Our Daily Bread Devotional

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What’s Your Song?

Most Americans knew little about Alexander Hamilton. Until 2015, when Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote his hit musical Hamilton. Now schoolchildren know Hamilton’s story by heart. They sing it to each other on the bus and at recess. He’s their favorite founding father.

God knows the power of music, and He told Moses to “write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it” (Deuteronomy 31:19). God knew that long after Moses was gone, when He had brought Israel into the Promised Land, they would rebel and worship other gods. So He told Moses, “This song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants” (v. 21).

Songs are nearly impossible to forget, so it’s wise to be selective about what we sing. Some songs are just for fun, and that’s fine, but we benefit from songs that boast in Jesus and encourage our faith. One of the ways we “[make] the most of every opportunity” is when we speak “to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.” So “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (see Ephesians 5:15–19).

Songs can be an indicator of the direction of our heart. Do the words make much of Jesus? Do we sing them whole-heartedly? What we sing will influence what we believe, so choose wisely and sing loudly. What’s your song?

By |2021-01-13T08:06:02-05:00January 13th, 2021|

Breaking the Cycle

David’s first beating came at the hands of his father on his seventh birthday, after he accidentally broke a window. “He kicked me and punched me,” David said. “Afterward, he apologized. He was an abusive alcoholic, and it’s a cycle I’m doing my best to end now.” 

But it took a long time for David to get to this point. Most of his teen years and twenties were spent in jail or on probation, and in and out of addiction treatment centers. When it felt like his dreams were entirely dashed, he found hope in a Christ-centered treatment center through a relationship with Him. 

“I used to be filled with nothing but despair,” David says. “Now I’m pushing myself in the other direction. When I get up in the morning, the first thing I tell God is that I’m surrendering my will over to Him.” 

When we come to God with lives shattered, whether by others’ wrongdoing or by our own, God takes our broken hearts and makes us new: “If anyone is in Christ, . . . the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christ’s love and life breaks into the cycles of our past, giving us a new future (vv. 14–15). And it doesn’t end there! Throughout our lives, we can find hope and strength in what God has done and continues to do in us—each and every moment.

 

By |2021-01-12T08:06:08-05:00January 12th, 2021|

Lift Up Your Eyes

The clouds hung low, blocking the horizon and limiting visibility to only a few hundred yards. The minutes dragged on. The effect on my mood was noticeable. But then, as afternoon approached, the clouds began to break, and I saw it: beautiful Pikes Peak, the most recognizable landmark of my city, flanked on each side by the mountain range. A smile broke over my face. I considered that even our physical perspective—our literal line of sight—can affect our spiritual vision. And I was reminded of the psalmist singing, “I lift my eyes to the mountains” (Psalm 121:1). Sometimes we simply need to lift our eyes a bit higher!

The psalmist pondered where his help came from, maybe because the hilltops around Israel were dotted with altars to pagan gods and often contained robbers. Or it could have been because the psalmist looked up beyond the hills to Mount Zion where the Temple stood, and remembered that the Maker of Heaven and Earth was his covenant God (v. 2). Either way, to worship we must look up. We have to lift our eyes higher than our circumstances, higher than our troubles and trials, higher than the empty promises of the false gods of our day. Then we can see the Creator and Redeemer, the One who calls us by name. He’s the one who will “watch over your coming and going” today and forevermore (v. 8).

By |2021-01-11T08:06:06-05:00January 11th, 2021|

Paper Crowns

After a holiday meal at my house, everyone opened party favors filled with candy, small toys, and confetti. But there was something else in the favors—a paper crown for each of us. We couldn’t resist trying them on, and we smiled at each other as we sat around the table. For just a moment, we were kings and queens, even if our kingdom was a dining room littered with the remnants of our dinner.

This sparked a memory of a Bible promise I don’t often think about. In the next life, all believers will share ruling authority with Christ. Paul mentions this in 1 Corinthians 6 where He asks, “Do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world?” (v. 2). Paul referenced this future privilege because he wanted to inspire believers to settle disputes peacefully on earth. They had been suing each and consequently harming the reputation of other believers in their community.

We become better at resolving conflict as the Holy Spirit produces self-control, gentleness, and patience within us. By the time Jesus returns to the earth and completes the Spirit’s work in our lives (1 John 3:2–3), we’ll be ready for our eventual role as “a kingdom and priests to serve our God and . . . reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:10). Let’s hold on to this promise that glitters in Scripture like a diamond set in a crown of gold.

 

By |2021-01-10T08:06:04-05:00January 10th, 2021|

Dig It Up

When Rebecca’s brother and sister-in-law started having marriage problems, Rebecca prayed earnestly for their reconciliation. But they divorced. Then her sister-in-law took the children out of state and their dad didn’t protest. Rebecca never again saw the nieces she dearly loved. Years later she said, “Because of trying to handle this sadness on my own, I let a root of bitterness start in my heart, and it began to spread to my family and friends.”

The book of Ruth tells about a woman named Naomi who struggled with a heart of grief that grew into bitterness. Her husband died in a foreign land, and ten years later both her sons died. She was left destitute with her daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah  (1:3–5). When Naomi and Ruth returned to Naomi’s home country, the whole town was excited to see them. But Naomi told her friends: “The Almighty has made my life very bitter. . . . The Lord has afflicted me” (vv.  20–21). She even asked them to call her “Mara,” meaning bitter. 

Who hasn’t faced disappointment and been tempted toward bitterness? Maybe even on a daily basis! Someone says something hurtful, an expectation isn’t met, or demands from others make us resentful. When we acknowledge to ourselves and God what’s happening deep in our hearts, our tender Gardener can help us dig up any roots of bitterness—whether they’re still small or have been growing for years—and can replace them with a sweet, joyful spirit.

By |2021-01-09T08:06:09-05:00January 9th, 2021|

God of the Invisible

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m invisible. But I so want God to use me.”

 Ann was tidying up the exercise room at the hotel I was visiting when we struck up a conversation. As we talked, I discovered she had an amazing story.

 “I used to be a crack addict and prostitute living on the streets,” she said. “But I knew God wanted me to put down my pipe and walk with Him. One day years ago I knelt at Jesus’s feet, and He set me free.”

 I thanked Ann for sharing what the Lord had done for her and assured her she wasn’t invisible—God had used her in our conversation in a beautiful way to remind me of His power to transform lives.

God loves to use people others might overlook. The apostle Andrew isn’t as well-known as his brother Peter, but the Bible recounts that “the first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon [Peter] and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’. . . . And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:41–42).

Peter met Jesus through Andrew. When Andrew, one of John the Baptist’s disciples, learned about Jesus from John, he followed Jesus and believed—and immediately told his brother. Andrew’s quiet faithfulness had an impact that would shake the world.

God values faithful service over fame. He can use us powerfully wherever we are—even when no one is looking.

By |2021-01-08T08:06:10-05:00January 8th, 2021|

Sound the Trumpets

“Taps” is a trumpet call played by the US military at the end of the day as well as at funerals. I was amazed when I read the unofficial lyrics and discovered that many of the verses end with the phrase “God is nigh” (God is near). Both before the dark of each night settles in or while mourning the loss of a loved one, the lyrics offer soldiers the beautiful assurance that God is near.

In the Old Testament, sounding trumpets was also a reminder, to the Israelites, that God was near. In the middle of celebrating the feasts and festivals that were part of the covenant agreement between God and the nation of Israel, the Jews were to “sound the trumpets” (Numbers 10:10). And blowing a trumpet was a reminder, not only that God was near but that He was also available when they needed Him most and longed to help them.

Today, we still need reminders that God is near. And in our own style of worship, we too can call out to God in prayer and song. Perhaps our prayers can be thought of as trumpets asking God to help us. And the beautiful encouragement is that God always hears those calls (1 Peter 3:12). To each of our pleas, He responds with the assurance of His presence that strengthens and comforts us in the difficulties and sorrows of life.

By |2021-01-07T08:06:02-05:00January 7th, 2021|

Depths of Love

Three-year-old Dylan McCoy had just learned to swim when he fell through a rotted plywood covering into a forty-foot deep, stone-walled well in his grandfather’s backyard. Dylan managed to stay afloat in ten feet of water until his father climbed down the slippery rocks to rescue him. Firefighters brought ropes to raise the boy but the father was so worried about his son that he hastily climbed down to make sure he was safe.

Oh, the love of a parent! Oh, the lengths (and depths) we will go for our children!

When the apostle John writes to believers in the early church who were struggling to find footing for their faith as false teaching swirled about them, he extends these words like a life-preserver: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). Naming the followers of Jesus as “children” of God was an intimate and legal labeling that brought validity to all who follow Jesus.

Oh, the lengths and depths God will go for His children!  

There are actions a parent will take only for their child—like Dylan’s dad descending into a well to save his son. And like the ultimate act of our heavenly Father, who sent His only Son to gather us close to His heart and restore us to life with Him (vv. 5–6).

By |2021-01-06T08:06:09-05:00January 6th, 2021|

A Ripening Process

Early in his fifty-year ministry in Cambridge, England, Charles Simeon (1759–1836) met a neighboring pastor, Henry Venn, and his daughters. After the visit, the daughters remarked how harsh and self-assertive the young man seemed. In response, Venn asked his daughters to pick a peach from the trees. When they wondered why their father would want the unripe fruit, he responded, “Well, my dears, it is green now, and we must wait; but a little more sun, and a few more showers, and the peach will be ripe and sweet. So it is with Mr. Simeon.”

Over the years Simeon did soften through God’s transforming grace. One reason was his commitment to read the Bible and pray every day. A friend who stayed with him for a few months witnessed this practice and remarked, “Here was the secret of his great grace and spiritual strength.”

Simeon in his daily time with God followed the prophet Jeremiah, who faithfully listened for God’s words. Jeremiah depended on them so much that he said, “When your words came, I ate them.” He mulled and chewed over God’s words, which were his “joy and heart’s delight” (Jeremiah 15:16).

If we too resemble a sour green fruit, we can trust that God will help to soften us through His Spirit as we get to know Him through reading and obeying the Scriptures.

By |2021-01-05T11:15:51-05:00January 5th, 2021|

A Lifestyle of Worship

As I waited in the breakfast buffet line at a Christian conference center, a group of women entered the dining hall. I smiled, saying hello to a woman who stepped into the line behind me. Returning my greeting, she said, “I know you.” We scooped scrambled eggs onto our plates and tried to figure out where we’d met. I was pretty sure we had a case of mistaken identity though.

When we returned for lunch, the woman approached me. “Do you drive a white car?”

I shrugged. “I used to. A few years ago.”

She laughed. “We stopped at the same traffic light by the elementary school almost every morning,” she said. “You’d always be lifting your hands, singing joyfully. I thought you were worshiping God. That made me want to join in, even on tough days.”

Praising the Lord, we prayed together, hugged, and enjoyed lunch.

My new friend affirmed that people notice how Jesus’s followers behave, even when we think no one is watching. As we embrace a lifestyle of joyful worship, we can come before our Creator anytime and anywhere. Acknowledging His enduring love and faithfulness, we can enjoy intimate communion with Him and thank Him for His ongoing care (Psalm 100:1-5). Whether we’re singing praises in our cars, praying in public, or spreading God’s love through kind acts, we can inspire others to praise Him. Worshiping God is more than a Sunday morning event.

 

By |2021-01-04T08:06:05-05:00January 4th, 2021|
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