Sunday, February 18, 2018

Would Jesus like your church?


Christianity, so called, has changed drastically since the first century.

If Jesus dropped by your church this Sunday, would he be comfortable there? Would he recognize your beliefs? Would he even acknowledge your congregation as his followers?

At the front door he’d be met by a man in a flowing extravagant garment. Would he hear you calling this man “Father,”  “Pastor,”  “Reverend,” or some other special title? Would he observe you giving this man special consideration and deference? Perhaps the man has a fancy car in a special parking spot close to the door, or a special seat inside the church.

The Pharisees in Jesus’ day had all these practices, and Jesus wasn’t shy about condemning them for it. Take a moment to read Matthew chapter 23, you’ll quickly see what I mean.

Could Jesus get through the whole service without the subject of money coming up? Would a collection plate be passed? Would the preacher claim that the lord loves a cheerful giver and He needs you to pony up? What would happen when the plate got to Jesus? What would he drop in it? In spite of numerous miracles, including raising the dead Jesus died broke, owning literally nothing but the shirt on his back.

Or would Jesus pull out a whip and say, “Stop turning the house of my father a cave of robbers!” When he sent his disciples out to preach he taught them what to say, but he gave them the stern warning, “You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8)

And would Jesus point out to the congregation that he sent all Christians out to preach, not just their paid minister? (Matthew 28:19, 20) Would he find evidence in your church that the parishioners know how preach the good news of the Kingdom, that they know how to defend their faith from the Bible, that they love to read scriptures to others?

Is there a flag in your church? Or an image of Jesus on a cross? Would Jesus look at them and mutter, "Little children, guard yourselves from idols"?

Would this be the Sunday the padre would tell you how important it was to support your country, to pray for the president or the troops in Afghanistan? Or would the preacher catch himself just in time, remembering that Jesus specifically told his followers, “Those who take to the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) And when asked by the ruler Pontius Pilate about his politics Jesus replied, “My kingdom is no part of this world. If my kingdom were part of this world my servants would fight.” (John 18: 36)

Christians in the first century certainly understood that. “Early Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens. . . . They would not hold political office.” (On the Road to Civilization - AWorld History, A. K. Heckel and J. G. Sigman)

In his book The Rise of Christianity E. W. Barnes wrote: “No Christian became a soldier. No soldier, on becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”

And the Encyclopedia of Religion states: “The early church fathers… were constrained from taking human life, a principle that kept them from participating in the Roman Army.”

Perhaps Jesus would sit next to that same-sex couple holding hands in the front row, and the preacher would point out how accepting and inclusive and non-judgmental your church is. Would Jesus speak up, perhaps repeating his own words at Luke 17: 28 and  29? “The same was true in the time of Lot; they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building; but on the day that Lot left Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.”

No? Too harsh? Would you tell Jesus to shut up and sit down and learn how to be more tolerant?

After all, you have this massive church, with thousands of seats. It doesn’t pay for itself. You need people filling those seats, no matter their lifestyle. You have a rock band on stage in front of an enormous stained glass window. Surely Jesus must love this place, doesn’t he? His church has certainly come a long way from the private homes and modest halls in which early Christians met.

At the end of the service, does the pastor direct prayers to Jesus? Even though Jesus himself said to pray to his father? “Our father in the heavens, let your name be made holy,” he said in his Sermon on the Mount. But the preacher acts as if he doesn't even know what the father's name is. Yet Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well: “True worshippers worship the father.” (John 4:23)

As he is leaving your church, perhaps he spies the calendar on the bulletin board. It shows special church events celebrating:
  • New Years day
  • Valentine’s day
  • Easter
  • Halloween
  • Christmas

He shakes his head as he runs his finger down the list. “Pagan, pagan, pagan, pagan, pagan,” he says. He knows the origins of all these holidays. They were around in the first century. His true followers back then knew to steer clear of them.

They knew all these things. When did Christians forget?

Yet none of this surprises true Christians. The common expression "wolves in sheep's clothing" comes from the Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The apostle Paul, too, warned of what would happen after the death of the original apostles. "After my going away," he said, "wolves will enter in, and will abuse the flock." (Acts 20:29)

Jesus also warned about this, in his illustration called 'the wheat and the weeds,' that soon after his death Christianity would be infected in exactly this manner. 

He also described a conversation he will have with fake Christians at judgement day. "'Lord, we spoke in your name, and performed miracles in your name, and practiced many good deeds in your name!' And then I will tell them, 'I never knew you. Get away from me.'"

Bill K. Underwood is a Bible student and author of three 'bible friendly' novels on Amazon. 


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Here's a Test: Can You Spot Fake News?




Below are three stories I've seen on Facebook today. Can you tell which, if any, are real? Read them all. Pass this on to your friends to test their ability to spot fake news. 

Number 1: 

Super Blue Blood Moon was Nothing. Watch for this coming in April.



While everyone is still excited about the “Super blue blood moon” of January 30, astronomer Holly Smoot of the famed Malomar Observatory says we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Mark your calendar for the night of April 1.
“The moon slowly presents different sides of itself toward Earth,” she says. “The last time this particular Moonscape was observable from Earth during a full moon was February 29, 1613.”
On that night, long before the invention of photography, Dutch astronomer and artist Jan Vandegauss caught a representation of that side of the full moon in oil paints. Astronomers ever since have debated what Vandegauss’ painting is trying to represent, as well as what to call it. Some German astronomers derided it, calling it ‘Vandegauss’ bagel.’ Others have claimed it is in fact a flaw in the canvas, not at all an exact representation of what Vandegauss actually painted.
Vandegauss apparently believed the painting spoke for itself. While he left copious notations about other astronomical observations during his short lifetime – he died at 23 – no notes have been found about his famed ‘bagel moon.’
Smoot says astronomers at her own California based Malomar Observatory have taken to calling it the ‘navel orange moon.’
By whatever name, it will be a sight not observed in over 400 years. On April 1, the ‘navel orange moon’ or ‘bagel moon’ will rise at 11:02 in the evening on the east coast, 8:13 p.m. in California. Check your local listings to see what time to watch for it in your area.
Help get the word out. Share this on all your social media.

Number 2: 

Woman Tries to Bring Emotional Support Peacock on United Flight


United Airlines denied a woman's efforts to bring a peacock onto a flight departing from Newark Liberty International Airport. 
According to Live and Let's Fly, the woman said the peacock was an emotional-support animal, allowed to fly for free. While the woman also offered to pay for the peacock's ticket, the blog said, United would not let the animal onto the flight.
United said in a statement to Business Insider: "This animal did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size. We explained this to the customer on three separate occasions before she arrived at the airport."
Number 3: 
CDC Doctor: 'Disastrous' flu shot is causing deadly outbreak.

Some of the patients I’ve administered the flu shot to this year have died,” the doctor said, adding “I don’t care who you are, this scares the crap out of me.”
We have seen people dying across the country of the flu, and one thing nearly all of them have in common is they got the flu shot.”
Scientists were worried this year’s flu season was going to be rough and their fears have been proven well founded. The flu season is off to a record-breaking start, with the CDC reporting widespread flu activity from coast to coast. Many health officials believe that 2018 will ultimately be the worst flu outbreak that we have experienced since 1918.

So: how did you do? Did you spot the fakes? Do you know how to spot fake news? 
Let’s start with the vaccine story. Regardless whether you are pro- or con- vaccine, there are some obvious signs this is fake. Reporters live by the motto “who, what, where, when, how and why.” ‘A CDC doctor’ who is never named? Where did he supposedly make this statement? When? Where are the facts? There are none.
This is one of the fastest spreading articles on Facebook this week. Why was it written? Simple: money. The creator of this story may have spent a couple hours writing it. The vast majority of readers don’t click on ads but some will, and he gets a few cents every time a reader clicks on an ad in his story. Depending on your browser, you might be looking at 30 ads on that one page.
Suppose vaccines do work. (Again, as I said, I’m not taking a position.) If a vaccine could save someone’s life, and this ‘reporter’ scared someone off from getting it and they subsequently died, should the ‘reporter’ be held responsible?
The peacock story, amazingly, is real.
Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot. 
The ‘bagel moon’ story, I made that up. (Took me almost an hour to create that artwork – pretty good, isn’t it?) It has already spread to several dozen pages on Facebook. Unlike the vaccine story, I did put in names, places and dates. However, if you took a minute on Google, you’d discover that Mallomar is a cookie, Palomar is the observatory; Hawley Smoot was the name of a Tariff Act (Thanks Ferris Bueller!), there was no February 29th in 1613 and degauss is an electronic process for demagnetizing a TV screen.

Hopefully, the worst thing that will come out of it will be people looking at the moon on April Fool’s Day. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

You Need to Understand Radio-carbon Dating




Last week I read this in an Israeli newspaper:

“A massive tower that defended [Jerusalem’s] main water source – which was thought to have been built in the Middle Bronze Age, nearly 4,000 years ago – [Carbon dating results] have shown the structure likely dates back only to the ninth century B.C.E.”

Like it or not, you need to understand radio-carbon dating. Nearly every field of science relies on it. Archaeologists in particular count on carbon dating to help them determine the age of many of the artifacts they dig up.
What is it? How does it work?
At this moment, powerful cosmic particles from somewhere out in the Milky Way are striking Earth’s upper atmosphere. They combine with nitrogen atoms to form unstable Carbon 14 atoms – unstable in the sense that the C-14 atoms slowly decay back to nitrogen.
The C-14 and the more stable C-12 carbon atoms combine with oxygen atoms to form carbon dioxide. The ratio between the two types of carbon dioxide is - currently - one trillion to 1.
Both types of carbon dioxide are breathed in by living plants. Animals, of course, breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. However, animals collect C-12 and C-14 from the plants they eat. So animals and humans, like plants, are assumed to have the same one trillion to 1 ratio of C-12 to C-14. Obviously, rocks cannot be measured by a carbon clock.
(The archaeologists in Jerusalem had to have dated some piece of wood they found, not the stones the tower is built from. It was the piece of wood, or technically, the death of the tree the wood came from, that dated to David’s day, not the tower.)
When a plant or animal dies, it stops taking in carbon. It is assumed that the C-12 remains stable for the rest of eternity, but its C-14 decays.
It is assumed that all plants take in C-12 and C-14 in the same amounts and with the same ratio. It is further assumed that the ratio has remained constant; that is, that a plant living, say, 6000 years ago took up one C-14 atom to every one trillion C-12 atoms, just as plants do today.
The rate of decay – that is, the rate at which C-14 leeches away – is currently measured at one half every 5,700 years. And it is assumed that it has always been the same. So if you were to analyze a sample of 100 trillion carbon atoms from a modern plant, 100 of them would be C-14 atoms. If you looked at 100 trillion atoms of a 5,700 year-old plant you would only count fifty C-14 atoms – half the original amount. 100 trillion atoms from a plant 11,400 years old would have only twenty-five C-14 atoms, and so on.
Simple, right? The lower the amount of C-14, the older the sample. Given all that, any sample more than a few thousand years old will have a microscopically small amount of C-14... one might even say an "immeasurably small amount." And, of course, when you are measuring things in atoms, the samples (and the machinery) are subject to contamination.
According to radiocarbon.com, scientists use oxalic acid made from sugar beets known to have been harvested in 1955 to calibrate their tests. They also use wood from a tree known to have been cut in 1890, “unaffected by fossil fuel effects.”
Wait: What?
Yup. Turns out that changes to the atmosphere mess with the carbon levels. Scientists assume that, prior to the fossil fuel age there were no significant changes to the atmosphere. That explains that reference to the ‘1955 sugar beet oxalic acid,’ as well: atmospheric testing of hydrogen bombs in the fifties significantly altered the levels of C-12 and C-14 in the atmosphere.
Notice all the assumptions involved: For the carbon clock to be reliable, the amount of the mysterious cosmic rays striking the atmosphere from the unknown space source would have to remain constant over tens of thousands of years. Have they? Who knows? The scientists admit they know little about them.
In addition, cosmic rays are greatly affected by magnetic fields – both that of the earth and that of the sun. The magnetic fields, in fact, are the reason scientists can only say the cosmic rays come from 'somewhere in the galaxy' – because each magnetic field they pass on their way to Earth changes their direction and their intensity.
Earth's magnetic field fluctuates dramatically. The sun’s does as well.
Let’s take it a step further. There are strong indicators that at some points in Earth's history a dense shroud of water, dust or other debris covered the planet. Would this have affected cosmic rays striking the atmosphere? Absolutely. Would that have altered the relative amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere? Again, yes.
Atmospheric oxygen is believed to have been as low as 15%, and as high as 35%, at various points in geologic history. The nitrogen level went down when oxygen went up, and vice versa. Carbon dioxide levels changed nearly every time a volcano erupted. When humans began cooking and heating with fire (6,000 years ago according to the Bible or 350,000 years ago according to science) carbon dioxide climbed. When we began using fossil fuels, CO2 really jumped. Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the 1950s also greatly affected levels of C-14 in the atmosphere.
So how can anyone say that the ratio of C-14 to ordinary carbon in a plant living today is the same as the ratio in a plant that lived thousands of years ago?
The scientists themselves, who lean so heavily on the radiocarbon clock, need to read the work of other scientists:
  • A large and sudden increase in radiocarbon around AD 773 is documented in coral skeletons from the South China Sea…forming a spike of 45% in late spring, followed by two smaller spikes. The carbon anomalies coincide with an historic comet collision with the Earth's atmosphere on 17 January AD 773.” – Nature.com
  • “We find [in annual rings of Japanese cedar trees] a rapid increase of about 12% in the C-14 content from a.d. 774 to 775, which is about 20 times larger than the change attributed to ordinary solar modulation.” – Nature, June 2012
  • “The rate of carbon 14 radioactive decay may have been different in the past. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have been different in the past. The assumption of a constant ratio of C-14 to C-12 is invalid; equilibrium would require about 30,000 years, (or 50,000 years according to this mathematician) and the C-14/C-12 ratio appears to be increasing still.” – Tufts.edu
That last part there, about “equilibrium,” is important. If all the assumptions were true, 30,000-50,000 years after the C-14 process began, whenever that was, the atmosphere should have reached equilibrium… it should have reached a point where the C-14 decayed away at the same rate at which it is being generated. Otherwise, by now we’d be swimming in C-14.
But it is still increasing. Which can ONLY mean:
  1. The C-14 process – cosmic rays reaching the atmosphere, the atmosphere containing the present-day levels of nitrogen, oxygen, and CO2, the C-14 being absorbed by plants then decaying out, etc. – that process began less than 30,000 years ago… or
  2. The theory on which Carbon 14 dating is based, is just wrong
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Friday, December 22, 2017

Who invented Santa?




Everybody who isn’t completely dead from the neck up realizes that a red-suited, white-bearded fat man saying “Ho ho ho,” has absolutely nothing to do with celebrating the birth of the Christ.

It is so brain-dead obvious, in fact, that you seem like a Scrooge for even pointing it out. Why spoil everyone’s fun?

Should you care? Does Christ care? Even the ‘Let’s put Christ back into Christmas’ folks aren’t calling for a ban on Santa, are they? Their message seems to be more about performing charitable works at Christmastime instead of simply perpetuating materialism.

Should Santa be avoided by Christians?

One meme that floats around the internet claims that ‘Santa’ is simply an anagram for ‘Satan.’ I used to think that was a stretch... just because 'santa' and 'satan' have the same letters, that's a coincidence, isn’t it? That’s as weird as twisting ‘St. Nick’ into 'Old Nick' – British slang for Satan. (Remember the movie Little Nicky about Satan’s son?) Can’t be a connection, can there?
Now, I'm not so sure. "Santa" is an American word. It seems to have been made up by Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote the poem we know as 'The night before Christmas' in the early 1800s. He made up 'Santa Claus' out of the Dutch 'sinterklaas’ – Saint Nicholas. New York at that time, aka New Amsterdam, still had a significant Dutch population during his life.
But how did Moore arrive at 'Santa'? Moore was an American professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York City. “Oriental literature,” in this context refers to the Hebrew Scriptures. Hebrew doesn’t have a word that sounds anything like ‘santa.’ The closest it comes is sha`atah, which Strong’s dictionary defines as “feminine, from an unused root meaning to stamp; a clatter (of hoofs):--stamping. (Only at Jeremiah 47:3)” If you’re curious, Jeremiah 47:3 reads,At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions, at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels, the fathers look not back to their children.” If you know the poem, you know Moore was familiar with that verse. So maybe it isn’t a stretch at all that he could have been thinking of the Hebrew word ‘sha’atah’ when he invented Santa.
And it is not a stretch at all that he may have mushed that Hebrew word with one of the Latin words related to holy, “Sancta,” as in “sancta sanctorum,” holy of holies.  
While Satanists do enjoy tweaking people’s noses with anagrams such as Santa/Satan, there is no evidence that Moore was a Satanist. He simply made up a word, drawing from the Dutch idea and the sound of “Sinterklaas.”
But what was the Dutch idea of Sinterklaas?
They celebrated Saint Nicholas’ day on December 6. That celebration had nothing to do with Christmas. Nicholas had a sidekick, a horned, hairy goat-shaped character called Krampus. In other parts of Europe he was called ‘Black Pete.’ Children were told they would be judged by the pair. If they were good, Nicholas would give them coins or candy. If they were judged as naughty, Krampus or Black Pete would beat them with a bundle of birch switches. If they were really bad, Krampus would throw them in his bag and take them back to hell. That’s right: Krampus was a demon. (Pete was simply a moor – an African Muslim. His threat was to take kids back to Africa.)
What was Moore thinking, calling Santa a ‘jolly old elf’?
Martin Luther condemned the celebration of St. Nicholas’ day. After all, the belief was based on a legend, with little proof, of a charitable bishop of Myra of the 4th century, who had later been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. (As Martin Luther knew, a lot of the Church’s “saints” were never real or, if based on a real person, were grossly embellished.)
According to Greek legend, at the Council of Nicaea in 325, when Arius got up to try explain to the assembled bishops what the Bible says about Jesus – that he was created, that he had a beginning, that he was “the son of God” not ‘God the son,’ bishop Nicholas slugged him in the face. Sure, let’s set him up as the arbiter of who’s naughty and who’s nice. According to the official Catholic creed, however, Nicholas wasn’t there.
Martin Luther realized that removing a pagan celebration and asking people to change their thinking to (gasp!) the truth, was a bridge too far. So as churches everywhere have always done, he instead transmogrified St. Nicholas’ day into a celebration revolving around Kris Kringle. Kris Kringle is simply a mangled form of the old German ‘Krist kindle’ – Christ child. People wouldn’t sit still for it, and in no time, Kris Kringle and Santa Claus became one and the same. It took only a couple hundred years for the Christ child to become a red-suited jolly elf. The goat-shaped demon sidekick was kicked to the side, although he’s still popular in Europe.
But even the Sinterklaas legend isn’t really based on the quasi-true stories of the perhaps real Nicholas of Myra. Long before Christianity began to be preached in Northern Europe the people there worshipped Odin or Woden. (If you think you’ve never heard of him, Wednesday started out as Woden’s Day.) Guess how Odin was depicted? Long white beard, red cape, flying horse, delivering gifts to nice children in December.
If someone asked you to worship Baal, Molech or one of the other pagan gods listed in the Bible, no doubt you would refuse, right? And you would never worship Satan, would you?
If Satan took one of the old pagan gods you rejected, dressed him up in a red suit, white beard, big smile, twinkly eyes – are you still going to reject him?
Who could possibly have arranged a celebration that encourages your kids to direct their petitions to Santa instead of to God? Call the Santa hotline, write Santa a letter? Put out food and drink offerings for him?

Could it be, possibly, in the words of the Church Lady, “SATAN?”
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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Should "Innocent until Proven Guilty" be a thing of the past?




Imagine you’ve been wrongly accused of sexual misconduct. A 13-year-old tells their parents about engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct and they point the finger at you – unjustly. The parents go to the minister of your congregation. You are called on the carpet. You, of course, vehemently deny any such wrongdoing. The minister questions the child regarding the details. He establishes a time and place of the supposed incident. You have no alibi for that time.

What should happen next? You tell me. Pick the response below that you feel is, not only proper, but scriptural. Remember that it is YOU who has been unjustly accused:

  1. The minister tells you that, in the absence of any evidence, the accusation will be disregarded. Perhaps he further tells you to be especially careful to never be alone with a child so as to prevent any allegations in the future.
  2. The minister calls the police.
  3. The minister tells the parents to call the police.
  4. The minister tells the parents that they may call the police, but they need to be aware that the Bible warns against false accusations the same way that it warns against sexual misconduct.
 Suppose the child gets together with friends and they conspire to make several false accusations against you. They still have no evidence since you did not do what you are being accused of.

  1. Should the minister now take disciplinary action against you because there are multiple accusations?
  2. Should the minister now call the police?
  3. Should the minister now urge the parents to call the police?
  4. Should the minister maintain that there is still no evidence and remind the parents about the gravity of making false accusations?
 Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that all, or even a majority of, accusations of sexual misconduct are false. The stories coming out about Charlie Rose, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Al Franken and others right now bear that out. According to some studies, false accusations of rape are rare - possibly fewer than 10%, though I suspect that number may be higher when deep pockets are involved. 

But if false accusations were unheard of, there wouldn't be guidelines about them in the Bible. You can see where this is going. “Innocent until proven guilty” has long been a fundamental principle under the law, because most legal systems are based on Bible principles. When we are unjustly accused we want that principle to be followed in our case.

Unfortunately, when we hear that someone else had an accusation made against them but no disciplinary action was taken, we tend to believe the case was mishandled. Especially if the accused turns out later to be guilty. Especially if there were children involved.

It’s called “20-20 hindsight;” it’s called being a “Monday-morning-quarterback,” named for water-cooler discussions on Monday about the previous day’s football games.

In a case in California involving a former Jehovah’s Witness, a man is suing to obtain Jehovah’s Witnesses confidential records – not just those pertaining to his case, but ALL confidential records of ALL accusations.

If you think that’s a good idea, you need to re-read the example at the top of this column. If you were falsely accused, and an elder in a Jehovah’s Witness congregation heard the accusation, do you want your name and that accusation to become public knowledge? If you are a Catholic and the false accusation was made to your priest, how would you feel about your priest being forced to tel the authorities about the accusation?  

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Ten Scientific Reasons to Believe the Bible



According to the bible the universe had a beginning. ("In the beginning...")
According to science, the universe had a beginning. 

According to the bible, the stars existed before the earth. ("God created the heavens")

According to science, the stars existed before the earth. 

According to the bible, the earth was originally amorphous. ("The earth was formless.")
According to science, the earth was originally amorphous, formless. 

According to the bible, early in earth's history it was covered with water. ("There was darkness on the surface of the water.")
According to science, early in earth's history it was covered with water. 

According to the bible, early in earth's history sunlight did not reach the surface of the earth. ("Darkness on the surface.")
According to science, early in earth's history sunlight did not reach the earth's surface. 

According to the bible, the level of light reaching the surface of the earth changed over time. ("Let luminaries appear in the expanse.")
According to science, the level of light reaching the surface of the earth changed over time.

According to the bible, plant life came before animal life. 
("Let the earth put forth grass.")
According to science, plant life came before animal life. 

According to the bible, aquatic animals came before land-based animals. ("Let the waters swarm with living creatures.")
According to science, aquatic animals came before land-based animals.

According to the bible, humans came into existence after all the plant and animal life was already in existence. ("Let us make man.")
According to science, humans came into existence after all the plant and animal life was already in existence. 

According to the bible, all humans alive today descended from a single pair of humans. ("Become many and fill the earth.")
According to science, all humans alive today descended from a single pair of humans.

That's ten things a bible writer somehow knew, that science later proved to be correct. And that's just the first chapter. An open-minded person might be wise to ask: 



"How did the bible writer know about these major steps in the formation of earth? And how did he get them in the right order?" 

If I held out to you a black bag containing ten marbles I'd numbered one through ten and asked you to draw them out one at a time, in order, what are the odds you would draw out the "one" marble first, and the "two" marble second, and so on?  

You would have better odds of winning the lottery - four times, back to back. If you don't believe that God inspired the bible writer to get those details right, how do you explain it?

The bible also refers to the earth as "hanging on nothing" (Job 26:7) at a time when most 'educated' people believed the earth rested on the back of a celestial elephant. It also refers to the earth as round (Isaiah 40:22) at a time when most people believed it was flat. 

The Jewish law outlined in the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers displays an uncanny understanding of hygiene. Details of the law include burying human waste, quarantining potentially contagious patients and burning infected garments. this at a time when the best medical minds of the day often prescribed incantations and camel dung.

Ecclesiastes 1:7 contains a description of what sounds an awful lot like the water cycle. Psalm 104:6-8 describes a cycle of mountains falling until they are under water while other mountains rose above the water - a process called geodynamics only recently beginning to be understood by science. 

The simple fact is, there is no adequate explanation for humans having this knowledge back when the bible was written down; unless those humans were, as they admitted repeatedly, inspired by God. 

The real reason many people find that idea distasteful today is not the scientific aspect of it. People don't want the bible to be true because of the moral aspect of it. If the bible is true, then they are obligated to follow its moral guidelines. If they can prove it is false or faulty, then their conscience is clear. 

There is a simple logic to it: If God exists, He created man. If He created man, then it stands to reason that He gave mankind an instruction manual to explain why we are here and how best to live our lives. If He is the almighty, then the argument that the bible is faulty, or is the work of men, or incorrectly translated, falls flat - I mean, if you were all powerful, and someone else wrote a book of lies and half-truths and claimed it was from you, would you let that stand? 

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Monday, October 2, 2017

How Do We Know the Signs of the Times are Being Fulfilled



300 years ago, when war between England and France spread across half the globe, many believed they were seeing The Sign of the Times. However, Bible scholars of that generation said, ‘This is not the end. The good news of the kingdom has not been preached worldwide.’ (Matthew 24:14)

250 years ago, Babylon the Great – the world’s false religions taken as a conglomerate – was so strong she crowned and removed kings, made laws, punished wrongdoers, and collected taxes. (Revelation 18:1-4) Even in pre-constitution America, churches were given parishes by the state. They made laws, collect taxes and punished wrongdoers. Today, there are only ten countries remaining in Europe where the state gives money to the church, and every one of those countries gives taxpayers the right to opt out of supporting the churches. In most countries today churches have no power over politicians and little over the people. In the United States there is a law - rarely enforced - against churches influencing elections. There is more and more talk about removing the churches' tax-exempt status. If religions were outlawed tomorrow there would be very little protest from the general population.

120 years ago, no one would have found it noteworthy for someone or some group to say “Peace and Security!” Peace was the norm right up until World War broke out. When world events in the near future prompt a cry of ‘Peace and Security!’ it will be a significant departure from what we've become used to. (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

105 years ago, if anyone had said, “Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as they were from creation’s beginning,” (2 Peter 3:4) it would have been a reasonable question. Anyone who has said it since World War One, however, can be viewed as exactly what the prophecy calls them: ridiculous.

75 years ago, anyone who suggested that man had the potential to ruin the earth would have been locked up in an asylum. (Revelation 11:18) That view changed with the detonation of atomic bombs in the 1940s. When the world calmed down after WWII, people tried to go back to normal lives. But they were shocked out of their complacency in 1962 when Rachel Carson revealed in her book “Silent Spring” that, rather than “Better living through chemistry,” as the ads were saying, mankind’s chemicals were threatening to destroy the earth. Today no one questions the very real possibility of man ruining the earth.

65 years ago, The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom reached a milestone 100 languages, giving it the ability to serve 85% of the world’s population. The other 15% represent languages spoken by fewer than 1000 people each, and in most cases they speak other, more common languages. The Watchtower is the most widely read magazine on Earth. It’s website, Jw.org, is the most widely translated website on earth, currently in over 900 languages, available to more than 95% of the earth’s population. When it reaches 944, it will be available to 98.8% of the earth’s population. There is virtually no person on earth whose only language is so unknown that he cannot hear the good news of the kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) 

50 years ago began what has been called ‘The Golden Age of Terrorism.’ Jesus foretold “Fearful sights and from heaven great signs.” (Luke 21:11) According to Greek scholar A.T. Robertson, the word used here means: 
Terrors. This rare word phob├¬thra is used only here in the N.T. It is from phobe├┤, to frighten, and occurs only in the plural as here.” 
While it’s true that people could have understood “terrors” in many ways over the centuries, what we now think of as “terrorism” began with plane hijackings in the 1960s and an attack by Palestinians on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Combined with the ‘terrors’ of nuclear weapons mounted on missiles, satellite surveillance, snipers on rooftops firing down into crowds, stealth drones firing rockets, air-borne radiation from broken reactors and other pollution coming down “from the heavens,” we have seen unprecedented ‘fearful sights and great signs’ in our lifetime.

This generation: Jesus said quite explicitly “when you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors…Truly I say to you that this generation will BY NO MEANS pass away until all these things happen.”  (Matthew 24:33, 34) Since the things discussed here have stretched over the past 120 years or so, there could be no one person who saw them all. But those anointed 'brothers of Christ' who did see - and understood that they were seeing - the Signs of the Times starting from World War One did actively share their observations, and discuss the significance of them, with other younger anointed brothers of their generation. The last possible anointed brothers of that generation are now in their fifties. BY NO MEANS will they all die before the end comes. 

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Stuff I wish I had known in Junior high science class.





1. Fermi’s Paradox: Scientists estimate that there are 100 billion planets in the Milky Way. Not the universe – just our ‘neighborhood,’ our galaxy. Many of them are older than earth. If life can come into existence spontaneously it potentially could have done so 100 billion times, creating hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of intelligent systems long before Earth even sent out its first man-made radio wave. By now, those other intelligent systems should have invented long range space travel. Wouldn’t their explorations have focused on all the signals coming from Earth? So the question propounded by rocket scientist Fermi was, Where is everybody? Space around earth should be a celestial traffic jam of UFOs every night.
2. Science claims the “Miller-Urey” experiments created life in a test tube in 1952. The Miller-Urey ‘primordial soup’ consisted of hydrogen, methane, and ammonia. Methane and ammonia are both waste products of LIVING things. Very little of it is found in non-biologic formations, and none is found in the sediment layers that predate life. That's kind of like starting with some eggs and saying, "Watch me make a chicken."
3. Amino acids have a ‘twist,’ referred to as being “right-handed” or “left-handed.” The fewer than 20 amino acids created by Miller-Urey were equally divided between “right-handed” and “left-handed.” But amino acids that make up living things are all left-handed.
4. Amino acids also come in alpha and beta. Miller-Urey’s amino acids were equally divided between both. But living things use only alphas.
5. Amino acids are not life. They are the building blocks of polypeptides. The total number of polypeptide combinations from 20 amino acids is 20 to the 146th power, yet only 50 of those combinations are the correct ones for life.
6. Polypeptides are not life, either. They are the building blocks of proteins. The possible number of protein combinations from 50 polypeptides is a number a thousand times larger than that one. Yet out of that immense number, only 250 of those proteins are the right ones for creating a living organism.
7. The right 250 proteins are not life, either. They are simply the building blocks used to create the DNA and structure of all living things. 
8. While amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, amino acids do not ‘join’ to form proteins. That would be like suggesting that bricks join themselves to form a brick wall. Rather, unprotected proteins – such as a conglomeration of amino acids floating in a primordial soup – break down into amino acids.
9. The simplest protein known is ribonuclease. Its ingredients are 17 different amino acids. But it is a chain 124 amino acids long, in exact order. The first two amino acids in the chain are lysine and glutamic acid, in that order. Of the 17 amino acids relevant to this protein, what are the odds of a lysine amino acid linking to a glutamic acid in a primordial soup containing billions of amino acids? If the soup was made entirely of those 17 amino acids and nothing else, the odds are still 1 in 289.
10. What are the odds of those two amino acids, linked in the correct order, linking to threonine, the 3rd amino acid in this protein? 1 in 4,913. With each additional amino acid in order, the odds grow exponentially. To get all 17 linked in the right order, the odds have been calculated at one chance in a number that would be written as a 1 followed by 552 zeroes. That's more than the number if characters in this paragraph and the one above it. That is a larger number than the number of seconds the universe has been in existence. It is a larger number than the total number of atoms in the universe.
11. And even if they did somehow manage to link up, they are still unprotected, floating around in a primordial soup, with no way to replicate. And self-replication is one part of the definition of life.
12. We said earlier that the simplest organism that could be called living would consist of 250 different proteins. None has been found in nature, so they’ve taken the simplest known form, a bacterium with 901 base pairs in its DNA, and are working at stripping away parts of that DNA to make it simpler. They have managed to get it down to 473. But at 472, it is no longer living. And to create an organism with 473 base pairs requires 531,000 instructions, each happening in the right order, at the right time.
13. Now, go back to the amino acid question at the top. Remember, right handed versus left handed, and alpha versus beta? Imagine a bag full of billions of mixed Legos – red, green, white, and blue. Suppose you want to build a white spiral staircase of Legos. Imagine drawing Legos out of the bag, one at a time, 531,000 times, and only getting white ones.
Oh, and just to be fair, you can’t use your eyes, your hands, or your intelligence…
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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Worldwide Letter-writing Campaign Protests Proposed Religious Ban



A huge news story is being almost completely ignored by the media.

Post offices across the country are running out of international stamps. Facebook is blowing up with pictures of people writing letters. The Guinness people are watching to see if this letter-writing campaign will make it into their Book of World Records. (The current record-holder for a letter-writing campaign is 900,000 letters written for Amnesty International.) What’s the story?

While the news is busy arguing about to what extent Russia may have interfered in the recent American election, Russia has been quietly, dramatically restricting the freedoms of one specific group of their citizens.

Maybe you read that and say, ‘Well, it is Russia, after all; aren’t they always restricting their citizens?’ No, actually. After the Soviet Union ended, Russia became a democratic society, with a constitution and everything. Section One Chapter 2 of that document reads:
“Everyone shall be guaranteed the right to freedom of conscience, to freedom of religious worship, including the right to profess, individually or jointly with others, any religion, or to profess no religion, to freely choose, possess and disseminate religious or other beliefs, and to act in conformity with them.”
That’s even clearer than the freedom of religion guaranteed by the United States constitution.

In spite of that guarantee, the government of Russia has petitioned their Supreme Court to brand Jehovah’s Witnesses as extremists, in the same league as ISIS. If that move succeeds it will become illegal for the 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in that country to meet for worship, to discuss the bible with others, or even to read the bible in their own homes. The case is scheduled to be heard on April 5, 2017. 

In response, the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses has asked all 8,000,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide to write to six key officials in Moscow, including Vladimir Putin himself.

From the United States, mailing those six letters to Moscow costs about $7. In some other countries, it could cost a family a significant portion of their monthly income. Yet, based on reports on Facebook, Jehovah’s Witnesses, their friends and business associates are pitching in with a will. Total cost of postage, according to one Facebooker, will be over $55 million, based just on the U.S. rate. 





If 8,000,000 people each send six letters, another Facebook mathematician calculated, the Moscow post office can expect a stack of mail nearly 19 miles high! 




A handful of other websites have circulated the news about the impending court decision and the letter-writing campaign against it:

Rochester, NY: Jehovah’s Witnesses plead for freedom, mercy, in Russia crackdown 

The University of Missouri’s Religion News Service: Jehovah’s Witnesses Fear Russian Government may Ban Them 







Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Zambia websites also reposted the news release from jw.org.

Headlines from pro-Russian news sources have a somewhat different outlook. Russia’s English-language Sputnik reads:
Enough is enough! Jehovah’s Witnesses face Ban
On Tuesday, the Helsinki Commission, which includes U.S. Senators and congressmen, condemned the planned Russian legal move. 

While their sentiments are appreciated, the millions of letters pouring in from around the world are far more likely to sway Moscow than a handful of American politicians. 

If your local news outlet hasn't covered this story, please feel free to send them the link to this column.




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 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Is Medical Marijuana for Christians?



Marijuana is now legal to use for medical purposes in 28 states. Eight states have legalized its recreational use. But it is still illegal federally. That means:

  • If you work for the federal government, you can’t use marijuana for any reason.
  • If you work at a job regulated by the Federal Transportation and Safety board, such as truck driver, you can’t use marijuana. The same is true of many jobs in the healthcare field.
  • Your prescription doesn’t exempt you from employer drug tests… they can legally fire you if you test positive for marijuana.
  • You can’t use it if you live on federal property or in federally-assisted housing, such as Section 8.
  • If you are in a legal marijuana business accepting credit card payments via most banks runs you afoul of federal banking laws. And, of course, you can’t take any business deductions on your federal taxes, since the IRS considers your business illegal.
In 2013, the Justice department released what came to be called the Cole memo that significantly altered the cannabis landscape. It made clear that the federal government was going to lay off cannabis in states where marijuana was legal, with the exception of 8 specific criteria. These are:

  • Distribution to minors;
  • Marijuana revenue going to criminal enterprises, gangs or cartels;
  • Diverting marijuana from states where it is legal to other states;
  • Running a marijuana business as a cover for an illegal business, such as illegal drugs;
  • Violence or the use of firearms in connection with a marijuana business;
  • Contributing to drugged driving or other adverse public health risks;
  • Growing cannabis on public (federal) lands;
  • Using marijuana products on federal property.
 Of course, this could all change under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a staunch opponent of legalizing marijuana.

Up until the late 1800s, cannabis farming was common, even encouraged. The fibrous cannabis plant, called hemp by most growers, was a terrific source for paper, rope and fabric. The word “canvas,” in fact, stems from the word “cannabis.”

According to some sources, the war against marijuana was spurred in the 1920s and 1930s by William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper empire, abetted by DuPont Chemical. Hearst had significant timber holdings and feared they would be devalued by a growing hemp-based paper industry; DuPont wanted people to use their newly created oil-based nylon products instead of hemp products.

“William Randolph Hearst hated minorities,” says one of his biographies, “and he used his chain of newspapers to aggravate racial tensions at every opportunity. Hearst especially hated Mexicans. Hearst papers portrayed Mexicans as lazy, degenerate, and violent, and as marijuana smokers and job stealers. The real motive behind this prejudice may well have been that Hearst had lost 800,000 acres of prime timberland in Mexico to the rebel Pancho Villa.” In fact, it is said that he ordered his newspapers to use the word “marijuana” rather than hemp or cannabis, because of the word’s Mexican connotation.

According to the DEA:

·         “The Institute of Medicine conducted a comprehensive study in 1999 to assess the potential health benefits of marijuana and its constituent cannabinoids. The study concluded that smoking marijuana is not recommended for the treatment of any disease condition. In addition, there are more effective medications currently available.”
·         Marijuana contributes to crime. “Nationwide, 40 percent of adult males tested positive for marijuana at the time of their arrest.”
·         “According to the National Institutes of Health, studies show that someone who smokes five joints per week may be taking in as many cancer-causing chemicals as someone who smokes a full pack of cigarettes every day.”

Given all this, then, why the Cole memo? Because, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are using marijuana for medical reasons, despite the DEA’s claims that it has no medicinal value.

That shouldn’t be surprising: my brother and sister-in-law take the cooking spice turmeric for muscle and stomach pain. The AMA may not acknowledge any medicinal value to it, but don’t try to take it away from my brother. He has told me of his wife waking up crying with leg cramps that go away within minutes of taking turmeric.

And there are, of course, literally hundreds of other ‘alternative’ health cures that users swear by, from laser light to okra, despite there being no scientific studies proving their efficacy.

On a trip to Oregon in 2010 I had occasion to visit with a medical marijuana user I’ll call John.
John suffered for years with arthritis and neuropathy in his feet. “Sometimes, when I get up in the morning and put my feet on the floor, I fall flat on my face,” he said. Before using marijuana, he took Vicodin nearly every day, but he got tired of living in a fog. “Plus, it’s expensive.” He was spending $60 to $70 a month on Vicodin before he got approved to grow and use marijuana.

He was affiliated with an organization called Oregon Green Freedom, who helped him get started growing a marijuana strain called “Agent Orange.” Under Oregon law he was allowed to possess 18 juvenile plants and 6 mature plants. He grew it organically. “I’ve tasted some that was grown in containers indoors, and you can taste the Miracle-Gro,” he said. I didn’t ask whether he could taste the horse manure he fertilizes his plants with.

John puts about two ounces of marijuana buds in a quart of glycerin, and lets it steep in the sun on the window sill for a couple months. Only the buds are used. “The rest of the plant just becomes compost.”

 I asked about getting high. He said, “Buds harvested early are better for pain relief; a later harvest produces more of a high. So I harvest early.”

He used about a tablespoon a day of the tincture to control the pain of the arthritis and neuropathy. It had also helped him with the nausea of chemotherapy the previous year when he had cancer. The tincture takes about 30 minutes to work. Would smoking it work faster? “It might, but smoked marijuana tends to go to your head. I need it to go to my feet.”

Furthermore, “as a Christian,” he said, “there are certain Bible principles I need to comply with for the sake of my conscience.” What principles? He listed them: “‘Cleanse yourselves of every defilement of the flesh.’ (2 Corinthians 7:1) Smoking pot would ‘defile’ my hair, my clothes, and my home.” He is also aware of 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Bad company corrupts good character." So he has to be careful marijuana use doesn’t bring him into company with those who link marijuana-smoking with unchristian conduct, especially the illicit drug community.

The principle of 2 Timothy 4:5, “You should keep a clear mind in every situation,” certainly rules out recreational drug use, but can’t really be applied to medical usage, or else Christians would have to avoid all pain remediation. But what about addiction? Romans 6:16 does say, after all, “You become the slave of whatever you choose to obey.” John said that was not a problem; for him, at least, his marijuana tincture was not addictive. “Vicodin, that was really addictive.”

Still, John acknowledges, it is a controversial matter. There is a significant stigma attached to marijuana use, and he doesn’t want to be seen as a “stoner.” When he recently requested approval for additional privileges in his congregation, a lengthy discussion ensued. Even though he had the approval of the state of Oregon, he was technically breaking federal law, making the principle at Romans 13:1 about obeying the governmental authorities a matter for his conscience to deal with. He also, at the request of the congregation, stopped supplying marijuana to other legal users who lack their own growing space – a practice allowed under the Oregon program –  because he didn’t want to feel responsible if they misused it.

A few months before our interview he took a road trip across the U.S. and had to leave the tincture at home. His user I.D. card is only valid in Oregon. So he had to pull out the Vicodan. “Which is ironic,” he said. Why? Because, he said, he knows how soon he’s safe to drive after taking the tincture, but he feels less sure of his abilities after taking Vicodan.

Speaking of driving: Since he has to carry the I.D. card at all times, if he were involved in an accident, he would be pretty much automatically at fault. A police officer seeing the card would likely send him for a urine test, which he would fail even if he hadn’t used the tincture in several days.

I asked about John on my recent trip to Oregon. His neuropathy is now gone, and he’s stopped using his tincture. I doubt if anyone has ever cured neuropathy with Vicodin.

One of my preconceptions before talking to John was that people are making up symptoms to legally get stoned. John said there is probably some of that, but, in Oregon at least, in 2010 it required a two-year medical history, as well as a lot of other hoops to jump through, to get on the program. “I doubt if too many people would go to the trouble.”

There has been relatively little research into the efficacy of marijuana. However, that is in part due to the fact that it is illegal. If you are a scientist wanting to research the medical benefits of marijuana, for decades there was only one legal source: A government-managed plot of about 500 plants at the University of Mississippi. Only recently has the government recognized the silliness of this, and begun to make it easier for scientists to study marijuana. It is widely believed that ‘street marijuana’ is considerably more potent than the strain grown at the university; also, that different strains have different medicinal uses.

With the growth of alternative health products, and the growing movement to legalize marijuana, if you don’t currently know someone who has considered using marijuana medicinally, you likely will in the near future.


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 Bill K. Underwood is a freelance columnist and author of several books, including two novels - The Minotaur Medallion, and the best-selling Resurrection Day. Both are available in paperback here