Our Daily Bread
Victory Parade
Wed, 17 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

In 2016 when the Chicago Cubs baseball team won the World Series, for the first time in more than a century, five million people lined the parade route and gathered at a downtown rally to celebrate the championship.

Victory parades are not a modern invention. A famous ancient parade was the Roman Triumph, in which victorious generals led a procession of their armies and captives through crowded streets.

Such parade imagery was likely in Paul’s mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church thanking God for leading believers “as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession” (2 Corinthians 2:14). I find it fascinating that in this imagery, followers of Christ are the captives. However, as believers we’re not forced to participate, but are willing “captives,” willingly part of the parade led by the victorious, resurrected Christ. As Christians, we celebrate that through Christ’s victory, He is building His kingdom and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

When we talk about Jesus’s victory on the cross and the freedom it gives believers we help spread the “aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14). And whether people find the aroma to be the pleasing reassurance of salvation or the odor of their defeat, this unseen but powerful fragrance is present everywhere we go.

As we follow Christ, we declare His resurrection victory, the victory that makes salvation available to the world.

Precious
Tue, 16 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

“My precious . . .” First portrayed in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the image of the emaciated creature Gollum in his maniacal obsession with the “precious” “ring of power” has become an iconic one today—for greed, obsession, even insanity.

It’s also a troublingly relatable image. In his tormented love-hate relationship with both the ring and with himself, Gollum’s voice echoes the hunger in our own hearts. Whether it’s directed at one thing in particular, or just a vague longing for “more,” we’re sure that once we finally get our own “precious,” we’ll be satisfied. But instead, what we thought would make us whole leaves us feeling even emptier than before.

There’s a better way to live. As David expresses in Psalm 16, when the longings in our hearts threaten to send us on a desperate, futile quest for satisfaction (v. 4), we can remember to turn to God for refuge (v. 1), reminding ourselves that apart from Him we have nothing (v. 4).

And as our eyes stop looking for satisfaction “out there” to gaze instead on God’s beauty (v. 8), we find ourselves finally tasting true contentment—a life of basking in the “joy [of God’s] presence,” walking with Him each moment in “the way of life”—now and forever (v. 11 nlt).

Out of the Trap
Mon, 15 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

The Venus flytrap was first discovered in a small area of sandy wetlands not far from our home in North Carolina. These plants are fascinating to watch because they are carnivorous.

Venus flytraps release a sweet-smelling nectar into colorful traps that resemble open flowers. When an insect crawls inside, triggering sensors along the outer rim, the trap clamps shut in less than a second—capturing its victim. The trap then closes further and emits enzymes that consume its prey over time, giving the plant nutrients not provided by the sandy soil.

God’s Word tells of another trap that can capture unexpectedly. The apostle Paul warned his protégé Timothy: “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” And “some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:9–10).

Money and material things may promise happiness, but when they take first place in our lives, we walk on dangerous ground. We avoid this trap by living with thankful, humble hearts focused on God’s goodness to us through Jesus: “godliness with contentment is great gain” (v. 6).

The transient things of this world never satisfy like God can. True, lasting contentment is found only through our relationship with Him.

In Living Color
Sun, 14 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

When Xavier McCoury put on the glasses Aunt Celena sent for his tenth birthday, he burst into tears. Born colorblind, Xavier had only ever seen the world in shades of gray, white, and black. With his new EnChroma glasses, however, Xavier saw color for the first time. His euphoria at witnessing the beauty around him made his family feel like they’d beheld a miracle.

Witnessing God’s colorfully radiant brilliance also evoked a powerful reaction in the apostle John (Revelation 1:17). After encountering the full glory of the resurrected Christ, John glimpsed “a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like emerald encircled the throne. From the throne came flashes of lightning” (Revelation 4:2–5).

In a different time, Ezekiel had a similar vision, seeing “what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli,” with a figure above the throne who “looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire” (Ezekiel 1:26–27). This magnificent figure was surrounded with rainbow-like radiance (v. 28).

One day we will meet the resurrected Christ face to face. These visions give us just a tiny hint of the magnificence that awaits us then. As we celebrate the beauty of God’s creation here and now, may we live in anticipation of the glory yet to be revealed.

Beautiful to God
Sat, 13 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

When Denise began dating her boyfriend, she attempted to maintain a slim figure and dress stylishly, believing she would be more attractive to him in that way. After all, it was what all the women’s magazines advised. It was only much later that she discovered what he really thought: “I liked you just as much when you were heavier and didn’t worry about what you wore.”

Denise realized then how subjective “beauty” was. Our view of beauty is so easily influenced by others, and often focused on the external; forgetting the value of inner beauty. But God sees us in only one way—as His beautiful, beloved children. I’d like to think that when God created the world, He left the best for last—us! Everything He created was good, but we’re extra special because we’re made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

God considers us beautiful! No wonder the psalmist was filled with awe as he compared the greatness of nature with humans. “What is mankind,” he asked, “that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8:4). Yet God chose to give mortals a glory and honor that nothing else had (v. 5).

This truth gives us an assurance and reason to praise Him (v. 9). No matter what others think of us—or what we think of ourselves—know this: We are beautiful to God.

Son Followers
Fri, 12 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

Sunflowers sprout in a carefree manner all over the world. Pollinated by bees, the plants spring up on the sides of highways, under bird feeders, and across fields, meadows, and prairies. To produce a harvest, however, sunflowers need good soil. Well-drained, slightly acidic, nutrient rich “with organic matter or composted,” says the Farmer’s Almanac—such good soil finally produces tasty sunflower seeds, pure oil, and also a livelihood for hard-working sunflower growers.

We also need “good soil” for spiritual growth (Luke 8:15). As Jesus taught in His Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed, God’s Word can sprout even in rocky or thorny soil (see vv. 6–7). It only thrives, however, in the soil of “honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest” (v. 15 nlt).

Young sunflowers are just as patient in their growth. Following the sun’s movement throughout the day, they turn sunward daily in a process called heliotropism. Mature sunflowers are just as deliberate. They turn eastward permanently, warming the face of the flower and increasing visits from pollinator bees. This in turn produces a greater harvest.

As with those who care for sunflowers, we can provide a rich medium for God’s Word to grow by clinging to His Word and following after His Son—developing honesty and a good heart for God’s Word to mature us. It’s a daily process. May we follow the Son and grow.

Football and Shepherds
Thu, 11 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

An intriguing element of English football is the team anthem sung by the fans at the start of each match. These songs range from the fun (“Glad All Over”), to the whimsical (“I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”), to the surprising. “Psalm 23,” for instance, is the anthem of the club from West Bromwich Albion. The words of that psalm appear on the façade inside the team’s stadium, declaring to everyone who comes to watch the “West Brom Baggies” the care of the good, great, and chief Shepherd.

In Psalm 23 David made his timeless statement, “The Lord is my shepherd” (v. 1). Later, the gospel writer Matthew would tell us, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). And in John 10, Jesus declared His love and concern for the human “sheep” of His generation. “I am the good shepherd,” He said. “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (v. 11). Jesus’s compassion drove His interactions with the crowds, His responses to their needs, and, ultimately, His sacrifice on their (and our) behalf.

“The Lord is my shepherd” is far more than an ancient lyric or a clever slogan. It is the confident statement of what it means to be known and loved by our great God—and what it means to be rescued by His Son.

Unseen Realities
Wed, 10 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

Stephen Cass, an editor at Discover magazine, was determined to investigate some of the invisible things that are part of his daily life. As he walked toward his office in New York City, he mused: “If I could see radio waves, the top of the Empire State Building [with its host of radio and TV antennas] would be lit like a kaleidoscopic flare, illuminating the entire city.” He realized he was surrounded by an invisible electromagnetic bedlam of radio and TV signals, Wi-Fi, and more.

Elisha’s servant learned about another kind of unseen reality—the invisible spiritual world—one morning. He awoke to find himself and his master surrounded by the armies of Aram. As far as his eyes could see, there were thousands of soldiers mounted on powerful warhorses (2 Kings 6:15)! The servant was afraid, but Elisha was confident because he saw the army of angels that surrounded them. He said: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). Then he asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes so he too could see that the Lord had surrounded their enemy and He was in control (v. 17).

Do you feel overpowered and helpless? Remember that God is in control and fights for you. He “will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). May we fix our eyes on this unseen reality.

No More Running
Tue, 09 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

On July 18, 1983, a US Air Force captain disappeared from Albuquerque, New Mexico, without a trace. Thirty-five years later, authorities found him in California. The New York Times reports that, “depressed about his job,” he’d simply run away.

Thirty-five years on the run! Half a lifetime spent looking over his shoulder! I have to imagine that anxiety and paranoia were this man’s constant companions.

But I have to admit, I also know a bit about being “on the run.” No, I've never abruptly fled something in my life . . . physically. But at times I know there’s something God wants me to do, something I need to face or confess. I don’t want to do it. And so, in my own way, I run too.

The prophet Jonah is infamous for literally running from God’s assignment to preach to the city of Nineveh (see Jonah 1:1–3). But, of course, he couldn’t outrun God. You’ve probably heard what happened (vv. 4,17): A storm. A fish. A swallowing. And, in the belly of the beast, a reckoning, in which Jonah faced what he’d done and cried to God for help (2:2).

Jonah wasn’t a perfect prophet. But I take comfort in his remarkable story, because, even despite Jonah’s stubborn waywardness, God never let go of him. The Lord still answered the man’s desperate prayer, graciously restoring His reluctant servant (2:2)—just as He does with us.

Sovereign Intervention
Mon, 08 Jul 2019 00:00:00 +0000

Barbara grew up under the care of the British government in the 1960s, but when she turned sixteen, she and her newborn son Simon became homeless. The state was no longer obligated to provide for her at that age. Barbara wrote to the Queen of England for help and received a response! The Queen compassionately arranged for Barbara to be given a house of her own.

The Queen of England had the right resources to help Barbara, and her compassionate assistance can be seen as a small picture of God’s. The King of heaven knows all of our needs and sovereignly works out His plans in our lives. As He does, however, He longs for us to come to him—sharing our needs and other prayer concerns—as part of our loving relationship with Him.

The Israelites brought their need for deliverance to God. They were suffering under the burden of Egyptian slavery and cried out for help. He heard them and remembered His promise: “God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them” (Exodus 2:25). He instructed Moses to bring liberty to His people and declared that He would once again release them “into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (3:8).

Our King delights in our coming to Him! He wisely provides what we need, not necessarily what we want. May we rest in His sovereign, loving provision.


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