral and religious grounds, the school prohibits males students from female dorms and vice-versa. The federal judge ruled against the school.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) plans to challenge the judge’s ruling. Ryan Bangert is vice president of legal strategy at ADF. He says that as it stands now, “If you have a male who identifies as a female, that student must be allowed to access female dormitories,” and that includes restrooms and showers. Failure to comply could result in fines that might force the school to close. That could be especially hard for College of the Ozarks, which does not charge tuition but depends on donations and requires all full-time students to work on campus.
Few Christian colleges could withstand hefty fines for violating the new rule, and dismissing a student because of sexual orientation and gender identity could create even more issues with the government. College of the Ozarks, like other colleges, is now working on housing plans for returning and new students in the fall. ADF said in a statement that “in this case the government is clearly overreaching.”
One of the arguments we make in our discussion of cosmology is that Earth’s design is unique. There are so many variables that must be “just right” for our planet to exist that suggesting it is a result of chance is statistically impossible to believe. We are not just thinking about the conditions of planet Earth, although that alone would be convincing. The more we learn about outer space by using the excellent new tools available to researchers, the more we see that our star is unique. Our Sun is a G-2 spectral star, which means its length of life, stability, radiation, and size are all critical. Now, as we examine space spacing, we know its location in space is critical as well.
The nearest star to our solar system is 4.3 light-years away. That means it takes light from that star 4.3 years to get to us. At that distance, the effect on us from whatever happens on that star is minuscule, so we are not at risk. Imagine a cube of space three light-years on each side. Now imagine putting 100 stars in that cube. A group of stars called the Great Globular Cluster in the constellation Hercules has that stellar density at its core. The total cluster is 150 light-years in diameter, and it has hundreds of thousands of stars.
We hear media presentations that say there are 100 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy. They suggest that with so many stars, and many of them having planets, our Earth must be just one of many inhabited planets in the galaxy. The reality is that most of those stars could not sustain a planet with life because they are too hot or too cold or too large or too small. We must also consider space spacing, meaning that their location relative to other stars is also a factor. No one would look for a life-bearing planet in M13, the Great Globular Cluster. If you would like to see a picture of it, just click HERE.
The Psalmist wrote in Psalms 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” The word “glory” in Hebrew is “kabod,” which the lexicon says can be translated as “heaviness,” which we can understand to mean beyond mortal reach. That was true to the ancients in biblical times who, with no light pollution, could lie awake on a clear night and see a patch of light and wonder what it was.
In 1716, Edmond Halley noted that patch in his observations. Now we clearly see what it is, and it shows God’s wisdom and power in remarkable new ways. Even space spacing shows wisdom of design. We live in an exciting time when new tools give us more and more views of what is in the heavens astounding us at God’s “heaviness.”
The following came to us from our friend Dr. Phillip Eichman, who has a Ph.D. in biology.
For many years I began the courses that I taught in Fundamentals of Biology and General Biology by bringing two things to class: a rock and something living, usually a plant from the greenhouse. Most of the students had never seen me before and must have wondered why I brought those things to class. One day I surprised the students even more with a turtle that I rescued from the middle of the road. The point that I wanted to make is that there is a vast difference between a nonliving thing and a living thing. The expression “a rock’s not alive” comes from an old Sesame Street song and makes the same point.
A rock’s not alive. It is made up of the same chemical elements as the plant or the turtle, but that is where the similarity ends. Anyone who has taken a biology course will realize that even the simplest living thing has a complex organization. It is capable of taking in and using energy, growing and reproducing, and responding to the environment.
Obviously, something happened to make living things so different from nonliving matter. Either it is a big coincidence, or some higher intelligence planned and directed the formation of life on Earth. More than forty years of studying and teaching biology have convinced me that the latter of these is true. The world in which we live is not an accident, but rather the handiwork of a creator that we call God (Psalm 19:1).
The Department of Veterans Affairs released studies of 87,000 people up to six months after they tested positive for COVID compared with five million people in their database who didn’t have the virus. Those with a history of COVID had a 59% increased risk of dying prematurely within half a year after contracting the disease. People with disease problems such as heart issues, diabetes, and kidney disease are subject to COVID aftereffects.
Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly. the head of the research and developmental service at the VA St. Louis Care system said, “We are starting to see a little bit beneath that iceberg, and it’s really alarming.” I have a personal interest in this because my son Tim remains in a nursing home after having a bout with COVID that left him with multiple problems from muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, which had both been under control before he contracted COVID. Now they are running wild and leaving him unable to stand, walk, or manage his own eating. Also, his speech is seriously compromised.
Those who maintain that COVID is an exaggerated problem are not looking at COVID aftereffects on people who have had existing conditions before contracting the virus. It would appear that, in time, other health issues will be found in the population. Anytime we allow animal viruses to get into humans, there is a high probability of severe health problems, and COVID has shown that in dramatic ways.