Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter are all valid historically. All of the events surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are factual, so should we celebrate Easter? We suggest that we should celebrate the resurrection every Sunday.
The communion was established to assist us in doing that (1 Corinthians 11:23-30). The first century Church worshiped every Sunday. Giving (1 Corinthians 16:2) and celebrating the Lord’s Supper to remember the death and resurrection of Christ were part of that worship (Acts 20:7). We should copy their example. It is good that at least once a year the whole world recognizes the activity of God in sending His son to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all. We would urge everyone to look into the significance of the resurrection and the witnesses that give credence to the story.
Another aspect of the Easter season is that many human inventions have sprung up around the historical event. Lent was instituted as a way to focus on the Easter event. It was a reminder of the forty days Jesus fasted in the desert as He began His ministry. Abstaining from eating eggs to celebrate Lent resulted in people preserving eggs by boiling them. German Lutherans began decorating the eggs and invented the Easter Hare as a judge of children allowing gifts to be given to good children. Eastern Orthodox believers dyed the eggs red remembering the blood of Christ. The special days of Palm Sunday and Holy Friday were added to aid believers in focusing on the season.
We have all seen the tragedy of the huge fire that destroyed much of the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In the days after the fire, we have witnessed theological discussions about why the fire happened, and whether it is a demonstration that there is no God. Should God have protected Notre Dame Cathedral?
We want to point out a few things about the fire, Notre Dame Cathedral, and what the Bible says about the Church and church buildings. Of course, the fire was a tragedy. Anti-Catholic writers and atheists have denied it was a tragedy. Those critics maintain that it was good that this religious symbol was destroyed. We would point out that Notre Dame Cathedral has great historical significance and was a testimony to the artistic expression and skill of ancient human engineers and artisans. The building was a museum and had great tourism value. A destructive event in the Louvre or the Smithsonian would be comparable to what happened at Notre Dame.
From a theological standpoint, the fire is of little or no significance. Nowhere in the New Testament was there a command or instruction to build any kind of building. The name Notre Dame means “Our Lady.” Mary was blessed to be a tool of God to bring His Son into the world, but nowhere does the Bible command us to worship her. The Bible does not portray her as an intermediary between God and man.
The word “Church” in the original Greek is “ekklesia,” meaning “that which is called out.”The Bible never uses the term in reference to a building. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:16 tell us what the Church is. From a religious standpoint, church buildings have often been a bane to faith, consuming money that should have gone to provide for the needs of the poor and disenfranchised. Frequently buildings becoming objects of worship themselves — an idol instead of a tool.
On April 11, 2019, scientists released the first actual image ever taken of a black hole. The black hole picture used wavelengths that are outside of what our eyes can detect. Astronomers used eight radio telescopes to see wavelengths that are beyond human vision. They photographed a black hole that is as large as our entire solar system, so it is a supermassive black hole.
This scientific accomplishment is significant because it allows scientists to test some of the predictions of Albert Einstein even down to the shape of the hole. A black hole is so massive that even light itself cannot escape the gravitational pull. The relationship of gravity and the shape of space is a concept proposed by Einstein that has radically improved our understanding of the nature of the universe.
There are important implications for apologetics in this discovery as well. A significant question that has been debated by atheists and believers for hundreds of years is whether the universe had a beginning or whether it has always existed. The biblical concept is that there was a beginning. Well-known atheists have claimed that matter/energy is eternal and just gets changed from one form to another forever. The nature of a black hole is that it sucks in everything that gets near it, including light. There is no escaping a black hole and attempts to propose a way around this fact such as wormholes and white holes have all been disproven.
If the universe has existed forever, and if black holes are continuously sucking in all matter including electromagnetic radiation, what would be the ultimate result? It seems pretty obvious that everything would have been sucked up by black holes and there would be nothing left but one supermassive black hole. That obviously isn’t the case, so there must have been a beginning to the creation.
If there was a beginning, there had to be a cause to that beginning. Ideas such as string theory and brane theory have attempted to get around this logical point without success. If there was a cause, there has to be a causer. The design, intelligence, and purpose that we see in the cosmos identify some of the properties of that causer, and God fits those criteria uniquely.
San Antonio, Texas, and Buffalo, New York have kicked Chick-fil-A out of their airports for “aiding and abetting Christian organizations.” What is especially ironic is that it’s the charity work of Chick-fil-A that those cities object to. Are Christian moral standards a crime?
Chick-fil-A is accused of “anti-equality giving.” They gave significant amounts of money to the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a home for troubled young men in Vidalia, Georgia. The main problem, according to those challenging Chick-fil-A is that these organizations promote a traditional Christian understanding of sex and marriage.
In 2012 Dan Cathy who was the CEO of Chick-fil-A made statements endorsing traditional marriage. This was his personal belief and not a statement of corporate policy. There has been no activity in this area by anyone connected with the company since that time. The fact that they close their restaurants on Sunday continues to cause attacks on them. The programs that Chick-fil-A contributed to were sports camps and school programs for inner city kids.
The Salvation Army has a budget of about two-billion dollars which it uses to provide aid for the homeless, anti-trafficking programs, disaster relief, etc., but not for policing LGBT civil rights. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes asks its leaders not to engage in homosexual or heterosexual acts outside of marriage as well as pledging not to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Once again, it isn’t carrying on an anti-LGBT campaign.
We have reached a point in America where anyone who has strong moral standards and Bible-based beliefs is being denied the opportunity to own a business? Are Christian moral standards a crime? We need to be informed about what is going on in America.
NASA posted this picture on apod.nasa.gov on April 8, 2019. Yang Suite took the photo in northern Norway of a phenomenon that lasted about 30 minutes. Witnesses said that colorful clouds, dots, and plumes suddenly appeared. Can you imagine what would have happened if the sky over Washington D.C. had been filled with what you see in this picture? Are they space aliens?
In this case, the picture is of a NASA-funded project called Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment (AZURE). Gas tracers were dispersed from two short-lived rockets into the ionosphere at altitudes of 70 to 150 miles (112-240 km). The goal was to measure how the solar wind transfers energy to the Earth and powers auroras. Science still has much to learn about the design of the solar system and how something like an aurora takes place. So are they space aliens? No, and anytime we can see something that we don’t understand, we should seek to understand it and recognize the design and intelligence that is involved. The more we know of the creation, the closer we can get to the Creator.
On March 27 we posted an article about Dr. John Lennox, and yesterday we talked about Galileo. Today we have a quote from John Lennox on Galileo.
Dr. Lennox is Professor of Mathematics emeritus at the University of Oxford and an Adjunct Lecturer at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. In his book God’s Undertaker, he told about how Galileo, as a Bible believer, advanced a better scientific understanding that went against not only the churchmen but also the philosophers of his day. They were disciples of Aristotle and interpreted the Bible to fit an Aristotelian view of the universe. Referring to the refusal of the authorities to accept Galileo’s more scientific perspective, Lennox has a warning for today:
“Philosophers and scientists today also have a need of humility in light of facts, even if those facts are being pointed out to them by a believer in God. Lack of belief in God is no more a guarantee of scientific orthodoxy than is belief in God. What is clear, in Galileo’s time and ours, is that criticism of a reigning scientific paradigm is fraught with risk, no matter who is engaged in it.”
We could also point out that from the time of Aristotle until Einstein, the prevailing view of science was that the universe was eternal. That was even though Genesis, the first book of the Bible written long before Aristotle, clearly says there was a beginning. Even Einstein was reluctant to accept the fact of a beginning, and other scientists refused to accept it for many years. Today, Dr. Lennox and others point out the many problems with Darwinian evolution. Meanwhile, the science establishment continues to accept it by faith ignoring the obvious problems shown by mathematics and the fossil record.
The problem which the religious and philosophical establishment had with the heliocentric system was their interpretation of the Bible and devotion to Aristotle. The problem some scientists today have with accepting an intelligent cause for life is their rejection of the Bible and devotion to Darwinism. Another quote from John Lennox on Galileo and religious leaders is, “The important lesson is that we should be humble enough to distinguish between what the Bible says and our interpretations of it.” In other words, both sides must follow the facts wherever they lead, free from devotion to HUMAN doctrines.
It seems that hate dominates the world news every time we read the paper or turn on our TV. I recently heard a news commentator suggest that hatred began with the Bible and continues today in extremists that go into a building with a gun and start shooting those they hate. The commentator suggested that New Testament battles between Jesus Christ and the Pharisees are an example of religious hatred similar to the violence in our world today. The truth is that leaders can be wrong, but not Jesus.
The commentator suggested that Matthew 23 is a demonstration of the hatred that Jesus preached. The chapter does present Jesus using strong language to condemn the Pharisees and religious leaders. He called them hypocrites (verses 13,15, 23, 25, 27 and 29) and blind guides (verse 16). He even accused them of murder (verse 35). That commentary is a classic case of “cherry picking” the Bible by taking verses out of context to make a point while ignoring dozens of scriptures which contradict the argument.
If you read Matthew chapters 5-7 you won’t get a picture like the one in Matthew 23. What is the difference? The difference is to whom Jesus is talking. The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day should have understood and accepted what Jesus was teaching. Instead, many of them were blind guides who wanted to murder Jesus. When Nicodemus who was a ruler of the Jews (John 3:1-18) came to Jesus, he didn’t understand what Jesus was teaching. Jesus asked him, “Are you a master of Israel and don’t understand these things?” (John 3:10). Later Nicodemus became a worker for the Lord, even securing Christ’s body after the crucifixion.
When Jesus talked to the common people like you and me, He was kind and patient and full of compassion. When he spoke to the Jewish leaders who should have been understanding and supporting Christ but were advocating violence, Christ was firm and strong. But He still rejected violence and any kind of hatred. It was the leaders who crucified Christ, not the common people.
Leaders can be wrong, but not Jesus. I have never in my 80 plus years seen a president that I felt never made a mistake. When I was in the army, I had superior officers who made dumb mistakes and who were abusive themselves.
The reality of life is that leaders are frequently wrong, and in Christianity that is also true. Denominational and congregational leaders can be wrong, and that is why we must rely on the inspired Word and not on human teachers. Second Timothy 3:16-17 makes it clear that the only way to completeness is by following God’s Word. Christ opposed violence, but some “Christian” leaders have acted contrary to what the Word teaches, and the result has been catastrophic.
We repeat that leaders can be wrong, but not Jesus. We don’t defend what humans do. We follow what Jesus did, what He taught, and what He left for us in His Word.
Most of us have seen, heard of, or perhaps even witnessed psychics who seem to do some amazing things. This may include telling some detail about a person’s life that only the person or a close family member would know. Sometimes psychics turn into what debunkers call “grief vampires” in which they convince grieving family member they are talking to a dead loved one. According to financial analysts, this has turned into a two billion dollar industry.
In the old days, psychics and mentalists learned how to read body language and would give vague generalities about a person that seemed pretty amazing. They were mostly just games with little money involved and no recruitment of followers. These are called “cold readings” and don’t involve family finances. In the last few years, this has turned into “hot readings” where a psychic reveals personal information and tells the customer what to do.
Hot readings may require giving a family fortune to an unknown person because a dead uncle said to do it. Marrying someone so that a wealthy person’s estate is accessible is another example. Paying a cancer clinic for a miracle cure of cancer is a third example. The list of exploitative psychic claims that involve talking to a dead loved one is vast.
One reason for the resurgence of psychic activity using hot readings is because of technology. Psychics will focus in on a customer and review their Facebook postings for a year or more to gain information that previously only family members would know. The Week magazine (April 5, 2019) described some cases where psychics used Facebook material to build up a dossier of information that convinced people they were talking to a dead loved one such as a parent or child.
Our apologetics studies necessarily involve claims that someone has the power to talk with the dead. The Bible makes it clear that no human can communicate with the dead. First Samuel 28:7-20 tells the story of Saul contacting the witch at Endor. The witch conducted a séance to bring Samuel back from the dead. Seances are scams, and this woman was going to perform her usual scam activity when the real deal shows up – the spirit of Samuel! The woman screamed when she realized that Samuel was actually there (verse 12) and that a miracle beyond the reach of her scam activity had taken place.
No one has power over death except God, and Jesus destroyed the power of death (1 Corinthians 15:26). Revelation 21:4 shows that being with God is the antidote to death and all the bad things that can be a part of life. A group called “Guerrilla Skeptics” has been posting false data on Facebook to see if psychics would use it. They have caught so-called psychics at their own game. People who are skilled in psychic techniques can put on a convincing show, but it is just a show. No human can contact us after we die, because talking to a dead loved one is not possible.
In Genesis 8 we read about a plague against Pharaoh that involved frogs. The frogs came upon the land of Egypt in such numbers that they got into everything, including beds and food preparation areas. Verse 5 indicates that this abundance of fogs came from the rivers, ponds and streams. Is a plague of frogs possible?
Skeptics have suggested that such an event is not possible. They have even suggested that this is just an attempt at humor by the biblical writers. Preachers have generally just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Well, God can do anything.”
Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, recently experienced a mini-plague. In March of 2019, people awoke to an infestation of thousands of baby bufo toads covering the city. There were so many that one resident described it as a plague of frogs “covering every square inch. You couldn’t walk through grass without stepping on one.”
A singe female frog can produce a vast number of eggs. It isn’t hard to visualize how this plague could happen. Like all of the plagues directed at the Pharaoh, the message is more important than trying to figure out how the plague was accomplished. But, of course, “God can do anything that is according to His will and nature.”
A research team at Iowa State University led by Professor Douglas Gentile discovered the happiness secret. It has nothing to do with money or power or fame or anything else that people are always striving to gain. Actually, an ancient book had the secret all along.
The researchers divided a group of Iowa State students into four groups. Each group was told to look at people they saw as they walked around the campus. They told one group to wish others well and really mean it. The researchers called this “loving-kindness.” A second group was told to think about how they might be connected to the people they saw, such as sharing a class. This was called the “interconnectedness” group.
They instructed the third group to look at people and think about how much better off they are than the people they are looking at. This was the “downward social comparison” group. The idea was that seeing how much better off you are than someone else could make you feel happy. The fourth group was the control group. Their task was to walk around in the same way and just notice the outward appearance of people. They were supposed to look at things like clothing and accessories.
All of the students in each group were questioned before and after the 12-minute test to determine their happiness, stress, and anxiety. Can you guess which group had the most significant increase in happiness? It wasn’t the “downward social comparison” group. They came out on the bottom. The group that increased their happiness the most was those who practiced “loving-kindness.” The happiness secret is simple!
Whom do you suppose set the example for practicing loving-kindness? If you answered “Jesus Christ,” you are exactly right. Jesus not only felt love and compassion for those He met, but He also demonstrated it by His actions. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” He gave us the happiness secret!
Professor Gentile concluded, “Walking around and offering kindness to others in the world reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connections…It’s a simple strategy that doesn’t take a lot of time that you can incorporate into your daily activities.”
I suggest that we begin to practice the happiness secret today!
The research report has the long title, “Caring for Others Cares for the Self: An Experimental Test of Brief Downward Social Comparison, Loving-kindness, and Interconnectedness Contemplations.” It was published in the Journal of Happiness at THIS LINK.