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 speaking on evidence for the existence of God, John Clayton often begins by saying that first, you must believe that you exist. He says, “If you don’t believe that you exist, you have more problems than I want to deal with.” Some people today are suggesting that we do not exist in reality. The question we need to consider is, “Are we in a matrix or base reality?” Let’s examine what that means.
Philosophers have often contemplated the question of whether there is any reality. A philosophy professor I once learned from said that some of his associates begin their philosophy class by suggesting to their students that nothing is real, including the walls of the lecture hall. However, he pointed out that the professor always exits through the doorway at the end of the lecture. Are the walls real? Is anything real? Are we in a matrix or a base reality?
In 1999, there was a movie titled The Matrix in which people were made to believe that they lived in a surreal world where they could have superhuman powers and face life-threatening dangers while all the time being strapped to a chair with electrodes connected to their bodies. The idea must have found a sympathetic audience because it spawned three sequels, with a fourth scheduled for next month.
Now, some scientists are suggesting that we are in a simulation. According to one analysis, the chances that we are living in a “base reality” (meaning not a simulation) are about 50-50, with a slight edge to base reality. So people from scientists such as Neil deGrasse Tyson to entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk have suggested that we could be merely characters in a massive video game. To further that concept, we have quantum theory with its “spooky action at a distance” (Einstein’s quote), such as quantum entanglement and superposition.
In 1948, American mathematician Claude Shannon introduced the concept of the bit as a basic unit of information. Computers work with bits, which can have a value of either 0 or 1. By combining millions, billions, or trillions of bits, we can perform complex calculations and create sounds, images, or even videos. That is how modern cameras, televisions, telephones, and computers work. So the question is, “If the universe is a giant computer simulation, a matrix rather than base reality, how many bits would it take to create the simulation?”
Melvin Vopson, a physicist at the University of Portsmouth, England, estimated that the minimum number of bits of information in the visible universe could be around 1080. (That is 10, followed by 80 zeros.) If you include dark matter, which we can’t see or detect, it could be ten-trillion times that number.
So, do we believe we are in a matrix or base reality? If we believe that this universe is a computer simulation and we are only a relatively few bits in that matrix, you would have to believe that an infinite intelligence wrote the code for the program. However, it seems to me that a more reasonable explanation is that we are living in a base reality created by an infinite intelligence. The most incomprehensible thing is that the omniscient Creator cares about each one of us. (Read Matthew 6:25-34.)
Today is a cross-quarter day, meaning that the Sun is halfway between an equinox and a solstice. The word “equinox” is a combination of “equal” and “nox” (which means night), and it occurs when the Sun is directly overhead at the equator. The solstice is when the Sun reaches its greatest distance from the equator at approximately 23.5 degrees. Then it is directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer in the north or the Tropic of Capricorn in the south. Today, the Sun is at its halfway point between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn.
For the Northern Hemisphere, the autumn cross-quarter day falls near Halloween. In the spring, it is near “Groundhog Day.” For those of us interested in astronomy and Earth’s climate and weather, that gives Halloween and Groundhog Day a significance different from what most people consider.
For us, a cross-quarter day is another reminder that our planet is extraordinary. The reason for equinoxes and solstices is Earth’s 23.5-degree tilt. That tilt is also vital to our survival. The Sun doesn’t overheat any section of the planet because Earth’s tilt changes the latitude where the Sun is overhead. It also avoids over-cooling as the Sun returns soon enough to avoid the extreme cold temperatures we observe on other celestial objects. This design also generates weather systems, the movement of ocean currents, winds to distribute plant seeds, and many other factors needed for life.
Indeed “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech. Night after night they display knowledge” (Psalms 19:1-2). Happy cross-quarter day!
The first week of November is White Ribbon Against Pornography or WRAP Week. Pornography is a problem faced by all churches as well as by our society in general. Several years ago, we worked with Jimmy Hinton to prepare a video series titled “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches From Child Predators.” It has been disappointing that even though we provide the material for free, we have had difficulty getting congregations to use it because they deny that they have a problem.
93% of boys and 63% of girls are exposed to internet porn before age 18. The average age of exposure is 11.
Neurological studies show that pornography has a detrimental impact on the brain.
The probability of divorce doubles for men and women who begin viewing pornography.
50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women use porn.
Sex trafficking survivors report that they were forced into trafficking by acting in pornographic productions.
The Bible is full of warnings to encourage believers not to get involved in this kind of behavior. Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “As a man thinks, so is he.” In Matthew 5:28, Jesus said, “..whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart.” Romans 13:14 tells Christians, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its demands.” First Corinthians 10:12 tells us, “..let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Hollywood, television productions, and novels rush to promote sexual images because sex sells in America today, thanks to our society’s rejection of God and the Bible. With that in mind, we should not let WRAP Week be the only time we address this problem. Instead, the Church needs to take the lead in teaching about the destructive nature of pornography and the beauty of sex as God intended it to enrich the relationship of men and women in marriage.
Researchers from the University of Toronto wanted to know how anole lizards could stay underwater for up to 18 minutes. To study them, the scientists went to Costa Rica and captured lizards in 32 species of the Anolis genus. They found that anole lizards can breathe underwater.
Their study showed that all species of anole lizards breathe air trapped around their snouts while submerged. The skin of these lizards is hydrophobic (water repellent) and traps a thin film of air between the water and the skin. Because of the lizard’s design, the trapped air ends up in a bubble over its nose. When the lizard inhales, the air bubble deflates. When the lizard exhales, the film traps the air around its nose until the anole breathes in again. You could say the lizard has a built-in “scuba-diving” system allowing it to breathe underwater.
This is another example of very specialized equipment built into living things allowing life to exist in challenging environments. The more we learn about the creation, the more we see specialized systems that enable planet Earth to support an incredible variety of life.
Anole lizards can breathe underwater, and the various species share this survival design. The researchers call it “macroevolutionary convergence.” We call it a shared body design for survival with a built-in design for knowing how to use it. Specialized equipment and behavior show evidence of intelligence in the design of the different varieties of life we see around us. As Romans 1:20 says, “We can know there is a God through the things He has made.”
The International Space Station (ISS) has now been actively supporting humans in space for 21 years. Since November 2, 2000, people have continuously resided in that small laboratory looking down on the rest of us, watching sunrises and sunsets sixteen times a day from a different perspective. The experience can be a reminder of how small we are. Astronauts have described a feeling that has been called “the overview effect.”
The overview effect is a change in perspective that many people experience when looking down on Earth from space. We are accustomed to seeing a limited view of our surroundings. However, when a person’s horizon opens to see the circle of the Earth (Isaiah 40:22) hanging on nothing (Job 26:7) surrounded by an extremely thin and fragile atmospheric layer (Job 26:10), the experience can be mind-changing if not life-changing.
The ISS orbits a little over 200 miles (322 km) above Earth’s surface. The Kármán Line at 100 km (62 miles) is the internationally-recognized boundary of space. Recently, commercial space companies have taken private individuals beyond that boundary to view Earth from space and briefly experience microgravity described as weightlessness. Perhaps the most notable was 90-year-old actor William Shatner who played Captain Kirk on the TV series Star Trek. In a tweet he wrote before the flight, he described himself as “a boy playing on the seashore…whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
Shatner’s reaction after he returned to Earth’s surface is very interesting. He shed emotional tears, and here is some of what he said:
“I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. It’s extraordinary, extraordinary. It’s somuch larger than me and life… It has to do with the enormity and the quickness and the suddenness of life and death… To see the blue color whip by you, and now you’re staring into backness…everybody in the world needs to do this. Everybody in the world needs to see this.”
I think Shatner is correct that it would be beneficial for each of us to see Earth from that perspective just once in our lifetime. The overview effect could change our attitude toward many things, including life and death. In addition, it would help us realize just how small we are and how amazing it is that God cares about us. (See Matthew 6:25-34.)