How does the Bible point readers to beauty found in brokenness and hope found in hard places? What would it mean to trace themes such as togetherness, grace, everyday leadership, friendship, hospitality, gratitude, and more through the pages of Scripture?
Explain the story of (in)courage. What is the biblical foundation of (in)courage?
Denise J. Hughes: DaySpring, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc. has always sought to connect people with the heart of God. In 2009, a talented team of individuals decided to extend that vision to an online community of women, and (in)courage was born.
Our name represents DaySpring’s goal of bringing women into deeper community with Christ and with one another. The (in) means that we’re in Christ, connected, and in community with each other. From all of this comes true courage.
Since its inception in 2009, (in)courage has written over 5,200 blog posts and reached more than 20 million readers around the world. We feel called to be real, authentic, brave women for the kingdom and connect our readers with Jesus and each other.
How is the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible an outgrowth of the mission of the online community?
Denise J. Hughes: From day one, the heart of (in)courage has been to provide a place where women can gather to share their story and proclaim God’s glory. The CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible is an extension of what we’ve already been doing for almost a decade. It’s an invitation for all women to find their stories within the tapestry of the greatest story ever told—God’s story of redemption.
With 312 devotions by 122 writers, the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible includes devotions that reflect a wide range of women’s daily experiences. There are stories of women who’ve been transformed by Christ and have learned how to study God’s Word. There are stories of women who’ve struggled with infertility—like Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth—and they’ve found hope in the midst of the pain. There are stories of triumph and celebration, along with stories of heartbreak and disillusionment. It’s all part of living in a broken, sinful world. But because of Christ, we can press forward with hope, knowing he can make all things beautiful in his time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Describe the benefits of having more than 100 women contribute devotional insights in this Bible.
Denise J. Hughes: It was very important to me that we include the voices of as many women as possible from diverse ages, races, and backgrounds. Logistically, this made for a more complex process, but I felt it was worth it because it reflects God’s kingdom and his multi-faceted wisdom.
From the beginning, God’s heart has been to include people from all races and ethnicities in his kingdom. In Ephesians 2:14, Paul says Christ tore down the “dividing wall of hostility” between the Jews and the Gentiles (those who weren’t Jews). Paul then goes on to explain his ministry to the Gentiles, saying in Ephesians 3:10, “This is so that God’s multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church.”
The Greek word for multi-faceted is polupoikilos, which means many varied or variegated. Have you ever seen variegated yarn? It has multiple colors in a single thread. This is a beautiful picture of God’s multi-faceted wisdom, where many people from many backgrounds come together to form his kingdom.
My prayer for this devotional Bible has been that 1) many women from many different backgrounds could relate to the stories and devotions shared within its pages, and 2) they could find their own story within God’s story of redemption.
What themes are addressed through the devotions and reading plans in the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible? How did you choose which ones to include?
Denise J. Hughes: Since its inception in 2009, the (in)courage website has published over 4,000 stories from more than 3,000 writers. I went through the archives of our published articles, and I looked specifically at the categories we used on each blog post. I made a special note of the categories that appeared most often because they represent the kinds of stories and the kinds of themes that women are talking about the most.
The ten themes and their corresponding reading plans in the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible represent the top ten themes that resonate most with women according to the almost ten years of storytelling on the website. These themes are:
- beautiful brokenness
- better together
- daily grace
- everyday leadership
- friendship on purpose
- hope in the hard
- imperfect hospitality
- intentional gratitude
- second chances
- the scared brave.
What makes a devotional Bible unique? How is it different from other kinds of Bibles?
Denise J. Hughes: I love my study Bibles, and I love my chronological Bible. But I never want to forget what it was like to try to read the Bible for the first time as a 17-year-old young woman. The Bible is a compilation of 66 books comprised of three ancient languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), with people and stories from vastly different time periods and cultures. It can be challenging for new readers to access.
A devotional Bible takes all that wonderful head-knowledge and brings it home to the heart. The stories within the devotions make God’s story of redemption personal and real, even for today’s reader. The same God, who cared for Hagar and provided for Hannah, who included Leah and heralded Lydia, cares for me, too, just like he cares for the other women who shared their stories of forgiveness and restoration.
What Bible passage was particularly challenging for you to include a devotion on and how did you handle it?
Denise J. Hughes: One of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture—especially for women—is Judges 19, where a Benjaminite’s concubine is horrifically abused and then dies. This isn’t exactly the kind of heart-warming, encouraging story we typically find in modern-day blog posts for women. But it’s vital that we not skip over the hard parts in the Bible, so I wrote a couple of devotions for the final chapters in Judges because I want to equip women with how to approach the more challenging biblical texts.
Why is this story in the Bible? How should women approach this biblical text?
Denise J. Hughes: First, it’s important to distinguish that some passages in Scripture (like the narratives) are descriptive. Other passages (like the New Testament epistles) are prescriptive. Women need to know that the story in Judges 19 is descriptive. On one level, the biblical narrative tells a story with historical accuracy, but on another level, it points to a larger narrative.
Second, to understand what’s being communicated through this text, we need to zoom out and consider the larger context. The entire book of Judges is a negative illustration of what happens when a society rejects God as its king. Ultimately, chaos and mayhem ensue. (Judges 21:25)
In the beginning of Judges, a woman named Deborah is depicted as a strong leader and a valiant warrior (Judges 4-5), but as Israel’s spiritual demise continues its downward spiral, we come to the disturbing story in Judges 19. But we can’t give up there. We must read through Judges 20-21, where the other tribes of Israel go to war against the tribe of Benjamin because of this atrocity. The first two days of battle end in defeat, but on the third day, they’re victorious. This ancient battle foreshadows the epic battle that would one day take place on the cross. For two days, defeat looked sure, but on the third day, Jesus rose in victory, overcoming darkness and death.
Individual biblical narratives point to the larger Christological narrative.
In Judges 20, God instructs the tribe of Judah to lead the battle because life without a king clearly wasn’t working for Israel, but again, this points to the day when the true King of kings would come from the tribe of Judah, and he would defeat darkness once and for all. Jesus is the reason we can cling to hope today, even in our darkest days, because Christ is our King, and we’ll soon reign with him for all eternity, in a place where there’s no more sorrow or tears. (Revelation 21:4)
What’s a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Denise J. Hughes: My favorite Bible passage is John 1:14 that says, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John was an eyewitness to the transfiguration, where the glory of Jesus shone brightly on that mountaintop (Luke 9:28-36). John also spent three years observing firsthand how Jesus always interacted with others with a heart full of grace and truth.
In everything I do, I want my thoughts, words, and deeds to be full of both grace and truth, because grace without truth isn’t really grace at all—it’s mere tolerance. Likewise, truth without grace is legalism. As people, we’re born in a broken and sinful state, and we tend to fall to one side or the other. We tend to be either a Grace Giver or a Truth Teller. I’m a Truth Teller. I think many writers are. It’s one of the main reasons we write. The truth of something is so important to us that we feel compelled to put what we believe in black and white, but I’ve been on a journey of growing in grace, too.
Only Jesus, of course, is the perfect fullness of both grace and truth, which is why we need Jesus. As followers of Christ, we’re pilgrims on this earth, journeying together to become more like him. And like our Lord, we want to interact with others with a heart full of grace and truth.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Denise J. Hughes: I’ve long been a regular visitor to the Bible Gateway website. To be able to access so many translations and cross references with the tap of a few keys is incredible. It’s helped me immensely in both my personal study and the research I’ve done for various writing assignments.
Bio: Denise J. Hughes is the general editor for the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible and the author of Deeper Waters: Immersed in the Life-Changing Truth of God’s Word. She has taught composition at Azusa Pacific University, and she is currently pursuing an MDiv at Gateway Seminary. She lives in Southern California with her husband and three children. You can connect with her at denisejhughes.com and on Instagram: @DeniseJHughes.
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