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 made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to 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. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it 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. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. Jonah 4:4-8, NLT
We were entirely ready to have God remove all these 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.
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Psalm 1:1-3, NLT
Believers’ happiness or joy comes both from what they do and from what they don’t do. First, they don’t let ungodly people influence them. Psalm 1 says they do not “follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers” (Psalm 1:1). Instead, they do fill their hearts and minds with God’s Word: “They delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
Have you ever eaten your food so quickly that you could not enjoy or savor its taste? Reading God’s Word quickly is like inhaling your food. To truly understand the Bible, we need to slow down, read the passage more than once, and think about it. As we meditate on God’s Word, we will come to know what is right and true. To meditate on Scripture means to ponder, consider, and “chew on” its great truths.
While it is excellent to read through the Bible, to study it, and to memorize it, the truth of God’s Word must also sink in. We must apply what we learn to our lives. It’s not the way we mark our Bibles that’s important, but the way our Bibles mark us. What we meditate on must affect the way we live.
When we meditate on God’s Word and apply its truths to our lives, we will experience the promise in Psalm 1 of living a spiritually fruitful life.
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs 18:21, NLT.
I want to turn your attention to the power of that muscle that lies within your mouth. I’m referring, of course, to your tongue. Let’s consider the words that we use in giving counsel to one another.
If you and I really believed that “the tongue can bring death or life,” I’m convinced that it would make a profound difference on the rest of our lives. Our words can destroy or they can build up. The tongue has the power to discourage or to encourage.
An example comes from Proverbs 14:25, which envisions a person on a witness stand giving a testimony. A witness who lies creates treachery and can ruin or end someone’s life. More often, the life and death that words bring is figurative. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” There have been times in my life when my troubles have been great, my heart has been heavy, and my spirit has been almost broken. But along comes someone with words that are “sweet to my soul,” and this brings healing deep within my bones and deep within my soul.
If you are a professional counselor, a trained lay leader at your church, or just a sincere friend reaching out to fellow believers, you are engaged to some degree in giving counsel. This is a very significant and serious work—you have the power to shape people’s thinking, bring them through the minefield of their experiences, help them process a multitude of feelings, and assist in bringing them to a better place in life.
Do not take your words casually—the people you are counseling won’t. Do not just toss out a thought on a lark to see if it will make sense. Gauge your counsel wisely. As it says in Proverbs 17:27, “A truly wise person uses few words.” Ration your words.
If you are receiving counsel, listen with discernment. Not all advice given is advice that should be followed. One who seeks the will of God will often seek the counsel of other people. “Get all the advice and instruction you can” (Prov. 19:20); God honors that. But invariably you will hear opinions that differ from person to person. Obviously, all of them cannot be right, so you must listen with discernment. Remember well that “truthful words stand the test of time” (Prov. 12:19). There are many voices of so-called authority, but valuable is the person who tells us the truth. This is a person committed to words that square with Scripture, come at the right time and in the right way, and are said in the right spirit.
This kind of wise correction brings life. As I look back and remember time spent with those I would call my mentors, I have found that the things that have stuck with me have been their reproofs and valid criticisms of me. These remain in my mind like “golden apples in a silver basket” (Prov. 25:11-12).
When working on the New Living Translation there were many priorities including creating a translation that was accurate, true to Biblical scholarship, engaging to read, understandable so truth could be applied and lived out in daily life, and a translation that was crafted to be ideally suited for public reading. What a joy to see that vision come to life through ministries like her.Bible. We are so thankful Jenny Steinbach, associate producer of this amazing audio Bible, shared her story with us.We think you will love it too.
“How could God allow so much pain and suffering in the world?” Sarah asked as we sat in the crowded student union at University of Western Ontario. I could relate from my own struggles with painful emotions that clouded the message of Jesus, even though I sat in church for many years. I pulled my maroon Living Bible out of my backpack to try to answer her questions about God and clearly communicate his Word. As a Cru staff member, my passion has always been to help people connect with God in meaningful and understandable ways. I discovered that people without Bible knowledge could not understand the scriptures until they heard it in modern English.
Fast forward to my years as a mom at home to four active little boys, my “quiet time” was very limited but my worn One Year Bible New Living Translation was a sanity saver as I read and reread it. Having a plan for each day was very helpful. Eventually my mother-in-law came to the Lord in her seventies and I bought her the same Bible. We had fun talking on the phone and discussing our daily readings. She was first generation Italian and not a confident reader. Seeing her grow because she could understand made me so happy.
A few years ago, I was working with the Cru City ministry in Orlando and enjoyed discipling women who were struggling with long term unemployment and poor self images.
I loved getting out the door and settling into the car with a cup of coffee to drive to work—until I got into rush hour traffic again. One morning, a red Toyota suddenly stopped in front of me and cut into the exit lane ahead of a long line of traffic. Anxiety kicked in as I checked my review mirror hoping I wouldn’t get rear ended at 60 miles per hour. I needed recovery time once I got to the office to be ready to face my teammates and coach our students. After work that evening, there was a heavy rainfall in Orlando and it took 90 minutes to get home.
Audiobooks became a great solution to distract me from the challenging drive to and from the office. I wanted to be Spirit-filled by the time I arrived at work to coach people who needed to trust God with their employment struggles. And listening to audiobooks on the way home was a way to unwind. I heard great men’s and women’s voices read some wonderful books for those two hours spent on the road every day. Sometimes, I listened to the Bible too, but the longer I listened, the more it felt as if something was missing.
I explored more Bible apps but soon learned that they used the same audio files of the exact same male readers. I was looking for something different. I was simply looking for a pleasant woman’s voice to read Scripture with compassion and kindness, yet with the authority God’s Word deserves. This was a silent space in the audio book world.
One Sunday, my pastor gave a sermon about a woman from Ethiopia who had started an orphanage and was trusting God to provide for 100 orphans. The tears flowed because I felt distant from God’s work and powerless to change that. Then my pastor asked, “How has God gifted you?” and “What is the world waiting for you to do?”
The Lord spoke deep in my heart and told me that I had the background to produce a women’s audio Bible. I was shocked and afraid to tell anyone, but I woke up every morning feeling a burden to find a way to make this happen. Eventually I told my husband and my team and then had to find another job placement. This project was out of the box for Cru, but the Lord led me to the radio team, which had the expertise and the studio to help make this happen. Since Cru is such a large organization, where we fit into the mission, this is the first individual project I have ever owned.
Sometimes women’s jaws drop when they hear the idea of a women’s audio Bible because they grasp the need, but have not ever thought of it before. From my years helping to distribute the Magdalena film, in which Mary Magdalene narrates the story of Jesus, I knew that women who had experienced abuse or had emotional barriers to listening to God’s Word in a man’s voice, would experience a deeper connection with God. Globally, I knew there was a hunger for God’s Word in the “heart languages” of women too.
I wondered, if a modern Bible translation could be recorded in English, be available for free and utilize voices from different ethnicities, could it connect with younger listeners and those who learn orally? To me, only the New Living Translation would meet this need. Could this audio Bible serve as a model to women leaders in other language groups and be replicated in a way they could use to reach the women of their countries?
Thus began the adventure of producing her.BIBLE in women’s voices. It began with a simple, personal longing to give women a “voice” as they hear God’s Word. We have our first partner, who is passionate to produce an audio Bible in women’s UK voices and we eagerly look forward to the Lord raising up women to produce their languages in their available Bibles.
“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16, NLT
Most of us have felt at one time or another that we are beyond God’s love. Our feelings are like swings going back and forth—sometimes we see ourselves as really good, and others we see ourselves as beyond hope. But God always sees us accurately. He confronts our true condition.
He doesn’t sugarcoat the fact that we desperately need grace and mercy. He knows that we’re sinners—each of us could say, like Paul, that we’re “the worst of them all” (1 Timothy 1:15). But God does not leave us in that dark place without hope. Not one of us is beyond grace. Paul says that he was shown mercy by God so that “others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16). Perhaps pride will tell you that you’re too good for God’s grace, or maybe that you’re too bad for it.
God counters both of those lies. We are not too good for Him to humble us and offer the grace we need for forgiveness. And we are also not too bad for Him to reach us with His mercy, show us our need for Him, and receive His gift of eternal life.