Our Daily Bread
Moviegoers heard the beautiful voice of Emily Blunt as the starring role in Mary Poppins Returns. Amazingly, it was four years into their marriage that her husband discovered her vocal talent. In an interview he revealed his surprise the first time he heard her sing, thinking, “When were you going to tell me this?”
In relationships we often learn new, sometimes unexpected, details that surprise us. In Mark’s gospel, Christ’s disciples initially started with an incomplete picture of Jesus and struggled to grasp all of who He is. However, in an encounter on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus revealed more of Himself, this time the extent of His power over the forces of nature.
After feeding a crowd numbering more than 5,000 people, Jesus had sent His disciples out on the Sea of Galilee, where they were caught in a fierce storm. Just before dawn, the disciples were terrified to see someone walking on the water. However, Christ’s’ familiar voice spoke words of comfort, saying, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Mark 6:50). Then He calmed the raging sea. Upon seeing such great power, the disciples were “completely amazed” (6:51) even as they struggled to fully comprehend this experience of Jesus’s power.
As we experience Jesus and His power over the storms of our lives, we gain a more complete picture of who He is. And we are amazed.
In 1948, Harlan Popov, the pastor of an underground church, was taken from his home for a “little questioning.” Two weeks later, he received around-the-clock interrogation and no food for ten days. Each time he denied being a spy, he was beaten. Popov not only survived his harsh treatment but also led fellow prisoners to Christ. Finally, eleven years later, he was released and continued to share his faith until, two years later, he was able to leave the country and be reunited with his family. He spent the following years preaching and raising money to distribute Bibles in closed countries.
Like countless Christians throughout the ages, Popov was persecuted because of his faith. Jesus, long before His own torture and death and the subsequent persecution of His followers, said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:9). He continued, “Blessed are you when people . . . persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (v. 10).
“Blessed”? What could Jesus have meant? He was referring to the wholeness, joy, and comfort found in a relationship with Him (vv. 4, 8–10). Popov persevered because He felt the presence of God “infusing strength” into him, even in suffering. When we walk with God, in joy and peace, we too can experience His peace. He is with us.
He was called “one of the bravest persons alive,” but he wasn’t what others expected. Desmond was a soldier who declined to carry a gun. Serving as a medic, in one battle he single-handedly rescued seventy-five injured soldiers from harm, including some who once called him a coward and ridiculed him for his faith. Running into heavy gunfire, Desmond prayed continually, “Lord, please help me get one more.” He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism.
God’s Word tells us that Jesus was even more misunderstood. On a day foretold by the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 9:9), Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowd waved branches, shouting “Hosanna!” (an exclamation of praise meaning “Save!”). Reenacting Psalm 118:26, they cried: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13). But the very next verse in that psalm refers to bringing a sacrifice “with boughs in hand” (118:27). While the crowd anticipated an earthly king to save them from Rome, Jesus was much more. He was King of Kings and sacrifice—God in the flesh, walking willingly toward the cross to save us from our sins—a purpose prophesied centuries earlier.
“At first his disciples did not understand all this,” John writes. Only later “did they realize that these things had been written about him” (John 12:16). Illumined by His Word, God’s eternal purposes became clear. He loves us enough to send a mighty Savior!
As a young man, Duncan had been afraid of not having enough money, so in his early 20s, he began ambitiously building his future. Climbing the ladder at a prestigious Silicon Valley company, Duncan achieved vast wealth. He had a bulging bank account, a luxury sports car, and a million-dollar California home. He had everything he desired; yet he was profoundly unhappy. “I felt anxious and dissatisfied,” Duncan said. “In fact, wealth can actually make life worse.” Piles of cash didn’t provide friendship, community or joy—and often brought him only more heartache.
Some people will expend immense energy attempting to amass wealth in an effort to secure their lives. It’s a fool’s game. “Whoever loves money never has enough,” Scripture insists (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Some will work themselves to the bone. They’ll strive and push, comparing their possessions with others and straining to achieve some economic status. And yet even if they gain supposed financial freedom, they’ll still be unsatisfied. It’s not enough. As the writer of Ecclesiastes states: “This too is meaningless” (v. 10).
The truth is, striving to find fulfillment apart from God will prove futile. While Scripture calls us to work hard and use our gifts for the good of the world, we can never accumulate enough to satisfy our deepest longings. Jesus alone offers a real and satisfying life (John 10:10)—one based in a loving relationship that’s truly enough!
On the night of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” In it, he hints that he might not live a long life. He said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. . . . [But] I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” The next day, he was assassinated.
The apostle Paul, shortly before his death, wrote to his protégé Timothy: “I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. . . . Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:6, 8). Paul knew his time on earth was drawing to a close, as did Dr. King. Both men lived lives of incredible significance, yet never lost sight of the true life ahead. Both men welcomed what came next.
About six years ago, my wife received a small rebate from something she’d purchased. It wasn’t something she had expected, it just showed up in the mail. About the same time, a good friend shared with her the immense needs of women in another country, entrepreneurial-minded women trying to better themselves by way of education and business. However, as is often the case, their first barrier was financial.
My wife took that rebate and made a micro-loan to a ministry devoted to helping these women. When the loan was repaid, she simply loaned again, and again, and so far has made twenty-seven such investments. My wife enjoys many things, but there’s rarely a smile as big on her face as when she receives an update on the flourishing taking place in the lives of women she’s never met.
We often hear emphasis on the last word in this phrase—“God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7)—and rightly so. But our giving has a specific quality about it—it should not be “reluctantly or under compulsion,” and we are called not to “sow sparingly” (v. 6). In a word, our giving is to be “cheerful.” And while each of us will give a little differently, our faces are places for telling evidence of our cheer.
Every coin has two sides. The front is called “heads” and, from early Roman times, usually depicts a country’s head of state. The back is called “tails,” a term possibly originating from the British ten pence depicting the raised tail of a heraldic lion.
Like a coin, Jesus’s prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, possesses two sides. In the deepest hours of His life the night before He went to die on a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup, yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). When Jesus says, “take this cup,” that’s the raw honesty of prayer. He reveals his own desire, “This is what I want.”
Then Jesus turns the coin, praying “not my will.” That’s the side of abandon. Abandoning ourselves to God begins when we simply say, “But what do You want, God?”
This two-sided prayer is included in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, and mentioned in John 18. Jesus prayed both sides of prayer: take this cup (what I want, God), yet not my will (what do you want, God?), pivoting between them.
Two sides of Jesus. Two sides of prayer. The Prayer Coin.
“Thanks for dinner, Dad,” I said as I set my napkin on the restaurant table. I was home on a break from college and, after being gone for a while, it felt strange to have my parents pay for me. “You’re welcome, Julie,” my dad replied, “but you don’t have to thank me for everything all the time. I know you’ve been off on your own, but you’re still my daughter and a part of the family.” I smiled. “Thanks, Dad.”
In my family, I haven’t done anything to earn my parents’ love or what they do for me. But my dad’s comment reminds me that I haven’t done anything to deserve to be a part of God’s family either.
In the book of Ephesians, Paul tells his readers that God chose them “to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4), or to stand without blemish before God (5:25–27). But this is only possible through Jesus, in whom “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (1:7). We don’t have to earn God’s grace, forgiveness, or entrance into His family. We just have to accept His free gift.
When we turn our lives over to Jesus, we become a child of God, which means we receive eternal life and have an inheritance waiting for us in heaven. Praise God for offering such a wonderful gift!
When our oldest child became a teenager, my wife and I gave her a journal that we’d been writing in since her birth. We’d recorded her likes and dislikes, quirks and memorable one-liners. At some point the entries became more like letters, describing what we see in her and how we see God at work in her. When we gave it to her on her thirteenth birthday, she was mesmerized. She’d been given the gift of knowing a crucial part of the origins of her identity.
In blessing something as common as bread, Jesus was revealing its identity. What it—along with all creation—was made to reflect: God’s glory. I believe Jesus was also pointing to the future of the material world. All creation will one day be filled with the glory of God. So in blessing bread (Matthew 26:26), Jesus was pointing to the origin and the destiny of creation (Romans 8:21-22).
Maybe the “beginning” of your story feels messed up. Maybe you don’t think there’s much of a future. But there’s a bigger story. It’s a story of a God who made you on purpose and for a purpose, who took pleasure in you. It’s a story of God who came to rescue you (v. 28); a God who put His Spirit in you to renew you and recover your identity. It’s a story of a God who wants to bless you.
A thrift-store bargain, the lamp seemed perfect for my home office—the right color, size, and price. Back at home, however, when I plugged in the cord, nothing happened. No light. No power. No juice.
No problem, my husband assured me. “I can fix that. Easy.” As he took the lamp apart, he saw the trouble immediately. The plug wasn’t connected to anything. Without wiring to a source of power, the “perfect” pretty lamp was useless.
The same is true for us. Jesus told His disciples. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.” But then he added this reminder. “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
This illustration was given in a grape-growing region, so His disciples readily understood it. Grapevines are hardy plants and their branches tolerate vigorous pruning. Cut off from their life source, however, the branches are worthless deadwood. So it is with us.
As we remain in Jesus and let His words dwell in us, we’re wired to our life source—Christ Himself. “This is to my Father’s glory,” said Jesus, “that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (v. 8). Such a fruitful outcome needs daily nourishment, however. Freely, the Lord provides it through His Word and His love. So plug in and let the juice flow!