Christian Books for Reference and Reading (of course!)

Reading with the kitty scholar

Just wanted to let you know that I put up my first post on apologetics resources at Squidoo.  It’s called My Christian Bookshelf: Apologetics (I).  I review eight books there.  Most are quite short but I do talk about slavery in the Bible in one of the reviews (for True Reason).  I plan on doing another post that is more specific to new atheist attacks.  In any case, I hope you enjoy it!  Thanks so so much for checking it out.

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Did Christ and his followers drink wine, or grape juice?

Ripening grapes on old, beautifully set grape vines (danjaeger at Freeimages.com).

Ripening grapes on old, beautifully set grape vines (danjaeger at Freeimages.com).

If bible translations are to be believed, then yes, Christ and his followers drank wine and not grape juice. Yet some Christians want to believe otherwise and insist that all Christians should never drink any amount of alcohol. Is there any merit to their reasoning?

Not according to Walter C. Kaiser Jr.: “All who have read the Bible carefully are quite aware that it makes the case for [drinking in] moderation, not total abstinence. . . . for those who are able to be moderate in their alcoholic intake: wine can make the heart happy (Psalm 104:15) . . .” (p 291). Indeed, biblically speaking, wine is not only often associated with joy, but also with salvation.

Practically speaking, ancient Israel did not have refrigeration and thus could not store grape juice unfermented. And in context, there are numerous passages that speak of wine and/or drunkenness that cannot be rationally thought of as referring to a nonalcoholic juice. Let’s look at some.

Passages that Advocate Wine or relate it to Israel

Deuteronomy 14:22-26 – In instructing the Israelites about tithing, God told them that when they needed to travel far with a tithe and it was overly large or heavy, they could sell it. Then, “use the silver to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or . . . . Then you . . . shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.”

Isaiah 5:1-7 – “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress” (verse 7). In Mark 12:1-11, Jesus speaks of the history and the future of God’s vineyard.

Isaiah 55:1 – “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”

Luke 5:39 – “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better’.”

Timothy 5:23 – “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.”

Passages referring to drunkenness

Genesis 9:20-21 – “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard.  When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.” Unfortunately, this is the first recorded incident after the ark landed and God gave humanity a new covenant, and it led to the cursing of Canaan. See also the sad and distressing incidents between Lot and his daughters in Genesis 19:30-38. Grape juice was not the cause of Noah’s and Lot’s troubles.

Proverbs 20:1 – “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”

Isaiah 5:22 – “Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks . . .”

Passages relating wine with Melchizedek, Jesus

In Abraham’s time, he–then called Abram–met a High Priest of God called Melchizedek; he was also King of Salem (meaning “Peace”). Melchizedek in fact wasn’t human, having no mother, father, or beginning or ending of days (Hebrews 7:1-3), and this Melchizedek gave Abram bread, wine, and a blessing. Abram, significantly, then gave Melchizedek a tenth of all he had just gained in a large-scale rescue mission (Genesis 14:18-20).

John 2:9-10 – ” . . . the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now’.” Here, Jesus turned water into wine, and He made it the best wine at the wedding. Knowing that Jesus is the church’s bridegroom, we look forward to the best that is still to come.

The wedding passage in John also refers to people getting tipsy or even drunk (“too much to drink”), indicating that grape juice was not what people were drinking. It might be worth considering that, despite the guests’ state, Jesus still made more wine for them.

Lastly, Jesus and his disciples drank wine at the Last Supper, which was a Passover meal (Mark 14:23-25 and others). Wine, and quite a bit of it, was an important part of the Passover meal. In Palestine grapes were harvested in late summer to early fall. At this springtime meal, then, Jesus and his disciples would have been drinking fermented grape juice–wine–from a previous year’s harvest. At this Passover, just before His crucifixion, Jesus prophesied: “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Since Jesus had been drinking wine, he was referring to the same in that unique biblical passage.  Author Michael Card (pp 103-104) happily surmises:

Parties are almost as important as prayer for a Christian because, if you think about it, the climax of the history of this world takes place at a party. It’s called the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” and . . . it will quite literally be the party of all time. As far back as Isaiah (25:6) the prophets were catching glimpses of it.”

Isaiah (25:6) tells us:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine–the best of meats and the finest of wines.

___

Sources:

Did Jesus Drink Wine?

Hard Sayings of the Bible – Walter C. Kaiser Jr., et al. (1996)

Holy Bible, New International Version (2011)

Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ – Michael Card (1990)

What Does the Bible Say About Drinking Wine/Alcohol?

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“God’s Battalions”: A Corrective to Revisionist Crusades History

Crosses carved by pilgrims into a wall of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.  (Yair Talmor, Wikimedia Commons).

Crosses carved by pilgrims into a wall of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. (Yair Talmor, Wikimedia Commons).

“God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades” by Rodney Stark

“Muslims were [not] more brutal or less tolerant than were Christians or Jews, for it was a brutal and intolerant age. It is to say that efforts to portray Muslims as enlightened supporters of multiculturalism are at best ignorant.” (p 29)

In this reader-accessible but academic book, Professor Stark provides a very much needed corrective to the still accepted myths about the crusades into the Holy Land. Besides addressing the fallacies repeated as fact today (a few are given below), Stark presents a centuries-long history leading up to the crusades. Despite the reputation the Catholic Church earned over its handling of its Inquisition, at this earlier time violence was considered sinful. Even the killing of a criminal by a knight was deemed a bad thing. This may explain why Catholics didn’t respond sooner to centuries of mass murders and church destruction by Muslims in Palestine (see Moshe Gil, History of Palestine, 634-1099).

Fallacy 1: Crusaders were motivated by greed.

Fidelity 1: Piety and freeing the Holy Land, Jerusalem, were the crusaders’ motives. It must be understood that for some time Catholics believed that atonement for sins was gained through a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, for this is what their confessors told them. Obviously, this was spiritually very important to them and had nothing to do with wealth (in fact, pilgrimage was incredibly time-consuming, expensive, and dangerous). So when Pope Urban II announced that regaining Jerusalem would cleanse the liberators, it wasn’t an entirely new concept (becoming sin-free through violence was, however).

Fallacy 2: Muslims were tolerant and allowed conquered people to maintain their faith.

Fidelity 2: Depending on the time and area, conquered peoples were either (1) given the choice to convert to Islam or face death or enslavement, or (2) forced to pay heavy taxes, cease church or synagogue building, and never read scripture or pray aloud (even in their own homes).

More specifically relevant to the impetus for the crusades, and a definite show of Muslim intolerance, are the actions of the Turkish commander Atsiz. Sieging Jerusalem in 1071 or 1073, he promised the inhabitants safety if they relented. But when the city gates opened, “the Turkish troops were released to slaughter and pillage, and thousands died. Next, Atsiz’s troops murdered the populations of Ramla and Gaza, then Tyre and Jaffa” (p 97).

Fallacy 3: The crude European crusaders ruined the higher level culture of the Arab Muslims.

Fidelity 3: There are two related components of this fallacy that have been disproven but still remain in our culture. The first is that the Europeans were brutish children of the “Dark Ages.” As early as 1981 Encyclopedia Britannica refuted the long-held academic view that Europe even experienced a “Dark Ages.” On the contrary, this time period saw both the rise of agricultural

innovations that led to the biggest and strongest population ever, and many technological innovations that made the crusades possible.

Secondly, if you consider legitimate the claiming of conquered peoples’ knowledge as one’s own, then Islam “attained” high levels of it. Consider these very few examples: (1) “Arabic numerals” are Hindu; (2) Avicenna, considered the greatest of the Muslim philosopher-scientists, was Persian (this is true of many others, too); (3) Medical knowledge was from the Nestorian Christians. As conquerors, the Arabs made Arab names necessary and the Arab language mandatory for the intelligentsia.

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Everyday sayings from the Bible – There may be more than you think!

Did you know that the everyday expression “broken heart” (or “brokenhearted)” is considered to be derived from the Bible?  Yes, even by secular sources.  I wrote about 15 such common sayings at Yahoo! Voices, where I’m trying make a little extra cash for my family while gaining more exposure to my writings.  If you check that out, thank you very much!  Here are 12 more common or formerly common but interesting sayings that originated from the Bible.  If you read your Bible you may know at least some of these, but for any you don’t know, may you enjoy learning about them!

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  This exact expression in its current form is not in the Bible, actually, but a similar biblical phrase is considered to be the first in English that means the same thing.  This may seem a bit wanky, but I’m conveying what at least some etymologists say.  The meaning of this phrase – to have something you know is good is not worth throwing away for things that may or may not be better – has equivalents in many languages.  The phrase from the Old Testament is found in Ecclesiastes 9:4b:  “A living dog is better than a dead lion.”  The oldest written phrase close to its current form is found in an ancient source, but not nearly as ancient as the OT:  “He is a fool who lets slip a bird in the hand for a bird in the bush” (Plutarch, c. AD 100, in Of Garrulity).

As old as the hills.  Meaning “very old indeed,” this expression is a shortened version of Job 15:7:  “Are you the first man who was born?  Or were you made before the hills?”  A similar but more specific expression is “As old as Methuselah.”  This is referring to the oldest recorded person in the Bible, Methuselah, grandfather of Noah, who was said to have lived 969 years (Genesis 5:27).

Apple of my [or his] eye.  This means that the “apple” referred to is the favorite of the beholder’s “eye.”  There are many instances of the expression in the old testament, but notably Deuteronomy 32:10 and Zechariah 2:8

Cast your bread upon the waters.  This is a less common saying nowadays (and is even absent from references), perhaps because it seems too nonsensical and doesn’t convey any meaning by itself.  I love the sound of it, though, so included it here.  It’s from Eccl.s 11:1:  “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.”  Although this expression is teaching patience or diligence, is it odd, and it is grouped with many odd and difficult sayings in Ecclesiastes.

Set your teeth on edge.  When something is upsetting or making you uptight, you might say that it’s setting your teeth on edge.  This comes from a few verses in the Bible, like Jeremiah 31:29, “In those days they shall say no more: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge'” (see also Jeremiah 31:30 and Ezekiel 18:2).

Wolf in sheep’s clothing.  This saying is so common, that the meaning seems rather obvious.  In case this is new to you, it refers to a person who has bad intentions who is fooling people by acting innocent of any malice; they have an insincere public face, coupled with ill-will.  The expression comes from Matthew 7:15:  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

Charity begins at home.  Interestingly, this expression doesn’t come from an obvious notion or ideal, but from a criticism of men (providers of the family) having problems with being a good provider.  1 Timothy 5:8 states:  “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  Jesus talks of hypocrisy in a number of places in the New Testament, especially in Matthew 23, but what he says in Matthew 15:1-9 is particularly applicable here:  “But you [scribes and Pharisees] say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’  Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites!” (15:5-7a).

Let Us Swords into Plowshares

Let Us Swords into Plowshares (Photo credit: Singing With Light) At U.N. Headquarters, N.Y.

Beat swords into plowshares. I time of peace when even defensive weapons will not be necessary.   From the yet to be fulfilled prophecy of Isaiah 2:4, “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Salt of the earth. From Matthew 5:13:  “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”

Don’t cast your pearls before swine. This saying warns of not sharing things that are important to you with those who just don’t care, and who might even belittle you about it. The original meaning is specifically spiritual.  Pigs (swine) will trample what’s thrown in front of them if it’s not ordinary food, so don’t toss spiritual food their way since they’ll only disdainfully muck it up.  From Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.”

Sign of the times. From Matthew 16:3.  Speaking with the Jewish leaders, Jesus said “. . . in the morning [you say], ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.”

Twinkling of an eye, In the.  Neither Shakespeare nor Robert Manning were the first to write this expression, but the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:52: “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

______

Sources:

The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins – Robert Hendrickson (2008)

The Phrase Finder

Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms, Phrases, Sayings & Expressions – Marvin Terban (1996)

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Christian Poems XIII: Keller and Eliot

Matilija Poppy (by Vicki Priest)

Matilija Poppy (by Vicki Priest)

In the Garden of the Lord

by Helen Keller

The word of God came unto me,
Sitting alone among the multitudes;
And my blind eyes were touched with light.
And there was laid upon my lips a flame of fire.

I laugh and shout for life is good,
Though my feet are set in silent ways.
In merry mood I leave the crowd
To walk in my garden. Ever as I walk
I gather fruits and flowers in my hands.
And with joyful heart I bless the sun
That kindles all the place with radiant life.
I run with playful winds that blow the scent
Of rose and jasmine in eddying whirls.

At last I come where tall lilies grow,
Lifting their faces like white saints to God.
While the lilies pray, I kneel upon the ground;
I have strayed into the holy temple of the Lord.

In A Sacrifice of Praise, James H. Trott, editor (Cumberland House 2006; stanzas slightly modified)

_________________

The Rock (excerpt from Section X of Choruses)

by TS Eliot

О Greater Light, we praise Thee for the less;

The eastern light our spires touch at morning,

The light that slants upon our western doors at evening.

The twilight over stagnant pools at batflight,

Moon light and star light, owl and moth light,

Glow-worm glowlight on a grassblade.

О Light Invisible, we worship Thee!

 

We thank Thee for the lights that we have kindled,

The light of altar and of sanctuary;

Small lights of those who meditate at midnight

And lights directed through the coloured panes of windows

And light reflected from the polished stone,

The gilded carven wood, the coloured fresco.

Our gaze is submarine, our eyes look upward

And see the light that fractures through unquiet water.

We see the light but see not whence it comes.

О Light Invisible, we glorify Thee!

___

In T.S Eliot: Collected Poems 1909-1962 (HBJ 1963)

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Bisexual Raised by Lesbians: Thoughtfully Against Gay Adoptions

For a detailed and thoughtful view on being raised by gay parents, please see Robert Oscar Lopez’s Same Sex Parenting: What do Children Say?  Here are some excerpts to give you an idea of his views and experience.

During the oral arguments about Proposition 8, Justice Anthony Kennedy referred to children being raised by same-sex couples. Since I was one of those children—from ages 2-19, I was raised by a lesbian mother with the help of her partner—I was curious to see what he would say.

I also eagerly anticipated what he would say because I had taken great professional and social risk to file an amicus brief with Doug Mainwaring (who is gay and opposes gay marriage), in which we explained that children deeply feel the loss of a father or mother, no matter how much we love our gay parents or how much they love us. Children feel the loss keenly because they are powerless to stop the decision to deprive them of a father or mother, and the absence of a male or female parent will likely be irreversible for them.

Over the last year I’ve been in frequent contact with adults who were raised by parents in same-sex partnerships. They are terrified of speaking publicly about their feelings, so several have asked me (since I am already out of the closet, so to speak) to give voice to their concerns.

I cannot speak for all children of same-sex couples, but I speak for quite a few of them, especially those who have been brushed aside in the so-called “social science research” on same-sex parenting. . . .  I have heard of the supposed “consensus” on the soundness of same-sex parenting from pediatricians and psychologists, but that consensus is frankly bogus. . . .

I support same-sex civil unions and foster care, but I have always resisted the idea that government should encourage same-sex couples to imagine that their partnerships are indistinguishable from actual marriages.  Such a self-definition for gays would be based on a lie, and anything based on a lie will backfire.

The richest and most successful same-sex couple still cannot provide a child something that the poorest and most struggling spouses can provide: a mom and a dad.  Having spent forty years immersed in the gay community, I have seen how that reality triggers anger and vicious recrimination from same-sex couples, who are often tempted to bad-mouth so-called “dysfunctional” or “trashy” straight couples in order to say, “We deserve to have kids more than they do!”

But I am here to say no, having a mom and a dad is a precious value in its own right and not something that can be overridden, even if a gay couple has lots of money, can send a kid to the best schools, and raises the kid to be an Eagle Scout.

It’s disturbingly classist and elitist for gay men to think they can love their children unreservedly after treating their surrogate mother like an incubator, or for lesbians to think they can love their children unconditionally after treating their sperm-donor father like a tube of toothpaste.

It’s also racist and condescending for same-sex couples to think they can strong-arm adoption centers into giving them orphans by wielding financial or political clout. An orphan in Asia or in an American inner city has been entrusted to adoption authorities to make the best decision for the child’s life, not to meet a market demand for same-sex couples wanting children. Whatever trauma caused them to be orphans shouldn’t be compounded with the stress of being adopted into a same-sex partnership. . . .

The children thrown into the middle . . . are well aware of their parents’ role in creating a stressful and emotionally complicated life for kids, which alienates them from cultural traditions like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day, and places them in the unenviable position of being called “homophobes” if they simply suffer the natural stress that their parents foisted on them—and admit to it. . . .

That’s why I am for civil unions but not for redefining marriage. But I suppose I don’t count—I am no doctor, judge, or television commentator, just a kid who had to clean up the mess left behind by the sexual revolution.

two-kinds-of-people-by-cs-lewis_zpsbcb8ec60

 

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Varied and Odd Happenings; brains, kidneys, and the kitchen sink

Hi wonderful readers.  I’ve been neglecting my Christian posts of late but I’ll tell you of the odd happenings and other reasons why (besides my previous post regarding CafePress).

First, let me mention what has been unfortunately happening with my husband.  My hubby has been ill all his life, and was finally diagnosed a while back with moderately-severe ulcerative colitis, an auto-immune disease.  They try to keep it under control with a drug that is for milder cases, and it doesn’t really make him disease-free.  So he has had those issues, but, something new came up.  He passed out just before work one day – prior to that he was very fatigued and had other symptoms for some time, too, but he kept working (it’s hard to tell if some symptoms are from UC or from something else).

That was about four weeks ago and the doctors still don’t know what is wrong with him.

Though not too clear, this was the view of Catalina Island from my husbands first hospital room. Amazing.

Though not too clear, this was the view of Catalina Island from my husband’s first hospital room. Amazing.

They had done an MRI of his head and found that he has a large group of brain cysts that are very odd.  They said at Kaiser that they had never seen anything like it (perhaps that’s because they don’t do as many tests on people as they should – seriously), but that those cysts would not be causing his symptoms.  So they apparently will be testing him more to try and figure out what is going on (this had been a slow and agonizing process with Kaiser – another healthcare provider is recommended).

In the meantime, if you can believe this, he developed extreme pain where a kidney is and he went to the ER.  They assumed the basic and normal thing – first time kidney stone victim.  But, as he needed more pain medication than normal and his heart rate was elevated for a very long time, he was admitted to the hospital.  I could write a whole long essay about his incident relative to our insurance, but right now I’ll ignore that.  In the end, what they found was that he had a large “kidney stone” that isn’t a “stone” blocking the tube from kidney to bladder.  He has stabilized but we’re waiting for the thing to come out to determine what it is, since it’s not made of calcium.

English: A kidney stone with associated hydron...

A kidney stone with associated hydronephrosis mid ureter (Photo credit: Wikipedia).

Otherwise, as we simply need more income, I’ve been trying to garner more freelance work and have been checking out the possibility of  another part-time job (haven’t looked into temp agencies yet, but if you have opinions of any agencies I’d be interested to hear of your experiences).  I’ve had two* assignments published at Yahoo! and am waiting–for what seems like an eternity, they are so slow–for other submissions to be accepted or rejected.  So, the time I used to spend writing posts here, I’ve been investigating where I might publish, obtaining writing gigs, and writing articles/essays.  One of my poems, one that is posted at this blog, is to be included in a Korean anthology of Christian poems.

I haven’t forgotten about this blog, however–no way.  I had studied much for writing a nice post on the book of Jonah and how it relates to Christ and God’s plan for mankind, but got distracted and overly annoyed about an explanation I saw by Calvin regarding why/why not God “changed his mind” about destroying Nineveh.  I thought it so absurd that I was preparing to write an essay about that only, but, I stopped myself (rage posts aren’t a good idea).  I then lost interest in writing up the Jonah piece, but I do plan on getting that done sometime soon.  It is one of my favorite prophetic sections in the Bible.

* I posted about my first one involving appendicitis, and if anyone is interested in my second one on preventing strokes, well, I’d be happy to know that you enjoyed it!

Update (May 18, 2014):  My husband became extremely pained again and we went to urgent care.  While kidney stones indeed cause a level of pain that is compared the child-birth, we just weren’t sure what to do.  What is “normal” when dealing with kidney stones?  Should you have to miss one to six weeks of work because of constant excruciating pain and/or nausea?  We now know that a big part of my husbands health problems are related to becoming dehydrated, which is being caused by his ulcerative colitis.  This was causing more problems with his kidney/kidney stones.

But to get to the point, he had surgery to remove the stone, which was found to be lodged in his ureter somehow.  I wish I knew more – I was at the pharmacy when my husband woke up and the nurses told him about the unwelcome lodger.  Regarding the weird non-calcification issue, the surgeon did speak to me briefly and said that the stone WAS calcified, so it is currently a mystery to us why were told differently earlier.  Thanks for reading and any prayers; if you have questions, feel free to ask!  We don’t mind, and maybe we’ll learn more from the question and in the effort to answer.

 

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Appendicitis: my experience in a nutshell

Having an unusual case of appendicitis, I wrote about it at Yahoo! Voices:  Appendicitis Symptoms Are Not Always “Typical”.  I hope you’ll check it out!  At this point, with my husband being so ill that he can’t work right now, any supplemental income is welcome–so please, click away and share it!  Your prayers would be very highly valued, too, of course.

I was very limited in how many words I could put into that article, so if you have any questions, please ask. I do want to share some information here that I wasn’t able to provide there.  Appendicitis isn’t a big killer in the US, but knowing more about it could save your life.

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year...

Age-standardised disability-adjusted life year (DALY) rates from Appendicitis by country (per 100,000 inhabitants). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deaths from appendicitis in the USA are at about 400 per year.  This hard-to-get figure is from the latest WHO statistics, which aren’t all that recent (2008 data published in 2011).  I assume that this statistic includes deaths from people who didn’t go to the doctor in time, as well as deaths from post-operation complications.  There are over 250,000 appendectomies done in the US each year (about 8% – 10% of all people will develop appendicitis in their life times).

Besides my story of not being sure when and if I should see a doctor about the abdominal pain I was having, here is another story about a father-to-be who wasn’t so fortunate.  I am glad to be able to share this article about (partially) Paul Hannum, who lost his life due to appendicitis and lack of insurance.  He deserves to be remembered, and I wish his daughter had been able to know him.  In case you’re interested, here is a wiki list that might lead you to more anecdotal information:  Deaths from Appendicitis (list).

 

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Easter message from Pastor Abedini, imprisoned in Iran

Saeed Abedini with one of his children.  From http://beheardproject.com/saeed#sign

Saeed Abedini with one of his children. From http://beheardproject.com/saeed#sign

The following is posted at the ACLJ website, where you can read many different articles about Pastor Saeed Abedini’s imprisonment–his current unhealthy condition, President Obama’s response, how his family is doing, etc.–and sign a petition for his release (this link takes you to a separate site where you can learn about Abedini’s case as well).  You may think that these petitions don’t do any good when directed at a country like Iran, but, recently Abedini wasn’t being treated for his illnesses and international outcry did cause the Iranian government to at least move the pastor to a hospital bed.  Abedini wrote this message from the hospital.

Happy Resurrection Day.

On the Eve of Good Friday and Easter I was praying from my hospital room for my fellow Christians in the world.  What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed.

Some times we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him.  We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.

We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God’s desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires.

Jesus said to His Disciples:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

This means that we should not do things that we like to do (that God does not want us to do) and to do things that we do not like to do (but God wants us to do) so that He may be glorified.

So in addition to spending our days and night in doing the works of faith as described above, we should also transform our dead faiths into living and active faiths through the resurrection of Christ which is an active and constructive love that is effective.

In conclusion, let us resurrect our Dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish “resurrected” self and experiencing the cross of Jesus. Then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.

A Glorious life with Christ starts only after a painful death (to self) with Christ.

We will start with Christ.

Pastor Saeed Abedini
Prisoner in the Darkness in Iran, but free for the Kingdom and Light

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Posted in Christian, Christianity, Easter, Faith, Holidays, Persecution, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

John Lennox on the Resurrection: why Hume, Dawkins, and others got it wrong

John Lennox, Oxford professor and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, concisely gives us compelling reasons why two widely used anti-resurrection arguments don’t make much sense:   Hume’s and Dawkins’ on “no possibility of miracles,” and the more widely scoffed-at “empty tomb” claims by the first Christians.

What amazes me, as it astonishes Lennox, is that anyone can rationally affirm and adhere to the 18th century philosopher Hume’s argument against miracles, which says that:  miracles go against the laws of nature, therefore they don’t exist.  We study nature and have found  laws of nature by observation, but we can’t rightly claim that something doesn’t exist or won’t happen just because we know of such laws.  What is even more odd is that Hume didn’t actually believe the Laws of Nature were necessarily always uniform:  “He famously argues that, just because the sun has been observed to rise in the morning for thousands of years, it does not mean that we can be sure that it will rise tomorrow.  This is an example of the Problem of Induction: on the basis of past experience you cannot predict the future, says Hume.”  If this is so, then “if nature is not uniform, then using the uniformity of nature as an argument against miracles is simply absurd.”

In his usual clear style, CS Lewis points out how easily Hume’s argument can be refuted (as quoted by Lennox):

If this week I put a thousand pounds in the drawer of my desk, add two thousand next week and another thousand the week thereafter, the laws of arithmetic allow me to predict that the next time I come to my drawer, I shall find four thousand pounds. But suppose when I next open the drawer, I find only one thousand pounds, what shall I conclude? That the laws of arithmetic have been broken? Certainly not! I might more reasonably conclude that some thief has broken the laws of the State and stolen three thousand pounds out of my drawer. One thing it would be ludicrous to claim is that the laws of arithmetic make it impossible to believe in the existence of such a thief or the possibility of his intervention. On the contrary, it is the normal workings of those laws that have exposed the existence and activity of the thief.

After making some thoughtful points, Lennox concludes:  “When a miracle takes place, it is the laws of nature that alert us to the fact that it is a miracle. It is important to grasp that Christians do not deny the laws of nature, as Hume implies they do. It is an essential part of the Christian position to believe in the laws of nature as descriptions of those regularities and cause-effect relationships built into the universe by its Creator and according to which it normally operates. If we did not know them, we should never recognise a miracle if we saw one.”

Lennox goes on to use biblical passages to flush out the truth that people at the time of Christ, and earlier, didn’t easily believe miracle stories either.  They knew how nature worked and what was unusual or seemingly impossible.  Therefore, their ancient witness is just as valid as if you or I saw Jesus resurrected.  Lennox also discusses the real importance of female witnesses to the resurrection.  Please see his article for the full discussion of certain anti-resurrection arguments used by skeptics, and the thoughtful responses he provides.  And, have a joyful Easter!

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Posted in Apologetics, Bible Study, Christianity, church, Easter, Faith, Holidays, Religion | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment