Our Daily Bread
Dumb Sheep, Good Shepherd
Tue, 13 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

My friend Chad spent a year as a shepherd in Wyoming. “Sheep are so dumb that they’ll only eat what is right in front of them,” he told me. “Even if they’ve eaten all the grass in front of them, they won’t turn to look for a fresh patch—they’ll just start eating dirt!”

We laughed, and I couldn’t help but think about how often the Bible compares humans to sheep. No wonder we need a shepherd! But since sheep are so dumb, not just any shepherd will do. Sheep need a shepherd who cares about them. When the prophet Ezekiel wrote to God’s people in exile, captives in Babylon, he compared them to sheep led by bad shepherds. Instead of caring for the flock, Israel’s leaders had exploited them, profiting from them (v. 3) and then leaving them for the wild animals to devour (v. 6).

But they were not without hope. God, the good shepherd, promised to rescue them from the leaders who exploited them. He promised to bring them home, put them in lush pastures, and give them rest. He would heal the injured and go after the lost (vv. 11–16). He would banish wild animals, so that his flock would be safe (v. 28).

As God’s flock, we are in need of tender care and direction. How blessed we are to have a Shepherd who is always leading us to green pastures! (v.14).

Who’s Driving?
Mon, 12 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

My neighbor Tim has a figurine on his dashboard of a “wild thing” from Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.

Not long ago Tim was following me through traffic and made some abrupt moves to keep up. When we arrived, I asked, “Was that the ‘wild thing’ driving?”

The following Sunday I forgot my sermon notes at home. I “flew” out of the church to retrieve them, passing Tim along the way. When we met later, he joked, “Was that the wild thing driving?” We laughed, but his point hit home—I should have paid attention to the speed limit.

When the Bible describes what it means to live in a relationship with God, it encourages us to “offer every part of [ourselves]” to Him (Romans 6:13). I took Tim’s response to me that day as a gentle reminder from God to yield my “lead foot,” because I am to give all of myself to Him out of love.

The question of “who’s driving?” applies to all of life. Do we let the “wild things” of our old sin nature drive us—like worry, fear, or self-will—or do we yield to God’s loving Spirit and the grace that helps us grow?

Giving in to God is good for us. Scripture says that God’s wisdom takes us down “pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). Better to follow where He leads. 

Confident Hope
Sun, 11 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

Dr. William Wallace was serving as a missionary surgeon in Wuzhou, China, in the 1940s when Japan attacked China. Wallace, who was in charge of Stout Memorial Hospital at the time, ordered the hospital to load his equipment on barges and continue to function as a hospital while floating up and down rivers to avoid infantry attacks. 

During dangerous times, Philippians 1:21—one of Wallace’s favorite verses—reminded him that if he lived, he had work to do for the Savior; but if he died, he had the promise of eternity with Christ. The verse took on special poignancy when he died while falsely imprisoned in 1951.

Paul’s writing reflects a deep devotion we can aspire to as followers of Jesus; enabling us to face trials and even danger for His sake. It is devotion enabled by the Holy Spirit and the prayers of those closest to us (v. 19). It’s also a promise. Even when we surrender ourselves to continued service under difficult circumstances, it is with this reminder: when our life and work end here, we still have the joy of eternity with Christ ahead of us.

In our hardest moments, with hearts committed to walking with Christ now, and with our eyes firmly fixed on the promise of eternity with Him, may our days and our acts bless others with the love of God. 

His Presence
Sat, 10 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

The anxious father and his teenage son sat before the psychic. “How far is your son traveling?” the psychic asked. “To the big city,” the man replied, “and he will be gone for a long time.” Handing the father a talisman (a kind of good-luck charm), he said, “This will protect him wherever he goes.”

I was that boy. However, that psychic and that talisman could do nothing for me. While in that city, I put my faith in Jesus. I threw away the talisman and clung to Christ. Having Jesus in my life guaranteed God’s presence.

Thirty years later, my father, now a believer, said to me as we rushed my brother to the hospital, “Let us first pray; the Spirit of God goes with you and will be with you all the way!” We had learned that God’s presence and power is our only security.

Moses learned a similar lesson. He had a challenging task from God—to lead the people out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised Land (Exodus 3:10). But God assured him, “I will be with you” (v. 12).

Our journey too is not without challenges, but we are assured of God’s presence. As Jesus told His disciples, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

What We Can Do
Fri, 09 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

Even though confined to his bed, 92-year-old Morrie Boogaart continues to knit hats for the homeless in Michigan. By February 2017, he had reportedly made over 8,000 hats in fifteen years. Instead of focusing on his health or limitations, Mr. Boogaart looks beyond himself and does what he can to place the needs of others above his own. He declared that his work made him feel good and gave him a purpose. “I’m going to do this until I go home to the Lord,” he said. Though most recipients of his hats won’t know his story or how much he sacrificed to create each love cap, Morrie’s simple act of persevering love is now inspiring people across the world.

We too can look past our struggles, place others before ourselves, and imitate our loving and compassionate Savior—Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:1–5). God in the flesh—the King of Kings—took on the “very nature of a servant” in genuine humility (vv. 6–7). Giving His life—the ultimate sacrifice—He took our place on the cross (v. 8). Jesus gave everything for us . . . all for the glory of God the Father (vv. 9–11).

As Christ followers, it’s our privilege to show love and demonstrate concern for others through acts of kindness. Even if we don’t think we have much to offer, we can adopt the attitude of servanthood. We can actively seek opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives by simply doing what we can do.

Fathers and Sons
Thu, 08 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

My father was a good father, and, in most respects, I was a dutiful son. But I allowed my father to starve for the one thing I could have given him: myself.

He was a quiet man; I was equally silent. We often worked for hours side-by-side with scarcely a word passing between us. He never asked; I never told him my deepest desires and dreams, my hopes and fears. 

In time I woke up to my reticence. Perhaps the perception came when my first son was born, or when, one by one, my sons went out into the world. Now I wish I had been more of a son to my father.

I think of all the things I could have told him. And all the things he could have told me. At his funeral I stood beside his casket, struggling to understand my emotions. “It’s too late, isn’t it?” my wife said quietly. Exactly. 

My comfort lies in the fact that we’ll be able to set things right in heaven, for is that not where every tear will be wiped away? (Revelation 21:4).

For believers in Jesus, death is not the end of affection but the beginning of timeless existence in which there will be no more misunderstandings; relationships will be healed and love will grow forever. There, the hearts of sons will turn to their fathers and the hearts of fathers to their sons (Malachi 4:6 esv). 

I’m Sorry
Wed, 07 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

In 2005, Collins falsified a report that resulted in McGee being thrown in prison for four years; and McGee vowed to find Collins when he got out and “hurt him.” McGee was eventually exonerated, but not before he lost everything. Meanwhile, Collins’s many falsified reports were uncovered, he lost his job, and he too spent time behind bars. But both men came to faith in Christ while in prison.

In 2015, the two discovered they were working together in the same faith-based company. Collins recalls, “I [told McGee], ‘Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I’m sorry.’” It was “pretty much what I needed to hear,” said McGee, who graciously forgave him. The men were able to reconcile because both had experienced the incomparable love and forgiveness of God, who empowers us to “forgive as the Lord forgave [us]” (Colossians 3:13).  

Now the two are great friends. “We have this joint mission . . . of letting the world know that if you owe an apology to somebody, put your pride down and go apologize,” said Collins. “And if you’re holding something against somebody, let go of the bitterness because it’s like drinking poison and hoping it’s hurting them.”

God calls believers to live in peace and unity. If we “have a grievance against someone,” we can bring it to Him. He will help us to reconcile (vv. 13–15; Philippians 4:6–7).

Dad at the Dentist
Tue, 06 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

I didn’t expect a profound lesson about the Father’s heart at the dentist’s office—but I got one. I was there with my ten-year-old son. He had an adult tooth coming in under a baby tooth that hadn’t fallen out yet. It had to come out. There was no other way.

My son, in tears, pleaded with me: “Dad, isn’t there another way? Can’t we just wait and see? Please, Dad, I don’t want to have this tooth pulled!” It just about broke my heart, but I told him, “Son, it’s got to come out. I’m sorry. There’s no other way.” And I held his hand as he wriggled and writhed while the dentist removed that stubborn molar, tears in my eyes, too. I couldn’t take his pain away; the best I could offer was to be present with him in it.

In that moment, I remembered Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, asking His Father for a different way. How it must have broken the Father’s heart to see His beloved Son in such agony!  Yet there was no other way to save His people.

In our lives, we sometimes face unavoidable yet painful moments—just like my son did. But because of Jesus’s work for us, through His Spirit, even in our darkest moments our loving heavenly Father is always present with us (Matthew 28:20)—just as I was present and holding my son’s hand that hard day.

Wisdom’s Source
Mon, 05 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

A man filed a lawsuit against a woman, claiming she had his dog. In court, the woman said her dog couldn’t be his dog because she had purchased the five-year-old canine on the street. Although the plaintiff said his dog was younger, the real owner’s identity was revealed when the judge released the animal in the courtroom. Tail wagging, it immediately ran to the plaintiff!

Solomon, a judge in ancient Israel needed to settle a somewhat similar issue. Two women each claimed to be the mother of the same baby boy. After considering both arguments, he requested a sword to divide the infant in half. The real mother begged Solomon to give the baby to the other woman, choosing to save her son’s life even if she could not have him (1 Kings 3:26). Solomon gave the baby to her.

Wisdom is necessary input as we decide what’s fair and moral, right and wrong.. If we truly value wisdom, we can ask God for a discerning heart, like Solomon did (v. 9). God may answer our request by helping us balance our needs and desires with the interests of others. He may also help us weigh short-term benefits against long-term (sometimes eternal) gains so we can honor Him in how we live.

Our God is not only a perfectly wise judge, but He is also a personal counselor who is willing to give us godly wisdom in great amounts (James 1:5).

Still the King
Sun, 04 Nov 2018 00:00:00 +0000

One news report called it “the single deadliest day for Christians in decades.” The pair of attacks on Sunday worshipers in April 2017 defies our understanding. We simply don’t have a category to describe bloodshed in a house of worship. But we can find some help from others who know this kind of pain well.

Most of the people of Jerusalem were in exile or had been slain when Asaph wrote Psalm 74. Pouring out his heart’s anguish, he described the destruction of the temple at the hands of ruthless invaders. “Your foes roared in the place where you met with us,” Asaph said (v. 4). “They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name” (v. 7). 

Yet the psalmist found a place to stand despite the awful reality—encouragement that we can do so too. “But God is my King from long ago,” Asaph resolved. “He brings salvation on the earth” (v. 12). This truth enabled Asaph to praise God’s mighty power even though His salvation seemed absent in the moment. “Have regard for your covenant,” Asaph prayed. “Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace; may the poor and needy praise your name” (vv. 20–21).

When justice and mercy seem absent, God’s love and power are in no way diminished. With Asaph, we can confidently say, “But God is my King.”


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