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Dallas Willard Daily Devotions: Embrace an Active, Intentional Life of Faith

DallasWillardWhat does it mean to follow the Prince of Peace in a world filled with anger, uncertainty, and violence? What does it look like to live a transformed life?

Our new Dallas Willard Daily Devotional aims to answer these questions by exploring the best inspirational writing of beloved author and theologian Dallas Willard. Willard, who passed away in 2013, dedicated his life to encouraging Christians to experience their faith actively and joyfully. His hope was that each and every follower of Jesus would make an active, everyday decision to serve their Lord, rather than lead a life of passive faith.

The Dallas Willard Daily Devotional collects two weeks of inspirational readings from across Willard’s work. Each reading is short but challenging. We think you’ll emerge from this two-week devotional experience with a renewed commitment to live your faith actively and intentionally. And you’ll also have gotten to know one of the great Christian writers and thinkers of the modern church.

Click here to sign up today! You’ll receive the first reading immediately upon signup, followed by daily readings for the next two weeks.

Hope in Suffering: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada

Last week, we hosted a live interview with Joni Eareckson Tada on the topics of suffering and faith. Joni is an author and speaker who is also quadriplegic; when she speaks about the struggle to find daily hope in the face of chronic pain and suffering, she is speaking from personal experience! If you missed the interview last week, you can watch it here:

For the first 25 minutes of the video, Joni answers reader-submitted questions about living with chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and other challenges. In the final minutes, Joni discusses her upcoming Beyond Suffering Bible, which you can learn more about here.

Bible News Roundup – Week of July 24, 2016

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16th Century Biblical Inscriptions Discovered in Caribbean Cave
FOX News

Bible Scenes Uncovered in Ruins of Ancient Synagogue
National Geographic
UNC: New Mosaics Discovered in Synagogue Excavations in Galilee
See biblical archaeology resources in the Bible Gateway Store

Malawians Welcome chiLambya Bible Translation
Anglican Communion News Service
Read the Bible in more than 70 languages on Bible Gateway

Bodo Audio Bibles a Huge Step in Great Commission
Mission Network News
Listen to audio Bibles on Bible Gateway
Browse the audio Bibles section in the Bible Gateway Store

The National Churches Trust in the UK Launches ’50 Things to do in a Church’ Campaign

Kaleidoscope Photos Will Make You View Church Buildings in a Whole New Way
Premier Christianity

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Filipino Standard Version (FSV) Added to Bible Gateway’s Online Library

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We’re pleased to announce the addition of a new Bible version to our online library: the Filipino Standard Version (FSV)!

The Filipino Standard Version is the first ever “literary-liturgical” version of the New Testament in the Filipino language, designed to perpetuate the rich liturgical heritage of Church worship. It combines both accuracy of translation and readability, faithfully translating the original Greek language but remaining easy to read and understand. It’s appropriate not just for congregational reading in the church, but also for easy memorization and deep Bible study.

You can begin reading the FSV here, or read more about it. It is available in in the Tagalog section of the Bible search drop-down list at the top of


We’re grateful to the Philippine Bible Society for making the FSV available on Bible Gateway, and trust that you’ll find it a useful addition to our library!

Discovering Your Divine Life Purpose: An Interview with Dr. Chris Hill

Dr. Chris HillSmall beginnings. Detours along the way. Questions about how and when God is going to fulfill his purposes. We know the end of David’s story in the Bible, but David only knew it step by step. Like us, he had to follow God’s path even when it seemed too slow. He had to believe that realizing our life’s purpose is only the beginning of our calling, not the culmination of it. He had to trust that God sometimes allows years to go by between an anointing and a crown.

In Walking to Jerusalem, Dr. Chris Hill travels through the 12 cities that shaped David’s life and explores what those places mean in light of God’s calling to us.

Buy your copy of Walking to Jerusalem in the Bible Gateway Store

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Chris Hill (@PastorChrisHill) about his book, Walking to Jerusalem: Discovering Your Divine Life Purpose (David C. Cook, 2016).

What does studying King David’s life path centuries ago as presented in the Bible have to do with the ordinary person today?

Dr. Chris Hill: Because the Bible gives us such a long view of the life of David—from his birth, childhood, anointing, adolescence, coronation, and even to his deathbed and final words. We’re given the full scope of his life and experiences. By viewing God through the lens of David’s experiences as he’s literally walking from Bethlehem (his birthplace) to Jerusalem (the place where he will reign), we’re given a down-to-earth view of how we to can walk into our divine purpose.

How have you used cities in David’s life as a way to describe David’s character development?

Dr. Chris Hill: As we study the 12 cities that David passed through and examine the different challenges that he faced—we also see how God was developing his character through those experiences. Each city taught him a different lesson and we not only learn from his experiences, we can also see what “city” or stage we may be in and discover the lessons that God is desiring for us to learn in the city we’re in.

Why is developing personal character an important part of discovering a person’s divine life purpose?

Dr. Chris Hill: As we discover our divine life purpose we also need to develop the character that’s necessary to occupy that role of service in the Kingdom of God. Purpose without character is pointless, because without the right character we can quickly forfeit the purpose that God has designed for us

How does your book remind readers that where they begin in life doesn’t have to be where they end up?

Dr. Chris Hill: In Walking to Jerusalem, as we’re examining the life of David, the sheer fact that he emerged from such a small place as Bethlehem and still rose to the level of king in his Jerusalem is enough of an inspiration to my readers because David is proof positive that our beginning is not the definer of what we can become. In the book we explore the reality that it doesn’t matter where you start; what matters is what you finish.

What is the arrow principle?

Dr. Chris Hill: The arrow principle as I explain in the book is when God moves you backwards to propel you forward. Like an arrow you may appear to be losing ground or going backwards; but God is able to use even that to take you to the next level.

What do you mean when you say a life’s purpose unfolds?

Dr. Chris Hill: Your life purpose will unfold for you as you walk to you destiny. Each city provides another context clue for what God wants you do ultimately. So often we move so quickly through life without prayerfully examining our steps; this is a mistake, because God is constantly trying to teach you and prepare you for your destiny.

Explain your statement, “The first step to fulfilling your own purpose is to allow God to challenge the parameters of your own perception.”

Dr. Chris Hill: God challenges your paradigm: he opens your heart and mind to new people and new experiences so that you can be exposed to another world of opportunities. This first step is so important because, until you allow your perception to be challenged, you’ll always see what you’ve been conditioned by your past to see.

How does God use painful difficulties in a person’s life?

Dr. Chris Hill: God uses pain as a professor, challenge as a classroom, and trials as a teacher. He’s too loving to put us into any situation that we cannot bear, so the pains that we endure are ultimately designed to make us better, wiser, and stronger.

What role does the Bible have in our journey to live out our life’s divine purpose?

Dr. Chris Hill: The Bible is our ultimate guide to discovering and developing our divine life purpose. Locked up in the pages of that wonderful book is the life that God has purposed for us. Through study and prayer and contemplation I believe we can discover this purpose and begin the walk to that destiny. In Walking to Jerusalem I’m able to help point readers in the right direction.

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

Dr. Chris Hill: The Bible Gateway App is a tremendous tool to help us access our Bible. Thousands of people have been following the reading plan and digging deeper into the Word of God. I’ve been hearing from and meeting them all over the country and so many lives have been impacted on a very personal level. So I’m very thankful for this window on the Word of God that’s been opened for the body of Christ through the Bible Gateway App.

Bio: Dr. Chris Hill served as youth and associate pastor at Bishop T. D. Jakes’s church in Dallas, Texas, before traveling as a world evangelist for seven years. In 2009, he began preaching at a struggling church in Denver, Colorado. Soon after his arrival, he was installed as senior pastor of the church, which became The Potter’s House of Denver in 2010. Now one of the fastest growing churches in America, The Potter’s House provides one of Denver’s largest homeless initiatives, a prison ministry that serves over ten prisons state-wide, a free counseling center, and services for veterans, seniors, and youth. God continues to use Dr. Hill to help redefine the scope and influence of the postmodern pulpit. Over the past 20 years of Dr. Hill’s ministry, 30 million people have heard his empowering message of hope that crosses all cultures, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

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God’s Justice Bible at The Justice Conference

Buy your copy of NIV God's Justice: The Holy Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

The annual Justice Conference (#justice16) was held in Chicago, Illinois in June. Its vision is to serve the discovery of ideas, celebrate the beauty of justice, and foster a community of people who live justice together.

During the conference, a commissioning service was held for the new NIV God’s Justice: The Holy Bible (Zondervan, 2016) (Bible website).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, God’s Justice: The Holy Bible—An Interview with Tim Stafford]

Buy your copy of NIV God's Justice: The Holy Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

God’s justice—his “setting things right”—is a foundational principle of the Bible. His plan for justice to triumph is traced from Genesis to Revelation, and as a theme it forms the backbone of Scripture.

Designed to inform and inspire, NIV God’s Justice: The Holy Bible carefully addresses the timeless and universal issues around injustice. Written by a team of 57 international scholars and writers who bring a global perspective to these issues, NIV God’s Justice: The Holy Bible is designed to fire readers’ passion for social justice and take positive steps to bring justice issues to light in their own circle of influence. The writers come from every continent, representing organizations such as the International Justice Mission, Compassion and World Vision. Well-Known UK and US contributors include Kirsh Kandiah, Tim Stafford, Andy Crouch, Ron Sider, and Joel Edwards. Their study notes are on passages that speak to the problems of injustice in the world (governmental oppression, human trafficking, slavery, financial inequality, and more) and how God’s overall plan is to restore his creation.

Watch the complete playlist from which the above videos are taken.

Watch 7 brief videos on the subject: Why Justice Matters to God

Below is a 7-day devotional reading and prayer guide created to support the family and friends of loved ones answering God’s call of discipleship—devotions based on NIV God’s Justice: The Holy Bible :

Below is “See God’s Heart. Be His Hands.” This is a 20-day series of devotions preparing you to go on a mission trip. For many people, the unknowns of travel and the uncertainties of encountering other cultures may be frightening. This series aims to focus your thinking away from anxiety or uncertainty, and toward the confidence and assurance you can gain from God’s perspective. This reading plan was written by Christianity Today editor-at-large Tim Stafford

Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it free for 30 days!

Bible News Roundup – Week of July 17, 2016

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

Filipino Standard Version (FSV) Added to Bible Gateway’s Online Bible Library
Bible Gateway Blog

The ‘Garden of Eden’ Becomes a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Atlantic
Read about the Garden of Eden in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read Genesis 2 on Bible Gateway

Mighty Fortifications Found by Archaeologists Show Kingdom of Geshur More Powerful Than Thought
Read about Geshur and Geshurites in Easton’s Bible Dictionary on Bible Gateway
Read Joshua 13:13 on Bible Gateway

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi Surpasses 250,000 Copies Sold
News release
Blog post—Interview: Nabeel Qureshi, Author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi in the Bible Gateway Store
Browse the Understanding Islam section in the Bible Gateway Store

Are Churches Key to Solving Social Problems? Fewer Americans Now Think So
Pew Research Center

Azusa Pacific University Secures 7 Volumes of The Saint John’s Bible
Bible Gateway Blog post—The Saint John’s Bible: A Work of Art

Henna and the Art of Bible Storytelling
The Christian and Missionary Alliance

Orality Method of Sharing the Bible’s Message is Growing
Mission Network News

Hundreds of Deaf Get Bible for the First Time at Expo
Mission Network News

CRI Sends $500,000 Worth of Bibles and Books to Hong Kong
Mission Network News

Barrhead, Alberta Canada Museum Opens New Bible Exhibit
The Barrhead Leader
Bible Gateway Blog: A Collection of Bible Museums & Exhibits

A Bread Basket Woven from the Pages of the Bible Wins 2016 Mandorla Art Award

Bible Saved War Hero’s Life in First World War
Birmingham Mail

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

The Beyond Suffering Bible: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada

Bible Gateway, Tyndale House Publishers, and Joni and Friends partnered together for the

Facebook Live interview with Joni Eareckson Tada July 22

Facebook Live Event
“Finding Hope in Suffering – Joni Answers Your Tough Questions”
Friday, July 22

on the Facebook pages of Bible Gateway, Tyndale House Publishers,
New Living Translation, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Joni and Friends. Go to the Bible Gateway Blog post Hope in Suffering to see the recorded event.

Joni is the general editor of the forthcoming Beyond Suffering Bible (Tyndale House, October 2016).

The event was a 30-minute live interview with bestselling author, broadcaster, singer, and artist Joni Eareckson Tada. Questions for Joni were submitted at the Facebook Event Page or by Tweeting, Facebooking, or Instagramming your question with the hashtag #BeyondSufferingBible.

Joni Eareckson TadaAbout 1-in-5 people in the USA live with some type of physical disability; 10 million people a year experience a serious mental illness; and 1-in-6 Americans struggle with chronic health conditions, leading to roughly 65 million Americans providing care for someone with a disability or chronic illness.

[See Bible Gateway Blog post: Tyndale to Release Beyond Suffering Bible]

From singer, artist, radio host, and bestselling author Joni Eareckson Tada and the experts at Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability comes the first Bible with study notes that address the topics of disability and suffering. The new Beyond Suffering Bible (website) will release from Joni and Friends and Tyndale House Publishers this October. It’s a combination of both a study Bible and a devotional Bible, with knowledge and insight gleaned from the Scriptures, as well as encouraging words from a wide array of top Christian experts who are often the “go-to” resources when people are looking for direction or next steps when ministering to individuals with disabilities, pain, addiction, and suffering.

Buy your copy of the Beyond Suffering Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

In an exclusive arrangement, Bible Gateway is the first to interview Joni Eareckson Tada (@JoniandFriends) about the worldwide premier of the Beyond Suffering Bible (Tyndale House, 2016).

[See the Beyond Suffering Bible pdf sampler]

Why is this Bible needed?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Suffering always prompts heart-wrenching questions: if God is good, why would He allow this pain in my life? Is God truly sovereign over accidents and birth anomalies, or does the devil set the world’s agenda? How do I counsel people who are despairing of their condition? What are the right choices when it comes to assisted-suicide and other tough ethical issues? For that matter, where does a person struggling with a life-altering accident or illness find peace of mind and a purpose for living?

The answer is the Word of God. Now, most people who suffer realize that the Bible contains answers for their plight; they just don’t know where to look. This was my story shortly after the 1967 diving accident in which I became paralyzed—even in my despair, I knew in a vague way that the Bible held hope for me in its pages. I just didn’t know where to begin. Thankfully, God brought wise Christian friends alongside to help me discover life-transforming precepts in his Word. The Beyond Suffering Bible can be that “wise Christian friend,” helping those affected by disability grasp the goodness of God amidst critical questions about pain and hardship.

Why have you included the word “Beyond” in the title?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Many people in the throes of suffering, disappointment, and despair, feel utterly stuck in their circumstances. They see no hope beyond their day-to-day drudgery of disability routines; but when hurting families place themselves under the shower of God’s mercy, suddenly the clouds part. They realize there’s hope, life, and even joy beyond their suffering. “Beyond” is a word that beautifully reflects Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” What a powerful promise for those who suffer and their caregivers!

Since you’re not a biblical language scholar, what perspective do you bring to this Bible as its general editor?

Joni Eareckson Tada: When it comes to this particular study Bible, there’s great value in a general editor who has an intimate knowledge of life-altering, gut-wrenching affliction. As general editor, I rely on scholars more gifted than I when it comes to the Beyond Suffering Bible’s copious study notes and commentaries—yet even these contributing scholars are acquainted with disability!

The success of God’s Word in our lives is linked intrinsically to our application of its truth. The point behind the Beyond Suffering Bible is to help the reader move biblical insights from the intellect into their daily grappling with affliction and hardship. And as general editor, I want the reader to understand that every commentary, study note, personal profile, and word of counsel is offered up by individuals who are not only skilled in God’s Word, but skilled in applying it when disability feels utterly devastating.

How does the emphasis of this Bible answer the ancient question of why God allows suffering?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Most people wish they could erase suffering out of the dictionary. Today’s culture of comfort and instant gratification has no patience for suffering—most people want to drug it, escape it, divorce it; do anything but live with it. Yet suffering is arguably God’s choicest tool in shaping the character of Christ in us. As I often say, “God permits what he hates, to accomplish what he loves.” I can’t think of a better answer to the ancient question of suffering. Even at the cross, God permitted what he hated—the unjust and agonizing death of his own precious Son—in order to accomplish something he prized above his own Son’s cruel death; that is, salvation for a world of sinners. So the world’s worst murder becomes the world’s only salvation.

The Beyond Suffering Bible takes this powerful truth and relates it to our personal struggle with suffering. True, God hates Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, mental illness, autism, and the rest (these conditions are all symptoms of the Fall). Yet he permits these things to accomplish something far more precious in our lives: patience, endurance, compassion for others who hurt, and refined faith and trust in God, to name a few.

What features are included in this Bible and how do they contribute to a better understanding of suffering?

Joni Eareckson Tada: One special feature is Faith in Action: Biblical and Contemporary Profiles. The truths of the Bible are never just abstract concepts; they’re always related to real people. So throughout the Beyond Suffering Bible readers will enjoy stories of those whose lives have been touched by suffering and transformed by God’s Word. Some of these are people who are named on the pages of the Bible, but others are contemporary individuals—some well known, others just ordinary people with extraordinary lessons to share with the reader.

It always helps to know that other parents with special-needs children are surviving, and surviving well. Faint hearts are encouraged when they read about others who, despite amputation, spinal cord injury, or psychiatric disorders have a vibrant trust and confidence in God.

How does this Bible approach modern ethical issues related to suffering, such as stem cell research and euthanasia?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Many good Christians are confused about complex social issues of our day, such as doctor-assisted death or medical research which uses stem cells from human embryos. They wonder, ‘Why shouldn’t science use discarded fetuses for research?’ And if someone finds his medical condition intolerable and hopeless, ‘why shouldn’t he have the legal right to end his life?’ Although the Bible does not address these issues in particular, it does provide guiding insights. Sometimes, however, we need help in “connecting the dots” biblically, and the Beyond Suffering Bible provides that guidance. It underscores the scope and extent of what it means to bear the image of God, and how that makes all life sacred. Once the reader firmly grasps the truth of human exceptionalism under our Creator God, then the answers to confusing cultural issues begin to be clear.

What do you mean when you say after years of suffering you believe God allows one form of evil to expose another form of evil?

Joni Eareckson Tada: God turns on its head one form of evil—suffering—in order to defeat another form of evil—that is, our transgressions. It happened at the cross, and it occurs in the lives of followers of Christ every day. For instance, I deal daily with chronic pain and, at times, my pain feels like a lemon that God “squeezes,” revealing my sour attitude, peevish spirit, and tendency to complain or grumble. Did not God use my pain to expose my sin, I might—like many of us—not be aware of the sin of which I’m capable. But we’re not the paragons of virtue that we’d all like to think we are. And so, to shatter that myth, God will use suffering to expose the stuff of which we’re made.

We’ve got to remember that the core of Christ’s plan is to rescue us from sin. Our pain, poverty, and broken hearts are not his ultimate focus. True, he cares about these things, but they’re merely symptoms of the real problem.

God cares most not about making us comfortable, but about teaching us to hate our transgressions and to grow up spiritually to love him. In other words, God lets us continue to feel much of sin’s sting through suffering while we’re heading for heaven. This constantly reminds us of what we’re being delivered from; exposing sin for the poison it is.

What Bible passages do you see as especially helpful when in the throes of suffering?

Joni Eareckson Tada: Often when people are diagnosed with a life-changing medical condition, they feel overwhelmed. They feel choked by darkness and hopelessness. Those are times when answers simply do not suffice. That’s because answers don’t always reach the problem where it hurts: in the gut and in the heart. God knows this, and so he gives us Ecclesiastes 3:4 which speaks of a time to weep and mourn. In Romans 12:15 we’re told to “mourn with those who mourn.”

It’s why when I feel overwhelmed by chronic pain, I’m always helped by Isaiah 50:10 — “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” This scripture reminds me that the Bible isn’t quick to give answers; it mainly gives the Answer. When we hurt, God doesn’t always give us lots of words; he gives us the Word; the Word made flesh who is intimately acquainted with our grief and suffering. That’s what helps the most.

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

Joni Eareckson Tada: I’m constantly using Bible Gateway during my writing and research. It’s quick. It’s easy. And it provides countless translations to pull from. It really is a ‘one stop shopping’ place for all my reference work!

Bio: Joni Eareckson Tada is founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Joni and Friends provides practical support and spiritual help to special needs families worldwide, and equips thousands of churches in developing disability ministry. Joni is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Joni: An Unforgettable Story, Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story, Diamonds in the Dust, Heaven, When God Weeps, A Lifetime of Wisdom, A Place of Healing, Life in the Balance, Making Sense of Suffering, and A Step Further, winner of the Gold Medallion Award. Joni and her husband, Ken, have been married for over 30 years.

Remove banner ads and expand your Bible reading experience using our valuable library of more than 40 top resources by becoming a member of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it free for 30 days!

All the 🌲🌳 of the field will 👏

You can now search for over 330 emoji on Bible Gateway–we’ll translate them into English and conduct a keyword search for you. Try a couple: all the 🌲🌳 of the field will 👏 or 🌈⛅.

Search results for the emoji for rainbow, earth, and cloud indicate three results.


This Sunday, July 17, is World Emoji Day, a recently invented holiday that celebrates using emoji to augment digital communication.

Bible readers have also embraced emoji to a certain extent. About 3% of public Bible notes and 2% of tweets linking to Bible verses contain emoji, with the percentages increasing each year. The most-common emoji associated with Bible verses on Twitter are 🙏, , and 🙌.

People generally use emoji to express an emotional response that would be cumbersome in text. You can see this use in these three emoji–people are reacting via emoji to what they’re reading.

At the same time, however, some emoji do have specific meanings: a 🐎 can mean a literal horse in addition to any emotional associations you have with horses.

The Bible Gateway search engine focuses on these representational emoji–it translates as heart, for example, not love, even though people generally use ❤ to express love for someone or something.

It’s important to note that we’re not changing any words in the text of the Bible–we’re simply letting you search using emoji that you type yourself.

Emoji search also works in the Bible Gateway app if you have a wireless connection.

To search for an emoji, just enter it into the Bible Gateway search box using the emoji keyboard on your device.

Searching for emoji on Bible Gateway may not approach Pokémon Go levels of excitement, but with over 330 emoji to uncover, it will definitely take you awhile to find them all. 💃💃💃

The Wired Soul: An Interview with Tricia McCary Rhodes

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Tricia McCary RhodesHave you noticed: You’re more easily distracted lately? You forget the details of your life more often than you used to? You get easily agitated and have trouble resting, even though you’re more tired than you remember ever being? You struggle to pray, to read the Scriptures, to be still and know that God is God?

Technology has greatly improved much of our lives, but in the process our brains are being daily rewired, and our capacity to be centered in our souls is at risk. We live in an increasingly disorienting digital age.

Bible Gateway interviewed Tricia McCary Rhodes (@soulrest) about her book, The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age (NavPress, 2016).

Buy your copy of The Wired Soul in the Bible Gateway Store

[See the Scripture Engagement section on Bible Gateway]

Why do you believe the Internet has fueled a heightened sense of unrest among people?

Tricia McCary Rhodes: Most people would say they live with an internal angst that they can’t always put their finger on. This is because the Internet has changed our very way of being in this world, compelling us to be perpetually “on”—from our cars to our computers, our tablets to our smartphones, our desks to our living rooms or dining tables, our churches to our libraries to our schools. This 24/7 connection means we’re never really free and we always feel behind. The Internet also continually entices us to explore its options through hyperlinks and ads so we can spend a lot of time on things for which we have little to show, adding to our unrest.

The reality is that most of us are rarely, if ever, alone with our own minds and souls. Even when we do find a few minutes of quiet, we’re driven to check our devices for emails, texts, etc.; to surf the Web or to post on social media. I might add that even if you’ve managed to remain a Luddite—one who resists technology—you’re surrounded by people who don’t, so you’re affected more than you may realize.

Because this monumental digital shift has taken place so fast, we haven’t really had time or invested the energy to evaluate what this is doing to our culture, or how it’s impacting us as individuals—physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I can’t help but think of the prophet Isaiah’s words to the Israelites when they had blindly assimilated the surrounding culture’s values: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it (Isaiah 30:15 NIV).

How has technology-driven culture affected spiritual formation among Christians?

Tricia McCary Rhodes: I open my seminary classes with a guided prayer and two minutes of silence, and last week one of my students commented that he couldn’t remember a time when he had two minutes of silence for any reason, much less to press into God. This may be the most damaging effect of technology on our spiritual formation—our loss of the capacity to be still and know (Psalm 46:10), to sit in prayerful meditation or contemplation, to listen for God’s voice and learn of his character and ways. This is critical to our spiritual formation for a number of reasons, but one of the most important is found in Paul’s words to the Corinthians: And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV).

This verse holds a mystery, which is that one of the primary ways we’re formed into Christlikeness is by learning to contemplate God’s glory—his presence, beauty, attributes, and ways, listening to what the Spirit says, and yielding with an obedient heart. Thus, if we can’t even spend a short amount of time each day with God in solitude, our spiritual formation will be seriously stunted.

Most people that I talk to about this, including seminary students who will lead the church in the next generation, find it extremely difficult—if not impossible—to focus in prayer. Distraction, which David Wells calls “the affliction of this age,” troubles them like a pesky fly buzzing around their head that won’t go away. Most people just give up after a few minutes of this and feel guilty or embarrassed at their lack. It’s always been hard to focus in prayer; the technology has upped the ante exponentially.

The reality is that living digitally rewires our brains for perpetual motion, shallow surface thinking, and compulsive/addictive behaviors. Because our world is only going to become more tech-driven with each passing day, unless we find ways to counterbalance these detrimental effects, we’ll remain spiritual babes, drinking milk for the rest of our lives instead of the solid food God has for us (1 Corinthians 3:2).

What is your love-hate relationship with technology?

Tricia McCary Rhodes: I’m dependent on technology like most 21st century human beings. More and more I need to be “connected” in order to communicate with family, teach seminary, minister to my community, and write as I’m called to do. Beyond that, I love the ease that technology offers—allowing me to communicate with long-lost friends or far-away missionaries; giving me that verse within seconds that I couldn’t think of; the ability to pay my bills or order gifts or groceries without having to leave home; saving me immense amounts of time. These are just a few of the things I love.

But I hate the way that I can so easily get sucked into feeling like I have to be “wired,” that I too must be available 24/7. I’m frustrated with the fact that it’s harder to remember things now because I can so easily find them on the Web. I hate the way I have to work at reading; a pastime that once brought nothing but relaxation and joy. I hate the Internet’s addictive qualities, as I watch my own grandchildren—whose brains are still being developed—want to be on devices so much. I hate what technology bodes for our culture, but even more for the body of Christ.

Thus, my love-hate relationship with technology. I think it boils down to learning how to be countercultural here; to learn how to be in the digital world, but not of it (John 17:14-16).

What are the spiritual implications of the phrase, “cells that fire together, wire together”?

Tricia McCary Rhodes: Neural science, which is the study of the brain, tells us that we have up to one billion brain cells with thousands of branches that communicate with each other much like a complex highway system. The more we attend to something, or the more we engage in certain behaviors, the more those particular cells communicate and the pathways between them deepen. This is how our values, our beliefs, and our motivations are actually formed.

As Christ-followers, we know we can only avoid being shaped by our culture through the renewal of our minds; a word that means complete renovation (Romans 12:2). From a brain science perspective, this happens as we engage in godly habits or focus and apply God’s truth often enough and long enough to ensure those cells fire together until they’re wired together and a deep pathway between them is formed. This means that the renewal of our minds—a work requiring God’s grace and guidance—is more about what we do than what we know; or in other words, more about the spiritual habits we keep than the amount of biblical information we might attain.

What are three ways a smartphone can improve a person’s walk with God?

Tricia McCary Rhodes: The question I ask myself daily is whether my smartphone has been my servant or a silent taskmaster. The truth is that our devices can serve us greatly in our walk with God, even in helping us rewire our brains in positive ways. I use a couple of different apps for Bible study, including Bible Gateway; I use a reminder app to draw my attention to God several times throughout the day, and a prayer app to remind me to pray for various things and be more aware of how God answers. And of course I love my music app and the edifying podcasts that are always available.

I hope people reading this interview, along with my own blog at find some spiritual sustenance!

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

Tricia McCary Rhodes: Bible Gateway is like an old friend to me. It was the first Bible program I learned to use online and is still my “go-to” when I need to read a passage in its context, compare versions, or find references, etc.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Tricia McCary Rhodes: Just that there’s hope. We don’t have to be victims of the spiritual fall-out of the digital age. It does take some serious intentionality to combat the cultural compulsion for connection that surrounds us, but it’s worth it. Digital natives and immigrants alike cannot afford to take this lightly, for in the words of that great sage, Solomon: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it“ (Proverbs 4:23).

Bio: Tricia McCary Rhodes is a writer and teacher whose works include The Soul at Rest, Contemplating the Cross, Intimate Intercession: The Sacred Joy of Praying for Others, and Sacred Chaos: Spiritual Disciplines for the Life You Have. Together she and her husband, Joe, founded New Hope Church in San Diego, California, and have served there for more than 25 years.