Blood Moon and Shooting Stars

Blood Moon and Shooting Stars

On the morning of November 8, you will have a chance to see a total lunar eclipse, also known as a “blood moon.” At the same, you may also see a display of “shooting stars.”

A full moon occurs every 29.5 days as our planet comes between the Moon and the Sun. A couple of times per year, the alignment is precise enough that some part of Earth’s shadow falls on the Moon. If the outer area of the shadow crosses the Moon, we see a slight darkening of the Moon’s light. If the full shadow covers only a portion of the Moon, we see a partial eclipse looking as if someone has taken a bite out of the Moon. However, we will see the more dramatic total lunar eclipse this time.

When the eclipse reaches totality, the Moon will take on an orange or reddish glow. That is why people call it a “blood moon.” That color is because the small amount of sunlight reaching the Moon’s surface is the glow of sunrise and sunset all around the world. Our atmosphere bends and filters the light, blocking the blue light and focusing the lower-frequency reds and yellows on the Moon. We see that reflected back to us, this time for about 85 minutes.

You can enjoy a double treat if the sky is clear and the weather is not too cold. This is also the time for the annual Taurid meteor shower. The annual Taurid “shooting stars” are actually fragments of the comet Encke which burn up from the friction of Earth’s atmosphere. They are primarily tiny sand-grain-size pieces of rock that appear as streaks of light. However, some may be a little larger, looking like fireballs. The Taurids generally move more slowly and are often larger than the meteorites of other annual meteor showers. But, they may be fewer and farther between, with perhaps five to fifteen per hour visible in very dark skies.

The problem this year is that the peak of the Taurids is during the full Moon. The bright Moon always makes it difficult to see the much dimmer meteor showers. However, the 85 minutes of the total lunar eclipse creates an ideal window to look for the meteorites. So you can enjoy the “blood moon” and the “shooting stars” at the same time.

So, how and when can you see them? The total eclipse phase will begin on the morning of November 8 at 5:17 a.m. and end at 6:42 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The partial eclipse will start and end about half an hour before and after those times. The faint penumbral phase will begin and end about an hour before and after the partial eclipse times. To see the Taurids, plan on being where you can see a clear view of the whole sky during the total eclipse phase. If you miss this total lunar eclipse, the next one will not occur until March 14, 2025.

Romans 1:20 tells us that we can know there is a God by observing the things He has made. What do the lunar eclipse and the Taurid meteor shower tell us about God? They are not omens of world events. They tell us that the creation is not chaotic but predictable. We live in a solar “system” in which we can accurately predict the movement of planets and moons and calculate what is going to happen and when–even to the exact minute. God has given us an orderly universe that we can study to learn about His power and wisdom. He has also given us His written word, which we can study to learn about His love and find the instructions for how to enjoy the gifts He wants to give us.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

References: TimeandDate.com on their website or YouTube channel and NASA HERE, HERE, and HERE

The Gifts God Offers for Free

The Gifts God Offers for Free

We live in an age of skepticism about religion in general and specifically about the “church.” There are many churches in America, and their messages frequently contradict one another. At the same time, we are inundated with vast numbers of messages about attractive alternatives to the Church. The word “church” is “ekklesia” in the original language, and it means “the called out.” It does not refer to any denomination or human-made religious body. It refers to individuals who reject the alternatives the world has to offer. The biblical teachings about the “called out” cannot be improved upon, and neither can the gifts God offers to us. Here are some that specifically deal with finding the best life possible.

The word of God cannot be improved. The Bible has been tested over the centuries, primarily by people who were trying to prove it wrong. Having been one of those people, I can testify to the futility of that attempt. As 2 Peter 1: 16-21 tells us, the Bible is not a bunch of fables. It contains prophecies that can be confirmed. The Bible includes just enough history to verify its integrity and just enough science to show it is beyond human knowledge for its day. The philosophy of the biblical narrative has proven to lead to a high quality of life, mentally and spiritually. The problems come with what Peter calls “private interpretations” and when humans try to find a way to make money with it instead of just letting it guide their lives.

God’s instructions on how to live cannot be improved. Take the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5:21 through chapter 6 and think about what kind of world it would be if everyone lived by those teachings. As you read those verses, you will see that this wisdom contradicts what you hear from politicians and secularists. Next, read Galatians 5:19-23 and think about what has caused the misery we see in the world around us. The gifts God offers are free, and all alternatives to God’s instructions fail.

God’s instructions for salvation make sense. Being lost means a relationship has been severed–be it a marriage, a business, or a life. All the pop psychology in the world won’t repair relationships because it has no power. God created us pure, but the world corrupts us, rupturing our relationship with Him. Repairing that relationship is beyond all human efforts. God knows how to restore us (2 Peter 2:9), and Romans 6 tells us how to become a new person with God’s Spirit living in us. This is the ultimate gift of God because it is eternal. Go to a quiet place and allow yourself to think about the gifts God offers. Accepting God’s gifts and living life God’s way works, and it’s the ultimate solution to the human dilemma.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Diving Bell Spiders Breathing Underwater

Diving Bell Spider Breathing Underwater

In freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers in Europe and Asia, a spider spends virtually its entire life below water, catching prey, mating, laying eggs, resting, and overwintering. Called diving bell spiders or simply water spiders (Argyroneta aquatica), they are the only spiders that breathe air underwater.

Diving bell spiders have a very dense layer of hydrophobic (water-repelling) hairs on their abdomen and legs that they use to hold a bubble of air. They create a “diving bell” by spinning an underwater web to hold the air bubble. The web is made of silk and a specially-designed and unknown protein-based hydrogel. They spin these sheets between submerged water plants and inflate them with the air held by the spider’s hydrophobic hairs. The silk is waterproof but porous enough to allow gas exchange with the surrounding water. There is a net diffusion of oxygen into the bell and a net diffusion of carbon dioxide out.

Nitrogen escapes from the bell as this process continues, so the bubble size decreases, and the spider has to bring new air in periodically to retain the bubble’s size. However, this system is so efficient that they may not have to add air for more than a day. By being underwater their whole life, diving bell spiders have only frogs and fish as their predators. They play an ecological role in the water body by eating aquatic crustaceans and insects such as mosquito larvae.

God has designed many different systems to allow balance in nature. When humans upset the balance, we create problems. The more we study the less visited areas of planet Earth, the more examples we find of unique life forms. We also find ways of copying God’s designs to create new materials and new ways to improve our living conditions.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Science News, July 2, 2011, page 14, and wikipedia.

Legalizing Assisted Suicide in the Netherlands

Legalizing Assisted Suicide in the Netherlands

The Netherlands has been a trailblazer in legalizing abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia. For many years, that country has had a euthanasia law that allows doctors to actively kill a patient with an injection of drugs. It is supposed to be done only under strict conditions, but some cases have resulted in criminal actions. Now a group has filed a suit to force the Dutch government into legalizing assisted suicide.

The group called Cooperative Last Will, which claims 30,000 members, brought the suit. They want to legalize assisted dying, in which patients are provided with a lethal substance they take themselves. Lawyers have presented their arguments both for and against assisted dying, and the Hague District Court will render a decision on December 14.

From a purely secular standpoint, there are obvious problems with this issue. There are times in life when you hit rock bottom, and dying can look pretty good. Taking your life might make sense if you believe you are an animal with no more value than any other animal. However, people thinking of taking their own life are not considering what their death does to those who love them, to material possessions, or their obligations to society.

The Christian view of life and the physical body is explained in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17. It tells us that the body is the temple of the Spirit and expresses God’s displeasure with anyone destroying it. I have been with several Christians when they died. Their expressions of love, forgiveness, sharing, and caring have impacted the lives of their family and friends. In some cases, the actions or words of one who was dying have changed the lives of others.

Assisted dying is a selfish, cowardly, atheistic choice by someone who may be influenced by any number of destructive agents. We need to work toward ending our lives in a positive way that expresses our love and the care that we have for others. Doctors need to work on relieving pain, not finding ways to terminate a life. Legalizing assisted suicide to allow distressed individuals to end their lives is filled with problems.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Mike Corder in an Associated Press article for October 11, 2022. Featured in the South Bend Tribune for that date on page 6A.

Marvels of Engineering in Nature

Marvels of Engineering in Nature - Honeycomb

In the creation, we see many patterns that are marvels of engineering. You might not think that shape of a structure is vital to the survival of living things, but it is. As we look more and more carefully at the design of natural things, the evidence shows us that they are not products of blind chance but designed for a purpose.

Considering materials science, the honeycomb design is an excellent place to start. The magnificent honeycomb design uses hexagons stacked into a lattice. Does that make a difference? The answer is a very strong “yes.” The honeycomb must hold a very heavy and dense liquid requiring careful weight distribution. If you designed a honeycomb in a rectangle or triangle pattern, the weight would be on the bottom of the holder, causing it to collapse. In the hexagon design, the weight is distributed in three directions, reducing stress on the bottom.

We see this hexagonal pattern in many areas in the natural world, such as columnar basalt in the structure called Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. As the original molten mass cooled, it contracted, and the structure’s shape relieved the gravity forces.

Using a scanning electron microscope, scientists studied common sea urchins (Paracentrotus lividus). They found that the point where their spines attach, called tubercules, have a mathematical pattern of polygons called a Voronoi pattern. The tubercules must withstand strong forces, and the Voronoi pattern provides strength in a lightweight skeletal structure. This pattern gives maximum strength to organic structures that must withstand significant stresses.

Researchers say this design allows sea urchins to withstand predator attacks and environmental stresses. Besides bees and sea urchins, dragonflies also benefit from Voronoi patterns. The scientists studying these marvels of engineering hope that they will “inspire new developments in materials science, aerospace, architecture, and construction.” We can learn much by studying the designs God has used in creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: Science News for September 10, 2022, page 32, and Journal of the Royal Society Interface

Ants Are Essential for Life on Earth

Ants Are Essential for Life on Earth

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise.” That biblical injunction from Proverbs 6:6 was written to motivate the lazy and idle person to get busy. The fact is that ants are among the most important life forms God created, and scientists are finding more evidence that ants are essential for life on Earth. 

Over 20 quadrillion ants are living on this planet. That’s 20, followed by 15 zeroes. When you add up the total weight of the carbon in those 20 quadrillion ants, you get about 12 million tons. That is more than the combined mass of wild birds and mammals, or about 20% of the total weight of all humans. 

Scientists have studied and named more than 15,700 species and subspecies of ants, and their research is adding more to that number each year. Ant chemistry is vital to the existence of all kinds of life. For example, in my army survival training, they taught us to eat ants. 

Many people think of ants as pests that serve no purpose but to irritate us and bring problems into our homes. By contrast, research has shown that ants provide a massive service to humans, and we could not survive on planet Earth without them. For example, consider these roles that ants play:

  1. Ants aerate the soil, disperse the seeds of many plants, and break down organic material, enriching the soil and enhancing plant growth.
  2. Ants create a habitat for other animals and provide an essential part of the food chain for mammals and birds. Also, many birds rely on ants to flush out their prey.
  3. Ants are predators that keep populations of other insects in check. They are more effective than pesticides in helping farmers produce food. Ants eat many worms, caterpillars, and insects that eat our crops and leave no destructive chemicals as pesticides do.

Like much of what God created for our benefit, ants help us in many ways we overlook. Managing God’s gifts requires protecting life forms, including ants. Ants are essential for life on Earth. Remembering the verse from Proverbs, we need to “consider the ant” in more ways than one.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Our thanks to David Harrington who brought us this research report from “The Conversation”

Cannibalism in Animals and Human Cannibalism

Cannibalism in Animals and Human Cannibalism

Many things separate humans from all other animal life on Earth. One difference involves cannibalism. Scientific research has shown the extent of cannibalism in animals. In the wild, there are countless examples of animals eating their own offspring, the offspring of others, or even a mate. Cannibalism is an easy way to get food, and among predators, nearly all animals who are carnivores sometimes practice cannibalism.

Population density is a significant factor leading to cannibalism in animals. Also, a sick animal unable to get food in the usual way will frequently resort to cannibalism. Some animals will eat other animals’ young to avoid their offspring having to compete for food. Animals such as bears and lions will kill and eat their offspring to stimulate the females into early estrus. Many reproductive issues are involved in animal cannibalism.

Why do some tribal groups practice human cannibalism? The answer is almost never because of food shortages which often lead to cannibalism in animals. However, there is one biblical case where hunger led to cannibalism. Second Kings 6:24-29 tells about a war that caused famine in Samaria, leading two women to agree that they would boil their two sons and eat them. The first woman’s son was cooked and eaten, but the second woman hid her son. The response of the King when he hears of this shows that it was not an accepted practice.

There are cases where people in extreme duress have eaten human flesh. However, human cannibalism practiced in jungle civilizations involves religious reasons, not the desire for humans as food. Instead, they would eat an enemy’s brain to gain their knowledge or their body to gain their strength.

It isn’t just our culture that finds human cannibalism repulsive. Christianity teaches that the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Our Christian heritage has taught us that human life and the temple in which it resides are special and sacred.

Jesus told His followers to love their enemies. The Greek word “love” here is “agape,” which means “to consider of enormous value.” Our enemies are still unique with eternal souls, making them of incredible worth. This is far from the atheist philosophy of “survival of the fittest.” Killing a human is contrary to all that Jesus uniquely taught. As society drifts away from Christ and His teachings, spiritual cannibalism takes over, leading to war, suffering, and perhaps even physical cannibalism.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Scientific American November 2022, page 19

End-of-Year Holidays

End-of-Year Holidays - Halloween

One interesting part of this ministry is the wide assortment of emails and postal letters we receive. We average about 1000 per week, which come from every corner of the globe and express every viewpoint you can imagine. So, for example, we get many letters complaining about the end-of-year holidays and the decadent origin of many of them.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are the major end-of-year holidays, and someone will find things to dislike about their origins or practices. Halloween leads all the others with people citing complaints about everything from destructive spirits to human sacrifice. So, should we avoid trick or treat, carving faces on pumpkins, costumes, orange and black decorations, telling ghost stories, or games like Dungeons and Dragons?

The origin of Halloween goes back to ancient days in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales when the people celebrated the end of harvest. They had feasts, games, bobbing for apples, and thanking God for a successful harvest. The Roman Catholic Church added a time of remembering those who had died with special memorials for past family members. This was a positive thing that brought people together.

Years later, the Catholic Church tradition added the doctrine of purgatory. In many European countries, people held graveside services to atone for sins that family members committed before they died. This included leaving food, articles of clothing, or things that were special to the deceased by the graves. When some of these items disappeared, people assumed that somehow the dead had found a way to enjoy them. This led to fantastic stories about meeting these characters at night. Human imagination ran wild, and skeptics made fun of this practice and invented ways to profit from the stories created by people’s imaginations.

People today still invent wild stories, and the entertainment industry has taken advantage of that in films, plays, TV shows, and books. What began as a celebration of God’s blessings evolved into a memorial for those who had died and then became a tool for those who would exploit the uneducated for economic gain.

Taking advantage of people through trickery is nothing new. We read in the Bible about a man named Simon who used magic as a tool to exploit people ( Acts 8:9-11). In 1 Samuel 28:8–25, we find the story of Saul and the “Witch of Endor” seeking to bring up the spirit of Samuel. God commanded His people to avoid witchcraft of any kind. A miracle of God allows Samuel to actually show up, and the witch screams in terror, realizing that God has acted because she knows her scam is worthless. Bringing people back from the dead in today’s world is also a scam.

We have chosen just one of the end-of-year holidays as an example. Is carving a pumpkin or putting up Halloween decorations endorsing something evil? Of course not! Does evil exist? It absolutely does, but God is in control, and for Christians, evil cannot overtake us if we resist it. The Bible tells us to resist Satan, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). Halloween is a great time to learn and help dispel the claims of charlatans and con artists as they strive to fleece the ignorant and uneducated. So enjoy the end-of-year holidays and use them to teach others about what really matters in life–following the teachings of Christ as our guide to successful living.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

God’s Original Equipment Is Better Than What Humans Make

God’s Original Equipment Is Better Than What Humans Make

One of the things I have learned about my body is that God’s original equipment is better than what humans make. The dental equipment that various dentists have put into my mouth has usually lasted only about 20 years, but I still have some of my original teeth. My eyes are starting to show aging after working well for years, but I go through glasses at an alarming rate. Trifocals don’t work as well as the eyes I had as a teenager.

The desire to put off children until later in life to pursue a career has caused many couples to freeze embryos for later in vitro fertilization. In Scandanavia, 78,000 human embryos have been frozen, and 18,000 pregnancies have resulted from in vitro fertilization. Studies show that 74% of the mothers who used IVF suffered from high blood pressure, while only 4.3% of women had blood pressure problems with natural childbirth.

High blood pressure is dangerous in pregnancy because it can lead to preeclampsia which can cause complications for both the mother and child. This has implications for the abortion issue and family planning organizations. The bottom line is that women must decide what is most important in their lives. God has given them the ability to have a baby, and God’s original equipment is better than what humans make. Having a child is a choice a woman should make, but babies should not be an afterthought.

The financial stresses on families may force women to make hard decisions. Still, human interference with the original design of the reproductive process causes significant problems for families, women, and babies. Which is more important, having a high-level career or raising a child? Trying to do both and doing them successfully is a daunting challenge.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: CNN.com and The Week for 10/14/22, page 22

Little Aborted Souls in Heaven

Little Aborted Souls in Heaven

An article by S.M. Hutchens in Touchstone magazine raised the question of what the Redeemer will do with “those little aborted souls … in heaven.” A skeptic recently suggested to me, “If we believe the Bible, Christians should support abortion because those aborted babies automatically go to heaven.” Both of these views miss the point. There will be no such thing as “little aborted souls” in heaven.

When we die, we leave all of our physical existence behind. At the end of time, the physical world will be dissolved and turned back into the form from which it came. (See 2 Peter 3:10-18.) Einstein’s famous equation e = mc2 tells us that mass and energy are really the same thing, and quantum mechanics continues to support that concept. In 1 John 1:5 we read, “God is light.” Light is energy, and the idea is that God took some of His own nature and turned it into matter. That was the start of the creation process.

Revelation 21 tells us that in heaven, we will be free of every negative thing that afflicted us here on Earth. There will be no death, pain, or suffering. As verse 5 says, all things will be made new. Christ will bring all of us who are His into this new existence, including those babies who were killed before they could draw a breath.

The skeptic then says that we should rejoice that these “little aborted souls” are now with God and will never have to experience the trauma of life. That might sound like a reasonable argument, except for something that atheists can never deal with. It is the question of purpose. What is our purpose—why are we here? There is a joke about the skeptic who says to God at the judgment, “Why didn’t you put a stop to COVID?” God responds by saying, “I did, and you aborted it.” That really is more than a joke. It raises a key point in this discussion.

The Bible makes it clear that God had and continues to have a purpose in the creation and a purpose for each of us. We are not just accidents. Ephesians 6:12 and 3:10, as well as the Book of Job, show us that there is a war between good and evil, and we are on the battlefield. Atheists may try to deny this by saying evil doesn’t exist, but that is an irrational view.

Everyone was created with talents and abilities to do something in the battle with the spiritual forces described in Ephesians. Unfortunately, many refuse to participate and end up with lives full of frustration and no direction. Aborted babies never have a chance to do what God created them to do. Those of us who find our niche realize that God put us here for a reason. In that, we find contentment and value in life as we fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “L’Chaim!” in the column “Mortal Remains” by S.M. Hutchens in the November/December 2022 issue of Touchstone magazine