Friday, April 05, 2024

Gazing Into The Heavens

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Eclipse chasers are heading to Texas this weekend to watch the moon completely block the sun for nearly five minutes. One former scientist and Christian says this phenomenon is an "opportunity ripe for evangelism."

More than a million people are expected to flock to Texas alone this weekend to watch the total solar eclipse.

Texas is one of the states that will experience the path of totality – the path where the moon's disk completely blocks the sun. 

Eight major U.S. cities will be in the path of totality – that's the 115-mile-wide track falling under the moon's central shadow.

Be informed, not misled.

CBN has published several excellent articles on this upcoming event.

"During totality, which here in Kerrville [Texas] is going to be 4 minutes and 26 seconds at my house, the sky is going to be so dark, like night," said Jeff Stone, an eclipse enthusiast known as the "eclipse guy" and former NASA employee, to Baptist Press.

"You'll be able to see stars. Granted, you won't see all the stars that you normally do, but you'll be able to see the bright stars. And, in the case of this one.… You'll also be able to see all the naked-eye planets, and I think that is going to be crazy cool," he added.

Stone once traveled to Mexico to witness seven minutes of a total eclipse, and in 2017, he traveled to Missouri to experience two minutes of it. 

He and his wife will host eclipse enthusiasts from as far away as Sweden at their home on Monday, April 8.

And they are not the only ones preparing to use this event to share the Gospel. 

Coryell Community Church in Gatesville, TX, will be hosting a watch party that will include live music, games, food, and worship.

"God is going to show us His power again," Stone said. 

Stone, who attends Trinity Baptist Kerrville, likens the effects of watching an eclipse to what it must have been like when darkness cloaked the earth during Jesus' crucifixion.

To have skies dark enough to see stars in daytime hours during totality "is still blowing my mind to even think about it," Stone said.

The Bible also has more to say about celestial events in general, beyond solar eclipses. The scriptures talk about signs in the heavens quite a few times, especially related to the moon and sun. 

Jesus says in Luke 21:25-28, "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near." 

Christian professors and scientists are also weighing in on the eclipse.

It's pretty dramatic," says Dr. Daniel Kennefick, a physics professor at the University of Arkansas. "A total solar eclipse is a very unique event because the moon, by a strange coincidence, happens to be the same apparent size, in our skies, as the sun. Of course, the moon is much smaller than the sun but it's also a lot closer and it's precisely the right distance that it blocks out the sun while leaving the area around the sun which means we get to see the solar atmosphere called the corona."

"Not only does it get dark, because the body of the sun is no longer visible, and even noticeably colder, but we get this remarkable display and it's often said that animals, like birds, will be fooled into thinking night has fallen quite quickly," adds Kennefick.

Dave Parker from the Arkansas Department of Transportation expects a large number of eclipse tourists in his state—"about a million extra people from Thursday night, the 4th, through Tuesday the 9th."

As a result, many schools in Arkansas and other states are canceling classes. Texas officials are even warning residents to top off their gas tanks and stock up on food. In Ohio, the governor signed an executive order to increase staffing for emergency management. They're all treating the April 8 eclipse like a major travel holiday.

"Any way you cut it, the highways and interstates are going to be crowded," says Parker.

More than 31 million people will be in the path of totality when the eclipse passes through North America. As exciting as it is for us today, eclipses took on a much different tone in ancient times.

Christian historians are commenting on the event.

Dr. Scott Stripling from Associates for Biblical Research notes, "The ancient people saw celestial phenomena as omens."

Using a dating system that intersects NASA data with the ancient Assyrian calendar, Associates for Biblical Research says it shows an eclipse passed over Nineveh in the mid-8th century B.C. That event was preceded and followed by a series of natural disasters.

"And lo and behold, what does the Bible show us? A renegade prophet named Jonah shows up and he's preaching repentance at a time that they would be open to it that normally they wouldn't because of the omen," Stripling explains.

Stripling says this same dating method shows a celestial spectacle happening in 33 A.D. on April the 3rd, approximately the same time the Gospels record the earth turning dark on the day of Jesus Christ's crucifixion.

"Picture this: as the stone is rolling to seal the tomb, on the horizon, the moon is beginning to appear, and guess what? It's a lunar eclipse. Listen, ancient people would have been powerfully impacted by this," Stripling emphasizes.

"However you feel the impact of the upcoming solar eclipse", he says, "countless people worldwide will have an eye to the sky on April 8 to see something that has been drawing awe since time began."


Warren Gasaway, Evangelism + Church Health and College + Young Leaders team leader at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, writes that Arkansas will see up to 1.5 million visitors for the eclipse.

"Pray for the Lord to move in powerful ways through His creation. God is faithful to reveal and draw people to Himself. Let's ask Him to do that as 1.5 million people make their way to Arkansas looking for the eclipse but ultimately encountering the Savior," he wrote. 

"There is no doubt that the Church can use the solar eclipse as an avenue to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ," Gasaway added. 

Psalms 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." 

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Joyful. Be Prayerful.