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Thursday, November 26, 2015

All things come from You

All things come from God

A Thanksgiving poster: All things come from You!

King David's prayer, on the occasion of receiving offerings from the people, for the future construction of the temple. Solomon, David's son, oversaw that construction, but David made sure that things were ready. ". . . all things come from you, and of your own have we given you!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sunspots 548

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

Christianity: The Difference Between (a non-religious site) differentiates between faith and belief.

Health: National Public Radio debunks some ideas about flu shots.

The Washington Post's Michael Gerson says that coming down hard on Muslims is used as propaganda ammunition to recruit followers.

has an article on What the Bible says about how to treat refugees.

Science: Wired reports on how hints from termite mound design can cut energy consumption in our buildings.

Wired also reports on a high-tech repair of a cracked elephant's tusk.

The BBC reports that pigeons are able to detect breast cancer in human X-rays.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 48

Remember how the most earnest medieval art was full of light and fluttering draperies, of quick and capering feet. It was the one thing that the modern Pre-raphaelites could not imitate in the real Pre-raphaelites. Burne-Jones could never recover the deep levity of the Middle Ages. In the old Christian pictures the sky over every figure is like a blue or gold parachute. Every figure seems ready to fly up and float about in the heavens. The tattered cloak of the beggar will bear him up like the rayed plumes of the angels. But the kings in their heavy gold and the proud in their robes of purple will all of their nature sink downwards, for pride cannot rise to levity or levitation. Pride is the downward drag of all things into an easy solemnity. One “settles down” into a sort of selfish seriousness; but one has to rise to a gay self-forgetfulness. A man “falls” into a brown study; he reaches up at a blue sky. Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice. It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What the Bible says about the created world - an overview

Restoring and preserving creation
Genesis 1:31: Everything created was good.

Genesis 1:26, 28: Humans are stewards over the natural world, for God.

Genesis 3:17-19: The relationship between humans and nature changed because of the Fall.

2 Chronicles 36:21: Israel was punished for not taking care of the land, as commanded in Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-5. (Habakkuk predicted that punishment in 2:8)

Job 40-42: God is in charge of the natural world, and He knows it intimately.

Psalm 19:1-4 (Also, Romans 1:20): The natural world is one of the ways God is revealed to us. We try to make the Bible, another way God speaks, available in the language of the heart, because it speaks more clearly. We should also protect nature, so it will speak more clearly. It’s harder to see God in a polluted world.

Psalm 24:1: The earth is the Lord’s, not ours. We are merely stewards of God’s creation.

Psalm 104:10-17: God sustains the natural world.

Psalm 104:24-25: God created an abundant diversity of living things.

Romans 8:19-22: The creation is eager to be restored.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21: We are to help Christ with His ministry of reconciliation.

Colossians 1:15-20: Christ sustains the natural world. He also has a ministry of reconciling the natural world to Himself. We should help Him sustain the natural world.

Hebrews 11:3: We probably can’t prove that God created the universe, but we should believe it.

Revelation 21:1-5: God will make all things new.

A quick summary. For more on what the Bible says about environmental stewardship, see here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sunspots 547

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

Christianity Today has an article on how to help people in need, without creating beggars, or destroying their dignity. The article considers both foreign and domestic charity.

Relevant has an article warning Christians not to judge those in need.

Humor: Relevant shows us what Dunkin' Donuts' "Holiday Cup" looks like.

Politics: A thorough analysis, comparing the amount residents of each state pay in federal taxes, compared to the amount that state, and its individuals, receive back from the federal government. Over all, "red" states are more dependent on the federal government than "blue" states. Some of the reasons for that are that Southern states tend to have more retirees, and also more people in poverty, and that natural disasters tend to strike Southern states more often. There's a lot more, including many comments.

The New York Times reports on simplifying the tax code. It's not as simple as some people think it would be.

People speaking for Muslim countries have condemned the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

BuzzFeed has posted a picture essay on where and how Syrian refugee children sleep.

Science: Public Radio International has a post on myths about spiders. (They aren't as scary as we seem to think.)

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Church as the Bride of Christ -- References in the Bible

The Church as the Bride of Christ - references in the Bible.
Much of the Song of Solomon may be about the love of Christ and the Church. There were dramatic comparisons of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God to adultery, in the Old Testament, especially in Ezekiel 23 and in the story of Hosea and his wife.

Here are the only direct references about the Church being the Bride of Christ, in the Bible. The first two are about God's people being the Bride of Christ -- there was no Church during Isaiah's time:

Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord!
My soul will be joyful in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation.
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 62:5 For as a young man marries a virgin,
so your sons will marry you.
As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so your God will rejoice over you.

Revelation 19:7 "... Let’s rejoice and be exceedingly glad, and let’s give the glory to him. For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready.” 8 It was given to her that she would array herself in bright, pure, fine linen: for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Revelation 21:2 I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

21:9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were loaded with the seven last plagues came, and he spoke with me, saying, “Come here. I will show you the wife, the Lamb’s bride.” 10 He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God … (all scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, public domain.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton, 47

It is one of the hundred answers to the fugitive perversion of modern “force” that the promptest and boldest agencies are also the most fragile or full of sensibility. The swiftest things are the softest things. A bird is active, because a bird is soft. A stone is helpless, because a stone is hard. The stone must by its own nature go downwards, because hardness is weakness. The bird can of its nature go upwards, because fragility is force. In perfect force there is a kind of frivolity, an airiness that can maintain itself in the air. Modern investigators of miraculous history have solemnly admitted that a characteristic of the great saints is their power of “levitation.” They might go further; a characteristic of the great saints is their power of levity. Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly. This has been always the instinct of Christendom, and especially the instinct of Christian art. Remember how Fra Angelico represented all his angels, not only as birds, but almost as butterflies.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Sunspots 546

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

(in action, maybe in name) A police officer in Iowa noted that a car had six children with no car seats. Instead of writing them a ticket, he bought them six car seats and helped install them.

Relevant muses on Christianity in Peanuts.

I'm glad that I missed it, but there has been a lot of chatter about Starbucks having Christmas-colored cups without "Christmas" on them. Christianity Today and Relevant say that Christians should back off of complaining about this.

Ken Schenck tells us that "We must not let any other thing take God's place in our life."

The Environment: Wired discusses the possibility of resurrecting recently extinct species. By no means everybody is sure that we should do that, even if we could.

Health: (and Computing) FiveThirtyEight discusses the problems of making health records electronic. There are several.

Politics: Senator Ben Sasse, freshman Republican from Nebraska, pointed out what's wrong with the US Senate, in his maiden speech. (Which is not a partisan speech, but a well-thought-out criticism of the way things are.) "No one in this body thinks the Senate is laser-focused on the most pressing issues facing the nation. No one."

Science: NASA thinks that Phobos, one of the two small moons of Mars, may be coming apart.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 46

Aristocracy is not an institution: aristocracy is a sin; generally a very venial one. It is merely the drift or slide of men into a sort of natural pomposity and praise of the powerful, which is the most easy and obvious affair in the world.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Sunspots 545

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

Christianity: Christianity Today says that churches aren't doing much to prevent divorces in couples who attend.

Christianity Today also has an essay on why complaining hurts us socially.

Computing:  itools is a sort of one-page yellow pages of the Internet, allowing you to find web sites that help you do things.

How to get your WiFi password, if you have forgotten it.

Politics: Republicans are often accused (probably with some justification) for wanting to put barriers to voting in place. But FiveThirtyEight, which is apparently not a right-wing site, argues that Democrats also want to put barriers in place, and that, for them those barriers are having more than one date for the various kinds of elections.

MarketWatch has posted a graphic, showing where US Foreign Aid goes. It's interesting. It does not distinguish between military-type aid, and other kinds, although the accompanying text gives some indication of how much is which, for a few countries.

Science: Wired on the most beautiful caterpillars in the world.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Excerpts from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton, 45

Much vague and sentimental journalism has been poured out to the effect that Christianity is akin to democracy, and most of it is scarcely strong or clear enough to refute the fact that the two things have often quarreled. The real ground upon which Christianity and democracy are one is very much deeper. The one specially and peculiarly un-Christian idea is the idea of Carlyle—the idea that the man should rule who feels that he can rule. Whatever else is Christian, this is heathen. If our faith comments on government at all, its comment must be this—that the man should rule who does not think that he can rule. Carlyle’s hero may say, “I will be king”; but the Christian saint must say “Nolo episcopari.” [I do not want to be bishop.] If the great paradox of Christianity means anything, it means this—that we must take the crown in our hands, and go hunting in dry places and dark corners of the earth until we find the one man who feels himself unfit to wear it. Carlyle was quite wrong; we have not got to crown the exceptional man who knows he can rule. Rather we must crown the much more exceptional man who knows he can’t.
Now, this is one of the two or three vital defences of working democracy. There mere machinery of voting is not democracy, though at present it is not easy to effect any simpler democratic method. But even the machinery of voting is profoundly Christian in this practical sense—that it is an attempt to get at the opinion of those who would be too modest to offer it. It is a mystical adventure; it is specially trusting those who do not trust themselves. That enigma is strictly peculiar to Christendom. There is nothing really humble about the abnegation of the Buddhist; the mild Hindoo is mild, but he is not meek. But there is something psychologically Christian about the idea of seeking for the opinion of the obscure rather than taking the obvious course of accepting the opinion of the prominent. To say that voting is particularly Christian may seem somewhat curious. To say that canvassing is Christian may seem quite crazy. But canvassing is very Christian in its primary idea. It is encouraging the humble; it is saying to the modest man, “Friend, go up higher.” Or if there is some slight defect in canvassing, that is in its perfect and rounded piety, it is only because it may possibly neglect to encourage the modesty of the canvasser.

Orthodoxy, first published in 1908, by G. K. Chesterton, is in the public domain, and available from Project Gutenberg. The previous post in this series is here. Thanks for reading! Read Chesterton.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Why isn't the Bible easier to understand?

Lets begin by saying that I don't know the answer to the question of the title, anymore than I know why Christ didnt come into the world until hundreds of years after the Israelites, under the judges and the kings, had proved pretty conclusively that humans wont keep the Mosaic law very well, or at all. Im not God. He understands what He is doing. If part of what He has done is to include some passages in the Bible that arent very clear, then He has a reason, whether I understand it or not.

Most anybody can understand the most important thing in the Bible, namely the sin problem, and its solution through Christ’s death, and resurrection. Also, much of the history in the Bible is as understandable as US history is. But everything in the Bible, even some of the history, and some of the theology of redemption, isn
t very clear. Some of the reasons for that that are understandable are given below.

Why hasn’t God made everything that clear? Here are some possible reasons why some parts of the Bible are more difficult to understand. They don’t all apply to all parts of the Bible. Different parts may be different for different reasons.
1) Language differences and translation problems. The King James Bible has done a lot of good, but language has changed since 1769. (Most people don’t know it, but the 1611 version was updated in 1769, mostly to update spelling changes.) Try another version if you don’t understand the one you are using. That applies to modern versions, too. One of them may clarify something that another does not, at least for you.
2) Cultural differences. The Bible was written for us, and speaks to us. But it was also written to speak to people in Biblical times, who were more likely to be engaged in agriculture than we are. They wore different clothes, they ate different foods, their courtship and marriage, and other customs, were different than ours. They were ruled by kings. Women had a subordinate place. Thus, many of the parables of Jesus, and other passages, have nuances that we don’t grasp, without considerable help.
3) There are some things described in the Bible, especially in apocalyptic and prophetic literature, that were impossible for the writers to describe with full accuracy, since the readers (and writers) had experienced nothing that really compared. See Ezekiel 1. In 28 verses, Ezekiel used “like” or “likeness” about 18 times, indicating that he had to make the best comparison that he could. “Like” occurs over 150 times in Isaiah.
4) We may base our interpretation on a single verse or passage, without taking the rest of the Bible into account. If we do that, no wonder if the interpretation doesn't make sense.
5) We aren’t God. Some things are just too difficult for us to understand. If I really understood string theory, or differential equations, (I don’t) no matter how hard I tried, I probably couldn’t explain them to you in a way such that you could understand. Think how many things there are that God understands, and we don’t!
6) We aren’t as spiritually mature as is necessary to understand some things.

7) We may be failing to recognize that at least some Biblical passages were apparently meant, by God, to have more than one meaning. See this post on the first four prophecies about Jesus, in Matthew.
8) We aren’t on God’s side: Matthew 13:10 The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. 12 For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand. 14 In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says,
‘By hearing you will hear,
and will in no way understand;
Seeing you will see,
and will in no way perceive ... ‘ (World English Bible, public domain)

Christ went on to explain the parables to the disciples.

Thanks for reading! I hope you understand as much of the Bible as God wants you do, and that I do, also.