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Author Naomi Reed talks about her book A Time to Hope

Author Naomi Reed talks about her book A Time to Hope
Why did you decide to write A Time to Hope?

Twelve years ago, I read the Bible all the way through, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. It was wonderful! I loved seeing all the connections. The Bible is God’s vast, sweeping story about his plan for his world. And in the Bible, we see his character – his goodness and faithfulness and justice and patience and plan, through the Lord Jesus. I found it so helpful to read the Bible quickly, as a single narrative, and notice all of it pointing to Jesus. So, then I thought it would be great to be able to capture the sweep of the Bible in an easy-to-read devotional book. I wanted other people to have that same experience of being immersed in the Biblical text and to read it at a pace that allowed them to see all the connections and wonder.

Who have you written this book for?

A Time to Hope is written for anyone (any age, any gender, anywhere in the world) who would enjoy reading daily devotions through the Bible, in a consistent manner, from Genesis to Revelation. It is an acknowledgement that most of us would like to read the Bible more, but we find it hard. It is deliberately written in a warm, easy-to-read style. It is not too heavy. It is not a Bible commentary. It’s a devotional book that covers all the major themes and events in the Bible. It is full of hope. It points us back to God’s Word and God’s character and God’s promises in Jesus. We all need that. It is also particularly written for those who haven’t yet read the Bible from beginning to end, or who haven’t had the opportunity to study the Bible in depth at Bible College.

Why did you choose this title?

The thing that is most striking throughout the Bible is the thread of hope. God is sovereign and good and in control. He is not surprised. He is bringing about his plan for the world, through his Son, the Lord Jesus. Even when things seem dark, or hopeless, God will bring about his plan. He will keep drawing people to himself, in Christ. At this time in history, we need that reminder, more than ever. We know the end of the story! We can trust God. And because of God’s character and trustworthiness, it means that every day is a time for hope, because we know the God of hope. Every day we can also make time for hope, by immersing ourselves in God’s Word. We can be reminded of his perspective. And in doing so, we will find hope within our daily struggles, and we will persevere, even through hardship and unexpected surprises.

What makes this book different from other devotions?

Most other devotional books seem to be structured around themes or ideas, using Bible verses in support of those themes. A Time to Hope is unique in that the 365 daily devotions work systematically through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, and they cover every book and theme in the Bible. God’s Word is an ancient, complex text, so it is important to stop and consider who is speaking to whom, and when and why. It is really helpful to read it in order! How does that small verse fit within the whole of sweep Scripture? We need to remember that this is God’s long story, rather than treating it as a self-help manual, or reducing it to being all about us. I also think that in society, nowadays, we tend to be time poor and scattered, so our tendency is to reduce complex ideas and concepts to tiny memes or slogans or quotes. In doing so, we can miss the context of God’s plan throughout history. A Time to Hope reminds us of the weight of God’s long story, and our need for Jesus, to redeem and transform.   

What was the most challenging element of writing the book?

The actual writing process was long and demanding. It was a wonderful privilege to read the Bible all day, all year, but it was also really hard work. I would get up in the morning at 7am and go straight to my desk with a cup of tea. I would then spend the next 8-10 hours, every day, solidly reading the Bible and writing and praying, in between grabbing food for sustenance! I also read other notes and Bible commentaries, and I thought and prayed. But even more than the hours I spent reading the Bible, I needed to let the Bible ‘read me.’ I needed to let God speak to me deeply and to challenge me through his Word. If I did not do that, how could I write anything that would help anybody else?

It was the most intense time I’ve ever had, spiritually. It felt like God was deeply at work in me, convicting me of sin, and my need to trust him. During the year, I felt exhausted spiritually. It was as if I was at the gym, 8 hours a day, except it was spiritual exhaustion, not physical. But I was also immensely privileged. When I got to the end, and wrote the very last devotion on Revelation 22, I leaned back in my chair, and I cried. I felt so overcome with thankfulness to God, for his enabling … but even more so, thankful for his grand story of love and grace, and his incredible promise of what is still to come, through Christ.

And what was the most rewarding element of writing this book?

It was amazing to be able to read the Bible, 8 hours a day, for a whole year! I realise that I may never get that opportunity and time again. It was almost like I was doing an experiment on myself. Does being immersed in the Bible for 8 hours a day, every day, all year, actually change you? The answer is … yes! I saw so much change in myself during that year. My perspective shifted. Whenever challenges occurred in my life (which they frequently did), my first thought was to see them through the lens of God’s long story. That was not my normal response, during previous years! In previous years, I would find myself ruminating or feeling swamped. But being immersed in the Bible, in God’s vast, sweeping plan, really did help me to lift up my gaze to his reality and story, within my daily struggles.   

Your previous books have been about your life as a missionary in Nepal. How have you found writing a devotional differed from writing your story?

Writing a devotional book is very different to writing my life story. I needed to hold to Biblical truth with extreme care and caution. I needed to allow much more time for research and reading other Biblical scholars. In contrast, writing about our years in Nepal often felt very cathartic. The stories just flowed out. But I also felt very upheld by God, writing this devotional book. I knew that I needed to cover every book of the Bible and every theme, but I did not plan ahead regarding the 365 devotions. I just went through the Biblical text and focused on each important verse and section as they came up. And then I happened to arrive at the end of Malachi (at the end of the Old Testament) at exactly 182. It was exactly halfway, without me even planning it! And then the same thing happened when I got to the end of Revelation. It was exactly 365. I felt God at work, in an incredibly enabling way, as I wrote each day.  

What do you think being a missionary in another culture has brought to your understanding of the Bible for A Time to Hope?

Serving for six years in Nepal changed me. It helped me to read the Bible through different eyes and within a different language and worldview. It helped me to see how limited my own experiences and understanding of God had been. So, in A Time to Hope, I drew from those experiences. I kept in mind our Nepali friends at the leprosy hospital, or at our local church in Dhulikhel, or those who could not afford to buy rice, as well as remembering our friends and our years in Australia. I know what it is like to live with hopelessness, through civil war and poverty and revolutions, as well as within comfort and the more subtle issues of western society, so I drew from all those experiences, as I illustrated and applied the devotions.

Have you learnt anything new/ been reminded afresh about your own personal journey with God while writing this book?

I have fallen in love with Jesus again – his humility, his upside-down grace and mercy, his forthrightness to those who thought they knew better, his utter holiness, and the way he shows us what God is actually like … and then incredibly, Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, his victory over every burden, and sin and death, and his offer of life and complete restoration.  It is all amazing! I think as a follower of Jesus, I am daily stunned by the Gospel. I long to share it with others, but it is so vast and wonderful, that I often feel like I can’t capture it well, or I worry that I will make the Gospel too small. And it isn’t small at all! So, this is my attempt of pointing to the truth and beauty and goodness of Jesus.

What is your favourite Bible verse/ book and why?

I love John 21:12, “Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’” It is such a warm and thoughtful invitation. It is Jesus’ words to his tired, overwhelmed disciples, after the resurrection, and after they had gone back to fishing. Jesus’ disciples were exhausted and struggling. But Jesus knew what they needed. He provided for them, and it was not a great banquet. It was ordinary breakfast – some pieces of fish by a coal fire… and then Jesus spoke to Peter in verses 15-22. Jesus commissioned Peter, offering him restoration and a whole new purpose. I think that is what Jesus does for each of us, in different ways, as we respond to the Gospel. Jesus invitation is warm and thoughtful. He restores us, and he sends us out to serve him, and to love the world, in a myriad of different ways.

And it’s amazing to read the book of Acts, too, to actually see how God’s plan for the world and his heart for the nations, took on glorious shape after Jesus ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit. The witness was immediate! And so was the persecution. But somehow, amidst the persecution, the news of the risen Lord Jesus spread to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. People responded and the church was established and strengthened. God’s saving and restorative purposes were so clearly seen then, and they still are today, and they will be tomorrow … until Jesus comes again in glory!

What do you hope readers will most get out of reading this book?

I hope they will be drawn back to the plan and promises of God, through the Lord Jesus, in a wonderful, life-changing way. I hope they will profoundly know the deep hope we share in Christ.

In summary, how would you describe A Time to Hope?

A Time to Hope is a daily devotional book that draws people back to the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reminding the reader of God’s long story and ongoing plans and purposes in Christ. It’s a profound, immersive experience of reading the Bible, and letting the Bible read us.

Is there anything we can pray for you?

I’d love prayer that I would continue to stay close to the Lord Jesus, reading his Word, listening to his voice, loving the people he puts in front of me (including my family!) … and discerning the next writing project. 

Also available by Naomi Reed:

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