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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sunspots 485

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

Christianity: A post in Relevant says that complaining is a spiritual problem.

Education: National Public Radio reports on Turnitin, a service that checks the papers submitted by college students, for plagiarism.
Health: An amazing 3-minute video on what we look like to an ultraviolet camera. The video also shows graphic evidence that we should use sun-screen, aka sunblock, and that glass blocks UV waves. See here for a report on the video, in Slate.
Humor: (Or something) Coffee is now being made from coffee beans eaten, then passed through the gut, of elephants. Really, says National Public Radio.
Science:  Wired reports that city spiders grow bigger than spiders not in urban areas.
NPR reports on using people with Down syndrome as subjects for research into Alzheimer's. It turns out that, if they live long enough, all people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer's.

Wired also reports on fungi that control the behavior of ants.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 49



The phrase, “Kingdom of Heaven,” occurs 31 times in Matthew. (It doesn’t occur anywhere else in the Bible.) The natural tendency is to suppose that Jesus was talking about life after death.

Actually, says [N. T.] Wright, Jesus was talking about this life. This phrase is related to another common one: Matthew 6:10 “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” (This is part of the Lord’s Prayer.)

The Wikipedia has an article on the Kingdom of God, and it says that Matthew uses Kingdom of Heaven instead of Kingdom of God, but that they are equivalent. As to the meaning of the phrase, this is what the Wikipedia says:

No overall agreement on the theological interpretation of "Kingdom of God" has emerged among scholars. . . . Some scholars have interpreted it as a Christian lifestyle, some as a method of world evangelization, some as the rediscovery of charismatic gifts, others relate it to no present or future situation, but the world to come, often based on the theological leanings of the scholar in question

Mark 9:1 He said to them, “Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see God’s Kingdom come with power.”

That uses a phrase close to “Kingdom of Heaven,” or “Kingdom of God.” It is possible that Jesus was deceived, or knowingly made a false statement, here. It is also possible that He was talking about the resurrection. But a literal reading agrees with Wright – He was talking about His Kingdom on earth, which He established, and which Kingdom was strengthened, and placed on a firm foundation, when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost. Except for Judas, all of the Twelve saw the arrival of God’s Kingdom, in this way, with power. So did many others.


The above material is an excerpt from my self-published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series, on the topic of the idea of going to heaven, is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue with a related topic. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sunspots 484

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

Computing:
A Wired reporter liked everything he saw on Facebook, and tells what happened, as a result. Scary.





Thanks to Commenter FancyHorse, I'm adding a link to another article, from an author who stopped liking anything on Facebook, and recommends that habit to us Facebook users.
 

Wired also reports on why we don't catch our own typos.

Education: National Public Radio reports on college rapes. 5-10% of men seem to believe that it's OK to get a girl drunk and rape her, and have done so, with approval from a peer group. Here's a related story.

Humor: Wired reports on the fantastic creatures that North American lumberjacks imagined (with pictures).

Science:
Relevant has an article on a two-headed dolphin, washed up on a beach.


Image source (public domain)



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Red or blue? Right or left? They're both wrong.

Ecclesiastes 12:10 The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words, and that which was written blamelessly, words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads; and like nails well fastened are words from the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. (Scripture quotations from the World English Bible, public domain)

It's dangerous to read too much into a Bible passage, but this one seems to be saying that there is really only one source of truth, one shepherd. Others may speak, or write, but what they say should be measured against Christ's character and His teachings.

It is unfortunately true that one of the results of the multiplication of media outlets is that people can pick some that match their biases and predispositions, or their religion or race, and never even see or hear from other sources that may disagree. This was illustrated by a recent report in Wired. The author decided to "like" everything he saw in Facebook, including things that he definitely didn't like, to see what would happen. He reports "As day one rolled into day two, I began dreading going to Facebook. It had become a temple of provocation. Just as my News Feed had drifted further and further right, so too did it drift further and further left." In other words, what he saw matched what Facebook thought he really did like. In this case, the author was seeing bias in both directions, but most Facebook users, perhaps unconsciously, have their information and opinion sources tilted in only one direction. We tend to watch, read and listen to news sources that agree with our previous opinions.

So who is right? Whoops! Who is correct?

Both the right and the left, the red and the blue, are wrong.

A few years ago, this blog noted that abortion seemed to have suddenly ceased being the most important political issue for conservative Christians, and had been replaced by immigration concerns. Why? The influence of Lou Dobbs and other TV commentators. But the most important source of the political inspiration of Christians should be the Bible, not media personalities.

Both the left and the right, the red and the blue, are wrong. How?

* The right tends to ignore the plight of the poor, minorities, and otherwise less powerful people, including immigrants. For the Christian, there should be sympathy for immigrants, illegal or not, and concern for their spiritual and economic welfare. The Old Testament speaks about being kind to strangers. So does the New. Leviticus 19:33 "If a stranger lives as a foreigner with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who lives as a foreigner with you shall be to you as the native-born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you lived as foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Yahweh your God." Injustice and racism are wrong. Psalm 72 speaks of the role of government (in that case, King David, who was the government) in helping and protecting the poor.
* The right tends to believe that the way to solve many problems is to send in troops, or to use bombs, or to use, sell or give away more weapons and ammunition. It seems to forget that Christ didn't say "stand your ground," but "turn the other cheek." How much violence in other countries would never have happened without US military aid? How many repressive dictatorships has such aid propped up? Too many.
* The right believes that the most important political and economic solutions are to cut taxes, if possible to zero, and to let the free enterprise system have unregulated license to act in the best interests of the stockholders. The free enterprise system has its place, but it has led to pollution and other problems. It bears at least some of the blame for the recent recession, where the US economy declined by about a third in the space of a year of so. Taxes are needed for roads and other infrastructure, for funding regulatory agencies, for public schools, for paying police, firefighters, and troops, (and politicians -- including those who want to cut taxes!) and for other things.

* The left seems to want to ignore Biblical teachings on sex and marriage. Homosexual activity is wrong. (See here). Many Christians, and others, believe that abortion is murder. (See here.)
* The left seems to want to ignore property rights. Although the New Testament says very little about property, the Old Testament indicates that it was very important to the Jews, and taking someone's property without just compensation is just as wrong as denying someone a job because of their ethnic background.
* The left seems to believe that the most important political and economic solutions are to increase government size and the amount of government regulation. Government agencies have their place -- I'm grateful for the Social Security Administration, for example -- but they also tend to get mired down in red tape, and submit to the wishes of special interests, rather than doing what they were originally supposed to do. And government does cost money, lots of it.

God help me to take a Biblical position, if I need to take a political position at all. The left and right are both partly wrong, in serious ways. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 48



[Continuing a discussion of whether believers go to heaven immediately after death.]
 
Matthew has another occurrence:

Matthew 27:52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, they entered into the holy city and appeared to many.

I’m not sure what all is going on here, but it sounds like dead believers, under the First Covenant, who had not been to heaven, were resurrected, at least temporarily. Had they been in heaven, and come back to earth? Did they go back to being “asleep” after this occurrence? We aren’t told. (The other three gospels don’t record this incident.)

Then there’s the matter of the Transfiguration:

Luke 9:28 About eight days after these sayings, he took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up onto the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became white and dazzling. 30 Behold, two men were talking with him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory, and spoke of his departure,* which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
*The World English Bible has a text note, saying that “exodus” would be a literal translation.

It’s not clear who said what, or what Elijah and Moses knew, at this time, but it seems possible that they already knew about Christ’s coming death. If so, they must have been in a conscious state before this appearance. (The other Gospels don’t even mention the conversation between the three. Luke must have received his information from someone else, as he wasn’t there.)

I don’t consider non-Biblical sources to be as reliable as the Bible, but will mention a source that is of interest, and that seems to bear on this question. That’s the book, Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. (Thomas Nelson, 2011). This book has sold well over a million copies, and made various best-seller lists**. It claims that a pre-school boy went to heaven from the operating table, and had various experiences, and saw various people, including a miscarried sister, while in heaven. It also claims that he had no knowledge of these matters previously – he didn’t know that he had a miscarried sister, for example. He came back to life, and, over a period of several months, he gradually told his parents bits and pieces of what he saw in heaven. If the Burpos are to be trusted, and what happened to Colton Burpo is normal, deceased believers go immediately into God’s presence. (See the Wikipedia article on the book, which says “It should be noted, there is much controversy and criticism with this book’s claims amongst Christians.”)

**Since the publication of this book, Burpos book, Heaven is for Real, has been made into a movie. I have not seen that.

Disclaimer: Todd Burpo is a pastor in The Wesleyan Church, my own denomination. I have never met or seen him.

In summary, there is evidence for immediate, conscious, translation to heaven, or at least into God’s presence, but there is also Biblical evidence that believers will not reach such a state until the End Times. It is more important to be a believer, showing the evidences of that referred to in Chapter Eight, than it is to be concerned about whether we will go to heaven immediately upon death, or some time after that.


The above material is an excerpt from my self-published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series, on the topic of the idea of going to heaven, is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue with a related topic. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunspots 483

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

Computing: National Public Radio reports on robots made of paper, which folds into a functioning robot. (There's a brief video of this process.)
NPR also reports on the case of a monkey who took a photo of herself. Who owns the copyright?

Humor: (or something) National Public Radio reports on how to market snacks derived from insects.
Science: Wired reports on whether dogs can tell time, perhaps by smell.
Wired also reports on the microbes found in cheeses. There have been some surprises.
And Wired tells us that the white sands of Hawaiian beaches are mostly fish poop.

National Public Radio reports on the importance of mosses. Who knew?

Sports: Congratulations to Becky Hammon, who has been hired as the first full-time female assistant coach by the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA champions. She is the first full-time female coach ever hired by a major sports team in North America. See also yesterday's full-page article in USA Today.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hebrews 12:1, and Andrew Murray, on laying aside hindrances

Andrew Murray consecration Hebrews 12 1 
An attempt at a graphic depiction of a quotation from Andrew Murray's With Christ in the School of Prayer, public domain, combined with Hebrews 12:1.

The full quotations are: When ordinary Christians imagine that all that is not positively forbidden and sinful is lawful to them, and seek to retain as much as possible of this world, with its property, its literature, its enjoyments, the truly consecrated soul is as the soldier who carries only what he needs for the warfare.

Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us . . .

The graphic is also a link to my Flickr photostream, where the poster can be downloaded in larger size, if desired. My posters are free for all to use, so long as they are used non-commercially.

Thanks for looking and reading!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 47



Heaven immediately upon death?

Not only do most people seem to think that everyone is going to heaven, but the most popular current idea of when one gets to heaven is that we do so immediately after death.

Wright says that the three passages in the New Testament, quoted above, are not speaking of heaven, but of a temporary state or location. He says the same thing about these verses:

Luke 23:43 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Philippians 1:23 But I am in a dilemma between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

Wright also says that John 14 is speaking of a temporary state or location:

John 14:2 In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also.

I am not a Greek scholar, so can’t comment with authority on Luke 23:43 and Philippians 1:23, but Wright’s interpretation of John 14:2-3 makes sense. Jesus seemed to say that the final state or location was not ready yet, but that it needed to be prepared, and that even His disciples would enter that place or state as a part of the Second Coming events, rather than immediately. However, not all scholars agree with what Wright thinks these verses say. Some believe that Jesus is talking about heaven, in its final state, in these verses.

As to Luke 23:43, scholars are divided. Some agree with Wright, believing that “paradise” as used here, is an intermediate, and temporary state. Some don’t, but believe that the word indicates the final heavenly state or place.

Another scriptural evidence that people don’t go to heaven upon death is the use of “asleep” for death, as if deceased believers were in some intermediate unconscious state, until the resurrection. Here’s a search for the word “asleep” in the New Testament, using the English Standard Version. (“sleep” and/or “slept” would give additional instances of use.)

1 Thessalonians is one place where Paul uses “asleep”:

1 Thessalonians 4:13 But we don’t want you to be ignorant, brothers, concerning those who have fallen asleep, so that you don’t grieve like the rest, who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we tell you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left to the coming of the Lord, will in no way precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with God’s trumpet. The dead in Christ will rise first, 17 then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. So we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

The use of “rise first” seems to indicate that dead believers have not been in heaven, and won’t be, until Christ comes back.


The above material is an excerpt from my self-published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series, on the topic of the idea of going to heaven, is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue this topic. Thanks for reading.