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Letters to the Church: Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy

Did you know that most of the books that comprise the New Testament are actually letters? These letters (also known as “epistles”) contain both general Christian teaching and specific instructions for the congregation to which they were addressed. As part of our Letters to the Church series, we’re taking a brief look at each epistle in the New Testament. This week, we look at the second of Paul’s “pastoral letters,” written again to his fellow missionary Timothy.

[See commentaries on 2 Timothy in the Bible Gateway Store]

[See other Blog posts in the Letters to the Church series]

Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy

Start reading it here: 2 Timothy 1

When was it written? In the late 60s A.D., probably not long before Paul’s death. Paul was imprisoned in Rome at the time when he wrote this; it’s believed to have been his last known letter.

To whom was it written? Paul’s longtime friend and associate Timothy, who had worked alongside Paul in evangelism and ministry for many years. Timothy was in the city of Ephesus, where he had been sent by Paul several years earlier.

Why was it written? Aware that he didn’t have much longer to live, Paul wrote to Timothy as a mentor dispensing final words of advice to his protégé. In addition to encouraging Timothy in his ministry, Paul was concerned that false teachings were still threatening the young but quickly growing Christian church.

What does it say? 2 Timothy opens with moving words of encouragement to the young missionary Timothy. Paul dispenses a string of advice, some of it quite specific (even naming individuals in the church who needed to be confronted for sinful behavior). Paul expected that a time of renewed persecution was about to descend on the church, and there’s an urgency in his exhortations to Timothy to stand strong in the faith.

Paul mentions that most of his friends had abandoned him in prison; combined with the specter of Paul’s impending execution, that casts a shadow of sadness over this letter. Nonetheless, Paul doesn’t write out of a sense of gloom or despair; he is reaching the end of a long life lived in service to Jesus Christ, and Paul does not regret his suffering on account of his Savior. His concern as the end nears is not for himself, but for a Christian church that, while enthusiastic and growing, is still vulnerable to false preachers and heresies.

Noteworthy passages:

  • 2 Timothy 1:7-8: What kind of spirit does God give to His children?
  • 2 Timothy 3:1-5: Paul’s sobering description of the trials the Christian church must face before Christ’s return.
  • 2 Timothy 4:6-8: A moving account of Paul’s mindset as he nears the end of his life.

What can we learn from 2 Timothy? This letter paints a moving picture of a Christian nearing the end of both his ministry and his life. Any Christian would want to emulate Paul’s attitude: no self-pity, no bitterness, but only a strong desire to use what time remains to share as much insight as possible. That selfless attitude is one that Christians of all ages and at any stage of life can adopt.

Consider these questions as you read 2 Timothy today:

  • Do you have a Christian mentor—an older Christian who has helped shape your faith? Could you be a mentor to somebody else?
  • Why do you think the early church, even under the leadership of respected ministers like Paul and Timothy, had so much trouble keeping false teachers and ideas out of their communities?
  • If you were to write a letter of “final advice” to your children or somebody else, what would it say?
  • Imagine that you’ve received this letter from Paul. What might you write back to him in response?

Bible News Roundup – Week of May 1, 2016

[Return daily during the coming week for updates]

Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store
BibleGatewayStore.com

The Spark of Life: Science and the Bible Meet Again
FOX News
Amazing Truths: How Science and the Bible Agree by Michael Guillen

Entire Bible Being Read Aloud from US Capitol
ABC 13 News

Bible Reading Marathon Underway; Concludes with National Day of Prayer
Harrison Daily Times

Photos: Greater Tuscaloosa Bible Reading Marathon Begins
The Tuscaloosa News

USA National Day of Prayer is May 5
National Day of Prayer

Bentonville, Arkansas School Board to Consider High School Elective Bible Class
ArkansasOnline

The Risks Of Translating The Bible
BBC World Servicer
Bible Translation Organizations

‘Day for the Unreached’ to Focus on Billions Who Have Never Heard the Gospel
Outreach Magazine

“Jesus in Quran and Bible” Exhibition in Greece
ABNA

Video: Biblical Wildlife Roam in Israel’s South
Wildlife Nature Reserve in the Israeli Desert
Read Genesis 1:25 on Bible Gateway

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

How Bible Gateway Can Enhance Your Writing

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How do you use Bible Gateway? Most people use Bible Gateway for its most obvious function: to read and engage with the Bible as part of your spiritual walk. That’s gratifying to see, because making Bible Gateway relevant and helpful to your personal, everyday Christian experience is our primary goal.

But that’s certainly not all that Bible Gateway can do. One of the ways that people have put Bible Gateway to use for them is as an aid to their writing. Over the years, we’ve heard from all manner of published authors—from best-selling novelists to academic writers to Bible study authors to bloggers—about how they’ve used Bible Gateway to make their writing easier.

We recently asked several dozen writers to tell us how they use Bible Gateway. Here are their tips for using Bible Gateway to help your writing.

1. Use the parallel Bible feature to compare how different Bibles translate the same passage.

“I love the split screen options when I am studying Scripture. I typically have the NIV translation in the left window and then scroll through other translations in the right window. Insights and clarifications emerge as I read multiple translations.” — Sharon Hoover

One of the simplest and most practical tools on Bible Gateway for writers is the parallel Bible view, which allows you to easily see how different Bibles translate the same verse or passage. It’s simple to use—once you’ve looked up a Bible verse (say, 1 Corinthians 13), just look for and press the parallelbutton button in the top left to open a second Bible alongside your original choice:

Click to add a parallel Bible version on Bible Gateway

You can press that button repeatedly to add up to five Bibles side-by-side:

Click to add a fourth parallel Bible version on Bible Gateway

For a complete step-by-step tutorial for viewing multiple Bibles side-by-side, see this blog post.

That’s one way to compare different Bible translations. But there’s another less-well-known option that’s perfect if you want to quickly compare how every English Bible translates a specific verse. This trick only works when you’re looking at a single verse, but if you’ve looked up a verse (say, John 3:16), look below the verse for the …in all translations link:

John316

This is useful for a number of different reasons. First, seeing how different translators render the same material is a great way to both get at the core meaning of a Bible passage, and to notice fresh nuances that different translations bring out. Second, if you’re looking for just the right translation of a verse to cite or quote in your writing, it’s an easy way to compare different options and determine which would be most appropriate for your audience. For example, writer Anna Schaeffer, who writes material for teens, compares verses in different Bibles to find the translation that’s most accessible for her young audience.

2. Master the keyword search to quickly find out how and where topics are discussed in the Bible.

I appreciate the highly customizable keyword search feature. — Thomas Horrocks

You probably know how to use our search box to quickly look up a Bible verse or do a search for a particular keyword. But that’s just scratching the surface of the ways you can use Bible Gateway’s search engine to comb the Bible for exactly what you’re looking for.

Searching for simple keywords is useful for most everyday Bible reading purposes. But when dealing with very commonly-used keywords—for example, the word “love”, which appears many hundreds of times in Scripture—you’ll almost certainly want to narrow the results down to make them more useful for your research. (If you’re writing a Bible study about how that word is used in the epistles, you don’t want your search results clogged up with hundreds of verses from other parts of the Bible, for example.) To gain more control over your searches, you’ll want to visit the Keyword Search Page.

The Keyword Search Page lets you very precisely define how you want to search the Bible. In addition to narrowing your search down to specific books or sections of the Bible, you can use this tool to search more than one Bible translation at a time.

There’s so much you can do here that we’ve written up an in-depth blog post specifically about how to get the most out of the Keyword Search Page. Rather than repeat all of it here, we’ll direct you to this blog post explaining the ins and outs of the Keyword Search Page.

3. Check commentaries to explore the meaning and context of a passage.

“I take frequent advantage of the ‘STUDY THIS’ feature which puts great tools at my fingertips for free (ie. study Bibles, commentaries (Matthew Henry is my fav!), dictionaries and encyclopedias. Bible Gateway provides a variety of reliable biblical information with just a few clicks. It’s super easy to use – no learning curve nescessary.” — Jennifer Anderson

“I have shelved my 20 pound Strong’s Concordance and fully rely on Bible Gateway.” — Susan Shipe

Writing about Scripture, or incorporating it well into your writing project, requires more than just finding the right Scripture passages to use. It means understanding them, so that you can help your audience understand them too. Some of you, particularly pastors or academics, might have a huge library of print commentaries, dictionaries, and other study references to help you dig past the surface of the Bible text. But did you know that much of that reference material is freely available at Bible Gateway, right alongside Scripture? If you don’t have a Bible study library—or if you’re getting tired of hauling those hefty tomes out every time you want to see what Bible scholars have to say about a verse—you’ll want to make use of the Study This feature.

Accessing reference material on Bible Gateway is simple. To start with, just look up any Bible passage—say, Genesis 1. See the blue Study This button above and to the right of the Bible passage? If it isn’t already open, click or tap this button:

studythisbutton

Opening the Study This drawer (or bookshelf, if you prefer to think of it that way) shows all of the Bible references available to you. It looks like this:

sharethispanelopen

This panel lists the types of reference materials available to you which have content related to the Bible text you’re reading. The number to the right of each resource type shows you how many individual reference works contain relevant content. When you click on a resource type, you’ll see that some resources are free, and others require a paid Bible Gateway Plus membership. There’s plenty of free material to get you started, but a Bible Gatewaply Plus membership greatly expands your library to include not just classic Bible references, but best-selling modern works as well. Click here to learn more about Bible Gateway Plus.

For a complete step-by-step tutorial showing you how to access Bible commentaries and other reference materials on Bible Gateway, see this tutorial blog post. If this is a Bible Gateway feature you’ve never explored, it’s well worth your time and will help you more confidently write about the meaning and significance of Bible passages.

4. Copy, paste, and print verses directly from Bible Gateway.

Bible Gateway allows me to copy and paste Scripture into blog posts and link back to the exact Scripture…. It helps me not misquote Scripture. — Nikole Hahn

This is a very practical writing matter: are you using Bible Gateway to copy and paste Scripture into your manuscript, blog post, or other writing project? It might seem obvious, but copying and pasting Scripture straight from the Bible text, rather than re-typing it yourself, is a good way to keep typos or other mistakes from creeping into your Scripture quotes.

If you’re copying and pasting Bible verses from Bible Gateway, you’ll benefit from taking a moment to understand what the text display options let you do. The display options let you toggle off and on text elements like verse numbers, headings, and footnotes:

pageoptions

If you’re pasting lots of Bible text into a document but find yourself repeatedly going in to tediously delete things like verse numbers, you can save time by toggling those elements off using the display options. Here’s a guide to using the display options.

Don’t forget that you can easily create a printer-friendly version of a Bible passage, too—a printable version of the passage that strips out the Bible Gateway website images and other elements you don’t want to print out. You’ll find the Printer friendly button right next to the display options button above the Scripture text; here’s a quick guide to finding it.

5. Use our Bible annotation features to take notes and record insights as you read.

When researching and planning your writing project, you probably take a lot of notes. How do you take and store those notes? Maybe you use a good ol’ physical notebook, a computer file, or an organizational tool like EverNote. But did you know you can highlight and take notes on Bible passages right within Bible Gateway?

You’ll need a free Bible Gateway account to take advantage of this feature, but it’s well worth it if you want an organized way to take notes and record insights on specific Bible passages. This video explains how to do it:

Your notes, highlights, and favorites are stored online and can be easily accessed (as well as edited or deleted) at any time.

Make Bible Gateway Your Own

We’ve just covered an awful lot of information—and we hope that you’ve taken note of at least one or two new things you can do with Bible Gateway to make your writing a bit easier. Your writing is unique—so there will be some Bible Gateway features you find indispensable that other writers may not need to use at all. But we hope that you’ll get to know Bible Gateway well enough to make it your own—to identify the ways it can help you, and to get the most out of those features to make your writing easier and as faithful to God’s Word as possible. Enjoy exploring these features, and if you’ve found another way to use Bible Gateway in your writing, don’t hesitate to share it with us!

Remembering Charles Welty and His Work on the International Standard Version

CRW 20110921 webWe were saddened this week to learn of the death of Charles Welty, who helped to develop the International Standard Version (ISV) of the Bible. His passion for the Bible in general and for the ISV in particular always shone through brightly in all his interactions with Bible Gateway, and we salute his contributions to the great work of Bible translation.

The ISV is a fascinating English Bible translation. It was born as a new response to the age-old question of Bible translation: when translating Scripture, should you translate the original texts as literally as possible (the formal equivalence translation philosophy), or should you focus instead on conveying meaning without worrying about replicating the original’s exact wording (the functional equivalence philosophy)? All translated Bibles sit at different points on the wide spectrum between these two approaches, and most employ both approaches but emphasize one over the other to some degree. The ISV’s translators aimed to avoid the extremes of both tendencies, balancing both approaches in a Bible that is both accurate and readable—they describe the ISV as a “moderately literal” Bible that works equally well for serious study, public reading, and personal devotions.

If you haven’t read the ISV, you’ll find its translation style intriguing and unique. Here’s how it presents the famous passage John 3:16:

For this is how God loved the world: He gave his uniquely existing Son so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life. — John 3:16

Click to read the ISV Bible on Bible GatewayIf you want to compare this to other approaches, click here to see the ISV’s translation side-by-side with several other English Bibles.

Taking a few minutes this week to try the ISV Bible is a good way to honor the work of Welty and the many others who produced this translation. And if you want more information about the ISV’s approach, and about the work that Welty was a part of, the ISV website (@isvbible) or the Davidson Press (publisher of the ISV) website are good places to start.

The God Who Heals: An Interview with Mary J. Nelson

Mary J. NelsonHave you stopped believing in the healing power of God? Do you read in the Bible about the healing miracles of Jesus and wonder if those stories are relevant today? What does it mean that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever?

Bible Gateway interviewed Mary J. Nelson (@maryjnelson1) about her book, Jehovah-Rapha: The God Who Heals (Shiloh Run Press, 2016).

What is the meaning of your book’s title?

Click to buy your copy of Jehovah-Rapha in the Bible Gateway Store

Mary J. Nelson: In Bible times, names were not only used for identification but to reveal someone’s purpose, nature, and authority. Jehovah is the Hebrew name for “I AM,” the unchanging, eternal God as revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14. By adding a second part to his name as he often did throughout Scripture, God revealed additional facts about his character and his care and concern for his children. In Exodus 15:26, he called himself Jehovah-Rapha in Hebrew meaning, “I am the God who heals you.” In naming the book, Jehovah-Rapha: The God Who Heals, I wanted to capture the heart of a loving God whose nature is to heal and restore as revealed through the biblical and modern day stories in the book. In essence, he is saying, healing isn’t just something I do. Healing is who I am!

How do you intend your book to be used by readers?

Mary J. Nelson: For readers seeking healing and restoration, this book offers 72 biblical and modern healing meditations and stories that will guide them on a journey of prayer and devotion, and lead them to Jehovah-Rapha, the ultimate healer. On their journey toward wellness, my hope is to correct any misunderstandings they may have about the nature and character of God. I want them to know that he is a good and faithful Father who loves them and wants the best for them, not a cruel and vindictive Father who makes people sick (John 10:10). As readers engage in each biblical teaching, each true story, and each guided prayer for healing, they’ll draw closer to the heart of Jesus and discover he’s all they will ever need.

You write that God always heals those who seek him? Always? Please explain.

Mary J. Nelson: God can heal by physicians, surgeons, climate, renewed mindsets, common sense, a direct touch of the Holy Spirit, and more. Sometimes he heals instantly, sometimes gradually, and always eternally. While His methods and timing are not always predictable, he is the one who heals all our diseases (Exodus 15:26; Psalm 103:3).

He provides physicians to prescribe medications to destroy mutated cells, kill harmful organisms, and regulate body systems. He uses surgeons to remove unwanted tissues and repair defective organs. He provides sunny dry weather to bring health to the bones of the stiff and crippled. He uses counselors and ministers of inner healing to help us heal from wrong mindsets and the wounds of our past that can impact our physical health. Through forgiveness and releasing bitterness, God can rewire old toxic thought processes, causing the body, soul, and spirit to be healed and restored.

He also gives us common sense and a sound mind to make good choices. God has established natural laws for health and wellness. Our health can improve greatly when we avoid harmful addictive behaviors and take care of our bodies. Sometimes he bypasses all of his natural methods and heals instantly through a direct touch from the Holy Spirit. Being healed miraculously is not “more spiritual” than being healed medically. God is sovereign over all healing, whether supernatural or natural, and the coming of his kingdom made healing in the most impossible situations possible today (Matthew 19:26).

For followers of Jesus, eternal life is always the final cure in a world where physical death is a fact. Through his resurrection, we have the promise of immortality where there is no more death or sorrow or crying or pain and evil is gone forever (Revelation 21:4).

Briefly share one or two of the compelling stories in your book.

Mary J. Nelson: Ryan was a senior in college when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He went through grueling chemotherapy treatment and received a good prognosis. He was just getting his life back in order when he relapsed. Defeated and hopeless, he gave up. He would not face more treatment. And then some people of faith gathered around him to pray. God lifted him out of the pit and he could hope again. A bone marrow transplant was an answer to prayer and his brother was a perfect match. Once again, he was ready to get on with his life, when God had a different plan. Ryan felt the sacred call to ministry, attended seminary, and he is now a lead pastor. God took what the enemy had intended for evil and turned it into something good for his glory (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

Zach was 7-months old when he was diagnosed with a rare from of lung cancer. His parents sought help from Pray for the Cure, our cancer healing and discipleship ministry. After the initial surgery, doctors wanted to watch and wait. The prayer team walked closely with the family, praying with them and encouraging them, as they tried to live as normally as possible from check up to check up. Finally, when Zach turned 4, doctors thought it was time to remove the tumor. Covered in prayer, his parents had just settled in for a long wait when the puzzled surgeon burst into the waiting room. When he opened up Zach, all he found was pink healthy lung tissue.

What do you say to someone who does not receive physical healing no matter how much she prays?

Mary J. Nelson: In my ministry to the sick, I pray in faith and expect God to heal (James 5:14-15). Then, I leave the rest up to him. When healing doesn’t come in the way we had hoped, I don’t pretend to have an answer. I don’t tell them they just need more faith, believe more, or read their Bible more. I listen, love, and don’t judge. It makes a huge difference when we pray, regardless of the outcome. People connect with Jesus often for first time in their life, they may get physically healed, they feel his peace, and they always feel loved.

I encourage everyone who’s waiting on God for healing to pray persistently (Matthew 7:7), surround themselves with praying friends, worship and praise him often, find comfort in Scripture, find reasons to be grateful, bless others, and forgive. I always encourage them not to base their beliefs on experience.

Jesus is standard for all truth. God is who he is, regardless of our perspective. My heart is to help them navigate this tension so what they see and experience doesn’t shake their faith in God and his truth (Hebrews 11:1). I want them to know God, the one who heals; to chase after the healer, rather than the healing.

What do you say to someone who doubts God’s healing power?

Mary J. Nelson: When someone doubts God’s healing power, I’m reminded of the blind man who Jesus healed on the Sabbath. After several attempts by the religious leaders to discredit his story, he simply said, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:15).

All I can do if someone doubts is share my own story of how I experienced his healing power and how I’ve personally witnessed him heal others through some of the stories I’ve shared in this book. I’ve seen him miraculously heal a woman with Stage 4 cancer after she gave up years of hate and bitterness. I’ve witnessed blind eyes and ears open on prayer lines in India. I’ve walked hundreds of people through cancer treatment and watched him work through doctors and medicine to heal and restore their lives. I’ve been there when people received their eternal healing, the greatest miracle of all, and watched entire families find Jesus through the journey of their loved one.

What role does the Bible play in helping a person see God’s healing nature?

Mary J. Nelson: We can know God’s healing nature, because Jesus said if you have seen me, you have seen the Father (John 14:9). He is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). When he walked on this earth, he had deep compassion for the sick and the lost (Matthew 9:36; Luke 5:12-13). He both proclaimed and demonstrated the kingdom of God by healing and delivering people (Mark 1:15; Acts 10:37-38). He healed everyone who came to him, and his healings made up 25 percent of the Gospels (Matthew 4:23).

Then, as part of his disciples’ preparation, he gave them the power and authority to do the same in his name. He sent the 12 (Luke 9:1-2), he sent the 72 (Luke 10:8-9), and then he sent us all into the world to preach the good news. He said we would be able to place our hands on the sick and heal them (Mark 16:15-18). The ministry of Peter and Paul further demonstrated that healing was a central and vital part of God’s message to the world (Acts 4:29-30; Romans 15:15-18-19). Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:5). He is still Jehovah-Rapha, the God who heals.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Mary J. Nelson: Bible Gateway is absolutely essential to my writing, teaching, and my own personal Bible study. I love the passage lookup, the key word search, and having all the translations instantly available, as well as the commentaries for reference as needed.

Bio: Mary J. Nelson is a full time author, speaker, and pastor of prayer (non-staff) at Hosanna! (@hosannalc), a church of 7000+ members in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Formerly, she was the founder and President of Soterion, a communications company dedicated to the healthcare industry. Mary has a passion for helping people encounter God and his goodness in the midst of trials, and be empowered and set free to live out their destiny. She emerged from a breast cancer diagnosis in 1999 eager to share how God restored and transformed her life. Her deepest desire is to give away what she’s freely received.

Mary is the author of Grace for Each Hour: Through the Breast Cancer Journey (Bethany House 2005), Hope for Tough Times (Revell 2009), and Peace for Each Hour (Comfort Publishing 2013). Her 2016 releases by Barbour Publishing include Jehovah-Rapha: The God Who Heals, the first in a series of names of God books, and Praying for the Cure: A Powerful Prayer Guide for Comfort and Healing from Cancer. Her books inspire those suffering from physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual brokenness by helping them draw close to the heart of God. She founded and leads the Pray for the Cure cancer healing and discipleship ministry at Hosanna! where she also serves as a leader in the Sozo inner healing ministry and healing prayer ministry. She and her husband, Howie, have two adult children and two grandchildren, and have been married for 39 years. They enjoy spending time with family, traveling, motorcycling, reading, and serving together as prayer leaders in their local church.

Studying and Believing

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This lesson is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Study the Bible” series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


Many people today have heard that faith is not possible anymore, that we know better than that now. To say that you absolutely believe in something or someone is to be certain where there is no certainty. It is to risk being a social pariah because to say you absolutely know something will prove antisocial to at least somebody along the way. One thing is certain, these people say, be suspicious of certainty. And they are quite certain about this uncertainty.

But belief is not about us. The true believer doesn’t focus on himself, saying, I believe this. Rather, he or she says, I believe this. The more focus there is on the experience of believing, the greater the risk that we can believe something just for the sake of believing.

praying-man

Belief is not just about knowing; it is about trusting. True faith in God is one of the most intimate personal states a person can find himself or herself in. It is not just about gathering and processing information, otherwise a computer would be a “believer” of sorts. Because there is so much information to process, so many voices to listen to, so many topics that get thrown in our faces everyday, we use up most of our “belief energy” just sorting it all out. In the contemporary world, believing becomes calculating, and drawing a sum. We forget that the most important belief in life is a decision not about what, but about whom. Faith says, this God I can trust.

When we believe, when we trust, we are the most human we ever are, because we are actively connecting with our Creator, anchoring ourselves in his unchangeable nature. Knowing and trusting a friend or a spouse projects us into a world larger than ourselves—and how much more when we know and trust the God who made us and loves us with an irrepressible love.

But whom should we believe? And why? Which God? Which religion? Which doctrine? What about the Bible?

Time and again people responded to Jesus’ words with speechless astonishment. Perhaps as they listened to Jesus’ teaching, they occasionally found themselves turning a corner and stunned by a vista of reality that was bigger and grander than they had imagined. Not everyone who heard Jesus became believers because we all have personal agendas that can hold us in disbelief. But everyone who did hear had to grapple with the power of what he said, and they had to decide what to do with the authoritative voice with which he spoke—an authority that did not come from a booming microphone or spotlights or banners, but from the ring of truth in the words themselves, backed up by every action he performed.

The gospel writers make it clear that one of the outstanding features of Jesus’ ministry was that he freely and naturally exercised this authority. People sensed that they were under the immediate influence of God. Jesus’ words struck at the heart; they were clear, strong, unequivocal, simple, and mysterious. They both wounded and healed, and when they did wound, they offered immediate healing as well. His words still stick in people’s minds and keep moving across the landscape of history like a cyclone. That’s why almost everybody, including even proponents of other religions, show respect for the thunder and lightning of Jesus’ teaching.

But showing respect is one thing; responding is another. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus talked about one man who built a house on a rock foundation and another whose house rested on a bed of unstable sand. The house-on-sand person hears Jesus’ words only, whereas the house-on-rock person hears and practices. Respect plus response. It was right after this tale of two builders that Matthew mentions the people’s astonishment at Jesus’ authority. The people were not saying, “Did you hear what this fellow is trying to assert?” They were swept up in the power of the Word himself. His authority carried them, and it carries us still. It summons us not just to listen, but to act.

House building is a metaphor for life. Christ does not assert authority so that he can push his weight around. God doesn’t impose commands so that he can have a bevy of mindless followers. His is an act of grace. These authoritative words come to us because God knows there is so much we need to learn about life. Ignorance may not be a sin, but it is an extraordinarily dangerous way to live.

When someone asks, “Why should I believe what the Bible teaches?” or, “Why should I believe the specific things taught about personal ethics, and life after death, and God’s providence in history, and angels, and failure?” the answer he or she deserves is that followers of Jesus Christ believe such things (knowing and trusting) because they believe they have heard an authoritative voice on the matters. Christ summons, and the oracles of prophets and the writings of apostles are Holy Scripture—the exhalation of God’s own Spirit.


Mel Lawrenz trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a Ph.D. in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, the latest, How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

Tune In—Hear God: An Interview with Robert Morris

Robert MorrisBelievers in Jesus Christ want to know how they can hear God’s voice. Does God speak? Is it like a radio host broadcasting his voice into the airwaves? Perhaps the question is, are we tuned into the right frequency?

Bible Gateway interviewed Robert Morris (@PsRobertMorris) about his book, Frequency: Tune In. Hear God. (Thomas Nelson, 2016).

What idea are you trying to convey with the title of your book?

Click to buy your copy of Frequency in the Bible Gateway Store

Robert Morris: As believers in Jesus Christ, we naturally want to know how we can hear God’s voice. Does God speak? Is he speaking to me? The good news is yes; he is speaking. And like a radio host broadcasting his voice into the airwaves, God speaks all the time. The question is, “Are you tuned in to the right frequency?”

In my new book, Frequency, I share about how God communicates with us in multiple ways—through the Bible, circumstances, and even a whisper. He demonstrates how we can mature from hearing his voice as sheep to hearing it as his friend to conveying his voice to others. When we begin to understand the general and specific ways God speaks to us, we cultivate a life of deeper connection with our creator.

What do you mean when you write that hearing the voice of God is about “who you are”?

Robert Morris: Hearing God’s voice is a question of identity. Who are you at your core? The answer is this: you are a sheep. Hearing God’s voice is not about something we do. Rather, hearing God is about someone we are. Hearing God is not primarily a behavior. It’s a reflection of our identity. We hear God because of who we are, and because of whose we are.

In John 10, Jesus explains this idea in depth. Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd, and he contrasts the work he does with the work of Satan, a thief and a robber. Satan comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But Jesus the Good Shepherd comes that people might have life, and have it abundantly (vv. 8, 10-11).

The whole idea of us being sheep is that our identities are rooted in a shepherd-to-sheep model. Being a sheep is what a human being was designed to be. Sheep, by nature of being sheep, need a guide. It’s not that we hear God because of some action we take. Rather, we hear God because we were designed to hear God.

What does the Bible say about God’s voice?

Robert Morris: God has always been a speaking God, and God still speaks to us today. Fifteen times in the New Testament alone, Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” In John 8:47, Jesus says, “He who is of God hears God’s word.” And in John 10:27, Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

How do you respond to people when they say they fervently pray but God is silent?

Robert Morris: That’s why I wrote Frequency. I want to help provide a fuller answer to this question, because the explanation as to how to hear God’s voice can’t be given in a quick formula. Rather, it arises intrinsically as part of a genuine and ongoing relationship with God. If you want to get to hear God’s voice, then you must get to know God as a person—and this takes time and intention; much the same as it takes to know any friend.

How is God’s voice distinguishable from our own subconscious thinking?

Robert Morris: Both the old and new testaments clearly describe God as a speaking God. The real task—and wonderful opportunity—is for us to learn to hear His voice.

If you want to get to hear God’s voice, then you must get to know God as a person—and this takes time and intention, much the same as it takes to know any friend. John 10:4 says, “When he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Jesus calls us to a close relationship with him where we instantly recognize his voice. The God of the universe invites us to enjoy a familiar relationship with him, a relationship where we pray to him, and he listens to us, and where he speaks and we listen to him. A true dialogue.

When God speaks to you today, chances are that he won’t speak to you in a big booming voice. Instead, God will speak to you by the moving of the Holy Spirit in your life (John 16:12-13). He’ll speak to you by his still small voice. And what you do after he speaks to you will require faith.

What do you mean by the general voice of God and the specific voice of God?

Robert Morris: When talking about God’s will, there’s a general will and a specific will of God. When we have a job change or we’re buying a new home or we have an important decision to make concerning our marriage or family or future, we want a specific word from the Lord. And we need one from him too. And he will give us one. But my concern is that we sometimes try to hear a specific word from God without first developing the habit of hearing a general word from God every day. That’s an important part of the process of learning to value God’s voice.

If we’re just checking with God every six months or so whenever a big decision comes up, then we will not only miss out on knowing God’s general will, we will also miss out on a close, everyday friendship with God. So we must learn to value his voice, his general voice, on a regular basis if we want to hear his specific voice from time to time. If we’re not in the habit of meeting with him and hearing from him on a regular basis, then it will be much more difficult to hear a specific word from God.

There are four practical steps to do this, and are listed in much greater detail in my book:

  1. Set an appointment with God.
  2. Be still and worship.
  3. Pray and read.
  4. Listen and write.

It’s important for us to set regular appointments with God in order to learn from his Word and to hear his voice. To develop a regular time with the Lord, set an appointment, be still and worship him, pray, and read the Bible. Write down your prayers. Listen for his response.

How should people read the Bible to best hear the voice of God for themselves?

Robert Morris: There are so many time in life when I need wisdom, and I wonder where to go or what to do. The imagery of brightness and guidance is found in Daniel 12:3: “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” That verse along with James 1:5 are two of my favorite verses: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” That answer is so straightforward: ask God, and wisdom will be given to you.

Your invitation is to read God’s Word consistently, diligently, prayerfully, and fervently. Read the Bible with your heart wide open in prayer and in communion with God. Read and pray at the same time: “Lord Jesus, what are you saying in your Word about yourself? How does this passage teach me to love you and to love others more? How does this passage apply to me?”

Go to the Bible. Begin by worshipping him and seeking his face. Listen for his voice. You can have confidence knowing that the Lord will speak.

What do you mean that people should be stewards of God’s voice?

Robert Morris: Stewardship means we manage well someone else’s property or resources. As believers, our lives are not our own. We belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 3:23). That means our time, treasure, talents, and even our futures are not our own. So it’s important that we live as good stewards of what belongs to God. First Peter 4:10 says, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

Stewardship relates to hearing the voice of God too. Think of it this way. God blesses faithful stewards (Proverbs 28:20; Luke 12:42-46). If God gives us time, treasure, and talents, and we’re faithful with those, then he gives us more. If we’re not faithful, then God doesn’t give us more. The same is true of hearing God’s voice. When God speaks to us, if we’re faithful with the word he gives us, then why would he give us more? Mark 4:24 says, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measure to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.”

Did you catch the last bit of that verse? “To you who hear, more will be given.” That’s the result of good stewardship. We must be good stewards of what we hear from the Lord.

Here are three ways we can be careful stewards of God’s spoken words:

  1. We are careful stewards of God’s voice when we truly listen to Him.
  2. When we respond in humility.
  3. When we heed his words.

God is speaking all the time, but the only ones who hear are those who tune in to the right frequency through humility and obedience.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Robert Morris: Bible Gateway is such an important free resource. It allows people all over the word to have access to the Word of God at any time. It’s a great resource for training and teaching as well as personal study.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Robert Morris: I want every believer to have an intimate, ongoing, and passionate relationship with Jesus Christ so that we will all love and serve and follow His voice.

Bio: Robert Morris is the founding senior pastor of Gateway Church (@GatewayPeople), a multicampus church in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex with more than 36,000 active members. Morris is featured on the weekly television program The Blessed Life and serves as chairman of the board of The King’s University. He’s the bestselling author of 13 books, including The God I Never Knew: How Real Friendship with the Holy Spirit Can Change Your Life and Truly Free: Breaking the Snares That So Easily Entangle. He and his wife, Debbie, have been married 36 years and are blessed with one married daughter, two married sons, and six grandchildren.

Letters to the Church: Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians

Did you know that most of the books that comprise the New Testament are actually letters? These letters (also known as “epistles”) contain both general Christian teaching and specific instructions for the congregation to which they were addressed. As part of our Letters to the Church series, we’re taking a brief look at each epistle in the New Testament. This week, we look at the follow-up to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonian church.

[See commentaries on 2 Thessalonians in the Bible Gateway Store]

[See other Blog posts in the Letters to the Church series]

Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians

Start reading it here: 2 Thessalonians 1

When was it written? Around A.D. 51, not long after Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians.

To whom was it written? Like 1 Thessalonians, this letter was written to the new Christian community in Thessalonica, a major trade city in Greece.

Why was it written? This short letter expands on one of the subjects Paul addressed in his first letter to this community. The Thessalonians may have responded to his first letter with questions that needed further answers; Paul also mentions hearing reports of problematic behavior by some in the church, which he felt obligated to correct.

What does it say? It’s clear from this letter that the Thessalonians were very concerned with the question of Christ’s promised return to Earth. In Paul’s first letter, he assured them that the death of Christ-followers did not cast doubt on Christ’s promise. This letter suggests that the regular persecution they faced was adding a great urgency to the question “When will Christ return and usher in his kingdom?”

In addressing these fears and concerns, Paul does not lay out an exact timeline or set of dates for Christ’s return. Instead, he assures the Thessalonians that the frightening things they’re seeing and experiencing should not surprise them—and that they could expect more trials in the future. Paul urges them not to panic in the face of alarming claims and prophecies about the “end times,” but to endure in the knowledge that Jesus Christ’s victory is already assured.

Noteworthy passages:

  • 2 Thessalonians 1:4: Paul boasts of the Thessalonians’ perseverance in the face of persecution.
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-6: Christians aren’t to obsess or panic about the “end times,” but wait patiently for God’s plan to unfold “at the proper time.”
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15: Straying brothers and sisters in Christ are to be rebuked, but still loved and encouraged to repent.

What can we learn from 2 Thessalonians? It’s natural that Christians have long wondered when to expect the return of Jesus Christ. We watch today for Christ’s return just as the Thessalonian believers did. But Paul’s words in this letter are an important reminder that a natural interest in the “end times” shouldn’t become an obsession, or a source of fear and panic. We can rest assured that no historical event or spate of persecution will stop God’s Kingdom from unfolding according to his perfect plan.

Consider these questions as you read 2 Thessalonians today:

  • Can you understand the Thessalonians’ panicky obsession with Christ’s return? Do you ever feel frustrated or upset at the thought of Christ’s return, or at the fact that he hasn’t yet returned?
  • What do you think Paul means when he mentions a “powerful delusion” that people will believe?
  • Imagine that you’ve received this letter from Paul. What might you write back to him in response?

Bible News Roundup – Week of April 24, 2016

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Entire Bible Will Be Read Aloud May 1-5 on Steps of US Capitol in 90 Hour Annual Bible Reading Marathon
Christian Newswire
DC Bible Marathon website
Read the Bible on Bible Gateway

Bible Reading Marathon Starts Sunday in Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Tuscaloosa News

Bible-Reading Volunteers Sought This Week in Alabama
The Troy Messenger

Highest US Military Court Hears Marine’s Religious Freedom Case Concerning Bible Verse
Stars and Stripes
Read Isaiah 54:17 on Bible Gateway

Oklahoma Voters to Decide on Return of Ten Commandments Monument
Associated Press
Read the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 on Bible Gateway

Ancient Sticky Notes Shift Secular Scholars Closer to Evangelicals on Bible’s Age
Christianity Today
Browse the Archaeology section of the Bible Gateway Store

Early Draft of King James Bible Brought to Light
The Times Literary Supplement
Read the King James Version of the Bible on Bible Gateway

The Book of Kells: Medieval Europe’s Greatest Treasure?
BBC

Full-Scale Noah’s Ark Embarking to Brazil for Olympics
The Times of Israel
Ark of Noah Foundation website
Read the story of Noah’s Ark from the book of Genesis on Bible Gateway

North Carolina Student Thinking of Isaiah 12:3 Develops Water Filtration System for Third World Countries
ABC11 WTVD
Read Isaiah 12:3 on Bible Gateway

1920s Time Capsule Opened at Iowa Elementary School; Bible Inside
Muscatine Journal

Local Church in Beijing Launches New Ministry of Bible Transcribing
China Christian Daily
Read Chinese Bible versions on Bible Gateway

China Reveals What It Wants to Do with Christianity
Christianity Today

Russian Sign Language Bible Being Translated
OneNewsNow.com
Read the Bible in Russian on Bible Gateway

Oral Learners Hear the Gospel with the Help of Updated Tools
Mission Network News

Iranians Are Coming to Faith in Christ and Requesting Bibles
Church Central
Read the Bible in Persian on Bible Gateway

Irish Solicitors Told to Carry Bible and Quran to Administer Sworn Affidavits
ABNA

How a Bible Dropped by an Australian Soldier in Gallipoli Made Its Way Home
The Sydney Morning Herald

Rare 1579 Bible Surprise Auctioneers When It Sells for 5 Times the Original Estimate
Christian Davies Antiques

Christian Women Most Persecuted in World
Premier
Christianity Today

Trevi Fountain in Rome Dyed Red to Represent Blood of Christian Martyrs
Premier
Blog post—I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters
Blog post—International Day(s) of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
See books in the Bible Gateway Store on the subject of Christian persecution

The World’s Largest Churches
Leadership Network

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Passover Explained: God’s Deliverance

The season of Passover is April 22-30, 2016.
Browse resources for Passover in the Bible Gateway Store.

The 8-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring in the Hebrew month of Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. This fascinating story is found in the book of Exodus. The following video summarizes chapters 1-18. Take special note beginning at 2:54

[See our Blog post, The Bible Project: An Interview with Tim Mackie and Jon Collins]

[Sign up to explore the Jewish roots of Scripture with the new “Holy Land Moments” limited-time free email devotional]

From Exodus 12

Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household…[and] slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast….This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.

On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance.

This epic story has been depicted by Hollywood in various ways. Here are two:

Read more about Passover and other feasts of the Old Testament in our Blog post, Unlocking the Secrets of the Old Testament Feasts: An Interview with Michael Norten.