An excellent resource that we have used for our daily devotions for many years is Our Daily Bread.
Our Daily Bread
In a poem titled This Child Is Beloved, Omawumi Efueye, known affectionately as Pastor O, writes about his parents’ attempts to end the pregnancy that would result in his birth. After several unusual events that prevented them from aborting him, they decided to welcome their child instead. Omawumi’s awareness of God’s intervention in preserving his life motivated him to give up a lucrative career in favor of full-time ministry. Today, he faithfully pastors a London church.
Like Pastor O, the Israelites experienced God’s intervention at a vulnerable time in their history. While traveling through the wilderness, they came within sight of King Balak of Moab. Terrified of their conquests and their vast population, Balak engaged a seer named Balaam to place a curse on the unsuspecting travelers (Numbers 22:2–6).
But something amazing happened. Whenever Balaam opened his mouth to curse, a blessing issued instead. “I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it,” he declared. “No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The
Whether we see it or not, God still watches over His people today. May we worship in gratitude and awe the One who calls us blessed.
After Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed by Huaorani tribesmen in 1956, no one expected what happened next. Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, their young daughter, and another missionary’s sister willingly chose to make their home among the very people who killed their loved ones. They spent several years living in the Huaorani community, learning their language, and translating the Bible for them. These women’s testimony of forgiveness and kindness convinced the Huaorani of God’s love for them and many began to follow Jesus.
What Elisabeth and her friend did is an incredible example of not repaying evil with evil but with good (Romans 12:17). The apostle Paul encouraged the church in Rome to show through their actions the transformation that God had brought into their own lives. What did Paul have in mind? They were to go beyond the natural desire to take revenge; instead, they were to show love to their enemies by meeting their needs, such as providing food or water.
Why do this? Recalling a proverb from the Old Testament (Proverbs 25:21–22), Paul said that the kindness shown by believers to their enemies could win them over and light the fire of repentance in their hearts.
Abba, Father, it is difficult, even impossible, for us to love others in our own strength. Help us through Your Spirit to truly love our enemies, and use us to bring them to You.
“Chasing tornadoes,” says Warren Faidley, “is often like a giant game of 3D-chess played out over thousands of square miles.” The photojournalist and storm chaser adds: “Being in the right place at the right time is a symphony of forecasting and navigation while dodging everything from softball-sized hailstones to dust storms and slow-moving farm equipment.”
Faidley’s words make my palms sweat. While admiring the raw courage and scientific hunger storm chasers display, I balk at throwing myself into the middle of potentially fatal weather events.
In my experience, however, I don’t have to chase storms in life—they seem to be chasing me. That experience is mirrored by Psalm 107 as it describes sailors trapped in a storm. They were being chased by the consequences of their wrong choices but the psalmist says, “They cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed” (Psalm 107:28–29).
Whether the storms of life are of our own making or the result of living in a broken world, our Father is greater than the storm. When we are being chased by storms, He alone is able to calm them—or to calm the storm within us.
“Stone Soup,” an old tale with many versions, tells of a starving man who comes to a village, but no one there can spare a crumb of food for him. He puts a stone and water in a pot over a fire. Intrigued, the villagers watch him as he begins to stir his “soup.” Eventually, one brings a couple of potatoes to add to the mix; another has a few carrots. One person adds an onion, another a handful of barley. A farmer donates some milk. Eventually, the “stone soup” becomes a tasty chowder.
That tale illustrates the value of sharing, but it also reminds us to bring what we have, even when it seems to be insignificant. In John 6:1–14 we read of a boy who appears to be the only person in a huge crowd that thought about bringing some food. Jesus’s disciples had little use for the boy’s sparse lunch of five loaves and two fishes. But when it was surrendered, Jesus increased it and fed thousands of hungry people!
I once heard someone say, “You don’t have to feed the five thousand. You just have to bring your loaves and fishes.” Just as Jesus took one person’s meal (John 6:11) and multiplied it far beyond anyone’s expectations or imagination, He’ll accept our meager efforts, talents, and service. He just wants us to be willing to bring what we have to Him.
Ten thousand hours. That’s how long author Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes to become skillful at any craft. Even for the greatest artists and musicians of all time, their tremendous inborn talent wasn’t enough to achieve the level of expertise that they would eventually attain. They needed to immerse themselves in their craft every single day.
As strange as it might seem, we need a similar mentality when it comes to learning to live out the power of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians, Paul encourages the church to be set apart for God. But Paul explained that this couldn’t be achieved through merely obeying a set of rules. Instead we’re called to walk with the Holy Spirit. The Greek word that Paul uses for “walk” in Galatians 5:16 literally means to walk around and around something, or to journey (peripateo). So for Paul, walking with the Spirit meant journeying with the Spirit each day—it’s not just a one-time experience of His power.
May we pray to be filled with the Spirit daily—to yield to the Spirit’s work as He counsels, guides, comforts, and is simply there with us. And as we’re “led by Spirit” in this way (v. 18), we become better and better at hearing His voice and following His leading. Holy Spirit, may I walk with You today, and everyday!
A lot has changed since the electric clock was invented in the 1840s. We now keep time on smart watches, smart phones and laptops. The entire pace of life seems faster—with even our “leisurely” walking speeding up. This is especially true in cities and can have a negative effect on health, scholars say. “We’re just moving faster and faster and getting back to people as quickly as we can,” Professor Richard Wiseman observed. “That’s driving us to think everything has to happen now.”
Moses, the writer of one of the oldest of the Bible’s psalms, reflected on time. He reminds us that God controls life’s pace. “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night,” he wrote (Psalm 90:4).
The secret to time management, therefore, isn’t to go faster or slower. It’s to abide in God, spending more time with Him. Then we get in step with each other, but first with Him—the One who formed us (139:13) and knows our purpose and plans (v. 16).
Our time on earth won’t last forever. Yet we can manage our time wisely, not by watching the clock, but by giving each day to God. As Moses said, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (90:12). Then with God, we’ll always be on time, now and forever.
When Jeff was a new believer in Jesus and fresh out of college, he worked for a major oil company. In his role as a salesman, he traveled; and in his travels he heard people’s stories—many of them heartbreaking. He realized that what his customers most needed wasn’t oil, but compassion. They needed God. This led Jeff to attend seminary to learn more about the heart of God and eventually to become a pastor.
Jeff’s compassion had its source in Jesus. In Matthew 9:27–10:8 we get a glimpse of Jesus’s compassion in the miraculous healing of two blind men and one demon-possessed man. Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus went about preaching the gospel and healing “throughout all the cities and villages” (9:35). Why? “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 36).
The world today is still full of troubled and hurting people who need the Savior’s gentle care. Like a shepherd who leads, protects, and cares for His sheep, Jesus extends His compassion to all who come to Him (11:28). No matter where we are in life and what we’re experiencing, in Him we find a heart overflowing with tenderness and care. And when we’ve been a beneficiary of God’s loving compassion, we can’t help but want to extend it to others.
Wallace Stegner’s mother died at the age of fifty. When Wallace, a novelist and short story writer, was eighty, he finally wrote her a note – “Letter, Much Too Late” – in which he praised the virtues of a woman who grew up, married, and raised two sons in the harsh history of the early Western United States. She was the kind of wife and mother who was an encourager, making the best of situations, especially those that were less than desirable. One of his enduring memories is the strength his mother displayed by way of her voice. Stegner wrote: “Singing, naturally. You never lost an opportunity to sing.” As long as she lived, Stegner’s mother sang, grateful for blessings large and small.
The psalmist too took opportunities to sing. There was singing when the days were good, and when they were not so good. The songs were not forced or coerced, but a natural response to the “Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 6) and how He “gives food to the hungry” (v. 7) and “gives sight to the blind” (v.8) and “sustains the fatherless and the widow” (v. 9). This is really a lifestyle of singing, one that builds strength over time as daily trust is placed in “the God of Jacob . . . who “remains faithful forever” (vv. 5–6). The quality of our voices is not the point, but our response to the Lord’s sustaining goodness—a lifestyle of praise. As the old hymn puts it: “There’s within my heart a melody.”
As five-year-old Eldon listened to the pastor talk about Jesus leaving His heavenly kingdom and coming to earth, he gasped when the pastor thanked Him in prayer for dying for our sins. “Oh, no! He died?” the boy said in surprise.
From the start of Jesus’s life on earth, there were people who wanted Him dead. Wise men came to Jerusalem during the reign of King Herod inquiring, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). When the king heard this, he became fearful of one day losing his position to Jesus. So he sent soldiers to kill all the boys two years old and younger around Bethlehem. But God protected His Son and sent an angel to warn His parents to get out of the area. They fled, and He was saved (vv. 13–18).
When Jesus completed His ministry, He was crucified for the sins of the world. The sign placed above His cross, though meant in mockery, read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). Yet three days later He rose in victory from the grave. After ascending to heaven, He sat down on the throne as King of kings and Lord of lords (Philippians 2:8–11).
The King died for our sins—yours, mine, and Eldon’s. Let’s allow Him to rule in our hearts.
Legend has it that at the edges of medieval maps, marking the boundaries of the world the maps’ creators knew at the time, there’d be inscribed the words “Here be dragons”—often alongside vivid illustrations of the terrifying beasts supposedly lurking there.
There’s not much evidence medieval cartographers actually wrote these words, but I like to think they could have. Maybe because “here be dragons” sounds like something I might’ve written at the time—a grim warning that even if I didn’t know exactly what would happen if I ventured into the great unknown, it likely wouldn’t be good!
But there’s one glaring problem with my preferred policy of self-protection and risk-aversion: it’s the opposite of the courage to which I’m called as a follower of Christ (2 Timothy 1:7).
One might even say I’m misguided about what’s really dangerous. As Paul explained, in a broken world, bravely following Christ will sometimes be painful (v. 8). But as those brought from death to life and entrusted with the Spirit’s life flowing in and through us (vv. 9–10,14), how could we not?
When God gives us a gift this staggering, to fearfully shrink back would be the real tragedy—far worse than anything we might face when we follow Jesus’s leading into uncharted territory (vv. 6–8, 12). He can be trusted with our hearts and our future (v. 12).