What is the Bible About? Part 2

Would you believe I was married for 7 years the first time I met my father in-law? Ha! He arrived from Cameroon dressed to the nines in a pale yellow suit. Over the course of his month long visit, I learned a little about him and a lot about my husband. 

As I got to know my father-in-law, I realized my husband had very similar mannerisms and characteristics. As it turns out, my husband is a lot like his father.

I was greater informed of my husband as my relationship formed with my father in-law.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve opened the Bible looking for the answers I think I need for the thing I think is the most urgent thing in my life.

Built for a Time Like this


 

We are being asked to live with unknown cultural elements and we are uncertain as to how some things will play out. We find some things we have seen this week to be unbelievable. Some of us are homesick, others of us feel exhausted, curious, disillusioned, and engaged all at once. It’s hard sometimes for me to articulate the deep longings that come out as emotional overload and my guess is that I am not alone.

Those of us in international education or those of us who have studied abroad or those of us who have international partners as part of our day to day work are built for a time like this. How do I know?

Cultural Disorientation

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What is the Bible About Anyway?

The Bible can be intimidating right? When you pick it up to read, where do you start?  In the beginning? (#punning). Or do you start with the words of the wise in Proverbs? Jesus seems to be pretty important. Do you start by reading about His life in the Gospel books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Whether you’re new to Christianity or have been following Jesus for a lifetime, knowing how to read the Bible and where to start can be a challenge.

Confession: I’m a 100% through and through book nerd. My idea of a hot Friday night? A good book in one hand a glass of vino in the other. I devour books as if they are a big ‘ole fat slice of pie. I love books.

The Benefit of Doubt

The following is an excerpt from the new book, Answering the Toughest Questions About God and the Bible by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz.

God isn’t surprised when people doubt him. It doesn’t even bother him. How do we know this? Because of the way Jesus treated one of his disciples, famously (or infamously) known as Doubting Thomas. Jesus had been crucified, was dead and buried. But he rose again and appeared to more then five hundred people, including his disciples—except for one.

It seems Thomas was missing when Jesus first appeared to his followers, and even though his colleagues told Thomas about the risen Lord, he refused to believe. “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Talk about a tough sell!

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Answering the Toughest Questions About God and the Bible

I'm excited to tell you about the newest book from Bruce & Stan, Answering the Toughest Questions About God and the Bible. We don't pretend to have all the answers (never have, never will), but we do know how to wrestle with doubt. In this new book, we ask some of the most important questions people have about God and the Bible. Here's an excerpt to give you an idea of our approach.

The world is full of questions. Whether the topic is politics, race, relationships, the environment, or religion (especially religion), there seem to be more questions than answers. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite good. In past generations, asking questions was considered rude or disrespectful, especially when it came to God and the Bible. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it for me” was the response Christians were supposed to have. Anything more and you were labeled a Doubting Thomas. People were reluctant to ask questions about God out of concern they would be considered un-American (we’re not kidding).

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Lee Strobel Interview

Lee Strobel, former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, recounted his spiritual journey from atheism to faith in a New York Times bestseller which has become a Christian classic: The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Zondervan).

A revised and updated paperback edition is now available. A film based on the book is in production and will release in theaters nationwide in March 2017. ConversantLife interviewed Stobel by phone from his home in Houston, where he serves as Professor of Christian thought at Houston Baptist University.

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Nabeel Qureshi Part 2

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

Christians worship Yahweh, the Trinity, whereas Muslims worship Allah, a monad. This is not an incidental difference; Islam makes every effort to condemn the Trinity as blasphemy (4.171). The Quran rejects the relational aspects of God, saying that He is not a father (5.18) and He is not a son (112.3). It establishes its own doctrine of God, Tawhid, in diametric opposition to the Trinity, and that doctrine becomes the central doctrine of Islamic theology.

Most people who say Christians and Muslims worship the same God are aware of this difference, but they treat it as relatively inconsequential. This is not a trivial difference, though; it has major implications. Since mankind is made in the image of the Triune God, love is woven into our very nature. The Trinity gives us the most consistent, most powerful basis for being self-sacrificial and altruistic.

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750,000 Words

There’s a saying in publishing that writers should take to heart: Edit to amplify. Editing is hard work, but it makes all the difference in the world. Too many unnecessary words dilute the message and cloud the story. As Mark Twain famously said to a friend, “I would have written you a short letter, but I didn’t have time, so I wrote you a long one instead.”

There’s no one who exemplifies the power of crisp editing better than God, the world’s all-time bestselling author. His written word, known by modern readers as the Bible, clocks in at an efficient 750,000 words.

You may be rolling your eyes at that number, thinking that three-quarters of a million is a lot of words. If so, consider this. William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets total 960,000 words. The Harry Potter books come in at just over a million. As Jon Bloom observed in his blog, “Numbers like these simply make us pause and wonder over God’s written word economy.

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Unlike Other People

In recent years much has been marked by many debates in Congress, increasing campaigns by Presidential hopefuls, and a vast array of movies characterized by special effects. We have also seen the passing of influencers and among them is John Stott, whose influence has been profound and whose example is inviting and intimidating at the same time.

Let me give a personal note. In the early 1990’s I heard John Stott preach at All Souls in London. I was a college student and the impact was enormous. I was new to the Christian faith and seeking like mad for knowledge and understanding. After the message, I promptly visited the bookstall, purchased ‘Basic Christianity’ by Stott and read it until the binding failed. Over ten years later, I helped lead a group of high school students to London and I brought them to All Souls for worship on the Sunday morning we were in the city.

Peace in Place of Performance

Culture demands conformity to a never satisfied machine while God imparts peace in place of performance.

The pressure is on isn’t it? Pressure to be all things to all people and to do all things for all people.

I hear momma’s everywhere singing an amen chorus in unison. We feel it right; intangible need to be at the top of our game in every area of life?

The expectation society places on women – well okay then - women place on women, has created a pressure cooker on the verge of imploding. The current of performance driven culture makes me nauseous.

When my husband Martial and I were first married about 8 years ago, I placed this crazy expectation upon myself to master domestic duties like it was nobody’s business. I threw myself into my job, working hard to earn more so we could reach some imaginary financial status we hadn’t even defined. I came home tired and wanting to rest, but the expectations to be the perfect home maker got to me and I’d spend an hour or two every night struggling in the kitchen to cook a meal we could stomach.

When our son Justice made his life debut, life got real, real fast. I was still working full-time, still struggling in the kitchen and on top of being wife of the year, now I had to be the mom of the year too.

The summer when Justice was one, I took him to swim class every week because that’s what you do with your baby in the summer right? It was such a challenge to sneak out of work early, race home, grab my son and his swim gear and get to class on time just so he could splash around and sing the wheels on the bus. We’d race back home, he’d eat a bar and some crackers on the way (the dinner of champions I know) and again I’d struggle to cook something worth eating. On those nights, Justice could barely keep his sleepy eyes open long enough to eat.  It was exhausting and I felt awful watching him struggle to eat, bathe and get to bed before he was beyond tired (and nobody wants to go there with toddlers, am I right or am I right?).

I don’t remember when it was I finally imploded and complained to my husband about never meeting the expectation to be wife and mom of the year and the frustration and exhaustion I felt as a result. I can however, assure you it was not one of my more becoming moments.

Have you been there? Maybe the pressure cooker you find yourself in looks different than mine but we all feel pressure to be and do more than we are and are capable of right?

I distinctly remember my husband graciously telling me he didn’t expect me to be wife and mom of the year. Sure, a nice home cooked meal is great, but if it caused me to feel depleted, I didn’t need to stress over it. We could figure out a new routine that didn’t cause me so much angst. I began to realize I set the bar high for myself based on what I thought he – and the rest of the world – expected of me. I had created these crazy expectations of myself I could never keep which only caused me to constantly feel like a disappointment and a failure.

See what I did there? I set an unrealistic expectation upon myself and when I couldn’t meet it, I labeled myself a domestic failure.

Lysa TerKeurst, - she’s so wise - talks about how easy it is for a line to turn into a lie to turn into a label that becomes a liability.

The line I heard was I needed to be a domestic goddess. After a treadmill marathon, accomplishing nothing but exhaustion and frustration, the line turned into a lie I bought into, seeking approval from my husband for an expectation I had placed upon myself without him even knowing. Because I couldn’t keep the pace, I labeled myself a failure. Had I kept running at this pace, burnout was inevitable. Insert ugly liabilities. Had the unrealistic expectation not been revealed and dealt with, it could have caused serious damage to my relationship with my husband and my son, and maybe even those around me outside our home.

There is a cultural shift taking place and more and more women are talking about the pressure cooker and beginning to release the valve. Thank goodness!

Last year, the very funny Jen Hatmaker released For the Love. The book opens with Jen admitting she has a ton of help caring for her family of 7 along with all her other responsibilities. It does really take a village to raise children. We cannot do it alone, nor were we meant to.

And the fabulous Shauna Niequist released Present Over Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Life.

I’ll trade in my frantic for simple and soulful any day! Can I get a witness?

I’ve shared some of my frantic with you. What’s your frantic and where do you need simplicity and a refueled soul?

This past summer I didn’t take Justice to swim lessons. I just couldn’t fit it into our schedule. And this time around, I wasn’t interested in futile attempts to conform our lives and what works best for our family into a schedule that just didn’t work for us.

When it comes to cooking, I’ve discovered crockpot meals - genius - and preparing meals ahead of time which has saved me hours during the week. I have more time to spend with my family and a lot less unnecessary stress.

I have learned to identify our families values and more importantly, to hold these values at higher esteem than societal or self-inflicted expectations. Sometimes this means we don’t take swim lessons right now and I don’t cook dinner every night. Sometimes it means I order pizza. Gasp! I know! The horror! And guess what? We’re still alive! As it turns out, Justice and my husband love pizza. #winning

What are your non-negotiables? What values are worth more to you than your own expectations?

Because here’s the thing, when I read about the character of God in the Bible, I read a very different story of grace and rest and peace than the story I was writing for myself.

In his book, Barefoot Church, author Brandon Hatmaker says, "Being at peace with God means we can take a breath, relax, and stop performing." 

The Bible is the story of God with the main character entering the scene as a baby. And what I learn about this unexplainable God in reading His story is He is the God who created life and delighted in it by resting with it. Even going so far in His relentless pursuit to be with His beloved children He became a little baby and babies rest a lot.

It’s no surprise then that the most restful, peaceful, delightful part of my day, is spending time with my son Justice reading and playing while a prepped ahead meal cooks or bakes away in the kitchen.

My biggest non-negotiable is my tribe before all. And for me, I am most prepared to love and to give my family the best of me, when I am in a position to be loved and to find my worth, label and peace in the One who made me to rest with Him.

Here’s my charge to you. Read and rest in the passage below. It’s Gods’ story told so you would know and live your life resting in His unwavering love and adoration of you. His love does not deplete, not exhaust, not expire. His love fuels and empowers and uplifts.

As you read, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does this passage say about the character of God?
  2. What does this passage mean?
  3. How does this passage relate to the larger story of God told throughout the Bible?
  4. How does this passage affect my life?
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