OUR DAILY BREAD 4-23-14

UnknownShout Hallelujah!

Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 16-18; Luke 17:20-37

David H. Roper   A few days ago, I spied my old friend Bob vigorously pedaling a bike at our neighborhood gym and staring down at a blood pressure monitor on his finger.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Looking to see if I’m alive,” he grunted.

“What would you do if you saw you were dead?” I countered.

“Shout hallelujah!” he replied with a radiant smile.

Over the years I’ve caught glimpses of great inner strength in Bob: patient endurance in the face of physical decline and discomfort, and faith and hope as he approaches the end of his life journey. Indeed he has found not only hope, but death has lost its power to tyrannize him.

Who can find peace and hope—and even joy—in dying? Only those who are joined by faith to the God of eternity and who know that they have eternal life (1 Cor. 15:52,54). For those who have this assurance, like my friend Bob, death has lost its terror. They can speak with colossal joy of seeing Christ face to face!

Why be afraid of death? Why not rejoice? As the poet John Donne (1572–1631) wrote, “One short sleep past, we wake eternally.”

For the Christian, dying is the last shadow of earth’s night before heaven’s dawn.

Insight: Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is more concerned with dealing with problems than it is with teaching doctrinal truth to the church. However, in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul’s focus is not on problem-solving but on the vital importance of the doctrine of the resurrection. Obviously, the resurrection of Christ is one of the central truths of the Christian faith, so it is not surprising that the apostle would want his friends to grasp its reality and significance.

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-22-14

UnknownActs Of Kindness

Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 14-15; Luke 17:1-19

David C. McCasland   I was traveling with some men when we spotted a family stranded alongside the road. My friends immediately pulled over to help. They got the car running, talked with the father and mother of the family, and gave them some money for gasoline. When the mother thanked them over and over, they replied, “We’re glad to help out, and we do it in Jesus’ name.” As we drove away, I thought how natural it was for these friends to help people in need and acknowledge the Lord as the source of their generosity.

Peter and John exhibited that same joyful generosity when they healed a lame man who was begging outside the temple in Jerusalem (Acts 3:1-10). This led to their arrest and appearance before the authorities who asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Peter replied, “If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man . . . let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:7-10).

Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and a powerful context in which to genuinely speak to others about the Lord.

Lord, help me to love with both words and deeds, To reach out to others and meet their needs; Lord, burden my heart for those lost in sin, With mercy and love that flows from within. —Fitzhugh

One act of kindness may teach more about the love of God than many sermons.

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-21-14

UnknownVictory Over Death!

Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 12-13; Luke 16

Dennis Fisher   An ancient painting I saw recently made a deep impression on me. Its title, Anastasis, means “resurrection,” and it depicts the triumph of Christ’s victory over death in a stunning way. The Lord Jesus, newly emerged from the tomb, is pulling Adam and Eve out of their coffins to eternal life. What is so amazing about this artwork is the way it shows how spiritual and physical death, the result of the fall, were dramatically reversed by the risen Christ.

Prior to His death on the cross, the Lord Jesus predicted a future day when He will call believers into a new and glorified existence: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth” (John 5:28-29).

Because of Christ’s victory over death, the grave is not final. We naturally will feel sorrow and grief when those we love die and we are separated from them in this life. But the believer does not grieve as one who has no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). The witness of Jesus’ resurrection is that all Christians will one day be taken from their graves to be clothed with glorified resurrection bodies (1 Cor. 15:42-44). And so “we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).

Dear Lord, thank You for sacrificing Your life for our sins so that we might live. We’re thankful that because You died and rose again, we can have assurance that one day we’ll be with You in a place of no more death.

Because Christ is alive, we too shall live.

Insight: In our passage today, John portrays Jesus as both life-giver and judge (5:24). As life-giver, Jesus gives us eternal life. As judge, Jesus will not condemn us (Rom. 8:1). God has given Jesus authority to be life-giver and judge “because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:27). The title “the Son of Man” is a Messianic title (Dan. 7:13-14) that speaks of Jesus’ deity and humanity. Jesus used the title synonymously with “the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63-64).

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-20-14

UnknownEaster Every Day

Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 9-11; Luke 15:11-32

Cindy Hess Kasper   A friend of mine, who is a preschool teacher, overheard an animated conversation among her students. Little Maria threw out the question: “Who loves God?” All of them responded, “I do! I do! I do!” Billy said, “I love Jesus.” Kelly protested, “But He died.” Billy said, “Yeah, but every Easter He rises from the dead!”

Obviously, young Billy’s understanding of the meaning of Easter is still developing. We know that Jesus died once for all (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 10:12) and, of course, rose from the dead once. Three days after paying the penalty of our sins on the cross, the sinless Jesus conquered death by rising from the grave and breaking the power of sin. It was this final sacrifice of blood that opened the only way for us to have a relationship with God now and a home with Him forevermore.

“Christ died for our sins, . . . He was buried, and . . . He rose again the third day” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). He has promised that He is preparing a place for us (John 14:1-4), and He will someday return. One day we will be with our risen Savior.

That’s why every year at Easter-time—in fact, every day of the year—we have reason to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps. 34:1).

Christ’s resurrection is cause for our celebration.

Insight: In Hebrews 10:14 we see this remarkable statement: “For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” How is this possible? Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth answers this question. Since being “good enough” through personal effort is futile (Rom. 7), only a transfer of account from a righteous person to a sinner could remedy the problem. “He made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ’s atoning death on the cross appeased the wrath of God (Rom. 3:24-26), and His righteousness was attributed to us that we might be declared justified before God.

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-19-14

UnknownThe Spotlight

Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 6-8; Luke 15:1-10

Joe Stowell   I’ll never forget the Easter Sunday in 1993 when Bernhard Langer won the Masters golf tournament. As he stepped off the 18th green to receive the green jacket—one of golf’s most coveted prizes—a reporter said, “This must be the greatest day of your life!” Without missing a beat, Langer replied: “It’s wonderful to win the greatest tournament in the world, but it means more to win on Easter Sunday—to celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and Savior.”

Langer had an opportunity to boast about himself, but instead he turned the spotlight on Jesus Christ. It’s exactly what Paul was talking about when he said, “We also rejoice [boast] in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Rom. 5:11).

It’s easy to look for ways to draw attention to our own accomplishments, making mental lists of things that are “cool” about ourselves. Even Paul admitted that he had a lot to brag about—but he considered all of it “rubbish” for the sake of knowing Christ (Phil. 3:8). We would do well to follow his example.

So, if you really want something to boast about, boast about Jesus and what He’s done for you. Look for opportunities to turn the spotlight on Him.

Naught have I gotten but what I received, Grace hath bestowed it since I have believed; Boasting excluded, pride I abase—I’m only a sinner saved by grace! —Gray

You can’t boast in Jesus while you’re preoccupied with yourself.

Insight: In Romans 5, the apostle Paul reminds us of our great blessings and privileges as followers of Christ. In verses 1-2, he says that in Christ we have “peace with God” and “access” to God through our faith relationship with Christ. This is part of what he would later call our “reconciliation” to God (vv.10-11). We’ve been restored to relationship with Him through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-17-14

UnknownAll Kinds Of Help

Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 1-2; Luke 14:1-24

 

Anne Cetas  In the wake of the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, many people have felt strongly compelled to help. Some donated blood for the injured, some provided free lunches and coffee at their restaurants for workers. Others wrote letters of comfort or just gave hugs. Some sent gifts of money and teddy bears for the children; others offered counseling. People found ways to serve according to their personalities, abilities, and resources.

A story in the Bible about Joseph tells how he used his skills to play an important role in helping people survive a 7-year famine (Gen. 41:53-54). In his case, he could prepare beforehand because he knew a difficult time was coming. After Joseph warned Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, that the lean years were coming, Pharaoh put him in charge of the 7-year preparation time. Joseph used wisdom and discernment from God to get his country ready (41:39). Then, when “the famine was over all the face of the earth, . . . Joseph opened all the storehouses” (v.56). He was even able to help his own family (45:16-18).

These stories show the heart of God for the world. He has prepared us and made us who we are that we might care for others in whatever way He leads us.

Lord, help me feel the hurt that others feel When life inflicts some bitter pain, And use me in some loving way to heal The wounds that may through life remain. —D. DeHaan

Compassion offers whatever is necessary to heal.

Insight: Although Joseph suffered many injustices, God ultimately used him to help others by empowering him to provide food for those who otherwise would have starved. This principle applies to the believer even today. God can help us persevere in our suffering so that we can help others who are in need in the future. In the New Testament, Paul tells us that we experience pain and God’s comfort in order to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-16-14

UnknownJoining The Family

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 30-31; Luke 13:23-35

 

Jennifer Benson Schuldt  Maurice Griffin was adopted when he was 32 years old. He had lived with Lisa and Charles Godbold 20 years earlier as a foster child. Although Maurice was now a man living on his own, adoption had been what the family and he had always longed for. Once they were reunited and the adoption was official, Maurice commented, “This is probably the happiest moment in my life. . . . I’m happy to be home.”

Those of us who have joined the family of God may refer to that time as the happiest moment in our lives. When we trust Christ for salvation, we become God’s children, and He becomes our heavenly Father. The Bible assures us, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).

As God’s adopted children, we acquire spiritual siblings—our brothers and sisters in Christ—and we all share an eternal inheritance (Col. 1:12). In addition, Jesus’ Spirit indwells our hearts and enables us to pray using the name Abba, Father (Gal. 4:6)—like a child calling, “Daddy.”

To be a child of God is to experience the closeness and security of a Father who loves us, accepts us, and wants to know us. Our adoption into His family is a wonderful homecoming.

I once was an outcast stranger on earth, A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth; But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down, An heir to the mansion, a robe, and a crown. —Buell

God’s arms are always open to welcome anyone home.

Insight: Paul’s use of the metaphor of adoption is significant. A child who is orphaned and abandoned is likely to die. But through adoption a child is accepted and made part of the family, with full status and rights. That child is given a new life. This is God’s action toward us. When God redeems us, He accepts us into His family as sons and daughters.

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-15-14

UnknownSpoonful Of Sugar

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 27-29; Luke 13:1-22

 

Julie Ackerman Link  Where is Mary Poppins when you need her? I know this sounds as if I’m longing for the good old days when cheerfully unrealistic movies featured characters like this fictional nanny, but what I’m really longing for are people with a vision for the future that is realistically optimistic. I yearn for joyful, creative people who can show us the positive side of what we consider negative, who can remind us that “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

David wrote a song that expressed a similar truth. In his words, “the judgments of the Lord” are “sweeter also than . . . honey” (Ps. 19:9-10). Seldom do we hear that truth is sweet. More often we hear that it is bitter or hard to swallow. But truth is so much more than medicine to treat what’s wrong. It’s the diet that will prevent disease. It’s not an inoculation or an injection. It’s a gourmet meal that should be presented as a culinary delight, enticing the hungry to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (34:8).

We sing “Jesus is the sweetest name I know,” but some of us present Him as if He’s gone sour. Pure truth, untainted by pride, is the sweetest, most refreshing taste of all to those who hunger for spiritual sustenance. And we have the privilege of serving it to a starving world.

Jesus is the sweetest name I know, And He’s just the same as His lovely name, And that’s the reason why I love Him so; Oh, Jesus is the sweetest name I know. —Long

The truth of the Lord endures forever. —Psalm 117:2 

Insight: Psalm 19 is a song of David that celebrates how God has revealed Himself to us—first in His creation and then in the Scriptures. While the psalm does not tell us at what point in David’s life this song was written, many scholars have suggested that it was in some way a product of David’s years as a shepherd over his father’s flocks. Constantly exposed to the wonders of God’s creation, David would have found ample material to celebrate how the Creator reveals Himself in what He has made (vv.1-6).

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-14-14

UnknownMistaken Identity

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 25-26; Luke 12:32-59

Bill Crowder   My youngest brother, Scott, was born when I was a senior in high school. This age difference made for an interesting situation when he grew to college age. On his first trip to his college campus, I went along with him and our mom. When we arrived, people thought we were Scott Crowder and his dad and his grandmom. Eventually, we gave up correcting them. No matter what we said or did, our actual relationships were overridden by this humorous case of mistaken identity.

Jesus questioned the Pharisees about His identity: “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They replied, “The Son of David” (Matt. 22:42). The identity of Messiah was critical, and their answer was correct but incomplete. The Scriptures had affirmed that Messiah would come and reign on the throne of His father David. But Jesus reminded them that though David would be Christ’s ancestor, He would also be more—David referred to Him as “Lord.”

Faced with a similar question, Peter rightly answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Still today, the question of Jesus’ identity rises above the rest in significance—and it is eternally important that we make no mistake in understanding who He is.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail; Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end, Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend. —Grant

No mistake is more dangerous than mistaking the identity of Jesus.

Insight: The place where Jesus asked His disciples the question about His identity was significant, for it was at Caesarea Philippi (v.13), a center of worship for Baal, the Greek god Pan, and the emperor. Jesus first asked what others were saying about His identity (vv.13-14). He then made it personal, directing the question to His own disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” (v.15). To the world, Jesus was merely a great man, such as John the Baptist, Elijah, or Jeremiah (v.14). But Peter got it right: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v.16).

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-13-14

UnknownDetermination

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 22-24; Luke 12:1-31

 

David C. McCasland   During a television news report on the plight of refugees displaced from a war-torn country, I was struck by the words of a 10-year-old girl. Despite there being little possibility of returning to their home, she showed a resilient spirit: “When we go back, I’m going to visit my neighbors; I’m going to play with my friends,” she said with quiet determination. “My father says we don’t have a house. And I said we are going to fix it.”

There is a place for tenacity in life, especially when it is rooted in our faith in God and love for others. The book of Ruth begins with three women bound together by tragedy. After Naomi’s husband and two sons died, she decided to return to her home in Bethlehem and urged her widowed daughters-in-law to stay in their country of Moab. Orpah remained but Ruth vowed to go with Naomi, saying, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). When Naomi saw that Ruth “was determined to go with her” (v.18), they began their journey together.

Stubbornness is sometimes rooted in pride, but commitment grows from love. When Jesus went to the cross, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). From His determination to die for us, we find the resolve to live for Him.

My life, my love, I give to Thee, Thou Lamb of God who died for me; 

Oh, may I ever faithful be, My Savior and my God! —Hudson

Love calls for commitment.

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-12-14

UnknownNew Beginnings

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 19-21; Luke 11:29-54

 

Marvin Williams   New beginnings are possible. Just ask Brayan, a young man who joined a gang in elementary school. Brayan ran away when he was 12 years old, and for 3 years was lost in gang and drug life. Although he left the gang and returned home, it was difficult for him, as he had been expelled from school for selling drugs. When he enrolled in a new high school, however, a teacher inspired and encouraged him to write about his experiences rather than repeat them. He embraced the challenge and is now experiencing a fresh start.

God, through the prophet Isaiah, encouraged Jewish exiles to think about a new beginning as well. God said, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old” (Isa. 43:18). He told them to stop dwelling on their punishment and even on His display of power through the original exodus from Egypt. He wanted their attention to be focused on God who would give them a new beginning by bringing them home from Babylon through a new exodus (v.19).

With God, new beginnings are possible in our hearts. He can help us to let go of the past and start clinging to Him. Relationship with Him provides a new hope for all who will trust Him.

Lord, we need Your touch on our lives. Work in our hearts in whatever areas need a fresh start. Help us to do our part and to trust You to do what only You can do.

God gives fresh starts from the inside out.

Insight: In today’s reading, we see the Hebrew remnant facing the arduous trek back to the Promised Land and the demands of rebuilding their lives. Certainly, a feeling of insecurity must have filled their hearts. Yet the Lord was with them and would provide protection and success. Today, believers also need to trust in God’s provision. Inevitably, challenges of transition, new circumstances, and an uncertain future can cause anxiety. Yet the living God gives us this promise: “I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (v.19). No matter what difficulties we encounter, God will find a way for us.

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-10-14

UnknownLeft Side Of The Road

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 15-16; Luke 10:25-42

 

Dennis Fisher   Growing up in the US, I always thought it interesting that in some countries motorists drive on the left side of the road instead of the right. Then, when I was in England, I heard a London tour guide explain one possible reason for this law: “In the 1800s, pedestrians as well as horse-and-carriages used the same roads. When a carriage was on the right side of the road, a driver’s horse whip would sometimes hit a passerby. To remove this hazard, a law was passed requiring all carriages to travel on the left side of the road so the pedestrians could be kept safe.”

Just as the rules of the road are for our benefit and protection, so are God’s commands. Because He loves us, He has given them to us for our benefit. Paul writes: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:13-14).

As we apply God’s Word to our hearts, let’s keep in mind that the God of grace has given us His guidelines to help us grow in our love for Him and our concern for others.

Thy Word is everlasting truth; How pure is every page! That Holy Book shall guide our youth And well support our age. —Watts

The Bible has treasures of wisdom to mine.

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OUR DAILY BREAD 4-9-14

UnknownLoved To Love

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 13-14; Luke 10:1-24

Randy Kilgore   Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life was at risk every day he stayed in Hitler’s Germany, but he stayed nonetheless. I imagine he shared the apostle Paul’s view that being in heaven was his heart’s desire, but staying where he was needed was God’s present purpose (Phil. 1:21). So stay he did; as a pastor he offered clandestine worship services and resisted the evil regime under Hitler.

Despite the daily danger, Bonhoeffer penned Life Together—a book on hospitality as ministry. He put this principle to the test when he lived and worked in a monastic community and when he was imprisoned. Every meal, every task, and every conversation, Bonhoeffer taught, was an opportunity to show Christ to others, even under great stress or strain.

We read in Deuteronomy that just as God ministered to the Israelites who were leaving Egypt, He instructed them to imitate Him by loving and hosting strangers and widows (10:18-19; Ex. 22:21-22). We too are loved by God and empowered by His Spirit to serve Him by serving others in countless ways each day through kind words and actions.

Who on our daily journey seems lonely or lost? We can trust the Lord to enable us to bring them hope and compassion as we live and labor together for Him.

That I may serve Him with a full surrender, My life a crucible, His eye the test, Each hour a gift from Him, the gracious Sender, Each day a pledge to give to Christ my best. —Anon.

The more we understand God’s love for us the more love we’ll show to others.

Insight: It is interesting to note that when our Lord faced His temptations in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), all of the verses He quoted are from Deuteronomy (8:3; 6:16,13).

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-8-14

UnknownGetting Beyond Ourselves

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 10-12; Luke 9:37-62

 

Joe Stowell   I have one of those friends who seems to be better than I am at just about everything. He is smarter; he thinks more deeply; and he knows where to find better books to read. He is even a better golfer. Spending time with him challenges me to become a better, more thoughtful person. His standard of excellence spurs me on to greater things.

That highlights a spiritual principle: It’s crucial for us to spend time in God’s Word so we can connect with the person of Christ. Reading about the impact of Jesus’ unconditional love for us compels me to love without demand. His mercy and His free distribution of grace to the most undeserving make me ashamed of my tendency to withhold forgiveness and seek revenge.

I find myself becoming a more thankful person when I realize that, despite my shameful fallenness, the Lord has clothed me in the beauty of His perfect righteousness. His amazing ways and unsurpassed wisdom motivate and transform me. It’s hard to be content with my life as it is when in His presence I am drawn to become more like Him.

The apostle Paul calls us to the joy of beholding Christ. As we do so, we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Lord, help us to come into Your presence with eyes and hearts wide open to all that You are and want us to become. Thank You for revealing Yourself to us and for the joy of basking in the greatness of Your glory.

Stay close to God and you will never be the same.

Insight: Paul underscores the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant (2 Cor. 3:7-11) by referring back to Exodus 34:29-35. Moses’ face so radiated with God’s glory after having communed with God that the Israelites were afraid to come near Moses (Ex. 34:8). Paul says the ministry of the Spirit is much more glorious (2 Cor. 3:8).

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-7-14

UnknownStrawberry Mess

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 7-9; Luke 9:18-36

Anne Cetas   My husband and I had recently moved into our house when a man dropped off a large box of strawberries on our front sidewalk. He left a note saying he wanted us to share them with our neighbors. He meant well, but some children discovered the box before any adults did and had a strawberry-throwing party at our white house. When we returned home, we saw children we knew watching us from behind a fence. They had “returned to the scene of the crime” to see how we would react to the mess. We could have just cleaned it up ourselves, but to restore our relationship, we felt it was important to talk with them and require their help in cleaning our strawberry-stained house.

Life can get messy with relationship struggles. This was the case in the Philippian church. Two faithful servants, Euodia and Syntyche, were in sharp disagreement. The apostle Paul wrote to the church to encourage them to work through their problems (Phil. 4:2). He also wanted another person to come alongside them with a spirit of gentleness. He wrote, “I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel” (v.3).

Realizing we’ve all made messes in life, we can trust the Lord to help us deal gently with others.

Dear Lord, please give me discernment and courage in my relationships. Help me by Your power to be gentle and show the same love to others that You have shown to me.

True love both confronts and restores.

Insight: As Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi comes to an end, he provides his readers with a number of imperatives: “stand fast in the Lord” (v.1); “be of the same mind” (v.2); “help [those] who labored with me in the gospel” (v.3); “rejoice in the Lord always” (v.4); and “let your gentleness be known to all men” (v.5). Notice the varied kinds of imperatives given. Because unity, support, rejoicing, and gentleness are needed depending upon the situation, sensitivity to the Spirit’s leading helps us to tap into God’s resources so that we can respond appropriately to each circumstance.

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-6-14

UnknownChoose Life

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 4-6; Luke 9:1-17

Julie Ackerman Link   What is God’s will for my life? The question haunted me when I was growing up. What if I couldn’t find it? What if I didn’t recognize it? God’s will seemed like a needle in a haystack. Hidden. Obscured by lookalikes. Outnumbered by counterfeits.

But my view of God’s will was wrong because my view of God was wrong. God takes no pleasure in seeing us lost, wandering, searching. He wants us to know His will. He makes it clear, and He makes it simple. He doesn’t even make it multiple-choice. He gives just two choices: “life and good” or “death and evil” (Deut. 30:15). In case the best choice isn’t obvious, He even says which one to choose: “Choose life” (v.19). To choose life is to choose God Himself and obey His Word.

When Moses addressed the Israelites for the last time, he pleaded with them to make the right choice by observing “all the words of this law. . . . Because it is your life” (32:46-47). God’s will for us is life. His Word is life. And Jesus is the Word. God may not give a prescription for every decision, but He gave us a perfect example to follow—Jesus. The right choice may not be easy, but when the Word is our guide and worship is our goal, God will grant us the wisdom to make life-affirming choices.

Lord Jesus, we know that true wisdom comes from leaning on You. Help us to trust in You and to seek Your face and Your will that we find in Your life-giving Word.

The evidence of God’s guidance can be seen more clearly by looking back than by looking forward.

Insight: Today’s passage begins with a beautiful statement of how intimately God wants us to know Him. He has not given us commandments that are “too mysterious” or “far off” (Deut. 30:11). This passage ends with the reason His commands are “very near”—that we may love and obey God and enjoy life in Him (v.20).

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-5-14

UnknownNot Counting

Bible in a Year: 1 Samuel 1-3; Luke 8:26-56

Philip Yancey  The play Amadeus tells of a composer in the 18th century seeking to understand the mind of God. The devout Antonio Salieri has the earnest desire, but not the aptitude, to create immortal music. It infuriates him that God has instead lavished the greatest of musical genius ever known on the impish Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The play poses the same question as the book of Job, only inverted. The author of Job wonders why God would punish the most righteous man on the face of the earth; the author of Amadeus ponders why God would reward someone so undeserving.

Jesus’ parable of the workers and their grossly unfair paychecks confronts this scandal head-on. Some people who have been idly standing around are hired by a landowner at “the eleventh hour” (Matt. 20:6-7). The other workers, who have been serving him all day long, are shocked when each receives identical pay. What employer in his right mind would pay the same amount for one hour’s work as for 12!

Jesus’ story makes no economic sense, and that was His intent. He was giving us a parable about grace, which cannot be calculated like a day’s wages. God dispenses gifts, not wages.

Lord, I forget sometimes that my efforts cannot earn Your love or grace or forgiveness. You have lavished grace on me as a gift and not a wage. Thank You. 

In the realm of grace, the word “deserve” does not apply.

Insight: Jesus’ practice of teaching by parables was a way of helping people process the spiritual truths He taught. For that reason, parables have sometimes been referred to as earthly stories with heavenly meanings.

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-4-14

UnknownCheck The Oil

Bible in a Year: Ruth 1-4; Luke 8:1-25

 

David C. McCasland   When I helped our daughters learn to drive, I included a little instruction on basic auto maintenance. We visited a local service station where they learned to check the oil every time they put fuel in the car. Today, years later, they often remind me of my six-word slogan, “Oil is cheap; engines are expensive.” Adding a quart of oil is nothing compared to replacing an engine.

Maintenance is also important in our spiritual lives. Taking time each day to read the Bible, pray, and listen to God is a key element in avoiding a breakdown. In Psalm 5, David wrote, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning I will direct it to You” (v.3). In the following verses he poured out his heart in praise, thanksgiving, and requests to God.

Many people find it essential to begin every day with the Lord. Before checking email, catching the news, or eating breakfast, they find some quiet moments alone to read a portion of God’s Word, praise Him for His greatness, thank Him for His love, and seek His guidance. Others spend time reading and praying at different times of the day.

It’s not magic—it’s maintenance, as we ask the Lord each day to fill our hearts with His presence on the road of life.

Give me a strong desire, O Lord, to look into Your Word each day. Help me hide it in my heart so that  I might not stray from Your truth. Feed me and teach me about Yourself and Your will for me. 

The roots of stability come from being grounded in God’s Word and prayer.

Insight: In this morning prayer (vv.1-3), David called out to God to help him live a holy and worshipful life (vv.7-8). He extolled God’s justice, holiness, and unfailing love (vv.4-7), and he affirmed his unwavering trust in God’s presence and protection (vv.4-8,11-12) even as he faced slander, danger, and evil.

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-3-14

UnknownWhat’s In A Name?

Bible in a Year: Judges 19-21; Luke 7:31-50

Poh Fang Chia   My friend wrote a letter to his newborn child that he wanted him to read when he was older: “My dear boy, Daddy and Mummy wish that you will find and stay focused on the Light. Your Chinese name is xin xuan. Xin means faithfulness, contentment, and integrity; xuan stands for warmth and light.” He and his wife carefully chose a name based on their hopes for their baby boy.

When Jesus renamed Simon as Peter/Cephas (John 1:42), it wasn’t a random choice. Peter means “the rock.” But it took a while for him to live up to his new name. The account of his life reveals him as a fisherman known for his rash ways—a shifting-sand kind of guy. Peter disagreed with Jesus (Matt. 16:22-23), struck a man with a sword (John 18:10-11), and even denied knowing Jesus (John 18:15-27). But in Acts, we read that God worked in and through him to establish His church. Peter truly became a rock.

If you, like Peter, are a follower of Jesus, you have a new identity. In Acts 11:26, we read, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” The name “Christians” means “Christ-ones.” You now are one of the Christ-ones. This title lifts up who you are and calls you to become what you are not yet. God is faithful, and He will complete His good work in you (Phil. 1:6).

Dear Father, thank You for the incredible privilege of being called Your child. May we understand more fully what it means to be identified with Your Son, Jesus Christ. Work in us and through us.

We honor God’s name when we call Him our Father and live like His children.

Insight: Today’s reading records a call to discipleship. After John the Baptist identified Jesus as the “Lamb of God,” two of his disciples followed Jesus. Andrew is named, but the second spiritual seeker is not. Many commentators believe that the apostle John is the second disciple. Notice the easy conversation which takes place between the two disciples and Christ. He asks what they seek. They inquire about where He is staying, and He invites them to come and see. The tenth hour by Jewish reckoning was 4:00 p.m. Obviously, the day was coming to an end. Andrew became so excited about Jesus’ invitation that he went to find his brother Simon and brought him to meet the Master.

OUR DAILY BREAD 4-2-14

UnknownYou’ve Got A Friend

Bible in a Year: Judges 16-18; Luke 7:1-30

Bill Crowder   One of the ironic consequences of the sweeping growth of social media is that we often find ourselves more personally isolated. One online article warns: “Those who oppose leading one’s life primarily or exclusively online claim that virtual friends are not adequate substitutes for real-world friends, and . . . individuals who substitute virtual friends for physical friends become even lonelier and more depressive than before.”

Technology aside, all of us battle with seasons of loneliness, wondering if anyone knows, understands, or cares about the burdens we carry or the struggles we face. But followers of Christ have an assurance that brings comfort to our weary hearts. The comforting presence of the Savior is promised in words that are undeniable, for the psalmist David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 23:4).

Whether isolated by our own choices, by the cultural trends that surround us, or by the painful losses of life, all who know Christ can rest in the presence of the Shepherd of our hearts. What a friend we have in Jesus!

I’ve found a Friend; O such a Friend! He loved me ere I knew Him; He drew me with the cords of love, And thus He bound me to Him. —Small

Those who know Jesus as their Friend are never alone.

Insight: As a young boy, David, the author of Psalm 23, was a shepherd. He was responsible for his family’s sheep, which were a significant part of the family’s livelihood. In order to make sure the sheep were well fed and watered, shepherds in ancient Israel would often have to take their flocks deep into the wilderness for long periods of time. It is possible that when David penned this psalm, he was reflecting on God’s presence in the wilderness as he was alone with his sheep. Thinking of the constant and watchful care he provided for each and every sheep, he found comfort in the presence and care of God even when his only companions were animals.