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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sunspots 645

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



Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey is not at all happy about President Trump's threat to destroy the entire population of North Korea, and he's even less happy with Franklin Graham's reaction to the speech.

The editor of Christianity Today weighs in on athletics and the national anthem.

Ken Schenck answers the question, "Who is God?"

A writer in the Washington Post compares Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick, and reaches a sobering conclusion about today's Christianity.

 
Food: The New York Times reports that the plants that produce chocolate may be in danger from a fungus.

History: (and politics) Listverse describes 10 states of the US that never came into being, but were more or less seriously proposed.

Humor: (not really, but I don't have a category for this one) Listverse also reports on 10 things were are running out of. Interesting, and scary.
 

Politics: (Sort of) FiveThirtyEight points out that the news media, including some important "mainstream" entities, treat probabilities as if they were certainties, and those who are predicting (meteorologists and polling organizations) are putting out probabilities.

Science: (or extraplanetary travel) Listverse tells us why a trip to Mars would be more uncomfortable than most of us would think.

Scientific American reports, somewhat poetically (!) on the discovery of fungi, living about a half mile down in bedrock. The article mentions that possibly one-fifth of all the living things on earth live in the earth's crust, seldom, if ever, seen.



Image source (public domain)

Monday, September 25, 2017

What is Christianity FOR? (as opposed to what is it against?)

Christians are all too frequently known for what they are against. In present society, we are held to mostly be against two sins that Christ, Himself, never mentioned.

Christianity should be for something, or more than one something. What should it be for, or what should it really be about? It strikes me that we should be for three things:

A remedy for sin. The world has a huge sin problem. I have a huge sin problem. You have  a huge sin problem. The Bible makes that clear. It also makes clear that Christ was our sacrifice for sin, that God will forgive sin, and that there is a way for God to, as Charles Wesley put it, "take away our bent to sinning." (in his "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling")

Making the world a better place, by bringing about Christ's kingdom in the here and now. There have been famous examples of this: Wilberforce and the end of the slave trade in the UK; Mother Teresa; the construction of mission hospitals; supporting woman suffrage; and more. In addition, Christianity, or individual Christians, have been responsible for a lot more. Some historians of science believe that a belief in an ordered universe, and a command to have dominion, were the motivating factors behind the great advances of science in the past. Galileo, Newton and Kepler were believers (although Newton's Christianity was rather unorthodox). Francis Collins, the former head of the human genome project, is a Christian. There are many more.

But I don't have to go to the slums of India, or to a gene sequencing apparatus, to make the world a better place. I can be friendly and unselfish to my family, my co-workers, my neighbors, to people I encounter commercially, such as checkout girls, repair persons, sales clerks, and phone tech support people, and people who are in situations where we find ourselves together, such as standing in a checkout line with me, being transported near me, or being close at some public event. Christ wants us to do such things. He did. Which brings us to . . .

Having a relationship with Christ. This one is harder to pin down, for me, but it's essential. In his Union with Christ: the Way to Know and Enjoy God, Rankin Wilbourne points out that two of the greatest prayers in the New Testament were for exactly that:

John 17:19 For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. 20  Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who will believe in me through their word, 21  that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me.

Ephesians 3:16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that you may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner person, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, to the end that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be strengthened to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and height and depth, 19 and to know Christ’s love which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I hope I'm manifesting these three attitudes. Whether I am, or not, they are something worth living for.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 67

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:
He was Tried. In the wilderness by the devil, at home by His kindred and fellow-townsmen, in His public life by the ridicule, deception, intrigue and opposition of His enemies, and the cowardice, selfish ambition and misdirected zeal of His friends, on every side and in all points He was tempted like as we are, yet without sin. It is said that a man once came to Napoleon claiming to have made a bullet-proof armor. "Put it on," said the General. He did so. Turning to an orderly, Napoleon ordered him to "fire." The inventor refused to allow his boasted armor thus to be tested. Jesus has made a coat of mail which He declares will turn aside "all the fiery darts of the wicked." He wore it while here below, and proved its perfection.

He was Calm, Self-possessed and Assured. He illustrated the inspired declaration that, "The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever." Whether He was in the temple teaching and asking questions, on the mountain side preaching to the multitudes, in humble homes working miracles, before Pilate falsely accused, or suffering on the cruel cross; the whole tenor of His life was like the quiet flow of some deep and mighty stream. The overflow of feeling, such as He manifested in regard to the desecration of the temple, the hypocrisy of the priesthood and at Gethsemane, were the exceptions and not the rule of His life.

He was a Man of Sorrow. People who in their zeal to condemn a long faced religion, eliminate from their creed and lives the sorrow such as Jesus felt for fallen man, and such as comes from the cross bearing and self denial which He imposes, need to study more closely their Divine Model.


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, September 20, 2017

Sunspots 644


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


The Arts: National Public Radio reports on the most popular plays and musicals put on by high schools.

Christianity: A Christianity Today writer on the fallacy of spiritual gifts.

A Christianity Today writer says that there's no such thing as a "Christian numerologist," and that the world isn't going to end in the next few days.

Sojourners asks if we have ever heard a sermon about domestic violence. (I haven't)

Christianity Today summarizes the careers of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It's a cautionary tale -- there, but for the grace of God, and vigilance on my part, go I (only not so far, I guess).

Relevant says that churches shouldn't try to be cool.


Computing: Gizmo's Freeware reminds us that, with a bit of tweaking, we can do a Google search for copyright-free images.

Wired reports on font detectives -- experts who evaluate the authenticity of printed materials based on the fonts used. For example, a document supposedly printed in 1980 is a fake if it uses a font created in 1995.

Relevant suggests a method for determining how authentic a web source is -- for example, identifying fake news.

History: Listverse discusses 10 Roman Emperors that you've probably never heard of.

(and mathematics, and philosophy) The History Blog reports that an Indian manuscript, using a precursor of what we call zero, or naught, dates to at 400 AD, or older. The post also discusses the rise of the modern understanding of zero.

Humor: (or something) National Public Radio reports on a 10-year-old boy who volunteered to mow the White House lawn for free, and got the chance, at 11 years old.


Politics: FiveThirtyEight has checked into how much of books by politicians that people actually read.

Relevant reports that white evangelical Christians have become remarkably more accepting of immoral behavior in politicians, in the last six years.

Science: (and Christianity) Ken Schenck reverently re-writes Genesis 1:1 in terms of modern science. (This probably won't be meaningful unless you have a pretty good science background. Schenck, who is Dean of a School of Theology, has such a background.) I posted about this essay two days ago, but it's important enough that I am mentioning it again.

The BBC tells us why it is so hard to swat a fly -- it has to do with the speed of their vision, and behavior.

I learned, from the Wikipedia, that there is an artificially produced element named for the state of Tennessee -- Tennesine, element 117.



Image source (public domain)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Genesis 1:1 in terms of today's science

Genesis was communicated for the culture of its time. It says nothing about bacteria, cells, atoms, or galaxies. That doesn't mean, of course, that God didn't know about these things!

Ken Schenck has reverently re-written Genesis 1:1 in terms of modern science. (The result will be more meaningful, the better science background you have. Schenck, who is Dean of a School of Theology, has a fine background in science.) In case you are wondering, Schenck's essay says nothing about how old the earth is, nor about the origin of humans. It's about the origin of everything, from nothing.

Thanks for reading. Read Schenck!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 66

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:

All the Rich Results of Being Divinely Led also Find Full Fruition in the Life of Jesus. Possessed of all of the fruits of the Spirit, His life was a perfect representation of true manhood as God designed it to be.

Although such a cloud-burst of trial, opposition, accusation and suffering fell upon Him as no other man ever knew, yet, amid it all, he was never envious, irritable, haughty, self-willed, hurried, disappointed or perplexed.

Let us examine a few of the "fruits of Canaan" which grew in the garden of the life of our" Perfect Model," and remember that kindred fruits will abound in all who are fully possessed of His Spirit. As the pupil learns of the perfect example which he seeks to copy, so being made like Jesus, may we look to and learn of Him.

He was Humble. This was strikingly manifest in His subjection to His parents and to ordinances, to the indignities that were heaped upon Him, to poverty, and in His acceptance of His humble lot, and in other ways which have been mentioned. To all who follow Him He says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls."

He was Obedient. He did the Father's will even as He taught us to pray, "as it is done in heaven." He did it promptly, cheerfully, continually. Whether it was to speak words of healing and of comfort or to suffer on the cross, He was obedient, and obedient unto death. Seeing from the beginning all the shame, reproach, hatred and agony that was in the pathway of obedience which lay before Him, yet He could say, "I delight to do Thy will, O God."


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, September 13, 2017

Sunspots 643


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



Christianity: Christianity Today points out that (in spite of Article VI of the US Constitution) there now seem to be religious tests for public office.


Computing: A Scientific American commentary argues that e-mail should go back to being text-only, for the sake of cyber-safety.

Food: Relevant tells us that there is now a new kind of chocolate -- and it's pink.

History: Listverse tell us some facts about hurricanes, including how the naming system has changed.

Humor: (and health) Relevant reports that the tooth fairy refused to accept a tooth, because the child had not taken proper care of the tooth -- too much sugar, etc.

Scientific American has an article entitled "The Rise of the Recliner as a Male Social Space." Really.
 

Politics: FiveThirtyEight analyzes the changing religious affiliation (or lack of one) of voters for both political parties, and finds that both parties will have to change to continue to attract voters.

National Public Radio looks at Steve Bannon's view of US history, and finds it to be rather inaccurate.


Science: Nature reports that humans are evolving toward living longer.

Scientific American tells us how global climate change is making severe hurricanes more likely.

And Scientific American also reports that fireflies are in danger of going extinct in China, and why.



Image source (public domain)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 65

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:

Was it not reasonable also that Jesus should further enforce the truth of His gospel by practicing what he preached? Did He not do this? What a contrast in this particular between Him and the hypocritical pretenders of that age and this! He not only proclaimed the importance of prayer, fasting, self-denial, and personal work, but faultlessly exemplified these and all other truths which He preached. In these and all other particulars of His wonderful life He was always in harmony with an
enlightened reason. Calm, self-possessed, and luminous with holy light, He shines forth the great central sun in the gospel system, marred by no spots of ridiculous speech or action. May His misguided followers who are prompted to do absurd things in His name study more clearly this phase of His character, and then aim to be like Him.

4. Jesus' Life was Always in Harmony with Providential Events. Providential opportunities to perform the deeds the Spirit prompted Him to do sprang up as by magic before His coming steps.
 

He came in contact with the occasions and persons essential to His success as naturally as a magnet draws the steel. He never was guilty of the inconsistency of feeling that it was God's will that He should do things which God's providences did not allow Him to do. Forbidding circumstances, such as appall timid souls that know not the secret of God's full grace and guidance, to Him, as to all who will follow in His steps, proved golden chariots to bear Him up the heights of victory. Infuriated fellow-townsmen, ecclesiastical intrigue, and Roman power combined were unable to stop Him in the discharge of a single duty, but each in its way were made to contribute to His glory. He walked so fully in the providential path marked out for Him that there was not a single jar between Him and the events He daily met. Thus His life proves a forceful reminder that the door of providential opportunity always swings open before him whom God leads. May we continue to look to the "Model Man" until, like Him, our lives are thus adjusted to God's providential dealings.

Jesus Always Fully Met the Conditions of Being Divinely Led. His humanity reposed in the lap of the Divine. Dead to the world, saved from self, filled with the Spirit, always putting the interests of the kingdom first, and unhesitatingly following every prompting from above, no matter how great the cost to Himself, the life of Jesus hangs in the gallery of the centuries as "Man's Perfect Model" of meeting the conditions of heavenly guidance.

 
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, September 06, 2017

Sunspots 642


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


The Arts: (Sort of) SmokyMountans.com has a fall foliage prediction map, for the entire United States. As of September 1, there are only a few regions which are expected to have even minimal color, namely, a part of New England, some of the Rockies, and Michigan's northern Upper Peninsula, and Northern Minnesota.

Christianity: (or, at least, good behavior) A CNN crew stopped what they were doing to rescue some people during the Houston flood.

An article on burdens pastors face, and which they often can't tell anyone about.

Listverse has an article on the excruciating types of suffering induced by crucifixion.


Food: (and hurricanes) FEMA uses the Waffle House Index to measure the impact of large storms. How Waffle House (almost always) keeps open.

Health: Listverse suggests that 10 different types of parasite could be infected me (or you) right now.

Humor: (Or geography!) Relevant reports on a couple who have visited all 645 Cracker Barrel restaurants in the US.
 

Politics: Scientific American details how the Trump administration is acting in ways that damage our National Park System, and National Monuments.

A statement from a retired official of my own church, The Wesleyan Church, on ending DACA, in The Huffington Post.

Science: Listverse reports on 10 strange planets (all outside the solar system).

Wired reports that fire ants have been clumping together and floating around, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Scientific American on the same subject.

Listverse reports on strange caterpillars, including one that jumps (video included) and one with hair that looks like that of the current US President.

Scientific American on the many possible "sexes," that is, people with more or less sex chromosomes than most of us, or with various anatomical aberrations, such as indeterminate sex organs, and more.

Sports: (And Christianity) A Southern Baptist minister and denominational official, who is a football fan, warns that football can take the place of God, in Relevant.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 64

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:

3. He Never Said or Did an Unreasonable Thing. He was always reasonable. He was so manifestly so that His bitterest foes seldom disputed His logic, and when they did they fell confounded beneath its lightnings. His replies so exposed their ignorance and revealed His own wisdom, that, dumbfounded, they "could not answer Him again to those things," "and after that they durst not ask Him any questions at all." His doctrines, His requirements of His followers, and His own life, were all in harmony with the cool conclusions of a spiritually enlightened judgment. Notice the illustration of this in a few of the incidents of His life.

(a). His Temptation in the wilderness. If He was to succor and sympathize with weak, tempted humanity, was it not reasonable that He, weak, exhausted, and alone, should meet and vanquish severe temptations? If the written Word is the weapon which must be wielded to defeat the enemy, is it not reasonable that our great Exemplar should embrace an occasion to teach us how to use it?

(b). His Plan of Propagating the Gospel. Could any more reasonable time for opening His ministry he suggested than that which He chose, in the very height of John's popularity, when the multitudes were thronging him, and the nation was awakened, and religious thought was at high tide as the result of the startling utterances of the new Elijah? Has any more reasonable methods for proclaiming the truth, and getting and holding the attention of a nation ever been found than His plain, pointed preaching, combined with the miraculous deeds of mercy which He gratuitously performed, and His fearless arraignment of the formalists of His day? Can we conceive of a more admirable plan for the work He had to do than His, of sending out "simultaneously a number of His most cordial friends and followers to assist in making the most powerful impression possible on the community?" Does not the sequel prove that He chose the most reasonable time, methods, and men for the accomplishment of His work?

Do not His public trial, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and the gifts with which He has endowed his followers, present the most effective and rational plan for the purpose designed that possibly can be conceived of? The rationality of Jesus' methods were unwittingly eulogized by the famous French wit, to whom a religious enthusiast came for advice about introducing a new religion. "Be crucified and rise again the third day," was the sarcastic, yet forceful counsel.


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.