Our Daily Bread

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Daily Devotionals

“If I touched a Bible, it would catch fire in my hands,” my English professor at a community college said. My heart sank. The novel we’d been reading that morning referenced a Bible verse; and when I pulled out my Bible to look it up, she noticed and commented. My professor seemed to think she was too sinful to be forgiven. Yet I wasn’t bold enough to tell her about God’s love—and that the Bible tells us we can always seek God’s forgiveness.

There’s an example of repentance and forgiveness in Nehemiah. The Israelites had been exiled because of their sin, but now they were allowed to return to Jerusalem. When they’d “settled in,” Ezra the scribe read the law to them (Nehemiah 7:73–8:1). They confessed their sins remembering that, despite their sin, God “did not desert” or “abandon them” (9:17, 19). He “heard them” when they cried out; and in compassion and mercy, He was patient with them (vv. 19, 27–31).

In a similar way, God is patient with us. He won’t abandon us if we choose to confess our sin and turn to Him. I wish I could go back and tell my professor that, no matter her past, Jesus loves her and wants her to be part of His family. He feels the same way about you and me. We can approach Him seeking forgiveness—and He will give it!

Author: Julie Schwab
Posted: September 24, 2020, 12:00 am

When my grown son faced a difficult situation, I reminded him about God’s constant care and provision during his dad’s year of unemployment. I recounted the times God strengthened our family and gave us peace while my mom fought and lost her battle with leukemia. Highlighting the stories of God’s faithfulness stitched into Scripture, I affirmed He was good at keeping His word. I led my son down our family’s God-paved memory lane, reminding him about the ways He remained reliable through our valley and mountaintop moments. Whether we were struggling or celebrating, God’s presence, love, and grace proved sufficient.

Although I’d like to claim this faith-strengthening strategy as my own, the Lord designed the habit of sharing stories to inspire the future generations’ belief in God. As the Israelites remembered all they’d seen the Lord do in the past, He placed cobblestones of confidence down their God-paved memory lanes.

The Israelites had witnessed God holding true to His promises as they followed Him (Deuteronomy 4:3-6). He’d always heard and answered their prayers (v. 7). Rejoicing and reminiscing with the younger generations (v. 9), the Israelites shared the holy words breathed and preserved by the one true God (v. 10).

As we tell of our Lord’s majesty, mercy, and intimate love, our convictions and the faith of others can be strengthened by the confirmation of His enduring trustworthiness.

Who has invested in your spiritual growth by sharing what God had done in their lives? What creative ways can you share God’s faithfulness and love across generational lines?

 

Author: Xochitl Dixon
Posted: September 23, 2020, 12:00 am

What a waste of time! thought Harley. Her insurance agent was insisting they meet again. Harley knew it would be yet another boring sales pitch, but she decided to make the most of it by looking for an opportunity to talk about her faith.

Noticing that the agent’s eyebrows were tattooed, she hesitantly asked why and discovered that the woman did it because she felt it would bring her luck. Harley’s question was a risky detour from a routine chat about finances, but it opened the door to a conversation about luck and faith, which gave her an opportunity to talk about why she relied on Jesus. That “wasted” hour turned out to be a divine appointment.

Jesus also took a risky detour. While traveling from Judea to Galilee, He went out of His way to speak to a Samaritan, something unthinkable for a Jew. Worse, she was an adulterous woman avoided even by other Samaritans. Yet He ended up having a conversation that led to the salvation of many (John 4:1–4, 39–42).

Are you meeting someone you don’t really want to see? Do you keep bumping into a neighbor you normally avoid? The Bible reminds us to be always ready—“in season and out of season”—to share the good news (2 Timothy 4:2). Consider taking a “risky detour.” Who knows, God may be giving you a divine opportunity to talk to someone about Him today!

Author: Leslie Koh
Posted: September 22, 2020, 12:00 am

We were almost home when I noticed it: the needle of our car’s temperature gauge was rocketing up. As we pulled in, I killed the engine and hopped out. Smoke wafted from the hood. The engine sizzled like bacon. I backed the car up a few feet to find a puddle beneath: oil. Instantly, I knew: The head gasket had just blown.

I groaned. We’d just sunk money into other expensive repairs. Why can’t things just work?! I grumbled bitterly. Why can’t things just stop breaking?!

Can you relate? Sometimes we avert one crisis, solve one problem, pay off one big bill, only to face another. Sometimes, those troubles are much bigger than an engine self-destructing: an unexpected diagnosis, an untimely death, a terrible loss.

In those moments, we yearn for a world less broken, less full of trouble. That world, Jesus promised, is coming. But not yet: “In this world you will have trouble,” he reminded His disciples in John 16. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33). Jesus spoke in that chapter about grave troubles, such as persecution for the faith. But such trouble, He taught, would never have the last word for those who hope in Him.

Troubles small and large may dog our days. But Jesus’ promise of a better tomorrow with Him encourages us not to let our troubles define our lives today.

Author: Adam R. Holz
Posted: September 21, 2020, 12:00 am

After Charles Simeon (1759–1836) was named the minister of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge, England, he faced years of opposition. As most in the congregation had wanted the associate minister to be appointed rather than Simeon, they spread rumors about him and rejected his ministry—even at times locking him out of the church. But Simeon, who desired to be filled by God’s Spirit, sought to cope with the gossip by creating some principles to live by. One was never to believe rumors unless they were absolutely true and another was “Always to believe, that if the other side were heard, a very different account would be given of the matter.”

In this practice, Simeon followed God’s instructions to His people to cease the gossip and malicious talk He knew would erode their love for each other. One of God’s Ten Commandments reflects His desire for them to live truthfully: “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). A law that follows the ninth commandment in Exodus reinforces this instruction: “Do not spread false reports” (23:1).

Think of how different the world would be if each of us never spread rumors and false reports and if we stopped them the moment we heard them. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to help us speak the truth in love as we use our words to bring glory to God.

Author: Amy Boucher Pye
Posted: September 20, 2020, 12:00 am

Author Mark Twain suggested that whatever we look at in life—and how we see it—can influence our next steps, even our destiny. As Twain said, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

Peter, too, spoke of vision when he replied to a lame beggar, a man whom he and John encountered at the busy temple gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:2). As the man asked them for money, Peter and John looked directly at the man. “Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ ” (v. 4).

Why did he say that? As Christ’s ambassador, Peter likely wanted the beggar to stop looking at his own limitations—yes, even to stop looking at his need for money. As he looked at the apostles, he would see the reality of having faith in God.

As Peter told him, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (v. 6). Then Peter “helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk” and give praise (vv. 7–8).

What happened? Faith in God, indeed, Peter said (v. 16). As evangelist Charles Spurgeon urged, “Keep your eye simply on Him.” When we do, we don’t see obstacles. We see God, the One who makes our way clear.

Author: Patricia Raybon
Posted: September 19, 2020, 12:00 am

Sarah has a rare condition that causes her joints to dislocate, making her reliant on an electric wheelchair to get around. On her way to a meeting recently, Sarah rode her wheelchair to the train station but found the elevator broken. Again. With no way of getting to the platform, she was told to take a taxi to another station forty minutes away. The taxi was called but never arrived. Sarah gave up and went home.

Unfortunately, this is a regular occurrence for Sarah. Broken elevators stop her boarding trains, forgotten ramps leave her unable to get off them. Sometimes Sarah is treated as a nuisance by railway staff for needing assistance. She’s often close to tears.

Out of the many biblical laws governing human relationships, “love your neighbor as yourself” is key (Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8–10). And while this love stops us lying, stealing, and abusing others (Leviticus 19:11, 14), it also changes how we work. Employees must be treated fairly (v. 13), and we should all be generous to the poor (vv. 9–10). In Sarah’s case, those who fix elevators and drag out ramps aren’t doing inconsequential tasks but offering important service to others.

If we treat work as a means to a wage or other personal benefit, we will soon treat others as annoyances. But if we treat our jobs as opportunities to love, then the most everyday task becomes a holy enterprise.

Author: Sheridan Voysey
Posted: September 18, 2020, 12:00 am

The spotted lanternfly is a pretty insect with speckled outer wings and a splotch of bright red on its inner wings that flashes when it flies. But its beauty is a bit deceptive. This insect, first spotted in Pennsylvania in 2014, is considered invasive to North America, which means it has the potential to harm the environment and economy. The lanternfly will “eat the innards of practically any woody plant,” which includes cherry and other fruit trees, and leaves a sticky goo that leads to mold—killing trees outright or leaving them with little energy to grow fruit.

In the story of Adam and Eve, we learn of a different kind of menace. The serpent, Satan, deceived the couple into disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit so they would “be like God” (Genesis 3:1–7). But why listen to a serpent? Did his words alone entice Eve, or was there also something attractive about him? Scripture hints at Satan being created beautiful (Ezekiel 28:12). Yet Satan fell by the same temptation he used to entice Eve: “I will make myself like [God]” (Isaiah 12:14; Ezekiel 28:14).

Any beauty Satan now has is used to deceive (Genesis 3:1; John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14). Just as he fell, he seeks to pull others down—or keep them from growing. But we have someone far more powerful on our side! We can run to Jesus, our beautiful Savior.

Author: Alyson Kieda
Posted: September 17, 2020, 12:00 am

Scaling. It’s a term used in the world of fitness that allows room for anyone to participate. If the specific exercise is a push-up, for example, then maybe you can do ten in a row but I can only do four. The instructor’s encouragement to me would be to scale back the push-up according to my fitness level at the time. We’re not all at the same level but we can all move in the same direction. In other words, she would say, “Do your four push-ups with all the strength you have. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else. Scale the movement for now, keep doing what you can do, and you may be amazed in time you’re doing seven, and even one day, ten.”

When it comes to giving, the apostle Paul was clear: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). But his encouragement to the believers in Corinth, and to us, is a variation of scaling. “Each of you should give what you decide in your heart” (v.7). We each find ourselves at differing giving levels, and sometimes those levels change over time. Comparison is not beneficial, but attitude is. Based on where you are, give “generously” (v. 6). Our God has promised that the disciplined practice of such cheerful giving brings enrichment in every way with a blessed life that results in “thanksgiving to God” (v. 11).

Author: John Blase
Posted: September 16, 2020, 12:00 am

My friend Ellen calculates payroll for an accounting firm. This may sound like a straightforward job, but there are times when employers submit their information later than requested. Ellen often makes up for this by working long hours so employees can receive their money without delay. She does this out of consideration for the families that depend on those funds to buy groceries, purchase medicine, and pay for housing.

Ellen’s compassionate approach to her job points me to Jesus. On earth, He sometimes ministered to people when it was inconvenient for Him. For instance, Jesus wanted some alone time after He heard that John the Baptist had been killed, so He boarded a boat in search of an isolated place (Matthew 14:13). Perhaps He needed to grieve for His relative and pray through His sorrow.

There was just one problem. Crowds of people tagged along behind Him. This group had various physical needs. It would have been much easier to send the people away, but “When Jesus landed and saw [them], he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (v. 14).

Although it was part of Jesus’s calling to teach people and cure their diseases as He ministered on earth, His empathy affected the way in which He carried out His responsibilities. May God help us to recognize His compassion in our lives and give us the strength to pass it on to others.

Author: Jennifer Benson Schuldt
Posted: September 15, 2020, 12:00 am

When my brother David suddenly died of cardiac failure, my perspectives on life changed dramatically. Dave was the fourth of seven children, but he was the first of us to pass—and the unexpected nature of that passing gave me much to ponder. It became apparent that as age began to catch up with us our family’s future was going to be marked more by loss than by gain. It was going to be characterized as much by goodbyes as hellos.

None of this was a surprise intellectually—that is just how life works. But this realization was an emotional lightning bolt to the brain. It gave a fresh, new significance to every moment life gives us and every opportunity time allows. And it placed a huge new value on the reality of a future reunion, where no goodbyes will ever be needed.

This ultimate reality is at the heart of what we find in Revelation 21:3–4: “God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Though today we may find ourselves experiencing seasons of long goodbyes, our trust in Christ’s death and resurrection promises an eternity of hellos.

Author: Bill Crowder
Posted: September 14, 2020, 12:00 am

A marine biologist was swimming near the Cook Islands in the South Pacific when a 50,000-pound humpback whale suddenly appeared and tucked her under its fin. The woman thought her life was over. But after swimming slowly in circles, the whale let her go. It’s then that the biologist saw a tiger shark leaving the area. The woman believes the whale had been protecting her—keeping her from danger.

In a world of danger, we’re called to watch out for others. But you might ask yourself, Should I really be expected to be responsible for someone else? Or in Cain’s words: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). The rest of the Old Testament resounds with the thunderous response: Yes! Just as Adam was to care for the garden, so Cain was to care for Abel. Israel was to keep watch over the vulnerable and care for the needy. Yet they did the opposite—exploiting the people, oppressing the poor, and abdicating the calling to love their neighbors as themselves (Isaiah 3:14–15).

Yet, in the Cain and Abel story, God continued to watch over Cain, even after he was sent away (Genesis 4:15–16). God did for Cain what Cain should have done for Abel. It’s a beautiful foreshadowing of what God in Jesus would come to do for us. Jesus keeps us in His care, and He empowers us to go and do likewise for others.

Author: Glenn Packiam
Posted: September 13, 2020, 12:00 am

First responders show dedication and courage daily by being on the front lines when disasters occur. In the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001 when thousands of people were killed or injured, more than 400 emergency workers also lost their lives. In honor of first responders, the US Senate designated September 12 as the National Day of Encouragement.

While it may seem unique that a government would declare a national day of encouragement, the apostle Paul certainly thought this was needed for the growth of a church. He commended the young church in Thessalonica, a city in Macedonia, to “encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Although they were going through persecution, Paul encouraged the believers to “always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (v. 15). He knew that as humans, they would be prone to despair, selfishness, and conflict. But he also knew that they would not be able to encourage one another without God’s help and strength.

Things are no different today. We all need to be uplifted and we need to do the same for those around us. Yet we cannot do it in our own strength. That’s why Paul’s encouragement that “the one who calls you [Jesus] is faithful, and he will do it” is so reassuring (v. 24). With His help, we can encourage one another every day.   

Author: Estera Pirosca Escobar
Posted: September 12, 2020, 12:00 am

While riding in the Chihuahuan Desert in the late 1800s, Jim White spotted a strange cloud of smoke spiraling skyward. Suspecting a wildfire, the young cowboy rode toward the source, only to learn that the “smoke” was a vast swarm of bats spilling from a hole in the ground. White had come across New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, an immense and spectacular system of caves.

As Moses was tending sheep in a Middle Eastern desert, he too saw an odd sight that grabbed his attention—a flaming bush that didn’t burn up (Exodus 3:2). When God Himself spoke from the bush, Moses realized he had come to something far grander than it had first appeared (v. 6). The Lord told Moses, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham” (v. 6). God was about to lead an enslaved people to freedom and show them their true identity as His children (v. 10).

More than 600 years earlier, God had made this promise to Abraham: “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). The flight of the Israelites from Egypt was but one step in that blessing—God’s plan to rescue His creation through the Messiah, Abraham’s descendant.

Today we can enjoy the benefits of that blessing, for God offers this rescue to everyone. Christ came to die for the sins of the whole world. By faith in Him, we too become children of the living God.

Author: Tim Gustafson
Posted: September 11, 2020, 12:00 am

Choral director Arianne Abela spent her childhood sitting on her hands—to hide them. Born with fingers missing or fused together on both hands, she also had no left leg and was missing toes on her right foot. A music lover and lyric soprano, she’d planned to major in government at Smith College. But one day her choir teacher asked her to conduct—which made her hands quite visible. From that moment, she found her career, going on to conduct church choirs and serving now as Director of Choirs at another university. “My teachers saw something in me,” Abela explains.

Her inspiring story invites believers to ask, What does God our Holy Teacher see in us, regardless of our “limits”? More than all, He sees Himself. “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 nlt).

As His glorious “image bearers,” when others see us, we should reflect Him. For Abela, that meant Jesus, not her hands—or her lack of fingers—matters most. The same is true for all believers. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image,” says 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Similar to Abela, we then can conduct our lives by Christ’s transforming power (v. 18), offering a life song that rings out to the glory of God.

Author: Patricia Raybon
Posted: September 10, 2020, 12:00 am

When Johannes Gutenberg combined the printing press with moveable type in 1450, he ushered in the era of mass communications in the West, spreading learning into new social realms. Literacy increased across the globe and new ideas produced rapid transformations in social and religious contexts. Gutenberg produced the first-ever printed version of the Bible. Prior to this, Bibles were painstakingly hand-copied, taking scribes up to a year to produce.

 

For centuries since, the printing press has provided people like you and me the privilege of direct access to Scripture. While we also have electronic versions available to us, many of us often hold a physical Bible in our hands because of his invention. What was once inaccessible given the sheer cost and time to have a Bible copied is readily at our fingertips today.

 

Having access to God’s truth is a privilege we mustn’t take for granted. The writer of Proverbs indicates we should treat His instructions to us in the Scriptures as something to be cherished, as “the apple of [our] eye” (Proverbs 7:2) and to write His words of wisdom on the tablet of our heart (v. 3). As we seek to understand the Bible and live according to its wisdom, we, like scribes, are drawing God’s truth from our “fingers” down into our hearts, to be taken with us wherever we go.

Author: Kirsten Holmberg
Posted: September 9, 2020, 12:00 am

“Are people still praying for me?”

That was one of the first questions a missionary asked his wife whenever she was allowed to visit him in prison. He had been falsely accused and incarcerated for his faith for two years. His life was frequently in danger because of the conditions and hostility in the prison, and Christians around the world were earnestly praying for him. He wanted to be assured they wouldn’t stop, because he believed God was using their prayers in a powerful way.

Our prayers for others—especially those who are persecuted for their faith—are a vital gift. Paul made this clear when he wrote the believers in Corinth about hardships he faced during his missionary journey. He “was under great pressure,” so much that he “despaired of life itself” (2 Corinthians 1:8). But then he told them God had delivered him and described the tool He’d used to do it: “We have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers” (vv. 10–11, emphasis added).

God moves through our prayers to accomplish great good in the lives of His people. One of the best ways to love others is to pray for them, because through our prayers we open the door to the help only God can provide. When we pray for others, we love them in His strength. There is none greater or more loving than He.

Author: James Banks
Posted: September 8, 2020, 12:00 am

I recently attended a high school graduation during which the speaker provided a needed challenge for the young adults awaiting their diplomas. He mentioned that this was a time in their lives when everyone was asking them, “What’s next?” What career would they be pursuing next? Where would they be going to school or working next? Then he said that the more important question was what were they doing now?

In the context of their faith journey, what daily decisions would they be making that would guide them each day to live for Jesus and not for themselves?

His words reminded me of the book of Proverbs, which makes many pointed statements about how to live—now. For instance: choosing the right friends, now (12:26); living with integrity, now (13:6); having good judgment, now (13:15); speaking wisely, now (14:3); practicing honesty, now (11:1).          

Living for God now, by the leading of the Holy Spirit, makes the decisions about what is next much easier. “The Lord gives wisdom; . . . He holds success in store for the upright, . . . he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones” (2:6–8). May God supply what we need for us to live by His guidelines now, and may He guide us into what’s next for His honor.

Author: Dave Branon
Posted: September 7, 2020, 12:00 am

Back in my sermon-making days I approached some Sunday mornings feeling like a lowly worm. During the week before, I had not been the best husband, father, or friend. I felt that before God could use me again I had to establish a track record of right living. So I vowed to get through the sermon as best I could and try to live better the coming week. 

 

That was not the right approach. In Galatians 3 it’s said that God continually supplies us with His Spirit and works powerfully through us as a free gift—not because we’ve done anything or could do anything to deserve it.

 

Abraham’s life demonstrates this. At times he failed as a husband. For example, he twice put Sarah’s life in jeopardy by lying to save his own skin (Genesis 12:10–20; 20:1–18). Yet his faith “was credited to him as righteousness” (Galatians 3:6). Abraham put himself in God’s hands despite his frequent failures, and God used him to bring salvation to the world through his lineage.

 

There’s no justification for behaving badly. Jesus has asked us to follow Him in obedience, and He supplies the means to do so. A hard, unrepentant heart will always hinder His purposes for us, but His ability to use us doesn’t depend on a lengthy pattern of good behavior. It’s based solely on God’s willingness to work through us as we are: saved and growing by grace. You don’t have to work for His grace—it’s free.

Author: David H. Roper
Posted: September 6, 2020, 12:00 am

After a recent move, Mabel’s seven-year-old son, Ryan, fussed as he prepared to attend a summer camp at his new school. Mabel encouraged him, assuring him that she understood change was hard. But one morning, Ryan’s out-of-character grumpiness seemed excessive. With compassion, Mabel asked, “What’s bothering you, Son?”

Staring out of the window, Ryan shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom. I just have too many feelings.”

Mabel’s heart ached as she comforted him. Desperate for a way to help him, she shared that the move was hard for her too. She assured Ryan that God would stay close, that He knows everything, even when they couldn’t understand or voice their frustrations. “Let’s set up a visit with your friends before school starts,” she said. They made plans, grateful that God understands even when His children have “too many feelings.”

The writer of Psalm 147 experienced overwhelming emotions throughout his faith journey and recognized the benefits of praising the all-knowing Maker and Sustainer of all, the Healer of physical and emotional wounds (vv. 1–6). He praised God for the ways He provides and “delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (v. 11).

When we’re struggling to make sense of our ever-changing emotions, we don’t have to feel alone or discouraged. We can rest in the unconditional love and unlimited understanding of our unchanging God.

Author: Xochitl Dixon
Posted: September 5, 2020, 12:00 am

Brittany exclaimed to her coworker at the restaurant, “There’s that man! There’s that man!” She was referring to Melvin, who first encountered her under different circumstances. While he was tending to the lawn of his church, the Spirit prompted him to start a conversation with the woman who appeared to be a prostitute. Her reply when he invited her to church was: “Do you know what I do? They wouldn’t want me in there.” As Melvin told her about the love of Jesus and assured her of His power to change her life, tears streamed down her face. Now, some weeks later, Brittany was working in a new environment, living proof of the power of Jesus to change lives.

In the context of encouraging believers to be devoted to prayer, the apostle Paul made a twofold request: “Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should” (Colossians 4:3–4). Have you prayed for opportunities to speak boldly and clearly for Jesus? What a fitting prayer! Such prayers can lead followers of Jesus, like Melvin, to speak about Him in unexpected places and to unexpected people. Speaking up for Jesus can seem uncomfortable, but the rewards—changed lives—have a way of compensating for our discomforts.

Author: Arthur Jackson
Posted: September 4, 2020, 12:00 am

It makes no logical sense, but when my parents died within a three-month period, I feared they would forget me. Of course they were no longer on earth, but that left me with a large uncertainty. I was a young, unmarried adult and wondered how to navigate life without them. Feeling really single and alone, I sought God.

 

One morning I told Him about my irrational fear and the sadness it brought (even though He knew it already). The Scripture passage that came in my reading for the day was Isaiah 49: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast . . . ? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (v. 15). God reassured His people through Isaiah that He had not forgotten them and later promised to restore them to Himself through sending His Son Jesus. But the words ministered to my heart too. It’s rare for a mother or a father to forget their child, yet it’s possible. But God? No way. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,” He said.

 

God’s answer to me could have brought more fear. But the peace He gave because of His own remembrance of me was exactly what I needed. It was the start of discovering that God is even closer than a parent or anyone else, and He knows the way to help us with everything—even our irrational fears.

Author: Anne Cetas
Posted: September 3, 2020, 12:00 am

In the towering dome of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, visitors can climb 259 steps to access The Whispering Gallery. There you can whisper and be heard by another person anywhere along the circular walkway, even across the enormous abyss some thirty meters away. Engineers explain this anomaly as a result of the spherical shape of the dome and the low intensity sound waves of a whisper.

How we long to be confident God hears our agonized whispers! The Psalms are filled with testimonies that He hears us—our cries, prayers, and whispers. David writes, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help” (Psalm 18:6). Over and over again, he and other psalmists plead, “Hear my prayers (4:1), my voice (5:3), the groans” (102:20). Sometimes the expression is more of a whispered, “Hear me” (77:1), where the “heart meditated and the spirit asked” (77:6).

In answer to these pleas, psalmists—like David in Psalm 18:6—reveal that God is listening, “From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Since the actual temple was not yet built, might David have been referring to God listening in his heavenly dwelling?

From his very own “whispering gallery” in the dome of the heavens above the earth, God bends to our deepest murmurs, even our whispers . . . and listens.

Author: Elisa Morgan
Posted: September 2, 2020, 12:00 am

In 2013, seventy-year-old James McConnell, a British Royal Marine veteran, died. McConnell had no family, and staff from his nursing home feared no one would attend his funeral. A man tapped to officiate McConnell’s memorial service, posted a Facebook message: “In this day and age it is tragic enough that anyone has to leave this world with no one to mourn their passing, but this man was family. . . . If you can make it to the graveside . . . to pay your respects to a former brother in arms then please try to be there.” Two-hundred Royal Marines packed the pews!

These British compatriots exhibited a biblical truth: we’re tied to one another. “The body is not made up of one part, but of many,” Paul says (1 Corinthians 12:14). We’re not isolated. Just the opposite: we’re bound in Jesus. Scripture reveals organic interconnection: “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with [him]” (v. 26 nasb). As believers in Jesus, members of God’s new family, we move toward one another, into the pain, into the sorrow, into those murky places where we would fear to go alone. But thankfully we do not go alone.

Perhaps the worst part of suffering is when we feel we’re drowning in the dark all by ourselves. God, however, creates a new community that suffers together. A new community where no one should be left in the dark.

Author: Winn Collier
Posted: September 1, 2020, 12:00 am

Had the wireless radio been on, they would have known the Titanic was sinking. Cyril Evans, the radio operator of another ship, had tried to relay a message to Jack Phillips, the radio operator on the Titanic—letting him know they had encountered an ice field. But Phillips was busy relaying passengers’ messages and rudely told Evans to be quiet. So Evans reluctantly turned off his radio and went to be bed. Ten minutes later, the Titanic struck an iceberg. Their distress signals went unanswered because no one was listening.

In 1 Samuel we read that the priests of Israel were corrupt and had lost their spiritual sight and hearing as the nation drifted into danger. “The word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1). But God wouldn’t give up on His people. He began to speak to a young boy named Samuel who was being raised in the priest’s household. Samuel’s name means the Lord hears—a memorial to God’s answering his mother’s prayer. Now he would need to learn how to hear God.

“Speak, for your servant is listening” (v. 10). It’s the servant who hears. May we also choose to listen to and obey what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Let’s submit our lives to Him and take the posture of humble servants—those who have their “radios” turned on.

Author: Glenn Packiam
Posted: August 31, 2020, 12:00 am

Recently I read through a stack of World War II-era letters my dad sent to my mother. He was in North Africa and she was in West Virginia. Dad, a second lieutenant in the US Army, was tasked with censoring soldiers’ letters—keeping sensitive information from enemy eyes. So it was rather humorous to see—on the outside of his letters to his wife—a stamp that said, “Censored by 2nd Lt. John Branon.” Indeed, he had cut out lines from his own letters!

Self-censoring is really a good idea for all of us. Several times in Scripture, the writers mention the importance of taking a good long look at ourselves to find what’s not right—not God-honoring. The psalmist, for example, prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart. . . . See if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24). Jeremiah put it like this: “Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40). And Paul, speaking of our heart condition at the time of communion, said, “Everyone ought to examine themselves” (1 Corinthians 11:28).

The Holy Spirit can help us turn from any attitudes or actions that don’t please God. So before we head out into the world today, let’s stop and seek the Spirit’s help in doing some self-checking so we can “return to the Lord” in fellowship with Him.

Author: Dave Branon
Posted: August 30, 2020, 12:00 am

People love doing “the wave.” At sporting events and concerts around the world, it begins when a few people stand and raise their hands. A moment later, those seated beside them do the same. The goal is to have one sequential flowing movement work its way around an entire stadium. Once it reaches the end, those who started it smile and cheer—and keep the movement going.

The first recorded incident of “the wave” occurred at a professional baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the New York Yankees in 1981. I love joining in “the wave” because it’s fun. But it’s also occurred to me that the happiness and togetherness we experience while doing it is reminiscent of the gospel—the good news of salvation in Jesus that unites believers everywhere in praise and hope. This “ultimate wave” started over twenty centuries ago in Jerusalem. Writing to the members of the church in Colossae, Paul described it this way: “the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it.” The natural result of this good news is “faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for [us] in heaven” (Colossians 1:5–6). 

As believers in Jesus, we’re part of the greatest wave in history. Keep it going! Once it’s done, we’ll see the smile of the One who started it all.

Author: James Banks
Posted: August 29, 2020, 12:00 am

In the open sea, a rescuer positioned her kayak to assist panicked swimmers competing in a triathlon. “Don’t grab the middle of the boat!” she called to swimmers, knowing such a move would capsize her craft. Instead, she directed weary swimmers to the bow, or front, of the kayak. There, they could grab a loop, allowing the safety kayaker to help rescue them.

Whenever life or people threaten to pull us under, as believers in Jesus, we know we have a Rescuer. “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep . . . I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered” (Ezekiel 34:11–12).

This was the prophet Ezekiel’s assurance to God’s people when they were in exile. Their leaders had neglected and exploited them, plundering their lives and caring “for themselves rather than for my flock” (v. 8). As a result, the people “were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them” (v. 6).

But “I will rescue my flock,” declared the Lord (v. 10), and His promise still holds.

What do we need to do? Hold fast to almighty God and His promises. “I myself will search for my sheep and look after them,” he says (v. 11). That’s a saving promise worth holding tight.

Author: Patricia Raybon
Posted: August 28, 2020, 12:00 am

Which would you choose—a skiing holiday in Switzerland or rescuing children from danger in Prague? Nicholas Winton, just an ordinary man, chose the latter. In 1938, war between Czechoslovakia and Germany seemed on the horizon. After Nicholas visited refugee camps in Prague, where many Jewish citizens lived in horrible conditions, he felt compelled to come up with a plan to help. He raised money to transport hundreds of children safely out of Prague to Great Britain to be cared for by British families before the onset of World War II.

His actions exemplified those called for in Psalm 82: “Uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed” (v. 3). Asaph, the writer of this psalm, wanted to stir his people to champion the cause of those in need: “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (v. 4). Like the children Nicholas worked tirelessly to rescue, the psalmist spoke for those who couldn’t speak for themselves—the poor and the widowed who needed justice and protection.

Today, everywhere we look we see people in need due to war, storms, and other hardships of life. Although we can’t solve every problem, we can prayerfully consider what we can do to help in the situations God brings into our lives.

Author: Linda Washington
Posted: August 27, 2020, 12:00 am

I don’t remember many specifics about my driver’s education class. But for some reason, an acronym we learned, S-I-P-D-E, remains firmly lodged in my memory.

The letters stood for Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, and Execute, a process we were taught to practice continually. We were to scan the road, identify hazards, predict what the hazards might do, decide how we’d respond, and then, if necessary, execute that plan. It was a strategy for being intentional to avoid accidents.  

I wonder how that idea might translate to our spiritual lives. In Ephesians 5, Paul told Ephesian believers, “Be very careful, then, how you live, not as unwise, but as wise” (v. 15). Paul knew certain hazards could derail the Ephesians—old ways of living at odds with their new life in Christ (vv. 8,10–11). So he instructed the growing church to pay attention.

The words translated “be very careful, then, how you live” literally mean “see how you walk.” In other words, look around. Notice hazards, and avoid personal pitfalls like drunkenness and wild living (v. 18). Instead, the apostle said, we can seek to learn God’s will for our lives (v. 17), while, with fellow believers, we sing to and give Him thanks (vv. 19–20).

No matter what hazards we face—and even when we stumble—we can experience our new life in Christ as we grow in dependence on His boundless power and grace.

Author: Adam R. Holz
Posted: August 26, 2020, 12:00 am