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Reminder: Advent Devotions Begin Soon

With Thanksgiving behind us, Advent and the Christmas season are just around the corner. Advent begins this Sunday, November 29!

If you haven’t already, now’s the perfect time to sign up for one or more of our Christmas email devotions, which begin on or shortly after Advent. This year, we’re bringing out some old favorites as well as introducing some new devotions, including a new devotional aimed at kids and families which is perfect for around-the-dinner-table family reading.

Head on over to our Newsletters page to look at the holiday devotions available, and to sign up. We’ll making a few additions to that list of devotionals as Advent progresses, so keep an eye here on the blog in the coming weeks.

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Enter Into His Gates With Thanksgiving!

Wherever you are today—whether you’re gathering for a Thanksgiving feast or going about your business as usual, whether you feel inundated with blessings or have endured a year full of trials—there’s no act more fulfilling than simply praising God.

This year, like most, has seen its share of tragedy and misfortune—the Paris attacks, the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East, and plenty of other events. And your own personal life has no doubt seen its share of ups and downs, major and minor, in the last twelve months. But God’s Word challenges us to embrace a spirit of gratitude and faithfulness even admist trials and setbacks. So this weekend, whether you’re alone or surrounded by friends, overflowing with joy or weighed down with sorrow, take a few moments to give thanks to the God who loves and watches over you.

Can you join with the author of these two psalms in praising God?

Psalm 100

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. — Psalm 100 (NKJV)

Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will thank the Lord with all my heart
in the meeting of his good people.
The Lord does great things;
those who enjoy them seek them.
What he does is glorious and splendid,
and his goodness continues forever.
His miracles are unforgettable.
The Lord is kind and merciful.
He gives food to those who fear him.
He remembers his agreement forever.
He has shown his people his power
when he gave them the lands of other nations.
Everything he does is good and fair;
all his orders can be trusted.
They will continue forever.
They were made true and right.
He sets his people free.
He made his agreement everlasting.
He is holy and wonderful.
Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord;
those who obey his orders have good understanding.
He should be praised forever. — Psalm 111 (NCV)

Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at Bible Gateway!

Understanding the Bible in Four Small Words: An Interview with Jarrett Stevens

Jarrett StevensWhen it comes to a story as theologically thick and rich with history, metaphor, and meaning as the Bible, the thought of trying to understand or communicate that story can be overwhelming. What if the essence of the story of God can be understood, applied, and shared in just four small words: Of. Between. With. In.

Bible Gateway interviewed pastor Jarrett Stevens (@jarrettstevens) about his book, Four Small Words (published by Zondervan; will be released January 12, 2016; click to order now).

Click to order your copy of Four Small Words in the Bible Gateway Store

What need did you observe that prompted you to write this book?

Jarrett Stevens: What prompted me to write Four Small Words was the growing awareness that while we have greater access to the Bible than at any point in human history, people in general are becoming less connected to it. For as much as people are interested in the Bible, they find themselves feeling intimidated by it and therefore stay a safe distance from it. I wanted to write a book that spoke to and sparked that interest, while eliminating as much intimidation as possible.

You write, “What if God’s idea behind the Bible isn’t the endless pursuit of knowing enough, but rather understanding more.” How can we understand if we don’t know?

Jarrett Stevens: As a kid who grew up in church and was blessed with a great Christian education, I found myself in my 20s knowing a lot about the Bible…but having very little understanding of how it all connected, or better yet, how it connected to my life.

Proverbs 4:5 says, “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them.” Wisdom and understanding are God’s clarion call to us throughout the Bible. You can know a lot about something without understanding what it means. We’ve all met people who can quote verse after verse on forgiveness, yet harbor deep anger or resentment in their hearts. We know people who can explain the concept of grace, but seem to forget how it applies to their own life in a real and transformational way. That’s why an experiential understanding of the Bible beats endless knowledge about the Bible any day.

How is it possible to better understand the Bible with only four words and what are those words??

Jarrett Stevens: The big idea of these four small words is to see the Bible in greater context; to see the whole story through four main movements. The words are: of, between, with, and in.

OF = Creation—The Story of Our True Identity (Genesis 1–2). Each of us is created with an identity that comes from God and is so much bigger than who we are right now.

BETWEEN = The Old Testament—The Story of Separation (Genesis 3Malachi 4). Each of us has experienced separation from God when sin comes between us and God. And it’s the story of all the things that we use as “go-betweens” between us and God to make up the gap that only grace can bridge.

WITH = The Gospels—The Story of a Present God (Matthew 1Acts 1). We are invited to do life with Jesus. Just as Jesus called those in his days to be with him, he calls each of us today to do the same.

IN = The Rest of the New Testament—The Story of a People Inhabited by God (Acts 2Revelation 22). Each of us has been created to live with the power and presence of God in us in our everyday lives.

These words not only tell the linear, chronological story of the Bible, but at a much deeper level they resonate with each of our own stories as well. They give us a framework for understanding the bigger picture. Like seeing the forest through the trees, they help us see the meaning and message through the verses.

What do you want readers to do when they finish Four Small Words??

Jarrett Stevens: I would love nothing more than for people to pick up and engage the Bible in a fresh and transformational way. To have less intimidation and greater understanding. And to share God’s story with others with greater clarity, context, and confidence.

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

Jarrett Stevens: Honestly, Bible Gateway is where I start every sermon. At least every other day I’m on Bible Gateway for one reason or another. I am so thankful for this amazing yet simple tool that makes the Bible so accessible and engaging to people literally around the world. And I’m thrilled to be able to share the message of Four Small Words here.

One of the things that I am so excited about is the partnership I have with Biblica. Biblica is an amazing organization that helps get Bibles into the hands of people who need one all over the world. For a limited time, anyone who pre-orders Four Small Words will be able to give a Bible to someone who needs one through the work of Biblica. This is an amazing opportunity for us to grow in our experience with God’s Word, while giving others the opportunity to experience it themselves! To be a part of this special opportunity, visit

Bio: Jarrett Stevens is a pastor, writer, and speaker. He and his wife Jeanne live in downtown Chicago where they have planted a growing church, Soul City, and do life with their two young children, Elijah and Gigi. Jarrett, also the author of The Deity Formerly Known as God, was previously on staff as a teaching pastor with Willow Creek Church in Chicago, as well as pastoring at North Point Church in Atlanta. Known for his humor and honesty, he’s a popular speaker at churches and conferences both nationally and internationally.

How to Study the Bible: Observation


This is the fifth lesson in Mel Lawrenz’ new “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 love detective stories, and probably for different reasons. I know I enjoy them not because of chase scenes or gunfights or big finales. I appreciate a good detective story when it shows someone who is able to discover the truth of a situation by amazing observational powers. That detective who sees details that no one else sees, who makes connections, and understands inferences. Sherlock Holmes is at his best when he sees what few others see, piecing together clues, finding a larger truth. I come away from such stories feeling like I want to to have that kind of sharp eye because I really need to see things the way they really are in life.

The first action we take in Bible study is observation. We read the biblical text thoughtfully. We read in order to understand, and that requires paying attention to the details at the same time that we look for the big picture. Bible study is a process of discovery, and that’s one of the reasons it is exciting.


Many Bible study experts have broken the process of Bible study into three stages: 1) observation; 2) interpretation; and 3) application. We read the biblical text, 1) asking what is it saying?, and 2) what does it mean?, and 3) how does it make an impact today? This is as important as anything else we will cover in this series, How to Study the Bible. This is a method of Bible study, but it also simply a way of reading the Bible–a mindset that will drive us deep into the goldmine.

Many times we want to get to the third question, to get the big payoff. But it is only the true meaning of Scripture that impacts our lives, not a random association with its words. We have to do the work of observation first, but it is not too difficult. Every Bible reader can sharpen his or her observational skills.

So what are we looking for?

1. The basic questions: who, what, when, where, why, how. These are the same questions a good journalist, or a physician, or an attorney, or a detective asks when approaching a new situation. When we know it is the apostle Paul (who), instructing people on worship (what), in his later years (when), writing about the needs of the Ephesian church (where), because of false teaching (why), via a courier (how), we understand the context of all the strong statements Paul makes in the epistle we know as 1 Timothy. Every answer is different when we look at the heart-rending confession of David in Psalm 51, or the oracles of Jeremiah, or the visions of Revelation.

2. Emphasis and repetition. Any section of the biblical text has main points and minor points. We must “major on the majors and minor on the minors” as someone has said. When a biblical author tells us what the main point of a passage is, sometimes by repeating the basic idea again and again, our powers of observation should focus on that point.

3. Key words and phrases. This can be somewhat intuitive, but when we read a passage there are typically a few key words of phrases upon which the whole passage hangs. What is grammatically dominant may help, but sometimes the key expression is buried in the middle of the text, or comes at the end.

4. Comparisons and contrasts. Biblical passages frequently compare one truth to another, or draw a contrast between a truth and a falsehood. When we read Jesus’ parable of the soils, we compare the experience of people who are like the hard soil, the thorny soil, the shallow soil, and the good soil. The truth of the passage is contained in the contrasts. Jesus frequently made comparisons, too. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, or leaven, or treasure hidden in a field. Jesus said of himself: “I am the good shepherd,” “I am the bread sent from heaven,” “I am the light of the world,” and many other comparisons.

5. Cause and effect. Many biblical passages describe what happens when someone makes a terrible error, or makes a truly good decision or commitment. Such connections are not always absolute. What is said in Proverbs, for instance, is generally true, but proverbs are not the same things as promises.

There are many other details in any given passage that the good Bible detective will observe and note. If we will read Scripture in this way we are more likely to see the deep meaning of it, and we will avoid entire misinterpretations. The best thing we can do is to develop a deep longing to see everything that is in Scripture, passage by passage. Superficial reading never gets to the truth.

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.

Lord’s Prayer Ad Banned in UK Movie Theaters

Movie theaters in the United Kingdom have banned a 60-second video ad produced by the Church of England (@c_of_e) in which everyday people each recite a phrase from the Lord’s Prayer. The agency that handles advertisements for the theaters rejected the commercial, saying it could offend people of differing or no faith.

The ad is meant to raise awareness of the prayer campaign (@JustPray) to increase participation in prayer.

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.
Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

The British Board of Film Classification approved the video with a U certificate and it received clearance from the Cinema Advertising Authority. But the Digital Cinema Media (DCM) agency, which handles British film advertising for the major cinema chains, Odeon, Cineworld, and Vue, decided the video would “offend” audiences.

(Update 11/26/15: Government urges “cinema to look again” at Lord’s Prayer ban)

Today is International Day of the Bible

Click to read our blogpost Share Your Favorite Bible Verse on International Day of the Bible

The International Day of the Bible (@IntlDayofBible) is celebrated Monday, Nov. 23, at noon in local time zones around the world. People of all ages are invited to participate by pausing for a few minutes to read or sing Scripture or otherwise creatively express their love of the Bible. Use Bible Gateway’s variety of Bibles in more than 70 languages to select your favorite verse and share it on your social networks using the hashtag #BibleCelebration!

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Habakkuk 2:14

Car la terre sera remplie
de la glorieuse connaissance de l’Eternel
comme les eaux recouvrent le fond des mers.
Habacuc 2:14 (Français)

Porque así como las aguas cubren los mares,
    así también se llenará la tierra
    del conocimiento de la gloria del Señor.
Habacuc 2:14 (Español)

Click to read the International Day of the Bible theme verse from Habakuk in multiple English versions

Bible News Roundup – Week of November 22, 2015

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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Russian President Vladimir Putin Signs Law Exempting Bible, Koran, Other Holy Books from Extremism Checks

Australia: New Guidelines Ban Looking at Bible & Other Religion Texts When Teaching Religion in School

A New Source for Bible Translation
Mission Network News
Bible Translation Organizations

Greek New Testament Papyrus Is Discovered on eBay
The New York Times

8-Year-Old Boy on Family Hike Makes 3,000-Year-Old Discovery Dating to Biblical First Temple Period at Beth-shemesh
The Blaze
Read about Beth-shemesh from Easton’s Bible Dictionary on Bible Gateway

Lord’s Prayer Ad Banned in UK Movie Theaters
Bible Society surprised by decision to ban advertisement of Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 on Bible Gateway

Requests for Scripture Increase in Africa
Mission Network News

18,000 Bibles and Books Headed to India from Central Pennsylvania
The Daily Item

Congressional Members Honor USA’s Biblical Foundation with Public Scripture Reading
Christian News Service

A 13th Century Bible Publishing Mystery
The Guardian

‘NKJV Spirit Filled Life Bible’ & ‘NIV Worship Leader’s Bible’ Contributor James Ryle Dies
Charisma News

Looking Ahead: 2016 Will Be the 350th Anniversary of the First Printed Armenian Bible: The Oskanian Bible
The Armenian Church

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Christmas is Coming–and our Advent Devotions are Here!

Gerard_van_Honthorst_001It’s hard to believe, but Advent is just around the corner! That means it’s time to roll out our Advent and Christmas devotions. This year, we’re bringing back several favorite classic devotionals, and introducing some brand new ones that we think will help you to renew your focus on God’s Word this holiday season.

Stop by our Newsletters page to sign up for one or more of our Christmas email devotionals. They all begin on or shortly after the beginning of Advent; sign up today so you won’t miss them. Here’s what we have to offer this year:

  • Bible Gateway Advent Devotions: Our classic Christmas devotional, bringing you Scripture readings and Christmas inspiration from Christian thinkers ancient and modern. (Runs daily through Advent.)
  • Christmas for the Faithful Woman: A “greatest hits” collection of the best Christmas devotionals from the popular Girlsfriends in God and Encouragement for Today devotionals. (Runs daily through December.)
  • The Christmas Story: Do you know the Christmas story? Whether you’re new to the story of Christmas or have read it a million times, this devotional will walk you through the amazing events of the first Christmas. (Runs daily through December.)
  • Christmas Devotions for Kids: Short, daily devotions that are perfect for reading around the family table throughout December. (Runs daily through December.)
  • Readings for Celebrating Advent: Start each day in Advent with a relevant reading from the Bible. (Runs through Advent.)

You can sign up for any or all of these on our Newsletters page. And keep an eye on that page as the holiday season continues—we’ve got a few surprises we’ll unveil as we get closer to Advent!

How to Study the Bible: Faith and Facts


This is the fourth lesson in Mel Lawrenz’ new “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.

Before we talk about the methods of studying the Bible, we need to consider our purposes. This is not a theoretical question. It is about checking our motives and shaping our attitudes before we enter into the spectacular and challenging task of hearing the voice of the living God.

One can approach Bible study as a search for facts. Who wrote this passage? Where was the author writing from, and to whom, and for what purpose? When was this written? What is the exact meaning of the language used?

We look at history and geography and language. We need to do this because the only way to thoroughly understand the texts of the Bible is to pay careful attention to the content and circumstances of the texts.

This is a matter of respect. When I get a letter in the mail I first of all look at the return address to see who wrote to me. I can look at the date it was posted and, by the postmark, see where it was mailed from. Then I open the letter and read the contents. If it is a handwritten letter from my mother I will read it carefully and respectfully. If it is a bill, I will read it carefully as well (but with less enthusiasm).

I do not go to the mailbox, open a letter and just start reading the words, wondering how the words will impress me, or if they will make me happy. We must not read Scripture that way either. We read it respecting the author and the context. We use the rules that apply to the use of ordinary language because God’s word comes to us in the diverse and amazing forms of poems and songs, oracles and proverbs, simile and metaphor, gospels and epistles, etc. We read Scripture naturally.

We read a passage in context because that is the way we see its meaning. In the same way that we hope people will take the words we use in speech or writing in context so that they will truly understand our meaning, we read the biblical authors in context in order to get the true meaning. This is to respect them.

And it is to respect God.

That is the other side of the equation. We read Scripture, seeking to understand the facts, but we do not need to stop there. We read Scripture with faith. Many people, of course, are not interested in a faith journey. They are only looking at the facts. Not everyone who studies the Bible believes he or she is listening for the voice of God, and that makes all the difference in the world. It is possible to study the Bible as a purely academic exercise, and obviously many people do. In their view the texts in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek portions of the Bible are no different than any other ancient texts. (Although many have started to read the Bible with no faith, and have been startled by the light of truth that awakened them to the reality of God.)

We are assuming in this series that we are reading the Bible with faith, not apart from faith. We can and must read Scripture for facts and for faith.

Anselm of Canterbury (c.?1033-1109) said: “I believe in order that I may understand” (Credo ut intelligam). The principle is otherwise known as “faith seeking understanding,” as it was expressed by Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century.

These leading thinkers and many others have said it is when our lives are connected with our Creator, when our minds and hearts are awakened to his power and presence, when we are “believers,” that we will begin to understand the way things really are.

Knowing the Bible is not the ultimate objective. Knowing God is. Really knowing God. And knowing God via the revelation God has given of himself, not our imaginary constructs. Studying Scripture in this way is about both facts and faith.

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.