Raising Teens With Enduring Faith (Guest Post by Alex Chediak)

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Preparing Your Teens for CollegeAs our teens grow up and head out to college, one of our most pressing concerns is about their faith. We’ve heard about the party scene, the atheistic professors, the pressure to fit in and make new friends. Maybe we’ve known a student who has lost the way. It’s only natural to wonder, Will our teens’ faith be strong enough to withstand the tests of college?

God has placed us in the lives of our children to be their primary spiritual influence. The good news is that—believe it or not—our influence is profound and long-lasting. God saves people through their hearing the gospel (see Romans 10:14). The Scriptures are able to make our children “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Raising teens to have an accurate understanding of the biblical message is often what God uses to bring them into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. An August 2013 Focus on the Family study found that among those who came from a home where a vibrant faith was taught and practiced, and who had a very strong Christian faith as children, almost nine out of ten (89 percent) remained practicing Christians into adulthood.

What practical steps can we as parents take to model a vibrant faith to our children?

1. Consider what you model. It’s not a question of whether we’re modeling; it’s what we’re modeling. By the way we spend our time and money, do our teens see us storing up treasures on earth or in heaven? Do they see us approaching work with a godly attitude? Making sacrifices for others? Keeping a clean conscience? Making time to commune with God in His Word and through prayer?

2. Stay in the game. Keep pursuing a deeper relationship with your teens. Pray for them. Invest in them. They’re paying more attention than you think! Be interested in how their day went and in the details of their lives. Be interested in what they’re interested in, for their sake.

3. Welcome questions about the faith. Part of teens’ journey to adulthood is determining their worldview, what they will build their life upon. Some will “kick the tires” to see if Christianity can handle the tough questions. Welcome this process, because our faith—historically rooted, intellectually credible, and experientially satisfying—can withstand as much honest inquiry as any teen can muster. Those who feel they can express their doubts while in high school often go on to experience stronger faith and greater spiritual maturity in college.

Bringing up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Through His Word and by His Spirit, may God equip us for this vital work.

Alex ChediakBIO: Alex Chediak (@chediak) is a professor of engineering and physics at California Baptist University and the author of Preparing Your Teens for College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014) and Thriving at College (Tyndale House Publishers, 2011). Learn more about Alex’s work at his website.

Aspects of this article were adapted from Preparing Your Teens for College by Alex Chediak. © 2014 by Alex Chediak. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Posted by Jonathan

What Twitter is Giving Up for Lent

Are you giving up something for Lent? So are thousands of Twitter users—and Stephen Smith has crunched the data to show us the top 100 things Twitter users are giving up during Lent. Here are the top twenty, followed by the number of tweets mentioning each one this week); as you can see, there are a few joke items in the list, but most are in line with expectations:

  1. chocolate (6,313 tweets)
  2. twitter (5,643)
  3. school (4,638)
  4. alcohol (3,782)
  5. swearing (3,620)
  6. social networking (3,032)
  7. soda (2,840)
  8. sweets (2,432)
  9. fast food (2,238)
  10. lent (1,597)
  11. coffee (1,558)
  12. junk food (1,545)
  13. meat (1,517)
  14. chips (1,442)
  15. homework (1,299)
  16. sex (1,289)
  17. bread (1,263)
  18. facebook (1,162)
  19. you (984)
  20. pizza (888)

Stephen’s been tracking this data for several years; historical data (and a comparison of Lent trends over the years) can be found at OpenBible.info.

Any surprises on that list? Are you giving up something on that list during Lent? Head over to our page on Facebook to discuss!

Posted by Andy

Interview: Bible Scholar Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible

adamHas archaeology confirmed the existence of any of the people mentioned in the Bible? In his article “Archaeology Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible” in the March/April 2014 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), Purdue University scholar Lawrence Mykytiuk identifies 50 figures from the Old Testament that he says have been confirmed archaeologically. An accompanying chart lists Israelite kings, Mesopotamian monarchs, and lesser-known figures who are both mentioned in the Bible and present in the archaeological data.

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Mykytiuk about his findings:

Bible Gateway: What is your experience in biblical archaeology?
Dr. Mykytiuk: I enjoy learning about it, but I am not an archaeologist. I am a scorekeeper. I analyze inscriptions to see if they refer to biblical persons and “keep score” when strong identifications can be made and when there are uncertain but reasonable “candidates.”

Bible Gateway: Why did you set out to associate biblical people with secular history?
Dr. Mykytiuk: At first I was simply fascinated—charmed—by one Hebrew bulla (a lump of clay normally used to seal official documents). The inscription across the face of the bulla, impressed by a stone seal or signet ring, named a real king who seemed to be the same real person as one named in the Bible. As I ran across similar inscriptions, it became fun to try to figure out whether the person in the inscription was the one in the Bible.

I had that experience in 1992, when a few scholars began to attract attention by rejecting the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as a source of historical facts, except in very few instances. I felt that they were rejecting perfectly good historical data in ancient writings just because those scrolls happened to be gathered, later on, by other people, into the collection known as the Hebrew Bible. I countered that strongly prejudiced approach by using a constructive approach to see if strong identifications of biblical people—not eagerly made, flimsy or speculative matches—could be made in inscriptions of their era.

Bible Gateway: How did you go about your investigation?
Dr. Mykytiuk: First I needed to figure out what things made for a strong identification of a biblical person in an inscription from Bible times. By learning from my own mistakes and those of others, I gradually arrived at a set of criteria that could be met only by a strong identification. Then I used anthologies of inscriptions published from 1828 onward to see whether I could find anyone from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) mentioned in them. When I found a candidate, I “ran the available data through the criteria.”

Bible Gateway: What evidence did you gather to determine your conclusions?
Dr. Mykytiuk: At first I treated inscriptions from 1200 to 539 BC only in Hebrew, Aramaic, Moabite, etc., but not in Egyptian and not in Assyrian or Babylonian Akkadian. I gleaned 94 inscriptions that named 84 persons who seemed potentially to be named in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. (Some persons were mentioned in more than one inscription.) Of these 84 persons, 16 had strong identifications. I withheld judgment on another 4 until this month’s article in BAR, which lists them as strong identifications. Other researchers identified biblical persons in Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian inscriptions down to about 400 BC. If these met the criteria, I included them.

Bible Gateway: Summarize the essence of your findings.
Dr. Mykytiuk: Between King David (ca. 1000 BCE) and Darius II of Persia (ca. 400 BCE), I found 50 strong identifications of people mentioned in the Bible in inscriptions of their times. (Actually, at least 52 persons are eventually to be included.) Another 7 are not certain but quite reasonable.

Bible Gateway: What was the most startling finding in your investigation?
Dr. Mykytiuk: To my knowledge, no one in biblical or classical studies ever formulated standard procedures or widely applicable criteria for establishing potential identifications of ancient figures in ancient inscriptions, until a 1987 essay in modern Hebrew by Nahman Avigad (Eretz-Israel 19 (1987): 235–237).

Bible Gateway: Why is confirming the reality of these biblical figures important?
Dr. Mykytiuk: Because we need to love truth. Simple respect for honest history, fairly presented—as opposed to propaganda, lies, rumors, prejudiced portrayals, and lazily accepted impressions that go unchallenged—is a strong motivation to marshal the evidence for real persons of the past.

Also, many Jews, Christians, and Muslims consider the historical reality of biblical figures an important or even essential aspect of their faith. In view of this subjective wish for persons in the Bible to be historical, if any investigation is to be scholarly, it is crucial to formulate and use objective standards of historicity. I have tried to do that.

Bio: Lawrence Mykytiuk is associate professor of library science and history librarian at Purdue University. He holds a PhD in Hebrew and Semitic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Most of his published dissertation, Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 BCE (Society of Biblical Literature, 2004), is available via Google Books. A later article, Corrections and Updates to his book, is free online (start at p. 126). This book and article establish the basis for identifying people mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in inscriptions of their times. Lawrence enjoys hiking, music, Web surfing, and sitting quietly at home with his wife and their cats. His students report that they enjoy his humor.

Posted by Jonathan

Are You Ready for Lent?

ashwednesdayTomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent! In many Christian traditions, Ash Wednesday is a day of reflection and repentance. You might even see a few people tomorrow with the symbol of the cross drawn on their foreheads in ash—a common practice in Ash Wednesday worship and prayer services. (Your church might be hosting just such a service!)

While Lent is widely observed throughout the global Christian church, it isn’t as well-known in evangelical circles as it is in Lutheran, Catholic, and other denominations. To help you think through Lent—and decide whether or not to observe it in some way—here are some short articles we’ve posted over the years talking about Lent and Lent observance.

Before we begin, let me remind you that several of our Lent devotionals begin tomorrow—visit our Lent devotions page to sign up. (It’s not the end of the world if you sign up after Lent begins, but if you sign up now, you won’t miss any devotionals.)

  • First, if you aren’t familiar with the church calendar (in which Lent features prominently), here’s a quick primer on the church calendar.
  • What does it mean to observe Lent? Is it required by the Bible? If not, what’s the purpose of observing it? We tackle these questions and more in “How Can You Observe Lent?”
  • Every year during Lent, people write us to ask if observing Lent and Easter is appropriate—after all, aren’t they based on ancient pagan holidays? Pastor Mel Lawrenz answers this in “Is Easter Based on a Pagan Holiday?”

Lastly, for anyone who’s still debating whether or not to observe Lent this year, let me leave you with a video message from author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd, who explains what you can gain during Lent:

We’ll be back later this week with more Lent thoughts and resources. In the meantime, whether you plan to observe Lent this year or not, we encourage you to devote some time this week to prayerful reflection and prayer as we look ahead to the miracle of Easter.

Posted by Andy

Google Map Gallery Includes Lands of the Bible

Google has just announced the launching of Google Maps Gallery, a new way for organizations to share and publish their maps online via Google Maps Engine.

One interesting map that caught our eye is Lands of the Bible 1967 Map (© National Geographic Society), which is transparently overlayed on top of a map of the current Middle East.

This unique map was created in 1967 for the National Geographic Magazine and has been reprinted in its original format. Filled with reference information, the map includes insets of: The Holy Land, Walled city of Jerusalem, Traditional route of the Exodus, St. Paul’s four great journeys, and The Crusades.

Click to enlarge map to full screen.

When you zoom in on the map, you’ll notice such annotations as

  • “Beer Sheva: Southern limit of Old Testament Palestine (Judges 20:1). Isaac pitched his tent here and his servants dug a well (Genesis 26:23-25). A modern industrial center today.”
  • “Caesarea: Built by Herod. Headquarters of Pontius Pilate, who visited Jerusalem during major festivals to quell disorders.”
  • “Antioch: Scene of St. Paul’s first ministry, the third largest city of the Roman Empire, outranked only by Rome and Alexandria. Term ‘Christian’ first used here.”

You can also type specific locations into the map for direct searches. Try it and enjoy.

Posted by Jonathan

Just in Time for Lent: Our Easter Devotions Are Here

240px-RabulaGospelsCrucifixionLent is coming! The season of Lent—the weeks leading up to Easter Sunday—begins next week on Ash Wednesday, March 5.

Christians around the world, from many different theological traditions, observe Lent in a variety of ways. Some commit to daily Scripture meditation, devotional reading, or regular prayer. One common practice during Lent is to “give up” something you take for granted as an act of self-denial—and as a way to center our priorities around Jesus Christ.

Bible Gateway has a Lent tradition of its own: our Lent and Easter devotionals! However you choose to observe Lent this year, these email devotionals will help you stay focused on Jesus during the long journey to Easter:

  • Lent Devotions: An eclectic mix of Scripture readings, prayers, and reflections to help you focus your heart on Jesus Christ during the Easter season.
  • The Story of Jesus: Read through the entire life of Jesus Christ, beginning with his birth and culminating in his death and glorious resurrection.
  • Knowing Him: Contemplating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is one of the most important spiritual growth experiences you can have. In this short daily devotional, pastor Mel Lawrenz zooms in on the meaning of salvation in Jesus. (Begins on Sunday, March 30.)
  • Readings for Lent and Easter from The Voice: Daily Bible readings to help ground you in Scripture throughout Lent, drawn from The Voice Bible translation.

Sign up for these devotionals here. Most begin on Ash Wednesday, March 5.

Each of these devotionals takes a slightly different reflective approach to the Lent experience. Individually or collectively, they’ll give you something to think, pray, and reflect about as Easter approaches! And as Easter approaches, we’ll have a few additions to that list of Easter devotions, so keep an eye here on the blog.

Posted by Andy

How To Listen to the Bible on Bible Gateway

There’s something special about hearing the Bible read aloud. Every Sunday, millions of Christians around the world listen to Scripture read out loud from a church pulpit. Many people read the Bible aloud at the dinner table or recite their daily devotional readings.

Did you know you can listen to the Bible at Bible Gateway?

Bible Gateway has a large library of audio Bibles, and while they’re extremely popular, we like to mention them here periodically for those of you who might be unaware that you can listen to the Bible for free at Bible Gateway. If you didn’t know you could listen to audio Bibles online, here’s how.

There are several ways to listen to a Bible passage. One way is to download our mobile app for iOS/Android, which has an audio Bible feature. But we’ll cover listening to audio Bibles in the app in a future post; today, we’ll look at the ways you can listen to audio Bibles on the Bible Gateway website using your web browser.

The most direct way to listen to an audio Bible is to click on Audio Bibles on the lefthand side of any page on Bible Gateway. Look for it about halfway down the navigation menu:

This will take you to the Audio Bible page. Here, use the drop-down menus to choose the specific Bible, reader, and Bible chapter you want to hear:

audio-bible-selector

Note that you can only choose a chapter to listen to; you can’t specify a specific verse.

Once you’ve made your selection, press Play audio and a small popup window will appear with an audio player in it queued to the Bible passage you chose. The arrow buttons skip to the next or previous chapter, and you can use the drop-down menus to switch to a different audio Bible or Scripture passage:

bg-audio-player

If continuous play is selected, the audio will continue to the next chapter once it’s read through the one you chose, and will keep reading until you pause it or close the audio player window. If it’s unchecked, the audio will stop at the end of your chosen chapter.

That’s one way to get started listening to the Bible. The second way is to look up a specific Bible passage using the search box on the homepage. To see how this works, go to a specific Bible passage—for example, Acts 1.

Once you’re at the passage page, look for an audio button above the passage. It looks like this:

Clicking on this button pulls up the audio player popup window described above, queued to the Bible chapter you’re viewing. (Note that audio isn’t available for all Bible versions; if there is no audio version of the Bible you’re reading, the audio button will not appear.) As mentioned above, because our audio Bibles are broken down into chapters, the audio will start at the beginning of the chapter you’re reading; it won’t start at a specific verse within the chapter.

We hope this makes it easy for you to listen to the Bible on Bible Gateway!

Posted by Andy

A Lamp On A Stand (Guest Post by Annie Downs)

This is the third post in a series; in part 2, Annie discussed what it means to be a “city on a hill.”

I have too many lamps in my house. I love the soft warm light that lamps put off in each room. So instead of having overhead lights turned on, I prefer a few lamps in the living room, a couple in the bedroom, even one in the bathroom (which is when I realized I had too many lamps—when I could spare one from a main room for the bathroom). I feel like lamps make a home feel welcoming and open, inviting and friendly.

We’ve been talking about these verses about light for the last few weeks. I wonder if Jesus thought of lamps the same way we do now, and how they affect the feel of a home.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV).

You are a light to the world. You are a city on a hill. And you are a lamp.

To be a lamp on a stand, we have to speak love to the people in our homes. In my book Speak Love, I write about how important it is to treat your family well with the words that you use.

Jesus gives us two options for our lamp that shines to everyone in the house—it can be on a stand or under a bowl. I grew up with two younger sisters and we argued often, so I know just what it feels like to have my lamp snuffed out, and I equally know what it is to shove my own light under a bowl and say the mean things.

While the people in your home may be the easiest victims for your short temper or frustrated feelings, they are also the ones that can be the most affected by speaking kindness and love into their minds and hearts.

I want to use my words to be a lamp on a stand for my family. I know how a lamp makes me feel about the place I live—is it presumptuous to wonder if a family member full of encouraging and loving words could make a home feel the same way a beautiful lamp does on a dark night?

It doesn’t take a massive amount of work—a sympathetic word where frustration is expected, an encouraging note left in a lunchbox, reminding your parents that you are grateful for them. Choosing to speak love to the people in your house will make a bigger impact than you can imagine, just like the change in a living room when a lamp is turned on in the middle of the night. You are that lamp on a stand.

Annie Downs is an author who loves helping young people—especially teen girls and young women—overcome the challenges that life puts in the way of their spiritual development. Her most recent book is Speak Love. Follow Annie at her blog, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted by Andy

What Are People Around the World Searching For in the Bible?

In a previous post, we reported that visitors to BibleGateway.com come from 92% of the world: 242 countries or territories out of a possible 263, including Vatican City, Israel, Palestine, China, Vietnam, Cuba, and North Korea. These visitors spent more than 76 million hours last year searching, reading, studying, comparing, and sharing the Bible in their own languages.

But what, exactly, were they looking for in the Bible? And do Bible readers in different parts of the world gravitate toward different sections of the Bible?

As a helpful visual resource, the strategic mission research and mapping agency GMI used data supplied by Bible Gateway to create the following Missiographic (click image to enlarge):

Missiographic: What Are People Searching For?

(Click for a PDF version.)

What conclusions can we draw from this? As the chart shows, people in the ten most populous countries in the world are reading Psalms, Genesis, the Gospels, and 1 Corinthians 13. Here’s a breakdown, taken from the Missiographic, of the most popular Bible passages in the ten most populous countries:

China 

  1. Matthew 1
  2. John 1
  3. Psalm 23
  4. 1 Corinthians 13
  5. Genesis 2
India

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Genesis 1
  3. John 3:16
  4. Psalm 1
  5. Proverbs 1
USA

  1. Psalm 23
  2. 1 Corinthians 13
  3. Genesis 1
  4. John 3:16
  5. Jeremiah 29:11
Indonesia

  1. Genesis 1
  2. John 3:16
  3. 1 Corinthians 13
  4. Ecclesiastes 3
  5. Psalm 1
Brazil

  1. Genesis 1
  2. Psalm 23
  3. 1 Corinthians 13
  4. John 3:16
  5. John 1
Pakistan

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Psalm 91
  3. Genesis 1
  4. Proverbs 1
  5. Psalm 89
Bangladesh

  1. Psalm 91
  2. Psalm 89
  3. Genesis 1
  4. Psalm 23
  5. 1 Corinthians 13
Nigeria

  1. Psalm 23
  2. Psalm 51
  3. Psalm 121
  4. Genesis 1
  5. Psalm 27
Russia

  1. 1 Corinthians 13
  2. Matthew 1
  3. Psalm 23
  4. John 1
  5. Matthew 5
Japan

  1. Genesis 1
  2. Psalm 23
  3. John 1
  4. Psalm 91
  5. 1 Corinthians 13

Posted by Jonathan

Sweeter Than Honey

By Mel Lawrenz of The Brook Network, author of Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership.

God longs for us to receive his word as contained in the Scriptures. To demonstrate this God had a prophet eat a scroll that tasted as sweet as honey in his mouth (Ezek. 3:3). Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.”

How, then, do we make Scripture reading and study rich disciplines in our lives? Here are some time-tested fundamental guidelines.

1. Just read it. Don’t wait until you have a master plan for consuming the whole of Scripture. Don’t wait until things are just right or until you have a large block of time to read Scripture. Avoidance keeps us from God’s voice, and simple procrastination does the same. When my grandfather was teaching me how to fish and watched me fiddling with my tackle, playing with bobbers and hooks and sinkers (with which I was utterly fascinated), he told me, “You won’t catch any fish unless your line is in the water. Just fish!” And I found out that he was right. I never once caught a fish when my line was out of the water. It is guaranteed. I’ve thought of that lesson many times when I suspect I’ve been keen on talking about the theory of spiritual life instead of just doing it.

Just read it. If you have a Bible reading plan, stick with it. If you don’t, first thing in the morning or before you go to bed, read just one chapter or even a few verses. Commit to opening your Bible at least once every day. If you want to grow a garden, you’ve got to get the seed in the ground.

Just read it.

2. Join your reading with praying. Again, if you are only beginning this discipline, don’t worry about the form and the quantity. Pray “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Ps. 119:18). And after you’ve read, take a few minutes to quietly reflect on the thoughts prompted by the passage. Tell God what you’ve learned, what you want to thank him for, and ask for further guidance.

3. Read and trust. When we read Scripture, seeds are being planted. We may not see immediately how the story of Solomon, Paul’s letter to Titus, or the book of Revelation will benefit us today. You may read something today that you do not understand at all. But as surely as seeds that are planted in rich, loamy soil with plenty of moisture will sprout, grow, and flourish, so will faithful daily readings of Scripture. Jesus taught about the Word of God in terms of seed that sometimes falls on the path (deaf ears), sometimes falls on rocky, shallow soil (superficial interest), and sometimes falls on soil choked with weeds (worldly competition). But when the seed falls into the heart of someone who is really listening and who trusts that God has spoken out of his love, then a living crop of truth will come to be. It just takes time and trust and a discipline that gets the seed planted in the first place.

Posted by Mel Lawrenz