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A Deeper Dive Into Jeremiah 29:11

Jeremiah 29:11—with its references to God’s plans, prosperity, protection from harm, peace, and a future filled with hope—is often offered as a spiritual “security blanket” to people who are struggling. The verse has inspired and comforted countless believers who interpret it to mean that if they endure their immediate circumstances, they will emerge victorious, triumphant, and celebrated in God’s ultimate plan of prosperity. They anticipate a moment when their suffering ends and their flourishing begins.

Israel in Exile

The context of the Old Testament passage, however, casts a different light on the verse. Here’s the situation. The people of Israel were in exile in Babylon. Their homeland had been conquered by the Babylonians, and they had been taken prisoners as punishment for their disobedience to God.

In exile, the Israelites were desperate for hope. And a false prophet named Hananiah was only too happy to take advantage of their desperation. Hananiah proclaimed that God would free the Israelites from captivity and return them to their homeland within two years, which was a lie. So the task fell to Jeremiah, the true prophet of God, to set matters straight.

God’s True Plan

Jeremiah exposes Hananiah’s lie, and in Jeremiah 29:11 he quotes God’s actual promise. The Lord did, in fact, have a plan for the Israelites—one that offered hope and a prospering future. But it wasn’t the plan that the Israelites envisioned. In fact, God’s plan was approximately 180 degrees from what the Israelites envisioned.

The details of God’s plan are tied to a set of instructions found four verses earlier. “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7). God linked the Israelites’ hope and future prosperity to the success and prosperity of Babylon.

Hope in Captivity

In order to realize the blessings of God’s promise, the Israelites had to pray for and work toward the prosperity of their enemies, the very people who had made them slaves! The hope and future God had in store for them did not include an immediate return to their homeland or the restoration of their freedom—the two things the Israelites wanted most. In fact, in verse 10, God announces that the Babylonian captivity would last for “seventy years.” The generation of Israelites to whom Jeremiah prophesied had no hope of ever seeing their homeland again.

What they had instead was hope in the midst of captivity—the unexpected hope that is revealed through spiritual growth, the hard-earned spiritual growth that occurs only through perseverance, the perseverance that is learned from enduring difficult circumstances with God’s help.

What is Our Hope?

So what do we take away from Jeremiah 29:11? First, if we put our trust in Christ, we can anticipate an ultimately glorious future—one spent in God’s presence for eternity. Second, God’s plans for His people in this world rarely involve helping us escape from our trials completely. He doesn’t make our suffering disappear. Instead, He helps us persevere through them. He helps us grow and mature in ways we wouldn’t otherwise grow and mature apart from tough times. He helps us find joy in the unlikeliest of circumstances. It’s the kind of joy that affects not just our lives but the lives of others as well. He prospers us in ways that expand our understanding of prosperity.

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Hear more encouragement in The Lucado Encouraging Word Bible, available now!

Lucado Encouraging Word Bible is designed to encourage believers along their journey with the Lord. Max Lucado’s warm, conversational style ensures that the marginal notes, short articles, and various study tools meet you where you are, providing encouragement and insight. This Bible will strengthen you as you follow the included reading plan and incorporate this Bible into your daily devotional life.

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4 Passages to Spark Your Spiritual Growth

Arrested development isn’t an option for followers of Christ. We have a sacred responsibility to mature continuously in our faith, to become more Christlike, to grow more attuned to God’s will. Maintaining a spiritual status quo does no one any good. The Lord urges us to dive deeply into Scripture so that we can become the disciples He intends us to be.

Here are four passages that will inspire you to grow in Christ or give you an accurate assessment of your spiritual maturity.

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

Chronological age has little to do with spiritual maturity. Paul urges his young protégé Timothy to embrace the role of leadership that had presented itself. Instead of looking to others for guidance, Paul encourages Timothy to blaze his own spiritual trail, using what he had learned from the godly examples of his mother and grandmother, from the mentoring he received from Paul, from his understanding of Scripture, and from the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

That same opportunity is available to you, regardless of your age. The more you understand about what it means to be a disciple and live for Christ, the more powerfully you can influence other people’s lives. You can serve as an example to other believers in the things you say and don’t say, the way you conduct your personal and public business, the love you show to friends and enemies alike, the spirit of joy you allow to shine through you regardless of circumstances, the strength of your faith in Christ, and the priority you place on purity.

 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

One of the best ways to gauge your spiritual growth is to look at yourself from the perspective of people who dislike you. Can they see Christ in you? Can they spot the difference He’s made in your life? Can they get a sense of God’s love from the way you treat them? If the answer is no, it’s time to reassess your discipleship and figure out what is preventing the love of Christ from flowing freely through you to others.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3–4).

Spiritual growth sharpens your vision. It allows you to see the opportunities that are hidden in the tribulations, challenges, and suffering you face. Without that sharpened vision, you may be tempted to feel discouraged, frustrated, or even defeated by trying circumstances. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul reveals the positive impact that tribulations can have if you approach them with the right spirit.

Every time you endure a tribulation by turning to God and His Word, not only do you grow spiritually, but you also build a deeper understanding of perseverance. Perseverance gives you confidence when facing your next tribulation. It also builds character within you. You start to think of yourself as someone who can withstand tribulation with God’s help. Once you establish a godly character, you can carry a sense of hope into any situation.

For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:9–10).

You’re not the only person who has a vested interest in your spiritual growth. Think of the person (or persons) who led you to Christ. Think of your family members and friends who pray for you every day, as Paul prayed for the Colossian believers. Think of the people in your church—your fellow members in the body of Christ—who need you to pull your weight as you accomplish God’s work together.

These people aren’t just rooting for your spiritual growth; they’re also drawing strength from it. They’re eyewitnesses to the Lord’s maturing work in you. They’re finding new reasons to praise and glorify God because of you. Those who are struggling may take hope and inspiration from your spiritual growth. The final takeaway, then, is that your spiritual growth is important for reasons that extend far beyond yourself.

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Dive deeper into these verses and the entire story of scripture with the NKJV Study Bible. This beautiful full-color Bible provides a complete resource for study, including thousands of notes, articles, extensive cross-references, and features contributed by top evangelical scholars. These multilayered study tools, combined with the accuracy and clarity of the New King James Version, make this Bible a perfect choice to help you understand and deeply engage with Scripture. Shop Now!

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The New Year Game Plan

If you’ve ever been unsuccessful in an attempt to read through the Bible in one year, you probably know that Leviticus is where it starts to go wrong. Genesis is action-packed and full of familiar stories and people. The same goes for Exodus—most of it, that is. And then comes Leviticus. And somewhere among the descriptions of burnt offerings, required feasts, and the proper care of tabernacle accessories, the dream of reading through the Bible in one year meets the reality of working through passages that seem impenetrable. And the quest that began so promisingly sputters to an end.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can read the entire Bible in a calendar year. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible—929 in the Old Testament and 260 in the New Testament. In order to finish them all in 365 days, you would have to read, on average, a little more than three chapters a day.

That’s a sizable task, but one that’s certainly manageable—if you approach it with the right game plan. Here are a few tips to consider if you’re serious about reading the entire Bible in a single year.

Choose a plan that works for you.

Because of the Bible’s unique structure, there are several different ways you can approach it. The traditional reading plan starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation, the Old Testament followed by the New Testament.

The chronological reading plan follows the events of the Bible in the order in which they occurred (or will occur). It requires some jumping around between books, but it gives a sense of progression and establishes a helpful timeline of events.

A thematic reading plan is built on subject matter. The goal of a thematic plan is to establish as many associations as possible between different parts of Scripture and to see how different books deal with similar themes.

You can find daily reading schedules for these and other plans online. All of them will take you through the entire Bible in a year. Before you embark on your challenge, try out different plans to see which one appeals most to you.

Count the cost.

In Luke 14:28, Jesus asks His disciples, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it?” Anything worthwhile that we pursue comes with a cost of time, attention, and resources. We have a limited amount of each. So if we draw on them for a sizable project, whether it’s building a tower or reading through the Bible in one year, we won’t have enough for other areas of our life. Something has to give. Before we embark on our reading plan, we need to come to grips with what must be sacrificed in order to complete it.

Depending on our schedule, we may have to cut back on the time we spend on social media or the time we spend binge-watching TV shows. We may have to get up earlier or forgo a walk during our lunch break. Whatever the case, it’s best to know the cost beforehand so that we can prepare accordingly.

Find iron sharpeners.

A wise man once said, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend” (Proverbs 27:17). One of the best strategies for reading through the Bible in one year is to surround ourselves with “sharpeners,” people who have a vested interest in our success and who won’t hesitate to confront us when our focus wanders or when our discipline falters.

In order to facilitate iron sharpening, we need to be transparent about our reading adventure. We need to admit when we struggle or miss a day. We need to open up about passages that are difficult to understand. We need to give our accountability partners the information they need in order to help us.

Remember your real goal.

Letting your eyes fall over the words of Scripture until you reach the end of a designated passage just so that you can place a checkmark next to that day’s reading plan is not the same as reading through the Bible.

Remember James’s warning: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). If the words of Scripture aren’t influencing your life, it doesn’t matter whether you read them all in one year. Your goal is to understand the Bible and apply its truths to your life.

You do that by wrestling with Scripture—by not letting a passage go until you’ve wrung from it everything that you can. The Lord honors that kind of persistence, as the story of Jacob wrestling with God in Genesis 32 demonstrates. (You’ll get to that story in the first two weeks of your reading adventure, if you opt for the traditional reading plan.)

When you read each day’s passage, interact with the material. Keep a journal of your thoughts. Write down questions that occur to you, quotes that inspire you, and incidents that trouble you. Pray about the things you read. Ask the Holy Spirit to deepen your understanding and give you a sense of how individual passages connect to the big picture of the Bible.

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The Best Strategies for Helping Children Memorize God’s Word

One of the great pleasures of parenthood is the privilege of introducing your kids to God’s Word. Even before they’re able to read, your kids can get to know Scripture in a powerful and lasting way. If they’re old enough to recite a nursery rhyme or sing along to a favorite song, your kids are old enough to memorize Bible verses.

As a parent, you have a golden opportunity to shape your kids’ earliest memories of the Bible. If you make it seem fun, interesting, important, and vital, you may establish in them a mindset that will last a lifetime.

Your first step is to create an atmosphere conducive to your kids’ learning styles.

Make up tunes to accompany the words of a verse. Take turns saying every other word in a passage—or play fill-in-the-blank. Recite a verse as a family before every meal and at bedtime. Draw pictures or symbols that help communicate the message of the verse. Use hand gestures as part of the memorization process. Award a gold star for every passage your kids learn.

Your second step is to give your kids the why behind the what.

Using language that’s easy for them to understand, explain why each verse is important to remember.

Your third, and perhaps most important, step is to choose the right verses to memorize.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

1. Jesus wept (John 11:35).

There’s nothing wrong with cherry-picking the shortest verse in the Bible as the first one for your kids to memorize. Not only will it give them a sense of accomplishment right out of the gate, but it will also help them recognize Jesus as someone who cried when He was sad.

Kid Running by tree2. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:14).

Jesus didn’t just talk to grownups. He talked and played with and cared about little kids too—little kids who were just like your children.

3. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity (1 Tim. 4:12).

Even kids can be an example. When others see a child doing good things, it will make them want to do good things. So, kids shouldn’t let anyone tell them that they’re not important just because they’re young.

4. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1).

Everything beautiful, good, and awesome that we see in the universe, in nature, and in people was created by God.

5. “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11).

When we have God’s Word in our memory and in our heart, it makes it harder for the devil to get us to do bad things.

6.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

God sent Jesus, His only Son, to die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we can live forever in heaven with Him.

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Thomas Nelson’s new NKJV and KJV Youth Edition Bibles are lightweight and easy-to-carry for the student on the go to church, school, and summer camp. The quality of the materials used to make these editions are a step up from the normal standard and, at an excellent price, these new youth edition Bibles make great gifts for birthdays, graduations, youth camps, or other special events.

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Four Reasons to Give Your Teen a Bible

Getting their first bicycle, their first phone, and their first car has become a rite of passage for young people. Here are four compelling reasons why getting their first Bible should be included in that list.

man holding a light1. Young People Need a Light. 

The world can become a dark place for teenagers. The darkness usually descends first in shades of gray. Lines between right and wrong get blurred. Momentary lapses in judgment turn out to have long-term implications. Choices made in the heat of the moment come back to burn us.

What your kids need is what the psalmist had. “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). Turning the spotlight of God’s Word on the teenage landscape can illuminate paths that otherwise may not have been apparent to them. A little light can give them the confidence, courage, and vision to take bold steps. And when a light is shining in their lives, they can become a beacon to others.

2. Young People Need a Weapon.

When Satan tested Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus countered his attacks with the most powerful weapon in His arsenal: the Word of God. Three times Satan tried to tempt Jesus; three times Jesus quoted Scripture in response. Satan was powerless against it and eventually fled.

According to 1 Peter 5:8, the devil still “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Teenagers shouldn’t have to face such an enemy unarmed—not when they could be equipped with a weapon as powerful as God’s Word. The more familiar they are with what’s inside it, the better prepared they’ll be to resist temptation and work through doubts.

3. Young People Need a Refuge.

Every day, teens navigate a world of responsibilities, expectations, and distractions. They are bombarded with texts and posts from friends, acquaintances, advertisers, and strangers, all clamoring for their time, their attention, their “likes” and their dollars. With social media, their focus is pulled in countless different directions, 24-7.

These besieged teenagers need an escape from the chaos of daily life. A place where their soul can be fed. A quiet place where they can hear God’s voice. They can find such a place in Scripture, which assures us that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1).

4. Young People Need a Pure Distillation of God’s Word.

Some kids may question the need for a physical Bible. After all, they can find any passage from any translation of Scripture with just a few keystrokes—much faster than turning the pages of a book. The problem is—because of a universe of online trolls and commentators with their own agendas—they can also find:

  • misquotes
  • misinformation
  • misinterpretations
  • misapplications
  • snide commentary
  • profane vitriol
  • inscrutable ramblings

Unless you’re standing over your kids’ shoulders every time they search Scripture, you have no way of knowing what they’re seeing. And while there may be a time and place for your kids to engage in such a forum, it’s not while they’re trying to find their spiritual legs.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent began to wreak his havoc with four carefully chosen words: “Has God indeed said?” Seeds of doubt and skepticism, sown during a particularly vulnerable time, can have a devastating impact. When you give your teens a physical Bible, you can choose the translation and the commentary they read.

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Thomas Nelson’s new NKJV and KJV Youth Edition Bibles are lightweight and easy-to-carry for the student on the go to church, school, and summer camp. The quality of the materials used to make these editions are a step up from the normal standard and, at an excellent price, these new youth edition Bibles make great gifts for birthdays, graduations, youth camps, or other special events.

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What Do You Need to Know When Buying a Bible?

There are lots of things to consider when buying a Bible, such as translations, types of Bible, dimensions, point size, and price. All of these points will be determined by how the Bible will be used. We’ll look at each of these points to help you decide the kind of Bible you need.

Translations

Choose the translation that’s the most readable to you and best fits your needs. There are two major translation philosophies: word-for-word and thought-for-thought.

Word-for-word, also known as literal or formal equivalent, attempts to provide as close as possible a direct translation of the words themselves in readable English. The focus is on accuracy. Popular translations include the KJV, NKJV, NET, ESV, and NASB.

Thought-for-thought, also referred to as functional equivalent or dynamic equivalent, attempts to provide the meaning of the words or phrases. The focus is on readability. Popular translations include the NIV, CSB, and NLT.

Thomas Nelson publishes two of the most popular word-for-word translations available: the KJV and the NKJV.

Released in 1611, the KJV was the most widely read English translation for the past four centuries. Based on the Received Text, its majestic English is ideal for reading, study, devotions, and preaching.

Commissioned in 1975 by Thomas Nelson Publishers, the NKJV is a revision of the KJV that retains the KJV’s beauty while providing a translation that’s ideal for the modern reader. It’s faithful to the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts while considering research in linguistics, textual studies, and archaeology. It’s great for reading, study, devotions, and preaching.

Types of Bibles

There are many types of Bibles available in today’s market. Here’s a look at the major types and how they can be used.

Study Bibles (like the NKJV Study Bible pictured above) provide tools for study and insights into specific passages and topics. They often include charts, graphs, illustrations, in-text maps, commentary, profiles, indexes, references, concordance, and maps. Some include articles and full-color photos. They’re usually large Bibles and provide the text in two columns with tools at the bottom of the page or within the text. The tools make them great for personal study, group study, sermon prep, and teaching.

Some popular study Bibles from Thomas Nelson include the KJV Study Bible, the NKJV Study Bible, the NKJV Chronological Study Bible, the, the Maxwell Leadership Bible, and MacArthur Study Bible.

Reference Bibles provide the text with cross-references and translation footnotes to help you find related verses or passages. They often include a concordance and maps in the back. They’re available in both single and double column layouts. They come in all sizes and are great for carrying, witnessing, reading, studying, and preaching.

Text Bibles remove all the extras and focus on the text. Some even remove the verse numbers. They usually have a larger font for their dimensions when compared to study and reference Bibles. Layouts include both single and double-column designs. They come in all sizes and are ideal for carrying, reading, and preaching.

Youth Editions / the Preaching Bible / the Minister’s Bible / Reader’s Bibles

 

Journal Bibles provide space and paper designed for writing your own notes, thoughts, prayers, and artwork. They’re available with or without references and usually don’t include other extras. Their thick paper makes a thick Bible, but most are not too large for carrying. With single column layouts and ruled wide outer margins, they look and feel like both Bible and journal, so writing in them feels natural.

Journal Bible

Check out these Journal the Word Bibles.

Gift Bibles are usually small and inexpensive. Most have double-column layouts and don’t include many extra features. They’re great for carrying, witnessing, to give away, for special occasions, or for missions.

Devotional Bibles provide devotionals with insights on the passages they relate to. They focus on inspirational thoughts with personal application. Some are general while others focus on a specific theme or audience. They often include daily devotions to follow or devotions you can read when you want. They usually have double-column layouts. They’re great for personal and group devotions.

Dimensions

Bibles are available in many sizes. They range from small enough to carry anywhere to too large to leave the desk or pulpit. The size you need will greatly depend on how you will use it, which includes the features and font size you prefer.

Regular size Bibles, the most common size, are around 9.5 X 6.5 X 1.5 inches. Most types of Bibles are available in regular size.

Large Bibles are somewhere around 10 x 7 x 1.75 inches. Study, reference, and text Bibles are available in this size.

Compact Bibles are usually around 6.25 x 4.25 x 1.25 inches. Reference and text Bibles are available in this size.

Thinline editions are available from small to large, but what sets them apart is they’re usually around 1- inch thick. Reference and text Bibles are available in Thinline.

Point Size

Typefaces range from small to giant print. Point size affects the size and features of the Bible. To choose your point size you’ll need to decide how the Bible will be used when compared with your personal needs.

Small print is usually around 7 point or lower. This is ideal for carrying and reading on the go.

Medium print is around 8 to 9 point. It’s usually more comfortable to read and is ideal for general reading and studying.

Large print is generally 10-11 point. This size can be read for long periods of time, making it great for reading, studying, and public reading or preaching.

Giant Print is often 12 point or above. This size is ideal for anyone who has trouble reading the smaller fonts; it’s also great for preaching.

Price

The types of Bibles and materials used will affect the price.

$9.99 or less – includes softcover and imitation leather. Editions include gift and award and outreach Bibles. They’re great for short-term use or for getting started.

$10-$69.99 – includes hardcover, cloth-over-board, bonded leather, and imitation leather. These editions include pasted liners and standard paper with gold gilting. They include gift and award, text, reference, devotional, journaling, and study Bibles. They’re great for general use.

$70-$108.99 – includes cloth-over-board, imitation leather, bonded leather, genuine leather, and cowhide with pasted liners, and standard paper with gold gilting. They include reference, journaling, and study Bibles. They’re great for general use.

$109 and above – includes premium leathers such as edge-lined calfskin or goatskin, premium paper, and gold or art-gilting. They include reference, study, journaling, and text Bibles. The premium leathers last the longest and are ideal for heavy use.