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An Amazing Fact: Americans spend close to $200 million on alcoholic drinks every day.
“It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.” —Proverbs 31:4, 5.
Politicians, as a whole, have a reputation for drinking alcoholic beverages.
Several presidents of the United States have been heavy drinkers. Martin Van Buren was nicknamed “Blue Whiskey Van” because of his ability to drink large amounts of alcohol without showing signs of drunkenness. Andrew Jackson, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan were also known to drink heavily. Grover Cleveland suffered stomach problems from an excess of alcohol.
On a more pleasant note, our country has had several presidents who were teetotalers for at least part of their lives. William Harrison, Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln, William H. Taft, and Rutherford B. Hayes reportedly were non-drinkers, as were Calvin Coolidge, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush.
As we saw earlier, the Bible clearly prohibits the use of alcoholic drinks, but the Scripture has a special warning for those in leadership positions: “It is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted” (Proverbs 31:4, 5). There is more at stake when there is alcohol use by those in positions of authority—whether you’re a president, a pastor, or the head of a family.
Isaiah also warns against a perversion of justice by rulers who drink. He writes, “Woe to men mighty at drinking wine, woe to men valiant for mixing intoxicating drink, who justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice from the righteous man!” (Isaiah 5:22, 23).
Paul says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18 NASB). Even a “social drinker” can cause a perversion of justice. Just consider the fact that one drink can cause a person to become “legally drunk.” If they’re not fit to drive, how can they be fit to make and interpret laws? How can they render justice in a legal setting?
God is concerned for the afflicted. He wants them to get a fair trial; He wants them to receive justice. The best course for people in authority—as well as the rest of us—is to refrain from using alcoholic drinks and serve with a clear mind.
Father, please help those in leadership positions to resist the temptation of alcohol and avoid the perversion that follows it.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him. What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows? Give not thy strength unto women, nor thy ways to that which destroyeth kings. It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:1-9
An Amazing Fact: Some ants live in super colonies that contain more than 300 million individuals.
“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer.” —Proverbs 30:25.
Perhaps you have heard of the famous “parasol” or “leaf-cutter” ants that make gardens and raise their own crops! These amazing creatures are often seen walking in processions, each one holding a piece of green leaf above its head! These bits of green leaf are not for food, but are taken to their nests and made into a compost soil—for these ants are actually farmers. They deliberately sow, prune, fertilize, weed, harvest, and store a fungus crop as carefully as any gardener tends his vegetables.
Some ants living in Texas clear a “field” of one or two square yards and then plant rice. They lay out the rice in beds with pathways running among the plants, and they keep their rice fields carefully weeded. When the rice seeds ripen, the ants harvest them, remove the husks, and store the kernels for food. Later, the ants with very large jaws crack the seeds and crush the kernels into meal for the rest of the ants. If the rice gets damp and is in danger of spoiling, other ants have the sole responsibility of carrying the damp grain out into the sunshine for drying.
There are thousands of amazing scenarios to be found among the roughly 10,000 species of ants on earth, and probably many thousands of lessons to be learned from this tiny creature. In fact, the Bible calls the lowly ant, which typically prepares in advance for the colder months, “exceedingly wise.”
It’s important for us to store the bread of life in our minds and be prepared in advance when it comes to our relationship with God. As a Christian, you always need to “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV). And we should be “sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).
Most important, we need to be prepared to meet the Lord when He returns. In Jesus’ story of the wise and foolish virgins, only five of them carried extra oil along with them and were ready to meet the bridegroom when He arrived at an unexpected hour. Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2, 3). The Lord has prepared to receive us into His awesome presence. Are we prepared to go home with Him?
Father in heaven, give me the oil of your Holy Spirit and make me wise. Help me be prepared to meet my Savior at His soon return.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it. There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not: The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid. Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness. For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; For an odious woman when she is married; and an handmaid that is heir to her mistress. There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer; The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks; The locusts have no king, yet go they forth all of them by bands; The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces. There be three things which go well, yea, four are comely in going: A lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away for any; A greyhound; an he goat also; and a king, against whom there is no rising up. If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth. Surely the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife. Proverbs 30:17-33
An Amazing Fact: The estimated value of a complete copy of the original Gutenberg Bible is a staggering $30 million. Individual pages sell for as much as $20,000 to $100,000!
“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” —Proverbs 30:5, 6.
The Gutenberg Bible, first printed in 1454, was the first major book ever printed with moveable metal type in the Western world. Before this Bible was created, books had to be printed from wood blocks engraved with letters or copied out by hand. Sometimes this took many years to finish.
Johannes Gutenberg was the first European to print with moveable type. This ingenious man also invented the printing press, which he used to print the now-famous Bible. Gutenberg’s Bible contains 1,272 pages. Rubrics, or decorative headings, were hand painted on some of the copies of the Bible, and the quality of the multi-color printing was excellent. Some people consider the Gutenberg Bible one of the most beautiful books in the world.
Sadly, out of more than 150 original copies, only 49 copies of this Bible are known to exist and, of those, only 21 are complete. While most of the copies are in Europe, several are in North America and several more in other parts of the world.
As impressive, important, and valuable as the Gutenberg Bible is, the words contained inside it are the real treasure. These are “the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). The ultimate purpose of the Bible is to help us find salvation.
There is a warning in our verse for this morning: “Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (v. 6). Some people “tweak” the Scriptures to suit their own purpose. But we should be careful never to misquote, alter, or twist the meaning of Bible passages.
Our verse also tells us that “every word of God is pure.” This is similar to the psalm that reads, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). Because the Scriptures contain the purest truth in the universe—the very words of God—we can put our complete trust in what the Bible says.
My Lord, thank you for the precious message of salvation you have given me in your precious Word.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal, Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell? Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. Accuse not a servant unto his master, lest he curse thee, and thou be found guilty. There is a generation that curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother. There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men. The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough. Proverbs 30:1-16
An Amazing Fact: More than 70 million Christians have died as martyrs for their faith.
“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” —Proverbs 28:27
You might be surprised to learn that more than half of these Christian martyrs died in the 20th century. We tend to think of martyrs as people who lived in ages past—people like Stephen of the early church period or Huss, Tyndale, Knox, and so many others of the Reformation era. But, in reality, Christians today are dying for their faith in huge numbers.
Some estimate an average of more than 280 Christians die for their faith every day, or about one every five minutes. These statistics only count Christians who were killed because they were Christians, and not those who happened to be victims of war.
It takes extreme courage for people to stand firm in their faith in the face of violent persecution, especially if it means surrendering their lives. This kind of courage can only come from God.
Fear of man is a trap that many people fall into; even such champions of faith as Abraham and Elijah fell prey to this type of fear at some point in their lives. When we fear other people, it makes us vulnerable. We live in dread of what others might think about us or do to us. The solution is a deep fear, or respect, for God. We need to live our lives with deep reverence for our Father in heaven, serving only Him, and paying more attention to what God says than to what anyone else says.
“Whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” doesn’t mean that there won’t be trials, persecution, or even death. It means that, in the end, God will redeem the ones who trust in Him. “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned” (Psalm 34:22), “neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
The psalmist writes, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6). Along the same lines, Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). In the end, only God deserves our fear and worship.
Dear Lord, keep me from being ensnared by a fear of man. May I fear only you and be always faithful.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever. The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame. When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall. Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul. Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. A servant will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer. Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him. He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length. An angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression. A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit. Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not. The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe. Many seek the ruler’s favour; but every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD. An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked. Proverbs 29:14-27
An Amazing Fact: Indonesia’s President Suharto became known by the name “Mr. Twenty-Five Percent,” because he only approved contracts that provided him 25 percent of the profit.
“The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it.” —Proverbs 29:4
I think we all know that Indonesia isn’t the only place on earth infected with government corruption. One of the most prevalent types of corruption in government is called a “kickback,” a form of negotiated bribery where a government employee helps secure an inflated payment for goods or services that are not needed or sometimes of inferior quality. In return, they receive payment in the form of services, cash, merchandise, or favors.
Even doctors haven’t been immune to the temptation. Until the Anti-Kickback Act was passed in 1987, many doctors sent Medicare patients to medical providers for treatments and tests they didn’t need. Why? Because these providers secretly reimbursed the doctors for sending them business.
In case you think I’m only picking on politicians and doctors, many of us struggle at some point with resisting some form of bribery. It’s part of our “old man” nature, and we get an early start. Children commonly try to bribe their friends, siblings, and parents. The Bible is full of examples of bribery as well. Think of Jacob, who took advantage of his brother’s hunger and bribed him for the birthright. The payoff was a bowl of stew.
Bribery (along with his own poor choices) caused the ruin of Samson. When the Philistine lords came to Delilah, they said, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver” (Judges 16:5). That must have been a lot of money! She took the bribe, and poor Samson took the bait. And who could forget Zacchaeus? He was a Publican, or tax collector, a group hated by most because of their habits of cheating and using bribery to increase their wealth. But meeting Jesus turned his life completely around. And that’s the key!
Our verse this morning suggests that if a ruler accepts bribes, his land is headed for ruin. That’s not hard to believe. Whether on the giving or receiving end, participating in a bribe corrupts a person. Involving selfish desire and deceit, it violates trust and bolsters greed. The Bible speaks powerfully against this dishonest practice: “A bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8), and, “A bribe debases the heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:7).
Dear God, help me to resist any temptation for illicit gain and to conduct my life with honesty.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn. Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance. The king by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it. A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet. In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare: but the righteous doth sing and rejoice. The righteous considereth the cause of the poor: but the wicked regardeth not to know it. Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath. If a wise man contendeth with a foolish man, whether he rage or laugh, there is no rest. The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul. A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked. The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes. Proverbs 29:1-13
An Amazing Fact: Many of the poorest people on earth “survive” on less than $1 per day.
It’s a heartrending fact that more than a billion people in the world live in what is defined as “extreme poverty,” lacking such basic human needs as food, safe drinking water, shelter, and sanitation. Education and medical care is out of the question for most of them. (And we whine when our electricity goes off for a couple of hours!) Jesus told us that we would always have the poor with us, and His Word tells us that feeding and caring for them is our responsibility. Sharing with others is part of God’s plan for us. “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
“He who hides his eyes,” as if not looking at the problem will make it go away, is doing wrong. It reminds me of the comment by Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Some people are tempted to think they can turn a blind eye and everything will be okay, or that they can leave the problem to others, but Scripture tells us it’s our obligation to help.
The apostle John wrote, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). A person with God’s love inside cannot turn away from the desperate need of a fellow human being. Instead, “the righteous considers the cause of the poor” (Proverbs 29:7). And then he takes action!
It might seem that no matter how much we give, there are more people in need. And that’s true. But it doesn’t excuse us from doing what we can to help. We should help and keep helping. God promises a blessing to those who remember to care for the less fortunate. He says, “Blessed is he who considers the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble” (Psalm 41:1). Even the poor are blessed by giving to others. Remember the widow who put her two mites into the temple offering, or the widow in Zarephath who gave what would have been the last of her food to the prophet Elijah?
And don’t forget Jesus’ words that when we give to “the least of these”—food, water, clothing, shelter, caring—we are giving to Him.
Additional reading: Proverbs 28:15–28
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse. Proverbs 28:27
An Amazing Fact: When Chad and Keri McCartney say their infant daughter, Macie Hope, has been born again, they aren’t referring to religion—their miracle baby really was born twice! During Keri’s 23rd week of pregnancy, the couple went to their obstetrician’s office for a simple ultrasound procedure to determine if they would be having a little boy or girl. The couple brought their four children along to hear the good news.
At that time it was discovered that the McCartney’s baby girl had a noncancerous but deadly tumor growing off her tailbone. The fast-growing tumor, as large as the baby, was robbing vital blood from their baby. Without medical intervention their unborn child had no chance. The Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston was one of only three hospitals in the world that could perform such a specialized and risky surgery. After being told that there was less than a 10 percent chance the baby was going to make it, the parents wanted to pick a fitting name before the perilous procedure. They chose Macie Hope. Faced with a dismal future, Keri said, “Hope was all we had.”
The “first birth” was about six months into Keri’s pregnancy, when fetal surgeons led by Dr. Darrell Cass gently took the tiny 5-ounce baby from Keri’s womb to remove the tumor. The surgery went flawlessly. Then back into mommy she went to heal and grow for two more months. Then Macie was born the second time on May 3, 2008, when the McCartney’s welcomed their perfectly healthy baby girl into the world.
Did you know the Bible teaches that if you are only born once you will die twice? But if you are born twice you will die only once? While explaining the plan of salvation to one of Israel’s most gifted teachers, Jesus plainly outlined for Nicodemus what must happen: “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3). Nicodemus seems confused and says, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (v. 4). Though baby Macie
did just that, Jesus was speaking of the miracle of salvation in the heart. The spiritual birth, marked by baptism in water, symbolizes a new life in Christ. This second birth does not happen under a surgeon’s knife, but through the work of the Holy Spirit.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3
An Amazing Fact: It has been discovered there are several factories based in North America that are producing and selling weapons of mass destruction. In case you’re wondering, I’m talking about tobacco and the lethal habit of cigarette smoking. And the saddest part is, this deadly and expensive international health hazard is easily preventable.
Tobacco was once considered a cure for many ailments, including headache, toothache, arthritis, stomachaches, wounds, and bad breath. It was made into a tea and even rolled into pills in order to serve as a medicinal herb. A Spanish doctor, Nicolas Monardes, first described its medicinal potential in a 1577 book called Joyful News out of the New Found World. His views were accepted for more than two centuries.
Every year, four million people die worldwide from smoking-related diseases. That’s approximately one person every 8 seconds. Every minute 10 million cigarettes are sold worldwide; that’s 15 billion cigarettes sold every day. Smoking costs the United States over $150 billion each year in healthcare costs, including $81 billion in productivity losses and over $75 billion in excess medical expenditures. Smoking is directly responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer, and causes most cases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Smoking is also a major factor in coronary heart disease and stroke and has been linked to a variety of other health disorders, including infertility and peptic ulcers. Smoking in pregnancy accounts for an estimated 20 to 30 percent of low-birth-weight babies, and some 10 percent of all infant deaths.
It’s estimated that one out of every five teens between 13 and 15 years old smokes. Evidence also indicates that half of the people who start smoking as adolescents will go on to smoke for 15 to 20 years. Yet tobacco companies continue to invest millions of dollars in effective advertising encouraging young people to begin a lifelong addiction to smoking.
Still, the tobacco companies in America continue to manufacture and use these weapons of mass destruction. The greatest irony is that tobacco companies like Philip Morris pretend to discourage people from smoking on one hand while they continue to profit from peddling their deadly poison on the other. They are very much talking from both sides of their mouth. In today’s Key Bible Text, Jesus describes people who give double-talk as hypocrites.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. Matthew 15:7-8
An Amazing Fact: On September 13, 1848, a 25-year-old railroad foreman in Vermont, named Phineas P. Gage, was packing explosive powder in a hole with an iron rod. Unfortunately, someone forgot to put the sand in the hole over the powder. A spark flew and there was a powerful blast. The 13-pound tamping iron, over one inch thick and three feet long, was propelled with the force of a bullet, through Gage’s head. It entered under his left cheekbone, went through his brain, and then out the top of his head. Amazingly, this traumatic accident did not kill Phineas. In fact, he regained his physical strength and lived for another 13 years. He seemed mentally sound; he could speak and do physical tasks just as well, and his memory seemed unimpaired. But friends and family knew he was no longer the same man.
Before the accident he was a well-loved, responsible worker. He was known by all as a pious, reverent, and dependable man with high morals. But after the accident Phineas experienced a major moral decline. He became very short-tempered, rude, foul-mouthed, and lost all respect for spiritual things. It seemed as though all of his ethical filters had been turned off. As a result he had difficulty keeping jobs. Around 1850 he spent about a year as a sideshow attraction with P. T. Barnum’s New York museum, putting his injury and the tamping iron on display. Gage kept the iron rod throughout his life as a souvenir and even had it buried with him in death. In medical circles, his story became known as the “crowbar case.”
In 1867 his skull and the original rod that pierced it were exhumed. Both became part of the exhibition at the Harvard Medical School Museum in Boston, where it remains today. Phineas’ traumatic accident cost him his personality, his moral standards, and his commitment to loved ones. Researchers have concluded that he had lost an important
part of his brain called the “frontal lobe.” The frontal lobe, behind the forehead, is the largest section of the brain and is responsible for moral reasoning, judgment, social behavior, and most of all, spirituality.
It is interesting that in the book of Revelation, the enemy of God, the beast, seeks to place a mark on the foreheads of all, while the 144,000 have God’s name “written on their foreheads” (Revelation 14:1). Which mark represents the controlling force in your life?
What a powerful example of our Bible text for today!
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: Revelation 13:16
An Amazing Fact: Did you know that as you are reading this right now you are glowing? That’s right; it has recently been discovered that human bodies emit a visible light in extremely small quantities at levels that rise and fall through the day.
Research has shown that this light is about 1,000 times fainter than the levels we can see with our naked eyes. In fact, virtually all living creatures emit varying amounts of weak light, which is thought to be a byproduct of biochemical reactions involving free radicals. This light is different from the red glow of body heat captured by infrared cameras. In fact, infrared cameras show some of the hottest body parts give off very little light.
To learn more about this light, scientists in Japan used extremely sensitive cameras capable of detecting a single photon, the smallest unit of light. For three days, five healthy young men were placed bare-chested in front of the cameras. They sat in perfectly dark, light-proof rooms for 20 minutes every three hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. The researchers found the body glow of the men rose and fell over the day, with its lowest point at 10 a.m. and its peak at 4 p.m.
The findings suggest these light emissions are linked to our fluctuating metabolic rhythms. Since this faint light is linked with metabolism, these findings suggest that in the future special cameras that can spot a person’s light emissions may help identify medical conditions. It was also discovered that our faces glow more than the rest of the body, possibly because facial circulation is more dense and closer to the surface.
Did you know the Bible also speaks about a man with a glowing face? It says that when Moses came down from the mountain after speaking with God, “the skin of his face shone” (Exodus 34:30).
Spend time with God and you will emit a spiritual glow. With His help we can become lights in the darkness, reflecting the “true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9).
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
An Amazing Fact: On July 9, 1755, during the French and Indian War, a force of 1,500 British soldiers was ambushed in the open by a small force of French and American Indian fighters shooting from the woods. The British soldiers—trained for European war—made easy targets standing shoulder to shoulder in their bright red uniforms. And their officers were even more exposed on horseback, high above the men on the ground, making perfect targets. The slaughter continued for two hours as nearly 70 percent of the British soldiers were cut down.
One by one, the chief’s marksmen shot the British officers from their horses until only one remained. Amazingly, round after round was aimed at this one man. Twice the young lieutenant’s horse was shot out from under him. Twice he grabbed another horse. Ten, fifteen, twenty rounds were fired by the sharpshooters. Still, the officer remained unhurt. The native warriors stared in disbelief. Their rifles seldom missed. The chief realized that a mighty power must be shielding this man and commanded, “Stop firing! This one is under the special protection of the Great Spirit.”
Eventually the lieutenant colonel gathered the remaining British troops and led them to safety. That evening, as the last of the wounded were being cared for, the officer noticed an odd tear in his coat. It was a bullet hole! He rolled up his sleeve and looked at his arm directly under the hole. There was no mark on his skin. Amazed, he took off his coat and found three more holes where bullets had passed through his coat but stopped before they reached his body. Nine days after the battle, the young lieutenant colonel wrote his brother: “By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side!”
The 23-year-old officer went on to become the commander in chief of the Continental Army and the first president of the United States. During the years that followed in his long career, this man, George Washington, was never once wounded in battle. Washington also escaped flying bullets on four other occasions and survived contracting diphtheria, malaria, smallpox, and tuberculosis.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee. Psalms 91:7
An Amazing Fact: In September 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee made his greatest effort to carry the Civil War into the North. This climaxed with the Battle of Antietam, which became the bloodiest and perhaps the most decisive battle in the War Between the States.
On the morning of September 17, a Union commander named Colonel Hayes ordered his men to the firing line before sunrise and without breakfast. It was crucial that they prevent the advance of the Confederate army from crossing into the North. By afternoon the soldiers were exhausted and famished. A 19-year-old mess sergeant, known as Billy, took pity on the hungry men and loaded up a wagon with buckets of coffee and food rations. He then drove the wagon under fire to reach the men.
The famished soldiers, surprised and grateful for the food, sent up a loud cheer for Billy. They wolfed down the food and then turned back to the fight with renewed strength.When Colonel Hayes learned what Billy had done for his men, he recommended Billy be promoted to the rank of second lieutenant. The colonel who promoted Billy was Rutherford B. Hayes, who became the nineteenth president of the United States … and Billy, the mess sergeant, was William McKinley, who became our twenty-fifth president.
Later, Hayes remarked that “McKinley was a man of rare capacity, especially for a boy of his age … the night was never too dark; the weather was never too cold; there was no sleet, or storm, or hail, or snow, or rain that was in the way of his prompt and efficient performance in every duty.”
Though the duties in front of us today may not seem great, if we perform them faithfully it will soon become apparent to those around us that we can be trusted with greater things. And even if we’re never given earthly recognition for our efforts, Paul reminds us that whatever we do, we should “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). If we do that, we can be confident that we’ll hear our Commander say, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’” (Matthew 25:21).
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He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10
An Amazing Fact: Sandcastle worms live along the shallow seas off the California coast that stretches from Baja, California in the south to Sonoma County in the north. These tiny sea creatures are also known as honeycomb worms because they build clusters of tube-shaped homes in colonies. The micro-cities are situated in places where wave action will swirl up tiny pieces of sand and broken bits of sea shells. The feathery worms catch these particles and then, like miniature masons, cement them one grain at a time to the tube opening. To enable them to do this, God has created these little creatures with the perfect formula for producing a sturdy underwater adhesive. After catching a grain of sand, the worm will secrete two little dabs of glue onto the particle, then stick it onto the end of the tube. It holds it there for about 25 seconds, wiggling it a little to see if the glue is set, and then it lets go. This amazing glue is designed to set up and harden within 30 seconds after the worm secretes it.
One grain of sand at a time these clever creatures build big, reef-like colonies that look like stacks of organ pipes. Now, after years of studying the sandcastle worm, scientists from the University of Utah have succeeded in duplicating their miraculous adhesive and invented underwater super glue. Doctors have long sought a medical adhesive to repair moist bones shattered in accidents or battlefield injuries. The traditional method of repairing shattered bones is to use mechanical connectors like wires, pins, nails, and screws for support until they grow together and can bear weight. Up until now there has never been glue that would work in the wet environment of the body during surgery. The new glue will help doctors repair bone. After the bone regrows, the non-toxic glue dissolves.
Did you know the Bible speaks of a super glue that will keep families together? “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The Bible word “join” comes from the Hebrew word “daw-bak,” which means “cling” or “adhere”—in other words, glue! God’s super glue is what we need to build homes that will last for eternity
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But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul. Joshua 22:5
An Amazing Fact: Did you know that you don’t technically see with your eyes or hear with your ears? Your eyes and ears simply transmit light and vibrating molecules of air to your nerves, which then send impulses to the brain, where sight and sound are interpreted. All this might help to explain some of the strangest documented phenomena in medical history: the cases of those who, though blind or blindfolded, were nevertheless able to “see.”
For example, in the 1890s doctors in New York described how blind Mollie Fancher could read regular printed books using only her fingertips. In Italy, a neurologist wrote about a blind girl who could see with her left earlobe and the tip of her nose. Doctors have documented cases of those who could see with their fingertips, cheeks, or even their abdomens. In 1960, 14-year-old Margaret Foos of Ellerson, Virginia, underwent elaborate tests conducted by experts. Securely blindfolded, Margaret read randomly selected passages of print, identified colors and objects, and even played a game of checkers. In Russia, medical researchers reported the case of Rosa Kuleshova who, in rigidly controlled experiments, was able to read newsprint and sheet music with her fingertips and elbow.
How is this possible? No one knows for certain. Some have posited that these individuals were abnormally sensitive to the amount of heat absorbed by different colors: sightless reading could be possible because black print absorbs more heat and is warmer than the surrounding white page.
The Bible speaks about those who, though able to see perfectly, are blind to spiritual truth because they prefer to live in darkness. For example, John tells of some who believed in Jesus but did not follow Him because they preferred the good opinion of men over the good opinion of God (John 12:42, 43). The good news is that no one needs to live in darkness. Jesus longs to heal our spiritual blindness if we will only allow Him.
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But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? John 12:37-38He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. John 12:40
An Amazing Fact: In the next 24 hours a ruthless terrorist will be responsible for nearly … … half of all the homicides in North America. … half of all the people who will die on the highways. … half of all the people who will be admitted to the hospital. … half of all the people who will incarcerated in jail or prison. … half of all the people who will be involved in domestic violence. … half of all the nation’s birth defects.
His chemical attacks will cause untold misery and sorrow to thousands of families. Sadly, the government is looking the other way because this terrorist is paying them hush money. Worse still, even many professed Christians are defending and harboring this cold-hearted terrorist. Who is this deadly villain who is devastating our homes and nation?
Alcohol is the one responsible for all this hardship and tragedy. God wants us to have healthy, happy lives, and He has repeatedly warned us against alcoholic beverages. The Bible says, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Proverbs 20:1).
Samson’s mother was warned not to drink wine or similar products, because her yet unborn son was to be set aside in service to God. Similarly, John the Baptist was set aside for a special purpose. When he was conceived, his father was told, “For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink” (Luke 1:15).
The same guidelines apply to us because we’ve all been set aside for a special purpose. We’ve all been chosen by God as ambassadors for Christ. Only in soberness can we reflect Jesus’ love to others.
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Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. Proverbs 23:29-32
An Amazing Fact: Michelle Funk was only left alone for a few minutes that day in June 1986. It was long enough. She fell into the icy, runoff-swollen waters of Bell Canyon Creek, which winds through southeast Salt Lake County near her parents’ home. Sixty-six minutes later, when a diver pulled Michelle from the creek approximately 150 feet from where she had fallen in, she was lifeless. Her small body was frozen by the 40 degree water. It was the icy temperature of the water, along with its cleanliness, that allowed Michelle to be saved by doctors at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. She was rushed to the hospital, where a machine warmed up her blood. When her temperature reached 91 degrees F her heart started beating and she opened her eyes. Michelle entirely recovered and showed no signs of her traumatic experience.
The resuscitation of this two-and-a-half-year-old girl, submerged for more than an hour, was rare. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association described it as “miraculous.” It was not only the longest documented submersion with a positive outcome (she grew in a healthy and normal way), but it’s also the first successful use of a heart-lung
bypass machine to re-warm a child whose temperature had dropped extremely low from hypothermia.
What is amazing about this story is that the doctor that saved her life, Dr. Bolte, pondered the idea of using a heart-lung machine to warm the blood of victims of hypothermia just a few months before Michelle’s accident. When she arrived at the hospital, they worked for three hours to warm her up. After coming back to life it was another two months before she was able to return home.
Though many children die from drowning, usually from backyard swimming pools that do not have protective fences, there are some fortunate cases like Michelle’s. Someday, when Jesus returns, all those who are asleep in death will be miraculously resurrected and live forever. Even the Old Testament prophets described this spectacular day. “Your
dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead” (Isaiah 26:19).
Not everyone will have another chance like Michelle to awaken from being close to death. But we all may have hope in the resurrection if we seek to follow the Lifegiver.
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Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Ephesians 5:14
An Amazing Fact: The air we breathe is more than oxygen. It is a mixture of different gases that cover the Earth in a layer that is over 400 miles high, called the atmosphere. Air is made up of approximately 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and small amounts of argon, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and some others. Oxygen is our body’s most important physical need. Each breath we take brings this life-sustaining gas into our lungs. Oxygen is then diffused into our bloodstream, where it is transported all over the body through our red blood cells.
We all know that unless we are breathing we will die. But not many realize that poor breathing habits can affect your health. You can breathe better by using your lungs more effectively. Ideally, breathing should expand the lungs through lowering the diaphragm (a muscle separating the lungs from the abdominal organs). This can be accomplished by relaxing the abdominal muscles when you breathe in. The idea is to expand your upper lung area as well as your lower lung area, resulting in an increased lung function—deeper breathing. This makes a more efficient oxygen/
carbon dioxide exchange. In fact, the practice of deep breathing is one of the simplest ways of preventing certain types of pneumonia.
Typically the best air to breathe is found in the great out-of-doors, especially out in the country away from polluted city air. Some people might think indoor air isn’t so bad, but studies have shown it can be five times more polluted than outdoor air, which is bad considering that most people spend 90 percent of their time indoors. A simple remedy for improving indoor air quality is by “clearing the air.” Throw open the windows and let fresh air circulate through your home. Better yet, keep some windows open so that there is a constant supply of clean air coming through. If you live in the city, open your windows and air out your home at night since smog levels are lower after sunset.
God gives “breath to all,” not just physically, but spiritually as well. The Bible says, “And when He had said this, He [Jesus] breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22). The Greek word for “spirit” is the same word for “wind” or “air.” Just as we need fresh air to live, we also need God’s Spirit to truly live the Christian life.
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Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; Acts 17:25
An Amazing Fact: Many people love to eat pancakes for breakfast. Did you know one of the tallest (it keeps growing!) stacks of pancakes on record is 29.5 inches high set by chefs Sean McGinlay and Natalie King of Glagow’s Hilton Grosvenor Hotel. It contained 672 pancakes made with 100 eggs, 17 pints of milk, 11 pounds of flour, and 6.6 pounds of butter. But if you think that’s big, the largest pancake made weighed three tons! The Co-operative Union Ltd of Manchester, England, created a pancake measuring 49 feet, 2.55 inches in diameter on August 13, 1994. It contained an estimated two million calories!
The most pancakes ever made by an individual in one hour is 956 and goes to Steve Hamilton of Indiana. He claims to have flipped over 34 million pancakes in his lifetime. If they were laid end to end they would stretch from Los Angeles to Springfield, Illinois. And the most pancakes made in eight hours by a group of 300 volunteer cooks is 76,382. Thirty-eight griddles were used to cook almost 6,000 pounds of batter. People who ate them up used about 136 gallons of maple syrup and 365 pounds of butter. There is actually no official record for the number of pancakes people have eaten at one sitting since the Guinness Book of World Records tends to track things that people don’t normally enjoy eating in large quantities (like garlic cloves or onions). Some say the unofficial record is 72. (I like pancakes, but that is going just a little too far!)
Obviously, overeating pancakes for breakfast is not good for your health. But, did you know that skipping breakfast could be deadly? In one study, skipping breakfast was linked to an increased risk of premature death. By far, the best meal to skip, or at least minimize, is dinner. Another study reported better weight loss, improvement in diabetic conditions, and increased thyroid efficiency among a group of 595 people who consumed their last meal of the day by 3:00 p.m.
Wise eating can make a difference in your body and spirit. Daniel knew this when he turned away from eating the rich foods offered to him in Babylon. He challenged the steward overseeing him and his friends to let them only eat simple food. The result? “And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in the flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies” (Daniel 1:15). So, eat a healthy breakfast and enjoy better health!
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But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Daniel 1:8
An Amazing Fact: About 100 years ago, a pile of bones was found on a sand dune in Saudi Arabia. Evidently, a man had died while lost in the desert. In one of the pockets of his tattered clothes was a scribbled note that read, “Dying of thirst. I cannot go on any longer.” The lost soul had apparently assembled a small makeshift shelter there and, without water, sat down to die. Tragically, his remains were found right across a sand dune from a lush oasis—he died from thirst only a few hundred yards from artesian springs. Millions today are slowly dying from dehydration simply because they do not drink enough water.
About 83 percent of your blood is water. If that ratio drops just 5 percent, you will no longer be able to see. Another 10 percent and you will be unable to hear. A 12 percent reduction leads to your blood thickening, making it impossible for your heart to pump, which leads to death. On the other hand, a camel can lose 40 percent of the water content in its blood and do just fine!
Drinking other beverages (fruit juice, coffee, tea, etc.) does not provide the same health benefits as plain water. In fact, research has shown that women who consumed large quantities of non-water beverages increased their risk of a fatal heart attack by two-and-a-half times. The same study showed that men increased their risk by 50 percent!
Unless you are proactive in your daily intake of water, dehydration could become a way of life. It is little wonder that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. In 37 percent the thirst sensation is so impaired it is mistaken for feelings of hunger. But you can do too much of a good thing. Drinking too much water is rare, but it can happen. Forcing yourself to drink massive amounts of water can cause low blood sodium levels and lead to brain swelling and even death.
Water is so important that Jesus used it as an illustration of Himself. When talking to the Samaritan woman at the well, Christ compared the message of salvation He brings with life-giving water. He added, “But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). Every time you drink a
glass of water, remember that Jesus is the ultimate thirst quencher!
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Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: John 4:13
An Amazing Fact: Did you know that nearly 80 percent of Americans believe spiritual faith and prayer can help people recover from illness or injury? In a survey of 269 doctors in the American Academy of Family Physicians, 99 percent said religious beliefs can contribute to healing. When asked about personal experiences, 63 percent said God had intervened to improve their own medical conditions.
“Many Americans rely on prayer and spirituality for the benefit of health,” said Stephen E. Straus, MD, former director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Indeed, a 2004 survey of more than 31,000 adults conducted by researchers at the National Center for Health
Statistics and NCCAM found that prayer was the most commonly used practice among all the approaches mentioned in the survey.
In one study in the American Journal of Health Promotion (May-June 2005) it was discovered that people who pray have more favorable health-related behaviors, have less preventive care visits, and are more satisfied with the services of their medical care. About 47 percent of the subjects in this study prayed for their health and 90 percent believed that prayer improved their health.
So compelling is the evidence for the “faith factor” that even prestigious medical journals like the Archives of Internal Medicine have developed spiritual questionnaires to assess a patient’s level of trust in God. Science indeed has recognized what every person of faith has known intuitively for centuries—trusting God can be very beneficial to your health!
Paul encourages the Philippian believers to pray about everything. What is the result? “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding [expectations] will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). James actually gives us clear instructions on praying for the sick. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up” (James 5:14, 15).
Sometimes God chooses to miraculously heal our bodies, but what is assured is that our sins will be forgiven and we will enjoy everlasting life. We are safe in God’s hands when we pray.
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Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. James 4:14
An Amazing Fact: Mary Mallon, also known as Typhoid Mary, was an Irish immigrant who was the first known healthy carrier of typhoid fever in the United States. She was born in Ireland in 1869 and immigrated alone to the U.S. in 1883 when she was only 15. She apparently contracted typhoid fever at some point but only suffered a mild case, resisting the bacteria enough to appear healthy but still being very capable of spreading the disease to others. Mary loved to cook, so she obtained employment between 1900 and 1907 in private homes around New York City as a household cook.
While cooking in a house in Mamaroneck, New York, for less than two weeks, the residents came down with typhoid. She then worked in Manhattan in 1901, and members of that family developed typhoid, and the laundress died. In 1904, she took another position on Long Island. Within two weeks, four of 10 family members were hospitalized with typhoid. She changed employment, and three more households were infected. Apparently, the disease was frequently transmitted by Mary’s favorite recipe, a dessert of iced peaches.
After careful investigation, George Soper identified Mary as a carrier. But Mary stubbornly refused to believe someone not sick could spread disease and rejected requests for testing. The New York City Health Department tried to reason with Mary but she was convinced that the law was wantonly persecuting her because she was a working-class Irish immigrant. It required several police officers to place her into custody. The New York City health inspector tested her and confirmed she was a rare case of a healthy carrier. So they isolated her for three years at a hospital.
Later she was reluctantly released on the condition that she would not work with food. However, in 1915 she returned to cooking, at a New York hospital no less, and infected 25 people, two of whom died. Public health authorities again seized and confined Mary in quarantine for the remaining 23 years of her life. When she died in 1938 of pneumonia, the autopsy revealed that she was still actively carrying typhoid. In the end she had infected at least 51 people with the disease, three of whom died.
The Bible teaches about another woman who deliberately spreads deadly false teachings. John writes that she had “in her hand a golden cup full of abominations” (Revelation 17:4). We can avoid the infection of sin when we only drink of the pure water of life.
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And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: Revelation 17:4
An Amazing Fact: In 1915, Dr. Henry D. Chapin reported that in infant-care homes throughout the U.S. nearly every child under two years died. The mortality rate was almost 100 percent. Knowing the babies were given adequate nourishment and cleanliness, he wondered what the problem was. He then discovered the policy at the time was “no coddling of the babies was allowed.” The babies died from lack of touch.
During WWII, an orphanage in London was a warehouse for a wave of unwanted babies. Children there were only given essential care like clothing, food, and shelter. It was all they could do just to attend to the many physical needs that were obvious. At this particular orphanage, the mortality rate was high. Fifty percent of all babies that came in died within a year and a half of their arrival. They simply did not know then, what we know today, about the importance of human touch and the role it plays in the physical, as well as emotional, well-being of babies.
Someone came up with the idea of touching the babies more, not just when they were fed or clothed. All workers, from the janitor to the director, were ordered to reach down and stroke or gently touch every baby they passed in the course of their day. They were not required to pick them up or spend any significant amount of time being physical.
They just had to touch. The results of this new mandate were astonishing. Within two years, the mortality rate of infants brought to the orphanage dropped from 50 percent to 15 percent.
The 13th-century historian Salimbene described an experiment made by the German emperor Frederick II, who wanted to know what language children would speak if raised without hearing any words at all. Babies were taken from their mothers and raised in isolation. The result was that they all died. Salimbene wrote in 1248, “They could not live without caressing.” Nor can anyone else. Human babies definitely need tender loving care to survive. Untouched adults may not die physically, but they will experience emotional and social atrophy.
Could this be why everywhere Jesus went He touched people? Whether He was blessing children or healing a leper, Jesus made it a point to reach out and lovingly touch people. Who will you bless today with your touch of Christian love?
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And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. Mark 1:41
An Amazing Fact: Man is different from every other creature in regard to clothing. All of God’s other creatures were “born with their clothes on,” so to speak. Shrimp and snakes slough off their old clothes and grow new ones. Some animals even shed their old clothes periodically and develop new ones. Man is the only creature whose clothes must come from the outside.
Most of us have never felt much of a debt of gratitude for our clothing, but some people owe their lives to what they were wearing! For instance, in order to survive the extreme temperatures and vacuum of space, astronauts need special spacesuits. These suits supply them with oxygen, maintain pressure, monitor their blood pressure and heart rhythm, and keep their bodies at controlled temperatures. Without the Earth’s atmosphere to filter the sunlight, the side of the suit facing the Sun may be heated to a temperature as high as 248 degrees F; the other side,
exposed to darkness of deep space, may get as cold as minus 160 degrees F. Paradoxically, the suit’s life-support system has to remove the heat and sweaty moisture generated by the working astronaut. This is usually accomplished by circulating cool water through an undergarment worn next to the astronaut’s skin.
When Neil Armstrong went on the historic Apollo 11 mission as the first man to land on the moon, his suit was specially designed to provide a life-sustaining environment with relative comfort for up to 115 hours outside the spacecraft, or for 14 days in an unpressurized mode. Astronauts must put an enormous amount of trust in their spacesuits. One described the eerie feeling he got after realizing that while outside the space capsule, there was just one-quarter of an inch of material between him and eternity. Now that’s important clothing!
Jesus once told a story about a king who provided wedding garments for all his guests. When he walked through the banquet hall he was surprised to find one person without the special clothing he provided. “So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless” (Matthew 22:12). When Jesus comes back to our Earth, will you be ready to make a trip to heaven because you have on the special garment of His righteousness?
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And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: Matthew 22:11
An Amazing Fact: Did you know that one hour of sleep deprivation increases the number of highway accidents by 8 percent and an hour of extra sleep decreases them by 8 percent? It’s true, and studies have shown that it happens every year during the daylight saving time changes.
Getting a good night’s rest is nothing to snore at. Your efficiency driving after you have been awake for 18 hours is the same as driving after you have had two alcoholic drinks. When you have been awake for 24 hours your driving efficiency is equivalent to driving under the influence of 4-6 drinks!
Are Americans sleeping less than their great-grandparents? Yes. An estimated 60 million Americans have trouble sleeping. Today, because of artificial lights, TV, the Internet, and the caffeine craze, people are sleeping about one hour less than their great-grandparents did. This figure might not be startling in itself—but considering that proper sleep is one of the most important elements in the process of healing, America is also in for a disease-ridden wake up call.
So what’s wrong with a little caffeine to keep you awake? The hormone adenosine induces relaxation to help us sleep, but caffeine blocks the communication between adenosine and the brain, keeping you “awake” and shutting off the body’s defense against exhaustion-related injury. Alcohol also robs the body of deep sleep. Tobacco users miss out on deeper sleep due to nicotine withdrawal during the night. And antidepressants (even sleeping pills) can also decrease levels of REM sleep, a type of sleep that keeps your mind healthy.
Optimum performance comes with nine hours of sleep each night. Sending your kids to bed early is no longer a “because I said so” event. According to one study, school-age children who had less than nine hours of sleep had dramatically higher rates of obesity and increased temperament issues. And those going to bed after 9 p.m. were the most at risk for developing these complications.
Getting enough sleep is important when it comes to performance, but Jesus said there is a time to stay awake at any cost. Paul explains, “Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let
us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness” (Romans 13:13, 14). When we properly get our rest, physically and spiritually in Christ, we will be able to function with clear minds.
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And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. Romans 13:11
An Amazing Fact: When Kim Peek was born in 1951, his parents knew he was different. He had an enlarged head, and tests revealed that his left and right brain hemispheres were not separated like most people, forming a great single “data storage” area. Kim’s motor skills and physical development proved slow, and he did not walk until age four. But early on his parents noticed other remarkable abilities. By 20 months Kim was able to memorize every book that was read to him. By age three Kim was reading the dictionary. Since that time until his death in 2009, Kim had read and could clearly recall over 12,000 books!
Peek was called a “mega-savant” because his photographic memory made him a virtual genius in about 15 different subjects. Known as “Kimputer” to many, his vast knowledge included: world and American history, British monarchs, Bible history, geography (he was acquainted with all main roads and highways in the U.S. and Canada), professional sports statistics (for baseball, basketball, football, Kentucky Derby winners, etc.), the history of the space program, movies and music themes, the complete works of Shakespeare, telephone area codes, major zip codes, and all TV stations and their markets. He could identify most classical music compositions and tell the date the music was written and the composer’s birth date and place of birth and death. He especially enjoyed calendar calculations. If you told him your birth date, he would tell you the day of the week you were born and what the day of the week will be when you turn 65 so you can retire.
Kim struggled with simple tasks like dressing and shaving himself or finding the silverware drawer at home. Still, it was his encyclopedic memory that became the inspiration for the 1988 Oscar-winning movie Rain Man, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman. In his later life, when home in Utah, Kim spent afternoons at the Salt Lake City Public Library poring
over books, even memorizing phone books. It only took him about eight seconds to read an average page and he read two pages at a time—one with his left eye the other with his right.
If you had a photographic memory, what would you want to remember? King David provides the perfect answer in today’s Bible text. What could be more important than to keep in mind all of God’s law. David also wrote: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
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I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me. Psalms 119:93
An Amazing Fact: Eugen Sandow, a Prussian man born in 1867, is known as “the father of modern bodybuilding.” Besides performing feats of strength with barbells, Sandow was one of the first individuals to develop his muscles to exact proportions. He greatly admired the classical Greek and Roman statues. When he visited museums containing these statues, he would carefully measure them. He then used these figures to build his physique to the same proportions, which he considered the “Grecian ideal.” Eventually, more people became interested in bodybuilding, and Sandow later created a gym and shared his knowledge on how to develop muscles. He is credited with initiating and popularizing the fitness craze that continues to this day.
Sandow’s strength and muscles were only moderate compared to those of modern body builders. Take, for example, Isaac Nesser, who holds the record for the largest naturally obtained muscular chest and arms. His chest measures 74 inches around and his arms bulge at 29 inches in circumference. He has bench pressed as much as 820 pounds
and curls barbells up to 315 pounds.
This is impressive, but a small feat compared with the exploits of Samson. According to the Bible, he was the strongest man who ever lived, and he killed thousands of the enemies of his people. When he was tied up with new rope, he simply broke free. Another time he picked up the gates of a city and carried them to the top of a hill. He even killed a lion with his bare hands! How many people do you know who could do that? Can you imagine the size of Samson’s muscles? Yet, when it came to spiritual muscle, for most of his life Samson was a real wimp, chasing
after heathen women and making other disastrous moral choices.
The Scriptures tell us that God is the one who gives us strength, both physical and spiritual. “The Lord will give strength to His people …” (Psalm 29:11). “The Lord is my strength and my shield …” (Psalm 28:7). “It is God who arms me with strength …” (Psalm 18:32).
God strengthens our spiritual muscle through regular prayer and Bible study, through trusting His promises and sharing His goodness with others. And like Sandow with his statues, we have an “ideal”—Jesus—and He will empower us to be like Him.
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He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Isaiah 40:29
An Amazing Fact: Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a troubling condition where individuals, mostly children, arise in a state of low consciousness and perform various activities normally performed while awake. These activities can be as harmless as sitting up in bed, walking to the bathroom, and cleaning, or as hazardous as driving, starting fires, walking in traffic, or cooking. The person’s eyes might be open but have a glassy “look right through you” expression. These sleepwalking episodes can last as little as 30 seconds or as long as 30 minutes.
Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is a troubling condition where individuals, mostly children, arise in a state of low consciousness and perform various activities normally performed while awake. These activities can be as harmless as sitting up in bed, walking to the bathroom, and cleaning, or as hazardous as driving, starting fires, walking in traffic, or cooking. The person’s eyes might be open but have a glassy “look right through you” expression. These sleepwalking episodes can last as little as 30 seconds or as long as 30 minutes.
In 2005, a 34-year-old computer expert was reportedly caught sleepwalking by his wife. He was mowing the lawn at 2 a.m. … naked. Rebekah Armstrong was awakened by a noise coming from the garden. When she realized her husband, Ian, was not in bed she went downstairs and looked outside to see what was happening. Rebekah found Ian was mowing the lawn in his birthday tuxedo. She was afraid to wake him up because she had heard it could be dangerous to disturb someone in a sleepwalking trance. So she just unplugged the electric mower, went back to bed and let him go through the motions. Later Ian came wandering back to bed. In the morning he didn’t believe Rebekah when she told him what he’d been up to. “It wasn’t until I told him to look at the soles of his feet that he finally believed me—they were filthy.”
Is it possible to be a sleepwalking Christian? I don’t mean physically getting out of bed and walking around in a state of unconsciousness. Can Christians be spiritually asleep, walking through life in a low state of awareness about the things of God? Absolutely! Jesus’ parable of the ten virgins describes a group (representing the church) who were awaiting the coming of the bridegroom (Jesus). Notice, “But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5).
Do you know what divides these sleeping saints into two different groups? Half of them, though slumbering, still had made preparations for the coming of the bridegroom. When the midnight cry was heard, part of the group had extra oil (representing the Holy Spirit) and were immediately ready to follow the wedding party. Are you making necessary
preparations for Jesus’ soon coming?
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And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. Romans 13:11
An Amazing Fact: Deadly malaria fevers have been killing people since the beginning of written history, but it wasn’t until the middle of the 17th century that an effective treatment was discovered. Jesuit missionaries in Peru noticed the success of the Quechua Indians in treating malaria with a tea made from the bark of a local tree. While no one knows for sure how the Indians learned this remedy, there is a plausible legend which supplies an account.
The tale starts with an Indian lost in the Peruvian jungle and burning with fever from malaria. He stumbled upon a pool of water and threw himself down at the edge to satisfy his thirst. One gulp of the bitter water told him that it had been tainted by the bark of the quina-quina tree, which the locals assumed was poisonous. Much to the man’s surprise, he did not die but felt his strength returning. He eventually found his way back to his own village, where he made a full recovery.
He told everybody about the pool and the taste of the quina-quina bark, and the quinine tonic water treatment was born. In 1742, the tree was renamed cinchona by a Swedish botanist in honor of the Countess of Chinchon, who may have been the first European to use an extract of the bark to treat her malaria. Quinine was still the preferred treatment for malaria until the 1940s, and it is still used in certain regions of the world because of its low cost. Quinine has also been used to treat arthritis and lupus.
The Bible speaks of another tree that has healing properties: the tree of life. This tree, which has two trunks, one on either side of the river of life, bears 12 different kinds of fruit. Poetically, Revelation tells us that its leaves are for healing the nations. In other words, all that divides us here on Earth will be healed as people from all nations of the world gather under its branches.
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In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2
An Amazing Fact: In 1820, a crowd of curious people gathered around the county courthouse in Salem, New Jersey. The county fair was in progress, and they jostled one another in eager anticipation, for they were about to witness a daring feat. Soon a man appeared on the steps, holding in one hand a piece of poisonous fruit that had been part of the fair’s decorations. As he held it up for them to see, members of the crowd whispered excitedly to one another. “Is he really going to eat it?” some asked in disbelief.
The man was Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson, and the fruit was a tomato. Returning Spanish conquistadors brought the first tomato seeds from Peru to Italy. Upon arrival, the Italians believed the heart-shaped tomato was an aphrodisiac—thus tomato in Italian, poma amoris, means “love apple.” Love apples were often tokens of courtship. Young men gave them to their girlfriends, who would wear the seeds in sachets around their necks. The fruit was admired for its beauty, but because of its relation to deadly nightshade the tomato was regarded as poison by Americans and no one would dream of eating it.
The crowd gasped in horror as Colonel Johnson deliberately placed the tomato in his mouth and ate it with apparent relish. They waited breathlessly, expecting soon to see him collapse, writhing in dying agony, on the courthouse steps. But nothing happened. Instead, praising the color and texture, he ate a second tomato, explaining that tomatoes were delicious either cooked or raw. He then invited the onlookers to join him in his meal, and a few of the braver ones went forward. Soon they too were relishing the tomatoes’ flavor.
The news rapidly spread, and eventually tomatoes became a widely accepted article of diet, providing a primary source of minerals and vitamins A and C. Today the United States grows about 9 million metric tons of tomatoes yearly and there are more varieties of tomatoes sold than of any other fruit.
The Bible teaches that the devil is a master of deception in convincing people to fear what is good and eat what is bad. But once we taste the goodness of the Lord and learn to trust in Him, He will help us discern between what is bad and what is good. He will be our Guide.
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O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Psalms 34:8
An Amazing Fact: On August 4, 1914, the magnificent British luxury liner RMS Carmania was three days out of New York City with 800 passengers on her way to Liverpool when she learned from another ship that England had declared war on Germany. As soon as the Carmania arrived in Liverpool the British Admiralty assumed command. Within one week of entering port as a first-class cruise liner, the Carmania was converted into a warship in service of the Royal Navy.
On September 2, the Carmania was assigned to the West Indies with orders to scout the vicinity for enemy ships. Three days later the lookout sighted a ship off the coast of Trinidad. At that point the Carmania crew might have thought they entered the Twilight Zone. The ship they spied in the distance from the decks of the Carmania was … the Carmania! Or at least a ship that bore her name and looked exactly like her. The other vessel was in fact a German luxury liner called the Cap Trafalgar that had also been converted into a warship and then disguised in every outward detail as the Carmania.
Because of the short-range guns which had been installed on the German ship, she could only be effective in battle if she could get close enough to the enemy. So the Cap Trafalgar was disguised as the British liner Carmania, and that was the German ship’s downfall. On September 14, the disguised Cap Trafalgar was attacked and sunk by the real Carmania.
The incredible mirror encountered in the ocean by the Carmania was a two-way mirror. Just as the Cap Trafalgar was redesigned—even to the dismantling of one smoke stack—to look like the Carmania, the Carmania was also redesigned and repainted so that she could get closer to the enemy. In the process a dummy smoke stack was added to the British ship. That’s right! When the two vessels coincidentally met in mid-Atlantic on September 14, 1914, each was masquerading as the other!
The Bible teaches in the last days Satan will perform his masterpiece of impersonation. Jesus warned of false christs coming (Matthew 24:24-26), but God’s people will not be caught off guard for they know the Scriptures. The devil cannot counterfeit the universal coming of Christ (see v. 27). If we study the Bible we will detect the deceiver and not be fooled, even if the outward details look like the real thing.
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And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. Matthew 24:24-26
An Amazing Fact: Alexander Selkirk was a quick-tempered, hardened sailor and pirate. In 1703, he joined William Dampier on a privateering expedition, plundering Spanish merchant ships in the Pacific. After a quarrel with the captain over the seaworthiness of their ship, the hotheaded Selkirk demanded to be left ashore on the uninhabited island of Juan Fernandez, 400 miles west of Chile. However, when Selkirk realized that none of the crew would join him, he had a moment of regret and begged the captain to be let on the ship—but the captain refused. So Selkirk was left alone with a few basic supplies: clothes, bedding, flint, a pound of gunpowder, bullets, a hatchet, a knife, a kettle, his navigation tools, and a Bible. What Selkirk thought might be a few days until the next ship came by stretched into nearly four and a half years.
The first months were a difficult adjustment. The nights were terrifying: the bellowing calls of sea lions, tree limbs breaking in the frequent storms, and the hordes of rats gnawing on his feet as he tried to sleep. Selkirk was depressed and even contemplated suicide. He was almost glad to be hungry because it diverted his thoughts. However, in time, Selkirk’s mood improved.
He kept busy building a hut, catching wild goats to eat, and taming the feral cats (which eventually helped with the rats). In addition to watching for passing ships, Selkirk spent time singing hymns, praying, and reading his Bible. He later remarked that he was a better Christian on the island than ever before, or, as it seems, after.
In 1709, Selkirk was rescued by another English ship. It was then that he learned the fate of his old crewmates: the ship sank soon after leaving Juan Fernandez, most of the crew was killed, and the rest were captured by the Spanish.
As the poet John Milton wrote, “Loneliness is the first thing which God’s eye named, not good.” God knew that we would need human companionship and gave us marriage, family, and friendship for that purpose. But during those abandoned-at-sea moments when marriages fail, families misunderstand us, and friends desert us, we can find the Companion that Selkirk found—the One who promises “I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).
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And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. Genesis 2:18
An Amazing Fact: Have you ever wondered why in some countries the drivers use the right side of the road and in others—like Great Britain—they use the left? Well, the theory is that in olden days the nobility would ride their horses on the left of the road so their sword hand, usually the right hand, would be on the same side as an oncoming horseman. Naturally, with armed nobility riding around, it made sense for peasants to walk on the right, facing the oncoming traffic. For many years this was the case in the U.K. and Europe.
But remember that during the French revolution many of the aristocrats were executed. Even after the revolution it was a bad idea to be mistaken for nobility. So everyone in France started to travel on the right side of the road. Then along came Napoleon, who carried this practice with him as he conquered large parts of Europe and built the first international road system since the Romans. But because of his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon never made it to England. Therefore, the U.K. and all its territories continued riding on the left. Today the words “right” and “left” have also come to represent opposite extremes in politics and religion, generally in reference to liberal or conservative views and practices.
Did you know that the Bible teaches that right and left extremes will come together in the last days to worship the beast and its image? Revelation 13 talks about “small and great, rich and poor, free and slave” receiving a mark of allegiance to the beast. This power will attempt to unite all mankind in a defiant stance against God. When good and evil play out their final struggle, no one will be immune from making a choice one way or the other. Everyone will worship either God or the beast.
According to Scripture, the confrontation won’t last long. Every person from every nation will be gathered before Christ, “and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). Great things are in store for the sheep on the right, for they will inherit the kingdom of God (verse 34). I want to be sure I’m at the right hand of Jesus on that day, don’t you?
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And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Matthew 25:33
An Amazing Fact: Josephine de Beauharnais was the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte and the first empress of the French. She received many love letters from Napoleon, and many of them still exist. Her chateau was known for a magnificent rose garden. She watched over it very carefully and collected roses from around the world. Because she did not produce an heir for the king, Napoleon divorced her, but never forgot her.
The chateau near Paris, long inhabited by Josephine, still exudes the strong odor of musk with which the empress used to douse her person in life. Her favorite essence was the Houbigant musk perfume manufactured in Paris. The castle, now a museum, changed hands many times after Napoleon’s ex-wife died in it in 1814. But no effort of the subsequent owners has ever succeeded in eradicating the strong and penetrating scent which clings to the walls, imprinting the empress’s personality on her residence forever.
Napoleon was so enamored of the sweet smell of success that he used 54 bottles of cologne a month and carried them with him to his battlefields. Houbigant fragrances could be found in his campaign chest during the years he went out to conquer Europe. One would think that on a windy day the odor would have alerted the enemy of his presence!
The Bible talks about perfume in reference to the Old Testament sanctuary altar of incense. God gave careful instructions on how to make this fragrant substance using gum resins and spices. The specific recipe was sacred and not to be used for general purposes (see Exodus 30:34-38). This incense was burned morning and evening on the altar that stood in the Holy Place in front of the curtain that separated it from the Most Holy Place.
This golden altar of incense was seen by John in vision in heaven standing before God. On it an angel burned incense, which was mingled with the prayers of the saints (Revelation 8:3) and represents the ministry of Christ. Like Josephine and Napoleon, it would be well for us to “douse” ourselves every day, not with cologne or perfume, but with the sweet savor of prayer.
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And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy. Exodus 30:35-36
An Amazing Fact: Ancient Norse history speaks in the old sagas of a fearsome class of warriors called Berserkers. According to reports, Berserkers would dress themselves in the skins of bears or wolves to exploit the fear common people had for wild animals.
Before entering battle, Berserkers would whip themselves up into a sort of crazed frenzy, biting their shields and howling like animals, possibly aided by psychoactive drugs. While in this trance-like condition, they were ferocious fighters and seemingly impervious to pain. Swords and knives seemed to have little impact on them. In their rage, Berserkers made formidable enemies; they even attacked the boulders and trees of the forest and it was not uncommon for them to kill their own people during their rampage. Their irrational and violent behavior showed that they were totally out of control.
It was often said the Berserker seemed to change into bestial form, or at least to assume the ferocious nature of the wolf or bear. One writer reports, “… they went without coats of mail, and acted like mad dogs and wolves.” It is believed the myth of werewolves originates with these wild Norse warriors. And you probably figured out that these enraged Scandinavian fighters gave rise to the English word “berserk” to describe someone who is overcome with an uncontrolled rage. Now here’s a question: If Christians lose their temper and fly off the handle, are they really Christians when they act berserk?
The Scriptures tell us, “A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages …” and “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 14:16; 16:32). And Peter advises: “… add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control …” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
Self-control is an important part of Christian character. Only by controlling our temper can we reflect Christ to others. If we’re really living for Christ, rather than acting impulsively in response to anger, we will be developing the fruit of His Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22, 23).
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Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
An Amazing Fact: On September 22, 1840, Captain Brighton of the whaling ship Hope claimed to have happened upon a strange sight—a ship frozen in the ice of the Drake Passage near Antarctica. Boarding the ship, Captain Brighton found that the crew had died some years before, but their bodies had been perfectly preserved by the frigid temperatures of the Antarctic sea. They were frozen solid—some in their hammocks as if asleep. The captain of the Jenny was sitting at his desk in front of his log book, his pen still in his hand. The last entry read: “No food for 71 days. I am the only one left alive.” According to the date, the schooner Jenny had been floating among the icebergs for thirteen years.
While this account is unsubstantiated and likely only a sea-faring legend, it is thought provoking. Do we have churches with a temperature problem? Jesus warned that His church at the end of time would think that they are rich and in need of nothing, but in reality they are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Thankfully, Jesus also provided a solution: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see” (Revelation 3:18).
The gold Jesus refers to is a loving faith, the kind that can endure tough trials. He offers us His white garments of righteousness—His life lived out within us (Isaiah 61:10), but first we need to look to Jesus so our blind eyes can see our true condition. When we realize how our spiritual pride has blinded us and how poor we really are, we might well ask how a poor man can afford gold and new clothes. That’s the best part! Jesus intends for us to buy from Him “without money” because He’s paid the price (Isaiah 55:1).
Good news like this can thaw even the hardest heart!
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I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Revelation 3:15-16
An Amazing Fact: Aside from Israel, Iraq is the land most often mentioned in the Bible. Some familiar Bible names for this historic region are Eden, Shinar, Babylon, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Nineveh, and parts of ancient Persia. It is sometimes known as the Fertile Crescent and cradle of civilization. The adventures of Bible characters like Esther, Jonah, Daniel, and Ezekiel all took place in this historic land. On two occasions the people of God have been carried off to the land of Iraq. The ten tribes were carried off into Assyria in 721 B.C. Then Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and drove its inhabitants of Judah into 70 years of captivity. This is one reason Saddam Hussein revered King Nebuchadnezzar as his hero. Hussein longed to duplicate the feat of conquering Israel and ruling the Arab nations!
In fact, Saddam once had himself photographed in a replica of the war chariot of Nebuchadnezzar, and tried to convince people he was the reincarnation of the ancient king of Babylon. (The Bible also tells us that Nebuchadnezzar went insane for seven years.) History records Babylon was conquered by the Persians and then the Greeks. After the death of Alexander the Great the city of Babylon began to fade. Ultimately, the once great city ceased to be inhabited and the ruins were swallowed by the Euphrates River and shifting sand of the Iraqi desert.
Many Christians firmly believe that Babylon must be rebuilt before the last events of prophecy can be fulfilled. But the prophet Isaiah clearly promised, “It will never be inhabited … But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls …” (Isaiah 13:20, 21). Saddam Hussein desperately wanted to prove the Jewish prophet wrong and vainly spent millions trying to rebuild the ruins of ancient Babylon in an effort to restore it to a thriving metropolis. Saddam’s grand plans to restore Babylon have been repeatedly thwarted by war, and now he is gone.
If the Bible says Babylon will never be rebuilt, then what is the lastday Babylon spoken of in the book of Revelation? Revelation 17:5 speaks of Babylon as “the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” If Christ’s church is represented as a pure woman (see Revelation 12:1), then what else could Babylon represent but fallen apostate churches?
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And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. Isaiah 13:19-20
An Amazing Fact: The state of Israel has only 0.8 percent of the world’s population and is the world’s 100th smallest country. Yet they can claim the following amazing accomplishments:
- Twenty-four percent of Israel’s workforce holds university degrees and 12 percent hold advanced degrees. That’s the highest ratio for its population in the world.
- Aside from the United States, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world.
- Israel’s economy of $100 billion is larger than all of its immediate neighbors combined.
- Israel has the highest average standard of living in the Middle East, even exceeding that of the United Kingdom.
- Israel has the world’s second highest number of new books per capita.
- Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.
- The cell phone was developed in Israel by Motorola.
- Israel is the only country in the world that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees.
- With an aerial arsenal of over 250 F-16s, Israel has the largest fleet of fighter aircraft outside of the United States.
- Relative to its population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on Earth.
- Israel has more museums per capita than any other country in the world.
It would certainly seem that God is blessing this little country! But why then is this unique nation so embattled? What will their end result be as a nation? Christ wept over Jerusalem and foretold their future. God has not rejected individuals of Jewish descent. But the Lord has turned away from Israel as His representative nation. Yet, the tears of Christ, when He wept over Jerusalem, are tears He weeps for you and me if we will not turn to Him.
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O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. Matthew 23:37-39
An Amazing Fact: In A.D. 1532, Francisco Pizarro, with around 160 men, entered the heart of the Inca Empire in search of gold. The Conquistadors eventually found their way into the presence of the young Inca king, Atahuallpa. That’s when a Spanish friar, traveling with Pizarro, told the Inca monarch his people must renounce their gods. When Atahuallpa asked them upon what authority they were making this demand, the Catholic friar handed him a Bible. Atahuallpa held the book next to his ear, trying to listen to its pages. At last he asked: “Why doesn’t the book say anything to me?” And he threw it violently to the ground.
The Spanish used this insult as an excuse to attack and massacre the crowds of unarmed people, and the handsome king was arrested. It is, indeed, astonishing to think how a small army like Pizarro’s, with only 62 horsemen and 102 infantry, were able to attack an empire of at least five million people. But they had the latest technology in deadly weapons—guns and mechanical crossbows and horses—that terrified the natives.
King Atahuallpa, now understanding that the Spanish wanted gold, came up with his plan to free himself. He told Pizarro he would give, for his release, enough gold and silver vessels to fill three large rooms. The Spaniards thought this was impossible, but the gold-hungry Pizarro agreed. So Atahuallpa decreed that his realm be ransacked to fill one room 18-by-22-feet with gold stacked to a height of a little more than eight feet.
In addition, two equal-sized rooms would be filled with silver! By July of 1533, more than 24 tons of exquisite treasure had been collected, worth at least 267 million dollars at today’s values. The Spaniards did not honor their promise. They kept Atahuallpa imprisoned for another year, using him to control the Inca Empire, and then killed him.
How sad that the largest ransom ever paid for a man’s freedom was in vain! Sadder still, there are millions of people who have had a king’s ransom paid for their freedom and they choose to remain in prison! It doesn’t have to be this way. Jesus is waiting to release us from the prison of sin. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Will you accept this freedom today?
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Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians 5:1
An Amazing Fact: Legend has it that when the Greeks were unable to capture the city of Troy, even after imposing a 10-year siege, they finally resorted to a clever stratagem. The Greek army pretended to sail away and left on the shore a huge, hollow wooden horse as an apparent victory gift. However, the gift was actually filled with several armed warriors!
Sinon, a Greek warrior, is the only volunteer to be “left behind” and become a spy inside Troy. The Greeks pretend to sail away, but plan to come back under the cover of night. Sinon then tells the people of Troy that the horse is a gift to the god Athena to atone for their evil acts against their city. He then persuades the Trojans to bring the horse within the city walls, saying it will mysteriously make Troy invincible. That night Sinon releases the troops hiding in the gigantic horse. After killing the Trojan guards, they open the gates to the waiting Greek soldiers, and Troy is captured and burned.
There are various accounts of different characters who try to warn the Trojans not to accept the gift horse. A Trojan priest expresses, in Virgil’s famous poetic words, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” but is strangled by the god Poseidon before the townspeople hear and believe his warning.
Modern historians suggest the horse may have originally been a battering ram. Others think an earthquake provided the necessary break down of walls for soldiers to enter the city. Today we think of a “Trojan horse” as any deceptive strategy used to trick people into bringing an enemy into one’s protected space—such as innocently opening a computer file and infecting your hard drive.
The Trojan horse is a clear illustration for the work of Satan in seeking to deceive people just before Jesus returns. Christ warns us that in the last days “many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). The devil will not try to send false Christs only once or twice. Many deceivers will come. Jesus tells us to be careful. Like Virgil’s famous words, we too should “beware of the devil bearing gifts!”
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And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. Matthew 24:4-5
An Amazing Fact: Born of slave parents in Diamond Grove, Missouri, George Washington Carver was rescued from Confederate kidnappers as an infant. He began his education in Newton County in southwest Missouri, where he worked as a farmhand and studied in a one-room schoolhouse. Throughout his formal education, Carver was the only African-American student at each school he attended. An excellent student, he thrived in the educational environment, impressed his teachers, and went on to earn a master’s degree from Iowa State College.
Carver is perhaps to this day the nation’s best known African-American scientist. In the period between 1890 and 1910, the cotton crop had been devastated by the boll weevil. At Tuskegee Institute, Carver had developed his crop rotation method, which alternated nitrate-producing legumes—such as peanuts and peas—with cotton, which depletes the soil of its nutrients.
Carver advised the cotton farmers to cultivate peanuts. Following Carver’s lead, southern farmers soon began planting peanuts one year and cotton the next. While many of the peanuts were used to feed livestock, large surpluses quickly developed. Carver then invented over 300 different uses for the extra peanuts—from cooking oil to shampoo, from milk to printer’s ink.
When he discovered that the sweet potato and the pecan also enriched depleted soils, Carver found almost 20 uses for these crops, including making synthetic rubber and material for paving highways. His accomplishments earned him world renown as a plant expert, scientist, and inventor, and he received many honors.
While some people, such as George Washington Carver, seem to have an extra measure of wisdom, we can all increase our wisdom. The Bible clearly identifies the true source: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). God wants us to have wisdom. His Word tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
George Washington Carver had great faith in God and knew Jesus as his Savior. He was also a humble man. Because he understood that all wisdom comes from God, he rightly gave God the credit for all of his skills, talents, and accomplishments.
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And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom. 1 Kings 4:34If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. James 1:5
An Amazing Fact: Years ago in the old Russian Empire the ruling czar, Nicholas II, was strolling through his vast palace gardens when he came upon a lonely guard standing at attention in a secluded corner of the great meandering gardens. “What are you guarding?” asked the inquisitive ruler. “To tell you the truth, O Great Sovereign, I have no idea, but the captain of the guard ordered me to this post,” the sentry replied.
Czar Nicholas then summoned the captain and made further inquiries as to what was being guarded. The captain of the guard replied, “O Great Sovereign, there are clear written regulations specifying that a guard was to be assigned to that precise corner at all times and this has been done as long as I can remember.” The curious czar then ordered a search to find out why.
The palace archives finally yielded the answer. Years before, Catherine the Great had planted a special rose bush in that corner, and she had firmly ordered a sentry to be posted there to guard it so nothing might disturb or damage it. Now, one hundred years later, even though the rose bush had died long before, sentries were still guarding the now barren corner of dirt, even though no one knew why!
Traditions of faith can be valuable. They may be useful in preserving special experiences or ideals handed down by family or culture. However, we should be careful in what we spend our time guarding! Many religions zealously defend rituals which have lost their meaning. People may faithfully stand by traditions but not know why.
There is a more serious concern regarding traditions that Jesus warned us about. If a custom should ever stand in conflict with the commandments of God, it should be thrown out. Christ told us that holding such traditions makes “the word of God of no effect” (Mark 7:13). It’s a good idea to reflect on the traditions we keep. Do they conflict with God’s law? If so, we are stepping away from the Bible. It’s like standing guard over a dead bush.
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Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. Mark 7:7-8
An Amazing Fact: Most of us know that the first book ever printed on a printing press was the Bible. But the quality and methods of printing in those early years were very primitive in comparison to today. This led to many printing errors in these early Bibles; although they did not cause any serious theological confusion, some of them were still worth a smile.
That is, until 1631, when King Charles I ordered 1,000 Bibles from an English printer named Robert Barker. Only after the Bibles were delivered did anyone notice a serious mistake. In Exodus 20:14, a very small word was forgotten by the printers—the word “not.” That might seem like a small mistake in a book with over 700,000 words. But Exodus 20:14 happens to be one of the Ten Commandments. This little error changed the seventh commandment to say “Thou shalt commit adultery”!
This legendary edition became known as the “Wicked Bible.” King Charles was not amused by the infamous printing blunder. He ordered the Bibles recalled and destroyed, took away Barker’s license to print Bibles, and fined him 300 pounds (that was a lifetime of wages in those days). It is believed that only 11 of the original 1,000 Bibles exist today.
Robert Barker’s mistake was an innocent one; he didn’t intend to tamper with the Ten Commandments. But the Bible tells us that the Beast power would deliberately try to change God’s law. The prophet Daniel wrote, “He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law” (Daniel 7:25).
But Jesus told us that God’s law cannot be changed, not even “one jot or one tittle.” As a reflection of God’s character, it is unalterable. Whatever happens, God’s law stands solid and immovable.
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For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:18-19
An Amazing Fact: Flying dragons are prominent in many legends and stories from around the world. Often there is a kernel of truth in legends, and this appears to be the case with flying dragons. Paleontologists have found amazing fossil evidence all over the globe of giant flying reptiles called pterosaurs, or “winged lizards.” Pterosaurs were flying reptiles, some with a wingspan of around 40 feet. That’s about the size of a small Cessna airplane!
They appear to be the largest flying animals that ever lived on Earth. The biggest of the pterosaurs weighed around 550 pounds. By comparison, the heaviest flying bird alive today, a kori bustard, is only 44 pounds. The bones of a pterosaur were lightly built and hollow to aid with flight.
Pterosaurs often had necks as long as 10 feet and legs as tall as seven feet. To someone watching from the ground, the long legs trailing behind a flying pterosaur might have looked like a dragon’s pointed tail. Pterosaurs also had large brains and eyes, with a long, thin beak and toothless jaws.
On their heads were bony crests, which some believe acted as a rudder in flight. Other scientists have surmised that the hollow chambers in the skull could have contained chemicals like the bombardier beetle that sprayed a fiery liquid from their mouths. We can’t tell from the bones, but it is even possible that some of these extinct dragons were red.
Some of these creatures may have survived the flood. In the 5th century B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus wrote about “winged serpents” living in Arabia. But the Bible tells us that at least one dragon still exists today—the dragon also known as “the Devil and Satan” (Revelation 20:2). While some people believe that the devil is just a religious legend, the Bible makes it quite clear that he not only exists, but seeks to “deceive the whole world” and destroy those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:9, 17). But the devil is not left unchecked, nor will he prevail. After being bound for a thousand years, he too will become extinct: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” (Revelation 20:10).
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And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, Revelation 20:2
An Amazing Fact: Everyone knows the ancient Egyptians possessed great scientific and engineering knowledge. But for more than 1,500 years, the history of this great civilization had remained a baffling secret. Even though Egypt’s history was written everywhere, it remained locked up in a mysterious writing called hieroglyphics. The Egyptians had used hieroglyphics for nearly 3,500 years, but no one in the modern world could decipher the meaning of the strange pictures and symbols. The Arabs who live in Egypt today are not the same race who built the pyramids so even they had no idea how to read the odd writings.
Then in 1799, while helping to extend an old Ottoman fort near Rosetta, a small city near Alexandria, a young French officer named Pierre-Francois Bouchard found an interesting block of black basalt stone. It measured three feet nine inches long, two feet four inches wide, and eleven inches thick. What is now considered a priceless archeological treasure which dates to 196 B.C.—and is said to be the most-visited item in the British Museum—had been used as common building material! On this stone was etched a decree written in three distinct bands of language—Egyptian hieroglyphs, Egyptian demotic, and ancient Greek. Scholars quickly realized that the same message was written in these three languages.
After years of careful examination a brilliant young scholar and linguist named Jean-Francois Champollion, in 1824, was able to decipher the hieroglyphics by comparing the ancient texts on the Rosetta Stone. Understanding hieroglyphics unlocked the mysteries and history of ancient Egypt.
The Bible is often compared to a rock that unlocks the plan of salvation. For those willing to listen, it explains the deepest spiritual mysteries and deciphers the real meaning of life. It reveals the Savior of the world and brings hope to millions of people of all nations. Sadly, the Word of God, which is the most priceless treasure we have, is often ignored and unappreciated, as was the Rosetta Stone for so many years. Why not read the Bible today and see what treasures are hidden in its precious pages?
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These words the LORD spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. Deuteronomy 5:22
An Amazing Fact: Squirrels gather nuts. Dogs bury bones. Camels store food and water so they can travel across vast deserts. And pigs … well, pigs save nothing. They bury nothing. They store nothing. So why do we save our spare coins in a piggy bank? A little history.
During the Middle Ages, in about the 15th century, metal was very expensive and seldom used for household wares. Instead, dishes and pots were made of cheap orange clay called pygg. Whenever housewives could save an extra coin, they dropped it into one of their clay jars or pots. They called this their pygg bank. Over the next two hundred years, people forgot that “pygg” referred to the earthenware material, but the “piggy bank” retained its name.
Around the 17th century an unknown potter thought to shape a “pygg” jar to look just like a real “pig.” Of course, the piggy banks appealed to customers and delighted children. But the first piggy banks only had a slot in the top with no access hole in the bottom. Banks and savings institutions would often give piggy banks to children in an attempt to encourage them to save. People would drop their spare coins in the top and then literally break it open when it was full or some emergency arose. That’s where we get the saying “Break the bank.”
Isaiah says in our Bible text for today that God is the potter and we are the clay. The apostle Paul expands on this idea when he describes the message of the gospel being spread by simple people. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). In other words, the precious treasure inside is of more value than the container. The piggy bank is not as important as the coins it holds.
I’m sure looking forward to the day when our earthly bodies will be laid aside, these vessels of clay, and a new heavenly body will be given to us. But something that will not change is the treasure of the gospel in our hearts.
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But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Isaiah 64:8But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. 2 Corinthians 4:7
An Amazing Fact: The Catacombs of Rome are a network of underground chambers and galleries that were used as burial places by the early Christians of the ancient Mediterranean world. During times of persecution, the catacombs became places of refuge because burial places were sacrosanct by Roman law. When churches above ground were destroyed by imperial order, worshipers met in the catacomb chapels. By the 3rd century A.D. Christians had carved 600 miles of tombs in volcanic rock in the area around Rome.
As Christianity gained converts and burials multiplied, the catacombs were expanded into honeycombs of galleries. The soft rock around Rome is perfect for making tunnels. When one level was no longer sufficient, staircases were dug and a second, third, or even fourth level of galleries was excavated below. Archeologists estimate that approximately three million Christians were interred in the catacombs around Rome.
Romans preferred cremation, but the Christians followed the practice of interring the dead in catacombs. They called them koimeteria, or “sleeping places.” This shows death, for a Christian, was merely sleep before resurrection, a state of temporary unconsciousness. The Bible repeatedly speaks of the dead “sleeping,” such as the kings of Israel and Judah “sleeping with their forefathers” (see 1 Kings 2:10 and 2 Chronicles 21:1 for examples).
When God created Adam from the dust of the Earth, the Lord breathed life into the first man and he “became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). At death the opposite of this creation takes place. When the breath of man returns to God, the body returns to the Earth and becomes dust again. The person or soul has no conscious existence apart from the body. Nothing in the Bible teaches a “soul” survives as a conscious entity after a person dies. In fact, the Bible says, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20).
When Jesus spoke to His disciples about their friend Lazarus sleeping, the disciples responded, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well” (John 11:12). Notice the next verse. “However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead’” (verses. 13, 14). And so, when our loved ones die, they rest in their graves or tombs until the second coming of Christ. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be near the catacombs on that day?
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These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. John 11:11
An Amazing Fact: The first recorded roller skates, called skaites, were built in 1760 by a Belgian musical instrument maker named John-Joseph Merlin. Each skate had only two wheels, which were aligned one in front of the other along the center of the shoe. The crude design was based on the ice skates of Merlin’s day, which were strapped to the shoes.
Soon after inventing the skates, Merlin decided to wear them to make a spectacular entrance at a costume party. A master violinist, Merlin intended to roll into the party while playing his violin. Unfortunately, he had neglected to master the fine art of stopping on skates, and when the big moment came he went careening through the room and crashed into a very valuable full-length mirror, breaking it and his violin and injuring himself. His entrance was indeed spectacular, though it did not have the desired effect of increasing the popularity of his new invention!
Did you know that in the near future the devil is planning to make his own spectacular appearance masquerading as Jesus Christ? But unlike John-Joseph Merlin, Satan has been practicing his dramatic entrance for 6,000 years! The Bible says that the coming deception will include “great signs and wonders,” convincingly designed in order to “deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).
How can we avoid being deceived? The answer is threefold. First, we must stay close to Jesus. The Bible tells us that the only way to resist the devil is to “draw near to God” (James 4:7, 8). Second, we must test every religious teaching by searching the Scriptures diligently: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Third, we must pray for the discernment that the Holy Spirit can give, because spiritual things are “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). As we do these three things, we can rest in Jesus’ promise to His disciples: “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
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And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 2 Corinthians 11:14My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:29
An Amazing Fact: We’ve all heard the true account of the Mutiny on the Bounty, but one aspect of the story that deserves retelling is the transformation wrought by one incredible book.
Shortly after the famous mutiny in 1789, nine mutineers with six Tahitian men and 12 women went ashore on Pitcairn Island—a tiny island in the southern Pacific Ocean. They burned the Bounty and established a colony. Things went along all right for a short time. In some respects, it seemed like they were living in a paradise. But some of the mutineers treated the Tahitians disrespectfully and war broke out between them, eventually resulting in the deaths of most of the men on both sides. After that, peace reigned again briefly, until one of the sailors began distilling alcohol from a native plant. Most of the surviving settlers drank excessively. Soon the little colony was plunged into debauchery, vice, and murder.
Ten years later, only one man—John Adams—survived, surrounded by 10 native women and a bushel of half-breed children. One day this sailor discovered a Bible in an old chest from the Bounty. He began to read it and then teach it to the others. The result was that his own life and, ultimately, the lives of all those on the island were dramatically transformed. In fact, when Pitcairn Island was visited in 1808 by an American whaling ship, the previously crime-consumed colony had become a thriving community with no jail, no whiskey, no laziness, and no crime.
Today the descendants of this colony still live in a moralistic society on one of the most isolated islands in the world. Can Bible principles really transform a culture from vice and crime to tranquility today? I believe they can. The Word of God draws us away from conformity to the world with all of its trouble and vices. By reading and studying the Bible our minds are renewed; they are transformed to become more and more like the mind of Christ. We find that we have peace in our hearts, conformity to God’s will, and a saving relationship with Him. Now that is real paradise!
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And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2
An Amazing Fact: Masada, which means “fortress” in Hebrew, is a mountaintop stronghold in the Judean desert, built on a rocky mesa rising abruptly 2,000 feet above the nearby Dead Sea. It was renovated by Herod the Great between 37 and 31 B.C. When Jerusalem was taken by the Romans in A.D. 70, the last remaining rebels, a Jewish sect known as the Zealots, revolted and seized the fortress in their last stand against Roman rule. They refused to surrender.
With plenty of food and water, this group of about 1,000 men, women, and children led by Eleazar ben Jair, held off the whole Roman army for more than two years. After this long siege, 15,000 Roman soldiers from the Tenth Legion raised an enormous Earth ramp and broke through the walls. They found the bodies of over 960 men, women, and children, victims of a suicide pact to keep the Romans from taking them as slaves. All but seven killed themselves rather than yield to their enemies.
The Masada site was rediscovered in 1842 and extensively excavated by archaeologist Higael Yadin between 1963 and 1965. Today tourists may hike up the Snake Path on the eastern side or take a cable car to the top. Because of the dry climate, Masada has remained largely untouched by humans for over 2,000 years. A museum now displays findings, and tours are given daily, telling the story of the zealots who refused to give in.
There are certainly times in which we should fearlessly stand against the enemy. But there is also a time to surrender—not to the devil, but to Christ. When Paul shared the gospel with the Corinthians, he wrote, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). To the world it seems preposterous to worship a God who laid down His life. Yet, in the same way we may find life when we die to self and humble ourselves before God.
Our Bible text for today calls us to be just like Jesus and be crucified with Him. It is not our physical bodies that must climb upon a cross and die. We must surrender self. By laying down our rights, our desire to be first, and the lusts of our flesh, we receive salvation. When we admit defeat in the battle with self, we win the war by surrendering to Jesus.
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I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
An Amazing Fact: Fabian von Schlabrendorff was born in Germany in 1907. Though he trained as a lawyer, he eventually joined the German army before World War II. Realizing that Adolph Hitler was insane and destroying Europe, he joined the resistance. On March 13, 1943, during a visit by Hitler to an army center headquarters in Russia, Schlabrendorff smuggled a time bomb onto an aircraft meant to carry Hitler back to Germany. The bomb did not detonate, and even though Schlabrendorff was able to retrieve the bomb without being detected, he was eventually arrested after a second assassination attempt.
Schlabrendorff was sent to a Gestapo prison where he was tortured, but he refused to give any details of his own or others’ involvement with the resistance. Early in 1945, Schlabrendorff was brought before a Nazi court. The evidence against him was weak, but the judge, Roland Freisler, was infamous for handing down death sentences in almost every case. In fact, in his three years on the court, Freisler was responsible for as many death sentences as all the other judges combined over the eleven years the court existed. However, while Schlabrendorff waited for his trial to begin, an American air raid bomb hit the courthouse. The judge was killed, still holding Schlabrendorff’s file.
A month later, when Schlabrendorff’s trial was rescheduled, a different judge actually acquitted him, but he was still shuffled from one concentration camp to another until U.S. forces liberated his camp in May of 1945. In a unique twist of fate, he became a judge in the very country where he stood trial for treason.
The Bible teaches that a similar reversal of roles will happen again. Jesus was once condemned to death in an unfair trial, but we know that when He comes again, it will be as a righteous judge. As Peter told Cornelius, “It is [Jesus] who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42). But Peter didn’t stop there, because the best news of all is that our judge is also our redeemer: “Whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:42, 43). Why not trust your case to Him?
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Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity. Psalms 98:9And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. Acts 10:42
An Amazing Fact: Legends grow with the passing of time, and the story of Pocahontas seems to have become more embellished since Captain John Smith first wrote about this famous Native American woman who saved his life. According to Smith, a Jamestown leader, a group of Powhatan’s warriors captured him in December 1607. He was then taken to Powhatan, who forced him to kneel before him to be executed. Just as Powhatan’s men were about to crack his skull with wooden clubs, Powhatan’s young daughter, Pocahontas, ran and threw her body over Smith’s. She convinced her father to spare his life. Smith was then treated to a huge feast and let go.
But historians debate the details of what happened. Some compare different accounts of John Smith and believe he tended to exaggerate stories and wanted to enhance Pocahontas’s standing. Others think Powhatan may have been staging a special ceremony his people used to adopt someone into their tribe. In other words, Pocahontas may have simply been “playing the savior” in the ritual of symbolically making the Englishman an adopted son of Powhatan.
The story of Pocahontas is fun to read and has become a part of American folklore. Movies and books have taken the storyline and romanticized it until we are not sure where truth ends and fable begins. But there is a story of a savior who laid down his life to redeem a people who were captured and sentenced to die. Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, came to our Earth and was willingly crucified that we might live.
The father of Pocahontas, so the story goes, was going to execute John Smith. Pocahontas willingly laid down her life to save Smith. Her life was spared, but Christ’s life was not. Jesus threw Himself over our world to protect us, not from a Father seeking to execute us, but from the results of sin. He received the death blows that we might be set free. We have a Savior and His name is Jesus. Have you accepted Christ’s sacrifice?
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Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. John 10:17
An Amazing Fact: Around A.D. 122 Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the construction of a wall in northern Britain, then part of the Roman Empire, to keep out the unconquered Caledonians of Scotland. Built out of stone and turf and measuring about 117 kilometers (73 miles) in length, the wall linked a series of forts and watchtowers. The Romans rebuilt Hadrian’s Wall several times throughout the 200s and 300s and used it as a fortification until about 400. The wall extended from Solway Firth to the mouth of the Tyne River and was about 6 meters (20 feet) high and about 2.4 meters (8 feet) wide. A military road ran along the south side of the wall, and a series of heavily garrisoned forts and sentry posts were built along its length. The wall also marked the frontier of Roman civil jurisdiction.
A few parts of Hadrian’s Wall remain standing in present-day Great Britain, especially in the mid-section. You can actually follow a path or ride your bicycle along the wall. It is the most popular attraction for tourists in Northern England. One government organization that manages historic sites in England calls Hadrian’s Wall “the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain.” On March 13, 2010, the route of the wall was lit by 500 gas beacons, flares, and torches at 250-meter intervals. Over 1,000 volunteers helped with the celebration of the 1,600th anniversary of the end of Roman rule in Britain.
The Bible tells us about another famous wall that was built to keep enemies out. When Babylon sacked Jerusalem, the army broke down the walls and burned the gates of the city. Years later Nehemiah hears a report of the condition of Jerusalem that not only makes him sad, but motivates him to do something about it. He was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes and, after much prayer, an opportunity opens for Nehemiah to ask for help in restoring the walls of this beloved city. By God’s grace the reconstruction was completed in only 52 days!
The Lord wants to protect you from the devil. Like a broken-down wall, our hearts need repair. God wants to build up your life so that you are resistant to enemy attacks by Satan. Just as Hadrian’s Wall stretched from coast to coast, the Lord wants to completely protect you with His care.
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And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Nehemiah 1:3
An Amazing Fact: Around the 14th century A.D., thousands of poor and homeless people who were seeking shelter began squatting in tombs in an area of Cairo, Egypt. Can you imagine living in a tomb with the dead? It would be repulsive to most of us, yet the City of the Dead is a real place that I saw years ago while visiting the northern part of Cairo. It’s actually the strangest cemetery I’ve ever seen. The word “cemetery” is, in fact, a misnomer because this graveyard is teeming with life and activity.
Over a period of hundreds of years, the great rulers of ages past built acres and acres of huge and elaborate mausoleums and tombs. At that time, tradition dictated that each tomb be built with its own “party room”—which eventually became habitations for the homeless. The 1992 Cairo earthquake forced even more people to live in the City of the Dead, often in family tombs.
Strangely, this cemetery, which measures about four miles in length, is now classified as a suburb of Cairo. It has its own zip code, post office, police station, shops, electricity, running water, and sewer system. It’s also rather creative how the residents made use of the smaller gravestones by turning them into washing lines or tables. People actually live and conduct their lives in and around these tombs—working, sleeping, cooking, and eating—surrounded by their silent, macabre neighbors.
The Bible teaches there are only two classes of people, the living and the dead. You might think this is an obvious statement but, according to the Word of God, not all of the living are alive and not all of the dead are dead. Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:60). On another occasion, He said, “… have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
Jesus offers us this promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Aren’t you glad God gives us that kind of reassurance of eternal life with Him?
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He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 1 John 5:12Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: John 11:25
An Amazing Fact: Probably the only healthy man in modern history who never saw the form or heard the voice of a woman was Mihailo Tolotos. Mihailo was a monk who died in 1938 at the age of 82 in one of the monasteries atop Mount Athos, in Greece. When his mother passed away during his birth, Mihailo was taken the next day to Athos, a piece of land jutting out into the Aegean Sea. The monk never once, throughout his entire life, left this monastic colony, which for more than 900 years has strictly excluded all females, animals as well as humans. This tradition dates back to the founding of the monastery nine centuries earlier.
Is it good for man to be alone? Not according to Genesis 2:18. But with the rising divorce epidemic it might make you wonder if marriage is still a good idea. Jesus quotes Genesis 2:24 and says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5), supporting the institution of marriage.
The apostle Paul certainly does not insist on everyone getting married, and supports celibacy as a positive lifestyle for serving the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 7:7). But would Paul recommend a lifetime of seclusion? In an interesting application of Genesis 2:24, the apostle says, “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:30-32).
In the Bible, a woman is used as a symbol for God’s people. “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a lovely and delicate woman” (Jeremiah 6:2). God’s church is described as a woman in Revelation 12:1. Perhaps Paul’s counsel to Mihailo Tolotos would be to stay connected to God’s people and not live in isolation from the body of Christ. It is not good for anyone to be separated from the church, especially as we near the time of Jesus’ return.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together … so much more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).
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And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. Genesis 2:18For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:30-32
An Amazing Fact: The Battle of Stalingrad during World War II was arguably the bloodiest battle in human history, with combined casualties estimated above 1.5 million. In 1942 the German army, with the Axis forces, had nearly captured the sprawling Russian city. But by 1943, after months of brutal house-to-house fighting, the Russian military defending Stalingrad managed to turn the tables and surround Hitler’s Sixth Army—the besiegers became the besieged.
In addition to a heavy bombing campaign, the Russians placed powerful loudspeakers within the listening range of German soldiers. A series of sound tactics were used to discourage the German troops. For example, they played the loud, monotonous ticking of a clock, followed by a voice saying, “A German dies every seven seconds on the Eastern Front.” The propaganda voice then intoned, “Stalingrad, mass grave of Hitler’s army!” and then creepy tango music would start blaring across the empty frozen wasteland. Demoralized and starved, 91,000 German soldiers eventually surrendered.
Samson, the mighty judge of Israel, surrendered the secret of his strength when Delilah pestered him over and over. Her words eventually broke him down until “his soul was vexed to death that he told her all his heart” (v. 16, 17). Discouraging words have a powerful force on our lives. We don’t even need to audibly hear them. They can bring us down just by thinking negative thoughts.
Wise Solomon penned, “The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and a good report makes the bones healthy” (Proverbs 15:30), and Paul encouraged, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Do not surrender to the enemy by listening to negative words or an evil report. Think and talk faith! Repeat the promises of God. Believe in the Bible and stand firm against discouraging words.
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And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth. And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death; Judges 16:15-16Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8The horseleach hath two daughters, crying, Give, give. There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: Proverbs 30:15
An Amazing Fact: We hear a lot these days about banking corruption, but the problem isn’t new. In eleventh-century England, people were plagued by the dishonesty of creditors. To overcome this abuse, in the year A.D. 1100, Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, started a system known as the “tally,” from the Latin word for “stick.” A tally stick was about nine feet long and a half inch wide. Every time money changed hands, lines were drawn across the face of a stick, indicating the amount of the loan. On two sides, the value of the “tally” was carved into the wood. It was then split lengthwise and each person received a half of the stick as proof of the transaction, with the creditor retaining one half and the debtor getting the other, an exact “carbon copy.”
It was practically impossible to counterfeit a tally, and those who tried lost their heads! The wood grain was as unique as a fingerprint. Notches and ink inscriptions had to match. This could only happen if both pieces came from the same split tally stick. When compared they had to “tally,” which is where we get the word for reckoning. The British Empire used tally sticks for over 700 years. Then in 1843, because a new banking system and currency were introduced, all the tally sticks in England were collected and burned. Yet the term lives on, since it is from the German word for “stick” that we get the word “stock,” a security for creditors of a business we hear about on Wall Street.
The book of Revelation speaks of God’s people being measured with a stick. What is the Lord’s “tally stick”? James writes, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). If we are preparing for Jesus’ soon coming, then “when He is revealed, we shall be like Him” (1 John 3:2). In other words, God’s law and our hearts will tally!
Before Jesus comes let us take stock of our lives. He covered the debt of our sin that we might receive the free gift of salvation. As we come closer to Jesus our characters will be a copy of His. It’s a transaction that can never be counterfeited.
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And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. Revelation 11:1
An Amazing Fact: In 1851, Maha Mongkut, also known as Rama IV, ascended the throne as the king of Siam (now better known as Thailand). Mongkut was a true monarch, with total power over his five and a half million subjects. But he was also different from previous Siamese kings. Before becoming king he spent 27 years traveling as a Buddhist priest, studying English, French, and Latin as well as Siamese and Sanskrit. This made him friendlier toward the West, inviting European diplomats to his coronation and introducing Western innovations into his kingdom. Despite his openmindedness about other cultures, in his personal life Mongkut adhered to royal Siamese tradition, having 82 children by 39 wives. Nine thousand women lived in his harem, kept apart from the world in a separate city.
Mongkut was also very devoted to Buddhist tradition. This is why he spent half a million dollars for a single ritual bath for his son. The Temple of the Bath is a beautiful pool surrounded by four smaller pagodas, all encrusted with heavy plates of gold and gems. In the center is the fabulous marble and gold swimming pool. The king built the Golden Temple on the Menam River in 1887 at a cost of $500,000. After the solemn bath was administered to the prince, the structure was never occupied again.
The Bible invites us to experience a cleansing bath that removes more than dirt from our bodies. Baptism is a ritual that demonstrates our belief that when we confess our sins to God, we can be assured that Jesus washes away all sin from our hearts. We are plunged beneath the waters to publicly signify our allegiance to our King in heaven. Christ led the way by His own example. But he wasn’t baptized in a gold- and marble-plated pool decorated with gemstones. Jesus was immersed in the muddy Jordan River. This pleased His Heavenly Father.
Baptism symbolizes Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. When we are baptized, we accept the work of Christ for our salvation. Jesus paid to wash away our sins by shedding His own blood. That’s why the most expensive bath in the world is baptism!
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Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38
An Amazing Fact: Peter Whatling, a farmer from the town of Hoxne in England, lost a hammer in his field in November of 1992. Of course he wanted to find the hammer, but more importantly, a hammer lying in a farm field can do a lot of damage to mowers and harvesting equipment. So Whatling asked his friend Eric Lawes to try and find it with his metal detector. Instead, Lawes found something he wasn’t looking for: 24 bronze coins, 565 gold coins, almost 15 thousand silver coins, and nearly 200 silver and gold pieces of jewelry and tableware—all dating back to around a.d. 408. It was the largest hoard of Roman silver and gold from this era ever discovered in the United Kingdom.
It is believed the treasure was hidden as the Roman Empire was crumbling and losing control of Britain. The treasure was buried in a couple of wooden chests that rotted away, leaving behind their two silver locks. The careful burial suggests that the owner intended to come back and recover it later, but obviously something went wrong. Since British law requires such finds to be reported to the authorities, Whatling and Lawes immediately called the police.
The next day a team of archaeologists came and excavated the treasure, which became the property of the British government. British law also required the government to pay the finders of the treasure its fair market value, so Whatling and Lawes evenly split the equivalent of $2.8 million dollars. And the hammer? It too was found and is now displayed alongside the treasure at the British Museum.
Can you imagine the joy of finding treasure worth millions of dollars? Would you be tempted to sell everything you have in order to obtain that treasure? God’s kingdom is something like that! When we search His words in the Bible, we find the treasure of salvation—“the exceeding riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7). When we get a glimpse of His grace, the world will mean very little to us—all that matters is having more of Jesus and His truth! Would you like to trade in your worn-out hammer for His treasure chest?
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Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Matthew 13:44
An Amazing Fact: On July 23, 1983, Air Canada Flight 143 ran out of fuel at 41,000 feet. The new Boeing 767 jet was only halfway through its trip from Montreal to Edmonton when the aircraft’s warning system sounded in the cockpit, indicating a fuel problem on the left side. The pilots naturally assumed that a fuel pump had failed, and turned off the alarm. But then a few moments later a second fuel alarm sounded, followed by a loud bong, and then both engines starving for fuel went silent. Obviously this stunned the pilots and terrified the 63 passengers.
Without any engine power most of the cockpit instruments went blank, leaving only a few battery-powered basics. Still disbelieving the jet could be out of fuel, the pilots scrambled to restart the engines. When they saw this was futile they began frantically searching charts for any landing strip within gliding distance that would be long enough to accommodate their rapidly descending jet. They turned towards the nearest landing site, a closed airbase at Gimli, Manitoba, 20 miles away. What the pilots didn’t know was that the decommissioned runway was being used that day as a drag racing strip and was full of cars, campers … and people.
Without regular engine power, the hydraulic steering became very stiff. Captain Bob Pearson performed a difficult side-slip maneuver to line up the silently descending aircraft with the runway. As the 767 main gear touched down the captain stood on the brakes. Then the nose wheel collapsed, sending sparks flying 300 feet into the air as the aircraft plowed down the runway. Shocked spectators, racers, and kids on bicycles scattered, clearing the runway. Miraculously, the crew was able to safely land the jumbo jet and no one was hurt. The subsequent investigation revealed that someone had miscalculated the fuel load. Canadian airlines had recently adopted the metric system in place of the imperial system.
It takes power to fly an airplane up into the blue sky. It also takes power for the Christian to “walk worthy of the Lord.” If the fuel tank is empty and the engines are not running, you will glide downward like the Gimli Glider. Fortunately, the pilots of Flight 143 made a safe landing. But how many people will crash and burn because they are not filled with the power of the Holy Spirit?
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For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Colossians 1:9-10
An Amazing Fact: On April 29, 1903, the quiet mining town of Frank in Alberta, Canada, was jolted into worldwide publicity when the side of the mountain under whose shadow it lay gave way, resulting in the largest landslide in North American history. Native Indians, who called it the “mountain that walks,” had always avoided the legendary mountain.
It was 6:00 in the evening on April 28, and John Thornley had just bid the last customer in his shop goodnight. His sister, Ellen, stood in the kitchen finishing up the dishes. It was her last night in Frank before returning to her home in a nearby town. On a sudden impulse, John talked Ellen into spending her last night in a nearby hotel. Ellen packed her bags, and the two walked the short distance to Frank Hotel, where they both took rooms for the night. This strategic relocation, seemingly on a whim, was to save their lives.
At 4:10 the next morning, a loud crack resounded through the still night air as a huge rock far up on Turtle Mountain broke loose and plunged down the mountainside. The boulder was quickly followed by another … and still another. The ground in the town below trembled as a 2,100- by 3,000- by 500-foot thick wedge of mountain broke away and thundered into the valley below. The slide spread out in a deadly fan, covering part of the town, including John’s empty cabin shop.
When the tremors hit, Ellen Thornley was catapulted out of bed and dumped on the other side of the room. The terrible quaking lasted for more than a minute and then died to stillness. It was not until the first streaks of dawn lit the exposed heart of Turtle Mountain that the stunned survivors beheld the extent of the tragedy.
What a comfort it is, in a world of constant change, to hear the words of our steadfast heavenly Father: “I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). Even though the dearest things to our hearts might be removed, He has said His love and kindness will never depart from us.
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For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee. Isaiah 54:10
An Amazing Fact: Eight degrees north of the equator in Micronesia, on the remote island of Pohnpei, can be found the haunting ruins of Nan Madol—known also as the Machu Pichu of the Pacific. On this jungle-clad island surrounded by beautiful coral reefs rests a lost city made of bizarre stone “logs.”
The ruins of this forgotten civilization are one of archaeology’s best-kept secrets and greatest mysteries. Nan Madol, which means “reef of heaven,” was abandoned centuries ago. The ruins cover nearly 150 acres in shallow tidal waters bordering the reef-protected jungle, and a labyrinth of stonewalled canals crisscrosses 92 small manmade islands.
Its major buildings are constructed of giant stone logs that are 18 feet long and several feet in diameter. These logs are made of volcanic basalt crystal and weigh up to two-and-a-half tons. They are stacked like cordwood to form walls up to 50 feet high and 18 feet thick.
The main structures resemble the ceremonial squares constructed by the Mayans and Aztecs. It would have required a large organized workforce and sophisticated culture to create this “Venice of the Pacific,” but this race of builders has vanished. The reasons for its construction, how the massive stone were transported, or why it was abandoned are all unknown. Even the natives now presently living on Pohnpei are equally mystified by Nan Madol.
In the book of Revelation, John describes a civilization that will last forever. A holy city will come down from heaven to the Earth and will be inhabited by God’s people for eternity. Immense and beautiful stones will be used in its construction. But one thing will be missing. Unlike Nan Madol, which had a temple, John says, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22).
Will you choose to be part of this civilization?
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And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27
An Amazing Fact: Although its average temperature is 39 degrees Fahrenheit, the top 10 feet of the ocean holds as much heat as our entire atmosphere.
Many unusual things also happen on the ocean floor. Chimneys spew sulfuric acid, and underwater volcanoes shoot out mud and methane. Water at 650 degrees Fahrenheit—hot enough to melt lead—bubbles up from underwater hot springs. Despite the scalding temperatures, however, these springs boast a profusion of life, from giant clams to 10-foot tall tubeworms.
The ocean also houses some astounding topography. At more than 40,000 miles long, the Mid-Oceanic Ridge is the longest continuous mountain chain known to exist in the universe. This chain runs through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and into the Indian and Pacific and has peaks higher than those in the Alps. The ocean’s deepest point, known as the Challenger Deep, plummets to a depth of 6.86 miles. If Mount Everest was submerged in this trench, more than a mile of water would still cover it. Under such a volume of water, the pressure is a crushing eight tons per square inch —equivalent to one person trying to hold 50 jumbo jets!
As John surveyed the glories of the New Earth, he noticed something unique: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).
Considering how much of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, it is not surprising that many associate the sea with separation. It divides friends and is often a barrier between us and those we love. Many people have stood on the shore and looked across those restless waves thinking with longing of someone far away. But in the Earth made new, there will be no more restless, murmuring waves and no more separation from those we love.
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Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35
An Amazing Fact: A placebo is a harmless pill or solution made from a neutral substance, such as sugar or starch, which is used to avoid bias when testing new drugs. But in some tests, patients have experienced dramatic results from these placebos based simply on their belief that the pill will help them.
Doctors have administered placebos to patients who are thought to have incurable illnesses to induce the so-called placebo effect: a temporary or even permanent improvement of the patient’s condition corresponding to their faith in the doctor or medicine. In 1955, a study by Dr. Henry Knowles Beecher reports that 35 percent of patients had their conditions improved by receiving placebos.
Little is understood of how this works, but one theory is that the patient’s faith in a cure might be related to the release of brain chemicals that help promote healing. Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus always said to those He healed, “Your faith has made you whole.”
Modern medicine is returning to the conclusion that a person’s faith has a great deal to do with their rate of recovery. In fact, a 2001 Reader’s Digest reported on a nationwide study that found those who attend religious services more than once a week have a seven-year longer life expectancy than those who never attend. The Bible also teaches that a person’s eternal life expectancy is directly connected with their faith.
Thomas struggled with faith. He said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Fortunately for Thomas, Jesus revealed Himself and he believed. But notice Christ’s words, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).
John’s Gospel intends to bolster the faith of people who have not physically seen Jesus. Until we get to, we can exercise our faith in the risen Lord as we read Scripture, pray, and hear His voice speak to our hearts. Faith will change us; Christ is more than a placebo.
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But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. John 20:31
An Amazing Fact: From the Latin gladius, which means “sword,” gladiators were professional fighters who performed spectacles of armed combat in the amphitheaters of ancient Rome. The practice of armed slaves fighting to the death originated in central Italy and lasted for more than 700 years.
The first gladiator exhibition in Rome was in 264 B.C., when three pairs of gladiators fought as part of a funeral celebration. By 174 B.C., 37 pairs were participating. On one occasion, Julius Caesar ordered large-scale exhibitions with 300 pairs of combatants! But the largest contest of gladiators was ordered by the emperor Trajan as part of a victory celebration in A.D. 107. It included 5,000 pairs of fighters! It appears that as the years went by, each generation of leaders wanted something more horrific, violent, and perverted to keep the masses entertained.
Gladiators were typically male slaves, condemned criminals, prisoners of war, and sometimes Christians. Forced to become swordsmen, they were trained in schools called ludi, and special measures were taken to discipline them and prevent suicides. Occasionally, freedmen and Roman citizens entered the arena, as did the insane Emperor Commodus. The escaped gladiator Spartacus avenged his captivity by leading an army of slaves in an insurrection that terrorized southern Italy from 73 to 71 B.C.
Sir Edward Gibbon wrote in his classic The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that the mad craze for pleasure and sports is one of the five reasons the empire fell. Is it possible that the world today is following the same yearning for carnal entertainment that lead to the fall of Rome?
Revelation tells us Babylon fell. It says the beast and the false prophet are to be cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone, “And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (Revelation 19:21).
On this day in which many remember the birth of Christ, let us remember Herod’s horrific murder of innocent children by the sword. The enemies of God’s people who killed with the sword will someday fall by the sword.
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Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Matthew 26:52
An Amazing Fact: After her six little ducklings were swept into a storm drain in the United Kingdom, a mother mallard waddled two miles tracking her baby’s chirps from manhole to manhole.
Trapped in a dark tunnel in the city’s underground sewer system and floating at the mercy of the current, the tiny ducklings’ only hope was in their mother. Hearing their distressed chirps emanating from somewhere under the ground, the dedicated mother followed their cries. Her heroic journey led her across a busy intersection, countless roads, a metro train line, a housing estate, and two school playing fields. When her chicks suddenly came to a halt in a housing development, she waddled to a stop over a manhole cover. And there, for the next four hours, the faithful mother remained.
Peter Elliott first noticed the little duck at 6:00 AM when he left his home to go for a run. Surprised that she had not moved when he returned, he went over to see if she was injured. Seeing nothing wrong, he went to breakfast, only to see her still sitting there when he finished. It was only later, when his daughter took his two-year-old grandson to see the mallard, that they heard the ducklings’ little voices beneath the manhole cover.
Mr. Elliot quickly gathered some tools and, along with a neighbor, managed to remove the heavy cover. Peering down they saw six little ducklings paddling around in the drain. With a small fishing net, they lifted each little duck to safety and then released the reunited family in a nearby lake.
Just like that faithful mother duck, our heavenly Father will never forsake us. Though we might stray, His heart of love goes after us still. He is always there, seeking for every opportunity to be reunited with us. Even when His chosen people had broken His heart by their wayward course, He pleaded, “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds” (Zechariah 1:4). The sad record is that “they did not hear nor heed.” So today, for His sake, “if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). You are precious in His sight.
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For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. Zechariah 2:8
An Amazing Fact: Ostriches once flourished throughout Africa; the majority now live in protected reserves on the continent’s east coast. Male African ostriches grow as high as nine feet tall and can weigh a hefty 345 pounds—making them the tallest and heaviest of all living birds.
Ostriches live in family groups consisting of one male and several hens. During breeding season, each hen lays between two and 11 creamy white eggs in a communal nest, which is a hollowed-out crater in the ground about 10 feet across. Eventually, these nests can contain up to 50 eggs each, but only about 20 can be successfully incubated. The eggs of the ostrich are the largest of any bird, measuring from six to eight inches long and weighing between two and four pounds. (The record is over five pounds!) An ostrich egg has the volume of about 24 chicken eggs, and though the shell is only 1.5 millimeters thick, it can hold the weight of a grown man.
They are not the smartest birds, yet the notion that they bury their heads in the sand is actually a myth. Sadly, these tallest, fastest, and biggest of birds also cannot fly, so they are easily farmed throughout the world for meat, feathers, and leather.
God teaches Job that He is Creator over all things, including the ostrich. The description given is all too accurate: “The wings of the ostrich wave proudly, But are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork’s?” (Job 39:13). God decided that the ostrich would not fly and would lay her eggs on the ground. He also decided just how smart to make this bird: “Because God deprived her of wisdom, And did not endow her with understanding” (v. 17).
Interestingly, the Bible also teaches us that the greatest of the angels had his wings clipped because his eyes were too big. So let’s be sure to remain humble with all the talents that God has given us.
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Son of man, say unto the prince of Tyrus, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thine heart is lifted up, and thou hast said, I am a God, I sit in the seat of God, in the midst of the seas; yet thou art a man, and not God, though thou set thine heart as the heart of God: Ezekiel 28:2
An Amazing Fact: Scientists say that sound waves set in motion by our voices go on an endless journey through space. If we had the power to stand on some distant planet long years afterward, with instruments delicate enough, we might be able to find those sounds again and recreate the words we spoke here on Earth.
What is sound? Technically it is a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through either liquid, solid, or gas. It is made up of different frequencies within the range of hearing. And, of course, it needs to be loud enough to be heard by the organs of hearing. That range for humans is between 20Hz to 20,000Hz. Dogs can hear things above the human’s upper range but are deaf to sounds below 40Hz.
Repeated studies show that the ear is superior to the eye and people remember more from words they hear than words they see. In fact, the mind is able to understand a spoken word in 140 milliseconds, while it takes 180 milliseconds to understand the printed word! Why? Psychologists believe this 40-millisecond delay occurs while the brain translates the visual data into aural sounds it can understand.
The Old Testament book of Haggai, the second smallest book in that testament, was a call to God’s people who returned from Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple. It is interesting that the most repeated phrase in this entire book is, “Thus says the Lord.” More than 25 times in only two chapters, Haggai makes it abundantly clear that his message comes from God. Haggai brings the “word” of the Lord to the people with emphasis. He speaks with divine authority on behalf of God.
Do you speak God’s words? Do you say things that you would like to resound throughout all eternity? It’s something to stop talking about and wrap your mind around!
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For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 1 Peter 1:24But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 1 Peter 1:25
An Amazing Fact: A single snowstorm can drop 40 million tons of snow and carry the energy equivalent to 120 atom bombs!
On March 11, 1888, a light rain began to fall on New York City. As the rain increased in intensity, temperatures began to plummet. Gradually the torrential rains changed to heavy snow, and shortly after midnight, the historic storm known as the “Great White Hurricane” had begun in earnest.
For a day and a half, the blizzard raged with sustained winds of more than 45 miles per hour. Houses disappeared under drifting mountains of snow that towered 50 feet high. Smothered under the merciless drifts, New York City went into survival mode. In a desperate attempt to keep passenger trains moving, crews were organized to patrol the tracks with brooms and pails of salt water. But even as they worked, the salt water froze in their pails. When the storm at last abated, it left a trail of destruction that took months to recover from.
In the book of Job, God asks many questions designed to make His faithful servant consider His Sovereignty. When trials follow one after another, it can be easy to lose sight of God’s power and ability to sustain us as we attempt to go into survival mode without Him. But let us remember that the God who has snow and hail at His command has many other means to relieve us as well!
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Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, Job 38:22
An Amazing Fact: The Catacombs of Paris are some of the more macabre tourist attractions in Paris. They reopened to the public after a $400,000 facelift and contain the bones of six million Parisians. Curious tourists descend via a narrow spiral staircase into the underground passages, where pile upon pile of shin bones lie in neat rows punctuated by a pattern of skulls. The gruesome attraction draws 160,000 visitors a year.
The tunnels were originally stone mines but later became underground burial chambers when the cemeteries of Paris became overcrowded in the 18th century. Bones were dug up and stored underground.
Some 190 miles of passageways wind their way under the capital city, creating a network of tunnels twice as long as those of the Paris underground metro system. Only one mile of catacombs is open to the public. An intercom system was added to ensure visitors do not get lost, which should spare anyone else the fate of a hospital worker who decided to explore the tunnels alone during the French Revolution. His skeleton was found 11 years later!
Superstitious visitors are often unnerved by the thought that spirits of the dead will haunt them for gawking at their remains. On the other hand, Nestor Valence, who worked in the subterranean warren for eight years rearranging bones that fell out of place, says he had grown used to the grisly nature of his job. “Touching bones doesn’t bother me anymore,” he says. “When you start, it’s a bit weird, but it becomes part of the routine.”
A visit to Jesus’ tomb by Mary Magdalene surprised her, not because she was afraid of a dead body, but because her Lord was not there! Christ had risen from the dead. “Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him’” (John 20:2).
Christ had not moved as a dead person. His bones hadn’t “fallen out of place,” needing to be rearranged. Jesus was alive! Praise God, for it means our salvation is secure in Christ’s hands.
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For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. John 20:9
An Amazing Fact: Gold coinage is composed of 90 parts gold to 10 parts silver. But counterfeit gold, or “fools gold,” is made of iron pyrite, which is a mineral composed of iron sulfide. The mineral is brass yellow or opaque and has a metallic luster. The resemblance of pyrite to gold caused many prospectors to mistake it for gold. However, it is easily distinguished by its unusual brittleness.
Iron pyrite was used in ancient Rome to create sparks when struck with steel. In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was used as a source of ignition in firearms. The name “pyrite” comes from the Greek word “pur,” which means “fire.” Some pyrite has a brass color and has been nicknamed “brass,” “brazzle,” or “Brazil.”
Zephaniah, an Old Testament prophet, warned the people of Judah in the days of Josiah that the great day of the Lord would come upon them. They said, “The Lord will not do good, Nor will He do evil” (Zephaniah1:12). But the prophet answered, “Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the Lord’s wrath; But the whole land shall be devoured By the fire of His jealousy” (v. 18).
The prophet’s message was not intended to lead them to despair but to wake them up and call them to repentance. They carried around with them a belief that “nothing is going to happen, don’t worry, this too shall pass.” Like fool’s gold in their pockets, they assumed they were secure in their false riches. But the destruction of Jerusalem came like the flood and swept everyone away.
Today we also can be fooled in spiritual truth. Millions of people are toting around heavy bags bulging with fool’s gold. They rejoice that they have discovered that which will make them rich, but though it sparkles on the outside it will be discovered useless at the bank of heaven. Make sure you have the real thing!
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For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Ephesians 2:8
An Amazing Fact: For nine years after his master’s death, a dog named Hachiko daily watched for his master’s return at the train station where he had last seen him. Precisely when the train was due, the faithful dog would arrive. Disappointed each time, he never ceased watching until the day he died.
It was a wintry day in Japan when Professor Ueno brought home a three-month-old Akita puppy named Hachiko. Every morning Hachiko would follow the professor to the train station, and every afternoon, just before 3:00, he would return to eagerly greet his master as he returned from work.
The dog was only a year-and-a-half old when, one afternoon, he did not see his master among the passengers leaving the train. Professor Ueno had suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage that day while giving a lecture. Disappointed, Hachiko returned again the next day, precisely at the time he had come to expect his master’s return. Day after day, the poor dog faithfully returned to the train station, watching for his beloved master. Time would not erode Hachiko’s loyalty and hope that he would again see his master’s face.
Our Master has instructed us to watch and be ready for His return. Are we watching with the earnestness and faith of Hachiko? Or does time weaken our certainty in Jesus’ soon return? Unlike Hachiko, who waited in vain, we have the promise, “The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry” (Habakkuk 2:3). With this assurance, let us increase our diligence to watch, pray, and work in this fast-closing window of time before Jesus ceases His intercession for mankind.
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But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; Luke 12:45The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. Luke 12:46
An Amazing Fact: Ancient Babylon reached its greatest glory during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar (604–562 B.C.) and was probably the largest city of antiquity. Babylon was an immense square, totaling 15 miles on each side, with Marduk’s temple and the Tower of Babylon at its center. It was divided into two equal parts by the Euphrates running under the walls, which also served to irrigate and air condition the entire metropolis.
Babylon had 25 avenues, 150 feet wide, which ran across the city from north to south. The same number of roads crossed them at right angles from east to west, making a total of 676 great blocks, each nearly three-quarter square miles. Nebuchadnezzar also built massive fortifications with thick walls that measured from 67 feet at the base to 54 feet at the top; four chariots could race side by side on the top of the walls.
Not only was ancient Babylon big, it was beautiful! The public buildings were faced with bright glazed bricks in different colors. The outer walls of the city were yellow, the gates blue, the palaces rose-red, and the temples white. All this, plus the famous hanging gardens, gave this metropolis a splendor that was unequaled by any other earthly city.
Yet God prophesied that ancient Babylon would be destroyed and never be rebuilt. (See Revelation 18:8.). A special message is also given about Babylon in Revelation 14. “And another [second] angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication’” (Revelation 14:8).
Babylon represents an organization that proclaims to be on God’s side but is actually just the opposite. It’s beauty and luxury fool people into thinking there must be truth found here. But it is a counterfeit of the real gospel of faith. This symbolic city stands behind all that opposes God throughout all human history.
Don’t be fooled by what looks good on the outside. Truth that changes the heart is found deep in God’s Word.
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And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. Revelation 18:4
An Amazing Fact: At midnight, March 12, 1928, one of the worst catastrophes in Californian history occurred: The St. Francis Dam broke. Twelve billion gallons of water washed down the San Francisquito Canyon, killing hundreds in its path.
On one cold September day in 1944, a prisoner of war (POW) hunched over a recently arrived Red Cross package and ravenously ate its remaining food. Then from the dim light of the window, he saw the special Monopoly game he had been briefed on when he was deployed. His hands shook as he opened the game.
To help prisoners escape, the British military requested that the makers of the game add a few “secret goodies” that could then be airdropped by the Red Cross into POW camps. Hidden ingeniously inside the little dog-playing piece was a magnetic compass. Breaking open a little wooden red hotel, the soldier found a tiny silk map of his region, detailing the location of his POW camp and where he could expect to find help. Tucked under the fake money were real French, German, and Italian currencies! It was what he needed to make the escape!
Each of us is trapped in the POW camp of “sin,” but all heaven is working on our behalf to set us free! Someday soon, sin and wars will cease. Isaiah speaks eloquently of this time in chapter 14: “And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve. That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, ‘How hath the oppressor ceased! The golden city ceased! … The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet’” (vs. 3, 4, 7).
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And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Micah 4:3
An Amazing Fact: The canal across the Isthmus of Panama in Central America is one of the greatest engineering marvels of the past 1,000 years. In 1513, Vasco de Balboa’s discovery of the Pacific coast of Panama soon had merchants and empire-builders dreaming of a shortcut that would enable ships to sail westward from the Atlantic to the Pacific without making the grueling, 12,000-mile journey around the tip of South America.
Over the next 200 years, visionaries ranging from Benjamin Franklin to Simon Bolivar advocated the digging of a channel. The Panama Canal was finally completed by the United States under Teddy Roosevelt from 1904 to 1914. At that time, it was the largest and most complex project of its kind ever undertaken, employing tens of thousands of workers and costing $350 million. The 50-mile canal handles a large volume of the world’s shipping.
The canal consists of artificially created lakes, channels, and a series of locks, or water-filled chambers, that raise and lower ships 85 feet through the mountainous terrain of central Panama. Battleships of the world’s navies are built to squeeze through the small 80-year old locks. The canal’s 12 locks, three sets of double locks at each end, have the same dimensions: 110-feet wide by 1,000-feet long, with gates at each end. Because of the “S” shape of the Isthmus of Panama, a ship sailing through the canal will actually travel west to east to go east to west.
Creating the Panama Canal required sophisticated measurements that were limited at the turn of the century. John the Revelator was asked in vision to take measurements, not of a canal, but of “the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there” (Revelation 11:1). Why would John be asked to conduct these measurements? Like in Ezekiel’s vision, the restoration of God’s work was marked by taking careful measure. Have you measured your own heart to see where you stand with Him?
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Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: Psalms 139:23And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:24
An Amazing Fact: At midnight, March 12, 1928, one of the worst catastrophes in Californian history occurred: The St. Francis Dam broke. Twelve billion gallons of water washed down the San Francisquito Canyon, killing hundreds in its path.
The official body count was 450 dead, but the actual number was substantially higher, since San Francisquito Canyon was home to hundreds of transient farm workers who were never counted. This would likely have brought the death toll to higher than the famous 1906 San Francisco quake.
The dam broke just under two years after its completion. More than 900 buildings and $13 million in property were destroyed in the resulting flood. But the greatest tragedy of this disaster was that no one needed to perish!
There was ample warning time on the morning it broke. A worker at the dam saw water leaking through the dam wall. He warned his boss, William Mulholland, about this danger. After looking at the dam, Mulholland, who also designed the structure, decided that there was no cause for concern. But that night, the dam broke, sending a wall of water as high as 140 feet down the canyon through Saugus, Fillmore, Santa Paula, and finally the Pacific Ocean. It traveled 54 miles in 5.5 hours, destroying everything in its path.
Another disaster loomed over the city of Nineveh. God called Jonah to warn the people, but the reluctant prophet ran the other direction. Through some unusual turn of events, Jonah finally carried out his duty and saved a large city of people who might have perished.
We also have been given a message of warning to give to the world. It is found in Revelation 14. Will we ignore the warning signs? Will we run like Jonah or respond like Mulholland saying, “There is no cause for concern”? Let us be sober and responsible and do our part to warn our friends of impending disaster.
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And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Revelation 14:6Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. Revelation 14:7
An Amazing Fact: Tucked inside the microscopic nucleus of every cell in our bodies is a six-foot long strand of protein molecules, called DNA. The information contained within makes it possible for each parent to contribute one-and-a-half billion bits of genetic information to each of their offspring!
The DNA itself resembles a long, narrow, spiral ladder of pliable material. Before a cell is able to divide, the DNA must be “duplicated” so that each cell will have an original copy of the genetic code. As replication begins, an enzyme unwinds the spiral DNA ladder. Next, a protein molecule holds the two strands apart while another enzyme rapidly “transcribes” genetic code to RNA molecules. The code is then “proofread” and instantly corrected if an error is found. All of this happens in a matter of seconds! Finally, the RNA molecules exit the nucleus to begin communicating the genetic code to new cells.
As the RNA molecule takes critical information from the DNA and communicates it to the body, so Christ took the message of His Father’s love from the “nucleus” of heaven and communicated it to our planet. “For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me” (John 17:8).
And now it is Christ’s desire that we do the work of the RNA! “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).
While we cannot help what genetic heritage we have been given from our parents, we can accept God’s offer to be our Father and choose to be “born again.” Let us bring joy to the Father’s heart today, replicating the peace of heaven, by letting Christ transcribe the genetic code of heaven into our hearts!
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O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. John 17:25And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:26
An Amazing Fact: When Napoleon’s armies invaded Europe, his general soon realized that an “army marches on its stomach” and that foraging for food was wasting time. But when the armies tried to carry their food with them, it spoiled. So in 1795, the French government offered a prize of 12,000 francs to any Frenchman who could find a way to preserve food. It wasn’t until 1809 that a French confectioner named Nicholas Appert claimed the money.
After almost 15 years of experimenting, Appert placed peas and carrots into wine bottles, cooked them at a high temperature, and then sealed the glass with a cork. The food remained edible after standing many days, and thus was discovered the basic principle of modern canning. Food preservation techniques have become so sophisticated that perishables can be preserved and remain edible for centuries!
Appert has been called the “father of canning” because of his invention of airtight food preservation. Later in 1810 a British inventor and merchant, Peter Durand, patented his own method of preserving food in a tin can. However, mass-producing canned food did not happen until the 20th century because of the difficulty of opening the cans with a hammer and chisel. Not until someone invented a can opener did it really take off!
Do you know what the most perishable food in history is? “And Moses said, ‘Let no one leave any of it till morning.’ Notwithstanding, they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. So they gathered it every morning, every man according to his need. And when the sun became hot, it melted” (Exodus 16:19–21).
We can be certain of one thing about food. Someday we will never have to worry about it spoiling. There will be plenty for us to enjoy in heaven. “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore” (Revelation 7:16). God will supply our daily bread.
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For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness. Psalms 107:9
An Amazing Fact: As far back as the 15th century, the Venetian Republic hired and paid local mountaineers to accompany mapmakers through the Dolimites mountain range in an effort to trace the Austrian-Venetian border. Later, in 1865, Austria officially authorized the discipline of Alpine Guide. These first explorers were often accompanied by local mountaingoat hunters, traditionally the true experts of the steep and dangerous mountain routes, and together can be considered the forefathers of the modern mountain guide.
Mountain guides are trained and experienced mountaineers. They are professionals with a passion for the mountains. These experts have skills in climbing, hiking, and skiing. They have practical knowledge about rocks, avalanches, weather, navigation, snow, and health. Their main goal is your safety when climbing.
Certification for most guides is through the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations. It requires a vigorous examination of three main areas: rock climbing, alpine climbing, and mountaineering skiing. It can take up to seven years to complete certification requirements. Other qualities that mountain guides can provide clients include a good knowledge of the route, weather, and snow and glacier conditions. They are prepared for emergencies and have equipment and knowledge to care for you and evacuate you from danger. Some have access to limited-use locations for hikers who want to explore new places.
On our journey to heaven, we will meet great difficulties. We are assured of trials and have been warned of an enemy who wants to pull us off course, attack us, or simply confuse our sense of direction. But we can be thankful for a promise made by Jesus to His disciples before returning to heaven. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). We can have peace knowing that God has sent each of us a personal guide in Jesus.
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Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalms 23:4
An Amazing Fact: During the Pacific battles of World War II, the Japanese eavesdropped on U.S. Marine communications and managed to decipher the coded messages easily. In fact, Japanese cryptographers succeeded in breaking every U.S. code nearly as fast as it was developed. But there was one code they could never break.
The idea originated with Philip Johnston, an engineer and World War I veteran, who knew of the military’s need for an unbreakable code. He had been raised on a Navajo Reservation where his father had been a missionary. Navajo was virtually an unwritten language in 1942, with no alphabet or symbols, and was spoken only on the Navajo lands of the American Southwest.
Confident that few people in the world understood the complex syntax and tonal qualities of Navajo, Johnston suggested that the army use the language as the basis for code. After staging an impressive demonstration in which several Navajo friends transmitted English into Navajo and back to English, the Marines authorized an official program to develop and implement the code.
Twenty-nine Navajos fluent in their native tongue and English (some only 15-years-old) constructed and mastered the code, which they used to transmit crucial information in battles. More were trained later. Historians believe that the Navajo Code Talkers played a fundamental role in the U.S. victory in the Pacific.
A crisis in heaven once developed when no one could be found to open and look at a scroll. “‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it” (Revelation 5:1, 2).
“But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals’” (v. 5). Here was a message that needed to go to the world and nobody could “break the code” … except Christ. Jesus could reveal the message because He gave His life to save the world. That, in fact, is the message!
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Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. Acts 28:28
An Amazing Fact: On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The number of Americans who died was 2,388, the number wounded was 1,178, and the number of ships sunk or damaged was 21.
Each year Americans commemorate Pearl Harbor Day in memory of the thousands who were injured or killed when the Japanese made their surprise attack on the American naval base in Hawaii. It was a major turning point in World War II. Though the number who remember that day becomes fewer over the years, many can still hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous address, in which he says December 7, 1941, will be “a date which will live in infamy.” Is it still remembered? About 4,000 people visit Pearl Harbor each day, and 1.5 million visit the USS Arizona memorial each year.
The attack lasted only 110 minutes, from 7:55 AM until 9:45 AM. Plans for the assault had been in the works for almost one year. Its code name was “Operation Hawaii” and was later changed to “Operation Z.” The Japanese chose to attack on Sunday morning because they believed the Americans would be less alert and more relaxed. When the Japanese commander Mitsuo Fuchida called out “Tora! Tora! Tora! [Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!]” when flying over Pearl Harbor, it was a message to the entire Japanese Navy that they had caught the Americans totally by surprise.
The language of Joel when describing the “Day of the Lord” sounds familiar to those who watched the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a grim comparison. “Blow the trumpet in Zion, And sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the Lord is coming, For it is at hand: A day of darkness and gloominess, A day of clouds and thick darkness. … A people come, great and strong. … A fire devours before them, And behind them a flame burns” (Joel 2:1–3).
What a great and dreadful day that will be! For those who give their lives to Christ, however, it will not come as a surprise attack.
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But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10
An Amazing Fact: Number 10 Downing Street is one of the most famous doors in the world. It attracts millions of visitors every year. One woman and 52 men have passed through the grand doors of Number 10 Downing Street as British Prime Minister. Sometimes they were met by violent riots, passionate protests, and even a few celebrities. One interesting fact about this door is that it can only be opened from the inside.
Another world-famous door is the Florence Baptistery in Florence, Italy. It took Lorenzo Ghiberti and two colleagues 27 years to produce the design that included 10 panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament. They are crafted from gilded bronze. Ghiberti’s use of the “principle of perspective” led Michelangelo to refer to these doors as fit to be the “Gates of Paradise.”
An ancient door famous among archaeologists is the Ishtar Gate from Babylon. Around 600 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar built this powerful blue-glazed brick gate. He emblazoned on the door the image of the dragon of Marduk. Also featured are golden lions and bulls. The gate is almost 50 feet high and 33 feet wide.
An interesting door in Rome is called the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, or the “Door of the Great Pardon,” which is sealed with a brick wall. Every 25 years the pope strikes the brick with a silver hammer and symbolically opens it. It remains open for the entire year. At the end of the year the brick wall is rebuilt. The Holy Door is meant to represent Jesus, as the gate to heaven and salvation.
The Bible describes Jesus standing before a door and knocking. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20). Like 10 Downing Street, this door opens only from the inside. It is the door of your heart. You don’t have to wait 25 years for someone to open it. You can do so right now.
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I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Revelation 3:8
An Amazing Fact: After being drafted, Desmond Doss’ refusal to bear arms gave his commanders fits, and his fellow soldiers often used the meek misfit as a punching bag. He believed his Christian faith forbade the taking of lives and promoted their saving. He always kept his Bible close by but refused to carry a weapon at his own peril. Yet as an infantry medic during World War II, Doss did as much as any great warrior to save the lives of his fellow men.
During a bloody assault in Okinawa in April 1945, private first-class Doss exhibited magnificent fortitude and unflinching bravery in the face of deadly conditions. He retrieved 75 wounded men off a rocky cliff while under constant enemy fire. Doss believed this feat was made possible only by the guiding and protective hand of God. Doss received many wounds during that battle, but he always tended to others before himself.
His reputation as a soldier propelled his name as a symbol for outstanding faith. While seriously wounded after jumping on a grenade to protect his fellow men, Doss dragged himself through the battlefield to treat wounded soldiers until he was rescued. Doss later discovered he’d lost his Bible during the conflict. However, the respect of his fellow soldiers had grown so profound that they searched the battlefield until they found the beloved Book of the private they had all once mocked.
For his heroic efforts and bravery, Doss received this country’s highest military honor. On Columbus Day in 1945, President Truman placed the Congressional Medal of Honor around Doss’ neck and said, “This is a greater honor for me than being president.” Doss is the only conscientious objector ever to receive the award.
Christ, in the same way, honors the church of Philadelphia. “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name” (Revelation 3:8). And, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial” (v. 10). Praise God for protection to those who persevere in His name.
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And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; Romans 5:3
An Amazing Fact: In 1869, Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician and dentist by profession, successfully pasteurized Concord grape juice to produce an “unfermented sacramental wine” for fellow parishioners at his church in Vineland, New Jersey.
He was inspired to do this after a visitor became drunk and unruly following a communion service in which fermented wine was used. Since antiquity, there have been several methods of preserving wine from fermenting, but they always sacrificed much in the way of taste. Dr. Welch’s process preserved both. Today, Welch’s Grape Juice is an international food company.
Alcohol consumption is a national problem in America. It destroys people’s ability to think clearly and act properly. Tests show that after drinking three bottles of beer, there is an average of 13 percent net memory loss. After taking only small quantities of alcohol, trained typists were tested and their errors increased 40 percent. Only one ounce of alcohol increases the time required to make a decision by nearly 10 percent, hinders muscular reaction by 17 percent, and increases errors due to lack of attention by 35 to 60 percent.
Using the illustration of grapes, Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1, 2). When we do not abide in Christ, the fruit that we bear is permeated with sin. Like fermented grape juice, the results of a life without Jesus are impure, broken, and impaired. Unless we are connected to Christ, we will not bear good fruit. Unless we abide in Jesus, we will be cut off.
Spend time with the Lord every day. Press the Word against your heart. Talk to God in prayer. And let the pure spiritual “wine” flow, unfermented by sin, out of your life to bless others.
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Thus saith the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all. Isaiah 65:8
An Amazing Fact: A little cumulus cloud weighs about the same as 100 elephants, and a thunderstorm cloud can weigh as much as 200,000 elephants!
Did you know that within one second, approximately 16 million tons of water evaporate? And contrary to popular belief, as raindrops fall, they are not in the shape of a “teardrop.” As the size of the raindrop increases, they change from a spherical shape to a flat-bottomed disk shape, similar to a hamburger bun. Eventually, they can actually take the shape of a parachute before they split apart into two smaller droplets.
In awe of the Creator’s marvelous physical laws of nature, Job observes that He “binds up the water in His thick clouds, Yet the clouds are not broken under it” (Job 26:8). Job knew that if this amount of water were carried in a sack common in his day, it would be ripped apart.
Imagine the effect if rain fell as if from a giant tub in the heavens. Because of their size and the way droplets are formed, however, raindrops can only reach a maximum of 22 miles per hour before they split into lighter drops. So when the rain falls, instead of destroying vegetation, it is evenly distributed in small droplets to refresh the grass, plants, and trees.
In the beautiful song of Moses, recorded in Deuteronomy 32, he illustrates the tenderness with which God instructs and teaches His precious people. “Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass” (v. 2). God knows that we are as tender grass (Isaiah 40:7). In His merciful dealings with us, He doesn’t send all His teaching to us at once. We would be overwhelmed! He knows just the right amount of instruction we can handle. Let’s just be sure that we are there to receive it every morning.
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The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. Isaiah 50:4
An Amazing Fact: George Washington Carver was born to slave parents in Diamond Grove, Missouri. He was rescued from Confederate kidnappers as an infant.
Carver is perhaps the nation’s best-known African-American scientist. In the period between 1890 and 1910, the cotton crop had been devastated by the boll weevil. Carver advised farmers to cultivate peanuts, and before long, he developed more than 300 different peanut-based products—everything from milk to printer’s ink.
At Tuskegee, Carver developed a crop rotation method that alternated nitrate-producing legumes—such as peanuts and peas—with cotton, which depletes soil of its nutrients. Following Carver’s lead, southern farmers soon began planting peanuts one year and cotton the next. While many of the peanuts were used to feed livestock, large surpluses quickly developed. When he discovered that the sweet potato and the pecan also enriched depleted soils, Carver found almost 20 uses for these crops, including synthetic rubber and material for paving highways.
George Washington Carver was not left as an orphan. His slave owners loved him so much that they adopted him when his mother was carried away by kidnappers one dark night when he was a baby. They cared for him as their own. Carver grew up to be one of the greatest turn-of-the-century scientists in American history.
We live on a planet torn by war and sin. Jesus promised His disciples, before the crucifixion, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). Carver longed to see his mother again, but that was not to be. We too have a longing to see our heavenly Father. We can be thankful that this longing will be fulfilled.
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Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27
An Amazing Fact: As one of the world’s oldest structures at 4,600 years, the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is the sole survivor of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is believed that a slave force of about 25,000 men and women built the colossal structure. It took 20 years to build, using approximately 2.3 million blocks with an average weight of 2.5 metric tons. The largest block weighs as much as 15 metric tons.
The pyramid currently stands at more than 450 feet high, but at one time stood as high as 480 feet—50 stories! It was the tallest manmade structure for more than 43 centuries—surpassed only in the 19th century.
In addition, the interior stones fit so well together that even a business card won’t fit between them. It’s engineering prowess was so advanced that even current technology can’t duplicate the structure. The pyramid’s core was constructed mostly of soft limestone, but the outer layer of the pyramid was crafted in a beautifully bright, protective layer of polished stone that made the structure durable against the elements. The casing stones, 144,000 in all, were so brilliant that when sunlight reflected off them, they could be seen from the mountains of Israel hundreds of miles away.
These outer “casing stones” are missing today because of a 13th century earthquake, which loosened them. Arabic looters, recognizing this great quarry of precut stones, carted these off to finish construction of palaces and mosques.
The great pyramid represents man’s best attempt to build an eternal dwelling on Earth, but even the pyramids are slowly crumbling. In contrast, Jesus promises to build eternal dwellings for His children in which we can abide forever.
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In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2
An Amazing Fact: “Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for future developments” (Julius Sextus Frontinus, A.D. 10). “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons” (Popular Mechanics, 1949). “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” (Thomas Watson, IBM, 1943). “The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most” (IBM to Xerox, 1959).
Reading these obviously faulty predictions makes us smile—computers weigh in at 1.5 tons? There’s an iPhone available that weighs 4.8 ounces and can be used in many ways as a mini-computer. Technology has developed quickly and brilliantly so that developers of the past would not even comprehend the capabilities, software, and accessories today. Software and accessories? Cables and docks? Headsets? What are those?
What about the Bible? Is God’s Word more trustworthy than the rash statements above? Let’s talk about Jesus. Sometime before 500 B.C., the prophet Daniel proclaimed that Israel’s long-awaited Messiah would begin His public ministry 483 years after the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25, 26). He also predicted that the Messiah would be killed prior to a second destruction of Jerusalem. These prophecies were perfectly fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus.
Around A.D. 30, Jesus told His disciples they would be persecuted and hated because they followed Him. They, and millions of Christians after them, were grossly mistreated or lost their lives for serving the Lord.
Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go … I will come again” (John 14:1–3). Jesus is coming! He said it; you can believe it. He will make an end of all of the woes of this sin-weary world. “‘Behold, I make all things new.’ … These words are true and faithful” (Revelation 21:5).
There’s a perfect place reserved for you. It’s free. And you can know that it is true.
KEY BIBLE TEXTS
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Hebrews 10:37