Our Daily Bread
I recently found a “hack” (a clever solution to a tricky problem) when one of my grandchildren warmed her stuffed rabbit on our fireplace glass. The resulting globs of bunny fur weren’t pretty, but a fireplace expert provided a great hack—a tip for how to make the glass look like new. It worked, and now we no longer allow stuffed animals near the fireplace!
I bring up hacks because sometimes we can view Scripture as a collection of hacks—tips to make life easier. While it’s true that the Bible has much to say about how to live a Christ-honoring new life, that’s not the only purpose of the Book. What Scripture provides for us is a solution for mankind’s greatest need: rescue from sin and eternal separation from God.
From the promise of salvation in Genesis 3:15 all the way to the true hope of a new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:1–2), the Bible explains that God has an eternal plan for rescuing us from our sin and allowing us to enjoy fellowship with Him. In every story and every suggestion for how to live, the Bible is pointing us to Jesus—the only One who can solve our biggest problem.
May we remember that when we open God’s Book, we’re looking for Jesus, the rescue He offers, and how to live as His children. He’s provided the greatest solution of all!
Stephen grew up in a rough part of East London and fell into crime by the age of ten. He said, “If everyone’s selling drugs and doing robberies and fraud, then you’re going to get involved. It’s just a way of life.” But when he was twenty, he had a dream that changed him: “I heard God saying, Stephen, you’re going to prison for murder.” This vivid dream served as a warning, and he turned to God and received Jesus as his Savior—and the Holy Spirit transformed his life.
Stephen set up an organization that teaches inner-city kids discipline, morality, and respect through sports. He credits God with the success he has seen as he prays with and trains the kids. “Rebuilding misguided dreams,” he says.
In pursuing God and leaving behind our past wrongdoing, we, like Stephen, follow Paul’s charge to the Ephesians to embrace a new way of life. Although our old self is “corrupted by its deceitful desires,” we can daily seek to “put on the new self” that is created to be like God (Ephesians 4:22, 24). All believers embrace this continual process as we ask God through His Holy Spirit to make us more like Him.
Stephen said, “Faith was a crucial foundation for me changing my life around.” How has this been true for you?
In Leif Enger’s novel Peace Like a River, Jeremiah Land is a single father of three working as a janitor at a local school. He is also a man of deep, sometimes miraculous, faith. Throughout the book, his faith is often tested.
Jeremiah’s school is run by Chester Holden, a mean-spirited superintendent with a skin condition. Despite Jeremiah’s excellent work ethic—mopping up a sewage spill without complaint, picking up broken bottles the superintendent smashed—Holden wants him gone. One day, in front of all the students, he accuses Jeremiah of drunkenness and fires him. It’s a humiliating scene.
How does Jeremiah respond? He could threaten legal action for unfair dismissal or make accusations of his own. He could slink away, accepting the injustice. Think for a moment what you might do.
“Love your enemies,” Jesus says, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27–28). These challenging words aren’t meant to excuse evil or stop justice being pursued. Instead, they call us to imitate God (v. 36) by asking a profound question: How can I help my enemy become all God wants him or her to be?
Jeremiah looks at Holden for a moment, then reaches up and touches his face. Holden steps back defensively, then feels his chin and cheeks in wonder. His scarred skin has been healed.
An enemy touched by grace.
What thoughts of wonder must have gone through Annie Moore’s mind when she stepped off the steamship Nevada into the immigration station on Ellis Island in 1892 as the first immigrant to the US registered at that location. Millions would pass through there afterward. Just a teenager, Annie had left behind a difficult life in Ireland to start a new life. Carrying only a little bag in her hand, she came with lots of dreams, hopes, and expectations of a land of opportunity.
How much more excitement and awe will God’s children experience when we see “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). We will enter what the book of Revelation calls “the Holy City of God, the new Jerusalem” (v. 2). The apostle John describes this amazing place with powerful imagery. There will be “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1). Water represents life and abundance, and its source will be the eternal God Himself. John says that “no longer will there be any curse” (v. 3). The beautiful, pure relationship God intended between Himself and humans will be fully restored.
Oh, how incredible to know that God, who loves His children and purchased us with the life of His own Son, is preparing such an amazing new home—where He Himself will dwell with us and be our God (21:3).
“Emotionally, we’ve sometimes worked a full day in one hour,” Zack Eswine writes in his book The Imperfect Pastor. Although he was referring specifically to the burdens pastors frequently carry, this is true for any of us. Weighty emotions and responsibilities can leave us physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. And all we want to do is sleep.
In 1 Kings 19, the prophet Elijah found himself in a situation where he was depleted in every way. We read that Queen Jezebel threatened to put him to death (vv. 1–2) after she discovered he had the prophets of Baal killed (see 1 Kings 18:16–40). Elijah was so afraid he ran away and prayed he would die (19:3–4).
In his distress, he lay down. An angel touched him twice and told him to “get up and eat” (vv. 5, 7). After the second time, Elijah was strengthened by the food God provided, and he “traveled forty days and forty nights” until he came to a cave (vv. 8–9). There, the Lord appeared to him and recommissioned him (see vv. 9–18)—and he was spiritually refreshed.
Sometimes we too need to be refreshed in the Lord. This may come in the form of a conversation with another believer, a worship song, or time in prayer and God’s Word.
Feeling exhausted? Give your burdens to the Lord today and be refreshed!
There’s a growing “rent-a-family” industry in many countries to meet the needs of lonely people. Some use the service to maintain appearances, so that at a social event they can appear to have a happy family. Some hire actors to impersonate estranged relatives, so that they can feel, if briefly, a familial connection they long for.
This trend reflects a basic truth: Humans are created for relationship. In the creation story found in Genesis, God looks at each thing He has made and sees that it is “very good” (1:31). But when God considers Adam, He says, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (2:18). The human needed another human.
The Bible doesn’t just tell us about our need for connection. It also tells us where to find relationships: among Jesus’s followers. Jesus, at His death, told His friend John to consider Jesus’s mother as his own. They would be family to each other even after Jesus was gone (John 19:26–27). And Paul instructed believers to treat others like parents and siblings (1 Timothy 5:1–2). The psalmist tells us that part of God’s redemptive work in the world is to put “the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), and the church is one of the ways God designed to do this.
Thanks be to God, who has made us for relationship and given us His people to be our family!
Painfully, the evil that has long been swept under the rug—sexual abuse of many women by men who had power over them—has come to light. Enduring vile headline after headline, my heart sank when I heard proof of abuse by two men I admired. The church has our own sordid scandals. These days are a reckoning.
King David faced his own reckoning. Samuel tells us that one afternoon, David “saw a woman bathing” (2 Samuel 11:2). And David wanted her. Though Bathsheba was the wife of one his loyal soldiers (Uriah), David took her anyway. When Bathsheba told David she was pregnant, he panicked. And in a despicable act of treachery, David arranged for Joab to have Uriah die on the battlefield.
There was no hiding David’s abuse of power against Bathsheba and Uriah. Here it is in full color, Samuel ensuring we see this wretchedness. We must deal with our evil.
Also, we must hear such stories because they caution us against the abuse of power in our times. This was David, “a man after God’s [own] heart” (Acts 13:22), but also a man who needed to be held accountable for his actions. May we also prayerfully hold leaders accountable for how they use or abuse power.
By God’s grace, redemption is possible. If we read further, we encounter David’s profound contrition (2 Samuel 12:13). Thankfully, hard hearts can still turn from death to life.
The night Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater, his pockets contained the following: two spectacles, a lens polisher, a pocketknife, a watch fob, a handkerchief, a leather wallet containing a five-dollar Confederate bill, and eight newspaper clippings, including several that praised him and his policies.
I wonder what the Confederate money was doing in the President’s pocket, but I have little doubt about the glowing news stories. Everyone needs encouragement, even a great leader like Lincoln! Can you see him, in the moments before the fateful play, perhaps reading them to his wife?
Who do you know who needs encouragement? Everyone! Look around you. There isn’t one person in your line of vision who is as confident as they seem. We’re all one failure, snide comment, or bad hair day from self-doubt.
What if we all obeyed God’s command to “please our neighbors for their good, to build them up”? (v. 2). What if we determined only to speak “gracious words” that are “sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”? (Proverbs 16:24). What if we wrote these words down, so friends could reread and savor them? Then we’d all have notes in our pockets (or on our phones!). And we’d be more like Jesus, who “did not please himself” but lived for others (Romans 15:3).
Ellen Langer’s 1975 study titled The Illusion of Control examined the level of influence we exert over life’s events. She found that we overestimate our degree of control in most situations. The study also demonstrated how reality nearly always shatters our illusion of control.
Langer’s conclusions are supported by experiments carried out by others since the study was published. However, James had identified the phenomenon long before she named it. In James 4, the apostle wrote, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:13–14).
Then James provides a cure for the delusion, pointing to the One who is in absolute control: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that’” (v. 15). In these few verses, James summarized both a key failing of the human condition and its antidote.
May we, like James, understand that our fate does not rest in our own hands. And may we rejoice because God holds all things in His capable hands. We can trust His plans!
My son Geoff recently participated in a “homeless simulation.” He spent three days and two nights living on the streets of his city, sleeping outside in below freezing temperatures. Without food, money, or shelter, he relied on the kindness of strangers for his basic needs. On one of those days his only food was a sandwich, bought by a man who heard him asking for stale bread at a fast-food restaurant.
Geoff told me later it was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, yet it profoundly impacted his outlook on others. He spent the day after his “simulation” seeking out homeless people who had been kind to him during his time on the street, doing what he could to assist them in simple ways. They were surprised to discover he wasn’t actually homeless and were grateful he cared enough to try to see life through their eyes.
My son’s experience calls to mind Jesus’s words: “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. . . . Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:36, 40). Whether we give a word of encouragement or a bag of groceries, God calls us to lovingly attend to the needs of others. Our kindness to others is kindness to Him.