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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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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Transcending Mysteries: The Interview with Andrew Greer and Ginny Owens

Andrew Greer and Ginny Owens are long-time recording artists who tour the country using their gift of song to point people to the Transcendent. As songwriters, they are well versed in crafting melodies that help us connect to a powerful, loving, and all-too mysterious God. Their work with words has led them to write a book together: Transcending Mysteries: Who is God and What Does He Want From Us?   

The book, published by Thomas Nelson, is a deeply personal discovery of God through the pages of the Old Testament. Many of us – Greer and Owens included – struggle with the Old Testament text and the God we find (or think we find) in it. In the earliest pages they confess, “We fell in love with Jesus then had to figure out what to do with God.” And as you will see in the interview below, the authors discovered that when we embrace the struggle and venture into the unknown we will discover beautiful things about God and ourselves.  

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Are God and Allah the Same?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet. 

William Shakespeare's immortal line from Romeo and Juliet is practically a universal truth. If something is real, it can be known. If it can be known, it doesn't matter what you call it. The identity and qualities of that person, place, or thing stays the same in any language.

Or does it?

Take the person of God, acknowledged as the “one true God” by the world’s three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—even though these religions refer to God in their own unique way. In Judaism He is Yahweh, in Christianity He is God, and in Islam He is Allah. So are God, Yahweh, and Allah the same?

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American Bible Challenge Fan Vote

Our friends at Grace Hill Media have some news about who will be competing for charity on the wildly popular "American Bible Challenge" game show.  The show, which had a limited run last season, debuted and remained the Game Show Networks highest rated show.  You can help vote through your favorite team to help them win money for a good cause by participating online, and you can vote once a day.  Here's the details:

"It's time to play favorites on THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE! GSN announced today the launch of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE FAN FAVORITE.  From Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, May 19th, fans of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE can go to gsntv.com to vote for their favorite team who can potentially win $10,000 for the team's charity.  THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE airs Thursdays at 9:00pm ET/PT on GSN.

The team with the most votes at the end of the voting period will receive $10,000 for their charity and earn the title of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE FAN FAVORITE.  The Fan Favorite winner will be announced on GSN during the finale of THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE on Thursday May 23rd at 9:00pm ET/PT.  Voting starts on April 18th and ends at midnight (PST) on May 19th.  Limit one vote per person, per day.

THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE is the highest-rated original series in GSN history.  The one-hour game show, hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, brings together contestant teams who compete based on their knowledge of the Bible as they strive to win prize money for the charity of their choice. In THE AMERICAN BIBLE CHALLENGE FAN FAVORITE COMPETITION, fans can cast their votes for the following teams: 

TEAM ANOINTED INK

Hometown:  Porter, Batson, and Katy, TX

Charity:  Inner Cry Ministries, which helps rehabilitate former gang members by covering gang tattoos with uplifting substitutes

Team Members: Scott Hill (tattoo artist); Leigh Ballinger (evangelist); Chris Peacock (clothing line owner).  Each team member ministers outside the "church box"-Scott via his Anointed Ink tattoo parlor, Chris via his "Redemption" clothing line and MMA involvement, and Leigh via his evangelization throughout the US, Canada and Australia.

TEAM CHRISTIAN WRESTLING FEDERATION

Hometown:  Royse City, Rockwall, and Lubbock, TX

Charity:  Christian Wrestling Federation, which promotes a wholesome version of professional wrestling

Team Members:  Phillip Barron, Rob Vaughn, and Mike Watt (all pro wrestlers).  Phil is the leader of this group of Christian wrestlers, all of whom have loved pro wrestling-but not its increasingly sexualized image-their whole lives. They believe strongly in the ministry of CWF, which is facing dire financial straits. They're playing to save the Christian Wrestling Federation.

TEAM CITY TAKERS

Hometown:  Atlanta, GA

Charity:  City Takers, exists to transform the urban and hip-hop culture with The Gospel of Jesus Christ through outreach and discipleship

Team Members:  Ronnie Rolon (freight handler); Scott Free (director of outreach); and Tim Igidi (security). These Christian rappers spread the word of God to the hip-hop community through City Takers, the organization founded by Scott Free, formerly a mainstream hip-hop artist. Ronnie and Tim (who leads the TABC team) grew up in rough circumstances but found salvation through the Bible.

TEAM COWBOY CRUSADERS

Hometown:  Springtown, Weatherford, and Grandbury, TX

Charity:  Western Harvest Ministries, teaching life skills to disadvantaged youth through rodeo sports

Team Members:  (John) Kelly Clark (rodeo instructor); Scott Mendes (former World Champion bull rider); Jeff Copenhaver (roping instructor). After leaving the sport of cattle-roping, Jeff founded the first "cowboy church," bringing the gospel to cowboys and rodeo athletes. He, Scott, and Jeff are playing for Scott's Western Harvest Ministries, which uses rodeo sports instruction to reach disadvantaged and at-risk youth.

TEAM DETROIT BELIEVERS

Hometown:  Detroit, MI

Charity:  Dominican Literacy Center, which works to reduce Detroit's 47% adult illiteracy rate

Team Members:  David Stephen (law student); Crystal Willis (law school graduate); and Eleisha Teasley (prospective medical student). These smart, achieving graduate students-who became friends while attending college in Atlanta-want to advance a positive image of Detroit, and provide living proof that their home city produces successful, capable people.

TEAM FIRST & FAITH

Hometown:  Strongsville, OH

Charity:  One More, founded by Benjamin and Kirsten Watson to spread the love and hope of Christ to One More soul by meeting real needs, promoting education and providing enrichment opportunities through charitable initiatives and partnerships

Team Members:  Benjamin Watson (tight end); Reggie Hodges (punter); Robert Brookes (team chaplain at time of taping)-all with the Cleveland Browns. These men of the NFL love football and love the Lord! Watson, a pastor's son, founded his charity to help the community and share his faith.

TEAM GIRLS OF GRACE

Hometown: San Diego & Chula Vista, CA

Charity: Life Acts, provides groceries & household goods to approx 6,000 people in need each month

Team Members:  Cynthia"Cindy" Shaw (Life Acts director), Elizabeth Samala (Life Christian Center & Life Acts CFO); Ezraley Samala (child support services student clerical aide). The Samala family started a full Gospel ministry to restore broken lives with simple acts of love, food, and resources. With this movement, Life Acts was birthed. Now the Samala sisters work alongside Cindy, their father, and pastors in this outreach ministry of Life Christian Center International Ministries of San Diego.  If they win, they'll buy industrial shelving and refrigerated storage for Life Acts, allowing that ministry to touch even more lives.

TEAM HELLO KIDNEY

Hometown:  Gadsden, AL

Charity: National Living Donor Assistance Center, providing financial support to individuals who volunteer to be living organ donors

Team Members:  Kelley Zeringue (Christian romance author); Rene Zeringue (youth minister); J.R. Zeringue (cheerleading gym owner and coach). This family is ready to share their testimony to raise awareness about living organ donation: Two years ago, Kelley donated a kidney to one of her husband's employees, and today both are healthy and happy. Now she encourages everyone to "share your spare."

TEAM HOLY ROLLERS

Hometown:  Simi Valley and Moorpark, CA

Charity:  Live Ride Christian Church's Annual Angel Tree Toy Drive, which delivers Christmas presents to children whose parents are in prison

Team Members:  Billy Brown (pool man); Brian Matthews (truck driver); Dana Palminteri (cosmetologist). These three bikers, with their Bible-verse leather jackets and inspiring tats, spread the Good Word on their Harleys as part of a very unconventional ministry that reaches those who might not otherwise be exposed to God's saving grace.

TEAM MEN OF MOTOR CITY

Hometown:  Detroit, MI

Charity:  Trinity Deliverance Church and its outreach to drug addicts, criminals, and at-risk youth

Team Members:  Ron Daniels (ordained pastor & quality assurance chemist); Lavell Neal (Marriott banquet supervisor); Jimmie Davis (semi-truck driver, Ford Motor Company). These men are committed to seeing the Motor City overcome hardship and achieve greatness-and believe that transforming Detroit into a prosperous city begins by transforming the lives of the dejected.

TEAM PREACHIN' DIVAS

Hometown:  Oakland, Concord, and Berkeley, CA

Charity:  A.D. Willis Memorial Center - a family life center construction project for their East Oakland community

Team Members:  Michele Brown (writer); LaShawn Taylor (underwriting assistant); Jacquelyn Melton-Jenkins (graphic designer). These self-proclaimed divas love to preach and teach the word of God -and to serve their East Oakland community through their church, Lily of the Valley Christian Center. One of the outreach ministries of the church is Project Lily Love, a service that provides resources and referrals to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Their passion is fueled by LaShawn's story.  Her former husband was discovered to have been living with AIDS for more than 10 years, undiagnosed. Miraculously, LaShawn and her child were both found HIV negative.

TEAM REDEEMED REDNECKS

Hometown: Jackson and Covington, GA 

Charity:  Burning Bush Youth and Family Intervention Center, which offers positive solutions to youth and families struggling with life-controlling issues

Team Members:  Mike Redman (professor); Rachel Stubbs (band director); Jeremiah Redman (engineer). These proud rednecks, bluegrass singers, and disc golf players are also committed to community outreach-providing food, resources, and services to the poor, sick, and shut-in.

TEAM RED ROOTS

Hometown:  Moss Point, MS

Charity:  Home of Grace, an addiction recovery program founded by their pastor-and the first place the Red Roots performed

Team Members:  Natalie, Nika, and Nicole Taylor (sisters and band members). These 21-year-old triplets formed the Christian-pop-country band "Red Roots," named in honor of their red hair and their renewal in the blood of Christ.  These sweet Southern girls are also passionate, tough competitors!

TEAM RIGHTEOUSRUBIES

Hometown: Ontario and Corona, CA

Charity: The Ruby Project, dedicated to helping physically, sexually, and emotionally abused teenage girls

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"The American Bible Challenge" Review

As Christians, we’re supposed to be in the world but not of the world. But what happens when we get stuck inside our own world? Look no further than Christian music, Christian movies, Christian jewelry, Christian clothing, Christian furniture, and now Christian game shows. The American Bible Challenge is coming to the Game Show Network and it’s every bit what it sounds like.  If you like all things Christian subculture, you’ll love it. If not, then it’s exactly what you expect.

Three teams of three compete against one another by answering Bible trivia for a chance to win $20,000 for their charity of choice. No one walks away empty handed, as all charities get at least some money. The structure is pretty standard game show structure with easy questions that get more difficult as the game goes on, concluding in a final lightning round for all the marbles. Sounds fine so far, right?

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Wisecracking Foxworthy, charities team up for Bible Challenge

No, this is not like any game show you’ve ever seen. The contestants pray. A Gospel choir breaks into hallelujahs at commercial breaks. The host, comedian Jeff Foxworthy quips “You know, if your church is also a skating rink, you just might be a redneck.”

In the premiere episode of the American Bible Challenge, airing Thursday night, August 23 at 8 p.m. EDT, on the Games Show Network, the first three teams of 18 are introduced – and go head-to-head in competition for $20,000 that the competitors don’t even get to keep.

Thursday night, viewers will meet “The Suburban Saints,” from Sacramento, California – whose members include local deputy sheriff Ron Milton, insurance salesman Ned Schaut and TV/film producer Rick Borba. What do they have in common? They are Bible study buddies.  Ron is a Purple Heart Iraq War vet who volunteers in prison ministry; Ned wants to build a skate park to minister to teens; and Ricky hopes to make films and TV shows reflecting Christian values – but without any sermons. If they win this round, they will earn $20,000 for City Crossroads, a non-profit serving the Sacramento community.

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Does the Bible bore you?

The Bible is the most remarkable book ever written, read by more people than any other book by a mile, and yet if you're completely honest, you'd have to admit that at times the Bible bores you. We'll admit it. There are times when we read the Bible out of obligation rather than from a heart of expectation. Why is that? Why do we sometimes get bored when we read the Bible?

We've thought about this and have a theory. See what you think. Our theory starts with the fact that we humans are a self-centered bunch. We're always looking for our own best interests, doing things that make us feel better, and basically orienting everything we do around us, including the Bible. Even as followers of Christ, we live as if we're the center of the universe, and so the Bible becomes just one more thing to add to our lives, like a self-help book.

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The Intolerance of Tolerance

Is the Bible intolerant?  That was the question Nathan Hansen asked me to answer for hundreds of students and adults recently.  Three years ago, Nathan, Snohomish Community Church’s innovative youth pastor, created Jesus University, a five-day youth conference in the Seattle area.  During the day, students serve their community.  At night, the community is invited to come hear top Christian bands.  

But before the bands play, Nathan has a Christian apologist address a tough question for an hour, followed by 30 minutes of Q & A.  The big-name bands draw thousands of people throughout the week, but Nathan ensures they’re given more than music.  They get an intelligent yet gracious defense of Christianity.  And our culture desperately needs some clear thinking when it comes to the topic of tolerance.

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The Spiritual Discipline of Liturgical Prayer

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul gives us a bracing challenge: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Pray without ceasing! How is that even possible? 

There are many ways to approach the idea of constant prayer, but one way that Anglicans all over the world have used fruitfully is to pray what is known as the "Daily Office" for Morning and/or Evening Prayer.

The Daily Office is a liturgical style of prayer, meaning that there is a set structure for the prayer service.The Daily Office is structured around Scripture readings, in a framework of traditional written prayers (most of which draw specifically on Bible verses for their language), with “space” built in for extemporaneous, personal prayer. The Anglican / Episcopalian liturgy for Morning Prayer or for Evening Prayer has a number of different options, so by making choices about what to include and what to skip, each individual can personalize the Daily Office to fit different preferences and amounts of time, from 15 minutes to... however long you want to pray!

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