Tag Archives: Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread — By the Spirit’s Power

 

Read: Zechariah 4:1–7

Bible in a Year: Genesis 46–48; Matthew 13:1–30

What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground.—Zechariah 4:7

What do you do when there is a mountain in your way? The story of Dashrath Manjhi can inspire us. When his wife died because he was unable to get her to the hospital to receive urgent medical care, Manjhi did what seemed impossible. He spent twenty-two years chiseling a massive gap in a mountain so other villagers could get to the local hospital to receive the medical care they needed. Before he died, the government of India celebrated him for his achievement.

Rebuilding the temple must have looked impossible to Zerubbabel, one of the leaders of Israel who returned from exile. The people were discouraged, faced opposition from their enemies, and lacked resources or a big army. But God sent Zechariah to remind Zerubbabel that the task would take something more powerful than military strength, individual power, or man-made resources. It would take the Spirit’s power (Zechariah 4:6). With the assurance of divine aid, Zerubbabel trusted that God would level any mountain of difficulty that stood in the way of rebuilding the temple and restoring the community (v. 7).

What do we do when there is a “mountain” before us? We have two options: rely on our own strength or trust the Spirit’s power. When we trust His power, He will either level the mountain or give us the strength and endurance to climb over it. —Marvin Williams

What challenges stand in your way? How will you trust the power of God’s Spirit in your life? Share it on Facebook.com/ourdailybread.

Human power is inadequate to accomplish God’s purposes.

INSIGHT: What keeps us from finishing the work entrusted to us? Eighteen years had passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, told Jewish captives of Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple of their God (Ezra 6:3,14). Now the prophet Zechariah urged completion. This temple, like the Messiah who would someday enter its courts, represented the heart of God for the world. Anything done for His honor—and for the good of others—is done in His Spirit. Mart DeHaan

 

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Our Daily Bread — Dealing with Delay

 

Read: Genesis 45:1–8

Bible in a Year: Genesis 43–45; Matthew 12:24–50

So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.—Genesis 45:8

A global computer system outage causes widespread flight cancellations, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers at airports. During a winter storm, multiple auto accidents close major highways. The person who promised to send a reply “right away” has failed to do so. Delays can often produce anger and frustration, but as followers of Jesus, we have the privilege of looking to Him for help.

One of the Bible’s great examples of patience is Joseph, who was sold to slave traders by his jealous brothers, falsely accused by his employer’s wife, and imprisoned in Egypt. “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:20-21). Years later, when Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams, he was made second in command in Egypt (ch. 41).

The most remarkable fruit of his patience occurred when his brothers came to buy grain during a famine. “I am your brother Joseph,” he told them, “the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. . . . So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (45:4-5, 8).

In all our delays, brief or long, may we, like Joseph, gain patience, perspective, and peace as we trust in the Lord. —David C. McCasland

Father in heaven, in all of our delays may we trust Your faithful hand of guidance and experience Your presence with us in every situation.

Confidence in God enables us to live out our faith patiently.

INSIGHT: When we are going through a difficult season, we can find comfort and encouragement by looking at how God worked in Joseph’s difficult—even seemingly hopeless—circumstances. We learn to ask the questions: Why does God have me here? What does He have in store for me or want to do through me? Joseph came to realize that it was God who had placed him in his situation (see Genesis 45:8; 50:20).

We also learn something about God’s timing. It only takes a few moments for us to read Joseph’s story, but his trial lasted for years. His imprisonment may have been to fulfill God’s purposes (interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams) but the timing was also God’s.

How does knowing that God is in control help you as you wait for Him to work?

 

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Our Daily Bread — Growing Gratitude

 

Read: Romans 11:33–36

Bible in a Year: Genesis 41–42; Matthew 12:1–23

For from him and through him and for him are all things.—Romans 11:36

Would you like to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude? George Herbert, a seventeenth-century British poet, encourages readers toward that goal in his poem “Gratefulness”: “Thou that hast given so much to me, give one thing more: a grateful heart.”

Herbert recognized the only thing he needed in order to be thankful was simply an awareness of the blessings God had already given him.

The Bible declares Christ Jesus as the source of all blessing in Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and for him are all things.” “All things” encompasses both the extravagant and the mundane, everyday gifts in our lives. Everything we receive in life comes directly from our heavenly Father (James 1:17), and He willingly gives us those gifts out of His love for us.

To expand my awareness of God’s blessings in my life, I am learning to cultivate a heart that acknowledges the source of all the joys I experience each day, but especially the ones I often take for granted. Today those included a crisp morning to run, the anticipation of an evening with friends, a stocked pantry so I could make French toast with my daughters, the beauty of the world outside my window, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

What is the “so much” that God has already given to you? Opening our eyes to those blessings will help us to develop grateful hearts. —Lisa Samra

Take a few minutes to thank God for what comes to your mind right now. Try to do that throughout the day as well.

When you think of all that’s good, thank God.Welcome to Lisa Samra! Meet all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.

INSIGHT: Do you tend to think of yourself as more or less thankful than other people? Consider how the apostle Paul used that question to set a love-trap for some of his readers. Early in his letter to the Romans he describes those who have no interest in worshiping or giving thanks to their Creator (Romans 1:21). For the rest of chapter he describes the unraveling lives of those who refuse to acknowledge the goodness of their God.

Then it happens. Paul anticipates that someone has taken the bait. With no warning he asks his readers whether they really think they are any different than the unthankful sinners he has been condemning (2:1). Paul then spends much of the rest of his letter giving his readers reasons to give thanks to God for revealing in Christ the greatest good news the world has ever heard. Just before erupting in his great expression of worshipful praise to God (11:33-36), Paul concludes, “For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all” (v. 32).

In the smallest kindness, a thankful heart can sense the greatness of our God. Mart DeHaan

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Power of Prayer

 

Read: 1 Samuel 7:7–14

Bible in a Year: Genesis 39–40; Matthew 11

Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us.—1 Samuel 7:8

One day, when I was deeply concerned about the welfare of one close to me, I found encouragement in part of the Old Testament story of Samuel, a wise leader of the Israelites. As I read how Samuel interceded for God’s people as they faced trouble, I strengthened my resolve to pray for the one I loved.

The Israelites faced the threat of the Philistines, who had previously defeated them when God’s people didn’t trust in Him (see 1 Samuel 4). After repenting of their sins, they heard that the Philistines were about to attack. This time, however, they asked Samuel to continue praying for them (7:8), and the Lord answered clearly by throwing their enemy into confusion (v. 10). Though the Philistines may have been mightier than the Israelites, the Lord was the strongest of them all.

When we ache over the challenges facing those we love, and fear the situation won’t change, we may be tempted to believe that the Lord will not act. But we should never underestimate the power of prayer, for our loving God hears our pleas. We don’t know how He will move in response to our petitions, but we know that as our Father He longs for us to embrace His love and to trust in His faithfulness.

Do you have someone you can pray for today? —Amy Boucher Pye

Father God, the way You hear and answer my prayers amazes me. Strengthen my faith, that I will always believe in Your goodness and love.

God hears us when we pray.

INSIGHT: Samuel led his people to worship of the one true God (1 Samuel 7:1-6). Prayer was central to Samuel’s ministry (v. 9); in response to his intercession, God gave the nation victory over the Philistines (vv. 7-13). To commemorate this God-inspired victory, Samuel erected a remembrance stone he called Ebenezer, which means “stone of help.” It can also serve as a reminder to us not to underestimate the power of God to respond to our prayers!

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Our Daily Bread — An Angry God?

 

Read: Exodus 33:18–19; 34:1–7

Bible in a Year: Genesis 31–32; Matthew 9:18–38

The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.—Exodus 34:6

When I studied Greek and Roman mythology in college, I was struck by how moody and easily angered the mythological gods were in the stories. The people on the receiving end of their anger found their lives destroyed, sometimes on a whim.

I was quick to scoff, wondering how anyone could believe in gods like that. But then I asked myself, Is my view of the God who actually exists much different? Don’t I view Him as easily angered whenever I doubt Him? Sadly, yes.

That’s why I appreciate Moses’s request of God to “show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). Having been chosen to lead a large group of people who often grumbled against him, Moses wanted to know that God would indeed help him with this great task. Moses’s request was rewarded by a demonstration of God’s glory. God announced to Moses His name and characteristics. He is “the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (34:6).

This verse reminded me that God is not impulsive, suddenly striking out in anger. That’s reassuring, especially when I consider the times I’ve lashed out at Him in anger or impatience. Also, He continually works to make me more like Himself.

We can see God and His glory in His patience with us, the encouraging word of a friend, a beautiful sunset, or—best of all—the whisper of the Holy Spirit inside of us. —Linda Washington

Father God, I’m grateful that You are always compassionate, forgiving, and faithful.

Though we often change, God never does.

INSIGHT: Being exposed to God’s perfect character drew two responses from Moses. He first responded with worship (34:8), and then he acknowledged the need for forgiveness (v. 9). These continue to be important responses toward our loving God who is perfectly holy, compassionate, and forgiving.

What is your response to God’s loving forgiveness? Bill Crowder

 

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Our Daily Bread — Fitting In

Read: Malachi 3:13–18

Bible in a Year: Genesis 29–30; Matthew 9:1–17

Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.—Malachi 3:16

Lee is a diligent and reliable bank employee. Yet he often finds himself sticking out like a sore thumb for living out his faith. This reveals itself in practical ways, such as when he leaves the break room during an inappropriate conversation. At a Bible study, he shared with his friends, “I fear that I’m losing promotion opportunities for not fitting in.”

Believers during the prophet Malachi’s time faced a similar challenge. They had returned from exile and the temple had been rebuilt, but there was skepticism about God’s plan for their future. Some of the Israelites were saying, “It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements . . . ? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it” (Malachi 3:14-15).

How can we stand firm for God in a culture that tells us we will lose out if we don’t blend in? The faithful in Malachi’s time responded to that challenge by meeting with like-minded believers to encourage each other. Malachi shares this important detail with us: “The LORD listened and heard” (v. 16).

God notices and cares for all who fear and honor Him. He doesn’t call us to “fit in” but to draw closer to Him each day as we encourage each other. Let’s stay faithful! —Poh Fang Chia

Lord, help us to keep on encouraging one another to stay faithful to You in this faithless world.

Our faith may be tested so that we may trust God’s faithfulness.

INSIGHT: Malachi’s prophecy is a fitting conclusion to the Old Testament. (Malachi may not have been his actual name since it means “My messenger,” which is more a title than a name.) The prophecy challenges Israel’s condition following their return from exile and anticipates their coming Messiah. Chapters 1-2 give a series of rebukes for the waywardness of God’s people, leading to the declaration, “You have wearied the LORD with your words” (2:17). In response to Israel’s spiritual drifting, God reaches out with a promise for their rescue. Malachi 3:1 says, “ ‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the LORD you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.” That messenger was John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus—Israel’s long-hoped-for Messiah (Matthew 11:10). Even when we are faithless, our God is faithful!

How does God’s faithfulness encourage you to be faithful?

 

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Our Daily Bread — What Remains in the Eye

Read: Psalm 104:24–35

Bible in a Year: Zechariah 9–12; Revelation 20

How many are your works, LORD!—Psalm 104:24

The hummingbird gets its English name from the hum made by its rapidly beating wings. In other languages, it is known as the “flower-kisser” (Portuguese) or “flying jewels” (Spanish). One of my favorite names for this bird is biulu, “what remains in the eye” (Mexican Zapotec). In other words, once you see a hummingbird, you’ll never forget it.

  1. K. Chesterton wrote, “The world will never starve for want of wonders, but only for want of wonder.” The hummingbird is one of those wonders. What is so fascinating about these tiny creatures? Maybe it is their small size (averaging two to three inches) or the speed of their wings that can flap from 50 to 200 times per second.

We aren’t sure who wrote Psalm 104, but the psalmist was certainly captivated by nature’s beauty. After describing many of creation’s wonders, like the cedars of Lebanon and the wild donkeys, he sings, “May the LORD rejoice in his works” (v. 31). Then he prays, “May my meditation be pleasing to him” (v. 34).

Nature has plenty of things that can remain in the eye because of their beauty and perfection. How can we meditate on them and please God? We can observe, rejoice, and thank God as we contemplate His works and recapture the wonder. —Keila Ochoa

Father, help me to reflect on the wonders of nature and meditate on them with thankfulness for all You have done!

Wonder leads to gratitude.

INSIGHT: Many of the psalms overflow with awe at the magnificence of our God and the world He created. Psalms 8 and 104 are two examples. To realize that we are loved by our Creator God who “wraps himself in light as with a garment” (104:2) and who “set [his] glory in the heavens” (8:1) can cause us, like the psalmist David, to wonder, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (v. 4). Yet Scripture repeatedly assures us that God does indeed love us!

In what ways—large or small—have you felt God’s love for you today? Alyson Kieda

 

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Our Daily Bread — Everyday Moments

Read: Proverbs 15:13–15

Bible in a Year: Zechariah 5–8; Revelation 19

A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.—Proverbs 15:13

I piled groceries in my car and carefully exited my parking spot. Suddenly a man darted across the pavement just in front of me, not noticing my approach. I slammed on my brakes, just missing him. Startled, he looked up and met my gaze. In that moment, I knew I had a choice: respond with rolled-eye frustration or offer a smiling forgiveness. I smiled.

Relief flickered across his face, raising the edges of his own lips in gratefulness.

Proverbs 15:13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Is the writer directing us to cheery grins in the face of every interruption, disappointment, and inconvenience life brings? Surely not! There are times for genuine mourning, despair, and even anger at injustice. But in our everyday moments, a smile can offer relief, hope, and the grace needed to continue.

Perhaps the point of the proverb is that a smile naturally results from the condition of our inner beings. A “happy heart” is at peace, content, and yielded to God’s best. With such a heart, happy from the inside out, we can respond to surprising circumstances with a genuine smile, inviting others to embrace the hope and peace they too can experience with God. —Elisa Morgan

Dear Father, today as I cross paths with others around me, make my heart happy that I may share with them the hope only You can offer.

Encourage one another and build each other up. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

INSIGHT: In today’s reading we see the dynamic impact of a happy heart. It is interesting to note that our attitude toward our circumstances—not our situation—is the key issue. A wise person seeks out knowledge, which builds positive character rather than feeding (literally “grazing like cattle”) on those things that lead to foolishness. The oppressed are those who are bowed down or in great need, which can cause emotional turmoil. But we also see in verse 15 how those who are cheerful have a continual feast. The one who focuses on the God of compassion finds hope in difficult situations and also helps others to have hope.

Are you struggling today? Ask God to help you focus on Him with a joyful attitude. Dennis Fisher

 

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Our Daily Bread — Thanks Journal

Read: Psalm 117

Bible in a Year: Zechariah 1–4; Revelation 18

Praise the LORD, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.—Psalm 117:1

When I was a new believer in Jesus, a spiritual mentor encouraged me to keep a thanks journal. It was a little booklet I carried with me everywhere I went. Sometimes I would record a thanksgiving right away. Other times, I would pen it at the end of the week during a time of reflection.

Taking note of praise items is a good habit—one I’m considering re-establishing in my life. It would help me to be mindful of God’s presence and grateful for His provision and care.

In the shortest of all the psalms, Psalm 117, the writer encourages everyone to praise the Lord because “great is his love toward us” (v. 2).

Think about it: How has the Lord shown His love toward you today, this week, this month, and this year? Don’t just look for the spectacular. His love is seen in the ordinary, everyday circumstances of life. Then consider how He has shown His love toward your family, your church, and to others. Let your mind soak up the extent of His love for all of us.

The psalmist added that “the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever” (v. 2 emphasis added). In other words, He will continue to love us! So we will continue to have many things to praise God for in the coming days. As His dearly loved children, may praising and thanking God characterize our lives! —Poh Fang Chia

Father, if we were to record all of Your blessings, we could not complete the task in a lifetime. But we can pause this moment to say a simple “Thank You” for Your faithfulness and goodness.

Remember to thank God for the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

INSIGHT: Have you noticed how hard it can be to be thankful when we are focused on what has been withheld from us? Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were probably content until they were led to believe that God was holding out on them.

Many generations later, the family of Israel struggled with contentment and thankfulness during their journey to the Promised Land. God gave them the annual celebration of Passover to help them remember their wonder-filled rescue from slavery in Egypt. In a group of songs known as the Egyptian Hallel (Pss. 113-118) they reminded one another to “give thanks to the LORD” for His faithful acts of love that fill the earth and endure forever (118:1). Those words aren’t just for God’s chosen people, Israel. In Psalm 117, the shortest of all of their national psalms, Israel invites the nations of the world to join with them in their songs of thanksgiving for God’s goodness and miraculous acts of rescue.

Together we are all still learning to thank God—not for everything that has happened to us—but rather that, in everything, our good God is with us. Mart DeHaan

 

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Our Daily Bread — What on Earth?

Read: Matthew 17:24–27

Bible in a Year: Haggai 1–2; Revelation 17

My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:19

When Andrew Cheatle lost his cell phone at the beach, he thought it was gone forever. About a week later, however, fisherman Glen Kerley called him. He had pulled Cheatle’s phone, still functional after it dried, out of a 25-pound cod.

Life is full of odd stories, and we find more than a few of them in the Bible. One day tax collectors came to Peter demanding to know, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” (Matt. 17:24). Jesus turned the situation into a teaching moment. He wanted Peter to understand His role as king. Taxes weren’t collected from the children of the king, and the Lord made it clear that neither He nor His children owed any temple tax (vv. 25–26).

Yet Jesus wanted to be careful not to “cause offense” (v. 27), so He told Peter to go fishing. (This is the odd part of the story.) Peter found a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught.

What on earth is Jesus doing here? A better question is, “What in God’s kingdom is Jesus doing?” He is the rightful King—even when many do not recognize Him as such. When we accept His role as Lord in our lives, we become His children.

Life will still throw its various demands at us, but Jesus will provide for us. As former pastor David Pompo put it, “When we’re fishing for our Father, we can depend on Him for all we need.” —Tim Gustafson

Lord, teach us to bask in the wonderful realization that You provide everything we need.

We are children of the King!

INSIGHT: People in Jesus’s day worried over the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter just as we do. But Jesus assures us of God’s care and provision by pointing us to His constant providential care for all the earth. Because we are more precious to God than all of creation (Matt. 6:25-30), Jesus reminds us, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things]” (vv. 31-32). Because we have a heavenly Father who loves and cares for us deeply, we can ask Him to give us what we need (7:9-11; 1 Peter 5:7). Paul encourages us to replace our anxieties with expectant trust and grateful prayer. The peace of God is the inner calm or tranquility that comes from a confident trust in God who hears our cries (Phil. 4:6-7).

In what ways has God provided for you this week? Sim Kay Tee

 

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Our Daily Bread — Traditions and Christmas

 

Read: Luke 2:1–10

Bible in a Year: Zephaniah 1–3; Revelation 16

I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you.  —Luke 2:10–11

As you savor a candy cane this Christmas, say “danke schön” to the Germans, for that confectionary treat was first created in Cologne. As you admire your poinsettia, say “gracias” to Mexico, where the plant originated. Say “merci beaucoup” to the French for the term noel, and give a “cheers” to the English for your mistletoe.

But as we enjoy our traditions and festivities of the Christmas season—customs that have been collected from around the world—let’s save our most sincere and heartfelt “thank you” for our good, merciful, and loving God. From Him came the reason for our Christmas celebration: the baby born in that Judean manger more than 2,000 years ago. An angel announced the arrival of this gift to mankind by saying, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy . . . a Savior has been born to you” (Luke 2:10-11).

This Christmas, even in the light of the sparkling Christmas tree and surrounded by newly opened presents, the true excitement comes when we turn our attention to the baby named Jesus, who came to “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). His birth transcends tradition: It is our central focus as we send praises to God for this indescribable Christmas gift. —Dave Branon

Lord, we thank You for coming to join us on that first Christmas. During a time of the year filled with many traditions, help us to keep You first.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. Romans 15:13

INSIGHT:

The angel Gabriel told Mary, “[Jesus] will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32-33). The angel who appeared to Joseph said, “What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. . . . [Y]ou are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21). Mary and Joseph knew Jesus would be the Messiah, and as faithful Jews they would have known the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem, David’s hometown. Perhaps when Joseph was ordered to Bethlehem for the census he thought, So that’s how God is going to get us to Bethlehem!

How does reflecting on the miraculous events that led to the birth of Jesus fill you with renewed awe and wonder?

 

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Our Daily Bread — A Thrill of Hope

Read: Luke 2:11–20

Bible in a Year: Habakkuk 1–3; Revelation 15

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.—Luke 2:11

Reginald Fessenden had been working for years to achieve wireless radio communication. Other scientists found his ideas radical and unorthodox, and doubted he would succeed. But he claims that on December 24, 1906, he became the first person to ever play music over the radio.

Fessenden held a contract with a fruit company which had installed wireless systems on roughly a dozen boats to communicate about the harvesting and marketing of bananas. That Christmas Eve, Fessenden said that he told the wireless operators on board all ships to pay attention. At 9 o’clock they heard his voice.

He reportedly played a record of an operatic aria, and then he pulled out his violin, playing “O Holy Night” and singing the words to the last verse as he played. Finally, he offered Christmas greetings and read from Luke 2 the story of angels announcing the birth of a Savior to shepherds in Bethlehem.

Both the shepherds in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago and the sailors on board the United Fruit Company ships in 1906 heard an unexpected, surprising message of hope on a dark night. And God still speaks that same message of hope to us today. A Savior has been born for us—Christ the Lord! (Luke 2:11). We can join the choir of angels and believers through the ages who respond with “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (v. 14). —Amy Peterson

God, we give You glory and thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to be our Savior!

Without Christ there is no hope. Charles Spurgeon

INSIGHT: Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ is a study in contrasts. We are introduced to the Son of God in the weakness of an infant, while powerful world rulers play their part in moving the family to the city of David. The shepherds were likely guarding temple flocks that would supply the sacrificial system at Jerusalem’s temple. Yet though they were treated as unclean by the religionists of their day, they are invited into the presence of the ultimate Sacrifice. From the humble to the heavenly and everything in between, these contrasts launch the journey of the Son who came from the highest place to be the Lamb of God.

In what way does the coming of Jesus touch your heart?

 

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Our Daily Bread — God with Us

 

Read: Matthew 1:18–23

Bible in a Year: Nahum 1–3; Revelation 14

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.—Matthew 1:23

“Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left . . .” These hymn lyrics, written by the fifth-century Celtic Christian St. Patrick, echo in my mind when I read Matthew’s account of Jesus’s birth. They feel like a warm embrace, reminding me that I’m never alone.

Matthew’s account tells us that God dwelling with His people is at the heart of Christmas. Quoting Isaiah’s prophecy of a child who would be called Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isa. 7:14), Matthew points to the ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy—Jesus, the One born by the power of the Holy Spirit to be God with us. This truth is so central that Matthew begins and ends his gospel with it, concluding with Jesus’s words to His disciples: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

St. Patrick’s lyrics remind me that Christ is with believers always through His Spirit living within. When I’m nervous or afraid, I can hold fast to His promises that He will never leave me. When I can’t fall asleep, I can ask Him to give me His peace. When I’m celebrating and filled with joy, I can thank Him for His gracious work in my life.

Jesus, Immanuel—God with us. —Amy Boucher Pye

Father God, thank You for sending Your Son to be God with us. May we experience Your presence this day.

God’s love became Incarnate at Bethlehem.

INSIGHT: We can only imagine the emotions Joseph experienced when he discovered his fiancée was pregnant. But in a dream he was told that Mary’s child was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. In obedience to this divine revelation, Joseph took her as his wife and did not consummate the marriage until she had given birth to the child.

The Father, Son, and Spirit all share in our redemption. God took on human form and came to Earth to live among us. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Spirit now dwells within us (1 Peter 1:11; Gal. 4:6; 1 Cor. 6:19).

How does knowing Christ is present in your life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit encourage you? Dennis Fisher

 

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Our Daily Bread — Silent Night of the Soul

Read: 2 Corinthians 5:14–21

Bible in a Year: Micah 6–7; Revelation 13

If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here!—2 Corinthians 5:17

Long before Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber created the familiar carol “Silent Night,” Angelus Silesius had written:

Lo! in the silent night a child to God is born,

And all is brought again that ere was lost or lorn.

Could but thy soul, O man, become a silent night

God would be born in thee and set all things aright.

Silesius, a Polish monk, published the poem in 1657 in The Cherubic Pilgrim. During our church’s annual Christmas Eve service, the choir sang a beautiful rendition of the song titled “Could but Thy Soul Become a Silent Night.”

The twofold mystery of Christmas is that God became one of us so that we might become one with Him. Jesus suffered everything that was wrong so that we could be made right. That’s why the apostle Paul could write, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone; the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17–18).

Whether our Christmas is filled with family and friends or empty of all we long for, we know that Jesus came to be born in us.

Ah, would thy heart but be a manger for the birth,

God would once more become a child on earth. —David C. McCasland

Lord Jesus, thank You for being born into this dark world so that we might be born again into Your life and light.

God became one of us so that we might become one with Him.

INSIGHT: At the heart of the concept of becoming one with Christ is His work of reconciliation in us. In today’s passage, Paul weaves several themes together—life, love, new creation, and the ministry of reconciliation—all framed by a call to act with urgency. It is because of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection that we can be reconciled to God. Those who accept Christ’s gift of reconciliation must “no longer live for themselves” (2 Cor. 5:15). Instead, we are compelled to view everyone differently (v. 16), as people in dire need of Christ’s reconciliation. And what is this reconciliation? God will no longer “[count] people’s sins against them” (v. 19). With urgency, Paul tells us that we are now Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation and says, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (v. 20, emphasis added).

With whom can you share this offer of reconciliation today? Tim Gustaftson

 

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Our Daily Bread — Home for Christmas

 

Read: Genesis 28:10–17

Bible in a Year: Micah 4–5; Revelation 12

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.—Genesis 28:15

One year Christmas found me on assignment in a place many of my friends couldn’t locate on a map. Trudging from my worksite back to my room, I braced against the chill wind blowing off the bleak Black Sea. I missed home.

When I arrived at my room, I opened the door to a magical moment. My artistic roommate had completed his latest project—a nineteen-inch ceramic Christmas tree that now illuminated our darkened room with sparkling dots of color. If only for a moment, I was home again!

As Jacob fled from his brother Esau, he found himself in a strange and lonely place too. Asleep on the hard ground, he met God in a dream. And God promised Jacob a home. “I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying,” He told him. “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” (Gen. 28:13–14).

From Jacob, of course, would come the promised Messiah, the One who left His home to draw us to Himself. “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am,” Jesus told His disciples (John 14:3).

That December night I sat in the darkness of my room and gazed at that Christmas tree. Perhaps inevitably I thought of the Light that entered the world to show us the way home. —Tim Gustafson

Lord, no matter where we are today, we can thank You for preparing a place for us to be with You. And we have the presence of Your Spirit today!

Home is not so much a place on a map, as it is a place to belong. God gives us that place.

INSIGHT: Sometimes our perceptions of God get a startling adjustment. That was the case for Jacob in today’s passage. From our perspective we know through the Old and New Testament Scriptures that God is everywhere and is always with us. But Jacob’s knowledge was limited. His statement in Genesis 28:16 hints that he thought he was out of “God’s area.” How comforting it must have been to Jacob to realize that though he had left his family and his home, he was still in the presence of God.

How does knowing that God is always present comfort you? J.R. Hudberg

 

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Our Daily Bread — Breaking the Silence

 

Read: Luke 1:11–17

Bible in a Year: Micah 1–3; Revelation 11

He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah . . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.—Luke 1:17

At the end of the Old Testament, God seems to be in hiding. For four centuries, the Jews wait and wonder. God seems passive, unconcerned, and deaf to their prayers. Only one hope remains: the ancient promise of a Messiah. On that promise the Jews stake everything. And then something momentous happens. The birth of a baby is announced.

You can catch the excitement just by reading the reactions of people in Luke. Events surrounding Jesus’s birth resemble a joy-filled musical. Characters crowd into the scene: a white-haired great uncle (Luke 1:5–25), an astonished virgin (1:26–38), the old prophetess Anna (2:36). Mary herself lets loose with a beautiful hymn (1:46–55). Even Jesus’s unborn cousin kicks for joy inside his mother’s womb (1:41).

Luke takes care to make direct connections to Old Testament promises of a Messiah. The angel Gabriel even calls John the Baptist an “Elijah” sent to prepare the way for the Lord (1:17). Clearly, something is brewing on planet Earth. Among the dreary, defeated villagers in a remote corner of the Roman Empire, something good is breaking out. —Philip Yancey

You have come to us, and we rejoice! Jesus, You are the gift of redemption and hope for us. Thank You.

Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world. C. S. Lewis (from The Last Battle)

INSIGHT: The virgin birth of Christ is not the only miracle in the Christmas story. John the Baptist’s birth was also miraculous. His father, Zechariah, was a priest of the line of Abijah (a priest during David’s time descended from Aaron) who served at the temple in Jerusalem twice a year. John’s mother, Elizabeth, was a cousin of Mary and also a descendant of Aaron (the first high priest). Zechariah and Elizabeth faithfully followed God’s laws, yet they were “very old” and were childless because Elizabeth could not conceive (Luke 1:5-7). God miraculously blessed this elderly couple with a child—and no ordinary child. Their son would be “great in the sight of the Lord” (v. 15) and “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (v. 17).

What in the Christmas story is most meaningful to you?

Alyson Kieda

 

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Our Daily Bread — Extreme Measures

 

Read: Luke 19:1–10

Bible in a Year: Jonah 1–4; Revelation 10

The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.—Luke 19:10

A few years ago, a friend of mine lost track of her young son while walking through a swarm of people at Union Station in Chicago. Needless to say, it was a terrifying experience. Frantically, she yelled his name and ran back up the escalator, retracing her steps in an effort to find her little boy. The minutes of separation seemed like hours, until suddenly—thankfully—her son emerged from the crowd and ran to the safety of her arms.

Thinking of my friend who would have done anything to find her child fills me with a renewed sense of gratitude for the amazing work God did to save us. From the time God’s first image-bearers—Adam and Eve—wandered off in sin, He lamented the loss of fellowship with His people. He went to great lengths to restore the relationship by sending His one and only Son “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Without the birth of Jesus, and without His willingness to die to pay the price for our sin and to bring us to God, we would have nothing to celebrate at Christmastime.

So this Christmas, let’s be thankful that God took extreme measures by sending Jesus to reclaim our fellowship with Him. Although we once were lost, because of Jesus we have been found! —Joe Stowell

Heavenly Father, in the midst of all the joy of Christmas, remind me that the true meaning of this season lies in the depth of Your love. Thank You for sending Jesus to reclaim undeserving people like me!

Christmas is about God taking extreme measures to reclaim those who were lost.

INSIGHT: Do you know someone who has broken hearts by turning their back on friends, family, or faith? Is that person now living as someone who has lost their way?

Consider Zacchaeus. Though Jewish, he was no friend of Israel. Working for the Roman occupation he collected taxes from his countrymen and lived off the wealth of his overcharges. Who wouldn’t resent someone who loved money more than family, country, or neighbor?

That’s why Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus. He wasn’t just trying to see over the religious crowd that had their reasons for hating him. He was a lost child of Israel and maybe the most unlikely person in Jericho to be given special notice and honor.

That was the day God chose Zacchaeus to show us, or maybe those who are hiding from us, that no one is too lost to be found and changed by Jesus. Mart DeHaan

 

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Our Daily Bread — Everlasting Hope

Read: Psalm 146

Bible in a Year: Obadiah; Revelation 9

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.—Psalm 146:5

The week before Christmas, two months after my mom died, holiday shopping and decorating sat at the bottom of my priority list. I resisted my husband’s attempts to comfort me as I grieved the loss of our family’s faith-filled matriarch. I sulked as our son, Xavier, stretched and stapled strands of Christmas lights onto the inside walls of our home. Without a word, he plugged in the cord before he and his dad left for work.

As the colorful bulbs blinked, God gently drew me out of my darkness. No matter how painful the circumstances, my hope remained secure in the light of God’s truth, which always reveals His unchanging character.

Psalm 146 affirms what God reminded me on that difficult morning: My endless “hope is in the LORD,” my helper, my mighty and merciful God (v. 5). As Creator of all, He “remains faithful forever” (v. 6). He “upholds the cause of the oppressed,” protecting us and providing for us (v. 7). “The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down” (v. 8). He “watches over” us, “sustains” us, and will always be King (vv. 9-10).

Sometimes, when Christmas rolls around, our days will overflow with joyful moments. Sometimes, we’ll face loss, experience hurt, or feel alone. But at all times, God promises to be our light in the darkness, offering us tangible help and everlasting hope. —Xochitl Dixon

Father God, thanks for inviting us to know and rely on Your unchanging character as the source of our eternal hope.

God secures our hope in His unchanging character.

INSIGHT: Psalm 146 is a psalm of contrasts. But the opening and closing phrases of the chapter are identical: “Praise the LORD.” This literary technique is called an inclusio. An inclusio sets the framework for understanding the content in between. In the case of Psalm 146, that framework is praising the Lord.

In verses 1-4 the author describes the frailty and ineffectiveness of the strength of humans—they are a breath; they cannot save. Then comes the contrast. In verses 5-9 God is described as the Maker and Ruler of everything. And specifically in verses 7-9 the author says that the Lord watches over and protects those who are in trouble. What greater reason to praise the Lord than that He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves!

In the midst of difficult circumstances the Lord is faithful. How can you remind yourself and others of this today? J.R. Hudberg

 

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Our Daily Bread — Gentleness

 

Read: Ephesians 4:1–6

Bible in a Year: Amos 7–9; Revelation 8

Be completely humble and gentle.—Ephesians 4:2

The troubles of life can make us cranky and out of sorts, but we should never excuse these bouts of bad behavior, for they can wither the hearts of those we love and spread misery all around us. We have not fulfilled our duty to others until we have learned to be pleasant.

The New Testament has a word for the virtue that corrects our unpleasantness—gentleness, a term that suggests a kind and gracious soul. Ephesians 4:2 reminds us, “Be completely humble and gentle.”

Gentleness is a willingness to accept limitations and ailments without taking out our aggravation on others. It shows gratitude for the smallest service rendered and tolerance for those who do not serve us well. It puts up with bothersome people—especially noisy, boisterous little people; for kindness to children is a crowning mark of a good and gentle person. It speaks softly in the face of provocation. It can be silent; for calm, unruffled silence is often the most eloquent response to unkind words.

Jesus is “gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29). If we ask Him, He will, in time, recreate us in His image. Scottish author George MacDonald says, “[God] would not hear from [us] a tone to jar the heart of another, a word to make it ache . . . . From such, as from all other sins, Jesus was born to deliver us.” —David H. Roper

Dear Lord, I want to be a gentle person. Please help me to be kind and gracious to others today.

Humility toward God will make us gentle toward others.

INSIGHT: The apostle Paul had a lot to say about gentleness. Paul was the founding pastor of the church at Corinth and taught there for eighteen months (Acts 18:1-11). Yet, soon after he left the city, the believers rejected him as a true apostle. Paul had every reason and every right to come down hard on these believers, but he didn’t. Instead, he appealed to them “by the humility and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1). In his letter to another church, Paul urged two feuding sisters to reconcile. Paul asked that their “gentleness be evident to all” (Phil. 4:5). In dealing with people who are not sympathetic to the Christian faith and are antagonistic towards us, Peter urged us to be ready “to give an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope that [we] have.” But we are to do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

The Scriptures show us how we should relate to everyone—we are to be kind, gracious, respectful, and gentle.

Why is it so important to demonstrate gentleness in our interaction with others if we claim to be a follower of Christ? Sim Kay Tee

 

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Our Daily Bread — Big World, Bigger God

 

Read: Colossians 1:12–17

Bible in a Year: Amos 4–6; Revelation 7

For by [Jesus] all things were created.—Colossians 1:16 NASB

As we drove through northern Michigan, Marlene exclaimed, “It’s unbelievable how big the world is!” She made her comment as we passed a sign marking the 45th parallel—the point halfway between the equator and the North Pole. We talked about how small we are and how vast our world is. Yet, compared to the size of the universe, our tiny planet is only a speck of dust.

If our world is great, and the universe is vastly greater, how big is the One who powerfully created it? The Bible tells us, “For by [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16 NASB).

This is good news because this same Jesus who created the universe is the One who has come to rescue us from our sin for every day and forever. The night before He died, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NASB).

When facing the large and small challenges of life, we call on the One who made the universe, died and rose again, and won victory over this world’s brokenness. In our times of struggle, He powerfully offers us His peace. —Bill Crowder

Lord, I’m grateful that You are greater than my mind could ever comprehend. Help me to trust You today.

God’s grace is immeasurable, His mercy inexhaustible, His peace inexpressible.

INSIGHT: In Colossians Paul combats false teaching that seems to have included both Jewish asceticism (severe self-discipline) and the idea that the material world is bad and we are saved by avoiding it (see 2:16-23)—ideas similar to what would later be known as Gnosticism. Paul argued that the teachers of such “idle notions” (2:18), despite appearing wise (v. 23), were missing the point entirely. By focusing on their own ideas and rules (vv. 18, 22), they were missing Christ—the One through whom everything holds together (v. 19).

Colossians 1:15-17, often believed to be a Christian hymn, beautifully reinforces the truth that the gospel includes hope for the material world, God’s good creation. Because Jesus is the One who holds creation together (vv. 17-18), He restores not only harmony between people and God but between the creation and God (v. 20). Believers, as those living in His kingdom (vv. 12-14), can experience a taste of this renewed creation, even as we long for the final restoration.

How might Colossians 1:12-17 give us hope that God cares about and is involved with the particular areas of brokenness in our lives and world? Monica Brands

 

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