Our lives are filled with moments. Moments of joy. Moments
of sadness. Moments of agony. Moments of exhilaration. Moments when life is
mundane, and sweet moments of simplicity and rest. All these moments are integral
to our individual stories. Stories that intersect and diverge from others. Stories
that have peaks and valleys. A story of God’s love and grace through it all.
I think that is why this video so resonates with us. We can
see parts of our own stories; we can connect to the joy and to the pain. God
has given us himself and his Word not for a season, but for our whole lives.
And it goes far beyond that: The Bible is for all times. Through its pages, we
are connected to those who have gone before us, and it is up to us to pass it
on to those who will come long after us.
Real Heroes are hard to find these days, thanks in large part to social media, which has made the foibles and weaknesses of our leaders all too apparent. We search in vain for men and women to emulate. The music, movie, and sports industries in particular seem to produce a steady stream of “stars” who shoot to the top and then quickly implode with one moral failure after another.
Judges is a book about heroes—12 men and women who helped rescue Israel from its oppressors. These judges were not perfect; in fact, they included an assassin, someone who doubted God, and a sexually promiscuous man. But when they were submissive to God, God worked through them in amazing ways.
Judges is also a book about sin and its consequences. Like a minor cut or abrasion that becomes infected and causes great damage when left untreated, sin grows and soon poisons the whole body. The book of Joshua ends with the nation of Israel taking a stand for God, ready to experience all the blessings of the Promised Land. After settling in Canaan, however, the Israelites lost their spiritual commitment and motivation. When Joshua and the elders died, the nation experienced a leadership vacuum, leaving them without a strong central government. Instead of enjoying freedom and prosperity in the Promised Land, the people of Israel entered the dark ages of their history.
Simply stated, the reason for this rapid decline was sin—individual and corporate. The first step away from God was incomplete obedience (1:19–2:5); the Israelites refused to eliminate the enemy completely from the land. This led to intermarriage and idolatry (2:10–3:7) and everyone doing “whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (17:6). Before long, the Israelites became captives. Out of their desperation they would beg God to rescue them. In faithfulness to his promise and out of his loving-kindness, God would raise up a judge to deliver his people, and for a time there would be peace. Then complacency and disobedience would set in, and the cycle would begin again.
This book spans over 325 years, recording six successive periods of oppression and deliverance and describing the careers of 12 deliverers. The Israelites’ captors included the Mesopotamians, Moabites, Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites, and Ammonites. God used a variety of deliverers—from Othniel to Samson—to lead his people to freedom and true worship. God’s deliverance through the judges is a powerful demonstration of his love and mercy toward his people.
As you read the book of Judges, take a good look at these heroes. Note their dependence on God and their obedience to his commands. Observe Israel’s repeated downward spiral into sin, refusing to learn from past mistakes and living only for the moment. But most of all, stand in awe of God’s mercy as he delivers his people over and over again.
Why I Love NLT Bibles
Yes, I give permission to share my story on the NLT blog.
My name is Joshua. The Bible has been a part of my life since childhood. The Living Bible was one of the first adult-level books I had. My grandfather gave me the Bible in the late 1980s. Although it was nice, I always thought the Bible was another book on the shelf. Eventually I started taking the Bible seriously, getting saved in the spring of 1994. I used The Living Bible for the first few months; it made Scripture clear. In the early part of 1996 I heard about a new version called the New Living Translation; I wrote Tyndale, requesting more information (this was before social media).The company sent me a booklet about the NLT. Reading the booklet with its questions, product details and text samples piqued my interest. My parents gave me a copy for my birthday in the summer of 1997. I really enjoyed my new Bible, taking it to school and my local youth group.
In time I moved to various military bases, leaving the church behind. While living in Hawaii I found myself looking for information about the Bible on the internet; this lead back to the NLT. I started to read it again, using it as part of the Online Bible (this was before Bible apps). After another series of moves, I started going back to church. After looking at various versions, I came back to the NLT. It helps me in two ways. I teach a discipleship group (i.e., Sunday School). The group is multi-generational; the attendees range from Gen Xers, millennials to older adults. The clarity of the NLT helps in teaching; It brings understanding to the weekly lessons. I participate in a ministry that serves hot meals to the needy in the community; a prayer and a devotional are said before dinner. The NLT has been a blessing in speaking to the attendees.
My favorite edition is the Filament Bible; the single column layout gives me a reading experience that’s free of distractions. The study notes and other helps are an invaluable resource in study. The devotionals and other digital content serve as a great resource in putting the pieces together in reflecting on the bigger picture of the Bible. As I look back over these 30 plus years, I am grateful for the bountiful blessings that the NLT (and The Living Bible) has yielded. The NLT has become the translation I use as I head towards eternity, walking with Jesus.
The picture attached to this story shows:
The Living Bible my grandfather gave me (late 1980s)
The NLT my parents gave me (summer 1997)
My Filament Bible
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
I can’t think of a neighbor without picturing the kindest man in a zip-up sweater singing “Won’t you, please. Please, won’t you be my neighbor?” Fred Rogers understood being a neighbor and turned the world into his neighborhood, because he knew the author of community. God is all about relationships. The Bible is filled with stories of relationships and helps guide in us in how to respond to our neighbors.
Let’s read from the HelpFinder Bible to learn more about being a good neighbor.
Most of us think of our neighbors as the people who live next door or across the street. Jesus’ teachings expand our neighborhood to involve anyone around us who needs his love. This means not only the people who live near us but also the people next to us on a plane, our coworkers, or the people in our town who are homeless. It is also important to expand our neighborhood to people around the world who need the love of Christ.
When we begin to view people we see or meet or even hear about as our neighbors, we can begin to establish the kind of relationships that allow us to share the love of Christ by offering a helping hand. How will you treat your neighbors today?
Who is my neighbor? LUKE 10:29-37 | The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. . . . A priest came along . . . and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. . . . he took care of him . . . Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
Your neighbor is anyone around you who needs help, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, or friendship.
What are my responsibilities to my neighbors? How am I to love my neighbors?
ROMANS 13:9-10 | For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.
JAMES 2:8 | Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love your neighbors, regardless of your differences.
DEUTERONOMY 22:1, 3 | If you see your neighbor’s ox or sheep or goat wandering away, don’t ignore your responsibility. Take it back to its owner.. . . Do the same if you find your neighbor’s donkey, clothing, or anything else your neighbor loses. Don’t ignore your responsibility.
PROVERBS 3:28 | If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say, “Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.”
Help your neighbors in times of need.
EPHESIANS 4:25 | So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body.
Be honest with your neighbors, even when it is painful.
LEVITICUS 19:18 | “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against a fellow Israelite, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Never try to get back at your neighbors for something wrong they have done to you. Let the Lord deal with them.
LEVITICUS 19:16 | “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people.”
1 TIMOTHY 5:13 | And if they are on the list, they will learn to be lazy and will spend their time gossiping from house to house, meddling in other people’s business and talking about things they shouldn’t.
Don’t gossip about your neighbors.
DEUTERONOMY 5:21 | “You must not covet your neighbor’s wife. You must not covet your neighbor’s house or land, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”
Don’t covet what your neighbors have.
PROVERBS 27:14 | A loud and cheerful greeting early in the morning will be taken as a curse!
Respect your neighbors’ time and privacy.
PROVERBS 3:29 | Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you.
Don’t break your neighbors’ trust by planning against them.
Strength in Standing Together
Taken from the Africa Study Bible
“Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names: Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego. But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.” Daniel 1:6-8, NLT
When Daniel and his friends were taken into Exile, they risked losing their national identity and their faith. The king tried to make them Babylonians by giving them names that mentioned Babylonian gods and training them in Babylonian culture.
The king tried to feed them food that would defile them, perhaps the meat of unclean animals God had forbidden the Israelites to eat. Should these four young men disobey the king or disobey God? They bravely found a solution. Together they ate vegetables and water for ten days and were a witness to God’s power. At the end of the test, they “looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king” (Daniel 1:15).
The Ovimbundu of Angola say, Kuatoko lokuene likaliove cikupōla, meaning, “Hold onto a thing together. By yourself it is very heavy.” Alone in a foreign land, Daniel and his friends easily could have become Babylonians, and we would never have heard of them. But they stood together to hold onto their faith.
If you are in a situation where there are many pressures to conform to worldly standards, pray for God to send you a fellow Christian to encourage you and walk alongside you. When you face a tricky situation, pray for God to reveal a solution that will allow you to honor him.
“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Ephesians 5:3-5, NLT
EVER SINCE GOD gave the Ten Commandments, some have been tempted to think he enjoys making people miserable and taking away their happiness by denying them earthly pleasures.
The truth is, God wants to give us something much better. But in order for us to receive it, we need to clear some room in our lives. Often, that means getting rid of sins or bad habits that are using up the space God wants to claim. Instead of filling our lives with sexual immorality, impurity, greed, and obscene stories (Ephesians 5:3-4), God wants us to be full of thankfulness. Instead of drunkenness (5:18), God wants us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Suppose you’re walking along the beach and find an old treasure chest. But when you pry it open, it’s full of sand, not gold coins. Now suppose someone else comes along and offers to give you as much gold as you can fit into the chest. Sounds great, right? Except for one problem: The chest is already full. In order to accept the gold, you’d have to dump out the sand. You’d need to make as much room as possible for the more valuable treasure. Unless you get rid of the sand, the chest will never hold anything of value.
The same goes for the sins in our lives—the sand in the treasure chest. They may provide temporary pleasure, but they won’t deliver lasting fulfillment. Sexual promiscuity may provide an immediate thrill, but the long-term results are catastrophic—it will never provide real happiness. On the other hand, true love for another person and for God can fill us up to overflowing.
Drunkenness provides a temporary giddiness or forgetfulness, but it’s nothing like the true peace and joy that come from knowing and loving God. It’s our choice. We can fill up our lives with whatever silly or sinful things we choose, or we can let God fill us up with the things that will bring ultimate fulfillment.
Combining Two Loves
For decades people who loved to color had to find excuses to
participate in their favorite pastime. Coloring with children or grandchildren
was considered acceptable, but coloring on your own—that’s for kids. At least it
was until research found that coloring as an adult isn’t childish at all. In
fact, it has great health benefits, including reducing anxiety and improving motor
skills, vision, focus, and even sleep habits. No one was happier to freely be
able to express herself through coloring than Lynnee.
“I just love coloring. I have always loved coloring,” said
Though coloring was giving her a sense of calm and she truly
enjoyed it, she still felt something was missing.
“I knew there were journaling Bibles with space to create art, and I was looking for one when I stumbled upon the Inspire Bible.”
As a Bible reading enthusiast, she was excited to see two of
her loves combined into one—a Bible that helped you meditate on God’s Word
through coloring and art journaling.
“This Bible is such an awesome tool of inspiration and just
keeps me going back for more of God’s Word. It has brought me deeper in my
understanding,” said Lynnee.
While Lynnee colors a verse, she meditates on it, asking God
to speak to her through his Word. Then she reads the broader passage to gain a
deeper understanding by reading the verse in context.
“It has brought reading the Word of God to a whole new level for me,” said Lynnee. “It is such a cool way to journey through Scripture in an artistic way. So grab one and start your colorful journey with Jesus.”