Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Spiritual

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…)


What about climate change?

Roy Morgan’s 2019 survey found that Australians regard environmental concerns as the major problem facing the world. This included climate change, water conservation, pollution, rubbish, famine, and cutting down rainforests. And economic concerns came next.

What does the Bible say about the natural environment? Should Christians care for the environment, or doesn’t it matter?

Biblical worldview

This post looks at the natural environment from an understanding based on the Bible, which is God’s message to us. This leads to different understandings compared to if we reject what the Bible says. It’s a theistic viewpoint, not an atheistic one. The Bible says that the universe was formed miraculously by God’s command (Ps. 33:6-9). People can look at the same world, but their interpretation depends on their worldview. It’s like wearing glasses. For example, clear glasses give a brighter view than sunglasses. (more…)


Worshipping God and idols at Bethel

Good start, but bad finish

John Akhwari had a good start in the 1968 Olympic marathon race, but he also had a bad finish. He fell during the race and dislocated his knee but kept on going to finish last over one hour behind the winner. Likewise, the town of Bethel in Israel had a good start but a bad finish.

Geography

Bethel was 20 km (12 miles) north of Jerusalem; west of Ai (Gen. 12:8) and south of Shiloh (Jud. 21:19). It has been identified with modern Beitin (or Benin) or with el-Bireh. Bethel was on the ancient north-south ridge road that has been referred to as the Road of the Patriarchs. This road went through Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, Jerusalem, Hebron and Beersheba.

Bethel was on the northern border of the land allocated to the tribe of Benjamin and Jerusalem was on the southern border. Bethel was assigned to the Benjamites, but they did not possess it, as the Ephraimites captured it from the Canaanites  (Josh. 18:21-22; Jud. 1:22-26). So Bethel was an Ephraimite town (1 Chron. 7:28). (more…)


Start life again

So keen was Nicodemus to meet Jesus that he was willing to risk being seen. But he had reason to be afraid. The religious sect known as Pharisees that he belonged to were committed to killing Jesus. Such was their intense jealousy over Jesus’s popularity. It was almost certainly for this reason that Nicodemus came at night (John 3:1-16).

He began by addressing Jesus with respect.

“Master” he said, “We know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him”.

His statement – or was it a question – seemed to be something like, “I think you’re from God … but who are you?” But, instead of credentials, Jesus offered Nicodemus a challenge. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God”. Clearly Nicodemus wanted to move closer to God. But how does one get ‘Born again’? (more…)


Six reasons to be skeptical of the geologic time scale

The concept of geologic (or deep) time is now part of our culture. It’s a product of a secular worldview that rejects biblical history and is the foundation of atheism. And it’s so popular that I expect few people will read this post or question the status quo.

The methods used to determine the geologic time scale are summarized in Appendix A. And the main differences between the geologic time scale and the biblical time scale are summarized in Appendix B. Despite its seemingly scientific basis, there are many reasons to be skeptical of the geologic time scale. Some of these are summarized below.

Orally-transmitted Aboriginal stories

According to the biblical time scale (Appendix B), after the ice age the oceans would have reached their current level about 3,800 years ago, which is 3,200 years less that according to the geologic time scale. This implies that Australian Aboriginal stories describing times when sea levels were lower than today were probably 3,700 years old, which is more credible than the 10,000 years quoted by researchers. It also represents about 148 generations, which is more realistic than the supposed transmission of these stories over 400 generations. So the biblical time scale provides a more credible explanation of these orally-transmitted Aboriginal stories than the geologic time scale. (more…)


Soft tissue in dinosaur bones

In 2005 paleontologist Mary Schweitzer found the first evidence for soft tissues in a dinosaur bone. Blood vessels, red blood cells, and soft and stretchy ligaments were found in the bone. Also proteins like collagen, hemoglobin, osteocalcin, actin, and tubulin were found. And Schweitzer has even recovered fragments of the more fragile and complex molecule, DNA. These are complex molecules that continually tend to break down to simpler ones. The bone was said to be 68 million years old according to the geologic time scale. Schweitzer was the first researcher to identify and isolate soft tissues (such as collagen, a connective protein) from an ancient fossil bone (Appendix A).

Soft tissue has also been extracted from bones that are assumed to be from the Jurassic period which lasted from 145-200 million years. And in 2015 fibers and cellular structures were discovered preserved in 75 million year old dinosaur specimens. Both of these ages are assigned according to the geological time scale. Typically an animal’s remains mineralize as they decay, so most specimens of this supposed age consist of inorganic material. (more…)


Wollemi pine: A living fossil

In 1994 an experienced bushwalker and rock climber abseiled into a remote gorge in Wollemi National Park, west of Sydney and found himself in a narrow canyon. He realized that the trees growing along the creek were unusual. The large, glossy evergreen trees had bark that peeled from young stems in red-brown scales and the older bark resembled bubbling chocolate (or coco puffs). Male and female cones were found at the tips of branches on the trees, with a majority of the female cones at the top of the trees.

They proved to be a tree new to science and, prior to this discovery of living trees, the genus was known only from fossils. The Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) belongs to the ancient conifer family Araucariaceae. The other two genera in this family are the Araucaria (that includes the bunya, hoop pine, monkey puzzle tree and Norfolk Island pine) and the Agathis (that includes the kauri). The Wollemi pine has some structural characteristics of the Araucaria and the Agathis, but it also has some unique features. The genus is thought to be about 100 million years old under the uniformitarian (geologic) time scale. So prior to this discovery, these pines were thought to be extinct for millions of years. (more…)


Until Jesus returns

The attacks that took place in New York on September 11, 2001 were rated by most Americans as being the most important historical event in their lifetime. And according to TheRichest.com, the most important historical events that changed the modern world forever are the French Revolution, World War I, the Soviet socialist revolution, World War II, and European colonialism.

Christians believe that the most important event in the world’s history is the death of Jesus Christ. At the Lord’s supper they remember why Christ did what He did.

In 1 Corinthians Paul describes what happened at the last supper where Jesus told His disciples to eat the bread and drink from the cup in remembrance of Him (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Then Paul says,

“For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26NIV). (more…)


Can Greek be translated into English?

My post on “Can we trust our Bibles?” looks at how the Bible came to us. It found that our Bibles are very close to the original because early manuscripts have been preserved, scholars have reconstructed the original text and languages have been translated accurately. So we can trust our Bibles.

But some don’t agree with this statement. For example, I have received the following response which claims that the meaning of the Greek text of the New Testament is unable to be translated accurately into the English language. If this is true, English translations of the Bible are deficient.

Comment

The thing that is most overlooked though in regards to translating the bible, is the English language itself. We have a lot to be grateful for to have all this overwhelming textual support, however the English language is still insufficient to fully translate the original languages. Take Greek for example the largest language in the world at 5 million words. Against English, which only maybe could reach 1 million words, Greek can explain things with so much more precision and description. Take the English word for love. We use it for EVERYTHING. Greek has at least 4 different ways to use love. So even though we can trust the sources where we get English translations from, English versions, ANY English version of the bible still has misinterpretation issues, some at costly misconceptions we doctrinize and hence why we have such divisions in churches. Not really because the word is wrong but because men interpret it wrongly. (more…)


London Bridge has fallen down

London bridge 1 400pxIn January 1990 a span of London Bridge collapsed, so its name was changed to London Arch. The arch is a tourist attraction along the Great Ocean Road near Port Campbell in Victoria, Australia. Before the collapse, visitors were able to walk from the mainland across the double-span natural bridge. Oceanic erosion of the limestone coastal cliffs caused the formation of the bridge and also caused its collapse to form an arch. Eventually arches collapse to form stacks like The Twelve Apostles, which  are icons of the Australian landscape in the vicinity of London Arch (Appendix A).

In this post we will see that rock coastlines are eroding faster than we think. (more…)


Heaven’s even better

The Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland has 37,000 gigantic, geometrically perfect polygon columns. Have you been there? They’re extraordinary. But back before photographs, television and the Internet, it was hard to believe in and imagine far off places. “Surely you’re exaggerating about those columns?” “Surely they were made from concrete molds?” Or else, “They don’t really exist and you’re making it all up!”

It’s a bit like that with heaven. Because we haven’t been there we’re tempted to doubt it’s goodness or wonder if it even exists. The writer C.S. Lewis had a helpful and funny insight about this in his book, Miracles,
I think our present outlook might be like that of a small boy who, on being told that the sexual act was the highest bodily pleasure should immediately ask whether you ate chocolates at the same time. On receiving the answer ‘No,’ he might regard absence of chocolates as the chief characteristic of sexuality. In vain would you tell him that the reason why lovers in their carnal raptures don’t bother about chocolates is that they have something better to think of. The boy knows chocolate: he does not know the positive thing that excludes it. We are in the same position. We know the sexual life; we do not know, except in glimpses, the other thing which, in Heaven, will leave no room for it. (more…)


Heads I win, tails you lose

Coin flipping is a way of choosing between two alternatives. The person who calls correctly wins. It’s often used to make decisions at the beginning of games and sports. But if someone says “heads I win, and tails you lose”, then you always lose! That’s not fair. But it’s how people often treat the Bible. They are willing to accept many ideas, as long as they aren’t based on the Bible.

For example, Australian researchers have investigated Aboriginal stories describing times when sea levels were lower than today (Reid et al, 2014). The orally-transmitted Aboriginal stories were written down after Europeans arrived in Australia in 1788. The stories describe coastal flooding which the researchers identify with the rise in sea level since the last ice age to its present level about 7,000 years ago on the geologic time scale (Appendix A). See Appendix B for the equivalent biblical dates. The team analyzed the contours of the land where the stories were told and used reconstructions of prehistoric sea levels to date the origins of each of the stories. They claim that these stories can be 10,000 years old which represents accurate oral transmission across 400 generations. Nunn and Reid (2015) expanded their analysis to 21 stories about coastal drowning that in most cases was considered likely to recall the effects of postglacial sea-level rise more than 7,000 years ago. They also noted that “no Aboriginal stories are known that talk of the sea level falling and exposing coastal lands”. (more…)


Endless weeding

Onion weeds are the bane of many gardeners. They are very tough to get rid of. The reason they are so hard to get rid of lies in their bulbs. If you attempt to remove the weed by digging it up and shaking off the excess dirt, you have just shaken the numerous bulbletts attached to the larger bulbs at the root of the weed and you have just multiplied your weed problem instead of eradicating it.

On Monday mornings I do gardening with Easy Care Gardening. Sometimes this involves controlling onion weed in garden beds by weeding or mulching.  If you try to pull onion weed out of the ground, the stalk will break off and leave the bulbs in the ground. This means that before too long, the weeds will return. To eliminate the weed, you have to take a small trowel and dig the whole plant out of the ground, bulb, soil and all. If the parent bulbs release tiny bulbs (bulbils) from the base of the main bulb, these grow into mature plants, and all the digging has achieved is multiplication of the problem. (more…)


What does Romans 9 teach?

Are we robots or free agents?

I have received this comment: “As for free will, your Bible states repeatedly that there is none. Paul does so directly in Romans 9, and this God’s repeated interference, controlling people’s minds, etc, abrogate free will”. So in this post we will look at what the Bible says in Romans 9. Because of the structure of this letter, Romans 10-11 are also considered.

Context

Romans was written by Paul to believers in Rome in about AD 56. The theme of this letter is the gospel – the good news about Jesus Christ. According to MacDonald, in Romans Paul answers these main questions:
– What is the subject of the letter? (1:1, 9, 15- 16)
– What is the gospel? (1:1-17)
– Why do people need the gospel? (1:18-3:20)
– According to the gospel, how can ungodly sinners be justified by a holy God? (3:21-31)
– Does the gospel agree with the Old Testament Scripture? (4:1-25)
– What are the benefits of justification in the believer’s life? (5:1-21)
– Does the teaching of salvation by grace through faith permit or even encourage sinful living? (6:1-23)
– What is the relationship of the Christian to the Old Testament law? (7:1-25)
– How is the Christian enabled to live a holy life? (8:1-39)
– Does the gospel, by promising salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, mean that God has broken His promises to His earthly people, the Jews? (9:1-11:36)
– How should those who have been justified by grace respond in their everyday lives? (12:1-16:27) (more…)


What I like about Christianity

Here’s what I like about Christianity. It deals with the most important issues and questions of life. The past, the present and the future. Origins and destinies. How to live and how to die. Our most important problem. Our purpose. Love, freedom, security, hope, joy and peace. Eternity with God. It’s good news that changes everything. And it’s based on the most important person who ever lived. The best hero.

One of the beautiful things about Christianity is that Jesus has done everything for us. This means we don’t have to strive to do anything to please God. Salvation depends on acknowledging and confessing one’s sin. It’s a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). And it’s not difficult to understand or accept.

Christians are part of a world-wide spiritual family with whom they share a spiritual life, union and inheritance that never ends. It’s a relationship that surpasses all other human relationships. It crosses racial, cultural, social, age, and gender distinctions (Gal. 3:28). As Christians are all children of God, they are all equal before God. Every believer has the same spiritual status before God. And they have spiritual fathers and mothers to encourage and help them. Spiritual brothers and sisters to share life with. And spiritual children to nurture. So Christians shouldn’t be lonely. They have a ready-made spiritual family. (more…)


Conversation on God

Here is a conversation on God that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of two months.

George 1 October

The new objection relates to the “proof of God” and the “divinity of Jesus”. These are big topics. I didn’t claim to prove the existence of God from the Bible. Instead, I would say that God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, I agree that the Bible “is of itself not proof of God” – there’s lots of other evidence. However, the best evidence of the nature of Jesus is the historical record in the Bible. To investigate the “divinity of Jesus” one should study the most reliable ancient text about Him. Of course, one’s conclusion will depend on whether they have an open mind or not.

George 9 October

You say, “I would once again say that citing the Bible as proof of god amounts to nothing more than hearsay”. I didn’t claim to prove the existence of God from the Bible. Instead, I would say that the existence of God is the most logical explanation of the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). So, there’s lots of other evidence available.

Commentator 9 October

Hi George I am curious if there is lots of other evidence that is not in the bible could you please point me in the right direction to find it?

George’s reply 19 October

You asked, “if there is lots of other evidence (of the existence of God) that is not in the bible could you please point me in the right direction to find it?”. The other evidence of the existence of God that I mentioned was: the existence and complex nature of the universe, the existence and complex nature of life, and the existence of the human conscience (innate sense of right and wrong). Look up any articles on the source or origin of these and see if they answer the question or not and see how many miracles they require. (more…)


Conversation on the Bible

Here is a conversation on the Bible that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of more than three months. As there were two commentators involved at the same time, the discussion with each is separated below.

Commentator 1 September

Much of the old testament is filled with violence and genocide the likes of which would keep today’s UN war crimes tribunals busy for an eternity.

How can we rely on the Christian scriptures as you have said when we have no proof only faith of their authenticity? Faith is in no way empirical evidence of the divine origin of the texts.

George’s reply 24 September

You asked, “How can we rely on the Christian scriptures as you have said when we have no proof only faith of their authenticity?” Please read my post on “Can we trust our Bibles”. It concludes that our Bibles are very close to the original because early manuscripts have been preserved, scholars have reconstructed the original text and languages have been translated accurately. Because of this and the numerous manuscripts that have been preserved, the Christian Bible is one of the most reliable ancient texts that are available today. (more…)


Conversation on the Trinity

Here is a conversation on the Trinity that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of more than three months.

Commentator 11 October

George I have to tread carefully here. My intent is not to say that Christianity is untrue or that the Bible itself is untrue. That would be disrespectful to you. I am only concerned with how you are evaluating other religions and your methodology. But you keep making statements about the Bibles accuracy that are based on your own faith and one particular interpretation not historical or scholarly fact. This is why when we started this conversation instead of attacking Christianity in any way I was pointing out that there were more than one interpretation of Christ, his teachings, and his relationship to God at the time of his death. What that means is that one particular group cannot really claim theirs as the only true understanding. To many historians, archaeologists and scholars the Bible has many contradictions. The Bible is interpreted by many groups differently. So saying that there is only one understanding or interpretation is just not accurate. So as a way to demonstrate I will go back to one of those differences I mentioned earlier, the Trinity. There were some groups of Christians (and still are) that view God, Christ, and the holy spirit as separate beings. If I am correct George you do not believe in this interpretation. So to kind of show that each individuals understanding of the Bible is based on their or their denominations interpretation of the Bible in reference to any particular topic. So here are several quotes from the Bible that if you read them and do not interpret them through your own denominations lens they clearly say that God the Father and his Son Jesus were separate. Jesus himself is referring to himself and God as being separate in each one of them. To say that is not what he is saying is in my opinion linguistically impossible. It would certainly twist reason. To show that this is a matter of interpretation I would like for you to explain how they do not say that they are separate without referencing other passages. The reason I am saying that is, is that I can list out three times as many of these that support the idea that they are separate. Because of space I did not want to list them all. So it really makes no logical sense that you can refute these by just listing a number of other quotes that you interpret as saying that God, Jesus, and the holy spirit are one. If you choose to give a list of quotes that support your interpretation then effectively all you have done is prove an inconsistency.

Mark 10:18 (KJV): “And Jesus said unto him, why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God.”
Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
Mark 15:34: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
John 5:19: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”
John 5:26: “For the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.”
John 7:16: “Jesus answered them, and said, my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.”
John 7:17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

George I am still not trying to say that you or your interpretation is wrong. What I am saying is there is room for more than one interpretation and only you through your faith can decide what is right. The truth is absolute but no ones interpretation of the Bible is absolute.

Well at least you can see that I do own a Bible and have read it.! Take care George! (more…)