Seeds Are Alive

Seeds Are AliveWhen you walk into the forest and look up at the trees, it’s easy to realize that all of those structures towering over your head are alive. What you may not think about is that their seeds under your feet are alive also.

Many trees produce seeds to grow new trees. There are maple seeds with their familiar “helicopter” method of blowing in the wind. There are cottonwood seeds that look like “summer snow.” Those seeds and others are carried far away by the wind.

Oak trees produce seeds we call acorns. They’re too heavy for the wind to scatter them, so that’s the job of squirrels. Squirrels gather acorns and store them to eat later. When later comes, the squirrels have often forgotten where they stored their treasure. Instead of being eaten, the acorns grow into new trees to produce more acorns. Both the trees and the squirrels benefit from that arrangement.

The seed of a coconut tree is the coconut. The wind can’t blow coconuts around, and squirrels can’t carry them. They often grow near water, such as a stream or an ocean. A coconut falling into the sea can float to an island thousands of miles away, where it can take root and grow. Cherry trees produce their fruit with a seed we often call a pit. Birds eat the cherries and drop the seeds over a wide area.

The key to a seed beginning to grow is the breaking of the shell surrounding it. Many things can cause that to happen, such as moisture, temperature, fire, mechanical abrasion, or a combination of methods. Some seeds have to travel through the digestive system of birds or animals for them to begin to grow into a new plant.

Most seeds wait a year before they start to grow. Cherry seeds can wait for hundreds of years. Scientists discovered a lotus seed (Nelumbo nucifer) in a bog in China. They cracked the shell and started it growing. When they carbon-dated the shell, they found that the seed had been waiting for 2,000 years to sprout into a lotus plant.

Seeds are alive, waiting in dormancy to grow into what God created them to be. The amazing quality of life shows design by intelligence, not chance.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Vibrant Christian Households

Vibrant Christian HouseholdsWhat are vibrant Christian households? The Barna Group is a research and polling organization which specializes in research related to faith and Christianity. They recently surveyed “spiritual vibrancy” within Christian households. The results are interesting.

The factors Barna looked for in Christian households were spiritual practices, spiritual conversations, and hospitality. Spiritual practices included praying and reading the Bible together. Spiritual conversations involved talking about God and faith among the household members. Hospitality refers to hosting non-family guests on a regular basis. They wanted to see how thoughtful, transformative faith can grow in families and be passed down through generations. The Barna Group defined households that practice these three areas as spiritually vibrant. That required spiritual practices every day or two, spiritual conversations every week, and hospitality several times a month.

Barna surveyed more than 2,300 households of practicing Christians “who say their faith is very important in their lives and have attended a worship service within the past month.” Of the active Christian households studied, only 25% were classified as Vibrant. The 33% of the households that exhibited spiritual practices and conversations, but not hospitality, were classified as Devotional. The 14% of households that practiced hospitality only were classified as Hospitable. That leaves 28% of the Christian households classified as Dormant.

This causes us to ask the question, “Which category would my household fit into?” Maybe more important is, “Which category do I want my household to fit into?” That leads to, “What can I do to make my Christian home more Vibrant?” It’s something to think about, and pray about, and talk to your family about. According to the Barna report, “spiritual vibrancy is not determined by unchangeable characteristics, but by things any Christian can improve.”

You can read more details about this survey and get some ideas for developing Vibrant Christian households on Barna’s website. Click HERE for more information.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Importance of Religion and Family Life

Importance of Religion and Family LifeThe Pew Research Center wanted to learn about global views on the importance of religion and family life, so they surveyed over 30,000 people in 27 countries. One set of questions presented was, “Does religion play a more or less important role today than it did 20 years ago, and is that good or bad?” A second query set was, “Are family ties stronger or weaker than they were 20 years ago, and is that good or bad?”

A large majority in most countries agreed on the two questions involving family ties. There is strong agreement that family ties are weakening and that it is a bad thing. Across the 27 countries, 58 percent said that family ties had weakened while 22% said there was no change and only 15% said they had strengthened.

There was less agreement concerning religion. A median 37% said that religion plays a less important role in their countries today, while 27% said it is more important. Interestingly, most of the people surveyed were NOT OPPOSED to religion playing a more important role in their countries. The most significant opposition to religion’s role seems to be in Europe with Sweden (51%), France (47%), and the Netherlands (45%). In the United States, only 18% are opposed to a more important role for religion in the nation. In Canada, the opposition is 29%.

The countries where the largest percentage of people said that family ties are strengthening are Indonesia and the Philippines. The countries where more people said that religion plays a more important role now than 20 years ago include the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria, and Indonesia. By far, the people of Indonesia said that religion plays a more important role now (83%). Indonesia is 87% Muslim, and Nigeria is evenly split between Christians and Muslims. Kenya is 83% Christian and the Philippines 90% Christian in the broadest sense.

Not surprisingly, in the United States, people who consider themselves to be somewhat or very conservative (to the right end of the political spectrum) are 42% more likely to favor more religious influence in the country than those who are liberal or left-leaning. That attitude is reflected in the positions taken in the current U.S. Political campaign.

For more details on this study of the importance of religion and family life, visit the Pew Research website HERE.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Mental Illness and Teen Euthanasia

Mental Illness and Teen Euthanasia
On June 2, 2019, a 17-year-old girl named Noa Pothoven starved herself to death. She had endured a long battle with mental illness resulting from multiple rapes at ages 11 and 14. It was her second attempt to end her life by starvation. Last year, medical personnel placed her in a medically induced coma and used a feeding tube to keep her alive. This time her parents respected her wishes and allowed her to die. This case brings up many issues about mental illness and teen euthanasia.

This incident took place in the Netherlands where assisted suicide is legal for troubled children as young as 12 “providing there is strong medical evidence that psychiatric conditions have made their lives ‘unbearable.’” It is wrong to assume that any human can get to a mental state that is 100% hopeless and that they cannot be helped by any treatment. Ms. Pothoven was very vocal about her pain and frustration. She wrote an autobiography titled Winning or Learning (Winnen of Leren in Dutch) to describe her anguish. She had 10,000 Instagram followers and shortly before her death she told them,“After years of fighting and fighting it is finished.”

There were numerous mistakes in the way people handled this young woman’s case. At age 11, she was raped at a school party where there should have been adult supervision. She was raped again by two men at a teen party at age 14. She was ashamed to tell her parents about the rapes, and she never reported them to the police. The trauma from those rapes resulted in periods of being housed in group homes and mental hospitals. She was turned away by a Dutch euthanasia clinic and she was on a waiting list for radical treatments such as shock therapy. Finally with the cooperation of her parents, she refused all food and drink and passed away at home.

By applying Christian love and principles of caring, people can be helped, even with conditions like this young woman. If Christian love and caring had been applied from the beginning, she would not have gotten into that condition. Human life is precious and sacred, and even severe conditions of physical or mental illness do not change that fact. Mental illness and teen euthanasia are serious matters and we hope that she does not set an example for her 10,000 Instagram followers.
— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2019

Reference: There are numerous reports of this incident on the internet. Just search for Noa Pothoven.

Sunspots and Earth’s Climate

Sunspots and Earth’s ClimateYesterday we mentioned sunspots and their potential effect on our planet. Sunspots are areas where the local magnetic field is thousands of times stronger than on the rest of the Sun’s surface. We know that sunspots adversely affect electric grids and orbiting satellites. There are unanswered questions about sunspots and Earth’s climate.

When sunspots occur, the stronger magnetic field constricts the hot plasma of the Sun, creating a somewhat cooler area. Why is it, then, that historically in times when sunspots are rare, Earth’s climate has become colder? Are sunspots the cause, or was it just a coincidence?

Scientists refer to the period from 1645 until 1715 as the Maunder Minimum, because sunspot activity was minimal. That also corresponds with the coldest years of what is sometimes called the Little Ice Age. It was not a true ice age, but the Northern Hemisphere experienced winters that were longer and colder than usual. European rivers froze, Vikings abandoned Greenland, and farmers in Norway lost farmland to advancing glaciers.

So the unanswered question concerns sunspots and Earth’s climate. Does the lack of sunspots cause lowered temperatures on Earth, or have past trends been coincidental? We don’t know, and science cannot find an explanation. Many scientists are predicting reduced sunspot activity in the coming years. Perhaps God is providing a way to counter-balance present concerns about global warming, but only God knows what the future holds.

It is interesting that the years 1643 to 1715 also mark the reign of Louis XIV of France, known as “Louis the Great.” He was also known as “the Sun King” because he chose the Sun as his symbol, and his subjects (or perhaps Louis himself) compared him to Apollo, the ancient Greek sun god. Louis the Great reigned for 72 years during the Maunder Minimum. But even the so-called Sun King could not control the Sun. Only the Creator of the Sun, Moon, and stars can do that, and only He knows if there is a connection between sunspots and Earth’s climate.
— Roland Earnst 2019

Jupiter Is in Opposition

Jupiter Is in OppositionJune 10, 2019, is an excellent time to observe the largest planet in our solar system. The reason is that Jupiter is in opposition to our Sun.

When astronomers say that Jupiter is in opposition, they mean that planet Earth is passing between the Sun and Jupiter. At this time, Jupiter will rise in the east as the Sun sets in the west, and it will set in the west as the Sun rises in the east. In other words, Jupiter will be visible all night long, and it will be at its highest point in the sky in the middle of the night.

The picture was taken by the JunoCam on NASA’s spacecraft Juno which is currently orbiting Jupiter. NASA posts the raw images online and encourages individuals to download and process them. Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill enhanced this one. You can find access to the raw images and see the work of other citizen scientists by clicking HERE.

When you see Jupiter in the sky tonight, it will not look like this picture, but it will be the brightest object in the sky. Jupiter is not a rocky planet like Earth. It’s a gas giant which if were 80 times more massive, would be hot enough to set off nuclear reactions in its core. Then it would be a star giving off its own light instead of just reflecting the Sun’s light. However, if you could lump all the other planets in our solar system together (including Earth), Jupiter would be 2.5 times more massive than them all.

Why do we need such a huge gas giant in the outer solar system? As we have said in previous posts, Jupiter is a comet sweeper. With its massive size and gravity, Jupiter protects us from objects such as comets coming from outside our solar system. In the 1990s, NASA observed Jupiter pulling apart and destroying comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. You can read about that in our previous post HERE. Jupiter also affects Earth’s climate cycles, which you can read about HERE.

Jupiter is in opposition about every 13 months. Last year opposition occurred in May. Next year it will be on July 14. If you miss seeing Jupiter tonight because of cloudy weather or any other reason, don’t despair. Jupiter will be closest to Earth on June 12, and it will continue to be visible, but right now it’s visible all night long.

While Jupiter is in opposition, or at any other time, look up and thank God that He has created such a marvelous and unique solar system to make life possible.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Why Does God Allow Suffering?Why does God allow suffering? That is one of the most common questions we hear. Many atheists who comment on our posts try to prove that God cannot exist because there is suffering in the world. They are assuming that if God existed, His purpose would be to give us happiness all the time. Since He doesn’t, that means God can’t possibly exist.

That mindset assumes that we are God’s pets, and His responsibility is to see that we don’t get hurt no matter what we do. There is no doubt that we do many foolish and hurtful things. So why do we think that God should be our servant to keep us always happy as if happiness is the primary goal of life?

However, if God does exist (as we believe He does), He should have a more important goal than taking care to always provide us with what we think we need to be happy. What happens if human parents bow to every whim of their children by always giving them what they want and expect? The result is a spoiled child. Sometimes after warnings to a child, the parent has to stand by and watch the child make bad decisions in the hope that they will learn from their mistakes.

What if the primary goal of human life is not happiness? What if the primary goal is to learn to know and trust God? It is that knowledge of and trust in God that will bring–if not continual happiness–true fulfillment and ultimately, everlasting fulfillment. Why does God allow suffering? Although the suffering in this world may be counterproductive to our happiness, it might help us to gain a deeper knowledge of God and dependence on His love.

We can’t explain suffering in all of its forms. Nobody can. We can’t see the ultimate purpose and outcome from where we stand, but God can. We can be reassured by knowing that God Himself is acquainted with suffering (Isaiah 53:3) and that He cares (John 11:35).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Synergy – Working Together

Synergy – Working TogetherThe word “synergy” comes from a Greek word meaning “working together.” We have often mentioned “symbiotic” relationships where living things work together in various ways. When non-biological forces work together with living things, we can call it synergy.

Synergy describes the relationship between plate tectonics and life on Earth working together. Plate tectonics involves plates of Earth’s crust moving in relation to each other. Plate tectonics is the force responsible for making continents and mountains and for causing volcanoes and earthquakes. Without photosynthetic life (plants), plate tectonics would have shut down because photosynthetic organisms provide energy for Earth’s geochemical cycles. Without plate tectonics, Earth’s crust would be a solid lid sealing vital nutrients and elements beneath the surface. The nutrients needed by plants would not be available. That means there would be no photosynthetic life.

Animals and humans depend on plants for food. The animals that don’t eat plants feed on the animals that do. It’s photosynthesis that removes the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releases oxygen. All animals need oxygen, and excess carbon dioxide would result in a greenhouse effect, heating the Earth and making life impossible.

The point is that plate tectonics requires photosynthetic life, and life requires plate tectonics. Therefore all forms of life on Earth require both photosynthesis and plate tectonics working together in the right balance to exist. Was this balanced synergy system merely accidental, or was it planned? We think it shows intelligent planning by a divine Engineer.

For a fuller explanation of this, we recommend Dr. Hugh Ross’s book Improbable Planet: How Earth Became Humanity’s Home.
— Rolnd Earnst © 2019

How The Sun Works

How The Sun WorksWe depend on the Sun every day to generate the energy that makes life on Earth possible, but have you considered how the Sun works?

The key to the Sun’s energy-supplying ability is a delicate balance between gravity and electromagnetism. Gravity curves space and pulls together all objects that have mass. The greater the mass, the greater the force of gravity. Right now gravity is pulling us toward the center of the Earth, but we are being held in place by the strength of the Earth’s crust and whatever floors or objects we have below us. The strength of the surfaces supporting us comes from electromagnetic forces between electrons and the protons in the nucleus of atoms. Those forces bond atoms of elements to each other forming compounds.

Since the Sun’s mass is more than a million times that of Earth, its gravity is more than a million times as great. The tremendous force in the core of the Sun overcomes the electromagnetic force and squeezes atoms of hydrogen tightly together igniting a thermonuclear reaction producing helium.

The creation of helium atoms releases high energy gamma-ray photons. If those gamma rays reached Earth, they would kill us. But the vast majority of them are transformed before they leave the surface of the Sun. On the way from the core to the surface they bounce off protons and electrons heating the hydrogen gas in the outer portion of the Sun. That heating increases the gas pressure enough to overcome the pull of gravity. Otherwise, the Sun would collapse on itself.

The bouncing of those gamma rays slows them so much that it takes hundreds of thousands of years for them to reach the Sun’s surface. If they could travel in a straight line, it would take only seconds, but they would emerge as deadly gamma rays that would reach the Earth in eight minutes, destroying all life. By the time those sterilizing gamma-ray photons reach the Sun’s surface, their energy has mainly been reduced to life-giving optical photons. There are still some dangerous rays that reach the Earth, but our atmosphere takes care of most of those.

That is a very simplified description of how the Sun works. Our Sun is a special star that provides the energy needed to sustain life on Earth without the high-energy rays that would destroy it. As you enjoy a beautiful sunset, you don’t have to know how the Sun works, but the Creator did. This finely-tuned system shows evidence of design by a Master Engineer, not a chance accident.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Death and Taxes

Death and TaxesYou have heard it said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. The truth is that only one of those things is certain. Not only will every one of us die, but every government that collects taxes will also die. It’s a scientific fact that all things, even the universe itself, will come to an end. There is no escaping death for everyone and everything.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us everything in the universe is becoming disordered. The disorder will eventually catch up with us and with everything else. Our vehicles wear out. Our clothing wears out. Our bodies wear out. Even the Sun and all of the other stars will wear out.

If you spend your life getting all you can for yourself, not caring whom you hurt in the process, you will not take your riches with you. If you spend your life doing good and helping others, those you helped will also die, and the monuments you built will crumble. If you devote your life to studying science and adding to the database of human knowledge, that too will go away. If all things in the universe, including humans, are merely accidents of chance, we ultimately have no purpose, no value, and no hope.

If you have read this far, you may be feeling depressed, but I have good news. There is a God who created the universe, and you, for a purpose. Yes, your body will die, and even the universe will die. But by God’s grace, you can choose to live on. God has entered the time dimension in human form and conquered death for us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

How is it possible to live beyond death? In the beginning, God created time and space, matter, and energy. Those things do not limit Him because He created them. The second law of thermodynamics does not apply to God. He does not get old or die. The Bible tells us that because of God’s love and grace, you have the choice to believe and accept and live with God in a new creation. Yes, you can live beyond death and taxes. The choice is yours.
— Roland Earnst © 2019