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Encounter Scripture with Fresh Eyes and Your Imagination: An Interview with Russ Ramsey

Russ RamseyDo you sometimes approach familiar Bible passages with a sense of fatigue or mindlessness because you’ve read it all before? You’ve lost the wonder of it all and it doesn’t feel new to you? You think you know what it all says already? How can the spiritual discipline of reading Scripture afresh allow you to rediscover the ancient Word in startlingly new ways?

Bible Gateway interviewed Russ Ramsey (@russramsey) about his Retelling the Story series (InterVarsity Press, 2018), including The Advent of the Lamb of God, The Passion of the King of Glory, and The Mission of the Body of Christ.

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What inspired you to write the Retelling the Story series?

Russ Ramsey: Biblical literacy and the cultivation of a biblical imagination. As a pastor I’m driven by a desire to raise the level of biblical literacy among those God puts in my path. The goal of these books is to hide Scripture in the hearts of my readers by telling the biblical story of the coming of Christ, the life of Christ, and the ongoing ministry of Christ with compelling clarity, beauty, and continuity.

[See the Scripture Engagement section on Bible Gateway]

What were you hoping to accomplish in writing these narratives?

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Russ Ramsey: My objectives for the Retelling the Story Series are threefold. First, to tell the story I love more than all others—the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and what it means for us—for the edification of those who may be new to Christianity and the meaning of the empty tomb.

Second, to help “rescue truth from the jaws of familiarity” (as parable-scholar Kenneth Bailey would say) for those whose love for Scripture has perhaps grown stale.

And third, to offer a biblically-faithful narrative for individuals, families, churches, and study groups which nourishes their faith and enhances their worship of Christ.

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How would you describe these books to someone who hasn’t read them yet?

Russ Ramsey: These books are a collection of stories that thread together to tell one big story. That is what makes them distinctive. I wanted to write something that would make the chronology of the Bible clearer for people.

I make very little “direct eye contact” with the reader. These books are not devotionals. They’re not teaching books. They’re stories. And as with any good story, the lessons are contained in the narrative. I don’t know of many straight narrative books about the Bible that are aimed primarily at an adult audience. But I do know that storytelling is one of the most effective ways to deliver information in a meaningful way. Stories are a Trojan horse for getting truth inside the gates of the heart.

What do you want readers take away from these stories?

Russ Ramsey: I hope readers hide Scripture in their heart by way of the imagination; come to know and love Jesus better, or for the first time. I hope they read a beautiful, compelling, emotionally connective story that helps the Bible come to life and come back to this series on a regular basis, particularly during Advent and Lent. And I hope they’re satisfied with the literary quality of these books and keep them on their shelves for years to come.

How do you hope these books impact readers?

Russ Ramsey: I hope they

  • see lived out on the page the call they themselves have been given to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ;
  • experience the wonder of Christian theology as it unfolds in the practical, everyday lives of people trying to learn and practice what it means to follow Christ;
  • hide Scripture in their heart by way of their imaginations through the mechanism of good storytelling, thus becoming equipped to tell again the story of their faith;
  • will be encouraged as they encounter multiple stories of hopeless and struggling people finding comfort and help in the context of biblical community and the Holy Spirit’s care; and
  • grow in their biblical literacy as they learn how the familiar smaller episodes of the Bible fall into the larger, single story which begins in Genesis and runs all the way through the final chapters of Revelation.

Excerpt from The Mission of the Body of Christ, chapter two: Ascension (Acts 1:1-26)

Jesus of Nazareth’s death did not bring an end to his ministry.

Rather, his crucifixion at the hands of Pilate and the chief priests fanned into flames a movement that would reach around the world and down through time. The reason? Jesus’ death did not end with a corpse on a slab. It ended with resurrection—a real, bodily resurrection and a truly empty tomb.

Three days after Jesus was buried, he rose from the grave and appeared to his disciples. Over the course of the next forty days, the resurrected Jesus, with his nail-pierced hands and spear-split side, spent time in the company of his friends—teaching them, encouraging them, and preparing them for a mission to take the story of his resurrection to the furthest reaches of the globe.

On one of those occasions, as Jesus was eating with his friends, he told them to wait for the gift the Father had promised—the Holy Spirit Jesus had told them about. The Holy Spirit would come and comfort them and lead them forward. They were to remain in Jerusalem until this happened.

It could not have been easy for the disciples to sit with their risen Lord. For as much joy and hope as Jesus’ resurrection brought them, they had been present at his death. They had witnessed the brutal execution of this man they loved, followed, and gave their lives to serving. They saw his beaten and bloody form hang from the cross as he breathed his last. After he died, they were hollowed out with grief.

Along with their grief was the guilt. The trauma of the crucifixion had revealed weaknesses in each one of them. To a man they watched their loyalty to Jesus collapsed under the weight of the chief priests’ resolve to put an end to what he had started. Not one of them had shown the strength they believed they possessed when Jesus was taken into custody. Each one denied knowing him in his greatest hour of need.

On top of the grief and the guilt was the fact that the world as they knew it had changed. When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples, it was to remind them of their call to be his witnesses in the world. But after the resurrection, they hardly knew what that world was anymore.

They were fragile and unsettled, but they could not escape the reality that Jesus had in fact risen. And they knew they were somehow tied up in it. How could they not be? In a world where everyone dies, one man’s resurrection becomes instantly relevant to all. His resurrection was part of their story.

The disciples used that time to ask questions of Jesus. They wanted to understand what would happen next. Would he deal with the religious leaders who opposed him? Would he overthrow Rome? Would he restore the kingdom of Israel to her former glory? And if so, when? Would they be part of it?

Jesus told them the Father was establishing his kingdom, but the particulars of this business were not theirs to know. Such knowledge belonged to God alone. What he could tell them, however, was that the Holy Spirit would come on each one of them in a matter of days, and when he did, they would be filled with power.

In that power, they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. This Great Commission, the disciples came to understand, was very much about the kingdom of God. Their mission, though they struggled to grasp it, was in some way the work of building the kingdom of God. The Holy Spirit and the kingdom of God—the two main subjects Jesus discussed after his resurrection—were inseparably linked, meaning the disciples’ call to bear witness to Christ carried eternal significance.

Forty days after the resurrection the disciples were on the Mount of Olives and Jesus was with them. He told them they would be his witnesses, and after he said this, he began to rise up into the sky right before their eyes. Up he went, until a cloud hid him from their sight. The disciples stood in silence as they watched him go. In that moment the world became an even greater mystery than the one the resurrection demanded they embrace.


Bio: Russ Ramsey is the author of the Retelling the Story series, Struck: One Christian’s Reflections on Encountering Death and Behold the Lamb of God. He was awarded the 2016 Christian Book Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for his book Behold the King of Glory: A Narrative of the Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Russ is a pastor at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville and his writing has appeared at The Rabbit Room, The Gospel Coalition, The Blazing Center, and To Write Love on Her Arms. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, and four children.

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Behind the Scenes with the Philadelphia Eagles on Super Bowl Morning

Rob MaaddiBy Rob Maaddi

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.Proverbs 27:17

Eight and a half hours before kickoff for Super Bowl LII, members of the Philadelphia Eagles got ready for the biggest game of their lives with an intimate celebration of their love for Jesus Christ. About 20 players gathered in the offensive meeting room at the team hotel for a worship service organized by Carson Wentz and Trey Burton. The underdog Eagles were set to play against the defending champion New England Patriots, one victory from finally capturing that elusive Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history and bringing it home to a city starving for a National Football League title. But for the guys in that conference room and a few others on the team, their relationship with Jesus was more important than winning football games.

Wentz, the franchise quarterback who was on his way to likely winning the league’s Most Valuable Player Award in only his second season before wrecking his left knee in Week 14, and Burton, the backup tight end who later that night would become a central figure in one of the greatest plays in sports history, had planned similar worship services over the past two seasons. Whenever the Eagles had free time on a Sunday morning because they were playing a game in late afternoon or at night, players held “church” at their hotel. It didn’t matter if they were playing against the woeful Cleveland Browns in September or trying to prevent the Patriots from winning their sixth ring. Getting together to praise God was the top priority for these brothers in Christ. The stakes just happened to be much higher on this frigid Sunday morning in Minnesota.

“Given the obvious fact that we’re not in church on Sundays, we’re always looking for ways to implement that,” Wentz told me a week after we did a faith event together at a Christian high school in New Jersey. I first asked him about Super Bowl morning on the limo ride home following that event. He didn’t think it was extraordinary because it was something the team always did together. I insisted it was pretty special, so he was happy to share some details.

“We would always have chapel the night before, but some guys wouldn’t always make it,” he continued. “It’s tough when you’re on the road and you have plans if you’re going out to dinner. So it’s really cool to have our own form of church service for anyone who could make it. It’s just normal for us. That was just what we did and what we knew.”

Community worship was part of the daily fabric of this team, similar to studying the playbook, watching film, working out, and practicing. On Monday nights, players gathered with their significant others for Bible study at a teammate’s house. On Thursday nights, they had Bible study for players at the practice facility with the team chaplain, Pastor Ted Winsley. On nights before games, they had a chapel service at the team hotel followed by prayer and fellowship in their rooms. Sometimes they had a guest speaker or musician. Before a Thursday night game against the Carolina Panthers in Week 6, Mack Brock, former lead singer for Elevation Worship, joined the players at the team hotel and led them in worship.

At the Super Bowl Sunday service, they spent the first 30-to-40 minutes watching videos of some of their favorite worship songs on the same projector screen used to watch game film during the week. Guys lifted their hands to the Lord, sang along to the powerful music, and focused their minds and hearts on what mattered most: serving their Savior, no matter what the outcome of the game.

Pastor Kyle Horner, founder of The Connect Church in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, followed with a 15-minute message of encouragement, reminding the players who God created them to be and how they could give him glory. Horner, a former college quarterback at Tennessee and Richmond, has a strong relationship with several players who go to his church.

Birds of Pray: The Story of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Faith, Brotherhood, and Super Bowl Victory“They just love Jesus and this is what they do,” Horner told me a few months later. “They’re not using Jesus as a crutch. They’re not coming just to get their religious fix on a Super Bowl morning. This is who they want to be, and they want to pray for their brothers and do this thing together. The power in it is them treating the Super Bowl just like any other game. They’re not trying to get God on their side. They’re not trying to do something to make God happy with them. Keeping God in the center of it all is who they are. That’s what enabled them to play the way they played.”

After Horner spoke, players broke into groups of two or three instead of their usual large prayer circle. They laid hands on and prayed over each other.

“I remember that being pretty cool that we got in small groups and prayed with and for each other out loud,” Wentz said. “It keeps God in the middle of it and strengthens the community as well where we’re not sitting there in church, listening, and leaving. We’re doing this together. We’re brothers in Christ, and that’s bigger than each of us.”

Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, starting left guard Stefen Wisniewski, injured special teams captain Chris Maragos, injured star linebacker Jordan Hicks, and reserve wide receiver Marcus Johnson were among the players in the room that morning. Nick Foles couldn’t be there because he was in a meeting going over the final preparations for the game.

“Brothers in Christ, no matter what’s going on in your life, you have Jesus and you have each other, and that’s never gonna change,” Wisniewski had told me a few days before the game, when anticipation was running high. “God is with us no matter what, and if that’s real to you because you’re spending time with God every day, if that’s real to you because you’re spending time with your brothers in Christ, then no matter what you’re going through, you can still have joy, you can still have peace, and you can be more than a conqueror of any of your circumstances. That definitely helped this team and all the Christians on this team to persevere.”

Players were certainly excited to play against New England in the Super Bowl. To a man, every guy wanted to win, to take down Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the Patriots dynasty. Every kid dreams about winning a Super Bowl from the minute they step foot on a Pee Wee league field. These were big-time competitors playing on the grandest stage. They understood the significance of the game. But winning or losing the Super Bowl wasn’t going to define this group of men on the Philadelphia Eagles. Their identity wasn’t rooted in their accomplishments; it was found in Christ.

“Worshiping God is not what they do, it’s who they are, and that’s the difference between religion and what these guys have, and that’s a relationship with Jesus,” Horner said. “Who they are is building a lifestyle of worship for God whether on the field or off the field. I recognize in sports everybody has their own pregame ritual. For these guys, this service was more than that. It wasn’t just a pregame ritual. This was an intentional act of love, devotion, and choosing God first. When you’re talking about being on that platform, that level, the biggest platform ever, a billion people watching this game, it would’ve been easy for guys to skip it because they had chapel the night before. But for them, it was Sunday morning. This is who they are. This is what made the Eagles special.”

________

Birds of Pray: The Story of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Faith, Brotherhood, and Super Bowl VictoryTaken from Birds of Pray: The Story of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Faith, Brotherhood, and Super Bowl Victory by Rob Maaddi. Foreword by Carson Wentz. Click here to learn more about this title.

They were the first No. 1 seed in NFL history to enter the playoffs as an underdog. Their star quarterback was out with a season-ending knee injury. Five-time Super Bowl champions the New England Patriots towered over them. But public opinion didn’t matter to the Philadelphia Eagles. They believed in each other. The band of Christian brothers on the team believed in the God of the impossible, and they played for an audience of One.

The most extensive book to explore the Christian faith shared by many of the team’s players, Birds of Pray details the incredible inside story behind the Eagles’ capture of the biggest prize in professional sports: the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Through exclusive interviews with the players, never-before-seen photos, and insider accounts of the miracle season’s most memorable moments, Philly native and Associated Press sportswriter Rob Maaddi reveals a side of the team the world has yet to fully witness.

From an impromptu baptism in the team’s cold tub to weekly Bible studies and pre-game prayers, to the unique friendship between star quarterback Carson Wentz and back-up-then-MVP Nick Foles, the Eagles excel in the unexpected. Birds of Pray follows the deep faith shared among players, the high stakes they faced together, and their relentless reliance on Christ who gives all strength in moments of crisis and celebration alike. The result is a boldly inspiring, entertaining read that will challenge you to go deeper in your faith, dream bigger, and live with renewed courage for whatever odds life stacks against you. Learn more at BirdsOfPrayBook.com.

Rob Maaddi is an author, radio and television personality and dynamic speaker who has covered Philadelphia sports for The Associated Press since 2000. A passionate Christian devoted to spreading the Gospel, Rob launched “Faith On The Field Show” on Philadelphia’s 610 ESPN radio in April 2017. Rob has written or co-written seven other books. Rob and his wife, Remy, have twin daughters: Alexia and Melina.

How to Live the Bible — The Indwelling Word

howtostudythebible

This is the thirty-fifth 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.

Available now: Prayers for Our Lives: 95 Lifelines to God for Everyday Circumstances by Mel Lawrenz.


I love being around people who have so deeply taken the word of God into their lives that it has shaped the very way they think, their overall attitude toward life, their reactions to minor and major events, even their temperament. This is the fruit, developed by the Holy Spirit, of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are the signs that the word of God has truly gotten lodged into the deepest part of who we are–into the heart–where opinions are formed and motives are birthed, where emotions are sparked and decisions are set.

Man Praying with Bible illustration

These are not people who look to impress others by quoting Scripture all the time, or who feel obligated to slap a verse on every event of life. They so respect Scripture that they avoid twisting it to suit their purposes. The Bible is never a weapon in their hands, and not merely a tool. It is more than an encyclopedia of spiritual knowledge. It is the voice of God–sometimes a whisper, sometimes a shout–but always a revelation of God’s own pure character. It is thus the wisdom of God, the power of God, the love of God, the light of God, the truth of God. They read the Bible because they long to know God and to have a God-filled life.

But how does the word of God get firmly planted in us?

Whenever I have run across Colossians 3:16, which says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” it has always challenged and enthused and comforted me. “Dwell in you richly.” Of course that’s what God wants! I’m not a computer hard drive whose purpose it is to collect more and more data. I’m not a student hoping against hope to get all the answers right on the final exam. I’m a member of God’s household, and I get to learn with my brothers and sisters what God’s word through the prophets and the apostles is, and to ask God to make that word go down deeply and effectively, down to a place where it won’t get blown away by the winds of today’s concerns. I can ask God to make it take root there, so it will dwell there, and nobody can take it away. And it will not lie dormant. It will, like well-planted seed, sprout and grow, and then put down roots, and finally be ready for harvesting and digesting. We take it in as seed, but it becomes a nourishing feast.

The way I look at people who have had a pattern of Scripture digestion over the years is that the word which they consume faithfully is transformed into the spiritual muscle tissue of their lives. The word of God actually becomes part of who they are.

These people do not view Scripture as a collection of magical sayings which work wonders when voiced, but they consistently act out of the truth of Scripture. Their reactions to people around them are governed by grace because they have a graduate degree in grace, as it were (in learning and in experience). They react with truth because their consciences have been trained and shaped to stay within the bounds of honest, authentic reality. Their instincts, which are as naturally fallen as any of us, have been retrained. They don’t even think: “what is the biblical thing to do or say?” because biblical ethics and ethos have become essential to who they are. It is what is promised in the new covenant when God said, “I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33).

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LEARN HOW to use this resource for your ministry here by Mel Lawrenz.

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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.

What Are the Longest and Shortest Books of the Bible?

As a way of sharing our excitement over our 25th anniversary, Bible Gateway is producing various lists and Infographics featuring 25 items in different categories found in the Bible. Here we highlight our Infographic “25 Extremes in the Bible” by calling out extreme lengths of Bible books. (Be sure to tell us what Bible Gateway means to you by visiting our MyBibleGateway page.)

The longest book in the Old Testament when measuring by chapters is the book of Psalms with 150 chapters and 2,461 verses. But when measuring by Hebrew word count, the longest book in the Old Testament is Jeremiah with approximately 33,000 words in the original language.

The book of Psalms is a collection of 150 individual ancient Hebrew songs and prayers. As the NIV Quest Study Bible says, psalms give voice to personal feelings; they are poetry, not doctrinal essays. The psalmists frequently were interested in how something felt more than what it meant. Think of the psalms as entries in a diary; they reflect people’s most intimate encounters with God. Watch for figures of speech, exaggerations, and repetitions. Poetic language requires that you read with your heart as well as your mind. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says the various psalms help us see that God responds to us in our emotional highs and lows.

The prophet Jeremiah saw Israel morally disintegrating and being destroyed militarily by enemies. He saw Babylon attack Jerusalem in 586 BC and many of its people exiled to foreign lands. According to the NIV Quest Study Bible Jeremiah’s grim prophecies, in both poetry and prose, continually warned Judah about God’s approaching judgment because of the people’s constant, willful disobedience. Yet intermingled with all the dark messages were words of hope about Judah’s future redemption. Watch for Jeremiah’s encouragement—prophecies that are still being fulfilled today whenever sinful hearts are transformed by God.

The shortest book in the Old Testament is Obadiah with only 21 verses and 670 words.

The book of Obadiah harkens back to the feud that began with twin brothers, Jacob and Esau in the book of Genesis. Esau, the older by minutes, would have inherited family leadership, but in a moment of hunger he traded it for a meal and Jacob went on to become the founding father of the nation of Israel. Esau founded the nation of Edom. Their descendants continued the quarrel over hundreds of years. The final straw came when Babylon dismembered Jerusalem and took its citizens into exile. The Edomites egged on the conquering army, preyed on fleeing Israelites, and helped plunder Jerusalem. Obadiah predicts that downtrodden Israel will rise again, while Edom will disappear from the face of the earth. This prediction came true. The NIV Student Bible Notes asks, why does this blood feud earn a place in Scripture? It demonstrates God’s ongoing protection of his people from their enemies. It also shows that God’s standards extend beyond his chosen people. Every nation will be judged, like Edom, by its own standard

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, On 25th Anniversary, Bible Gateway Has Been Viewed More Than 14 Billion Times]

Get Bible Gateway's 25 Extremes in the Bible Infographic

The longest book in the New Testament is the Gospel of Luke with 1,151 verses.

The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the Messiah and Lord whose life, death and resurrection make salvation available to all people everywhere. According to the NIV Study Bible, Luke’s writing is characterized by literary excellence, historical detail and warm, sensitive understanding of Jesus and those around him. Luke’s themes include: recognition of Gentiles as well as Jews in God’s plan; emphasis on prayer, especially Jesus’ praying before important occasions; joy at the announcement of the gospel or “good news”; special concern for the role of women; special interest in the poor and in issues of social justice; concern for sinners; stress on the family circle; emphasis on the Holy Spirit; inclusion of more parables than any other Gospel; and emphasis on praising God.

The shortest book in the New Testament is 2 John with only 13 verses and 298 words.

The Letter of 2 John will keep you on target spiritually and challenge you to be certain about what you believe and how you live. The NIV Quest Study Bible says the apostle John wrote this personal note to Christians who may have felt pressured by false teachers. He wrote it perhaps to accompany his more general letter of 1 John. He hoped it would help renew commitment to the truth by further exposing the false teachers and he wanted to encourage them to remain faithful until he could see them in person.

Get Bible Gateway's 25 Extremes in the Bible Infographic

In keeping with its 25th anniversary, Bible Gateway has designed an Infographic of 25 extremes in the Bible for your entertainment and education (some content taken from Meredith’s Complete Book of Bible Lists: A One-of-a-Kind Collection of Bible Facts (Baker Books, 2008).

Sign up now to receive Bible Gateway’s free exclusive 25 Extremes in the Bible Infographic.


The most popular verses in the longest and shortest books as searched for by people using Bible Gateway:

Psalm 91:11 – For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Obadiah 1:3 – The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’

Luke 1:37 – For no word from God will ever fail.

Luke 2:11 – Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

2 Peter 1:3 – His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.


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What is the Bible?: An Interview with Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill

Ryan M. ReevesWhat is the history of the Bible from its beginnings to the present day? How was the Bible written and its various books chosen? How reliable is it? How were the Old Testament and New Testament formed?

Bible Gateway interviewed Ryan M. Reeves (@RyanMReeves) and Charles Hill about their book, Know How We Got Our Bible (Zondervan, 2018).

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

Charles Hill

What is the Bible?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: Two answers come to mind. First, the Bible is the Word of God, written or collected by those called by God. The Jewish Scriptures are the foundation of the Bible from the old covenant with Israel, covering the 39 books from Genesis to Malachi. Next are the 27 books of the New Testament, written after the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. These 66 books comprise the Bible.

Another way to think of this question is to think about how we have our personal Bibles; often a leather-bound edition. These Bibles are technical marvels if we compare them to most of church history. Centuries ago Bibles were copied by hand and had to be bound into multiple volumes. The fact that we can hold the entire Bible in our hands today is something Christians throughout most of history could never experience. More importantly, the fact that we have several translations available to us in English means we have a rich legacy of biblical translation that has given us our Bible today.

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What is the difference between the Old Testament and New Testament?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: One can look at several differences. For one, the Old Testament is far longer than the New Testament, but it also covers an incredible amount of time, while the New Testament is recorded within a relative short time during the life of the apostles. The earliest writer of the Old Testament was Moses and the last writer finished shortly after Israel returned from the Babylonian exile. That covers roughly 1,000 years.

The subject of Old and New Testament is the same, though they each describe different phases in God’s redemption. The Old describes God calling Israel and establishing the foundation of the covenant. With the coming of Christ, the framework of God’s plan remained the same (covenant, sacrifice) but now God himself came in the person of Christ and fulfilled some of the old covenant.

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How do Catholic and Orthodox Bibles differ from Protestant Bibles?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: In many ways, they’re the same. For example, all three branches of Christianity share the 66 books. They also take great care to consider the sources used as copies of modern Bibles, though the Eastern version is largely based on the Septuagint, Catholic Bibles in Latin on the Vulgate. Protestant Bibles largely are based on the oldest copies possible of Greek and Hebrew.

The main difference between these Bibles is the inclusion of the Apocrypha in the Orthodox and Catholic versions. As we discuss in our book, these texts came to be used by Christians largely because they were often included alongside the Old Testament in the Septuagint. Over time, Christians came to assume these were inspired books, simply because they were read and cited by other Christians. They were books that discussed the Jewish story between Old and New Testament, so even Protestant confessions affirmed they were useful to read for Christians, though they were not even by Jews considered canonical, so Protestant Bibles eventually removed them.

How and when did the Old Testament come to be?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: This question calls for much longer answers, and that’s why we wrote Know How We Got Our Bible! You can speak of the Old Testament coming into existence in at least two ways. Because it’s God’s word, you can say that in terms of its intrinsic authority the Old Testament came into existence whenever its last book was finished. This would be probably sometime not long before 400 BC. But this does not mean that God’s people did not have his word in Scripture before then. All the way along, at least from the time of Moses, the nation Israel had some portion of God’s covenantal word in written form, given through prophets, poets, and historians.

You can also ask from the historical angle, when can we tell that the books of the Old Testament were received by God’s people as authoritative Scripture? The answer here may be the same as the earlier one (that is, as soon as the books were given). But our historical records are very imperfect and even after we know that a book was accepted, debates about it could arise. At least by 140 BC, Jews had recognized the tripartite structure of the Scriptures: Law, Prophets, and Writings. Near the end of the first century AD the Jewish historian Josephus regarded the books of Scripture to be long accepted. But most importantly, Jesus and the New Testament writers use Scripture authoritatively and assume that its contents are already well known.

How and when did the New Testament come into existence?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: It’s pretty amazing to think that some of our New Testament were written within about 20 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection. These would be the first letters of the apostle Paul and probably also the letter of James the Lord’s brother. In the next several decades the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, letters of James, Peter, John, and Jude, and the book of Revelation would be published. The last to appear were probably John’s Gospel, letters, and the book of Revelation, most likely written in the 90s.

Again, according to its intrinsic authority as God’s new covenant word to his people, the New Testament can be said to have existed when the last of its books was put into circulation. But even by the end of the first century AD the church had spread over the Roman Empire, bringing the good news of Jesus into many subcultures. It would be some time before history can show that all the books were both known and accepted by the great majority of those who called themselves Christians. But all of the books of our New Testament seem to have been accepted by at least some churches from the time they were written. And by the end of the second century most of the books, including the four Gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul, at least some of the other letters, and the book of Revelation, had been received as Scripture virtually everywhere the church was.

Why are there so many English translations of the Bible?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: Because we’re blessed to have a long heritage of biblical scholarship! Of course, it could be easy to be cynical about the number of translations we have. But we don’t want to give the impression that new Bibles are the result of eager publishers hoping to make money. But this is actually the story of the Bible in English. Already by the time of the King James Bible in 1611, there were at least 6 full translations into English over three generations (more if you go back to the Wycliffe Bibles of the middle ages). The proliferation of new translations in the modern world are part of that same legacy.

In other words, we want to not focus first on the translation debates about our Bibles. Many languages in the world do not have Bibles in their native language, so the fact that we have so many (and can compare translations) is a blessing, even if it leads to debate.

Two other factors increased the number of modern translations. First, with the discovery of older copies of the Bible (especially the New Testament) new translations in the 20th century began with the need to correct the Greek basis for earlier Protestant versions. Second, as Bible societies and missionaries began to raise awareness of biblical illiteracy, publishers began to work at simplifying translations, and recently created paraphrase editions. Today, many of the versions we assume to be radically different are in fact different tiers of the same family of Bibles.

Since it’s such an ancient book, on what basis should the Bible be considered trustworthy and authoritative for modern living?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: Not by any work of translators and not by any judgment of scholars. The reason to trust the Bible is because it is God’s Word.

How should a person select a Bible from the multiple editions available?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: This question can seem like a hard one, but we think the first place to start is likely your experience with the Bible. Were you raised in a church but feel like you only know fragments of the Bible and now want to study it? Or do you have no experience with the Bible and just want to begin from the ground up.

The answer is not necessarily different based on your answer, but it may influence which version you buy. There are several translations that focus on carrying the original language into English idioms and phrases that make sense in our language (even if they are not entirely word-for-word the same in the Greek or Hebrew). The New Living Translation, the NIV, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible all attempt this without aggressively changing the words. As always, the judgment of when not to translate literally relies on the translation team, but the English is often simple and clear.

Other translations that we recommend attempt to keep the wording as close as possible (even if it doesn’t always sound like conversational English). The King James Bible has been the most read in English history, but it’s locked away in older English that frankly can confuse. It is also based on texts that are not as accurate as other modern editions. The ESV, NRSV, or NASB fit this category.

In the end, no translation will ever be perfect. The translators always make judgment calls and the English language (like any language) is fluid and capable of miscommunication. The best approach is always to look for a good translation, then when reading it, you’ll find it helpful to look up other versions to see where the language differs. For example, a word-for-word Bible will say that Israelites “beat their breast” whereas a dynamic equivalent one may say they were “deep with sorrow.” Knowing this shade of meaning opens up good questions. So use all the tools at your disposal!

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Ryan M. Reeves: The story of Jesus calming the storm. So vivid and yet so important for understanding Jesus as Lord.

Charles Hill: The story of Joseph and his brothers in Genesis. Besides illustrating God’s mysterious providence, it is full of real human drama, pathos, and forgiveness.

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

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: For most of church history, lay Christians only heard the Bible read aloud. In fact, most lay Christians were illiterate before the rise of modern schools. Any app that reads the Bible aloud is a good thing. Sometimes we can focus more by listening, say if our eyes are tired. Some of us have a lot of time in the car, too.

For other apps that give us access to the Bible (online or by app) these too are good parts of our legacy. Bible societies in the 1800s broke the high prices charged for Bibles, making them either cheap or free for Christians. Any access to the Bible is an opportunity to read and hear from God’s Word.

The only caution we would add is not about technology but about using our Bibles. As with many things, when people have constant access to something they take it for granted. This is true of printed Bibles. We may own five translations, but this does not mean we’re reading our Bibles. For many lay Christians, they have the Bible at their fingertips but read it in smaller portions at a time. Notice how many plans exist today to read the Bible in a year.

So access to the Bible is wonderful as it may lead to other ways for Christians to hear from the Word. But the point is always to find it a joyful thing to read or listen to the Bible.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill: The Bible is an extraordinary journey of study and exploration. We hope this inspires you to want to learn more!


Know How We Got Our Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.


Bio: Ryan M. Reeves (PhD, Cambridge University) is associate professor of historical theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and dean of the seminary’s Jacksonville campus. Also a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary,
Reeves has written English Evangelicals and Tudor Obedience and cowritten Know How We Got Our Bible and The Story of Creeds and Councils. He hosts the Historical Theology for Everyone blog at The Gospel Coalition.

Charles E. Hill (PhD, Cambridge University) is John R. Richardson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and author of several books, including Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy and Know How We Got Our Bible.

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The Amplified® Bible Translation Available for First Time in Paragraph-Style Reading Edition

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In-Text Word Enhancements Help Readers Grasp the Full Meaning of a Passage

The Amplified® translation was created to deliver enhanced understanding of the rich nuances and shades of meaning of the original Bible languages. For this kind of study, no working knowledge of Greek or Hebrew is required—just a desire to know more about what God says in his Word.

[Read the Amplified Bible translation on Bible Gateway]

In the new Amplified® Reading Bible (Zondervan, 2018), readers can enjoy a smoother reading experience with the only Amplified® Bible in a single-column, paragraph format.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Amplified Bible Translation: Available for the First Time as a Full-Featured Study Edition]

The paragraph-style format and clean design allow readers to better grasp the themes in Scripture as their eyes follow a more natural reading pattern.

Amplified Reading Bible Sample by Bible Gateway on Scribd

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, New Edition of Amplified Bible Now on Bible Gateway]

Features include:

  • A unique system of punctuation, italics, references, and synonyms to unlock subtle shades of meaning as found in the original languages
  • Introductory pages that explain the powerful study features in the translation, making the Bible easy to use
  • Presentation page for gift-giving

[Browse print Amplified Bibles in the Bible Gateway Store]

Compare the Amplified Bible with the New International Version (NIV) and Common English Bible (CEB) Bible translations on Bible Gateway


The Amplified Reading Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.


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Bible News Roundup – Week of August 12, 2018

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Billy Graham Drew Less from Old Testament as Years Went By, New Exhibit Shows
RNS
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Bible Verse Sign Ministry Going Strong After 26 Years
The Topeka Capital-Journal

Creator of ‘The Bible’ Facebook Page Quits Social Media
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Bible Society of Kenya Has Launched a Revised Version of the Bible for Maa Speaking People
The Standard Digital
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20 Years in the Making, Pukapukan Bible Translation Almost Done
Cook Island News

Hong Kong: Cultural Melting Pot and Bible Distribution Point
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JAARS Celebrating 70 Years of Service
JAARS

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Revolutionize Your Bible Study by Tracing Themes Through Scripture

Study biblical themes with this free website resourceIf you’re exasperated with Bible studies that haphazardly pick arbitrary passages to draw vague applications for your life, Zondervan’s new free Bible study Trace the Themes is exactly what you’re waiting for.

[Sign up for the Dwelling in God’s Presence free email 5-day devotional from Bible Gateway]

Zondervan wants to show you how unpacking biblical themes as they appear throughout Scripture can enrich your devotional life, so it’s making this video and print resource available free of cost.

Trace the Themes is a six-session Bible study that connects the dots of six themes as they unfold through the Bible:

  • The Word of God
  • The Presence of God
  • The People of God
  • Redemption
  • Holiness and
  • Mission.

These video and print studies are perfectly suited for a six-week small group study. They’re also perfect for your own individual use or family devotions.

Spence Shelton is both the author of these studies and the person who guides the videos. He’s lead pastor of Mercy Church in Charlotte, NC. Spence is a small group expert—he served as Small Groups Pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham under J. D. Greear and has authored numerous books and study guides on small group ministries including The Meaning of Marriage, a small group study with Tim & Kathy Keller.

Buy your copy of the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayTrace the Themes includes a free, downloadable 36-page study guide as well as free video introductions on each of the six themes. The content is adapted from the new NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible (Zondervan, 2018). Like the study guide, this new Bible is geared toward students of the Word who desire to know God more deeply by following his redemptive plan as it’s revealed in Scripture.

[COMING SOON: Be watching to sign up for the new free email 5-day devotional Dwelling in God’s Presence with insights drawn from the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible]

Simply visit TraceTheThemes.com to download your free Bible study and watch the first video.

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How to Live Victoriously: An Interview with Kelly Balarie

Kelly BalarieWhen challenges, troubles, or opportunities enter your life, are you burdened with limiting thoughts of self-doubt, fear, and impossibility? How can you train your mind to biblically conquer uncertainty, beat insecurity, and step past the tragedies of yesterday?

Bible Gateway interviewed Kelly Balarie (@kellybalarie) about her book, Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt, and Live Victoriously (Baker Books, 2018).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Overcome Your Fears: An Interview with Kelly Balarie]

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Why did you write Battle Ready?

Kelly Balarie: For a large part of my life, I wished my life away. I’d go through one issue, get to the other side, then decide, here, I can finally be happy. The reality is, while I’d never admit it, I subconsciously believed—on the other side of my issue—was real happiness. When God really provides for me, then, life will be good.

What a lie. Trials kept coming. I experienced things like depression, financial debt, relational problems, housing issues, and health concerns. Just as I got through one issue, another would hit. God kept “doing it to me.” God, where are you? God, what happened? God, what am I doing wrong? Why are you doing this to me?

After experiencing so much tiredness and weariness from battle, I finally got to the point where I proclaimed, If Jesus died for me to have life, shouldn’t I really have life? If I’m a new creation, shouldn’t I be beyond my old ways? If God is good, won’t he really help me?

I knew it was time to transform my thoughts—my outlooks, attitudes, and beliefs—so Jesus could get access to transform my life.

Battle Ready is a 12-step field manual to help us seize the mind of Christ. Included are practical how-tos, biblical tips, habit-changing wisdom, and personal life-story explorations to help people like me to move from doubt, despair, and dejection to new faith.

We really can experience the fullness of transformation that Jesus talks about. I’m an example. Although, I’m not perfect by any means, I do have greater faith, confidence, and strength. Even today I’m in the heat of a battle, but I feel full of joy.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:12 NKJV).

You mention we can proactively get ahead of battles rather than reacting emotionally charged throughout them. How, when you feel hopeless?

Kelly Balarie: Hopelessness is really difficult. I’ve been there. I remember sitting in a medical office with the deep fears that, before long, I wouldn’t be able to walk anymore. I remember being so focused on my issue, I could hardly see the world around me anymore. The struggle is real. Real hard. The emotions can feel unbearable.

Yet, power for me has come in recognizing what feelings are. They’re like passing waves. One moment, they’re huge. They might clobber you. The next, they’re small. You’ve ridden them out. We truly can let the waves of feelings ride out in a way that they don’t rule us. How? We give them a couple of days to run their course without acting on them. We acknowledge them, but don’t immediately act on them. We run ahead of them, so as not to be weighed down by their burdens. We bring them to the cross to get Jesus’ outlook on what we face. These things all help us become proactive rather than reactive.

To proactively get ahead of your problem is to not allow your emotions to get bigger than your God. We can make our emotions bow down under:

  1. the truth of God’s Word
  2. his promises
  3. his wisdom that trumps our assumptions.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Heb. 12:1 NIV).

What is a buffet mindset? You mention it can change our lives tremendously. How?

Kelly Balarie: My son, like any kid, loves a good treat. Yet, he’s not the best sharer. If you try to take a little bite of his sundae he’ll scoot his plate away from you. Don’t mess with my son’s food. With the little bit of sweets we give him, he keeps stuff to himself.

One day, we brought him to a buffet at a hotel. The spread was gigantic and I told him, “Son, get whatever you want. You can hit the buffet multiple times.”

An amazing thing happened. He stopped hoarding the food! He stopped keeping it to himself. He said, “Mommy, have some; you have to try this. His smile was huge.”

Likewise, when we believe God has enough resources—enough time, money, talent, and goodness for us—our whole outlook changes. We love others more. We give more. We receive God’s goodness, teachings, and help more easily.

God has a buffet of love set before us. He doesn’t hold back his love, guidance, or care. He’ll be faithful to abundantly equip us no matter what we face. We can choose to see the fullness of God, rather than lack and insecurity. “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

You’ve learned to take a mind vacation. What is it and how do we do it?

Kelly Balarie: Have you ever found it hard to relax on vacation? This usually happens when we first arrive to a new location. It takes about three days to settle in, to let go of our worries, and to get a new view of our surroundings. Likewise, when we’re in the heat of an issue, we can’t see clearly. Our minds are usually clouded due to heated emotions, bitterness, and frustration.

Just as a vacation gives us space from our world, we need to gain space from our problems. Only with ample space do we create room for God to show us his truth, wisdom, and perspective. Only when we remove the self-condemning words, self-judgment, and frustration at our actions do we begin to see things clearly.

A mind-vacation allows us to hear the words Jesus might want to say to us if he were with us. We gain clarity about what to repent of and we also gain perspective on how to move forward. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus….” (Rom. 8:1 NIV).

Explain the connection between the mini-mind and the mind. How does this change how we approach trials or hard circumstances?

Kelly Balarie: Indeed, we must mind our mind. This means we must think about what we’re thinking about. Yet, beyond this, we must also mind our mini-mind: our heart.

You can begin to mind-your-heart by asking yourself questions like these:

  1. What’s the heart-motivation behind this action?
  2. What pain of the past may be driving me to react this way?
  3. Do I need to forgive anyone today (including myself)?

Our heart drives our thoughts, which, in turn, impacts the actions played out in our life. We must become closely aware of our mini-mind happenings. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23 NIV).

How do we exchange our “always have” responses for “now can” redirects?

Kelly Balarie: What is it you’ve always done, but no longer want to do? Deeply consider it. Write out a new approach. Think through what the fruit will be, what success will look like, and what might transpire after you’ve seen it through. Write this down as well. There’s a longer, more detailed plan in the book, but this is a great way to get started.

What are some of the insecurities you’ve faced? Why does being spirit-filled make a difference?

Kelly Balarie: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17 NIV). Anything done apart from the spirit leads to death. Anything done full of the spirit brings us to life, liberty, freedom, and love. I’ve learned to think-past my feelings, my lack of abilities, and the many ways “I can’t do stuff.” To think past these things is to submit my thoughts to the Spirit and to be ruled by the mind of Christ. It’s to pray. It’s to seek. It’s to want God more than anything else. It’s to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

What advice can you offer the woman who feels lost, abandoned by God, or overwhelmed because she’s enduring one pain after another?

Kelly Balarie: What is coming against you, God will use for you. Look for the goodness of God in the land of your living. Those who seek God, find him. Those who call, are answered. God is near to the brokenhearted. Do not dismay. Jesus is conqueror, restorer, and rescuer. He came to die for you. With this, how much more won’t he do for you, as you trust him?

How can life-long engrained habits be changed?

Kelly Balarie: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). While there’s a whole plan for changing habits in Battle Ready, I think I’d do you harm without first stating: all change comes from God and is gifted from God. It’s not ours to work up. The first step of change is surrender and prayer. Start here. Ask God. He still gives out good gifts.

What’s the most important takeaway from reading Battle Ready?

Kelly Balarie: The immensity of God always trumps the intensity of problems. This breeds fresh faith, trust, confidence, and life. This truth changes lives when applied. I’m seeing this in-action. Readers of Battle Ready are being transformed. People are putting on work-out shoes, changing habits, renewing their mind, approaching problems differently. They’re seeing more and more from God’s point of view rather than their earthly one. I praise God for this.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Kelly Balarie: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13 NKJV).

Jesus gives strength.
I do things.
I get more strength.
I keep doing things.
I get more strength.
I can do all things.
The strength he wants to give me never ceases.
Love keeps going out.

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

Kelly Balarie: Drink it like you drink water. Come to the fountain morning, day, and night. Let the Living Water change your heart, mind, and soul, so that you love God with all your strength. The Bible Gateway App will change your life if you let it.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Kelly Balarie: Customize your own daily battle plan for free at www.iambattleready.com. There you can also take the Battle Ready-Style quiz to help you identify the specific ways to fight the enemy and to stay close to God.

Bio: Kelly Balarie, author of Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt, and Live Victoriously and Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, is a passionate national speaker who has spent nearly ten years leading groups of women in spiritual growth, marriage building, and general Bible studies across the nation. She has lived her subject matter. Her faith was built as she battled through a debilitating eating disorder, depression, multiple sclerosis testing and concerns, company failures, family deaths, job losses, and times without income or money. Throughout difficult circumstances, Kelly has looked past the pain to uncover the beauty of God’s always-developing purposes for her life. Her greatest desire is to share this treasured beauty with other women who need a fresh drink of God’s grace and restoration. Kelly is a featured blogger at Crosswalk.com and iBelieve.com. Her work has been featured on Relevant, (in)courage.me, and was also the cover story on Today’s Christian Woman. She lives with her husband and two toddlers near the sun-soaked shores of the East Coast. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith.


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How to Live The Bible — Meditating on the Word of God

howtostudythebible

This is the thirty-fourth 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.

Available now: Prayers for Our Lives: 95 Lifelines to God for Everyday Circumstances by Mel Lawrenz.


“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

This passage says that there are a variety of ways the word of Christ goes deep enough to dwell. Teaching is paramount, so we need to keep searching like eagles for teachers, authors, and Bible study leaders who explain and apply the word faithfully. “Admonishing with wisdom” suggests a flow of quality conversation among believers about what they are learning from God. “Singing” praise is another powerful way the word of God is carried deeply into our hearts. Singing “with gratitude in [our] hearts to God” is a way that the crusty and hardened exterior of our lives gets cracked open, and seeds drop deeply in, and they begin to live and grow.

Here is the connection between Bible study and worship. Why sing? So the word will dwell richly. Why a variety of sounds (psalms, hymns, spiritual songs)? So the word will knock on every door of our hearts that is the least bit cracked open. Why teach? So that the word will be clearly explained and powerfully applied. Worship is not the span between the start and the end of singing, but this great and varied advance of the word of God on our souls. God takes up as many fronts as he needs to so that we will stop and listen.

Man Praying illustration

And then there is meditation—a method of reading Scripture in such a way that it has a chance to get planted. Meditation is a word the Bible uses to describe a way of holding and pondering God’s truth so that it sinks in. It is wise, pensive concentration.

At the edge of the promised land, Joshua told the people they were going to need real spiritual muscle. Wars lay ahead. Three times at the Jordan River he said: “be strong and courageous,” and then: “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8).

The Psalms speak about meditating on the word of God, and continuing that meditation through every pulse of life. Psalm 119 describes a committed discipline of taking the word in:

  • “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways” (vs. 15).
  • “Though rulers sit together and slander me, your servant will meditate on your decrees” (vs. 23).
  • “Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders” (vs. 27).
  • “I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees” (vs. 48).
  • “May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause; but I will meditate on your precepts” (vs. 78).
  • “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (vs. 97).
  • “I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes” (vs. 99).
  • “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises” (vs. 148).

Okay, now, be honest. Did you just skim over those verses, or did you ponder them? If you’re like me, then you will find yourself occasionally reading over quotations of Scripture instead of reading through them. How hurried we can be!

That’s what Christian meditation is all about—turning hurry into rumination. Slowing from a run into a walk. Tasting and digesting instead of devouring. It’s the only way to build spiritual muscle for the good times and the tough times.

_______________

Prayers for Our Lives: 95 Lifelines to God for Everyday Circumstances by Mel Lawrenz.

________________

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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.