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.
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.
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.
Recently we have seen news about racial hatred and white supremacy. Sometimes racist claims are attributed to the Bible. We must understand the true biblical teaching on the origins of racial groups. Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the Earth.” Galatians 3:28 tells us that in Christ we are all one. Genesis 1:27 reveals that God created us in His image. That description is of all humans, not one race or group.
In Genesis 6:4 we see a passage that many have felt advocates strange interpretations of the Hebrew word “nephilim.” The Hebrew lexicon tells us that “nephilim,” means “fallen ones.” Numbers 13:33 uses the same word to give us the story of a time when Israel was about to invade and take the promised land. Twelve spies scouted the land and came back with a report of the land and the people. They described the people, and among them they included “the fallen ones who are the sons of Anak.”(Verse 33). Anak in the Hebrew language refers to a “large, long-necked people.” The Bible describes these pagan, war-like people, but the point is they are all descriptions of people. The nephilim were not aliens or astronauts or spirit creatures or yeti.
In the first chapter of Song of Solomon, we see a wife of Solomon writing a love letter. In verse 6 she indicates that her racial characteristic is that she is dark skinned. Dark sin was considered to be beautiful, and that is true of American teenagers just as it was in ancient Israel. Just a casual look at the relationship between latitude and skin color shows us that many racial features are a function of the geographic latitude where people live. People who are native to equatorial latitudes tend to have darker skin than people in northern latitudes. Almost every racial feature you can imagine has practical survival value as a function of climate. God created humans to live anywhere on the Earth, and we all have genomes that allow us to adapt to those latitudes.
Racial hatred has no place or connection to the Bible. It is totally a function of ignorance and a refusal to value humans and see them all as equal. God urges us to love one another and to live as He has called us to live.
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.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as “the attribution of human traits, emotions or intentions to non-human entities.” We are all guilty of anthropomorphism when we attribute the behavior of our pets to human emotions. The Oxford dictionary goes on to say that anthropomorphism “is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology.”
When a dog is jumping around and barking and licking us, we assume that the behavior of the dog is because of joy. In reality, this is an instinctive behavior in animals when establishing dominance within the pack. When the same dog tucks its tail between its legs and slinks away, we assume it is feeling guilty when it is an act of submission for fear of being attacked.
Some scientists attempt to prove that humans are just animals acting out animal responses to various environments. They conduct experiments to show that animals do the things we think are unique to humans. An example is attempting to explain the human smile. For us humans, a smile is an expression of happiness, warmth, and friendliness. When an animal grins, it shows its teeth expressing terror or aggression. When you see a monkey or ape grin on a commercial, sitcom, or movie, there is a trainer behind the camera threatening it.
Human traits which are not seen in animals include worship, guilt, sympathy, and creativity in art and music. It is essential to look at other explanations when considering the behavior of animals. Recently people witnessed a female whale carrying her dead calf for nearly a week. Several newspaper articles were guilty of anthropomorphism by saying that the whale was expressing grief. Many times animals in the wild avoid the scavenging of a dead sibling or offspring by maintaining a vigil over the corpse. That instinctive action assures that the offspring is, in fact, dead, and avoids spreading the disease that killed the dead animal.
I remember a field trip I had in my NSF graduate workshop for science teachers. At an aquarium in Chicago, we watched a demonstration of natural selection. A hungry northern pike was placed in an aquarium with three small fish. One was a wounded and incapacitated minnow. Another was a slightly wounded but otherwise relatively healthy fish of the same species. The third was a healthy well-fed fish. The lesson plan said that the students should predict which of the three fish the pike would eat. Our group of teachers all agreed it would be the incapacitated minnow. For the next 30 minutes, we watched the pike tear up the aquarium trying to get the healthy minnow and avoiding the two wounded fish. We teachers debated as to why that happened, but the aquarium workers said it was frequently the case.
Humans are unique because we are created in the image of God. That allows us to do things that reflect that unique makeup. When we interpret animal behavior in human terms, we are guilty of anthropomorphism.
Any Christian reading the newspaper or watching TV has to be disturbed by the volume of hate coming from politicians, entertainers and media people, as well as extreme special interest groups of all kinds. There are even groups formed to oppose hate that are spreading their own hatred. What should concern Christians is that some of these groups have turned out to be as extreme as the hate groups they are allegedly opposing. We are even seeing anti-hate groups attack the Bible.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Citizens for Transparency have both posted materials attacking the Bible and those who promote the teachings of the Bible. A primary target of these particular groups has been the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). As we posted before, the ADF defends people like Jack Phillips the Colorado baker who refused to create a cake for a same-sex wedding. ADF also believes in the biblical concept of marriage between a man and a woman, which the SPLC and Citizens for Transparency label as being “a hate message.”
The SPLC and Citizens for Transparency are well funded and recently placed a huge billboard attacking the ADF on Times Square. Teaching Bible morals and the principles God has established for us to live by is not hate. Concerning their attitude toward those who promote biblical principles, the SPLC has stated that their goal is to “say plainly that they aim to destroy these groups.” If teaching God’s word is accepted as hate then every Church that preaches the moral teachings of the Bible is vulnerable.
Rational human beings cannot read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 – 7 and construe what Jesus said as hate. It is true that the way you say things is as important as what you say, but we need to be careful not to stand by as anti-hate groups attack the Bible. We cannot support them as they use the current battle over hate to condemn the Bible and promote atheism.