Read With Us Reading Plan for May

Starting May 1st we will use the THRIVE: Journaling Devotional Bible for Women as we spend time in God’s Word to gain a better understanding on how to live in faith and how to respond in times of doubt. Throughout this beautiful wide-margin Bible are reflections, thoughts, notes, and prayers from beloved author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd. Though the features of this Bible were designed with women in mind, the amazing truths speak to men and women alike.

Every week you will receive an email with links to the daily readings.


Join the Read With Us plan here.

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Immerse: An Unexpected Journey

Shared by Alex Goodwin, Institute for Bible Reading

Last week we received an email from Kevin Kellogg, Groups Pastor at Grace Fellowship near Columbus, OH. In January they launched the New Testament Challenge using Immerse: Messiah.

Kevin forwarded an email he had received from Todd, a member at Grace Fellowship who has been deeply blessed by his experience with Immerse. His story, and others we’ve heard, are what the Bible Reading Movement is all about.

Rather than setting up an interview with Todd as we’ve previously done with Immerse stories, we’re sharing his story word-for-word as he originally wrote it. Enjoy!


The past six weeks has been an unexpected journey for me.

I would consider myself an above average bible student. I grew up in a church that instilled the importance of committing bible verses to memory. Starting in Pre-Sunday School we would be sent home with new memory verses every week. The teacher took the time each Sunday to listen to those who memorized their verse and placed a star next to the names of those who completed it successfully. At the end of the year we would graduate to the next class “with honors” if we had perfect attendance AND successfully completed our memory work for the year.

As we got older the competition got harder and the “prizes” grew in value. We went from memorizing verses to memorizing chapters and even books. In order to be at the top of the list you had to do way more than just memorize verses and attend church on Sundays. By the time we were in junior high school we would have to do community service, teach bible classes and even preach a sermon to the church. The prize was no longer stickers and recognition but we would be rewarded with new bibles, full scholarships to summer camp, pizza parties and Cedar Point or Kings Island tickets.

My bible education continued after high school too. I attended bible college for four years, taught in-depth bible classes, did a lot of preaching, homeschooled four children, etc. Needless to say, after more than 50 years of life, I have “studied” the bible from cover to cover many times.

I emphasize “studied” because I grew up in a church in which we were instructed to always read the bible with a critical mind. The translation being used was of utmost importance. Some translations were careful translations of the oldest sources of manuscripts available. Whereas, other “translations” were either “transliterations” (paraphrases) or “translations” of translations. For that reason, you really had to really understand the source of your scripture. Once we were certain we were reading from a respectable translation we almost always approached scripture from the perspective of “This is what it says; This is what it means; This is what other denominations wrongly interpret this passage as saying.” For this reason, it is difficult for me, to this day, to read a passage of scripture without critiquing it based on standards that have been drilled into me from a very early age.

The reason for the lengthy background to my Immerse experience is because it is necessary to understand the enormity of the blessing I am receiving through this study. My apprehension from the very beginning of the NT Challenge was that I knew we would be reading from a translation that I have not vetted and we were only given 8 weeks to read through the entire New Testament. (It took me three years to teach a Sunday School class on the book of Hebrews alone). Eight weeks would never be enough time to cross reference everything I was reading with other translations as well go through the whole process of analyzing the 4 W’s and H, then comparing the meaning of the current passage with all the other areas of the bible that mention the same topic.

This is an area, I can now see, that God has been working with me in regards to my life-long critical indoctrination and that I needed to step back and let God speak to me as a child. Before we began reading Immerse, I resolved that I would NOT be critical of what I was reading, I would NOT “STUDY” what I was reading. Rather, I would read the assigned lessons exactly as we were being assigned – a few pages each day, five days a week. I would attempt to suppress any preconditioned understanding that would emerge to the forefront of my thinking and would try to take the words I was reading at face value, as I was reading it. I was so committed to this approach that I challenged my entire group with the same thing – knowing there were a few that had a similar background as me.

The result for me has been amazing! When I first started reading Immerse, everyday I broke my commitment to not cross-reference with another version because I was constantly reading something that I have never seen before. Every time I looked up a phrase or meaning that I KNEW did not exist in my translation, I was proven wrong. By the end of the first week I was convinced and renewed my commitment to stick to “reading only”.

Daily I go through disbelief at how simple the meaning of the scriptures are rolling off the pages and directly speaking to me. It goes beyond that though. It is definitely refreshing to read the bible from this perspective. I would never be able to tell you how many times I have read through the bible – the equivalent of cover to cover. What I will tell you is that I am near the completion of reading through the New Testament for the first time in my entire life. It is like I studied the abridged version of the bible my entire life and for the first time ever I have been offered the opportunity to read the complete work.

The complete work is SPEAKING to me. It is CHANGING MY LIFE. My take away from this past six weeks is that God is calling me into the ministry. What that looks like, I don’t know. It may be that He wants me to be more evangelistic in my secular life. It may be He wants me more involved in the local church. It may be He is calling me to mission work. It may be full-time ministry. All I can tell you is right now, He is doing the speaking and I am doing the listening and I’ve told Him – “Whatever you want Lord – Here I am.” Now I’m just waiting on Him in His timing.

Thank you for presenting me with the NT Challenge. It continues to bless me!


Learn more about Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience

Learn more about the Institute for Bible Reading

Beware of Complaints

Whether facing overwhelming circumstances or even in the day-to-day drudge of life, it’s often easier to focus on what’s wrong with a situation than look to see how God is seeing us through. Often, that was the response of the Israelites while wandering in the wilderness.


Here is an example from the Book of Numbers. Read the passage and then the note from the Beyond Suffering Bible. Reflect on what is God saying to you?

“Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the LORD heard everything they said. Then the LORD’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the LORD, the fire stopped. After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means ‘the place of burning’), because fire from the LORD had burned among them there. Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed. ‘We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.’” (Numbers 11:1-5, NLT)

Connection Point from the Beyond Suffering Bible

How easy it is to grumble and murmur about our hardships. Our hardships are real, but just as real is God’s care for us. God’s love is a fundamental reality, something that is absolutely true in every circumstance we face (1 John 4:7-12). Can you thank the Lord even in your pain or disability? Remaining grateful to God in every circumstance leads you to act in ways that please God.

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:11-12, NLT)


Unite Them, Protect Them, Sanctify Them

by Charles R. Swindoll, taken from the Swindoll Study Bible

Read: John 17:6-19

AS JESUS PRAYED for His disciples, He prayed for three things: that they would be unified, that they would be protected from the evil one, and that they would be made holy.

First, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ unity. If you study the twelve disciples, you willnotice that they were individualistic men. They were not necessarily cooperative. They were stubborn. They were at times dull and unteachable. They were proud. Matthew was a tax collector. Peter was a fisherman. John and James were called “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Yet the Lord prayed, in effect, “Father, I want You to take these tough-minded men and build them into a unit.” In John 17:11, He prayed, “Protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.”


Second, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ protection. “I have given them your word,” He continued. “And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:14-15). These verses give us a clear description of Jesus’ strategy. He never encourages living behind the walls of a monastery, either physically or spiritually. He wants His disciples to be in touch with the world so that the world will have His light. If the world never saw or rubbed shoulders with Christians, it would have no light. So Jesus was saying, “Lord, I don’t want You to take them out of the world. Leave them in the world, but preserve them.” It’s not about isolation, but insulation. We need to be “insulated” so that we can move through the fire and the crucible of this world without being discouraged or destroyed by the evil one.


I think Jesus’ two requests for unity and protection are linked. The evil one discovers disunity and hits us at that chink in our armor. That’s why we, the church, are told by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 to keep ourselves united in the Spirit. The Spirit of God gives unity, and we are to cultivate it. We are to bridge the gaps, the cracks, the chinks. The whole purpose is so that we might have a positive effect on a decadent, perverted society.


Third, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ holiness. Notice this third request: “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17). First Jesus said, “Keep them,” and now He says, “Sanctify them.” He wants His followers to be set apart for their intended purpose. He doesn’t want them to ever lose the vision. How are we made holy? Scripture tells us right here: through God’s Word, which is truth. You cannot live the life you were fully intended to live apart from this Book. If you get away from the Source of truth and move into the wastelands of subjectivity and human opinions, invariably you will be led astray. If you’re living your life apart from regular contact with the Word of God, the world is on its way to moving in. We who believe in Jesus today are included in this prayer (see John 17:20). Jesus has prayed for us to have unity, protection, and holiness. These things have therefore been given to us. We need to live them out.


Find out more about the Swindoll Study Bible