Guest post by Amber Bolton of @biblejournaling: Inspire Bible TOUR workshop leader, youth pastor, and long-time Bible journaler
I’m sure they exist, but I’ve never met a person who didn’t like to color. Give someone a marker and you are sure to find them doodling on the page, writing their thoughts, making lists, or being creative. Coloring is used in therapy and in schools to calm children, and there’s no surprise that adult coloring books are in grocery store checkout lanes. Coloring has never been a fad. So, what about coloring in our Bibles and creative journaling?
Is creative journaling just making pretty pages? Is it more than an adult coloring book? These are the questions we’ve been exploring as we crisscross the country on the Inspire Bible TOUR (check out inspirebible.com/TOUR). We are meeting people who have a hunger for understanding God’s Word and want a creative way to respond that is more than just coloring. The Inspire Bible is all about our hearts and how they interact with God’s Word. It’s a form of Bible study.
The Inspire Bible TOUR has given me the chance to help people feel confident and encouraged to get into God’s Word and respond in the margin. The goal is that the margin becomes the place where truth sinks into our hearts and pours out in the beauty of our lives. I’ve encountered people who walk into the workshop feeling like they are not creative and leave with confidence to study and respond to God’s Word in a unique way. There are so many myths when it comes to creative journaling. Here are just a few.
Myth 1: I am not creative.
Everyone is creative in their own way! God made us in his image and he is creative. He’s THE creator. You don’t have to be a talented artist to mark up the margins of your Inspire Bible. It’s not about a pretty page, it’s about using the margin to respond to what the Holy Spirit is saying through God’s Word. Some people journal, others make lists, still others use all the embellishments and paints they can find. Be uniquely YOU in the margins.
Myth 2: I don’t know where to start.
So many people that I’ve met on TOUR are nervous to start marking up their Inspire. They don’t know where to begin and are afraid they will mess up. Know this, you will misspell a word or accidentally spill paint all over the page. It’s OK. Give yourself grace to get a little messy. There is no place for perfectionism when we come before God. We come with humility and an open heart. Give yourself permission to be free when you encounter the Inspire Bible. I encourage people to start in one of the Gospels or Romans. Maybe even Psalms. Read a whole chapter at once so that you can really get an understanding of the context. Jump in!
Myth 3: I don’t know what to put in my margin.
Creative journaling is more than coloring, it’s a study. I’ve created a process for creative journaling that helps me stay focused on responding and living out what I learn. Here’s what I do: 1.Pray (invite the Holy Spirit to speak through God’s Word); 2. Read (read a portion of scripture); 3. Ask (What stands out? What does this passage tell me about God? How am I to live differently based on this passage?); 4. Respond (THIS is what you put in your margin.) I answer one of those three questions in the margin of my Inspire. I’ll either write or draw what stands out from the passage, or bullet-point what it tells me about God’s character. Sometimes I’ll journal about how I am to live based on the passage. The margin is for you to process what you’ve read. It doesn’t have to be perfect or pretty, it just needs to remind you of what you’ve learned.
Myth 4: I don’t have time.
It does not take long to fill our spiritual tanks through creative journaling. I typically spend 30-45 minutes in my process from beginning to end. I have a little corner in my office dedicated to creative journaling where I keep all my supplies and Inspire Bible. Even if you don’t have space, I’m sure you have a small tote you can keep your Inspire and a few favorite supplies in for an “on the go” option. I’ve never regretted setting aside time to spend in God’s Word, but I have regretted passing it up. It doesn’t have to be every day! Creative journaling is just one of the ways to study God’s Word (personally I think it’s the most fun way!). So, switch it up. Maybe you read a passage and journal, another day you read and go for a run, another you gather friends and spend hours in your Inspire together!
Myth 5: I don’t have all the right supplies.
I encourage people who are new to creative journaling to start with what you have in your house. Don’t go out and buy all the supplies you think you’ll love. You’ll be overwhelmed—and out of money. It will take a little time, but you’ll soon find which supplies you love most (I’m all about the embellishments and TomBow pens!) Follow us on Facebook (Inspire Bible) to see what supplies we love, or come to a TOUR event and you’ll get to try out a bunch of supplies at the table! There are lots of social media groups that share their tips and supplies that work well. The last few pages in the Inspire Bible are great “trial” pages to see if a new supply will work or have bleed through. If you are unsure, use those pages to test them out!
Myth 6: I don’t want to do this alone.
Creative journaling is both personal and corporate. I love spending time alone in my Inspire, but I also crave going through the process and learning from others (and sharing supplies). There are many social media groups who have “weekly” pages/challenges. They are encouraging and helpful! It’s a great way to share with each other what you are learning. What if you were to start an Inspire Bible study group in your church? That could be a really fun way to connect with others and share supplies!!
Myth 7: I have someone in my life who would LOVE creative journaling, but I don’t know how to get them started.
There are a few really great ways to help your friends, or even get started yourself! Attend one of the Inspire Bible Tour workshops this spring (locations will be announced soon). OR…. join us for our live online workshop on Saturday, January 7th at 10 a.m. (CST). This online workshop will be an opportunity to learn the process, get tips, and go through techniques! This is a super fun Christmas present to yourself or someone you love. Register online at amberbolton.net. And, there’s some really fun happy mail that comes with the registration, including the Intro to Creative Journaling book by Amber Bolton, a fun T-shirt, and the Inspire: Psalms book!
10 Bible Giveaway!
Enter to win a copy of of the Inspire Bible Large Print NLT!
Here’s how to enter:
- Download and print this Christmas themed coloring sheet – Download Here
- Get to work coloring, painting, or however you’d like to express yourself.
- Post a picture of the end result on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.
- Use the Gleam form below to submit the link to your creation.
We’ll choose 10 winners on 12/26!
It’s an elementary school highlight—winter break. I don’t know too many kids who have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads anymore, but the freedom of rolling around in the snow, having no homework, and just playing are definitely floating through many kids’ pre-break daydreams. But as days stretch into weeks the winter break glee can quickly wear off and is often replaced by a chorus of “I’m bored.”
We have a few ways you can not only get through the winter break blahs but also use this time to grow as a family by hiding God’s Word in your hearts. And—it’s FREE!
On hiddeninmyheartbible.com there are FREE interactive downloads to help memorize 10 of the most beloved verses in the Bible. These include songs, coloring pages, devotionals, and games. Here are five ways you can to use these resources to have fun and remember God’s Word!
Bible Memory Song Party: Especially if you live in the frozen north, kids—and moms and dads too—can quickly catch cabin fever. Ward it off with a fun Bible Memory Dance Party. Download the free Bible memory songs, then play them as you dance around the house. You can turn it into a Bible Freeze Dance game where you pause the music sporadically and everyone has to freeze in their current position. See who can hold their pose the longest.
Bible Game Challenge: Download the 10 Bible memory activities and see who can complete them the fastest and still get them all correct. Then take the memory verses and create your own games. See if family members can beat the quiz master.
We’ve Got Talent Videos: Whether you want to be a superstar or hide behind the camera, you can have a fun family activity making Bible Memory Song Videos. There are several different ways you can do this. Pick a song, memorize it together, and then record the performance as a family. Make it into a contest. Have every member of the family pick a different song to memorize and perform. Tape the performances and then post on social media for friends and family to pick who they like best. Don’t sing? Video the dance party, lip sync, or just have fun displaying your family’s unique talents.
Family Devotional Time: One of the best parts about winter break is the chance to step out of the normal, hectic schedule and spend time together. Included in the free downloads are samples of the Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible’s Core 100 devotional section. This includes the memory verse in three translations, a short devotional about how to apply the verse to daily life, and a prayer. It’s a great way to come together as a family and grow closer to each other and God by hiding his Word in our hearts.
The Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible was created to encourage kids not only to read God’s Word but also to hide it deep within their hearts. One hundred of the Bible’s core verses have been set to music by renowned children’s author and song writer Stephen Elkins. The 100 songs include a variety of genres and are available in the New Living Translation, New International Version, and King James Version, and all songs are free with the purchase of the Bible.
Shop now HERE.
It can be a challenge to excite young people about the stories of the Bible, and it can be even harder when those stories have been told and retold so many times they seem to hold no surprises or insights any more. The better known the narrative, the more inoculated some children seem to be to the wonder of God’s story in those pages. That’s why we are excited about the work Scarlet City Studios is doing with The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance.
The game tells the story of the Bible in an allegorical world, with fantastical inventions and exciting characters that capture the imagination and slip “under the radar” of a generation that might have seen one too many flannelgraphs. The latest Aetherlight release is the third episode, which introduces Jefferson, a brilliant but unintentionally arrogant scientist who may hold the key to saving the game world of Aethasia from a global catastrophe. It is an allegorical retelling of the story of Joseph, and it creates a way for young people to interact with the story beyond the surface facts they are used to hearing.
Jefferson has a remarkable and colorful mechanical suit, a nod to the technicolor coat everyone knows so well, and his story is picked up at the point where Joseph is thrown in a pit by his brothers. In the game, Jefferson has been researching the melting of the arctic Snowmoors region, but before he can complete his work, he is falsely accused and imprisoned by a vindictive recruit from the Usurper’s academy. While being held in the Grease Pits, he shows his capacity for problem solving and leads the player to solve the meltdown crisis there. The overseer of the Snowmoors, Baron Fairrow, then commissions him to repeat the task for the entire region, and in doing so he is reunited with the rest of the Resistance and helps complete their mission.
While there are obvious touchpoints in the story, what is most exciting about this retelling is the way the game explores the deeper themes of the scriptural narrative. The game’s creators have taken pains to explore what the story is about. From the outset, players are aware that they have been prepared for what is ahead, even if they don’t understand how or why. As the game unfolds, those preparations become apparent, revealing how even in the midst of Joseph’s troubles, God’s purposes were being worked out. Similarly, while the events of Joseph’s story are recognizable in the adventures in Aethasia, the deeper themes of Genesis come to life for players. Jefferson’s insistence on solving the problem of the environment melting reflects the heart of God to preserve life—all life—that is seen in the way the Egyptian famine was averted in Joseph’s day. As they work through challenges alongside the brilliant young scientist, players are given the opportunity to understand how God uses people’s skills and availability when they acknowledge his call. While the game’s central figure, the Scarlet Man—a kind of “Angel of the Lord” figure, a representation of the various theophanies of the Old Testament, who leads and guides the Resistance—is notably absent throughout this chapter of the adventure, his involvement behind the scenes is clear. This is shown most vividly in the Dreamweaver device players are able to craft, a tool that lets them see hidden clues and objects, preparations the Scarlet Man has made for them without them even realizing they were there.
Engaging young people with the Bible is a vital part of their spiritual formation, and inviting them to see their part in the grand narrative of Scripture will always be of the utmost importance. We are excited to see tools like The Aetherlight taking this challenge seriously and offering creative ways for kids to participate in the story of God and understand its rich relevance and timeless truths in a way they can call their own. The third episode of this groundbreaking game continues that trend, and we look forward to many more biblical stories coming to life for the next generation through the land of Aethasia.
Enter to win a FREE Bible and a FREE The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance game key! We’re giving away 10 of each to 10 lucky winners!
Here’s how to enter:
Fill out the Gleam form below. Follow the directions to earn extra entries. We’ll chose 10 winners on December 7th!
The old Sunday school song tells us, “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” Though there is truth in these words, it is just the start. If we truly want our kids to “grow, grow, grow” in their faith, the words of Scripture need to be hidden in their hearts. Moses understood this as he prepared the people of Israel to enter the Promise Land without him.
“And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
Every day we send our kids into a world that can be confusing and filled with different ideals and temptations. We try our best to protect them. We want to put a shield around them, to guard their hearts and minds. But the time will come when they are faced with circumstances where the decisions they make will be their own.
As parents we need to prepare our children for how to respond in a Christlike way when faced with temptation or difficult decisions. What did Jesus do? He quoted Scripture.
“But Jesus told him, ‘No! The Scriptures say, “People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”’” (Matthew 4:4)
With smart phones filled with easy access to Bible dictionaries and quick reference searching, Bible memory can seem as old fashioned as that Sunday school song, but the reality is that it’s more important than ever. Here are a few more reasons why we should have our kids, and ourselves too, hide God’s Word in our hearts.
1. Deep roots. For a tree to flourish and grow it needs to have deep roots to stay strong when storms come. This is true for our spiritual growth as well. By memorizing Scripture, God’s words are planted in our memory and grow deep and strong. They become a natural part of our thinking and responding.
2. Future battles. We don’t know what the future holds or what battles or struggles our children will one day face. What we do know is that in this world there will be trouble, but having Scripture hidden in our kids’ hearts can help them face whatever life throws at them.
3. More like Jesus. Not only does memorizing Scripture allow us to act more like Christ in the face of temptation, it also allows us to hear His voice and His words as we go through each day. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus said, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37). If we want our kids to be fully immersed in loving God, they need His words in their hearts and coursing through their thoughts.
4. Others. Jesus went on to say, “A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22:39). When Christ’s words are our words they help us to better relate to others and to put others above ourselves. They remind us of Christ’s sacrifice for us and how we, too, should put others above ourselves.
5. Bonus: Peace of Mind. As parents we will never be able to keep our children from being hurt or facing difficult circumstances, but if w
e have helped them to hide God’s Word in their hearts we can have peace of mind that they are facing life with the best protection. God is with them every step of the way.
The Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible was created to encourage kids not only to read God’s Word but also to hide it deep within their hearts.
One hundred of the Bible’s core verses have been set to music by renowned children’s author and song writer Stephen Elkins. The 100 songs include a variety of genres and are available in the New Living Translation, New International Version, and King James Version, and all songs are free with the purchase of the Bible. Additional interactive features encourage school-age kids to engage with the Word in every place of their life.
Learn more about the Bible features and download free memorization resources HERE.
Purchase Hidden in My Heart HERE.
Enter to win a free copy of the Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible NLT, teal, LeatherLike edition!
Here’s how to enter:
On hiddeninmyheartbible.com we have provided free memory-enhancing downloadable resources for 10 verses. Download the resources and share a story, video, or photo using the resources with #HiddenInMyHeartBible. It could be your kids singing, a Sunday school class working on an activity, a completed coloring page, or what God has revealed to you while learning these verses. Share for a chance to win a new teal LeatherLike Hidden in My Heart Bible. Let’s get God’s Word into our hearts together.
Submit your entry using the Gleam form below.
We’ll choose 10 winners on 11/20.
by Jesse Florea
Zeppelins zoom across the sky. A nasty fog festers over the ground. An evil emperor rules with his robotic army. Only the mysterious Scarlet Man and a fledgling resistance can restore Aethasia to its original glory.
At first glance, The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance looks like an exciting Web-based adventure game. And it is. But it’s a lot more. Just as C. S. Lewis brought biblical truth to light through books set in Narnia, Scarlet City Studios created the steampunk world of Aethasia to teach the biblical narrative.
“The allegory is relatively tight,” says Scarlet City Studios Worldbuilder Tim Cleary. “Young people can play the game and go, ‘This story is amazing,’ not realizing it’s Abraham’s story. The Aetherlight allows the Bible to occupy a place in their imaginations, not just a place in their brains.”
In all, sixteen “episodes” of the game are planned. The first one (Abraham’s story) hit the market in May. Episode 2: The Resistance Takes Flight launched August 5. Next month, a third episode goes live that takes players to a snowy world where they experience Joseph’s story.
“We want the biblical story to inspire and relate with young people all around the world,” Tim says. “We want them to realize it’s not a book of segmented and broken stories, but it’s a comprehensive narrative with Jesus at the center of the story.”
But instead of a sandal-wearing Jesus, gamers encounter a scarlet-cloaked Savior. His face is hidden. He has probably just dropped out of the sky, right into their mission. The Scarlet Man leads players deeper into the Resistance, where they fight against evil and learn more about God’s Word.
And, ultimately, creatively reaching kids with the gospel is the motivation behind the game.
Imagine the feeling of stepping off a bicycle and sitting down behind the wheel of a Formula One race car. That’s essentially what the Postal Sunday School Movement (PSSM) did six years ago when it founded Scarlet City Studios.
For more than seventy years, PSSM used the mail to reach kids in remote areas of New Zealand with God’s truth. The organization sent Sunday school lessons to children who couldn’t attend church.
“But they never would’ve said their mission was to reach kids through the postal system,” Tim explains. “They would’ve said, ‘Our mission is to reach kids where they are with the story of the Bible.’”
Children don’t play outside like they used to in 1938. They play online. They interact with clicks and keyboards, not with pen and paper. In 2010, PSSM held forums with theologians and youth pastors to figure out a way to impact children in the twenty-first century.
Tim, a former youth pastor, took part in one of those early meetings. He shared his vision for a video game that told the story of a King who asked regular people to help him take back his kingdom.
“That’s what the story feels like to me,” Tim says. “There’s a God who people do not understand. He is wonderful, but He looks crazy to people. And He asks us to be a part of His redemptive plan to draw His kingdom back to Himself. That means we’re going to look a little crazy, too.”
Going from a snail-mail Sunday school curriculum to a high-tech steampunk video game to teach about God probably looks crazy to people. PSSM sold a building. Board members chipped in their own money. Everybody involved bought into a “crazy” vision . . . and they’ve seen God’s blessings.
Almost immediately, American Bible Society (ABS) came on board.
“American Bible Society has been leveraging the technology of the day to deliver Bible resources to people for the last 200 years—in this case, via a one-of-a-kind video game experience,” says Arthur Satterwhite, senior manager for National Movements Mobilization at ABS. “We were thrilled to consult with Scarlet City Studios to support the development of The Aetherlight.”
Furthermore, Tyndale House Publishers has released The Aetherlight Bible, which features full-color insert sections highlighting the connections between Scripture and the game. Scarlet City has also created The Aetherlight: Companion Engines App that takes players into the biblical text, explains the parallels between the game and the Bible, and then rewards players in the game for learning about God’s Word.
“God has been orchestrating this since the beginning in a way that’s just unbelievable,” Tim says.
Scarlet City Studios has grown to a staff of over twenty-five, including some of New Zealand’s top game designers, 3D artists, animators, and storywriters. Graphically, The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance rivals anything on the Web. The gameplay is equally impressive, requiring kids to solve puzzles, build weapons, and win battles.
“We’ve had parents tell us, ‘This is a game that actually has my kids wanting to open their Bibles, and see them in a new way,’” Tim notes.
Parents can receive emails that show what their children are learning about God’s Word in the game. But players are doing more than just opening their Bibles; they’re living out their faith in the real world as part of the Resistance.
Two brothers wrote in, telling how they decided to clean up their local school. They even asked their parents to buy bottled water to give out at a PTA 5K Fun Run. The family set up a table and handed out water to all of the runners, because “that’s what the Resistance would do.”
Scarlet City has partnered with World Vision to encourage other players to do the same thing. They want to see gamers reach out to the most vulnerable parts of the world with tangible help to change lives and advance God’s Kingdom.
“This 10- to 12-year-old demographic is capable of more than we think,” Tim notes. “We just need to give them more to be capable of.”
So changing the world isn’t too big a goal, whether that world is Aethasia or Earth.
“Young people can live right-side up in an upside-down world,” Tim concludes, “where their lifestyle becomes part of the Resistance, and they grow in their foundational knowledge of the Bible and live out that Great Story in faith, hope, and love.”
Find more information at https://Parents.TheAetherlight.com
The Aetherlight: Chronicles of the Resistance, the Aetherlight logos, Aethasia, and all game characters and likenesses are trademarks of Aetherlight LP.
Labels:Gaming, NLT Resources, Bible Gaming, Bible Gaming for Teens, Bible Gaming for Tweens, Christian Gaming, Newlivingtranslation.com, NLT, NLT Bible for Teens, NLT Bible for Tweens, Theaetherlight.com, TheAetherlightBible
People who are acquainted with suffering and disability have struggled with issues of justice,
equality, and the right to life. In our search for validation, peace of mind, and a purpose for living,
where can we find a firm foundation?
The answer is the Word of God. In the character of God, we find justice and equality, discover
our purpose, and begin to understand the true value of life. If we are to fully grasp what suffering
is, and what we must do with it, we must spend time digging into Scripture.
It’s the journey I began after my 1967 diving accident. When I learned that my quadriplegia
was permanent, I sank into a deep depression that evolved into suicidal despair. I would stay in bed,
telling my sister to turn out the lights and shut my bedroom door. But I found I could not live with
such hopelessness, and finally cried out, “Oh, God, if I cannot die, then please show me how to live!”
The next morning, I decided to get out of bed and face life. My sister pushed my wheelchair
under a music stand on which she set my Bible. Clenching a mouth stick between my teeth, I began
turning the pages of God’s Word. Although I knew the Bible contained answers, I wasn’t sure where
to begin to look. Thankfully, God brought Christian friends alongside me to help me discover living
Bread for my hungry soul. For years, I’ve longed to help people who struggle as I once did and
come alongside them to provide guidance.
This is why I am so excited about the Beyond Suffering Bible. It is designed to help
the reader—especially those affected by disability—grasp the goodness of God amidst critical
questions about suffering. Through profiles, devotionals, and connection notes, this edition of
God’s Word delves into doctrines of his sovereignty, our salvation, heaven, and hell. The Beyond
Suffering Bible also explores questions about healing—why does God heal some and not
others? What about sensitive ethical issues relating to disability, such as stem cell research and
so-called death with dignity? How can the church learn to embrace special-needs families and
equip more people with disabilities in leadership roles?
Most of all, the Beyond Suffering Bible exalts God as preeminent and supreme over every disease
and disability. It showcases the righteousness and mercy of God on behalf of those who struggle
under the weight of disability, poverty, and injustice. It will help you go beyond suffering so you, too,
can say, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).
While we may wish we could simply erase “suffering” from the dictionary, God has a plan in it,
for it, and through it. My prayer is that God will use this Bible to not only change a person’s perspective
on their disability, but change their family. . .their community. . .and finally, the culture.
– JONI EARECKSON TADA
ENTER TO WIN A FREE COPY OF THE BEYOND SUFFERING BIBLE
Here’s how to enter:
Fill out the Gleam form below. Follow the directions to earn extra entries. 20 winners will be chosen on October 26th.
Just in case you missed the amazing insights from Joni Eareckson Tada, we have provided the full video right here. If you’ve dealt with any kind of suffering, this video is full of encouragement and wisdom. Make sure to check it out!
Make sure to visit our website for a buy one get one free deal, and also receive a free download of the Gospel Luke.
For more information or to access these great deals check out: http://beyondsufferingbible.com/
About 1-in-5 people in the USA live with some type of physical disability; 10 million people a year experience a serious mental illness; and 1-in-6 Americans struggle with chronic health conditions, leading to roughly 65 million Americans providing care for someone with a disability or chronic illness.
From singer, artist, radio host, and bestselling author Joni Eareckson Tada and the experts at Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability comes the first Bible with study notes that address the topics of disability and suffering. The new Beyond Suffering Bible (website) will release from Joni and Friends and Tyndale House Publishers this October. It’s a combination of both a study Bible and a devotional Bible, with knowledge and insight gleaned from the Scriptures, as well as encouraging words from a wide array of top Christian experts who are often the “go-to” resources when people are looking for direction or next steps when ministering to individuals with disabilities, pain, addiction, and suffering.
Why is this Bible needed?
Joni Eareckson Tada: Suffering always prompts heart-wrenching questions: if God is good, why would He allow this pain in my life? Is God truly sovereign over accidents and birth anomalies, or does the devil set the world’s agenda? How do I counsel people who are despairing of their condition? What are the right choices when it comes to assisted-suicide and other tough ethical issues? For that matter, where does a person struggling with a life-altering accident or illness find peace of mind and a purpose for living?
The answer is the Word of God. Now, most people who suffer realize that the Bible contains answers for their plight; they just don’t know where to look. This was my story shortly after the 1967 diving accident in which I became paralyzed—even in my despair, I knew in a vague way that the Bible held hope for me in its pages. I just didn’t know where to begin. Thankfully, God brought wise Christian friends alongside to help me discover life-transforming precepts in his Word. The Beyond Suffering Bible can be that “wise Christian friend,” helping those affected by disability grasp the goodness of God amidst critical questions about pain and hardship.
Why have you included the word “Beyond” in the title?
Joni Eareckson Tada: Many people in the throes of suffering, disappointment, and despair, feel utterly stuck in their circumstances. They see no hope beyond their day-to-day drudgery of disability routines; but when hurting families place themselves under the shower of God’s mercy, suddenly the clouds part. They realize there’s hope, life, and even joy beyond their suffering. “Beyond” is a word that beautifully reflects Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” What a powerful promise for those who suffer and their caregivers!
Since you’re not a biblical language scholar, what perspective do you bring to this Bible as its general editor?
Joni Eareckson Tada: When it comes to this particular study Bible, there’s great value in a general editor who has an intimate knowledge of life-altering, gut-wrenching affliction. As general editor, I rely on scholars more gifted than I when it comes to the Beyond Suffering Bible’s copious study notes and commentaries—yet even these contributing scholars are acquainted with disability!
The success of God’s Word in our lives is linked intrinsically to our application of its truth. The point behind the Beyond Suffering Bible is to help the reader move biblical insights from the intellect into their daily grappling with affliction and hardship. And as general editor, I want the reader to understand that every commentary, study note, personal profile, and word of counsel is offered up by individuals who are not only skilled in God’s Word, but skilled in applying it when disability feels utterly devastating.
How does the emphasis of this Bible answer the ancient question of why God allows suffering?
Joni Eareckson Tada: Most people wish they could erase suffering out of the dictionary. Today’s culture of comfort and instant gratification has no patience for suffering—most people want to drug it, escape it, divorce it; do anything but live with it. Yet suffering is arguably God’s choicest tool in shaping the character of Christ in us. As I often say, “God permits what he hates, to accomplish what he loves.” I can’t think of a better answer to the ancient question of suffering. Even at the cross, God permitted what he hated—the unjust and agonizing death of his own precious Son—in order to accomplish something he prized above his own Son’s cruel death; that is, salvation for a world of sinners. So the world’s worst murder becomes the world’s only salvation.
The Beyond Suffering Bible takes this powerful truth and relates it to our personal struggle with suffering. True, God hates Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injury, mental illness, autism, and the rest (these conditions are all symptoms of the Fall). Yet he permits these things to accomplish something far more precious in our lives: patience, endurance, compassion for others who hurt, and refined faith and trust in God, to name a few.
What features are included in this Bible and how do they contribute to a better understanding of suffering?
Joni Eareckson Tada: One special feature is Faith in Action: Biblical and Contemporary Profiles. The truths of the Bible are never just abstract concepts; they’re always related to real people. So throughout the Beyond Suffering Bible readers will enjoy stories of those whose lives have been touched by suffering and transformed by God’s Word. Some of these are people who are named on the pages of the Bible, but others are contemporary individuals—some well known, others just ordinary people with extraordinary lessons to share with the reader.
It always helps to know that other parents with special-needs children are surviving, and surviving well. Faint hearts are encouraged when they read about others who, despite amputation, spinal cord injury, or psychiatric disorders have a vibrant trust and confidence in God.
How does this Bible approach modern ethical issues related to suffering, such as stem cell research and euthanasia?
Joni Eareckson Tada: Many good Christians are confused about complex social issues of our day, such as doctor-assisted death or medical research which uses stem cells from human embryos. They wonder, ‘Why shouldn’t science use discarded fetuses for research?’ And if someone finds his medical condition intolerable and hopeless, ‘why shouldn’t he have the legal right to end his life?’ Although the Bible does not address these issues in particular, it does provide guiding insights. Sometimes, however, we need help in “connecting the dots” biblically, and the Beyond Suffering Bible provides that guidance. It underscores the scope and extent of what it means to bear the image of God, and how that makes all life sacred. Once the reader firmly grasps the truth of human exceptionalism under our Creator God, then the answers to confusing cultural issues begin to be clear.
What do you mean when you say after years of suffering you believe God allows one form of evil to expose another form of evil?
Joni Eareckson Tada: God turns on its head one form of evil—suffering—in order to defeat another form of evil—that is, our transgressions. It happened at the cross, and it occurs in the lives of followers of Christ every day. For instance, I deal daily with chronic pain and, at times, my pain feels like a lemon that God “squeezes,” revealing my sour attitude, peevish spirit, and tendency to complain or grumble. Did not God use my pain to expose my sin, I might—like many of us—not be aware of the sin of which I’m capable. But we’re not the paragons of virtue that we’d all like to think we are. And so, to shatter that myth, God will use suffering to expose the stuff of which we’re made.
We’ve got to remember that the core of Christ’s plan is to rescue us from sin. Our pain, poverty, and broken hearts are not his ultimate focus. True, he cares about these things, but they’re merely symptoms of the real problem.
God cares most not about making us comfortable, but about teaching us to hate our transgressions and to grow up spiritually to love him. In other words, God lets us continue to feel much of sin’s sting through suffering while we’re heading for heaven. This constantly reminds us of what we’re being delivered from; exposing sin for the poison it is.
What Bible passages do you see as especially helpful when in the throes of suffering?
Joni Eareckson Tada: Often when people are diagnosed with a life-changing medical condition, they feel overwhelmed. They feel choked by darkness and hopelessness. Those are times when answers simply do not suffice. That’s because answers don’t always reach the problem where it hurts: in the gut and in the heart. God knows this, and so he gives us Ecclesiastes 3:4 which speaks of a time to weep and mourn. In Romans 12:15 we’re told to “mourn with those who mourn.”
It’s why when I feel overwhelmed by chronic pain, I’m always helped by Isaiah 50:10 — “Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” This scripture reminds me that the Bible isn’t quick to give answers; it mainly gives the Answer. When we hurt, God doesn’t always give us lots of words; he gives us the Word; the Word made flesh who is intimately acquainted with our grief and suffering. That’s what helps the most.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?
Joni Eareckson Tada: I’m constantly using Bible Gateway during my writing and research. It’s quick. It’s easy. And it provides countless translations to pull from. It really is a ‘one stop shopping’ place for all my reference work!
Bio: Joni Eareckson Tada is founder and CEO of Joni and Friends, an organization that accelerates Christian outreach in the disability community. Joni and Friends provides practical support and spiritual help to special needs families worldwide, and equips thousands of churches in developing disability ministry. Joni is the author of numerous bestselling books, including Joni: An Unforgettable Story, Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story, Diamonds in the Dust, Heaven, When God Weeps, A Lifetime of Wisdom, A Place of Healing, Life in the Balance, Making Sense of Suffering, and A Step Further, winner of the Gold Medallion Award. Joni and her husband, Ken, have been married for over 30 years.
Labels:Hope, NLT Resources, Alzheimers, Beyond Suffering Bible, Bible, Down syndrome, Joni, Joni and Friends International, Joni Eareckson Tada, New Living Translation, NLT, Suffering, Wheels for the World
The Prayer of Jesus
17 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
6 “I have revealed you[a] to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.
9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name;[b] now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.[c] I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.
13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.
20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”
- 17:6 Greek have revealed your name; also in 17:26.
- 17:11 Some manuscripts read you have given me these [disciples].
- 17:12 Some manuscripts read I protected those you gave me, by the power of your name.
17:21 For believers, becoming one with one another is an outgrowth of the union they enjoy with Jesus himself, a union modeled on the oneness of the Father and the Son. • may they be in us: Through the power of the Spirit, believers would experience a profound spiritual intimacy with the Father and the Son and be transformed (John 14:20, 23; 1 Jn 4:13). • Disciples of Jesus represent him, so their conduct and relationships with each other reflect the credibility of Christ in the world. When there is disunity, infighting, and intolerance, their testimony to the world is unconvincing. When people observe the community of believers, they know that it represents Jesus; a unified, loving community convinces the world to believe (John 13:35; 1 Jn 3:11).
17:22 The community of believers should display the same glory that Jesus displayed from the Father.
17:23 that the world will know: If the church lives in the Spirit, reflects God’s glory and love, and shows unity sustained by a shared knowledge of God, then its testimony will astonish the world.
NLT Illustrated Study Bible
Two black men killed by police and captured on video. Seven police officers killed by a black man, also on video. America is reeling. I know that I am. We have been forced to face our hatred in living – and deadly – color. It is not a pretty sight. Amid the anger and sadness I have wondered what to say and how. How do we move forward, find healing? How does the church lead?
I am trained as a pastor. I serve as an elder. I help make and market Bibles for a living. I have preached in the last week on the need for Christians to take prayer seriously and the failure of the Church of Jesus Christ to act as the Church. I have participated in a beautiful, moving, and important multiracial, multidenominational prayer service. I have seen the Church begin to step up and say that enough is enough.
Here is the truth of the matter. We have a problem in our country which goes far deeper than race but it is not less than race. Unfortunately it is a problem that lives in the church. Hiding in the crevices of our lives, whispering in the darkness. It lies, saying to one group “there is no problem” and to another “see, they do not care”. And we, the people of God, the bride of Christ, are divided no less than the culture at large.
It is wrong. It is sin. There is no other way to put it. Jesus calls us to unity, to oneness, as a body – His body. There can no longer be a place for avoiding, for hiding, for acting as if this is not an issue that we must, as the Body of Christ meet headlong. Frankly, we must do more than claim to belong to Christ, more than claim to believe the Bible is true. Instead we must live that way.
Our hypocrisy is not a new phenomenon. Christians have always struggled with it. Early 19th century Danish Philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard, wrote:
The matter is quite simple. The bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?
Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard (The Plough Publishing Co., 2002, pg. 193)
Jesus, in his final prayer before his arrest, prays for his disciples, for his Church – “all who will ever believe in me.” (v.20). His most clear and urgent prayer is for the unity of his people. Not a superficial unity, but the same kind of unity that is had by the Father and the Son. This is, as the notes in the Illustrated Study Bible elaborate, an outgrowth of our union with Jesus.
Insofar as we do not have unity, do not have love (John 13:34-35) for our brothers and sisters in Christ – no matter their ethnicity or culture, socioeconomic status or any other thing which might be used to divide – we are not following the example of Christ, we are not heeding Jesus’ prayer. Even more, we are failing to show that we are indeed his and we cause the name of God to be derided not glorified. We are pretending that we do not understand.
Shame on us. We must repent of our divisions, our callousness and suspicion, our apathy and hatred. We must love one another. We must be unified in Christ. We must show that world that we are his and we will not sit idly by.
We cannot do this if we do not reach out to one another. The time for talking is done. It is time for us to stop pretending we do not understand. It is time for us to, as Kierkegaard said, actually live out what we say we believe.
Father, in this time of division and hatred, we pray that you would give us, your church, a spirit of unity and love for one another, that you would cause us to live out our faith, that we would be convicted by your word and show the world that we are yours. May the world glorify your name because of us. It is in the name of your Son through the power of your Holy Spirit we pray. Amen.
Kevin O’Brien is Bible and Reference Brand manager at Tyndale House. He is a husband, father, Church elder and lifelong Chicago Blackhawks fan who very rarely can be found tweeting @kevinrobrienthm.
The Bible team is celebrating here at Tyndale! This week we received the news that our Illustrated Study Bible won the ECPA Bible of the year award. There were some really great Bibles nominated, so it was really encouraging to hear that the ISB (as it’s known around Tyndale) won.
I got a chance to be involved with the Illustrated Study Bible almost from the start, so I got a chance to interact with almost all of the people who were involved in its development, manufacture, marketing, and release. There are a lot of people who you will never see, whose names you will never know, yet all were a part of getting this amazing project accomplished.
Tyndale has always been about making the Bible accessible to everyone, no matter who you are, where you’re from, whether you are new to the Bible or have been reading it for fifty years, we want to create Bibles that help you connect with God. The Illustrated Study Bible is the continuation of a legacy. Beyond that of our founder Ken Taylor who created the Living Bible and the scholars who created the NLT and the notes and features in the Illustrated study Bible. Irish monks were illuminating manuscripts well over 1200 years ago, Bibles from the 1800s often included amazing woodcuts and dictionaries and color maps. There are lots of reasons why, but at least one was to make the Bible known and understood by the people in those times and places. Visuals help us to “see” what God is saying to us.
Research tells us that over 50% of the brain is involved in visual processing, and that the inclusion of color visuals increases our likelihood to read by 80%. Increasingly we communicate through images. Instagram has 400 million active monthly users, YouTube gets 4 billion video views a day! So our goal with the Illustrated Study Bible was to create a Bible that would speak to today’s visual generation.
So we asked ourselves, ‘what if we were to treat the illustrations, the visuals in a study Bible as more than just something to add to sales copy or to catch your eye?’ ‘What if the images included actually helped you understand what you were reading?’ Our answer was the ISB.
A study Bible is supposed to do more than convey information, it’s supposed to be a catalyst for life change, a tool to help us connect with God. We believe that the Illustrated Study Bible does just that. To ensure that everyone experiencing the Illustrated Study Bible we are offering a free download of the Book of Acts, including every verse, note, image and more, at www.openmyeyes.com/Bible. We’re confident that you will see the world of first century Rome and the expansion of the Church in a whole new way. Celebrate with us! Kevin O’Brien, Bible Brand Manager, Tyndale House Publishers