ISSN 1038-9733 04/2012
No Limbs, no worries! Easter special:
e 2000 it was like som imagines what Friday. Jameson Cosier the day that became Easter years ago, on
with Lee Dunstan
s turned the moment. Flaviu !” the back to ion who was struggling to reat Caesar’s bones his to a centur onto the wood. soldier swore under job.” press a prisoner’s legs this having nails drivbreath. “I hate Despite already prisoner the , naire wrists legion his The en through desas He still kicked clenched his jaw the wasn’t giving up. centurion’s hands ripped through perately and the ran another scream the blood that t taste the grit a air. He could almosthe scream ebbed slipped from er’s body from as across the prison of ground teeth Sword in hand, previous scourging. again. rose then curse, and er soldier’s any battle at the Letting out anoth he would fight walked over and l, but this? He Flavius reluctantly t against the word of his genera Crucifixions on ess. leaned his full weigh He looked found it pointl ng. get his blood man’s legs, scowli up Golgotha Hill didn’tg enemy terricenturion picked away when the er pumping like raidinleft him feeling nail. The prison a hammer and tory did. It merely s swallowed and screamed and Flaviu g the man’s sick. kept his head to his feet, wipin rose The legionnaire . noise around blood off his hands g about crucidown against the masses, the wailThere was nothin him: the jeering Flavius enjoyed. prisoners, and the fying a man that ce ing families and ing as nails were a few steps to distan a-rhythmic pound flesh and wood. He walked the scene and looked h himself from hammered throug plaque as the “King the cross upon around to the t. He kept his mind attach to the winched uprigh d to of the Jews” was s grimaced. I he’d been ordere cross. Strange man. Flaviu him cry out once top of the centre three in it said heard don’t think I’ve . He’s “King of the Jews,” that treason was in anger or pain. That’ll change languages. He knew but why was that. and hours to do death, by hours able got punish y understood that for the world to n Flavius alread nt it stated explicitly Jews” was differe incite the crowd this “King of the for the see? It would only really cared. As ne around Him, he further. Not that and from everyo s of Judah had been ered in the sign religious leader s. long as he hammross sofdidn’t riot, it blood for month Jesus!” This plotting for His , was made sure the crowd Rabbi the cry Jewish a rand of my usual. young for He was om and was business as seat of our two-year-old from s!” back on to teaching minivan. Immand the in additi “Flavius! Flaviu brain brought him name tried | to process wherediately my Hearing his gone the timeS 45 SethSiGnS Pieofrce exp my daughter— wrong as a parent. e I had Whe lains the re child of a mini coul why Christ’s picked up such ster—have d How on earth disrespectful cries of resurrection aggravation? is language caref , with two parents who crucial to you flustered momully and who even in watch their our ents never physical and r take the Lord most ’s name in spiritua
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the sy legionnaioirne’s C mbol convers 44 | SiGnS of the
2 | Signs of the Times
20 Healthy Hearts with CHIP A strategy that is saving the lives of whole communities.
32 No Limbs, No Worries!
eing born without arms and legs B was not going to stop Nick Vujicic.
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* According to the Jewish calendar, Passover begins the evening of the 14th day of the month of Nissan (see Leviticus 23:5–7; Exodus 12:2, 6, 14; 3:3–7).
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nlike Christmas, when Jesus was born, we know exactly when He died: just before sunset on the Passover Friday of the Jewish calendar*, AD33. Because the Jewish calendar is comprised of lunar months, and with Christ’s death being celebrated in the western Christian tradition at the pagan festival of Easter, the timing of which also relates to the moon, the actual and celebrated timing of His death do not always align. Only occasionally do the two coincide, and this year is one. The heart of the Passover is the commemoration of Israel’s liberation from Egypt (the Exodus story). In the Bible, Egypt is representative of the state of sin, so to be freed from Egyptian bondage in the bigger picture means to be freed from the bondage of sin. Which is exactly what Christ did when He died on the cross, in that final Passover act. It is why Christianity adopted the shameful Roman cross as its symbol. The foreign symbols of Easter—rabbits, hot-cross buns, painted, and these days, chocolate eggs—are absurd, even if tasty, and distract from the celebration’s real meaning. The cross is much more than mere branding, however (see “Easter Special” section). And as important as it is, Christ’s death was but the penultimate act in a chain relating to our salvation: the open tomb—Jesus risen!—was the final act. And, now, our freedom assured, all that’s left is for us to claim it in reality, which we do when Jesus comes a second time, and which, according to my Bible’s “calendar” of fulfilled signs, is soon. ½
Published since 1886 Signs of the Times is printed and published 11 times a year by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and is registered as a periodical.
44 The Legionnaire’s Conversion A creative retelling of a familiar story.
49 More Than a Symbol A n awful scene holds an awesome promise.
When the Dragon Breathed Fire hen it comes to solving the world’s W problems, sacrifice is necessary.
5 I Hate Your (Face)book
T he pitfalls of social networking. 8 Stop Pain From Taking Over Your Life 14 Consumed! Geological and archaeological evidence for a world-wide deluge.
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13 Our Times 19 Food Matters
ow to Fix a Fatty Liver H
Living with Children
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43 Medical Hotline 50 Bible Discovery
T he Completed Atonement
S imon Sebag Montefiore: Jerusalem: The Biography, and James Carroll: Jerusalem, Jerusalem
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hey called it “social networking,” and it brought promises of friendships bound together by common interests. The world became smaller and we became better at maintaining long-distance relationships. Unfortunately, social networks have also brought with them a cyber under-culture ranging from nastiness to bullying and even death threats. Last year, four Welsh miners were tragically killed when tunnels they were working in flooded. Within a few days, a Facebook page was created titled, “I’m really sad for those four miners. LOL j/k, they were Welsh.” Similar posts followed. One said, “In a boost to the failing jobs market in South Wales, four new
Social media has exploded in the past few years, but things have not all been rosy. Melody Tan investigates a worrying trend.
Signs of the Times | 5
vacancies have been created in the Swansea area from Monday!” Another declared, “I just wish more miners had died.” Then there was Australian magazine columnist, TV personality and blogger Mia Freedman. What she did was seemingly harmless, stating on national TV that while she was happy for Cadel Evans and his Tour de France win, she was ambivalent about the over-the-top adulation the country lavished on sports stars. It didn’t take long before she received waves of online abuse that “turned into a tsunami”—so much so that she was “physically afraid to go outside.”
guess who? Thanks to the fact that you can be anyone online, Freedman could not even identify who her attackers were. As she said in her opinion column, “The anonymity makes you paranoid and fearful because you don’t know who your abusers are.” Could it be that the same anon ymity that strikes dread in a victim’s heart is the reason for this rise in online hate? Facebook’s marketing director, Randi Zuckerberg, believes so, and she’s on a mission to end online anonymity. As she told the Huffington Post, “People behave a lot better when they have their real names down. . . . I think people hide behind anonymity . . . they feel like they can say whatever they want behind closed doors.” Psychologists refer to it as toxic 6 | Signs of the Times
disinhibition. The ability to separate people’s online actions from their real-world identity makes them feel less vulnerable about opening up. They don’t even have to take responsibility for their behaviour.
speakers’ corner? Resilience specialist Maggie Dent believes we find it easier to express our hate online because we’re no longer good at communicating with people face-to-face. “People email each other [even when they’re working in the same office]. . . . We’re disempowering our capacity to interact with human beings,” she said. Our increased involvement in the digital world is causing us to forget that there are other real people in the real world with real feelings. The tendency to be demeaning and catty isn’t new. Gossiping and backstabbing are familiar to those who grew up before the internet. What’s worrying is that instead of doing it privately with a friend, we’re now doing it en masse in a very public forum. It’s like hanging a banner on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and telling everybody that you hate so-and-so and despise the way they look—and then having a thousand other people you don’t know gather on the bridge with placards declaring similar messages and physical threats. And let’s not forget that your target can clearly read all these messages too. People just don’t do that in real
life. We’re more inclined to say bad things about others behind their backs but shy away if we have any inkling our victim knows who we are and what we were talking about. But it’s a completely different story if hate groups and online forums are any proof.
born this way? Online attacks are seldom random; these bullies know their targets. “There’s this viciousness that’s coming out towards people we have connected with. We might not know them personally but we’re listening to what they say. Even people with a cooking blog have talked about the viciousness of people who disagree with something they’ve said about food, and that’s incredibly disturbing,” Dent says. As Tom Wood, a media and government cyber-safety advocate,
cynically observes, “It’s humanity. We have always abused each other to some extent, and now it’s just moved online, with new implications.” It’s a phenomena that was predicted in the Bible some 2000 years ago. Paul said that just before Jesus returns the second time, people will be “without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash . . . ” (2 Timothy 3:3, 4). The prophecy that hate—online and in the real world—will be on the rise and rise, may well be coming true, but so is the promise that Jesus will take us to His Father’s house with its many rooms (John 14:1–3). There, the ugly side of life will be a thing of the past, gone forever: “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile . . . and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur” (Revelation 21:8). ½
In November 2011, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that a campaign to highlight the abusive misogyny of anonymous posters online had gone viral on Twitter. Female bloggers, columnists and Twitter regulars began reprinting some of the threats they said they received daily from anonymous emailers, posters and trolls. Prominent blogger Jessica Valenti welcomed the #mencallmethings hashtag as a way of fighting back: “I can’t remember the last day where I opened my email and there wasn’t a piece of vicious (often sexual, often violent) hate mail there. . . . The threats have become so bad that my life offline has been seriously impaired by it and I’m just plain scared.” The standard policy of ignoring trolls is now being superseded by proposals that their comments be forwarded to the police, and that their comments be exposed to ridicule and rejection online to raise awareness of the issue. Signs of the Times | 7
Is an old hurt holding you back? Patty Froese Ntihemuka tells us how we can more readily accept a gift of love.
ears ago, I worked as the manager of a cute little camera shop. It was back when people still brought their negatives in to be turned into prints. The shop was nestled in the heart of an affluent part of town. I loved my regular customers and I loved my job. One day, one of my regulars came into the shop. She was agitated and threw her negatives onto the counter. “You figure it out,” she said, tossing a list at me. I looked at what she’d given me but I had no idea what she wanted. “Could you show me what you want?” I asked, trying to be as kind as possible. She was obviously very
upset and I didn’t want to make matters worse. “Just figure it out!” she retorted. “Are you stupid? Just do it! I don’t have time for this. My husband is out of town.” I tried again to make sense of what she’d given me, but I really did require a little more input on her part and told her so. “I said, ‘Just do it!’ ” she shouted. “Do I look like an idiot to you? Who do you think I am? Either you take care of this or I’m going to call your regional manager and tell her how rude you are to your customers.” At this point, I became angry. I’d been nothing but helpful to this woman for months, and to suddenly have her treat me like this
stop pain from
8 | Signs of the Times
taking over your life
Signs of the Times | 9
trusting again This sort of thing is not a rare occurrence. In fact, I dare say that we’ve all done something akin to it 10 | Signs of the Times
at some point. Kindness is an easy gift to accept when we haven’t been hurt, but our pain often becomes a lens through which we see the world. Our sensitivities don’t say as much about other people’s intentions as they do about what’s going on inside of us. Dr Clarence Baptiste, director of the A1 Counselling Centre in Toronto, Canada, puts it this way: “In therapy, we find that people who have been abused or hurt in the past are especially afraid of allowing themselves to love or receive love. They are afraid that they could be hurt again and they want to protect themselves.” This elemental drive to protect ourselves from pain is what affects every other relationship in our lives, from friends and family to the strangers we encounter. Sometimes we see this when people discover that their significant other has been cheating on them, and in future romantic relationships they are very suspicious, afraid of being duped once again. Or we see it when people have been abused in childhood and become very guarded adults, afraid of opening up to anyone, friends or family. We can even see it in simpler scenarios, such as when an employee steals from his boss and the boss becomes more reserved and less trusting of all of the other employees. Regardless of the source, if you don’t address your pain, it will affect
your future. That’s a guarantee. In overcoming pain of the past, Baptiste gives us five simple steps we can take so that the experience doesn’t cloud our future.
Understand that the pain you experienced is not your fault.
We hear this again and again when it applies to abuse, but this step applies to other painful situations as well. For example, we would all agree that the child who has been abused by a parent is not to blame, but what about the boss whose employee is stealing from the company? The boss might easily feel responsible, wondering if he could have done something to nip the situation in the bud. This kind of thinking, while logical in some respects when it comes to putting safety precautions in place, can go too far. The boss feels betrayed and taken advantage of. He feels vulnerable. But regardless of our preparedness for unforeseen circumstances, other people’s behaviour is never our fault. People make choices and if those choices hurt you, you aren’t to blame for the choices another person makes. Accepting that you are not at fault for the pain you are experiencing is the first step in healing.
was infuriating. The look on my face probably didn’t help matters, because she suddenly burst into tears and ran out of the store. I was stunned to say the least and I watched her pace in front of the front window of the store for several minutes. I was so completely dumbfounded by this turn of events that I hadn’t even noticed another customer in the shop who had been watching the entire exchange. She was an older woman and she gave me a sympathetic smile. “Do you understand what happened there?” she asked me. “No,” I said. “I have no idea.” “Her husband is out of town.” She made quotation marks with her fingers in the air, waiting for me to clue in. I just looked at her. “With his secretary,” she clarified. “Ah.” The lights went on for me, and I suddenly felt a wave of sympathy for the poor woman who had just been yelling at me. She’d been utterly convinced that I was insulting her, that I was demeaning her, that I was hurting her, when in reality I had only been trying to help her complete her order. Someone else was hurting her very deeply and because of that betrayal by her husband, it clouded her view of everything in her path.
how to overcome hurt Understand that the abuses you went through are not your fault. Recognise that the pain you feel is real and worthy of attention. Realise that the person who abused you needs help in order to learn that his or her behaviour is not acceptable. Understand that the person isn’t necessarily evil, just in need of help. Acknowledge that you have an opportunity to start a new life and love again. Source: Dr Clarence Baptiste, director of A1 Counselling Centre, Toronto, Canada
Recognise that your pain is real.
It’s easy to downplay our pain, because by pretending that it doesn’t hurt, we try to fool ourselves into not feeling it. That sort of strategy doesn’t work for long and our fear and anger come out in various ways. Signs of the Times | 11
Recognise that the person who hurt you needs help to change his or her behaviour.
This is a big step in addressing your pain, because it puts the responsibility back where it belongs. The person who hurt you might not have meant to hurt you. It might have been as simple as a misunderstanding or as sinister and intentional as planned abuse; but regardless of the severity of the situation, the person who inflicted the pain needs help to understand that what they are doing is causing pain and must stop. That help might be in the form of counselling, or it could be a simple conversation under less extreme circumstances. Every situation is unique, but one thing remains constant: it isn’t acceptable to hurt other people. If that person is unable or unwilling to change, you must remove yourself from that abusive situation. It’s the smart thing to do.
Realise that the person who hurt you isn’t necessarily evil.
They are likely to be just in need 12 | Signs of the Times
of help. Recognising this is a vital step in learning to forgive the person who hurt you. Parents who abuse their children were often also abused in their own childhood. They need help learning better coping mechanisms than were taught to them by their own dysfunctional mothers and fathers. The dishonest employee stealing from his company might have money problems at home or have issues with authority. Pain is like an electrical current that flows from one body into another. Until that current is grounded and dealt with, it will keep going from person to person, inflicting pain as it moves along. Most people who hurt us aren’t evil people, just hurting people who need help dealing with their own personal pain.
Face the pain bravely and forgive those who have hurt you.
This is not so much about forgetting as it is about letting go of the hurt. This will give you an opportunity to start again. This pain doesn’t have to affect your future. You can face it. You can deal with it. You can make positive decisions that will help you to break abusive cycles and you can choose to start again. While pain might be inevitable in life, it doesn’t have to last forever. You can face it, overcome it and learn to love again. ½
▲ Jewish menorah in stone
Whether your pain is a physical wound that everyone can see or an emotional one, it’s real and it deserves to be addressed. The woman whose husband was cheating on her couldn’t pretend that it wasn’t bothering her, because the pain exploded on everyone she came into contact with in one way or another.
Archaeologists have found an engraving of a menorah on a stone that dates to AD66. The menorah—a lampstand that stood in the ancient Hebrew sanctuary—is still a common symbol of Judaism. The biblical lampstand had seven branches (Exodus
25:31–37), and is the emblem on the coat of arms of the modern state of Israel. However, the recently discovered stone engraving has five branches. The stone was found beside an ancient drainage ditch that begins at the pool of Siloam. Researchers speculate that a passerby saw the menorah, scratched its image on a stone and then tossed it aside, where it lay undisturbed until it was found nearly 2000 years later.
Aussies, Kiwis no longer most giving Australia and New Zealand, which shared the title of Most Charitable Country in the World Giving Index of 2010, have been overtaken by the US and Ireland. The index measures three elements—giving money, volunteering time and helping a stranger—in 153 countries. Australia now ranks third while New Zealand is placed fourth. Authors of the index did, however, point out that data was collected prior to both the Queensland floods and Christchurch earthquake. Sources: Sydney Morning Herald; BiblePlaces.com
60 years ago in Signs Is goodness more important than rightness? A L Beitz explores this question in the April 14, 1952 issue of SIGNS. According to Beitz, “Goodness consists not as much in the outward things we do, as it does in the inward person we are. In the sight of God, goodness must always precede rightness.” In this month’s SIGNS, we tell the story of the goodness of God, which ultimately led Him to die for our sins (“When the Dragon Breathed Fire,” page 54). And in “I Hate Your (Face)book” (page 5), Melody Tan discovers how social media shows that we have fallen far from the ideal. Signs of the Times | 13
Thousands of years ago, a world-wide flood engulfed this world. David Down looks at the geological and archaeological evidence of the event.
14 | Signs of the Times
he most devastating catastrophe to ever hit this world was the global deluge recorded in the book of Genesis in the Bible. “[The waters] rose greatly on the earth and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered. The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet [6.5m]. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth and all mankind” (Genesis 7:18–21). Evidence for this global catastrophe can be seen in the geological strata, which are exposed in road and railway cuttings, and in valley walls, such as the Grand Canyon of America. Noah and his family survived because they were in a huge boat— a boat Noah built according to God’s directions and blueprint. The size of the boat, or ark, was staggering: 300 x 50 cubits (about 135 x 22 metres) and large enough to accommodate at least two of every kind of land vertebrate that God had created. It is from Noah’s family that the entire human race has descended. Cuneiform tablets (called the Gilgamesh Epic), which were found in Nineveh in ancient Assyria, contain
an account of a great flood that parallels the biblical record. However, contrary to claims made by unqualified self-promoters, Noah’s ark has never been found.
fossils and the flood Even without the ark, we do not have to look far for evidence that a great flood has happened, although the evidence is interpreted various ways, according to a person’s worldview. Many geologists believe that the layers of rock of the earth gradually accumulated over millions of years. If that is the case, then there should be evidence of significant erosion between the layers. However, even a casual observer can see that these strata do not gradually merge into each other, as they would if gradual accumulation had occurred. In most cases, there are sharp distinctions between the layers, demonstrating that they were deposited suddenly and probably in rapid succession. No sooner had one layer been deposited than another was dumped on top of it, with only minor evidence of erosion in those so-called intervening eons. Moreover, the presence of vast numbers of fossils in these layers provides convincing evidence that life was suddenly obliterated. Fossils do not generally form today, because when animals and fish die, Signs of the Times | 15
they decompose within a few years. On the other hand, fossils that are well-preserved—which is what we see in the geological record—come from animals that were buried suddenly. The waters of the flood eroded and deposited layer upon layer of sand and mud in huge quantities all over the earth, entombing life within days. These layers soon hardened and turned into rock. The Grand Canyon in America is over a kilometre deep, with dozens of strata exposed. If the evolutionary theory were correct, the earliest life forms would all be in the bottom layers and the latest on top, with the evolving forms of life ascending in progressive layers. But while most marine life is at the bottom, as the geological column ascends, there are numerous sections where entire systems of fossils are missing.
Mount Ararat The popular view among those who believe in the biblical Flood is that after it subsided, Noah’s ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. However, it’s likely that today’s Mount Ararat was not formed until after the Flood. It’s a volcanic mountain 5126 metres high and it was not named Mount Ararat until the Armenians became Christians in the third century ad. They assumed that the highest mountain in the region must be the Mount Ararat. On a smaller mountain nearby, 16 | Signs of the Times
called Lesser Mount Ararat, is a ship-shaped object the approximate size of Noah’s ark that has become the focus of sensational claims. However, qualified geologists have identified it as an eroded geological syncline (a fold). In the vicinity, one can find similar geological formations, some larger, some smaller and they can’t all be Noah’s ark! The Bible simply says that “the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4, emphasis added). Ararat was a country known to the Assyrians as Urartu, now called Armenia. This area contains numerous lofty mountain ranges, any one of which could have been the mountain on which the ark came to rest. Whether the ark decomposed over time, whether locals chopped it into firewood or built dwellings from it long ago, or whether it is still there may never be known. The validity of the biblical record does not depend on the discovery of the ark.
archaeology and the biblical account Strong support for the story in the Bible comes from archaeological discoveries. Ashurbanipal, the last great king of the Assyrian empire, built a library in his palace at Nineveh and amassed a huge collection of clay tablets. Some 25,000 tablets or fragments of tablets have been found. Most of the tablets were inscribed in the Akkadian language in the
Turkey Iraq Syria
The mountains of Ararat. Ararat was an area known to the Assyrians as Urartu, now called Armenia. Tablet 11 of the Epic of Gilgamesh records that the gods decided to send a great flood. God Ea told Utnapishtim to build a boat, a parallel to the Flood account of the Bible.
an encounter with history The historical account of Noah’s ark has caught the interest of scholars and adventurers since antiquity. From trying to determine the exact location of the “mountains of Ararat” to actual searches for physical remains of the ship, the ark story has been a cautionary tale, a symbol of hope, a mystery, and even a point of contention over whether or not the ark could have really been built and survived a global flood. The results of a study by a ship research centre provide some interesting results. “The study confirmed that the proportions of the ark were cleverly balanced—a taller ark might have capsized, a longer one might have broken up, and a wider or shorter ark could have given a dangerously rough ride,” writes naval expert and mechanical engineer, Tim Lovett, in Noah’s Ark: Thinking Outside the Box. Archaeological evidence shows that shipbuilding has been taking place since the earliest civilisations, and examples of large wooden vessels are noted throughout history. Proportionally, it even appears that the ark is similar to modern cargo ships. But that still leaves the question, could a ship this large be built of wood before the invention of steel and other modern shipbuilding materials? The creative team behind a new historically-themed attraction is about to answer the question by building a full-scale wooden ark replica in Kentucky. The structure will be the centrepiece of the “Ark Encounter” project to officially open in 2014. Signs of the Times | 17
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cuneiform script that scholars could not read when they were first discovered. The cuneiform script was cracked by Henry Rawlinson in 1835 and in 1872, the English Assyriologist George Smith picked up a tablet in the British Museum and read what seemed like the story of Noah and the Flood. He travelled to Nineveh in search of the missing parts of the story. Within a week of his arrival, he located another cache of tablets. Among them were a further 11 pieces dealing with the flood story. Scholars agree that the story, which came to be known as the Gilgamesh Epic, was the Assyrian version of the Flood account as told in Genesis 6 to 9 and they argue that the Bible story is just an adaptation of the Gilgamesh legend. However, traces of the Creation and Flood stories exist in the legends of many of the earth’s cultures: Chinese, Indian, Maori and Aboriginal, to mention just a few. At the very least, this points to the concept of the human race having one common source and the resultant legends are just different versions of the same event, most of them distorted by time and retelling. Most Christians understand that the Bible gives us an accurate account of Noah, the ark he built and the Flood that he and his family and the animals survived. ½ Adapted, with permission, from Unveiling the Kings of Israel, Master Books, Green Forest, Arkansas, USA.
with Culinary Nutritionist Sue Radd
how to fix a fatty liver A fatty liver can arrive like a stealth bomber—without warning pain or nausea to alert you. It has the potential to progress to a more serious chronic liver disease such as cirrhosis, unless you take significant lifestyle action.
Fatty liver disease is a widespread complaint in Western countries. It affects about one in every 10 people. Its cause is a build-up of fats in the liver, which replace healthy tissue and trigger enlargement of the rest of the liver cells. It is the most common reason for mildly abnormal results on liver-function testing.
There is no medication to cure a fatty liver, but it does respond well to lifestyle changes. The following suggestions will help you to avoid or perhaps even reverse a fatty liver problem:
Along with heavy alcohol use, which is a well-known risk factor for liver disease, obesity and insulin resistance are the major modern drivers of a fatty liver.
consequences Recent research suggests that fatty liver is even more detrimental than visceral adipose tissue—the deep fat that hides in your abdomen and is associated with multiple chronic diseases. Fatty liver increases inflammation in the body, doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and multiplies by four the possibility of metabolic syndrome—a combination of medical issues that increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
◗◗ If you are overweight, trim down toward the healthy weight range. As little as 5 to 10 per cent loss of your current weight can improve a fatty liver. Very low calorie diets taken for 12 weeks have been shown to shrink a fatty liver in obese people by one third! ◗◗ Walk for one hour each day. This can help your body burn fat, defend the liver against oxidative damage and improve your overall liver health, according to a study from the Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute. ◗◗ Eat a plant-based diet that’s rich in fibre and antioxidants. This will make it easier to lose fat and keep it off in the long term. Scientists believe that adopting an olive oil– rich Mediterranean diet can help to prevent the onset of a fatty liver. See page 37 for a “happy liver” meal.
Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and co-author of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See www.sueradd.com for more nutrition information.
Coronary Health Improvement Project
(top right) The author and his daughter, Rebekah, cooking heart-healthy meals at a CHIP program. CHIP founder, Dr Hans Diehl, with a participant at the program’s graduation ceremony.
healthy hearts with
20 | Signs of the Times
HIP, the Coronary Health Improvement Project, is an intensive, 30-day lifestyle modification program that teaches participants to make healthy choices that will reduce their risk of coming down with Western health problems such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The CHIP program was developed by Dr Hans Diehl some 20 years ago. Diehl recorded 16 sessions of health instruction on DVDs and these formed the basis of the current CHIP education program. CHIP programs have been conducted
Seventh-day Adventist churches in New Zealand are changing the health of their local communities through a simple lifestyle program. Paul Rankin reports.
Allen and Juleen Foote. Allen no longer suffers from high cholesterol, high blood sugar or high blood pressure after attending the CHIP program.
successfully in more than 150 cities in North America as well as in India, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. Following are stories of people with serious health problems who have participated in the program. n Stewart was adamant that he’d never give up eating meat. However, in his early fifties he began experiencing crushing angina pains and was told by his doctor that he would need major surgery. He tried CHIP as a last resort before undergoing surgery and his angina disappeared completely. Now he says, “Once I’d experienced the relief from the angina pains, I decided I’d never go back
to my old way of living.” n Jean, in her early seventies, couldn’t even hold a telephone conversation because she suffered from a constant lack of breath. Now, four years later, Jean can walk and talk while on the telephone. n Then there’s Gladys, who lost over 100 kilograms while on CHIP and can now walk without using a walker, giving her a better quality of life. The CHIP program consists of 16 sessions and two workshops totalling 40 hours of education. The series includes the use of high-quality DVD lectures combined with local Signs of the Times | 21
Coronary Health Improvement Project
content. It’s typically run by volunteers and delivered over periods that vary from four to eight weeks. The goal is to facilitate the reversal of disease by lowering blood cholesterol, triglycerides and blood-sugar levels; by reducing excess weight, lowering high blood pressure, enhancing daily exercise and eliminating smoking. n “My health dramatically improved as my cholesterol level was cut in half,” says Roz. “I lost four kilograms and had a great improvement in my blood pressure. A surprising bonus was that my sleep apnea disappeared, giving me the first full night’s sleep I have had in a decade.” n For Ngarongo Te Oti Ormsby, attending the CHIP program changed his attitude toward life. “I graduated with an increased devotion and commitment to managing my health in a new way. “It wasn’t easy, but atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension, cancer and obesity are no respecters of culture, religion or creed. At CHIP I found the most caring and supportive family and I’m blessed. Thanks to CHIP,
I’m not the same man. I am brighter—and much lighter.” n Frank’s doctor told him that his eyesight was deteriorating as a result of his diabetes. He drove almost 900 kilometres to attend a CHIP program in a last-ditch effort to improve his health, and within a month, his cholesterol dropped by 53 per cent and his blood-sugar levels came into normal range. He also lost 10 kilograms. “I now have a new lease on life and I’m optimistic about the future,” he says. “My doctor was so impressed that she wanted my CHIP books!” CHIP programs will continue to be available in New Zealand in 2012, and will be more readily accessible to those in Australia and the South Pacific. Updated resources will be used this year, featuring new research and techniques. They will replace the original materials that were produced in 1997. The resources are now audience-specific, catering to the unique needs of participants in North America, New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands. ½
The Coronary Health Improvement Project, or CHIP, is a world-wide program. Find out more at: CHIP—New Zealand Private Bag 76 900, Manukau City Manukau 2241, New Zealand +64 9 262 5620 Info@chip.org.nz | www.chip.org.nz
22 | Signs of the Times
Je su s h a d w ar ne d t h at deception, war, plagues, pestilences and persecution would all be part of earth’s last days. And every day we witness more and more such evidence that the end is near. Is it possible to survive the end of earth’s history? Find the answers you have been searching for (and ones you never expected to find) in this Bible-based study, which reveals truth about the end-times. To receive your free copy of How to Survive Armageddon, fill out the coupon below and mail it to the appropriate address. In Australia: How to Survive Armageddon Signs of the Times Locked Bag 1115 Wahroonga NSW 2076 In New Zealand: How to Survive Armageddon Signs of the Times PO Box 76281 Manukau City, Manukau 2241
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ome say the answer is hidden among the stars, but so far, no astronomer has been able to train their telescopes on the universe and find an explanation. Some say the answer is here on earth in the ceremonies of some ancient culture or custom, but so far, anthropologists have only a few clues. “Why is a week seven days long?” The question sounds simple enough until you begin to search for the facts. Then you soon learn that the road to discovery comes to an abrupt end. Read along with me and see whether you can solve the mystery. n First, a quick review from high-school science: the earth rotates on its axis once every 24 hours. We call that span of time one day. Next, the moon circles the earth once every 30 days. So we call that span of time a moon-th, or a month. Finally, the earth orbits the sun once every 365 days and we call that span a year. As you can understand, these divisions of time come about quite naturally and have been known and used by the human race since ancient times. But we are still no closer to answering the question, “Why a seven-day week? Why not a week of eight, nine, 10 or even 20 days?” Concerning this question, anthropologists have uncovered some interesting clues. They have found that, indeed, some cultures have tried five-, six-, and eight-day weeks. Some tribes in West Africa tried a week a mere four days long. During Napoleon’s time, the French government experimented with a 10-day week. But, like the others, it was replaced by the standard seven-day week. Today the question of why a week has seven days still remains unanswered by scientists and scholars. n There is an answer, but strange as it may seem, it is found in only one place—the Bible. “By the seventh day God finished the work he had been doing; . . . And God blessed the seventh day and made it
7 why the
Most of us take the seven-day week for granted. Marvin Hunt explains how it came to be seven days and not six, eight or ten.
Signs of the Times | 25
holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Genesis 2:2, 3). So there it is, the origin of the seven-day cycle we now call a week. However, we still haven’t answered the question of why God made this repeating cycle we know as a week. Some think it was His way of repeating over and over again to an oftenforgetful human family that they should remember their roots.
human memorials Perhaps this point can be better understood by looking at some of the extraordinary ways men have tried to leave a memory of themselves to the world. Egypt’s pharaohs erected huge monuments called obelisks, hewn from a single piece of red granite, in order to leave glorious details of their battles and other achievements chiselled deep into the polished stone surface. The Greeks used marble and bronze to produce likenesses of their heroes, athletes and philosophers. Their successors, the Romans, made a practice of preserving wax masks of ancestors and also hired sculptors to make personal statues to be displayed in front of their homes. Even today, shelling out several thousand dollars for an elaborate cemetery headstone is not uncommon. From the time of the Egyptian pharaohs to the present, monuments, statues and markers have had basically the same reason for 26 | Signs of the Times
being—man wants the world to remember him.
God’s memorial Could the seven-day week be God’s method of reminding us to remember our Creator? Imagine that you had had the challenge of making a permanent marker to be set up at the beginning of time in the Garden of Eden that would remind people throughout eternity that they were to forever remember and respect their Creator. You could have had the message chiselled into a huge stone, but it would have been subject to the deteriorating effects of heat in the summer, freezing cold in winter and of course, the eroding effects of rain. Even if it survived the forces of nature, it would still have been subject, as were the pharaohs’ monuments, to human tampering. Hist ory tells us that a conqueror thought nothing of chiselling out a predecessor’s achievements and changing battle accounts to suit himself. So it seems that a stone marker, no matter how large, would not do. After all, we’ve managed to lose something as important as the original copies of the Ten Commandments, which God wrote in stone with His own finger. Besides, what language could you choose that would be understood by all peoples for all time? n Considering all the difficulties, don’t you think God had the best
way when He created the seven-day week? The idea of seven days strung together like beads on the strand of time is so unique that humanity can never claim the idea to be of natural origin linked in some explainable way to the moon, sun or stars. Furthermore, we can see that the sevenday week exists entirely because of the Sabbath day. The Sabbath can be compared to the period at the end of a sentence. It tells you when to stop. It’s the period at the end of the week— after six ordinary days, the Sabbath punctuates the week and says, Stop here. The seven-day week exists only because God appointed the Sabbath day to mark its conclusion. All the other days of the week are so ordinary that the Bible simply numbers
them as first, second, third and so on (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, etc.). The evidence seems abundant that the only source of the seven-day week is the supernatural work of God, the Creator.
why holy time? There’s another important aspect to the Sabbath God set aside at Creation: He blessed the day and made it holy. Several thousand years later, to make sure that human beings clearly understood the purpose and function of the Sabbath, God gave these instructions: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,
do we still keep Jesus’ Sabbath? Think back to last Saturday, the seventh day of our week. Then go back a week, and another, and another, for 2000 years. Would the Sabbath Jesus kept have lined up in seven-day weekly cycles with our seventh day today? Today’s Saturday Sabbath keepers get that question now and then, and the answer is Yes, our Saturdays line up in seven-day cycles with Jesus’ Sabbaths. We know this for at least three reasons: ◗◗ Chronologists tell us that there has been no change in the weekly cycle for more than 2000 years. ◗◗ Jews are very strict about keeping the seventh day, especially Orthodox Jews, and today’s Jews still observe Sabbath on our Saturday. ◗◗ If people who observe the Sabbath on the seventh day in honour of Creation (Genesis 2:1-3) are keeping the wrong day, then people who observe Sunday in honour of Christ’s resurrection are also keeping the wrong day. Signs of the Times | 27
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neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8–11). n Isn’t it puzzling that the only things that last are things we cannot touch, taste, hear, smell or see? The apostle Paul called them the invisible things of this world. The seven-day week and the reason it exists (the Sabbath day) are invisible, unchangeable markers on the unseen stream of time. Their existence will continue on into the era when the earth is made new, and beyond: “ ‘As the new heavens and the new earth that I will make will endure before me,’ declares the Lord, ‘so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 66:22, 23). The seven-day week and the Sabbath will always remain a mystery for some. But those who accept God’s invitation to enter that oasis in time understand that God’s holy Sabbath and the seven-day week began in Eden, continue today, and are a definite part of the future throughout eternity. ½
living with children
with Family Psychologist John Rosemond
toddlers who bite
In the past month, our 36-month-old son has started biting his 22-month-old sister, usually over toy struggles. When he bites, I lose it. My husband says I should put him in his room until he gets home from work no matter what time of day the biting occurs. I worry that this is too much for a child his age.
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S pending an entire day in his very own, very nice room is not too much for a three-year-old. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend it in this instance. Out of curiosity, I went to the internet to find out what other “experts” say about three-year-olds who bite and sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed: there’s a whole lot of psychobabble out
there concerning this topic. Several pundits propose that biting is a form of communication and that a child bites because they do not have the language skills to express frustration and anger. From that point of view, biting another child is a form of “communication.” But I have one simple question: If children that age don’t Signs of the Times | 29
living with children
with Family Psychologist John Rosemond
30 | Signs of the Times
Signs of the Times is a lifestyle magazine with a Christian focus and has been published continuously in Australia and New Zealand for 126 years. Why not subscribe and have it delivered to your mailbox monthly?
is that if the younger child is playing in a certain room, the older child must find somewhere else to play. If he doesn’t want to find somewhere else, then somewhere else should be designated by someone else. If separating them requires a gate or gates, so be it. When your three-year-old asks why he is not being allowed to play with his sister, tell him, “Because you bite.” Face it, he wants to have a relationship with his sister. The enforced separation will only intensify this desire, and believe me, language skills aside, he will figure out that if he wants to play with her, he mustn’t bite. After two weeks, let them into the same room with each other. You may have to do this several times, but I’ve never heard of it failing. ½ Family psychologist John Rosemond is the director of the Center for Affirmative Parenting in Gastonia, North Carolina. For information about his talks and workshops, contact Tracy Owens-Jahn at email@example.com
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have the language skills to express frustration and anger, why do only a very few of them bite? One expert proposes that “biting demonstrates autonomy,” whatever that means, and recommends that adults teach biters the language skills they need to accomplish what they want to accomplish. The problem is that it takes a long time to teach a toddler the appropriate language in question (e.g. “I say there, good sport, would you mind not violating my personal space?”), during which time the biting continues. Furthermore, the toddler knows that he can achieve his objective far more quickly by biting than talking, and instant gratification is the objective. Another expert recommended that since teaching very young children to share “simply does not work,” parents should buy two of everything. Isn’t that brilliant? You don’t get that smart unless you have several college degrees. n Enough of this foolishness! The simplest explanation is usually the best explanation and the simplest explanation in this case is that toddlers who bite have discovered that it’s a quick way to get what they want. Add in that they don’t care that biting hurts the other child and there you have it. My standard solution for any aggressive behaviour on the part of a toddler toward a younger brother or sister is to keep the two children away from each other for at least two weeks. The rule
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, s b no lim
Nick Vujicic may not have arms and legs, but he tells Lee Dunstan why he keeps a pair of shoes in his closet.
fter some years as a motivational speaker, at age 28, Nick Vujicic released his first book, Life Without Limits. Armless and legless from birth, Vujicic has not only made a life for himself well beyond his profound disability, he’s inspired tens of thousands of others to a fuller, Spirit-filled life of their own. Vujicic is an Australian expatriate in the US and describes his vocation as “motivational speaker and evangelist.” He is founder and president of Life Without Limbs, and motivational speaker of Attitude is Altitude. He is testament to the power of the will, a positive emotional and mental state, great parenting and, most of all, the empowering presence of God in his life. These aspects of his life are obvious from the first chapter of Life Without Limits, which is headed “If You Can’t Get a Miracle, Be One,” through to “Make Giving Your Mission,” at its conclusion. His theme throughout is expressed in his life, which is that God is not limited in either what He can do or by what material He has available to use.
“Look in the Bible at the people God used, people who didn’t look qualified or capable of doing anything. God can turn any broken pieces into something beautiful, if you give them to Him. And He doesn’t always make sense: you know, a man with a smile on his face, without arms and legs, doesn’t make sense; but if you have love, joy and peace that is beyond your circumstance, you are living no 32 | Signs of the Times
Allen and Unwin
transforming the broken
Signs of the Times | 33
matter what,” says Vujicic. “People go through different things in life—loss and pain, fear and anxiety—and it’s a case of holding onto or finding the truth of those three things, which is the truth of my value, the truth of my purpose and the truth of my destiny. And because of having God in my life, I can say, ‘I trust Him, even though I don’t understand what’s going on.’ That’s called ‘faith’—believing in something you do not see. “God is a God of miracles. [But] some people don’t believe in miracles. I’ve got a pair of shoes in my closet, just in case He says Yes. That would be a cool miracle, but the joy I have is because I’ve received the greatest miracle of all, and that’s knowing Him and [one day] going to heaven. And there is only one better thing than going to heaven, today, and that’s to bring someone along with you.” A pair of shoes! I tell Vujicic that I’m reminded of the Bible story found in John 9, where Jesus heals a man blind from birth, as Christ says, “so that the works of God might be displayed” (verse 3). In mentioning it now, I’ve unwittingly stumbled onto something. n “That’s exactly the scripture that won my soul to Jesus,” Vujicic responds. “For many years, I asked God why He made me this way. Reading John chapter nine helped me to know, ‘Well, if God’s got a plan for a blind man, then God’s 34 | Signs of the Times
got a plan for me.’ [The day I read it], at the age of 15, I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ. I said to Him, ‘Just because the blind man didn’t know what You had in mind doesn’t mean that You didn’t.’ This was a revelation. I said, ‘Okay, God, I know I need forgiveness of my sins and I need Your Spirit in me; I can’t do this on my own, but if I survive, You know why I’m here.’ “I knew that the purpose of my life was to delight in God; I learned that in my childhood growing up in a Christian home, but, finally, I felt like my answers were all in that one scripture. And it’s [relevant] for any circumstance. What the [devil] tries to use for bad God can turn to good: ‘All things come together for the good for those who love Him, who are called according unto His purposes,’ says Romans 8:28. That’s the faith that we can have in God, no matter what we’re going through. That was the beginning of my relationship with God.” And that is the story Vujicic shares with people of all stations around the globe. Whereas he once talked mainly to school children and church youth groups, his audience now extends to governments and corporations.
about faith How is his message, laced with his faith as it inevitably is, go down with often non-believing, high-flying business people?
“This is the cool thing—in a corporate setting you go and ‘motivate.’ However, people know me as a person who preaches and goes to church— as someone who reaches out to people who don’t. So I use the acronym of F-A-I-T-H—‘Full Assurance in the Heart.’ “I talk about how my faith in God has given me the ability to be who I am. In the corporate field, I’m able to reach out in ways most people can’t. I share in a way that is respectful and acceptable, and then people will ask questions, like, ‘Why did you give your life to God?’ “Even in places like China or the Middle East, where I can only speak motivationally, when I mention my faith in God, the questions come. I turn it into a 20-minute sermon between questions.” And getting a “speaking engagement” in China or the Middle East isn’t as hard as it sounds, apparently. The internet offers a whole new way of reaching people with Christianity. “People take stuff from my DVDs and put it on YouTube—about 60 million views of different videos. By the grace of God, I’ve been to some 39 countries, met six presidents and spoken in five national congresses. God has opened a lot of different doors.”
trying again Vujicic says his achievements are at least partially the result of being driven to achieve to spite his disability. “I wouldn’t be who I am, with that sort of resilience, if I didn’t come across so much resistance at times. My parents gave me that resilience
SIGNS OF THE TIMES first featured Nick Vujicic in its March 2005 issue. Vujicic, then a 22-year-old living in suburban Brisbane, Queensland, had just finished producing a video about his story, titled Life Without Limbs. It talks about Vujicic’s experience in school, where he suffered bullying, teasing and had his self-esteem all but destroyed. By the age of 10, Vujicic was angry and couldn’t see any point in living. “I couldn’t see a future or hope for one until a few years on when I read the words of Jeremiah,” Vujicic said. He quotes them: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11). Vujicic went on to graduate from university with a double degree in accounting and financial planning. Signs of the Times | 35
36 | Signs of the Times
Food Matters food matters
seeking but don’t find anything. But they never give God a chance, perhaps because they blame God and don’t understand His love. (I was there once, you know.) Some people don’t go to God because in their subconscious [they say], ‘He is holy and I’m not; I’ll never be perfect.’ I tell them Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world but to save it.”
with Culinary Nutritionist Sue Radd waist-friendly recipe
Fresh Beetroot, Carrot and Mint Salad Preparation Time: 20 MINUTES cooking Time: 0 MINUTES Serves 6
Ingredients: ■■500 g raw beetroots
(about 1 bunch) ■■2 carrots ■■1 small onion, very
a list of thanks Vujicic’s responses to most of my questions have a spiritual element, which is his way of responding to the worst that life can throw at him. But Vujicic says he’s also been the recipient of very practical religion over the years, especially in his childhood and youth, and from those who supported him in his first steps towards a career as a speaker. “I want to thank the Australian churches, in particular those who believed in my ministry early on— those who believed in a nine- or tenyear-old who got called by God to start speaking and gave me opportunities—people, especially my parents, who believed in me. “All my childhood, my family, my cousins, and friends and mentors who made sure I was doing okay. It’s a cool thing that when you don’t have a friend, be a friend. And when you can’t get a miracle, become a miracle. To live for Him—it’s the greatest thing to have in your life.” ½ Life Without Limits, by Nick Vujicic, is published by Allen & Unwin (2011).
finely chopped ■■½ bunch fresh
mint, chopped ■■1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar ■■1 tbsp apple cider vinegar ■■2 tsp honey wholegrain
mustard ■■2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
in saying, ‘You know, Nick, you don’t know what you can achieve until you try it!’ And, ‘When you fail, try again, God’s got a plan for your life.’ “As a teenager, I really wanted to be independent, so I worked out how I could brush my teeth and comb my hair—all those sorts of things—and became independent. So that resilience built over time and gave me confidence as I set goals, and accomplished them.” n But despite a strong will and faith in God, Vujicic admits to blackdog days like everyone else. “I’m no superhero,” he admits. “I go through ups and downs and times when I have fears or worry about tomorrow. [But] this is the point of always coming back to what you know is truth—that the only thing we can hold onto with certainty is God. We need to remind ourselves of His promises when everything is crashing. He is faithful no matter what. “But faith is much more than a coping mechanism as suggested by some. A positive attitude on its own isn’t going to change anything. You can’t forget your hurt, you can’t forget about your past, so you just take one step at a time and see what you can do. That’s when the Holy Spirit touches you and changes you forever. The beauty is in knowing that it is only God who can carry you through. “At the same time, many people go through times where they’re
1. Peel the beetroots and carrots and then finely grate them, using a food processor or hand held grater. 2. Place grated vegetables in a mixing bowl, together with the onion and mint. 3. Place the vinegar, mustard and olive oil in a jar with a screwtop lid and shake vigorously until well blended. 4. Pour over the salad and mix in well using clean hands so the flavours blend through properly. Serve as a side dish. TIP: To avoid purple hands, wear disposable kitchen gloves. You can also use leftovers in sandwiches— kids will love the bright purple colour and slightly sweet flavour. PER SERVE: 439 kJ (105 cal). Protein 2 g. Total fat 6 g. Saturated fat 1 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Carbohydrate 10 g. Fibre 4 g. Calcium 32 mg. Iron 1 mg.
Nutritionist Sue Radd is the award-winning author of The Breakfast Book and co-author of Eat To Live, internationally acclaimed for showing how savvy eating can combat cancer and heart disease and improve wellbeing. See www.sueradd.com for more nutrition information.
not covet . . . Self-confessed shopaholic, Debbie Cosier, gets a wake-up call from the Bible about her habits.
28 days: an experiment in living by God’s commands 38 | Signs of the Times
have been known to occasionally engage in a little marketplace medication: a high potency vitamin SH (shopping) pill to relieve the symptoms of stress, mild anxiety and nervous tension. After one Boxing Day sale, I stuffed everything I’d purchased into my biggest shopping bag to make it look like I’d bought only one fluffy, king-sized doona instead of a king’s ransom in sundry consumables. I also humbly propose that I could possess the required personal and professional qualifications for CEO of Shoppers-R-Us. I prefer to think of myself as “goods-obtainer” or “procurer for the home,” rendering valuable assistance in restoring consumer confidence and aiding the recovery of local and global economies. But I’m not always extravagant. I can restrict myself to one new item from a dollar shop. And there have been times when I’ve not strayed into a department store at all. Something I’ve found helpful is to spend someone else’s money, like buying things for work or helping a family member choose a gift. But it’s come to my attention that this is actually a problem, and one I need to consider if for no better reason than the mere wellbeing of my credit card. I came to this conclusion from something I came across in the Bible. The Bible talks about shopping? Well, kind of: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour” (Exodus 20:17, emphasis added). Certainly I don’t approve of a man owning his wife and employees, and I’m also anti-stealing and am definitely not the envying kind. But there’s also a definite warning in there against the menace of merchandise, like the urge to acquire (coveting) something from the mall. It’s just out there, in a shop, waiting for me to covet it so badly that I have to have it. So I decided to challenge myself for 28 days “to stay off the shop.” As an avid acquirer, my goal was to work out why this commandment might be significant to me, a modern day coveter-consumer. As with a Guinness Book of Records attempt, compliance to this challenge included a set of rules:
Signs of the Times | 39
buying any consumer item that isn’t strictly necessary (basic food items, medicine, hygiene and safety products are OK); ◗ No stocking up ahead of the challenge month. And here it is . . .
I’m really nervous. I love shopping. . . . Breathe in. . . . Out. Take one day at a time.
What about all the D AY things I need for my trip to China next month? I need a new suitcase, because mine has a handle that could tear out of its casing if it hooks on something or I fill it up with purchases. I guess I could use one of those ugly big straps to anchor it together. Not the most sophisticated look, but that’s OK.
Already losing motivation for this challenge. Saw the most perfect walking sandals yesterday that would be great for China. On sale, too. I’ll need them. In my old life, a need was a bit spongy, elastic even, but the rules did say “strictly necessary.” Oh, wow! It’s hard to avoid display windows, even when you’re grocery shopping! Next week I’m going to a stand-alone supermarket, not a mall, and I’ll park right outside. D AY
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Twenty-two more days! Can I bear this? I cheated and ate out D AY this morning—breakfast with my family. I’d like to say that all I could taste was cold regret, but it was delicious! I haven’t told anyone about the challenge. I think I need to inform my family, at least.
Told the family. One member sympathetically suggested I grow veggies instead of buying. It seems like a lovely, sentimental notion, except I hate gardening! Does that make me a bad person? D AY
I’ve been invited to a friend’s fortieth birthday party and I don’t know what to do. It’s at a restaurant and the idea is to pay for food and put in a few dollars for a gift. Is this necessary? I could invent an excuse and just not go; I could ask a relative to pay; I could take a packed dinner and homemade present; or I could just tell my friend that I’m doing this challenge and so can’t go.
and feeling generous; because she loves and wants to show it. Because she is woman! Pretty much the only emotion that doesn’t propel her toward a shopping mall is anger— then she needs a slow morning/afternoon tea with friends.
A woman shops with her heart; she shops because she’s depressed and needs a pick-meup; because she’s happy and wants to celebrate; because she’s whimsical D AY
My last day. I’ve failed as much as I succeeded in this 28-day challenge. But success is in paring down, simplifying, working out what really is important in life— people and spiritual connection, not things. I want the simplicity. n And let me tell you about my trip to China, which happened shortly after I finished my challenge. Without knowing it, I was about to enter shopping paradise. Our guide, LV, whom I jokingly called Louis Vuitton, was determined to take us shopping for imitation goods. He claimed, “You can put it on in bar anda len [and then] you will have more friend.” I wanted to tell him, as a married woman of 20 years, I don’t go to bars to find new “friends,” but soon found myself racing through a muddle of alleyways, locked doors and back rooms with CCTV cameras, before arriving in a series of large, air-conditioned rooms. There were “bag” rooms, “watch” rooms and “shoe” rooms, all overflowing. A teenager shadowed me: “Which one you like?” Despite the cool air, this was hot-house shopping! But surprisingly, the sight of everything didn’t send me into a D AY
I went to my friend’s birthday party because I wanted to demonstrate that I love her and to encourage her—to show that turning 40 is delightful and can be quite trendy (at least at our age). But necessary? Usually I would buy something to wear for such a special occasion, as well as a gift. But that wasn’t what was so important to me, so I didn’t. I have enough stuff; I just want her to know that I care. D AY
My hair needs a good cut and colour. I only have a few days to go, so I’m booking in for next week. Is that cheating? D AY
I’ve had a horrible week and wanted to go out for a quiet breakfast after I dropped the boys at school. With breakfast being in the vicinity of the mall, I would usually follow up with a wander around the shops. If addiction to spending is only psychological, why do I feel so hypertensive? Went for a run with the dogs instead. Felt great! D AY
Finding that my days are simpler without the shops. I am more resourceful, less stressed. I feel joy that I’m adding by not subtracting. D AY
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Belongings as such are not evil. Covetousness is the problem. The tenth commandment echoes values well identified in commandments seven and eight: “You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not steal.” But it goes far deeper. Shakespeare powerfully applies this in Macbeth. The compelling story illustrates the fact that an appalling crime originates in the mind. But the message of Macbeth is much more than “You shall not murder.” Covetousness is the desire to have something that rightly belongs to others. Covetousness centres on the love of self rather than love for others. Ultimately, it displaces the centrality of God. No wonder the Bible identifies it with idolatry (Ephesians 5:3–5; Colossians 3:5). Whenever we sow a thought we can expect to reap an act. How applicable, then, are the words of Jesus: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Then He points out the reason in verse 21: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” —Arthur Patrick
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with Dr James Wright www.docwright.com.au
exercising with arthritis
shopping frenzy as I’d expected. The previous month’s process of considered (and reconsidered) shopping had obviously changed me, conspiring to alter my perception about what really is important. This was helped by witnessing Beijing’s “floating” people, those who live on the city’s streets. Most have no work or earn but a pittance in wages, and thus are unable to afford even a room. And here were these rooms filled to overflowing with high-priced products, which represented mountains of profit. Everything became clear, like a telescope focusing on a distant object. It was clear I was coveting my neighbours’ possessions, as prohibited in Exodus 20:17. Perhaps I wasn’t coveting their actual material possessions. But the prevalence of sweatshop labour that happens around the world to produce the items that I covet in the mall and must buy, indicates to me that I have been coveting these people’s right to dignified living. Almost everything I’d bought at home was made in countries known to practice slave or sweatshop labour. I hadn’t simply been coveting the leather, the stitching, the embroidery, I’d been coveting the undervalued labour that my “neighbour” and his family were producing. In the course of this experiment, I discovered many good reasons not to covet the shiny things in the store-front windows of my local mall and Beijing back rooms. And while I’ve yet to reach my destination in this, if there ever is one, this purchaser has, at least, made some progress. ½
It is OK to engage in a gentle form of cycling even if you have osteoarthritis in both knees. If you suffer from arthritis, make sure the exercise on the inflamed joints is gentle, without weight bearing. Many who do so regularly say it reduces their arthritis pain. Glucosamine and paracetamol are also standard effective remedies.
Infancy is a difficult world for children when social standards are being learned. Teaching your child to use the toilet may be challenging, especially if they have an older sibling of a different gender whom they like to mimic. When it comes to a son, point the way; “educate” him and he will soon get your drift. For example, have him throw a coloured ping-pong ball into the toilet bowl and aim at it. It’s fun and will encourage him to do the right thing.
after the surgery We each have a unique genetic code, resistance factors, healing qualities, general stamina and mental attitude. So even if two similar people undergo an identical surgery, there will very likely be very differing outcomes. But an optimistic attitude is always more likely to produce a better outcome than a negative one. So whether you’re facing a surgical procedure or long-term treatment, be positive!
Family Medical Care This five-volume, fully illustrated set by Dr James Wright includes topics on partners, treatment of diseases, medical emergencies, as well as hundreds of lifestyle hints.
New Zealand address: Dr Wright’s books PO Box 97019 Manukau City Manukau 2240
To purchase these or any of the Family Lifestyles Series of books by Dr Wright, contact:
In Australia phone:
1800 643 346
website: www.hhes.com.au Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Signs of the Times | 43
Jameson Cosier imagines what it was like some 2000 years ago, on the day that became Easter Friday.
legionnaire’s conversion 44 | Signs of the Times
reat Caesar’s bones!” the soldier swore under his breath. “I hate this job.” The legionnaire clenched his jaw as another scream ripped through the air. He could almost taste the grit of ground teeth as the scream ebbed and then rose again. Sword in hand, he would fight any battle at the word of his general, but this? He found it pointless. Crucifixions on Golgotha Hill didn’t get his blood pumping like raiding enemy territory did. It merely left him feeling sick. The legionnaire kept his head down against the noise around him: the jeering masses, the wailing families and prisoners, and the arrhythmic pounding as nails were hammered through flesh and wood. He kept his mind upon the plaque he’d been ordered to attach to the top of the centre cross. “King of the Jews,” it said in three languages. He knew that treason was punishable by death, but why was it stated explicitly for the world to see? It would only incite the crowd further. Not that he really cared. As long as he hammered in the sign and made sure the crowds didn’t riot, it was business as usual. “Flavius! Flavius!” Hearing his name brought him
back to the moment. Flavius turned to a centurion who was struggling to press a prisoner’s legs onto the wood. Despite already having nails driven through his wrists, the prisoner wasn’t giving up. He still kicked desperately and the centurion’s hands slipped from the blood that ran across the prisoner’s body from a previous scourging. Letting out another soldier’s curse, Flavius reluctantly walked over and leaned his full weight against the man’s legs, scowling. He looked away when the centurion picked up a hammer and nail. The prisoner screamed and Flavius swallowed and rose to his feet, wiping the man’s blood off his hands. There was nothing about crucifying a man that Flavius enjoyed. He walked a few steps to distance himself from the scene and looked around to the cross as the “King of the Jews” was winched upright. Strange man. Flavius grimaced. I don’t think I’ve heard him cry out once in anger or pain. That’ll change. He’s got hours and hours to do that. n Flavius already understood that this “King of the Jews” was different from everyone around Him, for the religious leaders of Judah had been plotting for His blood for months. He was young for a Jewish Rabbi, and in addition to teaching and Signs of the Times | 45
Caesar—something they hated. In whose eyes is that treason? he wondered. It didn’t add up. There was nothing he knew about this Man that had earned Him a criminal’s death. It didn’t seem justified at all and it appeared that even the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, believed Him to be innocent. Rumour had it that he’d tried his hardest to stop the crucifixion from taking place, but the Jews had forced him into it. In the end, he’d given
what Christ’s death means for you The death of Jesus may be a sad and undeserved one, but the promise that stems from His sacrifice is one for which everybody can rejoice. Jesus said, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). When our first parents, Adam and Eve, deliberately disobeyed God’s commands, they and their descendants were forever separated from God. Their sinful nature would cause them to be destroyed in the very presence of God. The only way in which human beings could be reconciled with God was for One without sin to sacrifice Himself on behalf of the human race. Jesus was such a sacrifice. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22). As a sinless Being, death and the grave held no power over Him. So Jesus rose again on the third day. His death on our behalf and His subsequent resurrection mean that we, too, can live forever. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). It’s not something we can easily comprehend or accept, but when we believe it, for us it becomes true.
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preaching, people claimed that He’d performed miracles too—even as outlandish as raising the dead! Of course, Flavius didn’t believe it. He’d seen enough dead people to know that once a person was dead, he stayed that way. A lifetime in the legion teaches you that. But this Man had preached about peace and helping others. He’d claimed to be the fulfilment of Scripture—the Son of God. He’d even told the Jewish people they should pay taxes to
them the choice, washing his hands of the Man’s blood, publicly handing over the responsibility to them. This was obviously some strange Jewish matter, not something any civilised Roman could understand. Flavius glanced back up at the King of the Jews. The Man gasped as He pulled Himself up to take a deep breath. Yes, this crucifixion would run many hours yet. n The Judeo-Roman cross was designed to prolong life in the most horrible way possible, stretching lungs and chest muscles as the weight of the body dragged downward. This meant that the criminal couldn’t breathe properly unless he pulled himself up on the nails, a painful position and impossible to hold. Nail wounds continued to bleed slowly in most cases, but worst of all was the countless number of small bones that were broken in the hands and feet. These held the body vertical and furthered the agony. Flavius watched as the King of the Jews, this Jesus, reached the point where He could breathe and carefully lowered Himself down before His strength broke, only to start over. Pulling Himself up once more, Jesus leaned back against the beam and looked over the crowd. The more He saw, the sadder He looked. Flavius couldn’t understand why. Most of the crowd consisted of those who wanted nothing more than to mock a person enduring agony. Yet He seemed sorry for
them. You could see it in His eyes. Jesus started to speak and Flavius turned his head a fraction to listen. “Father . . . forgive them . . . ” He seemed to breathe, and Flavius watched as a cough racked the Man’s body, causing Him to lose His strength and fall back to wrench on the nails. But He struggled upward to continue His prayer. Flavius shuddered at the Man’s seeming superhuman strength in the face of incredible pain. “. . . for they do not know what they are doing.” This King of the Jews actually felt sorry for the people who were scorning Him! How bizarre that He was asking God to forgive them for their ignorance, almost as if they were childlike in their lack of comprehension. It seemed as though Jesus had spoken directly to His Father—some said that His Father was the Jewish God—and He knew that His Father would hear what He said. n Even though Flavius never held value in anything from a prisoner’s lips, what Jesus said startled him. This Man was totally convinced of His beliefs. “You see what a man truly believes in the face of great pain,” his father had told him once. But Flavius’s reaction obviously wasn’t shared by most of the onlookers, some of whom had clearly taken offence. The disturbance grew as more people expressed their outrage. “We know exactly what we’re doing! We’re crucifying you for calling yourself the Son of God. If You Signs of the Times | 47
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see a man’s worth at the moment of his death, Flavius thought. The second traitor leaned forward to look past Jesus to the taunting one. “Don’t you fear God?” he called, raising his voice so that he could be heard. “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then, taking another breath and looking at Jesus, he pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The words resonated with Flavius. He wasn’t sure why, but there had to be a reason for an innocent Man to calmly take this punishment. This Man isn’t like anyone else; maybe He really is the Son of God. n Flavius was shocked when, caught by this thought, he realised that Jesus was looking directly at him. Their gaze held for a long second, as if Jesus knew exactly what was going through his mind. Then the King of the Jews turned His focus to the traitor on the right, the one who’d seemingly chosen eternal life that day, and said, “Truly, I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.” Flavius looked at the traitor. In spite of his pain, he seemed to relax and the same look of peace shone from his face that Flavius had noticed on Jesus’ face. Flavius turned back to Jesus and wondered, Who is this King of the Jews, that He can change a man that fast? Can He do that for me? ½
more than a
really were God’s Son, You’d be able to take Yourself right off that cross. Do that and we’ll believe You!” Flavius was disgusted. Any halfdecent Roman would have accepted the prayer of a dying man, even if it was just to show him respect. Flavius sensed the gathering anger in the crowd. He watched as people, including some of the clergy, hurled abuse louder and more vigorously. This crowd would need watching. Alert, Flavius moved toward the back, closer to where his soldiers were throwing dice for the dying prisoners’ clothing. This was a ritual for them, going off to the side, once their duties were finished, to divide the spoils. He wasn’t going to participate though. It didn’t feel right, and someone needed to watch this crowd. He glanced at the soldiers as they gambled for the last piece of clothing—Jesus’ sodden tunic. He didn’t know why he cared or even noticed this Jesus. He guessed it wasn’t that he really cared for Him—just that he felt such sympathy for the Man. n Flavius looked back over his shoulder at the three crosses. Jesus was probably innocent, but the other two men certainly weren’t. They were insurrectionists with Barabbas, who was freed by Pilate a few days back. Flavius growled, frustration masking his confused emotions. Just then the traitor on the left of Jesus joined in with the crowd and started to mock Him. Bah! You truly
ross of Jesus!” This was the random cry of my two-year-old from the back seat of our minivan. Immediately my brain tried to process where I had gone wrong as a parent. Where could my daughter—the child of a minister—have picked up such disrespectful cries of aggravation? How on earth, with two parents who watch their language carefully and who even in our most flustered moments never take the Lord’s name in
Seth Pierce explains why Christ’s resurrection is crucial to your physical and spiritual wellbeing. Signs of the Times | 49
vain, could she have come up with such a phrase? I sputtered out, “What did you say?” It was the only thing I could think of. I hoped that maybe it was my hearing and not my example that had taken a turn for the worse. But the answer came back more fervently this time. “Cross of Jesus!” Thankfully, before I had the chance to sharply correct my offspring on her word choice, she pointed and said, “Over there!” Both my wife and I looked out the passenger window (I, only briefly, so as not to imperil the other drivers on the road). We saw a large white church and, sure enough, a large “cross of Jesus” atop the steeple.
“Oh . . .” we sighed in unison. We then praised our daughter for her astute observational skills, which she had obviously inherited from her superior parents! Over the next several months we heard countless “cross of Jesus” cries from the backseat, each time pointing out a visible cross on a church building. Then it moved to further cries when she saw people wearing cross necklaces, crosses on bumper stickers, posters, T-shirts, books and other random sources.
the cross The cross of Jesus has become the universal symbol for the Christian faith. There are songs about it. The hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross,”
talks about clinging to the cross, loving it and being attracted to it. The New Testament also speaks a lot about the cross. All four Gospels describe the death of Jesus on the Roman torture instrument and how He carried it to the place of His execution. John says, “Carrying his own cross, [Jesus] went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)” (John 19:17). We also know, of course, that a man named Simon of Cyrene carried it part of the way (Matthew 27:32). Around this time of year (Easter), Christians centre their attention on the “Passion Week,” which focuses on the experiences of Jesus the week that led up to His death. Mel Gibson’s movie, Passion of the Christ,
even helps us to understand Jesus’ suffering in graphic imagery. But while the cross is certainly an important symbol for Christians, is it the only central element among the events that occurred that week?
sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
for all, and therefore all died” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
the resurrection One of the earliest Christian documents is a letter written by the apostle Paul called 1 Corinthians. In a key text describing the life and thoughts of early believers, he writes, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (15:14). While there is no denying the importance of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, without the resurrection, nothing else that Jesus did actually matters.
Bible discovery with Errol Webster
the completed atonement At times people have said to me: “I’m not sure if I’ll be going to heaven. I don’t think I’m good enough!” This has been said with great concern by committed Christians who are regular church goers. The word gospel means “good news.” What is the good news of salvation? Is it good news if we’re not good enough? How can sinners stand before a holy God and be accepted? How does the story of Jesus answer these questions? 1. What kind of life did Jesus live? 1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
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2. What does the Bible say about our lives? Romans 3:10–12 “There is no-one righteous. . . . There is no-one who does good, not even one.” 3. Can we be declared righteous by our own obedience? Romans 3:20 “ Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.“ 4. What did Paul say is the heart of the gospel? 1 Corinthians 15:1–4 “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you . . . [which is] of first importance: that Christ died for our
Jesus predicted that He would “be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Matthew 16:21). 5. How did God present Jesus? Romans 3:25 “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.“ 6. For whose sins was Christ’s death an atoning sacrifice? 1 John 2:2 “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Paul says of Jesus’ death that “one died
7. What was counted against Jesus and not us, and with what results? 2 Corinthians 5:19–21 “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. . . . God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus was treated as we deserve so that we could be treated as He deserves. He, who was sinless, took our sin and He credits us, who are unrighteousness, with His righteousness. In this way, when we accept Jesus by faith, we can stand before Signs of the Times | 51
Before His death, Jesus repeatedly alluded not only to His death, but also to His return to life. “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ . . . But the temple he had spoken of was his body” (John 2:19–21). Yet in spite of His numerous predictions of both His death and resurrection, Jesus still had to remind His disciples that He would rise again (Matthew 16:21; Mark 9:31; Luke 9:22). When Jesus found them the evening after His resurrection, they were mourning His death, believing that it meant the end! For them, His death on the cross was the moment they lost what had been their faith. As some of His
disciples walked to Emmaus the afternoon of the resurrection, Jesus came alongside them, initially disguising Himself, and began asking them about the events of that weekend. They told Him about the crucifixion and how it had crushed their hope that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus said, “ ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself ” (Luke 24:25–27). After Jesus finished His explan ation, He revealed His identity to
Bible discovery with Errol Webster (continued) God and be treated just as if we’d never sinned. This “good news” is the greatest motivation for us to live a life pleasing to God (verses 14, 15). 8. What would happen to our faith had Jesus not risen from the grave, and what assurance do we have because He did? 1 Corinthians 15:17–22 “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. . . . But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. . . . Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.“ 9. What do we receive when we by faith accept Jesus as our Saviour? John 3:16 “God so loved the world
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that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” One of my favourite writers, Ellen White, said: “Christ’s sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled. The work for which He had come to this world had been accomplished. . . . When He offered Himself on the cross, a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people.” If we have accepted Jesus by faith today, then we’re ready for heaven today. And as we keep on trusting Jesus, He will take us to heaven when He comes again (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).
the two disciples. They then hurried back to the others and told them they had met with Jesus and actually talked to Him (Luke 24:34, 35). A Christian’s faith is rooted in a living Saviour—not a dead one.
the life I have a lot of history books in my library. These books contain extremely detailed accounts of pirates, presidents, pilgrims and pioneers. I can access facts about the foods they ate, the clothes they wore and how dysfunctional their families were. I can also read their writings, from personal notes to their published public works. Many times they influence the way I think or help me understand why the world is the way it is. Yet for all the content inside my history books, none of those people can save me. They are all dead and have no awareness of my life. They can’t defend me when I mess up and they won’t be able to give me a new life when this present one ends. But in this same letter to the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man” (1 Corinthians 15:21). Not only did Jesus die on our behalf to make amends for humanity’s sin, but Scripture also records Jesus ascended to heaven in order to be our Advocate: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we
have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Also, Jesus is “able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25). Even the controversial (and highly successful) novelist Dan Brown said, “Suggesting a married Jesus is one thing, but questioning the Resurrection undermines the very heart of Christian belief.” So even those with a reputation for portraying aberrant views of Christ acknowledge that the essence of Christianity is compromised without the pivotal story of the resurrection. Jesus is not some historical figure who died thousands of years ago and now lies mouldering in a tomb. He’s not just some guy in dusty history books who said some cool stuff and inspired a bunch of people. Jesus is alive and well, and He interacts with His followers every day. Too often for average believers, Jesus isn’t a daily reality so much as ancient history. Instead of getting Jesus to lead them in their daily lives by impressing their hearts and minds with thoughts about Him, they sit mindlessly in church, unengaged. Wearing a cross necklace to identify one’s religion isn’t enough when it comes to being a Christian. It’s about having a personal relationship with God. We serve a risen Saviour who lived and died for us—and still lives to shape and transform our lives. ½ Signs of the Times | 53
Dragons are mythical creatures, but in 1946, a man tickled a dragon’s tail and it killed him. Roland Hegstad tells the story.
n an atomic test lab at Los Alamos, New Mexico, one day in 1946, scientist Louis Slotin was carrying out a daring experiment. Insiders called it “tickling the dragon’s tail.” To determine the amount of uranium necessary to sustain a chain reaction (scientists call it a “critical mass”), he was pushing two hemispheres of uranium together. He had performed the experiment many times. Just as the mass became critical, he would push the spheres apart with a screwdriver, instantly interrupting the imminent chain reaction. But this day, the screwdriver slipped from his heavily gloved hand! The hemispheres came too close together and the dragon breathed a roomful of fire—a dazzling bluish haze of death. Instead of ducking behind a leadprotected wall and possibly saving himself from irradiation, Slotin tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands. By this heroic action, he saved the lives of several others who were in the room with him, but he received a fatal overdose of radiation. As he stood outside, waiting for an ambulance to take him to hospital, he said quietly to a companion,
“You’ll come through all right, but I haven’t the faintest chance myself.” Nine days later, Slotin died in agony, the victim of his exposure to the dreaded radiation. The twentieth century “dragon” turned out to be tragically real.
pre-historic dragon The Bible also talks about a dragon. It introduces him as the “great dragon . . . called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9). Originally named Lucifer, he was the most powerful angel in heaven. The story of his revolt against God is described by the apostle John in Revelation: “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was . . . hurled to the earth, and his angels with him” (12:7–9). Then Revelation warned: “Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury” (verse 12). Satan’s part in tempting earth’s first parents to disobey God and the
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story of their exile from Eden is told in Genesis 3. When Jesus came to earth to become a man and to restore humankind to the eminence from which it had fallen, the dragon renewed his attack on his Foe, who appeared so vulnerable. What he had not been able to accomplish by starting a war in heaven, he now tried to achieve through guile. Showing Jesus the kingdoms of the world, which he now claimed as his own, Satan said, “All this I will give you . . . if you will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9; italics added). When deceit and bribery did not work against Jesus, the dragon breathed fire.
a willing sacrifice Slotin would have understood and his description of the encounter would probably be something like this: Knowing that the fate of the universe depended on His actions, Jesus grappled with sin’s concentrated radiation. He came to earth when the hemispheres of sin had reached critical mass. He who made the atom permitted wicked men to trigger the chain reaction that climaxed on a cruel device we call “the cross.” To interrupt the chain reaction of sin, to stop its radiation, Jesus willingly and selflessly gave His own life. The Son of God threw His own body across the fury of sin’s chain reaction and forever broke its power. His
why did Jesus have to die? Technically, Jesus did not need to die. He did not even have to leave His heavenly throne. It was we who had sinned and it was we who should have died. But love brought Him, not only to walk among us, but to die for us. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). There was nothing we could do to help ourselves, for all of us were already condemned to death. But Christ found a way. He came and took our place at Calvary. The penalty of the broken law, the Ten Commandments, has been paid by Jesus, who died in our place. He was treated as we deserve that we might be treated as He deserved. And because He died for us, we do not have to suffer the penalty of eternal death. The Father looks at the record under our names and reads there that the penalty for our sins was paid at Calvary through our Substitute, Jesus Christ. And the Father says to us, “Just as surely as you accept that your debt is paid and live by faith in that fact, I will count you to be guiltless.” Though the dragon, Satan, breathed fire, he was vanquished by the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
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hands will bear the marks of that encounter throughout eternity. The Bible puts it simply and eloquently: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). When Jesus was crucified—when the dragon breathed fire—the universe saw what the dragon really was, “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). What a confrontation! The dragon and the Lamb. One a murderer, the Other a Saviour. Two governments: one based on love, the other on hate. And the universe was in the balance.
His love, our fault Disobedience to God’s law leads inevitably to death. It is not something God wants, but it is the natural order of things on our broken planet. However, to restore our happiness and our lives, the Son of God paid our penalty for lawbreaking. What an incredible demonstration of love! Angels of might would have surrounded Calvary that day, awaiting but one word of command to unsheathe their flaming swords, freeing the powerful God they worshipped and loved. Instead, they heard only, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Some years ago, my little girl was
hurt. If you could see her today, you would notice a scar near her eye that was caused by a playground swing. I took her to the hospital emergency room and held her on a table as stitches were put into her face. I saw the look of helpless terror in her eyes as a covering bandage was put over them, shutting her father from her view. As the doctor worked and the needles pierced and the blood gushed, I felt her little body straining under my hands, desperately seeking release. And I heard her voice, “Daddy! Daddy!” There was a world of meaning in those words: “Why are you holding me here? Why have you forsaken me? I hurt, Daddy. Where are you?” And my hands held her there. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried as He lay dying on the cross (Mark 15:34). And our sins held Him there. Your sins. The sins of His children of all ages held Him there. Not His sins, for the Bible says that He who knew no sin was counted to be sinful in our place (2 Corinthians 5:21). It was our sins that killed Him. We held Him there and crushed out His life. So real are these contenders in this universal conflict that none can truly understand the purpose of existence and the part they must play in the great drama of the ages until they meet the Lamb, and through His strength conquer the dragon. ½ Signs of the Times | 57
BOOK REVIEW with Nick Matiske
Life can’t exist without light
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Jerusalem: Jerusalem, the Biography Jerusalem
here is no city like Jerusalem, both in fact and in the imagination. It is holy ground, a military prize, a tomb, a beacon and a spark for a global conflagration. It continues to baffle and compel visitors, residents and those who write about it. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s new book, Jerusalem: The Biography, while being detailed, exhaustively researched and beautifully printed,
is largely a political and military history. He is interested above all in the endless succession of Jerusalem’s conquerors and their talents and perversions. One loses count of the number of times in his account that the streets are described as flowing in blood, confirming the novelist Flaubert’s description of a “charnel house surrounded by walls.” Jerusalem is evidence of the relentless march of war in human history and the Signs of the Times | 59
BOOK REVIEW with Nick Matiske
transience of peace and prosperity. Montefiore admits it is impossible to write about Jerusalem without religion, even though, interestingly, the three Abrahamic religions are religions of the book and therefore travel well, without the need for Jerusalem. But try telling that to the zealots for whom the religious universe revolves around the possession of Jerusalem and who are constantly rewriting history to fit religious agenda (such as Yasser Arafat’s ludicrous claim that the Temple Mount never sported a Jewish temple). Montefiore tries to write history without, as he sees it, the distortions of religion (while not being particularly anti-religious). His is a secular history, not a religious history; he explicitly (and wisely) leaves the latter to popular religious scholar Karen Armstrong and her Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths. n Jerusalem, Jerusalem, by former Catholic priest and “expert” on antiSemitism James Carroll, delves deeper to explain not merely the historical but also the ideological place of Jerusalem. He links religion and violence, not in a bad way, arguing that the Bible is the record of the move from human sacrifice to more symbolic sacrifice, and the attempt to transcend a very bloody context, through recognition of the “ethical” God. It is an extraordinary book, not necessarily in a good way. It is 60 | Signs of the Times
sometimes weird, sometimes intriguing and is unflinching in its scrutiny of the Bible and the actions of those who claim to be influenced by it. The book begins with nothing less than the creation of the universe and moves through the rise of civilisation, and because his subject is violence and religion, Carroll’s narrative wanders in great arcs away from Jerusalem before returning along some surprising routes. Under the surface of the West, he finds vast interconnected roots tapping into the so-called holy city, and discovers cases of “Jerusalem fever” amongst a global who’s-who that have fuelled wars as well as the usual end-of-the-world predictions. n There are at least two earthly Jerusalems—that of its residents and that of the parade of pilgrims who Montefiore suggests are good at seeing the history but not the inhabitants. History is written by rulers, but it is a shame that neither of these books give much sense of the daily lives of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, then or now. But then, these two books illuminate merely a couple of facets of this remarkable weathered jewel. ½ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem: The Biography, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2011. James Carroll, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Scribe Publications, 2011. Nick Matiske is an independent book reviewer and has recently released a book, Notes: On Books and Music, Custom Book Centre.
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While a name doesn’t condemn a person, there is One that can save them, as Grenville Lee reveals.
t is 100 years since the Titanic sank with its tragic loss of life. And unlike some ships, which have numerous reincarnations, the only Titanic II ever made is an action movie, released in 2010, by The Asylum studio. It is a story about “a modern luxury liner christened Titanic II,” which according to the trailer, “follows the path of its namesake. But when a tsunami hurls 62 | Signs of the Times
an iceberg into the new ship’s path, the passengers and crew must fight to avoid a similar fate.” (To find out if it sinks, you’ll have to rent the movie, which already did.) Beyond the movie, to my knowledge, no-one ever named anything Titanic, both out of respect and good sense. The name is synonymous with disaster, and its tale a salutary lesson in arrogance, not the
least the boast of her owner, who described her as a ship that not even God could sink, then in the end went down with her. n I once put to sea in a two-masted ketch, which was renamed Dawn Treader in tribute to Christian author C S Lewis. The Dawn Treader was also the star of a recent, more successful movie. But its name provided no protection at all, as it turned out. Regardless of its elevated and prestigious pedigree, it, along with me, almost came to grief when its motor failed (water in the fuel) while exiting the Mooloola River, at Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, one dark night, bound for Newcastle, New South Wales. On its own, that would’ve been okay, except that simultaneously we lost steering when the steering chain jumped the pulley gear deep in its fume-filled bilge. To avoid being blown back onto rocks or swamped by surf on the adjacent beach, we sailed straight out of the river mouth, due east, keeping the sou’-easterly securely on our starboard beam, constantly working the forward and aft sails, until the sun rose. When it did, the land was just a smudge on the horizon. So does it really matter what you name a boat, or anything or anyone, for that matter? Boats of all names sink, so calling your boat Titanic doesn’t necessarily condemn it. But when attached to a person, at least
in the Bible, names are portentous, reflecting something of their owner’s personality, position and potential. Eve is the mother of all living, and Jacob had his name changed from one which was a reminder of his sin, to one that commemorated his victory: Israel, one who has power with God (see Genesis 27). n Recently I bought a small houseboat with which to ply the beautiful Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney. Interestingly, on its first serious outing following the purchase, it also suffered serious steering and motor malfunctions, which while not likely to have caused it to sink, made for another harrowing boating experience. Its name is Emmanuel, which means “God with us” (see Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23), sold to me by a Christian, with the understanding that I wouldn’t change it. Its presence on the river is to be a perpetual witness, advertising the presence of God through the Person of Jesus Christ in our world. For ever. But the name of greatest predictive effect, is the one that put Him on the cross: “Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, emphasis added). ½
Signs of the Times | 63
April 2012 issue of a lifestyle magazine with a Christian focus.