Our Daily Bread
In the south central African country of Zimbabwe, war trauma and high unemployment can leave people in despair—until they find hope on a bench. A friendship bench. Hopeless people can go there to talk with trained “grandmothers”—elderly women taught to listen to people struggling with depression, known in that nation’s Shona language as kufungisisa, or “thinking too much.”
The Friendship Bench Project is being launched in other places, including Zanzibar, Malawi, London, and New York City. “We were thrilled to bits with the results,” said one London researcher. A New York counselor agreed. “Before you know it, you’re not on a bench, you’re just inside a warm conversation with someone who cares.”
The project evokes the warmth and wonder of talking with our Almighty God. Moses put up not a bench but a tent to commune with God, calling it the Tent of Meeting. There, “the
Today we no longer need a Tent of Meeting. Jesus has brought the Father near. As He told His disciples, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Yes, our God awaits us. He’s our heart’s wisest helper, our understanding Friend. Talk with Him now.
An outspoken atheist believes it’s immoral for parents to teach their children religion as though it were actually true. He even claims that parents who pass along their faith to their children are committing child abuse. Though these views are extreme, I do hear from parents who are hesitant to boldly encourage their children toward faith. While most of us readily hope to influence our children with our view of politics or nutrition or sports, for some reason some of us treat our convictions about God differently.
In contrast, Paul wrote of how Timothy had been taught “from infancy . . . the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Timothy didn’t arrive at faith as an adult through the power of his own, unaided reason. Rather, his mother nurtured his heart toward God; then he “continue[d] in what [he had] learned” (v. 14). If God is life, the source of true wisdom, then it’s vital for us to tenderly cultivate a love for God in our families.
There are many belief systems that are influencing our children. TV shows, movies, music, teachers, friends, the media—each of these carry assumptions (either obvious or under the radar) about faith that exert real influence. May we choose not to be silent. The beauty and grace we’ve experienced compels us to guide our children toward God.
Before I came to faith in Christ, I had heard the gospel preached but wrestled with Jesus’s identity. How could He offer forgiveness for my sins when the Bible says only God can forgive sins? I discovered I wasn’t alone in my struggles after reading J.I. Packer’s Knowing God. Packer suggests that for many unbelievers the “really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man . . . as truly and fully divine as He was human.” Yet this is the truth that makes salvation possible.
When the apostle Paul refers to Christ as “the image of the invisible God,” he’s saying Jesus is completely and perfectly God—Creator and Sustainer of all things in heaven and earth‒but also fully human (Colossians 1:15–17, 22). Because of this truth, we can be confident that through Christ’s death and resurrection, He has not only carried the consequences for our sins but He also redeemed human nature, so that we—and all of creation—can be reconciled to God (vv. 20–22).
In an amazing, initiating act of love, God the Father reveals Himself in and through His Holy Word by the power of God the Holy Spirit and through the life of God the Son. Those who believe Jesus is Lord are saved . . . because Christ is Emmanuel‒God with us. Hallelujah!
Sometimes when my Labrador retriever wants attention, he’ll take something of mine and parade it in front of me. One morning as I was writing at the desk with my back turned, Max snatched my wallet and ran off. But realizing I hadn’t seen him do it, he returned and nudged me with his nose—wallet in mouth, eyes dancing, tail wagging, taunting me to play.
Max’s antics made me laugh, but they also reminded me of my limitations when it comes to being attentive to others. So often I’ve intended to spend time with family or friends, but other things occupy my time and awareness; and before I know it the day slips away and love is left undone.
How comforting to know that our heavenly Father is so great that He is able to attend to each of us in the most intimate ways—even sustaining every breath in our lungs and synapse in our brains for as long as we live. He promises His people, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you” (Isaiah 46:4).
God always has time for us. He understands every detail of our circumstances—no matter how complex or difficult—and is there whenever we call on Him in prayer. We never have to wait in line for our Savior’s unlimited love.
Every fall, when the painted turtle senses winter coming, she dives to the bottom of her pond, burying herself in the muck and mud. She pulls into her shell and goes still: her heart rate slows, almost stopping. Her body temperature drops, staying just above freezing. She stops breathing, and she waits. For six months, she stays buried, and her body releases calcium from her bones into her bloodstream, so that she slowly begins even to lose her shape.
But when the pond thaws, she will float up, and breathe again. Her bones will reform, and she will feel the warmth of the sun on her shell.
I think of the painted turtle when I read the psalmist’s description of waiting for God. The psalmist is in a “slimy pit” of “mud and mire,” but God hears him (Psalm 40:2). God lifts him out, and gives him a firm place to stand. God is “my help and my deliverer,” he sings (v. 17).
Perhaps it feels like you’ve been waiting forever for something to change—for a new direction in your career, for a relationship to be restored, for the willpower to break a bad habit, or for deliverance from a difficult situation. The painted turtle and the psalmist are here to remind us to trust in God: God hears, and God will deliver.
“In moments where tragedy happens or even hurt, there are opportunities to demonstrate grace or to exact vengeance,” the recently bereaved man remarked. “I chose to demonstrate grace.” Pastor Erik Fitzgerald’s wife had been killed in a car accident caused by an exhausted firefighter who fell asleep while driving home, and legal prosecutors wanted to know whether he would seek the maximum sentence. The pastor chose to practice the forgiveness he often preached about. To the surprise of both him and the firefighter, the men eventually became friends.
Pastor Erik was living out of the grace he’d received from God, who had forgiven him all of his sins. Through his actions he echoed the words of the prophet Micah, who praised God for pardoning sin and forgiving wrongdoing (Micah 7:18). The prophet uses wonderfully visual language to show just how far God goes in forgiving His people, saying that He will “tread our sins underfoot” and hurl our wrongdoings into the deep sea (v. 19). The firefighter received a gift of freedom that day, which brought him closer to God.
Whatever difficulty we face, we know that God reaches out to us with loving, open arms, welcoming us into His safe embrace. He “delights to show mercy” (v. 18). As we receive His love and grace, He gives us the strength to forgive those who hurt us—even as Pastor Erik did.
In northern Thailand, the Wild Boars youth soccer team decided to explore a cave together. After an hour they turned to go back, and found that the entrance to the cave was flooded. Rising water pushed them deeper into the cave, day after day, until they were finally trapped four kilometers inside. When they were heroically rescued two weeks later, many wondered how they had become so hopelessly trapped. Answer: one step at a time.
In Israel, Nathan confronted David for killing his loyal soldier, Uriah. How did the man “after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) become guilty of murder? One step at a time. David did not go from zero to murder in one afternoon. He warmed up to it, over time, as one bad decision bled into other, worse decisions. It started with a second glance that turned into a lustful stare. He abused his kingly power by sending for Bathsheba, then tried to cover up her pregnancy by calling her husband home from the front. When Uriah refused to visit his wife while his comrades were at war, David decided he would have to die.
We may not be guilty of murder or trapped in a cave of our own making, but we are either moving toward Jesus or toward trouble. Big problems don’t develop overnight. They break upon us gradually, one step at a time. Where are you headed?
“Hatred corrodes the container that carries it.” These words were spoken by former Senator Alan Simpson at the funeral of George H.W. Bush. Attempting to describe his dear friend’s kindness, Senator Simpson recalled how the 41st president of the United States embraced humor and love rather than hatred in his professional leadership and personal relationships.
I relate to the senator’s quote, don’t you? Oh, the damage done to me when I harbor hatred!
Medical research reveals the damage done to our bodies when we cling to the negative or release bursts of anger. Our blood pressure rises. Our hearts pound. Our spirits sag. Our containers corrode.
In Proverbs 10:12, King Solomon observes, “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” The conflict that results from hatred here is a blood feud between rivaling peoples of different tribes and races. Such hatred fuels the drive for revenge so that people who despise each other can’t connect.
By contrast, God’s way of love covers—draws a veil over, conceals, or forgives—all wrongs. That doesn’t mean we overlook errors or enable a wrongdoer. But we don’t nurse the wrong when someone is truly remorseful. And if they never apologize, we still release our feelings to God. We who know the Great Lover are to “love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
In a poem titled This Child Is Beloved, Omawumi Efueye, known affectionately as Pastor O, writes about his parents’ attempts to end the pregnancy that would result in his birth. After several unusual events that prevented them from aborting him, they decided to welcome their child instead. Omawumi’s awareness of God’s intervention in preserving his life motivated him to give up a lucrative career in favor of full-time ministry. Today, he faithfully pastors a London church.
Like Pastor O, the Israelites experienced God’s intervention at a vulnerable time in their history. While traveling through the wilderness, they came within sight of King Balak of Moab. Terrified of their conquests and their vast population, Balak engaged a seer named Balaam to place a curse on the unsuspecting travelers (Numbers 22:2–6).
But something amazing happened. Whenever Balaam opened his mouth to curse, a blessing issued instead. “I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it,” he declared. “No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The
Whether we see it or not, God still watches over His people today. May we worship in gratitude and awe the One who calls us blessed.
After Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by Huaorani tribesmen in 1956, no one expected what happened next. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, their young daughter, and another missionary’s sister willingly chose to make their home among the very people who killed their loved ones. They spent several years living in the Huaorani community, learning their language, and translating the Bible for them. These women’s testimony of forgiveness and kindness convinced the Huaorani of God’s love for them and many began to follow Jesus.
What Elisabeth and her friend did is an incredible example of not repaying evil with evil but with good (Romans 12:17). The apostle Paul encouraged the church in Rome to show through their actions the transformation that God had brought into their own lives. What did Paul have in mind? They were to go beyond the natural desire to take revenge; instead, they were to show love to their enemies by meeting their needs, such as providing food or water.
Why do this? Recalling a proverb from the Old Testament (Proverbs 25:21–22), Paul said that the kindness shown by believers to their enemies could win them over and light the fire of repentance in their hearts.
Abba, Father, it is difficult, even impossible, for us to love others in our own strength. Help us through Your Spirit to truly love our enemies, and use us to bring them to You.