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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sunspots 648

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: A photo of two children, exploring the outdoors, which is really a commentary on war.
(And Christianity) A Relevant writer argues that horror films often have Christian values, and that the genre can teach us important truths.

Christianity: (And Politics) Sojourners is not happy with the recent actions of Vice-President Pence, at a football game.

Christianity Today reports on bias against Christians. A quotation: “We have a right as Americans not to be persecuted. ... We don’t have a right not to be ridiculed.”

FiveThirtyEight reports that going to a university is not a major factor in young people's loss of faith.

Benjamin L. Corey doesn't think we should say, "God never gives us more than we can handle," and explains why.

Computing: Wired on how difficult it would be to hack North Korea's computers.

Health: The BBC reminds us that flush toilets have a simple mechanism that keeps almost all of the stink from coming back up to us.

Politics: (or something) FiveThirtyEight says that we don't really know what a "typical" sexual harasser is like.

Science: Scientific American reports on a new kind of telescope for amateurs, that makes what you see in it look like what you see in good stellar photos.

A Scientific American writer says that we use far too much plastic, and suggests some ways to change that.

Scientific American also reports on a dwarf planet (of the sun) which isn't a sphere, has some satellites, and also rings.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 70

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:
Jesus was Possessed of Deep, Filial Affection. This was manifested in the provision He made for His precious mother at the crucifixion. All, who like Him are led and indwelt by the Spirit, will, like Him, love their kindred. His gospel turns the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents. I know of a woman who was once a loving, dutiful daughter. She gave up the gospel for the "mind cure" craze, and it froze up her affections for her saintly mother so that she treats her cruelly. A system which does this has not Jesus for its author. Union with Him expels every false affection, but intensifies every lawful love.

Jesus Lived a Life of Prayer. He taught that prayer was the key with which man unlocks the bank of divine blessings. By His example He shows us how to use it. Praying earnestly, persistently, and with pure motives, He always prevailed. Alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, and sometimes all night long on the damp mountain side, Jesus communed and interceded with the Father. One proof of His humanity is that He needed thus to pray. If He had been only Divine, with no humanity, it would not have been so. If Jesus must needs thus pray in order to fulfill His mission, much more must we. All whose lives are molded by convictions from above will, like Him, be possessed of a spirit which "prays without ceasing," and will be led to be much alone with God in prayer.

Jesus was Fearless. Bravest of earth's heroes, He faced danger in every form, and never fled for fear. Before His "time was come" He sometimes wisely evaded an issue which would have been profitless, as when His fellow-townsmen sought His life at the close of His first public address at Nazareth; but on such occasions it was for prudential reasons, and not for lack of courage that He fled. He met the treachery and infidelity of professed friends and the secret conspiracies of His open foes with the same spirit of fortitude. The heroism He manifested in the calm courage with which He met Judas and his murderous band is not surpassed in the annals of history. He was not excited, but calm and self-possessed. He knew that His life was sought. He knew that it would be taken. He had power to defeat the murderous conspiracy and destroy all who were engaged in it, yet He forbore to use it, and in the livid glare of the torch-lights which seemed to dance with fiendish glee over the triumph of wrong, He faced His foes with a majesty that struck them to the earth. He marched as self-possessed to His trial as a king to his throne. It was towards His throne in the affections of ransomed millions. The perfect love, which casts out fear, and which is a part of His legacy to all who serve Him, was enthroned within, and made Him brave to face all perils, only that He might accomplish His mission from the skies and redeem a loved but apostate race. When that love in its purity and perfection sways His followers, they, like Him, are brave to breast all storms, and are entered on the list of the HEROES of THE UNIVERSE, of whom He is the honored Leader.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Sunspots 647

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Christianity Today has published another essay on reaction to the national anthem and the US flag. (The previous two Sunspots each referred to another such essay.)

A Relevant writer says that pursuing physical fitness can be a form of idolatry.

Another Relevant writer asks whether God really wants us to be happy.

Ed Stetzer, in Christianity Today, writes about hypocrisy, and a couple of prominent current hypocrites.

Computing: Wired reports on how to give robots a sense of touch.

Food: Listverse describes some bad things (including dying) that can happen to contestants in eating contest.

National Public Radio reports on trendy (and expensive) non-alcoholic beverages.

Health: Listverse discusses 10 good things that coffee does for you.

History: Listverse describes some amazing accomplishments of self-taught people.

(and Philosophy) The History Blog discusses the story of what happened to the body and head of philosopher Jeremy Bentham. (Here's the Wikipedia article on Bentham.)

Humor: (or something) Listverse describes 10 really strange government agencies, from more than one country.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight says that gun control is about as polarizing issue as there is in the present USA.

Science: (and politics) Scientific American says that Congress has an anti-scientific attitude, and suggests a fix.

NASA will let you send your name to Mars.

NPR reports that a new weed killer is helping some farmers, but harming others.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Sidonians: a warning

These two passages were among those in my Bible reading for today, October 10:

1 Kings 5:Hiram king of Tyre sent his servants to Solomon; for he had heard that they had anointed him king in the place of his father, and Hiram had always loved David. Solomon sent to Hiram, saying, “You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of Yahweh his God because of the wars which were around him on every side, until Yahweh put his enemies under the soles of his feet. But now Yahweh my God has given me rest on every side. There is no enemy and no evil occurrence. Behold, I intend to build a house for the name of Yahweh my God, as Yahweh spoke to David my father, saying, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place shall build the house for my name.’ Now therefore command that cedar trees be cut for me out of Lebanon. My servants will be with your servants; and I will give you wages for your servants according to all that you say. For you know that there is nobody among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”

The Sidonians, then, were involved in the building of Solomon's Temple, although they did not come the the Temple site. They were considered, by Solomon, anyway, to be skilled woodcutters, and necessary for his construction. (The Bible sometimes links Tyre and Sidon. I'm not sure of the relationship.) And this:

Ezekiel 32:30 “There are the princes of the north, all of them, and all the Sidonians, who have gone down with the slain. They are put to shame in the terror which they caused by their might. They lie uncircumcised with those who are slain by the sword, and bear their shame with those who go down to the pit.

This is part of a prophecy against several nations, all of them receiving punishment for their unbelief.

I'm not sure whether God judges nations now, as He did in Ezekiel's time. But God does judge individuals. It seems that it is possible to be an asset in Kingdom work, but fall from grace, and be, literally or figuratively, put "down to the pit." May that not happen to me.

Thanks for reading. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

Are Christianity and science compatible?

Of course, the answer is "yes!"

This page hosts a PowerPoint 2016 presentation on the subject, "are Christianity and science compatible?" and a second presentation, an appendix, with related material. Anyone is free to download, use, and modify these, provided the results are not offered for sale. If you do use one or both of these, you don't have to give me credit.

There are some links, and some block quotations, included. These are not mine. The usual restrictions apply for using those.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 69

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:
It is a part of God's plan that every resurrection and Pentecost shall be preceded by a Gethsemane and Calvary. The Holy Spirit fully followed will sustain in the conflict, and lead to the crown. In stead of being surprised at opposition in the path of duty, it should be remembered that our "Perfect Model" met it, and that, like Him, we are to expect, meet and conquer it.

Jesus was Patient. His patience must have been sorely tried by the stupidity, rashness and carnality of His followers, by the treachery of Judas, by the inconveniences that were inseparable from His homeless life, by the weariness and weakness that came from exposure, hunger, fasting and toilsome journeys from place to place; yet not one impatient word ever fell from His lips.

Jesus Proclaimed the Plain Truth. He insisted on the necessity of repentance and of the new birth; emphasized man's accountability, the judgment and the reality of heaven, and the awfulness and duration of the doom of the damned.

He Preached Against the Popular Sins of His Day. Neither the priesthood nor common people who were living in public or private sin escaped His denunciations. His lightning leaped upon hypocritical ecclesiastics with gleeful fury. Like their brethren today, who love the praise of men more than the praise of God, and seek more earnestly the honors of earth than the gift of the Holy Ghost, they doubtless dubbed Him a "scolding pessimist," and followed their own ways instead of His truth.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Sunspots 646

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: A splendid photo of Padar Island, Komodo National Park, Indonesia, from the air, on Flickr.

An amazingly colored bird, also from Southeast Asia, also on Flickr.

From ClassicFM, a photo of a bass drum that broke, when it was used to play the cannon part from Tchiakovsky's 1812 Overture.

Christianity: A commenter, in Christianity Today, on the matter of the NFL and the US flag. (Not the same commenter, or viewpoint, as was mentioned here last week.)

Sojourners reports that a number of high-profile Southern Baptists, and others, have called on President Donald Trump to denounce the alt-right movement.

Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength reminds us that it is important that God is personal, and explains why.

He Lives points out that God is omni-holy. He isn't omni-merciful, or omni-just, though.

Computing: (and Politics) National Public Radio reports that Republican Senator James Lankford is saying that Russian trolls have injected themselves into the current debate over racial treatment and the national anthem, on both sides, in an attempt to divide the US citizenry.

A Wired contributor suggests that we delete Facebook, etc., from our smartphones, and use them only from a computer, and gives reasons for suggesting this. (I did that myself, a couple of years ago, and have not gone back to Facebooking on our smartphone.)
  Finance: Wired analyzes the consumer protection now offered by Equifax.

Food: Scientific American on the science of brewing coffee.

History: Listverse reports on the ways that Christ's disciples died. They were all painful and humiliating.

Humor: (or something) Listverse also reports on 10 famous quotes, and how we don't attribute them correctly.

Politics: (and Sports) FiveThirtyEight has analyzed the political preferences of the fan base of all of the National Football League teams. All of them have substantial support from people leaning in both political directions, but some have more of one than the other. Fans of NASCAR are mostly Republican, fans of the NBA are mostly Democratic.

FiveThirtyEight also tries to explain President Donald Trump's behavior.

Science: Scientific American reports on a giant rat species, new to science, from the Solomon Islands. (It was known to the local inhabitants.)

Sports: Phil Mickelson, golfer, took a selfie of himself, with former presidents Clinton, Obama and George W. Bush, but mostly cut himself out of the photo. (In CBS Sports and many other sources.)

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 68

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:
It is only those who suffer with Him who shall reign with Him.

Jesus was Possessed of a Deep Abiding joy. Though sorrowful He was always rejoicing. This joy He bequeaths to all His followers.  He says: "That my joy may be in you that your joy may be full."

As near as we can learn the joy of Jesus consisted, as Adam Clark says, in "The fulfilling the will of the Father in tasting death for every man." This, with the anticipation of the rapture it would bring to countless multitudes, was His joy, or at least a fruitful source of it, and a kindred self sacrifice and anticipation of its results in blessing to others will possess all in whom the Spirit dwells. Its manifestation in the life of Jesus was hid beneath the agonizing efforts of pain and loss with which His life was filled in rescuing the race; but the consciousness of His Father's continual approbation and the success of His soul saving work, was a well-spring of joy even in His hours of deepest agony. "For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

Great Success was Preceded by Great Agony. His early ministry was preceded by His humble birth, misunderstood parentage, and the terrible temptation in the wilderness. His public efforts were opposed at every step by persistent and wily foes. Many of the ministry and church members of His day looked upon Him with suspicion and hatred. Even His "Own brethren did not believe on Him."

The resurrection and Pentecost were preceded by Gethsemane and the crucifixion. He endured untold agony upon the bloody battlefield before He should wear the victor's crown. Beloved, "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being formed in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore, also, God hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." -- Phil. 2:6-11.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sunspots 645

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey is not at all happy about President Trump's threat to destroy the entire population of North Korea, and he's even less happy with Franklin Graham's reaction to the speech.

The editor of Christianity Today weighs in on athletics and the national anthem.

Ken Schenck answers the question, "Who is God?"

A writer in the Washington Post compares Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick, and reaches a sobering conclusion about today's Christianity.

Food: The New York Times reports that the plants that produce chocolate may be in danger from a fungus.

History: (and politics) Listverse describes 10 states of the US that never came into being, but were more or less seriously proposed.

Humor: (not really, but I don't have a category for this one) Listverse also reports on 10 things were are running out of. Interesting, and scary.

Politics: (Sort of) FiveThirtyEight points out that the news media, including some important "mainstream" entities, treat probabilities as if they were certainties, and those who are predicting (meteorologists and polling organizations) are putting out probabilities.

Science: (or extraplanetary travel) Listverse tells us why a trip to Mars would be more uncomfortable than most of us would think.

Scientific American reports, somewhat poetically (!) on the discovery of fungi, living about a half mile down in bedrock. The article mentions that possibly one-fifth of all the living things on earth live in the earth's crust, seldom, if ever, seen.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, September 25, 2017

What is Christianity FOR? (as opposed to what is it against?)

Christians are all too frequently known for what they are against. In present society, we are held to mostly be against two sins that Christ, Himself, never mentioned.

Christianity should be for something, or more than one something. What should it be for, or what should it really be about? It strikes me that we should be for three things:

A remedy for sin. The world has a huge sin problem. I have a huge sin problem. You have  a huge sin problem. The Bible makes that clear. It also makes clear that Christ was our sacrifice for sin, that God will forgive sin, and that there is a way for God to, as Charles Wesley put it, "take away our bent to sinning." (in his "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling")

Making the world a better place, by bringing about Christ's kingdom in the here and now. There have been famous examples of this: Wilberforce and the end of the slave trade in the UK; Mother Teresa; the construction of mission hospitals; supporting woman suffrage; and more. In addition, Christianity, or individual Christians, have been responsible for a lot more. Some historians of science believe that a belief in an ordered universe, and a command to have dominion, were the motivating factors behind the great advances of science in the past. Galileo, Newton and Kepler were believers (although Newton's Christianity was rather unorthodox). Francis Collins, the former head of the human genome project, is a Christian. There are many more.

But I don't have to go to the slums of India, or to a gene sequencing apparatus, to make the world a better place. I can be friendly and unselfish to my family, my co-workers, my neighbors, to people I encounter commercially, such as checkout girls, repair persons, sales clerks, and phone tech support people, and people who are in situations where we find ourselves together, such as standing in a checkout line with me, being transported near me, or being close at some public event. Christ wants us to do such things. He did. Which brings us to . . .

Having a relationship with Christ. This one is harder to pin down, for me, but it's essential. In his Union with Christ: the Way to Know and Enjoy God, Rankin Wilbourne points out that two of the greatest prayers in the New Testament were for exactly that:

John 17:19 For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20  Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who will believe in me through their word, 21  that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me.

Ephesians 3:16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I hope I'm manifesting these three attitudes. Whether I am, or not, they are something worth living for.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 67

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:
He was Tried. In the wilderness by the devil, at home by His kindred and fellow-townsmen, in His public life by the ridicule, deception, intrigue and opposition of His enemies, and the cowardice, selfish ambition and misdirected zeal of His friends, on every side and in all points He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin. It is said that a man once came to Napoleon claiming to have made a bullet-proof armor. "Put it on," said the General. He did so. Turning to an orderly, Napoleon ordered him to "fire." The inventor refused to allow his boasted armor thus to be tested. Jesus has made a coat of mail which He declares will turn aside "all the fiery darts of the wicked." He wore it while here below, and proved its perfection.

He was Calm, Self-possessed and Assured. He illustrated the inspired declaration that, "The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." Whether He was in the temple teaching and asking questions, on the mountain side preaching to the multitudes, in humble homes working miracles, before Pilate falsely accused, or suffering on the cruel cross; the whole tenor of His life was like the quiet flow of some deep and mighty stream. The overflow of feeling, such as He manifested in regard to the desecration of the temple, the hypocrisy of the priesthood and at Gethsemane, were the exceptions and not the rule of His life.

He was a Man of Sorrow. People who in their zeal to condemn a long faced religion, eliminate from their creed and lives the sorrow such as Jesus felt for fallen man, and such as comes from the cross bearing and self denial which He imposes, need to study more closely their Divine Model.

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sunspots 644

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: National Public Radio reports on the most popular plays and musicals put on by high schools.

Christianity: A Christianity Today writer on the fallacy of spiritual gifts.

A Christianity Today writer says that there's no such thing as a "Christian numerologist," and that the world isn't going to end in the next few days.

Sojourners asks if we have ever heard a sermon about domestic violence. (I haven't)

Christianity Today summarizes the careers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It's a cautionary tale -- there, but for the grace of God, and vigilance on my part, go I (only not so far, I guess).

Relevant says that churches shouldn't try to be cool.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware reminds us that, with a bit of tweaking, we can do a Google search for copyright-free images.

Wired reports on font detectives -- experts who evaluate the authenticity of printed materials based on the fonts used. For example, a document supposedly printed in 1980 is a fake if it uses a font created in 1995.

Relevant suggests a method for determining how authentic a web source is -- for example, identifying fake news.

History: Listverse discusses 10 Roman Emperors that you've probably never heard of.

(and mathematics, and philosophy) The History Blog reports that an Indian manuscript, using a precursor of what we call zero, or naught, dates to at 400 AD, or older. The post also discusses the rise of the modern understanding of zero.

Humor: (or something) National Public Radio reports on a 10-year-old boy who volunteered to mow the White House lawn for free, and got the chance, at 11 years old.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight has checked into how much of books by politicians that people actually read.

Relevant reports that white evangelical Christians have become remarkably more accepting of immoral behavior in politicians, in the last six years.

Science: (and Christianity) Ken Schenck reverently re-writes Genesis 1:1 in terms of modern science. (This probably won't be meaningful unless you have a pretty good science background. Schenck, who is Dean of a School of Theology, has such a background.) I posted about this essay two days ago, but it's important enough that I am mentioning it again.

The BBC tells us why it is so hard to swat a fly -- it has to do with the speed of their vision, and behavior.

I learned, from the Wikipedia, that there is an artificially produced element named for the state of Tennessee -- Tennesine, element 117.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Genesis 1:1 in terms of today's science

Genesis was communicated for the culture of its time. It says nothing about bacteria, cells, atoms, or galaxies. That doesn't mean, of course, that God didn't know about these things!

Ken Schenck has reverently re-written Genesis 1:1 in terms of modern science. (The result will be more meaningful, the better science background you have. Schenck, who is Dean of a School of Theology, has a fine background in science.) In case you are wondering, Schenck's essay says nothing about how old the earth is, nor about the origin of humans. It's about the origin of everything, from nothing.

Thanks for reading. Read Schenck!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 66

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:

All the Rich Results of Being Divinely Led also Find Full Fruition in the Life of Jesus. Possessed of all of the fruits of the Spirit, His life was a perfect representation of true manhood as God designed it to be.

Although such a cloud-burst of trial, opposition, accusation and suffering fell upon Him as no other man ever knew, yet, amid it all, he was never envious, irritable, haughty, self-willed, hurried, disappointed or perplexed.

Let us examine a few of the "fruits of Canaan" which grew in the garden of the life of our" Perfect Model," and remember that kindred fruits will abound in all who are fully possessed of His Spirit. As the pupil learns of the perfect example which he seeks to copy, so being made like Jesus, may we look to and learn of Him.

He was Humble. This was strikingly manifest in His subjection to His parents and to ordinances, to the indignities that were heaped upon Him, to poverty, and in His acceptance of His humble lot, and in other ways which have been mentioned. To all who follow Him He says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls."

He was Obedient. He did the Father's will even as He taught us to pray, "as it is done in heaven." He did it promptly, cheerfully, continually. Whether it was to speak words of healing and of comfort or to suffer on the cross, He was obedient, and obedient unto death. Seeing from the beginning all the shame, reproach, hatred and agony that was in the pathway of obedience which lay before Him, yet He could say, "I delight to do Thy will, O God."

Excerpted from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.