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Our Daily Bread Devotional

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Our Heart’s True Home

“Bobbie the Wonder Dog” was a collie mix separated from his family while they were on a summer vacation together over 2,200 miles from home. The family searched everywhere for their beloved pet but returned heartbroken without him.

Six months later, toward the end of winter, a scraggly but determined Bobbie showed up at their door in Silverton, Oregon. Bobbie somehow made the long and dangerous trek, crossing rivers, desert, and snow-covered mountains to find his way home to those he loved.

Bobbie’s quest inspired books, movies, and a mural in his hometown. His devotion strikes a chord within, perhaps because God has placed an even deeper longing in our hearts. Ancient theologian Augustine described it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” This same longing was desperately yet eloquently expressed by David in a prayer as he hid from his pursuers in Judah’s wilderness: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

David praises God because His “love is better than life” (v. 3). Nothing compares with knowing Him! Through Jesus, God has sought us out and made the way for us to come home to His perfect love—regardless of how distant we once were. As we turn to Him, we find our hearts’ true home.

By |2022-10-04T02:33:03-04:00October 4th, 2022|

Mirror Test

“Who’s in the mirror?” the psychologists conducting the self-recognition test asked children. At eighteen months or younger, a child usually doesn’t associate herself with the image in the mirror. But as kids grow, they can understand they’re looking at themselves. Self-recognition is an important mark of healthy growth and maturation.

It’s also important to the growth of believers in Jesus. James outlines a mirror recognition test. The mirror is “the word of truth” from God (James 1:18). When we read the Scriptures, what do we see? Do we recognize ourselves when they describe love and humility? Do we see our own actions when we read what God commands us to do? When we look into our hearts and test our actions, Scripture can help us recognize if our actions are in line with what God desires for us or if we need to seek repentance and make a change.

James cautions us not to just read Scripture and turn away “and so deceive [ourselves]” (v. 22), forgetting what we’re taken in. The Bible provides us with the map to live wisely according to God’s plans. As we read them, meditate on them, and digest them, we can ask Him to give us the eyes to see into our heart and the strength and to make necessary changes.

By |2022-10-03T02:33:05-04:00October 3rd, 2022|

God’s Gentle Grace

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” the poet Emily Dickinson wrote, suggesting that, because God’s truth and glory is far “too bright” for vulnerable human beings to understand or receive all at once, it’s best for us to receive and share God’s grace and truth in “slant”—gentle, indirect—ways. For “the Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind.”

The apostle Paul made a similar argument in Ephesians 4 when he urged believers to be “completely humble and gentle” and to “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (v. 2). The foundation for believers’ gentleness and grace with each other, Paul explained, is Christ’s gracious ways with us. Clothing His glory to descend to be with us (vv. 9–10), Jesus revealed Himself in the quiet, gentle ways people needed in order to trust and receive Him.

And He continues to reveal Himself in such gentle, loving ways—gifting and empowering His people in just the ways they need to continue to grow and mature—“so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature” (vv. 12–13). As we grow, we become less vulnerable to looking elsewhere for hope (v. 14) and more confident in following Jesus’ example of gentle love (vv. 15–16).

By |2022-10-02T02:33:12-04:00October 2nd, 2022|

Look at the Fruit

“Will the real [person’s name] please stand up?” That’s the familiar line at the end of the game show To Tell the Truth. A panel of four celebrities ask questions of three individuals claiming to be the same person. Of course, two are impostors, but it’s up to the panel to discern the actual person. In one challenging episode, the celebrities tried to guess “the real Johnny Marks,” who wrote the lyrics to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The celebrities found out just how difficult it is, even with asking good questions, to figure out just who’s who. Impostors lie and finagle the truth, which makes for entertaining television.

Discerning who’s who when it comes to “false teachers” is a far cry from television game show antics, but it frequently proves to be equally as challenging and infinitely more important. The “ferocious wolves” often come to us in “sheep’s clothing,” and Jesus warns even the wise among us to “watch out” (Matthew 7:15). The best test in such cases is not so much good questions, but good eyes. Look at their fruit, for that’s how you’ll recognize them (vv. 16–20).

Scripture gives us some assistance in seeing good and bad fruit. The good looks like “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). We’ve got to pay close attention, for wolves play by deception. But as believers, who are filled with the Spirit, we serve “the real Good Shepherd,” full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

By |2022-10-01T02:33:13-04:00October 1st, 2022|

Where to Turn

Everyone in high school admired Jack’s easygoing attitude and athletic skill. He was happiest in midair above a half-pipe ramp—one hand holding his skateboard, the other stretched out for balance.

Jack decided to follow Jesus when he started attending a local church. Up to that point, he’d endured significant family struggles and had used drugs to medicate his pain. For a while after his conversion, things seemed to be going well for him. But years later he started using drugs again. Without the proper intervention and ongoing treatment, he eventually died of an overdose.

It’s easy to turn back to what is familiar when we face difficulty in life. When the Israelites felt the distress of an upcoming Assyrian attack, they crawled back to the Egyptians—their former slave masters—for help (Isaiah 30:1–5). God predicted this would be disastrous, but He continued to care for them although they made the wrong choice. Isaiah voiced God’s heart: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion” (v. 18).

This is God’s attitude toward us, even when we choose to look elsewhere to numb our pain. He wants to help us. He doesn’t want us to hurt ourselves with habits that create bondage. Certain substances and actions tempt us with a quick sense of relief, but God wants to provide authentic healing as we walk closely with Him throughout the course of our lives.

By |2022-09-30T02:33:22-04:00September 30th, 2022|

The Coffee-Bean Bowl

I’m not a coffee drinker, but one sniff of coffee beans brings me a moment of both solace and wistfulness. When our teenage daughter Melissa was making her bedroom uniquely hers, she filled a bowl with coffee beans to permeate her room with a warm, pleasant scent.

It’s been nearly two decades since Melissa’s earthly life ended in a car accident at age seventeen, but we still have that coffee-bean bowl. It gives us a continual, aromatic remembrance of Mell’s life with us.

Scripture also uses fragrances as a reminder. Song of Songs refers to fragrances as a symbol of love between a man and a woman (see 1:3; 4:11, 16). In Hosea, God’s forgiveness of Israel is said to be “fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:6). And Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet (John 12:3), which caused the house of Mary and her siblings to be “filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3), pointed ahead to Jesus’ death (see v. 7).

The idea of fragrance can also help us be mindful of our testimony of faith to those around us. Paul explained it this way: “We are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

Just as the scent of coffee beans reminds me of Melissa, may our lives produce a scent of Jesus and His love that reminds others of their need of Him.

By |2022-09-29T02:35:03-04:00September 29th, 2022|

Out of the Heart

A rescue mission nicknamed “Operation Noah’s Ark” might sound fun for animal lovers, but it was a nightmare for the Nassau Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. After receiving complaints about the noise and the horrid stench coming from a certain house, workers entered the Long Island home and found and removed more than four hundred animals from the neglected conditions.

We may not be holding hundreds of animals in filthy conditions, but Jesus said we might be harboring evil and sinful thoughts and actions in our hearts that need to be exposed and removed. 

In teaching His disciples about what makes a person clean and unclean, Jesus said it isn’t dirty hands or “whatever enters the mouth” that defiles a person, but an evil heart (Matthew 15:17–19). The stench from our hearts would eventually leak out from their lives. Then Jesus gave examples of evil thoughts and actions that come “out of the heart” (v. 19). No amount of external religious activities and rituals can make them clean. We need God to transform our hearts.

We can practice Jesus’ inside-out ethic by giving Him access to the squalor of our hearts and letting Him remove what’s causing the stench. As Christ uncovers what’s coming from our hearts, He’ll help our words and actions be aligned with His desires, and the aroma from our lives will please Him.

By |2022-09-28T02:35:05-04:00September 28th, 2022|

God’s Help for Our Future

According to psychologist Meg Jay, our minds tend to think about our future selves similarly to how we think about complete strangers. Why? It’s probably due to what’s sometimes called the “empathy gap.” It can be hard to empathize and care for people we don’t know personally—even future versions of ourselves. So in her work, Jay tries to help young people imagine their future selves and take steps to care for them. This includes working out actionable plans for who they will one day be—paving the way for them to pursue their dreams and to continue to thrive.

In Psalm 90, we’re invited to see our lives, not just in the present, but as a whole—to ask God to help us “number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Remembering that our time on earth is limited can remind us of our desperate need to rely on God. We need His help to learn how to find satisfaction and joy—not just now, but “all our days” (v. 14). We need His help to learn to think not just of ourselves, but of future generations (v. 16). And we need His help to serve Him with the time we’ve been given—as He establishes the work of our hands and hearts (v. 17).

By |2022-09-27T02:33:12-04:00September 27th, 2022|

The Miracle of Salvation

Blogger Kevin Lynn’s life seemed to be falling apart. In a recent article he recounted, “I actually put a gun to my head . . . . It took for God to supernaturally step into my room and my life. And at that moment, I really found what I know is God now.” God intervened in Lynn’s life, preventing him from taking his life. He filled him with conviction and gave him an overwhelming reminder of His loving presence. Instead of hiding this powerful encounter, Lynn shared his experience with the world, creating a YouTube ministry where he shares his own transformation story as well as the stories of others.

When Jesus’ follower and friend Lazarus died, many assumed that all was lost and that Jesus was too late (John 11:32). Lazarus had been in his tomb for four days before Jesus arrived, but He turned this moment of anguish into a miracle when He raised him from the dead (v. 38). “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you’ll see the glory of God?” He declared (v. 40).

Just as Jesus raised Lazarus from death to life, He offers us new life through Him. By sacrificing His life on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sins and offers us forgiveness when we accept His gift of grace. We’re freed from the bondage of our sins, renewed by His everlasting love, and given the opportunity to change the course of our lives.

By |2022-09-26T02:35:06-04:00September 26th, 2022|

Choose Wisely

Astronaut Chris Ferguson made a difficult decision as the commander of the flight crew scheduled for a journey to the International Space Station. But that decision didn’t have anything to do with the mechanics of flight or the safety of his fellow astronauts. Instead, it pertained to what he considers his most important work: his family. Ferguson opted to keep his feet planted firmly on Earth in order to be present for his daughter’s wedding.

We all face difficult decisions at times—decisions that cause us to evaluate what matters most to us in life, because one option comes at the expense of the other. Jesus aimed to communicate this truth to His disciples and a crowd of onlookers regarding life’s most important decision—to follow Him. To be a disciple, He said, would require them to “deny themselves” in order to walk with Him (Mark 8:34). They might have been tempted to spare themselves the sacrifices required of following Christ and instead seek their own desires, but He reminded them it would come at the price of that which matters much more. 

We’re often tempted to pursue things that seem of great value, yet they distract us from following Jesus. Let’s ask God to guide us in the choices we face each day so we’ll choose wisely and honor Him.

By |2022-09-25T02:33:16-04:00September 25th, 2022|
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