Category Archives: Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread — Second-Wind Strength

 

Bible in a Year:2 Samuel 14–15; Luke 17:1–19

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Isaiah 40:27–31

At the age of fifty-four I entered the Milwaukee marathon with two goals—to finish the race and to do it under five hours. My time would have been amazing if the second 13.1 miles went as well as the first. But the race was grueling, and the second-wind strength I’d hoped for never came. By the time I made it to the finish line, my steady stride had morphed into a painful walk.

Footraces aren’t the only things that require second-wind strength—life’s race does too. To endure, tired, weary people need God’s help. Isaiah 40:27–31 beautifully weds poetry and prophecy to comfort and motivate people who need strength to keep going. Timeless words remind fatigued and discouraged people that the Lord isn’t detached or uncaring (v. 27), that our plight doesn’t escape His notice. These words breathe comfort and assurance, and remind us of God’s limitless power and bottomless knowledge (v. 28).

The second-wind strength described in verses 29–31 is just right for us—whether we’re in the throes of raising and providing for our families, struggling through life under the weight of physical or financial burdens, or discouraged by relational tensions or spiritual challenges. Such is the strength that awaits those who—through meditating on the Scriptures and prayer—wait upon the Lord.

By Arthur Jackson

Today’s Reflection

When have life circumstances taken the wind out of you? In what particular area do you need God’s strength today?

 

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Our Daily Bread — In the Moment

 

Bible in a Year:2 Samuel 3–5; Luke 14:25–35

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life . . . . No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.

John 10:17–18

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Luke 23:32–46

The ambulance door was about to close—with me on the inside. Outside, my son was on the phone to my wife. From my concussed fog, I called his name. As he recalls the moment, I slowly said, “Tell your mom I love her very much.”

Apparently I thought this might be goodbye, and I wanted those to be my parting words. In the moment, that’s what mattered most to me.

As Jesus endured His darkest moment, He didn’t merely tell us He loved us; He showed it in specific ways. He showed it to the mocking soldiers who had just nailed Him to a cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He gave hope to a criminal crucified with Him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Nearing the end, He looked at His mother. “Here is your son,” He said to her, and to His close friend John He said, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26–27). Then, as His life slipped from Him, Jesus’s last act of love was to trust His Father: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Jesus purposefully chose the cross in order to show His obedience to His Father—and the depth of His love for us. To the very end, He showed us His relentless love.

By Tim Gustafson

Today’s Reflection

What matters most to you? How do love and obedience fit together?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Flourishing Like a Flower

 

Bible in a Year:2 Samuel 1–2; Luke 14:1–24

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field.

Psalm 103:15

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 103:13–22

My youngest grandson is only two months old, yet every time I see him I notice little changes. Recently, as I cooed to him, he looked up at me and smiled! And suddenly I began crying. Perhaps it was joy mixed with remembering my own children’s first smiles, which I witnessed so long ago, and yet it feels like just yesterday. Some moments are like that—inexplicable.

In Psalm 103, David penned a poetic song that praised God while also reflecting on how quickly the joyful moments of our lives pass by: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone” (vv. 15–16).

But despite acknowledging the brevity of life, David describes the flower as flourishing, or thriving. Although each individual flower blossoms and blooms swiftly, its fragrance and color and beauty bring great joy in the moment. And even though an individual flower can be quickly forgotten—“its place remembers it no more” (v. 16)—by contrast we have the assurance that “from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him” (v. 17).

We, like flowers, can rejoice and flourish in the moment; but we can also celebrate the truth that the moments of our lives are never truly forgotten. God holds every detail of our lives, and His everlasting love is with His children forever!

By Alyson Kieda

Today’s Reflection

In what way can you flourish in this moment? How can you bring joy to another?

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Celebrating Creativity

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 30–31; Luke 13:23–35

God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures.”

Genesis 1:20

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Genesis 1:1–21

A rarely seen jellyfish waltzed with the currents, four thousand feet deep in the ocean near Baja, California. Its body shone with fluorescent shades of blue, purple, and pink, bright against the backdrop of black water. Elegant tentacles waved gracefully with each pulsing of its bell-shaped hood. As I watched the amazing footage of the Halitrephes maasi jellyfish on the National Geographic video, I reflected on how God chose the specific design of this beautiful, gelatinous creature. He also fashioned the other 2,000 types of jellyfish that scientists have identified as of October 2017.

Though we acknowledge God as Creator, do we slow down long enough to truly consider the profound truth revealed in the first chapter of the Bible? Our amazing God brought forth light and life into the creatively diverse world He crafted with the power of His word. He designed “the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems” (Genesis 1:21). Scientists have discovered only a fraction of the wondrous creatures the Lord created in the beginning.

God also intentionally sculpted each person in the world, giving purpose to every day of our lives before we drew our first breaths (Psalm 139:13–16). As we celebrate the Lord’s creativity, we can also rejoice over the many ways He helps us imagine and create with Him and for His glory.

By Xochitl Dixon

Today’s Reflection

What creative gifts has God given to you? How might you use them for His glory?

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Marks of Friendship

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 27–29; Luke 13:1–22

You are my friends if you do what I command.

John 15:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 15:9–17

As a little boy growing up in Ghana, I enjoyed holding my father’s hand and walking with him in crowded places. He was both my father and my friend, for holding hands in my culture is a mark of true friendship. Walking along, we would talk about a variety of subjects. Whenever I felt lonely, I found consolation with my father. How I valued our companionship!

The Lord Jesus called His followers friends, and He showed them the marks of His friendship. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” He said (John 15:9), even laying down His life for them (v. 13). He showed them His kingdom business (v. 15). He taught them everything God had given Him (v. 15). And He gave them opportunity to share in His mission (v. 16).

As our Companion for life, Jesus walks with us. He listens to our heartaches and our desires. When we’re lonely and downhearted, our Friend Jesus keeps company with us.

And our companionship with Jesus is tighter when we love each other and obey His commands (vv. 10, 17). As we obey His commands, we will bear “fruit that will last” (v. 16).

Walking through the crowded alleys and dangerous roadways of our troubled world, we can count on the Lord’s companionship. It’s a mark of His friendship.

By Lawrence Darmani

Today’s Reflection

What does it mean for you to be a friend of Jesus? How has He revealed His presence to you?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Are You There?

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 22–24; Luke 12:1–31

I will be with you.

Exodus 3:12

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Exodus 3:11–14

When his wife contracted a terminal illness, Michael longed for her to experience the peace he had through his relationship with God. He had shared his faith with her, but she wasn’t interested. One day, as he walked through a local bookstore, a title caught his eye: God, Are You There? Unsure how his wife would respond to the book, he walked in and out of the store several times before finally buying it. To his surprise, she accepted it.

The book touched her, and she began to read the Bible too. Two weeks later, Michael’s wife passed away—at peace with God and resting in the assurance that He would never leave or forsake her.

When God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, He didn’t promise him power. Instead, He promised His presence: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). In Jesus’s last words to His disciples before His crucifixion, He also promised God’s eternal presence, which they would receive through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26).

There are many things God could give us to help us through life’s challenges, such as material comfort, healing, or immediate solutions to our problems. Sometimes He does. But the best gift He gives is Himself. This is the greatest comfort we have: whatever happens in life, He will be with us; He will never leave nor forsake us.

By Leslie Koh

Today’s Reflection

How can you draw on the power of God’s presence? How can you live differently, knowing He’s there with you every step of the way?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Peace-Filled Hearts

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 17–18; Luke 11:1–28

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 14:30

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Proverbs 14:29–35

For forty-five years after his career as a professional athlete ended, Jerry Kramer wasn’t inducted into his sport’s hall of fame (the highest recognition). He enjoyed many other honors and achievements, but this one eluded him. Although he’d been nominated for the honor ten times, it had never been bestowed. Despite having his hopes dashed so many times, Kramer was gracious, saying, “I felt like [the National Football League] had given me 100 presents in my lifetime and to be upset or angry about one I didn’t get was kind of stupid!”

Where others might have grown bitter after being denied so many times in favor of other players, Kramer wasn’t. His attitude illustrates the way we can safeguard our hearts against the corrosive nature of envy, which “rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30). When we become preoccupied with what we don’t have—and fail to recognize the many things we do—the peace of God will elude us.

After an eleventh nomination, Jerry Kramer ultimately was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in February 2018. Our earthly desires may not be fulfilled as his finally were. Yet we can all have a “heart at peace” when we instead focus our attention on the many ways God has been generous toward us. No matter what we want but do not have, we can always enjoy the life-giving peace He brings to our lives.

By Kirsten Holmberg

Today’s Reflection

In what area of life are you tempted to focus on what you don’t have? What steps can you take this week to focus on what God has provided?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Through the Valley

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 15–16; Luke 10:25–42

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

Psalm 23:4

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 23

Hae Woo (not her real name) was imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp for crossing the border into China. The days and nights were torture, she said, with brutal guards, backbreaking work, and little sleep on an ice-cold floor with rats and lice. But God helped her daily, including showing her which prisoners to befriend and share her faith with.

After she was released from the camp and living in South Korea, Woo reflected on her time of imprisonment, saying that Psalm 23 summed up her experience. Although she’d been trapped in a dark valley, Jesus was her Shepherd who gave her peace: “Even though it felt as if I was literally in a valley full of the shadow of death, I wasn’t afraid of anything. God comforted me every day.” She experienced God’s goodness and love as He reassured her that she was His beloved daughter. “I was in a terrible place, but I knew . . . I would experience God’s goodness and love.” And she knew she’d stay in the Lord’s presence forever.

We can find encouragement in Woo’s story. Despite her dire circumstances, she felt God’s love and leading; and He sustained her and took away her fear. If we follow Jesus, He will lead us gently through our times of trouble. We need not fear, for “[we] will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6).

By Amy Boucher Pye

Today’s Reflection

When have you experienced God’s presence in a dark valley? Who can you encourage today?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Good News to Tell

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 13–14; Luke 10:1–24

Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 8:35

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Acts 8:26–35

“What’s your name?” asked Arman, an Iranian student. After I told him my name is Estera, his face lit up as he exclaimed, “We have a similar name in Farsi, it’s Setare!” That small connection opened up an amazing conversation. I told him I was named after a Bible character, “Esther,” a Jewish queen in Persia (present-day Iran). Starting with her story, I shared the good news of Jesus. As a result of our conversation, Arman started attending a weekly Bible study to learn more about Christ.

One of Jesus’s followers, Philip, guided by the Holy Spirit, asked a question that ignited a conversation with an Ethiopian official traveling in his chariot: “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30). The Ethiopian man was reading a passage from the book of Isaiah and seeking spiritual insight. So Philip’s question came at the right time. He invited Philip to sit next to him and in humility listened. Philip, realizing what an amazing opportunity this was, “began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (v. 35).

Like Philip, we too have good news to tell. Let’s seize the daily occasions we encounter in our workplace, at the grocery store, or in our neighborhood. May we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and give us the words to share our hope and joy in Jesus.

By Estera Pirosca Escobar

Today’s Reflection

How will you prepare yourself to be more open to speaking to others about Jesus? What encouragement do you gain from Philip’s example?

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Unexpected Winners

 

Bible in a Year:1 Samuel 10–12; Luke 9:37–62

Many who are first will be last.

Matthew 19:30

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Matthew 19:17–30

Perhaps the most preposterous, spellbinding moment in the 2018 Winter Olympics was when the Czech Republic’s world champion snowboarder Ester Ledecka won an event in a completely different sport: skiing! And she took the first-place gold medal even though she had the unenviable position of skiing 26th—a feat believed to be basically impossible.

Amazingly, Ledecka qualified to race the women’s super-G—an event that combines downhill skiing with a slalom course. After she won by .01 of a second on borrowedskis, she was just as shocked as the media and other contestants who had assumed the winner would be one of the top skiers.

This is how the world works. We assume the winners will keep winning while all the others will lose. It was a jolt, then, when the disciples heard Jesus say how “hard [it is] for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). Jesus turned everything upside down. How could being rich (a winner) offer a roadblock? Apparently, if we trust in what we have (what we can do, who we are), then it’s not only hard but actually impossible to trust God.

The kingdom of God doesn’t play by our rules. “Many who are first,” Jesus says, “will be last, and many who are last will be first” (v. 30). And, whether you’re first or last, everything we receive is purely by grace—by God’s unmerited favor.

By Winn Collier

Today’s Reflection

Consider how you view people, or how you view your own life. How does Jesus’s way of seeing so-called losers and winners change your perspective?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Need a New Heart?

 

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 1–3; Luke 8:26–56

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.

Ezekiel 36:26

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Ezekiel 36:24–27

The news was grim. My father had been having chest pains, so his doctor ordered a test to peer into his heart. The result? Blockage found in three arteries.

Triple-bypass surgery was scheduled for February 14. My dad, though anxious, saw that date as a hopeful sign: “I’m getting a new heart for Valentine’s Day!” And he did! The surgery went perfectly, restoring life-giving blood flow to his struggling heart—his “new” heart.

My father’s surgery reminded me that God offers us a new life as well. Because sin clogs our spiritual “arteries”—our capacity to connect with God—we need spiritual “surgery” to clear them.

That’s what God promised His people in Ezekiel 36:26. He assured the Israelites, “I will give you a new heart. . . . I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” He also promised, “I will cleanse you from all your impurities” (v. 25) and “put my Spirit in you” (v. 27). To a people who’d lost hope, God promised a fresh start as the One who could renew their lives.

That promise was ultimately fulfilled through Jesus’s death and resurrection. When we trust in Him, we receive a new spiritual heart, one that’s cleansed of our sin and despair. Filled with Christ’s Spirit, our new heart beats with the spiritual lifeblood of God, that “we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).

By Adam Holz

Today’s Reflection

How does God’s promise of a new life bring hope when you’re struggling with guilt or shame? How will you rely on the Spirit’s power today instead of your own?

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Watch Out!

 

Bible in a Year:Ruth 1–4; Luke 8:1–25

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 5:6–11

I grew up in warm southern cities, so when I moved north, it took me a while to learn how to drive safely during the long, snowy months. During my first hard winter, I ended up stranded in a snowdrift three times! But after several years of practice, I began to feel comfortable driving in wintry conditions. In fact, I felt a little too comfortable. I stopped being as vigilant. And that’s when I hit a patch of black ice and skidded into a telephone pole on the side of the road!

Thankfully, no one was hurt, but I learned something important that day. I realized how dangerous it can be to feel comfortable. Instead of being watchful, I had gone on “autopilot.”

We need to practice that same kind of vigilance in our spiritual lives. Peter warns believers not to glide thoughtlessly through life, but to “be alert” (1 Peter 5:8). The devil is actively trying to destroy us, and so we too need to be active, resisting temptation and standing firm in our faith (v. 9). That’s not something we have to do on our own though. God promises to be with us in our sufferings and, ultimately, to make us “strong, firm and steadfast” (v. 10). By His power, we learn to remain watchful and alert in resisting evil and following Him.

By Amy Peterson

Today’s Reflection

Where do you need to be more alert? In what ways will you stay vigilant in following Jesus?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Situational Awareness

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 19–21; Luke 7:31–50

This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight.

Philippians 1:9

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Philippians 1:3–11

My family, all five of us, found ourselves in Rome over the Christmas holidays. I don’t know when I’ve ever seen more people jammed together in one place. As we snaked our way through crowds to see sights like the Vatican and the Coliseum, I repeatedly emphasized to my kids the practice of “situational awareness”—pay attention to where you are, who’s around you, and what’s going on. We live in a day when the world, at home and abroad, isn’t a safe place. And with the use of cell phones and ear buds, kids (and adults for that matter) don’t always practice an awareness of surroundings.

Situational awareness. This is an aspect of Paul’s prayer for the believers in Philippi recorded in Philippians 1:9–11. His desire for them was an ever-increasing discernment as to the who/what/where of their situations. But rather than some goal of personal safety, Paul prayed with a grander purpose that God’s holy people might be good stewards of the love of Christ they’d received, discern “what is best,” live “pure and blameless,” and be filled with good qualities that only Jesus can produce. This kind of living springs from an awareness that God is the who in our lives, and our increasing reliance on Him is what brings Him pleasure. And in any and all situations is where we can share from the overflow of His great love.

By John Blase

Today’s Reflection

How can you bring Christ’s love into your circumstances in a greater way?

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Our Daily Bread — Unexplainable Love

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 16–18; Luke 7:1–30

As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:34

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 13:31–35

Our small congregation decided to surprise my son on his sixth birthday. The church members decorated his Sunday school classroom with balloons and set up a small table with a cake on it. When my son opened the door, everyone shouted, “Happy birthday!”

Later on, as I was cutting the cake, my son came over and whispered in my ear, “Mom, why does everyone here love me?” I had the same question! These people had known us for only six months but were treating us as longtime friends.

Their love for my son reflected God’s love for us. We can’t understand why He loves us, but He does—and His love is freely given. We’ve done nothing to deserve His love, and yet He lavishly loves us. Scripture tells us: “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It’s part of who He is.

God has poured out His love on us so we can show this same love to others. Jesus told His disciples, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).

The people in our small church community love us because God’s love is in them. It shines through and identifies them as followers of Jesus. We can’t comprehend God’s love fully, but we can pour it out on others—being examples of His unexplainable love.

By Keila Ochoa

Today’s Reflection

How have you recently experienced God’s love through others? What can you do to reveal His compassionate ways to others today?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Borrowed Blessings

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 13–15; Luke 6:27–49

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.

Psalm 24:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Chronicles 29:6–16

As we bowed our heads over lunch, my friend Jeff prayed: “Father, thank You for letting us breathe Your air and eat Your food.” Jeff had just been through a difficult job loss, so his heartfelt trust in God and recognition that everything belongs to Him profoundly moved me. I found myself thinking: Do I honestly understand that even the most basic, everyday things in my life are really God’s, and He’s simply letting me use them?

When King David received offerings from the people of Israel for building the temple in Jerusalem, he prayed, “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” Then he added, “All of it belongs to you” (1 Chronicles 29:14, 16).

Scripture tells us that even “the ability to produce wealth” and earn a living come from Him (Deuteronomy 8:18). Understanding that all we have is borrowed encourages us to loosen our grip on the stuff of this world and live with open hands and hearts—sharing freely because we’re deeply thankful for the kindnesses we receive daily.

God is a generous giver—so loving that He even gave up His Son “for us all” (Romans 8:32). Because we have been given so much, may we give Him our heartfelt thanks for blessings small and large.

By James Banks

Today’s Reflection

What borrowed blessing can you thank God for today? How does it help to know that every good gift is from Him?

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Greatest Gift

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 11–12; Luke 6:1–26

We have found . . . Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.

John 1:45

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 1:43–51

Over the years, my friend Barbara has given me countless encouraging cards and thoughtful presents. After I told her I’d received Jesus as my Savior, she handed me the greatest gift she’d ever given me—my first Bible. She said, “You can grow closer to God and mature spiritually by meeting with Him daily, reading Scripture, praying, and trusting and obeying Him.” My life changed when Barbara invited me to get to know God better.

Barbara reminds me of the apostle Philip. After Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (John 1:43), the apostle immediately told his friend Nathanael that Jesus was “the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote” (v. 45). When Nathanael doubted, Philip didn’t argue, criticize, or give up on his friend. He simply invited him to meet Jesus face to face. “Come and see,” he said (v. 46).

I can imagine Philip’s joy when he heard Nathanael declare Jesus as “the Son of God” and “the king of Israel” (v. 49). What a blessing to know his friend wouldn’t miss out on seeing the “greater things” Jesus promised they’d witness (vv. 50–51).

The Holy Spirit initiates our intimate relationship with God and then lives in all who respond in faith. He enables us to know Him personally and to invite others to encounter Him daily through His Spirit and the Scriptures. An invitation to know Jesus better is a great gift to receive and give.

By Xochitl Dixon

Today’s Reflection

To whom will you extend an invitation to know Jesus better? How has He worked through others to grow your faith?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Creator and Sustainer

 

Bible in a Year: Judges 9–10; Luke 5:17–39

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory . . . sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Hebrews 1:3

Today’s Scripture & Insight: Hebrews 1:1–4

Working with a magnifying glass and tweezers, Swiss watchmaker Phillipe meticulously explained to me how he takes apart, cleans, and reassembles the tiny parts of specialty mechanical watches. Looking at all the intricate pieces, Phillipe showed me the essential component of the timepiece, the mainspring. The mainspring is the component that moves all the gears to allow the watch to keep time. Without it, even the most expertly designed watch will not function.

In a beautiful New Testament passage found in the book of Hebrews, the writer eloquently praises Jesus for being the one through whom God created the heavens and the earth. Like the intricacy of a specialty watch, every detail of our universe was created by Jesus (Hebrews 1:2). From the vastness of the solar system to the uniqueness of our fingerprints, all things were made by Him.

But more than the Creator, Jesus, like a clock’s mainspring, is essential for the function and flourishing of creation. His presence continually “[sustains] all things by his powerful word” (v. 3), keeping all that He has created working together in all its amazing complexity.

As you have opportunity to experience the beauty of creation today, remember that “in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). May the recognition of Jesus’s central role in both creating and sustaining the universe result in a joyful heart and a response of praise as we acknowledge His ongoing provision for us.

By Lisa M. Samra

Today’s Reflection

What in God’s creation has caused you to worship Him? Why?

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Bright Lights

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 7–8; Luke 5:1–16

You are the light of the world.

Matthew 5:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Philippians 2:12–18

In the summer of 2015, a group from our church was sobered by what we saw in Mathare, one of the slums in Nairobi, Kenya. We visited a school with dirt floors, rusting metal walls, and wooden benches. But against the backdrop of extremely humble surroundings, one person stood out.

Her name was Brilliant, and the name couldn’t have fit her better. She was an elementary school teacher who possessed joy and determination that matched her mission. Colorfully dressed, her appearance and the joy with which she instructed and encouraged the children were stunning.

The bright light Brilliant brought to her surroundings resembles the way Christians in Philippi were to be positioned in their world when Paul wrote to them in the first century. Against the background of a spiritually needy world, believers in the Lord Jesus were to shine “like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:15). Our assignment hasn’t changed. Bright lights are needed everywhere! How encouraging it is to know that through the One “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (v. 13) believers in Jesus can sparkle in ways that fit Jesus’s description of those who follow Him. To us He still says, “You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).

By Arthur Jackson

Today’s Reflection

How can you reveal the light of Christ to others? What can you do to bring His joy to those who desperately need it?

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Surrounded by God

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 4–6; Luke 4:31–44

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lordsurrounds his people both now and for evermore.

Psalm 125:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 125:1–5

In a busy airport, a young mother struggled alone. Her toddler was in full tantrum mode—screaming, kicking, and refusing to board their plane. Overwhelmed and heavily pregnant, the burdened young mother finally gave up, sinking to the floor in frustration, covering her face, and starting to sob.

Suddenly six or seven women travelers, all strangers, formed a circle around the young mother and her child—sharing snacks, water, gentle hugs, and even a nursery song. Their loving circle calmed the mother and child, who then boarded their plane. The other women returned to their seats, not needing to discuss what they had done, but knowing their support had strengthened a young mother exactly when she needed it.

This illustrates a beautiful truth from Psalm 125. “As the mountains surround Jerusalem,” says verse 2, “so the Lord surrounds his people.” The image reminds us how the bustling city of Jerusalem is, indeed, flanked by surrounding hills—among them the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, and Mount Moriah.

In this same way, God surrounds His people—supporting and standing guard over our souls “both now and for evermore.” Thus, on tough days, look up, “unto the hills,” as the psalmist puts it (Psalm 121:1 kjv). God awaits with strong help, steady hope, and everlasting love.

By Patricia Raybon

Today’s Reflection

How have you sensed the Lord surrounding you with His love? Who can you share His love with today?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Remembering My Father

 

Bible in a Year:Judges 1–3; Luke 4:1–30

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.

Colossians 3:23

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Job 38:1–11

When I remember my dad, I picture him best outdoors hammering or gardening or downstairs working in his cluttered workroom, stuffed with fascinating tools and gadgets. His hands were always busy at a task or project—sometimes building (a garage or a deck or a birdhouse), sometimes locksmithing, and sometimes designing jewelry and stained-glass art.

Remembering my dad prompts me to think of my heavenly Father and Creator, who has always been busy at work. In the beginning, “[God] laid the earth’s foundations . . . [and] marked off its dimensions . . . while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy” (Job 38:4–7). Everything He created was a work of art, a masterpiece. He designed a breathtakingly beautiful world and pronounced it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

That includes you and me. God designed us in intimate and intricate detail (Psalm 139:13–16); and He entrusted us with and instilled in us (His image bearers) the goal and desire to work, which includes ruling and caring for the Earth and its creatures (Genesis 1:26–28; 2:15). No matter the work we do—in our job or in our leisure—God empowers and gives us what we need to work wholeheartedly for Him.

In everything we do, may we do it to please Him.

By Alyson Kieda

Today’s Reflection

What has God worked out in your life recently? How does it change your view of even mundane tasks to see them as opportunities to serve and honor Him?

 

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