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Our Daily Bread Devotional

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Learning and Loving

At a primary school in Greenock, Scotland, three teachers on maternity leave brought their babies to school every two weeks to interact with schoolchildren. Playtime with babies teaches children empathy, or care and feeling for others. Most receptive often are the children who are “a little challenging,” as one teacher put it. “It’s often [they] who interact more on a one-to-one level.” They learn “how much hard work it is to take care of a child,” and “more about each other’s feelings as well.”

Learning from an infant to care about others isn’t a new idea to believers in Jesus. We know the One who came as the baby Jesus. His birth changed everything we understand about caring relationships. The first to learn of Christ’s birth were shepherds, a humble profession involving care of weak and vulnerable sheep. Later, when children were brought to Jesus, He corrected disciples who thought children unworthy. “Let the little children come to me,” he said, “and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).

Showing the essence of empathy, Jesus “took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them” (v. 16). In our own lives, as His sometimes “challenging” children, we could be considered unworthy, too. Instead, as the One Who came as a child, the Lord accepts us with His love—thereby teaching us the caring power of loving babies and all people.

By |2022-09-18T02:33:04-04:00September 18th, 2022|

Deep-Water Rescue

A record rainfall more than tripled what was forecasted in Waverly, Tennessee, in August 2021. In the wake of the powerful storm, twenty people lost their lives and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Had it not been for the compassion and skill of helicopter pilot Joel Boyers, the loss of human life would’ve been even greater.

The pilot took flight in response to a phone call from a woman who was concerned about her loved ones. In addition to seeing houses on fire and cars in trees, Boyers noted, “It was nothing but [muddy], raging water below me.” The pilot, however, bravely proceeded to rescue twelve people from the roofs of their homes.

As harrowing as the raging waters can be in life, more often than not the swirling floods we face aren’t literal—but oh, how real! In days of uncertainty and instability, we can feel overwhelmed, unsafe—“in over our heads” mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But we don’t need to despair.

In Psalm 18, we read how David’s enemies were many and mighty, but his God was greater. How great? So great and powerful (v. 1) that he used multiple metaphors (v. 2) to describe Him. God was mighty enough to rescue from deep waters and strong enemies (vv. 16–17). How great? Great enough for us to call upon Him in the name of Jesus, regardless of the volume and depth of the waters surrounding us in life (v. 3).  

By |2022-09-17T02:33:04-04:00September 17th, 2022|

Hallelujah!

Astonishingly, it took Handel only twenty-four days to write the orchestral music for the Messiah oratorio—today perhaps the world’s most famous musical composition, one performed thousands of times every year around the world. The magnificent work reaches its climax nearly two hours after it begins with the most famous part of the oratorio, the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

As the trumpets and timpani announce the beginning of the chorus, voices layer on top of each other as the choir sings the words of Revelation 11:15: “And he shall reign for ever and ever.” It is a triumphant declaration of the hope of eternity in heaven with Jesus.

Many of the words in Messiah come from the book of Revelation, the apostle John’s account of a vision he had near the end of his life describing events culminating with the return of Christ. In Revelation, John returns again and again to the theme of the return of the resurrected Jesus to earth—when there will be great rejoicing with the sound of choirs (Revelation 19:1–8). The world will rejoice because Jesus will have defeated the powers of darkness and death and established a kingdom of peace.

One day, all the people of heaven will sing together in a magnificent choir proclaiming the majesty of Jesus and the blessing of His forever reign (Revelation 7:9). Until then, we live, work, pray, and wait in hope.

By |2022-09-16T02:33:03-04:00September 16th, 2022|

Where I Belong

At the end of a meal to mark Passover, a traditional Jewish holiday that celebrates and remembers the greatness of God’s saving work, church members expressed their joy by dancing together in a circle. Barry stood back, watching with a huge smile. He remarked how much he loved these occasions, saying, “This is my family now. This is my community. I’ve found somewhere where I know I can love and be loved . . . where I belong.”

In his childhood, Barry suffered cruel emotional and physical abuse, robbing him of his joy. But his local church welcomed him and introduced him to Jesus. Finding their unity and joy infectious, he began following Christ and felt loved and accepted.

In Psalm 133, King David used powerful images to illustrate the far-reaching effects of the “good and pleasant” unity of God’s people. He said it’s like someone who’s anointed with precious oil, the liquid running down over their collar (v. 2). This anointing was common in the ancient world, sometimes as a greeting when one entered a home. David also compared this unity to the dew that falls on the mountain bringing life and blessing (v. 3).

Oil releases a fragrance that fills a room and dew brings moisture to dry places. Unity too has good and pleasant effects such as welcoming those who were alone. Let’s seek to be united in Christ so that God can bring about good through us.

By |2022-09-15T02:33:03-04:00September 15th, 2022|

A House Undivided

On June 16, 1858, as the newly nominated Republican candidate for the US Senate from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech, which highlighted the tensions between various factions in America regarding slavery. It caused a stir among Lincoln’s friends and foes. Lincoln felt it was important to use the “house divided” figure of speech which Jesus used in Matthew 12:25 because it was widely known and simply expressed. He used this metaphor “so it would strike home to the minds of men in order to rouse them to the peril of the times.”

If a divided house can’t stand, the opposite is true—an undivided house stands unified. In principle, that’s what the household of God is designed to be (Ephesians 2:19). Though made up of people from various backgrounds, together we’ve been reconciled to God (and each other) through Jesus’ death on the cross (vv. 14–16). In view of this truth (see Ephesians 3), Paul offers this instruction to believers in Jesus: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (4:3). Today, when heightened tensions threaten to divide people who are otherwise united, such as our families and fellow believers, God can give the wisdom and strength needed to keep unity with one another through the help of the Spirit. This will cause us to be light in a dark, divided world.

By |2022-09-14T02:33:10-04:00September 14th, 2022|

Whale of a Story

Michael was diving for lobster when a humpback whale caught him in its mouth. He pushed back in the darkness as the whale’s muscles squeezed against him. He thought he was done. But whales don’t prefer lobstermen, and thirty seconds later the whale spit Michael into the air. Amazingly, Michael had no broken bones—only extensive bruises and one whale of a story.

He wasn’t the first. Jonah was swallowed by “a huge fish” (Jonah 1:17), and he stayed in its belly three days before being vomited onto land (2:1, 10). Unlike Michael, who was caught by accident, Jonah was swallowed because he hated Israel’s enemies and didn’t want them to repent. When God told Jonah to preach in Nineveh, he caught a boat going the other way. So God sent a whale-sized fish to get his attention.

I appreciate why Jonah hated the Assyrians. They’d harassed Israel in the past, and within fifty years they would carry the northern tribes into captivity where they would vanish forever. Jonah was understandably offended that Assyria might be forgiven.

But Jonah was more loyal to the people of God than to the God of all people. God loved Israel’s enemies and wanted to save them. He loves our enemies and wants to save them. With the wind of the Spirit at our backs, let’s sail toward them with the good news of Jesus.

By |2022-09-13T02:33:03-04:00September 13th, 2022|

Trust in His Name

As a child, there was a time I dreaded going to school. Some girls were bullying me by subjecting me to cruel pranks. So during recess, I’d take refuge in the library, where I’d read a series of Christian storybooks. I remember the first time I read the name “Jesus.” Somehow, I knew that this was the name of Someone who loved me. In the months that followed, whenever I’d enter school fearful of the torment that lay ahead, I’d pray, “Jesus, protect me.” I’d feel stronger and calmer, knowing He was watching over me. In time, the girls simply grew tired of bullying me and stopped.

Many years have passed, and trusting His name continues to sustain me through difficult times. Trusting His name is believing that what He says about His character is true, allowing me to rest in Him.

David, too, knew the security of trusting in God’s name. When he wrote Psalm 9, he had already experienced God as the all–powerful ruler who’s just and faithful (Psalm 9:7–8, 10, 16). David thus showed his trust in God’s name by going into battle against his enemies, trusting not his weapons or military skill, but in God ultimately coming through for him as “a refuge for the oppressed” (v. 9).

As a little girl, I called on His name and experienced how He lived up to it. May we always trust His name─Jesus—the name of the One that loves us.  

By |2022-09-12T02:33:03-04:00September 12th, 2022|

Compassion Over Bitterness

When the World Trade Center towers fell on September 11, 2001, Greg Rodriguez was one of the victims who died in the wreckage. As his mother Phyllis and his father grieved, they also carefully considered their response to such a horrific attack. In 2002, Phyllis met Aicha el-Wafe, the mother of one of the men accused of helping the terrorists. Phyllis said she “approached her and opened my arms. We embraced and cried. . . . For Aicha and me, there was an immediate bonding. . . . We both suffered on account of our sons.” 

Phyllis met Aicha amid shared pain and sorrow. Phyllis believed that fury over her son’s death, appropriate as it was, could not heal her anguish. Listening to Aicha’s family story, Phyllis felt compassion, resisting the temptation to view them merely as enemies. She desired justice, but believed we must release the temptation to seek revenge that often grips us when we’ve been wronged.

The apostle Paul shared this conviction, admonishing us to “get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger . . . along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). As we relinquish these destructive powers, God’s Spirit fills us with new perspective. “Be kind and compassionate to one another,” Paul says (v. 32). It’s possible to work for wrongs to be made right while also refusing rageful vengeance. May the Spirit help us show compassion that overcomes bitterness.

By |2022-09-11T02:33:14-04:00September 11th, 2022|

Uncommon Era

Despite living much of his life as a pagan, the Roman emperor Constantine (272–337 ad) implemented reforms that stopped the systematic persecution of Christians. He also instituted the calendar we use, dividing all of history into bc (Before Christ) and ad (Anno Domini, or Year of our Lord).

A move to secularize this system has changed the labels to ce (Common Era) and bce (Before the Common Era). Some people point to this as yet one more example of how the world keeps God out.

But God hasn’t gone anywhere. Regardless of the name, our calendar still centers itself around the reality of Jesus’ life on earth.

In the Bible, the book of Esther is unusual in that it contains no specific mention of God. Yet the story it tells is one of God’s deliverance. Banished from their homeland, the Jewish people lived in a country indifferent to Him. A powerful government official wanted to kill them all (Esther 8:8–9, 13). Yet through Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai, God delivered His people, a story still celebrated to this day in the Jewish holiday of Purim (9:20–32).

Regardless of how the world chooses to respond to Him now, Jesus changed everything. He introduced us to an uncommon era—one full of genuine hope and promise. All we need to do is look around us. We’ll see Him.  

By |2022-09-10T02:33:11-04:00September 10th, 2022|

A Heavenly Reunion

When writing my mom’s obituary, I felt that the word died seemed too final for the hope I had in our promised reunion in heaven as fellow believers in Jesus. So, I wrote: “She was welcomed into the arms of Jesus.” Still, some days I grieve when looking at the more current family photos that don’t include my mom. Recently, though, I discovered a painter who creates family portraits with those we’ve lost. The artist uses the photos of loved ones who have gone before us to paint them into the picture of the family. With strokes of a paintbrush, this artist represents God’s promise of a heavenly reunion. I shed grateful tears at the thought of seeing my mom smiling by my side again.

The apostle Paul affirms that believers in Jesus don’t have to grieve “like the rest of mankind” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (v. 14). Paul acknowledges Jesus’ second coming and proclaims that all believers will be reunited with Jesus. “And so we will be with the Lord forever” (v. 17).

God’s promise of a heavenly reunion can comfort us when we’re grieving the loss of a loved one who has trusted Jesus. Our promised future with our Risen King also provides enduring hope when we face our own immortality, until the day Jesus comes or calls us home.

By |2022-09-09T02:33:03-04:00September 9th, 2022|
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