Our Daily Bread Devotional

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Quarantined by Fear

In 2020 an outbreak of the coronavirus left the world in fear. People were quarantined, countries were put under lockdown, flights and large events were canceled. Those living in areas with no known cases still feared they might get the virus. Graham Davey, an expert on anxiety, believes that negative news broadcasts are “likely to make you sadder and more anxious.” A meme that’s been circulating on social media shows a man watching the news on TV and asking how to stop worrying. In response, another person in the room reached over and flipped off the TV, suggesting that the answer might be a shift in focus!

Luke 12 gives us some advice to help us stop worrying: “Seek His kingdom” (v. 31). We seek God’s kingdom when we focus on the promise that His followers have an inheritance in heaven. When we face difficulty, we can shift our focus and remember that God sees us and knows what our needs are (vv. 24–30).

Jesus encourages His disciples, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). God enjoys blessing us! Let’s worship Him, knowing He cares for us more than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (vv. 22–29). Even in these difficult times, we can read the Scriptures, pray for God’s peace, and trust in our good and faithful God.

By |2021-04-18T09:06:10-04:00April 19th, 2021|

Hard Ground and Tender Mercy

When James was just six years old, his older brother David died tragically in an ice-skating accident. It was the day before David’s fourteenth birthday. In the years that followed, James tried his best to console his mother, Margaret, who in her deep grief sometimes reminded herself that her elder son would never have to face the challenges of growing up. In James Barrie’s fertile imagination, decades later that same idea would burgeon into inspiration for a much-loved children’s story character who never aged: Peter Pan. Like a flower pushing its way through pavement, good emerged even from the hard ground of unthinkable heartache.

How comforting is the thought that God, in an infinitely more creative way, is able to bring good out of our most difficult circumstances. A beautiful illustration of this occurs in the Old Testament story of Ruth. Naomi lost her two sons, leaving her without means or support. Her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth chose to remain with Naomi to help provide for her and to serve her God (Ruth 1:16). In the end, God’s provision brought them unexpected joy. Ruth remarried and had a child, “and they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4:17). He would also be listed among the ancestors of Jesus (Matthew 1:5).

God’s tender mercy reaches beyond our ability to fathom and meets us in surprising places. Keep looking! Perhaps you will see it today.

By |2021-04-18T09:06:10-04:00April 18th, 2021|

Windows

Near the foothills of the Himalayas, a visitor noticed a row of houses without windows. His guide explained that some of the villagers feared that demons might sneak into their homes while they slept, so they built impermeable walls. You could tell when a homeowner began to follow Jesus, because he put in windows to let in the light.

A similar dynamic may take place in us, though we might not see it quite that way. We live in scary, polarizing times. Satan and his demons instigate angry divisions that split families and friends. I often feel like hiding behind my walls. Jesus wants me to cut in a window.

Israel sought refuge in higher walls, but God said their security lay with Him. He reigns from heaven, and His word governs all (Isaiah 55:10–11). If Israel would return to Him, God would “have mercy on them” (v. 7) and restore them as His people to bless the world (Genesis 12:1–3). He would lift them up, ultimately leading them in triumphal parade as all creation breaks into applause. Their celebration “will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever” (Isaiah 55:13).

Sometimes walls are necessary. Walls with windows are best. They show the world that we trust God for the future. Our fears are real. Our God is greater. Windows open us to Jesus—“the light of the world” (John 8:12)—and to others who need Him.

By |2021-04-16T09:06:07-04:00April 17th, 2021|

Extending Mercy

Reflecting on how she forgave Manasseh, the man who killed her husband and some of her children in the Rwandan genocide, Beata said, “My forgiving is based on what Jesus did. He took the punishment for every evil act throughout all time. His cross is the place we find victory—the only place!” Manasseh had written to Beata from prison more than once, begging her—and God—for forgiveness as he detailed the regular nightmares that plagued him. At first she could extend no mercy, saying she hated him for killing her family. But then “Jesus intruded into her thoughts,” and with God’s help, some two years later, she forgave him.

In this, Beata followed Jesus’ instruction to His disciples to forgive those who repent. He said that even if they “sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Luke 17:4). But to forgive can be extremely difficult, as we see by the disciples’ reaction: “Increase our faith!” (v. 5).

Beata’s faith increased as she wrestled in prayer over her inability to forgive. If like her we’re struggling to forgive, we can ask God through His Holy Spirit to help us to do so when someone truly repents. As our faith increases, He helps us to forgive.

By |2021-04-16T09:06:07-04:00April 16th, 2021|

The Baggage Activity

Karen, a middle school teacher, created an activity to teach her students how to better understand one another. In “The Baggage Activity” students wrote down some of the emotional weights they were carrying. The notes were shared anonymously, giving the students insight into each other’s hardships, often with tearful response from their peers. The classroom has since been filled with a deeper sense of mutual respect amongst the teens, who now have a greater sense of empathy for one another.

Throughout the Bible, God has nudged His people to treat one another with dignity and show empathy in their interaction with others (Romans 12:15). As early in the history of Israel as the book of Leviticus, God pointed the Israelites toward empathy—especially in their dealings with foreigners. He said to “love them as [themselves]” because they too had been foreigners in Egypt and knew that hardship intimately (Leviticus 19:34). 

Sometimes the burdens we carry make us feel like foreigners—alone and misunderstood—even among our peers. We don’t always have a similar experience to draw on as the Israelites did with the foreigners among them. Yet we can always treat those God puts in our paths with the respect and understanding that we, ourselves, desire. Whether a modern-day middle schooler, an Israelite, or anything in between, we honor God when we do.

By |2021-04-15T09:06:05-04:00April 15th, 2021|

Live Like It’s Morning

When I have to travel across time zones by air, I try various remedies to avoid jet lag. I think I’ve tried them all! On one occasion, I decided to adjust my in-flight eating to the time zone where I was heading. Instead of eating dinner with the rest of the passengers, I kept watching a movie and tried to fall asleep. The hours of elective fasting were difficult and the breakfast that came right before we landed left much to be desired. But living “out of sorts” with those around me worked. It jolted my body clock into a new time zone.

Paul knew that if believers in Jesus were to truly reflect Him in their lives, they would need to live out of step with the world around them. They “were once darkness” but now they were to live as “children of light” (Ephesians 5: 8). And what might that look like? Paul goes on to fill out the picture: “The fruit of the light consists in all goodness, justice, and truth” (v. 9).

Sleeping through dinner may have seemed foolish to the people on my flight, but even as it’s midnight in the world, as believers, we’re called to live like it’s morning. This may provoke scorn and opposition, but in Jesus we can “walk in the way of love,” following the example of the One who “love[s] us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (v. 2).

By |2021-04-14T09:06:04-04:00April 14th, 2021|

The Frosting of Faith

Hand in hand, my grandson and I skipped across the parking lot to find a special back-to-school outfit. A preschooler now, he was excited about everything, and I was determined to ignite his happiness into joy. I’d just seen a coffee mug with the inscription, “Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting.” Frosting equals fun, glitter, joy! My job description as his grandma, right?

That . . . and more. In his second letter to his spiritual son Timothy, Paul calls out his sincere faith—and then credits its lineage both to Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). These women lived out their faith in such a way that Timothy also came to believe in Jesus. Surely, Lois and Eunice loved Timothy and provided for his needs but clearly, they did more. Paul points to the faith living in them as the source of the faith later living in Timothy. 

My job as a grandmother includes the “frosting” moment of a back-to-school outfit. But even more, I’m called to the frosting moments when I share my faith. Bowing our heads over chicken nuggets. Noticing angelic cloud formations in the sky as God’s works of art. Chirping along with a song about Jesus on the radio. Let’s be wooed by the example of moms and grandmas like Lois and Eunice to let our faith become the frosting in life so others will want what we have.

By |2021-04-13T09:06:04-04:00April 13th, 2021|

Serving the Least

His name is Spencer. But everybody calls him “Spence.” He was a state track champion in high school; then he went on to attend a prestigious university on a full academic scholarship. He lives now in one of America’s largest cities and is highly respected in the field of chemical engineering. But if you were to ask Spence his greatest achievements to date, he wouldn’t mention any of those things. He would excitedly tell you about the trips he makes to Nicaragua every few months to check in on the kids and teachers in the tutoring program he helped establish in one of the poorest areas of the country. And he’d tell you how enriched his life has been by serving them.

“The least of these.” It is a phrase people use in a variety of ways, yet Jesus used it to describe those who, according to the world’s standards, have little or nothing to offer you in return for our service. They are the men and women and children the world often overlooks—if not forgets completely. Yet it is exactly those people Jesus elevates to such a beautiful status by saying “whatever you did” for them, “you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) You don’t have to have a degree from a prestigious university to understand Jesus’s meaning: Serving “the least” is the same as serving Him. All it really takes is a willing heart.

By |2021-04-12T09:06:03-04:00April 12th, 2021|

Imperfect Plans

I was exploring a library on the bottom floor of a new community center when an overhead crash suddenly shook the room. A few minutes later it happened again, and then again. An agitated librarian finally explained that a weight-lifting area was positioned directly above the library, and the noise occurred every time someone dropped a weight. Architects and designers had carefully planned many aspects of this state-of-the-art facility, yet someone had forgotten to locate the library away from all the action.

In life as well, our plans are often flawed. We overlook important considerations. Our plans don’t always account for accidents or surprises. Although planning helps us avoid financial shortfalls, time crunches, and health issues, even the most thorough strategies can’t eliminate all problems from our lives. We live in a post-Eden world.

With God’s help, we can find the balance between prudently considering the future (Proverbs 6:6–8) and responding to difficulties. God often has a purpose for the trouble He allows into our lives. He may use it to develop patience in us, to increase our faith, or simply to bring us closer to Him. The Bible reminds us, “Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). As we submit our goals and hopes for the future to Jesus, He’ll show us what He wants to accomplish in us and through us.

By |2021-04-11T09:06:06-04:00April 11th, 2021|

Finding Joy in Praise

When the famous British writer C. S. Lewis first gave his life to Christ, he initially resisted praising God. In fact, he called it “a stumbling block.” His struggle was “in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it.” Yet Lewis finally realized “it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence” to His people. Then we, “in perfect love with God,” find joy in Him no more separable “than the brightness a mirror receives” from the “brightness it sheds.”

The prophet Habakkuk arrived at this conclusion centuries earlier. After complaining to God about evils aimed at the people of Judah, Habakkuk came to see that praising God leads to joy—not in what God does, but in who He is. Thus, even in a national or world crisis, God is still great. As the prophet declared: 

“Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (Habakkuk 3:17–18).


“I will be joyful in God my Savior,” he added.  As C. S. Lewis also realized, “The whole world rings with praise.” Habakkuk, likewise, surrendered to praising God always, finding rich joy in the One who “marches on forever” (v. 6).

 

By |2021-04-10T09:06:08-04:00April 10th, 2021|
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