Skip to content

Most Recent Blog Posts

Finding the Unseen Beauty of a Hidden Life in God: An Interview with Sara Hagerty

Sara HagertyHow does the Bible story of Mary of Bethany equip you to use “unseen” moments to draw your heart closer to God?

In this Q&A, Sara Hagerty (@SaraHagerty) talks about her book, Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed (Zondervan, 2017).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Meeting with God in the Airport by Sara Hagerty]

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

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bitter Becomes Sweet: An Interview with Sara Hagerty]

How did “hitting a wall” in ministry affect you? What happened specifically?

Sara Hagerty: Lives around me were changing for Jesus but my life was stagnant. My passion for ministry ebbed and a vague emptiness took its place. I’d have dinner with a teenager who’d just asked Jesus into her heart and find myself mindlessly repeating answers I’d said for years. I knew how to share about God’s love with others, but I no longer felt like I was living in it myself. There was a voice in my head that wondered, Am I just saying these things about God, or do I really believe them? So, I’d come home and check in on my heart, carving out space to sit with God and ask that question out loud. Except when I got there, that space and time alone with him felt awkward—like I was supposed to share the kinds of things you mostly only say in hushed tones to a close friend, but instead this was a conversation with a distant acquaintance. I didn’t quite know how or where to start. More than 30 minutes with my Bible open but without a Bible study to plan, and I didn’t know who I was supposed to be. I wasn’t sure who God was, either, in my less-productive quiet time and in the seemingly “nonessential” moments of life.

Where did these questions lead you?

Sara Hagerty: These questions would eventually guide my eyes toward finding the unseen beauty of a hidden life in God. But as it is with most beginnings, first they were unnerving. I knew God was benevolently disposed toward me but I’d always assumed his benevolence was also connected to my “producing” something for his kingdom. When I felt productive in ministry, it wasn’t hard to imagine that God had loving thoughts toward me, or that he looked at me with warm affection. I had a harder time trying to imagine what he might be thinking about me during the hours of the day when I wasn’t doing anything tangible for him. What was the expression on his face when I didn’t have a trail of changed lives lined up behind mine? How did he feel about me on Saturday morning while I was lying on the couch in sweatpants, exhausted from the week?

So, you were faced with the choice—keep doing more for God or give up the striving?

Sara Hagerty: Yes. Something inside of me knew there had to be more to my life with God than being productive and sharing the good news with others. Something inside of me craved the God I’d find when I wasn’t changing the world. I’d always thought my craving for more in life would be satisfied with more ministry, more impact, more good works for God. But instead of filling me with more, the escalating effort I put into those things left me feeling empty.

As I saw it at the time, I gave in to burnout, but there was more to it than that. I’d been driven by a passion to see lives change, but I also craved the validation I received when my life made a notable impact on someone else’s. Over time, the deep satisfaction I’d found in my work lessened. The nagging drive, albeit subtle, to which I’d responded to do more and more, continued to leave me feeling inadequate. My expectations for myself increased as my ability to meet those expectations diminished. Even worse, I had begun to see myself as critical to God’s success. But now I just couldn’t do it anymore. So, I left the ministry I admired.

What impact do you think social media has on our idea of greatness?

Sara Hagerty: In this digital age, we might well wonder, “If it wasn’t posted on social media, did it really happen?” We can’t live for the beauty of the hidden life while simultaneously feeding on likes and comments. As long as we don’t make big impact synonymous with greatness, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. However, the unintended consequence may be that we begin to think that anything that isn’t big and observable isn’t great, which renders the rest of life a waiting room. Wasted time. When we live a life of constantly reaching for the next big thing, we miss the greatness God is calling us to right here, right now. In the small, the ordinary, the hidden moments. The white space. Great kingdom impact comes not just from actions that make a dramatic and observable impact, but from all the accumulated moments we spend looking at God, to bringing him glory in private, and letting him shape our insides. One more social media post can never settle me as much as exhaling my thoughts before God. I want—I need—to talk to God when no one is looking.

What did you learn as you explored the “unproductive” life?

Sara Hagerty: I discovered layers of God I hadn’t considered when I was barreling through life, when he was only a leader and a coach to me. Slowly, my desire to see and feel who he was within the pages of his Word prompted me to look at the lines on his face. To take a long and thoughtful look at him—and not just once. As I did so, I saw that he not only invited me to see him—in the minutia of stories I’d read for years in order to gain broad themes and lessons—but that he also saw me, right there in my middle minutes. His life on the earth and in these pages held expression. Toward me.

When I slowed, I saw that he, too, looked through the layers of me to know and respond to my heart. He wasn’t driving me to produce in such a way that all I saw was the back of his shoulders and his firm gait as he charged ahead of me; he was turned toward me and looking into me, with a soft-heartedness and an ever-unfolding invitation. His face held a gentle expression. Loving expression. Toward me, who was doing nothing for him.

This increased your desire to connect more intimately with God?

Sara Hagerty: In a year that felt like failure by all my ministry productivity standards, I grew desperate to lock eyes with God and see the expression on his face toward me. I knew if on an average Tuesday afternoon I could see God as the Initiator, the One who gently draws me close and with tenderness, then I could finally find deep-soul rest. I wouldn’t have to work so hard to get God’s attention because I already had it. Every single ordinary minute of my day would be an opportunity to encounter the unwavering gaze of God.

This is hiddenness. It’s not a natural concept for our human minds to apprehend. There are times in life when God tucks us away. He might hide us in a difficult job or an unwelcomed circumstance where we feel misunderstood. He might hide us in a crowd where we feel unseen or behind the front door of our home, changing diapers and burping babies. He does this all so that we might see another side of him, this God who looks deeply and knowingly into us when no one else is looking or noticing, and come alive under that eye.

But you still believe this desire to be noticed is natural, maybe even placed there by God?

Sara Hagerty: The truth is, we’re made by God to be seen and celebrated. We like to hear our own name. When we’re noticed and affirmed for our accomplishments or character traits, we feel that internal sigh of deep satisfaction that says: Yes, I matter. To someone. It’s God who gives us this craving to be known, to realize that we do matter. Author and pastor Dallas Willard said it this way: “Unlike egotism, the drive to significance is a simple extension of the creative impulse of God that gave us being…We were built to count, as water is made to run downhill. We are placed in a specific context to count in ways that no one else does. That is our destiny.”

How has Facebook and Instagram affected your longing for approval?

Sara Hagerty: The problem is not that we long for significance, but that we’re shifty or misguided in where we look for it. When we crave most the eyes of others—their opinions and accolades—we break our gaze with the only eyes that will ever truly see us. We forget the beauty of the Creator-eyes turned toward us—the ones that saw the inception of our life and loved what he saw. We’re still hungry for the thing for which we were made: to be seen, to be known, to be celebrated, to participate in something much larger than ourselves. But too often we settle for lesser things. It seems easier to get a “Like” online than it does to get quiet before God, to seek his face and listen for his whispers. Especially if we’re not sure what the expression on his face might be, or if his whispers will be kind. We wonder if God could ever like what he sees in us when no one is looking. And we forget it was in that same kind of hiddenness that our very selves took shape in the first place.

Why is finding this “hiddenness” so difficult?

Sara Hagerty: In the words of Paul, these hidden times can help us to, “think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth” (Colossians 3:3). We don’t naturally fall into this way of thinking. We breathe and pay our bills and use our words, all in the temporal. We need help to look at the unseen, the things of heaven (not the things we can touch with our hands or gauge with a measuring stick). Our truest life—once we come to know him—doesn’t reside in the temporal world. Hiddenness is God’s way of helping us to detach from “the things of earth,” which we were never intended to grip. Paul goes on to say, “For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:4).

Sometimes hiddenness feels like death—of dreams, of the applause we crave from others, of tangible kingdom advancement, of apparent impact. Yet it’s right here in hiddenness that we are invited to fall in love with the God-Man we haven’t fully seen. It’s here that we find our real life.

What happened when you started asking God how he felt about you when you felt unproductive and unsuccessful?

Sara Hagerty: I started a new dialogue with God that didn’t include a plea for him to use me in someone else’s life or to make my life matter. It was a conversation with God in which I saw that he cared for the inner workings of my heart and the insecurities that plagued me. I began to feel the pulse of his life in the biblical stories for which I had lost my passion. Not even whole sentences, but phrases from his Word that had once been pat answers were transformed into poetry, renewing my mind and sparking fresh and intimate conversations with God. Not only was He becoming more real to me as I took time to not just study but to soak in Scripture, he was personal. To me. This age-old God was newly vibrant to me. And I was starting to think he might actually like me.

How do you compare this time to a tree—where we visibly see the branches and fruit, yet the root system underneath is what holds it all together?

Sara Hagerty: I’d spent most of my 20s envisioning growth to be outstretched branches—majestic when hit by the sun and against the pure blue sky—and mostly forgot about the roots. But I could no longer grow tall in God without caring for my root system; without acknowledging that something buried beneath the surface must exist to give life to the trunk and branches I showed the world. Noticing and tending to my roots—my inner and hidden life with God—seemed secondary when there were important ministry branches to climb and spiritual fruit to produce and pick. So I focused all my time and energy on branches and fruit, while God was ever so gently inviting me to back to the soil. To hide in him rather than perform for him—to shift my attention from branches to roots, from my visible work for God to my unseen life in God.

How did this transform your relationship with God?

Sara Hagerty: I was merely a God-follower when I had eyes, mostly, to serve and respond to the world around me. I became a God-lover when I noticed him seeing me and knowing me. Those exchanges, then, began to fuel how I interacted with the world around me.

Do you believe God purposefully hides people, putting them in unseen places?

Sara Hagerty: Absolutely. God loves to hide. Behind circumstances and callings and misjudgments and scorn from even the dearest of friends, he hides us. I join throngs of other women and men placed purposefully in hiding, who are also in training to be passionate lovers of God. They are cleaning toilets, working low-status jobs, changing bedpans, fielding criticism, and battling fatigue. And finding him in the midst of it all.

No moment is too small, too mundane, too insignificant to hide in God and waste time with him. We may feel veiled and unnoticed, but God is training us to turn our eyes toward him, to find him there.

Our hidden places aren’t signs of God’s displeasure or punishment. The psalmist says that the one “who dwells in the secret place of the Most High” has a refuge and a fortress in God (Psalm 91:1). God doesn’t banish us to this hidden place. He invites us. And finding God in the secret can teach a heart to sing. This invitation to embrace hiddenness grows from a seasonal, one-time invitation into the question of our lives: When no one else applauds you, when life is hard and makes no sense or simply feels like drudgery in the still, quiet, will you hide yourself in me? Will you waste your love on me, here?

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Sara Hagerty: Whether it’s a reflection of my fickle heart or illustrative of the ever-unfolding nature of his Word, my favorite passages change frequently. In recent years, Mary of Bethany’s story has been making a deep impression upon me. In Matthew 26:6-13, Jesus highlights this woman in the shadows—shadowed because she wasn’t doing anything that we might see as “especially significant,” but also shadowed by the critical eye of those around her.

Yet she moved his heart. Mary moved the heart of God, and in a way that didn’t amass crowds or applause or fanfare. Those with whom she had spent time—who knew her—thought it to be foolish. It wasn’t popular, but it was for him and he received it so gladly that his response was: “wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” He noticed what others called wasteful. And he loved it. My mind immediately thinks of so many of my little movements towards him—unseen even by those closest to me—that Jesus would cherish them.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?

Sara Hagerty: It’s no exaggeration for me to say that I use Bible Gateway near-daily. Whether I’m wanting to search a different translation than what I’m reading or trying to remember a source, this website could possibly be my most visited site. In an age when we can so clearly see the many ways that technology is pulling us away from what God is doing right in front of us, Bible Gateway is doing the opposite—making God’s Word more accessible.


Bio: Sara Hagerty is the author of Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet: Tasting the Goodness of God in All Things, a wife to Nate, and a mother of six, including four children adopted from Africa and one toddler who’s found his voice amid them all. After almost a decade of Christian life, she was introduced to pain and perplexity and, ultimately, intimacy with Jesus. God met her and moved her when life stopped working for her. His Word and his whisper took on new shape and form to her in the dark. Sara writes regularly about life delays, finding God in the unlikely, motherhood, marriage, and adoption at SaraHagerty.net.

Go deeper in strengthening your soul’s spiritual journey with Bible Gateway Plus. Try it right now!

How to Live the Bible — Beginning the Journey

howtostudythebible

This is the first 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.


When I was in eighth grade my church gave me a brand new black Bible with red-colored edges and my name embossed in gold on the cover. It smelled fresh and crackled when first opened. I felt a special connection with this Bible.

I tried many times to read that Bible, from page one to the end, like a book “ought” to be read. But frustration grew as I got bogged down in Leviticus, and then completely stalled out in Numbers. So most of the pages of that Bible remained clean, but I was vaguely glad to have it on my shelf.

When I was 17 someone gave me a New Testament in a fresh new version that was very easy to read. I had met some lively, enthused college-age kids who saw the Bible as a book full of life and light. So I read that New Testament straight through in a couple of weeks. The speeches of Jesus flashed like lightning. Hebrews explained Christ. James explained life. Romans laid out a progressive, perfectly rational, description of God, the world, and me. As I read the New Testament, it had a “ring of truth” to it. Each idea made sense. It all fit together. I remember thinking how my assumptions about God had been so simplistic and so skewed, but the light of Scripture was revealing a God who made perfect sense. I also knew that I was being changed. My attitude. My language. My behavior. I didn’t even choose to make changes; they were just happening.

Fast forward ten years. I was headed to seminary to do three years of study before beginning a career as a pastor—a course change from my life-long passion to become a surgeon. I signed up for Greek to study the New Testament in its original language. And Hebrew, for the Old Testament. (Taking both at once was a terrible idea.) Ahead of me lay many courses in Scripture. And here is a frightening truth: I could have become self-righteous and Pharisaical about it all.

Two mistakes we can make with the Bible are 1) being ignorant of its content because we just don’t read it; or 2) being obsessed about knowing the Bible in its details; being proud of our knowledge, but ignoring the spirit of the word and not being shaped by it.

We’re calling this weekly series of lessons in the months to come “How to Live the Bible.” Our goal is to deepen our relationship with God through God’s Word. To “live the Bible” means continual life transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit using the implanted word of God. We will probe how we can develop a biblical mindset, worldview, attitude, and instincts that lead us to right living and effective witness. The Bible has shaped the history of the world. It’s the foundation of whole civilizations. It holds the keys of salvation from evil and sin. It should shape us.

The Bible is not just a book of rules. And so “How to Live the Bible” is not about how we can list the commands of Scripture that apply to us, and complain about all the people who are not obeying. That accomplishes nothing. We need to learn how to consume the truth of Scripture and for truth to become the spiritual muscle tissue of our lives. Then the mandates get fulfilled.

Along the way we’ll come to a few major themes. For instance,

  • LAW — Is the Bible filled with laws to be obeyed, and is this how we “live the Bible?” For instance, what about the Ten Commandments? What about the Old Testament laws? How did Jesus change things? What did Paul mean by being “dead to the law”? What about the new “law” of love?
  • LOVE — How does the “great commandment” form the basis of living the Bible?
  • ETHICS — What is the method whereby we use biblical revelation for ethical decisions (personal ethics, business ethics, social ethics, medical ethics, etc.)?
  • THEOLOGICAL STRUCTURE — How can a believer gain a comprehensive structure of belief? Living the Bible is about gaining a grasp of reality and living in reality at all times.
  • BIBLICAL MINDSET AND INSTINCTS — How do we gain minds and hearts that will instinctively react to all life circumstances out of the truth of Scripture?
  • SIN AND VICES; RIGHTEOUSNESS AND VIRTUES; JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION — What are the ways God shows us the dark side of ourselves and how does the Holy Spirit transform us?

Living the Bible best happens when our instincts and motives are so thoroughly shaped by the God’s truth, that we automatically make good decisions without even thinking about them. Everyone admires believers who are even-tempered, consistently courteous and kind, able to hold convictions while respecting others. Scripture must form our character.

Everyday life includes highs and lows, accomplishments and failures, gains and losses. Whatever our circumstances, we need what James called “the implanted word” which can rescue us (James 1:21). We are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Or, as Jesus said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).

And so we begin this 30-week journey of learning together “how to live the Bible.”

Prayer: God, lead us in this journey. Do a mighty work in us, for your glory.

[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.

The Night the Devil Visited My Duplex

Carlos WhittakerBy Carlos Whittaker

When I was 21, I was in one of the darkest seasons of my life. I was in my fifth year at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and I was a mess. I was a lost soul looking for any sort of validation. But I wasn’t necessarily looking to fix myself. I had a job. I hadn’t been expelled (yet). I had a condo. I had a girlfriend. People from afar still saw me as having it together. But, man, was I not together—drinking heavily whenever I could, sleeping till noon, and missing work all the time. I didn’t have a name for it, although now I can look back and see that I was suffering from heavy depression and anxiety. I was 2,500 miles away from my parents. I felt so alone. I had slowly but surely pushed away all my friends.

It was a pretty scary and sad time. Sad is the easy word to define here. But I was also scared, and that word is a little harder to nail down. What did I have to be scared of? Nobody was after me. I had parents who loved me. But I felt this fear. I didn’t know why. It just lingered.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Man, I wish I had known more about this struggle back then. I didn’t. But I was about to be right in the middle of it. It was a Wednesday night in the middle of summer. Somehow I had figured out a way to extend going to a four-year liberal arts school into almost six years. My girlfriend had broken up with me the day before. Looking back, I don’t blame her. I was a hot mess. The week before, I had been fired from my job at Buffalo’s. I had stopped showing up. And on this particular Wednesday, I just sat in my condo and cried. How had my life ended up so sad, and why did I have this feeling of fear? I wasn’t telling anyone about my struggle. I was determined to figure it out on my own.

That night, after spending the entire day inside my duplex, I remember feeling even more fear. It was kinda spooking me a bit. I checked all the closets to make sure nobody was in them. (Don’t fool yourself; you’ve done this before.) I remember even praying a shotgun prayer before I fell asleep. It was a heart cry loaded with, Dear Lord, help me not feel this way when I wake up.

I woke up around 3:00 am. The feeling that came over me can only be described as dark. I had never felt so scared in my life. I pulled the covers over my head and started praying.

Dear God, I pray that you make this stop. I’m so sorry. I promise I’ll behave, God. Please. Whatever is in here, make it leave!

I knew nothing was in my room, but I knew something was in my room. The darkness was darker than just the lights being off and the sun yet to rise. Something was up. And that something was dark. My window was open, and the curtains were flapping a bit more than normal. I was freaking out. After about two minutes of nonstop prayer, I knew I needed to be rescued from whatever was happening in my duplex that night. I needed my dad, so I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen to call him.

Yes, I had to get out of bed to call him. The phone was 15 feet away. This was before cell phones.

Why would I call my dad? Because although I didn’t know much about this whole dark, evil, and spiritual warfare stuff, I was most certain that I was in it right then. And I was sure that my dad would know how to help me out of it.

It was midnight in Fresno, California, where he lived. Would he even hear the phone ring when I called? I hoped so. I flipped the light switch on, and as I reached for the phone to dial his number, it rang. Read that again: Right as I was reaching for the telephone, it rang. And it rang. And it rang.

I had never, nor have I since, felt as scared as I was in that moment.

What was going on? Was I going to pick up the phone and hear the voice of Skeletor on the other end?

Everything froze. I slowly reached for the phone, picked it up, and put it to my ear.

“Carlos, it’s dad. It’s okay. I love you. I was woken up to pray for you, and I want you to know it’s okay. It’s time to come home, son. It’s time to come home.”

I grew up in a Southern Baptist home where we sang hymns and nobody lifted their hands in worship. I didn’t grow up in a house where we talked about this spiritual warfare stuff. I didn’t grow up in a church where people fought against demons and things that go bump in the night.

But you know what I did grow up in? I grew up in a home where I would seldom go a day without seeing my father on his knees with the Father. My dad was a giant. And apparently he had direct access to the Holy Spirit ’cause things just got crazy.

You see, that is the sort of moment that you can’t ignore. You can’t forget.

Guess what I did.

I didn’t say a thing. I just cried. My dad prayed for me and then hung up. Then I started packing. I packed up everything I could fit into my Honda Accord. I mean everything. And the next morning when my Vietnamese neighbors I shared a wall with woke up, I let them know they could have everything I’d left in my duplex. “What happened? Where are you going?” they asked me.

“I’m going to be with my dad because whatever he has, I want it. I want all of it.” And I drove west from Rome, Georgia, heading toward Fresno, California. I had no idea at the time that I would not return to Georgia. But I did know that I needed to sit under my father’s roof again. I needed to pay attention to whatever I had been ignoring for so long. I believed it now. Yeah, it took a crazy moment like that for me to believe. And even still, to this day, sometimes I think things like, It was a coincidence. Every once in a while, the stars align. What are the chances? And, every time, the response I get back from God is, “Yeah, Carlos, what are the chances?”

The battle is real, my friends. The sooner we accept that, the sooner our spider killing can begin. And the sooner the spider dies.

You may have heard the saying, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to make you think he doesn’t exist.” When we sit in denial of the reality of spiritual warfare, we are denying the enemy exists and that he is trying to distract us from the work God wants us to do to clean out the cobwebs and get rid of our spiders. So much of the struggle we face comes from the enemy feeding us lies and us buying into them. The sooner you stop allowing him to have control, the sooner you can get on to living without cobwebs in your life.

________

Kill the SpiderTaken from Kill the Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back by Carlos Whittaker. Click here to learn more about this title.

Are you tired of trying to live for Christ—only to fail time and time again with the same old behaviors? Do you pray for guidance, ask for deliverance, and vow to do better, yet fail to progress?

As an author, speaker, pastor, and blogger at Ragamuffin Soul, Carlos has lived much of his spiritual life in the spotlight. But, like any Christian, his faith story has its ups and downs. He spent decades trying to figure out how to be a “better person.” Time and time again, he strived for holiness only to get caught in the web of destructive habits, behaviors, and thought patterns.

But, the buck stops here. Or, rather, the spider is killed here.

In Kill the Spider, Carlos shares personal material ranging from hilarious, self-deprecating stories to passion-filled wisdom—to show others it’s not enough to try and “stop sinning.” He teaches that knocking out deep-rooted habits and issues comes by treating the issue, not just the symptoms.

With transparency, humor, and vulnerable stories, Carlos offers a breath of fresh air to any believer looking to finally step into the freedom in Christ. So, sit down. Open the book. And grab a shoe. We’re going on a spider hunt.

Carlos Whittaker is an author, blogger, speaker and worship leader. He has been on the leadership team for Catalyst as well as leading worship at many of their events. He regularly speaks at the largest churches all over the country. He and his wife Heather and their children live in Nashville, TN. Learn more about Carlos at CarlosWhittaker.com.

KiDs Beach Club® Donors Help Give School Children 50,000 Bibles Since 2003

KiDs Beach Club Explorer’s Study Bible (NKJV)

Since KiDs Beach Club® first began in 2003, teaching children about God’s Word has been the focal point to giving each child a Jesus experience inside their public elementary school. From 2003 through the fall of 2014, only one Bible was given to a child in each club each week the club met.

Beginning in the spring of 2015, giving every single child in every Beach Club their very own copy of God’s Word became a priority. This special day of Beach Club became known as Great Treasure Day.

This month KiDs Beach Club® celebrated a very special Great Treasure Day as the 50,000th Bible was handed out since that very first Bible back in 2003.

After weeks of anticipation and watching the tally of Bibles given to kids climb on the front page of the ministry’s new website (@KiDsBeachClub), it was projected that the 50,000th Bible would be given away on October 10 at the new Beach Club at Gilbert Elementary School, Irving, Texas, which is the second club to be sponsored by Christ Church Irving.

KiDs Beach Club at Gilbert Elementary School

Gilbert Elementary had dozens of children in attendance for Great Treasure Day. All were giddy and excited to receive their new Bibles. What they didn’t know before they arrived that afternoon was one of them would be the 50,000th child in the history of KiDs Beach Club® to receive a KBC Explorer’s Study Bible (Thomas Nelson, 2009) in the New King James Version (NKJV) translation. Read what happened and watch the video.

Leading your family in Bible study? Bible Gateway Plus equips you to explore & teach the Bible better. Try it free for 30 days!

The Staggering Picture of Christian Persecution: An Interview with Johnnie Moore

Johnnie MooreIs your perspective on the state of the church worldwide too comfortable? What do you think when you hear about the astonishing escalation in Christian persecution in the 21st century? What should you be doing about it?

Bible Gateway interviewed Johnnie Moore (@JohnnieM) about his book, The Martyr’s Oath: Living for the Jesus They’re Willing to Die For (Tyndale House, 2017).

Buy your copy of The Martyr's Oath in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Describe the staggering picture of Christian persecution today.

Johnnie Moore: “Staggering”—that’s a good word! The stories in The Martyr’s Oath will stagger you, for sure.

Like the Syrian refugees I met who’d converted to Christianity upon arriving in a neighboring country. Word got back to a jihadist family member still in Syria. He wrote them a letter saying “If you don’t return to Islam I will find you and crucify you.”

The family wrote him back, “We will not leave Jesus, and we are happy to die for him but please don’t crucify us. We are not worthy to die as our savior died.”

Stop and think about that: they’re so willing to die for him, and we struggle so hard to live for him!

A thousand such incidents happen every week!

We’re experiencing the most significant moment of Christian persecution since the first century. We’re literally witnessing 1st century persecution in the 21st century. Pope Francis has said there are more martyrs today than at any other moment, and the persecution isn’t just isolated to a few countries, but more than 60 countries.

The numbers are overwhelming, but I wrote The Martyr’s Oath to get beyond the numbers to the lives of those effected—our forgotten brothers and sisters. Believers like Rose, whose husband and children were beheaded in front of her eyes by terrorists in Nigeria; and as the terrorists chased Rose, they demanded she convert by repeating “Allah Akbar,” but she replied to them every time by screaming “Jesus!” She’s a little lady who’s been through so much—she lost everything—yet she didn’t lose her love for Jesus.

We’re missing the power of our faith, and I’m convinced we’ll only find it through the lives of these dear people. Most Christians will never be able to meet them as I have; so, I’ve decided to document their stories for the greater church.

How do Christians in America deny Jesus?

Johnnie Moore: When a terrorist or a government official demands that you deny Jesus, they’re demanding you exchange your belief in him for something else. In America, we don’t need a terrorist or autocrat to make any such demands. We do it to ourselves all the time with whatever we value above Jesus; whatever pseudo god we put our faith in.

See, I have this conviction that you cannot actually experienced a full Christian life unless you’re being persecuted or are close to those who are. There are so many secrets of the Christian life, and so many miracles that are only accessed when your faith costs you something or costs something for someone whom you care about.

The New Testament books are largely written to persecuted believers or about persecuted believers.

We should not be emphasizing the persecuted church merely one Sunday a year; we should be connected to the persecuted church 52 weeks a year.

In the end, despite all the help I’ve given to persecuted Christians, I’ve always found that I’m the one who’s been helped the most. Their faith has—again and again—helped me find my own again.

We’ll never experience full Christian discipleship if we aren’t persecuted or if we aren’t praying for, praying with, and living alongside those who are.

THE MARTYR’S OATH

I AM A FOLLOWER OF JESUS. I believe he lived and walked among us, was crucified for our sins, and was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures. I believe he is the King of the earth, who will come back for his church.

As he has given his life for me, so I am willing to give my life for him. I will use every breath I possess to boldly proclaim his gospel. Whether in abundance or need, in safety or peril, in peace or distress, I will not—I cannot—keep quiet. His unfailing love is better than life, and his grace compels me to speak his name even if his name costs me everything. Even in the face of death, I will not deny him. And should shadow and darkness encroach upon me, I will not fear, for I know though persecution may come, I know my battle is not against flesh but against the forces of evil. I will not hate those whom God has called me to love. Therefore, I will forgive when ridiculed, show mercy when struck, and love when hated. I will clothe myself with meekness and kindness so those around me may see the face of Jesus reflected in me, especially if they abuse me.

I have taken up my cross; I have laid everything else down. I know my faith could cost me my life, but I will follow and love Jesus until the end, whenever and however that end may come. Should I die for Jesus, I confess that my death is not to achieve salvation but in gratitude for the grace I’ve already received. I will not die to earn my reward in heaven, but because Jesus has already given me the ultimate reward in the forgiveness of my sins and the salvation of my soul.

For me to live is Christ; for me to die is gain.

In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

Sign the oath.

Buy your copy of The Ten Things you Need to Know about the Global War on Christianity in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

In practical terms, how should Christians pray for and help the persecuted church?

Johnnie Moore: Every day ask God to do these things for your persecuted brothers and sisters: provide for them, protect them, and grant them the ability to persevere. You’ll start to pray with more depth when you better educate yourself on what’s happening around the world. A good start is the companion pamphlet to The Martyr’s Oath which is called The Ten Things you Need to Know about the Global War on Christianity. It has all the practical information you need.

How do persecuted Christians around the world feel toward the Bible?

Johnnie Moore: It’s their life and their most cherished possession. It’s their hope and their help. It’s God’s literal words and it helps them press on.

Explain the subtitle of your book, Living for the Jesus They’re Willing to Die For.

Johnnie Moore: It comes from a question that suddenly appeared in my heart after I witnessed 2,000 Bible school graduates take a martyrs oath. The Holy Spirit seemed to whisper to me, “If we worship the same Jesus and have the same Bible, then why do we struggle so hard to live for a Jesus that they’re so willing to die for?”

That question has shaped the last ten years of my spiritual journey. It’s caused me to search my heart again and again. I hope it has the effect on others, through The Martyr’s Oath, that it’s had on me.

How should Christians strengthen themselves to be prepared for persecution and to not let fear overtake their faith?

Johnnie Moore: I believe God gives us special grace to help us in moments of persecution. But I also believe he often uses his own words deposited in our hearts. We “must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

What are lessons to be learned from persecuted Christians forgiving their tormentors?

Johnnie Moore: Jesus’ forgiveness of our sins is the single most impactful part of the gospel, and when we forgive others who sin against us we’re shining his light most brilliantly. Every act of forgiveness brings a touch of Heaven to Earth, and it makes the gospel look as otherworldly and supernatural as it is.

Forgiveness is constructed in the DNA of the persecuted. One Egyptian pastor this spring delivered a sermon titled, “A Message to Those Who Kill Us.” In it he quoted Jesus, declaring the fact that the church would refuse to hate the terrorists, but would instead forgive them, pray for them, and love them. This is one of the reasons why so many terrorists are coming to Jesus.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Johnnie Moore: When I was 12 years old I selected a verse as my life verse, and I write it every time I sign a copy of one of my books. The verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9 which says, “My grace is sufficient for you for my strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

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

Johnnie Moore: I’m so grateful to God for Bible Gateway. I’ve used it almost every day for my entire adult life. It’s a gift to the church.


Bio: Johnnie Moore is an author and humanitarian whose adventures have taken him to more than two-dozen nations. He’s worked with genocide victims in Bosnia and Rwanda, established a sustainable agricultural project in Zimbabwe, visited the world’s largest refugee camps, and on five occasions has worked in places that were later bombed by Islamic extremists. He founded The KAIROS Company after running public and media relations across multiple sectors including higher education, entertainment, business, and politics. He’s the author of The Martyr’s Oath, Dirty God: Jesus in the Trenches, Defying ISIS, What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life?, and other books.

Get biblically wise and spiritually fit with Bible Gateway Plus.

Prepare for Thanksgiving with Bible Gateway’s Free Email Devotional

Sign up to receive the free email devotional Give Thanks from Bible GatewayThe Bible Gateway twice-a-week Thanksgiving free email devotional is a great way for you to prepare your heart to “give thanks in all circumstances.”

It starts November 1!

Titled Give Thanks: Biblical Stories About Gratitude, it’s delivered to your inbox throughout November only. You’ll receive an inspirational reading consisting of three parts:

  1. An introduction to the Scripture reading, providing a bit of context and background.
  2. A short story from the Bible that illustrates something important about gratitude. The Bible Gateway team has selected some of our favorite Bible stories about gratitude—stories we hope will encourage you to embrace a life defined by thanksgiving.
  3. A set of closing reflection questions to help you think through the meaning of the passage for your life today.

We’ve kept each devotional reading short, and with the introduction and reflection questions, Give Thanks works well either as a personal devotional or to read together as a family.

Give Thanks: Biblical Stories About Gratitude will be an encouraging part of your holiday season. Sign up here.

Get to know your Bible better! Try Bible Gateway Plus today!

Read These Five Verses on Reformation Day

One of the most important doctrines to rise from the Reformation is known as sola scriptura, which is Latin for “by Scripture alone.” The Reformers argued that the Bible is the sole, infallible authority of faith. And although the Reformation was not a single, unified movement, most of the reformers were motivated by similar desires. One of them was to restore the Bible to a central place in Christian doctrine. God’s Word was to be held above the authority of the church, they said, and Protestants around the world celebrate that belief in church every week.

In preparation for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, here are five Bible verses that had special significance in the Reformation and are no less powerful today. Whatever your Christian tradition, you might wish to take a few minutes to ponder these essential verses.

1. Romans 1:17

For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” — Romans 1:17 (NIV)

The famous reformer Martin Luther identified this verse as one of the key inspirations for his work. Luther saw in it (and in other verses, like Habbakuk 2:4) a powerful reminder that it is through faith in God’s grace, and not through good works, that humans are justified before God.

2. Ephesians 2:8

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift…. — Ephesians 2:8 (CSB)

Another verse that emphasizes salvation as a gift of grace, not something we’ve earned through our own merit—a key belief of the reformers.

3. 1 Peter 2:5

…like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. — 1 Peter 2:5 (NRSV)

One of the most provocative and controversial beliefs of the reformers was that because every Christian is considered part of the “priesthood,” there was no Scriptural basis for the office of priesthood as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches understood it. This remains a key distinction between these branches of Christianity to this day.

4. 2 Timothy 3:16

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. — 2 Timothy 3:16 (ESV)

“Sola scriptura”—the belief that the Bible contains everything we need to know in order to be reconciled to God and live righteously. This idea elevates Scripture above all other authorities, including the church and Christian tradition.

5. Matthew 11:29-30

“Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The burden that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” — Matthew 11:29-30 (NCV)

The Protestant reformers believed that centuries of church tradition had placed a heavy burden on the backs of believers, and pointing to verses like this one, they reminded Christians that the gospel of Christ is meant to free people from guilt and sin.

Millions of Protestants celebrate these teachings today—and although the Protestant Reformation was specifically a criticism of the Catholic church, believers from all branches of Christianity can find value in the reformers’ call to keep our focus on Christ and his saving gospel. So take a few minutes today to read through (maybe even memorize) these Bible verses.

Bible News Roundup – Week of October 15, 2017

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
Bible Gateway Weekly Brief
Newsletter signup

Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store
BibleGatewayStore.com

Young Bible Readers More Likely to be Faithful Adults, Study Finds
LifeWay Research
See Bibles for children in the Bible Gateway Store
See Bibles for teenagers in the Bible Gateway Store

Ten Commandments Monument Case Declined by Supreme Court of the United States
Baptist Press
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Ten Commandments Past and Present: An Interview with David L. Baker
See resources about the Ten Commandments in the Bible Gateway Store

Breeches Bible to be Read in Aylsham on 500th Anniversary
Eastern Daily Press
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, What Was the Reformation and Why Does it Matter Today?
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Read These Five Verses on Reformation Day
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Authority Of Scripture: An Interview with Matthew Barrett
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Was the Reformation a Mistake?: An Interview With Dr. Matthew Levering
See the Reformation Studies section in the Bible Gateway Store

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the Waltrip Family Look Back on Decades of Bible Verses on Raceday
FOX Sports

New Bible Museum Previews Exhibits and Ethical Standards
CBN News

How This Pristine 15th-Century Hebrew Bible Survived the Inquisition
JTA

Archaeologists Uncover ‘Enormous Find’ with Roman-Era Theater-Like Building Beneath Jerusalem’s Western Wall
CBN News
See the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store

Church of England Reaches More on Social Media Than in Services
The Telegraph

Kids Under 9 Spend More Than 2 Hours a Day on Screens, Report Shows
CNN
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Dangers of Social Media on Self Worth: An Interview with Kari Kampakis
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Connecting with Disconnected Tech-Savvy Teens: An Interview with Dr. Kathy Koch
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Wired Soul: An Interview with Tricia McCary Rhodes
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Avoid Email Anxiety: An Interview with Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Thousands already have! Try your 30-Day free trial today!
Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Get biblically wise and spiritually fit. Try it free for 30 days!

Aging Starts in Your Mind: An Interview with Notker Wolf

Notker WolfThe human body is inexorably aging, but is the soul? How does the soul measure itself by a different standard than the body? If we focus on the state of our soul—which is resolutely vibrant, cheerful, and full of zest for life—we wouldn’t resist aging but, instead, speak of growing fulfillment and joy.

Bible Gateway interviewed Notker Wolf about his book, Aging Starts in Your Mind: You’re Only As Old As You Feel (Paraclete Press, 2017).

Buy your copy of Aging Starts in Your Mind in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

You’re 77 years old. Explain what you mean: “the soul doesn’t age; it measures itself by a different standard than the body.”

Notker Wolf: The soul is the ongoing identity in our life and is expressed in our body. The body may age, but the whole personality has to grow; become more mature. Our soul has to be flexible and adapt to the different situations during our lifetime. The qualities of our body may be strength, beauty, but we may also fall sick and our soul has to cope with it. The changes of our body may be a challenge, but our personality can look at them in a different perspective of values such as love or sincerity. You have to live in your body and in the same time to remain in a constant distance or reflection. The unity of both is a mystery.

How is aging better accomplished when a person focuses on the state of his or her soul?

Notker Wolf: People who accept their aging process are not striving to uplifting continuously their faces and other parts of their body or implanting hairs into their head. In the end they are no longer themselves; they are looking like wearing masks. You’ll find the real beauty of a person when you can see his or her history from his or her face; when life has marked their faces and you can read their history from their faces. Those people have more time to live reconciled with themselves. They are serene.

Notker Wolf enjoying his hobby

What do you mean “freedom is a beautiful gift of old age”?

Notker Wolf: The older you get the more you can let go, in a material sense—you can give away many things you were once clinging to; the less you need the freer you will be. And in a spiritual sense, many things and opinions become less important.

How do the psalms show you new examples of how firmly you’re anchored in your faith, and how do they give you energy at the start of the day?

Notker Wolf: The psalms are expressions of our daily life, with its sorrow, needs, oppressions and depressions, but also with its joys, and all in front of God. The psalmist sees his life in front of God; a loving, merciful God who takes care of us, but also challenges us. Psalms are songs and this gives a special taste to my life. They create confidence in God and my life.

Why is the Apostle Paul one of your heroes and how should his words in Philippians 3:13-14 be an encouragement in the aging process?

Notker Wolf: The older I get, the more I’m looking forward, not to great projects but to the end of my life and the fulfillment of my hope to see Jesus face to face and to live in his glory together with the others who have gone before me.

How should the principle of “seek first the kingdom” be central in the aging process?

Notker Wolf: I’m sure we would become more realistic—and more human—if we would give up our money mindedness and our power greed. What will remain in the end? It’s sufficient watching some of those rich and powerful people. Are they really happy? In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus tells us that God will take care of us. Trust in God is more rewarding than trusting in ourselves and our actions. And nobody will dominate us except God; nor shall we dominate others.

What insights do you share in the book about aged biblical patriarchs like Methuselah and Noah?

Notker Wolf: Long life in the old times was seen as a special blessing of God. The aged biblical patriarchs are reported as being close to God and manifest the eternity of God. Being close to God, living in unity with him is our aim whatever age we reach. Jesus reached only 33 years. He lived in complete union with his heavenly Father and gave his life for humankind. If you really love God and the others, age does not matter.

How should people honor their father and mother as they get older?

Notker Wolf: By taking care of their fragility. Love them as the roots of your existence in body and mind. Reward them with your love. And when you feel that they have done something wrong in your childhood or later, forgive them; live reconciled with your parents.

How do you hope your book will challenge your readers?

Notker Wolf: My hope is that the readers get aware of the real values of life and get inspired to reflect upon their own behavior when they’re getting older. They’ll see that our life does not end with death but that we’re people of hope. In the end, God is waiting for us.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, CNN: A Catholic Reads the Bible]

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Notker Wolf: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1) We don’t see the inside of other people. Judging entails so much anger, hatred, and, in the end, war. And who are we that we are allowed to judge other people? God alone is the judge.

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

Notker Wolf: The websites are excellent; exemplary.


Bio: Notker Wolf, OSB, PhD, Abbot Primate emeritus, born 1940 in Southern Bavaria, joined the Archabbey of St. Ottilien in 1961, was ordained priest in 1968. Studies of Philosophy in S. Anselmo in Rome, Theology and Natural Sciences at Munich University. 1971-77 Professor of Philosophy of Nature and Theory of Science in Rome, 1977 elected Archabbot of St. Ottilien, 2000-2016 Abbot Primate of the Benedictine Confederation. Honourable doctor degrees from Saint Anselm College, NH, and Saint Vincent College, PA. Several political and economic awards. Hobbies: Flute, Electric Guitar; languages.

Find out what you’re missing by not being a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Get biblically wise and spiritually fit. Try it free!

Getting Ready for “How to Live The Bible”

howtostudythebible

This is the introduction in 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.


Next week, I’m going to begin a brand new weekly series on the Bible Gateway Blog called “How to Live the Bible.” I’m really looking forward to these lessons for many reasons.

No doubt we all are struck by Jesus’ words that: “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24). I want my life to be built on a solid foundation, not shifting sand, and I’m sure you do too.

I believe more than ever that we need the depths of the truth of the word of God. But it goes deeper than just reading the Bible, and deeper than studying it. We need to live it.

The believers I rely on most have a whole outlook on life that’s shaped by God’s truth. They’ve absorbed it. It forms the spiritual muscle tissue of their lives. They “live” the Bible.

So that’s our goal over 30 weeks. Each weekly Blog post (available to receive by email) will offer another step in this journey. We’ll look at the right ways to apply the truth of Scripture, how to avoid mistakes in misinterpreting Scripture, how to understand the promises and commands of Scripture, and how to deal with doubt, disappointment, skepticism, and uncertainty. The book of James says that “the implanted word” of God will “rescue us” (James 1:21).

For today, may I suggest you think about friends or family members who’d be interested in reading this series of lessons on the Bible Gateway Blog and signing up to receive them by email? Signing up at Bible Gateway is as easy as it can be. Anyone can unsubscribe at any time.

Maybe you’re in a group or you pastor a congregation: please notify your friends and followers about this series. Just point people to this page at Bible Gateway.

But don’t delay. The first lesson is Wednesday, October 18.

Blessings to you.


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.