What’s Going On Out There?

I’ve always been fascinated by astronomy.  As a kid in Hopkinsville, Kentucky I spent countless hours lying on my back and staring into the heavens fascinated by the stars and planets and the Milky Way.  My friend David Faulkner taught me to recognize Jupiter and Venus and to identify Orion’s belt and Betelgeuse. The kind of view I enjoyed 60+ years ago in Kentucky isn’t typically available today due to light pollution and there are many today who have never been able to see the night sky in all its glory.  Of course they do have the benefit of the beautiful Hubble Telescope photos.  They’re true works of art and I see them as a gift of our gracious Creator.

The view of the sky which was most spectacular for me when I was at sea in the navy:  off the coast of Rhode Island and Nova Scotia aboard the USS The Sullivans, aboard the USS Saratoga in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the USS Lexington, and the USS Richard B Anderson in the Pacific back in the days of Vietnam.  It was thrilling to go up to the ship’s bow (think Titanic minus the beautiful girl and the iceberg) during moonless nights under darken-ship conditions and look out into the vastness of space.  The view was made even more spectacular as there was no obstruction all the way to the horizon — just the stars and planets — a panorama of twinkling brilliance.  Since that time the closest I have come to that view is late at night on the roof of our boathouse at Lake Gaston.  Simply gaaaaawjus as they say in Georgia.

I shouldn’t leave this intro to the following article without mentioning that performing celestial navigation at sea was never much of a joy for me.  My navy days were prior to all the modern electronic navigation tools available today.  We did have LORAN, short for Long Range Navigation, but its accuracy was in tens of miles, not the tens of feet typical for todays GPS and inertial navigation systems.  No, what we used was a sextant (it had nothing to do with sex), a chronometer, a compass and straightedge, a nautical chart and a nautical almanac.  Finding our position at sea consisted of using angular measurements (sights, taken with the sextant) between celestial bodies and the visible horizon.  At a given time, any celestial body is located directly over one point on the Earth’s surface. The latitude and longitude of that point is known as the celestial body’s geographic position (GP), the location of which were determined from tables in the current Nautical Almanac.  Taking the sightings wasn’t that difficult provided the sea was relatively calm and the sky was clear.  The difficulty for me came in the numerous computations needed to fix our position and plot it on the chart.  Trust me, it could make your head swim.  I never really felt confident in the process.

Ok, so I got carried away a bit.  So, where am I going with this?  Although I took astronomy at the University of Missouri I never really understood how stars and planets came into being.  To me it seemed that the matter expelled at creation, assuming a “Big Bang” sort of beginning, would simply fly apart and never get back together — much as the helium in a burst helium-filled balloon would disburse and never reassemble or a drop of dye dripped into a fishbowl full of water would disburse and never again be distinguishable as a drop of dye — no matter how long you waited.  Well, the following Joshua Carroll article which appeared at: www.universetoday.com as: Stars: A Day in the Life is the best, most readable, explanation of the basics of star and planet formation I’ve ever seen. Just the right amount of technical detail without becoming mired in overly complex physics and chemistry.  Joshua Carroll is a student and a three-tour combat vet. I hope you enjoy the article and are impressed as I am with the marvelous works of our Lord in creation and nature.  RMF

Stars: A Day in the Life
by Joshua Carroll

600px-Embryonic_Stars_Amongst_Gas_and_Dust          Region of active star formation – Embryonic Stars amid molecular clouds.  Credit:ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Joshua Carroll

Joshua Carroll

There is something about them that intrigues us all. These massive spheres of gas burning intensely from the energy of fusion buried many thousands of kilometers deep within their cores. The stars have been the object of humanity’s wonderment for as far back as we have records. Many of humanity’s religions can be tied to worshiping these celestial candles. For the Egyptians, the sun was representative of the God Ra, who each day vanquished the night and brought light and warmth to the lands. For the Greeks, it was Apollo who drove his flaming chariot across the sky, illuminating the world. Even in Christianity, Jesus can be said to be representative of the sun given the striking characteristics his story holds with ancient astrological beliefs and figures. In fact, many of the ancient beliefs follow a similar path, all of which tie their origins to that of the worship of the sun and stars.  Continue reading

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Dante Alighieri as Life Coach

My dear friend Creed Branson has decided to enter the life-coaching profession and I’m confident that he will be a great success at it.  That certainty is based on observing his skill in managing his own life and his history of success in prior pursuits.  Personally, I’ve never had a life coach — not that one couldn’t have helped me along the way.  Perhaps the first step in successful living is getting a firm enough grip on one’s self that you have a schedule and the financial resources compatible with retaining the services of a coach.  Another friend, Val August, speaks very highly of her experience with a life coach as she emerged successfully from a difficult period in her life.  So, when I came upon the following article by Rod Dreher which appeared at: washingtonpost.com as: 10 commandments for a successful life, according to Dante I took notice.  I remember studying Dante’s Divine Comedy back in Mr. Hampton’s English class when a freshman (Thanks Johnny Williams for helping me date this) at Hopkinsville High School, but don’t recall taking away any life lessons other than that I would do well to avoid hell.  Anyway, this article caught my attention and it seems well to share it with the couple of readers who might come across the blog.  Incidentally, Rod Dreher is a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative.  RMF

10 commandments for a successful life, according to Dante

By Rod Dreher

Dante

Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Detail of the statue of Dante Alighieri in Santa Croce’s square in Florence, Italy.
Most people think of Dante’s “Divine Comedy” as a medieval literary artifact, a classic more admired than read. Believe it or not, it’s the greatest self-help book of all time.

Two years ago, lost in a serious personal crisis, I stumbled upon the “Commedia,” as it is called in the original Italian, while browsing in a bookstore. I’m not much of a poetry reader, and Dante’s 14,000-line work is the last place I would have thought to look for life coaching.

How very wrong I was. Dante Alighieri (usually shortened to just Dante) wrote the poem out of his own shattering experience in the “dark wood” of exile, and how he put his life back together and drew closer to God. The wisdom in the “Commedia” saved my life by revealing my own heart to me, and showed me how to fix what was broken.

Threaded through some of the most beautiful poetry ever written, and embedded within a riveting adventure story set in the afterlife, are deeply practical lessons that really do fulfill what the poet said was his intention for the work: to bring ordinary people from a state of misery to one of happiness.  Continue reading

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Why Not Believe?

When I was 12 years old the minister at 9th Street Christian Church in Hopkinsville, KY, Pastor Roy Hulan, held a series of classes for those who were thinking about becoming Christians.  Pastor’s hope, as well as that of my parents, was that by the following Easter we would decide to become Christ followers.  I attended the classes and remember well struggling with the decision.  Two things bothered me.  One was that I had questions about the truthfulness of Scripture — could I really trust its accuracy.  The second was that, even at that young age, I knew I would need to be a better person if I was to become a follower of Jesus.  It wasn’t that I had done so many really sinful things at that time in my life — that came later.  But, I did know that I had thought plenty of things that were unacceptable for a believer.   And I did not know that I could or even wanted to conform to what I perceived as requirements for living life as a Christian.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 5.12.33 PM  With regard to the accuracy of Scripture my biggest stumbling block was the virgin birth.  I didn’t know a whole lot about biology at that time but as a curious twelve-year old boy I was fully aware of the fact that children were born from the union of a man and a women.  That being the case, how could the biblical account of Mary giving birth to Jesus without the benefit of a normal man-woman relationship be true?  I had a difficult time with that until we spent a considerable amount of time studying the resurrection of Jesus — another troublesome area of Scripture.  It was certainly far from the norm and would certainly qualify as a miracle.  But, with the account of Jesus being raised from the dead there seemed to me to be a preponderance of evidence validating the event. I believed, and still do, that the resurrection of Jesus is a historically verifiable fact — at least as trustworthy as any other event of ancient history.  So, my resolution of questions about the virgin birth of Jesus turned to faith — that a God who can raise Jesus from the dead could also, by the power of the Holy Spirit, miraculously create the God-Man in the womb of a virgin.  That, in turn, led me to the conclusion that the God who, according to Genesis 1:1 created the heavens and the earth, was fully capable of producing the miracles, all of them, in the Bible.  Strong evidence and faith then led me to become a follower of Jesus — my Lord and my Savior.  I was baptized on Easter Sunday, April 5th, 1953.  

Now, with respect to second area that concerned me about becoming a Christian, i.e., changing my life to be obedient to the teaching of Scripture.  That is still something that I strive for.  But, I do so out of love for my Savior recognizing that He has already given me a clean account; that because of what He did on the cross I am “holy in His sight, without blemish, and free from accusation,” according to Colossians 1:22 NIV.  The Holy Spirit living within me convinces me of that.  

So, with that background, I found the following article by Pastor Bob Russell to be informative with respect to those who do not believe in the resurrection.  The article appeared first at: Bob Russell Ministries as: Why Some People Don’t Believe In The Resurrection.  RMF

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Why Some People Don’t Believe In The Resurrection

Bob Russell

Bob Russell

I watched the television special, “Killing Jesus” this past Thursday night. It’s based on the best-selling book by Bill O’Reilly and is well done. It’s good to see quality films that are Biblically accurate for the most part. I thought the movie helped clarify the reason the religious leaders were so determined to eliminate Jesus – they were envious of His popularity and threatened by His challenge to their traditional views of the temple worship.

I was disappointed, however, in the portrayal of Jesus’ resurrection. In the movie, the disciples never actually see the risen Christ. Three days after the crucifixion, they were perplexed to find His tomb empty. Later, while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee they became convinced that He was alive when they received a miraculous abundance of fish in their nets.   Continue reading

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William Willimon’s “The Culture is Overrated”

ronfurg:

Here is a very thoughtful article by William Willimon, Duke University’s Dean of Christian Ministry.

Originally posted on Musings and Observations by Vernon Caston:

William H. Willimon – Dean of chapel and professor of Christian ministry at Duke University.

When I recently asked a group of pastors what areas they wanted help with in their preaching, most replied, “To preach sermons that really hit my people where they live.”

At one time I would have agreed this was one of the primary purposes of Christian preaching—to relate the gospel to contemporary culture. Now I believe it is our weakness.

In leaning over to speak to the modern world, I fear we may have fallen in. Most of the preaching in my own denomination struggles to relate the gospel to the modern world. We sought to use our sermons to build a bridge from the old world of the Bible to the modern world; the traffic was always one way, with the modern world rummaging about in Scripture, saying things like, “This relates to me,”…

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Great literature

I love great literature. I mean the kind that speaks to your very soul. Prose that you feel in your innermost being. You can relate to it. You yourself have experienced sensations that resonate with what the author is communicating. Well, this morning Shirley will be driving me off to INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital. I’ve put this off beyond the 10-year recommended cycle but I’m finally giving in. HERE is a link to the great literature which describes nicely what I went through in preparation for this visit and what I will be experiencing this morning. RMF

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 5.53.11 AM

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A Pope’s take on Creation and Science

I am certainly not intelligent enough to be able to sort out all the arguments regarding creation and evolution.  There are what appear to be powerful arguments both for and against special creation and what is presented as a more scientific explanation for how things came to be as they are.  I cannot conceive of a better explanation for how matter itself came into being than that provided in Genesis 1.  Likewise I don’t see how intelligence, the type represented by language such as the coded language in DNA, could arise from a non-intelligent source.  So, how things developed following creation are a mystery which I am delighted to let the scientists and theologians sort out as best they can.  [In this regard I take the same position as I do with the arguments between pre- and post-millennialists, i.e., I’m a pan-millennialist.  I believe it will all pan out.]  Still, how to make sense of the seeming gulf between the Biblical account of creation and the theories of modern science is a challenge and could certainly do damage to one’s faith.  Is it possible to reconcile them and to do so in a credible way that is both satisfying, rational, and intellectually honest?  The following article by Stacy Trasancos reports on an attempt to do so.  It appeared first at: The Integrated Catholic Life as: Pope Benedict XVI on Creation and Evolution: “Complementary Realities”.  Ms. Trasancos is a wife, mother of seven, and joyful convert to Catholicism. She has a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Penn State University and a M.A. in Dogmatic Theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She worked as research chemist for DuPont before becoming a full-time homemaker in 2003, and has advanced knowledge in the fields of nano-meter scale materials, polymers, elastomeric fibers . . . cooking, dish-washing, and stain removal.  RMF

Pope Benedict XVI on Creation and Evolution: “Complementary Realities”

by Stacy Trasancos

Creation

 

 

Stacy Trasancos

Stacy Trasancos

In 1981, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, developed a catechesis for adults on the creation narratives because, he noted, creation catechesis was nearly absent from teaching, preaching, and theology. His catechesis was in the form of four Lenten homilies given in the cathedral of Munich. Later in 1986, and at the request of many people, he published the homilies in a short book, In the Beginning: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall.

In the third homily, he explored the creation of the human being, taken from the earth and made in the image of God. The homilies are theological, but a discussion of creation cannot be complete without a discussion of scientific progress in the twentieth century. Thus, the last section of this homily turns to evolution. Here he proposes the “inner unity” of creation and evolution and of faith and reason.  Continue reading

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The Christian in the Workplace

This is a brief article by Pat Furgerson which appeared first as: This is up for discussion — How Can We Be Christian Leaders at Work?  Pat is an Associate Minister, the “Utility Guy” at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA.  If you follow the link you’re invited to share your experience as a working Christian.  RMF

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How Can We Be Christian Leaders at Work?

Pat Furgerson

Pat Furgerson

The concept of being a Christian is a fairly easy idea to grasp when you are safe within the walls of the church sitting in a pew, listening to worship music. But what does it mean to be a Christian leader at your job? Topics such as; leading with integrity, holding to your Christian values, and even sharing the Gospel with co-workers are challenging.

When I worked at Perot Systems installing and maintaining computer networks, I faced these on a daily basis. The great news is the two main bosses I had were also Christians. Both set me up to succeed both in terms of “business” and in terms of living out my faith. The biggest challenge I had was when I traveled.

For about six months I worked in a suburb of Atlanta. Every Monday a team of us would fly down and every Friday we’d fly back. Often in the evenings, a group would head downtown to Buckhead. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but being a young guy at the time I thought it was wise for me to hang back with another couple guys at the hotel and pass on the “entertainment.” This saved me from being in many awkward positions. Not the least of which was when the group decided to go to places where lust was inevitable. Had I gone, I would have been stuck. We’re in a group. We’re sharing a car. I couldn’t just back out and head home easily. Fortunately, God protected me during that time. Sometimes it was because I made a good choice earlier in the day. Sometimes I’m sure God protected me from myself.   Continue reading

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