An excellent resource that we have used for our daily devotions for many years is Our Daily Bread.
Our Daily Bread
Turns out that crooked church steeples make people nervous. When we visited with some friends, they shared how, after a fierce windstorm, their church's proud steeple was . . . crooked, causing some alarm.
Of course, the church quickly repaired the flagging spire, but the humorous image got me thinking. Often church is seen as a place where everything is expected to look perfect; it’s not seen as a place where we can show up… crooked. Right?
But in a fallen, broken world, all of us are “crooked,” each with our own collection of natural weaknesses. We might be tempted to keep our vulnerabilities under wraps, but Scripture encourages the opposite attitude. In 2 Corinthians 12, for example, Paul suggests that it’s in our weaknesses—for him, an unnamed struggle he calls a “thorn in the flesh” (v. 7)—that Christ is most likely to reveal His power. For Jesus had told Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness" (v. 9). So Paul concluded, "For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (v. 10).
We may not like our imperfections, but hiding them only denies Jesus’s power to work within those aspects of ourselves. When we invite Christ into the crooked places in us, He gently mends and redeems in ways our effort could never accomplish.
While on a hike with my kids, we discovered a light, springy green plant growing in small clumps on the trail. According to a signpost, the plant is commonly called deer moss, but it’s not actually a moss at all. It’s a lichen. A lichen is a fungus and an alga growing together in a mutualistic relationship in which both organisms benefit from each other. Neither the fungus nor the alga can survive on its own, but together they form a hardy plant that can live in some alpine areas for up to 4,500 years. Because the plant can withstand drought and low temperatures, it is one of the only food sources for caribou (reindeer) in deep winter.
The relationship between the fungus and the alga reminds me of our human relationships. We rely on each other. To grow and flourish, we need to be in relationship with each other.
Paul, writing to believers in Colossae, describes how our relationships should look. We are to clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12). We ought to forgive each other and live in peace “as members of one body” (v. 15).
It’s not always easy to live in peace with our families or friends. But when the Spirit empowers us to have humility and forgiveness in our relationships, our love for each other points to Christ (John 13:35) and brings glory to God.
Twenty minutes into a flight from New York to San Antonio, the flight plan changed as calm gave way to chaos. When one of the plane’s engines failed, debris from the engine smashed through a window causing the cabin to decompress. Sadly, several passengers were injured and one person was killed. Had not a calm, capable pilot been in the cockpit—one trained as a Navy fighter pilot—things could have been tragically worse. The headline in our local paper read, “In Amazing Hands.”
In Psalm 31, David revealed that he knew something about the Lord’s amazing, caring hands. That’s why he could confidently say, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (Psalm 31: 5). David believed that the Lord could be trusted even when life got bumpy. Because he was targeted by unfriendly forces, life was very uncomfortable for David. Though vulnerable, he was not without hope. In the midst of harassment David could breathe sighs of relief and rejoice because his faithful, loving God was his source of confidence (vv. 5–7).
Perhaps you find yourself in a season of life when things are coming at you from every direction, and it’s difficult to see what’s ahead. In the midst of uncertainty, confusion, and chaos one thing remains absolutely certain: those who are secure in the Lord are in amazing hands.
“Bear” was a gift for my grandchild—a heaping helping of love contained in a giant stuffed animal frame. Baby D’s response? First, wonder. Next, an amazed awe. Then, a curiosity that nudged a daring exploration. He poked his pudgy finger at Bear’s nose, and when the Bear tumbled forward into his arms he responded with joy joy JOY! Baby D laid his toddler head down on Bear’s fluffy chest and hugged him tightly. A dimpled smile spread across his cheeks as he burrowed deeply into Bear’s cushiony softness. The child had no idea of Bear’s inability to truly love him. Innocently and naturally, he felt love from Bear and returned it with all his heart.
In his first of three letters to early Christians, the apostle John boldly states that God Himself is love. “We know and rely on the love God has for us,” he writes. “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
God loves. Not in the pillow of a pretend animal but rather, with the outstretched arms of a real human body encasing a beating but breaking heart (John 3:16). Through Jesus, God communicated His extravagant and sacrificial love for us.
John goes on in verse 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” When we believe we are loved, we love back. God’s real love makes it possible for us to love God and others. With all our hearts.
In just six months, Gerald’s life fell apart. An economic crisis destroyed his business and wealth, while a tragic accident took his son’s life. Overcome by shock, his mother had a heart attack and died, his wife went into depression, and his two young daughters remained inconsolable. All he could do was echo the words of the psalmist, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).
The only thing that kept Gerald going was the hope that God, who raised Jesus to life, would one day deliver him and his family from their pain to an eternal life of joy. It was a hope that God would answer his desperate cries for help. In his despair, like the psalmist David, he determined to trust God in the midst of his suffering. He held on to the hope that God would deliver and save him (vv. 4–5).
That hope sustained Gerald. Over the years, whenever he was asked how he was, he could only say, “Well, I’m trusting God.”
God honored that trust, giving Gerald the comfort, strength, and courage to keep going through the years. His family slowly recovered from the crisis, and soon Gerald welcomed the birth of his first grandchild. His cry is now a testimony of God’s faithfulness. “I’m no more ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ God has blessed me.”
When it seems there’s nothing left, there’s still hope.
During a landscape painting class I took, the teacher, a highly experienced professional artist, assessed my first assignment. He stood silently in front of my painting, one hand cupping his chin. Here we go, I thought. He’s going to say it’s terrible.
But he didn’t.
He said he liked the color scheme and the feeling of openness. Then he mentioned that the trees in the distance could be lightened. A cluster of weeds needed softer edges. He had the authority to criticize my work based on the rules of perspective and color, yet his critique was truthful and kind.
Jesus, who was perfectly qualified to condemn people for their sin, didn’t use the Ten Commandments to crush a Samaritan woman He met at an ancient watering hole. He gently critiqued her life with just a handful of statements. The result was that she saw how her search for satisfaction had led her into sin. Building on this awareness, Jesus revealed Himself as the only source of eternal satisfaction (John 4:10-13).
The combination of grace and truth that Jesus used in this situation is what we experience in our relationship with Him (John 1:17). His grace prevents us from being overwhelmed by our sin, and His truth prevents us from thinking it isn’t a serious matter.
Will we invite Jesus to show us areas of our lives where we need to grow so we can become more like Him?
“Ah, every pier is a longing in stone!” says a line in Fernando Pessoa’s Portuguese poem “Ode Marítima.” Pessoa’s pier represents the emotions we feel as a ship moves slowly away from us. The vessel departs but the pier remains, an enduring monument to hopes and dreams, partings and yearnings. We ache for what is lost, and for what we can’t quite reach.
The Portuguese word translated “longing” (saudade) refers to a nostalgic yearning we feel—a deep ache that defies definition. In essence, the poet is describing the indescribable.
We might say that Mount Nebo was Moses’s “longing in stone.” From Nebo he gazed into the Promised Land—a land he would never reach. The Lord’s words to Moses—“I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it” (Deuteronomy 34:4)—might seem harsh. But if that’s all we see here, we miss the heart of what’s happening. God is speaking immense comfort to Moses: “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants’” (v. 4). Very soon, Moses would leave Nebo for a Land far better than Canaan (v. 5).
Life often finds us standing on the pier. Loved ones depart; hopes fade; dreams die. Amid it all we sense echoes of Eden and hints of heaven. Our longings point us to God. He is the fulfillment we yearn for.
After I turned nineteen, and years before I owned a pager or a cell phone, I moved more than 700 miles away from my mom. One morning, I left early to run errands, forgetting our scheduled call. Later that night, two policemen came to my door. Mom had been worried because I’d never missed one of our chats. After calling repeatedly and getting a busy signal, she reached out to the authorities and insisted they check on me. One of the police officers turned to me and said, “It’s a blessing to know love won’t stop looking for you.”
When I picked up the phone to call my mom, I realized I had accidently left the receiver off its base. After I apologized, she said she needed to spread the good news to the family and friends she had informed that I’d been missing. I hung up thinking she’d overreacted a bit, though it felt good to be loved that much.
Scripture paints a beautiful picture of God, who is Love, relentlessly beckoning His wandering children. Like a good shepherd, He cares about and seeks out every lost sheep, affirming the priceless value of every beloved child of God (Luke 15:1-7).
Love never stops looking for us. He will pursue us until we’ve returned to Him. We can pray for others who need to know that Love—God—never stops looking for them either.
My anxiety increased throughout the summer between my undergraduate and graduate programs. I love to have everything planned out, and the idea of going out of state and entering graduate school without a job made me uncomfortable. However, a few days before I left my summer job, I was asked to continue working for the company remotely. I accepted and had peace that God was taking care of me.
God provided, but it was in His timing, not mine. Abraham went through a far more difficult situation with his son Isaac. He was asked to take his son and sacrifice him in the mountains (Genesis 22:1–2). Without hesitation, Abraham obeyed and took Isaac to the mountains. This three-day journey gave Abraham plenty of time to change his mind, but he didn’t (vv. 3–4).
When Isaac questioned his father, Abraham replied, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering” (v. 8). I wonder if Abraham’s anxiety grew with each knot he tied as he bound Isaac to the altar and with every inch he raised his knife (vv. 9–10). What a relief it must have been when the angel stopped him! (vv. 10–12). God did indeed provide a sacrifice, a ram, caught in the thicket (v. 13). God tested Abraham’s faith, and he proved to be faithful. And at the right time, to the very second, God provided (v. 14).
Since her husband died, Betsy spends most days in her flat, watching television and boiling tea for one. She is not alone in her loneliness. More than nine million Brits (15 percent of the population) say they often or always feel lonely, and Great Britain has appointed a minister of loneliness to find out why and how to help.
Some causes of loneliness are well known: We move too often to put down roots. We can take care of ourselves, and we don’t have a reason to reach out. We are separated by technology—each of us immersed in our own flickering screens.
I feel the dark edge of loneliness, and you may too. This is one reason we need fellow believers. Hebrews concludes its deep discussion of Jesus’s sacrifice by encouraging us to meet together continually (10:25). We belong to the family of God, so love “one another as brothers and sisters” and “[show] hospitality to strangers” (13:1–2). If we each made an effort, everyone would feel cared for.
Lonely people may not return our kindness, but this is no reason to give up. Jesus has promised to never leave nor forsake us (13:5), and we may use His friendship to fuel our love for others. Are you lonely? What ways can you find to serve the family of God? The friends you make in Jesus last forever, through this life and beyond.