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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christ's first miracle

John 2:His mother said to the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it.” Now there were six water pots of stone set there after the Jews’ way of purifying, containing two or three metretes* apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the water pots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the ruler of the feast.” So they took it. When the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and didn’t know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when the guests have drunk freely, then that which is worse. You have kept the good wine until now!” 11 This beginning of his signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. 
*text note:  2 to 3 metretes is about 20 to 30 U. S. Gallons, or 75 to 115 liters.

John tells us that this was Christ's first miracle (not counting those miracles He did before He came to earth as a human.) Some other versions of the Bible use "miracle," rather than "sign." I have used the public domain World English Bible.

Christ’s first miracle wasn’t overthrowing the Romans, or bringing anyone back to life, or forgiving someone’s sins, or feeding lots of people, or healing someone. It was helping someone out of a jam, which was probably their own fault. They should have planned better, or ordered more wine in advance. This doesn't mean that Christ will always get us out of self-inflicted jams, but, sometimes, He surely does! He's our Friend, after all.

How did He do this? We don't know, of course. Perhaps he did it by adjusting the molecules of water, somehow, which isn’t surprising, when we remember that He created water in the first place.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Sunspots 656

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



Christianity: National Public Radio reports that, at the trial of a white policeman, who was convicted of depriving her African-American son of his civil rights (he was shot in the back, and died), the victim's mother told the shooter that she forgave him. (The shooter apparently told her that he was sorry.)

A Relevant contributor discusses that perennial topic, the so-called "war on Christmas."

Relevant also reports on a survey, which indicates that Muslims and Jews give more to their religions than Christians do.


Computing: Developers of artificial intelligence are thinking about some of the ethical questions associated with this technology, according to Wired.

Here's a web site that will tell you if your information, such as Social Security number or financial accounts, has been compromised. Just enter your e-mail address. It doesn't tell you what to do about such problems.

Wired tells us that a lot of e-mail is being tracked -- the sender is informed as to when a message was opened, where the opening was, and on what type of information appliance, and more.

Finance: Listverse describes some types of money that used to be used in the U. S., but aren't, any more.

Health: National Public Radio reports on the much more frequent deaths of black women, in, or shortly after, giving birth, and points to the stress of being the target of racism as at least one of the causes.

History: Listverse reports on some interesting aspects of life in ancient Egypt.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight reports on the change in attitude toward Israel in Republicans, over the last few decades.


Thanks for looking!


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 6

This word, “I have learned,” is a word that imports difficulty; it shows how hardly the apostle came by contentment of mind; it was not bred in nature. St Paul did not come naturally by it, but he had learned it. It cost him many a prayer and tear, it was taught him by the Spirit. Whence our second doctrine: good things are hard to come by. The business of religion is not so facile as most do imagine. “I have learned,” saith St Paul. Indeed you need not learn a man to sin; this is natural, (Ps. 58.3) and therefore facile, it comes as water out of a spring, It is an easy thing to be wicked; hell will be taken without storm; but matters of religion must be learned. To cut the flesh is easy, but to prick a vein, and not to cut an artery is hard. The trade of sin needs not to be learned, but the art of divine contentment is not achieved without holy industry: “I have learned.”

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.

Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Sunspots 655


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


The Arts: According to Relevant, an upcoming "faith-based," and "pro-second amendment" movie is giving away an assault rifle as a promotion. Faith in what, or whom? Faith in the Christ who rebuked Peter for using a weapon, asked the Father to forgive His executioners, and admonished us to turn the other cheek, or faith in weapons? Perhaps I'm over-reacting . . .

Christianity: A Relevant writer discusses non-ideal family holiday get-togethers.

Christianity Today writes about how many Christians have fallen for fake news, and how to avoid this, and why it matters.

USA Today lists the 10 US states with the most generous people, and the 10 least generous.

Relevant discusses some myths about Christmas that lots of people believe to be true.


Computing: Gizmo's Freeware reports on a utility that searches through your recent searches -- when you remember that you found XYZ, but can't remember how.

Education: (sort of) National Public Radio investigates a high school which had every student accepted to college, whether they should have been, or not.

Politics: The Trump administration has agreed to participate in attempts to reduce some atmospheric emissions, according to Scientific American.

Wired discusses the dangers of attacking ethnic groups on social media, as President Trump recently did.

Two US Senators, one from each party, have jointly introduced legislation which would require the Department of Homeland Security to assist in making voting more secure from hacking, and help replace outdated equipment. Both Senators are on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

FiveThirtyEight discusses the cake-baking case, and how the religious right seems to have changed strategies, and its view of the political landscape.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Monday, December 04, 2017

The magnificence of Christ, creator and sustainer

God revealed through the Milky Way


God the Son was important in the creation, and in sustaining that which He created!

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him. Without him, nothing was made that has been made. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world didn’t recognize him. 12a But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children . . .

Colossians 1:14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created in the heavens and on the earth, visible things and invisible things, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together.

Hebrews 1:3 His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, who, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high ...

(Although the passages above indicate that God the Son was the most important agent in the creation, there are scriptural indications that God the Father and God the Holy Spirit were also involved.)

Perhaps you and I don't fully appreciate the magnificence of creation, and, therefore, we may not fully appreciate the magnificence of Christ.

Creation shows that God the son loves diversity. There are about 400,000 species of beetles, and probably at least a million yet to be discovered. (Psalm 104:24 Yahweh, how many are your works! In wisdom, you have made them all. The earth is full of your riches. 25 There is the sea, great and wide, in which are innumerable living things, both small and large animals.)

Creation is unimaginably large. “Recent estimates of the number of galaxies in the observable universe range from 200 billion (2×1011) to 2 trillion (2×1012) or more, … containing more stars than all the grains of sand on planet Earth.” (Wikipedia) And that’s only the observable universe.

Creation shows the power of God the Son. Most of the energy on earth comes from the sun. In the sun, Hydrogen nuclei bombard each other at several million degrees, and turn into Helium nuclei, releasing energy by e =m c-squared. The sun is about 93 million miles away. Since it is emitted in all directions, the vast majority of the sun’s emitted energy goes off into space, never hitting the earth, or any other body in the Solar System. But it’s warm enough for life on earth, and light enough for photosynthesis, just from the tiny fraction of the sun’s emitted energy that strikes it. We can scarcely imagine the power of the sun, and it’s a fairly small star.

Creation shows that God the Son likes beauty. He didn’t have to make the universe so that rainbows, or fall foliage, or butterflies, or eclipses, exist. But He did. Using scientific tools, such as microscopes and telescopes, we have found that there is amazing beauty, even in things we can’t get to, or can’t see with the naked eye.


The Creation is sustained by God the Son. How? By laws, like gravity, and created properties, such as that water can exist in three different forms at reasonably normal temperatures. The laws of gravity ensure, for example, that the planets continue to orbit the sun. The properties of water make rain possible, among many other things. God also sustains by processes, like erosion, plate tectonics, and natural selection. We can’t be sure if God is intimately involved in making every raindrop, or lets nature take its course to make each one, but He could make each and every one carefully and magnificently. 

God the Son can, and, at least sometimes, does, change the “normal” course of nature. We call that a miracle.


God, the Son’s, creation is beyond our imagination! He created time and space! God created matter and energy! God created the four fundamental forces, (also called the four interactions) – gravity, the electromagnetic force, the strong force and the weak force. God created the entire electromagnetic spectrum: light, radio waves, wi-fi, microwaves, X-rays, and more. God created the universe with appropriate physical properties for the existence of life

We should not forget that, even though He was largely responsible for the creation of the entire universe, He came to earth. Not as a baby, but as an embryo, a being with just a few cells, and hardly any connection to the world outside his mothers womb. Then, of course, He became a fetus, and, after about nine months, a baby. Still helpless, dependent, and, presumably, severely limited in His ability to communicate.

And we should not forget what St. Paul said about the Creator and Sustainer of the universe:
Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, yes, the death of the cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (From Philippians 2)

Thanks for reading! To God be the glory!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 5

2. You have heard much of Christ: have you learned Christ? The Jews, as Jerome saith, carried Christ in their Bibles, but not in their heart; their sound “went into all the earth; (Ro. 10.18) the prophets and apostles were as trumpets, whose sound went abroad into the world: yet many thousands who heard the noise of these trumpets, had not learned Christ, “they have not all obeyed.” (Ro. 10.16) 
(1.) A man may know much of Christ, and yet not learn Christ: the devils knew Christ. (Mat. 1.24) (2.) A man may preach Christ, and yet not learn Christ, as Judas and the pseudo-apostles. (Ph. 5.15) (3.) A man may profess Christ, and yet not learn Christ: there are many professors in the world that Christ will profess against. (Mat. 7. 22, 23)

Q. What it is then to learn Christ?
1. To learn Christ is to be made like Christ, to have the divine characters of his holiness engraven upon our hearts: “we all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.” (2 Cor. 3.18) There is a metamorphosis made; a sinner, viewing Christ’s image in the glass of the gospel, is transformed into that image. Never did any man look upon Christ with a spiritual eye, but he went away quite changed. A true saint is a divine landscape picture, where all the rare beauties of Christ are lively portrayed and drawn forth; he hath the same spirit, the same judgment, the same will, with Jesus Christ.

2. To learn Christ, is to believe in him; “my Lord, and my God,” (John 20.28) when we do not only believe God, but in God, which is the actual application of Christ to ourselves, and as it were the spreading of the sacred medicine of his blood upon our souls. You have heard much of Christ, and yet cannot with an humble adherence say, “my Jesus;” be not offended if I tell you, the devil can say his creed as well as you.


3. To learn Christ, is to love Christ. When we have Bible-conversations, our lives like rich diamonds cast a sparkling lustre in the church of God, and are, in some sense, parallel with the life of Christ, as the transcript with the original. So much for the first notion of the word.


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sunspots 654


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


The Arts: Listverse on 10 really unique church buildings.


Computing: Relevant gives us 5 questions we should ask ourselves before posting to social media.

Education: Grammarphobia on when to use commas with lists of things, and when not to.

Finance: (sort of) Wired on the importance of efficient use of curb space, in and by cities.

Food: (sort of) National Public Radio reports that today's dishwashing appliances are much more efficient, in water use, than such devices used to be.

Health: Scientific American on the dangers of marijuana use by teens.

Humor: (or Finance) Listverse reports on some truly strange lawsuits.


Politics: National Public Radio reports on a poll of 38 economists, who agree unanimously that the Republican tax plan will cause the US debt to rise, and that it will not lead to increased economic growth.

Science: National Public Radio reports on studies that pinpoint which ice areas, melting, will affect which cities, causing sea levels to rise. The results are not what we might have thought.

Listverse shows us videos of 10 shape-shifting organisms.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 4

Let me put you upon a serious trial. Some of you have heard much, — you have lived forty, fifty, sixty years under the blessed trumpet of the gospel, — what have you learned?

You may have heard a thousand sermons, and yet not learned one. Search your consciences.
1. You have heard much against sin: are you hearers; or are you scholars? How many sermons have you heard against covetousness, that it is the root, on which pride, idolatry, treason do grow? One calls it a metropolitan sin; it is a complex evil, it doth twist a great many sins in with it. There is hardly any sin, but covetousness is a main ingredient of it; and yet are you like the two daughters of the horse-leech, that cry, “give! give!” How much have you heard against rash anger, that is a short frenzy, a dry drunkenness; that it rests in the bosom of fools; and upon the least occasion do your spirits begin to take fire? How much have you heard against swearing: It is Christ’s express mandate, “swear not at all.” (Mat. 5. 34) This sin of all others may be termed the unfruitful work of darkness. It is neither sweetened with pleasure, nor enriched with profit, the usual vermillion wherewith Satan doth paint sin.


Swearing is forbidden with a subpaena. While the swearer shoots his oaths, like flying arrows at God to pierce his glory, God shoots “a flying roll” of curses against him. And do you make your tongue a racket by which you toss oaths as tennisballs? do you sport yourselves with oaths, as the Philistines did with Samson, which will at last pull the house about your ears?


Alas! how have they learned what sin is, that have not learned to leave sin! Doth he know what a viper is, that will play with it?


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude, from St. Augustine

Gratitude, 15 centuries or so ago, and still pertinent. 

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sunspots 653

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


Computing: Wired reports that there is now a church, sort of, which more or less worships artificial intelligence. The IRS has granted this "church" tax-exempt status.

Health: Time, and other outlets, report that the Centers for Disease Control say that about 90% of Americans don't eat enough fruit and vegetables. Not a surprise.

Politics: Relevant reports that a game manufacturer is trying to block President Trump's wall by acquiring property on the border.

National Public Radio, and other sources, report that the Keystone Pipeline recently spilled 5,000 barrels of oil. Hardly a surprise, unfortunately.

Wired has compiled an annotated list of things Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress that he can't remember.

Science: Listverse describes 10 islands, and their unusual animal populations.

Scientific American reports on a body from outside our solar system that is on its way out of it.

The He Lives blog argues that the Intelligent Design movement isn't about science, although it's usually presented that way.

An illustrated and annotated periodic table.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 3

CHAPTER II
The First Branch of the Text, the Scholar, with the First Proposition.


I begin with the first: The scholar, and his proficiency; “I have learned.” Out of which I shall by the bye, observe two things by way of paraphrase. 1. The apostle doth not say, I have heard, that in every estate I should be content: but, I have learned. Whence our first doctrine, that it is not enough for Christians to hear their duty, but they must learn their duty. It is one thing to hear and another thing to learn; as it is one thing to eat and another thing to concoct. St Paul was a practitioner. Christians hear much, but it is to be feared, learn little.


There were four sorts of grounds in the parable, (Lu. 8. 5) and but one good ground: an emblem of this truth, many hearers, but few learners.


There are two things which keep us from learning. 1. Slighting what we hear. Christ is the pearl of price; when we disesteem this pearl, we shall never learn either its value, or its virtue. The gospel is a rare mystery; in one place, (Ac. 20. 24) it is called “the gospel of grace;” in another, (1 Cor. 4. 4) “the gospel of glory;” because in it, as in a transparent glass, the glory of God is resplendent. But he that hath learned to contemn this mystery, will hardly ever learn to obey it; he that looks upon the things of heaven as things by the bye, and perhaps the driving of a trade, or carrying on some politic design to be of greater importance, this man is in the high road to damnation, and will hardly ever learn the things of his peace.


Who will learn that which he thinks is scarce worth learning?

2. Forgetting what we hear. If a scholar have his rules laid before him, and he forgets them as fast as he reads them, he will never learn. (Ja. 1. 25) Aristotle calls the memory the scribe of the soul; and Bernard calls it the stomach of the soul, because it hath a retentive faculty, and turns heavenly food into blood and spirits; we have great memories in other things, we remember that which is vain. Cyrus could remember the name of every soldier in his huge army. We remember injuries: this is to fill a precious cabinet with dung; but as Hierom saith, how soon do we forget the sacred truths of God? We are apt to forget three things: our faults, our friends, our instructions. Many Christians are like sieves; put a sieve into the water, and it is full; but take it forth of the water, and all runs out: so, while they are hearing a sermon, they remember something: but like the sieve out of the water, as soon as they are gone out of the church, all is forgotten. “Let these sayings, (saith Christ) sink down into your ears;” (Lu. 9. 44) in the original it is, “put these sayings into your ears,” as a man that would hide the jewel from being stolen, locks it up safe in his chest. Let them sink: the word must not fall only as dew that wets the leaf, but as rain which soaks to the root of the tree, and makes it fructify. O, how often doth Satan, that fowl of the air, pick up the good seed that is sown!

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sunspots 652


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


The Arts: E. Stephen Burnett discusses the way Christians often think about popular culture.

Grammarphobia distinguishes between their, they're and there.

Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey says that prominent Young-earth Creationist Ken Ham is actually driving people toward atheism.

Health: FiveThirtyEight reports on a scary subject -- North Korea probably has chemical and biological weapon capability, and biological warfare would be harder to stop than nuclear weapons.

Relevant reports that the constant barrage of Christmas music may be doing psychological harm.

Humor: (or something) Listverse discusses 10 apparently simple questions that the writer says no one can answer.

Politics: Listverse discusses ways Russian social media users tricked US citizens into distrusting one another, and our political processes.

FiveThirtyEight reports on how President Trump's trade policies (everyone is treating the US unfairly, so we'll pull out of trade agreements) are doing.

The editor of Christianity Today blasts a supposedly Bible-based defense of Roy Moore, candidate for the US Senate from Alabama: "Christians don't use Joseph and Mary to explain child molesting accusations."

Relevant also weighs in on the Moore accusations, pointing out that the Republicans from Alabama have mostly come to Moore's defense, unlike the colleagues of some high-profile entertainers.

Scientific American describes four laws that could significantly cut down on gun violence, and gives evidence for that claim.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 2

By our immoderacy we take his work out of his hand. Care, when it is eccentric, either distrustful or distracting, is very dishonourable to God; it takes away his providence, as if he sat in heaven and minded not what became of things here below; like a man that makes a clock, and then leaves it to go for itself. Immoderate care takes the heart off from better things; and usually while we are thinking how we shall do to live, we forget how to die. Care is a spiritual canker that doth waste and dispirit; we may sooner by our care add a furlong to our grief than a cubit to our comfort. God doth threaten it as a curse, “they shall eat their bread with carefulness.” (Ez. 12. 1) Better fast than eat of that bread. “Be careful for nothing.”

Now, lest any one should say, yea, Paul thou preachest that to us which thou hast scarce learned thyself; hast thou learned not to be careful? the apostle seemed tacitly to answer that, in the words of the text; “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content:” a speech worthy to be engraven upon our hearts, and to be written in letters of gold upon the crowns and diadems of princes.


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays. My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Sunspots 651


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


The Arts: Here's a web page explaining many of the features of The Garden of Earthly Delights, a really strange painting by Hieronymus Bosch. (His first name is also spelled with a J.)

Listverse tells us where some movies were actually shot.

Christianity: Christianity Today discusses how information appliance use changes the way we read the Bible.

Christianity Today also reflects on the 500th anniversary of Luther's theses.

Ken Schenck has posted 95 theses for today's church.


Computing: National Public Radio reports on Facebook's questions about whether it's doing more harm than good.

Gizmo's Freeware reports on a free Optical Character Recognition web site.

Food: Listverse discusses 10 food plants that have been drastically genetically modified (all prior to the discovery of DNA).


Politics: FiveThirtyEight analyzes tweeting, and finds that those who self-report that they are very conservative, or very liberal, are much more likely to tweet about politics.

Economic columnist Robert Samuelson says that there's no hard evidence that cutting taxes leads to economic growth.

FiveThirtyEight also says that we don't really know how many people are in gangs in the US.

A Wired writer discusses how the Trump administration has stopped collecting all sorts of potentially useful data.

Science: Nature reports that there are actually two species of orangutan, and one of these is in danger of extinction.

A US Government report clearly blames human activity for global climate change.

A poem, "Why I Love Being Married to a Chemist," was featured in The Writer's Almanac for November 7.

Thanks for looking!



Image source (public domain)