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Thursday, August 30, 2018

The mission of Christ

The Bible says a lot about the mission of Christ. Here are a few of the highlights. All Bible quotations are from the World English Bible, which is public domain:

Christ came to suffer:
Isaiah 53:3 He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him. 4 Surely he has borne our sickness, and carried our suffering; yet we considered him plagued, struck by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought our peace was on him; and by his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray. Everyone has turned to his own way; and Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Christ created the universe, and sustains it, and is the owner of it.
Hebrews 1:1 God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. 3 His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

Christ created the universe, and experienced human life, and came to redeem us.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him. Without him was not anything made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him. 12 But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Christ created and sustains the universe, and is the owner of it. He came to redeem us sinners.
Colossians 1:14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins; 15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. 18 He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Christ came to suffer, to experience human life, and to redeem us.
Hebrews 2:9 But we see … Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for everyone. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many children to glory, to make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 14 Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 17 Therefore he was obligated in all things to be made like his brothers, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Much more could be said! Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sunspots 692

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

A Relevant writer discusses the importance of hope.

The family of Mollie Tibbetts, who was murdered, has expressed forgiveness for the probable murderer, according to Relevant.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, according to Relevant, plans to establish chapters on all US campuses with more than 1,000 students, over the next few years. They say that "about 53 percent of 2,500 schools currently don’t have any known campus ministry. ..."
Computing: (and Food) USA Today reports that IBM has patented drones that can fly around work spaces and dispense coffee.

Education: Grammarphobia tells us whether we should use "in Jesus's name," or "in Jesus' name."

Ethics: (or something) Gizmodo reports on an agency in Brazil, which is trying to protect isolated tribes. According to the report, there may be as many as 11 tribes in the rainforest which have never interacted with "modern" man.

Food: Gizmodo reports that the state legislature of Missouri has tried to define "meat." There are questions about cell/tissue cultured products, which aren't available in grocery stores, but which may be in the future.

Health: Scientific American reports that marijuana-derived substances are found in breast milk for 6 days after the last use.

History: National Public Radio reports that there is a drought in some of Europe. That has exposed "hunger stones" in some rivers -- stones with inscriptions telling of previous droughts. One such inscription is in 1417 AD. See also here, for marked stone exposure in a different part of Europe.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight looks at research on the effect of voter identification laws.

National Public Radio reports that the Department of Homeland Security presented a rosier picture of conditions in countries that actually exists there, in order to justify sending refugees back to them. Sigh.

Science: Analysis of data collected by an Indian spacecraft show that there is water on the moon.

USA Today reports that some farmers in Mexico have been growing corn that is associated with Nitrogen-fixing bacteria. (Usually, Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are associated with members of the pea family, such as soybeans. Plants that have such associations need less (or no) Nitrogen in fertilizer, and the plants are a better source of protein building blocks in people that eat them.) reports that an asteroid seems to be about 95% metal, which is very unusual, and could be commercially important, if we can get there to mine it. Here's the Wikipedia article on that asteroid, Psyche.

Lifehacker on how to get a cat to like you (or at least act like it does).

Scientific American on how to tell if a comatose patient is conscious.

Scientific American also reports that we can have only up to about 150 real friends -- people we interact with regularly.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 41

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

7th. excellency. Contentment hath this excellency, it is the best commentator upon providence; it makes a fair interpretation of all God’s dealings. Let the providence of God be never so dark or bloody, contentment doth construe them ever in the best sense. I may say of it, as the apostle of charity, “it thinketh no evil.” (1 Cor. 13. 5) Sickness (saith contentment) is God’s furnace to refine his gold, and make it sparkle the more: the prison is an oratory, or house of prayer. What if God melts away the creature from it? he saw perhaps my heart grew so much in love with it; had I been long in that fat pasture I should have surfeited, and the better my estate had been, the worse my soul would have been. God is wise; he hath done this either to prevent some sin or to exercise some grace. What a blessed frame of heart is this! A contented Christian is an advocate for God against unbelief and impatience: whereas discontent takes every thing from God in the worst sense; it doth implead and censure God: this evil I feel is but a symptom of greater evil: God is about to undo me: the Lord hath brought us hither into the wilderness to slay us. The contented soul takes all well; and when his condition is ever so bad, he can say, “truly God is good.” (Ps. 73. 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 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, August 24, 2018

The church, in the New Testament

Below are some occurrences of the word, church, in the New Testament, and also some actions of the early church.

I use the World English Bible, because it is public domain, and can be copied and distributed without violating copyright laws. It uses “assembly,” or variants of that word, rather than “church.”) The Greek word is ἐκκλησία, or, ecclesia. (The Wikipedia says that the title of Ecclesiastes is a Latin transliteration of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Kohelet, the pseudonym used by the author of the book. I cant make sense out of the relationship, if any, between Ecclesiastes and the church.)

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. (This is the first use of “church” in the New Testament. The last uses are in Revelation.)

Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things are held together. 18 He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother. 16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly.

Acts 11:21 The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number [of gentiles] believed and turned to the Lord. 22 The report concerning them came to the ears of the assembly which was in Jerusalem. They sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch, 23a who, when he had come, and had seen the grace of God, was glad.
25 Barnabas went out to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. It happened, that for a whole year they were gathered together with the assembly, and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

12:5 Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the assembly to God for him.

13:2 As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.”

14:21b they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch … 23 When they had appointed elders for them in every assembly, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. 26b they sailed to Antioch, from where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled. 27a When they had arrived, and had gathered the assembly together, they reported all the things that God had done with them
1 Corinthians 14:19 However in the assembly I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I might instruct others also, than ten thousand words in another language.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brothers, we make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the assemblies of Macedonia; … 3 For according to their power, I testify, yes and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord,
1 Timothy 5:16 If any man or woman who believes has widows [in their family], let them relieve them, and don’t let the assembly be burdened; that it might relieve those who are widows indeed. (Note: recall Acts and the appointment of deacons.)

James 5:14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord … 16 Confess your offenses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective.

Spiritual Gifts and the church:
Ephesians 4:11 He gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, shepherds and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, to the work of serving, to the building up of the body of Christ

1 Corinthians 12:5 There are various kinds of service, and the same Lord. 6 There are various kinds of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the profit of all.

1 Peter 4:10 As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms.

Thanks for reading. Be part of some assembly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Sunspots 691

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

The Arts: (And Science) Gizmodo reports that scientists have sketched the Mona Lisa using bacteria. Really.

Christianity: A theologian discusses "God and Creation." The essay is a readable summary of theology, and inspiring.

Education: A Scientific American writer tells us why STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) students also need the humanities. And it isn't "to make you more well-rounded."

History: The BBC reports that the recent weather in the UK  has made it possible to discover important historical, or pre-historical, sites from the air. There are photos. I thank one of my brothers for this link.

Politics: Gizmodo reports that the US Defense Department is preparing for climate change. The report also notes that "climate change" was not a phrase found in the Defense Authorization bill. "Environmental Condition Projections" was used.

World Magazine reports on how the administration of Liberty University suppressed articles in the student-run campus newspaper.

Scientific American has an essay on the types of work that immigrants do (and don't do).

ListVerse reports on 10 border walls no one talks about. (At least they don't make US news reporting.)

Michael Gerson comments on the current President, who is a celebrity, not famous -- there's a difference, he says.

Science: Christianity Today reports on a Pew Research study, which found that Christians aren't much different than other US citizens, in their views on the applications of genetic technology. (Mostly negative) The respondents were mostly in favor of using genetic engineering to wipe out dangerous mosquitoes.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Did 90% of all animal species arise at the same time as humans?

Recent articles on-line have alleged that about 90% of all animal species came to be at the same time as humans. See this post for references to four such articles.

What is this idea based on? This article is the main reason for such an idea. (The link given is to a summary. The summary includes a link to the full technical article it is based on, which is freely accessible.) A technique known as DNA barcoding was used. DNA barcoding usually compares a small amount, about 600 base pairs, of the mitochondrial DNA of different organisms. Mitochondria have DNA which is separate from the DNA in the cell's nucleus. DNA barcoding has been used, for example, to check the identity of fish sold for food -- are cheaper fish being passed off as more expensive ones? In some cases, the answer has been "yes." Mitochondria are passed on by females, as sperm do not have mitochondria. To quote from the summary of the article: 
Several convergent lines of evidence show that mitochondrial diversity in modern humans follows from sequence uniformity followed by the accumulation of largely neutral diversity during a population expansion that began approximately 100,000 years ago. A straightforward hypothesis is that the extant populations of almost all animal species have arrived at a similar result consequent to a similar process of expansion from mitochondrial uniformity within the last one to several hundred thousand years.

If true, this has important implications for origins. Ken Ham's blog has posted as article about this idea, and, not surprisingly, claims that these findings are consistent with his young-earth creation model, with survival of land animals after the flood, and not consistent with mainstream evolutionary thought. Perhaps so. Ham does note that the time for this increase in diversity suggested, 100,000, or more, years ago is not consistent with his model, which claims that all land animals arose about 6,000 years ago. He says that the difference in time is because of wrong evolutionary assumptions by mainstream biologists.

It seems premature to reach any firm conclusions on this matter. There have been some substantive criticisms of the barcoding method being applied to taxonomy. This article, from an important journal, Systematic Biology, strongly argues that taxonomic conclusions should not be drawn from only one type of data, be that DNA barcoding, the fossil record, or something else. The article isn't against young-earth creationism, in fact doesn't mention it, but it is against not using all types of data in developing taxonomic relationships. "Systematic," in this context, has to do with classifying organisms.

The Systematic Biology article also indicates some possible problems with DNA barcoding, and points out that the original article, quoted above: "... never [claims] that most 'species' came into existence within the past 200,000 years. Rather, what has come into existence within that time frame is the genetic variation observed in one gene in the mitochondrial genome."

DNA barcoding results, although interesting, and sometimes useful, should not be taken as overwhelming scientific proof of young-earth creationism, at least not yet. And, if such proof becomes stronger, the "young" of young-earth creationism may need revision to considerably more than six to ten thousand years ago.

I'm not sure how the remaining 10% of animal species are supposed to have originated, if, indeed, about 90% of them originated close to one time.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 40

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

6th. excellency. Contentment sweetens every condition. Christ turned the water into wine; so contentment turns the waters of Marah into spiritual wine. Have I but little? yet it is more than I can deserve or challenge. This modicum is in mercy; it is the fruit of Christ’s blood, it is the legacy of free grace: a small present sent from a king is highly valued. This little I have is with a good conscience; it is not stolen waters; guilt hath not muddied or poisoned it; it runs pure. This little is a pledge of more: this bit of bread is an earnest of that bread which I shall eat in the kingdom of God; this little water in the cruise is an earnest of that heavenly nectar which shall be distilled from the true vine. Do I meet with some crosses? my comfort is, if they be heavy, I have not far to go; I shall but carry my cross to Golgotha and there I shall leave it; my cross is light in regard of the weight of glory. Hath God taken away my comforts from me? it is well, the Comforter still abides. Thus contentment, as a honey-comb, drops sweetness into every condition. Discontent is a leaven that sours every comfort; it puts aloes and wormwood upon the breast of the creature; it lessens every mercy, it trebles every cross; but the contented spirit sucks sweetness from every flower of providence; it can make a treacle of poison. Contentation is full of consolation.

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, August 17, 2018

"Scripture" in the New Testament

I looked up the word, “Scripture” in the New Testament. A search yielded about 165 occurrences, in 17 of the 27 books of the NT. Below are some of them, using the World English Bible, which is public domain, except where otherwise indicated. I have attempted to give the most important references, and representative ones.

Matthew 4:4 But he answered, “It is written*, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” [Deut 8:3] *CEV “The Scriptures say …” Christ responded to Satan this way three times.

John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me….

19:36 For these things happened, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, “A bone of him will not be broken.” 37 Again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they pierced.” [Ps 34:20; Zech 12:10]

20:9 For as yet they didn’t know the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. [Psalm 16:10]

Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. [Refers to the Bereans]

Romans 4:3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” [Gen 15:6]

12:19 Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.” [Deut 32:35]

15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through patience and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

1 Corinthians 10:26 for “the earth is the Lord’s, and its fullness.” [Ps 24:1]

15:3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 15:4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, …

James 2:8 However, if you fulfill the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well. [Lev 19:18]

1 Peter 1:15 but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; 1:16 because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.” [Lev 11:44-5]

To the New Testament writers, and readers, "scripture" meant what we now know as the Old Testament. The New Testament mostly, or entirely, had not been written yet, and, if parts of it had been, they may not have received wide distribution yet. It seems clear that the New Testament writers, and Christ, Himself, accepted the Old Testament as authoritative and important.

Thanks for reading! Read the Bible.