More Americans are expressing interest in increasing their interaction with the Bible, according to the annual State of the Bible 2018 research—commissioned by American Bible Society (@americanbible) and conducted by Barna Group (@barnagroup).
The report reveals a majority of Americans, 57%, declare they wish they used the Bible more than they currently do. While 89% of those who are considered Bible Engaged desire to increase their Bible use, 70% of those considered Bible Neutral are also interested in greater time with the Bible.
An overwhelming majority (82%) of Americans own a Bible in their household. When asked which version of the Bible Americans prefer, the King James Version (KJV) still tops the list at 33%. But, there is growing interest in the New International Version (NIV) as 14% prefer it—up from 10% in 2011. Preference toward the King James Version dropped seven percentage points since 2016 and 12% since 2011.
Michael Bird: This is a hard task; so many good books out there; one’s I’ve learned from and benefited from. But, if I had to pick, I’d probably go with this fabulous five:
Jesus and the Victory of God by N.T. Wright
For me, reading this book was like leaving The Matrix. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of reading the Gospels, not just the hors d’oeuvres ahead of Paul. Instead, Jesus really is the reason why we have Christianity, and the historical Jesus is not a myth or chimera of history. As I tell my students: Paul rocks, but Jesus reigns. Read this book while wearing two pairs of socks, because the first pair will be blown off.
The Resurrection of the Son of God / Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
Personally I think Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God is the best treatise on the resurrection in church history like ever (big claim I know), but for those who want something more digestible, readable, and practical, I recommend his Surprised by Hope. It is Wright’s bestselling book for a good reason. It’ll inoculate you against eschaton-weirdo-mania and yet show you the importance of kingdom, resurrection, and new creation!
The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight
Scot is a friend of mine and I reckon this book is Scot’s best and it will prove to be a classic. This book gives readers biblical precision and theological clarity about the gospel. There’s a difference between evangelical gospel presentations and the biblical gospel. You’ll learn how the gospel relates to the biblical storyline—no, you can’t jump from Genesis 3 to Matthew 1—and how the gospel is about Jesus as Messiah and Lord. Tolle lege!
Romans 1998 edition by Thomas R. Schreiner
Tom Schreiner is one of the best evangelical Pauline scholars there is, have been, and might yet be. Sensible exegete, sober theological comments, attention to detail, and easy to read. I love this commentary on Romans, by far the best in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT) series, a robust and informative read. Seriously, students should build shrines to Tom Schreiner for his ability to explain complex exegetical debates. But Tom has sadly changed his mind on all the stuff I liked about this 1998 edition and his 2018 revision will espouse different reviews on the “righteousness of God” and the “wretched man”—et tu Tom? So, for the love of Martha, buy a copy of the 1998 edition before it goes out of print! Then buy the 2018 revision so you’ll appreciate how good the 1998 edition one is!
The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations by Michael Holmes
The apostolic fathers are the sequel to the New Testament, best translation to read them in my opinion is Mike Holmes’s. But make sure you order the right one, the third edition, Greek and English. And while you’re at it, read more primary sources, like Josephus, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Apocrypha, Philo, and Greco-Roman classics.
The foundational rupture in the tectonic plates of Western civilization is the breakage along the fault line of truth. The very concept of truth as we have known and inherited it is a Judeo-Christian concept.
Germany became a post-Christian nation after its seminaries and universities rejected the Scriptures as God’s perfect, revealed truth. The United States has become a post-Christian nation after its best seminaries and universities—founded as teaching centers for the Word of God—rejected Scripture as God’s perfect, revealed truth.
As American culture drifts further and further from anything Christian, the pressure to abandon the authority of the Bible will increase proportionately, even within churches and Christian institutions that once elevated God’s Word. Where the old view of Scripture as the Word of God was once tolerated, it will become increasingly offensive, out of style, scoffed at, and scorned.
We must remember that this pressure to abandon Scripture is not only social; it is also supernatural and satanic. Already within mainstream media and large metropolitan cities, it is tolerable to be a “Christian” in a relaxed sense. The dividing line is those Christians who take the Bible seriously. The “fundamentalists” are the dangerous ones—so the thinking goes.
As culture passes the Post-Truth tipping point, we will see some churches and ministries cave under pressure to make less of the Scriptures. Some recently popular teachers have already caved under this pressure. Every few months, we see another prominent Christian thinker, writer, blogger, artist, or leader become so zealous to be “relevant” that their cultural sensitivity first eclipses scriptural authority and then expels scriptural authority entirely.
In our ministries and on our boards, we must bear in mind that many incoming younger Christians who sincerely love Jesus will not have been taught the importance of the infallibility of Scripture or related doctrines that elevate the Word of God as the authority for all we do and believe. Many young Christians have placed their faith in Christ, but they are still thinking from a Post-Truth paradigm that has been deeply indoctrinated into them by the culture
And so, aware that this will be the cultural drift, not only in the broader culture, but also within Christian institutions, we must resolve to remain rooted in the Christian Scriptures as the authority for all we will do and believe. Scripture must be our authority on every issue in the culture, as well as our life-giving guide for every facet of our lifestyles.
We must resolve this on a personal basis. We must teach this in our discipleship and training. We must make this the anchor for our Christian families if we wish to stand strong amid the currents of a post-Christian and Post-Truth culture.
We must resolve to keep the authority of Scripture a top priority, written and elevated in our selection of board members, pastors, and faculty. No amount of charisma, gifting, or proven effectiveness can justify a Christian leader who degrades the Word of God by making it anything less than the sole standard for all we will do and believe.
As a millennial, I know that some of my peers will call me closed-minded or outdated for writing these things. I invite them to do so, and I will take it as a compliment. The historical record is clear. Beyond nations like Germany, we can look to the mainline American denominations that abandoned the doctrine of inerrancy during the early 1900s. Today those denominations are empty, dead shells of their former selves. In addition to their empty parking lots and vacant real estate, most openly praise the moral opposites of God’s best designs.
Whether we feel it in our bones or not, we must always operate with this awareness: any ministry or family that abandons the authority of Scripture (no matter how noble the argument for it) is one generation away from abandoning Christianity entirely.
And so for these reasons, we do here declare with purpose and resolve that in a world where truth is feelings-based, we will remain rooted to the Christian Scriptures and their life-giving direction. No matter the cost, we will elevate the Christian Scriptures as the standard for all we do and believe. We do this because:
We love our children, and we want them to experience the life, light, and truth
found only in the pages of the Bible.
We love our Savior, and we would not know his words or his heart apart from the Scriptures.
We have seen that the words of God lead to life.
Our enemy the devil functions primarily in the realm of
ideas and deception, scheming from Eden until Revelation 20:10
to undermine the words of God, the promises of God,
and the very Living Word of God.
Lest we forget, it was Jesus who said, “The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” If we lose the doctrine of Scripture, we not only abandon being on Jesus’ side in the great struggle, but we also lose the ability to even know what His side looks like—since His words are recorded in Scripture.
God reminds us repeatedly that the violent conflicts of human history are waged in the battlefield of ideas: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
And again God warns us, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive . . . not lovers of the good . . . conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
In the 1800s, the German universities were the pinnacle of science and intellect. As they rejected God and His Word, they retained a form of godliness, empty of spiritual power. History has proven—time and again—the deadly end for every people who reject the authority of God’s Word.
And so we resolve: In a world where truth is feelings-based, we will remain rooted to the Christian Scriptures and their life-giving direction.
Every week a terrorist attack, riot, or political scandal makes the headlines—and we feel the world around us shaking again. We struggle to separate truth from biased statements and hope from naïveté. We wonder how we got here and where these uncertain days will take us.
One of the world’s top investigative reporters, John S. Dickerson, addresses this post-truth, post-Christian society in his latest book Hope of Nations.
This book shows us how and why the world is changing, where those changes will lead, and what it looks like to live like Christ in today’s society. With fascinating historical and political background, Dickerson helps us understand the five major forces driving global change in the world today; why violent displays of Islam continue resurfacing; the incoming moral, social, and political impact of American millennials; ten ways to respond biblically to trends shaping the world right now; and how to live with Christian courage and compassion in tumultuous times.
Among the youngest award-winning journalists and a seminary-trained pastor, Dickerson brings his reporting skills, generational perspective, and biblical insights to this groundbreaking book.
Get a larger view of what is happening with your community, your government, and your international neighbors in this thoughtful look at global events in light of your unique Christian calling. Learn more at www.johnsdickerson.com/hopeofnations.
John S. Dickerson is a prize-winning research journalist, a seminary-trained pastor, and a frequent commentator in national news outlets like USA Today. He aggregates cultural trends, sociology, and historical understanding to give biblical insight into world events and Christian living today. John’s first book, The Great Evangelical Recession, has equipped tens of thousands to understand the future of the church in the United States. John serves as the Lead Pastor of Connection Pointe Christian Church in the Indianapolis metro area. Learn more at www.johnsdickerson.com.
What does it mean for overachieving women to rest as God’s daughters without compromising their God-given design as doers? Are you a to-do-list-checker like Martha in the Bible who wants hope-filled freedom without abandoning your doer’s heart in the process?
Why do you think the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 causes so many women to feel guilty?
Katie Reid: Since Jesus told Martha that she was worried and distracted and that her sister Mary had chosen what was better, we often feel guilty for being wired like Martha. We feel like Mary was the poster child for getting it right and that Martha was discounted because she was worried and distracted.
In John 11:5 we see that Jesus loved Martha and her siblings. His correction wasn’t a scolding but an invitation to walk in freedom instead of fret.
Many of us have tried to shed the skin of efficiency because we’ve misinterpreted this passage to mean there’s something wrong with being made like Martha.
We usually assume that Jesus was criticizing Martha for working too hard. Would you say that’s true?
Katie Reid: I don’t think Jesus was criticizing Martha’s work ethic here. In fact, unless he was going to multiply loaves and fish, fast from a meal, or have a late dinner, someone had to prepare the food. Instead, Jesus addressed Martha’s heart in Luke 10. He wasn’t asking her to stop being a doer; he was reminding her she was a daughter too.
We assume that Jesus was asking Martha to sit down physically like Mary was, but what if he was inviting her soul to rest—even while she continued working?
In John 12:2, we see that Martha is serving again, yet Jesus doesn’t correct her this time. Here, Martha serves from a place of strength and peace instead of a place of striving and stress.
What drew you to write a book about the story of Mary and Martha? What’s unique about your interpretation of this story?
Katie Reid: If Martha had a fan club, I’d be president of it. I so relate to Martha and her ultra-responsible ways. For years, this passage in Luke 10 bothered me. If nobody works, nobody eats, right? I really wanted Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her sister out. But upon closer examination, I realized how much Jesus loved Martha and wanted her to know that too. He wasn’t asking her to neglect her responsibilities but to trust him to care for her.
Made Like Martha is written for those who love checking things off their to-do lists and who may feel some angst when they read this account in Luke. It’s written from the perspective of a doer for other doers (although Mary-types are enjoying it too; it’s helping them understand their Martha-friends better).
You write in your book that many of us assume God is mad at us or disappointed in us. Why do you think that is? How have you found healing in your life from that assumption?
Katie Reid: When you view the world through the lens of perfectionism, you often feel frustrated with yourself and others (and even God) for things not turning out like you want (or expect) them to. For almost 40 years I felt like God was mad or disappointed in me. I was expecting myself to be flawless, which is completely unrealistic. It was a losing battle.
For me, the healing came when I realized that Jesus satisfied God’s wrath for sin and that his love for me was not based on whether I succeeded or failed.
If we’re in Christ, our position in his heart is secure. He loves us—even when we’re short-fused, whether or not we have a quiet time, even in the midst of tackling our to-do lists.
You make a fascinating comparison between Satan’s twisting of God’s words to Eve in Genesis and our interpretation of Jesus’s words to Martha.
Katie Reid: This was one of the most exciting revelations God gave me during the book writing process. The blinders came off and I could see how we’ve been allowing Satan to discount our design by adding to what Jesus said to Martha, in Luke 10.
Jesus did not say that there was something wrong with being made like Martha. And he never asked Martha to be Mary.
Jesus pointed out one thing that Martha needed to work on but he wasn’t criticizing the totality of who she was. We don’t have to apologize for being doers because we’re designed that way, on purpose. Let’s stop buying into the lie that correction equals rejection.
Good works should be our response to his love but they aren’t a means to obtain (or keep) his love. His love for us has been proven and settled once and for all, on the cross.
How can this new understanding of Mary and Martha keep us from judging others or ourselves?
Katie Reid: This new understanding helps usher in grace for others and ourselves. I love my Martha friends and my Mary friends. The world needs both types. But our behavior is not what makes us more or less pleasing to the Lord. When I realized God created me to be a doer, I felt more comfortable in my own skin and temperament. It also produced more understanding for others.
My Martha friends are my go-to gals for getting things done, and my Mary friends help me slow down and rest so I don’t burn out. Both are necessary—they’re not inferior or superior to one another. We bring different perspectives to the table. We’re stronger and better together.
How can we think of Jesus’s words to Martha as an invitation rather than as a criticism?
Katie Reid: I think this goes back to what we believe about Jesus. He wasn’t out there pummeling people with judgment on earth (although he had every right to do that); he led with kindness and compassion without compromising the truth. He didn’t mince words with Martha, but he demonstrated care and concern by inviting her to choose what was better, as Mary had. Again, he wasn’t saying that Mary was better than her; simply that she had chosen what was better in this instance.
Jesus was inviting Martha to exchange her striving for settledness, because that was good for her. He wasn’t asking her to become someone else or someone more, but to remember who he was and who she was in light of him.
On a practical level, how can we sit at Jesus’s feet even as we go about our busy days and fulfill our God-given call to accomplish things? In other words, what does it look like to rest even as we get things done?
Katie Reid: When you’re convinced that you’re a beloved daughter of a good and caring Father, a security and calmness fills your heart. This isn’t something you muster up, but something we ask God to help us grasp.
There’s value in having down time and quiet time, but many of us don’t know how to experience a sense of calm in the midst of our chaotic lives. I believe our soul can be at rest even when our hands are busy, as we remember that Jesus is not a guest to impress, but family to enjoy. He resides within us; he doesn’t leave when our quiet time ends.
You write about receiving God’s grace in the middle of the messes. What do you mean by that? How do our Martha personalities make us resistant to messes?
Katie Reid: The story of the prodigal son is a great example of God meeting us in the middle of our mess. The prodigal’s father had every right to reprimand his son for making bad choices. Yet, he patiently waited for his return and threw a big party when he came home. The son deserved punishment, yet his father clothed him with grace instead. And the same is true of our Heavenly Father.
I experienced something similar when I asked God to help me get well in the midst of a season of workaholism. He met me in my mess and provided a gift instead of punishment. He didn’t keep me at arm’s length but wrapped me up close; providing a fresh start and new life.
Marthas often crave order and find themselves frustrated when things aren’t going according to plan. But Jesus is the only one who can bring true peace even in the midst of our mess. When we realize that perfection isn’t up to us, it’s in us—and his name is Jesus—we begin to see that even in the mess, we’re not alone.
What do you mean by “stop striving for what is already yours”?
Katie Reid: Many of us are trying to earn God’s approval and favor, but as I mentioned before, we already have that if we’re in Christ. I spent so much time and energy trying to prove I was worthy of God’s love. But when we realize we don’t have to strive for what’s already ours, we walk taller and freer, knowing that our worth is not dependent on our productivity but cemented in Christ.
My brother is a few years younger than me; he has Down Syndrome. His worth is not based on how productive he is, nor is mine. We have worth because God says so, and it’s not based on how many items we check off our list. Now, our to-do list has value but it doesn’t determine our value. We could never do enough to achieve our salvation. We’re saved by grace and not works.
You contrast a “hired help mentality” with a “beloved daughter” way of thinking. What’s the difference? How do we live out that difference?
Katie Reid: A hired help mentality is one that thinks it’s all up to you to take care of yourself, like your worth is based on what you do and you might lose what you have if you aren’t good enough.
A beloved daughter’s mentality is based in trust; knowing that love isn’t based on what you do but based on who you belong to. A beloved daughter knows she’s adored even when she messes up.
Some of us have taken on things that were never ours to manage. In our ultra-responsible mindset we’ve placed extra weight upon ourselves, bogging us down with worry and exhaustion. As God teaches us how to live like a daughter instead of a slave, we begin to cast off the heavy weight we’ve been carrying and place it upon his most capable shoulders.
God has works prepared for us to do—but our position in him isn’t dependent on our behavior or performance. Isn’t that such good news?!
The idea of keeping things balanced can feel like an uphill climb for busy women. How do you personally maintain balance as a working woman?
Katie Reid: When I hear the word “balance” it makes me think of my one and only gymnastics meet, where I fell off the beam multiple times and was totally embarrassed. I tried to perform perfectly and toppled under the pressure.
The same can happen to us, if we’re approaching balance as something we need to perfect. I prefer to use the word stewardship. I can’t do it all, but I can do the next thing well. It’s impossible to give equal attention to everything on my plate, but I can ask God to help me see who and what needs my attention at present. When I think of all there is to do it’s overwhelming, but when I focus on what’s next, it seems more doable.
We’re humans, not machines, and we will not always get it right. When we receive God’s grace and extend it to others, we learn to work from a place of peace instead of striving, knowing that it’s not all up to us to keep the world intact.
As a modern Martha who has five children, what advice do you have for navigating your to-do list when it comes to parenting?
Katie Reid: When I got married I typed up a 9-page wedding agenda, so everything would run smoothly, but five children later, my to-do list and directives are shorter—they have to be for our sanity. With each child, I’ve chilled out more (although I’m still a get-it-done gal). When you realize how much is out of your control, you either fight for it (and drive yourself and everyone else crazy) or you learn to go with the flow better.
We’re a work in process for sure, but there are several things that help us stay afloat (but mostly Jesus). We’re busy, but we try not to have each child do more than one or two extra-curricular activities during a season. We want them to try new things, but not wear themselves out either. We also try to protect one day each week (usually Sundays) where we don’t do much after church but nap, hang out, read books, and play outside. This down-time helps us recharge for the rest of the week.
We also believe in the power of delegation. Our family is a team: we each do our part to keep things keep moving. When one member is really busy, we try to lighten that person’s load so they’re freed to focus on what they need to get done.
I think it’s important for busy moms to focus on what they’ve accomplished, instead of all there is left to do. There will always be more to get done, but as we celebrate what we and our children have completed it helps foster gratitude instead of stress.
Bio: Katie Reid is a firstborn overachiever and a modern-day Martha. As an avid blogger at katiemreid.com, Katie provides posts, articles, letters, and other resources for try-hard women on an ongoing basis. She encourages others to unwind in God’s Presence—through her writing, as well as through her speaking—as they find grace in the unraveling life. Katie has published articles with Huffington Post, Focus on the Family, iBelieve, Crosswalk, MOPS, (in)courage, God-sized Dreams, Purposeful Faith, Inspiring Families, and many other websites. She is also a contributing writer for iBelieve.com and Lightworkers.com and has been syndicated on ForEveryMom.com. Katie is a devoted wife of a youth pastor and a homeschooling mother of five children, who resides in the middle of Michigan.
Once in a while the attention of the whole world is focussed on an act of salvation. That is what has been happening in these days when, in Thailand, 12 boys on a soccer team and their coach are being rescued from a deep dark place in the middle of a cave system. The story is captivating because of the severity of the dilemma. The 13 are stranded two-and-a-half miles inside the mountain where they were for more than a week before being found. The way out is flooded. Monsoon rains threaten to overwhelm the caves. The passageways are extremely tight in places. The rescue involves long swims through water clouded with mud, an extremely difficult task even for highly trained technical divers. Many thought their situation was hopeless.
We are captivated by this kind of unfolding drama because there is nothing better than a story of rescue. And because we all know we ourselves need to be rescued in one way or another.
Two months ago I had to be rescued after falling nine feet off a ladder onto the concrete floor of my garage at home. My pelvis was fractured, my arm broken. I could not move. So I called for help. Then I screamed for help. Then my wife heard me inside the house, made the emergency call, and soon an ambulance was at our house. I was rescued.
The Bible is a story of rescue. God created the world as a good place, then it became corrupted and dangerous. But God did not leave the world broken. He saved those who were faithful to him. He freed the Hebrews from the wicked imprisonment of Pharaoh in the Exodus. David talks over and over in the Psalms about how God saves. So do the prophets. And then we come to Jesus, whose name in Hebrew, Yeshua, literally means salvation.
The biblical word salvation means rescue. It means someone bigger and better, stronger and wiser, does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. The necessity of salvation takes nothing away from human dignity. Rather, it gives us back our own lives. Whether we realize we need rescue or not, we still need rescue. It just makes sense for us to admit it, and to live in such a way that we respond to the rescue.
The Thai boys and their coach were not able to save themselves. They needed to be rescued. I could not move after I fell on my garage concrete floor. I needed to be rescued. And in our spiritual lives, we are not able to save ourselves from our sin, or from evil, or from the fear of death. We need to be rescued.
“Redemption,” from the world of the marketplace, says that through the sacrificial death of Christ we have been bought out of our slavery to sin. Like slaves who are purchased in order to be set free, God supplied the price and received the price. This is true freedom, but a freedom that comes from being owned by God: “you are not your own. You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
“Reconciliation” comes from the world of relationships. The shattering effects of sin in the world led to estrangement. We are separated from each other, and separated from God. But in Christ, and in his sacrifice, God provides a bridge. By faith we are on God’s side, and God calls us his friends.
“Adoption,” from the realm of the family, means that we become, through the sacrifice of Christ, true children of God.
“Justification” is from the world of law courts. To be justified means to be made right with God. It is what happened to Abraham when he believed God’s astounding promise. Justification by grace through faith is a foundation of certainty. As Paul put it: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies? Who is he who condemns?” (Romans 8:31-34).
So there is a multitude of ways the New Testament makes clear that we need rescue, and the rescue is real.
We rejoice with every young boy rescued from the flooded caves in Thailand. And we rejoice that God has done what we cannot do for ourselves by rescuing us through Christ.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)
This passage from Psalm 1, which appears at the conclusion of the daily devotional, Standing Strong Through the Storm, helps us understand what it means to “stand strong” through the trials and tribulations of the life of the Christ-follower.
Paolo Uccello’s depiction of the stoning of Saint Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr
If the struggles of the persecuted Christians around the world have been weighing on your mind and heart lately, you might be interested in this devotional. Standing Strong Through the Storm is the free daily devotional by Open Doors that highlights true stories about believers who held to their faith even in the face of suffering.
Despite the serious topic of the devotional, Standing Strong Through the Storm is one of the most inspiring devotionals in the Bible Gateway library. These aren’t merely stories of misery and suffering; they’re tales of courage and faith that hold up under fire. It makes for encouraging devotional reading, and it’s also a good way to open your eyes to the persecution that happens around the globe.
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The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by the USA, Mexico, and Canada. It’s expected to be the largest edition of the tournament with 48 teams playing 80 matches across 34 days. Sixty of the tournament’s matches will be held in the USA; Mexico and Canada will host 10 games each.
The 2018 World Cup has been underway in Russia with 32 teams playing 64 matches in 12 venues located in 11 cities. The competition is going into its final matches, with the championship game scheduled to take place July 15 at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
We thought this would be a good opportunity for you to see how well you know the fancy footwork that’s in the Bible. Have fun taking this brief quiz. After completing it, sign up for one of Bible Gateway’s free Bible Reading Plans to help you become even more familiar with Scripture, reading at your own pace.
The Jewish memorial of Tisha B’Av is a time of mourning, commemorating the many tragedies throughout Jewish history. Yet through shadows of sorrow come rays of hope.
Comfort in Sorrow is a series of seven free email devotions exploring the depths of tragedy, and what we can do to transform darkness into light.
Tisha B’Av—the ninth day of the month of Av—marks the darkest, most sorrowful day of the Jewish calendar. It was on this day that the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BC and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon. And the Romans destroyed the Second Temple on this same day in AD 70.
Throughout the course of Jewish history, this day has been marked by other tragedies: the final revolt against the Romans was crushed in AD 135; the expulsion of the Jews from Spain was decreed in 1492; and in 1942, on this day, the Nazis began deporting Jews from Poland’s Warsaw Ghetto to the death camps.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love
You are my hiding place.
You will keep me safe from trouble.
You will surround me with songs sung by those who praise you
because you save your people.
Who is the Holy Spirit? How did our relationship with the Holy Spirit change from the Old Testament to the New Testament? What are the common misconceptions we have of the Holy Spirit? How are we to think, speak, (and sing) rightly about him?
You share that the biblical discoveries presented in this book exposed your misguided views of the Holy Spirit. What are those views and how did you respond to that confrontation?
Daniel Henderson: A recent study by LifeWay Research revealed that 56% of evangelical Christians believe the Holy Spirit is a force rather than a person. While I knew, biblically, that the Holy Spirit was the third person of the Trinity, some of my common words and perceptions were still rooted in impersonal ideas about the Holy Spirit as some kind of “force.” I believe these misconceptions are widespread, and even promoted, throughout the modern-day church. Francis Chan wrote that the Holy Spirit is the “forgotten God.” I’ve concluded that he is also the “misrepresented God.” So, through my personal study and the process of writing this book, I submitted all of my preconceived ideas and our common slogans to the clear teaching of New Testament truth about the Holy Spirit.
Why does a gospel lens empower us to enjoy a new and full experience of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: When Jesus announced in his final supper with the disciples, “this is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:17-19; 1 Corinthians 11:25) it signaled the fulfillment of all the Old Testament had pointed toward (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Jeremiah 31:31-35). This introduced a new reality in how believers would understand and experience the Holy Spirit. Jesus immediately proceeded to teach his disciples about this profound work of the Holy Spirit in his final discourse (John 14:15-22, 15:26-27, 16:5-15).
In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit was present but would come and go, temporarily empowering certain people. Today, because of the work of Christ, the Holy Spirit permanently indwells, enables, and transforms every believer in a powerful and personal way. The gospel signaled the new reality of inside-out living. The New Testament is full of promises about the God who works in us and how the Spirit’s indwelling changes everything.
How can pastors lead their congregations to recognize their deep need for the person and power of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: Our website, www.transformingpresencebook.com, provides some amazing resources for pastors, including eight practical suggestions for helping congregations embrace a new covenant experience of the Holy Spirit. We also feature sermon outlines, small group questions, video introductions, and an audio prayer for each chapter in the book. The bottom line is that a pastor must understand, model, teach at various levels and consistently emphasize the inside-out work of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. This is especially imperative in light of the widespread misrepresentation of the work of the Spirit in today’s slogans and songs.
What is the Holy Spirit’s primary purpose and why is it often undermined?
Daniel Henderson: The Holy Spirit is a true “purpose-driven” Spirit. Jesus described this when he proclaimed “he will glorify me” (John 16:14). J.I. Packer uses the illustration of a floodlight in a beautiful building which does not exist for its own glory but to make clear and visible the splendor and wonder of its object by illumining its features. The mark of a true Spirit-filled believer, church, or worship service is the degree to which the aim and outcome is the glory of the person and purposes of Jesus Christ.
What are the effects of depersonalizing the Holy Spirit? How does technology in the church contribute to the impersonal view of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: I tend to speak in a lot of large churches from a variety of theological backgrounds. They have all the tools of what we call “worship arts.” They feature digitized lights, environmental smoke, and gargantuan sound systems. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these tools. Yet, in these same gatherings, they speak and sing of the Holy Spirit as if he’s reluctantly hovering in the atmosphere or coming through the vent system. I fear we’re creating a generation of “atmospheric addicts” who equate the work of the Holy Spirit with the emotions and technological sizzle of our gatherings, rather than living day-to-day with a clear biblical assurance of the constant, sufficient, indwelling presence of God.
Why do you feel misgivings toward the common church greeting, “Welcome to the house of the Lord”?
Daniel Henderson: Words matter, especially when they’re repeated by leaders week after week. Jim Cymbala has noted that “instead of understanding the full benefits of the new covenant in Christ, most in the church live in a no-man’s land between Jesus and Moses.” We have a lot of confusing Old Testament hold-overs in our worship language. This is one of them.
The building is not the “house of the Lord.” Jesus dismissed all facility-oriented worship when he announced to the woman at the well that his followers would not understand worship in terms of buildings, but would worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24). This truth is carried throughout the New Testament. Jesus is now our temple and we are his temple.
In a recent pre-service prayer gathering one sincere participant prayed, “Thank you Lord that we can come into your presence” (referring to the building as the dwelling place of God’s presence). Instead we need to pray, “Thank you Lord that your presence has come into us.” This prayer aligns with a true gospel understanding of the work of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit. This is new covenant language.
What does God want believers to experience in worship?
Daniel Henderson: In recent years, it’s become common in worship gatherings to view music as the means by which we’re “brought into God’s presence.” This emphasis eclipses and confuses the overwhelming New Testament teaching that his presence has already been assured by the Holy Spirit through the sacrifice of Christ. We don’t sing in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We’re filled with the Holy Spirit so that we might sing.
In truth, there’s no New Testament verse teaching that music is a means of mediating the presence of the Holy Spirit. We don’t summon some external “force” in our worship. Rather, we’re to submit to the indwelling person of the Spirit as the core focus and source of our worship. In conjunction with the word of Christ, he produces praise and thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16), prayer (Romans 8:26), understanding of the Scriptures, mutual ministry to one another (1 Corinthians 12:6-7), a true organic unity (Ephesians 4:3), and more—from the inside-out.
What are the implications of using phrases of invitation or ambiguous descriptions to describe the work of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: When we confuse the paramount truth of the indwelling Spirit, we devalue the finished work of Christ and his clear teaching about the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit. We lead people to false expectations about the reality of a true, biblical work of the Spirit. Ultimately, we fail to give them a clear and compelling assurance of the promised inside-out, personal empowering of the Holy Spirit—sufficient for daily living—beyond the worship gathering.
What is the language of new covenant truth that should be used to speak of the Holy Spirit?
Daniel Henderson: In the back of Transforming Presence I offer a “new covenant” vocabulary chart. The bottom line is that we should always speak of the inside-out work of the indwelling Holy Spirit as we live in full surrender to him rather than referring to some distant “presence” that we summon to come, as if he were not already living within us.
Share the inside-out power of the Holy Spirit that you personally experience in your daily life.
Daniel Henderson: I love the clarity and passion of Andrew Murray’s words, “Within you! Within you! . . . God created man’s heart for his dwelling . . . the kingdom of God is within you. It is within we must look for the fulfillment of the new covenant. . . . The Spirit of Christ himself is to be within us as the power of our life.” Waking up every day in light of these truths has changed the way I reflect on my life, react to people, respond to temptations, and recognize spiritual opportunities. My communion with the Lord has been richer, my insights in the Scripture deeper, and my sense of power for living greater.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Daniel Henderson: One that has really resonated with me in recent months, especially in light of this book, is Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
Daniel Henderson: Bible Gateway is an incredibly helpful, relevant, and reliable source for Christians at every stage of spiritual growth. I’m grateful for your far-reaching ministry of spreading the biblical understanding and encouragement across the globe.
Bio: For almost three decades Daniel Henderson has served as a pastor to thousands in congregations in California and Minnesota. Today, as Founder and President of Strategic Renewal International, he leads renewal events and coaches pastors across North America. His commitment to encouraging pastors has allowed him to speak in plenary sessions and lead prayer experiences at dozens of national and regional pastors’ conferences including The Moody Bible Pastors’ Conference, Alistair Begg’s Basics Conference, and John MacArthur’s Shepherds’ Conference. With a passion for world missions, he has traveled to over 45 countries.
He is also the National Director of The 6:4 Fellowship, a cross-denominational community of pastors focused on the primary biblical priorities of “prayer and the ministry of the Word” based on Acts 6:4. Daniel is the author 11 books, including Transforming Presence, The Deeper Life, Old Paths New Power, and The Prayer God Loves to Answer, and his articles have appeared in publications like Leadership Journal, Pray! Magazine, PrayerConnect, and ChurchLeaders.com. He and his wife, Rosemary, live near Denver, Colorado.
Verso Del Día: Por esto, despójense de toda inmundicia y de la maldad que tanto abunda, para que puedan recibir con humildad la palabra sembrada en ustedes, la cual tiene poder para salvarles la vida.- Santiago 1:21 (NVI)
VERSE OF THE DAY: So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.- James 1:21 (NLT) bit.ly/2MYakGG...
More Americans are expressing interest in increasing their interaction with the Bible, according to the annual State of the Bible 2018 research—commissioned by American Bible Society and conducted by Barna Group. Click to read more. ...