150 Million Bible Readers Were Searching for Love Most in 2014

Bible Gateway finds patterns in how the world searched and read the Bible this past year.

John 3:16 was not among the Bible verses most widely shared or remembered in 2014, based on worldwide YouVersion users. But it still tops the list of verses the world seeks out, according to a report released by Bible Gateway based on 1.5 billion pageviews by 150 million unique visitors.

Here are the top 10 most popular Bible verses searched on Bible Gateway, the "world's most visited Christian website," in 2014:

  1. John 3:16
  2. Jeremiah 29:11
  3. Philippians 4:13
  4. Romans 8:28
  5. Psalm 23:4
  6. Philippians 4:6
  7. 1 Corinthians 13:4
  8. Proverbs 3:5
  9. 1 Corinthians 13:7
  10. Romans 12:2

Of these verses, only Philippians 4:6, Jeremiah 29:11, and Proverbs 3:5 also appeared on YouVersion’s list, suggesting a discrepancy in what Bible readers seek for themselves versus what they think others should read.

Bible Gateway's Year in Review report, which also covers top searches in Spanish and in four countries, confirms the New Testament is "read much more than" the Old Testament, even though the older testament is three times longer. It also concludes that "people really do read the Bible throughout the year," and "major world events do affect what people look for in the Bible."

"Our biggest takeaway is the dominance of people who read through the Bible in a year," said Rachel Barach, Bible Gateway's general manager. "Even though we know it’s common for people to commit to reading through the Bible starting on January 1 but stop reading it by February, clearly enough people continue through the year to impact our statistics."

The chart above matches “unusually popular” verses on a particular date with popular Bible reading plans. CT previously reported on falling ...

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We Need Each Other

We need a national meeting of PCA pastors and their wives. Other organizations — corporations, educational institutions, professional sports leagues, etc. — pull their leaders together for such meetings. Mission to the World (MTW) missionaries hold regional gatherings with spouses and children every four years. Shouldn’t the PCA do this nationally for our pastors? And shouldn’t it be one of our highest priorities?  Isn’t it crazy that we’ve never done this?

There are a number of important reasons to hold such a conference. Let’s start with these five:

We need to build cohesion

That’s something we lack that in the PCA. Though we share a common fidelity to the Scriptures and a Reformed understanding of doctrine, there is no energizing missional vision that binds us together. We lack the missional clarity that lures good people to our team. Increasingly, top drawer ministerial candidates are bypassing the PCA for organizations that are driven by mission.

We need to positively shape the ethos of the PCA

We need a meeting where people could discover not only what the PCA should look like, but also, what the PCA should feel like. If we have guys thinking about going to seminary or RUF graduates who’ve had no exposure to the PCA before but who are thinking about ministry, we could say, “Come to this meeting,” because we would want them not only to see it, but also to taste it and feel it. We’d want them to walk away saying, “I’d love to be on the same team with these guys. These are guys I’d go to war with!”

We need to get to know each other

We’re not a family; those of us in Florida don’t know what’s going on in Pennsylvania or Missouri or South Carolina. It would be wildly encouraging if we did. Who doesn’t want their church to take on the identity of a family?

We need encouragement

Pastoring is hard, and we have a beat up workforce. Many guys in the PCA are not faring well, and most pastors function without the support of a team. In a number of our small churches, guys are struggling financially, they’ve become bi-vocational out of necessity, and they’re discouraged. We need inspiration, we need to be reminded that it’s worth it to deny yourself, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. We all need a team, we all need each other.

We need to be refreshed

One of the reasons all our missionaries gather regularly is because we understand that they’re aliens. They’re removed from their culture and the support of their families and they’ve been dropped into difficult places. That places a great strain on their souls, marriages and health so they desperately need to be refreshed. What is true of missionaries applies to pastors in America today. Pastors in the United States labor in an alien culture, one that’s hostile to the Gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God.  No soldier stays on the frontline without relief, so if we are going to have men make it in ministry for a lifetime, we need to take better care of them.

 

This national gathering is needed annually, or biennially at the very least. It would last three or four days and focus on the beauty of Jesus, the joy of belonging to Him and to His family, and the privilege of being called to be His ambassadors. It would involve worship, preaching, and inspiration — whatever it takes to fill the tank.

We’d play and rest, too; it wouldn’t be an exhausting string of seminars and speakers. We’d need big spaces in the schedule for people to connect with one another. We could have instruction and celebration of ministry progress in the morning and the evening, and then leave the afternoon free. We could have counseling available, too — the opportunity for those who are desperate and need healing to connect with a peer.

We would emphasize vision, with speakers reminding us why we’re out there slugging it out in our mission field. Too often, we in the North American church are doing church but we’re not doing mission.

It would involve connection — being together, hearing our stories. I think this last point is particularly important. At General Assembly, there are worship services and seminars and reports of denominational agencies, but there are no stories about the local church, about what’s happening in Pennsylvania or Michigan or in an RUF ministry in Oregon or Arizona. It would be great to hear those stories and cheer for each other. In our presbytery, when a guy comes back into the room after passing his ordination trials, he is give him a standing ovation. We need to be doing that for each other, all the time; this national conference would give us the opportunity to cheer each other on.

It would be a meeting where we’re not voting, not debating, not arguing. Instead, we’d be rallying around the mission Jesus has given us. We’d be eating together, laughing together, worshiping together, so that we can better work and serve together.

If we do this meeting right, we’d walk away with a sense of being cared for. Every member of an organization wants to know that the organization they’re a part of thinks they matter. Too many PCA churches are utterly disconnected. They need know they are part of a body — a national denomination — that cares for them, personally, and for the health of their families, church and ministry.

This national pastor gathering wouldn’t require any adjustment to the General Assembly calendar. After all, we don’t adjust that calendar when we have a large conference like MTW’s Global Mission Conference that involves several thousand in attendance. An annual pastor’s conference done well would, however, shape the identity of the PCA in a way that our General Assembly is unable to do.  There will always need to be a regular business meeting of the PCA to act on overtures, elect officers, and approve budgets.  I believe a national pastors’ meeting would serve to define us much more accurately and effectively.  I live in Florida and annually observe ministry organizations flock here in the winter for their meetings.  Thousands come to their conferences and leave deeply encouraged and joyously exclaiming, “I love giving my life to this ministry!”  They feel cared for and connected to the missional aims of the ministry organization.

We lack that, and a national conference like this could bring renewed strength to our ministry ranks.  Ministry is really hard and we need each other.

U.S. Congressmen Call on Egyptian Government to Release Jailed Christian Convert

Letter Highlights Torture, Lack of Process for Egyptian Citizens to Change Religious Affiliation   

12/19/2014 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that nine members of the United States Congress today sent a letter to the Egyptian attorney general calling for the immediate release of Bishoy Armia Boulous, a Coptic Christian convert from Islam jailed by Egyptian authorities since December 3, 2013.

The letter, led by Congressman Gus Bilirakis of Florida, states that Bishoy was jailed on charges “clearly related to his religious conversion” and that he has “reportedly been harassed and physically attacked on several occasions by officials of the Tora Prison in South Cairo.” Sent to Attorney General Hisham Barakat and President el-Sisi, the letter goes on to say, “The dropping of all charges against Mr. Boulous and his swift release will help to demonstrate not only your administration’s commitment to equal protection under the law…but that millions of men and women across Egypt need not fear government prosecution simply for choosing to change their religious beliefs.”

Bishoy, formerly known as Mohammed Hegazy, gained widespread domestic and international attention in 2007 when he became the first known Egyptian citizen to sue the Egyptian government for refusing to change the religious affiliation listed on his identification card from Muslim to Christian. Soon after the suit became public, several Islamic religious leaders called for Bishoy’s death. He was subsequently detained and tortured by Egyptian authorities on several occasions while his wife and children were eventually forced to flee the country. In 2009, Bishoy was charged with blasphemy, or “defaming Islam,” a charge that has since been renewed. Bishoy’s next hearing is set to take place on December 28.

With only a few exceptions, all Egyptian citizens must have their religious affiliation listed on their identification card. This affiliation determines what laws apply to certain citizens and the enrollment of children in religious classes. While it is technically legal for any citizen to change this affiliation, in practice only citizens converting to Islam are issued new documentation.

The letter is also signed by Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona, co-chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus and one of Congress’ strongest remaining advocates on behalf of persecuted religious minorities.

ICC’s Advocacy Director, Isaac Six, said, “This letter could not be more timely. For years Bishoy has suffered unimaginable hardship because of his courageous decision to demand a simple freedom that should be guaranteed, namely the right to change one’s faith. We applaud these members of Congress for taking a strong stance on behalf of Bishoy and echo their call for his swift release. How can the Egyptian government claim to protect its citizens’ rights to freedom of belief when anyone who attempts to change their faith is refused official recognition and subsequently prosecuted and tortured? The answer is, they can’t.”   

The full text of the letter can be found by clicking on this link.

For interviews, please contact Isaac Six at [email protected]

You are free to disseminate this news story. We request that you reference ICC (International Christian Concern) and include our web address, www.persecution.org. ICC is a Washington D.C. based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC provides Awareness, Advocacy, and Assistance to the worldwide persecuted Church.  For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.

Church Roof Repair for Pastor Ayesha in Sri Lanka

Pastor Ayesha started her ministry in Kotadeniyawa village that was 100% Buddhist in 2000 after God showed her a vision. When the monks saw Pastor Ayesha planted her church, they became very angry. Pastor Ayesha's church building was attacked and damaged on almost a weekly basis. Due to stones and fireworks being thrown at their church, the windows have all been broken and the roof is severely damaged. ICC has assisted Pastor Ayesha and her church by not only repairing the roof on her church, but also installing a roof that will resist any further damage due to the attacks her church experiences on a near weekly basis. This project has shown Pastor Ayesha and her congregation that they are part of the Global Body of Christ and that Christians across the world care for them.

Army finds silver bullet in fight against Taliban

darpa bullet graphic

Watch out Taliban. The art of sniping is about to get a whole lot deadlier.

U.S. Army snipers could soon have access to a new .50-caliber bullet that would make them the most precise shooters on the planet.

The Defense Department is funding development of the EXACTO bullet, which can change directions mid-air. The bullet is fitted with a sensor which works in tune with a laser. The sniper aims the laser at his target, lighting it up. If the target moves or weather patterns change, the laser follows the target, and the bullet follows the guiding light.

The Defense Department’s research arm has recently released a video showing the bullet in action (see video below).

EXACTO stands for “extreme accuracy tasked ordnance.” The system, developed by Teledyne Scientific & Imaging with funding from the DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA, greatly expands a shooter’s range.

The longest “hit” ever recorded by a sniper is 1.5 miles by a shooter from the United Kingdom. A shot at that range can take 3 minutes to reach its target and is extremely difficult because the trajectory of the bullet becomes even more sensitive to wind, rain, the earth’s gravitational pull and even humidity. But a sniper using EXACTO rounds could strike a target with relative ease from even further than 1.5 miles.

For military snipers, who usually work in teams of two, having a .50-caliber bullet with these type of capabilities would be a game-changer in places like Afghanistan or Iraq.

“Acquiring moving targets in unfavorable conditions such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan, is extremely challenging with current technology,” DARPA said a statement on its website.

Not only will the snipers hit more targets, but they will also be able to better protect their own location. With current technology, a missed shot can give away a sniper’s position, making him or her vulnerable to counter attack.

Ted Catchel, professor emeritus at the Naval War College said the system is a very interesting development.

“I don’t know if you push a button and it takes over. I just couldn’t find out enough about the system to know how it works,” he told Stars and Stripes. “You still need to train these snipers in the traditional methods. Right now, sniping is a real precise art.”

“The EXACTO system seeks to improve sniper effectiveness and enhance troop safety by allowing greater shooting standoff range and reduction in target engagement timelines,” DARPA said in the statement.

The video below shows EXACTO rounds maneuvering in flight to hit targets that are offset from where the sniper rifle is aimed.

The “specially designed ammunition and real-time optical guidance system help track and direct projectiles to their targets by compensating for weather, wind, target movement and other factors that could impede successful hits,” DARPA said.

DARPA is not releasing any details on the system other than the video and a graphic explains the basics of the technology.

WND requested information on when the new bullet might be available to U.S. sniper teams and what the cost will be, per round, but a spokesman from DARPA public affairs said the agency was not releasing any information at this time other than what was on its website.

Atheists try to squelch the Christmas spirit in Indiana

An Indiana courthouse has for decades allowed local residents to set up a Christmas nativity on public property, but some critics are saying, Bah, humbug . And they’re taking their complaint to court. Opponents of the Christmas manger scene on the lawn of the Franklin County Courthouse in Brookville, Ind., want the display removed, even though private residents paid for and installed it. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation