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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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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunspots 639

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




Christianity: Christianity Today reports that Perry Noble, recently fired as senior pastor of the largest church in South Carolina, NewSpring, is thinking strongly about starting another church.

A Relevant writer says that Jesus didn't need the approval of others.

Ed Stetser warns against overemphasizing patriotism in church services, here and here. He cites evidence that 53% of protestant pastors think that their congregations sometimes love America more than they love God.


Computing: I haven't used it yet, but Firefox Send is said to be a free, safe way to send large files to other users.

Wired has a thorough article on how the Russians are viewing and waging warfare. Scary, and it's doubtful if our government really understands.

The Guardian reports on a man who "married" a robot. CNN reports on a man who "married" a video game character.

Food: Listverse lists 10 ice cream flavors that are popular outside of the continental United States, but you probably can't find in the US at all.

Health: Scientific American reports that women with insomnia are more likely to give birth to premature babies.

History: (or botany) Listverse on the history of 10 commonly consumed fruits.

Humor: (or botany) Wired has posted a photo of a man trimming the world's largest hedge. It's really tall.


Politics: A Christianity Today writer argues that the use of nuclear weapons is inherently, and always, evil.

Listverse reminds us of times when the press made us aware of scandalous uses of power.

The Barna group reports on what Americans think makes America great. Different groups responded differently.

Science: A Clemson University professor has spent more time in the shadow of total solar eclipses than anyone else on earth.

FiveThirtyEight reminds us that there will be less solar-powered electricity during the upcoming solar eclipse.



Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 61

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:

Next let us bear in mind that Jesus in His humanity is the Christian's model, in regard to being divinely led. His every act and word bear each of the stamps that prove them from the skies.

1. Jesus Never Said or did an Unscriptural Thing. Though born of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, and led by the Spirit, He continually recognized the Scriptures as the rule of His conduct, and always magnified the written Word.

His mistaken followers who claim that the Spirit may lead contrary to the Bible, should learn this much-needed lesson from the Great Teacher.

The very fact that the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture, proves that all His teachings and leadings will be in accord with it; for an infinitely wise Author will not contradict Himself. Jesus revered the written Word as a dutiful son the will of a dear father, and when He made new revelations they were simply the unfolding of the old, and were to them what the blossom and fruitage is to the bud.

His miraculous advent, the angel's message to Mary, to Joseph and to the shepherds, and all of the great events of His life, were foretold in Scripture and in harmony with it. His chief employment when a youth doubtless was the mastery of Bible truth, and in later years it was with the "sword of the Spirit" that He pierced the formality and hypocrisy of a haughty ecclesiasticism. When tempted in the wilderness to distrust God and use unlawful means to satisfy His hunger, like men do when they do wrong for a livelihood; and when tempted to test God's power by doing a presumptuous thing; and when tempted to give up His divine mission for gain, like men do when they turn from the ministry or from principle, for money or position; and, finally, when tempted to own the lordship of the devil by worshipping him; in each instance He tried the Satanic suggestion by the written Word, and thrusting the enemy through with the keen blade of a fitting Scripture quotation He put him to flight, and "angels came and ministered unto Him."


Excerpted 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 09, 2017

Sunspots 638

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




Christianity: A Christianity Today article argues that Christians usually have no business watching rape, as depicted in visual media. Duh!


Computing: Wired considers the question of how to interact with intelligent robots -- not those of the future, but those of the present, for example in our homes, and which are nearly ready.

Ethics: You have probably heard that scientists have recently changed genes in human embryos. There are analyses in Wired, and two, here and here, in Scientific American.

Health: A Wired writer tells us how many time we need to click a mouse, so as to burn one calorie. A lot.

Scientific American reports that remaining friends with someone, after he/she develops dementia, is helpful to both.

History: Listverse has an interesting post about 10 important events in history, which are looked on differently by different countries. (Sample: how the UK and the US see the Revolutionary War.)
Scientific American on strawberries and politics. (The article says little or nothing about 21st Century politics.)

Humor: (or something) The US Government is auctioning off lighthouses, and they won't be very expensive.

A writer for FiveThirtyEight analyzed the contents of over 1000 "Chinese" fortune cookies, and found some interesting things.

Listverse describes 10 unusual places where people have lived, or still live. (Sample: a two-room burrow in a city park.)


Politics: Wired reports that a recently proposed immigration bill wouldn't help US productivity very much, if it were passed, and that Canada is getting a considerably higher portion of its skilled workers from immigration that the US is. (I have since heard other commentators on this bill, on radio, including one from Fox News, who agree that the main thing this proposal does is cut down seriously on the number of immigrants, and that it won't really add much, if any, to the number of skilled workers who immigrate.)

Wired reports that employees of the US Department of Agriculture have been ordered not to use "climate change" and related terms in their reports.


Science: Scientific American reports on a study of dog facial expressions.

Government scientists have produced a report on climate change, not yet released. It's not good. See here and here.



Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 60

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:

In all the above, and many more particulars, it is clearly declared that all His true followers are like Him. May the Holy Spirit fix in all our hearts, the blessed truth that "His example is strictly and exactly an example for all the world." When tempted to diverge from the path of duty, or to condone sin "because we are human," let us remember that Jesus, too, was human, and that while His gospel does not save us from our humanity, nor while in this world from our infirmities, yet, if fully received, it will save us from our sins. Our transformation into the likeness of Jesus is the great object of His gospel. For this He shed His precious blood, and gives His renewing and sanctifying Spirit. Without these man could no more be like Jesus than a leopard could be like a lamb. The unregenerate man who tries to be like Jesus by doing religious acts and good works is simply a human leopard under a lamb's skin. First, we must be transformed into His image, and then having thus been made like Him we will be enabled to "Walk as He walked," and in our little sphere as the drop bears the image of the ocean, and the ray of light the image of the sun, so shall we reflect His likeness. This is our privilege here and now.

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

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Metals in the Bible

The Wikipedia says: "A metal  is a material (an element, compound, or alloy) that is typically hard, opaque, shiny, and has good electrical and thermal conductivity." Most of the elements of the periodic table are metals, although most metals are not well known to the general public. There are also alloys, combinations of more than one metal. Most of the metals and alloys now used, or at least known now, were not known in Bible times. Here's Numbers 31:

21 Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who went to the battle, “This is the statute of the law which Yahweh has commanded Moses: 22 however the gold, and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, 23 everything that may withstand the fire, you shall make to go through the fire, and it shall be clean; nevertheless it shall be purified with the water for impurity. (World English Bible, public domain.)

The five elemental metals listed in that passage, all those named except bronze, seem to have been all the metals known to humans at that time, unless you count mercury, which, under normal conditions, is a liquid, and, therefore, doesn't fit the "hard" part of the definition given at the beginning of this post. The Wikipedia article referenced in the previous sentence says that mercury has been found in Egyptian tombs from 1500 BC. Mercury is called a metallic element.

The King James Version translates nĕchosheth as brass, as early as Genesis 4:22. The Hebrew word is chalkos. But modern versions, including the New King James Version, translate these words as bronze, not brass. Bronze is mostly copper, with some tin and sometimes other metals, hence, as an alloy, it is not an elemental metal. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and apparently zinc was not known to the ancients. I'm not sure why the KJV uses brass, not bronze. Perhaps the meanings of those words, in English, have changed since the KJV was translated.

Let's consider some of the mentions of the metals known to the ancients, in the Bible:

Gold
Gold was used to establish wealth, as early as Genesis 13:2, where Abraham's wealth is mentioned. There are other times, in the Old Testament, where gold is stated in terms of wealth. Gold was used in coins, sometimes, or wealth in gold was made into jewelry or drinking vessels.

Idols were sometimes made of gold. (See Exodus 20:23, for example.)

In Exodus 25, and following chapters, God told Moses to use gold in the construction of the tabernacle and its furnishings and implements. In 1 Kings 6, and elsewhere, gold was similarly used in the temple. 1 Chronicles 22:16 says that David had gathered silver, bronze and iron, in addition to gold, for use in temple construction.

In Joshua 6:24, and elsewhere, gold taken from the Canaanite tribes was put in the treasury of the tabernacle.

In 1 Kings 10, King Solomon had shields (or possibly targets) made of gold. One commentary says that these were ornamental, used to impress visitors. Another suggests that these were used in warfare, with wood and leather used, in addition to the gold, in these devices.

Gold was used to hire armies from other kings, in 1 Kings 15, and elsewhere.

In Job 22:25, Eliphaz says that, if Job had a right relationship with God, God would be gold and silver for him. (Job did have a right relationship.) In Job 23:10, Job says that, when God was finished with trying him, he, Job, would come out pure and valuable, like gold. In Job 31:24, Job says that, if he had put his trust in gold, in riches, he would deserve punishment.

Proverbs 22:1 says that favor, presumably God's favor, is more valuable than gold.

In Daniel 2, Daniel has a vision of a statue made partly of gold. His interpretation is that that gold represents Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom.

In 1 Corinthians 3:12, Paul says that some people's foundation will be gold, but some will be of less durable substances.

Revelation 21 says that the streets of the city in the Final Kingdom will be made of gold.

Silver
Silver was used much like gold in Bible times, as wealth, and jewelry, and in constructing sacred implements, and the Tabernacle. Often, the phrase, "silver and gold," is used, to signify wealth. Note also:
Joseph was sold for silver coin in Genesis 37:28.

Leviticus 27 gives the value of different sexes and ages of persons, in silver.

In 2 Samuel 24, David bought the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite, for silver coin. That site later was the site of Solomon's temple.

Judas was paid in silver for betraying Christ, in Matthew 27.

Some people worshiped idols made of silver, and of gold.

Bronze:
The first mention of metal in the Bible seems to be Genesis 4:22, which names Tubal-Cain as an artificer in bronze and iron.

Bronze, like gold and silver, was used extensively in the tabernacle, and also in Solomon's temple. 1 Kings 8 indicates that the main altar for sacrifices was a bronze altar.


Numbers 21 says that the people of Israel complained, and that God sent serpents among them. Moses made a bronze serpent, placed on a pole, and the people were to look upon it, and did not die if they did so. In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that that serpent on a pole was symbolic of His own coming death, raised up on a cross. That passage comes right before the well-known John 3:16. Unfortunately, that same bronze serpent became an idol, and was worshiped, many years later.

2 Samuel 21 mentions a spear made of bronze, and 2 Samuel 22 mentions a bronze bow.

1 Chronicles 15 says that cymbals, used in worship, were made of bronze.

Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 2 describe marvelous beings which have parts like bronze.

Bronze items were used as idols. That happened to the bronze serpent Moses made, and is mentioned in Revelation 9.

Iron
In Deuteronomy 27, Moses tells the people to construct an altar made from stones which no iron tool has been used on. Solomon's Temple was constructed of stones similarly untreated.

In Joshua 6, iron, taken from the conquest of Jericho, was set apart, added to the treasury of the Lord.

The Bible describes various armies as having chariots of iron. The bed of Og, king of Bashan, was made of iron, perhaps with softer material on the iron, although the Bible doesn't say that. Goliath's spearhead was made of iron.

Psalm 2 is one place where it says God will judge with a rod of iron. Revelation is another.

Sometimes, the phrase "iron sharpens iron," from Proverbs 2, is used as symbolic of friends, or fellow believers, acting in such a way as to make both of them better people.

Although more or less pure iron is still used today, most iron is used as part of steel, which is an alloy. Steel was known in Bible times, but probably not known in the lands of the Bible.

Tin
There are four references to tin in the Bible, but it doesn't seem to have had any great significance in commerce, or worship, except in the form of bronze.


Lead 
Lead is seldom mentioned in the Bible. The first scripture given, in the second paragraph, is one such place. The others are here, here, here and here. None of these seem to have great spiritual significance, compared to that of gold, silver and bronze.

Thanks for reading. Be thankful that God made all of the elements possible.








Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Sunspots 637


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



Christianity: Relevant has an article that says that many of us read the Bible wrongly.

Relevant reports that World Wrestling Entertainment has registered 3:16 as a trademark, and not because WWE is a Christian organization. (It isn't.)


Ethics: (or something) Here's an article about robot sex. Can a robot be raped?

Health: For some reason, men's sperm counts are dropping drastically.

History: (or something) Listverse tells us 10 things about Guatemala.

Humor: (or something) Wired explains, with videos, how they make those plastic air pillows for packing around merchandise that gets delivered to you.

Politics: US Senator John McCain's speech, calling for a return to civility and bipartisanship in the Senate. A classic.

FiveThirtyEight has an essay on what gives a President political power, and indicates that Mr. Trump doesn't have very much of that, and why he doesn't.

Science: Scientific American on how higher temperatures are killing, and will kill people.

Scientific American on the recent story about gene editing in human embryos, which story, says SA, is wildly overblown.



Image source (public domain)

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 59

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues, listing some of the reasons why we should follow that example:

He was the Light of the world; if we follow Him we "Shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

He always knew the Father's will; "All His sheep" may "Know His voice."

He was baptized with the Holy Ghost; we are to tarry until we receive "The promise of the Father."

He was persecuted; the servant is not above His Lord. To be a genuine Christian is to be persecuted.

He engaged in no filthy or injurious habit; we are to "Cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit."

He never allied Himself to worldlings; we are to come out from among them and be separate.

He always put the Father's interest first; we, too, are to "Seek first the kingdom."

Jesus was "bold, energetic, decided, courageous;" no one denies that all His followers should be.

In regard to personal matters He was flexible, submissive and yielding. His followers in this respect are exhorted to be kind, tender-hearted, and in honor to prefer one another.

Though He was rich yet for our sakes He became poor. He declared of His followers that "Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath he can not be my disciple." Our forsaking all is like emptying our hands of dross that God may fill them with diamonds.

He abounded in good and mighty works. It is written: "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to my Father."

He died; so must all His followers.

He rose again; "As we have borne the image of the earthy we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."

He shall reign forever; He "hath made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign forever and ever."


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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How the Bible wants us to treat aliens, foreigners and strangers.



Note: Refugees may become immigrants, but not all immigrants, legal or illegal, are refugees. The concept of border security probably was seldom considered in Bible times. In the verses below, “alien,” “foreigner” & “stranger” seem to mean “non-Israelite.” Some of these would have been refugees.
Matthew 7:12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (The Golden Rule)

Exodus 22:21 You shall not wrong an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 23:9 You shall not oppress an alien, for you know the heart of an alien, since you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:10 You shall not glean your vineyard, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the foreigner. I am the Yahweh your God. (This command is repeated in other parts of the Bible.)

Leviticus 19:33 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.

Deuteronomy 10:19 Therefore love the foreigner, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.

The Bible also says, in reference to a specific refugee crisis:
Isaiah 16:3 Give counsel! Execute justice! Make your shade like the night in the middle of the noonday! Hide the outcasts! Don’t betray the fugitive! 4a Let my outcasts dwell with you! As for Moab, be a hiding place for him from the face of the destroyer. (The Moabites hadn't always been good to Israel. See Josh 24:9, Judg 3:12-30, 1 Sam 12:9.)

Hebrews 13:1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers*, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember those who are in bonds, as bound with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you are also in the body.

*The NIV Study Bible thinks this may mean “Christians that you don’t know.” The two commentaries I consulted did not say this. There are Christian refugees.

(Scripture quotations from World English Bible, public domain.)

A recent poll found that only 12% of Christians say that they get their views on immigration from the Bible. 

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sunspots 636


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


The Arts: Speculative Faith complains about the sex in Game of Thrones. (This is one of the reasons, but not the only one, I've never watched it, and that I long ago stopped reading the books.) Relevant also has an article seriously questioning whether Christians should watch Game of Thrones.

Christianity: An article in Relevant, about purity. It also explains why the Jewish Law existed.



Computing: Wired on how to stop receiving notifications of long, and irrelevant, Gmail threads.

Health: FiveThirtyEight tells us that many of us eat too often.

National Public Radio tells us that many drugs are still effective, long after their given expiration dates.

Scientific American argues that increasing taxes on alcohol would reduce violence, including suicide.

Humor: (sort of) Listverse reports on 10 famous entertainers who were told that they had no talent.

(or Science) A video of a song, about the elements of the periodic table.

Politics: Wired tells us that climate change denial threatens our defense capability.

Wired also reports on the Trump for President in 2020 campaign, which has paid (probably legally) over half a million dollars to Trump properties and businesses.

Politifact has a list of fake news sources. It's not all of them!

Christianity Today reports on a survey studying religious practice and belief against gun ownership.

Relevant reports on an evangelical pastor who has been arrested by ICE, for deportation. His wife and two small children are US citizens. Not exactly a "bad hombre."

Science: Listverse describes 10 recently discovered, but unexpected, phenomena in space.



Image source (public domain)

Monday, July 24, 2017

All things that cause sin: musings on Matthew 13:41

I heard Matthew 13:41 read in church yesterday. There was a phrase that I had never noticed before (here given in bold): 41a "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his Kingdom all things that cause stumbling . . ." (World English Bible, public domain)

I checked other versions, and found this:
things that cause sin was used in some versions
things that offend in some
things that cause stumbling in some

That's an amazing concept. Not only will the inhabitants of the Final Kingdom be free from sin, but Jesus seems to be saying that those things external to ourselves, that tempt us, will be gone. Perhaps even internal things!

Nothing to tempt me to pride? To covetousness? To lust? To gluttony? To anger? To deceit? To violence? To not thank, adore, and glorify God? Great!

Thanks for reading. 



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 58

In a previous excerpt, Knapp stated that there are four features of "impressions" from God. These are Scriptural; Right (consistent with good morals); Providential (in harmony with God's will); and Reasonable. His discussion of the result of living by "Convictions from Above," according to Christ's example, continues:

(c). It is Our Privilege and Our Duty to be Like Jesus. There are so many ways in which we can not be like Him that this may blind our eyes to the ways in which we can. We can not be like Him, nor does He expect it in many of the incidental circumstances of His life, nor in the possession of divine attributes. Nor can we with our dwarfed physical, mental and spiritual powers be like Him in the keenness of His perceptions and in His ability and promptness in applying the truth to personal experience. His mind could detect an error and leap to a right conclusion in an instant, where ours, hampered by a defective memory, imperfect knowledge, and by many other infirmities which He was free from, must pass through a long, and, perhaps, laborious process. Yet in the following particulars we can and should be like Him:

He was the blameless Son of God; we should be "sons of God's without rebuke."

He was obedient; we should keep His commandments.

He was self-denying; we should deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

He pleased the Father; we should "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing."

He was tempted on all points like as we are, yet without sin; we, too, must be tempted, and if we resist the devil he will flee from us.

He forgave His enemies; we are to forgive if we would be forgiven.

He loved us while we were in rebellion against Him; we are to love our enemies, and like Him, to pray for them.

He was pure in heart; "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as He is pure."


Excerpted 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, July 19, 2017

Sunspots 635


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


The Arts: Listverse tells us about the original Star Trek characters, 10 of them.

Christianity: Perry Noble, fired from the pastorate of what is probably the largest church in South Carolina, because of his alcohol use, almost committed suicide.

Christianity Today on why racially uniform congregations are unfortunate, and why we integrated worship is a good thing.

(Sort of) Relevant reports that a human chain rescued some people from drowning, caused by a riptide, on a beach in Florida.


Education: Scientific American reports that college students would do better if they didn't bring laptop computers to class.

Food: (and religion) Relevant reports that the Catholic church refuses to use gluten-free wafers as part of communion.

Health: (sort of) Listverse tells 10 true horror stories of medical malpractice.

Scientific American reports that most people have at least one episode of mental illness some time in their life, and most of us recover from such episodes.

Listverse discusses some interesting facts about breast implants.

Politics: (or something) The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is composed of 90 large cities, from around the globe, who are attempting to mitigate climate change. It was interesting to discover, in the list of members, huge cities that I had not heard of.

Christianity Today reports that there will be a lot less Christians immigrating to the US in 2017 than did in 2016, because of the Trump administration's policies on admission.

National Public Radio reports that six Afghan girls, formerly refused visas by the US State Department, have been allowed to participate in a robotics competition in the US. President Trump evidently intervened on their behalf.

I didn't choose the title of this post, in the Village Voice, but it's a sane and sobering corrective to the political strife that most of us engage in.

Michael Gerson, Washington Post: "A faith that makes losing a sin will make cheating a sacrament."


Science: Scientific American on how babies perceive and distinguish colors.

Nature reports that scientists have figured out how to store a brief, low-resolution movie in bacterial DNA.




Image source (public domain)