How Cracking Wheat’s Genetic Code Reminds Us Who We Are

This grain’s genome echoes of the strength found in the diversity of God’s people.

Like many kids, I grew up picking wild grasses believing that they were wheat. I would pick one from the yard of my childhood home, believing the harvest I held in my hands could be transformed into food. As I grew up, I quickly learned that the “wheat” in my yard was far from a bountiful harvest and instead was actually weeds and wild grasses.

Yet, my childhood confusion about wheat is, in one sense, understandable. Wheat is a part of the grass family. In Matthew’s telling of the Parable of the Weeds, the “weeds” represent darnel, “a poisonous weed organically related to wheat, and difficulty to distinguish from wheat in the early stages of the growth,” writes New Testament scholar Craig Keener.

In the Bible, wheat is used as a metaphor for the people of God. The scientific study of wheat prompts reflection on how what distinguishes God’s people and how our vast diversity can strengthen us all.

Wheat’s genetic makeup has baffled scientists. But last summer, after 13 years of research, a team of international scientists cracked the wheat’s genome to reveal the baffling, beautiful genetic material that makes wheat, well, wheat.

Essentially, a genome contains all of the genetic knowledge needed to create and sustain an organism.

It would be easy to assume that the wheat genome would be more straightforward to sequence than the human genome. After all, human beings are the crowning achievement of God’s creative work while wheat is a mere plant. However, the wheat genome holds mysteries that offered significant challenges to research scientists who wanted to understand this plant at the most minute level.

The full sequence of the human genome was published in 2003, …

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I Fled My Country, But Not My Marriage

Though extremists separated me from my husband years ago, I know who holds us together.

Two years ago this Valentine’s Day, I arrived in the United States after fleeing persecution in Pakistan. When I describe my journey, I often tell people it was like a journey from hell to heaven. I really do love it here.

But the holiday where Americans around me celebrate romantic love is bittersweet. Although I have been married to my husband for seven years, we have only been in the same country for one Valentine’s Day. He has not yet made his journey “from hell to heaven.”

Shortly after we married in Pakistan—a marriage arranged by my parents, who were thrilled that he was Christian, well educated, and taller than I am—my husband started a website to tell the stories of persecuted Pakistani Christians. Soon after the website launched, we were in danger.

We set out to flee, but my husband was captured by extremists. I continued with my plan to escape Pakistan, thinking my husband had been killed. I knelt in church every day praying for his safety, even though the evidence told me it was futile.

Only later, after I had left the country, did I learn that he had been tortured and left for dead. A passerby found him and saved his life, but the opportunity for him to come with me had passed, and he had to wait for another chance. By that time, my application for refuge in the US was already in process, and our separation was in the hands of systems larger than us. We never wanted to be apart, but now we had little choice.

Our marriage has crossed continents and oceans, and even though many people think I’m crazy for staying in it, I have never considered getting out. Distance doesn’t matter if the roots are strong. I can bear the pain and uncertainty of physical separation far better …

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Cliff Sims, ‘Team of Vipers,’ and Faith Inside the White House – Part 3

“It’s important to remember that the gospel matters more than politics.”

Ed: You're often featured on outlets that aren’t exactly evangelical bastions and they listen to you defend the President. Would you say that you are a supporter of the President now, as a private citizen?

Cliff: I'm certainly a supporter of the overwhelming majority of the agenda that he is trying to implement. When I'm supporting him, I plan to be vocally supportive and when I think that there are areas where he could do better, I'm going to be willing to share those thoughts as well. I think going towards 2020, we're likely to have a very similar situation as 2016, with a liberal pro-abortion democrat candidate versus Donald Trump, who has governed as a pro-life conservative. When there's that A/B option, I'm going to always go with the conservative, pro-life option and that would be Trump in that case.

Ed: Is there anything else that you learned during your time in the administration that you feel could be helpful for pastors or Christian leaders?

Cliff: Sure. I think if there was anything that I was naive about going into this it was my assumption that we would be able to have a nuanced conversation about anything in the current media landscape. People have probably seen a lot of headlines about the book. I would just love for them to cut through some of that and actually read it—I think there’s a lot there to be learned.

Ed: This administration probably has more evangelicals in cabinet posts than any other administration in history. Why? Has that impacted the feel of the White House at all?

Cliff: Well, sitting on the cabinet with evangelical men and women does not necessarily translate into a changed atmosphere at the White House, because they don't work at the White House—they …

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James MacDonald Fired from Harvest

Leak of “highly inappropriate” comments by founding pastor of Chicago-area megachurch caps months-long clash with critics.

In the midst of efforts to reconcile with longtime critics, Harvest Bible Chapel fired its founder and senior pastor James MacDonald for “engaging in conduct … contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church.”

Harvest elders announced this morning that they were forced to take “immediate action” on Tuesday to end his 30-year tenure.

“Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that Pastor MacDonald should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor. That timeline accelerated, when on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported,” they wrote.

“This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors.”

MacDonald took an “indefinite sabbatical” in January, following a tumultuous few months defending Harvest in a defamation lawsuit against its critics and in the aftermath of a World magazine investigation into mismanagement at the church.

The public scrutiny continued with pushback against MacDonald’s decision to preach at a Harvest affiliate in Florida during his sabbatical. Then, a famous friend of his, Chicago shock jock Mancow Muller, spoke out in a local newspaper against the manipulation and ego he observed around MacDonald’s “cult of personality” at Harvest. On his radio show, Muller later aired what sounded like clips of MacDonald making harsh comments toward media who had covered the story.

Now, the church has decided its longtime leader won’t be coming back.

Muller had prematurely announced the …

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