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Be Bold in Prayer: An Interview with Susie Larson

Susie LarsonWhat is the secret to powerful prayer? What does it mean to pray humbly and boldly? Why is prayer important?

Bible Gateway interviewed Susie Larson (@SusieLarson) about her book, Your Powerful Prayers: Reaching the Heart of God with a Bold and Humble Faith (Bethany House, 2016).

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What is bold prayer?

Susie Larson: Bold prayer, I believe, is biblical prayer. We’re tethered to the faithfulness of God who makes promises and keeps his promises. We get into trouble when we equate our bold prayers with our very specific expectations of what the outcome should look like.

I’ve seen many people give up on prayer, utterly disappointed because God didn’t jump through their hoops or come through in the exact way they expected him to. He’s not bound by our dictates. He’s God. But he’s better than we know; kinder than we can fathom; and wiser than our minds can comprehend.

When we remember that he’s God and we’re not, and that he’s faithful to his Word, we can come boldly into his presence, assured of his glad welcome (see Ephesians 3:8-13). And from that place, we can pray big prayers and dream big dreams because he’s a miracle working God (see Ephesians 3:20-21).

How does understanding God’s love make a person bold in prayer?

Susie Larson: For the Christian, everything springs out of God’s great love for us. We love because he loved us first (1 John 4:10). We lose our way when we put more weight onto what we do than on what Christ has already done.

A thriving faith-life becomes rigid religion when we turn our get-to’s into ought-to’s and should-do’s. But when we live in response to God’s unchangeable, unfathomable love for us, we grow into the person God always intended us to be.

When we develop a holy confidence in who we are because of who Jesus is, we dare to pray like there’s a God in heaven who hears us when we pray, because there is, and he does, and it’s awesome. To know this love is to be filled with the fullness of God (see Ephesians 3:19).

What do you mean that the Bible and prayer are a person’s lifelines?

Susie Larson: The Bible is the living breathing word of God; it’s active, powerful, and life-changing (Hebrews 4:12). When we open the Word, we open God’s mouth; he speaks to us. If that were not enough, he invites us into his presence, and asks us to come with confidence so that we can receive mercy and find grace in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

We don’t have to get in line, take a number, or know someone who knows someone. We know the star-breathing God and he knows us intimately. Nothing is more important or valuable than a thriving, intimate walk with the One who gives life to every step we take.

Someone once said, “If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” Exactly. That’s why we need to see the value of time with God, otherwise we’ll be swept up in the current of the culture and miss the treasure of what it means to dialogue with the Most High God.

How do you respond to people who say they’ve prayed for years for a specific need but it seems God isn’t listening?

Susie Larson: Many years ago my mentor said something to me that helped me sort through this dynamic. She said, “Susie, it’s important that you understand the difference between expectation and expectancy. Expectation is premeditated disappointment. It’s like creating a bullseye for God to hit and then getting offended when he doesn’t. Expectancy, on the other hand, is faith-filled prayers mixed with holy expectancy. There’s a mystery to God. We can’t explain everything he does. But we know he’s good. So we pray big prayers, and we live with an open-handed expectancy, knowing that he moves when we pray, and that he’ll show up and answer in his way, which is the best way. And our faith matters to him; it’s precious to him.”

I love that. If you’re in such a place, maybe it’s time for a different approach. If you’re offended with God, sort through that issue, and approach him with fresh humility and expectancy.

What stories from Scripture have helped you adjust your perspective to circumstances and pray with endurance?

Susie Larson: Someone once said that if there’s a story in Scripture you return to time and time again, then there’s something of your life-script hidden within that story. In other words, there are deeper truths God wants to show you from that story that will better help you to understand your own story.

I’ve returned to the Old Testament story of Joseph more times than I can count. I’ve walked through much hardship. I “watched” how Joseph handled heartbreak, delay, disappointment, and injustice with such a heart of honor. His response to hardship challenged and confronted me and helped me to persevere.

There’s even a little nuance that jumped off the page one day. He was unjustly imprisoned, unjustly accused, yet he stewarded his heartbreak to such a degree that he was available to encourage others when they needed it (think about that for a moment). In Genesis 40 we read how Joseph noticed that the chief baker and cupbearer looked troubled. In so many words, Joseph asked, “Why the long face?” That floors me!

If I want God to use me in every season, then I need to steward my perspective and guard my heart so I never get so wrapped up in my stuff that I miss those around me.

What do you mean Christians should focus on the bigger story?

Susie Larson: When we encounter life’s disappointments, we instinctively start to think small. We pull inward, focus on our hurts, and view our lives totally out of context. In Your Powerful Prayers I explore two women who faced their disappointments in different ways.

In the book of Ruth, for example, we read about Naomi. She, her husband, and two sons lived in Bethlehem when a famine hit the land. And instead of seeing themselves in the bigger story and seeking God to find out why their people were suffering (Bethlehem meant ‘house of bread’ after all), they kept themselves in the smaller story and traveled outside God’s protective boundaries for them. One scholar wrote that Elimelech traded one famine for three funerals. Read the story and you’ll see the consequences of such a devastating choice.

But if you stay with that story, you’ll see how God went ahead and made a plan to redeem the story. Ruth, a Moabite dared to step outside her small story and trust God with the unknown. And God grafted her into the lineage of Christ. This is a too-quick synopsis of this amazing story, but read it again, with fresh eyes.

Let’s apply it to us today. What does it look like to pull ourselves out of the smaller story so we can pray big prayers? Consider your own heartbreak. Step back and know that though you’re uniquely loved and understood by God, you’re not alone in your struggle, and you’re not the only one who’s walking through what you’re walking through.

For example, if you have a prodigal, what if you stepped into the bigger story and asked God to bring all of the prodigals home, and to use them in mighty ways in the days ahead? Or what if you prayed for every struggling marriage, and asked God for a revival of love in the church today?

Don’t let the enemy isolate you in your troubles or convince you that your story doesn’t matter. Because when you step into the bigger story, and pray on a bigger scale, that enemy will be sorry he ever messed with you.

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

Susie Larson: I’m on Bible Gateway multiple times a day. I work as a talk-radio host and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for Bible Gateway. I often do quick searches when callers wonder about certain passages. I have Bible Gateway open constantly whenever I’m writing a book. It’s a priceless tool for which I’m so very grateful!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Susie Larson: Look around and you’ll notice how amped up the culture is; and what’s the default response? Fear. Anger. Self preservation. Yet, you know how would God have us live? With holy confidence and humble dependence.

My husband often says that things aren’t falling apart, they’re falling into place. We can trust God. And if we forget about his faithfulness, our default response to the times will be to either numb out on some faux comfort, or to shake our fists at the darkness as if that somehow makes things better.

But what if we prayed? What if we asked God to do the impossible in and through us? What if we dared to pray bold prayers and take faith risks in a way that not only changed the trajectory of our lives, but also hugely impacted the people in our midst?

I dare you to up your game. I dare you to boldly run into the presence of the Most High God and pray like you’ve never prayed before.


Bio: Susie Larson is a popular radio talk show host, national speaker, and the author of many books, including Your Beautiful Purpose: Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You, Blessings for the Morning: Prayerful Encouragement to Begin Your Day, and Bountiful Blessings. She has a passion to see women and men everywhere strengthened in their faith and mobilized to live out their high calling in Jesus Christ. Susie and her husband live near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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Billy Graham: 1918 — 2018

After nearly a century of living and preaching the Bible’s gospel message, Christian evangelist William Franklin “Billy” Graham (@BillyGraham and @BGEA) died today at his home in the mountains of North Carolina. He was 99.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Cliff Barrows, Longtime Billy Graham Associate, Dies at 93]

According to his official profile, Billy Graham took Jesus Christ literally when he said in Mark 16:15, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Mr. Graham preached the gospel to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history—nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories—through various meetings, including Mission World and Global Mission. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through television, video, film, and webcasts.

In answering a question posed by Bible Gateway, The Billy Graham Library (@TheBGLibrary) said Mr. Graham did not officially share what his favorite Bible translation was, but “we know that he typically used the King James Version when preaching, the New International Version in his writings, and The Living Bible for personal devotions.

“One of Mr. Graham’s favorite verses was Philippians 1:6, ‘Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.’”

Early in life his favorite verse was John 3:16. In a statement in 1995, Billy Graham said,

“My favorite verse of Scripture was taught to me by my mother when I was just a little boy: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.’

“This is the one Scripture that I always preach on in a crusade, usually on the opening night. I suppose it is the most familiar passage in the Bible. It has only twenty-five words in the English translation of it, but it is the gospel in a nutshell. Someone has called it a miniature Bible. The word “whosoever” in this verse means the whole world. Whatever the color of a person’s skin, whatever language he speaks, God loves him and God is willing to save him. To me that is marvelous. It also says that life doesn’t begin when you die, it begins here and now.”

Toward the end of his life, his son, Franklin Graham, said in a Facebook post (Oct. 10, 2017) that Billy Graham selected Galatians 6:14 as his life’s verse: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (KJV).

In an interview with US News and World Report in 1988, Billy Graham was asked what his favorite Bible story or passage was.

“Well, of course, if you are in the New Testament, I would say the Gospels. The Gospel of John is what I have preached the most because it is filled with stories. You know Jesus taught by using stories and I like to use stories to illustrate what I am saying. The fifteenth chapter of Luke, which is the story of the prodigal son. The love of the father. How God loves us no matter what we do, where we go, how we live, He loves us. And I can’t get over the love and mercy and grace of God. Every day I marvel at it, that God could love me, Billy Graham, with all my failures and weaknesses.

“Then in the Old Testament, the Psalms. One half of all the quotes that Jesus made from the Old Testament came from the book of Psalms, because the psalmist lived every experience that we live. He was up one day and down the next. He had every kind of thought. Then he would talk to God about it.”

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According to the Library, “Mr. Graham went on to share how he and his late wife Ruth would read five chapters of Psalms and one chapter of Proverbs a day. He explained that Psalms teaches you how to get along with God and Proverbs teaches you how to get along with man.”

Mr. Graham fervently believed in the power of the Bible’s message to transform lives. In the article he wrote for Christianity Today, “Biblical Authority in Evangelism,” he said, “I had many doubts about the Bible. Now I see Scripture as a flame that melts away unbelief.”

Throughout his life, Billy Graham said no other book is as important as the Bible and Christians need to make an effort to understand it. He suggested that a first-time reader not start with Genesis, but rather with one of the Gospels in the New Testament, adding that he often recommended the Gospel of John, “because the Gospels tell us about Jesus Christ—his life, his ministry, and especially his death and resurrection. All the Old Testament points forward to Christ, and he is the center of the Bible’s message. Put Christ at the center of your life, and once you do, you’ll understand the rest of the Bible more clearly.”

See the many books and resources by and about Billy Graham in the Bible Gateway Store.

How to Live The Bible — Developing Discernment

howtostudythebible

This is the sixteenth 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.


Life is complicated. Every day we face decisions large and small that can be knotty and convoluted. Make a poor choice and we may suffer for it, or others may be hurt. If we’re smart we’ll realize we need wisdom that we can gain from trusted mature friends, and from the Scriptures, God’s deposit of wisdom for us.

God’s wisdom is not merely a collection of trustworthy principles for life, however. Wisdom includes a developed ability to make good judgments between what is right and wrong, or good, better, and best. It is what the Bible calls discernment, and it can save us from disaster.

Charles Spurgeon said discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right. Discernment, in other words, is refined perception. It is an ability to see, at a deep level, our own strengths and weaknesses and those of others. Discernment helps us know what our true motives are.

The New Testament word for discernment (diakrina) means to separate or distinguish. Discernment is the ability to cut carefully between what is good and bad. A surgeon takes a scalpel in hand in order to cut a line between healthy and diseased tissue. We want our surgeons to be skilled so that they don’t leave behind disease and they don’t cut away what is healthy. We want them to use good quality scalpels, not butter knives.

Discernment helps us to be discriminating without being discriminatory. To judge without being judgmental. To separate without dividing. Discernment is fine work.

When we are discerning we are less likely to make foolish decisions based on rash evaluations of our situation. We will not take a black-or-white view of things; a tendency in our society today that comes from simple laziness. Bias is the easy way. Discernment respects others and honors God.

Hebrews 4:12 describes how the Scriptures are the scalpel God has gifted us: “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Generally we should avoid judging the hearts of others because only God knows the heart. If we don’t want other people to assume they know our motives, we have to withhold from judging the motives of others. Jesus said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1–2).

On the other hand, we are called to exercise judgment. “Do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” (1 Cor. 6:2-3).

So what is the difference between exercising judgment and being judgmental? We are being judgmental when our motive is to devalue or control others, or to be self-righteous about ourselves.

Note that Hebrews 4:12 speaks of God’s word as alive and active. The word of God penetrates even into the inner recesses of our hearts. Scalpels cut, but with the purpose of eventual healing. We are not to apply verses of the Bible, in other words, in mechanical and crude ways to our lives or in judgment of others. The word of God develops a living dynamic in our hearts whereby our instincts and perceptions are trained. We can see sin over the horizon when we are tempted. We are able to sense when someone is lying to us or to themselves. We can spot the difference between a counterfeit and the real thing.

Hebrews 5:14 speaks of mature believers “who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” The ability to discern comes by training, in other words. There is no substitute for accumulated experience. A surgeon gets better and better with the repetition of the same procedures, and by reading profession literature as a habit. In the same way we get better and better at discerning the complexities of life through experience and by a lifestyle of reading Scripture.

Living the Bible means that we exercise a kind of penetrating vision that helps us see through the dust and fog of life, to see things the way they really are, and to make conscious choices about the people we want to influence us. Discernment is perception, insight, and correct judgment about the people wanting to influence us.

And so we come back to this principle: Living the Bible means living in reality. The alternative—to live in some degree of self-deception or extreme naiveté—is not right and not safe.
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Coming Soon… A Book of Prayers for Kids

[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.

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Touré Robertsby Touré Roberts

My father was a strict disciplinarian, and I dreaded weekend visits with him, sometimes to the point of tears. He was hard on me, and I was afraid of him. It was in stark contrast to the love, nurture, and affirmation I experienced with my mom. I lived in fear of making simple mistakes in front of him, because of the scorn and the ridicule I would undoubtedly receive. I can still remember how angry he became one time when I spilled milk while trying to pour it into a bowl of cereal. He reacted as if I’d done it intentionally, as if there were no possible way a small child who was paying attention could ever miss the bowl.

I learned to walk on eggshells around him to avoid arousing his temper and the piercing words that would fly out of his mouth when he was displeased. The fear of upsetting him only increased my anxiety, as well as the odds that I would make even more mistakes that angered him. As I grew older, spilling milk wasn’t so much an issue anymore, but my father still found ways to call my life into question or to reiterate his vision of success for my life, regardless of how different it was from my own.

The older I got and the more accomplished I became, the more our relationship seemed to improve. As my success became more evident and undeniable, his critiques seemed to lessen. He still found occasions to throw darts of inadequacy my way, but I learned to disregard them. I had adopted this principle from the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother” (Deut. 5:16). I was counting on the corresponding promise that doing so meant things would go well with me. That verse helped me and called me to take the high road in our relationship, regardless of whether I thought my father’s actions deserved honor. I believed that I should honor him not because of how he treated me but simply because he was my father—imperfect and all. I was determined to think the highest thoughts concerning him and also sought to understand him better. I told myself that, considering the difficulties of his own upbringing, he was doing the best he could by me.

In anticipation of this particular Father’s Day, I decided to do something special for my dad. I knew he liked deep-sea fishing, so I decided to coordinate a trip to celebrate him on Father’s Day. This was a big step for me. I loved my father, but we hadn’t gotten past the awkwardness of spending any real length of time together. On this trip, we’d be on a boat together for several hours, miles away from shore—this should give you a good idea of how much I was really putting myself out there. Nevertheless, in the name of honor, I picked up the phone and extended the invitation.

Dad seemed a little surprised by my offer, but he accepted the invitation and told me to keep him posted with the details. His positive response was a huge relief to me, and I felt a sense of accomplishment. Just presenting an idea to him that was acceptable—without critique—was a victory. Having it be something that honored him and would ultimately please him gave me a sense that things were beginning to turn around in our relationship. I felt as if this part of my life was finally making the kind of positive turn I’d experienced in so many other areas.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. Things didn’t exactly work out as I had planned.

Two weeks later I phoned my father to give him the details of our trip. I was excited to have worked out the logistics, the trip was set, and all we needed to do was show up. However, I didn’t get the enthusiastic response I had expected. The response I got was jarringly familiar.

“I’ve made other plans for Father’s Day,” Dad said. “It’s your fault this isn’t going to work out, because you didn’t give me the details sooner.”

I was speechless. And yet I told myself I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, it wasn’t unlike my father to be erratic and critical. He didn’t have much of a filter for what he said, nor did he show his sensitive side very often. I told myself I should be perfectly okay with Dad just being Dad in this scenario, as he had been in so many others. I even told myself that I was okay. But I wasn’t okay, and the accumulated brokenness from our relationship was about to come crashing down on me.

As Father’s Day approached, my mother asked me how plans for the fishing trip were shaping up. I told her that Dad had backed out but that it was okay because I really didn’t want to go in the first place. Later, when a close friend asked about the trip, I was beginning to give a similar answer when I felt overcome by a deep emotion I had trouble identifying. The feeling was both unfamiliar and familiar. Something that had been buried within me was rising to the surface, and it was no longer going to be quiet.

To be honest, it felt like there was a screaming monster inside me that had suddenly been roused. This intruder beneath the surface was now setting off alarm bells that reverberated throughout every part of me. I tried to pray the intruder away and even tried to distract myself from it, but it wouldn’t leave. This unstoppable force was disrupting my life, and I could not shake it.

With Father’s Day just around the corner, I finally admitted that what was going on inside me would not simply go away. My peace was gone, my thoughts were fragmented, and to make matters worse, it was now Sunday morning, and in less than two hours I would stand before my congregation for the first of our two Sunday morning services with an enormous problem: I had nothing to say. Whatever this monster within me was, it cut off the flow of love and clarity I relied on week in and week out to prepare and deliver my messages to the congregation.

I felt overwhelmed with anxiety, but I was trying very hard to keep it all together. I was terrified to confront what was inside me. It was rage and pain and grief, and I didn’t want to deal with any of it. If I took a real look at it—if I truly locked eyes with this monster—I wasn’t sure I would come out of the encounter in one piece. I didn’t know who I would become or what my life would look like if I lost the fight. I reasoned it would be better for me to function through my dysfunction until I had the wherewithal to handle it, but now I was up against the clock. The weekend messages I gave to the church were built on personal openness and transparency, and I knew I couldn’t hide what I was going through beneath the surface. I was trapped.

As I stepped into the shower, I was exhausted, confused, and out of options. And yet somewhere in my heart I heard the whisper of a loving voice. It’s okay not to be okay. In that moment, everything seemed to shift into slow motion, and my heart began to shift as well. Those whispered words were the divine key that released me from the shackles of fear and numbness.

It’s okay not to be okay. As the warm water washed over me, those gentle healing words washed through me. I let go of my need to have it all together and surrendered to a process I knew would lead me toward wholeness. I also knew it would require facing the monster within. A newfound vulnerability came over me, and I began to sob uncontrollably. For the first time, I allowed myself to feel the emotion I’d buried when Dad told me he’d made other plans for Father’s Day. The monster that rose up in me that day was Hurt, and its name was well deserved. It’s okay not to be okay. I let it all go and gave myself permission to cry.

Standing in the shower that morning, I cried about the phone call with my dad, but it was actually a 30-year-old cry—and long overdue. Somewhere along the way, I learned to stuff my emotions and to anesthetize the pain of rejection by telling myself, “I’m okay,” even when I wasn’t. The monster within was an accumulation of all the unprocessed feelings I’d buried over the years every time I felt rejected by my father. As I cried, my hurt erupted like a slow-motion volcano, and yet as messy as it was, I felt a healing relief with each sob.

We are never okay when we pretend that hurt doesn’t hurt. Hurt always needs to be acknowledged and addressed. It doesn’t just disappear, no matter how deeply we bury it or how much we try to convince ourselves we’re okay in spite of it. When we fail to process our pain in a healthy way, it becomes ill-processed by default, deepening the damage of the original wound. That’s what happens when the unhealthy layers of denial under which we bury our hurt stand in the way of our wholeness. What I experienced that morning in the shower was a cracking open of those layers. As my defenses crumbled, the light and hope of wholeness illuminated my pain and began to heal a wound I had been avoiding and denying for decades.

________

Wholeness by Touré RobertsTaken from Wholeness: Winning in Life from the Inside Out by Touré Roberts. Clear here to learn more about this title.

Wholeness by international thought leader and pastor Touré Roberts is about removing invisible boundaries from our lives that keep us from realizing our highest potential. Roberts brilliantly lays forth the truth that in order to live an outer life without limits, we have to uncover and address the inner limitations that hide in our blindspots.

In the book, Roberts explains that we can’t always choose the experiences that keep us from being whole, but we can take control of our lives today and bring healing to any broken area. Wholeness is filled with wisdom garnered from Touré’s own life—raised by a single mom, narrowly escaping the trappings of inner city life, and finding success in corporate America. His insight is further broadened by his role as founder of one of the most influential churches in the nation, with over fourteen years pastoring thousands of millennials, couples, families, and a diverse group of individuals. Wholeness will take you on a transformational journey that won’t leave you the same. Concluding with a “Wholeness Test”, this book will help you track and maintain your progress while walking out your journey to your full potential. Learn more at www.AreYouWhole.com.

Touré Roberts is founding pastor of The Potter’s House at One LA, one of the fastest growing churches in Los Angeles, and senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Denver. In addition to Wholeness, he is the author of Purpose Awakening and is a sought-after international speaker. Roberts has established the Artist Resource Center, a not-for-profit organization that provides artists and marginalized youth with free tools, knowledge, and practical training. Roberts is the son-in-law of megachurch pastor and author T. D. Jakes. He and his wife, Sarah, live in both LA and Denver with their six children.

Photo of Touré Roberts by Bobby Quillard. Adapted from the original under a creative commons license.

Living Life the Supernatural Way: An Interview with Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. WilsonHow should you rely more fully on the power of the Holy Spirit for growth and satisfaction in your life? How can you avoid getting swept up in the routine of life and missing out on supernatural joy, contentment, and peace?

Bible Gateway interviewed Jared C. Wilson (@jaredcwilson) about his book, Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life (Thomas Nelson, 2018).

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What do you mean, “apart from God’s power, there is no Christian life”?

Jared C. Wilson: I think many believers are under the mistaken impression that the gospel of Jesus Christ’s saving work is power enough for their conversion but not for their ongoing discipleship—for their sanctification. We tend to implicitly say “yes,” in other words, to Paul’s rhetorical question in Galatians 3:3: “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

But the gospel is not just the power and grounds of our justification; it’s the power for our ongoing standing in Christ and following of him. This is something Paul states most directly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 but which he re-states and applies in all of his letters. The whole Christian life is reliant on the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we’re sunk. A life apart from the Spirit is no life at all.

How does looking for earthly solutions to our problems stifle ways to participate in the truly supernatural life?

Jared C. Wilson: It’s the same problem the children of Israel had: forgetfulness of God’s past faithfulness and doubt of his future promises. We rehearse these tendencies day-by-day and tend to walk by sight rather than faith. When we place our trust in anything but God, then, we can quench the Spirit’s work in our life, preventing ourselves from seeing how good and satisfying he really is because we’re opting for pale alternatives that seem shiny to us in the moment.

What is the problem of the inner life you describe in the book?

Jared C. Wilson: We’re prone to living in compartmentalized ways. We dedicate time and attention to certain areas of our lives as if we have different personas or identities. So most Westerners have their career self, their family self, their leisure self, etc. And many Western believers treat their faith as if it only belongs to their “religious self.” But what I propose in Supernatural Power for Everyday People is that all of us belongs to God. Jesus is King over our careers, families, leisure time, etc. So the problem, as I suggest, is that we must face the prospect that we’re living spiritually truncated lives and thus not experiencing more of what God has already given us in the gospel.

Why aren’t miracles today as prevalent as they seem to be in the Bible and should that be a concern?

Jared C. Wilson: Well, I’m not convinced they aren’t, for a couple of reasons: One is that we really only consider this question from our limited Western viewpoint. The wider church, the Christians in other parts of the world, may not see a problem here at all. But I also think we discern certain parts of the Bible as normative that even in biblical times were extraordinary, especially if we’re talking about the Old Testament miracles. We see the highlights and assume these things were happening every day or even every year. When you get to the Gospels, the miracles become much more interpersonal and much more about the kingdom’s in-breaking, and I suppose one reason we don’t see these signs as much in the developed world is because we have long had the truths of the gospel at our disposal.

You write that what the Bible says is “astounding” and “outrageous.” What do you mean?

Jared C. Wilson: I mean that no person could have made this stuff up. It makes too little of us and too much of God to be a fabrication like so many other religious texts. And the things we’re promised because of God’s work in Christ and through the Spirit are things that honestly ought to stagger us—if we really believe them. The Scripture that in many ways serves as the theme verse for my book, 2 Peter 1:3, is a great example: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” That’s astounding to me.

How is the Holy Spirit unlike The Force in the movie Star Wars?

Jared C. Wilson: There are lots of differences, but that unfortunately doesn’t stop some professing believers from thinking of the Spirit this way. I will admit I’m not exhaustively versed in the workings of The Force in the Star Wars universe, but the primary difference appears to be this: the Holy Spirit is a divine Person. He’s the third Person in the triune Godhead. This makes God’s Spirit, of course, imminently personal. The Force, as I understand it, is not a Person, but exactly that—an amorphous, ethereal force.

The most important implication of this distinction, and something we really need more Christians to remember today, is that while The Force can be manipulated, wielded, or exerted, the Holy Spirit cannot. We don’t control the Spirit, move the Spirit, activate the Spirit, or anything like that. Because we’re not sovereign over God. It’s the other way around.

What do you mean, “If you want to dwell daily in the supernatural realm of God’s kingdom and hear the very words of God, your Bible is where it’s at”?

Jared C. Wilson: I think too many Christians inwardly long to hear the voice of God while leaving his word neglected. In my book on the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, I want to stump hard for the sufficiency and the efficacy of Scripture. If you want to hear God, read your Bible! The Bible is proof that God has not left us in silence.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Jared C. Wilson: The theme verse for my writing and speaking ministry over the last several years has been 1 Corinthians 2:2 (CSB): “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” It’s a help in narrowing my focus to what matters most and a consolation when I’m tempted to think another subject more worthy than the gospel.

I’m also perennially partial to the whole of Romans 8 and think many believers would profit from regular re-reading of that masterful text.

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

Jared C. Wilson: I love Bible Gateway online and use it practically every day. For search functionality, it’s unmatched as a free resource.


Supernatural Power for Everyday People is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.


Bio: Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Seminary, managing editor of For The Church, and director of the Pastoral Training Center at Liberty Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of numerous books, including Supernatural Power for Everyday People, Romans: A 12-Week Study, The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together, and The Prodigal Church, and he is a popular speaker at churches and conferences around the world. Jared writes online at For The Church and at The Gospel-Driven Church hosted by The Gospel Coalition.

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How 66 Books Became the Bible—and Why Some Books Were Left Out

Not all Bibles contain exactly the same set of booksWhat is the composition of the Bible? How was it created? Who decided which books should be included? Why do Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles differ?

This video, produced by the Museum of the Bible, seeks to answer those questions.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, World’s Largest Museum of the Bible Now Open]

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

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog posts that introduce you to the Bible]

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Bible News Roundup – Week of February 18, 2018

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Bill to Make Bible Courses Available in Tennessee Schools Moves Forward
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February 23, 2018: 563rd Anniversary of the Gutenberg Bible
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What Does the Bible Say About Violence?

Mel Lawrenz, the author of Spiritual Leadership Today and Minister at Large of Elmbrook Church, shares several ways to biblically approach and respond to the reality of violence in the world around us. He’s made an audio version of this post available at The Brook Network.

Another horrific shooting at a school once again raises the question of why violence happens in the human race. This makes us groan—as it must. And it makes us wonder how human beings can be so violent—as it must. There are spiritual dimensions to violence that the Bible speaks to, including sources and solutions. This is not just about shootings in public places. Everyday occurrences of domestic violence, bullying in schools, gang violence in our cities, and so much more means that believers need to understand the evil impulses of violence, and what we can do in response.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Hope Despite The Tumult of Violence and Disaster]

What does the Bible says about violence? I believe that those who are Christians should have a deeper understanding of the roots of violence. The media coverage of the school shootings, for instance, is shockingly shallow. It centers on gun control—an important issue to be sure—but hardly one that gets at the root causes of violence.

It seems to me that most people have acquiesced to the inevitability of violence. They hope that law enforcement can do a better job, they keep their fingers crossed that the next crazed shooter won’t be in their school or movie theater, they hope that more thorough background checks will keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals. But all that deals with violence at its tipping point, not at its source.

So what does the Bible say about violence?

One does not get far in the biblical narrative to find the first heinous act of violence. In the second generation of humanity one brother spills the blood of another. Cain murders Abel, for a reason that comes right from the heart—jealousy. The pattern is set. Something simple like jealousy left unchecked, left to grow and deepen and intensify, leads to acting out in violence. God had warned Cain: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” This is really an amazing statement. Jealously leads to anger, and that sin is predatory, crouching at the door, looking to possess Cain. Violence, in other words, is often the tipping point after resentment turns to rage. What can be done about violence? God told Cain he had better “master” the pathology of his soul. He did not, and blood was spilled.

God’s responds to Cain: “your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.” And so does the blood of many today.

Lesson number one: violence is the result of a pathology of the soul. Violence does not begin with standing armies, generational ethnic hatred, longstanding social inequities. Violence is as close to us as our own hearts.

A bit later in Genesis a profound principle is laid down regarding the moral wrongness of violence:

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6).

This is early in the biblical account. It is foundational. Most importantly, it links to the fundamental reality that violence against human beings is wrong because human beings were made in the image and likeness of God. There is a worth, a value, a dignity, to every human life, in other words, that makes selfish or wanton violence a moral offense.

Now one question that immediately comes up is whether the Bible itself promotes violence. Isn’t the Old Testament a very bloody account of history, and doesn’t God himself condone violence? This is a large and important question. Paul Copan in his book, Is God a Moral Monster?, provides some good answers. But what can briefly be said is,

  1. not everything that happened in Old Testament times was condoned by God;
  2. some of the violence in the Old Testament was protection against hostile powers, and the judgement of God;
  3. the nation of Israel in the Old Testament was a theocracy, and all that changed by the time we get to the New Testament; and
  4. it is obvious from reading the New Testament that from that point on an entirely different set of ethics applies with the coming of the kingdom of God with Jesus.

So let’s consider what the New Testament has to say about violence, particularly in the teaching of Jesus.

First, Jesus models the power of non-violence

On the very night of his arrest, when violent men made their move on Jesus, he told Peter who was ready to fight: “Put your sword back in its place… for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” This was a statement of principle, consistent with all of Jesus’ teaching. At his trial Jesus said to Pontius Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). Some Christians, like the Mennonites and others in the Anabaptist tradition see in Jesus’ teaching nothing less than pacifism, while others would say that Jesus’ teaching does not preclude violence in defense, or, as Romans 13 describes, an intentional, punitive use of force in human governing: “rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Rom. 13:4).

In either case, however, it is clear that Jesus’ teaching elevates non-violence as the preferred response to violence, and the reason is the important part: Jesus introduced a different kind of kingdom, with it a different set of ethical standards. “Might makes right” is the way most of human history has unfolded, but Jesus introduced an entirely different way of viewing life.

Second, Jesus speaks about the source of violence

One of the most revolutionary of Jesus’ teachings is that human violence begins in a deeper place. The sin of violence has already begun before blood is spilled or words wound. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matt. 5:21-22).

We cannot talk about murder without talking about rage. We cannot talk about shootings in schools and movie theaters without talking about the infections of hatred, malice, and anger in our culture.

And then there is this important teaching, again from the Sermon on the Mount:

“Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them…. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person’ (Mk. 7:14-23).

Here is the bad news of the human condition: violence—like all sin—comes out of the human heart. Adultery is not caused externally by someone else’s good looks, greed is not caused externally by money, envy is not caused externally by Mercedes dealerships, and violence is not caused externally by video games or movies. External stimuli certainly affect people, and deep psychological wounding certainly conditions people, and a culture of violence gives permission to be violent, or to be desensitized, but the instinct and choice to act out in violence comes out of the heart.

I’m not saying that this statement of Jesus offers a complete psychology of violence. But there is a kernel of truth here that may serve us well as we look at the mystery of violence in our society. The Pharisees wanted to believe that sin was a matter of what people put in, like the food they ate. That’s a convenient way to look at life. Far more troubling, but true nonetheless, is that all people have within them the potential for violence.

Third, Jesus encourages us to live bravely in the face of violence

Jesus clearly taught that the world is a sinful and violent place. But he challenged his followers not to live in fear and trepidation: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28). He also said: “I have told you all this so that you may find peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world” (Jn. 16:33).

I think we must all ask ourselves: what is this bravery of which Jesus spoke? The kind of bravery that Christians working in dangerous parts of the world exercise every day. How can we take this to heart so that we do not live our lives cowering?

Fourth, Jesus mandates a response to violence

So where would we turn in the Scriptures for ways to deal with violence? What does Jesus want us to do about violence? What ought to leap to our minds is the beatitudes, which includes this real-life challenge: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” What can we do about violence? It must begin with a serious commitment to the principle: “blessed are the peacemakers.” But that won’t happen unless we go beyond wishful thinking. Peacemaking is active work, hard work, frustrating work. It is not the convenient thing. “Blessed are the blessed,” is what we’d like to believe, not “blessed are those who expend their lives in the interest of reconciliation and shalom.”

This challenge is daunting—but it is Jesus’ clear call for his followers in all times. Our entertainment industry fills our minds with violent images and lyrics. The formidable technology of war today takes on a life of its own. Many people are living a hair-trigger life. And every time a school shooting occurs, and we have 24/7 media coverage, a thousand potential copy-cats—people living in the shadows of society, people who are disconnected or outcast—have their pulse quicken at the idea of having their names in the headlines.

Somehow the work of peacemakers needs to begin long, long before the bullets are loaded in the magazines.

In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer says: “The followers of Jesus have been called to peace. When he called them they found their peace, for he is their peace…. they are told that they must not only have peace but make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult.”

John Stott, in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount says, “Now peacemaking is a divine work. For peace means reconciliation, and God is the author of peace and of reconciliation.”

What does peacemaking look like in practical terms? What can be done about violence? Another key New Testament passage that speaks about peacemaking is in the epistle of James:

“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness…. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.”

What can be done about violence?

There are many professionals whose work is peacemaking, and we need to pray for them and support them. Law enforcement, criminal justice, educators, mental health professionals, and many others. Safety and security in a community comes from a network of collaborators. We will never eliminate violence, but we can lessen it.

We don’t need vigilantes, we need vigilance. Followers of Jesus are called to do more than passively waiting for the next person to draw his gun. Our Lord and Savior commands us to close the gap with people rejected by others. To connect with the wounded before they lash out and wound others. To bring down the level of tension and stress around us by living in shalom.

It was said of Jesus: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out “(Matt. 12:20). The next person in our community who may act out in violence is right now, today, somewhere, a bruised reed. A smoldering wick. Will we notice that person? Will we help that person back away from the edge of the cliff? Law enforcement officers cannot and should not supervise everybody’s lives. Our laws define civil behavior, but they cannot tame human personalities. Shooting back is always worse than stopping the shooting before it ever begins.

Abel lay dead. Cain knew it—because he did it. “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Genesis 4:9).

That’s the question for us. Are we our brother’s keeper? Will we watch out for potential victims? And will we have the courage to watch out for the potential aggressors?

Cain would not. Will we?

Follow Mel’s current Bible Gateway series, How to Live the Bible here.

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How to Practice Peace When You Need It Most: An Interview with Kristen Kill

Kristen KillYou know that something you’ve been looking for in the empty stress of your mad-dash days? The Psalms call it selah: a chance to stop, re-center and resync yourself with the story and song of God. It is hope for the dissonance you feel.

Bible Gateway interviewed Kristen Kill (@kristenkill) about her book, Finding Selah: The Simple Practice of Peace When You Need It Most (Zondervan, 2018).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Grieving as the World Rejoices by Kristen Kill]

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What is selah?

Kristen Kill: Well, literally, the word selah that we see in the Bible means pause or interlude. It appears 71 times in the Psalms as an instruction in the musical liturgy—calling the musicians and the readers to silence or rest, just like we might see in a written piece of music today.

When I was reading the Psalms during a difficult season of my own life, I found this word to be the natural place where I would take a deep breath; where I would ponder what I’d read, before diving into the next stanza. It became a springboard idea for me in my own life, realizing how very vital it was for me to rest and to pause in the midst of the laments and cries of my own heart that were very much like the ones we read in the Psalms. I think too, the more we examine the true rest of God, and his heart for his people in offering his presence to us, we see the reality of Christ cutting right into the midst of our own circumstances and seasons to be our breath and our pause—just like a selah.

Why did you turn to reading the Psalms when you were exhausted and depressed?

Kristen Kill: I was so skilled at posturing and posing that things were okay with others and even with God but on the inside I felt so hollow and so numb. I’ve always loved literature and reading poetry always stirred my heart, and when I considered that the Bible had its own poetry too, I began to dive in hoping to just feel something. What I found was that the writers of the Psalms were often in agony—often discouraged—but they weren’t hiding away like I was. They were unconcerned with appearing tidy before God and they poured out all those anxieties to him with such utter vulnerability. I was at awe at the depth of emotion they shared, the struggles as well as the joy. And as I prayed through the Psalms more and more, I found the curve of my own heart there, a form right in Scripture that God had given for everything we’re likely to encounter in the realm of human emotion. These verses guide us really, in understanding our own hearts and in giving us a pattern for how to bring them before the Lord.

How did praying the Psalms change your understanding of what rest means?

Kristen Kill: I think I’d always considered rest to be something that came at the end of a thing: a long work week, a job well done, a vacation or holiday at the appointed time. I’d never considered it to be my starting place, or that God would meet me with rest that nourished my heart and soul right in the middle of struggle or circumstance. My expectation was always that he would remove the object of difficulty. What I found was that my own struggles remained, but the change was in the orientation of my heart—in my focus on Christ with me. When we’re in Christ, his rest, his peace, and his presence are ours too, so rest and composure of our hearts—regardless of circumstance—becomes our new natural state of being through the Holy Spirit.

What do you describe as a false rest and how does it differ from a true rest?

Kristen Kill: I think there are a few different kinds of rest. There’s a point where our physical bodies are so very tired and we need to stop and heal, or sleep, or just take a nap (oh, how I love to nap when I can get one!). And there are other ways that we can take time to recreate or rest that are as varied as our personalities; be it through a quiet prayer, nature walk, or knitting, or gardening.

But our culture is offering up all kinds of false rest too; idle pursuits that leave us wanting. I think social media scrolling is probably one of the easiest to identify. You think it’ll be a way to zone out and relax but before you know it, 30 minutes have gone by and often that time leaves your body and mind more restless than you were to begin with.

I think that true rest leaves a mark upon us. It fills up our souls in some way because, in it, we encounter and enjoy the presence of God. If what you’re doing to rest overflows to bless those around you, if you want to share it, or if you’re changed by it to such a degree that your heart is bolstered as a bearer of light to others, then I think you’re off to a pretty good start!

What is a selah interlude?

Kristen Kill: To take on a musical idea again, an interlude is an instrumental diversion that happens between the chorus or harmony before the notes return to their main parts; or in my analogy, before the regular rhythms of our lives carry on.

I think of selah interludes as those feasting moments of our lives (those pauses where we’re not merely silent and hushed) like in a rest, but where we experience beauty or art or a delicious meal. Those things may at first appear to be very hedonistic, but I believe they’re the goodness of God and the fingerprints of Heaven that woo us to his heart.

When we recognize that the longing and ache that we have for beauty—that we see shadows of in a starry night or swirling snow or ivy crawling among grey buildings—is a longing that can only be met in the beauty of Christ, I think our imagination for God expands and we begin to be transformed by his delight in very practical ways throughout our days.

How should a person make room for the small things in life that give selah?

Kristen Kill: In my own life, when I first determined to pause throughout my day and take a deep breath or go for a walk or pour a cup of black tea into my porcelain cup, I had to set a timer! I literally did not know how to stop all I was doing without an alarm going off to tell me when.

I think that defining a few 15-minute chunks of your day is a great place to start. You don’t have to have an hour or two a day to change, but just ten or 15 minutes to actively engage your heart with the heart of God: to invest yourself in Scripture, commit to prayer, or just to intentionally enjoy the beauty and rest that he offers; the delight he’s pouring out and makes abundantly available to you right now.

What happens when selah and sorrow meet?

Kristen Kill: You know, one thing I realized as I began to study the idea of rest in the Bible is that rest and provision are indelibly linked. We can rest because we know that God is sovereign. We can rest because he holds all things together. We can rest because he loves us and provides for us—with his very self.

I know that when I was experiencing grief, my stance was one of grasping: for control, for comfort, and for everything I thought would fill me up, and everything I was so afraid to lose. I think that when we embrace Jesus as our rest, and therefore—for this analogy—as our selah, it changes how we meet sorrow and pain. We can become people who hold so tightly to Christ that we can finally be full; we can trust and live without fear that goodness is going to run out; and we can release all we cling to into his hands.

Name a Psalm that particularly met your need in your desperation and explain how it helped to heal you.

Kristen Kill: Psalm 91 was powerful for me to read and take in, because it describes the way that God responds to us; the way he cares for us. “We will abide in his shelter, he will cover us with feathers, under his wings we will find refuge.” In these verses I realized that my whole heart, my whole life, would be covered and protected by God. Not just the tidy parts, but all of me. He saw me as vulnerable and desired to protect me. What a grace and a hope!

What action do you want to inspire readers of this book to take?

Kristen Kill: I think most of us can relate with the idea that we need rest and pause in our lives. But I hope that if readers pick up this book because they want more of that, they’ll come away realizing that their longing for rest is truly a longing for more of Jesus. It can take a fair bit of introspection to get at the root of what’s truly happening beneath the surface of what we think we need and want. But I hope readers are inspired to do that work. I think its worth it. And I think God is absolutely delighted to meet us in that pursuit.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Kristen Kill: Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

I couldn’t believe it when I read for the first time that God was singing over me. Like I sang over my babies, God is singing a song of love over us. It’s the melody of heaven, and the song of our lives. These pauses—these selahs—are how we learn to listen and tune our ear to him. I don’t want to miss that glorious music. I don’t want to miss his delight.

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

Kristen Kill: I love using Bible Gateway on my computer and my phone as a way to meditate on God’s word. It’s a great place to begin a quiet time! Read the daily verse, and write it in your journal. I like to have just one verse to share with my children at breakfast or at dinner, and when we use the app as a family, they’ve often already read it on their own, and come ready with questions or ideas. Its wonderful to all be reading the same thing each day!


Bio: Kristen Kill is a woman transformed by the delight of God. A contributing editor at The Better Mom, and co-host of At Home, a popular podcast with Sally Clarkson, Kristen is passionate about encouraging women who feel stretched thin with the truth that, even in the tension, God is singing over them with love. After spending the last seven years in the hustle of New York City, Kristen and her husband, Josh, are learning to go slow as they raise their five kids in the Pacific Northwest. Her days are filled with homeschooling, walking her slightly anxious hound dog, and putting off the cleaning for one more day. Find Kristen writing at kristenkill.com and follow her on Instagram @kristenkill.

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Honoring Black History Month: Great Books for the Whole Family to Read

If you’re looking for something to read in honor of Black History Month, look no further than some of the newest releases by Christian African-American authors published by Zondervan. From Olympians, to doctors, to inspirational figures, pastors, journalists, and performers, everyone in the family is sure to find something to inspire, educate, and encourage.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Black History: Africa in the Bible]

Courage to Soar by Simone Biles

Courage to Soar by Simone BilesSimone Biles’ entrance into the world of gymnastics may have started on a daycare field trip in her hometown of Spring, Texas, but her God-given talent, passion, and perseverance have made her one of the top gymnasts in the world, as well as a four-time winner of Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro.

In Courage to Soar, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Olympic gold medalist and World Champion gymnast Simone Biles gives readers an inspiring and never-before-seen look at her life. It was written with New York Times bestselling author Michelle Burford, and features a foreword by Mary Lou Retton.

Chasing Grace by Sanya Richards-Ross

Chasing Grace by Sanya Richards-Ross“For as long as I can remember, life has been measured in seconds. The fewer, the better.” ~Sanya Richards-Ross

Most people equate success with having more, but Sanya’s quest was always for less. She started running track as a little girl in Jamaica and began competing when she was only seven. At 31 she’s had a career’s worth of conditioning to run a 400-meter race in 50 seconds, hopefully 49, or even better, 48.

Now in Chasing Grace, five-time Olympic medalist Sanya Richards-Ross shares triumphant and heartbreaking stories as she tells of her journey to becoming a world-class runner. Sanya helps you learn how to run your best race and live your best life.

She’s Still There by Chrystal Evans Hurst

She's Still There by Chrystal Evans HurstWhat’s a woman to do if her life is not taking shape the way that she thought that it would? What happens when she looks at herself in the mirror, lingering just a little longer than usual and realizes that she no longer recognizes the person staring back at her? What does she do when she sees that, somehow, her life has drifted away from all her original hopes, dreams, or plans?

In She’s Still There, Chrystal Evans Hurst shares poignant personal stories as she offers an outstretched hand and the assurance that you can still be the woman God gifted you to be. Chrystal co-authored the best-selling book, Kingdom Woman, with her father Dr. Tony Evans. She reaches a wide audience speaking at conferences, sharing on her blog, Chrystal’s Chronicles, writing for Proverbs 31 Ministries, and by teaching and leading women in her home church.

Truth Doesn’t Have a Side by Dr. Bennet Omalu

Truth Doesn't Have a Side by Dr. Bennet OmaluTruth Doesn’t Have a Side follows the journey of neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who uncovered the truth about brain damage in American football players, and his battle against those who would silence him. An incredible story that could change the course of sports culture. Foreword by Will Smith, star of the major motion picture Concussion.

Dr. Omalu is a Nigerian-American neuropathologist who discovered and named chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American football players, other athletes, and military veterans. He is the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, California, and a clinical professor at the University of California, Davis. His story is told in the major motion picture Concussion, starring Will Smith.

Day Dreams & Movie Screens by Alena Pitts with Wynter Pitts

Day Dreams and Movie Screens by Alena PittsEleven-year-old Lena Daniels’ summer of Hollywood starlets and movie filming alongside her favorite singer, Mallory Winston, is over. But just as she begins to wonder if her summer was all just a dream, her world is turned upside down . . . again! Her movie Above the Waters premiers, the previews seem to be splattered on every television and radio channel, and everyone knows her name. Her classmates, strangers, and even her friends are starting to treat her differently, and everywhere she turns she’s being asked for an autograph, a picture, or a hug. As you read Day Dreams & Movie Screens, you’ll see how she learns to navigate this sudden popularity and say yes to God.

Author, actress, and model Alena Pitts, best known for her role in the hit movie War Room, has released her second title in the popular Lena in the Spotlight FaithGirlz Series, titled Day Dreams & Movie Screens. Co-written with her mother, Wynter Pitts, founder of For Girls Like You Magazine, the novel transforms the concepts of faith, family, and following your dreams into important life lessons.

Madison Park: A Place of Hope by Eric Motley

Madison Park by Eric L. MotleyWelcome to Madison Park, a place of self-determination, hope, and the American dream. And meet Eric Motley, raised in this remarkable Alabama community founded by freed slaves; a place that taught him everything he needed to know on his journey to becoming Special Assistant to President George W. Bush at the Oval Office.

Eric grew up among people whose belief was to “give” and never turn away from your neighbor’s need. As you read Madison Park, you’ll meet some of those people who had a significant impact on Eric’s life and faith. Life in Madison Park wasn’t always easy or fair, and Motley reveals personal and heartbreaking stories of racial injustice and segregation. But Eric shows how the community taught him everything he needed to know about love and faith. Foreword by Walter Isaacson.

How to Fix a Broken Record by Amena Brown

How to Fix a Broken Record by Amena BrownYour soul holds a massive record collection: melodies, rhythms, and bass lines. Memories that ask you to dance and memories that haunt you in a minor key. Lies that become soundtracks to your days while truths play too softly to be heard.

No matter how many scratches, breaks, or sorry repeats are in your past, you can find healing. In the soulful style of her acclaimed spoken word poetry, Amena Brown offers humor, story, and a good dose of heart in How to Fix a Broken Record. Amena performs and speaks at events from coffeehouses to arenas. Enjoy a taste of her God-honoring spoken word poetry here.

Reflections by Rosa Parks with Gregory J. Reed

Reflections by Rosa ParksOn December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was not trying to start a movement. She was simply tired of the social injustice. Yet, her simple act of courage started a chain of events that forever shaped the landscape of American race relations.

Including historic and beautiful pictures, Reflections by Rosa Parks, co-authored by prominent attorney and bestselling author Gregory J. Reed, is a collection of Mrs. Parks’s own words on topics like dealing with fear, facing injustice, developing character and determination, faith in God, and her hope for the future.

Wholeness by Touré Roberts

Wholeness by Touré RobertsWe can’t always choose the experiences that keep us from being whole, but we can take control of our lives today and bring healing to any broken area.

In Wholeness, pastor and international speaker Touré Roberts gives encouragement to anyone wanting more in life. Through insight gained from personal experience and years of pastoring, he teaches you how to be transformed wholly on the inside to live abundantly on the outside. Foreword by T. D. Jakes.

Raised by a single mom, narrowly escaping the trappings of inner city life, and finding success in corporate America, Touré Roberts is founding pastor of The Potter’s House at One LA, one of the fastest growing churches in Los Angeles, and senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Denver.

The World is Awake by Linsey Davis

The World Is Awake by Linsey DavisThis is the day the Lord has made.
A butterfly floats through the sun and the shade,
while dragonflies flit past the flowers and trees
and grasshoppers hop in the soft morning breeze.

Emmy award-winning journalist and ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis has teamed up with Zonderkidz to create an inspiring new picture book that encourages children to celebrate and be thankful for the everyday blessings of life.

Coming Soon: Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down by Ida Keeling

Can't Nothing Bring Me Down by Ida KeelingIn Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down, which will be available before the end of the month, you’ll meet Ida Keeling, a 101-year-old, world-record-holding runner (who is still running, by the way), who now shares her story to inspire you to keep going, keep running, and keep holding tight to God.

Ida Potter Keeling is a mother, activist, and runner. Miss Ida, as she is known in her Bronx community, grew up the child of immigrants during the Depression. She began working to help provide for her family at age 12. After her husband passed, she raised her four children alone in a single bedroom apartment while serving as an active member in the Civil Rights movement. She started running at age 67 as a way to deal with her grief following the murders of her two sons.

Coming Soon: Right on Track by Sanya Richards-Ross

Right on Track by Sanya Richards-RossIn her third book published by Zondervan, Olympic gold-medalist Sanya Richards-Ross empowers teens to take charge in shaping their personal futures. In Right on Track: Run, Race, Believe, Richards-Ross shares her advice and experiences with teens on what it takes to achieve impossible dreams, stay grounded in the face of success, and take wins and losses in stride.

Off the track, Sanya is an entrepreneur, TV personality, public speaker, and humanitarian. She designs and executes sports clinics across the United States to educate, empower, and teach youth with tools and strategies to excel both on and off the track.

Black History Month gives us an opportunity to remember how African-Americans have shaped and continue to shape this nation for good. Take some time this month to start reading one or more of these books or others written by influential Christians of color.