5 Twisted Scriptures

Posted by on 03/15/2018 in:

Have you ever had a conversation about Christianity with someone, and they use the Bible to support an unbiblical concept? It can be confusing and shocking when they’ve twisted Scriptures!

Apologetics, the study of defending the faith, works to provide not only a correct interpretation of the passage at hand, but an understanding of why it was misconstrued.  The Apologetics Study Bible Notes contain a list of these passages, along with further information for your study.

We picked five twisted Scriptures to share with you:

5 TWISTED SCRIPTURES

DANIEL 8:14

He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”

“Daniel’s prophetic 2,300 days have interested many throughout history who have sought to predict the date of the Lord’s return. By interpreting each day as a year, William Miller, a Baptist pastor from New York, calculated that Christ’s second advent would take place between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844.

As the date approached, a wave of excitement and expectation swept across America. Thousands of Christians from mainline churches, convinced of the accuracy of Miller’s prognostication, joined with the new adventist movement. Many of these “Millerites” sold their property to wait anxiously for the arrival of God’s kingdom.

When the date passed without any cataclysmic event, Miller set October 22, 1844, as the new date for the parousia, or return of Christ. A second failure, known as the “Great Disappointment,” led Miller to repent of his errors.

Several of his followers, however, said that Miller’s latest date was correct but that his explanation was wrong. According to them, on October 22, 1844, Jesus moved from His seat at God’s right hand into the holy place to begin an “investigative judgment” of all professing believers, many of whom will be blotted out of the book of Life.

This remnant of Millerites eventually founded the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”

JOHN 9:2

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“This verse, when twisted, seems to support reincarnation. The implication is that in a previous life the man sinned and was thus born blind in the next life. The reference, however, is to a Jewish belief that a fetus could commit a sin while in his mother’s womb. The concept of reincarnation was foreign to Hebrew thought.

Jews believed in resurrection, not reincarnation.”

1 CORINTHIANS 15:29

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?

“Mormons refer to this verse as support for their practice of baptism for the dead. According to Mormon doctrine, no one can be born again apart from baptism at the hands of a Mormon priest. This creates a problem for those living before the advent of Mormonism. The solution is to baptize the dead by proxy.

There are several possible interpretations for this verse. Even if baptism for the dead were a practice in some first-century congregations, it was being administered by heretics (“they”), who according to the passage rejected the resurrection.

Paul was not endorsing the ritual.”

2 CORINTHIANS 12:2

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows.

“Some New Age teachers mention this verse as support for the practice of astral projection, or soul travel. Followers of Eckankar regularly attempt to separate soul and body, which supposedly enables them to traverse the various realms of the universe.

Paul called his experience a vision (12:1) and indicated that it was not self-initiated but rather happened to him unexpectedly. There is no scriptural support for astral projection.”

1 TIMOTHY 6:16

Who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

The basic premise of the soul sleep theory, also known as conditional immortality, is derived from this verse among others (see Gn 2:17; 3:4,19,22; Ps 146:4; Ec 9:5; Ezk 18:20; Rm 6:23).

Groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, The Way International, and a host of “sacred name” sects believe that when humans die, their bodies go into the grave and remain unconscious until resurrection day. The vast majority of Christians, however, believe that human consciousness survives death.

Jesus exhorted, “Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28).

The Apostle Peter talked about laying aside his “tent,” that is, dying (2 Pt 1:14), which seems to indicate that the personality survives death.

Paul made a similar statement in 2 Co 5:1. Paul also wrote of death as “the desire to depart and to be with Christ” (Php 1:23).

The author of Hebrews wrote of “the spirits of righteous people made perfect” (Heb 12:23).

And the martyred tribulation saints cry out, “O Lord . . . how long until You judge and avenge our blood?” (Rv 6:10), showing that they are alive when making this plea.

Most importantly, Jesus spoke on the subject when He assured the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in paradise” (Lk 23:43). When referring to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus concluded that “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22:32).

LEARN TO DEFEND YOUR FAITH

The Apologetics Study Bible is packed full of content from well-known apologists such as the McDowells, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, and more. You’ll have insights on nearly every verse of the Bible, helping you think through critical concepts. Additionally, there is a HUGE list of extra articles meant to answer some of your biggest questions about other religions, worldviews, and science and their impact on Christianity.

Look inside!

Interested in learning more? Visit our website to read more about The Apologetics Study Bible.

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An Ancient Perspective on the Beatitudes

Posted by on 03/14/2018 in:

Learning from ancient Christians is priceless (here’s why). But it can be difficult to find out what they each had to say about a specific passage of the Bible. Not only did they write A LOT, but their thoughts are scattered in commentaries, diaries, sermons, and even random fragments that we found over time. However, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) did the hard work for us! They compiled rich quotes from the most well-loved ancient Christians and organized them by book and verse. It looks like this:

So, now we can easily go verse-by-verse through the Beatitudes and see what Augustine, Jerome, and Origen had to say! What a time-saver.

Here are our favorite quotes from this resource, covering Matthew 5:3-7.

MATTHEW 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

JEROME

Free Humility, Not Forced Poverty, Is Blessed:

This is what we read elsewhere: “He shall save the humble in spirit.” But do not imagine that poverty is bred by necessity. For he added “in spirit” so you would understand blessedness to be humility and not poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” who on account of the Holy Spirit are poor by willing freely to be so. Hence, concerning this type of poor, the Savior also speaks through Isaiah: “The Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor.” Commentary on Matthew 1.5.3.

MATTHEW 5:4

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

CHRYSOSTOM

Intense Grief Over Sin:

He calls blessed even those who mourn. Their sorrow is of a special kind. He did not designate them simply as sad but as intensely grieving. Therefore he did not say “they that sorrow” but “they that mourn.” This Beatitude is designed to draw believers toward a Christian disposition. Those who grieve for someone else—their child or wife or any other lost relation—have no fondness for gain or pleasure during the period of their sorrow. They do not aim at glory. They are not provoked by insults nor led captive by envy nor beset by any other passion. Their grief alone occupies the whole of their attention. The Gospel of Matthew, Homily 15.3.

MATTHEW 5:5

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

AUGUSTINE

A Perpetual Inheritance:

“Inherit the earth,” I believe, means the land promised in the psalm: “Thou art my hope, my portion in the land of the living.” It signifies the solidity and stability of a perpetual inheritance. The soul because of its good disposition is at rest as though in its own place, like a body on the earth, and is fed with its own food there, like a body from the earth. This is the peaceful life of the saints. The meek are those who submit to wickedness and do not resist evil but overcome evil with good. Let the haughty therefore quarrel and contend for earthly and temporal things. But “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.” This is the land from which they cannot be expelled. Sermon on the Mount 1.2.4.

MATTHEW 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, or they will be filled.”

ORIGEN

God Is The True Virtue:

But if I must utilize a bold explanation indeed, I think that perhaps it was through the word that is measured by virtue and justice that the Lord presents himself to the desire of the hearers. He was born as wisdom from God for us, and as justice and sanctification and redemption. He is “the bread that comes down from heaven” and “living water,” for which the great David himself thirsted. He said in one of his psalms, “My soul has thirsted for you, even for the living God; when shall I come and appear before the face of God?” … “I shall behold your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied in beholding your glory.” This then, in my estimation, is the true virtue, the good unmingled with any lesser good, that is, God, the virtue that covers the heavens, as Habakkuk relates. Fragment 83.

MATTHEW 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

CHROMATIUS

Blessed By The Lord Of Compassion:

By a great number of witnesses indeed, just as many in the Old Testament as the New, we are called by the Lord to show compassion. But as a shortcut to faith we deem enough and more than enough what the Lord himself in the passage at hand expresses with his own voice, saying, “Blessed are the compassionate, for God will have compassion for them.” The Lord of compassion says that the compassionate are blessed. No one can obtain God’s compassion unless that one is also compassionate. In another passage he said, “Be compassionate, just as your Father who is in the heavens is compassionate.” Tractate on Matthew 17.6.1–2.

ANCIENT CHRISTIAN COMMENTARY ON SCRIPTURE

Fascinated by the early Church fathers and ancient Christians? Want to read their highly respected thoughts on Scripture with just a tap?

Visit our website to learn more about the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture.

Then, tell us in the comments: Who is your favorite early church Father or ancient Christian to study?

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Why Should You Read Books by Ancient Christians?

Posted by on 03/13/2018 in:

Not too many people loved reading Hamlet or Wuthering Heights in high school. Why? The language was confusing! Older literature takes time to understand due to cultural nuances, idioms, and unfamiliar vocabulary. This can be a huge deterrent for reading the works of ancient Christians. Reading translations of Augustine’s or Origen’s work will take a lot more time and care than reading this blog—but it’s worth it! Here’s are two reasons why.

REASON #1: HERITAGE

There’s a reason websites like ancestry.com exist: we love knowing where we came from. Our ancestors shape us (for better or worse) and it can be fascinating to uncover their pasts. Learning about conquered trials is inspirational. Discovering habitual sins is insightful. Listening to their advice is respectful. Through the past we learn to not make the same mistakes and instead, utilize our God-given strengths to keep growing.

This is the same for the Church.

We are one family! Paul makes this extremely clear. We are adopted into God’s family, heirs of His promises, and one body with other believers—and that includes believers from thousands of years ago.

It would be foolish to neglect the rich history of Christianity, only studying works from the past 8-or-so decades. There is so much to be discovered by studying the thoughts of our Christian ancestors.

  • Have a fear, doubt, or concern? They probably did, too!
  • Is your Christian community going through a difficult time? You aren’t alone!
  • Wondering why there is so much evil and persecution? Past Christians can relate!

Reading the writings of ancient Christians can show you the global and eternal impact of Jesus. When you see the vastness of the Gospel, remember that you are invited to participate in God’s plan.

REASON #2: HISTORY

There is a tendency to think that new is better than old. For example, our children may not understand why we do what we do. They claim our ways are outdated (and maybe sometimes they are!) but we also make our decisions based on years of experience. We have walked through different events, catastrophes, and winning-moments than our children, thus shaping us differently.

What does this look like in Christianity? It can be easy to believe that we, today, have all the answers. You may look at the ancient Christian writings and think “they didn’t have science back then,” “they didn’t have the same global issues back then,” or “they didn’t have a high level of education back then.” All of these statements are quite biased!

We shouldn’t dismiss the ancient Christians because their writing can be hard to understand or because they appear “out-dated” or “out-of-touch.” This is no different than when our children dismiss our advice without remembering what we have walked through. Instead, think about the events that the ancient Christians experienced.

When we read the writings of the ancient Christians, we have the opportunity to hear from the founders of the early churches. We are able to learn from those who lived not too long after the time of Christ. These men and women were leading the way, making Jesus’ name known around the world. There is so much to learn from them, and they deserve our respect and attention.

New isn’t always better, especially when it comes to theology.

START WITH SECONDARY RESOURCES

Even though we have just covered the importance of reading the ancient Christians, I wouldn’t recommend immediately jumping into primary sources. As you learn more about who these key players are, their backgrounds and influences, you’ll be able to better understand their writings. First, trying picking up a modern book that will teach you these things and explain the purpose of their writings to you.

We’ve put together a list of resources that should help you with your study of ancient Christianity. Whether you’re just beginning or have been at it for a while, you’re sure to find a new, challenging, and insightful read by following this link.

Have you already started studying the writings of ancient Christians? What has impacted you the most?

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You’re Called to Be an Apologist [VIDEO]

Posted by on 03/12/2018 in:

WHAT IS AN APOLOGIST?

The words “apologist” and “apologetics” stem from the Greek word apologia. This word means “defense” or “answer.” It appears 17 times as either a noun or verb in the New Testament—including 1 Peter 3:15-16:

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (NIV)

Although we have made apologetics its own area of scholarly expertise, we are still held accountable to be prepared to give an answer. Not all of us will write lengthy books like Lee Strobel or give mind-blowing presentations like Ravi Zacharias. But, we can all do our part to soak up the knowledge of these apologists, learning to share this information with those we come in contact with.

Plus, who wouldn’t want to be able to answer someone’s questions about the “reason for the hope that you have”?

APOLOGETICS WITH DR. BILL MOUNCE

4 AREAS OF APOLOGETICS

There are differing opinions of the function of apologetics, but these four are typically taught in apologetics courses and books.

VINDICATION or PROOF

Presenting proof for the Christian faith requires philosophical, scientific, and historical evidence. Through positive statements, we can show how Christianity is the true worldview.

DEFENSE

When other world views present doubts, questions, criticisms, and objections to Christianity, we can defend the faith. In order to do this well, we have to first know the opponent’s argument and then provide information on how Christianity can answer the questions presented.

REFUTATION

Although this function doesn’t necessarily prove Christianity to be true, it is still important. Refutation is the system of disproving opposing world views. If we only know why Christianity is true, not knowing why other options are false, then we may easily be swayed toward universalism.

PERSUASION

We can’t convince people to become Christians. This requires the work of the Holy Spirit! But we can be persuasive, respectful, and heartfelt. We should be willing to recognize that apologetics isn’t about winning an argument, but about opening the minds of non-believers to the truth of the Gospel and inspiring Christians to find the answers to their doubts. Most importantly, we want the world to know and love Jesus Christ.

START WITH THE BASICS

Interested in learning the basics of apologetics? Check out The Apologetics Study Bible Notes on our website. Not only does it provide helpful insights on most verses of the Bible, but it also comes with helpful articles from well-known apologists to get you started.

Already a fan of apologetics? Who’s your favorite apologist?

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5 Common Inner Crises Christians Face

Posted by on 03/09/2018 in:

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you[a] will worship God on this mountain.” Exodus 3:11-12 NKJV

When Moses heard God call him to the task of liberating the Israelites from Egypt, he questioned his ability to carry out the assignment. Each of his excuses exposed an inner crisis:

A CRISIS OF IDENTITY

When Moses asked “Who am I?” (Ex. 3:11), it seems he had already settled on an answer: I’m a nobody. Though he was a Hebrew by birth, he had been rejected by his people forty years earlier (2:11-14) and he had no reason to believe they would now accept his help. And though he was an Egyptian by upbringing, Moses had a reputation for rebellion and murder, leaving him little or no influence among Egyptian royalty. Finally, he was a Midianite shepherd by vocation, and shepherds were considered an abomination by the Egyptians (Gen 46:34).

Like many people today, Moses likely struggled due to his background and how he expected to be perceived by others, whether because of his ethnic or cultural heritage, his past mistakes, his low social status, or all of these. Yet God reassured Moses. He promised His presence, vowing to bring Moses back to the exact spot where he stood (Ex. 3:12).

A CRISIS OF AUTHORITY

Moses was concerned that he wouldn’t know what to tell his fellow Hebrews. He wondered how to explain who had sent him (Ex. 3:13). Moses thought people would never listen to an outcast emerging from the wilderness claiming to speak to God, especially if he should not establish his authority by providing the name by which God identified Himself.

God answered that concern with an extensive outline of His identity and authority as Lord: He stated His name (3:14); He recalled His promises to the Hebrews (3:15); He declared Himself more powerful than the Egyptians and their King, as well as the Canaanites (3:16, 17, 19-22); and He reaffirmed His role as the God of the Hebrews (3:18). God reminded Moses that He rules over all the earth and its people.

A CRISIS OF FAITH

Moses anticipated being met by unbelief. So God empowered Moses to do miraculous acts to demonstrate God’s presence and power (4:2-9). When people are prone to disbelief, miracles alone do not always prove convincing. Hearts often stay stubborn even in the presence of powerful signs (7:13, 22; Matt. 13:58; Luke 16:30, 31; John 12:37). On the other hand, miracles can strengthen the trust of those who want to believe. By studying God’s supernatural acts, we can be sure that the God who performed them speaks to us (ex. 4:5; John 20:30, 31).

A CRISIS OF COMMUNICATION

Moses was certain he lacked ability as a spokesperson. “I am not eloquent,” he confessed to the Lord. “I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex. 4:10). This contrasts sharply with Stephen’s assertion that Moses was “mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22) – because Stephen was describing Moses after God empowered him to stand before Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel. Whatever Moses’ deficiencies as a speaker, God vowed to teach Moses what to say and to make his words understood (Ex. 4:11, 12). This can encourage us as we represent our faith through words (1 Pet. 3:15).

A CRISIS OF OBEDIENCE

Moses’ final excuse was his simple unwillingness to carry out God’s command. In effect, he asked, “Isn’t there someone else You could send?” (Ex. 4:13). His question seems astonishing after all God’s promises and signs. Moses’ statement kindled the Lord’s anger (4:14), and we can only imagine how God must feel when we contradict His clearly revealed will for our lives.

Doing God’s will is ultimately a matter of obedience. We may have concerns as we consider God’s directives, but after God has addressed all our worries, only one question remains. Will we obey?

Moses’ decision to obey (7:6) resulted in the Israelites’ liberation from slavery under one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world. When we obey God’s commands and find our confidence in Him, there is no limit to the good He may accomplish through us.

Which of Moses’ 5 inner crises do you most closely identify with?

This blog is borrowed from our friends at bibleconnectionnews.com

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3 Time Management Tips

Posted by on 03/07/2018 in:

Did you know that March is National Time Management Month? Here are 3 time management tips to help you be more efficient as you study the Bible.

USE THE STUDY CENTER AT FULL-FORCE

The Study Center has four tabs: Resource Guide, Parallel, Notes, and Lookup. Have you discovered how to take advantage of these tabs all at once?

Here’s our tip:

Use the Resource Guide as you normally do. Use it to jump between commentaries, maps, outlines, and more.

But, use the Parallel tab to keep that other resource you know you REALLY want to use open. It could be a commentary or study notes. Or, you could use this tab the traditional way, keeping another translation available at all times.

Then, open up a fresh note in the Notes tab and get to typing! You can quickly copy and paste what you find into a note to save for later. Also, you can search through your notes to remember what you learned in the past.

Lastly, use Lookup to search for topics. You want to know more about Berea, so search for it! We’ll show you what information you have in your dictionaries and concordances.

KEEP YOUR NOTES ORGANIZED

Can’t stress this tip enough: stay organized!

You can create categories AND subcategories for your notes. For my personal study, I have folders for prayers, sermons, and quiet time. Inside these I separate types of prayers and if they are answered, different sermon series, and books of the Bible I’m reading.

Not all of my notes are tagged within my Bible text, either.

With your notes organized (with great titles and headers), then you should always be able to quickly search and find what you’re looking for.

Remember when we used to flip through endless pages to find what we wrote three months ago? Never. Again.

CUSTOMIZE YOUR GESTURES

A fun setting I like to adjust inside my iOS apps are the gestures. Under Advanced Settings, you can select “Gestures/Shortcuts” to see all your options.

Brainstorm your most common actions within the app and set them up to happen just a tap or swipe!

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Jesus’ Leadership Mantra

Posted by on 03/05/2018 in: ,

The Bible has a lot to say about leadership—especially in the Gospels. So, resources like the NIV Leadership Bible Notes are great tools for helping you process these passages and apply them to your own leadership style. In Matthew 20:20-26, Jesus makes one of the most profound statements on being a great leader, clearly defining his view of power. The four steps below, taken directly from the NIV Leadership Bible Notes, will assist you in this effort:

MATTHEW 20:17-19

“Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'”

QUESTION ONE

Reread the passage and envision the scene. Imagine the disciples and Jesus walking along on their way to Jerusalem. What mood does the paragraph in verses 17–19 cast on the scene?

MATTHEW 20:20-23

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

‘What is it you want?’ he asked.

She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’

‘You don’t know what you are asking,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?’

‘We can,’ they answered.

Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.'”

QUESTION TWO

Now, notice the conversation between Jesus and Zebedee’s family in verses 20–23. Imagine the Son of God asking you the question he asked in verse 21!

What would you say?

What were they really asking for?

Think beyond the obvious answer and imagine their dreams. From your knowledge of situations like this, what might have been their (good and not-so-good) motives?

MATTHEW 20:24-28

“When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’”

QUESTION THREE

Now, notice the other disciples’ response in verse 24. What generated their indignation?

QUESTION FOUR

In verse 25, Jesus identified the disciples’ understanding of power positions: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.” And in verse 26 he informed them of his approach to power and leadership. Put this approach into your own words.

JESUS’ LEADERSHIP TECHNIQUE

Think about this for a bit. After Jesus’ ascension, these men would be in charge. The disciples would need to be the highest-profile and most authoritative leaders in all of Christian history. They were to take over this ministry with no historical precedent, no written documentation that they could follow. They were the only disciples. However, their highest qualification was being personally groomed by Jesus. They had his example as a point of reference. And here he tells them not to lord it over others or exercise authority in a negative way.

Notice what Jesus told them in verses 25 and 26. He said that the highly visible uses of power around them, namely “lording it over” and “exercising authority over,” were not options. How, then, were they to get people to do what needed to get done? Jesus said, essentially: To be great, be a servant; to be first, be a slave. “First” is higher than “great” and “slave” is more servile than “servant.” Think about it!

Anticipating their confusion about whether this approach would work (actually, most hearers would be quite convinced that it wouldn’t work), Jesus gave a simple and solid closing argument. To those with whom he had lived and worked he concluded that they should serve “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (v. 28).

LEADERSHIP FOR TODAY

Today, countless articles and journals report on hours of empirical research and careful thinking about what makes leadership work. Increasingly, experts compile theories that affirm and explain what Jesus taught: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (vv. 26–27).

Jesus taught it, and then he went out and lived it.

COMMENT BELOW: How have you seen this leadership technique work for yourself?

NIV LEADERSHIP STUDY BIBLE NOTES

Wondering how to be a godly leader? Let the NIV Leadership Bible Notes assist you in applying the Bible to your leadership strategy—whether you’ve been in leadership for ages or are looking for an opportunity to start.

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Be Noble: Studying Scripture Like the Bereans

Posted by on 03/02/2018 in: ,

“As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” — Acts 17:10-12, NIV

It can be very difficult to know what is true and what isn’t. I often feel overwhelmed and exhausted by all the fact checking that is required of us in 2018. We are CONSTANTLY receiving new information: articles shared on Facebook, opinions on Twitter, advertisements on Instagram, books, movies, app notifications… the list goes on and on.

The Bereans weren’t unaware of the pressure to have correct information. With the news Paul and Silas were spreading about Jesus, everyone was on edge. The Gospel challenged the current thought trends on religion, politics, socioeconomics, and more. So, choosing sides was a lot more threatening than picking Democrat or Republican. This decision was Religious Rulers versus Jesus, Rome versus Jesus, Cultural Values versus Jesus… and behinds the scenes, Satan versus. Jesus.

But in Acts 17:10-12, we see Luke write something attention-grabbing. He lifts the Berean Jews up as an example. This is rare! Why did he choose to say this, out of all the people they met on their journey? A characteristic stood out to him—a very important one.

NOBILITY

According to Strong’s, the use of “noble” here is the Greek word εὐγενής. It means, “well born, i.e. (literally) high in rank, or (figuratively) generous.

In 2018, I picture Luke saying something like, “The Berean Jews knew how to stay classy.” When they were met with a difficult message, they kept their character in check and remained honorable. When everything they were taught was challenged by the Gospel, they didn’t run away plugging their ears or start shouting over Paul and Silas. With eagerness and a willing mind they began the process of fact checking, seeing if the Old Testament really did prophecy Jesus to be the Messiah.

In the end, they discovered the Gospel to be true and became followers of Jesus.

NOBILITY TODAY

Maybe this Sunday you will find yourself questioning if what is being preached is true. Perhaps you’re in a Seminary course and your textbook is making some interesting claims. Or, maybe you’re simply scrolling through Facebook and a headline makes your stomach churn with anger, fear, and questions.

How can we be like the Bereans in these moments? Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t lose your temper
  • Having a willing mind
  • Listen to what others are saying
  • Evaluate the claims others make
  • Compare what we hear with Scripture
  • Ask some friends to join you in your research
  • Rinse and repeat

One of the trickiest situations we encounter is when someone claims the Bible to mean something we aren’t sure to be true. The problem is that the Bible is a translation and not all of us are Greek and Hebrew scholars. How do we evaluate these claims then?

Like I did toward the beginning of this post, you can use a Bible study tool that has Strong’s. With a tool like this, you look up nearly any word with a tap or two and read it’s original definition.

If you do have experience with Greek and Hebrew, you might find it helpful to have a resource that provides you with parsings. If this feature is listed on a product page, it will show you something like this when you use it:

Do you have any advice on how to eagerly examine Scripture to see if what you hear is true? Comment below!

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Never Miss a Detail in Your Bible Study

Posted by on 02/28/2018 in:

Have you ever been listening to a sermon, chatting at small group, or even doing your own Bible study, and wondered if you were missing an important, insightful piece of information? It’s one thing to have a great collection of Biblical resources, but that doesn’t mean you know there’s a map of Jerusalem on page 203. At least, not without thumbing through an index or table of contents for five minutes.

Digital Bible resources solve this problem. They can be enhanced to show you the most important information when you need it. If you by a product from our store, and “Maps” is listed under features, then we’re going to let you know when any of those maps pertain to your Bible study. It’s that simple.

We have other features that work the same way: charts, introductions, outlines, and more. Here are some screenshots and explanations of how these tools can bring new knowledge and insight to what you’re studying—within seconds.

MAPS

Let’s talk about maps. Maps are great when you have them. However, they are usually tucked into the back of resources, and you might not be aware of which ones you have.

Now, if your pastor starts talking about Paul’s missionary journeys in Acts, you can find a relatable map in seconds. Just scroll through the Resource Guide until you find the section called “Maps”:

We’ve pulled up several different applicable maps from various resources in the library. Here is a map of the Near East in the first century AD from the Tyndale New Testament Commentary.

OUTLINES & INTRODUCTIONS

Our formatters tag where introductions and outlines are found in enhanced resources. That way, you can access them with just a tap, instead of opening up the table of contents or scrolling through a resource.

It’s really convenient to have all your introductions and outlines in one spot. Imagine you opened an introduction on Colossians from the Pillar New Testament… but then you wanted to fact check or learn more. Just tap the back arrow and select a different introduction.

TAGGED IMAGES

This feature is similar to one we’ve already talked a bit about: maps. Images (and charts) are visuals included in commentaries to give you context. But in the moment, you might not remember where to look for these. So, we compile them for you!

If you have an image in any enhanced resource, and it’s relatable to the passage you’re reading, it will show up here.

NEVER MISS A DETAIL

We put together a list of resources we’ve enhanced with features like these. Make sure to look on the left-hand side of the product page to see what features are included! Visit our website to see which resources will bring insight to your Bible study.

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God Can Show Up Where You Don’t Expect or Deserve

Posted by on 02/26/2018 in: ,

The following is an excerpt from the For Everyone Commentary Series by John Goldingay and N.T. Wright.

WE DON’T ALWAYS GET WHAT WE DESERVE

I’ve remembered why I had that visit from the man I mentioned in connection with Lamentations 5. I’d talked in class about a pastor who ignored a call from God to go and serve him abroad as a missionary. His subsequent ministry in England had been greatly blessed, even though he was not in the place where God had wanted him. One failure in obedience to God doesn’t have to ruin your whole life.

The man who came to see me had been told that persisting with his new relationship and divorcing his wife so he could marry this other woman would mean God would never bless his new marriage. I told him you could never make such predictions because God is always having to decide afresh whether to be merciful or disciplinary. Our calling is to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because we might forfeit God’s blessing.

LEARNING FROM EZEKIEL 1:1-28

Ezekiel’s community is people who were transported to Babylon in 597; five years have now passed. Anyone with religious sensitivity or principle knew that they’d deserved this fate (even if there were individuals like Ezekiel who didn’t deserve it) and would wonder whether they could ever expect Yahweh to reach out to them in Babylon. Their feelings might be similar to those expressed in Lamentations after the further fall of Jerusalem in 587. They’ve forfeited any right to expect God’s blessing.

(We don’t know what “the thirtieth year” refers to. Maybe Ezekiel was thirty years old, the age when he might have taken up his ministry as a priest if he hadn’t been transported to Babylon.)

GOD SHOWS UP

Out of the blue, in a literal sense, Yahweh appears in Babylon. Maybe Ezekiel sees a literal storm approaching, with wind, cloud, and lightning. If so, Yahweh turns the literal storm into an appearance of his own cloud carriage. Yahweh is coming to his people in Babylon—Babylon of all places!

Not that he’s coming with a message of comfort; rather the opposite. It does mean he hasn’t simply washed his hands of them. Perhaps the vision’s significance is to show that Yahweh has already been present with his people in Babylon; he now enables this prophet to see behind the veil constituted by the heavens themselves, to see that Yahweh is present, and to report that fact to the people.

There are limits to what God dares let Ezekiel see. Too direct an appearance of God would simply blind a mere human being. Most of what God lets Ezekiel see is his carriage pulled by four creatures—not mere horses but combinations of human being, animal, and bird (so they can fly and transport God through the heavens). They’re subsequently called cherubs. Their combined features give them great maneuverability, as do the crisscross wheels on the carriage that can go this way or that at will. But they’re driven by one will.

HE LETS US SEE & EXPERIENCE HIS GREATNESS

The creatures support a platform on which there stands a throne; on the throne is a human-like figure. Ezekiel is looking from below, so he sees little of the figure. His experience parallels that of Isaiah, who sees only the hem of God’s robe. While God can be pictured as lion-like or rock-like, more often God is described as human-like—it links with the fact that human beings are made in God’s image to represent God in the world. Ezekiel’s account also safeguards God’s transcendence (it won’t let us think of God in too human terms) by using the name Shadday. The traditional translation “Almighty” is a guess. The only other Hebrew word with which the Old Testament links the name is a verb meaning “destroy,” so people might take “Shadday” to suggest “destroyer”; this understanding would suit Ezekiel.

It’s also a solemn fact that the storm comes from the north, the direction where people often located God’s abode, but also the direction from which invaders came. But then it declares that there was something of a rainbow’s appearance about this God, one who put his bow away and let it hang in the sky without string and without arrows (see Genesis 9).

God’s appearing to Ezekiel is both good news and solemn news. For Ezekiel’s audience and for people reading his messages in written form, it also indicates that we’d better take his words seriously.

THE FOR EVERYONE COMMENTARY SERIES

Did you enjoy how this commentary takes a passage of the Old Testament and relates it to daily life?

The For Everyone Commentary Series has 35 volumes, including books from both the Old and New Testament. Each volume includes the editors’ translations of the entire text. Then, each short passage is followed by background information, useful explanations and suggestions, and thoughts as to how the text can be relevant to our lives today.

This resource works with the Resource Guide, showing you relevant articles as you read the Bible. Also, verses and footnotes are linked for quick reading.

Visit our website to learn more about this well-loved commentary series.

COMMENT BELOW: Where have you seen God show up where you didn’t expect or deserve?

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