October 30, 2011

Comic Relief

Happy All Hallows Eve

October 27, 2011

Mysterious Volcano Erupts

I believe it was also said about Mt. Saint Helens, "Oh, this is a dormant volcano, no worries", shortly before its eventual eruption.  2011 brought massive earthquakes all over the globe, most recently the massive quake in Japan, and other natural disasters such Tsunami's in New Zealand and other disasters such as recent Turkey quake. No Volcano yet though.

Rapidly Inflating Volcano Creates Growing Mystery

Should anyone ever decide to make a show called "CSI: Geology," a group of scientists studying a mysterious and rapidly inflating South American volcano have got the perfect storyline.
Researchers from several universities are essentially working as geological detectives, using a suite of tools to piece together the restive peak's past in order to understand what it is doing now, and better diagnose what may lie ahead.
It's a mystery they've yet to solve.

Uturuncu is a nearly 20,000-foot-high (6,000 meters) volcano in southwest Bolivia. Scientists recently discovered the volcano is inflating with astonishing speed.
"I call this 'volcano forensics,' because we're using so many different techniques to understand this phenomenon," said Oregon State University professor Shan de Silva, a volcanologist on the research team. [See images of the inflating volcano here.]

Researchers realized about five years ago that the area below and around Uturuncu is steadily rising — blowing up like a giant balloon under a wide disc of land some 43 miles (70 kilometers) across. Satellite data revealed the region was inflating by 1 to 2 centimeters (less than an inch) per year and had been doing so for at least 20 years, when satellite observations began.

"It's one of the fastest uplifting volcanic areas on Earth," de Silva told OurAmazingPlanet."What we're trying to do is understand why there is this rapid inflation, and from there we'll try to understand what it's going to lead to."

The  peak is perched like a party hat at the center of the inflating area. "It's very circular. It's like a big bull's-eye," said Jonathan Perkins, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who recently presented work on the mountain at this year's Geological Society of America meeting  in Minneapolis.

Scientists figured out from the inflation rate that the pocket of magma beneath the volcano was growing by about 27 cubic feet (1 cubic meter) per second.
"That's about 10 times faster than the standard rate of magma chamber growth you see for large volcanic systems," Perkins told OurAmazingPlanet.
However, no need to flee just yet, the scientists said.
"It's not a volcano that we think is going to erupt at any moment, but it certainly is interesting, because the area was thought to be essentially dead," de Silva said.
Uturuncu Volcano in Bolivia
Sunset at Uturuncu.
CREDIT: Jonathan Perkins


Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia and Prophecy

Take Notice of what is happening in the lands surrounding Israel.  Of particular in relation to the countries of Libya, Egypt, and Ethiopia.  All three are keys countries in the Anti-Christ's rise to power in the end times.  The mention of these countries is found in Daniel 11:
41He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.

42He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape.

43But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps.

These prophecies take place at the beginning of the last 7 year tribulation that will occur before the Lord returns.  Egypt and Libya, as a result of the recent uprisings in each of these countries, could very well have Sharia law implemented as a result of the new leaderships such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  How does this all fit into the Anti-Christ seizing these countries wealth at the beginning of the end times?  That remains to be seen.  Keep a keen eye on these three countries.

Religious Violence, Uncertainty in Post-Mubarak Egypt Threatens Ties to Israel, U.S.

  • Smoke from tear gas fills the street as protesters clash with Egyptian security forces in Cairo Egypt, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011.
In the eight months since the Egyptian Revolution, radical Islamic groups are rising to power, the army seems unwilling or unable to stop a growing rash of sectarian violence and the long-standing friendship between the U.S., Israel and Egypt is in serious question. 
“I am the enemy of democracy,” Hesham al Ashry said in an interview with Fox News in his Cairo tailor shop. The devout Muslim is a main organizer in a group called the Salafists, which is working to bring Shariah law to Egypt. They, along with the Muslim Brotherhood, have risen quickly in the past eight months to fill the power vacuum left in post-Mubarak Egypt. 

Read more:

October 20, 2011

Buddhism vs. Christianity

Picture from Wikipedia

The pursuit of truth is often a winding road, unpaved, and marked with signs of discovery along the way.  The most priceless commodity in the world? The Truth.  Therefore, we should, above all else pursue it, should we not?

Given the fact that all of us will face death, some sooner rather than later, we should be inclined to study not just what the culture nearest us believes, but what others around the world near and far profess to be the Truth.  While each belief system can enlighten us to the true nature of Truth, not all religions can provide us with the Truth.  The fundamentals are entirely different, as the poet Steve Turner once said, "We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the one we read was. They all believe in love and goodness, they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation."

Reading into the comparison of Buddhism and Christianity is a hypothetical conversation between Buddha and Jesus in relation to the topic of sin and pain in the book, The Lotus and the Cross by Ravi Zacharias.  A good summary can be found at facetofacecultural.  

The key difference, perhaps the fundamental difference is the response to sin. 

Buddhism in large has a response that looks within while the Christian looks to Christ.  Both belief systems recognize this need for reforming the inner heart, take a read of the following quote from one the leading Buddist scholars in the world:

Ikeda's Buddhist-inspired believes that a profound inner reformation not only enables a person to successfully form creative and constructive responses to the harsh realities of everyday life, but also enables him or her to lead contributive lives in the service of other people, is a theme that is central to all his writings.

-Daisaku Ikeda, writer of over 100 books and a scholar on the topic of Buddhism.  

The need to reform is evident, our sin nature compels us to find the answer.  In Buddhism, the answer must come from within.  We must look within and eventually become one with our self, like the picture at the top of the page.  We find reformation through right living and the elimination of our  desires--ie 'sin' or 'wrong' that conflicts our minds. 

Christianity on the other hand presents Christ and the conquering of sin and death at the cross.  It is only through the cross that we find victory over sin and death.  Can we erase our sin? Can time forgive our past transgressions?  Christianity states that even our 'good deeds are like filthy rags' and that we can never repay our sins as we are measured against a perfect and holy law.  Thus, the reformation must come from without, from a perfect sacrifice that can only pay the debt of a perfect law.

Both moral living and good conduct are important, but in Christianity it is the outworking of our salvation, while in Buddhism it is central to it.  Essentially in Buddhism, we must earn our own salvation through the practice of the four noble truths in order to become one with our self and enter into Nirvana (the ultimate state of being released from desire).  Christ turns that on its head, shines the light on our dark soul, and our conscience bears truth to the fact that salvation cannot come by works and can only come from outside of ourselves. 

A summary here on comparison between the two faiths.


The year was 1893. The place was Chicago. Buddhists had arrived from the East to attend the inaugural World’s Parliament of Religions. While their contingent was sizable, they were vastly outnumbered by Bible believers from the West. One hundred years later, at the centennial celebration of the original Parliament, Buddhists outnumbered Baptists and saffron robes were more common than Christian clerical clothing. Given its growing impact, it is important to grasp basic Buddhist beliefs and use them as springboards for sharing the liberating truth of the gospel.

First, Buddhism, a historical offshoot of Hinduism, teaches adherents to seek refuge in the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Embracing the triple gem is to find refuge in Buddha who became the “enlightened one” for this age during a deep state of meditation under a bodhi tree; to find refuge in the Buddha’s teaching—dharma; and to find refuge in the community of Buddhist priests—sangha—who guide devotees along the path to enlightenment.

Furthermore, the essence of Buddhism is summed up in the Four Noble Truths: 1) all life is suffering (dukkha); 2) the source of suffering is desire and attachment because all is impermanent; 3) liberation from suffering is found in the elimination of desire; 4) desire is eliminated by following the eightfold path.

In sharp contrast to the Buddhist teaching that we must eliminate desire, the Bible teaches that we must exercise disciplines in order to transform our desires.
Finally, the eightfold path consists of right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, and right meditation. By following this path through many reincarnations, Buddhists hope to erase karmic debt and achieve the nirvanic realization of “no self,” thus attaining liberation from suffering and escaping the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth (samsara).

In sharp contrast to the Buddhist teaching that we must eliminate desire, the Bible teaches that we must exercise disciplines in order to transform our desires (Romans 6:17–19). Ultimately, suffering is not overcome through stamping out the self, but through the selfless sacrifice of a sinless Savior.
 Check out the following as well on the parallels between Buddhism and Christianity.

Buddhist-Christian Parallels

Parallel Beginnings
God the Unconditioned
Heaven Nirvana
(Yeshua of Nazareth)
(Siddartha Gautama)
Jewish founder of Christianity Hindu founder of Buddhism
virgin birth account virgin birth account
tempted by Satan tempted by Mara
Good News of the Kingdom of God the Dharma (law) of Liberation
Sermon on the Mount Sermon of "Turning the Wheel of Dharma"
taught in parables taught in parables
Feet kissed by Mary Magdalene Feet kissed by Pasanedi
Betrayed by Judas Betrayed by Devadatta
Crucified possibly poisoned
Ascension Parinirvana
the Anointed One (Messiah, Christ) the Awakened One (Buddha, Enlightened)
Savior Bodhisattva
Parallel developments
the Church the Sangha
Gospels Sutras
Bible Tripitaka, Prajna Paramita, and many other writings
Apostolic succession Lineage of dharma transmission
Faith promoted 300 years later by Emperor Constantine Faith promoted 300 years later by Emperor Ashoka
Church councils Buddhist councils
missionaries missionaries
monasteries monasteries
After flourishing in the Middle East, now a minority religion in area of its birth After flourishing in India, now a minority religion in area of its birth
Parallel Paths
agape (spiritual love) maitri (lovingkindness)
the world samsara
Purification (Purgatory) Rebirth (Reincarnation)
hell hell realms
imago Dei (image of God) Buddha-nature
Christ within you Realizing your Buddha-nature
Theosis/Deification Awakening, Enlightenment
the Way the Dharma
chant chant
prayer candles prayer flags
saints buddhas, bodhisattvas
angels devas
demons demons
relics relics
Shroud of Turin Buddha's Tooth
Four Spiritual Laws Four Noble Truths
10 Commandments Eightfold Path
rosaries rosaries (malas)
icons icons (thangkas)
statues statues
the "Jesus Prayer" nembutsu
Sign of the Cross Taking Refuge
contemplation meditation
New Jerusalem Western Paradise
sin dukkha (unsatisfactoriness)
Parallel Schools???
Eastern Orthodoxy
(teachings of the Church Fathers)
(teachings of the Elders)
devotional Catholicism
(saints, Heaven)
Kwan Yin, Amitabha, Pure Land
(enlightened beings, Paradise)
(direct experience of God)
(direct experience of the Ultimate)
(Scripture and salvation)
Nichiren, Pure Land
(Scripture and salvation)
Charismatic / Pentecostal

Another link, the Buddhist association for peace, culture, and education in America: SGA-USA
Wikipedia on Nichiren Buddhism

October 16, 2011

Comic Relief

Not a bad quote, esp the final line. Yes, I agree all religions are basically the same.

The poet Steve Turner describes brilliantly what many think when it comes to religion: “Jesus was a good man just like Buddha, Mohammed, and ourselves. We believe he was a good teacher of morals but we believe that his good morals are really bad. We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the one we read was. They all believe in love and goodness, they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.”

Population & Prophecy

Population nears 7 billion according to the United Nations. 

As the explosion of knowledge has multiplied in the 20th century and the 21st, so has the explosion of the world's population.  Related to prophecy, the closest scripture I can tell would be as follows:

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" Daniel 12:4

The article, as most do, focus' on the inability of the world to sustain itself given the rapid rise of the world's population.  Really?  If anything, more people should be able to supply more ideas on how best to supply the new ones with food, water, and shelter in a more efficient way.  We are certainly in a time of growth around the world; the Lord continues to wait to come back in order to allow more and more souls to be saved and given the good news of the gospel.

Picture and Article from the UK Telegraph

The world's population looks set to smash through the seven billion barrier in the next few days, according to the United Nations.
It comes just 12 years since the total reached six billion - with official estimates saying the figure will top eight billion in 2025 and 10 billion before the end of the century.
And it is most likely the baby will be born in the Asia-Pacific region - where the population growth rate is higher than anywhere else in the world.

October 15, 2011

Joy In Suffering. Singing the Praises of God

God's ultimate goal is joyful worship of the nations. 
Missions is not the ultimate goal the church, worship is. 

John Piper, Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, recently finished up a lecture series on the role of Worship, Prayer, and Suffering in relation to overall role of missions on the church.  Striking was that phrase above, that missions is not the overall role of the Church, rather Worship.  Explained more succinctly, ministry exists because not all are worshiping.  The ultimate culmination of our worship will eventually be in Heaven.  Until then, we must spend our time both worshiping and witnessing to show others that we are made to Worship.

The central verses in the messages were as follows:

 Romans 11: 33-35

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
   How unsearchable his judgments,
   and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
   Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God,
   that God should repay them?”

Worship is the cry of the human heart; It is the longing of Holiness and right living in relation to our soul;  It is the quickening of our consciousness to His character; A quickening of Will to the things of God.  We were created to worship, thus the reason why our emptiness on this earth can only be satisfied when the likeness of His glory becomes imprinted upon the design of our heart.

Holiness can be defined as "Transcendent Purity." Both separate from humanity and removed from sin."  It is our fallen nature, and thus desire for this perfection that gives us the longing to worship. 


Imagine this picture for a moment.  A family of 6, with dad driving, mom sitting in the cockpit, and four loving little bundles of joy between the ages of 6 and 15 sitting in the back.  While driving a Jeep along the back roads in a mountainous African region, out of nowhere a boulder crashes down in front of them causing dad to swerve out of the way.  Swerving too far, off the cliff they go, their jeep exploding into flames as the gas container is punctured during the tumble.

Miraculously, the driver survives, and as he is carried away in the ambulance, he yells out, "Psalm 34!".  The words of which I quote below:

1 I will extol the LORD at all times;
   his praise will always be on my lips.
2 I will glory in the LORD;
   let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
3 Glorify the LORD with me;
   let us exalt his name together. 

A true story, as shared by Piper.  I WILL praise the LORD at ALL times.  At the moment of despair and ultimate grief, this man found the passion for living in God and God alone.  Suffering is found everywhere we look in this earth, existing due to SIN and our disobedience.  Those who believe in Christ suffer the same as anyone else; the message of Christ though is not that suffering will go away in this life, but that we are not alone in our suffering.  The central figure of human history, Jesus Christ, suffered and we partake in that suffering.  The difference, the key point, is that through our suffering we might have joy.  Listen to Paul's words here:

9-But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Our joy is not in suffering, the actual physical suffering, but in Christ and the ability to one day live free of that suffering.  This is what allows the Christian to live life free of regret and despair normally associated with suffering.  This is also what sets us apart and makes those around us scratch our heads when they see us rejoicing in suffering.  and THAT is the ultimate goal, that we might share in the experiences of others suffering as we do and provide with them the ultimate hope that some day it will all be gone.


God uses suffering as a means as well to accomplish his tasks.  In Chapter 8 of Acts, the Church undergoes persecution because they were not following the great commandment of Jesus to go into "all the world, Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth."  They were still in Jerusalem in Chapter 8, thus as Chapter 8:1 states, "they were scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria", due to failing to listen to follow the commands of God.  

Pain is there to get our attention that something is not right.  While not all suffering is from God, God will use suffering to get our attention and motivate us to pursue what it is he has called us to do.  In this case, persecution advanced the spread of the gospel.  Without it, would the church have gone out throughout the whole world and shared the gospel? Perhaps not.  Suffering in the form of persecution has often been the leading cause of growth of the Church and of God's plans for the nations.  Persecution will come, we are warned of that as Jesus states that before His 2nd return, "we will be be hated by all nations for my sake."

Continue to sing the praises of our God even in the midst of suffering.  Find meaning to life and a calm to your spirit through Worship.

Piper from time to time has a live web stream.  Catch it here:  LIVE Web Stream

October 5, 2011

Restoring Fatherhood

An important and encouraging reminder on the importance of the role of the father in the development of a child.  Statistics have born out the importance of a father.  Just to name a few, a person born to a fatherless home is

  • 15.3 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
  •  4.6 times more likely to commit suicide
  •  6.6 times more likely to become teenaged mothers
  •  6.6 times more likely to drop out of school
  •  15.3 times more likely to end up in prison while a teenager
       -From Fathers Unite

The bond between a father and son/daughter is more than just a relationship.  The love and discipline that a father can provide is unique.  God has established an order in family and the household that is reflected in these statistics.  This is so much more than 'obeying your father and mother' or tradition.  Family plays an important role in the physiological development of a child and allows a child to grow up within the protection of someone who cares for them.  Most importantly, the father serves as an important role model to a child.  A father is there to help, guide, encourage, and develop their children.

The stability of the family has been the bedrock foundation of cultures throughout history.  When this institution collapses, society collapses along with it.  Father's are the backbone of this institution.  When children are no longer able to develop within a loving, protecting community the role model to look up to becomes the enshrined celebrity rather than the loving father.  We see the damage this has done.

Worthwhile movie just released on this topic. 

Faith Christian-Themed Movie ‘Courageous’ Resonates With Audiences Across America

The movie delves into the stories of four law enforcement officers. The men, Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, David Thomson, and Shane Fuller, are good at what they do, but they face a major challenge at home: Learning how to be good and active fathers. Here’s more of the synopsis from the movie’s official web site:
While they consistently give their best on the job, good enough seems to be all they can muster as dads. But they’re quickly discovering that their standard is missing the mark.
When tragedy hits home, these men are left wrestling with their hopes, their fears, their faith, and their fathering. Can a newfound urgency help these dads draw closer to God … and to their children?

This is the fourth film to come from the Albany, Georgia-based Sherwood Baptist Church. In 2006, the house of worship spent $10,000 making “Facing the Giants,” which grossed $10 million in the end. Another popular movie Sherwood produced, “Fireproof,” was $500,000 to create, though it grossed a large sum — $33 million. It appears “Courageous” is destined for success as well.
Over the weekend, “Courageous,” which was produced with only $2 million, premiered in fifth place among all movies. Already, the movie has earned $8.8 million, which is $2 million above the opening income earned by “Fireproof.” Entertainment Weekly writes:
Shown in 1,161 theaters (yet, notably, just one theater in Manhattan), Courageous earned the best per theater average of any wide release with a robust $7,580.
Here’s the astounding part about all of this: The people making these films aren’t award-winning directors and producers. The church’s pastors, Alex Kendrick (who directs, co-writes and often stars) and Stephen Kendrick (who produces and co-writes) are the men behind the camera. And church members, too, perform and work in the crew. It’s fascinating that these individuals consistently churn out independent hits.

For more:  Courageous 

Good line from one Dad to his daughter, "I want you to find a prince without kissing all the toads!"

Also: See a previous blog post, Marriage Under Fire for other statistics on Marriage.