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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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The posts in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. In other words, you can copy and use this material, as long as you aren't making money from it, and as long as you give me credit.

Monday, June 18, 2018

God uses seemingly random events

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap,
    but its every decision is from Yahweh.

(World English Bible, public domain)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 32

Watson' section on not being contented is finished. He now address being contented:

CHAPTER XI
Divine Motives to Contentment.
SECT. 1. The first argument to contentation.
1. Consider the excellency of it. Contentment is a flower that doth not grow in every garden; it teacheth a man how in the midst of want to abound. You would think it were excellent if I could prescribe a receipt or antidote against poverty: but behold here is that which is more excellent, for a man to want, and yet have enough, this alone contentment of spirit doth bring. Contentation is a remedy against all our trouble, an alleviation to all our burdens, it is the cure of care. Contentation, though it be not properly a grace (it is rather a disposition of mind,) yet in it there is a happy temperature and mixture of all the graces: it is a most precious compound, which is made up of faith, patience, meekness, humility, &c. which are the ingredients put into it. Now there are in species these seven rare excellencies in contentment.


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)  

Friday, June 15, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the Bible justifies his actions on immigration

It is no secret ("Build a wall!") that the Trump administration believes that too many people are entering the country, both illegally and legally. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a cabinet officer that has tried to slow down, or stop, such immigration, with apparent enthusiasm. The Trump administration has drastically cut the number of refugees that will be accepted, and is in the process of deporting previously admitted refugees.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant body in the US, have both recently passed resolutions rebuking the Trump administration, especially for separating young children and their parents at the borders. Other Christians, in groups, and as individuals, have also done so. (See here for Franklin Graham's recent statement.) As they should have, such rebukes have been based on the Bible.

Attorney General Sessions has reacted. His argument is that the Bible teaches that we should obey, and enforce, the law, for the good of the overall society, implying that the recent resolutions of religious bodies and individuals, supporting immigrants and refugees, are not really based on the Bible, but that his actions and policies are.

Really? Consider:
1) In general, Sessions is right. We need to enforce traffic laws, and put bank robbers in jail, for the good of society. But some laws, and/or the penalties for violating them, are unjust. Laws that supported the institution of slavery were unjust, for example. Many people, including some Republicans in Congress, believe that laws that require young children to be separated from their parents are unjust, and even violate basic human rights. President Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving a life sentence for a minor drug offense. As far as I know, he didn't say that her sentence was unjust, but perhaps a belief that it was influenced his decision.

2) Some laws are subordinate to higher, and more important, laws. If my wife is desperately ill, and I violate speed limits to get her to the emergency room, I wouldn't expect to be charged with speeding. In fact, if an officer knew what was going on, I would expect that officer to precede me to the hospital with siren and lights on.

It is true that the Bible generally indicates that we should obey the law. See Romans 13:1-5, and 1 Peter 2:13-17. But some laws are more important than others. In dialog with the religious rulers of His day, Jesus and these rulers said that the most important laws from the Old Testament were the two great commandments, namely to love God, and to love other people.

3) The Bible gives directions about how to treat immigrants, aliens and refugees, with kindness and generosity. See here for several Biblical statements on such matters. One such direction was that the Israelites were to provide sanctuary for refugees from another nation, and a nation which had sometimes gone to war with them.

Sorry, Mr. Sessions. You aren't acting and speaking Biblically on this issue.

Note: In many cases, law enforcement personnel must choose which laws to enforce. There are so many laws, covering so many aspects of life, and limited resources to enforce with, that it would be impossible to discover violations of all laws, and punish the law-breakers. The Justice Department, and other branches of the current administration, appear to have chosen to rigorously enforce laws relating to immigration, while other types of laws are not. All administrations have to make such choices, but which laws are attended to says something important about the law-enforcers.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sunspots 681


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


The Arts: Relevant celebrates the products of Pixar studio.

Christianity: Sojourners says that we worship the rich.

Relevant has some good advice for married couples who don't engage in sex very often.

Christianity Today warns churches that the church, itself, may be groomed by sexual predators.

Health: It really is harder to think in summer heat.

History: Listverse on the origin of 10 common articles of clothing.


Politics: (or something) Domino's pizza has decided to start fixing roads, so that their pizzas won't be damaged during delivery. Really.

Science: Gizmodo reports the honeybees may be able to comprehend zero -- the absence of something. Ancient human mathematicians didn't seem to comprehend this, by the way.

Gizmodo also explains (as far as we can, at the present) why some scientists believe that there is dark matter, and what that matter might be.

Todd C. Wood, a respected young-earth creationist scientist, reacts to a recent scientific article that claims that all species of animals are about the same age. Wood is not convinced.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Answers in Genesis: There really is a red shift, and the universe is expanding

Two articles by Danny Faulkner, head astronomer of Answers in Genesis, the leading young-earth creationist organization, have recently been published. They both appeared in the science-oriented on-line periodical of Answers in Genesis, Answers Research Journal. They may be found here and here . (Note: these are technical papers. I'm a scientist, but not an astronomer, and I didn't understand some parts of these articles.)

The sum and substance of these two articles is the following, from the abstract of the first paper: "Many recent creationists appear to oppose the Hubble relation, the expansion of the universe, and/or cosmological redshifts of quasars. Here I examine these three topics. There are good reasons for accepting all three."

I appreciate Faulkner's honesty, and that of Answers Research Journal, in publishing these articles. Faulkner has not suddenly given up young-earth creationism, but he has challenged his fellow young-earthers to critically examine their beliefs about cosmology, and to explain an expanding universe within the framework of a recently created universe. (I'm not sure that that is possible.)

See also my post, "What's wrong with young-earth creationism," which was written before I knew of Faulkner's work in this area. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 31

Watson has been writing about excuses for not being contented. He concludes this section:

The twelfth apology that discontent makes for itself, is this, it is not my trouble that troubles me, but it is my sins that do disquiet and discontent me.
 

Be sure it be so; do not prevaricate with God and thy own soul; in true mourning for sin when the present suffering is removed, yet the sorrow is not removed. But suppose the apology be real, that sin is the ground of your discontent; yet I answer, a man’s disquiet about sin may be beyond its bounds, in these three cases. 

1. When it is disheartening, that is, when it sets up sin above mercy. If Israel had only pored upon their sting, and not looked up to the brazen serpent, they had never been healed. That sorrow for sin which drives us away from God, is not without sin, for there is more despair in it than remorse; the soul hath so many tears in its eyes, that it cannot see Christ. Sorrow, as sorrow, doth not save, that were to make Christ of our tears, but is useful, as it is preparatory in the soul, making sin vile, and Christ precious. O look up to the brazen serpent, the Lord Jesus! A sight of his blood will revive, the plaster of his merits is broader than our sore. It is Satan’s policy, either
to keep us from seeing our sins, or, if we will needs see them that we may be swallowed up of sorrow; (2 Cor. 2. 7) either he would stupefy us, or affright us; either keep the glass of the law from our eyes, or else pencil out our sins in such crimson colours, that we may sink in the quicksands of despair.

2. When sorrow is indisposing, it untunes the heart for prayer, meditation, holy conference; it cloisters up the soul. This is not sorrow but rather sullenness, and doth render a man not so much penitential as cynical.
3. When it is out of season. God made us rejoice, and we hang up our harps upon the willows; he bids us trust and we cast ourselves down, and are brought even to the margin of despair. If Satan cannot keep us from mourning, he will be sure to put us upon it when it is least in season. When God calls us in a special manner to be thankful for mercy, and put on our white robes, Satan will be putting us into mourning, and instead of a garment of praise, clothe us with a spirit of heaviness; so God loseth the acknowledgement of mercy, and we the comfort. If thy sorrow hath turned and fitted thee for Christ, if it hath raised in thee high prizings of him, strong
hungerings after him, sweet delight in him; this is as much as God requires, and a Christian doth but sin to vex and torture himself further upon the rack of his own discontent.


And thus I hope I have answered the most material objections and apologies which this sin of discontent doth make for itself. I see no reason why a Christian should be discontented, unless for his discontent. Let me, in the next place, propound something which may be both as a loadstone and a whet-stone to contentation.


Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)  

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Sunspots 680


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


The Arts: (Including pornography -- never mind whether it's art or not!) An article in Speculative Faith warns that thinking you are oblivious to pornography and questionable visual stimuli is not a sign of Christian maturity. For part 1 of this series, see here.

Computing: A primer on typography, for those not expert in the selection and use of typefaces.

UnDark debunks the idea of "technology addiction."

Gizmo's Freeware tells us how to delete the conversations we have with digital assistants, such as Alexa.

Gizmodo considers the question of how many social media users are real, and how many are not.


Education: Scientific American debunks the value of so-called "learning styles."

Health: Gizmodo reports on studies of the effect of dietary supplements on heart health, which found that such supplements did not have a positive effect.

Gizmodo also reports that one-fifth of 20-30's deaths in the US are now caused by opioids.

Politics: (or something) Relevant reports that some Liberty University students and staff are working with a producer who is filming something called The Trump Prophecy. It is claimed that this film won't be political, which is hard to imagine.


Sports: FiveThirtyEight analyzed the loss of the Houston Rockets to the Golden State Warriors in the National Basketball Association's western conference final series, seventh game, where the Rockets, usually a good 3-point shooting team, missed 26 3's in a row.

FiveThirtyEight also discusses Kevin Durant's propensity to lose a shoe during an NBA game.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 03, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 30

Watson has been writing about excuses for not being contented. He continues:

The next apology is, the troubles of the church. Alas, my disquiet and discontent is not so much for myself, as the public! The church of God suffers.

I confess it is sad and we ought for this “to hang our harps upon the willows.” He is a wooden leg in Christ’s body, that is not sensible of the state of the body. As a Christian must not be proud flesh, so neither dead flesh. When the church of God suffers, he must sympathize; Jeremiah wept for the virgin daughter of Sion. We must feel our brethren’s hard cords through our soft beds. In music, if one string be touched, all the rest sound: when God strikes upon our brethren, our “bowels must sound like an harp”. Be sensible, but give not way to discontent. For consider, 


1. God sits at the stern of his church. (Ps. 46. 5) Sometimes it is a ship tossed upon the waves, “afflicted and tossed! (Is. 54. 11) but cannot God bring this ship to haven, though it meet with a storm upon the sea? This ship in the gospel was tossed because sin was in it; but it was not overwhelmed, because Christ was in it. Christ is in the ship of this church, fear not sinking; the church’s anchor is cast in heaven. Do not we
think God loves his church, and takes as much care of it as we can? The names of the twelve tribes were on Aaron’s breast, signifying how near to God’s heart his people are; they are his portion, (De. 27. 9) and shall that be lost? his glory, (Is. 46. 13) and shall that be finally eclipsed? No certainly. God can deliver his church, not only from, but by opposition; the church’s pangs shall help forward her deliverance.


2. God hath always propagated religion by sufferings. The foundation of the church hath been laid in blood, and these sanguine showers have ever made it more fruitful. Cain put the knife to Abel’s throat, and ever since the church’s veins had bled: but she is like the vine, which by bleeding grows, and like the palm-tree, which the more weight is laid upon it, the higher it riseth. The holiness and patience of the saints, under their persecutions, hath much added both to the growth of religion, and the crown. Basil and Tertullian observe of the primitive martyrs, that divers of the heathens seeing their zeal and constancy turned Christians: religion is that Phoenix which hath always revived and flourished in the ashes of holy men. Isaiah sawn asunder, Peter crucified at Rome with his head downwards, Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, and Polycarp of Smyrna, both martyred for religion; yet evermore the truth hath been sealed by blood, and gloriously dispersed; whereupon Julian did forbear to persecute, not out of pity, but envy, because the church grew so fast, and multiplied, as Nazianzen well observes.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from his The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.) 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Sunspots 679

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


Christianity: (and politics) Unfortunately, evangelical Christians are the least likely group to believe that the US should accept refugees, according to a poll reported in Sojourners.

Conversely, Relevant discusses reasons, including economic ones, why Christians (and others) should be more accepting of refugees.

Heart, Mind, Soul and Strength examines the nature of the Trinity.


Education: National Public Radio reports that some public school teachers, who thought they had received a grant to pay for their education, have discovered that it is being treated as a loan, that they have to pay back.

Health: Scientific American discusses the seriousness of losing a long-time pet.

Philosophy: Henry Kissinger (yes, that Henry Kissinger), writing in The Atlantic, tells us that we need to think carefully about the implications of artificial intelligence.

Politics: Michael Gerson on the intolerance of Donald Trump, and some other politicians.

NPR on how the Environmental Protection Agency's actions to give manufacturers more stability by rolling back regulations is actually causing unpredictability.

FiveThirtyEight on what might happen if Republicans keep control of both houses of Congress.

Several leading Christians are not at all happy with President Trump's statements about certain immigrants being "animals," according to Relevant.

Science: National Public Radio reports that some satellites measure changes in local gravity, and this can be used to study water flow, especially from melting ice.

FiveThirtyEight on the effects of e-cigarettes.


Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 29

Watson has been writing about excuses for not being contented. He continues:

The next apology that discontent makes, is, lowness of parts and gifts; I cannot (saith the Christian) discourse with that fluency, nor pray with that elegancy, as others. 

1. Grace is beyond gifts; thou comparest thy grace with another’s gifts, there is a vast difference; grace without gifts is infinitely better than gifts without grace. In religion, the vitals are best; gifts are a more extrinsical and common work of the Spirit, which is incident to reprobates; grace is a more distinguishing work, and is a jewel hung only upon the elect. Hast thou the seed of God, the holy anointing? be content.
(1.) Thou sayest, Thou canst not discourse with that fluency as others. Experiments in religion are beyond notions, and impressions beyond expressions. Judas (no doubt) could make a learned discourse on Christ, but well-fared the woman in the gospel that felt virtue coming out of him, (Lu. 8. 47) a sanctified heart is better than a silver tongue. There is as much difference between gifts and graces, as between a tulip painted on the wall, and one growing in the garden.
(2.) Thou sayest, thou canst not pray with that elegancy as others. Prayer is a matter more of the heart than the head. In prayer it is not so much fluency that prevails, as fervency, (Ja. 5. 16) nor is God so much taken with the elegancy of speech, as the efficacy of the Spirit. Humility is better than volubility; here the mourner is the orator; sighs and groans are the best rhetoric.
 

2. Be not discontented, for God doth usually proportion a man’s parts to the place to which he calls him; some are set in an higher sphere and function, their place requires more parts and abilities; but the most inferior member is useful in its place, and shall have a power delegated for the discharge of its peculiar office.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from hisThe Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Thursday, May 24, 2018

An exhortation to worship together

None of the New Testament books were written to Joe Smith, who worships God in nature, or to Jane Jones, who likes to rest in bed on Sunday morning, or to Jim Johnson, who works on Sunday morning, but not when mid-week service or a small group meets, but doesn’t attend these. Most of the New Testament books were written to churches – groups of people who worshipped together, or to pastors, who led such groups. Christians are expected to worship together.

(I know -- some believers are in circumstances where doing so would be impossible, or dangerous. But most of us aren't in such circumstances.)

For more on this, see https://sunandshield.blogspot.com/2016/03/why-should-we-worship-together.html

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Sunspots 678


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



Christianity: A Relevant writer reminds us that contemporary worship style churches aren't the only viable options.

Christianity Today
reports that former President Jimmy Carter spoke at the Liberty University commencement.

A Southern Baptist woman says that Jerry Falwell and Robert Jeffress stood up for her against abuse by her husband.

Politics: Benjamin L. Corey is not at all happy with President Trump referring to some immigrants as animals, not people, and Corey says this attacks the foundation of Christianity.

Science: Gizmodo reports that a study has found that chimpanzee beds are much less likely to contain germs or parasites than human beds do.

(or not) Gizmodo also reports that Mo Brooks, a congressman from Alabama, believes that erosion, and rocks falling into the ocean, are responsible for rising sea levels.

FiveThirtyEight discusses the relative intelligence of various kinds of animals. It's not sensible to rank animals by intelligence.

ListVerse tells us more than we knew about the Periodic Table of the elements.

ListVerse also reports on "10 body parts that are secretly awesome."

A BioLogos author tells us ways in which humans are unique.


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 28

Watson has been writing about excuses for not being contented. He continues:

Branch 2. The second branch of the apology that discontent makes, is the impiety of the times; I live and converse among the profane: “O that I had wings like a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest.” (Ps. 55. 6)

It is indeed sad, to be mixed with the wicked. David beheld “transgressors and was grieved:” and Lot (who was a bright star in a dark night) was vexed, or, as the word in the original may bear, wearied out with the unclean conversation of the wicked; he made the sins of Sodom spears to pierce his own soul. We ought, if there be any spark of divine love in us, to be very sensible of the sins of others, and to have our hearts bleed for them; yet let us not break forth into mourning and discontent, knowing that God in his providence hath permitted it, and surely not without some reasons; for, 1st. The Lord makes the wicked an hedge to defend the godly; the wise God often makes those who are wicked and peaceable, a means to safeguard his people from those who are wicked and cruel. The king of Babylon kept Jeremiah, and gave special order for his looking to, that he did want nothing. (Jer. 39. 11,12)

God sometimes makes brazen sinners to be brazen walls to defend his people.

2d. God doth but interline and mingle the wicked with the godly, that the godly may be a means to save the wicked; such is the beauty of holiness that it hath a magnetical force in it to allure and draw even the wicked. Sometimes God makes a believing husband a means to convert an unbelieving wife, and e contra: “what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? (1 Cor. 7. 16)

The godly living among the wicked, by their prudent advice and pious example, have won them to the embracing of religion; if there were not some godly among the wicked, how in a probable way, without a miracle, can we imagine that the wicked should be converted? those who are now shining saints in heaven, sometimes served diverse lusts. (Ti. 3. 3) Paul once a persecutor; Augustine once a manichee; Luther once a monk; but by the severe and holy carriage of the godly, were converted to the faith.

Thomas Watson lived from 1620-1686, in England. He wrote several books which survive. This blog, God willing, will post excerpts from hisThe Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11, over a number of weeks, on Sundays.

My source for the text is here, and I thank the Christian Classics Ethereal Library for making this text (and many others) available. The previous excerpt is here.
  
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak because of lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. (World English Bible, public domain.)  

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sunspots 677

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


Christianity: Paige Patterson, President of a Southern Baptist seminary, has apologized for some of his past remarks which were less than encouraging to women, according to Christianity Today. (Last week's Sunspots had related links.)

Relevant
reports on the question of which year of a marriage is the most difficult.


Computing: (and history) Listverse tells us about 10 pre-1976 hackers, including, among others, Steve Jobs.
  Food: National Public Radio reports on a study that indicates that people from certain regions like dishes from those regions more, when they are reminded of the places first.

Humor: (or something) A truck carrying liquid chocolate spilled the stuff on a highway in Poland, says NPR. (There's a video.)


Politics: FiveThirtyEight discusses the possibility of a Presidential pardon for Michael Cohen.

FiveThirtyEight also discusses the end of Temporary Protection status for immigrants from several countries. About 300,000 people are going to lose this protection, and thousands of their children, who are US citizens, may also be forced to leave the US.

The US Interior Department is considering re-introducing grizzly bears in some parts of the West. Not everyone is happy about this.

Science: Gizmodo points out that our, er, butts, are unique among animals, and asks several experts to tell us why this is so.

Sports: Pau Gasol, National Basketball Association future hall of famer, on why the NBA should hire women head coaches. (As of this writing, Becky Hammon, assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs, is under consideration for such a job. Gasol has been on her team for a few years.)

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)