The New Living Translation
Who Was John?

Though the Bible doesn’t always specifically name the author of each book, early tradition helps us identify many authors. Here is an excerpt from the NLT Study Bible that gives us a glimpse of John, son of Zebedde and Apostle Christ.

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“The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, ‘Who’s he talking about?’ So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, who is it?’” John 13:23-25, NLT

John, brother of James and son of Zebedee, was one of the twelve apostles. Early tradition identifies him as the author of the Gospel of John, the Letters of John, and the book of
Revelation.

John and his brother James were among those closest to Jesus (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 13:3; 14:33). His mother, Salome, might have been a sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus (cp. 19:25; Matt 27:56; Mark 15:40; 16:1). John’s name usually occurs after James’s, which suggests that John was younger. James and John were fishermen like their father (Matt 4:21; Mark 1:19). They
fished with Peter and Andrew, another pair of brothers who became disciples (Luke 5:10). They were among the first whom Jesus called as disciples, and they left everything to follow him
(Matt 4:22; Mark 1:20; Luke 5:11; cp. John 1:35-40). Jesus named them “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), which might imply that they were loud or short-tempered (cp. Luke 9:54). At one point, the two brothers evoked the indignation of the other disciples when they asked for special positions of privilege in the coming kingdom (Matt 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45; cp. Luke 22:24-27).

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Early tradition links John to five NT books: the Gospel of John, three Letters of John, and the book of Revelation. John is understood to be the unnamed “disciple Jesus loved” and “another
disciple” (13:23-25; 18:15-16; 19:26-27; 20:2-10; 21:20-24). He was possibly the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist, who, together with Andrew, became an early follower of Jesus (1:35-40). John’s name occurs three times in Acts; each time he was working with Peter (Acts 3:1-11; 4:1-23; 8:14-25). Paul referred to him as one of the “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem (Gal 2:9).

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The most widespread tradition about John’s later life is that he moved to Ephesus, where he eventually became the bishop of Asia Minor, lived to an old age, and died peacefully in
the company of friends. His Gospel provides the most profound portrait that we have of Jesus, and his letters provide one of the finest depictions of the Christian life (1 John).

Read more from the Gospel of John in the NLT Study Bible

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Journaling Under the Bridge

Tyndale House Publishers had the opportunity to partner with a Texas bookstore called Flint Gypsy, which frequently holds Bible-journaling activities, for their Journaling Under the Bridge event in Tyler’s tent city on Saturday. There may be no greater way to share the love of God than to meet tangible needs of those going through hard times. Flint Gypsy’s owners love Jesus, and they saw an opportunity to share God’s love with people in their community.

Journaling Under the Bridge

Journaling Under the Bridge was inspired by the story of a local woman who was living in tent city when her backpack was stolen out of her tent. Inside of her backpack were some of her most treasured possessions: her Inspire Bible and colored pencils. Reading, coloring, and journaling in her Bible had been a source of great hope, strength, and comfort to her through anxiety, depression, and abuse. After hearing this woman’s story, a vision was born!

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Flint Gypsy set out to give each woman living in Tyler’s tent city an Inspire Bible of their own—and a Bible journaling workshop experience—so they, too, could discover the joy and hope found in God’s Word! Volunteers served breakfast and gave out toiletries, Bibles, and journaling supplies. They spent the morning worshiping, fellowshipping, and Bible journaling together. We pray that all who received a Bible will draw ever nearer to God and discover the joy, hope, strength, peace, and so much more that God extends to each of them!

Learn more about the Inspire Bible

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Pastor Reviews Ryken’s Bible Handbook

We are so thankful to Pastor Mike Philliber for his review of Ryken’s Bible Handbook. We hope you enjoy it too.

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Someone gave me a copy as a “Thank You” for speaking to their group. I started to shove it into a nook in my library, but then thought I’d look it over instead. And I’m glad I did! This glossy 675 page handy hardback is ideal for Bible studies, preaching and personal enhancement. Leland Ryken, professor of literature at Wheaton College, Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, and James Wilhoit, professor of Christian Education at Wheaton College, have teamed up in “Ryken’s Bible Handbook: A Guide to Reading and Studying the Bible”. It is a work meant to “help Christian readers of the Bible to understand the Bible better, and teachers of the Bible to teach it more effectively.”
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This handbook works through all sixty-six writings in the Sacred Scriptures. Much of the work is “attuned to the literary forms of writing that comprise the Bible.” Therefore, the authors stay with the specific genre and style of each specific biblical book, guiding the readers to receive the biblical material in the way it is presented: poetry, prophecy, polemics, or prose. With judicious charts (not too much detail or too little detail), break out sections, fact sheets, and summations of main themes, each chapter lends itself to outfitting the reader with a better understanding of Scripture. And then to top it all off, each chapter includes a thoughtful analysis of how that particular biblical book fits into the flow of God’s story that culminates and climaxes in Christ.

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“Ryken’s Bible Handbook” is truly a handy hardback. I’ve already been using it as I prepare to preach through Joel, and through Job! And my wife is using it as she gets ready for her Women’s Bible Study. Here is an ideal gift for Christmas, birthdays, graduations, and “Thank Yous”. Bible teachers should own a copy. Theology tutors for Christian Schools and Co-ops ought to have one as well. Anyone who is interested in the Sacred Scriptures needs to snatch up a copy and pour over it. And for my fellow ministers, this book is a must! If you can’t tell, I highly recommend the book.

You can read it on Pastor Philliber’s blog
Find out more and purchase Ryken’s Bible Handbook
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Giving God Our Best

It’s amazing how challenges and struggles that the men and women in the Bible faced are often similar to the ones we face today. Though the setting and context can be different, the heart issue is often very much the same. Read  from the Christian Basics Bible about Haggai’s struggle to get the returning exiles to get their priorities straight.

Read Haggai Chapter 1

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Haggai’s central challenge was that the returning exiles simply weren’t giving God their best. Of course they needed to build homes and plant fields, but this had become the sole object of their attention. They weren’t content with simple homes but wanted luxurious houses (Haggai 1:4). These personal projects had consumed their resources, leaving little to give to God’s work, meaning that his house (the Temple) remained a ruin (1:4). So God challenged them to bring timber and rebuild his house; then he would “take pleasure in it and be honored” (1:8). Only then could he lift the curse they had brought upon themselves (1:10-11; Deuteronomy 28: 38-40).

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It is always easy to rationalize not giving God our best. Here the people were saying that the time wasn’t right (Haggai 1:2). But this was just an excuse. God is realistic – he knows we need a home, clothes, and food (Matthew 6:25-32) – but Jesus said our priority is to “seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously,” promising that “he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33). When we get our priorities right, God’s provision is always released to us.

 

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Note taken from the Christian Basics Bible. Take a look inside.

 

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Why is the 23rd Psalm So Beloved?

Psalm 23 is the best-known psalm and the favorite biblical passage of many. Why? Because it does more than tell us that God protects, guides, and blesses. It shows us a poetic image of a powerless sheep being tended by an unfailingly careful shepherd. In a world of dangerous ditches and ravenous wolves, we need more than abstract explanations. We need pictures to hang on to. This is one of the best.

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God took David from tending his father’s sheep and made him a shepherd of Israel because David was able to care for this flock with a tender heart and great skill. That tells us volumes about not only the kind of shepherd God chooses but the kind of shepherd he is. God is a zealous protector of his sheep, training us to hear his voice, leading us into pleasant pastures, and even walking with us through the darkest valleys. And he is extravagant in his goodness. He doesn’t just feed us; he prepares a feast in the presence of our enemies. He doesn’t just bless us; he fills our cup to overflowing. He doesn’t just offer his goodness and love; he pursues us with them. We aren’t simply his assignment; we are his passion—forever.

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Read it again:

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd;

I have all that I need.

He lets me rest in green meadows;

he leads me beside peaceful streams.

He renews my strength.

He guides me along right paths,

bringing honor to his name.

Even when I walk

through the darkest valley,*

I will not be afraid,

for you are close beside me.

Your rod and your staff

protect and comfort me.

You prepare a feast for me

in the presence of my enemies.

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.

My cup overflows with blessings.

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.

Taken from the Dancing in the Desert Devotional Bible. 

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Take a look inside this Bible.

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In the King’s Court

New situations are often a challenge. Starting a new job, first day of school or moving around the world, being plucked from what we know and understand can leave us feeling vulnerable and unsettled. Read from the Wayfinding Bible about how Daniel and his friends responded after being forcefully taken from their homes and thrust into the King’s Court.

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In 605 bc Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian Empire, raids Judah and its capital city, Jerusalem. He captures noblemen’s sons and princes from the royal court, draining the country of its best and brightest individuals. After bringing them back to Babylon, he indoctrinates them in the ways of his nation. Four young men—Daniel and his three friends—are among this first group of captives.

Read the first chapter of Daniel:

During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah,  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives. “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.” The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah. The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names:

Daniel was called Belteshazzar.

Hananiah was called Shadrach.

Mishael was called Meshach.

Azariah was called Abednego.

But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel. But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”

Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said. “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.” The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.

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At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king. So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.

God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.

When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.

Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus.

Daniel and his friends were yanked out of their country and dragged off to enemy territory. They probably experienced a range of emotions—anger, fear, and grief—but their faith remained intact. Daniel obeyed God and rose to a significant position of power, authority, and influence in a hostile environment. He helped fulfill God’s purpose during seventy years of royal service. Like Daniel, we are called to remain faithful to God no matter where we live. God’s good will prevail in every nation and in every situation throughout time.

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Look inside the Wayfinding Bible

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Wayfinding Bible – The Backstory

I love anything that is “behind the scenes.” There used to be a show on the radio called The Rest of the Story hosted by a man named Paul Harvey. Even though I was little I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted to know more. Whether building a bridge, creating Disneyland or inventing a zipper there is always a situation or personal story to go along with it. The same is often true when creating ideas for Bibles. Here at Tyndale we get the amazing opportunity to partner with people who have a passion to help others connect with God’s Word and want to break down walls that get in the way of people accessing the Bible. That’s exactly what Jeannette and Doris wanted to do with the Wayfinding Bible, eliminate the issues that often caused people to disengage with Bible reading. Here’s the “rest of their story”

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The idea behind the design for The Wayfinding Bible began with a bike ride.

Jeannette knew, from talking with people over the years, that two of the main reasons Christians struggled with consistently reading the Bible had to do with its length and its confusing chronology. If only there were a study Bible that could help people navigate the narrative more effectively, then perhaps they would remain more engaged and invested. But how to do this? Jeannette and her colleague Doris wanted to create multiple levels of reading plans that would follow the storyline of scripture, but they were stuck on how to present these plans in an inviting and compelling way.

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While out on her bike one day, puzzling about this Bible, a word popped into Jeannette’s head. Wayfinding. “I honestly knew right then and there that God had planted that word in my mind,” Jeannette says.

Back at her office, Jeannette researched the concept of wayfinding. One definition of “wayfinding” describes it as a system for helping people navigate a complex built environment such as a hospital, an airport, a college campus or a city. While the architect may have had a plan for the place, anyone unfamiliar with that plan can easily get frustrated and turned around. That’s where wayfinding signs come in. They help people discover the best way to navigate confusing spaces.

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And what is the Bible, Jeannette thought, if not a complex built environment? There is a design and a plan behind Scripture, of course, but it’s not necessarily ordered in the most intuitive way from a reading standpoint. Wayfinding tools could help people find their way through God’s Word.

Building on this wayfinding theme, Doris and Jeannette developed three different ways to travel through the Biblical narrative. From “flyover” to “direct” to “scenic,” these routes would guide readers along their way and keep them on track.

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From there, the ideas continued to flow. They created “Getting Your Bearing” articles for key turning points in scripture, “Historical Markers” to provide helpful cultural information, and “Scenic Overlooks” when a map or diagram or infographic would be useful.

“I tell people The Wayfinding Bible wasn’t my idea or Doris’ idea. It was God’s idea that He graciously gave us to help people read His Word and not get lost or frustrated.”

The foundational verses for The Wayfinding Bible perfectly outline this Bible’s purpose:

Show me the right path, O Lord;

    point out the road for me to follow.

Lead me by your truth and teach me,

    for you are the God who saves me.

    All day long I put my hope in you.

                                           Ps. 25: 4 & 5

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Learn more about the Wayfinding Bible

You can follow the Wayfinding Bible on Instagram and Facebook too.

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Are You a Basic Believer?

The world goes by at a million miles an hour, and it seems to go faster and become more complicated at every turn. It’s not at all hard to get distracted, disgruntled, and even disillusioned. We chase so hard after the things that we think we are supposed to—success, respect, love, money, whatever. We adopt the causes that we are supposed to adopt, get outraged over the latest injustice that we are supposed to be outraged about. And next week it all changes.

Somewhere along the way, the routines and cares of the world have distracted us. We have forgotten the reality of our faith. In all the business of life our faith threatens to float away like dandelion seeds in the wind. We need a firm foundation.

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We need to get back to basics.

The Christian Basics Bible reminds us what our faith is all about in the first place.

Becoming a Christian is not about deciding to live better, trying to be more holy, going to church, or following certain religious practices or behaviors. It is about beginning a personal relationship with God. Religious rules and duties will always end up tying us up, as Jesus often reminded the highly religious Pharisees of his day. Jesus came not to tie us up but to set us free (see, e.g., John 8:31-32; Galatians 5:1). He came with good news (the meaning of the word “gospel”); and this good news is that ordinary people—even people who feel unworthy or have failed or have done bad things—can know God personally and live in harmony with him. (pg. A11)

That’s a pretty “back to basics” truth right there. It’s also unbelievably freeing if we take the time to actually read it, digest it, and be changed by it. But the business of life, even the trappings of our faith, can rob us of this truth.

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So how can we make a practice of getting back to basics, of being a “basic believer”? There are a lot of good answers to that question, but here’s a starting point, a first step if you will. In the book of 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul is writing to his young apprentice Timothy. Timothy is pastoring a church in the city of Ephesus. Ephesus was rich, influential, and cosmopolitan. It was a center of religion and commerce and the most important city in the Roman province of Asia. It was the place to be. In fact, minus the technology, it probably had a lot of similarities to the crazy lives we lead today. But the church there had all kinds of problems. Here’s what Paul tells Timothy:

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

Here’s what the Christian Basics Bible says about this passage:

[A] lack of studying the Scripture has led the Ephesian church to be led astray by every new idea that came along. So Paul urges Timothy to keep studying Scripture so he can use it to correct error and explain the truth (4:2-5).

We need this book because it is not like any other book, secular or sacred. It is “inspired by God” (3:16). That is, God’s Spirit directed the thoughts of its writers so that what they wrote was exactly what God wanted written. The Bible is therefore God’s revelation to us—revealing his nature, heart, and purposes—and his invitation to join in his story. (pg. 1387)

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You’re probably not a pastor like Timothy and may never be, but the advice still stands. The only way Timothy could teach others was to be captured by the truth himself, to really know it. Getting back to the basics of our faith and of our relationship with God starts with getting back into his Word.

I want to be a basic believer. How about you?

Find out more about the Christian Basics Bible.

-Kevin O’Brien is the brand manager for Study Bibles and Reference at Tyndale Bibles.

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Moral and Spiritual Cleansing

“Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1, NLT

Purification rites were common in traditional African religions. Washing and cleansing rituals served as ways to be freed from curses and guilt for wrongdoing and for violating taboos. The physical act of washing represented moral and spiritual cleansing.

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Old Testament Israel also had many purification rituals that were commanded by God (Numbers 8:5-8). Some rituals applied to the priests serving in the Tabernacle and later the Temple. Other rituals prepared the people to be in God’s presence.

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Paul told the Corinthians to cleanse themselves from “everything that can defile our body or spirit” (2 Corinthians 7:1) this type of cleansing is done by confessing and turning away from the sins that pollute or soil us. Paul also challenged believers to “work toward complete holiness” because God is holy and just. Elaborate ceremonies are no longer necessary, but repentance from sin and seeking forgiveness are.

African Touch Points Note from the Africa Study Bible

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Real Freedom Found Behind Real Bars

Women in Prison Unlock Hope and Healing with The Life Recovery Bible

By Stephen Arterburn

Editor, The Life Recovery Bible

I was raised in Bryan, Texas, so I did not think it was unusual to be opening a letter from a woman who lived in Brazos County near Bryan. What follows was anything but usual. She wrote:

“I am filled with joy to inform you that your Life Recovery Bible has changed about twenty lives filled with different kinds of addiction in my community. I regret to inform you that the women (including me) are all locked up in The Brazos County Detention Center in Bryan, Texas.

Twenty-five years ago, I held the first Life Recovery Bible in my hands and quickly passed it on to a woman who was addicted to crack and headed for prison. She went home and, rather than allow her Life Recovery Bible to take on the role of most Bibles as Chief Dust Collector, she actually opened it up and started reading it. Through her drug addicted, half on and half off, cracked brain, she discovered that God could help her out of her addiction and that the path involved 12 steps based on and found within that Bible. The impact was so great and the transformation so radical that she was not incarcerated, and within six months she was helping other young women in their recovery.

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Twenty years later I found myself in the midst of some very normal everyday housewives who just happened to be in the Polk County Florida prison after being arrested for making, selling, or being in possession of methamphetamines. These meth addicts, in a weak moment of desperation or a curious moment of living on the edge, decided to try using meth, just once, and never again. But that one time became a lifetime of using and finding ways to make stuff or sell stuff, including themselves, to be able to feed the addiction that seemed to develop instantly with that first hit.

I was invited to join these women, who looked and talked like anything but a hardened criminal, in their daily Life Recovery Bible study. This Bible was a reward for those entering the drug rehab program offered by a group of women who were once addicted and also had been incarcerated in the same prison. They loved this Bible because it was unlike anything they had ever experienced. Up until then, the Bible was just something that was old, difficult to understand, and even more difficult to apply to your life in any meaningful way. But this Bible is different, and there is a reason why.

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When Dr. Dave Stoop and I developed this Bible we included many helpful features not found in other Bibles, including devotionals for each of the 12 Steps, The Serenity Prayer, and Recovery Principles. While those provide deep insights and spiritual inspiration, they are not the feature that make The Life Recovery Bible so amazing to anyone in recovery. The most valuable and unique feature is the study notes found at the bottom of each page. Why? Because they are written by recovering Bible scholars who teach at Universities and Seminaries all over the world. They not only have PhDs in Theology, but every one of them has had a problem that involved them in 12 Step Recovery. Rather than a study note having to do with some remote or abstract theological construct, the note speaks to the struggle for freedom within the heart of anyone imprisoned by the power of addiction, incarcerated or not.

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The Life Recovery Bible does not bring the Bible into the recovery process. It brings the recovery process back to the Bible where it began. Bill W. and Dr. Bob worked together to develop the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous after they had found victory over an illness that rarely spared the life of anyone who contracted it. Both men had been members of the Oxford Group, which had purported 4 Absolute Truths: Absolute Honesty, Absolute Purity, Absolute Un-selfishness, and Absolute Love, which were all based in Scripture. In the transcript from the last talk ever given by Dr. Bob, he tells where he and Bill found the 12 Steps. He said “We got them from the Good Book. Especially the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount and 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter.” So The Life Recovery Bible brings the 12 Steps full circle and identifies the true higher power of the 12 Steps as the God of the Old and New Testaments.

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Twenty-five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined the impact The Life Recovery Bible would have on those around me both in Brazos County and many thousands of miles away from where I grew up. God has blessed this Bible and the people who read it, teach it, and share it, and for that I am thankful. He alone is the true source of recovery and the author of transformation—always has been, always will be.

Learn more about the Life Recovery Bible 

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