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New Devotional: Transform Your Marriage with “Devotions for a Sacred Marriage”

Click here to sign up for Devotions for a Sacred MarriageIs your marriage everything that you want it to be? Do you and your spouse feel that there’s a divine purpose behind your marriage? Is the presence of God an everyday reality in your marriage?

Devotions for a Sacred Marriage is a new email devotional that will help you and your spouse connect more closely not just with each other, but with God. Written by bestselling author Gary Thomas, Devotions for a Sacred Marriage challenges us with a simple question: what if God’s primary intent for your marriage isn’t to make you happy… but holy?

During this two-week devotional, you’ll begin to explore concepts like:

  • Turning marital struggles into spiritual and personal appreciation
  • Loving your spouse with a stronger sense of purpose
  • Partnering in the spiritual growth and character formation of your spouse
  • Transforming a “tired” marriage into a relationship filled with awe and respect

If those sound like ideas you want to incorporate into your marriage, sign up for Devotions for a Sacred Marriage today! When you sign up, you’ll receive a daily reflection from Gary Thomas on topics like the ones listed above. It’s ideal for reading and discussing with your spouse. And even if you’re not married—perhaps you’re in a relationship and starting to consider marriage in the future—it will give you an excellent look at what a Christ-centered marriage looks like.

Here’s Gary describing the questions he explores in this devotional:

Devotions for a Sacred Marriage is free and runs for two weeks. Click here to sign up. Once the devotional is complete, if you want to explore its ideas further, you can find Gary Thomas’ original book—winner of the K-Love 2016 Book Impact Fan Award—at the Bible Gateway Store, along with many other books by Thomas that offer a thoughtful Christian perspective on marriage and relationships.

Bible News Roundup – Week of June 5, 2016

Read this week’s Bible Gateway Weekly Brief newsletter
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‘Noah’s Ark’ Collides with Coast Guard Ship in Oslo Harbor
San Diego Union Tribune
Read the story of Noah’s Ark from Genesis 6-9 on Bible Gateway

Survey Finds Growing Interest Among Catholics in Reading the Bible
Catholic News Service
Blog post—CNN: A Catholic Reads the Bible

New York Catholic Bible Summit Set for June 18
Catholic New York

Bible Reading Marathon to be Held at Muscatine Iowa County Courthouse
Muscatine Journal

Bible-Reading Marathon Held in Detroit Lake
DL-Online

Saint John’s Bible Artist to Become a Knight
St. Cloud Times
Blog post—The Saint John’s Bible: A Work of Art

Pulpit Bible Reveals WWII Sacrifice of Clifton, NJ Residents
Clifton Journal

Thousands of Atheists Gather in DC for Reason Rally
CNN

Are Christian Converts Seeking Asylum Getting a Raw Deal?
BBC News
Christianity Today: Take this Bible quiz of Christian trivia faced by converts from Islam seeking asylum in the UK

Centuries-Old Bible Found; Police Trying to Find Its Owner
ABCNews4

Bible Created by Wearside UK Pupils Set to Emulate Journey to the Vatican 1300 Years On
The Chronicle

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

The NIV Lifehacks Bible: An Interview with Joe Carter

Joe CarterA “lifehack” describes any advice, shortcut, tip, or skill that helps you get things done more efficiently and effectively.

The NIV Lifehacks Bible uses “lifehacking” methods to offer practical and achievable tools for integrating spiritual habits into busy, technology-centric, 21st century living. Among its 365 articles are 4 Tips for Making Wise Decisions, 6 Steps for Interpreting the Bible, 7 Questions for Recognizing Intentional Sins, and 4 Tips for Finding Time to Pray.

Bible Gateway interviewed Joe Carter (@joecarter), editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible (Zondervan, 2016).

Buy your copy of the NIV Lifehacks Bible in the Bible Gateway Store

With the focus of this Bible on what people can do in developing godly habits, what, in your view, is the role the Holy Spirit takes in our spiritual growth?

Joe Carter: The underlying philosophy of this Bible is to do the work, but rely on the Holy Spirit. While spiritual formation is primarily a work of God in us (Php 2:13; 1 Th 5:23), Scripture makes it clear that we have a role to play in the process (Ro 8:13).

How do we hear God? By reading the Bible. How do we talk to God? Through prayer. How do we obey God? By loving God above all else, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. All of these things are habits that move us toward holiness.

We should be clear, though: the work we do in developing godly habits doesn’t sanctify us—the Holy Spirit does that. But if we aren’t reading our Bible, and praying, and loving our neighbors—if we’re not developing and practicing godly habits—then we’re not doing what God has called us to do.

As the 19th century theologian Archibald Alexander said about sanctification, “use the means as vigorously as if you were to be saved by your own efforts, and yet trust as entirely to the grace of God as if you made use of no means whatsoever.”

Developing habits like a daily cardio routine seem so different than developing habits that fight sin. In what way are they the same and in what way are they different?

Joe Carter: For believers in Christ, the primary way the two types of routines are the same—or at least should be the same—is that they serve the same end goal. Whether we’re fighting sin or developing a cardio routine, our routines should be done for the purpose of glorifying God. Too often, though, we draw unnecessary distinctions between spiritual and physical habits because we don’t take the words of Scripture seriously enough.

Consider, for instance, when Paul asks, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1 Cor 6:19) When we hear that verse we tend to think, “Yes, Jesus lives in my heart.” While that’s true, the verse means much more than that. As Paul goes on to say, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” If we truly believe our bodies belong to God, then we’ll be much more careful about how we treat them and what types of habits we develop. We should be concerned about habits that affect both our body and soul because everything we are belongs to God.

The key way they differ is that, because of common grace, a nonbeliever can develop positive habits that strengthen their bodies yet cannot truly develop habits that fight sin since they’re still in rebellion against God. So when we come to Christ we not only acquire new habits (e.g., routines that help us become like Jesus), we also transform the meaning of our old habits (e.g., recognizing our bodies belong to our Creator).

How should someone answer the charge that trying to develop godly habits is a form of legalism and that our spiritual growth should be more about building a relationship with God?

Joe Carter: On his deathbed, King David told his son Solomon to “be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses” (1 Kings 2:2-4). That’s sound advice for all of us. Yet if those words had come from a pastor rather than from Scripture, many believers would mistake this admonition to obey God’s law as being “legalism.”

I used to express the same concerns, thinking that developing godly habits was a form of legalism. But then I realized that my fear of legalism had become an impediment to following the command to be holy in all I do (1 Peter 1:15). I realized I didn’t want to stand before my Redeemer and tell him the reason I didn’t even try to imitate his holiness because I was afraid of being called a “legalist.”

Legalism is the false belief that adherence to rules can earn us God’s favor. We must always reject that type of thinking. We don’t earn salvation by obeying God’s law, nor do we retain his favor by being obedient. But we also can’t build a relationship with God when we refuse his call to obey him and become more like Jesus. We obey God’s commands because we love him (John 14:15). We develop godly habits because, as his beloved children, we desire to imitate Christ (Eph 5:1-2).

What spiritual habit have you personally found more difficult to cultivate? Why do you think some spiritual habits come easier to us than others?

Joe Carter: Some spiritual habits come easier because of our temperament and personality. By nature, I’m an introvert. While I like being around people I tend to be quiet and reserved, which has made it difficult for me to develop the habits of evangelism and hospitality. I have friends, though, who are extroverted and gregarious and have a hard time with such practices as silence and solitude.

That’s why in NIV Lifehacks Bible I include several entries that focus on the role temperament and personality plays in our spiritual formation. While we’ve been affected by sin and our personalities can become twisted and ugly, we should remember that God created us—including our dispositions. God isn’t surprised that we find some spiritual habits easier than others. But he also doesn’t let us off the hook about developing those areas where we’re lacking.

In this, as in all things, our model is Jesus. At times Jesus exhibited traits of being an introvert, while at other times he appears to be an extrovert. He shows that no mater what comes “natural” to us, God will give us the power and ability to serve him in whatever ways he’s leading us.

What’s your favorite non-spiritual lifehack you’d like to share?

Joe Carter: My favorite: Create and use checklists of repetitive and routine tasks.

When I was in the Marines we were required to use checklists all the time—and I loathed it. I thought it was a way for my superiors to micromanage me because they didn’t trust my competence. But now I realize that using checklists not only develops confidence, but frees me to be more creative.

Our short-term memory is extremely limited, so our brains spend a lot of time and energy just reminding us not to forget the next task or the next step in a process. But when we have it written down on a checklist our brains can relax. This is why checklists are extremely useful for routines that aren’t frequent enough to become ingrained habits.

I create a lot of checklists that can be copied and used again and again. Because I’m almost always near my laptop or smartphone, I always have my checklists ready to use. This has helped me to relax and feel less stressed. As long as I remember to check my checklists, my brain doesn’t have to keep telling me “Don’t forget this!”

Read more about forming godly habits with this 7-day reading plan.


Bio: Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition, a senior editor at the Acton Institute, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He’s the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator (Crossway, 2009) and editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible (Zondervan, 2016).

Prayer for Reading Scripture

howtostudythebible

This lesson is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Study 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.


Mel Lawrenz is away this week. “How to Study the Bible” resumes next week.

Below are two prayers that may be helpful in your pattern of reading and studying Scripture. And here is a sermon Mel Lawrenz gave a few days ago about how to make prayer a practical pattern in real life…

Real Prayer from Elmbrook Church on Vimeo.

A Prayer Before Reading Scripture

Open my eyes, gracious Lord, as I turn to your word.
I long to know you, to understand life, and to be changed.
Examine me, Lord, by the floodlight of your truth.

Amen.

A Prayer After Reading Scripture

May the word I have read, Lord, be planted deeply in my mind and heart.
Help me not to walk away and forget it, but to meditate on it and obey it
and so built my life on the rock of your truth.

Amen.

(Both prayers are taken from the 95 prayers in Prayers for Our Lives.)


Mel Lawrenz trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a Ph.D. in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, the latest, How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

Womens Bible Cafe: Using Bible Gateway to Minister to Help Women Connect to God’s Word

We were pleased and intrigued to see this Tweet recently from @WomensBibleCafe:

We think the Bible Gateway App is a great tool for Bible reading and study. But when we read about somebody using it to complete dozens of Bible studies and a theology degree, we had to know more. So we got in touch with Women’s Bible Cafe to learn a bit more about the work they do, and how the Bible Gateway App helps them do it. Here are their answers to our questions.

What is Women’s Bible Café and why did you start it?

Womens Bible Cafe: WomensBibleCafe.com is a non-denominational online Bible study. It began in 2009 when Christine Abraham invited 14 Twitter friends to study the Bible together online, and has grown to more than 200,000 international women today. She started the ministry when she saw women in her local Bible study unable to attend. Christine is now teaching other men and women how to start their own online studies via a private coaching class.

How has Bible Gateway supported you in your online Bible studies and theological degree?

Womens Bible Cafe: Christine has been recommending Bible Gateway to her online students as an excellent resource for Bible study. Her students are encouraged to look at the different Bible translations of each verse. When shopping for Bible translations, she instructs her students to visit the site and find a translation that is easy for them to understand. Advanced students are advised to find a translation closest to the original language, such as the English Standard Version.

Christine personally uses Bible Gateway on her iPad, iPhone and desktop computer. She uses it to research material for her theology degree at Liberty University and also for personal study. Her favorite features are the multiple translations and the audio Bibles. She also uses the site for locating Bible verses for sharing on her social media accounts to encourage others. Most often she uses the site as a Bible concordance, searching keywords and related verses. She found the site very helpful when writing theology papers, such as “Are Angels Real and Do They exist Today?” Using Bible Gateway, she researched angels in the Old and New Testaments and compiled a list of supporting verses for her paper.

Why do you recommend Bible Gateway to your students?

Womens Bible Cafe: Christine recommends Bible Gateway to her students because its easy to use. While there are other sites and apps available, this one is intuitive and easy to navigate—especially for new Christians or those returning to their faith. Many of her newer students have an old family Bible, such as the King James Version, and are confused by the older language used in it. Bible Gateway’s audio Bibles are very helpful when you cannot pronounce some of the ancient geographic locations or names, like “Sennacherib.”

How do you use Bible Gateway? And how often?

Womens Bible Cafe: Christine says, “I’m using Bible Gateway daily both for personal study and ministry work. Most often I use the online version for ministry research and I use the app for personal devotion or on Sunday at church. When my pastor changes to a different Bible translation in the sermon, I can pop that new version onto my screen without carrying three heavy Bibles to church! I do the same thing at my local Bible study groups. With 12 women in the group reading Scripture, they often have six different Bible versions and the Bible Gateway App helps me read along in their translation.”


We’re thrilled that Christine and Womens Bible Cafe find Bible Gateway and the accompanying app so useful, and we wish them well in their ongoing ministry work! You can keep up with Womens Bible Cafe at their website or by following them on Twitter (@WomensBibleCafe). There’s a lot to explore on their website, from a summer book club to a huge library of Bible studies on a wide variety of topics.

[Learn about Bible Gateway Plus and try it for yourself for 30 days free!]

If you haven’t checked out the free Bible Gateway App, it’s a great way to read, study, and listen to the Bible on the go. You can learn more or download it here. And if you’ve found Bible Gateway especially useful in your work, ministry, or personal life, don’t hestitate to drop us a note on Twitter (@BibleGateway)!

A Peculiar Glory: An Interview with John Piper

John PiperHow do we know that the Bible is true? Best-selling author John Piper examines the Bible’s “self-authenticating” nature and unique ability to showcase God’s unmatched glory, laying a solid foundation for the belief that God’s Word is absolutely perfect and totally reliable.

In this interview, John Piper (@JohnPiper) talks about his book, A Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness (Crossway, 2016).

[Sign up for Bible Gateway’s free email Daily Devotional with John Piper]

Buy your copy of A Peculiar Glory in the Bible Gateway Store

In this new book, you argue that the Scriptures evidence themselves; prove themselves to be God’s true and trustworthy Word. But this isn’t a new argument is it?

John Piper: No, not the basic argument of the Scriptures being self-attesting; that is, not so much that they claim to be the Word of God, but rather that they show themselves—by their glory, by the revelation of the glory of God mediated through them—to be the Word of God and, thus, reliable. So in my effort to say what I have to say, I start with the Scriptures. In fact, the book is mainly Scripture, but I try to root it in relation to what John Calvin did in the Institutes of the Christian Religion and the internal testimony of the Spirit, and how that is not different and yet not quite the same as what I am doing.

Jonathan Edwards was the most important dead guy outside the Bible to stimulate me in the particular direction of glory that I went. And a surprising source for me was the Westminster Larger Catechism, to find a phrase there that was so provocative to me that I wanted to know: “What do they mean by this phrase about how the Bible shows itself to be the Word of God?”

So along with the pervasive biblical effort to show what I mean and to defend it, there are points of historical theology where I try to make clear that there is nothing new here.

How did you come to your understanding of the complete truthfulness and reliability of God’s Word?

John Piper: I have to start with family origins. I grew up in a Christian home and I was taught from the time I was this big that this book is God’s Word. So, to be honest, I never doubted that. My momma and daddy said so. Is that good enough? Only later did I begin to formulate questions about how I know. I remember rigorous historical arguments in seminary, especially from Galatians 1. I remember Dan Fuller unpacking a very sophisticated historical argument for the reliability of Paul’s apostleship, and from there Paul’s writings, and from there the rest of Scripture. I was fascinated by this.

Are you in danger of putting your faith in God’s Word on your parents?

John Piper: Even if you could say that my faith rested on this argument (that my momma and daddy said so), 90 percent of the people in the world don’t have access to that kind of argument. But if God indeed spoke in a book, and what is in this book has eternity hanging on it, surely he would have provided means by which his children of the simplest sort in the most remote village of Papua New Guinea or the most uneducated person in America or Britain would be able to know he is telling the truth and would be able to stake their lives on it.

So this view of the Bible directly connects to a concern for God’s global mission?

John Piper: It does. Global mission, local evangelism. When you speak to someone, you may have five minutes to present what you believe to be the saving message of this book. Can they, in five minutes, get a grasp that would be a ground—a legitimate, warranted ground—for them to stake their lives on what you have just said? That is a huge question.

Jonathan Edwards asked this question about the Indians in New England. That is why he went to 2 Corinthians 4, where Paul says that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the knowledge of the glory of Christ. Edwards said that the simplest native American who hears the gospel faithfully spoken from this book can ascend to certainty, not by a complex of inferences, but by a single step—the glory of Christ seen in it.

When I read that, I thought, first of all, what does it mean? And second, is it true? And third, would that be applicable to the whole of Scripture?

John Piper: So I’ve tried to build on that insight—that you ascend to the certainty of the mind in the things of God—the gospel in this case—not by a sequence of probabilistic arguments, but by a single step of sight of divine glory; the eyes of the heart seeing (a phrase from Ephesians 1) such a glory in and through what the Bible teaches that you know the same way you know in seeing things naturally.

So why focus particularly on glory? Usually when people talk about the truthfulness or the reliability of Scripture, the word glory doesn’t come out quite as clearly as it does in your book.

Well, that may be what is a little different about my book from what I’ve read in others. But here’s the sequence of thought that was so illuminating for me; so provocative and helpful for me.

I began from 2 Corinthians 4:4 and 6. The latter verse affirms, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” So when the spiritual eyes are opened as the gospel is taught from the Word, you see a beauty, a glory, a distinguishing streaming forth or radiance of God himself that ends the issue. You know this is God.

Then I saw analogies that were very helpful to me (and I hope they will be to others). I saw the analogy in nature. The heavens are telling the glory of God, and Paul finds fault with humanity, that we don’t glorify God or give him thanks, even though we know that he is glorious. So there is, in our hearts, his template—which is made for a perfect fit with the glory of God—and we suppress it, and yet there is a revelation of the glory of God in nature. If I were trying to help somebody catch on to what I’m doing, I’d ask: “When you last looked at the stars or the sky or the way that the world works, did you see the glory of God?” The heavens are not the glory of God. The stars are not the glory of God. They mediate his glory. You look through them. And that is a gift, but we don’t see it.

Then I thought about the incarnation. Jesus took on flesh and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. But not everybody saw that. Jesus walked through the world, and some people looked at him and wanted to kill him. They didn’t see anything glorious. So there is an analogy to how the Scriptures might work.

And then there are the miracles. Not everybody saw the glory, and yet John said Jesus manifested his glory in the first miracle. And the seven signs in the Gospel of John were written down so that we could see the glory in the 21st century.

So glory has assumed a dominant, central position, because it seems to be the way God brings people to conviction. His glory in nature, his glory in the incarnation, his glory in the gospel, his glory in miracles—and we could go on. We could talk about his glory in human behavior. Do good deeds, and people will see your Father’s glory. Really? Do they?

So this idea took hold of me, that if God is working this way in all these areas in order to vindicate and warrant his truthfulness, probably that’s the way he’s doing it for the whole book.

You talk about Scripture as a window through which we see the glory of God. It’s not that the glory of God comes alongside Scripture in a different world. It’s mediated through Scripture. Explain the analogy you offer in the book based on Rembrandt’s painting The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

John Piper: In the analogy, the Bible is the Rembrandt painting. A Rembrandt painting has distinguishing features, especially light and dark. But suppose you cover the painting with a black sheet of paper, then turn to someone and say, “Isn’t that glorious?” The person will say: “What? I can’t even see it.” My question is this: How much of it might you need to see in order to say, “That’s a Rembrandt”? Would a pinhole work? Probably not. So the pinhole is like the letters A N D on a page. That doesn’t work. How many pinholes do you need? The answer is not easy, because differing places on the canvas would yield more certainty to a Rembrandt expert than others.

In the same way, there are parts of Scripture that are much more quickly illuminating with regard to the glory of God than others, like, say, the book of Job. So there are parts of Scripture that yield their glory when you see them wide, when you see them full and whole, whereas other parts—Romans might be a good example—where a few isolated verses are off-the-wall glorious. But not only do some holes need to be bigger in order for the person to detect that there’s a glorious Rembrandt behind that black piece of paper, but the person might be a Rembrandt expert, who would need less to see glory, whereas a beginner might need to see almost the whole thing.

So for the doubting believer, you wouldn’t say, “If you are struggling to see the glory of God in this verse of Scripture, just read it again and again and again.” It might be that that believer actually needs to read a lot more broadly in God’s Word, because that will enlarge the picture, so that he sees more broadly how the Word is glorious. Then that text that didn’t fit for him will start making sense in the light of other texts.

John Piper: Right. But this raises a question, which somebody would probably throw at me at that point: “So, does that mean you can’t have confidence in the Scriptures as a whole until years and years later, when you understand Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles?”

And my answer is that even though you may not yet—and none of us do—fully grasp all the parts of the Bible, conviction grows. It may settle on you very quickly, depending on how you’re taught and what you’re exposed to. When you’ve seen enough of the glory of the apostles’ writings and of Jesus’s teaching and of the Old Testament, you have a high level of expectation, such that when you bump into things that don’t feel glorious, your spiritual inclination is to be patient and say: “Lord, I’m confident that you’re here. Help me see the glory.”

How does this book fit in with your other works, in which you so often try to relate the glory of God to joy?

John Piper: It was incipient in what I was doing, but I don’t think I saw it clearly until a year or two ago. I’ve devoted 40 years of my life to drawing the connection between the glory of God and the human soul as a longing, aching, yearning, desiring, wanting-to-be-satisfied soul. I believe the old Augustinian notion that we will not have any rest until we find our rest in God, because our hearts are made for God, the glory of God, the beauty of God in particular. Joy comes with the closing of the glory of God in the human soul. So the glory of God is the soul’s satisfaction.

In this book, I’ve asked, “Is the glory of God also the mind’s certainty?” I am arguing that when we speak of the Spirit illumining the mind, the word illumining is just a little bit fuzzy. It seems to suggest that the Holy Spirit is adding light so we can see light. But that’s not the way it works. The Holy Spirit removes the obstacles to our seeing the light, God.

This sounds quite similar to what C. S. Lewis said in his theology poetry: “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

John Piper: Exactly. I quote that, and in one of the chapters, it assumes a pretty large position because of the psalm that says, “In your light do we see light” (Ps. 36:9). I remember sitting at my desk for days thinking, “Lord, what does that mean?” I think it’s very much like what Lewis said, that the true meaning of anything, the true light of anything, the true truth of anything, is not known until the truth with a capital T is shining on it; the light is shining on it.

You say, “Faith is not a heroic step through the door of the unknown; it is a humble, happy sight of God’s self-authenticating glory.” How is that different from, say, Pascal’s wager?

John Piper: I have a whole chapter in which I wrestle with that, because that wager has haunted me ever since I was in college. At first, it haunted me as attractive, and then, the more I learned about the way the Holy Spirit works, as unattractive. Pascal said that if you venture everything on the gospel being false, if you’re proved wrong, the stakes are enormous. The payoff is horrible—it’s hell. But if you venture everything on the gospel being true and you’re proved wrong, you haven’t lost very much, and therefore he asked, why wouldn’t you wager that it’s true?

Here’s the problem: saving faith in the Bible isn’t like that. Saving faith is not concluding that something is beautiful even though you have no evidence that it’s beautiful. You cannot honor God by saying: “I trust you, but I have no reason to trust you. I think you’re beautiful, but I see no evidences that you’re beautiful.” That doesn’t honor God. It may look heroic. It may look as if we’re venturing into the dark and casting all our effort in that direction, but it only glorifies us. It doesn’t glorify him.

To be fair to Pascal, as I try to be in that chapter, he circles around and really owns up to the fact that the Holy Spirit must reveal the truthfulness of God.

So the difference between a leap in the dark and what I’m saying is that the Holy Spirit takes the dark away. He grants spiritual sight. If we’re evangelizing somebody and he says, “I don’t see it,” we don’t say, “Just believe it anyway,” because that’s no honor to the one who is believed. We say: “Let me show you more. Let me point you to more objective evidences that he is really glorious. And then let me pray for you.” And you go home and pray until it happens; until he sees.

This is quite significantly more than simply claiming that the Bible is God’s Word or even that the Bible claims to be God’s Word. It is a much stronger argument, isn’t it, that the Bible is proving itself to be God’s Word?

John Piper: Yes. Self-attestation is an ambiguous term. It might be taken to mean: “OK, I can find Matthew 5, where Jesus says not a jot or a tittle will fall from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, he’s claiming in the Bible that the Bible is true.” That’s not what I mean. I like that. I’m glad that’s there. That’s part of the glory, I think. That’s a facet of the diamond. But I’m saying that the Scriptures don’t just say they’re true. They actually display a kind of glory, a divinity that the spiritual, illumined eye can see and know directly.

You say it is a particular kind of glory or a peculiar glory. Why do you say peculiar glory?

John Piper: That may be the newest thing that I contribute to the historical argument, although I don’t know my church history well enough to know whether it is new or not.

I’m a glory guy, and I know how many people get frustrated with how quickly and easily we sling around the word glory without ever pausing. So when I talk about glory, I ask myself: “What do you mean? What’s this awesome thing you’re talking about?” Then I ask myself, “OK, is there anything particularly glorious about the glory of God?” So I dug in and I saw texts like the one in Isaiah, which says that there is no one like God, who works for those who wait for him (64:4). Or that Bel and Nebo, those Babylonian gods, bow down and must be carried, whereas the true God carries us to old age (46:1–4). And I began to see that there’s a strain in Scripture that teaches us that the majesty of God shines most brightly because it’s manifested in lowliness, in servanthood. You can follow that strain right through into the life of Jesus. And so, I try to show that it’s a peculiar glory in that majesty and meekness coalesce.

Jonathan Edwards’s sermon “The Excellencies of Christ” looks at Revelation 5, the famous passage that depicts Christ as the lion and the lamb. He is a lion-like lamb and a lamb-like lion. He’s not glorious because he’s a lion. He’s not glorious because he’s a lamb. He’s glorious because he’s a lion-like lamb and a lamb-like lion.

Then there’s the particular angle in Scripture on the glory of God, that we have a God who is high and holy, and yet dwells with he who is of a contrite and humble spirit (Isa. 57:15). That’s what I try to develop.


Bio: John Piper (DTheol, University of Munich) is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He served for 33 years as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Don’t Waste Your Life, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, Does God Desire All to Be Saved?, and Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian.

Bible News Roundup – Week of May 29, 2016

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Zondervan to Release NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible in August
Blog post

Died: Robertson McQuilkin, College President Praised for Alzheimer’s Resignation
Christianity Today
Understanding and Applying the Bible by Robertson McQuilkin

Google Street View of 6 Biblical Sites
WayneStiles.com

King James Version of the Bible Published Using Emojis
CBC News
Mission Network News: Emoji Bible and Some Words of Wisdom
Read the King James Version of the Bible on Bible Gateway

The Long Journey of the Bunong New Testament
United Bible Societies
Read multiple Bible translations on Bible Gateway
List of Bible Translation Organizations

Seven-Fold Rise in the Persecution of Chinese Christians
Premier
Blog post—Helping to Translate the Bible Where Persecution of Christians Is Severe: An Interview with Bruce Smith
Blog post—I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters

Iowa’s Governor Signed A Proclamation Encouraging Iowans To Read The Bible Every Day
The Des Moines Register
First Liberty Institute: Branstad’s Bible Proclamation is Sound

California School Calls Sheriff to Stop 7-Year-Old From Handing Out Bible Verses
Liberty Counsel

Eighth Army Looking Into Complaint Over Use of Bible During Military Ball
Stars and Stripes

China Removes Bible Extract from Textbooks
Hindustan Times

Norwegian Bible Society Celebrates 200th Anniversary
Evangelical Focus

He Has Memorized 20 Books of the Bible
WKBW
Scripture Engagement section of Bible Gateway

The New Deaf Go Bible App: Made for the Deaf, by the Deaf
Brentwood Baptist Church

Bible Knowledge Competition Challenged Teens and Students
Evangelical Focus

Museum of the American Revolution Buys Bunker Hill Bible
FOX News

Schoolchildren Create Own Version of Historic Bible to Present to Pope
The Shields Gazette

Church Bell Ringers Gathered for Yearly Conference
Premier

See other Bible News Roundup weekly posts

Quiz: How Many of These Bible Memorials Do You Know?

Memorial Day in the United States is when Americans pause to remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by members of their armed forces over the years and centuries. Many countries and cultures designate holidays, festivals, or monuments to help people remember important events in their shared cultural history.

That’s as true of ancient people as it is of modern cultures! The Bible mentions many memorials designed to remind people of historically or spiritually important truths. Do you know what these Bible memorials were intended to remind people about? Take the quiz below and test your Bible knowledge:

Once you’ve taken the quiz, share it with friends and see how their score compares to yours!

Do We Need to Know Hebrew and Greek in Order to Properly Study the Bible?

howtostudythebible

This lesson is part of Mel Lawrenz’ “How to Study 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.


Do we need to know Hebrew and Greek in order to properly study the Bible?

We may have gotten that impression if we have listened to teachers and preachers who frequently refer to the “original” text of Scripture, telling us about all the meanings hidden from the eyes of people who do not know Hebrew or Greek.

This is tragic. Believers need to plunge into the study of the Bible, confident that the word of the eternal God—and its specific meanings—are available to us. Otherwise we will have divided the Christian community into the elites who know something like secret languages of God, and the masses who are dependent on those elites.

text

I speak as someone who did learn Hebrew and Greek in my training to become a pastor, and as someone who appreciates the finer points of Bible interpretation we get from the original languages. But a wise person told me a long time ago that it is not fair to a congregation if we continually allude to the meaning of the “original” biblical texts because all that does it to tell people that the Bible is a huge step removed from them. That is not true.

This is important. If you use a Bible translation that came from the diligent work of Bible scholars who know how to do the work of linguistics and textual analysis and translation, you are indeed holding the word of God in your hand. The vast and sweeping story of God and the human race in Scripture reveals the truth of God in the big, bold, repeated propositions. The fine points are important, but minor points must always be interpreted in the light of major points. And the major meaning of Scripture, including specific passages, can be and are rendered well in careful, responsible, translations.

What about all the allusions to Hebrew and Greek (and Aramaic) meanings in the Bible study tools we use? What are we to make of the commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and other tools that speak about the meanings we get from the original languages? What do we do when different tools make differing points about the original languages?

If you do not know Hebrew or Greek, you are in no position to judge which authority to agree with. The best thing you can do is to use a reputable commentary or Bible dictionary or handbook in the first place. Take the benefit of what those Bible scholars have presented, but always place the finer points in subservience to the major points.

Note that some commentaries go from one Hebrew or Greek phrase to the next. These “technical” commentaries may be awkward to use if one does not know Hebrew or Greek. Most commentaries will discuss the meaning of the original language where necessary.

What about the places where our study Bibles or other tools mention variations in the manuscripts we have of the Bible? What are we to make of a footnote like “some manuscripts have…”? Those notes come from Bible scholars who believe it is important to note that there is an alternative wording in the Hebrew or Greek of a passage. These instances are few and far between, and never does a major doctrine of the faith hang on which Hebrew or Greek language wording was most-likely original. We have some textual variants because scholars are working with the thousands of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts that we have from the ancient world. They compare them with great precision in order to determine what the original text would have been (since no one possesses the papyrus Matthew or Paul or James wrote on).

For thousands of years the Bible has been a revelation of God that has transformed lives and shaped history. The main meanings of the word of God has held people together with their specific revelations, even though there are doctrinal differences between believers.

The Bible itself says that God was intent to speak to us through the prophets and the apostles, and through his Son, the Lord Jesus, and with the inspiration and illumination of the Holy Spirit. The books of the Bible may have been written in Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic, but their meaning is available to us all, and we benefit from the diligent work of Bible scholars who guide us on the fine points.


Mel Lawrenz trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a Ph.D. in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, the latest, How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

Visual Theology: An Interview with Tim Challies

Tim ChalliesWe live in an image-based culture in which we increasingly rely upon visuals to help us understand new and difficult concepts. Infographics convey data, concepts, and ideas in fresh new ways.

God used visuals to teach truth to his people. The tabernacle of the Old Testament was a visual representation of humanity’s distance from God and God’s condescension to his people. The sacraments of the New Testament are visual representations of humanity’s sin and God’s response. Even the cross was both reality and a visual demonstration.Josh Byers

Bible Gateway interviewed Tim Challies (@challies), who, along with Josh Byers (@joshbyers), is the author of Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God (Zondervan, 2016) (website and @visualtheology).

Why do you begin a book about theology with a story about going to the gym?

Tim Challies: I began the book with a story about going to the gym for two reasons. The first is very practical—I wanted to draw people into the book with a story or illustration. This is the same reason so many sermons begin this way—it’s a helpful communications technique. The second reason is spiritual and significantly more important—I wanted to help people make the link between physical health and spiritual health. It was the Apostle Paul who said, “Train yourself for godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7); he also saw this link and wanted people to pursue spiritual health with the kind of commitment an athlete brings to his sport. My decision to go to the gym to get physically healthy helped to illustrate the need for all of us to go to God to get spiritually healthy.

Click to buy your copy of Visual Theology in the Bible Gateway StoreHow would you characterize your book: a book of Infographics supported by text or a text-based book with visual illustrations?

Tim Challies: Our approach was text-first. We created the text first and then used illustrations to support and enhance it. However, I should back up a little more to say that before the book was text, it was a teaching series at my local church. Through a series of afternoon and evening meetings, I taught this material to the people of my church as a means of promoting their spiritual growth and spiritual strength. It was prepared with real people in mind and that teaching series became the basis for the book. Once the book was in place, Josh began to illustrate it. So in that way, this is a book that’s supported, strengthened, and improved with visual illustrations.

What are the four pursuits you divide the book into and how did you narrow the Christian life to those four?

Tim Challies: As I prepared the teaching series meant to promote spiritual growth and strength, I came to realize that most books for new Christians were essentially short systematic theologies. In other words, when people become Christians, we immediately want to teach them the facts of the Christian faith. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, but I came to see in my church that in many cases we had new believers whose theological maturity was outpacing the maturity of their Christian living. For that reason I wanted to prepare a book that would provide consistent instruction on how to live the Christian life. One component of that is growing in our knowledge of the faith through pursuits like systematic theology, but there’s far more to it than that. I divided the book into the four pursuits of growing close to Christ, understanding the work of Christ, becoming like Christ, and living for Christ. These four pursuits involve a personal relationship with Christ, knowledge of Christ and his work, conformity to Christ in godly character, and then living for the glory of Christ in this world. My hope is that this provides a well-rounded perspective on the Christian faith.

Click to enlarge the Identity in Christ chart from Visual Theology

You write that the book began with a desire to teach how to live as a Christian. Why, then, is the title Visual Theology instead of something like Visual Discipleship or The Visual Christian Life?

Tim Challies: Visual Theology began as a series of posters and Infographics that were meant to teach truth about God by displaying it in illustrations rather than words. This is hardly a novel idea—God himself has often used illustrations to teach truth; beginning all the way in the Garden of Eden with the two trees, one of which illustrated joyful submission to God and one of which illustrated sinful rebellion against him. Once Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God he banned them from the Garden and put cherubim with flaming swords at the gate to the Garden, illustrating that the way to God was barred. Later he gave instructions for a tabernacle and each element of that tabernacle, from the embroidering on the curtains to the altars was meant to illustrate some truth. Thus visual theology has a good grounding in the Bible itself and was, to our minds, a good title for a book.

What were the logistics involved in producing this visually creative book?

Tim Challies: I generally created the text first. Sometimes, though, I would merely suggest an idea to Josh and he’d go ahead with the graphical work before I’d actually completed the words. Each of us is creative but each in our own way, and we found it a joy to work together in a variety of ways.

You write that God speaks today through the Bible, creation, universal law, and conscience. What is the Bible and what does it do?

Tim Challies: The Bible is God’s Word to us, his instruction to us on who he is, who we are, and how we are to live in this world to his glory. The Bible is the means God uses to speak to us today. But it’s even more than that! The Bible is the authoritative collection of God’s words to humanity, it’s made up of two testaments, it’s a story, it’s all about Jesus, it’s complete, it’s without error, and it’s trustworthy. And even then we’re only just getting started in exploring all that it is and all that it means to us. If we ever need proof that God loves us, we simply need to open our Bibles and marvel that the God of all the universe deigns to speak to us; to mere sinful mortals. It’s a precious, precious gift. No wonder, then, that Christians dedicate so much time to reading it, to praying it, to preaching it, to singing it, to meditating on it, and to sharing it with others.

Click to enlarge the Books of the Bible chart from Visual Theology

Why did you decide to depict the books of the Bible in the manner of the periodic table and what is the significance of the rows and columns?

Tim Challies: An older version of this periodic table is the very first graphic Josh and I worked on together, though we completely overhauled its design for the book. We were looking for an interesting way to display the books of the Bible at a glance and realized that the periodic table of the elements was already well-known, and that it brilliantly displayed a great deal of information. Not only that, but it displayed groupings and categorizations of information. We decided we’d imitate it. Our graphic is divided into two parts: showing the Old Testament and the New Testament. Each of the rows and colors displays one of the biblical genres. Then each one of the books (or elements, if you will) displays a little bit of information about its dating and authorship.

Enlarged portion of the Books of the Bible chart from Visual Theology

What do you mean when you write about the drama of God?

Tim Challies: Most of us are familiar with the category of doctrine, of theological truth about God and man. But many of us are less familiar with the category of drama; of what God is accomplishing in this world. I believe that a healthy and growing Christian ought to have knowledge of both doctrine and drama; of who God is and what God is doing. Knowing that this universe is the stage for a great drama gives us great confidence that God is the ultimate storyteller, that we are players in this drama, that there is a plot to all that’s happening here, and that there will be a great conclusion to it all. We need to diligently pursue our role in it all.

Enlarged portion of the Put Sin to Death flowchart from Visual Theology

Explain your section on ‘putting sin to death’ and describe the flow chart you include.

Tim Challies: No matter when and how we begin the Christian life, we begin as sinners; as people who are drawn to sin rather than righteousness. The Christian life is a long life of obedience; a long life of becoming progressively conformed to the image of Christ. The way we do this is by putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness. Using biblical terminology, we put the old man to death and bring the new man to life. No one has done more for my understanding of putting sin to death than John Owen and much of this chapter is drawn from his definitive work Overcoming Sin and Temptation, a book I’ve read and re-read. The flow chart is meant to be an aid to understanding Owen’s wisdom on identifying sin, putting it to death through the power of the Holy Spirit, and then replacing that sin with holiness.

Click to enlarge the Relationship tag cloud from Visual Theology

How did you create the expressive tag cloud where “love” is the largest by far of the relationship virtues? And what do you hope this communicates to readers?

Tim Challies: This is one of my favorite graphics and I love what Josh did with it. The graphic was drawn from the many “one another” commands of the New Testament—the many places where the Bible tells us how to live (and how not to live) in relationship with other Christians. The cloud serves to display that the overarching command is love—we’re to love one another. That love then manifests itself in all these other ways—through the bearing of burdens, through prayer, through patience and agreement and confession and so much else. This is one case where the illustration serves powerfully to display at a glance what would take many more words to explain. That’s because the sizes of the circles are mathematically proportional to the number of times that command appears.

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

Tim Challies: I’ve written a number of books over the years and one of them dealt specifically with life and faith in a digital world. My research for that book helped me see how Christians have always been quick to seek and find opportunities to use new technologies for the glory of God. Digital technologies are no exception! Bible Gateway has long been a leader in taking hold of this new technology and using it for the best purpose—the carrying out of the Great Commission. For that reason I’m so thankful for its work and its long example of obedience to God.


Bio: A pastor, noted speaker, and author of numerous articles, Tim Challies is a pioneer in the Christian blogosphere. Over 20,000 people visit Challies.com each day, making it one of the most widely read and recognized Christian blogs in the world. Tim is also the editor of DiscerningReader.com, a site dedicated to offering thoughtful reviews of books that are of interest to Christians. Tim is the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and Sexual Detox: A Guide for Guys Who Are Sick of Porn. He and his family reside near Toronto, Ontario.

Josh Byers is a pastor, speaker, author and noted artist. His work has been featured in a wide variety of places from The Gospel Coalition to The Tonight Show. His biblical Infographics and art have been translated into multiple languages and downloaded thousands of times over. A normal day includes playing Nintendo with his family, the Denver Broncos, photography, too much coffee, Arsenal, designing fun and beautiful things, and purchasing just about anything that Apple makes. Josh, his wife, and four children reside in Carlisle, Iowa. You can find more at joshbyers.com