Jesus Calms the Storm Day 1 Reading: Keeping Perspective

Mark 4:35-41, NLT

“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.’ So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.”

“Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?’”

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Silence! Be still!’ Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’”

“The disciples were absolutely terrified. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other. ‘Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Note from the Beyond Suffering Bible

“Even while witnessing healings, daily provision, an the very presence of God, the disciples struggled. The amazing things they witnessed through Jesus often filled them with fear. Jesus reminded them of all they had already experienced and overcome by asking one simple question, ‘Why are you afraid?’ When we suffer, we can lose perspective. We need reminders of all the ways God has been with us in the past and the assurance of his presence now and in the future.”

Psalm 23 Came Out of David’s Humble Experience

I recently saw a Twitter post about a garbage man who was continuing to do his job amidst the COVID-19 quarantine. I thought how integral his role is in all our health and safety. So often we take for granted those around us who have jobs that aren’t in the spotlight. God calls each of us to do everything as if we are doing it for him (Colossians 3:23). This excerpt from the Africa Study Bible helps us understand Psalm 23 wasn’t out of David’s greatness, but humble experience as a shepherd boy.

Article from the Africa Study Bible

When David was tending his sheep, he had no idea how God would use his life experience. His experience in guarding the sheep gave him the skills and confidence he needed to slay Goliath (1 Samuel 17:40). In this most beloved psalm, David writes from his experience under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to write a poem that is one of the most beautiful and encouraging things ever written—perhaps the most quoted part of the Old Testament. How many of us have gone to take comfort in the words of Psalm 23 in our darkest moments?

David was assigned the care of sheep as he was the youngest and least qualified of his brothers. When they went off to war, he was left at home. Shepherds were generally looked down upon in society, yet without David’s experience with sheep, Goliath would have not been slain and we would not have Psalm 23. Most young people, even new university graduates, must start with the work nobody else wants to do. Whatever God has called you to do when you are young, do not despise the experience. Work hard, learn all you can, and someday in the future you may be very surprised how God uses it to equip you for your most important work and to greatly bless others.

Psalm 23 Activity from the Hands-On Bible

Here is a great way to help the kids in your life engage with Psalm 23. Read through the Psalm together and then try this activity from the Hands-On Bible.

Want to learn more? See additional features in the Hands-On Bible? Take a look inside

Finding Joy amidst the Unknown

by Evie P., Bible Team Marketing Coordinator

In less than a week our house has gone from trying to figure out work schedules, concerts, carpools, playdates, birthday parties, church activities, volunteering at schools, and getting ready for Easter outreach to isolation. Even for the introverts this sudden turn has brought a huge change in routine. It’s caused confusion, stress, fear, anxiety, and wondering if our toilet paper supply will last. (Trust me, I know this is serious, but we still need laughter.)

In the middle of all of this, I am so thankful that we serve a God who is always faithful. He never changes (Hebrews 13:8). We can leave all our worries at his feet (1 Peter 5:7). And he is in control (the whole Bible really speaks to this, right?).

Not being able to talk to friends or those we love physically has led many of us to spend more time on social media to connect with each other. Sheryn tagged us in her Instagram post with her COVID-19 quarantine story. And it brought me so much hope and inspired me to use this time to be still and know that he is God! Read it and be blessed.

I am a single mom of a six-year-old girl, Keilah. Our entire country has been placed by our government under a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since I live in the nation’s capital, we are on “enhanced community quarantine” for at least a month.

This means almost everything is closed. The only reason we can leave is to get food, medicine, or to seek medical care.

With the schools closed, my daughter is at home with me. Usually I do my morning devotions alone after she has left for the day. I wasn’t going to let quarantine stop me from getting into God’s Word, so I opened my NLT Bible and started reading.

Usually, Keilah and I do devotions together before her bedtime, but that morning she plopped down next to me with her Bible in hand and said, “Can I read my Bible too?” So side by side we read together. She loved that we had the same Bible, but just different covers. What a joy to read it together.

Something good from this quarantine.

The Right Paths of the Shepherd

Article from the Swindoll Study Bible

If you could choose any shepherd for your life, who would you pick?

Most of us wouldn’t want a shepherd at all. We want to choose our own path, call our own shots, choose our own life’s partner . . . and then expect God to come along and bless us. Many of us live constantly under the threat of failure. Why? We are sheep—and sheep, by nature, fail. But being a sheep has an upside: When you have nothing to prove, you have nothing to lose. It’s the shepherd’s reputation and success that are at stake. And the good news is that the Lord, as our Shepherd, does not lose His sheep. He leads us on the right paths. Psalm 23 lists several ways God leads us.

First, He leads us to rest. He provides all the rest we need. He does this by leading us alongside still waters. If I relax myself under the control of His marvelous Spirit, my life will be a resting, obedient life. God has a wonderful way of taking us by the ears, slowing us down, showing us green pastures and quiet waters, and calming our anxious thoughts. He’s a master at that. He knows just how to do it.

Second, He leads us through discipline to restoration. Alas, there are stubborn sheep who are determined to go their own way. “All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (Isa. 53:6). In a flock, some sheep are so stubborn that their shepherd has to break one of their legs to keep them from wandering off. Then he splints the leg and carries the sheep until it can walk. It learns to stay close and trust the shepherd to lead. God does something similar with us. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful!” (Heb. 12:11). But through the experience, God restores our souls. He changes our inward bent. He administers His rod as an instrument of His love. He does it to guide us in the right paths.

Third, He leads us through darkness. In springtime in the barren Judean Wilderness, the shepherd leads his sheep to areas of new grass. That journey is often treacherous, the path winding through deep ravines with unsure footing and gloomy shadows. The Christian life, too, is filled with pits and deep valleys as we journey toward the life God calls us to. In The Hiding Place, when Betsie ten Boom is dying, she utters to her sister Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” The Christian life includes deep shadows. But the sheep can walk with confidence, knowing that the Shepherd has not yet made His first mistake, and He never will.

Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-16). He told His followers, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ, who died to pay the complete price for our sins on the cross, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He Himself is the right path. Is He your Shepherd? Do you know Him? Only you can answer.

They Were Caught Without Warning

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’

Notes from the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition

The Sea of Galilee is an unusual body of water. Although relatively small (13 miles long and 8 miles wide), it is 150 feet deep at its deepest point, and the shoreline is about 690 feet below sea level. Sudden storms can appear over the surrounding mountains with little warning, stirring the water into violent 20-foot waves. These experienced fishermen had not foolishly set out in a storm. They were caught without warning, and their danger was very real.

Although the disciples had witnessed many miracles, they panicked in this storm. As experienced sailors, they knew its danger; what they did not know was that Jesus could control the forces of nature.

We often encounter storms in our lives where we feel God can’t or won’t work. When we truly understand who God is, however, we will realize that he controls both the storms of nature and the storms of the troubled heart. Jesus’ power that calmed this storm can also help us deal with the problems we face. And he is with us. Jesus is willing to help if we only ask him. We should never discount his power even in terrible trials.

Under the Good Shepherd’s Care

Devotional from the Beyond Suffering Bible

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6, NLT

In this beloved song that was deeply personal to him, David reflected on Israel’s communal experience of suffering and pictured God’s people as sheep in need of a loving shepherd. Just as God led the Israelites like sheep out of Egyptian slavery and walked beside them through the deep, dark, dangerous wilderness inhabited by their enemies, so he walks with his children today—even when they pass through “the darkest valley.”

Under the tender care of our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ himself (John 10:11), we will always have everything we need (though not always everything we want!). He faithfully provides us with strength, guidance, discipline, protection, and—what we sometimes need most of all—rest. If you are feeling weak, aimless, undisciplined, vulnerable, or just plain tired, let God be your shepherd. He will not disappoint.

In this life, God’s children are surrounded by enemies yet remain safe, feasting at a table of blessings set by God himself. This is but a foretaste, a preview, of the great “wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9) that believers look forward to with eager anticipation, when all our enemies—including death, pain, and sorrow—will finally be vanquished once and for all. What a glorious hope!

Why Does the NLT Use the Word “Justice” in Matthew 5:6?

by Mark Norton, Bible Development Director at Tyndale House Publishers and member of the Bible Translation Committee

The NLT translators used the term “justice” in Matthew 5:6 to translate the Greek noun dikaiosune, rather than the more general rendering “righteousness.” The alternate rendering “righteousness” is given in the textual footnote, showing that the translation committee recognizes the value of both “justice” and “righteousness” for catching dimensions of the intended meaning here. The English term “righteousness” is most often associated with the idea of imputed and personal purity before God. The term “justice” is a term used to describe the relational actions demonstrated by the righteous person. In this verse we are called to hunger and thirst for personal righteousness and the justice that flows from it. If we truly hunger for righteousness in our hearts and personal actions, we will demonstrate it in our just and loving relationships with others, making possible the justice and peace promised in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul most often speaks of righteousness as imputed to those who are in Christ (for example, Romans 5:1-2), but Matthew’s emphasis is on the practical side of righteousness, relating to righteousness expressed in our lives and in God’s Kingdom through just actions (compare 1:19; 5:10, 20, 45; 6:1, 33). Those who live in view of the nearness of the Kingdom of God long not only for personal righteousness, but also for righteous living to permeate society as a whole in justice.

The NLT translators recognize the challenge of translating the Greek term here, and have chosen to put “justice” in the text, while recognizing “righteousness” in the footnote. Both terms catch nuances of the meaning in this case.

Purim Party

“Mordecai recorded these events and sent letters to the Jews near and far, throughout all the provinces of King Xerxes, calling on them to celebrate an annual festival on these two days. He told them to celebrate these days with feasting and gladness and by giving gifts of food to each other and presents to the poor. This would commemorate a time when the Jews gained relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned into gladness and their mourning into joy. ” Esther 9:20-22, NLT

Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates when God saved his people from the evil Haman. I’m not Jewish, but growing up my parents always had special ways for us to remember the story of Esther during this time of year.

Here are a few ideas of how to celebrate:

  1. Have a fancy family dinner and read the Book of Esther. The story of Esther has a lot of getting “fancy” in it. Esther becomes queen because of a beauty pageant, when she bravely goes to the king’s court she is wearing her royal robes, and later in the story she invites the king and Haman to a special banquet. Have fun finding something fancy to wear and then talk about the story during family dinner,
  2. Make Purim Baskets. Part of the celebration in Esther 9 says to give gifts to each other. Purim baskets can be filled with food, candy, and other small gifts. Consider making these for your neighbors. They are a great way to start a conversation. Or you can make them for your pastors, friends, family members – anyone who needs a smile
  3. Give to the Poor. Throughout the Bible we see that the poor are near to God’s heart. This is a great time to find a way to be intentional about how you as a family can give to those in need. It doesn’t have to be a monetary gift. Maybe you could volunteer at a shelter, donate food items to a food pantry, cleanup a local park, or spend some time with elderly neighbors who may need help with chores or outside upkeep. We also have people in our own circle of friends who may need an extra hand or help. This gives you an excuse to reach out.
  4. Tell the Story of Esther in a Creative Way. In my family we loved putting on a play of the story Esther. We would make funny costumes and act out the story. Maybe play acting isn’t for you. Don’t let that stop you. Get your creative juices going and find a fun way to tell the story of Esther. You could create a storybook, illustrate a comic book, come up with a game, write a poem, make a movie trailer or find another activity that is out-of-the-box and fun for your family.

Looking for more ways to engage in the Bible as a family. Check out the Hands-On Bible.