Thursday, December 31, 2015

By the Numbers 2015: top trends, charts, earthquakes, and more

The year 2015 is over and we are looking at 2016. I'm personally excited to see what 2016 will hold. A group of men I've been praying for have planted a new church and it is going to be a God-honoring, expositional, doctrinally pure (as it can be), Reformed church. We are having a pre-launch prayer meeting January 10 and the first service will be January 31. It's being planted at the border of a city of 166,000 and a town of 160. The proximity to both city and rural counties means we can reach people of various backgrounds. There is a demographic of diversity in the area from farmers to young families to new arrivals from other countries to established city families. Since Christ’s bride will be multiethnic (Rev 5:9), the leaders of the new church would like our church to begin to reflect the diversity of heaven and selected this location. God then provided the facility.

The pastor-teacher of our new church is a man whom I have had the privilege of seeing God mature quickly over the last few years. He is an astounding expositional preacher, and I'm not kidding when I say it's like a mini-Pentecost every time he opens the Word and preaches it. The elder men have nurtured and discipled him for ten years and the elders believe he is ready. Now is the moment.

It is a huge relief to know I have a church to go to, after the years of seeing what failure to employ church discipline does to a gathering, after seeing what spiritual abuse does to a congregation, after seeing plagiarizing pastors go unchallenged. The emails I've received from women thirsty and crying for Godly men and a church that at least majors in the majors has had my voice silently added to them all the while. Now, please rejoice with me to praise God for what He is doing and what He will do in our section of rural Georgia in and through the people He will bring to our new church.

I was saved in 2004 and then moved to GA in 2006 and the Lord put a heart for prophecy in me. I was firmly convinced in 2006 that 2006 would be the year of the rapture. I was convinced of it in 2007 and 2008 and 2009 and 2010 and 2011 and 2012 and 2013 and 2014 and 2015 and I say now, that 2016 will be the year of the rapture. Am I discouraged that these years have passed with no trumpet calling me bodily home? Not at all! I am MORE excited than ever! It just means that for ten times I've had the privilege of waiting and hoping expectantly for my Lord! It's going to happen. It could happen any second! The Doctrine of Imminence is true. More on that in another blog essay here!

I live with the thrill of knowing this. I live with the hope of knowing His return is imminent. The Lord has declared it and it will come to pass in His timing. This is a sure thing.

If you've followed this blog for very long you know I have a fascination with earthquakes and sinkholes. I don't live in a highly seismic area, though we had a house-shaker in here Georgia last year, this year was quiet. It's just the notion of the ground which seems so solid suddenly turning liquid. Or shaking and opening up in cracks. Nothing else in my opinion shows the sovereignty of the LORD as much as earthquakes do. On a daily, regular visible, basis that is.

Jesus said that the time of the end will contain more quakes and in diverse places. (Matthew 24:7).

At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." (Hebrews 12:26)

Let's look at a long-term trend of global quakes. I update this table every year. Click to enlarge.


The average trend is still a heightened number of quakes. In 2003 we saw the beginning of meeting or exceeding the USGS number of average quakes, an average the USGS has settled on since beginning to track quakes in 1900. The first year where all four of the major magnitudes' averages were smashed was in 2009. The number of quakes has stayed high every year since. 2012 showed a slight lessening, with "only" two of the four magnitudes averages falling below the USGS number of average quakes for that year. 2014 saw a smashing of the average in the 5.0-5.9 magnitude category. In 2015 that trend is continuing.

Time will tell what 2016 will bring.

Oklahoma continues to be shaken daily by quakes. This is from a report in Tulsa World on November 23, 2015
Oklahomans remain shaken up as the state blasts through its earthquake record from only a year ago. In August Oklahoma surpassed 2014’s banner year of 584 earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater. In 2015, Oklahoma Geological Survey data show a staggering 802 quakes of those magnitudes through Sunday afternoon. ...Through Sunday afternoon, Oklahoma has been rocked by 31 magnitude-4 or greater earthquakes in 2015, according to Oklahoma Geological Survey data.


Chart by EPrata generated from USGS data

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Other trends and numbers:

Florida population tops 20 million
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida's population has now topped 20 million people. ... At last, on Tuesday, the census made it official: Florida's population in 2015 reached 20,271,272. Only California (39,144,818) and Texas (27,469,114) had more people, according to the bureau. That means Florida — which until the middle of the 20th century had the smallest population of any Southern state — now has more people in it than the nation of Chile. Look out Syria and Sri Lanka, you're next.
But before you start packing your bags, the Sunshine State is also "No. 1 for sinkholes, lightning strikes, shark bites and concealed weapons permits."
Speaking of Sinkholes...The Siberian Times reported this past May-

Sinkhole gets bigger in city plagued by giant craters
Officials promise to monitor situation after four-fold increase in size since February.

Closer to home, this happened in Brooklyn. Now, oftentimes sinkholes occur because of leaking water mains underneath the ground. This is a natural effect of water, and I never post those kind of sinkholes or comment on them. But the mysterious sinkholes, or at least, the ones experts have not yet been able to explain, those are the ones that grab my attention. Imagine, just walking along and suddenly falling into a hole that the ground had opened up under your feet! Nothing in this life is solid, except the faith in Jesus Christ in His persevering hand. So the ground opening up suddenly is representative of just how vaporous and insubstantial to his life really is!


The Holy Land is not immune.

Dead Sea sinkholes increasing in number as water level recedes
Sinkholes are gathering up fast on the banks of the Dead Sea, posing danger to tourists drawn by the healing powers of the mineral laden waters. This is happening because fresh groundwater is rising up and dissolving the salt to leave behind large cavities underground. The sinkholes are forming above this, Hanan Ginat, a geologist and academic chairman of the Dead Sea and Arava Research Center, in Israel told Live Science. The Dead Sea water surface is currently receding by about three feet (one metre) per year mostly due to diversion of water from the Jordan river and mineral mining in the south. First observed in the 70s, the number of sinkholes along the Dead Sea banks is now increasing and there are almost 4000 today.
Yet God has a great restoration in store for the Dead Sea!! This passage is called The Millennial River, written by MiddleTown Bible Church
A key test for whether a person interprets the prophetic Word literally is the river that is described in Ezekiel 47 and in other places in the Old Testament. This amazing river will originate from the house of the LORD (compare Joel 3:18) as a very shallow stream. 
Gradually the stream will get deeper and fuller until it is over a man's head. It eventually travels east until it empties into the Dead Sea which will then be a terrible misnomer because the waters of the Dead Sea will be turned into fresh water teeming with fish (see Ezekiel 47:1-10). It will be the Living Sea! 
In Zechariah 14:8 we learn that half of this river will empty into the Dead Sea and half of the river will empty into the Mediterranean Sea. This river is also mentioned in Psalm 46:4 (and notice the context in Psalm 46:9-10 which clearly speaks of the kingdom).
Manfred Kober has provided the following illustration of the future topography of the Holy Land showing this amazing river of life flowing into the two great seas:
I do not endorse Middletown Bible Church but merely place the illustration here
as a visual enhancement to the prophecy of the Millennial River in Ez 47


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APOSTASY

Every generation endures an increasing level of apostasy. (2 Timothy 3:1-5, Matthew 24:12). That is because Jesus foretold it in the end times, and the end times occur between His ascension and His return. So it stands to reason that within an 80 year lifespan, a man would notice things getting worse. I listen to S. Lewis Johnson, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and other men who preached in the early part of the twentieth century, and I also read Spurgeon who preached in the 1800s. These men all mourned the rising apostasy. Spurgeon was famous for preaching against the Downgrade.

However, I personally believe that the last 15 years has seen not only an acceleration of the apostasy but an exponential increase. Even in the 1990s when the fundamentals were being watered down, the American church never would have tolerated the silliness that passes for preaching and ministry today. Pastors zip-lining into the sanctuary? Preachers demanding a jet? Women being regularly ordained as pastors in mainline denominations? Acceptance of homosexuality in leaders and pastors? Visions and ecstatic utterances passing for worship? No. In my opinion the Lord is showing us how inflated the false church has really become.

Since true Christianity is declining, our institutions are being eroded at a rate that has passed a tipping point in my opinion. Absolutely crumbling. This includes the institution of marriage. Picture a dam that has withstood rising flood waters, but underneath the rushing waters there have been massive holes punched through. All of a sudden the dam collapses. The suddenness of the collapse sparks a flood, but the erosion had actually been going on a long time.

Here is one just such a silly article.

Divorced Influential blogger bemoans five reasons why the age-old institution of marriage "just doesn't work anymore"
His reasons,

1. There's not enough sex
2. Marriage is too expensive
3. Marriage is boring, dude
4. Social media diverts attention away from my own fame
5. Social media distracts him from having a good time on vacation, or something

But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:20b-24)

Marriage is an institution ordained by God. Problems are rampant, but can be overcome in Christian marriages where attitudes of patience, sacrifice, and the devoted choice of love can be cultivated by the Spirit. Without the Spirit's strengthening and guidance, and union under Christ's headship, marriages have little chance today, I admit. With fewer true Christians around and more secular marriages happening, it's no wonder that it seems like marriage as an institution is failing. Women are taught in secular life that it is a 50-50 institution. But that's wrong. In Christ, marriage is a 100-100 exchange, or that is the goal anyway. How can a marriage survive when half of what a person has in them is held back, selfishly? No wonder the poor guy is bemoaning his marital loss.

Are Americans giving up on marriage?
May 2015
So what does marriage in the U.S. look like these days? A recent study from the Pew Research Center found a number of interesting trends in their most recent look at marriage in America. For one, the study found that after years of declining marriage rates, the percentage of Americans who have never been married has reached a historic high point.
The research indicates that about one in five adults in the U.S. (adult in this case meaning 25 years old or older), or about 42 million Americans, have never been married. Compare that to data from the 1960 Census when just one in ten adults 25 or older had never been married, or about 9% of all American adults; clearly, marriage isn’t the institution it once was. 
It’s interesting to note that while divorce rates in the U.S. hit an impressive 40-year low in 2009, it may not have been for all the warm and fuzzy reasons we all might have liked. Bloomberg notes that the primary reason divorce rates took a nosedive during the recession was because most people could not afford them. Divorce necessitates more expenses than just legal fees, after all. Often the separated parties are looking for new housing or new jobs on top of adjusting out of a failed marriage. In this sense it’s logical that as the economy stabilizes, people who have long been unhappy are taking the opportunity to jump ship. The data supports this, as the number of Americans getting divorced rose for the third year in a row to about 2.4 million in 2012.
How about the Bible? How's it faring? Good news--

Record number of Bible distributed by Bible societies
2014 saw the highest number of printed Bibles ever distributed by Bible Societies around the world. Nearly 34 million full Bibles were distributed, a rise of 6% over 2013’s figures, and 14% higher than the number distributed in the first year of the decade.
Source

Bad news!

According to a Barna State of the Bible report for 2015, 88% of American households own a Bible. However, practically no one reads it. (Note, Barna includes Catholics in their statistics as part of the faithful)
The total proportion of Bible readers—that is, those who read the Bible at least three to four times a year—is 52%. One in seven adults say they read the Bible daily (14%); a similar portion spend time in Scripture several times per week (14%); 8% read it once a week; 9% read the Bible once a month; and 6% read it three to four times a year. Slightly more than one in four adults say they never read the Bible (28%). One in 10 read the Bible less than once a year and another one in 10 report reading the Bible once or twice a year. These three segments combine to represent “nonBible readers” (48%), a segment that has grown by two percentage points since 2014.
BibleGateway puts up a pretty thorough roundup at the end of each year in a year end review. Here is their list of most-searched-for Bible verses, in order.

MOST-POPULAR BIBLE VERSES IN 2015

Here are the overall most-popular Bible verses in 2015 on Bible Gateway:

Rank Verse Text (NIV)
1. John 3:16 For 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.
2. Jer 29:11 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.
3. Phil 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
4. Rom 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
5. Ps 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
6. Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7. Rom 12:2  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
8. Prov 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
9. 1 Cor 13:7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
10. Prov 3:6 In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

BibleGateway posted the top 100 most popular Bible verses in 2014 also, and not one had the word "repent" in it.  In 2015 at least coming in at 53 was the verse in 2 Chronicles where the LORD said if His people repent from their wicked ways and humble themselves... Other than that verse, the word 'sin' didn't make the top 50. Or the top 60. The first time a searched-for verse mentioned sin was number 75, in Romans 6:23 the wages of sin is death.

Not surprisingly, the top 25 search terms did not have any of the following searched-for terms in the list: wrath, sin, wicked, repent, or any version of judge/judgement. Like Joel Osteen, people only want the good news, not the bad news of our sin and depravity. Christianity Today summarized the trend.
These verses are predominately of reassurance and comfort. They fit with the most common keyword searches at Bible Gateway. “Love,” “faith,” “peace,” and other positive and comforting search terms dominate that list, which has a strong devotional focus and shows little sign of the “culture war” rhetoric you might expect from the tone of American cultural and political discourse this year. 
Overall, I'm encouraged by these statistics. To be sure, they point to challenges for the church. There's a clear disconnect between Bible readers and parts of the Old Testament. That's not surprising news. More noteworthy is the very clear inspirational focus of the most-popular verses. It is wonderful to see the resonating power of these beautiful verses confirmed so strongly in our report. But reading through them, I can't help but notice that while these verses certainly reflect what most of us want to get out of God's Word, they're not thematically representative of the entirety of the Bible. 
Years ago, Collin Hansen noticed this trend while reading through popular verses from Bible Gateway's 2011 list (a list that overlaps heavily with 2015's):
Overall the list represents a nice cross-section of Scripture and tells an uplifting story of God’s work in the world. From this list we learn that when most people turn to Scripture, they’re often looking for encouragement. They cling to these verses trusting that God is working for their good, giving them strength, planning their hopeful future, and calming their anxieties by answering their requests. If nothing else, these results help those of us who regularly preach and teach the Bible understand how many Christians and even non-Christians use the Bible.... [But] you won’t learn from this list why God needs to redeem the world he created. You won’t learn why his love is so significant.
There's a good challenge there. We don't necessarily want to convince you to switch your favorite Bible quote from John 3:16 to a downbeat verse from Lamentations. But there is value—and theological significance—in venturing outside those familiar, comfortable verses and into the less popular corners of Scripture. In 2016, try searching out the justice-obsessed sermons of those neglected Old Testament prophets.

So...people own Bibles, don't read them, and when they do, search out only the personally uplifting verses. Got it.


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Culture

With rising apostasy, diminishing reliance of God-honoring institutions like marriage, and biblical literacy increasing, it is no wonder the culture is growing dark too. The Huffington Post reported at mid-year the highs and lows of cultural attainment thus far.

Here are some of my own lowlights

Bruce Jenner turned into Caitlyn
TV Family Man Bill Cosby rape allegations
Fifty Shades of Grey movie
Duggars
Topless Women Day in NYC
Trump/politics
Tullian Tchividjian
Obergefell v. Hodges- SCOTUS says gay is OK, (marriage that is)
Mark Driscoll

Oi, need I go on! No I don't! We all know we're living in Corinth. Or Pergamum where satan's throne is. (Rev 2:13).

Fortunately, Jesus' robes are white and He has declared us clean. His church is clothed in righteousness and it is spotless. The Year 2016 will be spectacular for the main reason is that Jesus still saves. Souls will be reconciled to His bosom, hearts of stone will melt like wax and refill with love for Jesus. Mighty works will be done is His name and He will be pleased. No matter how large the false church gets (and it's pretty big) there remains a true church of Jesus Christ, waiting His return in glory and triumph. Happy New Year!

Here are 10000 sparklers lit up for the joy of His name! (Or, otherwise a funny Youtube video by some Russian guys)





2 comments :

  1. It seems the signs of the times are piling up. And it seems that the secular world is being prepared for what's to come, with Hollywood films being a reflection of that. And then there's an annual event called Tommorrowland which young people attend by the thousands that's preparing minds to follow the coming system - wow - freaky stuff there. Everything the Bible mentions is happening excessively, but I wonder about some things the Bible doesn't mention, such as artificial intelligence (AI), for example. As far as I can determine, this goes beyond scripture or scripture is silent on the matter. It makes me question whether God will quickly intervene and put a stop to it by His coming because it isn't mentioned and gets into the realm of men playing God (they are putting human faces on the robots) or if scripture simply doesn't mention it. It seems to me that men are overstepping their bounds, and God put an end to such evil at the Tower of Babel. At what point will this generation overstep its bounds? It appears we have no more steps to take for we are fully corrupt. My ears are attuned to a trumpet blast.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Sheryl, I often ask the question too. How long will the Lord graciously allow the blasphemies before putting a stop to it?

      I agree AI is extra biblical but I think it is in the Bible in concept. We know that God made man in His image. (Listen to a great sermon from Phil Johnson on that topic, here
      http://www.thegracelifepulpit.com/Sermons.aspx?code=2015-11-08-PJ

      Satan has been trying to interfere with our relationship with God ever since the beginning. We know he ruined it by tempting Adam and Eve to sin. He has been busy crumbling marriage and polluting churches- God ordained institutions. He likes abortion and is messing with the genders. As for the 'made in His image'part, now that satan has gone a long way to ruining the externals, he is turning to internals, moving away from messing with what it means to be a husband, wife, mother (feminism), to things like what does it mean to be a woman, or a man? Does gender matter? Why not change genders? Why not end life of someone is so ill, or handicapped. Life adn death and other issues that define us as human. What does it really mean to be human? Like that. AI is part of the corruption of humankind satan seeks to destroy.

      I'm fascinated by The Singularity. This seems to me to be a hardline benchmark one can look to and see how far we have fallen. The Singularity is defined below:

      "The Singularity is an era in which our intelligence will become increasingly nonbiological and trillions of times more powerful than it is today—the dawning of a new civilization that will enable us to transcend our biological limitations and amplify our creativity."

      In other words there will be a moment when humans aren't quite as human any more but will have morphed into something else, ruining God's high point of creation- people. Will God allow that? If He will, would it happen before the rapture or after?

      Google glass, hip replacements and other artificial parts embedded in us, babies with three parental DNA, gender selection, all those things are in some ways helpful to humankind, but nothing was invented that satan didn't corrupt so all these things are part of the progress away from being humans made in God's likeness and becoming sinners wallowing in depravity in satan's likeness. IMHO. These are just rough thoughts so...FWIW

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