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The Will of God is the Word of God: An Interview with James MacDonald

James MacDonaldIs God’s will top-secret? When it comes to God’s will, you may live in fear that he’s holding out on you somehow. What does the Bible reveal about God’s will for your life? Are you in God’s will now? Is a confident answer to that question ever possible?

Bible Gateway interviewed James MacDonald (@jamesmacdonald) about his book, The Will of God is the Word of God (B&H Books, 2017).

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In your book, you write, “God’s will is not about where we are or even necessarily whom we are with, but about who we are.” Please unpack that.

James MacDonald: I think 1 Thessalonians 4:3 speaks to this pretty directly: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” When we’re increasingly becoming the people God wants us to be, then we can be confident we’re with who he wants us to be with, and where he wants us to be.

In other words, your character traits, spiritual priorities, and manner of living—what Christians have for 20 centuries called “holiness”—are the will of God. And when your life increasingly conforms to God’s prescription for holiness, all of these nonsensical sidetracks of geography, or which couch to buy, or where to go for dinner, fade into the shadows. Then you can live in the glorious freedom of what the will of God is, instead of searching out a nonexistent who, what, where, when, what color, etc.

Stated simply: the will of God is about who you are. The will of God is about your sanctification—that refining process in which you’re conformed more and more into the image of Jesus Christ.

So you don’t need a roadmap for life, spelling out every twist and turn, every choice you need to make. There’s no specific blueprint, and God’s knowledge of the future means you don’t have to figure it out in advance of joyfully experiencing it under his watchful care.

We hear a lot of talk about “sanctification,” but what does that really mean?

James MacDonald: Here’s a definition: Sanctification is the lifelong process in which Christ-followers are refined and increasingly conformed to the behavior pattern of Jesus Christ. It’s the work of God in the lives of forgiven sinners that takes them step-by-step away from selfish, sinful patterns of living and more and more into a life that’s wholly holy, and set apart entirely for the glory of Jesus Christ.

God uses hardship and the circumstances of life to shape and show our character. To be sanctified is to live in complete, continuous submission to him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is familiar to many, yet do you think it’s biblically understood and rightly applied?

James MacDonald: This is a much-loved passage for many people (including me), yet it’s often misquoted and misunderstood. I’ve heard these verses twisted to mean, “See, there’s the path! It’s a series of dots and I have to be on the exactly right dot all the time. I must make the right choices! I need to discern exactly what God wants me to do at every bend in the road.” But God isn’t worried about whether you choose Chinese or Italian food for dinner. Go to a place you can afford!

These beloved verses do not teach that there’s a path of dots you’d better get on or your life is going to be a travesty. The passage is saying that if you trust God with your whole heart (when you’re making decisions), if you don’t lean on your own understanding (when you’re making decisions), and if you acknowledge God in every decision you make, he will make your paths straight.

The assumption is not that you have to know or even guess the will of God before you make decisions, because the Lord will make sure you don’t take any deadly detours. Even when life is difficult, you won’t be wasting your time. Even when life is painful, you won’t just be marking off days on the calendar. God promises that your path will be straight.

He retains the right to intervene and adjust (straighten) your course, but he also gives you plenty of room to obey. No wasted steps, no wasted anything. God will guide and lead you so your life unfolds in such a way that his highest purposes are accomplished in you. None of this depends on where you work or live. God’s highest purposes are about the kind of person you are. This is the will of God—your sanctification.

How should Christians make decisions?

James MacDonald: The Scriptures make some choices explicitly clear, and our decision on those matters should be no-brainers. For example, should you take something that doesn’t belong to you (also known as stealing)? What’s God’s will for you in this choice? The fact that God included “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15) in the ten cardinal rules we call the Ten Commandments should clue us in clearly to what God wants. Easy decision. Don’t steal!

But what do you do when the choices and alternatives are not as clear? What do you do when the choice is not a matter of a specific, biblical mandate that distinguishes right and wrong?

When handling equal choices, God wants you to make the decision that would please you. God is a good Father who loves you! Within the boundaries of God’s Word, we find structure, direction, protection, and freedom. We don’t have to live in terror of making a wrong choice and violating his purposes.

Think about it—God has revealed himself to us as our Shepherd-Guide. When life is hardest, when circumstances are most difficult, when we feel the deepest pain, he is tenderly guiding, gathering, leading, and carrying us. Always! A loving shepherd would never paralyze his sheep with fear over where to roam or rest. And in the same way, that’s not God’s heart for you. Once you’re safely inside the pasture of God’s Word, God leaves the choices up to you. As long as you don’t jump over the fence, you’re free to choose within its protection.

Doesn’t following a Shepherd-Guide sound like a more joyful life than following a divine architect who hides the blueprint and leaves us guessing in the dark? Being a Christ-follower is meant to be a joyful endeavor—and it is, when we set our hearts on God and enjoy his gifts.


Bio: James MacDonald (DMin, Phoenix Seminary) is the founder and senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leading the church since its inception in 1988 with 18 people, to the present with seven campuses in Chicagoland and 13,000 weekly attenders. His practical teaching of God’s Word is broadcast daily around the world on radio and TV through the program Walk in the Word. Dr. MacDonald also founded Harvest Bible Fellowship in 2002, a church-planting ministry which has started more than 150 vertical churches on four continents. He’s authored several books and Bible studies, including The Will of God is the Word of God, Act Like Men, Authentic, When Life Is Hard, Always True, and Vertical Church. He and his wife Kathy live in the Chicagoland area. For more information and teaching from James MacDonald, visit jamesmacdonald.org.

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Never Give Up Praying

by Lee Strobel

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Investigating Faith with Lee Strobel: Find Answers to Tough Questions About the Bible]

Baptism services were always my favorite weekends at Willow Creek Community Church, where I served as a teaching pastor for several years. I reveled in seeing so many people publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ and testify to his transforming influence in their lives. The biggest highlights for me were baptizing my own son and daughter—once the children of a caustic atheist. But I will never forget another incident that taught me again about the awesome power of prayer.

We were baptizing about seven hundred freshly redeemed people that weekend. We spent the first part of the service explaining the gospel, and then the baptism candidates began filing onto the massive stage to be baptized by one of several pastors. They were told they could invite someone to come up with them, since many were frightened at standing in front of four thousand spectators.

A woman in her sixties, accompanied by her tough-looking, construction worker–type husband, walked over to me to be baptized. I greeted her warmly and then asked a question: “Have you received Jesus Christ as the forgiver of your sins?”

“Yes, I have,” she replied, her face radiant and smiling. “Absolutely!”

I was just about to baptize her, but I was stopped cold by what I sensed was a leading by the Spirit. I turned to the man standing nervously by her side.

“You’re her husband,” I said. I meant the words as a question, but they came out more like a statement.

He nodded. “Yes, I am.”

I looked him straight in the eyes and said firmly, “Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?”

For a moment he didn’t say anything. His face began to screw into a knot. I thought he was going to explode in anger or start yelling at me! Then suddenly he burst into tears. “No, I haven’t,” he sobbed. “But I’d like to right now!”

I was stunned! His wife’s jaw dropped open. I wasn’t sure what to do—should I signal a “time-out”? Then I realized there was no reason to wait. In the next few moments, standing in front of an auditorium packed with people, I led him in the sinner’s prayer as he repented and received Christ’s gift of eternal life. And then, with all three of us weeping tears of joy, I baptized him and his wife—together.

After the service, as I was stepping down from the platform, another woman ran up to me, threw her arms around my neck, and kept sobbing, “Nine years! Nine years! Nine years!”

I managed to untangle ourselves and ask, “Who are you? And what do you mean, ‘Nine years’?”

She gestured toward the stage. “That was my brother who you led to the Lord and baptized with my sister-in-law a few minutes ago,” she said. “I have been praying for him for nine long years, and I haven’t seen one shred of spiritual interest that whole time. But look what God did today!”

Though nine years is a long time, I don’t have any doubt that she was glad she never gave up in their prayers for her brother.

I’m sure you celebrate her husband’s conversion every bit as much as I do, and yet maybe you’re thinking, “Nine years? That’s nothing! She was just getting started! I’ve been praying for my spouse for twelve or fifteen or twenty-five years—and I still haven’t seen any spiritual progress!”

Chances are you have wanted to give up. You have done the prayer drill; now you would like some sort of evangelistic shortcut to reaching your partner. But as that woman would tell you: never give up praying!

After all, Jesus didn’t. He never stopped praying for people who were far from God—including those who were bitterly opposed to him. In fact, these prayers continued right up until his death. Based on the imperfect tense of the Greek in the biblical accounts of the Crucifixion, British pastor John Stott said, “Jesus seemed to have prayed for his tormenters actually while the iron spikes were being driven through his hands and feet.” Over and over and over, Jesus kept repeating his prayer, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.

So here is the question for us: If Jesus refused to give up praying for the very soldiers who were in the process of cruelly murdering him, then how in the world could we ever stop praying not only for our own enemies but also—especially—for those who we love the most, including our own spouse?

Once I was speaking at a conference when I noticed a man who was standing by himself in the hallway. His face reflected the most visible peace of God I had seen in a long time. He absolutely exuded contentment! When I asked him about the secret of his happiness, he attributed it to his godly wife who had prayed for him—an agnostic—for twenty-seven years until he finally received Christ in repentance and faith. His conversion changed his eternity, transformed their marriage, and has brought him peace that passes human understanding.

Twenty-seven years! And if you think that is a long time, I got a letter from a Christian who prayed for his atheistic brother for forty-eight years and 348 days—until his brother finally received Christ shortly before dying of cancer. “I just had to keep praying for him,” he told me in a later phone conversation. “I had no choice!”

I hope you too feel a compulsion to pray for the salvation of your spouse and others. Perhaps these stories have encouraged you to persevere, even though you might be seeing very few signs of spiritual progress.

________

Taken from Spiritual Mismatch by Lee and Leslie Strobel. Click here to learn more about this title.

In Spiritual Mismatch, bestselling author Lee Strobel and his wife, Leslie, give you practical advice on how to live and thrive in a marriage when your spiritual beliefs don’t match. Lee and Leslie share their own story of a marriage between a Christian and an atheist as seen in the movie The Case for Christ.

Lee Strobel was the award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and is the bestselling author of The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and The Case for Grace. With a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a Master of Studies in Law degree from Yale, Lee has won four Gold Medallions for publishing excellence and coauthored the Christian Book of the Year. He serves as Professor of Christian Thought at Houston Baptist University. His story is now featured in the motion picture The Case for Christ. Visit Lee’s website at: LeeStrobel.com

Leslie Strobel has been involved in women’s ministries and one-on-one mentoring in the churches where the Strobels have served. She and Lee live in Orange County, California, and are the parents of two grown children.

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NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible Wins 2017 Christian Book Award

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Annually the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) honors what it judges to be the best Christian book and Bible releases of the year.

The Christian Book Award® program recognizes the highest quality in Christian books and Bibles and is among the oldest and most prestigious awards program in the religious publishing industry. Finalists and winners are selected in 11 categories: Bibles, Bible Reference Works, Bible Study, Ministry Resources, Biography & Memoir, Christian Living, Faith & Culture, Devotion & Gift, Children (ages 0-8), Young People’s Literature, and New Author.

See all the Christian Book Award winners in the Bible Gateway Store.

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For 2017 in the Bible category, the winner is the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: An Interview with John Walton and Craig Keener]

This award recognizes the highest accomplishment in the following areas:

  • the reader’s needs are clearly understood
  • the writing style flows smoothly and the content is distinctively accessible
  • the illustrations and features are attractive, supportive, and comprehensive
  • the charts, notes, maps, and other helps stand out and make this a good Bible choice for its stated purpose
  • the design contributes to a pleasurable experience for the intended audience and facilitates the application of the biblical text
  • the total product presents God’s Word in a faithful, innovative way so that the audience can engage with it and, with the help of the Spirit, understand and apply it.

In the Bible Reference Works category, the winner is A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by John M. Frame. And in the Bible Study category, the winner is Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.

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The NIV Faithlife Study Bible: An Interview with John D. Barry

John D. BarryA new Bible has been published that includes a combination of robust study notes, state-of-the-art color graphic, charts, and illustrations, and refreshingly fair treatment of multiple points of view on scriptural passages that provide curious readers with the facts they need to form their own opinion on the nuances from the original biblical languages for modern readers.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, NIV Faithlife Study Bible Encourages Readers to Stay Curious about God’s Word]

Bible Gateway interviewed John D. Barry (@JohnDBarry), general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible (Zondervan, 2017) (@NIVBible).

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Describe your role as general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible.

John D. Barry: I oversaw the NIV Faithlife Study Bible from idea to reality. It began as a digital resource at Faithlife Corporation. At Faithlife, I had the honor of recruiting and leading an incredible team of editors and project managers. Together, we executed the collective vision of the company to create a study Bible that fed the curiosity of readers—answering their toughest questions and allowing them to go in-depth. To accomplish this goal, we worked with talented researchers and leading scholars and pastors. My particular role involved designing the vision for the content, project plans, and personally reviewing nearly every note, article, and graphic—as well as writing quite a bit of content. I also directly worked with the publishing team at Zondervan to envision and bring to reality the print version.

Describe the team of people involved in its creation.

John D. Barry: The NIV Faithlife Study Bible is the product of rich collaboration of a team of scholars. In this regard, there’s no single author for a given set of notes; any given note has been expanded and reshaped by multiple editors. In addition, for each major genre of the Bible, a top scholar offers an overview article. Also included are articles on how we got the Bible and how to study it, from some of the foremost in the field of biblical studies. These articles help you wrestle with the difficulties of biblical history and interpretation. The NIV Faithlife Study Bible also contains a series of thematic articles from top scholars and pastors, helping you to understand the Bible and apply it to your own life. We also worked with leading graphic artists to create a new set of media—to enrich your understanding of the biblical world.

We created a study Bible that works with multiple translations. We affectionately call this “translation independence.” Unlike other study Bibles, it was written on the basis of the original languages, not a translation. This means that, for example, its insights work equally well with the NIV and NKJV.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, One Way to Explore the Rich Nuances of the Bible]

What was the vision behind this Bible?

John D. Barry: Bible study can completely transform our lives. Yet, as a nation America is less engaged with the Bible than ever before—this is primarily because the Bible is viewed as inaccessible. The NIV Faithlife Study Bible makes the Bible accessible, answering key questions about the biblical text.

This was our original vision: to help people get closer to God through their Bible study by removing the barriers for interpretation and bringing the biblical world to life. Often all that stands between people and faith is a question—the NIV Faithlife Study Bible answers the difficult questions. As editors, we draw on the full breadth of biblical scholarship, presenting the most relevant piece of data related to a particular passage so that you can understand the book that has shaped God’s people. We help you find your place in God’s story.

What makes this Bible unique?

John D. Barry: Imagine if you could set across the table from a friend in a coffee shop who was an expert in Biblical Studies—asking him or her your questions as you studied the Bible. And then imagine if that friend taught you how to think about the Bible, rather than what to think about it. Your friend would fairly present the various interpretive options and allow you to make your own interpretive decision. This is what the NIV Faithlife Study Bible does, per passage of the Bible. And it does so while standing in the grand tradition of the Christian faith and while respecting the authority of the Bible. This makes it unique. To do this, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible focuses on the biblical languages and ancient world—looking at what the Bible meant, to help you understand what it means, here and now.

The NIV Faithlife Study Bible’s stated aim is to feed reader’s curiosity. Why is it important for believers to maintain a spirit of curiosity about the Bible, even if they’ve read it many times?

John D. Barry: There’s no end to the depth of the Bible. Even after serving as general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible and as editor of Lexham Bible Dictionary, I still learn more everyday. My faith still grows each time I study the Bible and especially when I preach its message.

If God is infinite, then so is the potential of the growth of our faith in Jesus. When you learn something new about the ancient world of the Bible, the Bible’s languages, or how the biblical books relate to one another, you can’t help but love the God more who is the ultimate author behind this book. His work is incredible; the more you feed your curiosity, the more you will learn to be like Jesus—as the Holy Spirit works in you.

Which features of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible make it a unique resource to feed reader’s curiosity?

John D. Barry: The NIV Faithlife Study Bible feeds your curiosity through innovative graphics, in-depth notes based on the original languages of the Bible, and a balanced treatment of multiple viewpoints. We help you enter the story of the Bible and see how the Bible fits in the ancient world.

When we understand the Bible in its world and through its languages, we naturally see new connections to our own lives. For every passage, we as editors asked ourselves: “What questions will people have here?” Or, “What open questions does the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic text leave?” We then answered these questions based on the original languages, archeology, and history. We then asked: “What modern interpretive issues are connected to this passage?” We addressed these issues in a fair way to each interpretive view. We finally asked: “Why does this matter—how does it connect to the whole biblical story?” Whenever possible, we drew these connections, especially in passage overview notes and articles.

In its study notes, the NIV Faithlife Study Bible presents fair treatment of multiple points of view. Why was this decision made, and why is it important?

John D. Barry: The approach to the NIV Faithlife Study Bible is entirely different than any other study Bible; this comes from a focus on the Bible’s languages, worldview, and context—while explaining modern viewpoints derived from the text. It’s these modern viewpoints where interpreters greatly differ. Faithful Christians often hold different views on major topics, such as the events of the end times. We help you understand the differences, fairly representing each view. You can then decide what you think.

Our coverage of interpretive issues is also very in-depth. Our approach is so detailed that there are often word-by-word notes. But we don’t do this at the expense of the larger story. To cover the macro-story of the Bible, we illustrate the biblical context with beautiful full-color graphics, biblical book introductions, and passage overview notes. Even our biblical book introductions take a different approach than what’s offered elsewhere. We emphasize the cohesiveness of a biblical book and the biblical narrative, yet address complicated issues of authorship and dating—presenting all the major viewpoints as we do so.

You’re also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Jesus’ Economy, which creates jobs and churches in the developing world. Can you tell us more about what led you to found this organization and about the work you perform?

John D. Barry: Bible study is critical and we have to be engaged in spreading the Bible’s message. The Bible teaches us to love the whole person. In this regard, Jesus’ Economy is dedicated to renewing entire communities: creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs. We primarily focus on areas where people have never heard Jesus’ name and where extreme poverty exists. As part of our efforts to create jobs, we also offer an online fair trade shop at JesusEconomy.org/FairTrade.

The goals of Jesus’ Economy and NIV Faithlife Study Bible are in direct alignment. Our goal with NIV Faithlife Study Bible is to help people fall in love with the resurrected Jesus and understand his message. Jesus calls us to spread that message, loving God and other people. Jesus’ Economy provides a direct way for people to love the impoverished through creating jobs and churches. We make it so that not only when you give, but also when you shop, you can help others. We interconnect creating jobs, planting churches, and meeting basic needs. Jesus’ Economy is a movement anyone can join at JesusEconomy.org.

I hope and pray that someday people all over the world will be passionate about the Bible and the God behind it. Because I know it’s transformative power—I’ve seen it and, by God’s grace, I’m a product of it. That’s why I’ve dedicated my life’s work to this.


Bio: John D. Barry is general editor of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible and the CEO of Jesus’ Economy, an innovative non-profit creating jobs and churches in the developing world. At JesusEconomy.org, people create jobs for the impoverished by shopping fair trade. They can also give directly to a cause they’re passionate about, such as creating jobs, planting churches, or meeting basic needs. 100% goes to the developing world. Anyone can join the movement at JesusEconomy.org.

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Dictionary of Christianity and Science: Biblical Chronology

James HannamThe following is an entry by James Hannam (PhD, University of Cambridge) in the Dictionary of Christianity and Science (Zondervan, 2017), in which more than 125 leading thinkers have encapsulated the meaning and significance of 450 major terms, theories, people, and movements on how science relates to the Christian faith.

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, When Was Each Book of the Bible Written?]

BIBLICAL CHRONOLOGY

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The events in the Old Testament narrative can be assigned absolute dates and correlated to nonbiblical sources back to the beginning of the divided monarchy in the 10th century BC. Before that time, the lack of external material and precise durations in the Bible itself make establishing a chronology more difficult. For the New Testament, a high degree of certainty is possible about the date of Jesus’s death and some significant episodes in the book of Acts.

The Divided Monarchy

The historical books of the Bible, especially 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles, provide a list of rulers and the lengths of their reigns for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. This is typical of the records discovered by archaeologists in respect to other civilizations. The biblical list can be correlated to these nonbiblical sources using events that are mentioned in both. The most famous of these is the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrian king Sennacherib mentioned in 2 Kings 18:13-19:36 and 2 Chronicles 32:1-21, as well as in Assyria’s own annals. Two hundred years earlier, the Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonq I carried out a raid that took in several Canaanite and Judean cities. This is mentioned in the Bible at 1 Kings 14:25 and commemorated by Sheshonq in inscriptions on his temple at Karnak in Egypt.

The durations the Bible gives for the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah do give rise to some difficult questions of detail. For example, when 2 Kings 21:19 says that King Amon of Judah ruled for two years, it may be that this includes both the first and last year of his reign or neither. This would mean that one year could be double counted or undercounted with that of his predecessor or successor. So Amon might have reigned for barely a year or almost four. Using correlations within the Bible and with events mentioned in extrabiblical sources, it is possible to establish that double counting was common in the northern kingdom but probably abandoned in the southern kingdom in the 7th century BC. Judah and Israel also seem to have marked the new year six months apart, in spring in Judah and in fall in Israel. By taking such complications into account, the accuracy of the biblical king lists can be better established and events in the Bible synchronized with those in other ancient Near Eastern civilizations.

The king lists are known as “floating” or “relative” chronologies by historians because they tell us what happened relative to other events but do not provide absolute dates. Thus, for example, we can say with confidence that King Hoshea of Israel ascended the throne four years before Shalmaneser V of Assyria because we know Shalmaneser captured Samaria in his fifth year, which was the ninth year of Hoshea. But we cannot, from this information alone, tell in which year Hoshea’s reign started.

To provide absolute dates, historians depend on rare references to astronomical events that can be dated precisely due to the regular movements of the stars. On June 15, 763 BC, a near total eclipse of the sun was visible over a swath of the Near East. The event was noted in the official list of Assyrian high officials, providing the earliest absolute and uncontroversial date in ancient history. By counting from this event through the king lists, historians can provide absolute dates to all the other episodes recorded in Hebrew, Egyptian, and Assyrian chronicles. Thus we know Hoshea’s reign started in 732 BC, Shalmaneser’s reign started in 727 BC, and Samaria fell in 722 BC.

These dates are relatively uncontroversial. A minority of chronologists, such as Peter James, have attempted to construct other chronologies that differ from the mainstream reconstructions. Although some of these alternative models are superficially attractive, they have received little wider assent. Correlation of biblical events to particular archaeological remains has also proven difficult. The examination of potsherds and carbon dating are not presently accurate enough to provide absolute dates to archaeological finds, and they require external calibration in any case. It may well be that dendrochronology (dating from counting tree rings) and ice cores will eventually allow absolute dates to be assigned to some of the remains dug up in the Levant.

The United Monarchy and Earlier

Prior to the invasion of Canaan by the pharaoh Sheshonq in 925 BC, there are no external sources that corroborate events described in the Bible. Indeed, precisely dating the raid of Sheshonq is only possible by using biblical evidence. Thus chronology prior to this date can only be established using internal evidence in the Bible itself. This means that dates for the reigns of the kings Saul, David, and Solomon cannot be determined precisely since there is no external control to mediate questions such as the “double counting” described above. However, uncertainties for this period are unlikely to be more than a few years in either direction.

The lack of external sources is in no way surprising. The 13th to 10th centuries BC are known as the Bronze Age collapse, when several ancient Near East civilizations went into decline or disappeared completely. This is precisely the environment in which an upstart kingdom such as David’s Israel could enjoy a period of expansion as the power of its neighbors waned. However, the collapse means that very few written sources pertaining to Canaan exist for this time.

These issues become even more acute for events before the United Monarchy. The dates provided by the biblical authors themselves become less precise for the period of the Judges and previously. External sources remain scarce. Furthermore, as the Hebrews did not at this time form an identifiable kingdom, there is less reason for them to be mentioned in the official documents of other civilizations. It is also unfortunate that Exodus does not give the name of the Pharaoh who released the Israelites. While he is traditionally identified with Rameses II, there is no way to be sure.

In recent years, ice cores and improved carbon dating have caused the entire chronology of the second millennium BC to be revised. The eruption of the volcano Thera in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, previously thought to have happened after 1500 BC, has now been redated to approximately 1620 BC. With all chronology before 1200 BC so fluid, it is not possible to assign absolute dates to biblical events.

Internal evidence in the Bible dates the exodus to before 1400 BC, in which case Joseph probably lived in about 1800 BC and Abraham left Ur a couple of centuries earlier. In the mid-20th century, the archaeologist William Albright suggested that the exodus took place rather later, in the 13th century BC. His dating, which was based on destruction layers and artifacts that he had uncovered in

The New Testament

Unlike many other biblical authors, Luke is concerned to provide his readers with precise dates, and other authors in the New Testament make reference to outside events. However, though most events in the New Testament can be dated to within a year or two, there are still areas of controversy. For example, the nativity narratives are difficult to reconcile, and most scholars prefer Matthew’s date for the birth of Jesus of around 6 BC. At Luke 3:1 the evangelist tells us that John the Baptist’s ministry began in the 15th year of the emperor Tiberius while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. This is likely to mean AD 26. The Gospel of John, preferred by many scholars for being an eyewitness account, dates the cleansing of the temple in Jerusalem to 46 years after it was completed, which would be AD 28.

All the Gospels agree that Jesus was crucified at Passover on a Friday. This means he must have died on AD April 7, 30, although AD 33 also has its partisans. The events in the Acts of the Apostles occurred through the 30s to the 50s and conclude with Paul a prisoner in Rome in about AD 62. Both he and Peter were executed during the persecutions of Nero shortly thereafter and are known to have taken place in AD 64.

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Bible News Roundup – Week of May 14, 2017

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Record Few Americans Believe Bible Is Literal Word of God
Gallup

Study: Clergy and Congregants of Growing Churches in Canada are More Theologically Conservative and Exhibit Higher Rates of Bible Reading and Prayer
Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy
CT: Even in Canada, Conservative Churches Are Growing

American Bible Society’s Magellan Project Ad Campaign Seeks Bible Engagement
CBA
The Magellan Coalition website
See the Scripture Engagement section on Bible Gateway

Bible Verse Decals to Come Off Patrol Cars, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Says
The Roanoke Times
Read Matthew 5:9 in all English Bible translations on Bible Gateway

Fired Teacher Who Gave Student a Bible Gets Job Back
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First Liberty case summary

The Bible in Medieval Sermons: Part 1 for Understanding the Top Ten Bible Verses in Medieval England
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Israeli Artist Illuminates the Pentateuch
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British Church Decline has Ended, Report Suggests
Premier
Report: The “No Religion” Population of Britain

International Religious Freedom Worsening in Both ‘Depth and Breadth’
AINA

US Military Doubles Number of Recognized Religions to 221
Cranach

Evangelical Leaders Will Celebrate the Reformation at 2017 European Leadership Forum Conference
Evangelical Focus
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Reformation Study Bible: An Interview with Dr. R.C. Sproul
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, How to Boost Your Bible Study with The Reformation Study Bible for Free on Bible Gateway
See the Reformation Studies section in the Bible Gateway Store

Free Pipe Organ Needs a New Home and Quickly
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A Proverb for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is right around the corner! Celebrate the mom (or mother-figure) in your life with the beautiful words of Proverbs 31:

There’s more to this much-loved Bible passage, which you can read online at Bible Gateway. This depiction of a God-honoring woman is so memorable that you’ll occasionally hear a particularly inspiring woman described simply as a “Proverbs 31 woman.” If there’s a Proverbs 31 woman in your life, take some time this weekend to let her know how much she means to you!

The Bible recounts the stories of many women who, in different roles and situations, provide living models of the God-honoring life. Through their triumphs and occasional failures, they teach us about the character traits that God treasures in wives, mothers, daughters, and anyone. To learn about nine such extraordinary women who made a difference in the Bible, sign up for our new devotional, 9 Key Women in the Bible. Each day for nine days, you’ll learn about a different women who faced terrible challenges—and who made a difference.

Sign up today, and if somebody in your life would benefit from learning about these biblical role models, encourage them to do the same!
9 Key Women of the Bible devotional for Mother's Day

The Ten Commandments Past and Present: An Interview with David L. Baker

David L. BakerThe Ten Commandments, or Decalogue (see below), have long been a pillar of Western law and culture. In more recent times they’ve become a point of controversy in the public square. What place do these “Ten Words” that God delivered at Sinai millennia ago have today?

Bible Gateway interviewed David L. Baker about his book, The Decalogue: Living as the People of God (IVP Academic, 2017).

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Explain what the Ten Commandments are.

David L. Baker: The Ten Commandments are basic principles for life, given by God to his people after their liberation from slavery in Egypt. They are recorded twice in the Old Testament, in Exodus 20:1-21 and Deuteronomy 5:1-22.

Why do you refer to the Ten Commandments as the Decalogue?

David L. Baker: The term ‘commandment’ sounds a bit legalistic. In fact, the Hebrew term is quite broad and a more precise translation would be ‘word’ or ‘thing.’ Because of this, scholars generally prefer the term Decalogue, which means ‘Ten Words’ or ‘Ten Things.’

What is the date of origin of the Decalogue?

David L. Baker: There are many different opinions, but I believe it comes from the early days of Israel’s life as a nation. This would be either the 15th or 13th century BC, depending on the date of the exodus from Egypt (a matter still debated by scholars).

Is there significance to the number “10” and why are there different ways of numbering them?

David L. Baker: No reason is given for the number “10”, and it may be simply a practical number for memorization since it fits the number of fingers on our hands. However, although we’re told elsewhere that there are ten commandments (Exod. 34:28; Deut. 4:13; 10:4), the text of the Decalogue itself is not divided into numbered sections. Because of this, several different ways of numbering have developed over the centuries.

The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20:1-17 (VOICE)

I. I am the Eternal your God. I led you out of Egypt and liberated you from lives of slavery and oppression. You are not to serve any other gods before Me.

II. You are not to make any idol or image of other gods. In fact, you are not to make an image of anything in the heavens above, on the earth below, or in the waters beneath. You are not to bow down and serve any image, for I, the Eternal your God, am a jealous God. As for those who are not loyal to Me, their children will endure the consequences of their sins for three or four generations. But for those who love Me and keep My directives, their children will experience My loyal love for a thousand generations.

III. You are not to use My name for your own idle purposes, for the Eternal will punish anyone who treats His name as anything less than sacred.

IV. You and your family are to remember the Sabbath Day; set it apart, and keep it holy. You have six days to do all your work, but the seventh day is to be different; it is the Sabbath of the Eternal your God. Keep it holy by not doing any work—not you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, or any outsiders living among you. For the Eternal made the heavens above, the earth below, the seas, and all the creatures in them in six days. Then, on the seventh day, He rested. That is why He blessed the Sabbath Day and made it sacred.

V. You are to honor your father and mother. If you do, you and your children will live long and well in the land the Eternal your God has promised to give you.

VI. You are not to murder.

VII. You are not to commit adultery.

VIII. You are not to take what is not yours.

IX. You are not to give false testimony against your neighbor.

X. You are not to covet what your neighbor has or set your heart on getting his house, his wife, his male or female servants, his ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

Also read in parallel the Ten Commandments as translated in the KJV, NIV, ESV, NLT, and CEB versions of the Bible on Bible Gateway.

What does it mean to divide the commandments into two groups?

David L. Baker: These principles for life concern two fundamental matters: our relationship with God and relationships with other human beings. Accordingly, there are two groups of commandments. The first four are about relating to God, while the last five are about relating to other people. I argue that the fifth (honoring parents) is also indirectly concerned with relating to God, since parents have a unique role as God’s representatives in giving us life.

Is the order of the commandments significant?

David L. Baker: Yes; in both groups the most important commandments come first. For example, the second group begins with the most serious offense against another human being (homicide), then moves on to progressively less serious offences (adultery, theft, perjury, coveting).

Why did the Decalogue come into being?

David L. Baker: The liberated slaves who left Egypt needed guidelines for their new life as a free nation. The Decalogue came into being to provide these guidelines, given to them by God as their ultimate ruler and Moses as their human leader. It was like a constitution for the people of God, beginning with the basis for Israel’s special relationship with God and listing her primary obligations in maintaining that relationship.

What are the three ways in which you explore and unpack each commandment in your book?

David L. Baker: First, I place each commandment in the context of other known laws at that point in history, especially the laws of the ancient Near East. Then I explore the meaning of the commandment in the context of the Old Testament, to see how it would have been understood and implemented by the people of God. Finally, I reflect on the relevance of the commandment today, for people who live in a very different context from those who first received these laws.

What’s the practical application today of keeping the Sabbath day holy?

David L. Baker: The word ‘holy’ is not used much today, but in everyday language it means ‘special’ or ‘set apart.’ In the Bible, this means two things. First, the Sabbath is a day for rest, while the other six days are for working (Gen. 2:2-3; Exod. 20:9-11; 31:15). Second, the Sabbath is set apart for worship, with a special focus on God (Exod. 31:13; 35:2; Lev. 23:3).

In practical terms, this means doing our work and other regular activities for six days, then making the seventh day special. Most Christians can take Sunday as their Sabbath, probably going to church and spending time with family and friends. Those who need to work on Sundays can take an alternative day of rest and use their initiative to focus on God in a special way. Jews and Seventh-Day Adventists will of course celebrate Sabbath on Saturday.

What did it mean to honor parents in ancient times and what does it mean today?

David L. Baker: Honoring parents in the ancient world was concerned with their dignity and support. Younger people were expected to respect the wisdom and experience of older people, especially their own parents, and to give practical care and support when needed.

In many traditional societies, the same principles still apply today and those who honor the old may expect to enjoy such honor themselves in due course. In contrast, modern Western society tends to glorify youth and dread old age. The fifth commandment may be a helpful corrective for younger people who are enthusiastic for innovation, not to act as though it’s easy to do better than one’s forebears or assume that new ideas are necessarily an improvement on old ones.

What did Jesus say about Old Testament law?

David L. Baker: One of Jesus’ most important statements concerns Old Testament law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them” (Matt. 5:17). He also summed up the law in two great commandments (Matt. 22:35-40): loving God (equals commandments 1–5) and loving our neighbor (equals commandments 6–10). Clearly Jesus valued Old Testament law highly and the same should be true for all who follow his teaching today.

What do you mean “it’s crucial to remember the distinction between salvation by obedience to the law and obedience to the law as a response to salvation”?

David L. Baker: Many people mistakenly think the Old Testament is a legalistic book that teaches we can be saved by obeying the law, while the New Testament teaches salvation by grace. This is a complete misunderstanding. In fact, the Old Testament teaches that people are saved by the grace of God. For example, the people of Israel were freed from Egyptian slavery because God had compassion on them (Exod. 1–19) and it was only afterwards that they were given the law as principles for their new life (Exod. 20–40). So, the laws are guidelines for living as the people of God, not requirements for becoming the people of God.

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

David L. Baker: It’s a wonderful resource for reading the Bible and comparing different translations, freely available to all. I imagine it’s particularly valuable in places where printed Bibles are difficult or dangerous to obtain.

Bio: David L. Baker (PhD, University of Sheffield) is a lecturer in biblical studies at All Nations Christian College, Hertfordshire, England. He previously taught in Indonesia for over 20 years, with a special interest in the Old Testament. During that time, he was also involved in theological publishing, Bible translation, and church ministry. More recently he’s been deputy warden at Tyndale House, Cambridge, and Old Testament lecturer at Trinity Theological College in Perth, Australia.

He’s the author of The Decalogue: Living as the People of God, Two Testaments, One Bible, and Tight Fists or Open Hands?: Wealth and Poverty in Old Testament Law. He has also published articles in a variety of academic journals and several textbooks in Indonesian. His research interests include Deuteronomy, the Decalogue, the relationship between the Testaments, and wealth and poverty in the Old Testament.

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Your Marriage Vows—in Sickness and in Health

by Dr. Les Parrott

Leslie had the flu a week ago. I can’t stand it when she’s sick. I feel so helpless, like I can’t do a thing in the world to make her feel any better. I run to the store and pick up a bottle of 7-Up and some soda crackers. This last time I bought a couple of different kinds of flu medicine. “That’s so sweet,” she said to me as she sat up on the couch wrapped in a blanket.

Okay, I thought to myself, it will be another day or so and she’ll be up and at ’em. But she wasn’t. For the rest of the week she stayed in bed, sipping 7-Up from a straw and complaining that the house was too cold, then too hot, then too cold. What am I supposed to do now? I wondered. I called our doctor. He said the flu was going around and all Leslie needed was bed rest. Ugh! I wanted to do something so I wouldn’t feel so helpless. I guess that’s why I enjoy stories of couples whose love has survived a time of serious illness. And I’m a sucker for any movie about tragic love.

But there is one real-life love story that invades my mind whenever Leslie gets sick. It puts my feelings of helplessness into perspective. In Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, we told the story of Robertson McQuilkin and his wife Muriel, and it deserves repeating. The love he demonstrated for her when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease is nothing less than extraordinary. Robertson was a college president who still had eight years to go before retirement. Muriel, once the host of a successful radio program, was experiencing tragic memory failure. She could not speak in sentences, only words, and often words that made little sense. But she could say one sentence, and she said it often: “I love you.” While Robertson’s friends urged him to arrange for the institutionalization of Muriel, he would not stand for it. “How could anyone love her the way I do?” asked Robertson.

Have you thought much about the part of your wedding vow that says, “To love and to honor in sickness and in health”? Robertson McQuilkin has. But not only has he thought about it, he’s lived it. Believing that being faithful to Muriel “in sickness and in health” was a matter of integrity, Robertson McQuilkin resigned his presidency, and for the thirteen years of her decline he cared for his wife full-time.

Robertson understood the words of Christ when he said, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me” (Matt. 25:36). How about you? The next time your partner is ill, remember that it is an opportunity to put hands and feet to your marriage vows—in sickness and in health.

________

Taken from Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts Devotional by Drs. Les & Leslie Parrott. Copyright © 2017 by Les & Leslie Parrott. Used by permission of Zondervan. Click here to learn more about this title.

Every couple has a restless aching, not just to know God individually but to experience God together. Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts Devotional gives you a road map for cultivating rich spiritual intimacy in your relationship.

Written by the creators of the most widely used pre-marriage program in the world, this devotional includes fifty-two weekly meditations help the two of you grow closer than you’ve ever imagined.

Start building on the closeness you’ve got today – and reap the rewards of a more satisfying relationship as you enjoy the intimacy of lifelong love together.

Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott are a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist and founders of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University. Their bestselling books include Love Talk, Crazy Good Sex, The Complete Guide to Marriage Mentoring, and the award-winning Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. Their work has been featured in The New York Times and USA Today, and they have appeared on CNN, O’Reilly Factor, Good Morning America, Today Show, The View, and Oprah. They live with their two sons in Seattle. Visit www.LesandLeslie.com.

The Gospel According to Paul: An Interview with John MacArthur

John MacArthurWhat did the Apostle Paul mean when he wrote that Christ died for our sins? How is the gospel profound and at the same time simple? What exactly is the gospel?

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In this video interview, John MacArthur (@johnmacarthur) talks about his book, The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teaching (Thomas Nelson, 2017).

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John MacArthur’s references to the Bible in his answers:

Read The Letters of Paul on Bible Gateway


Bio: John MacArthur has served as the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, since 1969. His ministry of expository preaching is unparalleled in its breadth and influence; in more than four decades of ministry from the same pulpit, he has preached verse by verse through the entire New Testament (and several key sections of the Old Testament). He is president of the Master’s University and Seminary and can be heard daily on the Grace to You radio broadcast (carried on hundreds of radio stations worldwide). He has authored a number of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, Twelve Ordinary Men, and One Perfect Life. For more details about John MacArthur and his Bible-teaching resources, visit gty.org.

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