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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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Sunspots 698

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


Christianity: Christianity Today reports that many US Christians hold heretical beliefs about the gravity of sin, the importance of worshiping with others, and the nature of the Holy Spirit.


Finance: (or something) Scientific American reports that there are now a million electrically powered autos in the US.

Food: Listverse on the origins of 10 common foods (including bagels, ice cream cones, and others.)

Health: Scientific American on doctors being slow to use new technology. (The article says that thermometers were resisted for a long time!)

History: About the life of Ella Mae Wiggins, a textile worker who became a leader in the struggle for better pay and conditions for textile workers, but who was shot to death in 1929, by textile mill security employees.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight has a solid analysis of how the Supreme Court responds to resistance to its actions from Congress and/or the President, based on the history of such situations.

Science: Scientific American tells us the function of a horse's tail. Really.


The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain.
Thanks for looking!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 48

Watson continues discussing how the evils of affliction may work for good:

Fifthly, These afflictions do bring more of God’s immediate presence into the soul. When we are most assaulted, we shall be most assisted; “I will be with him in trouble.” (Ps. 91. 15) It cannot be ill with that man with whom God is, by his powerful presence in supporting, and his gracious presence in sweetening the present trial. God will be with us in trouble, not only to behold us, but to uphold us, as he was with Daniel in the lion’s den, and the three children in the fiery furnace. What if we have more trouble than others, if we have more of God with us than others have? We never have sweeter smiles from God’s face than when the world begins to look strange: thy statutes have been my song; where? not when I was upon the throne, but “in the house of my pilgrimage.” (Ps. 119. 54) We read, the Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire: (1 Ki. 19. 11) but in a metamorphical and spiritual sense, when the wind of affliction blows upon a believer, God is in the wind; when the fire of affliction kindles upon him, God is in the fire, to sanctify, to support, to sweeten. If God be with us, the furnace shall be turned into a festival, the prison into a paradise, the earthquake into a joyful dance. O why should I be discontented, when I have more of God’s company!

This list will be continued in succeeding posts.
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, October 10, 2018

Sunspots 697

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


Christianity: Christianity Today reports on the shockingly low numbers of refugees, and refugees who have been persecuted for being Christians, that entered the US last year.

A Christianity Today author on the stress of caring for kids at home and for aging parents, at the same time.

Relevant responds to a question about whether giving to Christian charities makes it unnecessary to tithe to one's church.

Relevant also offers an essay on "Five Myths of Christian Political Engagement."


Computing: Gizmo's Freeware on an application that lets you listen to radio stations from all over the world, free.


Health: National Public Radio reports that patients with colds want doctors to prescribe antibiotics, even though such medications aren't effective against viruses, and may contribute to antibiotic resistance.

National Public Radio also reports on using apps to help you go to sleep. Some of them work!
The Scientist reports that abdominal fat can play a role in protecting us. (Too much of it is still bad for us!)

Philosophy: A Scientific American writer argues that science can never solve the mind-body problem. (Here's the Wikipedia article on that problem.)


Science: Listverse tells us about Europa, the most interesting moon of Jupiter.

Earther reports on high-flying (like about 8+ kilometers up) bacteria, and their effect on weather, and maybe on disease transmission.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain.
Thanks for looking!

Monday, October 08, 2018

"I am" in the Gospel of John -- important occurrences.


There are about 70 occurrences of the word pair "I am" in John, most rather trivial. Those below are not trivial.

This “I am” is not in John, but is the source of one that is in that Gospel:
Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” and he said, “You shall tell the children of Israel this: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM.” Jesus was referring to the experience of Moses indicated above, and his critical hearers understood that He was doing so.

In John 4, Jesus, in effect, told the Samaritan woman that I am living water. 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 13 Jesus answered her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never thirst again; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not be hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. 47 Most certainly, I tell you, he who believes in me has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life.

8:12 Again, therefore, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”

10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies. 26 Whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [To Martha]

14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. [To Peter. Perhaps other disciples were present.]

15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch in me that doesn’t bear fruit, he takes away. Every branch that bears fruit, he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

18:37 Pilate therefore said to him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Thanks for reading. He is!

Sunday, October 07, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 47

Watson continues discussing how the evils of affliction may work for good:

Fourthly, Afflictions do both exercise and increase our grace. They exercise grace; Affliction doth breathe our graces; every thing is most in its excellency when it is most in its exercise. Our grace, though it cannot be dead, yet it may be asleep, and hath need of awakening. What a dull thing is the fire when it is hid in the embers, or the sun when it is masked with a cloud! A sick man is living, but not lively; afflictions quicken and excite grace. God doth not love to see grace in the eclipse. Now faith puts forth its purest and most noble acts in times of affliction: God makes the fall of the leaf the spring of our graces. What if we are more passive, if graces be more active. Afflictions do increase grace; as the wind serves to increase and blow up the flame, so doth the windy blasts of affliction augment and blow up our graces; grace spends not in the furnace, but it is like the widow’s oil in the cruise, which did increase by pouring out. The torch, when it is beaten burns brightest, so doth grace when it is exercised by sufferings. Sharp frosts nourish the good corn, so do sharp afflictions grace. Some plants grow better in the shade than in the sun, as the bay and the cypress; the shade of adversity is better for some than the sun-shine of prosperity. Naturalists observe that the colewort thrives better when it is watered with salt water than with fresh, so do some thrive better in the salt water of affliction; and shall we be discontented at that which makes us grow and fructify more?

This list is to be continued in succeeding posts.

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.)
      

Thursday, October 04, 2018

What to call your beliefs about origins?

Naturalis Historia has posted an excellent web page, which provides a flow chart for determining what your beliefs about origins are usually called, and also has descriptions of the major categories of belief on origins. (Young-earth creationist, etc.) This post must have been a lot of work.

You may also want to look at my own web page, which attempts to do more or less the same thing.

Thanks for your interest.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Sunspots 696


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



Christianity: Weekend Fisher lets the Gospel of Mark tell us what it is about, and how it is structured.

Michael Gerson, of the Washington Post, attacks the hypocrisy, and political wrong-headedness, of the adulation some evangelical leaders have for President Trump.

Finance: (and health, and politics) NBC News, and other outlets, report that an Associated Press investigation shows that President Trump's claim, in May, that drug prices would be falling in two weeks, was false. Drug prices have been rising, unfortunately.

Science: Gizmodo asks if perfect memory would be a blessing or a handicap.

FiveThirtyEight reports that we are bad at being able to tell whether another person is lying or not.

Scientific American on why nicotine is so addictive.

And Scientific American says that cats aren't really very likely to catch rats.

And Scientific American also reports on the largest birds that ever lived.


Sports: Two women will be (and already have been) broadcasting NFL football games for Amazon.

The graphic used in these posts is from NASA, hence, I believe, it is public domain. I also believe that it was first used in Sunspots, 13 years ago today. Thanks for looking!

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Some books I have recently read: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Prydain, Goldstone Wood, Paksenarrion

I have recently re-read three or more books by each of four different authors.

Let's go with the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books first.  The Late Betty MacDonald was the author. These are children's books (or maybe parent's books) about children with various common childish flaws, such as not telling the truth, quarreling, not putting toys away, bullying, losing things and not wanting to go to bed. The list goes on. In each case, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle persuades the child to behave more positively, sometimes just by portraying a character herself (a queen who demands absolute neatness), by animals (a parrot that answers back faster than the child can say something nasty, such as "whose the boss around here."), or by minor magic. MacDonald is a genius at inventing funny names for children and their parents. Pergola Wingsproggle, and Enterprise Beecham, for example. The books show their age in spots -- all the mothers are housewives without outside employment, and no one has a TV, for example -- but they are still funny, even laugh out loud funny, and make us wish that we had a child-loving fairy godmother type to help us with our children's, grandchildren's, or other child's behavior. Human nature doesn't change. Most libraries should have these books.

There's a dark side of fantastic literature. Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the Goldstone Wood books. (There is a Wikipedia page for her, but it's not very informative. If you are want more information, try the GoodReads Tales of Goldstone Wood page.) These are fantasies. Evil fairies (there are some very good ones, too) appear in these books. There seems no doubt that Stengl is a believing Christian (she has won two Christy awards) but the books aren't preachy. They are well written, with many characters, some through the series, and more in just part of it. To summarize in a phrase, the books are about conflict between good and evil. The evil is a dragon, or more than one dragon, as evil, intelligent and malevolent as can be. There is a Christ-figure, a high lord or prince, the Prince of Farthestshore, but he appears seldom. A recurring character is a speaking cat, sometimes. At other times, he is a fairy, and a knight of Farthestshore. The religion of the books is complex. There are elements of paganism, with priests and temples, practiced by some of the people in these books. There is also more than one good deity, or, if not multiple deities, powerful good beings. The moon, the sun, and the North Star are personified in one or more of the books. There is also a thrush, who calls characters back to goodness, repeatedly. One of Stengl's inventions, or, if she didn't invent them, she uses them a lot, is paths. Paths are hidden, except for those using them, and allow characters to travel rapidly from place to place without harm, so long as they stay on such paths, even though they may go through some dark places. Why did I start this paragraph with "the dark side?" Because the personalities of the dragons are so utterly evil. But there is good, too. This is a well-written series, and I recommend it to readers interested in fantastic literature. I have previously posted about some of Stengl's work: Veiled Rose here, Starflower here and Heartless here.

Another series is the Chronicles of Prydain, a series for middle- and high schoolers (and adults) by the late Lloyd Alexander. There are five books, namely The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King. As the Wikipedia article on the series says, the series is a Bildungsroman -- the story of how a young person, in this case, Taran, grows up, emotionally. The Black Cauldron was a Newbery Honor book, and The High King was a Newbery winner. The books have swords and sorcery, and good and bad wizards, elves, and humans. There are some really well-drawn characters, some of them more than a little strange, and not all of them human. Alexander was especially good at dialog. Several of his characters have clearly distinct ways of speaking. One of them scarcely every stops talking. There is no explicit religion of any kind in these books, but there is certainly a struggle between good and evil, and it is clear which side Alexander was on. I posted, in more detail, about these books, a few years ago.

The last series is the Paksenarrion books, by Elizabeth Moon. They are sword and sorcery stories, well told, with some characters readers can identify with, and some evil ones, too. Moon pays a lot of attention to ordinary soldiers, and their lives, and what it takes to have an army move to a battle site. Here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on these books. (There are 10 novels in these settings, and they are tied together in various ways.):

The Deed of Paksenarrion has an engrossing religious theme. The world is presented as henotheistic; there is a "High Lord" followed by supposedly lesser deities and saints, such as Gird, Falk, etc., who serve it. There are also several references to the World tree and other animistic aspects of the natural world. This work encompasses themes such as "Hero as Redeemer" and "Hero as Saint" as described in Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The trilogy also deals with the concepts of absolute good versus absolute evil, the death of friends and loved ones, and an enlightened look into the origin of courage and fear.
One of the most significant themes of The Deed of Paksenarrion is the balance of gender and the role of women. Women are portrayed as powerful leaders and strong fighters. They are accepted and praised as much as men. The book's protagonist is female, as is the Marshall-General of the fellowship of Gird, the book's primary religious sect.

The above paragraphs apply to all of the books. (For more on the books, see this page, which Moon, herself, is responsible for.)

I have previously written on the question of whether or not Moon's fantasy works are Christian novels. My conclusion is that, in some ways, they are, in others, they are not. A student once told me that his high school English teacher had said that every story has a Christ-figure. I'm not sure that I agree with that, but Paksenarrion is, in many respects, such a figure. She is celibate (except for being raped under torture), she sacrifices herself for others in a terrible and prolonged way, and she is vindicated by the High Lord. And she becomes a paladin, fighting evil.

Moon has also written some science fiction, set in the present, or the future. Her Remnant Population was a Hugo Award nominee, and her Speed of Dark won the Nebula award.

Thanks for reading. Read Stengl, Alexander, MacDonald or Moon, or any other good books. And re-read something.

 

Monday, October 01, 2018

How God recently helped me, involving our computers

A few days ago, we were visiting some of our family. Part of the visit was to see one of our grandsons, who plays water polo with his high school team. We were glad to have seen that, more than once. We had never that game before.

I'm not as spry as I once was, and am not always as balanced (physically!) as I should be, I guess. A couple of years ago, I managed to fall while walking along a wide concrete walk around a harbor. During last Thanksgiving season, I walked over to a neighbor's in the dark, and forgot that he had put some loose bricks at the end of a wall. I stepped on one or two of them as I went around the wall's end, and fell, landing on his concrete driveway. While at one of the water polo games, I stepped on some miscellaneous stuff, a couple of meters from the pool, and down I went. I thank God that I took no injury in any of these accidents -- not a bruise, not sore a bit. That's one praise.

During the last fall, I lost my grip on my Android tablet, and it fell into the swimming pool. The referee stopped the game while one of the players dove down and got it. But the tablet would not come on. As far as I can tell, it's dead for good. It served me well. I had used it for various kinds of reading, including devotional reading, and for other purposes.

We like Coldstone ice cream. There is a store near where the games were being played, and we went there. Ice cream stores, and other small fast food franchises, in California, usually don't have restrooms. I discovered that I needed one. I was directed to a public restroom, but it was padlocked. There is a Target store near the ice cream store, and I decided that was my best bet for a restroom. While at this Target, it occurred to me that I might purchase a new tablet there, which is another praise. (Otherwise, I would have had to find another store, or go on-line to order one, and not gotten one for a day or so.) So I went back to the electronics section. I asked the clerk how much storage a tablet, for sale, had, and she pointed out something that I had forgotten, namely that this new tablet had a spot for a memory card. I suddenly recalled that my damaged tablet had had a memory card in it. I bought the tablet, and, as soon as I could, placed the memory chip from the damaged device into the new one. It worked! I didn't have to copy files from our computer to the new tablet! That's another praise. If she hadn't reminded me of that, it would have taken hours to copy the files I wanted on the tablet from our computer.

We got home, a couple of days later. A few hours after we did, our laptop computer would not access the internet. We got it with a protection plan, so I took the laptop to the store where I got it in the first place. I first copied all of our data files -- photos, spreadsheets, etc., to an external hard drive, in case the laptop was no longer usable. After less than 24 hours, I was able to pick up the computer. The repair person said that something had gone wrong with a Windows 10 update, which is plausible, and that I could not have fixed this without special software. He accessed the internet, using our computer, from the store, to show that the problem was fixed. But when I got home, I discovered that our graphics programs, and Microsoft Office, were no longer accessible. I could get on the internet, which is another praise, but I couldn't get along without a spreadsheet, a word processor, nor that graphics program, and, of course, I had already paid for them. I got in contact with the store's on-line repair people, through chatting (I couldn't have done that without internet access), and having her take control of the machine, from wherever she was. In a couple of hours or so, Office, and the graphics suite, were again usable. There was no charge for the repairs, other than the original purchase of the protection plan. Those are also both cause for praise. I'm now using this laptop to write this, and expect to post it on the internet, as this blog post, in a little bit. I thank God for his goodness!


I needed to back up our files, anyway.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 46

Watson continues discussing how the evils of affliction may work for good:

Secondly, Afflictions are probatory. (Ps. 66. 10,11) Gold is not the worse for being tried, or corn for being fanned. Affliction is the touchstone of sincerity, it tries what metal we are made of; affliction is God’s fan and his sieve. It is good that men be known; some serve God for a livery; they are like the fisherman, that makes use of the net, only to catch the fish; so they go a-fishing with the net of religion, only to catch preferment: affliction discovers these. The Donatists went to the Goths when the Arians prevailed: hypocrites will fail in a storm, true grace holds out in the winter-season. That is a precious faith which, like the stars, shines brightest in the darkest night. It is good that our graces should be brought to trial; thus we have the comfort, and the gospel the honour, and why then be discontented?

Thirdly, Afflictions are expurgatory, these evils work for our good, because they work out sin, and shall I be discontented at this? What if I have more trouble, if I have less sin? The brightest day hath its clouds; the purest gold its dross; the most refined soul hath some less of corruption. The saints lose nothing in the furnace but what they can well spare; their dross: is not this for our good? Why then should we murmur? “I am come to send fire on the earth.” (Lu. 12. 49) Tertullian understands it of the fire of affliction. God makes this like the fire of the three children, which burned only their bonds and set them at liberty in the furnace, so the fire of affliction serves to burn the bonds of iniquity: “by this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged: and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin.” (Is. 27. 9) When affliction or death comes to a wicked man, it takes away his soul; when it comes to a godly man, it only takes away his sin; is there any cause why we should be discontented? God steeps us in the brinish waters of affliction that he make take out our spots. God’s people are his husbandry; (1 Cor. 3. 9) the ploughing of the ground kills the weeds, and the harrowing of the earth breaks the hard clods: God’s ploughing of us by affliction, is to kill the weeds of sin; his harrowing of us is to break the hard clouds of impenitency that the heart may be fitter to receive the seeds of grace; and if this be all, why should we be discontented?


This list is to be continued in succeeding posts.
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, September 26, 2018

Sunspots 696


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



Christianity: Relevant on Chris Pratt's faith.

A Relevant article asks if we have made the Bible into an idol.

A Christianity Today article discusses why so many of us don't read the Bible very much.


Computing: Google is forcing people to sign in to the Chrome browser. See here or here, if you are concerned about that.

Food: Laboratory-grown meat is getting closer to market.

Politics: Relevant reports on the current US Administration's shameful cutting of the number of refugees allowed into the US. Christianity Today also chimes in.

The Trump administration has rolled back rules on the emission of methane.

Amazing! The House and the Senate both passed a bill with no negative votes!


Newsweek and other sources report that prototypes of the proposed border wall are seriously defective, with at least one being even dangerous.

FiveThirtyEight examines the power of Republican political endorsements (in Republican primaries).

Science: ZME Science reports on the heaviest (and largest) organism in the world. It's really big.

(or something) Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina agriculture badly. About 1.7 million chickens have drowned, according to Earther.

Gizmodo reports that genetic analysis of elephant tusks and feces is being used to combat poachers, which are a serious problem. The article says that about 40,000 elephants are killed for their tusks each year.

A Japanese spacecraft has landed on a asteroid, and has sent back some photos, according to Gizmodo and other sources.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Sunspots 695

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


Christianity: Relevant, and other sources, report that China is attacking Christians and churches, and other religions, too. In another report, China is blocking on-line Christian services.

Richard Mouw, in Sojourners, argues against uncritical support for Israel, and claims that the Bible does not teach such support.

Some prominent Christians have recently argued that Christians have no business trying to work for social justice. Russell Moore, of the Southern Baptist Convention, begs to differ.


Food: Listverse has posted 10 little-known facts about Avocados.

In case you didn't know it, cacao (the plant that chocolate comes from) is susceptible to plant diseases. Scientific American reports on attempts to find resistant cacao plants.

Gizmodo on whether breakfast cereal is good for us or not.

Politics: Not a surprise. Scientific American reports that more people are killed by active shooters when they are using semi-automatic weapons.

Earther reports that, as Hurricane Florence neared landfall, President Trump called the government's response to Hurricane Maria, in Puerto Rico, an "unsung success," in spite of plenty of contrary evidence. Then, later, he claimed that the death toll, about 3,000, was a figure made up by Democrats, to make him look bad.

The Trump administration is in process of relaxing regulations on institutions that lend money to military personnel, and has done so without consulting the Pentagon, which is opposed to these changes, according to National Public Radio.

Relevant reports that the number of Christian refugees entering the US has fallen sharply under the Trump administration.

(Not really politics, I hope) Gizmodo reports that a system is being developed to allow the President to send a warning text message to every cell phone in the US, in case of terrorist attacks, weather disasters, and the like.

Science: Barrier islands in the Atlantic Ocean, which protect North and South Carolina from some hurricane damage, are disappearing, says Scientific American.

Gizmodo reports that there is a plan in place to sequence the DNA of all living vertebrate species, about 66,000.

Earther reports on a typhoon that was stronger than Florence, at about the same time.

Scientific American reports on a study that indicates that people who are new to us dislike us less than we think they do.

Thanks for looking!

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 45

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

The consideration that all God’s providences, how cross or bloody soever, shall do a believer good; “and we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.” (Ro. 8. 28) Not only all good things, but all evil things work for good; and shall we be discontented at that which works for our good? Suppose our troubles are twisted together, and sadly accented: what if sickness, poverty, reproach, law-suits, &c, do unite and muster their forces against us? all shall work for good; our maladies shall be our medicines; and shall we repine at which shall undoubtedly do us good? “Unto the upright there ariseth light in darkness.” (Ps. 112. 4) Affliction may be baptized Marah; it is bitter, but physical. Because this is so full of comfort, and may be a most excellent catholicon* against discontent, I shall a little expatiate.

It will be inquired how the evils of affliction work for good? Several ways.


First, They are disciplinary; they teach us. The Psalmist having very elegantly described the church’s trouble, (Ps. 74) prefixed this title to the psalm, Maschil, which signifies a psalm giving instruction; that which seals up instruction, works for good. God puts us sometimes under the black rod; but it is a rod of discipline; “hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it.” (Mi. 6. 9) God makes our adversity our university. Affliction is a preacher; “blow the trumpet in Tekoa:” (Je. 6. 1) the trumpet was to preach to the people; “be thou instructed, O Jerusalem.” (Je. 6. 8) Sometimes God speaks to the minister to lift up his voice like a trumpet, (Is. 58. 1) and here he speaks to the trumpet to lift up its voice like a minister. Afflictions teach us humility. Commonly prosperous, and proud, corrections are God’s corrosives to eat out the proud flesh. Jesus Christ is the lily of the valleys, (Can. 2. 1) he dwells in an humble heart: God brings us into the valley of tears, that He may bring us into the valley of humility; “remembering my affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall; my soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. (La. 3. 19,20) When men are grown high, God hath no better way with them, than to brew them a cup of wormwood.
Afflictions are compared to thorns, (Ho. 2. 6) God’s thorns are to prick the bladder of pride. Suppose a man run at another with a sword to kill him; accidentally, it only lets out his imposthume* of pride; this doth him good: God’s sword is to let out the imposthume of pride; and shall that which makes us humble, make us discontented? Afflictions teach us repentance; “thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised: I repented, and after I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh.” (Je. 31. 18,19) Repentance is the precious fruit that grows upon the cross. When the fire is put under the still, the water drops from the roses; fiery afflictions make the waters of repentance drop and distil from the eyes; and is here any cause of discontent?
Afflictions teach us to pray better, “they poured out a prayer when Thy chastening was upon them;” (Is. 26. 16) before, they would say a prayer; now they poured out a prayer. Jonah was asleep in the ship, but awake and at prayer in the whale’s belly. When God puts under the fire-brands of affliction, now our hearts boil over the more; God loves to have his children possessed with a spirit prayer. Never did David, the sweet singer of Israel, tune his harp more melodiously, never did he pray better, than when he was upon the waters. Thus afflictions do in discipline; and shall we be discontent at that which is for our good?


*I am not sure of the meaning of these words. Sorry.

This list is to be continued in succeeding posts.

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.)
     

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 44

Watson continues discussing reasons to be contented, or "contentation," as he puts it.

Sect. V. The fifth argument is, By contentment a Christian gains a victory over himself. For a man to be able to rule his own spirit, this of all others is the most noble conquest. Passion denotes weakness; to be discontented is suitable to flesh and blood; but to be in every state content, reproached, yet content, imprisoned, yet content; this is above nature; this is some of that holy valour and chivalry which only a divine spirit is able to infuse. In the midst of the affronts of the world to be patient, and in the changes of the world to have the spirit calmed, this is a conquest worthy indeed of the garland of honour. Holy Job, divested and turned out of all, leaving his scarlet, and embracing the dunghill, (a sad catastrophe!) yet had learned contentment. It is said, “he fell down upon the ground and worshipped.” (Job 1. 20) One would have thought he should have fallen upon the ground and blasphemed! no, he fell and worshipped. He adored God’s justice and holiness. Behold the strength of grace! here was an humble submission, yet a noble conquest; he got the victory over himself. It is no great matter for a man to yield to his own passions, this is facile and feminine; but to content himself in denying of himself, this is sacred.
 
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, September 12, 2018

Sunspots 694


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


Education: Grammarphobia tells us about roads and rivers that branch -- both branches are called "forks," not "tines."

Health: (or something) National Public Radio reports that having been sexually abused by a priest can lead to issues with dealing with authority figures (such as bosses) and to financial burdens.

Scientific American asks why we haven't cured the common cold yet.

New Scientist reports that probiotics probably don't do much good, and may do harm, in some conditions. See also here.

Gizmodo reports that hot-air hand dryers are not as good at keeping germs down as paper towels.

NPR reports that Alzheimer's may be caused by some infectious agent.

Politics: Slate, and other news sources, report that the Trump administration is not renewing passports for some Hispanic US citizens.

Science: Gizmodo reports on the discovery that a particular kind of shark is an omnivore. (Eating both plants and animals.)

Scientific American and other outlets report that Jocelyn Bell Burnell has received a $3,000,000 prize for the discovery of pulsars.

Earther reports on the discovery of three previously unknown fish species, found in a deep ocean trench.

Thanks for looking!