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Does the Bible Really Say That…?: An Interview with Mark Woods

Mark WoodsAre we missing some of the richness and depth of our faith because we don’t like to ask the questions we ought to ask? Are there different ways of thinking about old truths that might challenge and inspire us? Are there, even, old truths that turn out not to be true after all?

Bible Gateway interviewed Mark Woods (@RevMarkWoods) about his book, Does the Bible Really Say That…?: Challenging Our Assumptions in the Light of the Scripture (Monarch Books, 2016).

Buy your copy of Does the Bible Really Say That...? in the Bible Gateway Store where it's always on sale

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Does It Really Say That in the Bible?: An Interview with Katie Hoyt McNabb]

What problem are you trying to clear up with this book?

Mark Woods: The genesis of the book was when I wrote a piece for Christian Today titled something like, “God does not have a plan for your life and that’s OK.” It registered many times the number of hits we’d normally expect for such a column, and it obviously touched a nerve. I’m from an evangelical background, and I started to think about the things we just assume because we’re evangelicals—they’re part of the culture rather than being truly biblical.

You begin the book by saying God may not have a plan for people’s lives. What do you mean?

Mark Woods: That first column was the launching-pad for the first chapter of the book. My argument is that the verses in the Bible people sometimes take as saying that—like Jeremiah 29:11, which says “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”—don’t really refer to God having a personal road-map for each of us at all. They refer to particular points in history where God intervened. I absolutely accept that he did, and that there’s a divine purpose behind Israel’s story. But that’s a very long way from saying that he plans our own lives.

Apart from the weakness of the biblical arguments, there are real problems with how that works out in practice. Does God plan illness, or divorce, or large-scale tragedies? I don’t think many people would say these are God’s plan. So we end up having to do a lot of mental gymnastics to hold on to the idea. I think we’d be better ditching it and talking about his desire for our future, instead. I’m sure he’s involved in our lives; it’s just that he doesn’t have them mapped out for us. For many people that’s very challenging.

Why do you say God doesn’t heal everyone and he doesn’t want to?

Mark Woods: Well, most of the people in Israel when Jesus walked the earth weren’t healed, though he did heal everyone who came to him. In Matthew 9:20-22 he heals a woman who simply touches his cloak. And while I believe in divine healing today, I think it’s much rarer than many people would want to think. There’s often a lack of hard evidence for it. So I’ve explored what that means.

What does it mean to us that there are people in our churches who are sick in mind or body? Are they just failures, who perhaps haven’t had enough faith to be healed? It seems to me that we can do better than that. I’ve been very clear that there’s nothing inherently good about suffering. We should end it wherever we can. But it can be a great teacher, as well, and we need to be willing to learn from it. Oscar Romero, the martyred Salvadoran archbishop, once said: “There are things that can only be seen by eyes that have cried.” I think that’s true.

Explain what you mean that evangelism is not about saving people from hell.

Mark Woods: There’s quite a debate going on in evangelical circles at the moment about hell. Does it mean eternal conscious torment for everyone who isn’t a Christian? That’s the traditional view, but it’s being challenged by people who argue that passages like the story of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) have been misunderstood, and that places where Jesus appears to talk about hell, like Matthew 23:33, can be read in different ways.

I actually think the biblical evidence for the traditional view of hell is much weaker than we sometimes think, but that’s not really the thrust of that chapter. I think there are better reasons for doing evangelism, and more effective ones. Jesus is true, Christianity is good for us and good for the world—that kind of thing.

Why is forgiveness harder than people think?

Mark Woods: Because we often think it’s an end point that solves all our problems, whereas it’s really a step on the way. Jesus taught his disciples to forgive in what we call the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:14-15), and he told Peter he should forgive “seventy times seven” someone who had injured him (Matthew 18:22). But forgiveness just means refusing to take revenge, setting aside an injury. It’s something we may have to do again and again as the anger and pain of an injury resurfaces—that “seventy times seven” might mean repeated acts of forgiveness for the same injury. And forgiveness can be misapplied—sometimes from the best motives—by pastors who want their congregations to get on with each other. It can mean abusers getting away with it. It can never be enforced, only offered.

In what way is prayer about God and not about us?

Mark Woods: I worry that we have a wrong idea of prayer, in the sense that we can imagine it’s about persuading God to do something. I think prayer meetings are great, and a crowded prayer meeting with passionate believers generates a huge spiritual energy. I’m not knocking that. But we need to be careful. God will do what God will do, and he isn’t impressed by the numbers we attract or the noise we make. In 1 Kings 19 there’s the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. There were 450 of them and only one of him; all the noise and the drama was on Baal’s side, and we know what happened. The simple prayer of one man was heard.

How do you want people to change after reading your book?

Mark Woods: I’d like them to know it’s OK to ask questions and come to conclusions that are a bit different from what they might’ve thought. But it’s not a book to knock down ideas for the sake of it. I’ve really tried to be positive and build people up.

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

Mark Woods: I love it! It’s my default online Bible site and I use it every day. It’s easily the best there is around.


Bio: Mark Woods is a UK-based Baptist minister who moved into religious journalism after 16 years in pastoral ministry. He served as editor of The Baptist Times and then as consulting editor of The Methodist Recorder, and is now a contributing editor for the online magazine Christian Today. He’s in leadership in his home church and in his spare time enjoys films and the outdoors.


The “Christmas Joy” Devotional Begins Tomorrow!

christmas-joy16

Peace. Joy. Angels. Manger. Shepherds.

These are part of the very familiar vocabulary of Christmas—words you’ve read or heard many times over the years. Perhaps you’ve heard them so many times that they no longer have much impact on you.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful to recapture the power and depth of those words, and of the story that they tell? This Christmas, you can explore each of the important words and concepts of the Christmas story in Christmas Joy, a daily Christmas devotional written by pastor Mel Lawrenz. Each day, Christmas Joy focuses in on one of the themes of Christmas, with an eye towards rediscovering the message of peace and joy that lies at the heart of this very familiar story.

Christmas Joy begins tomorrow, December 1, and continues through Christmas. Sign up today at our Christmas devotions page!

Alegría de Navidad: un Devocional para la Navidad, Disponible en Español

Alegria de Navidad

¿Cómo experimentamos el gozo de la Navidad? El pastor Mel Lawrenz, autor de la popular serie de libros «Cómo entender la Biblia» (disponible solo en inglés) e Influencia Espiritual (disponible en español), nos presenta Alegría de Navidad, un devocional para cada día de la temporada navideña.

Los días previos a la Navidad constituyen una oportunidad extraordinaria para crecer en el conocimiento de Jesús, el Cristo, quien se denominó a sí mismo como el camino, la verdad y la vida. En muchas ocasiones Jesús les dijo a sus seguidores los motivos por los que había venido.

La gente común no suele hablar de esa forma. Aunque tengamos un sentido de propósito en la vida, no decimos que hemos «venido al mundo» con una misión especial. Jesús dijo que llegó para cumplir la Escritura: «No piensen que he venido a anular la ley o los profetas; no he venido a anularlos sino a darles cumplimiento» (Mt. 5.17). Dijo que vino a predicar y proclamar: «Vámonos de aquí a otras aldeas cercanas donde también pueda predicar; para esto he venido» (Mc. 1.38). Dijo que vino a sacarnos de la oscuridad: «Yo soy la luz que ha venido al mundo, para que todo el que crea en mí no viva en tinieblas» (Jn. 12.46). Puesto de pie ante Poncio Pilato, Jesús dijo: «Eres tú quien dice que soy rey. Yo para esto nací, y para esto vine al mundo: para dar testimonio de la verdad» (Jn. 18.37) Dijo que vino a dar vida: «Yo he venido para que tengan vida, y la tengan en abundancia» (Jn. 10.10). Y si todo eso no fuera suficiente, dijo que llegó con el fin de servir y darse en sacrificio: «Porque ni aun el Hijo del hombre vino para que le sirvan, sino para servir y para dar su vida en rescate por muchos» (Mc. 10.45).

Hay distintas formas de contemplar la realidad transformadora de la venida del Hijo de Dios. En este devocional consideraremos veinticinco palabras o frases claves asociadas con el nacimiento de Jesús. Pensaremos en alegría, paz, Emanuel, pastor, sabios, María, estrella, carne, virgen, consejero, príncipe, pesebre y más. En cada una de estas palabras se encierra un tesoro. Puedes leer el texto de forma diaria o seguir el ritmo que prefieras. Si comienzas el primer día de diciembre, terminarás el día de Navidad, pero en realidad puedes hacer las lecturas en cualquier momento durante la temporada navideña. Dios te bendiga al acercarte más a Cristo este año.

¡Visite nuestra página de Devocionales Navideños para registrase!

The Theology of Work Bible Commentary Added to Bible Gateway’s Free Online Study Library

We’re pleased to announce that the Theology of Work Bible Commentary is now freely available online at Bible Gateway!

Browse the Theology of Work Bible Commentary table of contentsWork is important. It gives us an outlet for our skills and talents. It can earn money. But there’s much more to the idea of work than simply earning a paycheck or feeling productive! The work we do is an expression of who we are—which means that if you’re a Christian, your work is an expression of your understanding of who you are in Christ. That’s important!

And that’s why the Theology of Work Bible Commentary is so useful. It’s a massive, comprehensive exploration of the theme of work all throughout Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. Vetted by a team of respected scholars, it looks at what each book of the Bible has to teach us about what we should be doing, and how we should be doing it. Along the way, it addresses all kinds of practical questions and challenges that we’ve all run into at some point in our jobs and careers: how do I know what God is calling me to do with my life? How should I deal with unexpected problems (or problem people) at work? Can and should I work with people who don’t share my faith and values? And what if I’m unemployed?

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Joseph, the Accidental Executive: An Interview with Al Erisman]

You can use the Theology of Work Bible Commentary to delve into all of those questions here on Bible Gateway. It’s completely free and easy to access while you read the Bible online. To get started, click here to browse the Theology of Work Bible Commentary table of contents, or you can access it alongside the Scripture you’re reading by following the steps below:

How to Read the Theology of Work Bible Commentary Alongside Scripture at Bible Gateway

1. Look up a Bible passage on Bible Gateway—for example, John 1.

2. Click or tap the blue Study This panel to the right of the passage to open up the Bible resources panel. It looks like this:

Study This button to access free Bible study resources

3. Select the Commentaries section, then scroll down to the Theology of Work Bible Commentary entry. The number in the box there tells you how many Theology of Work Bible Commentary entries are available for this particular Bible passage. It looks like this:

Theology of Work commentary from the Study This panel

4. Click or tap Theology of Work Bible Commentary, and then choose the entry you want to read.

That’s it! We hope you the Theology of Work Bible Commentary helps you to better understand the work that God has called you to do. We’re grateful to the Theology of Work Project both for producing this unique commentary and for making it available on Bible Gateway.

If you like the Theology of Work Bible Commentary and are interested in a print version, it’s available at the Bible Gateway Store in either individual volumes or in a single-volume edition.

An Interview with the Editors of The CEB Women’s Bible

Buy your copy of The CEB Women's Bible in the Bible Gateway Store where it's always on saleThrough book introductions, devotional reflections, articles, and character profiles, The CEB Women’s Bible (Common English Bible, 2016) (@CommonEngBible) focuses on stories of women—named and unnamed—in Scripture to help readers become more aware of issues related to gender and justice.

[Read the Common English Bible (CEB) translation of the Bible on Bible Gateway]

According to the Bible’s preface, “As we notice women in Scripture who had until now been invisible to us, we train our hearts to notice all of God’s people today. And as we seek guidance for our lives, examine our choices, and pour out our yearnings before God, this Bible invites us to ask what it means for us to be faithful in our time.”

Bible Gateway interviewed the editors about The CEB Women’s Bible (website).

The CEB Women’s Bible Editors

The CEB Women’s Bible Editorial Board left to right:

  • Christine A. Chakoian, pastor/head of staff, First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest, Lake Forest, Illinois
  • Judy Fentress-Williams, professor of Old Testament, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Virginia
  • Jaime Clark-Soles, professor of New Testament, Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor, Perkins School of Theology, Dallas, Texas)
  • Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor, Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington, DC
  • Rachel Baughman, executive pastor, Discipleship University Park United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas

Explain what the Common English Bible (CEB) translation is.

The editors: The Common English Bible is a newer translation—the full Bible in the CEB was first published in 2011—that combines readability of the text with the reliability of translation work from leading biblical scholars. To ensure accuracy, the CEB uses inclusive language to refer to people and is a translation directly from the original languages. More than 120 scholars were involved with the translation, including many women, representing 22 denominations.

What need is The CEB Women’s Bible meeting?

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli: Beyond the novelty of employing only women’s voices in the compilation of devotional and study tools, we asked ourselves when we first began meeting about this project: What was the unique gift we could offer through this work?

Our conversation coalesced around a foundational affirmation: the variety of human voices, experiences, identities, and perspectives in the world is a God-given gift. That gift is reflected in the biblical text itself and in those of us who engage the text today. Therefore, The CEB Women’s Bible both expects and celebrates that people of every gender engage Scripture from their own perspectives—based on their own particularity of history and identity.

Rather than provide monolithic or ready-made answers for what it looks like to be a Christ-follower or a “Christian woman,” we want to invite folks into a dynamic conversation with Scripture and, ultimately, with God. The hope is that people will accept the invitation to enter into the “conversation” with their whole selves, to feel what they feel and think what they think, to wrestle and receive, to be challenged and comforted, to find their own voices through honest engagement with other voices that speak in and about the text.

Describe the women who contributed reference material for this Bible.

The editors: In addition to the five editors, 80 women—and only women—contributed to The CEB Women’s Bible. They’re scholars, clergywomen, lay leaders, and writers. All of us are deeply committed to the power of God’s living Word.

Why was it important that only women contributed content for this Bible?

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli: For years, biblical scholarship, commentary, and preaching were all in the voice and from the perspective of men. Much of that work is edifying and insightful, but some of it has contributed to the elevation of destructive forms of patriarchy.

Thankfully, extraordinary women scholars and pastors have emerged and contributed to the field as institutional and cultural shifts have occurred. For this project we were clear that all the content would be written by women. This is important, first of all, because it has never been done before. But, more than that, it’s important because the wisdom, insight, and skill of women pastors, writers, and scholars from across Christian traditions has been brought together into this rich resource and offered as a gift to people of all genders.

How is a woman’s perspective of the Bible different from a man’s?

Jaime Clark-Soles: It would overstate the case to claim there’s “a” woman’s perspective or “a” man’s perspective of the Bible. However, like it or not, women live their lives in a world that has specific assumptions and expectations about them and their bodies than it does for men. Women have to navigate that world as they attempt to discover their own true identity in relationship to the God of Scripture.

The Bible is written from a largely male perspective; women often have to take extra steps to make the texts apply to them. For instance, the Gospel of Matthew praises those who are “eunuchs because of the kingdom.” Eunuchs are castrated males. But women have worked by analogy to read this as a call to celibacy that they’ve answered over the centuries, despite society’s (including the church’s) message that motherhood is the pinnacle of womanhood.

Women as a whole have never had equal access to power and have thus always been more vulnerable; they’ve always been disproportionately poor and dependent on others for survival. Thus, they always read from the margins to some degree (though readings by women from different social locations will differ). I’d be willing to bet, though, that all women who read the story of the rape and dismemberment of the concubine will identify with the female in the story and share in common an immediate gut reaction related to the ever present awareness of the possibility of rape both in times of peace but especially in times of war. I imagine that a group of men reading the story would experience different emotions and ways of relating to the characters in it.

Questions of church leadership, politics, religion, gender, sexuality, economics, race, technology, and global forces still affect the fate of women differently than men. When negotiating moral issues such as sex trafficking, reproductive rights, end-of-life decisions, proper use of technology, pluralism, war, care for the least of these, the alien and sojourner in your land, women are affected differently. Thus, when studying Scripture in order to be spiritually formed and equipped to address such questions, women will bring their experience of living identified as female to the table; thank God. And when the voices of a wide diversity of women are heeded, we’ll be much closer to God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. “Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

Explain what the profiles are in The CEB Women’s Bible.

The editors: Embedded throughout the text are almost 150 profiles of named and unnamed women in Scripture. Our goal was to draw attention to the people in the Bible who are often overlooked. By noticing the women in Scripture who had until now been invisible, our hearts are trained to notice all of God’s people today. The CEB Women’s Bible also includes an index of every woman in the Bible, named and unnamed. This is the only Bible that includes that valuable resource.

Is this Bible only for women or should men read it too?

Judy Fentress-Williams: As a professor, it’s my hope that all my students, male and female, will use The CEB Women’s Bible. When a study Bible has notes written by a majority of men, no one asks if women should read it. The assumption is that the notes will elucidate the text.

The presence of a Bible with notes written by women reminds us of the reality of context. Women and men read and respond to the Bible from their contexts, and gender is one of the elements contributing to their context. As a woman, I often do the work of translating a work contextually. In other words, I do the work of taking a perspective that is male and translating it to my perspective. I’d like for my male students to have exposure to a set of Bible notes that does not privilege a male perspective in the hope that it will not only expose them to different perspective, but that it will broaden their understanding of context and how gender plays a role in the way we hear and respond to the Bible. The contributors are all women, but their comments don’t focus on women exclusively. Many of the subjects that are considered “women’s issues,” such as miscarriage, affect men as well.

It’s my hope that my male students will use this text so that they can better understand God’s Word and better understand themselves as people of faith in a gendered world.

Give an example of a specific story in the Bible that’s brought into a new light in this Bible and that might be quickly passed over in other reference Bibles.

Rachel Buaghman: An example of the way this Bible lifts up women who are usually passed over is in the book of Esther. There are portraits written about women in the book of Esther such as Vashti and Zeresh. These are women I’ve honestly never given a second thought but, given this resource, I recognized the significance of their role.

What was a particularly difficult passage or book to bring a perspective to and why?

Rachel Buaghman: In 2 Samuel 13, the story of the rape and abuse of Tamar is horrifying because it’s a story that’s sadly relatable to many women. The articles written on abuse and rape by our authors can be found on pages 389 and 392, and I pray that these are writings that help the reader be aware of the reality of abuse and be willing to give voice to those who have been silenced.

Jaime Clark-Soles: The story of the Samaritan woman was a challenge because of the incorrect assumptions that people bring to the text due to their prior experience with it.

I’ve heard many a sermon about this “whore” who was forgiven by Jesus for her lasciviousness. This saddens me for two reasons. First, it’s a wrong interpretation of the passage. Nowhere is this woman referred to as a “whore” (porne) and nowhere is she forgiven (aphiemi). Second, the reader misses out on what the story is actually about—an exemplar of the faith whom we’re supposed to imitate: 1) she encounters Jesus and engages him in deep theological dialogue which leads to her having the first theophany (manifestation of God) in the Gospel; 2) she moves into her personal story of abundant life (marked by leaving her water jar behind) in Christ that awaits each and every one us; and 3) she immediately shares that abundance with others by testifying about him to others.

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli: There are plenty of passages of Scripture that are explicitly challenging for women—teachings that silence women, devalue women, ignore women. As an editor, it was a gift to read the varieties of ways that women engage these difficult texts with creativity, cultural sensitivity, strength, and skill. I was reminded of the fact that, as a woman, I always have to take extra steps of interpretation to discover my place within the story. As a writer, I enjoyed the challenge of writing profiles for women we know little to nothing about; women like Paul’s sister (Acts 23:16-22). It’s powerful to notice and honor these women who are so easily missed, but who certainly played a role in the ongoing drama of God’s love story in the world.

Is there a favorite passage that you’re especially drawn to in this Bible for its uniquely woman’s perspective?

Rachel Buaghman: I have so many that are favorites, but I’ll say that my favorite for today is from Psalm 103:13. The psalmist speaks of the love of God as the love of a parent with compassion for her child. The article included with that Psalm calls us to think of a mother’s love for a child carried in her womb. Thinking, praying, and loving from this perspective helps me experience God in a new way as I read this Psalm.

Jaime Clark-Soles: Joshua 2, the story of Rahab. I was delighted to view Rahab from the perspective of three different commentators: Wil Gafney, Christine Chakoian, and Christy Lynch. Each one of them gave me something different to consider about the story and the character. Just the fact that she’s important in so many different places in the Bible (such as Matthew 1:5, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25) as a paragon of faith and courage and acumen, makes her a fascinating character I want to ponder more.

Ginger Gaines-Cirelli: I don’t think there’s only one passage I would name. The project as a whole offers a wide range of women’s perspectives. Every time I open The CEB Women’s Bible, I’m grateful for the voices and vision of our contributors.

Wycliffe Global Alliance Scripture & Language Statistics 2016

According to Wycliffe Global Alliance (WGA) (@WycliffeGA), the Bible has now been trans­lated into more than 3,200 lan­guages.

Wycliffe Global Alliance Scripture & Language Statistics 2016

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Wycliffe Associates—Helping to Translate the Bible Where Persecution of Christians Is Severe: An Interview with Bruce Smith]

While at least 1.5 bil­lion peo­ple still don’t have the full Bible avail­able in their first lan­guage, more than 684 mil­lion of these have the New Tes­ta­ment; oth­ers have por­tions or at least some level of trans­la­tion or prepara­tory work begun. And there’s known ac­tive trans­la­tion and/or lin­guis­tic de­vel­op­ment hap­pen­ing in 2,400 lan­guages across more than 165 countries.

[See all the Bible translations available to be freely read on Bible Gateway]

As of Oc­to­ber 1, 2016, WGA’s new method of iden­ti­fy­ing trans­la­tion-need sug­gests more than 160 mil­lion peo­ple, speak­ing 1,700-1,800 lan­guages, may need some form of Bible trans­la­tion to begin.

[Browse the Bibles section in the Bible Gateway Store, where everything is always on sale]

Ap­prox­i­mately 100 or­gan­i­za­tions from more than 60 na­tions form the WGA. By pro­vid­ing staff, funds, train­ing, trans­la­tion, and sup­port ser­vices, WGA or­gan­i­za­tions are cur­rently in­volved in al­most 2,000 of the 2,422 lan­guages with ac­tive work.

Wycliffe Global Alliance Scripture & Language Statistics 2016

WGA or­gan­i­za­tions and per­son­nel have been in­volved in the trans­la­tion of Bibles and New Tes­ta­ments in more than 900 lan­guages. At least one of the Bible’s 66 books has been pub­lished in an ad­di­tional 600 lan­guages. Many other lan­guages have other ini­tial por­tions published.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Bible Table of Contents]

Work­ing in com­mu­nity part­ner­ships, WGA per­son­nel not only as­sist in Scrip­ture-re­lated goals, but also help pro­duce thou­sands of re­sources for lit­er­acy, ed­u­ca­tion, health, and other com­mu­nity-based ob­jec­tives along­side Scripture.

An ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of Scrip­ture prod­ucts are now in dig­i­tal for­mats as text, au­dio, and video. These are of­ten avail­able on web­sites, so­cial me­dia, or through a va­ri­ety of phone apps, as well as in for­mats that can be eas­ily shared phone-to-phone in places with lim­ited Internet.

There are many ad­di­tional part­ner­ships and new ini­tia­tives con­tribut­ing to the growth of Bible trans­la­tion move­ments and the dis­tri­b­u­tion and use of God’s Word.

WGA re­ports pre­cise num­bers on what it knows but it fre­quently hears of new work and of trans­la­tions pre­vi­ously un­counted, mean­ing these num­bers con­tinue to fluc­tu­ate. Read the WGA FAQ sheet.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of November 27, 2016

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store
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Wycliffe Global Alliance Scripture & Language Statistics 2016
Bible Gateway Blog post

Group Continues Bible Reading ‘Precedent’ at Oklahoma State Capitol
NewsOK

Bible Reading Marathon Planned for 120 Counties of Kentucky Jan. 1-4, 2017
Glasgow Daily Times

Carson Wentz Is Wearing Bible Verse Cleats This Week
NBC10 Philadelphia
Read Romans 5:8 on Bible Gateway

How a Twitter Conversation Started Far-Reaching She Reads Truth Ministry
The Tennessean
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—She Reads Truth: An Interview with Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams

Dollywood Employee Finds Burned Bible Page After Tennessee Wildfires
Knoxville News Sentinel
Read Joel 1-2 (KJV) on Bible Gateway
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—The Miracle of the 9/11 World Trade Center Bible

Notre Dame Astronomer Claims Star of Bethlehem Was An Alignment of Planets
UPI
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—Who Was Where at Christmas? A Christmas Story Timeline
Browse the Christmas section in the Bible Gateway Store, where everything is always on sale

Nyishi Version of Bible Released
The Arunachal Times
See the multiple Bible translations available for reading on Bible Gateway

First Bible for Maori Children Published
Premier
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—Bible Translation Reading Levels

Gideons International Presents 1100 Copies of Bible in Shaanxi, China
China Christian Daily

Bible Society in Liberia Dedicates New Bible House
Front Page Africa

Canadian Author Spends 10 Years Updating Tyndale’s The Matthew Bible
The Edmond Sun

Ohio Woman’s Long-Lost Bible Found at Construction Site
WLWT

Colorado Couple Finds, Returns 20-Year-Old Bible to Original Owner
Daily Camera

The Bible in Wool: Salvation Army Group Knit Religious Epic
BBC News

State of the Plate 2016: USA Churches Turn to Digital Tools as Giving Slows Nationwide
News Release
Report & Infographic: State of the Plate 2016

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Reminder: Advent Devotions Begin on Sunday! There’s Still Time to Sign Up

christmas-smallOur Advent Devotional begins this Sunday! There’s still time to sign up—click here to sign up on our Christmas devotions page.

Our Advent Devotional is a unique and interesting way to journey through the holiday season. Several days each week, you’ll receive an inspirational quote, sermon, story, or Bible reading that highlights an important aspect of the Advent season. It works great as something to read yourself, to read with family at the dinner table, or to share with your small group. This year’s Advent Devotional has been heavily updated and revised with brand-new content, so even if you’ve subscribed in past years, you’ll find much that’s new!

The Advent Devotional begins this Sunday, the first day of Advent. So don’t hesitate—hop over to our Christmas devotions page to sign up!

And while you’re there, take a look at our other Christmas devotionals—Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado, and Christmas Joy by pastor Mel Lawrenz. Taken together, these three Christmas devotionals all take a slightly different approach to the holiday season—but all of them will help you to focus on the person of Jesus Christ as Christmas grows nearer.

P.S. Our Christmas devotions are available in Spanish, too. If you know somebody who’d love to receive these holiday insights in Spanish, point them to our Spanish Christmas devotions page!

Give Thanks For Who God Is (Not Just For What You Have)

Are you feeling thankful today? This is the time of year when Christians encourage each other to express gratitude for the blessings in our lives, particularly the ones we often take for granted—for loved ones, for health, for supportive communities.

Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest by Jan VictorsBut what if you aren’t feeling especially grateful for those usual things right now? Maybe over the course of this year, some of those things you’d usually be thankful for—health, family, relationships, financial security—have been damaged or eroded away. Perhaps divorce, a lost job, the death of a loved one, or a medical scare have taken away one or more of those pillars.

Perhaps we can find answers by rethinking what, exactly, we’re grateful for.

I’ve always been intrigued by the thanksgiving prayer of Hannah, a woman in the Old Testament who finally gave birth to a son after years of being mocked for being unable to do so. The Bible records the prayer of joyous thanksgiving she offered up to God after the birth of her long-awaited son.

If I, like Hannah, had just received the one thing I truly wanted, my prayer of thanks to God would be entirely focused on that one thing, and my gratitude for it. But Hannah’s prayer scarcely mentions what you might think would be her main reason for gratitude. Here’s her prayer in its entirety:

“My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

“There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

“Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

“The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.
Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.

“The Lord brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.
The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.

“For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
on them he has set the world.
He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness.

“It is not by strength that one prevails;
those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
the Lord will judge the ends of the earth.

“He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.” — 1 Samuel 2:1-10 (NIV)

Hannah is certainly grateful for her newborn son, and there’s a short (but non-specific) reference to a “barren woman” in the middle of this prayer. But the rest of her prayer is simply praising God for being who He is. She’s grateful to God for the specific blessing He’s given to her, but more than that, she’s simply grateful that she serves a God who can impart blessings like that.

Hannah serves a God who loves the poor, the weak, the humble—the underdogs. Like us, she doesn’t know what her life holds in store—whether she’ll find poverty or wealth, victory or defeat. But she trusts the God who grants and withholds those blessings, and she knows He has her best interests at heart.

So this Thanksgiving, if you’re struggling to feel grateful for a year that has brought pain and difficulty, you can still give thanks to God for being who He is: a God who’s on your side and whose plans will be accomplished no matter what life brings. And on the other hand, if you find yourself surrounded by blessings this holiday season, take a moment to consider whether your thankfulness is based just on those material blessings, or whether your gratitude is rooted in the unchangingly good nature of God. Whatever you’ve experienced this year, you are loved by this God—and have a reason to give thanks.

Image: “Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest,” by Jan Victors, 1645.

23 Bible Verses About Thanksgiving and Gratitude

Reading the Bible by Jean-Baptiste Greuze

Psalm 100 (NKJV)

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

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

[Be inspired by biblical stories of gratitude & grace with Bible Gateway’s free email thanksgiving devotional]

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJ21)

In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Ephesians 5:18-20 (ASV)

Be filled with the Spirit; speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Psalm 136:26 (AMP)

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
  For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion) endures forever.

Psalm 106:1 (BRG)

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psalm 107:1 (CJB)

Give thanks to Adonai; for he is good, for his grace continues forever.

Philippians 4:6-7 (CEB)

Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

John 6:11 (CEV)

Jesus took the bread in his hands and gave thanks to God. Then he passed the bread to the people, and he did the same with the fish, until everyone had plenty to eat.

Colossians 4:2 (DARBY)

Persevere in prayer, watching in it with thanksgiving.

Psalm 28:7 (ESV)

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
  in him my heart trusts, and I am helped;
my heart exults,
  and with my song I give thanks to him.

Psalm 116:17 (ERV)

I will give you a thank offering.
  I will call on the Lord’s name.

Colossians 3:17 (EXB)

Everything you do or say should be done to obey [or as a representative of; in the name of] the Lord Jesus. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus.

2 Corinthians 9:15 (GNV)

Thanks therefore be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

1 Corinthians 15:57 (GW)

Thank God that he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Psalm 95:2 (GNT)

Let us come before him with thanksgiving
  and sing joyful songs of praise.

Psalm 92:1 (HCSB)

It is good to praise Yahweh,
to sing praise to Your name, Most High.

Revelation 11:17 (ICB)

We give thanks to you, Lord God All-Powerful.
  You are the One who is and who was.
We thank you because you have used your great power
  and have begun to rule!

Colossians 3:15 (ISV)

Let the peace of the Messiah also rule in your hearts, to which you were called in one body, and be thankful.

1 Chronicles 29:13 (KJV)

Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.

2 Corinthians 2:14 (PHILLIPS)

Thanks be to God who leads us, wherever we are, on his own triumphant way and makes our knowledge of him spread throughout the world like a lovely perfume!

Psalm 105:1-2 (LEB)

Give thanks to Yahweh; proclaim his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him; sing praises concerning him;
tell of all his wonderful works.

Psalm 30:4 (TLB)

Oh, sing to him you saints of his; give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 69:30 (MSG)

Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.

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