|“Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage. But his officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!'”|
|2 Kings 5:12-13, NLT|
|In 1962, the Mariner I space probe was scheduled to travel to Venus and provide information to NASA scientists. It never got there, as it plunged into the Atlantic Ocean four minutes after takeoff. An investigation was launched into the cause for the crash and was later traced to the computer program directing the spacecraft. It turned out that somewhere in the program a single minus sign had been left out.For some people, living out the basics of the Christian faith isn’t exciting enough. Too insignificant. Not brave enough. However, the way a follower of Jesus handles small things, both in attitude and execution, determines to a large extent how they will handle larger things.Naaman learned a lesson about this in today’s passage. He was a mighty warrior of Aram but had leprosy. After getting permission to visit Elisha the prophet, he planned out in his mind exactly what would happen: Elisha would meet him, wave his hand, and call on God to heal him.
Instead, the prophet sent a messenger to Naaman, who told him to wash in the Jordan River seven times. Naaman was upset with this cure. He wanted something with a little more fanfare. But his officers called him on his attitude and encouraged him to take Elisha at his word. When Naaman decided to bathe in the Jordan, his small act of obedience cured him of his leprosy.
So take the time to get to know God through consistent prayer. Read about the characters in the Bible and their triumphs and failures. Make the most of the opportunities the Lord presents, no matter how insignificant they may seem. After all, little things do matter.
Source: Free Leadership Devotional. Find an e-devotion that’s right for you at http://www.thenlt.com/06devotionals/
Failure often gets us down, but have you noticed how we can also get discouraged after we’ve been successful? The Bible teaches that discouragement has two sources because we have two problems:
- The world is damaged. God says, “The ground is cursed because of you” (Genesis 3:17). Just as thorns grew up to frustrate Adam’s work, much of our work, our parenting, our relationships—even our worship—results in discouraging failure.
- We are damaged. We misplace our priorities. Instead of seeking God himself, we stuff our souls with career or family or a love life or church involvement. But success in these things still leaves us empty and discouraged. The Teacher in Ecclesiastes confesses, “As I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
Non-religious people tend to respond to discouragement by saying, “Learn to love and accept yourself.” But this only addresses emotions. Religious and moral people tend to say, “Work harder and do better.” But this behavior-based approach leads to more failure and deeper discouragement. The Good News of Jesus is that God defeats discouragement. Jesus people look beyond superficial behavior or emotions. We rewire our hearts to deal with both sources of discouragement:
- Faced with failure, we remind ourselves that Jesus died for us so that we may surely share in every blessing of God and in the new earth, free of frustration, that God is creating.
- Faced with success, we work with God’s Spirit to reorient our priorities around Jesus, who said, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
Full healing won’t happen in this life, but Jesus is a true fix for discouragement because he offers heart-level change punctuated by joy in our acceptance by God. Along the way, God offers gifts that help with discouragement. The Bible sets joyful, godly priorities and tells of God’s unshakable love. “The Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled” (Romans 15:4). So we must read the Bible. Worship and the sacraments are the Spirit’s tools. God says of his worshippers, “I . . . will fill them with joy in my house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7). So we must attend church. Community lets us share struggles and burdens. The Bible tells us to “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25). So we must commit to share often and honestly with other believers. Along with all this, God offers himself. The Father communes with us in prayer, the Spirit enters our hearts, and Jesus the Son emptied his life for our sakes. God has invested himself totally, that we may praise and enjoy him. So be encouraged. Jack Klumpenhower is a freelance writer, communications consultant, and church curriculum writer living in North Carolina.
Labels:Hope, Live it Now, #ireadtheNLT, New Living Translation, NLT, Overcoming Discouragement, Two Cures for Discouragement
This morning while reading Jeremiah 4, I didn’t get very far before having to stop—at verse 1. “If you wanted to return to me, you could” (NLT). We often approach God and faith as a fix-all for what ails us. We look to the Bible and maybe to people who are close to God to diagnose our problems and prescribe the solution.
For others, the Bible can become to us an instruction manual that we pull off the shelf to use when we need to troubleshoot life. Or, for the more cerebral of us, it is a science project that requires academic tools to dissect it in order to discover what makes us tick. All of these approaches leave us well short of one of its intended purposes: to know and trust its author.
So when we read a simple verse like Jeremiah 4:1, we’re caught off-guard. Our usual uses of faith and the Bible are confronted here with clarity. We don’t have to try to fix life’s brokenness or get to the bottom of what the Bible is really saying. If we wanted to return (and turn) to God to receive life, we could. If we wanted grace and repentance to be more than concepts, we could experience them. The opportunity is there. So why don’t we want to?
Jeremiah’s audience had grown impatient with God and decided that the religions of surrounding countries were worth a try. They traded devotion and loyalty to God for these other religions’ statues (idols) and practices. They didn’t believe that God would care for and protect them, and, in general, have their best interests at heart. They became dependent on them even though they did them no good.
Reflecting on the state of Western Christianity, it’s not difficult to find glaring similarities. Our attitudes and actions tell the story. We’ve become dependent on political powers, charismatic personalities, economies, and even church systems, and it’s hard to let go. They protect the brokenness and pain we continually seek healing for. They keep the truth of the gospel at a distance—nothing more than something to learn about. Their role in our lives keeps us from deep intimacy with God and experiencing the full and whole life he desires us to live.
Jeremiah 4:1 goes on to say, “You could throw away your detestable idols and stray away no more.” Oh, we have a choice? Yes. And it’s easier than it seems. In leadership coaching, when people get stuck in a pattern of thinking, attitude, or actions despite all their attempts to change, it’s almost always because they don’t have something to move toward. Ours is a culture where we work hard at eliminating our weaknesses. Try as we may, we fail. As Peter Drucker said in the 1970s, we make ourselves mediocre.
We fail because we’re only trying to say no. Only saying no keeps us captive to the idols. Having something else to grab onto makes it a lot easier to let go. The journey to the full life we seek involves saying “Yes” to and clinging to Jesus and his gospel. Get more articles to help you live it now, check out our free e-devotions, discover the NLT, and find just the right Bible at http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/.
Jack Radcliffe is a husband and father of four, Coach (www.redwoodcoach.com) ministry trainer and speaker, Dean of The Youth Ministry Institute of the Tennessee Conference UMC and adjunct professor at Martin Methodist College. He has an MDiv from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio and a DMin in Practical Theology, Adolescent Development and Culture from Fuller Theological Seminary.
What is the Bible all about? Do you have questions about life, friends, family, God, or your future? If so, the Bible is for you! Thousands of people just like you find their lives more meaningful because of the Bible’s message. People all over the world turn to it to find answers to questions like: Does God really care about me? What does God expect of me? Can I really make a difference in the world? Is it really possible to live forever? Is there really a hell? Is heaven for real? Does God really listen when we pray? What should I do with my life? But the Bible is more than an answer book to turn to when the pressures of life are overwhelming. It is really a library of books. It’s filled with stories about real people. It has great poetry and beautiful songs. It has prophecies and promises. But most important, it is the true story of God’s visiting our earth through his Son, Jesus Christ. As you read about him, you will discover the most terrific friend you could ever have—someone who’s around twenty-four hours a day, any time you need him! So take some time each day to read the Bible. It could be the most important and life-changing step you will ever take. The Message of the Bible The Bible begins by telling how the eternal God created the world and everything in it. He gave people a beautiful place to live and supplied everything they needed. Best of all, he was their friend. That glorious beginning, however, was ruined when people disobeyed God and plunged into rebellion and sin. This broke humanity’s relationship with God and brought judgment and death to the earth, its creatures, and humanity itself. Even so, God did not abandon his disobedient creatures. He set out to reclaim fallen people, much as a shepherd sets out to restore lost sheep to the fold. The Old Testament provides many references to a special individual who would provide salvation for his people. That special individual, the Messiah, was not to be merely a man, however. The Messiah was to be “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; 8:8), which in Hebrew means “God is with us.” The Messiah would be both God and man, and those prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.When Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin, he also removed all guilt produced by that sin and restored the broken relationship between God and humanity. Furthermore, he lives today and speaks continually to God on our behalf. “Therefore he is able, once and for ever, to save everyone who comes to God through him” (Hebrews 7:24-25). He gives eternal life to all who trust in him. How to Study the Bible To get the most out of this Bible, you will need to study it on a regular and orderly basis. You may, however, have some questions. You may wonder, Where do I begin reading? Or, What do I need to know before I start? The following paragraphs and features will help you get started and give you some important hints and information to help you begin an effective study of the Bible. Pray for Wisdom and Understanding The most often overlooked and undervalued aspect of Bible study is prayer. Yet prayer is essential to gaining wisdom and understanding when you read God’s Word. Through prayer, you can approach God and acknowledge your incomplete knowledge of his Word, as well as your need for him to open your heart to his instruction. So determine to begin each time of study with prayer. Only God can give you the wisdom to understand his Word. Read in an Orderly Manner If you receive a letter from a friend and read only a few sentences here and there, the letter will not make much sense. But sadly, this is how many approach their study of the Bible. They read a portion of Matthew, a story from Daniel, a verse or two from Exodus, and then a chapter or so from Revelation and wonder why they don’t have a clear understanding of God’s Word. They often misinterpret the meaning of a passage because they fail to grasp the larger context from which the passage or verse comes. To avoid such pitfalls, you need to discipline yourself to read the Bible in an orderly manner. One way to do this is to use an established reading plan. A reading plan lists Scripture passages to be read in a certain order. Many of the existing plans were created with a goal in mind. Some plans break the whole Bible down into 365 daily readings. Others help you read through the Bible in the order that the events actually happened. We have included several reading plans to get you started. One such reading plan is based on fifty-two great Bible stories that all Christians should be familiar with. This plan touches on great accounts of God’s work in history, giving you the large sweep of the contents of the Bible. Another reading plan, the one-year New Testament reading plan, will lead you through the entire New Testament in a year. In this plan, you will read through the gospel accounts of Christ’s life and study God’s wisdom for believers in the letters to early Christians. Some of you may prefer a more topical approach to your Bible study. In the following topical indexes, the truths of the Bible are related to real life issues. You may want to look for topics that are of special concern to you and study the related Scriptures to see what God’s Word has to say. Finish What You Start In life, the benefits of doing anything are often not realized until the task is completed. The same is true when reading a book from the Bible. Once you choose a book to read, read it from beginning to end. Although you may benefit spiritually by reading a verse from one book or a story from another, you will benefit more by reading the entire book from which the verse or story came. Reading the entire book puts each verse and story in its proper context. Thus, you will have a better understanding of what each verse and story means. In addition, by reading books from beginning to end you will become more familiar with the Bible as a whole. You may even discover passages that will one day become your favorites. To get a quick summary of each Bible book before you begin reading it, look it up in the feature called Overview of the Bible Books. Meditate on God’s Word Thinking or meditating about what you have read helps you to discover the importance of a given passage. It also helps you to examine your life in light of what God reveals in his Word. One of the best ways to begin meditating on God’s Word is to ask questions. Here are a few questions to help you get started: What is the main subject of the passage? To whom is this passage addressed? Who is speaking? About what or whom is the person speaking? What is the key verse? What does this passage teach me about God? To see how the text might apply to you personally, ask yourself these questions: Is there any sin mentioned in the passage that I need to confess or stop doing? Is there a command given that I should obey? Is there a promise made that I can apply to my current circumstances? Is there a prayer given that I could pray? Invest in a Few Good Resource Books The Bible alludes to many ancient customs that are unfamiliar to us today. So the subtle meaning behind such allusions can easily be lost to us. To understand the culture in which the Bible was written, you may want to purchase a few good biblical resource books. There are two types of resource books you should look into purchasing: first, a one- or two-volume commentary on the whole Bible; and second, a Bible dictionary. Most one- or two-volume commentaries are concise. They give you the necessary information on important words, phrases, and verses from the Bible. They will not give you commentary on each verse, and they will not go into detailed explanations on any one verse. But they are good resources to help you begin to understand God’s Word in its ancient context. The price for such a commentary can range from fifteen to thirty-five pounds per volume. Bible dictionaries contain short articles (in alphabetical order) on people, places, and objects found in the Bible. Most Bible dictionaries also contain maps, diagrams, and pictures of biblical cities, regions, and artifacts. Bible dictionaries also cost between fifteen and thirty-five pounds. You can find these resources wherever Christian books are sold. —————- If you apply these practices to your daily personal Bible study, you are bound to develop habits that will help you grow in your faith. – See more at: http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/04exploringchristianity/howtoread.asp#sthash.NXh4lfL4.dpuf
Lately I’ve been thinking about the early days of my faith formation. When I was a young Christian—in age and in faith—I had the privilege of being part of a community of Christians where grace flowed freely and the Bible came alive. I was enthralled by the experiences of God’s holiness we shared that led to confession and healing. We felt free and full of joy. We couldn’t get enough, wanting to keep doing the things that connected us to God in this powerful way. This life in God couldn’t have been better. Difficulties were faced with confidence that God would overcome them for our good. We always seemed to have a deep awe and appreciation for Christ’s suffering and dying for us. Because of it, we could experience these deeper things of God. We wanted to live for God, to be with him and the people with whom we shared these experiences. Over time I realized that something was missing. The realization started to set in that God wanted more for me than experiences of him. With others, I learned that God not only wanted for me to experience his holiness, he wanted me to live in it. Sounded great to me! Exploring what it means to live in God’s holiness entailed looking beyond the experiences I wanted so that my attitudes and priorities could be challenged. It was not easy to do. To this day, holiness for me begins there, and it’s just as difficult. According to 1 Peter 4:1-2, Jesus’ willingness to endure physical suffering and pain demonstrated a readiness to suffer in other ways as well. Peter uses a military metaphor to call his readers to prepare mentally for action. He says to “arm yourselves” by preparing to suffer for doing good so that a clean break can be made with sin. What does this mean for us? Attitude accompanies action. It is the attitude rather than the actual action that leads to growth in holiness. It changes us. Preparing to take it on the chin for obedience to God redirects our desires. No longer do we seek to fulfill ours; rather, we become eager to do God’s. That was Peter’s hope for his readers, among whom we are included. How will you prepare to suffer for doing good? Jack Radcliffe is a husband and father of four, coach (www.redwoodcoach.com), ministry trainer and speaker, dean of the Youth Ministry Institute of the Tennessee Conference UMC, and adjunct professor at Martin Methodist College. He has an M.Div. from Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio and a D.Min. in Practical Theology, Adolescent Development and Culture from Fuller Theological Seminary. -
Win it Before You Can Buy It
This adorable edition of God’s Word for girls features the easy-to-understand New Living Translation text with a soft-fur, bright-neon LOVE design and silver glittery lining. The BOLD FAITH design on the back cover encourages girls to live out their faith in ways that bring God glory.
This hardcover deluxe edition also features purple page edges, neon orange ribbon marker, special presentation page, 8 pages of full-color maps, and a 53-page dictionary/concordance to help locate passages on various topics.
Enter to win a copy!
We’re giving away 25 copies of the Girls Slimline Bible NLT. Just fill out the form below and follow the instructions. We’ll pick 25 winners on June 12th!
Most of us like to eat every day. We may not be proud of our diet, but we usually avoid hunger one way or another. In fact, many of us eat three or more meals a day whether we’re hungry or not. Students of nutrition tell us that our appetites are not the best guidelines for what we should be eating. Long distance runners tell us that if they wait until they feel thirsty to start drinking, it’s too late—they are already dehydrated. Many races have been lost because an athlete didn’t drink when he or she wasn’t thirsty. How does all of this apply to the Bible and the subject of spiritual nourishment? God has a lot to say about the care and feeding of our souls.Jesus once had an interesting encounter with the devil. Jesus had been fasting (a spiritual discipline you can read more about elsewhere on this website) for many days and was hungry. At that moment of physical weakness and need, the devil showed up to tempt Jesus. His first temptation seemed like a practical, almost insignificant challenge to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3). The dare was a simple test with short-term pleasing results (have you ever tasted bread baked in a hot stone oven?); yet Jesus recognized the devastating long-term consequences. He responded, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). In Jesus’ short answer we find a number of important lessons for us: (1) Jesus used God’s Word to answer a temptation. He didn’t argue; he answered. Why? Because (2) Jesus understood that a temptation always zooms in and magnifies a potential weakness. The devil was aiming at two possible places of vulnerability in Jesus—physical hunger and doubts about his identity. If Jesus had had any insecurity about his identity, he might have been convinced that creating bread from stones would prove it. (Actually, it may have proved that he wasn’t sure who he was.) (3) Jesus may not have had a Bible with him, but he had God’s word in him. The real point of spiritual nourishment, which results from “every word that comes from the mouth of God,” doesn’t relate so much to how much of God’s Word that passes through your mind, as to how much of it gets stuck there. It’s not merely ingesting (reading) but digesting (studying, meditating) God’s Word that really feeds us spiritually. (4) Jesus demonstrated that while he was obviously physically hungry, he was nevertheless spiritually well-nourished on God’s Word. Consider attaching your spiritual meals in some way to your physical meals. What would happen in your spiritual life if you had a helping of God’s Word before one of your meals each day? How are you using God’s Word to answer challenges and temptations in your life? These are certainly not only great ways to obey what Jesus taught but also a significant way in which you can grow toward becoming like him. Any habit of Jesus’ is a habit worth having. – See more at: http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/02biblestudy/article4.asp#sthash.uH9fv4Hj.dpuf
In less than five minutes you can purchase a Bible for $5 and it will be delivered to someone in China without God’s Word.
The Church in China is the fastest growing Church in the world. It is multiplying rapidly, even in the midst of persecution. Unfortunately, millions of Christians in China do not have a Bible. Many cannot afford one or live in areas where God’s Word is not readily accessible. They can’t grow in their faith, or teach their children about Christ. To answer this need, LifeWay Christian Stores and Tyndale House Publishers have created the Gospel for China campaign, an easy and legal way for individuals or churches to purchase Bibles for Christians and seekers in China.
In less than five minutes you can purchase a Bible for $5 and it will be delivered to someone in China without God’s Word. You can easily purchase at www.lifeway.com/gospelforchina or at any of the 185 LifeWay Christian Store locations nationwide.
“In less time than it takes to order and receive a meal at a drive through you can purchase a Bible for someone in China” said Jeffrey Smith, New Living Translation Brand Director at Tyndale House Publishers. Christians have a great opportunity to help reach the millions in China without a Bible by sharing on social media, purchasing one or more Bibles, and praying for the recipients. Learn more at www.lifeway.com/gospelforchina.
Beautiful Everyday Bibles was created specifically for pregnancy center clients facing pregnancy decisions and seeking spiritual support from their local pregnancy center.
This spring, Care Net will distribute 95,000 complimentary Bibles to its network of over 1,160 affiliated pregnancy centers.
The distribution of complimentary Beautiful Everyday Bibles is made possible by a partnership between Care Net, Tyndale House Publishing, and local Christian bookstores. The partnership began in 2010, and since then has resulted in the distribution of over 725,000 free Bibles to Care Net-affiliated pregnancy centers in North America.
The purpose of the partnership is to help Care Net-affiliated centers provide the holistic support that women and men need when faced with pregnancy decisions. Centers provide not only material and emotional support, but spiritual support as well, and this partnership allows centers to get Bibles into the hands of their clients.
A core part of Care Net’s vision is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Beautiful Everyday Bibles have opened many doors over the past 5 years to make this vision a reality. The Bible was designed specifically for pregnancy center clients, with a letter from a real Care Net client who chose life, and a topical index and action plan specially created for women facing pregnancy decisions.
“To ignore the spiritual dimension of a person’s pregnancy decision is to ignore a central part of that person’s identity. That is why it is so important for our affiliated centers to have tools available to them to help them deliver the holistic – material, relational, social, emotional, and spiritual – support their clients need to make decisions for life and to be transformed and renewed through faith in Jesus Christ,” said Cindy Hopkins, Care Net’s vice president of center services and client care.
In addition to the direct assistance the free Bibles provide to centers and clients, the Beautiful Everyday Bible campaign allows centers to form important relationships with local Christian bookstores, donors, churches, and community members. These relationships are critical in allowing centers to provide comprehensive, longer-term support to the women and men they serve.
Family Christian and LifeWay participated in promoting the Beautiful Everyday Bible in 2015. The 95,000 Bibles (in English and Spanish) will ship to Care Net-affiliated pregnancy centers at the end of April.
Founded in 1975, Care Net supports one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in North America and runs the nation’s only real-time call center providing pregnancy decision coaching. Care Net envisions a culture where women and men facing pregnancy decisions are empowered by the gospel of Jesus Christ to choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families. Acknowledging that every human life begins at conception and is worthy of protection, Care Net offers compassion, hope, and help to anyone considering abortion by presenting them with realistic alternatives and Christ-centered support through its life-affirming network of pregnancy centers, organizations, and individuals. Learn more at http://www.care-net.org.
We’re giving away 30 copies of this fantastic Bible!
The very large 12-point font of the Personal Size Large Print Bibles offers a comfortable reading experience for those who need larger print text or who simply want to reduce eye strain. The font size in this Bible is so large it is comparable to many Giant Print Bibles. Deluxe features include words of Christ in red letter, a dictionary/concordance, ribbon marker, full-color maps, presentation pages, and book introductions.
To enter to win one of these Bibles fill out the giveawway form below. Follow the directions for sharing to earn extra entries. We’ll choose 30 winners on April 30th.
(Form not loading? Leave a comment letting us know you shared this giveaway with your friends and we’ll count that as your entry.)