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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sunspots 589

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

The Arts: (Sort of) National Public Radio tells us that Nigeria has the best Scrabble players in the world.

Christianity: Speculative Faith points out that some Christians use magic spells.
Weekend Fisher has posted a fine essay on confessing sin.

Computing: Trend Micro is offering free tools for recovery from ransomware.

Education: A Wired columnist says that college won't train you for a job, but that's OK.

Humor: (or something) Relevant has posted a short video of a Lego construction that makes shadows that look like three different objects, depending on how the construction is rotated. Perhaps the coolest Lego creation I've ever seen.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight details the changes in the US welfare system (actually, it's now 50 systems) since the welfare reforms put in place while Bill Clinton was President. You will probably be surprised by what has happened.

Science:, and many other outlets, report that a nearby star has a planet that may be suitable for life.

Listverse reports on 10 discoveries of things preserved in amber, and what they tell us about the past.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 11

[Knapp concludes his discussion of bad impressions]
Bad Reading. Its influence for evil can not be estimated. Its impression for wrong will be as deep and lasting as hell itself.

These, and other wiles, are shrewdly manipulated by Satan, and over them impressions are constantly reaching the mind. Their constant clicking is confusing and frequently confounding to those who have not the spiritual education to distinguish the sources from which they come.

The human soul beneath these influences is like a place where two winds meet, the cold blizzards from the frigid zone of Satanic temptation and the refreshing gales from heavenly heights; or where two armies meet in fierce and deadly fray.

The soul itself can decide which shall prevail, and upon its decision hangs its character and its destiny. He who sides with convictions from above shall wear a victor's crown forever; with impressions from below shall be crownless and Christless through all eternity.

From Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Salvation acrostic

Sin: separates us from God, and hurts us and others. It is something we have all done, but can’t pay the penalty for. Romans 3:23, 6:23.

Atonement: Christ’s death paid the price for my sin. Romans5:6-15.

Love: God loved us so much that He sacrificed Himself for our sin. Luke 19:10.

Victory: With the help of God the Holy Spirit, it is possible to live a holy life, victorious over temptation, including the temptation to take credit for our own salvation. Psalm 13:5-6; John 17:6-26, Romans 6:1-2, 1Thessalonians 5:5-11.

Attractiveness: A victorious life should be attractive to other people. John 7:37-39, Acts 16:25-34.

Teaching: Jesus told his disciples to teach all nations, and to make disciples of converts. Converts should learn from the Bible on their own, and be part of a teaching church. Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke24:45-49, 2 Peter 3:17-18.

Immortality: Believers, whose sins have been paid for, are promised immortality with Christ. Ephesians 1:11-14, Romans 6:23

Overcoming: The church, and individual Christians, seem to be weak, at times. But Christ has promised that the true church – composed of actual believers, not necessarily church members – will endure. Matthew 16:18, Revelation 2:8-11.

New life, with purpose, and with fruit: Those who have experienced salvation should manifest the Fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians5:22-23) They will also participate, often with others, in attracting new believers, especially by serving, giving, testifying and praying. John 15:8, Acts 6:7, 11:27-29, Romans 12:4-8, Matthew 25:31-46. They will have intimacy with God. Matthew 10:16-20, John 14:16-16:15.

I have probably left out important concepts, and important scripture passages. Let me know if you think of such, in a comment, if you can. Thanks for reading. 

*  *  *  *  *
On September 5, 2016, the links to scripture -- ESV -- were added.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sunspots 588

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

Christianity: A Relevant columnist discusses her experiences with online dating.
Benjamin L. Corey re-examines Romans 8:28, the verse that seems to be saying that all things work together for our good.

Relevant tells us that being in the center of God's will isn't always safe.

Literature: Listverse notes 10 important works written while the author was in prison. (Not included: Revelation, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail.")

Politics: Relevant points out that "Jesus Never Worried About Politics."

Science: Listverse on ten animal species that show real intelligence.
Listverse also has an article on ten of the most important crop plants, that had their genomes changed significantly by ancient humans.

Wired reports that horse racers are using DNA testing in developing successful race horses.

Wired reports that there are underwater heat waves, and they are devastating to marine life.

DarkSiteFinder is designed to show us how well we can, or can't, see the stars at night, because of light pollution. It has a link to an detailed map.

Sports: Wired tells us that athletes in most Olympic events are helped by various equipment enhancements, and, actually, are cyborgs, rather than pure humans.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Excerpts from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 10

[Knapp continues his discussion of "Impressions from Below."] Satan, too, is shrewd to get, when possible, good people to carry his messages. He always does this when he can, as it helps to hide his purpose. Universalism is the most baneful kind of infidelity, because its messages are carried by men who profess to be ministers of Jesus. License of liquor could not live for a year were it not that the devil has secured for its defenders professedly good men. When men who are really good are deceived by Satan, and really think his messages are from above, the deception is deeper, and danger still more dire.

The Prayers of Mistaken People. The influence of mind over mind is marvelous. If a person of strong will determines a certain thing in regard to another, and persistently insists upon it, there is reason to believe that the other person will feel the influence thereof though thousands of miles away. Where a number of persons thus unite the influence felt will be still stronger, and it will be felt whether the people are in the right or wrong.

"The one accord" which is essential for a church to prevail in prayer embraces this principle. It is a power for good when in God's order, but when through ignorance or wrong motives it is not of the Spirit, it works perplexity and harm.

I know of an instance of a lady who has been tormented for over two years from this source. A good man, minister of the Gospel, became possessed of the idea that she should marry him. He said
that God had revealed it to him. The woman was fully saved, and felt just as sure that God had revealed the contrary to her. He commenced praying that God would show her her error, and while her convictions kept deepening that he was mistaken, yet often a disagreeable feeling would come to her as a result of his persistent, misguided prayer.

A person with weaker convictions of duty might have been lead to yield to such an influence, but being enabled to see through it all as a design of Satan, she simply suffered the perplexity, and remained firm.

Satan delights to get good folks to waste their prayers over what is not the mind of the Spirit, as it diverts from God-given work.

These impressions seek to pull one out of the path of duty, and as they come through the medium of at least professedly good people they are sometimes very perplexing.

The Flesh. Its appetites often clamor for unlawful indulgence, and cry so loud as to drown all other voices.

Self. The unrenewed and unsanctified I within always wants its own way, and will persistently plead for it. When messages from below harmonize with it, it is quick to carry them

From Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Sunspots 587

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

Christianity: (or Religion) Listverse sets forth 10 common misconceptions about Hinduism. (See also the Wikipedia on Hinduism -- the two sources do not agree on every point.)

Listverse also sets forth 10 common misconceptions about Jews.

Computing: National Public Radio reports on storage of information in arrangements of individual atoms. Potentially, our hard discs, thumb drives, etc., could be superseded.

Education: Wikipedia articles (here and here) on the development of a written Cherokee language, in about 1820, by a Native American named Sequoyah. His system of symbols made it easier to teach reading and writing than the symbols most of us use today.

Finance: John Wesley's sermon on "The Use of Money."

Food: National Public Radio reports on the discovery that cockroach milk is very nutritious.

Politics: (Not really. but I don't have a category for this.) Two young women are hitchhiking across Europe with a sofa (!) in an attempt to help refugees.

Wired reports that your political posts on Facebook or Twitter don't change anyone's mind.

Science: Listverse reports on 10 mysteries involving spiders.

And Listverse also reports on 10 amazing things that 10 species of animals can do.

National Public Radio reports on some very old sharks (like more than two centuries, at least.)

NPR alsoreports on why sunflowers follow the sun. ("Follow" means that the flowers turn toward the sun throughout the day).

And NPR reports that earthworms really do enrich soil.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Pride goes before a fall

The Wikipedia defines pride thus:
Pride is an inwardly directed emotion that carries two antithetical meanings. With a negative connotation pride refers to a foolishly ... and irrationally corrupt sense of one's personal value, status or accomplishments, used synonymously with hubris. With a positive connotation, pride refers to a humble and content sense of attachment toward one's own or another's choices and actions, or toward a whole group of people, and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging.

The word, pride, is used about 50 times in the Bible. (See here for a search, using the English Standard Version.) There are very few positive connotations of its use in the Bible. In 1 Corinthians 15:31 and 2 Corinthians 7:4, Paul says that he has pride in the Corinthian church. But there's plenty of pride that is condemned:
In Mark 7:21-23, Jesus lists pride as one aspect of the evil heart of humans.
1 John 2:16 says that the "pride of life" is not from God, but from the world.
Ezekiel 16:49-56 lists pride first among the sins of Sodom, which was destroyed by God in the time of Abraham.
Proverbs 16:18 "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
Pride is one of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins -- the Wikipedia lists it as the first one.
Satan is described so that his pride is obvious in John Milton's classic Paradise Lost.

Clearly, selfish pride is dangerous, and to be avoided. Submission does not come easily to us. Be we ought to submit to God, and, eventually, everyone will do so, willingly or not.

How is pride manifest? In at least these, and, no doubt, in other ways:
Superiority pride -- believing that I am more important than others. Expecting special treatment, and believing that I deserve it. Such special treatment may include from the police, from teachers, from companies that I do business with, maybe even from my parents.
Intellectual pride -- believing that I know more than others. I look down on those who don't agree with what I know, or think I know. For example, I might be a Republican who believes that all Democrats are deluded idiots.
Pride in origins and/or associates -- believing that my family, my tribe, my school, my church, my team, my group, is better than any other.
Self-righteous pride -- believing that I do not need to ask forgiveness for my sins, or that I have not sinned, or that my religious activity, or my charitable giving, or devotion to God, is responsible for my righteousness in the sight of God. (The only way to achieve such righteousness is to trust Christ for forgiveness of sin.)
Pride in my accomplishments -- believing that I'm important because I won the 5th-grade spelling bee, or because my lawn has just been mowed, or because I made that sale. Not considering that I had help with these achievements, a father who coached me in spelling, a spouse who mowed the lawn, a mechanic who fixed the lawnmower, a staff who helped me make the sale. Daniel 4 comes to mind. In this chapter, King Nebuchadnezzar bragged, in verse 30, that he had built Babylon, when he probably hadn't mortared in a brick or pounded a nail of it. He received punishment for his pride.

Thanks for reading. Be careful not to be proud. I need to be careful, too.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Excerpts from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 9

He [Satan] is the author, directly or indirectly, of all "Impressions from below." Many impressions come from him directly. They frequently are shot by him into the mind, like the leaping of lightning from a dark thunder-cloud, and astound by their suddenness and awfulness.

1. Evil Angels. "There are," says a gifted writer on this subject, "the voices of evil and deceiving spirits, who lie in wait to entrap every traveler entering these higher regions of spiritual life. In the same epistle which tells us that we are seated in heavenly places in Christ, we are also told that we shall have to fight with spiritual enemies. These spiritual enemies, whoever or whatever they may
be, must necessarily communicate with us by means of our spiritual faculties and their voices, as the voice of God, is an inward impression made upon our spirit. Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit may tell us by impressions what the will of God is concerning us, so also will these spiritual enemies tell us by impressions what is their will concerning us, though not of course giving it their name." --
From Christian's Secret of a Happy Life.

"I believe," says John Wesley, "that united under Satan, they either range the upper regions, whence they are called princes of the power of the air, or, like him, walk about the earth as 'roaring
lions seeking whom they may devour."' A greater than Wesley has said: "For we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness [margin, wicked spirits] in high places."

As good angels may be the messengers of impressions from above, so may evil ones, who are ever ready to blight and annoy and perplex and destroy, be of those from below.

Human Influence. Bad people are wires over which evil impressions fly thick and fast. An evil word or glance may make an impression that is lasting.

From Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sunspots 586

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

Christianity: An article in Christianity Today tells us that the Lord's Supper should be a (wedding) rehearsal dinner for believers.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware describes a web site that will help you get your files back, for free, if you are a victim of ransomware.

Listverse reports on 10 things that drones are being used for, now.

Education: 1 Corinthians 13 for teachers.

NPR has an opinion piece on the subject of whether college students should be allowed to bring information appliances into a lecture class.

Health: FiveThirtyEight asks, and tries to answer, five important questions about the Zika virus.

Wired reports on a program which releases male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (which carry the Zika virus), infected by a bacterium that makes any females they mate with sterile.

Wired also suggests that we continue to use dental floss, in spite of some recent report that indicate that the effectiveness of flossing is not proven.

Politics: Christianity Today has a careful discussion on political correctness.

Science: National Public Radio reports that a whale species not previously known has been discovered.

Sports: NPR, and many other sources, report that a skydiver jumped from a plane, 25,000 feet above the ground, with no parachute, and landed safely.

Wired explains the physics of this event.

Relevant on a Syrian refugee who is competing as a refugee in the Olympics, and helped to keep a number of other refugees from drowning.

Christianity Today has assembled the testimonies of several Christian Olympians.

Image source (public domain)

Monday, August 08, 2016

Suggested guidelines on discipling others

In Matthew 28:16-20, Christ commanded His disciples to make disciples, which means to teach others carefully and thoroughly. How are we to do that? Here are some suggestions:

Guidelines on Discipling Others
The most important guideline is to be an example of Christlikeness.

Children: 1. read Bible stories to them, from the Bible, or from Bible story books.
2. Pray with them. Teach them that prayer is not just asking for things, but is also confession of sin, and asking for forgiveness, and is also thanking God for who He is and what He has done. Prayer should become a way of life.
3. Answer questions (Why isn’t my grandfather here anymore?) honestly, scripturally, and not so as to overwhelm the child. including “I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out” when appropriate.

4. Learn and live the Golden Rule. (Matthew 7:12)

Adults: Follow guidelines 2 and 3 above.

5. Teach that God loves sinners (John 3:16, Christ’s suffering and death) but hates sin.
6. Teach them to read the Bible regularly. New Christians shouldn’t start with Revelation or Ezekiel. They should become familiar with these passages: Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 23, Psalm 51, Psalm 119:11, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 53:3-12, Matthew 7:12, Matt 5-7, 22:34-40, 25:31-46, 28:16-20, John 14:5-15:27, John 17, 1 Corinthians 13 and 15, Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 2:3-11, Hebrews 11, 1 John 1, 1 John 4:7-9. The rest of the Bible, especially the Gospels and Acts, is also good, and should be read, but probably these passages should be absorbed first. Teach that Christians disagree over the meaning of some Bible passages, but the main message of the Bible is clear. We shouldn’t expect to understand all of scripture. Bible study and teaching will increase our understanding. 
7. Teach that Christ’s death and resurrection is the only remedy for sin. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, except accept God’s grace by faith. (Ephesians 2:1-10) However, accepting Christ’s sacrifice, and following Him, will lead to good works, such as giving, helping, befriending and discipling others.
8. Teach that God expects us to become part of a Christ-honoring church. Such a group won’t be perfect, but we should be part of it.
9. Teach that Satan will continue to try to discourage and defeat believers, but that there is no temptation that we can’t overcome. (1 Corinthians 10:6-13). If we do sin, there is forgiveness. (1 John 1:9.)
10. Teach that although salvation gives us hope of heaven, that’s not its main purpose. The main purpose is to enable us to live a victorious life – a Christ-like one, full of joy, now. (Ephesians 3:14-21, John 10:10.)
11. Teach that salvation does not guarantee that bad things won’t happen. But God cares for us in those times, whether we feel like He does or not. He cares so much that He died for us, and God the Holy Spirit comforts and guides us.
12. Teach that the Bible does not tell us how, when or why the universe came to be, but that it is here because of a Who – there is a purpose in the universe.
13. Discipling doesn’t mean reproducing our personal convictions, our slant on things that Christians disagree on, or our politics and prejudices. That would be making my disciples, or yours, not Christ
14. See the most important guideline, at the top of the page.

Thanks for reading! Any suggestions would be appreciated. I thank a member of a small group I am part of for a suggestion, which has been incorporated above.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Excerpts from Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 8

It [Satanic agency] minutely and vividly presents his character as presumptuous, proud, powerful, wicked, malignant, subtle, deceitful, fierce, and cruel. He is compared to a "fowler," a "sower of tares," a "wolf," a "roaring lion," and a "serpent." He is called by over thirty different names descriptive of the different phases of his diabolical character. Among them are the following: "Murderer," "Dragon," "Father of Lies," "Old Serpent," "Wicked One," "Liar," and "Prince of the Devils." "The Accuser of the Brethren" is another of the names by which he is known in Scripture. In this character he has wrought much mischief.

He accuses God's children:

1. To Themselves. He does this in different ways:

(a.) By bringing wicked thoughts to their mind and then accusing them of thinking them. At such times we must remember that while we can not hinder such thoughts from coming, yet we can refuse
to harbor them and thus remain guiltless.

(b.) By telling them when they are "in heaviness through manifold temptations" that because of this they have no religion at all.

(c.) By sorely tempting them and then making them believe that the temptation itself instead of the yielding to it is sin.

(d.) By telling young converts, when they feel the movings of inbred sin still remaining in them, that because of this they never were truly converted.

(e.) By suggesting to more mature Christians that they have lost the blessing of perfect love simply because their emotions have in a measure subsided.

2. To Each Other.

(a.) By putting a bad construction to acts that are susceptible of a good one.

(b.) By charging wrong motives when the real motive is not known.

(c.) By telling one that he is not appreciated by others, or that he is slighted by them.

(d.) By telling one that others have no religion at all because they do not in all things see eye to eye with him.

3. To the Unconverted.

(a.) By telling them that Christians are deceived and that Christ is a hard Master.

(b.) That soul winners seek not them but their money.

(c.) That church members are all hypocrites.

In these and other ways he seeks to perplex and sow discord. His might so marvelous and strategic maneuvers so successful turned earth that was designed for Eden into an habitation of cruelty and
sepulcher of the dead.

From Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp. Original publication date, 1892. Public domain. My source is here. The previous post in the series is here.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Sunspots 585

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

The Arts: Listverse reports on 10 mysteries in the works, and lives, of great composers of classical music.

Christianity: A Relevant columnist says that living together without being married is not the best way to assess compatibility.

Christianity Today reports that Russia has enacted a law which may outlaw evangelizing in Russia.

Christianity Today reports on the harmful effects of pornography.

Computing: The Wall Street Journal on how to avoid being hacked.

Freesound is a repository of sounds that you can use, free.
USA Today
on the possibility of some really scary hacking, of your car, and other "wired" apparatus. 
Wired reports that hacking of the brakes and accelerator of a transfer truck, or a bus, is fairly easy.

Health: The New York Times discusses studies that show that being cold doesn't cause you to get a cold.

Philosophy: Listverse on 10 thought experiments in philosophy.

Politics and race: South Carolina's US Senator Tim Scott, a Republican African-American, on prejudicial treatment by some police officers.

Science: Listverse on 10 examples of convergent evolution -- that is, where the same feature is found in organisms not closely related. Example: opposable thumbs in pandas and primates.

The New York Times, and other sources, say that many of us, especially evangelical Christians, are afraid of technology to enhance human abilities, such as DNA engineering or brain chips.

Image source (public domain)