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As in the First Creation, God will Re-Create You: An Interview with Nika Maples

Nika MaplesDo you desire to change or completely start over? How does the Genesis account of creation reveal a divine sequence applicable for us today? What lessons does the Genesis story teach about spiritual disciplines for abiding in Christ and staying in step with the Holy Spirit?

Bible Gateway interviewed Nika Maples (@NikaMaples) about her book, Everyday Genesis: Inviting God to Re-Create You (Worthy Publishing, 2017).

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Please tell of the brainstem stroke you suffered at the age of 20 and its aftermath.

Nika Maples: My personal experience with illness and disability undergirds each book I write. Everyday Genesis focuses on re-creation, so for me, a time I needed to be re-created was after I suffered a lupus-related stroke at age 20. The injury was in my brainstem, and it left me quadriplegic within a matter of minutes. I couldn’t speak or even open my eyes. But I could hear. I heard doctors warn my parents that I had as little as 48 hours to live. If I did survive, I might remain in a vegetative state for the rest of my life. It was a very dark time for me. It was a very dark time for all of us.

How has that experience informed your message in Everyday Genesis?

Nika Maples: When I made it through the worst of the brain trauma, we were left asking, “What next?” I had to figure out how to live life differently than I had always known it. I needed to be re-created from the inside out. Revelation 21:4-5 speaks of what I hoped for: “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”

After my stroke, the old way was gone, gone, gone. I had to relearn how to swallow liquid and tie my shoes. Did I dare allow Jesus to make everything new, like he promises in this passage? It was the only viable choice. Everyday Genesis is based upon what I learned through the process of inviting him to re-create me.

How does the Bible’s Genesis account of creation reveal a divine sequence that shows the secrets to a new life? What is that divine sequence?

Nika Maples: As I was reading through Genesis 1, I saw something I had never noticed before. Each day of creation depended entirely upon the previous day. The land was populated with animals on Day 5, but that could not have happened if there had not been something for them to eat, which happened when God covered the land with vegetation on Day 3. And plants cannot survive without light and water, which was provided on Days 1 and 2. Why wouldn’t God’s ordered sequence in creation also be applied to our re-creation? I believe it does. Before we can be productive, fruit-bearing people, we have to have revelation, freedom, and purpose. God’s work builds in beauty and complexity, both on earth and in us.

What does it mean if a person doesn’t stop practicing a bad habit?

Nika Maples: It means they’re a lot like me! It’s amazing how many habits in my life have stuck around for years, no matter how diligently I’ve battled them. Eventually, I had to start asking different questions. Instead of asking myself, “How can I conquer this?,” I began to ask God, “What is your perspective on this? What would you say to me right now?”

As it turns out, the issues in my life were not the real issues. The habits were only symptoms, not the disease itself. God showed me that one of the recurring habits in my life bubbles to the surface when I’m not trusting him. That requires a very different remedy.

Now, when I’m tempted to go back to my familiar coping mechanism, I realize that extinguishing the habit is not about needing more willpower. It’s about needing more trust. John 6:63 tells us “human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” There is more power in speaking God’s Word over our lives than we realize.

Explain what you mean when you say that there’s power in speaking Scripture and truth out loud.

Nika Maples: The Creator did not think the world into being. He spoke it into being. We’re made in his image, therefore, we’re to do what he does. He speaks and things happen. In Isaiah 55:11, he says that rain is life-giving and “so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” What a blessing to have his life-giving words available to us. It’s up to us now to send his living Word out of our mouths to accomplish all that he desires.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Nika Maples: I have a funny practice that helps me memorize Bible verses. I whisper them out loud if I happen to glance at a digital clock and see a Scripture reference I know. I don’t watch the clock obsessively for this, but if I happen to glance at the time, and I see it is 8:18, I will say, “My present sufferings are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in me,” from Romans 8:18. When it’s 4:14, I say, “I have been raised up for such a time as this,” from Esther 4:14. If it’s 6:06, I say, “I know that God, who sees me pray when no one else does, will reward me,” from Matthew 6:6. I guess I’ll glance and see a reference I know about two or three times a day, and always exactly when I need a particular verse to remind me who I am and whose I am. Reaffirming who you are in Christ two or three times a day is never a bad thing. So … my favorite Bible passage? It’s the one I need right then.

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

Nika Maples: I don’t know what I would do without Bible Gateway! It’s the first window I see in my browser when I sit down to write. My favorite feature is the parallel button, which allows me to read a passage in multiple translations at the same time. I open five Bibles—from a literal translation to a paraphrase—side-by-side on my screen at all times. I never close Bible Gateway. It’s just there on one tab all the time.

Bio: Nika Maples is known for her books Everyday Genesis: Inviting God to Re-Create You, Hunting Hope: Dig Through the Darkness to Find the Light, and Twelve Clean Pages. At the age of 20, Nika suffered a massive brainstem stroke that left her unable to move or speak. Given 48 hours to live, Nika miraculously recovered to return to school and to her dreams of becoming a teacher and writer. In 2007 Nika was awarded the Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year award through the Texas Education Agency. After ten years of teaching English in high school and immediate grade school, she has become a full-time speaker and writer.

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The Year I Dreaded Christmas

Walter Wangerin Jr.By Walter Wangerin Jr.

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:4-6 (NIV)

In the 1950s the milkman delivered milk to the doors of houses—six bottles in a wire basket, each with a bulge at its neck. As it separated from the milk, the cream rose to fill these bulges. Cream was common in those days. So was butter. But butter was too expensive for our family’s budget. My mother bought margarine instead. To protect its dairy farmers, Alberta, Canada, had passed a law requiring margarine to be sold only in its original, unappealing, lard-white color. A button of orange powder was included in each brick-sized box. Mix this powder with the margarine. But don’t expect the color to become a true butter-yellow. We children could always see and taste the difference.

The milkman brought his wares along Ada Boulevard in a horse-drawn wagon. Especially in winter Mother said, “Tune your ears to hear his coming.” In the cold Canadian air we could hear the kindly congregational clinkings even before the wagon turned onto our street. It was our job to rush outside and bring the bottles in before the cream froze and lifted its hat on an ice-cream column.

“Well, children, how do you do?”

“Just fine, Mr. Cream, and how are you?”

So it was on Christmas Eve Day 1955 that we gathered at our front windows to watch for the mare and her wagon, and for the milkman to come bustling up the front walk. Mother wanted to be shed of us and our wild joy so that she could bake cookies in peace.

The mare moved in a slow walk, treading the hardened street-snow on either side of which banks of snow had been thrown up six feet high, snow banks we would be kings of tomorrow. She came nodding, never stopping while her master rushed up sidewalks, made his delivery, and rushed back again. Her back was blanketed. She blew plumes of steam from her nostrils. Her chin had grown a beard of hoarfrost. We burst from the house. The air was a crystal bowl of cold. The day was perfectly right, and we laughed with happiness.

To tell the truth, it was my siblings who laughed. I didn’t. Last year, while we were opening our presents, my brother Paul started sobbing, and then cried outright, though I don’t know why. This year and this night, then, I feared that something might un-gladden our celebrations. A high-pitched, tightened excitement is a dangerous thing, for it could be stretched like a rubber band to its breaking point. I was silent and solemn, watchful, and infinitely cautious—an adult at eleven. For what if you hoped and hope failed you? The harder your hope, the more vulnerable you.

By supper, Christmas Eve had become midnight black. We’d bathed. We ate tomato soup in our bathrobes. Then my six brothers and sisters raced bubbling to their bedrooms and dressed. I combed my hair with faucet water. We shrugged into our parkas and went outside to the car.

Immediately my hair froze and crackled when I touched it. We sat three and three and three in the three seats of our Volkswagen minivan. Since its engine gave forth little heat, our breath steamed the windows. Dad said, “Breathe through your ears.” This was his regular winter’s joke. Finally we crowded into the blazing light of the church.

With a wonderful hilarity, people greeted us with, “Merry Christmas!”

Children were shooed into the fellowship hall to put on their costumes. Oh, how they laughed with excitement. Not me. To laugh is to lose one’s self-control.

Then, from the youngest to the oldest, the children tromped into the chancel. The little ones waved to their parents by finger-scratching the air. They positively shined, while their parents smiled and craned left and right in order to see better.

I was God. I told Joseph to travel with his pregnant wife from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A quartet of boys sang “Wonderful Counselor.” A teenage fellow in the back of the church blew on his trumpet the “Hallelujah Chorus” of Handel’s Messiah. So elegant was the music, and so clear, reminding me of a running stream of water, that I was almost moved to tears. Almost. I contained the tears as in an iron box.

Every kid was given a brown paper bag filled with tangerines and walnuts and hard candy. The adults, humping into their overcoats, called, “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!”

Dad delayed our trip home by driving past those Edmonton houses whose lawns were decorated with lights, and the three kings from the east, and stables, and beasts—and effigies of the Holy Family—intensifying the excitement! Our breath frosted the windows. With my gloved knuckles I rubbed a peephole through the muzzy ice. I saw a tableau of Dickensian carolers cut of plywood, top hats, scarves, muffs on their hands, their mouths open, their eyes screwed up to heaven in a transport of song. But they produced, of course, not a note of music. This was worse than silliness. It was dangerous, for I found my soul suddenly suffering pity for these wooden fictions and their plaintive gladness.

At home Dad delayed even longer. He had hung the tree with silver tinsel and had strung its boughs with colored lights in the room of our final celebrations.

We put on pajamas. It was Dad’s tradition to line us up facing him in the kitchen. The line started with Dena, the youngest sister, and ended with the eldest brother. Me. Dena clasped her hands and raised her shining, saintly face to Dad. Her hair hung down her back to her waist. Blithe child! Her blue eyes sparkled with trust.

Dad prayed the prayer he always prayed.

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for thee.

Then he led us to the door of the room of celebrations. I chewed my cheek and frowned like thunder. No! It won’t be what it ought to be. It never is.

Dad grasped the knob and opened the door upon a string of muted, colored lights. I knew that there were in the room seven piles of presents, one for each of the children. Dena went in ahead of the rest. Squeals of joy. And there sat our mother on the floor in front of the tree, her skirt encircling her, her face radiant and verging on laughter.

I hesitated. So did my father. He was gazing at me. And here was the wonder that was to be fixed in my memory forever—that his gaze was filled with a yearning expectation. He had, just as I had, been withholding whatever joy or excitement he might have been feeling.

“Wally?” he said, and I realized that his solemnity had been on account of me. That he too had passed this Christmas Eve day in the hope that risks a hurt. And that, among the promises to which my father had committed his hope and his soul, this was the most important one: that his eldest son should soften and be glad.

If I had grown adult in 1955, then how like a child had my father become.

“Come,” he said. I obeyed. We entered the room. The colored lights painted his face with reds and greens and blues. And still he gazed at me, waiting for me to receive Christmas so that his own Christmas might begin.

I began to cry silently. And now I was gazing at my father. Defenseless was I, because there was no more need for defenses. Glad and unashamed was I, because what was this room so long locked? It was my heart. And why had I been afraid? Because I thought my heart would be found an empty thing, hard and unfeeling.

But in my father I saw the love that had furnished this Christmas room no differently than he had in past years, except that this year he’d furnished it with a yearning desire.

And what else was that love but my Jesus drawing near?

Look, then, at what I found this room and found my heart to be: a quiet chamber kept for thee. A new Nativity of the Lord.

My dad moved toward me, his arms not at all emptied, for he filled them with myself. He embraced me, and I filled my arms with him.

And so we, the both of us, were filled with joy.


Wounds Are Where the Light EntersTaken from Wounds Are Where the Light Enters: Stories of God’s Intrusive Grace by Walter Wangerin Jr. Click here to learn more about this title.

Many know the acclaimed author Walter Wangerin Jr., the storyteller who gave us the national bestseller The Book of the Dun Cow.

In Wounds Are Where Light Enters, you’ll see how God’s love breaks into our lonely moments in unexplainable ways. Wangerin tells the stories of memorable characters facing the same struggles we all face as we try to trust in God’s faithfulness.

Wounds Are Where Light Enters is a collection of stories that are warm, sometimes funny, sometimes not, but always taking unexpected turns to find the care of God in all the pathways of life. In them we find the grace that enables us to live with the answers we see and the answers we don’t see. In this collection we meet Arthur Bias, the retired black police officer who loves those who hate; Agnes Brill, the shrill piano teacher of patience; Junie Piper, precious of the homeless; Melvin, who honors his aging mother by honoring the little girl she has become; Lucian, the lover of thieves; and Blue Jack, the hammer of God.

Readers will discover in these stories a powerful display of God’s working in the lives of all of us. They’ll find a place where he works even in the dark, even in the struggles, even in the wounds. This is the place where God’s light enters.

Walter Wangerin Jr. is widely recognized as one of the most gifted writers writing today on the issues of faith and spirituality. Known for his bestselling Book of the Dun Cow, Wangerin’s writing voice is immediately recognizable, and his fans number in the millions. The author of over forty books including The Book of God, Wangerin has won the National Book Award and The New York Times Best Children’s Book of the Year Award. He lives in Valparaiso, Indiana, where he is Senior Research Professor at Valparaiso University.

Zondervan Releases More than 60 New NIV Bibles, Now Available with Exclusive Comfort Print® Font

Select your next Bible with Comfort Print typeface in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayMore than 60 new NIV Bibles published by Zondervan now feature the exclusive NIV Comfort Print® font. The new Bibles are available in a variety of Thinline Bible editions, including Compact, Large Print, and Giant Print, in cloth over board, imitation leather, and bonded leather bindings. New NIV Comfort Print® Bibles are also available in Pew and Worship editions.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, KJV, NKJV, and NIV Bibles Get Typeface Makeover]

The Bible Gateway Store now makes selecting a Bible with Comfort Print® typeface in the New International Version (NIV) Bible translation manageable by filtering your search with five categories: price, cover material, cover color, print size, and gender/age. Click to begin selecting your next Bible with Comfort Print.

The new NIV Comfort Print® typeface was designed by 2K/DENMARK, a company renowned for its decades of experience in Bible typesetting and design. 2K/DENMARK’s Bible typefaces “are designed to serve one purpose: to contain the message of the Word of God.” Its founder, Klaus Krogh, was inspired in his creation of the NIV font by considering the translation’s origin as one that would faithfully capture the Word of God in contemporary English.

“Ever since its humble beginnings over 50 years ago, the NIV has stayed true to its mission to be clear to English readers around the world and accurate to the original languages,” says Krogh. “We sought to create a typeface that represents the NIV. One that is the cutting edge of typeface design. It’s open, welcoming, accessible, while also being authoritative and global.”

Watch (using Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, or other Web browser; not IE) Bible Gateway’s Facebook Live interview with Klaus Krogh:

“Not only does this exclusive NIV typeface match the unique personality of this translation, and not only is it stunning on the printed page, but it is also uniquely readable at any size,” says Melinda Bouma, associate publisher, Zondervan Bible Group. “In my many years in Bible publishing, I have seen nothing like it. 2K has given us the tools to design beautiful Bibles that are more readable than anything in comparison, and to reduce page count so that readers can more easily carry their Bibles around.”

“The reception to our Comfort Print® Bibles has been beyond our expectations, both from our retail partners and from our Bible readers,” says Bouma. “It brings us deep joy to know we are making the Bible easier to read and understand through these typefaces! We take our responsibility to steward God’s Word with the utmost of reverence, trembling, and care. Thanks to our partnership with 2K, we are living out this mission and privilege of impacting lives with God’s Word!”

About Zondervan
Zondervan is a world leading Bible publisher and provider of Christian communications. Zondervan, part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., delivers transformational Christian experiences through its bestselling Bibles, books, curriculum, academic resources and digital products. The Company’s products are sold worldwide and translated into nearly 200 languages. Zondervan offices are located in Grand Rapids, Mich. For additional information, please visit

2K/DENMARK was founded in 1987. Today they offer a range of high quality services, both digitally and in printed media. 2K are designers, and that shines through in their type design, typesetting, and app development. With their roots deep in typography, design, and art history, they understand and respect the craft, but they also dare to find new solutions using new technology—innovation turns most parts of their business. Learn more at

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Bible News Roundup – Week of December 10, 2017

[Return daily during the coming week for updates]

Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store

Should We Capitalize Divine Pronouns?
Zondervan Academic Blog
See The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style, Fourth Edition in the Bible Gateway Store

Pope Francis Suggests Rewording The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Lead Is Not Into Temptation’
Los Angeles Times
Read The Lord’s Prayer on Bible Gateway
CNA Analysis: What is the Context of Pope Francis’ Words on the Lord’s Prayer?
Baptist Press: Pope Critiques Lord’s Prayer Translation

Pope Francis: It’s Good for Young People to Study Latin
Catholic News Agency
Read the Latin Vulgate Bible on Bible Gateway

Many Who Call Themselves Evangelical Don’t Actually Hold Evangelical Beliefs
LifeWay Research

What Focus Groups Taught Us About Bible Reading
LifeWay Research

The Christmas Story Told in Text—Bible Society Australia Launches New SMS “Digital Drama”
Sight Magazine

Picture Bible Transforms Lives in Belarus
Baptist Message
Read the Bible in Russian on Bible Gateway

Astronauts’ Faith: Tiny Apollo 13 Bible Up for Auction
FOX News
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, First Liquid Poured on the Moon and the First Food Eaten There Were Communion Elements
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, God of the Big Bang: An Interview with Leslie Wickman, Rocket Scientist

The Rare Hebrew Bible that United Three Cultures

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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The Enemy of Our Souls is Allergic to This Bread

Cynthia RuchtiBy Cynthia Ruchti

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” John 6:29 (NIV)

Years ago if you had asked me to name my favorite kitchen cooking task, I’d have answered, “Baking bread.” A friend’s hearty wholewheat bread recipe made a heavy loaf—filling, satisfying, and a good Christmas gift for neighbors who didn’t bake their own bread.

Arepa. Brioche. Chapati. Foccacia. Injera. Matzo. Naan. Obi Non (not to be confused with Obi-Wan). Pita. Rieska. Tortillas. Wonder. Zopf.

Every culture, every region, every era’s culinary history includes some version of bread. Many of them look and taste similar, especially the flat varieties.

It’s no wonder (pardon the pun) that Jesus used a common—cross-cultural, multigenerational, multiethnic, timeless item like bread for many of His illustrations. In John 6:26–35 (NIV), shortly after the feeding of the five thousand, he makes references to himself as the Bread of Life. “You are looking for me,” he said, “not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval” (vs. 26–27).

Still confused, the crowd asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” (v. 28). Jesus gave a clear and direct response: “Believe in the one he has sent” (v. 29).

A gift of bread. The Bread of Life. The enemy of our souls is allergic to that kind of bread.

Faith Step: Try a bread from another country the next time you’re at the grocery store. As you eat it, pray for the people of that country or region.


Mornings with Jesus 2018Taken from Mornings With Jesus 2018: Daily Encouragement For Your Soul. Click here to learn more about this title.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

We hear Jesus’s words and want to respond, but so often we feel we’re too busy, too anxious, or too heavily burdened to take hold of his invitation. Mornings with Jesus 2018, an annual, 365-day devotional, is your entrée into his world. Jesus will comfort you, and you’ll experience the delight and challenge of knowing him and living for him.

In Mornings with Jesus 2018, you can read and reflect on one all-new devotion each day that will encourage you to embrace Jesus’s love, to lay down your worries and walk with Him, and to focus on him as Redeemer, Friend, and Faithful One. Lifting up their voices in heartfelt gratitude, ten writers consider the character and teachings of Jesus and share how he enriches and empowers them daily and how he wants to do the same for you.

Every day you will enjoy a Scripture verse, reflection on Jesus’s words, and a faith step that inspires and challenges you in your daily walk of living a Christ-like life.

Cynthia Ruchti is the award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction stories as well as devotionals that are, as she puts it, “hemmed in hope.” Her books have been recognized with industry honors including Christian Retailing’s BEST awards, the Selah awards, and Publishers Weekly starred reviews. She and her husband are nestled in the heart of Wisconsin, close to their three children and five grandchildren. Cynthia serves as the professional relations liaison for American Christian Fiction Writers. Her prayer is to encourage readers or attendees at her speaking events to say, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in hope.” Visit her at

Why Biblical Archaeology Is Important for Your Bible Reading: An Interview with Randall Price

Randall PriceArchaeology uncovers buried civilizations. What does this contribute to our understanding of the Bible written so long ago by so many different people in so many different cultures?

Bible Gateway interviewed J. Randall Price, who, along with H. Wayne House, is the author of Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology (Zondervan, 2017).

[See the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Biblical Archaeology Research]

Explain what biblical archaeology is.

Buy your copy of Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Randall Price: Archaeology in general is the recovery and study of the material culture of past civilizations. Biblical archaeology is as an application of the science of archaeology to the field of biblical studies. Through the comparison and integration of Scripture with the evidence of history and culture derived from archaeology, new insights into the biblical context of people and events, and sometimes the interpretation of the text itself, are possible. In this way archaeology serves as a necessary tool for biblical exegesis and for apologetic concerns.

[Browse the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store]

What is your personal and professional archaeological experience?

Randall Price: I studied biblical archaeology in seminary as well as the archaeology of Israel at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. During my doctoral work at the University of Texas under archaeologist Harold Liebowitz, I participated in excavation at the Iron Age site of Tel Yinam (in the Galilee), served as a research assistant for Dr. Liebowitz in preparing the archaeological material for his book on Daily Life in Ancient Israel, and taught a course with him in biblical archaeology.

After I received my PhD, I was asked to follow Dr. James Strange in the excavation of the Qumran Plateau (Dead Sea, Israel). I had been a part of the initial work at Qumran in 1996, but served as Director of Excavations from 2002-2102. During that time I also worked at the Kotel Excavations (Old City, Jerusalem) and at the Temple Mount Sifting Project (Emeq Tzurim, Jerusalem), as well as four years in eastern Turkey. I taught courses on the Dead Sea Scrolls in my faculty position in Archaeology and Biblical History at Trinity Southwest University and at Veritas Evangelical Seminary.

Since 2007 I have taught biblical archaeology and conducted field classes in Israel as a professor at Liberty University. In 2017, I began work as co-director (with Oren Gutfeld) of the new Operation Scroll Project seeking to locate and excavate potential Dead Sea Scroll caves in the Judean Desert. I’ve also published four popular and two academic books on biblical archaeology as well as contributed archaeological articles to the New Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible and archaeological articles in two apologetic handbooks as well as academic journals.

Adding to my experience is that of Dr. H. Wayne House, a New Testament scholar with wide experience in the lands of the Bible, who also served as author of the Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology.

How can biblical archaeology add deeper meaning and more reality to a person’s experience with the Bible?

Randall Price: The Bible is an ancient text from an ancient context. We live thousands of miles and thousands of years away from that context, which also represents different cultures. Archaeology is a modern means of revealing both the lost record of the ancient world (inscriptions and manuscript evidence), and the historical and social world of the Bible. While the purpose of archaeology is not to prove (or disprove) the historicity of the people and events recorded in Scripture, it can help immeasurably to confirm the historical reality and accuracy of the Bible and to demonstrate that faith has a factual foundation. Moreover, it serves to illustrate and illuminate the background and context of Scripture so that one may have a realistic faith in the biblical accounts.

What caution should be exercised with archaeological claims?

Randall Price: Archaeology is a science, and like all sciences, has its limitations. For one, archaeological discoveries made in the past centuries have been reappraised and reinterpreted by more recent findings. Some of the older positive claims, as well as most of the negative criticisms of the Bible, have changed, usually for the better. For another, the actual amount of archaeological evidence is quite small. It has been estimated that less than 1% of archaeological sites in the Holy Land have been excavated, and those that have been excavated have only been partially excavated. Therefore, it would be unwise to reject some biblical persons and events simply because we lack archaeological evidence to confirm them. On the other hand, the relatively small amount of data we have gleaned from archaeology has proved to be confirmatory of the biblical account.

What are some limitations of archaeology?

Randall Price: Archaeological excavation is still in its infancy and it’s having a hard time keeping pace with the destruction to archaeological sites as a result of construction expansion, wars, terrorism, and black-market looting. As a result, more of the past may be disappearing than is being exposed by archaeology. Even when a site is excavated (rarely completely), it may take years to decades before the results are fully published (the final report on Jericho took 35 years and the Dead Sea Scroll fragments from Cave 4 took over 40 years). And even when published, they may be in a language or in a technical journal that the average person cannot read. Also, in a site such as New Testament Bethsaida, there are rival claims being made by archaeologists and it may take additional years before the dust of scholarly debate settles and one site is confirmed. Therefore, it’s never safe to make archaeology a priority over the Bible or to expect that in one’s lifetime—or in many lifetimes—all of the historical and chronological problems in the Bible will be solved by archaeology.

How does archaeology offer credence to the Bible’s veracity?

Randall Price: The claim of the Bible’s divine inspiration and infallibility must be accepted by faith, but, archaeology can offer assistance in verifying the historicity of the Bible and that its message was transmitted accurately. If its messengers were competent in reporting matters of history, often as eyewitnesses, should not we respect that they would be equally reliable in matters concerning the faith? In Luke 1:2-4, the apostle affirms to his readers that even when he was not an eyewitness, that he received the facts from eyewitnesses and investigated everything carefully so his readers would know the exact truth. In the same way, the careful use of archaeological evidence can be used today to confirm the accurate context of the biblical writers, giving us new assurance of the trustworthiness of their message.

How is your book organized?

Randall Price: We organized the Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology to follow both the Bible and history.

After an introduction aimed to address issues of concern to biblical students, such as the problem of pseudo-archaeology on the internet, the use of the term “Palestine” and “Palestinian” with reference to ancient Israel and the Jewish People, the different dating systems used in archaeology, a method for using archaeology in biblical studies, and explaining the historical significance of each archaeological period, the contents take a book-by-book approach starting with the Old Testament, transitioning to the Intertestamental period (with a focus on the Temple and the Dead Sea Scrolls), to the New Testament.

The purpose of this format is so the reader can access the archaeological data with respect to biblical texts and understand how this data makes a difference in interpretation. This approach is also enhanced by the use of information sidebars, numerous charts, maps, and a glossary of archaeological terms. In addition, a full-color format with over 240 photos further organizes the contents visually.

How can a person use your book alongside the reading of the Bible?

Randall Price: The book is intended as a resource to be consulted over and over again as needed. The book-by-book approach along with the Scripture index was designed to allow the user to easily find passages of interest. Because of the publisher’s page limitation, only certain passages in each book of the Bible could be addressed; however, if as one reads their Bible they’re aware of the passages that received treatment, they can find useful commentary to explain or illustrate what they’re reading.

Some articles in the media have questioned the appearance of camels in the Bible? Why and how do you answer them?

Randall Price: The issue relates to the appearance of camels in the Bible during the Patriarchal period, around 2000 BC (compare Gen. 24:64; 37:25). Critics often state that the camel was not domesticated for another 500-1000 years, and therefore this is an anachronism (a statement misplaced in time) indicating that the account was written much later in time when camels were domesticated.

While the evidence may support a lack of domestication for the dromedary (single-hump camel), this does not hold for the Bactrian (two-hump) camel, which archaeological evidence demonstrates had a much earlier domestication. Old Babylonian animal lexical lists, finds of clay camels attached to miniature clay carts in Southern Turkmenistan reveal that the Bactrian camel was already employed in the area by 3000 BC. Closer to the Patriarchal period (18th century BC), a cylinder seal from Syria depicts two figures riding astride a Bactrian camel. Given this evidence from archaeology, there is no reason to suggest that the biblical account is in error.

What are three examples of key archeological discoveries you include in your book?

Randall Price: The Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology attempts to prioritize the latest archaeological findings, and in that light, let me mention a new discovery in each of three periods.

In the Old Testament, the site of Gobekli Tepe in eastern Turkey, is one of the earliest sites known to archaeology. It represents a megalithic worship center replete with standing stones decorated with animals and priests with upraised hands. We argue that this site, coming from the time immediately after the Flood and only a couple of hundred miles from the traditional landing spot of Noah’s Ark, may tie that event with the renewal of corporate worship, indicating that such worship did not evolve as a social construct, but was evident from the beginning of civilization.

In the Intertestamental period, the Dead Sea Scrolls stand out as a leading contribution of the Jewish People to our knowledge of the Old Testament text and the beliefs of Judaism before the time of Jesus. These scrolls, which represent our oldest copies of the Bible as well as Jewish religious and sectarian writings from that time, were hidden in jars inside of caves in the region. Recently, new caves have been discovered that contained jars and the search is again on to find more scrolls that will give us greater insight into the beliefs and culture of the Second Temple period into which Jesus was born.

In the New Testament, newly discovered graffiti on walls in the ancient agora of Smyrna (mentioned in the book of Revelation) shows examples of people referring to other people by numbers instead of names. This provides an interesting parallel to the statement in Revelation 13:18 where the number 666 is said to be the number of a man (Antichrist).

How has archaeology deepened your own faith?

Randall Price: As I’ve studied archaeological discovery, what impacts me most is that, despite the ravages of time and the destructiveness of mankind, so much remains in the archaeological record that bears witness to the Bible. God could have simply insisted that we take his Word on faith, and for most of history people have done just that. But he’s allowed these remnants of the past to be preserved, especially for our critical age, in which extra-biblical physical evidence has become crucial in the defense of the faith. While my faith has not depended on such evidences, they have continued to confirm and strengthen my faith and in particular to bring me closer to the world of the Bible to have a realistic faith that’s informed by facts rather than imagination.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Randall Price: My life verse is James 1:12: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” My life has had many trials and I’ve learned to look at them as part of God’s schooling that will end with my graduation. The motivation is to live well and continue to love the Lord, in spite of the difficulties that I cannot understand, so that on graduation day I will find God’s full approval.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Randall Price: As students of the Bible we should embrace the results of archaeology and encourage new archaeological discovery. This field needs an army of archaeologists to be raised up in this generation to both teach and do excavation in the lands of the Bible. The result will be a greater knowledge of the context of Scripture that will help future students and scholars produce even better handbooks of biblical archaeology.

Bio: Randall Price, (ThM, Dallas Seminary, PhD, University of Texas, and graduate work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) is the distinguished research professor in the School of Divinity at Liberty University—where he has taught biblical archaeology since 2007—and is curator of Liberty Biblical Museum. He directed excavations on the Qumran Plateau from 2002-2012 and co-directed the excavation of Cave 12 at Qumran (2017) as a part of the new Operation Scroll. He is author of several popular books on archaeology including The Stones Cry Out: What Archaeology Reveals About the Truth of the Bible, Rose Guide to the Temple, and The Dead Sea Scrolls, and contributed archaeological entries to the New Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible.

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Prepare Your Soul For Christmas With These Free Email Advent Devotionals

Are you ready to experience the peace and joy of Christmas? These free short-run email devotionals will help you set aside the stress and busy-ness of the holiday season and focus on the real meaning of Christmas—click here to sign up on our Christmas devotions page. Tell your friends so they won’t miss out!

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!

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, Christmas Joy by pastor Mel Lawrenz, and Come and Behold Him. Taken together, these four 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!

How to Live the Bible — Moral Crisis, Moral Possibilities


This is the seventh 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.

[Special note… see Mel Lawrenz’s “A Prayer for the Christmas Season” in text, printable PDF, or audio.]

It is hard not to be utterly dismayed by the lack of basic morality in society today. It is a crisis within the lives of individuals, in groups and organizations, and in institutions. And at the highest levels of leadership it is challenging to find men and women of unassailable moral character—not sinlessness, but basic integrity.

Even making this observation runs the risk of drawing ridicule from those who think morality is a quaint notion of a bygone era, or worse, a rigid and repressive self-righteousness, almost always hypocritical.

Yet morality is one of the most essential and highest human characteristics. The belief that there is a difference between right and wrong, between ought and ought-not, or between good, better, and best, is the only thing stopping us from destroying each other. If there is no distinction between what is moral and what is immoral then there is no fundamental difference between nurturing your child and abusing your child. No reason not to rob your sibling. Nothing holding us back from spitting out one lie after another to manipulate, deceive, or dominate.

C. S. Lewis said the sense of morality in the human race—uneven though it is—may be the strongest “proof” for the existence of God. There just is no reason men and women would have any sense of ought and ought-not unless there was a Creator whose essential character is moral.

We are naturally disappointed when long-standing Christians or even leaders in the church are exposed in scandals of gross immorality. We ought to be disappointed when leaders relinquish their moral standards in order to support someone on their side who is guilty of scandal. We ought to ask: How can this be? How can things get so twisted? What hope is there for any of us to have integrity?

We might be tempted to think that if we knew the texts of the Bible better such things would not happen. But biblical illiteracy is not the core problem here. Most people with any Christian background know the Ten Commandments prohibit adultery, thievery, and murder—yet that knowledge does not prevent moral failure.

Living the Bible means being able to hold to standards of basic morality and ethics, but this shaping of character happens over a lifetime and through many processes. Paul describes one person of notable character, the young Timothy, when he wrote to him:

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

The core idea is this: the “sacred writings” are able to make us wise for the rescue and preservation of our lives. “Faith in Christ Jesus” is the power. The process takes a lifetime (for Timothy, “from childhood,” but it can begin at any time). The truth of Scripture is taught by people who are living it themselves (for Timothy, it was his grandmother and mother; see 2 Tim. 1:5). Living the Bible means to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed”—in other words, a lifetime commitment based on an informed and firm faith.

Paul is specific in how the Scriptures shape a life. The word of God, “breathed out” by God himself (not merely a human book), is profitable in four ways:

  • For “teaching”—so Scripture shows us what it true.
  • For “reproof”—so it convicts us when we fall short, which is merciful, not cruel.
  • For “correction”—meaning that Scripture shows us how to recover.
  • And for “training in righteousness”—which means gaining the skills and patterns that keep us in a right relationship with God.

And that leads to moral character. When we come under the “teaching,” “reproof,” “correction,” and “training” of Scripture as a lifestyle, we will be shaped by it. Along the way we experience suffering in its many forms, and that too shapes character, driving us back to the breath of God.

Morality is not really the highest goal in life. Being in a right relationship with God is. Keeping our focus there makes true morality possible and keeps us humble, which is our only protection against flaunting morality which is like wearing a thin mask that will inevitably fall off one day.

[Get Christmas Joy–A Devotional by Mel Lawrenz to read in December]

[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.

Confidence in Difficulty: Mercy to Carry My Cross

Julia AttawayBy Julia Attaway

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”Luke 9:23 (NIV)

Our daughter Maggie was being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. It wasn’t a surprise. Her mood hadn’t budged past “I’d rather not be alive” for months, and now she was flying into rages several times a day. My husband, Andrew, called from New York City with the news while I was trudging through snow in the Midwest from our daughter Elizabeth’s apartment to the hospital where she had been admitted.

After visiting with our 79-pound daughter, who was on an IV and a heart monitor, I stopped in at Elizabeth’s church to pray. I’d gone there the year before, during her first battle with anorexia. At that time I’d pleaded desperately, “What do you want me to do, Lord?”

The answer came back clearly: “Love her. Pray for her. Draw her close to Me.” It wasn’t what I expected, but it made sense.

This time I knelt without words, without thoughts, without tears. My whole being consisted of heartache encased in skin. I waited, but no sudden lightening of my load occurred and there were no messages of encouragement or hope. I didn’t feel stronger or wiser or comforted. I knew my children were hurting, knew they were God’s, knew things might not be okay in the end. That was it.

Yet in that nothingness I grew curiously certain I was doing all that I could, all that God expected of me. That was an enormous mercy. For to accept my limits and accept my tasks gave me freedom. It meant I could tap into the energy I might have spent railing against my sense of helplessness.

Lord, keep me from fighting the cross You have given me and help me to use that energy to carry it instead.

Digging Deeper: John 19:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5


Daily Guideposts 2018Taken from Daily Guideposts 2018: A Spirit-Lifting Devotional. Click here to learn more about this title.

Daily Guideposts, America’s bestselling annual devotional, is a 365-day devotional from the Editors of Guideposts that will help readers grow in their faith every day of the year.

Daily Guideposts 2018 centers on the theme “Unfailing Love” from Psalm 33:22, and is filled with brand-new devotions from 49 writers. Each day readers will enjoy a Scripture verse, a true first-person story told in an informal, conversational style, which shares the ways God speaks to us in the ordinary events of life, and a brief prayer to help focus the reader to apply the day’s message. For those who wish for more, “Digging Deeper” provides additional Bible references that relate to the day’s reading.

Enjoy favorite writers like Debbie Macomber, Edward Grinnan, Elizabeth Sherrill, Patricia Lorenz, Julia Attaway, Karen Barber, Sabra Ciancanelli, Marion Bond West, Brian Doyle, and Rick Hamlin.

In just five minutes a day, Daily Guideposts helps you find the spiritual richness in your own life and welcomes you into a remarkable family of over one million people brought together by a desire to grow every day of the year.

Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.

Consider God’s Strangeness: An Interview with Krish Kandiah

Krish KandiahGod is called Father, Lord, Friend, and Savior. But when we delve into the perplexing bits of Scripture, we discover God cannot be pinned down, explained, or predicted. Is it possible that we’ve missed the Bible’s consistent teaching that God is other, higher, stranger?

Bible Gateway interviewed Krish Kandiah (@krishk) about his book, God Is Stranger: Finding God in Unexpected Places (InterVarsity Press, 2017).

What message are you communicating in the title of this book?

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Krish Kandiah: I sometimes find myself in the middle of a church service struggling with the strangeness of God. Everyone else seems to be enjoying the singing or deep in prayer or lost in wonder and I just feel lost. The Bible is supposed to be a solace in those times, but sometimes it seems to make things worse. I read of the God who turned the whole of humanity into refugees from Eden, or the God who turns up incognito to Abraham, or the God that rains down fire and brimstone on a whole middle eastern village. I read those stories and I wonder if the God of the Bible is the God I was taught in Sunday school. I wanted to write a book first of all to help people who like me find God strange, and sometimes feel that God is a stranger to them.

What are typical assumptions about God that mislead people which your book addresses?

Krish Kandiah: I was given a highlighter pen when I first became a Christian. I was told to highlight the parts of the Bible that were helpful or encouraging. Whether you use a highlighter pen, bookmarks, or a search engine, for many of us there are parts of the Bible that are deemed ‘safe’ while much of the rest of it remains unread and unexplored. God Is Stranger strays out of the confines of safe zones, away from the highlighted passages and into the dangerous territory of the strange parts of the Bible. I want to help people to meet God in all of his wonder, all of his strange beauty. This might mean an uncomfortable journey, but we’ll know that we haven’t edited God down to size to suit our tastes or desires; we’ve met with the true and living God.

What do you mean that we cannot know God if we skip the uncomfortable parts of the Bible; and what are those parts?

Krish Kandiah: Imagine that your friends decided to only listen to you when you were complimenting them and would just switch off if you told them how you were feeling, or the struggles you were having. I don’t know about you but I’d begin to doubt if my friends actually cared about me at all if they only paid attention to positive messages about them.

The temptation for many Bible readers is that we highlight the promises that make us feel better and ignore the rest. That sounds like narcissism rather than discipleship to me. Like the mythical figure that fell in love with his own reflection, often our culture encourages us to become so absorbed with ourselves that even Christians have little time to actually, genuinely, know and understand God. God remains a stranger to us.

One of the most frightening parts of the Bible is when God describes the last day and people who had performed miracles, exorcisms, and even prophecies in God’s name and God says to them: ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:23). There’s an urgency for us to make sure we really know God, and not just a twisted view of him from a selective reading of the Bible.

How does the Bible portray God to be radical and unpredictable?

Krish Kandiah: I’ve always struggled with God who, for example, chooses to pick a fight with Jacob in the middle of the night in the middle of a river. God wrestled with Jacob the renegade who has lied, cheated, and stolen his way through life. God is an announced stranger who permanently disables Jacob so that he walks with a limp for the rest of his days. It’s a familiar story to many of us but God is strange in the way that he operates in this story.

Or what about the God who asks Ezekiel to lie on his left side for 390 days, shave off half of his beard, and cook his food using dung. Who gives Ezekiel a vision where God finds an abandoned child, brings her up as his own daughter, and then marries her, and then promises that she’ll be stripped naked and hacked to pieces by an angry mob because of her infidelities. The Bible is packed full of stories where God is strange—unpredictable—and these difficult passages are ignored by most of our preaching and teaching or our own personal Bible study.

How is God most clearly revealed in the difficult parts of the Bible?

Krish Kandiah: I am brown skinned. When I step up to a pulpit, I often see people surprised that when I speak I have an English accent and not an Indian one. I sometimes see people amazed that I speak English at all. Some people have judged me before they have met me. When I’m out with my family, we often get strange looks as my wife is Caucasian and my seven children look very different from both my wife and I. They don’t know that some are our birth children, while others are adopted. People make all sorts of comments, assuming they know from a glance everything about me. Brown people are foreign, people with lots of children are weird. I hate it when I come across this kind of prejudice.

But I wonder how God feels, when we take something that we know about God and assume that we have God understood. We read about the promise that God is going to bless us and we turn that into the idea that God is like a turbo-charged Father Christmas. We need to let the whole of the Bible inform our views about God, not just our selectivity.

How should readers of the Bible glean truths from odd and unfamiliar Bible stories?

Krish Kandiah: I think we need to recognise that God does not fear our questions. We need to acknowledge that worshipping God does not mean we switch off our brains. Being faithful to God does not mean we protect him from our doubts, questions, and queries, but instead we bring them to him. God is not afraid of our questions because he’s Lord of Heaven and Earth. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans that he finds God difficult to understand; he does not see this as a problem, but something to be celebrated:

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
    ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor? Romans 11:33-34 (NIV)

Why is the very act of wrestling to know an uncontainable God vital for growing one’s faith?

Krish Kandiah: Our minds were made to love God. We’re commanded to love God with our heart, soul, and mind. Contemplating the riches of God is what our minds were designed for. Just as you’re unlikely to become an Olympic swimmer by limiting yourself to paddling in the shallows, you’re unlikely to become a mature Christian by limiting your knowledge of God to familiar Bible promises. All of Scripture is God breathed and useful (2 Timothy 3:16); that means the parts of the Bible we’ve been intentionally or unintentionally avoiding are useful for our spiritual development. It’s time we dive in to the difficult texts!

How does your book challenge xenophobia in the lives of Christians?

Krish Kandiah: There’s a double meaning in the title of the book. “God is a stranger” because we don’t understand him—often because we have not wrestled with the difficult parts of the Bible. But Jesus tells us that on judgment day, he’ll come to us and say “I was a stranger.” There will be two responses on that day. To some Jesus will say, “and you welcomed me in;” to others he’ll say, “and you did not welcome me in.”

Our response to strangers is used in Scripture as a marker of our salvation. The Bible confronts xenophobia—the fear of the stranger—in the strongest possible way. God Is Stranger helps readers allow Jesus’ powerful message to transform our fears—our prejudices—so that we might truly welcome him into our lives.

What’s a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Krish Kandiah: The Bible passage that has most recently both challenged and blessed me is Isaiah 58:6-9 (NIV):

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
    and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.

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

Krish Kandiah: I love the way that Bible Gateway makes the Bible accessible to anyone who has an internet connection. I love the number of translations that are available. It helps me to dig deeper into Scripture wherever I am.

Bio: Krish Kandiah (PhD, Kings College London) is the founder and director of Home for Good, a charity finding homes for foster children and young refugees. An international speaker, he teaches regularly at Regent College and Portland Seminary, and is the author of several books, including Paradoxology: Why Christianity Was Never Meant to Be Simple and Home for Good: Making a Difference for Vulnerable Children.

Krish is the vice president of Tearfund, a Christian relief and development agency. Previously, he was president of London School of Theology and also on faculty at Oxford University. He has also worked with students in the UK with UCCF, and in Albania with IFES. Krish lives with his wife, Miriam, and their seven birth, adopted, and foster children.

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