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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sunspots 695

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


Christianity: Relevant, and other sources, report that China is attacking Christians and churches, and other religions, too. In another report, China is blocking on-line Christian services.

Richard Mouw, in Sojourners, argues against uncritical support for Israel, and claims that the Bible does not teach such support.

Some prominent Christians have recently argued that Christians have no business trying to work for social justice. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention, begs to differ.


Food: Listverse has posted 10 little-known facts about Avocados.

In case you didn't know it, cacao (the plant that chocolate comes from) is susceptible to plant diseases. Scientific American reports on attempts to find resistant cacao plants.

Gizmodo on whether breakfast cereal is good for us or not.

Politics: Not a surprise. Scientific American reports that more people are killed by active shooters when they are using semi-automatic weapons.

Earther reports that, as Hurricane Florence neared landfall, President Trump called the government's response to Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico, an "unsung success," in spite of plenty of contrary evidence. Then, later, he claimed that the death toll, about 3,000, was a figure made up by Democrats, to make him look bad.

The Trump administration is in process of relaxing regulations on institutions that lend money to military personnel, and has done so without consulting the Pentagon, which is opposed to these changes, according to National Public Radio.

Relevant reports that the number of Christian refugees entering the US has fallen sharply under the Trump administration.

(Not really politics, I hope) Gizmodo reports that a system is being developed to allow the President to send a warning text message to every cell phone in the US, in case of terrorist attacks, weather disasters, and the like.

Science: Barrier islands in the Atlantic Ocean, which protect North and South Carolina from some hurricane damage, are disappearing, says Scientific American.

Gizmodo reports that there is a plan in place to sequence the DNA of all living vertebrate species, about 66,000.

Earther reports on a typhoon that was stronger than Florence, at about the same time.

Scientific American reports on a study that indicates that people who are new to us dislike us less than we think they do.

Thanks for looking!

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 45

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

The consideration that all God’s providences, how cross or bloody soever, shall do a believer good; “and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Ro. 8. 28) Not only all good things, but all evil things work for good; and shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? Suppose our troubles are twisted together, and sadly accented: what if sickness, poverty, reproach, law-suits, &c, do unite and muster their forces against us? all shall work for good; our maladies shall be our medicines; and shall we repine at which shall undoubtedly do us good? “Unto the upright there ariseth light in darkness.” (Ps. 112. 4) Affliction may be baptized Marah; it is bitter, but physical. Because this is so full of comfort, and may be a most excellent catholicon* against discontent, I shall a little expatiate.

It will be inquired how the evils of affliction work for good? Several ways.


First, They are disciplinary; they teach us. The Psalmist having very elegantly described the church’s trouble, (Ps. 74) prefixed this title to the psalm, Maschil, which signifies a psalm giving instruction; that which seals up instruction, works for good. God puts us sometimes under the black rod; but it is a rod of discipline; “hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.” (Mi. 6. 9) God makes our adversity our university. Affliction is a preacher; “blow the trumpet in Tekoa:” (Je. 6. 1) the trumpet was to preach to the people; “be thou instructed, O Jerusalem.” (Je. 6. 8) Sometimes God speaks to the minister to lift up his voice like a trumpet, (Is. 58. 1) and here he speaks to the trumpet to lift up its voice like a minister. Afflictions teach us humility. Commonly prosperous, and proud, corrections are God’s corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. Jesus Christ is the lily of the valleys, (Can. 2. 1) he dwells in an humble heart: God brings us into the valley of tears, that He may bring us into the valley of humility; “remembering my affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall; my soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. (La. 3. 19,20) When men are grown high, God hath no better way with them, than to brew them a cup of wormwood.
Afflictions are compared to thorns, (Ho. 2. 6) God’s thorns are to prick the bladder of pride. Suppose a man run at another with a sword to kill him; accidentally, it only lets out his imposthume* of pride; this doth him good: God’s sword is to let out the imposthume of pride; and shall that which makes us humble, make us discontented? Afflictions teach us repentance; “thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised: I repented, and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh.” (Je. 31. 18,19) Repentance is the precious fruit that grows upon the cross. When the fire is put under the still, the water drops from the roses; fiery afflictions make the waters of repentance drop and distil from the eyes; and is here any cause of discontent?
Afflictions teach us to pray better, “they poured out a prayer when Thy chastening was upon them;” (Is. 26. 16) before, they would say a prayer; now they poured out a prayer. Jonah was asleep in the ship, but awake and at prayer in the whale’s belly. When God puts under the fire-brands of affliction, now our hearts boil over the more; God loves to have his children possessed with a spirit prayer. Never did David, the sweet singer of Israel, tune his harp more melodiously, never did he pray better, than when he was upon the waters. Thus afflictions do in discipline; and shall we be discontent at that which is for our good?


*I am not sure of the meaning of these words. Sorry.

This list is to be continued in succeeding posts.

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.)
     

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 44

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

Sect. V. The fifth argument is, By contentment a Christian gains a victory over himself. For a man to be able to rule his own spirit, this of all others is the most noble conquest. Passion denotes weakness; to be discontented is suitable to flesh and blood; but to be in every state content, reproached, yet content, imprisoned, yet content; this is above nature; this is some of that holy valour and chivalry which only a divine spirit is able to infuse. In the midst of the affronts of the world to be patient, and in the changes of the world to have the spirit calmed, this is a conquest worthy indeed of the garland of honour. Holy Job, divested and turned out of all, leaving his scarlet, and embracing the dunghill, (a sad catastrophe!) yet had learned contentment. It is said, “he fell down upon the ground and worshipped.” (Job 1. 20) One would have thought he should have fallen upon the ground and blasphemed! no, he fell and worshipped. He adored God’s justice and holiness. Behold the strength of grace! here was an humble submission, yet a noble conquest; he got the victory over himself. It is no great matter for a man to yield to his own passions, this is facile and feminine; but to content himself in denying of himself, this is sacred.
 
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, September 12, 2018

Sunspots 694


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


Education: Grammarphobia tells us about roads and rivers that branch -- both branches are called "forks," not "tines."

Health: (or something) National Public Radio reports that having been sexually abused by a priest can lead to issues with dealing with authority figures (such as bosses) and to financial burdens.

Scientific American asks why we haven't cured the common cold yet.

New Scientist reports that probiotics probably don't do much good, and may do harm, in some conditions. See also here.

Gizmodo reports that hot-air hand dryers are not as good at keeping germs down as paper towels.

NPR reports that Alzheimer's may be caused by some infectious agent.

Politics: Slate, and other news sources, report that the Trump administration is not renewing passports for some Hispanic US citizens.

Science: Gizmodo reports on the discovery that a particular kind of shark is an omnivore. (Eating both plants and animals.)

Scientific American and other outlets report that Jocelyn Bell Burnell has received a $3,000,000 prize for the discovery of pulsars.

Earther reports on the discovery of three previously unknown fish species, found in a deep ocean trench.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, September 09, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 43

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

Sect III. The third argument is,
Be content, for else we confute our own prayers. We pray, “thy will be done:” it is the will of God that we should be in such a condition; he hath decreed it, and he sees it best for us; why then do we murmur, and are discontent at that which we pray for? either we are not in good earnest in our prayer, which argues hypocrisy; or we contradict ourselves which argues folly.


Sect IV. The fourth argument to contentment is,
Because now God hath his end, and Satan misseth of his end.

1. God hath his end. God’s end in all his providences is to bring the heart to submit and be content; and indeed this pleaseth God much, he loves to see his children satisfied with that portion he doth carve and allot them; it contents him to see us contented; therefore let us acquiesce in God’s providence, now God hath his end.
2. Satan misseth of his end. The end why the devil, though by God’s permission, did smite Job in his body and estate, was to perplex his mind; he did vex his body on purpose that he might disquiet his spirit. He hoped to bring Job into a fit of discontent; and then that he would in a passion break forth against God: but Job being so well-contented with his condition as that he falls to blessing of God, he did disappoint Satan of his hope. “The devil will cast some of you into prison; (Re. 2. 10) why doth the devil throw us into prison? It is not so much the hurting our body, as the molesting our mind, that he aims at; he would imprison our contentment, and disturb the regular motion of our souls, this is his design. It is not so much the putting us into a prison, as the putting us into a passion, that he attempts; but by holy contentation, Satan loseth his prey, he misseth of his end. The devil hath often deceived us; the best way to deceive him, is by contentation in the midst of temptation; our contentment will discontent Satan. O, let us not gratify our enemy! discontent is the devil’s delight; now it is as he would have it, he loves to warm himself at the fire of our passions. Repentance is the joy of the angels, and discontent is the joy of the devils; as the devil danceth at discord, so he sings at discontent. The fire of our passions makes the devil a bonfire; it is a kind of heaven to him to see us torturing ourselves with our own troubles; but by holy contentment, we frustrate him of his purpose, and do as it were put him out of countenance.

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, September 05, 2018

Sunspots 693

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


The Arts: CBS Overtime shows a young lady, not in high school yet, create a piano sonata from four random notes picked out by Scott Pelley.

Christianity: Relevant has a good article on how the Bible says to treat refugees. However, the article didn't mention Isaiah 16:3, which says "Give counsel! Execute justice! Make your shade like the night in the middle of the noonday! Hide the outcasts! Don’t betray the fugitive! 4a Let my outcasts dwell with you! As for Moab, be a hiding place for him from the face of the destroyer." (This was in spite of the fact that the Moabites hadn’t always been good to Israel. See Josh 24:9, Judg 3:12-30, 1 Sam 12:9.)

(And politics) The current President of the Southern Baptist Convention is one of the evangelical leaders invited to the White House for a dinner. He recognized the possible pitfalls, and says that he did not sign a Bible for Mr. Trump, which contained an inscription including these words: "History will record the greatness that you have brought for generations."

Sojourners has an article with more to say about this meeting with President Trump, and a recent previous meeting of the President with African-American pastors. One thing that article points out is that James Dobson, and other evangelicals, called for the removal of President Bill Clinton, because of the Lewinsky affair, but are lauding President Trump, in spite of his affairs with several women.


Health: Scientific American reports on the dangers of earwax buildup, especially in the elderly.

Gizmodo on grudges. Animals can carry them for long periods of time. They can do considerable harm to us, if we carry them.

Humor: Listverse tells us about the 10 strangest roadside attractions.

(or clothing) The Pudding compares pocket size (and existence) in female vs. male clothing.


Politics: Gizmodo reports that there are controversies over whether to allow bobcat hunting, in Ohio and elsewhere.

A Yale opinion map, showing, by county, Congressional District, metropolitan area, or state, what people believe about global warming.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, September 02, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 42

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

Sect. II. The second argument to contentment.
A Christian hath that which may make him content. 1. Hath not God given thee Christ? in him there are “unsearchable riches;” (Ep. 3. 8) he is such a golden mine of wisdom and grace, that all the saints and angels can never dig to the bottom. As Seneca said to his friend Polybius, never complain of thy hard fortune as long as Caesar is thy friend: so I say to a believer, never complain as long as Christ is thy friend; he is an enriching pearl, a sparkling diamond; the infinite lustre of his merits makes us shine in God’s eyes. (Ep. 1. 7) In him there is both fulness and sweetness; he is unspeakably good. Screw up your thoughts to the highest pinnacle, stretch them to the utmost period, let them expatiate to their full latitude and extent; yet they fall infinitely short of these ineffable and inexhaustable treasures which are locked up in Jesus Christ; and is not here enough to give the soul content? A Christian that wants necessaries, yet having Christ, he hath the “one thing needful.” 2. Thy soul is exercised and enamelled with the graces of the Spirit, and is not here enough to give contentment? Grace is of a divine birth, it is the new plantation, it is the flower of the heavenly paradise, it is the embroidery of the Spirit, it is the seed of God, (1 Jno. 3. 9) it is the sacred unction, (Jno. 2. 20) it is Christ’s portraiture in the soul; it is the very foundation on which superstructure of glory is laid. O, of what infinite value is grace! what a jewel is faith! Well may it be called “precious faith.” (2 Pe. 1. 1) What is love, but a divine sparkle in the soul? A soul beautified with grace, is like a room richly hung with arras, or tapestry, or the firmament bespangled with glittering stars. These are the “true riches,” (Lu. 16. 11) which cannot stand with reprobation: and is not here enough to give the soul contentment? what are all other things but like wings of a butterfly, curiously painted? but they defile our fingers.


Earthly riches, saith Augustine, are full of poverty; so indeed they are, for, they cannot enrich the soul: oftentimes under silken apparel there is a thread-bare soul. They are corruptible: “riches are not forever,” as the wise man saith. (Pr. 27. 24) Heaven is a place where gold and silver will not go. A believer is rich towards God: (Lu. 12. 21) why then are thou discontented? hath not God given thee that which is better than the world? What if he doth not give thee the box, if he gives thee the jewel? what if he denies thee farthings, if he pays thee in a better coin? he gives thee gold; spiritual mercies. What if the water in the bottle be spent? thou hast enough in the fountain. What need he complain of the world’s emptiness, that hath God’s fulness? The Lord is my portion, saith David, (Ps. 16. 5) then let the lines fall where they will, in a sick-bed or prison, I will say, “the lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Are thou not heir to all the promises? Hast thou not a reversion of heaven? When thou lettest go thy hold of natural life, art thou not sure of eternal life? Hath not God given thee the earnest and first fruits of glory? Is not here enough to work the heart to contentment?


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.)
   

Saturday, September 01, 2018

What are evangelicals afraid of losing?

At a recent meeting in the White House, to which a hundred or so supposed evangelical leaders were invited and attended, President Donald Trump said that evangelicals are "one election away from losing everything." Many of those in attendance seemed to agree with him. An article in Christianity Today, with the same title as this post, discusses that, and says that dependence on the results of one election is a serious mistake for Christians, and warns against too cozy a relationship with Mr. Trump (or any other political figure).

Read the article! For an analysis of what the right and the left are doing wrong politically, see here.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

The mission of Christ

The Bible says a lot about the mission of Christ. Here are a few of the highlights. All Bible quotations are from the World English Bible, which is public domain:

Christ came to suffer:
Isaiah 53:3 He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him. 4 Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Christ created the universe, and sustains it, and is the owner of it.
Hebrews 1:1 God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. 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, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Christ created the universe, and experienced human life, and came to redeem us.
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 was not anything made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him. 12 But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Christ created and sustains the universe, and is the owner of it. He came to redeem us sinners.
Colossians 1:14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; 15 who 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, things visible and things invisible, 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. 18 He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Christ came to suffer, to experience human life, and to redeem us.
Hebrews 2:9 But we see … Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many children to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 14 Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 17 Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Much more could be said! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sunspots 692

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

 Christianity:
A Relevant writer discusses the importance of hope.

The family of Mollie Tibbetts, who was murdered, has expressed forgiveness for the probable murderer, according to Relevant.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, according to Relevant, plans to establish chapters on all US campuses with more than 1,000 students, over the next few years. They say that "about 53 percent of 2,500 schools currently don’t have any known campus ministry. ..."
 
Computing: (and Food) USA Today reports that IBM has patented drones that can fly around work spaces and dispense coffee.

Education: Grammarphobia tells us whether we should use "in Jesus's name," or "in Jesus' name."

Ethics: (or something) Gizmodo reports on an agency in Brazil, which is trying to protect isolated tribes. According to the report, there may be as many as 11 tribes in the rainforest which have never interacted with "modern" man.

Food: Gizmodo reports that the state legislature of Missouri has tried to define "meat." There are questions about cell/tissue cultured products, which aren't available in grocery stores, but which may be in the future.

Health: Scientific American reports that marijuana-derived substances are found in breast milk for 6 days after the last use.

History: National Public Radio reports that there is a drought in some of Europe. That has exposed "hunger stones" in some rivers -- stones with inscriptions telling of previous droughts. One such inscription is in 1417 AD. See also here, for marked stone exposure in a different part of Europe.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight looks at research on the effect of voter identification laws.

National Public Radio reports that the Department of Homeland Security presented a rosier picture of conditions in countries that actually exists there, in order to justify sending refugees back to them. Sigh.

Science: Analysis of data collected by an Indian spacecraft show that there is water on the moon.

USA Today reports that some farmers in Mexico have been growing corn that is associated with Nitrogen-fixing bacteria. (Usually, Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are associated with members of the pea family, such as soybeans. Plants that have such associations need less (or no) Nitrogen in fertilizer, and the plants are a better source of protein building blocks in people that eat them.)

Space.com reports that an asteroid seems to be about 95% metal, which is very unusual, and could be commercially important, if we can get there to mine it. Here's the Wikipedia article on that asteroid, Psyche.

Lifehacker on how to get a cat to like you (or at least act like it does).

Scientific American on how to tell if a comatose patient is conscious.

Scientific American also reports that we can have only up to about 150 real friends -- people we interact with regularly.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 41

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

7th. excellency. Contentment hath this excellency, it is the best commentator upon providence; it makes a fair interpretation of all God’s dealings. Let the providence of God be never so dark or bloody, contentment doth construe them ever in the best sense. I may say of it, as the apostle of charity, “it thinketh no evil.” (1 Cor. 13. 5) Sickness (saith contentment) is God’s furnace to refine his gold, and make it sparkle the more: the prison is an oratory, or house of prayer. What if God melts away the creature from it? he saw perhaps my heart grew so much in love with it; had I been long in that fat pasture I should have surfeited, and the better my estate had been, the worse my soul would have been. God is wise; he hath done this either to prevent some sin or to exercise some grace. What a blessed frame of heart is this! A contented Christian is an advocate for God against unbelief and impatience: whereas discontent takes every thing from God in the worst sense; it doth implead and censure God: this evil I feel is but a symptom of greater evil: God is about to undo me: the Lord hath brought us hither into the wilderness to slay us. The contented soul takes all well; and when his condition is ever so bad, he can say, “truly God is good.” (Ps. 73. 1)

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.)
  

Friday, August 24, 2018

The church, in the New Testament



Below are some occurrences of the word, church, in the New Testament, and also some actions of the early church.

I use the World English Bible, because it is public domain, and can be copied and distributed without violating copyright laws. It uses “assembly,” or variants of that word, rather than “church.”) The Greek word is ἐκκλησία, or, ecclesia. (The Wikipedia says that the title of Ecclesiastes is a Latin transliteration of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Kohelet, the pseudonym used by the author of the book. I cant make sense out of the relationship, if any, between Ecclesiastes and the church.)



Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (This is the first use of “church” in the New Testament. The last uses are in Revelation.)

Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. 18 He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly.

Acts 11:21 The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number [of gentiles] believed and turned to the Lord. 22 The report concerning them came to the ears of the assembly which was in Jerusalem. They sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch, 23a who, when he had come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad.
25 Barnabas went out to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. It happened, that for a whole year they were gathered together with the assembly, and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

12:5 Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the assembly to God for him.

13:2 As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.”

14:21b they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch … 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every assembly, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. 26b they sailed to Antioch, from where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. 27a When they had arrived, and had gathered the assembly together, they reported all the things that God had done with them
1 Corinthians 14:19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia; … 3 For according to their power, I testify, yes and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord,
1 Timothy 5:16 If any man or woman who believes has widows [in their family], let them relieve them, and don’t let the assembly be burdened; that it might relieve those who are widows indeed. (Note: recall Acts and the appointment of deacons.)

James 5:14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord … 16 Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

Spiritual Gifts and the church:
Ephesians 4:11 He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:5 There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord. 6 There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms.

Thanks for reading. Be part of some assembly.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Sunspots 691


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


The Arts: (And Science) Gizmodo reports that scientists have sketched the Mona Lisa using bacteria. Really.

Christianity: A theologian discusses "God and Creation." The essay is a readable summary of theology, and inspiring.


Education: A Scientific American writer tells us why STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students also need the humanities. And it isn't "to make you more well-rounded."

History: The BBC reports that the recent weather in the UK  has made it possible to discover important historical, or pre-historical, sites from the air. There are photos. I thank one of my brothers for this link.

Politics: Gizmodo reports that the US Defense Department is preparing for climate change. The report also notes that "climate change" was not a phrase found in the Defense Authorization bill. "Environmental Condition Projections" was used.

World Magazine reports on how the administration of Liberty University suppressed articles in the student-run campus newspaper.

Scientific American has an essay on the types of work that immigrants do (and don't do).

ListVerse reports on 10 border walls no one talks about. (At least they don't make US news reporting.)

Michael Gerson comments on the current President, who is a celebrity, not famous -- there's a difference, he says.

Science: Christianity Today reports on a Pew Research study, which found that Christians aren't much different than other US citizens, in their views on the applications of genetic technology. (Mostly negative) The respondents were mostly in favor of using genetic engineering to wipe out dangerous mosquitoes.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Did 90% of all animal species arise at the same time as humans?

Recent articles on-line have alleged that about 90% of all animal species came to be at the same time as humans. See this post for references to four such articles.

What is this idea based on? This article is the main reason for such an idea. (The link given is to a summary. The summary includes a link to the full technical article it is based on, which is freely accessible.) A technique known as DNA barcoding was used. DNA barcoding usually compares a small amount, about 600 base pairs, of the mitochondrial DNA of different organisms. Mitochondria have DNA which is separate from the DNA in the cell's nucleus. DNA barcoding has been used, for example, to check the identity of fish sold for food -- are cheaper fish being passed off as more expensive ones? In some cases, the answer has been "yes." Mitochondria are passed on by females, as sperm do not have mitochondria. To quote from the summary of the article: 
Several convergent lines of evidence show that mitochondrial diversity in modern humans follows from sequence uniformity followed by the accumulation of largely neutral diversity during a population expansion that began approximately 100,000 years ago. A straightforward hypothesis is that the extant populations of almost all animal species have arrived at a similar result consequent to a similar process of expansion from mitochondrial uniformity within the last one to several hundred thousand years.

If true, this has important implications for origins. Ken Ham's blog has posted as article about this idea, and, not surprisingly, claims that these findings are consistent with his young-earth creation model, with survival of land animals after the flood, and not consistent with mainstream evolutionary thought. Perhaps so. Ham does note that the time for this increase in diversity suggested, 100,000, or more, years ago is not consistent with his model, which claims that all land animals arose about 6,000 years ago. He says that the difference in time is because of wrong evolutionary assumptions by mainstream biologists.

It seems premature to reach any firm conclusions on this matter. There have been some substantive criticisms of the barcoding method being applied to taxonomy. This article, from an important journal, Systematic Biology, strongly argues that taxonomic conclusions should not be drawn from only one type of data, be that DNA barcoding, the fossil record, or something else. The article isn't against young-earth creationism, in fact doesn't mention it, but it is against not using all types of data in developing taxonomic relationships. "Systematic," in this context, has to do with classifying organisms.

The Systematic Biology article also indicates some possible problems with DNA barcoding, and points out that the original article, quoted above: "... never [claims] that most 'species' came into existence within the past 200,000 years. Rather, what has come into existence within that time frame is the genetic variation observed in one gene in the mitochondrial genome."

DNA barcoding results, although interesting, and sometimes useful, should not be taken as overwhelming scientific proof of young-earth creationism, at least not yet. And, if such proof becomes stronger, the "young" of young-earth creationism may need revision to considerably more than six to ten thousand years ago.

I'm not sure how the remaining 10% of animal species are supposed to have originated, if, indeed, about 90% of them originated close to one time.

Thanks for reading.