AN AMAZING FACT: In 1835, famous English naturalist Charles Darwin collected three young tortoises about five years old from Santa Cruz Island, in the Galápagos. Darwin noted they were only about as big as dinner plates when he brought the live tortoises on the HMS Beagle back to England with him. He named these three subjects of scientific research "Tom, Dick, and Harry.” But the young tortoises did not fare well in cold, damp England. So in 1842, one of Darwin’s colleagues, John Wickham, brought Tom, Dick, and Harry to Australia aboard a whaling ship and donated the youthful 12-year-old tortoises to Brisbane Botanical Gardens.
As time went by, Tom and Dick died from unknown causes. Wanting to preserve their tortoise attractions for the next 100 years, Harry’s Brisbane caretakers tried in vain to mate him with female Galápagos land tortoises. When he was in the gardens, he had to put up with people riding him. You could see the scars on his shell where people used to engrave their names on his back. Soldiers returning home from various wars even painted his shell a couple of times.
In 1952, Harry was moved to a fauna sanctuary on Australia’s Gold Coast, where it was finally discovered that Harry was in fact a Harriet! Darwin evidently was not able to determine Harry’s sex. Harriet made her final move in 1988 to the Australia Zoo. She loved to eat hibiscus flowers, along with zucchini, squash, beans, and parsley. At 330 pounds, Harriet spent much of her remaining days snoozing in her pond. Harriet died at 175 years of age in June of 2006. She was the third oldest tortoise in the world.
One reason Harriet survived so long is because God provides a tortoise with a natural armor in its shell. Did you know God has provided armor for Christians to preserve us for everlasting life? Paul writes, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10, 11). This armor is not meant to protect against bullets and bombs, but “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places” (verse 12). With this armor in place, we can be assured of protection from death. We can live forever.
KEY BIBLE TEXTSWith long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation. Psalms 91:16
AN AMAZING FACT: The mantis shrimp is neither a mantis nor a shrimp, but derives its name from claws similar to a praying mantis and a body similar to a shrimp. These marine crustaceans, also called stomatopods, come in a variety of colors and grow to be about 12 inches long. The most colorful is the peacock mantis shrimp, with brilliant neon hues that dazzle the eye. This sea creature likes to live a solitary life, hiding in rock formations and waiting for prey to come by, though it will chase and kill for food.
The ancient Assyrians called these creatures “sea locusts.” In Australia they are referred to as “prawn killers,” but they are also called “thumb splitters” because of the nasty gash they can inflict if not handled carefully. Mantis shrimp sport powerful claws that they use to attack prey. These claws can spear or stun their victims. In fact, they are classified into two groups based on their claws. There are the “spearers” (with spiny appendages topped with barbed tips that stab and snag) and “smashers” (with a club-like claw that bludgeons their meals apart). The mantis shrimp’s claw can strike so powerfully that its speed has been compared to that of a .22-caliber bullet. A shock wave is created as well so that if the shrimp misses its target, the aftereffect can be enough to stun or kill its prey.
What literally “stands out” in the mantis shrimp is its eyes. They are considered the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. Each eye is mounted at the end of a stalk and can move independently. Most fascinating is that this sea animal can see both polarized and hyperspectral color. Not only that, but each eye is designed to have three regions, giving the mantis shrimp the ability to see three parts of an object from a slightly different angle. In other words, they have trinocular vision out of each eye! The optics of this little crustacean is actually being studied to improve on the current generation of Blu-ray disc technology.
Jesus once spoke about improving your eyesight. Our ability to see is directly related to our hearts. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). When we humble ourselves before God, seeking to be cleansed from sin, our eyes will be opened to see with vision that is out of this world!
KEY BIBLE TEXTSThe statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. Psalms 19:8
AN AMAZING FACT: When Alexander the Great was leading his victorious armies down through Asia Minor, the great leader came at last to the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, beyond which lay the Khyber Pass and India. As far as Alexander was concerned, he was standing at the end of the world. You see, up until that time no maps had been made of the vast territory before him. As far as he knew he was marching his soldiers off the map of the world!
Often when ancient mapmakers reached the edge of what had been charted, they drew a line and depicted dragons and monsters beyond. You can understand why this practice didn’t exactly encourage exploration. One Roman commander in the first century had led his troops beyond the line on the map into “dragon territory.” He sent a courier back to Rome with a straightforward message: “We have just marched off the map. Please send new orders.”
In the same way, when Columbus first sailed west in search of a shortcut to the Indies, he knew he would be essentially sailing off the map into a region that mapmakers marked with sea monsters. Moreover, because of the unknown distance ahead, he loaded his ships with as many provisions as they could carry and set sail by faith across the trackless sea, believing God was urging him forward.
When we consider conditions in the world today, with the unprecedented change in every arena of life, it would seem we have reached a point in history where we are drifting off the map! But the good news is that nothing that happens takes God by surprise. All these things have been charted before in Bible prophecy. When Daniel was asked to
interpret a strange dream of an ancient Babylonian king, he said, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:28).
Nothing is hidden from God’s eyes, not even the ends of the earth. The past, present, and future are all before the Lord.
KEY BIBLE TEXTSFor the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing. Deuteronomy 2:7
AN AMAZING FACT: President Bill Clinton was once accused of renting out White House rooms in exchange for campaign contributions. That was nothing compared to Arthur Furguson’s enterprise. He leased the entire building. Arthur Furguson was a dapper little Scotsman, always with immaculate dress and charming manner. He began his illustrious career in the roaring ’20s as a small-time scam artist working the streets of London, but by the time he arrived in America in 1925 he was a con man without peer. In one summer in London he managed to sell American tourists Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, with the lions, for $30,000; he sold Big Ben for a bargain price of $5,000; and accepted a $10,000 down payment for Buckingham Palace. While visiting Paris, he even managed to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap at an unknown price to yet another American. At this point, Scotland Yard detectives were hot on his heels, so naturally Furguson boarded a ship for America. Arthur Furguson had only been in Washington briefly when, posing as a government official, he managed to lease the White House to a cattle rancher for 99 years at a cost of $100,000 per year. Furguson told the believing rancher they were going to build a bigger residence for the president closer to the Capitol Building. Furguson convinced the rancher that income from tours of the old White House would bring a handsome profit. Naturally, the first $100,000 was due in advance. When the deal was consummated, Furguson quickly caught a train to New York City with a bag full of money, leaving it to the government officials to explain that the White House was not available for lease. Did you know the Bible tells about an even bigger con artist who tried to sell the whole world? The Bible says, “Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’ Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:8-11). KEY BIBLE TEXTS Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. John 8:44
AN AMAZING FACT: One hundred and forty years ago, almost 50 percent of the patients undergoing major surgery died from infection due largely to the filthy conditions. Doctors were bewildered why 80 percent more women died giving birth in hospitals compared to those who had their babies at home. Back then, doctors wore bloody aprons and went from patient to patient without washing their hands or instruments. Patients with minor wounds often died from infection or blood poisoning transmitted by the doctor. In the 1860s, a deeply religious English surgeon, Joseph Lister, was disturbed about the staggering number of patients dying from infection. He read in the Bible where God told the Israelites to wash after contact with the sick or a dead body. Based on this and Louis Pasteur’s discoveries, Lister recognized germs as the likely source of infection. He suggested surgeons dress cleanly, wash their hands, and sterilize instruments before operating. He insisted that the operating room be kept clean. He also developed a method for preventing infection during an operation by treating wounds with an antiseptic. At first Lister was regarded as eccentric, and nurses resented the extra work caused by his obsession with cleanliness. Then there was a period of significant mocking and resistance from his peers. Lister, a shy but determined man, was firm in his purpose. He humbly believed he was directed and inspired by God in this endeavor. In spite of all the opposition that he faced, he never gave up. As the mocking went on, everyone began to notice a change. The deaths from blood poisoning, infection, and gangrene were greatly reduced in Joseph Lister’s hospital ward in Glasgow. Eventually, British and American hospitals saw the benefits and gradually adopted the sterile procedures promoted by Dr. Lister. Before he died, Lister’s services to medicine were recognized and he was awarded a knighthood. Louis Pasteur described Lister as one of the greatest men of the 19th century. It’s amazing how the world has been transformed by applying the simple rules of sanitation found in the Bible. But did you know there are many other biblical secrets of health the world is neglecting? The God who formed us knows the principles of caring for the bodies He has given us. He lovingly shares that wisdom with us in His Word. KEY BIBLE TEXTS He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. Numbers 19:11He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Numbers 19:12
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