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Epiphany: God Revealed to the World Through Jesus Christ

Visit of the MagiIt might feel like the holiday season is behind us, but we’re not quite done with the Christmas season yet—today is Epiphany, a day set aside to commemorate God’s revelation to the world through the person of Jesus Christ.

In the Western church, the Scripture account usually highlighted on Epiphany is the famous story of the visit of the Magi (often called the “wise men”), which you can read in Matthew 2:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Although the Magi leave the spotlight at this point, the story continues in the following verses to describe King Herod’s hunt for the Christ-child, which culminated in the “Massacre of the Innocents” and the flight of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus to Egypt. If you usually stop your Christmas Bible reading right after the story of Jesus’ miraculous birth, I encourage you to take a moment to read just a few verses further in Matthew. The Bible tells us little about Jesus’ life between his birth and the start of his ministry, but what it does share is fascinating.

As mentioned above, the visit of the Magi is the story most closely associated with Ephiphany in the Western church. In Eastern Christian traditions, Epiphany focuses instead on the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, which you can discover by simply continuing your reading into Matthew 3. Here’s the key moment in that story:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Both approaches to Epiphany celebrate the same thing: the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and his appearance before a waiting world. Depending on your church tradition and denomination, your church may or may not be celebrating Epiphany today with a special worship service. Regardless, take a few minutes today to sit down and read these important Bible passages—and reflect on the incredible gift presented to us all in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Jesus Bible Debuts at Passion 2017 Conference

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

More than 50,000 people filled the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, January 2-4 for Passion 2017, a Christian-based gathering of young adults 18-25 years old. In its 20th year, the conference grew out of a Bible study started in Texas by Louie and Shelley Giglio as a way to reach college students and their leaders interested in a deeper understanding of Jesus Christ. Today, the faithful come from 90 countries and more than 1,600 colleges.

Attendees were given a copy of The Jesus Bible (Zondervan, 2017), which includes essays by Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church, Atlanta, and other Christian authors: Max Lucado, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, and Randy Alcorn.

[Sign up to receive free Bible Gateway email devotionals by Max Lucado and John Piper]

The Jesus Bible (website) stresses that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem isn’t the beginning of the story of Jesus. The entire Bible points to him.

Filled with 66 book introductions, over 1,000 articles, and seven compelling essays on the grand narrative of Scripture that guide readers to treasure Jesus and encourage them to faithfully follow Jesus as they participate in his story, The Jesus Bible helps readers follow the thread of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation.

The Jesus Bible helps people understand from the very first page that the Bible is one story in 66 books, and it’s all about one person. From Genesis to Exodus, to Romans, Acts, the prophets, Psalms, the Gospels…the whole book is about Jesus,” says Giglio, general editor of the project. “We had the opportunity to create a resource that I hope is going to change future generations and help Scripture come alive so that Jesus is standing on every single page; so that as you read the Bible, you understand Jesus throughout the Bible.”

Louie GiglioAbout Louie Giglio:
Louie Giglio is the pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and the founder of Passion Conferences, a global movement uniting college-aged people to live for the fame of Jesus.

With a desire to elevate God’s glory above all else, Louie has authored The Comeback, The Air I Breathe, I Am Not, But I Know I Am, and Indescribable, which was co-authored with Grammy-Award winner Matt Redman. Louie and his wife, Shelley, live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Passion PublishingAbout Passion Publishing:
Passion Publishing is a book publishing imprint committed to lifting and amplifying the messages of the Passion Movement and Passion City Church. As a movement, Passion is focused on glorifying God through a winsome life leveraged for the name and renown of Jesus. Launched in 2014, Passion Publishing has published notable bestsellers The Comeback and Waiting Here for You (Louie Giglio), and Good Good Father picture book (Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett). The imprint partners with HarperCollins Christian Publishing.

NIV translationAbout the NIV:
The New International Version (NIV) is the world’s bestselling modern-English Bible translation—accurate, readable, and clear, yet rich with the detail found in the original languages. The NIV is the result of over 50 years of work by the Committee on Bible Translation, who oversee the efforts of many contributing scholars. Representing the spectrum of evangelicalism, the translators come from a wide range of denominations and various countries and continually review new research in order to ensure the NIV remains at the forefront of accessibility, relevance, and authority. To learn more, visit www.thenivbible.com.

ZondervanAbout 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.


What Does the Bible Say About Suffering?: An Interview with Brian Han Gregg

Brian Han GreggThe quest for an answer to the problem of suffering is universal. People often treat the Bible like a manual, looking for a single clear response that explains the presence of evil and suffering. Perhaps the Bible does not have one but many responses to suffering. To pick out one theme is to hear the sopranos but miss the choir. We need to listen to the whole biblical narrative to appreciate its multifaceted handling of the problem.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Beyond Suffering Bible: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada]

Bible Gateway interviewed Brian Han Gregg about his book, What Does the Bible Say About Suffering? (IVP Academic, 2016).

Buy your copy of What Does the Bible Say About Suffering? in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

What compelled you to write a book about the Bible’s perspectives on suffering?

Brian Han Gregg: How does one make sense of a good and powerful God who allows his people to suffer? Sooner or later every Christian is forced to wrestle with this question. As a professor of Bible at a Christian University, I have experienced the joy and burden of entering into this struggle with many students. I wrote this book because so many of them are inadequately prepared to navigate the suffering they experience. My hope is that fewer of them may fall away when “trouble or persecution arise” (Mark 4:17).

What do you mean when you write, “When it comes to suffering, the Scripture’s approach is more like a complex harmony”?

Brian Han Gregg: In my experience, it’s easy to assume there are one or two “right answers” when it comes to suffering. It’s tempting to reflexively use these to interpret every instance of suffering. Frankly, we desire an easy answer to the problem of suffering. Such an approach simply doesn’t do justice to the biblical witness. In reality, the books of the Bible spend an enormous amount of space wrestling with suffering, and they approach the topic in a number of different ways. In that sense, they’re like a choir with sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses all singing their own parts. One who listens to only the sopranos fails to recognize that the sopranos are meant to be heard alongside the rest of the choir.

To that end, merely seeing the scope of possibilities is worthwhile. Here’s a list of 12 different biblical responses to suffering that I treat in the book. The discussion of each is grounded in a particular scriptural passage in order to keep the focus on the Bible. It’s my hope that consideration of the various ways God responds to suffering will enable us to hear all of the voices in the choir.

  1. The Two Ways: Suffering and the God of Justice
  2. Sin Is Lurking at the Door: Suffering and Choice
  3. The Purposes of God: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God
  4. The Accuser: Suffering and the Devil
  5. I Am: The Mystery of Suffering
  6. God Wins: Suffering and the Future
  7. Running the Race: Suffering as Training
  8. Confronting the Truth: Suffering as Testing
  9. Jars of Clay: Suffering and the Power of Weakness
  10. Pass It On: Suffering and the Comfort of God
  11. The Cruciform Path to Glory: Following God into Suffering
  12. To Suffer for Another: Participation in the Suffering of God

Provide more insight into one of these perspectives.

Brian Han Gregg: One source of suffering in each of our lives is weakness. We all know what it is to come face to face with our limitations, failings, and deficits. The world tells us to hide our weakness, pretending it doesn’t exist. God, on the other hand, makes good use of our weakness—if we let him. In “Jars of Clay,” my chapter on weakness, I explore Paul’s argument in 2 Corinthians that, “We have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us” (2 Cor. 4:7). We do not need to fear weakness. Rather, our weakness reminds us of our dependence on God, builds our trust when he acts on our behalf, and demonstrates to the world that he’s powerfully at work through his simple servants.

How and why does God want suffering to play a role in a person’s spiritual growth?

Brian Han Gregg: One of my chapters, “Running the Race,” explores the idea that God uses suffering to shape us, grow us, and mature us. This understanding of suffering’s role in “soul-making” has a long history in the church. Anyone who’s experienced great suffering knows first-hand that it changes you. When God participates in the process, that change can lead to a deepening awareness of God, self, and the world. Ironically, the experience of suffering becomes an opportunity for us to see more clearly, feel more deeply, and understand God more fully. However, I think it’s misguided to assume that God has, in every circumstance, intentionally brought distress and pain into our lives. Rather, his work to shape us in the midst of suffering is best understood redemptively. This is one of my favorite things about God. He has the capacity to take what is inherently bad and bring good out of it.

Explain your statement, “There is always a degree to which suffering will remain a mystery to us.”

Brian Han Gregg: In the process of working on the book, I have occasionally had a conversation with someone who’s interested to know how I “solved” the problem of suffering. While I think that the book opens up new ways to explore the question and usefully focuses a spotlight on the variety of biblical responses to the problem, I’m quite convinced that there will always be a significant measure of mystery surrounding the problem of suffering. So many things in the Christian faith remain beyond our understanding. God is bigger than we are and as the book of Job shows us, sometimes we must be content with that knowledge. While I can testify that our search for truth and understanding is extremely profitable, the fact remains that mystery will continue to be part of the equation.

How important is it to know the answer to the question “Why”?

Brian Han Gregg: When suffering happens, our first inclination is to seek out “why.” We want to solve the difficulty, remove the challenge, avoid the pain, so we go into problem solving mode. However, close examination of the Bible makes it plain that the “why” question is not God’s chief concern. As I say in the book, “The focus seems to lie on God’s various responses to suffering. What is God doing through suffering? What is God doing to address suffering? What is God doing to defeat suffering?” (pg. 18)

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

Brian Han Gregg: The more tools we have to explore Scripture the better! When passionate people invest in the Bible together, good things happen.


Bio: Brian Han Gregg (PhD, University of Notre Dame) is associate professor of biblical studies at the University of Sioux Falls in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He is a contributor to the and . His ministry experience includes college and missionary work with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as well as pastoral ministry in California, Indiana and South Dakota.


Feedspot Names Bible Gateway Blog #1 Best Bible Study Blog

Bible Gateway Blog is ranked #1 Best Bible Study Blog by FeedspotUsing search and social metrics, Feedspot has named Bible Gateway Blog the #1 best Bible study blog on the Web.

According to Feedspot, the judging criteria includes a blog’s Google reputation and Google search ranking; a blog’s influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, quality and consistency of posts; and the assessment of Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review.

Bible Gateway Blog is also named by Alltop to be among the “best of the best” websites in its Christianity category.Bible Gateway Blog is among Alltop's best-of-the-best websites


Why Don’t You Read the Bible More? An Honest, No-Guilt Question for the New Year

Why don’t you read the Bible more?

That’s not meant to be a scolding or guilt-inducing question. It’s a simple truth about American culture (and, I suspect, many others around the world) that most of us own a Bible, and we speak highly of the Bible, but we don’t actually read the Bible—at least, not nearly as much as you would expect from the amount of time we spend talking about it. An American Bible Society survey a few years ago found that

More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis, according to a new survey.

The survey showed the Bible is still firmly rooted in American soil: 88 percent of respondents said they own a Bible, 80 percent think the Bible is sacred, 61 percent wish they read the Bible more, and the average household has 4.4 Bibles.

If they do read it, the majority (57 percent) only read their Bibles four times a year or less. Only 26 percent of Americans said they read their Bible on a regular basis (four or more times a week).

Why do you think that is? Most of us could probably make some educated guesses about why more people don’t read the Bible: it’s an intimidatingly long book; it’s often hard to understand; it’s full of names and places that seem very disconnected from our everyday lives. When we asked author and apologist Lee Strobel what keeps people from reading the Bible, he observed that most people simply doubt that it has anything meaningful to say to them:

There are all good and insightful observations. But in the end, what really matters is this: what’s keeping you from reading your Bible as much as you’d like?

The blog post you’re reading is from a website called “Bible Gateway,” so you’ve probably guessed where this is leading: to a pitch that, in the New Year, you make a resolution to dust off that family Bible and start spending more time reading it. And that’s a wonderful idea! I could go on all day about the value of reading the Bible regularly. I could point you to Mel Lawrenz’ excellent series of essays (published here on the blog) about how to read and understand the Bible. I could point you to some useful tips for using Bible Gateway to make your Bible reading easier. I could point to Bible reading plans to make Scripture reading more accessible.

But at the end of the day, if you don’t feel inspired and challenged on a personal level to read the Bible regularly, all that advice and guidance isn’t going to do much good. And reading the Bible grudgingly, out of nothing but guilt that you ought to be reading it, isn’t really the way God wants us to experience His Word.

So if you are one of the many people who values the Bible but don’t actually read it very much, maybe the thing to do as you enter a New Year is to simply spend some time thinking about why that is. Why don’t you read you Bible more?

Do you just not have enough time in your day?

Do you imagine that the Bible just doesn’t have much to say about the practical realities of your life?

Do you think (perhaps based on past experience reading the Bible) that the Bible is a boring and difficult read?

Does reading a hefty book like the Bible just not come naturally to you?

Do you think that you don’t really need to read the Bible yourself as long as you’re getting good spiritual guidance from your church or pastor?

Is it something else?

Be honest with yourself, and think about why you don’t read the Bible more. And when you’ve identified the reason(s), the next step will be to ask if there are answers or solutions to those reasons. We at Bible Gateway can help with that part—early next year, we’ll post some ideas. But for now, if the idea of reading your Bible sounds dull and unpleasant, just think about why you think so. And we’ll see if, in 2017, we can find an approach to Scripture that’s just right for you.

Bible News Roundup – Week of January 1, 2017

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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Support Bible Gateway—Browse the Bible Gateway Store
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Passion 2017 Conference is About Faith and Fellowship
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Passion 2017 attendees were given a copy of The Jesus Bible (Zondervan, 2017)

PraiseCamp2016 End-of-Year Youth Camp in Switzerland Challenged 6,500 to Rediscover ‘The Book’
Evangelical Focus

A Bible Translation for Everyone?
The Christian Century
Read the Good News Translation on Bible Gateway
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, History of the American Bible Society: An Interview with John Fea

Hanukkah Discovery: Ancient Menorah and Cross Carvings
Biblical Archaeology Review
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Mysterious Festival of Hanukkah

Bible Reading Marathon: Glasgow, Kentucky Residents Begin New Year Reading Entire Bible
Glasgow Daily Times

Wycliffe Associates Makes Push for More Access to the Bible Through Technology
News Release

Farmers On Mission To Return ‘Old Testament Sheep’ To Holy Land
NPR

Biblical Sites Reveal Major Historical Truths About Jesus
CBN News
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—A Collection of Bible Museums & Exhibits
See the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store

Facebook Links Daughter with Mother’s Lost Bible
The Ellsworth American

In Eastern Germany, the Land of Luther, Church Pews Are Mostly Empty
Star Tribune
See the Reformation Studies section in the Bible Gateway Store

Religious Makeup of the New US Congress Is Overwhelmingly Christian
RNS

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Poll: What Bible Reading Resolutions Are You Making for the New Year?

A new year is right around the corner, and we all know what the means: New Year’s Resolutions! What Bible-related resolution(s) are you making for 2017? Share your plans in the poll below.

What Bible resolutions are you making for 2017? (Check all that apply.)

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Resolve to Get to Know Your Bible Better in 2017 (And Let Us Help!)

Are you starting to think about New Year’s resolutions for 2017? Why not make a resolution to spend some time in the New Year getting to know your Bible better?

“Spend time reading the Bible” may sound like a daunting resolution to make, but it actually doesn’t need to be. Getting to know your Bible doesn’t mean you have to spend hours each day studying Scripture or memorizing verses. It just means resolving to spend intentional time reading the Bible on a regular basis.

What that looks like will differ from person to person—for one person, it might mean spending five minutes each morning reading a short Bible passage; for another, it’s an hour every Saturday afternoon. What’s most important is not the length of time you spend reading Scripture, but simply cementing the practice of reading Scripture regularly into a habit. For the purposes of connecting the Bible to your everyday life, a habit of reading the Bible for just five minutes a day is much healthier than a marathon Bible study session that you only do every six months.

So make 2017 the year that you move from wishing you read the Bible more, to actually doing it!

Of course, we at Bible Gateway want to help you do that. We’ve hand-picked several devotionals that we think will get you off to a great start in 2017 reading and reflecting on God’s Word. You can sign up for them at our New Year’s Devotionals page. (And if you don’t see exactly what you want there, visit our devotional library and our collection of Bible reading plans to find the one that’s perfect for you.)

It’s easier than you think to get into the habit of reading God’s Word. Resolve to do it in 2017—and let us help!

Infographic: The People, Places, and Timeline of the First Christmas

Back by popular demand is our Christmas “subway map” Infographic that shows the who-where-and-when of the Nativity when Jesus was born in Bethlehem (click the image below to enlarge it in a new tab):

Christmas Story timeline visualization

(Also available: high-resolution image and PDF.)

This visualization traces the Christmas story as told in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, showing you who is with whom throughout the story. Verse references are provided so you can look up each event in the Bible for details.

Read all about it in the Bible Gateway Blog post, Who Was Where at Christmas? A Christmas Story Timeline.


Bible News Roundup – Week of December 25, 2016

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

“Christians Are the Most Persecuted Religious Group: 90,000 Killed for Their Faith in 2016”
CBN News

Biblical Archaeology’s Top 10 Discoveries of 2016
CT
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post—A Collection of Bible Museums & Exhibits
See the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store

Gov. Bevin Declares 2017 ‘Year of the Bible’ in Kentucky
Lexington Herald-Leader
Read the Bible on Bible Gateway

Bible Reading Marathon in Kentucky Starts on New Year’s Day
The Daily Independent

US Supreme Court Asked To Hear Groundbreaking Military Religious Freedom Case
The Daily Caller
Military.com: Marine Discharged Over Bible Verses Petitions Supreme Court

Georgia Teen’s Boyfriend Asked for a Bible for Christmas — Her Response is Going Viral
The Blaze
Seventeen: This Girl Spent Three Months Decorating Every Single Page of a Bible for Her Boyfriend
See coloring Bibles in the Bible Gateway Store

Bibles for China Prepares to Increase Distribution of Scriptures in 2017
Mission Network News

Bible Society of Nigeria Launches 77 Nigerian Sign Language Bible Stories
Vanguard Newspapers

Bible Society of India to Develop Bible Apps in 16 Regional Indian Dialects
India Times
Read the Bible in multiple languages on Bible Gateway

This Israeli Farmer is Bringing Back Biblical Plants Like Frankincense and Myrrh
Toronto Star

US, Israeli Winners in World Bible Contest
Ynetnews

Biblical-Era Tel Dan Wall Collapses as Storms Hit Northern Israel
The Times of Israel
Read about the city of Dan in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway

5 Key Findings on Religion in the US
Gallup

Norway: Church to Become Separate from State Beginning Jan. 1
Christian Headlines

A Third of Britons Believe They Have a Guardian Angel
The Telegraph

Faith Slump in UK Accelerated During Unsettled 2016, Poll Finds
Premier

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