Monday, January 15, 2018

Bees and the Bible

For many of us, when we see bees buzzing around it is time to take cover. While we certainly do not want to be met by the bee’s stinger, these small insects serve an important purpose, and I’m not just talking about honey.

As you read this column, please keep in mind that evolution teaches that all life forms do what they do either by trial and error, or else by getting it right the first time. Now lets examine the honeycomb and try to decide how bees ever figured out the mathematics behind their operation. It begins by worker bees eating honey, then excreting clumps of wax; other bees will gather the wax and mold it into columns of six-sided cells. In order for the wax to remain firm enough to hold but soft enough to work with, it must remain 95 degrees. By clustering together in the honeycomb, bees are able to keep the wax at the needed temperature. In order to make the classic honeycomb look, the cell walls must be at a 120-degree angle in relation to the other walls to make the hexagonal design, and each partition is less than .1 mm thick. The cells are tilted upward at 13 degrees, the exact dimension needed to keep the honey from dripping out. The bees then seal off the bottom of the columns by constructing three four-sided diamond shapes that meet in a point, thus interlocking and keeping the honey safely inside.

Mathematicians have tried other shapes, including curved sides on hexagons or mixtures of polygons, but have concluded that the bees’ method is the most economical. Do we attribute the bees’ incredible math and architectural skills to luckiness or trial and error? Did they get it exactly right the first time, or did they tinker with their hexagons until they had the perfect pattern? Why would the first bees ever have gathered up the wax secreted by other bees and decided to mold it into a honeycomb? How do all bees everywhere build identical combs?

Isn’t it easier to believe that an Intelligent Designer created the bees, and gave them the instinctive knowledge to build their honeycombs? Yes, bees give us honey, but they also point us to God, the maker of heaven and earth, and they serve as a stinging indictment against the lunacy of Darwinism.

Monday, January 8, 2018


After the October 31st terror attack in New York City you may have seen Ray Kelly on the news talking about the incident. Kelly is the retired NYPD commissioner (if you have seen the show Blue Bloods, think Frank Reagan) who spent more than twelve years at his post. He was named acting commissioner for a short span in 1993, just in time for the first World Trade Center bombing, and then became commissioner in January 2002, fewer than four months after the 9/11 attack.

Kelly understood something that many overlooked throughout the nineties and early part of the new century, and that is terrorists must be addressed differently than carjackers and domestic abusers. In agreeing to serve as police commissioner, Kelly insisted on enhanced police presence around certain areas, and he created an NYPD counter-terrorism division, with detectives placed undercover in Europe as well as in strategic areas of New York City.

In his book Vigilance, Kelly describes the sixteen terror plots in New York City that were thwarted on his watch. Sixteen times his city could have been attacked—from the Brooklyn Bridge, to the metro system, and even a coordinated effort to attack multiple synagogues—but New York’s finest rose to the occasion each time. The theme of his book, as the title suggests, is that the good guys must always be on guard. Evil doesn’t take a day off, and Kelly’s team had to always be ready. They were able to combat the enemy because they understood the enemy.

Peter had the same idea when he wrote to the believers in Turkey, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).” The first way to withstand the attack of the devil is to know that he is on the offensive. He never takes a day off. We must remain on guard at all times, knowing that giving him an inch in our lives can have disastrous results.

As foolish as it would be to police New York City with a pre-9/11 mentality, it is just as foolish to live as if the devil doesn’t. Keep your guard up at all times. Be sober. Be vigilant.  

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Resolved to Give All

As 2017 draws to a close many of you have made resolutions for the coming year. If you’re honest, some of those same resolutions appear on the list year after year, but this time you mean it. I’ve never been big on making resolutions, but I am making one this year. Maybe you will consider making this resolution with me.

This time of year always makes me think about an old choir anthem we used to sing in Florida called Firmly Committed. Here is the chorus:
I am firmly committed to the cause of Christ,
Determined to serve Him for the rest of my life
Resolved to give all, no matter the price
I am firmly committed to the cause of Christ.

If you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, will you consider resolving to give all for Christ? While that is an all-encompassing resolution, I want to give you four specific areas in which we can resolve to give all this year.

First, in study. 2 Timothy 2:15 says we should study in order to rightly interpret the Word of truth. Psalm 1:2 says the blessed man will meditate on God’s word day and night. In this new year we should determine to study God’s word more so that we can be better equipped for life.

Next, in service. At the end of Paul’s life he was able to confidently write that he had run the race well and finished his course; he knew that rewards awaited him because of his life’s ministry (2 Timothy 4:5-7). We often speak of the end of a Christian’s life in terms of God calling that person home. My goal is to give away so much of myself in service that there isn’t much left for God to take when that time comes.

Third, in soul-winning. While there are many important things in life, none trumps telling someone about Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 Paul reminded the church that his resolution was to focus on the things of Christ when he was with them. We need to determine to share the gospel with more people in 2018.

Finally, in sanctification. Sanctification is the process of becoming more like Jesus every day. It involves purging old sin and abstaining from it (2 Timothy 2:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Are you more like Christ at the end of 2017 than you were at the beginning of it? You should be, and you should determine to be more like Him at the end of 2018.

If you will join me in resolving to give all in 2018, I believe this world will be a much better place this time next year.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When the Last Present's Been Opened

I really enjoy Christmas. I always have, and I hopefully always will. Whether it is the nostalgia from watching childhood Christmas specials, the excitement of our own children, or the tastes of the season’s dishes, I try to slow down and take it all in. Have a cup of hot chocolate. Watch a cheesy Hallmark movie. For as many Christmases as I can remember, the buildup is exciting, and there is always a touch of sadness when the holidays are over.

Putting away the decorations means I won’t see them for eleven more months. I won’t be signing along to Bing Crosby until after Thanksgiving. The joy and excitement that dominated the previous month quickly dissipates as we settle back into the grind of life, the not-quite-as-jolly routine that is January through mid-November.

But there is good news. Just because Christmas is over doesn’t mean that what we celebrate is likewise over. If you are like me and get a little down after Christmas, just remember what Christmas is about. The birth of Jesus continues to change us throughout the year, not just in December. I want to share with you a poem I wrote called “When the Last Present’s Been Opened.”

Stores are overcrowded, fights are breaking out.
I’ve got so many things to do, I just want to stop and shout.
But it’s OK because Christmas time is here;
In the midst of all this chaos, there’s still holiday cheer.
The gifts are piling up underneath the tree,
Children shake them eagerly, wondering what they might be.
The entire Christmas season always goes by fast,
And it won’t be long at all until the season is past.

When the last present’s been opened, and the gifts are given away,
The decorations have come down; there’s no “Merry Christmases” left to say.
There’s no more “Season’s Greetings;” no more Christmas cheer.
The spirit of the season won’t be back for another year.
When there are no more Christmas parties, no more carols left to sing,
Take joy in knowing this: Jesus is still the King!

May we continue to celebrate the Savior all year.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Christmas Bells

In 1863 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a poem he called “Christmas Bells.” The poem was written on Christmas Day and was a reflection of the emotion that Longfellow was feeling at the time.

The poem was shortened considerably and made into a Christmas carol in 1872, and it has been a favorite of many ever since. Here is the original poem in its entirety: 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
their old, familiar carols play,                                   
 and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom                         
Had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Till ringing, singing on its way,
the world revolved from night to day,                                 
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Then from each black, accursed mouth
 the cannon thundered in the South,                 
 And with the sound the carols drowned of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
 the hearthstones of a continent,                                       
And made forlorn the households born of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;                           
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;          
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men."

The poem begins with the happy thoughts of Christmas, with the joy brought about by the bells. But the joy turns to sorrow before finally ending in joy again. The references to the cannons in the South and the hearthstones of a continent being rent remind us of the Civil War, which was dividing the Country when this poem was penned.
But the emotion that Longfellow was feeling was born from something deeper than a nation at war. Longfellow’s son Charles, a lieutenant for the Union, was mortally wounded that November in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia. 
The sound of his son’s death no doubt drowned the carols of peace on earth, good-will to men. 
And in despair he bowed his head. But his grief was not only for the loss of his son. Longfellow’s wife died tragically a year and a half earlier when she caught her dress on fire. Part of Henry died that day; he later wrote that he was “inwardly bleeding to death.”
While Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, you may well relate to Longfellow, who in despair once thought, “There is no peace on earth.”  Maybe you are a widow who wishes Christmas felt like it used to. Perhaps you are recently divorced and feeling lonely this time of year. It could be that Christmas coincides with the anniversary of the death of a loved.
There are a number of reasons that Christmas can really stink. Many people feel like they have to “just get through” the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be that way if we can see the big picture. I love how Longfellow concluded his poem.
The Christmas Bells rang with a stronger message than simply indicating the coming of Christmas; the message of the bells was a reminder: God is not dead nor doth He sleep. The Wrong, which breaks our hearts at times, will ultimately fail. The Right, which may feel far away, will finally prevail. 
Christmas can be sad and lonely if family, presents, or anything else gets the primary focus. While those things are great, we need to remember that Christmas is a symbol of the birth of Christ, which drawn out, takes us to the cross and empty tomb, where our sins can be forgiven. If you are a believer, then you are never alone because you have a relationship with God Himself. 

That should give us all a reason to join the voice, the chime, the chant sublime, of peace on earth, good-will to men.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Was Mary Really a Virgin?

One of the most common facts about the Christmas story and the birth of the baby Jesus is the miraculous nature in which He was born—to a virgin.

In both Testaments of the Bible the virgin birth is mentioned; it is prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, then fulfilled in Matthew 1:23. The word virgin is peppered throughout Matthew and Luke’s account of the birth, as well as in Isaiah’s prophecy. 

Some like to point out that the word virgin doesn’t just refer to a person who has never had intercourse, but that it can also simply mean a young girl or bride. Does this present a problem to the biblical account? If Mary was not a virgin then the birth of Jesus doesn’t involve the supernatural elements of divinity. 

But the truth is that it really doesn’t matter what the word virgin means. Consider a few things.

First, since it was against the law for any unmarried people to engage in intercourse, all young girls were virgins. The terms were interchangeable, and Mary would have been both an abstinent virgin and a young girl. 

Second, the prophecy in Isaiah was actually about a young girl, not a virgin. The prophecy wasn’t about Mary at all. Isaiah gave this prophecy to King Ahaz as proof of his message that God would destroy the king’s enemies. The sign of the promise would be that a virgin (or young girl or bride) would have a son and name him Immanuel—“God is with us.” Matthew saw the birth of Jesus as the second fulfillment of this prophecy. If Isaiah’s prophecy were only about Mary, she would have named her baby Immanuel instead of Jesus. Jesus is rightly thought of as Immanuel because God came to mankind, thus making Matthew’s reference all the more meaningful. Isaiah’s prophecy was not a miraculous virgin birth, but a natural birth to a young bride.

Third, Mary referred to herself as a virgin when she asked the angel, “How can this be, seeing I have not known a man (Luke 1:34)?” Forget what the word virgin means for a second—Mary had never slept with a man. We can debate the original word all day, but Mary had never been with Joseph or anyone else. 

Finally, if the Bible only teaches that Mary was a young bride and not a virgin, then why did the Holy Spirit place the baby inside her (Luke 1:35); why did Joseph seek to divorce Mary (Matthew 1:19); and why did Joseph refuse to sleep with her until after the baby was born (Matthew 1:25)? Each of those events points back to a virgin birth. Joseph knew he had not impregnated Mary, and he chose to not sleep with her until after Jesus was born so that it could still be a virgin birth.

Skeptics can play word games to undermine God and His Word, but there is no merit to the claim that the Bible teaches anything other than the virgin birth.