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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Sunspots 632

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

Christianity: Relevant and Sojourners report that many evangelical organizations are calling for prison and sentencing reform -- there are too many people in prison for too long, and too many of them are African-American. Attorney General Sessions, on the other hand, seems to want to put as many people behind bars as possible, for as long as possible.

An article in Christianity Today argues that most evangelical Christians have either mostly ignored social injustices, or ignored Biblical principles about sex and family matters.

Computing: The Wikipedia is has competition various right-wing on-line encyclopedias, according to Wired.

(sort of) National Public Radio reports that a man has been fined $120,000,000 for placing millions of robocalls, including some to emergency numbers and hospitals.

Education: "Why teachers suck."

History: Listverse discusses 10 things about our history that most of us get wrong.

Politics: Sojourners reports that a broad coalition of Christians is expressing united opposition to the President's budget, and to the House's health-care bill, and warning against what they believe to be coming in the Senate version of this bill. Their chief complaint is that help for the poor would be cut drastically. (Note - budgets submitted by Presidents rarely, if ever, are approved without significant changes.)

Relevant says that it's time for the church to address gun violence.

National Public Radio reports on a survey, which indicates that more than 80% of Americans believe people with mental illness should not be allowed to have guns; background checks should be done for private sales and gun shows; and guns should not be sold to people on no-fly or terror watch lists.

Science: The Anchorage Daily News reports on how killer whales are interfering with fishermen, apparently communicating with each other, and teaching their young in interference techniques.

National Public Radio reports on why different bird species have eggs with different shapes.

Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

God will care for us, if we put His Kingdom first

Matthew 6 31 - 33, God's care for His children, from the Sermon on the Mount

A graphic interpretation of Jesus's question to the disciples, in the Sermon on the Mount: "won't God take care of you?"

(He will.)

And His command, to put the kingdom of God first.

Thanks for looking.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Don't try to legislate morality

Relevant has a fine essay, entitled "The Biblical Case Against Legislating Morality."

I suggest that you read it. I'll summarize. The author, Jasmin Patterson, does not believe that trying to get people to behave through legislation is effective. She has four reasons:

She says that legislating morality doesn't actually change people.

Jesus didn't use that approach.
In the discussion of that point, Patterson says she is not for letting people get away with, say, murder. She writes: "I recognize there is an inherent moral quality in declaring some things legal and illegal based on their impact on society, even if all people may not agree on where that moral standard comes from. But we need to evaluate whether laws are God’s primary method of producing morality and change in people. They are not."

She thinks that legislating morality actually pushes people away from Christ.

When Christians want to make their morality into the morality of the state, they are trying to do so for their own comfort.

Read Patterson. Thanks for looking at this post.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 54

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" continues:

God's Guidance Comforts in the Dying Hour. It led the psalmist to say: "Though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." The promise Jesus made never to leave or forsake is sweetly fulfilled in death's trying ordeal. When a dear one in great agony was nearing the last moments on earth, I spoke to her of the inscrutable mystery that God should allow His children thus to suffer. "Oh," said she, "it's all right. We can't see the reason, He can. We are finite, He is infinite;" and thus God upheld, and soon she was in the land where suffering can not come. Hence the Christian triumphantly sings:

"And when my task on earth is done,
When, by Thy grace, the victory's won,
E'en death's cold wave I will not flee,
Since God through Jordan leadeth me."

Christ Likeness. All who are divinely led will be like Jesus. Though they have many infirmities which He had not, yet in love, patience, boldness, meekness, and all the graces of a Christian life, they are like Him. The Holy Spirit seeks to bring all to be like Jesus. The Word and providences are the chisels He uses to chip us into the likeness of Jesus. Hence all who yield to Him are transformed into characters of such beauty as will make angels to marvel.

It is this that enables an eminent saint to testify: "This joyful boldness is grounded on the assurance of a conformity to the image of the Son of God, and that I am through the transfiguring power of the Spirit, like Him in purity, and that the Judge will not condemn facsimiles of Himself, 'because even as He is so are we in this world."'

Communion with God. They talk with Him and He answers them. Upham, speaking of those who are "truly sanctified," says: "It is not impossible for them to speak, if it is done with a notable degree of reverence, of holding conversation with God, of talking with God. The expression corresponds with the facts. To talk with God, to go to Him familiarly, as children to a parent, to speak to Him in the secrecy of their spirits, and to receive an inward answer, as gracious as it is decisive, is not only a privilege granted them, but a privilege practically realized."

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, June 21, 2017

Sunspots 631

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

Christianity: Relevant reports that Congressional Democrats gathered to pray for Representative Scalise after the Alexandria shooting.

Relevant also asks if we need to go to church every Sunday.

A Relevant commentator points out that the oft-given advice to "always believe in yourself," is not very good advice.

And, again, it's Relevant (and other sources) reporting on the Southern Baptist denunciation of racism, including the so-called alt-Right movement.

Computing: Wired reports that the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled, unanimously, that a person, even a sex offender, cannot be barred from having a Facebook account. Such a prohibition would violate his freedom of speech. (He can be barred from contacting minors, and from some other activities on-line.)

Health: You may remember the tricorders used for non-invasive medical diagnosis in Star Trek. Scientific American says that we are getting there, in developing such devices.

Listverse discusses 10 theories on why we dream.

History: Listverse tells us about 10 times when a contest was won by a single vote.

Politics: An analysis by FiveThirtyEight indicates that President Trump's win, and his rhetoric, have made Europe less nationalistic -- politicians praised by Mr. Trump have lost ground in polls and in votes.

(sort of) A photo of Paul Ryan, Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi, smiling together at the recent congressional baseball game.

Science: Scientific American reports that we have discovered 69 moons that orbit Jupiter.

Scientific American also has an essay on why fathers downplay their expression of feelings for their children.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 53

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" continues:

Duty Becomes a Pleasure. Though the feelings may at first shrink back from some of the leadings of the Holy Spirit, yet if compelled to yield, like conquered children, they will soon dry their tears and be inexpressibly glad under the right decisions of the will. Who has not wept for grief at some summons from above, and then a little later been thrilled with joy over the same guidance. For of such God says: "I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow." Men weep when God takes away their coppers, but rejoice when they see that He only did this that He might replace them with rubies.

God never impresses us to give up a Benjamin but He gives us a Joseph, the corn of His kingdom, and Benjamin back again, or something better.

There will be Seasons of Severe Temptation.
Satan will not allow God's life plan for His children to be executed without doing all in his power to thwart it. To accomplish this purpose he will come in thousands of artful and seemingly innocent ways, as well as by open and direct assault. So the Christian's only safety is to "watch and pray," lest temptation be fallen into.

The Bible will be Revered and its Teachings Obeyed. The Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible, and a part of His work is to explain and apply its teachings. Hence He never leads to a course which it condemns, but always in harmony with its instructions. Therefore, all who are fully led by Him will shape their acts according to the teachings of the Word, and their lives, like that of Jesus, will be a fulfillment of the principles of Holy Writ. They realize that all impressions which clash with the Word are wrong and steadfastly resist them.

God Cares for the Consequences. When God's leadings are rightly followed He takes all the responsibility of the results. We march around Jericho, He levels its walls.

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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Trusting God when circumstances seem difficult

Biblical examples of trusting God when circumstances seemed difficult:

The Israelites at the Red Sea, and at Jericho.

Rahab and Ruth, aligning themselves (a few generations apart) with an alien culture.

Jonathan, Saul’s son, and his armor-bearer: (1 Samuel 14:1-15). 14:6 Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come! Let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that Yahweh will work for us; for there is no restraint on Yahweh to save by many or by few.” 7 His armor bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Turn and, behold, I am with you according to your heart.”

The result of this two against many venture was a victory, wrought by God.

Ahab (!) against Syria: 1 Kings 20: 13 Behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel, and said, “Yahweh says, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver it into your hand today. Then you will know that I am Yahweh.’”
[Later, after God delivered the Israelites once.] 26 At the return of the year, Ben Hadad mustered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel. 27 The children of Israel were mustered and given provisions, and went against them. The children of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of young goats; but the Syrians filled the country. 28 A man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “Yahweh says, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “Yahweh is a god of the hills, but he is not a god of the valleys;” therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am Yahweh.’”
29 They encamped opposite each other for seven days. So it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined; and the children of Israel killed one hundred thousand footmen of the Syrians in one day. 30a But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and the wall fell on twenty-seven thousand men who were left.

Jehoshaphat and the Ammonites, Edomites and Moabites: 2 Chronicles 20:5 Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in Yahweh’s house, before the new court; 6 and he said, “Yahweh, the God of our fathers, aren’t you God in heaven? Aren’t you ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in your hand, so that no one is able to withstand you. 7 Didn’t you, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it to the offspring of Abraham your friend forever? 8 They lived in it, and have built you a sanctuary in it for your name, saying, 9 ‘If evil comes on us—the sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this house, and before you (for your name is in this house), and cry to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 Now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned away from them, and didn’t destroy them; 11 behold, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that comes against us. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
13 All Judah stood before Yahweh, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
14 Then Yahweh’s Spirit came on Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite, of the sons of Asaph, in the middle of the assembly; 15 and he said, “Listen, all Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, king Jehoshaphat. Yahweh says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, and don’t be dismayed because of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, go down against them. Behold, they are coming up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, before the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight this battle. Set yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh with you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be afraid, nor be dismayed. Go out against them tomorrow, for Yahweh is with you.’”
18 Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground; and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before Yahweh, worshiping Yahweh. 19 The Levites, of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites, stood up to praise Yahweh, the God of Israel, with an exceedingly loud voice.
20 They rose early in the morning, and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in Yahweh your God, so you will be established! Believe his prophets, so you will prosper.”
21 When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to Yahweh, and give praise in holy array, as they go out before the army, and say, “Give thanks to Yahweh; for his loving kindness endures forever.” 22 When they began to sing and to praise, Yahweh set ambushers against the children of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were struck. [They attacked each other.]

Surely, if I am living as I should, I can similarly trust God when my circumstances seem difficult. (At the moment, they aren't, for which I am grateful.)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sunspots 630

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

Christianity: Relevant and other sources report that the US Government is rounding up Christians from Iraq and sending them back, which is probably putting them at risk to their lives.

Benjamin L. Corey tells us 5 things that he wishes conservative Christians knew about Muslims.

Food: The Associated Press tells you more than you knew about cucumber sex and edible cucumbers.

Listverse reports on 10 foods, most of which are regularly eaten elsewhere, but are banned in the US, for various reasons.

Health: UnDark reviews a book about the US health care system, and seriously questions the use of "system" and of "care," in describing it. reports on a study that indicates that even a small amount of regular alcohol consumption causes some brain damage.

History: Listverse tells us about 10 American inventions that changed the world, mostly for good.
Politics: Wired reports that President Trump may be taken to court for blocking some users from his Twitter account, because they disagree with him, on free speech grounds. He IS the President, after all, hence his Tweets may be, legally, a public forum. (The courts may rule otherwise.)

Science: According to a review in Scientific American, some fish can solve fairly complex problems, and can use tools.

Scientific American also reports that asking someone for a favor, through e-mail, is not as effective as asking in person.

Listverse tells us how different colors affect our behavior.

Listverse also describes 10 geological oddities, all of them rather large.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 52

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" continues:

They Readily Adjust Themselves to God's Providential Dealings. People who are not thus led, like Saul of Tarsus before his conversion, are ever "kicking against the pricks" of opposing providences. Those who are walking in the light of the interpretations which the Spirit gives them, hear God's voice in all His providential dealings with them. Hence when fortune fades, or health fails, or friends betray, or enemies slander, or plans perish, or loved ones die; though pained, yet in perfect peace they can say:

"Yet still I whisper, 'as God will,'
And in His hottest fire hold still."

Even when God by His providences performs some painful amputation, they can say "He doeth all things well," for they know that He is leading, that the pain is needful for their discipline, and that "all things" are being made to work together for their good.

When called to suffer they have learned:

(a). To hold still in the furnace. That uneasiness hinders the process and mars the work.

(b). Not to question the Refiner too much. He understands His business.

(C). That the purgation, though painful, is worth infinitely more than it costs.

(d). To accept God's discipline without continually making suggestions to Him.

The Spirit of God will never lead people to do what the providences of God make it impossible for them to do. I have known people who were strong in their expressions that it was God's will that they should do certain things, when he was continually and emphatically saying NO to them by His providences.

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, June 07, 2017

Sunspots 629

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

Christianity: Christianity Today points out, with some examples, that spreading conspiracy theories and other fake news is, well, sin.

Education: Listverse discusses the origins of 10 widely used school supplies (such as backpacks and pencils).

Finance: (or something) Wired comments on the possible changes to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Health: Science reports that a new antibiotic, which may make it impossible for bacteria to develop resistance, has been produced. In tests, it seems to be very effective.

Politics: Scientific American fact-checks President Trump's speech on the Paris climate change accord.

Scientific American says that torture is not effective in extracting information.

Science: The Conversation says that killing coyotes does not make sheep and cattle safer, and explains why.

Scientific American reports on a long-term study of the social lives of wild horses.

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Impressions, by Martin Wells Knapp, 51

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" continues:

They [Those who are led by God] are Reasonable. As the spirit of God leads men through their reasoning power, those thus led are always ready to give a reason for every position they take and every act they do. The life and work of George Muller, of Bristol Orphanage fame, is a remarkable illustration of this principle. His "Life of Trust "is one of the most exhilarating faith tonics of which we know. He states first that he was led to found his work on Scriptural principles. Then he mentions six solid reasons explaining why he took the course he did.

Dr. Watson, in his unique sermon on "The Two Veils," says:

"Dr. Steele, one of the most polished men in the world, prayed for sanctification for three weeks, and the thought kept coming up: 'Now, if God sanctifies you, He'll make you act oddly; and he was afraid he might have to shout in the street cars, or do some other singular thing.' At length the Spirit said to him: 'Don't you think that God has as good sense of what is right as you have? Don't you think that God knows as much about good behavior as you do? Do you think God will do anything foolish?' He saw that it was only a temptation, let loose of everything, and God baptized him with the Holy Ghost so wonderfully, that he could hardly eat or sleep for several days. And let me tell you, he has been one of the best behaved men you ever saw since that time, and has not done anything at all foolish."

They Meet with Opposition. The Holy Spirit often leads contrary to carnal inclinations and the opinions and protests of friends and relatives, and always counter to the world and the devil. Hence, opposition is inevitable. He takes up and carries on the work of Jesus, which is "to destroy the works of the devil," and they of course resist Him. Hence, all who fancy that they can be led by the Spirit and please everyone, are doomed to disappointment. As well might an army expect to do its duty, and at the same time please the enemy.

Depravity and the devil no more agree with the leading of the Holy Ghost than fire can mix with water.

They are Victorious. God is their leader. He always gives the victory to all who fully follow Him.

"From victory unto victory,
His armies He shall lead,
Till every foe is vanquished,
And Christ is Lord indeed."

They Rule Their Own Spirits. Appetites and passions bow beneath the mandates of their Divine Master, and led of God they feel that they "can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth." They love to follow their Leader, and expect soon to see the day when all enemies shall be put beneath His feet; earth, the old battlefield, burnt up and replaced by another wherein dwelleth righteousness and their King "crowned Lord of all."

They are Courteous. As the Holy Spirit leads none to be selfish, all who follow Him will be saved from selfish acts, and thus from all the discourteous ways which selfishness prompts.

A true Christian is in the best sense of that word a true gentleman. Rudeness, coarseness and selfishness being eliminated; gentleness, refinement and love are crowned in their stead, and though the outer garb may be coarse and language lame, yet the good breeding of heavenly parentage will appear in all who follow closely their unseen Guide.

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.