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Quiz: How Well Do You Know the 5 Covenants of the Bible?

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The word covenant means “an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.”

In the Bible, according to Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary, the Hebrew word berith means primarily “a cutting,” with reference to the custom of cutting or dividing animals in two and passing between the parts in ratifying a covenant (Genesis 15; Jeremiah 34:18-19). In the New Testament the corresponding word is diathece, which is frequently translated testament.

According to an article in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, “covenant is one of the most important theological ideas in biblical theology. It is reflected in the traditional labels Old and New Testaments, i.e., covenants. The concept exists at significant points in the Bible’s storyline and is the theological glue that binds promise to fulfillment. So the biblical history of salvation and the unfolding of God’s covenants are almost synonymous.”

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post: The NIV Zondervan Study Bible: An Interview with Dr. D.A. Carson]

How well do you know the five covenants mentioned in the Bible? Take this quiz and find out:

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Jesus Shows What Humanity is Supposed to Look Like: An Interview with Brian Hardin

Brian HardinThe Bible says Jesus was fully human and fully divine. If sin caused humanity to become less than God originally created it to be, how does Jesus’ life demonstrate what normal humanity is supposed to look like?

Bible Gateway interviewed Brian Hardin (@realbrianhardin) about his book, Sneezing Jesus: The Infectious Allure of the Human God (NavPress, 2017).

[Learn more about—and sign up to receive—Brian Hardin’s free email reading plan on Bible Gateway: The Daily Audio Bible]

Buy your copy of Sneezing Jesus in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Explain the meaning of your book’s title.

Brian Hardin: The title, Sneezing Jesus, is a play on words that contains a dual meaning. A sneeze is a ubiquitous human activity. We all do it—and so did Jesus. I wanted to invoke Jesus humanity in the title because the book is a very human look at a very human God (Heb 2:14, Acts 2:22, Rom 5:15, Heb 4:15).

Although completely normal and human, a sneeze is also one of the ways we spread sickness and disease to our fellow human beings. I began to wonder what it might be like if we became so contagious with the pure and true Jesus within us that every thought, word, and deed left a trail of infectious love that spread like a virus throughout the Earth and became an epidemic. Jesus sneezed as a human being and we should be sneezing Jesus everywhere. Rather than making our species sick, it would heal it.

Why did you write the book?

Brian Hardin: I wrote Sneezing Jesus because, like most believers, I’ve longed to spend time with Jesus in the flesh. In John’s Gospel, we’re told that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) and I wanted to attempt to make the flesh become word in this book. It began as a love story and an intimate portrait of Jesus’ human life, but the deeper I went, the more I began to realize that Jesus’ ministry has profound implications for the human species that we simply cannot ignore if we want to become Christ-like.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Reframe Your Perception of God: An Interview with Brian Hardin]

Why do you say “human” is the word that describes your understanding of, and relationship with, Jesus?

Brian Hardin: Jesus is the tangible manifestation of who God really is. And this is profound because, in Jesus, we see God’s unwillingness to be left out of the human story. Jesus is proof that God has not, and will not, abandon us. He’s proof that God understands what we face as human beings because in Jesus, God endured every aspect of humanity. We focus almost wholly on Jesus’ divinity, and when we do see him as human it’s largely tied to the last few hours of his life.

There’s so much more to the story though. Jesus didn’t need a full human life to atone for the sins of the world. He didn’t need a ministry to do that either. Jesus spent most of his time calling humanity back to what it was created to be. And those last few hours—the time of suffering—made it all possible again.

You write that Jesus “came to show us what humanity is supposed to look like.” What do you mean?

Brian Hardin: As believers, we’d all agree that we’re to be Christ-like. But why? Why would we pursue this objective if it were not what humanity was supposed to look like?

But it goes deeper than that. At creation, God crafted humanity in his own image (Gen 1:27). All was as it was supposed to be, and in those first chapters of the Bible we get a brief glimpse of humanity as it was intended.

When Jesus came to earth, he was the first person without sin to walk upon this planet since Adam. In other words, he was the first person to be a human being as it was created to be since Adam. In Jesus, we see less of an anomaly and more of what we were always supposed to be in the first place.

The heart of the gospel tells us that Christ’s sacrifice did away with sin and it’s claims over our lives restoring the breach between our species and God. To be Christ-like, then, is to be as we were always intended to be.

You suggest that the world is “inside out” but that Jesus came to reverse that. Unpack that.

Brian Hardin: If you listen to the words of Jesus given in the Gospels you become aware that he’s describing a kingdom and worldview that’s different than the systems and cultures we’re now living in. So different in fact that it’s almost the opposite of the way we live and react—we’re inside-out and backwards. This not only tells us much about God’s kingdom, it also gives us a clear contrast with what we’ve made of things here on Earth.

How does this book teach about the kingdom of Heaven in the lives of Christians?

Brian Hardin: If we’re honest, we find ourselves looking for almost exactly the same thing the Hebrew people Jesus ministered to were looking for. They wanted a Messiah who could inspire God’s people to rise and overthrow Roman oppression and restore the land to God so that he’d rebuild the ancient kingdom of Israel. When Jesus came with news of the kingdom of Heaven, it ignited their hearts. It was precisely this talk that had people wondering if he were the Messiah.

We now know who Jesus is but we find ourselves waiting for the same thing—a hero who’ll return to overthrow injustice and establish the kingdom of God. The problem is that Jesus was describing something entirely different:
“The kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the kingdom of God is already among you” (Luke 17:20-21).

The word ‘among’ from the original Greek manuscripts is entos which translates ‘within’ and ‘among.’ In other words, the kingdom Jesus described is something that’s already happening now and we’re a part of its advance or retreat on this planet right this minute. Although the fullness of the kingdom is not complete, we’re a part of that story. If we’re waiting—as the Hebrew people were in Jesus’ time—for someone to come and beat up the bad guys, then we’ll be missing what’s already happening and what we’re supposed to be participating in.

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

Brian Hardin: Nothing but love. Bible Gateway is an indispensable resource in my life. Our strategic partnership between Daily Audio Bible and Bible Gateway allows thousands of people to take the adventure through the entire Bible in a year in community. I literally use it almost every day of my life.


Bio: Brian Hardin is a speaker, photographer, record producer and an ordained minister. In 2006, he created the Daily Audio Bible, an online podcast that now delivers 1.5 million downloads a month. He’s the author of Sneezing Jesus, Reframe: From the God We’ve Made to God with Us, and Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You. He has produced over 150 albums and works with artists and the arts extensively. He’s married to Christian musician Jill Parr.

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How Are Your New Year’s Resolutions Going? (Also, How to Salvage a Foundering Bible Reading Resolution!)

We’re halfway through 2017. If you made a New Year’s resolution to spend more time with the Bible, how is your resolution going?

Has it gone smoothly and become ingrained in your everyday routine? Or do you wince with guilt at the thought of a resolution you dropped months ago, despite the best of intentions?

Let us know in the poll below how your resolution is (or isn’t) holding up!

How is your Bible reading New Year's resolution holding up now that we're midway through the year?

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A poll we conducted at the beginning of 2017 revealed that many of you hoped to make this the year you really connected to God’s Word—by reading the entire Bible (33% of respondents), reading a specific part of the Bible (18%), memorizing verses (30%), or one of several other options.

If you’re struggling to keep up with a resolution you made—or perhaps you’ve already floundered and given up—it’s not too late to salvage your resolutions, even though we’re midway through 2017! In fact, even if you’ve completely given up and nearly forgotten about the resolution you made last winter, there’s still plenty of time this year to make the Bible more central in your life (even if not in the exact way you originally resolved).

Bible reading resolutions (especially commitments to read the entire Bible) are easy to make, but can be challenging to keep. If you’ve hit a wall with a Bible reading resolution, or are on the verge of abandoning it altogether, here are a few things you can do before you throw in the towel:

1. Change up your Bible reading plan.

This is especially useful if you started reading the Bible straight through from beginning to end. While every part of the Bible is important, it’s an unfortunate reality that the first parts of the Bible (the early Old Testament books) are some of the toughest to read. For this reason, many Bible reading plans eschew the beginning-to-end approach and instead tackle the books of the Bible in different orders—for example, a reading plan might journey through the Bible books in chronological or thematic order. If you’ve stalled on a dull or difficult patch of the Old Testament, don’t drop your resolution entirely—consider switching your reading to a more accessible part of the Bible, such as the New Testament. After a few months of reading the New Testament, you’ll be better prepared to return to the Old Testament. You might also experiment with a Bible reading plan that combines Old and New Testament readings each day.

2. Downscale your Bible reading resolution.

It’s better to read some of the Bible than none of it! If you’re on the verge of putting down your Bible entirely because you’ve stalled out, consider instead switching to a less ambitious reading commitment. If you are struggling to read the entire Bible in 2017, consider changing your resolution to read just the New Testament. If the New Testament is proving difficult, consider reading just the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). If that’s too challenging, consider picking just a single book—a Gospel, or perhaps Psalms or Proverbs—and taking your time working through it alone. The point of a Bible reading resolution is not to prove how much of the Bible you can read; it’s to spend more time with God’s Word. Better to read just a single verse this week than to put your Bible aside for good because you can’t keep up with your original resolution.

You can downscale the duration of your reading resolution as well. Rather than committing to read the Bible through the rest of the year, why not start with something more manageable—like reading the Bible through the summer, or every day in the month of August, or something else that’s easier to achieve? Whether you adjust the reading plan you’re following, the timeline of your reading, or both, it’s far better to find a way to spend some time in the Bible rather than none at all.

3. Don’t focus too much on how much time it’s taking you.

Some Bible reading plans, particularly the more ambitious annual plans, require a fairly hefty amount of reading each day. Don’t get flustered if it takes you more than a day to get through some of the readings. If you race to read the entire Bible in a year but understand little of it because you had to skim your daily readings to fit them into your schedule, you haven’t gained much. Don’t fret about an arbitrary timeline or deadline you’ve set, and take as much time as you need to read God’s Word. If it takes you three years to read the Bible instead of one year, that’s still infinitely better than giving up and not reading it at all.

4. If the Bible is proving too confusing, don’t forget to call on help.

The Bible’s length is not the only reason people struggle to read it. It’s a collection of ancient texts written in very different cultural contexts and for very different audiences; there’s no shame in finding it a sometimes difficult, confusing, or even boring read.

If this describes your experience with the Bible so far in 2017, make sure you’re availing yourself of the resources at your disposal to help you better understand and appreciate what you’re reading. A periodic check-in with a pastor or friend who knows the Bible well to discuss what you’re reading (and what you’re struggling with) is one good solution. There are some free online resources that might help your reading go a bit easier, too:

With some combination of the ideas above, you can salvage a Bible reading commitment and make the Bible a meaningful part of your everyday life.

Did You Know Jesus’ Ancestors Are Not Who You Think They Are?

The story of one of history’s most famous persons begins in a manger. It ends on a cross… and then at an empty tomb.

Of course, I’m talking about Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, and whose death and resurrection we commemorate at Easter.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Did You Know the Saying “God Helps Those Who Help Themselves” Isn’t in the Bible?]

You probably know those stories well. But do you know the backstory? The backstory filled with ancestors who most people would be embarrassed to call their own? Probably not; most people skim over the long list of names that outlines Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew 1. But when we examine that list of names more closely, we discover that it contains some people you’d never expect to find in the ancestry of God’s promised Messiah.

Most spiritual and political leaders in the ancient world would have presented an impressive and carefully whitewashed family tree as evidence of their worthiness to hold power. They’d point to great kings and heroes in their ancestry as a way of establishing their credentials. But that’s not what Jesus did.

So who are these misfits in Jesus’ family tree?

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Did You Know That the Founder of Christianity Was Jewish?]

Jesus’ ancestry included a prostitute, a polygamist, and a pagan. Even a rapist!

Don’t believe me? Read for yourself the opening passage in the first chapter in Jesus’ story, Matthew 1, and check out some of the colorful characters listed there. Here are some of the most infamous.

Rahab the Prostitute

RahabOne of the most surprising members of Jesus’ family tree is Rahab, who has been known for generations as Rahab the Prostitute. She was the one who welcomed Israelite spies safely into her home in the city of Jericho—an act that eventually led to the city’s destruction.

Because of her willingness to help Israel, she was welcomed into the community of God’s people, where she married into one of the leading families of Israel and became one of Jesus’ ancestors. This non-Jewish prostitute became one of Jesus’ great-grandmothers!

King Solomon the Polygamist

SolomonThat Solomon was an ancestor of Jesus doesn’t seem all that surprising. After all, he was the son of the famous King David and was responsible for one of the most important building projects in Israel’s history: the building and dedication of the Lord’s glorious temple. The temple served as a point of overlap for heaven on Earth, where daily and yearly sacrifices were performed to atone for the sins of the people. It was Israel’s central and most sacred religious monument, as well as Solomon’s crowning achievement.

There’s only one problem: while overseeing this sacred project, Solomon kept a harem of 700 wives and 300 concubines, as 1 Kings 11:3 reveals. He was hardly a model of family values! What’s more, most of these wives worshipped false foreign gods, and turned his heart away from the Lord. Solomon’s career began in glory but ended in great moral disappointment.

And yet there he is: polygamist king Solomon, one of the great-grandfathers of the Son of God.

King Manasseh the Pagan

One of the most remarkable members of Jesus’ family tree is Manasseh. Like many of Israel’s ancient kings, “he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations…” (2 Kings 21:2).

How detestable? He created places to worship false gods. He built altars and shrines to the pagan gods Baal and Asherah—even within the Temple of the Lord that Solomon built! He worshiped the stars, moon, and planets; he practiced witchcraft and consulted spirits and mediums. All of these acts flew in direct contrast to God’s law and wishes for his people.

But that’s not all! Manasseh sank to an even greater moral depth: he sacrificed his own son in pagan worship. Yet this reviled king was also one of Jesus’ ancestors, which Matthew’s gospel exposes for all the world to see.

King David the Rapist

Then there’s David, the most celebrated, beloved king of Israel—a man the Bible says as a man after God’s own heart. Surely David was a worthy ancestor for the Messiah… right?

Nathan and DavidWhile in many respects he was an upright king who led Israel to worship the Lord and follow his commands, there’s a dark stain on David’s legacy that many people overlook: he was also a rapist and murderer.

The infamous story of David and Bathsheba describes David surveying his kingdom from a position of power. When he saw a beautiful woman bathing, he sent a servant to find out more about her. Then he slept with her. All this even though he was married and she was married—to one of David’s own loyal and elite warriors!

This episode in David’s life has traditionally been described as “adultery,” but it was much more than that. The original Hebrew indicates that David sent people to “take” Bathsheba. David exploited the unequal power dynamic between king and commoner in order to use Bathsheba for his pleasure.

By most definitions, that’s rape.

But there’s more: in order to cover up his sin (which had resulted in pregnancy), David arranged to have Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed. David had abused his power and position to take Bathsheba for sex. Now he compounded that sin by using his position to carry out a murder.

The Good News About Jesus’ Family Tree

Hopefully your ancestors are far less colorful than Jesus’!

Remarkably, the Bible doesn’t cover up all the broken, sinful people in Jesus’ family tree. Rather than discrediting Jesus, his broken family tree makes Jesus the perfect candidate to identify with our own sin, brokenness, and rebellion.

That’s the good news about Jesus: he was one of us. He lived our life, experiencing the same everyday joys and frustrations that we do. He heard the sordid tales of prostitution, polygamy, paganism, rape and murder in his family tree, and he knew the ghastly and long-lasting effects of all that family sin. While Jesus himself never sinned—he lived in perfect holiness and obedience—he understands our own sinful impulses. He knows what temptation feels like.

We don’t always think about the fact that Jesus was a real, live person. But it is vital to the good news about Jesus that he was. The book of Hebrews reminds us about this crucial aspect of the world’s Savior:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.Hebrews 2:14–15 (NIV)

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews 4:15–16 (NIV)

Because Jesus shared in our humanity, he was able to pay the penalty for our sins in our place. He stands in as a substitutionary sacrifice to God, in order to give us freedom. And because Jesus lived our life, he experienced all that life can throw at us—including messy family trees, slander and accusation, and even temptation.

Jesus experienced life’s full spectrum. Which means he can sympathize with our weakness and with all the messy bits of our lives. And beyond merely sympathazing with us, he paves the way for us to come boldly to God to get the grace and mercy we so desperately need.

Free grace. For messy lives, painful experiences, and awkward family trees.

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Image notes: the paintings above depict Rahab meeting with Israelite spies, King Solomon holding court, and King David being rebuked by a prophet for his sins against Bathsheba and her husband.

Bible News Roundup – Week of July 9, 2017

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Oklahoma Attorney General Prepared to Defend Cross, Bibles at East Central University Chapel
KFOR-TV

Ohio Supreme Court to Hear Appeal of Teacher in Bible Case
CBN News

Purdue Professor’s Quest Brings Names From the Bible to Life
WGN-TV News
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Interview: Bible Scholar Confirms 50 Real People in the Bible

Crafty Christians Apply Paint, Stickers, Stencils, & Clip Art to Their Bible
National Post
Read about Scripture Engagement on Bible Gateway

Think Tank Calls for “Careful Reappraisal” of How the Bible Is Used When It Comes to Mental Health and An Analysis of UK’s “Burgeoning Exorcism Scene”
Sight

One in 10 Norwegians Have Read the Entire Bible
Norway Today

South Africa Cyclists to Hit the Road for Five Days for Braille Bibles
Kempton Express

Bible Translations in Ethiopia Need Funding
MNN

Bible Translation Runs in the Family for These Indigenous Women
Eternity

Archaeologist Uncovers Clues Pointing Towards Evidence of Naboth’s Vineyard
Breaking Israel News
Read 1 Kings 21 on Bible Gateway
Read about Naboth in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway
See the Biblical Archaeology section in the Bible Gateway Store

Oldest Mosaic of Bible’s Jonah Found in Galilee
World Israel News
Read the book of Jonah on Bible Gateway
Read about Jonah in Smith’s Bible Names Dictionary on Bible Gateway

One of the Most Important Buildings in Christianity’s History Discovered Off Scottish Coast
Independent

How Famous Bible Teachers Impact Local Bible Study
CT Pastors

The American Church Has a Better Reputation Than Higher Ed or the Media
CT

Religion Increasingly Seen as Doing More Harm Than Good in Canada: Ipsos Poll
Global News

Changes in Generosity Represent Challenge, Opportunity for Churches
Barna news release

From Bike Shop to Drive-Thru Prayer, Churches Try Thinking Outside the Pew
philly.com

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary is Now Part of Bible Gateway Plus!

Zondervan Illustrated Bible DictionaryThe Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary is now a part of the Bible Gateway Plus digital study library! If you’re a Bible Gateway Plus member, you can now access this comprehensive Bible dictionary right alongside their online Bible reading.

Through thousands of articles, maps, and images covering every book and chapter of the Bible, this reliable and biblically sound dictionary will bring the text of Scripture alive for you as never before. Here’s some of what the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary brings to your Bible reading and study:

  • detailed profiles of the people and places of the Bible
  • useful explanations of the words, phrases, and themes of every chapter of the Bible
  • photos and images to illuminate your reading and understanding

The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary is both accessible and thorough, and is a useful companion to any Bible reading—whether you’re reading for personal devotions, doing an in-depth Bible study, or preparing to teach or preach. And like the dozens of other titles in the Bible Gateway Plus library, it’s usable with any Bible translation on Bible Gateway, and is integrated seamlessly right alongside your online Bible reading—with no software to download or install.

The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary is exclusively available to Bible Gateway Plus members—but even if you’re not yet a member, you can still explore it for free. Here’s how.

How to Access the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary if You’re a Bible Gateway Plus Member

If you’re a Plus member, this title is already in your library—just log in to your Bible Gateway account, look up any Bible passage, and find the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary in your study library panel. You’ll find it alongside the other dictionaries in your library. (Click here if you need a refresher course on accessing your study library.)

If you want to jump right in, click here to read Genesis 1 with the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary open alongside the Bible text.

How to Access the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary if You’re Not Yet a Bible Gateway Plus Member

If you’re not yet a Bible Gateway Plus member, you can still get full access to this digital dictionary (along with 40+ other digital study titles) free for 30 days when you start your free 30-day trial of Bible Gateway Plus. Try it and see for yourself how the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary makes it easier to read and understand the Bible! Click here to start your risk-free trial of Bible Gateway Plus, and find out why we call Bible Gateway Plus the best value in digital Bible study.

One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage: An Interview with Shauna Shanks

Shauna ShanksIn marriage, love is easy to give when you’re getting it back. Are we still called to God’s plan of how to love when we’re getting none in return? What’s the outcome when we dare to follow God’s audacious outline for love as described in 1 Corinthians 13 even in the face of adultery and divorce? What happens if we take God at his word and assume the love chapter was really meant to be followed literally word by word?

Bible Gateway interviewed Shauna Shanks (snshanks) about her book, A Fierce Love: One Woman’s Courageous Journey to Save Her Marriage (Zondervan, 2017).

Buy your copy of A Fierce Love in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

How did you react when you were blind-sided by your husband, Micah, telling you he didn’t love you anymore?

Shauna Shanks: At first I thought he was joking. I had no idea he was that unhappy. He said he wasn’t attracted to me anymore and he asked me for a divorce that night.

When it started sinking in, I couldn’t stop crying. I tried to answer him softly and change his mind but it became obvious he had planned this. His mind was made up and my crying seemed to make it worse.

In my desperation I turned to God and begged him to give me peace. I have three children, whom at the time were little and they would need me to get up with them in a few hours. I begged God to give me one thing to focus on, so I could calm down and have peace. He answered me with the words hope and endure.

What did those words mean to you?

Shauna Shanks: Immediately I thought of 1 Corinthians 13 because the words hope and endure are both in that passage. I actually resisted God at first over this chapter because it’s so well-known and easily recitable. It’s the love chapter!

Yet I was so excited that God spoke to me and I heard him, that I began studying it in every version I could find.

How did you respond when your husband told you he was having an affair?

Shauna Shanks: Well, it was two weeks after I had become obsessed with 1 Corinthians 13, so I’ll say I had an advantage to receiving this unwelcome news. By then I had already established what I end up calling a “Love Filter:” Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

If my actions, impulses, or responses to my husband didn’t match up with any one of the things on this list, I was challenged not to do them. I filtered my thoughts and actions using those verses as a guideline.

I remember sitting on the couch with Micah in the middle of the night. He stumbled around with his words a bit before quietly admitted he was having an affair.

Love is patient, I reminded myself. Be patient. Love is kind, I remembered. Be kind.

I responded gently to him that night, because of my list. Love is a lot of things. I never knew it before as a discipline.

How did you work through the dark time?

Shauna Shanks: The love filter I was using might sound restricting, but this list was liberating. I didn’t have to be a slave to emotions at this time. Feeling like I had no control over my husband’s feelings or my own marriage felt defeating. But it felt victorious that regardless of what he was doing, I could guard over my own thoughts and actions.

2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive. This was another discipline I learned in this season. There was plenty of depressing, worrisome, emotionally tormenting thoughts I could entertain that, if left unattended, would steal my peace every day.

But when I learned I could take those destructive thoughts captive, this was a game-changer. I do think because I didn’t re-play all of the bad things that happened in that situation over and over, I was able to begin healing.

Philippians 4:8 says, “…whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

I guess I like lists! I also used this as a guide to monitor what stayed in my brain or not. For example, my mind would try to tempt me to dwell on the affair, but thinking about it had the opposite effect of the words I found in Philippians 4:8.

I think in my desperation, I began viewing the Bible as more than beautiful poetry or mere suggestions, and started taking them as literal commands.

What’s the meaning of the book’s title?

Shauna Shanks: To me, it’s about the fierce love of God. If he loves us according to the measure that’s recorded in 1 Corinthians 13, then it’s the fiercest, most unrestricted, illogical, wild, engulfing love and I found it freeing.

There’s so much cushion for my failure. There’s enough grace to swallow you whole. I kind of felt like my marriage collapsing was one big giant object lesson for God to teach me that if I—being a mere, flawed, human—am capable of loving my husband in this way, how much more does God love me? I felt like he was giving me a taste of his divine love, and I just got a glimpse of it, and it was life-changing. I mean, here I am, four years later, with a book about it, and still ranting on and on about the love of Jesus.

How did your husband respond to you in that season?

Shauna Shanks: At first I think he was annoyed because he thought the divorce would be mutual; quick and painless, and he could get on with his new life. But after a while, he knew there was no way I was just in denial. I should have been crazy, angry, defensive. But the Love Filter prohibited me from acting on those impulses—and he definitely noticed.

As much as I knew I was being empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow that tough list of rules, he knew it too; and I think, when you see God clearly showing up, you do take notice.

Why did you decide to be publicly vulnerable in recounting your story in this book?

Shauna Shanks: My husband and I are still stunned by that whole season, honestly. We got a front row seat to experience grace, forgiveness, redemption, and the goodness of God in such a personal and powerful way.

We don’t feel like that’s our story. The story of grace and redemption is free for every believer; every human. We can learn deep spiritual truths either by experiencing things ourselves—like my husband and I did—or by hearing someone else’s story in such a way the truth finally clicks. I hope the depths of God’s power and love click for people as they journey through the trenches with us.

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

Shauna Shanks: It’s funny I get to interview with you because when I began studying all the Scriptures used in the book, I did it on BibleGateway.com. I can easily look at all the versions that way. I like to mix and match versions to create a fuller list, just in case I missed anything. For example the NKJV translation of 1 Corinthians 13 includes (love is) “not provoked” and “thinks no evil” in it’s version.

I really struggled with doing these things literally in that situation. There were definitely days I felt my husband was “provoking me” and I wanted to “think evil.” Reading all the versions helps me to get a more in-depth feel for what I’m studying and helps the Scripture to come more alive in this way.


Bio: Shauna Shanks is a wife, mother, and entrepreneur. She started Smallfolk, a health food café, out of her passion for health and fitness. She graduated from Christ for the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas, with a focus on world missions. Shauna and her husband, Micah, who is a police officer, have been married for more than a decade, and they live with their three boys on an Ohio farm. Her website is www.shaunashanks.com.

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Get Out of the Middle of the Road

Chrystal Evans HurstBy Chrystal Evans Hurst

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

In my midtwenties, I took a business trip to San Francisco. I had been asked to go receive training for a new job. I’d never been to the city before and decided to stay an extra couple of days to see the sights.

During my stay I had the opportunity to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, and to this day I count that experience as one of my favorite adventures of all time. My ride went exactly according to plan—a few miles along the coastline, a steep uphill climb to enter the path leading to the bridge, a cruise across the bridge overlooking the bay, and a smooth downhill sail to the quaint town of Sausalito, where I ate lunch, rested, and then headed back across the bay by ferry.

Perfect.

Almost a decade later, I decided to relive that San Francisco adventure, this time with my daughter and a girlfriend. I was, of course, excited about taking them to see the city I’d fallen in love with ten years before, but I was especially interested in introducing them to that fantastically flawless experience of biking across the bridge.

The morning after we arrived, we jumped on a trolley headed toward the waterfront to rent some bikes and begin our adventure. Leisurely riding through Fisherman’s Wharf, past the marina, and through Presidio Park, we laughed and talked loud enough to hear each other over the noise of the ocean, seagulls, and nearby traffic. We pedaled toward the Golden Gate Bridge, stopping here and there for a photo before eventually dismounting our bikes to walk them up the steep hill to the mouth of the bridge. Then, with butterflies floating around in our tummies, we mounted the bikes, entered the pedestrians’ path, and made our way across the famous landmark and over the San Francisco Bay. The day was beautiful, the views were perfect, and the three of us smiled with satisfaction as we took it all in.

After arriving at the other side and stopping for a few more pictures, we rode toward Sausalito. I was looking forward to the easy ride down that long slope into the quaint town.

She's Still ThereAbout three minutes into the descent, I remember thinking that the bike was going too fast. And I remember thinking that I should probably brake just a bit to slow the bike down.

So I tapped on the brakes.

The bike stopped abruptly.

My body, on the other hand, did not.

I don’t remember flying through the air. I don’t remember hitting the pavement. I don’t remember feeling any pain. I simply remember thinking, Girl! Get yourself out of the middle of the road!

As I crawled on my hands and knees to the shoulder of the road, I realized that my daughter had jumped off her bike and was crying and running toward me. My brain felt as if it were ricocheting back and forth inside my skull.

I felt a bit of an ache on my right side and a twinge of pain on my left, but those were not enough to distract me from my goal of getting to Sausalito. I figured I just needed a second—a chance to get my act together—and then we could be on our merry way.

I thought I would be okay.

My daughter didn’t think so.

She asked me to look down at my shirt, and when I did, I realized it was covered with blood. I glanced at my left side to identify the source of the pain that was now radiating up my arm. My pinky finger was throbbing. It also seemed to be oddly shaped. I looked at my right arm and realized that my elbow was busted up.

My friend had called an ambulance, and when it arrived, one of the emergency medical personnel squatted in front of me, looking me over and asking me the types of questions you ask a girl who has just flown head-first off her bike.

“Are you okay?”

“Do you know your name?”

“Who’s the president?

“What year is it?”

I guess the way I looked to the EMT, those questions were necessary. But I only felt irritated by his questions and offer of assistance. He was getting in my way.

All I wanted to do was get back on my bike and on my way to Sausalito.

Achiever. Control freak. Doggedly determined to make things work.

I reasoned with myself, figuring I could tolerate my pain long enough to get back on that bike and make it to Sausalito. Then I would put my bike on the ferry, pedal back across the bay to San Fran, and get myself to a hospital.

Insane. Crazy. Muy estupido.

The EMT closed his eyes and leaned his head to one side while taking a deep breath, willing himself to patience with this stubborn woman he had found himself caring for.

“You could, ma’am, but I don’t recommend that. You are hurt, and I think you need to come with me so you can have your pain addressed.”

I didn’t want to admit that I needed help. I didn’t want to acknowledge that my left pinky finger was hurting terribly (because it was broken), my right elbow was pulsing with pain (because it was fractured), and my brain was still ricocheting back and forth in my skull (because I had hit my head on the pavement). And I didn’t want to confess that the sight of blood had totally unnerved me.

Never in a million years did I think I would take a trip designed for relaxation and pleasure only to find myself sitting on the side of the road injured.

All I’d wanted was another perfect day, another great experience, another adventure that lived up to my expectations.

Sometimes, though, our days don’t live up to our expectations.

To find my way out of the mess I’d found my way into, I only had one option: I had to acknowledge my predicament.

I had to own my story in order to fix my story.

It takes one brave chick to admit that her life is not quite shaping up to be the life she envisioned. It takes courage to pause and assess your disappointment, realize where you’ve been disenchanted, and identify the source of your distress.

So many of us press through the pain without paying adequate attention to our brokenness. We disregard the ache in our hearts, as if ignoring the injury will cause the blood to stop flowing. We convince ourselves that somehow we don’t need to deal with the distance between our expectations and our reality. We think that somehow, if we just keep going, the distance will simply close by itself.

It won’t.

You and I must play an active role in closing that gap.

And the first step in closing the gap is to admit that the gap exists.

Owning your story can be an uncomfortable first step, but in the words of Brene Brown, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it.” It might feel like you’re coming out of hiding and seeing your scars for the first time in the full light of day. But telling yourself the truth is not an admission of powerlessness. It is when your story is in full view that you have the greatest ability to see what healing work needs to be done.

Owning your story is an act of strength.

________

She's Still ThereAdapted from She’s Still There by Chrystal Evans Hurst. Click here to learn more about this title.

What’s a woman to do if her life is not taking shape the way that she thought that it would? What happens when she looks at herself in the mirror, lingering just a little longer than usual and realizes that she no longer recognizes the person staring back at her? What does she do when she sees that, somehow, her life has drifted away from all her original hopes, dreams, or plans?

Speaker, blogger and writer Chrystal Evans Hurst wrote this book because she was that woman. One day she realized that she had somehow wandered away from the life that she had purposed to live a long time ago.

Chrystal since discovered that this moment of awareness happens to lots of women at different seasons of their lives. Poor decisions, a lack of intentionality or planning, or a long-term denial of deep hopes and dreams can leave a woman, old or young, reeling from the realization that she is lost, disappointed, or simply numb.

And she just needs encouragement.

This woman simply needs someone to hold her hand, to cheer her on, and to believe with her that she is capable of still being the person she intended to be or discovering the girl she never knew was there in the first place.

Chrystal uses her poignant story of an early and unexpected pregnancy, as well as other raw and vulnerable moments in her life, to let readers know she understands what it’s like to try and find your way after some missteps or decisions you didn’t plan on. In She’s Still There Chrystal emphasizes the importance of the personal process and the beauty of that path as it is shared authentically from one girlfriend to another. It’s a book of “me toos,” reminders of the hoped for, and challenges for the path ahead—to find direction, purpose, and true satisfaction.

Chrystal Evans Hurst co-authored the bestselling book, Kingdom Woman, with her father Dr. Tony Evans. She reaches a wide audience speaking at conferences, sharing on her blog, Chrystal’s Chronicles, writing for Proverbs 31 Ministries, and by teaching and leading women in her home church. As the COO (Chief Operating Officer) of the Hurst household, she is a dedicated wife to Jessie and mother of five. Chrystal lives just outside of Dallas, Texas.

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Hope and Healing for Trauma and Stress: An Interview with Dr. Laurel Shaler

Dr. Laurel ShalerHow does the Bible help you find freedom from stress and trauma? What’s the biblical antidote for nagging worry and sleepless nights? What are the ways to achieve peace and build confidence?

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Laurel Shaler (@DrLaurelShaler) about her book, Reclaiming Sanity: Hope and Healing for Trauma, Stress, and Overwhelming Life Events (David C. Cook, 2017).

What message does the title convey and for whom are you writing this book?

Dr. Laurel Shaler: “Am I going crazy?!?” I believe many women have asked themselves that question at some time or another. This nagging question is what sparked the title Reclaiming Sanity. I wanted women to know that even though they may feel like they’re losing it, they’re not—and they don’t have to. Instead, they can hang on to the hope and healing that can come from Jesus Christ. Through him, they can reclaim sanity despite the trauma, stress, or overwhelming life event they’ve faced or are currently facing.

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You say people can experience “good stress” and “bad stress.” Please explain.

Dr. Laurel Shaler: Most of us are familiar with distress: those negative thoughts and feelings triggered by the bad things going on in our lives. But not everyone is familiar with eustress. This is when you experience something good or positive in your life that may be difficult to cope with emotionally. Some common examples would be getting married, buying a house, or having a baby. We can use the positive stress to energize and motivate us. At the same time, our bodies can’t always tell the difference.

In other words, sometimes stress is stress. So, when something “good” happens to you and you wonder why you feel tense or can’t eat, this may be the reason why. You can use many of the same techniques to counter the effects of bad versus good stress.

How do people’s past affect their present?

Dr. Laurel Shaler: Our past experiences can have real and serious consequences on our present living. For example, maybe in your husband’s family, apologies were never offered. It frustrates you that he never says he’s sorry, and expects you to just get over things. As a result, the two of you spend time arguing over this. His past experiences impact his present.

Many times, a single event can have life-long devastating consequences. For example, a woman who was sexually abused as a child may struggle with physical intimacy with her husband.

In order to reclaim our sanity, we have to explore the past experiences that are impacting our present, including the defense mechanisms and coping skills we learned in childhood.

What is godly anger versus ungodly anger?

Dr. Laurel Shaler: When we look at anger, it’s important to look at it through the eyes and hearts of the Father. Are we getting angry over things that break his heart too (such as child abuse and broken marriages) or we are allowing our emotions to get the better of us (such as getting angry when the driver in front of us isn’t going fast enough for our liking.)

Anger isn’t bad or wrong. In John 2, Jesus got angry with the moneychangers. His love for his Father and his Father’s house led to his righteous anger.

But even when our anger is righteous, are our actions? Are we behaving in a way that honors God? If not, it’s not godly. The Bible has a lot to say about anger, and the problems with untamed anger. Exodus 34:6 tells us that God is slow to anger, and James 1:19 tells us to do the same.

What role should the Bible play in a person’s desire to “reclaim sanity”?

Dr. Laurel Shaler: I love the words of 2 Corinthians 10:5, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” The Bible is filled with the wisdom we need to focus our hearts, minds, and lives on Jesus. We cannot do anything without him. But with him and with the resources he’s provided to us, we can reclaim sanity.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Dr. Laurel Shaler: My favorite Bible verse is John 21:25, which reads, “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 verse speaks to the power of Jesus Christ, and it’s a reminder of what he can do with me and through me if I allow him to.

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

Dr. Laurel Shaler: I constantly use Bible Gateway to look up Scripture. One of my favorite uses is being able to see the same verse in many different translations. It helps bring clarity and deepens my understanding of God’s word!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Dr. Laurel Shaler: If you can’t sleep, if you worry all the time, or if you find yourself frequently frustrated; if you struggle to cope with a tough experience from the past; if you want to solve problems more effectively or improve your relationships—Reclaiming Sanity is for you. This book combines clinical applications with biblical insights. But, if you find that you need more help than this book can offer, please consider reaching out to a licensed mental health professional for further assistance.


Bio: Laurel Shaler, PhD, is a professor at Liberty University and a speaker on faith and emotional well-being. A national certified counselor and social worker, Dr. Shaler is a former psychotherapist for the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she specialized in treating trauma. She and her family live in Greenville, South Carolina.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of July 2, 2017

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Kentucky Public Schools Can Now Offer Bible Literacy Courses
CNN

A University in Oklahoma Considers Removing Its Bibles and Crosses From Its Chapel
The Washington Post

Deltona, Florida Commissioner’s Bible Readings Generate Church-State Complaint
Daily Commercial

Mixing Bible and Brews; An Unconventional Way to Study the Bible
KTAB-TV

Alberta School Board Ends Agreement with Christian School After Bible Verse Spat
Edmonton Sun

Author of 10th-Century Hebrew Bible Identified
Charisma News

Hobby Lobby to Forfeit Bible Artifacts, Pay $3 Million Fine
Baptist Press
CT: Hobby Lobby Returns ‘Priceless’ Artifacts Smuggled from Iraq

Scientist to Scour Grand Canyon to Prove Biblical Flood
Newsmax
Read about the Flood in Genesis 6-9 on Bible Gateway

Young Frenchman Makes Bible Trendy Again
Eternity News

The Other Side of Bible Distribution in China
MNN

Zambia: Diocese Launches Catholic Bible in Local Languages
Vatican Radio

Number of Scots With No Religion Reaches New High, Survey Suggests
Premier

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

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