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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The universality of prayer, part 2, by E. M. Bounds

It is a rule of Scriptural interpretation that whenever a command issues with no limitation, it is universal in binding force. So the words of the Lord in Isaiah are to the point:
 

“Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, who will have mercy, and to our God who will abundantly pardon.”
 

So that as wickedness is universal, and as pardon is needed by all men, so all men must seek the Lord while he may be found, and must call upon Him while he is near. Prayer belongs to all men because all men are redeemed in Christ. It is a privilege for every man to pray, but it is no less a bounden duty for them to call upon God. No sinner is debarred from the mercy seat. All are welcomed to approach the throne of grace with all their wants and woes, with all their sins and burdens.

Whenever a poor sinner turns his eyes to God, no matter where he is nor what his guilt and sinfulness, the eye of God is upon him and His ear is opened to his prayers.
 

But men may pray everywhere, since God is accessible in every clime and under all circumstances. “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
 

No locality is too distant from God on earth to reach heaven. No place is so remote that God cannot see and hear one who looks toward Him and seeks His face.

- 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, hereThe 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. 


Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sunspots 424

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

Christianity: Weekend Fisher, always a careful and thoughtful writer, has written about the word "faith," as used in the New Testament. Essential reading.

Morgan L. Busse considers situations when God says "no."

Politics: (and Science) Mother Jones reports on a study that showed that attitudes toward global warming were more extreme, as scientific literacy increased -- both ways. Thus, a person who believes global warming is non-existent, or no threat, has a firmer opinion the more scientific knowledge she has. This was also true of fracking.

Science: Wired reports that genetically modified silkworms can produce fabric that glows in the dark.



Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The universality of prayer, part 1, by E. M. Bounds

Prayer is far-reaching in its influence and world-wide in its effects. It affects all men, affects them everywhere, and affects them in all things. It touches man’s interest in time and eternity. It lays hold upon God and moves Him to interfere in the affairs of earth. It moves the angels to minister to men in this life. It restrains and defeats the devil in his schemes to ruin man. Prayer goes everywhere and lays its hand upon everything. There is a universality in prayer. When we talk about prayer and its work we must use universal terms. It is individual in its application and benefits, but it is general and world-wide at the same time in its good influences. It blesses man in every event of life, furnishes him help in every emergency, and gives him comfort in every trouble. There is no experience through which man is called to go but prayer is there as a helper, a comforter and a guide.
 

When we speak of the universality of prayer, we discover many sides to it. First, it may be remarked that all men ought to pray. Prayer is intended for all men, because all men need God and need what God has and what prayer only can secure. As men are called upon to pray everywhere, by consequence all men must pray for men are everywhere. Universal terms are used when men are commanded to pray, while there is a promise in universal terms to all who call upon God for pardon, for mercy and for help:
 

“For there is no difference; for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
 

As there is no difference in the state of sin in which men are found, and all men need the saving grace of God which only can bless them, and as this saving grace is obtained only in answer to prayer, therefore all men are called on to pray because of their very needs.

- 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, hereThe 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. 


Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The soul and split-brain experiments

Many Christians (and others) believe that the soul and the body are separate entities, and, for example, that the soul will go to heaven, but the body will not. See here for a Wikipedia article on such belief, which may be called substance dualism.

On the other hand, many Christians believe that the body and the soul are inseparable in this life, and that they will continue to be so after the resurrection. Let's not get into what happens between death and the resurrection -- there are enough controversial subjects in this post already!

An author in The Skeptical Zone blog has posted about the results of split-brain operations in humans. When that has been done (for therapeutic purposes, such as to stop dangerous epilepsy) the individual generally exhibits two distinct personalities.(See here for the Wikipedia article about such surgery.) As the author says: "Surely the immaterial mind doesn’t split in two at the moment the corpus callosum is cut, does it?"

For an example of a Christian writer who doubts substance dualism, and gives good reasons for doing so.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Two: Various sayings and uses of the word/number

Two. Various sayings involving the word, "two."

There's a recently posted graphic, on this blog, featuring three. Now there's a graphic featuring two. Enjoy! The graphic is a link to my Flickr photostream, and you should be able to find a larger version there, if you wish to.

Some of the Bible verses quoted are:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. Ecclesiastes 4:9

No man can serve two masters. Matthew 6:24a

If two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. Matthew 18:19

There are, indeed, two kinds of electric charge, + and -. There are also two sexes. Most of the animals we know much about, including us, have bilateral symmetry -- a left and right side, which are more or less mirror images.

This document is actually in the form of binary code, stored on a computer somewhere, but the binary code is translated into text and graphics.

The poster is two-dimensional. Note the two typefaces, and two colors, used for the large rectangles with "two."

Thanks for looking and reading, whichever two (or more) of you do so.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Three poster -- all sorts of fairly important uses of the number three

Three (3) poster with border

For reasons I can't really explain, I decided to produce a poster, recognizing various uses of the number three. You see it above. For a larger size, you can use the graphic, which is a link, to get to my Flickr photostream.

If I have omitted an important use of three, let me know, and I'll consider adding it to this graphic.

You will not find an explanation of the Trinity here, or anywhere in this blog. . .

1 Corinthians 13:13 is from the so-called "love chapter" of the Bible, where Paul describes agape love, Christ-like, unselfish love, which, he says, is even more important than hope and faith.

The quotation from James Joyce is the source of the name for quarks, the sub-atomic particles.

The quotation from Tolkien is from his poem about the Rings of Power, in his great Lord of the Rings trilogy. The rings were first crafted by Celebrimbor, and were given to Círdan and Gil-galad. Círdan gave his to Gandalf, and the other two rings came to be worn, and used, by Elrond and Galadriel.

Lest it not be obvious, The text uses three typefaces for the text (except for the six typefaces used for the 3's in the graphic). There are three kinds of triangles, equilateral, right and isosceles, each with its own color, used as a border on three sides of the graphic.

Both the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, currently contenders for the National Basketball Association championship, are often described as having a "Big Three." For more uses of that term, see here, and here.

Thanks for looking and reading! May you have faith and hope, and exhibit agape love.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Good Works: Their significance in the New Testament

This is the results of a search for “works” in the New Testament, where the works were, or are, those done by Christs followers. The post below doesnt include references to the works of the devil, or of God the Father, or God the Son. I have not included the works ascribed to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. The search was in the New International Version and the King James Version. The scripture below, resulting that search, is from the World English Bible, which is public domain. There are two types of works included. These are “works of the law” and “good works.”

John 6:28 They said therefore to him, “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”


John 14:12  Most certainly I tell you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and he will do greater works than these, because I am going to my Father. 13  Whatever you will ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which when translated, means Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and acts of mercy which she did.

Romans 3:20 Because by the works of the law, no flesh will be justified in his sight. For through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the law, a righteousness of God has been revealed, being testified by the law and the prophets; 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all those who believe. For there is no distinction, 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; 25 whom God sent to be an atoning sacrifice,* through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of prior sins, in God’s forbearance; 26 to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where then is the boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 28 We maintain therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.

*text note: or, a propitiation

Romans 4:1 What then will we say that Abraham, our forefather, has found according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not toward God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”* 4 Now to him who works, the reward is not counted as grace, but as something owed. 5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. 6 Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works,
7 “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”**

*Quotation is from Genesis 15:6
**Quotation is from Psalm 32:1-2

Romans 9:30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who didn’t follow after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith; 31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, didn’t arrive at the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they didn’t seek it by faith, but as it were by works of the law.

Romans 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work.

Galatians 2:15 “We, being Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners, 16 yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law.

Galatians 3:2 I just want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain, if it is indeed in vain? 5 He therefore who supplies the Spirit to you, and does miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith? 6 Even as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” 7 Know therefore that those who are of faith, the same are children of Abraham.

Ephesians 2:8 for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, that no one would boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared before that we would walk in them.

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; 
*NIV - works of service

1 Timothy 2:9 In the same way, that women also adorn themselves in decent clothing, with modesty and propriety; not just* with braided hair, gold, pearls, or expensive clothing; 10 but (which becomes women professing godliness) with good works.
*The World English Bible has a text note, indicating that this word has been inserted by the translators, to preserve the meaning. Whether this was justified or not doesn
t affect the theme of this post.

1 Timothy 5:9 Let no one be enrolled as a widow under sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, 10 being approved by good works, if she has brought up children, if she has been hospitable to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, and if she has diligently followed every good work.

1 Timothy 5:24 Some men’s sins are evident, preceding them to judgment, and some also follow later. 25 In the same way also there are good works that are obvious, and those that are otherwise can’t be hidden.

1 Timothy 6:17 Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner; but endure hardship for the Good News according to the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before times eternal,

2 Timothy 3:16 Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Titus 2:6 Likewise, exhort the younger men to be sober minded; 7 in all things showing yourself an example of good works; in your teaching showing integrity, seriousness, incorruptibility, 8 and soundness of speech that can’t be condemned; that he who opposes you may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say about us. 9 Exhort servants to be in subjection to their own masters, and to be well-pleasing in all things; not contradicting; 10 not stealing, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God, our Savior, in all things. 11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we would live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; 13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; 14 who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good works.

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be in subjection to rulers and to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, not to be contentious, to be gentle, showing all humility toward all men. 3 For we were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love toward mankind appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy, he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior; 7 that, being justified by his grace, we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8a This saying is faithful, and concerning these things I desire that you affirm confidently, so that those who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works.

Hebrews 10:22 let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and having our body washed with pure water, 23 let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering; for he who promised is faithful.
24 Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 


James 2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can faith save him? 15 And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you tells them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled”; and yet you didn’t give them the things the body needs, what good is it? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself. 18 Yes, a man will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith.
 19 You believe that God is one. You do well. The demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But do you want to know, vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? 21 Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith worked with his works, and by works faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness”;* and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that by works, a man is justified, and not only by faith. 25 In the same way, wasn’t Rahab the prostitute also justified by works, in that she received the messengers, and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.
*Genesis 15:6

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I beg you as foreigners and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 12 having good behavior among the nations, so in that of which they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they see, glorify God in the day of visitation.

I added this paragraph on June 20: To summarize, obedience to a set of rules, which was the works of the Old Covenant, didn't redeem a person. Neither do good deeds, and church activity, which are the works of the New Covenant. But a person who has truly taken Christ as Lord will do good deeds, and participate in Christ-centered church activities.

Thanks for reading. Do good works!

Sunspots 423

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

The Arts: I've missed Garrison Keillor on "The Writer's Almanac." He's on summer hiatus. The replacement is OK, but, for one thing, doesn't do Keillor's great sign-off, which is "Be well, do good work, and keep in touch," with a Keillor-esque pause or two.

Health: (or politics, or science) The opinion of the US Supreme Court in the gene patenting case, delivered, for a unanimous court (!) by Justice Clarence Thomas.

Politics: Many Americans are more loyal to their party than to their church, or their religion, according to NPR.

Science: NPR tells us, with photos, and a video, about some enormous walking stick insects, which were thought to have become extinct, but aren't. Their re-discovery is an amazing story.

I just read about the idea of Pleistocene rewilding. If carried out, species similar to those who have gone extinct in Asia, Europe, and the Americas would be introduced. For example, cheetahs would be introduced to the plains of North America. Some such introductions have already taken place, but only on a small scale.




Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Concerted prayer, part 7


The same idea is found in 2 Thes. 3:1:
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you; and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men.”

Here is united prayer requested by an Apostle, among other things, for deliverance from wicked men, that same that the Church of God needs in this day. By joining their prayers to his, there was the desired end of riddance from men who were hurtful to the Church of God and who were a hindrance to the running of the Word of the Lord. Let us ask, are there not in the present-day Church those who are a positive hindrance to the on-going of the Word of the Lord? What better course is there than to jointly pray over the question, at the same time using the Christ-given course of discipline first to save them, but failing in that course, to excise them from the body?

Does that seem a harsh course? Then our Lord was guilty of harshness Himself, for He ends these directions by saying, “But if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.*

No more is this harshness than is the act of the skilful surgeon, who sees the whole body and its members endangered by a gangrenous limb, and severs the limb from the body for the good of the whole. No more was it harshness in the captain and crew of the vessel on which Jonah was found, when the storm arose threatening destruction to all on board, to cast the fleeing prophet overboard. What seems harshness is obedience to God, is for the welfare of the Church, and is wise in the extreme.

*Matthew 18:17



- 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, hereThe 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. 


I set out, over a year ago, to post excerpts from this public domain book, as my Sunday blog posts, and have followed that plan. I'm not sure I can fully agree with the emphasis of Bounds on purging the church rolls, although perhaps that is God's plan.     As I understand it, he was a good man, and perhaps he had the mind of the Spirit on this matter. I'm not sure. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sunspots 422

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

Computing: I'm not a Pinterest member -- I spend enough time on-line as it is. But Wired reports on a study of what makes a Pinterest photo popular. It's been scientifically analyzed.

Health: The New York Times warns us that taking more vitamins than we need can be dangerous, reminds us that this is unnatural, and also reminds us why the Food and Drug Administration can't take action to prevent over-use. Industry lobbying -- what else would be the reason?

Politics: A recent poll says that a great majority of blacks (aka African-Americans) are satisfied with their lives. Other findings from the poll indicate that substantially more black men are looking for a long-term relationship than such women are.

Science: Who knew? Mosquitoes carrying malaria are more likely to be attracted to the smell of dirty socks than mosquitoes that aren't carrying malaria. (From the Associated Press)

Fox News describes the oarfish, probably the largest bony fish (sharks don't have bones) which may be up to 50 feet in length. There's a link to a video of the animal, swimming.



Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How not to defend the Bible

God is, and has, defended and preserved the Bible, for centuries, even millenia. Nonetheless, some of us feel that it is necessary to defend it, or, in other words, to defend our faith. The best way, and the most effective one, to defend the Bible is to live a Christ-like life. Period.

This is not to say that it is wrong to defend the Bible. God can, and has, worked through people to do this. Through Bible translators, for example. Sometimes, you or I should defend it.

Unfortunately, there are a number of bad ways to defend the Bible. They actually are ways to attack its truth, not to defend, even though in most cases that wasn't the intention. Here are a few of them:

1) Claim, loudly and publicly, that the Bible tells us exactly when the next event in the unfolding of history will occur, or what it will be. See here for a recent unfortunate example. See here for an indication that prophecy is not as easy to interpret as some people seem to think that it is.

2) Claim that the Bible unequivocally supports what you believe about a controversial subject that Christians disagree on, such as the ordination of women, eternal security, the nature of baptism, proper church government, use of unknown languages, and many more. We are entitled to our beliefs, and some of them are right, we hope, but some of them may be wrong. To say that the Bible supports only our view, when there are God-fearing, praying, Bible-believing Christians that have another view, which they also think is supported by scripture, is just plain wrong. I'm not the only one who thinks so. We should say something like "I personally think that X is true, and I hope I am right" or "this passage of the Bible supports my view. There are people who also believe the Bible who disagree. Perhaps they are right."

3) Say that the Bible says something that it doesn't. A trivial example is to claim that the Bible says that "cleanliness is next to godliness," or "God helps those who help themselves." (It doesn't say either of these.) Another example would be to claim that the Bible says that behavior Y, whatever that is, is wrong, when it doesn't. I have seen the Bible used to attack hair styles, church music, tattoos, and what people wear to church, when it doesn't say that that particular behavior is wrong at all. (Some behaviors, like gossiping, are wrong, and the Bible says that they are.) Some behaviors are foolish, maybe even sinful, but not because the Bible says, in so many words, that they are. The Bible says nothing direct about smoking, for one example, although it's dangerous.* Another way of doing this would be to claim that the Bible says that the earth was created about 6,000 years ago. Some people think that the Bible supports that view, and perhaps they are right, but it makes no such statement. Such a statement is an interpretation of what the Bible says, requiring some assumptions, not what it says. Other Christians interpret the Bible differently. (See point 2.)

*My own denomination, and others, forbid smoking to members. Therefore, if I smoke, I am breaking a covenant with my church, so I shouldn't smoke. That would be true even if smoking weren't dangerous, so long as the covenant said that I shouldn't. Other practices, such as not eating properly, eating too much, not getting enough sleep, not exercising enough, and too much exposure to the sun or tanning beds, are also dangerous to our health. The Bible doesn't say anything directly against any of these, but Christians, and others, should be careful in all these areas. However, I suspect that there will be smokers, overeaters, and sleep-phobics in heaven.

4) Fail to use good sense, and what others have learned. Peter said that no prophecy was of private interpretation. This probably means, although it doesn't exactly say so, that it's a good idea to find out what other Christians think, or have thought, about a particular topic before striking out on one's own. Before stating some view, check a commentary, or ask a person who knows the Bible well. Consider the context before taking a particular verse as the centerpiece of some crusade.

5) Claim that the Bible supports a particular political party. What do you get when you mix religion and politics? politics. Many Christians are politically conservative. Perhaps that's what God wants them to be, and there are some things that current conservatism supports, in the US, that are good, and things that it is against that are not good. But to say, for example, that the Bible teaches that the best government is least, that taxes are thievery, and the like, is a real stretch. (See point 3) It's an interpretation of scripture. It's an interpretation that leaves out some parts of the Bible, such as 1 Kings 4 - 7, which indicate that Solomon taxed the people heavily for food, and for his horses (and probably for his army) and that he sent tens of thousands of them off to work on his projects for about 7 years. This was a time, according to 1 Kings 8:10-11, when God blessed Solomon's main project, building the Temple. Another part that's left out, in arguments like that, is Psalm 72, which speaks of a welfare state for the poor, by the government of the time, namely the king. Most likely God is not thrilled with many of the views, and actions, of both the left or the right.

The best way to defend the Bible is to live like it was true -- to follow Christ. I hope I am doing so. Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The fundamental properties of the universe

These six numbers constitute a 'recipe' for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be 'untuned' there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator? I take the view that it is neither. An infinity of other universes may well exist where the numbers are different. Most would be stillborn or sterile. We could only have emerged (and therefore we naturally now find ourselves) in a universe with the 'right' combination. -Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces that Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2001, page 4.

Rees's six numbers are these: N, the strength of the electrical forces between sub-atomic particles, compared to the gravitational pull between them, Epsilon, which measures the binding of atomic nuclei, Omega, which is related to the expansion of the universe, lambda, which Rees says is related to cosmic antigravity, and is thus also related to how the universe expands, Q, which is the ratio between two types of fundamental energies, and the number of dimensions, 3, in the universe. I'm not a cosmologist, and I don't think I understand any of these, except maybe the last one. See here for a little more information on these numbers, from the Wikipedia. However, I do understand that Rees is saying something profound. He has no explanation as to why his six numbers are exactly what they are, but, if they weren't, either we wouldn't exist, or the universe, and any life in it, would be seriously different. I prefer to believe that the values of these important physical relationships, and our existence, are "the providence of a benign Creator."

I don't know whether there are alternate universes, with different sets of physical constants and laws. Perhaps, perhaps not. Nor should either possibility shake one's faith in God, if she has such.

If God produced these six numbers, He might well have also produced moral constants. One such, which, also, I make no claim to understand, but which the Bible is quite clear on, is that disobedience to God must be paid for by a blood sacrifice. In the Old Testament, the sinner furnished this. In the New, God the Son did.

If you want to read more about the scientific and philosophical question of whether the universe was made for us, or we are as we are because the universe is the way it is, read the Wikipedia article on the Anthropic Principle.

Thanks for reading.








Sunday, June 09, 2013

Concerted prayer, part 6


It would be well for prayerless Church leaders and careless pastors to read the account of the ink horn man in Ezekiel, 9th chapter, where God instructed the prophet to send through the city certain men who would destroy those in the city because of the great evils found therein. But certain persons were to be spared. These were they who “sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst of the city.” The man with the ink horn was to mark every one of these sighers and mourners so that they would escape the impending destruction. Please note that the instructions were that the slaying of those who did not mourn and sigh should “Begin at my sanctuary.”

What a lesson for non-praying, unconcerned officials of the modern Church! How few there are who “sigh and cry” for present-day abominations in the land, and who are grieved over the desolations of Zion! What need for “two or three to be gathered together” in a concert of prayer over these conditions, and in the secret place weep and pray for the sins in Zion!

This concert of prayer, this agreement in praying, taught by our Lord in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew, finds proof and illustration elsewhere. This was the kind of prayer which Paul referred to in his request to his Roman brethren, recorded in Romans 15:30:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judea.”

Here is unity in prayer, prayer by agreement, and prayer which drives directly at deliverance from unbelieving and evil men, the same kind of prayer urged by our Lord, and the end practically the same, deliverance from unbelieving men, that deliverance wrought either by bringing them to repentance or by exclusion from the Church.


- 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, hereThe 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. 


I set out, over a year ago, to post excerpts from this public domain book, as my Sunday blog posts, and have followed that plan. I'm not sure I can fully agree with the emphasis of Bounds on purging the church rolls, although perhaps that is God's plan.     As I understand it, he was a good man, and perhaps he had the mind of the Spirit on this matter. I'm not sure. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Sunspots 421

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


The Arts: A writer for Wired reflects on the reasons for, and effects of, "binge watching." (That means using Netflix or its competitors, or DVDs, to watch several episodes of a TV show at once.)

Christianity: This is not a recommendation -- I don't know enough about the organization, and haven't read enough of their web site -- but the motto of Day Star Research is promising: "Ending the Christian Holy War on Science."

Todd Wood reacts to an article by Vern Poythress on the "Adam debate." There are a lot of interesting ideas in the reaction. One idea that I should have had long ago -- Jesus presumably had a Y chromosome, but didn't get it from his parents. It must have been created for him at some point in His early development.

Science: According to the New York Times, cockroach populations given poison in sugar solutions evolved so that sugar sends a signal to a portion of their brain that interprets the taste as if it were bitter, not sweet.

National Public Radio reports on how cherries from Hungary have been used in cherry-breeding work in the US. Apparently Hungarians take cherries very seriously.

NPR also reports on the use of live human lung cells (cultured) to detect air pollution.



Image source (public domain)
 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Has Noah's Ark been found? part 2

Yesterday, I posted about a recent claim that Noah's Ark has been found, and, based on the evaluation of this claim by scientists from Answers in Genesis, a strongly Young-Earth Creationist organization, indicated that that claim is false.

Answers in Genesis is an organization that is fully convinced that the earth is only a few thousand years old, that there was a world-wide flood, and that God did, indeed, cause a large variety of creatures to escape this flood on the ark that was built by Noah and his family. The organization would be very pleased if Noah's ark were to be found. However, they are also opposed to dubious claims of the discovery of the ark, as they put Christianity in a bad light. AiG says that since the Bible says there was an ark, that's all the reason needed to believe it. AiG also says (correctly) that the Bible does not indicate the exact mountain where the ark came to rest, but gives a region for that event -- see my previous post for more information. They also suppose that it is likely that Noah's family would have used the wood from the ark for construction, tools, and fuel, so that most or all of it would have long since disappeared.

An older claim, beginning with a photograph taken from the air in 1960, and pursued during the 1990's, has been made by an organization named Ark Discovery, International. This organization is led by Ron Wyatt, and claims to have artifactual evidence of the Red Sea Crossing, made by Moses and the Israelites, in Exodus, and to have located Mt. Sinai, and to have made discoveries of geological evidence of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Some or all of these claims have been disputed, but I won't discuss those areas.

One claim of ADI is that they have found "anchor stones" in Turkey, and that these stones were attached to the ark to stabilize it. (A better term is drogue stones.) That is possible, I suppose, although the Bible does not mention such objects as part of the structure of the ark, nor does it mention the large wooden keelsons to which they were supposedly attached. 

According to the Wikipedia, Wyatt's claim of having found drogue stones that were once attached to the ark is dubious, at best. A former co-worker of Wyatt's came to believe that they were local in origin, based on his geological findings. (Although he may have changed his mind again on that, shortly before he died.) The co-worker, at first, argued that the stones found a few miles from the supposed site of the ark were drogue stones, because they are mentioned in the epic of Gilgamesh, which contains another flood story from ancient times.

According to the Wikipedia, and also indicated by ADI's own web site, Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research, both prominent Young-Earth Creationist organizations, have dismissed the claims of ADI. (ADI has responded -- see the first link in this paragraph.) I do not consider myself qualified to referee such claims and counter-claims, but believe that the Bible does not need such claims to defend it. I take it that the claims of ADI are most likely false, although perhaps they were made made with the best of motives.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Has Noah's Ark been found?

The Bible tells us about Noah's Ark, a giant structure which, according to the Biblical narrative, carried a few of each of many kinds of animals, while the earth was flooded. Every few years, there are claims that the remains of the ark have been located. I have heard such stories for at least a few decades.

Answers in Genesis is an organization that is fully convinced that the earth is only a few thousand years old, that there was a world-wide flood, and that God did, indeed, cause a large variety of creatures to escape this flood on the ark that was built by Noah and his family. The organization would be very pleased if Noah's ark were to be found. Members of that organization have examined a recent claim that the ark has been found, and are not convinced of the validity of such claims.

Here is a technical article published by Answers in Genesis, in November, 2011. The article, by Andrew Snelling, who seems to have considerable expertise in radioactive dating (I have no such expertise). He concludes that wood samples taken, supposedly, from a structure found in Turkey by a team from Hong Kong are not ancient, but modern. The wood tested was living during the 20th century, according to Snelling. Snelling was, he says, given access to the actual wood testing data, and he presents it in the article. I don't claim to understand the technical details in Snelling's discussion, but the conclusion he reaches is plain: "Given the present C-14 evidence, despite the tantalizing wooden remains the Chinese-Turkish team claims to have discovered on Mt. Ararat, such artifacts CANNOT have come from the Ark. So whatever they have found, they are NOT the remains of the Ark." (Emphasis in original.)

Here is a less technical news article, published by Answers in Genesis in May, 2010, about the same supposed discovery, which indicates that the organization doubts the claim, and questions whether the Ark would be expected to ever be found. The reasons given for such doubts include volcanic activity in the region where the ark is believed to have landed, and the likelihood that Noah and his family would have used the wood from the ark for other purposes.

Answers in Genesis takes the position that what the Bible says about the flood, and the ark, is sufficient. If the ark were to actually be discovered, that would be great, but we don't need such a discovery to believe in the Bible. As far as I can determine, the organization hasn't evaluated any claims of finding the ark since the claim made by the group from Hong Kong in 2010, discussed in this post. I am sure that if any important claims of finding the ark had been made since that time, they would have discussed them in short order.

The organization also points out that the Bible is vague about the location where the ark came to rest, saying, in Genesis 8:4, "the mountains of Ararat," rather than on a specific mountain. See here for that verse, in several versions of the Bible, which are unanimous on that point. The Wikipedia article on those mountains says: "The 'Mountains of Ararat' in Genesis clearly refer to a general region, not a specific mountain . . ."

Tomorrow, I expect, God willing, to post about another alleged finding of Noah's Ark.

In a previous post, I have set forth a number of questions about the story of the flood, which I can't answer satisfactorily. 

In the next post, I consider an older claim that the ark has been found.

Thanks for reading.






Sunday, June 02, 2013

Concerted prayer, part 5


Prayer and Church discipline are not new revelations of the Christian dispensation. These two things had a high place in the Jewish Church. Instances are too numerous to mention all of them. Ezra is a case in point. When he returned from the captivity, he found a sad and distressing condition of things among the Lord’s people who were left in the land. They had not separated themselves from the surrounding heathen people, and had intermarried with them, contrary to Divine commands. And those high in the Church were involved, the priests and the Levites with others. Ezra was greatly moved at the account given him, and rent his garments and wept and prayed. Evil doers in the Church did not meet his approval, nor did he shut his eyes to them nor excuse them, neither did he compromise the situation. When he had finished confessing the sins of the people and his praying, the people assembled themselves before him and joined him in a covenant agreement to put away from them their evil doings, and wept and prayed in company with Ezra.


The result was that the people thoroughly repented of their transgressions, and Israel was reformed. Praying and a good man, who was neither blind nor unconcerned, did the deed.

Of Ezra it is written, “For he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.” So it is with every praying man in the Church when he has eyes to see the transgression of evil doers in the Church, who has a heart to grieve over them and who has a spirit in him so concerned about the Church that he prays about it.

Blessed is that Church who has praying leaders, who can see that which is disorderly in the Church, who are grieved about it, and who put forth their hands to correct the evils which harm God’s cause as a weight to its progress. One point in the indictment against those “Who are at ease in Zion,” referred to by Amos, is that “they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” And this same indictment could be brought against Church leaders of modern times. They are not grieved because the members are engulfed in a craze for worldly, carnal things, nor when there are those in the Church walking openly in disorder, whose lives scandalise religion. Of course such leaders do not pray over the matter, for praying would beget a spirit of solicitude in them for these evil doers, and would drive away the spirit of unconcern which possesses them.




- 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, hereThe 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. 


I set out, over a year ago, to post excerpts from this public domain book, as my Sunday blog posts, and have followed that plan. I'm not sure I can fully agree with the emphasis of Bounds on purging the church rolls, although perhaps that is God's plan.     As I understand it, he was a good man, and perhaps he had the mind of the Spirit on this matter. I'm not sure. Thanks for reading.