Agree to Disagree

, by Christopher D. Hudson

The defense of one’s political and moral viewpoints has become something akin to a blood sport in our culture. Social media sites and online comments sections are especially brutal battlefields. Some attacks are so vicious, so vitriolic, that the knee-jerk reaction is to respond with an equal level of venom. Anything less, it seems, is tantamount to surrender.

In the end, little is accomplished by such responses aside from the sacrifice of biblical principles. The damage that can be done in the defense of Christian ideals and principles is staggering.

The Bible sets forth guidelines that sanction such interaction—guidelines that establish civility as the bare minimum that Christians owe their antagonists.

“Better to hear the quiet words of a wise person than the shouts of a foolish king” (Ecclesiastes 9:17).

Quiet words are words that don’t inspire anger in others. Quiet words ease antagonism and allow real dialogue to occur.

“Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips” (Ecclesiastes 10:12, NIV).

Gracious words acknowledge the worth of people with whom you disagree. Acknowledging people’s worth makes it more difficult to insult or attack them later.

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.

Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way” (Matthew 5:11–12).

Sometimes being attacked for holding a certain view or defending a certain Christian principle is a badge of honor.

“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell” (Matthew 5:21–22).

God holds his people to an incredibly high standard of behavior.

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow” (Matthew 5:38–42).

Those who have experienced grace should be the first ones to extend it. Leave revenge to the only One who knows how to repay evil.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.
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Be Shrewd

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Before Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to carry out his ministry, he gave them some sobering advice:

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NIV).

He wanted them to understand that they were going to face opposition, resistance, and in some cases, persecution. And he wanted them to face it with a demeanor that would make an impression.

Being “innocent as doves” means turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and showing love to enemies. It means conducting yourself in a way that’s above reproach, and not giving opponents ammunition against you.

What it doesn’t mean is being naive. Hence, Jesus’ instruction to be “as shrewd as snakes.”  Shrewdness—the ability to understand things and make good judgments—can be developed in many different ways, as it relates to Christian ministry.

1. Learn to discern people’s motives and intent.
Jesus offers an excellent model of this. He knew when his enemies were trying to trap him. He saw through their faux respectfulness and seemingly sincere questions. In fact, he often confronted them about their evil intent.

2. Recognize how you’re being perceived.
For better or worse, many people hold some rather strong opinions about followers of Jesus. The more you know about their opinions and preconceived notions, the better equipped you’ll be to address—and, ideally, change—them.

3. Anticipate opposition and debate.
Jesus’ warnings could not be any clearer. His faithful followers will face adversity. It’s not a question of if, but when. Knowing this gives his followers a chance to prepare. If you gird yourself for battle by studying God’s Word and discussing strategy with other trusted believers, you will make yourself a formidable opponent.

The guidelines Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 10:16 still apply today. The nature of the opposition has changed, but the expectations remain. The most effective ambassadors for Christ are shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.
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Christianity Isn't for Dabblers

, by Christopher D. Hudson

"You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38).

Jesus threw down a challenge to all who would follow him. The implications of Jesus’ ranking—and of what it means to love God as he instructed—have been discussed and debated for centuries.

Here are three application points to consider.

1. Christianity isn’t for dabblers.
The kind of relationship Jesus is talking about involves more than a weekly worship service. This isn’t a “Sunday only” kind of love; it’s an immersive 24/7 experience.

2. Loving God is an act of emotion, an act of the will, and an act of the intellect.
It’s not enough to love God when one feels like it. Emotions are fickle. Maintaining a fully committed relationship with him requires effort and determination. Part of that effort involves brainstorming new reasons to love and praise him, as well as creative ways to express love for him.

3. Prayer is essential to obeying the all-time number-one commandment.

Every day brings new opportunities, new problems, new temptations, and new distractions—all of which can interfere with a relationship with God. The best strategy for dealing with these potential disruptions is to ask for help from God himself. Continuous communication is essential to maintaining a fully committed relationship with him.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.

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King of Pain

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Does the Bible still speak to today's problems? Does this ancient book relate to our world? 

If you've felt heart breaking pain, you'll relate to the book of Job: 

“Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:23–27 (NIV)

If everything good in your life were suddenly taken away, would you remain faithful to God? That question lies at the heart of the book of Job. 

Job was a righteous man—someone so above reproach that God held him up to Satan as a model of servitude. Satan was unimpressed. Of course he’s faithful to you, he countered. He has wealth, family, and excellent health. Take away those things and let’s see how faithful he is. 

God agreed to Satan’s challenge. He allowed the devil to bring tragedy and suffering into Job’s life. First came messengers with news that all of Job’s flocks—the primary source of his wealth—had been stolen or killed. Next came news that all of Job’s children had been killed in a freak storm. And then came the boils—painful skin infections that covered Job from head to foot. 

Job was in agony, emotionally and physically. Yet he stayed faithful, much to the disgust of his spouse. 
“His wife said to him, ‘Are you still trying to maintain your integrity? Curse God and die.’ 

“But Job replied, ‘You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?’ So in all this, Job said nothing wrong” (Job 2:9–10). 

Job wrestled mightily with his situation, trying to square his suffering with what he knew about God. He debated friends who blamed him for his misery. He held on to his relationship with the Lord—at times by his fingernails, but he held on just the same. 

And when Satan’s period of testing was over, God restored Job’s health and wealth and blessed him with a new family. 

Job walked the path through the valley of darkness that was laid out before him and emerged with God’s blessing on the other side. The book that bears his name is intended for anyone who desires to do the same in their season of suffering.

I served as editor for THE BIBLE: WHY IT MATTERS TODAY which is published by Time Inc Books. This blog post was adapted from that title. This special edition magazine is published in the US and available wherever magazines are sold.

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What Is God's Will? (Video)

, by Christopher D. Hudson

How can I find God's Will?

Video Bible Study

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On Marriage: Choosing Your Battles

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Guest blog post by Kim Kimberling. Kim is a friend and a marriage counselor. He's releasing a book next week and I asked him if I could share this excerpt with you.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." Romans 12:18

As we rounded the curve and headed into year four of marriage, we had begun to fight about many things. We fought about what we said to each other and we fought about what we did not say to each other. We fought about what we were going to do and not do.

We fought about the money we were going to spend and the money we were going to save. Some of the fights were short-lived and some lasted days.

Most of the time I could not remember this week what we fought about last week, but the damage remained. Fight piled upon fight, and we grew further and further apart. We didnt know how to choose our battles, so we simply fought them all. Something needed to change.

Choosing your battles is a very good fight strategy, and it goes like this. When something about your spouse bothers you, you have a choice to make. If its worth addressing, you can work to resolve it — right then and there. However, there is a difference between talking it out with your spouse and fighting it out with your spouse. Thats option one.

If its a small thing, you can choose to let go of it. You just choose to not fight a battle. Congratulations!

Instead of holding on to it yourself, you can decide to turn it over to God. Some of you are thinking, “What in the world does turning it over to God mean?” Here is my take on that. I firmly believe in a God who cares about me and my life. He wants my marriage to be great, and His plan for my marriage beats my plan, big time.

God, then, is the filter I pass our conflict through. If something  that Nancy does bothers me, I can say, “Okay, God, what do I do with this? Do I respond? Do I respond now? Do I let go of it? Do I let You take care of it, knowing whatever You do will be good for me and for my marriage?”

This is not an easy step for me, especially if I am irritated or angry (and at this point, I usually am). I would much rather take matters into my own hands and then let God clean up the mess I create afterward. I can be good at this process. Yet, no matter how good that may feel in the short term, it does not feel good in the long term and never accomplishes what I want for my marriage.

If you have never tried turning something over to God, try it now. Pick out something you are struggling with and simply say, “God, I am giving this to You. I need Your help and I need Your answer. Thanks.

Now comes the hard part. Leave it with God. I know. What if He did not hear you? He did. What if He does not act as quickly as you want Him to act? His timing is perfect. What if? Stop. Leave it with Him. I promise you, He will not let you down.

I served as the agent for Kim's book and helped introduce him to my friends at Zondervan. It has been my pleasure to read early drafts of this book and I'm excited to see it release. If your marriage could use a boost, order your own copy here:
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Did the NIV Delete 64,575 Words?

, by Christopher D. Hudson

I rarely get involved in debates on Bible translation. In fact, I don’t weigh in a lot of debates, as I believe my mission is to challenge people to simply read, engage, and apply the Bible.

As long as people are reading God’s Word, I’m not concerned about varying opinions on Bible translations, worship styles, church denominations, etc. I’m happy knowing we share a faith in Christ Jesus first and foremost, and I hope to walk with my brothers and sisters as we take one more step in the journey with Jesus.

However, I feel I must speak up when trust in God’s Word is in danger of becoming weakened due to someone’s attacks on certain translations of the Bible. A person who solely promotes the KJV (King James Version) and believes that any modern translation is evil undermines the faith of people who choose to read and study God’s Word in a translation other than the KJV.

As personal background, my degree is in ancient languages (New Testament Greek). I have a love for many Bible translations, as they have been helpful to many people (myself included) in their walk with Christ. I enjoy reading regularly from the KJV, NIV, ESV,  NLT and others.

I absolutely love the King James Version (KJV). In fact, I serve as the editor of a KJV Study Bible. God has used the KJV mightily over the centuries, but it is only a translation of the original Hebrew and Greek Bible.

Ultimately, I firmly believe that God’s Word is infallible. But I don’t want to confuse God’s Word (in the original Greek and Hebrew texts) with human fallible translation efforts. God’s Word is infallible. The NIV is fallible. So is the ESV. So is every translation—even my beloved KJV.

There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that God gave special blessing to Martin Luther’s translation, John Wycliffe’s translation, or to King James’s translation.

I don’t say that to undermine the Bible at all. God is perfect, and the gospel is perfect. His Word is infallible. One of the benefits of having so many translations is that we can do our best to understand the text as it was originally written thousands of years ago.

Some who attack the NIV in favor of the KJV openly denounce those who publish and back the NIV. In full disclosure, I am personal friends with the editors at Zondervan who publish the NIV Bible. We e-mail and talk on the phone often. I can assure you they are faith-driven, humble, Jesus-following people. They are actively involved in conservative churches and ministry. I’ve known some of their staff for nearly twenty years; we have challenged each other in our faith and walk with Christ. I have no doubt of their Christian commitment or their passion for preserving God’s Word.

Zondervan is owned by HarperCollins, and HarperCollins is owned by News Corp. As public corporations (headed by Rupert Murdoch), these companies are not “Christian” companies. However, the leaders of the organizations have wisely realized that they will make more money if they allow Zondervan to fulfill its faith-driven, Jesus-centered mission. They know that Christians trust Zondervan, and they’ve intentionally allowed the company to remain staffed with deeply committed, faith-driven, Jesus-centered people. In fact, the head of Zondervan’s Bible publishing efforts has served as a long-term pastor. He and I spoke this week on the phone about our mutual love for Jesus, Christ's teaching, and the truth about the gospel.

Christians have no grounds for criticizing the NIV based on its publishers. Even though the parent company, News Corp, is a secular corporation looking to turn a profit, it doesn’t interfere with the Christian editors who are preserving God’s Word at Zondervan. I believe that God has blessed Zondervan’s efforts so that they are among the most profitable divisions of HarperCollins.

An accusation has been made that the translators of the NIV removed a remarkably large number of words from the text of the NIV. This may be one of the most ill-informed and unfounded arguments against the NIV I’ve ever heard. I’m guessing the person who made this accusation looked at overall word count of the KJV and the NIV and saw a difference. Or maybe they counted all the “thees” and “thous” that the NIV doesn’t include? Actually, I can’t figure out how they would have come up with that number.

So, did the NIV translators remove words that are in the KJV? Yes. Their goal was to translate the original intent of the biblical writers in fewer words. Did they undermine or take away from the biblical meaning in doing so? No. (Translating between languages is always dynamic and never just word for word. The best translator in any setting can communicate the literal meaning with fewer words.)

Some people have criticized the NIV due to the removal of the term “Holy Ghost.” That’s just silly. NIV translators used “Holy Spirit,” which is essentially the same term. Personally, I believe that “Holy Spirit” is probably a better translation and more accurate for a modern-day reader. (Is it better to tell children that God is a Ghost or that God is a Spirit?) Anyone who uses this change in wording as an argument against the NIV shows they are trying to be inflammatory and not being intellectually honest.

Not at all. The NIV gets attacked a lot because it is the most popular translation. However, very similar translation philosophies are followed by translators of the ESV and the NLT. If you throw out the NIV, you need to throw out virtually all modern translations that follow similar translation philosophies.

Another factor in the debate on Bible translation is the Hebrew and Greek texts these translations came from. I believe that the Greek and Hebrew texts used by modern scholars for recent translations (NIV, NLT, ESV, etc.) are more accurate.

The KJV was published in 1611 from a collection of Greek texts, which has become known as the Textus Receptus. The Textus Receptus is an excellent collection of manuscripts, and reading from them (or a Bible translated from them) can properly teach people about God, Jesus, and the gospel. However, there is no Bible verse that says the Textus Receptus is inspired. I believe the only inspired versions are the original copies written by the original authors.

The problem lies in that for over a thousand years, people hand copied the Bible word by word. And while these outstanding scribes were 99.99 percent accurate, occasionally they made a mistake. To me, what is remarkable is how accurate these scribes remained while playing a gigantic game of “telephone” (each copying a previous person’s work).

As language scholarship and archaeology has improved, we have been able to get back to manuscripts that seem to more likely resemble the original autographs written right after the time of Christ. As we’ve gotten closer to the original, we have found that there were a handful of problems in the Textus Receptus. While none of these problems really violate the gospel, they offer subtle changes.

As an example, it appears there are about 45 verses that the New Testament writers did not actually include in their original work. Well-meaning scribes seemed to have added them in over the centuries to help clarify a verse or passage in order to help readers understand.

However, none of those 45 verses change any core belief of the gospel. They are almost all clarifications. My faith is solid in God, Jesus, and the atoning work of salvation even if those 45 verses aren’t there (or if they are, it doesn’t change anything). Modern translations (including the NIV) are often criticized for removing the 45 verses. Actually, they have done a better job of maintaining the original Bible text since it looks like the 45 verses were not in the original. (Also, the 45 verses really haven’t been removed from the NIV at all—each of these verses is still present in every copy of the NIV and can be found in the NIV footnotes.)

This area of textual criticism is an area I studied extensively. My faith is in God and the God of the Bible. My hope is in Jesus. If I can’t trust the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, I can’t know that my faith is firm. After much, much study, I came to the conclusion that the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts are very accurate. They accurately record Jesus’ words and teaching. As such, my faith is secure.

It’s easy to throw rocks, and I’m afraid those who vehemently oppose and attack the NIV (or any other translation) do so in a way that hurts Christians and their faith. Thankfully, Jesus is bigger than our human attempts to win an argument. I pray he’ll continue to be exalted even while some Christians—perhaps well-meaning ones—continue to tarnish the love and gospel of Christ in their efforts to preserve what they believe is the truth.

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FORGIVENESS: 5 Day Video Bible Study

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Understanding God's forgiveness can release you from guilt and free you from shame. If you need to better understand God's forgiveness--or if you need to take a step toward forgiving someone else--then subscribe below. 

This free series lasts 5 days. Each day you will receive a link to a 2-3 minute video and a PDF to a Bible study that can be completed in 10-15 minutes. This study will cover the following topics:

Day 1: Sin, Confession, and a Holy God
Day 2: What is True Repentance?
Day 3: No Condemnation
Day 4: Stop Trying to Earn God's Forgiveness!
Day 5: How Can I forgive Others if I Don't Feel Like Forgiving?

What's the catch? There is none. Like forgiveness the study is completely free and made available to anyone who needs it. 

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Abba, Father

, by Christopher D. Hudson

“Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’”
(Galatians 4:6)

Because bad dads get a lot of press these days, it’s difficult for many to view God as a father. In our society of fractured families, far too many grow up with weekend-only fathers—or no fathers at all. Since even the best earthly dads have moments when they get impatient or preoccupied, the idea of God as “Father” takes a good bit of imagination—and even more faith. So it helps to remember that God is a perfect Father, a Father unaffected by human frailties. He is 100 percent love and motivated by His glory and our good 100 percent of the time.

As the One who gave the world a thirty-year “show-and-tell” of who and what God is (John 1:18), Jesus made it clear that our heavenly Father fanatically cares about us. He actually keeps up with the tiniest details of our lives (Matthew 10:29–31). He invites our conversation (Matthew 6:9) and is always eager to hear about our needs and concerns, both mundane and significant. Unlike finite and flawed earthly fathers, our heavenly Father is never too busy, never stressed out, and never self-absorbed.

And like the best and wisest dads, He disciplines (that is, He corrects, not punishes) us when we need it. He knows what we were created for, where we need to go, and where our character flaws are. With all that in mind, He trains us in a way of living that will directly benefit us in the long run (Hebrews 12:9).

God the Father is protective. He wants to shield us from evil and keep us safe. He is tender. We can count on Him to make our hard situations better. He is strong. We can run to Him and hide in His arms, confident that everything will be all right.

Mostly, our heavenly Father wants to have an intimate relationship with His children. He wants us to know and trust His heart. He wants to celebrate the joys of life with us, and to hold us while we grieve.

If you grew up with a father who was consistently there for you, let that earthly dad point you to the Father who is beyond good.

And if you grew up without a good father, let that experience drive you to Abba, the One who perfectly meets the deepest needs—and desires—of our hearts.

God, help me work through any “daddy baggage” in my heart so I may see and embrace You as my perfect and loving heavenly Father. Amen.


The above article is adapted from 100 Names of God, which will be released in the October of 2015. Pre order your signed copy.
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God of My Life (El Chaiyai)

, by Christopher D. Hudson

"At night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

By day the Lord directs his love." (Psalm 42:8, NIV)

If you’ve had a loved one die, whether in human or furry form, you know the pain of grief, and you’ve also brushed up against the great mystery of life. What is this immaterial essence or spirit that animates us? Where did it come from? And where does it go when we’re gone?

The Bible tells us. God, in creating humanity, did much more than bringing together assorted body parts, tissues, and organs. He did do that, but Genesis 2:7 says that He took that lifeless creature and "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” From the opening pages of Scripture, we see that God is the source and giver of life.

And God doesn’t just animate us physically; He also desires to see us come alive spiritually. He wants, by His grace and through our faith, to give us eternal life (i.e., a life that consists of knowing Him through Jesus Christ, see John 17:3). Jesus insisted He came to offer His followers "life abundantly" (John 10:10). The idea should evoke imagery of a life impossibly full, incredibly rich, and sloshing over with blessing.

This is not to say that a life in God or a life with God is easy and trouble-free—far from it. We live in a broken world full of broken people. We face hardships and endure suffering. Many of the psalms—not just Psalm 42—suggest this. One day God will make everything right, but in the meanwhile, we will experience trouble and tears. And so we must make the choice to live in God’s presence and to rely on His promises.

The New Testament expands on this idea. We serve a God—more importantly, we are loved by a Savior—who not only sustains our lives, but, as the apostle Paul asserted, “is our life . . . ” (Colossians 3:4).

This is the life of faith. Clinging to Christ as if He is our oxygen—our invisible, but indispensable source of life. Seeing Christ as our life is recognizing our need for Him every moment and depending on Him at every turn. And it is not a life of fear-filled desperation but a life of loving devotion.

This faith focus on Jesus won’t make our problems disappear, but it will put them in perspective. Our God is the source and sustainer of life . . . and not just a “get by” life, but the life we really want.

The life God offers us is—in quantity and quality—beyond our wildest dreams.

The above article is adapted from 100 Names of God, which will be released in the winter of 2015. Pre order your signed copy.

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