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Billy Graham’s Wrestle with the Bible

Buy your copy of Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham, Revised and Updated in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

The following article is excerpted from Just As I Am by Billy Graham with permission from HarperOne/HarperCollins, copyright 2007.

By Billy Graham

One of God’s hidden stratagems to prepare me for Los Angeles was an engagement I had made for late summer that I was not enthusiastic about keeping. At the end of August, the annual College Briefing Conference met at Forest Home, a retreat center east of Los Angeles. In my role as the then-youngest college president in America, I had agreed to speak, but after Altoona I did not feel I had much to say.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Billy Graham: 1918 — 2018]

Head of the conference was Miss Henrietta Mears, director of religious education at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. From a wealthy background, she was always dressed in the latest fashion, and she wore tasteful makeup and fine jewelry. Always positive, she had a great love for down-and-outs. She was a former high school chemistry teacher in Minneapolis and had been a key worker in the Sunday school at Dr. Riley’s First Baptist Church. Some twenty years before, she accepted an invitation to serve at the Hollywood church. Within three years of her arrival, she had built a dynamic Christian education program, with the Sunday school enrollment rising from a fairly respectable Presbyterian 450 to an absolutely awesome 4,500; it was the talk of the West Coast. In the class she herself taught for college students, weekly attendance ran to 500 men and women who were devoted to “Teacher,” as she was called. Her enthusiasm for the Lord Jesus Christ was contagious.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Verses Read at the Funeral of Billy Graham]

Other speakers included her own pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian, Dr. Louis Evans; my good friend and fellow seeker Chuck Templeton, who had just finished his first year at Princeton seminary; and evangelist-scholar J. Edwin Orr, who had received his PhD from Oxford University and was an authority on religious revivals. As always, I felt intimidated by so many bright and gifted leaders, which just added to my generally low spirits at the time. I would just as soon have been at Forest Lawn, the famous Los Angeles cemetery, as at Forest Home.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, A Billy Graham Crusade Snapshot]

During the week, I had times of prayer and private discussion with Miss Mears at her cottage. Rarely had I witnessed such Christian love and compassion as she had for those students. She had faith in the integrity of the Scriptures, and an understanding of Bible truth as well as modern scholarship. I was desperate for every insight she could give me.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Live The Bible — “The Bible Says…” – Billy Graham]

By contrast, Chuck Templeton had a passion for intellectualism that had been stimulated by his studies. He made no attempt to hide his feelings about me. “Billy, you’re fifty years out of date. People no longer accept the Bible as being inspired the way you do. Your faith is too simple. Your language is out of date. You’re going to have to learn the new jargon if you’re going to be successful in your ministry.” My friend Bob Evans, who had been at Wheaton with me, was also at Forest Home. He overheard Chuck say, “Poor Billy, I feel sorry for him. He and I are taking two different roads.”

This cut me to the quick; the friendship and fellowship we had enjoyed meant a great deal to me. Ironically, the Christian Business Men’s Committee of Greater Los Angeles (which was taking a great step of faith in having an unknown evangelist like me) had invited Chuck to speak in July at a “booster dinner” for the Campaign.

I ached as if I were on the rack, with Miss Mears stretching me one way and Chuck Templeton stretching me the other. Alone in my room one evening, I read every verse of Scripture I could think of that had to do with “thus saith the Lord.” I recalled hearing someone say that the prophets had used the phrase “the Word of the Lord said” (or similar wording) more than two thousand times. I had no doubts concerning the deity of Jesus Christ or the validity of the Gospel, but was the Bible completely true? If I was not exactly doubtful, I was certainly disturbed.

I pondered the attitude of Christ toward the Scriptures. He loved those sacred writings and quoted from them constantly. Never once did He intimate that they could be wrong. In fact, He verified some of the stories in the Old Testament that were the hardest to believe, such as those concerning Noah and Jonah. With the Psalmist, He delighted in the law of the Lord, the Scriptures.

As that night wore on, my heart became heavily burdened. Could I trust the Bible? With the Los Angeles Campaign galloping toward me, I had to have an answer. If I could not trust the Bible, I could not go on. I would have to quit the school presidency. I would have to leave pulpit evangelism. I was only thirty years of age. It was not too late to become a dairy farmer. But that night I believed with all my heart that the God who had saved my soul would never let go of me.

I got up and took a walk. The moon was out. The shadows were long in the San Bernardino Mountains surrounding the retreat center. Dropping to my knees there in the woods, I opened the Bible at random on a tree stump in front of me. I could not read it in the shadowy moonlight, so I had no idea what text lay before me. Back at Florida Bible Institute, that kind of woodsy setting had given me a natural pulpit for proclamation. Now it was an altar where I could only stutter into prayer.

The exact wording of my prayer is beyond recall, but it must have echoed my thoughts: “O God! There are many things in this book I do not understand. There are many problems with it for which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions Chuck and others are raising.”

I was trying to be on the level with God, but something remained unspoken. At last the Holy Spirit freed me to say it. “Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word.”

When I got up from my knees at Forest Home that August night, my eyes stung with tears. I sensed the presence and power of God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed. In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.

Despite all the negotiations and arrangements we had already entered into with the Christian Business Men’s Committee of Greater Los Angeles, I still had a frightening lack of assurance that the Lord really was leading us to Los Angeles.

I had been away from home so much that year that I hated to be leaving again, even though Ruth was going to attempt to join me later. The first week in September, she and I took a short vacation drive up in the northwoods of Minnesota.

We returned to Minneapolis in time for a weekend faculty retreat at Northwestern Schools, where the fall semester was about to begin. I knew that the faculty and students had a right to expect me on campus. I also knew, though, that T.W., Dean Ed Hartill, and Mrs. Riley could capably handle everything for at least a while.

Some of my negative praying would have made even God gloomy, I guessed, if He had not known ahead what He was going to do for the glory of His name.

Excerpted from Just As I Am by Billy Graham with permission from HarperOne/HarperCollins, copyright 2007.

Just As I Am is published by HarperOne/HarperCollins, of which HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway, is associated.

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Do Miracles Happen?: An Interview with Lee Strobel

Lee StrobelHow should miracles be defined? What’s the difference between a miracle, answered prayer, and a coincidence? How many adults believe in miracles and say they’ve experienced them? Can miracles be proven? What could be considered the greatest miracle of all?

In this Q&A, investigative journalist and bestselling author Lee Strobel (@LeeStrobel) talks about his book, The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural (Zondervan, 2018).

Buy your copy of The Case for Miracles: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Supernatural in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

[Sign up to receive Lee Strobel’s free email newsletter, Investigating Faith]

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Easter is On April Fool’s Day But the Resurrection is No Joke]

You’ve investigated a variety of spiritual topics over the last two decades. What led you to the topic of miracles?

Lee Strobel: After investigating the data of science and the historical underpinnings of Christianity, I concluded that there’s a supernatural Creator and that Jesus rose from the dead. But my skeptical nature didn’t entirely dissipate. While I was convinced that miracles occurred as the Gospels reported, that left open the question of whether God still is available to intervene in human lives today.

My curiosity prompted me to commission a national scientific survey, which was conducted by Barna Research. I wanted to discover where Americans stand on the topic of miracles. And I wanted to know how many people have had an experience that they can only explain as being a miracle of God.

The big issue, however, is whether belief in supernatural occurrences is based on mistake,
misunderstanding, fraud, legend, rumor, wishful thinking, confirmation bias, the placebo effect—or reality.

In other words, does a miracle-performing God actually exist, and has he left his fingerprints all over supernatural events throughout history down to the present age? I was truly interested in testing the strength of the case for miracles.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Case for Christ: An Interview with Lee Strobel]

How would you define a miracle as opposed to answered prayer or a coincidence?

Lee Strobel: I’m partial to the definition offered by the late Richard L. Purtill, professor emeritus of philosophy at Western Washington University: “A miracle is an event brought about by the power of God that is a temporary exception to the ordinary course of nature, for the purpose of showing that God has acted in history.”

Some of what we casually classify as “miracles” really seem closer to fortunate “coincidences,” or God at work through routine processes. How can we tell them apart? For me, when I see something extraordinary that has spiritual overtones and is validated by an independent source or event, that’s when the “miracle” bell goes off in my mind.

In other words, a dream about a nebulous figure writing chemistry problems on a blackboard isn’t
miraculous in itself. But if those equations are the very same problems that present themselves on an independently prepared examination the next day, that does seem miraculous—especially when the incident occurs after a prayer pleading for God’s help.

Spontaneous remissions do happen sometimes in serious illnesses, but they usually take place over a period of time and often do not endure. If a serious illness is instantly and permanently eradicated at the exact moment a prayer for healing is being offered—well, that tends to push the needle over into the “miracle” category for me.

What did your scientific survey reveal about American beliefs in miracles?

Lee Strobel: Detailed results of this national scientific survey are reported for the first time in the pages of The Case for Miracles. In general, half of US adults (51%) said they believe the miracles of the Bible happened as they are described. Asked whether miracles are possible today, two out of three Americans (67%) said yes, with only 15% saying no.

Nearly two out of five US adults (38%) said they’re convinced that God has performed at least one miracle for them personally. This is an eye-popping 94,792,000 Americans who are convinced that God has performed at least one miracle for them personally. That’s an astonishing number! Even weeding out instances that were actually “coincidences”—as many of those undoubtedly would be—that still leaves a surprising number of seemingly supernatural events.

Tell about the experts you consulted during research for the book.

Lee Strobel: While I’m a committed Christian whose convictions are widely known, I was truly interested in testing the strength of the case for miracles by speaking with a skeptic. So I sought out the most famous doubter in America, Dr. Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine and a former proselytizer for Jesus who is now an apologist for disbelief.

The first three chapters of The Case for Miracles recount my meeting with Dr. Shermer and his “skeptic’s” case against miracles. His detailed objections to the miraculous helped shape the questions I would ask additional experts throughout my research.

To present the case for miracles, I interviewed Dr. Craig S. Keener, who’s one of the foremost scholars on the miraculous. Dr. Michael Strauss unraveled the astonishing miracle of creation, while Detective J. Warner Wallace explored the miracle of the resurrection.

Among the other experts I spoke with are Dr. Roger Olson, who maintains that many Christian churches are embarrassed by the supernatural, and Dr. Candy Gunther Brown of Indiana University, who has studied the impact of intercessory prayer on healing. I also interviewed Tom Doyle, a missionary who reports on how Jesus is miraculously appearing in the dreams of Muslims in countries closed to the Gospel.

To bring my research full circle, I wrote a chapter called, “When Miracles Don’t Happen.” Often, people pray for supernatural healings that never occur the way they want them to. I interviewed Dr. Douglas Groothuis, a Christian philosopher whose wife is suffering from debilitating dementia at a young age. Despite their fervent prayers, God has not chosen to heal her at this point. This may be the most powerful chapter of any book I’ve ever written, as Dr. Groothuis speaks from his heart as well as from his vast reservoir of philosophical experience.

Can anyone “prove” a miracle has happened? What is the role of science in investigating
supernatural claims?

Lee Strobel: Corroborated eyewitness testimony—especially when coming from multiple, independent observers known for integrity—can go a long way in establishing whether a miracle claim is credible. And while it’s true that a miracle can’t be analyzed in a test tube, there are ways that science and medicine can contribute to the investigation of the supernatural. For one thing, medical records can be compared before and after prayer. In fact, we have peer-reviewed studies published in secular medical journals that point toward the effectiveness of prayer in healing.

Why do you call original creation the “granddaddy” of miracles?

Lee Strobel: If Genesis 1:1 is correct when it reads, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” then lesser miracles become more credible. In other words, if God can command an entire universe and even time itself to leap into existence, then walking on water would be like a stroll in the park and resurrection would be as simple as a snap of the fingers. If God created the laws of nature when he spoke the universe into existence, then it would be easy for him to occasionally intervene in order to perform miracles of all sorts.

Another major miracle described in the Bible is the resurrection of Jesus. What did your research uncover?

Lee Strobel: I spoke with a decorated homicide investigator, J. Warner Wallace, who subjected the Gospels to months of painstaking analysis through various investigative techniques, including what detectives call forensic statement analysis. Wallace says the evidence for the resurrection is supported by the eyewitness accounts recorded in the Gospels. We find substantial agreement to show each narrator was an independent witness of the same great transaction, although they employed differing literary spotlights in their narratives.

In addition to debunking common arguments against the resurrection such as eyewitness hallucinations, that Jesus really didn’t die on the cross, or that no one was ever buried in the tomb, Wallace discusses the second miracle of the cross: Salvation. The resurrection miracle begets personal miracles of forgiveness, redemption, and new life.

Why are there more stories of modern-day miracles occurring within developing nations than in the United States?

Lee Strobel: In America, we have a lot of sophisticated medical technology, which is God’s gift to us. That’s the way he typically brings healing. But in many other places around the world, that’s not available, and perhaps God’s intervention is the only hope. As Christian author Tim Stafford has observed, there are four characteristics that are often shared by outbreaks of the supernatural:

  1. There’s illiteracy. Miracles show God’s power without language.
  2. People don’t have a framework in their culture for theological concepts such as sin and salvation.
  3. There’s limited medical care, making miracles the only resource for the afflicted.
  4. The spirit world is very real to people. Miracles are demonstrations of God’s power.

Speaking of other nations, have you heard reports of God moving miraculously in the Muslim world?

Lee Strobel: We’ve been seeing countless Muslims who’ve experienced supernatural visions or dreams—many of them corroborated by outside events—that have brought them out of Islam and into Christianity. In fact, more Muslims have become Christians in the last couple of decades than in the previous 1,400 years, and it’s estimated that a quarter to a third of them experienced a dream or vision of Jesus before their salvation experience.

Why would God use dreams and visions to manifest himself to Muslims?

Lee Strobel: It’s estimated that 50% of Muslims around the world can’t read and 86% of Muslims don’t know a Christian who can share the gospel with them. Most don’t have access to a Bible. It seems these dreams plow the hard soil of Muslim hearts. The dreams motivate them to seek the real Jesus and to find the truth in Scripture.

What happens when, instead of a miracle, a person prays but doesn’t experience a miracle?

Lee Strobel: As I was researching this question, I realized that any credible book on miracles must deal with the ones that never happen. Many people have implored God to meet an urgent need in their lives—with no miracle forthcoming. There are biblical reasons that we shouldn’t be surprised when everyone isn’t healed in each and every instance. Even Jesus didn’t heal automatically. Nevertheless, the emotional punch of this issue still stings.

My own wife struggles with fibromyalgia. Every day she’s in pain. We pray continually for relief and beseech God often and fervently for her healing. While researching this book, I came across inspiring examples of how God miraculously restored others—and wrote after each story: “Why no miracle for Leslie?”

By definition, miracles are outside the normal course of events. They’re a supernatural exception to the way the world usually works. Though they’re more common than we may think, they’re still relatively rare—which means that for most people, a sudden and complete healing isn’t going to happen. But that doesn’t mean God is absent. We’re not cast adrift to suffer on our own. Scripture promises that God will eventually heal everyone. He’ll cause good to emerge from the difficulties of life. Hope is refined through tribulation.

How did your investigation impact you personally?

Lee Strobel: After nearly two years of research, I came to my own verdict about miracles: they’re often credible and convincing, and they contribute powerfully to the cumulative case for Christ. The time I invested in studying the evidence for this particular book was well spent. In the end, my confidence in a miracle-working God has been deepened and strengthened.

The Case for Miracles is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

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How to Live The Bible — Like Christ, In His Death


This is the twentieth 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.

Just released: A Book of Prayers for Kids by Mel Lawrenz (a perfect Easter gift for the kids you know and love).

[For the Easter season: Knowing Him: Devotional Readings About the Cross and Resurrection by Mel Lawrenz]

In his poignant letter to the Philippians, written from desperate moments in prison when Paul thought that his life may be poured out in sacrifice at any time, he contemplated the form of death and the form of resurrection that was his hope.

How To Live the Bible Blurred People illustration

What more complete proof do we need of the transforming Christ, than to see a man face his own demise seeing it in the shape of the death of his Lord, and having an unshakable hope and belief that in resurrection he would be formed according to the morphe of Christ?

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him [summorphoo] in his death….

And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform [metamphoo] our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. (Phil. 3:10, 21).

In every respect, then, the Christian is committed to an unequivocal, unambiguous program: to be shaped according to the image of Christ who is perfect God (thus leading us back to god-likeness), and perfect man (thus showing us the shape of human life the way it was meant to be). This program involves contemplation and imitation of the life of Jesus, but also, of his death and resurrection.

What did Paul actually think “having the same form” of the death of Christ meant? It is not the means of death particularly that Paul wanted to imitate, but the sacrificial character of Christ’s death. In Paul’s mind, his own suffering in prison (and the whole preceding ordeal of opposition, arrest, trial, and everything else he had to go through as an apostle) had a certain shape. It was not meaningless, random suffering, but sacrifice for a divine cause. Paul knew that in such fashion he was the witness (in Greek, martys) of the saving death of Christ, and would be in line with all the other martyrs from biblical times and beyond. This is the core meaning and the power of the martyrs’ death: sharing the form of Christ’s death. The connection with our daily life is in Jesus’ words:

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it (Luke 9:23-24).

This distinctive “form” of life is possible only through metamorphosis, because the sacrificial life cuts against so many fundamental human instincts: self-preservation, self-determinism, self-absorption, and self-aggrandizement. Becoming like Christ in his death (both in death itself and in daily life), taking one’s own cross, (which is self-sacrifice, not random suffering) is the most radical thing a human soul can do. A caterpillar’s metamorphosis begins not when the chrysalis opens, but when the chrysalis is formed. This “death” and entombment allows the transforming process to begin. And so, for the Christian, “becoming like Christ in his death,” taking up one’s cross, is the moment and the method for metamorphosis. Is there another way? Jesus couldn’t have made it clearer: “anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:38).

This cross that we take and follow Christ is not specifically the suffering in our lives, but the sacrifice of our lives in obedience to Christ.

On the other side of this most radical notion of discipleship through self-sacrifice is the equally radical promise of personal metamorphosis represented in the final resurrection: “Christ… will transform our lowly bodies.” The form of Christ’s death is countered by the form of his resurrection. The extremity of these two realities—pulled into death to self, then pulled out into resurrection life—is itself the utter reshaping of a life. Such a process can only be described as transformation.


Available now, the Easter devotional, Knowing Him: Devotional Readings About the Cross and Resurrection by Mel Lawrenz. Get it now.


[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.

How Reading Aloud Can Change the World

Sarah Mackenzie(Or, at Least, How It’s Changing Mine)

By Sarah Mackenzie

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. ~Proverbs 22:6

It was just an ordinary Tuesday, really, but it turned out to be so much more than that.

I was 20 years old; it had been a long, rainy spring; and the 450-square-foot apartment my husband and I shared was feeling even more cramped than usual. I packed up our one-year-old daughter, an overstuffed diaper bag, and a cantaloupe in danger of turning too soft, and headed out the door.

When we arrived at my friend’s house 25 minutes later, Christina opened the front door, threw her arm around my neck, and ushered us into her large, cheery home. I breathed a small sigh of relief and dropped the diaper bag by the stairs—another boring afternoon in our tiny apartment had been successfully averted.

Audrey, my daughter, immediately set off, eager to find the toy box. I trailed her, unzipping her coat as she toddled away. Christina’s own toddler, not too keen on me yet, returned my smile with a scowl.

Christina went into the kitchen to dig through the fridge, and I followed her. We had bonded months earlier over birth stories and coffee at a local playgroup, and I was grateful that even though there was at least a decade between my age and Christina’s, we could swap fears and feelings as first-time moms.

“Wanna keep an eye on the little ones?” she asked. “I’ll just whip up a little something for our lunch.”

I wandered to the family room, keeping watch as the toddlers ransacked the toy bins. Just as I was about to drop onto the deep leather sofa, I saw it—a book resting precariously on the edge of the fireplace mantle, Post-its jutting out every which way from the pages. I snatched it up and noted the title: The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.

If this had been happening in a movie, I’m certain there would have been music. In fact, it would have been the tension-building part of the soundtrack. The part that helps the movie-watcher realize that something of great importance is happening, that the rest of the story hinges on this seemingly insignificant moment.

At the time, however, all I heard was the babbling of toddlers and the sizzling of the bratwurst Christina was sautéing for lunch. I flipped through the book, noting how many pages were dog-eared, how many were marked up with penciled comments.

“What do you think of this book?” I asked Christina over my shoulder.

She turned from the stove and leaned forward, squinting slightly, to see what I was holding, “Oh, that one? It’s great!”

Turning back to her task, she added, “You can borrow it, if you like.”

(This is your cue to raise the volume on the soundtrack.)

Some years after that day at Christina’s, I stood on a stool in my kitchen wearing yoga pants, earbuds inserted, scrub brush in hand. Determined to clean out all the kitchen cupboards, I shooed the three kids out to the yard to play with friends while I tackled the silverware drawers and pantry shelves.

I was listening to Andrew Pudewa, president of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, give a talk called “Nurturing Competent Communicators.” A friend who heard Pudewa speak at a homeschooling conference was inspired, motivated, and filled with fresh enthusiasm and confidence. I had barely begun my own homeschooling journey, but I was already feeling overwhelmed and in over my head. I thought I could certainly use some of that fresh enthusiasm.

I listened and scrubbed as Pudewa told a crowd of homeschooling parents that the best way to help children grow to be good communicators was to read aloud to them as much as possible and to have them memorize poetry. I wiped crumbs into my hand and remembered The Read-Aloud Handbook, inhaled all those years ago. Maybe Pudewa was on to something.

I already read aloud bedtime stories and school books to my kids—especially to my youngest two, who couldn’t yet read anything by themselves. But something about Pudewa’s talk that day sparked an ember that had lain dormant, buried deep within me. I got to the end of the lecture and started it all over again, vacuuming out corners of drawers and scrubbing honey splatters as I listened once more.

This, I thought to myself. There’s something about this.

Have you ever seen a campfire that has burned down but not been completely tamped out? It looks like nothing is happening, but all you have to do is add a small bit of the right fuel—a scrap of paper, a dry piece of kindling, a tiny blast of oxygen—and that fire roars right back to life.

That’s exactly what happened when I listened to Andrew Pudewa. I began to read aloud to my three children (then ages eight, six, and four) more than ever. So startling were the results—so completely transformative were the changes in our family—that five years and three more babies later, I could barely keep myself from bubbling over with the thrill of it.

I had an active blog and had begun to play with the idea of starting a podcast. I loved listening to podcasts myself and thought it might be fun to launch one. In a moment of pure impulse in March of 2014, I shot an email off to the Institute for Excellence in Writing: Would Mr. Pudewa like to come talk with me on a podcast about the importance of reading aloud?

Within hours I had received a response from his marketing director—yes, Mr. Pudewa would be delighted to be featured on my podcast.

Hmm, I thought, eyeing my nine-month-old twins as they scooted themselves across the floor, I guess I’d better figure out how to start a podcast.

It turns out that “how to start a podcast” is, in fact, a valid Google search. I ordered a microphone and headset, created a Skype account, and watched an online tutorial about how to edit voice recordings. I marked the day of the scheduled interview with Andrew Pudewa in bright yellow highlighter on my wall calendar, but as the day drew closer, I became more and more uneasy.

On the day of the interview, my stomach churned. I fired a text to my friend, Pam: What was I thinking when I asked ANDREW PUDEWA to be on my show? I don’t even have a show! I’m going to be sick. This is a bad idea. It was ALWAYS a bad idea. Whose idea was this anyway? See, this is where my rash and impulsive enthusiasm gets me. In too deep.

Pam responded with just three words: You’ll be fine.

(She’s heartless. Or I suppose she’s used to receiving such texts from me. I’ll let you decide for yourself.)

The interview went better than I could have hoped (so I guess, in the end, Pam was right), and Mr. Pudewa was a delightful and talkative guest. To this day, I doubt he realizes how terrified I was.

A week later, in between diaper changes and never-ending loads of laundry, I released the Read-Aloud Revival podcast. I was certain the internet radio show would last for only a few episodes and provide a very small circle of my blog readers with some encouragement to read more with their kids

I could never have imagined in those first days of the podcast that the show would grow to become what it is today—never dreamed it would see millions of downloads in the first few years and be heard by tens of thousands of families all over the world. As the podcast grew and responses from listeners rolled in, I realized something beautiful: I wasn’t alone. Other families had taken to heart this idea that reading aloud could transform their homes, and they had amazing stories to tell about it. Finding other families who were prioritizing books and read-aloud sessions in the way my own family was made my heart sing.

Emails began to fill my inbox. Listeners wrote in to tell me that they were reading aloud with their kids, and that it had become everyone’s favorite time of day. They would say that ever since they started listening to the podcast, they had begun reading together before bed, or at lunchtime, or by listening to audiobooks in the car. Their families suddenly had their own inside jokes, their own shared experiences. It was knitting them together in new ways. They told of their nonreading kids who were begging for “one more chapter,” of an energy and enthusiasm in their homes the likes of which they had never seen before. Something big was happening in homes all over the world. A revival was taking shape.

In all the conversations I’ve had on the Read-Aloud Revival podcast with experts, authors, moms, dads, and reading enthusiasts, I’ve come to understand something that both delights and relieves me: reading aloud with our kids is indeed the best use of our time and energy as parents. It’s more important than just about anything else we can do.

Reading aloud may seem too simple to make that big of an impact. But the stories I’ve heard over the years from families all over the world, the data collected by experts, and the personal experience I’ve had sharing stories with my own six kids has convinced me beyond a shadow of a doubt.


The Read-Aloud FamilyAdapted from The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie. Learn more about this title.

Connecting deeply with our kids can be difficult in our busy, technology-driven lives. Reading aloud offers us a chance to be fully present with our children. It also increases our kids’ academic success, inspires compassion, and fortifies them with the inner strength they need to face life’s challenges. As Sarah Mackenzie has found with her own six children, reading aloud long after kids are able to read to themselves can deepen relationships in a powerful way.

Founder of the immensely popular Read-Aloud Revival podcast, Sarah knows first-hand how reading can change a child’s life. In The Read-Aloud Family, she offers the inspiration and age-appropriate book lists you need to start a read-aloud movement in your own home. From a toddler’s wonder to a teenager’s resistance, Sarah details practical strategies to make reading aloud a meaningful family ritual. Reading aloud not only has the power to change a family—it has the power to change the world.

Sarah Mackenzie is an author, speaker, and podcast host. She created the Read-Aloud Revival podcast in 2014. That fateful decision resulted in a highly rated show with millions of downloads. Sarah helps families all over the world fall in love with books. She lives in the Northwest with her husband, Andrew. She homeschools their six kids and considers it her high calling to make sure they are well-stocked in the best books she can find.

Thinking Like An Atheist: An Interview with Anthony DeStefano

Anthony DeStefanoWhy do atheists rage against Christians? What do atheists think about the Bible? How should Christians respond to atheists?

Bible Gateway interviewed Anthony DeStefano (@a_destefano) about his book, Inside the Atheist Mind: Unmasking the Religion of Those Who Say There Is No God (Thomas Nelson, 2018).

Buy your copy of Inside the Atheist Mind in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

[See the Barna study: Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z]

Why is it important to understand the thinking of the atheist mind?

Anthony DeStefano: It’s important to understand the thinking of atheists today because they’re at war with us, plain and simple. For the last 20 years the so-called “new” atheists have been waging an all-out, media driven attack on believers—especially Christians. This attack—in the form of anti-Christian books, movies, TV shows, articles, speeches, billboard campaigns, blogs, court rulings, and government legislation—has been relentless. In order for us to fight back effectively, we simply have to understand why atheists are in such a rage.

In my opinion, too many books written in response to these pseudo-intellectual blowhards have been altogether too nice. Many authors try to be kind and amiable in an effort to demonstrate that believers don’t have to sink into the mud in order to defend the faith. That tact is very charitable, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work with bullies. And that’s exactly what modern-day atheists are—bullies. They’re arrogant, ignorant, deceitful, cowardly, hateful, and extraordinarily zealous. They love trying to intimidate believers into silence. Well, that can’t be allowed to happen.

As I say in Inside the Atheist Mind, there’s only one way to deal with bullies, even in this politically correct world—and that’s to crush them.

Yes, the Bible demands that we must always love our enemies and pray for them, but we must never allow them to stop us from carrying out the command Christ gave us: to make disciples of all nations. (Matt. 28:19)

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Why Trust the Bible?: An Interview with Greg Gilbert]

What do atheists think about the Bible?

Anthony DeStefano: I’m afraid that most “new” atheists have an incredibly condescending, ignorant, and offensive view of the Bible. They don’t just “disagree” with it or think it’s a misguided book. They think it’s nothing but a fictional fairytale—and an evil fairytale at that. They think that believing in the Bible is tantamount to insanity—the same as believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.

The reason why so many people throughout history have accepted the Bible as true, they smugly assert, is because these poor ancient folk were ignorant of scientific facts. If they had only known what we know, they never would have believed in something so “absurd” as the “myths” contained in the Bible. As for those of us today who still believe in the Bible despite the marvels of science, we’ve obviously been “brainwashed” by our Christian upbringing, or have some kind of grave psychological problem or weakness.

They surmise that our dependence on the Word of God comes from three primary sources: a fear of death, an unwillingness to accept the permanent loss of loved ones, and an inability to cope with life itself. In other words, modern atheists think that those who believe the Bible fall into one of two general categories: we’re either imbeciles or cowards! And this is why we have to fight back.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Undeniable Reliability of Scripture: An Interview with Josh McDowell]

How should a Christian respond to an atheist who doesn’t believe the Bible is reliable or authoritative?

Anthony DeStefano: It all depends on how the question is asked. Most atheists have such a warped and infantile understanding of the Bible that when they ask Christians to defend their belief in the Word, their only objective is to try to get us to look silly—by singling out passages in the Bible that they naively think are absurd (like Jonah being swallowed by the big fish).

There are no fast, sound-bite answers to teach an atheist the deeper meaning of these scriptures, and since most of them are not interested in serious discussion anyway, my advice is to avoid such traps and instead put them on the defensive—by asking them why they believe the nonsense they do: for example, their assertion that this universe of ours, with its incomparable beauty, order, harmony, and life, came about all on its own!

If, however, an atheist is sincerely searching for the truth and wants to sincerely understand why you believe the Bible is reliable, then of course you should take the time to answer him seriously—starting from the simple premise that you believe there is a God who created everything (because something can’t come from nothing), and that this God wouldn’t just create everything without also communicating with his creation in some way. You might say that after deep and reflective reading of the Bible, you have come to believe that it is indeed the primary way that God has chosen to communicate with his creation.

In other words, when dealing with a sincere but skeptical unbeliever, start by explaining your very rational belief in God, and then move to the Bible.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How the Bible’s Obscure “Coincidences” Demonstrate Its Reliability: An Interview with Lydia McGrew]

Why do you say atheism is death-centric?

Anthony DeStefano: The book of Proverbs says: “All who hate me [God] love death.” And that’s very true. There’s a profound and frightening connection between atheism and death. Atheists don’t believe in God, so they don’t believe in any transcendent, objective, moral law; nor do they believe that human beings are made in the image of God, and so they don’t believe humans possess infinite value and dignity.

When you put these two beliefs together, you have a deadly recipe that makes killing “problematic” human beings quite easy and defensible. And indeed, that’s been bourn out by history: At the very same time western society has become secular and functionally atheistic, it’s also become a “culture of death.”

Atheist leaders bear the blame for the vast majority of deaths caused by war and mass murder in history. Indeed, between the years 1900 and 2017, approximately 150 million people were killed by atheistic political regimes. Beyond this one has only to look at the truly horrifying statistics regarding the growing numbers of abortions, suicides, homicides, cases of euthanasia, and infanticide, to see the atheist-death connection. As a thoroughly secular and functionally atheistic culture, we’ve now become accustomed to “killing” our problems rather than dealing with them with love.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Tweetable Nietzsche: An Interview with C. Ivan Spencer]

How is atheism itself a faith?

Anthony DeStefano: Atheists believe that everything in life has a purely material basis. They completely deny the existence of anything spiritual. They believe that all our thoughts, dreams, passions, loves, hates, hopes, ambitions, virtues, sins, and sufferings are driven solely by atomic activity. They believe that all our philosophies, politics, cultures, art, literature, music, history, as well as our deepest desire for eternal life and all that is transcendent in the world—that is, the good, the true, and the beautiful—that all of this is purely the result of biochemical reactions and the random movement of molecules in an empty and lifeless ether. This is not science—it’s faith.

What’s more, it’s an irrational faith that serves as the foundation for all superstition. Indeed, atheism is a whole system of beliefs—a system that has its own philosophy (materialism), morality (relativism), politics (social Darwinism), and culture (secularism). It even has its own sacraments (abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia). And this system of beliefs has been responsible for more death, carnage, persecution, and misery than any system of beliefs the world has ever known.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Seeing the Creator in the Wonders of Our Cosmos: An Interview with David Bradstreet]

You write that atheism is malevolent because it destroys the very possibility of repentance. Explain that.

Anthony DeStefano: At the very center of the Christian religion is the concept of repentance. Repentance simply means being “sorry” for sin; and being sorry for sin entails turning away from evil and back to God. It’s an “undoing” of our rebellious nature, and a sign of true faith. As Christians we believe that this “turning back to God in faith” is an absolute prerequisite to entering Heaven and achieving full union with God. We also believe that, by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God has made repentance very easy for us. In fact, if you turn away from God by sinning, all you have to do is say sincerely that you’re “sorry” and God will forgive you, no matter what the sin and no matter how many times you’ve committed it. And this is where atheism comes in.

Atheism destroys the possibility of repentance in two ways. First, if you don’t believe in God, there isn’t anyone for you to apologize to, is there? Second, atheism fosters an attitude of moral relativism. This is the ethical system that says because God doesn’t exist, there’s no such thing as objective truth. Human beings are therefore free to make their own rules and dispense with all biblical commandments. When human beings adopt moral relativism, there isn’t ever a need for them to repent of their sins, because they don’t think they’ve committed any sins to begin with. They don’t believe there is such a thing as sin.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Problem of God: An Interview with Mark Clark]

How do Christian believers “make atheism possible”?

Anthony DeStefano: In the final analysis, the only reason atheism exists today and is thriving in the US and Europe is because believers allow it to. Not the true believers—not the ones who walk the walk and make the necessary sacrifices; not the ones whose belief is reflected in their behavior—but rather, the ones who just “play” at believing; the ones for whom God has little or no relevance in life. These are the so-called “Cafeteria Christians,” who pick and choose the tenets of faith that are easiest to follow and most pleasing to them personally; the ones who end up promoting values just as secular as the secular culture in which they live. In other words—they’re essentially “functional atheists,” and it’s because of them that the new atheism has flourished in recent decades, and its hopeless, death-centered agenda has been able to advance so far.

Today’s functional atheists have been the great “enablers of unbelief.” They’ve given unbelievers so much breathing space and nourishment that it’s been possible for them to increase their ranks to an unprecedented degree, and spread like a plague to every segment of western society. If these “Christians” actually practiced what they professed to believe, the fruits of their faith would be so abundant that atheism could never gain any kind of foothold in society. It simply wouldn’t be able to take root and grow. It would be crowded out and suffocated—just as it has at other times in history. In the presence of truth, error always flees. In the presence of good, evil always dies—eventually.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Story of Reality: An Interview with Gregory Koukl]

How is atheism on a collision course with itself?

Anthony DeStefano: There is something called the “Dead End Rule” which states that if you go down a road that’s a dead end but don’t pay attention to the signs warning that it’s a dead end, you’ll soon learn by personal experience that the road comes to an end.

All through its history, Christianity has been putting up dead end signs along the road to atheism. Many people have chosen to ignore those signs, especially in recent times. But that doesn’t change the truth of the message. Individuals who proclaim themselves to be atheists, or who lead functionally atheistic lives, eventually learn by painful experience that atheism is a dead end.

Whether they know it or not, atheists, too, are searching for “living water” that Christ promised in the Gospels (John 4:11-14). When they delete God from their lives, a dry, arid vacuum is left in their soul that needs to be filled. Atheists do their best to fill it with many things—money, power, and pleasure. Mostly they try to fill the void up with themselves. Instead of worshipping God, they become their own deity; their own idol. Only none of these things work. In the end, atheism just doesn’t have the “stuff” that happiness is made of.

Human beings simply cannot survive without hope—and atheism is the philosophy of hopelessness. That’s why atheism, as a belief system, is shrinking, globally. Yes, it’s on the rise in Europe and North America, but in Asia, Africa, and Russia, Christianity is expanding rapidly.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, God’s Crime Scene: An Interview with J. Warner Wallace]

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Anthony DeStefano: In times of trouble, suffering, and stress, I take greatest comfort in the many Bible passages commanding us not to be afraid. The Bible says in over 100 places either to “fear not” or “be not afraid.” Scripture doesn’t ever say “Try to be brave,” or “Try not to be stressed.” It always gives us a command not to be fearful.

This is very comforting to me because God doesn’t give us a command to do anything unless he also gives us the power to carry out that command. With that in mind, one of my very favorite passages is Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Another translation of this text reads: “Dismiss all anxiety from your mind.” That always makes me think of a judge in a courtroom. When he hits the gavel it means no more witnesses, no more cross examinations, no more questions, no more going round and round, no more thinking—Case DISMISSED! And that’s exactly what we have to do when worry, stress, and anxiety start to overwhelm us.

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

Anthony DeStefano: Bible Gateway is quite simply the most important and effective tool there is to read, study, access, and understand the Bible. I’ve used it every day for almost a decade. It’s my primary “go-to” site when researching Scripture for my books. Indeed, I’ve used it in writing all 15 of my Christian books for adults and children, and in the creation of hundreds of my social media posts. I love how quick and easy it is to navigate the site, and how extraordinarily effective the search engine is. Because I travel frequently, the Bible Gateway App has been very helpful to me, too. I use it for my daily Bible reading, as well as for fast access to Scripture references when I am on the go, at meetings, waiting for people, etc. Besides all these practical uses, it’s just so tremendously comforting to me to have all the wisdom and grace of the whole Bible, right in my pocket, all the time.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Anthony DeStefano: I sincerely believe that too many Christians today are sleeping. They live a very comfortable Christianity. In the meantime Rome is burning. They just don’t realize that there’s a real spiritual war being waged right now. All our deepest beliefs and values are under attack. We’re under attack. And in many ways we’re losing. So with all due respect, I think many Christians need to wake up and get into the battle. The time for being nice and amiable is done. We have to mobilize and engage those who are opposing us in a very bold, aggressive, and fearless way—now. I hope Inside the Atheist Mind helps inspire and equip Christians to do just that.

Inside the Atheist Mind is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

Bio: Anthony DeStefano is the bestselling author of four Christian, non-fiction books for adults: A Travel Guide to Heaven, Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, Angels All Around Us, and A Travel Guide To Life: Transforming Yourself From Head To Soul.

Anthony has also written several bestselling children’s books, including: Little Star (winner of the 2011 Mom’s Choice Award), The Donkey That No One Could Ride, The Puppy That No One Wanted, Roxy the Ritzy Camel, This Little Prayer of Mine, A Travel Guide to Heaven for Kids, and The Sheep that No One Could Find.

Anthony has received many awards and honors from religious communities throughout the world. In 2002, he was given an honorary Doctorate from the Joint Academic Commission of the National Clergy Council and the Methodist Episcopal Church for “the advancement of Christian beliefs in modern culture.” The commission is made up of outstanding Evangelical, Orthodox, and Protestant theologians and educators.

Anthony is a Knight of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He is an avid pilot, a successful businessman, and a longtime pro-life activist. He has appeared on many national television and radio programs, including Fox’s America’s Newsroom, Fox and Friends, CNN, The 700 Club, Focus on the Family, and Janet Parshall’s In the Market. His books have been endorsed by Dr. James Dobson, Pastor Jack Hayford, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Cardinal Renato Martino, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, Regis Philbin, Quincy Jones, Delilah, Pat Boone, Mark Taylor, William Bennett, Lee Iacocca, Dr. Paul Cedar, Dr. Dick Eastman, Bernice King—daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others.

Expand your Bible reading experience with our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus.

Bible Translated Into 49 Languages in 2017

United Bible Societies websiteIn 2017, United Bible Societies (UBS) (@ubsbible) assisted in translating the Bible or Scripture portions into 49 languages spoken by more than 580 million people, as reported in UBS’ Global Scripture Access Report 2017 Annual Progress.

[Read the Bible in more than 70 languages on Bible Gateway]

First Translations:
According to the UBS report, 2017 was a ‘first’ for 20 languages spoken by over 14 million people. Seven communities received the first full Bible in their language, four received their first New Testament, and nine communities received their first, or additional, portions of Scripture.

2017 UBS Scripture Launch chart; click to enlarge

New Translations
Because languages change and develop over time, UBS also revises existing translations or provides new translations, when requested, giving new generations the chance to meaningfully engage with Scripture. In 2017, this resulted in 26 new translations and revisions, plus 9 study editions, with the potential to reach more than 566 million people.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Translation Organizations]

Reaching People with Visual Disabilities
In 2017, Bible Societies in 32 countries ran Braille projects to meet the Scripture needs of blind readers. Two languages received their first ever portions of Braille Scripture: Luganda (Uganda) and Khasi (India). A further four languages received additional Braille Scriptures: Oshikwanyama (Namibia), Kinyarwanda (Rwanda), Armenian (Armenia), and German (2017 Luther Bible).

Sign Language Scriptures for Deaf Communities
Bible Societies are currently involved in 26 active sign language projects, with ten more in the planning and preparation stages. This work has the potential to impact 12.9 million deaf people. Seventy-million deaf people use sign languages as their ‘first’ or heart language. But only 10% of the more than 400 unique sign languages that exist have any Scripture, and those that do have very little. No sign language has the full Bible; American Sign Language comes closest, with the New Testament.

Scripture Access Today UBS chart; click to enlarge

Scripture Access Today
Each year UBS compiles data from Bible Societies and progress.Bible™, to present the global status report of Scripture access. At the end of 2017, there were 7,097 languages in the world spoken by over 7.6 billion people (data for first language speakers does not currently equal the current world population). 674 languages, spoken by nearly 5.4 billion people, now have a complete Bible and a further 1,515 languages, spoken by 631 million people, have a New Testament. This leaves 406 million people with only some portions of Scripture, and a further 209 million people with no Scripture in their language.

Looking Ahead
While great strides have been made in Bible translation, much work still lies ahead to provide some portion of Scripture to the 209 million with no Scripture at all in their language and to increase the amount of Scripture for the 1 billion people with only part of the Bible. UBS is working towards the day when everyone can access the full Bible in the language of their choice and is currently working on over 400 translation projects around the world.

“The Bible for everyone: this is the mission that drives us forward in everything we do, and Bible translation plays a central role in that as we seek to serve churches of all denominations,” says Michael Perreau, UBS director general. “What an encouragement to see the impact of this work in 2017–not just the numbers of translations completed, but how lives are being changed, too.”

About the United Bible Societies
The United Bible Societies is a global network of Bible Societies working in more than 200 countries and territories across the world. Together, United Bible Societies members are the world’s biggest translator, publisher, and distributor of the Bible. Bible Societies are also active in areas such as HIV/AIDS prevention, trauma healing, and literacy. United Bible Societies works with all Christian churches and many international non-governmental organizations. Read more:

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Bible News Roundup – Week of March 18, 2018

[Return daily during the coming week for updates]

Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store

Bill Advances to Allow Bible Elective in Alabama Schools
Yellowhammer News

Kentucky Legislature Considering Bill to Make Last Wednesday in September “A Day of Prayer for Kentucky’s Students” and Require State’s Governor to Proclaim It As Such Every Year
ABC36 News
See Bible Gateway Blog posts about prayer

Enigmatic Dead Sea Scroll Makes Rare Show in Jerusalem
The Garden Island
Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Biblical Archaeology Research

Reading the Bible with Luther in Different Cultural Contexts
The Lutheran World Federation
Bible Gateway Blog post, What Was the Reformation and Why Does it Matter Today?
Bible Gateway Blog post, Was the Reformation a Mistake?: An Interview With Dr. Matthew Levering
Bible Gateway Blog post, Secularization—The Unintended Consequence of the Reformation: An Interview with Brad S. Gregory

Free Bibles Given Away at Winter Olympics Thanks to Joint Initiative of Biblica and Athletes in Action
Sight Magazine

US Capitol’s Statuary Hall Collection Will Get Its First Statue of a Black American: Mary McLeod Bethune, Graduate of Moody Bible Institute
Smithsonian Magazine

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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What Does It Mean to Be A Friend of Sinners: An Interview with Rich Wilkerson Jr.

Rich Wilkerson Jr.What does it mean when the Bible describes Jesus as the friend of sinners? And what are the implications of that for those who follow Jesus?

Bible Gateway interviewed Rich Wilkerson Jr. (@richwilkersonjr) about his book, Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection (Thomas Nelson, 2018).

What were the implications to Jesus being called the “friend of sinners”?

Buy your copy of Friend of Sinners in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: People were implying that Jesus was in the wrong place at the wrong time; that he was doing something that wasn’t right. However, when they called Jesus the “friend of sinners” they were actually declaring his mission. That’s why Jesus came; he came for relationship with everyone—with sinners.

How do Christians try to correct people before they connect with people and why do you say that’s wrong?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: Anytime we start with people’s behavior before we start with relationship we’re headed in the wrong direction. Often times people view church, God, and Jesus as a list of rules, rather than an invitation for relationship. The model of Jesus is that he would find a connection to it: he would speak to your pain, speak to your hurt, he would befriend you, he would invite you to dinner, he would go to your house. And it was out of relationship that he would then speak the truth. The Bible says that Jesus came in grace and truth, but may we first understand that grace comes first; truth comes second.

Buy your copy of Friend of Sinners Study Guide with DVD in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

What was the most important message Jesus communicated?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: The most important message that Jesus communicated was, I believe, John 3:16, that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus was communicating that God loves the community, that God loves the world. The world is full of broken, hurting people; the world is full of sinners. But Jesus was being direct to say I came for sinners; I came because I love you; I came to save you.

What stories in the Bible demonstrate how Jesus was a friend of sinners?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: There are many stories in the Bible that show Jesus was a friend of sinners. Luke chapter 19—as he meets Zacchaeus, the tax collector—he goes to his house, and has a meal. One of his disciples, Matthew, also known as Levi, was another tax collector. Jesus went to the party with the tax collectors. It was there the Pharisees criticized him and said, “what is he doing?” Jesus replied, “I didn’t come for the healthy, I came for the sick.” Story after story, Jesus is with sinners.

Why is it difficult for people to be the kind of friend that Jesus was to others?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: It’s difficult for us because, down deep, we want to control people; we want people to get what they deserve. Yet, Jesus—the only one who was without sin—he doesn’t offer us the law, condemnation, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Instead, Jesus offers grace and Jesus gives mercy. And it’s difficult for us to grant mercy and for us to give grace.

How do we underestimate Jesus and what is the result of that?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think many times we think Jesus just came to tell us how to live better on earth. But when we see Jesus only from that viewpoint, we’re turning him into a life coach, or we’re turning him into a leadership guru. But he’s God, not just a man. He’s the God Man, and he came to save us and offer us eternity. When we take his lessons and his teaching and all we think about them are good principles, then we underestimate all he came to do in our lives.

How do daily pressures get in the way of being the kind of friend Jesus wants us to be?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think, many times we get too focused on ourselves that we forget about God and we forget about other people. If you’re only focused on yourself, you’ll never be able to serve others. Jesus came to be the greatest servant of all. We’re called to serve one another and love one another. And the more I fall in love with Jesus, the more it makes me want to love other people. If you love Jesus, show it to someone else.

How risky is it for Christians today to be called the “friend of sinners” and should they care?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think it’s risky because religion runs rampant. Religion is all about what we must do, and it’s about controlling. A relationship with God is all about that Jesus has done all the work. And so, when we start behaving like Jesus by loving our fellow man, by being the guest of sinners and the friend of sinners, religious people will always criticize; religious people will always get upset; religious people will always say something. I think the risk is more than worth it, and no, I do not believe that we should care. I think we should live for the audience of one: his name is Jesus.

What do you mean when you write about being “comfortably uncomfortable”?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I think as Christians, we must understand that once we’ve been filled by God with his love, we’re called to be spilled out for God and show his love. And the only way we’re going to do this is to live outside of our comfort zone.

The more you follow Jesus, the more you realize he came and comforted me. Now I’m called to be uncomfortable for him. God comforts me, and then I get uncomfortable for him. The more you mature in the Lord, the more you realize that reaching out to people, it can be uncomfortable. But as Christians and as followers of Jesus, we have to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I love that the Bible says in Romans, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly.” I love the fact that before I ever knew about Jesus—before I ever called him Lord and Savior—he had already paid the price, because his love for me cannot be dictated on my love for him. He loves me because he is love.

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

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I’m so thankful for Bible Gateway. I use the app, I use the website: I find verses there often, I use it for my sermon prep. I think it’s such an incredible resource! I’m so thankful for it!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Rich Wilkerson Jr.: I really believe in this project. I really believe in this message. I really want people to meet the God that came for us; the God who loves us. He’s the God that’s close to the broken-hearted; he’s the friend of sinners. And once we’ve met the friend of sinners, we too are called to be friends of sinners.

Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

Bio: Rich Wilkerson Jr. and his wife, DawnCher&eacute, pastor VOUS Church, a meeting place of faith, creativity, and diversity in Miami, Florida. Every June, they also host thousands of young adults at the annual VOUS Conference in South Beach. He is the author of Friend of Sinners: Why Jesus Cares More About Relationship Than Perfection and Sandcastle Kings: Meeting Jesus in a Spiritually Bankrupt World, and is an internationally recognized speaker who has logged over two million air miles preaching the gospel around the globe.

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25 Journeys of the Bible

25 Journeys of the Bible from Bible GatewayFollowing the journeys of God’s people throughout Scripture can provide us with a fuller picture of the intricacy of his plan for our salvation. It can also deepen our trust in a Creator and Protector whose understanding of time is not our own understanding. As you read through this series of 25 journeys throughout the Bible (to mark Bible Gateway’s 25th anniversary), may our prayer be that we appreciate God’s timing as it fulfills his plan instead of our own short-sighted scurrying.

1. In Genesis 11:1-9, Noah’s descendants migrate from Mount Ararat to Babel:

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there…But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building…[and] the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city…

2. In Genesis 12:1-9, Abraham trusts God and travels from Ur of the Chaldees to the land of Canaan:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you…So Abram went, as the Lord had told him…

3. Once there, Abraham then must leave Canaan and stay for a time in Egypt, as told in Genesis 12:10-20:

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe…

4. Rebekah leaves her homeland of Haran to be Isaac’s wife in Canaan in Genesis 24:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there…”

5. Isaac, like his father, Abraham, commands Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman, but to return to his family’s people for a wife (Genesis 28-29):

“…May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham…”

6. In Genesis 32-35, Jacob wrestles with God and His promises as he goes from Haran to Bethel:

Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God,who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

7. Jacob’s son Joseph is sold by his brothers from Canaan to Egypt in Genesis 37:

…when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

8. God puts Joseph in a position to aid his family when they flee the drought in Canaan to live in Egypt (Genesis 42-46):

Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt.

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

9. By Exodus 2:15, God’s people are enslaved in Egypt, and Moses flees from Egypt to Midian:

When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well.

10. From Moses’ return as God’s mediator who leads the Israelites out of Egypt to Joshua’s leadership at Jericho, God leads his people gradually back from from Egypt to Canaan. Abraham’s line has come full circle, and God’s promises are never once forgotten.

11. Famine once again calls God’s people into exile in Ruth 1. This time, however, God calls Ruth (a Moabite) out of Moab to go back to Bethlehem with those returning there.

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.

So Naomi returned from Moab accompanied by Ruth the Moabite, her daughter-in-law, arriving in Bethlehem as the barley harvest was beginning.

12. In the days when God’s people were looking for a king, God granted their wish by leading Saul out of Gibeah to Samuel in Ramah (1 Samuel 9):

…Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed this to Samuel: 16 “About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel; he will deliver them from the hand of the Philistines. I have looked on my people, for their cry has reached me.”

13. After God rejects Saul as king, Samuel is told to go to Bethlehem to anoint David. (1 Samuel 16):

“…I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

14. When David is anointed king over Judah in 2 Samuel 2:1, the Lord names the town where he should go:

David asked, “Where shall I go?”

“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.

15. Word of the Lord continues to spread throughout the world in the days of King Solomon (1 Kings 10):

When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions…

16. Rehoboam is also called to a journey to accept his mantle as king. He travels from Jerusalem to Shechem in 1 Kings 12:1:

17. Elijah, a prophet of the Lord, flees Jezebel—wife of Ahab and queen of Israel—and goes up to Mount Horeb where God reveals himself (1 Kings 19):

Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness.

18. in 2 Kings 5, Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, travels from Syria to Samaria to be healed by the God of Israel:

19. The captives of Judah, exiles in Babylon are allowed to return to Jerusalem when the Lord moves the heart of Cyrus king of Persia in Ezra 1:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them…'”

20. Even the Romans were unwitting subjects to God’s will when Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world, sending Joseph to Bethlehem where Jesus was to be born (Luke 2:1-4):

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

21. Like the queen of Sheba visiting Solomon, once again foreign kings are compelled to journey for news of the Hebrew God (Matthew 2:1-12):

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

22. Once the Great Commission has been given, Acts is the account of those earliest missionary journeys. God’s Word is to be spread to all nations and all peoples, and Philip follows this command by going to Samaria in Acts 8:5.

23. Saul to converted on the road to Damascus where he had traveled from Jerusalem to attack the Jesus movement in Acts 9:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

24. In Acts 11:19-26, Barnabas goes out from Jerusalem to plant a church in Antioch:

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.

25. And finally, Paul goes himself to the heart of Jewish persecution in Rome, so that he may spread the Gospel there (Acts 21:16-28:31).

Some content taken from Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, by Harold L. Willmington. Copyright 2011. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. (Available for purchase at


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Putting the “Her” in “Hero” for Girls

See the books in the Bible Belles series in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayIn an effort to give girls aged 4-10 positive role models from the Bible, Erin and Brent Weidemann created the Bible Belles series (@BibleBelles). Erin’s life experiences as a five-time cancer survivor, wife, and mother inspired her to create a brand focused on inspiring girls and women of all ages to fulfill their destiny, redefine the world’s messages of beauty and worth, and promote positive, powerful female role models in Scripture and modern culture.

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The Bible Belles series uses five remarkable women from the Bible – Hannah (prayer), Esther (patience), Abigail (bravery), Ruth (loyalty), and Deborah (leadership) – to teach young girls how to feel confident about their worth, bodies, and purpose in today’s challenging world. Erin Weidemann authored the series, and the couple partnered with a Disney animator to illustrate the books.

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Erin Weidemann“Bible Belles has become more than a business,” said co-founder Erin Weidemann (@ErinWeidemann). “For us, as parents of a young girl, it’s personal. We’re particularly aware of the challenges girls face today, and it’s our continued prayer that these books will help young girls everywhere learn to see their real value and beauty in the Lord.”

The books are available in the Bible Gateway Store:

Bible Belles is partnering with World Vision to support its mission of helping children around the world. For every Deborah book purchased, Bible Belles and World Vision will donate a Bible Belles book to a girl living in an under-resourced community in the United States.

About Bible Belles
Bible Belles is a multimedia publishing company dedicated to changing girls’ lives through the female heroes of the Bible. The world has a lot to tell our kids about beauty. The world is wrong, but it is loud. The Bible Belles show our kids that real beauty makes a different kind of noise. For more information, visit

About World Vision
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, visit

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