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Bible Lens – the Pokemon Go of memory verses? September 8, 2018

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 2Tim3.16So, hot on the heels of the iPhone version, Bible lens for android is now here. The new app that automatically suggests Bible verses to go with your selfies and snaphots has already been installed on well over 100,000 times and will probably 500,000 before the weekend is out.

Sadly it doesn’t seem to work on all phones and tablets (including the ones I own) but I can see what other people are sharing (especially when they use the #BibleLens tag.)

I suspect it will lead to a lot of people sharing a lot of Bible verses, and a lot of photos. Will it be a quickly passing fad or a new era in looking at the world around us and seeing what the Bible has to say about it?

Does it trivialize the word or celebrate and share it? How does the app analyse the photos and decide what to suggest? I don’t know, and neither do I know what list of verses the app selects from. I suspect it’s not every verse. There are certainly a number you wouldn’t want to accidentally appear alongside the photos you share …(but I’ll save those for another post).

Meanwhile here are a few public examples from people I’ve never met.

(warning verses and photos can be taken out of context. The content below is direct from social media streams and may have been edited or have links and comments I didn’t see when posting)

Lots more available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/search/photos/?q=%23biblelens

and lots on on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/biblelens/

View this post on Instagram

#ROSE #BLACKPINK #YG #biblelens

A post shared by YGfamily💕 (@yg_blackpink04) on

What do you think of the idea and the app?

What are your favourite verse/photo combinations?


Not so popular verses in the Bible August 10, 2018

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There is a new app from YouVersion “Bible Lens“, allowing you to take photos and then “It detects not only objects in your photo, but more importantly, the Biblical themes of the moment that photo captured… and then suggests Bible verses to match!”

I’m suspecting that the app will probably pick from a small selection of pre-picked themes and vetted verses but it got me thinking. I recently found a website, topverses.com listing the most popular verses in the Bible. With over 30,000 to choose from I wondered which ones wouldn’t end up in the top half of the list



For example Job 30:29 seems to be much less popular than Leviticus 11:15, but more popular than Deut 14:14.

In case you haven’t memorised those verses here they are

Job 30:29 Bible Rank: 20,218
“I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.” KJV

Leviticus 11:15  Bible Rank of 4,707
“Any kind of raven”

While probably never likely to be verse of the day on your favourite Bible website Leviticus 11:15 is apparently quoted on the web a lot more than when exactly the same four words appear in Deuteronomy 14:14

(check out other popular verses for raven at http://topverses.com/?find=raven )

If you want to browse the top verses in order you can start at http://topverses.com/Bible . At number 9 you will find

2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness


It’s worth remembering that however good single verse are the Bible isn’t meant to be read that way but  if you are inspired you could create your own #obscureverseoftheday memes with perhaps just a clue here or there as to why they are worth making available to the world.

Why you should translate …with caution July 28, 2018

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“Where do Christians get the idea that it is not only permissible, but even a good idea to translate?”

There are lots of words in this document. I apologize if it is not in your first (or favorite) language.

Justification4translationIn a 2012 post from Desiring God, Tyler Kennedy explains:

Why Every Christian Should Care About Gospel Resources in Languages Beyond Their Own


I recommend looking at the full article but here are a few quotes along with my own endorsement and a couple of words of caution.

English is the most dominant global language ever. So why are we at Desiring God doing so much work to translate our resources into other tongues? Why not just spend the same amount of time, money, and effort teaching people to read our English resources rather than doing the hard (and sometimes messy) work of translation?

“Why don’t you just teach them English?” has been a common question addressed by many.

There is a certain amount of of imperialism and superiority that goes with that. English is a dominant language because we forcibly dominated a lot of places that would have preferred we hadn’t.

That having been said, lots of people do now speak English and if its your first language you (hopefully) don’t think of it as being imposed by the people of England. We even differentiate between British English, American English and many of the other Englishes now spoken around the world.

Where do Christians get the idea that it is not only permissible, but even a good idea to translate?

Profound answers to these questions have been set forth by Andrew Walls, a man once dubbed by Christianity Today as perhaps “the most important person you don’t know.” In 1996 he published The Missionary Movement in Christian History in which he argues that translation work is both permissibleand necessary to the Christian faith. He gives two main reasons for making this claim:

  1. translation is a central component of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and
  2. translation is God’s means for sustaining and maturing his people.

Lamin Sanneh, in his article “Christian Missions and the Western Guilt Complex,” acknowledges the distinct power of human language. In speaking about the history of translation in Western missions, he states, “The importance of vernacular translation was that it brought the missionary into contact with the most intimate and intricate aspects of culture.”

SIL International affirms this reality in their Linguistic Creed: “As the most uniquely human characteristic a person has, a person’s language is associated with his self-image. Interest in and appreciation of a person’s language is tantamount to interest in and appreciation of the person himself.”

But many in SIL are also aware that many or even most people on the planet speak more than one language (quite a few that only speak one speak English) and that particularly in multicultural urban environments, some people might not always have just one ‘heart language’.

Meanwhile more from Sanneh

In many traditional societies, religious language has tended to be confined to a small elite of professionals. In extreme cases, this language is shrouded under the forbidding sanctions of secret societies and shrines, access to which is through induced trances or a magical formula. The Christian approach to translatability strikes at the heart of such gnostic tendencies, first by contending that the greatest and most profound religious truths are compatible with everyday language, and second, by targeting ordinary men and women as worthy bearers of the religious message.

Amen. But good Christian theology also isn’t confined to a small elite of (English speaking) professionals. Thought in the English speaking world has and continues to be shaped by works translated from other languages.

As people strive to translate their materials into other peoples languages lets hope that it goes both ways with ideas generated in less dominant languages translated into the more dominant ones.

Modern day translation of the Christian message continues Jesus’ work of coming to the common. People are saved, and their faith is nurtured, when they encounter Jesus in the language they know best.

For a recent example of this, see the BBC’s magazine article and corresponding video, “Jamaica’s patois Bible: The word of God in creole.”

Do watch that video and be encouraged that the BBC has services in multiple languages that don’t just translate stories from English but generate fresh material from journalists writing in the language they know best to the people they know best.

There is a lot more great stuff in the article and in the materials from Walls and Sanneh that Kennedy quotes.

But what do you do with these ideas? How do you apply them?

As individuals, families, churches, denominations, missions boards, etc., we should care about and prioritize translation work, especially Bible translation.

Having spent 20 years working with Wycliffe Bible Translators I’d say a healthy amen to that!

Kennedy then say…

In addition to the Bible, we should value and translate John Piper’s (and others’) content, because of how it helps people read and understand Scripture for themselves.

…and here is where I’m a little more cautious. John Piper has written a number of things that I have found personally helpful, but he has also more recently expressed views I (and others) are not so sure on. Even where I agree with him that might sometimes be my cultural and theological bias agreeing with some of his.

Many of the sermons and resources that resonate with us are not just because they are in our language but because they connect with (and often correct) our own experience of life. In some ways life in Minneapolis is similar to life in many other parts of the world, and in other ways it isn’t. (eg not sure when Piper or other DG staff last addressed ancestor worship, sacrificing to idols, child sacrifice or  witchcraft ).
The Bible deals with a lot of themes that don’t get preached everywhere, and preaching, while often seeking to be true to scripture usually comes with a level of denominational and cultural bias.

Bible translators work hard to avoid denomination bias.

Bible translation is scripture not commentary.

Commentary is commentary. Often incredibly helpful but not always presenting opposing views in an unbiased way.

For some of you this application means that you should take an incarnational dive into one of the unreached languages of the world, learn to speak it, develop a writing system for it, teach other speakers how to read it, create a dictionary, and translate the Bible into it.

A bit more partnership. The ideal aim isn’t that you translate but that you help people from the community translate.

For others it means that you should take the fluency God has already given you in another language and get down and do the tough, loving work of translating gospel material into it

Again this may put the emphasis on “learn another language” and translate into it. Often professional translators would say you are better translating from another language into your own.

eg If English is your second language you may be better equipped for the final stage of translation from English into your first language than someone who speaks your language ‘quite well for an outsider’

Perhaps the best translations involve partnership and discussion between people from both languages and cultures.

One final quote from Andrew Walls…

The present situation of Christianity is like that I’ve described with the first frontier, the Greek world was crossed, only this time it’s not the Mediterranean world or the Western world at all that’s the scene of the interaction. The crucial activity is now the Christian interaction with the ancient cultures of Africa, Asia, the Americas, the Pacific. The quality of the Christianity of those areas and thus the quality of 21st Century Christianity as a whole will depend on the quality of that interaction.
Walls (2002) Demographics, Power and the Gospel







Accusations of Witchcraft in Nigeria and Britain July 23, 2018

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A harrowing news story recently told of the plight of children in Nigeria accused of witchcraft. Similar stories exist in Britain.

When did you last hear a helpful sermon about witchcraft?

In Britain (most) people don’t really believe in witches. They consider them the things of fairy stories or teenage TV and fiction. But it is part of our history.

“During the 16th century, many people believed that witchcraft, rather than the workings of God’s will, offered a more convincing explanation of sudden and unexpected ill-fortune, such as the death of a child, bad harvests, or the death of cattle. Witch-hunting became an obsession in some parts of the country.  ”

Under the 1542 Witchcraft Act  witchcraft was a crime punishable by death and over the years at least 500 people were executed. (read more at https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/religion/overview/witchcraft/ )

In the 18th century it was reduced to a finable offence. That law was replaced in 1951 by the Fraudulent Mediums Act which in turn was repealed in 2008. The assumption being that anyone trying to make a living from communicating with the dead was defrauding people. The same assumption is often made of anyone performing an exorcism.

Belief in witchcraft is still prevalent today around the world.

An article in 2015 stated ‘Witchcraft’ abuse cases on the rise , a 2018 newspaper article spoke of “Warning over abuse linked to witchcraft and possession beliefs in UK
and stated “Experts call for Government funding to tackle abuse being ‘hidden in plain sight'”

I didn’t know until I read and googled further that there was a Witchcraft & Human Rights Information Network or a 2017 report for the UN:

Witchcraft Accusations and Persecution; Muti Murders and Human Sacrifice:Harmful Beliefs and Practices Behind a Global Crisis in Human Rights


It does not make for comfortable reading, and there are accompanying photos.

Another paper available from the site is an article on Witches by Steven D H Rasmussen from the African Study Bible which illustrates well the need for more resources on such issues from within the continent.

Well meaning western theologians and writers often work hard to make their resources available in other countries and other languages but can too easily tackle subjects from their own cultural viewpoint.

Belief in witchcraft is ingrained in many societies. Before dismissing such beliefs as superstition we would do well to take a step back and explore why they have such a hold and what hope the church and the Bible might have to offer.

From what I have read so far it is clear that belief in witchcraft offers people someone to blame for disaster and misfortune. “Diviners” advertise themselves as people who can identify the witches (usually for a fee).  But as Rasamussen points out

“People fear more, but fear/trust God less. The community gains confidence in the diviner, but greater fear and suspicion of the witch. They break relationship with the suspect. Gossip is spread. People may find more problems to blame on this suspect. Eventually this person may be neglected, ostracized, beaten, fined, or even killed. People murder suspected witches every day in some countries. Those who suffer abuse as suspected witches are most often the vulnerable with few defenders: the poor, the outsider, the elderly, women, widows – increasingly step-children and orphans. Family, neighbors, and pastors who should defend and care often lead the accusations and abuse. But these are the very people the Bible repeatedly says God defends and cares for and commands that we do the same”  Read more



The photo accompanying this article is from pixabay. No accusations are made against the cat.



Bibles banned at Eurovision Song Contest May 3, 2018

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There is rather a long list of things you can’t take with you should you wish to be part of the live audience at Eurovision 2018 in Lisbon. As a member of the audience you are not allowed to take in your own ladder, megaphone, or adhesive tape. You also cannot take in “any material that has any connotation of: political and religious views, racism, xenophobia and discrimination.”

I doubt you will get your phone confiscated if you have a Bible app on it but I don’t know what will happen if you choose to wear a T-shirt with a scripture verse or reference on it.

I understand that the organisers are trying to prevent any trouble or distress but it’s a shame they aren’t able to discourage racism, xenophobia and “descrimination” without assuming that they need to ban any connotation of “political and religious views”.

Linguistic pedantry isn’t banned as is evidence from the absence of at least one comma, a misspelling, a possibly errant conjunction and may be evidenced in some of the lyrics. I hope that the best of “politics” will be present in the judging.


In terms of religion my personal view (I’m not planning on going) is that “religious” themes of love, justice, mercy, peace, harmony, and an occasional bit of existential angst and search for meaning, identity and validation, seem to come up quite a bit, and that God is a wonderful blend of liberal and conservative (without party politics) favouring freedom and grace alongside a very keen sense of truth and justice. He discriminates against no race and could rightly be called xenophilic – (see verse that starts “For God so loved the world…” and talks about Jesus not being sent to condemn.



The (Christian) Commonwealth April 20, 2018

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The Commonwealth: What is it? What’s it for? and who should lead it?
It is definitely in the news at the moment (that moment being now Friday morning April 20th in the UK).
(screenshot from chogm2018.org.uk) 

Here are a few headlines I found last night from around the globe:

The latest news in the UK was
Commonwealth meeting: Queen hopes Prince Charles will succeed her BBC News, which includes a helpful link to Commonwealth: Seven things you might not know

Lots of Brits (perhaps along with lot’s of non-Brits) don’t really know a lot about the Commonwealth, fortunately for those of us who weren’t really taught about Empire, colonialism or post-colonialism there is always Wikipedia and not surprisingly there is a Commonwealth website http://thecommonwealth.org which contains a handy list of the 53 member countries.

There is also a subsite http://thecommonwealth.org/kids/ and I was very pleased to get 100% in the online quiz (can you?).

What I hadn’t known was that there are three intergovernmental organisations at the heart of the Commonwealth:


Each are worth taking a look at but I looked most closely at the Commonwealth of Learning and it’s emphasis on open learning.

As mentioned in some of the news stories it isn’t an automatic choice who will succeed the queen as it’s head, but something else I didn’t know was that an American had already put forward the idea of a different successor in a document entitled “The Christian Commonwealth”.

In the preface the author stated:

“Much is spoken of the rightful Heir of the Crown of England, and the unjustice of casting out the right Heir: but Christ is the only right Heir of the Crown of England, and of all other Nations also.”

He went on to urge,

“That you would now set the Crown of England upon the head of Christ, whose only true inheritance it is,” and set their “civil polity” on the model given by God to Moses in the wilderness (in Exodus 18), so that “then shall the will of God be done on earth, as it is done in heaven.”

ChristianCommonwealthIt should be added that this was stated in the year 1659, long before British ‘involvement’ in many of the current Commonwealth countries, and the author John Elliott is often credited as being the first American to draft a political book, but also the first to have it banned. You can read The Christian Commonwealth: or,The Civil Policy Of The Rising Kingdom of Jesus Christ in full at digitalcommons.unl.edu/libraryscience/19/ and read a bit more about some of the other fascinating history of John Eliot on wikipedia or a few thousand other web pages..

Who reads this stuff …and why it matters April 16, 2018

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Less than a third of you reading my blog do so from the same country and you may or may not be in one countries that I have lived in.

WhoReadsThisIn the last 12 months I’ve had readers in 79 countries and territories – 33% of readers from the US, 21% from UK, 8.5 from Canada, after that the next highest are from India, Germany, Australia and the Philippines.

Like many other bloggers I do enjoy seeing that I’ve had a visit from somewhere and someone new.

But do I stop to think enough about who is reading?

I’ve not got a large enough following that millions or even hundreds of people are reading each post. I hope that if I was, I’d think a bit more about where my audience came from, and that my audience would think about where I came from.

I sometimes wish some people with larger global followings would be a little more aware, not just in order to fill in the gaps when someone doesn’t come from the same culture but to recognize their own gaps.

In a recent conversation with a friend from another country I realized that I knew nothing about his country. It had become an independent nation in my lifetime and  it’s people and his family had a history that I still know little about.

Like most people I see things from the perspective of my own culture and of my own life experience. Sometimes that means I see things that others don’t and some times it means I miss seeing things from other peoples view point and I misinterpret and misunderstand both their words and intentions.

Like most people who read the Bible, I sometimes misread  – I read it from my perspective and miss what the original authors were trying to say to their original audience.

I wasn’t born in Israel, and I wasn’t born at the time of Jesus, or of any of the characters or authors of the Old Testament.

Words originaly written in a different time, culture and language still have tremendous relevance for us. It just means we sometimes need to think about who wrote them and what we might know about their situation and worldview, and that we might also need to think about who is reading now and what perspectives we bring.

Such insight can also help us recognise why different people focus in on different truths in scripture and emphasize different characteristics of God. He is a God of love and mercy but also of justice. Christ came as both servant and king, and is friend, brother, and master. To some the good news is that he can calm storms, cast out demons, and heal the sick, some are accutely aware of their own sins and seek forgiveness, some are marginalised and have been told they are nothing, then Jesus calls them friend.

My last thought on perspectives is simply this. God sees you far more clearly than you see him. He knows your current faults, understands you current pain, but sees your true beauty and invites you daily into his presence that you can become the person he sees.


Thus saith the Lord! (as far as I can tell) March 25, 2018

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Or if you prefer it in Latin:

Isaiah-probablyHæc dicit Dominus
ad me usque poterit indicare

(providing Google translate got it right).

There are people in this world who like to be very certain about many things, and others of us who are a little more cautious. This may be related to culture and personality as well as confidence and experience.

Perhaps the use of “may be” hints that I’m often a hedger. I may have some fixed ideas and opinions but I also know that there are other perspectives and ways of looking at things and that on many issues the clear cut answers aren’t always clear.

This can be annoying to other people who like to see everything as black and white. To them stuff is either right or wrong.

So for example when Paul said he didn’t permit a woman to preach they assume not only that he meant it at face value but also that was a prohibition for all time and when Peter said that sometimes Paul was a bit hard to understand (2Peter 3:16) he meant it too.

Understanding the Bible or any text isn’t always easy. That’s why we often call it “interpreting ” and why theologians or preachers can sometimes say things that are in stark contrast to each other. As Peter says in that verse about Paul sometime “ignorant and unstable people” distort the scriptures but so do fairly educated and stable people (It’s just that we do it unknowingly) . Often I’m willing to believe that people I disagree with are doing their best to prayerfully unpack what the Bible teaches in the light of what they already know. I like to hope they believe the same of me.

That isn’t to say that anything goes. The Bible is not a pick and mix collection of wise sayings that we can use to back up our own opinions.

…at least that’s not how I read it.


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