In the darkest years of my journey as a mom with our prodigal son, Isaiah was my closest friend.

As I searched God’s Word for help and hope, He repeatedly met me in the book of Isaiah, especially beginning in Chapter 40.

He comforted me and encouraged me with words such as these

And many more.

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you.

I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (41:10)

He will feed his flock like a shepherd.

He will carry the lambs in his arms,

holding them close to his heart.

He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. (40:11)

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.

O Israel, the one who formed you says,

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.

I have called you by name; you are mine. (43:1)

For I am about to do something new.

See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?

I will make a pathway through the wilderness.

I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. (43:19)

At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.” (60:22b)

And many more.

As I listen to her.BIBLE, I love the beautiful voices of daughters of God while appreciating every book. I have eagerly anticipated the completion of the Book of Isaiah.

It is out now, and I am dwelling there with my Lord, listening to challenges, comforts, hopes, and promises.

Our prodigal is in a good place now. But that last verse, Isaiah 60:22b, has been faith and courage for me in every difficult time in life, ever since.

God, through his Spirit, inspired and wrote the most epic love story of all. Isn’t it startling how easily we forget this? His story contains the universe’s origin, a tragic fall, and a heroic rescue that restores shattered souls and hurting hearts.


In the book of 1 John, readers are invited on their own journey towards love, light, and transformation. Jesus invites us to partner with him in the work of reconciling a broken world. In 1 John, we see elements of what classic writers call ‘the hero’s journey’.

In our quest towards being reconcilers, we will face our own imperfect heroic story in which there is a departure from the ways of God, an invitation into his family, and the return of our spirits to light and life.

Departure
We were born to a story already in progress—our souls already in danger. Every sin we commit is a further departure from the ways of God. John tells us, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (1 John 2:16)


Invitation
The good news of the gospel tells us Jesus is the Shepherd drawing us back from our departure. “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a).

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Return

Finally, we are drawn back to the kingdom of God, and there will be a day when the earth and all its creatures return to perfection. “…And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” (1 John 5:20b)

Want more of the story? Listen to the wisdom, warnings and wooing of I John.

Do you ever make up horrible movies in your mind about getting in fatal car accidents or losing your kids at the zoo? I do. I call these negative mental movies “WorryFlix.” For years, I wondered why the “Just pray about it” advice did not work for me. For a long time, I felt like an immature Christian because I loved God, and yet, I struggled deeply with fear and uncertainty.

At the beginning of Joshua 1, Moses’ former assistant, Joshua, was now God’s people’s spiritual and military leader. Not only that, but Joshua knew that he’d be leading his army into battle against the thirty-one kingdoms of Canaan. While the scriptural text doesn’t give insight into Joshua’s thoughts, God’s instructions to Joshua provide powerful insight into a promise of victory in the face of uncertainty and fear. This exact promise is one that you can also hold onto today.

“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.” Joshua 1:5

Throughout the book of Joshua and the battles that the Israelites faced, God constantly reassured Joshua and the Israelites that they never fought alone. It didn’t matter if Joshua anticipated the struggle or was shocked; God was steady and sovereign. In more than one instance, Joshua made a mistake, and the Israelites were defeated in battle, yet, God never abandoned Joshua and the Israelites.

The good news is that God has made the same promise to us, too.

You can experience God’s victory over the uncertainty or fears in your life when you remember that God is with you AND for you, no matter what you are facing. You don’t have to be afraid. God has promised that He will not fail or abandon you.

Anjelina Maldonado and her husband, Javier, opened Proximity Church in Orlando in 2015 primarily as an outreach to the “unchurched and prodigals in Florida.”

They placed people in small groups for discipleship, one being an eight-week women’s Bible study using her.BIBLE to listen to the Word of God.

The women, about 20 in all, were captivated the first time they listened to the Book of Ruth.


“To feel your faith being built up by another woman is awesome,” says Anjelina. “From a church with no believers to a body of women being built up is incredible. They never even knew each other and now were connecting over her.BIBLE.”

When Anjelina played the Book of Ruth, it was the first time Ingrid Fernandez, a nurse, had ever heard the story. She drove home that night and, though she was pregnant and had her young son in the back seat, sat in her car to hear the rest of the book.

Ingrid began listening to her.BIBLE during her commute to work. She found inspiration in the stories of women like Esther. “Esther thought she was going to be no one, and she ended up a queen,” Ingrid said.

Ingrid knows that the Word of God would have changed her life no matter what, but hearing it in women’s voices was like “having the right soundtrack to a movie.”

She said, “Like, in Ruth, it’s a female voice and it’s talking about a woman who went and conquered. It’s like saying, I’m just one person, just a nurse, just a woman; but with God, [I] can do anything.”

Ingrid regularly attends Proximity and now so do her husband, Enzo, and children. She dreams of leading a small group to reach her family members who don’t yet know Christ.

Ingrid relates to women who feel like they just don’t have time to sit down and study their Bible.

“Women are always going-going,” Ingrid said. “It makes it challenging. But if they can find a moment in the car to listen, give God the chance — the chance to tell them they’re loved and very valued to him.”

(You can read the full article by Rebecca, “Highlighting Women’s Voices in God’s Story,” in the July 2021 issue of Cru Storylines at https://www.cru.org/storylines/2021/july/highlighting-womens-voices-gods-story.)

Rewind 2,700 years and come with me to the ancient Near East, where good and bad kings rule—as they’ve done for half a millennium—over Israel and Judah. The people blindly and foolishly follow their kings instead of obeying God’s Law. So, God sends Gentile armies to adjust their priorities.


After decades in frightening exile, God’s people finally return to their peaceful land. But once they return, they tragically neglect godly rest and reflection; tolerate religious corruption; turn a blind eye to injustice; pursue greed, and marry those who worship false gods.

“Malachi” means “my messenger.” And indeed, God sends the people a message through a prophet with a three-step legal argument: The plaintiff (God) raises the charge. The defendant (Israel) pleads ignorance. The plaintiff (God) provides evidence of offenses.

The name of God found throughout the book of Malachi—“Lord Sabaoth”—means “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Repeated multiple times, the name emphasizes the very greatness they are missing in their everyday lives. But in a touch of sad irony, the Almighty says he sees a day when the “nations” will succeed, where his chosen people now lack in following him.

“But my name is honored by people of other nations from morning till night. All around the world, they offer sweet incense and pure offerings in honor of my name. For my name is great among the nations,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (Mal 1:11)

God’s people then, as today, were called to offer their love to him and be a light to the world—resulting in all the nations knowing, loving, and serving the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

God promised them, “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” (Mal. 4:2)

Four hundred years later, Jesus Christ laid down his life as the perfect sacrifice. And many have sacrificed to tell us his story.

Thank the God of the nations that you are loved and pursued by the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And go and tell of his love!

I recently helped my parents pack up my childhood home. Full of emotions, we looked through old memorabilia, including my mom’s beautiful china. I’ve secretly hoped to inherit this beautiful set someday, so I bravely asked my mom. To my surprise, she said yes!

We then had to box it up for its trek across the country. We used so much bubble wrap to pack every delicate dish. Then, to assure it all arrived intact, my parents flew with the box in a suitcase surrounded by padded foam. It was a huge ordeal

We put so much work into this china. However, do you want to know how I packed their coffee mugs? I stacked them, threw a towel on top, and taped the box shut. And don’t even get me started on all the disposable cups my mom had. We just threw those on top of the heap of boxes!

What was the difference between all these cups? Their value.

Disposable cups are just that, disposable. If a coffee mug breaks, there are several others to take its place. But handcrafted china from 40 years ago? That is irreplaceable and valuable.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 shares this very sentiment.

“In a wealthy home some utensils are made of silver and gold, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.”

We’re challenged to keep ourselves pure and ready for the Master’s good work.

People may label you as disposable or replaceable, or you may even place that value on yourself. However, you are so valuable. Why? God chose no other person to be you, but you! He personally created and crafted you to share His love with those around you.

So today, I ask you to think of the most precious item you have and know that God thinks of you as so much more valuable than it. You are His unique gift to the world. We are so blessed to have you!

When I mention Eve’s name, what automatically comes to your mind? Her deception and fall? Her foolish conversation with the serpent, or her confession, “The serpent deceived me, and that’s why I ate it” (Genesis 3:13)? In some quarters, that is all we ever hear about Eve.

But, thankfully, it’s not the end of her story. The Lord’s response to her confession of sin wasn’t judgment or even condemning silence. It was a promise of new life, a life that would bring victory and turn Eve’s confession of her sin into an opportunity to demonstrate mercy. Eventually, Jesus, the perfect Son, will mend everything broken.

Amid all Eve’s sorrow over her sin, Eve believed God. How do we know? When she gave birth to Cain, she said, “With the Lord’s help, I have produced a man!” (Genesis 4:1). Look at that.

Here is our flawed mother, proclaiming her faith in God. She had had a son “with the Lord’s help.” She believed that she was still beloved and God had granted her new life. And, that’s not all we hear from her. We don’t know how much time passed between Cain’s exile, Abel’s murder, and Seth’s birth (Genesis 4), but here Eve is again, confessing both the devastating realities of her world and her ongoing trust in her Father. “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Genesis 4:25). Twice she confesses her trust in God. Twice she proclaims profound theology: God is sovereign, and people are responsible for their actions. Twice she tells us that we, too, can persevere.

When you think of Eve, do you recognize her as a wise theologian, full of great faith, persevering through the crucible of intense fire? Eve’s story is good news as she encourages us to see all of our life under the watchful eye of a loving Father. Eve gives us the courage to confess his faithfulness, as the God who gives good gifts and who helps us in our grief.

And Eve speaks to me: I can believe that God is good enough to use all my weakness and sin to glorify himself, and I can speak it to others—even to my own doubting heart. Take courage.

Recently, while my fingers danced on my keyboard, I was about to finish an important document, and suddenly, my computer froze. Nothing worked. My muscles tightened. I feared all my work was lost.

“Cindi, I don’t know what’s wrong,” I wrote to my wise friend.

“Sometimes,” she answered, “this can happen when you have too many windows open.”

Ugh! In life, we do that. We open too many windows.

If our kids go in the wrong direction, we open the window of worry. As our bank account dwindles, we open the window of anxiety. After the doctor’s office leaves a message, “Both of your parents tested positive for Covid,” we open the window of anguish.

And rushing through those windows of negative emotions, the tornado of fear invades our lives. Fear that we’re losing control. Fear that God is distant and aloof. Fear that we’re on our own to face the mess.

Decades ago, I visited that messy place. At age 31, a retinal disease robbed my sight aggressively, completely, and with no expectation of regaining it again.

That’s when I opened, not just a window, but a colossal patio door of self-pity. “Why Me?” I asked over and over again. “What will I do blind? How could I care for my 3, 5, and 7-year-old sons?”

Jesus was gentle to come to my rescue amid those fearful questions. He knew my pain and saw the tears on my pillow. In the silence of the night, He heard my sobs.

That’s when he reached down with his hand of compassion and whispered, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105).

His Word was my Light. And he continues to be. With the eyes of my heart, I see a new life. I see fresh, colorful horizons as joy dances in my soul.

Join me in that dance because, in your darkness, He promises you the same. You may not be facing physical blindness. However, whatever window of adversity is opened in your life, God longs to guide you through, help you see, and end your sobs when you’re ready.

When you choose to let him close the window of negative emotions and embrace his relief, fear has no place. His peace comes back and joy begins.

As we near the summer, because of your prayers and your generous gifts, we have already recorded four of the remaining 21 books of the Old Testament!

God is powerfully using her.BIBLE in the lives of college women. Here are some of their encouraging responses:

Faith excitedly shared:

I absolutely love her.BIBLE because of how simple and easy it is to use. Being able to open it up and within seconds be listening to the Word of God read by strong, amazing women brings me so much joy.

The quality is fantastic, and I especially love how each female narrator has a different, unique voice that shows the diversity which God has created us with! her.BIBLE is such a wonderful way to dive into Scripture daily!

Taylor reflected: Most women resonate with other women better, having that heart to heart connection, so I think having a woman tell you to “Be strong and don’t be afraid” or “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” may make them more likely to actually believe it.”

After a painful relationship with a man in authority, Kate exclaimed: This is such a good idea! I feel like it would definitely be helpful for women who are less likely to listen to a male voice because of their bad experiences.

Because of you, her.BIBLE is bringing the Word of God to life with an engaging multi-ethnic women’s narration of the New Living Translation. We are encouraged to see young women like Faith, Taylor and Kate dive into God’s Word and connect with the Lord through comforting women’s voices.

Would you prayerfully consider partnering with us by sponsoring a chapter?

There are only 17 books left to complete! By giving $270, you will empower us to produce the next chapter. You can give online here at  www.give.cru.org/0967201.

Thank you for your consideration. Keep watching for more Old Testament books on our website!

Grandmama,” she says,

Unearthing a photo of me when I was sixteen,

Her blue eyes sparkling,

Blonde hair floating about her shoulders,

Sunkist cheeks flushing pink,

“You used to be beautiful then!” “Then?” I think. “Then?”

But say instead, “you think so?”

“I know so!” she says in that definitive little way of hers

As if she has the world figured out–Daring it to deviate from her determined point of view. “Then?” I think, but do not say. “Then I was beautiful?”

“What do you know of beauty?”

Me at sixteen,

An unlined, unblemished face In an artificially arranged

Studio with soft lighting? I tell you, my girl,

I am more beautiful now than I ever was,

With my soul worn down, smooth and resilient,

Like the soft blue jeans you always wear,

Like supple leather pounded with rubber mallets

From worries I could not stop

And storms I couldn’t control

Soothed only with the peace

Of God’s presence

And friendship

And empathy. I am more beautiful now than I ever was.

If I were a rose I would be a Queen Elizabeth

Full of scent and elegance.

If I were a tree I would be a towering redwood

With roots that go deep.

If I were a voice,

I would be a whispered caress.

If I were a stone, I’d be the solid foundation of a home.

I am more beautiful now than I ever was.

I am enduring, I am weathered,

Rounded as river stones from a swift current,

Hammered, hammered flat as silver

By my mistakes and

Erroneous judgments,

Tempered by tragedy,

Softened by storm,

Kneaded by need

To the Potter’s pliable clay. If I thought you’d listen,

I’d tell you the way to become beautiful

Would be to let the storms rage,

To fix your hope on the lighthouse,

Shining in the worst of weather,

And to let life’s arrows pass through Your quivering body

Knowing He will heal you,

Even when you think it is impossible.

Though you would hear

You would not listen,

For these are the lessons

You must teach yourself. Have you ever smelled a scarlet rose the very day

Before the petals fall?

Eaten a peach at its ripest,

Juice dripping down your chin?

Tasted a wine

Mellowed to perfection?

This is the fullness of time, my dear.

I am there

And I am beautiful.