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How to Live The Bible — Guilt and Shame in Everyday Life

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This is the tenth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


Though all people are created with conscience—the ability to sense the difference between right and wrong, or good, better, and best—it is possible to become so hard-hearted that it seems one does not even have a conscience.

Man praying with Bible illustration

Conscience is part of the hard wiring of human beings created in God’s image. Romans 2 says that all people have consciences and inner thoughts that sometimes accuse, sometimes excuse. Some people are plagued with a sense of supposed guilt, of active shame. But there are people who have so closed themselves to the voice of conscience that they function as amoral creatures. In an extreme case, the sociopath shows absolutely no regard for other people, indifferent to suffering, which they themselves may inflict, perhaps because he or she suffered severely at the hands of someone else. Human beings can have “seared” consciences. Hard hearts. Corrupted minds.

This is why we desperately need consciences that are active and healthy and balanced. This is part of the foundation of Christian faith. 1 Peter 3:21 calls baptism “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” Hebrews 10:22 says “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 9:14 says that the blood of Christ, his sacrificial death, is what can “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

But like everything else about us, the conscience is fallible. It is possible to have a “weak conscience” (1 Cor. 8:7, 10). The conscience can be “defiled” (Titus 1:5). Worse, it can be “seared” (1 Tim. 4:2), meaning that all its sensitivity is deadened.

So the question is, how can this God-given inner moral responsiveness be protected and refined?

If one of your car’s warning lights comes on, you would do well not to ignore it. Instead, you have a mechanic check it out, who may tell you it is a good thing you heeded the warning because your radiator has a leak, or your engine has burned up most of its oil, or your brake line is clogged. But it is also possible the mechanic will tell you that everything is fine, and that the warning light was malfunctioning.

This is the way it is with conscience. When we are deeply troubled, when our minds are troubled about something we did or said, when our stomachs are twisted in knots, we need to work the issue and figure out whether or not we are guilty, and what needs to happen for rectitude. What matters is figuring out whether we, by objective standards, are guilty, not merely whether we feel guilty, or ashamed. This distinction is frequently forgotten today: being guilty versus feeling guilty; the objective versus the subjective.

If we are guilty of something, it is appropriate that we feel guilty or ashamed of what we did. (More on this in Overcoming Guilt and Shame by Daniel Green and Mel Lawrenz.)

Conscience is a God-given moral sensitivity that sometimes delivers a sense of being right, and at other times of being wrong. The question then becomes: is the voice of conscience, right here, right now, delivering an accurate message?

Many people suffer from an overly-sensitive conscience which troubles them unnecessarily. Some people really suffer with this. They have been put to shame by important people in their lives for long stretches of time. They have perpetually troubled hearts. They have a hard time resting in the forgiveness of God. They may take Christian faith as a whole system of shame imposed on them. They may feel as though they need to live under restrictions that are not necessary (which is approximately what Paul meant by the “weak conscience” of some in 1 Corinthians 8).

The young Martin Luther was like this. He said he labored under “an extremely disturbed conscience” that was misplaced and exaggerated. After he discovered the real meaning of the gospel of grace his conscience was liberated. And he would need it. Years later he would stand before the most powerful leaders of his day who were demanding that he recant what he had written about the grace and truth found in Christ. But his conscience would not let him take back what he had written. His famous words before an emperor and other powerful men still echo today:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason–for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves—I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”

Some see in Luther’s brave stand the exemplar of modern man, asserting personal conscience above all other people or leaders or institutions. But that misses Luther’s main point. He said his conscience was “captive to the Word of God,” not that his conscience was its own lord and master.

It is not good to be tortured by an overly-sensitive conscience. And it is disastrous to hurt others because we have “seared” consciences. Living the Bible means one’s conscience is submitted to God’s word in the fullness of its grace and truth. This will happen when we read Scripture without bias or preference—regularly, thoughtfully, intelligently—asking the Spirit of God to shape us from the inside out.

Find forgiveness, find freedom, find restored conscience…

[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]


Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

A Woman’s Guide to the Psalms: An Interview with Lydia Brownback

Lydia BrownbackFear, joy, heartache, anger, frustration, doubt; the book of Psalms displays an incredible range of human emotions as they’re expressed toward God in prayer and song.

Bible Gateway interviewed Lydia Brownback about her book, Sing a New Song: A Woman’s Guide to the Psalms (Crossway, 2017).

How is your book different from other devotionals about the book of Psalms?

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Lydia Brownback: Sing a New Song isn’t actually a devotional per se. It’s more of a hybrid; a cross between a devotional and a tool for Bible study. For each of the 150 psalms in the Psalter, readers are given a one-sentence overview of the psalm along with a brief summary of how it fits into the big picture of Psalms. After this is a verse-by-verse breakdown of the psalm. I then try to shed light on how the psalm reveals particular aspects of God’s character. Each entry concludes with a suggestion for follow-up Scripture reading and personal application.

Describe the book of Psalms for someone who’s not familiar with it.

Lydia Brownback: The Psalter is the ultimate hymnal of God’s people, not only for those who first sang the psalms but for all believers in every age. We think of the psalms as prayers, because they’re cries of the heart lifted up to the Lord. But what’s so amazing is that these prayers were meant to be expressed in song.

Singing serves as an outlet for our deepest emotions: joy, sorrow, anger, fear, perplexity, discouragement, and longing. The full range of human feelings is there in the psalms and lifted up to God in prayerful song. This raw outpouring of honest emotion is perhaps why Psalms is the most loved book of the Bible.

But what makes these songs different from all others is that God is the focal point. Unique facets of his nature are revealed in every psalm, and as the psalmists focus on the Lord, their emotions and thoughts are reshaped. Since the psalms are primarily about God, we’re transformed as we immerse ourselves in this hymnal of Scripture.

How do you want people to use your book?

Lydia Brownback: I see Sing a New Song as a springboard—a launching-off place—for going deep into this vital portion of Scripture. At the end of the book, readers will find detailed instructions for how to prepare a small-group Bible study on Psalms. Alternatively, readers who wish to explore on a more personal level will find detailed guidance for journaling through the psalms.

What do the Psalms have to say to people who struggle with fear in its different manifestations?

Lydia Brownback: Much indeed! The psalms show us that God invites us to be honest with him about our fears, no matter their source. The psalmists express fear about all sorts of difficulties, including troubles they’ve brought upon themselves. We see in their songs that God never turns them away but meets them in the midst of those fearful places and delivers them.

King David, who wrote many of the psalms, battled fear on numerous occasions, but each and every time, God was faithful to deliver him. On one occasion, David’s very own son was trying to kill him, so David hid in a cave. Surely this was an occasion not only for great fear but also for great grief. So he pours out his heart to God: “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (Ps. 3:1). But as he lifts the eyes of his heart upward, he’s reminded that God is his protector, defender, and deliverer, so he’s able to sing, “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me” (v. 6).

In another psalm David sings, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1).

On yet another occasion David rejoices in deliverance: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).

God meeting his people in the fears they face is a thread that runs all through the Psalter. In fact, those who struggle with fear and anxiety might want to focus on this theme when journaling through Psalms.

How do the Psalms help a person become more relational with God?

Lydia Brownback: Each and every psalm reveals our complete neediness, along with God’s corresponding provision for those needs. After all, isn’t that the nature of what it means to walk with God? We can do nothing without him, so when we see and acknowledge that reality, our hearts are humbled and tenderized for transformation into his will and ways.

So in the psalms God is praised for relieving troubles, providing basic necessities, healing broken hearts, and exercising his kingship on his people’s behalf. He’s sought after by lonely human beings who want to walk in his blessed paths.

More glorious, however, is that the psalms show that the Almighty God is incredibly patient with his people’s sin and blindness, and that he loves us so much that he’s ever present to comfort, forgive, and restore us to his joyous fellowship. He cares even more about our relationship with him than we do, which becomes clear as we study the psalms.

What Psalm is your favorite and why?

Lydia Brownback: It’s so hard to choose just one, because I love so many for different reasons. But one of my most favorites is Psalm 73. It was written by Asaph, a man who struggled with his faith when he became discontented with his lot in life.

The root of Asaph’s problem was envy: “My feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:2–3). He envied the wealthy and prosperous, and he envied those who had no faith in God. To his way of thinking, they lived enjoyable lives with few restrictions, while those who remain faithful to the Lord seem to suffer a good deal more.

Asaph’s bitter heart grew more and more discouraged, but then he got a spiritual dose of reality: “When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (vv. 16–17). It’s so clear right there. Asaph lifted his eyes off himself and up to God. And when he did, he saw that those who appear to have it all actually have nothing if they don’t have the Lord as their God.

Getting into the presence of God is what changed him, and as we follow his story, we learn so much about our own struggles with contentment and how to remedy that. Asaph is so transformed that he’s able to say (and truly mean): “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you” (v. 25). That declaration is the essence of contentment, and as we learn to sing Asaph’s song, we too can find what he found.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?

Lydia Brownback: I’ve relied on Bible Gateway for many years as the go-to website for up-to-date Bible translations—so many versions! Few people can afford to build an actual library of all these different Bible translations, but for those of us who write and teach, we need ready-access to them, and we have it through Bible Gateway. Thank you for this valuable resource!


Bio: Lydia Brownback (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as a senior editor at Crossway in Wheaton, Illinois, and a speaker at women’s conferences around the world, and an author of many books, including A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything, Finding God in My Loneliness and Contentment: A Godly Woman’s Adornment. Lydia previously served as writer in residence for Alistair Begg and as producer of the Bible Study Hour radio program with James Montgomery Boice.

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This Year Select a Bible Reading Plan That’s Right for You

Select a Bible Gateway Bible Reading Plan
If you haven’t already determined to regularly and consistently read the Bible, RIGHT NOW is always the best time to make that decision. And you can always rely on Bible Gateway to provide you with a variety of resources to make it happen:

Our free Bible reading plans and devotionals are available all year long: they’re ready when you are!

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

If you’re wondering how much time is required to read each book of the Bible, the website desiringGod has created the following chart of estimated reading lengths:
Approximate times to read each book of the English Bible

With this chart in mind, blogger Wes McAdams has assembled A New Sort of Bible Reading Plan, listed below with links to each book of the Bible on Bible Gateway:

The Torah (January 1 – February 4)

The Prophets (February 5 – April 1)

The Writings (April 2 – May 27)

The Gospel Accounts and Acts (May 28 – July 1)

  • Week 22 – Matthew (2.5 hours)
  • Week 23 – Mark (1.5 hours)
  • Week 24 – Luke (2.5 hours)
  • Week 25 – John (2 hours)
  • Week 26 – Acts (2.25 hours)

Paul’s Epistles (July 2 – August 26)

General Epistles (August 27 – September 23)

Revelation (September 24 – September 30)

Expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top Bible reference resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus!

Bible News Roundup – Week of January 7, 2018

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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Reading the Bible a Popular New Year’s Goal
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Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Biblical Archaeology Research

Historic Bible On Display At Mercy Hospital In Fort Smith, Arkansas
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Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Saint John’s Bible: A Work of Art

North Korea Tops 2018 Open Doors World Watch List
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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
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Bible Passages Read by Former Ghana Presidents at the National Thanksgiving Church Service
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Kyrgyzstan: Militants Torch Church But Bible Survives
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How to Live The Bible — Voice of Conscience

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This is the ninth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


We all know, deep inside, that we need some basic values that can keep our lives on track, keep us out of trouble, and lead us toward virtue rather than vice. In the modern world one value that sometimes is raised above all others is “be true to yourself.” Or “let your conscience be your guide.” In some ways in the modern world, “conscience” is given an ultimate value. Even a substitute for the voice of God.

Man praying with Bible illustration

All that matters, many say, is that you follow your conscience, and no one can tell you you’re wrong if you do that. But we all know of times when people we know or we ourselves did something with a clear conscience that was completely wrong. We need the voice of conscience, but we should not consider it infallible.

The Bible speaks of an inner voice or awareness that can guide us toward what is good and righteous. There is no one word for it in the Hebrew Old Testament, but in the New Testament a word does emerge—syneidesis. There are 28 occurrences of the word in the New Testament, two-thirds of them in Paul’s writings.

Conscience is an inner awareness about the rightness or wrongness of our thoughts, words, and deeds. The Greek word literally means the self that knows itself. This is obvious when you see it: the person who is consistently self-aware, who cares about others, who has the courage to admit when he or she is wrong, but does not take on guilt that is undeserved. This is a good place to live: having a healthy conscience that is loud when it should be loud and quiet when it should be quiet.

The Bible does not describe the conscience as the voice of God, otherwise it would not be described as fallible. Neither does the Bible say that the conscience is a complete internal library of morality that all people possess.

Romans 2 is helpful here: “when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

Everyone has a conscience. People who have never heard about the law of God are frequently aware of it in their hearts. This is why some moral standards are nearly universal, like the wrongness of murder or theft. But in Romans 1 and 2 Paul also makes it clear that simple moral sensitivity is not sufficient on its own.

So the best case scenario is when God the Holy Spirit enlivens and shapes conscience, making it a reliable voice as we make one decision after another throughout the day. The conscience is where the commands of God and love and faith converge: “the goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5).

Paul is able to say that his conscience testified that he was conducting himself in the world and in his relationships with integrity and sincerity, but only because of the grace of God (2 Cor. 1:12). In his first letter to the Corinthians he had talked about being harshly judged by others, and says: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor. 4:3-4). Note the details here: 1) He is rejecting the judgement of others; 2) because he has a clear conscience; 3) but he knows his conscience is not infallible; 4) so he admits he’s not always right; 5) but rests in the reality that he ultimately will be evaluated by God for his actions. This is a full and balanced view of the voice of the conscience.

What do we do when our conscience tells us something is acceptable, but another person’s conscience tells them differently? This happens all the time. Sincere believers differ on whether it is okay to drink alcohol, or go to certain movies, or participate in events which are ethically complicated. Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 8 when he advises believers split over whether it was okay to eat food that was associated with pagan temples. Some believers in Corinth believed food is food and had no pangs of conscience about it; others with “weak consciences,” as Paul put it, believed the practice was wrong. Paul’s advice? Don’t precipitate a faith crisis by flaunting the freedom of conscience you have, though that freedom is important.

There will always be differences of opinion on matters of conscience. This should force us to grow in our knowledge of Scripture, because the conscience must be trained by the truth of God.

And we should be on guard against false teachers whom Paul described to Timothy as people “whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim. 4:2).

[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]


Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

SAVE Is Not a Four-Letter Word

Emily G. StroudBy Emily G. Stroud

Everywhere you look right now, there are promotions and advertisements for new diets that are guaranteed to work and change your life. It’s impossible to escape the barrage of magazine covers, social media campaigns, and release of new diet books. In January, it seems like these new diets are everywhere.

Unfortunately, fad diets don’t work. If they do work, the results are often only temporary. As soon as you go back to a somewhat normal eating plan, the weight returns immediately. It’s a real bummer if you ask me. I’d love to swallow a magic pill, or guzzle a detox drink, and miraculously look the same as I did the day I graduated from high school.

Since turning the Big 4-0, I’ve learned that the only way to achieve my health and fitness goals is to adopt a long-term plan. True commitment and hard work are what it actually takes to maintain a healthy weight. There is no shortcut.

As I’ve embraced this long-term view of being healthy, I now know that it’s a numbers game. Numbers are my wheelhouse so this makes sense to me. You have to burn more calories than you take in. You have to exercise to increase your metabolism enough to burn extra calories to create a “deficit” in order to lose weight.

The same reality exists for starting a savings plan. There is no quick fix financial diet. It takes commitment and having a plan in place that you can follow and maintain. If you want financial freedom, you have to spend less money than you make each month. The Bible also reminds us that it’s prudent to save money for both our future goals as well as any unforeseen emergencies that may arise.

Proverbs 21:20 (NIV) states, “The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down.” Proverbs 21:5 (NIV) also reminds us, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.”

The first step in starting a savings plan is to create realistic budget. If you don’t know how much you’re spending each month, then you have no idea how much money you could contribute to a regular, systematic savings plan. One of the biggest objections I hear from clients and readers is that they don’t know where to start when it comes to creating a budget.

I want to empower you to take control of your personal finances so you can live a much more fruitful and peaceful life. I have created a detailed budget worksheet for your convenience. All you have to do is fill in the blanks and add and subtract. No more excuses! Please visit my website and enter your email address when prompted. I will personally send you a complimentary budget planner.

People often procrastinate when starting a new savings plan. It falls into the same category as starting a new diet. DIET and SAVE are both considered ugly four letter words. We fear we’re going to be restricted and miss out on the fun stuff. Don’t think of saving money as a punishment. Think of saving money as a lifestyle change and a means to freedom. It’s a disciplined choice you can make today to benefit yourself and your family tomorrow. Nobody is making you save money or spend irresponsibly. By saving regularly, you are choosing a better life for yourself.

A disciplined lifestyle in regards to achieving financial freedom may require supernatural strength to take a positive step forward. There are several ways to gather the strength you will need. Spend time in God’s Word. Pray for wisdom, energy, and focus. Meet with someone you trust who can provide wise counsel and a rational sounding board. I hope you will check back in with me regularly and often. I will be providing advice, tips, and encouragement for you to learn how to live your best life possible from a financial standpoint. You can visit me at www.emilygstroud.com.

If you want to dig deeper and have a much better understanding of how to achieve true financial freedom from a biblical worldview, then I encourage you to order a copy of my new book Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move from Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control.

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Buy your copy of Faithful Finance in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every dayOriginal content by Emily G. Stroud, the author of Faithful Finance: 10 Secrets to Move from Fearful Insecurity to Confident Control. Click here to learn more about this title.

Perhaps you feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with our personal finances. You’re not alone. Many wonder if they’ll ever experience financial freedom. They want to make wise decisions and spend money on what matters, but they just don’t know how.

Financial advisor Emily G. Stroud is a mom, businesswoman, and entrepreneur. She has two decades of experience with helping people make smart choices about money. She knows that money can be one of the great causes of stress in life—but that it doesn’t have to be that way. Finances, in fact, can be a great source of joy, security, and hope.

In Faithful Finance, Emily comes alongside you to:

  • Develop a savings plan based on your unique goals
  • Make a monthly budget that actually works for you
  • Reduce your overall debt burden
  • Plan for your children’s college years
  • Insure your life without fear
  • Leave a legacy through estate planning
  • Encourage you to give generously
  • And most importantly, discover the source of true wealth

Presented in a conversational style, this practical guide offers ten life-changing secrets that work in every financial situation, for every income level, at every stage of life. With engaging stories and practical examples, Emily empowers you to make choices that will allow you and your loved ones to enjoy financial freedom for years to come.

Emily G. Stroud owns and manages a boutique investment firm called Stroud Financial Management. She has been a Financial Advisor for nearly two decades. As both an MBA and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Stroud counsels people on how to handle their money, manage risk, and ensure a nice tidy retirement. She lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her husband and two children.

Why Is Spiritual Warfare a Continuing Struggle?: An Interview with Havilah Cunnington

Havilah CunningtonDo you ask yourself, “Why do I still struggle if I’m faithfully following God?” How can you discern whether you’re dealing with battles within yourself, resistance from God, or genuine fights with the devil? What did Jesus say about our spiritual authority and the certainty we have in him?

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Spiritual Warfare Questions Answered]

Bible Gateway interviewed Havilah Cunnington (@mrshavilah) about her book, Stronger than the Struggle: Uncomplicating Your Spiritual Battle (Thomas Nelson, 2018).

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

What is spiritual warfare and how does it show itself?

Havilah Cunnington: The battles we face in life are not what we think they are. The battles involve more than you and my life. In fact, the war began long before our feet ever touched the soil of this planet.

Let’s take a moment to go back to the beginning of the story.

Our enemy, the devil, once lived in heaven (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). He was a created being. The Bible says he was an angel, and his body contained musical instruments (Ezek. 28:13). He was beautiful and more glorious than all the other angels, but pride, jealousy, and self-exaltation contaminated his heart. He didn’t want to be merely a reflection of God; he wanted to dethrone God. He wanted the other angels’ worship all to himself. He wanted the glory.

But God does not share his glory—not because he’s selfish, but because he’s wise and all knowing. He knows the weight of his glory will destroy anyone who covets it. No one but God is capable of carrying such a high honor.

Still, Satan rallied one-third of the angels to join him in his doomed rebellion, and a war broke out in heaven. In the end, Satan and the fallen angels, now called demons, were cast out of heaven as punishment.

But the struggle continues on earth. This is where we come in.

Humans are God’s most precious creation; we alone have been given the opportunity to become his sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18). Satan knows this, and his revenge—his plan to get back at God—is to destroy our souls.

Why do Christians still struggle if they’re faithfully following God?

Havilah Cunnington: Have you ever felt as if your faith life isn’t quite working for you the way it’s supposed to? Have you ever thought someone else got more God than you did? I know I have—but why? Our battles often come from inside once we accept our new identities in Christ.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life] (2 Cor. 5:17 AMP).

I love how this verse reads: “He is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit].” As soon as we receive Jesus, we become completely new people. If invited, the Holy Spirit will live inside of us and affirm what God is saying to us through his Word.

But even with the Holy Spirit, the Christian life is not always smooth sailing. It’s because our minds, thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs must also be renewed (Romans 12:2). Yes! Our spirits want to agree with God, but our old lifestyles and habits of sin can trick us into believing we’re not yet free. They lie to us. Our quickest and most powerful weapon, then, is to agree with truth. We need to ask ourselves, “What does God say about me?” If you know what he says, then you’ll know how to do battle with what’s coming out of the old you.

What do you mean, “You are anointed to deal with the devil and win every time”?

Havilah Cunnington: The battle was won the day Jesus died on the cross (John 3:16), but we still have to deal with the devil as long as we live on the earth.

One of the most important things to remember as we face our everyday battles is that standing and resisting the devil doesn’t mean being weird. We don’t have to act spiritually creepy. God isn’t asking us to stir up all kinds of crazy forces or to go after realms we have no business going after. If you run into spiritual resistance in some area of your life, simply take authority and move on (James 4:7). The enemy loves chaos, fear-driven prayers, and an over-spiritualized atmosphere because he loves for us to waste our time focusing on him. Don’t give in to that.

Describe the devil and his objectives.

Havilah Cunnington: In John 10:10 it depicts our enemy’s exact character. It says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” The word steal in the Greek is the work klepto. It’s where we get the word kleptomaniac, which means, someone who steals for the thrill of taking.

When the enemy operates in our lives, he’s stealing from us as well. We may not realize it as it’s happening, but eventually, we feel the sense of loss and see that what’s rightfully ours has been taken from us. If we want to walk in daily victory, we must remember that the enemy comes into our lives as a thief.

What do you mean, “The devil may not have to steal very much from us—especially if we are already giving it away”?

Havilah Cunnington: In John 10:10 it also uses the word kill, but it doesn’t mean what you might assume. The word kill in the Greek is Thuo, which means to sacrifice. When the enemy comes to kill, he’s hoping you’ll sacrifice everything God has given you. He tells you that you’ve waited too long, believed for too much, and seen nothing happen. You might as well throw in the towel. The crazy thing is, we believe his lies. The devil may not have to steal very much from us—especially if we’re already giving it away.

How is “the choice between fear and courage set before us each day”?

Havilah Cunnington: Each of us has a personal invitation to live powerfully; to get our fight back. I believe when we find ourselves in a place of paralyzing fear—a place where we either agree with our new identity in Christ or stay the person we’ve always been, where we choose to walk in the plan God has for us or let Satan take our birthright (Genesis 25:29) from us—it’s critical to our spiritual health to face our fear head-on.

Fear doesn’t stay where it begins. Fear will infiltrate every area of your life, paralyzing you until you live a small, worry-filled, defeated life, having surrendered the plans God had for you from the beginning.

Your enemy isn’t messing around. He doesn’t allow little fears to stay little. He uses our little fears as an entry point for greater fears. His hope is to keep you in spiritual paralysis. He’s banking on you cozying up to worry, fear, and anxiety.

Explain your statement, “When we read the Bible and meditate on the Word of God, we fill our pantry.”

Havilah Cunnington: When we read the Bible and meditate on the Word of God—whether hearing Scripture, singing our theology, or thoughtfully considering God’s promises—we fill our pantry. We store up the ingredients we need to live a healthy and vibrant life.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Havilah Cunnington: “I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace] Philippians 4:13 (NKJV).

I LOVE THIS! I don’t know about you but the reality of God infusing me with inner strength isn’t just a wish I have but a reality I’m living in each day.

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

Havilah Cunnington: I use Bible Gateway on a daily basis. It’s been the single greatest tool in my life personally and professionally. Bible Gateway has done all the work. Gone are the days of running to the bookstore or bookcase for each Bible version, reference, or concordance. It’s all at our fingertips. I can’t say enough about this amazing ministry!


Bio: Havilah Cunnington has been in full-time ministry for 20 years, and serves as a pastor at Bethel Church. Havilah and her husband, Ben, lead a nonprofit and an online platform called Truth to Table, reaching the world with Bible studies, messages, and lifestyle leadership tools. Havilah and Ben live in Redding, California, with their four sons: Judah, Hudson, Grayson, and Beckham.

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Here’s One Strategy for Reading the Bible Without Distractions This Year

Download Bible Gateway's free Bible Audio AppWhen talking about distractions, many people—myself included—like to partly blame technology. Our phones are an endless feedback loop of notifications that demand responses, which, in turn, incite new notifications. And that’s only one example of the pervasive technological white noise we wrestle with every day.

The world is smaller, louder, more crowded. The idea of quiet time—not to mention regular quiet time—sounds like a pipe dream. If you’re anything like me, you struggle just to pray without losing the distraction battle. Actually sitting down and reading the Bible gets pushed to the periphery. I usually don’t open the Bible until I’m in bed, and if I comprehend anything while I’m half asleep, it’s a small miracle. The rest of the day has been a buzz of activity, and now it’s over. Maybe tomorrow…

But technology can also be our key to beating distractions. After all: God can use anything for his glory. Many people learn or comprehend best when engaging with the material in multiple ways at the same time. Our Scripture Engagement page is designed exclusively to introduce you to memorable methods of interacting with Scripture. The method I’m talking about isn’t anything fancy. But it is practical.

It’s common knowledge that most people learn and retain information better when reading and listening simultaneously. That’s exactly what our free Bible Audio App is designed to do. It provides the words as it reads them to you. You can download the Bible Audio App on your mobile device in iOS or Android and listen wherever you go.

Listen to the Bible wherever you go with Bible Gateway's Bible Audio AppYou might think that sounds simple, and it is, but it’s also one of the best ways to engage with Scripture, especially when trudging through difficult, long, or repetitive passages. I might never have made it all the way through Isaiah without Bible Gateway’s Bible Audio App. I’ve found that I can tackle vast sections of Scripture in a single sitting. It’s my belief that doing this better equips you to understand the Bible.

Listen all the way through Acts in a sitting, for example, and you might realize how riveting and cohesive a story it is—how it sprang forth from the gospel. Listen to all four Gospels in a week or a month, and you can better recognize the patterns and similarities of those four accounts. Without audio, I, for one, might never have had the inclination to do that.

The fact is, we often create our own distractions. When we set aside time to read the Bible, we often have the best intentions or resolutions at the outset. However, when we start reading, our minds begin to wander within the span of a chapter or two, and reasons begin to pile up in us for not going on. But when we listen to an audio version of the Bible while we read along, we’ve essentially doubled our efforts and our ability to concentrate.

God wants to speak to us through his words. So, plunge yourself into those words. Surround yourself with the Bible. Take it into your soul with all your senses with Bible Gateway’s Bible Audio App.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of December 31, 2017

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Louisiana Attorney General Releases New Guidance Telling Students They Can Pray Freely and Read the Bible in School
News Release
Louisiana Student Rights Review: Answers to Common Questions about Religious Freedom in Schools

2,700-Year-Old Biblical Rank Confirmed Through Archaeology
The Trumpet
Read 2 Kings 23:8 on Bible Gateway
Read 2 Chronicles 34:8 on Bible Gateway
See the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store

Ancient DNA Said to Support Bible’s Babel Account
Baptist Press
Read Genesis 11 on Bible Gateway
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Understanding the Tower of Babel

Kentucky Public Bible-Reading Event Underway
The News Enterprise
WYMT: Whitley County Church Members Join Kentucky Statewide Public Bible Reading Marathon
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Scripture Says Reading the Bible in Public is Important

Bible Giveaways End at Kansas Elementary School After Constitutional Complaints
The Wichita Eagle

WWII Veteran Says His Bible Saved Him in Battle That Killed 108 Others
WJXT News

Firefighter Finds Family Bible After House Fire
Salisbury Post

Llanwnda Bible Damaged in Last Invasion of Britain on Display
BBC News

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