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Bible News Roundup – Week of May 15, 2016

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What the Latest Bible Research Reveals About Millennials
Christianity Today
CBN: What Americans Believe about the Bible

Many Americans Don’t Argue About Religion – Or Even Talk About It
The Washington Post: Call yourself a Christian? Start talking about Jesus Christ.
See the Evangelism section in the Bible Gateway Store

The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide (pdf)
Society of Biblical Literature

Georgia Bible Reading Marathon Is a Success

Scripture Distribution Remains Steady Around the World

Mexican Sign Language Comes to Deaf Bible App
Mission Network News
Bible Gateway App

Going to Church Could Help You Live Longer, Study Says

Jesus’ Baptism Site to be Cleared of Mines
Read about the baptism of Jesus from the Gospels on Bible Gateway

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Reflections on Pentecost: The Church is Born

pentecostThis Sunday is Pentecost Sunday! After the overwhelming excitement of Easter, Pentecost sometimes seems like a minor event. But Pentecost (which actually brings a close to the liturgical season of Easter) is a key moment in the history of the Christian faith. Let’s take a few minutes today to walk through the significance of Pentecost.

Pentecost (a reference to the 50 days that have passed since Easter) is a peculiar event that took place after Jesus’ ascent into heaven (which was celebrated last week on Ascension Day). It’s described in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. Here’s the key part of the account:

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” —Acts 2:1-13 (NIV)

On the surface, the Pentecost story is interesting but doesn’t seem especially significant. God empowered his disciples to be understood in many different languages—amazing, to be sure, but doesn’t this “just” a miracle like the countless other ones described in the New Testament? Not so fast—while Pentecost is certainly miraculous, its background context makes it especially important and noteworthy.

Pentecost Had Been Promised

joelPentecost is important because Christians understand it to be the long-awaited fulfillment of prophecy. In other words, Pentecost was important enough to have been predicted hundreds of years in advance. In the Pentecost story linked above, the disciple Peter reminds his audience of the Old Testament prophecy that was being fulfilled right in front of them:

[Peter explained that] this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy….”

That prophecy can be found in Joel 2:28-32, and had been made many hundreds of years earlier. But the arrival of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost had also been predicted much more recently by Jesus himself. Just before his ascension, Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would empower them to preach to the nations of the world:

“…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” —

An earlier promise by Jesus seems also to be a reference to the events of Pentecost:

“The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised….” — Luke 24:46-49 (NIV)

If you want to reach much farther back into the Old Testament, you could also consider Pentecost to be a mirror reflection of the ancient story of Babel (read about it in Genesis 11), in which people were confused and divided by language as punishment for their rebellious actions. At Pentecost, God has reversed the confusion of Babel, uniting people across language barriers.

So Why is Pentecost Important?

You might be thinking, “That’s all very interesting, but why is Pentecost important?” It’s important because it infused the small community of Jesus-followers with the core mission that would define the Christian church ever after: to share the message of Jesus Christ with the entire world.

Consider that in the weeks following Christ’s death and resurrection, many of his followers were undoubtedly still processing the incredible events they had witnessed, and were probably wondering what God wanted them to do now that Jesus had carried out his mission. On Pentecost, God made it clear what Christ-followers should do with the news of Jesus Christ: share it with others. And not just with the Jewish communities in which they lived; the multi-linguistic nature of this miracle made it plain that the Gospel message was not confined to one community, nation, ethnicity, or language.

Pentecost is when the Christian church received, and was empowered to carry out, its grand assignment of evangelism. For this reason, Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the “birthday of the Christian church.”

The mission given to Christians on Pentecost still stands, thousands of years later. We are to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with the world—and as we do so, we should rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit, who empowered the early church to share the gospel, and continues to do so today. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon, reflecting on Pentecost, challenged Christians to appreciate the gift of this remarkable event:

“[The Holy Spirit’s] power was gloriously manifested in and after Pentecost. He remains at this hour the present Immanuel–God with us, dwelling in and with his people, quickening, guiding, and ruling in their midst. Is his presence recognized as it ought to be? We cannot control his working; he is most sovereign in all his operations, but are we sufficiently anxious to obtain his help, or sufficiently watchful lest we provoke him to withdraw his aid? Without him we can do nothing, but by his almighty energy the most extraordinary results can be produced…. The Holy [Spirit] is no temporary gift, he abides with the saints. We have but to seek him aright, and he will be found of us.” — Charles Spurgeon

Images: the 16th-century painting “Pentecost” by El Greco, and Michelangelo’s 16th-century fresco “The Prophet Joel.”

Wycliffe Associates—Helping to Translate the Bible Where Persecution of Christians Is Severe: An Interview with Bruce Smith

Pentecost Sunday is May 15, 2016. It’s also International Day for the Unreached.
Browse resources about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit and Evangelism
in the Bible Gateway Store.

Bruce SmithThe hard work of Scripture translation has been ongoing for more than 2,000 years. Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text into a target-language text. As anyone who speaks more than one language knows, it takes perseverance and dedication to become so fluent that the original meaning is not lost in translation.

Bible Gateway interviewed Bruce Smith, president & CEO, about the work of Wycliffe Associates (@WycliffeAssoc) in the midst of Christian persecution.

Explain the work of Wycliffe Associates and how it differs from Wycliffe Bible Translators.Click to visit Wycliffe Associates website

Bruce Smith: Wycliffe Associates accelerates Bible translation by freely providing open-license biblical resources, innovative training, and technical resources to serve local churches as stewards of God’s Word in their language. We see local churches as God’s instruments for spiritual impact in their communities—including Bible translation. Wycliffe Associates supports only Bible translations that use literal common language terms for Father and Son of God.

You announced the launch over the course of 30 days of at least 10 new Bible translation projects where persecution of Christians is severe. Are these projects now underway? And why are you concentrating your efforts in these dangerous areas?

Bruce Smith: These projects are now underway. All of Wycliffe Associates’ support for Bible translation is in response to requests from local churches. The churches in these dangerous areas are thirsty for God’s Word and are ready, willing, and able to face the challenges in their arena in order to get Scripture to their people. They are unwilling for another generation to die without hope; without understanding the eternal salvation of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for them. Our response is in response to their urgency.

Browse resources in the Bible Gateway Store on the subject of Christian persecution.
Also see our Blog posts, I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters
International Day(s) of Prayer for the Persecuted Church and
Bible Translation Organizations

Click to enlarge Scripture & Language Statistics 2015

Explain what MAST (Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation) is.

Bruce Smith: MAST is an innovative Bible translation method that enables the local church to draft and quality-check scriptures in a very short time period. It developed from educational and language-learning principles applied with local Christians working in Bible translation. Traditional Bible translations typically involve a few people working for many years, while MAST involves many people working for just weeks or months. Church leaders, elders, and community members work together as a team to quality-check scriptures immediately as they’re drafted. The pace of translation progress in MAST is primarily a function of the number of church translators involved in the process. Small translation teams using MAST are drafting and checking the entire New Testament in about one year. Larger translation teams using MAST have reduced the time required to months or even weeks.

Why has it become controversial?

Bruce Smith: Many New Testaments translated by foreign missionaries have required more than 25 years to complete. In recent years some New Testament translations have been accomplished in around 10 years by relying on local translators who already know the language and culture. These translations are typically based on a linguistic research model that significantly lengthens the timeline. MAST is controversial because it recognizes the authority and ability of the local church to steward God’s Word for themselves, and it enables churches to accomplish in weeks or months what required foreigners years or decades to accomplish.

Click to enlarge 2015 map of the number of languages needing Bible translation where no program is in place

What does it mean to be a Mother Tongue Translator?

Bruce Smith: A mother-tongue translator translates Scripture from an existing Bible translation into the language he or she spoke first as a child. Other-tongue translators translate from a Bible translation in their own first language into a language they are just beginning to learn.

What does it mean to “translate the books of the Bible in parallel”?

Bruce Smith: Traditional Bible translation engages a few translators working through the verse, passage, book, and Testament in series. They all work on the same verse together, one at a time. The MAST method has translators working simultaneously, in parallel, on different passages. While one translator is working on Matthew chapters 1-9 other translators on the team will be working on Matthew chapters 10-18 and 19-27. With larger translation teams while some groups are working on the Gospels others are working on Paul’s epistles, John’s books, and other New Testament books.

How do you respond to those who say this method results in major inconsistencies in style and terminology?

Bruce Smith: Experience is showing that MAST actually improves consistency in terminology because a much broader cross-section of the church and community are involved in the translation.

Why is speed of Bible translation so important?

Bruce Smith: In the words of one national church leader, “While translation gurus, agencies, and theologians argue about who is wrong and right, millions of people in the global south are perishing and walking straight into hell because they’re yet to read, know, and make the decision to receive Jesus Christ as their personal savior, Lord, and be his disciples.”

Wycliffe Associates Achievements
Currently Accelerating the work of Bible translation in 75 countries

In 2015 mobilized 6,279 volunteer and staff members to advance the cause of Bible translation throughout the world in 75 countries

Installed 509 Bible Translation Acceleration Kits (BTAKs) in 46 countries for 806 language communities since started installing BTAKs

103 new translation projects started using Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST) workshops since WA started using MAST

Improved hundreds of facilities for Bible translation around the world

How can MAST guarantee Bible translation accuracy if Mother Tongue Translators are not fluent in the biblical languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic?

Bruce Smith: During the past century most Bible translations into minority languages have depended heavily upon Bible translations from majority languages. In this regard MAST begins with the same starting point. Consistency with the original biblical languages is included in the MAST quality-checking process as church leaders, seminary graduates and professors, and denominational authorities are engaged in the checking process.

What is the Wycliffe Global Alliance (WGA) and why didn’t Wycliffe Associates renew its affiliation with it?

Bruce Smith: The Wycliffe Global Alliance is an alliance of organizations that subscribe to the WGA philosophy of Bible translation and partnership principles. Recent changes to the WGA partnership agreement reduced our ability to assure that we do not support Bible translations that use alternative terms for Father and Son of God. For this reason Wycliffe Associates chose not to renew our affiliation with the WGA.

Does that also mean Wycliffe Bible Translators is no longer affiliated with Wycliffe Global Alliance?

Bruce Smith: Information on organizations affiliated with the Wycliffe Global Alliance is available online.

Why is the literal translation of “Father” and “Son of God” not negotiable for you?

Bruce Smith: Wycliffe Associates believes that these literal terms are essential to understanding the trinity. Literal father and son terms exist in every language worldwide, were used by the originally inspired authors of Scripture, and are used by evangelical and orthodox church authorities in all widely accepted Scripture translations.

How does no longer being affiliated with WGA affect WA?

Bruce Smith: Wycliffe Associates remains committed to working in partnership with all WGA partners, and local church partners, that are committed to using literal common language terms for Father and Son of God. This includes the vast majority of all Christian churches and ministries worldwide.

Language/Translation Facts:
Languages currently spoken in the world: 6,887

Languages that need a Bible translation project started: 3,287

Languages that have Scripture: 2,932; of these, 554 have an adequate Bible, 1,333 have an adequate New Testament, and 1,045 have at least one book of the Bible

Total number of languages in which Bible translation is in progress: 2,267

What can the average Christian do to encourage the work of Bible translation?

Bruce Smith: Every Christian can pray, give, or go. Bible translation is part of the spiritual warfare of our lifetimes. Prayer is an essential and integral part of this work. Everyone can pray. Financial resources to support Bible translation come from Christians who choose to prioritize it in their stewardship. God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills,” but he puts some of these in our pastures and gives us responsibility for their stewardship. Everyone can give.

God has also equipped his people with tremendously valuable skills and experience to serve his church. Churches globally are asking for our assistance as they take responsibility for Bible translation. Wycliffe Associates has numerous service opportunities for Christians interested in serving the church. Just give us a call!

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

Bruce Smith: Bible Gateway is a tremendous online compilation of English-language biblical resources. These are a huge blessing to the online English-speaking community. How can we partner in increasing online and offline biblical resources for non-English speaking communities?

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Bruce Smith: Thanks for the opportunity to elaborate on how God is moving in new ways to speed his Word to the nations!

Bio: As President and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, Dr. Bruce A. Smith has made it his life-long goal to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel through the ministry of Bible translation—affecting hundreds of language groups who still need the Bible translated into their heart language. Bruce and his wife Jan have two daughters, two sons-in-love, and are the proud grandparents of four grandsons.

How to Study the Bible: Digesting Instead of Devouring


This lesson is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Study 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mel Lawrenz 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 Ph.D. in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, the latest, 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.

Exploring the Psalms With Bono and Eugene Peterson

Have you seen this conversation between Bono—lead singer of the rock band U2—and Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible? It’s an interesting glimpse of two very different artists discussing the ways that Scripture inspires and challenges them. Here’s the video:

The video was produced by FULLER Studio, which has a large amount of additional material on the Psalms and a variety of other topics. Here’s a bit of additional context for the video above.

First, you certainly noticed that the Psalms come in for praise from both Bono and Peterson. The U2 song “40,” for example, is based on the words of Psalm 40:

If you’re not familiar with Psalms, it’s a book of the Bible that collects 150 ancient Hebrew poems, prayers, and songs, many of them written by the famous Old Testament king David. The psalms are noteworthy for expressing the full range of human emotion, from joy and gratitude to frustration and confusion. One reason the psalms are so widely read today is that no matter what you’re feeling or where your life is at the moment, there’s almost certainly a psalm that speaks to you.

The book of Psalms contains some of the Bible’s best-known passages. You can start reading Psalms from the beginning by clicking here, but if you’re new to this book of the Bible, you might want to instead start by reading some of these particularly famous examples:

  • Psalm 23: A short but much-loved assurance that God watches over his children like a shepherd watches his flock.
  • Psalm 46: Another beautiful description of God as a protector; in this psalm God is likened to an unbreachable fortress surrounding his people.
  • Psalm 22: Not every psalm is upbeat and joyful in tone. In Psalm 22, the author cries out in frustration at God’s apparent absence from his life.

There are too many noteworthy and famous psalms to list here, but those make a good starting point for exploration. For some good introductory background for reading the book of Psalms, take a look at these two short articles:

  • How Should We Read the Psalms? Pastor Mel Lawrenz explains what to expect from the psalms, and what to watch for as you read through them. A good introduction for beginners, briefly covering the different ideas you’ll encounter there.
  • Why Study the Psalms?: Outlines the book of Psalms, with links to some more famous psalms and to an article explaining the great value of reading them.

The other topic you may have noticed in the video above is regular mention of The Message Bible. What is this Message Bible that Bono finds so inspiring?

The Message (its full name is The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language) is one of the more unique Bibles produced in recent years. It’s a Bible translation (carried out by Eugene Peterson, Bono’s discussion partner in the video above) that makes very heavy use of modern idiom and slang with the aim of being easily understood by modern readers who struggle with the more “old-fashioned” language found in most other Bible translations. Of course, most Bible translations aim for readability and understandability, but The Message goes farther than most in using modern-sounding language. Here’s how the publisher describes it:

Some people like to read the Bible in Elizabethan English. Others want to read a version that gives a close word-for-word correspondence between the original languages and English. Eugene Peterson recognized that the original sentence structure is very different from that of contemporary English. He decided to strive for the spirit of the original manuscripts—to express the rhythm of the voices, the flavor of the idiomatic expressions, the subtle connotations of meaning that are often lost in English translations.

To give you a sense of how The Message reads, let’s compare the same passage in The Message with a different famous English Bible. Here’s how the classic Authorized King James Version of the Bible translates the famous Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. — Psalm 23 (AKJV)

And here’s how The Message translates the same passage:

God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure. — Psalm 23 (MSG)

838457That’s quite a difference in style, isn’t it? Which approach speaks more clearly to you? The style of Bible translation you read is a matter of personal preference, without an objectively right or wrong answer; and many Bible readers find it useful to refer to several different Bibles in the course of serious study to make sure they’re grasping all the nuances of a Bible passage. If you’re interested in reading more of The Message, you can find it in Bible Gateway’s online library—click here to start reading Genesis 1 in The Message. You can also buy a print copy in the Bible Gateway Store, if you prefer a physical edition.

I hope this has been a useful bit of background for the Psalms, The Message, and the Bono/Peterson video above. And I hope you’ll take a few minutes to explore the remarkable book of Psalms for yourself—as both Bono and Peterson suggest, they contain some of the most beautiful and challenging words in all of the Bible!

Unashamed: An Interview with Christine Caine

Christine CaineShame can take on many forms. It hides in the shadows of the most successful, confident, and high-achieving woman who struggles with balancing her work and children, as well as in the heart of the broken, abused and downtrodden woman who’s been told that she’ll never amount to anything. Shame hides in plain sight.

Bible Gateway interviewed Christine Caine (@ChristineCaine) about her book, Unashamed: Drop the Baggage, Pick up Your Freedom, Fulfill Your Destiny (Zondervan, 2016).

Buy your copy of Unashamed in the Bible Gateway Store

[Read the free weekly devotional by Christine Caine on Bible Gateway]

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What is the difference between “guilt” and “shame”?

Christine Caine: Guilt and shame seem similar in meaning, but there is a significant difference. I put it this way: Guilt is about my do. Shame is about my who. I think the Genesis story has become clearer to me than ever when it comes to this topic.

While Adam and Eve were flailing around in Genesis 3:9–13 with words of shame, hiding, fear, and blame, God goes straight to the heart of the real issue—their guilt. He begins his conversation with them by addressing their willful disobedience to his command. “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” And their response? In their effort to deflect guilt, they blame one another and the serpent.

This is a critical point. God wants them to understand and take responsibility for their actions. But because shame has taken hold, (and impacted who they see themselves as), their broken response is to hide from the God who made them, ashamed of who they are.

Once guilt is acknowledged in the commission of a sin, can’t shame be a healthy reaction to demonstrate remorse and the beginning of restoration?

Christine Caine: I believe that shame is never a good thing. Just like Adam and Eve, our shame makes us hide from God and each other, rather than running to God to deal with our guilt.

You see, feeling guilt after we’ve disobeyed God is not a broken response but a healthy one. Sin is bad, but guilt serves as an internal alarm; a signal to us that we need to not only turn away from our sinful disobedience, but also assume accountability for it.

We need to take responsibility for the wrong actions we do and run toward God, not away from him. Jesus paid for our guilt on the cross. He provided a way out—he provided repentance and salvation. We need to say, “What I did was wrong. I’m sorry, Lord—please forgive me.” Saying that may be painful, but it’s an important first step to getting your life back in order and restoring your relationship with God. He has provided the way to repair the damage those sins have done in our hearts and lives.

What are some of the most common sources and hidden consequences of unhealthy shame?

Christine Caine: In our shame, we fear. We hide. We make excuses for ourselves and blame others—all of the things Adam and Eve did. And in our brokenness, sometimes all of those things are easier for us than admitting our guilt, even to ourselves.

What a crafty enemy we have. He knows that if he can cause us to hide ourselves—who God made us to be—that it also causes us to lose sight of our identity in God as his image-bearers (Genesis 1:27). Then, because our view of ourselves has been diminished, we shrink from stepping into the destiny God created for us. That’s a very effective strategy. Satan started using shame that day with Adam and Eve and he continues to use it to this day.

How do you encounter shame the world over in The A21 Campaign, your global anti-human trafficking organization?

Christine Caine: As you would suspect, most of the women we work with through A21 were tricked, kidnapped, or sold into sexual slavery. They have endured far more than physical captivity. They have been debased and degraded, humiliated beyond words, beaten into submission, and forced to endure heinous acts. By the time they step across the threshold of an A21 home, the slavery they carry with them extends far beyond bolts on doors. It has broken their hearts. It has fractured their souls and left invisible wounds beyond our knowing. It has penetrated their minds. Freedom from such internal slavery is far harder to win than physical freedom. They’re held captive by shame at its very worst.

What Bible passages do you encourage women to read to break free from shame?

Christine Caine: One Bible passage I would encourage women to read is Psalm 139:4 as this Scripture speaks directly to our “who.” It says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

To me this Scripture is so powerful because it does not say, “You are fundamentally flawed and worthless”—which is the message of shame. It says you are fearfully and wonderfully made!

Another great Scripture is Genesis 1:27, as it says we are the image-bearer of God! Yes, our behavior and the behavior of others will fall short of God’s standard. But that wrong behavior does not change our value or our worth.

Bio: Christine Caine is an Australian-born, Greek-blooded lover of Jesus, activist, international speaker, and author of several books, including Undaunted: Daring to Do What God Calls You to Do and Unstoppable: Running the Race You Were Born To Win. Her primary passion is to make Jesus’ last command her first priority by giving her all to see the lost saved and to build the local church—globally. Christine also has a passion for justice, and together with her husband, founded the anti-human trafficking organization, The A21 Campaign (@A21). In 2015, they also founded Propel Women (@PropelWomen), an organization designed to honor the calling of every woman, empower her to lead, equip her for success, and develop a sense of God-given purpose. Powered by hot, extra-dry, skinny, cappuccinos, Christine is a lover of words who speaks too fast, talks too much, and also writes them down. Christine and their family make their home in Southern California, USA.

Letters to the Church: Paul’s Letter to Titus

Did you know that most of the books that comprise the New Testament are actually letters? These letters (also known as “epistles”) contain both general Christian teaching and specific instructions for the congregation to which they were addressed. As part of our Letters to the Church series, we’re taking a brief look at each epistle in the New Testament. This week, we look at another of Paul’s “pastoral letters,” this one written again to a man named Titus.

[See commentaries on Titus in the Bible Gateway Store]

[See other Blog posts in the Letters to the Church series]

Paul’s Letter to Titus

Start reading it here: Titus 1

When was it written? In the mid-to-late 60s A.D.

To whom was it written? Titus, a Gentile convert to Christianity who was organizing the Christian community on Crete.

Why was it written? This letter bears strong thematic similarities to Paul’s letters to Timothy: it consists largely of instructions for organizing the leadership and structure of Christian churches. Paul wanted Titus to finish organizing the local churches and then join Paul as soon as replacements (also sent by Paul) arrived on Crete.

What does it say? Paul’s letter to Titus is filled with instructions regarding church leadership and organization that will be familiar to anyone who’s read Paul’s similar instructions to Timothy. However, the Christian community in Crete appears to have been especially immature and vulnerable to straying, which undoubtedly posed a special challenge to Titus’ leadership efforts. Paul mentions the corrupting influence of “Jewish myths,” which may suggest that Cretan Christians were mixing their faith with ideas from other religions and traditions. Paul also cautions Titus to show no patience for pointless debates and controversies, or for people who insist on spreading them.

Paul’s advice to Titus is to continue to teach “sound doctrine” and to make sure that the leaders of the Cretan church met the high moral standards that Paul expected of all Christian leaders. The concept of “self-control” as a key part of Christian moral character is reiterated in several different places. Paul clearly considered it a defining trait of mature Christianity.

Noteworthy passages:

  • Titus 2:3-5: Titus is encouraged to empower the older women of the church to mentor the younger women.
  • Titus 2:11-14: An encouraging reminder of the effect that God’s salvation has on His people and the way they live.
  • Titus 3:9-10: Paul’s warning against useless debates and arguments in the church.

What can we learn from Titus? Like Paul’s letters to Timothy, we can learn much about the structure of a healthy church from Paul’s instructions to Titus. The importance of godly leadership in the church—both formal leadership by deacons and elders, and less formal mentoring by wise members of the congregation—are emphasized here, and churches today can apply the same standards of righteousness to our leaders that Paul expected of the Cretan church. Paul’s emphasis on self-control is profoundly relevant to the church today, surrounded as it is by a shallow culture where indulgence in all manner of sin is easy and encouraged.

Consider these questions as you read Titus today:

  • Do the older or more spiritually mature members of your church mentor the young people of the community?
  • Why do you think Paul places such a strong emphasis on self-control in this and other letters? What problems are avoided when you have self-control?
  • Imagine that you’ve received this letter from Paul. What might you write back to him in response?

Bible News Roundup – Week of May 8, 2016

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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International Day for the Unreached
Mission Network News
See the Evangelism section in the Bible Gateway Store

Archbishop of Canterbury: Leaving Evangelism to ‘Professionals’ is Missionary Suicide

90% of Americans Have Prayed for Healing, Study Finds
Prevalence and Religious Predictors of Healing Prayer Use in the USA: Findings from the Baylor Religion Survey (pdf)
Baylor University news release
Blog post—The God Who Heals: An Interview with Mary J. Nelson
See resources in the Prayer section of the Bible Gateway Store

37% of Americans Say They Read the Bible Weekly or Daily; 56% Say They Read Their Facebook Feed at Least Weekly

American Bible Society Marks 200th Birthday

American Bible Society Hosts 140 Bible Translation Groups for World Assembly
United Bible Societies

Bible Survey: Many Americans Scramble Their Scripture
The Washington Post
The State of the Bible 2016

Charisma Media CEO Presents Modern English Version of the Bible to Queen Elizabeth II
Charisma News
How the Modern English Version of the Bible was Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II
Blog post—The Modern English Version on Bible Gateway
Read the Modern English Version (MEV) on Bible Gateway

371-Year Old Bible Lives on in Darlington County, South Carolina
The Hartsville Messenger

Montgomery, Alabama Bible Reading Marathon Takes God’s Word to Capitol Steps
Alabama NewsCenter

Wycliffe Celebrates Completion of Bible Translation in 23 Languages Impacting Nearly 3 Million People
Read the Bible in more than 70 languages on Bible Gateway

Bible Society of Nigeria Shops for N480 Million ($2.4 Million) to Translate Bible Into 12 Nigerian Languages
Blog post—The Africa Study Bible: An Interview with Matthew Elliott

Bibles Smuggled into North Africa to Meet Growing Need of Church
Christian Headlines

Bible Quotes on Norway Buses
Norway News

Dublin Archdiocese to Host Ecumenical Bible Week May 15-22
Irish Catholic News

Learning New Testament Greek – My Worst (& Best) Decision
Biblical Greek resources in the Bible Gateway Store
Read the Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament on Bible Gateway

Adventist Church Unveils Nebuchadnezzar Statue to Emphasize Bible Study
Adventist News
Read Daniel 2 on Bible Gateway

Israel’s Prime Minister Greets Bible Quiz Participants; Says ‘We’re in the Land of the Bible’
Breaking Israel News

Church Murals Bring Bible Stories to Life
The Dalles Chronicle

Slideshow: Carefully Crafted Stories Revealed by The Knitted Bible in Stafford, UK
Staffordshire Newsletter

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The Indwelling Word


This lesson is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Study 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next week: how to meditate on the word of God.

Mel Lawrenz 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 Ph.D. in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, the latest, 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.

Five Biblical Prayers for the National Day of Prayer

Today is the National Day of Prayer in the United States (#dayofprayer)—a day when people are encouraged to spend time in prayer and meditation. This year’s event is themed around Isaiah 58:1:

“Shout aloud!
Don’t hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!”

Are you planning to participate in any way? To mark today’s special focus on prayer, here are five of the most interesting and memorable prayers in the Bible. Use these as inspiration as you spend time in prayer today!

#5: David’s Prayer of Repentance (Psalm 51)

Convicted of a terrible sin, the Israelite King David cried out to God with one of the most moving confessions and pleas for forgiveness in all of the Bible.

Have mercy on me, O God,
because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me—
now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you. — from Psalm 51 (NLT)

#4: The Early Church Prays for Courage (Acts 4)

Continually harassed for their beliefs and activities—even for a miraculous healing!—the early church gathered to thank God for delivering them from prison or worse.

…they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them, it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant:

‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples imagine vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
and the rulers have gathered together
against the Lord and against his Messiah.’

For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. — Acts 4:24-31 (NRSV)

#3: Solomon Prays for Wisdom (1 Kings 3)

If God offered to give you whatever you wanted, what would you ask for? The Israelite king Solomon was presented with just such an offer—but he didn’t ask for any of the things you might expect.

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

“Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” — 1 Kings 3 (NIV)

#2: Jehoshaphat Prays for Deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:5-12)

Faced by an overwhelming force of enemies bent on his destruction, the king Jehoshaphat called out to God with a prayer that acknowledged his own powerlessness, and entreated God to intervene.

And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” — 2 Chronicles 20:5-12 (ESV)

#1: The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)

Jesus’ own prayer is certainly the most famous prayer in the Bible—and it’s noteworthy for being short and to-the-point. Asked to demonstrate for his disciples how to pray, here’s how Jesus responded.

You, therefore, pray like this:

Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’ — Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB)