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I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
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Sunday, March 31, 2013

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the Resurrection!

Importance of the resurrection

"The resurrection isn't just a surprise happy ending for one person; it is instead the turning point for everything else."  - N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: HarperCollins, 2008, p236.

1 Corinthians 15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. 18 Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.
20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. (World English Bible, public domain)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sunspots 411

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

The Arts: (Sort of) From Wired: the preview of a new Star Trek movie.
 

Christianity: Christianity Today has a discussion about Francis Chan and other radical pastors/authors.
Speculative Faith has a fine post on the resurrection.



Humor: I'm pretty sure that an introvert prepared this chart, distinguishing introverts from extroverts.
 

Politics: NPR reports on how the number of Americans on disability is growing, in spite of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and why. Most of it is not pretty. Disability, for some people who aren't really disabled, is a way of getting support when they can't find work. State governments have an incentive to get more people on disability, because it's a Federal program. Some parents have an incentive to have their children stay on disability, because, as long as they are, the parents get support. I should add that there are people out there who are genuinely disabled, and helping them should be part of the safety net.
 

Science: Wired has posted a stunning NASA photo of Mercury.
Image source (public domain)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Prayer Born of Compassion, part 4

Paul was wonderfully interested in the religious welfare of his Jewish brethren, was concerned over them, and his heart was strangely warmed with tender compassion for their salvation, even though mistreated and sorely persecuted by them. In writing to the Romans, we hear him thus express himself: 
“I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy
Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart; for I could wish that
myself were accursed for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.”
 

What marvellous compassion is here described for Paul’s own nation! What wonder that a little later on he records his desire and prayer:
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they might be saved.”


- From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall

I recently heard, on Performance Today, the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, performed near the Berlin Wall, on Christmas Day, 1989, by musicians from East and West Germany, as well as from the US, Russia, and elsewhere in Europe, under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. The Wall had not yet been destroyed, but, for the first time in decades, East and West Germans were allowed to cross between the divided halves of the city, beginning in November, 1989. This performance may be seen on YouTube: part one; part two. The text Beethoven used was from a poem by Schiller. Schiller used "Freude," (Joy), but Bernstein had "Freiheit," (Freedom) substituted for it. "Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee," found in many hymnals, is adapted from the Fourth Movement. See here and here for reports of the concert.

Beethoven was almost totally deaf when he wrote this symphony. According to accounts, he thought he was conducting the orchestra and chorus, but the musicians were instructed not to give him their full attention. The alto soloist turned him around to the audience when the first performance was over, so that Beethoven could see the crowd's reaction. The relaxation of the iron grip of communism in what was the Eastern Bloc was apparently precipitated by Christians in Hungary and elsewhere. It is possible that Mikhail Gorbachev, who was the leader of the Soviet Union, which controlled the Eastern Bloc, at the time of these events, was himself a Christian.

Thanks for reading. Listen, and watch. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sunspots 410

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

Humor: (or something) A truly amazing card trick. (A video, lasting 90 seconds or so.)

Health: (or something) I have learned a new term, benevolent sexism, from an article in Prevention.


Science: The Independent reports on the great variety of planets orbiting stars other than our own sun. A couple of them apparently have a density less than that of styrofoam, to name one bizarre possibility.

Sports: Congratulations to Vivian Stringer, coach of the Rutgers Women's Basketball team, on her 900th win.

Politics:  (and computing) Wired takes on the thorny issue of who owns devices such as a cell phone. Legally, it usually isn't the person paying for it.

Computing: Google Reader has announced that it's going away. (I have used it a lot for several years.) Gizmo's Freeware has an article on 6 free alternatives. I'm going with Feedly, but there are others. (P. S. I can't seem to get Blogger to remove the bold from this item, no matter what I do to the HTML. Sigh.)

Christianity: Ken Schenck, who ought to know, posted "Ten Common Mistakes about the New Testament." He then got rebutted, by Weekend Fisher. A most interesting conversation.

An interesting post -- a Bible study -- on the question "Can The Devil Influence The Spirit Through Music?"

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Does God control the weather, or is it due to natural causes?

The answer, of course, is both.

The BioLogos forum has a most interesting discussion of that question, which relates to origins. Its well worth reading. This relates to the writings of Ian Barbour on possible relationships between Christianity and science.

Read the BioLogos Forum.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How to be saved

I make no attempt to hide the fact that I am a Christian. 

I believe in a God who wants everyone to become a Christian.  

Occasionally, I post my understanding of how to become a Christian.

The Bible uses the word saved” for this, sometimes. There are other words, too, such as redeemed and believer. What word is used doesn’t matter.  Being sorry for what we’ve done wrong, asking forgiveness, and believing that Christ’s death paid the price for our misdeeds does matter.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; 24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; 25a whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood

That passage says a lot:
1) I am a sinner by nature.
2) I cannot fix this problem.
3) The problem can be fixed, through receiving, by faith, Christ’s sacrifice. Receiving includes being sorry for the bad things I have done, admitting that I am a sinner, and need help. Part of what I should have faith in is Christ’s resurrection, which proved that His sacrifice for sin was acceptable.

 
There is nothing I can do to earn salvation. It is provided freely, but I must desire it, and believe that Christ’s sacrifice pays the penalty for my sin (which penalty is eternal death, according to Romans 6:23)

 
Salvation doesnt come because I have cleaned up my life. I dont need to clean up my life to be saved. We cant clean it up as it really should be without supernatural help, which mostly comes after salvation. I don’t need to join a church, although doing so is usually a good idea. Joining a church, of itself, will not take care of the problem of sin, unless it’s accompanied by belief in the effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice. No human action will fix my sin problem. I need to believe in Christ’s payment, already made, for my sin.
 
Salvation may or may not be accompanied by feelings. But we must not demand or expect that we feel some special way -- some people don’t. And we must not rely on feelings. We can fool ourselves into believing all sorts of things about our feelings. Feelings are temporary. I love my wife, and often I feel that strongly. But sometimes I don’t feel it so strongly. I must still act as if I love her, and believe that I do, regardless of the feeling of the moment. The same is true of salvation.
 
There are some things that God will help me to do, once I have been saved. These include:
1) Confession of my belief to others. Joining a church, and being baptized, will help to accomplish that, but, they won’t save us. In most cases, we also need to tell other people about our choice.

Romans 10:9 that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
2) Taking Jesus as Lord. This is referred to in the quotation immediately above. That means following Christ’s teachings, as I understand them, and trying to understand them better, by studying the Bible, and being around experienced, victorious Christians. It means not doing what I want, when I know that it would conflict with what Christ wants.
3) Being baptized. Jesus instructed his disciples, in his last words to them, as recorded in Matthew, to baptize new believers, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There are a number of occasions in Acts where new Christians were baptized soon after receiving Christ as savior, and we need to continue with that pattern.

4) Continue to associate with other believers. (Hebrews 10:25) In most cases, this means joining a church, attending that church’s services, and otherwise participating in the life of the church. Unfortunately, there are some organizations that call themselves churches that do not follow the teachings of Christ, in important ways. For example, they may not speak of the need to be sorry for sin, or of the necessity of following Jesus as Lord. If in doubt, ask God to guide you to a church that honors Him. This is not an excuse for church-shopping. All churches, being made up of humans, have some problems. So it is pointless to look for a perfect church. Look for one that honors Christ and His teachings, and helps you to learn more about His teachings, by what the church teaches, and what it shows in actions.

5) As opportunity allows, try to gently and lovingly persuade other people of their need for salvation.

6) Remind yourself of what you believe, and learn more of what Christians believe, on a regular basis, by personal prayer, Bible reading and study, as well as church participation. (Here
s a post on “What Christians Believe.”) Personal prayer, devotional reading, and study should take place at least daily, in most cases. You should find other books, beside the Bible, to be helpful, but don't leave the Bible out.
Most new Christians should use a Bible version which has language easy to understand.

To summarize:
Ask Christ to forgive your sins, and make you a new person, with a relationship with God. Believe that He can do this, as evidenced by what the Bible says about Him, and by changes you may have seen in the lives of others. Confess this belief, and your intention, with God’s help, to lead a new life.
become Discipled -- start, and continue, good habits of prayer, Bible reading, learning how Christians are supposed to act, and telling others of your experience.


Thanks for reading. Much more could, and has, been said on this topic, by others. This is a re-do of a previous post.

For more information, see this post on the evidence that one is a Christian.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Prayer Born of Compassion, part 3

But compassion has not alone to do with the body and its disabilities and needs. The soul’s distressing state, its needs and danger all appeal to compassion. The highest state of grace is known by the infallible mark of compassion for poor sinners. This sort of compassion belongs to grace, and sees not alone the bodies of men, but their immortal spirits, soiled by sin, unhappy in their condition without God, and in imminent peril of being forever lost. When compassion beholds this sight of dying men hurrying to the bar of God, then it is that it breaks out into intercessions for sinful men.

The Prophet Jeremiah declares this about God, giving the reason why sinners are not consumed by His wrath:
“It is of the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because his compassion fail not.”


And it is this Divine quality in us which makes us so much like God. So we find the Psalmist describing the righteous man who is pronounced blessed by God: “He is gracious and full of compassion, and righteous.” 

And as giving great encouragement to penitent praying sinners, the Psalmist thus records some of the striking attributes of the Divine character: “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy.”

It is no wonder, then, that we find it recorded several times of our Lord while on earth that “he was moved with compassion.” Can any one doubt that His compassion moved Him to pray for those suffering, sorrowing ones who came across His pathway?

- From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Free e-book available -- Does the Bible Really Say That?

Book title

The above graphic is the cover of a free e-book. To know more about the background text used in that cover, you can use the graphic as a link.

During 2012, it was my privilege to lead a small group, at my church, on the theme of “Does the Bible really say that?”

Since then, much of that material has found its way into an ebook, or e-book, of the same title. As of March 13, 2013, this book is ready to distribute, free to anyone who wants it. If you wish, you may distribute the book to others.

The topics covered, some in more depth than others, some with a rather firm conclusion, some not, are as follows:

►The culture of Bible times and understanding the Bible
►Genres of Biblical literature
►Was praying for sinners important in the early church? What are the types of prayer, and what did the early church pray for?
►Must the husband always be the spiritual leader in a home?
►Must marriage ceremonies be conducted in church?
►Is homosexuality the worst sexual sin?
►Is prophecy easy to understand? How certain is prophecy about the tribulation, the rapture and the anti-Christ?
►Can a believer lose her salvation? What does the Bible say about the characteristics of believers?
►Do we go to heaven immediately upon death? Do resurrected believers have a body?





Some of the material in the book was previously posted to this blog, and I thank all readers and commenters.
 
The World English Bible, which is in the public domain, is quoted extensively, which is fitting, since what the Bible has to say is more important than what I have to say. Besides being in the public domain, the language is mostly understandable to 21st-century readers. (No believeth, hath, thee, etc.)

The
book is available as a Word document (a little over 100 pages, with quite a bit of space, and in 13-point type) as an .html file, as a .PDF file, as a Kindle document, and as an epub file (the Barnes & Noble Nook uses such files, as do some other e-readers.)There are links to all five of these formats on this page.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Homeschoolers wanting texts that teach evolution

According to a recent article in The Atlantic, there are homeschooling evangelical Christian parents who are disgusted with some of the science texts written for the homeschool market -- texts that teach that the earth is only a few thousand years old, and also teach that anyone who rejects that idea rejects God.

Interesting, indeed. I suspect that such people are a small minority.

Going into the world with a dogmatic view that the earth is only a few thousand years old has consequences. One consequence is that telling someone who needs Christ that thats what the Bible says, when they have good reason to believe that it’s false, is likely to make them doubt what the Bible says about the need for salvation from sin, and Christs offer of redemption. If the Bible is wrong about geology (its not, but it doesnt really say for sure that the earth is only 10,000 years old!) then how can it be trusted about sin and salvation?

See here for more on Young-Earth Creationism.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sunspots 409

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

Health: An article on healthy snacking, and which says that snacking helps you lose weight, in AZSCentral.

Science: Fire ants can sting. I knew that, from experience. But NPR reports that there are people who are allergic to the bites, which can be life-threatening. There's also a link to a news report that a South Carolina high school football game was postponed because there were too many fire ant nests on the field. (See here for my own photo of a fire ant nest.)

NPR also reports on a very scary "superbug," a bacterial type that is resistant to almost everything, and can pass that resistance on to other types of bacteria.

Scientists have been able to get human glial cells (see Wikipedia article on those) to grow in mouse brains, according to a report by NPR. These mice acted normally, as far as could be determined, but were able to learn much more quickly.

NPR also reports that bees like caffeine, and that it helps their memory.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Chart: how essential are various Christian beliefs?

Someone named C. Michael Patton, whom I dont know, has posted a chart, with accompanying text, on seven different levels of Christian belief. These range from essential for all Christians to Not Important and Pure Speculation (even though some Christians believe these things). I think that the chart, and the lists of items, are pretty well done, although all the commenters dont think so.

Thanks for reading. Read Patton.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Prayer Born of Compassion, part 2

Compassion is not blind. Rather we should say, that compassion is not born of blindness. He who has compassion of soul has eyes, first of all, to see the things which excite compassion. He who has no eyes to see the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the wants and woes of humanity, will never have compassion for humanity. It is written of our Lord that “when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them.” First, seeing the multitudes, with their hunger, their woes and their helpless condition, then compassion. Then prayer for the multitudes. Hard is he, and far from being Christlike, who sees the multitudes, and is unmoved at the sight of their sad state, their unhappiness and their peril. He has no heart of prayer for men.

Compassion may not always move men, but is always moved toward men. Compassion may not always turn men to God, but it will, and does, turn God to man. And where it is most helpless to relieve the needs of others, it can at least break out into prayer to God for others. Compassion is never indifferent, selfish, and forgetful of others. Compassion has alone to do with others. The fact that the multitudes were as sheep having no shepherd, was the one thing which appealed to our Lord’s compassionate nature. Then their hunger moved Him, and the sight of the sufferings and diseases of these multitudes stirred the pity of His heart.

- From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Hate speech and homosexuality


Christianity Today recently published an article by Albert Mohler, in which Mohler said that Tim Tebow, football player and evangelical Christian, recently canceled a speaking engagement at a large Baptist church. At least part of the reason he did seems to have been that the pastor of that church has been vocal about his belief that homosexual behavior is sinful. Mohler quotes a CBS Sports employee as saying that that pastor has been “guilty of serial hate speech.”

This episode raises the possibility that a Christian may be prosecuted, even jailed, for saying something consistent with the Bible, and without hating anyone. And the prosecution might be for hate speech.

Why do I say this?

I believe that homosexual activity (not homosexual tendency) is sinful.
Is the previous sentence hate speech? Maybe.

It shouldn’t be hate speech. Christians should not hate homosexuals, gossips, or axe murderers. We should hate the things they do, and wish that they would stop, but it is possible to love them, anyway. Ask any parent if it isn’t possible to love the person, but not love all of their actions! Christ didn’t approve of the way Zacchaeus used his position as a tax collector to cheat people, but He loved Zacchaeus.

Of course, it is possible that statements about homosexuals are founded on hate, whether expressed or not. Some of the motivation behind attempts to label homosexuals as particularly sinful, or to oppose the legalization of homosexual marriage, may be due to hate. That’s not the Christian way.
In the bold sentence, at the beginning of the short paragraph above, I said that homosexual sexual activity is sinful. If I understand my heart, that wasn’t hate speech. It was a fact, based on what the Bible says. If I say that stealing cars for a living is sinful, that’s not hate speech. It’s a fact, based on the Ten Commandments. Opposition to marriage between homosexuals, or to homosexual sexual activity, isn’t hate speech, morally, unless it is said, or written, with hateful motives, no matter what is or isn’t politically correct, and no matter what the law says.
The Westboro Baptist Church says, on its web site, that “God hates fags.” There’s no doubt of their motives -- their URL is www.godhatesfags.com. That’s hate speech. God doesn’t hate fags, any more than he hates people who make statements like that. Both need repentance and redemption.
Saying homosexual activity is sinful doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t mean that the person who made it hates homosexuals. But it may be a different matter under the law. The Wikipedia article on hate speech says this:
In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, nationality, religion, race, sexual orientation, . . . or other characteristic
As I understand it, if the Wikipedia is correct, the bold statement above may, indeed, be hate speech under the law. It may disparage or intimidate homosexuals. That wasn’t my intention, but never mind.
Any Christian (or anyone else) should be able to say that sexual activity between homosexuals is sinful, in a loving manner, without it being labeled hate speech, no matter what the laws about hate speech may say. If saying such means that a person can be charged with a crime, well, so be it. Believers have been imprisoned for all sorts of “crimes” in the past, and, if Christ tarries, will be in the future. It should be a mark of honor to carefully state one’s convictions, in a Christ-like manner, especially if there is danger of being punished for it.

Thanks for reading. See here for a previous post on homosexuality.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Sunspots 408

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

Science: Chimpanzees and humans are often claimed to have DNA which is over 90% similar, or identical. A recent analysis claims that the similarity, or identity, is, rather, on the order of 60-70%.

A 37 second video in the Huffington Post on the creation of knots with water -- you have to read the description to see what's going on.

Reports in TGDaily and elsewhere that the Arctic icecap is expected to be so reduced (or gone) that ships could sail across the North Pole within 50 years.

Politics: NPR on the President's message about the sequester, and on Speaker Boehner's. There's  plenty of blame to go around.

Computing: (Actually, Photography) A 5 minute 42 second video from the BBC, showcasing entries to their garden photography of the year contest. The entries are broader, being from nature in general, not always obviously from gardens.


Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

More than "Love your neighbor" - Leviticus 19

Love your neighbor as yourself” is well-known. Jesus said that it was one of the two greatest commandments, and the scribe he was talking to seemed to agree with him, in Mark 12:28-34, and elsewhere in the Gospels.

The context isnt as well known. Heres more of Leviticus 19:

 16 “‘You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people.
“‘You shall not endanger the life of your neighbor. I am Yahweh.
17 “‘You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.
18 “‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.”


And more: 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. (Quoting from the World English Bible, public domain)

That’s amazing, considering what the Old Testament Israelites were told to do to some of the people of the land. Thanks for reading.



Sunday, March 03, 2013

Prayer Born of Compassion, part 1

We speak here more particularly of spiritual compassion, that which is born in a renewed heart, and which finds hospitality there. This compassion has in it the quality of mercy, is of the nature of pity, and moves the soul with tenderness of feeling for others. Compassion is moved at the sight of sin, sorrow and suffering. It stands at the other extreme to indifference of spirit to the wants and woes of others, and is far removed from insensibility and hardness of heart, in the midst of want and trouble and wretchedness. Compassion stands besides sympathy for others, is interested in them, and is concerned about them.

That which excites and develops compassion and puts it to work, is the sight of multitudes in want and distress, and helpless to relieve themselves. Helplessness especially appeals to compassion. Compassion is silent but does not remain secluded. It goes out at the sight of trouble, sin and need. Compassion runs out in earnest prayer, first of all, for those for whom it feels, and has a sympathy for them. Prayer for others is born of a sympathetic heart. Prayer is natural and almost spontaneous when compassion is begotten in the heart. Prayer belongs to the compassionate man.

There is a certain compassion which belongs to the natural man, which expends its force in simple gifts to those in need, not to be despised. But spiritual compassion, the kind born in a renewed heart, which is Christly in its nature, is deeper, broader and more prayerlike. Christly compassion always moves to prayer. This sort of compassion goes beyond the relief of mere bodily wants, and saying, “Be ye warmed—be ye clothed.” It reaches deeper down and goes much farther.

- From The Essentials of Prayer, by E. M. Bounds.

Although E. M. Bounds died in 1913, this book was first published in 1925, by an admirer of the author's life. Bounds was known for praying from four until seven each morning.

This post is one of a series, taken from The Essentials of Prayer, by Bounds. Found through the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, here. The Essentials of Prayer is in the public domain. The previous post in the entire series on the book is here. Thanks for reading. Read this book, and, more importantly, practice, prayer.