Skip to content

Most Recent Blog Posts

Discovering Fierce Faith: An Interview with Bianca Juarez Olthoff

Bianca Juarez OlthoffGod has huge dreams for you! How can you gain insight into his character and understand the unique fire he’s placed inside you to fulfill your calling and kingdom purpose?

The Bible says that God isn’t waiting until you have more resources or a spouse or a job so he can use you. He’s ready to use you now. The mythical creature, the Phoenix, was referenced by early church leaders highlighting the beauty of reinvention with fire as both the impetus and the method for change. We serve a God who is redemptive, and can take the worst situations and use them for his glory.

Bible Gateway interviewed Bianca Juarez Olthoff (@biancaolthoff) about her book, Play with Fire: Discovering Fierce Faith, Unquenchable Passion, and a Life-Giving God (Zondervan, 2016).

Buy your copy of Play with Fire in the Bible Gateway Store

Why is your book titled Play with Fire?

Bianca Juarez Olthoff: My whole life I wanted to be safe. I didn’t do things that pushed me out of my boundaries or made me uncomfortable. What I didn’t realize was that my desire for safe had crept into my theology. Safety precluded me from living a bold and daring life of following fiercely after Jesus.

I started reading Scripture and discovered every time fire is mentioned, God’s presence is revealed and people’s lives are transformed. In the season I was in, I was in desperate need of change and transformation. So I went on a journey to discover God in great ways and explore what it meant to enter in the fire of transformation.

What’s the “fierce faith” you want readers to discover?

Bianca Juarez Olthoff: Our faith is tried and tested through trials and tribulation. Plain and simple: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. My fav passage that demonstrates this is out of Daniel 3 when my Hebrew homies are thrown into a furnace because they refuse to compromise and bow down to any other god.

What they thought was going to kill them actually caused them to experience the presence of God in the fire with them. Not only did they live (Hello?!), but they were a testament to others of the saving power of God (Daniel 3:25).

When we survive the “refiner’s fire” we experience the transformation and saving nature of a God who is able to use all trials for his glory.

You refer to certain Bible passages in your book and you say, “Scripture gives us an open invitation to shout aloud, to ask God to respond.” For the verses listed here, explain your feelings toward them and how you want readers of your book to apply them into their lives:

Bianca Juarez Olthoff: John 15:16—Ugh. I just LOVE this verse. And most people just focus on the latter part (“…so that whatever you ask in my name the father will give you”). But I don’t even care about that! I’m wildly obsessed with the idea that God CHOSE me and CHOSE you as his children. Can you believe that?

Growing up an obese minority living in the ‘hood, I never felt chosen. Not chosen in kickball, not chosen in the spelling bee, not chosen to sit with. The idea of God Almighty choosing me to be his favorite just blows my mind! (And yes, I feel like I’m his favorite.)

Exodus 2:23; 3:7—These verses (and many others) are PROOF that our God sees us, hears our prayers, and is concerned for us. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had moments when I feel alone, forgotten, and unheard by God. Even worse, I’ve questioned if God even cared about me.

But his Word is PROOF that he hears our pain, knows our trauma, and is concerned for us. Not only that, other Scripture will back up that our God is ABLE to save, ABLE to heal, and ABLE to repair even the deepest of wounds.

If God did it for the Israelites, he’ll do the same for us!

Haggai 2:5—Ok, come on! This is GOLD. As God promised the Israelites on their exodus out of Egypt, he still makes promises today. And what did God promise them? HIS SPIRIT.

Friends, what did Jesus promise us before his crucifixion? He promised us an advocate! He said he wouldn’t leave us as orphans. Nope. No way, Jose! Our God made a promise to the Israelites, just like Jesus made us a promise before he ascended to heaven. And what was the promise? The Holy Spirit.

For the love, friends?! Do you see it? As Paul states, the power that raised Christ from the dead is alive in you. GAHHHH! I could drool. This is bananas!

Who is your book written for and how do you want it to change them?

Bianca Juarez Olthoff: This book is for the person who wants God to awaken and transform them. Perhaps they’re in a season of loss, confusion, pain, or simply surviving the doldrums of life with safety as their first priority. I want to provide language and simple theological handles for people to see how God works.

This book is also for people who’d like to support the FEED THE OLTHOFF CHILDREN FUND. I’m joking! (Well, I’m half joking. Don’t judge.)

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

Bianca Juarez Olthoff: This is going to sound SO cheesy, but I just love Bible Gateway. Hand to heaven, I use it daily just to Google Scriptures. The WordNerd in me geeks out over how quick it is to find a verse to check out a commentary. Yup, I [heart] you guys!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Bianca Juarez Olthoff: Yes, and I’ll make it brief. I grew up afraid of theological arguments and questioning things like sovereignty and gifts of the Spirit, and why the fruits of the Spirit weren’t actually fruits. As I step into adulthood and discover greater depths of faith, I no longer fear getting to know God more. One of the greatest adventures I’ve been on is discovering the limitless, all-powerful, all-consuming fire God claims to be.

God loves us so much he gave us the presence of his Spirit to do greater things than Jesus Christ did on earth. Does that blow your mind? It shouldn’t. We should simply take God at his word and start doing what he said we can do.

It’s time to live en fuego. It’s time to Play with Fire.

Bio: Bianca Juarez Olthoff is the Chief Storyteller for The A-21 Campaign and the Creative Director for Propel Women. Bianca is a step-mom to Parker and Ryen and has spent the last ten years mobilizing God’s people to action alongside her husband Matt, the Executive Director and Pastor for Project Europe.

Bianca has been in church ministry for 15 years inspiring women to live with unquenchable passion. With Bianca’s trademark humor and honesty, Play with Fire reminds women that God has huge dreams for each of his children. “He’s whispering in the wind and speaking through the fire and shouting in silence the extraordinary dream.”


Bible News Roundup – Week of August 28, 2016

[Return daily during the coming week for updates]

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

Advocacy Group Wants Dept of Defense Inspector General to Investigate Officer Who Displayed a Bible on His Desk, and His Superiors
Air Force Times

Barna: Only 3% of Teens Read Bible Daily
OneNewsNow
See the Teen Bible section in the Bible Gateway Store

Novel-Like New Testament Created for Teens Who Don’t Read the Bible
Christian Newswire
Pierced: The New Testament in the Bible Gateway Store

National Bible Bee Encourages Students
The Jackson Sun

Bible Reading Marathon Set for Iowa’s Louisa County
The Hawk Eye

Chalk Bible Passages on Bangor, Maine Sidewalks Spark War of Words
Bangor Daily News

USA Man Among First People Targeted Under Russia’s New Anti-Evangelism Laws
Premier
Forum 18: Punishments Under Russia’s Anti-Sharing Beliefs Law Begin
See resources in the Evangelism section in the Bible Gateway Store
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters
See resources on the topic of Christian Persecution in the Bible Gateway Store

Is the Bible Still Relevant?
Seedbed
Bible Gateway Blog post—Reading & Understanding the Bible: An Interview with Ben Witherington III
Bible Gateway Blog post—Invitation to the New Testament: An Interview with Ben Witherington III

Bible Speaks Today Editor Alec Motyer, 91, Dies
Premier
See Bible Speaks Today commentaries in the Bible Gateway Store

3,000 Year Old Treasures Dated to the Time of King David Unveiled
The Jerusalem Post
Read the article about King David in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
See Bible search results for “David” on Bible Gateway
See resources about Biblical Archaeology in the Bible Gateway Store

11th Century Bible Recovered in Central Turkey
Daily Sabah

Exhibition Features Biblical City of Shaarayim, Where David Fought Goliath
Ynetnews
Jewish Post: Archaeological Evidence of the Kingdom of David to be Displayed in Jerusalem
Read the article about the Valley of Elah in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read 1 Samuel 17 on Bible Gateway

King Solomon-Era Palace Found in Biblical Gezer
Haaretz
Read the article about Gezer in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read 1 Kings 9:15-17 on Bible Gateway

Bible Survives Katrina, Finally Returned This Year to Georgia Woman
GainesvilleTimes.com

Survey: New Zealand Youth Prefer Reading Printed Bible Rather than Bible Apps
New Zealand Bible Society
2016 Report: New Zealand’s Teen Bible Readers (pdf)

Saturday’s Venus-Jupiter Encounter May Explain Bible’s Star of Bethlehem
Space.com
Read Matthew 2:1-12 on Bible Gateway

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: The Last Supper

Buy your copy of NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

The Bible was originally written to an ancient people removed from today by thousands of years and thousands of miles. The Scriptures include subtle culturally-based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature, and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the Scriptures read. For us to hear the Scriptures as they did, we need a window into their world.

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, Zondervan to Release NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible]

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Zondervan, 2016) (website) with notes from Dr. John H. Walton (Wheaton College) in the Old Testament and Dr. Craig S. Keener (Asbury Theological Seminary) in the New Testament, brings to life the ancient world of Scripture for modern readers.

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: An Interview with John Walton and Craig Keener]

For example, the Infographic below helps to explain the cultural context of the story of the Last Supper in John 13 in the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. (Also see the Infographics The Good Samaritan and The Tower of Babel.)

Buy your copy of NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

You’ve heard many Bible stories hundreds of times, but how many behind-the-scenes details are you missing? Get a FREE online course on Bible backgrounds taught by Wheaton College professors John Walton and Andrew Hill. This course will help you to gain a deeper understanding of Scripture and allow you to treasure it more.

Jesus Changes Everything: An Interview with Nick Hall

Thousands already have! Try your 30-Day free trial today!
Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it free for 30 days!

Nick Hall“Follow me,” Jesus told his early followers, “and I’ll show you life as it was meant to be lived.” Are you having trouble resetting your life?

Bible Gateway interviewed Nick Hall (@NickHall) about his book, Reset: Jesus Changes Everything (Multnomah, 2016).

Describe what “Together 2016” was and how it turned out.

Nick Hall: Together 2016 was a dream five years in the making. For years I had read about revivals of the past—these incredible testimonies like the Welsh Revival or the First and Second Great Awakening—and had thought, “Why couldn’t that happen today?”

Buy your copy of Reset in the Bible Gateway Store

As I prayed and dreamed over these five years, I started to find that other leaders across the nation also had an incredible burden to see revival in America. We started talking and praying about what it would look like to come together, even for one day, to lift up Jesus with people from all walks of life.

So the vision of Together 2016 was born, and all along the way we saw God answer prayers. We booked the National Mall, had incredible speakers and artists join us like Francis Chan, Ravi Zacharias, and Hillsong United, and on July 16, 2016, we saw hundreds of thousands of people convene on the National Mall in Washington DC to lift up the name of Jesus.

Our hope and dream for July 16 was that it wouldn’t just be an emotional experience, but that it would be a launching pad to take the message of Jesus to this nation. Throughout the day we focused on the importance of prayer and digging into Scripture, of sharing the love and the message of Jesus with the world. While it’s true that our event had to end several hours early because of the heat, we truly believe God renewed a commissioning onto a generation to reach this nation.

What is PULSE and the “Reset Movement”?

Buy your copy of Reset DVD Study Kit in the Bible Gateway Store

Nick Hall: PULSE is a nonprofit organization I started out of college in response to the incredible need I saw in my generation. As a college student, I had come face-to-face with the depression, suicide, and ultimately the emptiness that my peers were struggling to fill. I would go from campus to campus telling students, “Jesus is the answer. Jesus is the reset you’ve been looking for.”

This whole idea of a “reset” is tied to the technology this generation is so familiar with. When our phone or computer isn’t working, we press the reset button. To reset a system is to get it working toward it’s intended purpose. And in the same way, we believe that Jesus died and rose to bring us back into relationship with the Father. Jesus is the supernatural reset we’ve been looking for.

Over the years, this “reset” message really started to take root across the nation. I like to tell people, “Reset is not my message. It’s not PULSE’s message.” This isn’t about spreading a new metaphor. This is about spreading the gospel. So, if it’s helpful for someone else to take the message of “reset” and use it at their church or event or whatever—go for it! I want as many people as possible to know that Jesus changes everything.

What are the top one or two spiritual issues most pressing on today’s youth?

Nick Hall: I think identity and value are probably the two biggest issues for the youth of this generation. Everyone wants to be someone, and everyone wants to feel loved. In the teenage and college years, it’s natural for young people to search for their identity and ask the hard question, “Who am I?” At the same time, I’ve met so many young people who are struggling to find their value in life, not only asking, “Who am I?” but “What does it matter?”

Most often, issues of depression or addictions come from young people trying and failing to find the answer to these questions. And the opportunity that’s often missed by followers of Jesus is to speak into that culture, and to tell young people that the gospel answers both of these questions—that Jesus is the answer.

Buy your copy of Reset Church Campaign Kit in the Bible Gateway Store

What do the young people you encounter think about the Bible?

Nick Hall: Many people believe this is the most biblically illiterate generation in America’s history, and I know I’ve seen it. One study by LifeWay found that only 45% of people who attended church read their Bible every week—and these are people in the church!

So I think for a lot of young people who are either outside of the church or raised in the church, they don’t see the value of reading the Bible or trying to understand what it means for them. But at the same time, a lot of millennials really do look up to and respect Jesus. They see how he healed the sick and cared for the poor, and they love that. The challenge is in finding a way to connect the Jesus they admire with the Bible that’s collecting dust on their parents’ bookshelf.

What role does the Bible play in encouraging people to reset their lives?

Nick Hall: The beautiful thing about the Bible is that it shows us not only how far we are from God, but how far God went so that we could know Him. If you don’t already believe you need a reset, all you have to do is open the pages of Scripture to realize how much we need Jesus. At every outreach I speak at, I offer gospel booklets that take people through either Luke or John and connect the words of the gospels to real life. Scripture has the power to change hearts, and as we bring students into contact with God’s Word, we trust that God will work in their lives.

What do you mean in your book to “reset my faith”?

Nick Hall: Hebrews 11 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, and for a lot of people in the church, I think Hebrews 11 is a chapter we love to read but hate to live. We love the stories of Abraham and Moses, yet in our hearts I think we count them as the exception rather than the rule.

But then you get down to verse 6, which says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” And so I see that God is calling me to live a life of faith, and yet so often I trust him only as far as I can see. Like the man who cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” this leads me to cry out, “Reset my faith!”

I think there are a lot of people who have grown up in the church and have checked the box marked “Christian,” yet have never truly known Jesus. Or maybe they used to be really passionate about Jesus, but now are more or less indifferent to him. And to both of those people, I’d tell them that Jesus stands ready to reset their faith. Faith isn’t about figuring it all out. Faith is about turning to and trusting Jesus.

How can a person “reset my generation”?

Nick Hall: Resetting a generation has to start with faith-fueled prayer. If you don’t see a need in your generation, why would you pray? And if you don’t believe God can do anything about it, why would you pray? But if you see a great need and believe God can turn it around, then you’ll be driven to prayer. And when we pray, God moves.

For the individual wondering, “What can I do?” I’d tell them to never underestimate the power of prayer personally or globally. Our prayers can change hearts and nations, and all we have to do from there is be available to God. Starting in our families and moving out in our circles of influence, God has given each of us opportunities to share the message and love of Jesus with others.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Nick Hall: The reset life starts with you.

One time I had the opportunity to visit Billy Graham. I asked him several questions, yet he answered every one with a variation of the same truth. “Jesus,” he said. “You have to spend time with Jesus.”

For each of us, the reset life is strengthened when we daily spend time with Jesus. Yes, Lord Jesus, reset my generation. And let it start with me.


Bio: Nick Hall is the author of the book Reset: Jesus Changes Everything, and the Founder and Chief Communicator for PULSE, a ministry at the center of some of the largest student-led prayer and outreach efforts in the world. Nick sits on the leadership teams for the US Lausanne Committee, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the student advisory team for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). As a voice to the next generation, Nick has shared the Gospel with nearly three million students and regularly speaks at events around the world. He has a master’s degree in Leadership and Christian Thought from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He and his wife, Tiffany, live in Minneapolis with their two children. Visit pulsemovement.com for more information.


Spiritual Warfare Questions Answered

Thousands already have! Try your 30-Day free trial today!
Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it free for 30 days!

Dr. David JeremiahAre demons real? What protection does the shield of faith provide? How can I defend myself against forces of evil?

From the bestselling author of The Prophecy Answer Book comes a wealth of biblical wisdom on another challenging and fascinating topic: spiritual warfare! In his book, The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book (Thomas Nelson, 2016), Dr. David Jeremiah (@davidjeremiah) draws from years of teaching and experience to answer 86 common questions.

Buy your copy of The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book in the Bible Gateway Store

The following article is excerpted from The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book (Thomas Nelson, 2016) by Dr. David Jeremiah.

What names are given to Satan in the Bible?

If you read through the Bible and underline the names for Satan, you will discover a great deal about him. Here are some names of Satan that can be found in the Bible:

There are many names for Satan in the Bible, and all of them reveal him as our enemy.

Is Satan’s army organized?

Scripture clearly teaches that Satan controls and commands a great army of fallen angels. In the force of evil described in Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV), we read that his army is organized and that there is a hierarchy in the domain of Satan:

We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

In the Greek language, principalities refers to the “first” or the “head officers.” The powers mentioned here are staff officers, and the rulers are divisional commanders. And with this rank and file is the spiritual host of wickedness under the command of thee officers. Clearly, there is an organized effort on the part of Satan to do his work in the world. he has arranged his forces against God’s people, and we are the target of his schemes.

What protection does the sword of the Spirit provide?

Within God’s armory we have only one offensive weapon to use in battle against the evil one—it is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 NKJV).

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he used the Greek word machaira for sword. He wasn’t talking about what we would think of as a sword today; he was talking about a dagger, a weapon that people used in hand-to-hand combat. That metaphor suggests, then, the the sword of the Spirit…is a very precision-oriented instrument. Specifically, the Word of God referred to in this passage is not the whole Bible (the logos) but a particular part of the Word, a promise (a rhema) to apply to a particular battle situation.

In other words, the Bible is an armory in which the individual swords of the Spirit are kept until you need them for close combat with the enemy. But unlike a material sword that you would use to pierce the body, the spiritual sword pierces the heart. A material sword gets duller as you use it, but a spiritual sword gets sharper every time you use it. And those spiritual swords are found within the covers of the Bible.

In Matthew 4, when Jesus was attacked by the tempter, He confronted Satan with three simple words: “It is written…” And then Jesus quoted passages from Deuteronomy. Isn’t it interesting that even the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, used the Scripture to defeat Satan?

Years ago my friend Swen Nater and I got together at a restaurant. We talked about the areas where we thought the enemy would come after us, and we took a concordance and researched the Scriptures. We came up with about 40 “swords” for each of us, which we stored in the armories of our minds. I’d suggest you do the same. Think of areas in which you know Satan will tempt you, find some Bible verses relating to those areas, write them out on little cards, and put them where you will see them often. Memorize them. Internalize them. learn them by heart—and be ready to use them when the enemy attacks.

Satan can’t do much with people who assault him with Scripture.

The above article is excerpted from The Spiritual Warfare Answer Book (Thomas Nelson, 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Dr. David Jeremiah. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson. www.thomasnelson.com. Pages 30-31, 34-35, 129-131. All rights reserved.


Bio: Dr. David Jeremiah, David Jeremiah is the founder of Turning Point, an international ministry committed to providing Christians with sound Bible teaching through radio and television, the Internet, live events, and resource materials and books. He’s the author of more than 50 books including Captured By Grace, Angels: Who They Are and How They Help, What in the World Is Going On?, Agents of the Apocalypse, and editor of The Jeremiah Study Bible.

David serves as the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in San Diego, California, where he resides with his wife, Donna. They have four grown children and twelve grandchildren.


No God but One: Allah or Jesus?—An Interview with Nabeel Qureshi

Thousands already have! Try your 30-Day free trial today!
Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it free for 30 days!

Nabeel QureshiHow similar are the world’s two largest religions? What claims does each faith make upon believers’ intellects and lives? What is the evidence supporting each religion’s distinctive beliefs? How does sharia contrast with the gospel?

Readers of Nabeel Qureshi’s first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity (Zondervan, 2014)—winner of the 2015 Christian Book Awards®—already appreciate his careful and respectful comparison of Islam and Christianity.

Bible Gateway interviewed Nabeel Qureshi (@NAQureshi) about his new book, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?—A Former Muslim Investigates the Evidence for Islam and Christianity (Zondervan, 2016).

Buy your copy of No God but One: Allah or Jesus? in the Bible Gateway Store

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post: Interview—Nabeel Qureshi, author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus]

[Browse the Understanding Islam section in the Bible Gateway Store]

How have your personal life and academic life prepared you to write this book about Islam and Christianity?

Nabeel Qureshi: Every year, millions are faced with this dilemma: to follow Islam or Christianity, to worship Allah or Jesus. Unless the seeker lives in a nominal or secular environment, the stakes are high: It can cost a seeker his or her family, friends, job, and potentially his or her life. For such seekers, it’s not simply a matter of believing whatever seems right. They need to be sure, and they need to be sure it’s worth the sacrifice.

For me, it’s been a decade since I made the decision to leave Islam, and the fallout of my decision haunts me every day. I knew it would, well before I ever converted, but I also knew that I was sure. I was sure that Islam and Christianity are not just two paths that lead to the same God, but two very different paths that lead very different ways. I was sure that I had excellent historical reasons to believe the gospel. I was sure that, though I loved Islam, I couldn’t ignore the problems that plagued its foundations.

But most of all, I was sure that following the one true God would be worth all trials and all suffering. I had to follow the evidence and the truth, no matter the cost.

I left my religion of 22 years and became a follower of Jesus in 2005. In 2009, after graduating from medical school, I decided to leave medicine in order to share what I had learned about the gospel, the message of Christianity. I sincerely believe that this message has the power to transform hearts and change the world. The God it proclaims is unlike any other, and it’s an unfathomable honor that we get to be a part of his story and introduce people to him.

Buy your copy of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus in the Bible Gateway Store

How do you respond to people who say they don’t need this book because they’re never going to live in or visit a Muslim country?

Nabeel Qureshi: As I speak around the world, I often come across two kinds of people: Christians who enjoy criticizing Islam, and Muslims who want to argue but don’t want to learn. I’m not writing this book for either of them. I’m writing for people who—like I did—need the answers to three main questions:

  1. What are the differences between Islam and Christianity?
  2. Can we be confident that Christianity or Islam is true?
  3. Is it worth sacrificing everything for the truth?

It took me four years to answer these questions, and they remain so important to me that I’ve studied them for another decade beyond.

How does this book differ from your first, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus?

Nabeel Qureshi: That book is the heart of my story, detailing the relationships, emotions, and spiritual struggles in my search for God. No God but One is the mind of my story, examining the religions and their claims. In the course of No God but One, I hope to elucidate two overarching matters in particular: that the differences between Islam and Christianity have great implications, and that the evidence of history strongly supports the Christian claims.

Whereas Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus was my own conversion story, No God but One shares about my life after conversion and focus predominately on Muslims and Christians I’ve met.

Buy your copy of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus Video Study in the Bible Gateway Store

How are Islam and Christianity similar? And why is that important to acknowledge?

Nabeel Qureshi: There’s really no question that Islam and Christianity are close to one another on the broader religious spectrum. They’re both monotheistic, the largest two faith communities in the world, and they share many similarities. Each teaches the doctrine of an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing God who is sovereign over the universe. It’s God who created mankind out of one man and one woman, yet mankind turns away from him. Each teaches that one day there will be a resurrection and final judgment. Before then, it’s of paramount importance for us to seek God and follow him.

But the similarities between Islam and Christianity run even deeper, beyond the trappings of monotheism. Both lay claim to Abrahamic lineage; both teach that God has sent messengers—human and angelic—to steer people back to him; both teach that God has inspired divine Scriptures to guide man; both teach that Satan is a deceiver that misleads the unwary; and both teach that believers ought to sacrificially care for each other and proclaim the truth to nonbelievers.

Perhaps the most surprising shared feature is reverence for Jesus. Both Islam and Christianity teach that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that he was the most miraculous man who ever lived. Both the Bible and the Quran teach that Jesus cleansed lepers, healed the blind, and even raised the dead. Indeed, both books teach that Jesus is the Messiah, and Muslims await his return, as do Christians.

Are Christianity and Islam basically the same religion?

Nabeel Qureshi: When I hear people say that Islam and Christianity are basically the same, I have to try to restrain my incredulous response. Are Islam and Christianity the same? My parents certainly don’t think so, nor do any of the dozens of friends I lost when I renounced Islam and became a Christian. This cliché is a slap in the face to the hundreds of thousands of converts who’ve left Islam for Christianity and vice versa.

Not only are these religions different, but the differences have far greater ramifications than I realized when I converted. I knew that the historical doctrines of the two religions were different, but doctrines don’t exist in a vacuum. They work together to impact the way we see the world, which in turn changes who we are.

Do Muslims and Christians know the same God?

Nabeel Qureshi: Christians worship Yahweh, the Trinity, whereas Muslims worship Allah, a monad. This is not an incidental difference; Islam makes every effort to condemn the Trinity as blasphemy (4.171). The Quran rejects the relational aspects of God, saying that he’s not a father (5.18) and he’s not a son (112.3). It establishes its own doctrine of God, Tawhid, in diametric opposition to the Trinity, and that doctrine becomes the central doctrine of Islamic theology.

Most people who say Christians and Muslims worship the same God are aware of this difference, but they treat it as relatively inconsequential. This is not a trivial difference, though; it has major implications. Since mankind is made in the image of the Triune God, love is woven into our very nature. The Trinity gives us the most consistent, most powerful basis for being self-sacrificial and altruistic.

This is an important point to unpack. Of course, many people are very altruistic, regardless of their worldviews. A person doesn’t need to believe in God to genuinely care for others, as secular humanists demonstrate. There are even people who don’t believe in any kind of morality yet still desire to care for people. Ultimately, though, such ungrounded altruism is a sentiment, something a person just wants to do. Unless one believes in a transcendent basis for altruism, one’s desire to care for people is unanchored and ephemeral; little more than a whim. According to this amoral worldview, nothing behooves a person to be kind. Even though someone might wish to be altruistic, in the next moment it would be entirely consistent with their worldview if they chose to be selfish.

The question of whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God is complex, and there is much more that could be said. Ultimately, when we understand the Trinity, we realize that the doctrine is not just a theological curiosity. It has far-reaching implications for how we ought to live and how we see the world, and it makes the Christian God categorically different from the Muslim God. It’s what makes God relational; what makes his love eternal. It’s how God can be in us, through the Holy Spirit, while being over us, as the Father, and suffering for us, in the Son. And it’s the Son that most distinguishes the Christian God from the Muslim God. We need to learn about him not only in light of the Trinity but also in light of his life on earth.

Briefly explain what you call the dilemma of the historical Muhammad.

Nabeel Qureshi: Both as a Muslim and now 10 years later, I didn’t conclude that Muhammad didn’t exist. Given the sheer volume of stories and accounts, as well as their relative coherence, it seems more probable than not, to me, that Muhammad existed. But I do have to agree with the basic consensus of non-Muslim scholarship: we cannot know much about Muhammad with certainty.

The alternative, of course, is to trust the Islamic records of Muhammad’s life: the hadith and sirah. But if we consider their accuracy according to the standards of uloom al-hadith, we still find a Muhammad who is not compelling as a prophet of God. Perhaps a great 7th century general and one who adhered to the cultural standards of his day, but certainly not the greatest moral exemplar of all time nor one to whom I would declare my allegiance. If we abandon the uloom al-hadith and use the historical method of assessing the earliest biographies and accounts of Muhammad’s life, we find an even more brutal and problematic picture of Muhammad.

This is the dilemma I had as a Muslim: either I could trust the historical sources of Muhammad’s life and find a man I would never want to follow as a prophet, or I could question the sources and have no reason to consider him a prophet. Either way I could not conclude, based on the evidence, that Muhammad was a prophet of God.

How does the Muslim term sharia compare to the Christian term the gospel?

Nabeel Qureshi: Sharia simply means knowing how to live. Islam teaches that the fundamental problem of mankind is ignorance; that man needs to be guided in order to live good lives. Once people learn what to believe, aqeeda, and how to live, sharia, they’ll earn the pleasure of Allah.

Right practice in Islam is learned through Islamic Law, called Sharia, understood to mean ‘the way to water.’ Especially for a desert people, the concept is powerful: following Sharia is the way to life itself. Sharia dictates virtually every aspect of a devout Muslim’s life; from what foods to eat, to proper forms of currency, to exact words to recite during prayers. Of all Islamic practices, five are paramount: proclaiming the Islamic motto, the shahada: ‘There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger’; praying the five daily prayers; fasting during the month of Ramadan; giving alms; and undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca. Together, these are called The Five Pillars of Islam.

But the Christian message is that there’s good news. In Greek, the word for ‘good news’ is euangelion, which in English is translated ‘Gospel.’ And the good news is this: out of his great love, God has made a way for us. God himself has paid for our sins and will eternally restore our souls. All we have to do is repent of our rebellion, have faith in what he’s done, and follow him.

Finally, we’re at a place to understand the message of Christianity: the fundamental problem of mankind is sin, and we are powerless to save ourselves. The good news is that God loves us and makes a way for us by paying our penalty himself, upon the cross. Jesus proved that he’s the author of life by rising from death. We who repent and follow Jesus demonstrate our faith in him and that he’s saved us, and God begins a transforming work in us. As we follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit makes us more like him and sends us into the world to love mankind with the selfless love of God. We can even lay down our lives for others, as Jesus modeled for us. Our ultimate restoration will come to miraculous fruition when we’re remade, unbroken, to live with him and love him for eternity.

So, when it comes to salvation in Christianity, Jesus is literally ‘the Way,’ and our love for God is our primary expression of worship.

What do you hope readers will do after reading No God but One?

Nabeel Qureshi: Truth is the most important biblical principle in my book. The truth about Jesus and the gospel. Leaving Islam can cost a person everything: family, friends, job, everything you have ever known, and maybe even life itself. Is it really worth sacrificing everything for the truth? The answer is simple: it depends on the value of the truth.

When we consider the gospel, we find the deep secrets of the world unfolded. We find a Triune God because of whom love is eternal and absolute, who did not need the world but created it out of an overflow of his love. In him, Yahweh, we have the Father who loves us unconditionally, who offers us extravagant grace, who runs to us when we return to him, who makes us with a purpose and orchestrates all things for the good of those who love him. In Yahweh we find the Son who’s willing to shoulder our pains, who leads us in exemplary humility by suffering for us, making our burdens light, and forging a way for us to live life to the full even though we die. In Yahweh we receive the Holy Spirit, our Comforter who fills us with grace, transforms our hearts, renews our minds, and sends us into the world as God’s hands and feet to serve others as he served us. The gospel is the answer to our individual pains, to the world’s sufferings, and to life’s mysteries.

There is no God but one, and he is Father, Spirit, and Son. There is no God but one, and he is Jesus.
It is worth all suffering to receive this truth and follow him. God is more beautiful than this life itself, and the one who loves him is ready to die when death comes, not just to glorify him but to hasten to his arms. Though we will die, we will live.

As you’ve studied Islam and Christianity, how has objectivity affected your research?

Nabeel Qureshi: I want to share something that took me years to really grasp: it’s virtually impossible to study these matters objectively. Not only do we all have a vested interest in defending the faiths we and our social circles have believed for years, but our beliefs also color the way we receive information. The same data will be interpreted differently by people from disparate worldviews. When we investigate Islam and Christianity as devout believers in one or the other faith, our Christian or Muslim presuppositions affect the way we interpret the evidence, and we often see what we want to see.

When I started investigating the data, I came to the table with the presupposition that Islam was true, and I interpreted the data accordingly. No matter what facts provided, I either made them fit my Islamic paradigm or I found some way to dismiss them. It’s not difficult to defend what you already believe, and anyone who sets their mind to it will be able to do so, whether Muslim or Christian.

What’s difficult is pursuing the truth about your faith and assessing it honestly. This feat requires one to be introspective and self-critical at frequent intervals. Although we can never completely overcome our biases, the most important step we can take is to pursue fair-mindedness with intentionality. While considering the data, we need to repeatedly ask ourselves the question: “Would an objective observer find the arguments compelling?”


Bio: Dr. Qureshi has participated in 17 moderated, public debates around North America, Europe, and Asia. His focus is on the foundations of the Christian faith and the early history and teachings of Islam. He’s a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (@RaviZacharias). He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA from Duke University in Religion.


Bible News Roundup – Week of August 21, 2016

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
Bible Gateway Weekly Brief
Newsletter signup

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

US Air Force Rules Officer May Keep Bible on Desk
The Colorado Springs Independent
Todd Starnes: Officer Cleared in Military Bible Complaint

Bibles Removed From College Hotel Following Complaint From Atheist Activist Group
Christian News

Over-Scheduled Teens Struggle to Find Time for the Bible
Christian Newswire
American Bible Society: 2016 Teen State of the Bible
Barna Group/American Bible Society report: State of the Bible 2016: Teens (pdf)

Biblical Tabernacle is Nothing Like What You Think Says Bible-Savvy Engineer
Breaking Israel News
Read about the tabernacle in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read about the tabernacle in Exodus 26 on Bible Gateway
Bible Gateway Blog post—Experience the Tabernacle: An Interview with Jeanne Whittaker

Why Is a Christian Group Taking a Torah Scroll on Tour to Churches Nationwide?
Breaking Israel News

New Bible Translation Methods Reach Even the Unreachable
Mission Network News
Orlando Sentinel: At Wycliffe, Summer Interns Code Software to Expand Bible’s Global Reach
Bible Gateway Blog post—Helping to Translate the Bible Where Persecution of Christians Is Severe: An Interview with Bruce Smith
Read the Bible in multiple languages on Bible Gateway

Update on Making the Bible Available to Every People Group in the World
Mission Network News

National Treasure: The First Bible in Latvian Published in 1694
Latvian Public Media

Texas Pastor Works to Send 1,000 Bibles to Africa
Longview News-Journal
Bible Gateway Blog post—The Africa Study Bible: An Interview with Matthew Elliott

In the Beginning was the Word: The Bible in the Life of the Lutheran Communion
Lutheran World Federation
Read the Luther Bible on Bible Gateway

Reuniting Families with Bibles
FOX 13

Video: 111-Year-Old Woman Reciting Bible Passage Goes Viral
WBTV
Read Psalm 23 on Bible Gateway

Archaeologists ‘Find Jesus’s Synagogue’
Premier
Read the synagogue article in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
See Bible search results for “synagogue” on Bible Gateway
See resources about Biblical Archaeology in the Bible Gateway Store

Christian Persecution Rising in India, Report Says
Baptist Press
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters
See resources on the topic of Christian Persecution in the Bible Gateway Store

What do Americans Look For in a Church?
FactTank
The Atlantic: The Surprising Reason Why More Americans Aren’t Going To Church

The Unfolding History of Paper
CBS Sunday Morning

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Biblical Themes in Ben-Hur

Scenes from Ben-Hur
The major motion picture Ben-Hur is now in theaters. A remake of the 1959 classic, Ben-Hur tells the story of two brothers who become mortal enemies until a chance encounter with Jesus of Nazareth leads them to healing. Ben-Hur depicts universal Christian themes of love, forgiveness, justice, and redemption.

Here are a few scenes from the movie that reflect biblical messages:

Jesus’ Radical Message of Love

We first see Jesus as a simple carpenter. His radical message of love, which Judah calls ‘progressive,’ might even appear outrageous given that the oppressed Jews detest their Roman occupiers. Yet this seemingly impossible challenge resonates with Esther and it will gain Jesus many followers in the time ahead.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mark 11:25 (ESV)

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14 (ESV)

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Luke 6:35 (ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 (ESV)

The Revolutionary Power of Love

Jesus tells the crowd that if they can set aside the hate and anger that is used to control them they will discover that love is their true nature. Love, as Jesus teaches it, is not simply an innate capacity within us, part of our divine nature, it is an active force that has the power to overcome the evils of the world. Pilate views this as a “poison” more dangerous than all the zealots combined.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18 (ESV)

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12 (ESV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” John 14:23 (ESV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (ESV)

Human Justice vs. God’s Justice

Judah’s thirst for revenge is ‘eye-for-an-eye’ justice, but Jesus’ revolutionary teaching transcends this concept of justice with mercy. And mercy triumphs over justice because of love.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV)

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Romans 12:19 (ESV)

Thus says the Lord of hosts, render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another. Zechariah 7:9 (ESV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5:38-45 (ESV)

Love Heals

In witnessing the extraordinary love of Jesus as he allows himself to be crucified and forgives his killers, Judah’s heart is opened and he is redeemed, transformed by God’s grace from a man of hate to a man of love.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 (ESV)

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Psalm 107:19-21 (ESV)

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:14 (ESV)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: The Tower of Babel

Thousands already have! Try your 30-Day free trial today!
Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it free for 30 days!

Buy your copy of NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

The Bible was originally written to an ancient people removed from today by thousands of years and thousands of miles. The Scriptures include subtle culturally-based nuances, undertones, and references to ancient events, literature, and customs that were intuitively understood by those who first heard the Scriptures read. For us to hear the Scriptures as they did, we need a window into their world.

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, Zondervan to Release NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible]

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Zondervan, 2016) (website) with notes from Dr. John H. Walton (Wheaton College) in the Old Testament and Dr. Craig S. Keener (Asbury Theological Seminary) in the New Testament, brings to life the ancient world of Scripture for modern readers.

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: An Interview with John Walton and Craig Keener]

For example, the Infographic below helps to explain the cultural context of the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 in the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. (Also see the Infographics The Good Samaritan and The Last Supper.)

Buy your copy of NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

You’ve heard many Bible stories hundreds of times, but how many behind-the-scenes details are you missing? Get a FREE online course on Bible backgrounds taught by Wheaton College professors John Walton and Andrew Hill. This course will help you to gain a deeper understanding of Scripture and allow you to treasure it more.

The Disciplines of the Christian Life by Eric Liddell

Thousands already have! Try your 30-Day free trial today!
Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it free for 30 days!

Eric LiddellEric Henry Liddell was a Scottish athlete, rugby union international player, and missionary. He’s perhaps most well known as the subject of the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which depicted his experiences training for and racing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris and the religious convictions that influenced him to refuse to run in races on Sunday. In his book about spiritual disciplines, he outlines his own pattern for living which has as its foundation a daily Bible reading plan.

The Disciplines of the Christian Life (christianaudio, 2011) is a practical guide to helping Christians grow spiritually through a daily practice of prayer, Bible study, and Bible reading structured around key topics he believes are basic knowledge for every Christian.

[See our Blog post, Quiz: Do You Know These Sports References and Amazing Feats From the Bible?]

[See books related to the Olympic Games and sports in general in the Bible Gateway Store]

Buy your copy of The Disciplines of the Christian Life in the Bible Gateway Store

The following article is excerpted from The Disciplines of the Christian Life (christianaudio, 2011) by Eric Liddell.

The Key to Knowing God

A disciple is one who knows God personally, and who learns from Jesus Christ, who most perfectly revealed God. One word stands out from all others as the key to knowing God, to having his peace and assurance in your heart; it is obedience.

Obedience to God’s will is the secret of spiritual knowledge and insight. It is not willingness to know, but willingness to do (obey) God’s will that brings enlightenment and certainty regarding spiritual truth. ‘If any man will do [obey] his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself’ (John 7:17).

Here are some questions to ask yourself. If I know something to be true, am I prepared to follow it even though it is contrary to what I want, to what I have previously said or held to be true? Will I follow it even if it means loss of face, owning that I was wrong? Will I follow if it means being laughed at by friend or foe, if it means personal financial loss or some kind of hardship?

Following truth leads to God, for truth is of God.

Obedience is the secret of being conscious that God guides you personally. If in the quiet of your heart you feel something should be done, stop and consider whether it is in line with the character and teaching of Jesus. If so, obey that impulse to do it, and in doing so you will find it was God guiding you.

Every Christian should live a God-guided life. If you are not guided by God, you will be guided by someone or something else. The Christian who hasn’t the sense of guidance in his life is missing something vital.

To obey God’s will was like food to Jesus, refreshing his mind, body, and spirit. ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me’ (John 4:34). We can all have the same experience if we make God’s will the dominant purpose in our lives.

Take obedience with you into your time of prayer and meditation, for you will know as much of God, and only as much of God, as you are willing to put into practice. There is a great deal of truth in the hymn Trust and Obey:

    When we walk with the Lord
    In the light of His Word
    What a glory he sheds on our way!
    While we do his good will,
    He abides with us still,
    And with all who will trust and obey. J. H. Sammis (italics added)

Applying the Moral Tests

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts. (Psalm 139:23)

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5)

God speaks to people through the moral law. If we break these laws and excuse ourselves for doing so, the presence and guidance of God lose their reality in our lives: the freedom and radiance of the Christian life depart.

Here are four tests of the moral law by which to measure ourselves—and so obey the biblical commands.

Am I truthful? Are there any conditions under which I will or do tell a lie? Can I be depended on to tell the truth no matter what the cost? Yes or no? Don’t hedge, excuse, explain. Yes or no?

Am I honest? Can I be absolutely trusted in money matters? In my work even when no one is looking? With other people’s reputations? Yes or no? With myself, or do I rationalize and become self-defensive?

Am I pure? In my habits? In my thought life? In my motives? In my relations with the opposite sex? Yes or no?

Am I selfish? In the demands I make on my family, wife, husband, or associates? Am I badly balanced; full of moods, cold today and warm tomorrow?

Do I indulge in nerves that spoil both my happiness and the happiness of those around me?

Am I unrestrained in my pleasures, the kind I enjoy without considering the effect they have on my soul?

Am I unrestrained in my work, refusing to take reasonable rest and exercise?

Am I unrestrained in small self-indulgences, letting myself become the slave of habits, however harmless they may appear to me?

What am I living for—self, money, place, power? Or are my powers at the disposal of human need, dedicated to the Kingdom of God on earth?

Let us put ourselves before ourselves and look at ourselves. The bravest moment of a man’s life is the moment when he looks at himself objectively without wincing, without complaining.

Self-examination which does not result in action is dangerous. What am I going to do about what I see? The action called for is surrender—of ourselves to God.

The above article is excerpted from The Disciplines of the Christian Life (christianaudio, 2011) by Eric Liddell. Used by permission of christianaudio. http://christianaudio.com. Pages 27-29. All rights reserved.