Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Re-post From Albert Lee of Our Daily Bread

Maintain Unity

A man stranded by himself on an island was finally discovered. His rescuers asked him about the three huts they saw there. He pointed and said, “This one is my home and that one is my church.” He then pointed to the third hut: “That was my former church.” Though we may laugh at the silliness of this story, it does highlight a concern about unity among believers.
The church of Ephesus during the time of the apostle Paul was comprised of both rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, men and women, masters and slaves. And where differences exist, so does friction. One concern Paul wrote about was the issue of unity. But observe what Paul said about this issue in Ephesians 4:3. He didn’t tell them to be “eager to produce or to organize unity.” He told them to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Unity already exists because believers share one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all (vv.4-6).
How do we “keep the unity”? By expressing our different opinions and convictions with lowliness, gentleness, and patience (v.2). The Spirit will give us the power to react in love toward those with whom we disagree.
Lord, may our walk and our service be a
picture of the unity of Father, Son, and Spirit in
heaven above. Fill us with the fruit of the Spirit
that we might love others as You desire.
Unity among believers comes from our union with Christ.


The letter to the Ephesians contains practical advice about following Christ. Today’s passage is a very clear admonition on what that entails. In verse 1, Paul asks the believers in Ephesus to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” In verses 2-3, he explains just what that means: to be lowly and gentle, patient (longsuffering), “bearing with one another in love,” and “endeavoring to keep . . . the bond of peace.” All of these elaborate on how we are to interact with those around us. What happens in our relationship with Christ impacts our other relationships.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

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

Who’s That Hero?

Reading the book of Judges, with its battles and mighty warriors, can sometimes feel like reading about comic book superheroes. We have Deborah, Barak, Gideon, and Samson. However, in the line of judges (or deliverers), we also find Othniel.
The account of his life is brief and straightforward (Judges 3:7-11). No drama. No display of prowess. But what we do see is what God did through Othniel: “The Lord raised up a deliverer” (v.9), “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” (v.10), and “the Lord delivered Cushan-Rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand” (v.10).
The Othniel account helps us focus on what is most important—the activity of God. Interesting stories and fascinating people can obscure that. We end up concentrating on those and fail to see what the Lord is doing.
When I was young, I wished I could be more talented so that I could point more people to Christ. But I was looking at the wrong thing. God often uses ordinary people for His extraordinary work. It is His light shining through our lives that glorifies God and draws others to Him (Matt. 5:16).
When others look at our life, it is more important that they see God—not us.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power. —Wilkinson
Our limited ability highlights God’s limitless power.


The book of Judges gives the story of the people of Israel in the Promised Land, but without their great leaders of the past—Moses and Joshua—and before the first of the kings. This lack of leadership resulted in repeated seasons of rebellion and idolatry during which God would raise up judges to defeat the Israelites’ enemies and to guide the wayward people back to Himself. The story of this era is a difficult one, summarized in the words of Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

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

The Telltale Heart

Recently I read about a private investigator in the US who would knock on a door, show his badge to whoever answered, and say, “I guess we don’t have to tell you why we’re here.” Many times, the person would look stunned and say, “How did you find out?” then go on to describe an undiscovered criminal act committed long ago. Writing in Smithsonian magazine, Ron Rosenbaum described the reaction as “an opening for the primal force of conscience, the telltale heart’s internal monologue.”
We all know things about ourselves that no one else knows—failures, faults, sins—that although confessed to God and forgiven by Him may come back to accuse us again and again. John, one of Jesus’ close followers, wrote about God’s love for us and the call to follow His commands, saying: “By this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (1 John 3:19-20).
Our confidence toward God grows out of His love and forgiveness in Christ, not our performance in life. “We know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (v.24).
God, who knows everything about us, is greater than our self-condemnation.
No condemnation now I dread,
I am my Lord’s and He is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine. —Wesley
The one who receives Christ will never receive God’s condemnation.


Today’s reading establishes the benchmark for loving others by looking at what Jesus did for us on the cross (v.16). We know love because of the willingness of Jesus to die for us, and the necessary response to this love is that we be willing to give of ourselves for others. The context implies that this does not require a physical dying on another’s behalf. It does, however, challenge us to sacrifice our own interests for the welfare of others as evidence that we have received God’s love (v.17).

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Re-post From Philip Yancey of Our Daily Bread

An Important Command

When asked by a lawyer to identify the most important rule in life, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). In those words, Jesus summed up what God most desires from us.
I wonder how I can possibly learn to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind. Neal Plantinga remarks on a subtle change in this commandment as recorded in the New Testament. Deuteronomy charges us to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength (6:5). Jesus added the word mind. Plantinga explains, “You shall love God with everything you have and everything you are. Everything.”
That helps us change our perspective. As we learn to love God with everything, we begin to see our difficulties as “our light and momentary troubles”—just as the apostle Paul described his grueling ordeals. He had in mind a “far more exceeding and eternal . . . glory” (2 Cor. 4:17).
In the advanced school of prayer, where one loves God with the entire soul, doubts and struggles do not disappear, but their effect on us diminishes. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and our urgent questions recede as we learn to trust His ultimate goodness.
Once earthly joy I craved, sought peace and rest;
Now Thee alone I seek; give what is best.
This all my prayer shall be:
More love, O Christ, to Thee. —Prentiss
The most treasured gift we can give to God is one that He can never force us to give—our love.


Many Bible scholars believe that Mark’s gospel record was written primarily to a Roman audience. Part of the reason for this view is rooted in the fast-paced presentation of the story of Jesus with a focus on action and movement. Also contributing to this thinking is Mark’s occasional parenthetical explanations of Jewish practices that would likely have been foreign to the people of Rome. One example is seen in Mark 7:3-4, where the ceremonial washing of hands is described.

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