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.
Creative Commons License
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.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Calladium leaf, Billy Graham Library grounds, Charlotte, NC

Caladium leaf, with water drops, Billy Graham library 

The leaf pictured above has long since withered and died, and so will I. The photo was taken on the grounds of the Billy Graham Library, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Mr. Graham died recently. He will be buried on the Library grounds, beside his late wife.

Graham had his faults -- who doesn't? -- but he was apparently a humble, Christ-honoring man. I have profited from reading his books, and some of my family attended two of his rallies, back when he was holding them.

The photo was taken June 8, 2009. It should serve as a link to a larger version. Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sunspots 665


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


The Arts: Gizmodo reports that Crayola is coming out with a pen that turns pieces of crayons into ink that will write on any surface.

Christianity: (Or, at least, outstanding generosity) Listverse tells 10 heartwarming stories of unselfishness, around the world.


Food: (and maybe Finance) Listverse tells us, and shows us, some really expensive desserts, such as a $1,685 Krispy Kreme doughnut.

Health: (and, maybe, humor) National Public Radio posts a poem about a woman who (really) had 14 roundworms in her eye.

Politics: Russian entities began sowing discord soon after the Florida school shooting, according to National Public Radio.

Science: (or something) Gizmodo reports that a California woman is suing her state for Bigfoot Denial.

Listverse has 10 facts about the Andromeda Galaxy. Gizmodo also has a post on this group of stars.

Gizmodo, and other outlets, report that some ants administer medical care to their wounded sisters.

Gizmodo also reports that we don't know when rabbits (some of them) became domesticated.

Sports: FiveThirtyEight examines what would happen if men and women skiers competed against each other.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 15


Here is a just reproof to such as are discontented with their condition. This disease is almost epidemical. Some not content with the calling which God hath set them in, must be a step higher, from the plough to the throne; who like the spider in the Proverbs, will “take hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” Others from the shop to the pulpit; (Nu. 12. 2) they would be in the temple of honour, before they are in the temple of virtue; who step into Moses’ chair, without Aaron’s bells and pomegranates; like apes, which do most shew their deformity when they are climbing. It is not enough that God hath bestowed gifts upon men, in private to edify; that he hath enriched them with many mercies? but, “seek ye the priesthood also?” (Nu. 16. 10) What is this but discontent arising from high flown pride? These do secretly tax the wisdom of God, that he hath not screwed them up in their condition a peg higher. Every man is complaining that his estate is no better, though he seldom complains that his heart is no better. One man commends this kind of life, another commends that; one man thinks a country-life best, another a city-life; the soldier thinks it best to be a merchant, and the merchant to be a soldier. Men can be content to be anything but what God would have them. How is it that no man is contented? Very few Christians have learned St Paul’s lesson: neither poor nor rich know how to be content, they can learn anything but this.

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, February 14, 2018

Sunspots 664


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




Computing: Gizmo's freeware recommends a Facebook tweaker, which can hide lots of things that you don't really want to see.

Gizmodo reports on another scheme by Facebook to gather data on users. Sigh.

Food: Gizmodo reports that the Trump administration wants to deliver food in boxes, instead of using food stamps.

Health: (of dogs) Gizmodo discusses built-in health problems of purebred dogs.

History: Relevant reports on six black women of significance that you've probably never heard of.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight examines the hard line on crime and punishment taken by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. And here's a different report, on the same subject.

National Public Radio reports on Russian cyberinterference with the 2018 elections.

FiveThirtyEight on why the attitudes of both Republicans and Democrats on the  FBI are dangerous, and not consistent with the usual history of party attitudes.

Science: Scientific American reports on techniques to make wood much stronger (so it can stop a bullet) and making it transparent.

ListVerse debunks 10 "facts" about the human body, such as that we lose most of our heat through our heads.

A new species of crayfish is reproducing by cloning, according to the New York Times, and other sources.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 14

Comfort depends upon contentment; Jacob went halting, when the sinew upon the hollow of his thigh shrank: so, when the sinew of contentment begins to shrink, we go halting in our comforts. Contentation is as necessary to keep the life comfortable, as oil is necessary to keep the lamp burning; the clouds of discontent do often drop the showers of tears.

Would we have comfort in our lives? we may have it if we will: a Christian may carve out what condition he will to himself. Why dost thou complain of thy troubles? it is not trouble that troubles, but discontent; it is not the water without the ship, but the water that gets within the leak, which drowns it; it is not outward affliction that can make the life of a Christian sad; a contented mind would sail above these waters, — but when there’s a leak of discontent open, and trouble gets into the heart, then it is disquieted and sinks. Do therefore as the mariners, pump the water out, and stop the spiritual leak in the soul, and no trouble can hurt thee.


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, February 07, 2018

Sunspots 663


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



Computing: (And sports, and politics) Hackers are targeting the Winter Olympics, according to Wired.

National Public Radio, and other outlets, on the question of whether or not there is such a thing as screen addiction, and, if so, how important is it?

Health: (and food) NPR reports that eating leafy foods has significant positive health benefits.

History: There is a Presidential Culinary Museum, in Grover (apparently named after a President) North Carolina. Why not? Among other things, the institution has china from a number of first ladies.

Humor: (or something) Anyone can edit most Wikipedia pages. (I've done that myself) Listverse discusses 10 cases of feuding edits.

Literature: The Wired Guide to Star Wars.

Politics: FiveThirtyEight analyzes resignation by members of Congress, where there has been an unprecedented number of such, for various reasons.

Listverse discusses 10 examples of how Donald Trump has (they say) manipulated the news media, to his advantage.

NBC News reports that Christians have been arrested for providing water to immigrants crossing the border in the Southeast, and that federal agents have destroyed water caches left for immigrants crossing on foot.

David Brooks compares the US to a divided Germany, on the question of immigration access, or not, in the New York Times.

Science: Wired doesn't think the moon should be called blue, blood, or super.

Long Beach, California, is taking steps to cool down its temperature, in some interesting ways, says Wired.

Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, February 04, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 13

CHAPTER VIII
Use I. Shewing how a Christian may make his Life comfortable.


It shows how a Christian may come to lead a comfortable life, even an heaven upon earth, be the times what they will: by Christian contentment. The comfort of life doth not stand in having much; it is Christ’s maxim, “man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he doth possess,” (Lu. 12. 15) but it is in being contented. Is not the bee as well contented with feeding on the dew, or sucking from a flower, as the ox that grazeth on the mountains? Contentment lies within a man, in the heart; and the way to be comfortable, is not by having our barns filled, but our minds quiet. The contented man, saith Seneca, is the happy man.


Discontent is a fretting humour, which dries the brains, wastes the spirits, corrodes and eats out the comfort of life; discontent makes a man that he doth not enjoy what he doth possess. A drop or two of vinegar will sour a whole glass of wine. Let a man have the affluence and confluence of worldly comforts, a drop or two of discontent will embitter and poison all.


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, January 31, 2018

Sunspots 662


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



Christianity: (And politics) A Christianity Today writer takes Jerry Falwell, Jr., to task for defending President Trump's sexual indiscretions on dubious scriptural ground.


Computing: Gizmo's Freeware recommends a program that checks your Windows computer for vulnerability to the Spectre and Meltdown malware, recently discovered to be dangerous, with vulnerability built in to many information appliances. (The computer I'm using now is not vulnerable, probably due to some recent updates.)

Wired doesn't think Facebook is going to do much better than it has on feeding users reliable news. [Personal note: I glance at the Facebook news feed about once every two weeks, and never click on something. After such a glance, I search for the topic, maybe once every couple of months. Facebook is not a good way to get news.]

National Public Radio discusses best "screen time" practices for parents, including a quiz. Oh, oh.

Health: (or something. A YouGov survey reveals that a lot of us don't make our beds every day.

History: Listverse describes some recent archeological discoveries related to the ancient Greek civilization.

Politics:  National Public Radio reports that several top positions in the Trump administration (such as an ambassador to South Korea) have not been filled, and that morale among federal employees is low.

NPR also reports that the Trump administration is continuing protection for some lands in Alaska. Good for them!

Science: Listverse on ideas about whether life exists elsewhere in the universe.


Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Art of Divine Contentment: An Exposition of Philippians 4:11 by Thomas Watson. Excerpt 12

For the illustration of this doctrine, I shall propound these questions.

Q. 1. Whether a Christian may not be sensible of his condition, and yet be contented?
 

Yes; for else he is not a saint, but a stoic. Rachel did well to weep for her children, there was nature; but her fault was, she refused to be comforted, there was discontent. Christ himself was sensible, when he sweat great drops of blood, and said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;” yet he was contented, and sweetly submitted his will: “nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” The apostle bids us humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God,” (1 Pe. 5. 6) which we one is not capable of; perhaps he can use his estate better, he hath a public heart as well as a public place. The wise God sees that condition to be bad for one, which is good for another; hence it is he placeth men in different orbs and spheres; some higher, some lower. One man desires health, God sees sickness is better for him; God will work health out of sickness, by bringing the body of death, into a consumption. Another man desires liberty, God sees restraint better for him; he will work his liberty by restraint; when his feet are bound, his heart shall be most enlarged. Did we believe this, it would give a check to the sinful disputes and cavils of our hearts: shall I be discontented at that which is enacted by a decree, and ordered by a providence? Is this to be a child or a rebel?

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, January 25, 2018

Ursula K. Le Guin has died

The New York Times, National Public Radio, and other news outlets are reporting the death of Ursula K. Le Guin, an author, mostly of fantastic literature, at the age of 88. She passed away on January 22, 2018, in Portland, Oregon, her long-time home.

Le Guin wrote carefully and well, and with a deep understanding of the human condition. Her parents were anthropologists, and the background of some of her novels reflected that -- different societies and races were portrayed in credible ways. The most different society is that of Gethen, where the inhabitants are mostly non-sexual, externally or in thought, for most of the time, but enter a sexual phase, where they can be either male or female, every few weeks. Gethen is also remarkable because it is so cold most of the time. The people have adapted to this in various ways. See here and here for my posts on the novel about Gethen, The Left Hand of Darkness. The Tombs of Atuan presented a religion, and its practices and those who led in worship, in a credible way. That book is part of a trilogy, with A Wizard of Earthsea and The Farthest Shore as the first and third books. The books have one character, Ged, who matures and changes roles as the stories progress. The trilogy, about the wizards, and the planet with so many islands, and with dragons, was extended later.

Le Guin's The Dispossessed was about two different societies, and their political and economic systems, seemingly very different. See here for my post on that novel.

The books cited above won numerous awards, which were well-deserved. Le Guin was also outspoken about fantastic literature, arguing that it really is literature, and that it is, or at least can be, important.

Le Guin was, as far as I know, a Taoist.

I shall miss expecting new works from her. May she rest in peace, really.

Thanks for reading. Read Le Guin.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sunspots 661


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



Christianity: A Relevant writer says that your relationship with God is what is most important in defining who you are.

Relevant also has an article debunking myths about charitable giving.


Computing: Wired on how Android apps track us. The article suggests an app source as an alternative to the Google Play store. (The article doesn't consider iOs systems much, but indicates that there are similar problems with Apple devices, too.)

Health: Wired tells us what's in Tide pods.


Politics:  National Public Radio reports that almost all of the National Park Service advisory board has resigned.

And Scientific American reports that dismissing scientific advice has become a hallmark of the Trump administration.

NPR reports that Irish immigrants are being deported, too, not just Hispanics.

Science: NPR reports that scientists are beginning to study the left- and right-paw preferences of cats.


Thanks for looking!

Image source (public domain)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

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

2. It [The idea that a gracious spirit is a contented spirit] is of universal extent, it concerns all. 1st. It concerns rich men. One would think it needless to press those to contentment whom God hath blessed with great estates, but rather persuade them to be humble and thankful; nay, but I say, be content. Rich men have their discontents as well as others! When they have a great estate, yet they are discontented that they have no more; they would make the hundred talents a thousand. A man in wine, the more he drinks, the more he thirsts; covetousness is a dry dropsy; an earthly heart is like the grave, that is “never satisfied;” therefore I say to you, rich men, be content. Rich men, if we may suppose them to be content with their estates, which is seldom; yet, though they have estate enough, they have not honour enough: if their barns are full enough, yet their turrets are not high enough. They would be somebody in the world, as Theudas, “who boasted himself to be somebody.” (Ac. 5. 36) They never go so cheerfully as when the wind of honour and applause fills their sails; if this wind be down they are discontented. One would think Haman had as much as his proud heart could desire; he was set above all the princes, advanced upon the pinnacle of honour, to be the second man in the kingdom; (Es. 3. 1) yet in the midst of all his pomp, because Mordecai would not uncover and kneel, he is discontented, and full of wrath, and there was no way to assuage this pleurisy of revenge, but by letting all the Jews’ blood, and offering them up in sacrifice. The itch of honour is seldom allayed without blood; therefore I say to you rich men, be content. Rich men, if we may suppose them to be content with their honour and magnificent titles, yet they have not always contentment in their relations. She that lies in the bosom, may sometimes blow the coals; as Job’s wife, who in a pet would have him fall out with God himself; “curse God, and die.” Sometimes children cause discontent. How often is it seen that the mother’s milk doth nourish a viper? and that he that once sucked her breast, goes about to suck her blood? Parents do often of grapes gather thorns, and of figs thistles. Children are sweet-briar; like the rose, which is a fragrant flower, but hath its prickles. Our relative comforts are not all pure wine, but mixed; they have in them more dregs than spirits, and are like that river Plutarch speaks of, where the waters in the morning run sweet, but in the evening run bitter. We have no charter of exemption granted us in this life; therefore rich men had need be called upon to be content. 2dly. The doctrine of contentment concerns poor men. You that do suck so liberally from the breasts of providence, be content; it is an hard lesson, therefore it had need be set upon the sooner. How hard is it when the livelihood is even gone, a great estate boiled away almost to nothing, then to be contented. The means of subsistence is in Scripture called our life, because it is the very sinews of life. The woman in the gospel spent “all her living upon the physicians;” (Lu. 8. 43) in the Greek it is, she spent her whole life upon the physicians, because she spent her means by which she should live. It is much when poverty hath clipped our wings then to be content; but, though hard, it is excellent; and the apostle here had “learned in every state to be content”. God had brought St Paul into as great variety of conditions as ever we read of any man, and yet he was content; else sure he could never have gone through it with so much cheerfulness. See into what vicissitudes this blessed apostle was cast: “we are troubled on every side,” (2 Cor 4. 8) there was the sadness of his condition; “but not distressed,” there was his content in that condition: “we are perplexed,” there is his affliction; “but not in despair,” there is his contentation. And, if we read a little further, “in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults,” (2 Cor 6. 4,5) &c. there is his trouble: and behold his content, “as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” When the apostle was driven out of all, yet in regard of that sweet contentment of mind which was like music in his soul, he possessed all. We read a short map or history of his sufferings; “in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft,” (2 Cor. 11. 23, 24, 25) &c. yet behold the blessed frame and temper of his spirit, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Which way soever providence did blow, he had such heavenly skill and dexterity, that he knew how to steer his course. For his outward estate he was indifferent; he could be either on the top of Jacob’s ladder, or the bottom; he could sing either the dirge or the anthem; he could be anything that God would have him: “I know how to want, and how to abound.” Here is a rare pattern for us to imitate. Paul, in regard of his faith and courage, was like a cedar, he could not be stirred; but for his outward condition, he was like a reed bending every way with the wind of providence. When a prosperous gale did blow upon him, he could bend with that, “I know how to be full;” and when a boisterous gust of affliction did blow, he could bend in humility with that, “I know how to be hungry.” St Paul was, as Aristotle speaks, like a die that hath four squares; throw it which way you will, it falls upon a bottom: let God throw the apostle which way he would, he fell upon this bottom of contentment. A contented spirit is like a watch: though you carry it up and down with you yet the spring of it is not shaken, nor the wheels out of order, but the watch keeps its perfect motion: so it was with St Paul, though God carried him into various conditions, yet he was not lift up with the one, nor cast down with the other; the spring of his heart was not broken, the wheels of his affections were not disordered, but kept their constant motion towards heaven; still content. The ship that lies at anchor may sometimes be a little shaken, but never sinks; flesh and blood may have its fears and disquiets, but grace doth check them: a Christian, having cast anchor in heaven, his heart never sinks; a gracious spirit is a contented spirit. This is a rare art. Paul did not learn it at the feet of Gamaliel: “I am instructed,” (Ph. 4. 11) I am initiated into this holy mystery; as if he had said, I have gotten the divine art, I have the knack of it; God must make us right artists. If we should put some men to an art that they are not skilled in, how unfit would they be for it? put an husbandman to limning or drawing pictures, what strange work would he make? This is out of his sphere. Take a limner that is exact in laying of colours, and put him to plough, or set him to planting, or grafting of trees, this is not his art, he is not skilled in it: bid a natural man live by faith, and when all things go cross, be contented, you bid him do what he hath no skill in, you may as well bid a child guide the stern of a ship; to live contented upon God in the deficiency of outward comforts, is an art which “flesh and blood hath not learned;” nay, many of God’s own children, who excel in some duties of religion, when they come to this of contentment, how do they bungle? They have scarce commenced masters of this art. [Note: The above was a single paragraph in the original!]

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, January 18, 2018

Augustine: God is the Enlightener

Augustine on light

The above is an attempt to illustrate two quotations from Augustine of Hippo, requesting God to enlighten him, and responding that God will do this.

Augustine was apparently referring, in part, to James 1:16 Don’t be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom can be no variation, nor turning shadow. (World English Bible, public domain.)

Thanks for looking. The graphic above also serves as a link to a post on Flickr, which can be seen at a larger size.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Sunspots 660

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


The Arts: (or something) Listverse describes, and shows, 10 beautiful natural  wonders.

Christianity: (and Computing) I don't use YouVersion, the free Bible app but lots and lots of other people do. Maybe you should.

He Lives on "Jacob's Genetic Engineering." (Commenting on Genesis 30.)

I have a post on how the Bible wants us to treat aliens, foreigners and strangers.

A Relevant writer tells us that helping the poor may be the least followed command (or commands) in the Bible.


Computing: FiveThirtyEight reports on a new computer chess program, which has used artificial intelligence to train. It seems to  be more aggressive than previous programs, and analyzes fewer possibilities.

Wired tells us what happens to our electronic waste (old phone, TVs, etc.). It's not pretty. Not at all.

Politics: (and computing) Wired reports on Russian trolls that are after Robert Mueller.

Science: FiveThirtyEight reports on personality tests that are better than the famous  (or infamous) Myers-Briggs instrument.

And FiveThirtyEight also reports on the discovery of the largest known prime number.

Scientific American reports on a poll about whether we approve of possible physical enhancement (improving muscles, eyes, and other parts and functions).

Sports: (and Health) FiveThirtyEight debunks Tom Brady's fitness books and products.

Thanks for looking!