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The Need for Awakening: An Interview with Matt Brown

Matt BrownAre you drowsy in your faith? Do you have a sleepy attitude about living the everyday Christian life? Is your approach to reading the Bible lethargic? Then you have a need to awaken your soul to God’s presence and to ignite your faith to change your world.

Bible Gateway interviewed Matt Brown (@evangelistmatt) about his book, Awakening: How God’s Next Great Move Inspires and Influences Our Lives Today (Leafwood, 2015).

Click to buy your copy of Awakening in the Bible Gateway Store

In your book you say you want readers to “Live Awake, Live Inspired, and Live Influential.” Unpack what those mean.

Matt Brown: For the past 13 years I’ve traveled and shared the gospel in churches of many denominations from coast to coast across the US, as well as holding our own evangelistic events and conferences focused on bringing people together from different backgrounds around the gospel. I’ve seen firsthand so many times how encouraged believers are when they get a glimpse of good news about God’s activity around the world.

Acts 13:41 on Bible GatewayEven though more American Christians gather in church on a single weekend than all the NFL stadiums over an entire season combined, the vast majority go to churches consisting of about 120 people. Even believers in larger churches too easily get tunnel vision, and only know of a few things God is doing around the world. Acts 13:41 explains, “I’m doing something right before your eyes that you won’t believe though it’s staring you in the face.” The message of Awakening is that God is doing so many incredible things today, and it is so encouraging, and I want to help people awaken to that.

From there, I share lots of inspiring stories and Scriptures, and break down what I believe we can do to take these stories and Scriptures and be even more influential for the sake of the gospel with those around us.

Psalm 105:5 on Bible GatewayWhat do you mean Christians today have tunnel vision?

Matt Brown: So many Christians have tunnel vision because they are only focused on their small corner of God’s kingdom. God is doing so much, but they limit their perspective to their church, a few churches around town, or their denomination. Think about it: two BILLION people around the world claim adherence to faith in Jesus Christ. How do we even begin to summarize or generalize something so staggering? When we look around—truly look around—we will see that God and the gospel and the church are much more glorious than we can ever begin to imagine. Scripture calls us to break away from our tunnel vision, saying “Keep your eyes open for God, watch for His works, be alert for signs of His presence.” (Psalm 105:5)

What is the scriptural precedent that God is at work all around us?

Matt Brown: We see in the Bible that many people missed the miracles and teaching that Jesus was doing right in front of their noses. There were even times that his closest disciples didn’t understand the significance of what was taking place. This is encouraging to know they were in the same boat, but also eye opening; and inspires us to take greater notice of what God is doing in the everyday—all around us.

John 21:25 says that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” This is a shocking statement. And—since Jesus went to the right hand of the Father—God, by his Spirit, is moving in and through the church all over the world. And the same [as the verse] could be said. We wouldn’t be able to keep track even if we wanted to; but opening our eyes to this bigger story overwhelms and stirs our faith in a way that nothing else can.

Why is it important for Christians to hear that ‘Christianity is exploding around the world’?

Matt Brown: We hear so much negative news about faith in the news media, if it is even covered at all. But God is at work in the church in ways like never before in history. I believe that some of our heroes of the faith in generations before us would be astounded at what’s taking place today.

We get enough bad news. We need more good news for our weary soul. And you don’t have to look far within the church to see it.

Colossians 1:6 on Bible GatewayI ask in the book: would the early church have experienced the growth it did if the apostles preached the way some preachers in America do today, when they share how our culture is falling apart, and how young people are leaving the faith in droves? Their message was, “The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world.” (Col. 1:6) The gospel is growing all over the world today too, but too few people are preaching this because they don’t realize it’s happening.

What steps can Christians take to stay awake and inspired in order to be influential for the gospel?

Matt Brown: Of course, nothing feeds and awakens the soul more than the Word of God! But a good next step might be to pick up a copy of Awakening, and if it stirs your faith like I hope it will, share it with your men’s or women’s Bible study at your church, or go through it with a small group of friends, and pray with me that God will continue to move in greater ways across our nation!

Bio: Matt Brown is an evangelist, author of Awakening: How God’s Next Great Move Inspires and Influences Our Lives Today (2015, Leafwood), and founder of Think Eternity. He and his wife Michelle are impacting thousands of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. They also minister to more than 400,000 followers on social media daily.

Whatever the Cost: An Interview with the Benham Brothers

David Benham

Jason Benham

Can biblical principles really revolutionize your work and family life, and give you the courage to stand up for what is right? Two former professional baseball players and nationally-acclaimed real estate entrepreneurs say yes, based on the experiences they’ve shared as twin brothers.

Bible Gateway interviewed David Benham (@DavidDBenham) and Jason Benham (@JasonBBenham) about their book, Whatever the Cost: Facing Your Fears, Dying to Your Dreams, and Living Powerfully (Thomas Nelson, 2015).

Click to buy your copy of Whatever the Cost in the Bible Gateway Store

To contextualize your book’s message, briefly describe your lives as twin brothers and sons of a preacher, your experience as professional baseball players, and your progression from struggling to successful businessmen.

Benham Brothers: We shared the same womb and then shared the same room for the first 22 years of life. Everything we did was together. We even shared the same dream of playing professional baseball. Except for our time in the Minor Leagues we’ve never been apart. We just felt that we could accomplish more if we stayed together. Now we live on the same street and have nine crazy kids that bounce between houses.

Our dad was a preacher who taught that our theology must be our biography. He said that if we studied the Bible and didn’t live it out in every area of life then our theology was worthless. So we grew up studying God’s Word and doing our best to apply it everywhere. He trained us in evangelism and how to be bold for Jesus even when we were afraid. He taught us that “the Word of God became flesh” and we weren’t supposed to turn it back into words again. Although he never had a big church, our Dad was faithful to disciple us in the Bible with every ounce of energy he had.

Dad noticed that we had talent to play baseball, so he taught us how to make our talents tools for God’s glory. As a result, we dreamed of making it to the Big Leagues so that we could glorify the Lord with the tool He’d given us on a big stage. Although we realized our dreams in part, we never made it to the Big Show. We had to die to that dream, which was one of the hardest things we ever had to do. Fortunately, we walked through this together, and we learned to find our identity in who we were in Christ and not what we did for Him that mattered.

Leaving baseball was tough because not only was our dream dead but we had families for which to provide—so we had to act fast! All we knew was that we needed to do something together. We got our real estate licenses and applied the same determination and discipline that we had on the baseball field to real estate. In less than a decade our company topped business charts around the nation by God’s amazing grace on a couple goofballs like us.

What do you see as the goal of sports?

Benham Brothers: The goal of sports is to build character and prepare kids for life. As a reflection of life, playing sports is one of the easiest ways apply the truths of the Bible—like working together, discipline, hard work, facing fear, following the rules, etc. The competitive environment also causes everyone to do their very best regardless of how difficult the situation may be or how hopeless it may look. We teach our kids that competition is meant to build others up, not tear them down. All of this combines to make sports an incredible tool to develop and disciple future generations in the timeless truths of God’s Word.

What is the “second mile” and why is it important in business?

Benham Brothers: Back in Christ’s day there was a Roman law that required Jewish people to carry the pack of a Roman soldier for one mile if the soldier asked them. This was a blatant slap in the face to the Jews, so when Jesus told them not to just carry it for one mile but to carry it two it was revolutionary. Carrying the pack the first mile simply fulfilled the obligation, but carrying it the second mile fulfilled Christ’s law of love. This opened doors into the soldier’s heart to listen to these Jewish believers give the reason why they were doing such a selfless act. This kind of love toppled the Roman Empire in just a few hundred years.

Explain how the title of your book, Whatever the Cost, is your guiding life’s philosophy.

Benham Brothers: We sing the songs and know the stories—that we are to surrender all to Jesus. Yet this is probably the most difficult truth of authentic biblical faith—and yet it’s the most powerful! The power of the cross is released in us when we surrender everything to Jesus and are willing to die for Him. Without this “whatever the cost” attitude we cannot truly know and love Him as He desires, and we cannot fulfill the purpose for which He created us. Jesus turned many away that weren’t willing to let go of everything to follow him. We’ve found in our own lives that if we’re living for Jesus whatever the cost in every area of life—including our reputation, business, money, influence, relationships, etc.—that Christ can work powerfully through us to bring His Kingdom wherever we go.

How central is reading and applying the Bible to your life’s philosophy?

Benham Brothers: John 5:19 says, “The Son can do nothing by Himself, He can only do what He sees the Father doing….” If it’s true for Jesus, then it’s true for us. Our Father has hidden Himself within the pages of Scripture, and only those who seek Him with all their heart will truly find Him. We began reading the Bible and seeking the Lord with all our hearts when we were 12 years old. Over the years we’ve been amazed at how alive and real His words are for every area of life. When it comes to reading God’s Word we agree with Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and David that God’s word is “as sweet as honey” in our mouths.

What do you mean when you say in your book, “consistently measure your inputs”?

Benham Brothers: The devil gets inside us in two ways: our eyes and our ears. Never before in the history of mankind has it been so easy and enticing to see and hear things that dishonor God. So we practice in our lives and disciple others to measure their eye and ear inputs on a daily basis. We record how much time we read/watch/listen to biblical truth vs. the time we read/watch/listen to other things. By measuring these inputs we can quickly assess weaknesses and make adjustments so that the power of God is maximized in our lives.

You offer 5 personal keys to success. Explain what they are and their scriptural underpinnings.

Benham Brothers: 1) Breathe life. We’re to breathe life everywhere we go, which means we’re to be God’s active agents of restoration, nourishing, and healing in the earth. John 7:38 says, “He who believes in Me…from his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” And this water (the Holy Spirit) refreshes and restores everything in it’s path! Ezekiel 47:1-12 shows a beautiful picture of this as the same “water” flowed from the temple of God and made trees fruitful, fed fishermen, and made the parched areas fresh.

2) Be faithful in little. Luke 16:10 teaches that if we’re “faithful in little we’ll be faithful in much.” This simple, yet profound, truth shows God’s Kingdom in powerful ways when applied to all of life. It’s what God was looking for when he found young David faithfully tending his father’s sheep, and what He found in countless other people He used mightily throughout Scripture.

3) Be a fountain and not a drain. Fountains are always giving. Drains are always taking. The key to being a fountain is to simply stay connected to the Source. As our lives are connected to the Source (Christ) we naturally become fountains of life to everyone around us instead of draining their lives of the hope and joy He brings—for Christ “came to serve and not to be served.

4) Give more in value than you take in pay. Ephesians 6:5-8 and Colossians 3:22-24 teach that when we work we’re to work for the Lord and not man. This means that no matter how much we’re paid, we’re to do our work with the same excellence as if Christ Himself gave us the job. This amazes employers and clients in the marketplace and opens incredible doors for the gospel as our work glorifies Jesus in this way.

5) Be a producer and not a consumer. Producers are creators. Consumers simply consume what producers create. Producers help others. Consumers take from others. Matthew 13:8 teaches that if the soil of our heart is to be a producer for God we’ll produce a “hundred, thirty, or sixty times what was sowed.” Applying this in our homes, businesses, and communities reveals Gods Kingdom in our midst.

You say “as Christians our work is our worship.” How so?

Benham Brothers: Work existed before the fall; it was part of God’s design for mankind. God Himself worked for six days showing His creativity and nature, and on the seventh day He rested from His work. Jesus said in John 5:17, “My father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” So if God is working then we are to be working too. And work is always serving; believers in Jesus are always to be serving God in whatever our hand finds to do (Col. 3:17). So our work becomes worship when we do it unto the Lord; others are refreshed and God is glorified.

Why do you believe more is accomplished in the “pain cave” than in the “comfort zone”?

Benham Brothers: Pain and suffering are tools that God uses to forge endurance, character, and hope in the life of believers (Rom. 5:3-5). Too often in America we as Christians distance from suffering instead of embracing it as it comes. The same is true with our health. We love to workout, so we strive to enter the “pain cave” as fast as we can and stay there as long as we can. This builds strength. But if we sit in the “comfort zone” there’s no chance of increasing our strength. Beating our bodies both spiritually and physically in the pain cave leads to powerful living.

What’s the connection between personal purity and professional performance?

Benham Brothers: Having a clear vision is vital to the health of every business or organization. And we learned that a clear vision only comes through personal purity. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” We started our business with a commitment to this level of purity in our company and personal lives, and it has produced significant power in our professional performance. Although we aren’t perfect, we’ve chosen not to mix the ways of God with the ways of world, which has allowed us to see God move powerfully in our company.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Benham Brothers: We see in Scripture that when we make peace with God we declare war on the devil. And two of the ways he tries to keep us from fighting him is to either scare us away or lure us away. He tries to scare us away with fear, which is why we must face our fears—because when we do, God fights for us. And he tries to lure us away by chasing our dreams or promises of God instead of the God of promise. When we face our fears and die to our dreams we WILL live powerfully for Jesus—whatever the cost! Our nation needs a remnant of believers ready to live like this.

Bio: After retiring from professional baseball in 2002, David and Jason Benham, twin brothers and acclaimed entrepreneurs, began building their business empire, growing it to seven companies spanning 35 states. Their first venture, the Benham Real Estate Group, exploded to 100 locations and was named by Inc. as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. The brothers are married to Lori and Tori, with a combined nine children, and live on the same street in Charlotte, North Carolina.

On the Bible and Being Christian: An Interview with Dr. Rowan Williams

Dr. Rowan WilliamsDespite broad differences in Christian thinking and practice both today and in past centuries, the essence of the Christian faith can be distilled to four basic elements for the majority of those who call themselves Christians, according to Dr. Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury.

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Williams about the chapter on the Bible in his book, Being Christian: Baptism, Bible, Eucharist, Prayer (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014).

Click to buy your copy of Being Christian in the Bible Gateway Store

How did you decide to focus on baptism, the Bible, the Eucharist, and prayer as the four essential elements of the Christian life to write about?

Dr. Williams: Simply by looking at what Christians actually do to announce that they’re Christians, throughout the ages and throughout the world. It would be hard to recognize as Christian a body that had none of these practices. And all are mandated by Jesus in different ways: he tells his friends to evangelize and baptize, to search the Scriptures, to break bread in his memory, so as to receive his life into theirs, and to pray.

The Bible is a collection of books written over centuries. How do they all fit together in a cohesive message?

Dr. Williams: The cohesion comes through the fact that it is the set of texts read and accepted in a cohesive community—the community of those whose lives are being shaped by the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Christ is the center of Scripture for the Christian and provides the perspective in which diversity can be held in the right kind of tension. And the church both gives Scripture its unity be treading it in the Spirit of Christ and receives its unity from Scripture as the book which provides a universal common language.

Explain your statement in the book, “The Christian life is a listening life.”

Dr. Williams: We believe in a God who speaks and calls; the God of the Bible is one who is always seeking to communicate more fully and effectively with human creatures, so we have to train ourselves to be quiet enough to hear that communication.

If the Bible is intended to be communication from God to us, why are there so few directed quotes from God to us in it and so much seemingly mundane information?

Dr. Williams: God speaks through human lives, not only human words: it is the privilege and power of God to make lives communicate as much as words do. So God speaks in the narrative of those whose lives he has touched and transfigured. This is a natural consequence of believing that the ultimate word of God is a human being who embodies God’s communication in his acts and sufferings, Jesus of Nazareth. His life and death and resurrection create a set of relationships in which learning happens—by words and acts and interactions, not words alone.

Why should readers of the Bible be careful to interpret the whole story of the Bible and not merely a bit of the whole story?

Dr. Williams: The Bible traces God’s way into human history, a story culminating in the coming of Jesus. If you try to deduce the whole picture from one ‘frozen frame’ you will have a very odd picture of God’s activity.

Is the Bible accurate history?

Dr. Williams: Sometimes yes, sometimes no, sometimes maybe. Where it’s a matter of the shape of Jesus’ life and death, it matters that the texts are close to the events and have first-generation testimony behind them. With regard to Abraham and Isaac, we have a traditional ‘epic’ which may not be exact history but tells us what God wants us to know, that he is faithful to his promise. Narratives that may not be exact history can still be exact theology because they represent a long-term deposit from reflection on how God has been encountered over many centuries. It’s a very modern anxiety that everything in Scripture should be what we might now think of as ‘exact’ reporting.

How is Jesus at the center of the Bible’s story and why is that important?

Dr. Williams: All promises of God find their ‘yes’ in him, as St. Paul says; and he alone is without qualification God present and active in the middle of the human world.

Why is the concept of reading the Bible together important?

Dr. Williams: If the Bible is the book read and pondered by the community, then Bible-reading must be like all those other activities that the community of faith does—it must be a matter of each believer’s gift enriching every other believer’s gift, as in St. Paul’s language about the life of the Body of Christ. It’s a text that belongs to everyone, not to isolated individuals.

Bio: Rowan Williams served as the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury from 2002 to 2012 and is now Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. His numerous other books include Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgment, The Lion’s World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia, and Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief.

Challenge for Skeptics: Read 100 Pages of the Bible

[Dr. John DicksonThis guest blogpost is by Dr. John Dickson (@johnpauldickson), author of A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible: Inside History’s Bestseller for Believers and Skeptics (Zondervan, 2015). He holds a PhD in history and is the founding director of the Centre for Public Christianity. Dr. Dickson is an Australian speaker, historian, minister (Anglican), husband, and father.]

The Bible is a literary ‘classic;’ perhaps the literary classic. And like many other works in the literary canon, the Bible can be hard-going. It requires thoughtful reading, at a slow pace, preferably with a few footnotes helping us bridge the cultural divide. You might not like it at first, maybe for a hundred pages or more. Eventually, its subtle logic and moral power creeps up on you, and you may even find yourself agreeing with those who say that no one can claim to be an “educated Westerner” until they’ve read the Bible.

Click to buy your copy of A Doubter's Guide to the Bible in the Bible Gateway StoreI had a similar experience in recent years with another work from the Western literary canon. Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities was one of ten books my literary friends insisted I should read if I wanted to maintain any pretence of being a cultured human being. I swallowed my ‘I-only-read-non-fiction’ pride and sat down one lazy weekend to give it a go.

The book opens with that intriguing and unforgettable line, “It was best of times, it was the worst of times…”, but after a couple of pages I was sure I would hate it. The sentence structures were complex, the language unnecessarily verbose (and sometimes even foreign), and the historical setting—London and Paris at dawn of the French Revolution—was an alien land for me.

Fortunately, my edition of A Tale of Two Cities included a lengthy introductory essay from a Dickens scholar and copious footnotes throughout the book explaining unusual terms, cultural peculiarities, and historical references. I dutifully read the notes, all of them. It was a ‘classic’, after all. It was my intellectual duty. I slowly began to appreciate Dickens’ skill and intent, but even a hundred pages in I saw it only as a worthy book, not something to be relished.

I can’t say exactly where everything changed—somewhere around the middle of the story, I think—but I distinctly remember putting the book down after a brief installment and wishing I had time to keep going. I was hooked. I had grown fond of the unusual rhythm of the language. I was fascinated by the historical details. And above all, the story captivated me. It is a moving human plot and an insightful portrait of the universal themes of sacrifice and renewal. I felt I had been repaid for my effort, with interest.

After reading Dickens, I resolved never again to mock a ‘classic’—without first reading it, slowly and in its entirety. I’m glad my literary friends were patient with me through my dogmatic non-fiction years. At times I must have sounded to them like the 15-year-old in English class: “Shakespeare is stupid!”

Some people approach the Bible like this. They’ve never read it—at least not slowly, as an adult, with some technical assistance. Yet, just like the proverbial 15-year-old, they know it’s stupid. But there are reasons this book has influenced our culture, arguably, more than any other text. There are reasons it continues to sell more copies than any other book, every year.

The most important and rewarding literary works often require something from us before we reap the benefits. I guess it’s in the nature of a ‘timeless work’ to seem, at first, less immediately relevant, less temporal. But my experience with Dickens has taught me that the pay-off can be surprising, far exceeding the effort.

Every thoughtful adult should read the Bible—at least a hundred pages of it. Start with the Psalms and the Gospels, preferably with some interpretive aid close by. Even if it begins out of a sense of cultural and intellectual duty only, that’s reason enough to open a true classic—doubly so in this case. The patient and attentive reader of the Bible will be repaid tenfold.

Wayne Grudem eBooks 80% Off – Ends Today!

Of the many comments author Wayne Grudem hears from readers, these are the most common:

1. “Thank you for writing a theology book that I can understand.”
2. “This book is helping my Christian life.”

Those are pretty high marks for theology books that are as thick as dictionaries! And these compliments have been paid time and again to Grudem’s classic work Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine and its abridgment Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith. Both eBooks are on sale today – and today only! (February 2, 2015)

Two other eBooks from Wayne Grudem are included in this one-day flash sale. Since you’ll save between 80% – 87% , you don’t want to miss today’s deals. Learn more about these eBooks below.

  1. Systematic TheologySale $7.99 (Regular Price $39.99)
  2. Bible DoctrineSale $3.99 (Regular Price $27.99)
  3. Christian BeliefsSale $1.99 (Regular Price $9.99)
  4. Politics – According to the BibleSale $3.99 (Regular Price $31.99)

systematictheology1. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (eBook)
Sale Price: $7.99
Regular Price: $39.99
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Notable: A church of 800 people went through this book together as a Bible study. Why? In the words of John Piper, “It is penetrating but not confusing; readable and clear but not superficial; biblically grounded, even biblically saturated, but not textually careless or glib; devout and reverent but not uncritical or naïve. I expect to turn to it for decades.”

Quote from the Book: “I do not believe that God intended the study of theology to be dry and boring. Theology is the study of God and all his works! Theology is meant to be lived and prayed and sung! … I am convinced that there is an urgent need in the church today for much greater understanding of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology. I think that many Christians will find that understanding (and living) the doctrines of Scripture is one of their great joys.”

bibledoctrine2. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (eBook)
Sale Price: $3.99
Regular Price: $27.99
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Notable: This abridgement of Systematic Theology is newly available as an eBook. Half the length of Systematic Theology, but Bible Doctrine keeps all of the larger volume’s readability, application to life, and emphasis on Scripture.

Quote from the Book: “I have written it for students—and not only for students, but also for every Christian who has a hunger to know the central doctrines of the Bible in greater depth.”

beliefs3. Christian Beliefs: 20 Basics Every Christian Should Know
Sale Price: $1.99
Regular Price: $9.99
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Notable: This is Bible Doctrine condensed into its 20 most essential biblical teachings. Even more than Grudem’s other books, Christian Beliefs has become a favorite pick of small groups and Bible studies.

Quote from the Book: “Knowing and understanding basic Christian beliefs is important for every Christian. People who don’t know what the Bible teaches will have no ability to distinguish truth from error… But Christians who have a solid foundation will be more mature, will not be easily led astray, will have better judgment, and ‘will have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).’”

politics4. Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture (eBook)
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Regular Price: $31.99
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Notable: Should government protect gun ownership? Gay rights? Abortion? Grudem answers this and many other hot-button political issues in Politics – According to the Bible. Here Grudem applies what he’s learned over 30 years of teaching biblical interpretation and ethics at the seminary level. To learn more watch Grudem’s interview on FOX News.

Quote: “My primary purpose in the book is not to be liberal or conservative, or Democratic or Republican, but to explain a biblical worldview and a biblical perspective on issues of politics, law, and government… I hope that Christians who take the Bible as a guide for life will find these discussions encouraging. I believe that God’s perspective on politics is joyful ‘good news,’ just as the rest of the Bible is good news for all areas of life!”

We recommend you check out these books right away! The sale ends Monday, February 2, at 11:59pm ET.

Revival Is Needed: An Interview with Tony Evans

Dr. Tony EvansWhat is the root of social, economic and political unrest? And why is revival needed in the Christian church?

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Tony Evans (@drtonyevans) on the topic of revival. His recent book is America: Turning a Nation to God (Moody Publishers, 2015).

What do you consider to be the root of social, political and economic unrest, no matter where it’s found?

Click to buy your copy of America: Turning a Nation to God in the Bible Gateway Store

Dr. Evans: The broad answer is sin. To be more specific, it’s a failure or refusal to align ourselves under God’s standard and to address issues God’s way.

Define what you mean by revival and explain why it’s necessary among Christians.

Dr. Evans: Revival is the return of God’s manifest presence to His people for the purpose of them renewing their relationship with Him, with each other and for the good of the broader society.

It is necessary because much of what God determines to do, or not do, in the world is determined by His relationship to His people.

Why are prayer, fasting, and love important elements in order to bring revival?

Dr. Evans: Fasting says that the spiritual is more important than the physical. Prayer is the means by which God has established for God’s people to invite the spiritual into the physical, and the invisible realm into the visible realm. Love is essential because it reflects the nature of God and it is the means by which we are to manifest our vertical relationship to Him as reflected in our horizontal relationship with others.

What is “God’s manifest presence”?

Dr. Evans: Gods’ manifest presence is where His reality becomes visible to us—it’s not just theological knowledge of it but rather the visible experience of Him.

What do you mean by “the fire that ignites”?

Dr. Evans: The fire that ignites is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit because He’s often aligned with fire in Scripture—to ignite a fire in us for God and His will and work both in our lives and through our lives.

How well is the church doing its job of building disciples of Jesus?

Dr. Evans: One of the major failures of the church is not a focus on building disciples but a focus on building members. Because we do not have this emphasis on discipleship, we do not have the kinds of Christians on a large scale that God feels comfortable working with and working through due to their low level of commitment to Him.

What should be the goal of discipleship?

Dr. Evans: The goal of discipleship is consistently conforming our decisions to the will of God so that His rule over our lives is visibly seen.

Tell us about your strategies to bring reform to the church.

Dr. Evans: It’s a 3-fold strategy. Phase One is to call churches throughout our land to a solemn assembly, and not allowing illegitimate divisions to come between us and divide us to carry out God’s purposes through us. Phase Two is doing good works in the community, primarily through the adoption of public schools so that the community can see the benefit the church brings to it. Phase Three is having a publicly unified voice on issues facing their community so that God’s perspective on it can be heard by a unified church. Each phase flows out of the other.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Dr. Evans: The future well-being of the nation squarely lies in the hands of the church. If the church refuses to step up to the plate than we have ourselves to blame for the devolution of the culture.

Bio: Dr. Tony Evans is the founder and president of The Urban Alternative, a national ministry dedicated to restoring hope in personal lives, families, churches and communities. Dr. Evans also serves as senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. He is a bestselling author and his radio program, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, is heard on nearly 1,000 stations around the globe every day.

How Should We Read the Psalms?

howtounderstandthebible

This week we come to the beloved songs of the Old Testament called The Psalms. We turn to the Psalms when we need comfort, strength, or just words that we can pray to God. Today we look at how to get the most out of the Psalms.

A new development: learn how you can help believers in communist-controlled Vietnam, Taliban-controlled Pakistan, and religious battleground Nigeria get the book How to Understand the Bible in their own language. Learn more.


The Bible is not just a book. It is relationship in words. God’s word to men and women, boys and girls. A living action between the almighty Creator of the universe and his most cherished creation: humanity. We do not understand Scripture unless we hear in it the divine-human dialogue.

psalm

The Psalms prove this. In the beloved 150 songs and poems in the middle of the Bible, we witness not just God speaking to us, but the privilege we have of speaking to God. This is the essence of relationship: two parties interacting with each other. And what an interaction! The Psalms express the full range of states of the human heart:

Thanksgiving and praise… “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps. 107:1).

Lament… “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (Ps. 22:1).

Celebration… “I lift up my eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven” (Ps. 123:1).

Wisdom… “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain” (Ps. 127:1).

Judgment… “Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them. May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents” (Ps. 69:24-25).

In the Psalms we find honest, sometimes brutal, expressions of the human heart. The Bible would not be valuable if it were a string of sentimental platitudes or religious propaganda. But it is not. The songs and poems that are the Psalms express the highest joy and the deepest sorrow. Their authors plead with God, shout at God, beg God for forgiveness. They exalt virtues and righteousness, and they condemn in the bitterest terms the ugly abuses people sometimes carry out. The Psalms teach about the attributes of God (“the Lord is my Shepherd,” 23:1) and the history of God (“[he] swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea,” 136:15). They speak of humanity’s great potential (“You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor,” 8:5) and the darkness of human depravity (“shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause,” 25:3).

So how should we read this “treasury,” as Charles Spurgeon called it? First, some facts. The Psalms were the songs written to be used by the Israelites in their worship life—both personal and communal. The titles on the Psalms indicate that almost half of them were “of David,” and some others are identified as being written by various composers—“sons of Asaph,” “sons of Korah,” Solomon, Moses. They were made into a collection after the Jews returned from exile.

The many quotations from the Psalms that appear in the New Testament reveal that these songs were deeply embedded in the minds and hearts of the Jews. Most people today love the Psalms, and whether they realize it or not, the poetry has much to do with it. After all, one could state the proposition: “God is timeless, but people come and go.” Or one could paint with words, which is what Psalm 90 does:

A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death—
they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered. (vv. 4-6)

The Psalms are the most sensory part of God’s word, including this delicious invitation:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
(Ps. 34:8)

So how should we read the Psalms with understanding? For one thing, we should read slowly and deliberately in order to take in the sights and sounds, taste, touch and smell in which the truth of God is contained. Try reading a Psalm a day aloud—which is how all people in the ancient world read. For millennia people have meditated on the Psalms, storing up their treasures, frequently to be recalled during critical times of life.

We should also pray the Psalms. Let the voice of the Psalm you are reading be your voice, even if your life circumstance is not the same of the particular Psalm you are reading. Put yourself in the shoes of the writer, and you will understand the realities in the Psalm. For example, sense the pathos in Psalm 137, composed in the exile:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs. (vv. 1-3a)

This should put a lump in our throats.

Do not look down at the Psalms with a magnifying glass. Pray them upwards with a megaphone. The word heart appears 131 times in this book of the Bible, which seems only appropriate since in the Psalms we have the heart of humanity reaching out to the heart of God.

What a privilege to have this pathway to God.

Care to offer feedback this week?


Next time: “What Should We Take from the Books of Wisdom (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job)?”

Not yet signed up to receive “How to Understand the Bible” via email? You can follow along here at the blog, but we recommend signing up for email updates here. “How to Understand the Bible” is available as a print book at WordWay.org.

Mel Lawrenz is Director of The Brook Network and creator of The Influence Project. He’s the author of thirteen books, most recently Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership.

Deepen Your Experience of Scripture With Bible Gateway’s New Scripture Engagement Section

You may not identify it as such, but all your searching, reading, comparing, and sharing of the Bible on Bible Gateway are the beginning elements of what’s called “Scripture Engagement.” They’re only the start because fully engaging the Bible is a growing, developing, relational process that has as its ultimate objective enjoying a deep, meaningful, and engaging relationship with God.

We’ve now partnered with the Taylor University Center for Scripture Engagement (@TaylorU_CSE) (TUCSE) to create a dedicated Scripture Engagement section on Bible Gateway consisting of practical exercises and activities you can undertake to regularly interact more meaningfully with the Bible. You can access this section through our top navigation bar—just hover over or click the word “Bible” and click Bible Engagement in the dropdown menu:

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Take your time exploring the different topics in our Scripture Engagement section. You’ll find that it describes and offers 12 Bible-reading practices intended to help you intimately know God and become a closer follower of Jesus:

These practices all dovetail with our extensive and free online library of more than 200 Bibles.

Bible surveys seem to indicate that, while the Bible continues to be the top international bestseller, a large percentage of people are not reading it as often or as attentively as their Bible ownership might indicate. This new partnership with TUCSE will help the millions of users of Bible Gateway (including you) to not only read the Bible, but to also incorporate its life-changing teachings into their (your) everyday living. It’s very much in keeping with our mission statement: to honor Christ by equipping people to read and understand the Bible, wherever they are.

We pray that you’ll give holy attention to the regular practice of Scripture Engagement on Bible Gateway.

Using a Print Bible is How Most People Follow Publicly Read Scripture

The majority of Bible Gateway users responding to an online survey say they read their print Bibles when Scripture is read aloud in church.

We asked Bible Gateway Blog readers to complete this sentence: “When Scripture is read publicly in worship service, I….” More than 6,000 of you voted. Of that number, 48% chose the phrase, “follow along using my print Bible.” Twenty-one percent said they “follow along with the text projected on the church screen.”

Only 13% “follow along using my mobile/tablet Bible app,” 10% “simply listen without looking at the words,” and 2% pray.

Two percent said they “daydream” while Scripture is read, another 2% said they “don’t attend worship services,” and a final 2% chose “other” as their response.

It’s interesting that nearly half of the users of Bible Gateway, who are comfortable reading digital forms of Scripture here, prefer to use their print Bible editions during the public reading of the Bible in corporate worship.

[See results of our other Blog polls]

Our next Bible Gateway poll asks “What’s your Bible reading goal in 2015?” Cast your vote below and then visit our Bible Reading Plans page to select the flexible and customizable reading plan that’s right for you to use according to your own pace and interest.

[See our blogpost, Read the Bible at Your Own Pace with Bible Gateway’s New, Improved Bible Reading Plans]

What’s your Bible reading goal in 2015? (select up to 3)

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Texas Governors Keep Tradition of Dedicating Bible Verses to Successors

Since 1925, governors in Texas have continued the tradition of singling-out Bible verses for the benefit of their successors on inauguration day. It began when Gov. Pat Neff placed the inscription, “Presented to My Successors in Office,” on a small leather-bound Bible and gave it to Gov. James “Pa” Ferguson with Psalm 119:105 marked: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

Here is a list of markings and inscriptions in the “Neff Bible” with links to the verses in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible:

Gov. Neff to Gov. Ferguson: Psalm 119:105 — “Marked by Pat M. Neff Jan 18, 1925″

Gov. Ferguson to Gov. Moody: Matthew 7:12 — “Marked by Gov M. A. Ferguson Jan 18, 1927″

Gov. Moody to Gov. Sterling: John 3:16 — “Marked by Dan Moody Jan 10, 1931″

Gov. Moody to Gov. Sterling: Psalm 19:14 — “Marked by Dan Moody 1/10/31″

Gov. Sterling to Gov. Ferguson: none found

Gov. Ferguson to Gov. Allred: Jeremiah 50:32 — “Marked by Governor Miriam A Ferguson Jan 15, 1935″

Gov. Allred to Gov. O’Daniel: Psalm 91:2 — “Marked by Governor James V. Allred for Governor W. Lee O’Daniel—Jan. 17, 1939″

Gov. O’Daniel to Gov. Stevenson: Exodus 20:3-17 — “The Ten Commandments marked by Governor W. Lee O’Daniel for Governor Coke Stevenson 8-2-1941″

Gov. Stevenson to Gov. Jester: 2 Timothy 2:15 — “Marked by Coke Stevenson January 21, 1947 for Governor Beauford H. Jester”

Gov. Jester to Gov. Shivers: Gov. died in office

Gov. Shivers to Gov. Daniel: Philippians 4:6 — “Phil. 4.6 Marked by Allan Shivers Jan. 15, 1957 for Governor Price Daniel”

Gov. Daniel to Gov. Kazen: Psalm 121 — “Marked for Governor Abraham Kazen Jr August 4, 1959. Good luck. Price Daniel.”

Gov. Daniel to Gov. Connally: Proverbs 3:5-6 — “Marked by Gov. Price Daniel for Governor John Connally 1/15/63″

Gov. Connally to Gov. Smith: Proverbs 29:18 — “Preston, may you have a happy and productive administration. My fond regards always—John”

Gov. Smith to Gov. Briscoe: Proverbs 12:19 — “Dolph, may your administration be productive and enjoyable—Good luck and best wishes—Preston Smith”

Gov. Briscoe to Gov. Clements: Micah 6:8 — “Dolph Briscoe for Bill Clements Jan. 16, 1979″

Gov. Clements to Gov. White: Ecclesiastes 3:1 — “Bill Clements for Mark White 1-18-83″

Gov. White to Gov. Clements: Proverbs 22:6 — “Mark White for Bill Clements 1-20-87″

Gov. Clements to Gov. Richards: Ecclesiastes 3:17 — “Bill Clements for Ann Richards 1-15-91″

Gov. Richards to Gov. Bush: Amos 5:15(a) — “Ann Richards to George Bush 1/17/95″

Gov. Bush to Gov. Perry: Isaiah 40:28-31 — “Marked by GW Bush for Rick Perry 12-21-00″

Gov. Perry to Gov. Abbott: Matthew 20:25-28 — “Marked by Rick Perry for Greg Abbott 1-19-15″