Monday, December 29, 2014

A Re-post From David C. Egner of Our Daily Bread

He Leads Me


In Istanbul, Turkey, in 2005, one sheep jumped off a cliff and then nearly 1,500 others followed! In the end, about one-third of them died. Not knowing which way to go, sheep mindlessly follow other members of the flock.
No better word picture than sheep can be found to illustrate our need for a trustworthy leader. We are all, Isaiah wrote, like sheep (Isa. 53:6). We tend to go our own way, yet we desperately need the sure direction of a shepherd.
Psalm 23 describes the trustworthiness of our Good Shepherd. He cares for us (v.1); He provides for our physical needs (v.2); He shows us how to live holy lives (v.3); He restores us, comforts us, heals us, and bountifully blesses us (vv.3-5); and He will not abandon us (v.6).
What a comfort to know that God gently but firmly leads us! He does so through the urging of the Holy Spirit, the reading of His Word, and through prayer. God is the reliable leader we need.
In acknowledgment of our dependence on the Lord, we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
Like sheep that sometimes wander from the flock
In tangled paths of life to lose their way,
I need my Shepherd’s hand and watchful eye
To keep me always, lest I go astray. —Sanders
The Lamb who died to save us is the Shepherd who lives to guide us.

Insight

Today’s familiar and beloved psalm has brought comfort and hope to many. And well it should. This psalm celebrates all that the Good Shepherd does for His sheep. The greatest benefit comes in the last verse: We will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v.6). God does so much to provide for and care for His sheep. However, there is an implicit idea in this text that should not be overlooked: Sheep follow their shepherd. The blessings and comfort of this psalm do not come to sheep that do not follow the Shepherd. As Jesus reminds us, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Re-post From Marion Stroud of Our Daily Bread

Delay May Not Mean Denial

My sons’ birthdays are in December. When they were small, Angus quickly learned that if he didn’t receive a longed-for toy for his birthday at the beginning of the month, it might be in his Christmas stocking. And if David didn’t receive his gift for Christmas, it might appear for his birthday 4 days later. Delay didn’t necessarily mean denial.
It was natural for Martha and Mary to send for Jesus when Lazarus became seriously ill (John 11:1-3). Perhaps they looked anxiously along the road for signs of His arrival, but Jesus didn’t come. The funeral service had been over for 4 days when Jesus finally walked into town (v.17).
Martha was blunt. “If You had been here,” she said, “my brother would not have died” (v.21). Then her faith flickered into certainty, “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (v.22). I wonder what she expected. Lazarus was dead, and she was wary about opening the tomb. And yet at a word from Jesus, Lazarus’ spirit returned to his decaying body (vv.41-44). Jesus had bypassed simply healing His sick friend, in order to perform the far greater miracle of bringing him back to life.
Waiting for God’s timing may also give us a greater miracle than we had hoped for.
My Savior hears me when I pray,
Upon His Word I calmly rest;
In His own time, in His own way,
I know He’ll give me what is best. —Hewitt
Time spent waiting on God is never wasted.

Insight

Martha, often maligned for her attitude in Luke 10:38-42, displays great faith in today’s passage. Not only does she believe that Jesus has a special relationship with the Father (John 11:22), she also affirms her confidence that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God (v.27).

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Re-post From Dave Branon of Our Daily Bread

Out Of Egypt

One year when our family was traveling through Ohio on the way to Grandma’s house, we arrived in Columbus just as a tornado warning was issued. Suddenly everything changed as we feared that our children might be in danger.
I mention that story to help us imagine what it was like for Joseph’s family as he, Mary, and their young child traveled to Egypt. Herod, not a tornado, threatened them as he sought to kill their little boy. Imagine how frightening it was for them, knowing that “Herod [sought] the young Child to destroy Him” (Matt. 2:13).
We usually take a more idyllic view of Christmastime—lowing cattle and kneeling shepherds in a peaceful scene. But there was no peace for Jesus’ family as they sought to escape Herod’s horror. Only when an angel told them it was safe did the family go out of Egypt and back home to Nazareth (vv.20-23).
Consider the awe we should feel for the incarnation. Jesus, who enjoyed the majesty of heaven in partnership with the Father, set it all aside to be born in poverty, to face many dangers, and to be crucified for us. Coming out of Egypt is one thing, but leaving heaven for us—that’s the grand and amazing part of this story!
Jesus our Savior left heaven above,
Coming to earth as a Servant with love;
Laying aside all His glory He came,
Bringing salvation through faith in His name. —Hess
Jesus came to earth for us so we could go to heaven with Him.

Insight

Today’s passage is both a harrowing and a comforting account of early events in Jesus’ life. Verse 15 reminds us that the threat to His life and His family’s hasty escape to Egypt were within God’s plan.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Re-post From Joe Stowell of Our Daily Bread

Remember The Wrapping


At our house some Christmas events are the same each year. Among them is my wife Martie’s appeal to the kids and grandkids as they attack their gifts: “Save the paper, we can use it next year!” Martie loves to give nice gifts, but she also appreciates the wrapping. Presentation is part of the beauty of the gift.
It makes me think of the wrapping Christ chose when He came as a redemptive gift to rescue us from our sinful selves. Jesus could have wrapped Himself in a mind-boggling show of power, lighting up the sky with His presence in a celestial show of glory. Instead, in a beautiful reversal of Genesis 1:26, He chose to wrap Himself “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).
So why is this wrapping so important? Because, being like us, He is no stranger to our struggles. He experienced deep loneliness and the betrayal of a dear friend. He was publicly shamed, misunderstood, and falsely accused. In short, He feels our pain. As a result, the writer of Hebrews tells us that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
When you think of the gift of Jesus this Christmas, remember to keep the “wrapping” in mind!
Lord, thank You for wrapping Yourself in our
likeness! Remind us that You understand our
struggles and that we can confidently take advantage
of the mercy and grace You offer to make us victorious.
Don’t disregard the wrapping of the best Christmas gift of all.

Insight

Philippians 2:5-11 is perhaps the greatest declaration of Christ’s deity and humanity in the Bible. In His incarnation, Jesus did not replace His deity with humanity, but added humanity to His deity; He did not cease to be God, but surrendered the independent use of His divine powers and the right to manifest His own glory as God. Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that the Father would restore to Him the glory He had with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). Jesus’ prayer was answered when the Father “highly exalted Him and [gave] Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Re-post From Poh Fang Chia of Our Daily Bread


My Friends And I


John Chrysostom (347–407), archbishop of Constantinople, said this about friendship: “Such is friendship, that through it we love places and seasons; for as . . . flowers drop their sweet leaves on the ground around them, so friends impart favor even to the places where they dwell.”
Jonathan and David illustrate the sweetness of a true friendship. The Bible records an intimate and immediate bond between them (1 Sam. 18:1). They kept their friendship alive by demonstrating their loyalty to each other (18:3; 20:16, 42; 23:18), as well as nurturing it by expressions of concern. Jonathan gave gifts to David (18:4) and watched out for him through many difficulties (19:1-2; 20:12-13).
In 1 Samuel 23:16, we see the highest moment of their friendship. When David was a fugitive on the run from Jonathan’s father, “Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God.” Friends help you find strength in God during the low points of life.
In a world where most relationships are about what we can get, let us be the type of friends who focus on what we can give. Jesus, our perfect Friend, demonstrated for us that “greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Thank You, Lord, for the friends You’ve given me to
love me in spite of my failures and weaknesses. Let
me treat them as You treated Your friends. Bind us
together in You and enable us to help one another.
The glory of life is to love, not to be loved; to give, not to get; to serve, not to be served.

Insight

The deep friendship between David and Jonathan withstood the test of time and circumstances, evidenced when Jonathan went against his father, King Saul (1 Sam. 20), endangering his own life in order to save David (v.33). Although Jonathan was the crown prince, he encouraged David by assuring his safety and affirming that he would be the next king (23:17). After Jonathan died in battle (31:1-6), David honored him with the “Song of the Bow,” which was to be remembered by the people of Judah (2 Sam. 1:18-27).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Re-post From Bill Crowder of Our Daily Bread

A Ukrainian Christmas


The people of Ukraine include many wonderful elements in their observance of Christmas. Sometimes wisps of hay are placed on the dinner table as a reminder of the Bethlehem manger. Another portion of their celebration echoes the events of the night when the Savior entered the world. A Christmas prayer is offered and then the father in the household offers the greeting, “Christ is born!” The family then responds, “Let us glorify Him!”
These words draw my mind to the appearance of the angels in the sky over Bethlehem on the night Christ was born. The angel of the Lord declared, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The heavenly host responded, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (v.14).
Those twin messages give such depth of meaning to this wonderful time of year. The Savior has come bringing forgiveness and hope—and He is deserving of all the worship we can give Him.
May all who know the wonder of His gift of eternal life join with the voices of that angelic host declaring, “Glory to God in the highest!”
With th’angelic hosts proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!” —Wesley
The spectacular glory of God’s love for us was revealed in the coming of Jesus.

Insight

Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ includes the shepherds, who lived apart from society in their lowly occupation, and the angels, who announced to those shepherds the arrival of the Messiah (vv.9-14). From the humble to the heavenly, the contrast of shepherds and angels pictures the journey of the Son who came from the highest place to be the Lamb of God.

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Re-post From Julie Ackerman Link of Our Daily Bread

Story Stewards

Many people take great care to make sure their resources are used well after they die. They set up trusts, write wills, and establish foundations to guarantee that their assets will continue to be used for a good purpose after their life on earth is done. We call this good stewardship.
Equally important, however, is being good stewards of our life story. God commanded the Israelites not only to teach their children His laws but also to make sure they knew their family history. It was the responsibility of parents and grandparents to make sure their children knew the stories of how God had worked in their behalf (Deut. 4:1-14).
God has given each of us a unique story. His plan for our lives is individualized. Do others know what you believe and why? Do they know the story of how you came to faith and how God has worked in your life to strengthen your faith? Do they know how God has shown Himself faithful and has helped you through doubts and disappointments?
The faithfulness of God is a story that we have the privilege to pass on. Record it in some way and share it. Be a good steward of the story that God is telling through you.
How great, O God, Your acts of love!
Your saving deeds would now proclaim
That generations yet to come
May set their hope in Your great name. —D. DeHaan
A life lived for God leaves a lasting legacy.

Insight

In today’s passage, Moses reminded the people of Israel that—unlike the nations around them—they were the only ones privileged to have intimate fellowship with God (v.7) and the only nation given God’s law (v.8). If they faithfully obeyed His law, God would make them a great and wise people (vv.6,8-9).

Monday, December 8, 2014

A Re-post From Dennis Fisher of Our Daily Bread

Our Life Is A Primer


The New England Primer was published in the late 1600s. Throughout the colonies that would later become the United States, the book became a widely used resource.
This early American textbook was based largely on the Bible, and it used pictures and rhymes based on Scripture to help children learn to read. It also included prayers like this one: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
In Colonial America, this became a way that one generation was able to pass along their faith to the next generation. It fit well with what God wanted of His people, the ancient Israelites, as recorded in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach [God’s commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them . . . when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
As we talk about who God is, what He has done for us, and how He desires our love and obedience, our lives can become primers to the next generation. We can be teaching tools that God will use to help people in their walk with Him.
Lord, we love You. We want to learn to love
You with all our heart, soul, and strength.
Use our lives and our words to point others to You,
who first loved us.
When we teach others, we’re not just spending time, we’re investing it.

Insight

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, known as the Shema (from the Hebrew for “hear,” v.4), is the basic Jewish confession of faith. Every devout Jew was to recite the Shema twice daily as a reminder of the first and second commandments (Ex. 20:2-5). After giving the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:6-22), Moses gave God’s people the one heart principle that undergirds the entire law: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (6:5). God demands exclusive, wholehearted, and undivided allegiance and devotion. Jesus said that this is “the first and greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:36-38).

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Re-post From Anne Cetas of Our Daily Bread

Struggling With Addiction

Eric was struggling with an addiction, and he knew it. His friends and family members encouraged him to stop. He agreed that it would be best for his health and relationships, but he felt helpless. When others told him how they had quit their bad habits, he replied, “I’m happy for you, but I can’t seem to stop! I wish I had never been tempted in the first place. I want God to take the desire away right now.”
Immediate deliverance may happen for some, but most face a daily battle. While we don’t always understand why the temptation doesn’t go away, we can turn to God on whatever path we find ourselves. And perhaps that is the most important part of our struggle. We learn to exchange our futile efforts to change for complete dependence on God.
Jesus was tempted also, just as we are, so He understands what we’re feeling (Mark 1:13). He sympathizes with our struggles (Heb. 4:15), and we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v.16). He also uses others, including trained professionals, to lean on along the way.
Whatever battles we may be facing today, we know this—God loves us much more than we can imagine, and He is faithful to come to our assistance.
For Further Thought
Read Matthew 4:1-11 about how Jesus handled
temptations. Also read 1 Corinthians 10:11-13
to learn how He can help us when we are tempted.
We are not tempted because we are evil; we are tempted because we are human.

Insight

The high priest in ancient Israel was the representative of the people before God. The writer of Hebrews draws a distinction between the high priests of Israel and Jesus, our Great High Priest, who came and experienced life on the earth. We can approach Him with confidence, knowing that He truly understands what we face, for He faced it as well.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Re-post From Philip Yancey of Our Daily Bread

Happy Ending

In its “plot,” the story of the Bible ends up very much where it began. The broken relationship between God and human beings has healed over at last, and the curse of Genesis 3 is lifted. Borrowing images from Eden, Revelation pictures a river and a tree of life (Rev. 22:1-2). But this time a great city replaces the garden setting—a city filled with worshipers of God. No death or sadness will ever darken that scene. When we awake in the new heaven and new earth, we will have at last a happy ending.
Heaven is not an afterthought or an optional belief. It is the final justification of all creation. The Bible never belittles human tragedy and disappointment—is any book more painfully honest?—but it does add one key word: temporary. What we feel now, we will not always feel. The time for re-creation will come.
For people who feel trapped in pain or in a broken home, in economic misery or in fear—for all of us—heaven promises a timeless future of health and wholeness and pleasure and peace. The Bible begins with the promise of a Redeemer in the book of Genesis (3:15) and ends with that same promise (Rev. 21:1-7)—a guarantee of future reality. The end will be the beginning.
Beyond earth’s sorrows, the joys of heaven;
Eternal blessings with Christ my Lord;
Earth’s weeping ended, earth’s trials over,
Sweet rest in Jesus, O blest reward! —Gilmore
The gains of heaven will more than compensate us for the losses of earth.

Insight

The reality of a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21:1) is not a New Testament idea that begins with or is exclusive to the apostle John. Peter also spoke of this new heaven and earth as a world filled with God’s righteousness (2 Peter 3:13). And the Old Testament prophet Isaiah described the “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17-25; 66:22) 700 years before the birth of Christ.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Re-post From Julie Ackerman Link of Our Daily Bread

A Lesson In Praise


Psalm 150 is not only a beautiful expression of praise, it’s also a lesson in praising the Lord. It tells us where to praise, why we’re to praise, how we’re to praise, and who should offer praise.
Where do we praise? In God’s “sanctuary” and “mighty firmament” (v.1). Wherever we are in the world is a proper place to praise the One who created all things.
Why do we praise? First, because of what God does. He performs “mighty acts.” Second, because of who God is. The psalmist praised Him for “His excellent greatness” (v.2). The all-powerful Creator is the Sustainer of the universe.
How should we praise? Loudly. Softly. Soothingly. Enthusiastically. Rhythmically. Boldly. Unexpectedly. Fearlessly. In other words, we can praise God in many ways and on many occasions (vv.3-5).
Who should praise? “Everything that has breath” (v.6). Young and old. Rich and poor. Weak and strong. Every living creature. God’s will is for everyone to whom He gave the breath of life to use that breath to acknowledge His power and greatness.
Praise is our enthusiastic expression of gratitude to God for reigning in glory forever.
Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen! —Watts
Praise is the overflow of a joyful heart.

Insight

The focus of this psalm is obvious. The word praise is used 13 times in these 6 short verses. Praise is defined as “expressing approval of or admiration for someone or something.” But this definition seems dry and stiff. In today’s psalm, praise is an occasion for celebration—involving music and dance. Praise of the Lord is a joyous occasion, a celebration of who He is and what He has done. The psalmist simply assumes that joy, excitement, and happiness are all part of our praise to God.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Re-post From Dave Branon of Our Daily Bread

Can You Help?

The administrators of the high school in Barrow, Alaska, were tired of seeing students get into trouble and drop out at a rate of 50 percent. To keep students interested, they started a football team, which offered them a chance to develop personal skills, teamwork, and learn life lessons. The problem with football in Barrow, which is farther north than Iceland, is that it’s hard to plant a grass field. So they competed on a gravel and dirt field.
Four thousand miles away in Florida, a woman named Cathy Parker heard about the football team and their dangerous field. Feeling that God was prompting her to help, and impressed by the positive changes she saw in the students, she went to work. About a year later, they dedicated their new field, complete with a beautiful artificial-turf playing surface. She had raised thousands of dollars to help some kids she didn’t even know.
This is not about football—or money. It is about remembering “to do good and to share” (Heb. 13:16). The apostle James reminds us that we demonstrate our faith by our actions (2:18). The needs in our world are varied and overwhelming but when we love our neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus said (Mark 12:31), we reach people with God’s love.
Open our eyes, dear Father, to those in need. Allow
us to find ways—monetarily and otherwise—to
help meet those needs. Help us to take the focus off
ourselves and place it on those who can use our assistance.
Open your heart to God to learn compassion and open your hand to give help.

Insight

There is disagreement among scholars as to the identity of the James who authored this letter. Some see him as the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3; Mark 3:18). Long-held church tradition, however, identifies this James as the half-brother of Jesus (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). In Galatians 1:19, Paul mentions seeing James, “the Lord’s brother,” in Jerusalem—and this has fueled the position that the James of the Jerusalem church and the James who wrote this letter was in fact “the Lord’s brother.” James became a person of great prominence in the early church, having received a personal audience with the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:7) and having become one of the primary leaders of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-20).

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Re-post From David C. McCasland of Our Daily Bread

Heartbreak And Hope

When American country singer George Jones died at the age of 81, his fans remembered his remarkable voice and his hard life and personal struggles. While many of his songs reflected his own despair and longing, it was the way he sang them that touched people deeply. Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot said, “His voice was made for conveying heartbreak.”
The book of Lamentations records Jeremiah’s anguish over the nation of Judah’s stubborn refusal to follow God. Often called “the weeping prophet,” he witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and saw his people carried into captivity. He wandered the streets of the city, overwhelmed by grief (Lam. 1:1-5).
Yet, in Jeremiah’s darkest hour, he said, “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (3:21-23).
Whether we suffer for our own choices or from those of others, despair may threaten to overwhelm us. When all seems lost, we can cling to the Lord’s faithfulness. “‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’” (v.24).
I’m thankful for Your faithfulness, Father, even
in the times when I am unfaithful. Help me to
remember, like Jeremiah, that my hope comes
from You, not from my circumstances.
The anchor of God’s faithfulness holds firm in the strongest storms.

Insight

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says: “Jeremiah was called by the Lord to the office of a prophet while still a youth (1:6) about 20 years of age. . . . At first he probably lived in Anathoth, and put in his appearance publicly in Jerusalem only on the occasion of the great festivals; later he lived in Jerusalem, and was there during the terrible times of the siege and the destruction of the city.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Re-post From Julie Ackerman Link of Our Daily Bread

The Final Picture


What started as an empty 11-acre field in Belfast, Northern Ireland, ended up as the largest land portrait in the British Isles. Wish, by artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, is made from 30,000 wooden pegs, 2,000 tons of soil, 2,000 tons of sand, and miscellaneous items such as grass, stones, and string.
At the beginning, only the artist knew what the final artwork was going to look like. He hired workers and recruited volunteers to haul materials and move them into place. As they worked, they saw little indication that something amazing was about to emerge. But it did. From the ground, it doesn’t look like much. But from above, viewers see a huge portrait—the smiling face of a little girl.
God is doing something on a grander scale in the world. He’s the artist who sees the final picture. We’re His “fellow workers” (1 Cor. 3:9) who are helping to make it a reality. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded His people that it is He who “sits above the circle of the earth” and “stretches out the heavens like a curtain” (Isa. 40:22). We can’t see the final picture, but we continue on in faith, knowing that we’re part of an amazing work of art—one that is being created on earth but will be best seen from heaven.
While sometimes I think I can see the big picture,
Lord, my heart knows it sees so little. I’m
thankful that You are working out Your beautiful
will in this world, and I can trust You.
God is using us to help create a masterpiece.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Re-post From Joe Stowell of Our Daily Bread

The Honor Of Following

While visiting Jerusalem, a friend of mine saw an old rabbi walking past the Wailing Wall. The interesting thing about the aged rabbi was the five young men walking behind him. They too were walking bent over, limping—just like their rabbi. An Orthodox Jew watching them would know exactly why they were imitating their teacher. They were “followers.”
Throughout the history of Judaism, one of the most honored positions for a Jewish man was the privilege of becoming a “follower” of the local rabbi. Followers sat at the rabbi’s feet as he taught. They would study his words and watch how he acted and reacted to life and others. A follower would count it the highest honor to serve his rabbi in even the most menial tasks. And, because they admired their rabbi, they were determined to become like him.
When Jesus called His disciples to follow Him (Matt. 4:19), it was an invitation to be changed by Him, to become like Him, and to share His passion for those who need a Savior. The high honor of being His follower should show in our lives as well. We too have been called to catch the attention of the watching world as we talk, think, and act just like Jesus—the rabbi, the teacher, of our souls.
Thank You, Lord, for the high honor of being
called to follow You. May my life so imitate
You that others will know that You are the
pursuit of my life and the rabbi of my soul.
Follow Jesus and let the world know He is your rabbi.

Insight

In the region surrounding the Sea of Galilee in the first century, fishing was one of the primary industries. This fishing normally took place at night, with the laborious task of casting weighted fishing nets and then hauling them back in. Fishing was not an easy occupation, but it did provide a decent living and, as seen in today’s text, was often operated as a family business. Here, two brothers, Peter and Andrew, worked together (v.18), as did James, John, and their father (v.21). In this case, however, these two families also had a partnership in their fishing business, as recorded in Luke 5:10. Jesus used this partnership to His advantage in calling these four men as disciples.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Re-post From Anne Cetas of Our Daily Bread

Multiply It


Amy had battled cancer for 5 years. Then the doctor told her that the treatments were failing and she had just a few weeks to live. Wanting some understanding and assurance about eternity, Amy asked her pastor, “What will heaven be like?”
He asked her what she liked most about her life on earth. She talked about walks and rainbows and caring friends and the laughter of children. “So, then, are you saying I will have all of that there?” she asked longingly.
Amy’s pastor replied, “I believe that your life there will be far more beautiful and amazing than anything you ever loved or experienced here. Think about what’s best here for you and multiply it over and over and over. That’s what I think heaven will be.”
The Bible doesn’t describe in detail what life in eternity will be like, but it does tell us that being with Christ in heaven is “far better” than our present circumstance (Phil. 1:23). “There shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3).
Best of all, we will see the Lord Jesus face to face. Our deepest yearnings will be fully satisfied in Him.
We’re thankful, Lord, for Your presence now
in our lives. But what an amazing day it will be
when we meet You face to face!
Life with You in heaven will be greater by far.
To be with Jesus forever is the sum of all happiness.

Insight

In some translations of the Bible, the book of Revelation is entitled “The Revelation of St. John,” giving attention to the human author John, one of the disciples of Jesus. This title, however, is inaccurate. In Revelation 1:1, we read, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.” This is significant because the word revelation means “a revealing or unveiling.” The primary purpose of the book is to give us an unveiling of Christ Himself. Interestingly, that unveiling reveals Jesus to be the Lamb of God, and the word lamb appears in Revelation more than 25 times.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Re-post From Dave Branon of Our Daily Bread

Horse Power


Think for a moment of the power, beauty, and majesty of a galloping horse—his head held high, his mane flying in the wind, and his legs working in unison to provide speed, power, and abandon.
What a wonderful example of God’s magnificent creation is the horse! God created it not just for our amazement and enjoyment but also as a complement to the human race (Job 39). Properly trained, the horse is fearless when we need a courageous companion. The horse was used to carry the soldier faithfully into conflict with speed (v.24) and anticipation (v.25).
Although God was using creation to teach Job about His sovereignty, we can also be reminded through this passage about our own value in God’s world. We are created not simply as a beautiful creature with a job to do but also as a creature made in God’s image. The power of the horse is amazing, but the value of each human transcends all other creatures.
God created us uniquely to have a relationship with Him and to live with Him forever. While we praise God for the magnificence of the creatures of nature, we also stand in awe that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).
Thank You, our Almighty God and Father, for Your
creation. You have provided so many majestic
creatures for us to enjoy, but help us to recognize
with thankfulness the special place we have in creation.
Of all God’s creation, only humans can experience re-creation.

Insight

In the midst of his pain (Job 1–3), Job seeks to understand why he has to suffer so much. Instead of explaining why He allowed evil to exist or human beings to suffer (chs. 4–37), God confronted and confounded Job with more questions concerning His creation. Job 38–42 is not an explanation of why man has to suffer, but a revelation of who God is! God reveals Himself as Creator (ch. 38), Sustainer (ch. 39), and Controller of all creation (chs. 40–42). Job didn’t need to fully understand cosmology, meteorology, zoology, hippology, or God’s immutable ways (Isa. 55:8-9). He only needed to trust the omnipotent and transcendent Creator God who is “very compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11; see Job 42:2-3).

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Re-post From Bill Crowder of Our Daily Bread

Perception Or Reality?

We often hear it said, “Perception is reality.” That idea for Americans may have dawned on September 26, 1960—the date of the first televised debate between two presidential candidates. In front of the cameras, John Kennedy appeared composed; Richard Nixon appeared nervous. The perception was that Kennedy would be a stronger leader. The debate not only turned that election, but it also changed the way politics is done in the US. Politics by perception became the rule of the day.
Sometimes perception is reality. But not always—especially our perceptions about God. When Jesus and His disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a small fishing vessel, a sudden storm threatened to sink the boat. With Jesus asleep and the disciples on the verge of panic, they began to stir Him, asking, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38).
Their question sounds similar to questions I’ve asked. At times I perceive God’s apparent inactivity as a lack of care. But His care for me goes well beyond what I can see or measure. Our God is deeply concerned for what concerns us. He urges us to place all our care upon Him, “for He cares for [us]” (1 Peter 5:7). That is true reality.
O yes, He cares; I know He cares!
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares. —Graeff
Even when we don’t sense God’s presence, His loving care is all around us.

Insight

It appears that each of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) had a distinct audience and approach to telling Jesus’ story. Some scholars believe that Mark’s telling of the story was directed primarily to a Roman audience, and that his approach to Christ was to present Him as the “divine Servant.” This theme is rooted in Jesus’ own words about His mission when He said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This theme would have had a strong connection for a Roman audience in the first century.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Re-post From Randy Kilgore of Our Daily Bread

Does God Care?

Minnie and George Lacy were faced with some questions: “Is Jesus enough? Is our relationship with Christ sufficient to sustain us? Will He be enough to help us want to go on living? Does He care?”
While serving as missionaries in 1904, the Lacys’ youngest daughter fell ill. Then in rapid succession, all five of their children died from scarlet fever, none living to see the new year. In letters to the mission board George Lacy wrote about their deep loneliness and grief: “Sometimes it seems more than we can bear.” But then he added, “The Lord is with us and is wonderfully helping us.” In this, their darkest time, they found that Jesus was near and He was enough.
Many of us will face moments when we will wonder if we can go on. If our health fails, if our job disappears, if we lose those closest to us, will we find our relationship with the Lord real enough to keep us pressing forward?
The psalmist reminds us of God’s presence and faithfulness (Ps. 30). When he was deeply depressed, he cried out, “Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!” (v.10). God gave Him healing and comfort (vv.2-3).
As believers in Jesus, we will never lack what we need to persevere. The Lord will always be near.
Though tempted and sadly discouraged,
My soul to this refuge will flee
And rest in the blessed assurance,
“My grace is sufficient for thee.” —Anon.
Faith in an all-sufficient Christ enables us to press on.

Insight

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5). David was no stranger to sadness and grief. In these two poignant lines of Scripture we see how anguish can disturb sleep and seem to last throughout the night. But there is always the assurance that each new day brings the hope of God’s providential deliverance and help. This realization can bring joy even to those who grieve.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Re-post From Joe Stowell of Our Daily Bread


Hands Off!

I remember bobbing for apples when I was a child, a game that required me to have my hands tied behind my back. Trying to grab a floating apple with my teeth without the use of my hands was a frustrating experience. It reminded me of the vital importance of our hands—we eat with them, greet with them, and use them to do just about anything that is vital to our existence.
When I read Psalm 46:10, I find it interesting that God says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” The Hebrew word for “still” means to “cease striving,” or, literally, “to put our hands at our side.” At first glance this seems to be a rather risky piece of advice, since our first instinct in trouble is to keep our hands on the situation and control it to our advantage. God in essence is saying, “Hands off! Let Me deal with your problem, and rest assured that the outcome is in My hands.”
But knowing when to take our hands off and let God work can make us feel vulnerable. Unless, that is, we believe that God is indeed “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (v.1) and that “the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge” (v.7). In the midst of trouble, we can rest in God’s care.
Lord, forgive me for always wanting
to manage my own affairs.
Teach me to trust in Your wise and timely
intervention in my life and to keep my hands out of Your way.
When we put our problems in God’s hands, He puts His peace in our hearts.

Insight

We often think of this passage in times of busyness and stress, and we emphasize that the stillness means “to cease striving.” But the imagery in verses 2-4 and 8-9 (the destruction of the earth and the weapons of war) suggests that even when self-preservation is the aim, our hands should be at our sides and our trust should be in God.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Re-post From Julie Ackerman Link of Our Daily Bread

Mosaic

For 3 weeks every fall season, our city becomes an art gallery. Nearly 2,000 artists from around the world display their creations in galleries, museums, hotels, parks, city streets, parking lots, restaurants, churches, and even in the river.
Among my favorite entries are mosaics made from small pieces of colored glass. The winning entry in 2011 was a 9 x 13-foot stained-glass mosaic of the crucifixion by artist Mia Tavonatti. While viewing the artwork, I heard the artist discuss how many times she had cut herself while shaping the pieces of glass for her mosaic.
As I gazed at the beautiful rendition of what was a horrific event, I saw more than a representation of the crucifixion—I saw a picture of the church, the body of Christ. In each piece of glass I saw an individual believer, beautifully shaped by Christ to fit together into the whole (Eph. 2:16,21). In the artist’s story, I recognized the shedding of Jesus’ blood so that this unity could take place. And in the finished artwork, I saw the act of love required to complete the project despite pain and sacrifice.
We who believe in Christ are a work of art created by God to show the greatness of a Savior who makes something beautiful out of the broken pieces of our lives.
The church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation,
By water and the Word. —Stone
Christ gave everything to make something beautiful of His church.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Re-post From Bill Crowder of Our Daily Bread

What Love Is


Years ago I asked a young man who was engaged to be married, “How do you know that you love her?” It was a loaded question, intended to help him look at his heart’s motives for the upcoming marriage. After several thoughtful moments, he responded, “I know I love her because I want to spend the rest of my life making her happy.”
We discussed what that meant—and the price tag attached to the selflessness of constantly seeking the best for the other person, rather than putting ourselves first. Real love has a lot to do with sacrifice.
That idea is in line with the wisdom of the Bible. In the Scriptures there are several Greek words for love but the highest form is agape love—love that is defined and driven by self-sacrifice. Nowhere is this more true than in the love our heavenly Father has shown us in Christ. We are deeply valued by Him. Paul stated, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
If sacrifice is the true measure of love, there could be no more precious gift than Jesus: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16 nlt).
Amazing love!
How can it be
That Thou, my God,
Shouldst die for me? —Wesley
The measure of love is what you are willing to give up for it.

Insight

As a result of Christ’s sacrifice, Paul mentions two great benefits for the follower of Christ. In verse 1, he says that we have “peace with God,” an idea that he unpacks in Philippians 4, where we read of the incomprehensible peace of God, but also the relationship we have with the God of peace Himself (vv.8-9). In Romans 5:2, Paul also declares that we now have “access” to God. This was a stunning idea that he explained more fully in Colossians 1:21, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled.” We receive the gifts of peace with God and access to God because of Christ’s loving sacrifice on our behalf.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Re-post From Mart De Haan of Our Daily Bread

Shadowed

Someone was shadowing me. In a darkened hallway, I turned the corner to go up a flight of stairs and was alarmed by what I saw, stopping dead in my tracks. It happened again a few days later. I came around the back of a favorite coffee shop and saw the large shape of a person coming at me. Both incidents ended with a smile, however. I’d been frightened by my own shadow!
The prophet Jeremiah talked about the difference between real and imagined fears. A group of his Jewish countrymen asked him to find out whether the Lord wanted them to stay in Jerusalem or return to Egypt for safety because they feared the king of Babylon (Jer. 42:1-3). Jeremiah told them that if they stayed and trusted God, they didn’t need to be afraid (vv.10-12). But if they returned to Egypt, the king of Babylon would find them (vv.15-16).
In a world of real dangers, God had given Israel reason to trust Him in Jerusalem. He had already rescued them from Egypt. Centuries later, the long-awaited Messiah died for us to deliver us from our own sin and fear of death. May our Almighty God show us today how to live in the security of His shadow, rather than in shadowy fears of our own making.
Trust when your skies are darkening,
Trust when your light grows dim,
Trust when the shadows gather,
Trust and look up to Him. —Anon.
Under the protecting shadow of God’s wing, the little shadows of life lose their terror.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Re-post From Dave Branon of Our Daily Bread

New To The Family

While on a ministry trip with a Christian high school chorale to Jamaica, we witnessed an illustration of God’s love in action. On the day we visited an orphanage for disabled children and teens, we learned that Donald, one of the boys our kids had interacted with—a teen with cerebral palsy—was going to be adopted.
When the adopting couple arrived at the “base” where we were staying, it was a joy to talk to them about Donald. But what was even better was what happened later. We were at the base when Donald and his new parents arrived just after they had picked him up at the orphanage. As the brand-new mom embraced her son, our students gathered around her and sang praise songs. Tears flowed. Tears of joy. And Donald was beaming!
Later, one of the students said to me, “This reminds me of what it must be like in heaven when someone is saved. The angels rejoice because someone has been adopted into God’s family.” Indeed, it was a picture of the joy of heaven when someone new joins God’s forever family by faith in Christ. Jesus spoke of that grand moment when He said, “There will be . . . joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7).
Praise God that He has adopted us into His family. No wonder the angels rejoice!
The One who made the heavens,
Who died on Calvary,
Rejoices with His angels
When one soul is set free. —Fasick
Angels rejoice when we repent.

Insight

In Luke 15, Jesus delivers a trilogy of parables to describe the pursuing love of God for the lost. The first, seen here in verses 3-7, displays the shepherd desperately pursuing his lost sheep. The second, in verses 8-10, pictures a woman tenaciously searching for a lost coin. The third, in verses 11-32, tells of a father’s compassion for a wayward child and of his grace and forgiveness when that prodigal returns home. In each parable, the result of finding the lost is a celebration (vv.6,9,22-24) that depicts the great joy experienced in heaven when the lost return to their heavenly Father.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Re-post From Dennis Fisher of Our Daily Bread

All Together

For years my wife’s piano and my banjo had an uncomfortable and infrequent relationship. Then, after Janet bought me a new guitar for my birthday, she expressed an interest in learning to play my old guitar. She is a very capable musician, and soon we were, together, playing songs of praise on our guitars. I like to think that a new kind of “praise connection” has filled our home.
When the psalmist was inspired to write of worshiping God, he began with this exhortation: “Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises” (Ps. 98:4). He called for us to “sing to the Lord” with instruments such as harps and trumpets and horns (vv.5-6). He commanded all of the earth to “shout joyfully to the Lord” (v.4). In this mighty orchestration of praise, the rolling sea is to roar with exaltation, the rivers are to clap their hands, and the hills are to sing out in joy. All the human race and creation are together called to praise the Lord in “a new song” of praise, “for He has done marvelous things” (v.1).
Today let your heart connect with others and God’s creation in singing songs of praise to the mighty Creator and Redeemer.
Let us celebrate together,
Lift our voice in one accord,
Singing of God’s grace and mercy
And the goodness of the Lord. —Sper
God can use ordinary instruments to produce a concert of praise.

Insight

Psalm 98 pictures and celebrates God the Savior (vv.1-3), God the King (vv.4-6), and God the Judge (vv.7-9). It also celebrates His mercy and faithfulness to His people (v.3). It extols God as the righteous King who will rule the whole world with justice and fairness (v.9). This call to celebrate is universal, extending to the congregation at the temple (v.1), to the nations (v.2), and to the whole earth (v.4).

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Re-post From Cindy Hess Kasper of Our Daily Bread

First Response

When my husband, Tom, was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery, I began to call family members. My sister and her husband came right away to be with me, and we prayed as we waited. Tom’s sister listened to my anxious voice on the phone and immediately said, “Cindy, can I pray with you?” When my pastor and his wife arrived, he too prayed for us (James 5:13-16).
Oswald Chambers wrote: “We tend to use prayer as a last resort, but God wants it to be our first line of defense. We pray when there’s nothing else we can do, but God wants us to pray before we do anything at all.”
At its root, prayer is simply a conversation with God, spoken in the expectation that God hears and answers. Prayer should not be a last resort. In His Word, God encourages us to engage Him in prayer (Phil. 4:6). We also have His promise that when “two or three are gathered together” in His name, He will be “there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).
For those who have experienced the power of the Almighty, our first inclination often will be to cry out to Him. Nineteenth-century pastor Andrew Murray said: “Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us.”
When I come before His presence
In the secret place of prayer,
Do I know the wondrous greatness
Of His power to meet me there? —Hallen
Pray first!

Insight

The book of James is often referred to as the Proverbs of the New Testament. This is an accurate description, for James is filled with practical advice for daily life as a Christian. In today’s passage, James points out that prayer is the appropriate response to any situation. If we suffer, we should pray. If we are happy, we should pray. If we are sick, prayer is the response. James uses a device called merism, which describes the whole by its parts. He highlights the extremes of life—suffering, happiness, sickness—to say that everything in between is included. Like Paul, James is telling us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Re-post From Poh Fang Chia of Our Daily Bread

Tiny Island

Singapore is a tiny island. It’s so small that one can hardly spot it on the world map. (Try it, if you don’t already know where Singapore is.) Because it is densely populated, consideration of others is especially important. A man wrote to his fiancĂ©e who was coming to Singapore for the first time: “Space is limited. Therefore . . . you must always have that sense of space around you. You should always step aside to ensure you are not blocking anyone. The key is to be considerate.”
The apostle Paul wrote to Titus, a young pastor: “Remind the people . . . to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone” (Titus 3:1-2 niv). It has been said, “Our lives may be the only Bible some people read.” The world knows that Christians are supposed to be different. If we are cantankerous, self-absorbed, and rude, what will others think about Christ and the gospel we share?
Being considerate is a good motto to live by and is possible as we depend on the Lord. And it is one way to model Christ and demonstrate to the world that Jesus saves and transforms lives.
Dear Lord, help us to be gracious, kind, and
considerate not only in the church but also in our
community. May the world who watches see
transformed people and believe in Your transforming power.
Your witness is only as strong as your character.

Insight

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Titus “was with Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, and accompanied them to the council at Jerusalem (Gal. 2:1-3; Acts 15:2) . . . . He appears to have been a Gentile, and to have been chiefly engaged in ministering to Gentiles; for Paul sternly refused to have him circumcised . . . . [Later] he was sent by Paul to Corinth for the purpose of getting the contributions of the church there in behalf of the poor saints at Jerusalem sent forward (2 Cor. 8:6, 12:18).”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Re-post From Julie Ackerman Link of Our Daily Bread

Undeserved Praise

Even before I could afford a self-cleaning oven, I managed to keep my oven clean. Guests even commented on it when we had them over for a meal. “Wow, your oven is so clean. It looks like new.” I accepted the praise even though I knew I didn’t deserve it. The reason my oven was clean had nothing to do with my meticulous scrubbing; it was clean because I so seldom used it.
How often, I wonder, am I guilty of accepting undeserved admiration for my “clean” life? It’s easy to give the impression of being virtuous; simply do nothing difficult, controversial, or upsetting to people. But Jesus said we are to love people who don’t agree with us, who don’t share our values, who don’t even like us. Love requires that we get involved in the messy situations of people’s lives. Jesus was frequently in trouble with religious leaders who were more concerned about keeping their own reputations clean than they were about the spiritual condition of those they were supposed to care for. They considered Jesus and His disciples unclean for mingling with sinners when they were simply trying to rescue people from their destructive way of life (Luke 5:30-31).
True disciples of Jesus are willing to risk their own reputations to help others out of the mire of sin.
Dear Lord, give me a heart of compassion for
those who are lost in sin. Help me not to be
concerned about what others think of me but
only that Your holy name will be honored.
Christ sends us out to bring others in.

Insight

The role of tax collector in first-century Israel was quite different from what we would think today. Ancient Rome operated on the back of the taxes drained from conquered lands like Israel. This was overseen by the local governor (or procurator), but it was actually accomplished by local citizens like Levi (also known as Matthew), who worked for Rome. These tax collectors, however, were not viewed as simple agents or bureaucrats. They were known to charge higher taxes than were due and to pocket the excess. They were despised as collaborators who had aligned themselves with the hated occupying force. The taxes they collected were a continuing symbol of the oppression the Jews felt as a conquered people, and the tax collectors were considered participants in that oppression.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Re-post From Marion Stroud of Our Daily Bread

The Right Foundation

“I’ve got bad news for you,” said the builder, who was renovating an old house I had inherited. “When we started to convert the back half of the garage for your office, we found that the walls had almost no foundation. We will have to demolish them, dig proper foundations, and start again.”
“Do you have to do that?” I pleaded, silently calculating the extra cost. “Can’t you just patch it up?” But the builder was adamant. “Unless we go down to the proper depth, the building inspector won’t approve it. The right foundation is vital.”
The right foundation makes the difference between something that lasts and something temporary. Jesus knew that though foundations are invisible, they are vitally important to the strength and stability of the house (Matt. 7:24-25), especially when it is battered by the elements. He also knew the hearts of His listeners. They would be tempted to take the easy way, find shortcuts, or do things by halves to gain their objectives.
Other foundations may be quicker and easier. Building our lives on the right foundation is hard work, but God’s truth is the only bedrock worth building on. When the storms of life hit, houses built on and held together by Him stand firm.
Father, the winds of life’s storms can be
powerful and threatening. Thank You for the
foundation of the truth of Your faithfulness. Help
me to rely on Your strength in my storms.
The wise man builds his house upon the Rock.

Insight

Jesus had just finished giving His “Sermon on the Mount” when He used the analogy found in today’s passage. His teachings provide a stable foundation that will weather any storm. The wind, the rain, and the house are not the problem. The house built on the sand fell down because the sand provided no support in the wind and rain. The wind and rain washed and blew away the foundation so that there was nothing to support the house. Even the best house will crumble with no foundation.

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