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The Lord’s Prayer is Revolutionary: An Interview with R. Albert Mohler Jr.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.Through the centuries the Lord’s Prayer has been domesticated and tamed, turned into a safe series of comforting words and made familiar by repetition. But when truly considered, the Lord’s Prayer is meant to turn the world upside down, toppling every earthly power and announcing God’s reign over all things, in heaven and on earth.

Bible Gateway interviewed R. Albert Mohler Jr. (@albertmohler) about his book, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution (Thomas Nelson, 2018).

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Explain the message behind the book’s subtitle, “The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: People tend to think of the Lord’s Prayer in predictable and familiar terms, often reciting the prayer in worship or private devotions without recognizing how the prayer actually turns the world upside down. This prayer is a manifesto for revolution. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” he was telling them to petition their Father to overturn the world order. These petitions are a declaration—a manifesto—that casts down every throne, relativizes every totalitarian empire, and makes clear that God is the absolute ruler of all.

What is the problem you see with the way many Christians pray?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: Christians tend to fall into very predictable and comfortable patterns of prayer. I can remember the first time as a teenager I arrived at a destination familiar to me and realized I really didn’t remember the process of driving in order to get there. It was a fairly scary thought and one that I think relates directly to the experience many Christians have in prayer. If we can’t remember something significant about the prayer we’ve just prayed, then something’s wrong. The Lord’s Prayer gives us an outline of how Jesus taught his own disciples to pray. Prayer is active and dynamic—a conversation with our Creator.

Why is prayer important?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: Prayer is not optional in the Christian life. Throughout Scripture, prayer is presented as one of the greatest gifts God has given his creatures, and prayer affirms the fact that we’re in a relationship with God. That relationship is sustained by worship, by the reading of Scripture, by active discipleship, and by a life of prayer. When the apostle Paul was advising Timothy, he instructed him to give attention to the public reading of Scripture and to prayer. This is a corrective for all of us, and not merely for individual Christians but for our churches as well.

How should a Christian not pray?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: We should not pray in a way that is inconsistent with our theology. We’re not to pray little prayers to a little God. We’re not to follow formulaic patterns as if we’re reciting a mantra. We’re to follow the example of Christ in a dynamic conversation because of our real relationship—our genuine relationship—with God.

How did Jesus model a life of prayer?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: The Gospels tell us that Jesus set aside times of prayer. And just looking at the Gospel of John, for example, we see Jesus taking himself aside for intimate periods of prayer. The most famous of these prayers is the high priestly prayer of Jesus we find in John 17. We often refer to the Lord’s Prayer as if this is how Jesus prayed. In reality, it’s how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. We see in the Gospels how Jesus prayed in his own relationship with the Father.

Why do you write Jesus doesn’t think much of routine Christian prayer?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: The key issue there is routine. Jesus didn’t command his disciples to engage in a routine but rather to give themselves to the joy and privilege of prayer. It’s certainly not wrong to incorporate the very words of the Lord’s Prayer in our devotions and worship. As a matter fact, to do so is absolutely right. At the same time, this is where we’re to start, not where we’re to end our prayers.

What does it mean to “hallow” the name of God, especially in modern culture where OMG is such a prevalent exclamation?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: To hallow simply means “to make holy,” and in this sense what Christians are to do is to affirm the absolute holiness of God even as we pray. This means that we do not pray to a trifling deity or some kind of half-god, but rather we declare the awesome, singular reality of the one true and living God. Just as Isaiah saw God high and lifted up and heard the seraphim declared him to be “holy, holy, holy,” we are to do the same in our prayer. We must affirm the holiness of God, even as in following Christ we seek to live holy lives.

What do you mean “there is no ‘I’ in prayer”?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught us to pray in the plural. “Our Father who art in heaven.” We’re not supposed to be concerned primarily with our own needs but the needs of the church. But even as this corrective is really important, we’re instructed to go before God with our own personal worship, adoration, and with our own requests and needs. So it’s not always wrong to put “I” in our prayers. We’ll refer to ourselves freely, but we’re never to limit our prayers to our singular voice.

What is God’s kingdom and what does it mean to pray for it to come?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: God’s kingdom refers to his absolute comprehensive reign. The Lord is presented in Scripture as the King of the entire universe—the very universe that he made and over which he rules. God’s kingdom refers to his power and authority over all things and emphasizes the fact that God’s kingship relativizes every earthly kingship.

Does this prayer mean that God forgives our sins only as we forgive those who sin against us?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: That’s a really interesting question, and it certainly underlines the fact that we’re to forgive others even as we ask for God’s forgiveness. We should be reminded of the parable of the unforgiving servant who betrayed his master and forfeited his own forgiveness because he steadfastly refused to forgive others. That’s a pretty significant warning.

How does God “lead us into temptation” and why does Jesus say we should pray that he not do that?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: You know, that’s a very contemporary question since there’ve been suggestions that the prayer ought to be re-formulated to make clear that God does not tempt us as human beings. In his letter, the apostle James explicitly states that God does not lead us into sin and that no human being can claim that God is the reason that we have sinned. But the Bible also tells us that our discipleship is tested by fire, and the book of Job in the Old Testament underlines the fact that God did allow Job to be tested. So we should accept this testing as part of a dimension of how God is conforming us as Christians to the image of Christ. And as we pray that particular prayer, it reminds us of the fact that we should pray that God will preserve us, even in testing, from sin.

What should be going through a person’s mind every time he or she recites the Lord’s Prayer?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: I think it’s really important to recognize that in the Gospel of Luke we’re told that Jesus gave this prayer as a model prayer to his disciples when those very disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, even as John the Baptist had taught his disciples to pray. So, we’re to see the Lord’s prayer as the great example prayer or model prayer that Jesus gave his own disciples, and thus to us, in order that we would know how to pray in such a way that pleases God. I can’t think of any greater aspiration for a Christian than to pray in the way that Jesus would teach us to pray. And without the Lord’s prayer, we would lack that key teaching model that Jesus gave his own disciples out of love. There’s every good reason that Christians for over 2,000 years have turned to this prayer over and over again. There’s good reason why we incorporate this prayer into our worship. We should be thankful that the Lord loved us so much, even as he loved his own disciples, that he gives us this example of how to pray.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: I think of Romans 12:1-2, and how Paul instructs us not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Prayer is one of the most important ways that we’re transformed by Christ, and our minds are conformed to how Christ would have us to think and our lives are conformed to how Christ would have us to live.

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

R. Albert Mohler Jr.: I’m thankful for every good resource available to Christians for Bible study. Bible Gateway represents one of the most accessible ways that Christians can quickly learn more about the Bible, find their way around Scripture, and dive even deeper into the Word of God. I really look forward to Christians reading this new book and my great prayer is that it will encourage Christians, not only to love the Lord’s Prayer and understand it more fully, but to become ever more faithful in their own lives of prayer and devotion.

Bio: R. Albert Mohler Jr. has been called “one of America’s most influential evangelicals” (Economist) and the “reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement” (TIME.com). President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he writes a popular blog and a regular commentary, available at AlbertMohler.com, and hosts two programs: The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of many books, including The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down, We Cannot Be Silent, and The Conviction to Lead, and has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, and on programs such as NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He and his wife, Mary, live in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Greek New Testament Aims to be ‘World’s Most Accurate’

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Crossway, Tyndale House (Cambridge), and Cambridge University Press Introduce Greek New Testament 10 Years in the Making

In a significant contribution to biblical scholarship, Crossway has released The Greek New Testament, Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge (Crossway, 2017).

[Browse the Biblical Greek language section in the Bible Gateway Store]

The Greek New Testament is a fresh critical Greek text that reflects decades of scholarly advances and integrates up-to-date studies in scribal habits, aiming to be the most accurate printing of the New Testament in its earliest well-documented form. The New Testament was originally written in an early form of Greek in the first century.

[See the Greek New Testaments available for reading on Bible Gateway]

Dr. Dirk Jongkind

The Greek New Testament, printed in Greek, was created under the oversight of editors Dr. Dirk Jongkind (@DJngKnd) (St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge) and Dr. Peter Williams (Tyndale House, Cambridge). Jongkind and Williams edited this all-new edition, working with the earliest-possible manuscripts, reexamining spelling and paragraph decisions, and allowing more recent discoveries to inform editorial decisions.

[Read the Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament on Bible Gateway]Dr. Peter Williams

Dane Ortlund, executive vice president of Bible Publishing and Bible Publisher at Crossway, says, “There is nothing more precious than the very words of God in the New Testament, given to us in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles and handed down with meticulous care through the generations and centuries. This edition of The Greek New Testament represents the very best of biblical scholarship and is a critical Greek text that takes us carefully and faithfully into the very words handed down in the earliest years of the church’s existence.”

The Greek New Testament, Cambridge Edition, interior pages; click to enlarge

Published to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, The Greek New Testament features

  • readings, including spellings, that are supported by two or more manuscripts from the fifth century or earlier;
  • textual decisions based on a careful weighing of scribal habits evidence;
  • accents, paragraphing, and spellings chosen based on the medieval manuscript tradition; and
  • high-quality paper imported from Austria and printed in Italy.

In partnership with Crossway, Cambridge University Press has also published The Greek New Testament under its own imprint.

[See The Greek-English New Testament: UBS 5th Revised Edition and NIV in the Bible Gateway Store]

A valuable resource for pastors, professors, students, and others who regularly work with the New Testament in its original language, The Greek New Testament is a groundbreaking Greek translation. Presenting the best approximation of the words written by the New Testament authors, it is sure to be a standard resource for years to come.

About Crossway
Founded in 1938, Crossway is a not-for-profit global Christian publishing ministry that publishes gospel-centered, Bible-centered content, to honor our Savior and serve his Church. Crossway seeks to help people understand the all-encompassing implications of the gospel and the truth of God’s Word—for all of life, for all eternity, and for the glory of God alone. Crossway is the global publisher of the ESV® (English Standard Version®) Bible, more than 1,000 Christian books, and an extensive list of gospel literature. For additional information visit crossway.org.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of January 21, 2018

[Return daily during the coming week for updates]

Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store
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How Czech Evangelical Christians See the Bible, Evangelism, and Prayer
Evangelical Focus
Read the Bible in Czech on Bible Gateway

Previously Unread Manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls Containing Oldest Bible Texts Deciphered by Israeli University
The Nation
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Why Biblical Archaeology Is Important for Your Bible Reading: An Interview with Randall Price
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Biblical Archaeology Research
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See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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Bible Gateway 25th Anniversary Sweepstakes for January

Learn more about the NIV Zondervan Study Bible premium leather edition in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayBible Gateway is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a new sweepstakes every month this year!

This month enter for a chance to win a copy of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible premium leather edition (Zondervan, 2015), which has a suggested retail value of $149.99. Two winners will be selected at random. One entry per person; legal residents of the USA 18 years of age and older. Entry period: Jan. 10, 2018 (midnight ET) – Jan. 28, 2018 (11:59 pm ET).

Once you’ve entered, tell your friends and followers about Bible Gateway’s 25th Anniversary—and what Bible Gateway means to you—in your posts on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media; when you do, use the #MyBibleGateway hashtag to communicate the fun!

Sweepstakes Links:

Bible Gateway’s 25 Years

Venture back to the year 1993. The first widely used graphical World Wide Web browser, Mosaic (later to become Netscape), was introduced, representing a major turning point in the Internet’s journey toward wide-scale user acceptance; US President Bill Clinton put the White House online; the first ever webcam connected to the Internet; and, topping the news in 1993, Bible Gateway, a fledgling idea in the mind of a college staffer, launched as an internal Bible research tool for college students.

Twenty-five years ago, the nascent World Wide Web accounted for only 1% of telecommunications information flow. By 2007, that number rose to 97%. Today, in the center of the information deluge flowing on the Web, sits BibleGateway.com (@biblegateway), the most-visited Christian website in the world; home to more than 200 Bible versions in more than 70 languages; and a trusted resource for more than 140 million people in more than 200 countries every year. Rely on it every day for all your Bible needs.

 

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How to Fight Fear, Wrestle Worry, and Allay Anxiety: An Interview with Alli Worthington

Alli WorthingtonSometimes Jesus’ call to “fear not” seems like the hardest instruction to follow. Some days you faultlessly juggle everything that is your life—kids, husband, house, job, church, friendships, school, pets, appointments, and on and on. Other days the very thought of which ball you’re going to drop puts your anxiety level through the roof.

Bible Gateway interviewed Alli Worthington (@alli) about her book, Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety (Zondervan, 2018).

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Why are fear and worry such a constant struggle for so many, in spite of the Bible’s repeated admonition to “fear not”?

Alli Worthington: Twenty million Americans struggle with anxiety. Fear is something that we all deal with at some point in our lives. It’s part of being human. The danger for Christians is to heap self-condemnation on ourselves when we feel fear, worry, and anxiety because we think it shows a lack of faith. I believe the Bible tells us so many times to “fear not” precisely because everyone deals with fear and it’s said to encourage us and to comfort us when we’re afraid.

How should a person handle personal rejection so that it doesn’t contribute to anxiety?

Alli Worthington: The most important thing to do is to acknowledge the hurt, ban negative self-talk, remember how Jesus sees you, and connect with people who care about you. When we’re in the process of healing from a rejection, it’s easy to pretend it doesn’t hurt, but what we don’t reveal is very hard to heal.

We want to acknowledge what has happened and be careful not to hurt ourselves even more through negative self-talk. When we feel rejected it’s easy to take it out on ourselves. Self-criticism is often confused with humility, but it’s not; I believe it’s straight-up sinful behavior. If Jesus doesn’t talk to us that way, we shouldn’t either.

And finally, it’s important to surround yourself with people who love you and who will build you up and encourage you. Being in community is the key, but we need to make sure we surround ourselves with people who build us up instead of tear us down.

Explain how the battle against fear can be fought on the spiritual and the physical level.

Alli Worthington: We’re beings made out of both body and spirit, the physical and spiritual. My spirit knows that the victory is in Jesus. My spirit knows I have nothing to fear. But my body lives in the physical world, and my body often feels flat-out scared. There’s a battle between the spiritual and physical. When the spirit says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” our bodies reply, “But I’m still scared.”

Since we all live on two levels, we have to learn to fight fear, anxiety, and worry on two levels, both with the spiritual and physical. We can fight using truth found in Scripture, the peace we find in Jesus, and using practical steps in our everyday lives.

What are the Five Bad B’s?

Alli Worthington: The Five Bad B’s are the unconscious coping strategies that we all use to deal with fear, anxiety, and worry:

  1. Busy: when we feel anxious, a common coping strategy is to stay busy to distract ourselves from our worries.
  2. Blame: blaming others when we feel scared or worried is a common coping mechanism. It’s as if our brains are saying, “I can’t handle feeling this way and I need to take it out someone else,” so we shift our focus to others instead of focusing on the problem or uncomfortable feeling at hand.
  3. Binge: binging is the act of doing something to excess as a way to numb uncomfortable emotions. It could be excessive eating, exercise, watching TV, shopping, or any number of other things.
  4. Bury: we bury our feelings in three primary ways: through denial, procrastination, and avoidance, and often these three ways become intertwined with one another.
  5. Brood: this is when we replay in our minds what’s happened or what could happen, over and over again. Another word for this is rumination. Experts say that brooding over something in your past or fear of something in the future is directly related to developing depression.

It’s common to avoid battling our fear, anxiety, and worry and instead busy ourselves, blame others, binge away our concerns, bury our worries, or brood until we’re an emotional mess. But when we’re armed with the knowledge of these unhealthy coping mechanisms, we don’t have to get stuck there. There’s a better way, and a step-by-step guide for overcoming what holds us back.

What’s the relationship between social media and the fear of missing out (FOMO)?

Alli Worthington: Because we live in a time where we have a world of information, images, and videos coming at us instantly, FOMO isn’t going to go away. In a world of constant connection, FOMO—and its evil twin, social comparison—are the struggles of our time.

Because of social media, we see the most fun, most amazing, most exciting hand-picked moments and hundreds of acquaintances lives, all in real-time. And if you’ve just cleaned up a diaper blowout, gotten fired, or are simply hanging around eating Cheetos on the couch when you see these posts, FOMO pops up and whispers to you that you don’t measure up in comparison.

What is the Battle Plan you include in the book?

Alli Worthington: Fierce Faith, as a whole, is a manual on how to fight individual fears, worries, and anxieties. Each chapter has a unique battle plan for that specific fear. The step-by-step way to overcome the fear of something bad happening in the future, for example, is completely different than the step-by-step to overcome the fear that something terrible will happen to our children. However, there’s an overarching battle plan that we use for all of our fear, worry, and anxiety. I call it the Four Good A’s. We fight the Five Bad B’s with the Four Good A’s:

  1. Aware: be aware of your feelings. Our feelings come from a combination of what we think and what we believe. Feelings are the way we know the health of our thoughts. When we’re aware of our feelings, it helps them not be able to sneak up and sideswipe us. Being aware allows us to be self-compassionate instead of self-critical. Giving yourself permission to feel, and acknowledge your true feelings, is the first step in battling fear.
  2. Avoid the Five Bad B’s: when we’re aware that we’re using any of the Bad B’s we can begin to avoid them and not stay stuck in behaviors that are unhealthy for us.
  3. Ask Jesus for help: take it to Jesus and let him fight the spiritual battle. We need to ask for a clear mind, peaceful heart, and extra strength to encourage us on our difficult days. Our most powerful tools will always be prayer and worship. We know that we should take everything to Jesus, that the battle is his and that we fight not for a victory, but from a place of an already won victory.
  4. Attack: practice the battle plan to take care of anxieties on the physical plane. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Talk about a plan of attack! Paul begins by telling us to watch how we think about the things in our lives. It’s with our thoughts we decide to believe the lies of the enemy; to be our own false prophets of the future and steal our own happiness in life. We can attack by changing our thoughts and our behaviors.

The enemy has a plan to keep us from experiencing the full life God has created for us. His plan counts on us being unaware and unarmed. To fight back, we must be aware of our thoughts and arm ourselves with the truth that Jesus spoke when he said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).


Bio: Alli Worthington is a speaker, blogger, author of Breaking Busy, and the executive director of Propel Women. As an executive coach, Alli has helped individuals, small business owners, and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. Alli’s no-nonsense, guilt-free take on motherhood, parenting, and balance has led to appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, and a rescued dog and cat who moved onto their doorstep. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com.

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Do I Have a Right to Die?

Joni Eareckson TadaBy Joni Eareckson Tada

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . . Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. ~JOHN DONNE

For the moment, forget everything you’ve ever heard about right-to-die or right-to-life positions. Put aside the court rulings. Push out of your mind the tug-at-your-heart stories you’ve seen in the movies or read about online.

Now, with no one reading your thoughts, may I ask, “Do you know when it is right to die? For you? For your family?” Please, I realize this may not be a theoretical question for you. You may be one who could write a real-life tug-at-your-heart story. And you may have already made up your mind about how and when you want to die. Whatever your response, I want you to know that your decision matters.

It matters more than you realize.

Let me explain. Since at one time I served on a national council that drafted major civil rights legislation, my husband, Ken, then a high school government teacher, asked me to speak to his classes on the subject of legalizing euthanasia. This was well before California had legalized medically assisted death, but plenty of initiatives were testing the waters. Ken wanted me to talk to his students about the implications of a right-to-die law. The classroom was crowded with kids standing along the back and leaning against the chalkboards covering the walls.

I was surprised by how interested they were as I divulged my despair of earlier days. I admitted my relief that no right-to-die law existed when I was in the hospital and hooked up to machines. I then underscored how critical it was for every student to become informed and involved in shaping society’s response to the problem. Then I added, “What role do you think society should play in helping people decide when it is right to die?”

A few hands went up. I could tell by their answers that they felt society should take action to help hurting and dying people—some students insisting on life no matter how burdensome the treatment, and a few wanting to help by hurrying along the death process.

One student shared how his mother was getting demoralized by the burden of taking care of his sister with developmental delays. He felt society should, in his words, “do something.”

“Like what?” I playfully challenged.

“Like . . . I’m not sure, but society ought to get more involved in the lives of people like my mother.”

I glanced at Ken. He nodded, as if to give the go-ahead to take a free rein with this young man. “May I ask what you have done to get more involved?”

The student smiled and shrugged.

“How have you helped alleviate the burden? Have you taken your sister on an outing lately? Maybe to the beach?” I teased. “Have you offered to do some shopping for your mother? Maybe your mom wouldn’t be so demoralized, maybe she wouldn’t feel so stressed or burdened, if you rolled up your sleeves a little higher to help.”

A couple of his friends by the chalkboard laughed and threw wads of paper at him. “Okay, okay, I see your point,” he chuckled.

I smiled. “My point is this: Society is not a bunch of people way out there who sit around big tables and think up political trends or cultural drifts; society is you. Your actions, your decisions, matter. What you do or don’t do has a ripple effect on everyone around you. And on a smaller scale, your participation can even make a huge difference in what your family decides to do with your sister.”

The classroom fell silent, and I knew the lesson was being driven home. I paused, scanned the face of each student, and closed by saying, “You, my friends, are society.”

Right to DieYour Point of View Matters

And that’s how much your point of view matters. You may be the one who fiercely advocates pulling the plug, or the one who fights to keep a heart pumping until the bitter end. Whichever it is, you must, in the words of John Donne, know this: no man is an island.

We are such private people. We would like to be able to make a life or death decision in a vacuum or even at an arm’s-length distance from others. But we can’t. Your point of view and how you act on it, let’s say as you lie in bed with a terminal illness, not only matters to you and your family; it matters to a wide network of friends and associates as well. In other words, to society. The cultural drift is channeled by your decision to either pull the plug or hold on to life.

In fact, will you permit me to get personal? If you can, dismiss your real-life circumstances for a moment. Let’s pretend you are in bed with a terminal illness, and doctors say you could live for another six months. Your pain can be effectively managed. And you have an opportunity to make a choice about medical treatment. You can decline treatment if you want—and you even live in a state whose laws permit you to request a medically assisted death. Your family says it’s up to you. I know it’s hard to pretend such an antiseptic situation, devoid of real grief and actual anguish, because distress would play a key role. But given this sterile scenario, what would you do? What would you say?

Are you one who might say, “It’s none of your business. I’ll control how and when I die, and what’s more, I feel no responsibility to society. I’m only responsible to myself and to those I love.”

I hear what you’re saying. But when people maintain that their death is their own business and the business of “those I love,” they do not consider the significance of their decision on the wider circle of life. A decision to cut life short, even if only a few months, does not stop with “those I love,” but affects a whole network of relationships: friends, former colleagues, teachers, distant family members, casual acquaintances, and even nurses and doctors who occasionally stop by your bedside.

Just what effect might your decision have? Your gutsy choice to face suffering head-on forces others around you to sit up and take notice. It’s called strengthening the character of a helping society. When people observe perseverance, endurance, and courage, their moral fiber is reinforced. Conversely, your choice to bow out of life can and does weaken the moral resolve of that same society.

Years after my hospitalization, my mother continued to receive letters from nurses, cafeteria workers, and a family whose daughter had suffered a severe brain injury and had been hooked up to machines two beds away from me in the intensive care unit. My parents made gutsy choices that involved facing suffering head-on. And the decisions they made regarding my care had a lasting impact on these people. And who knows what ripple effects have come from the choices they have made in the years since?

If you believe your decision is private and independent, think again. Your choice to speed up the dying process is like playing a delicate game of pick-up sticks. You carefully lift a stick, hoping not to disturb the intricate web. But just when you think you’ve succeeded, your independent action ends up jiggling the fragile balance and sending other sticks rolling.

And as the apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:7, “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.”

You Have Your Rights . . . Sort Of

“But I have a right to decide what’s best for me,” you may say. “I’m entitled to exercise my independence. It’s fundamental to what this country is all about. Even the courts recognize my autonomy as a patient.”

True, because you are a mentally competent person, the judge would probably bang the gavel in your favor. Like you said, you have rights, and you may end up literally dying for them.

But like all other liberties, your choice is not absolute—no ifs, ands, or buts. Your self-determination to die has strings attached if it adversely affects the rights of others. That’s why more than half the states in our country have laws against aiding a person in suicide. Even states that have legalized physician-assisted suicide still have laws against just anyone assisting. And also, these laws insist—though not always followed in practice—that the patient be in the final six months of a terminal illness and be able to make the final action that brings about their death. Why all the legal safeguards? Think it through: if everybody ended their life as a solution to problems, the very fabric of our society would ultimately unravel, and with it all the other individual rights we enjoy.

Yes, you have a glistening right of privacy, as long as it does not overshadow the rights of others. But legalized euthanasia can seriously infringe on the rights of many physicians. You might want to exercise a right to die, but do you have the right to ask a physician, whose duty is to heal, to comply with your wishes or even to make a referral? No person, in the name of self-determination, should be able to oblige a doctor to prescribe a fatal dose when it goes against the physician’s oath to “do no harm.” Yet already we have seen lawsuits against doctors who refuse to assist in hastening a patient’s death. Or again, in death with dignity acts, there is no requirement that next of kin be notified before a person follows through on his or her plan to hasten death. Shouldn’t parents, a spouse, or children have the right to know before their loved one is beyond their reach?

But wait, it sounds a little like we’re trading baseball cards here.

Like, “My rights are more valuable than yours!”

“Oh, yeah? Well, my one right is worth more than your three combined!”

Our rights are not things that can be exchanged, bargained over, or transferred like property. Essentially, rights are moral claims to be recognized by law, not things to be traded. And moral claims have to take into account responsibility, limits on freedom, and ethical standards that reflect the good of the entire community.

When we clamor about the sanctity of our individual rights, we may be reinforcing an all-too-human failing, namely, the tendency to place ourselves at the center of the moral universe. If taken to the extreme, clamor over individual rights can lead to one indignation after another about the inherent limitations of society, and we will never be satisfied.

The fact is, true rights are based in God’s moral law. Proverbs 31:8–9 reads, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” But take God out of the picture, and rights become nothing more than people’s willful determinations dressed up in the language of “rights” to give them a showy kind of dignity. Then the exercise of rights becomes nothing more than a national competition between who is more victimized than whom.

As I shared in my husband’s government class, “You, my friend, are society.” So welcome to the club of community, and even though some may try to drown out other styles of discourse with shouts about personal rights, the community may have a thing or two to say, and it may say it a lot louder. After all, community can only progress when its individuals exercise higher moral choices, and community is sacrificed when individuals choose with only themselves in mind.

________

When Is It Right to Die? by Joni Eareckson TadaTaken from When Is It Right To Die? A Comforting and Surprising Look at Death and Dying by Joni Eareckson Tada. Click to learn more about this title.

More and more people who are terminally ill are choosing assisted suicide. When is it Right to Die? offers a different path with alternatives of hope, compassion, and death with real dignity. Joni Eareckson Tada knows what it means to wrestle with this issue and to wish for a painless solution. For the last 50 years she has been confined to a wheelchair and struggled against her own paralysis. And she sat by the bedside of her dying father, thinking, So much suffering, why not end it all quickly, painlessly?

The terminally ill, the elderly, the disabled, the depressed and suicidal, can all be swept up into this movement of self-deliverance. Skip the suffering. Put a quick end to merciless pain and mental anguish. These are tempting enticements to the hurting. Joni doesn’t give pat answers. Instead, she gives warm comfort from God and practical help to meet the realities for those facing death.

When Is It Right to Die tells the stories of families who have wrestled with end-of-life questions. Behind every right-to-die situation is a family. A family like yours. In her warm, personal way, Joni takes the reader into the lives of families and lets them speak about assisted suicide. What they say is surprising.

Whether you have a dying family member, facing moral and medical choices, or struggling with a chronic condition that feels overwhelming, this book will help you find practical encouragement and biblical advice to help you make difficult decisions.

Joni Eareckson Tada knows the struggle of dealing with daily pain and suffering since a diving accident in 1967 left her paralyzed from the neck down. She is the CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community, provides practical support and spiritual help to special-needs families worldwide, and equips thousands of churches in developing disability ministry. Joni is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Joni (her autobiography), When God Weeps, Diamonds in the Dust, and A Spectacle of Glory. Joni and her husband, Ken, have been married for 35 years. For more information on Joni and Friends, visit www.joniandfriends.org.

How to Live The Bible — Living In Reality

howtostudythebible

This is the eleventh lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live 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.


The only way to live a stable, healthy, and fruitful life, is to live in reality. There are many ways by which we could live in fantasies and illusions that will set us up for certain disappointment and maybe worse. The fantasy that we are able to have or control whatever we wish is one. The illusion that we are entirely helpless is another. The Scriptures give us a true and reliable picture of what is true about life. The Bible offers reality—not spiritual platitudes that are merely wishful thinking.

Business Man in a storm illustration

Romans 8 is a passage that anchors us in reality. It speaks of true pain and stresses and losses in life, on the one hand. And it offers genuine hope, on the other hand. The passage speaks honestly about suffering, calling it “frustration,” and “bondage to decay” that leads to “groaning.” This is true of all creation, and so it is true of us.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:18-25)

All that leads to one of the most-often quoted verses in the Bible, Romans 8:28: “in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” This phrase has often been twisted into the following shape: God is good, God works all things together for the good, therefore everything that happens must be good in some sense, and you should try to see the good things that are going to come out of your difficulties.

But that is not what the verse says, which is, that God (because he is good) works toward the good, and that he is doing so at all times, under all circumstances (“in all things”). It is not that all things are good (they are not). Not that all things add up to a positive sum (life is not arithmetic). Not that all things become good things.

Rather, God is at work amidst “all things,” which means every day and every chapter of life, even the dark ones. He is at work. He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t leave. Any work that God does is good because he is God. Even the bad chapters of life end up being passageways to something better. There is light at the end of the tunnel—there really is.

Murder is not a good thing, neither is cancer, adultery, starvation and impoverishment, enmity, and unemployment. The grieving person does not have to translate a woeful loss into something good. Yet or she can be assured that a sovereign God takes all circumstances under the sun, losses as well as gains, and is able to continue to work goodness into the lives of those he loves. Most people who have lost something or someone valuable will agree that it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all—and that’s no platitude.

Some Christians seek a quick fix to some trouble in life because they think the gospel of Christ will somehow seem insufficient if it cannot deliver a speedy recovery (although certainly the real issue is often the common human desire to avoid pain). But what makes us think God prefers immediacy to process? The entire Christian life is one of growth and development—so also the hard, educative process of rearranging one’s life to adapt to significant losses. Our reactions to life’s difficulties are some of the most profoundly maturing processes that anyone can experience. No wonder it takes time.

If we live in reality—seeing suffering for what it really is, but knowing that there is true hope for the good—we are less likely to be devastated if we encounter some tragedy. And we will be able to live in the goodness of God. That is reality.

[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]


Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) 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 PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including 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.

Kids Ask the Best Questions About God and the Bible: An Interview with Kathryn Slattery

Kathryn SlatteryChildren ask such questions as, “How do I know the Bible is true?” “What does it mean when the Bible talks about the kingdom of God?” “How can God be three persons at the same time?” “Why couldn’t Jesus just stay on Earth forever?” “What is baptism?” “Who invented time?”

Bible Gateway interviewed Kathryn Slattery about her book, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids (Tommy Nelson, 2017).

In what way, if any, did Bible Gateway help you write this book?

Buy your copy of 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Kathryn Slattery: Oh, my goodness, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids, which is rooted in Scripture, could not have been written without Bible Gateway! This new book took me more than two years to write, and I literally must have entered at least 5,000 Scripture searches and comparisons in the process!

What a far cry from 30 years ago, when my resources for biblical research were limited to my dog-eared Layman’s Parallel Bible (which offered only four translations) and Cruden’s Handy Concordance to the Bible (which, truth be told, was not always so “handy!”)

Today, Bible Gateway sits at the top of my computer’s list of “Favorite” links and rarely a day goes by that I don’t consult it. Personally, I love the site’s “Verse of the Day,” and since I’m not the best memorizer, I’m forever grateful for how Bible Gateway helps me easily find the correct wording, chapter, and verse for favorite scriptures. Professionally, Bible Gateway is, in a word, a godsend. It is, far and away, my most important, essential Scripture resource.

Hooray for Bible Gateway! You’re a blessing to countless seekers and believers around the world, helping us all grow in both love and knowledge of our good and loving God. I just recently downloaded the Bible Gateway App, and it’s terrific, too—especially for searches on the go!

What inspired you to write 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids?

Kathryn Slattery: As the mother of two children, I understand that growing up these days isn’t easy. Children, like grown-ups, need faith. We’re now living in what historians and theologians call the “post-Christian” age. Secular humanism, moral relativism, political correctness, and a brutally raw popular culture have created a moral atmosphere of murky gray where there are few absolutes to help parents and children take a stand on what’s good and bad, right and wrong. Add to that, there’s the harsh cruelty of social media (Thumbs up! Thumbs down!) and our culture’s tendency to measure a person’s worth by their achievements (athletic, academic, artistic) rather than simply loving unconditionally … Oh my goodness. It’s not easy being human, that’s for sure!

At the same time, we can rejoice that children enter this world with a tremendous capacity for faith. For children, believing in God is instinctive. It’s as natural as breathing. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).

As adults, it’s not only our privilege, but also our responsibility to nurture our children’s God-given faith. Typically, our children’s Christian education includes involvement in Sunday school, familiarity with the Bible, and routine prayers at meals and bedtimes. But in this challenging day and age, that’s not really enough. It takes a personal, intimate relationship with a loving God to breathe life and meaning into these religious traditions.

During my many years as a fifth grade Sunday school teacher, I was stunned to discover how little my students knew about the Bible and basic Christianity. Their questions really took me by surprise, and I was determined to find a way to help them find meaningful, helpful, age-appropriate answers. Today more than ever, children need to be informed and reassured of these three unchanging, eternal truths:

  1. God is real
  2. God personally loves them
  3. God has a unique purpose for each of their precious lives.

With this as my goal, a few years ago I wrote a book called If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids, featuring real-life questions from real-life kids about God, Jesus, the Bible and basic Christianity. Kids, parents and teachers really liked the book and wanted more—lots more! “Please write a 365-day devotional for kids,” they asked. So, I did!

What is your objective in writing this book? Is there a progression?

Kathryn Slattery: Day-by-day, naturally and gently, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids nurtures and grows the young reader’s love and knowledge of God through a deep and lasting personal relationship with his Son, Jesus. The book begins with an introduction to God our loving heavenly Creator and Father, God’s Son Jesus our Savior, and God’s Holy Spirit, who lives in our human hearts. Each day’s devotion begins with a Bible verse and ends with a short prayer, and is written so that it can be read and enjoyed on its own.

In the book’s introduction, I reassure the young reader to not worry if they miss a day or week or month of readings. I explain that whenever the child opens the book, God is so happy to have their attention, and eager to speak and listen to them in a loving, personal way. If the child wants to read ahead to the next day or go back and read yesterday’s devotion, that’s okay. As I encourage in the introduction, “The more you read, the more you will learn!” To this end, most devotions include a “Want to know more?” interactive cross-reference at the bottom of the page for the extra-curious child who wants to dig deeper and learn more.

What makes this book different from other daily devotionals?

Kathryn Slattery: In addition to introducing the young reader to knowing our loving God through a personal relationship with Jesus, the book also offers a complete introduction to basic biblically-based orthodox Christianity! Day-by-day, over the course of one year, the daily devotions engage both the reader’s heart and mind. In other words, with its unique Q-&-A format, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids is both inspirational and educational. It serves the dual purpose of being both a classic daily devotional and essential teaching resource. No other devotional does this!

What are your favorite features of the book?

Kathryn Slattery: I love the “Want to know more?” interactive cross-references for extra-curious kids. They remind me of yummy spiritual potato chips: once you’ve tasted one, you can’t stop! They’re steppingstones that lead the child on an exciting faith adventure.

I love the book’s emphasis on building the young reader’s faith vocabulary. Over time, children—like grownups—can and should be empowered to articulate what they believe about God, and why.

I love the way the book is written for all Christian denominations. The daily readings deepen the young reader’s understanding of how faith works both in their own church experience, and also helps them see how they fit into the larger historic, world-wide body of Christ at work in the world today.

I love the book’s incredibly comprehensive Index of 366 Questions which cover the following topics: Time; God; God’s Promises; Jesus; God’s Holy Spirit; The Bible; The Old Testament; The New Testament; Christianity; Prayer; The Church; Christian Seasons, Holidays and Traditions; Being a Christian Here and Now; Being a Christian Forever and Ever; Big Questions, and Famous Christians. Phew!

There are, of course, zillions of questions about God and Jesus and Christianity—way more than can be answered in a single year—but I think kids and grown-ups alike will appreciate the book’s thorough research and accuracy for such a wide range of theological, historical, and faith topics. (In case you’re wondering why there are 366 questions, it’s thanks to Leap Day on February 29!)

Finally, I love the book’s “voice.” Special care was taken to write in fresh, clear, easy-to-understand language, and to respectfully not “talk down” to the young reader! The end result is a book that’s not preachy, dry, dusty or boring! When I was writing the book, I imagined the voice of an everyday mom talking with her child, tenderly, lovingly—and with a little bit of humor, too!

What’s the number one question kids ask about God?

Kathryn Slattery: Little ones are very practical and literal-minded, and want to know answers to questions like, “If God is invisible how can I know he’s real?;” “What does Jesus look like?;” and “Will I see my pet in heaven?”

Bigger kids ask bigger questions, such as “Can I believe in God and still believe in science?;” “Is it okay to pray before a test?;” and “Does it matter to God how much time I spend online and watching TV?” I’ll never forget the day one of my fifth grade Sunday school students raised his hand and asked, “Mrs. Slattery, if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow evil to exist?” Yikes! Talk about a challenging question!

The amazing truth is, big or small, children basically have the same questions about God as grown-ups.

What’s your favorite question in 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids?

Kathryn Slattery: Oh, there are so many, I hardly know where to begin! Let’s see… Here’s a good one: “Is it true that an astronaut celebrated communion on the moon?” You’ll have to open the book and turn to the devotion for September 27 on page 282 to find out!

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, First Liquid Poured on the Moon and the First Food Eaten There Were Communion Elements]

I also love the question “Is it okay to question and sometimes have doubts about God?” The answer is yes! God loves it when his children ask questions. Questioning God is not unbelief. It’s the sign of a healthy, curious human mind! That’s why I encourage young readers to keep asking God questions. God loves a curious mind and a seeking heart. At one time or another, we’re all like the early believer who cried, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NIV)!

How do you answer the question in the book, “What should I do when I think a church service is boring?”

Kathryn Slattery: Oh, I’m so glad you asked! This is a great example of one of the more practical, everyone-experiences-this-sometimes questions. Here’s my answer, including the opening Bible verse, closing prayer, and “Want to know more?” cross-references, which demonstrates how they’re like yummy spiritual potato chips!

(October 9) Help! What Should I Do When I Think a Church Service Is Boring?

Continue to think about the things that are good and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (ICB)

Everyone gets a little sleepy or bored during church sometimes. It’s not always easy to sit still indoors when outside the sun is shining or to stay awake when you’re sleepy. It’s not always easy to pay attention if the preacher is talking about something hard to understand. Not to worry! Jesus was human, so he experienced times of restlessness, sleepiness, and boredom too. In other words, God understands. Here are a few ideas to help you the next time you find yourself a little bit sleepy or bored during church:

  • Tell God how you feel, and ask him to help you.
  • Make a list of all the things you’re thankful for.
  • Make a list of nice things you might do for other people.
  • Pray for all the people you love.

God, when my thoughts wander, remind me to ask for your help.

Want to know more? See August 26, “Can God Actually Talk to Me?”; September 1, “What Should I Do When I Can’t Think of What to Pray?”; and November 28, “What Does It Mean to Count My Blessings?”

How should families use 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids?

Kathryn Slattery: I absolutely love the thought of a young reader curled up in a quiet spot, lost in the pages of the book, and with each passing day being increasingly comforted and reassured of God’s reality and love. I also love picturing a mom or dad with a little one snuggled on their lap, reading and praying out loud together to their heavenly Father. With its Q-&-A format, the book is also perfect for family devotions around the kitchen table. You’d be amazed at the lively conversation each day’s devotion can inspire!

Who benefits most from the book?

Kathryn Slattery: Oh, that’s easy! Everyone who has a precious little one in their life will want to share 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids because it’s a book that promises to make a powerful positive difference in that child’s life. By “everyone,” I mean every mom, dad, grandparent, godparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, friend, Sunday school teacher, home schooling parent—everyone!

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

I absolutely love the 23rd Psalm. Thanks to Bible Gateway, I only recently committed it to memory, and it’s so reassuring, comforting, and hopeful. As I drift off to sleep, I love picturing Jesus, my Good Shepherd, making me lie down in green pastures … leading me beside still waters … guiding me along his chosen paths … his rod and his staff protecting me. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6 KJV) Amen! What a beautiful promise!


Bio: Known by millions as a longtime Contributing Editor for Guideposts magazine, Kathryn “Kitty” Slattery has written hundreds of stories of hope and inspiration for a wide variety of publications, including ParentLife, Today’s Christian Woman, and Angels on Earth magazines.

In addition to her latest children’s book, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids: An “If I Could Ask God Anything” Devotional (Tommy Nelson), she’s the author of My Friend Jesus (Tommy Nelson), If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids (Tommy Nelson), Heart Songs: A Family Treasury of True Stories of Hope and Inspiration (Guideposts Inspiring Voices), the memoir Lost & Found: One Daughter’s Story of Amazing Grace (Guideposts Books), Grandma I’ll Miss You: A Child’s Story about Death and New Life (David C. Cook), The Grace To Grow: The Power of Christian Faith in Emotional Healing, A Bright-Shining Place: the Story of a Miracle, and she’s a contributing author to numerous Guideposts anthologies, and TommyNelson.com. Her children’s book The Gospel for Kids (David C. Cook) has more than 100,000 copies in print in nine languages. Kathryn, who is known as “Kitty,” resides in New Hampshire with her husband Tom, and they’re the parents of two grown children. Visit Kitty and learn more about her work at her website, KathrynSlattery.com and her Facebook Author Page, Kathryn “Kitty” Slattery.

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The Bible and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, Washington, DCFifty-five years ago, USA civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, DC, where he delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech, in which he included several biblical references:

  • Amos 5:24 (NIV): “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
  • Isaiah 40:4-5 (KJV): “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain….”
  • Psalm 30:5 (NIV): “…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
  • Galatians 3:28 (NIV): “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s a transcript of “I Have a Dream,” and you can watch it below:

Read the following Bible Gateway Blog posts, in which we examine the Bible verses and themes that permeate Dr. King’s most famous public addresses:

Delve deeper into the topics of race, ethnicity, and justice in the Bible by signing up for Bible Gateway’s two-week devotional Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Devotion About Race and Ethnicity. It walks through key Bible passages that inform our understanding of race, racism, and God’s love for all of humanity. Click to sign up.

Bible News Roundup – Week of January 14, 2018

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Bill Filed to Require Bible Elective to be Offered in all West Virginia Schools
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Iowa House Bill Would Allow Bible Class in Public Schools
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How the Bible Helps Mike Pence Navigate His Role as USA Vice President
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Mission Cry Reaches Goal of a Bible for Every Home in Belize
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Half of Germans Have a Bible, Only 6% Read It Regularly
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Read the Bible in German on Bible Gateway

Poll Finds 0% of Icelanders Under 25 Believe Bible Creation Story
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Read the creation story from Genesis 1-2 on Bible Gateway

Half of Brits Say They Pray, Including 20 Percent With No Faith
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