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Americans Are Fond of the Bible, Don’t Actually Read it

(By Bob Smietana, LifeWay Research). Americans have a positive view of the Bible. And many say the Christian scriptures are filled with moral lessons for today.

However, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible.

Less than a quarter of those who have ever read a Bible have a systematic plan for reading the Christian scriptures each day. And a third of Americans never pick it up on their own, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Small wonder many church leaders worry about biblical illiteracy, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Most Americans don’t know first-hand the overall story of the Bible—because they rarely pick it up,” McConnell said. “Even among worship attendees less than half read the Bible daily. The only time most Americans hear from the Bible is when someone else is reading it.”

Many unfamiliar with biblical text

Almost nine out of 10 households (87 percent) own a Bible, according to the American Bible Society, and the average household has three.

But Bible reading remains spotty.

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Americans about their views of the Bible and found significant splits in how familiar they are with the Christian scripture. One in five Americans, LifeWay Research found, has read through the Bible at least once. That includes 11 percent who’ve read the entire Bible once, and 9 percent who’ve read it through multiple times. Another 12 percent say they have read almost all of the Bible, while 15 percent have read at least half.

About half of Americans (53 percent) have read relatively little of the Bible. One in 10 has read none of it, while 13 percent have read a few sentences. Thirty percent say they have read several passages or stories.

Americans also differ in how they approach reading the Bible.

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Love That Endures Forever; What We All Need This Valentine’s Day

(Blog originally posted 2/12/16. Updated on 2/14/17). Life is fleeting but love endures forever. By tomorrow, Valentine’s Day will be over. The roses and chocolates and cards will be history, but we will still need to know that we are loved. 

My husband sat on the steps and held out a ring. It was large and worn and engraved with a date from 1966. He keeps it in a drawer and puts it on from time to time. His uncle Paul made it and it belonged to his dad. We talked and then he said, “This ring is going to be around even when I’m not.” Yes dear, you’re right.

Life is fleeting but love endures. Even when in human relationships there has been disappointment and heartbreak and neglect, somehow love endures. Even when the relationship was not all that you had hoped or would have wanted, somehow love endures. We are not always patient and we are not always kind, but love endures.

Today is Valentine’s Day and I’m holding out hope that the focus will be less on the fleeting emotion of cards, candies, roses and hearts and more focused on the love that endures forever.

1 John 4:7-16 says “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows GodAnyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Knowing someone by the fruit of their life, by what is produced through their thoughts, words and deeds, is an oft repeated biblical refrain. In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus affirms that “by their fruits you shall know them” and in Galatians 5 we learn that the first fruit the Holy Spirit produces in a believer’s is love.

The passage in I John goes on to say that “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”valentine john 3 16

That sounds a lot like John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life.”  That is really God’s valentine to each of us.

Continuing in I John, we read, “11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

As Christians we are supposed to be living demonstrations of God’s character in all the fullness of its beauty and truth. God is love, but God is also holy and God is Great and God is Good. God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  When we re-present God to others we do so by speaking the truth in love, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God.  The challenge is always to present God’s character, not some caricature of my own imagining.   Why? Because life is fleeting and love endures forever.

People need to know God, not me. People need to know the name of Jesus, not my name.  My life is fleeting, His love endures forever.

The I John passage concludes, “13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

 Where does your love abide this Valentine’s day? In the fleeting nature of this life or in the God who is love and in whom love endures forever?

The lover of your soul has sent you a valentine. His name is Jesus. All He wants in return is your heart. Valentine’s day is a good day to give it to Him. You can trust Him to hold it in love, forever.

 

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The Bible’s Clarity Should Be Evident in Our Lives

(By Mark Labberton, Christianity Today). The “perspicuity” (clarity) of the Bible was real to me before I even knew what to call it. It was an experience long before it became a tenet of my faith. I started to read the New Testament just as I was about to enter college. With very few assumptions, and with no theological or spiritual commitments, I simply picked up the Bible and began to read.

I read and re-read the Gospels, and then the whole New Testament. I was without instruction in almost any of the historical, cultural, political, or theological issues of the text. I was by no means sure there was a god, nor was I sure that this text and its apparent claims were true or relevant to some possible divine being. It simply seemed to me that a literate person should be acquainted with the Bible, and so it all began.

The portraits of Jesus presented in the Gospels astonished me. The four distinct angles of vision invited me to look carefully through a set of lenses at the most important figure in the New Testament. I had feared that religion made life small and insignificant. Petty religion was repellent. I didn’t need religion to help me have a small heart or a pathetically self-interested worldview. I knew my own capacities in these areas were more than sufficient!

As I read, heard, and meditated on the witness of Scripture, I came to discover that what Jesus offered was in fact the antidote to smallness: the kingdom of God. The smallness that pervades much of our natural human enterprise, whether it is business, education, politics, or religion, was the problem of a shrunken heart and mind. By contrast, the kingdom of God—life under the reign of God’s grace and truth in Jesus Christ—expands and unleashes our heart, mind, soul, and strength for the profound purposes for which we were made.

To my utter surprise, the Bible proved itself to be clear to me, even though I knew almost nothing about it. What the Bible made plain was that I was loved, sought, convicted, called, and redeemed by the true and living God who came to save the world—including me—in Jesus Christ. The clarity of Scripture was not an abstract principle; it was an apt description.

Learning to Delight

The Bible’s plainness also made clear that to respond to this text—to the God named and made known through this text—would be to take up the most difficult, lifelong challenge I could imagine. It would be a life-enlarging, mind- and heart-expanding act of deliverance from my small self. It would mean coming to inhabit the complex story of God—a story that made claims about creation, about human identity and purpose, about moral reality, about human suffering and pain, about power and injustice, about failure and grace.

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PCUSA’s ‘One Church, One Book’ Project: Which Book?

When the Co-Moderators of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) promote a project titled “One Church, One Book,” what do you think the book would be?

Might you think it was the Bible?

What if it was described this way:

“Our hope is that it would start conversations. But it’s not just about reading the book. My hope is that we would be somewhat changed.” Jan Edmiston, Co-Moderator of the 222nd General Assembly (2016)

Still think it’s the Bible? You’d be wrong.

The recommended book the highest ranking elected leaders of the PCUSA hope might change us it not the Bible.  Edmiston, along with Co-Moderator Denise Anderson, is instead encouraging Presbyterians to read the book Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving.

The PCUSA Co-Moderators are promoting their “One Church, One Book,” project, inviting the denomination to “join them in a literary journey on race.”

This book, not the book you thought but Waking Up White should be read by Presbyterians anywhere they gather together, which may include pastor support groups, church school classes, book clubs or even … Bible studies. That’s right.  The call is not to study the Bible in Bible study but this other book, vaunted as the one book for the one church.   

The “One Church, One Book” web site includes a four-week study guide and a video series by the co-moderators that will be posted soon.

Each of the four study guide sessions includes a quote from the Bible, along with a quote from the Confession of Belhar and two or three quotes from Waking Up White. It then includes a list of questions about race and racism.

One wonders how a four-week study (or longer) of the Bible might affect our opinions on race and racism?

Carmen LaBerge, President of the Presbyterian Lay Committee said that her four week Bible study on the subject would run “From Genesis to Revelation. You can’t start with the Imago Dei and end with representatives of every tribe and tongue bowing down to Christ the King and not get that people are people in the eyes of God.  We are equally created in His image, equal in the totality of our depravity, equal at the foot of the cross, and equal before the throne.”

When asked to sketch out what a four week study might look like, LaBerge offered this outline:  

  1. A confrontation of worldview: Racism is absolutely fine if the Bible is not True. Equality in Creation and at the foot of the Cross.
  2. A confrontation of the individual conscience wandering around with Jesus and then witnessing the expansion of the offer of salvation beyond the Jews to Gentiles.  Facing that we’re all racist because we’re all sinners and we see that in others even if we like to deny it about ourselves.
  3. Philemon as God’s blueprint for reconciliation within the household of God
  4. A vision from the other side of eternity: seeing one another as eternal siblings, co-heirs of the Kingdom, children of the King.  

Concluding, LaBerge added, “If I had four weeks to open the Book with believers on the subject of racial reconciliation, that’s where I’d turn.”

See related article: One Church, One Book” aims to jumpstart discussions about race
 

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Stop Snacking on ‘Scripture McNuggets’

A Bible expert diagnoses the bad habits that keep us from feasting on God’s Word.

Drew Dyck interviews Gloenn R. Paauw of the Institute for Bible Reading. Christianity Today.

Nuggets on Wood BackgroundWe use the Bible as a manual or answer book. We look to it as a talisman or horoscope. We proof-text, cherry-pick, and impose our own biases. The sins against Scripture are numerous and, according to Glenn R. Paauw of the Institute for Bible Reading, endemic. And don’t get him started on what the Good Book has suffered at the hand of translators and publishers.

Saving the Bible From Ourselves: Learning to Read & Live the Bible Well is Paauw’s jeremiad against our tendency to distort, misuse, and misrepresent the Bible. All this mistreatment, Paauw argues, has left us with stunted Scriptures. CTPastors.com senior editor Drew Dyck spoke with Paauw about his quest for a bigger Bible.

Why does the Bible need saving?

God took a risk with the Bible—he gave it to us. It’s in our hands, and we’re free to do with it what we will. We shape it culturally. We shape the actual look and feel of it as an artifact, and we form practices around it. We are capable of imprisoning the Bible, of diminishing its impact. And if we don’t do right by the Bible, the Bible itself suffers.

Also, the research is pretty clear that the Bible needs saving. Sure, we say great things about it, but the fact is that it’s not having the impact it could. It’s being misused a lot, and it needs rescuing.

A lot of people will agree that the Bible needs saving, but from outsiders: critics and skeptics. But that’s not what you’re talking about.

Yeah, that’s the easy out. The easy thing would be to say, “Well, it’s really sad that so many people live their lives without the Bible or are ignorant of it.” And that is sad, but the more dangerous fact is that even those people who think they are doing right by the Bible often aren’t. What if those of us who have a high view of Scripture are, in practice, not doing it justice?

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The Bible Surprise that Got These Translators Thinking Differently about How to Spread the Gospel

By Billy Hallowell, Deseret News.

OpenBible-3There has been an explosion of late in the use of digital Bibles, with hundreds of millions of tablets and smartphones now carrying Bible apps that offer up personal studies, daily readings and a variety of scripture translations.

Consider that the popular YouVersion Bible app has already been downloaded more than 230,000,000 times across the globe — and counting.

But while many people are openly embracing the digital phenomenon, some in the underground church world are still pining for paper copies, according to David Reeves, director of technology advancement at Wycliffe Associates.

Reeves told Mission Network News that his organization — which equips missionaries by assisting with Bible translation — was caught by surprise when they realized that many churches still want paper copies of the biblical texts.

He said that Wycliffe Associates needed to re-think plans surrounding digital offerings after further assessing the reality on the ground in some countries where Christian churches must live in secret or where the Bible is banned.

“They really want to have this,” he said of traditional paper Bibles. “They can have it in their hands, it doesn’t require any power, it doesn’t need to be recharged and they can hide it in various locations.”

Despite the need and demand, there are certainly a plethora of challenges surrounding printed Bibles, including how to transport copies to locations that are not accommodating — or are outright hostile — toward faith.

And, as Mission Network News noted, another barrier is that some languages do not yet have Bible translations.

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Commencement Address: That the Word of the Lord May Speed Ahead

Paul yearns to see the Word of God, the gospel of Christ, race across the world, knowing that the Day of the Lord is coming, when there will be no more days left to preach.

By Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., at www.albertmohler.com

religious graduationIf you want to know what people really believe, the philosopher Roger Scruton once explained, listen to them pray. It is one thing to ask a person what he believes, but it is another thing to listen to him pray. Prayers reveal the underlying theology. As the old Latin formula reminds us, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi — As we pray, so we believe.

I think we can safely take Roger Scruton’s point one step further. We learn a great deal about someone by what they ask others to pray for. That point draws me to the Apostle Paul, and to his prayer requests as found in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5.

Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”

Paul has already written to the Christians in Thessalonica, thankful that their faith was growing abundantly and that their mutual love in Christ was increasing. He has assured them of the ultimate victory of Christ and warned them to be watchful of the coming Day of the Lord.

“So then, brothers,” Paul had written, “stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by spoken word or by our letter.” [2:15] Paul then prayed for these believers, for whom he had long toiled and to whom he had so faithfully preached: “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” [2:16-17]

Only then did Paul ask the Thessalonians to pray for him, along with his gospel companions Timothy and Silvanus. Finally, he asks, pray for us “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.”

Paul continued by asking the church to pray that he and the other evangelists would be “delivered from wicked and evil men,” knowing that the gospel of Christ has enemies. Paul wanted the Thessalonians to pray that the gospel would go forth unhindered by opposition and unstoppable in the face of the wicked and the evil.

Paul was confident that the church would be protected from the evil one, and he expressed confidence that the Thessalonian Christians would be faithful to his instruction “and will do the things that we command.”

What strikes me most powerfully is the words that the Apostle uses to make the central thrust of his request for prayer clear — “that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.”

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This commencement address was delivered by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Friday, May 20, 2016.

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What the Latest Bible Research Reveals About Millennials

Turns out, young Christians may be the most engaged Bible readers in generations.

From Christianity Today.

Bible-StudyPracticing Christian millennials are bucking a trend.

Overall, this generation is less likely to read or trust the Bible than any other. More than half (55%) are “Bible-neutral” or “Bible-skeptical,” compared to 45 percent of teens, 51 percent of Gen-Xers, 40 percent of Boomers, and 40 percent of Elders.

Yet Christian youth who go to church and care about their faith may know the Bible better than older Christians. Practicing millennials are more likely to believe the Bible came from God and read it multiple times a week than any other generation (87%), according to a six-year American Bible Society (ABS) and Barna Group study of Bible engagement in the United States.

(The report surveyed millennials, which it defined as those born between 1984 and 1998. Gen-Xers were born between 1965 and 1983, Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964, and Elders were born before 1946. Teens were those ages 13 to 17 in 2015.Practicing describes those who identify as Christian, say their faith is important in their lives, and have been to church within the past month.)

In fact, the way practicing Christian millennials engage with the Bible looks a lot like the way their parents and grandparents do.

Americans of all ages are growing more skeptical about the Bible, according to the study. More than 1 in 5 (22%) said they were skeptical of the Bible’s claims in 2016, more than double the 10 percent who were skeptical in 2011.

While three-quarters of Americans believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead (a finding ABS and Barna call “remarkable”), fewer believe that a historical Daniel survived the lions’ den (65%), that Moses actually parted the Red Sea (64%), or that David literally killed Goliath with his slingshot (63%).

Millennials are the most skeptical of all. Overall, four of five adults consider the Bible a holy book (81%), and that number shrinks with age. Elders (88%) and Boomers (87%) are more likely than Gen-Xers (79%) and millennials (71%) to believe the Bible is holy.

The biggest gap appears between millennials and their grandparents. Millennials are twice as likely (23%) as Elders (11%) to say the Bible is “just another book of teachings written by men.” Elders, meanwhile, are twice as likely (31%) as millennials (16%) to say the Bible is the actual word of God.

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Persecuted Christians in North Africa Receive Smuggled Bibles

By Carey Lodge, Christian Today.

Bible with a contemporary lookConstant prayer has helped Christians to smuggle in Bibles and training materials for pastors in a North African country where believers face persecution.

According to persecution charity Open Doors, a 24/7 prayer meeting has been running constantly in the country, which cannot be identified for security reasons, since 2003. Local Christians believe they have seen miracles as a result of the constant stream of prayer.

UK volunteer Holly (name has been changed) recently took more than 30 Bibles and other Christian books into the country, where it is illegal to print Christian literature.

“There are church leaders who only have a few pages of scripture that they own,” she said. “The church is growing so rapidly and people are just coming to know Jesus so quickly, they need to get Bibles in as quickly as they can and as many as they can. And not just Bibles, but also training materials for pastors and church leaders.”

The materials would have been confiscated if found by officials, but airport security checked every single bag except Holly’s.

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Wycliffe Associates Tackling Persecution After Militants Kill Bible Translators

By Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife.

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U.S.-based Bible translation group Wycliffe Associates (WA) is rushing to train and shelter indigenous Bible translators from areas controlled by Islamic militants, after at least four of its workers were killed in the Middle East, BosNewsLife established Sunday, April 17.

WA said a Mobilized Assistance Supporting Translation (MAST) training session will be held in 40 languages for Bible translators “who live in regions where Christians are specifically targeted for persecution and even death.”

Besides MAST workshops, the ‘Wycliffe Associates Scriptures for New Frontiers Fund’ provides shelter, meals and other support as well as “computer tablets with software and other technology and equipment” for translators working in hostile regions, WA explained.

The gatherings in a “secure location” come shortly after WA confirmed that four of its co-workers were killed last month by suspected Islamic militants in an unidentified nation in the Middle East. “Militants killed four national translators and injured several others in a raid on a translation office in the Middle East,” said Mae Greenleaf, WA’s prayer coordinator.

“They shot and destroyed all the equipment in the office including the Print On Demand equipment,” Greenleaf added. “The invaders burned all the books and other translation materials in the office. Two workers died of gunshot wounds; two other workers laid on top of the lead translator—saved his life—and died deflecting bludgeoning blows from the radicals’ spent weapons.”

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