Monday, January 27, 2020

In memory, Burl Russell (1923-2020)

Funeral services for Burl Russell were held today at the Callaway-Allee Funeral Home in Crockett, Texas, at 10:00 a.m. His body was committed to the ground in graveside services at the cemetery in Huntington, Texas at 2:00 p.m. Burl’s son Mike preached the memorial. Sacred Harp singers sung 507b The Glory of The Cross, 341 The Lone Pilgrim, and 282 I’m Going Home.[i] Other special songs I associate with Burl are 164 Duane Street and 75 I Would See Jesus. This latter tune is the one he used to sing the text “Dressed uniform his soldiers are” – The gospel uniform, Hymn No. 184 in Benjamin Lloyd’s Primitive Hymns. I learned several songs from Burl that were traditionally used with Lloyd’s hymn texts.

Burl served for many years as the chairman of the annual Nancy Amelia “Granny” Russell Sacred Harp Singing at Little Hope Primitive Baptist Church near Huntington, Texas. If I remember correctly, he has been chairman since the death of his cousin, Louie Smith, in 1998. This singing began many years ago as a celebration of his grandmother’s birthday. At the singing last November Burl was present (all day, at age 95) – though he left his son in charge – along with four generations of his family. I remember one of Burl’s singing school teachers that he mentioned – Mr. C. A. Bond. He also felt greatly indebted Mr. R. J. Behannon, and all the singers in his family, of course.

At the time of his passing, Burl Russell was age 96 and had lived in Austonio, Texas for many years. He was born December 7, 1923 in Huntington Angelina County, and passed away Friday, January 24, 2020 in Community Care Nursing Home in Crockett, Houston County. Joshua Russell and Jennie Clark were his parents. He served in World War II in the United States Air Force as a member of the 51st Air Corp. Burl owned and operated the White Rock Nursery for 55 years, which he purchased from fellow Sacred Harp singer George Jeffus. He was a member of the Nurserymen Convention, and served on the Farm Bureau Board of Directors for 40 years.

Burl is survived by three children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a great host of friends and relatives.  His wife, Margie Beth Hayes Russell, preceded him in death in 2009.

Online condolences may be made at

[i] Burl is the gentleman seated in the lower left of this The Glory of the Cross video. I hope to find online a video of Burl leading, but have not as of yet.

God is love

God is love: that is, love is not a human behavior, sentiment, or deed, but it is God who is love. What love is can be known only by one who knows God; the reverse is not true, that one would first know what love is—that is, from nature—and therefore also know what God is. But nobody knows God except one to whom God reveals himself. Thus nobody knows what love is except through God’s self-revelation. Love is therefore God’s revelation. God’s revelation, however, is Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God’s Love and the Disintegration of the World, p. 334

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Blessed, they that die

Blessed Dead, Short Meter (Revelation 14:13; 21:3-4), written January 17, 2020

“…Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth…”

1. A voice from heaven said
John, write this in the word;
The Spirit says—yea, God reveals—
And this is that he heard.

2. Blessed they are that die
If dying in the Lord;
At last they from their labors rest
And pass to their reward.

3. From sin and sorrow free—
There is no weeping there;
God’s tender hand shall wipe away.
The penitential tear.

4. There’ll be no sorrow there
From pain and death set free; 
The former things are passed away
They shall his people be.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Struggles with funerals

Interesting article on some of the struggles with modern funerals:
Oh no you didn’t: Ministers struggle with people behaving badly at funerals“The issue has reached a level sufficient to have experts offering suggestions to mourners on how to act – and more importantly, not act – when attending memorials and funerals.”
Coming and going from the sanctuary during the funeral – to use the restroom, have a smoke or take a call – is routine, McIver Penny said.
Or, it’s common to see individuals who are texting each other or taking selfies and, in some cases, taking calls right there in the pews.
“They’ll answer the phone and say, ‘I’m at a funeral,’” she said.
“The craziest thing I have seen is the family (of the deceased), all on their phones on the front row and they weren’t paying attention at all to the funeral.”

130 Lines, and other music & worship links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Appearances of Jesus after His resurrection

The recorded appearances of our Lord Jesus Christ after His resurrection:

Before his ascension
Some would also include the appearances of Jesus to Stephen (Acts 7:55-56) and John (Revelation 1), but these seem to be different in nature than the post-resurrection bodily appearances. Some would exclude Paul’s experience from the list as well.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Best path to a younger flock?

Best path to a younger flock? Church asks older members to worship elsewhere

The United Methodist Church has told the 60+ age members of the Grove United Methodist Church in Cottage Grove, Minnesota to shove off. The church is closing in June and reopening in November – without them. “The church wants to attract more young families. The present members, most of them over 60 years old, will be invited to worship somewhere else. A memo recommends that they stay away for two years, then consult the pastor about reapplying.”

“‘Rev.’ Dan Wetterstrom...said that Methodists’ regional Annual Conference is paying $250,000 to restart the church. They have hired a specialist in starting new churches — Jeremy Peters.

“Peters, 30, has moved to Cottage Grove with his wife and two children. He is working with community groups, laying the groundwork for the relaunch, probably in November.

“‘It’s a new thing with a new mission for a new target,’ said Peters, ‘and a new culture.’”

Though the older members “will not be physically barred from attending,” they are not wanted, and “the expectation is that they will not” attend where they are not wanted.

“William Gackstetter said the aging membership has been asked to continue maintaining the church until it reopens without them.

“‘They want us to mow the lawn and shovel the snow.’ he said.”

“Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; the elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed.” 1 Timothy 5:1-3

“…mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” Isaiah 56:7

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Be Honest, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

I didn’t know

– You still don’t know

A recent video clip of popular evangelical preacher Francis Chan suggests this Protestant child may be looking for his Roman mother. His statements include:
  • I didn’t know that for the first 1,500 years of church history everyone saw it [the Eucharist/Lord’s supper] as the literal body and blood of Christ. And it wasn’t till 500 years ago someone popularized a thought that it’s just a symbol and nothing more. I didn’t know that!
  • ...for the first time, someone put a pulpit in the front of the gathering, because, before that, it was always the body and blood of Christ that was central to the gathering.
  • I say that because the Church is more divided than at any time in history...And for a thousand years there was just one church. We are so used to growing up at a time when there are literally over 30,000 Christian denominations.
All of this is babbling nonsense, for anyone of a mind to check it out and not predisposed to just accept it!

It is rank falsehood to claim that “for the first 1,500 years of church history” that transubstantiation (that the bread & wine is the literal body and blood of Christ) was the universal view. This is a false even if one accepts the false notion that the Roman Catholic Church is the true church. Beginning with the Bible itself, there is no anthropophagite fetish attached to the Lord’s supper.[i] Keith Mathison successfully traces the emergence of transubstantiation to a ninth century debate between Paschasius Radbertus, the abbot of the monastery of Corbie, and Ratramnus, a theologian and monk in northern France. The popular Roman Catholic term “transubstantiation” probably cannot be found before the 11th century. The Fourth Lateran Council (Canon 1) officially adopted it as Roman dogma in 1215.[ii] The real truth is, as Nicholas Batzig writes, “Explanations about the presence of Christ in the Supper have been vast and nuanced throughout church history.” Roman apologists often cite quotes that certainly seem to produce fruit of their doings, but often lift them from their context – and further do not cite statements that will contradict their view.
When He so earnestly expressed His desire to eat the passover, He considered it His own feast; for it would have been unworthy of God to desire to partake of what was not His own. Then, having taken the bread and given it to His disciples, He made it His own body, by saying, “This is my body,” that is, the figure of my body. A figure, however, there could not have been, unless there were first a veritable body. An empty thing, or phantom, is incapable of a figure… this figure of the body of Christ… He likewise, when mentioning the cup and making the new testament to be sealed” in His blood,” affirms the reality of His body. For no blood can belong to a body which is not a body of flesh… you may discover how anciently wine is used as a figure for blood…used the figure of wine to describe His blood.[iii]
Eusebius of Caesarea clearly calls the bread and wine “symbols.”
For with the wine which was indeed the symbol of His blood…bread to use as the symbol of His Body…[iv]
Other quotes might be supplied. Serious research of the early writings about the communion of the body and blood of Christ would do us well. In that research, all of us will likely find things with which to agree and things with which to disagree. Most of all, for my purpose, it will ostracize any thought that transubstantiation has always been taught and debunk any idea that only 500 years ago it began to be taught that the elements are symbols for the literal body and blood of Christ .

In the second quote, Chan is basically talking in terms of architecture, the structure of a building![v] What is at the center of the building, a pulpit or an altar. The New Testament church is not a physical building but a people. Most often they met in homes, which likely had neither of these “architectural” features. Altars and pulpits, rather, are historical developments, not inherent parts of the nature of the church. Both preaching and the Lord’s supper had their place in the New Testament and their importance should not be overlooked. They are not in competition, but complementary – especially if you don’t attach superstitious notions to them. Further, even a cursory glance at the book of Acts reveals preachers standing before people to preach God’s message.

Finally, Chan throw out a highly suspect number of Protestant denominations, along with the lie that “for a thousand years there was just one church.” There is so much wrong with this statement. The 33,000 number is bogus, as demonstrated in this article. In We Need to Stop Saying That There Are 33,000 Protestant Denominations, the Catholic author of it states, “Catholics need to stop citing this number, not only because it is outlandishly false but because it is not the point how many Protestant denominations there are.” Though I cannot endorse all in the article, a perusal of it demonstrates just how problematic is that number. I can only imagine that Francis Chan endorses Roman Catholicism as the “one church.” This is not true, even considered within the realm of the highly authoritarian offshoot of Christianity that it is. Worse, Catholicism wreaked havoc on New Testament Christianity – setting up shop with iron-handed heresy, waging war on the churches that stood for the simplicity of the gospel, “killed God’s prophets, and digged down his altars.”

For all Francis Chan’s “I didn’t knows” the fact is, “You still don’t know.” Wake up. Smell the roses. Study history, and read your Bible.

[i] After saying, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood,” Jesus explained, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” – indicating he is speaking in a spiritual sense, not a literal physical sense.
[ii] This council also puts salvation in the “Universal (Roman Catholic) Church.”
[iii] Against Marcion, Book IV, Chapter 40, from a Catholic website. Tertullian’s argument is in reference to the teaching of Marcion that Jesus only appeared to have a human body. Marcion denied the physical nature of the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
[v] Chans “replaced the altar with a pulpit” idea seems to be a variation of the oft-repeated charge that “The reformers replaced the body of Christ with a book. The Bible was the replacement for the presence of Jesus [i.e., in the Eucharist].” See, for example, H. J. Marshall, The Church or the Bible? One was Commissioned to Teach, Boothwyn, PA: Marshall Publishing Company, 1993, p. 68.

Monday, January 20, 2020

9 Ways to Fight, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

No Bible in their own language

“The English-speaking world has a very large number of different English versions of the Bible, simply because the number of English speakers (many of them with plenty of money to buy multiple copies of the Bible) ensures large financial profits for the publishers. At the same time many people in the world have no Bible in their own language because there is no financial profit to be made by translating and producing one. Much could be achieved if the money currently being spent on developing yet more English language Bibles were dedicated instead to translation in languages with greater need. However, the church also continues to be affected by sin, and the injustice will no doubt continue, with more English Bibles being produced while many groups of Christians will continue to be without the word of God in their own language.”
John Hans De Jong in “A ‘Sin Offering’ Crouching at the Door? Translation Lessons from an Exegetical Fossil in the Judson Bible” (The Bible Translator, Volume 61, No. 2: 89-92) [Note: in fairness to De Jong, he is not arguing for only one English translation, only that the motive and manner of Bible translation is out of order and unjust.]