License

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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Sunspots 654


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


The Arts: Listverse on 10 really unique church buildings.


Computing: Relevant gives us 5 questions we should ask ourselves before posting to social media.

Education: Grammarphobia on when to use commas with lists of things, and when not to.

Finance: (sort of) Wired on the importance of efficient use of curb space, in and by cities.

Food: (sort of) National Public Radio reports that today's dishwashing appliances are much more efficient, in water use, than such devices used to be.

Health: Scientific American on the dangers of marijuana use by teens.

Humor: (or Finance) Listverse reports on some truly strange lawsuits.


Politics: National Public Radio reports on a poll of 38 economists, who agree unanimously that the Republican tax plan will cause the US debt to rise, and that it will not lead to increased economic growth.

Science: National Public Radio reports on studies that pinpoint which ice areas, melting, will affect which cities, causing sea levels to rise. The results are not what we might have thought.

Listverse shows us videos of 10 shape-shifting organisms.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

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

Let me put you upon a serious trial. Some of you have heard much, — you have lived forty, fifty, sixty years under the blessed trumpet of the gospel, — what have you learned?

You may have heard a thousand sermons, and yet not learned one. Search your consciences.
1. You have heard much against sin: are you hearers; or are you scholars? How many sermons have you heard against covetousness, that it is the root, on which pride, idolatry, treason do grow? One calls it a metropolitan sin; it is a complex evil, it doth twist a great many sins in with it. There is hardly any sin, but covetousness is a main ingredient of it; and yet are you like the two daughters of the horse-leech, that cry, “give! give!” How much have you heard against rash anger, that is a short frenzy, a dry drunkenness; that it rests in the bosom of fools; and upon the least occasion do your spirits begin to take fire? How much have you heard against swearing: It is Christ’s express mandate, “swear not at all.” (Mat. 5. 34) This sin of all others may be termed the unfruitful work of darkness. It is neither sweetened with pleasure, nor enriched with profit, the usual vermillion wherewith Satan doth paint sin.


Swearing is forbidden with a subpaena. While the swearer shoots his oaths, like flying arrows at God to pierce his glory, God shoots “a flying roll” of curses against him. And do you make your tongue a racket by which you toss oaths as tennisballs? do you sport yourselves with oaths, as the Philistines did with Samson, which will at last pull the house about your ears?


Alas! how have they learned what sin is, that have not learned to leave sin! Doth he know what a viper is, that will play with it?


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.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Gratitude, from St. Augustine

Gratitude, 15 centuries or so ago, and still pertinent. 

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sunspots 653

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


Computing: Wired reports that there is now a church, sort of, which more or less worships artificial intelligence. The IRS has granted this "church" tax-exempt status.

Health: Time, and other outlets, report that the Centers for Disease Control say that about 90% of Americans don't eat enough fruit and vegetables. Not a surprise.

Politics: Relevant reports that a game manufacturer is trying to block President Trump's wall by acquiring property on the border.

National Public Radio, and other sources, report that the Keystone Pipeline recently spilled 5,000 barrels of oil. Hardly a surprise, unfortunately.

Wired has compiled an annotated list of things Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Congress that he can't remember.

Science: Listverse describes 10 islands, and their unusual animal populations.

Scientific American reports on a body from outside our solar system that is on its way out of it.

The He Lives blog argues that the Intelligent Design movement isn't about science, although it's usually presented that way.

An illustrated and annotated periodic table.

Thanks for looking!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 3

CHAPTER II
The First Branch of the Text, the Scholar, with the First Proposition.


I begin with the first: The scholar, and his proficiency; “I have learned.” Out of which I shall by the bye, observe two things by way of paraphrase. 1. The apostle doth not say, I have heard, that in every estate I should be content: but, I have learned. Whence our first doctrine, that it is not enough for Christians to hear their duty, but they must learn their duty. It is one thing to hear and another thing to learn; as it is one thing to eat and another thing to concoct. St Paul was a practitioner. Christians hear much, but it is to be feared, learn little.


There were four sorts of grounds in the parable, (Lu. 8. 5) and but one good ground: an emblem of this truth, many hearers, but few learners.


There are two things which keep us from learning. 1. Slighting what we hear. Christ is the pearl of price; when we disesteem this pearl, we shall never learn either its value, or its virtue. The gospel is a rare mystery; in one place, (Ac. 20. 24) it is called “the gospel of grace;” in another, (1 Cor. 4. 4) “the gospel of glory;” because in it, as in a transparent glass, the glory of God is resplendent. But he that hath learned to contemn this mystery, will hardly ever learn to obey it; he that looks upon the things of heaven as things by the bye, and perhaps the driving of a trade, or carrying on some politic design to be of greater importance, this man is in the high road to damnation, and will hardly ever learn the things of his peace.


Who will learn that which he thinks is scarce worth learning?

2. Forgetting what we hear. If a scholar have his rules laid before him, and he forgets them as fast as he reads them, he will never learn. (Ja. 1. 25) Aristotle calls the memory the scribe of the soul; and Bernard calls it the stomach of the soul, because it hath a retentive faculty, and turns heavenly food into blood and spirits; we have great memories in other things, we remember that which is vain. Cyrus could remember the name of every soldier in his huge army. We remember injuries: this is to fill a precious cabinet with dung; but as Hierom saith, how soon do we forget the sacred truths of God? We are apt to forget three things: our faults, our friends, our instructions. Many Christians are like sieves; put a sieve into the water, and it is full; but take it forth of the water, and all runs out: so, while they are hearing a sermon, they remember something: but like the sieve out of the water, as soon as they are gone out of the church, all is forgotten. “Let these sayings, (saith Christ) sink down into your ears;” (Lu. 9. 44) in the original it is, “put these sayings into your ears,” as a man that would hide the jewel from being stolen, locks it up safe in his chest. Let them sink: the word must not fall only as dew that wets the leaf, but as rain which soaks to the root of the tree, and makes it fructify. O, how often doth Satan, that fowl of the air, pick up the good seed that is sown!

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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sunspots 652


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


The Arts: E. Stephen Burnett discusses the way Christians often think about popular culture.

Grammarphobia distinguishes between their, they're and there.

Christianity: Benjamin L. Corey says that prominent Young-earth Creationist Ken Ham is actually driving people toward atheism.

Health: FiveThirtyEight reports on a scary subject -- North Korea probably has chemical and biological weapon capability, and biological warfare would be harder to stop than nuclear weapons.

Relevant reports that the constant barrage of Christmas music may be doing psychological harm.

Humor: (or something) Listverse discusses 10 apparently simple questions that the writer says no one can answer.

Politics: Listverse discusses ways Russian social media users tricked US citizens into distrusting one another, and our political processes.

FiveThirtyEight reports on how President Trump's trade policies (everyone is treating the US unfairly, so we'll pull out of trade agreements) are doing.

The editor of Christianity Today blasts a supposedly Bible-based defense of Roy Moore, candidate for the US Senate from Alabama: "Christians don't use Joseph and Mary to explain child molesting accusations."

Relevant also weighs in on the Moore accusations, pointing out that the Republicans from Alabama have mostly come to Moore's defense, unlike the colleagues of some high-profile entertainers.

Scientific American describes four laws that could significantly cut down on gun violence, and gives evidence for that claim.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 2

By our immoderacy we take his work out of his hand. Care, when it is eccentric, either distrustful or distracting, is very dishonourable to God; it takes away his providence, as if he sat in heaven and minded not what became of things here below; like a man that makes a clock, and then leaves it to go for itself. Immoderate care takes the heart off from better things; and usually while we are thinking how we shall do to live, we forget how to die. Care is a spiritual canker that doth waste and dispirit; we may sooner by our care add a furlong to our grief than a cubit to our comfort. God doth threaten it as a curse, “they shall eat their bread with carefulness.” (Ez. 12. 1) Better fast than eat of that bread. “Be careful for nothing.”

Now, lest any one should say, yea, Paul thou preachest that to us which thou hast scarce learned thyself; hast thou learned not to be careful? the apostle seemed tacitly to answer that, in the words of the text; “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content:” a speech worthy to be engraven upon our hearts, and to be written in letters of gold upon the crowns and diadems of princes.


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.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Sunspots 651


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


The Arts: Here's a web page explaining many of the features of The Garden of Earthly Delights, a really strange painting by Hieronymus Bosch. (His first name is also spelled with a J.)

Listverse tells us where some movies were actually shot.

Christianity: Christianity Today discusses how information appliance use changes the way we read the Bible.

Christianity Today also reflects on the 500th anniversary of Luther's theses.

Ken Schenck has posted 95 theses for today's church.


Computing: National Public Radio reports on Facebook's questions about whether it's doing more harm than good.

Gizmo's Freeware reports on a free Optical Character Recognition web site.

Food: Listverse discusses 10 food plants that have been drastically genetically modified (all prior to the discovery of DNA).


Politics: FiveThirtyEight analyzes tweeting, and finds that those who self-report that they are very conservative, or very liberal, are much more likely to tweet about politics.

Economic columnist Robert Samuelson says that there's no hard evidence that cutting taxes leads to economic growth.

FiveThirtyEight also says that we don't really know how many people are in gangs in the US.

A Wired writer discusses how the Trump administration has stopped collecting all sorts of potentially useful data.

Science: Nature reports that there are actually two species of orangutan, and one of these is in danger of extinction.

A US Government report clearly blames human activity for global climate change.

A poem, "Why I Love Being Married to a Chemist," was featured in The Writer's Almanac for November 7.

Thanks for looking!



Image source (public domain)

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 1

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 first excerpt follows:

THE TEXT: Philippians 4. 11, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

CHAPTER I
The Introduction to the Text.
These words are brought in by way of prolepsis to anticipate and prevent an objection. The apostle had, in the former verse, laid down many grave and heavenly exhortations: among the rest, “to be careful for nothing.” Not to exclude, 1. A prudential care; for, he that provideth not for his own house, “hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1Ti. 5. 8) Nor, 2. a religious care; for we must give all “diligence to make our calling and election sure.” (2 Pe. 1. 10) But, 3. to exclude all anxious care about the issues and events of things; “take no thought for your life, what you shall eat.” (Mat. 6. 25) And in this sense it should be a Christian’s care not to be careful. The word careful in the Greek comes from the primitive, that signifies “to cut the heart in pieces,” a soul-dividing care; take heed of this. We are bid to “commit our way unto the Lord;” (Ps. 37. 5) the Hebrew word is, “roll thy way upon the Lord.” It is our work to cast away care; (1 Pe 5. 7) and it is God’s work to take care.


Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Sunspots 650


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


The Arts: An unusual high school band's percussion section.

Christianity: A Christianity Today author on getting rid of her own "tribalism," with lessons for all of us.

Relevant reports that the government of Nepal has made evangelism illegal.


Food: (and drink) Tea growing is expanding rapidly in the US, including in my home state. I thank one of my brothers, who sends me links that I include in this column.

Listverse tells us a lot about pumpkins.

FiveThirtyEight on which candy is most popular for Halloween, and why.

Philosophy: He Lives points out that free will is outside of nature, and of scientific explanations.


Politics: (And computing) FiveThirtyEight analyzes the responses (number of likes, retweets, or replies -- not the content of replies) to Twitter posts from President Trump, former President Obama, and other prominent politicians.

Wired reports that the Federal Communications Commission has made it easier for large companies to expand their media share. This means that one kind of political view may be unchallenged in some media markets. See also here.

FiveThirtyEight reports that the Trump Administration's first FBI crime report is much less informative than previous such annual reports.

Science: A dying female chimpanzee recognizes a former human associate. (Less than 3 minute video.)

Scientific American on whether global climate change is making hurricanes more dangerous.

FiveThirtyEight considers what would happen if there were no number 6. (This was based on a 5-year-old's question, and gets pretty deep into interesting questions.)

Listverse on how animals, of many kinds, have had large effects on the environment.

The Seattle Times on how monarch butterflies have been affected by warmer climate.



Image source (public domain)