Blog Archives for May and June 2005

June 28, 2005

Raising Dead Dogs
Scientists at Pittsburgh's Safar Center for Resuscitation Research have successfully resurrected some dogs after a few hours of clinical death. The dog's veins are first drained of blood, then filled with an ice-cold saline solution. About three hours later, their veins are drained of the salt water and refilled with their own blood. An electric shock completes the process. After three hours of no breathing, no heartbeat, and no brain activity, the canines are revived. They become fully functional, showing no signs of tissue or organ damage.
 
Scientists hope to begin human trials within a year. They believe that if this technique could be successful on people, many lives could be saved. They have in mind just about any trauma that causes a massive loss of blood: battlefield casualties, stabbings, gunshot wounds etc. It seems that its only a matter of time before experiments begin on humans.
 
This whole idea has interesting theological implications. Would humans who became clinically dead for a period of three hours lose their "soul" or "spirit" in the process? Would they revive as soulless zombies? Or would that spirit return to them upon revivification? If it did, where would it have been for three hours, and would there be any memory of that experience? If humans revived with no visible signs that anything had happened to them, would scientists then conclude that there is no spiritual component to man, and that mind is merely a manifestation of meat (the brain)? -- Brian Knowles  (Source: www.News.com.au June 27, 2005)

June 21, 2005 (I'll be out of town for a week so there will be a gap in the blogging.)

The "M" Word
The Rabbi called on a member of his congregation for a pledge to enlarge the synagogue’s sanctuary. “Sam, our congregation is growing larger every year and we really need this addition. Could you pledge a hundred dollars?”
“No, Rabbi, I can’t.”
“Well, then, how about fifty?”
“I can’t do it, Rabbi, I’m heavily in debt and I got to pay my creditors first.”
“But Sam, you owe a great debt to God, too, and don’t you think He deserves your generous response?”
“He sure does, Rabbi, but God isn’t crowding me like my other creditors.”

In life it seems we are continually being “crowded” for our money by people as well as by our own needs, desires, and appetites.  Money is a big deal in life which is why it was a frequent topic in Christ’s ministry.

In the short space of the Gospels, Jesus preached at least thirty-one sermons on money or giving! Today, he’d probably be accused of harping too much about money.

Most of us preachers don’t have the courage of Christ. The truth is, preachers are afraid to speak boldly about money and giving for fear of being criticized. The scandal of money-hustling TV preachers, and of self-serving celebrity clergy have poisoned the waters of Christian giving. The result has been that dedicated ministers and Christian workers, sincerely serving worthy causes and ministries, have become too timid to bring up money lest they be identified with the money-grubbers and frauds. But such timidity is also cowardly and serves neither God nor his church. --Ken Westby

June 18, 2005

What's in our Food? - Part III
When you eat those beloved potato chips, you may be unwittingly ingesting a substance that the World Health Organization says may be responsible for up to one-third of all cancers caused by diet. It is the chemical acrylamide. It is an industrial chemical used in pesticides, plastics and in sewage treatment. It can occur when starchy foods are processed at high temperatures.
 
Acrylamide is on California's list of chemicals known to cause cancer. A statute created by Proposition 65 requires manufacturers to list acrylamide on their packaging. Public health attorneys have filed Proposition 65 notices with the makers of Lays, Pringles, Kettle Chips and Cape Cod chips. Apparently research has shown that these brands contain unsafe levels of acrylamide in some chip varieties.
 
According to a Gannett News release (June 16, 2005): "The brands tested and cited for high levels of acrylamide are: Lay's Baked!, Lay's Stax BBQ, Lay's KC Masterpiece, Lay's National Country Barbecue, Lay's Light KC Barbecue Masterpiece, Pringles Snack Stacks (Pizzalicious Flavor), Pringles Sweet Mesquite BBQ, Kettle Chips Lightly Salted, Kettle Chips Honey Dijon, Cape Cod Russet and Cape Cod Classic Chips."
 
A gaggle of processed food manufacturers have asked California's "Governator" for an exemption to Prop 65 labeling for foods with carcinogens caused by heat processing. Let's see if he does the right thing by denying it. The more we know about what's in our foods, the better off we are. Perhaps the old rule applies: "Eat only whole foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do." --Brian Knowles

June 15, 2005

Anglican Split in the Offing?
In 2003, the Episcopalian Church consecrated its first openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The 2.2 million member denomination has been in turmoil ever since. The church is downplaying the significance of a bishop's meeting to be held in Los Angeles on July 18-22. Some 20 bishops are at odds with their church hierarchy over the ordination of gays to the priesthood. Unless one party or the other changes its mind about gay ordination in July, the meeting could be about how to engineer a departure of conservatives without generating damaging lawsuits.
 
According to the Washington Times (June 13-19, 2005), "Canon law rules that a congregation that departs from the Episcopal Church must leave its property and assets behind. However, several dioceses are contesting this law in civil court." (This rule may have implications for the frequent splits and schisms in the Churches of God Pod as well.) If adhered to, this rule would mean that departing congregations and dioceses would have to continue with no resources. Clearly this is a disincentive to dissent.
 
The most noble of the Anglican dissenters are African bishops who are refusing millions of dollars from liberal Episcopal sources in the United States as a protest against the unbiblical position of the liberal group. They, at great cost, are holding to a biblical position on the issue. Said a Rwandan bishop: "To be honest, there is not enough money for the needs we have in Rwanda after the [1994] genocide, but if money is being used to disgrace the Gospel, then we don't need it" (Washington Times, June 13-19, 2005).
 
The Anglican archbishop of Uganda says that his people have no working phones at their headquarters in Kampala because they simply can't afford them. He is hoping for more help from the conservative Episcopalians in the United States.
 
Despite the hardships under which they are working, the archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, representing more than 30.5 million Anglicans, are refusing grants from the Episcopal Church. Apparently some Rwandan and Tanzanian bishops are chiming in with them.
 
Last year in Nigeria, a group of African prelates debated the issue. The archbishop of Congo stood before the assembled bishops and announced: "My people are starving. They are having as little as one meal every other day."
 
The lesson here is that taking a stand for Biblical truth always comes with a price tag. The question is, are we willing to pay it? A number of courageous African Anglican bishops are. One of them, Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Mzimbi, reminded the other bishops that the Church's purpose in the world was to fulfill the great commission. Then he said, "But what kind of Gospel are they preaching now, saying there should be union of people of the same sex?" What kind indeed? --Brian Knowles

June 12, 2005 

Happy Pentecost! Today is Pentecost Sunday. What's Pentecost? you ask. Well, it is one of the festival celebrations of Israel. Given by God and enjoined upon his people, it also commemorates some of the Mighty Acts of God. From Mt. Sinai on this day Yahweh gave the Ten Commandants to his people. The event was accompanied by a grand display of heaven-caused thunder, fire and earthquake. Fifteen centuries later on this same day of Pentecost God began his Church amidst a grand display of heavenly fire and thunderous wind at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Twelve Apostles stood in the Temple courts and preached the good news that Christ was risen and ascended to heaven and now is at the Father's side, thus validating Jesus message of the Kingdom of God. We celebrate and remember this day in praise of God for his great gifts to Israel and all mankind--the Ten Commandments and the Church of God being gifts of  incomparable and eternal value. --Ken Westby

June 10, 2005

Why Read the Newspaper?
I don't know about you, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to read our local newspaper of record: The Los Angeles Times. My wife won't read it at all, unless there's a Robinson's.May ad in it. Why not? Because the Times is one of the leading organs on the Left side of the so-called Civil War of Values that's taking place in this country. Every day the paper carries a superfluity of Bush-bashing, Christian-bashing, conservative bashing and Iraq war bashing. The Saturday religious section has atrophied to a few politically correct items and that's about it.  The Times has run major, prolonged, vicious attack pieces on Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Paul Crouch, President of the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
 
Reading the LA Times, for the most part, leaves me angry and depressed. We long ago cancelled our weekly subscription and opted for the weekend "package." We get that only for the TV Guide, the ads, and the sports page. Yet, occasionally the paper does an excellent job of covering some issues including the environment. As Christians, we ought to care deeply about the environment and our stewardship of same. Stewardship is not the same as demagoguery, pressing into service junk science, blowing up SUV's on new car lots, and other forms of eco-terrorism. It doesn't mean endlessly throwing taxpayer dollars at symbolic programs that achieve little or nothing toward the betterment of the environment. It doesn't mean shutting down the logging industry to protect a species of owl.
 
This past week, the Times ran a moving photo essay on the plight of the people of northern Uganda. The pictures were almost too painful to look at. For me, this is the kind of issue that needs to be showcased. The heartache that is Africa goes largely uncovered in the Press and Media. When it is discussed, it's often in the context of whining about what the current administration is not doing about it. In reality, much of Africa is a continent-wide thuggery. Some countries are run by religious thugs, others by secular thugs. A thug is a thug. The results are always the same: heartache, displacement, torture, enslavement, abuse, suffering and death. The Times reported that in that country as many as 30,000 children have been kidnapped and 1.6 million civilians have lost their homes and property.
 
When the Times reports objectively on what's happening in Africa, or in our environment, it generally does a good job. When it comes to offering solutions, it tends to descend in demagoguery and partisan politics.
 
I don't think my wife and I are the only people who are fed up with the LA Times, which I have sometimes euphemistically called "Pravda West." The paper has had a 6.5 percent decline in circulation for its daily paper, and a 7.9 percent drop off in the circulation of the Sunday edition in the first quarter of this year compared to last.
 
Nationwide, newspapers are losing circulation. In the past 12 years, weekday circulation of daily newspapers in this country has fallen by 11 percent. Many afternoon papers have closed their doors.
 
The causes are multiple: anger and disillusionment with relentless secular socialist propaganda; anti-Christian/anti-Conservative bias; and the availability of more balanced and timely news sources on the web. Personally, I prefer to get my news in hardcopy, but as I learn to use the web, I'm finding that I can print out what I need for my files. If the Times goes belly up, my wife and I won't shed a tear; but we will miss that often accurate TV guide and those Robisons.May ads. --Brian Knowles

June 9, 2005

The Manly Man: Dead in the Water?
Pierre Francois Le Louet, managing director of Fashion Group International, has announced to his constituents, "The masculine ideal is being completely modified. All the traditional male values of authority, infallibility, virility and strength are being completely overturned." According to this Frenchman, men like Arnold and Sylvester are artifacts of the past. The 21st century man is a hybrid who likes to wear pink flowered shirts, test his limits, and joins "partner swapping" clubs.
 
All this is based on a study of men between the ages of 20 and 35. The study included an analysis of some 150 magazines and books and 146 Internet sites, along with consultations with a dozen experts in Europe, the US and China. The study revealed that only in China is the traditional male still alive and well.
 
I don't know about you, but the results of this study make me want to puke.  Apparently the international fashion industry is mobilizing to accommodate this emerging hybrid man who "wants to create his own look" and "feel good and feel alive." Like Popeye, the new man will say, "I am what I am" and accept no judgment from us traditional prudes.
 
Perhaps Arnold and his ilk will be replaced by what he called "girly men"? To me, this is just one more byproduct of the general abandonment of the Judeo-Christian ethic. Modern, supposedly sophisticated, people are redesigning manhood based on no standard other than that with which people want to experiment. Who knows, given the involvement of France, we may return to full fopism [a fop: foolish, vain, a dandy, man obsessed with his appearance]. --Brian Knowles

June 8, 2005

Comment on Slaughter of Christians in Other Countries
I appreciate Brian Knowles' attention to the plight of Christians in Nigeria as well as in other parts of the world. Christians in our own country need to know these things. Why? Because we are one body. May I repeat that: We are one body--the body of Christ. We are part of them; they are part of us, and these parts together make the whole of Christ's body. We are incomplete without them.

In Ezekiel's time God told one of his angels to "Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it" (Ezekiel 9:4). This was the mark of God to spare those who were truly grieved at heart by the evil of the day. Should we not have that same mark on us? Our brothers and sisters in Christ are the target of this evil and are dying by the thousands for the name of Christ. As the apostle Paul said, what affects one part of the body affects the entire body. If we are not moved by the plight of the persecuted Church, we need some serious self-examination. --Ken Ryland
 

Christians Slaughtered While they Worship

You won't hear about it in the major news media, but Christians are being slaughtered for their faith every day in both Islamic and Communist countries. Several weeks ago, for instance, some 1500 Christians and 8 pastors were murdered in the Nigerian state of Plateau. According to Open Doors, USA, 173 churches were destroyed in the carnage.
 
The wanton murders took place across denominational lines including: Baptists, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Assemblies of God, Evangelical Reformed, Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Church of West Africa. Religious violence in Plateau has already resulted in the displacement of 25,000 people.
 
The Christian Association of Nigeria released the following statement: "How can anyone explain the reason for invading a church where women, children and men were worshipping, asking them to surrender and lie face down and then proceed to machete and axe them to death in their house of worship?" The statement also pointed out that Christians in Nigeria have never initiated violence against Muslims and that government officials appear "lukewarm" to the plight of Christians in that country.
 
Nigeria is populated mainly by Muslims in the north, and Christians in the south. Hostility towards Christians is on the increase throughout the country. Sharia law has already been implemented in a dozen Nigerian states.
 
Christians in myriad states around the world are daily under heavy fire. According to Freedom House, only 41% of the world's nations can be described as "free." And even in allegedly free states such as our own, the Left is manifesting increasing hostility to the so-called "Christian Right." Perhaps it's time to sniff the wind and discern the meaning of the times in which we live? --Brian Knowles
 
Source: www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news

June 7, 2005

Continual Reformation
In the year 1517 Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg.  Luther’s complaints, and the disputes that came about because of them, led to revolt in a church that had been governed by clergymen whose authority and privileges made it impossible for them to hear criticism or voluntarily implement reforms.  The Reformation of the sixteenth century remedied many abuses but resulted in the division of the church into denominations and sects.  When the rulers of the church closed their minds to criticism, as raised by Luther and others, the result was warfare in the name of Christ.  A succession of leaders had maintained that they were God’s duly appointed overseers of the church, and that if there were to be any changes, only they should implement them.  Their intransigence could not suppress the fury building in Germany.  It spread throughout the Christian world with such violence that religious wars have since become the primary evidence unbelievers cite in refutation of the truth claims of the church. 

Today the fighting among various factions of the church is less bloody than in past centuries, but few would argue that denominationalism or the frequent squabbles among sects and within individual churches is not a disgrace to the Lord who prayed that we might be one.  Jesus could have had no illusions about the propensity of religious people to argue their own perspectives into schism.  After long disputation with the religious authorities of his own day, he was crucified in a plot instigated by them.  The church, itself, was born of a schism within Judaism.  What could Jesus have meant when he prayed that we might be one?  Is it even conceivable after so many centuries of violation of the Lord’s will that we might be united in spirit, even when we are certainly not united in polity or interpretation of the scriptures?  Reformed theology, in principle, honors both the scriptures and tradition as authoritative on matters of faith and practice, yet we disagree on so many points of interpretation of the scriptures, and over whether tradition shall have any importance among us, that it seems impossible that we will ever be united.

The wars of the Reformation era demonstrated conclusively that unity cannot be achieved through suppression of dissent.  Maintaining an agenda that marginalizes people whose understanding of the church is at variance with the leadership has been shown to be the way to division and strife.  The judgments of a few, or even of the majority, cannot unequivocally ascertain God’s will, and some disagreement is inevitable.  When one group imposes its will on another, the manner in which decisions are made becomes as important as the actual results of these decisions.  We hear a great deal about tolerance and diversity these days.  Tradition, still enthroned among Catholic and Orthodox believers and in historic Protestant confessions, was once a cohesive element in church polity.  Now even this has been become the ground of many disputes.  Our issues may be trivial compared to the sale of indulgences or salvation by grace as opposed to works, but they divide us just as bitterly.  In absence of community, we are left in a situation like that becoming apparent in the larger society where political maneuvering and power determine which kinds diversity will be tolerated.  In the midst of disagreements, it seems that worship needs to affirm people in the offerings they bring before God, not expect them merely to be auditors.  If nobody speaks except by invitation, there is little hope that unity can be achieved that is anything more than suppression of diversity.

In our scriptures we have the example of the Corinthian church where Paul the Apostle sent corrective instruction that could be helpful in the pervasive problem of unity amid diversity.  Despite serious problems at Corinth, Paul recommended that a collaborative, participatory order be maintained.  Ordinary Christians were encouraged to initiate things.  1st Corinthians 14:26 says: "When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.  But, let all things be done for edification and in order."  Things had gotten completely out of hand in Corinth.  People were all talking at once, engaging in a kind of devotional anarchy, and even getting drunk.  But Paul did not suggest the overseers take charge in an authoritarian manner.  A collaborative methodology was to be continued, but under a more orderly format.  If those instructed personally by Jesus did not impose their will on the community, but sanctioned collaborative worship, we might find it helpful to concur.

Again in 1st Corinthians we find the analogy of the body as a pattern for the church.  We all know 1st Corinthians 12:14:  “The body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you.’”  Etc.  This discourse on body ministry is followed by the beloved 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians, extolling love as a more excellent way to unity than knowledge or even prophesy.  If it is possible for unity in spirit to be achieved through collaboration rather than authoritarian governance, this, in itself, is worthy of our endorsement, but it is only part of the reason for maintaining open communication and collaborative processes.

An even better rationale for open discussion and lay participation is that the work to which the Lord commands us, must be done in a way consistent with the goals the he sets for us.  If there is one message the church should leave with people week by week, it is that they are of ultimate concern to God.  When people cannot make their voices heard in worship and in open discussion of issues, and when they cannot contribute from their own understanding of the faith, the message they will receive in unmistakable terms is that they are not important enough to be taken seriously.  Regardless of good intentions, this will be the net result of our efforts, if we try to impose order on people.  The goal of worship is to bring people into the presence of God with the understanding that their prayers and offerings are important and that God will hear them from heaven.  How will this objective be served if even the church will not hear them?

When we have created churches in which people are not coming merely as auditors but participating in ways that only they can imagine and create, we might have something that resembles the model Paul envisioned for the church at Corinth.  It will also be a diverse and vital fellowship in which nobody will have to complain that tradition or trends are driving out worship as they understand it.  Worship comes about through the inspiration and contributions of the people.  Their impulses need to be encouraged, their ideas put into practice without much hesitation or critique.  When evaluation is needed, or problems arise, things should be discussed in a collaborative setting.  Forms imposed through command-control management practices are likely to be counterproductive.  In spite of disagreement, the church should in its methodology, as well as in its proclamations, bring people into the presence of a God who draws them into worship because He has been looking for just what they have to offer. --Mike Dodaro

June 6, 2005

Watching China Grow its Military
If you want to read a sunny insider's view of China and its leadership, you might want to pick up a copy of Dr. Robert Kuhn's new book: The Man Who Changed China: The Life and Legacy of Jiang Zemin (Crown Publishers, NY, 2004, $35). Even Henry Kissinger likes it. Of Kuhn's book he writes: "Robert Lawrence Kuhn's meticulously researched biography of Jiang Zemin provides valuable insights into a leader who held China's top position during a period of extraordinary transformation in the world's most populous country. All those interested in gaining a better understanding of the forces shaping China's future will benefit from this fascinating study."
 
China is a massive state in a state of metamorphosis; but we must not lose sight of the fact that the transformation is being orchestrated by the same party that between 1949 and 1987 was responsible for murdering 35,236,000 of its own people. It is the Party that more recently gave us the Tianenmen Square massacre. It is the party that still brutalizes Christians throughout its prison system. China is still ruled by the Communist Party which retains a death grip on power in that country.
 
General Chi Hoatian, minister of defense for China, said in 1999: "War with the United States is inevitable...the Chinese armed forces must control the initiative...we must make sure that we would win this modern high tech war that the mighty bloc headed by the U.S. hegemonists may launch to interfere with our affairs."
 
Jiang Zemin's predecessor and mentor, Deng Xiaoping, said in 1994: "We must bide our time and hide our capabilities."
 
Bill Gertz, national security writer for the Washington Times, writes: "The challenge posed by the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation represents the most serious long-term threat to American national security, now and for the foreseeable future." That was in his Foreword to a book that documents the nature of the China threat: China: The Gathering Threat by Constantine C. Menges, Ph.D., Nelson Current, Nashville, 2005.
 
China now has the world's third-largest military budget -- around $56 billion/year (behind Russia and the United States). China now has 2,250,000 active duty military personnel. The United States has only 1,625,852. Said Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases?"
 
It is clear that at some point China will make a move on Taiwan, and, if successful, later on other disputed locales over which it claims sovereignty. The mainland nation now has hundreds of missiles targeted at the tiny island nation -- not an indicator of a potentially peaceful settlement. China intends to gain control of Taiwan, one way or another. According to Menges, "China expects that when it moves to take control of Taiwan the U.S. will not take any military action...To reduce the chances that it would be underestimated, China gave the U.S. its war plan against Taiwan, which included nuclear strikes against American targets" (China: The Gathering Threat, p. xvi, Introduction).
 
A nuclear exchange between China and the United States could generate a holocaust unparalleled in human experience. If Russia and North Korea chimed in with China, the exchange could obliterate most human and other life on this planet. North Korea, an impoverished Communist dictatorship ruled by a madman has more than a million men under arms, and apparently a developing nuclear arsenal. Russia, next the United States, has the world's largest nuclear arsenal, and these days it is busily making treaties with China.
 
At a recent meeting in Singapore, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld suggested that "...the Pentagon's annual assessment of China's military capabilities shows China is spending more than its leaders acknowledge, expanding its missile capabilities and developing advanced military technology." Perhaps Deng's doctrine -- "We must bide our time and hide our capabilities" -- is still very much alive in the world's largest communist dictatorship. --Brian Knowles
 
Sources and Further Reading:  
The Man Who Changed China by Robert Lawrence Kuhn
China:The Gathering Threat by Constantine C. Menges, Ph.D.
R. J. Rummel's website: http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MEGA.HTM
washingtonpost.com: article "Rumsfeld: China's Military Buildup a Threat" (June 4, 2005).
The Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2005, p. A5, table.

June 2, 2005

"...he who now letteth..." A Different Prophetic Interpretation

The above Bible quote comes from 2 Thessalonians 2:7, in which the apostle Paul is trying to make clear the subject of the return of Christ and the role of "the man of sin." The entire verse reads as follows: "For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way" (KJV).

Over the past few years I have gradually come to believe that the "restrainer" ("he who now letteth") described in this verse may be different from what most people have thought, but I will save that to the end. Most Bible expositors believe that the "restrainer" is either the Holy Spirit or an angel holding back the forces of this "man of sin," the Antichrist. I have to admit that their explanation is a possibility, but I have never been completely satisfied with it. I believe it focuses in too much on religion per se and not enough on the principalities and powers that are driving the world's geopolitical events.

I was discussing with my friend, Steve Collins, the recent French and Dutch rejections of the EU Constitution and the ramifications of these two votes in terms of Bible prophecy. I believe that the obvious disintegration of the pan-European dream and the terrible condition of the European economy, combined with their military weakness and shrinking population, open the door for Russia, and its allies, to fulfill Ez. 38 and 39. Russia is desperate to reassert itself as a world leader, and is angry at both the US and Europe for hedging it in on all sides. The Russians do not like the Central European states' alliance with the West, nor do they appreciate the growing American influence in South and Central Asia, as well as in the Middle East. We have fenced them in, and they hate it. They have the weapons and the motive to use them to regain their influence in the world. The question is whether they have to will to use them to cripple the US and Europe.

I must state that I do not believe the traditional prophetic view that the Roman Empire will rise again in the form of a United Europe, dominated by the Antichrist and the Pope. People seem to forget that when Constantinople (the Second Rome) fell to the Turks and became a Muslim city, royal family members and leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church fled to Moscow and declared it to be the Third Rome*. The following is part of my correspondence with Steve Collins:

Of course, my interpretation of Ezekiel 38-39 is based on believing that we are somewhere near that time in history when these events will unfold. Only God can decide when the time is right. Also, I am assuming that the US and some of the European states are the physical remnant of Israel. However, even if the latter were not true, we must not forget that those who are Christians are part of the Israel of God. Because our nation has from the beginning declared itself to be a Christian nation, it makes little difference whether we are the physical descendents of Israel or not. Our Christian faith and proclamation of the gospel stand in the way of "the man of sin" and the spiritual power behind him. Also, for my interpretation to work, the US must be that "land of unwalled villages" described in Ezekiel 38.

My interpretation of 2Thessalonians 2:7 is not carved in stone. My hope is that it will give you renewed impetus to seek to know how God sees the international political events swirling around us. --Ken Ryland

* New Rome in the "East"

(Material extracted from Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia)

Byzantium As Nova Roma, Byzantine writers contrasted their city from the "old" Rome by pointing out how Byzantium had always been a Christian city, while Old Rome had pagan roots. Polemical writings after the Great Schism even claimed that Old Rome was too stained by the blood of martyrs to lead Christianity. To the present day, the Patriarch of Constantinople includes "of Constantinople, New Rome" in his full title.

Moscow as the "Third Rome" Within decades after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, some were nominating Moscow as the "Third Rome", or new "New Rome". Stirrings of this sentiment began during the reign of Tsar Ivan III, but the idea crystallized with a panegyric letter composed by the Russian monk Filofei in 1510 to Tsar Vasili III , which proclaimed, "Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will not be a fourth. No one will replace your Christian Tsardom!"

Since Roman princesses had married Tsars of Moscow, and, since Russia had become, with the fall of Byzantium, the most powerful Orthodox Christian state, the Tsars were thought of as succeeding the Byzantine Emperor as the rightful ruler of the (Christian) world. The word "tsar," like kaiser, is derived from the word "caesar". This "Muscovite Third Romism" persisted into the Bolshevik era of the Soviet Union

May 30, 2005

What's in Our Food? - Part II
The deterioration of our food supply continues apace. Trans-fatty acids, or "transfats," make up some 10 percent of the total fat in the American diet. Trans fat has been called "the reigning king of bad fats." Mary Frost explains how transfats are made: "Trans-fatty acids are made by forcing hydrogen into raw, polyunsaturated oil molecules under high temperature and pressure. The oil is chemically altered so that the oil is more solid." Frost then quotes nutritional researcher, John Finnegan, who says "There is more and more evidence showing that the main cause of heart disease and one of the main causes of cancer is the harmful effects from poisonous trans-fats in other compounds in refined oils."
 
British nutritionist, Patrick Holford, also warns against consuming trans fats: "To turn vegetable oil into hard fat the oil goes through a process called hydrogenation. Although the fat is still technically polyunsaturated, the body cannot make use of it. Even worse, it blocks the body's ability to use healthy unsaturated oils. This kind of fat is called a 'trans' fat because its nature has been changed -- it is like a key that fits the body's chemical locks but will not open the door. Most margarines contain these so-called 'hydrogenated polyunsaturated oils' and are best avoided."
 
The authors of The Okinawa Program recommend against the use of anything that is labeled "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated." Read labels closely. Here is a partial list of common foods that often contain deadly transfats: candies, chicken bouillon cubes, cookie bars, cream fillings, crackers, dips, doughnuts, frostings, margarine, popcorn (oil popped), potato chips, french fried potatoes, taco shells and other snack foods including tortilla chips. Transfats, like excitotoxins (see Blog May 23), are fast becoming ubiquitous in our food supply. Snack foods of all kinds are notorious for their use of transfats. -- Brian Knowles
 
Sources:
The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford
Going Back to the Basics of Human Health by Mary Frost, M.A.
The Okinawa Program by Bradley J. Willcox, M.D., D. Craig Willcox, Ph.D., and Makoto Suzuki, M.D.

May 28, 2005

Knife Control? Logically it had to happen...
For years, governments the world over have been seeking to disarm the populace, often with disastrous results for the populace. Civilian disarmament programs -- that is "gun control" laws -- are believed to be a key to public safety and civic order. Both print and electronic media relentlessly demonize the personal ownership of firearms. Every incident involving a gun generates a new hue and cry for "stronger gun laws." Yet, enigmatically, the myriad of laws that are now on the books are seldom enforced with any vigor, at least in the US. The drive to render populations defenseless typically comes from the Left side of the political spectrum. The United Nations itself is also major driver in the "global gun grab." The UN even has an "Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Affairs."
 
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The Founders knew that when the populace is disarmed, tyrannies are enabled. According to R. J. Rummel, in the 20th century governments killed four times the number of people who died in the century's wars. I recently heard talk show host Dennis Prager ask the question: "If the Jews of Europe had been armed, would the Holocaust still have happened?" My guess is it probably would have, but it wouldn't have been nearly so easy for the Nazis to do it. They would have paid a much higher price for their genocidal madness.
 
Norman Grigg, writing in Global Gun Grab, reminds us that, "The right to bear arms in defense of one's person, property, family, and freedom is what distinguishes the citizen from the subject or the freeman from the slave" (p. 20).
 
Adolph Hitler once said: "The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing." Vladimir Lenin demanded the immediate execution of anyone found with a firearm. Disarmament campaigns have often preceded the rise of totalitarian governments throughout history. Often, those campaigns are carried out by Leftist regimes that eventually find themselves supplanted by tyrannies on the other side of the political spectrum.
 
The effort to disarm populations worldwide continues apace. But logic dictates that if you get rid of guns, you've got to get rid of anything with which one person can kill another. Hence, doctors in Britain are now calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce stabbing deaths in a nation where violent crime is on the increase.
 
Did you catch that last phrase -- "where violent crime is on the increase." It is on the increase in a nation that already has in place extremely stringent gun control laws. According to an article drawn from the BBC News, "The use of knives is particularly worrying amongst adolescents, say the researchers, reporting that 24% of 16-year olds have been show to carry weapons, primarily knives."
 
The UK already has in place laws banning the manufacture, sale, and importation of some 17 bladed, pointed and other offensive weapons.
 
Criminals, terrorists and gang members will always find a way to possess all of the guns, knives, bombs and weapons they need to do their grisly work. But what of the generally law-abiding populace? Would you put a sign on your house announcing that "There are no guns in this house, and we don't have any knives with blades more than 3-inches long"? The right to bear arms, at least in the United States, must be preserved. It's a right that exists for a reason. --Brian Knowles
 
Sources: BBC News, 5/26/2005
Death by Government by R. J. Rummel
Global Gun Grab by William Norman Grigg

May 26, 2005

What One Can Do Many Can Do
“What one has done many can do” is an observation that almost universally holds true. If something is possible to achieve for one human, another can achieve it as well. Areas of high achievement would, of course, require corresponding high degrees of skill developed through education, training, persistence, and practice.

 If one person can master a task, whether climbing a high mountain, earning a fortune, or writing a best-selling book, it is possible for another to do it as well. It is understood that to do so would require similar amounts of preparation and dedication.

 People who write books on achieving success (financial, marital, personal, athletic, spiritual, or whatever) use the logic that if others have done it, you can too. Such motivational and self-help books are usually replete with stories of people who have already achieved what the reader is seeking. These books organize the principles and steps required to achieve success in a particular pursuit. Their basic approach and logic is difficult to fault. The fact is, “what one has done many can do.”

 In thinking about such things I realized that this is precisely the message of the Christ Event. If the man Jesus, born of a woman like every human since Adam and Eve, could, as Jesus said, “cross over from death to [eternal] life” (Jn 5:24), then it is also possible that you and I can. “What one has done, many can do” is also the motivational message of the New Testament. It goes to the heart of the Gospel.

 “We were buried with him through baptism unto death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom 6:4). “Now if we are the children [of God], then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom 8:17).

 God’s great purpose is to bring “many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10) just as he brought his beloved firstborn into eternal glory.

 The message of the Bible would not be complete without telling us “How Jesus Did It” so we can follow his steps. Of course, God is the one who raised his son to glory and eternal life, but we must ask, why did he do it? The short answer is because he loved his son and was “well pleased” with him. Jesus had become like his heavenly Father in holy character and love. He had taken on his Father’s image and become one with him in character, spirit and purpose. The Father wanted to share with his beloved son rulership of the cosmos he had made.

 Jesus became the model human for us all to emulate. His future will become our future if we but follow his example. What was his example? It was to: 1) Become a total servant to his Father by yielding to and doing his will; 2) Making himself a servant to his fellow sons and daughters—humankind—by revealing his Father’s Way of Life, and the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. In effect, Jesus’ behavior was the perfect keeping of the Two Great Commandments: Love God, Love neighbor.

 Jesus passed from death unto life. He became the firstborn into an eternal life fellowshipping with God thus showing us The Way; showing us how the plan of eternal salvation works and providing hard evidence that God has power to raise the dead. This is the overwhelmingly encouraging message from the NT; Jesus defeated death, and so can you and I if we follow his example in living our lives in obedience to God.

 “What one has done many can do” is a truth central to the Gospel, and if believed, will provide all the motivation needed to transform us into zealous followers of Christ and of our God.

 Consider the Bible your self-help book toward fulfilling your highest calling. It has all the instructions and the motivating examples needed to win the race we’ve been called to run. Perhaps it might be helpful to share this simple concept with others. --Ken Westby

May 25, 2005

Moral State of the Nation
According to a Gallup poll taken between May 2 and May 5, 60 percent of Americans approve the use of stem cells taken from human embryos for research. The President, this morning standing on principle, disapproves, vetoing a bill by the House that would ease restrictions on financing for embryonic stem cell research. The President says that passage of the bill would promote the destruction of human life.
 
The poll revealed that 70 percent of Americans now approve use of the death penalty, up from 63 percent in 2001. When it comes to divorce, 66 percent approve of it, and the same percentage approves of medical testing on animals. Gambling is okay according to 64 percent of the populace, while 32 percent disapprove. Sex between unmarried men and women is cool with a majority - 58 percent, while 39 percent say its morally wrong. A surprising 54 percent found no problem with people having children out of wedlock.
 
Only 44 percent approved of homosexual relations, while 52 percent disapproved. The three worst sins, according to the poll, were: married men and women having an affair (93 percent saw that as morally wrong); polygamy (92 percent disapproved) and suicide (82 percent against). Despite the figures on suicide, 46 percent found doctor-assisted suicide morally acceptable, while a similar number, 49 percent, viewed it as morally wrong.
 
When it comes to cloning animals, 61 percent were against it, 35 percent approved. A majority had no problem with buying or wearing clothes made of fur (62 percent saw it acceptable, 32 percent said nix).
 
It would be interesting to see the results of a similar poll taken in various parts of Europe, the UK, or Canada and Australia. The poll revealed a slight difference between the way Republicans and Democrats view moral issues: Overall, 77 percent of Americans believe the nation's moral values are in decline. That average is based on an 82 percent Republican figure, and a 72 percent Democrat number. --Brian Knowles  (Source: Washington Times National Weekly Edition, May 23-29, 2005, p. 22.)

May 24, 2005

Where Christians Fare Worst
From the days of the apostles to the present, it has never been easy to be a Christian in many parts of the world. These days, it is especially difficult in certain countries. In some places, it can be fatal. In the Western hemisphere, there are only two places where governments must provide Christians with special protection: Colombia and Chiapas province in Mexico. Cuba, a communist dictatorship under the rule of Castro is viewed as a restricted nation for Christians, especially non-Catholic ones. Generally speaking however, the Western hemisphere is an area where Christians can freely practice and share their faith. The rest of the world is another matter.
 
Many nations seek to prevent the dissemination of Bibles and other Christian literature. In these nations Christians can be deprived of their liberties or stripped of property and possessions, simply because they are Christians. These nations also harass, imprison, and sometimes murder, Christians. The list is as follows: Mauritania, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, the Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Oman, The United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Belarus, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, North Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Governments in other nations find it necessary to provide protection for Christians within their borders. Included are: Turkey, Ethiopia, India, the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.  You will notice that when it comes to persecuting Christians, "our" dictators are as bad as "their" dictators.
 
Christians in all of these nations need our prayers. All are faced with deadly evil of one kind or another. It is especially difficult for those who seek to preach the Gospel in Muslim, Communist, pagan or, in some instances, Catholic nations. --Brian Knowles
 
Source: Voice of the Martyrs, "Global Prayer Map."  For a free copy of this map, phone 1-800-747-0085. The VOM web site is: www.persecution.com

May 23, 2005

What's in our Food? -- Part I
Everyone who gardens or farms knows that plant "uptake" reflects whatever's in, or not in, the ground. Plants feed on the mineral content of the soil. If that mineral content is lacking something, it will be reflected in the plant. If you feed plants chemicals, the plant will take a "chemical enema" and that's what you'll find in the plant. Human beings are the same way. We take our nutrients in from the opposite end that plants do.
 
The human food supply is the equivalent for us of what plants take up from the ground in which they are planted. We are what we eat, even if its a cliche to say so. One of the things we take into our bodies that may be causing untold damage, sickness and disease are substances called excitotoxins. Excitotoxins are substances added to our food to enhance flavor. Here's a definition of an excitotoxin: "a substance added to foods and beverages that literally stimulates neurons to death, causing brain damage of varying degrees."  Excitotoxins are nerve poisons -- neuro-toxins. Put simply, they kill nerves by exciting them to death. According to a number of prominent researchers and medical doctors, they may be responsible for many of the diseases of "civilization" . "Which diseases?" you ask. Alzheimers, Lou Gehrig's (ALS) and other neurodegenerative diseases, including seizures, headaches, certain types of strokes, hypoglycemia, AIDS dementia and brain tumors, to name a few.
 
So what are some of these deadly excitotoxins? Monosodium glutamate is one of the most ubiquitous. Then there's aspartame, cysteine, hydrolyzed protein and aspartic acid. Look for certain names on the labels of food products. The following additives always contain MSG: Monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, textured protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed oat flour.
 
The following additives frequently contain MSG: malt extract, malt flavoring, bouillon, broth, stock, flavoring, natural flavoring, nturla beef or chicken flavoring, seasoning and spices.
 
Additives that may contain MSG or other excitotoxins: carrageenan, enzymes, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, and whey protein concentrate.
 
These neurotoxins are ubiquitous in our food supply. If you want to read the full story on how they got there, who's profiting from their use, and why the FDA isn't better protecting us from them, read the book Excitotoxins: the Taste that Kills by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D., Health Press, Santa Fe, NM, 1997. You can still get it through Amazon.
 
An earlier book that also sounded the alarm about these deadly food additives is In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome by George R. Schwartz, M.D., FACEP, FAAEM, Health Press, 1988.
 
Incidentally, Dr. Blaylock is board-certified neurosurgeon, not a "quack."  --Brian Knowles

May 20, 2005

Thomas Jefferson's Opinion of the Press
One of the worst laments of our time is that the Establishment Press in our nation (an indeed in most Western countries) has aligned itself with the forces of destruction. Instead of guarding our God-given liberties against those who would tear apart its foundations, they have struck a deal with these destroyers who would throttle the Press if given the power to do so. The secular world view of most of the U.S. Press and their rabid hatred of anything Christian and those who symbolize "the old ways" of God and morality, like George W. Bush, drive them blindly forward against all good sense and decency. They personify the old proverb: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." They fall into the arms Muslim terrorists and fawn over Marxist dictators. It seems they would embrace anyone or anything that could be used to dismantle the floor on which our liberty rests. In their blindness they fail to see that they are standing on the same floor.

Thomas Jefferson observed the abuses of the Press in his day. Here is how he described the Fourth Estate: "During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been leveled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science [knowledge] are deeply to be regretted...." --Ken Ryland

May 19, 2005

The Relentless March of STD's
Sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) continue to take their toll worldwide. In this country, a million Americans are infected with H.I.V. virus, and half a million have already died from AIDS. Syphilis is also making a comeback -- almost exclusively in the gay community.
 
In Africa, the situation is even worse: some 20 million people have met their demise there. Ten thousand people die of AIDS every day, and another seventeen thousand become infected. In America, we're seeing more than 40,000 new cases of H.I.V. per year, most of them among black gays, minority women and among needle-sharing drug addicts.
 
The situation is bleak. In one survey of gay men, more than 50% said they no longer use condoms. At all-night circuit parties they may have several partners in a single evening. Many are addicted to methamphetamines, which enhance the sensations of sex.
 
The advent of new medical drugs, and drug cocktails, has given many gays a false sense of security. They see some H.I.V. positive people seemingly thriving and in good health. An example would be former basketball great Magic Johnson, who has been H.I.V. positive for some years. It is true that modern drug cocktails have improved survival rates from H.I.V. -- but they are not foolproof. Nor do they represent a cure. Earlier this year In New York City a "remarkably aggressive" strain of H.I.V. made its appearance. They're calling it a "supervirus." It is resistant to all of the usual medications.
 
It is hard to calculate the misery that STD's have created in the world. In Africa, tens of thousands of children have been orphaned by such diseases. Grandparents, struggling with their own health problems, sometimes in dire poverty, try to parent their grandchildren while grieving for their own children. The situation is simply too dire to contemplate, but it is worth praying about. --Brian Knowles

 

May 18, 2005

A "Syttenmai" Celebration
Yesterday was May 17th (Syttenmai), Norwegian Constitution (Independence) Day, when Norway officially got rid of those nasty Swedes, exactly 100 years ago. Since both my parents were from Norway, and most of my aunts and many, many of my cousins are still there (my mother was one of fifteen children, my dad, one of five), things Norwegian I've always found very interesting. This year I didn't join the two-hour parade through Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, but have in years past. When I was a kid in the 40s and 50s Ballard had 50,000 first-generation Norwegians living there amid the fishing fleet and lumber mills. Norwegians love their beautiful red, white, and blue flag with the Christian Cross on it, and they are everywhere to be seen on May 17. I even have a neighbor that flies one everyday on his big flagpole, just under the American flag. Growing up I remember that some of our main Christmas tree decorations were strings of little Norwegian flags. Yes, I love cod fish, boiled potatoes, lefse, and anchovies. I've never developed a taste, however, for that terrible tasting lye-cured lutefisk.

Just two weeks ago we were in Cozumel, Mexico on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, Mexican Independence Day.  We went into town and expected to see pageantry and grand celebrations. We were in the downtown city square area and nothing! --not even a hint of a special day. I asked a local why there was no big celebration over their "Fourth of July" event. He just shrugged and said maybe there were some celebrations somewhere else. I told him it was a big deal every year in many bars and Mexican restaurants in the USA and I was surprised things were so quiet in Mexico.

I like national and ethnic pageantry and celebrations. It is like expanded family reunions. Why not be proud of your family's ancestry and spend some time learning its history. One can be proud of who you are without putting down others--except in the case of the Swedes (when I was growing up the only ethnic jokes I heard were about Swedes. Like: what happened to the Norwegian who went crazy? Ans: He went to teach school in Sweden. Well, every country has the same sort of jokes just using different names.).

Some think that when the ideal Kingdom of God comes to earth, ethnic, national, and racial differences with be eliminated. Mankind will be just one blended, plain-vanilla race. I don't think so. And unless one views ethnicity and race as a "curse" upon mankind, why would God blur what he obviously designed into the human family. God is the author of race and difference and variety. He finds it beautiful, interesting and together manifests his image put within the human family. He made man in his image, but that image included woman. So man and woman reflect the differentiated image of God. In addition, the genetic programming that God build into the human genome of Adam and of Eve produced over time the racial varieties we have in the human family today. Race is a beautiful design of God, not a curse. Of course, man tends to discriminate, hate, envy, etc. based upon differences, whether in looks, color, education, dress, religion, wealth, status, etc, but God doesn't. He only discriminates based on one's actions (Romans 2:6, 11; Genesis 4:7).

The visions God gave the prophets of the Kingdom of God on earth picture vibrant nations, nationalities and peoples of all varieties coming to learn of God and joining his family of nations ruled by his son, Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful picture of harmony. The problem of man's violent and contentious history was never "caused" by race or ethnicity, but by mans' selfish human nature led by Satan into every sort of evil and ignorance. One day soon evil and ignorance will be dispatched, we will be able to celebrate the differences in the human family as part of God's grand design, and unite as "one blood" (Acts 17:24-28), as God's children and heirs to inherit the earth. --Ken Westby

May 16, 2005

Mt. St. Helens Ecosystem Rebounds
I remember when the news hit that Mt. St. Helens had exploded. It was 25 years ago, Sunday, May 18, 1980. I ran outside our little condo on Bainbridge Island in the Puget Sound trying to get a look. From where we were (west of Seattle) all I could see was the tall cloud of ash far to the south. The next morning I had a scheduled flight to Chicago to conduct a Bible study group and I wondered if it would be canceled. It wasn't and the pilot got as close to the mountain as permitted--on the upwind side--and we were treated to a grand view as the volcano was still sending up thousands of tons of ash.

Immediately following the survey of 230 square miles of damage, ecologists began predicting the devastated area would remain a moonscape for a long time and it could be century or more before the land recovers. Now, 25 years later they are pulling 5-pound trout out of Spirit Lake on the mountain's flank. That lake was filled by debris following the blast and superheated from the red-hot avalanches of rock, killing all life. Now the lake is filled with thousands of 4-5 pounders,  frogs and salamanders are abundant, the elk have returned and the thickets of new trees at 20-feet high are difficult to walk through. Douglas fir trees are beginning to grow and already bearing cones this summer. It's coming back in a hurry and scientists are surprised.

St. Helens has become a text book case for how the power of  nature recovers--God's nature, I should add. The dynamics of its rebound have been studied in great detail and lessons learned are already being applied to manmade reclamation and restoration efforts following forest fires, riverbank erosion, etc. Little hot spots of vegetation may begin with a single plant that would attract insects and capture windblown seeds, leading to an increasing spiral of life. Spider webs on hummocky ground gathered enough moisture from the air to allow seeds to germinate. These hot spots of life grew in number and size until they began to merge. Soon the sounds of birds could be heard: yellow warbler, dark-eyed junco, white-crowned sparrow, and woodpeckers. All the native mammals of the Cascade Mountains have returned--shrews, Pacific jumping mice, cougar, bear, deer and elk. All within only 25-years!

Many ecologists are smitten with the-sky-is-falling syndrome and see changes in the environment and natural or man-made disasters as cause for great alarm and doomsday predictions. They see nature as fragile and in constant peril from man. Sure, man can and has despoiled the land, but his impact is not as great as the radical environmental movement would have us believe. And nature is not a fragile and slow to recover as they would like to scare us into believing. They, of course, want to "protect" the environment by gaining power over human action--political power. This quest to protect nature has a religious component as most see mindless evolution as the power behind a fragile nature instead of an all-powerful Designer and Creator. God didn't make nature/life weak; he made it resilient, powerful, and perfectly designed to survive on the earth he prepared for it. The rapid recovery of Mount St. Helens is evidence of its resilience. --Ken Westby

May 15, 2005

Health Care: Where Will the Money Come From?
Health care costs in the US continue to rise at a frightening pace. Recently,  Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, CA announced that it will not be renewing its contract with Blue Shield because Blue Shield won't guarantee reimbursements that will cover its costs. With health care costs rising at double digits, it's hard for anyone to keep up. Wage increases this year came in at lower than the rate of inflation. According to the Financial Times, "Real wages in the US are falling at their fastest rate in 14 years, according to data surveyed by the Financial Times by the Economic Policy Institute" (FT, May 10, 2005). Inflation rose at 3.1 percent in the year to March, while salaries climbed only 2.4 percent.
 
Social Security payments are generally pegged to inflation, but medical costs are rising at rates much higher than the rate of inflation. Health care costs have been rising steadily for years. These costs represent a crisis for working individuals, retired people, and those who own businesses. Why are costs rising so rapidly? According to Methodist Hospital, it's drugs, personnel and implants that are driving up its costs.
 
The question is: where is the money to pay for health care going to come from? There's only so much money in the economy and ever greater portions of it are going to pay the costs of burgeoning government. Employers are hard-pressed to pay continually higher benefits to cover health care costs. As prices for health care rise, the benefits tend to fall. Quality is suffering. Some 42 million Americans have no health care coverage at all. Any major medical event would wipe them out financially.
 
I don't have the answers. The Democrats think the answer is socialized medicine. The Republicans seem to have a more Darwinian approach -- those who can pay can get what they are willing pay for. Those who cannot, tough luck.  In earlier times, people paid out-of-pocket for their own health care. That was before the drug industry grew so large and powerful, before high-tech imaging devices like MRI's and CAT scans. It was before HMO's and PPO's. It was when a trip to the doctor didn't empty your bank account. It was when doctors made house calls. It was before trial lawyers drove up the cost of malpractice insurance to the point where some doctors have left the profession rather than pay the premiums.
 
Perhaps the best answers lie in natural health self-education, preventative medicine, and learning to work with the body's natural healing processes? --Brian Knowles

May 13, 2005

The Gangs are all Here
According to CAL/GANG, a statewide data base created by the California Department of Justice, Los Angeles now hosts 463 gangs with some 39,032 members. That's just the city.  LA county figures are even more frightening: 1,108 gangs with 85,298 members. Latino gangs are most populous, with African American gangs in 2nd place.
 
Last year Los Angeles recorded 515 homicides, 291 of which were gang-related. In 2004, gang killings increased by 12.4% over the previous year. Another 172 gang-related murders occurred in other parts of LA county.  The kind of crimes gangs commit run the gamut: homicide, attempted homicide, felony assault, attacks on police officers (there were 61 of those in 2004), robbery, shots fired into a residence, witness intimidation, car jacking and various others. In 2004, there were 754 recorded cases of witness intimidation.
 
According to authorities, two ominous trends are developing among LA gangs: 1). There is growing hostility between Hispanic and African American gangs and 2). Some gangs are moving increasingly into the suburbs to commit robberies. In addition, some gang members are getting involved in white collar crimes such as credit card fraud.
 
LA is but a microcosm of the larger world. Gangs are growing everywhere. Worse, they are networking. Even far away Honduras is seeing gang activity that originates with LA gangs.
 
Fresno, California, with a population of around 400,000, has had to triple its anti-gang forces in recent years due a massive explosion in gang growth in that city. In 2002, there were an estimated 500 gangs there with some 12,000 members. That's one gang member for every 33 people!
 
The growing gang populations in American and international cities is a ticking bomb. Citizens are increasingly vulnerable in a time of increasing anti-gun legislation, and tight budgets for police forces. Prison populations are already bursting at the seams. Gangs, like everything else in the world, are a product of cause & effect factors. It's time to address causes instead of merely trying to control the symptoms. --Brian Knowles

Bush and the Border

The policies of the Bush Administration regarding the border are enigmatic to say the least. According to Jerry Seper of the Washington Times, "U.S. Border Patrol agents have been ordered not to arrest illegal aliens along the section of the Arizona border where protesters patrolled last month because an increase in apprehensions there would prove the effectiveness of the Minuteman volunteers..." More than a dozen agents anonymously testified to this order. What's going on here?
 
Tom Tancredo, a Colorado representative (R) says of the order, "It's like telling a cop to stand by and watch burglers loot a store but don't arrest any of them." From the beginning, the Bush Administration's policy on border control has been enigmatic. Now it's downright confusing. Methinks Vincente Fox may have a hand in this...
 
Meanwhile, the Orlando, Fla., airport is moving in the opposite direction. It plans to use high-tech iris scanning to add an "additional layer of security." Under this "biometric" technology, both eyes are scanned. The program, known as the Airport Access Control Pilot Program (AACPP) will be the first of its kind according to a report on Orlando's Channel 6 News. --Brian Knowles
 

May 12, 2005

Christianity and the Environment
It is commonly alleged that among all the world's religions Christianity has been the most destructive of the environment. In America and the West, the modern environmental movement, led by radicals for the most part, has taken on the spirit of an earth-worshipping pagan cult. Its heroes are American Indians and native aboriginal peoples everywhere; its enemies, Christians--especially capitalistic Christians. The charge is that Christianity teaches that man is of supreme worth and that nature is his to manage and use. Further, the God of Christians and Jews told man to multiply and fill up the earth and to dominate all other creatures. This then is the reason we have environmental problems. If we want a cleaner, more environmentally healthy earth we best reject Christianity and embrace Mother Nature and worship her in the "Sacred Grove." The truth of the matter is the reverse.

All humans--pagans, aboriginals, Christians--have in the business of living impacted their surroundings, and in many cases despoiled them. But to suggest Christians have been the worst offenders is to show ignorance of history. And the presupposition that using the environment (i.e. cutting down trees, harvesting it minerals, etc.) is a "crime" against mother nature is mystical nonsense. Radical environmentalists are busy myth-builders. The facts are that in recent times the biggest polluters on earth have been atheistic, God-denying empires like Russia, the old USSR, and China, (and many third-world nations). In these largely anti-Christian nations the land has been raped and treated with the same disrespect with which its citizens are held. The USSR and China killed a total of 100,000,000 of its own citizens in their brutal domination for power. The land fared no better.

Christianity and Judaism have high respect for human life and that respect carries to treatment of God's creation. In nations where a Judeo-Christian ethic has informed the culture you also find the the most enlightened care of the environment. The notion that native peoples were transparent upon the landscape and were uniquely in tune with the natural world ignores history which tells the story of three millennia of native-caused ecological disasters. Books such as The Ecological Indian: Myth and History; Aboriginal Overkill: The Role of Native Americans in Structuring Western Ecosystems; Destruction of the Bison, are among many histories that explode the "noble savage" myth. The myth's prime purpose, of course, is to attack Christianity, not to enlighten with truth or to facilitate the wise management of the natural world. There is an agenda.

Judeo-Christian attitudes toward nature begin with Genesis, where God looks upon creation and "saw that it was good," a sentiment expressed throughout Scripture. OT guidelines for the treatment of animals is detailed and humane and contains some of the strongest nature protection regulations, even outlawing the destruction of fruit trees even to aid a military campaign. Jesus speaks elegantly of the heavenly Father's design and care for his creatures from glorious lilies to little birds needing food. The psalmist writes:

"He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate--bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. The trees of the Lord are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. The birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. The high mountains belong to the wild goats..." (Ps 104:14-18).
God made a beautiful natural world and made it for man--for man to use, appreciate, manage, respect, and to preserve. Those who believe the Creator will obey him, and nature will be the better for it. --Ken Westby

May 9, 2005

Who Saved Jesus?
Saved from what? Saved from death. Clearly, Jesus did not save himself. He did not resurrect himself. He did not glorify himself nor exalt himself. Scripture is plain on this. So then, obviously, Jesus was saved by his heavenly Father, God the Creator, Yahweh. Okay, what is my point? Simply this: What God did in Jesus, God has been doing from the beginning, because to save is the very nature of God. God is the one whose concern about the life of what He creates never wanes. God is the author of life, the power of life, and is never defeated by death.

Salvation (being "saved") in the ultimate sense of resurrection from the dead and receiving the gift of eternal life was manifest by God in Jesus. Salvation is not an abstract concept or a vaporizing hope, it is historical fact in Christ--experienced reality. As God saved Jesus so he will save us. This is the center of the Christian hope. And why was Jesus saved? Was it not because of his Father's love for him? Did his Father not say he was "well pleased" with his son? And what was there about Jesus' life that so pleased his Father? Jesus was thoroughly obedient to his Father, internalized his Father's character of love, mercy, and justice, and became so like his Father he could say that "you see me, you see the Father," meaning he had become the perfect image of God. "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him..." (Col 1:19).

God wants to save you and me and wants us to follow the example of how his son lived his life. He wants to be pleased with our obedience and wants to give us eternal life, glorify us, and exalt us to high positions of honor and responsibility is his Kingdom--the Kingdom of God. The was the message Jesus brought saying, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mk 1:14). Jesus is now to us, and to the entire human family, God's supreme agent of salvation. He has been given authority by the Father to save and to give life. So both God and Jesus can accurately be called "savior" and are many times in the New Testament. But we should not forget that Father God was in the saving business from the beginning of his creation, the supreme manifestation of it being his firstborn Son, Jesus Christ. We can now participate in God's salvation through Jesus and receive the gift of eternal life. Paul opened his letter to Timothy with these majestic words: "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus our hope" (1Tim 1:1). --Ken Westby