Our Daily Bread
At the age of fifty-four I entered the Milwaukee marathon with two goals—to finish the race and to do it under five hours. My time would have been amazing if the second 13.1 miles went as well as the first. But the race was grueling, and the second-wind strength I’d hope for never came. By the time I made it to the finish line, my steady stride had morphed into a painful walk.
Footraces aren’t the only thing that require second-wind strength—life’s race does too. To endure, tired, weary people need God’s help. Isaiah 40:27–31 beautifully weds poetry and prophecy to comfort and motivate people who need strength to keep going. Timeless words remind fatigued and discouraged people that the Lord is not detached or uncaring (v. 27), that our plight doesn’t escape His notice. These words breathe comfort and assurance, and remind us of God’s limitless power and bottomless knowledge (v. 28).
The second-wind strength described in verses 29–31 is just right for us—whether we’re in the throes of raising and providing for our families, struggling through life under the weight of physical or financial burdens, or discouraged by relational tensions or spiritual challenges. Such is the strength that awaits those who—through meditating on the Scriptures and prayer—wait upon the Lord.
I couldn’t believe it. A black gel pen had hidden itself in the folds of my white towels and survived the washing machine, only to explode in the dryer. Ugly black stains were everywhere. My white towels were ruined. No amount of bleach would be able to remove the dark stains.
As I reluctantly consigned the towels to the rag pile, I was reminded of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah’s lament describing the damaging effects of sin. By rejecting God and turning to idols (Jeremiah 2:13), Jeremiah declared that the people of Israel had caused a permanent stain in their relationship with God: “‘Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,’ declares the Sovereign Lord” (2:22). They were powerless to undo the damage they’d done.
On our own, it is impossible to remove the stain of our sin. But Jesus has done what we could not. Through the power of His death and resurrection, He “purifies [believers] from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Even when it’s hard to believe, cling to this beautiful truth: there is no damage from sin that Jesus cannot totally remove. God is willing and ready to wash away the effects of sin for anyone willing to return to Him (v. 9). Through Christ, we can live each day in freedom and hope.
When a man installed a security camera outside his house, he checked the video feature to ensure that the system was working. He was alarmed to see a broad-shouldered figure in dark clothing wandering around his yard. He watched intently to see what the man would do. Somehow, though, the interloper seemed familiar. Finally he realized he was not watching a stranger roam his property, but a recording of himself in his own back yard!
What might we see if we could step out of our skin and observe ourselves in certain situations? When David’s heart was hardened and he needed an outside perspective—a godly perspective—on his involvement with Bathsheba, God sent Nathan to the rescue (2 Samuel 12).
Nathan told David a story about a rich man who robbed a poor man of his only lamb. Though the rich man owned herds of animals, he slaughtered the poor man’s lamb and made it into a meal. When Nathan revealed that the story illustrated David’s actions, David saw how he had harmed Uriah. Nathan explained the consequences, but more important he assured David, “The
If, through accountability with others, God reveals sin in our lives, His ultimate purpose is not to condemn us, but to restore us and to help us reconcile with those we’ve hurt. Repentance clears the way for renewed closeness with God through the power of His forgiveness and grace.
It was a dark and somber day in the outskirts of Jerusalem. On a hill just outside the city walls, a Man who’d been attracting crowds of eager followers for the past three years hung in disgrace and pain on a rough wooden cross. Mourners wept and wailed in sorrow. The light of the sun no longer brightened the afternoon sky. And the intense suffering of the Man on the cross ended when He cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished!” (Matthew 27:50; John 19:30).
At that very moment, another sound came from the great temple across town—the sound of ripping fabric. Miraculously, without human intervention, the huge, thick veil that separated the outer temple from the Holy of Holies tore in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51).
That torn curtain symbolized the reality of the cross: a new way was now open to God! Jesus, the Man on the cross, had shed His blood as the last sacrifice—the one true and sufficient sacrifice (Hebrews 10:10)—which allows all who believe in Him to enjoy forgiveness and enter into a relationship with God (Romans 5:6–11).
Amidst the darkness of that original Good Friday, we received the best news ever—an open door to be saved from our sins and to experience fellowship with God forever (Hebrews 10:19–22). Thank God for the message of the torn veil!
The ambulance door was about to close—with me on the inside. Outside, my son was on the phone to my wife. From my concussed fog, I called his name. As he recalls the moment, I slowly said, “Tell your mom I love her very much.”
Apparently I thought this might be goodbye, and I wanted those to be my parting words. In the moment, that’s what mattered most to me.
As Jesus endured His darkest moment, He didn’t merely tell us He loved us; He showed it in specific ways. He showed it to the mocking soldiers who had just nailed Him to a cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). He gave hope to a criminal crucified with Him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Nearing the end, He looked at His mother. “Here is your son,” He said to her, and to His close friend John He said, “Here is your mother” (John 19:26–27). Then, as His life slipped from Him, Jesus’s last act of love was to trust His Father: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).
Jesus purposefully chose the cross in order to show His obedience to His Father—and the depth of His love for us. To the very end, He showed us His relentless love.
My youngest grandson is only two months old, yet every time I see him I notice little changes. A few weeks ago as I cooed to him, he looked up at me and smiled! And suddenly I began crying. Perhaps it was joy mixed with remembering my own children’s first smiles, which I witnessed so long ago, and yet it feels like just yesterday. Some moments are like that—inexplicable.
In Psalm 103, David penned a poetic song that praised God while also reflecting on how quickly the joyful moments of our lives pass by: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone” (vv. 15–16).
But despite acknowledging the brevity of life, David describes the flower as flourishing, or thriving. Although each individual flower blossoms and blooms swiftly, its fragrance and color and beauty bring great joy in the moment. And even though an individual flower can be quickly forgotten—“its place remembers it no more” (v. 16)—by contrast we have the assurance that “from everlasting to everlasting the
We, like flowers, can rejoice and flourish in the moment; but we can also celebrate the truth that the moments of our lives are never truly forgotten. God holds every detail of our lives, and His everlasting love is with His children forever!
A rarely seen jellyfish waltzed with the currents, four thousand feet deep in the ocean near Baja, California. Its body shone with florescent shades of blue, purple, and pink, bright against the backdrop of black water. Elegant tentacles waved gracefully with each pulsing of its bell-shaped hood. As I watched the amazing footage of the Halitrephes Maasi jellyfish on the National Geographic video, I reflected on how God chose the specific design of this beautiful, gelatinous creature. He also fashioned the other 2,000 types of jellyfishes that scientists have identified as of October 2017.
Though we acknowledge God as Creator, do we slow down long enough to truly consider the profound truth revealed in the first chapter of the Bible? Our amazing God brought forth light and life into the creatively diverse world He crafted with the power of His word. He designed “the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems” (Genesis 1:21). Scientists have discovered only a fraction of the wondrous creatures the Lord created in the beginning.
God also intentionally sculpted each person in the world, giving purpose to every day of our lives before we drew our first breaths (Psalm 139:13–16). As we celebrate the Lord’s creativity, we can also rejoice over the many ways He helps us imagine and create with Him and for His glory.
As a little boy growing up in Ghana, I enjoyed holding my father’s hand and walking with him along crowded places. He was both my father and my friend, for holding hands in my culture is a mark of true friendship. Walking along, we would chitchat about a variety of subjects. Whenever I felt lonely, I found consolation with my father. How I valued our companionship!
The Lord Jesus called His followers friends, and He showed them the marks of His friendship. “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” He said (John 15:9), even laying down His life for them (v. 13). He showed them His kingdom business (v. 15). He taught them everything God had given Him (v. 15). And He gave them opportunity to share in His mission (v. 16).
As our Companion for life, Jesus walks with us. He listens to our heartaches and our desires. When we are lonely and downhearted, our Friend Jesus keeps company with us.
And our companionship with Jesus is tighter when we love each other and obey His commands (vv. 10, 17). As we obey His commands, we will bear “fruit that will last” (v. 16).
Walking through the crowded alleys and dangerous roadways of our troubled world, we can count on the Lord’s companionship. It is a mark of His friendship.
Does the sun rise in the east? Is the sky blue? Is the ocean salty? Is the atomic weight of Cobalt 58.9? Okay, that last one you might only know if you’re a science geek or tend to dabble in trivia, but the other questions have an obvious answer: “Yes.” In fact, questions like those are usually mixed with a hint of sarcasm.
If we’re not careful our modern, sometimes jaded ears can hear a bit of sarcasm in Jesus’s question to an invalid: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). The obvious answer would seem to be, “Are you kidding me?! I’ve been wanting help for thirty-eight years now.” But there’s no sarcasm present, that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Jesus’s voice is always filled with compassion, and His questions are always posed for our good.
Jesus knew the man wanted to get well. He also knew it had probably been a long time since anyone had even made an offer to care. Before the divine miracle, Jesus’s intent was to restore in him a hope that had grown cold. He did this by asking a rather obvious question, and then giving ways to respond: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (v. 8). We’re like the invalid, each of us with places in our lives where hope has withered. He sees us and compassionately invites us to believe in hope again, to believe in Him.
When his wife contracted a terminal illness, Michael longed for her to experience the peace he had through his relationship with God. He had shared his faith with her, but she wasn’t interested. One day, as he walked through a local bookstore, a title caught his eye: God, Are You There? Unsure how his wife would respond to the book, he walked in and out of the store several times before finally buying it. To his surprise, she accepted it.
The book touched her, and she began to read the Bible too. Two weeks later, Michael’s wife passed away—at peace with God and resting in the assurance that He would never leave or forsake her.
When God called Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, He didn’t promise him power. Instead, He promised His presence: “I will be with you” (Exodus 3:12). In Jesus’s last words to His disciples, He also promised God’s eternal presence, which they would receive through the Holy Spirit (John 15:26).
There are many things God could give us to help us through life’s challenges, such as material comfort, healing, or immediate solutions to our problems. Sometimes He does. But the best gift He gives is Himself. This is the greatest comfort we have: whatever happens in life, He will be with us; He will never leave nor forsake us.