The Cords of Orion – What Are They?

Orion Nebula
Orion Nebula – NASA
cords of Orion

In the book of Job, God asks the character Job, “Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons?” What are the cords of Orion?

Since ancient times, people imagined that the asterism in the Orion constellation resembles a hunter holding a sword. The sword appears to consist of three stars. However, if you look closely, you can see that the central star is a little “fuzzy.” With a telescope, you can see that it’s not a star, but a nebula.

The picture of the Orion Nebula was taken by NASA’s Hubble space telescope. Nebulae are star factories, where clouds of dust and gas are collapsing to form stars. At “only” 1344 light-years from Earth, Orion is our closest star factory. Astronomers have observed about 700 stars in various stages of formation in the Orion Nebula.

There are many more nebulae where stars are being made today, as they have been since the universe began. These star factories are responsible for creating the billions of stars in our Milky Way galaxy and beyond. They show that God is not a magician who pulls a universe out of his sleeve. God is an engineer who has designed an amazing system that makes possible everything we can see, and much more that we can’t see.

As we look at the cords of Orion, here is something to consider. God, who is outside of time, created a star factory in time, which then generated a star we call the Sun. Then He provided a home for us on the third planet from that star where we can look up and see star factories, like the Orion Nebula, at work.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Suicide is the Other Pandemic

Suicide is the Other Pandemic

We hear all the talk about “flattening the curve” concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. There is another pandemic without a direct viral cause, and the curve of that pandemic keeps getting steeper. Suicide is the other pandemic.

Since 1999 the suicide rate in the United States has risen over 33%. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in the U. S. among people ages 10 to 34. Males have a higher suicide rate than females, and both show a rate increase of over 2% a year. The Center for Disease Control tells us that among young people between the ages of 10 and 19, suicide attempts increased 8% every year between 2006 and 2015.

The experts are giving all kinds of explanations for why this is happening. Some blame the use of digital devices, with cyberbullying being a significant factor. Research shows that there is a one-to-one connection between unemployment and suicide rates, and the collapse of the economy in the COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive unemployment.

We would suggest that the growth of atheism and the rejection of God is a major factor of why suicide is the other pandemic. Christianity teaches that the body is the dwelling place of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and the description of the judgment in Matthew 25:34-39 make it clear that Jesus expects his followers to use our lives in a productive way. In Philippians 1:21-26, Paul made it clear that he wanted to leave this life and go and be with Christ, but he knew God wanted him to help address the problems of the Church and humanity.

If I base my life’s decisions on being the most fit and realize that I have no hope of ever being the fittest, ending this life seems like the logical thing to do. Atheism and agnosticism offer no motivation to continue living. If I know I cannot find pleasure as I once did and the future looks bleak, why would I want to continue to live? Life has no ultimate purpose without God, and suicide is a way out.

Job’s wife told him to curse God and die (Job 2:9). If you do not have a purpose in life, that option can look very attractive. When you read Job 42:1-6, you see Job coming to a full understanding. He realized that he is part of something so grand and powerful that he can only vaguely understand it. We, too, may not fully understand what God is doing through our lives, but destroying ourselves so that God can’t use us is a huge mistake with catastrophic results. (See 1 Corinthians 3:11-23.)

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Scientific American, August 2020, page 23.

Remaking God in Our Image

Remaking God in Our Image

Someone asked me, “Why did God do it that way? My only reply was, “I don’t know. I would not have done it that way. I guess you’ll have to ask God.” Why is it that we want God to do things the way we would do them? Are we remaking God in our image?

One of the objections that people have to God’s existence is that they think a loving and omnipotent God would do things differently. Why does God allow suffering? Why did God create viruses? Why didn’t God do a better job of designing (insert anything here)? Like Job in the Old Testament, we think we are smarter than God, and we want to tell Him how to do things. God set Job straight by giving him some challenges such as: “Do you know how to make (insert item here)?” – “Where were you when I did (this thing)?” – “Do you know how (this works)?” Job suddenly realized that he didn’t know everything. He was not as smart as the thought he was.

I could list several things right now that I think God should have done differently. But, before I do that, I have to look at my own failures and weaknesses. I have to look at times when things didn’t work out the way I planned, and I am thankful they didn’t. Small changes in my life’s circumstances would have led me in a completely different direction. God knew what was going to happen. He knew what was best. I can only be thankful that God has not allowed me to remake Him in my image.

We are created in the image of God, but sometimes we become guilty of remaking God in our image. Can we fully understand God and why He does things the way He does? Absolutely not! Can we trust Him to do things right? Absolutely yes! J. I. Packer, the late Bible scholar and author of Knowing God, was interviewed at age 89 after losing sight from macular degeneration. When asked how he felt about no longer being able to read, write, and teach, he replied, “God knows what He’s doing,…this comes as a clear indication from headquarters. And I take it from Him.”

We need to stop remaking God in our image and simply trust God to be God. He knows what He’s doing.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Amazing Spring Timing

Amazing Spring Timing and Daffodils

One of the things you hear people in our part of Michigan say is, “If you don’t like our weather, hang on for a few minutes, and it will change.” We have had a strange winter season. We had brutal temperatures, wind, and snow in early December, leading all of us to think it was going to be a terrible winter. As we got near the holidays, the weather became unseasonably warm. We waited anxiously for another blizzard like the ones we usually have after a warm spell in winter. It never happened. Now we see the amazing spring timing.

It was so warm in the winter that I worried about the glad bulbs I had dug up. I put them in buckets covered with moist newspaper and stored them in the garage for spring replanting. I was afraid they would leaf-out responding to temperature, but they seemed to be okay and had not budded out at all. The weather did turn cold, but not the sub-zero stuff we usually have. Now we are in mid-April and, even though it snowed two days ago (and is snowing again today), winter is essentially over, and I used my snowblower only once.

So now I just got the glad bulbs out of the bucket in the garage. They have been in an insulated, dark garage, covered with a foot of newspapers since I dug them up in October. Every single bulb has a green shoot coming out. They are ready to be planted. How did they know it was time? The temperature in the garage didn’t change. No sunlight got into the bucket.

I have always assumed that my daffodils, which are blooming like crazy, used the presence of direct sunlight and perhaps temperature to know when to come up and prepare to boom. The glads had none of those indicators available to them. I am not suggesting that the amazing spring timing is some kind of mystic intelligence that tells the glads it is time to go. Whether it is ultraviolet light or infrared that signals the glads, it is a highly well-designed system.

Amazing spring timing is fascinating. The hummingbirds seem to know when to come north. The sandhill cranes are circling overhead as they fly ahead of the weather systems that might otherwise threaten them. The baby deer are around in such numbers that no amount of predation threatens to wipe out the deer population. That is thanks to the synchronized births that seem to take place in almost all wild ungulates.

When God decided to challenge Job, He used the things that show design wisdom in His creation to convict Job of his ignorance. Job 38:39- 41:34 finds God challenging Job to look around and see God’s wisdom and power at work. There is no better time to see that than in the amazing spring timing. Let us all step away from the ills of humanity and look at what God has done.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Science Confirmed Three Bible Statements

Science Confirmed Three Bible StatementsAt the beginning of the 20th century, there were three scientific “facts” that disagreed with the Bible. In a little more than 100 years, science confirmed three ancient Bible statements. The Bible was correct, and science had been wrong.

Until the early 1900s scientists believed that the universe was eternal and existing forever with no beginning. They also believed that on the large scale the universe was unchanging. Thirdly they believed that we would find subtle changes to the laws of physics if we could travel throughout the universe.

In contrast to what scientists believed, the Bible clearly says that there was a beginning to the universe. (See Genesis 1:1.) The Bible also says that the universe is dynamic as it was being “stretched out” by God. (See Job 9:8, Isaiah 40:22, 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 51:13, and Zechariah 12:1) Thirdly, through Jeremiah the prophet, God declared that His laws of the universe are unchanging. In fact, God used the unchanging nature of the physical laws as proof that He would keep his promises. (See Jeremiah 33:25-26.)

Things began to change for scientists when Albert Einstein issued his theory of special relativity in 1905 and then his general theory of relativity in 1915. Einstein showed that the laws of physics are constant and unchanging no matter where you are in the universe or how you are moving through the universe. His calculations also indicated that the universe is dynamic, either expanding or contracting. However, like other scientists of his day, he could not accept that idea. He added what you might call a “fudge factor” to his calculations to make it look like the universe was static. He later admitted that was the greatest mistake of his life.

A few years later in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble discovered that there were other galaxies out there and they are moving away from us. He also found that the farther away they are, the faster they are moving away. That means that the universe is expanding. It is not a static universe but one that is being “stretched out.”

There is another implication of Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe. Since the galaxies are moving away from each other, what would that mean if you could go back in time? At some earlier time, they were all in one place. In other words, the universe had a beginning, a singularity as scientists call it. Many scientists were not willing to accept the idea of a beginning. One of the reluctant scientists was Sir Fred Hoyle who jokingly referred to it as a “big bang” theory.

But in 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation which further confirmed that there was a big bang type of beginning. Space-based experiments finally confirmed it in the twenty-first century. Now, virtually all scientists accept the idea of a beginning.

So, thousands of years ago, the Bible stated that the laws of the universe are unchanging, that the universe is expanding, and that there was a beginning. Science has now recognized the truth of those statements. Science confirmed three Bible statements, but many scientists are still not ready to accept “In the beginning God created…”
— Roland Earnst © 2019

WHY Questions

WHY Questions
When talking to unbelievers, we often hear the WHY questions. “Why is there something instead of nothing?” “Why do bad things happen to us?” “Why does God allow …?” Seekers can’t answer the WHY questions by rejecting the existence of God, because atheism offers no answers at all. Even Christians struggle with the WHY questions when God doesn’t answer their prayers the way they think He should.

We can understand virtually all of the WHY if we look at God’s purpose in what He has done and what He is doing today. In Ephesians 3:8-11 we read:

“Unto me, who am less than the least of Christ’s People yet I was chosen for this special joy of telling the Gentiles the Glad News of the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make clear what is God’s way of working out that hidden purpose which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now to the Archangels and to all the Powers on high should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out through the Church in accordance with that purpose that runs through all ages and which He has now accomplished in Jesus Christ, our Master.”

If you believe that evil exists, and atheists like Richard Dawkins deny the existence of evil (see River Out of Eden, page 133), then you can easily understand why there is something instead of nothing. We are in a war between good and evil. It is all around us, and even modern science-fiction writers recognize the struggle and strive to show that good is superior to evil.

The book of Job gives us a picture of the struggle. After facing the challenge of his own suffering and criticism by the wise men of his day, Job finally hears from God. His response to God is, “I have uttered things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know…. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye has seen you, and I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3-6).

We have seen and are seeing how ugly evil can be. Humans treat each other with such malice that it is hard to comprehend. We can see the consequences of the selfish choices we make in everything from the effects of pollution to the destructive force of crime. Even though I don’t like the bad things that have happened in my life, I know there is a purpose in them. Some of those purposes I have already understood, and eventually, we will all understand.

The song “Farther Along,” which is in our hymn books, deals with the WHY questions. After describing all the injustices and pain we all see, the verse ends with: “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all by and by.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Science and Biblical Apologetics

Science and Biblical Apologetics
Every so often we get a negative comment from someone suggesting that this ministry is misdirected. We deal with science and biblical apologetics in an attempt to show that science and the Bible are friends and not enemies. The negative comments are, “You just have to believe” or “Any attempt to use human intelligence to build faith is an exercise in futility.”

Such a view is out of touch with the needs of people living in the twenty-first century, and it also contradicts what the Bible teaches. Jesus frequently used scientific knowledge as the basis of a parable. In Matthew 16:2-3 Christ uses the fact that people can look at the sky in the evening and the morning to forecast the weather. Much of Proverbs chapter 8 tells about the role of wisdom in the creation. Romans 1:18-22 speaks of learning from the design seen in everything around us. Psalms 19 tells us that God’s handiwork in the heavens declares His glory.

One of the most interesting apologetic teachings of the Bible is seen in Job’s statement to his friends in Job 12:2-13:
“And who does not know such things as these?… But now ask the beast, and let them teach you; and the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you; or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Does not the ear test words, as the palate tastes its food? Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding. With Him are wisdom and might, to Him belong counsel and understanding.”

In Job 38-41 God confronts Job concerning his complaints about his suffering. God begins with an apologetic discourse on the scientific answers to the creation of the world that we see around us. Job responds with a reflection on our limitations as humans: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things that are too wonderful for me to know… my ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you …” Job 42:3-6.

Science and biblical apologetics have been important in ancient times, and they are even more important today.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Orionid Meteor Shower

Orionid Meteor Shower
The Orionid meteor shower has just passed its peak for 2017. The “shooting stars” that are visible in this annual event are not stars, but they are comet debris.

Halley’s comet (1P/Halley) passes within sight of Earth about every 75 to 76 years. Like all comets, it leaves behind a trail of small rocks that have fallen away. Every year at this time Earth’s rotation around the Sun causes us to pass through that trail of debris. Comet pieces are pulled in by Earth’s gravity, and they burn up because of friction with our atmosphere. We see the streaks across the sky, and since they seem to come from the direction of the Orion constellation, we call it the Orionid meteor shower.

Two years ago I was able to “catch a falling star” on camera. You can see the one I caught streaking downward from Orion’s left foot. In case you have trouble seeing Orion, the hunter, I have added labels to the second picture.

I think Orion is interesting because God talks about it in Job 38:31. God finally speaks in answer to Job and his friends, and God asks Job a bunch of questions that Job can’t answer. Among those questions, “Can you loose the cords of Orion? Can you bring forth the constellations in their season?” In other words, “Can you untie the belt of Orion?” Of course, Job could not. Nor could he do any of the other things in the questions God asked of him in chapters 38 and 39. Only God can.

The point God was trying to get across to Job is that God is in control and we need to trust Him, even when we can’t understand why things don’t go the way we think they should. Job finally understood that and said, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3).

There are events in the world and in my life that make me wonder why God allows those things to happen. Orion reminds me that I am not in control, but God is. Like Job, I have to realize that there are things I just don’t understand. The Orionid meteor shower is a yearly reminder of that.
–Roland Earnst © 2017