By Faith

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” Hebrews 11:1-3, NLT

Article from the Illustrated Study Bible

Hebrews 11 is one of the most extensive essays on faith in the NT and one of the most loved sections of Scripture, yet misconceptions about faith abound. Some see faith as meaning any form of spirituality (“he is a
person of faith”). Others understand it as a resolute belief that something good is going to happen to them, a ticket to health and wealth. Still others think that faith is a blind leap against known facts. None of these constitutes biblical faith.

Instead, faith involves confident action in response to what God has made known (11:1-3). As seen in the examples listed in ch 11, faith comes into play in a variety of life’s circumstances. The results of faith also are various. Some people get rescued, achieve success in life, and get some of what God has promised in their lifetimes.

Others get mocked, beaten, tortured, put in prison, and killed. Faith is sometimes rewarded sooner and sometimes later, but people of faith anticipate the rewards because of their confidence in God’s character.

What does it mean to live by faith? It means that, in our various circumstances, we live out our belief “that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (11:6). Those who live by faith take confident action based on what God has revealed about his character, seeking to do his will in all things.

Look inside the Illustrated Study Bible

Video Story: What the NLT Means to Me

Jay is the pastor at Life House Church in Harlingen, Texas. As a bilingual pastor, Pastor Jay has a passion for both the NLT and NTV. He is excited to share his story of how these translations have helped him grow in his love for God and others.

Learn more about the New Living Translation

What Does the Bible Say About Friendship?

From the HelpFinder Bible

How many friends do you have? Who are they? If you are typical, your friends range from casual acquaintances to those you would die for. Sometimes we are closer to our friends than our own brothers or sisters. Friends share affection, companionship, confidences, consideration, devotion, esteem, faithfulness, fellowship, harmony, helpfulness, loyalty, partnership, support, sympathy, trust, and understanding. Friends are those you want to spend time with. God created us for relationships—with each other and with him. Our friendship with God should be the model for all our other friendships.

What is the mark of true friendship?
• PROVERBS 17:17 | A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.
• 1 SAMUEL 18:3 | And Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, because he loved him as he loved himself.
Some friendships are fleeting and some are lasting. True friendships are glued together with bonds of loyalty and commitment. They remain intact despite changing external circumstances.

Can I truly be friends with God?
• JAMES 2:23 | “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.
• EXODUS 33:11 | The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.
Both Abraham and Moses are referred to as friends of God. We are his friends, too, if we truly seek him and love him.
• PSALM 25:14 | The Lord is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant.
Sharing our secrets is a mark of great friendship. When God shares the secrets of his promises with us, we know that he considers us his friends.

Learn more about the HelpFinder Bible

Hands-On Bible Activity: God’s My Home Base

“The LORD is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.”—NAHUM 1:7

Activity from the Hands-On Bible

You know how when you play Hide and Seek, there’s one place where you’re safe? Home base is your safe place, your refuge. (See? You learned a new word—a refuge is a safe place!)

A refuge can be wherever you feel safe, kind of like a home base. And the safest “place” of all is with God! Read NAHUM 1:7 out loud so you remember where your home base should be.


  1. Write, “God Is My Home Base” in the center of a sheet of poster board.
  2. Draw a square around the words. (Now it looks like a home base.)
  3. Around the poster,write or draw things that trouble you.

See how all those troubling things are outside the home base?

Hang your poster in your room to remind you that God will be your refuge in times of trouble!

Want to read more about God as our refuge? Check out Psalm 46.

Suffering in Christian Perspective

“So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. ” 1 Peter 4:19, NLT

Article from the NLT Study Bible

First Peter is focused almost exclusively on Christian suffering, especially unjust persecution at the hands of people hostile to the faith. The several themes about suffering that are woven throughout the letter find their climactic expression in 4:12-19. Peter makes the following points about suffering:

We should not be surprised when suffering comes (4:12). Christians who live a countercultural lifestyle in obedience to God should expect the culture to respond with hostility. We should expect mockery, discrimination, trumped-up charges, and even violence.

God has a purpose for us in suffering: It brings us into fellowship with Christ, who suffered before he was glorified (4:13; see also Rom 8:17).

By suffering in fellowship with Christ, we can be confident of enjoying the glory that he has already won (4:13; see Rom 8:17).

We need to commit ourselves to doing what is right when we face suffering (4:19). Our difficulties can always provide an excuse for sinning, but when difficulties come our way, we must live exemplary Christian lives, characterized by love for others.

Our loving response to enemies in the midst of trials can be a powerful opportunity to share our faith. By treating our persecutors with love and kindness, we can make our faith respectable and even attractive to them.

We need to remember in our trials that God is both sovereign and faithful (4:19). He controls all the circumstances of life, and we don’t need to fear that a trial will come our way apart from God’s oversight or will.

Look inside the NLT Study Bible

Psalms: An Emotional Roller Coaster

What is the Cove of the Sower?

Holy Land Tour Feature from the Swindoll Study Bible

Scripture, Science, and geography converge at the Cove of the Sower, also called the Bay of Parables. As its name suggests, this small cove beside the Sea of Galilee is possibly the location where Jesus told the parables in Matthew 13. B. Cobbey Crisler’s study of the natural acoustics at the site estimated that between five thousand and seven thousand people could have clearly heard a lone speaker on the shoreline as they gathered on a slope that forms a natural theater above the cove.

When Jesus performed miracles of healing in Capernaum, amazingly, the people did not respond with repentance (Matt. 11:20-23), and the religious leaders attributed His miracles to Satan (Matt. 12:22-29). On that same day, Jesus anticipated that the nation of Israel would reject Him, so He began to teach the crowds in parables because the stories would conceal the truth from those who were unable to hear it but would reveal it to those ready to accept His Kingdom (Matt. 13:1-3, 34-35).

When Jesus’ disciples were alone with Him, they asked Him to explain the meaning of His parables (Matt. 13:36). He did, and then He declared, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” (Matt. 13:43). He told them that His parable of the sower who scattered seed on various soils represented the various responses to God’s Word—that
of the hard heart that ignores the truth, the soft heart that hears and applies it, and others in between.

Jesus’ story also calls all of us to examine our own responses to the Bible. Do we hear God’s Word in order for God to change us? Do our hearts long to bear much fruit for the Lord? Or, like the crowd around the Cove of the Sower that day, do we just gather with others to hear stories from a gifted teacher? This Sunday, you’ll likely hear another sermon to add to the thousands you’ve heard already. How will you listen?

Learn more about the Swindoll Study Bible

Sink or Swim: A Hands-On Bible Activity

“Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit. ‘Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?’

Jonah answered, ‘I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.’

The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord. ‘Oh, why did you do it?’ they groaned. And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, ‘What should we do to you to stop this storm?’

‘Throw me into the sea,’ Jonah said, ‘and it will become calm again. I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.’ Jonah 1:7-12, NLT

Activity from the Hands-On Bible

Want to read a cool story? Go read all of JONAH 1. Then come back to make something fishy!

  • Cut a piece of paper to look like a special diamond gemstone. Draw Jonah on this diamond shape to remind you that Jonah was a special prophet of God.
  • Fold the paper in half to remind you that Jonah hopped on a boat to try to hide from God.
  • Fold the long end down to remind you that Jonah went overboard. Then flip the paper upside down to see the fish that swallowed Jonah.


Now you have your very own Jonah storyteller! But that’s not the end of this tale. Read JONAH 2 to see what happened next. Jonah prayed to thank God for another chance to follow him.

Think about all the second chances God gives you to obey him. Then write a note to God on the fish’s belly, thanking him for fishing you out of your troubles.

Learn more about the Hands-On Bible

Video Story: Immersed in God’s Word in Community

When Elizabeth first heard about her church’s initiative to read the whole Bible together in community, she was hesitant. But she discovered in the process how amazing the love of Jesus truly is for the outcast, and it changed everything for her. Watch Elizabeth’s story here.

All across America, Bible book clubs are forming to read and discuss the Bible together. They’re using Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience as the tool to facilitate reading at length. Each book in the Immerse collection is designed to be read in community over either an 8- or 16-week time frame. Immerse: Messiah covers the entire New Testament and is a great place to start.

Learn more about Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience

An Ezra Moment: Returning to Our Story during COVID-19

By Paul Caminiti, Institute for Bible Reading

Around 538 BC, the nation of Israel limped home. After seventy years of Babylonian captivity, they returned to Judah to find Jerusalem in ruins. The wall was torn down, the gates were destroyed, and the Temple was little more than a pile of rubble. Nehemiah weeps when he learns of the condition of the city.

The people are disoriented. The glory days of David and Solomon are long gone, and their once world-class city is a shell of its former self. They rebuild the Temple, and those old enough to remember the glory of the first Temple weep tears of mourning. Nehemiah rebuilds the walls and gates surrounding the city, but reality bites. The once-proud superpower has been reduced to a third-rate nation with no king, no army, and no treasury.

Then something amazing happens. Once the basic infrastructure is set up, the people come to Ezra, their chief priest, with a request.

“In October, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey” (Nehemiah 7:73–8:1).

Although the walls and the Temple were standing again, the people sensed that something was still broken: themselves. They believed that healing would come through re-immersion in their Story. Ezra responded immediately by organizing a corporate day of Scripture reading.

“He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:3).

Church in the Age of Coronavirus

The COVID-19 virus hardly needs an introduction. Over the past few months our lives and habits have been upended. Words like “crisis” and “pandemic” flood our thoughts and our imaginations. We’ve been isolated, cut off from our friends and loved ones, and even spent many weeks unable to even gather for worship on Sundays.

During this time, pastors scrambled to create infrastructures with which to “do church” during these strange and unsettling times. And though slowly we are coming out of isolation, what has been discovered is that returning to “normal” will look different.

During those lonely days, technology helped us to piece together a vague sense of community; it was and continues to be a difficult season of change. Infectious disease specialist Michael Osterholm said while many view the crisis as a “blizzard” that must be waited out with extreme measures for a short period of time, the more appropriate response is to view it as the “beginning of winter.” While the ultimate severity and longevity are unknown, many indicators point toward a likely scenario: things are going to be different for a while.

In their moment of uncertainty and disorientation, the nation of Israel turned to their Scriptures to remember their identity, to recount God’s promises and his rescue, and to be reminded of the kind of people they were called to be. During the winter of coronavirus, could the Body of Christ do something similar?

Returning to Our Story

Shaken from our usual routines and frenetic pace, the virus has given the church an opportunity to evaluate. What can “church” look like in an ever-changing world? Like Israel, we’re faced with a bit of a blank slate. Like Israel, we can choose to return and re-focus on our founding Story told in the Scriptures. A modern-day Ezra Moment, if you will.

To help, we’ve created “Immerse from Home”—a completely free downloadable resource that includes everything you need to (virtually) gather in community for a two-week book club reading of Luke-Acts.

Originally intended as Volumes 1 and 2 of the same combined story, Luke-Acts comprises a quarter of the New Testament. In a period of uncertainty and anxiety, what could be more orienting and grounding than the story of Jesus and the story of the early church?

If you and your group enjoy the Luke-Acts experience, you can continue reading the New Testament together using Immerse: Messiah. If you live in the U.S. there is a 20% off discount on

The Beginning of Something New

In his wisdom, Ezra understood that an emotional one-off event wasn’t sufficient and that he needed to create a comprehensive plan for sustainable rhythms of immersion in the sacred texts. The Scripture Reading Marathon became a turning point for the nation, but only because it was a starting point.

Nehemiah goes on to tell us:

“On October 9 the family leaders of all the people, together with the priests and Levites, met with Ezra the scribe to go over the law in greater detail” (Nehemiah 8:13).

In the same month, during the Festival of Trumpets, “Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God on each of the seven days of the festival” (Nehemiah 8:18).

“On October 31, the people assembled again. . . . They remained standing in place for three hours while the Book of the Law of the Lord their God was read aloud to them” (Nehemiah 9:1, 3).

For the first time in their history, the Scriptures became central to Israel’s way of life. Synagogues, created expressly for the public reading of Scripture, sprang up throughout Israel. Scattered song lyrics from David, Moses, Asaph, and others were compiled for the first time into the Psalms. By the first century AD, young boys between the ages of 6 and 10 were expected to memorize the Torah.

So we ask: could the COVID-19 virus instigate an Ezra Moment? Could we take this opportunity to re-immerse ourselves in our Story?

We invite you to take action. To try something new—and ancient. Pastors, call your congregations into this experience. Small group and Bible study leaders, challenge your groups to a two-week commitment. Regular “Joes” and “Janes,” try this with your spouse or your kids (use the Family Guide for younger kids) or invite some family and friends to weekly Zoom calls. Invite that one coworker or neighbor whom you’ve never felt comfortable inviting to a Bible Study.

As the Scriptures washed over the nation on that first day of reading, the people began to weep. It’s unclear why—perhaps because they hadn’t heard the Word in so long, or perhaps because they’d never heard it at all. Perhaps because they were overwhelmed by guilt as they realized just how far they had strayed from their calling. Regardless, guilt and shame would not have the final say. Nehemiah jumps up and addresses the people:

“Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God. . . . Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:9-10).

“So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them” (Nehemiah 8:12).

Learn more at Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience

Learn more about the Institute for Bible Reading