Friday, January 31, 2020

You say God is silent, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify when possible.)

“You say God is silent, but I notice your Bible is closed.”

“Jesus never comes when or how you expect.” -- Kris Minefee

“The Pastor ought to have two voices; one, for gathering the sheep; and another for warding off and driving away the wolves.” -- John Calvin

“Music can cure things meditation never will.” -- Unknown

“The Holy Spirit’s main ministry is not to give thrills but to create in us Christlike character.” -- J. I. Packer

“You can’t drive with the brakes on.” -- Mark Foreman

“To build a strong team, you must see someone else’s strength as a complement to your weakness and not a threat to your position or authority.” -- Christine Caine

“The ministry is often a soft place that provides a soft landing for men of soft hands and a softer intellect.” -- Unknown

“The man who stands with God is always in the majority.” -- John Knox

“When you pray, rather let your heart be without words then your words without heart.” -- John Bunyan

“Life takes us to unexpected places; love brings us home.” -- Unknown

“If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.” -- Nursery rhyme

“Our worship leader is Christ.” -- Sinclair Ferguson

“No man is a failure who has friends.” -- Clarence the Angel, in It’s a Wonderful Life

“Use your judgment more than your fancy. Flowers are well enough, but hungry souls prefer bread. To allegorize with Origen may make men stare at you, but your work is to fill men's mouths with truth, not to open them with wonder.” -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Commenting and Commentaries

Thursday, January 30, 2020

New Bibles Galore, Part Three: Finishing Up

Some relevant Bible verses
  • Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
  • Isaiah 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
  • Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
  • Acts 8:30-31 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:23 but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
  • 1 Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works
  • 2 Peter 3:16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
A few words from the NIV, do you know them?
The over-proliferation of Bibles causes loss of trust – regardless of what scholars “know” or think they know, what do people in the pew and on the pavement think?

The Bible does not make detailed theological knowledge the distinguishing mark of the Christian. Some of the best Christians I know cannot explain “camel furniture” and “goiim.” They do not know the conjugation of Greek verbs, and whether or not you read Hebrew from right to left. Some of the best scholars I know do not exhibit high forms of unfettered grace and unconditional love. Among both KJ-Only and Anything-but-KJV partisans can be found the most bitter, hateful, mean-spirited folks who call themselves Christians. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples,” Jesus said, “if ye have love one to another.” (See John 13:34-35.) “By their fruits ye shall know them” Matthew 7:16-20.

The best way to determine Bible reading comprehension is by observing whether what is being read is also being lived.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

New Bibles Galore, Part Two: Reading comprehension

Proponents of various newer Bible versions tout the ease of reading as a selling point for their particular versions. Bible Gateway includes a page titled “What are the reading levels of the Bibles on Bible Gateway?” Their presentation gives a grade level and an age level for each Bible. They say this information is “taken from information provided by the publishers of the various translations wherever possible.” When I inquired about this in 2017, Bible Gateway said they were not sure what method or methods the publishers used to determine the reading levels, or whether the publishers used the same method.

These “guides” usually use a computerized test such as the Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level tests. In other words, it is unlikely that Biblica had thousands of 7-year-old third graders read the New International Reader’s Version and afterwards tested their comprehension of what they read.[i] More likely, they plugged the NIrV or parts of it into a computer and ran tests. In such tests, different parts/books of the Bible would (should) come up with different reading levels. Some are more grammatically complex and complicated than others are. A computer can test that, somewhat. Peter indicated some of Paul’s letters were complicated, and he did not even have a computer through which to run them for a test! Much of this “ease of reading” banter is a barking up of the wrong tree. It ignores that the Bible is not standard reading, but also a spiritually discerned document.

There is a false premise based on mere intellectual understanding of the Bible. When someone says that all we need is a translation with words we can understand, this centers understanding the Bible in the natural man (intellect) rather than the spiritual man. However, the Bible includes a spiritual element not present in natural documents. It is spiritually given (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and spiritually understood (1 Corinthians 2:14). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Peter, a notable apostle, tells us that in all of Paul’s epistles there are “some things hard to be understood” 2 Peter 3:16. Those who would remove “some things hard to be understood” seek to remove some things that God has given by inspiration. Even new “easy-reader” versions have to admit this is true: Paul’s “letters include some things that are hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16, NIrV).[ii] So, the Bible can be difficult to understand, even for the spiritual. However, the Spirit will guide into all truth (John 16:13). Without the Spirit, it is impossible to know the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:11).

There is a false premise that places discernment outside the community of faith. Yet, the community of faith is crucial to our best understanding of the word of God (Acts 17:11). This is not the hierarchical Roman Catholic doctrine that the church tells everyone what to believe.[iii] It is recognition that the faith was once delivered to the saints (Jude, verse 3). It is recognition that the faith is passed on through the generations by faithful witnesses who commit it to other faithful witnesses (2 Timothy 2:2). An individual Christian is not a “Lone Ranger.” There is discernment at the local church level. Those who are in the faith help and teach those who come into the faith (Matthew 28:19-20). “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).[iv]

God has set teachers in the church, and this gift should not be despised (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). We are to teach one another, even through our songs (Colossians 3:16). The modern mantra hands the individual a Bible with the promise that it is easy to understand, and tries to cut out the “middleman” of the church, the local community of faith. On reflection, though, the translators and revisers remove the intermediary they want ousted and install themselves as the mediators between God’s word and man.[v] The teachers God gives us should not be discarded, but may we cry with the eunuch of Ethiopia, “How can I (understand what I read), except some man should guide me?” See Acts 8:30-31.

Abbrevations of Bible Translations

[i] The Bible Gateway site gives the NIrV as “3+ (ages 7+).”
[ii] The Bible can be counterintuitive. Those who “should” understand may not, and those who “should not” understand may. “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” Matthew 11:25.
[iii] Roman Catholicism says that 2 Peter 1:20-21 forbids the individual undertaking to read and understand the scriptures. Rather, Peter taught that interpretation proceeded not from the will of man, but from the Holy Ghost who moved the prophets to speak.
[iv] In his book Commenting and Commentaries, Charles Spurgeon writes, “It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others.”
[v] Even constantly changing it. According to translator Bill Mounce, the NIV committee on Bible translation meets annually to consider making changes to the NIV. “English is in a constant state of flux...This is one of the reasons why the CBT was originally formed with the mandate to meet every year and keep the NIV up-to-date with current English and biblical scholarship.”

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New Bibles Galore, Part One: Many English Bibles

How many English Bibles are there? Got Questions gives a low number of about 50 English Bibles, though they also recognize the way to count them varies: “Depending on how one distinguishes a different Bible version from a revision of an existing Bible version, there are as many as 50 different English versions of the Bible.” Do we really need 50 English versions of the Bible? Seriously? Though the proprietors of believe “there is nothing wrong with there being multiple versions of the Bible in a language,” they also admit “there is no need for 50 different English versions of the Bible. This is especially true considering that there are hundreds of languages into which the entire Bible has not yet been translated.”[i]

Wikipedia’s List of English Bible translations lists 95 complete English Bibles (OT & NT).[ii] The Jesus is Precious website lists 114 English Bibles and New Testaments on this page.[iii] Though “no one can give you an exact number for the English translations and paraphrases of the Bible,” the American Bible Society says, “With all these caveats in mind, the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible, whether complete or not, is about 900.”[iv]

Even if we were to admit the need for an update of the Bible, why do we need one every five or ten years? Our language becomes incomprehensible that soon? Seriously? The majority of the English Bibles on the market have arrived since 1950. Got Questions gives two reasons for this proliferation. I will give two more. “There are two primary reasons for the different English Bible versions. (1) Over time, the English language changes/develops, making updates to an English version necessary... (2) There are different translation methodologies for how to best render the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into English. Some Bible versions translate as literally (word-for-word) as possible, commonly known as formal equivalence. Some Bible versions translate less literally, in more of a thought-for-thought method, commonly known as dynamic equivalence.”

Got Questions does not mention the third primary reason – that there is a market. Bible translation has become commercialized, a sales-driven form of madness. Were there no money and no market, there would not be a proliferation of Bibles at the rate of one per year.[v] You can buy a KJV Bible and use it as long and the paper and cover holds up. The New International Version was first copyrighted in 1973 (New Testament), then 1978, 1984, and 2011. Derivatives include the NIrV, an “easy readers” version (1996, 1998, 2014), the NIVI (1996),[vi] and the TNIV, “incorporating contemporary gender language” (2002). The Holman Christian Standard Version copyrighted their Bible in 2004, updated it in 2010, replaced it in 2017 with the Christian Standard Bible, and then “improved” the CSB in 2020. Something seems wrong there! A fourth reason for new Bibles is that some are agenda driven. This means developing niche Bibles for a niche groups. Examples are the Cotton Patch Bible, Sacred Name Bibles, New World Translation, and so on.

How many English Bibles are there? Too many. How many do we need? One.[vii]

[i] Accessed 9 January 2020 10:10 am.
[ii] There are some duplications. On the other hand, some Bibles are not included – such as the Holy Name Bible by A. B. Traina. Accessed 25 December 2019 9:45 am.
[iii] Accessed 9 January 2020 8:30 am.
[iv] The caveats include “what should be defined as a new translation as opposed to a correction or a revision,” and “of how we should count translations” that are not a complete Bible or Testament. “Numbers of English Translations of the Bible,” American Bible Society, December 02, 2009; accessed 9 January 2020 9:10 am.
[v] For example, if we were to assume that 68 new Bibles have come out since the Revised Standard Version in 1952, that would be an average of one new English Bible per year. I have not proved that number, but it does not seem unreasonable – if the American Bible Society is anywhere near correct that there are some 900 printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible.
[vi] Biblica says “The lower reading level translations have shorter sentences, draw from a smaller English word pool, and avoid all uncommon words.”
[vii] Having one English Bible is intergenerational and international – sharing a common faith and a common Bible with those behind us, around us, before us, and beyond us.

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.