"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"

Father God, thank you for the love of the truth you have given me. Please bless me with the wisdom, knowledge and discernment needed to always present the truth in an attitude of grace and love. Use this blog and Northwoods Ministries for your glory. Help us all to read and to study Your Word without preconceived notions, but rather, let scripture interpret scripture in the presence of the Holy Spirit. All praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Friday, March 28, 2014

Revelation 12 - It Makes Sense - It's so Simple

Revelation 12 is one of many intriguing chapters in that enigmatic book. But today, I believe God opened my understanding to be able to get a grip on this chapter.

Previously, I tried to make sense out of it thinking that the incidents portrayed were all in random chronological order – going back and forth through the ages from before man to the future. 

Today, I have come to understand that the entire chapter is figurative, not literal. And yet, I tried to understand the chapter while assuming that the time references in it were, in fact, literal.

1260 days (v6) meant 1260 days, or possibly years. And “time, and times, and half a time” (v14) meant 3.5 years – time = 1 year; times = 2 years; and half a time = half a year. Both of these numbers then signify 3.5 years, which is half of the 7 year period of the Great Tribulation. What could be neater?

However, 1260 days does not equal 3.5 years no matter which way you slice it, it's a month short. 3.5 years is closer to 1290 days. 1290 days happens to be one of the numbers prophesied by Daniel in Ch 12:

9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.
10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.
12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

Of course, 1290 days is not 1260 days, nor is it 1335 days. So what does it mean? I think the answer is in verse 9, “the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.” God wouldn't tell Daniel when ‘these things’ would come to be – He sealed them up. In other words, we are not supposed to know.

Consequently, I have come to believe that the number of days cannot be taken literally or even as referring to years. The entire chapter 12 of Revelation is figurative, why would we assume those numbers to be the only literal references? They cannot be literal.

The number 144,000 (Rev 7 & 14) is considered by most Biblical scholars to be figurative. They believe 12x12 represents a complete number. When God told the martyrs to “rest a while longer until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also', He was referring to a number that only He knows, but when reached will signify that the Tribulation period is about to end. 144,000 is a complete number but it certainly represents another number that is much, much larger.

I contend that these numbers, 1260, 1290, 1335 days, and 3.5 years are representative of the completion of something in the mind of God, and should not be taken literally.

Once you remove the literal reading of those numbers from Rev 12, it becomes amazingly simple to read. It is completely chronological!

The woman clothed in the sun represents God’s chosen people, out of whom came the Christ child. The fiery, red dragon is Satan who stands before the woman in an attempt to destroy the Child. Can you attribute Herod’s ordering the death of every male child under 3 years of age, to being anything less than Satanic?

The woman, still representing the Jewish people, fled into the wilderness. This is quite obviously a reference to the diaspora of the Jews which began in 70 AD and was completed early in the 2nd century.

War between Michael, his angels, and Satan and his demons. This is not a reference to the original rebellion in Heaven, but occurred after the death of Jesus. Up until then, Satan and his demons had a right to have access to Heaven. References to ‘the sons of God’ in Genesis and Satan standing before God accusing the brethren, (see Job), make it clear that they had access to Heaven.

‘Nor was a place found for them in Heaven any longer’, I believe signifies an end to that privilege which was then enforced by Michael, somehow using the Blood of Christ and the testimony of martyrs. Use of the Blood of Christ and the testimony of martyrs confirms that this war between Michael and Satan occurred after the Crucifixion of Jesus. This could also be an indication that it took many years to accomplish the expelling of Satan and his brood from Heaven.

About the woman’s time in the wilderness, v14 says that she was away from the presence of the serpent, which would mean that Satan could hardly touch her. Jews lived mostly in peace in their new homes until early in the 19th century, when the first of many Russian pogroms were executed against the Jews.

'The flood from the serpent’s mouth' is almost certainly a reference to Hitler and Nazi Germany’s attempt to annihilate the Jews. Could it be that the reference to 'the earth swallowing up the flood' is an allusion to Hitler’s offing himself in a bunker below ground and perhaps his continued descent into Hell?

'to make war with the rest of her offspring' is obviously a reference to the persecution of Christians, first through communism, then through Islam. That brings us right up to very recently where, I think, Chapter 13 picks up, but that’s for another day.

I would be very pleased with your thoughts and criticisms.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Every Man in North Korea Must Get Kim Jong Un Haircut

This story is quite possibly untrue, but a fun read anyway.

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un just amped up his capacity for hair-raising hilarity.

From now on, according to the Korea Times, when men in the Hermit Kingdom slide into the barber chair, they are only allowed to have one ’do done: the “Dear Leader Kim Jong Un.”

Kim Jong Un
Kim’s hairdo lockdown means that men have gone from 10 approved styles to one. (Update: Some North Korea experts have challenged the veracity of the story.) 

Now, a young fella like Kim can get away with his unconventional look. The sides of the head are buzzed while the top of the head is a mop of sometimes centrally parted hair. But it’s guaranteed to look hideous on everyone else, especially since it screams, “I lost a bet.” Also, that Kim has a secret police and a propensity for cold-blooded murder of the disloyal means resistance is futile.

But never fear, Ladies of the Hermit Kingdom! Your 18 approved ’dos remain in effect, including distinctions between the coiffeurs of the married and the unmarried. “This also has the useful effect of establishing whether a woman is married or not at a glance,” the Taiwan-based Want China Times website cleverly reported last year. “If you like it, then you should have put some curlers in it, to paraphrase Beyonce.”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Incredible Increase in Heroin Abuse in the USA

By Ian Pannell

BBC News, Chicago

Heroin abuse in the US has been spreading beyond inner cities, resulting in a sharp rise in addiction and death. Chicago is a hub for cheap, pure and plentiful heroin, much of it supplied by Mexican drug cartels.

Chicago's "L" train green line leads directly to the open-air drug markets on the city's west side.

As we travel the route with one of the addicts, Jason, he phones his contact. He wants two bags of heroin, each costing just $10 (£6). The dealer meets us, and within seconds two tiny bags are handed over.

This part of Chicago has been ground down by neglect, drugs and crime, and residents talk openly about the narcotics on sale.

Of the four people who stopped to ask what we were filming, all said they had taken heroin.

The police are here, but they seem to face daunting odds as the heroin abuse spreads.

Watch the secret filming of a drug deal in 10 seconds.

Nearly half a million Americans are thought to be addicted to heroin. One woman we meet in a county jail - she was locked up for stealing to feed her habit - calls it an "epidemic".

"I don't think these police officers know how bad it is out there, I really don't," she says.

Back on Lower Wacker Drive, home to central Chicago's destitute for nearly a century, five heroin addicts are injecting in an underpass. How appropriate is that name, Wacker Drive?

Some bleed as they repeatedly stab the needle in - desperately trying to force the light brown fluid into their bodies.

Greg can't find a vein and injects straight into his bicep - what he calls "muscling it". "My arms are fried. It sucks. This is what I have to do nine out of 10 times is muscle it because my arms are so trashed."

Greg and Stacey are sleeping rough.

Stacey first took heroin when she was just 11. Now the two of them live like husband and wife in this subterranean netherworld, partners, addicts and the parents of three young boys.

"The hardest thing is just not being there for them," says Greg. "I think about them every day. I try to just numb it with this dope but it's just hard, man." Watch his emotional confession here.

In the video, Greg very candidly confesses that using heroin is the most selfish thing you can do. Personally, I have always considered suicide the ultimate selfish act, but then, heroin addiction is not that far removed from suicide.

Much of the heroin supply comes from Mexico, where production has risen more than 600% in the last 10 years.

Heroin is often cheaper and easier to use than prescription drugs, some of which have become more expensive, harder to obtain and harder to abuse - they now come in versions that are not so easy to grind down to snort or dissolve.

Last month Mexican authorities arrested Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the suspected boss of the Sinaloa cartel. The Chicago Crime Commission (CCC) named him last year as the city's Public Enemy Number One.

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) estimates that the cartel supplies as much as 70% of the illegal drugs sold and used on Chicago's streets.

But it's not clear that the arrest will help stem the flow of heroin, especially if demand within the US remains strong.

Increasingly, it's not just the inner-city junkies who are using heroin.
Philip Seymour Hoffman

The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an accidental overdose of a mix of drugs including heroin drew attention to something the police have known for a while - heroin now crosses all boundaries.

"Heroin addiction is probably at its all-time high," says Special Agent Jack Riley, the DEA's regional head.
SA Jack Riley, DEA

"I've been doing this for 30 years in virtually every corner of this country and if anything can be likened to a weapon of mass destruction on a family, on a community, on society, it's heroin.

"I just don't understand why people across the board don't see its danger. Social services are overwhelmed, our healthcare services are overwhelmed, yet Mexican organised crime and street gangs make billions from it."
Chicago Police heroin bust
The biggest increase in users is among the young.

Research suggests that nearly 34,000 12-17 year olds are now trying heroin for the first time each year, as the drug becomes cheaper and more readily available than ever. Many live beyond inner cities, in small towns or in the country.

Steven Lunardi was raised in the middle-class suburbs that surround Chicago. He started using heroin when he was 18, and says that "everything changed" when he started injecting it. "My health, appearance, friends, hobbies and belongings all began to wither away," he says.

Stephanie Chiakas & Steven Lunardi
"The number of heroin users in the US has doubled in the last five years and one reason is thought to be the rise in prescription drugs, because heavy users of pain relievers are more likely to start using heroin"

He used to skip university to buy drugs on the west side, injecting in between classes in the bathroom. He says: "During my worst times I was spending a couple of hundred dollars a day, approximately," - about 25 bags.

After going through rehab, Lunardi has been clean for more than a year.

But other stories have darker endings.

Stephanie Chiakas was just 17 when she died of an overdose. Her father, Ken, says he cries almost every day.

"I'm not looking for sympathy or anything," he says, "it's just something I can't control. The feeling is unbelievable."

Stephanie's family made a film in her honour. Pictures of her dissolve in and out, first as a little girl, later as an all-American teenager dressed for prom night.

"I just want to speak out and educate people," says Mr Chiakas.

"They don't want to talk about it. They don't want to believe it. It's not the picture anymore of someone living under a bridge shooting up with needles. It's your next-door neighbour - it could be your kid."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Pot Smoking Teens Suffer Brain Damage Well Into Adulthood

Teenagers who regularly smoke cannabis suffer long lasting brain damage and are in much greater danger of developing schizophrenia. 

American researchers say the drug is particularly dangerous for a group of people who have a genetic susceptibility to the mental health disorder - and it could be the trigger for it. 

Asaf Keller, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the results highlight the dangers of teenagers smoking cannabis during their formative years. 

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, exposed young mice to the active ingredient in marijuana for 20 days.

It found that their brain activity was impaired, with the damage continuing into adulthood.

The past 20 years has seen major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with experts divided over its long-term effects on teenagers.

Previous research has shown that children who started using marijuana before the age of 16 are at greater risk of permanent brain damage, and have a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders.

‘Adolescence is the critical period during which marijuana use can be damaging,’ said the study's lead author, Sylvina Mullins Raver, a PhD candidate at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

‘We wanted to identify the biological underpinnings and determine whether there is a real, permanent health risk to marijuana use.’

The scientists began by examining cortical oscillations in mice. Cortical oscillations are patterns of the activity of neurons in the brain and are believed to underlie the brain's various functions

These oscillations are very abnormal in schizophrenia and in other psychiatric disorders. 

The scientists exposed young mice to very low doses of the active ingredient in marijuana for 20 days, and then allowed them to return to their siblings and develop normally.

‘In the adult mice exposed to marijuana ingredients in adolescence, we found that cortical oscillations were grossly altered, and they exhibited impaired cognitive abilities,’ said Raver.

‘We also found impaired cognitive behavioural performance in those mice. The striking finding is that, even though the mice were exposed to very low drug doses, and only for a brief period during adolescence, their brain abnormalities persisted into adulthood.’

The scientists repeated the experiment, this time giving marijuana to adult mice that had never been exposed to the drug before.

Their cortical oscillations and ability to perform cognitive tasks remained normal, indicating that it was only drug exposure during the critical teenage years that impaired brain activity. This does not mean that cannabis use is not damaging to adult brains - see CANNABIS DESTROYS YOUR GET-UP-AND-GO just below. I also believe that my observation of cessation of maturity growth in adults is still valid.

‘We found that the frontal cortex is much more affected by the drugs during adolescence,’ said Keller. ‘This is the area of the brain controls executive functions such as planning and impulse control. It is also the area most affected in schizophrenia.

Keller now wants to know whether the effects can be reversed. ‘We are hoping we will learn more about schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders, which are complicated conditions,’ he said.

‘These cognitive symptoms are not affected by medication, but they might be affected by controlling these cortical oscillations.’

 A separate study by Imperial College London last month revealed that long-term use of cannabis destroys dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain that inspires a spirit of get-up-and-go.

Previous research has suggested taking marijuana can lead to individuals becoming withdrawn, lethargic and apathetic.

The cannabis users in the study published in Biological Psychiatry had all experienced psychotic-like symptoms while smoking the drug such as strange sensations or having feelings of paranoia.

The researchers expected their dopamine production might be higher since this has been linked with psychosis - but instead found the opposite.

The cannabis users had their first experience with the drug between the ages of 12 and 18 and the researchers believe the drug could be the cause of the difference in dopamine levels.

'Cannabis is an illegal drug and there is mounting evidence the idea of it being a harmless herb is not true,’ said Dr Michael Bloomfield, of Imperial College London.

'When people stop taking cannabis it seems the brain can slowly go back to producing pretty normal levels of dopamine.

'Cannabis has effects on the brain and it’s important people can make an informed decision.'

As governments race to reduce or eliminate laws against smoking pot, thereby legitimizing it as harmless, evidence mounts of the incredible danger of marijuana to teens. Please make your adolescent children and grandchildren aware that pot can literally destroy their lives. I know, I've seen it, it's horrible!