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Though the Earth Give Way – Earthquake in Nepal

The words of Psalm 46 may come to mind as we think of the many who suffer in earthquake-stricken Nepal.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

One of the certainties of life is that life is full of uncertainty. No one knows when he or she might fall sick, or have an auto accident, or witness a natural catastrophe—be it fire, flood, or earthquake. Such was the case in Nepal April 25 when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck at 11:56 am. This was a day of worship for many Nepalese churches, and so people were together. Thankfully, many church buildings are simple structures with tin roofs, but there have been casualties. One church near the capital of Kathmandu saw 70 worshippers killed when their building collapsed.

A friend of mine in Nepal who is a Christian leader reported today:

“Eight million people have been affected and many have become homeless, parentless and widowed. My heart cries when I see people desperate, watch the news and see the television reports. There is a shortage of food, water and tents to sleep in. Almost 90% people of Kathmandu are sleeping on the street and in open spaces, but very few have got tents. Markets, banks, transportation and business houses are closed.”

“Though the earth give way and the mountain fall into the heart of the sea.” That is how the Psalmist describes the uncertainty of life. People in Nepal have seen the earth shake underneath them, and other people in other parts of the world have their lives changed by terrorism, or crime, or illness. “Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall.”

This is when people turn to God. It is a time when that righteous prayer that Jesus taught comes to mind: “Lord, have mercy.”

What protection do we have in such a dangerous world? Where can we go where we will be safe?

Psalm 46 contrasts the experience of earthquakes and plagues and wars with the fortress that is God: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.” This statement recalls Jerusalem, but not as a walled city. There are no walls high enough or strong enough to prevent bad things from happening. Protection comes from God himself. He is the “refuge and strength,” the “ever-present help,” the “fortress.”

We cannot be glib about this. Or cliche. Or sanctimonious. It is easy to ponder the words of Psalm 46 when we’re sitting in a comfortable place, relatively free of worry of an earthquake. Yet the words are true. It is time to turn to God, all of us, for he is our refuge.

The people of Nepal deserve our prayers. And our help. We must not forget them as they live one long day after another, with many months of recovery ahead.

For more details on the situation on the ground, go here.

The Bible in Nepali can be read on Bible Gateway. And you can follow relief agencies’ updates with Bible Gateway’s Relief Agency Twitter List.

Mel Lawrenz is Director of The Brook Network and creator of The Influence Project. He’s the author of thirteen books, most recently Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership He writes the weekly How to Understand the Bible lesson series at the Bible Gateway Blog.

How Should We Understand the Book of Revelation?

howtounderstandthebible

This is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Understand the Bible” series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


If we did not realize already that it takes a lifetime to understand the Bible (and that’s a good thing), the point is driven home when we get to the last book in the Bible—Revelation. It starts out simply enough, it is a “revelation (in Greek, apocalypse) from Jesus Christ,” it is a “prophecy,” and it comes as a letter to seven churches. Fair enough, but then come the angels, beasts, earthquakes, horses and riders, wars, thrones, and much more. What are we to make of all this?

JohnPatmos

Here are two unhelpful approaches to Revelation. One is to think it is such an incomprehensible book of enigmas and riddles that we avoid it. The second is to uncritically follow someone else’s arbitrary interpretation of all the details and hidden meanings of its passages. Revelation is not too hard to comprehend, and we should benefit from it. But first we need to understand the big picture.

Revelation never describes itself as a symbolic code of future events plotted on a timeline. Like the books of prophecy in the Old Testament, Revelation proclaims a message. In Revelation the message is that God is coming to judge and to redeem, and that the powers of evil and empires will clash before God establishes the fullness of his kingdom. That central message gives people two things: warnings and comfort, just as the Old Testament books of prophecy did.

If we keep our eyes on this central message and the intended effects, we will be less likely to get bogged down when we get into details in the book.

The book of Revelation is similar to other literature of the time that’s called “apocalyptic,” which typically includes visions, global clashes, end-of-the-world warnings, and many, many symbols. It is, of course, the cryptic symbolism of Revelation that makes it challenging to understand. But when we connect many of the symbols with elements that appear earlier in the Old Testament Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, the message emerges from the details.

A commentary that many have found very helpful is The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened, by Michael Wilcock (part of The Bible Speaks Today series). Like the other commentaries in this series, the focus is on the message of the book. Here is how Wilcock outlines the flow of Revelation:

The number seven appears many times in the book, 54 times altogether, and it is obvious that most of the book is organized around cycles of seven. Seven proclamations to seven churches (chapters 2–3), and three sets of seven-part visionary narratives: the seven seals (4:1–8:1), the seven trumpets (8:2–11:18), and the seven bowls (15:5–16:21).

Nothing in the book of Revelation suggests that its sequence of symbols and visions are to be plotted along a chronological timeline, all related strictly to the very end of human history. Christians in the first few generations saw the descriptions of persecution against God’s people as exactly what they were experiencing, for instance, at the end of the first century during the reign of Roman Emperor Domitian. Christians today who experience the spiritual battles of persecution, sometimes at the hands of national, totalitarian powers, read Revelation as a letter to them.

The three sets of seven (seals, trumpets, bowls) may best be read as three great cycles of bloody conflict and victory, each rising to a higher level of intensity. Here Revelation is not just describing what will happen in the future, but what does happen in history and will continue happening until the end.

The end of the story is an astonishing description of a new creation, including symbols of a new city, a new temple, and a new people. The message is this: God will prevail. A day is coming when “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (21:4). The ultimate victory of God is a closeness and a communion with his people.

What can we do to understand the book of Revelation? Reading it straight through in one, two, or three settings is very helpful because you will see connections. Read it in different translations. And sometime read it alongside one of the better commentaries. (Recommended: Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation.)


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

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

Bible News Roundup – Week of April 26, 2015

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter.
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2014—A Remarkable Year for Bible Translation, Despite Challenges
United Bible Societies

Ecumenical Bible Week 2015: 24-31 May (Ireland)
Bible Week website

Citing lack of funding, New York’s Museum of Biblical Art to close
Religion News Service
Blogpost: A Collection of Bible Museums & Exhibits

Torah scroll to be sent to the moon
Jerusalem Post
Blogpost: First Liquid Poured on the Moon and the First Food Eaten There Were Communion Elements

David Trobisch lends Green family’s Bible Museum a scholarly edge
BBC News

The most churched, unchurched cities in the USA are…
OneNewsNow

Pinhead-sized Bible goes on show in Jerusalem
BBC News

Can a robot write sacred Jewish scriptures?
BBC News

Can Australian culture be understood without knowing the Bible?
612 ABC Brisbane

Thousands welcome arrival of 400-year-old King James Bible in Papua New Guinea
ABC

Plan for 17th century Bible in Papua New Guinea parliament meets opposition
Radio Australia

Bible from USA brings thousands to tears, joy in Papua New Guinea
PNGLOOP

National Day of Prayer will feature Bible readings, prayer meetings
The Rocky Mount Telegram

West Virginia ‘Bible in the Schools’ program to host gospel benefit marking it’s 75th year
Bluefield Daily Telegraph


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What is Unique About the Books of James and Hebrews?

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This is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Understand the Bible” series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


We continue to find astonishing variety in the Scriptures when we look at two New Testament books: James, a book of Christian wisdom, and Hebrews, which explains the complicated connections between the old covenant and the new. Both of these books are not addressed to a particular Christian group. They are sometimes called “general epistles.”

Hebrews

The epistle of James, which was probably written by the James who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15), focuses on the practicalities of personal and community life. There is nothing in James about the nature of God, the plan of redemption, or the atonement; and Jesus is mentioned only twice. James is almost like the book of Proverbs for the New Testament. Wisdom is not an elite and specialized knowledge, it is everyday practical lifestyle rooted in values that come “from heaven.”

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13-17)

This is straightforward and challenging. It is a call to action. If today’s leaders would take James’ description of wisdom as their paradigm of leadership, our communities would look entirely different. James is also known for the challenge to put faith into action (James 2:14-24). “What good is it… if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” (2:14). James confronts favoritism, greed, and destructive talk. James gives some perspective for those going through trials or who are teetering on the edge of temptation. James challenges us to be patient, respectful, and peace-loving.

The greatest challenge in reading the epistle of James is not so much understanding what it means, but living what it prescribes.

The book of Hebrews is long for an epistle. It is steeped in details about the Old Testament sacrificial system and explanations of how the plan of redemption has been fulfilled in Jesus. It is a mystery who authored this book. “To the Hebrews,” means it was written for Jewish Christians who especially needed a theological explanation of how faith in Christ fulfilled the Old Testament law.

The first 10 chapters describe how Christ and faith in Christ has superseded the old covenant, has surpassed the accomplishments of Moses and Joshua, and has replaced the priesthood and the sacrificial system.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 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. (Heb. 4:14-16)

The book of Hebrews provides a key to unlocking challenging questions about the story of God in which he works for centuries in and through a special covenant people, starting with Abraham, but then does something entirely new in Jesus. It is not that the terms of a relationship with God have changed, which always was and always will be faith based on grace. But the scope of God’s grace now expands to the whole world with the atonement in Jesus.

The book of Hebrews also warns believers about falling away from the faith, and challenges them to persevere in difficult circumstances, remaining faithful to the new covenant. Hebrews 11 is a stunning description of how faith and hope across the ages have been the distinguishing characteristics of God’s people, beginning with Abraham. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (Heb. 11:1-2). The followers of Jesus have, in his sacrifice, the power to overcome sin and to persevere:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

To understand Hebrews, we have to look backwards into the Old Testament, seeing how spiritual realities are anticipated and then fulfilled. When we do that, we will be stunned by the wide scope of biblical truth in the great narrative that stretches from a covenant with Bedouin shepherds from Mesopotamia to the entire world. And Hebrews lets us know that taking the long view—of persevering and plodding, of believing and behaving rightly—always has been the way of God with men and women.


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

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

Bible News Roundup – Week of April 19, 2015

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See Ancient Biblical Texts on Display at Special Billy Graham Library Event
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Shroud Of Turin Goes Back On Display In Italy until June 24; 1M people have signed up to see it
NPR

Award-Winning Vocalist Natalie Grant to Serve as Spokesperson for Zondervan’s Faithgirlz Brand
Read the story
See FaithGirlz books in the Bible Gateway Store.

Bible Society Australia shows how soldiers turned to God during wars in Anzac campaign.
Mumbrella

What’s Next For A 500-Year-Old King James Bible? Methodists Assess Their Rare Finds
Nashville Public Radio

New Scripture recordings to reach millions in their heart language
Mission Network News

Final volume of the Saint John’s Bible presented to pope
St. Cloud Times
Also see “The Saint John’s Bible: A Work of Art

World’s Tiniest Bible to be Presented at Israel Museum for 50th Anniversary
JNS

Hillary Scott’s Bible survives Lady Antebellum fire
The Washington Post

State senate kills bill to make Bible official Tennessee book
The Tennessean

Papua New Guinea speaker leads delegation to US to collect 400-year old Bible
Radio New Zealand International

Oklahoma Attorney General defends Bible distribution in schools
Tulsa World


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Life After the Storm: An Interview with Jan Harrison

Jan HarrisonIf winds of change, doubt, or grief are swirling about you, how can you best embrace the lifelines of God’s presence, Word, and promises of hope and healing?

Bible Gateway interviewed Jan Harrison (@JanMHarrison77) about her book, Life After the Storm: God Will Carry You Through (Harvest House Publishers, 2015).

What was the storm you endured that is the reason you wrote this book?

Jan Harrison: The personal storm leading me to write this book was the sudden death of my 27-year-old, son, James, while he was living and working in Africa. He died very quickly of untreated acute pneumonia.

Click to buy your copy of Life After the Storm in the Bible Gateway StoreHow does the Bible form the foundation for a person to weather personal storms?

Jan Harrison: A personal foundation built on the truth of God’s word and the strength of His promises will equip us to withstand the overwhelming pressures and trials we face in life. The Bible is filled with examples of people who suffered intense trials and storms. If we will become familiar with God’s character and his great love for us, as expressed in his Word, we will cultivate the inner assurance of His presence with us in the storm and confidence in him to take us through. In order to trust him we must know him. To know him personally we must learn to listen to him speak to us through his Word and then apply it to our lives.

What’s the common thread that stretches through Bible stories, from Noah to the apostles, and how does that apply to us today?

Jan Harrison: The common thread that stretches throughout the Bible from Noah to the apostles is God’s plan for salvation. He provided the way for mankind to be reconciled to him through Jesus from the very beginning. His love is so great and his heart so deep he continually demonstrates his desire to save and redeem what is hopeless and lost. Because he never changes, ”Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8), the same thread weaves through our lives today. Salvation is through the cross of Christ and restoration through the life of Christ in us. He uses our lives and our storms as opportunities to demonstrate his power to redeem and resurrect all who trust in him regardless of how hopeless or lost.

What Scripture verses remind you of God’s power during a life storm and how have they helped you?

Jan Harrison: Scripture verses for life storms are the surest way to find clarity and strength. As questions spun around in my head, the truth of God’s word surfaced in my heart. I began to speak words of Scripture out loud because I knew, “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). My faith was strengthened as I focused my thoughts on his Word.

“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. No matter what the day, or this season in your life holds, Jesus tells us he’s with us all the way through and even beyond this present life.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 When Jesus says never, he means it. He is loyal to me!

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27. Jesus knew life’s situations and circumstances would threaten to overwhelm us with doubts and fears. He did not say we would have enough peace to survive. He gave us his peace. He had peace in the face of rejection, betrayal, abuse, false accusation, hatred, and cruelty. He had peace when the weight of the sin of the whole world was put on him. He had peace when he hung on the cross and bled and died the death I deserved. He gives us nothing less than his peace.

“My God in His loving kindness will meet me; God will let me look triumphantly on my foes.” Psalm 59:10. My God is personally involved in this threatening life storm and he meets me in it and takes it up on my behalf.

“In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:11. God’s power reigns. He over rules the motives and activities of men.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6. The storms of life will knock you off course but keep looking to him and trust his word and work to show you the next step. When you look back you’ll see he led you on a straight path.

How does the Bible fit in to what you describe as God’s survival kit for the storm?

Jan Harrison: God’s survival kit must have a used Bible! Without it we have no guide for how to survive. In fact, we have no clear directions for how to live. We need to be familiar with the Bible to know the Maker’s instructions for eternal life, and to know the full and abundant life he has provided for us. The Word of God is life and it’s through the word that we receive salvation. Once our eternal survival is established, the Bible will reveal every single necessary element to not only survive, but thrive in this world. Get your Bible and become very familiar with it and you’ll not become a storm casualty.

What lessons do you draw from Matthew 7:24-27?

Jan Harrison: Jesus is using two contrasting building sites as the object lesson in this teaching. Two men have built their lives on very different types of foundations.

The first man builds his house on the rock. Jesus calls this man wise because he hears and acts on His word. “The rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against the house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.” Matthew 7:25.

This man’s foundation was established on the Rock of Ages. The life and word of Christ will stand forever. Nothing can change or erode or ruin what is established in him. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Matthew 24:35.

This man is considered wise because he not only attends church, Bible study, and prayer meetings, but he applies the word of God to his life. He walks in obedience to the truth revealed to him through the Scripture and his choices and decisions align with Gods word.

By contrast, Jesus warned against the man who hears His words, and does not act upon them. He calls this man foolish. His building site is not secure. He “built his house upon the sand. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:27.

Sand shifts and changes. Sand is unstable and unreliable. A life built on the sand is constantly shifting the standard and redefining the truth. It hears the words of Jesus but doesn’t take them seriously. Maybe he decides they’re old fashioned or will cost his reputation or standing in the eyes of people.

Notice the rains descend and the floods rise and the winds beat against both houses. Storms are a part of everyone’s life. No one gets a free pass or is immune from trouble in this life. But Jesus clearly describes the difference between rock and sand for your building site. This is a good time to re-evaluate yours. Will you be safe and secure regardless of the storm conditions or will you be battered and at risk of collapsing under the trials and pressures of life? The only way to be sure is to take Jesus at his word. Build your house on the rock.

What role does the Bible play when a person desperately asks “why?” during a storm?

Jan Harrison: When the unplanned and unexpected disruptions to life threaten, the first question we often ask is “why?” The Bible teaches us to have an eternal perspective and reminds us over and over that God’s will and work are not confined to this present time. Life for the believer is not limited to days, months, or years. Life in Christ is eternal. What is a mystery today will be clear in the light of His presence. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7. Read chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews and underline the number of times the statement, “by faith,” is made. Careful study of this chapter will prove God’s Word is not bound to this lifetime. Our limited understanding and unanswered questions do not negate His truth. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Jan Harrison: There is no time like today to begin to take God’s Word to heart. Your church background or lack of one has nothing to do with it. Your education or intellectual capacity is not an excuse. The Bible is God’s personal love letter to you. Read and reread His words expressed to you through the Holy Spirit and allow them to be used to establish and strengthen your inner man. He’ll open your spiritual eyes and ears to understand the Word. He’ll speak tenderly and personally and draw close to you.

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.

Bio: Jan Harrison is an author, speaker, and Bible study teacher who has inspired thousands of women for over 15 years. She experienced the promise of “life after the storm” when her son, James, died unexpectedly. Jan serves on the board of With Open Eyes, a ministry co-founded by James and his father to accelerate the gospel in Africa. She and her husband, Frank, have three grown daughters and reside in Charlotte, North Carolina.

God of the Big Bang: An Interview with Leslie Wickman, Rocket Scientist

Leslie Wickman PhDLeslie Wickman PhD, former Lockheed Martin Missiles & Space corporate astronaut, rocket scientist, and engineer on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station programs, is chair of the Engineering and Computer Science department and director of the Center for Research in Science at Azusa Pacific University. Stanford University-educated, she also works as a research scientist with government think tanks on technical and political aspects of national aerospace and defense issues.

Bible Gateway interviewed Dr. Wickman (@LeslieWickman) about her book, God of the Big Bang: How Modern Science Affirms the Creator (Worthy Publishing, 2015).

Click to buy your copy of God of the Big Bang in the Bible Gateway Store

Why is it important to understand that “God is the author of two books: the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature”?

Dr. Wickman: Since God reveals himself in both Scripture and nature, the two cannot logically contradict each other. So the key to a fuller understanding of who God is lies in seeing how the message of scripture and the evidence from nature fit together and inform each other.

You wrote an op/ed for CNN that stressed science and faith are not in competition. What do you mean when you say there’s an illusion of conflict between science and religion?

Dr. Wickman: I think the illusion of a conflict between science and religion can come from incomplete knowledge, flawed interpretation of Scripture or the facts of nature, or just a general lack of understanding of how the two areas fit together. The illusion of conflict between science and religion seems to be perpetuated primarily by fundamentalists at the polar extremes of this dialog. These two extreme positions give rise to a perceived conflict between science and religion, but the real conflict is between “Scientism” (a combination of natural science and a secular worldview), and “Creationism” (a combination of Christian worldview plus a strict, 21st century western biblical literalism, especially with regard to a 6-day creation). But the illusion of conflict is really just a confusion of concepts that don’t necessarily go together. In other words, science can be successfully practiced without a secular worldview, just as Christianity can be faithfully practiced without a 6-day interpretation of creation.

How is the “Big Bang” theory more “God-friendly” than other scientific models?

Dr. Wickman: The Big Bang model of the universe is much more God-friendly than the model that was popular before it (the Steady State Model). The Big Bang model states that there was a beginning to the universe, and by cause and effect logic, a beginning necessitates a cause, or a Beginner. Other models, such as the Steady State model, say that the universe always existed, so there was no need to explain a beginning. Also, contrary to popular opinion, the Big Bang was not a chaotic explosion, but rather a very highly ordered, finely tuned event.

How do you incorporate 1 Corinthians 13:12 into your thinking?

Dr. Wickman: The more we learn, the more we realize how little we really know about the big picture of physical and spiritual reality, so “now we see through a glass, darkly.” Our current knowledge, understanding, and interpretation of both Scripture and nature are limited and incomplete, so of course there are going to be areas where we don’t see how things fit together very well. But the more we learn, the more the picture comes into sharper focus. We have a lot to learn, but that’s one thing that makes the future exciting!

How do discoveries with the Hubble Telescope corroborate Scripture?

Dr. Wickman: The primary things we’re discovering through science in general that relate to Scripture have to do with two main themes: first, the universe had a beginning, therefore there had to be a cause; and second, the universe displays a long and growing list of characteristics that have to be just exactly as they are in order to support complex life, strongly suggesting that there is some creative intelligence behind all of it.

What do you say to people who say the Bible is scientifically unsound?

Dr. Wickman: The Bible was never meant to be a science book; its message is theological. The writers used the accepted ancient near eastern science of their day when describing nature (otherwise their message would have been dismissed as incomprehensible to their original audience).

Briefly, what are a few of Earth’s astounding and finely tuned characteristics you write about in the book?

Dr. Wickman: Earth’s temperature is not too hot, not too cold, but rather just right so that water (the perfect solvent) can exist in all three physical phases, allowing for the life-giving water cycle. Earth’s mass is not too big, not too small, giving us just the right gravity to be strong enough to hold onto life-giving water vapor (weighing 18 grams per mole), but not strong enough to hold onto large amounts of the slightly lighter poisonous gases, methane (at 16 grams per mole) and ammonia (at 17 grams per mole). Since we’re on the topic of water, it has the unusual characteristic of becoming less dense when it freezes (unlike pretty much every other substance), so water ice floats on top of liquid water, providing an insulating blanket over the top of the water below. Without this unusual property, water would sink when it freezes, leaving the surface exposed to cold winter temperatures, and allowing more and more of the water to freeze and sink. Eventually many of the earth’s large bodies of water would freeze solid, and only the upper layers would melt during the warmer seasons. Severe ice ages would be virtually impossible for the planet to recover from.

You list nine environmental themes woven throughout the Bible. What are a few of them?

Dr. Wickman: Various Scripture verses speak of the value God puts on creation. There are two specific Bible passages that have had the greatest impact on my personal view of creation: Genesis 1:31 and John 3:16. God deeply loves and values everything he made. One theme is human stewardship, in which God gives humans responsibility for creation (Gen. 1:28, Deut. 22:6-7, and Heb. 2:8). Others include provision by God for humankind through creation (Gen. 1:29, Ruth 1:6, and Matt. 5:45), praise, wherein all of creation praises their Creator (Ps. 69:34 and Rev. 5:13), and the witness of nature to God’s authority and provision (Ex. 9:28-29 and Acts 14:17).

What do you hope to achieve with your book?

Dr. Wickman: My hope is that readers will experience an “AHA” moment in reading my book, when they realize for themselves—either for the first time, or in a deeper way—that there is no real conflict between science and faith, and that they don’t have to choose between the two. Furthermore, I hope they’ll be able to share this experience with others.

I also hope this book ignites conversations about life’s big questions, because these are the most important things we can ponder and help each other work through.

Who Was Paul, and How Should We Understand His Epistles?

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This is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Understand the Bible” series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


Besides Jesus, no single figure was more influential in the beginnings of Christianity than the apostle Paul. Of the 27 books of the New Testament, 13 are attributed to Paul. Take a look at a Bible map showing the missionary journeys of Paul, and you will be astonished to see the territory he covered—not just geographically, but culturally as well.

He was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, and he became an impassioned member of the Pharisees (Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:4-5; Acts 23:6). He came from the city of Tarsus, grew up in the midst of Greco-Roman culture, and was a Roman citizen. This remarkable background meant he was able to speak the gospel into urban settings. He was comfortable in Jerusalem, but also capable of moving into places like Crete, Greece, and Rome. His adaptability was amazing. He spoke with magistrates and philosophers and tradespeople.

PaulTrial-1024x604

His strong views about faith in Christ were most certainly tempered by his dramatic conversion. In the New Testament there is no more radical story of personal change than the story of the young man who was drafted by his fellow Pharisees to actively investigate and prosecute the early followers of Jesus. He stood by as the first Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death. But while traveling to Damascus in Syria to find and arrest more of Jesus’ followers, he had a supernatural encounter with Jesus and would soon undergo the utter change of mind and heart, which in his epistles he describes as conversion or repentance.

It wasn’t easy for the other apostles to accept this persecutor in their midst, much less endorse him as a teacher. But with the passing of years, Paul eventually set out on his first great journey with a few close companions in tow.

There is quite some variation in the epistles of Paul. Four are called his “prison epistles” because he wrote them from prison (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon). The stress of being in prison comes through at points. For instance, while writing the epistle to his dear friends at Philippi, he believes he may be close to execution.

Of these four, one is written to one person about a runaway slave (Philemon), whereas another, Ephesians, seems to have been written for a whole region of churches.

Three of the epistles, written very late, are usually called “the pastoral epistles” because they contain instructions to Paul’s companions Timothy and Titus on how to protect order, harmony, and correct teaching in their churches. Not surprisingly, these are epistles that church leaders look to in shaping ministry roles in congregations. The qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1), for instance, describe essential leadership character and are easily applied in our own churches today.

Romans is a powerful, comprehensive description of the whole of the gospel. It covers creation, sin, redemption, and eventual restoration. The special issue of righteousness and grace is emphasized in Romans, as it also is in the epistle of Galatians. First and 2 Corinthians offer great insight into an apostle trying his best to respond to tensions in a troubled church, to challenge bad values, and to call people to action. There is a special poignancy in 2 Corinthians as Paul describes his own hurt through the efforts of those trying to discredit him, and his anxiety about his relationship with the Corinthian church. Here we see the humility of Paul, even as he describes himself as unimpressive in physical appearance and unremarkable as a public speaker. Now that is astonishing to read! The apostle Paul, a so-so preacher.

What should we bear in mind as we read and try to comprehend the epistles of Paul?

In order to understand the epistles of the New Testament, we must begin with context. Every epistle was written to a specific audience and for a specific purpose. If we dig around, we can figure out what false teaching the book of Colossians is countering, what slavery looked like, what family life was like, what the features of the culture were at the time. Then we can ask: “What universal and timeless truths is the author drawing on, truths that apply to us today?”

We may not “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Rom. 16:16) today, but Christian grace and civility still apply. First Peter 3:3 recommends not wearing gold jewelry because in that culture it was ostentatious to do so. Today, avoiding ostentatiousness still applies, though having a gold ring or a gold cross does not rise to that same level. Having elders oversee the ministry of churches today still applies, although having one man appoint them (as Paul instructed Timothy to do) isn’t typically the method of selection that is used.

The epistles extend the richness of Holy Scripture, and they remind us once again that the word of God is truth in relationship.


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

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

50-Year Anniversary Celebration Continues with the NIV Bible: ‘Made to Study’

To continue celebrating 50 years since work began on the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible, Biblica (@BiblicaMinistry) and Zondervan (@Zondervan) are releasing the next campaign theme: Made to Study.

[Browse the Bible Gateway Store to see the many editions of New International Version Bibles.]

Since its release in 1978, the NIV has become the world’s most read and most trusted modern-English Bible translation with over 450 million copies distributed worldwide.

[See our Live-Blog: Doug Moo’s Special Message on Bible Translation (Live Presentation from ETS 2014).]

The “Made to Study” theme focuses on the historical milestones that accompanied the translation process. Fifty years ago, an international committee of cross-denominational evangelical scholars committed to spend countless hours discussing and debating detailed translation and language nuances. Their goal? To create a Bible translation that could be understood and adopted by pastors, academics, and laypeople alike.

In 1978, the committee, known as The Committee on Bible Translation (CBT), released the full version of the NIV; readers were ecstatic that they could finally understand the Word of God in contemporary language. But the CBT’s work was far from complete. A smaller group of committee scholars assembled study notes, maps, charts, and diagrams to provide additional content and context, resulting in the NIV Study Bible. This Bible released in 1985 and provided unprecedented clarity with over 20,000 study notes and hundreds of study tools available to readers. The NIV Study Bible was designed for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the Bible. To date, this Study Bible has sold more than 10 million copies, making it the best-selling single study Bible available over the past 30 years.

“This #NIV50 anniversary campaign has been exciting thus far and we have only just begun to share the history of the NIV in this year-long campaign,” said John Kramp, SVP and Bible publisher for HarperCollins Christian Publishing (of which Zondervan is a part). “The Made to Study campaign will continue to bring historical context to the NIV’s establishment within the Christian movement throughout the world. In addition to the translation itself, another key milestone of the CBT’s hard work was the publication of the NIV Study Bible. This Bible has been so impactful in helping Bible readers to grow deeper in their faith and understanding of God’s Word. Hundreds of thousands of people have come to better know Jesus because of this Bible’s commitment to making the deep study of God’s Word achievable.”

Visit www.thenivbible.com to read several stories related to the Made to Study theme under the “50th Anniversary” tab. Also available on the site are a 365-day reading plan and tools for finding the NIV Bible that’s right for you.

[Sign up to receive the free NIV (and other versions) Bible Verse-of-the-Day in your email inbox from Bible Gateway.]

[Download the free Bible Gateway App, on which is available the NIV and many other Bible versions.]

About Zondervan
Zondervan is a world-leading Bible publisher and provider of Christian communications. Zondervan, part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., delivers transformational Christian experiences through its bestselling Bibles, books, curriculum, academic resources and digital products. The Company’s products are sold worldwide and translated into nearly 200 languages. Zondervan’s offices are located in Grand Rapids, MI. For additional information, visit www.zondervan.com.

About Biblica
For over 200 years, Biblica has provided God’s Word so people can enter into a relationship with Jesus Christ and be formed by him. The Colorado Springs-based non-profit organization works in Africa, East Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, Middle East/North Africa, North America, and South Asia. Biblica translates and publishes the complete Bible into the world’s 100 most widely spoken languages and is the translation sponsor and worldwide publisher of the New International Version® (NIV®) Bible, the most widely used contemporary English translation in the world. For additional information, visit www.biblica.com.

Read the Original Before Watching the Reproduced

If you’re not careful, you might end up believing more in dramatic interpretation than the original Bible script during this year of Hollywood’s capitalizing on the popularity of biblical events. Big-budget biblical programming has found its way to the theater and television because producers have seen skyrocketing success in box office receipts and ad revenue.

According to film critic and Hollywood historian Leonard Maltin, when it comes to finding plot and script material for movies, “there is nothing older or more reliable than the Bible.” It’s important to remember that, as well acted and written as these productions may be, we need to ground ourselves in the original Bible stories and events from which these entertainment creations spring.

We encourage you to read the original text—on which these movies and mini-series are based—right here on Bible Gateway. Following is a brief list of popular entertainment offerings and their corresponding Bible text: