If you saw the full moon last night and the partial eclipse early this morning, you might have noticed that it seemed to be a little smaller than usual. That’s because it was a mini-moon.
The Moon’s orbit around Earth is slightly elliptical. For that reason, it is not always the same distance away from us. The average distance to the Moon is 238,855 miles (384,400 km). When it’s closest to Earth, the distance is 225,623 miles (363,105 km), and we call that “perigee.” When the moon is farthest away, the distance is 252,088 miles (405,696 km), and we refer to that as “apogee.” So the difference in the distance is approximately 26,500 miles (42,648 km), and that’s just enough to make a noticeable difference in and size.
Since the Moon is now at apogee, the result was that the full moon last night was smaller, and some people call it a “mini-moon.” Why should we care about the distance to the Moon? Two things make our Moon unique as compared to other moons in our solar system. The Moon’s orbit is less elliptical than that of other moons, and it is also the largest compared to the size of the planet it orbits. Because of its size and orbit, the Moon has many beneficial effects on our planet.
We have previously discussed some of the beneficial effects of the Moon, such as HERE, HERE, and HERE. However, perhaps the most crucial benefit is that it gives stability to Earth’s rotation. Spin a top, and you will notice that it tends to wobble in its rotation. That wobble is called “precession.” Without the Moon’s stabilizing effect, the Earth would wobble, causing instability in our seasons, climate, and weather. In other words, without the Moon, our planet could not support advanced life.
Even if you call it a mini-moon, the Moon is the right size and distance with an orbit that is only slightly elliptical. Because of those precise design factors, we can look up at the full moon and thank the Designer who gave us everything we need to make Earth our home.
What is the connection between tonight’s lunar eclipse and the Bible? Before we answer that, let’s consider the eclipse.
Lunar eclipses occur twice a year on average when the Moon passes through the shadow of the Earth. Every 29 and a half days, the Sun, Moon, and Earth are in line with the Earth in the middle. When that happens, we see a full moon. However, a couple of times a year, the alignment is so precise that our planet momentarily blocks sunlight from reaching the Moon. When Earth’s shadow falls across the Moon, we call it an eclipse. Sometimes the shadow completely blocks the Moon, giving us a total eclipse. This eclipse will be 97%.
The eclipse will occur in the early hours of Thursday, November 19, and it will be the longest partial eclipse in 580 years. The reason for the length is that the Moon is at apogee, meaning it is at its farthest point away from Earth in its somewhat elliptical orbit. Because of that, the Moon will be moving at its slowest speed in its orbit. (That’s a little bit of high school physics.) This eclipse is occurring during what some refer to as the Beaver full moon because it was the opening of the beaver-trapping season. In this case, it is the Micro Beaver because the Moon is farther away and will appear a little smaller.
This eclipse will be visible from all 50 of the United States at different areas of the sky, depending on your geographic location. The peak will be at around 4 a.m. EST (9 a.m. UTC), but it will stretch over almost three and a half hours. You can see a world map of the areas where the eclipse will be visible, check the exact beginning and end times for your location, and even watch a live stream of the eclipse at the timeanddate.com website. You may have to resort to the live stream if your area is overcast, or you don’t want to go outside early in the morning.
Now, back to the connection between the lunar eclipse and the Bible. The point is that we can accurately predict the exact times and dates of lunar and solar eclipses many years in advance. We can also precisely know the time for sunrise and sunset anywhere on Earth. We can also launch a rocket to Mars, knowing exactly where the planet will be in space when the rocket arrives. How is that possible? Because God is faithful.
The ancients believed in many gods with human failings, acting capriciously. It was Christian faith in an omnipotent and never-changing God that made science possible. We have often said that we can know God from the things He has made. Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from has been made…” The book of scripture and the book of nature were both written by God, so they must agree. Even though we learn more details about God and His plan from scripture, we can know much about Him from nature. That is the connection between the lunar eclipse and the Bible. One thing the creation teaches us is that God is faithful, just as we see in Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.”
Mars is our closest neighboring planet at 33.9 million miles (54.6 million km), and it seems that various countries want to send people there. Several countries have launched successful missions to fly by, orbit, or land on the red planet, but none have yet sent people there. The list includes the United States, the Soviet Union, Japan, the United Kingdom, India, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and China. As for human explorers, Elon Musk of SpaceX once expressed a desire to send people there in 2024—an overly ambitious objective. The UAE wants to establish a colony there in the next 100 years—a much more conservative goal. The question is, “Do we really want to move to Mars?”
Why does Earth seem to be designed for life while Mars is a rocky and barren place without an atmosphere? Scientists theorize that at one time, Mars had an atmosphere but then lost 99% of it. Why? Mars is smaller than Earth, so it has less gravity to hold onto the atmosphere, but that’s only part of the answer. One hypothesis is that solar wind (charged particles from the Sun) tore away the atmosphere. Then why didn’t Earth lose its atmosphere since we are even closer to the Sun? Earth’s magnetic field protected our planet. Why do we have a magnetic field? The movement of Earth’s molten iron core generates the magnetic field.
Many other factors make planet Earth ideal for life, and importantly, advanced life. So do we really want to move to Mars? The now-defunct Mars One project got tens of millions of dollars from thousands of people who signed up for a one-way trip to Mars to establish a human colony there. Elon Musk has indicated that he wants to get people to Mars just for the sake of getting there. He was quoted as saying, “Fundamentally, the future is vastly more exciting and interesting if we are a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species…”
With all of this desire to leave the planet ideally designed for life, the question we should ask is, “Was Earth’s design merely chance happenstance, or was it part of a divine design?” I suggest that the many factors that make our planet just-right for human life indicate more than chance coincidence.
One of the facts of life is that eventually, we will all die. Many of us have seen people endure enormous pain over a long period before death finally came. I am thankful that my wife Phyllis and my son Tim did not go through months of intense pain before passing on. Medical science has made great progress in extending life but has not been as effective in relieving pain. That is part of the reason we have seen a movement for legalizing physician-assisted death.
New Jersey passed a “Medical Aid-in-Dying” law two years ago, and last year 33 terminally ill people in the state ended their lives. Since 2016, California has had “The End of Life Option Act.” New York has a “Good Death” Act moving through the legislative process. The movement to legalize physician-assisted death is not confined to America. Holland was perhaps the pioneer of physician-assisted death in Europe. Columbia became the leader in South America back in 1997. The “Colombian Pain Institute” administers euthanasia for “intense physical or mental suffering due to an injury or incurable illness.”
The Week magazine for October 22, 2021 (page 8) carried a report demonstrating the difficulty of legalizing physician-assisted death. In Colombia, a 51-year-old woman named Martha Sepulveda has ALS and was scheduled to be euthanized. She would be the first person in Colombia to receive physician-assisted death without a terminal prognosis. However, the Colombian Pain Institute concluded that “her condition had improved” so she is no longer qualified for the procedure. Now she has a lawyer fighting for her right to die because she “is not willing to continue to live.”
Christians have concerns in this matter. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, we read that our body is “the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us.” The next verse tells us not to defile the temple. This concept is continued in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, which teaches why a Christian should not be involved in prostitution. In ancient times, death came more quickly than in today’s world with modern medicines. Therefore, a person near death today deserves special attention and Christian compassion. In Proverbs 31:6-7, we read, “Give strong drink to those who are ready to perish, and wine to those who are of heavy hearts.” When David was near death, he was chilled, and a woman came to warm him not for sexual purposes but to relieve his discomfort. (See 1 Kings 1: 1-4).
The doctors I know are horrified at the prospect of deciding to end someone’s life. It is hard to assess the collateral damage of someone saying, “I choose to die rather than blessing others, especially my family.” In many cases, financial concerns are a significant motivation for ending life, and there are horror stories of involuntary euthanasia in Holland. Christians should lead the charge to develop medical steps to relieve suffering and pain. Financial problems should not be an issue in a wealthy country like the United States.
From an atheist’s viewpoint, death is the end, and physician-assisted death is merely the solution to suffering. However, I continue to be reminded of my son’s last words to me before he died. He said, “Dad, I am going to see Mom, and I will actually be able to see her and be with Jesus.” These words were from a blind, mentally challenged, COVID-ravaged young man who had battled muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia all of his life. He was ready to move on to something better.
Jesus Christ made a clear separation between faith and politics when He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Yet, as our culture and our government become more and more atheistic, we see the government trying to stop anything that smacks of faith in God.
For example, in Brookings, Oregon, the city has banned churches from providing meals to the homeless more than twice a week. The government apparently did this because people who lived near churches providing meals complained about the activity. (Reference: The Week for November 12, 2021)
In a similar situation, the American Center for Law and Justice has reported on an elementary school student in Illinois who was reading her Bible during recess. School authorities took the Bible away from her because the school system did not allow Bibles on public school property. (Reference: ACJL report for November 2021)
Politicians such as President Biden take public positions in opposition to the teachings of the Church. The Catholic Church, of which Biden is a member, considers abortion to be a sin. However, in a recent meeting with the Pope, they never discussed abortion.
Issues like these are a significant part of the political scene in America today. Should prostitution be legal? Is Euthanasia an acceptable solution to severe illness? Can chaplains in the military conduct worship services that use the Bible as a source of information?
This is a difficult time for people who believe in God, the Bible, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. As the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches, we can expect to see various efforts by atheists and anti-Christian groups to stop believers from any public display of faith in God or the biblical message, including Christmas music, Bible quotes of the birth of Christ, or manger scenes. That is especially true on government property, military bases, or public schools. Unfortunately, it seems that the view of faith and politics in America today is that everyone should be able to enjoy freedom except those who believe in God.
One of the great worldwide problems is the disparity of wealth in the world. The gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” just continues to grow. Those of us who are Christians devote significant amounts of time and money trying to help the “have nots.” The problem is that as the world moves away from Christianity and replaces it with secular humanism and a “survival of the fittest” moral standard, the gap between the wealthy and the poor grows.
Recently there have been some amazing displays of the “haves,” including some with scientific connections. In 2020, a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton sold for 32 million dollars. In October 2021, a triceratops skeleton known as “Big John” sold in Paris for 7.7 million dollars. Private individuals made both of those purchases, meaning that the fossils are not available for scientific research. In some places in the world, luxury living is incredible. For example, in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), an apartment can sell for as much as 180 million dollars. There is a resort called Atlantis, the Palm off the coast of Dubai, where spending $7000 for a meal is not unheard of.
The disparity of wealth in the world means that most of the world’s population is living in poverty with food shortages, poor housing, and a lack of medical, leading to premature death. Even in the United States, where we have things better than in most countries, there is a vast disparity between the rich and the poor. It is essential to point out that religion is sometimes the cause of this disparity. Even those who claim to be Christians can be swept up in what the world offers, and religious leaders have made headlines for living the life of the rich.
Imagine what we could do to alleviate the poverty in the world if every wage earner chose to give a percentage of their income to care for others. Jesus hit at the real problem in His sermon in Matthew 6:19-21. “Stop storing up your riches on the earth where it may be turned to dust by worms and weather and where thieves break through and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is no moth or rust to consume it. For where your treasure lies, your heart will be there too.”
The disparity of wealth in the world is rooted in attitude, which is strongly affected by what we believe about the value of human life. A strong argument for the existence of God and the validity of the Christian system is how it can change a person’s attitude from getting and hoarding to giving and serving. When people fail to follow the teachings of Jesus (not the practices of organized religion), the experience of war, conflict, pollution, abuse, and division will grow. Jesus is truly the “light of the world” and the only hope for the future.
We need to know that there is a connection between worship and health. What God tells us to do in worship is not for God’s benefit but ours. God doesn’t need our money, so that is not why we give. He doesn’t tell us to sing because He likes good music. Likewise, prayer is not because God needs us to tell Him what is going on or what we need. Jesus makes it clear that God knows what we need before we ask. (See Matthew 6:8.)
Worship and health are connected because all acts of worship are for our well-being. Christianity Today published a report of studies showing reduced health risks for people who attend worship services regularly compared with those who never attend. Consider these comparisons:
Those who attend have an 84% lower risk of suicide than non-attenders. Those who attend have an 82.9% lower risk of depression than non-attenders. Those who attend have a 50% lower risk of divorce than non-attenders. Those who attend have a 33% lower risk of illegal drug use than non-attenders.
The report also quoted Gallup polls showing that confidence in organized religion has dropped from 68% in 1975 to 36% in 2019. In addition, a Barna Poll showed that in 1911 43% of Americans said they went to church every week, and in 2020 that number was 29%. Harvard University researchers Tyler Vanderweele and Brendan Case collected the data, so it is an academic investigation by recognized scholars.
The connection between worship and health is another example of the correlation between rejecting God and having problems with suicide, depression, drug use, and instability in relationships. Jesus said, “I come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). That is not just true of life after death, but in living every day through all we experience on Earth.
Is Satan real? When you hear the name “Satan,” what do you visualize? Some people think of a man in a red bodysuit, with horns, and holding a pitchfork. Many years ago, the movie “Damn Yankees” presented Satan as a human who wore a three-piece suit and made deals with humans. Charlie Daniels had a hit song titled “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” in which he told of a fiddle contest between “Johnny” and the “Devil.” Great music, but very little theological credibility. The comic strip “Far Side” frequently had a picture of Satan and people in hell, making it a childish belief to ridicule.
The biblical concept is very different and very real. The Hebrew word “satan” comes from a word meaning adversary or accuser. First Chronicles 21:1 says, “Satan rose up against Israel and excited David to take a census of Israel.” This is clearly not a physical person but a spiritual being with a purpose to incite David to oppose God’s will. In Job 1 and 2, Satan afflicts Job not as a physical person but by causing natural forces to bring pain and misery.
In the New Testament, two Greek words in Greek become relevant. “Diabolos” is translated as the devil. “Beelzebub” means “Lord of the flies” and is based on the name of a pagan Philistine deity. The Jews of Jesus’ day used it to refer to the chief among evil spirits. They accused Jesus of doing miracles by Beelzebub (See Matthew 12:24, 27). Ephesians 2:2 and 43 other passages, Satan is used to describe the sinful ways of the world. Is Satan real? The answer is YES, and here are five biblical concepts of Satan that we need to understand:
# 1. There is a war going on between good and evil. Atheists such as Ricard Dawkins deny that good and evil exist, but most of us have seen it first hand. Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12 tell us that God’s purpose for the Church is to join the spiritual conflict between good and evil.
#2. Angels are not a useful tool for this war. In 2 Peter 2:4, we find that some of them sinned, but they cannot repent since repentance needs time, and they don’t experience time.
#3. Satan’s attacks are primarily spiritual, not physical. Matthew 16:23 tells us that Satan entered Peter, and Luke 22:3 says the same about Judas. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Satan masquerades as an “angel of light,” and his servants masquerade as “servants of righteousness.” #4. Satans methods involve lying and sowing bad seeds. (See Matthew 13:24-30.) He also imitates and twists God’s blessings – sex twisted to porn, faith twisted to politics, drink twisted to intoxication, etc. James 4:7 tells us resisting Satan makes him flee, and God promises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that there will always be a way of escape for Christians.
#5. Is Satan real? Logic and common sense make it foolish to deny Satan. Good and evil do exist. There is a spiritual force in evil. However, God is also real. First Peter 5:6-9 tells us that we have a purpose for our existence. Atheistic denial of evil leaves no purpose for human existence. Revelation 21:3-5 describes the ultimate result of following Christ. For those who oppose God, there is no future beyond the present.
When humans mess things up, God has the solution for problems humans cause. Since 2014, kelp forests and starfish have virtually disappeared from Alaska to Mexico. Sunflower sea stars were the main predators for sea urchins. The sea stars were severely affected by pollution, exploitation of marine resources, agricultural runoff, and climate change. Now scientists say they are functionally extinct. Since the sunflower sea stars are gone, the sea urchins have multiplied out of control.
Northern California has lost 95% of its kelp forests. The problem is that sea urchins are herbivores, and they eat the lower stems of kelp, causing the plants to die. Because of that, Fish, abalone, and various other marine animals that depend on the kelp forests have died. In many places, spiky sea urchins now carpet the seafloor, and locals have called those areas “urchin barrens.”
A partial solution to this problem is the sea otter, a keystone species and a major natural predator of sea urchins. Sea otters have a very high metabolism to keep them warm in the cold water, and it makes them ravenous consumers of sea urchins. In a single day, a sea otter can eat 25% of its body weight in food.
Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have found that sea otters are eating three times as many urchins as in 2014. In areas where sea otters are active, the kelp beds are starting to return. Once again, God has the solution for problems humans cause.
There are many natural situations where, to a casual observer, an animal or plant appears to be a useless consumer of resources. As conservationists try to solicit funds to protect elephants, others say those animals have no useful function. Elephants consume vegetation which can cause hardships in periods of drought. However, as scientists study the role of elephants in desert survival, the need for these animals has become increasingly understood. Savannah elephants live in eastern and southern Africa, with the highest densities in Botswana, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia, and South Africa. In those regions, termites build huge mounds, and they bring a large number of elements and compounds to the surface as they dig. Eventually, the mounds flatten, creating depressions that fill with water during the rainy season. At that time, elephants come and dig up the nutrients they need as they wallow in the mud. They leave the area coated with soil which they carry away, leaving a deeper depression that eventually becomes a large water hole. In addition to enlarging the water hole, the elephants deposit massive amounts of dung. The dung contains plant seeds that grow to become the start of vegetation around the water hole. That vegetation brings insects which, in turn, bring birds. Wading birds carry in fish eggs, bringing a wide variety of life to what was a desert. The oasis this process produces is critically essential to animal and plant life and humans.
The role of elephants in desert survival in Africa makes preserving them a key to the survival of all life in the region. Elephants have unique properties critical to the success of this system. Matriarch elephants remember where previous water holes were and lead their group back to dig and enlarge those holes, eventually making it an oasis. Some plants are correlated to bloom and provide seeds at the proper time for other forms of life. If the water hole dries up, some fish, amphibians, and reptiles can burrow into the soil and survive for up to five years, waiting for the next rain.
Earth’s design automatically produces all kinds of ecosystems, including deserts. God has designed life to adapt and exist, even in extreme environments, and the role of elephants in desert survival is a great example.