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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Scanning Software Deciphers Ancient Biblical Scroll

AP, Sept. 21, 2016 JERUSALEM–The charred lump of a 2,000-year-old scroll sat in an Israeli archaeologist’s storeroom for decades, too brittle to open. Now, new imaging technology has revealed what was written inside: the earliest evidence of a biblical text in its standardized form.

The passages from the Book of Leviticus, scholars say, offer the first physical evidence of what has long been believed: that the version of the Hebrew Bible used today goes back 2,000 years.

The discovery, announced in a Science Advances journal article by researchers in Kentucky and Jerusalem on Wednesday, was made using “virtual unwrapping,” a 3D digital analysis of an X-ray scan. Researchers say it is the first time they have been able to read the text of an ancient scroll without having to physically open it.

“You can’t imagine the joy in the lab,” said Pnina Shor of the Israel Antiquities Authority, who participated in the study.

The digital technology, funded by Google and the U.S. National Science Foundation, is slated to be released to the public as open source software by the end of next year.

Researchers hope to use the technology to peek inside other ancient documents too fragile to unwrap, like some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and papyrus scrolls carbonized in the Mt. Vesuvius volcano eruption in 79 CE. Researchers believe the technology could also be applied to the fields of forensics, intelligence, and antiquities conservation.

The biblical scroll examined in the study was first discovered by archaeologists in 1970 at Ein Gedi, the site of an ancient Jewish community near the Dead Sea. Inside the ancient synagogue’s ark, archaeologists found lumps of scroll fragments.

The synagogue was destroyed in an ancient fire, charring the scrolls. The dry climate of the area kept them preserved, but when archaeologists touched them, the scrolls would begin to disintegrate. So the charred logs were shelved for nearly half a century, with no one knowing what was written inside.

Last year, Yosef Porath, the archaeologist who excavated at Ein Gedi in 1970, walked into the Israel Antiquities Authority’s Dead Sea Scrolls preservation lab in Jerusalem with boxes of the charcoal chunks. The lab has been creating hi-resolution images of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest copies of biblical texts ever discovered, and he asked researchers to scan the burned scrolls.

“I looked at him and said, ‘you must be joking,’” said Shor, who heads the lab.

She agreed, and a number of burned scrolls were scanned using X-ray-based micro-computed tomography, a 3D version of the CT scans hospitals use to create images of internal body parts. The images were then sent to William Brent Seales, a researcher in the computer science department of the University of Kentucky. Only one of the scrolls could be deciphered.

Using the “virtual unwrapping” technology, he and his team painstakingly captured the three-dimensional shape of the scroll’s layers, using a digital triangulated surface mesh to make a virtual rendering of the parts they suspected contained text. They then searched for pixels that could signify ink made with a dense material like iron or lead. The researchers then used computer modeling to virtually flatten the scroll, to be able to read a few columns of text inside.

“Not only were you seeing writing, but it was readable,” said Seales. “At that point we were absolutely jubilant.”

The researchers say it is the first time a biblical scroll has been discovered in an ancient synagogue’s holy ark, where it would have been stored for prayers, and not in desert caves like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The discovery holds great significance for scholars’ understanding of the development of the Hebrew Bible, researchers say.

The text discovered in the charred Ein Gedi scroll is “100 percent identical” to the version of the Book of Leviticus that has been in use for centuries, said Dead Sea Scroll scholar Emmanuel Tov from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who participated in the study.

“This is quite amazing for us,” he said. “In 2,000 years, this text has not changed.”

Thursday, September 22, 2016

How Homeschooling Is Changing in America

By Kyle Greenwalt, The Conversation, September 18, 2016

As children head back to school, an increasing number of their homeschooled peers will be starting their academic year as well. Homeschooling in the United States is growing at a strong pace.

Recent statistics indicate that 1.5 million children were homeschooled in the United States in 2007. This is up significantly from 1.1 million children in 2003 and 850,000 children in 1999.

The homeschooling movement first emerged in earnest during the 1980s. Back then it was largely led by evangelical Christians. But as the movement has grown, it has also changed. Today’s homeschooling families may increasingly welcome cooperation with their local public school districts. In my own research, I have seen how diverse homeschoolers now are. This diversity challenges any simplistic understanding of what homeschooling is and what impact it will have on the public school system.

So how do we understand this evolution in American education?

In fact, homeschooling was common up until the late 19th century. Most children received a substantial part of their education within the home. In the late 19th century, states started passing compulsory attendance laws. These laws compelled all children to attend public schools or a private alternative. In this way, education outside the home became the norm for children. 

It was in the 1970s that American educator John Holt emerged as a proponent of homeschooling. He challenged the notion that the formal school system provided the best place for children to learn. Slowly, small groups of parents began to remove their children from the public schools.

By the 1980s, homeschooling families had emerged as an organized public movement. During that decade, more than 20 states legalized homeschooling. For the most part, evangelical Christians led these battles. Organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association, founded in 1983, provided the necessary legal and financial backing for these families.

At the time, homeschooling was seen to be in conflict with secular school systems. Religious parents came to define the public face of the homeschooling.

Today, homeschooling is becoming part of the mainstream. It is legal in all 50 states. In addition, a growing number of states are making attempts to engage the homeschooled population for at least part of the day.

For example, 28 states do not prevent homeschooled students from participating in public school interscholastic sports. At least 15 more states are considering “Tim Tebow Laws”–named after the homeschooled athlete–that would allow homeschoolers access to school sports.

The overall homeschool movement is also much more diverse. For example, sociologists Philip Q. Yang and Nihan Kayaardi argue that the homeschool population does not significantly differ from the general U.S. population. Put another way, it is not really possible to assume anything about the religious beliefs, political affiliations or financial status of homeschooling families anymore.

Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) provide further corroboration. In 2008, the NCES found that only 36 percent of the homeschooling families in their survey chose “the desire for religious or moral instruction” as their primary reason for their decision to homeschool. At the same time, other reasons, such as a concern about the school environment, were just as important to many homeschool families.

So, what are the reasons behind this expansion of the homeschool movement?

My research shows that this has been fueled, at least in part, by changes in the public school system. For example, changes in technology have brought about the rise of online charter schools, which utilize remote online instruction to serve their students.

This means that more students are educated in their home at public expense. California, Ohio and Pennsylvania have led the way in this regard. In 2006, it was estimated that 11 percent of Pennsylvania’s charter schools had online instruction. What is noteworthy is that 60 percent of the students in these schools had previously been homeschooled.

In addition, homeschoolers in states such as Michigan have access to public school interscholastic sports. That’s not all. They can, in addition, opt to take certain public school offerings.

For example, homeschoolers can choose to attend school for part of the day, and take Advanced Placement courses in any range of subjects. Such courses are popular with many families because they allow students to earn college credit while still in high school.

Positivamento Grato

Curtis Peter van Gorder

Li recentemente um livro que encontrei em um sebo. Amo a maneira como alguns livros parecem dizer, “Me leia!”. A Vida Secreta da Água, de Masaru Emoto fez isto comigo. E me fez pensar em como esses elementos vitais da vida são simplesmente maravilhosos.

A premissa dele é que a água reflete a força positiva ou negativa com a qual entra em contato. Ele expôs água destilada a influências positivas e negativas como fala, música, fotos e escrita e então a congelou e fotografou os cristais. As fotos neste livro sugerem que as influências positivas tais como oração, música edificante e palavras positivas faziam a água formar lindos cristais, ao passo que influências negativas faziam a água não cristalizar ou ter uma formação feia.

Isso é uma viagem? Talvez, mas suas ideias podem ter feito muitas pessoas questionarem que tipo de vibrações e energias elas têm gerado nos outros.

Tendo vivido em 14 países durante um período de mais de 45 anos, aprendi o valor de ser positivamente grato. Quando as pessoas me perguntavam que país gostei mais, eu tinha que dizer que era o país no qual eu estava vivendo naquele momento, pois cada país tem suas bênçãos e desafios. Por isso eu achava realmente necessário apreciar as coisas boas da terra onde eu morava para poder apreciar mais plenamente a experiência que a vida estava me oferecendo naquele momento.

Uma habilidade de sobrevivência muito útil que adquiri enquanto vivi no Oriente Médio foi estar grato por tudo. Isso é refletido na linguagem das pessoas desta região que continuamente dão graças a Deus pelo que lhes acontece no momento—quer seja uma bênção óbvia ou uma bênção disfarçada sob forma de pesar e decepção.

Um exemplo disto é a história que o nosso grupo de teatro representou, de um famoso contador de histórias da região, Juha.

Juha conta que um dia, apesar das dificuldades de ter seu burro morrendo, uma seca contínua, e os preços cada vez mais altos no mercado, ele estava determinado a dar graças a Deus não importasse o quê. A provação logo veio quando estava capinando sua horta e um espinho atravessou seu sapato. Depois de pular em um pé só e chorar de dor, ele lembrou. “Obrigado, meu Deus, que estes são os sapatos velhos e que não destruí os novos.”

Ele continuou capinando, e então veio uma tempestade de areia que o levou ao chão. Depois que tudo se acalmou, ele pensou “Obrigado, meu Deus, que agora finalmente o tempo está bom. Tempestades de areia são muito raras!”

Antes de acabar de capinar, colocou sua bolsa de dinheiro de lado, com algumas moedas que ele estava economizando para comprar um novo burro. Um ladrão passou e roubou sua bolsa, e apesar de sair disparado atrás dele, Juha não conseguiu alcançá-lo. Quase sem fôlego se perguntou pelo que poderia estar agradecido naquele momento. Não obteve resposta, então continuou capinando.

Logo um marinheiro se aproximou dele e lhe disse: “Eu fui seu aluno antes de ir trabalhar no navio. Quando estávamos em grande perigo com vagas muito grandes ameaçando afundar nosso navio, eu me lembrava que você nos ensinou a dar graças em qualquer situação. Fiz isto, e estou verdadeiramente agradecido por minha vida ter sido poupada. Quero lhe dar um presente como um pequeno sinal da minha gratidão.”

Ao abrir o presente, Juha encontrou exatamente a mesma quantia que lhe havia sido roubada. “Eu perdi dinheiro numa hora e o recuperei no mesmo dia! Que maravilha! Deus é bom!”

Depois de capinar um pouco mais, Juha já estava muito cansado. Ele descansou sob um grande carvalho. Antes de pegar no sono, notou um pé de melancia e pensou: “Eu me pergunto por que as grandes melancias crescem em pequenas vinhas assim, enquanto os carvalhos magníficos só dão pequenas bolotas. Não deveria ser o contrário? Uma fruta grande numa árvore de grande porte; e uma pequena noz, numa plantinha?...” Seus pensamentos foram interrompidos por uma bolota que o atingiu na cabeça. E de repente ele entendeu! “Obrigado, Deus, por ser muito mais sábio do que eu. Se as melancias crescessem em árvores de grande porte, eu estaria morto agora.”

No final do dia, ele tinha muito pelo que estar agradecido.

Quando eu morava na Jordânia, tive a oportunidade de aplicar este princípio à minha própria vida quando fiquei hospitalizado por dez dias com uma doença que poderia ter sido fatal. Foi um momento muito especial e positivo, com bastante reflexão. Era como se eu tivesse sido levantado pelos braços de Deus e levado a um jardim tranquilo para meditar sobre a minha vida. Tenho tido a sorte de uma boa saúde a maior parte da minha vida, de modo que esta situação foi ímpar.

Geralmente eu sou muito voltado para o trabalho, de modo que desacelerar e concentrar em sobreviver foi uma experiência nova para mim, e certamente me deu uma nova perspectiva sobre a bênção da saúde. Fiz uma resolução que quando ficasse melhor, tentaria cooperar com o meu corpo tendo um estilo de vida mais saudável de alimentação e hábitos de exercício. Cambalear sobre o abismo entre a vida e a morte me fez perceber o que realmente importa: amar a Deus e aos outros. Não era nada que eu já não soubesse, mas há uma grande diferença entre saber algo e fazer disso uma grande parte da sua vida.

Tentei passar esta atitude de gratidão para os meus filhos e netos fazendo um pequeno jogo durante o jantar, algo que aprendi com Michelle Obama chamado “rodas e espinhos”. Cada pessoa conta algo de bom que lhe aconteceu naquele dia—uma rosa—e uma experiência difícil, desagradável ou desafiadora—um espinho. Vi que este jogo gera uma boa conversa à mesa, muito melhor do que simplesmente perguntar: “Como foi o seu dia?” e receber uma resposta de tipo “ok” ou “bom”.

Acredito que estar agradecido não significa ignorar nossos problemas. O antigo rei Davi clamou ao Senhor, como está registrado no livro dos Salmos, perguntando: “Meu Deus! ... Por que estás tão longe de salvar-me, tão longe dos meus gritos de angústia?”[1]Apesar do lamento de Davi, lemos no mesmo Salmo que ele termina seu clamor de maneira positiva: “Pois não menosprezou nem repudiou o sofrimento do aflito; não escondeu dele o rosto, mas ouviu o seu grito de socorro. Os pobres comerão até ficarem satisfeitos; aqueles que buscam o Senhor o louvarão! Que vocês tenham vida longa! Todos os confins da terra se lembrarão e se voltarão para o Senhor.”[2] Davi supera seu desencorajamento louvando o Senhor apesar de como se sentia.

Obrigado, Senhor, por tudo o que Você faz. As coisas que não entendo, embalo num embrulho de fé e Lhe dou para que me revele a Seu tempo. Eu amo Você pela Sua bondade, mesmo quando não compreendo, porque Você é o Altíssimo. Eu O louvarei, porque Você verdadeiramente faz todas as coisas bem!

[1] Salmo 22:1 NVI.
[2] Salmo 22:24, 26–27 NVI.

God’s Healing Touch

By Maria Fontaine

Audio length: 7:11
Download Audio (6.5MB)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”—Lamentations 3:22–231

When you’re experiencing a time of deep grief, suffering, or loss, it can be a devastating experience. You may be fighting emotional, physical, and spiritual battles all at once that seem almost unbearable.

You might be battling with regret, or even blaming yourself in some way for whatever circumstances might have led up to your current situation. But you don’t have to keep blaming yourself. When you tell the Lord you’re sorry and ask for His forgiveness, then it’s over, it’s done with! He’s forgiven you, and He never holds your sins or failings or mistakes against you.

You just have to receive His forgiveness by faith. You may feel that you don’t deserve it. You may feel that you somehow need to pay for your sins and shortcomings, but He says, “In the very moment that you seek My forgiveness and in the very instant that you call out to Me, I immediately grant My forgiveness, and there is no more need to worry or fear or carry that burden.” In the book of Isaiah, the Lord tells us that “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”2

Please reach out to Him when you are experiencing regrets and condemnation and receive His forgiveness. It’s there for you immediately! You don’t need to go on another minute in the agony of regret or condemnation. God’s Word says we are to lay aside every weight and sin from the past.3 His mercies are renewed every morning and we can face each day with newness of life in Jesus in the present.

At the time that you’re facing these seemingly insurmountable trials and difficulties, it can seem like you will never be happy again, and you feel absolutely terrible; you never felt so bad before in your whole life. But please know that in time this too will pass, as Jesus soothes your pain and covers you in His love and never-ending mercies.

Jesus has promised to take every burden of condemnation, so cast it all on the Lord. It’s too heavy for you, but it wasn’t meant for you to carry! “Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain thee; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.”4 In the very moment that you ask His forgiveness, He gives it, and there’s no more need to worry or fear. Regardless of how you may feel, you can trust that His mercies are renewed for you every day and His love never ceases.5

When we’re in the midst of trying times, it’s difficult to comprehend how the Lord could possibly use these experiences for good in some way. It’s almost impossible to fathom how these could all work together for good, especially when you’re feeling so broken and desperate and barely able to keep hanging on. Just know that the Lord promises that someday we will see the good even in what seems like great defeat.

The Lord will give you everything you need for your times of darkness, your times of sadness, your times of weakness, your times of struggle, your times of questioning and your times of doubting. Most of all, He will give you His love in the form of His healing. He wants to renew your heart and your spirit and your will to live.

The Lord has a unique plan for each one of us. Every single person is precious to Him and of great importance, and is dear to His heart. He doesn’t love one of His children more than the other. It is not because of a difference in His love that some suffer and some are delivered in any given situation, but it is because He has a unique plan for each of us. During trying times, it is natural to question and to try to figure it all out, but ultimately we have to just trust Him. He has promised that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him.6 If you’ll draw close to Him, He’ll fill your every need, answer your questions, heal your wounds, and strengthen your broken heart.

Through even the difficult times, you can come to know His love, mercy, forgiveness, and tenderness in a way that you have never known before. So receive the Lord’s gifts of love and mercy, and trust that the Lord has a wonderful plan and future for you. He has promised that He has “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”7

The Lord often can use us most for His glory and for others when we are the most broken and have no strength of our own, and we know how weak and frail we are. The Lord has promised to bring beauty even out of our ashes, and good out of what seems so terrible at the time. The Lord sees things so differently than we do, and He wants to use everything we experience in this life to draw us closer to His heart of love and to mold us in His likeness. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.”8

Just think, right before what would likely be the darkest hour of Peter’s life, Jesus, anticipating the pain and confusion, doubt and regret that he would feel, told him: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”9 I’m praying for you, dear ones, that you’ll hold on to these comforting words and that they will give you faith to believe in His love no matter what difficulties you might be facing.

God bless and keep you, and heal you and help you to keep fighting the good fight of faith and laying hold of His many promises for those who love Him!

Originally published July 1995. Adapted and republished September 2016. 
Read by Debra Lee.

1 ESV.
2 Isaiah 1:18 ESV.
3 Hebrews 12:1.
4 Psalm 55:22; Romans 8:1 KJV.
5 Lamentations 3:22–23.
6 Jeremiah 29:13.
7 Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.
8 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV.
9 Luke 22:31–32 ESV.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

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