I always enjoy hearing a skeptic berate the Bible on some point that he or she considers absurd because the skeptic always comes out of such a tirade looking very foolish. Sometimes it is not immediately obvious why the biblical statement is sound, but it always is. One such tirade involved what you might call biblical protein.
Some time ago, an article appeared in one of the atheist journals ridiculing the idea that men such as John the Baptist and Samson could live on a diet of locusts. The question is whether eating locusts and honey is unwise nutritionally and medically (not to mention aesthetically). I never had an answer to that allegation until I came across an article concerning medical research on the subject.
It turns out that the protein content of all insects, especially locusts, is very high. Locusts and grasshoppers have over three times as much protein as chicken and fish and over four times as much as pork and lamb. Beef is more than three times lower in protein than locusts. Among insects, the protein content of locusts is very high. For example, locust protein content is three times as rich as ant protein.
There are many commandments and teachings of God that people have only come to understand in modern times. Among those are God’s toilet rules for disposal of waste.
In the Roman world, residents used chamber pots. When the pot was full, they emptied it in the streets and alleys. In Pompeii, the sidewalks were raised with high curbs along the streets so that pedestrians could cross on stepping stones and avoid having to walk in human excrement.
Even in America the disposal of waste was an issue. An epidemic of yellow fever in Philadelphia, which was the nation’s capital at the time, was related to cesspits which eventually contaminated the aquifers that supplied drinking water.
Among the laws of hygiene for ancient Israel were rules for disposal of excrement. In Deuteronomy 23:12-13 we read “Designate a place outside the camp where you can go to relieve yourself. As part of your equipment have something to dig with, and when you relieve yourself, dig a hole and cover your excrement.”
Imagine an animal that can survive without water, can withstand 300-degree temperatures, can live without oxygen, can survive the vacuum of space, can survive almost any amount and kind of radiation, and can hibernate for decades. This is not science fiction; it is an animal phylum known as tardigrades, often called “water bears.” There are as many as 1,200 species of tardigrades, and they live all over the Earth.
In 2007 scientists put two species of tardigrades in containers and launched them into orbit and opened them up to cold, airless space with no protection from the punishing radiation of the Sun and stars. When they returned the tardigrades to Earth, they were alive, and they are still producing offspring that are also alive and reproducing.
These animals are microscopic, about half a millimeter long when fully grown. Under a microscope, they look like a combination of a chubby bear and a single-eyed alien. They have legs but no circulatory system or skeleton. In extreme environmental conditions, they curl up and enter a survival mode called cryptobiosis. When conditions improve, they revive and resume their normal life processes. They eat algae and aquatic plants.
Scientists have studied the tardigrade genome and found ways to improve crop survival in bad weather. The United States government has allotted five million dollars to scientists attempting to find ways to protect vaccines and human blood using what they learn from the genome of tardigrades. Other uses include preserving organs for transplant and producing a sunscreen that protects against ultraviolet rays as well as reducing radiation damage in cancer treatment methods.
The development of life on Earth has not been a hit-or-miss process. As science looks at smaller and smaller things that our technology allows us to see, we realize that there is a whole world of carefully designed microscopic plants and animals that form the base of the animals we CAN see. Every time we look into the world around us, we see that a wonder-working hand guided by an intelligence far beyond our own has gone before and provided for our well-being. Thanks to technology, we realize that now more than ever before.
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.
In the rush to promote recreational drugs, a cousin to THC has become famous. THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is the primary psychoactive drug in marijuana that produces intoxicating effects on the mind. However, there are at least 113 related chemical compounds called cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. One of them is known as CBD (cannabidiol). The CBD market has been getting a lot of attention.
One reason for all of this attention to the CBD market is that small studies have shown some positive results in the treatment of epilepsy. CBD does not produce any of the intoxicating effects of THC, so promoters are selling it in a variety of substances. CBD has been used in supplements, foods, and cosmetic products. The list includes tinctures, oils, salves, coffee beans, bath bombs, beard oil, rubs, foods, candy, carbonated drinks, beer, water, and pet foods. In 2018 sales were in the hundreds of millions of dollars and are predicted to be about 20 billion dollars by 2022.
While the CBD market explodes, scientists still don’t know what effects CBD can have on the human body. Small trials are testing effects on pain, anxiety, depression and other health problems. At this time, the only FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved prescription medication involving CBD is Epidiolex, used for treating a rare form of epilepsy. The National Institutes of Health funding for research on CBD has gone from no studies in 2014 to 16 million dollars in studies in 2018.
As people make money in the CBD market, their beneficial claims cannot be substantiated. FDA regulations prohibit CBD from being sold across state lines as a food additive, dietary supplement, or for treating diseases. However, the only “enforcement” of the law is sending out warning letters. The quality of the CBD being sold is inconsistent, and sometimes it also contains THC.
The question is. “Why are people so desperate for the benefits that some are claiming CBD provides?”Christianity offers help with anxiety an depression that CBD is supposed to alleviate. If the Church functioned as God designed it, the struggles of everyday life and the support that enables one to deal with major crisis issues could be successfully addressed. Because we are not practicing Christianity as the Bible presents it, people are left looking for help and support from chemicals and philosophers. The result of that is that when people looking to get rich make claims of a new wonder drug, people jump at the chance to use it.
It is essential that we use everything God has built into the creation that will benefit our lives. As science studies CBD, it will become clear what uses it has, and what dangers it might hold. The CBD market working blindly is a recipe for disaster. What are the side effects of CBD? Is it addictive? Does the placebo effect explain the claims that some have made?
Susan Weiss of the National Institute on Drug Abuse says, “A lot of the products that people are taking may not be what they think.” Be careful what you put into your body. Don’t rush into human solutions to problems created by humans. The Church must show the love and compassion of Christ as we reach out to those who are struggling. Beware of those who make promises of help, but just want your money.
The mouth is one of the more dangerous parts of the human body regarding what comes out, what goes in, and what lives there. It is also the home of our dangerous tongues.
Fungi, micro-organisms, and viruses continuously come in with every bite of food and even just from breathing. In spite of that, the tongue rarely gets infected, and when it does, it usually heals quickly. One reason is that the tongue secretes an antibiotic called “lingual antimicrobial peptide” (LAP). The production of LAP increases when an infection inflames an area. LAP is also present in other parts of the digestive system, but the tongue is a first line of defense against microbes.
God designed our bodies to survive in a world that has all kinds of things that could harm us. The tongue is only one small, but very important example of how design provides protection. What goes into our mouths has the potential to harm or nourish us, and we need to be aware of that. But we also need to be mindful that what comes out of our mouths can encourage or harm others. God intends that we should use our dangerous tongues in the right way.
James 3:9-12 tells us:
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and bitter water flow from the same spring?”
James also said in 3:6 and 8: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and it is set on fire by hell…No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Our tongues are dangerous, not because God designed them that way. They are dangerous because of the way we use them. At a time when vile language and hatred comes out of the mouths of many people, we must control our dangerous tongues and use them for good.
One of the significant differences between Christianity and all other religious choices is that Christianity offers practical help for conquering worry.
Worry is very destructive. One study has shown that worry is a major cause of 50% of l patient hospitalization. Our wealth as a country has not produced less worry among us. Worry is one of the main ways we hurt those who love us. Worry can paralyze us, and it is contagious. Here are some principles in the teachings of Christ that help us with conquering worry:
2 Timothy 1:7- Worry and fear paralyze us. 1 Peter 5:7- Fear is a fault. God cares and wants us to rely on Him. (See Psalms 46:10.) John 14:27- Slow down and worry slips away – be still and know. Matthew 6:33- Make heaven your main goal, and worry becomes secondary.
Listen to the advice of Jesus for conquering worry:
“You cannot serve two masters, for you will hate the one and love the other… That is why I say to you to stop worrying about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink or wondering what you will wear. Isn’t life itself a greater gift than food or drink or clothes. Observe the wild birds, they don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, but your heavenly father keeps on feeding them. Aren’t you more valuable than they? Which of you with all your worry can add a foot to his height?”
“And why are you anxious about clothing. Consider the lilies of the field, and how they grow. They don’t toil or spin and yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his spender was arrayed like they are. If God so beautifully dresses the wild grass which is green today but tomorrow is dry and thrown into the flames is He not more likely to clothe you? O how little we trust Him. So don’t worry and say what shall we eat or drink or wear. Your Father knows you need these things. Seek the kingdom of God first, and all these things will be added to you. So don’t fret about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring its own set of trouble.”
Matthew 6:24-34 (See Also Matthew 7:7-8)
We have a God who cares about our worries. Other belief systems just encourage bearing with whatever misfortune comes our way. Christianity offers real help and hope for conquering worry. The Church is a vehicle God created to give us a support system to deal with life. Read James 5:13-20. Remember – Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.
Stephen Hawking’s search ended one year ago today. He was perhaps the most famous scientist in the world until his death. Hawking was a British theoretical physicist and cosmologist. In 1963, when he was 21 years old, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The doctors gave him two years to live. He far exceeded the life expectancy of an ALS patient, even though the disease gradually stole his ability to move.
By the end of his life, Hawking spoke using a computerized voice that he controlled with his cheek muscles using a slow process of selecting words and letters. In spite of his disability, he gave lectures and wrote best-selling books. His motto was “There are no boundaries.” Although he had previously written that God was not needed to explain the creation, in 2014 he openly declared himself to be an atheist.
Hawking married Jane Wilde in 1965. Over the years his illness and his celebrity put a strain on the marriage. Also, Jane Hawking was a Christian and Stephen was an unbeliever, which added to their differences. In 1990 Stephen left Jane for one of his caregivers. In 1995 he divorced Jane and married the caregiver, Elaine Mason. Stephen divorced Elaine in 2006. Hawking then resumed a closer relationship with Jane and his children and grandchildren. Jane wrote a book about their renewed relationship, and it was made into a movie The Theory of Everything in 2014. Eddie Redmayne played Stephen Hawking in the film, and the role won him the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Speaking of the “Theory of Everything,” that is what Stephen Hawking’s search was about. He and other scientists have spent years trying to discover that theory. On January 8, 2018, a new episode of the series “Favorite Places” premiered on CuriosityStream.com. In the show, Stephen Hawking was shown traveling through space to visit some of his favorite places including Venus, the Sun, and the star Proxima Centauri. Narrating the adventure with his computer-generated voice, he told about his search for the “Theory of Everything.”
“I have been searching for something my whole life. Something to explain the world that is by turns kind and cruel, beautiful and confusing. A single all-encompassing idea that can explain the nature of reality—where it all came from and why we exist at all—the Theory of Everything.”
Perhaps in Stephen Hawking’s search, he was overlooking the real answer to his questions. Is it possible that he left out the key to that answer—God. Perhaps his ex-wife Jane had the answer all along in her Christian faith. He acknowledged that the universe is amazingly fine-tuned for life. He attempted to explain that by the idea that this is only one of an almost infinite number of universes with different parameters, and we just happen to live in the one universe with the right parameters and laws to allow life to exist.
Instead of an accidentally fine-tuned universe, what if God created a perfect universe. What if God is love and He created us so that He could love us and so that we would love and serve Him. What if our failure to do so explains why the world is “by turns kind and cruel.” That would explain “where we came from and why we exist at all.” It would also explain “the nature of reality.” That is where Stephen Hawking’s search was leading for his “whole life.”
Sadly, Stephen Hawking never found what he was searching for. We think that the “Theory of Everything” is written in the Bible ready for each of us to discover for ourselves.
Every generation has a technology challenge that causes parental anxiety and threatens their relationship with their kids. For boys today the challenge is the video game Fortnite: Battle Royale.
When I was a kid in the 1950s, the technology challenge was television. I remember seeing my first television. When the wealthy neighbors got a color TV, my parents complained that I was gone all the time to watch their color TV. When shows came on that seemed risqué to my parents, there was a crisis. I wanted to watch rock and roll which my parents felt was a “tool of the devil,” even though they were atheists. There was also the development of games. Every store had a pinball machine, and as kids, we found ways to win free games. I missed one whole afternoon of school because I hit the jackpot during my lunch hour that gave me 50 free games.
Todays’ new technology is computers, and the challenge they present is video games. The game getting the most attention now is Fortnite: Battle Royale which is produced by a North Carolina company called Epic and partially owned by Disney. It’s an attractive mix of game design with a persuasive technology designed to shape the behavior of its users. This is mass-market gaming, and it has been the most watched game on Amazon.com’s Twitch network for the past year. Last November people spent 108.9 million hours watching other people play Fortnite. The company makes money by selling costumes called skins and dances called emotes for their avatars to perform. Embellishments sell from $2 to $20. Players buy them with virtual currency called V-Bucks which are sold in packages priced from $9.99 to $99.99.
Since its launch in July of 2017 Fortnite has made more than $2 billion from the sales of virtual goods. Fortnite: Battle Royale is a killing game that is hair raising but earns a “T” rating (meaning okay for Teens) by not showing visible spilled blood or dismembered body parts. Psychologists have identified some 200 persuasive design tricks to make a game addictive. Fortnite: Battle Royale uses a high percentage of those elements in combinations. We old folks may remember how addictive the games were in the past. Games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, or Frogger did not compare with the far more addictive techniques in the toolbag of Fortnite: Battle Royale.
Scientists are researching whether involvement with video games is connected to substance abuse or compulsive behavior. Gunfights constitute a significant part of Fortnite, and the heavy use of violence concerns many scientists. Parents should be aware of the game and its potential risks. Restricting playing time, and having activities the child likes that pulls him or her away from the game are essential.
Challenges to parenting aren’t new. Parents have always had to be careful about how they react to the difficulties of raising a child. The Bible’s instructions for parents are more needed than ever before. You can’t “train up a child in the way he should go” if the actual chief trainer is a violent video game.
In yesterday’s discussion on cannibalism, we pointed out that there is no passage in the Bible where people are told to practice cannibalism. We also said that in the New Testament the body is portrayed in passages like 1 Corinthians 3:16 as the dwelling place of God’s Spirit. The next question that logically would arise is whether the same passages and logic condemn instances of suicide in the Bible.
In Old Testament times there was a thing known as royal suicide. A king or military leader who failed was expected to retain his honor by killing himself. We find suicide in the Bible in 1 Samuel 31:1-6 where Saul falls on his own sword. In the New Testament, Judas committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-5), and a prison keeper attempted to (Acts 16:25-28). As is the case with cannibalism, these instances of suicide in the Bible are merely reports that these things happened. They are not things that were commanded or approved by God. The reality is that the jailer was forgiven, and Judas could have been forgiven had he sought forgiveness. Peter found forgiveness for denying Christ, but Judas was so hardened that destruction was all he could understand.
The first point we need to make is that suicide is wrong on all levels. God created us and promised through Jesus that He will be with us and help us find answers to our problems and struggles. Not allowing God to do that is wrong. Suicide is also wrong because of what it does to those who are left behind. I have personally seen the devastation a suicide has brought to parents, children, close friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. Suicide is a selfish act that does incredible damage to others.
God has built into us a strong desire to live. Our very design causes us to keep going when things get tough. As a public school teacher, I have seen severe mental illness cause a number of students to kill themselves. I am talking about those who sincerely intend to die by their own hand. Some people commit a pseudo-suicide. They do something that they know won’t kill them, but which will allow them to write a desperate note to those who have conflicted with them. It is a cry for help but not a real suicide.
People who are suicidal need help. The burden is on those of us who love them to do a better job of letting them know how much we love them. We must make sure they find help both in the Church and through medical experts who can provide counsel and medications.