Tag Archives: Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread — Sinking into Grace

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 17–18; Matthew 27:27–50

[God] grants sleep to those he loves.

Psalm 127:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 127:1-2

Finally, on January 8, 1964, seventeen-year-old Randy Gardner did something he hadn’t done for eleven days and twenty-five minutes: he nodded off to sleep. He wanted to beat the Guinness Book World Record for how long a human could stay awake. By drinking soft drinks and hitting the basketball court and bowling alley, Gardner rebuffed sleep for a week and a half. Before finally collapsing, his sense of taste, smell, and hearing went haywire. Decades later, Gardner suffered from severe bouts of insomnia. He set the record but also confirmed the obvious: sleep is essential.

Many of us struggle to get a decent night’s rest. Unlike Gardner who deprived himself intentionally, we might suffer sleeplessness for a number of reasons—including a mountain of anxieties: the fear of all we need to accomplish, the dread of others’ expectations, the distress of living at a frantic pace. Sometimes it’s hard for us to turn off the fear and relax.

The psalmist tells us that “unless the Lord builds the house,” we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1). Our “toiling” and our relentless efforts are useless unless God provides what we need. Thankfully, God does provide what we need. He “grants sleep to those he loves” (v. 2). And God’s love extends to all of us. He invites us to release our anxieties to Him and sink into His rest, into His grace.

By Winn Collier

Today’s Reflection

God, I’m so anxious. I churn inside. Would You help me trust You with my night, with my day, with my life?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Out of Context

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 15–16; Matthew 27:1–26

She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

John 20:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 20:13-16

As I queued up to board my flight, someone tapped my shoulder. I turned and received a warm greeting. “Elisa! Do you remember me? It’s Joan!” My mind flipped through various “Joans” I’d known, but I couldn’t place her. Was she a previous neighbor? A past coworker? Oh dear . . . I didn’t know.

Sensing my struggle, Joan responded, “Elisa, we knew each other in high school.” A memory rose: Friday night football games, cheering from the stands. Once the context was clarified, I recognized Joan.

After Jesus’s death, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early in the morning and found the stone rolled away and His body gone (John 20:1–2). She ran to get Peter and John, who returned with her to find the tomb empty (vv. 3–10). But Mary lingered outside in her grief (v. 11). When Jesus appeared there, “she did not realize that it was Jesus” (v. 14), thinking He was the gardener (v. 15).

How could she have not recognized Jesus? Was His resurrected body so changed that it was difficult to recognize Him? Did her grief blind her to His identity? Or, perhaps, like me, was it because Jesus was “out of context,” alive in the garden instead of dead in the tomb, that she didn’t recognize Him?

How might we too miss Jesus when He comes into our days—during prayer or Bible reading, or by simply whispering in our hearts?

By Elisa Morgan

Today’s Reflection

Dear God, give us eyes to see Jesus, however He comes—in a familiar context or surprising us in an unexpected one.

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Battle

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 14; Matthew 26:51–75

But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

Psalm 39:7

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 39:1-7

As artillery rounds fell around him with an earth-shaking whoomp, the young soldier prayed fervently, “Lord, if you get me through this, I’ll go to that Bible school Mom wanted me to attend.” God honored his focused prayer. My dad survived World War II, went to Moody Bible Institute, and invested his life in ministry.

Another warrior endured a different kind of crisis that drove him to God, but his problems arose when he avoided combat. As King David’s troops fought the Ammonites, David was back at his palace casting more than just a glance at another man’s wife (see 2 Samuel 11). In Psalm 39, David chronicles the painful process of restoration from the terrible sin that resulted. “The turmoil within me grew worse,” he wrote. “The more I thought about it, the hotter I got” (vv. 2–3 nlt).

David’s broken spirit caused him to reflect: “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is” (v. 4). Amid his renewed focus, David didn’t despair. He had nowhere else to turn. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (v. 7). David would survive this personal battle and go on to serve God.

What motivates our prayer life doesn’t matter as much as the focus of our prayer. Godis our source of hope. He wants us to share our heart with Him.

By Tim Gustafson

Today’s Reflection

Father, our hope is in You. Forgive us for seeking answers apart from You. Draw us close to You today.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Seen by God

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 13; Matthew 26:26–50

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Genesis 16:13

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Genesis 16:7-14

My first pair of eyeglasses opened my eyes to a bold world. I’m nearsighted, meaning objects close up are sharp and defined. Without my glasses, however, items across a room or in the distance are a blur. At age twelve, with my first pair of eyeglasses, I was shocked to see clearer words on blackboards, tiny leaves on trees and, perhaps most important, big smiles on faces.

As friends smiled back when I greeted them, I learned that to be seen was as great a gift as the blessing of seeing.

The slave Hagar realized that as she fled from her mistress Sarai’s unkindness. Hagar was a “nobody” in her culture, pregnant and alone, fleeing to a desert without help or hope. Seen by God, however, she was empowered, in return, to see Him. No longer a vague concept, God became real to her, so real that she gave God a name, El Roi, which means “You are the God who sees me.” She said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).

Our seeing God sees each of us too. Feeling unseen, alone, or like a nobody? God sees you and your future. In return, may we see in Him our ever-present hope, encouragement, salvation, and joy—both for today and for our future. Praise Him today for this gift of amazing sight, to see the one true and Living God.

By Patricia Raybon

Today’s Reflection

Lord, I’m just one person in a big world, but I thank You for looking from on high and seeing me—so that I may see You.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Living with the Lights On

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 8–10; Matthew 25:31–46

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalm 119:105

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 119:9-16

A work assignment had taken my coworker and me on a 250-mile journey, and it was late when we began our trip home. An aging body with aging eyes makes me a bit uneasy about nighttime driving; nevertheless, I opted to drive first. My hands gripped the steering wheel and my eyes gazed intently at dimly lit roads. While driving I found I could see better when lights from vehicles behind me beamed on the highway ahead. I was much relieved when my friend eventually took the wheel of his vehicle. That’s when he discovered I had been driving with fog lights and not the headlights!

Psalm 119 is the masterful composition of one who understood that God’s Word provides us with light for everyday living (v. 105). Yet, how often do we find ourselves in situations similar to my uncomfortable night on the highway? We needlessly strain to see, and we sometimes stray from the best paths because we forget to use the light of God’s Word. Psalm 119 encourages us to be intentional about “hitting the light switch.” What happens when we do? We find wisdom for purity (vv. 9–11); we discover fresh motivation and encouragement for avoiding detours (vv. 101–102). And when we live with the lights on, the psalmist’s praise is likely to become our praise: “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long” (v. 97).

By Arthur Jackson

Today’s Reflection

Father, please fill my heart with Your Word so I can have the light I need for today!

 

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Our Daily Bread — Discovering My True Self

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 6–7; Matthew 25:1–30

We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

1 John 3:2

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 16:1-11

Who am I? That’s the question a faded stuffed animal asks himself in the children’s book Nothing by Mick Inkpen. Left in a dusty corner of an attic, the animal hears movers call him “nothing” and thinks that’s his name: Nothing.

Encounters with other animals spark memories. Nothing realizes that he used to have a tail, whiskers, and stripes. But it’s not until he meets a tabby cat who helps him find his way home that Nothing remembers who he truly is: a stuffed cat named Toby. His owner lovingly restores him, sewing on new ears, tail, whiskers, and stripes.

Whenever I read this book, I think about my own identity. Who am I? John, writing to believers, said that God has called us His children (1 John 3:1). We don’t fully understand that identity, but when we see Jesus, we will be like him (v. 2). Just like Toby the cat, we will one day be restored to the identity intended for us, which has been marred by sin. For now, we can understand that identity in part, and we can recognize the image of God in each other. But one day, when we see Jesus, we will be fully restored to the identity God intended for us. We will be made new.

By Amy Peterson

Today’s Reflection

Where do I find my identity? According to Scripture, how does God view me?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Love and Peace

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 4–5; Matthew 24:29–51

You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead. . . . You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.

Psalm 16:10–11

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 16:1-11

It always amazes me the way peace—powerful, unexplainable peace (Philippians 4:7)—can somehow fill our hearts even in our deepest grief. I experienced this most recently at my father’s memorial service. As a long line of sympathetic acquaintances passed by offering their condolences, I was relieved to see a good high school friend. Without a word, he simply wrapped me in a long bear hug. His quiet understanding flooded me with the first feelings of peace within grief that difficult day, a powerful reminder that I wasn’t as alone as I felt.

As David describes in Psalm 16, the kind of peace and joy God brings into our lives isn’t caused by a choice to stoically stomp down the pain during hard times; it’s more like a gift we can’t help but experience when we take refuge in our good God (vv. 1–2).

We could respond to the aching pain that death brings by distracting ourselves, perhaps thinking that turning to these other “gods” will keep the pain at bay. But sooner or later we’ll find that efforts to avoid our pain only bring deeper pain (v. 4).

Or we could turn to God, trusting that even when we don’t understand, the life He’s already given us—even in its pain—is still beautiful and good (vv. 6–8). And we can surrender to His loving arms that tenderly carry us through our pain into a peace and joy that even death can never quench (v. 11).

By Monica Brands

Today’s Reflection

Father, thank You for the way Your tender touch embraces and holds us in our times of joy and pain. Help us to turn in trust to You for healing.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Good Works Prepared

 

Bible in a Year:Leviticus 1–3; Matthew 24:1–28

For we are . . . created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Ephesians 2:6–10

When a burly stranger approached my wife and me on a street abroad, we shrunk back in fear. Our holiday had been going badly; we had been yelled at, cheated, and extorted from several times. Were we going to be shaken down again? To our surprise, the man just wanted to show us where to get the best view of his city. Then he gave us a chocolate bar, smiled, and left. That little gesture made our day—and saved the whole trip. It made us grateful—both to the man and to God for cheering us up.

What had made the man reach out to two strangers? Had he gone around with a chocolate bar the entire day, looking to bless someone with it?

It’s amazing how the smallest action can bring the biggest smile—and possibly direct someone to God. The Bible stresses the importance of doing good works (James 2:17, 24). If that sounds challenging, we have the assurance that God not only enables us to do these works, but has even “prepared [them] in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Perhaps God has arranged for us to “bump into” someone who needs a word of encouragement today or has given us an opportunity to offer someone a helping hand. All we have to do is respond in obedience.

By Leslie Koh

Today’s Reflection

Who can you pray for or help today? Who might God be putting in your path?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Love Changes Us

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 39–40; Matthew 23:23–39

At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

Acts 9:20

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Acts 9:1-22

Before I met Jesus, I’d been wounded so deeply that I avoided close relationships in fear of being hurt more. My mom remained my closest friend, until I married Alan. Seven years later and on the verge of divorce, I toted our kindergartner, Xavier, into a church service. I sat near the exit door, afraid to trust but desperate for help.

Thankfully, believers reached out, prayed for our family, and taught me how to nurture a relationship with God through prayer and Bible reading. Over time, the love of Christ and His followers changed me.

Two years after that first church service, Alan, Xavier, and I asked to be baptized. Sometime later, during one of our weekly conversations, my mom said, “You’re different. Tell me more about Jesus.” A few months passed and she too accepted Christ as her Savior.

Jesus transforms lives . . . lives like Saul’s, one of the most feared persecutors of the church until his encounter with Christ (Acts 9:1–5). Others helped Saul learn more about Jesus (vv. 17–19). His drastic transformation added to the credibility of his Spirit-empowered teaching (vv. 20–22).

Our first personal encounter with Jesus may not be as dramatic as Saul’s. Our life transformation may not be as quick or drastic. Still, as people notice how Christ’s love is changing us over time, we’ll have opportunities to tell others what He did for us.

By Xochitl Dixon

Today’s Reflection

To learn more about growing in your faith, see this free course at christianuniversity.org/SF104.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Moves of the Heart

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 36–38; Matthew 23:1–22

Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.

Numbers 9:17

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Numbers 9:15-23

According to the US Census Bureau, Americans move from one address to another an average of eleven to twelve times during the course of a lifetime. In a recent year, 28 million people packed up, moved, and unpacked under a new roof.

During Israel’s forty years in the wilderness, the cloud of God’s presence led a whole family nation to make one move after another in anticipation of a new homeland. The account is so repetitious, it reads almost like a comedy. Over and over the huge family packed and unpacked not only its own belongings but also the tent and furnishings of the tabernacle, where the God of the cloud met with Moses (see Exodus 25:22).

Many years later, Jesus would give fuller meaning to the story of Israel’s moving days. Instead of leading from a cloud, He came in person. When He said, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19), He began showing that the most important changes of address happen on roads of the heart. By leading both friends and enemies to the foot of a Roman cross, He showed how far the God of the cloud and tabernacle would go to rescue us.

Like changes of address, such moves of the heart are unsettling. But someday, from a window in our Father’s house, we’ll see that Jesus led us all the way.

By Mart DeHaan

Today’s Reflection

In what ways does choosing to follow God unsettle you? How might prayer help to strengthen your faith and trust in Him?

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — All I Can See

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 34–35; Matthew 22:23–46

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30

Today’s Scripture & Insight:John 3:22-35

Krista stood in the freezing cold on a winter day, looking at the beautiful snow-encased lighthouse along the lake. As she pulled out her phone to take pictures, her glasses fogged over. She couldn’t see a thing so she decided to point her camera toward the lighthouse and snapped three pictures at different angles. Looking at them later, she realized the camera had been set to take “selfies.” She laughed as she said, “My focus was me, me, and me. All I saw was me.” Krista’s photos got me thinking of a similar mistake: We can become so self-focused we lose sight of the bigger picture of God’s plan.

Jesus’s cousin John clearly knew his focus wasn’t himself. Right from the start he recognized that his position or calling was to point others to Jesus, the Son of God. “Look, the Lamb of God!” he said when he saw Jesus coming toward him and his followers (John 1:29). He continued, “The reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed” (v. 31). When John’s disciples later reported that Jesus was gaining followers, John said, “You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ . . . He must become greater; I must become less” (3:28–30).

May the central focus of our lives be Jesus and loving Him with our whole heart.

By Anne Cetas

Today’s Reflection

How can I love Jesus best? Who might He want me to love?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Ears Were Made for Listening

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 31–33; Matthew 22:1–22

Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.

Jeremiah 5:21

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Jeremiah 5:18-23

Actress Diane Kruger was offered a role that would make her a household name. But it required her to play a young wife and mother experiencing the loss of her husband and child, and she had never personally suffered loss to such a degree. She didn’t know if she could be believable. But she accepted, and in order to prepare, she began attending support meetings for people walking through the valley of extreme grief.

Initially she offered suggestions and thoughts when those in the group shared their stories. She, like most of us, wanted to be helpful. But gradually she stopped talking, and simply started listening. It was only then she began truly learning to walk a mile in their shoes. And her realization came by using her ears.

Jeremiah’s indictment against the people was that they refused to use their “ears” to hear the Lord’s voice. The prophet did not mince words, calling them “foolish and senseless people” (Jeremiah 5:21). God is constantly at work in our lives communicating words of love, instruction, encouragement, and caution. The Father’s desire is that you and I learn and mature, and we have each been given the tools, such as ears, to do so. The question then is, will we use them to hear the heart of our Father?

By John Blase

Today’s Reflection

Father, I believe You are always speaking. Forgive my stubborn tendency to think I have all the answers. Open my ears that I may hear.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Restored

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 29–30; Matthew 21:23–46

I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.

Joel 2:25

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Joel 2:18-27

A 2003 infestation of Mormon crickets caused more than $25 million in lost crops. The crickets came in such numbers that people couldn’t so much as take a step without finding one underfoot. The grasshopper-like insect, named for attacking the crops of the Utah pioneers in 1848, can eat an astounding thirty-eight pounds of plant material in their lifetimes, despite being merely two to three inches long. The impact of infestations on famers’ livelihoods—and the overall economy of a state or country—can be devastating.

The Old Testament prophet Joel described a horde of similar insects ravaging the entire nation of Judah as a consequence for their collective disobedience. He foretold an invasion of locusts (a metaphor for a foreign army, in the minds of some Bible scholars) like nothing previous generations had seen (Joel 1:2). The locusts would lay waste to everything in their path, driving the people into famine and poverty. If, however, the people would turn from their sinful ways and ask God for forgiveness, Joel says the Lord would “repay [them] for the years the locusts have eaten” (2:25).

We too can learn from Judah’s lesson: like insects, our wrongdoings eat away at the fruitful, fragrant life God intended for us. When we turn toward Him, and away from our past choices, He promises to remove our shame and restore us to an abundant life in Him.

By Kirsten Holmberg

Today’s Reflection

What can you ask God’s forgiveness for today?

To learn more about Joel and other Old Testament prophets, see the free course at christianuniversity.org/OT128.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Deeper Love

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 27–28; Matthew 21:1–22

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Today’s Scripture & Insight:1 Peter 4:7-11

When they first met, Edwin Stanton snubbed US president Abraham Lincoln personally and professionally—even referring to him as a “long-armed creature.” But Lincoln appreciated Stanton’s abilities and chose to forgive him, eventually appointing Stanton to a vital cabinet position during the Civil War. Stanton later grew to love Lincoln as a friend. It was Stanton who sat by Lincoln’s bed throughout the night after the president was shot at Ford’s Theater and whispered through tears on his passing, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Reconciliation is a beautiful thing. The apostle Peter pointed followers of Jesus there when he wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Peter’s words cause me to wonder if he was thinking of his own denial of Jesus (Luke 22:54–62) and the forgiveness Jesus offered him (and us) through the cross.

The deep love Jesus demonstrated through His death on the cross frees us from the debt for our sins and opens the way for our reconciliation with God (Colossians 1:19–20). His forgiveness empowers us to forgive others as we realize we can’t forgive in our own strength and ask Him to help us. When we love others because our Savior loves them and forgive because He has forgiven us, God gives us strength to let go of the past and walk forward with Him into beautiful new places of grace.

By James Banks

 

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Our Daily Bread — Adopted

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 25–26; Matthew 20:17–34

God sent his Son . . . that we might receive adoption to sonship.

Galatians 4:4–5

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Galatians 4:1-7

I’m glad when a philanthropist builds an orphanage for homeless children. I’m thrilled when that person gives even more and adopts one of them. Most orphans would be delighted merely to have a patron. But then to learn the sponsor isn’t content merely to help me but also wants me. How must that feel?

If you’re a child of God you already know, because it’s happened to you. We couldn’t complain if God had merely loved us enough to send His Son that we might “not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). It would be enough for us. But not for God. He “sent his Son . . . to redeem” us, not as an end in itself, but “that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4–5).

The apostle Paul refers to us as “sons” because in his day it was common for sons to inherit their father’s wealth. His point is that now everyone who puts their faith in Jesus, whether man or woman, becomes a “son” of God with equal and full rights of inheritance (v. 7).

God does not merely want to save you. He wants you. He has adopted you into His family, given you His name (Revelation 3:12), and proudly calls you His child. You could not possibly be loved more, or by anyone more important. You aren’t merely blessed by God. You are the child of God. Your Father loves you.

By Mike Wittmer

Today’s Reflection

Father, what a privilege to call You this! Thank You for saving me, and for wanting me.

Welcome to Mike Wittmer! Meet all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Algae and Diatoms

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 23–24; Matthew 20:1–16

Stop and consider God’s wonders.

Job 37:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Job 37:14-24

“What’s a diatom?” I asked my friend. I was leaning over her shoulder looking at pictures on her cell phone she had taken through a microscope. “Oh, it’s like algae, but it’s harder to see. Sometimes you need a drop of oil on the lens or they have to be dead to see them,” she explained. I sat amazed as she scrolled through the pictures. I couldn’t stop thinking about the intricate detail God put into life that we can only see with a microscope!

God’s creation and works are endless. In the book of Job, one of Job’s friends, Elihu, points this out to Job as he struggles through his loss. Elihu challenges his friend, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?” (Job 37:14–16). We, as humans, can’t begin to understand the complexity of God and His creation.

Even the parts of creation we can’t see reflect God’s glory and power. His glory surrounds us. No matter what we’re going through, God is working, even when we can’t see it and don’t understand. Let’s praise Him today, for “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 5:9).

By Julie Schwab

Today’s Reflection

Lord, thank You for the detail You put into creation and for being at work even when we can’t see it.

Welcome to Julie Schwab! Meet all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Rip the Heavens

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 21–22; Matthew 19

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.

Isaiah 64:1

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Isaiah 64:1-8

In a recent conversation, where a friend shared with me that she’d abandoned her faith, I heard a familiar complaint: How can I believe in a God who doesn’t ever seem to do anything? This gut-wrenching question appears for most of us at one point or another, as we read of violence in the news and as we carry our own heartbreak. My friend’s distress revealed her intense need for God to act on her behalf, a longing we’ve all likely felt.

Israel knew this terrain well. The Babylonian Empire overwhelmed Israel, crushing them with an iron fist and turning Jerusalem into smoldering rubble. The prophet Isaiah put words to the people’s dark doubt: Where is the God who’s supposed to rescue us? (Isaiah 63:11–15). And yet from precisely this place, Isaiah offered a bold prayer: God, “rend the heavens and come down” (64:1). Isaiah’s pain and sorrow drove him not to pull away from God, but to seek to draw closer to Him.

Our doubts and troubles offer a strange gift: they reveal how lost we are and how much we need God to move toward us. We see now the remarkable, improbable story. In Jesus, God did rip the heavens and come to us. Christ surrendered His own ripped and broken body so that He could overwhelm us with His love. In Jesus, God is very near.

By Winn Collier

Today’s Reflection

What questions or doubts do you have to talk with God about?

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Mood Mender

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 19–20; Matthew 18:21–35

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Psalm 94:19

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 94:2

As I waited at the train station for my weekly commute, negative thoughts crowded my mind like commuters lining up to board a train—stress over debt, unkind remarks said to me, helplessness in the face of a recent injustice done to a family member. By the time the train arrived, I was in a terrible mood.

On the train, another thought came to mind: write a note to God, giving Him my lament. Soon after I finished pouring out my complaints in my journal, I pulled out my phone and listened to the praise songs in my library. Before I knew it, my bad mood had completely changed.

Little did I know that I was following a pattern set by the writer of Psalm 94. The psalmist first poured out his complaints: “Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. . . . Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (Psalm 94:2, 16.) He didn’t hold anything back as he talked to God about injustice done to widows and orphans. Once he’d made his lament to God, the psalm transitioned into praise: “But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge” (v. 22).

God invites us to take our laments to Him. He can turn our fear, sadness, and helplessness into praise.

By Linda Washington

Today’s Reflection

Lord, I pour out my heart to You. Take my hurts and my anger, and grant me Your peace.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Righteous Among the Nations

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 16–18; Matthew 18:1–20

For such a time as this.

Esther 4:14

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Esther 4:5-14

At Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, my husband and I went to the Righteous Among the Nations garden that honors the men and women who risked their lives to save Jewish people during the Holocaust. While looking at the memorial, we met a group from the Netherlands. One woman was there to see her grandparents’ names listed on the large plaques. Intrigued, we asked about her family’s story.

Members of a resistance network, the woman’s grandparents Rev. Pieter and Adriana Müller took in a two-year-old Jewish boy and passed him off as the youngest of their eight children from 1943–1945.

Moved by the story, we asked, “Did the little boy survive?” An older gentleman in the group stepped forward and proclaimed, “I am that boy!”

The bravery of many to act on behalf of the Jewish people reminds me of Queen Esther. The queen may have thought she could escape King Xerxes’s decree to annihilate the Jews around 475 bc because she had concealed her ethnicity. However, she was convinced to act—even under the threat of death—when her cousin begged her to not remain silent about her Jewish heritage because she had been placed in her position “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

We may never be asked to make such a dramatic decision. However, we will likely face the choice to speak out against an injustice or remain silent; to provide assistance to someone in trouble or turn away. May God grant us courage.

By Lisa Samra

Today’s Reflection

Are there those you need to speak up for? Ask God about the timing.

 

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Our Daily Bread — Free from Frostbite

 

Bible in a Year:Exodus 14–15; Matthew 17

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.

Psalm 119:35

Today’s Scripture & Insight:Psalm 119:33-48

On a winter day, my children begged to go sledding. The temperature hovered near zero degrees Fahrenheit. Snowflakes raced by our windows. I thought it over and said yes, but asked them to bundle up, stay together, and come inside after fifteen minutes.

Out of love, I created those rules so my children could play freely without suffering frostbite. I think the author of Psalm 119 recognized the same good intent in God as he penned two consecutive verses that might seem contradictory: “I will always obey your law” and “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts” (vv. 44–45). How is it that the psalmist associated freedom with a spiritually law-abiding life?

Following God’s wise instruction allows us to escape the consequences that come from choices we later wish we could undo. Without the weight of guilt or pain we are freer to enjoy our lives. God doesn’t want to control us with dos and don’ts; rather, His guidelines show that He loves us.

While my kids were sledding, I watched them blast down the hill. I smiled at the sound of their laughter and the sight of their pink cheeks. They were free within the boundaries I’d given them. This compelling paradox is present in our relationship with God—it leads us to say with the psalmist, “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight” (v. 35).

By Jennifer Benson Schuldt

Today’s Reflection

Dear God, give me a love for Your ways like the psalmist had. I want to worship You with the choices I make every day.

 

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