Tag Archives: Our Daily Bread

Our Daily Bread — A Piercing Thorn

 

Read: Isaiah 53:1–6 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 53–55; 2 Thessalonians 1

But he was pierced for our transgressions . . . and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

The thorn pricked my index finger, drawing blood. I hollered and then groaned, drawing back my hand instinctively. But I shouldn’t have been surprised: trying to prune a thorny bush without gardening gloves was a recipe for exactly what just happened.

The pain throbbing in my finger—and the blood flowing from it—demanded attention. And as I searched for a bandage, I found myself unexpectedly thinking about my Savior. After all, soldiers forced Jesus to don an entire crown of thorns (John 19:1–3). If one thorn hurt this much, I thought, how much agony would an entire crown of them inflict? And that’s just a small portion of the physical pain He suffered. A whip flogged His back. Nails penetrated His wrists and ankles.

But Jesus endured spiritual pain too. Verse 5 of Isaiah 53 tells us, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him.” The “peace” Isaiah talks about here is another way of talking about forgiveness. Jesus allowed Himself to be pierced—by nails, by a crown of thorns—to bring us spiritual peace with God. His sacrifice, His willingness to die on our behalf, paved the way to make a relationship with the Father possible. And He did it, Scripture tells us, for me, for you.

Father, I can’t imagine the pain Your Son endured to wash away my sin. Thank You for sending Him for me, to be pierced for my sins that I might have a relationship with You. 

Jesus allowed Himself to be pierced to bring us spiritual peace with God.

By Adam Holz

INSIGHT

Isaiah 53:1–6 is part of a section of the book known as the Servant Songs. There are four Servant Songs in Isaiah that describe the service, suffering, and triumph of the servant of the Lord—Jesus the Messiah. These songs are found in Isaiah 42:1–9, 49:1–13, 50:4–11, and 52:13–53:12.

This last servant song describes the suffering and triumph of the servant. Though He is pierced, crushed, punished, and wounded, it’s His suffering that brings us peace and healing (53:5). The ultimate purpose for this suffering is outlined in verse 10—His life is an offering for sin. The servant takes our place—suffering for us and bearing our sins. And by His suffering and death, we are given life and peace. But death is not the end for the servant: “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life” (v. 11). In His suffering and resurrection, Jesus reconciles humanity to God (see Matthew 8:17; Acts 8:30–35; Romans 10:15–17; 15:21).

How can you celebrate the life that Jesus died to give you?

For more on the book of Isaiah, see Old Testament Survey: Ecclesiastes–Isaiah at christianuniversity.org/OT224.

J.R. Hudberg

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — The Prayer and the Chain Saw

 

Read: Nehemiah 1 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 50–52; 1 Thessalonians 5

Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant. Nehemiah 1:11

I respect my Aunt Gladys’s intrepid spirit, even if that very spirit concerns me sometimes. The source of my concern came in the form of news she shared in an email: “I cut down a walnut tree yesterday.”

You must understand that my chainsaw-wielding aunt is seventy-six years old! The tree had grown up behind her garage. When the roots threatened to burst through the concrete, she knew it had to go. But she did tell us, “I always pray before I tackle a job like that.”

While serving as butler to the king of Persia during the time of Israel’s exile, Nehemiah heard news concerning the people who had returned to Jerusalem. Some work needed to be done. “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). The broken walls left them vulnerable to attack by enemies. Nehemiah had compassion for his people and wanted to get involved. But prayer came first, especially since a new king had written a letter to stop the building efforts in Jerusalem (see Ezra 4). Nehemiah prayed for his people (Nehemiah 1:5–10), and then asked God for help before requesting permission from the king to leave (v. 11).

Is prayer your response? It’s always the best way to face any task or trial in life.

Father, Your Holy Spirit reminds us to pray first. Today, we commit to doing so as Your Spirit prompts us.

Make prayer a first priority, instead of a last resort.

By Linda Washington

 

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Our Daily Bread — Terrible and Beautiful Things

 

Read: Psalm 57 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 47–49; 1 Thessalonians 4

Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. Psalm 57:8

Fear can leave us frozen. We know all the reasons to be afraid—everything that’s hurt us in the past, everything that could easily do so again. So sometimes we’re stuck—unable to go back; too afraid to move forward. I just can’t do it. I’m not smart enough, strong enough, or brave enough to handle being hurt like that again.

I’m captivated by how author Frederick Buechner describes God’s grace: like a gentle voice that says, “Here is the world. Terrible and beautiful things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”

Terrible things will happen. In our world, hurting people hurt other people, often terribly. Like the psalmist David, we carry our own stories of when evil surrounded us, when, like “ravenous beasts,” others wounded us (Psalm 57:4). And so we grieve; we cry out (vv. 1–2).

But because God is with us, beautiful things can happen too. As we run to Him with our hurts and fears, we find ourselves carried by a love far greater than anyone’s power to harm us (vv. 1–3), a love so deep it fills the skies (v. 10). Even when disaster rages around us, His love is a solid refuge where our hearts find healing (vv. 1, 7). Until one day we’ll find ourselves awakening to renewed courage, ready to greet the day with a song of His faithfulness (vv. 8–10).

Healer and Redeemer, thank You for holding us and healing us with Your endless love. Help us find in Your love the courage to follow You and share Your love with those around us.

God’s love and beauty make us brave.

By Monica Brands

INSIGHT

In the book of Psalms, superscriptions often precede the actual text. These notes shed light on the individual or group designated to lead the composition, the author, or the situation that inspired the lyrics. The superscription for Psalm 57 tells us David wrote this psalm “when he had fled from Saul into the cave.” Scripture records two times when David found refuge from Saul in a cave (1 Samuel 22 and 24). While there is uncertainty as to which of these two incidents is in view here, the truth of the psalm is crystal clear—the fearful, the anxious, the fleeing can find ultimate safety in the Lord (Psalm 57:1).

When was the last time a difficult situation caused you to call out to “God Most High”? (v. 2).

Arthur Jackson

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Trust Him First

 

Read: Isaiah 46:3–13 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 45–46; 1 Thessalonians 3

Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms. Psalm 68:19 nlt

“Don’t let go, Dad!”

“I won’t. I’ve got you. I promise.”

I was a little boy terrified of the water, but my dad wanted me to learn to swim. He would purposefully take me away from the side of the pool into a depth that was over my head, where he was my only support. Then he would teach me to relax and float.

It wasn’t just a swimming lesson; it was a lesson in trust. I knew my father loved me and would never let me be harmed intentionally, but I was also afraid. I would cling tightly to his neck until he reassured me all would be well. Eventually his patience and kindness won out, and I began to swim. But I had to trust him first.

When I feel “over my head” in a difficulty, I sometimes think back on those moments. They help me call to mind the Lord’s reassurance to His people: “Even to your old age . . . I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).

We may not always be able to feel God’s arms beneath us, but the Lord has promised that He will never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). As we rest in His care and promises, He helps us learn to trust in His faithfulness. He lifts us above our worries to discover new peace in Him.

Abba, Father, I praise You for carrying me through life. Please give me faith to trust that You are always with me.

God carries us to new places of grace as we trust in Him.

By James Banks

INSIGHT

For further reading on trust in God during difficult times, see the free booklet Anchors in the Storm at discoveryseries.org/hp073.

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Ask the Animals

 

Read: Job 12:7–10 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 43–44; 1 Thessalonians 2

Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you. Job 12:7

Our grandkids, enraptured, got a close-up look at a rescued bald eagle. They were even allowed to touch him. As the zoo volunteer told about the powerful bird perched on her arm, I was surprised to learn this male had a wingspan of about six and one-half feet, yet because of its hollow bones it weighed only about eight pounds.

This reminded me of the majestic eagle I had seen soaring above a lake, ready to swoop down and snatch its prey in its talons. And I pictured in my mind another big bird—the spindly legged blue heron I had spied standing motionless on the edge of a pond. It was poised to dart its long beak into the water. They’re just two among the nearly 10,000 species of birds that can direct our thoughts to our Creator.

In the book of Job, Job’s friends are debating the reasons for his suffering and ask, “Can you fathom the mysteries of God?” (see 11:5–9). In response Job declares, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7). Animals testify to the truth that God designed, cares for, and controls His creation: “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (v. 10).

Since God cares for birds (Matthew 6:26; 10:29), we can be assured He loves and cares for you and me, even when we don’t understand our circumstances. Look around and learn of Him.

God’s world teaches us about Him.

By Alyson Kieda

INSIGHT

Gaining a good grasp of the book of Job requires us to understand its literary structure. Though the book begins (chs. 1–2) and ends (42:7–16) in narrative format, the bulk of the book is comprised of speeches packaged in poetry (3:1–42:6), including the stunning monologue of the Almighty Himself (38:1–41:34). By the time the reader comes to chapter 12, all three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—have spoken once. Two more series of speeches follow, and in the last series a fourth counselor (Elihu) enters the picture (chs. 32–37). In their well-ordered and reasoned speeches, each friend offers explanations for Job’s calamities and prescriptions for a remedy. Job himself is the speaker in chapter 12, where he indicts the denseness of his first three accusers. He directs them to nature which teaches us about the supremacy and sovereignty of God. In verses 7–8, the language of instruction is quite clear: Animals “will teach”; birds “will tell”; the earth “will teach”; the fish will “inform.” Without a word they witness to the wisdom and greatness of God.

Can you recall a time when you were prompted to reflect on God’s greatness by something in nature?

Arthur Jackson

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — He Carried Our Burden

 

Read: 1 Peter 1:18–25 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 41–42; 1 Thessalonians 1

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

It’s not unusual for utility bills to be surprisingly high. But Kieran Healy of North Carolina received a water bill that would make your heart stop. The notification said that he owed 100 million dollars! Confident he hadn’t used that much water the previous month, Healy jokingly asked if he could pay the bill in installments.

Owing a 100-million-dollar debt would be an overwhelming burden, but that pales in comparison to the real—and immeasurable—burden sin causes us to carry. Attempting to carry the burden and consequences of our own sins ultimately leaves us feeling tired and riddled with guilt and shame. The truth is we are incapable of carrying this load.

And we were never meant to. As Peter reminded believers, only Jesus, the sinless Son of God, could carry the heavy burden of our sin and its weighty consequences (1 Peter 2:24). In His death on the cross, Jesus took all our wrongdoing on Himself and offered us His forgiveness. Because He carried our burden, we don’t have to suffer the punishment we deserve.

Instead of living in fear or guilt, the “empty way of life handed down to” us (1:18), we can enjoy a new life of love and freedom (vv. 22–23).

Lord, sometimes our guilt and shame can feel so heavy. Help us to release our past and its pain to You and experience Your peace, knowing You have carried it all and have set us free.

Jesus carried the burden of our sin so He could give us the blessing of life.

By Marvin Williams

INSIGHT

Our natural instinct is to lash out against injustice. But Jesus’s example (which is what Peter called it in 1 Peter 2:21) calls us to higher ground. Notice verse 23: “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” Rather than returning what, arguably, His tormenters deserved, Jesus refused. In a sense, He chose to look up to the Father rather than down to those who caused His pain. Perhaps that was behind His prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In entrusting Himself to the Father, Jesus felt no need for retaliation.

For more on the cross, read The Mockery and Majesty of the Cross at discoveryseries.org/hp081.

Bill Crowder

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Safe in His Arms

 

Read: Isaiah 40:9–11 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 39–40; Colossians 4

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart. Isaiah 40:11

The weather outside was threatening, and the alert on my cell phone warned about the possibility of flash floods. An unusual number of cars were parked in my neighborhood as parents and others gathered to pick up children at the school bus drop-off point. By the time the bus arrived, it had started to rain. That’s when I observed a woman exit her car and retrieve an umbrella from the trunk. She walked towards a little girl and made sure the child was shielded from the rain until they returned to the vehicle. What a beautiful “real time” picture of parental, protective care that reminded me of the care of our heavenly Father.

The prophet Isaiah forecast punishment for disobedience followed by brighter days for God’s people (Isaiah 40:1–8). The heavenly dispatch from the mountain (v. 9) assured the Israelites of God’s mighty presence and tender care. The good news, then and now, is that because of God’s power and ruling authority, anxious hearts need not fear (vv. 9–10). Included in the announcement was news about the Lord’s protection, the kind of protection shepherds provide (v. 11): vulnerable young sheep would find safety in the Shepherd’s arms; nursing ewes would be led gently.

In a world where circumstances aren’t always easy, such images of safety and care compel us to look confidently to the Lord. Those who trust wholeheartedly in the Lord find security and renewed strength in Him (v. 31).

Father, in a world where we are sometimes threatened, we are comforted because of Your gracious care for us—in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The good news is that God cares for us!

By Arthur Jackson

INSIGHT

We also see the shepherd imagery in the New Testament when Jesus is described as our Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) and “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep” (vv. 14–15). Just as a shepherd watched over, provided for, and protected his sheep against danger and death and even pursued them when lost (Psalm 23:1–3; Luke 15:4), Jesus laid down His life for our sins and then rose again so that we would have the opportunity to live forever with Him (John 3:16). By doing so, He freed all who receive Him as Savior from the clutches of our enemy, Satan, and from eternal misery. And in this life, our Shepherd leads and guides us along the way. We need not fear, for He is with us (Psalm 23:4). He loves us and knows us (John 10:14–15).

In what area of your life do you need the comfort of the Good Shepherd?

Alyson Kieda

 

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Our Daily Bread — Stories of Jesus

 

Read: 1 John 1:1–4; John 21:24–25 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 37–38; Colossians 3

Jesus did many other things as well. John 21:25

As a girl I loved to visit my small local library. One day, looking at the bookshelves holding the young adult section, I reasoned I could probably read every book. In my enthusiasm I forgot one important fact—new books were regularly added to the shelves. Although I gave it a valiant effort, there were simply too many books.

New books continue to fill more and more bookshelves. The apostle John likely would be amazed with the availability of books today since his five New Testament books, the gospel of John; 1, 2, and 3 John; and Revelation, were handwritten on parchment scrolls.

John wrote those books because he felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to give Christians an eyewitness account of Jesus’s life and ministry (1 John 1:1–4). But John’s writings contained only a small fraction of all that Jesus did and taught during His ministry. In fact, John said if everything Jesus did were written down “the whole world could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25 nlt).

John’s claim remains true today. Despite all the books that have been written about Jesus, the libraries of the world still cannot contain every story of His love and grace. We can also celebrate that we have our own personal stories to share and rejoice that we will be proclaiming them forever! (Psalm 89:1).

To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky. F.M. Lehman

Let your life tell the story of Christ’s love and grace.

By Lisa Samra

INSIGHT

Although the Scriptures don’t contain every story about Jesus (in fact John twice admits that he has only recorded a portion of Jesus’s life and ministry—see John 20:30 and 21:25), we have the significant parts. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have the whole story of Jesus that is necessary for our salvation.

But what about those things that aren’t written down in John’s gospel? There have been attempts to fill the holes. Should John’s admission that “Jesus performed many other miraculous signs” (20:30) make us insecure? Should we try to “fill in the blanks”? Not at all. When John first tells us that what he recorded is only a part of Jesus’s story, he gives us full confidence that what we have is enough: “These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).

How can you thank God today that His story is even bigger than we know?

For more on who Jesus is, see Life of Christ at christianuniversity.org/NT111.

J.R. Hudberg

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — Singing to the Firing Squad

 

Read: Mark 14:16–26 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 34–36; Colossians 2

I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” Psalm 116:10

Two men convicted of drug trafficking had been on death row for a decade. While in prison, they learned of God’s love for them in Jesus, and their lives were transformed. When it came time for them to face the firing squad, they faced their executioners reciting the Lord’s Prayer and singing “Amazing Grace.” Because of their faith in God, through the power of the Spirit they were able to face death with incredible courage.

They followed the example of faith set by their Savior, Jesus. When Jesus knew that His death was imminent, He spent part of the evening singing with friends. It’s remarkable that He could sing under such circumstances, but what’s even more remarkable is what He sang. On that night, Jesus and His friends had a Passover meal, which always ends with a series of Psalms known as the Hallel, Psalms 113–118. Facing death, that night Jesus sang about the “cords of death” entangling Him (Psalm 116:3). Yet He praised God’s faithful love (117:2) and thanked Him for salvation (118:14). Surely these Psalms comforted Jesus on the night before His crucifixion.

Jesus’s trust in God was so great that even as He approached His own death—a death He had done nothing to deserve!—He chose to sing of God’s love. Because of Jesus, we too can have confidence that whatever we face, God is with us.

God, strengthen our faith in You so that when we face trials, or even approach death, we can sing with confidence about Your love.

How sweet is the sound of God’s amazing grace!

By Amy Peterson

INSIGHT

It has been said that our songs are essentially our sung prayers. After having been severely beaten and unjustly arrested, Paul and Silas “were praying and singing hymns to God” in prison! (Acts 16:25). In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church he exhorts them to “[sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and [make] music to the Lord in your hearts” (Ephesians 5:19 nlt).

Are you going through a difficult time? Ask God to encourage you as you sing your favorite hymn or song.

  1. T. Sim

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Our Daily Bread — Much More Than Words

 

Read: Romans 8:22–30 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 32–33; Colossians 1

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. Romans 8:26

At a dedication ceremony during which a Bible translated into a local African language was presented, the area chief was presented with his own copy. In appreciation, he lifted the Bible to the skies and exclaimed, “Now we know God understands our language! We can read the Bible in our own native mother-tongue.”

No matter our language, our heavenly Father understands it. But often we feel unable to express our deepest longings to Him. The apostle Paul encourages us to pray regardless of how we feel. Paul speaks of our suffering world and our own pain: “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22), and he compares that to the Holy Spirit’s work on our behalf. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness,” he writes. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (v. 26).

God’s Holy Spirit knows us intimately. He knows our longings, our heart-language, and our unspoken words, and He helps us in our communication with God. His Spirit draws us to be transformed into the image of God the Son (v. 29).

Our heavenly Father understands our language and speaks to us through His Word. When we think our prayers are weak or too short, His Holy Spirit helps us by speaking through us to the Father. He yearns for us to talk with Him in prayer.

Thank You, Lord, for understanding my language and innermost longings. When my prayers are weak and dry, bear me up through Your Spirit.

When we feel weak in our prayers, God’s Spirit helps us in ways we can’t imagine.

By Lawrence Darmani

INSIGHT

Our inability to know what to ask for when we pray is part of a bigger story. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, there’s a lot more we can’t do for ourselves. We also can’t avoid the consequences of our own choices, change our own hearts, make ourselves right with God, or even live up to our own expectations (Romans 4:5; 6:23; 7:18–21). Yet Paul doesn’t leave us helpless and hopeless. He begins and ends chapter 8 showing us how to rise on wings of wonder. Could anything lift us higher than to know that we also can’t do anything that would cause the God who is for us to stop helping and loving us? (vv. 11, 31–39).

Mart DeHaan

 

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Our Daily Bread — Our Singing Father

 

Read: Zephaniah 3:14–20 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 30–31; Philippians 4

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will . . . rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

No one told me before my wife and I had children how important singing would be. My children are now six, eight, and ten. But all three had problems sleeping early on. Each night, my wife and I took turns rocking our little ones, praying they’d nod off quickly. I spent hundreds of hours rocking them, desperately crooning lullabies to (hopefully!) speed up the process. But as I sang over our children night after night, something amazing happened: It deepened my bond of love and delight for them in ways I had never dreamed.

Did you know Scripture describes our heavenly Father singing over His children too? Just as I sought to soothe my children with song, so Zephaniah concludes with a portrait of our heavenly Father singing over His people: “He will take great delight in you; in his love he will . . . rejoice over you with singing” (3:17).

Much of Zephaniah’s prophetic book warns of a coming time of judgment for those who’d rejected God. Yet that’s not where it ends. Zephaniah concludes not with judgment but with a description of God not only rescuing His people from all their suffering (vv. 19–20) but also tenderly loving and rejoicing over them with song (v. 17).

Our God is not only a “Mighty Warrior who saves” and restores (v. 17) but a loving Father who tenderly sings songs of love over us.

Father, help us to embrace Your tender love and “hear” the songs You sing.

Our heavenly Father delights in His children like a parent singing to a newborn baby.

By Adam Holz

INSIGHT

The singing heart of God (Zephaniah 3:17) is but one of the many ways He expresses His love and care for us. Of course, we readily acknowledge that He rescues us and provides for us. We also know He made us and empowers us to live for Him in this world. But that is only the beginning. In Luke 15 we find that, like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, God rejoices over our rescue and return to Him. Additionally, He comforts us in our seasons of trial (2 Corinthians 1:3–8). Beyond that, He mourns with us in our pain—even to the point of valuing our tears (Psalm 56:8). In these and countless other ways, our God continually expresses the depth of His love and concern for His children.

How have you experienced that care in the different seasons of your own life?

Bill Crowder

 

 

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Our Daily Bread — A Warm Welcome for All

 

Read: Hebrews 13:1–3 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 28–29; Philippians 3

Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10

During a recent vacation, my wife and I visited a famous athletic complex. The gates were wide open, and it appeared that we were welcome to visit. We enjoyed touring the grounds and admiring the well-manicured sports fields. As we were about to leave, someone stopped us and coldly told us we were not supposed to be there. Suddenly, we were reminded that we were outsiders—and it felt uncomfortable.

On that vacation we also visited a church. Again, the doors were open, so we walked in. What a difference! Many people greeted us warmly and made us feel right at home. We walked out of that church service knowing we were welcomed and accepted.

Sadly, it isn’t uncommon for outsiders to receive the unspoken message “you’re not supposed to be here” when they visit a church. But Scripture calls us to be hospitable to all. Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, which surely means welcoming them into our lives and our churches (Matthew 22:39). In Hebrews, we’re reminded to “show hospitality to strangers” (13:2). Both Luke and Paul instruct us to show active love to people with social and physical needs (Luke 14:13–14; Romans 12:13). And among the body of believers, we have a special responsibility to show love (Galatians 6:10).

When we welcome all people openly and with Christlike love, we reflect our Savior’s love and compassion.

Lord, open our hearts to all people who enter our lives—showing them Christlike love and godly hospitality. Help us to make everyone we meet feel the warm welcome of Jesus’s love.

When we practice hospitality, we share God’s goodness.

By Dave Branon

INSIGHT

When Hebrews 13:1–3 encourages believers to treat others with love, it does so afterreminding believers of their rock-solid foundation for security. If there was ever anyone we might think would make us feel threatened or ashamed, it would be our infinitely holy and powerful God. But the good news is that because of Christ’s cleansing work, believers need not tremble in fear before God’s holiness (12:18–21). Instead, we can fearlessly celebrate a life of joyful awe and worship in His kingdom and in fellowship with His people (vv. 22–24, 28).

Knowing security in God’s love, knowing He will never abandon us (13:5–6), means we can stop relating to others in fear. Instead, we can love and care for fellow believers as our brothers and sisters in Christ (vv. 1, 3). And we can extend our arms to invite everyone we can into God’s family of grace (v. 2).

Monica Brands

 

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Our Daily Bread — Asking for Help

 

Read: Mark 10:46–52 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 17–19; Ephesians 5:17–33

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. Mark 10:51

Her email arrived late in a long day. In truth, I didn’t open it. I was working overtime to help a family member manage his serious illness. I didn’t have time, therefore, for social distractions.

The next morning, however, when I clicked on my friend’s message, I saw this question: “Can I help you in any way?” Feeling embarrassed, I started to answer no. Then I took a deep breath to pause. I noticed then that her question sounded familiar—if not divine.

That’s because Jesus asked it. Hearing a blind beggar call out to Him on the Jericho Road, Jesus stopped to ask this man, named Bartimaeus, a similar question. Can I help? Or as Jesus said: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51).

The question is stunning. It shows the Healer, Jesus, longs to help us. But first, we’re invited to admit needing Him—a humbling step. The “professional” beggar Bartimaeus was needy, indeed—poor, alone, and possibly hungry and downcast. But wanting a new life, he simply told Jesus his most basic need. “Rabbi,” he said, “I want to see.”

For a blind man, it was an honest plea. Jesus healed him immediately. My friend sought such honesty from me too. So I promised her I’d pray to understand my basic need and, more important, I’d humbly tell her. Do you know your basic need today? When a friend asks, tell it. Then take your plea even higher. Tell God.

Lord, I am needy. I want to share my heart with You now. Help me to humbly receive the help of others also.

Welcome to Patricia Raybon! Meet all our authors at odb.org/all-authors.

God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5

By Patricia Raybon

INSIGHT

Today’s story is a beautiful picture of the compassion of our Savior. Even to those He initially refused to help (see the story of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21–28), He stretched out a merciful and loving hand. All of His actions proved the claim He made at the beginning of His ministry—He was anointed by God and came “to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).

But while Jesus is the epitome of mercy, He didn’t heal everyone. In the stories recorded in Scripture, we are told He healed all who came to him (see Matthew 8:16). But that’s the qualification—they came to Him. He healed all who admitted their need of something only He could provide.

Jesus still welcomes everyone who comes to Him. He may not always heal in the same way He did while He was here on Earth, but He still offers forgiveness and salvation to anyone who asks.

J.R. Hudberg

http://www.odb.org

Our Daily Bread — God’s Brand

 

Read: Zechariah 3:1–7 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 14–16; Ephesians 5:1–16

I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you. Zechariah 3:4

Scooping up the smallest children, a frantic maid raced out of the flaming house. As she ran, she called loudly to five-year-old Jacky.

But Jacky didn’t follow. Outside, a bystander reacted quickly, standing on the shoulders of a friend. Reaching into the upstairs window, he pulled Jacky to safety—just before the roof caved in. Little Jacky, said his mother Susanna, was “a brand [stick] plucked from the burning.” You might know that “brand” as the great traveling minister John Wesley (1703–1791).

Susanna Wesley was quoting Zechariah, a prophet who provides valuable insight into God’s character. Relating a vision he had, the prophet takes us into a courtroom scene where Satan is standing next to Joshua the high priest (3:1). Satan accuses Joshua, but the Lord rebukes the devil and says, “Is this not a brand [burning stick] plucked from the fire?” (v. 2 nkjv). The Lord tells Joshua, “I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you” (v. 4).

Then the Lord gave Joshua this challenge—and an opportunity: “If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house” (v. 7).

What a picture of the gift we receive from God through our faith in Jesus! He snatches us from the fire, cleans us up, and works in us as we follow His Spirit’s leading. You might call us God’s brands plucked from the fire.

Father, we give You our thanks for rescuing us and making us right with You. We humbly ask for Your Spirit’s guidance as we serve You today.

God rescues us because He loves us; then He equips us to share His love with others.

By Tim Gustafson

INSIGHT

At the end of their Babylonian exile (Jeremiah 29:10), the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple (2 Chronicles 36:22–23). Only 50,000 returned (Ezra 2:64–65), led by Zerubbabel their governor and Joshua their high priest (Haggai 1:1). Because of opposition (Ezra 4:1–5) and economic hardships, coupled with low morale and spiritual lethargy (Haggai 1:2–11), the temple rebuilding stalled for twenty years (Ezra 4:24). God raised two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to encourage the returnees to repent and complete the temple rebuilding (6:14–16). Zechariah was both a prophet (Ezra 5:1; Zechariah 1:1) and a priest (Nehemiah 12:16). Through eight visions, Zechariah reminded the Jews that God is faithful and would restore and bless the nation (Zechariah 1:7–6:15). This fourth vision (3:1–10) pictures a court scene involving Joshua, the high priest, signifying God would remove their guilt, cleanse them, and make them ready to serve Him (vv. 1–5).

  1. T. Sim

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Our Daily Bread — For Our Friends

 

Read: John 15:5–17 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 11–13; Ephesians 4

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12

In Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, a cantankerous man who often quotes the Bible to criticize others is memorably described as “the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake [apply] the promises to himself and fling the curses to his neighbours.”

It’s a funny line; and it may even bring particular people to mind. But aren’t we alla bit like this—prone to condemn others’ failures while excusing our own?

In Scripture some people amazingly did the exact opposite; they were willing to give up God’s promises for them and even be cursed if it would save others. Consider Moses, who said he’d rather be blotted out of God’s book than see the Israelites unforgiven (Exodus 32:32). Or Paul, who said he’d choose to be “cut off from Christ” if it meant his people would find Him (Romans 9:3).

As self-righteous as we naturally are, Scripture highlights those who love others more than themselves.

Because ultimately such love points to Jesus. “Greater love has no one than this,” Jesus taught, than “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Even before we knew Him, Jesus loved us “to the end” (13:1)—choosing death to give us life.

Now we are invited into the family of God, to love and be loved like this (15:9–12). And as we pour into others Christ’s unimaginable love, the world will catch a glimpse of Him.

Lord, thank You for showing us what it means to love. Help us to love like You.

When we love Christ, we love others.

By Monica Brands | See Other Authors

INSIGHT

The important idea of love for one another found in John 15:12–14 is rooted in one of Jesus’s most enduring teaching images—the vine and the branches (vv. 1–8). Our life so completely flows from being connected to Christ that everything we do, including our ability to love one another, is drawn from His life and power.

Bill Crowder

 

http://www.odb.org

Our Daily Bread — Asking God First

 

Read: Psalm 37:3–7, 23–24 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 5–6; Ephesians 1

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

Early in our marriage, I struggled to figure out my wife’s preferences. Did she want a quiet dinner at home or a meal at a fancy restaurant? Was it okay for me to hang out with the guys, or did she expect me to keep the weekend free for her? Once, instead of guessing and deciding first, I asked her, “What do you want?”

“I’m fine with either,” she replied with a warm smile. “I’m just happy you thought of me.”

At times I’ve wanted desperately to know exactly what God wanted me to do—such as which job to take. Praying for guidance and reading the Bible didn’t reveal any specific answers. But one answer was clear: I was to trust in the Lord, take delight in Him, and commit my way to Him (Psalm 37:3–5).

That’s when I realized that God usually gives us the freedom of choice—if we first seek to put His ways before our own. That means dropping choices that are plainly wrong or would not please Him. It might be something immoral, ungodly, or unhelpful toward our relationship with Him. If the remaining options please God, then we’re free to choose from them. Our loving Father wants to give us the desires of our hearts—hearts that take delight in Him (v. 4).

Teach me, O God, to put You first in everything I do. Show me how to take delight in You, that my heart will be transformed to be like Yours.

Do your decisions please God?

By Leslie Koh

INSIGHT

A prayerful reading of Psalm 37 yields increased joy, assurance, and confidence in the Lord. After an opening exhortation to not be upset by the short-lived vitality and success of those who ignore the Lord (vv. 1–2), a series of commands follow that call for faithful dependence on Him (vv. 3–8). The remainder of the psalm includes commentary about the conduct of two kinds of people (the righteous and the wicked), who follow two different paths and end up at two different places (vv. 9–11, 20). In various ways, the wicked harass and prey upon the righteous (vv. 12–15, 32). But the righteous are not alone. The Lord—in whom they trust and delight and upon whom they wait—protects them, making them safe and secure and stable (vv. 16–17, 23–26, 32–33). The conclusion of the psalm speaks powerfully to those who place their faith in God. “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him” (vv. 39–40).

Arthur Jackson

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Our Daily Bread — When We’re Weary

 

Read: Galatians 6:1–10 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 3–4; Galatians 6

Let us not become weary in doing good. Galatians 6:9

Sometimes trying to do the right thing can be exhausting. We may wonder, Do my well-intentioned words and actions make any difference at all? I wondered this recently when I sent a prayerfully thought-out email meant to encourage a friend, only to have it met with an angry response. My immediate reaction was a mixture of hurt and anger. How could I be so misunderstood?

Before I responded out of anger, I remembered that we won’t always see the results (or the results we desire) when we tell someone about how Jesus loves them. When we do good things for others hoping to draw them to Him, they may spurn us. Our gentle efforts to prompt someone to right action may be ignored.

Galatians 6 is a good place to turn when we’re discouraged by someone’s response to our sincere efforts. Here the apostle Paul encourages us to consider our motives—to “test our actions”—for what we say and do (vv. 1–4). When we have done so, he encourages us to persevere: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people” (vv. 9–10).

God wants us to continue living for Him, which includes praying for and telling others about Him—“doing good.” He will see to the results.

Dear God, thank You for the encouragement we receive from Your Word. Help us to persevere in doing good.

We can leave the results of our lives in God’s hands.

By Alyson Kieda

INSIGHT

Sometimes we can be tempted to take pride in our own good deeds. Unfortunately, this attitude may result in our looking down on the shortcomings of others. Instead, Paul says that believers empowered by the Spirit are to restore those caught up in a sin gently. By helping people deal with their sins, we’re fulfilling the law of Christ.

This helps us understand what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Helping others grow in godliness is the essence of loving them.

How can you love your neighbor today?

J.R. Hudberg

 

http://www.odb.org

Our Daily Bread — It’s Not About the Fish

 

Read: Jonah 3:10–4:4 | Bible in a Year: Isaiah 1–2; Galatians 5

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented. Jonah 3:10

Sighted numerous times off the coast of Australia’s South Queensland, Migaloo is the first albino humpback whale ever documented. The splendid creature, estimated at more than forty feet long, is so rare that Australia passed a law specifically to protect him.

The Bible tells us about a “huge fish” so rare that God had provided it especially to swallow a runaway prophet (Jonah 1:17). Most know the story. God told Jonah to take a message of judgment to Nineveh. But Jonah wanted nothing to do with the Ninevites, who had a reputation for cruelty to just about everyone—including the Hebrews. So he fled. Things went badly. From inside the fish, Jonah repented. Eventually he preached to the Ninevites, and they repented too (3:5–10).

Great story, right? Except it doesn’t end there. While Nineveh repented, Jonah pouted. “Isn’t this what I said, Lord?” he prayed. “I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love” (4:2). Having been rescued from certain death, Jonah’s sinful anger grew until even his prayer became suicidal (v. 3).

The story of Jonah isn’t about the fish. It’s about our human nature and the nature of the God who pursues us. “The Lord is patient with you,” wrote the apostle Peter, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God offers His love to brutal Ninevites, pouting prophets, and you and me.

Father, we tend to look at what others “deserve” and forget we need Your love just as much. Help us live in Your love and tell others about it.

Our love has limits; God’s love is limitless.

By Tim Gustafson

INSIGHT

What a difference a couple of chapters can make in the tone of Jonah’s prayers! In Jonah 2:2, the desperate prophet prayed, “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.” But in Jonah 4:3, he asks God to kill him. God answered the first prayer miraculously, delivering Jonah from death. But with the second prayer, God simply asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (4:4). Then Jonah actually repeats his death wish. “I’m so angry I wish I were dead” (v. 9). Even then, God appealed to Jonah by sharing His heart for all of humanity. “Should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh?” God even extends His concern to the animals that would have been destroyed in Nineveh (v. 11). The book of Jonah provides a fascinating contrast between human nature, which is self-serving, and the profoundly loving and patient character of God.

How do we respond to God’s grace to us? Do we resent it when He extends that grace to others we may perceive as “worse” than we are? Do we resemble Jonah when things don’t go the way we’d like them to?

Tim Gustafson

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Our Daily Bread — Many Beautiful Things

 

Read: Mark 14:1–9 | Bible in a Year: Song of Solomon 6–8; Galatians 4

She has done a beautiful thing to me. Mark 14:6

Just before her death, artist and missionary Lilias Trotter looked out a window and saw a vision of a heavenly chariot. According to her biographer, a friend asked, “Are you seeing many beautiful things?” She answered, “Yes, many, many beautiful things.”

Trotter’s final words reflect God’s work in her life. Not only in death, but throughout her life, He revealed much beauty to her and through her. Although a talented artist, she chose to serve Jesus as a missionary in Algeria. John Ruskin, a famous painter who tutored her, is said to have commented, “What a waste,” when she chose the mission field over a career in art.

Similarly, in the New Testament, when a woman came to Simon the Leper’s house with an alabaster jar and poured perfume on Jesus’s head, those present saw it as a waste. This expensive perfume was worth a year’s common wages, so some of the people present thought it could have been used to help the poor. However, commending this woman’s deep devotion to Him, Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me” (Mark 14:6).

Every day we can choose to let Christ’s life shine in our lives and display His beauty to the world. To some, it may seem a waste, but let us have willing hearts to serve Him. May Jesus say we have done many beautiful things for Him.

Dear Father, help me express my love to You in beautiful ways.

May our lives display the beauty of God.

By Keila Ochoa

INSIGHT

How can we, like the woman in Mark 14, do beautiful things for Christ? We can offer the beauty of “a gentle and quiet spirit” which “is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3–4). Gentleness is one of the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22–23, a list of characteristics that display Christ at work in our lives. We are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11). When we are willing to be used by Him, the Spirit produces fruit and can guide us to do beautiful things.

For more on the beauty of a Spirit-filled life, check out the online course “Foundations of Spiritual Formation I: The Work of the Spirit” at christianuniversity.org/SF507.

Alyson Kieda

 

 

http://www.odb.org

Our Daily Bread — Walking God’s Way

 

Read: Isaiah 30:15–21 | Bible in a Year: Song of Solomon 4–5; Galatians 3

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

“We’re going this way,” I said as I touched my son’s shoulder and redirected him through the crowd to follow his mom and sisters in front of us. I’d done this more often as the day wore on at the amusement park our family was visiting. He was getting tired and more easily distracted. Why can’t he just follow them? I wondered.

Then it hit me: How often do I do exactly the same thing? How often do I veer from obediently walking with God, enchanted by the temptations to pursue what I want instead of seeking His ways?

Think of Isaiah’s words from God for Israel: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’ ” (Isaiah 30:21). Earlier in that chapter, God had rebuked His people for their rebelliousness. But if they would trust His strength instead of their own ways (v. 15), He promised to show His graciousness and compassion (v. 18).

One expression of God’s graciousness is His promise to guide us by His Spirit. That happens as we talk to Him about our desires and ask in prayer what He has for us. I’m thankful God patiently directs us, day-by-day, step-by-step, as we trust Him and listen for His voice.

Father, You’ve promised to guide us through the ups and downs and decisions we face in life. Help us to trust and follow You, and to actively listen for Your guiding voice.

God patiently directs us as we trust Him and listen for His voice.

By Adam Holz

INSIGHT

In today’s passage, a resurgent militant Assyria threatened to conquer all of Israel. But instead of trusting God to deliver them, Judah turned to Egypt for help. God had explicitly prohibited Israelite kings from trusting in anything other than God for deliverance (Deuteronomy 17:16). Isaiah warned that it’s futile to trust Egypt instead of the Lord (Isaiah 30:1–19; 31:1). The psalmist also warned of the futility of putting our trust in something other than God: “No king is saved by the size of his army . . . . A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save” (Psalm 33:16–17).

When have you placed your trust in something other than God?

  1. T. Sim

 

 

http://www.odb.org