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What the Gospel Means for Our Work, Money, and Possessions: An Interview with Michael Rhodes and Robby Holt

Michael RhodesHow should Christians biblically and practically earn, invest, spend, compensate, save, share, and give money in ways that embody God’s love and provision for the world?

Bible Gateway interviewed Michael Rhodes (@michaeljrhodes) and Robby Holt (@robbyholt) about their book, Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give (Baker Books, 2018).

Robby Holt

Explain the idea of economic discipleship.

Michael Rhodes: The good news of the Bible is that King Jesus is bringing his kingdom rule “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) and that because he’s died for our sins, we sinners can become citizens of that kingdom! But every king has an ‘economic program’ and even a quick look at the Bible makes it clear that God’s economic plan is different from ours. Economic discipleship, then, is about becoming people who live like citizens of God’s kingdom in the way we work, earn, spend, invest, save, compensate, and share, especially when God’s way conflicts with the systems and expectations of our culture.

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In the book you write about six keys to the King’s economy. Why do you start by focusing on worship?

Michael Rhodes: We believe that both worship and idolatry are economic issues. In the Old Testament, Israel idolatrously worships Baal (cf. 1 Kings 17-18) because his worshippers call him the “Rider on the Clouds” who brings the rain that poor agrarian peasants so desperately need. In the New Testament, Jesus recognized that his people often treated money as an idol like Baal, an idol to worship as a god to get what they wanted. But “nobody can serve two masters” (Luke 16:13)!

The good news is that when we embrace sacrificial generosity, God uses our worshipful giving to free our hearts from idolatry and our hands for service. When we store up treasures in heaven in worship, we find that where our finances go, there our hearts will follow (Matthew 6:21). Without dealing with who and how we worship, we won’t be prepared to live out any of the other practices.

Where do we see the key of community displayed in the Bible?

Michael Rhodes: The community key is everywhere in the Bible, but I think the best way to sniff it out is to follow the aroma of the feast. Whether it’s the Lord calling his people to bring their tithes to the sanctuary so they can feast on them together with the entire community (cf. Deut. 14:22-29), Jesus being called a “glutton and drunkard” because he’s always feasting with tax collectors and “sinners” (Luke 7:34), or the early church’s Lord Supper celebrations that stand in the midst of a community in which there are no needy people among them (Acts 4:34), Scripture shows us a God who’s gathering a people together to feast at his table.

What does it mean to welcome all to the potluck of God, and how does this connect with living out the King’s economy?

Michael Rhodes: The metaphor of the potluck reminds us that, in God’s economy, everybody gets to bring a plate to the party. In terms of our economic lives, this metaphor tells us two things. First, the goal of our economic lives isn’t to create a bunch of economically self-sufficient individuals, but rather to become an inter-dependent family gathered at God’s table. But second, the potluck reminds us that some in the family struggle to bring their best plate because of economic brokenness, injustice, and sin. That means that if we want the potluck, we’re going to have to bend the way we work, earn, spend, invest, save, and give towards welcoming the marginalized.

Quote from Practicing the King's Economy

Providing work to people who need it is often easiest for people who own their own businesses or start them, but you say we can all make a difference in this area. What are some other ideas?

Michael Rhodes: If you don’t have influence in your work place, consider whether you have influence at home or at church. Churches can hire people who are struggling to find employment to help out, or they can connect job seekers to those in the congregation who are gatekeepers to employment. Individuals can also serve as allies or mentors in job training initiatives like the Work Life program that emerged from a partnership between Advance Memphis and the Chalmers Center. Churches and non-profits are running similar programs across the country, and all of them need allies and volunteers.

And both churches and individuals often have opportunities to support minority-owned businesses, entrepreneurs coming out of poor communities, and social enterprises that create jobs for hard-to-hire populations. I live in a low-income community and don’t have much influence over hiring at work. But my wife and I have hired neighbors to help me build one fence, tear down another, detail cars, install flower beds, floor parts of our attic, cook meals for parties, give me a haircut, deep clean our home, provide lawn care services, and more.

In Chapter 7 you write, “Scripture shows us that in God’s economy, everyone has a stake in the community” (page 172). Where do we see this in Scripture, and what’s one story of people living that out today?

Michael Rhodes: Micah 4:4 tells us that God is bringing a world in which “everyone will sit under their own vine and fig tree and nobody will make them afraid.” I think that suggests that, in God’s good design, economic peace and social security come when everyone has a social place to stand and an economic portion to steward in the community. At Advance Memphis, where I worked for 5 years, we walked with low-income neighbors to find jobs, start small businesses (using a model we got from LAUNCH Chattanooga), and purchase a home in our neighborhood. In all of these ways we invited low-income folks to bring their gifts to the marketplace and volunteers and supporters to bend their economic lives towards our neighbors. The result? Many of my neighbors now not only earn more money and have increased their wealth and economic stability, but they’re also able to bring a better plate to the community potluck.

Why is it important for Christians to care about creation care?

Robby Holt: For many of us who grew up in church, this way of thinking is new territory. Our Sunday school flannel board did not include much about “creation care.” Indeed, many Christians wonder whether worrying too much about the environment isn’t actually unbiblical. Right in the opening words of the Bible, though, we see God looking at what he made and declaring it good (Gen. 1). We see that the goodness of rocks and trees, stars and suns and moons, flying fish and panda bears, was announced by God even before he created Adam and Eve. Creation, it seems, isn’t just good for people to use; it’s good in and of itself. God places his “seal of divine approval on the whole universe,” even apart from the incredible value that creation has for people. If our understanding of creation begins with the Bible, it doesn’t start with how useful creation is to people and how we might run out of stuff to use if we aren’t careful. It starts by recognizing that creation is good because God made it and loves it.

How does the key of rest remind us we’re not in control?

Robby Holt: Practicing Sabbath creates a “temple in time,” making worship of God a regular part of our life rhythms. But this doesn’t happen if we choose independence, self-sufficiency, and autonomy instead of rest. Since we’re worshipers, if we dodge the God of the Sabbath, we bow down to some other portion of God’s creation and make it our blind, deaf, and powerless master. The idols we create for ourselves require our endless, relentless service. They seek to convince us that we exist for them. If you can’t stop or don’t know how to rest, look for the demanding deities barking out orders. There’s no rest for the weary with these lords. When we practice Sabbath in worship of Yahweh, we begin to live free of anxiety because our Creator practices Sabbath himself. God rested after his creative work! When we stop by faith, we’re acknowledging God—his power, his wisdom, his love. This requires and cultivates trust in the One whose job description includes running the universe. We’re creatures with limits. We can’t know everything. We can’t do everything. We can’t control everything. If those words sound like problems, we’ve forgotten who knows all things, who can do all things, and who controls all things!

If someone wanted to start with one small step toward practicing the King’s economy, what would you recommend?

Michael Rhodes: Read our book! (Just kidding—sort of). Because these practices all start with the orientation of our heart, with our attitude toward King Jesus and the stuff he’s given us to steward on his behalf, one of the simplest yet hardest steps we could take is to start practicing the Sabbath. If the idea of putting a weekly “brake” on our work and distraction seems unrealistic or impossible, the world’s way is more deeply ingrained in us than we may have realized. Without learning to step back from the rat race and intentionally put our trust in God, it will be very difficult for us to notice how he provides for his people. When we begin to move our trust from our bank accounts, skills, and success back to our loving Father, we may find our hearts opening to his love for those on the margins. Taking the Sabbath seriously may be the best doorway into the rest of the King’s Economy.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Michael Rhodes: I guess I’d have to say Leviticus 25’s Year of Jubilee . . . we even named our second daughter Jubilee! The Jubilee invites God’s people to experience forgiveness from sin and restoration from economic disaster. The Jubilee makes sure nobody ever gets permanently disenfranchised from their plot in the Promised Land. It’s a vision that I think inspired Isaiah, Jesus, and the early church, and it’s certainly one of the guiding texts in my life.

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

Michael Rhodes: I love having access to Bible Gateway’s rich collection of Bible translations and other texts. And I’ve seen firsthand that my students at the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies, where I teach, benefit from this resource as well.


Bio: Michael Rhodes is the director of community development and an instructor at the Memphis Center for Urban Theological Studies, where he heads up efforts to equip urban pastors and community development practitioners with theologically informed tools for community transformation.

Robby Holt is the senior pastor at North Shore Fellowship in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and teacher and theological dean for the Chattanooga Institute for Faith and Work. He teaches theology of work and New Testament courses for the Chattanooga Fellows Initiative.

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Dolly Parton’s Crisis of Faith and How the Bible Brought Her Through the Shadows

Dudley Delffsby Dudley Delffs

It’s not surprising that in the midst of simultaneous professional, family, and personal turmoil, Dolly Parton experienced a crisis of faith. When things are going well, it’s relatively easy to thank God for your blessings. But when everything’s taken away and you feel disoriented by the depths of your losses, it’s hard to believe God is still good and that he still cares about your well-being.

Dolly is no different than the rest of us. This painful season of loss was not the first time she had ached with grief and questioned God’s purposes. When Dolly was a girl, her mother almost died of spinal meningitis. Burning up with fever, Avie Lee was rushed to the hospital after a home visit from Dr. Thomas, the local doctor who had delivered Dolly. Their family knew it was serious if someone was taken to the hospital, and they worried they might lose their beloved mama.

Dolly remembers her grandma Rena, Dolly’s mother’s mama, sitting up all night, clutching her Bible and praying fervently, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22 KJV). The next morning, Mrs. Parton’s fever broke. Having survived through the long night, Mama Parton recovered and went on to live until she was 80, seeing and enjoying much of Dolly’s success before passing away in 2003.

In addition to this scare, Dolly had also lost a baby brother, Larry, who died the day after his birth. In their family the older kids helped take care of the younger ones, usually paired up to make sure no one was forgotten. Baby Larry was to have been Dolly’s sibling to help care for, so losing him seemed even more painful and personal. This loss led to her first crisis of faith as she struggled to make sense of it all. It took a little time, but Dolly came to terms with his death, and perhaps death in general, realizing that death is hardest for those of us left behind.

But those early struggles must have paled in comparison to the myriad of losses Dolly experienced as an adult. With so much of her life seemingly in shreds, she couldn’t understand where God was and why he was allowing her to go through so much pain and despair. In her autobiography, she wrote, “I had never felt alone before. I had always had God. I had always thought of him as a friend, my constant fortress, my loving father. I had always heard the voice of God guiding me along my way through life. Now pain and anguish ripped at my heart, fear and anguish clouded my mind. I could not hear him. I wondered if even he had forsaken me. I questioned God. I argued with him.”

With so many huge, existential questions clouding her mind and taunting her heart, Dolly wondered if she would ever have answers—or any peace of mind—again. Death held the appeal of not having to worry about any of it and finally experiencing freedom from all the pain, despair, and heartache in her life. Such thoughts and feelings led Dolly to a moment when she contemplated suicide as a very real option. Sitting upstairs in her bedroom, she remembered the handgun she kept in her nightstand in case of a break-in. Suddenly, she considered ending it all—having something right in front of her that could bring about the permanent end to her suffering.

Later in a dramatic interview in Ladies’ Home Journal (June 1986), Dolly revealed to journalist Cliff Jahr that she actually picked up her gun, held it and stared at it in her hand, when suddenly she heard Popeye, the little dog she and Carl both loved, clattering into the room. “The tap-tap-tap of his paws jolted me back to reality,” she shared. Dolly believes God used Popeye to intervene and break her out of such a terrible mind-set in that moment.

While that incident was certainly a turning point, it didn’t entirely break the grip of her depression. It did remind her, though, that she had always intended to read the Bible straight through from cover to cover. So that’s what she started doing. From Genesis to the Gospels to Revelation, she searched for answers, and through the process of reading God’s Word, Dolly found her lines of divine communication opening once again. The clouds began lifting from her spirit.

She began hearing God again and knew that he was hearing her prayers. Then she began feeling like herself again. She woke up one day and realized “life goes on whether you feel like being a part of it or not.” Dolly’s dark night of the soul had ended, and dawn was breaking once more. Feeling lighter and more inspired than ever before, Dolly experienced a deepening of her faith and a closer walk with God. He had not abandoned her. He was with her the entire time, holding her close.

Dolly had discovered firsthand the truth described by Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome: “I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38 NLT).

________

The Faith of Dolly PartonAdapted from The Faith of Dolly Parton: Lessons from Her Life to Lift Your Heart by Dudley Delffs. Click here to learn more about this title.

Dolly Parton has entertained, educated, and inspired millions of fans for over five decades. Whether she’s writing songs, performing live, recording new albums, acting in or producing new movies and TV programs, expanding her wildly successful Dollywood amusement park, helping children around the world learn to read with her Imagination Library nonprofit, or donating millions of dollars to schools, charities, and people in need, the Queen of Country Music has never been shy about crediting her Christian faith for her success.

“A belief in God is essential,” Dolly shares. “You have to believe in something bigger than yourself. We grew up believing that through God all things are possible.” Growing up in the little mountain church where her grandfather preached, Dolly started singing hymns and playing guitar at services when she was only six. Consequently, she has never been shy about discussing her faith and relationship with God. “People say, ‘Well, I am surprised that you talk about your faith,’ and I say, ‘Why not? That’s who I am. That’s what keeps me going,’” she explains.

Tennessee native, Dolly fanboy, and award-winning writer Dudley Delffs now spotlights ten faith lessons as evidenced in Dolly’s life, music, interviews, and attitude. The Faith of Dolly Parton focuses on the ways Dolly’s life can inspire us all to be more authentic, to trust God during hard times, to stay grounded during the good times, and to always keep our sense of humor. Sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, frequently surprising, and always true to Dolly’s down-home spirit of joyful generosity, this book will delight her millions of fans as well as anyone seeking a fresh faith-filled role model. Learn more at FaithofDollyParton.com.

Dudley J. Delffs, PhD is an award-winning writer of fiction and non-fiction. A former publishing executive with divisions of Random House and HarperCollins, Dudley now works with top-tier authors, agents, and publishers to produce bestselling books with life-changing impact. A lifelong fan of Dolly Parton, Dudley lives in Sewanee, Tennessee with his wife and children.

Journey Through Jesus’ Parables

Experience the Parables of Jesus

Have you ever wondered—as the disciples so often did—what Jesus was talking about when he told parables?

When we read and wonder what Jesus meant by the “good soil” in the Parable of the Sower, or if we read the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and think its message opaque, it’s tempting to get frustrated and worry that Jesus rebukes us for spiritual torpor. After all, how many times did he admonish his disciples? “Oh, you of little faith.”

But this is why God provided us with his Word. He knows we are sheep: forgetful and easily led astray. And because of this, he has compassion on us, and he desires that we read and ponder his parables. It takes a lifetime of such repeated readings and pondering to grow into an understanding of Jesus’ meaning and into an acceptance of his will.

One way to encourage understanding of these difficult passages is to read them with critical thoughts and questions in mind, which is the focus of our related devotional: Experience the Parables of Jesus.

In this free email introduction and guide to Jesus’ parables, which runs for 21-days, you’ll be equipped with fresh thoughts and questions for coming to a closer understanding of what each story means. Each day, you’ll receive a devotional on a different parable that will help you to re-frame some of the most important questions about faith and the life of the Jesus follower. There are no better words to ponder.

And, as a bonus, when you sign up for this free devotional, you’ll also receive in the body of the first day’s email a free downloadable PDF of 25 Parables in the Bible with Bible verse references for further reading. This list contains parables found throughout the entire Bible and is designed to be printed and used as a reminder of God’s words and promises. You can also use it as a Bible-reading schedule throughout June. Sign up right now!

Died: Sam Moore, Former Thomas Nelson CEO

Read the obituary of Sam MooreThe hearts of HarperCollins Christian Publishing (@HCChristianPub) employees are mourning the loss of a dear friend and leader. On the afternoon of June 1, 2018, Sam Moore, 88, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers (@ThomasNelson) and founder of Royal Publishing, passed away.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Sam Ziady Moore was a 19-year-old Lebanese immigrant who moved to America in the 1950s with only 600 dollars in savings and a dream to attend college. He began to sell Bibles door-to-door to pay for his tuition, and in 1958, Moore established his own company, National Book Publishers in Nashville, Tenn. In 1961, Moore founded Royal Publishing, a fast-growing Christian publisher, by enlisting strategic partners like the late-American entrepreneur Jack C. Massey, co-founder of Hospital Corporation of America and Kentucky Fried Chicken, for capital and business advice. In the late 1960s, Moore was approached by Thomas Nelson and Sons—a religious publishing house based in New York, originally founded in Edinburg, Scotland—with interest to purchase Royal Publishing. Moore declined, but instead made an offer to purchase Thomas Nelson, and in 1969 Royal Publishing adopted the Thomas Nelson name, dropping “and Sons” to gain more international brand recognition. Moore moved the Thomas Nelson publishing operations to Nashville, Tenn., where it remains today.

As the CEO of Thomas Nelson, Moore grew the company into one of the world’s largest evangelical publishing houses, acquiring multiple publishers and imprints with internationally recognized authors like Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Dr. David Jeremiah, Anne Graham Lotz, Max Lucado, John MacArthur, John Maxwell, Charles Stanley, Charles Swindoll and Zig Ziglar, among others. One of Moore’s most ambitious business decisions came in the late 1970s when his then 10-year-old son said he could not understand the King James Version (@ThomasNelsonKJV) translation of the Bible. Moore was inspired to initiate a comprehensive $4.5 million translation project utilizing the expertise of 130 commissioned Bible scholars. Seven years later, the New King James Version (@NKJVbible) translation of the Bible was published for the first time in 1983 under Moore’s leadership to make the Bible easier to read and understand. The project was said to be the high-point in Moore’s faith-journey, one that was started and inspired by American missionaries in Lebanon.

Romans 8:28 (NKJV) was his life verse: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Moore retired in 2005 after nearly 47 years as CEO of Thomas Nelson, but continued to remain in close connection with the leaders who followed in his footsteps. Mark Schoenwald, named president and CEO of Thomas Nelson in 2011 and current president and CEO of HarperCollins Christian Publishing said, “Sam was a unique man who embraced God’s plan for his life every day with courage and enthusiasm. He dedicated his life’s work to preach and teach the good news of the gospel. Sam impacted and changed the lives of countless people with his time, effort, and resources. We are grateful for his vision and dedication to building our company, and appreciated his extended friendship after his retirement. We are praying for his family, especially his wife Peggy, but we take comfort in knowing that Sam is now at peace in his eternal home.”

In the weeks leading up to his passing, Moore spent his time at home with his family and loved ones. His son, Joseph “Joe” Moore, said, “Dad had a deep well of energy that he fueled into his love of family, work, travel, and missions. He was a strong leader and a loving patriarch to our family. He led by example and taught each of us to not only dream big, but to find our calling and then work diligently and faithfully, always giving our best.”

The family requests that memorial donations be made in lieu of flowers to any of the ministries listed below, which Moore supported throughout his life.

Middle Eastern Bible Organization
P.O. Box 9764
The Woodlands, Texas 77387

Samaritan’s Purse
P.O. Box 3000
Boone, North Carolina 28607

The Gideon’s International
P.O. Box 140800
Nashville, Tennessee 37214

Westminster Chapel Presbyterian Church
7000 Executive Center Drive
Building Two, Suite 125
Brentwood, Tennessee 37027

About HarperCollins Christian Publishing
The world’s leading Christian publisher, HarperCollins Christian Publishing Inc., comprises both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan publishing groups in addition to Olive Tree Bible Software. The Company produces bestselling Bibles, inspirational books, academic resources, curriculum, audio, and digital content for the Christian market space. Also home to BibleGateway.com (@BibleGateway), the world’s largest Christian website, and FaithGateway.com (@faithgateway), an online community dedicated to helping people grow in their faith. HarperCollins Christian Publishing is headquartered in Nashville, TN with additional offices in the US and Mexico. For more information visit HarperCollinsChristian.com.

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The Man Behind the Story That Sparked the US Civil War

Buy your copy of The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story that Sparked the Civil War in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

by Jared Brock

Almost every American has heard of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the ground-breaking anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was the #1-selling book of the 19th century, aside from the Bible. It sparked a massive debate over slavery, and when Abraham Lincoln met the author, he supposedly quipped, “So you’re the little lady that wrote the book that started this great war.”

What few people realize is that the story was inspired by a real-life Christian preacher.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, A Year of Living Prayerfully: An Interview with Jared Brock]

Josiah Henson has an incredible story that few know: He rescued 118 enslaved people. He won a medal at the first World’s Fair in London. Queen Victoria invited him to Windsor Castle. Lord Grey offered him a job. Rutherford B. Hayes entertained him at the White House. He raised millions for the abolitionist cause. He helped start a large freeman settlement for former slaves. But before all this, Josiah Henson was brutally enslaved for more than 40 years.

The Bible played a vital role in Josiah’s journey from slavery to freedom, and there are several Scriptures that influenced his early life and later service.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. — Hebrews 2:9 (KJV)

Since slaves on his master’s plantation were forbidden from reading, Josiah only learned what little the other slaves knew. The Bible was used by some, then as now, to manipulate slaves into unthinking submission to the violence of slavery.

See the trailer for the Josiah Henson documentary

When Josiah was around 18, he received permission to go hear a very different kind of preacher. John McKenny lived in Georgetown, just a few miles from Isaac Riley’s plantation. A good man—a baker by trade—he detested slavery and refused to hire slave labor from any of the hundreds of renters in the state. He worked with his own hands, along with whatever hired free labor he could afford. McKenny occasionally served as a minister, preaching in a county where preachers were lacking at the time.

Josiah walked the forest path to the meeting at Newport Mill. It was held in a house along a stream that powered a handful of grain mills. When Josiah approached the door, the doorman barred his entry because of his color. Josiah circled the building, then stood in the doorway and watched the baker preach. He had never heard a sermon before. McKenny preached with passion about the character of Jesus. What kind of man dies for his enemies? What kind of man sacrifices himself for others? The baker spoke in terms that anyone could understand. He spoke of Jesus, and his love for mankind, of his death and resurrection. He read Hebrews 2:9 and insisted that Christ died “for every man.” McKenny continually repeated the phrase throughout his sermon.

He hammered on his main point: “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, tasted death for every man; for the high, for the low, for the rich, for the poor, the bond, the free, the negro in his chains, the man in gold and diamonds.”

It forever changed Josiah’s life.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, “Liberty or Death—One or the Other, I Mean to Have”]

You shall not murder. — Exodus 20:13 (NIV)

Josiah became an honorable man who believed that the only way to gain his freedom was to purchase it. Accordingly, he began to preach and raise funds for his freedom papers. Unfortunately, his master stole his money and tried to sell him south to New Orleans.

On the boat ride down the river, Josiah saw an ax. His master’s teenage nephew, along with the captain and the crew, were fast asleep in the hold of the boat. Josiah grabbed the ax and snuck down in to the cabin. His plan was to murder the men, sink the ship, and escape north.

He entered the cabin and approached the first sleeping man. He squinted in the lantern light. His eyes fell on the 19-year-old boy. Josiah’s hand slid along the ax handle. He raised the blade to strike the fatal blow.

The voice seemed barely audible. “Josiah Henson, are you a Christian? Will you commit murder?” Josiah had not considered it murder. It was self-defense. He was preventing others from murdering him. It was justifiable, even commendable. But now, all at once, the truth rushed in. Josiah shrunk back into the shadows. He would rather die as a slave than live as a murderer.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Biblical Imagery of the Gettysburg Address]

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. — Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Josiah eventually traveled 600 miles and escaped to Canada with his wife and four children. Upon landing in Canada, he could have settled into a comfortable and self-serving lifestyle. Instead, he knew his freedom was a gift to be stewarded. He knew his influence and affluence were entrusted to him for the benefit of others.

He got to work. He returned to American again and again, and rescued 118 others. He started a social enterprise business which hired refugees, and later won a medal at the first World’s Fair in London. He raised the modern equivalent of millions for the abolitionist cause. He released a memoir, and used the profits to purchase his own brother’s freedom. He helped start a freeman settlement, called Dawn, which grew to 500 people and was known as one of the final stops on the Underground Railroad. In his old age, he was still raising funds to plant more churches.

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. — Psalm 103:1 (KJV)

Despite being illiterate for most of his life, Josiah had a strong memory that allowed him to easily memorize verses that he heard. In his early 40s, his own 12-year-old son, Tom, taught him how to read. One of the most memorable passages was Psalm 103.

As Josiah listened for the first time to what he later described as “this beautiful outpouring of gratitude,” he began to weep. All his memories rushed back in a flash. All the pain, the hardship, the abuse. All the evil that his slave owners had done. Of his own father, sold south. Of his mother, long deceased. Of his harrowing journey to freedom. Bless the Lord, O my soul. It was all he needed to express the gratitude he felt.

In the years to come, Josiah would preach at C. H. Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, John Wesley’s chapel, George Whitefield’s church, and hundreds of others. He became a Methodist minister with a 300-mile territory. The Archbishop of Canterbury wept after hearing his story, and asked Josiah where he received his education. Josiah joked: “I graduated, sir, from the university of adversity.” Everywhere he went, Josiah expressed his overwhelming gratitude for God’s grace in his life. He forgave those who sinned against him, and worked to bring freedom—body and soul—to every life he touched.

Jared Brock

We often take the Bible for granted, but Josiah never did. For him it was a hard-won gift; something he treasured for a lifetime.

Bio: Jared Brock (@jaredbrock) is the author of The Road to Dawn: Josiah Henson and the Story that Sparked the Civil War (PublicAffairs, 2018) and director of JOSIAH, a book and documentary about Josiah Henson.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of June 3, 2018

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Died: Sam Moore, Former Thomas Nelson CEO
Bible Gateway Blog

On 74th Anniversary of D-Day, a Tale of Two Bibles
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WDBJ 7 News: Man Donates Father’s Normandy Bible to D-Day Memorial
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, D-Day June 6, 1944: The Bible and Prayer of WWII

The British Library Traces the History of the World’s Oldest Latin Bible
Aleteia
Read the Bible in Latin on Bible Gateway

Techniques Most Often Used To Study Scripture
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Kentucky Education Board Approves Bible Literacy Standards for State Public Schools
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Bible Translators Among Those Killed, Forced to Flee Violence in Cameroon
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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
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Verses for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
See books in the Bible Gateway Store on the subject of Christian persecution

6th and 7th Circuit Courts Reject Challenge To “In God We Trust” On USA Currency
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How Jesus Died: Rare Evidence of Roman Crucifixion Found
Live Science
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Was Jesus’ Death on the Cross Faked?
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Fire Destroys Southern Indiana Church; Bible Not Damaged
WLKY

The Bible is Unexpected Topic of Conversation in Spanish Social Media
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Mission Cry Sends Loads of Good News Bibles to Belize
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Christian Leaders’ Fury Over U-Turn on Plan to Put Bibles at Every Bedside in New Hospital
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Bible Gateway 25th Anniversary Sweepstakes for June

Learn more about The NLT Swindoll Study Bible: soft leather-look, brown/teal/blue (indexed) in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

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Bible Gateway is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a new sweepstakes every month this year! Winners have already been selected for the months of January, February, March, April, and May. Enter every month!

This month enter for a chance to win a copy of The NLT Swindoll Study Bible, soft leather-look, brown/tan (indexed) or The NLT Swindoll Study Bible, soft leather-look, brown/teal/blue (indexed) (Tyndale House, 2017), winner of the 2018 Christian Book Award®, which have a suggested retail value of $79.99 each (see The NLT Swindoll Study Bible website). Two winners will be selected at random. One entry per person; legal residents of the USA 18 years of age and older. Entry period: May 31, 2018 (8:00 am ET) – June 28, 2018 (11:59 pm ET).

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Bible Gateway’s 25 Years

Venture back to the year 1993. The first widely used graphical World Wide Web browser, Mosaic (later to become Netscape), was introduced, representing a major turning point in the Internet’s journey toward wide-scale user acceptance; US President Bill Clinton put the White House online; the first ever webcam connected to the Internet; and, topping the news in 1993, Bible Gateway, a fledgling idea in the mind of a college staffer, launched as an internal Bible research tool for college students.

Twenty-five years ago, the nascent World Wide Web accounted for only 1% of telecommunications information flow. By 2007, that number rose to 97%. Today, in the center of the information deluge flowing on the Web, sits BibleGateway.com (@biblegateway), the most-visited Christian website in the world; home to more than 200 Bible versions in more than 70 languages; and a trusted resource for more than 140 million people in more than 200 countries every year. Rely on it every day for all your Bible needs.

 

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Memorizing Bible Verses is Easy with the Bible Audio App

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Memorizing Bible verses is one of the best ways to take God’s Word to heart. Bible Gateway’s new Bible Audio App is a simple way for you to memorize Scripture as you learn by listening. Here’s a quick guide to help you get started.

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If you haven’t already downloaded the free app, read about it here. The Bible Audio App is available for download in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. Once you’ve downloaded it, open it up.

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Setting Playback Speed: Set the audio playback speed by tapping the speed feature (set to 1x by default) and selecting a faster or slower speed from the menu. The speed feature is located above, and to the left of, the play button.

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Repeating Verses or Chapters: Repeat verses or chapters by tapping the repeat feature. It’s located just above the play button.

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Setting the Timer: You may be more interested in challenging yourself to digest longer passages. Set the timer to spend more time in the Word of God or to subconsciously hear Scripture as you fall asleep. Set the timer by tapping the timer feature and selecting your desired listen time. The timer feature is located above, and to the right of, the play button.

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With Bible Gateway’s Bible Audio App you can hear as well as read (at the same time) the Bible while on your daily commute, doing household chores, or as you drift off to sleep. Listen and read along with the Bible wherever you have an internet connection. It’s free and easy to use.

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How to Live The Bible — Facing Mortality

howtostudythebible

This is the twenty-fifth 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.

Just released: A Book of Prayers for Kids by Mel Lawrenz (a perfect gift for the kids you know and love).


Eva LawrenzToday I feel compelled to write a more personal expression of what it means to “live the Bible.” I have not mentioned before now in these writings that in the last year I have had to exercise faith in God’s character like never before. One year ago this week my 30-year-old daughter Eva suddenly died. She was a most beautiful expression of grace and honesty and truthfulness. One of her friends called her the most radiant person he ever knew. And then she was gone, and I knew my family and I were going to have to face the starkest and harshest reality we had ever faced. We could still smell her perfume in the air of our house, but there would be no more conversations, hugs, or laughter. No shared meals. No future wedding or kids. Everything changed on that day.

But this was not the only stark face of mortality we faced this year. As I write today my left arm is in a sling because of a broken arm, and I have a fractured pelvis which I suffered three weeks ago after falling nine feet from a ladder onto a concrete floor. The pain is present all day long. Yet I know it could have been much worse. Pitched slightly a different way, I would have hit my head with what my doctors tell me likely would have been fatal.

I do not write this as a litany of despair, nor a complaint. Ever since my father died when I was just four years old (he was 26 at the time), I have known about mortality. The question is: what do we do with this hard truth? Is there a way to live in the face of perishing?

This, of course, is the great question of the ages, though we are really good at avoiding it. Whole religions and philosophies have been invented to answer the question.

I decided to write “How to Live the Bible” in this difficult year in part because I needed to go deeper with this question than ever before. And I am grateful to God that, week by week, I find the foundation of faith beneath my feet to be firm and supporting.

In the early days after Eva’s death there were two biblical truths that were the solid ground on which I could walk, though my walking was slow and plodding. One was the character of God and the other was the providence of God.

The central truth of Scripture is that there is a creator God, and that his character is all good and all great. This is what I was taught as a child by my mother and others, and what I came to firmly believe as a teenager. In decades of doing pastoral ministry and teaching theology I keep coming back to that foundation: God is great and God is good. When Eva died I knew that she had slipped from my embrace, just a week before Fathers’ Day, but that she had fallen into the loving arms of her heavenly Father who actually loves her more than I ever could, though I don’t know how that could be. An earthquake hit us, I dropped to the ground, but the ground of the truth of the character of God was solid beneath me.

God is great, and God is good. God’s greatness is about his ascendancy over this world, over the universe, over all reality. Greatness is about his being eternal, absolutely powerful, all-knowing, and other qualities that we will never fully comprehend. His goodness, on the other hand, is about his relational qualities, which we know by revelations such as “God is love” and “God is holy” and “God is right.” They also tend to be the qualities that were imprinted on the spiritual DNA of our lives when he created us. This is how God wants us to be, because we were made in his image.

The other biblical truth that came rushing into my mind in those early frightening days was the providence of God. The Bible says that Jesus said that God knows the number of hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7), that a sparrow does not fall without God knowing (Matt. 10:29), that he knows the number of our days (Ps. 139:16), and so many other things. For me, living the Bible has meant trusting that my daughter lived the fullness of her life in this world, though it seems foreshortened to me.

God has allowed me to have confidence in this. I live in this. The truths about the character of God and the providence of God lessen the anguish, but do not take it away. The assurance of heaven gives hope, but does not lessen the longing to have one more conversation. Our losses do not make me believe less in God, but call out to God more. It is better to cry out to God than to cry alone.

If you know someone mourning a loss, just come alongside them. They are not looking for answers, but love. God’s grace through people has sustained us while we live in what Ecclesiastes calls “the house of mourning” (7:2). It is not where one lives permanently, but when you have large loss, you must truly mourn, all the while hanging onto the mercy of God.

Perhaps this is a message you would like to share with others.

______________

Eva Helen Lawrenz, 1987-2017. “Eva” means life, “Helen” means light. In order to bring something purposeful out of loss, a memorial fund in Eva Lawrenz’s name is now funding translations and printings of How to Understand the Bible, How to Study the Bible, How to Live the Bible, Prayers for Our Lives, and other books. “Life and Light Books” exists to bring helpful literature to needy parts of the world, presently including Haiti, Ethiopia, Russia, Indonesia, Latin America, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and more. To learn more, go to www.LifeAndLightBooks.org. All contributions are tax deductible in the USA.

________________

Available now: Knowing Him: Devotional Readings About the Cross and Resurrection by Mel Lawrenz. Get it now.

________________

[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.

“Liberty or Death—One or the Other, I Mean to Have”

Lauren Green McAfee and Jackie GreenBy Lauren Green McAfee & Jackie Green

Editor’s Note: With the celebration of Juneteenth right around the corner, it behooves us to take a look at one of the heroes of the America Civil War—one who’s Christian faith compelled her to not only seek freedom for herself, but also to risk her life again and again to rescue others from the curse of slavery. Adapted from their new book Only One Life, authors Jackie Green and Lauren Green McAfee show how Harriet Tubman’s legacy of courage and self-sacrifice is worthy of emulation and lives on today in the lives of those who have taken up her mantle.

In 1822, Harriet Tubman was born into slavery. Like many slaves in that era, she was never exactly sure of her birthday, but she was sure about her relationship with God through Christ.

She attended church services at a nearby Methodist church. There she dedicated her life to God at an early age. Despite being beaten and whipped numerous times throughout her childhood, she kept the hope that she would one day escape. With that hope, she said plainly, “Liberty or death—one or the other, I mean to have.” As a Christian, she knew that either outcome would result in freedom.

In 1849, around the age of 27, Tubman made good on her vow and fled to Philadelphia, 150 miles to the north. However, she could not enjoy her newfound freedom knowing that so many relatives and loved ones remained in bondage back in Maryland. She immediately began leading rescue parties back to eastern Maryland. Tubman made six such heroic missions into Maryland. She believed the Spirit of God guided and helped her as she carried out these incredibly dangerous rescues, instructing her about which routes to take, where to hide, and when to keep moving. The people she led safely to freedom believed it too. She took pride in saying she “never lost a passenger.”

She continued to guide groups of fleeing slaves northward into Canada via the Underground Railroad until the outbreak of the Civil War. At that point, she attached herself to the Union Army, first working as a cook and a nurse, and eventually as an armed scout and spy. Tubman soon became the first woman to lead an armed expedition in that conflict. She guided the famous raid at Combahee Ferry, resulting in the liberation of more than 700 slaves.

The people she rescued called her “Moses,” for obvious reasons. Yet her commitment to helping the oppressed continued long after slavery as an institution ended in this nation. Tubman founded a home in Auburn, New York, to care for elderly and sick people without families. Virtually penniless, she spent her final years as a resident in one of the very homes she had established years earlier. She died in 1913 at the age of 92, poor yet with a rich legacy of people she had rescued.

The Living Legacy of Rescue

It is easy to read these words and consider Harriet Tubman’s legacy finished—a thing of the past—yet it lives on in remarkable, undeniable ways. After emancipation and the Civil War, many of the families and individuals rescued by Tubman over the years settled in the community of Auburn in upstate New York, and today you’ll find Harriet Tubman’s legacy residing all over the northeast United States and eastern Canada. It is quite literally a living legacy. The descendants of slaves she rescued and led to freedom number in the thousands.

One such descendant, Tina Wyatt, attended the March 2017 opening of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Park Visitor Center. The historic visitor center is located on the grounds of Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland. That overcast spring day, Wyatt stood at the edge of the swamp, looking out over the labyrinth of salty tidal wetlands, marshes, rivers, dense forests, and a few open fields. She thought of her great-grandmother, Anna Marie Stewart, who generations ago trudged through that very swamp on her way to freedom. Stewart had been picked up by one of Tubman’s rescue parties, and she followed them through snake-infested lands under the cover of darkness until they reached the safety of the north. Because of Tubman’s commitment to rescuing fellow slaves and because of Stewart’s willingness to risk everything to escape bondage, Wyatt could stand on the edge of the swamp 150 years later as a free woman.

Tubman to Stewart to Wyatt. Wyatt was just one of several descendants of these rescued individuals in attendance to witness the opening of the visitor center. That is the power of the legacy of rescue. Tubman never saw the thousands of descendants whose lives she was changing, yet today they live on as a monument to her boldness. Sometimes God gives us a glimpse of the impact of our rescue. And sometimes, although we may never see the influence we have on other people’s lives, their descendants will, and they will thank us for it.

The impulse to be free seems to be hardwired into the human soul. God never intended for one human to dominate or own another. Sadly, after the fall of mankind, slavery spread across the planet like a virus. Just as slavery was not present before the fall, it will not be present at the end, and in Christ its injustice will be set right. Whenever we reject God, enslavement and bondage arise. The liberating power that Jesus Christ unleashed on the world in the first century has proven to be the most potent force the world has ever seen for rescue.

Jesus cited this as a central part of His mission when He chose to read a passage from chapter 61 of Isaiah in a synagogue one day:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
Luke 4:18–19 (NKJV)

When Moses rejected his adoptive Egyptian identity (see Exodus 2:11-12), embraced his Hebrew lineage, and received God’s command to free the Israelites (see Exodus 3), the idea of slavery became repulsive to him. And the end of institutionalized slavery in the English-speaking world began, in large part, through the preaching and campaigning of individuals such as William Wilberforce, Hannah More, and other like-minded Christians in Great Britain. We know that Wilberforce’s view of slavery as an extreme evil to be eradicated from civilization came into focus only after he became a committed Christian. Then, as now, it seems to be the people who know God’s heart best who despise slavery most.

The Fight for Rescue Continues Today

While some people may view slavery as an artifact of history, it remains alive and well in our world today.

On the eve of the Civil War, the total slave population in the United States was roughly four million souls. An appalling number to consider. Nevertheless, conservative estimates suggest that today there are somewhere between 20 million and 30 million enslaved individuals in the world. The majority of these people suffer in developing or totalitarian nations, with no hope of having a life they can call their own. It is a shocking fact, however, that as many as 60,000 people in the United States are effectively owned by someone else. This ought not be so in a place described as the land of the free.

Slavery in the US looks different now than it did 150 years ago, but it still exists. Today it is commonly called human trafficking. Traffickers sometimes lure immigrants to the US under the promise of a better job. When this “better job” turns out to be forced labor, the immigrants feel they can’t leave, since the traffickers often charge exorbitant travel fees or withhold work visas to keep the immigrants dependent. Slavery also happens to people born in the United States. Teens who have run away from home can be picked up by a trafficker (or pimp) and forced or coerced into prostitution. Or a man who poses as a boyfriend turns out to be a trafficker, forcing a woman into prostitution and threatening her and her family if she tries to leave. And sadly, sometimes a child’s own family members will sell the child for sexual exploitation. However slavery occurs, the result is a person who needs to be rescued.

Worldwide, modern-day slavery exists in several forms, including forced labor, bonded labor, involuntary domestic servitude, the abduction of children for use as soldiers, and sexual slavery. Of course, all forms of human bondage are an abomination and antithetical to the revelation of God’s character given to us in Jesus Christ. However, sexual slavery and the human trafficking machinery that feeds this monster’s insatiable appetite represent an especially dark form of the world’s oldest and vilest institution.

Fortunately, we have many Harriet Tubmans among us in our day. Let us join with them, as Chrstine Caine’s A21 ministry’s mission says, “To abolish slavery everywhere, forever.”

________

Only One LifeAdapted from Only One Life: How a Woman’s Every Day Shapes an Eternal Legacy by Jackie Green and Lauren Green McAfee. Click here to learn more about this title.

Life keeps us running so fast and frenzied that we often lose sight of each day’s holy potential. Yet as a woman loved and called by God, your ordinary everyday matters more than you could possibly imagine.

Your choices today shape the legacy you leave for future generations. You are part of a story that has existed long before you and will long outlast you. And you can play a unique and irreplaceable role.

In Only One Life, mother-and-daughter team Jackie Green and Lauren McAfee invite you to join the company of women God is using to change the world. Through vivid portraits of women of the Bible, women of history, and women shaping the world today, you will discover how God multiplies seemingly small daily offerings of faithfulness. Come and see your own story reflected in the lives of women such as:

  • Mary Magdalene, the first witness to Jesus’s resurrection.
  • Catherine Booth, an early apologist for women’s rights and co-founder of the Salvation Army.
  • Christine Caine, a contemporary speaker and human rights activist
  • And other ordinary women who have done extraordinary things, including Harriet Tubman, Queen Esther, Lottie Moon, and Joni Eareckson Tada.

Building a legacy through your “only one life” is not a calling for the elite few. It is a calling for you—as a woman with unique capacity to shape the future through your faith, family, gifts, and leadership. Only One Life will encourage and empower you to develop grit, grace, and the long view—able to change your world forever—starting today.

Jackie Green, co-founder of Museum of the Bible, is a full-time homemaker who relishes her roles of wife, mother to six children, mother-in-law, and “Gigi” to four grandchildren. Married to her high-school sweetheart, Steve, Jackie actively supports him in his high-profile role as president of Hobby Lobby and chairman of the board of Museum of the Bible. An adoptive mom, Jackie served on the Advisory Board of a local Crisis Pregnancy Center and has worked with her family in orphanages worldwide. Although she is a world traveler, her favorite place is with her family.

Lauren Green McAfee is a speaker, writer, connector and coffee enthusiast with a heart to engage others in the Bible. While pursuing her graduate degrees in pastoral counseling and theology, Lauren worked for her father Steve Green as he founded Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. Today Lauren works for Hobby Lobby as Corporate Ambassador, and is pursuing a PhD in Ethics and Public Policy at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lauren and her husband Michael live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Connect with Lauren at www.laurenamcafee.com.