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Died: Bible Scholar and Author Dr. R.C. Sproul

R.C. Sproul

Theologian, author, broadcaster, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, Dr. R.C. Sproul (@RCSproul), 78, died today (Dec. 14) around 3 pm EST surrounded by his wife, Vesta, and family in his hospital room in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

See the CT article, Died: R. C. Sproul, Reformed Theologian Who Founded Ligonier Ministries.

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From the Ligonier Ministries blog: He died peacefully after being hospitalized 12 days ago due to severe respiratory difficulties exacerbated by the flu and complicated by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

[Browse the many books by Dr. R.C. Sproul in the Bible Gateway Store]

Known to millions of Christians as simply “R.C.,” he was used of the Lord to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God in all its fullness. Through his teaching ministry, many of us learned that God is bigger than we knew, our sin is more deeply rooted than we imagined, and the grace of God in Jesus Christ is overwhelming.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Reformation Study Bible: An Interview with Dr. R.C. Sproul]

God called R.C. to proclaim the gospel to as many people as possible. R.C. did this knowing the Lord did not need him. In fact, he wanted people to know the enduring, faithful witness of God’s servants throughout church history. God powerfully used R.C.’s ministry in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to awaken people around the world to the truths of classical Christianity.

It belongs to others in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead to assess the impact of R.C.’s ministry in the history of the church. In this moment, we feel loss—immense sadness and profound loss—the loss of a pastor, a teacher, a leader, a brother-in-Christ, a friend.

R.C. now sees the object of his faith, the risen Christ, high and lifted up. He now hears the seraphim’s song before the throne, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Freely Access the Reformation Study Bible]

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Better Than a Space Knight’s Force: May the Faith Be With You Bible

Buy your copy of the NIrV May the Faith Be with You Holy Bible in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

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The popular May the Faith Be With You brand (website) from Zonderkidz (@Zonderkidz) is back with two new NIrV full-text Bibles and a glow-in-the-dark bedtime prayer book for little ones. Now all the kids in your family can enjoy all things intergalactic, and explore the awesome marvel of God’s creation and the meaning of faith with the true word of God. The most rewarding way to a life of wisdom is apprenticing with the Ultimate Master himself—Jesus Christ.

Buy your copy of May the Faith Be With You: Bedtime Prayers in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day            Buy your copy of May the Faith Be with You: 180 Devotions That Are Out of This World in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day            Buy your copy of the NIrV May the Faith Be with You Holy Bible, Hardcover in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day            Buy your copy of the NIrV May the Faith Be with You Holy Bible, Imitation Leather, Black in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Features of the May the Faith Be With You Bible:

  • 24 full-color pages of content on the marvel of God’s creation and the meaning of faith
  • Vibrant outer space imagery
  • Compelling, metallic-embellished cover
  • The complete text of the New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) translation of the Bible

Life in the Spirit isn’t in a Galaxy far, far away….It’s right here, right now.
Cushioned pews and boring sermons it is not.
Adventure, risk, daring, and the pursuit of wisdom it is!
Let the awesome power of God work through you
to do things you never thought possible.
May the faith be with you!

May the Faith Be With You Scripture memes; click to enlarge

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How to (and Why You Should) Live in God’s Presence: An Interview with Ken Boa

Ken BoaWhy don’t we intentionally experience God’s presence more than we do? After all, he’s everywhere and always with us. How do life’s distractions drown out God’s voice? How should we cultivate a life living in God’s presence?

Bible Gateway interviewed Ken Boa (@KennethBoa) about his book, Life in the Presence of God: Practices for Living in Light of Eternity (InterVarsity Press, 2017).

What is a Christian’s “quiet time” and why are you saying it’s not enough?

[Browse the books written by Kenneth Boa in the Bible Gateway Store]

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

Ken Boa: Believers are often encouraged to spend some time each day alone praying and reading the Bible. This is a good thing, modeled by Jesus himself. But too often people view this time with God as sufficient, and as separate from the rest of their lives; they essentially leave Jesus on their bedside table and ignore him the rest of the day. This is a far cry from the ongoing walking in the Spirit, abiding in Christ, persevering, praying, and rejoicing presented in Scripture.

All of life is to be lived in the presence and power of God, not just for a few minutes or even an hour in the morning. It’s as though we want to take a tiny nibble of spiritual food and hope that sustains us for a while; then we wonder why we’re so weary and unable to live as Christ calls us to live. To truly enjoy the abundant life Jesus invited us into, we need to be more aware of God all the time, in every circumstance and every encounter, just as he was. We need that regular, focused quiet time, but we also need to take our awareness of and commitment to God into our more numerous “noisy times.”

How does the Bible describe “life in Christ”?

Ken Boa: Jesus used the analogy of a vine in John 15. A branch that abides never leaves the vine. It’s constantly drawing health and energy from the vine. When it stops doing this, it loses its vitality, fails to produce fruit, and eventually withers and dies. Jesus, who called himself the “true vine,” was showing us that we either stay with him, drawing our life from him, or we wither and die. We don’t connect to the Vine briefly and then depart; we stay, we abide. This is ongoing, not a once-and-done action, and not something we just do for a few minutes a day or a couple hours on a Sunday morning. It’s a dynamic, ongoing process that never ends in this life.

Is this what Paul means when he says, “pray without ceasing”?

Ken Boa: Yes, this is part of it. The idea isn’t just to utter words repeatedly but to meditate on and remember Christ, always having one ear cocked to him, while we go about our daily activities. There’s an attitude of prayer—of openness to God and his promptings—that we can have all day long (after all, prayer is not only us talking to God, but God communicating to us). In addition, I talk in Life in the Presence of God about “habitual recollection” of God, which is a less-than-conscious awareness we have of someone or something that’s always there in the background (much as I’m conscious of my wife even though I may not always be thinking conscious thoughts about her). This is in contrast to a more conscious “actual recollection.” Experiencing God’s presence involves both. And both will naturally increase as our relationship with Christ deepens and he becomes more integrated into who we are and everything we do.

What do you mean, “the destination you choose will define your journey”?

Ken Boa: How we live is determined by what is ultimately fueling us—our deepest desire or end goal. Do we really want to know and follow God, or are we more interested in a comfortable, pleasurable life for ourselves? Do we really believe God offers “eternal pleasures” that are better than anything this world can offer, or do we think the pleasures of this world are a bit more satisfying? Jesus asked his disciples early on, “What do you seek?” And he’s still asking that question today. To be motivated to live in the presence of God, we have to believe that “the good life” is really found in him and him alone. With him is true freedom and “fullness of joy.” Far from being scary or boring or an angry tyrant, God is Life itself, and life in him is the most fulfilling one we can live. If we truly believe this, we’ll make adjustments in our daily walk to enable us to get there.

Explain how a person should “trust and train” to live in the presence of God.

Ken Boa: Trusting God means transferring our confidence and hope from ourselves to him, acknowledging that we have no ability in ourselves to live in a way that pleases him. Only he can change us by the power of his Spirit in us. This trust is manifested in a context of obedience in our lives to the biblical mandates God calls us to pursue. Training means acting upon that trust by doing things that help us rely upon God more and live out his desire for us (including loving and serving others). When we think of training ourselves in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), we usually think of the traditional spiritual disciplines (prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, etc.), but it can also be practical activities like taking a nature walk or listening to music—whatever helps us draw closer to God. God hardwired our brains and bodies in such a way that spiritual training, combined with God’s work in us, has the very real effect of making us more attuned to spiritual reality and our true identity in Christ.

Who are people you point to in the Bible and how should they be emulated to live in God’s presence?

Ken Boa: Jesus is the prime exemplar of life in God’s presence. He lived out of an awareness of the identity God had given him (not the identity the world wanted to give him); he led an active, ongoing prayer life; he took time apart from the world to be with his Father; he made his Father’s agenda his agenda; he made his Father’s love for people evident in tangible ways; and so on. These are all characteristics that we should emulate in our lives. I also call attention to Abraham, Enoch, Moses, and David, all of whom demonstrated a closeness to and friendship with God. David is a great example of a man who could’ve allowed grievous sin (namely, adultery and murder) to drive him away from God’s presence; but instead, he modeled how the best course of action when we become conscious and convicted of our sin is to run to God and hide in him, not from him.

How should a person re-see the world to be continually conscious of God?

Ken Boa: When we see through the lens of God’s truth, revealed primarily in his Word, everything comes into sharper focus. Suddenly, we’ll see that everything is integrated and overlapping—that the world is not divided between the sacred and the secular, but there’s one life, and God is the Master of all of it. He’s as present on Monday morning as we commute to work as he is Sunday morning in a worship service. God knows all things, past, present, and future, and is all-wise; when we train ourselves to see more as he sees, we’ll pursue the things he values and seek to live before him as our primary audience. We’ll have a whole new vision for our lives because God always enriches life for us.

What are some practices you recommend for living in light of eternity?

Ken Boa: We’ve produced a companion training guide for Life in the Presence of God that contains 104 exercises in a 52-week guide. The exercises are broken down into eight categories, one being Scripture; however, at least half of the exercises contain some reference to Bible verses. Bible-related exercises range from meditation on verses on 3-by-5 index cards and setting smartphone alerts for one-minute meditations in the middle of the day, to using specific verses to remind of wise approaches to living—for example, playing to an audience of One (Galatians 1:10), living in light of wanting to hear God’s approving words “well done” at the end of our lives (Matthew 25:21), and considering God’s intimate provision and care by (literally) “considering the birds of the air” when outside (based on Matthew 6:26).

There’s a host of other types of exercises to capture the diversity of human personalities and approaches. Others involve nature, physical movement, relationships, time and work issues, music, art, and more—all with the goal of helping people not only develop new habits but also see how they can integrate the spiritual into the ordinary things they’re already doing each day.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Ken Boa: Given the manifest wealth of the precepts and principles of Scripture, my answer to this would likely change each time the question is posed. At this moment, Philippians 4:6–8 comes to mind, given the profound importance of choosing to dwell on truth, goodness, and beauty in a world that seduces us away from this transcendent wealth.

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

Ken Boa: My staff, editors, and I greatly appreciate and frequently use Bible Gateway for developing resources. It’s an invaluable tool!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Ken Boa: This book is intended to be accessible to anyone, no matter where they are in their Christian walk. There’s an impression, I think, when we hear the phrase “practice God’s presence.” It conjures up images of a monk isolated in a prayer closet or monastery. But it’s so much more than that. Practicing God’s presence is not something we do only by ourselves. In fact, most of our lives are lived with people all around us, and it’s there, in community, that we need to learn to cultivate an awareness of our Creator in addition to doing so individually. My desire is that this book helps expand our view of what it means to live in Christ, and that people realize this is not about legalism or mechanics; it’s about doing things that will help nurture our relationship with God just as we do to deepen any relationship.


Bio: Kenneth Boa is engaged in a ministry of teaching, writing, speaking, and relational evangelism and discipleship. He has authored, coauthored, or edited more than 70 books, including Rewriting Your Broken Story (IVP, 2016) and three Gold Medallion Award winners (now the Christian Book Awards): Faith Has Its Reasons: An Integrative Approach to Defending Christianity, the NASB Zondervan Study Bible (editor), and An Unchanging Faith in a Changing World. He holds a BS from Case Institute of Technology, a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, a PhD from New York University, and a DPhil from the University of Oxford in England. Based in Atlanta, Dr. Boa is the president of Reflections Ministries, an organization that seeks to encourage, teach, and equip people to know Christ, follow him, become progressively conformed to his image, and reproduce his life in others. He is also president of Trinity House Publishers, a publishing company that is dedicated to the creation of tools that will help people manifest eternal values in a temporal arena by drawing them to intimacy with God and a better understanding of the culture in which they live.

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Grieving as the World Rejoices

Kristen KillBy Kristen Kill

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

I’d stopped driving once we arrived in Manhattan, but I often imagined what it was like to be a cab driver behind the wheel among so much honking and chaos. When I was a teenager, my Papa faithfully picked me up in his Jeep Wagoneer on Saturday afternoons, wearing his plaid shirt and brown slacks and his brown leather jacket. My parents were terrified to see me behind the wheel, so my grandfather had volunteered to teach me to drive. He began my education in the cemetery. With smooth straightaways and plenty of turns, it was the perfect place to learn. I could hit the gas in the smooth parts just right, but I always lost my confidence on the curves.

“Darlin’ you don’t have anything to worry about. Everyone here is already dead.”

He said this every week. He waited for just the right moment to deliver the line, and then he’d chuckle and grin, and my resolve would return while we laughed together. I’d try again. Inevitably I’d jerk the old Wagoneer and throw my foot too hard and then slam the brake, sending us backward to collide with the headrests.

These were our Saturdays, until one afternoon right near a turn that always sparked my anxiety, he had me pull over. The fresh air felt good, and we walked for a moment before I realized that he wanted to show me his plot, the place where one day he would be laid to rest. No, no, no. I wasn’t ready to think about it. He was so young and vibrant for a grandfather. He would live forever, I thought. He would be with me for so many moments that mattered throughout my life. We had many more years to go boating and water skiing, to read the newspaper and listen to Andy Williams together, to make sure the family cabin was stocked with Honey Bunches of Oats. We’d dance at my wedding, and he’d welcome my children at their births, anxious and pacing in the lobby of the hospital as I labored with each one.

When heaven began to pull Papa home, I was no longer a teenager naïve to grief. I was a mother of four, a grown-up with a mortgage. By then, Parkinson’s had been weakening his frame for a decade. I snuggled up close and held my grandfather’s hand and all my worries about how to say goodbye came rushing back, as heavy as they had been during that driving lesson years before. Lael, my baby at the time, tiny and angelic, slept on my lap in a purple cotton dress when I leaned in and said goodbye to Papa. As she was breathing in new life, he slowly exhaled his.

I didn’t see it yet, but this exchange would become a familiar one. Breathing in, breathing out. New life and letting go, cycles of welcomes and goodbyes to mark my days.

Our Terror-Filled, Silent Night

My doctor told us the news on a Friday. Our baby’s heart had stopped beating. It was during our second year in New York, and I’d been out shopping for stocking stuffers all afternoon. The holiday markets filled all the parks with peppermint-striped tents, and the street vendors were selling brown bags of roasted chestnuts on every corner. The ice rinks were open, and we had tickets to see the Rockettes perform at Radio City Music Hall. I’d spent so much time daydreaming in front of shop windows, taking in their meticulous designs, that I had to hail a taxi to make it to my appointment on time. It was sure to be quick. I was in the second trimester of my pregnancy, and the visit was supposed to be routine, only a simple check-up. Then came the blow.

She gave us the weekend to decide what to do—let labor come on its own or have surgery. It was Christmas, and I was numb, forced to choose how to let a child fall from my womb as the whole earth rejoiced in the miracle of birth. But her life poured out on Christmas Day. We trimmed the tree and tucked gifts beneath it the same night I began to miscarry, and I wondered if I’d ever enter into Advent with expectant joy again. All my hope had been exchanged for grief, every twinkle and glimmer of light was a reminder of life snuffed out. After a long labor and contractions, I birthed her, still and tiny. We cupped her body in our hands as Josh and I wept at a promise that was unfulfilled—held forever, but hollow.

The Silent Night, so beautiful to many, became our terror.

We buried her in the cemetery in our valley, right near that curve of road that made me jerk and then brake, where I’d had so many stops and starts. She’s buried there, in the place where I began to realize that death jerks us around too, that grief comes fast and goes slow. She’s buried right next to my grandfather. We named her Thea Nöel. Thea comes from a name that means gift. Because God gives, even in death. Even at Christmas.

________

Finding SelahTaken from Finding Selah: The Simple Practice of Peace When You Need It Most by Kristen Kill. Click here to learn more about this title.

That something you’ve been looking for in the empty stress of your mad-dash days? It has a name.

The Psalms call it selah—the pause, rest, or interlude between the notes in a song. More than merely an empty space, selah is a chance to stop and resync with the story and song of God. For all the ways life keeps you running, this word and practice offers a way to re-center yourself on the One who holds all things together and makes all things beautiful.

Stretched beyond her capacity in caring for a large family in the middle of Manhattan, Kristen Kill was exhausted, depressed, and desperate for a change. Then something sparked within her when she read the Psalms, and found that often all that stood between the psalmist’s cries for help and celebrations of praise was this simple word, selah.

Join Kristen in Finding Selah for a journey that will transform the way you think about work, rest, and the little spaces in between that make all the difference. This book will show you how to tune your ear to the song God is singing over you, embrace the “selah moments” able to transform your daily rhythms, and most of all, encounter the ultimate Selah in Christ, who stands in the gap between heaven and your most hectic of days. There is hope for the dissonance you feel. Finding Selah will show you not only how to sing a new song, but to live a new way.

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

7-Day Bible Reading Plan for Christmas: Jesus is Born

Use this 7-day Bible reading plan to help you focus on the meaning of Christmas; the coming of our Savior as a baby.

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[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Prepare for Thanksgiving with Bible Gateway’s Free Email Devotional]

Click each Bible reference to read the passage on Bible Gateway:

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Happy Hanukkah—Know Why It’s Important

Click to email Michael NortenHanukkah (Chanukah) is the Jewish 8-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” celebrated with a nightly menorah lighting, special prayers, and fried foods. The Hebrew word Chanukah means “dedication,” and is thus named because it celebrates the rededication of the Holy Temple (chabad.org).

Be sure to the read the Bible Gateway Blog guest post, The Mysterious Festival of Hanukkah by Michael Norten, author of Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts: The Prophecies in the Feasts of Leviticus (Thomas Nelson, 2015).

Buy your copy of Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayNorten says, “The purpose and the traditions of this festival are so intriguing, that Christians should appreciate Hanukkah more than a passing acknowledgment of the season. Jewish celebrations are packed full of meaningful rituals and observances, which serve as wonderful illustrations of spiritual truths. When the traditions point in some way to Jesus, Christians should especially take note.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

How has that experience informed your message in Everyday Genesis?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

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

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

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


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

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The Year I Dreaded Christmas

Walter Wangerin Jr.By Walter Wangerin Jr.

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

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

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

“Well, children, how do you do?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dad prayed the prayer he always prayed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bible News Roundup – Week of December 10, 2017

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store
BibleGatewayStore.com

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

Pope Francis Suggests Rewording The Lord’s Prayer: ‘Lead Us Not Into Temptation’
Los Angeles Times
Read The Lord’s Prayer on Bible Gateway
CNA Analysis: What is the Context of Pope Francis’ Words on the Lord’s Prayer?
CT: Should the Lord’s Prayer Be Changed?

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

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

What Focus Groups Taught Us About Bible Reading
LifeWay Research

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

Most Americans Believe Society is Increasingly Abandoning the Religious Aspects of Christmas, But Most Americans Are Not Troubled by the Trend
Pew Research

Landlord Demands Elderly Christian Woman Take Down Christmas Bible Verse
ACLJ

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

UK Prime Minister Theresa May Given Scorched Bible Saved from Iraqi Church Burned by ISIS
Premier
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Staggering Picture of Christian Persecution: An Interview with Johnnie Moore
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Verses for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church: Nov. 5 & 12, 2017
See books in the Bible Gateway Store on the subject of Christian persecution

ISIS Calls on Egyptian Muslims to Kill Their Christians Neighbors This Christmas
AINA

Wycliffe Associates Steadfast in Support of Persecuted Mother-Tongue Translators Providing Broader Access to the Scriptures
Wycliffe Associates

Uzbekistan: No Books Allowed, Bible Ordered Destroyed
Forum 18

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

The Rare Hebrew Bible that United Three Cultures
Sotheby’s

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