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Why not just teach them English?

A translation project takes a long time, and a lot of effort.  Many times the languages we work in have no written form, so part of our job may involve transcribing their oral language into written form, developing an appropriate alphabet, and teaching them how to read and write in their own language.  All of this happens alongside the many years of work required to translate the Bible verse by verse into that language.  So, naturally, the question arises: “Why not just teach them English (or another majority language)?”

Reason #1: A second language is not your heart language
At a Good Friday service in 1980, Leonard Bolioki stepped to the front of the church he attended in Cameroon and began to read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Before, this passage from John’s Gospel had always been read in French, the trade language of Cameroon, but this time the priest had asked Leonard to read it from the newly translated passage in the local language, Yambetta.

As he read, he became aware of a growing stillness; then some of the older women began to weep. At the end of the service they rushed up to Leonard and asked, “Where did you find this story? We have never heard anything like it before! We didn’t know there was someone who loved us so much that he was willing to suffer and die like that… to be crucified on a cross to save us!”

Leonard pulled out his French New Testament and showed them that the story was in the Bible. “We listen to this Passion Story every year during Holy Week,” he told them, but they insisted that they’d never heard it before. That instance, Leonard says, is what motivated him to translate the Scriptures into the only language his people could really understand—Yambetta!

Even though these people knew French, French was not the language that spoke to their hearts.  It’s true that over time, and with great effort, you can learn a foreign language enough to communicate.  But, when it comes to the truths of the Bible, these must resonate on a deeper level than merely a head knowledge–the Scripture must penetrate to the heart.  That can only be accomplished in their native language, their “heart language.”

Reason #2: Language is tied to identity

Reason #3: God loves people of ALL languages

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (‭Revelation‬ ‭7‬:‭9-10‬ ESV)

The Bible tells us that there will be believers from “all languages” and “all peoples,” and commands us to make disciples of “all nations,” not just those in the majority.

Scripture is replete with examples of how God meets us where we are and communicates to us in the language and culture we understand best.  No human language or culture is supreme, and there is no human language or culture God cannot communicate in.  God gave his Word to the Hebrews in Hebrew, to Arameans in Aramaic, to the Greeks in Greek, and to all who were present at Pentecost in their own language.  If it’s a good enough strategy for God, it’ll work for us!

Food for Thought…

There was once an island, on which the people had a Bible, but it was in a language that only the educated people could understand. Then a man came and translated the Bible into the local language. The government at this time permitted the Bible, but only in their original translation. As soon as the Bible was available in the local language, the leaders feared what this would do to their power over the people. They declared this new translation illegal and burned every Bible and killed every translator, every printer, every user of the Bible that they could find. But God was with our Brothers and Sisters on that island, and He changed the hearts of the government. Finally, after many generations, the Bible was now not only available, but also legal.

“For God louede so the world, that he gaf his ‘oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge liif.”

This was John 3:16 in the first translation of the Bible in the local language on the island called…England.*

Brothers and Sisters, you and I are living proof of the impact of God’s word in our heart language, English.  We have been blessed to have God’s Word in our heart language for over 600 years since the first translation by John Wycliffe, and over 400 years since the translation of the King James Version.  What a blessing that our ancestors weren’t satisfied to merely teach us Latin!

 

 

*I am indebted to Tiffany Archer, a fellow Wycliffe member whom we met at Equip, for this illustration.

15 Songs that have impacted my Christian walk

Have you ever heard a song that so powerfully influenced your Christian walk that it made you tear up each time you heard it or changed your perspective on your Christian walk? Perhaps it was perfectly timed for the season of life you were going through at the time. Looking back over the past several years, I realized that I could basically follow my spiritual growth through the songs that spoke most to me. So, I thought I’d share with you the songs that have meant the most to me in hopes that perhaps they will speak to you too.  Click on the song title to view a Youtube video of each song. (These are in order of when they impacted me, not necessarily in order of how much I like the song.)

1.  I Can Only Imagine, Mercy Me

This song really needs no introduction.  Since its debut in 2001, this song has become the defining work of Mercy Me for obvious reasons.  I was in junior high when I first heard this song, and it still brings me to tears with the beautiful imagery of meeting Jesus face to face for the first time.

2.  I Surrender All, Clay Crosse

I first heard this song sometime later in my junior high years, and when I felt and surrendered to God’s call to ministry, this became the defining song of my ministry.  I realized at this point in my life that being a Christian meant far more than simply believing in God, it meant believing to the point of trading my dreams, goals, and ambitions for God’s…nothing but complete surrender would suffice.

3.  Yours, Steven Curtis Chapman

In June 2007, while I was in college at OBU, I had the opportunity to go on my first international mission trip–to India.  To be honest, my motivations were not entirely pure–my girlfriend (later to become my wife) had signed up for the trip, and I wasn’t about to let her fly halfway around the world to some third world country without me!  Despite my mixed motives, God used the trip to open my eyes to foreign missions, and I began to feel that God might be calling me into missions.  Later that year, this song was released and it kept my thoughts and passion focused on missions, which would later lead me to where I am now.

4.  My Own Little World, Matthew West

The timing of this song in my life was extraordinary, to say the least.  This song was released Oct. 1, 2010, right as I was prayerfully considering my second international mission trip.  My church, Park Hill Baptist, was planning a medical mission trip to Haiti in January 2011, and the payment was due sometime in October.  The trip coincided with a mandatory training for my job as a Chemist with the FDA, so I had a tough decision to make–play it safe and withdraw from the mission trip, or follow the Spirit’s leading and risk my job.  This song, along with the leading of the Holy Spirit, helped me to think outside of “My Own Little World” to the needs around me.  I paid the deposit for the trip, hoping I wouldn’t lose my job.  The next day, before I had a chance to break the news to my boss, I was informed that the mandatory training had been rescheduled.  Coincidence?  Well, as it has been said before, “I sure have a lot more coincidences when I pray than when I don’t!”

5.  I Refuse, Josh Turner

Less than a month after arriving back home from the mission trip to Haiti in January 2011, this song debuted.  That trip had transformed my life in ways I never could have imagined.  God confirmed my calling to missions during that trip, and lit a fire in my heart for the lost that still burns to this day.  When I heard this song, I realized that I had to do something.  Simply pitying the orphans, impoverished, and lost in Haiti was not enough.  The passion that God stirred in me turned into resolve–“I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself.”  This video is compiled from my personal photos from the mission trip to Haiti.

6.  Blessings, Laura Story

The year 2011 was a big year for me, spiritually speaking.  After the mission trip to Haiti, God began working in my heart powerfully.  I began to have a premonition that something big was going to happen in my life.  Despite my love of science, I began to feel less and less “at home” in my job, and my calling to ministry began to burn uncontrollably.  I struggled to stay focused at work, often finding myself consumed with thoughts of missions and ministry.  Then, in April 2011, my fears were confirmed.  After a series of poor results in my laboratory analyses–which were in part due to my lack of focus at work, but were mostly unexplainable–I was let go from my job.  As I got in my car to go home, I turned on the radio.  The first song that came on was Laura Story’s “Blessings.”  It was the first time I had heard the song from start to finish since it had been released only a week or two prior.  Again, God’s timing was impeccable.  I remember sitting there in my car crying as I listened to this song and praying a simple prayer: “God, I know you’re in control right now, and I know that despite the fact that I don’t understand why, this is part of your plan for me.  I know you have something better in store for me–but it had better be good!”

7.  Don’t Waste Your Life, Lecrae

How about a change of pace?  While this song was released in 2008, I didn’t really listen to rap at the time, so I didn’t stumble across this song until much later.  I was in seminary and had become hooked on the powerful preaching of John Piper and his “Don’t waste your life” style of preaching, so when I heard this song, the message struck me powerfully.  I began listening to Lecrae more often and fell in love with his powerful, unapologetic lyrics.  This song, along with other events in my life, inspired me to give my complete passion to God and the ministry.  For all you rap-challenged folks (like myself!) who can’t pick out all the words, here’s a version with the lyrics!

8.  All I Have is Christ, Sovereign Grace Music

I first heard/sang this song in a worship service at seminary.  The simple, but powerful message spoke to me.  In all the hustle and bustle of life, we must remember that our sole purpose is to love God.  Christ is our only hope of salvation.  Great worship song!

9.  Psalm 73, Barlow Girl/Todd Agnew

I first heard this song in college, but it took on a deeper meaning for me while I was delivering pizza to the ritzy neighborhoods of Louisville in seminary.  We were broke, and I struggled with contentment while everyone else around us seemed to have it better.  This song helped me keep my focus where it belonged–on God.  “My God’s enough for me–this world has nothing I need.”

10.  You Can Have Me, Sidewalk Prophets

Throughout the year and a half we were at seminary in Louisville, I learned more and more about Wycliffe.  As my conviction that God was leading us to serve with Wycliffe became stronger and stronger, it raised a question: could I actually do it?  If God really said “Go,” would I be willing to go?  I knew the answer was a resounding “No,” unless God did a mighty work in my heart.  I knew that God ought to be first in my life, but the simple truth was that there were idols in my life.  I knew that in order for me to have the strength to follow, God must be my first love.  So, I began to pray for God to change my heart.  This song became my prayer.  What “I Surrender All” taught me as a teenager about God’s call to ministry, this song re-taught me as a young adult contemplating my calling to foreign missions.

11.  Oceans, Hillsong United

This is one of those songs that takes me back to a specific worship experience.  In January 2014 at Total it Up (a weeklong taste of Wycliffe) in Dallas, we sang this song during worship.  It was the first time I had heard the song, and I can still remember the chills that ran up my spine as I sang “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…” in a room full of foreign missionaries.  I remember thinking, “Am I really ready to give God a blank check–to go wherever he leads me?  Is my trust “without borders?”  Looking up at the Auca spears hanging on the wall in that room–replicas of the ones that killed Jim Elliot and his fellow missionaries–I felt, and still feel, woefully unworthy to bear the name “missionary.”  I will never forget that moment.

12.  Between the Cross and the Crown, Newsong

Having determined that God was leading us to serve with Wycliffe in Bible translation, we began the process of paying off debt.  But, things got worse (financially speaking) before they got better, and this song helped me stay the course.  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33  God is in control.

13.  Keep Making Me, Sidewalk Prophets

As God continued the process of molding and chiseling my rough edges, I began to realize that I have a very long way to go!  As the details of our Wycliffe assignment began to fall into place, I realized that a passion for reaching the lost would not sustain our ministry.  After all, if difficulty and risk to my family rises and those to whom I minister are ungrateful (as is often the case), would love for the lost sustain me?  Probably not.  I love my family more than strangers I have never met, and I would not sacrifice family for strangers.  The only thing that will sustain me is my love for God, and only then if I love God above all else.  I will only be able to remain steadfast if I love God enough to follow him regardless of the cost.   May God break us and remake us until He is not merely our first, but our only desire.  A dangerous prayer, indeed!

14.  Fire and Fury, Skillet

God answered my prayer for a changed heart, and lit a fire under me like never before.  There were times when I felt as if I would burst if I wasn’t ministering!  This song was the perfect expression of the passion that God placed in my heart.  I pray that God will keep that fire burning for many, many years so that others will see that God is worthy (“worth it!”) and he will be glorified through my life.

15.  Thrive, Casting Crowns

As time went by, we were accepted into Wycliffe and began the process of selecting an assignment and beginning our training.  We have been in this “waiting” phase of our ministry for the past several years, and have a couple more years to go before we arrive on the field for our assignment.  Looking back, the entirety of the first seven years of our marriage will have been spent “waiting” to finally get to do the ministry that God has called us to!  But, this song reminded me that I shouldn’t be “waiting” for the ministry I’ll have years from now–I have a ministry to do right now!  God does not intend for us to spend our lives “waiting” for the destination (a ministry, job, or even heaven!), he intends us to “thrive” right where we are, wherever that may be.  So, if God has called you to get an education, then you ought to thrive in it and seek to minister right where you are.  Whether vocational or not, we are all ministers of the gospel.  “We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives.  It’s time for us to more than just survive, we were made to thrive.”

11 Apps every Christian should have

While these apps won’t instantly transform you into Christ-like perfection (there’s not an “app for that”), having these apps on your smartphone or tablet is a great way to transform what could otherwise be a stumblingblock to your relationship with Christ into a powerful weapon against the enemy.  I like to think of these apps as my phone’s “sword” and “shield.”  Some of these will protect you from attack by the trash in our culture, while others will help you hone your spiritual “sword” and add weapons to your armory against the devil.  Hope you like them!

1.  YouVersion Bible

Price: Free

Pros:  Installed on more than 60 million devices worldwide and with a 4.5+ out of 5.0 star rating, YouVersion is hands-down the most popular Bible app of them all.  It’s easy to use and comes with hundreds of different translations–all of them free!  Want to read the Bible in Korean?  No problem.  Prefer the original Greek or Hebrew?  Got that, too.  Or, you could be a normal human being and read any of the more popular modern translations, including the KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NLT, and so on.  Almost all the modern English translations are available for downloading for offline use, also.  By far the coolest feature on YouVersion, however, is the audio Bibles.  That’s right–as long as you have an internet (WiFi or 3g) connection, you can stream most of your favorite versions of the Bible for FREE.  So, now you have no excuse for not reading your Bible–you can listen on your way to work!  (Just watch out for those data charges from your wireless provider!)  Also, YouVersion comes with a plethora of Bible Reading plans to choose from.  YouVersion also can sync with your Blue Letter Bible (BLB) reading plans.  Available on iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows 8, HP/Palm, Java, Symbian, Mobile Web, Kindle Fire, and online through any web browser.

Cons:  Not many.  But, compared to some other Bible apps, like Glo Bible and BLB, YouVersion is lacking in supplemental study materials.  It’s great for use on the go or for the audio features, but it won’t replace your study Bible or commentaries.

2.  Glo Bible

Price: Free (or $35 for the Premium version)

Pros: This is an awesome app for serious Bible study and lesson preparation.  Available for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, the free version comes with the KJV and NIV available for offline use.  Plus, Glo Bible comes with all kinds of study aids, like interactive maps, historical contextual information, photos, videos, and even some animated tours of famous Bible locations, like the first century Temple or Mosaic Tabernacle!  It’s like study Bible meets IMAX theater.  Also, your YouVersion notes will sync with Glo Bible.

Cons: Unless you purchase the in app upgrades, you’re pretty limited on what you can do with this app.  All of the “good stuff” is locked for premium users only.  For instance, you can take a tour of the tabernacle with the free version, but only the premium version grants you the high priestly privilege of peeking into the Holy of Holies.  (Yeah, I know, you’re not supposed to go in there anyways, but if you’re like me, the curiosity is just too much!)  $35 is a hefty chunk of cash for an app, and I imagine that there are few who will pay it, but–in my opinion–it’s totally worth it if you’re a teacher or really enjoy in-depth Bible study.  That $35 opens up a couple more translations (ESV, NIV 84, and The Message) as well as the NIV study notes (like a study Bible would have) and over 3500 additional media options, including more maps, more videos, and expanded virtual tours.  Your premium upgrade gives you access to the premium material on your Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone.  Currently, the number of available translations is limited, even for premium users, but I imagine they will be posting more translations with time.  Lastly, because Glo Bible has much more content to it than does YouVersion, it’s not quite as user friendly or intuitive to navigate.

3.  Blue Letter Bible

Price: Free

Pros: BLB is another great Bible study app designed for iPhone, iPad, and online web browser use.  It comes with quite a few translations to choose from, including the KJV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT, and many others, including the Greek and Hebrew.  BLB also allows you to perform a range of functions on any verse in the Bible, such as viewing it in other translations, referencing each word in the verse with its Strong’s Concordance reference number, and viewing the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge or Commentaries associated with that verse or passage.  BLB’s search function is also much better than either YouVersion or Glo Bible’s search functions, making BLB best suited for those who prefer an in-depth word-study approach to  Bible study or frequently reference commentaries.  BLB also has several daily Bible reading plans to choose from.

Cons: There isn’t much negative about the features that this app has, though some might complain for lack of features.  BLB doesn’t have the fancy media of the Glo Bible, and it doesn’t have the plethora of translations or audio versions of YouVersion, but what BLB does have–in depth word study resources–it does quite well.  This won’t be an app you use every day, but it’s great to have handy when you need it.

4.  Desiring God

Price: Free

Pros: This is, simply put, my favorite Christian app–aside from the Bible, of course–for iPhone and iPad.  Desiring God is the ministry of John Piper, one of my favorite preachers.  This app gives you access to literally thousands of sermons, articles, books, conference messages, poems, biographies, etc.  Piper has almost all, if not all, of his sermons of his available for downloading or streaming dating all the way back to 1980, and even one sermon from 1971!  In addition, Piper has posted free PDF versions of 79 of the books he has authored or co-authored.  That’s right…79 books…completely FREE.  I don’t know of any other author–Christian or not–who has done that.  When I’m driving to work or school, I’ll pull up a sermon or message from Desiring God and listen to on the way.  Piper has tons of knowledge and wisdom to impart from his many years of ministry, all there for the taking.

Cons: Frequent app crashes are the only problem with this app.

5.  Fighter Verses

Price: $2.99

Pros: This is a great app to help you memorize scripture.  It comes preloaded with several sets of verses, each set being enough to last you for a year.  Or, you can simply add in your own desired memory verses.  There’s even a set of memory verses specifically suited for children, with symbols to aid in memorization.  To help you memorize your memory verses, Fighter Verses gives you quizzes: fill in the blank, recite aloud, multiple choice, etc.

Cons: The only obvious con is the cost.  But, $3 is a small price to pay for the help in memorizing scripture to grow closer to Christ.

6.  K9 Browser

Price: Free

Pros:  Let’s face it–in today’s society, it’s difficult to avoid all the images and junk that the internet throws at you.  But, with K9 Browser you can filter out most of the junk.  It’s a great way to keep yourself or your children safe on the internet.  There are other filtered browsers that you can download, but man of the others are so limited in their functionality that they hardly even serve as web browsers.  While K9 Browser has its own search engine and will not play videos, its filtering is much more efficient than most other filters/browsers and it looks and operates almost just like Safari.

Cons:  Of course, with any internet filter or filtered browser there are sacrifices.  K9 Browser will not play videos of any kind–even those which aren’t inappropriate.  So, YouTube will not work on K9.  Also, many of the features native to Safari browser are not on K9, most notably the “open in” feature which allows files to be opened in other apps.  Lastly, since K9 is a separate browser (there is no filter “add-on” for the native Safari browser), Safari must be disabled in the Restrictions section of the Settings in order for it to serve its purpose.

7. Crossway

Price: Free

Pros: Very similar to the Desiring God app, this app is a great resource on a wide variety of topics that concern Christians.  It has blogs from various pastors or Christian writers, book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews, articles on contemporary events, and articles on various topics of interest.  The authors are mostly well published and esteemed Christian authors, such as John Piper, Russell Moore, R.C. Sproul, and others.

Cons: There are better apps (see below) for media reviews.  There is no audio component to this app (unlike Desiring God).  But, otherwise, this is a great app.

8.  PURE

Price: Free

Pros: PURE is an app to facilitate your accountability with your accountability partner.  Having an accountability partner (someone who will regularly ask you the tough questions about your walk with Christ and “keep you honest”) is invaluable in your growth in holiness.  Even the great Billy Graham has an accountability partner, because he realizes the wisdom of Proverbs 27:17–“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  PURE helps you do that by allowing you to input your accountability questions (“Have I read my Bible daily?”  “Have I shared the gospel this week?” etc.) and then, through an on screen notification, reminding you to answer your questions every day/week/month (depending on your desired frequency).  It then generates an email to send to any email address you want.  It’s a simple and effective way to facilitate accountability.

Cons:  The biggest downside is simply that your answers must be either “Yes” or “No,” so you must phrase your questions accordingly.  However, PURE overcomes this limitation partially by allowing you the option to edit the email report before its sent, so you can add in an explanation if necessary.  Also, there’s no in-app security feature, so your personal questions are not secure if someone has access to your phone.  Of course, you can always work around that by simply using your iPhone’s built in security–just set a lock screen password in your settings.  Lastly, downloading this app won’t get you an accountability partner, of course!  🙂  You’ll still have to find one on your own.  Overall, though, it’s a great app which I plan to keep on my phone until I can find a suitable accountability partner.  lol

9.  Audible

Price: Free

Pros:  “Wait a minute, Audible isn’t a ‘Christian’ app!”  No, it’s not, but it is an app that every Christian ought to have.  Why?  Because with audiobooks there’s no longer an excuse for not reading good Christian books!  Audible makes it possible for even the busiest soccer mom to get in some reading.  Listen while you’re driving, doing dishes, mowing the yard, etc.  Just make sure you pick good books!  Audilbe allows you to change the playback speed, place “bookmarks,” and even track your book reading stats and earn badges.

Cons:  Aside from the obvious–books aren’t free–there is currently no way to search for or purchase new books in the Audible app.  The app is simply a player–you’ll have to browse for and purchase your books online, then download them into the app.  It’s a little clumsy, and I’m not sure why Audible hasn’t figured out a way of doing all of that in the app, but so far, no luck.  Still, it’s a great audiobook player.

10. FamilyLife Audio

Price: Free

Pros:  Family Life is a ministry based out of Little Rock, AR which seeks to minister to–you guessed it!–families.  (Not to be confused with “Focus on the Family” or “American Family Radio (AFR).”)  With a plethora of biblically sound teaching and advice on marriage and parenting, FamilyLife Audio is a great resource for any spouse or parent.

Cons: None that I have discovered yet.

11. Plugged-In

Price: Free

Pros: This is a must have for the movie goer.  There are other good apps for movie reviews (such as Movie Guide Lite), but the special features on the Plugged-In app make it the winner in my book.  Plugged-in not only gives you a Christian perspective on the movies you might want to watch, but also reviews music, DVDs, and video games based on their spiritual, violent, sexual, language, and other content.  It also gives you an “average user rating.”  It provides detailed explanations of the ratings in every category, including specific information on what types of language, violent, or sexual content viewers may find offensive.  You can view the video review for many of the movies or the theatrical trailer as well.  Also, if you’d like to purchase tickets, Plugged-In provides a link to the websites of nearby theaters for purchasing tickets.

Cons: Unlike Movie Guide Lite, Plugged-In does not give content ratings for each individual category (i.e., violence, sexual content, etc.) and does not provide a rating for the quality of the film.  The only ratings given are simply for “Family Friendliness” and “Average User Rating.”  Also, many users–myself included–may find Plugged-In’s reviews to be overly critical of content.  Typically, very few movies which have a high “Family Friendliness” rating also have a high “Average User Rating.”  In other words, most of the movies which get a high rating from Plugged-In are, well, a little cheesy.  But, on the other hand, Plugged-In does an excellent job of providing a full description of the movies’ content, so the user ought to be able to make an informed decision with or without reliable ratings.  Lastly, the links to view showtimes and purchase tickets are unreliable, and work through Safari.  So, that particular feature won’t work if you’ve disabled Safari to use K9 Browser.  But, you can always use another app like Fandango to purchase tickets.  Personally, I recommend downloading both Movie Guide Lite and Plugged-In so you get the best of both.

Bonus: iSingWorship

Price: Free (But each song costs $1.99)

Pros: Since this is not an app that “every Christian should have,” I’ve made it a Bonus app.  Not everyone will have use for this little app, but if you do–it’s the best at what it does.  This app allows you to lead a small group worship or worship at a small church from your iPhone or iPad.  It’s also great if you like to pretend you are your favorite Christian artist rocking out in your living room…but I wouldn’t know anything about that…  All of the songs ($2 each) on iSingWorship are formatted in such a way that allows you to customize the arrangement of each song.  Want to repeat the chorus?  Want to skip the chorus between the first and second verse?  Want to mute the drums, guitar, or vocals?  Would you prefer a scenic mountain vista, or abstract art for the background to the lyrics?  Would you like to have a soft music interlude during the invitation so the preacher can speak?  Do you want your iPad or iPhone to display the guitar chords for you to play along?  The options are (almost) unlimited.  iSingWorship allows you to customize the arrangement of an individual song, and then arrange several songs together into a playlist–perfect for Sunday morning worship or family worship at home.

Cons: The app itself is free, but each song costs $2.  Compared to the price of buying the same song on iTunes (usually $1-$1.29), $2 is a steal considering what you get in iSingWorship.  But yes, it can add up after a while.  Also, currently there are only 45 songs available, so you’re limited on your worship selection.  However, when I got the app, there were only 22 songs, so they are making progress and adding new songs all the time.  The biggest drawback, however, is that in order to display the songs on an external monitor, you’ll need a CCLI license number.  Most churches will have one of those, but if you are just wanting it for in-home use, that could be an issue.

Did Jesus Have a Wife?

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve probably seen the news about the recent papyrus discovery that has been used to support the notion that Jesus had a wife. (See the NY Times article for more information) Unsurprisingly, this has created an uproar in the media with many of those outside the orthodox Christian community saying “See! We told you Jesus has a wife! Now we have proof!”

Not so fast. I will not take the time to fully rebut the outlandish notion that Jesus had a wife nor will I here address the Gnostic Gospels, from which much of this idea has spawned. (Maybe in a later post?) Those are complex issues which are either best left to scholars much smarter than I, or to those who have the time to research it. But, this particular papyrus will be easy enough to address briefly using a little common sense (which, as the saying goes, is not so common!).

Here are a few observations about this papyrus that should help to dispel some of the sensationalism surrounding it:

1) The supporting evidence is out of context and incomplete. The piece of papyrus in question is very small and has been torn from a larger piece. The phrases cited as evidence for this “Mrs. Jesus” theory are cut off and have no context around them. One line simply says, ‘Jesus said to them, “My wife…”‘ and another says, “…she will be able to be my disciple.” We have no idea what the rest of these sentences are, nor what the context of these statements is. One could take Revelation 21:9 out of context as biblical support for this theory as well: “…’Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.'” (NASB) Taken out of context, one might say, “See! Even the Bible acknowledges that Jesus (aka–the “Lamb”) had a wife!” But who is this wife? Well, the context of Revelation 21:2 makes this more clear: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. (NASB) The “wife” of Christ is none other than the “New Jerusalem,” or as elsewhere stated in the Bible, the Church. Unfortunately, we do not have the context of this piece of papyrus, so we don’t even know for sure that it does claim that Jesus had a wife.

2) The claims of this papyrus are irrelevant and untrustworthy. Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that the rest of this piece of papyrus does go on to claim that Jesus had a wife. So what? If I, claiming to be a Christian, write on a piece of paper that I’ve received a “New Revelation” that the world is going to end at precisely 12:15 pm on October 3, 2012, does that make it true? Does the fact that I claim to be a Christian automatically make my writings canonical (i.e., part of the Bible)? Of course not. There is no evidence that any substantial portion of the early church, founded by Jesus’ followers and contemporaries, believed that Jesus had a wife, nor that they accepted anything as the inspired Word of God other than the 27 books that comprise our New Testament. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary! While the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were written within decades of Jesus’ death, this piece of papyrus dates to hundreds of years later. Those who lived contemporaneously with Jesus accepted the accounts of these four gospels. By analogy, if someone claimed that it wasn’t commercial airliners that hit the World Trade Centers on 9/11 but Russian missiles, how likely is it that such a story would be widely accepted? Indeed, it would be very unlikely. Why? Because there are numerous eye-witnesses who could testify otherwise. The gospels were “published” and widely accepted as accurate when thousands of eye-witnesses were still living, giving credence to their claims. In short, even if this piece of papyrus claims that Jesus had a wife, that doesn’t prove that he did. To the contrary, all widely accepted accounts of Jesus’ life were written within a short period of time after his death and they all unanimously imply that he was unmarried.

In conclusion, to echo the words of Albert Mohler, such hype over this piece of papyrus does not reflect genuine scholarship, but “sensationalism masquerading as scholarship.” To those in my audience who remain skeptical or unconvinced, let me challenge you to apply the same skepticism that you have toward the widely accepted, historically reliable biblical texts to this small, fragmentary, historically-questionable piece of papyrus. Are you willing to believe that some Christians would be willing to conspire to cover up the truth of Jesus’ life? Then let me challenge you to be willing to believe that some non-Christians might be willing to conspire to denigrate his life and slander the truths purported in the Bible. Let’s apply our skepticism equally.

Lastly, I am troubled by the trend I see in many non-Christians to be quick to dismiss the Bible as being “full of errors” and “not telling the whole story” (and, therefore, to be quick to jump on the conspiracy wagon), and yet being unwilling to read it for themselves. Do you think the Bible is in error, that it contains contradictions? Read it and see for yourself and find out. Let’s not judge a book we’ve not read, and let’s not jump to premature conclusions about an incomplete piece of papyrus of unknown origin.

AlbertMohler.com – Must We Believe in the Virgin Birth?

Great article by Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (where I am currently a student).  I am reminded of I Corinthians 1:18-28:

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are”

AlbertMohler.com – Must We Believe in the Virgin Birth?.

What’s new…

Over the next few weeks, you may notice several new pages on my blog.  I am attempting to add some more theology discussions and will try to update my Gospel pages, also.  (Warning–some of the theology pages are papers written for school, so some may be a bit dry!  Most will be lengthier than a typical post, also.)  I think you will find these especially thought provoking, so be sure and check ’em out!

Common Models of Election

Calvinism and Evangelism