Our Daily Bread Devotional

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Fighting Life’s Dragons

Have you ever fought a dragon? If you answered, “No,” author Eugene Peterson disagrees with you. In A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, he wrote, “Dragons are projections of our fears, horrible constructions of all that might hurt us. . . . A peasant confronted by a magnificent dragon is completely outclassed.” Peterson’s point? Life is filled with dragons. The life-threatening health crisis, the sudden job loss, the failed marriage, the estranged prodigal child. These “dragons” are the supersized dangers and frailties of life that we are inadequate to fight.

But in those battles, we have a Champion. Not a fairy tale champion—the ultimate Champion who has fought on our behalf and conquered the dragons that seek to destroy us. Whether they are dragons of our own failures or the spiritual enemy who desires our destruction, our Champion is greater, allowing Paul to write of Christ, “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15). The destructive forces of this broken world are no match for Jesus. 

The moment we realize that the dragons of life are too big for us is the moment we can begin to rest in Christ’s rescue. We can confidently say, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

By |2020-10-10T09:06:05-04:00October 10th, 2020|

A Critical Reaction

Tough words hurt. So my friend—an award-winning author—struggled with how to respond to the criticism. His new book had earned 5-star reviews plus a major award. Then a respected magazine reviewer gave him a backhanded compliment, describing his book as well-written yet still criticizing it harshly. Turning to friends, he asked, “How should I reply?”

One friend advised, “Let it go.” I shared advice from writing magazines, including tips to ignore such criticism, or learn from it even while continuing to work and write.

Finally, however, I decided to seek the best advice of all. What does Scripture say about how to react to strong criticism? The book of James advises, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (1:19). The apostle Paul counsels us to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16).

An entire chapter of Proverbs, however, offers extended wisdom on reacting to disputes. “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” says Proverbs 15:1. “The one who is patient calms a quarrel” (v. 18). Also, “The one who heeds correction gains understanding” (v. 32). Considering such wisdom, may God help us hold our tongues, as my friend did. More than all, however, wisdom instructs “fear the Lord” (v. 33) because “humility comes before honor.” 

By |2020-10-09T09:06:03-04:00October 9th, 2020|

Zax Nature

In one of Dr. Seuss’s whimsical stories, he tells of a “North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax” crossing the Prairie of Prax. Upon meeting nose to nose, neither Zax will step aside. The first Zax angrily vows to stay put—even if it makes “the whole world stand still.” (Unfazed, the world moves on and builds a highway around them.)

The tale offers an uncomfortably accurate picture of human nature. We possess a reflexive “need” to be right, and we’re prone to stubbornly cling to that instinct in rather destructive ways!

Happily for us, God lovingly chooses to soften stubborn human hearts. The apostle Paul knew this, so when two members of the Philippian church were squabbling, he loved them enough to call them out (Philippians 4:2). Then, having earlier instructed the believers to have “the same mindset” of self-giving love as Christ (2:5–8), Paul asked them to “help these women,” valued coworkers with him in sharing the gospel (4:3). It seems peacemaking and wise compromise call for team effort.

Of course there are times to take a firm stand, but a Christ-like approach will look a lot different than an unyielding Zax! So many things in life are not worth fighting over. We can bicker with each other over every trivial concern until we destroy ourselves (Galatians 5:15). Or we can swallow our pride, graciously receive wise counsel, and seek unity with our brothers and sisters.

By |2020-10-08T09:06:03-04:00October 8th, 2020|

Do We Matter?

For some months now I’ve been corresponding with a young man who is thinking deeply about faith. On one occasion he wrote, “We’re no more than teeny, tiny, infinitesimal blips on the timeline of history. Do we matter?” 

Moses, Israel’s prophet, would agree: “Our days . . . quickly pass, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). The brevity of life can worry us and cause us to wonder if we matter. 

We do. We matter because we are deeply, eternally loved by the God who made us. In this poem Moses prays, “Satisfy us . . . with your unfailing love” (v. 14). We matter because we matter to God. 

We also matter because we can show God’s love to others. Though our lives are short they’re not meaningless if we leave God’s love behind. We’re not here on earth to make money and retire in style, but to “show God” to others by showing them His love. 

And finally, though life here on earth is transient, we are creatures of eternity. Because Jesus rose from the dead we will live forever. That’s what Moses meant when he assured us that God will “satisfy us in the morning with [His] unfailing love.” That “morning” we will rise to live and love and be loved forever. And if that doesn’t create meaning I don’t know what does.

By |2020-10-07T09:06:02-04:00October 7th, 2020|

You’ll See Her Again

The room was dim and silent as I pulled a chair close to Jacquie’s bed. Before a three-year battle with cancer, my friend had been a vibrant person. I could still picture her laughing—eyes full of life, her face lit with a smile. Now she was quiet and still, and I was visiting her in a special care facility.

Not knowing what to say, I decided to read some Scripture. I pulled my Bible out of my purse and turned to a reference in 1 Corinthians and began to read.

After the visit and an emotional time in the seclusion of my parked car, a thought came to mind that slowed my tears: You’ll see her again. Caught up in sadness, I had forgotten that death is only temporary for believers (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). I knew I’d see Jacquie again because both of us had trusted in Jesus’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin (vv.3-4). When Jesus came back to life after his crucifixion, death lost its ultimate power to separate believers from each other and from God. After we die, we’ll live again in heaven with God and all of our spiritual brothers and sisters—forever.

Because Jesus is alive today, Christians have hope in times of loss and sorrow. Death has been swallowed up in the victory of the cross (v. 54).

By |2020-10-06T09:05:07-04:00October 6th, 2020|

Begin with the End

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” I was often asked that question as a child. And the answers changed like the wind. A doctor. A firefighter. A missionary. A worship leader. A physicist—or actually, MacGyver!  (a favorite TV character.) .Now, as a dad of four kids, I think of how difficult that question must be for them. There are times when I want to say, “I know what you’ll be great at!” Parents can sometimes see more in their children than the children can see in themselves.

This resonates with what Paul saw in the Philippian believers—those he loved and prayed for (Philippians 1:3). He could see the end; he knew what they’d be when all was said and done. The Bible gives us a grand vision of the end of the story—resurrection and the renewal of all things (see 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 21). But it also tells us who’s writing the story.

Paul, in the opening lines of a letter he wrote from prison, reminded the Philippian church that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). Jesus started the work and He’ll complete it. The word completion is particularly important—the story doesn’t just end, for God leaves nothing unfinished.

By |2020-10-05T09:46:46-04:00October 5th, 2020|

Strange Comfort

The verse on the card Lisa received didn’t seem to match her situation: “Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). I have cancer! she thought in confusion. I’ve just lost a baby! A verse about angel soldiers does not apply.

Then the “angels” began to show up. Cancer survivors gave her their time and a listening ear. Her husband got released early from an overseas military assignment. Friends prayed with her. But the moment she most felt God’s love was when her friend Patty walked in with two boxes of tissues. Placing them on the table, she started crying. Patty knew. She’d endured miscarriages too.

“That meant more than anything,” Lisa says. “The card made sense now. My ‘angel soldiers’ had been there all along.”

When an army besieged Israel, a host of literal angels protected Elisha. But Elisha’s servant couldn’t see them. “What shall we do?” he cried to the prophet (v. 15). Elisha simply prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see” (v. 17).

When we look to God, our crisis will show us what truly matters and that we’re not alone. We learn that God’s comforting presence never leaves us. He shows us His love in infinitely surprising ways.

By |2020-10-05T09:46:08-04:00October 4th, 2020|

Removing the Intruder

It wasn’t quite dawn when my husband rose from bed and went into the kitchen. I saw the light flip on and off and wondered at his action. Then I recalled that the previous morning I’d yelped at the sight of an “intruder” on our kitchen counter. Translated: an undesirable creature of the six-legged variety. My husband knew my paranoia and immediately arrived to remove it. This morning he’d risen early to ensure our kitchen was bug-free so I could enter without concern. What a guy!

My husband awoke with me on his mind, putting my need before his own. To me, his action illustrates the love Paul describes in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Paul goes on, “Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself” (v. 28). Paul’s comparison of a husband’s love to the love of Christ pivots on how Jesus put our needs before His own. My husband is not afraid of such intruders. But he knows I am. And so he made my concern his own.

That principle doesn’t apply to husbands only. After the example of Jesus, each of us can lovingly sacrifice to help remove an intruder of stress, fear, shame, or anxiety so that someone can move more freely in the world.

By |2020-10-05T09:45:40-04:00October 3rd, 2020|

He Won’t Let Us Go

Julio was biking across the George Washington Bridge—that  busy, double-decked thoroughfare connecting New York City and New Jersey—when he encountered a life-or-death situation. A man was standing on a ledge over the Hudson River preparing to jump. Knowing that the police wouldn’t arrive in time, Julio acted quickly. He recalls getting off his bike and spreading out his arms, saying something like: “Don’t do it. We love you.” Then, like a shepherd with a crook, he grabbed the distraught man, and with the help of another passerby, brought him to safety. According to reports, Julio wouldn’t let go of the man, even after he was safe.  

Two millennia earlier, in a life-or-death situation, Jesus, the Good Shepherd said He would lay down His life to save and never let go of those who believed in Him. He summarized how He would bless His sheep: they would know Him personally, have the gift of eternal life, would never perish, and were secure in His care (John 10:28). This security didn’t depend on the ability of the frail and feeble sheep, but the sufficiency of the Shepherd who will never let one be snatched “out of [His] hand” (vv. 28–29).  

When we were distraught and feeling hopeless, Jesus rescued us. So we can feel safe and secure in our relationship with Him. He loves us, pursues us, finds us, saves us, and promises to never let us go. 

By |2020-10-05T09:45:14-04:00October 2nd, 2020|

How to Reflect Christ

Thérèse of Lisieux was a joyful and carefree child—until her mother died when she was just four years old. She became timid and easily agitated. But many years later on Christmas Eve, all of that changed. After celebrating the birth of Jesus with her church community, she experienced God releasing her from her fear and giving her joy. She attributed the change to the power of God leaving heaven and becoming a man, Jesus, and through His dwelling in her.

What does it mean for Christ to dwell within us? It’s a mystery, said Paul to the Colossian church. It’s one that God “kept hidden for ages and generations” (Colossians 1:26), but which He disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God revealed “the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (v. 27). Because Christ now dwelled in the Colossians, they experienced the joy of new life. No longer were they enslaved to the old self of sin.

If we’ve asked Jesus to be our Savior, we too live out this mystery of His dwelling in us. Through His Spirit, He can release us from fear, as He did Thérèse, and grow within us the fruit of His Spirit, such as joy, peace, and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).

As we celebrate His birth, let’s give thanks for the wonderful mystery of Christ within us.

By |2020-10-05T09:44:50-04:00October 1st, 2020|
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