Starting May 1st we will use the THRIVE: Journaling Devotional Bible for Women as we spend time in God’s Word to gain a better understanding on how to live in faith and how to respond in times of doubt. Throughout this beautiful wide-margin Bible are reflections, thoughts, notes, and prayers from beloved author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd. Though the features of this Bible were designed with women in mind, the amazing truths speak to men and women alike.
Every week you will receive an email with links to the daily readings.
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Shared by Alex Goodwin, Institute for Bible Reading
Last week we received an email from Kevin Kellogg, Groups Pastor at Grace Fellowship near Columbus, OH. In January they launched the New Testament Challenge using Immerse: Messiah.
Kevin forwarded an email he had received from Todd, a member at Grace Fellowship who has been deeply blessed by his experience with Immerse. His story, and others we’ve heard, are what the Bible Reading Movement is all about.
Rather than setting up an interview with Todd as we’ve previously done with Immerse stories, we’re sharing his story word-for-word as he originally wrote it. Enjoy!
The past six weeks has been an unexpected journey for me.
I would consider myself an above average bible student. I grew up in a church that instilled the importance of committing bible verses to memory. Starting in Pre-Sunday School we would be sent home with new memory verses every week. The teacher took the time each Sunday to listen to those who memorized their verse and placed a star next to the names of those who completed it successfully. At the end of the year we would graduate to the next class “with honors” if we had perfect attendance AND successfully completed our memory work for the year.
As we got older the competition got harder and the “prizes” grew in value. We went from memorizing verses to memorizing chapters and even books. In order to be at the top of the list you had to do way more than just memorize verses and attend church on Sundays. By the time we were in junior high school we would have to do community service, teach bible classes and even preach a sermon to the church. The prize was no longer stickers and recognition but we would be rewarded with new bibles, full scholarships to summer camp, pizza parties and Cedar Point or Kings Island tickets.
My bible education continued after high school too. I attended bible college for four years, taught in-depth bible classes, did a lot of preaching, homeschooled four children, etc. Needless to say, after more than 50 years of life, I have “studied” the bible from cover to cover many times.
I emphasize “studied” because I grew up in a church in which we were instructed to always read the bible with a critical mind. The translation being used was of utmost importance. Some translations were careful translations of the oldest sources of manuscripts available. Whereas, other “translations” were either “transliterations” (paraphrases) or “translations” of translations. For that reason, you really had to really understand the source of your scripture. Once we were certain we were reading from a respectable translation we almost always approached scripture from the perspective of “This is what it says; This is what it means; This is what other denominations wrongly interpret this passage as saying.” For this reason, it is difficult for me, to this day, to read a passage of scripture without critiquing it based on standards that have been drilled into me from a very early age.
The reason for the lengthy background to my Immerse experience is because it is necessary to understand the enormity of the blessing I am receiving through this study. My apprehension from the very beginning of the NT Challenge was that I knew we would be reading from a translation that I have not vetted and we were only given 8 weeks to read through the entire New Testament. (It took me three years to teach a Sunday School class on the book of Hebrews alone). Eight weeks would never be enough time to cross reference everything I was reading with other translations as well go through the whole process of analyzing the 4 W’s and H, then comparing the meaning of the current passage with all the other areas of the bible that mention the same topic.
This is an area, I can now see, that God has been working with me in regards to my life-long critical indoctrination and that I needed to step back and let God speak to me as a child. Before we began reading Immerse, I resolved that I would NOT be critical of what I was reading, I would NOT “STUDY” what I was reading. Rather, I would read the assigned lessons exactly as we were being assigned – a few pages each day, five days a week. I would attempt to suppress any preconditioned understanding that would emerge to the forefront of my thinking and would try to take the words I was reading at face value, as I was reading it. I was so committed to this approach that I challenged my entire group with the same thing – knowing there were a few that had a similar background as me.
The result for me has been amazing! When I first started reading Immerse, everyday I broke my commitment to not cross-reference with another version because I was constantly reading something that I have never seen before. Every time I looked up a phrase or meaning that I KNEW did not exist in my translation, I was proven wrong. By the end of the first week I was convinced and renewed my commitment to stick to “reading only”.
Daily I go through disbelief at how simple the meaning of the scriptures are rolling off the pages and directly speaking to me. It goes beyond that though. It is definitely refreshing to read the bible from this perspective. I would never be able to tell you how many times I have read through the bible – the equivalent of cover to cover. What I will tell you is that I am near the completion of reading through the New Testament for the first time in my entire life. It is like I studied the abridged version of the bible my entire life and for the first time ever I have been offered the opportunity to read the complete work.
The complete work is SPEAKING to me. It is CHANGING MY LIFE. My take away from this past six weeks is that God is calling me into the ministry. What that looks like, I don’t know. It may be that He wants me to be more evangelistic in my secular life. It may be He wants me more involved in the local church. It may be He is calling me to mission work. It may be full-time ministry. All I can tell you is right now, He is doing the speaking and I am doing the listening and I’ve told Him – “Whatever you want Lord – Here I am.” Now I’m just waiting on Him in His timing.
Thank you for presenting me with the NT Challenge. It continues to bless me!
Learn more about Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience
Learn more about the Institute for Bible Reading
Whether facing overwhelming circumstances or even in the day-to-day drudge of life, it’s often easier to focus on what’s wrong with a situation than look to see how God is seeing us through. Often, that was the response of the Israelites while wandering in the wilderness.
Here is an example from the Book of Numbers. Read the passage and then the note from the Beyond Suffering Bible. Reflect on what is God saying to you?
“Soon the people began to complain about their hardship, and the LORD heard everything they said. Then the LORD’s anger blazed against them, and he sent a fire to rage among them, and he destroyed some of the people in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people screamed to Moses for help, and when he prayed to the LORD, the fire stopped. After that, the area was known as Taberah (which means ‘the place of burning’), because fire from the LORD had burned among them there. Then the foreign rabble who were traveling with the Israelites began to crave the good things of Egypt. And the people of Israel also began to complain. ‘Oh, for some meat!’ they exclaimed. ‘We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.’” (Numbers 11:1-5, NLT)
Connection Point from the Beyond Suffering Bible
How easy it is to grumble and murmur about our hardships. Our hardships are real, but just as real is God’s care for us. God’s love is a fundamental reality, something that is absolutely true in every circumstance we face (1 John 4:7-12). Can you thank the Lord even in your pain or disability? Remaining grateful to God in every circumstance leads you to act in ways that please God.
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.” (Philippians 4:11-12, NLT)
by Charles R. Swindoll, taken from the Swindoll Study Bible
AS JESUS PRAYED for His disciples, He prayed for three things: that they would be unified, that they would be protected from the evil one, and that they would be made holy.
First, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ unity. If you study the twelve disciples, you willnotice that they were individualistic men. They were not necessarily cooperative. They were stubborn. They were at times dull and unteachable. They were proud. Matthew was a tax collector. Peter was a fisherman. John and James were called “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). Yet the Lord prayed, in effect, “Father, I want You to take these tough-minded men and build them into a unit.” In John 17:11, He prayed, “Protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.”
Second, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ protection. “I have given them your word,” He continued. “And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:14-15). These verses give us a clear description of Jesus’ strategy. He never encourages living behind the walls of a monastery, either physically or spiritually. He wants His disciples to be in touch with the world so that the world will have His light. If the world never saw or rubbed shoulders with Christians, it would have no light. So Jesus was saying, “Lord, I don’t want You to take them out of the world. Leave them in the world, but preserve them.” It’s not about isolation, but insulation. We need to be “insulated” so that we can move through the fire and the crucible of this world without being discouraged or destroyed by the evil one.
I think Jesus’ two requests for unity and protection are linked. The evil one discovers disunity and hits us at that chink in our armor. That’s why we, the church, are told by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4 to keep ourselves united in the Spirit. The Spirit of God gives unity, and we are to cultivate it. We are to bridge the gaps, the cracks, the chinks. The whole purpose is so that we might have a positive effect on a decadent, perverted society.
Third, Jesus prayed for His disciples’ holiness. Notice this third request: “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17). First Jesus said, “Keep them,” and now He says, “Sanctify them.” He wants His followers to be set apart for their intended purpose. He doesn’t want them to ever lose the vision. How are we made holy? Scripture tells us right here: through God’s Word, which is truth. You cannot live the life you were fully intended to live apart from this Book. If you get away from the Source of truth and move into the wastelands of subjectivity and human opinions, invariably you will be led astray. If you’re living your life apart from regular contact with the Word of God, the world is on its way to moving in. We who believe in Jesus today are included in this prayer (see John 17:20). Jesus has prayed for us to have unity, protection, and holiness. These things have therefore been given to us. We need to live them out.
Find out more about the Swindoll Study Bible
“After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.” Mark 16:9, NLT
Devotional from the Dancing in the Desert Devotional Bible
In a legal setting, the testimony of a woman was considered unreliable, subject to undue influences of the heart and imagination and therefore inadmissible. Men of the first century—Jewish, Greek, Roman, Arab—all held this view, albeit in varying degrees. They easily dismissed the words of a woman if those words didn’t fit their assumptions. The disciples rejected Mary Magdalene’s testimony of having seen Jesus (16:11), and they were later rebuked for that by Jesus himself (16:14). Yet of all the followers of Jesus—of all those whom the biblical text refers to as disciples, whether directly or by implication—Jesus appeared first to Mary and the women with her. Not only that, he sent her to tell the news to the men (Matthew 28:10).
Some biblical scholars consider this one of the clearest signs of the Gospel’s authenticity. No man of the first century would fabricate a story about a miracle and then undermine it by having women as the first witnesses to it. It had to be true. But Jesus held an unusual view of women, and Mary of Magdala seemed to be foremost among the women who followed him. She is listed first in every mention of female followers of Jesus, who apparently traveled with him throughout Galilee and, at least on this unusual occasion, to Jerusalem for Passover. We don’t know much about Mary other than the fact that she had been tormented by demons before she met Jesus and then followed him closely But we do know that no other rabbi at this point included women in his circle of followers. Jesus did, even though the sight of women traveling with men who weren’t their relatives surely unnerved a lot of people. And on this trip to Jerusalem, it was good they were there. Many women watched from a distance as Jesus hung dying (Matthew 27:55), long after most of the men had fled.
Mary probably thought she was only going to Jerusalem for Passover, never envisioning Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb. But when he was executed and her world shattered, she remained there. She came to the tomb with her companions, not to witness a resurrection, but to anoint a body. And Jesus put her world together again, better than before, and gave her a testimony for the ages.
As we reflect on Christ’s selfless sacrifice, we will use the The Christian Basics Bible to mediate on the significance of Jesus’ sayings from the cross.
The Gospels record seven different sayings spoken by Jesus on the cross. Often used as a focus for reflection on Good Friday, they are traditionally seen as having been spoken in the following order:
Words of Forgiveness:
“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Significance: Jesus fulfills his own teaching about loving one’s enemies and shows that the cross is the basis on which divine forgiveness can be given.
Words of Salvation:
“I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
Significance: Jesus shows that it is never too late to ask to be saved and find the assurance of eternal life.
Words of Relationship:
“Dear woman, here is your son. . . . Here is your mother.” ( John 19:26-27)
Significance: Jesus, still thinking of others even in his agony, remembers the fifth commandment—honor your parents.
Words of Abandonment:
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Significance: Quoting from Psalm 22, Jesus expresses his sense of complete desertion, even by his Father (because of the sin he was bearing).
Words of Distress:
“I am thirsty.” ( John 19:28)
Significance: His body weakened by pain, blood loss, and dehydration, Jesus shows his true humanity.
Words of Reunion:
“Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” (Luke 23:46)
Quoting from Psalm 31:5, Jesus entrusts himself to the Father, for what follows now lies entirely in his hands.
Words of Triumph:
“It is finished!” ( John 19:30)
Jesus proclaims victory at the moment of apparent defeat, declaring, “It is all accomplished!” or even “It is all paid for!”
Josh Ellis is Executive Pastor at Springs Community Church in Colorado Springs and helped lead their congregation through Immerse: Messiah this past fall. It was déjà vu for Josh, who helped launch a similar initiative at Woodmen Valley Chapel in 2014. In my interview with Josh, we talked about both experiences, and why he thinks Immerse isn’t simply a church program, but represents a “new Reformation” for how the church should operate in the future.
What were the big takeaways at Woodmen Valley and Springs Community Church?
In both settings, we underestimated people’s appetite for reading the Bible in this fresh way. At Springs Community Church this fall we sold-out of our inventory three weeks in a row.
At Woodmen Valley we had a group of about 1,000 people who we identified as regular attenders but with no interest in any other church activities. We’d tried everything to get them into the mainstream. Nothing worked. But when we invited the whole congregation to an 8-week, book club experience for the New Testament, over 800 of the 1,000 non-participants joined a group. We were shocked! It completely reoriented the way we thought about them. They weren’t lazy—they were more likely bored and under-challenged.
At Springs Community Church, we had a group of veteran Bible readers who were initially not excited about reading a new-fangled Bible without chapters and verses. But within a couple of weeks, reports filtered back to our staff—life-long Bible readers “surprised” and “wowed” by their reading. 95% of the congregation participated in Immerse, including many who had no history with the Bible. At the end the reluctant veterans confessed, “We were wrong.”
How has this front row seat to two pretty remarkable experiences impacted you?
In my heart of hearts, I’ve come to believe the church is poised for a new Reformation. I think of the emergence of jazz music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Musical styles hadn’t changed much for hundreds of years. Then jazz came along with more freedom, the band working together to create harmonies, without a single conductor. Immerse in its unadulterated form allows the story to flow more freely from the text. When the church comes together to read, there’s a partnership between the pulpit and the pew. Theology isn’t just academic work. Immerse is really giving the Bible back to the people.
What are the challenges once a church finishes an eight-week Immerse experience?
At Springs Community we have work to do to keep people from falling back into their old Bible reading habits. I suspect that’s true of other churches as well. So between our Immerse campaigns, I’ve piloted a Sunday morning group that follows the Immerse DNA. We read larger sections, ask open-ended questions, and always seek to understand context.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
In my mind I can imagine what might happen if this way of reading catches on. Think of what might happen in a city if churches came together to read this way. I don’t think a new Reformation is hyperbole.
Learn more about the Institute for Bible Reading.
Easter is a very special time of year where loved ones gather together to celebrate the risen Christ. This Easter, draw your daughter into the precious Word of God with a journaling Bible that includes over 400 line-art illustrations to color plus extra space in the lightly ruled wide margins for creative journaling. Inspire is currently available in two editions, the Inspire Bible and Inspire PRAISE Bible. An exciting new addition to the line, Inspire Bible for Girls, releases this August with devotionals and journaling prompts written just for girls ages 8 and up by author Carolyn Larsen.
We encourage you to take a moment to read through the Scripture below from Luke 24 and listen for a word from God as you read.
What stands out to you in this passage? What did you learn about God? How might God want you to respond to what you’ve read?
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.
The Walk to Emmaus
That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.
Jesus Appears to the Disciples
Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched.
Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things.
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”
Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.
Is God prompting you to invite anyone to church with you this Easter to hear the Good News?
Inspire Bible Contest Giveaway
We would love to hear your answer to any of the questions above. You’ll have a chance to win an Inspire Bible of your choice, including the soon-to-release Inspire Bible for Girls. See below for ways to enter.
Ten people will win an Inspire Bible of their choice, and one Grand Prize winner will receive two Inspire Bibles of their choice plus a $150 Amazon gift card to spend on Bible journaling goodies to fill an Easter basket. To check out the Inspire Bible line, please visit: https://www.tyndale.com/l/inspire-bible
Along with our friends at the Institute for Bible Reading we are so excited that the final volume of Immerse: The Reading Bible has been published. Here is a blog post from Alex from the Institute for Bible Reading on completing the project.
Immerse: The Reading Bible is Finished
This week our team is celebrating the completion of Immerse: The Reading Bible, a project we’ve been working on with our partners at Tyndale House Publishers for the past eighteen months. Immerse: Prophets arrived from the printer in late February and rounded out the six-volume set, which represents our best work yet in the “reader’s edition” Bible category.
Immerse: The Reading Bible contains several new innovations compared to our previous work with reader’s Bibles:
- We used scientific research on the length of the reading line, number of characters, margin size, and font size to find the optimal balance for the most comfortable reading experience.
- A fresh book order in the prophets, the order of Paul’s letters, and the order of the four gospel groups in the New Testament
- Custom watercolor cover artwork commissioned specifically for Immerse
- Brand new sections in the back of each volume explaining how each type of biblical literature works, and how the smaller stories of the Bible work together to create the grand narrative
The first two volumes, Messiah and Beginnings, have already found significant traction within churches across North America as part of the Immerse: The Bible Reading Experience church campaign.
We know it’s only March, but we are so excited about the new release of Inspire for Girls coming August 2018.
Here’s a sneak peak:
Inspire Bible for Girls is a very special edition of the bestselling Inspire Bible that is jam-packed with features written just for girls by author Carolyn Larsen about key truths from the Bible and how to shine for Jesus as they learn to walk more closely with God. It’s a Bible girls are sure to treasure forever!
Beautiful two-color interior
500+ line-art illustrations to color—including over 75 all-new designs!
300+ devotional readings & prayers written just for girls
160+ journaling prompts paired with devotionals
64 key Scripture verse pages for coloring and memorization
64 fun facts lists highlight interesting facts for each book of the Bible