Our Daily Bread Devotional

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Love Reins Us In

Most young Samoan boys receive a tattoo signaling their responsibility to their people and their chief. Naturally, then, the marks cover the arms of the Samoan men’s rugby team members. Traveling to Japan where tattoos can carry negative connotations, the teammates realized their symbols presented a problem for their hosts. In a generous act of friendship, the Samoans wore skin-colored sleeves covering the designs. “We’re respectful and mindful to . . . the Japanese way,” the team captain explained. “We’ll be making sure that what we’re showing will be okay.”

In an age emphasizing individual expression, it’s remarkable to encounter self-limitation—a concept Paul wrote about in the book of Romans. He told us that love sometimes requires us to lay down our rights for others. Rather than pushing our freedom to the boundaries, sometimes love reins us in. The apostle explained how some in the church believed they were free “to eat anything,” but others ate “only vegetables” (Romans 14:2) While this might seem like a minor issue, in the first century, adherence to Old Testament dietary laws was controversial. Paul instructed everyone to “stop passing judgment on one another” (v. 13), before concluding with particular words for those who ate freely. “It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall” (v. 21).

At times, loving another means limiting our own freedoms. We don’t have to always do everything we’re free to do. Sometimes love reins us in.

By |2021-04-09T14:48:35-04:00April 8th, 2021|

Through Thick and Thin

On January 28, 1986, the US Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart seventy-three seconds after takeoff. In a speech of comfort to the nation, President Reagan quoted from the poem “High Flight” in which John Gillespie Magee, a World War II pilot, had written of “the high untrespassed sanctity of space” and the sense of putting out his hand to touch “the face of God.” 

Although we can’t literally touch God’s face, we sometimes experience a stunning sunset or a place of meditation in nature that gives us an overwhelming sense that He’s near. Some people call these moments “thin places.” The barrier separating heaven and earth seems to grow a little thinner. God feels a little closer. 

The Israelites may have experienced a “thin place” as they sensed the nearness of God in the desert wilderness. God provided a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to lead them through the desert (Exodus 40:34–38). When they were staying in the camp, “the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (v. 35). Throughout all their travels, they knew God was with them. 

As we enjoy the incredible beauty of God’s creation, we grow conscious that God is present everywhere. As we talk with Him in prayer, listen to Him, and read the Scriptures, we can enjoy fellowship with Him anytime and anywhere.

By |2021-04-09T14:47:37-04:00April 7th, 2021|

Companions in Christ

The Harvard Study of Adult Development is a decades-long project that’s resulted in a greater understanding of the importance of healthy relationships. The research began with a group of 268 sophomores at Harvard University in the 1930s and later expanded to, among others, 456 Boston inner-city residents. Researchers have conducted interviews with the participants and pored over their medical records every few years. What they’ve discovered is that close relationships are the biggest factor in predicting happiness and health. It turns out that if we surround ourselves with the right people, we’ll likely experience a deeper sense of joy.

This appears to reflect what the apostle Paul is describing in Philippians 1. Writing from prison, Paul can’t help but tell his friends that he thanks God for them every time he remembers them, praying “with joy” (v. 4). But these aren’t just any friends; these are brothers and sisters in Jesus who “share in God’s grace,” partners in the gospel with Paul (v. 7). Their relationship was one of sharing and mutuality—a true fellowship shaped by God’s love and the gospel itself.

Yes, friends are important, but fellow companions in Christ are catalysts of a true and deep joy. The grace of God can bind us together like nothing else. And even through the darkest seasons of life, the joy that comes from that bond will last.

By |2021-04-09T14:47:07-04:00April 6th, 2021|

Anchored in Truth

My family lives in a nearly century-old house with a lot of character, including wonderfully textured plaster walls. A builder cautioned me that with these walls, to hang a picture up I’d have to either drill the nail into a wood support or use a plaster anchor for support. Otherwise, I’d risk the picture crashing to the ground, leaving an ugly hole behind.

The prophet Isaiah used the imagery of a nail driven firmly into a wall to describe a minor biblical character named Eliakim. Unlike the corrupt official Shebna (vv. 15–19), as well as the people of Israel—who looked to themselves for strength (vv. 8–11)—Eliakim trusted in God (v. 20). Prophesying Eliakim’s promotion to palace administrator for King Hezekiah, Isaiah wrote that Eliakim would be driven like a “peg into a firm place” (v. 23). Being securely anchored in God’s truth and grace would also allow Eliakim to be a support for his family and his people (vv. 22–24). 

Yet Isaiah concluded this prophecy with a sobering reminder that no person can be the ultimate security for friends or family—we all fail (v. 25). The only completely trustworthy anchor for our lives is Christ (Psalm 62:5–6, Matthew 7:24). As we care for others and share their burdens, may we also point them to Jesus, the anchor who will never fail.

By |2021-04-09T14:46:38-04:00April 5th, 2021|

In the Garden

My dad loved to sing the old hymns. One of his favorites was “In the Garden.” A few years back, we sang it at his funeral. The chorus is simple: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.” That song brought joy to my dad—as it does to me.

Hymn writer author C. Austin Miles says he wrote this song in spring 1912 after reading chapter 20 of the gospel of John. “As I read it that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary’s life when she knelt before her Lord and cried, ‘Rabboni [Teacher].’ ”

In John 20, we find Mary Magdalene weeping near Jesus’ empty tomb. There she met a man who asked why she was crying. Thinking it was the gardener, she spoke with the risen Savior—Jesus! Her sorrow turned to joy, and she ran to tell the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” (v. 18).

We too have the assurance that Jesus is risen! He’s now in heaven with the Father— but He hasn’t left us on our own. Believers in Christ have His Spirit inside us, and through Him we have the assurance and joy of knowing He’s with us, and we are “His own.”

By |2021-04-09T14:15:21-04:00April 4th, 2021|

Riding the Waves

As my husband strolled down the rocky beach taking photos of the Hawaiian horizon, I sat on a large rock fretting over another medical setback. Though my problems would be waiting for me when I returned home, I needed peace in that moment. I stared at the incoming waves crashing against the black, jagged rocks. A dark shadow in the curve of the wave caught my eye. Using the zoom option on my camera, I identified the shape as a sea turtle riding the waves peacefully. Its flippers spread wide and still. Turning my face into the salty breeze, I smiled.

The “heavens praise [God’s] wonders” (Psalm 89:5). Our incomparable Lord rules “over the surging sea.” When “its waves mount up, [God] stills them” (v. 9). He “founded the world and all that is in it” (v. 11). He made it all, owns it all, manages it all, and purposes it all for His glory and our enjoyment..

Standing on the foundation of our faith—the love of our unchanging Father—we can “walk in the light of [His] presence” (v. 15). God remains mighty in power and merciful in His dealings with us. We can rejoice in His name all day long (v. 16). No matter what obstacles we face or how many setbacks we have to endure, God holds us as the waves rise and fall.

 

 

 

 

 

By |2021-04-09T14:14:38-04:00April 3rd, 2021|

The Cost

Michelangelo’s works explored many facets of the life of Jesus, yet one of the most poignant was also one of the most simple. In the 1540s he sketched a pieta (a picture of Jesus’ mother holding the body of the dead Christ) for his friend Vittoria Colonna. Done in chalk, the drawing depicts Mary looking to the heavens as she cradles her Son’s still form. Rising behind Mary, the upright beam of the cross carries these words from Dante’s Paradise, “There they don’t think of how much blood it costs.” Michelangelo’s point was profound: when we contemplate the death of Jesus, we must consider the price He paid.

The price paid by Christ is captured in His dying declaration, “It is finished” (John 19:30). That term for “it is finished” (tetelestai) was used in several ways—to show a bill had been paid, a task finished, a sacrifice offered, a masterpiece completed. Each of them applies to what Jesus did on our behalf on the cross! Perhaps that’s why the apostle Paul wrote, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).

Jesus’ willingness to take our place is the eternal evidence of how much God loves us. As we contemplate the price He paid, may we also celebrate His love—and give thanks for the cross.

By |2021-04-09T14:13:49-04:00April 2nd, 2021|

“So Helpful”

The caller to the Christian radio station said that his wife was coming home from the hospital following surgery. Then he shared something that spoke deeply to my heart: “Everyone in our church family has been so helpful in taking care of us during this time.”

When I heard this simple statement, it reminded me of the value and necessity of Christian hospitality and care. I began to think that the love and support of fellow believers for one another is one of the greatest ways to demonstrate the life-changing power of the gospel.

In 1 Peter, the apostle was writing a letter to be circulated among the first-century churches in what’s now the country of Turkey. In that letter, he compelled his readers to do something that his friend Paul wrote about in Romans 12:13: “Offer hospitality.” Peter said, “Love each other deeply . . . offer hospitality,” and he told them to use the gifts God has given to “serve others” (1 Peter 4:8–10). These are clear directions to all believers in Jesus for how we’re to treat fellow believers.

All of us know people like that caller’s wife—those who need someone to come alongside and show concern and Christ-like love. In God’s strength, may we be among the ones who are noted for being “so helpful.”

By |2021-04-09T14:10:10-04:00April 1st, 2021|

Wisely Weeding

My grandchildren are running around my backyard. Playing games? No, pulling weeds. “Pulling them up by the roots!” the youngest says, showing me a hefty prize. Her delight as we tackled weeds that day was how much we enjoyed plucking the weedy roots—clearing away each pesky menace. Before the joy, however, came the choice to go after them.

Intentional weeding is also the first step in removing personal sin. Thus, David asked the Lord: “Search me, God, and know my heart . . . . See if there is any offensive way in me (Psalm 139:23–24).

What a wise approach, to go after our sin by asking God to show it to us. He above all knows everything about us. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me,” wrote the psalmist. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (vv. 1–2).

Such knowledge, David added, “is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (v. 6). Even before a sin takes root, therefore, the Lord can alert us to the danger. He knows our “landscape.” So, when a sneaky sinful attitude tries to take root, He is first to know and point it out.  

“You hem me in behind and before,” wrote David. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,” (vv. 5–6). May we closely follow our Savior to higher ground!

By |2021-03-31T09:06:04-04:00March 31st, 2021|

Got Your Nose

“Why are the statues’ noses broken?” That’s the number one question visitors ask Edward Bleiberg, curator of Egyptian art at the Brooklyn Museum.

        Bleiberg can’t blame it on normal wear and tear; even two-dimensional painted figures are missing noses. He surmises that such destruction must have been intentional. Enemies meant to kill Egypt’s gods. It’s as if they were playing a game of “got your nose” with them. Invading armies broke off the noses of these idols so they couldn’t breathe.

Really? That’s all it took? With gods like this, Pharaoh should have known he was in trouble. Yes, he had an army and the allegiance of a whole nation. The Hebrews were weary slaves led by a timid fugitive named Moses. But Israel had the living God, and Pharaoh’s gods were pretenders. Ten plagues later, their imaginary lives were snuffed out.

Israel celebrated their victory with the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when they ate bread without yeast for a week (Exodus 12:17; 13:7–9). Yeast symbolizes sin, and God wanted his people to remember their rescued lives belong entirely to Him.

Our Father says to idols, “Got your nose,” and to His children, “Got your life.” Serve the God who gives you breath, and rest in His loving arms.

By |2021-03-30T09:06:03-04:00March 30th, 2021|
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