Once In a Blue Moon

Once in a blue moon

You have probably heard the expression, “once in a blue moon.” People use that as a way of saying that something very rarely happens. For sky watchers, a blue moon has a different meaning. It refers to those times when a full moon occurs twice in the same month. That will happen tonight, Wednesday, August 30, 2023.

Although the “once in a blue moon” expression indicates something rare, astronomical blue moons are not all that rare. They occur on average four times per year, although they can happen as few as three times or as many as five times. The lunar cycle takes 29.5 days, so we usually have one full moon monthly. This year, we experienced a full moon on August 1, so we will see another one on August 31.

The “blue moon” title has nothing to do with its actual color. The Moon will appear white, yellow, or orange depending on its location and how much dust and other particles are in the air. If it is near the horizon, where its light has to travel through more of our atmospheric dust, it will appear white, yellow, or orange. High in the sky, it will look whiter unless there are perhaps pollutants, such as from wildfires.

In addition to being a blue moon, this full moon is also called a “super moon.” That is because it will be near its closest point to Earth. The Moon’s elliptical orbit averages nearly a quarter of a million miles from Earth. At the time of tonight’s full moon, it will be about 222,043 miles (357,344 km) from Earth. That means it will be the biggest and brightest full moon of 2023.

Despite people calling it a blue supermoon, it will not appear “blue,” and you may not think of it as incredibly “super.” It will be slightly bigger and brighter than other full moons this year, but you may not be extremely impressed. If you see it near the horizon, where it appears with buildings or trees, it will look more prominent compared to when you see it high in the empty sky. That is called the “moon illusion” and happens all the time, not just once in a blue moon.

So enjoy seeing tonight’s super blue moon, and thank God it’s there. Without it, we might not be here either. Our Moon is always “super,” as we have said many times. You can read more about that HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

God’s Temple Is Sacred

God’s Temple Is Sacred - God's Temple Is You

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that God’s Spirit has His home in you? If anybody desecrates the temple of God, God will bring them to ruin, for God’s temple is sacred to Him, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16 -17).

If you take the Bible seriously, you must understand that taking care of your body is essential to how you live. In this ministry, we have discouraged using alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and all recreational drugs because Jesus and Bible passages like this one teach us that God’s temple is sacred.

How does God “bring to ruin” those who do not take care of their bodies? Like most actions of God, it is not by God playing Zeus and throwing a lightning bolt at an offender. God simply removes His protective hand from those who insist on desecrating His temple. When God removes His protective hand, what happens? Look at the evidence in the latest numbers from the Center for Disease Control.

In 2022, the CDC says that 109,680 Americans died of overdoses, over 60% from synthetic opioids. Marijuana use and vaping have climbed to the highest levels ever seen. In the past year, 44% of young adults used marijuana, up from 28% a decade ago. Over 10% of young adults use cannabis every day. Binge drinking for middle-aged adults hit 29% in 2022. As of 2021, 61.2 million Americans age 12 and older have used illicit drugs.

We can see the result of this abuse in the increase in emergency room visits, the rate of accidents, broken homes, and the collateral damage to families. The numbers from the National Center for Drug Abuse are staggering. It is difficult for those of us working with young people and people with mental issues to do any quantitative analysis. Suffice it to say that the number of cases coming to us is much higher than at any previous time.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but are really greedy wolves. By their fruits, you will know them…” Matthew 7:15-16. The message of the Bible as to how we should live gives beauty and purpose to life and provides the best measure of good health. God’s temple is sacred, but even people who reject the teachings of Christ can’t deny the destructive consequences of following the teachings of modern secular prophets.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Tragic Fires of Lahaina

Maui Map
The Tragic Fires of Lahaina Destroyed the Storefronts
Lahaina storefronts before the fire
The tragic fires of Lahaina destroyed the train station
Lahaina train station before the fire

Those who have not been to Maui may be unable to comprehend the tragic fires of Lahaina and what happened there. I lectured on Maui several times, visited Lahaina, and even lived in the area for a short time in Kehei. Knowing the area, I can understand the conditions leading to the wildfire that destroyed the town and killed so many people.

Maui is a beautiful island. There are two huge mountains and two primary sections of the island. Haleakala is a popular tourist area with a road to Hana on the east side of a volcanic mountain where there are many gardens and lush vegetation. The other side is a barren area of relatively recent lava flows.

On the island’s northern side, a mountain area known as Kahakuloa has an observatory at the top. Lahaina is located on the west side of this mountain. I worked with a church on the east side of Haleakala, a wet area with lush vegetation. Between these two mountains is a relatively flat area with the villages of Waikapu and Pounene and the main shopping area for locals and tourists.

Unlike Haleakala, Kahakuloa has weathered igneous rock on its west side, which has led to soil capable of supporting crops, primarily sugar cane. When we were there, the growers used fire to remove the processed sugar cane. The area was very dry, with a vast cattle ranch and people living in open houses and sheds because rain was infrequent.

What we have described here is a classic example of a rain shadow. Moist air moves up the sides of the two mountains, and as it cools, it drops its water as rain. All the moisture is gone by the time it gets to the top of the mountains. As a result, very dry air goes over the mountain and cascades down the other side, creating desert-like conditions. This is not an area to attract tourists, but with irrigation, it’s a productive agricultural area.

A fire on the mountain’s east side would not spread since lush green trees and grass do not burn easily. On the mountain’s west side, any dead cane, grass, or bushes would be great tinder. People must plan for climate changes, avoiding towns where drought conditions can produce the tragic fires of Lahaina.

Agriculture must use places to plant crops based on understanding the movement of air and water. The tragic fires of Lahaina were not an act of God but the result of human mismanagement of what God has given us. The question is whether we will learn from our mistakes or repeat them.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

An Unnecessary War

An Unnecessary War- Dome of the Rock
Jerusalem Old City – Dome of the Rock – Flag of Israel

There are many causes of war in our world today. Territory, natural resources, politics, and racial issues are the primary ones. However, one of the oldest is the war over the Temple Mount or Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. This is an unnecessary war. 

Muslims know the Dome of the Rock as Haram al-Sharif. They regard it as hugely important, only exceeded by Mecca and Medina. To Jews, it is known as the Temple Mount, and the mosque standing there is an abomination that must be destroyed to make way for a new Jewish temple. 

The Dome of the Rock is a beautiful architectural wonder that National Geographic made the centerpiece in its September 2023 issue. Sheikh Omar Kiswani, the director of the 36-acre complex, is quoted as saying, “Any church or synagogue in the Holy Land is a place of peace, only here is it a war zone.” 

Complicating this picture even further is the action of various Christian denominations who view Christ’s second coming as a political event in which David’s throne will be re-instated and Christ’s enemies defeated in a military conflict. Like all groups involved in this issue, failing to understand God’s will fuels an unnecessary war. 

In Matthew 24, Jesus Christ talks about the future, warning His listeners that there will be wars and rumors of wars. He said, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom,” and warned about natural disasters. When Pilate asked Jesus about His kingdom, Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Over and over in His ministry, Jesus taught that He came to establish a spiritual kingdom and not a physical one.

The history of the Israelite nation is replete with rejecting God’s instructions and suffering the consequences. The ultimate result, predicted in Daniel and Revelation, was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. In John 4:21-24 Jesus makes it clear that worshipping God in the future would not be confined to any physical place or structure. 

Jesus taught that church and state are separate entities. We see that in Matthew 22:21, where He said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesars and to God the things that are God’s.” The conflict over the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem is an unnecessary war resulting from failure to understand the message of Jesus. The world’s rejection of Jesus Christ and His spiritual message continues to cause war, heartbreak, poverty, and division. The only hope for peace is listening to the words of Christ and acting on what God has told us to do.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: National Geographic

The Problem of Homochirality

The Problem of Homochirality

Can life arise spontaneously from non-living chemicals? Scientists have spent many hours and vast amounts of research money attempting to prove it can. One of the many challenges they must solve is the problem of homochirality.

All the large molecules required to make a living cell are composed of building blocks that have mirror images. When you look in a mirror, you see a reversed image of yourself. The right hand appears to be on the left and vice versa. The right- and left-hand analogy is used when referring to the building blocks of life. Those building blocks come in either right or left-handed forms. We call that handedness “chirality” from the Greek word for hand. Homochirality means having the same handedness.

Life almost exclusively uses only one chirality. The amino acids that make up proteins are left-handed. Scientists are uncertain why, but they have to accept the fact that to build the proteins that RNA and DNA molecules require for life, you must have only left-handed amino acids.

In nature, amino acids are not homochiral. They come in a distribution of about 50/50 left and right, creating the problem of homochirality. For amino acids to form the building blocks of life, they would have to be homochiral. Scientists have yet to find a way to make that happen, even in the laboratory. They aren’t even sure why life requires it since the chemical properties of mirror-imaged compounds are the same for all practical purposes.

The problem of homochirality is one of the many obstacles that prevent non-living chemicals from coming together to form life without intervention by an intelligent force. Even the intelligence of our best scientists has not overcome those obstacles. I saved an Associated Press news release from 2007 titled, “Scientists Believe Artificial Life Will Be Possible in 3 to 10 Years.” We are well past that goal, and I suspect they are not much closer today. 

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Purpose in the Evolutionary Process

Purpose in the Evolutionary Process

Evolutionists such as Richard Dawkins tell us that life has no purpose and results from mindless, unguided evolution. That is the accepted doctrine of evolutionary biology. However, Dr. Gunter Bechly writing in the Evolution News website, reports on a review by Dr. Richard Buggs, giving some hope of at least one scientist finding purpose in the evolutionary process.

British plant biologist Richard Buggs wrote in Ecology & Evolution about a BBC science series called “Earth” in which the host, Dr. Chris Packham, made some very “non-Darwinian” statements suggesting purpose in the evolutionary process. Instead of viewing evolution as a natural process without purpose, Packham expresses it as an intentional process with direction.

Packham anthropomorphizes plants suggesting that they “have agency and intention.” He says they don’t “give up easily”; they “developed a new trick” and “were ready to start conquering the world.” He also points out something we have discussed on this site, that plants communicate with one another.

Packham finds purpose in the evolutionary process of plants. He suggests the greening of plants was not a purposeless, unintended process, but early photosynthesis was “something miraculous.” He describes the world as a “bountiful, blooming miracle” and the symbiosis between plants and fungi as “a match made in heaven.” The BBC promotes the series Packham hosts by saying, “Chris Packham tells the miraculous story of how plants turned Earth from a barren rock into a vibrant green world.”

In my graduate work at Notre Dame, an atheist taught our class on the historical development of planet Earth. He repeatedly pointed out that it takes enormous faith to believe that the complexities we see in Earth’s biological history leading to humans resulted from mindless chance processes. However, he justified his atheist faith by maintaining that given enough time, it could be possible.

Dr. Bechly concludes his article by saying he hopes this is “a new trend that would feel like a breath of fresh air amidst all the materialist and atheist propaganda in popular science media.” The current theories of how life developed on Earth by chance are so complicated and unlikely that evolution has become a faith for many. Finding purpose in the evolutionary process is a step toward recognizing that life is not an accident.

For over 50 years, we have said that evolution is a tool of God, designed to allow life to exist on a changing planet. God has indeed built into living things the capacity to change, so we have many varieties of dogs, cattle, grains, and fruit trees. Without this capacity for species to evolve and adapt, humans would have long ago run out of food.

With the verified climate changes in Earth’s history, many global mass extinctions would have occurred. There is a vast difference between the fact of evolution and the neo-Darwinian theories of naturalism and macro-evolution. Many conflicts would be eliminated if both sides could admit to that fact.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “On the BBC, a New Openness to Teleology in Biology?” by Dr. Gunter Bechly In Evolution News and Science Today for August 2, 2023.

The Design of Mass Spawning

The Design of Mass Spawning
California Grunion Leuresthes tenuis

In Alaska, female moose have their calves at about the same time, so carnivores can’t eat them all, allowing enough survivors to maintain a healthy population. Many other animal species reproduce at the same time to overwhelm their predators. We see this survival method in the design of mass spawning of defenseless marine animals.

Palolo worms are an example of mass spawning. They live in tropical areas of the Pacific Ocean, including Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Indonesia, Vanuatu, and some islands of the Philippines. These worms spend their lives hiding in the crevices and cavities of coral reefs. An interesting event takes place in Samoa seven days after the first full moon in October. The heads of the palolo worms remain in the coral reef, but their tails break off and swim to the surface by the millions. Those tails are filled with sperm and egg cells that are released into the ocean.

Because there are literally millions of palolo tails, and the release of sperm and eggs happens so quickly, the survival rate is very high. Other marine animals feast on them, and Samoans gather them using nets and buckets. Considering them a delicacy, the Samoans eat them raw or cooked in various dishes. Despite the consumption by humans and natural predators, there are so many palolos at once that their population survives. Their only real threat is loss of the coral reefs.

Another example of the design of mass spawning is the grunions off the coast of California and Mexico. Millions of female grunions ride a wave along the coast and lay their eggs on the beach. The next big wave brings the males who fertilize the eggs. The fertilized eggs remain in the tidal zone where sea birds and some other fish eat them, but the sheer numbers ensure the species continues.

The design of mass spawning indicates planning and coordination. Evolutionary chance models involve too many assumptions to be the best explanation. God has provided many systems that allow life to survive, and it is up to humans to protect the living system for future generations.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: The Sirene Project and palolo and California grunion in Wikipedia

How Fast Are You Spinning?

How Fast Are You Spinning?

You may think you are sitting still as you read this, but you are actually moving at tremendous speeds in various directions. You are on planet Earth which is rotating on its axis. The planet is also orbiting around the Sun. More than that, our solar system is spiraling around the Milky Way. Yes, the Milky Way is also moving in relation to other galaxies. It’s enough to make your head spin but let’s just look at Earth’s rotation. How fast are you spinning?

Earth’s circumference at the equator is about 24,900 miles, and a day, the time when Earth makes one rotation, is 24 hours. Therefore, if you are on the equator, you are moving at about 1040 miles per hour. Where I am, on the same latitude as Chicago, I am spinning around at 773 miles per hour. That’s because the circle at that latitude is much smaller. Those who live in Anchorage, Alaska, are moving at a leisurely 504 miles per hour. How fast are you spinning if you are standing on the North Pole? I doubt if any of our readers are doing that, but if so, you are just spinning in the same place like a top every 24 hours. Try not to get dizzy.

This spinning of Earth creates centrifugal force, which works against the pull of gravity. At Earth’s present rotational speed, if you moved to the equator from the North Pole, you would weigh about one pound less. Not a very efficient way to lose weight.

What would happen if Earth’s spin increased by one mile per hour? Centrifugal force would raise the ocean’s water level at the equator by a few inches and lower it in the Arctic Ocean. More noticeable would be that geosynchronous communications satellites would be out of their proper positions disrupting GPS services, satellite communications, television broadcasting, and military operations. A ten percent increase in Earth’s rotational speed would make the days only 22 hours long. And you thought you were having trouble getting everything done now. How fast are you spinning, and is the whole universe and our place in it just an accident?

What’s the point of all this? We have often discussed the many things that make this planet suitable for advanced life. Abundant water, a just-right tilt of the axis, the right spin, and a just-right Moon to stabilize the spin and speed. Those are only a few of Earth’s remarkable features. It almost seems that it was designed for a purpose by an intelligent Designer who knew we were coming.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Love for One Another

Love for One Another

Jesus Christ brought many new concepts that could solve the world’s problems today. The most important thing is His emphasis on having love for one another. In today’s sex-saturated society, people have lost the true meaning of love. If you only understand “love” as “sex,” you miss the most essential meaning. The New Testament was written in Greek, which is far more helpful than our English translations in understanding what God wants us to know about love.

The Greek language has various words we translate as “love” in English. The Greek word for sexual love (“eros”) is not used in the New Testament. “Phileo,” referring to the love of a friend, is used 22 times. “Storge” refers to family love between spouses and siblings, parents and children. “Agape” is the most common New Testament word for love, used 196 times.

In classical Greek writings, “agape” was rarely used, yet it is the dominant word for love used by Jesus and the New Testament writers. The Bible dictionary says, “Agape is the highest and noblest form of love which sees something infinitely precious in its object.” That’s what it means to have love for one another.

The unique Christian concept of love offers the solution to most of the world’s problems. When Jesus tells His listeners to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), He urges them to consider all humans infinitely precious. If everyone would do that, all war would cease. In writing about marriage in Ephesians 5:28-33, Paul uses the word “agape,” not “eros,” when he refers to a man’s love for his wife. In verse 33, he repeats this admonition to men and combines it with the message to wives to respect their husbands.

The key to ending divorce, infidelity, racism, broken homes, abandoned children, and gender confusion is for everyone to “agape” all other humans. Jesus has given us the solutions to life’s biggest problems, and the wisdom of His teaching speaks of His divine nature. The best way to oppose selfishness, greed, abuse, prejudice, and conflict is to follow what Jesus told His followers: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love (agape) one another … by this shall all men know you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: The Eerdman’s Bible Dictionary, Eerdman Publishing, Grand Rapids.

Feathers – Complex Structures of Ingenuity

Feathers – Complex Structures of Ingenuity

We take many things for granted without realizing the complexity of their design. That is undoubtedly true of bird feathers. American biologist Thor Hanson correctly wrote that feathers are “complex structures of ingenuity that defy the most advanced human technologies.”

Feathers are made of keratin, which is a protein. They are connected to blood vessels like our hair is connected to our vascular system. Once a feather reaches its final stage, it is disconnected from the blood vessel that has nourished it, reducing the weight of the feather. When molting occurs, and old feathers are discarded, the vascular system is re-connected by tiny muscles surrounding the feather follicles to grow a new feather.

These same muscles allow a bird to move its feathers for various purposes. Feathers serve the bird by providing insulation, waterproofing, color, display, and flight. Birds accomplish each of these functions in remarkable ways. Peacocks can present colorful displays, but so can parrots, pheasants, and various tropical birds.

Feathers provide insulation by trapping air, which is a poor conductor of heat. Down feathers trap air efficiently while adding very little weight to the bird. This same feature gives waterfowl their buoyancy while giving them insulation. Birds preen their feathers by treating them with oil from a gland just above the bird’s tail. The tight interlocking barbules in a bird’s outer feathers make them impenetrable to water. Birds use down to produce an environment that allows eggs to hatch and to keep chicks safe. Modern technology can’t match the heat-to-weight ratio of feathers.

Flight is possible because each wing feather has the shape of an airfoil to provide lift and minimize drag. Since the feathers are flexible, they can move to reduce drag, and their tips are designed to minimize turbulence making smooth flight possible. They really are complex structures of ingenuity.

Color in bird feathers is accomplished in several ways. For some feathers, melanin gives color to the feather’s keratin, and the structure of keratin is such that the bird’s diet can control its color. A flamingo’s pink color comes from eating algae that have carotenoids in it. Rather than using pigments, many brightly-colored bird feathers use structural color produced by manipulating light waves to create blues, greens, and iridescent colors.

Considering the complex structures of ingenuity we know as bird feathers brings to mind Psalms 9:1, “I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will show forth all your marvelous works.” Feathers are among those marvelous works.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: For more amazing information about feathers, see Thor Hanson’s book Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle, published by Basic Books © 2011, and Noah Stryker’s book The Thing With Feathers, published by Riverhead Books © 2014.