Archives for the month of: January, 2014

‘Extinct’ Frog Reappears in Israel


The Hula painted frog was declared extinct in 1996, the first time any amphibian had been declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a conservation group.

The decision was guided by the best available scientific data at the time: Nobody had seen any sign of the creature since its sole known habitat, the Hula Valley wetlands in northern Israel, had been drained in 1955. Then, in October 2011, a routine patrol turned up an adult male of the species. Further searching uncovered another 10 Hula painted frogs.
It’s a remarkable case of a species reappearing, said Rebecca Biton, a paleontologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and co-author of a study describing the reappearance of the frog published this week in the journal Nature Communications.
But the story doesn’t end there. An equally amazing finding, Biton said, is that the Hula painted frog, contrary to its previous classification, is the only surviving member of a long-lost group of frogs, in the genus Latonia (genus is the taxonomic classification above species). Her team arrived at this conclusion in two ways. First, Biton’s analysis of ancient frog bones showed they looked much more like Latonia then the other painted frogs of the Middle East, to which they were supposedly more closely related. Second, DNA analysis suggested the same.
“The Hula painted frog is not what we thought it was,” Biton told LiveScience, a conclusion that may not have materialized if it weren’t for the team’s interdisciplinary work, she added. “It’s nice when genetics and paleontology can work together and get the same result.”
All the other frogs in the genus Latonia once ranged throughout much of Europe, but have been gone for about 1 million years, Biton told LiveScience.
There are perhaps 100 to 200 Hula painted frogs left holding on in the Hula Valley, and they remain a critically endangered species. Scientists know next to nothing about the frog’s life history, however, Biton said. Researchers are currently working to find out more, and there are tentative plans to re-flood parts of the valley and pursue other projects to help prevent the frog from becoming (actually) extinct. LiveScience

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Extinct tree grows anew from ancient jar of seeds unearthed by archaeologists

For thousands of years, Judean date palm trees were one of the most recognizable and welcome sights for people living in the Middle East — widely cultivated throughout the region for their sweet fruit, and for the cool shade they offered from the blazing desert sun.

From its founding some 3,000 years ago, to the dawn of the Common Era, the trees became a staple crop in the Kingdom of Judea, even garnering several shout-outs in the Old Testament. Judean palm trees would come to serve as one of the kingdom’s chief symbols of good fortune; King David named his daughter, Tamar, after the plant’s name in Hebrew.
By the time the Roman Empire sought to usurp control of the kingdom in 70 AD, broad forests of these trees flourished as a staple crop to the Judean economy — a fact that made them a prime resource for the invading army to destroy. Sadly, around the year 500 AD, the once plentiful palm had been completely wiped out, driven to extinction for the sake of conquest.
In the centuries that followed, first-hand knowledge of the tree slipped from memory to legend. Up until recently, that is.
During excavations at the site of Herod the Great’s palace in Israel in the early 1960’s, archeologists unearthed a small stockpile of seeds stowed in a clay jar dating back 2,000 years. For the next four decades, the ancient seeds were kept in a drawer at Tel Aviv’s Bar-Ilan University. But then, in 2005, botanical researcher Elaine Solowey decided to plant one and see what, if anything, would sprout.
“I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?” said Solowey. She was soon proven wrong.
Amazingly, the multi-millennial seed did indeed sprout — producing a sapling no one had seen in centuries, becoming the oldest known tree seed to germinate.
Today, the living archeological treasure continues to grow and thrive; In 2011, it even produced its first flower — a heartening sign that the ancient survivor was eager to reproduce. It has been proposed that the tree be cross-bred with closely related palm types, but it would likely take years for it to begin producing any of its famed fruits. Meanwhile, Solowey is working to revive other age-old trees from their long dormancy.

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“In all of my archaeological investigation I have never found one artifact of antiquity that contradicts any statement of the Word of God.

By: Nelson Glueck


Brillant men and women spend their lives in a lab to create a human organ, then say that no intelligence was needed to create it in the first place. Psalm 14:1

“This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets could only proceed from the council and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being. ”

Sir Isaac Newton

A land which the LORD thy God careth for: the eyes of the LORD thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” (Deuteronomy 11:12)

This phrase, “the beginning of the year,” occurs only twice in the Bible, here in Deuteronomy 11:12 and in Ezekiel 40:1. In this passage, the Lord, through Moses, is speaking of the promised land which He had prepared for the children of Israel, “a land of hills and valleys, [that] drinketh water of the rain of heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11), promising great blessing on the land and its people if they obeyed God, but judgment if they disobeyed.

Although these promises were made specifically with reference to Israel, the principle surely would apply worldwide, for God “hath made of one blood all nations of men . . . and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord” (Acts 17:26-27). It certainly has applied to America, for God has certainly blessed our nation most abundantly, founded as it was in its beginnings on the principles of God’s words. Sadly, however, there are now many signs that His blessings are being withdrawn, with judgment imminent, because of the widespread apostasy and moral decay that has overtaken us.

Here, at “the beginning of the year,” we can pray that America will return to the God of our fathers before it is too late and final judgment falls on our once-blessed nation. In the words of our text, “the eyes of the LORD” are on us, “from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.”

In addition to prayer, we personally can work and give and vote and live in ways that demonstrate our own personal trust in God and His Word, as well as our deep concern for our families, our churches, our nation, and God’s eternal plan for His great creation. HMM

By: Institute of Creation


Russia’s “protectorate” over Middle Eastern Christians
by, Gianni Valente | Vatican Insider

Defending Middle Eastern Christians has become a strategic asset for Putin and is in perfect harmony with the Patriarchate of Moscow’s mission.
The Kremlin is about to consider granting citizenship to about 50 thousand Syrian Christians in the region of Qualamun after they issued a collective request to Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In statements issued in the past few days, the spokesmen for President Putin and the Ministry confirmed that the request is being examined by the highest Russian authorities. “This is the first time since Christ’s birth that we, the Christians of Saidnaya and Maara Saidnaya, Maalula and Maarun are being threatened with expulsion from our land.”
The letter was full of praise for Putin’s Russia, which was described as a “powerful factor for global peace and stability”. But its remarks about western countries were less flattering: “the aim of the terrorists who are being supported by the West, is to eliminate our presence in our homeland. They use the most abhorrent methods to achieve this, murdering ordinary people for example.”
The fact that the Christian cause has caught the attention of the highest levels of Russia’s government seems to imply that the Kremlin sees their case as important in terms of geopolitics. Indeed this may be the main reason Russia has been defending their cause. The Patriarchate of Moscow’s spokesman said that the letter from the 50 thousand was proof of the “great authority” Russia has at the moment in the Middle East, “particularly among the Christian minorities living in that area.” Middle Eastern Christians “have known for centuries that no other country would look after their interests in the same way Russia would,” said Archpriest Nikolaj Balashov, the number two man of the Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations. “To reaffirm the ties between Russia and the Churches in Syria, on 14 October the Moscow Spiritual Academy decided to erect a sculpture ensemble with a statue of Jesus at its centre, on a mountain in Syria which is also home to the Marian shrine of Saidnaya. Arab Christian pilgrims come to this shrine from all over the Middle East. The sculpture ensemble was intended as a symbol of peace in a country ravaged by war. This goes hand in hand with the Patriarchate of Moscow’s active efforts to champion the Middle Eastern Christian cause in the face of Islamist violence.
Muslim Tortures a Syrian Christian:

To express his concern for these Christians in a politically eloquent way ahead of the 12th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Patriarch Kirill sent Barack Obama a letter, asking the US president to listen to the cries of religious leaders who “unanimously” opposed proposals for military intervention against Assad. In his message, the Patriarch talked about “the threat of mass extermination or exile” faced by Christians in the Middle East. He urged others to join Russia’s diplomatic efforts and make the most of the opportunities that have opened up for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.” He referred explicitly to the negotiations over the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons.
The Russian Orthodox Church has always been interested in the vicissitudes of the Middle Eastern Churches. Now, the Orthodox leaders’ calls for the protection of Christians in Arab countries fits Putin’s plans for the Middle East like a glove. More than twenty years after the fall of the USSR and with the Soviet communist era’s atheist years long gone, Putin is, in true neo-Zarist-style, reinstating himself as protector of Eastern Christians, as part of geopolitical policy.
The Patriarchate of Moscow has strengthened its relations with the Middle East’s battered Orthodox Churches by giving significant financial help: last August, the Russian Orthodox Church donated 300 thousand dollars to the Patriarchate of Antioch to help those who are suffering as a result of the conflict. In July, Primates and representatives of Middle Eastern Churches met Putin in person, during their visit to Moscow for the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus. Kirill was the last great foreign Christian leader to be received by Bashar al Assad, in Damascus, back in November 2011, when 5 thousand people had already lost their lives in the conflict.
But while Russia strengthens its defence of Middle Eastern Christians, the French, who were once big protectors of these Christian communities are now becoming increasingly less so. Eastern Church leaders have been losing trust in French foreign policy which supports the Arab uprisings. On a visit to Paris in September 2011, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi was criticised by Sarkozy or not showing enough enthusiasm for the so-called “Arab Springs”. The former French President was convinced that these revolts were going to wipe Assad out and light the spark of democracy.
Two years on, the revolts against the regime have been taken over by Islamist groups, Syriac Catholic archbishop, Behnam Hindo told Vatican Insider: “I made it very clear to the foreign affairs minister’s secretary, Laurent Fabius in our last interview: you talk about the war in Syria, about who must win, who needs to go. But you never ask what the expectations and requests of the Syrian people are. Maybe you haven’t yet realised that the French protectorate over Syria ended some time ago.”

“And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” (Numbers 22:28)

This tale of a donkey talking has been the object of great ridicule by skeptics. That it is not an allegory or fable, however, but a real historical event was confirmed in the New Testament by the apostle Peter (2 Peter 2:15-16).

There is no naturalistic explanation for it, of course, but to insist that the event was impossible is simply to deny the power of God. Such miracles of creation are very rare, however, and there must always be a good reason when God intervenes in the laws which normally govern His creation.

One reason in this case, obviously, was to rebuke the prophet Balaam, who was resisting God’s will simply for monetary gain. Balaam’s voice itself would soon also have to be constrained and controlled by God to force him to do God’s will (Numbers 22:38; 23:16, 26; 24:13), blessing Israel instead of pronouncing the curse for which he was to have been paid by the Moabites, who were desperately trying to keep God’s people out of the Promised Land. The Moabites also needed an unforgettable rebuke. They were apostate descendants of Lot, who had known the true God (Numbers 25:1-3), but they were determined to thwart God’s purposes.

There may be another, more universal reason: God is concerned about His animal creation, caring even for every sparrow (Matthew 10:29). The animals have been placed under man’s dominion, but they are for his service, his instruction, and his enjoyment—not for his abuse.

Thus, Balaam’s ass was providentially allowed by God to rebuke not only Balaam but also anyone who would unnecessarily abuse one of His specially and beautifully designed animal subjects. Most Christians need to be much more sensitive to this concern of God. HMM

By: Institue of Creation

Our prayers often portray the depth of our needs and predicaments. When we are unable to expose our needs before man, we still have the presence of God to articulate our deepest needs and emotions. Others who observe us will never truly understand the enormity of our pain and distress. Often these fiery darts come through our dearest and nearest which make us far more vulnerable than attacks from outsiders. These attacks bleed our hearts and sag our heads in shame and misery. Our past glory is dragged into the sand by these attacks. We have no escape from such perils except in the presence of God. David went through such a bitter situation when he was ousted by his own son Absalom. David had to run for cover. His closest aides made use of the opportunity to undermine him further through public attacks and abuses. But David’s heart-cry reached his God from where came deliverance and rescue. Even when many wrote David off and others lost hope about David, he didn’t give up or give in. His comfort and confidence came from God as he prayed. Surely David’s situation made him humble and crushed before the Lord. He became a broken man, recounting his own failures in life which led him to confess his weaknesses. David’s return was a painful victory as it was against his own son. But even as he experienced pain, God lifted up his head and reestablished his past glory. David enjoyed the security and safety that His God granted him. Today the God of David is our safety and security when we face such poisonous arrows of gossip, unfair criticism and misinterpretation of our motives. But our God comes to our rescue and He will lift us up at the right time to the shame of all our detractors.

Dear friend, are you facing unkind criticism and brutal character assassination by those who are around you? Are you made to drink the tears of shame and embarrassment when you are under attack? Does your situation look so hopeless as to make you feel like running away for life? But God has a few songs of encouragement in His hymnbook for you to sing and find comfort. You are free to go to His presence and find peace and hope in spite of your hopeless situation. Joseph also experienced such painful situations of hatred, conniving and misrepresentation in his life while he was still very young and inexperienced. Today the life and experience of David and Joseph encourage us whether we are in important positions or work as slaves. Our God will not leave us alone to suffer as He suffers when we suffer. He feels our pain and misery because of His infinite love for us. He always comes to rescue us at the right time. Perhaps He is interested in greater brokenness in your life and would permit such painful experiences to see you truly contrite in your spirit. But your Lord will not forsake you nor will He leave you to be dragged through the streets. He will establish you and continue to make use of you for His glory and to accomplish His purpose through you. Today God wants you not to look at your enemies with their plot and get discouraged, but look unto Him and get energized because of the hope He plants in your heart. He gives you the song of prayer and victory to sing unto Him and take courage to go forward for Him.

Ommen Phillips