Keep Us from Distraction

Rebecca Van Noord

Haggai 1:1–2:23; Acts 20:1–38; Job 28:1–11

It’s easy to get distracted from the good work God intends for us to do. Competing forces vie for our attention; we’re sidetracked by fear or selfishness. We start living our own stories and lose sight of the greater narrative, of which our lives are just one thread.

The Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem had begun the work of reconstructing the temple, a symbol of God’s presence among His people. In the rebuilding of the temple, they gathered up the remnants of their broken identities and together formed a collective identity as Yahweh’s people. They had their priorities in order.

Then they got distracted. When they started putting their own needs and security first, Yahweh sent the prophet Haggai to remind them of their true purpose: “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your houses that have been paneled while this house is desolate?… Consider your ways! You have sown much but have harvested little. You have eaten without being satisfied; you have drunk without being satiated; you have worn clothes without being warm; the one who earns wages puts it in a pouch with holes” (Hag 1:6).

The work that the Jewish exiles did outside of God’s purpose for them had no lasting effect or real merit. Because they were neglecting their first calling, their frantic attempts to meet their own selfish needs were doomed to fail anyway. Outside of Yahweh, there could be no blessing. God used Haggai to speak this truth into the lives of the Jewish exiles, but He also encouraged them with His presence: “I am with you” (Hag 1:13).

Listen to the words of Haggai. Speak truth into fear and selfishness—either your own or others. Remember that you’re not meant to travel through life on your own, outside of this great narrative or apart from the presence of God.

What is the priority in your life right now? How can you shift away from priorities that aren’t part of God’s grand scheme for your life?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.

Shelf Life Book Review: Mark: The Gospel of Passion

Matthew James Hamilton

Mark: The Gospel of Passion Intervarsity Press, 2012

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Michael Card invites his audience to engage “Scripture at the level of the informed imagination” by being “willing to do the homework [and] refer to the commentaries” (13). Card models this as he works through Mark’s Gospel. Card approaches the Gospel in a way that dramatizes the text, helping the reader consider the text in a new way.

Each chapter of this commentary provides insight into a single chapter of the Gospel of Mark. Card explains each section in detail and applies social and historical background to further the reader’s understanding of the passage. He includes a series of appendixes on matters to the Gospel—including ancient sources that shed light on Mark’s Gospel and the events surrounding its authorship.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 5

Insights: Joni Eareckson Tada

Jessi Gering

Paralyzed as a teenager, Joni Eareckson Tada has spent most of her life as a quadriplegic. Since the 1980s, she has served as an advocate for people with disabilities, working with the National Council on Disability and the Disability Advisory Committee to the US State Department. An active speaker and writer, Joni has written books about suffering, like When God Weeps and A Place of Healing. Bible Study Magazine recently spoke to Tada about reading the Bible through suffering and despair.



TADA: Inductive Bible study is, for me, the most personal approach to understanding the Scriptures. Asking why, when, to whom, and what—along with prayer—reveals themes and insights from the Holy Spirit. I’m amazed at how both Old and New Testaments constantly repeat themes, stories, metaphors and religious practices that have to do with redemption—it’s the common thread throughout Scripture!


TADA: Before my accident, I viewed the Bible as a manual for righteous living. But after, I began to see the Bible as it describes itself: “the Word of life.” It’s not merely about living, it is life. As we study Scripture, it becomes “alive and active,” as we are told in Hebrews—reproving, correcting and shaping our lives. After my accident, I embarked on what has become a lifelong study of suffering—its purpose and God’s relationship to it. The theme of redemption is woven in and out of every passage pertaining to affliction. To me, that is very comforting.


TADA: The Psalms provided a refuge for me when I was first injured and faced a life of total paralysis. I identified with saints who doubted and struggled against despair, yet turned their fears over to God. The Bible invited my questions, anger and doubts. That helped immensely in my desire to trust God. Now, almost 45 years later, I find myself drawn to the passages that speak to the ugliness of the human condition—if the core of God’s plan is to rescue me from my sin, I want to partner with the Holy Spirit in being transformed from “glory to glory.”


TADA: Sometimes, when I don’t quite have the words for prayer, I borrow God’s words. Memorizing whole passages instructs us on how to think God’s thought patterns—how to see things His way. Although I use the English Standard Version or the New International Version (1986) for Bible study, I like to memorize using the King James Version—the cadence and syntax read like poetry.


TADA: Life is hard, and it’s only human to be discouraged. But life frustrates us, so we look to the time when “sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isa 35:10). I encourage people struggling with depression to memorize Scriptures about hope and heaven. I also direct people to the Psalms because they are anchors, keeping us fixed and floating above the fray.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4

Jesus in Proverbs

Rick Brannan

Justin Martyr (100–165 AD) was a philosopher and an apologist. His major works are the Dialogue with Trypho (135 AD) and his First and Second Apologies (155 and 161 AD). 1


You might not immediately see Christ in Proverbs 8:22–25. But Justin Martyr, pagan philosopher turned Christian apologist, drew on the New Testament tradition to show Jesus as Wisdom personified. In his Dialogue with Trypho, Martyr uses this passage to show Christ as the firstborn of the Father—born before all of creation.

“And it is written in the book of Wisdom: ‘If I should tell you daily events, I would tell them from the beginning. The LORD created me at the beginning of His ways for His works. From everlasting He established me in the beginning, before He formed the earth, and before He made the depths, and before the springs of waters came forth, before the mountains were settled; He created me before all the hills’ (Prov 8:22–25). When I repeated these words, I added: ‘You perceive, my hearers, if you pay attention, that Scripture has declared Christ was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that which is begotten (brought about) is numerically distinct from that which begets (brings about), anyone will admit.’ ” 2

To read more works by this apologist, pick up The Major Works of Justin Martyr in Greek (3 vols.) at

For more resources on the church fathers, visit

Pick up Rick Brannan’s The Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear at

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4

1. F. L. Cross and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev.; Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 920.

2. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho §129. Adapted from Alexander Roberts et al., The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325 (Bellingham: Logos Bible Software, 1997), 264.

Measuring Out God’s Goodness

Rebecca Van Noord

Habakkuk 2:6–3:19; Acts 18:1–28; Job 26:1–14

Although we don’t usually question God’s goodness, we do make assumptions about how He should act in the world. We expect God to use us in His work and to intercede on our behalf—and rightfully so, since those promises come from Him. But when we find ourselves in messy or uncertain situations, we sometimes run ahead of God. Frustrated with the waiting and the unknown, we risk making judgments about how well He is running the world.


As Habakkuk watches the destruction, violence, contention, and strife in Israel, he turns to Yahweh and makes bold demands: “Why do you cause me to see evil while you look at trouble?” (Hab 1:3). But by the end of the dialogue, he has changed his mind. He will rejoice in Yahweh “though the fig tree does not blossom, nor there be fruit on the vines; the yield of the olive fails, and the cultivated fields do not yield food, the flock is cut off from the animal pen, and there is no cattle in the stalls” (Hab 3:17–18).

Did Habakkuk merely give in to a hopeless situation? He didn’t gain any more information about God’s motives. But after his dialogue with God, his entire posture changed. The confidence in Habakkuk’s final prayer hinges on his acknowledgment of Yahweh’s power and His anger at the evil of those who disregard His ways. God has the situation under control; Habakkuk must simply wait.

We often associate waiting with inaction, but waiting is faith in action. Habakkuk chooses to rejoice and trust God in spite of his circumstances, and that decision shapes his new perspective: “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab 3:18–19). Like Habakkuk, we are called to come before God in humility, waiting in faith on His timing and trusting in His goodness.

How are faith and trust in God motivating all your thoughts and actions?