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Dangerous Asteroids and a Global ISIS: Finding Hope in a Surprising Story

Apophis was the ancient Egyptian spirit of evil, darkness, and destruction. In ten years, an asteroid named for this frightening deity will come closer to our planet than the orbit of our weather satellites.

It will pass us on April 13, 2029, and will be so close that we will be able to see it with the unaided eye for several hours. The asteroid is estimated to be around 1,115 feet in diameter, nearly four times taller than the Statue of Liberty. 

NASA describes it as “one of the most important near-Earth asteroids ever discovered.” If Apophis were to strike us, it would cause what the space agency calls “major damage to our planet and likely to our civilization as well.” 

Fortunately, the asteroid will not hit us. If you’re thinking that you’re therefore safe, you might think again. 

NASA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and their international partners are convening this week at a Planetary Defense Conference. This is not a speculative exercise. At the start of the year, more than 19,000 near-Earth objects (NEOs) had already been discovered. Astronomers find thirty more each week to add to the list. 

Experts estimate that they have found only one-third of the NEOs believed to exist. So far, astronomers have not discovered asteroids on a collision course with our planet. But, what would we do if they did? 

NASA is planning a mission called DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) to practice deflecting asteroids. No one yet knows if this experimental technology will work when needed. 

“Jihad will continue until doomsday” 

Closer to earth, the leader of ISIS appeared for the first time in five years in a video released by the group. 

With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the world’s most wanted man. He nonetheless vowed a “long battle” with the West, claiming that the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka were “part of the revenge” that awaits us. 

Referring to the loss of his caliphate in Syria and Iraq, al-Baghdadi predicted that the “brothers” of the fallen fighters “will avenge that, as they will not forget as long as they have blood in their veins.” He warned, “Our battle today is a war of attrition to harm the enemy, and they should know that jihad will continue until doomsday.” 

The Easter Day bombing is just one example of the expansive jihad al-Baghdadi seeks. As CNN notes, the atrocity that took more than 250 lives “declared that ISIS is far from extinguished as a global threat.” One analyst stated that the attacks were “a leap of an order of magnitude in organizational and logistical capacities for any extremist group.” 

Analysts warn that thousands of ISIS fighters and planners left the region when their caliphate was destroyed. Terrorist networks are now being built around the world. Estimates of ISIS assets vary between $50 million and $300 million. 

Is our culture more moral or less? 

There are always reasons to fear the future. Whether our focus is on natural disasters or manmade devastation, the brokenness of our world is on display daily. 

Our secular culture has no resources to offer hope for a more secure world. Medical advances make us healthier but can be used for frightening genetic modifications. Technology can build bridges between people or bombs to destroy them. 

Looking back over recent history, would you say our culture is becoming more moral or less? Safer or more dangerous? 

However, God’s word offers us transformative hope from a surprising story. 

The power of praise 

In Romans 4, Paul discusses the astonishing faith of Abraham, a man who was “as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old)” when God promised he would become “the father of many nations” (vv. 19, 17). Here was Abraham’s secret: “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (v. 20). 

“As he gave glory” could be translated “when he glorified God.” Praise was the context in which “he grew strong in his faith.” It was the precondition, the cause for which faith was the effect. 

Secular people see little reason to praise God for hard times. They’re right. But there are abundant reasons to praise him in such times. 

“He grew strong” is passive in the Greek original, better translated as “he was made strong.” When Abraham chose to worship God in the face of overwhelming challenges, God was then able to strengthen his faith to believe the divine promise. 

Secular people see little reason to praise God for hard times. They’re right. But there are abundant reasons to praise him in such times. 

Praising God for who he is and thanking him for what he has done is our grateful response to his character and favor. Such worship positions us to experience all that our Father wishes to give us by his grace. We grow strong in our faith as a result, and the world takes note. 

The true issue of faith 

You may not be worried about asteroids falling on you or consider ISIS an existential threat to your life and family. But you have other reasons to follow Abraham’s example. 

Name your greatest challenge today. Then make time to offer God the praise and thanksgiving he deserves. Ask his Spirit to strengthen your faith as you worship. 

R. C. Sproul observed, “The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in.” 

Do you believe God today?

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Publication Date: May 1, 2019

Photo Courtesy: Pixabay

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