Noah: A Wordless Picture Book, by Mark Ludy- Family Friendly Review

I have now teamed up with a company called FlyBy Promotions Blogger Network. That means that as a reader of Family Friendly Daddy Blog, you will notice more reviews of products; books in particular.

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book, by Mark Ludy: Family Friendly Review

Of course, I will be hand-selecting only the products which I feel are particularly relevant for my site.

You will probably notice that many of these reviews include a giveaway of the product, as linked in to the Family Friendly Daddy Blog Facebook page.

So here’s the first one…

Today I am featuring Noah: A Wordless Picture Book; by Mark Ludy.

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book, by Mark Ludy: Family Friendly Review

The first thing I must say is that this is a beautiful book. Seriously, look at these illustrations.

It’s not being marketed this way, but I feel it is what is called a “graphic novel.”

I tested Noah: A Wordless Picture Book out on my son on the way to school. I just simply told him, “Here Jack, Daddy got you a new book.”

After several minutes of silence from the back seat, I heard, “Daddy, does Noah have a dinosaur?”

At the stop sign, I turned around to catch a glimpse of what was clearly a picture of a dinosaur alongside Noah and his family.

Jack also pointed out the fact that Noah is featured on the cover of the book, standing next to a tame tiger and is later soon cuddled up next to a friendly polar bear.

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book, by Mark Ludy: Family Friendly Review

That quickly told me, in a subtle way, that the creator of this book is evidently like Ben Stein, Kirk Cameron, and myself: he’s an advocate of Intelligent Design which includes macroevolution, as opposed to the popular acceptance of the evolution theory.

Instead of believing in evolution where the Earth is billions of years old, allowing time for dinosaurs to die out before humans came along, I believe that the Earth was created by God in 7 literal 24 hour days.

But what about the dinosaurs?

Go back the story of Noah in the Bible. Go to Genesis; the book which contains this story. If indeed we are to believe this story is literal, I think it’s important to believe the whole story, not just the parts that might make for a good, safe, recognizable story.

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book, by Mark Ludy: Family Friendly Review

Follow the scripture with me…

Notice at what point in human history that the Bible mentions people actually eating animals and where animals actually feared humans.

Keep in mind there were 20 generations from Adam to Noah; back in those days the people lived a lot longer than we do now. See Genesis 1; the very first chapter of the Bible:

28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food“; and it was so.…

Based on God’s words there, I take it that God was saying that not only were His people to eat only plants, but also that animals ate only plants as well; during that particular time- the 1st 20 generations of man.

The first mention of rain in the Bible is not until after Noah finishes building the ark; until then, the Bible is clear to mention that plants were watered from springs within the Earth. It is also mentioned that there was a canopy of water above the Earth was well; creating a greenhouse effect; which might have a lot to do with why people lived so long back then. Here’s Genesis 1 again:

6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” 7 God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. 8 God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

Again, until Noah built the ark, there is no Biblical mention of rain or people eating animals or animals fearing people.

Then the flood happens…

Obviously, there is the first Biblical mention of rain.

Then, once the flood is over, God speaks, and changes the game 8 chapters later in Genesis 9:

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.…

Based on God’s words there, it is very clear to me that God is making it clear that His people had been eating plants, but would now start eating animals; animals that would now suddenly begin fearing man.

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book portrays the story of Noah this way; without using any words.

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book, by Mark Ludy: Family Friendly Review

Notice the cover, where Noah is standing next to a tame tiger; which turns out is my son’s favorite part of the book.

And again, dinosaurs are clearly seen in the book as well.

This is the first Noah book I have ever seen or heard of that explicitly tells the story from an Intelligent Design perspective . And today, you may win a copy for your family.

Just be the first person to post on the Facebook wall for Family Friendly Daddy Blog (not a private message), asking me, “Did I just win Noah: A Wordless Picture Book?”

If you’re the first person to do so, I will respond by saying yes… After that, I will follow up by getting your address to give to the publisher so they can send you your won copy!

Update: A winner was found within a few minutes of this post going live, so the giveaway is finished:

Did i just win Noah: A wordless picture book?

Thanks for reading today! And remember, I’ll be giving more books away; so stay tuned…

Noah: A Wordless Picture Book, by Mark Ludy: Family Friendly Review

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: ‘Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising’):

Many thanks to Propellor Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

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dad from day one: Influence and Individuality

Thirty-one weeks.

Parenting is one of the few institutions where brainwashing is not only allowed, and a given, but it’s also sort of the whole point.  Like a duo-dictatorship, two people (the parents) have so much influence over another human being (the child) on so many levels.  Freedom of religion?  Nope.  Freedom of speech?  Not so much.  The rules that matter are enforced by the parents and accordingly, the child learns his or her moral code and adopts his human culture largely from how the parents choose to raise him or her.

Will I be a strict parent?  “Strict” has such a negative connotation these days.  It evokes thoughts of having rules for the sake of having rules, yielding a teenage kid that is either so nerdy that he thinks getting to stay up until 11:00 at night to watch Battlestar Gallactica is an idea of a good time, or he’s so rebellious he gets a DUI and a huge tattoo by the time he graduates high school.  So I’d rather not use the word “strict”, but instead “consistent and practical”.  Like my parents were to me.

I have always been very close to my parents; I knew I could talk to them about anything and they would listen, without being judgmental or condescending, yet still guiding me in the right direction.  They gave me a little responsibility at a time, and when I proved I could handle it, they gave me more.  I never had a curfew, nor did I need one.  But had I responded differently to the responsibility I was given, I know for a fact the rules would have been stricter, as they would have needed to be.

I think it’s funny when I hear parents of young kids say, “Well my Brayden won’t eat what I cook him.  He only eats chicken nuggets and pizza, and he only drinks Coke from his sippy cup.”  I smile and laugh with them, shaking my head like I know how it is, when really I’m thinking, “It’s not up to your kid!  It’s up to YOU!  YOU’RE the parent!”

Just like I’ve heard other parents say, “I’m not going to force any religious beliefs on my kids.  They need to figure out what they believe on their own.”  (Which is always a clear indication that parent has no solid religious beliefs, otherwise they would pass them on to their children.) It will not be the case for my kid.  He will know who Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus and Peter and the Apostle Paul are.  He will know the importance and relevance of John 3:16.  Just like my dad read to me from my kid’s Bible every night, so will I do for my son.

And when he grows up, I will have influenced who he is.  Yet still, he will have his own personality and make his own decisions.  Truly though, that’s how it was for all of us.  Even if one or both of our parents were out of the picture, they still influenced us- negatively or positively.  So I am choosing to make a conscious, solid, positive influence in his life.  And I will be very deliberate in doing so.

Here’s what The Bump says about Baby Jack this week:

Baby’s energy is surging, thanks to the formation of white fat deposits beneath the skin. (Have those kicks and jabs to the ribs tipped you off yet?) Baby is also settling into sleep and waking cycles, though — as you’ve also probably noticed — they don’t necessarily coincide with your own. Also this month, all five senses are finally functional, and the brain and nervous system are going through major developments.

http://pregnant.thebump.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-tools/slideshow/how-big-is-baby.aspx?page=21

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com


How Race and Religion are Connected and Why Isaac and Ishmael are behind It All

This is me in a video I made for you, which explains all this in a 5 and a half minute video, in case you prefer that over reading the 1378 word blog post below it, which I wrote 7 years ago.

Meet your great-grandfather Isaac.  Or Ishmael.  Or maybe even both…

How do you determine who ethnically is a “white person” and who is not?  Are Jews considered to be white?  What about Greeks and Italians?  And though Central and South Americans typically have tan skin, why is it there something about them still seems sort of white, as opposed to a person from India or China? These are some of the “side effect” questions that will be answered as I explain my theory on the origin of race and religion.

No, this theory doesn’t start with Adam and Eve.  Nor does it start with Noah and his family repopulating the world after the Great Flood.  It starts 20 generations after Adam, and 10 generations after Noah, with Abraham (the father of the Jewish and the Arab people), being promised by God that he would have a son in his old age.  After waiting and having no sign of this coming true, Abraham’s wife Sarah convinced him to sleep with their Egyptian maidservant Hagar, in order to have a son to carry on the family lineage.  At age 86, Abraham goes with his wife’s plan (like the way Adam ate the fruit after Eve convinced him to) and has a son with his maidservant- the son is named Ishmael.  However, 13 years later Abraham’s wife Sarah gets pregnant with a son, as God promised, and this son is named Isaac.

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Abraham eventually sends away his maidservant Hagar and his son Ishmael into the wilderness (Genesis 21:14), and raises Isaac his as true first-born son.  Today, thousands of years later, it is through Ishmael that Arabs and Muslims link their heritage through.  Accordingly, Jews and Christians trace through heritage back to Isaac.  Now we are in the meat of my theory.

As generations passed and both families migrated from their Middle Eastern homelands, the descendants of Ishmael moved south and east- to Africa, Asia, and America (becoming the Native American Indians in North America and the Aztec Indians in Central and South America).  In fact, the angel of the Lord told Hagar that Ishmael “will live east of all his brothers” (Genesis 16:12).  Meanwhile the descendants of Isaac moved north and west- to Europe, Russia, and eventually to America (killing off, running off, or marrying the Native American Indians).

Notice how today the countries that are represented by the descendants of Ishmael are generally practice religions that do not involve the Judeo-Christian God (worshipped by Christians, Catholics, and Jews) but instead are tied Hinduism, Animism, Taoism, Buddhism, Communism (Atheism) and Islam.  And of course the descendants of Isaac are matched to the Christianized nations: For example, Scotland is mainly Protestant, Ireland is mainly Catholic, and England is mainly Anglican (Presbyterian).

Almost 2,000 years ago thanks the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys to preach Christ where the Jews had already settled (in Europe, specifically the Mediterranean areas) and also the birth of Christianity as a whole, the countries that were already familiar with the Judeo-Christian God were basically the first to get introduced to Jesus as the Messiah.  As far as all the Ishmael-descended areas, like modern day Africa and Asia that were less familiar or not familiar at all with Christianity, they were not and have not typically been as generally open and accepting to “our God” as Isaac’s descendants.

The Ishmaelese Middle East

Ishmaelese Africa

Ishmaelese Asia

I do believe that whether or not a nation (or individual person) is a descendent of Isaac has much to do with their religion, race, and culture.  However, there are obviously exceptions.  One of them is Russia, which had been mainly Christian up until the point of its embrace of Communism.  Another exception is African-Americans, whom most identify with Christianity, as opposed to most Africans living in Africa.

And then there’s the “half breed” nations that make up Central and South America.  For the most part, their blood is mixed of Indigenous Americans (Native American, Aztec, etc.) who migrated from Asia through modern day Alaska, and European lineage from those who “discovered” America.  So in essence, the inhabitants of modern day Central and South America are half Isaackian, half-Ishmaelese; though they have accepted the religious beliefs of Isaac’s descendants (largely Catholic).  Read more about this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_of_the_Americas

Yes, I did just now make up and use the words Isaackian (to describe the descendants of Isaac who are prone to believe in the Judeo-Christian God) and Ishmaelese (to describe the descendants of Ishmael who typically do not).  And now that you hopefully understand what those terms represent, I will begin using them frequently.

What started much of this thought process was when I recently began “Climbing the Family Tree” and realized that so many of my ancestors had last names that are Jewish (Schell, Klaar, Ullman, Wiseman, Vite) yet there is no solid proof that I actually am- only family rumors and tradition.  If I assume that none of the people in my family tree were Jewish, well, still, I have Jewish names in my family tree.  So that got me thinking, Jewish people and “white people” are essentially the same thing, coming from the same common ancestors.  Whereas someone who is Japanese (Ishmaelese) wouldn’t have last names in their family tree that would resemble a Jewish last name.

So going back to one of the questions I asked in the beginning, are Jewish people considered to be white?  Yes.  Though their homeland is Israel and though they are a Middle Eastern people group, they blend in with us Americans so well.  And that’s part of my fascination with pointing out which celebrities are Jewish.  Half the casts of Friends and Seinfeld are Jewish (The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Friends and Seinfeld) as well as The Wonder Years (The Ethnicity of the Cast of The Wonder Years), but the fact that most of us don’t know which ones are or aren’t shows that despite most of us being a mix of European blood, those Middle Eastern descended Jews are still our cousins.

Of course ultimately, it doesn’t matter which of us descended from Isaac or Ishmael or how much blood we have of either (I’m around 12.5% Ishmaelese); it just predicts the tone of our skin and our traditional religion, according to my theory.  By no means do I see the Isaackians as superior to Ishmaelese for the fact that I myself worship the Judeo-Christian God.  But what I do recognize is what God himself proclaimed to Abraham regarding Isaac and Ishmael:

But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac, and I will establish my everlasting covenant for his descendants after him,” (Genesis 17:19).

“As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I will bless him, and make him fruitful and multiply him exceedingly.  He shall become the father of 12 princes, and I will make him a great nation,” (Genesis 17:20).

What’s most important from those verses I just quoted is that God promised to establish his covenant through the line of Isaac.  In other words, the savior of the world would come in the form of a Jew.  Not to mention that the Isaackians coincidently would hold the responsibility of sharing their God with the Ismaelese- that’s why Christian missionaries exist.  That’s why Christianity is now the largest religion of the Ishmaelese country of South Korea, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Korea#Religion

We all have the same great-grandparents at the tops of our family trees.  I try to imagine how different the world would be if Abraham wouldn’t have had a son with Hagar, if he just would have waited another 13 years for his own wife to become pregnant.  But he jumped the gun and changed the course of history (for him, it was the future) forever.  Though if he didn’t, I wouldn’t exist, being that my grandmother is Mexican.  Not only would I have not written this and you wouldn’t have read it, but there wouldn’t have been any of this to write about.

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jewish

The Modern Day Tower of Babel, Perhaps (The Internet and Online Social Networks)

If twenty years ago someone had tried to describe to us what the Internet was and how drastically it would change our lives, we would be as lost someone trying to watch LOST for the first time starting with Season 4. In 1993, Time magazine did a cover story about predictions of future technology involving the way people would share information. Vaguely, they were seeing a glimpse of the World Wide Web. But the way they presented it was more like a form of cable TV that would have at least 500 channels.

Instead, a year later in 1994 my 8th grade science teacher Bill Martin showed our class this weird way he could use the classroom phone line and his computer to talk to other scientists across the country, instantly. That was my introduction to the Internet. Three years later, the Internet became less of a weird thing that I could only observe from a distance, as some of my friends with Internet let me aimlessly wander through thousands of websites at their house. By 2000, I had my own hotmail account and my own daily access to the Internet.

But even ten years ago, the Internet was much more primal. For casual users like me, all I really did was catch up with distant family and friends through e-mail and use MSN’s search to look at websites that had trivia about the ‘80’s. And I didn’t know any better; I thought it was awesome.

Now in 2010, life on the Internet is completely different. More concise. When I need a good picture, I’ve got Google Images. When I need knowledge on any subject, I’ve got Wikipedia. When I need a video clip, I’ve got YouTube. And to keep in daily contact with family, friends, and people I had one class with in college and barely remember, there is facebook. Those four websites ARE the Internet to me.

The building of the Tower of Babel has for some reason always interested me: After Noah and his immediate family survived the world-wide flood, and waited almost a year inside the ark for the water to recede from the land, they were told by God to “fill the Earth” and for the first time ever, to kill and eat animals (the first ten generations of people were vegetarians). In other words, move to a new land and have large families to repopulate the world (Genesis 9).

Instead, within a few hundred years most of these people were still living in the same area they started in. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Then, in an act that reminds me of myself as a 10 year-old boy dragging a rake through a giant ant bed, God decided to “confuse” the language of the people (Genesis 11). From there, it appears to me that the people of each of the same language regrouped and moved to a new land, eventually forming new countries, as God originally wanted to them to do.

Several thousands of years later, mankind has successfully filled the Earth. We now have almost 7,000 different languages, while English is arguably the most universal. But with the capabilities and practicality of the Internet, we have formed an abstract, intangible form of the Tower of Babel. Technically. Sort of. Maybe. It’s at least got me thinking.

Every time I’ve seen any sort of worldwide system of anything in the Bible, it’s always been a bad thing. When mankind finds a way to harness too much knowledge and/or power, God doesn’t like it- as people tend to depend more on each other and themselves. From Adam and Eve’s eyes being opened to the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis, to the end of the world involving the mysterious “mark of the beast” (some sort of universal personal ID providing a way for people to pay for goods and services) in Revelation.

Then again, what better way for the fortunate to bless the less fortunate then by using the communication of the Internet to give and set up help for the needy.

Maybe I’m the stoic eccentric man holding the sign with the phrase “THE END IS NEAR”. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. But I still love technology.

Easy Like Sunday Morning: Christianity in a Nut Shell

Ah, the good ole days of flannel boards and McGee & Me.

Flannel boards will always remain in the warmest parts of my heart and childhood memories.  Nothing brought those Biblical accounts to life more than a cloth cut-out of a generic bearded Jewish man who could play the part of Moses parting the Red Sea, then less than a minute later he could be Abraham ready to sacrifice his son Isaac, or even Noah gathering all the animals on the ark.

And when the teacher was lazy or absent, we got to watch one of thirteen McGee and Me tapes, featuring Nick Martin and his crazy cartoon sidekick.  Lesson learned- you CAN beat the bully in a skateboarding contest, if even he cheats.  Also, if you sneak out to see a scary 3-D movie with your best buddy Lewis, you’re parents are going to find out and ground you.  And of course, it’s never a good idea to try to impress your friends by telling them that your Native American Indian neighbor eats rabbits.  Because he just needs a friend.

But eventually, my faith had to be able to grow beyond the entertaining and miraculous stories I heard each Sunday morning.

I admit.  It’s not easy anymore for another human being to “challenge me” in my thinking, regarding my faith.  I can spit out a hundred cliché Sunday School answers whenever I’m asked anything Christian related.  Because for those of us who “grew up in church”, we do know all the answers.

At least all the answers for the questions we are tiredly asked again and again by Christian leaders in a church setting.  You just can’t go wrong with “God”, “Jesus”, “the Holy Spirit”, “Heaven”, “good”, “bad”, “Satan”, “hell”, “pray and read the Bible”, “invite them to church”, or “tell them about Jesus”.

Typically, I don’t spend money or time on Christian marketed items.  Books that generically tell me I need to stop being “downtrodden by the world” and “stand on God’s promises” to “expand my territory”.  T-shirts that illegally parody business logos and make them “cute” by throwing in the name of Jesus.  A sticker to put on the back window of my car that arrogantly boasts “straight pride”, picks fights with atheists and Pro-Choicers, or announces that God is Republican.

Besides, I think most Christians know by now that God has switched His allegiance from the Republican Party to Ron Paul.

Just kidding.  Sort of.

But thank God, in the past two years, I have been challenged in my thinking, regarding my faith, more so than any other time in my life.

How?  1) I got married.  2) My small group from church read a book called The Hole in the Gospel.  3) I was asked an allegorical question about a bicycle.

Getting married to a faithful Christian has helped me to mature not just because of her confidence when mine is sagging, but also because marriage shows me how selfish I can be with my time and space.  Two years later, I’m much more easy-going about stuff that only mattered in The World of Me.

The Hole in Our Gospel is the book that my Wednesday night small group (Bible Study) decided to read.  Seriously, it is the most life-changing book I’ve ever read.  The Bible is the most influential.  But the Hole in Our Gospel has actually helped me to personally identify what the Bible and my purpose in my life are all about.

For me, my faith had always come down Ephesians 2:8-9 in the Bible: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, not that of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one may boast.

That Bible passage has everything a Baptist likes to hear, regarding one’s spiritual wellbeing: “grace”, “faith”, and “gift of God”.

It doesn’t say anything about helping other people, doing good works, or giving away our time, money, and energy.  Because as long as we splice in “Jesus loves you, died for you, rose from the grave, and will give you eternal life in Heaven if you say this three sentence prayer…”, then we are fulfilling our duty as a good Christian.  Get people to say a prayer and go to church.  Get them to stop cussing, drinking, and smoking- because that improvement shows their “spiritual fruits”.

As a Baptist, I had always been leery of the phrase “works”.  Because it had been engrained in my brain fibers that God’s salvation couldn’t be “earned”.  I understood from the book of James (2:20) that “works” were necessary to prove that my faith to be sincere.

The problem is that I, along with many Protestants just like me, naturally had been led to believe that “good works” means “good behavior”; and “good behavior” is a list of things Christians don’t do- including watching R-rated movies (unless they’re war-based: What Movie Rating Does Real Life Get?) and drinking anything with alcohol (both vanilla extract and Nyquil are approved, fortunately- and though participants should keep it on the down low, drinking wine is permitted for special private events like wedding anniversaries: Water into Wine).

But what really opened up my mind was reading (and eventually memorizing) the verse that directly followed my convenient “faith is all you need” Bible passage.  The next verse, verse 10, says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared behforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Created for good works?  Not good behavior?  It’s a lot more serious if I truly take the words of Christ seriously when in the Gospel of John (13:34), Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

And finally, it hit me: Oh, Jesus actually cares about people starving in poor countries, despite their “wrong religious beliefs” and “stupid civil wars” and “corrupt governments”.

As hard as it was for me to process, God cares just as much that I as a Christian do my part to physically help those people as He wants me to in some direct or indirect way (supporting missionaries) learn about Jesus.

That financially helping these random, dying, desperate people across the world actually equates in God’s eyes as me loving them as He loves me.

With that being said, I no longer believe that a person goes to Heaven just because they said “the sinner’s prayer” when they were at a Vacation Bible School when they were in the 5th grade.  I believe, like Jesus’ half-brother James wrote in his book (2:20) that faith without works is dead.

And works means that I help people who are less fortunate (even if they themselves in deed got themselves in that situation), because that shows them God’s love, and I don’t necessary have to preach to them as I’m doing it.  I just need to start by helping them.

True, no one can earn God’s love or salvation.  Nor does believing in Jesus mean a person doesn’t go to hell.  Jesus himself said in the Gospel of Matthew (7:21): “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.”

So what is the will of God for us?  What does He want us to do besides obey His law, read the Bible, pray, and tell others about Jesus?  (All of which are “Sunday School answers” I referred to earlier.)

For a start, my wife and I knew it meant sponsoring a child named Gueslin in South America.  So now we have this postcard hanging on our fridge with a picture of a sad-looking 5 year-old boy who I wish I could take care of myself.  We send him money every month and pray for him and his family as we think about him.

We know that raising our own child (due in November) in our faith is what God wants.  We know that helping anyone in need is what He wants.  And we know that we can’t always wait for those opportunities to come to us.  I’m working on making it a new obsession: Finding ways to help people.  Because God likes that.

So where does the bicycle come into the picture?  A few months ago someone showed me a Xeroxed copy of a bicycle and asked me: “Which tire is faith and which tire is works?

The back tire is associated with the power while the front is associated with balance and steering.  Both are very important and necessary.  But if a bicycle would only work if one tire was faith and the other was works, which tire should be the front and which should be the back?

I was actually asked this in a group of people.  Half of us believed one way.  The rest, the other way.

My answer: The back tire is works, the front tire is faith.

Because if faith is dead with out works, so is a bike immobile with no one to actually pedal the thing.  The front tire only moves because the back one does.

And basically, if I’m actually understanding what Jesus said, loving God means loving other people the way He loves me.

I can’t rely on reading the Bible and praying to move me anywhere in my faith.  That’s what steers me.  Instead, I actually have to move my feet.

The Similarities Between Science and Religion (SCIence + FaIth = Sci-Fi)

 

 

In a year of history when pretty much anyone who will ever join facebook is now on facebook, those seemingly out-of-touch souls living without it most likely see it a different way:  They don’t want to be found.  The facebook search proves empty.  But not everyone who is lost wants to be found.

And while some people never find what they are looking for, some simply aren’t trying to find anything.


I am not one of those people.  After thinking about it a lot, I’m convinced that even if I wasn’t raised in the Buckle of the Bible Belt, I would still end up where I am today in my spiritual beliefs.  I’m intrigued by this mysterious Middle Eastern religion based on an ancient book that explains the origin of the universe and ancient mankind.  That predicted the life of a man who would wreck the traditional religious laws as he died for his radical and offensive beliefs, then brought hope to his followers by strangely coming back to life after his body was mangled beyond human resemblance.

 

The way I view Christianity is similar to the concept of the show LOST.  It begins with normal people trying to adapt to living in a less than perfect land.  There are struggles for power, unseen dangers, continued plans for rescue and escape, and supernatural occurrences that can not be explained.  Time goes on and they begin to realize their dwelling place has a history which is cursed from whatever it was that happened in the past, mysteriously involving ties back to Egypt.  The more they look, the more they find.  What began as a drama and action show in the first season evolved into a sci-fi show as seasons went on, losing many of its original viewers by the time the ancient Jacob was finally revealed last season.


While many people do enjoy sci-fi, many do not.  It either repels or attracts a person.  Sci-fi is abstract.  It’s imaginary until proven literal.  This train of thought led to the realization:  Christianity is about as sci-fi as it gets.


The following paragraph is how Wikipedia defines science fiction:  “A genre of fiction. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically-established or scientifically-postulated law of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative speculation). Exploring the consequences of such differences is the traditional purpose of science fiction, making it a “literature of ideas”.  Science fiction is largely based on writing entertainingly and rationally about alternate possibilitiesin settings that are contrary to known reality.”

 

Again, as I put it, imaginary until proven literal.  But my spiritual beliefs are not built on fiction, they are based on a book translated from the ancient Latin and Greek scrolls of Moses, Paul, and Co.


 

Christianity is comprised of so many sci-fi elements:  An alternative story of how the universe was formed, countless scientific miracles (Noah gathering all the animals on a giant boat for a year as the rest of the population is destroyed by a world-wide flood, Moses parting the Red Sea, the Seven Plagues of Egypt, Jesus’ birth, life, and resurrection, etc.), a realization that a person’s spiritual condition and relationship with their Creator affects both their current condition and their eternal one, a future life outside this universe.  Very bizarre.


It should be no surprise that “the Force” in Star Wars has been compared so much to elements of Christianity.  Sci-fi and religion are ultimately inseparable.


So why is Christianity so popular, not just in our country, but across the world?  With sci-fi being such a stumbling block for so many people, why are so many people okay with the fact that to an outsider the entire concept of Christianity can seem like a weird fairy tale?


The major element that sets Christianity apart from all other major religions is the fact that God actually loves people and wants a daily, personal, eternal relationship with him.  I’ve studied all major religions and the rest seem to feature a distant god that a person can only hope to be in good standing with by following a list of do’s and don’ts, void of love, mercy, and grace.  I simply need an involved God who loves me and has a plan for my life.


It has been said that religion is for the weak.  Yes, that’s the whole point.  I am weak and can’t save myself.  That’s sort of the whole idea behind serving God.  Humility was a major part of who Jesus was when he lived on Earth.  That’s the example to follow.


But interestingly, it’s not just Christianity that is laced in sci-fi.  All religions are.  Even for those who are truly atheists and believe that when a person dies, that’s simply the end and there’s nothing else, they still have to address the fact that the universe had to come in to existence somehow and miraculously support intelligent life.  To answer that question, it takes faith in a sci-fi concept that no living person was around to see happen.


One of the major religions of the world that tends to slip under the radar is what I call “Good Personism”, which is completely different from Christianity.  Based on the spiritual outline drawn in entertainment media such as Disney’s baseball movie Angels in the Outfield, if a person is good, they become an angelic being when they die and go to Heaven.  If a person is really bad (mass murderers, rapists, people who slaughter seals and whales, etc.), they become a demonic creature and go to an unmentionable hell.

 

The reason this religious concept is so popular is because it’s one of the most non-offensive religions, while appearing to resemble whatever the popular religion of that culture is.  Here’s how.  The creed of followers of this faith is the following:  “I’m a good person.  At least I’m not as bad as (enter the name of a known felon or war tyrant).”  The problem though is that creed itself shows an acknowledgement that morality should be confronted by a worthy judge.


This concept is non-offensive because it is quite vague about what exactly it takes to be bad enough to be cursed and how good a person has to be to be saved.  It groups all gods together so that as long as a person believes in some sort of higher power, at least, then that makes everything okay.  The origins of this faith are based on elements of Christianity, Buddhism, national tradition, and a general, innate understanding that mankind is corrupt.  In this religion, Jesus is simply a “good teacher and a good man”.  (Even though a good teacher and a good man wouldn’t base his teachings on lies, claiming to be the only way to God if he wasn’t.)


What if the physical, tangible life we see around us was all there really was?  And we didn’t have to think about bigger things outside of that?  But then someone we know dies.  And it crosses our minds for at least a few minutes that there has to be something more.  That leads to faith in something.  Even if it involves a person unknowingly converting to Good Personism.


 “From emptiness to everything, everyone believes.”  -John Mayer (“Belief”)

locke

The Opposite of Evolution: Intelligent Design

 

I remember being in high school thinking, how can I honestly believe God created the Earth in 6 days when there were obviously dinosaurs who would have wiped man off the face of the planet? Dinosaurs that are inconveniently not mentioned in the Bible. So I decided to compromise: I convinced myself that they were not 6 literal days, but that a “day” was equal to millions or billions of years. That way, I don’t look like that naïve neighbor kid of The Simpsons whose idea of fun is playing Family Bible Trivia.

Then during my first year of college I had such an eye-opening revelation that I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.  A splendid epiphany of  relief and amazement.  Such a nugget of information that it literally changed the the way I see life as I know it.  That’s what happened to me in 1999. I learned how God actually could create the Earth in just six 24-hour days and how gigantic dinosaurs fit into the equation.

It wasn’t until Noah built the ark that it rained, for the first time ever.  That is a big deal. Genesis 2:5, 6- “…the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.”

From Adam to Noah (10 generations, as listed in Genesis 5) there was no rain. We also know from that chapter that men lived between 365 and 969 years, the average age of all 10 forefathers being 857 years old each. So the point is that before it rained, people lived a LONG time.  Over 10 times the average of what people live today.

So there had to have been many millions of people who were born and lived during just those 10 generations. Obviously there wasn’t birth control so just one man would have probably produced many offspring during his lifetime alone, then his children his children, and so on. That’s a lot of people living a long time…

So Noah was 600 years old when it rained for the first time. That’s thousands of years with no rain. Genesis 7:11- “In the 600th year of Noah’s life…all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.”  So there was plenty of water under the Earth (which watered it) and plenty above the Earth, which created a greenhouse effect. That’s part of the reason they lived so long. It was a completely different living environment. I haven’t even mentioned yet that the all people in the history of the world at that point were all vegetarians.

After the months of flooding were finished, God told Noah some history-changing news: “The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant” (Genesis 9:2, 3). So prior to this, they were only eating plants. Thousands of years and millions of people eating plants.

Not only did the people not eat animals, the animals did not fear the people. Comprehend this: vegetarians living amongst tame animals. Tame cows are easy to imagine. Even tame birds. But what about tame tigers? And bears. What about dinosaurs? Keeping in mind the environment of the world prior to the Flood was a greenhouse. It’s no wonder that ancient cave drawings have been found that show people riding dinosaurs. People capture in art what they value and what is familiar to them.

But how did a brontosaurus fit on the ark? The same way any large animal fit. Get ‘em while they’re young and small, of course. But by the time they got off the ark, and the greenhouse effect was gone, the survivors found a different Earth. The huge dinosaurs did not have enough to survive on.

The Great Flood broke apart Pangea, the land mass which made up all the continents. The zebras from Africa once freely crossed the then-nonexisting border to South Carolina. (Zebra skeletons have been found as far as Salt Lake City, Utah.) But they just couldn’t survive in the new land mass now known as America. The penguins in the tropics died off. The penguins in the Arctic survived. The kangaroos in the Russian tundra couldn’t survive, but the ones in Australia did.

And of course I was wrong about dinosaurs not being mentioned in the Bible. It’s just that the word “dinosaur” was not coined until 1929. Instead, there is a “leviathan” (mentioned a total of 5 times in the Bible: Job 3:8, the entire book of Job 41, Psalms 74:14, Psalms 104:24-26, and Isaiah 27:1). It refers to a giant see monster that is impossible to capture.

Another word for a dinosaur in the Bible is “behemoth”. It is mentioned in Job 40: 15-24 as a beast that was created “with man” (as in the same week, not millions or billions of years before.) The verses describe the creature having a tail of cedar; the behemoth’s massive strength is compared to God’s. I can’t think of any animal living today that has a tail anywhere near the size of a cedar tree.

This has been a briefing of the history of the ancient world. Should anyone worry about “carbon dating”, just keep this in mind: When Adam and Eve were created, they weren’t babies. They were “man” and “woman”. The animals and plants were also fully grown. So why wouldn’t the rest of the universe be fully grown as well? Something to think about the next time while during a tour in a cave there is a stalactite growing over a wooden sign that was posted 40 years ago which explains to you that it took thousands of years for the stalactites all around to grow.

walrus