You never think your life is going to be filled with trials,
unexplained circumstances, or never understanding “why me.” If you had asked me
years ago what I would be experiencing today, I never would’ve answered
debilitating chronic pain, brokenness, emptiness, and loneliness. We know there
will be difficulties, but feeling like there is no light at the end of the
tunnel made me feel abandoned by God, my Abba Father.
I started looking at every area of my life and labeled each
one with the word: failure. I started wondering if maybe all of this is my
fault—I am such a failure and have messed things up so badly that I don’t
deserve a life without pain. That was the only way I could make sense of my
health problems. I didn’t want to be around people because I felt I was an
inconvenience and that I had no purpose.
I started reading the Beyond
Suffering Bible, and it’s been quite a journey. There are still pitfalls
and trials, but I have been encouraged more than I ever imagined. I felt like someone
understood me, someone cared. It was like a door flew open and I could see a
much bigger picture. Instead of hiding from my Abba Father, I now run to him
and focus on him through my pain and struggles.
I still struggle every day with unimaginable pain and limitations. But I see things differently now. I feel closer to God than ever before, and it has made me examine my life. There are sins I need forgiven, and there are people I need to forgive. I don’t want anything, including my pain and suffering, to get in the way of my relationship with an amazing, loving God. Or to let it diminish the purpose he has for me. I have a purpose. God has a plan. And I’m addicted to reading my Beyond Suffering Bible.
When life takes one negative turn after another, we feel helpless. When loved ones suffer, we are often tempted to ask: Where is God? Why is he letting this happen? In these times, I draw a lot of inspiration from the story of Joseph. Although he was never paralyzed, a lot of things happened to him that could be construed as accidents. He was tossed into a pit by his envious brothers and almost left to die; later he was put in prison in a foreign land—Joseph could have become bitter. But years later, he told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He [God] brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (50:20, emphasis added).
I like that word intended. God is full of intention—he has a purpose, a target, a goal, and a plan. God was a giant step ahead of Joseph’s brothers, aborting their evil intentions to suit his own purposes. Joseph’s problems did not catch God off guard. From the beginning, God planned for Joseph to experience those things. Why? Not only for his own growth in godly character, but for the salvation of others.
God is not a sweep-up boy who follows you with a dustpan and brush, second-guessing how everything will fit into a divine pattern for good. He does not put on a hazmat suit so that an evil situation doesn’t contaminate his holy reputation.
Think of the disappointing or bad things that have happened to you. God’s hands stay on the wheel of your life from start to finish so that everything follows his plan. This means your trials have more meaning—much more than you realize. Your problems have more purpose than you can imagine. Not because God merely uses bad things, but because God intends them so that others might be introduced to Jesus through your example.
Joni is one of the world’s leading international advocates for people affected by disability. A diving accident in 1967 left her, then 17, a quadriplegic in a wheelchair. After two years of rehabilitation, she emerged with new skills and a fresh determination to help others in similar situations. She founded Joni and Friends in 1979, which quickly grew to provide Christ-centered programs to special needs families, churches, and communities. Joni survived stage III breast cancer in 2010, and still keeps a very active ministry schedule. Learn more about her ministry at Joni & Friends.
When Scrapbook Expos Becomes Places of Transforming Worship
She walked up to theInspire Bible booth, touched the pages of my Bible, and looked up at me with wide-eyed wonder. “I didn’t know this is what I needed until just now.”
This year, in addition to the workshops hosted through churches and bookstores, the Inspire Bible TOUR has had a booth and a workshop at 12 Stamp and Scrapbook Expos across the US. We still have four more stops to go in Arizona, Colorado, and California. This new aspect of the TOUR has allowed us to share about the Inspire Bible and this beautiful way to respond to God’s Word through art in the margin with people who are already using their creativity for scrapbooking and card-making. Bible journaling is the perfect crossover, as it becomes a conduit of creativity to document faith. Over the past several years on the Inspire Bible TOUR I’ve enjoyed sharing about how Bible journaling is one of the ways we can study and respond to Scripture. It’s worship in the margin, it’s documenting a season of faith, and it becomes a legacy piece for decades to come.
So many curious creatives have stopped by the Inspire booth to ask questions, share their experiences, and begin their journey into creating worship in an Inspire Bible. Over the course of the past three years of leading Inspire Bible TOUR workshops, and especially at the Stamp and Scrapbook Expos, I’ve had so many questions and comments that I’d love to share with you because they might be some of the same things you are wondering. Here are some of the most popular questions:
So, this is a coloring book, right?
The Inspire Bible is a Bible. It’s the inspired Word of God. But . . . it has blank margin space, illustrations, and vellum inserts to help you respond to God’s Word. It’s the Bible first and foremost.
I’ve got so many craft
projects to do, I don’t need another thing.
When you sit down and spend time in the Bible, that time is
sacred. It’s not a craft project, it’s a study of God’s Word. It’s a chance to
come before the Lord and grow in your faith. We can approach Scripture with the
expectation that the Holy Spirit will speak to us as we read and reflect on the
inspired Word of God.
I’ve never done anything
like this before. How do I get started?
When I sit down and open my Inspire Bible, I focus on 4 things (pray, read, ask, respond). I open with prayer. I invite the Holy Spirit to challenge, encourage, and sharpen my faith. I then read a portion of Scripture. This seems obvious, but I admit, there are times I just want to color and not read the words. But because this is more than a coloring book, I keep the Word central. As I’m reading, I’m asking three questions: What stands out? What does this passage tell me about God? What does this passage tell me about how to live? THEN, I respond in the margin. I use the margin to answer one of those three questions. I keep it as simple as possible because I want to be able to read, respond in the margin, close my Bible and live out what I’ve learned! I want to be able to remember what I read and processed. It’s a life manual that invites you to respond with creativity in the margin.
I want to do this! What
specific Bible journaling supplies do I need?
Use what you already have and go from there. Most people believe you have to have specific art supplies for Bible journaling, but you don’t! You can use any of the stamp and scrapbook supplies you already have, even your children’s art supplies. You don’t have to break the bank to get started using the Inspire Bible.
I don’t want the ink to
bleed through to the other side of the page or shadow. So what should I use on
the Bible pages?
There are certain supplies that will bleed through the pages. While the pages of the Inspire Bible are thicker than traditional Bibles, alcohol-based inks will cause bleed-through. You can use gesso to prep your pages, but I personally don’t use it. I’m okay with a little bit of bleed through. I typically will just incorporate it into the illustration on the other side of the page. Many people buy an Inspire Bible but are afraid to start. They are stuck worrying about ruining the pages or not having the “right” supplies. Use the last few pages of the Inspire Bible (the index) to try out your art supplies and then JUST START. Once you get through your first few pages, your bravery will grow. Start to see your trip to the art store as a way to ask “Can I use this in my Bible?” Think outside the box. I’ve used nail polish, maps, napkins, Instax photos, and even a voting sticker in my Bible!
I can’t believe you would
write in a Bible. Why would you do that?
My Inspire Bible is my “art response Bible” not my everyday reading Bible. I keep one NLT Bible (it’s duct-taped and falling apart) that I don’t cover the words in. Everyone has what I call the “Spectrum of Coverability” level. On one side of the spectrum are those who would never write in a Bible, and on the other side is full coverage of art. Everyone has a particular level. For example, those who carry their Bible with them to church to use as their primary reading Bible will likely not want to cover the words. Ultimately, Bible journaling has been around since the Word was written. Kings and Queens would invite artists to depict stories in Scripture through art, especially for those who were unable to read. They even used stamps (carved in wood) and real gold to foil in the illustrations. Ultimately, the Inspire Bible was created so that you have margin space to write, journal, and create illustrations that help you visualize what you’ve learned.
Wow, I can’t create such
beautiful pages. You must be an artist, right?
I’m a Bible preacher, not an art teacher. We are all creative in
our own ways. Bible journaling is worship in the margin. Think of it as drawing
a picture and giving it to God, who turns and puts it on his refrigerator. He
is praised by our creative mess when we keep the Word central. Ultimately,
while my pages might be beautiful, I want my life to be a more beautiful
reflection of Christ based on what I’ve learned through Bible journaling. So,
don’t be concerned about the art; be more in tune to what the creativity is
cultivating in your heart. Are you being sharpened, challenged, and encouraged
by the Word? Is God honored by your time and creativity? These are questions I
ask myself to make sure my focus is less on “Instagram likes” and more on worshiping
We have just a few more stops on the Stamp and Scrapbook Expo schedule. Would you pray for those who walk by our booth or take the workshop? We’ve sold women their very first Bibles (ever), prayed with women who are battling heavy life situations who picked up an Inspire: Psalms, and engaged with moms and daughters about journaling in theInspire Biblefor Girlsduring their quality time together. We’ve seen people experience the Holy Spirit’s “aha” moments about getting creative for Christ and encouraged others who saw the Bible as intimidating to begin their journey to learn about God. People have even prayed for and encouraged us in the booth! Isn’t it amazing that God would put creativity in our hearts so that we can worship him? Let us live INSPIRED as we read and respond in the margins of our Bibles.
“Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, NLT
The conclusion of many of the Teacher’s reflections is that we are responsible for enjoying life because it is God’s gift. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1). The NT similarly encourages use to be joyful in all things, including trials and challenges.
Although there are conditions in which it would seemingly be better not to be alive, life is meant to be enjoyed with laughing, dancing, love, and peace. It is especially worth living when old age and death challenge that joy. We are to enjoy our food, drink, health, proper clothes, our loving spouse, children, daily work, and entertainment. Only when we treat the things of life and their enjoyment as ends in themselves are they deterrents to happiness. The Teacher speaks strongly against the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake as foolish without profit.
It may be surprising to hear such joy in a book that acknowledges such intense tragedy and frustration. But it is exactly this balance of joy and sorrow that characterize the wise person who reflects on all of life and understands its complexities in a fallen world.
What is True Humility?
Taken from the HelpFinder Bible
Humility is the honest recognition of our own worth—our worth as God sees us. It is the delicate balance between humbly recognizing our sin yet knowing how much God loves and values us. While pride elevates us above others, and often above God himself, degrading our sense of self-worth is also unacceptable, for it denies the value God placed upon us when he created us in his image and when he sent his Son to die for us. Jesus did not die for worms but for people he loves very much, and those people have great value in God’s eyes. To see ourselves as God sees us—that is our goal.
What is true humility? • 1 CHRONICLES 17:16 | Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” Humility is not thinking too highly of yourself.
• MATTHEW 18:4 | “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Humility is childlike. It has an attitude of total trust in a great God.
• TITUS 3:2 | They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. Humility is truly caring about others and looking out for their best interests.
• PSALM 51:3-4 | For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you,and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. Humility is the willingness to admit and confess sin.
• PROVERBS 12:23 | The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge, but fools broadcast their foolishness. Humility is refraining from proving what you know, how good you are at something, or that you are always right.
• MARK 10:45 | “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Humility is the pathway to serving God and others.
• PROVERBS 13:10 | Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise. Humility allows you to ask for advice.
Removing Deeper Hurts
Taken from the Life Recovery Bible 12-Step Devotional for Step 6
“We were entirely ready to have God remove all defects of character.”
When we are upset, we often depend on our addictions to make us feel better. As we get rid of our addictions, we must face the deeper character defects that God wants to heal. Our addictions function as a place of “shelter” from our pain. But when that “shelter” is removed, deep anger may surface, exposing even deeper character flaws that need healing.
Jonah had a glaring defect of character: He couldn’t forgive and have compassion on the people of Nineveh, whom he hated. When God decided not to destroy them, Jonah threw a temper tantrum.
“The Lord replied, ‘Is it right for you to be angry about this?’ Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city. . . . And the Lord God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. . . . The next morning . . . the plant. . . withered away. And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die” (Jonah 4:4-8).
God did this to show Jonah that the real problem wasn’t the loss of his shelter. Hatred was the real problem. The removal of our sheltering addictions may expose deeper problems. This may spark defensive anger as God touches our deepest hurts. It is all right to let the anger out. But it is also important to let God take care of the real problem.
Real Freedom Found Behind Real Bars
Women in Prison Unlock Hope and Healing with The Life Recovery Bible
I was raised in Bryan, Texas, so I did not think it was unusual to be opening a letter from a woman who lived in Brazos County near Bryan. What follows was anything but usual. She wrote:
“I am filled with joy to inform you that your Life Recovery Biblehas changed about twenty lives filled with different kinds of addiction in my community. I regret to inform you that the women (including me) are all locked up in The Brazos County Detention Center in Bryan, Texas.
I was incarcerated on the 29th of March, 2018
Twenty-five years ago, I held the first Life Recovery Bible in my hands and quickly passed it on to a woman who was addicted to crack and headed for prison. She went home and, rather than allow herLife Recovery Bible to take on the role of most Bibles as Chief Dust Collector, she actually opened it up and started reading it. Through her drug addicted, half on and half off, cracked brain, she discovered that God could help her out of her addiction and that the path involved 12 steps based on and found within that Bible. The impact was so great and the transformation so radical that she was not incarcerated, and within six months she was helping other young women in their recovery.
Twenty years later I found myself in the midst of some very normal everyday housewives who just happened to be in the Polk County Florida prison after being arrested for making, selling, or being in possession of methamphetamines. These meth addicts, in a weak moment of desperation or a curious moment of living on the edge, decided to try using meth, just once, and never again. But that one time became a lifetime of using and finding ways to make stuff or sell stuff, including themselves, to be able to feed the addiction that seemed to develop instantly with that first hit.
I was invited to join these women, who looked and talked like anything but a hardened criminal, in their daily Life Recovery Bible study. This Bible was a reward for those entering the drug rehab program offered by a group of women who were once addicted and also had been incarcerated in the same prison. They loved this Bible because it was unlike anything they had ever experienced. Up until then, the Bible was just something that was old, difficult to understand, and even more difficult to apply to your life in any meaningful way. But this Bible is different, and there is a reason why.
When Dr. Dave Stoop and I developed this Bible we included many helpful features not found in other Bibles, including devotionals for each of the 12 Steps, The Serenity Prayer, and Recovery Principles. While those provide deep insights and spiritual inspiration, they are not the feature that make The Life Recovery Bible so amazing to anyone in recovery. The most valuable and unique feature is the study notes found at the bottom of each page. Why? Because they are written by recovering Bible scholars who teach at Universities and Seminaries all over the world. They not only have PhDs in Theology, but every one of them has had a problem that involved them in 12 Step Recovery. Rather than a study note having to do with some remote or abstract theological construct, the note speaks to the struggle for freedom within the heart of anyone imprisoned by the power of addiction, incarcerated or not.
The Life Recovery Bible does not bring the Bible into the recovery process. It brings the recovery process back to the Bible where it began. Bill W. and Dr. Bob worked together to develop the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous after they had found victory over an illness that rarely spared the life of anyone who contracted it. Both men had been members of the Oxford Group, which had purported 4 Absolute Truths: Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Un-selfishness, and Absolute Love, which were all based in Scripture. In the transcript from the last talk ever given by Dr. Bob, he tells where he and Bill found the 12 Steps. He said “We got them from the Good Book. Especially the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.” So The Life Recovery Biblebrings the 12 Steps full circle and identifies the true higher power of the 12 Steps as the God of the Old and New Testaments.
Twenty-five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the impact The Life Recovery Bible would have on those around me both in Brazos County and many thousands of miles away from where I grew up. God has blessed this Bible and the people who read it, teach it, and share it, and for that I am thankful. He alone is the true source of recovery and the author of transformation—always has been, always will be.
Coming Together in God’s Word
Bethesda Community Church in Fort Worth, Texas, is a thriving multigenerational, multiethnic, multilingual congregation. Watch this video and discover howImmerse: The Bible Reading Experience has helped them grow together in unity and community.
Immersed as Family
I read an interesting article a few months ago that poses the question: As Christians, do we put our needs and wants for our families above our sacrificial living to God? It is an intriguing question and caused me to pause, pray, and reflect on my priorities.
As I continued to think about that question, I was reminded that as parents, mentors, teachers, and anyone who has influence in a child’s life, we are instructed to train the children in our lives in the truth of Scripture and to help them understand what it means to live a life fully surrendered to God. We do this when we live sacrificially. This is emphasized throughout Scripture, but check out Deuteronomy 6, Proverbs 22, and 2 Timothy 3 as a start.
In our house, we want reading the Bible together to be a priority, but it can be difficult with varied reading levels, maturity, and understanding. Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience offers us many options to overcome these hurdles, like audio of the day’s readings, videos to help us have an overview of what’s going on, and the family reading guides.
The family reading guides are resources designed to assist parents, guardians, and other family leaders in guiding their families through the transformative Immerse experience. Essentially, it’s an abridged version of each Immerse volume. So, it’s an excellent way for young readers in your family to participate in the Immerse experience without becoming overwhelmed.
The readings are shorter and always drawn from within a single day’s reading when following the volume’s reading plan. This helps everyone in the family to stay on the same reading path. Each daily Bible reading in the family guide is introduced by a short paragraph to orient young readers to what they are about to read. This paragraph will also help to connect the individual daily Scripture passages to the big story revealed in the whole Bible.
The readings end with a feature called Talking Together, created especially for young readers. These provide reflective statements and questions to help them think more deeply about the Scriptures they have read. (Talking Together is also useful for guiding your family discussions.)
Sometimes the best way to get everyone on the same page is to read something out loud together. If your family enjoys reading aloud together on a regular basis, that may be the most natural way for you to use the family reading guide.
For families that haven’t tried this, you may want to experiment. Begin each daily reading with the introductory paragraph to give context, followed immediately by the daily Scripture passage. Then the Talking Together feature can help you lead a family discussion. And don’t forget about the audio and video resources that are available at ImmerseBible.com.
“I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one with no common sense. I saw that it was overgrown with nettles. It was covered with weeds and its walls were broken down. Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” Proverbs 24:30-34, NLT
Proverbs pokes fun at lazy people. They are
sarcastically compared to a door that swings back and forth (26:14), and
lampooned for their empty excuses (e.g., 22:13). Proverbs equates lazy people
with the foolish; their lack of productivity leads to poverty and death (6:6‑10;
10:26; 15:19; 18:9; 19:15, 24; 20:4; 21:25; 22:13; 24:30‑34; 26:13‑16). By
contrast, diligent people are seen as wise; their activities lead to wealth and
life (10:4‑6; 12:11; 13:4; 14:4; 20:13; 31:10‑27).
The theme of laziness arises in the contrast between the two
women, Wisdom and Folly (ch 9). The virtuous woman of ch 31 reflects the
industriousness of Wisdom (31:16‑18).
While it is true that ultimate meaning and fulfillment do not come from hard work (Eccl 2:17‑26), the lazy are still condemned (Eccl 4:5‑6). God created Adam and Eve and put them in the Garden to tend it, not just to sit back and enjoy it (Gen 2:15). Proverbs and the whole of Scripture support the truth that work is not a result of the Fall but rather is a dignified and important part of creation.