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Our Daily Bread Devotional

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Onwards! Unswerving

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[We encouraged] . . . you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:12

In the poem “Rest,” the poet gently challenges our tendency to separate “leisure” time from “work,” asking, “Is not true leisure / One with true toil?” If you want to experience true leisure, instead of trying to avoid life’s duties, the author urges, “Still do thy best; Use it, not waste it,— / Else ’tis not rest. / Wouldst behold beauty / Near thee? all round? / Only hath duty / Such a sight found.”

The poet concludes that true rest and joy are both found through love and service—an idea that brings to mind Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians. After describing his calling to encourage believers “to live lives worthy of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:12), the apostle gives more specifics.

And the picture he paints of such a life is one of quiet integrity, love, and service. Paul prays that God would “make [their] love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else” (3:12). And he urges believers in Jesus to “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life,” to “mind your own business and work with your hands” (4:11). It’s that kind of life, quietly loving and serving in whatever ways God has enabled us, that reveals to others the beauty of a life of faith (v. 12).

Or, as the writer puts it, true joy is “loving and serving / The highest and best; / ’Tis onwards! Unswerving— / And that is true rest.”

How does God’s presence help you experience true joy? How are rest and service united in God’s kingdom?

Loving God, thank You that I don’t need to avoid the duties and rhythms of daily life to experience Your beauty. Help me to know the joy of a quiet life lived with You.

INSIGHT

The apostle Paul cared about the reputation of the gospel. In his letter to the Thessalonian church, he wanted to remove any obstacle that would prevent the hope of Jesus from impacting the city. He had good reason too. When the apostle first visited Thessalonica, his proclamation of the gospel caused quite the stir, which devolved into riots, shouting, and arrests (Acts 17:1–9).

In his letter to the church that grew after he left, Paul told the people to not just show love for each other but to also live quietly and mind their own business (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Why? Verse 12 says that by doing so “your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.” The apostle wanted the fledgling church to know that peace and respectability were their greatest assets in advancing the message of Jesus in the world. 

Learn more about the life of the apostle Paul.

By |2022-11-17T01:33:14-05:00November 17th, 2022|
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Keep Your Guard Up

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Be careful, and watch yourselves closely. Deuteronomy 4:9

A man and several friends went through a ski resort gate posted with avalanche warning signs and started snowboarding. On the second trip down, someone shouted, “Avalanche!” But the man couldn’t escape and perished in the cascading snow. Some criticized him, calling him a novice. But he wasn’t; he was an “avalanche-certified backcountry guide.” One researcher said that skiers and snowboarders with the most avalanche training are more likely to give in to faulty reasoning. “[The snowboarder] died because he was lulled into letting his guard down.”

As Israel prepared to go into the promised land, God wanted His people to keep their guard up—to be careful and alert. So He commanded them to obey all His “decrees and laws” (Deuteronomy 4:1–2) and remember His past judgment on those who disobeyed (vv. 3–4). They needed to “be careful” to examine themselves and keep watch over their inner lives (v. 9). This would help them keep their guard up against spiritual dangers from without and spiritual apathy from within.

It’s easy for us to let our guard down and fall into apathy and self-deception. But God can give us strength to avoid falling in life and forgiveness by His grace when we do. By following Him and resting in His wisdom and provision, we can keep our guard up and make good decisions!

When do you tend to let your spiritual guard down? What will you do to follow God’s wisdom and remain alert to dangers to your faith?

Dear God, please help me to remain alert and follow You in loving obedience.

INSIGHT

The book of Deuteronomy (which means “second law”) is the final book of the Pentateuch—the five books of Moses. In Judaism, these books are referred to as Torah (literally “instruction, law”). In Deuteronomy, Moses repeated the law given to Israel at Sinai. Why the repetition? The generation that had first received (and agreed to) the law at Mount Sinai had died in the wilderness during their forty years of wandering. Now, the people were preparing to enter the promised land, and Moses repeated the law for this new generation so they’d accept it for themselves before they received the land.

By |2022-11-16T01:33:07-05:00November 16th, 2022|
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Using Your Voice

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I will help you speak and will teach you what to say. Exodus 4:12

Since age eight, Lisa had struggled with a stammer and became afraid of social situations that required her to talk with people. But later in life, after speech therapy helped her overcome her challenge, Lisa decided to use her voice to help others. She began volunteering as a counselor for an emotional distress telephone hotline.

Moses had to face his concerns about speaking to help lead the Israelites out of captivity. God asked him to communicate with Pharaoh, but Moses protested because he didn’t feel confident in his speaking ability (Exodus 4:10). God challenged him, “Who gave human beings their mouths?” Then He reassured Moses saying, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (vv. 11–12).

God’s response reminds us that He can work powerfully through us even in our limitations. But even when we know this in our hearts, it can be hard to live it out. Moses continued to struggle and begged God to send someone else (v. 13). So God allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to accompany him (v. 14).

Each of us has a voice that can help others. We may be afraid. We may not feel capable. We may feel we don’t have the right words.

God knows how we feel. He can provide the words and all we need to serve others and accomplish His work.

How might God want to use your words to help others? How does it encourage you to know that He works through us even in our fear and weaknesses?

Dear God, please show me how I can serve You with my voice today. 

INSIGHT

When God called Moses to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 3:1–4:17), Moses protested, giving various excuses why he wasn’t the right candidate. He questioned his own identity (3:11); his lack of authority (v. 13); and his suitability, credibility, and acceptability (4:1). He had tried this role previously but was outrightly rejected by his own people. No longer a prince, Moses had been a fugitive and lowly shepherd for the past forty years (2:11–15). But God assured him of His personal involvement (3:14–15) and His powerful presence (vv. 16–20; 4:1–9). In Moses’ fourth excuse, he argued that he lacked the eloquence of a leader (4:10). God promised that He would empower him to speak powerfully and effectively (v. 12). Running out of excuses, Moses asked God to “please send someone else” (v. 13), unveiling the real reason behind his reluctance. He eventually accepted the assignment, and God empowered him as promised (see Acts 7:22).

By |2022-11-15T01:33:03-05:00November 15th, 2022|
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The Love of God

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Great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Psalm 57:10

In 1917, Frederick Lehman, a California businessman beset by financial setbacks, wrote the lyrics to the hymn, “The Love of God.” His inspiration led him quickly to pen the first two stanzas, but he got stuck on the third. He recalled a poem that had been discovered years earlier, written on the walls of a prison. A prisoner had scratched it there into the stone, expressing a deep awareness of God’s love. The poem happened to be in the same meter as Lehman’s hymn. He made it his third stanza.  

There are times when we face difficult setbacks as did Lehman and the poet in the prison cell. In times of despair, we do well to echo the psalmist David’s words and “take refuge in the shadow of [God’s] wings” (Psalm 57:1). It’s okay to “cry out to God” with our troubles (v. 2), to speak to Him of our current ordeal and the fears we have when “in the midst of lions” (v. 4). We’re soon reminded of the reality of God’s provision in times past, and join David who says, “I will sing and make music. . . . I will awaken the dawn” (vv. 7–8).

“The love of God is greater far,” this hymn proclaims, adding “it goes beyond the highest star.” It’s precisely in our time of greatest need when we’re to embrace how great God’s love really is—indeed “reaching to the heavens” (v. 10).

What are the difficulties you face today? How has God provided for you in times past?

Loving God, I am facing difficult matters, but I am reminded of Your love for me and Your provision throughout my life. Thank You.

INSIGHT

The scribal heading to this psalm connects the prayer with David’s experience hiding from Saul in a cave, something that happened two different times—first in the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1–2) and later in a cave in the desert of En Gedi (24:1–13). The dominant tone of Psalm 57 is one of deep trust, even though it’s set in a context of great danger (v. 6). This trust is rooted in the psalmist’s belief in the power of “God Most High” (v. 2). The title “God Most High” points to God’s glory and rule over all the nations and peoples of the world (47:2). Being anchored in His glory and confident that He’ll act (57:3) allows the psalmist to find refuge in Him and to even rejoice in the midst of danger (vv. 7–8).

By |2022-11-14T01:33:02-05:00November 14th, 2022|
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Small Kindnesses

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Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

Amanda works as a visiting nurse who rotates among several nursing homes—often bringing her eleven-year-old daughter Ruby to work. For something to do, Ruby began asking residents, “If you could have any three things, what would you want?” and recording their answers in her notebook. Surprisingly, many of their wishes were for little things—Vienna sausages, chocolate pie, cheese, avocados. So Ruby set up a GoFundMe to help her provide for their simple wishes. And when she delivers the goodies, she doles out hugs. She says, “It lifts you. It really does.” 

When we show compassion and kindness like Ruby’s, we reflect our God who “is gracious and compassionate . . . and rich in love” (Psalm 145:8). That’s why the apostle Paul urged us, as God’s people, to “clothe [our]selves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Because God has shown great compassion to us, we naturally long to share His compassion with others. And as we do so intentionally, we “clothe” ourselves in it.

Paul goes on to tell us: “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (v. 14). And he reminds us that we are to “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 17), remembering that all good things come from God. When we’re kind to others, our spirits are lifted.

When have you been the benefactor of someone’s kindness? How can you show kindness to another?

Jesus, thank You for showing me overflowing, unlimited kindness. Help me to find joy in doing kind acts for others.

INSIGHT

In Colossians 3, Paul reminded his readers of their status as a people chosen by God (v. 12). Because we’re chosen, we have certain obligations that are relational in nature. Since we have a reconciled relationship to God, to whom we were once enemies (1:21), we’re to be in healthy relationship to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, Paul instructed us to put on the virtues listed as we would put on literal garments (3:12–14). The characteristics he shared are critical to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Our restored relationship to God should lead us to extend compassion, kindness, and patience to our fellow believers. This, however, means that we’ll necessarily need to “bear with each other” when conflicts and misunderstandings arise (v. 13). We can’t put on these virtues without love, “which binds them all together in perfect unity” (v. 14).

By |2022-11-13T01:33:02-05:00November 13th, 2022|
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Both Are True

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It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. Genesis 45:5

After three decades, Feng Lulu was reunited with her birth family. As a toddler, she was kidnapped while playing outside her house, but through the help of All-China Women’s Federation, she was finally located. Because she was so young when she was abducted, Feng Lulu doesn’t remember it. She grew up believing she’d been sold because her parents couldn’t afford to keep her, so learning the truth surfaced many questions and emotions.

When Joseph was reunited with his brothers, it’s likely he experienced some complex emotions. He’d been sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt as a young man. Despite a series of painful twists and turns, God propelled Joseph to a position of authority. When his brothers came to Egypt to buy food during a famine, they—unwittingly—sought it from him.

Joseph acknowledged that God redeemed their wrongdoing, saying He used it to “save [their] lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7). Yet Joseph didn’t redefine their hurtful actions toward him—he described them accurately as “selling [him]” (v. 5).

We sometimes try to put an overly positive spin on difficult situations, focusing on the good God brings from them without acknowledging the emotional struggle. Let’s take care not to redefine a wrong as being good simply because God redeemed it: we can look for Him to bring good from it while still recognizing the pain wrongdoing causes. Both are true.

When have you experienced hardship as a result of another’s wrongdoing? How have you seen God bring good from it?

Father God, thank You for lovingly tending to my wounds.  

INSIGHT

Joseph was betrayed by his jealous brothers, sold into slavery, unjustly imprisoned, and forgotten by the people he helped. But God was with him and made him the second most powerful man in Egypt (Genesis 41:39–40; Acts 7:9–10). When reconciling with his estranged brothers, Joseph acknowledged God’s sovereign plans in his life (Genesis 45:5–7). He later affirmed again that God ultimately overrules human sin for His glory and our good (50:20). The apostle Paul also acknowledged God’s sovereignty: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

By |2022-11-12T01:33:02-05:00November 12th, 2022|
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The Source

Today's Devotional

Read: Mark 7:14–23 | Bible in a Year: Jeremiah 50; Hebrews 8




Create in me a pure heart, O God. Psalm 51:10

It was 1854, and something was killing thousands of people in London. It must be the bad air, people thought. And indeed, as unseasonable heat baked the sewage-fouled River Thames, the smell grew so bad it became known as “The Great Stink.”

But the worst problem wasn’t the air. Research by Dr. John Snow would show that contaminated water was the cause of the cholera epidemic.

We humans have long been aware of another crisis—one that stinks to high heaven. We live in a broken world—and we’re prone to misidentify the source of this problem, treating symptoms instead. Wise social programs and policies do some good, but they’re powerless to stop the root cause of society’s ills—our sinful hearts!

When Jesus said, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them,” He wasn’t referring to physical diseases (Mark 7:15). Rather, He was diagnosing the spiritual condition of every one of us. “It is what comes out of a person that defiles them,” He said (v. 15), listing a litany of evils lurking inside us (vv. 21–22).

“Surely I was sinful at birth,” David wrote (Psalm 51:5). His lament is one we can all voice. We’re broken from the beginning. That’s why David prayed, “Create in me a pure heart, O God” (v. 10). Every day, we need that new heart, created by Jesus through His Spirit.

Instead of treating the symptoms, we must let Jesus purify the source.

In what ways might you be treating symptoms instead of letting Jesus clean up the source? How can you share the good news of what Jesus did for you?

Heavenly Father, guard my heart and help me be attentive to Your Spirit within me.

INSIGHT

In Mark 7:13–17, we encounter three groups of people. In verse 13, Jesus directed a pointed message at a narrow subset of people—the teachers of the law. Christ plainly saw the gigantic loopholes these experts had created through which they could violate the spirit of God’s law and said, “You nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” Having established His case, Jesus turned to the crowd and said within hearing of the teachers of the law, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (v. 15). Beginning with verse 17, Christ’s disciples approached Him privately and asked about His teaching. He reiterated His point that what goes into the stomach isn’t what defiles a person. Mark then notes parenthetically, “In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean” (v. 19).

By |2022-11-11T01:33:12-05:00November 11th, 2022|
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Legacy of Friends

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A friend loves at all times. Proverbs 17:17

I met him in the 1970s when I was a high school English teacher and basketball coach, and he was a tall, gangly freshman. Soon he was on my basketball team and in my classes—and a friendship was formed. This same friend, who had served with me as a fellow editor for many years, stood before me at my retirement party and shared about the legacy of our longstanding friendship.

What is it about friends connected by the love of God that encourages us and brings us closer to Jesus? The writer of Proverbs understood that friendship has two encouraging components: First, true friends give valuable advice, even if it’s not easy to give or take (27:6): “Wounds from a friend can be trusted,” the writer explains. Second, a friend who is nearby and accessible is important in times of crisis: “Better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away” (v. 10).

It’s not good for us to fly solo in life. As Solomon noted: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 nlt). In life, we need to have friends and we need to be friends. May God help us “love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10 esv) and “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2)—becoming the kind of friend that can encourage others and draw them closer to the love of Jesus.

In what sense could you be isolating yourself from others? How can you regularly connect with some strong believers in Jesus to encourage each other?

Dear God, search my heart regarding my friends. Please help me provide Christ-centered counsel to them and receive godly wisdom from them.

INSIGHT

The word friend occurs several times in the Bible. In many of the occurrences in the book of Job, Job grieves the behavior of those he once called friends (Job 12:4; 19:14). In the Psalms, David struggles over friends who’ve betrayed him (Psalms 31:11; 38:11; 41:9; 55:12–14; 109:4–5). Proverbs provides helpful words about what friendship is and isn’t. We see two of those references in today’s text (Proverbs 27:6, 10). Further sage advice from Proverbs includes: “the righteous choose their friends carefully” (12:26); “a gossip separates close friends” (16:28); and “do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered” (22:24). Perhaps the best insight is that “a friend loves at all times” (17:17). As Abraham and Moses discovered, our truest and greatest friend is God (Exodus 33:11; James 2:23).

By |2022-11-10T01:33:04-05:00November 10th, 2022|
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Wise or Unwise?

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Understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:17

When I was ten, I brought home a cassette tape from a friend at youth group that contained the music of a contemporary Christian band. My dad, who had been raised in a Hindu home but had received salvation in Jesus, didn’t approve. He only wanted worship music played in our home. I explained it was a Christian band, but that didn’t change his mind. After a while, he suggested that I listen to the songs for a week and then decide if they brought me closer to God or pushed me further away from Him. There was some helpful wisdom in that advice.

There are things in life that are clearly right or wrong, but many times we wrestle with disputable matters (Romans 14:1–19). In deciding what to do, we can seek the wisdom found in Scripture. Paul encouraged the Ephesian believers to “be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). Like a good parent, Paul knew that he couldn’t possibly be there or give instructions for every situation. If they were going to “[make] the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil,” they were going to have to discern for themselves and “understand what the Lord’s will is” (vv. 16–17). A life of wisdom is an invitation to pursue discernment and good decisions as God guides us even when we wrestle with what might be disputable.

How can you determine what will be wise or foolish as you make decisions? How can you seek God’s guidance?

Dear Jesus, cultivate a heart of wisdom in me. Enable me to live my life in a way that will always draw me closer to You.

INSIGHT

To live a meaningful and purposeful life, “a life worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1), Paul told believers to be careful, wise, and make “the most of every opportunity” to do good (5:15–17). Being careful is being wise, for an unwise person or a fool is both careless and reckless (Proverbs 12:15; 14:16). Careful living means living as “children of light” and striving to do “what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8, 10). In another letter, Paul said, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity” to share the gospel (Colossians 4:5). To the Galatian believers he said, “Let us not become weary in doing good . . . . As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:9–10).

By |2022-11-09T01:33:02-05:00November 9th, 2022|
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Loving Our Neighbors

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Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. Leviticus 19:18

In the days of self-isolation and lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, words by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” rang true. Speaking about injustice, he remarked how he couldn’t sit idly in one city and not be concerned about what happens in another. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality,” he said, “tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects us all indirectly.” 

Likewise, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted our connectedness as around the world cities and countries closed to stop the spread of the virus. What affected one city could soon affect another.

Many centuries ago, God instructed His people how to show concern for others. Through Moses, He gave the Israelites the law to guide them and help them live together. He told them to “not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life” (Leviticus 19:16); and to not seek revenge or bear a grudge against others, but to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18). God knew that communities would start to unravel if people didn’t look out for others, valuing their lives as much as they did their own.

We too can embrace the wisdom of God’s instructions. As we go about our daily activities, we can remember how interconnected we are with others as we ask Him how to love and serve them well.

Why do you think Jesus echoed God’s law when He told the religious leaders to love their neighbors as themselves? How could you put this instruction into action today?

Loving Creator, help me to share Your love and grace today.

INSIGHT

Bible commentator Gordon J. Wenham points out how easy it may be for modern readers to miss the connection between verses 15 and 16 of Leviticus 19. A key concept here is neighbor. In the community life of Israel, legal proceedings didn’t take place at distant seats of judgment; they occurred within the community, often in the same neighborhood. Hence, gossip, slander, or jumping to conclusions about a person you knew well and who faced legal proceedings could be a very real temptation. This naturally leads in to verse 17, in which the people are exhorted not to harbor grudges against a “fellow Israelite” but rather to take disputes to them openly, even before such a conflict requires legal intervention. And this, in turn, leads to the well-known command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18).

By |2022-11-08T01:33:12-05:00November 8th, 2022|
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