Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Author Archive

Misleading fire maps

Graphic visualization of Australian thermal satellite data in December 2019Australia’s bushfire (wildfire) emergency has been shared worldwide with images of devastation, injured koalas and confronting fires going viral. Some of these appear to show blazes all over the country. But these images are not realistic and have been flagged by Facebook and Instagram as “false information”.

For example, this image is not a photograph, but a graphic visualization of thermal satellite data. When a particular pixel is very hot, it is classified as a hotspot. But the area shown in the graphic may be significantly larger than the area of the hotspot. And the hotspot can be caused by other things besides fires. This image compiles one month of hotspot data (from December 5 until January 5) and the orange glow is exaggerated which makes the fires seem much larger than they actually are. In this case an artist’s visualization has been misinterpreted. (more…)


A new Bible timeline

Bible timeline - How to read the Bible in chronological order

How to read the Bible in chronological order

The Chinese government intends to rewrite the Bible to ‘reflect socialist values’. This order was proposed in November, 2019, during a meeting held by the Committee for Ethnic and Religious Affairs of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, which oversees ethnic and religious matters in China. New editions of religious texts must not go against the beliefs of the Communist Party. Any parts deemed wrong or challenging by the censors will be rewritten to match communist values. They claim that this will prevent ‘extreme thoughts’ and ‘heretical ideas’ from eroding the country. In this post we look at the contents of this ‘heretical’ book.

The Bible describes events that occurred over a period of about 5,000 years. But the 66 books in the Bible are arranged according to categories like history, poetry, prophecy, gospel (good news about Jesus Christ) and letters. (more…)


How to overcome anxiety

Last night there were 26 emergency-level fires burning across NSW and VictoriaAnother difficult day for communities around New South Wales in Australia. At midnight, with the threat still not over, there are 7 fires at Emergency Warning and 11 at Watch and Act. Last night there were 26 emergency-level fires burning across NSW and Victoria. In NSW, about 3,600 firefighters were battling blazes while hundreds of others were pre-positioned to tackle outbreaks.

A state-wide total fire ban remains in place for Sunday, 5 January. The Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner said, “I don’t know the length but I imagine there would be more than 15,000 km (10,000 miles) of fire edge we’ve got to try and contain”. (more…)


An attitude of gratitude

Let's thank God for transient blessings and for enduring blessingsCharles Swindoll said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life… Attitude is more important than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, or a church, or a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you, we are in charge of our attitudes.” But how can we cultivate a lifestyle (or attitude) of thankfulness? (more…)


Genesis 1: Fact or fiction?

In social media it’s often hard to tell what’s real and what’s scripted. Storytellers often exaggerate the truth, embellish to make a point, and lie to make an imprint on people’s minds. The lines between fact and fiction are fuzzier today than ever before. Our information sources have multiplied and our stories arrive faster and with considerable urgency. And with all the noise, there is a greater opportunity for embellishment. While stories do not need to be real to be effective, they can be more effective if the truth (or the fiction), is disclosed upfront.

The most popular scientific explanation of the universe is that it has developed over billions of years. This is called the big bang model. But the first chapter of the Bible says that the universe was created in six days! In order to resolve this difference some say that Genesis 1 is mythical. A mytho-historical genre (literature style) is one where a grain of truth (the historical part) is embellished to convey some spiritual truth (the mythical part). In this case it’s assumed that the text is not to be read as literal history. It conveys a sense of truth about origins, but not a literal description of actual events. For example, the days of creation may represent long geological periods in deep time. And the biblical creation week is taken to be a figurative expression for gradual changes which occurred on the earth, perhaps millions or billions of years ago. But who decides what part is historical and what part is myth? And who decides what the myth means? This is a very subjective method of interpreting the Bible. (more…)


3 explanations of the origin of the date of Christmas

bruegel-bethlehem 900px 400pxWhy is the birth of Jesus Christ celebrated on 25th December? According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, December 25 was first identified as the date of Jesus’ birth by Sextus Julius Africanus (AD 160-240) in AD 221. Africanus wrote Chronographiai, a history of the world in five volumes.

As “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” (Lk. 2:8NIV) when Christ was born, it’s usually assumed that it wasn’t winter because it would be too cold to be living in the fields overnight. So people often assume that the date of Christmas is not connected to the date of Christ’s birth. (more…)


Essential Christmas!

Racing car drivers and procrastinators want the same drug. It comes from that contradictory cocktail of excitement and terror. Whilst drivers push the physics envelope, procrastinators push the limits of time. As fear of the impending deadline looms, finally adrenaline seeps sweetly into the system.

Let me illustrate. The greatest rush in the world is not the French 24 Hours of Le Mans Endurance Race… it’s the Westfield Christmas Pressie Dash: 27 presents in 8 shopping hours. Every year, on Christmas Eve, men who should never have been licensed as fathers, take part. And I’m here to tell you it can be done because I’ve done it more than once. But there’s absolutely no room for failure. (more…)